Ackerman, Yglesias, and Krugman: A particularly Machiavellian moment for the Left 

Politics is dirty. Politicians, operatives, activists, and spokesmen typically lie, abuse, and cheat in order to win. Both sides do it.

But usually, you expect journalists and even pundits to play the game a bit more honestly — at least you hope their advocacy of an issue will be constrained by fairness and the truth.

But lately, some Lefty scribblers have been pretty open about their willingness to be cut-throat operatives with a byline. Here are three recent examples:

1) The leaked off-the-record emails of Spencer Ackerman, a liberal foreign policy writer, corroborated what we conservatives have always thought: many liberals’ charges of racism aren’t only false — they’re lies intended to intimidate us.

What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear.

Obviously I mean this rhetorically. And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us.

Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

Ackerman, I imagine, was advocating such window-smashing only because he felt the Right was being unfair by talking about Reverend Wright. But that’s a pretty low bar for unfairness, and thus justifies dishonest slurs pretty often.
2) Then we get Matt Yglesias tweeting:
I think fighting dishonesty with dishonesty is sometimes the right thing for advocates to do, yes. That’s an honest view.
But Yglesias had just established he has a pretty low bar for branding the opposition with “dishonesty,” having concluded that Eli Lake is “generally dishonest” without being able to offer any evidence. Who else does Yglesias consider “generally dishonest”? Maybe the whole Right counts?
3) Also last week, Paul Krugman went after White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs for rudeness and being unprofessional in Gibbs’ attack on the “professional Left.” Before you laugh at the notion of Krugman critiquing rudeness, note that he does say rudeness is at times appropriate. The appropriate occasion for name-calling, in Krugman’s view? When it’s politically expedient:
I’m not saying to turn the other cheek and always say something polite as a general principle; by all means lash out at your critics, if you have something to gain by doing so. Rudeness at the proper moment can serve a purpose…. [emphasis Krugman's].
Again, the rule of the road for appropriate conduct is: whatever heightens our side’s chances of winning.
It’s in this light of an openly Machiavellian ethos that we should understand the charges from President Obama and his lieutenants that the Right and the GOP are simply serving the special interests. Obama might not believe it — but he believes it works.

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