Monday, March 3, 2008

Mr. Intellectual Honesty Is At It Again

A few months ago, I chided "Reality-Based" blogger Mark Kleiman for a post in which he simultaneously claimed that his side -- however defined -- had the edge in intellectual honesty while at the same time urging his allies to refrain from criticizing General Ricardo Sanchez, apparently even if such criticisms were true. I argued at the time -- and it still seems to me to be true -- that it's self-contradictory to trumpet your own intellectual honesty while at the same time urging your political allies to refrain from advancing what they believe to be

Well, he's at it again. A couple of weeks ago, he declared a "Cease-Fire" on Hillary Clinton, saying that "anyone looking for criticism of Hillary Rodham Clinton or her campaign will have to look elsewhere from now on" Why? Because, in his estimation, Obama had it won and Obama supporters should "aim their fire at John McCain."

Today he threatened to revoke his unilateral cease-fire, in a short post:

Yes, we've been observing a unilateral cease-fire.

But if you keep lying about our candidate, we might just have to start telling the truth about yours.

And that wouldn't be fun for anyone, would it?


To begin with, I am not at all sure that his fellow Obama supporters have been observing the cease-fire. Or maybe Kleimain means "I" here, and he's using the "Royal We." Nor am I sure he has the authority to declare cease-fires or the resumption of hostilities on behalf of the Obama campaign.

But leave that aside. Kleiman seems to be saying that there are true bad things about Hillary Clinton that Barack Obama supporters haven't been saying? And, as of a week ago, when he though it was in the bag, that he thought they shouldn't say. Where is the intellectual honesty in that? Shouldn't Kleiman just say what he thinks the truth is, rather than refraining out of short-term political expediency? And if we know that Kleiman will lie by omission, by refraining from saying bad things about Hillary, and if he urges others to do the same, why should we believe him when he says (or fails to say) stuff about other candidates? He's already admitted that political maneuvering takes precedence over telling the truth as he sees it.

His attitude makes perfect sense for Senator Obama himself, or for people officially-connected with his campaign. If he wins the nomination, he's going to need the support of Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton. At some point, it makes sense for him to ease off if he's got it won. Running up the score doesn't do him a lot of good.

But so far as I know, Professor Kleiman isn't officially connected with the Obama campaign. He's a Professor who happens to support Barack Obama. Which is, you know, perfectly fine. Call me an idealist if you want, though, but I think that Professors ought to think of themselves as Priests in the Temple of Truth. They might believe in a particular political candidate, and they should certainly feel free to advance arguments in favor of the person they support. But figuring out the truth and stating it ought to be Job One.

Heck, even if he supports Obama, he ought to be willing to criticize Obama if and when he thinks the Senator is wrong. And the same is true of supporters of Senator McCain, of course. Recently, McCain stated that "there's strong evidence" that thimerosal causes autism. "Nonsense on stilts," as Megan McArdle put it. So what should a McCain supporter do? And intellectually honest McCain supporter, I mean, and one not deluded into thinking that thimerosal causes autism.

An intellectually honest McCain supporter should say "I support Senator McCain for these four reasons, but he's spouting crap on this." Given his statements, there's absolutely no reason to believe that Professor Kleiman would take such an intellectually honest position were Obama to make a similarly nonsensical statement. He may think himself "reality based," but his statements about the "Cease Fire" make it clear that he values political outcomes ahead of telling the truth as he sees it.