For my money Tom Junod is one of the ten best essayists working in America these days. I’ll put his stuff up there on the high shelf with Andy Ferguson and Matt Labash and David Grann and Joan Didion. Don’t believe me? Go sit with his profile of Jon Stewart, his piece on Fred Rogers, his essay on the horror of 9/11–and these aren’t even his sizzle reel. I can’t find links to his opus on Lil’ Bow Wow and a piece on porn valley from the late ’90s that blows me away every time I read it.
All of which is why Junod’s 2008 piece on the Obama-McCain race was kind of heartbreaking. It’s not that Junod is a liberal and a Democrat and an Obama voter–more than half my friends and family checked those three boxes. It’s that it revealed that Junod’s approach to politics and politicians was . . . well, let’s just say the piece was embarrassing and not his finest hour and leave it at that.
So today Junod has a giant piece out about the President Obama’s killing of al-Alwaki’s kid. And Ed Driscoll drills down to the heart of the problem Junod faces: That Junod has become what he explicitly warned about in 2004. It’s a pretty tough assessment by Driscoll; but also pretty fair.
But that’s nothing like what Moe Lane does to Junod. His excoriation is just flat out brutal. And again, pretty fair.
The bigger question posed by Moe Lane’s vivisection is why more liberals haven’t turned away from Obama. There’s a small cadre of liberals, like Glenn Greenwald and Junod, who have criticized Obama on principle. And that’s great–God bless ‘em. But you don’t see–or at least I haven’t seen–liberals publicly turning their backs on Obama and jumping ship. And I wonder why that is. There were plenty of Republican types whom Bush drove out of the party. (Andrew Sullivan, Kathleen Parker, Andy Bacevich, Jim Webb, etc.–the list is actually pretty long.) Why haven’t any lefty Dems done the same? As Lane points out, if you’re a liberal and you fell a-over-t for Obama and now you realize that he’s elevated cold-blooded murder to the level of routine executive prerogative, why haven’t you clapped your hands together, stepped away from the table, and said, “I’m out”?
Update: Moe Lane has a couple of theories here. What he’s getting at, I think, is that liberals are more partisan (by which I mean, more wedded to the Democratic party) than conservatives. That’s certainly possible. His alt-theory is that liberals are more repulsed by Republicans than conservatives are by Democrats–and so find the prospect of flipping, even temporarily, less acceptable.
A third theory might be that liberals have the Nader-Gore 2000 debacle still fresh in their minds and so basically subscribe to the Natasha Romanov school of political theory: That love is for children.
The only problem with this last theory is that the left fell so crazy in love with Obama. They didn’t just like him, admire him, support him in the way you would a politician like Dick Gephardt or Harry Reid or Joe Biden. They loved him, truly, madly, deeply. And my guess is that, despite everything, they still kind of do.