NYT Mag Writer Traub: Tea Party Fighting 'War on Competence and Professionalism'

James Traub, a long-time contributor to the New York Times magazine, appeared on CNN's new political talk show "Parker-Spitzer" Thursday night and offered his standard Republican-hostile view. After calling the extension of all the Bush tax cuts, which Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell supports, "a ridiculous view," Traub returned to bashing O'Donnell and the Tea Party in general about 15 minutes into the show, lumping entrenched politicians who advocate for big-government with "competence and professionalism."


Traub: I want to go back to the Michael Castle-Christine O'Donnell difference, which is Michael Castle was a professional, not even a politician. He was a professional legislator. He was a serious guy. He thought about this stuff a lot. You may think he's right or wrong. But it also strikes me that there's a kind of war on competence and professionalism going on here. And these insurgent candidates, one of the biggest things they have to advertise is, they've never done it before.


Host Kathleen Parker: Right.

Traub: And sometimes even they don't know anything about the subject. That makes them preferable. I find that really disturbing.

About 20 minutes into the show, Traub turned to a common liberal tactic, offering generic praise of Ronald Reagan as another way to hit today's Republican party.

Traub: Reagan went into office, I think, speaking in a lot of the ways Ralph talked about, but in fact in the end wound up as someone who grew the federal government, as opposed to diminished it. I don't think the current crop of Republicans are Reaganesque, not only in that sense. The most outstanding thing about Reagan to me at least in memory was his amazing optimism for himself and for America. I'm struck at how this current crop of Republicans has kind of grabbed America's brain stem, the, you know, the combination of anger, which is today's word, and I think fear, which was the post-9/11 word. And I'm really struck that, that to me, Obama has almost abandoned the hopefulness that at one time was his calling card, and the kind of cool rationality which at one time seemed appealing, now seems like kind of a form of wimpishness or something. And so this focus on anger and that, if you're not angry, there's something deficient about you, I find that really disturbing.

Traub classily called Joseph Coors Sr., the late beer magnate who helped created the conservative Heritage Foundation, a "right-wing nut" in a December 28, 2003 story for the magazine in a year-end issue on prominent figures who had died that year.

And in the October 26, 2003 edition, he wrote: "Our political culture has not been infected by some virus from outer space, or from TV. The carrier was Newt Gingrich....Today's Republican Party is arguably the most extreme - the furthest from the center - of any governing majority in the nation's history."

Clay Waters is director of Times Watch. You can follow him on Twitter.