What's gotten into the Times' normally mild-mannered, paleo-liberal columnist Bob Herbert? The former NBC News reporter doesn't usually get too hyperbolic in his twice-weekly columns, which is why Times Watch moreoftencites the spikier leftist columnists like Paul Krugman and Frank Rich - plusHerbert's soporofic style makes one reluctant to read on.
But Herbert sounded more than a little peeved in his spirited Tuesday column in defense of paleo-liberalism, "Hold Your Heads Up ," arguing that liberalism not only is responsible for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and other non-white males having the ability to run for president, but for civil rights, women's rights, clean water...all manner of good things. Fair commentary, if utterly simplistic - but Herbert oversteps by calling the right wing "troglodytes" and does so in starkly personal terms in his conclusion, sliming conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as a "self-hater," playing into the racial stereotype that one must be a Democrat to be truly black.
Ignorance must really be bliss. How else, over so many years, could the G.O.P. get away with ridiculing all things liberal?
Troglodytes on the right are no respecters of reality. They say the most absurd things and hardly anyone calls them on it. Evolution? Don't you believe it. Global warming? A figment of the liberal imagination.
Liberals have been so cowed by the pummeling they've taken from the right that they've tried to shed their own identity, calling themselves everything but liberal and hoping to pass conservative muster by presenting themselves as hyper-religious and lifelong lovers of rifles, handguns, whatever.
So there was Hillary Clinton, of all people, sponsoring legislation to ban flag-burning; and Barack Obama, who once opposed the death penalty, morphing into someone who not only supports it, but supports it in cases that don't even involve a homicide.
Without the extraordinary contribution of liberals - from the mightiest presidents to the most unheralded protesters and organizers - the United States would be a much, much worse place than it is today.
There would be absolutely no chance that a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin could make a credible run for the highest offices in the land. Conservatives would never have allowed it.
Civil rights? Women's rights? Liberals went to the mat for them time and again against ugly, vicious and sometimes murderous opposition. They should be forever proud.
Herbert read off the laundry list of wonderful liberal accomplishments like food stamps, clean water and Head Startall of which he has no doubt provide services onlythe federal bureaucracy is capable of providing, then paused for breath before getting nasty:
It would take volumes to adequately cover the enhancements to the quality of American lives and the greatness of American society that have been wrought by people whose politics were unabashedly liberal. It is a track record that deserves to be celebrated, not ridiculed or scorned.
Self-hatred is a terrible thing. Just ask that arch-conservative Clarence Thomas.
Liberals need to get over it.