Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Tale Of Two Pulitzers....

The sublime:

It's dangerous to read too much political meaning into a single event, but the Pulitzer Prize awarded to Joseph Rago for editorial writing could be the exception. Rago, you see, writes for The Wall Street Journal, and his unsigned pieces were devastating critiques of ObamaCare.

At a time when too many journalistic watchdogs turned ino lap dogs for President Obama's health-care takeover, Rago patiently deconstructed the sweeping law and diligently tracked how early results matched promises. In a typical passage, he concluded that "ObamaCare was sold using the language of choice and competition, but it is actually reducing both."

He correctly predicted that the mandate for individuals to purchase insurance would face serious constitutional challenges, and called threats to exclude insurers from government exchanges if they raised prices "political thuggery."

The surprise is not that Rago, whom I've never met, even though The Post and Journal are corporate siblings, won the top prize. It's that he won precisely because of what the Pulitzer board called his "well-crafted, against-the-grain editorials challenging the health-care reform advocated by President Obama."

Against-the-grain they were, if the grain is measured by the leftist tilt of most major news organizations. Bully for the Pulitzer judges who recognized that, in this case at least, the best journalism moved in the other direction.

And the stupid:

Holy guilt by association, Batman.

If a fictional character in a piece of literature from an author you admire commits some acts that would likely result in a felony conviction, does that mean you’re a proponent of felonious acts? That’s the deductive logic David Cay Johnston, the 2001 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting, displayed on MSNBC’s “The ED Show” Monday night.

In a segment about Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal to reduce the deficit, which includes simplifying the tax code and eliminating deductions to lower overall rates, Johnston called in to question Ryan’s legitimacy, as he’s a fan of Ayn Rand. And according to Johnston, in Rand’s book, “The Fountainhead,” the fictional character Howard Roark blows up a building, and that means people should evaluate the possibility Ryan is a proponent of blowing up buildings.

Maybe it is the cringe-worthy, mental hopscotch logic of previous winners like Johnston - selected, like so many other Pulitzer winners and Nobel honorees, more for their liberalism and anti-Americanism than any true singular accomplishments in their field - that has led the Pulitzer committee to turn their heads slightly rightward in looking for future honorees?

If so, they have a long way to go to make up for past sins. But penance is achievable. Can we start with a Pulitzer for this lady, and perhaps her husband as well?

UPDATE: See the comments, Mr. Johnston apparently does not agree with my point of view...


davidcay said...

So parse what I actually said.

You don't want to understand what role Ayn Rand's writings play in these policy proposals? Fine, just be evenhanded and don't dig into what any other politician brings into the political discussion, either.

Anonymous said...

About as coherent as his MSNBC rant!

The JerseyNut said...

I have no doubt that Paul Ryan's political philosophy was influenced by Ayn Rand. On balance, I think this is a good thing, especially as Rand as been almost prophetic in predicting the rise of this Administration, their policies, and their euphemisms.

But to suggest that Rep. Ryan might potentially be a domestic terrorist because a character in one of Rand's earlier novels destroyed an (unoccupied) housing project is a spurious argument, at best.

Is every fan of Batman a wannabe vigilante? Is everyone who enjoyed "First Blood" liable to destroy an entire town after a run-in with a police officer? Is the fact that a certain American president was seen reading "The Post-American World" ( )mean that he is actually trying to weaken the nation in order to realize the political vision laid out by Fareed Zakaria?

I suppose if you answer "yes" to all three of these questions, then your intimations against Paul Ryan are at least consistent, if no less logical. But the fiction one enjoys is not necessarily the lifestyle they employ. Certainly you would know that.

And I am sure that you do, which makes your statements about Ryan's potential violent tendencies come off like the desperate attempt to smear the man's name, since you apparently cannot factually disassemble his policy proposals.

Unless it was an attempt at a second Pulitzer. In which case, one might advise(might!) that the old rules have changed a bit, and awards might be less about knee-jerk liberal anti-Americanism and more about...literature and journalism.

Would be a nice change. Might inspire people to do better work. Certainly, Mr. Johnston, you can do better than what you showed on MSNBC the other evening...

davidcay said...

@The Jersey Nut,

but I did NOT suggest that Ryan might be a domestic terrorist or anything close to that. Nor do I think that.

You wrote in bold language that is utterly false.

Go parse my actual words. I said we want to dig to understand and my word for what the fictional Roark did was "felon." BTW, that is what investigative reporters do -- we dig to understand.

But I have never held up an actual or fictional criminal as a model nor supported unlawful behavior, which Rand clearly embraces. Doubt it? Go read Roark;s courtroom speech justifying his blowing up Cortlandt. And then imagine the words were spoken by someone whose politics you dislike.

Be even handed.

I think we ought to dig more into what all of our elected leaders read, who they are supported by financially and where the ideas (if any) they espouse come from so we can understand.

Gosh, my words could be reasonably understood to say go read Ayn Rand. But they cannot be reasonably read to say what you wrote, not even close.

There is plenty to criticize in what I actually wrote so why not stick to the facts?

Ryan is the one who brought Ayn Rand into this in his campaign. So this is not about everyone who reads a particular writer, but it is about an elected official who says he wants America to be the way a writer (Rand) wanted it to be, campaigned on it and requires his staff to read her work.

Even though her books were bestsellers and remain solidly in print, most Americans have little to no idea what Rand stood for -- vehemently anti-religion, anti-democracy, regarding altruism with contempt and arguably as moral depravity.

And, FYI, my Pulitzer was for work that the Bush administration relied on (as did the Clinton on earlier work) and that has been scrutinized by serious tax economists and no one has shown it was other than solidly factual and eye-opening. Investigations by Congress verified each part of my work that the government looked at and showed conditions were worse than I reported.

My last book champions competitive markets and my latest work reveals how government makes you pay taxes that do not exist in law (see MLPs and California headlines at

So, again, criticize away but criticize what I actually said and stop making things up.

Conservative Libertine said...

David Cay is being intellectually dishonest when he says that fans of 'Atlas Shrugged' are "vehemently anti-religion, anti-democracy, regarding altruism with contempt and arguably as moral depravity," or they just don't understand the book.

Hogwash. The take away from the book is that big government causes more problems than it solves, and then it uses the problems to demand more power more control and more money, resulting in less freedom.

The America that Rand and Ryan want is the opposite of that. To suggest other wise is dishonest, and devoid of facts.

Was Rand Anti-religious. No, but did she look at religion with contempt? Yes. That was just her belief system. Everyone gets to choose one. Anti religious is what the ACLU does by actively perusing the removal of religious symbolism wherever they may be seen in public.

anti-democracy? She might not have been a huge fan of 'one man one vote', but then again neither were the founding fathers. Both parties thought that people who would shape of the countries direction should have some skin in the game. Were the founding fathers anti-democratic?

And as for altruism. The take away from the book is that it is not right for the government to use 'sanction of the victim' as a just reason to confiscate wealth. She does not portray Hank Reardon as fool for his private donations early on in the book. Her idea of altruism would be to give someone a fishing pole and to teach them to fish rather than just hand them a fish. And not just because that is what would be good for that person but because in the big picture that is what is good for everyone.

No Mr Cay, We do understand what Ayn Rand is about. It is you who does not.

Conservative Libertine said...

Sorry. I meant Mr. Johnston.

davidcay said...

@ Cobservative Libertine, I never said what you wrote. Lots of people are fans of people whose writings and statements they have never examined.

How else, for example, to explain polls showing Trump popular with some segments of our society even though he favors (or has favored) universal healthcare, a universal wealth tax and has spoken highly of Obama?

There are lots of transcripts, audios and videos of Ayn Rand's words. Go read with a critical eye and listen with a critical ear.

If you agree with her then go sell that in the marketplace of ideas. Just expect pushback, like you are giving here.

But don't make up stuff I never said.

Conservative Libertine said...

@davidcay, I admit to subjecting you to your own logic.

Let's remember Mr. Ryan never said he was a proponent of blowing up buildings.

Unless the daily caller completely put words in your mouth in the above quote "according to Johnston, in Rand’s book, “The Fountainhead,” the fictional character Howard Roark blows up a building, and that means people should evaluate the possibility Ryan is a proponent of blowing up buildings" (which I haven't heard you contest) then isn't fair to assume that you also think "fans of 'Atlas Shrugged' are "vehemently anti-religion, anti-democracy, regarding altruism with contempt and arguably as moral depravity," or they just don't understand the book." While those are in deed the words I put in your mouth, isn't it fair to say that if you can cast Paul Ryan as a proponent of blowing up buildings then ergo, you probably do think what I suggested you thought?

Or is it better said as "since @davidcay thinks that Ayn Rand was "vehemently anti-religion, anti-democracy, regarding altruism with contempt and arguably as moral depravity" means that we should evaluate the possibility that he believes fans of Ayn Rand think the same.

Look, I hear you objecting to having words put in your mouth, because they can be construed to cast thoughts or ideas that you do not hold. But watch the video again. That's what you did to Paul Ryan. I am not a Pulitzer winner, nor am I a literary genius (clearly), but I think they call that irony.