Monday, June 9, 2014

I started a small Twitter fight last week. Jim Geraghty, whom I generally admire hugely, mentioned he'd be appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher. I wrote,

You can understand why my diplomatic career never took off.

Had this happened ten years ago I'd have felt more frustration than disgust: "How can he not see how loathsome Maher is?" But Maher's been around so long now that there's no chance of ignorance or obliviousness on Geraghty's part, and no excuse for his, or any other serious conservative's, going on Maher's show.

Geraghty retweeted my tactful observation, I presume as mockery. It drew this response from another tweeter:

I answered,

Geraghty wrote,

I answered,

Geraghty's tweet brought in Charles Cooke, another NRO writer I like. He wrote,

I answered,

Should a conservative talk politics with an honorable leftist? Anytime, anywhere. With a dishonorable leftist? Only on neutral turf, i.e., not on a tv show the leftist controls.

Later I tweeted twice to add detail, then decided a post was called for. This is it.

Finally, let me offer an illustration of why no thoughtful person should take Maher seriously, much less pay court to him. I'm sure Geraghty knows about this.

On 2 May 2010 Maher appeared on This Week and made a fool of himself:

Here was a talking point Maher had prepared, and not only was it drastically wrong, but Brazil's story also shows the impracticality of Maher's push against fossil fuels. In all, he fumbled about as badly as possible.

How did he respond? As anyone who's paid even a little attention to him would expect: cravenly, dishonestly and vindictively. On the next episode of Real Time he delved into a serious mathematical error George Will had made more than a year earlier:

I was on, I was in D.C. this weekend, and I did This Week. I did not realize that there are shows like this on in the morning. And Sunday, they were very nice to me. George Will obviously had it out for me and doesn't like me. That's okay. That's not mutual. I've been a fan of George Will and reading, I'm just a sucker for good writing. He knows how to write, he's an excellent prose stylist[.]

I mean, you know, sometimes a guy can be full of s***, but he writes well. And, you know, he got me on something technical. I said Brazil got off the oil and we could too. We were talking about the oil spill. And yes, Brazil did not exactly get off the oil, but after the '70s, the spirit of what I said was correct. After the '70s oil crisis, they tried a lot harder than we do, and like half their cars now run on, on synth-fuel, ethanol.

Okay, what I was remembering was there was an ad out here in 2006 for Prop 87, which was for us to get off oil, and Bill Clinton did the ad. And Bill Clinton said in the ad, "Imagine if we can stop being dependent on foreign oil. Brazil did it. If Brazil can do it, so can California." Now, I'm sure the conservatives are saying, "Well, yeah, there's one mushy-headed liberal listening to another mushy-headed liberal and getting your facts wrong."

Well, okay, so we didn't get it exactly right. But, you know what? The bigger question is why haven't we actually gotten off the oil. And part of the reason is because of global-warming deniers like George Will. And he knows better. He knows better and he uses facts, or parts of facts, way more erroneous than I did. In one of his columns, he said, "According to the University of Illinois Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea levels now equal those of 1979." Well, there is no Arctic Climate Research Center at the University of Illinois, but there are climate scientists, and they said, "We don't know where Mr. Will is getting his information. Our data shows that in February '79, global sea ice was 16.79 million square kilometers, and in 2009 it was 15.45, a decrease in sea ice the area the size of Texas, California, Oklahoma combined.”

. . . Well, these aren't views, these are misshapen facts.

And the audience, naturally, goes wild.

Cowardly: Maher makes this speech on his own show, where he dominates, rather than in a forum where he might be challenged.
Dishonest: He claims to bear no malice toward Will and even to admire him, yet says that Will "had it out for" him and terms Will "full of s***" and a global-warming denier.
Hypocritical: He calls his own mistake "technical"—"Brazil did not exactly get off the oil"—when it's in fact devastating to his argument; meanwhile, Will's mistake, which is real (maybe he confused Antarctic and worldwide sea-ice levels) but not decisive, is "way more erroneous" than Maher's, as well as "misshapen," by which I think he means purposefully distorted.

Maher's a spiteful intellectual lightweight, and whatever effect Geraghty's guest appearance had on his own stature, it elevated Maher's. Geraghty's much, much too good for this. His involvement demeaned him and, more important, conservatism.

I hope Geraghty's book is a great success, and that someday he's ashamed of what he did to promote it.