Frank Rich and the State of Liberal Commentary

If one had to read one columnist to appreciate the state of contemporary left-wing commentary, my nomination would be Frank Rich of the Sunday New York Times.

No well-known leftist columnist better exemplifies the worst aspects of today’s left. Virtually every piece is filled with anger, filled with ad hominem responses to arguments, filled with insults of opponents and at the same time devoid of intellectual arguments. A Frank Rich column is essentially a weekly tantrum meant to make his readers nod in agreement and reinforce their contempt for those who differ with them.

I offer this past Sunday’s column as an example.

The subject was the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays in the military.

Not a single serious argument of proponents of DADT was cited, nor did Rich did offer a single argument on behalf of repealing it. Instead, the article was a smear of all supporters of that policy or of retaining the male-female definition of marriage. The article contains 71 sentences. Twelve sentences contained an insult. I suspect that Times readers who love his columns — this was listed as the second most e-mailed piece in the New York Times — are generally people who read Frank Rich so as to have their hatreds reinforced, not for cogent arguments.

The article’s title is, appropriately, an insult: “Smoke the Bigots Out of the Closet.”

It is commonplace for liberals and leftists to avoid refuting conservative arguments and just dismiss the conservative with one of seven epithets: “Racist,” “Bigoted,” “Sexist,” “Intolerant,” and the three phobias: “Homophobic,” Xenophobic,” “Islamaphobic.”

Such ad hominem dismissals of conservatives and their arguments testify to the shallowness of those using these terms, meaning, unfortunately, most mainstream commentators and spokesmen on the left. The fact is that epithets substitute for thought — and at the same time render it easy to write a left-wing column. It is the Frank Rich Formula: make believe the other side has no thoughtful argument, offer no argument of your own and debase your opponents.

Some examples from just this one column:

RICH: “… there is now little political advantage to spewing homophobia.”

RICH: (CNN allowed conservative spokesmen to express) “old homophobic cliches.”

RICH: “Such arguments … are mere fig leaves to disguise the phobia that can no longer dare speak its name. … (T)he flimsy rhetorical camouflage must be stripped away to expose the prejudice that lies beneath.”

RICH: “Those opposing same-sex marriage are just as eager to mask their bigotry.”

RICH: “The more bigotry pushed out of the closet for all voters to see …”

RICH: “… the deep prejudice at the root of their (Republicans’) arguments.”

Here are the usual charges of “homophobia,” “prejudice,” and “bigotry.”

But also note “spewing” because Rich almost never describes conservatives as speaking normally: In this column alone, they “spew,” Sen. Orrin Hatch “vamped” and John McCain “huffed,” “fulminated” and was “yapping.” No conservative “says,” or “claims” or “argues.” Conservatives spew, vamp, huff, fulminate and yap. Do Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Thomas Sowell or any other conservative commentators meant to be taken as seriously as the left takes Rich use such verbs to describe the speech of prominent liberals? I doubt it. The gulf in depth of thought and sophistication of expression between Frank Rich and virtually every mainstream conservative columnist is enormous.

(I did a 30-day search of the words “spew” and “spewed” on the Washington Post and New York Times websites, and every single time they were used, it was by a liberal writer talking about conservatives.)

RICH: (Conservatives who oppose repeal of DODT are) “attack dogs.”

RICH: (McCain is) “the crazy man in Washington ‘s attic.”

Rich also called McCain “unpatriotic” in his previous column — a particularly ugly charge given McCain’s heroic sacrifices for America .

RICH: “Karl Rove and George W. Bush ran a national campaign (in 2004) exploiting fear of gay people …”

Rich provided no example. For good reason. Bush did not run “a national campaign exploiting fear of gay people” in 2004 (or any other year). What Bush called for in 2004 was a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In fact, Bush took his own party to task for not supporting civil unions for same-sex couples. It is mendacity — indeed it is a smear — to label what Bush advocated “a national campaign exploiting fear of gay people.” But to Rich and his supporters anyone — anyone — who thinks marriage should be defined as the union of a man and a woman is a fear-mongering bigot.

RICH: “Now that explicit anti-gay animus is an albatross, those who oppose gay civil rights are driven to invent ever loopier rationales for denying those rights, whether in the military or in marriage.”

RICH: “The arguments for preserving ‘don’t ask’ have long been blatantly groundless.”

Where is this mainstream conservative “explicit anti-gay animus?” And why are the arguments that gays in a military unit may fall in love with one another (or with a straight person) or that for the same reason — sexual tension — that we do not have men and women in the same units, showering and sleeping together, we might not deem it a good idea to have sexual tension in an all-men’s unit — why are these arguments “loopy” and “groundless”? This conservative columnist and talk show host does not find liberal arguments for admitting open gays into the military either loopy or groundless. But contrary to the left’s self-image, conservatives are far more likely to acknowledge two sides to this and so many other issues.

The truth is that it is Frank Rich who spews, fulminates, yaps and huffs. Every Sunday in the New York Times. His column is idea-free, but his readers want catharsis, not ideas.

  • johncarens

    Frank Who? The New York What? Oh, yeah: "All the News That's Fit to Line a Bird Cage".

  • BS1977

    Funny, I never heard of Frank Rich before….he might as well be writing for the Mud Lake Gazette. Another idiot at the NY Times…..craving attention, getting none.

  • Legion

    He should be made to go back to giving reviews on Broadway plays- ahhh he did not even do that good. Just fire him and make him one of the 20+% unemployed.

  • therealend

    Never heard of him either. There have been so many attack 'journalists' recently that it's not even provocative anymore. Same nincompoopistry, different nincompoop..

  • Larry

    This is brilliant analysis and a perfect summation of why it is impossible to have a reasonable discussion with many liberals. Eventually the hate comes flying out, and the list of irrational epithets is inexhaustable. And when those bullets don’t hit their target, that is when they bring out the nukes and call you stupid.

  • maxfolger

    Some day, we'll look back with amazement that we tolerated any form of a communication gap in the military:


  • mhr

    I served in a small US Army company during the Korean War. Two of the men were clearly homosexual- one took no pains to either hide or broadcast the fact. We all got along extremely well. I frankly do not understand the need to announce the fact that one is gay. Individual differences- that one is black or hispanic or asian or homosexual should have no bearing on the performance of one's military duties. Problems will arise if and when the new policy is implemented- resulting from the aggressive attitudes that "progressives" prefer to pursue. The success of the feminist movement, for example, has served to make feminists even angrier.

  • Tryon

    It's also worth noting that the "comments" under the article were around 95% pro-Rich, and that the section was shut off after only 121 comments, where a typical Times story garners four or five times that many before being closed. Censorship at the NYT? Draw your own conclusions.

  • BS1977

    Frank Rich, the nobody no one reads or cares about. OH BOOOO HOOOOO. There there, little Frank, you go along back to your desk at the Times, get out your crayolas and write another trenchant piece for your comrades……that's a good little lefty.

  • Tryon

    From wiki: "The October 14, 2007 Times featured Stephen Colbert guest-writing most of Maureen Dowd's column. Colbert satirically wrote: "Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay. There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too."[7]. "

  • Pink Camo?

    The psychological projection by liberals of their own worst impulses onto their perceived 'enemies' is alas an old story.
    Given the steadily declining readership for the NYT, maybe even their loyal choir is tired of being preached to.

    Ironic that liberals are so enthused about gaying-out the military–of all things. A calling/lifestyle that they themselves have no personal experience of, openly despise and avoid at all costs, and have agreed to pretend is just another Federal job–just like the Post Office, slightly different uniform.

    Final thought: the whole gay experiment thing worked out so badly for the Roman Empire that they, ah, ceased to exist forever. Understandably, no government or military has tried it since.

    • Peachey

      Unfortunately Progressives not only do not learn from history, they do not even study it. Our country is precisely in the same position as the Roman Empire was when it failed and collapsed. Just perhaps the elimination of the DADT within the military ranks will serve to destroy the military from within, something every good Progressive secretly prays for.

  • LucyQ

    Both far-left liberals and far-right conservatives do the same thing. Those two extremes are really the same emotional, anti-intellectual thinkers that their ignorant followers love. I'm sick of both parties.

  • JosephWiess

    There aren't that many people who actually report anymore. Instead they editorialize. They give opinion, and carry out hatchet jobs.

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  • MKS

    I am weary of people treating homosexuality as being analagous to ethnicity. It is not.

    For someone to be black, white, Asian, or Polynesian is not bad in any sense whatsoever, and one cannot choose to stop being any of those ethnicities.

    Homosexuality is, however, considered to be wrong by several major religious writings, and one can stop its practice, even if he cannot stop the desire. He can refuse to act upon the desire. In addition to religious writings, there are abundant sociological reasons to claim homosexuality is unhealthy.

    I do not advocate the mistreatment of anyone who has these desires; indeed, compassion is the best approach to anyone who is not being deliberately offensive. To those who struggle with such desires, I hope blessings and peace. To those who would compel the human race to hold such desires in honor, I hope they fail in their efforts, for they are not seeking understanding, equality or kindness, but compulsion.

    • USMCSniper

      Here is the real agendayou wil never l get from the turd pirate and tuna fish breath crowd and their supporters. "You don't understand, we want our own barracks and showers, and our own gay enlisted and officers clubs, and military benefits and housing for our significant others. Also, we should be allowed to recruit our chickenbait from the 17 and 18 years olds and freely and openly be actively homosexual without disciplinary action."

      Instead of duty, honor, and country, it will be deviancy, debauchery, faggotry.

      • TraseroConservativo

        You're right, Jar. The so-called "gay rights " movement has always been a supremacist movement.

  • gama

    Liberals are the real sexists because they allow gays into mens units but not women. That is discrimination against women.

  • Joe the Spook

    Rich is a faig movie critic. I feel sorry for him because he denies it. He even scared Ann Coulter away from the obvious in "Guilty". If you hear Rich talk, you know he is one. It's called "gaydar."

    But if DADT is repealed, everything should be co-ed.


  • Ted Davis

    I'll bet his thesaurus is dogeared beyond belief and the 12 people who still read the NYT spend half the day looking up the nonsense words he comes up with. And, by the way, like most of the other commentators, I've never heard of this joker either.

  • dennis wiser

    I wonder how many people will go to his coming out party. I hear it's going to be soon.

  • debbiesam

    The other problem with liberals is they don't believe in compromise. They are "in your face" with their demands. The DADT policy represents a compromise. Compromises are never perfect, but civilized people accept them when two sides are far apart in their beliefs and no one side can dominate. Liberals need to stop belly-aching and move on to other issues.

  • johncarens

    It'll be darned interesting when, twenty years from now, Corporal Bruce comes flouncing in from a date with his boyfriend, and encounters Captain Mohammad, who proceeds to throw him off a roof (as Islam proscribes for punishment of male homosexuality). Which will be the more aggrieved victim group of the New Armed Forces? Captain Mohammad, for having his religious sensibilities offended, or Corporal Bruce, for encountering an anti-gay bigot? Oh, the mind REELS with the comedic possibilities.

    This is the sort of crap you get when the extreme radical left get its claws on the warrior class: They turn it into just another federal bureaucracy, complete with every idiotic work-place health, safety and lifestyle rule.

  • bubba4

    that's what FPM does every day.

    Here, Prager has every chance to give anyone he wants a chance to pose a counter argument against repealing "dont ask don't tell". He himself could offer one, but he seems more concerned with how he might be characterized by another know-nothing pundit.

  • BigMizness

    He also has a problem with palin accepting the stimulus money[Hypocrite who touts it's awesomeness] because she is beholden to special interests and loves teh neocon bushitler pork

  • BigMizness

    not only that he has a problem with republican prok from 94-06 and not obama's pork