A recent blog by Barry Ritholz is helpful here. Asked why he shreds some people with whom he disagrees while gently correcting others, Ritholz replied as follows:
Anyone who has an objective approach to evaluating the ever changing mix of inputs to the markets or economy or stocks. These folks are often intellectually curious, have flexible minds, and a high degree of integrity. Whether I agree with their conclusions or not, I respect their process.
Then there is that other group. They are all conclusion, zero input. Process is irrelevant to them. Outcome is all.
They work backwards. They start with a conclusion, and sift through all the data to justify that conclusion. They do not change their minds. They do not care about facts or data or input. They never admit mistakes. "Truth," as we have discussed in the past, is an irrelevant inconvenience.
They are ideological jihadists.
Rush Limbaugh and his ilk are of this type. They work backwards from self-serving views finding and relating in stream of consciousness what they call "facts" and "evidence." In short, they lie. They do so vociferously and so people listen because their diatribes stand out above the noise.
Rush Limbaugh may deserve our disdain. Many of us are often enough the recipients of his.
The question to consider here is whether President Obama deserves the same. I've disagreed with his actions at times and lack thereof.
When we see our president surrounded by advisors responsible for the economic disaster we're now facing, are we not justifiably angry? When we know he has the passion and persuasive skills should he choose to employ them to move people to unprecedented positive action and he declines, isn't disappointment natural? And when so many people are still out of work, aren't our expressions of frustration and anger necessary? I think so.
But here is the question. And it's a tough one for many of us. Does he deserve the level of anger elicited by liars and those who daily attempt to shape our world into one making them ever more wealthy and powerful at the expense of the vulnerable? No.
In short, there is a line to consider when criticizing President Obama. It is the one that moves Sarah Palin and those like her closer to the White House and lowers us to the level of Limbaugh.
When our intention is to prompt the president to actions promised, then the exercise is constructive. When it is to urge him to act even as he inclines to ponder, the effort is warranted. And when he is simply wrong, silence is inappropriate.
Until we know, however, that his motives are other than those for which he was elected, we should reflect on this line. Until we are sure that his delays and decisions indicate that he is indeed someone other than the man for whom many of us voted, then even as we disagree, intensely, shouldn't our tone reflect a recognition of the difference between him and what Ritholz refers to as "truth obscurers"?
It's a tall order in a culture of polarization. But it seems, especially at this time, an important distinction.
Kathleen also blogs at bardscove.