Jonah Goldberg: Maybe Stupid, Definitely Dishonest

Jonah Goldberg comes in for some well-deserved dissing for his latest Los Angeles Times column, in which he twists a quote from an interview of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Emily Bazalon in this past Sunday’s New York Times, to accuse Ginsburg of favoring abortion to reduce births in populations considered “undesirable” (such as poor, black women).

The column, which is titled “Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a Question of Eugenics,” starts out like this:

Here’s what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine: “Frankly I had thought that at the time [Roe vs. Wade] was decided,” Ginsburg told her interviewer, Emily Bazelon, “there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

The comment, which bizarrely elicited no follow-up from Bazelon or any further coverage from the New York Times — or any other major news outlet — was in the context of Medicaid funding for abortion. Ginsburg was surprised when the Supreme Court in 1980 barred taxpayer support for abortions for poor women. After all, if poverty partly described the population you had “too many” of, you would want to subsidize it in order to expedite the reduction of unwanted populations.

Left unclear is whether Ginsburg endorses the eugenic motivation she ascribed to the passage of Roe vs. Wade or whether she was merely objectively describing it. One senses that if Antonin Scalia had offered such a comment, a Times interviewer would have sought more clarity, particularly on the racial characteristics of these supposedly unwanted populations.

Isaac Chotiner fills in the rest of the quote, which Goldberg failed to include:

Goldberg’s style of polite inquiry is something that one must get used to. The man earnestly wants to know, dawg gonnit, whether we will soon have two liberal fascists on the supreme court. Anyway, here, in context, is Ginsburg:

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.

This seems pretty clear to me. Ginsburg is saying that the lack of support for Medicaid-funded abortions surprised her because she assumed that unnamed people or groups would have wanted certain populations (i.e. the poor) to have more abortions. Considering that the main impetus behind forbidding Medicaid abortions came from the right, Ginsburg’s “surprise” obviously refers to her realization that the right-wing did not want greater access to abortions for the downtrodden. Now, I know nothing about this subject, and I am far from knowledgeable about whether Ginsburg’s assessment is fair (even she admits it was wrong!). But it is perfectly obvious that she is making a point that has nothing to do with Goldberg’s article.

Chotiner notices that the idea behind Goldberg’s column — Ginsburg and possibly Sonia Sotomayor favor fascistic solutions to poverty and overpopulation — fits in perfectly with the theme of his book, Liberal Fascism.

… Goldberg is a rather clever guy, and so I chalk up his decision to write ‘Liberal Fascism’ to purely financial motives. This column is just more evidence for my thesis. Again, Goldberg is not stupid; what are the odds that he happened to (grossly) misread a column in a manner that perfectly fits with the argument of his book? Hell, maybe he will even sell a few more copies today. Throwing away one’s credibility might be short-sighted or sad, but who says it is not profitable?

Matthew Yglesias says Chotiner is “dead wrong”:

Goldberg is stupid.

My understanding from my own off-the-record chats with conservative writers is that Liberal Fascism was published for pecuniary reasons. Goldberg’s editor, in other words, understood that this was the sort of red meat the rubes would eat up. But the gossip I’ve heard has it that he was then taken aback to discover that Goldberg didn’t see the project that way. He’s sufficiently vainglorious, out of touch, and egomaniacal that he really does think of the book as a “very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care” and genuinely takes offense at the fact that people are grappling with his scholarship.

Recall his indignant huff that his book “isn’t like any Ann Coulter book.” It is! And just like some of Coulter’s work, it’s sold a lot of copies. But he really sees himself as embarked upon a more ambitious project than that of base-whipping provocateur.

6 Responses to “Jonah Goldberg: Maybe Stupid, Definitely Dishonest”

  1. radical_moderate says:

    Goldberg is both stupid and disingenious.

    As for Ginsburg’s comment, what I find interesting is how she misread the right’s ideology vis a vis abortion. The facts are that, contrary to the rational thinker, which Justice Ginsberg is, the right-wing zealots that would make abortion illegal if they could, live in a fantasy world where poor and rural women would keep and raise their babies with no problem if only abortion were prohibited; that the fact that other policies that they have pushed, “welfare reform” among them, opposing extending health insurance coverage to poor children, opposing the extension of unemployment benefits, opposing the raising of the minimum wage, opposing unionization, etc., make this basically impossible, never occurs to them. The unborn appear to them only in the abstract, and not as living, breathing human-beings that need to be fed, housed, and educated eventually. As abstracts, they become, as a friend puts it, “more souls for Jesus,” when, however, such children, often the product of a teenage mother, grow up, they become the “other” the “non-innocent” whose fate is less than interesting to those who made it their business to make sure that they were born in the first place.

  2. Kathy says:

    Amen, rad_mod.

  3. Navas says:

    Here are the keyords in the essay:

    13th Amendment, 14th Amendment, 2012 Election, B.E.T., Barack Hussein Obama, Booker T. Washington, Bryant Park, Cipriani’s, Colin Powell, Criminal Industrial Complex, Deb Slott, Do The Right Thing, Heidi Klum, Hip-Hop, Mark Penn, Melting Pot, Pink Elephant, Racism, Reconstruction, Robert Johnson, Seal, Segregation, Shelby Steele, Sidney Poiter, Sonia Sotomayor, Spike Lee, Tavis Smiley, Terrence Yang, The Dance Flick, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Virginia Davies, W.E.B. Dubois, Zero Mostel, Politics

    Prologue to Obama 2012

    We approach the future walking backwards, our gaze forever fixated on the past. Predicting the future is not a passive exercise; we invent it every day with our actions.

    I began the sketches for what would ultimately become Obama 2012 in March 2007, a month after Barack Obama declared his candidacy. I had spent much of the previous 18 months living abroad as an entrepreneur and statesman of sorts, and I was slightly out of touch with the pulse of life on the street in the United States. I learnt about Sen. Barack Obama’s Springfield, IL speech formally declaring his candidacy for president of the United States through one of the international cable news channels and thought how great it would be to have a fresh start after years of mediocrity in Washington and a plummeting reputation around the world.

    By September, after what seemed like raising a six-month-old child, my sketches had turned into Why the Democrats Will Win in 2008 the Road to an Obama White House. It was my answer to the burning question everyone had back in March: Can he really win? Actually, not everyone thought it was a question. For many people, including Mark Penn, director of the Clinton campaign, the answer was an easy “no way.” This strategic blunder made it that much easier for the Clinton campaign to be defeated. Then there were Black pundits like Shelby Steele, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, who came out with a 2007 book entitled A Bound Man, Why Obama Can’t Win.

    Being Black did seem to be an automatic disqualification, but then why did someone need to write an entire book arguing what should have been patently obvious? Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell came to my mind and I remembered that he could have run for president in 1992 as a war hero. But Colin Powell was Ronald Reagan’s protégé and got a special pass on the race question. Black conservatives like Justice Thomas, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell were careful to disassociate themselves from liberal thinkers and activists like Jesse Jackson, who lost, as expected, the 1984 and 1988 Democratic primaries. Ultimately, Colin Powell, in spite of all his honors, declined to run for president. His wife Alma feared for his safety. Common sense said that a candidate like Obama, for numerous insurmountable reasons, didn’t stand a chance of winning the Democratic primary, let alone a general election in which 10% of the electorate is African American and Republicans controlled the White House for 20 of the preceding 28 years. But I decided that Obama’s chances merited a closer examination. In it, I would bring to bear my gambling skills.

  4. John Holmes says:

    Liberals are fascists, they want to control every aspect of our lives using their rules. Goldberg is smart and his book should be taken seriously.

    Which populations does Ginsberg think should be controlled?? If she were rational and fair her vote in the Connecticut Firefighters case would have been different.

    I’m back from vacation now, glad to see trivial issues like Jonah Goldberg area being covered by CFLF while truly important issues affecting us all are ignored…

  5. jOHN hOLMES says:

    Navas and others: It was only your own racist stereotypical attitudes … and misestimation of the American People which though Obama couldn’t win because he was half black. Think about it, he won the most white states … like Iowa and Montana. So given these facts are now history please reconsider your assessment. Otherwise you are indeed walking, and looking backwards …

  6. John Fritz says:

    Ginsberg’s statement is a bit ambiguous: who is she referring to when using the collective “we?” I would also be careful in labelling Goldberg stupid. He makes more money, writes much more thoughtful articles and reaches an exponentially larger audience than anyone on this blog. Is there anything you can offer, other than snide remarks, that might suggest a reason for this? Oh yeah, everyone who doesn’t see things through the right lens is an idiot to you guys. You’d rather keep your dicks in the sand than get off.

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