Monday, May 08, 2006

No Partisan Angle Here. No, Sir.

Andrew Sullivan has been critical of Ramesh Ponnuru and his book, The Party of Death -- here, for instance -- because Ponnuru seems to apply his argument only to the Democratic Party. Sullivan points us to the first two sentences of the flap copy, which are:
Is the Democratic Party the "Party of Death"?

If you look at their agenda they are.
Forget that the second sentence should substitute "its" and "it is" for "their" and "they are." This is book publishing, after all. Seems pretty straightforward in sticking it to the 'Crats, but Ponnuru is adamant that the book is more balanced than this copy would lead us to believe. Here, he writes, in part:
I had no veto over the book jacket, didn’t see it until it had gone out, and didn’t much like it. The title and subtitle, on the other hand, I’m perfectly happy with.
Oh, OK. He's down with the subtitle. What is it again? "The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life."

(Via Andrew Sullivan)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as we're being sticklers for accuracy, we should probably acknowledge that 2 sentences later, Ponnuru also says this:

"As I’ve said many times now, what I call “the party of death” has influence in both parties but more influence among the Democrats."

So apparently "the Party of Death" is not a reference to the Democrats, and Ponnuru doesn't apply his argument only to the Democratic Party. Maybe Sullivan's argument would be stronger with quotes from text that Ponnuru actually wrote.

I've read a bunch of Ponnuru over the years and he strikes me as remarkably intelligent and fair. He's got very strong opinions -- pro-life among them -- and he's critical of those with whom he disagrees regardless of party affiliation. He's certainly not a partisan hitman, despite the insinuation that Sullivan draws from the book jacket.

Isn't there an adage that applies to this situation remarkably well?

-- Comish

8:08 PM  
Blogger JMW said...


I'm guilty here of writing without any firsthand knowledge of the book's larger contents. And I'm not familiar enough with Ponnuru's work or partisan enough to pass judgment on his stuff. If you think he's intelligent and fair, I'm almost certain I'd think the same. Still, Sullivan also quotes this passage today from a review of the book in the New York Sun, a quite conservative paper:

"The chief intellectual weakness of [the pro-life] movement is no longer rhetorical. If anything, it's political. The cause is too often linked with that of conservatism and the Republican Party. 'The Party of Death' is an interesting example of this phenomenon. Though its style has wide appeal, the book is structured as a conservative polemic. It contains virtually no criticisms of the Republican Party, let alone social conservatives."

1:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A quote from Ponnuru's introduction (in italics):

The party of death should not be confused with a conventional political party: It has members (and opponents) within both of America's major political parties, although it is much stronger today among Democrats than Republicans. The party of death has unwitting allies, too, just as it always has. Someone who reluctantly supports euthanasia to spare the dying from further suffering surely does not intend to advance a comprehensive agenda to undermine the protection of human life. Yet that is the effect, however modest, of her support.

We are sometimes told that polite conversation avoids the topics of sex, religion, and poltics. Some would say that a book with this subject matter breaks all three rules. They might go on to worry that calling one side of the debate a "party of death" will raise the temperature still further.

We all have close friends and beloved relatives—I certainly do—who support legal abortion, or euthanasia, or both. Maybe we supported these things ourselves, once. I did. Maybe some readers still do. I hope that this book speaks to them with an honesty that does not seek to wound, but with a love that dares not refuse the truth. If the thought of belonging to a party of death disturbs them, perhaps they can be moved to leave it.

Although I disagree with the book's premise -- that policies that increase or encourage death are necessarily bad -- I think it's a pretty fair statement of purpose.

Now, if the rest of the book is one long attack on Democrats, then that's disappointing (and surprising, given that the sub-title includes other entities, too). But I'm not overly concerned about it for the same reasons I was unconcerned books by Michael Moore and Al Franken, which were apparently pretty harsh on Repubs and lenient on Dems:

1) These type of books have been coming out on both sides of the aisle for quite a while now;

2) It's just a book;

and 3) I didn't plan to read it anyway.

-- Comish

4:54 PM  

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