July 24, 2014

"In my late 50s, at a time of life when most people are supposed to be drifting into a cautious conservatism..."

"...I am surprised to find myself moving steadily leftward," writes Thomas Ricks a Politico piece titled "Why Am I Moving Left?/I used to be right down the middle. But America’s changed, and so have I."

Is Ricks someone whose political shift matters, someone we shouldn't suspect of hacking out another essay desperate for links? He informs us that he's spent his journalistic career "covering the U.S. military, first for the Wall Street Journal and then for the Washington Post, and now for Foreign Policy magazine." He's "written five books about the Marines, the Army and our wars." And he actually refrained from voting, because he wanted to maintain a professional detachment from his subject matter. (I wonder how many reporters do that. I've actually toyed with the idea of not voting, but it was a way of conveying my commitment to what I call "cruel neutrality," and in the end, I care too much about participating in the ritual of going to the polls.)

52 comments:

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...


If he's getting older, and yet despite increased life experiences is drifting to the political Left, I would suspect early onset dementia, or perhaps even Alzheimers.

Mark said...

He sounds Conservative in exactly the same way my Rottie sounded like a cat.

Anonymous said...

Alzheimer's disease?

tim maguire said...

Early onset Alzheimer's?

Lyssa said...

Almost all of his reasons broke down to distrust of and disenchantment with government. This hardly seems a reason to move left. Most of the policies he referenced have been embraced and enlarged by the Obama administrative. If you distrust government, you should identify with the party that distrusts government and wants less of it.

The rest of his "reasoning" was purely emotive - i.e., gun massacres make him sad. Sure, of course they do - does that mean that the 2nd Amendment should no longer be enforced? No analysis whatsoever, just an emotion.

Connie said...

Funny, as I grow towards 50 I get more libertarian.

C R Krieger said...

I like Tom Ricks, but I think he is drifting in this piece.

As for not voting, that is old school military.  In my case I registered "Declines to State" as my act of neutrality while in Uniform for 30 years.

It is outside Mr Ricks normal beat.

The real question of the day is why President Putin is calling an Emergency Meeting of the Duma.  WIll R2P (Responsibility to Protect) come back to bite us?

Regards  —  Cliff

The Crack Emcee said...

"I care too much about participating in the ritual of going to the polls"

Not me, and we have the Althouse crew to thank for it - I am utterly convinced of the evil inherent in this place and would no more participated in it's rituals than Satan's - and I definitely won't follow it's ethical or moral outlook.

No country that would kill, rape, and cheat it's own people - and then try to cover it up with a bad attitude - is worth it.

And then there was trying to elect Romney.

Fuck slavery, etc. - THAT was completely unforgivable.

Fucking popcorn and carrot stick rapists,...

Salamandyr said...

considering he conflates conservatism with "C"conservatism, I'm not sure I trust his opinion on other areas of the political spectrum.

glenn said...

More Fart Noises.

Rumpletweezer said...

Some people go through their whole lives and never figure things out. He's one of those guys. The war in Iraq started on "false premises." That concept is an idiot identifier. And "income inequality!" This despite decades of leftist attempts to equalize income through tax policy and welfare benefits.

Wikipedia says he got his degree from Yale, but doesn't say what it was in. I'm guessing it wasn't History or Economics. Anyone want to bet it was Journalism? Not a deep thinker, this one.

Balfegor said...

And he actually refrained from voting, because he wanted to maintain a professional detachment from his subject matter.

Why do people think that beliefs unexpressed aren't real beliefs? You get this bizarre notion from journalists a lot, when they po-facedly censure themselves for expressing their partisan views, e.g. by donating to particular candidates. Once one is at the point of wanting to donate to a candidate, one is no longer neutral. The actual act of donating (or voting) is totally irrelevant to the question of neutrality. Pressuring people to "refrain" from the public act (or semi-public act, in the case of voting) doesn't enforce a norm of neutrality; it enforces a norm of deliberate concealment of partisanship.

Ron said...

Ike was very concerned about never voting before he was elected.

damikesc said...

The rest of his "reasoning" was purely emotive - i.e., gun massacres make him sad. Sure, of course they do - does that mean that the 2nd Amendment should no longer be enforced? No analysis whatsoever, just an emotion.

I wonder if these same people think we should suspend the First Amendment because there is some rather unpleasant porn out there for people to see.

Richard Dolan said...

He has an odd list of issues driving his journey left-ward. Most of them focus on disappointment in how the federal gov't has performed across the board -- how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were conducted, how the gov't has supposedly favored "wealth transfers" to the rich (by not taxing more heavily?), "bailouts for banks"(but not insurance companies under O-care?), "democracy for sale" (presumably a dig at Citizens United but not OFA, gov't unions or other influences?), and gun regulation. From that list, he draws the conclusion that "more federal intervention" is the answer.

Why would giving more power to an institution that so disappoints him be a logical solution to that list of grievances? It's hard to see why anyone else would find this a persuasive reason to follow along.

madAsHell said...

Unmarried, and no kids??

Jason said...

The most overrated military writer of our time.

jr565 said...

Did he get hit in the head recently. Brain damage might explain it.

bbkingfish said...

"Is Ricks...someone we shouldn't suspect of hacking out another essay desperate for links?"

Project much?

gadfly said...

We have here an anchor-less fool who slides with the tides of political events, easily influenced by stronger- willed people who just happen to have a bonafide belief system.

Just as salesmen are easily taken in sales scams, lackluster media folks bitterly cling to their trade and to the inevitability of liberalism.

Anonymous said...

Blogger Jason said...
The most overrated military writer of our time.

7/24/14, 10:12 AM
-----------------------------

His 'military' writing was focused on the war within the beltway.

Editor said...

Tom Ricks is about as middle-of-the-road as Barack Obama. He's a snotty Class of 1977 graduate of Yale, whose whole career has consisted of criticizing the US military from a bed-wetting Coastal elite perspective.

Anonymous said...

When one is bias, one's bias. His non-voting doesn't make him less so.

He drifts left to keep his job in a leftist magazine. Anyone heard of David Brooks? A conservative when he worked for WSJ, drifted left as a token conservative in NYT.

Scribes are never independent, they write what their patrons paid them to write.

Journalists write what they are paid to write. Scribes transcribe their client's words on paper, journalists transcribe their boss's opinions. A journalist thrives kissing his boss's ass, not by being a thorn in his boss's ass.

garage mahal said...

Looks like people are starting to realize we are in Reagan's 9th term. That's when this country starting going in the shitter.

Anonymous said...

(Paraphrasing Winston Churchill)
'Show me a young man who is a conservative, and I'll show you a man who has no heart. But if you show me an old man who is a liberal, I'll show you a man who has no brain.'

amie lalune said...

Crack, seriously, if I hated this country as much as you do, I would get the h*ll out.

There's got to be a place where you can feel that you belong and can support. Research your African ancestors and go there (mine are Irish and I'm seriously considering retiring there someday, if it still exists). Jamaica is supposed to be a paradise for black people.

Not trying to start a fight with you, but living with the hate has got to be bad for your physical and mental health, as well as that of everyone around you.

William said...

As I've grown older my politics have grown more conservative. I suppose you could argue that this is proof that my core beliefs remain flexible and supple. I'm pretty sure that's how Ricks would have argued the case. Ricks' introspection never examines the possibility that he's wrong......When liberals get crusty, they don't become conservative but rather they become more indignant and self righteous in their core beliefs......I've been wrong about a lot of things. That's been my life lesson. My beliefs are thus tentative and subject to change.

Robert Cook said...

"The war in Iraq started on 'false premises.' That concept is an idiot identifier."

I guess this is technically not wrong; the war in Iraq was started based on lies. But then, "false premises" may just be Ricks' polite way of saying "lies."

"And 'income inequality!. This despite decades of leftist attempts to equalize income through tax policy and welfare benefits."

Heh. While those polices were in place, income equality was greater across the board and more Americans enjoyed properity than had historically been the norm prior. Any such attempts are no longer in effect stopped and have been steadily reversed for some few years now; hence, the income inequality that is making America a land with a disappearing middle class, a land where a minority is very rich and the majority are (or will be) poor.

Just Mike said...

most people drift into cautious conservatism in their 30s. By their 50s they make Barry Goldwater look like that other Barry. I think he's looking for easier access to younger women

Heyooyeh said...

". . . and in the end, I am slavishly devoted to candidates like Romney and Walker."

Fixed that last sentence for you.

mccullough said...

I love how he says that even though he is financially well off he's becoming less conservative. Obama got much higher percentage of the vote among those making over $250,000 a year.

Also, he doesn't think corporations should have first amendment rights. But his while career has been in writing for or string books published through corporations. If corporations didn't have first amendment rights everyone would have to self publish through their own press.

This is such a thoughtless McEssay.

john said...

Before national elections NPR always sends their intrepid reporter up to a small town in New Hampshire where she finds a group of "staunch republican" women who nonetheless will vote democrat this time because of the vile rightward shift of the GOP.

I look forward to those news broadcasts in the fall. When I hear them I know Christmas is coming soon.

Mitch H. said...

The heck with his books on the Iraq War and the contemporary military. Read his books on the US Army in the European Theatre in WWII, and you'll find a man fascinated with tales of generals' chauffeured cars running over Algerian children and all the rest of it. At best, he's a Robert Caro-style Progressive type who, like our own Robert Cook, thinks of the Democrats as right-wing militarists. At worst, he's a shamming Obama-type. For a few years during and after the Surge, he had a peer-pressure conversion experience which no doubt made him *feel* middle-of-the-road. But like Charles Johnson's brief half-decade of neoconery, it wore off, and he went home to academic left-wing biliousness.

Mark said...

Liberals always think they're Moderates. Progressives think they're Liberals. Socialists think they're Superior. SoCons think they're Right. FisCons think they're Rational. And Crack thinks he'll have one more, f*** you and thank you very much.

Jason said...

...Aaaaaand right on schedule, Cookie takes the bate to prove Rumpletweezer is correct!

sean said...

Hmm, the collapse of Communism in 1989 moved me a good bit to the right. I decided that Ronald Reagan (about whom I hadn't been that enthusiastic when he was in office) had basically been right about the big questions, and my college and law school professors had basically been wrong. I don't really think there has been a world-historical event since then, and so my politics haven't changed perceptibly.

n.n said...

Rebel with a rocker.

Rich Horton said...

The default position for a journalist has been considerably left of center for the last 40-50 years. So I'm sure his idea of "center" isn't the same as the population as a whole.

Besides, there comes a time in the career of every member of the elite when it matters which coktail parties you get invited to. For them the answer is inevitably "Leftward Ho!!!"

Hagar said...

With regard to his final paragraph, why does it never occur to Democrats that the "rising income inequality" they are complaining so about, is largely due to the monetary policies followed by their own favorite President and his Administration?

Chuck said...

Complete bullshit. Who, besides Thomas Ricks himself, vouches for his earlier political neutrality?

This sort of polemic fits perfectly with the media's love of somebody like Colin Powell (someone not unknown to Ricks, for sure), whose full time career is best described as "Recovering former Republican." But for that schtick to work, Powell has to keep claiming Republican status.

What better tool to serve the mainstream media's hatred of Republicans, than a former/recovering/disenchanted/exiled Republican?

Tom Ricks is one of the greatest phonies in all of American life today. Yeah, I know he's been all over, and that he knows everybody in the Pentagon, having been to lots of war zones.

I also know this; his white, upper middle class, elite-eastern-university-educated readership (the people who buy his books and magazine articles, and who have paid for his summer home in Maine) all want the same stuff they get daily in the New York Times.

Lydia said...

Give the guy a break -- "all he wants, he says, is to get back to the little place in Maine where he spends most of his time, writing and occasionally venturing out to see who caught how many lobsters."

When he's not on Fox News, of course, telling them that their "emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of Republican Party."

cubanbob said...

garage mahal said...
Looks like people are starting to realize we are in Reagan's 9th term. That's when this country starting going in the shitter.
7/24/14, 11:22 AM

rightguy2 said...
(Paraphrasing Winston Churchill)
'Show me a young man who is a conservative, and I'll show you a man who has no heart. But if you show me an old man who is a liberal, I'll show you a man who has no brain.'
7/24/14, 11:23 AM

Actually we are in Carter's 4th term except Carter less incompetent.

Clemenceau phrased it better; " if my son is not a communist at eighteen, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative at forty, he has no brain".

Late fifties and drifting left? Probably is really counting on benefits for his retirement and works for a left-organization is fearful of losing his job.

Rob McLean said...

And he actually refrained from voting, because he wanted to maintain a professional detachment from his subject matter.

Is this the new "I don't own a television?"

Matt said...

Funny how few people actually read the article or attempt to understand what Thomas Ricks is saying. He notes that he was a 'detached centrist.' So it's not like he is saying he was a hard-core right winger who went left. Next, he says this is not about partisan politics. In other words, he is not saying he has become a Democrat or an Obama supporter. He simply says he has moved left. Then he lays out the reasons.

It is generally understood that the left is opposed to war, not pleased with corporate America, wants stricter gun laws and is wary of corporate / government alliance and hates the NSA, to name a few. While the right tends to not be as strongly opposed to these positions. So in that light, Thomas Ricks has moved left from his centrist position rather than right.

I'm not sure why this much matters. But I do know that a lot of right wing blogs and such are making hay out of it when there is no reason to. It is likely because they think Ricks is confused about what defines the left. He isn’t. Obama does not define or represent the left any more than Romney defined the right. Both are politicians who represent political parties.

Bruce Hayden said...

Why do so many move to the right as they age? And, really more to the libertarian than conservative side?

My suggestion is that it is through cynicism. When you are young, you can believe in the good of people, that if just very smart people of good faith were running things, we could have a better world. The world is open in front of them, and the sky is the limit in what they can accomplish, esp. if they all work together in harmony. Etc.

By the time that you get into your fifties, and for some of us, now sixties, you realize that the people working in government tend not to be the best and the brightest. Why would they be, facing a soulless life of metal furniture and linoleum floored offices? And, the mind numbing effect of working for a soulless behemoth. Moreover, while there are a lot of very idealistic people who go into government service, they tend to lose their idealism when they live under the reality that it isn't the good people who rise to power in government bureaucracies, but more often the more ruthless. And, the managers quickly find that they can gain more power and money by increasing their fiefdom, than in actually pursuing the real goals of the agency.

So many of our youth actually believed that Barack Obama would be a transformative President, stopping the water from rising, etc. They wanted so badly to believe in a politician. But, the sad reality, again, is that the most successful politicians are, again, the most ruthless. And, yes, this is even more true on the Democratic side, because they are the party of big government, part of big government is crony capitalism, and that opens up large opportunities for graft for those passing out government opportunities.

The reason that both socialism and Utopias inevitably fail is that humans more likely than not put themselves and their families and local communities ahead of the national interest. And, this is where the cynicism comes in - most of us by that age know this, and many of us realize that any system based on assuming the opposite, that man is going to work selflessly for the common good, is destined for failure, but before failure, most often tends towards authoritarian excesses.

This guy almost sounds like the Occupy crowd, who realized that the system was corrupt, but somehow believed that the solution to bad government is more bad government, and the solution to corrupt politicians was giving them more power. Hopefully, a lot of them will ultimately discover that their backing and voting for the party of corrupt big government is making the problem worse, not better.

Darrell said...

Some people were just born to suck from the cock of socialism.

ddh said...

I used to read sometimes Tom Ricks' blog on the Foreign Policy website before it disappeared behind a pay wall, but I think he's a bit of a crank for some time. He was becoming more and more dyspeptic about military leaders, apparently thinking Admiral Byng got off too lightly. He posted lots of stories about military officers being relieved of command.

Ricks also bizarrely argued that income inequality was undermining US national security because it is worse in the United States than in Afghanistan, where he had lived as a teenager. (It seems he forgot that wealthy Afghans live like wealthy Americans, but with lots of servants, while poor Afghans live in mud huts without electricity or plumbing.) He said one of his journalist friends was his guru on the issue, but his friend's only academic credential was a BA in English from Harvard.

Revenant said...

People get "conservative", in the sense of "more resistant to change", as they age.

There's nothing inconsistent about being left-wing and being anti-change. The government already dominates every aspect of American life, after all.

Michael K said...

Ricks developed a hatred of Bush that colored all of his subsequent writing and has driven me away from anything he writes. He is a hack.

Pat said...

I love the bit about how Republicans are happy to redistribute income and wealth to the rich. How exactly do they do this? One presumes by failing to take income and wealth away from the rich.

viator said...

Pollutico, making American safe for cultural Marxism, socialism, Keynesianism, central planning, watermelonism, and anti-capitalism.

The Crack Emcee said...

amie lalune,

"Crack, seriously, if I hated this country as much as you do, I would get the h*ll out."

I tried that. Baldwin tried it, too - didn't work. America's ruined us.

"There's got to be a place where you can feel that you belong and can support."

Nope - The New World is our shitty home.

"Research your African ancestors and go there (mine are Irish and I'm seriously considering retiring there someday, if it still exists). Jamaica is supposed to be a paradise for black people."

I don't know shit about Africa and don't know nobody.

"Not trying to start a fight with you, but living with the hate has got to be bad for your physical and mental health, as well as that of everyone around you."

You forget - I'm surrounded by other black people in the same boat. Our physical and mental health is fine:

It's white folks who are crazy,...