Monday, March 31, 2008

Talking points

That's our Maverick!

The title refers to one talking point on the Iraq War, two on the Presidential campaign.

A favorite line of war supporters like our Maverick McCain is to say that war opponents don't take account of the risks involved in an American withdrawal. Anyone who actually believes that almost certainly hasn't actually listened to what the war opponents say, beyond maybe a sound bite or two.

Here's a current example, from The Smart Way Out of a Foolish War by Zbigniew Brzezinski Washington Post 03/30/08. Zbig, unlike almost all the foreign policy "experts" you see on TV news, was an opponent of the Iraq War from the start. A real opponent, and an outspoken one. Here's his current take on the war. Notice that he manages to mention both risks of continuing the war as well as risks in withdrawing from it:

Contrary to Republican claims that our departure will mean calamity, a sensibly conducted disengagement will actually make Iraq more stable over the long term. The impasse in Shiite-Sunni relations is in large part the sour byproduct of the destructive U.S. occupation, which breeds Iraqi dependency even as it shatters Iraqi society. In this context, so highly reminiscent of the British colonial era, the longer we stay in Iraq, the less incentive various contending groups will have to compromise and the more reason simply to sit back. A serious dialogue with the Iraqi leaders about the forthcoming U.S. disengagement would shake them out of their stupor.

Ending the U.S. war effort entails some risks, of course, but they are inescapable at this late date. Parts of Iraq are already self-governing, including Kurdistan, part of the Shiite south and some tribal areas in the Sunni center. U.S. military disengagement will accelerate Iraqi competition to more effectively control their territory, which may produce a phase of intensified inter-Iraqi conflicts. But that hazard is the unavoidable consequence of the prolonged U.S. occupation. The longer it lasts, the more difficult it will be for a viable Iraqi state ever to reemerge.
Check out the speeches of our Dear Leader Bush and those of Staight-Talker McCain to see if you find any discussion of the risks on continuing the current war other than boilerplate regrets about sacrifice.

As Brzezinski writes:

President Bush's and Sen. John McCain's forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of "falling dominoes" that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.
Yes, it does.

Now, talking points on the Presidential campaign. David Brooks insisted on Meet the Press 03/30/08 that the Democrats are making race and gender central to their primary campaigns. Tim Russert quoted from a recent column by Brooks in which he said of the Democratic contest, "There will be steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism."

Brooks went on to say:

This race is different from every other Democratic race because it's about race and gender, ultimately, and personality. So they're going to fixate on those three things, and they're going to make the party look pretty bad.
Three months from now is going to be a long time from now, and emotions will change. And to have a debate about these touchy issues of race and gender in the midst of a campaign, a debate that is led by political hacks who are going to demean it in all the worst possible ways, as, I think, frankly, Bill Clinton did just there, it's just, it's just going to be bad for the party. And I'm not saying it's going to hurt Barack Obama among Democrats, but it's going to hurt him among independents, it's going to hurt him among Republicans, and it's going to, I just think, demean the party. I've never seen an elevated debate in the midst of this kind of viciousness.
The Republicans have been engaging in recent years in quite a lot of projection. Brooks' characterizations of the Democratic campaign are partisan hackery of his own, of course. But he's using the argument that race and gender have been injected into the campaign by the Democrats.

He apparently hasn't noticed the high-profile rightwingers like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan who have been gleefully injecting race, especially, in campaign discussions, much less the NewsMax, WorldNutDaily and e-mail chain letter contributions to that effort. And he certainly did't mention the obsession by esteemed figures of the Establishment press over issues of race and gender, Chris Matthews being particularly egregious in his bizarre comments on Hillary Clinton.

And speaking of Tweety, his lead topic on the 03/30/08 Chris Matthews Show was, "40 years after M.L. King's death, will we elect our first black president?" As of this writing, the Web site for his show features two weekly "meter questions":

But Big Pundits like David Brooks know that it's the Democrats, especially Vile Bill and Vile Hillary, who are the ones injecting race into the campaign.

More Presidential contest talking points, with David Brooks also involved: The Maverick gave a major foreign policy speech in Los Angeles last week, which to the vulgar ear may have sounded like blithering warmongering. But the Big Pundits heard something different. Brooks and alleged liberal Big Pundit Mark Shields on the PBS Newshour 03/28/08, explained it to us. Conservative Brooks told us it meant McCain was taking a maverick course away from the Bush Doctrine:

... he moved away from Bush on whether American foreign policy pivots around terror.
.. he made it clear the U.S. is not the unipolar power that's going to dominate the world. There are a lot of powers in the world. We just have -- we are a citizen among these... Certainly [it's a major change] from the first days of George W. Bush.
So what he really did was try to restore what really is a long tradition of American politics, which has been in both parties, which starts with Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Henry Stimson, Dean Acheson, and especially Harry Truman, who he kept mentioning.

And that's a tradition that says the world needs a strong America, but one that is part of a global system. And a crucial sentence in that speech was: America didn't win the Cold War. An American-led community of nations won the Cold War.
Liberal Mark Shields, on the other hand, told us it meant McCain was taking a maverick course away from the Bush Doctrine:

... he emphasized a lot of places of disagreement [with Bush].

I mean, that John McCain is his own man, whether it's the closing of Guantanamo, whether it's the refusal to use torture as a policy of -- an instrument of American policy, the sense of communality and collegiality among nations, reaching to the allies, that time that a post-Kyoto treaty would be negotiated, I mean, right across the board.

And there were areas of disagreement and independence that we had come to expect.
And John McCain did, in fact, I thought, emphasize that he was going to work with democracies to the exclusion of other nations, that he really had a problem with non -- I mean, Putin and other autocrats.
And when conservative Brooks made his comment about the "crucial sentence ... America didn't win the Cold War", liberal Shields chimed in and gushed:

And that's attacking the theology of the conservative movement, I mean, because that's Article One, is that Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. And that's the automatic applause line in every - so, I mean, that was a little bit heretical and independent and bold.

So there you have "both sides" on the Republican cadidate's speech. The conservative pundit says that the Maverick "moved away from Bush" in the speech. The liberal pundit called it independent, no, not just independent but "heretical and independent and bold"! It showed "that John McCain is his own man".

Wow, that's our Maverick! And that's our sad excuse for a press corps.

And to complete the love-fest, we have David Broder, Dean Of All The Pundits, writing on McCain's Manifesto Washington Post 03/30/08. Don't look yet! Can you guess what he said? If you guessed he said that the Maverick's speech described "a vastly different approach from President Bush's and one that might heal the wounds left here at home and abroad by the past seven years", you win!!!

The man-crushes these guys have on the bold Maverick is just staggering.

Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent seems not to be so affected yet. I mean, he even takes the vulgar view himself in McCain Foreign Policy: Bush Doctrine Plus 03/27/08:

The media picked up on McCain's qualifiers on the Bush Doctrine. McCain "insist[ed] he will abandon the president's perceived go-it-alone mentality," Bash reported. Yet such tactical adjustments are in the service of Bush's rhetorical commitment to a form of democracy. "We must help expand the power and reach of freedom," McCain said, "using all of our many strengths as a free people. This is not just idealism. It is the truest kind of realism."

What the last seven years have demonstrated is that it may be the falsest. Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine are, indeed, all more democratic than they were seven years ago. But in all three cases, those fledgling democracies have been characterized by sectarianism, religious fanaticism, illiberalism and (with the exception of Lebanon) anti-Americanism. It is precisely Bush's strategic ignorance that McCain would commit the U.S. to - in Iraq and beyond - for, as he put it in January, "one hundred years. Make it a thousand."

In the last month, liberal interest groups have launched an effort to portray the GOP nominee-to-be as being "McSame" as Bush. After McCain's Los Angeles foreign-policy speech, however, it's clear that the moniker is wide of the mark. McCain isn't McSame. He's Bush-Plus.
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"It is the logic of our times
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-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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