Sunday, August 17, 2008

Even when she's bashing Bush, she's whacked out

MoDo's public personality disintegration continues with a near-incoherent attack on Bush over the Georgia-Russia conflict in Russia Is Not Jamaica New York Times Online08/16/08.

After having gleefully trashed Al Gore and John Kerry in the most frivolous ways, today she's making fun of Bush for his alleged frivolity. Apparently MoDo thinks he should have rushed off personally to Tbilisi or somewhere to git tough with the Russians. You know, like manly man McCain is doing, although MoDo doesn't mention press darling McCain. But here is her take on what's happening, to the extent any sense can be made of it:

"America's back in the cold war", she tells us in her opening sentence. Great. And obviously coming from a writer who doesn't give a flying fig whether it's true or not. Then she bounces around talking about how horrible the Russians are but how Georgia "made the mistake of baiting the bear", though she doesn't bother to say that Georgia attacked the breakaway province of South Ossetia where Russian peacekeeping troops were stationed as part of an international agreement. With no reliable script in place yet, she's all over the map on the Georgia issue, from New Cold War to Bush should have done more to Bush was foolish to think he could have done more.

As usual, basic fact-checking cannot be assumed in MoDo's columns.

Her concluding paragraph is:

As Michael Specter, the New Yorker writer who has written extensively about Russia, observed: "There was a brief five-year period when we could get away with treating Russia like Jamaica - that’s over. Now we have to deal with them like grown-ups who have more nuclear weapons than anybody except us."
Now, admittedly I'm not very well-informed about the state of US-Jamaican relations. But I have no idea what "treating Russia like Jamaica" means. But the part about Russia "more nuclear weapons than anybody except us" is fairly easily checkable.

Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen have written 2008 evaluations of US and Russian nuclear forces for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Russian Nuclear Forces, 2008 May/June 2008 and U.S Nuclear Forces, 2008 Mar/Apr 2008. The tables they provide show the US with 4,075 "operational" nuclear warheads in its strategic and non-strategic arsenals, plus 200 spares, 1,260 in reserve and 5,150 waiting to be dismantled, for a total of 10,685. The show Russia with 5,192 nuclear warheads in their strategic and non-strategic forces with 8,808 "in reserve or awaiting dismantlement", for a total of 14,000.

So, Russia has 14,000 nuclear warheads, the US 10,685. With operational weapons in the strategic and non-strategic forces, Russia has 5,192, the US 4,275 if you count the 200 spares. Even in MoDoWorld, how does that add up to the US having "more" nuclear weapons than Russia?

She gives this addled description of the world situation, apparently groping her own way to embracing a possibly-emerging press corps script about the New Cold War:

While America has been bogged down and bled dry, China and Russia are plumping up. China has bought so much of America that we’d be dead Peking ducks if they pulled their investments out of our market, and Russia has transformed itself from a pauper nation to a land filled with millionaires - all through our addiction to oil.
She has time to make fun of some Bush small talk at a G-8 summit that looks entirely innocuous to me, and draw the conclusion from it that Bush "never bothered to study up" on Russia or China. But she offers this ditzy bit of pop psychology:

The Bush administration may have a sentimental attachment to Georgia because it sent 2,000 troops to Iraq as part of the fig-leaf Coalition of the Willing, and because Poppy Bush and James Baker were close to Georgia's first president, Eduard Shevardnadze.
Even when she's bashing Bush, MoDo does a bad job of it. Given her animus toward Gore, Kerry and the Clintons, her judgment about Bush's shortcomings is more galling than helpful, especially since it's repeating what 75% or so of the country now understands to be the case:

He'll go out as he came in — ignoring reality; failing to foresee, prevent or even prepare for disasters; misinterpreting intelligence reports; misreading people; and handling crises in ways that makes them exponentially worse.

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