Last gasps from the Left *UPDATED*

This weekend, I was at a block party, and the talk got around to the fact that, thanks to the internet, our children leave a trail a mile long.  They’ve got posts and pictures up at Facebook or MySpace, and videos all over YouTube.  Whether they’re applying for a job or college, a quick check on a search engine will quickly reveal if they’re the kid clutching the bong or the encyclopedia.  The whole notion of the past being past is pretty much a dead letter for this connected generation.

This was certainly an interesting and appropriate conversation for a group of parents presiding over raising kids between 3 and 13.  What was most interesting was the explosive outcry from one dad:  “If only they’d had this when George Bush was young.  We could have saved ourselves.”  Even avowed liberals looked a little confused about this one.  Nobody called the dad on the fact that Bush freely acknowledged his wild past, one that he had definitively put behind him by the time he ran for the White House.  It also seemed a little silly to mention that Bush has been gone for almost two years.

Suddenly arriving stampedes of kids turned the conversation very quickly, so any opportunities for follow-up ended.  I wonder, though, if I was the only one there who thought that, if it comes to a missing history, Obama has them all beat.  All we know about him is what is written in his hagiographic autobiography (you know, the one Bill Ayers ghost wrote for him).  Everything else is a mystery.  It would have been nice to have a few MySpace or YouTube moments of our current president.

In any event, I mention this whole incident just to show that, Bush may be gone, but he’s not forgotten.  Long after he’s left the White House, and in the face of ever escalating Obama-Caused Disasters, Bush remains the focus of unrelenting hatred.  Even on the Leno show, a few gentle jokes about Obama are quickly pushed aside in favor of fairly savage attacks on Bush.  I guess Leno’s afraid his band will think he’s racist if he includes personal attacks on the White House’s current occupant.

UPDATE:  Here’s a convincing argument for the fact that it is Obama who will ultimately end up being a much hated president — although his blackness may mean that this hatred is kept covert (i.e., never on the Leno show), for fear of being called a racist.

Beheading Obama

On the right side of the blogosphere, we have often discussed the fact that, during the Bush years, the Left indulged in gory fantasies of George Bush being shot or beheaded.  In the interest of fairness, it behooves me to point out that some on the Left indulge in similar fantasies when it comes to Barack Obama, a man (God?) they believe has failed them.  At least when it comes to beheadings, the Islamists and the extreme Leftists are definitely fellow travelers.

Two presidents in their milieus — and how photos can lie *UPDATED/CORRECTED*

Presidents get photographed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of time.  Each photograph captures a mere moment.  Some are flattering; some less so.  Many, however, go on to become iconic.

My generation, the 1970s generation, is deeply imprinted with this photo of Richard Nixon flashing the victory sign:

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Then there is this 1932 photograph of FDR, which exemplified the buoyant self-confidence that was so attractive to frightened Americans during a shatteringly deep depression:

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As a counterpoint to Roosevelt’s jaunty assurance, I kind of like this picture of Barack Obama, caught unawares [UPDATE:  FunkyPhD clues me in to something I didn't know -- the photo is a fake.  I'll keep it here, but add another immediately after of Obama smoking, just to keep the balance.  Incidentally, while the newly added photo is old, the fact is that Obama can't seem to kick the habit.]:

obama-smoking

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Frankly, whether one looks at the doctored photo or the genuine one, each freezes just a moment in time, but both seem to capture so completely the essence of the man (or lack of essence, if you will).

Steve Schippert, who writes at Threats Watch, stumbled across a couple of photos that seem to get to the heart of Bush and Obama, by showing each man in a milieu in which he clearly connects with his audience. The photos make a lovely matched set (and don’t I love those matched sets?) because each is informal and, in each, the President holds a bullhorn, reaching out to his audience.

The first photo shows George Bush, at Ground Zero with rescue workers, shortly after 9/11:

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It is, in its own small way, another iconic moment.  9/11 was the turning point in Bush’s presidency and, for at least 8 years, in America’s relationship with the world.  Bush connected deeply with middle America, the America of people with traditional values and a reverence for American exceptionalism.  This is not a chauvinism that demands the degradation of other nations.  It is simply a recognition that we are what we are — and we like it. And the rest of the world hated Bush for his unreserved love for and protective feelings towards America.

The second photo shows Barack Obama, also with a bullhorn, speaking to adoring multitudes in Kenya:

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He looks so pleased and comfortable.  This crowd that unabashedly loves him.  They don’t care where he was born, they don’t ask about his grades, they aren’t worried about his past associations, they don’t look askance at his slender employment record dotted with promotions that appeared to be due to connections, not merit.  The picture captures perfectly a mindset that the American media sold to American voters in 2008:  Out in the world, away from America, Obama doesn’t have to prove himself.  He just is.  He’s Obama.

But things are never that simple, are they?  As Obama seeks world peace by cuddling up to bad actors in an effort to disarm them (think Chamberlain and Hitler), people of good will around the world are getting worried.  Certainly Poland and the Czech Republic have reason to fear; Israel fears; South Korea fears; everyone within rocket or suitcase range of Iran fears; Venezuela’s neighbors fear — this is a man who prefers the peace of the grave to the hurly-burly of freedom.

The world is realizing that it’s not enough just to “be Obama.”  The cowboy insult bestowed on Bush might have been an unwitting compliment.  After all, it was Bush who was willing to ride into town and, at great risk to himself, clean up the bad guys.

The Kenyan image of Obama is especially ironic, because Africans and other people concerned about Africa are waking up to the fact that it was George Bush, whitest of white presidents, not Barack Obama, sort-of-black poster boy, who was a real friend to that imperiled continent.

Phone messages from crazy people

I was out this morning getting my oil changed — and learning that it will cost almost $2,000 to fix my car from its recent run-in with a low post.  When I got home, I found an interesting message on my answering machine.

It’s the recorded voice of Dennis Kucinich begging me to “Press 1 now” on my phone to be added to the “growing list” of people calling for George Bush’s impeachment.  I don’t know how to tell Kucinich this, but George Bush is leaving office, with or without impeachment, in six months.

Impeachment is, in any event, a dumb idea.  Even though Clinton used the White House as his own private cat house, committed perjury himself, and encouraged others to lie as well, I thought the impeachment against him was vindictive politics that would backfire.  I think the same holds true in this tit-for-tat attempt to dislodge Bush, or just to humiliate him, with the end of his presidency drawing near.

It’s also unusually stupid — and this is saying a lot even for Kucinich — considering the potential fall-out here.  Clinton’s crimes were his own.  In this case, however, any Democrat calling for impeachment should consider the number of Congress people (Democrats included) who had possession of precisely the same information as George Bush, and who were as gung-ho for war as he was.  Any attack on Bush is necessarily going to create a wide-ranging defense that attacks a whole bunch of Congress people as well.  (You know, thinking about it, that’s not such a bad thing, is it?)

I know you are, but what am I?!

I’ve noticed an interesting trend in the comments to my Barack Obama posts lately whenever liberals wander by.  I’ll put up a post pointing out something very specific we’ve learned about Obama, despite his rather thin resume.  I might blog about his relationship with Rezko and the peculiar coincidences of his real estate purchase; or perhaps I’ll note that he’s been friends with some anarcho-terrorists; or I’ll blog about the fact that he doesn’t flip-flop (which implies an actual change in position), but simply has a new position for every audience and every occasion (witness his Jerusalem contortions); or I’ll point to the fact that his church of 20 years was a hate-filled cess pool; or maybe I’ll just point out that this man has less than a thimble-full of real world experience — you know, that kind of stuff.

What invariably happens when I get comments from liberals is that they don’t defend Obama, probably because they can’t.  Everything I blog about is documented.  He was buddies from Rezko and he did pay below market for his house as part of a Rezko related transaction.  He is friends with Ayers and Dohrn, and has sought as mentors many other arch-Communists.  He has stated three different, conflicting positions on Jerusalem.  The only way to reconcile them is to credit him with a sophisticated knowledge of rather arcane Jewish law.

His position on the Iraq War is equally open to criticism (“I was against it before I was against it except for the Surge which I was against even though I support it, but I still would vote for it despite acknowledging that it works and supporting it now. . . .  Uh, no further questions.”)  The Church kerfuffle is as well documented as anything else, and takes pride of place as the first publicity grenade that even a loving media couldn’t keep from blowing up on him.  Lastly, with regard to the experience issue, Obama’s resume speaks for itself.  I wouldn’t vote for him for County dog catcher on that slender a record of practical experience and real world competence.

Faced with the fact that I’ve never said a single untruthful thing about Obama’s failings and ugly baggage, the liberal response is unanimous:  George Bush is worse.  I’m finding this an increasingly peculiar response.

Assuming solely for the sake of argument that everything the liberals say about Bush is true — that he’s dishonest, power hungry, inept, has evil friends and entered the White House without any useful experience — what’s that got to do with Obama as a candidate?  First, Bush is not running in this election.  His day in the presidential sun is over.  With that stark fact it place, it’s clear that comparing the two is like comparing applies and spare tires.  It’s a pointless exercise.

Second, if liberals truly do hate the fact that Bush is dishonest, power hungry and consorts with evil people, and that he entered the White House as a useless neophyte with no practical experience, why in the world are they supporting Obama?  As we’ve already noticed, they never challenge the same substantive attacks against Obama, because they are heavily factually documented and irrefutably true.  This means that, if Bush is a rotten apple, so is Obama.

The smart thing to do, if issues of ineptitude, corruption, and bad friends really bother one, would be to consign both men (Bush and Obama) to the rubbish heap of history and to vote for John McCain.  I think most will concede that, while McCain is less than perfect, there is no trail of slime leading to his door comparable either to the ones liberals have concocted against George Bush or that the indisputable paper and video record shows against Obama.

I have to wrap up with Pee Wee Herman, giving context to this post title:

The lunatics have taken over the asylum

After seeing the insanity unfold before his eyes, a visiting law professor felt compelled to say this:

“I am really astonished at the mood in this room,” commented one witness, George Mason University School of Law professor Jeremy Rabkin.

“The tone of these deliberations is slightly demented,” Rabkin said. “You should all remind yourselves that the rest of the country is not necessarily in this same bubble in which people think it is reasonable to describe the president as if he were Caligula.”

Where was he?  A netroots (or do I mean nutroots?) convention?  A Truthers’ gathering?  A San Francisco party?  A Berkeley tree sit-in?

Nope.  None of the above.

Our professor was sitting at House Judiciary Committee hearing, listening to Democratic Congresspeople and their friends vent their spleen at President Bush.  It wasn’t an impeachment — the Dems aren’t that stupid — but it was almost worse, because it had the trappings of a kangaroo court with the President being tried in absentia:

Leading the way was Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, the former Democratic presidential candidate who has brought repeated impeachment resolutions on the House floor against Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Kucinich got a rock star welcome of whistles, hoots and clapping as he walked into the hearing room, holding hands with his wife, from hundreds of anti-war, anti-Bush people crammed into the room and lining the hallways outside. T-shirts reading “Arrest Bush” and “Veterans for Impeachment” illustrated the sentiments of many.

“The decision before us is whether to demand accountability for one of the gravest injustices imaginable,” Kucinich testified, avoiding use of the “I” word.

[snip]

“To the regret of many, this is not an impeachment hearing,” said committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., pointing out the less incendiary title of the event, “executive power and its constitutional limitations.”

Still, Conyers, a vocal opponent of Bush, noted that his panel had pursued many issues that Kucinich and others regard as impeachable offenses: manipulating intelligence about Iraq; misusing authority with regard to torture, detention and rendition; politicizing the Justice Department and retaliating against critics, as in the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame.

[snip]

“The rules of the House prevent me or any witness from utilizing familiar terms,” Kucinich said. “But we can put two and two together in our minds.”

Former Los Angeles County Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, known for his prosecution of Charles Manson in 1970, acknowledged that “I am forbidden from accusing him of a crime, or even any dishonorable conduct” under House rules. But he could still encourage people to read his book, “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., was less circumspect in asserting that Bush was “the worst president that our nation has ever suffered.”

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., concluded that “this is the most impeachable administration in the history of America because of the way that it has clearly violated the law.”

Unsurprisingly, the only sane words in this gravitas-free mad house that emanated from an actual elected figure were those voiced by a Republican:

“It seems that we are hosting an anger management class,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the committee’s senior Republican. “This hearing will not cause us to impeach the president; it will only serve to impeach Congress’s credibility.”

The tortoise and the hare

You all know Aesop’s class tale of the race between the tortoise and the hare: At the starting gate, the hare picks up so much speed that it soon vanishes completely, while the tortoise plods on behind. Within sight of the finish line, however, when the hare looks backwards and realizes that the tortoise isn’t even in the same time zone, he decides to refresh himself with a little nap. As he sleeps, the tortoise, who has never slowed his steady pace, comes abreast of him, passes him and, before the hare has a chance to regroup, crosses the finish line, winning the race. Aesop’s moral: The race is not always to the swift.

Now tell me if that story doesn’t remind you of the current state of the Presidential race. Hillary and Obama, bickering all the way, were put on the fast track by the MSM. One after the other, each was anointed as the obvious successor to the disastrous George Bush. Neither could fail. Hillary had the unbeatable, overwhelming Clinton machine behind her; Obama had that indefinable charisma liberals lust after. McCain was shunted aside as an irrelevant old man.

Something interesting is happening, though. The bloom quickly faded from Hillary’s rose when the MSM fell in love with Obama. And while the MSM is still in love with Obama, Obama is struggling to deal with his own past. Absent any substantive political record, his associates and acolytes are coming under scrutiny, and it’s not a pretty picture. Whether he courted them or they courted him, they’re locked in an embrace on a pretty unappealing dance floor, and ordinary Americans are looking on Obama as an increasingly less attractive partner for a political romance.

Meanwhile, John McCain plods steadily on. He appears here, he appears there. He makes nice, quiet little speeches. He does what he has to do distance himself from George Bush, because he knows that, if he comes too close, he gets tarred with the BDS brush (or just with the “we’re sick of Bush in the White House after 8 painful years” brush.) As to this distancing, I’m betting that George Bush, being a gentleman, a pragmatist, and a politician, if he spoke with McCain, would say something along the lines of “Do what you have to do to win, Buddy-Boy. It won’t hurt my feelings.”

So, despite the fact that Hillary and Obama hurtled out of the starting gate, and have been helped with big, big pushes from their sycophants in the media, I’m wondering if they’re not going to be forced into something analogous to nap mode as they near the finish line. They’re being shackled by the garbage that’s being dug up about them, as well as by the fact that, under stress, his charm fails and her scolding increases. Meanwhile, McCain just keeps moving forward, slowly, steadily and, perhaps, inexorably.

Why am I not surprised?

Yesterday, Drudge had a headline that said something along the lines of:  “98% of historians judge Bush’s presidency a failure.”  I didn’t bother to check out the article.  It didn’t matter to me whether someone polled 10 historians or 1000.  I still knew with pretty good certainty a few underlying facts:  if they’re historians for poll purposes, that means they’re university professors; and if they’re university professors, that means they’re in the Liberal Arts department; and if they’re in the Liberal Arts department, it means that they’re at least moderate Dems and, more likely, far Left Dems.  Polling them is as useful as walking into MoveOn.org headquarters and asking precisely the same questions.

This morning, W”B”S sent me a link to an IBD editorial that makes the same point I instinctively make, as well as more substantive points about the impossibility of asking “historians” to make a rational call about current events when the dust hasn’t even settled yet. With regard to the latter, IBD has this to say:

The professors’ political bias has blinded them to reality. They formed their opinions around an axis of nonsense: Bush’s invasion of Iraq, his “tax breaks for the rich,” and the alienation of many nations around the world. Let’s take their arguments one at a time.

• It’s far too early to deem the Iraq invasion a failure. In terms of military achievement, it ranks as one of the greatest in modern history. In a matter of weeks a dangerous dictator was toppled, his regime ousted, his military routed and an oppressed people freed.

Since then, thousands of terrorists have been denied their chance to strike America because the U.S. military has eliminated them.

The cleanup has been messy. But unless the U.S. loses its resolve, a stable, U.S.-friendly representative government is likely to emerge in a strongly anti-American region dominated by despotic regimes.

• “Tax breaks for the rich” is the big lie come alive. Under the Bush tax cuts, 25 million Americans at the bottom half of the income scale have been wiped off the federal income tax rolls.

And the rich? The federal tax burden of the top 1% of earners has gone from 19% under Jimmy Carter (in 1980) to 39.4%. Meanwhile, the bottom 50% paid 3.1% of taxes in 2005. In 1995, they paid 4.6%.

• Since Bush has been in office, pro-Americans have been elected to lead Germany (Angela Merkel), France (Nicolas Sarkozy), Italy (Silvio Berlusconi) and Canada (Stephen Harper). Both Britain and Australia remain close to the U.S. though both are under governments less pro-American than their predecessors. Who’s been alienated? Iran, which has been at war with the U.S. for nearly 20 years?

History professors need to stick to teaching history. They seem to be seeing the unfolding of events through a cloudy lens.

We’re winning, if only Congress would realize it

Michael Yon, who appropriately boasts that he is probably the most experienced reporter in Iraq, reminds us that Congress must stop obsessing about the past in Iraq and must approach Iraq as a winnable situation. He begins by detailing the enormous strides — both practical and “hearts and mind” stuff — that Americans have accomplished in Iraq:

It is said that generals always fight the last war. But when David Petraeus came to town it was senators – on both sides of the aisle – who battled over the Iraq war of 2004-2006. That war has little in common with the war we are fighting today.

I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war – and our part in it – at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.

The change goes far beyond the statistical decline in casualties or incidents of violence. A young Iraqi translator, wounded in battle and fearing death, asked an American commander to bury his heart in America. Iraqi special forces units took to the streets to track down terrorists who killed American soldiers. The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers. Yes, young Iraqi boys know about “GoArmy.com.”

The problem as he sees it (and I agree, as I’ve said before), isn’t what’s on the ground in Iraq, it’s what’s going on in Congress. There, the Democrats are determined to destroy George Bush, even if it means taking the whole US down with him, and the Republicans are desperate to pander to anyone with a shrill complaint. The result, of course, is that they’re legislating as if it’s 2005, not 2008:

Soldiers everywhere are paid, and good generals know it is dangerous to mess with a soldier’s money. The shoeless heroes who froze at Valley Forge were paid, and when their pay did not come they threatened to leave – and some did. Soldiers have families and will not fight for a nation that allows their families to starve. But to say that the tribes who fight with us are “rented” is perhaps as vile a slander as to say that George Washington’s men would have left him if the British offered a better deal.

Equally misguided were some senators’ attempts to use Gen. Petraeus’s statement, that there could be no purely military solution in Iraq, to dismiss our soldiers’ achievements as “merely” military. In a successful counterinsurgency it is impossible to separate military and political success. The Sunni “awakening” was not primarily a military event any more than it was “bribery.” It was a political event with enormous military benefits.

The huge drop in roadside bombings is also a political success – because the bombings were political events. It is not possible to bury a tank-busting 1,500-pound bomb in a neighborhood street without the neighbors noticing. Since the military cannot watch every road during every hour of the day (that would be a purely military solution), whether the bomb kills soldiers depends on whether the neighbors warn the soldiers or cover for the terrorists. Once they mostly stood silent; today they tend to pick up their cell phones and call the Americans. Even in big “kinetic” military operations like the taking of Baqubah in June 2007, politics was crucial. Casualties were a fraction of what we expected because, block-by-block, the citizens told our guys where to find the bad guys. I was there; I saw it.

The Iraqi central government is unsatisfactory at best. But the grass-roots political progress of the past year has been extraordinary – and is directly measurable in the drop in casualties.

This leads us to the most out-of-date aspect of the Senate debate: the argument about the pace of troop withdrawals. Precisely because we have made so much political progress in the past year, rather than talking about force reduction, Congress should be figuring ways and means to increase troop levels. For all our successes, we still do not have enough troops. This makes the fight longer and more lethal for the troops who are fighting. To give one example, I just returned this week from Nineveh province, where I have spent probably eight months between 2005 to 2008, and it is clear that we remain stretched very thin from the Syrian border and through Mosul. Vast swaths of Nineveh are patrolled mostly by occasional overflights.

We know now that we can pull off a successful counterinsurgency in Iraq. We know that we are working with an increasingly willing citizenry. But counterinsurgency, like community policing, requires lots of boots on the ground. You can’t do it from inside a jet or a tank.

As for me, I’ve sent this article to my Senators and my Representative. They’re all radical Democrats, so I doubt it will change their rigid, hate-filled little minds one bit, but it can’t hurt and there’s a smidgen of a chance that it might open their minds to the facts on the ground.

By the way, if you want a sense of how far the “lose at any cost” Left is willing to go, check out this American Thinker post about the attacks on General Petraeus for wearing tacky medals.  And Representative Jackie Speier, armed with an almost complete absence of useful information, didn’t even wait until her new seat was warmed up to leap into the lunatic anti-War sphere.  It must be interesting living in a factual vacuum.  I wonder if, eventually, your head explodes.

Post Traumatic Bush Derangement Syndrome

It’s becoming increasingly clear that John McCain is going to have to cope with something I call PT-BDS — or Post Traumatic Bush Derangement Syndrome. Let me explain and, as is so often the case with my explanations, let me start with a personal anecdote.

I’m visiting with the in-laws right now (hence the sporadic blogging). It’s quite a nice visit. We’re in a lovely American city, the children had a rapturous reunion with their cousins, and I’ve had a stimulating time with my in-laws, all of whom have moved right, just as I have. Indeed, poor Mr. Bookworm is the only hold-out. He feels that the family is betraying decades of committed liberalism (not the mention the New York Times), and is putting up a heavy rearguard action to defend his belief that “Bush is the worst president ever” (or, BITWPE).

Things got difficult for him though when talk rolled around to the upcoming elections. He conceded that he thought Obama would be a disaster and that he couldn’t vote for him. He also admitted that he hated Hillary and wouldn’t vote for her. But, he said, he couldn’t vote Republican. Why not, we all asked? Because, he said, “Bush is the worst president ever.” Had you been in the kitchen at that moment, you would have heard nine adults say in perfect harmony and synchronization: “But Bush isn’t running for President.”

Mr. Bookworm acknowledged this fact, just as he acknowledged that McCain is an entirely different personality from Mr. Bush.  In my conversations with him, Mr. Bookworm has also admitted that McCain is not a Bush crony, and that he agrees with a lot of McCain’s politics. Still, Mr. Bookworm just can’t get passed the “BITWPE” problem.

It would be easy enough to say that Mr. Bookworm is just stubborn, which he is, if it weren’t for the fact that my mother is exactly the same. She agrees that there is a war of civilizations going on, and that the Democrats are ignoring it. She agrees that Obama is scary and Hillary awful. She agrees that illegal immigration is a problem. She recognizes that identity politics and political correctness are divisive and are weakening America. But she can’t vote Republican. Why not? She can’t stand Bush’s smirk. Point out to her that Bush and Cheney are not running for office, and she tells you she doesn’t care. She just can’t vote for Bush.

PTBDS has potentially far-reaching effects, effects that go beyond my neurotic, retro-Progressive family members.  In writing about the “country in the wrong direction” poll that just came out with a devastating 81% unhappiness rate (although Democrats were overpolled and Republicans unpolled), Rick Moran pointed out the problem this poll poses for McCain and the Republicans:

This is not good news for John McCain and the GOP. People who think the country is headed in the wrong direction rarely vote for the incumbent party. However, in this case, the Democrats may have something to worry about as well. Approval ratings for Congress are worse than they are for the incumbent Republican president. But people tend to punish the party of the president during general elections than they do the party in control of Congress which is more common in off year contests.

McCain’s challenge is to distance himself just enough from Bush that he stands on his own two feet while not alienating Mr. Bush’s core 30% support among Republicans. It is a balancing act that many in the past have failed to do (see Al Gore) but will be necessary if McCain wishes to avl\d a backlash against the party of Bush among the general public.

In a normal world, one could deal with the revulsion felt towards the incumbent administration during an economic downturn simply by pointing out the obvious,which is that no one from the Bush administration is running for President.  However, in this election, conservative Democrats — who ought to be a swing vote — dislike the man with such fervor, they can’t be reasoned with.  For them, Bush and the Republican party have become fused into a single entity, making it impossible for them to view any Republican candidate objectively.  They’ve been so deeply traumatized by the Bush presidency that even the letter “R” after someone’s name causes frightening flashbacks, with avoidance the only option.

I just hope that all of these PTBDS sufferers are able to overcome their phobias and realize that, if as I believe is the case, Obama becomes the Democratic candidate, their Post-Traumatic Obama suffering will dwarf anything George Bush sent their way.

Liberals and Iraq

While I worked on an appellate brief last night, Mr. Bookworm watched Frontline’s Bush’s War. I was not surprised to learn that it characterized the Bush administration as not only profoundly stupid, but also deviously Machiavellian, with Bush in charge, except that he’s so stupid that he is actually manipulated by the evil Cheney.  At least, that’s what Mr. Bookworm told me.  The bottom line, as my very upset husband said, was that the “worst presidency in history” used all its fatal flaws to get us into Iraq.

I didn’t feel like debating the merits. First, I hadn’t watched the show. Second, it was impossible for me to amass all the necessary facts. I would have also gotten stuck in the morass of conceding that the Bush administration definitely made mistakes.  This concession would have led into an extended discussion about the fact that, in all wars, the good, winning side makes devastatingly bad mistakes because in war you use the information you have, not the information you will have when the dust clears.

Instead, I put the matter differently: “Accepting everything as true, what would you do now? For good or bad, we’re in Iraq now.” Interestingly, Mr. Bookworm refused to engage, falling back on harping on the evils of the Bush administration and its bad decision making. “Yes,” I said. “But that’s the past. We’re in Iraq now. Bush and his whole team are leaving office in January 2009. What would you do?” The only answer I got back was “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Mr. Bookworm’s preference for wallowing in the past and his unwillingness to deal with present realities is hardly surprising. In his world — the New York Times, the New Yorker, NPR, PBS — only the past gets discussed. To the extent that there is an Iraq plan, it can be summarized in one phrase: “Get out.” Of course, smart liberals, and my husband is very smart, know that “Get out” is neither an operational plan, nor a good one.

Equally unsurprising is the fact that Barack Obama, a man who is rather strikingly uninformed about foreign affairs given the fact that he has voluntarily plunged into the center of political life during time of war, has exactly the same attitude. He too never looks beyond the liberal media world and, while perfectly ready to spell out the Bush administration’s past failures, is incapable of dealing with the current reality, which is that we’re in war in Iraq. The best he can do is misrepresent John McCain’s statement that American interests are best protected by a continuing American presence in Iraq, just as we have a continuing American presence in former hot spots such as Germany, Japan and Korea.

John Fund highlights only the most recent example of Obama’s almost frightening lack of vision and knowledge when it comes to foreign policy:

This week, Mr. Obama stumbled again after he declared he wants to withdraw from Iraq but “leave enough troops in Iraq to guard our embassy and diplomats, and a counter-terrorism force to strike al Qaeda if it forms a base that the Iraqis cannot destroy.”

John McCain quickly leaped on the notion of keeping a “strike force” in Iraq and noted it was in direct contradiction to previous Obama statements that he would fully withdraw almost all troops. Mr. McCain had a series of questions: “I think it might be appropriate to describe exactly what that means. Does that mean 100,000 troops? Where are they based? What is their mission?”

Given that the Progressives seem irrevocably tied to the past, whether it’s endlessly rehashing the Vietnam War or Bush’s mistakes in this War, this is not going to be the only time that Obama stumbles and tumbles into a debate with McCain that he can’t win. McCain may be the Old Dude, so old that he actually served in Vietnam, but when it comes to this War McCain resolutely faces the future. He’s actually thought about what’s going on now, and what America needs to do to best protect her troops and her national interests. As Fund says:

Look for an ongoing debate between the two men over just what presence in Iraq Mr. Obama envisions should he win the White House. Present evidence would indicate that both men see a substantial U.S. role in the country, but that Mr. McCain’s stated goal is to achieve victory and Mr. Obama has a far more muddled outcome in mind.

The Presidential campaign is going to prove that, when it comes to the Iraq War, you can run to the past, but you can’t hide there.  Unless Obama comes up with a real plan, recognizing the actual on-the-ground realities in Iraq, I suspect significant numbers of Americans are going to worry that, not only are the Democrats obsessed with the Vietnam War, they’re planning on repeating all of its worst mistakes.

A lyrical look at how progressives need George Bush

Over at the Paragraph Farmer, you can read an almost lyrical article examining the way in which Progressives desperately needed George Bush to give meaning and shape to their lives, and get a sense of the problems they’ll have when, as will inevitably happen in 2009, he leaves the political scene.  Here’s just a sample to whet your appetite:

Anger is the second stage on the continuum of response to trauma, and a textbook expression of that emotion was offered by the two towns in Vermont that voted earlier this month to indict the president on charges of “violating the Constitution.” While Green Mountain State activists high-five each other over pints of “Chunky Monkey” and “Cherry Garcia,” their allies in the mainstream media play a game of guilt by association, because the anger they feel toward President Bush often extends even to things that involve him only peripherally. For example, former newscaster Bree Walker makes her home in California, but bought property in Texas that used to belong to Cindy Sheehan, and promptly professed herself appalled by billboards that welcome people to Crawford by describing it as the “Hometown of President George W. Bush.”

Bushian influence is a pernicious thing to pundits of her ilk. Walker, not a Texas Ranger, now promises to “stand by with gallons of white paint and enough brushes and rollers for every man, woman and child who’ll join us in eradicating what the folks hereabouts may someday come to see as an obscenity and smear on the good name of Crawford.” If the townsfolk don’t rush to her paint brushes, Walker will probably trade Diet Dr. Pepper for a soft drink with no roots in the Lone Star State. As a subheading in Newsweek magazine recently screeched, “Texas produces more carbon emissions than most countries, but the state government and business community don’t seem too concerned.”

Autres temps, autres moeurs

I watched a pretty good movie last night, that was very pro-military; that showed the Iraqi military as being inefficient; and that showed Iraqis as being unbelievably brutal, both in terms of mob violence and in terms of the military’s and the secret police’s capacity for sadistic torture.  Surprisingly, it was made by the BBC.

Okay, now I’ll let you in on a few secrets to explain this weird anomaly, which has the BBC making a pro-military, anti-Iraqi movie.  It’s all in the timing.  The movie was Bravo Two Zero, and it was made in 1999 about an SAS unit that got trapped behind enemy lines during the first Gulf War, in 1991.  In other words, before fanatical Bush Derangement Syndrome took over the world, it was okay to concede that the Iraqis were capable of gross brutality and that Western military service could be carried out by honorable and humane men.

As it’s based on a true story, it’s a worthwhile movie for the Gitmo, waterboarding and Abu Ghraib crowd to watch, if only to get a sense of perspective.

Philip’s Complaint, or Liberal political thinking in a nutshell

I’ve never been able to read Philip Roth’s novels because I cannot stand his navel gazing (or should I say penis-gazing?) characters. They are, for me, profoundly uninteresting — I find them infantile and narcissistic in their concerns. Perhaps my the problem with his writing is his thinking. Why do I say this? Because Roth unloads about politics in Spiegel interview, and pretty much highlights everything that’s infantile and narcissistic about liberal thinking with regard to the Bush administration and the upcoming elections:

Roth: Unfortunately, yeah. I didn’t, until about two weeks ago — until then it wasn’t real. Then I watched the New Hampshire primary debates, and the Republicans are so unbelievably impossible. I watched the Democratic ones and became interested in Obama. I think I’ll vote for him.

SPIEGEL: What made you interested in Obama?

Roth: I’m interested in the fact that he’s black. I feel the race issue in this country is more important than the feminist issue. I think that the importance to blacks would be tremendous. He’s an attractive man, he’s smart, he happens to be tremendously articulate. His position in the Democratic Party is more or less okay with me. And I think it would be important to American blacks if he became president.

SPIEGEL: It could change society, couldn’t it?

Roth: Yes, it could. It would say something about this country, and it would be a marvelous thing. I don’t know whether it’s going to happen. I rarely vote for anybody who wins. It’s going to be the kiss of death if you write in your magazine that I’m going to vote for Barack Obama. Then he’s finished!

[snip]

SPIEGEL: Do you actually believe that Obama could change Washington or could change politics?

Roth: I’m interested in what merely his presence would be. You know, who he is, where he comes from, that is the change. That is the same thing with Hillary Clinton, just who she is would create a gigantic change. As for all that other rhetoric about change, change, change — it’s pure semantics, it doesn’t mean a thing. They’ll respond to particular situations as they arise.

You got that? Republicans should lose because they’re “so unbelievably impossible,” as fatuous a statement about national politics as I’ve ever heard. And Obama should win solely because he’s black and “articulate,” the favorite liberal code word for a black who isn’t an embarrassing representative of his race. Incidentally, my last, italicized phrase is deliberate, and harks back to the acceptance speech Hattie McDaniel made, at the studio’s urging, when she accepted her Oscar for her performance in Gone With The Wind, the first Oscar ever awarded to a black actress:

“Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting for one of the awards, for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you.” (Emphasis mine.)

You do appreciate, don’t you, the fact that Roth is completely uninterested in Obama’s abilities, background, politic beliefs, political experience, associates, ideology, indeed anything of substance? All that matters to Roth is that Obama is a credit to his race. How utterly embarrassing that our great tradition of democracy should be reduced to this kind of inane banality.

That same absence of deep thinking colors Roth’s commentary about Bush. Keep in mind that Roth, via his “profound” (but humorous) books, is considered one of the great social thinkers of the Baby Boomer generation. That “intellectualism,” however, assuming it actually exists, abandons him when it comes to describing why Bush is bad. He throws in a few conclusory statements about the war and global warming, but he just can’t get a handle on substance. (As an aside, we’ll assume, just to be nice, that this interview was recorded before recent news that the Greenies’ purported remedies are actually speeding global warming. Of course, that may not be a problem, because we’re possibly entering a period of solar induced global cooling. But let me undigress.) What you really have to do is just take Roth’s word for it that Bush is bad, really, really, really bad. Really bad.

SPIEGEL: What will remain of the current president, George W. Bush? Could he be forgotten once he leaves office?

Roth: He was too horrendous to be forgotten. There will be an awful lot written about this. And there’s a lot to be written about the war. There’s a lot to be written about what he did with Reaganism, since he went much further than Reagan. So he won’t be forgotten. Someone has said he’s the worst American president we’ve ever had. I think that’s true.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Roth: Well, the biggest thing would be the war, the deceptions surrounding the entrance into the war. The absolute cynicism that surrounds the deception. The cost of the war, the Treasury and the lives of the Americans. It’s hideous. There is nothing quite like it. The next thing would be the attitude towards global warming, which is a global crisis, and they were utterly indifferent, if not hostile, to any attempt to address it. And so on and so on and so on and so on. So he’s done a lot of harm.

Of course, it’s not all Bush’s fault he’s so appalling. It’s your fault and my fault too. That’s because we’re brutal. Did you know that?

SPIEGEL: Since your book is set in that week during the 2004 elections, can you explain why Americans voted for Bush once again?

Roth: I suspect it was the business of being in a war and not wanting to change, and political stupidity. Why does anybody elect anybody? I thought highly of John Kerry when he began, but he couldn’t stand up against Bush. The Democrats aren’t brutes, which is too bad, because the Republicans are brutes. Brutes win.

Funnily enough, a lot of the brutal behavior, lately, seems to be coming from the rank and file Democrats, not the Republicans. An easy example is the fact that Democratic speakers on the circuit don’t need to hire bodyguards. Republicans do. That’s because Republicans get physicall attacked when they speak on college campuses. Ann Coulter was attacked. College Republican student organizations are attacked. Condi Rice was threatened by a Code Pink loony tunes who got within inches of her. The list goes on and on and on. You can add your own, but you’ll be hard put to find corollaries on the other side; that is, conservatives attacking liberals. But back to Roth….

“Brutes.” “Hideous.” “There is nothing quite like it.” This man, this spokesman for a generation, clearly hasn’t thought beyond the Democratic parties’ last list of talking points. He’s got all the nasty conclusions of the kindergarten set, but with a more sophisticated vocabulary:

“Mommy, I hate Tommy.”

“Why, darling?”

“Because he’s a meanie.”

“But what makes him a meanie?”

“He does mean things.”

“What mean things does he do, darling?”

“He’s mean to me.”

And so on, ad nauseum. It’s tolerable in a child because you know they’ll attain reason and leave that phrase behind. It’s intolerable in a literary lion, a spokesman for his generation, who has never been able to emerge from his prolonged and clearly debilitating adolescence.

I’ve vented my spleen, so I’m going to leave the last words to that great philosopher, Bugs Bunny: “What a maroon. What a nincowpoop.”

UPDATE:  Just to keep things on the up and up, I edited the first paragraph to reflect some accurate criticism a reader made in a comment at my old blog site, regarding an ambiguity in my writing.

Eating our own *UPDATED*

I caught a minute of Mike Gallagher today, and he was talking about the fact that Republicans are more critical of Republican candidates than Democrats are critical of Democratic candidates. It occurred to me that, at least in this election cycle, that may be because there are real, substantive differences between the Republican candidates. We’ve got Ron Paul, who is a pure libertarian and possible white supremacist; John McCain, who is strong on defense, but weak on free speech, and spineless to environmental extremists; Mitt Romney, who has positioned himself as a traditional conservative who is for strong borders, a strong national defense, pro-life, etc., with a sound grasp of economic issues; Mike Huckabee, who is loudly Christian, a social conservative, and a big government liberal; and Rudy Giuliani, who is a social liberal and a hawk. With the exception of Ron Paul, all have had leadership experience, but of a very different type: McCain was in the military; Romney ran businesses and the Massachusetts government; Huckabee governed Arkansas; and Giuliani ran huge criminal prosecutions and New York. So, just as there are differences in their approach to conservative politics (and all are more conservative than not), there are also significant differences in their practical experience. Republicans have a real choice, and real choice begets real debate.

It’s different with the Dems. For one thing, none of them have any managerial experience. They’ve all been Senators, which means working with a group of 99 other people. None have them has taken the lead in the Senate, so they can’t even point to leadership experience in those august chambers. John Edwards has a bit more private sector experience than the other two but I can tell you that even the most successful lawyer cannot be compared to a manager. Managing a case is not the same as manager a system — whether that system is a business or a government. Obama was an academic, which is the antithesis of management, and Hillary was, well, Hillary managed Bill, I guess. They’re all good at manipulating people, Edwards because he’s a trial lawyer, and Obama and Hillary because they’re Alinsky disciples, but that’s not leadership or management. So, they’re pretty much the same looked at from that point of view.

In terms of politics, they’re peas in a pod: they want out of Iraq, they deny that Islamists pose a threat to America, they like open borders, and they want more government involvement in everything (parenting, health care, education, managing people’s money, controlling businesses, etc), which means more taxes on people they decide are “rich.”

The fact that Edwards, Obama and Hillary are virtually indistinguishable on paper may explain why identity politics has become so important. It’s not just Hillary’s dirty politics and it’s not just that the “identity politics” chickens are coming home to roost. The preeminence of racial or sexual identity in this race has become the only way you can tell one Democratic candidate from another. And poor Edwards, distinguished by being white and male, is precluded by political correctness from trumpeting that fact. In other words, identity, by being the only difference between the candidates, is also the only area of debate left for the Democrats. And it’s no surprise that it is in this area — the substance-free area that will have absolutely nothing to do with the way in which a Democrat, if victorious, will govern — that the Democratic debate has become most heated.

So, I guess I’m happy that Republicans are focused on substance, and using their free speech rights to hammer out important issues that will have a lasting effect on America (if a Republican wins). And I’m desperately sad that the cookie-cutter Democrats, in order to have a debate and distinguish themselves in the eyes of the voters, have almost completely backed off from any substantive issues (as to which they have no meaningful differences), and devolved into childish racial and gender name calling. If Americans elect one of them, the Country will deserve what it gets.

UPDATE: Regarding the enthusiasm gap the media professes to find between Dems and Republicans, if one does indeed exist, I suspect that has more to do with the enthusiasm Democratic voters have for a shot at the White House than with anything else. That is, I think that, even more than feeling excitement about their own candidates, Democrats are simply excited about a possible chance to defeat Republicans.

UPDATE II: For another reason why there might be an “enthusiasm gap,” keep in mind that, while Bush’s presidency is almost over, Bush Derangement Syndrome continues in full force. Indeed, with the inevitable end of his presidency drawing near, Bush haters seem to be drawing on after burners for some new energy.

Does this mean Bush didn’t lie? Yes, I think it does. *UPDATED*

I’ve never believed Bush lied and, to the extent his information was incorrect (as was information in the hands of all other Western agencies and governments), I assumed that our spywork was to blame. Now we get confirmation of what’s been rumored forever — it was Saddam who lied, never suspecting that his bluff would be called, not by Iran, but by the US:

Saddam Hussein initially didn’t think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture.

[snip]

“He told me he initially miscalculated… President Bush’s intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998…a four-day aerial attack,” says Piro. “He survived that one and he was willing to accept that type of attack.” “He didn’t believe the U.S. would invade?” asks Pelley, “No, not initially,” answers Piro.

Once the invasion was certain, says Piro, Saddam asked his generals if they could hold the invaders for two weeks. “And at that point, it would go into what he called the secret war,” Piro tells Pelley. But Piro isn’t convinced that the insurgency was Saddam’s plan. “Well, he would like to take credit for the insurgency,” says Piro.

Saddam still wouldn’t admit he had no weapons of mass destruction, even when it was obvious there would be military action against him because of the perception he did. Because, says Piro, “For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that [faking having the weapons] would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq,” he tells Pelley.

You can read the rest of the article here and, of course, watch the 60 Minutes interview.

Incidentally, it’s also apparent from the interview that, even if Saddam didn’t have WMDs in 2003, he was plenty prepared to have them in future:

He also intended and had the wherewithal to restart the weapons program. “Saddam] still had the engineers. The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there,” says Piro. “He wanted to pursue all of WMD…to reconstitute his entire WMD program.” This included chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, Piro says.

But do you think any of this will change of the minds of the Bush lied/people died crowd?

UPDATE: From SGT Dave’s comment to this post:

The only problem I have at this time is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, there were indeed chemical weapons in Iraq at the time of the invasion. We captured some while I was serving in Baghdad (the 500 “old” rounds) and had at least one shell used as an IED.

Saddam had all the physical machinery in place to start making chemical and biological weapons; he didn’t have the chemical precursors, but was seeking them. The same goes with radiological/nuclear weaponry. The only reason he didn’t have these items was lack of ways he could get money out of the country and into the hands of the dealers.

The bottom line remains that at least five tons of the chemical weapons reported destroyed by the UN inspectors were recovered by US forces; the mobile laboratory facilities reported destroyed by Iraq and the UN were captured in western Iraq during the opening days of the war; the Saddam regime attempted to purchase yellow-cake uranium for refining (despite C.Wilson’s false statements to the press – contradicting his sworn report) in a centrifuge array that was captured by US forces – again reported as destroyed by Iraq and the UN; and Saddam ordered items shipped to Syria (though the contents of those shipments is not known/releasable at this time).

The writing on the wall is just about as clear as the German redeployment of the Panzer divisions eastward into Poland. If not for the Germans’ own crazy leader interfering with the battle plan, the ignorance and arrogance of the Russian leader of the time nearly brought down an entire nation in a single campaign season. While Bush is no Churchill or Roosevelt, I fear that the other choices we were given would have given results in the range of Stalin or Chamberlain.
Wow, quite a rant – even for me.

Even now the literate and relatively knowledgable are falling prey to the spin. Don’t concede that there “weren’t” WMD – there were. Don’t even let them put out that there “wasn’t a significant amount” – enough agent to kill over a million people ten times over is quite a bit. They are lying now, as they were before, but they are lying about the lies that they told about the lies. Don’t give them the first step; they will keep lying until the truth is only known by those willing to dig into the classified and official “sworn” documents.

Don’t be a victim of Newspeak and Newthink. They’re lying to you.

UPDATE II: And more from SGT Dave, whose comments here are factual enough that they shouldn’t be buried:

Saddam was killing dozens every day in Baghdad, not to mention the “swamp Arabs” and the Kurds.

Training areas used to practice hijackings – including a set of four that killed about 3,000 Americans.

Mid-grade weaponized anthrax, enough to pollute an area the size of Kansas.

Enough sarin, VX, and mustard gas to kill every Shi’ite in Baghdad.

And I won’t go into the torture and rape rooms – it took days to get the images out of my nightmares.

Saddam may have been lying on some things, but you cannot take that kind of risk. I’m out here; I was there. The truth is that we didn’t do it because we “can”. We did it because the risk was too high regarding what he could have done. There is no defense in thousands of miles of sea any longer.

Maybe I’m a simple reactionary, but I believe it was worth the time I spent there. I have friends that still serve and believe it was worth it. You didn’t get to meet a young woman of my acquaintance, there in Mashtal in Baghdad. She didn’t have fingers on her left hand and her right leg didn’t work quite right anymore. When she was eight Uday thought she was very pretty playing in the schoolyard. She can’t ever have kids and was trembling when she took the aid bag from my hand, with food for her mother and sister. My counterpart with Civil Affairs and her female terp got the story of why she was scared of the big men in uniform.

I will never, ever, forget the look on that woman’s face and the fear those unspeakable individuals made manifest in her. If one – ONE – little girl in that place was spared this by our actions, then it was worth every cent, every drop of blood, sweat, and tears we shed.

Those people were dead, Swamp. They were just waiting their turn to be buried. They have a chance, you selfish, greedy, me-me-me, complacent goof. And some died – but so did the founders of our nation, disregarding the “safe” path that allowed tyranny to rule unchallenged. Too many “liberals” complain of the cost, ignoring the pile of bodies that went to making their right (RIGHT!) to complain possible.

I’m ranting again; God save me, I am not as strong as I should be. I am fallable, weak, and human. But I am a soldier, and I will cleave to my duty and find strength in my honor. Don’t think that the men and women who gave all gave in vain. They gave for that elusive, precious, and irreplacable commodity – hope.

And I hope the Iraqi people fulfill that hope. But I know that the enemy is not attacking my home, my business, or my nation on our land. And I know why – so do you, if you look at what the enemy is saying.

And that too, is what “defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic” means. They would be fighting us anyway – you want the shootout in your house or theirs?

And Ari; there are no dispassionate historians; the ISP could have stopped the hijackers by turning their trainers over to INTERPOL when they crossed the border from Syria and moved overland to Turkey with ISP assistance before boarding planes into the EU to give guidance to the hijackers. Or even by taking Bin Laden out and shooting him instead of throwing a four day feast/orgy congratulating him on the USS Cole and US Embassy incidents.

‘Nuff said – There is a lot of Truth out there, but few, if any, are willing to address it.

America Derangement Syndrome — or, yes, you can call them unpatriotic

While idly browsing the shelves at our local public library, I stumbled across a fascinating book — one that is fascinating on a couple of different levels. It’s called Uncouth Nation : Why Europe Dislikes America, and was written by Andrei S. Markovits, a Jewish man who was born in Romania, and raised during the 1960s in Vienna and America. He is now a professor of comparative politics and German studies at the University of Michigan.

Although Markovits occasionally lapses into the terrible writing of academia (e.g, at p. 28, “To be sure, anti-American sentiments have indeed varied in their manifest expressions both diachronically and synchronically….”), he presents his thesis very lucidly, and it’s a good thesis. Markovitz believes that the anti-Americanism that is increasingly present in Europe is not George Bush’s fault, but that it has been present in Europe since Columbus’s time. Even when America was just a little blink over the horizon, elite Europeans viewed it as a threat to their cultural stability and own sense of superiority. This sense of threat only worsened in the 20th Century as America, along with its siren song of freedom (economic and social), gained the actual power to affect European affairs. Now, Europeans have to deal, not only with their ancient and visceral dislike, but also with the reality that they are dependent on a nation they have historically disdained. In other words, Markovits describes an “American Derangement Syndrome” throughout Europe:

Just like anti-Semitism, so, too is anti-Americanism antonymous. Everything and its opposite pertains: too religious, too secular; too idealistic, too materialistic; too elitist, too populist; too prudish, too pornographic; too individualistic, too conformist; too anarchic, too controlling; too obsessed with history, not having any history; too concerned with culture, not having any culture; too dominated by women, too controlling of women. America, in the view of some Europeans, is so obsessed with freedom and individualism that this obsession impedes genuine individuality and creates what one conservative German critic of the United States tellingly labeled ‘freedom Bolshevism”…. In short, the motto is clear: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. (p. 24.)

I agree and, with every paragraph I’ve read in the book, I think Markovits makes and proves his point about the deep roots anti-Americanism has in Europe.  There’s more to the book than that, though.

What caught me was the way in which Markovits is forced to expose the anti-Americanism that characterizes the American Left, and that cannot be excused by looking to Europe’s long-standing dislike for America.  The topic comes up because Markovits tries to increase his argument’s credibility by establishing his own position.  At least, that’s why I think he is forced to acknowledge that the American Left, like the world Left, is defined by its hatred for America.  After all, if this were a standard rant against the Left coming from someone on the Right, no one would pay attention to it.  The argument about Europe’s chronic, historic dislike for America gains credence only if it’s made by an insider.  And so, in the book’s preface, Markovits is forced to explain that Europe’s almost hysterical anti-Americanism is a coming together of ancient hatreds and modern politics (most that go far beyond BDS), and that this hatred infects the American Left, which has made him something of an outcast.

Markovits begins by pointing out the anti-American and anti-Semitic animus that is becoming the core definer for the Left:

There can be no doubt that anti-Americanism has become a kind of litmus test for progressive thinking and identity in Europe and the world (including the United States itself). Just as any self-respecting progressive and leftist in Europe or America, regardless of which political shade, simply had to be on the side of the Spanish Republic in the 1930s, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have become the requisite proof of possessing a progressive conviction today. [Snip.] Over the last thirty-five years, a steady anti-Americanism and an uncompromising anti-Zionism, which occasionally borders on the anti-Semitic, have become key characteristics that both divide and determine political identity absolutely. They are “wedge issues” — clear articles of faith or “deal breakers” — whose importance overshadows, and even negates, many related components of the “clusters” that characterize such an identity. (p. xiv.)

Because the “litmus test” is hatred for America, all the other standard Leftist tropes become secondary if you want to belong to that club.  Markovits uses himself as an example of this fact.  He begins by establishing his Leftist bona fides. Thus, here are the beliefs this comparative politics profession at the University of Michigan holds:

I am an advocate of affirmative action in all realms of public life; a supporter for decades of numerous civil rights organizations, in favor of complete equality for women and discriminated ethnic groups, especially blacks, in the United States; an opponent of the death penalty. I favor legally recognized marriages for gays and lesbians; support the right of all women to complete and exclusive autonomy over their bodies, in other words, the right to an abortion; support unrestricted stem cell research [snip] and favor the Kyoto Climate Protocol, the International Criminal Court, the Ottawa Conventions on the ban of land mines, and the International Biological Weapons Convention. I do not want prayers in public schools and oppose charter schools; I favor strict gun control laws and — as an animal benefit activist — oppose hunting for sport. I have always supported trade unions in their difficult struggles, always favor increases in the minimum wage, have never broken a strike or crossed a picket line, even when I did not agree with the striking union’s demands; I welcome the legalization of marijuana, advocate a more just and socially conscience health care system, and desire progressive taxation and a much greater role for the public sector in economic matters. I am a decisive opponent of subsidies for rich American (and European) farmers, deride th exclusivity and price gouging of the pharmaceutical industry, oppose trafficking in women and exploitation of children, and am appalled by the erosion of civil liberties in the United States as well as by the shameful, completely illegal situation in Guantanamo and the outrageous abuses in Abu Ghraib prison. [Snip.] In terms of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, I have always supported the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state and have held views that have been akin to the Israeli peace camp’s. I have regularly condemned and opposed certain measures of American foreign policy, regardless of which party needed to be held responsible (whether the Vietnam policy of Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson or the Iraq policy of Republican George W. Bush), and I have therefore — as should be obvious from the above list — positioned myself quite clearly on the left side of the political spectrum in America (and Europe as well). (pp. xiv-xv.)

Prof. Markovits Leftist bona fides are as impeccable as they come. He has a problem, though, which is that there is a thread of innate honesty and intelligence running through him, and it is this that leaves him unwilling to accept mindlessly the anti-American and anti-Semitic hostility that is now becoming a dominant trait on the Left at home and abroad. Thus, after reciting his sterling Leftist credentials, Markovits had this to say:

Yet I am increasingly avoided by leftists on both sides of the Atlantic owing solely to the two wedge issues mentioned above [anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism].  As a reaction against this, I find myself having withdrawn from the established American and European lefts in whose presence I feel increasingly misplaced.  I am not writing this to elicit sympathy for my increasing political marginalization but rather to make a point of how central anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have become to virtually all lefts on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.  (p. xv.)

In other words, from a die-hard Leftist, you hear that, yes, the American Left is indeed unpatriotic because to hate America is the test for admission into the progressive club.

I’m rather impressed with Prof. Markovits’s ability honestly to confront the fact that the anti-Americanism that oozes out of Europe and keeps popping up at home is not just a figment of the Right’s paranoid imaginings.  Instead, it’s real and it’s rising.  It is, as I’ve captioned it in this post “America Derangement Syndrome” (“ADS”).  Just as with Bush Derangement Syndrome, it exists at an emotional level that has no need for facts.  America is evil because it’s evil.  Bush is evil because he’s evil.  No further proof needed.

What’s sad is that, even as Markovits has been able to break away from the ADS, even to the point of becoming shunned by his former Leftist compadres, he’s still in the grip of an unreasoning BDS.  Every few pages, he feels compelled to blame Bush for something, only to back away and acknowledge that, whatever Bush did, it doesn’t excuse the European (and, by extension, American Leftist) animus to America and Israel.  For example:

George W. Bush and his administrations’ policies have made America into the most hated country of all time.  [Wow!  Because apparently everyone loved the Mongols, the Romans, the Ottomans, the Nazis, the Nationalist Japanese, etc., etc.]  Indeed, they bear responsibility for having created a situation in which anti-Americanism has mutated into a sort of global antinomy, a mutually shared language of opposition to and resistance against the real and perceived ills of modernity that are now inextricably identified solely with America.  [I think this paragraph was written before some recent European elections.]  (p. 1.)

After reading the above, I almost felt like snarling, “Smile when you say that, Pardner.  Them’s fighting words.”  If that’s not unanchored BDS, I don’t know what is — and Markovits is completely unaware that it exists.  Even as he’s castigating the Europeans for their unreasoning American hatred, he’s engaging in precisely the same type of thinking vis a vis Bush.  There’s hope for him, though.  That same inconvenient honesty that finally broke him free of the Left’s strangle hold about America, forces him to acknowledge that Bush is not the culprit in failing American-European relations:

While the politics, style, and discourse of the Bush administrations — and of George W. Bush as a person — have undoubtedly exacerbated anti-American sentiment among Europeans and fostered a heretofore unmatched degree of unity between elite and mass opinion in Europe, they are not anti-Americanism’s cause.  Indeed, a change to a center-left administration in Washington, led by a Democratic president, would not bring about its abatement, let alone its disappearance.  [Take that, John Kerry!]  (p. 5.)

Perhaps, as time goes by, and as Markovits peels away the unthinking allegiance he has to Leftist doctrine, he’ll begin to take stands on matters that are informed and principled, and not driven simply by ideological loyalty.  Certainly to leave the ideological trap will make him a more honest thinker and, I’m willing to be, a better teacher (and that’s without regard to how good a teacher he may already be).

The failed Democratic anti-Surge

I’m not giving away anything by quoting here the concluding paragraph from Noemie Emery’s long and fascinating article about the Democrats’ desperate and, at the moment, unsuccessful anti-Surge efforts in the last year.  If you read only this paragraph, good as it is, you’ll have missed all of the really interesting stuff:

As they took control of Congress at the start of 2007, the Democrats vowed this would be a year of historic importance, and it seems they were prescient: Seldom before in the annals of governance have so many politicians fought so long and so hard to completely screw up a winning strategy being waged on their country’s behalf. Some cruelly define this as treacherous conduct, but this is imprecise and unkind. They tried, it is true, to do serious damage, but were compromised in the event by their chronic incompetence, as well as by being too above-board and open to try to do things on the sly. A stab in the back as a concept was wholly beyond their capacities. This was not a stab in the back that works via guile and subterfuge. It was 41 different stabs in the front, that always fell far short of serious damage, unless you count the damage they did to their own reputations (the approval ratings for Congress are now in the twenties). It was the Stab in the Front, the Surge-against-the-Surge, the Pickett’s Charge of the Great War on Terror. It was a year to remember, that will live in the annals of fecklessness. It was historical. It was hysterical. It was the Stab that Failed.

One movie, two views

Dennis Prager likes to say (and I’m paraphrasing here) that liberals and conservatives have entirely incompatible world views. They understand facts in such a different way that there are few points of intersection. I had a reminder of that truism the other day when I watched Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center with a liberal friend.

As you may recall, WTC, which came out last year, tells the true story of two Port Authority police officers (John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno) who got trapped in an elevator shaft when the Trade Center buildings collapsed. The movie traces their day from its ordinary beginnings, to their bewildering mission into the building, to their entombment, survival in the wreckage and ultimate rescue. It also looks at how their families cope with both the news and the complete absence of news, and how they are discovered and extricated. I found it a very moving experience to watch. My friend did not. He thought it was sentimental and pedestrian, despite learning at the end that much of the dialog was lifted right out of newspaper stories and quotations from the people actually involved in the events.

My friend’s perception in that regard could just be an artistic, movie-making quibble. What was more interesting was his emotional response to the movie. As I watched events unfold, especially when the planes hit the buildings and people began to realize that America had been attacked, I became furious all over again at those who had attacked us, and at those who masterminded and funded the attack. I was sorry that the Saudis in the plane died, and that they died fulfilling their hearts’ desires, because it would have been so much more emotionally satisfying to subject to them to some horrible medieval style torture. (And, in that way, it’s probably good for America’s soul that we didn’t get the opportunity to flay them alive, and remove their intestines and burn them before their eyes, which is what they richly deserved.) That was my response.

My friend’s response was this: “Bush is going to go down in history as the worst president ever. He squandered the opportunity to go after the terrorists.” I didn’t want to talk politics during the movie, so I let it drop, but I had a few thoughts: As to the source of this attack, which was Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Bush didn’t squander the opportunity. Instead, he went in and destroyed the Taliban. And as to the fact that it was Saudi Arabia that provided the manpower, the money and the ideology, I doubt my friend seriously believes anyone could attack Saudi Arabia without destroying the West in a single, oil-dripping stroke. In other words, once Bush went after the Taliban, which was a low level player in world Islamism, although a high level players in this single attack, what should he have done vis a vis the Twin Towers?

There will be, for a long time, debate about the wisdom of Bush’s next responsive choice — invading Iraq. I’d like to avoid the justification given for the war — violating UN sanctions, creating a Potemkin nuclear village (although some of the village’s real components seem to have drifted into Syria), funding terrorism, etc. — and focus on the strategic benefit of going into Iraq.

George Friedman, who is the founder of Stratfor, a company that produces intelligence analysis, wrote a book in which he opined, based on information available to the public, that Iraq was a proxy attack on Saudi Arabia. That is, Bush used information available at the time built up a credible and honest case that Iraq was a threat (and I say honest because most of the information was, in fact, true and, as for that which was untrue, there was no way to know at the time that it was false). Neutralizing Iraq, though, was only one goal and, perhaps, even a secondary one. What he really wanted to do was to create a strong American military presence, both short and long term, that was breathing over Saudi Arabia’s shoulder. Saudi Arabia got the message, by the way, and after the War began, Saudi Arabia instantly stepped up its own attacks against Al Qaeda within Saudi borders.

Bush also hoped to create– and, in fact, may have created — a stable pro-American bulwark in the heart of the Middle East. He almost incidentally created a honey pot that attracted Al Qaeda fighters from all over the Muslim world (especially Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia), men who rendered themselves useless by becoming dead. While there may be other fervent anti-American Muslims around the world, not all are willing to die for their beliefs, so the fact that they hate America (as they have done for decades) may be less important than the fact that they’re suddenly not so willing to throw themselves in front of American bullets to demonstrate their hatred.

That’s my view, but I willingly concede that there is room for intelligent disagreement, both about the War’s origins, its conduct, and its eventual results. Nevertheless, I still found peculiar that my friend, watching in almost real time a Muslim/Saudi attack on America that killed 3,000 people, rather than venting at the attackers, used the opportunity to vent against George Bush.

My friend also had one other interesting take on the movie. I’m not giving anything away here, since it was well publicized when the movie came out, but the two police officers were discovered because an ex-Marine, living in Connecticut, recognized that the US was at war, pulled on his old uniform, and went down to the ruins to hunt for survivors. And because he was not affiliated with any official organization, he wasn’t constrained by orders from headquarters calling the search off for the night. He just went in. Once there, he found another ex-Marine, exactly like himself: someone who pulled on his uniform and did his duty. It was these men who, in the dark, dusty, dangerous smoke, went around yelling for survivors to call out or tap. And it was these men who, when they found McLoughlin and Jimeno, assured them that, as Marines, these survivors had become their mission, and the Marines would not abandon them. Since you know how I feel about the Marines, I was really moved by that moment.

Interestingly, when my friend was talking to my son, and telling him about the movie, he described these two rescuers thusly: “These ordinary guys decided to go looking for survivors.” I interrupted to say, “They weren’t ordinary guys, they were Marines.” My friend insisted that I was wrong. They were ordinary guys, he said, because they weren’t fire fighters or police officers or FBI agents or anyone else working with an organization. They just went in on their own. My friend is technically correct — both men were ex-Marines who showed up without orders — but I think he missed something profound, which is that it was their Marine identity and training that drove them there. Strikingly, both of them showed up in their uniforms, which I think was more than just a way to avoid police cordons. I think it was a statement about their identity and their goals: they were Marines, and they were on a mission.

So, one movie, two very different responses.

Report of Bush’s demise highly exaggerated

Mark Morford, who writes a periodic column for the San Francisco Chronicle that is highly consistent with San Francisco’s political ethos, recently gloated about George Bush’s imminent downfall. In the paragraph imagining Bush’s departure from the White House, he manages to cram in every anti-Bush stereotype and nasty attack, short of (for reasons unknown) that Bushitler smear:

It is now safe to imagine. It is now becoming increasingly easy to actually dare to think that, in less than one year’s time, Dubya will begin packing his bags, jamming into his SpongeBob duffel his map-of-the-world coloring book, English-to-English translation dictionaries, mangled pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution, Bibleman action figure set and a “Mission Accomplished!” sweatshirt, and heading off to face his destiny as one of the bleakest, most morally repellent chapters in all of American history.

Poor Morford! It turns out that Bush may not quite retreat in the ignominious fashion he imagines. Grudgingly, and with a million caveats, the WaPo acknowledges that Bush is doing pretty well right now:

The war in Iraq seems to have taken a turn for the better and the opposition at home has failed in all efforts to impose its own strategy. North Korea is dismantling its nuclear program. The budget deficit is falling. A new attorney general has been confirmed despite objections from the left.

After more than two years of being buffeted by one political disaster after another, President Bush and his strategists think they may finally be getting back at least a bit of their footing. While still facing enormous challenges, from the crisis in Pakistan to the backlash over children’s health care, they hope Bush has arrested his downward spiral and established a better foundation for the remainder of his time in office.

What I particularly love in Peter Baker’s reluctant little column is the way he tries to spin why Bush is looking good:

In many ways, the shifting political fortunes may owe as much to the absence of bad news as to any particular good news. No one lately has been indicted, botched a hurricane relief effort or shot someone in a hunting accident. Instead, pictures from Iraq show people returning to the streets as often as they show a new suicide bombing.

Did you get that?  Bush isn’t really looking good.  It’s just that bad things have stopped happening and good things are starting to happen instead that makes him look good.  There is no connection between the two.  Repeat:  there is no connection.

You can read the rest of Baker’s article here, but just keep in mind as you read it that the improvements in Iraq, the falling budget deficit, North Korea’s backing down, etc., have nothing to do with the policies George Bush has doggedly pursued for so many years, despite the relentless naysaying from the MSM and the Democrats.  It’s all a coincidence.  When you go to the voting booths in November next year, do not think “Bush/Republicans.”  Wipe your mind of those thoughts.

I trust I’ve made myself clear.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much

The Confederate Yankee rightly points out that all dishonest war reporting, whether it paints Iraq as a grim hellhole populated by evil US soldiers, or a glorious victory for American-style peace and democracy, is a very bad thing and must be nipped in the bud:

If we’re to make any sort of sense of the Iraq War at all, we need to know that those who are providing us information on the conflict are being as honest in their reporting as inherent human biases allow. As it has often been said, we can allow people to have their own opinions, bu not their own facts. On that point, I think we can all agree.

Because of this shared desire for facts, those dissemblers who falsify accounts and events in that conflict should be brought to light and discredited so that the can no longer easily spread lies.

CY would therefore like to know more facts about something Scott Horton, a Harper’s writer, describes in a Harper’s blog post. Horton is concerned about the anti-Beauchamp phenomenon, since he claims to have witnessed a neocon writer whitewash completely a particularly bad day on Haifa Street in Baghdad:

I have no idea whether Beauchamp’s story was accurate. But at this point I have seen enough of the Neocon corner’s war fables to immediately discount anything that emerges from it. One example: back last spring, when I was living in Baghdad, on Haifa Street, I sat in the evening reading a report by one of the core Neocon pack. He was reporting from Baghdad, and recounted a day he had spent out on a patrol with U.S. troops on Haifa Street. He described a peaceful, pleasant, upscale community. Children were out playing on the street. Men and women were out going about their daily business. Well, in fact I had been forced to spend the day “in the submarine,” as they say, missing appointments I had in town. Why? This bucolic, marvelous Haifa Street that he described had erupted in gun battles the entire day. In the view of my security guards, with which I readily concurred, it was too unsafe. And yes, I could hear the gunfire and watch some of the exchanges from my position. No American patrol had passed by and there were certainly no children playing in the street. This was the point when I realized that many of these accounts were pure fabrications.

Horton, having described a journalist committing a blatant, propagandistic lie, is surprisingly coy about the journalist’s identity. CY has therefore taken the first step to finding it out — he’s written Horton. If this journalist is indeed spewing untruths, we need to know:

Horton establishes last spring as the rough time frame and Haifa Street as the location in Baghdad where this story of press duplicity allegedly took place. I’ve taking the liberty of contacting Mr. Horton via his Harper’s email address, and I’m asking him to provide as much detail as possible about the fraudulent reporting of which he was a near-eyewitness. The more detail he can provide, the more concrete of a case we can make.

We need good reporting to understand the wars to which we’re committing our nation’s soldiers, and we need to discard those journalists that either can’t tell truth from fiction, or prefer not to make the distinction.

I’ll keep you posted as to what CY finds or, of course, you can simply make his excellent site part of your regular reading.

So far, all I’ve done is recount someone else’s news — that is, that CY found a blog saying pro-War journalists are lying too and that he is following up on that. Here’s where I take off on my own, which is to focus on something I found very interesting about Horton’s post. You see, Horton doesn’t just claim that neocon journalists are “thugs” who lie. Instead, he’s very, very, very angry about the Beauchamp story, and especially about The Weekly Standard‘s role in that story:

What’s interesting about this whole affair is not the Beauchamp story, but the response to it from William Kristol, the Weekly Standard, and their quite amazing ability to exercise total command and control over the public affairs operations at the Pentagon throughout the process. Pentagon public affairs operated as an extension of Kristol’s publication, giving it exclusive access to special reports and data (most of which, incidentally, proved an exercise in fiction writing). Beauchamp himself was detained and placed under pressure to recant. Had all of these facts been reported to me as something done by Glavlit and the Red Army in Brezhnev era Russia, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But this was the United States.

From that tirade, Horton repeats approvingly parts of Jonathan (“I hate Bush”) Chait’s attack on William Kristol for exposing Beauchamp.

There are a few striking things about Horton’s red hot attack on the conservative media and on the US military. The most obvious thing is how he glosses over the core fact, which is that Beauchamp lied. Beauchamp, perhaps with help from his wife (shades of Wilson/Plame here), got himself a huge forum in a nationally respected magazine to tell lies about the American troops. There was no witch hunt here, which implies that the person being hunted is innocent. Instead, what happened was that the new media instantly exposed a con man, a scam artist, someone who in the old days would probably have been derided and shunned for what he did.

Horton also goes on the liberal trope of “we’re living in a police state” as if Beauchamp was an ordinary citizen being hunted down by the Bush government and its military industrial complex. In fact, Beauchamp wrote the lies he wrote while actively serving in the military. Given that one of its own grossly slandered others of its own, I think that the military might actually have a legitimate interest in conducting an investigation into Beauchamp’s charges. And, since Beauchamp made those charges public to the world, the military had not only an interest in rebutting, but a right to rebut, them nationally as well.

And please note how carefully Horton writes that Beauchamp “was detained and placed under pressure to recant.” First of all, recanting makes it sound as if Beauchamp had taken an ideological position and, having been accused of heresy, was forced to retreat from a moral truth. (Think Galileo here.) In fact, Beauchamp was confronted with the ever increasing pile of objective facts showing that what he wrote was false, and was asked to admit that he’d lied. Kind of different.

Also, to coyly say he was placed “under pressure” and then instantly to analogize that to the Soviet Union is an outrageous act of writerly sleight of hand. In the Soviet Union, pressure involved interesting things like torture, imprisonment in Gulags, starvation, threats to ones family, and execution. Beauchamp has not alleged, and no one else anywhere has claimed, that anything more happened to Beauchamp than that his employer (that would be the US military) questioned him, and, yes, probably hounded him, to admit that he’d grossly slandered the organization.

Horton’s rage, in other words, is manufactured. What he can’t admit apparently, even to himself, is that someone told a lie that he hoped was the truth, and that this lie was then exposed. All he can do, therefore, is create a swirling sea of anger about everything but the initial lie, in the hopes of obscuring the truth at the core of it all — Beauchamp fabricated just about everything. Horton’s other tactic, that which started this post, is the tried and true playground strategy of claiming “but so and so lied too” (or “hit too,” or “kicked too,” or whatever else you or your playground buddy stand accused of having done.) Horton may well be right about the latter point but, given his intellectual approach to the first lie, I have my doubts.

UPDATECY notes that, while Horton is busy blogging, he doesn’t seem to have gotten around to giving detailed answers — heck, any answers — to questions about his assertion that a neocon journalist lied just as badly as Beauchamp did.

Another one bites the dust

Drudge gives appropriate prominence to a report that the military caught one of the top guys of Al Qaeda (“which doesn’t exist”) in Iraq:

The U.S. command said Wednesday the highest-ranking Iraqi in the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq has been arrested, adding that information from him indicates the group’s foreign-based leadership wields considerable influence over the Iraqi chapter.

Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid, was captured in Mosul on July 4, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military spokesman.

“Al-Mashhadani is believed to be the most senior Iraqi in the al-Qaida in Iraq network,” Bergner said. He said al-Mashhadani was a close associate of Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Bergner said al-Mashhadani served as an intermediary between al-Masri and Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.

“In fact, communication between the senior al-Qaida leadership and al-Masri frequently went through al-Mashhadani,” Bergner said.

“Along with al-Masri, al-Mashhadani co-founded a virtual organization in cyberspace called the Islamic State of Iraq in 2006,” Bergner said. “The Islamic State of Iraq is the latest efforts by al-Qaida to market itself and its goal of imposing a Taliban-like state on the Iraqi people.”

As Dennis Prager says, the debate about whether we should have gone into Iraq in the first place, and the debate about the War’s conduct now, are two different things. You can believe the first was a mistake, but still be committed to an American victory in the second.

As astute readers may have noticed, I’ve tended to shy away from whether it was a mistake to have gone in in the first place. I don’t believe Bush lied, I do believe Saddam Hussein lied, and I believe that the CIA, as has so often been the case, handled intelligence badly. But that’s Monday morning quarterbacking and, as far as I’m concerned, an utterly pointless activity right now. It’s only a vehicle for those so in the grip of Bush Derangement Syndrome that they’re utterly incapable of seeing that a stale political debate is not only a waste of time, it handicaps us in what has turned into the central issue of our time: fighting of a violent jihadism that specifically admits its intention to destroy our way of life and to kill as many of us as possible.

As it is, we’re in Iraq now, we need to win, and I find reports such as this very heartening — not to mention the fact that, media and Democratic disapproval notwithstanding, the surge seems to be working.

UPDATE: As of 8:23 a.m., P.S.T., the New York Times online has not updated its front page, either at the top or bottom part of the screen, to reflect this story.  As of the same time, incidentally, the New York Post gives it top “breaking news” status.

Regarding the fired attorneys, I sign on to what the WSJ said

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m incredibly pressed for time today, so can only blog in minute snippets.  To that end, let me just direct you to the WSJ editorial regarding the fake scandal over the 8 U.S. attorneys the administration fired.  I agree in every particular, whether it’s about executive powers, fake scandals, the right to fire employees, etc.

The sport of war

During a stimulating lunch time conversation, DQ expressed genuine mystification at my post asking whether the media was right all along. In that post, I said I wasn’t going to quarrel with whether the media was right or not about getting into the war (and some post commentors correctly noted that some in the media were war cheerleaders), but that I did quarrel with how the media reported the war. I’ll quote myself:

I therefore side with Dunn in blaming the press for undermining the war effort by passing on every bit of enemy propaganda; making ill-founded, often inaccurate doom-and-gloom predictions; focusing obsessively on American failures and missteps, without expending equal energy on American successes; and trying to undermine internal American security programs. To the extent that the media has a fair amount of impact, I think much of their reporting took on the power of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What media members don

They’re different in the flyover states

Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, Alexandra — raised Catholic, but not currently practicing her religion — is selling her new movie, which focuses on Evangelical Christians. Her San Francisco Chronicle interview is worth reading, to my mind, for a couple of things. To begin with, it’s interesting to see Pelosi’s embarrassed, guilt-stricken defense of George Bush, whose campaign she filmed in 2000:

She [Alexandra] was a main character in “Journeys” as well as in her 2004 documentary, “Diary of a Political Tourist,” about the Democratic presidential primary scrum. In the first, Bush kisses her on the check; in the second, Karl Rove hugs her, and Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman warmly calls her “Ally.” Everybody knew her, either as Nancy’s kid or as a TV news producer. She replies with gentle joshing, and gentler questions. Anti-Bush critics ripped her after “Journeys” came out for portraying the president as charming and benign — making him seem more palatable, and thus re-electable.

“I hate to be the one to defend George Bush, but you have to be able to disconnect the professional George Bush from the personal George Bush,” Pelosi says. “I know all the anti-war folks think he is a monster, but he is still a very personable, nice person.”

Imagine that. George Bush is not Satan incarnate, although it’s apparently a bad thing to have to admit that fact. Alexandra seems like a pretty nice person, but it doesn’t say much for the crowds she runs with that she’s ashamed to reveal that our President doesn’t have cloven hooves and a tail.

The above, though, is almost a parenthesis to the real point of the article and of this post, which is Pelosi’s view of the Evangelical Christians at the heart of her newest movie. I’ll start by quoting the article, and then follow with a few comments:

Pelosi doesn’t break much new ground. Instead she aims her documentary at people like herself, ignorant of evangelicals and with a “small worldview. Pelosi has spent a lifetime culturally landlocked in the blue states, having grown up in San Francisco until she was 17, attended college in Los Angeles, worked in Washington, D.C., and spent the past dozen years in New York.

“I was trying to show the people in the blue states, like me, that there’s this whole other world out there, a whole community of people who have their own wrestlers, their own miniature golf, their own rock concerts. They’ve rejected a lot of what the mainstream culture has given them because they don’t find it appropriate,” Pelosi says. “On the coasts, they have this very secular, coastal attitude that is very dismissive of the red states. I thought it was time to go into the belly of the beast.”

So she hangs out with grapplers on the Christian pro-wrestling circuit who preach to kids after the matches, and stops by a Christian miniature golf course. She listens to an anti-evolutionary teacher dismiss accepted science about human origins. The “most painful part” of the project, she said is how nearly every evangelical tried to “save” her off-camera.

But she rarely challenged anyone.

“I was not trying to get into a political debate with the evangelicals about their belief,” Pelosi says. “They interpret the Bible the way they want to.” But Pelosi was quick to add, “I don’t interpret it to say the things that they’re saying it says. I don’t believe that the Bible says we shall be gay-bashers.”

Learning about that divide was a shock to the woman who spent her childhood in progressive Catholic schools. “We were taught just to accept people, that was just a given,” Pelosi says. “I don’t ever remember being told at Convent of the Sacred Heart that gay was wrong. They never even told us there was anything wrong with abortion. They were just choices.

“That’s why it was weird when I’d go to these places and … people would say, ‘It’s in the Bible.’ And they fall back on the Bible for everything.”

I’m wondering why it was “painful” for Pelosi that evangelicals tried to “save” her off-camera? I’ll certainly admit that it’s painful when you’re burned at the stake, as used to happen to people who professed the wrong religious faith. It’s painful when you’re kidnapped and forced to convert at gunpoint, as happened to Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, the Fox news reporter and his cameraman. It’s painful when you’re put on trial with a possible death penalty for having the temerity to leave your faith (as happened to ex-Muslim Abdul Rahman).

I’m really having a problem, though, feeling the pain when well-intentioned people, hoping to preserve you from an eternity in Hell make the effort to convert you. It can become painful if they’re rude, crude or so aggressive in their proselytizing that it becomes a form of harassment. Otherwise, I think it’s a very kind instinct. As it is, I’m secure enough in my world view of religion (for those new to the blog, I’m Jewish and not religious), that I feel neither threatened nor pained by the effort. My most likely response would be “Thanks, but no thanks.”

The other thing I found peculiar in the above quotation is the religious upbringing Pelosi herself had. The article notes that she spent her entire life being educated within Catholic schools, including a Jesuit university. Nevertheless, she never heard anyone breath a word against gays (unsurprising, perhaps, in San Francisco), or against abortion (very surprising if you’re within the ostensibly Catholic education community). As long-time readers know, my views on both subjects are waffling and complex, so I’m not taking a stand about what Pelosi learned growing up. I’m just incredibly surprised that, despite 16 years of Catholic education, Alexandra never heard a word breathed against abortion. Indeed, if you look at the last paragraph from which I quoted, one wonders if she had any exposure to the Bible, which she treats as a dry reference book, not a moral touchstone. Basically, Alexandra seems to have learned Catholic-lite. This fact may explain her acute discomfort in the face of would-be saviours amongst the Evangelical sect. Alexandra feels that she ought to believe something religiously, and she probably senses that her education left a hole that the Evangelicals can fill.

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