Friday, October 03, 2003

Sorry for the lack of activity -- a combination of real life crises and outrage overload. Should pick up again by the middle of next week. (I'll be offline entirely Monday).

In the meantime, though, one thought: after the recent revelations about Arnie, any Republican that supports him forever forfeits the right to so much lift an eyebrow at the personal life of William Jefferson Clinton...

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

David Brooks today in the NYT:

Have you noticed that we've moved from the age of the culture wars to the age of the presidency wars? Have you noticed that the furious arguments we used to have about cultural and social issues have been displaced by furious arguments about the current occupant of the Oval Office?

No, David, I haven't noticed that at all. Have you noticed the recent furor over the ten commandments monument in Alabama? How about the Republican in California who's splitting the vote in the gubernatorial recall, by pulling away voters who oppose abortion and civil rights for homosexuals? Or, on a national level, the continued attempts to restrict abortion in Congress? Dubya's cutoff of funds to any NGO which supports abortion under any circumstances abroad? The "faith-based" social program initiatives? The whole Trent Lott affair? Any of that?

Of course, he's complaining about "screeds against the president and his supporters":

The quintessential new warrior scans the Web for confirmation of the president's villainy. He avoids facts that might complicate his hatred. He doesn't weigh the sins of his friends against the sins of his enemies. But about the president he will believe anything. He believes Ted Kennedy when he says the Iraq war was a fraud cooked up in Texas to benefit the Republicans politically. It feels so delicious to believe it, and even if somewhere in his mind he knows it doesn't quite square with the evidence, it's important to believe it because the other side is vicious, so he must be too.

Yup, I don't see "If Clinton had done this..." much on liberal blogs anymore, if only because Dubya has gone so far beyond anything Clinton might have been allowed to do that there's no longer much point. But Brooks doesn't deign to address anyone's specific complaints against Dubya -- instead, he just names a few of Dubya's critics, and then equates them to the conservative wolfpack that spent a year baying at Monica because, hey, they're both criticizing the guy in the White House. Gosh, asserting ex cathedra that your opponents have no case is so much easier than answering them.

So, have you noticed that David Brooks's columns in the New York Times are all too often a swirling mass of ex cathedra assertions, supported by no concrete evidence? Have you noticed how hard it can be to find any trace of a cogent argument?

Ummm... to be more precise: Brooks actually does cite one anti-Dubya argument, though only one, and in fact in the bit I quoted: "Ted Kennedy ... says the Iraq war was a fraud cooked up in Texas to benefit the Republicans politically". But then he doesn't address any of the reasons one might advance for believing such a thing -- like the numerous flat assertions of fact concerning, particularly, WMDs from Dubya's crowd before the war which have failed to pan out. He just pulls out a sound bite to sneer at it. As I said, asserting that your opponents have no case is so much easier than answering them...

Monday, September 29, 2003

And now, a bit of sympathy for Glenn Reynolds, who doesn't understand all the fuss about the Plame affair (in which some so far anonymous White House big shots outed Valerie Plame Wilson to Robert Novak as a CIA agent, in apparent violation of applicable law). Granted, Atrios is right that Reynolds' comments on the affair are ludicrous, and that the apparent criminality suffusing Casa Dubya is pretty damn serious. But in Dubya's administration, what's one more serious scandal? As Mahabarbara pointed out months ago, Dubya's contracting shenanigans dwarf Teapot Dome, which brought down an administration in the middle of the last century -- and she wrote before we knew about the corrupt sweetheart deals for well-connected, ill-prepared Republican contractors that are making a fiasco of the Iraq occupation.

Don't get me wrong; blowing the cover of a covert CIA agent for petty political revenge is pretty damn sleazy, and potentially quite serious. But unless Ms. Plame Wilson was involved in something a lot hotter and more dangerous than anyone publicly has wanted to admit (which is possible; WMD were her general area of expertise), the fiascos of the occupation, and the resentment they've engendered, have done a great deal more to harm the long term security interests of this country, and for motives just as base. Both the Plame leak and the sweetheart deals involve clear, unethical behavior; the only reason I can think of for regarding the Plame affair as more serious is that there seems to be a clearly indictable criminal offense. And I'm a little reluctant to weight the seriousness of the various misdeeds of Casa Dubya by how easily each one could be used to drag the bastards into court...

More: Billmon highlights part of a WaPo story which quotes CIA officials as saying that the outing of Plame may have resulted in the exposure of her contacts in foreign WMD programs... in which case, it's certainly damaging. But as damaging as, say, the "macho man" diplomatic posturing which may have driven the North Koreans to restart their nuke program in the first place?

Yet more: Krugman on the cost of cronyism in Iraq...