October 30, 2005

"The tragic thing is that at the exact moment when the Republican Party is staggering under the weight of its own mistakes..."

"... the Democratic Party's loudest voices are in the grip of passions that render them untrustworthy," writes David Brooks aptly but unfortunately behind the wall of Times Select. Writing about the response to the Libby indictment, Brooks sees "some Democrats" as a good example of what Richard Hofstadter called "The Paranoid Style in American Politics":
Hofstadter argues that sometimes people who are dispossessed, who feel their country has been taken away from them and their kind, develop an angry, suspicious and conspiratorial frame of mind. It is never enough to believe their opponents have committed honest mistakes or have legitimate purposes; they insist on believing in malicious conspiracies.

"The paranoid spokesman," Hofstadter writes, "sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms - he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization." Because his opponents are so evil, the conspiracy monger is never content with anything but their total destruction. Failure to achieve this unattainable goal "constantly heightens the paranoid's sense of frustration." Thus, "even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes."
Isn't there also a mentally healthy theme in American political life? That is, don't most ordinary people instinctively turn away from those who are serving up such noxious fare? I'd like to see a poll about how much people are following the ideation around the Libby indictment. My guess is that only people who already hate Bush are engaging with this material. Lots of former supporters tell pollsters they think Bush isn't doing a good job, but I tend to think they are simply asking for a better show of competence. They haven't given themselves over to the abject Bush-hating purveyed by the left.


Jack Roy said...

...abject Bush-hating purveyed by the left.

Sheesh, haven't we exhausted that meme yet?

In any event, I'm deeply suspicious that Brooks hasn't really read Hofstadter, and I'm virtually certain he doesn't understand him. Democrats right now are, after all, vaguely rejoicing in the small vindication of the Libby indictment. Meanwhile, conservative Christian Republicans---who elected of their own to the WH and most of the Congress, and saw 7 of 9 appointments of the same to the Court---are convinced that liberals control the media, academia, workplace norms, yada yada yada. If one were to write an actually interesting piece about Hofstadter's thesis, I think he'd find the ground a lot more arable where the dominant political movement in America is convinced that its fate is controlled by all those people outside the corridors of power.

You know, those people who talk about "the left."

chuck b. said...

I pay attention to this meme because I'm still debating whether I'll ever want to think of myself a liberal again.

Undecided said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

Jack Roy: "You know, those people who talk about "the left."" Clearly, you don't live in Madison, Wisconsin!

wildaboutharrie said...

Many people following this are not "Bush haters" but non-knee-jerk types who strongly suspect that we were led into war under false pretenses. The indictment does intersect with pre-war intelligence. Hence the interest.

Ann Althouse said...

Wild:"Many people following this are not "Bush haters" but non-knee-jerk types who strongly suspect that we were led into war under false pretenses." What is the "this" you're referring to. My statement about "Bush haters" referred to the " the ideation around the Libby indictment" -- the excesses of the "paranoid spokesmen" Brooks referred to.

Undecided said...

Part of the reason that I've been reading Althouse is because the NY Times began to charge for reading its editorials. I'm worried you are going to start charging next especially for those of us who might on occasion leave an over the top comment. Okay, okay I'll sent you the $5 a month rather than the NY Times.

I think you have an uncanny knack for bringing extremists (like me sometimes) on either side of the political spectrum back to the center. That's healthy for me, I know that, but I'm still trying to figure out how you accomplish that excellent feat so smoothly and unobtrusively.

Cheers to you & the Althouse gang on Halloween!

P.S. I still miss Krugman's editorials for his liberal economic insight though. Nothing's perfect!

wildaboutharrie said...

Sorry, Ann, sloppy reading on my part. Paranoid hysterics from any direction are frankly embarrassing.

Jacques Cuze said...

I'd like to see a poll about how much people are following the ideation around the Libby indictment.

White House Ethics, Honesty Questioned
55% in Survey Say Libby Case Signals Broader Problems

By Richard Morin and Claudia Deane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 30, 2005; Page A14

A majority of Americans say the indictment of senior White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby signals broader ethical problems in the Bush administration, and nearly half say the overall level of honesty and ethics in the federal government has fallen since President Bush took office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News survey.

The poll, conducted Friday night and yesterday, found that 55 percent of the public believes the Libby case indicates wider problems "with ethical wrongdoing" in the White House, while 41 percent believes it was an "isolated incident." And by a 3 to 1 ratio, 46 percent to 15 percent, Americans say the level of honesty and ethics in the government has declined rather than risen under Bush.

The survey also found that nearly seven in 10 Americans consider the charges against Libby to be serious. A majority -- 55 percent -- said the decision of Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald to bring charges against Libby was based on the facts of the case, while 30 percent said he was motivated by partisan politics.

"One thing you can't ever, ever do even if you're a regular person is lie to a grand jury," said Brad Morris, 48, a registered independent and a field representative for a lumber company who lives in Nashua, N.H. "But multiply that by a thousand times if you have power like [Libby had]. And if anybody wants to know why, ask Scooter. He's financially ruined; he'll be paying lawyers for the rest of his life."

Is it possible Ann, that you are the one out of the mainstream here? If so, why? Is it something about your own partisan nature that you profess to think this is not a big deal and not about mine that I think it is?

P. Froward said...

Jack Roy, "liberal control [of] the media, academia," etc. doesn't exclude Republicans winning elections. You've got a bit of a non sequitur there.

Quxxo, "symptom of a broader problem" is not quite the same as "clear proof of an octopoidal Zionist conspiracy sinking its fangs into the soft underbelly of our nation's throat YEEAARRGHGHGHGHH". Hofstadter was talking about the Birchers. Democratic [sic] Underground [sic] fits that mold also, for example. You can have quite a few genuine concerns about the White House staff without actually needing medication.

Anyway. I recall the same Hofstadter piece floating to the surface during the last administration, and for the same reason. What's interesting is that in both cases, the people feeling "disenfranchised" feel/felt that way not because they're completely excluded, but because the other guys weren't completely excluded. What else is interesting, is that a lot of the people who were all irrational about Clinton are a lot calmer now, and a lot of the people who are now irrational about Bush, were a lot calmer then. I don't know if I should be pleased that these people can recover, or worried that this kind of lunatic thinking is breaking out in the mainstream.

What's most interesting of all is that I know a few people who were full-bore paranoid about Clinton, emailing me lists of people Bill'n'Hillary had had assassinated and all that — and who now fear Dubya just as irrationally as they feared Bill. Go figure. I guess it gives them some sort of comfort to have Higher Power to believe in, even if it does happen to be a purely malevolent one.

paulfrommpls said...

(Sorry about the length; I'm sitting here watching the Vikes get demolished. So I got time.)

I provided this link in a comment yesterday but it relates even more here:


It's a review of a book written by a couple of self-identified leftists from Canada, critiquing the left. The reason I like it is: it seems to mirror my own thinking. (I like things that like me.)

There is intense hatred of Bush, but in the end it's not just about Bush. It's about some real deep-seated inherent problems with the left side of politics.

Many people - a majority? - on the left are very well-meaning drama addicts. The worst of them slide over into needing things to condemn, too; but a lot of them love a mission. And most of politics just isn't that clear cut. So it leaves those with the basic left-motive kind of bereft.

So in the run-up to the war, which I personally decided on about a 53-47 basis might not be such a good idea essentially on our own, it seemed to me that the left - captured by No War For Oil, ignoring the last 10 years of Iraq policy during the Clinton admisnitration - basically removed itself from the debate we needed to have on doability.

(I do think W has much to answer for on the case he made, but for me it's about excessive certainty on WMD evidence; and even moreso for not making the best most persuasive case in a respectful, honest way.)

(Although I also think he tried more than he's given credit for by the left, which has formed a caricature of the case he made and now inists it is the only accurate version of that case. The idea that uranium from Niger was "central" to the overall case is a good example.)

Jack Roy said...

Prof. Althouse:

I've said it before, I'll say it again, but what you're identifying in the childish liberals at Yoo-Dub is symptomatic of their childishness, not their liberalism.

Prof. Froward:

Non sequitur? I think you need to read it again; the point isn't that the media isn't liberal (although that's more a truism than actually true), the point is that the people who have succeeded politically by any benchmark nevertheless talk as though they're incredibly set upon. You know, the "paranoid" in "paranoid style"?

paulfrommpls said...

Jack Roy -

Short version of my long comment: childishness and liberalism are less distinct than you might think.

(Sign-in letters: carddt. How true, how so very true...)

wildaboutharrie said...

Paul - what I remember from the lead-up to the war were pretty passionate assertions about WMDs. When one side says there's about to be a nuke pointed at us (and this in the wake of the horror of 9/11) it's hard for the other side to ask for a debate on the "doability" of defending our very existence. The argument ought to have been with the intelligence. Those in the Senate who supported the war and are now complaining about being misled blew it.

It looks like an interesting book - I like the "drama queens" image. But - side note - I'm new here, and so far these commentaries seem awfully slanted. Do we bash the knee-jerk radical right, too?

wildaboutharrie said...

Oops - that's "drama addicts" sorry.

paulfrommpls said...

Wildabout -

I'm actually pretty new too, but I talk a lot.

There isn't as much bashing of the right here; for me that seems less necessary. It's pretty well-covered.

Me, I'm drawn in a way I can't resist to trying to figure out what the hell is up with the left. I think I've become a Burkeian, if I have the idea right.

A theme: there is nothing worse for a democracy than a dishonest, dimwitted bullying culture of dissent.

Specific: I paid a lot of attention to the debate before the war. I did not pick up the message that there was a nuke about to be pointed at us from Iraq, or terrorists associated with Iraq. I think the belief that the admin was saying that is based on some isolated statements that could be taken that way, especially by people looking to say that's what they were saying.

I think W made sure to state clearly in some high-profile speeches that the threat probably was not imminent, which was why it made sense to do something about it now.

When W would mention mushroom clouds, I took that as a legitimate way for him to emphasize two things: the stakes, when push came to shove; and the point that with Hussein in power, we really had no idea, which was true, and was the reason Clinton once said that only real weapons inspections would be regime change.

That's part of the case W should have made better: Hussein had defied the UN for 10 years by refusing to be transparent and seeming to hide things; we knew for sure he had hidden weapons and processes in the 90's; do we as the international community let a proven WMD-using mass murderer with some kind of ties to terror get away with it and slip out from under? Or do we actually do something about it?

Again: I don't know if the situation as it was justified the war decision. I agree W should have been much more careful collecting and describing the evidence. But I've always been sure it was worth talking about, and it turned me fundamentally against the hardcore left that dominated the war opposition that they refused to acknowledge at least the defensiblity of the idea.

And I have yet to meet a liberal who will look me in the eye and say there was no way Hussein was planning to start it all up again if he could climb out from under the inspections and sanctions; ending the inspections and sanctions had been the guiding pole of French and Russian policy on this question for years. (Talk about "no blood for oil...")

And where I found and still find rational debate was on the right side of the pundit world. Which has opened my eyes to a variety of issues that the left seems to approach with a certain core dishonesty.

Jimmy said...

How short our memories are. I remember only 5 years ago when Bill Clinton was president and Conservatives offered up a few conspiracy theories of their own.

1) Bill Clinton was on the Soviet payroll while he was a Rhodes Scholar and as president he was advancing Red China's agenda.

2) Clinton had Vince Foster assassinated

3) Clinton is a rapist.

4) Clinton started the Bosnian War to distract the American people from the White House scandals.

5) Castro had learned some scandalous things from Clinton's past and blackmailed him into returning Elian to Cuba. As Peggy Noonan eloquently stated

" Was Mr. Clinton being blackmailed? The Starr report tells us of what the president said to Monica Lewinsky about their telephone sex: that there was reason to believe that they were monitored by a foreign intelligence service. Naturally the service would have taped the calls, to use in the blackmail of the president. Maybe it was Mr. Castro’s intelligence service, or that of a Castro friend.
Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to." (my italics)

6) Whitewater

7)Hillary Clinton is anti-semetic (as asserted by Little Lazio).

wildaboutharrie said...

Paul, I'm loving your writing style.

No, my nuke comment was just for effect, sorry (although the President started it with that "mushroom cloud" comment). I remember things differently, however - in my recollection, the threat was repeatedly depicted as immanent, by the President and (perhaps more so) by others in his administration (particularly the Vice President).

I became somewhat disillusioned with the lovable left during the lead up to Afghanistan. I couldn't understand the resistance. I kept asking myself if I was the only one who saw those buildings come down. But that was a clear case, and brilliantly made by the President before Congress. Not so, Iraq.

A smarter person (smarter than me, certainly) would have found another way to regime change. Or at least would have planned a better war.

paulfrommpls said...


All that is true, and I hated it at the time, and is the reason I was against Clinton's impeachment. (Although not all the specifics of all your 'outrageous' charges are as clear as all that.)

But I submit that the worst of the right never dominated the right the way the worst of the left does now. (Domeates the left, I mean.) And the stakes for the country are much higher now.

Evidence? The right, meaning both Congress and the base, pretty much supported Clinton on Bosnia. (And the worst of the left opposed the Bosnian war for very similar reasons they oppose everything now.)

WildAH - Why thank you; I should really post more on my own neglected site. What is my problem?

paulfrommpls said...

"Dominates" the left. Not "domeates" the left. I was attempting to clarify and produced chaos. Unintended consequences of well-intended interventions, and all; another thing the left doesn't understand as well as it might. (Does W? Umm...)

W.B. Reeves said...


But I submit that the worst of the right never dominated the right the way the worst of the left does now. (Domeates the left, I mean.) And the stakes for the country are much higher now.

So the House voting articles of impeachment against then President
Clinton had nothing to do with the influence of the Right? That hardly seems credible. What, exactly, have the Democrats done under the influence of the Left that rises to this level of seriousness? How do you fit the Social Security privatization and Schiavo fiascos into your theory that the Right's influence is negligible? This is a particularly curious judgement to make in light of the Right having just kneecapped Bush over the Miers nomination.

Evidence? The right, meaning both Congress and the base, pretty much supported Clinton on Bosnia. (And the worst of the left opposed the Bosnian war for very similar reasons they oppose everything now.)

How many Congressional Democrats opposed military operations against either Afghanistan or Iraq? Yes, I did notice your careful inclusion of "the base" in your charge but that doesn't really save your argument. How many Democratic Party honchos came out in support of the anti-war movement in the run up to invasion? How many showed up at the last mass march in Washington? When did the Democratic Party adopt an explicitly anti-Iraq War plank in their platform? Oh that's right, they haven't.

Sounds like a pretty thin case for "domination" to me.

BTW, you appear to be comparing apples to oranges. Your definition of the left is generalized and vague whereas you explicitly identify the Right with Congress and the base. This divergence in definitions renders any comparison meaningless. The first can be stretched to include any loony utterance that emanates from the Leftward side, while the latter excludes anything that is not expressed in acts of legislation or policy.

The premises of an argument control its conclusions.

knoxgirl said...

Since Bush was elected (especially since 9/11) Democrats have become willing to betray any decent principle for what they perceive to be political advantage. The effort to make this Plame thing proof of deception about the war--is the quintessential example of that.

I consider myself to hold as many liberal positions on major issues as conservative ones, and I for one, want another option--Republicans are far from perfect! But the Democrats, as they exist now, don't offer one.

paulfrommpls said...

w.b. reeves -

I got a headful of ideas etc.

Those are all good questions; one thing I'd ask you to keep in mind is that these are quickly-written notes about a process in my thinking that has been going on for a wbile. The best way I've been able to describe it to my baffled friends is, it's like a kaleidoscope turned. Suddenly I can see the conservative point of view on almost eveything, and it's actually very interesting and varied.

Plus it helps that there are a great many honest and readable conservative or semi-conservative pundits, and funny too. (Once you're not nauseated by their arguments themselves, that is.)

(I sometimes wonder if people on the left even know that Ann Coulter is half a humorist. She's carved out a role for herself where she is perceived as both genuinely contributing to a debate (sometimes) and acting as a humorist (sometimes not too successfully). The lines the left quotes are just that, lines, and yes they are usually the ones where she's been too naughty; but naughty is part of her humor style. Let's see, are there any naughty humorists among the liberals and left who sometimes say pretty hateful things?) (And once you can take her, she can be laugh-out-loud funny. That is rare in print. Very hard to do.)


Of course the conservative base had something to do with Clinton's impeachment; and as I alluded to, the specific reason I opposed Clinton's impeachment (to no great effect) was because I didn't think that base should be rewarded; I thought it deserved a rebuke in the end. And I thought and still think that the Republicans and conservatives didn't treat Clinton fairly from the beginning. They tried to undermine his presidency from the get-go, like forcing him into a gays-in-the-military decision as first thing.


- Clinton did in fact commit perjury, it seems; and for many of my even pretty wild-ass friends, the simple act of getting repeated blow-jobs in the Oval office from an intern was impeachable. I don't agree but I can relate. I don't even think I would do that and I have almost no self-control.

- My perception of the egregious attack mode of the Republicans in 1993 and after came courtesy of the interpretation of the mainstream print media. I've since learned that you should not trust that interpretation.

General idea: On the ground, where it counts, nearly all the selected facts on TV and in print have typically been selected by liberals and edited and then explained by liberals. That's where I see a plausible mechanism for media bias, especially in print and double-especially the majority of big city editorial pages. In fact it's a conservative take on reality. Reality comes from individual decisions, not from some amorphous corporate control. Usually, I hasten to add. There are exampes of big money taking down a message because of influence, but I think they are actually pretty rare and are actually inevitable. Bad things will happen when money rules. (Bad things also happen when it doesn't, but that's another topic.)

I've always thought, even in my Chomksy-chewing days, that the press had a liberal slant. I considered that undeniable, inevitable and good. Now I don't think it's good.

- And again: the stakes were lower. If the Republicans were engaged in nasty politics, it was a level we've seen before and actually see constantly. In DC, nasty politics is not just eveywhere; it's always part of any powerful leader's style. It's sad but true. FDR was a real asshole sometimes.

And they weren't - not the base, the elected officials or the pundits - to my ears essentially lying about a true existential threat to the country.


You mention the differentiation between the left base and left elected officials; plus what I personally throw in as I try to identify who I'm actually mad at, I do consider the pundit world, too.

So I've thought about it, but I haven't straightened it all out in my crazy head.

I do agree that by and large the Democratic elected world is not captured by what I'm talking about, vote-wise; although Congress contains numerous examples of people who say things that make me say: I can't be on the same side as this person. This is too dishonest.

Effect-wise, though, they're paralyzed. They're as afraid of the base as they are of the White House, the best of them anyway. And none of them have yet to stand up to Michael Moore and say: you are a jerk, you don't represent me and unless you decide to be scrupulously honest in your widly-popular anti-war movie-making when we're in the middle of the war, just shut the hell up. it doesn't matter that you don't approve of the war, fuckwad. Criticize away. Be honest. It's your holy duty.

(*And* it doesn't matter that you believe W has lied: of course you believe that. Returniing in kind can only make things worse.)

And of course if any politician did, he'd be drummed out of the left. So instead, most of thenm trooped off to the DC premiere of F9-11. Showing they simply don't get what riles over half of the country, evidently, including me. Maybe they're right and I'm wrong, but at this point I can't - literally cannot - consider myself on their side.

(Ann Coulter can be dishonest too; I have to acknowledge that. So who ami to etc. I just think her lies are little, not central to her argument although unfair all the same; while Moore's lies are both little and large. Plu,s Moore is vastly more influential. The Palf d'Or. Eat my brie, Cannes. Seriosuly, no, go ahead. Help yourselves.)

I'm baffled by what's happened to the left base. It's like a level of non-smartness has taken over too many people who consider themselves intelligent, and have been before, demonstrably. I can just guess that their opinions on Iraq and the war are formed - very often - from a well of facts and perspectives that excludes half of reality.

My main anger is for the pundit class, the writers and intellectuals. There is so much dishonesty, and so much tiredness and cynicism. The fundamentally dishonest left pundits I believe outnumber the ones who are not; I'm very sure that's true of the superstar class.

David Corn at The Nation tries as well as he can.

Al Gore has said things that are unbelievably hateful and anti-political. I may have a thing up at my site later, a short thing describing a sentence he uttered recently.

paulfrommpls said...

Hope that doesn't come across too insane. I can write really fast when it's not the thing I'm supposed to be writing. (See Benchley, Robert, for more on that topic.)

pst314 said...

"the threat was repeatedly depicted as immanent"

No, no, no. What was repeatedly said was that we must act BEFORE the threat becomes immanent.

Unfortunately, liberal journalists have repeated that lie until it seems like truth to many.

wildaboutharrie said...

"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."

Pres. Bush, 10/7/2002

wildaboutharrie said...

"Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam Hussein is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain. Before Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the best intelligence estimates were that Iraq was about five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. The experts were flat wrong. When the U.S. got on the ground, they found that the Iraqis were probably six months to a year to 18 months from having a nuclear weapon, not five to seven years. We do know that he has been actively and persistently pursuing nuclear weapons for more than 20 years.

But we should be just as concerned about the immediate threat from biological weapons. Iraq has these weapons. They're simpler to deliver and even more readily transferred to terrorist networks, who could allow Iraq to deliver them without Iraq's fingerprints. If you want an idea of the devastation Iraq could wreck on our country with a biological attack, consider the recent unclassified Dark Winter exercise conducted by Johns Hopkins University."

Testimony as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C., September 18, 2002.

wildaboutharrie said...

Not trying to annoy - just showing where my perception of immediate danger was coming from...so a couple examples...

wildaboutharrie said...

pst314, I think both messages were out there - the one you reference probably more frequently...

paulfrommpls said...

wah -

In general, W is about the worst communicator possible - both personally and in terms of being in charge of the overall message. The case for the war needed a master, and instead we went out and found literally the least competent person at it we could.

So that's part of the problem: the administration was trying to balance awesomely high stakes, uncertainty, history, weird evidence; a lot of us paying a hell of a lot of attention to it knew what he was trying to say I think. But I can see how someone paying a normal person's amount of attention would hear this or that and get this or that impression.

But I don't buy the left's case that certain statements like you ID constitute a deliberate campaign of deceit. Because the evidence on chemical and bio especially was pretty well accepted by nearly everyone, it literally was the conventional wisdom that he still had some stocks of those things. And, there are at least as many statements the other way - especially in major addresses like the 2003 SOTU - that focused on the uncertainty, on the fact that we couldn't really say what he had and what he might plan, and that was the problem.

But: excessive certainty especially on chemical and bio weapons currently existing: yes. That's the dishonesty I think they can be rightly charged with. Though I don't feel it in my bones, I suspect it makes W impeachable, not that it will happen. But I talk about scrupulous honesty from a guy like Moore; obviously it should be required of a president making a case for what sure as hell looked like an optional war.

Especially on chemical and bio, did the current existence of those weapons really matter in thinking about the predicament we were facing with the guy? To my mind, hardly at all. We knew what he was; we knew what he'd done; among other things, tried to assassinate Pres Bush v.1 using terrorists after he left office. I know, he's a Republican, but it still counts for something.

As Hitchens says: I always thought Hussein's penchant for seeking revenge was something the left tended to discount.

And everything we've learned after the war tells us Hussein had simply decided years ago to destroy weapons because it wasn't worth the hassle, and it was the fastest way to get out from under. Evidently he didn't tell anyone because he wanted to maintain the illusion of having them; and also to to maintain a trade relationship network, and a technology and materials infrastructure to start things up again.

(That gets into the deeper meaning of the oil-for-food scandal, and what he was using that process for; if you want to learn more about that, spend a few days at www.rogerlsimon.com; that's his pet issue.)

paulfrommpls said...

As for the nuclear paragraph you quote, I don't actually see much wrong with that. We didn't know and couldn't know, and he had massively fooled us before.

Although there too, as with chemical and bio, W should have been far more careful in listening to the skeptics and presenting the argument accordingly. Because it would have been more than possible to do; and promising WMDs and then finding none has simply opened the door for the left to pretend that the only possible rationale for the war was an imminent threat from WMDs.

By the way: as far as I can remember, this was the very first time that some tinhorn dictator or rogue regime we suspected of having nasty weapons has turned out to have *less* than we thought. In every other single case - Libya, N Korea, Hussein pre-1991 and Hussein in the mid-90's, for a short list - they've had more, in spite of skepticism from, say, the CIA analysts.

Dick Cheney was around when the CIA was reassuring everyone about Hussein's technology pre-Gulf War. From what I've read, his zealotry on this issue was not about enriching Halliburton or even about the "new American Century." It came from a dead certainty that the CIA could not be trusted on these questions.

Article: the link doesn't work anymore, although I have the text, but the LAT in December 2003 published a massive article detailing the illicit weapons trade Hussein was involved in right up to the end, much of it in cooperation wiht Syrain companies, all in violation of UN sanctions. They weren't WMDs, but he was defying the UN every step of the way.

And here's a weird link, don't know who this guy is, but it has some interesting quotes from Democrats over the years about what a madman danger the guy was, and how he had to be confronted eventually:


paulfrommpls said...

Final incidentally: the French approach to Hussein was cultivating him as an ally. I thought propping up evil dictators was one of the main al Q gripes against the likes of us. So now France gets to pose as the heroic defender of Islam or something: drives me up a fucking wall.

wildaboutharrie said...

Thanks for feedback...will read when babies in bed...

paulfrommpls said...

Take yer time; sorry about the length. It is just quite rare to find a left-leaner who will actually listen. I'm like a St. Bernard puppy, half-grown, leaping all over you slobbering with gratitude.

Keep in mind, too: *I'm* not even sure the war was a good idea in the end. But I could not be more certain that it was at least defensible, is not 100% pure evil, given the complexities and the dilemma we faced. That simple acknowledgment is what the Dem base seems increasingly distant from, to the detriment of all of us.

Babies plural? Man.

paulfrommpls said...

"What liberal media?" chapter 2,356:


wildaboutharrie said...

You are too funny! I felt free to leave you that message a la on the refrigerator door as I think we're probably the only ones reading this thread anymore...I wish I were a worthy adversary, however.

Yes, no "there" there on the Rumsfeld nuke quote, but I thought I should include it as I had raised the topic earlier. And it was fun. Funny, I remember Cheney saying it, though.

Yes, I think I was (am) paying the normal person’s amount of attention to all this, so I’m probably a fair gage of what was heard by the normals. True, the President is a poor communicator. But I think there was another problem…that lack of ability to COMMUNICATE the intricacies of the situation was not the underlying handicap…I’d better not say more or someone will pop in and accuse me of being a yellow dog Dem (what drives me up the forking wall is being painted as Al Franken or, what is worse, a victim of the “liberal media”, any time I voice distrust in the administration).

Deliberate campaign of deceit? Perhaps not, but perhaps when the preemptive arguments weren’t working, alarmist rhetoric was injected to move things along? I absolutely believe the administration was absolutely sure about WMDs, but I also believe they thought it was therefore OK to take shortcuts in intelligence to get approval to go to war. Who would fault them, if the intelligence was exposed as faulty, once the WMDs were found and confiscated? I watched Powell’s testimony before the Security Council and I was left scratching my head wondering what the hell kind of evidence that was to justify an immanent invasion. But on the flip side I figured, well what the hell do I know? I teach high school English.

Remember when it became clear that no WMDs would be found in Iraq? Suddenly the President started talking about “WMD capabilities” in Iraq. Fine, fine, but if he had instead addressed the nation right away and said, “OK it looks like some of our intelligence was faulty, and SH may not have not yet compiled WMD, (and we’ll fix the intelligence problem), but here’s why the invasion was still the right thing to do…” etc. etc. I don’t think he’d be facing all this opposition, with good folks pushing for a withdrawal that would leave the Iraqi people at the mercy of God knows what (not all of us who opposed the war think we should cut and run).

Making things worse is the apparent lack of a plan for after the fall of SH, one story from Cheney and another from the Generals on the insurgency, no bid contracts, torture debate, and weird poetry from Rumsfeld.

As for the Clintons, I remember being surprised when Senator (please God don’t let her bet the candidate) Clinton talked about what they knew (or thought they knew) about WMDs since Clinton had done nothing about it. But the more I learn about his presidency, the less I am surprised. Did you see 60 minutes a few weeks ago with what’s his face who used to head the CIA?

OK enough of my rambling. Yes, kids, a 19 month old and a 3 month old. Both have bugs, and my husband came home saying he thinks he’s caught it also. Ugh.

I visited your blog a few days ago. Are we still waiting for that Gore entry?

W.B. Reeves said...


Paul, I'm getting the impression that you're considerably younger than I. No disrespect intended. Just an observation.

I say this because your perspective of "the Left" seems to reflect the campus/academic variety. I can only point out that this is hardly a representative sample. In addition, your discussion of Left vs. Right, outside of Chomsky, seems to revolve around media players like Moore and Coulter. While they unquestionably seek to influence public debate, in the end they speak only for themselves. They have no institutional power beyond their ability to retail their views to willing consumers. All of this suggest to me that you have limited experience in the nuts and bolts of politics as they operate in the wider world. If I'm wrong about this please correct me.

All of this is preparatory to the following observation. You seem to be operating on the basis of perception divorced from application.

Take your apology for Ann Coulter, describing her as a humorist. This is only sustainable if you divorce her statements from any real world application. Do you think she was merely joking when she called for the execution of John Walker Lind? This before he had even gone through the form of a trial? What about the rationale which she gave? She said that it should be done so that liberals in the U.S. would know that they could be killed too. Evidently Lind's guilt or innocence was incidental to intimidating her political opponents. Since when is advocating state terrorism a joking matter? What about her statement that her problem with the Oklahoma City bombing was that the target should have been the New York Times building? Do you think that funny? Since you seem to find an equivilancy between Coulter and Michael Moore, could you point out to me where he has said anything remotely similar?

While we're on the subject of Moore, I'd like to hear exactly what lies you believe he has told. In the year since F9/11 came out, I have heard this accusation made repeatedly. I've yet to see it backed with an example that held water, at least where F9/11 is concerned. I fail to see why you would think it necessary for Dems to repudiate Moore or what significance it would have if they did. Do you think the GOP should repudiate Coulter? Sean Hannity? Rush Limbaugh?

I really don't know what to say about the rest of your assertions. I can't describe them as opinions since opinions must have a basis in fact, otherwise they are merely prejudices. I don't wish to insult you but I really don't know how else to read a statement like:

The fundamentally dishonest left pundits I believe outnumber the ones who are not; I'm very sure that's true of the superstar class.

I don't doubt that you believe but on what basis? Have you even read the majority of left pundits? What's your definition of a "left pundit" anyway? Could you name a few with examples of their dishonesty?

There are numerous other instances of you presenting preconception as fact. How do you come to know that "over half the country" is riled up over F9/11? What is the half of reality that you think the Left base is ignoring? Since I'm neither a Democrat or Republican nor a Liberal or Conservative perhaps by your lights I'm ignoring all of reality. Who can tell, since you don't present anything that would give a concrete meaning to your words?

If this strikes you as harsh, I regret it but if you're going to express such sweeping criticisms you need to ground them in some solid analysis, not vague impressions. I would think such rigor to be prerequisite for forming an opinion, not something engaged in after the fact.

A last thought about the Left base for you to consider. Whatever their faults, the opponents of the Iraq invasion have turned out to be far more grounded in reality as to what the aftermath would be than the war's proponents.

I wish you luck in trying to sort things out. I've been at it for years.

paulfrommpls said...

wah -

You say a lot that makes sense. I think what you're describing - they were very sure about WMDs and so felt okay in taking shortcuts - I think that's exactly right.

And I also agree that if W had made the sort of speech you're talking about, it would have helped; but I'm not sure he's capable of making the kind of speech required.

I promise: tomorrow on the Gore post. It's just I get home and do other things.

w.b. -

Unless you are very very very old, I am not quite a bit younger than you.

What you say doesn't seem harsh primarily because it's not that strong. Sorry if that's harsh; you remind of my good friend Steve, before benefiting from years of gradually giving way in the face of my deep knowledge and rigorous attention to fact.

It may be true that I seem to focus on the academic-liberal left; part of my perspective is that that world has become the think tank for the political left in ways quite detrimental to the political left. It’s a perspective that has gradually gotten more and more distrustful of capitalism and thus more alienated from the country; it fetishes rebellion, and resistance for its own sake, and it seems to have a hard time offering actual doable new policies.

I'm writing a thing about that combination right now, with trusty Al Gore the entry point. But in general: the campus and cultural left is not a separate, harmless world anymore.

I know the cultural left has little institutional power; that does not mean they don't have power. That's a big point of disagreement. They sell themselves as having no power, that's one way they let themselves get away with bullshit; another way is the fiction that they are somehow repressed from stating their views.

I've been recommending this article for a long time:


It's by Robert Kaplan of The Atlantic; it's called The Media and Medievalism. It's a turn of the kaleidoscope, like I said: introduces a different view of who has power and who abuses it.

The BBC has unbelievable power. The world's view of the US is very strongly determined by the BBC.

So we have different views on who abuses what kinds of power; but believe me, I've thought about it. I suspect I know your opinions on the matter; I strongly doubt you've given much thought to mine.

I don't know what to do with your implied rejection of my description of Ann Coulter as a humorist. She's not a big deal in my life; the main reason I bring her up is because - like I said - I don't think most left types know she's a humorist, and so it's one more example of a thing they don't know. But what can I say? She's a humorist. That's just objective fact, whether you find her funny or not. She often goes too far.

You recoil in horror at her suggestion that Lindh be executed; while I get what you're saying, consider this: what do you suppose we would have done with an American discovered fighting with the Japanese at Okinawa? Would we automatically have said, oh the poor boy, let's give him a fair trial? What's different?

That's just by way of pointing: some things people find outrageous, you turn your head and
squint a little, maybe not so much.

Coulter was kidding, in the end, about the Times building, I would guess, although I never read that column though I've seen it referred to. It probably wasn't funny, when she goes too far is when she stops being funny; it's when she's getting lazy.

Moore said this on his website:

“I oppose the U.N. or anybody else risking their lives of their citizens to extract us from this debacle. The majority of Americans supported this war once it began and sadly that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe, just maybe, God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.”

That strikes me as pretty hateful: people who disagreed with Moore on the complex question of the war deserve to have their children die. Nice. No kidding there, either. It's what he believes, and the left lionizes him for it. If you see nothing wrong with it, then I probably don't like you very much.

When I say something like over half the country was riled by F9-11, I base it on the last election. I'm assuming anyone who voted for Bush probably thinks Moore is sort of an asshole. It's a little simplistic, but just a little; recall the response Zell Miller got.

The dishonesty in F9-11 is detailed here, including Moore's responses, when offered, ways to view things as semi-honest, and so forth.


A little lie: his editing of Condi Rice's statement about Hussein and 9-11 in order to turn her statement on its head. It's using editing to tell a lie. No other interpretation allowed on this one. I'm a purist on honesty; it doesn't take many examples like that before I decide someone is worthless; and it amazes me that my left friends don’t see it that way.

There's a lot more in the article.

The large dishonesty in the movie: that there was no conceivable (that's the key word) justification for the war. Told in the middle of the war, meant to undercut support for the war. The Democratic leaders in the Senate new that was not true; they bowed to the rabble and praised him anyway.

Dissent during war has an absolute duty to be scrupulously honest. That seems very, very obvious to me.

Gotta get to bed. Must sleep.

Have I read left pundits? Um, yes. A quick list of who I mean when I make a statement like that: Krugman, Scheer (oh man), Hedges, Dowd, Ivins, Rich, Herbert, the editorial board of the Star Tribune in Mpls including the letters editor for Christ's sake.

Good night.

paulfrommpls said...

What I'm dong, basically, is giving a crash course on why people like me, Roger L Simon, and I think Ann Althouse exist: left-leaning intelligent people who are disgusted by what's happened to the left. There's gonna be holes in what I say; I'm describing a worldview. Try not just to find ways to ignore it. Because it's very real and very substantial, my limitations notwithstanding.

Everyone on the left owes it to themselves and to the country to get out of the intellectual box they're in, where they keep insisting there's no moral basis to conservatism. I don't know if you're pure left, I don't know if you have that attitude about conservatism; but it's what drives me.

wildaboutharrie said...

I suppose if Coulter is a humorist, it's in the mold of Franken.

I'm embarrassed that I didn't mention, in my list of frustrations, the 2000+ dead, the wounded soldiers, the tens of thousands of Iraqi deceased, all, yes, to put an extremely evil person out of power.

I've been misspelling "imminent".

paulfrommpls said...

I hope I've made clear that I believe W was too blithe about the consequences of a war, for all concerned; just as I believe the anti-war left was too blithe about the consequences of Hussein & Sons ruling into the future. (Basic assumption: backing off would have left Hussein & Sons emboldened, more psychologically in charge of Iraq and large in the ME psyche than ever.)

paulfrommpls said...

That intellectual box I was talking about is captured perfectly in the letter in this little post of mine (the initals stand for "today's stupid liberal letter to the star-tribune"):


(I introduced the tiny series here:)


wildaboutharrie said...

No comments section?

paulfrommpls said...

I leave them off. This is just an experimental site where I work out my writing. So far.

By the way, for wb especially, the main point is this: I really doubt you actually, deeply understand the best reasons for the war; not to mention the depths of the conservative view on things. The only way to get it, if you want to, is to spend some time exploring, starting say wiht this site and rogerlsimon.com and a woman called neo-neocon; or maybe it's best to just go to the real thing, and start with the national review online edition. The have a blog called The Corner where their writers weigh in. You won't agree with everything. They don't agree with each other.

That is if you want to be really, really sure that your (speaking generically here; I don't really know your specific politics)condemnation of all things W and by extension the US these days is truly justified. Maybe you don't want to know.

On the war question and terrorism and Hussein and all, read some Andrew McCarthy, one of the prosecutors in the first WTC bombing.

Work beckons.

paulfrommpls said...

wah -

Franken is a really, really funny guy, in general funnier and more generously funny than Ann Coulter, no doubt. And, he occasionally issues small signs of understanding the worst impulses of his cohort.

Although even he, when he's purely mad, stops being funny. And I can't listen to Air America. Stupid hate, sold as intelligent compassion.

paulfrommpls said...

wb -

And when I say exploring, I don't mean an hour. I mean take a sabbatical. Open your heart to The Other Side. It's not embracing Sauron after all. Think of it as diversity training.

As far as the war opponents being right about the chaos a war would produce, I tend to agree. In the end that's why I kinda sorta decided in early 2003 that it was a bad idea to do this by ourselves. I'm not lying: I called senators (or to be precise, I called 19-year-old Senate interns) and begged them to talk about it because I didn't think we knew what we were getting into. Byrd's speech about "why aren't we talking about this" - I agreed.

Although I wondered why he and a few others didn't then do the hard work of arranging some talking about it. It would have been possible for the Senate Democrats to say: this is a momentous decision, invading a country without the UN; we don't care what the earlier resolution says, we're not convinced the nation is behind this. There's no doubt W would have squawked and then truly said "you're undercutting our resolve," but it wouldn't have mattered. To me it shows a peculiar tone-deafness for them not to realize that the entire left and a big part of the middle would have appreciated an honest debate like that.

And of course doing so would have given us far more moral credibility going in. At least to ourselves.

It was an occasion for one of those 2-or-3-times-a-century Great Senate Debates. It was that huge. The lack of a meaningful Senate debate is one of the most convincing arguments there is for something being wrong with the country. However, before going that far, we might want to consider whether there's just something wrong with the Senate, or specifically the Senate Democrats.

By the way, the chaos? I tend to give a little less credit to the war opponents than I might on that, just because they essentially threw out every possible problem that might arise before the war, and were wrong on most of them. And I didn't read much analysis describing specifically why that chaos was inevitable.

Here's why it was and here's what happened: The administration seemed to operate under a Wizard of Oz assumption, that even Hussein's closest followers and toadies would be secretly glad. "He's dead! You killed him! Hail W!"

That was absurd. There was guaranteed to be a small but significant group of really really pissed off Sunnis. Even I foresaw that much; what I didn't foresee was how that would be taken advantage of by the international al Qaeda and related types. For them, it seems, civil war in Iraq is the desired outcome, because that in itself would be a huge defeat for us: not to mention a gigantic moral burden.

But: I don't believe, in the end, that a civil war is seen as desirable by the vast majority even of Sunnis, and that's where the hope lies.

It's also worth mentioning that the administration was not 100% wrong about the general sense of welcome Hussein's fall would produce. They were a crucial, say 5%-10% wrong. (Based on: some significant percentage of the 20% of the country that is Sunni.)

If it had not been for that group - the pissed-off Sunnis - I think this would have gone off well. Because the vast majority of the others did welcome the change; and especially if things had been calm and we had been able to leave quickly, I think it's very hard to deny that the average Iraqi would have been actually in part grateful. The polls there still say that the majority are optimistic about the future. Which basically says, I think, that they themselves don’t expect the violence to continue forever.

It is among the things that amazes me about the anti-war left that some help perpetuate the fiction that - as Michael Moore puts it - the insurgents are the equivalent of our Minutemen. I can't help but conclude that for a significant portion of the left, they share the goal of the insurgents: a chaotic civil war in Iraq, because that would be the moral rebuke they believe we deserve.

So I simply don't believe it when an editor at the Strib protests that of course he wants a good outcome in Iraq. No you don't; because any good outcome in Iraq will be seen by some as a vindication of the entire enterprise, and to the bottom of your soul you do not want that.

But, if if if.

(The reality caveat on us leaving is, I don't know what the admin's expectation is on permanent bases, although I wouldn't automatically see those as proof positive of Imperial Hegemenostic intent. It goes back to the general gratitude: it might actually have been and could still be that an invitation on bases might have been offered and might have been sincere.) (At this point though, it seems we should not entertain that notion, though I'm sure high-level strategic thinkers would disagree.)

W.B. Reeves said...


Unless you are very very very old, I am not quite a bit younger than you.

Thanks for the correction. Congratulations on being able to project such a youthful personae through your writing.

What you say doesn't seem harsh primarily because it's not that strong. Sorry if that's harsh; you remind of my good friend Steve, before benefiting from years of gradually giving way in the face of my deep knowledge and rigorous attention to fact.

Well, I was holding back a good bit. Obviously I was misled by your earlier plea:

...one thing I'd ask you to keep in mind is that these are quickly-written notes about a process in my thinking that has been going on for a wbile.

I mistook this for a request that I go easy on you. I won't make that mistake again.

Thanks for the link to Kopel. Rather a longish piece. Presumably you've read the entire thing, although you must not have followed the links to Moore's site, otherwise you would have realized that Kopel is engaged in some deceits of his own.

Said links are repeatedly described as Moore's reply to Kopel's charges, however they actually link to a fact sheet on Moore's site which makes no mention of Kopel. A small thing except that Kopel also states repeatedly that Moore hasn't responded in full. Doubtless, since he wasn't "responding" to Kopel in the first place. I'm rather surprized that you don't find this to be less than rigorous honesty.

To be frank, when I realized the methodology that Kopel was employing wasn't all that different from what he was imputing to Moore, I had no desire to wade through the entire piece.

I did read far enough to discover that his criticism vis a vis the Condi Rice clip revolved around treating a sarcastic comment by Moore as though it were a serious accusation. To wit, claiming that Moore said Bush never read the report entitled "Bin Ladin
Determined to Strike U.S." The context was clearly satirical, poking fun at the now discarded defense that "no one could have foreseen" the attacks of 9/11.

Furthermore, once again aping the methods he decries, Kopel claims that Moore's editing misrepresented Rice. I recall the original exchange from which the clip was taken and I honestly don't see how a longer excerpt would have improved matters for Rice. We would simply have her seen her repeatedly trying to avoid a request by a member of the 9/11 Commission that she read the title. I doubt that her somewhat frantic efforts to blunt the impact of the title by repeating her earlier characterization of the report would have undermined Moore's point at all. Since the exchange had received massive media exposure at the time, I find Kopel's suggestion that Moore was distorting the context comical.

No more comical than Kopel's sumation of the "deceits" he claims were involved:

1. that Bush did not read the memo, 2. that the memo's title was offered as an excuse for not reading the memo, 3. omitting that the memo was equivocal, and that the hijacking warning was something that the FBI said it was "unable to corroborate."

The first I've already dealt with, the second is of a piece with the first. The last, well let's look at what the report actually says:

" We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" ‘Umar’ Abd aI-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York"

Kopel is willfully ignoring the latter section which clearly states that FBI intelligence indicated the real possibility that attacks were being prepared.

There's a lot more of this sort thing shot through Kopel's piece but I'm not going parse the entire thing. Suffice to say that I don't think Kopel is a reliable source. He seems to be relying on his readers having never seen F9/11 and not bothering to follow the links.

BTW, have you seen F9/11?

As for the quote from Moore that you present, I thought it was a stupid and insensitive statement. I don't care for people making god like judgements whatever their political coloration. Interestingly, the sentiment is similar to one Lincoln expressed during the Civil War, suggesting that the conflict was God's retribution for the crime of slavery. His conclusion was that the judgements of the Lord were both just and righteous altogether. I imagine a lot of people at the time had the same reaction to Lincoln that you have to Moore.

Thanks for the link to Kaplan's piece. I've read him in the past and he is an excellent wordsmith. His gifts as an analyst are another matter. Specifically, anyone one who would equate a nebulous concept such as the "Global Media" (I wonder, does this construct include Rupert Murdoch's empire?) with the Communist International either has no comprehension of what the CI was (ie, an instrument of Soviet policy interests) or they are counting on the ignorance of the reader. The comparison is laughable on its face.

Stripped of its intellectual pretensions, Kaplan's piece is nothing more than an attack on any journalism that doesn't reflect his own prejudices. I'm amazed that you find it so impressive.

Have to break off here. I've got a meeting.

paulfrommpls said...

To get it out of the way, I did not and will not see F9-11; I read the entire transcript. I will not give the man money. That's the basis for my decision. From what I gather the most effective part of the film concerns who fights wars -the jobless, not the rich, that story. It's definitely worth talking about as an issue; it's also an issue that distinguishes this war from other volunteer army-era wars not a whit.

You may take this fact to use as a doorway to proclaim you can't take my arguments on Moore seriously. If so, too bad but it could happen. A certain sort argues primarily by looking always for the unassailable moral high ground.

To tell you the truth, it's been over a year since I read the Kopel piece. Maybe I'll check out what it says about Moore responding and all. My memory is that Moore responded to a few things and then stopped, as is his style with direct criticism, avoidance, but I may have that wrong.

We're talking past each other on the Condi thing. What I'm talking about is his editing of a comment by her regarding Hussein being responsible for F9-11.

She made a statement like yes, he and his type were responsible for the climate of tyranny that lead to the frustration that breeds terrorists. You probably wouldn't agree with what she says, but it's what she believes and she was stating it. Moore edited so that she seemed simply to be saying that yes indeed Hussein was behind F9-11; bolstering his case that W and crew deceived us on that question.

Again: it's a lie. A simple, straightforward lie through editing. Just that simple lie would, it seems to me, amount to at least strike one for an intellectually honest fan of the guy.

I checked out your site. One basic comment: there is not a war on dissent. Anyone who insists there is, I basically have to treat like they're not dealing from a full deck. And really, don't waste your time trying to convince me. All any intelligent person has to do is look around everywhere in the entire goddamn country to realize if there is a war on dissent, it is without doubt the least competent war that has ever been waged by any human beings anywhere.

Take note of the amount of dissenting material now, and leading up to the war, and compare it with the amount of dissent in the years leading up to Viet Nam, or during Korea. There is a LOT MORE. I see no way to deny that. It just keeps increasing.

For me, it seems we live in a veritable culture of loud bullying dissent, a culture that fetishizes it, as I said. (And one of teh ways it lets it itself get away with its bullshit is by fostering this bizarre fiction of being oppressed; I think I said that earlier.)

Your paragraph on Moore and Lincoln is sneaky and dishonest, and its implicit comparison of Moore and Lincoln makes me retch.

And really: if you mean to imply that my intense dislike of Moore puts me on a par with people who would have disliked Lincoln's attitude on slavery, I would request you go off somewhere and screw yourself. Sorry: I'm not gonna let someone get away with that bullshit.

The point, of course, is that as opposed to slavery, reasonable people disagree on the war. That's the basic point that people like you and Moore work frantically to avoid, doing things like inventing phantom wars on dissent to make your side seem morally pure; the result is that people like you and Moore are in effect working to tear apart the political fabric of the country.

That's my Issue: the left has gone insane, and that's the main problem we all face.

The country seems full of guys who insist everyone accept that their insane ideas are obviously true, or else we're part of The Problem. Are you one of those guys?

And let me ask you another question: how much time have you taken over the last three years, as I talked about earlier, to really, really, really check out what the war's defenders had and have to say? People, say, like Vaclev Havel, or Blair, or Paul Berman? Terrorism experts like Andrew McCarthy who are amazed and frustrated with the idea that Hussein had absolutely no connection to international terror? Even a guy like Michael Walzer of Dissent, who opposed the war but who understood the case, and unlike Moore did the favor to the war's defenders of not claiming their children should die?

I would suspect very strongly that you rely on a safely filtered version of it all.

To me, it seems like a basic commandment to noble dissenters: before you condemn in the highest moral tones, you owe it to yourselves and the country to make very, very sure you know what you're talking about. Unless you've seriously and with both eyes open checked out the other side, you have not done that.

That amounts to waging preemptive ideological war, it seems to me. Doesn't strike mas all that peace-loving.

paulfrommpls said...

What you've done with Kopel's piece, seemingly, is read just far enough to convince yourself that whew! - you don't need to take it seriously. The first example is you saying he's acting like Moore in claiming Moore responded directly to him when he wasn't.

Here's what Kopel says:

July 11 update: Moore's response.

Moore's "War Room" has published a lengthy point-by-point defense of the movie. Some of the points relate to issues I've raised; others do not. For each item below, I'll provide a link to Moore's response, when there is one. On two issues (Afghanistan's President Karzai; John Ashcroft's pre-9/11 attitude towards terrorism) Moore's response makes some valid points; not necessarily that Fahrenheit is right on these facts, but at least the facts are disputable. On one issue (the unemployment rate in Flint), Moore is clearly right. On the rest of the items I've identified, Moore's responses are extremely unconvincing, mainly because they so often evade the evidence.

In short: he doesn't claim what you say he claims; although for the life of me I'm not sure what difference it would make anyway if he did.

What he's doing, regardless, is treating Moore fairly: he acknowledge Moore's responses to the charges floating around, some of which are his, and investigates them. When he says "Moore response: none," he's not claiming what I take it you say he claims, that Moore is specifically avoiding him; it's in the context of his description of the existence of Moore's defenses.

It is also *very* likely, incidentally, that Moore was in part, and at first, in fact yes, responding to Kopel's piece, because it was widely known among Moore's non-fans. I have no doubt he was aware of it. So it also seems interesting to me that Moore doesn't include it in his list of "media smackdowns:"


I'm getting a little frustrated with you, because you are exhibiting some of the greased-pig attributes of the hard-core anti-war people I encounter. I think I understand: you've staked out an extreme and uncompromising territory on the 100% immorality of the war, so admitting to any ambiguity threatens that cherished place. But for a guy like me, who is only attempting to get the left to at least acknowledge that it was a complex situation, it starts to be unedifying and dignity-destroying.

paulfrommpls said...

Actually, wait, there is a real war on dissent brewing. Here:


It comes from campaign regulation types. What you have here is a real and specific idea that will have the effect of stifling conversation. This is something that both left and right blogs are aware of and think isterrible, by the way. But it does seem to me it can most accurately be seen as something that has drifted into view over from the left side of the political seas, whish is where I place campaign reform in its essence, basically.

If I got harsh above it's from this: lose the attitude that you're going easy on me or something until you lay a glove on me, okay? Deal with the facts. Respond specifically, FROM A CAREFUL READING. You're reading just far enough to allow yourself an out.

You say Kopel is saying something he isn't and declare it therefore unworthy.

You assume, for some reason, when I make a statement about left-side pundits without providing evidence in an already-too-long comment, that's because I have no evidence. Clearly. In fact probably I've never read them.

You assume - here's one I just noticed - when a Moore critic like Kopel PROVIDES LINKS TO THINGS THAT TELL THE OTHER SIDE, that's not evidence of a rare intellectual integrity. No, that's evidence of a snake assuming his stupid readers won't follow the link. What the hell.

It's like your entire worldview: it's predicated on an assumption of complete nonsensicalness and lack of integrity on the part of people who disagree with you.

I understand that that is close to what I'm doing to you. And I am. I won't back off from that. I'm pretty sure I stick to the facts as I see them, and make sure I understand what the other side is saying. Sometimes they're right. Small example: it doesn't matter if Plame was known in some DC circles as a CIA employee if she was; that does not mean it's okay to reveal it to the general public. I understand that and accept it. And it doesn't matter if she was referred to by name specifically or not. Same deal. I get it.

I'm not a righty defending the right, I am and always have been someone whose primary interest in all this is intellectual integrity. That's where I can sound too above it all, but I'm just saying: it's where I'm coming from. In fact, I think it's safe to assume that something like that is what drives a lot of us former-lefties-horrified-by-the-modern-left sorts.

There is a lack of intellectual integrity at the very heart of the modern deep left, the "we're headed to fascism" crowd, and it's based on a denial of complexity and ambiguity and dilemmas and reality. Because once you explore those things, you see that in case after case of alleged fascist behavior, what in fact is going on is policy debate and hard decsions, none of which remain forever and hardly any of which end up doing what they're designed to do anyway.

On all this, the distinctions I'm primarily focused on are between pundit types right versus left, that's where the distintions are clearest; and shortly behind and right in back of them, the presumptions and integrity of the two poles' opinion leaders, the talkers, the "well-informed" (by self-definition, it should be noted).

paulfrommpls said...

Forgot a most important thing in the deep left's intellectual and moral devolution: large unawareness of the possibility of moral flaws in their own approach, in the basic left approach I mean.

I don't mean the left is fundamentally flawed in a way the right is not; I mean each have tendencies and characteristics that must be guarded against, and the left doesn't understand that as much as it needs to.

The right knows its flaws or at least gets that they exist: the big dangers of greed and selfishness have helped define our politics and especially our national debate for decades.

The left in a vague way knows that you have to watch out for helping people too much, or designing programs that make things worse, and that there is such a thing as personal responsibility that can't be destroyed.

But I don't think the left by and large accepts that such moral dangers, once you really explore them, and understand the tragic and much-demonstrated consequences of victim-think taken to extremes, are at least as dangerous as the right's flaws. (See: al Qaeda; Hitler.)

And, related but more trivial, they don't understand how very easy it is for the liberal approach to be counterproductive. Especially on "social interventions."

My left friends take that reasoning as an excuse not to do anything. I can understand the charge, though I'd point out this country is a long, long way from not doing anything.

But one thing that's going on as people like me have moved right, the conservative end of things has become bigger and more self-reflective, and there are wings of it that are in fact very interested in trying to figure out what to do about poverty.

It's so much more interesting, positive and honest over here, wherever I am now. That may be the basic point.

"Saying if you're not with us you're aginst us is positive?" Admittedly, that more emphasizes the honest part.

W.B. Reeves said...


It seems to me that you are reading a great deal into what I wrote which isn't jusitified.

The comparison of Moore's stupid statement to the one made by Lincoln (not a comparison of Lincoln the man to Moore the man) doesn't bear the implication that you assert. I was simply pointing out that the sentiment was not unheard of in our political discourse. I wouldn't be surprised if Moore were consciously riffing on Lincoln's earlier statement. In which case he was being twice as stupid as I first thought, since Moore has no standing comparable to that of Lincoln and should have known better. Why you would assume that I was comparing you to slave holders is beyond me since there were plenty of folks in the North who despised Lincoln and no doubt didn't want to hear that the Civil War would continue until God decided they'd been punished sufficiently.

I would also point out to you that, while I have criticized your arguments, I have not attacked your integrity. I would appreciate it if would not attack mine, particularly on the basis of some knee-jerk assumption on your part.

If you think that reading a transcript is sufficient basis on which to judge a film I have to disagree. Particularly when you are trying to do so in the context of an attack on the film which, in at least one instance I cited and which you ignore, Kopel misrepresents the content.

You think it doesn't matter that Kopel repeatedly describes Moore as unresponsive to his criticism? This is a well known rhetorical trick in debate. Its purpose is to portray one's opponent as being disarmed in the face of criticism. I suspect you know this as well as I.

Does a single instance of misrepresentation invalidate all of Kopel's criticisms? Of course not. However, when coupled with the other misrepresentations that I pointed out and you ignore, it raises serious questions about Kopel's reliability. At the very least you must admit that you have no foundation for judging Kopel's representations regarding the visual elements, something that comprises 90% of the film's impact. Likewise, a transcript cannot communicate a sarcastic tone of voice, so you had no way of knowing that Kopel was completely misrepresenting a satirical jibe as a serious accusation.

If you want to attack Moore for rigging his argument, fine. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander though and Kopel is clearly engaged in some rigging of his own.

To clarify, I have no problem whatever in recognizing that reasonable people could disagree about Iraq. I just don't agree that all the unreasonable people are on one side of the debate. I'd remind you that it wasn't the anti-war side that began by issuing accusations of treason, collusion with terrorism and betrayal of the troops. You yourself have stated that you are convinced opponents of the war actually wished to see a disaster unfold in Iraq. What reasonable basis do you have for thinking that millions of your fellow citizens, some of whom have kin in the combat zone, wish any such thing?

Which brings me to your long fabulation about what my beliefs, opinions and their sources are. Rather than sketching out some leftist stereotype and imposing it on me, wouldn't it have been more productive of accuracy to ask me my positions? Or would that have been a waste of time, since you are already on record as disbelieving the stated positions of the war's opponents in favor of your own assumptions?

A good example of this are your obsessive references moralism. Evidently, someone, somewhere, somehow has attacked your position on Iraq as immoral. Or at least you think so. In any case it wasn't I. My criticisms here have been limited to the substance of the arguments presented. I haven't made any arguments as to the morality of the invasion/occupation. This doesn't matter to you though. You seem intent on substituting arguments of your own creation for the ones actually presented to you.

Let me be clear that I'm not making a moral judgement with this observation either. I'm operating on the assumption that you are not aware that you are doing this. Otherwise, I'd have no other choice than to question your integrity, something I'm loathe to do.

If you have visited my blog you must be aware of how off base you are in suggesting that I don't expose myself to opposing viewpoints. Anyone who has immersed themselves in the ideas of the far right isn't likely to be put off by the prospect of grappling with what passes for Conservative thought these days. Unlike you, I wouldn't advise anyone to judge a line of political thought by "opening your heart" to it. That is what one's head is for.

I opposed the invasion of Iraq because I judged the arguments in favor of it to be half baked. Even then I wasn't certain that I was correct, only that it was my best judgement and that I had to follow it. I was fully prepared to be wrong since, like most folks, I found it difficult to believe that the ruling elites could as blind and irresponsible as they appeared. Three years in it seems I gave them far too much credit.

If you want to continue projecting a caricature onto me and arguing with a figment of your imagination, be my guest. You'll have to do it by yourself though since I have no intention of acting as your enabler. If, on the other hand, you are interested in a tough minded exchange of views, sans the ad hominems and strawmen I'll try to accomodate you.

paulfrommpls said...


Do you disagree that there has been a tendency on the left - in teh most vocal base, and in much of the most visible pundit groups especially - to promote the idea that there is absolutely no defensible justification for the war?

More specifically, do you disagree with my assessment that Moore was pushing that idea in his movie? In short, that good people cannot disagree? That good people can only agree with him?

That's the essence of my anger at the left and Moore. It strikes me as a dishonest and irresponible take on the war that can only harm our situation now that we're in it. And we're in it. There's nothing we can do about that.

As you may expect, I don't think it's possible to responsibly disagree with my contentions about the left and Moore.

paulfrommpls said...

Incidentally; the phrase "grappling with what passes for Conservative thought these days" tells me something about your underlying attitude about it and how thoroughly and openly you've exposed yourself to it. You come close to verifying what I suspect about you in the act of denying it.

paulfrommpls said...

I stand by the open your heart thing, completely. Accept theri sincerity; feel it the way they feel it, or at least accept that they feel it the way the way tehy say. There have been situations in the past where that would have een a worthless endeavor: like, opening one's heart to the pro-segregationists in the 1950's south. There was no honorable way to agree with those people. The hard left wants to believe this is another of those situations; it isn't. And insisting it is too eagerly is a moral failing, in political debate terms.