Saturday, October 9, 2004

Say What?

There's much blustering and harrumphing going on in the blogosphere over the ABC memo from ABCNews political director Mark Halperin that fell into the hands of Matt Drudge on Friday, but, truth to tell, I'm not sure what to make of it. The easy interpretation is that it's just another illustration of how the MSM see themselves as the propaganda arm of the Kerry campaign, and perhaps that's the correct way to read it. It's just that the memo is so enigmatic, obscure, and unintelligible that whatever Halperin was trying to tell his troops at ABC it's doubtful that any of them could decipher it. Here's the last paragraph:

It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right.

I've received better writing from barely literate high school students. In fact, one account has it that Drudge got the memo from a staffer who asked him to read it so he could tell him what it says (Just kidding).

Perhaps they simply speak in code at ABC so that when Halperin states that We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that maybe they just assume he's giving them the green light to stick it to Bush whenever they see the opportunity. Maybe, but, heck, why do they need a cryptic memo to know to do that? They're liberal media creatures, for heaven's sake. Savaging Republicans is part of their genetic endowment. It's what they do.

Perhaps, like a coach at halftime trying to rally a team which has played listlessly in the first half, Halperin feels the need to prod his staffers on to a more vigorous performance of their duties. Perhaps he's striving, in his semi-coherent way, to inspire them to feats of political partisanship of which they otherwise could not have imagined themselves capable. Whatever. It would have been easier to discern what he was trying to accomplish if the guy knew how to write.

Jacques Derrida, RIP

Peter Schramm at No Left Turns relays word that the famous French literary critic and philosopher Jacques Derrida has passed away. Derrida was famous for his work on textual deconstruction which reduced literature, in the minds of many, to nothing but a series of expressions of self-interest. Schramm offers this obituary:

The Parisian Heidegerrian Jacques Derrida has died. I'm tempted to deconstruct this, but I'll just leave it as a postcard since my intention wouldn't control the reading of the text. It would be the metaphysical illusion. Deconstruction is justice, Derrida said. I say Derrida isn't even a trace; and that's the truth.

An Australian Augur?

In Australia Prime Minister John Howard, a dependable ally of ours in Iraq and in the war on terror has been re-elected to office, defeating an opponent who sounded a lot like Senator Kerry in his promises to pull Australia's troops out of Iraq and concentrate them on the "real" war on terror closer to home.

This is by itself good news, of course, but it may be even better than it appears. Reports up until election day had the race very close, John Kerry's sister, who lives in Australia, campaigned vigorously against Howard, and yet he seems to have won a 53% to 48% plurality. There might be a lesson here for our election which seems to have some things in common with Australia's. Just because the polls show the race getting tight doesn't mean that it really is.

The Debate

It's impossible to say how many viewers were willing to have their vote decided by anything that happened on the stage last night, and, of those who were, we can't know how many will make their decision based upon what was said rather than upon the image that the candidates projected. In our post-modern world, unfortunately, people are persuaded more by style than by substance, more by how one says what they say rather than by what they say. A smooth, eloquent delivery covers a multitude of sins against logic and coherence.

Consequently, for the fashionably po-mo John Kerry is very appealing, but for the remnant of modern thinkers who believe that character counts and that substance should trump style, George Bush would've been awarded the laurel last evening and should be granted it on election day as well. Hugh Hewitt tells us why:

In the past eight days, John Kerry has:

*announced to a national audience that American actions in defense of national security must pass a "global test";

*announced that he would sell nuclear fuel to Iran;

*could not answer, and badly filibustered a question on what he would do if Iran continued to push towards nuclear weapons acquisition;

*denounced as unilateralism the conation that George Bush put together to overthrow Iraq, and called for unilateral appeasement of North Korea;

*compared Iraq to Lebanon, but insisted a summit could entice other countries to join the effort in Iraq, even after the French and the Germans announced they would not do so even if Kerry was elected;

*twice identified the most pressing proliferation problem as the American effort to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons capable of destroying deep bunkers, thus equating the United States with rogue states like North Korea and Iran and proclaiming hostility to modernization of the American arsenal - vintage Kerry defense thinking;

*announced plan after plan for which no details exist;

*"absolutely" pledged not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $200,000 annually, a pledge that even his most ardent admirers know is either a bald lie or a repudiation of most of his spending plans;

*ignored the creation of 1.9 million jobs over the past 13 months and ignored the economic consequences of the Clinton recession and 9/11 attacks while attacking Bush's tax cuts;

*while calling attention to his Catholic status, defended his vote against banning partial birth abortion, called for taxpayer support for abortion, argued that "parental notification" was connected to dads raping daughters and defended the wholesale harvesting of frozen embryos for research purposes --four positions completely opposite of Catholic Church teaching and far outside the American consensus opinion on abortion;

*actually said "John Edwards and I are for tort reform," and told the American people that lawsuits against doctors are 1% of the health care problem;

*defensively denied being "wishy washy," a "flip flopper," and a "liberal," while complaining about being branded such by the president;

*embraced the Kyoto Treaty and called for its resuscitation with amendments;

*told America that General Shinseki had been fired by Bush and that the firing had a "chilling" effect on all generals, and one day later said Shinseki had been "retired" --not fired-- and left off the "chilling effect" argument --a record one day flip flop;

*saw his running mate get woodshedded and his campaign try to reverse that blow by arguing that the Vice President should have remembered meeting Edwards;

*heard his wife assert that American troops were fighting for oil and many other stunning things;

*watched as Bush did not make a single memorable error in two debates while effectively underscoring Kerry's "global test" pratfall, focusing on Kerry's did-nothing time-serving two decades in the Senate, wrestle the ISG report to its appropriate place in the discussion of the Iraq War, persuade by repeated argument (which the Vice President also helped along) that coalitions can not be led or maintain by derision or democracies built by indecision;

*watched as Bush effectively and accurately branded KerryCare as an expanded form of HillaryCare;

*watched as Bush simply and devastatingly branded Kerry as not credible on taxes, spending and most important of all, defending the United States.

Against all of this and more, Kerry backers point to his debating skills in round one and George W. Bush's expressions from the first debate. If this was a good eight days for Kerry, then November 11, 1864 was a fine day for Atlanta. In fact this stretch has been a disaster for Kerry as all the set-up work Bush-Cheney had performed for eight months came home in eight days as Kerry cooperated in his unmasking as a candidate far from the country's center of political gravity on nearly every issue, comfortable only in ambiguity and a champion of every one of the left's pet domestic causes from partial birth abortion and taxpayer funded abortions to Kyoto and federal delivery of health care.

The relentless focus on his hard left posturing on foreign affairs through 20 years in the Senate hasn't even begun yet. Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke wondered aloud last night why the president didn't make use of Kerry's 1991 vote against the first Gulf War, and I wonder when we will hear about Kerry's mini-Munich in Managua in April 1985 or his nuclear freeze pedigree and opposition to many of the major weapon programs on which our military now relies, but there is still three and a half weeks and one more debate left in which these and other points have opportunity to surface.

The clock has almost run out on Kerry, and his little gust of momentum - called a hurricane by his backers because they hadn't felt a breeze for months - is spent.

We're not as sanguine about all this as Hewitt is because, as mentioned above, too many people who will go to the polls on November 2nd don't really care about facts or argument. They'll cast their vote on the basis of "presence" or physical attractiveness or verbal eloquence, all criteria which are absurdly irrelevant to picking a president but by which Kerry will score high. Even so, Viewpoint certainly hopes that Hewitt is right.

What If Clinton Led OIF?

The irrationality of the Bush haters induces an episode of cathartic venting by Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online. A couple of excerpts:

Bush "lied" because he believed the same intelligence John Kerry believed. Bush "lied" even though John Edwards called the threat from Iraq "imminent" - something Bush never did. No one bothers to ask how it could be possible that Bush lied. How could he have known there were no WMDs? No one bothers to wonder why Tony Blair isn't a liar. Indeed, no one bothers to ask whether the Great Diplomat and Alliance Builder believes our oldest and truest allies Great Britain and Australia are lead by equally contemptible liars. Of course, they can't be liars - they are merely part of the coalition of the bribed. In John Kerry's world, it's a defense to say your oldest friends aren't dishonest, they're merely whores.

Oh, one more thing no one asks. How could Bush think he could pull this thing off? I mean, knowing as he did that there were no WMDs in Iraq, how could he invade the country and think no one would notice? And if he's capable of lying to send Americans to their deaths for some nebulous petro-oedipal conspiracy no intelligent person has bothered to make even credible, why on earth didn't he just plant some WMDs on the victim after the fact? If you're willing to kill Americans for a lie, surely you'd be willing to plant some anthrax to keep your job.

And speaking of the victim, if it's in fact true that Bush offered no rationale for the war other than WMDs, why shouldn't we simply let Saddam out of his cage and put him back in office? We can even use some of the extra money from the Oil-for-Food program to compensate him for the damage to his palaces and prisons. Heck, if John Edwards weren't busy, he could represent him.

If Bill Clinton or Al Gore had conducted this war, you would be weeping joyously about Iraqi children going to school and women registering to vote. If this war had been successful rather than hard, John Kerry would be boasting today about how he supported it - much as he did every time it looked like the polls were moving in that direction. You may have forgotten Kerry's anti-Dean gloating when Saddam was captured, but many of us haven't. He would be saying the lack of WMDs are irrelevant and that Bush's lies were mistakes. And that's the point. I don't care if you hate George W. Bush; it's not like I love the guy. And I don't care if you opposed the war from day one. What disgusts me are those people who say toppling Saddam and fighting the terror war on their turf rather than ours is a mistake, not because these are bad ideas, but merely because your vanity cannot tolerate the notion that George W. Bush is right or that George W. Bush's rightness might cost John Kerry the election.

Indeed. If Clinton were still president and had led the war against Iraq there would be not a peep of protest from the Democrats. They would, in fact, be right now praising this undertaking as one of the greatest causes in the history of Western civilization (which it is). They would be shaming any naysayers for their reluctance to have America bring to completion an historic mission of liberation. They would be castigating their opponents for not caring sufficiently about the horrible oppression of millions of Iraqis who simply yearn to be free of fear, torture, and murder. They would be decrying the implicit sexism of the critics who are content to see women ground down under the boot of Islamic machismo. They would be condemning the greedy selfishness of a people who have so much but who are loath to spend a relatively small portion of their abundance to help the desperate millions in Iraq get up on their feet.

This is why so much of the Democratic criticism of the President is so difficult to abide. It's so manifestly hypocritical, self-serving, and unprincipled.