Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hypocrisy, at the Very Least

"Well, why, all of a sudden, if he had all these grave concerns, did he not raise these sooner? This is one-and-a-half years after he left the administration. And now, all of a sudden, he's raising these grave concerns that he claims he had. And I think you have to look at some of the facts. One, he is bringing this up in the heat of a presidential campaign. He has written a book and he certainly wants to go out there and promote that book."

Scott McClellan, March 22, 2004, speaking of Richard Clarke who had just written a book blasting the Bush administration.

HT: Michelle Malkin

With all the sturm und drang today about McClellan's perfidy and hypocrisy, which shortcomings in his character he seems to have left little reason to doubt, the chief questions about his book have gone unanswered. To wit: To what extent, exactly, is George Bush actually guilty of the malfeasances his former friend implicitly accuses him of and what evidence does he offer in support of the charges?

This is from the link:

McClellan issues this disclaimer about Bush: "I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people."

But most everything else he writes comes awfully close to making just this assertion, all the more stunning coming from someone who had been one of the longest-serving of the band of loyalists to come to Washington with Bush from Texas.

The heart of the book concerns Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, a determination McClellan says the president had made by early 2002 - at least a full year before the invasion - if not even earlier.

"He signed off on a strategy for selling the war that was less than candid and honest," McClellan writes in What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception.

McClellan says Bush's main reason for war always was "an ambitious and idealistic post-9/11 vision of transforming the Middle East through the spread of freedom." But Bush and his advisers made "a marketing choice" to downplay this rationale in favor of one focused on increasingly trumped-up portrayals of the threat posed by the weapons of mass destruction.

During the "political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people," Bush and his team tried to make the "WMD threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear just a little more certain, a little less questionable than they were." Something else was downplayed as well, McClellan says: any discussion of "the possible unpleasant consequences of war - casualties, economic effects, geopolitical risks, diplomatic repercussions."

Did the administration really make a conscious "marketing choice" or were they simply predisposed to see in Iraq what they expected to see? What evidence does McClellan offer that the administration deliberately manipulated facts to deceive the American public? Given what was known at the time and in the wake of 9/11, was the administration trying to enact an idealistic geo-political agenda by invading Iraq or were they following a policy of "better safe than sorry" in toppling one of the most evil men since Adolf Hitler? Or were they doing both?

I'm sure Mr. McClellan will be asked to answer these questions and others like them before more than one Congressional committee.

Meanwhile, we may reflect on how sad it is that people who feel that trashing one's benefactor in print after declining the opportunity to honorably leave the service of the benefactor, is an act of personal betrayal when done by others, but who will themselves indulge in the same ignoble behavior when the opportunity presents itself to them.


America's Dark Ages

In an essay in First Things titled The Sixties Again and Again George Weigel points to six events or "moments" which occurred in that lamentable decade which forever changed this nation and its people:

Taken together, these six moments suggest that something of enduring consequence happened to liberal politics, and thus to American political culture, during the Sixties. A politics of reason gave way to a politics of emotion and flirted with the politics of irrationality; the claims of moral reason were displaced by moralism; the notion that all men and women were called to live lives of responsibility was displaced by the notion that some people were, by reason of birth, victims; patriotism became suspect, to be replaced by a vague internationalism; democratic persuasion was displaced by judicial activism. Each of these consequences is much with us today. What one thinks about them defines the substratum of the politics of 2008, the issues-beneath-the-issues.

You'll have to read Weigel's essay to find out what those six moments were.

If reading about the sixties is more than you can think you can bear, take heart, it could be worse. The article could have been about the seventies. Perhaps the only decade in America's history more nightmarish than the sixties was the one which came immediately after it.

Roe v. Wade, forced busing, Watergate, mile long lines at the pumps, the explosive growth of crime, government entitlements and divorce, My Lai and our ignominious retreat from southeast Asia, the string of court decisions which made many of our schools all but ungovernable, and on and on. For a good synopsis of this miserable but strangely fascinating period in our nation's history see David Frum's How We Got Here.


Substance Dualism

Dinesh D'Souza offers us a concise introduction to the mind/body controversy in this essay. He begins with this:

Conventional wisdom holds that the human mind is nothing more than the human brain. This belief derives from materialism. By "materialism" I don't mean the mania to shop unceasingly at the mall. Rather, I mean the philosophy that material reality is all that there is. Immaterial or spiritual realities are, in this view, simply epiphenomena of the material world.

We find the materialist view ably expressed in Francis Crick's The Astonishing Hypothesis. What Crick finds astonishing is that our thoughts, emotions and feelings consist entirely in the physiological activity in the circuitry of the brain. Daniel Dennett argues that "mind" is simply a term for what the brain does. And how do we know that the brain and the mind are essentially the same? The best evidence is that when the brain is damaged, the injury affects the mind. Patients whose brains atrophy due to stroke, for instance, lose their ability to distinguish colors or to empathize with others.

But in his book The Spiritual Brain, neuroscientist Mario Beauregard shows why the Crick-Dennett position is based on a fallacy. Yes, the brain is the necessary locus or venue for the mind to operate. It does not follow that the two are the same. Beauregard gives a telling analogy. "Olympic swimming events require an Olympic class swimming pool. But the pool does not create the Olympic events; it makes them feasible at a given location." Far from being identical to the mind, Beauregard argues that the brain "is an organ suitable for connecting the mind to the rest of the universe."

The book he refers to by Mario Beauregard, The Spiritual Brain, makes an excellent case for what is called substance dualism, the view that in addition to our material body we also possess a mind that is not reducible to matter. The book, co-written with Denyse O'Leary, plods in places but overall the two authors make a powerful case that materialism is simply wrong.

Thanks to Justin for passing the article along.