Saturday, March 03, 2007
So Ann Coulter appeared as a featured speaker today at the Conservative Political Action Conference -- the preeminent conservative event of the year -- and called John Edwards a "faggot." Her speech was followed by an enthusiastic round of applause from the upstanding attendees.
Last year at the same event, she warned Arab "ragheads" about violence that would be done to them and called for Supreme Court justices to be murdered -- and received standing ovations. Everyone knows what a rancid hate-monger she is, yet (or rather: "therefore") she continues to be invited to the highest-level "conservative" events, be drooled on with admiration by presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, and have little right-wing warriors wait in line around the corner to get her signature on their copies of the books she wrote.
But that's all fine. There are much more important topics to discuss -- like the anonymous commenters at Huffington Post and the bad words said by the bloggers hired for low-level positions by the Edwards campaign. Those are matters of the gravest importance meriting the most solemn condemnation and righteous outrage from all decent people. Those HuffPost commenters have uttered terrible thoughts, and that shows the anger, venom and hatred on the left, among liberals. It is cause for great alarm -- and for headlines.
But the single most prestigious political event for conservatives of the year is a place where conservatives go to hear Democrats called faggots, Arabs called ragheads, and Supreme Court justices labeled as deserving of murder -- not by anonymous, unidentifiable blog commenters, but by one of their most popular featured speakers.
And after she does that, she is cheered wildly by an adoring conservative movement that has made her bigoted and hate-mongering screeds best-sellers, all while they and their deceitful little allies in the media, such as Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post, write idiot tracts about how terribly upset they are by the affront to decency from HuffPost commenters [in between writing obsequious, tongue-wagging profiles of Coulter's most radical ideological allies, such as Michelle Malkin, who penned a lovely defense of the internment of Japanese-Americans, for which even Ronald Reagan apologized (but, I believe, she never cursed while doing so, which is what matters most)].
This is why I wrote so extensively about the Edwards blogger "scandal" and the Cheney comments "scandal." The people feigning upset over those matters are either active participants in, or passive aiders and abetters of, a political movement that, at its very core -- not at its fringes -- knowingly and continuously embraces the most wretched and obvious bigotry and bloodthirsty authoritarianism. They love Ann Coulter -- and therefore continue to make her a venerated part of their political events -- because she provides an outlet, a venting ground, for the twisted psychological impulses and truly hateful face that drives the entire pro-Bush, right-wing spectacle.
The more delicate ones will claim to repudiate her comments in the most limited terms, but their actions speak far louder than their cursory and reluctant words. Anyone who went to this event -- and that includes Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Dick Cheney -- knew exactly what they would be getting. Coulter's face was prominently plastered on the promotional material. The right-wing political candidates who accepted the invitations to speak there knew exactly the type of people would be there - namely, the type who continously cheer on Ann Coulter's bigoted and nakedly hateful screeds. Anyone who makes themselves a part of that event is purposely associating themselves with those sentiments. That is what this Conference is for.
None of this is news, particularly. This is a movement propelled by an insatiable hunger for more slaughter and more wars. It is centrally dependent upon hatred of an Enemy, foreign or domestic -- the Terrorist, the Immigrant, the Faggot, the Raghead, and most of all, the Liberal. As John Dean brilliantly documented, that is the only real feature that binds the "conservative" movement at this point, the only attribute that gives it identity and purpose. It does not have any affirmative ideas, only a sense of that which it hates and wants to destroy. So to watch as the crowd wildly cheers an unapologetic hatemonger is perfectly natural and not at all surprising.
But we should, at the very least, be able to have a moratorium on all of the scandals driven by their claims to be so offended and upset when anonymous commenters on a blog say mean things, or when bloggers use curse words, or when Senators transparently botch a joke. The ugliest and most obscene sentiments are openly expressed not by their blog commenters or even bloggers -- though that is true -- but by their most admired and successful political leaders, the ones whom their presidential candidates desperately seek to embrace and for whom their most committed throngs cheer wildly.
That is why it is difficult to refrain from commenting, with increasing disgust, on all of their Decency and "anti-Anger" scandals, abetted by the Howard Kurtzs and Terry Morans of the world who are every bit as much one of them as they are anything else. This is a movement driven by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity -- who, along with Bill O'Reilly, are by far the most popular and successful right-wing pundits. Shouldn't every rational and decent person convulse with anger or at least scornful laughter whenever this movement claims to find offensive or upsetting indecent remarks coming from others or when they accuse others of being angry and hateful?
UPDATE: The Conference attendees who will say that they do not approve of Coulter's "joke" will act as though they found her behavior unexpected or surprising -- just as they did last year and every other time she has made similar comments. But three weeks ago, Coulter was on Fox and made virtually identical remarks -- not about Edwards specifically, just the hilarious complaint that people who say the word "faggot" have to enter rehab.
No right-wing supporter (that I know of) complained when they learned that Coulter would be a featured speaker at this event. No prominent "conservative" (that I know of) refused to be a part of the event because Coulter was a featured speaker. Thus, any claims to find what she said so deeply offensive should be weighed against their much more meaningful actions in attending.
UPDATE II: Andrew Sullivan was (I believe) present at this event, and said this about Coulter's speech:
When you see her in such a context, you realize that she truly represents the heart and soul of contemporary conservative activism, especially among the young. The standing ovation for Romney was nothing like the eruption of enthusiasm that greeted her. . . .She is the face of what the hard-core Republican Party has become, particularly during the Bush presidency. That is why she holds the position she holds in that movement. That's why Mitt Romney was giddy with glee when her name passed his lips. He knows that her endorsement is valuable precisely because she holds great sway within the party, and she holds great sway because the hard-core party faithful consider her a hero for expressing the thoughts which they themselves believe but which other, less courageous Republican figures are afraid to express.
Her endorsement of Romney today - "probably the best candidate" - is a big deal, it seems to me. McCain is a non-starter. He is as loathed as Clinton in these parts. Giuliani is, in her words, "very, very liberal." One of his sins? He opposed the impeachment of Bill Clinton. That's the new standard. She is the new Republicanism. The sooner people recognize this, the better.
This is not about a single comment or isolated remark. The more Ann Coulter says these things, the more popular she becomes in this movement. What this is about is that she reflects exactly what sort of political movement this is. She reflects its true impulses and core beliefs. If that were not the case, why would she continue to receive top billing at their most prestigious events, and why would she continue to be lavished with rock star-adoration by the party faithful?
|2005 FORUM IN DENVER|
|By Bruce Finley|
Denver Post Staff Writer
|Article Last Updated:03/03/2007 12:19:11 AM MST|
A former White House official who ordered three activists expelled from a 2005 Denver public forum with President Bush says it was White House policy to exclude potentially disruptive guests from Bush's appearances nationwide.
The former official, Steve Atkiss, revealed the policy Friday in an interview after two volunteer bouncers identified him and a current White House staffer, Jamie O'Keefe, as the officials who ordered the so-called Denver Three activists sent away from the event.
The activists had done nothing to disrupt the forum, and two of them sued over the incident.
In sworn legal depositions, bouncers Michael Casper and Jay Bob Klinkerman for the first time named the White House officials who they say ordered the Denver Three to be excluded.
An American Civil Liberties Union legal team is challenging the expulsion in federal court, arguing that it violated the activists' constitutional free-speech rights. They had obtained tickets to attend the taxpayer-financed public forum about Social Security.
Guests who disagree with Bush can stay at public forums if they are well-behaved, "but certainly, if there's an indication somebody's primary intent is to cause trouble, we are looking to avoid trouble," said Atkiss, who now serves as a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection chief of staff.
He was interviewed Friday by cellphone from an Alabama runway where he was waiting for a helicopter.
"If it became obvious and apparent somebody is there to create a fuss, there was an effort made to ensure that didn't happen," Atkiss said.
The expulsions before Bush's 2005 appearance in Denver happened at a time when "there was a concerted effort on the part of a lot of organizations to go way out of their way to intentionally disrupt the president's speeches," he said.
ACLU attorneys now are planning to file a second case in U.S. District Court targeting the White House officials.
White House security staff "certainly has the right to eject persons who try to shout a speaker down, block him from being heard or otherwise cause a disruption. But 'potentially' disruptive is not a legitimate reason to exclude persons from a public event," ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein said.
"This is especially true in this case, where our clients were apparently labeled as potentially disruptive simply because they were perceived to disagree with the president."
White House spokesman Blair Jones declined comment.
Friday's revelations by the bouncers appeared to contradict a White House spokesman's assertion in 2005 that volunteers were responsible for ejecting the Denver Three - self-described progressives Alex Young, Leslie Weise and Karen Bauer. Only Young and Weise are involved in the federal lawsuit.
That spokesman, Scott McClellan, who resigned last year, could not be reached for comment.
McClellan at the time also said: "The White House wants a diversity of voices at these events."
The ACLU team seeks a federal court ruling that a policy of excluding event guests violates the First Amendment.
"We would hope, then, that the White House would change their policy," lead attorney Martha Tierney said.
According to attorneys for both sides in the lawsuit, the bouncers testified that Casper told White House officials Atkiss and O'Keefe at the forum that several local volunteers had identified the activists as people with a history of disrupting political events.
The White House officials then directed Casper to "please ask them to leave," which he did, the bouncers said in their depositions.
"I don't think the law requires someone to actually become disruptive before you eject them," said Sean Gallagher, one of the attorneys defending Casper and Klinkerman.
They had moved for the lawsuit to be dismissed, saying the bouncers operated under orders from federal officials and therefore were immune from lawsuits.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied a motion to block the depositions.
The incident happened March 21, 2005, shortly before Bush arrived for the forum at the Wings Over the Rockies museum in east Denver.
Young, Bauer and Weise obtained tickets from the office of then-U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez. They arrived in a red Saab hatchback with a bumper sticker on the back: "No more blood for oil." They also wore "No more lies" T-shirts under their jackets.
Klinkerman pulled them out of a line and told them to wait, then called Casper, who had heard from other Republican Party officials who deemed the three suspicious.
The Secret Service later investigated whether a volunteer committed a crime of impersonating a federal agent. The U.S. attorney's office declined to press charges, giving no explanation.
The Bush administration has run into trouble elsewhere after critics were ejected from Bush appearances. People in North Dakota complained they'd been put on a list of guests to be barred from a 2005 event. The ACLU sued on behalf of two West Virginia residents arrested in 2004 after refusing to remove anti-Bush T-shirts at a campaign event.
By John Solomon and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 3, 2007; A01
The White House approved the firings of seven U.S. attorneys late last year after senior Justice Department officials identified the prosecutors they believed were not doing enough to carry out President Bush's policies on immigration, firearms and other issues, White House and Justice Department officials said yesterday.
The list of prosecutors was assembled last fall, based largely on complaints from members of Congress, law enforcement officials and career Justice Department lawyers, administration officials said.
One of the complaints came from Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), who specifically raised concerns with the Justice Department last fall about the performance of then-U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, according to administration officials and Domenici's office.
Iglesias has alleged that two unnamed New Mexico lawmakers pressured him in October to speed up the indictments of Democrats before the elections. Domenici has declined to comment on that allegation.
Since the mass firings were carried out three months ago, Justice Department officials have consistently portrayed them as personnel decisions based on the prosecutors' "performance-related" problems. But, yesterday, officials acknowledged that the ousters were based primarily on the administration's unhappiness with the prosecutors' policy decisions and revealed the White House's role in the matter.
"At the end of the day, this was a decision to pick the prosecutors we felt would most effectively carry out the department's policies and priorities in the last two years," said Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.
Officials portrayed the firings as part of a routine process, saying the White House did not play any role in identifying which U.S. attorneys should be removed or encourage the dismissals. The administration previously said that the White House counsel recommended a GOP replacement for one U.S. attorney, in Arkansas, but did not say that the White House approved the seven other firings.
"If any agency wants to make a change regarding a presidential appointee, they run that change by the White House counsel's office," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "That is standard operating procedure, and that is what happened here. The White House did not object to the Justice Department decision."
The seven prosecutors were first identified by the Justice Department's senior leadership shortly before the November elections, officials said. The final decision was supported by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his deputy, Paul J. McNulty, and cleared with the White House counsel's office, including deputy counsel William Kelly, they said.
The firings have sparked outrage from Democrats and some Republicans in Congress as details emerge about the unusual decision to remove so many at once on Dec. 7, in the middle of the administration's term. The issue escalated this week with the allegations from Iglesias, who has said he will name the two New Mexico lawmakers who called him if he is asked under oath.
The House Judiciary Committee has issued subpoenas for Iglesias and three other fired prosecutors, who are set to testify in both the House and the Senate on Tuesday. Lawmakers plan to press for answers, including what triggered the creation of the list and who else was involved.
Most of the prosecutors have said they were given no reason for their dismissals and have responded angrily to the Justice Department's contention that they were fired because of their performance. At least five of the prosecutors, including Iglesias, were presiding over public corruption investigations when they were fired, but Justice Department officials have said that those probes played no role in the dismissals.
Domenici's office confirmed yesterday that it had raised concerns with the Justice Department about Iglesias's office, particularly on immigration.
"We had very legitimate concerns expressed to us by hundreds of New Mexicans -- in the media, in the legal communities and just regular citizens -- about the resources that were available to the U.S. attorney," said Steve Bell, Domenici's chief of staff.
Domenici and his aides have declined to comment on whether the lawmaker called Iglesias. Any communication by a senator or House member with a federal prosecutor regarding an ongoing criminal investigation is a violation of ethics rules.
The fired prosecutors in San Diego and Nevada are registered independents, while the rest are generally viewed as moderate Republicans, according to administration officials and many of the fired prosecutors.
In a recent briefing with lawmakers, McNulty said one factor in the decision to create the list of U.S. attorneys was the concern raised by various members of Congress and law enforcement officials that some U.S. attorneys were not following Bush administration policies or federal sentencing rules, administration officials said.
The Justice Department received several letters dating to 2005 and signed by more than a dozen California lawmakers, mostly Republicans, raising concerns about then-U.S. Attorney Carol S. Lam's approach to prosecuting immigration cases. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a Democrat, also wrote Gonzales in June, saying that the "low prosecution rates have a demoralizing effect on the men and women patrolling our nation's borders."
On the job less than a year, McNulty consulted his predecessor as deputy attorney general, James B. Comey, about some of the prosecutors before approving the list, officials said. Comey, who did not return a telephone call seeking comment yesterday, praised Iglesias earlier this week as one of the department's best prosecutors.
The seven prosecutors outside Arkansas were informed about their ousters on Dec. 7, after the White House counsel's office signed off.
A few days before the firings, administration officials began the traditional process of calling lawmakers in the affected states to inform them about the decisions and to gather early input on possible successors, officials said.
Although the White House approved the firings, two administration officials said the counsel's office did not suggest replacements. But the officials said White House political affairs officials keep databases on potential job candidates that Justice Department officials could have accessed if they chose.
An administration official said White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten does not recall whether he was briefed about the firings before they occurred.
Privately, White House officials acknowledged that the administration mishandled the firings by not explaining more clearly to lawmakers that a large group was being terminated at once -- which is unusual -- and that the reason was the policy performance review.
Staff writer Michael Abramowitz, washingtonpost.com staff writer Paul Kane and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Definition of a Double Standard: McCain and Obama make exact same comment, one is forced to Apologize, the other is ignored. Liberal Media my ass.
Print stories on McCain's Letterman appearance omitted his "wasted ... lives" comment, despite attention to Obama'sSummary:
In his February 28 appearance on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, during which he announced his intention to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed that "Americans are very frustrated" with the situation in Iraq and that "they have every right to be." McCain then added: "We've wasted a lot of our most precious treasure [in Iraq], which is American lives." The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times all published March 1 articles reporting McCain's announcement on the Late Show, with The New York Times and the Post directly quoting McCain from the program -- but none of these articles noted his claim that "we've wasted" American lives in Iraq. Yet when Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) made similar comments in Iowa on February 11, the Post and the Los Angeles Times reported the remarks the following day. The New York Times, meanwhile, devoted a February 13 article to Obama's subsequent apology and clarification.
As of 12:30 p.m. ET, both the Post and The New York Times had posted a separate AP report on McCain's comments. However, while, as of that time, the Post had several links to stories on McCain's Late Show announcement on its homepage, there were no homepage links to the AP story. Further, The New York Times homepage, as of that time, carried no links to any McCain stories and The Los Angeles Times website had yet to post any stories noting McCain's comments.
By contrast, in its March 1 article on McCain's announcement, the Associated Press reported his comment on American lives being "wasted" in Iraq while also noting that Obama had been criticized for making a similar statement:
Discussing the war with Letterman, McCain repeated his assertion that U.S. troops must remain in Iraq rather than withdrawing early even though the war has been mismanaged.
"Americans are very frustrated, and they have every right to be," McCain said. "We've wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives."
In February, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama described the lives of troops in Iraq as having been "wasted" but then apologized a day later for making what he called "a slip of the tongue" that he said was not meant to diminish their sacrifice.
There is a fascinating (and increasingly vitriolic) argument bubbling over in National Review's Corner between Andrew Stuttaford, on the one hand, and the roster of tough-guy Cornerite Warriors (Andy McCarthy, Mark Steyn, and Iran-obsessed Michael Rubin of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute) on the other, concerning the Bush administration's participation in an upcoming regional diplomatic conference to include both Syria and Iran. And just incidentally, Brit Hume last night eagerly sought to assuage the concerns of worried Fox viewers by conveying his colleague Tony Snow's assurances that this was all planned long ago.
Over at the Corner, Stuttaford has been arguing for the wisdom of negotiating with the Iranians, the gravest neoconservative sin there is. And the Churchillian Warriors, of course, have declared this to be the ultimate act of Chamberlain-ish appeasement -- it's the same as sponsoring a group hug with bin Laden and Hitler at the same time, etc. -- and are mocking Stuttaford for failing to realize that Iran represents such Pure Evil that no negotiations with them are possible. That is all standard warmonger fare.
But what is so notable here -- and what one finds in almost every debate about Iran -- is that while the Warriors will mock and oppose every attempt to resolve the U.S.-Iranian conflicts short of war, they never have the courage to expressly say what it is that they actually favor. The reason for that refusal is clear: they oppose negotiations because they crave full-on military confrontation with Iran (or, at the very least, the use of force to bring about regime change), but they know that expressly advocating that will cause them to be stigmatized as the dangerous radicals that they are. So they keep using code to talk about the need to show strength and toughness towards Iran and never appease them -- and they mock every option designed to avoid war -- while lacking the courage of their convictions to say what they actually think.
For that reason, Stuttaford has been repeatedly asking the Warriors what they think we ought to do about Iran if negotiations are so misguided, and they keep refusing to answer. Finally Rubin was forced to address the question, and he began this way: "What would I suggest? When it comes to economic measures, Patrick Clawson provides some useful suggestions." He does not, of course, say that we should confine ourselves to those "economic measures," because that's not what he believes. He thus proceeds to reject various other measures (while never saying which ones he favors) and then finishes with this pronouncement:
Nor do I believe it in U.S. interests to acquiesce to the Revolutionary Guard and Office of the Supreme Leader with nuclear arms. Their ideology matters; it would be unwise to project our own values upon those circles in Iran which would control such capability. With regard to much more precise options, such things are better discussed in private, and I would be glad to do so.So Rubin is unwilling to say publicly what he thinks the U.S. should do with regard to Iran. He is willing to unveil his great insights only in secret, closed-door meetings at the AEI at shadowy gatherings of our nation's neoconservative foreign policy geniuses, but is not willing to advocate those ideas to his fellow citizens in public forums.
What could possibly account for such timidity? Rubin is not a government official. He resigned from the Baker-Hamilton Commission in petulant protest over the Commission's bizarre and oh-so-inexplicable refusal to follow his neoconservative wisdom in light of all the great things it has accomplished in Iraq and elsewhere (as Greg Djerejian put it at the time: "James Baker and Lee Hamilton, doubtless, must have been crushed--that the penetrating insights Rubin would have brought to bear are now lost forever").
Rubin is just a private citizen. His opinions are not classified. If he really believes so much in the grave threat posed by Iran to the U.S., why wouldn't he be willing -- even eager -- to use his platform at National Review and the AEI to publicly advocate to his fellow citizens what he thinks we ought to do about Iran? Why keep his special insights a secret?
Many neoconservatives lack the courage of their convictions this way about many topics -- they hint at their extremist ideas without having the courage or honesty to expressly state them. That practice is consistent with the founding principles of neoconservative theory. Neoconservatism does not believe in the virtues of democratic debate, but instead views itself as the vanguard of a superior elite which formulates wise policy in secret and then deceitfully packages it in digestible Manichean form to the idiot masses (that is how we travel from a long-standing, pre-9/11 desire to invade Iraq for all sorts of geopolitical reasons to a marketing product "justifying" that invasion based on the claim that 9/11 Changed Everything, Saddam was connected to those attacks, he would give his Bad Weapons to the Terrorists, and Freedom is On The March).
This sort of intellectual cowardice and deceit is illustrated by another example. Several days ago, Mark Levin, writing at National Review, complained about a New York Times article reporting on U.S. actions against Al Qaeda in the Horn of Africa, claiming that the Times "gives up more of our strategic secrets." After excerpting part of the article, Levin -- following the "kill-the-traitor" code which Frank Gaffney has been urging -- concluded as follows:
Oh, do I long for the good old days when Abraham Lincoln, our greatest president, punished such acts of betrayal. And no, I am not joking. This is a wholly gratuitous assault on our national security by the reckless Times corporate management. There is simply no public interest in disclosing any of it. For all the liberal talk about the need to build coalitions and work more closely with other countries, when we do the Times and media outlets like it are the first to try to destroy those relationships. The Washington Post did the same with black sites in Europe.As usual for neoconservatives, Levin is brave enough only to talk in code. He "longs" for the day when our government "punished such acts of betrayal" -- by the Times and Dana Priest of the Post -- but he stops short of specifying what he means. What punishment would he like to see, and against whom? After I read Levin's piece, I wrote him the following e-mail (with the subject: "Interview Request - Salon"):
Mr. Levin - I'm working on a piece for Salon about the argument being made by some conservatives that the Bush administration should follow the steps taken by Abraham Lincoln with regard to those who undermine our military missions (either generally in the war on terror or in Iraq), and that the administration should take more aggressive steps to punish disclosure of classified information.It's been a couple of days and Levin has not responded (I sent a similar email to Frank Gaffney asking about similar remarks in his last Washington Times column, and he has also not responded). There may be several reasons for the lack of response -- time constraints, an unwillingness (for whatever reasons) to be interviewed by me, etc. But whatever the explanation is, people who advocate things like Michael Rubin, Andy McCarthy, and Mark Levin always find ways to evade saying expressly what they are really advocating. They like to speak in code and stir up extremist sentiments but lack the courage to follow through on their argument and say what they mean.
I'm focusing on several articles written lately by Frank Gaffney in The Washington Times about Lincoln and treason, and I would like to include your post from several days ago (this one) in which you say: "Oh, do I long for the good old days when Abraham Lincoln, our greatest president, punished such acts of betrayal. And no, I am not joking."
Would you be available for an interview, or even just by e-mail, could you specify which specific punishments you think are appropriate here for the NYT? And which types of punishments do you think are appropriate for similar instances of prior disclosures of classified information by the Times (NSA, Swift, etc.) and those of other papers (such as the Post's disclosures of the secret Eastern European prisons for terrorists).
If an American believes that our country is being gravely threatened by the New Nazi Germany in Iran and that nothing short of military action will save us, I would think they would be eager -- even feel compelled -- to go out and make that case and try to awaken their fellow citizens from their slumber in the face of this Great Persian Threat. And if someone believes that there are traitors in our media -- or in our Congress -- who should be prosecuted, convicted, and hanged, I would think they would be out making that case by specifcally fingering the Media or Congressional Traitors and specifying the fate they deserve. Those who believe that there are influential people in our political institutions breaking the law and who deserve prosecution ought to make that case clearly.
One of the principal reasons why political extremists are able to masquerade as mainstream figures is because they are permitted to engage in this intellectually dishonest exercise where they advance radical and contemptible ideas only through innuendo and code. Their meaning is clear, but they are able to maintain a safe distance from the arguments they are pushing because they lack the courage to embrace them openly (Michael Rubin: "such things are better discussed in private, and I would be glad to do so") and are never pressed to be more explicit.
Anyone who mocks the idea of negotiating with Iran while insisting that it is "intolerable" to allow them to acquire nuclear weapons or continue to "meddle" in Iraq should be pressed to say clearly what they do advocate. And those who spew dirty little innuendo about "punishment" and "accountability" for those who "undermine" the war and troop morale or who "give comfort to the enemy" ought to be asked precisely who they mean and what "accountability" they favor exactly.
The fact that an idea is radical or held by a tiny fringe does not prove that it is wrong. But when advocates of such ideas are too afraid to express their ideas honestly and out in the open, that is a pretty compelling sign that even they know how rancid and repugnant those ideas are.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Bush Nominates Another Hack for Ambassador.
There are some things that you just don't want to read about or watch on a full stomach -- this is one of those.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Tuesday to consider the nomination of Sam Fox, a wealthy St. Louis businessman, to be the new U.S. Ambassador to Belgium. While it is not unusual for big political donors to be rewarded with ambassadorships -- and Fox is a huge donor to all things Republican -- what made everyone take note of this guy is that Fox gave a whopping $50,000 to help fund the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth smear campaign against John Kerry in 2004.
And in being questioned by the Senate panel yesterday, Fox had to face one of the senior members of that committee in... Senator John Kerry.
What followed was riveting theater, with Kerry coldly staring down a clearly-nervous Fox and Bush's nominee withstanding a barrage of questions from Kerry that the Massachusetts Senator nicely referred to as questions of Fox's "judgment" while many of us would have just flat-out called him a scumbag.
It all started out nicely, with glowing introductions, including one nauseating passage from Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) who said that "professionally and morally, Sam is eminently qualified to hold the post for which he's been nominated."
But it gets far worse than just hearing someone rave about the high morals of a guy who gave 50 grand to the Swift Boat Liars.
Kerry got his turn to question Fox and started out politely enough, praising Fox's up-by-the-bootstraps life story and his generosity with non-political charities, while also asking him about American foreign policy vis-à-vis the European community.
The tone then changed sharply when Kerry switched gears and, indicating he had concerns about Fox's judgment, said "I assume that you believe the truth in public life is important."
"Yes, sir," answered Fox.
"And might I ask you what your opinion is with respect to the state of American politics, as regards the politics of personal destruction?" said Kerry.
This started a lengthy monologue from Fox in which Bush's nominee railed against how campaigns are funded in the United States, saving most of his bile for 527 groups, saying " I'm against 527s, I've always been against 527s. I think, again, they're mean and destructive, I think they've hurt a lot of good, decent people."
I'm sure some people in the hearing room must have been stifling laughs hearing something like that coming from a man who was a major contributor to the scummiest 527 group ever, but the worst was to come in the next few sentences.
"Senator Kerry, I very much respect your dedicated service to this country," said Fox. "I know that you were not drafted -- you volunteered. You went to Vietnam. You were wounded. Highly decorated. Senator, you're a hero. And there isn't anybody or anything that's going to take that away from you. But yet 527s tried to."
Here's the exchange that followed:
Kerry: I certainly appreciate the comments you just made, Mr. Fox, and I'm not looking for anyone to call me a hero. I think that most heroes died, and do die, and those of us who are lucky enough to get out of there are lucky.As Kerry pressed Fox to explain why he would give $50,000 to a 527 group when he claims to despise them so much -- and that he now knows spewed lies at Kerry that were quickly discredited -- the Swift Boat Sugar Daddy repeated a theme he used several times in his testimony, which is essentially that he did it to level the playing field with the attacks coming from liberal 527 groups.
But notwithstanding the comments you made, you did see fit to contribute a very significant amount of money in October to a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, correct?
Kerry: Why would you do that given what you just said about how bad they are?
Fox: Well, Senator, I have to put it in the proper context and bear with me. Marilyn and I have lived the American dream -- there's no question about it. My father came here with the clothes on his back and the Fox family and the Woodman family have truly lived the American dream that's been very, very good to us.
I heard someone mention here that we gave to 250 charities. I also went back and had my staff count in '05 and '06, we've made more than 1,000 contributions. More than 100 of those were political, 900 and some odd were charitable and to institutions of learning and so forth. A great deal of those had to do with basic human needs. I think it was Senator Danforth who mentioned every time he got a letter that had Harbour Group on it, he shuddered because it was going to cost him money. Marilyn and I both raise a lot of money from a lot of people.
The point I'm making is this: We ask a lot of people for money and people ask us for money. And very fortunately, we've been blessed with being successful financially and when we're asked, we generally give -- particularly if we know who gave it.
Kerry: So, well, who asked you to give to the SBVT?
Fox: I can't tell you specifically who did because, you know, I don't remember. As a matter of fact, if I...
Kerry: You have no recollection of why you gave away $50,000?
Fox: I gave away $50,000 because I was asked to.
Kerry: But you have no recollection of who asked you to give away $50,000?
Fox: No, sir. I've given away sums much larger than that to a lot of other places and I can't tell you specifically who asked me, no.
Kerry: Well, you don't think that's it's important as a citizen, who doesn't like 527s to know where your money is going and how it's going to be spent?
Fox: Well, I think with most contributors and if you go to the other side of the political campaigns and we give to individual candidates, we don't know how they're going to use that money and what...
Kerry: Well at least it's accountable to an individual candidate for whom people have to vote or not vote. 527s as you said are mean, ugly and not accountable.
Fox: I agree with that. I absolutely agree with that.
In other words, he all but said Kerry was simply collateral damage in a political fight.
Kerry: Why would you give $50,000 to a group you have no sense of accountability for?And no matter what Kerry asked, Fox played dumb, saying he forgot who asked him for the $50,000 and that he had no clue that the Swift Boat Liars were doing such dirty deeds with his money.
Fox: Well, because if 527s were banned, then it's banned for both parties. And so long as they're not banned...
Kerry: So two wrongs make a right?
Fox: Well, I don't know, but if one side is contributing then the other side...
Kerry: But is that your judgment? Is that your judgment that you would bring to the ambassadorship? That two wrongs make a right?
Fox: No, I didn't say that two wrongs make a right, sir.
Kerry: Why would you do it then?
Fox: Well, I did it because politically, it's necessary if the other side is doing it.
Kerry: My question to you is why? When you say you couldn't have known -- these were people very publicly condemning it. How could you not have known?Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), who was chairing the meeting, told Fox that he found his answers to Kerry "somewhat unsatisfying" and said that "The swift boat ads were of a different degree, even in the ugly arena of politics. They were extraordinarily well publicized, that there was essentially a fraud being perpetrated on the American people. It had a profound impact on the election."
Fox: I guess, Mr. Senator, when I'm asked I just generally give.
Kerry: So, again, I ask you the question, do you think now that you and others bear responsibility for thinking about where we put money in American politics? What we're saying, what we present to the American people -- is truth important or isn't it?
Fox: Senator, if I had reason to believe and if I were convinced that the money was going to be used to, in any untruthful or false way, knowingly, I would not give.
Kerry: Well, sir, let me ask you this question: Did you or did you not in any of the public comments being made at the time, which I assume you were following, hear or read of any of the public statements at that point in time, with respect to the legitimacy of these charges and these smears?
Fox: Mr. Senator, I can say this...
Kerry: Did you miss this: In September of 2004, Vice Admiral Ruth, with the Navy Inspector General, wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy that was made public -- the New York Times, the Washington Post, every major newspaper in the country carried, saying their examination found that the existing documentation regarding my medals was legitimate.
Did you miss that too?
Fox: I don't remember those, but I'm certain at the time I must have read them.
And Obama tied a nice bow around the whole afternoon by basically calling Fox, who spent the entire time disavowing any knowledge of the Swift Boaters' mission or methods, a liar.
"To say that you gave because it's ugly out there and somebody asked you to give. I mean, it sounds to me like you were aware of it -- that this was not the best of political practices -- and you thought it was OK to go ahead and contribute to that," said Obama. "By the time you contributed, it was pretty widely noted -- it would have been hard for you to miss the fact that there was something particularly nasty and insidious about these ads. It had been well publicized at this point."
"I don't think you necessarily crafted the message but you certainly knew at that point what the message was."
I have a lengthy, partial transcript here of Kerry questioning Fox about his involvement with the Swift Boat Liars and how that lack of ethics and judgment should disqualify Fox from representing our country at a cocktail mixer, much less with an important ally abroad.
You can read more from Bob at BobGeiger.com.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Fox News 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour! The Reviews are in. And I just thought Fox News Reporters were a joke.
The New York Times Alessandra Stanley
"Sometimes the humor is so heavy-handed that it seems almost like self-parody. "
Hollywood Reporter Barry Garron
"A look at the first episode suggests that, just as A.M. radio is the unassailable province of the right, TV might better be left to the left. "
Philadelphia Inquirer Jonathan Storm
"The 1/2 Hour News Hour is slow torture all by itself. "
Variety Brian Lowry
"As for Surnow, in a sense, he's added a program to his resume that neatly dovetails with "24" -- demonstrating that stiff, uninspired comedy isn't exactly torture; it's just not much fun. "
Boston Globe Joanna Weiss
"In truth, there's nothing wrong with partisan humor, as long as it's actually funny. But here, even the less-political jokes are hopelessly obvious or old. "
Chicago Tribune Maureen Ryan
"The humor is so predictable and so stale that it fails to produce any laughs. "
Orlando Sentinel Hal Boedeker
""Weekend Update" on its worst night isn't this bad. "
Slate Troy Patterson
"You couldn't skewer a cube of tofu with material this dull. "
The Onion A.V. Club Amelie Gillette
"It's even worse than anyone imagined."
Bob Cesca Huff Po -
David Frum National Review Online"Then there's the unintentionally hilarious Republican racism in the show. The attempted joke in which the white male host compares Senator Obama to former Washington, DC mayor Marion Barry was weird and awful, especially considering the wide variety of, say, white politicians and public figures who have used cocaine. Like the president."
"Seriously: "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" is so unfunny as to be affirmatively insulting. Do the programmers at Fox really think that we their viewers are this dumb?"
Right Wing News:
"This show was not timely at all and at times you felt like their first priority was getting across a message, not making people laugh. Perhaps more importantly, this may be the least edgy show made since Leave it to Beaver. "
The funniest thing about the show is that a Fake News Channel (Fox News) now has a fake comedy show, complete with fake laughter. Oh momma I can feel you cryin'. And here I thought Bill O'Reilly and Hannity were the biggest jokes on Fox.
FOX 1/2 Hour News Hour. Comedy gold without Irony, Satire, or anything actually funny. "That's A Joke Folks"
Posted by Plaid Adder on Democratic Underground
Mon Feb 26th 2007, 06:38 PM
As you may have heard, FOX's cable channel has just debuted a half-hour "satirical" program entitled "The 1/2 Hour News Hour." It is supposed to be the conservative answer to The Daily Show. I was pointed to a clip of it by a friend who was brave enough to track it down on YouTube. Based on this 2 1/2 minute segment, I would not say that Jon Stewart needs to stay up nights worrying about job security. But in fact, even before I saw the segment I was pretty sure this show was going to be a dog. Why? Because a "conservative answer to The Daily Show" not only does not, but cannot exist. And because I've got the time and because I've long wanted to write something about the relationship between ideology and comedy, I'm gonna take a few moments to explain why.
Well, more than a few. This is long. Go get a sandwich and a bag of chips, it's gonna be a while.
Ideology is very important to me; but so is humor. I do not understand how anyone can survive the buffetings of this nutty universe without a sense of humor. With comedy, what I care about first is whether it makes me laugh. Ideology is a secondary consideration. There's a lot of stuff that I think is hilarious which does not stand up to any kind of political test, and in fact if you are going to be a woman and be into humor you pretty much have to inure yourself to a certain amount of sexism. Most of the comedy that really speaks to me is written by men, singly or in teams, and you can see the results in how the women performers/characters are treated. But this is a discussion for another time. My point is: I'd be willing to watch a "conservative" political show if it was funny enough. But funny is something that seems to pretty much elude the would-be practitioners of right-wing political satire. Take, for instance, right wing comic strips like "Mallard Fillmore" and "Prickly City," and compare them to, say, "Bloom County" and "Boondocks." You see what I'm talking about?
So why is it that so much right-wing political humor just plain doesn't work--even for its target audience? Well, I have a few crackpot theories, but the one I think "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" most clearly demonstrates has to do with the basic conflict between comedy and authority. This is a point that was clarified for me by another friend, who in response to my comment that creativity and authoritarianism don't often align themselves, argued that disrespect for authority is the foundation of real comedy. I was initially skeptical, even though this holds true for most of the comedy that I personally like--especially Blackadder, in which the central joke around which the show is built is that the protagonist, messed up as he is, is smarter and saner than the barking mad authority figures who conspire to ruin his life. Over the course of history, however, comedy has generally been regarded as conservative because it's so formally dependent on closure and the happy ending. And I was thinking about the fact that the most popular American form of comedy that has emerged during my lifetime is the TV sitcom, which is more often than not based on the (albeit, now, usually dysfunctional) nuclear family. But then it occurred to me that most of these family-centered sitcoms are driven by constant challenges to the father's patriarchal authority. Even in The Honeymooners, a show that managed to turn a threat of domestic violence into a catchphrase, the comedy derives from the basic contrast between Ralph's attempts to assert himself as "king of the castle" and the obvious evidence that Ralph is not king of anything, even and especially at home. The form requires that this authority is always temporarily reinscribed at the end of the show--if only by the fact that the women and children who challenge the father's authority nevertheless remain trapped inside the family--but the challenge is reopened as soon as the next episode begins.
Obviously, challenging authority is a problem for a show which is trying to be funny while defending the agenda and worldview of the regime currently in power. "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" exists only in order to help the authorities consolidate their power, and the target audience for this show--hard-core FOX viewers--can be assumed to have a pretty strong authoritarian bent. So they're not going to want to see the show attack authority anyway.
This leads me to a related problem with a lot of right-wing satire, which is choice of target. Craig Ferguson's now widely publicized February 19 Late Late Show monologue includes a clear statement of what I have long believed is one of the cardinal rules of responsible and effective humor: mock the powerful, not the vulnerable. Mocking the powerful has the positive effect of reminding everyone that though these figures may be powerful, they are not superhuman, and can be resisted/outwitted/defied; it also has the therapeutic effect of validating the anger and pain we feel as we suffer for these people, and reminding us that in fact, it's not us, it's them. Mocking the vulnerable is just bullying, and all it does is pander to the audience's worst instincts. Right-wing pundits in the main either don't understand this rule, or have a seriously warped understanding of who's vulnerable and who's powerful. Take, for instance, Rush Limbaugh's hilarious impression of Michael J. Fox on Parkinson's medication. What made him think that was funny? Did it remind him of when he was a boy and they all used to band together on the playground to torment the kid with cerebral palsy? Or in his mind, is Michael J. Fox a servant of some vast international conspiracy of Parkinson's sufferers out to destroy all that is good in the world?
Unfortunately for "The 1/2 Hour News Hour," most of the powerful--George W. Bush and his lackey, minions, hangers-on, handlers, and corporate sponsors--are off-limits. But since the 2006 midterms, the Democratic Party has started to give the GOP more of a run for its money, so there's no reason this crowd couldn't have a good time mocking the Democratic Party power elite--the same way The Daily Show regularly does. And indeed, that's what their segment on Obama attempts to do. But that spot demonstrates another problem that a lot of right wing 'humor' manifests, which I will call irony deficiency.
Irony has been defined many different ways, but the definition I think works best here is that irony is what we see when we contemplate the gap between what appears to be and what is, and/or the gap between what is and what ought to be. The main project of The Daily Show is to satirize the media; and because the media are responsible for creating perception, and because the perception created by the media has lately become massively and outrageously divergent from anything one might call reality, and because reality right now just sucks so hard, every aspect of The Daily Show is about irony. Irony is, in fact, more foundational to the show than any specific ideology.
During a recent piece on global warming, for instance, one of TDS's "correspondents," John Oliver, proposed that in the name of environmental responsibility, TDS's foreign correspondents could stop actually flying to Paris, London, Baghdad, etc., and instead merely deliver their reports from the studio while standing in front of some kind of computer generated background of the place in question. Jon Stewart then tries to prevent Oliver from revealing to the TV audience that he is in fact standing in the studio right next to Stewart in front of a computer generated image of Paris. The results are hilarious--partly because of the delighted response of the studio audience, who have of course been in on this secret all along, and who love it that Stewart is being forced to come clean for the viewing audience. There's no explicit ideological point to any of that; but it does remind the show's audiences of how closely controlled the medium of broadcast journalism is, how little the viewers really know about what they are consuming, and how pathetic the reality of broadcast news becomes once you look behind the curtain. And that, I would say, is probably what most of the writers, producers, and performers would tell you the show was really about, after you got them past the bullshit about how all they care about is being funny.
The producers of "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" have no interest in incorporating this kind of irony into their program. Educating viewers about the various kinds of manipulation to which FOX News subjects them is most certainly not part of this show's project. So they will never be able to do any of the deconstructive work that helps make The Daily Show more compelling and more important than just a collection of parodic and topical skits strung together by an announcer. Because "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" is itself part of the FOX News machine, it's structurally prevented from challenging the special brand of insanity crafted and sold by its parent network. Nor, as part of the media organ consecrated to promoting the greater glory of the neoconservative agenda, are the show's producers interested in leading viewers to contemplate the gap between the world as Bush has remade it and the world as it could be. So they're pretty much SOL on the irony front.
But this in itself wouldn't have to be a problem, given the show's target audience. In my experience Americans in general and right-wing conservatives in particular have a lot of trouble with irony. One of the things I think right-wing evangelicals hate most about "gay culture" is its ability to render ironic concepts and categories which the Christian right desperately wants everyone to accept as absolute and universal truths. It's not a coincidence that the opposite of rendering something ironic is to play it "straight," nor is it arbitrary that the oblivious character who innocently feeds the setups to the comedian without ever getting any of the jokes is called the "straight man." The ability to perceive and appreciate irony is linked to the ability to acknowledge that the way your church and your state and your parents always told you things are isn't the only way for them to be. Since most of the neocons seem to really need the assurance from these authorities that there is only one way for things to be, they are naturally going to be kind of uncomfortable with irony.
So, OK, conservative political satire without irony for people who love authority but don't like irony, well, it could work. Except that when you eliminate irony, you're pretty much taking the teeth out of your satire. Once the irony's gone, basically you're left with...well, with what's on view in "The 1/2 Hour News Hour's" Obama segment.
Watching this, I was struck at first by two things. Thing one: "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" is at a major disadvantage, compared to The Daily Show, because it cannot really use the format. As I've explained, part of what keeps The Daily Show fresh is the fact that it keeps finding new ways to identify, mock, and exploit the absurdities of cable news itself. My current favorite is Stewart's "Meet me at camera three" segments, which exploit a convention that on 'straight' news shows is just a trick to create the illusion of change and development by shooting the same bullshit from a new angle. On The Daily Show, moving to camera three actually takes the show to a new place, where, magically, Stewart can directly address whatever powerful figure he's taking on in an intimate and often surprisingly raw confrontation. "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" restricts itself to treating the format as a platter on which to serve up a bunch of punch lines. The only thing that distinguishes the "1/2 Hour News Hour's" format from a regular local news broadcast is a certain deliberately exaggerated woodenness on the part of the two anchors. At least, I'm assuming it's deliberately exaggerated. It's a little hard to tell.
Second, there is an unfortunate reliance on what Addison and Steele used to call "false wit." False wit, as defined by the old Spectator team, is a category of wordplay based on arbitrary coincidence. Their prime example was the pun, in which the 'wit' exploits the fact that two or more words with different meanings and origins happen to sound similar. Their basic problem with "false wit," from their perspective was that it didn't reveal anything important; it just used these meaningless correspondences to generate a brief flash of amusement. The Daily Show is not above using false wit; in fact, it is one of the show's major formal elements, as a graphic featuring some sort of snippy little pun usually appears behind Stewart after he's about 10 seconds into the spot. However, The Daily Show, once again, uses this trick ironically, as a commentary on the mainstream media's use of this kind of wordplay to dumb down and mischaracterize the material they present. This is demonstrated in a recent segment on the infamous diaper-wearing astronaut, in which Stewart keeps suggesting various puns ("Space Oddity," "Astro-Nut," etc.) only to find that they have all already been taken by real news outlets. He has to content himself with the caption "Very Accomplished Woman in Tragic Local Story"--an accurate description of the story which, precisely because it is not reductive, sensationalizing, or cute, is of no interest to the 24-hour news channels.
"The 1/2 Hour News Hour" has taken "false wit" to a brand new place. Apart from one setup joke about Obama's rock-star popularity and a random fart reference, all the jokes in this segment rely for their meaning on arbitrary coincidence--most particularly the arbitrary coincidence of skin color. Almost all the jokes in that segment work by drawing a connection between Obama and another well-known and (to FOX's audience) sinister figure who has little in common with Obama except for not being white. For instance, the punchline to the revelation that Obama has admitted to cocaine use in adolescence is an endorsement from Marion Barry--a corrupt African-American Democratic politician with widely publicized drug problems. The next gag is a reminder that Obama's middle name, "Hussein," is the same as the last name of the Middle Eastern dictator we just executed--which carries in it the embedded reminder that Obama's last name is only one letter away from the first name of the Saudi Arabian terrorist we still haven't tracked down. This leads into an ad for "BO Magazine" (again, the joke is based on the arbitrary coincidence between Barak Obama's intitials and the playground acronym for "body odor") which is a parody of Oprah's "O" magazine--Oprah being, of course, another African-American public figure wildly popular with white middle-class Americans. One of the fake articles that flashes during the voiceover is titled, "Obama or Tiger Woods--Which Is More Diverse?", another comparison based on the apparently endlessly amazing fact that, like Woods, Obama is African-American.
I guess I can sort of see how this string of coincidences plays on the latent xenophobia and racism of your assumed target audience in order to demonize Obama...but even so, how is it funny? There's no element of surprise, there's no revelation, and it doesn't actually say anything about either Obama or the media's Obamania. All it says is, hey, Obama's black, just like these people. And he's also a Democratic front runner. And he's popular with the media. Isn't that HILARIOUS?
Compare this with The Daily Show's running commentary on Obamania--which includes, for example, a segment in which "correspondent" Samantha Bee, after gushing about Obama's unlimited charisma, suddenly cries out ecstatically that he has cured her herpes--and you can see what a difference that layer of irony makes. The target here is not Obama himself, nor Obama's blackness, but the self-fueling media frenzy that has once again led to the total abandonment of the practices we normally think of as constituting responsible journalism. And, you know, the obligatory joke about Samantha Bee's sexual proclivities, which brings me back to my point about inuring yourself to a show's treatment of its female performers, but again, I digress. At any rate, my point is that because fundamentally this show is about the media, The Daily Show is mining a much richer vein of material than what's available to "The 1/2 Hour News Hour."
That's before we even get to the question of what's going on with the two anchors. I was watching their leaden "banter" and thinking, well, what are they really parodying here? It can't be The Daily Show, because apart from the opening shot of a studio audience that is then immediately replaced by a laugh track, it doesn't sound or act anything like The Daily Show. It can't be FOX News, because a) they can't do that and b) FOX News may be head-bleeding bad but it's not boring. In fact, it can't really be cable news at all, because the whole problem with CNN et al. is the constant hyperstimulation required by the 24-hour cycle, whereas what these anchors are modeling appears to be some sort of smiling tranquilized catatonia.
In fact, I thought, what this really reminds me of is the old Saturday Night Live Weekend Update with Dennis Miller et al. back in the 1980s. (Ah, Dennis Miller. A tragic demonstration of the pitfalls a comedian faces when he tries to reinvent himself as a conservative shill.) And then it came to me: they're parodying the liberal media. Which, of course, no longer exists. Which might explain the stylistic time warp.
So, anyone who's staying up nights worrying that "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" will actually become serious competition for The Daily Show, I think you can get a good night's sleep tonight. There is no way for a show written by right-wing hacks to do what The Daily Show does. Because what they don't seem to get is that The Daily Show did not start out as a "liberal" bastion. It started out as a comedy show about the news. It became the voice of America's pissed-off progressives, liberals, centrists, and non-extreme Republicans because for years it was the only place you could go on television to see people who understood the rampant, snarling, man-eating ironies generated by the Bush administration and its wholly owned subsidiaries. The Daily Show certainly has a clearly identifiable ideological viewpoint; but it's not just about ideology. It's about all the things that make humor work and that make humor necessary--including the sense we all have of being trapped inside the insanity of our country's two most crazed authority figures. And it's the best example I've come across in my lifetime of satire that actually works. The Daily Show has actually effected positive change--if only by pushing "Crossfire" off the air. I doubt we're going to see any of that change reversed by "The 1/2 Hour News Hour."
The Plaid Adder
They should just call it "Smackdown" with Keith Olbermann.
On "Fox News Sunday" Feb. 25, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paralleled World War II with the state of Iraq when discussing what would happen if Congress were to revise the Iraq authorization:
We already know about her suggestion that the president could just ignore whatever congressional Democrats do about Iraq.
Just ignore Congress.
We know how that game always turns out. Ask President Nixon. Ask President Andrew Johnson.
Or ask Vice President Dick Cheney, who utterly contradicted Secretary Rice on Monday when he warned President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan about what those mean congressional Democrats could do to his foreign aid.
All of this, par for the course.
But about what the secretary said regarding the prospect of Congress’ revising or repealing the 2002 authorization of the war in Iraq:
Here we go again! From springs spent trying to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11, to summers of cynically manipulated intelligence, through autumns of false patriotism, to winters of war, we have had more than four years of every cheap trick and every degree of calculated cynicism from this administration, filled with Three-Card Monte players.
But the longer Dr. Rice and these other pickpockets of a nation's goodness have walked among us, waving flags and slandering opponents and making true enemies — foreign and domestic — all hat and no cattle all the while, the overriding truth of their occupancy of our highest offices of state has only gradually become clear.
As they asked in that Avis commercial: "Ever get the feeling some people just stopped trying?"
Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld thought he could equate those who doubted him with Nazi appeasers, without reminding anybody that the actual, historical Nazi appeasers in this country in the 1930s were the Republicans.
Vice President Cheney thought he could talk as if he and he alone knew the “truth” about Iraq and 9/11, without anyone ever noticing that even the rest of the administration officially disagreed with him.
The president really acted as if you could scare all of the people all of the time and not lose your soul — and your majority — as a result.
But Secretary of State Rice may have now taken the cake. On the Sunday morning interview show “Of Broken Record” on Fox, Dr. Rice spoke a paragraph, which if it had been included in a remedial history paper at the weakest high school in the nation would've gotten the writer an "F" — maybe an expulsion.
If Congress were now to revise the Iraq authorization, she said, out loud, with an adult present: "… it would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change, then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."
The secretary's résumé reads that she has a master’s degree and a Ph.D in political science. The interviewer should have demanded to see them, on the spot. Dr. Rice spoke 42 words. She may have made more mistakes in them than did the president in his State of the Union Address in 2003.
There is, obviously, no mistaking Saddam Hussein for a human being. But nor is there any mistaking him for Adolf Hitler.
Invoking the German dictator who subjugated Europe; who tried to exterminate the Jews; who sought to overtake the world is not just in the poorest of taste, but in its hyperbole, it insults not merely the victims of the Third Reich, but those in this country who fought it and defeated it.
Saddam Hussein was not Adolf Hitler. And George W. Bush is not Franklin D. Roosevelt — nor Dwight D. Eisenhower. He isn't even George H.W. Bush, who fought in that war.
However, even through the clouds of deliberately spread fear, and even under the weight of a thousand exaggerations of the five years past, one can just barely make out how a battle against international terrorism in 2007 could be compared — by some — to the Second World War.
The analogy is weak, and it instantly begs the question of why those of "The Greatest Generation" focused on Hitler and Hirohito, but our leaders seem to have ignored their vague parallels of today to instead concentrate on the Mussolinis of modern terrorism.
But in some, small, "You didn't fail, Junior, but you may need to go to summer school" kind of way, you can just make out that comparison.
But, Secretary Rice, overthrowing Saddam Hussein was akin to overthrowing Adolf Hitler? Are you kidding? Did you want to provoke the world's laughter?
And, please, Madame Secretary, if you are going to make that most implausible, subjective, dubious, ridiculous comparison; if you want to be as far off the mark about the Second World War as, say, the pathetic Holocaust-denier from Iran, Ahmadinejad — at least get the easily verifiable facts right: the facts whose home through history lies in your own department.
"The resolution that allowed the United States to" overthrow Hitler?
On the 11th of December, 1941, at 8 o'clock in the morning, two of Hitler's diplomats walked up to the State Department — your office, Secretary Rice -- and 90 minutes later they were handing a declaration of war to the chief of the department's European Division. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor four days earlier, and the Germans simply piled on.
Your predecessors, Dr. Rice, didn't spend a year making up phony evidence and mistaking German balloon-inflating trucks for mobile germ warfare labs. They didn't pretend the world was ending because a tin-pot tyrant couldn't hand over the chemical weapons it turned out he'd destroyed a decade earlier. The Germans walked up to the front door of our State Department and said, "We're at war." It was in all the papers. And when that war ended, more than three horrible years later, our troops and the Russians were in Berlin. And we stayed, as an occupying force, well into the 1950s. As an occupying force, Madam Secretary!
If you want to compare what we did to Hitler and in Germany to what we did to Saddam and in Iraq, I'm afraid you're going to have to buy the whole analogy. We were an occupying force in Germany, Dr. Rice, and by your logic, we're now an occupying force in Iraq. And if that's the way you see it, you damn well better come out and tell the American people so. Save your breath telling it to the Iraqis — most of them already buy that part of the comparison.
“It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."
We already have a subjectively false comparison between Hitler and Saddam. We already have a historically false comparison between Germany and Iraq. We already have blissful ignorance by our secretary of state about how this country got into the war against Hitler. But then there's this part about changing "the resolution" about Iraq; that it would be as ridiculous in the secretary's eyes as saying that after Hitler was defeated, we needed to go back to Congress to "deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."
Oh, good grief, Secretary Rice, that's exactly what we did do! We went back to Congress to deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after Hitler was overthrown! It was called the Marshall Plan.
Gen. George Catlett Marshall!
Secretary of state!
The job you have now!
Twelve billion, 400 thousand dollars to stabilize all of Europe economically — to keep the next enemies of freedom, the Russians, out and democracy in! And how do you suppose that happened? The president of the United States went back to Congress and asked it for a new authorization and for the money. And do you have any idea, Madame Secretary, who opposed him when he did that? The Republicans!
"We've spent enough money in Europe," said Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio.
"We've spent enough of our resources," said former President Hoover.
It's time to pull out of there! As they stand up, we'll stand down!
This administration has long thought otherwise, but you can't cherry-pick life — whether life in 2007, or life in the history page marked 1945. You can't keep the facts that fit your prejudices and throw out the ones that destroy your theories. And if you're going to try to do that; if you still want to fool some people into thinking that Saddam was Hitler, and once we gave FDR that blank check in Germany he was no longer subject to the laws of Congress or gravity or physics, at least stop humiliating us.
Get your facts straight. Use the Google!
You've been on Fox News Sunday, Secretary Rice. The Fox network has got another show premiering Tuesday night. You could go on that one, too. It might be a better fit. It's called "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?"
Monday, February 26, 2007
Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
9 February 2007
DACOR-Bacon House, Washington, DC
In 1941, as the United States sat out the wars then raging in both the Atlantic and Pacific, Henry Luce penned a famous attack on isolationism in Life Magazine. "We Americans are unhappy," he began. "We are not happy about America. We are not happy about ourselves in relation to America. We are nervous – or gloomy – or apathetic." Luce argued that the destiny of the United States demanded that "the most powerful and vital nation in the world" step up to the international stage and assume the position of global leader. "The 20th Century must be to a significant degree an American Century," he declared.
And so it proved to be, as the United States led the world to victory over fascism, created a new world order mimicking the rule of law and parliamentary institutions internationally, altered the human condition with a dazzling array of new technologies, fostered global opening and reform, contained and outlasted communism, and saw the apparent triumph of democratic ideals over their alternatives. But that 20th Century came to an end in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, and the emergence of the United States as a great power without a peer. There followed a dozen intercalary years of narcissistic confusion. Americans celebrated our unrivaled military power and proclaimed ourselves "the indispensable nation" but failed to define a coherent vision of a post Cold War order or an inspiring role for the United States within it. These essential tasks were deferred to the 21st Century, which finally began in late 2001, with the shock and awe of 9/11. Then, in the panic and rage of that moment, we made the choices about our world role we had earlier declined to make.
Since 9/11 Americans have chosen to stake our domestic tranquility and the preservation of our liberties on our ability – under our commander-in-chief – to rule the world by force of arms rather than to lead, as we had in the past, by the force of our example or our arguments. And we appear to have decided that it is necessary to destroy our constitutional practices and civil liberties in order to save them. This is a trade-off we had resolutely refused to make during our far more perilous half-century confrontation with Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union.
There is unfortunate historical precedent for this, as the author Robert Harris reminded us last year. In the autumn of 68 B.C., a vicious league of pirates set Rome's port at Ostia on fire, destroyed the consular war fleet, and kidnapped two prominent senators, together with their bodyguards and staff. Rome panicked. Mr. Harris comments that: "What Rome was facing was a threat very different from that posed by a conventional enemy. These pirates were a new type of ruthless foe, with no government to represent them and no treaties to bind them. Their bases were not confined to a single state. They had no unified system of command. They were a worldwide pestilence, a parasite which needed to be stamped out, otherwise Rome – despite her overwhelming military superiority – would never again know security or peace." In response to these imagined menaces, Pompey (self-styled "the Great") persuaded a compliant Senate to set aside nearly 700 years of Roman constitutional law, abridge the ancient rights and liberties of Roman citizens, and appoint him supreme commander of the armed forces. With due allowance for a bit of pointed reinterpretation, if not revisionism by Mr. Harris, most historians regard this incident and its aftermath as the beginning of the end of the Roman republic.
The ultimate effects on our republic of our own slide away from long-standing constitutional norms remain a matter of speculation. But, clearly, our departure from our previous dedication to the principles of comity and the rule of law has made us once again unhappy about ourselves in relation to America and the world. It has also cost us the esteem that once led foreigners to look up to us and to wish to emulate and follow us. Our ability to recover from the damage we have done to ourselves and our leadership is further impeded by the extent to which we now cower behind barricades at home and in our embassies abroad. The current wave of anti-foreign and anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States also compounds the problem. A recent poll of foreign travelers showed that two thirds considered the United States the most disagreeably unwelcoming country to visit. There is surely no security to be found in surly discourtesy.
To fail to welcome the world's peoples to our shores is not simply to lose the economic benefits of their presence here but greatly to diminish both the vigor of our universities and the extent of our influence abroad. To lose the favor of a generation of students is to forfeit the goodwill of their children and grandchildren as well. And to fail to show respect to allies and friends is not simply to diminish our influence but to predispose growing numbers abroad to disapprove or even oppose anything we advocate. By all this, we give aid and comfort to our enemies and undercut the efficacy in dispute resolution and problem solving of measures short of war.
There has been little room for such measures – for diplomacy – in the coercive and militaristic approach we have recently applied to our foreign relations. Much of the world now sees us as its greatest bully, not its greatest hope. Self-righteous lawlessness by the world's most powerful nation inspires illegality and amorality on the part of the less powerful as well. The result of aggressive unilateralism has been to separate us from our allies, to alienate us from our friends, to embolden our detractors, to create irresistible opportunities for our adversaries and competitors, to inflate the ranks of our enemies, and to resurrect the notion – at the expense of international law and order – that might makes right. Thus, the neglect of both common courtesy and diplomacy fosters violent opposition to our global preeminence in the form of terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and war.
With the numbers of our enemies mounting, it is fortunate that our military power remains without match. The United States' armed forces are the most competent and lethal in history. And so they are likely to remain for decades to come. Our humbling on the battlegrounds of the Middle East does not reflect military inadequacy; it is rather the result of the absence of strategy and its political handmaiden – diplomacy. We are learning the hard way that old allies will not aid us and new allies will not stick with us if we ignore their interests, deride their advice, impugn their motives, and denigrate their capabilities. Friends will not walk with us into either danger or opportunity if we injure their interests and brush aside their objections to our doing so. Those with whom we have professed friendship in the past cannot sustain their receptivity to our counsel if we demand that they adopt secular norms of the European Enlightenment that we no longer exemplify, while loudly disparaging their religious beliefs and traditions. Diplomacy-free foreign policy does not work any better than strategy-free warfare.
When war is not the extension of policy but the entrenchment of policy failure by other means, it easily degenerates into mindless belligerence and death without meaning. Appealing as explosions and the havoc of war may be to those who have experienced them only vicariously rather than in person, military success is not measured in battle damage but in political results. These must be secured by diplomacy.
The common view in our country that diplomacy halts when war begins is thus worse than wrong; it is catastrophically misguided. Diplomacy and war are not alternatives; they are essential partners. Diplomacy unbacked by force can be ineffectual, but force unassisted by diplomacy is almost invariably unproductive. There is a reason that diplomacy precedes war and that the use of force is a last resort. If diplomacy fails to produce results, war can sometimes lay a basis for diplomats to achieve them. When force fails to attain its intended results, diplomacy and other measures short of war can seldom accomplish them.
We properly demand that our soldiers prepare for the worst. As they do so, our leaders should work to ensure that the worst does not happen. They must build and sustain international relationships and approaches that can solve problems without loss of life, and pave the way for a better future. If we must go to war, the brave men and women who engage in combat on our behalf have the right to expect that their leaders will direct diplomats to consolidate the victories they achieve, mitigate the defeats they suffer, and contrive a better peace to follow their fighting. Our military personnel deserve, in short, to be treated as something more than the disposable instruments of unilateral belligerence. And our diplomats deserve to be treated as something more than the clean-up squad in fancy dress.
Every death or crippling of an American on the battlefields of the Middle East is a poignant reminder that, in the absence of diplomacy, the sacrifices of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, however heroic, can neither yield victory nor sustain hegemony for the United States. A diplomatic strategy is needed to give our military operations persuasive political purposes, to aggregate the power of allies to our cause, to transform our battlefield successes into peace, and to reconcile the defeated to their humiliation. Sadly, our neglect of these tasks, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, has served to demonstrate the limits of our military power, not its deterrent value. This is, however, far from the greatest irony of our current predicaments.
In the competition with other nations for influence, America's comparative advantages have been, and remain, our unmatched military capabilities, our economy, and our leading role in scientific and technological innovation. We spend much, much more on our military – about 5.7 percent of our economy or $720 billion at present – than the rest of the world's other 192 nations combined. With less than a twentieth of the world's population, we account for more than a fourth of its economic activity. Almost two thirds of central bank reserves are held in our currency, the dollar – which, much to our advantage, has dominated international financial markets for 60 years. The openness of our society to new people and ideas has made our country the greatest crucible of global technological innovation.
The moral argument put forward by both left and right-wing proponents of aggressive American unilateralism is that, as a nation with these unexampled elements of power and uniquely admired virtues, the United States has the duty both to lead the world and to remake it in our image. But our recent confusion of command and control with leadership and conflation of autocratic dictation with consultation have stimulated ever greater resistance internationally. Thus the aggressive unilateralism by which we have sought to consolidate our domination of world affairs has very effectively undermined both our dominion over them and our capacity to lead.
The most obvious example of this has been our inability, despite the absolute military superiority we enjoy, to impose our will on terrorists with global reach, on the several battlegrounds of the Middle East, or on Iran or North Korea. But, in many respects, these illustrations of the impotence of military power are far from the most worrisome examples of policy backfire. After all, despite all the lurid domestic rhetoric about it and the real pain it can inflict, terrorism poses no existential threat to our country – except, of course, to the extent we betray American values in the name of preserving them. The more worrisome examples are the mounting effects of unrelentingly coercive foreign policies on our political credibility, economic standing, and competitiveness.
As distaste has succeeded esteem for us in the international community, we have become ever more isolated. Our ability to rally others behind our causes has withered. We have responded by abandoning the effort to lead. We are now known internationally more for our recalcitrance than our vision. We have sought to exempt ourselves from the jurisdiction of international law. We have suspended our efforts to lead the world to further liberalization of trade and investment through the Doha Round. We no longer participate in the UN body charged with the global promotion of human rights. We decline to discuss global climate change, nuclear disarmament, or the avoidance of arms races in outer space. If we have proposals for a world more congenial to the values we espouse, we no longer articulate them. The world is a much less promising place for our silence and absence.
Our recent record in the Middle East alone includes the six-year suspension of efforts to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians and a seeming shift from the pursuit of al-Qaïda to the suppression of Islamism in Afghanistan. Although we seem belatedly to be improving, we have become notorious for delusory or self-serving assertions masquerading as intelligence assessments. Our disregard for treaties abroad and the rule of law at home is leading to the indictment of our operatives abroad by our closest allies. Our scofflaw behavior thus undercuts transnational cooperation against terrorists. The bloody consequences of our occupation of Iraq for its inhabitants are too well known to require mention. We continue to provide military support and political cover for Israeli operations entailing intermittent massacres of civilian populations in Lebanon and Gaza. We sit on our hands while wringing them over parallel outrages in Darfur. We are indifferent to the views of our friends and refuse to speak with our enemies.
Taken together, these acts of omission and commission have devastated American standing and influence, not just in the Middle East but more widely. There are examples of such policy backfires to be found in every region; I will not cite them to this audience. You've read the polls. You've heard the speeches at the United Nations and the applause with which they were received. You know how difficult it now is for us to obtain support from the international community and how often we need to exercise our veto in the UN Security Council. The point is this: every leader needs followers; with rare exceptions, we have lost or are losing ours. And even a superpower needs political partners.
This is true for the economic arena as well. Our ability to do business with others in our own currency has been a unique aspect of our global economic power. But our budget, trade, and balance of payments deficits have grown to levels at which some foreigners now have more dollars than they know what to do with. The value of our currency has come to depend on central bankers continuing to play a reverse game of chicken, in which they nervously hang onto dollars while watching each other to make sure that no one can bail out without the others' noticing and dumping the dollar too. No central bank wants to be the first to devalue its own and everyone else's dollar-denominated reserves. So every day, Arab, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian officials as well as assorted gnomes in the "Old Europe" lend our Treasury the $2.5 billion it needs to keep employment here up, interest rates down, and the economy growing.
Unlike central bankers, however, businesses and private investors are notoriously bad at "coordination games." They are not willing to wait for the dollar to approach collapse before getting out of it and into other currencies and places. As a result, there are now many more euros in circulation than dollars. The euro has displaced the dollar as the preeminent currency in international bond markets. In a few years, the Chinese yuan will clearly join it in this role. Hong Kong and London have overtaken New York in IPO's. The regulatory environment in our country, including the expensive annoyances of Sarbanes-Oxley and class-action suits, does, as New York Senator Schumer has claimed, indeed have something to do with this. But an equally important factor is our increasingly frequent resort to unilateral sanctions and asset freezes based on assertions of extraterritorial jurisdiction over the dollar.
Over the past decade, we have adopted unilateral sanctions against some 95 countries and territories. Most recently, we have worked hard to shut down banking in the occupied territories of Palestine, severely curtail it in Iran, and prevent the use of the dollar in Sudan's oil trade. The nobility of our motives in each case is not the issue. But, if we assert the right to confiscate dollar-denominated wealth, and to do without due process or legal recourse and remedy, it should not surprise us that people begin looking for ways to avoid the use of our currency. There is now an active search on the part of a growing number of foreign financial institutions for ways to avoid the dollar, bank-clearance procedures that touch New York, or transactions with US-based financial institutions. Adding oil traders to the list of the dollar-averse increases the incentives for them to find alternatives to our currency.
Our ill-considered abuse of our financial power may thus have put us on the path to losing it. The dollar accounts for much of our weight in global affairs. American investors are now increasingly hedging the dollar and going heavily into non dollar-denominated foreign equities and debt.
You would think that growing disquiet about American financial over-extension would impel our government to make a major effort to boost our exports to rapidly growing markets like China. Our exports are in fact growing. But our government's present policy focus, judging from its hiring patterns, is not export promotion but an attempt to block exports of scientific knowledge and technology to China and other potential rivals. Export controllers want to require export licenses for foreign graduate students and researchers in our universities and to compel U.S. companies to conduct detailed due diligence on prospective foreign purchasers of their goods and services. These initiatives reflect the mood of national paranoia and the concomitant growth of a secrecy-obsessed garrison state that have made Osama Binladin the greatest creator of federal employment since FDR. They encourage would-be customers to buy un-American.
Along with unwelcoming visa and immigration policies, such export-suppressive measures are a small part of a much broader assault on the openness of our society. The increasing restriction of American intercourse with foreigners encourages the outsourcing not just of jobs but of innovation in science and technology, research and development, engineering and design services, and industrial production. Xenophobic policies and practices have begun to erode the long-standing American scientific and technological superiority they were intended to protect. Like economic protectionism, intellectual protectionism, it turns out, weakens, not strengthens one, and makes one less rather than more competitive in the global marketplace.
The last half of the 20th Century was, as Henry Luce had hoped, in many ways an American century. We became the preeminent society on the planet not by force of arms but by the power of our principles and the attraction of our example. The effort to replace that preeminence with military dominion is failing badly. There will be no American imperium. The effort to bully the world into accepting one has instead set in motion trends that threaten both the core values of our republic and the prospects for a world order based on something other than the law of the jungle. Militarism is not an effective substitute for diplomacy in persuading other peoples to do things one's way. Coercive measures are off-putting, not the basis for productive relationships with foreign nations. Other peoples' money can provide an excuse for continued self-indulgence; it is not a sound foundation for economic leadership. Obsessive secrecy is incompatible with innovation. Fear of foreigners and rule by cover-your-ass securocrats is a combination that breeds weakness, not strength.
More than anything now, we need to get a grip on ourselves. 9/11 was almost five and a half years ago. There has been no follow-up attack on our homeland. We are far from Waziristan and al-Qaïda's leaders are obsessed with matching, if not exceeding, their previous standard of iconic success, something even much more talented terrorists than they would find it hard to do. Perhaps in time they will succeed but our nation will endure. Meanwhile, Al-Qaïda's associates elsewhere have felt no such operational constraints, especially in Europe. Yet, despite all the bombings there by homegrown and al-Qaïda-affiliated terrorists, government offices in Europe are still accessible to the public, security measures at transportation nodes are respectfully efficient, the rule of law continues to prevail, and the rights of citizens remain intact.
The contrast with the situation here underscores the extent to which al-Qaïda has achieved its central objectives. It has unhinged America and alienated us from the world. We are apparently willing to sacrifice everything, including the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, to achieve absolute security from risks that others rightly consider nasty but manageable. Quite aside from the fact that absolute security is absolutely impossible, this is not who we were. It is not who most of us want to be.
America defines itself by its values, not its territory or ethnicity. The supreme purpose of our foreign policy must be to defend our values and to do so by means that do not corrode them. By these measures, what we are doing now is directly counterproductive. It must be changed. Let me very briefly propose a few principles to guide such change:
First, an America driven by dread and delusion into the construction of a garrison state, ruled by a presidency claiming inherent powers rather than by our constitution and our laws, is an America that can be counted upon to respect neither the freedoms of its own people nor those of others. The key to the defense of both the United States and the freedom that defines us as a great nation is to retain our rights and cultivate our liberties, not to yield them to our government, and to honor and defend, not to invade, the sovereignty of other nations and individuals.
Second, it is time to recognize that freedom spreads by example and a helping hand to those who seek it. It cannot be imposed on others by coercive means, no matter how much shock and awe these elicit. Neither can it be installed by diatribe and denunciation nor proclaimed from the false security of fortified buildings. We must come home to our traditions, restore the openness of our society, and resume our role as "the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all ... [but] the champion and vindicator only of our own."
Third, credibility is not enhanced by persistence in counterproductive policies, no matter how much one has already invested in them. The reinforcement of failure is a poor substitute for its correction. Doing more of the same does not make bad strategy sound or snatch successful outcomes from wars of attrition. All it does is convince onlookers that one is so stubbornly foolish that one is not afraid to die. Admitting that mistakes have been made and taking remedial action generally does more for credibility than soldiering blindly on. The United States needs big course corrections on quite a range of foreign and domestic policies at present.
Fourth, we must recover the habit of listening and curb our propensity to harangue. We might, in fact, consider a war on arrogance to complement our war on terror. And to demonstrate my own humility as well as my respect for the limited attention span of any audience after lunch, even one as polite and attentive as you have been, I shall now conclude.
Guantánamo, AbuGhraib, the thuggish kidnappings of "extraordinary rendition," the Jersey barrier, and an exceptional aptitude for electronic eavesdropping cannot be allowed permanently to displace the Statue of Liberty and a reputation for aspiration to higher standards as the symbols of America to the world. To regain both our self-respect and our power to persuade rather than coerce the world, we must restore our aspiration to distinguish our country not by the might of its armed forces but by its civility and devotion to liberty. The best way to assure the power to cope with emergencies is to refrain from the abuse of power in ordinary times.
All the world would still follow America, if they could find it. We must rediscover it to them. That, not bullying behavior or a futile effort at imperial dominion, is the surest path to security for Americans.