Sunday, July 29, 2007

So Misunderstood

Serious foreign policy mavens often mock George W. Bush for his black-and-white view of the world and argue that diplomacy requires more sophisticated analysis and awareness. So it was surprising to see my friend Steve Clemons, foreign policy maven supreme at the New America Foundation, engage in binary political analysis. Writing in his blog, Clemons accused me--egads!--of "Hillary-leaning." Why level such a charge? Because I had criticized Barack Obama for vowing to meet with the leaders of North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela without preconditions in his first year as president (should he be elected).

I've not endorsed any candidate, and, as far as I can tell, no candidate has been eagerly awaiting such a decision from me. But I've said many times, I'm not a fan of Hillary Clinton, and I would be pleased to see Obama run a marvelous and effective campaign. My own fancies aside, I remain an independent journalist. And I call 'em as I see 'em. If Obama blows an opportunity, I will note that--not to help the Hillaryites, but to be honest and to be of service to my readers. Steve, I write; I don't lean.

In the squabble over Obama's reply to the meet-with-thugs question, several bloggers and commentators (on both sides of the Obama-Clinton divide) have acted more like spinners than journalists, looking to score points for their side. For instance, there's Glenn Greenwald of Salon .

In a recent post, he pointed to my article on Obama's answer and insinuated I was just another member of the inside-the-Beltway media elite. Wow, where's my membership card? Far be it from me to explain to outside-the-Beltway Greenwald that writing a book titled The Lies of George W. Bush , reporting the behind-the-scenes machinations that led to the manipulation of the prewar intelligence on Iraq (for the book I co-wrote with Michael Isikoff, Hubris: the Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the War ), being the journalist who first noted that the CIA leak might be evidence of a White House crime, and writing skeptically of the Iraq war before the invasion hardly makes one a member of Washington's media elite. (I could add much more to that list, including contributing to Salon, as I have done in the past.)

In critiquing my Obama piece, Greenwald huffs,

That is how this works perpetually -- media elites repeatedly masquerade their own conventional wisdom and biases as "American centrism" and any deviation as "extremism" or "unseriousness" or even "craziness."

This is plain silliness (not "craziness"). I do not "masquerade" my own views as "American centrism." They are my views alone. My belief was that Obama's reply was problematic and would be used against him. I wrote that. It had nothing to do with ideology or "extremism."

He goes on:

To be clear, none of this is about whether I personally believe it is a good idea to commit to face-to-face meetings in the first 12 months of a presidency with every hostile world leader regardless of the circumstances.

Come again? If it's not a good idea, why shouldn't a political reporter note that a candidate gave an answer in televised debate that was not a "good idea"?

The real discussion is indeed whether Obama's answer was a sound one. If Bush presented an idea that Greenwald considered unsound, I'm sure he would pounce on it and call on media elites in and out of the nation's capital to publicize the presidential error. After all, sometimes a story about a debate reply is just a story about a debate reply.

In the meantime, I'm late for brunch with David Broder and Tim Russert, where--this week--we're going to figure out how we can push Joe Biden into the top tier of Democratic presidential candidates. We blinded-by-conventional-wisdom media elites like a challenge.

Posted by David Corn at July 29, 2007 03:36 PM


David B. Benson said...

Joe Biden, David Corn?

Why on earth would you want to push Joe Biden anywhere but out-to-pasture?

capt said...

Mr. David Corn,

"Hillary-leaning" - CHECK!

media elites repeatedly masquerade their own conventional wisdom and biases as "American centrism" and any deviation as "extremism" or "unseriousness" or even "craziness."

I am not smart enough to understand what that means.

How will this effect your ongoing undercover CIA/left gatekeeper - ultra-liberal standard bearer - turned - GOP mole status? (HA!)

It seems like you can't win for losing. It's impossible to be everything to everybody and make everybody happy at the same time.

Keep up the good work.


O'Reilly said...

Corn, I think you've brought this up three or four days in a row. What gives?

First your editor is wrong, then it's me, then a guy named Steve, now Glenn Greenwald.

You ARE a Washington insider. Get used to it.

has defended his criticism of Obama's answer

micki said...

Dammit, David Corn! (Not that you will see this comment on this obscure blog...)

But, enough already with the skirmishing with your associates/adversaries in media!

Sheesh! Y'all want to inject yourselves into the center of a story.


Just the facts, please!

capt said...

Swedish film director Bergman dies

Tom Snyder Dies: Newsman Tom Snyder Dead At 71



capt said...

Bush's folly

His fixation on Al Qaeda's role in Iraq reveals the shallowness of his thinking -- and of the U.S. strategy on fighting terrorism.

President bush's speech last week arguing that the United States must stay in Iraq to defeat the Al Qaeda leadership reassembling there ranks as one of his most vacuous. It drew on intelligence that was conveniently (and perhaps selectively?) declassified in order to make the dubious case that the Al Qaeda in Iraq today is the same enemy that attacked us on 9/11.

Bush repeated his tendentious trope: "A key lesson of September the 11th is that the best way to protect America is to go on the offense, to fight the terrorists overseas so we don't have to face them here at home." This led directly to the unstated conclusion that the United States must stay in Iraq for as long as it takes to conquer evil. The speech leaves little doubt that the president intends to keep fighting in Iraq until Jan. 20, 2009 -- if Congress will let him.

Either way, the public shouldn't believe that Al Qaeda is responsible for most of Iraq's problems. Foreign jihadists have certainly done a wicked job of urging onthe Sunnis and Shiites who are doing most of the killing. But the key question is who should be fighting Al Qaeda -- and all the other groups slaughtering Iraqi civilians. The answer, of course, is the Iraqis. They're the most qualified. Sunni tribal leaders in Al Anbar and Diyala provinces are already on the job, supported by the U.S. Iraqis have the language, intelligence and understanding of the enemy. They are fighting for and on their home ground. It is American hubris to think we can do it better.

It's also misleading for Bush to imply that there is some finite number of volunteers for jihadist duty, that they're all being drawn to Iraq and that exterminating them there will bring victory. The daily suicide bombings and other attacks in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere indicate that, after six years, we haven't diminished the unending supply of jihadists willing to die for their cause. Killing a few hundred or a few thousand of them in Iraq is like whacking the cockroaches you see running across your kitchen counter. It ignores the zillions that are breeding in the walls.

So here are the real questions, Mr. President: How do we degrade Al Qaeda's ability to replace the leaders we manage to kill? How do we dry up its source of recruits? Who can convince young radicals that killing themselves and scores of innocents won't serve Islam or improve Muslim life in Iraq, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, New York or anywhere else? What political, social and religious progress, what kind of education, what kind of economic development will weaken the appeal of the fanatical Islamist message?

Not until an American president gives the world meaningful answers to these questions can we have a "global war on terrorism" worthy of the name.


eyes_open said...

Unfortunatally Corn wasn't wrong about his prediction concerning the wording of Obama's debate answer. This weekend (on one of those yell at each and pretend we're debating shows on PBS) Pat Buchanan came to the same conclusion. If Obama manages to get the nomination, his answer will be jumped on by Republicans to use against him in the campaign. We who know how to see the bigger picture know what Obama said was correct, but the Republican spin machine will do everything to distort the living daylight out of it.

Gerald said...

I am not a Joe Biden fan.

Gerald said...

Famous Quotations from the Bush Family Tree

Gerald said...

When the war is going badly, Joe Biden is on the bandwagon against the war. If I am not mistaken, at the start of the war he was on the bandwagon for the war. To be a person of courage it takes guts. Joe Biden does convey to me a man without guts.

capt said...

Iraqi Parliament Adjourns for August

Iraq's parliament on Monday shrugged off U.S. criticism and adjourned for a month, as key lawmakers declared there was no point waiting any longer for the prime minister to deliver Washington-demanded benchmark legislation for their vote.

Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani closed the final three-hour session without a quorum present and declared lawmakers would not reconvene until Sept. 4. That date is just 11 days before the top U.S. military and political officials in Iraq must report to Congress on American progress in taming violence and organizing conditions for sectarian reconciliation.

The recess, coupled with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's failure to get the key draft laws before legislators, may nourish growing opposition to the war among U.S. lawmakers, who could refuse to fund it.

Critics have questioned how Iraqi legislators could take a summer break while U.S. forces are fighting and dying to create conditions under which important laws could be passed in the service of ending sectarian political divisions and bloodshed.

But in leaving parliament, many lawmakers blamed al-Maliki.

"Even if we sit next month, there's no guarantee that important business will be done," said Mahmoud Othman, a prominent Kurdish legislator. The parliament had already extended its session by a month, having initially planned a recess for July and August.

"There are Iraqi-Iraqi and Iraqi-American differences that have not been resolved," Othman said of the benchmark legislation. "The government throws the ball in our court, but we say that it is in the government's court and that of the politicians. They sent us nothing (to debate or vote)."


*****end of clip*****

A functioning government would have too much to do.


David B. Benson said...

BBC reports that up to 119 million Chinese are in need of clean drinking water fue to the recent floods in China...

capt said...

"119 million Chinese are in need of clean drinking water"

And the Rolling Stones made $50 million playing a private (corporate) party.

What a world, eh?


capt said...

"A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.": Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

"We must not allow ourselves to become like the system we oppose. We cannot afford to use methods of which we will be ashamed when we look back, when we say, '...we shouldn't have done that.': Desmond Tutu

"The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.": Frederick Douglass - [Frederick Baily] (1818- 1895), Escaped slave, abolitionist, author, editor of the North Star and later the New National Era


Thanks ICH Newsletter!

Gerald said...

One day your soul will be required of you

Gerald said...

An Immoral Philosophy
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Monday 30 July 2007

When a child is enrolled in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (Schip), the positive results can be dramatic. For example, after asthmatic children are enrolled in Schip, the frequency of their attacks declines on average by 60 percent, and their likelihood of being hospitalized for the condition declines more than 70 percent.

Regular care, in other words, makes a big difference. That's why Congressional Democrats, with support from many Republicans, are trying to expand Schip, which already provides essential medical care to millions of children, to cover millions of additional children who would otherwise lack health insurance.

But President Bush says that access to care is no problem - "After all, you just go to an emergency room" - and, with the support of the Republican Congressional leadership, he's declared that he'll veto any Schip expansion on "philosophical" grounds.

It must be about philosophy, because it surely isn't about cost. One of the plans Mr. Bush opposes, the one approved by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate Finance Committee, would cost less over the next five years than we'll spend in Iraq in the next four months. And it would be fully paid for by an increase in tobacco taxes.

The House plan, which would cover more children, is more expensive, but it offsets Schip costs by reducing subsidies to Medicare Advantage - a privatization scheme that pays insurance companies to provide coverage, and costs taxpayers 12 percent more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

Strange to say, however, the administration, although determined to prevent any expansion of children's health care, is also dead set against any cut in Medicare Advantage payments.

So what kind of philosophy says that it's O.K. to subsidize insurance companies, but not to provide health care to children?

Well, here's what Mr. Bush said after explaining that emergency rooms provide all the health care you need: "They're going to increase the number of folks eligible through Schip; some want to lower the age for Medicare. And then all of a sudden, you begin to see a - I wouldn't call it a plot, just a strategy - to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care."

Now, why should Mr. Bush fear that insuring uninsured children would lead to a further "federalization" of health care, even though nothing like that is actually in either the Senate plan or the House plan? It's not because he thinks the plans wouldn't work. It's because he's afraid that they would. That is, he fears that voters, having seen how the government can help children, would ask why it can't do the same for adults.

And there you have the core of Mr. Bush's philosophy. He wants the public to believe that government is always the problem, never the solution. But it's hard to convince people that government is always bad when they see it doing good things. So his philosophy says that the government must be prevented from solving problems, even if it can. In fact, the more good a proposed government program would do, the more fiercely it must be opposed.

This sounds like a caricature, but it isn't. The truth is that this good-is-bad philosophy has always been at the core of Republican opposition to health care reform. Thus back in 1994, William Kristol warned against passage of the Clinton health care plan "in any form," because "its success would signal the rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment that such policy is being perceived as a failure in other areas."

But it has taken the fight over children's health insurance to bring the perversity of this philosophy fully into view.

There are arguments you can make against programs, like Social Security, that provide a safety net for adults. I can respect those arguments, even though I disagree. But denying basic health care to children whose parents lack the means to pay for it, simply because you're afraid that success in insuring children might put big government in a good light, is just morally wrong.

And the public understands that. According to a recent Georgetown University poll, 9 in 10 Americans - including 83 percent of self-identified Republicans - support an expansion of the children's health insurance program.

There is, it seems, more basic decency in the hearts of Americans than is dreamt of in Mr. Bush's philosophy.


Gerald said...


Gerald said...

I am amazed! It always amazes me how Nazi Americans can focus on irrelevant issues. Why do they fail to focus on Nazi America's irrelevant dictator?

The big issue in D.C. is Hillary's cleavage. I am amazed that women have cleavage. Now, isn't that shocking?

A woman's cleavage must be something new. I guess that in history women never had cleavage.

I guess we all learn something new every day.

capt said...

New Thread