AND THE GLASS HALF EMPTY! K-Drum saw the glass half full in Stephen Brauns right-on report: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2007
TOMORROW: We had planned to comment on Glassers (Latest) Folly—the laughable, contemptuous piece by Victoria Toensing in yesterdays Outlook. Weve bumped it back due to Krugmans Folly. But well get there tomorrow.
For our previous piece on the loathsome Glasser, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/29/07). As we said then: In real professions, people who present this kind of work get dragged before professional boards. Soon after that, they get fired.
HECKUVA LEAR, KRUGGY: Good God. Paul Krugmans column in todays Times is just remarkably bad.
First, some points of agreement. Krugman thinks that Hillary Clinton made an error in voting for the 10/02 war resolution. Well go well beyond that; we think this was one of the worst votes in Senate history. In casting that vote, Clinton (along with 76 colleagues) handed her constitutional war-making power over to the hapless George Bush. By March 2003, Clinton was saying she wanted more inspections. Too bad! Five months earlier, she had transferred her power to Bush. The founders didnt want her to do that.
Second: We agree with Krugman that Clinton is not a megalomaniac; shes not another Dick Cheney. We dont really think that a President Clinton would start another crackpot war. (Ditto a President Obama or Edwards.) We dont think Hillary Clintons a nut. Like Krugman, were not sure about McCain and Giuliani—and if either man serves as president, hell enter office as the head of a party which is driven by such nutty elements.
But Krugman builds his column today around what he calls Clintons refusal to say, as former Senator John Edwards has, that she was wrong to vote for the Iraq war resolution. Edwards has admitt[ed] his own error, Krugman writes—but he says hes troubled because Clinton hasnt. To Krugman, Clintons refusal to say...that she was wrong is reminiscent of Bush and Cheney. For the last six years we have been ruled by men who are pathologically incapable of owning up to mistakes, he writes. Clinton isnt another Cheney, he says. But Krugman is concerned by Clintons refusal to say...she was wrong.
According to Krugman, Clinton has refused to own up to her mistake in casting that 10/02 vote. His argument will surely affect many readers. But heres the problem: Krugman never lets readers decide for themselves whether Clinton has really owned up to her error. He never quotes a single thing Clinton has actually said on this subject. Krugman keeps readers barefoot and clueless. They hear his account of what Clinton has said. They dont hear her actual statements.
Has Clinton owned up to her mistake? Has she admit[ted] past error? For ourselves, we think its odd that Clinton wont use the specific word mistake in describing her 10/02 vote. But in our judgment, she has owned up to her mistake—in fact, she did so long ago. Other readers might agree with that assessment—if Krugman would have the decency to tell them what Clinton has actually said.
The history: Clinton cast that awful vote in October 2002. (So did Kerry. So did Edwards.) But omigod! As early as August 2004, she had clearly rethought the vote. On August 29, she appeared on Meet the Press (where she staunchly defended Kerry and Edwards). Heres part of what she said—well over two years ago:
RUSSERT (8/29/04): Jay Rockefeller, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was on this program a few weeks ago and this is what he said: "...We in Congress would not have authorized that war—we would not have authorized that war—with 75 votes if we knew what we know now." Do you agree with him?All the way back in 8/04, Clinton said there would have been no basis for that vote if wed known there were no WMD. There wouldnt even have been a vote, she told Russert (also Wolf Blitzer). Since then, shes continued making that statement, even spelling things out for the very slow by adding the obvious corollary—she herself would have voted no if shed known there were no WMD. Do you mind if we make a simple statement? In our view, Clinton did say that she was wrong to vote for the Iraq war resolution when she made that statement to Russert. (When she said shed have voted the other way if she knew about the WMD.) Indeed, we were actively impressed with Clintons formulation; at the time, wed been wondering why Dems werent offering this obvious presentation. For the record, Edwards was still saying that he would have voted yes on the war resolution even if he knew there werent any WMD. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/8/07. Cover the eyes of the children.) It would be fifteen months before he wrote the column in which he finally said, I was wrong.
So yes, for our money, we think that Clinton has basically copped to her error. We think she did so years ago. Other voters might share that assessment—if they were told what Clinton has said. But never once, in Krugmans whole column, does he quote a single word the lady has said. Hes The Man, The King, The Poobah—the one who parcels out information. He doesnt tell readers what Clinton has said. They only get his account of her statements.
Of course, weve already seen what happens to voters when journalists choose to play God in this manner. Last Sunday, David Kurtz posted at TPM—and he didnt seem to have the slightest idea what Clinton has actually said on this subject. Two days later, Michael Sean Winters posted at TNR—and he didnt seem to know what Clinton had said in New Hampshire the previous weekend. In short, we can all be turned into Major Dumb-Ass when strongmen like Krugman control information. When they refuse to report what a person has said. When they give their account of such statements.
Voters deserve to read what Clinton has said—not some strongmans paraphrase.
Beyond that, lets discuss the most foolish part of Krugmans column—his apparent sense that Edwards is being more forthcoming than Clinton about that 10/02 vote.
For what its worth, we doubt that either Clinton or Edwards is being fully truthful about the thought process behind their vote, or about their subsequent thoughts on the matter. But its just obvious that Edwards has been misstating— a point which escapes Krugmans notice. Could anyone above the age of 6 believe what Edwards told Russert this month? In this passage, Edwards explains why he didnt renounce his 10/02 vote until 11/05:
EDWARDS (2/4/07): I can tell you what happened with me, personally... When the  campaign was over, and the election was over, we had a lot going on in my own family—Elizabeth had been diagnosed with breast cancer, we were taking care of her, and, for the first time, I had time to really think about, number one, what I was going to spend my time doing; and, number two, my vote for this war and, over time, when I reflected on what I thought was going to be necessary, going forward, to have some moral foundation to work on issues like poverty and genocide and things that I care deeply about, I could no longer defend this vote. It was pretty simple. And I got to the place I felt like I had to say it and had to say it publicly. So a year or so ago, I did that.It isnt quite clear what that statement means. But does anyone over the age of 6 believe that Edwards didnt have time to really think about his vote until 2005? That statement is just laughably bogus; its a silly, transparent, political l*e. But to Krugman, Edwards seems like the honest one here, and Clinton is being less than forthcoming! Truly, we have all become children again when even Krugman can present such prime cant.
Guess what, students? Politicians often withhold or misstate the full story about their thinking on controversial matters! They do this thing we call playing politics—and Edwards and Clinton are both so engaged at the present time. We dont know why the Clinton campaign doesnt want her saying the word mistake when she talks about her vote. But we do know this: Clinton said, in 8/04, that no one would have voted for the resolution if wed known about the WMD. According to Edwards, he didnt realize this, about his own vote, until some time in 2005. If you believe that, you should look in the mirror. You may be five years old.
Note to Krugman, on Planet Zarcon: Both these people are framing their statements (with the help of their consultants). Neither person is telling the truth. Theres no Cordelia here—and no Goneril. But omigod! Theres a heckuva Lear! And Kruggers! Good gravy! Its you!
FOR THE RECORD: Again, we think its silly when Clinton refuses to call her 10/02 vote a mistake. But we think she has owned up to her error; we think she did so in 8/04. Other voters might think that too—if Strongmen would report what she said.
Is Edwards less likely than Clinton to go along with the Beltway establishment in the future? (That is Krugmans serious concern.) We dont have a clear idea about that; we see potential flaws with both these candidates. But Krugmans reasoning here is weak. He needs to do a better job of pursuing this serious matter.
AND THE GLASS HALF EMPTY: We agree, one thousand percent, with Kevin Drums take on this report in Sundays Los Angeles Times. Drum quotes the following passages from Stephen Brauns right-on report:
BRAUN (2/18/07): Conservative admirers of the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth media blitz that helped torpedo Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential candidacy in 2004 are now agitating to "Swift-boat" [Hillary] Clinton.Omigod! Cheers echoed off THE HOWLERS vast walls! Even before we read Kevins commentary, we were struck by Brauns use of the verb, Swift-boat. And that was the same thing Kevin noticed. Here was his righteous analysis:
DRUM (2/18/07): I'm with Wolfson: I don't have any doubt that Hillary can take care of herself. But you know what I liked about this story? The fact that it talks about "Swift-boating" right at the top. It gives me a smidgen of hope that this time around the media is going to recognize campaign tactics like this for what they are: common thuggery, not legitimate attacks.Who knows? This may turn out to be the last time a reporter uses this particular language. But as Kevin says, this superlative report by Braun gives Democrats a ray of hope. Who knows? Maybe other reporters will start to speak clearly and directly about the shape of our modern discourse. Maybe theyll call a spade a spade. Maybe theyll call these attacks by their name. Maybe theyll describe them as Swift-boats.
But we had a further, sadder thought when we saw Brauns report. Once again, we were struck by how much liberals have lost by refusing to discuss the conduct of Campaign 2000. By 2004, liberals and Dems had roused themselves slightly from their Decade of Lethargy (the political sequel to the Summer of Love). We managed to raise a few complaints about the swift-boat attacks, to the point where the term has gone into use as a recognizable verb. But right to this day, we have utterly failed to make such complaints about the conduct of Campaign 2000. No reporter will ever report that Clinton, Edwards or Obama is about to get Gored. Readers would have no idea what they meant. Editors would strike the strange language.
The failure here has been monumental—and yes, its the liberal elites and the liberal careerists who have failed so monumentally. We no longer see any reason to smooth it (we never should have done so at all); despite the mountain of great work he has done in other areas, we despise the role Josh Marshall has played in this cosmic liberal failure. As late as the summer and fall of 2002, Josh wasnt just ignoring what happened in Campaign 2000; he was writing press-friendly posts, in liberal journals, in which he actively pretended that this astonishing conduct hadnt occurred. (When we lightly challenged him on this point, it became clear that he had always known about Campaign 2000. Link below.) So yes, we truly despise Joshs work in this area. We think he should recant, retract or repudiate those unfortunate pieces. He should apologize—say that he made a mistake. He should finally get up off his big, fat keister and admit that his actions were wrong.
Kevin saw the glass half full when he read Brauns right-on report. We agree—but we cant help noting the half of the glass that is empty. Do you mind if we offer an obvious comment? If people like Josh hadnt played the fool in the wake of Campaign 2000, more voters would have been on alert when the Swift-boat attacks were lodged against Kerry. Being aware of what happened to Gore, such voters would have been more suspicious when it began to happen to Kerry. And almost surely, these voters would be much more wary today about attacks on Obama, Edwards, Clinton.
Voters should have heard about this for the past seven years. By now, theyd be extremely wary. But we have failed to put them on alert. Understandably, Kevin was surprised by Brauns report. This shows us the depth of our failure.
BEYOND THAT, WE DO HAVE OUR DOUBTS: Beyond that, well strongly disagree with this one part of Kevins right-on post:
DRUM: I'm with Wolfson: I don't have any doubt that Hillary can take care of herself.Sorry, but we do have doubts. We deeply admire Clintons toughness; like Bill Clinton and Al Gore, she has taken a mountain of sh*t over the past fifteen years and has come back fighting. But why do we assume that her courage and fight will be enough in the next two years? After all, Bill Clinton and Gore couldnt take care of themselves in the face of the attacks which were dumped on their heads; Clinton got impeached in 1998, and Gore didnt get to the White House (in part because of Clintons impeachment). Sorry, but it isnt enough for us to stand back and assure ourselves of our candidates toughness. Gore refused to buckle for twenty straight months—but his discipline and toughness, by themselves, werent enough. Indeed, we liberals are so flamingly stupid that many among us still complain about the lousy campaign Gore allegedly ran—not realizing that our own cosmic silence was the thing that put Bush where he is.
Liberal elites and career liberals have monumentally failed to address this problem. These groups have relentlessly failed to challenge and define the shape of our ongoing discourse. Our elites have behaved like well-mannered boys; theyve taken their cues from E. J. Dionne to the end. In 1999 and 2000—and in the years since—these well-mannered fellows have utterly failed to warn the public about the shape of our discourse. In particular, Josh has failed to explain his writings from 2002. We wish hed stand up and move forward. This problem really didnt start with that madrassa attack.