THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2003
STUCK ON BILL: We often wonder where they find this strange breed which makes up our press corps. If you want to ponder with us, just read Tuesdays Boston Globe piece by columnist Brian McGrory.
Make no mistake: Writing two days before war began, McGrory saw massive potential problems with the action in Iraq. After imagining possible fruits of a lightning-fast victory, he rattled a raft of worst-case scenarios. We reprint his fears in detail:
MCGRORY: On the flip side, trouble unfolds in virtually endless scenarios. A rejuvenated Al Qaeda could launch a retaliatory attack on American soil. Hussein could gas his own peopleor ours. The Iraqi leader could lure the US military into weeks or months of block-to-block warfare.Yikes! But matters only seemed to get worse as McGrory continued. None of this seems to matter to Bush, not the politics or the peril, he wrote. [H]es risking American and Iraqi lives. Hes risking the economy of the United States. And hes risking his entire presidency on a cause that large swaths of his country cant quite comprehend. Indeed, McGrory seems to be part of that group. I dont necessarily agree with [Bush], he continued. My stomach turns at the thought of the inevitable CNN footage of missiles screaming toward Baghdad in the dark of an unfortunate night, live people, some of them innocents, waiting on the other end.
Yikes! But if you thought McGrory was slamming Bush, you need to think again. Bush is risking great calamity, the scribe saysbut McGrory sings his praises. The pundits reasoning seems so odd, we thought that wed quote it in full:
MCGRORY: None of this seems to matter to Bush, not the politics or the peril, because hes guided not by polls but by principleand thats what makes him so tough to understand. He 100 percent believes that Hussein poses a grave threat to the United States and, having experienced the realities of terrorist actions, thinks history has called upon him to stop it.End of column. In short, Bush is risking our lives, and hes risking our fortunes; its not real clear that he knows what hes doing. But thats basically OK, McGrory says, because George Bush truly believes in his cause. He believes it 100 percent.
Were stunned by McGrorys reasoning. First, were amazed that the scribe seems to think he can see the souls of public officials. How does McGrory know that Bush is uniquely sincere in the action he takes? The scribe doesnt try to explain it. Beyond that, were amazed that McGrory stresses Bushs pure motives above the perils he describes. Americans can only hope Bush will somehow get it right, McGrory says. But what truly matters in all this? What truly matters is the fact that Bush truly believes in the depths of his heart and the corners of his soul that what he is doing is just.
Of course, when Brian David Mitchell kidnapped Elizabeth Smart, he truly believed in the depths of his heart that what he was doing was just. To anyone except Peter Pan, the merits of a persons action counts much more than his motive. But to oddball pundits like McGrory, all that matters is Bushs assumed purity of motiveand the fact that Bush isnt Bill Clinton. Yes, dear readers, it all comes down to the fact that George Bush just isnt Bill:
MCGRORY: I spent nearly three years following Bill Clinton around the planet as this papers White House correspondent It was a time in which every presidential proposal and proclamation was based on an intense political calculation. He didnt pick a vacation spot without asking his pollster.Why is Bushs shake of the dice OK? Because he isnt Clinton! (And theres your old favorite, Monica Lewinsky, right in the middle of this piece on Iraq!) McGrory assumes that Bushs action isnt based on political calculation, as it would have been with ol Debbil Clinton. For that reason, the pundit praises Bush to the skieseven as he lists the disasters that we can only hope will never occur.
We cant imagine why McGrory thinks he can look into Bushs and Clintons souls. We cant imagine why he thinks he knows Bushs calculations. But one aspect of your pundit corps is nicely laid out in this bizarro piece. McGrory sees apocalypse all aroundbut at least we dont have to put up with Clinton. We advise you to read this odd piece top to end. Truly, we have a strange, troubling breed at the top of our national discourse.
WHEN LAST WE MET: When last we looked in on Brian McGrory, he was telling us all about John Kerry. Why does the press dislike Kerry so? McGrory offered the oddball complaints which come so naturally to this press corps. (Example: The weirdo scribe was troubled by the way Kerry asks for snacks at a bar. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/17/03.) But then McGrory broke the code. Why were pundits troubled by Kerry? When he was single, he had too many girl friends! Where do they find them? Where do they come from? What happened in childhood to make them so strange? And what on earth did we ever do to deserve the reign of this disturbed corps of pundits?
GITLIN: Part of the problem at the Post is the mildness and self-vexation of liberals. Regular columnists Hoagland, Kelly, George F. Will and Charles Krauthammer abhor doubt; [liberal] counterparts [William] Raspberry, Richard Cohen, E. J. Dionne Jr. and Mary McGrory are in the doubt business. Now, theres value in unpredictability. Doubt, including self-doubt, is refreshing in pundits. But the doubt ratio is terribly skewedin American politics overall, not just at the Post. When you are the only serious daily newspaper in the nations capital, even if you have been yanked rightward by the governments center of gravity, you should stoke up the strongest possible counterarguments.We disagree with this presentation. Raspberry, Cohen and Mary McGrory arent burdened by doubt; theyre principally burdened by utter, screaming laziness. Their recent clowning about Colin Powell was just the latest example. Nor is it entirely clear why these pundits should still be listed as liberals. In particular, Mary McGrory and Cohen embarrassed themselves with their trivial work during Campaign 2000. What liberal principals do these pundits assert? During Campaign 2000, these pundits cared deeply about Al Gores clothes, and seemed to care about very little else.