MONDAY, MARCH 24, 2003
A RACE OF SADDAMS: Tomorrow evening, our entire staff will have the honor of addressing the Maryland Press Club. We had planned to spend the next two days preparing incomparable comments. But Robert Novaks column in this mornings Post really does cry out for comment. We offer a link to the Novak piece as it appears in the Chicago Sun-Times. (No link to the Post is available.)
As readers know, the conservative Novak has opposed the Bush Admin policy regarding Iraq. And given the times in which we live, that of course makes him a traitor. In the National Review, former Bush speechwriter David Frum has gone after antiwar cons:
NOVAK: We are accused of advocating a fearful policy of ignoring threats and appeasing enemies. Concluding, [Frum] writes of us: [T]hey are thinking about defeat, and wishing for it, and they will take pleasure if it should happen. They began by hating the neo-conservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.In todays column, Novak responds to Frum, who represents a body of conservative opinion that wants to delegitimize criticism from the right of policy that has led to war against Iraq. Needless to say, Frums piece bears this headline: Unpatriotic Conservatives.
Of course, Frums attack on Novak is just the latest in a long wave of such attacks. As soon as September 11 occurred, crackpot members of the talk-show right began looking for traitors to demonize. For our money, the stupidest among them was the loudmouth Michelle Malkin; stymied by the near-total lack of anti-American comments in the wake of September 11, she stooped to attacking a high school student who had been quoted in a small local newspaper (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/25/01). Its hard to get much dumber than that, but the ranting Ann Coulter soon gave it a try. Showcasing the nasty hysteria sweeping her cohort, Coulter suggested that we should force all Middle Eastern Muslims to convert to Christianity; said that John Walker Lindh should be executed, as a warning to other liberals; and lamented the fact that Timothy McVeigh didnt blow up the New York Times Building. This is the kind of crackpot performance which leads us to Frums hapless piece.
How stupid can people get at times of war? People can get very stupid. For example, they claim that those who oppose a war are somehow against the troops! Youre rightits hard to get dumber than that. But who knows? Perhaps they believe that, in the American system, the troops decide when wars should be fought. That, of course, would be very stupid. But stress makes these folks deeply stupid.
What do we learn from the Frums and the Coulters? That American valuesindeed, that all post-Enlightenment, western-world valuesare a very recent overlay, superimposed on much older impulses. These impulses undermine the western values we commonly claim to hold dear. These impulses were selected for millions of years ago, in the distant, pre-human past. They promote ancestral, pre-western thinking. The Frums and the Coulters give them voice.
What do these impulses tell us to think? They tell us that our own specific tribe must be rightand that all other tribes must be evil and wrong. These impulses say that those who disagree with our views must disagree out of evil. They tell us to stamp out those who disagreeto brand them Enemies of the State. And remember: These impulses are lodged in the human soul. Right up to this very day, these ancient impulses will persuade all those who dont choose to resist them.
What values do these impulses promote? Of course! They promote Saddamism! It is precisely the values of Saddams Iraq that Frum is now espousing. Frums tribehis tribe, and none otheris presumed to be morally right and sincere. All other tribes are presumed to be evildenounced as duplicitous traitors. This nonsense began when the ludicrous Malkin went after a high school kids random remark. And now, Malkins colleagues are so overwrought that they are trying to devour their old colleagues.
Saddamism! The impulse is found all over the world. But heres the question we pose today: Why do we go to Canada (Frum) and to England (Andrew Sullivan) to bring Saddam here to this country?
NOVAK: Dealing with statements about me even so calumnious as Frums might seem petty in time of war. But broader issues are at stake. Frum represents a body of conservative opinion that wants to delegitimize criticism from the right of policy that has led to war against Iraq.Ah, how selective the pundit chooses to be! Novak only complains that Frum would shut down criticism from the right. Then he launches a calumny against the left, reaching thirty years back in time to make a sweeping denunciation. But then, its Saddamism, dear friends! Novaks tribe should be able to speak. The other tribe really does hate this country.
In the Sun-Times, Novaks column has been edited; the last sentence we have quoted above doesnt appear in his piece. In this bit of editing, the Sun-Times kept a stupid statement out of its pagesand kept readers from seeing the prehistoric soul of the newspapers most famous patriot.