WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2002
ECCE PUNDIT: What fools these mortals be?, the bard mused. If you rankle at that view, look in today on David Broder.
How have Dems and Reps come down on Iraq? In his second paragraph, Broder describes the state of the GOP fairly accurately:
BRODER (pgh 2): While some significant Republicanssuch as Sens. Richard Lugar and Chuck Hagelhave offered modulated and intelligent criticism of President Bushs approach, most in the GOP have fallen quickly into line behind Bushs determination to force the issue with Iraq, even if it means war.
With even Dick Armey (and Lugar) supporting Bush now, that statement is basically accurate. In his third paragraph, Broder goes on to consider the Dems. He notes the relative lack of uniformity in the stands of congressional Democrats:
BRODER (pgh 3): By contrast, the Democrats most prominent leaders and spokesmen have taken wildly opposing positions, leaving the public with no clear idea where the opposition party stands.
Its absurd to say that congressional Dems have adopted wildly opposing positions on Iraq. But it is surely true that congressional Dems are less unified than their GOP counterparts.
So what makes this column the playpen of fools? The way Broder frames this distinction. Read his incredible opening paragraph, in which he implies that GOP unity is a sign of mental health, while Dems show a lingering psychiatric affliction. Yes, The Dean really wrote this:
BRODER (pgh 1): The disarray and despondency among Democrats this week demonstrate once again the damage that Vietnam did to the generation now leading that party. Those who went to war in Southeast Asia when they were young and those who protested it in the streets and on the campuses both carry the scars of the experience into the current debate on the showdown with Saddam Hussein.
Broderplaying shrink, as fools run to dooffers a ludicrous judgment. The facts that Dems dont all agree shows that they carry the scars of Nam. By contrast, the fact that Republicans have all fallen into line somehow shows thatwell, what does it show? In Broders view, the fact that Dems dont hold one view calls for psychiatric explanation. The fact that Republicans all share a view is subject to no such deconstruction.
Incredible, isnt it? To Broder, its strange when people dont agree on how to deal with a difficult, dangerous situation. By contrast, when a partys members all fall into line, that seems to show inner health.
Surely, the oddness of this view is apparent. But what manner of fool will we mortals be? Broder keeps playing the shrink:
BRODER (pgh 8): And you could hear the echoes of Vietnam also in Daschles extraordinarily emotional speech condemning President Bushs comment that the Senate is not interested in the security of the American people. The off-the-cuff remark, made in reference to the dispute over the Department of Homeland Security, not Iraq, was one that never should have passed Bushs lips; it was an offensive exaggeration and an imprudent venting of presidential frustration. But you cannot avoid thinking that the fury of Daschles response had much to do with memories of the way Presidents Johnson and Nixon questioned the patriotism of Daschles contemporaries who opposed the war in Vietnam.
One again, the Doctor is IN as Broder shrinks Daschle. Daschles anger at Bushs remark, which Broder himself calls offensive and imprudent? According to Broder, Daschles anger at Bushs remark was all part of Vietnam too!
The stupidity of this presentation is obvious. But lets also note what can only be described by an unpleasant, naughty word: wh*ring (see A NOTE ON LANGUAGE, below). Broder says that Bushs statement was wrong; it was offensive and imprudent, the Pundit Dean says, and never should have passed Bushs lips. But Brodera timid little fellowalso seems eager to fall into line behind a commander with wonderful poll numbers. Broder cant bring himself to criticize Bush without mouthing White House spin as he doeseven spin that is patently bogus. Bushs remark was off the cuff, he excusesignoring the fact that Bush had made many such statements before the one Daschle challenged. And he notes that Bush was discussing Homeland Security, not Iraq, mouthing the absurdly irrelevant spin-point the White House instantly ran up the pole in an effort to defend Bushs comment. Broder cant bring himself to note the obviousBush made a dumb remark, as we often dowithout rushing to mouth Official Excuses, showing that the statement wasnt really all that awful.
No such excuses are extended to Dems. Indeed, when Dems disagreeas free people always doits treated as a psychiatric occurrence. By contrast, when the GOP falls quickly into line, that conduct is perfectly normal! Why, oh why, does David Broder rush to play shrink at the Dems expense? Perhaps because a timid man is also rushing to fall into line. Or perhaps its more simplethe bard was right. The folly could be held back no longer.
FINAL POINT, BY FAR MOST IMPORTANT: Right to the end of this pitiful column, Broder continues his shrink rap:
BRODER (pgh 9): The people now governing the countrymen and women from their late forties to their early sixtieshave not yet come to terms with the issues that divided them when they were coming of age politically a quarter-century ago. Vietnam was not the only such issuecivil rights, womens rights, abortion rights also split the countrybut it was the most contentious.
What in the world did we ever do to deserve such work at the top of our press corps? The fact that Dems have different views on Iraq is the most normal situation imaginable. But Broder keeps insisting that this normal state is somehow a shadow of Vietnamthat it means that the Dems havent come to terms with old, vexing issues. Its hard to avoid an obvious conclusion: Theres at least one guy who cant get past Nam. But that man isalas!David Broder.
(pgh 10) Both sides still maintain they were right. The protesters still believe the war was unnecessary, unwinnable and even immoral. The supporters still argue that it could have been won, and should have been, were it not for the dissent at home.
(pgh 11) The scars of that unresolved argument make it even harder to judge todays security policy questionsas this Iraq debate is demonstrating.
Final point, by far most important: As Broder suggests in his final graph, American citizens desperately need to judge todays security policy questions. But what makes that so hard to do? Heres what: Its hard to do because stewards like Broder waste their time on such worthless presentations. There isnt a single word in this piece that helps untangle the current debate. Instead, Broder squanders his space playing shrink. What have we done to deserve such work at the head of our national press corps?
A NOTE ON LANGUAGE: Weve never used that word before. But sometimes, no other is suitable. Broders spinning and pandering in paragraph 8 is simply a full-blown embarrassment. Why is it hard for citizens to judge these great issues? Because bears like Broder wont stop pandering, even at times of great crisis.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: The pander bear never changes its spots. For a bit of vintage pandering by Broder, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/26/98 and 9/1/98. And if you read these pieces, just imagine! Just imagine that the guy who conveniently flipped on the government shutdowns is now playing shrink to the Democrats.