5 September 1998
Minor mishaps, Volume II: Lynch mobs aint real big on proof
Synopsis: Michael Kelly has a whole bunch of real big complaints. He just doesnt want to waste his time proving them.
The End of the Clinton Show
Michael Kelly, The Washington Post, 9/2/98
As our celebrity lynch mob races through town, well admit one thing about Michael Kelly. Unlike some others in this front-running crew, hes been runnin around, yellin and actin crazy for years. (For example, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/xx/98.) We always turn to a Kelly piece with an expectation of eye-rolling fun--and he doesnt disappoint with this puzzling pastiche of Bad Things The Clinton People Have Done To Us.
Evoking The Truman Show andFrancis Fukuyama, Kelly paints a Really Big Picture. According to Mike, the Clinton Show has come to an end, brought down by Two Real Bad Ideas (well spare you). Heres the problem: Kelly cites three examples of how bad things are, with Clinton bumbling all over the globe. But in every one of his three examples, he doesnt try to show us there was something correctibly wrong with the policy the Clinton folk gave us.
KELLY: Confronted with the reality of North Koreas nuclear program, the Clinton administration delivers the appearance of peace in our time. In exchange for our generous financial assistance, North Korea, it is declared, has agreed to abandon its naughty nuclear dreams. Four years later, the news is that North Korea seems to be building a massive nuclear weapons underground plant.
Thats the entire passage. In short: we tried to negotiate with a crackpot regime, and the regime has gone back on its word. But Kelly shows us no evidence--none at all--that this was some sort of hare-brained effort; does Kelly suggest we take military action against allthe rogue regimes of the world? Kelly provides no evidence that the approach to Pyongyang was anything but a reasoned gamble, taken with the understanding that it might not work in the end. Maybe this wasa silly effort; but Kelly doesnt bother to argue the point. In Kellys world, the fact that international initiatives dont work every time is simple evidence that Daddys Real Stupid.
KELLY: Confronted with the reality of Iraqs refusal to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, the administration declares its support for the U.N. Special Commission inspectors in Iraq. Then, on Aug. 26, comes the resignation of William S. Ritter, the longest-serving weapons inspector in Iraq. The highly respected Ritter says that the administration has supported a secret Security Council decision to abandon serious inspections in a surrender to Iraqi leadership. On ABC-TVs This Week, Ritter asserts that...
Etc. etc. And the highly respected Madeleine Albright asserts that Ritter doesnt have the first clue. Is Ritters judgment sound? Or is Albright right? Again, Kelly doesnt bother to argue the matter. Hey! With a celebrity lynch mob runnin through town, how much evidence does an angry-man need? Scott Ritters been sayin Bill Clintons A Dope? By the rules of the game, He Speaks Truly!
KELLY: Confronted with the reality of a Russia that is a kleptocracy and that for years has been running increasingly out of the control of a president who is only technically not dead, the administration has chosen to see progress in what is something closer to a free fall toward anarchy.
Were not funnin you--thats the example! Thats every word Kelly wrote on this topic! The fact that Clinton hasnt said Russia sucks is the third example of Michael Kellys Complaint.
To state the obvious, all of these may be examples of bad judgment, but Kelly never bothers to arguehis case. He nowheremarshals anyevidence that his examples are examples of bad policy. He nowhere makes the slightest effort to say what the White House should do instead. Runnin through town with this celebrity press corps, he seems to believe that a list of things-that-arent-great-in-the-world represents evidence that Bill Clintons Full Of Doody.
Conceivably, Kelly could have written a helpful column on any one of his three case studies. Perhaps if hed actually made an effort, he could have shown that something was correctibly wrongin the actions he cites. But, when youre running through town with the rope on your arm, youre no longer driven to argue your view. You can yell and shout, and list things that arent great, and pass it in to your editor.
Is Iraq an example of flawed public policy? Maybe it is, but one things for sure--it isnt flawed policy just because Scott Ritter says so. Guess what, folks? College freshmen are expected to argue theirpoints. Why cant this celebrity press corps?