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AN EMBLEM OF THE TIME! Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss! So said Jon Chait to Bob Kagan: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, AUGUST 8, 2006

AND NOW, THEY START IN ON THE NEXT: Quite wisely, Ezra Klein links to this troubling report about Dem hatred of Hillary Clinton. (For Klein’s perceptive post, just click here.) We Dems and libs can be easy to program—and for the most part, our “liberal leaders” have been unwilling to explain how the Dem-trashing system works. It’s the law! You can say any damn thing about Major Dems—about their troubling motives and character. You know that your claims won’t be challenged or contradicted—and that many people will start to believe them. More on this in the next few days. But that report about Hillary-hatred should be very disturbing—unless you think that Saint McCain’s wars will be much more “authentic” than Bush’s.

By the way, James Boyce has a very worthwhile post on this topic. Or should we be asking ourselves why Boyce has such an “irrational fear of hippies?”

AN EMBLEM OF THE TIME: To his modest semi-credit, Jonathan Chait offers this critique of Robert Kagan’s cult-like column from Sunday’s Post. “I like Robert Kagan's work a lot,” Chait writes, playing a bit of kiss-kiss, “but this column on Joe Lieberman is simply incredible.” Chait is semi-tough in his piece—but no, not nearly tough (or perceptive) enough. Again and again, Kagan simply makes it up in this cult-like bit of pundit palaver. But then, we libs and Dems have let them do this for years. When will say, not again?

Like Chait, we’ll start by noting a part of Kagan’s column with which we semi-agree. Kagan says that many libs (and many cons) have been disingenuous as they’ve reversed their previous support for the war:
KAGAN (9/7/06): Lieberman stands condemned today because he didn't recant. He didn't say he was wrong. He didn't turn on his former allies and condemn them. He didn't claim to be the victim of a hoax. He didn't try to pretend that he never supported the war in the first place. He didn't claim to be led into support for the war by a group of writers and intellectuals whom he can now denounce. He didn't go through a public show of agonizing and phony soul-baring and apologizing in the hopes of resuscitating his reputation, as have some noted "public intellectuals."

These have been the chosen tactics of self-preservation ever since events in Iraq started to go badly and the war became unpopular. Prominent intellectuals, both liberal and conservative, have turned on their friends and allies in an effort to avoid opprobrium for a war they publicly supported.
We don’t agree with everything Kagan suggests, but we think that passage is close to right. More specifically, we think many pols who voted for the 2002 war resolution have been less than frank, in recent years, in explaining why they did so. Did they really believe that President Bush wanted to avoid a war with Iraq? We find that hard to believe. Did they really think the US was threatened by such chem/bio weapons as Iraq might have had? We find that unpersuasive, too. Others made a wiser judgment in the fall of 02; even if Saddam did have chem/bio, they said, that didn’t justify rushing to war. Those people made the wiser judgment. We’d guess that others have fudged a bit in explaining away their bad vote.

But that’s as far as we can go in agreeing with Kagan’s column. Indeed, Kagan is writing straight from la-la land as he invents some absurd bits of history—and as he slanders one of our wisest Big Dems. (But then, what else is new?) Does the Post let Kagan just make this sh*t up? Does anyone edit the Post op-ed page? Apparently, the answers are yes and no. This column is bad beyond belief—a tribute to press corps dysfunction.

First problem: Early on, Kagan pretends that he’s trying to discern why Dems are so upset with Lieberman. Surely, the average sixth-grader could lay this out better, so often has this been explained by those who are angry with Joe. And uh-oh! In the course of offering his Potemkin explanation, Kagan starts to reinvent history. For starters, he makes these absurd claims:
KAGAN (9/7/06): The question of the day is, what makes Joe Lieberman different? What makes him now anathema to a Democratic Party and to liberal columnists who once supported both him and the war? Why is there now a chance he will lose the Democratic primary in Connecticut after so many years of faithfully serving that state and his own party? ...

It will not be because he is a hawk. Lest anyone forget, Lieberman was put on the 2000 ticket partly because he was a foreign policy and defense hawk, and most emphatically on the question of Iraq. In the 1990s he was the leading sponsor of a Senate resolution, which eventually passed with 98 votes, to provide money to Iraqis for the express purpose of overthrowing Hussein. This was what made him attractive to Democrats in 2000. It made him a fitting companion to that other hawk on the ticket, Al Gore. For remember, Gore, too, had gained the nomination as a relative hard-liner on foreign policy, including policy on Iraq.
Is that true? Was Lieberman put on the 2000 ticket “partly because he was a foreign policy and defense hawk, and most emphatically on the question of Iraq?” “Partly” is a flexible word, but Kagan escapes the bounds of reason when he speaks about Lieberman’s work as “the leading sponsor of a Senate resolution, which eventually passed with 98 votes, to provide money to Iraqis for the express purpose of overthrowing Hussein.” It’s fairly clear, from Kagan’s past work (he has written versions of this column before), that he refers to the Iraq Liberation Act, passed in October 1998. But uh-oh! Back when Gore named Lieberman as his running-mate, Kagan described this same episode somewhat differently:
KAGAN (8/13/00): Lieberman thinks the Clinton administration has been inept in dealing with Saddam Hussein and downright deceptive about implementing legislation to aid Iraqis who seek Saddam's ouster. A couple of years ago Lieberman was so dissatisfied with Clinton's Iraq policy that he joined Trent Lott in sponsoring legislation to provide Saddam's opponents with $97 million worth of aid. Clinton officials, of course, hated the idea, but it passed the Senate overwhelmingly.
Even that was a bit of an overstatement. In fact, the legislation passed the Senate by a voice vote, and in real time, we can find no one giving Lieberman anything like equal billing with Lott as the bill’s sponsor. (In real time, the Post never mentioned Lieberman at all, attributing Senate sponsorship to Lott, with an assist to Bob Kerrey.) But modern pundits just luv to embellish. By 2000, Kagan had turned Lieberman into Lott’s equal on this matter, and now he’s given Joe another upgrade; we are now asked to imagine that Lieberman was the Senate resolution’s “leading sponsor.”

No, Lieberman doesn’t seem to have been “the leading sponsor of [this] Senate resolution.” But the real absurdity in that passage from Kagan’s current piece is the claim that Lieberman was hailed as Gore’s pick because he’d sponsored this Senate bill, or because he’d been so tough on Iraq in general. This is perfect nonsense. In fact, Gore named Lieberman on August 7, 2000; in the next three days, the Post ran 36 reports and columns which mentioned “Gore AND Lieberman” (Nexis search). But uh-oh! Only three of the 36 pieces even mentioned “Iraq OR Saddam OR Gulf War” in a way which related to Lieberman at all; as a general matter, they cited Lieberman’s vote for the Gulf War, in a very perfunctory manner. (The numbers were similar at the New York Times—as were the perfunctory mentions of Lieberman’s 1991 vote.) There was a great deal of commentary about the fact that Lieberman was the first Jewish nominee; there was a lot of commentary about his criticism of Clinton’s conduct with Monica Lewinsky. But was Lieberman “attractive to Democrats in 2000" because of the Iraq Liberation Act? Kagan’s claim is patent nonsense—but what followed in Sunday’s column was worse. Try to believe that he wrote this passage—and that Chait didn’t say boo about it:
KAGAN (8/7/06): These have been the chosen tactics of self-preservation ever since events in Iraq started to go badly and the war became unpopular. Prominent intellectuals, both liberal and conservative, have turned on their friends and allies in an effort to avoid opprobrium for a war they publicly supported. Journalists have turned on their fellow journalists in an effort to make them scapegoats for the whole profession. Politicians have twisted themselves into pretzels to explain away their support for the war or, better still, to blame someone else for persuading them to support it.

Al Gore, the one-time Clinton administration hawk, airbrushed that history from his record. He turned on all those with whom he once agreed about Iraq and about many other foreign policy questions. And for this astonishing reversal he has been applauded by his fellow Democrats
and may even get the party's nomination.

Apparently, amazingly, dispiritingly, it all works. At least in the short run, dishonesty pays. Dissembling pays.
Dishonesty pays? Dissembling pays? Surely, Kagan’s the expert on that! Incredibly, a person might think, from reading that nonsense, that Gore is one of the prominent people who have “dishonestly” “twisted themselves into pretzels to explain away their support for the war.” No, Kagan doesn’t actually say that, if you read his words with elaborate care. But in what way did Al Gore “turn on all those with whom he once agreed about Iraq and about many other foreign policy questions?” Here’s how: He judged correctly about the Gulf War—then judged correctly about the war in Iraq! As we all must know by now, Gore judged right about these wars both times. But in Kagan’s column, only one person is singled out, by name, for criticism about those “astonishing reversals”—for criticism about all that “dishonesty.” And that one named person is (who else?) Al Gore! The guy who was right both damn times!

It’s hard to find words for the goony dysfunction put on display in this new Kagan column. Kagan’s “logic” is clear, and here it is—unless you support war proposals every time, you’ll be singled out for attack. More specifically, you’ll be accused of “turning on those with whom you once agreed” if you don’t voter with The Cult every time. Yes, this is a work of cultish illogic—and it surely misled many readers with its tortured, bizarre claims about Gore. But so what? Fred Hiatt sat and started into space, then waved it on into print.

No, Virginia. Joe Lieberman wasn’t “the leading [Senate] sponsor” of the Iraq Liberation Act. And no, Joe Lieberman wasn’t “attractive to Democrats in 2000" because of his hawkish views on Iraq. And most importantly: No, Al Gore didn’t “turn on all those with whom he once agreed” when he warned against this war with Iraq—unless you live in the cultish world in which crackpots like Kagan so plainly reside. But then, dissembling about our Big Major Dems has been this press corps’ leading pastime since 1992, when the New York Times ran those still-unexplained Whitewater stories. This is just the latest trashing of Gore—the latest in an endless succession. And surprise—Jonathan Chait didn’t notice! You can say any damn thing about Major Dems—because you know that the Chaits won’t complain.

What an emblem of the time! One person is criticized by name in Kagan’s column—the person who got it right both times! Of all the people who have taken stands, he is criticized by name as “dishonest”—and our good career liberals all agree not to notice. Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss! They like Kagan’s work a lot! But so it has gone for year after year as Major Dems are turned into jokes by our cultish lords—and their handmaidens.

THE FIRST CULTISH PUNDIT: The headline on Kagan’s column? Omigod! “The Last Honest Man!” Truly, this group has become a cult. But when will our timid “career liberals” notice? When will they dare to mention the cultish way in which every Big Dem gets attacked?