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SOPHISTS OF THE WORLD UNITE! Andrew Sullivan just keeps on spinnin.’ At the Post, Krauthammer does too:


WE ONCE REJECTED RULE BY KINGS: Our king of fakers is at it again, in this morning’s column:

MAKING THE CASE: It seems to me that the critical part of President Bush’s elegantly constructed speech last night was his rebuttal of the only credible and responsible line of criticism from the Democrats:
Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror…Terror cells and outlaw regimes building weapons of mass destruction are different faces of the same evil. Our security requires that we confront both. And the United States military is capable of confronting both.
As brief as this discussion is, it’s persuasive. When anti-war Democrats argue that we cannot “focus” on both Al Qaeda and Iraq, they make no sense at all. Philosophically, pre-empting terrorists from getting weapons of mass destruction must logically include preventing the allies of terrorists from harboring such weapons. And practically, I’ve yet to read a single, credible military account of why we cannot both disarm and remove Saddam and keep up the pressure on Al Qaeda at home and abroad.
Will this guy ever stop faking? Gore (and Brent Scowcroft) didn’t argue that we couldn’t “focus” on both al Qaeda and Iraq. They argued that pursuing a unilateral War on Saddam would alienate nations whose help we need in the War on Terror. That might be right and it might be wrong, but it isn’t especially hard to state. President Bush didn’t address this claim last night. But note how “Clintonesque” Sullivan is in his precisely-parsed passage:
SULLIVAN: I’ve yet to read a single, credible military account of why we cannot both disarm and remove Saddam and keep up the pressure on Al Qaeda at home and abroad.
Nice try. But Gore (and Scowcroft) didn’t offer a “military account” of the two-war problem. The problem they cited was diplomatic. Sully’s slip-sliding again.

As we’ve told you, this sort of thing isn’t going to stop, even in the face of a dangerous war. The human race has always churned out Andrew Sullivans, and will continue to do so for millenia to come. Socrates warned us against Sully’s kind. But the sophists—like the tyrants—just keep comin.’

SMALL GIFTS: In a time of spin and great distraction, we ought to be grateful for minor advances. At THE HOWLER, we’re grateful for David Von Drehle’s front-page piece in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Von Drehle tried to bring a bit of clarity to the muddled debate on Iraq. He lists eight basic questions about the unfolding situation—basic question which the press has often obscured in its desire to push its treasured spins and in its desire to speculate about Big Pols’ Motives. If the press corps focussed on Von Drehle’s questions, citizens might gain a better understanding of the fundamentals of the current debate.

In our view, Von Drehle pushes Question One down to third on his list. Is there some sort of UN inspection regime that could satisfy fears about Saddam’s weapons? Some observers say there is not—that it is simply not possible for an outside agency to determine if weapon research goes on. But Von Drehle lists other basic questions—questions the press corps has often skipped in its desire to show off its mind-reading skills and in its pursuit of key trivia.

Von Drehle’s list should be explored. Leave the mind-reading to John Edwards—the cable psychic, not the corps’ favorite solon.

THE SPIN GOES ON: If Von Drehle wants to clarify things, he has a tough row to hoe. Other scribes seek to confuse and distort. For example, consider Charles Krauthammer’s op-ed column, also in yesterday’s Post.

“There are two logically coherent positions on war with Iraq,” the scribe writes. “Hawks favor war on grounds that Saddam Hussein is reckless, tyrannical and instinctively aggressive.” On the other hand, “[d]oves oppose war on the grounds that the risks exceed the gains.” Sadly, though, three major Dems like a third approach, CK says, one which he finds incoherent. Railing at their foolish ways, Krauthammer misstates what at least two of these solons have said:

KRAUTHAMMER: But, ah, there is a third way. It is the position of Democratic Party elders Al Gore, Ted Kennedy (both of whom delivered impassioned speeches attacking the president’s policy) and, as far as can be determined, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. This third way accepts all the premises of the antiwar camp. It gives us all the reasons why war could be catastrophic: chemical or bio-weapon attacks, door-to-door fighting in Baghdad, alienating allies, destroying the worldwide coalition of the war on terror, encouraging the recruitment of new terrorists, etc.

Moreover, they argue, deterrence works. “I have seen no persuasive evidence,” said Kennedy, “that Saddam would not be deterred from attacking U.S. interests by America’s overwhelming military superiority.” So far, so good. But then these senior Democratic critics, having eviscerated the president’s premises, proceed to enthusiastically endorse his conclusion—that Saddam Hussein’s weapons facilities must be subjected to the most intrusive and far-reaching inspection, and that if he cheats and refuses to cooperate, we must go to war against him.

“This is utterly incoherent,” Krauthammer rails. After all, if deterrence works, why would you need to conduct inspections? Why would you ever need war?

Sadly, the incoherence—and the dissembling—are Krauthammer’s. As the scribe himself seems to admit, Daschle hasn’t said much like this. And neither, of course, has Gore. In his speech, Gore didn’t assert that “deterrence works.” Gore expressed a simple view—a unilateral War on Saddam would be a mistake. We should continue our War on Terror while we work to build a coalition against Saddam. If Saddam won’t agree to suitable curbs, multilateral action may be necessary later.

There’s nothing “logically incoherent” about that, but it somehow has Krauthammer bollixed. Meanwhile, what did Kennedy say on deterrence? Here is his fuller statement:

KENNEDY: In recent weeks, in briefings and in hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have seen no persuasive evidence that Saddam would not be deterred from attacking U.S. interests by America’s overwhelming military superiority. I have heard no persuasive evidence that Saddam is on the threshold of acquiring the nuclear weapons he has sought for more than 20 years. And the administration has offered no persuasive evidence that Saddam would transfer chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaida or any other terrorist organization.
How firm is Kennedy’s faith in deterrence? He doesn’t say what he would do if he thought Saddam was close to getting nukes, or was sharing his chem and bio weapons. Kennedy’s faith in deterrence seems to have limits:
KENNEDY: I do not accept the idea that trying other alternatives is either futile or perilous, that the risks of waiting are greater than the risk of war. Indeed, in launching a war against Iraq now, the United States may precipitate the very threat that we are intent on preventing: weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists.
Kennedy opposes launching war “now.” Because he doesn’t believe that Saddam has nukes, or is sharing his toys with al Qaeda. Kennedy favors “trying other alternatives” before we march off to war.

You may think that’s a risky gamble. But as an argument, it ain’t hard to follow. Sadly, though, Krauthammer pretends that it’s “incoherent,” and he attributes views to Gore and Daschle which neither man seems to have expressed. If Von Drehle wants to clarify things, he surely has his work cut out. Even in the face of a dangerous war, the silly spinning doesn’t stop in other key parts of his paper.

Ted and Al say they don’t want war against Saddam now. Maybe that’s a bad idea, but the position is hardly “incoherent.” Too bad CK won’t address the merits, and help DVD stamp out confusion.

AND COLIN MAKES TWO: Meanwhile, in a column adjoining Krauthammer’s, Robert Novak said this:

NOVAK: When Bush decided to ask for a congressional war resolution, its authors inside the administration wanted to make it as unlike Powell as possible. The secretary of state was embarrassed during Biden’s hearings two weeks ago to admit the resolution was drafted not at the State Department but in the office of White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez.

The original resolution granted a presidential hunting license throughout the Middle East (contrasted with Powell’s testimony that “deterrence” is still a “tried-and-true” U.S. policy).

So apparently, it’s Kennedy and Powell who are “logically incoherent.” We can’t help wondering how Daschle and Gore found their way into Krauthammer’s column.

(Sorry, we can’t link to Novak’s column. For reasons we’ve never understood—we even asked at one point—the Post doesn’t make them available.)