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Caveat lector

THE DOCTOR IS IN! The doctor is IN as a pandering pundit plays shrink in this morning’s WashPost:


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 Republicans—such as Sens. Richard Lugar and Chuck Hagel—have offered modulated and intelligent criticism of President Bush’s approach, most in the GOP have fallen quickly into line behind Bush’s 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.
It’s 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.
Broder—playing shrink, as fools run to do—offers a ludicrous judgment. The facts that Dems don’t all agree shows that they “carry the scars” of Nam. By contrast, the fact that Republicans have all “fallen into line” somehow shows that—well, what does it show? In Broder’s view, the fact that Dems don’t hold one view calls for psychiatric explanation. The fact that Republicans all share a view is subject to no such deconstruction.

Incredible, isn’t it? To Broder, it’s strange when people don’t agree on how to deal with a difficult, dangerous situation. “By contrast,” when a party’s 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 Daschle’s extraordinarily emotional speech condemning President Bush’s 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 Bush’s lips; it was an offensive exaggeration and an imprudent venting of presidential frustration. But you cannot avoid thinking that the fury of Daschle’s response had much to do with memories of the way Presidents Johnson and Nixon questioned the patriotism of Daschle’s contemporaries who opposed the war in Vietnam.
One again, the Doctor is IN as Broder shrinks Daschle. Daschle’s anger at Bush’s remark, which Broder himself calls “offensive” and “imprudent?” According to Broder, Daschle’s anger at Bush’s remark was all part of Vietnam too!

The stupidity of this presentation is obvious. But let’s also note what can only be described by an unpleasant, naughty word: wh*ring (see A NOTE ON LANGUAGE, below). Broder says that Bush’s statement was wrong; it was “offensive” and “imprudent,” the Pundit Dean says, and “never should have passed Bush’s lips.” But Broder—a timid little fellow—also seems eager to “fall into line” behind a commander with wonderful poll numbers. Broder can’t bring himself to criticize Bush without mouthing White House spin as he does—even spin that is patently bogus. Bush’s remark was “off the cuff,” he excuses—ignoring 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 Bush’s comment. Broder can’t bring himself to note the obvious—Bush made a dumb remark, as we often do—without rushing to mouth Official Excuses, showing that the statement wasn’t really all that awful.

No such excuses are extended to Dems. Indeed, when Dems disagree—as free people always do—it’s 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 it’s more simple—the 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 country—men and women from their late forties to their early sixties—have 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 issue—civil rights, women’s rights, abortion rights also split the country—but it was the most contentious.

(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 today’s security policy questions—as this Iraq debate is demonstrating.

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 Vietnam—that it means that the Dems “haven’t come to terms” with old, vexing issues. It’s hard to avoid an obvious conclusion: There’s at least one guy who can’t get past Nam. But that man is—alas!—David Broder.

Final point, by far most important: As Broder suggests in his final graph, American citizens desperately need to “judge today’s security policy questions.” But what makes that so hard to do? Here’s what: It’s hard to do because stewards like Broder waste their time on such worthless presentations. There isn’t 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: We’ve never used that word before. But sometimes, no other is suitable. Broder’s 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 won’t stop pandering, even at times of great crisis.

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.