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THINGS FALL APART (PART 3)! Today, George Will does the cutting and pasting. It’s what happens when things fall apart:


WILLING CON-SCRIPT: This morning, George Will does the cutting-and-pasting. Like all willing conscripts—like Jonah Goldberg, and hundreds more—the compliant columnist is deeply disturbed by that talk about imminent threats:

WILL: The administration’s critics would be more credible if they had a few doubts of their own concerning their own judgments…After all, they say, Rumsfeld, the president and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell repeatedly asserted that Iraq’s weapons programs posed an “imminent” threat.

Such assertions by those three officials may have numbered zero.

Perfect copies, every time! Will continues reciting:
WILL: Rumsfeld is more bemused than angered, and certainly not shocked, that critics profess themselves shocked and angered because he, Powell and the president supposedly said, repeatedly, something that none of them actually ever said. At least, says a Rumsfeld aide, an electronic search finds not a single instance of them using the argument that Iraq posed an “imminent” WMD threat to the United States. [Will’s emphasis]
Things fall apart when such dumb, silly clowning takes the place of American discourse.

Did the Bush Admin see—and suggest—an imminent threat? It’s hard to suppress those mordant chuckles when one sees how many people thought so. Last October 7, for example, Dave Boyer of the Washington Times reported that a few “key lawmakers [had] declared their support” for the pending Iraq war resolution. Why had Dick Armey decided to back it? Boyer told you—in the Washington Times:

BOYER (10/7/02): House Majority Leader Dick Armey, one of the few Republican lawmakers who had voiced concerns about attacking Iraq, said the White House has convinced him that Saddam’s weapons buildup is an imminent threat to the United States and Israel. “I’m convinced the snake is out of his hole,” said Mr. Armey, Texas Republican. “So we have to kill him.”
Boyer, at the Washington Times, seemed to think the concern was an “imminent threat.” And why wouldn’t he think such a thing? Here’s what his colleague, Joseph Curl, had reported just one day before:
CURL (10/6/02): President Bush yesterday said Saddam Hussein has a history of attacking his enemies first and could inflict “massive and sudden horror” on the United States, offering a new reason for a pre-emptive military strike against the Iraqi leader.

Mr. Bush said the Iraqi dictator has a “horrible history” of attacking his enemies first.
“We cannot ignore history. We must not ignore reality. We must do everything we can to disarm this man before he hurts one single American,” the president told hundreds of cheering police and National Guardsmen.

Gee! Any way you could think that Saddam posed a threat, or that the threat might be immediate? And was there any way to get that idea from Bush’s speech in Cincinnati, given just one day later? Here was Curl’s opening paragraph:
CURL (10/8/02): President Bush last night said Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is a “murderous tyrant” who could attack the United States “on any given day” using unmanned aerial vehicles loaded with chemical or biological weapons.
That was the opening paragraph, in the Washington Times, about Bush’s biggest fall speech on this subject! Of course Curl himself—at the Washington Times—had long thought an “imminent threat” was at issue. Here’s what he’d written weeks earlier:
CURL (9/21/02): Administration officials have in recent days ratcheted up talk about unilateral U.S. action in the event the United Nations fails to deliver the type of resolution Mr. Bush desires…[S]enior administration officials, including Vice President Richard B. Cheney, have laid out the case for pre-emptive strikes to deal with imminent threats to the United States.
Curl and his editors—at the Washington Times—thought Bush was bruiting an imminent threat. But now, your time is wasted—your discourse is turned into stupid clowning—as Will cuts-and-pastes what he’s handed. Just how stupid is your discourse? It’s stupid all the way to the ground.

But sheer stupidity is what you get when watchdogs slumber, then walk off their posts. Sheer stupidity is what you get when high stewards report “gossip” and “rumor” one week, then hand you silly tales the next about why only Paul Krugman spoke. With that in mind, some readers have complained about this week’s tough talk concerning Russell Baker’s current review. Well yes, we wish it had been someone else—but Baker’s utterly ludicrous tale is merely the latest in a long stream of efforts to keep you from knowing the central fact, the fact that your stewards have walked off their posts. How long will Americans read such dumb tales? Have such foolishness thrown in their faces? Goldberg and Will cut-and-paste silly tales, wasting time and exciting the rubes. You need to know why that’s now the norm—and part of the reason for that is clear. Your high-minded stewards refuse to perform—and keep refusing to say why that’s happened.

NOT THAT THERE WAS ANYTHING WRONG WITH IT: Yes, the Bush Admin saw a threat from Saddam; plainly, they presented that threat as immediate. There would be no harm in making an honest argument—in making the argument, right or wrong, that they thought such prudence was justified. But instead, the lap-dogs are handed fresh, hot copy, telling them to parse and parse hard. Result? Goldberg and Will start cutting-and-pasting, offering tortured distinctions they once called “Clintonesque.” But this is now the shape of your discourse. How dumb does it get when things fall apart? Very dumb. Tune in tomorrow.

LACKING CONVICTION: Have we been referring to Yeats? a reader asks. Actually, we had Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, in mind. But in “The Second Coming,” Yeats described what happens when “[t]hings fall apart; the center cannot hold.” “The best lack all conviction,” he complained, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” No, he’d never heard Sean Hannity, but he seemed to know Sean would be here.

HOW IT WORKS: How does it work? Read Ivins and Dubose’s chapter 4, about Washington lawyer Eugene Scalia and Mississippi catfish-skinner Sherry Durst. Why do “the best lack all conviction?” Simple! They dine at high table with the Scalias, and they don’t give the first flying f*ck about Durst. Then they serve you ludicrous stories about how only Krugman had enough training. Some of you get upset when we say it. But nothing on earth is more clear.