Sunday, December 10, 2006

Rule by the Wrong

Bob Somerby quotes Russ Feingold about the Iraq Study Group's suspect composition, something that goes a long way toward explaining its suspect recommendations. Somerby goes on to make the point that our dysfunctional media is infatuated with the novelization of the story but not so fond of the facts -- in other words, they just make shit up.
On last night’s Countdown, Senator Feingold touched on a key part of our dysfunctional public culture. You might call it “rule by the wrong:”
FEINGOLD (12/6/06): The fact is this [Baker-Hamilton] commission was composed apparently entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism. So that's who is doing this report.

Then I looked at the list of who testified before them. There is virtually no one who opposed the war in the first place. Virtually no one who has been really calling for a different strategy that goes for a global approach to the war on terrorism. So this is really a Washington inside job and it shows, not in the description of what's happened—that's fairly accurate—but it shows in the recommendations.
We’ll let others debate Feingold’s view of the Baker-Hamilton recommendations. For ourselves, we were struck by Feingold’s statement about the make-up of the commission itself. In short, to be considered for the commission, you pretty much had to be wrong from the start. But then, it’s often true in our modern public culture: No one who’s right need apply. We first discussed this weird part of our culture in the case of the sad disappearance of Scott Ritter. Before the war, he was right about WMD in Iraq—and therefore was banned from the discourse (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/4/04).

But if we’re often ruled by the wrong, we get our script from the fatuous. For example, try to believe what Cynthia Tucker said on Sunday’s Chris Matthews Show. Guest host Andrea Mitchell raised the tired old question about Hillary Clinton’s vote to authorize Bush to wage war (described by Mitchell as her “vote for the war”). “Is she vulnerable to a candidate from the left like Barack Obama, who was against the war—even though he didn't have to vote, he wasn't elected then, at that time—or Al Gore?” Mitchell asked. First, Elisabeth Bumiller took a go. Then, Tucker weirdly said this:
TUCKER (12/3/06): She gives a better answer [about her vote] than John Kerry, who said something like “I voted against it before I voted for it.”

MITCHELL: There is no worse answer than John Kerry's.

JOE KLEIN: Right.

TUCKER: Absolutely. I also think that the peacenik wing of the Democratic Party may have learned a lesson from their failures in Connecticut, where Ned Lamont lost in the general election to Joe Lieberman. The simple fact of the matter is, every serious Democrat who was in the Senate at the time voted for the war—or voted to authorize the president—and Al Gore was one of the few Senate Democrats who voted in 1991 for the first Gulf War.
Let’s start with the pundit corps’ persistent failure to observe even the simplest distinctions, or to maintain even modest respect for the facts. Pundits have never tired of mocking Kerry for the statement which Tucker cited. But Kerry wasn’t talking about his vote on the war resolution (his “vote for the war”) when he made the statement Tucker cited; he was talking about his vote, a year later, on a funding measure. But as we’ve long noticed, the people who run our public discourse are in love with novelized tales, not with facts. Once they’ve come up with a pleasing narration, they’ll recite it in every way possible. Once again, we see it here, as three pundits agree on a pleasing tale. “Right,” says Klein. “Absolutely,” says Tucker—each of them bungling simple facts.

But it was the highlighted part of Tucker’s statement which deserved special attention. After scorning “the peacenik wing of the Democratic Party”—the part of the party which turned out to be right—Tucker made an astonishing statement. According to Tucker, “The simple fact of the matter is, every serious Democrat who was in the Senate at the time...voted to authorize the president.” In saying this, she reinvents the history. No people who were right need apply? Instead, to hear Cynthia Tucker tell it, people who were right didn’t even exist! Thanks to Tucker, they’ve been disappeared. No serious Dem opposed the resolution? Tucker doesn’t say how many Dems voted no. But in her telling, these folk were just clowns.

The reality? In the Senate vote of October 11, 2002, twenty-one Democratic senators voted against the war resolution. Feingold was one of those senators—and yes, he’s a serious person. But then, a long string of serious Dems voted “no” in the Senate. Senator Wellstone voted no; so did Senator Reed, from Rhode Island. Senators Durbin/Leahy/Conrad/Boxer/Levin all voted no; so did Senator Kennedy. But to Tucker, none of these are “serious” people. Neither are Sarbanes and Mikulski, our own state’s senators. Like harlequins, they voted no too.

Tucker’s statement was par for the course, but astounding—and no panelist raised his hand to correct it. Nor did anyone note the fact that the “peacenik wing” of the Democratic Party was the wing which turned out to be right. Of course, we can always make excuses for Tucker, imagining what she meant to say. But Feingold’s statement plays nicely with Tucker’s; together, they show us the shape of our discourse. Because our modern elites are so constantly wrong, they must constantly disappear those who were right. Result? Inside a Washington hearing room, ten well-known people who were wrong from the start tell the nation what to do next. And on our TVs, just three days before, a gang of utterly fatuous scribes hand the simple fact of the matter: No serious person was right on Iraq, our script-runners primly proclaim.

4 Comments:

Blogger Seven Star Hand said...

Hey Bill,

We are witnessing the last throes of so-called representative democracy...

Just how wise is it for billions of souls to to be at the mercy of a proven idiot just because those with the most money put him in power? GW Bush and the greedy scoundrels that surround him are stunning evidence of the utter folly and failures of government driven by money, religion, and politics.

It was clear to me that GHW (papa) Bush was crying recently because he's suffering from the stress of realizing that the debacles caused by his son are ultimately traced to the Bush family's aristocratic ambitions. In other words, the old man is as much to blame for Irag and other evils as the clueless son he foisted upon the world stage. That is why family consiglieri James Baker and smoking man Eagleburger were called in to set the stage for little W's demise.

Royalty, aristocracy, and plutocracy always were and always will be bad ideas and we have been forced to suffer through yet more proof of this. Do you think GW's feelings are more important than the wealth and power of the empire? We're now witnessing the praetorian guard fulfilling their most sacred duty; saving the empire from an insane emperor. Unfortunately for them, it's too little too late.

Here is Wisdom...

9:05 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Hey SSH,

I'm with you on this. In my latest post and in a link therein, by BooMan called How I Know Bush is in Trouble the writing seems to be on the wall for GWB's removal. Do you think that he's so out-of-control (i.e. believes that he is really is the president) that even the "adults" won't be able to manipulate him? If so, would they let him be removed by impeachment?

They may have to... I mean, he has really "shit the bed".

11:56 PM  
Blogger liberal journal man said...

I am soo sick and tired of the mainstream media. They're ass backwards.

The peaceniks were right about Iraq, but are getting assailed as if they were dead wrong. And (then) pro-war supporters now can't agree on what to do. They'll complain a little now, but won't advocate withdrawal and won't say they were wrong going in. But they're right? They're noble? Give me a goddamn break.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Amen to that!

There is no more suffering of consequences for one's mistakes among media pundits than there is for Homer on the Simpsons. They screw up big time over and over and over again and every time they show up again it's with their reputation intact.

It's mind-boggling!

1:38 AM  

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