Monday, January 22, 2007

"Sacrifice" In A Time Of War

That was my suggested title for the column, but the editor went even more inflammatory. Actually, the award for the most prescient pre-war speech goes to Sen. James Webb, who is giving the Dem response to the SOTU tomorrow night; it's worth re-reading his 2002 Washington Post op-ed. And the new CBS News poll out today has Bush's approval rating at 28 percent--will Utah let us hit the teens? Links at the blog if you're interested.

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 21, 2007

I demand more respect for my sacrifices for my country. What sacrifice, you ask? Why, just hearken to what President Bush told Jim Lehrer of PBS in his interview last week.

Bush gave the interview as part of the "support the surge" publicity campaign -- the lead-balloon-like series of speeches and appearances that has decreased support in polls for the Bush-McCain plan to escalate the Iraq war. Lehrer asked Bush that if this war was as important to America (and the world) as Bush repeatedly claims, then why hasn’t the president asked more Americans to sacrifice something to win it?

Bush responded: "Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night."

And that’s my level of sacrifice, too. Some may deride watching television as passive, but to our president, I’m helping fight the War on Terror just by clicking the remote. I’m sacrificing for my country, because you bet I get upset watching the news. My peace of mind vanishes whenever I’m reminded that Bush is our president until Jan. 20, 2009.

If this sacrifice-through-being-a-couch-potato gambit is going to set the level of Bush’s rhetoric for the rest of his term, then we Democrats can use more of it. As Steve Benen put it, we want Bush to give lots of speeches and press conferences over the next two years, because I’m curious if we can see a presidential approval rating in the teens. That’s what happens when you go from "Mission Accomplished" to "Slow Failure" (how Bush characterized his previous "strategy" in Iraq in the Lehrer interview) in less than four years.

George W. Bush may want to keep calling the same tactics by new names so he can make the same mistakes yet again -- but with 10 percent more troops! -- but you should (re)read Al Gore’s speech in 2002 opposing the invasion of Iraq, or Howard Dean’s 2003 speech at Drake University. Gore said we were rushing to war, for domestic political reasons; that invading Iraq would detract from our efforts in Afghanistan; and that while Iraq needed to be contained, it did not represent any threat to the U.S. justifying preemptive war. Dean said that the risks did not justify the invasion, especially given the lack of planning for postwar Iraq.

Compare either speech to anything Bush has said since 2002. Then you also should read the critical reaction to the speeches rounded up by Bob Somerby and Scott Lemieux, and see how that’s stood up over the past 5 years.

You already recall how Dean got trashed for his prescience, but it’s jarring to re-read the reaction to Gore. John Podhoretz called Gore "insane." So did Charles Krauthammer, who said Gore "has gone off his lithium again." The late Michael Kelly called Gore’s speech "dishonest, cheap, low. It was hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas, very nearly of facts -- bereft of anything other than taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible. But I understate."

Now that’s non-angry "civil discourse" for you. In hindsight, Gore and Dean made the better call -- and for their pains, got trashed by many of the same pundits who never debated their actual arguments, but just responded with personal attacks. Now these same characters want us to swallow Bush’s and McCain’s demand that we go 180 degrees from the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (remember them?)

Why are we still getting advice from the same people who not only got Iraq wrong, but who were so certain that they dismissed now-prescient criticisms in strikingly uncivil and personal terms? They knew it all then, they know it all now, and they certainly never seem to "sacrifice" anything for getting it all so very wrong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, at least Bush has started thinking about other people's relatively insignificant problems, rather than focusing on his own.