Tag Archives: Matt Lewis

Memoirs Happen, Writing Is Messy

Caitlin Dickson at The Atlantic with the round-up:

Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir, “Known and Unknown,” isn’t set to be released until next week, but several news sites have obtained early copies. Previews of the book give insight into Rumsfeld’s negative opinion of several of his colleagues, his regrets or lack there of from his years as defense secretary, as well has personal struggles within his own family.

Thom Shanker and Charlie Savage at NYT:

Just 15 days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush invited his defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, to meet with him alone in the Oval Office. According to Mr. Rumsfeld’s new memoir, the president leaned back in his leather chair and ordered a review and revision of war plans — but not for Afghanistan, where the Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington had been planned and where American retaliation was imminent.

“He asked that I take a look at the shape of our military plans on Iraq,” Mr. Rumsfeld writes.

“Two weeks after the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history, those of us in the Department of Defense were fully occupied,” Mr. Rumsfeld recalls. But the president insisted on new military plans for Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld writes. “He wanted the options to be ‘creative.’ ”

When the option of attacking Iraq in post-9/11 military action was raised first during a Camp David meeting on Sept. 15, 2001, Mr. Bush said Afghanistan would be the target. But Mr. Rumsfeld’s recollection in the memoir, “Known and Unknown,” to be published Tuesday, shows that even then Mr. Bush was focused as well on Iraq. A copy was obtained Wednesday by The New York Times.

Bradley Graham at WaPo:

But Rumsfeld still can’t resist – in a memoir due out next week – taking a few pops at former secretaries of state Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice as well as at some lawmakers and journalists. He goes so far as to depict former president George W. Bush as presiding over a national security process that was marked by incoherent decision-making and policy drift, most damagingly on the war in Iraq.

Much of Rumsfeld’s retrospective reinforces earlier accounts of a dysfunctional National Security Council riven by tensions between the Pentagon and State Department, which many critics outside and within the Bush administration have blamed on him. Speaking out for the first time since his departure from office four years ago, the former Pentagon leader offers a vigorous explanation of his own thoughts and actions and is making available on his Web site (www.rumsfeld.com) many previously classified or private documents.

Sounding characteristically tough and defiant in the 800-page autobiography “Known and Unknown,” Rumsfeld remains largely unapologetic about his overall handling of the Iraq conflict and concludes that the war has been worth the costs. Had the government of Saddam Hussein remained in power, he says, the Middle East would be “far more perilous than it is today.”

Addressing charges that he failed to provide enough troops for the war, he allows that, “In retrospect, there may have been times when more troops could have helped.” But he insists that if senior military officers had reservations about the size of the invading force, they never informed him. And as the conflict wore on, he says, U.S. commanders, even when pressed repeatedly for their views, did not ask him for more troops or disagree with the strategy.

Much of his explanation of what went wrong in the crucial first year of the occupation of Iraq stems from a prewar failure to decide how to manage the postwar political transition. Two differing approaches were debated in the run-up to the war: a Pentagon view that power should be handed over quickly to an interim Iraqi authority containing a number of Iraqi exiles, and a State Department view favoring a slower transition that would allow new leaders to emerge from within the country.

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

Shortly after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered President George W. Bush his resignation. Bush refused. Five days later, just so there was no confusion, Rumsfeld offered again, and once again, Bush refused. It was another two and a half years until Rumsfeld was finally canned. But in his upcoming 800-page memoir, Known and Unknown, Rumsfeld writes that he really wishes Bush had just let him go earlier.

Howard Kurtz at Daily Beast:

One of the few personal anecdotes in the 815-page volume takes place more than 12 hours after hijacked planes struck not only the World Trade Center but the Pentagon, filling his office with heavy smoke and forcing him to evacuate with other employees, some of them wounded. His spokeswoman, Torie Clarke, asked if he had called his wife of 47 years, Joyce. Rumsfeld replied that he had not.

“You son of a bitch,” Clarke said with a hard stare.

“She had a point,” Rumsfeld writes.

Matt Lewis:

But so far, the most interesting response has come from Senator John McCain.

As George Stephanopolous reported,

“I respect Secretary Rumsfeld. He and I had a very, very strong difference of opinion about the strategy that he was employing in Iraq which I predicted was doomed to failure,” the Arizona Republican said on “GMA.”

McCain and Rumsfeld had clashed over troop levels.

“And thank God he was relieved of his duties and we put the surge in otherwise we would have had a disastrous defeat in Iraq,” McCain told me.

Jen Dimascio and Jennifer Epstein at Politico

Alex Pareene at Salon:

Rumsfeld is also going to release a website full of “primary documents” that he thinks will prove his point. It will be like the WikiLeaks, only instead of pulling back the curtain and exposing American diplomatic and military secrets, they will probably just be a bunch of memos about how much Rumsfeld was “concerned” about the security situation in post-invasion Baghdad. Also I bet there will be a document that says “I promise Donald Rumsfeld had no idea that we were torturing and killing prisoners, signed, everyone at Abu Ghraib.”

Speaking of! Rumsfeld says Bill Clinton called him once and said: “No one with an ounce of sense thinks you had any way in the world to know about the abuse taking place that night in Iraq.” Yes, well, the people with ounces of sense are completely wrong.

Rumsfeld also apparently devotes a lot of space to rewaging various long-forgotten bureaucratic disputes. There is something about George H. W. Bush, whom he clearly hates. Rumsfeld also wants everyone to know that former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller was “bullying” and an “imperial vice president,” which is hilarious for many reasons, including Rumsfeld’s closeness to Dick Cheney and the fact that as Gerald Ford’s chief of staff, Rumsfeld basically blocked Rockefeller from doing anything.

Now let’s enjoy the attempted rehabilitation of Rumsfeld in the press, where his awfulness has probably been entirely forgotten.

Wonkette:

Rummy says Defense was preparing for offense on Afghanistan at the time, but Bush asked him to be “creative.” Creative! Perhaps the military could stage a production of Grease for the people of Iraq before taking a bow and dropping a bomb on them?

The book mixes the policy and the personal; at the end of the same Oval Office session in which Mr. Bush asked for an Iraq war plan, Mr. Rumsfeld recounts, the president asked about Mr. Rumsfeld’s son, Nick, who struggled with drug addiction, had relapsed and just days before had entered a rehabilitation center. The president, who has written of his own battles to overcome a drinking problem, said that he was praying for Mr. Rumsfeld, his wife, Joyce, and all their children.

“What had happened to Nick — coupled with the wounds to our country and the Pentagon — all started to hit me,” Mr. Rumsfeld writes. “At that moment, I couldn’t speak. And I was unable to hold back the emotions that until then I had shared only with Joyce.”

Ah, there you have it. Rumsfeld could have said, “What the fuck are you talking about going to war with Iraq for? Our country was just attacked by a foreign terrorist organization we need to go try to destroy. Iraq has nothing to do with this. Aren’t you more concerned with winning this war we haven’t even begun yet?” But instead, his son had done some drugs. Sure thing, Rumsfeld. Perfectly good excuse. You should drop some leaflets on the families of people, American and Iraqi, whose children have died in that war. “Sorry, my son was doing drugs. I was emotional at the time. Not my fault.”

So here you have it: There’s finally someone to blame the entire Iraq War on: Nick Rumsfeld. HOPE YOU LIKED THOSE DRUGS, ASSHOLE!

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Filed under Books, Political Figures

The End? Part II: Speech, Speech, Speech!

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with an early round up.

Marc Ambinder:

President Obama has asked the television networks for 15 minutes tonight, and he’s going to pack quite a bit of messaging into that short period of time. Why do we need a speech marking the end of the combat mission in Iraq? It’s because we’re going to need, according to Obama, to understand the future of the war in Afghanistan and the interconnectedness of foreign and domestic policy in a way that reflects what Obama was able to do in Iraq.

What did he do? He set a time-frame and stuck to it. Iraq will now begin to fend for itself. He promised during his presidential campaign that he would end the Iraq war “responsibly.” He will note tonight that his administration managed to withdraw 100,000 troops from Iraq “responsibly.” He will portray this as a major milestone in his presidency.

We forget how integral Sen. Barack Obama’s decision to oppose the Iraq war was to his own political awakening, and how many contortions Hillary Clinton had to untwist in order to justify her own support for the war authority, and how, by the day of the general election, given the success of the surge (or the success of JSOC’s counterterrorism efforts), Iraq was no longer a central voting issue. Voters seemed to exorcise that demon in 2006, when they voted Democrats into Congress.

A large chunk of the speech will be taken up by the president’s careful description of the sacrifices that a million U.S. soldiers and diplomats have made by their service in Iraq, and how 4,400 Americans did not come home.

Then, a pivot point: the Iraq drawdown has allowed the president to refocus attention on the threat from Al Qaeda worldwide, and he will mention that the terrorist network is degraded, albeit still capable of waging terrorist attacks and intending to do so.

He will note that the government will be able to reap a bit of a post-Iraq transition dividend, allowing the administration to invest more in job creation, health care, and education here at home. (Subtly, the point: Obama wouldn’t have gone into Iraq, so we wouldn’t have had to spend as much as we did.) It’s time, he will say, to build our own nation.

Kevin Drum:

Since it’s a slow news day, let’s mull this over. First take: can you imagine anything that would piss off the liberal base more than acknowledging that the surge worked? You’d be able to hear the steam coming out of lefty ears from sea to shining sea. Second take: Even if he decided to do it anyway, would it be worthwhile? If he wants to be honest, Obama would have to at least mention all those other factors that Ambinder mentions, namely that the reduction in violence in 2007 was quite clearly the result of 4 S’s: Surge, Sadr ceasefire, Sectarian cleansing, and Sunni Awakening. But is this too much to talk about? And would it seem churlish to acknowledge the surge and then immediately try to take some of the credit away from it?

Third take: Forget it. Not only would mentioning the surge piss off liberals, but it would also imply some kind of “victory” in Iraq, and surely Obama can’t be dimwitted enough to come within a light year of claiming that, can he? Of course not. Not with sporadic violence back in the news and Iraqi leaders still stalemated on forming a government five months after the March elections.

So I’ll predict no direct mention of the surge. And since I’m usually wrong about this kind of stuff, I suppose you should try to lay down some money right away on Obama mentioning the surge tonight. But I still don’t think he’ll do it.

David Corn at Politics Daily:

Why is Barack Obama giving a speech on Iraq?

To mark the end of U.S. combat missions in the nation George W. Bush invaded over seven years ago, the president on Tuesday night will deliver a high-profile address from the Oval Office. Speeches from the Oval Office are usually reserved for the most pressing and profound matters of a presidency. And this partial end of the Iraq war — the United States will still have 50,000 troops stationed there — is a significant event. It demonstrates that Obama has kept a serious campaign promise: to end this war.

But with the economy foundering — many of the recent stats are discouraging — most Americans are probably not yearning above all for a report on Iraq and likely will not be all that impressed with Obama’s promise-keeping on this front. The main issue remains jobs, especially as the congressional elections approach.

Summer is essentially done. It’s back-to-school and back-to-work time for many of us. But on Obama’s first days after his Martha Vineyard’s vacation, he’s devoting (at least in public) more time and energy to foreign policy matters than the flagging economy. Worried Democrats must be livid. (Most House Democrats are still campaigning in their districts and are not yet back in Washington to gripe about their president.)

Wars are the most significant stuff of a presidency. There’s not enough media attention devoted to the Afghanistan war. But politically there’s little or no payoff for an Iraq war address. Obama can’t brag, “Mission accomplished.” (In fact, on Monday, press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama would not be using those words.) He can’t declare victory. He can only declare a murky end to a murky war. That’s not going to rally the Democrats’ base or win over independents. It was not mandatory for Obama to deliver such a high-profile speech. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Baghdad to commemorate this milestone. The administration has conducted other events regarding the end of combat operations. It’s been duly noted.

David Frum at FrumForum:

Just guessing, but here’s why:

The president’s biggest political problem is the disillusionment of his liberal voters. Contra Fox News, they do not see a liberal president doing liberal things. They see a consensus president rescuing Wall Street. The job situation remains dismal, the administration is deporting illegal immigrants, and where are the gays in the military?

What Obama needs to do between now and November is pound home the message: I have kept faith with my voters on their big concerns, healthcare and the Iraq war. Now those voters must keep faith with me.

Ronald Reagan could count on a cadre of conservatives to defend his actions against any and all critics. A friend once teased Bill Rusher, then publisher of National Review: “Whenever Reagan does something awful, you defend it on one of two grounds: either that Reagan had no choice, or that the full wisdom of his action will be disclosed to lesser mortals in God’s good time.” According to legend, Rusher answered, “May I point out that the two positions are not necessarily incompatible?”

Nobody seems willing to do for Obama what Rusher did for Reagan. So Obama must do the job himself. Tonight’s speech is part of that job. Message: I ended George Bush’s war. Vote Democratic.

The trouble is: This message seems unlikely to work in the way Democrats need. Obama’s speech is much more likely to alienate marginal voters than to galvanize alienated liberals, and for this reason:

Obama’s liberal voters will not abide any whiff of triumphalism in the president’s speech. For them, Iraq was at best a disaster, at worst a colonialist war crime. (Elsewhere on the Politics Daily site, David Corn’s colleague Jill Lawrence specifies what she’d like to hear the president say: “Never again.”)

But most Americans want and expect triumphs. “Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser.” So said George Patton on the eve of D-Day, and he was right. And if President Obama declines to declare himself a winner, guess what alternative remains? Exactly.

Democracy In America at The Economist:

8:20: All in all, a nice speech by Mr Obama, in my opinion. Hit most of the right notes.

8:19: Agreed, though “they are the steel in the ship of our state” was a little much.

8:19: Call me a shallow booster, but that part about troops coming home, from the predawn dark to the excerpt below, was great prose. Just beautiful. Very affecting.

8:18: “Who fought in a faraway place for people they never knew”—that’s some beautiful iambic hexameter right there.

8:18: This turned into a rather moving tribute to the troops.

8:17: The shift from the war-ending announcement to the nation-building task reminds me of the BP speech—from the disaster to a different energy future was a stretch too far.  A good speech makes one or two strong points, not lots.

8:17: Yep—there’s the money: a post 9/11 GI bill. He’s daring Republicans to challenge it.

8:17: Is that a subtle gauntlet—the reference to doing right by our veterans?

8:16: This is starting to feel a little platitudinous. Time to dangle Beau from the upstairs window.

8:15: By one estimate, America has spent about $750 billion on the Iraq war.

8:14: Blaming the deficits on the war? True up to a point, but …

8:14: Also very nicely done—not setting a timetable for Afghan withdrawal. That makes it his more than Iraq. Double-down.

8:13: “As we approach the tenth anniversary, there are those who are asking tough questions about our mission there.” And I’m not going to answer those questions. PUNT!

8:12: Can’t explain why but the Oval Office format doesn’t play to Mr Obama’s significant strengths as a communicator. Maybe those curtains…

8:12: Having said that, I enjoyed this comment from one of Kevin Drum’s readers: “The surge worked just like stitches work to close a wound after improperly handling a knife.”

8:11: Why not thank him for the surge? It was a courageous, albeit very late in coming, policy.

8:10: Very nicely done—the reach-out to GWB. He didn’t knuckle under and thank him for the surge (as well he shouldn’t), but it was a graceful acknowledgement.

8:09: “A belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization.” Don’t feed the neocons.

8:09: Odd no mention of Saddam. If the war achieved anything it was toppling a mass murdering dictator. But that would be giving too much credit to Bush.

8:08: This part (Iraqis are a proud people, only Iraqis can do this and that) has the feeling of a plea.

8:08: Nice wiggle room: when a representative government is in place, then they will have a strong partner in the United States (but until then…?)

8:07: Is that true: that Iraqi forces have “taken the fight to” al-Qaeda, and have weakened them?

8:07: Credible elections, yes, but how can the US get the warring politicos to form a credible government?

8:06: It’s quite a valedictory tone, considering there are 50,000 troops still there.

8:05: Praising the courage of the armed forces is understandable and even obligatory but also a wonderful way to dodge the question of the whether the war was worthwhile

8:03: “Ahem, these are the reasons I did not support this war.”

8:02: Have other presidents had so many family pictures behind them during Oval Office addresses? Nice touch.

8:01: On the question of whether Mr Obama will give Mr Bush credit: I think he should. But I also think Mr Obama’s Afghan strategy is the sincerest acknowledgment of the surge’s success.

8:00pm: And we begin.

Instapundit:

ABSOLUT VICTORY: STEPHEN GREEN IS Drunkblogging Obama’s Iraq Speech.

Bush got a mention, the troops got two mentions — but I haven’t hear thanks to either one. . . .

What the hell is this? Seriously. We were promised an update on Iraq. Instead we’re getting a defense of Obamanomics, which unlike the Surge (anyone?), has been a total failure.

Read the whole thing. And weep, or laugh, or something. Drink!

UPDATE: More from Prof. Jacobson.

And here’s the full text of Obama’s speech.

Allah Pundit:

8 p.m. ET across the dial. It’s billed as an Iraq speech, but that’s not really what it is. The “key part,” apparently, will be a renewed call to “take the fight directly to al Qaeda” by finishing the job in Afghanistan. (Wouldn’t taking the fight to AQ require operations in Pakistan, not Afghanistan?) It’s also being billed as a “mission unaccomplished” speech, as the White House is ever mindful after Bush of the pitfalls in celebrating too early. But that’s not really what this is either. Like it or not, by investing the end of combat ops with the grandeur of an Oval Office address, The One is necessarily signaling completion of the task. And why not? The public couldn’t be clearer as to how it feels about renewing combat operations if Iraqi security starts to fall apart. This is closure, for better or worse.

Because it is closure, and closure at a moment when things are ominously open-ended in Iraq, I admit to having no appetite today for the standard left/right recriminations about how much Bush screwed up or whether Obama should credit him for the surge. (I think he will acknowledge Bush tonight, for what it’s worth, mainly to signal that this is an occasion that transcends partisanship. But never underestimate the political instincts of the perpetual campaigner.) Instead, since we’re putting a bookend on history, I offer you this grim big-picture reminiscence by star NYT correspondent John Burns, who was on the ground over there until 2007. Today is a day that’s taken forever to arrive, he says, and yet it still seems to have arrived too soon.

Ann Althouse:

Obama on Iraq: Mission Accomplished.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

But most of all, the bulk of the speech had nothing to do with either Iraq or Afghanistan — it was a pep talk for his domestic agenda. This cements the sense that he simply wants out of messy foreign commitments. He also repeated a number of domestic policy canards. This was among the worst, blaming our debt on wars rather than on domestic fiscal gluttony: “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.”

He is arguing for more spending.

Obama is still candidate Obama, never tiring of reminding us that he kept his campaign pledge and ever eager to push aside foreign policy challenges so he can get on with the business of remaking America. All in all, it was what we were promised it would not be — self-serving, disingenuous, ungracious, and unreassuring.

UPDATE: COMMENTARY contributor Jonah Goldberg’s smart take is here.

UPDATE II: Charles Krauthammer’s reaction is here.

Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard:
President Obama opposed the war in Iraq. He still thinks it was a mistake. It’s therefore unrealistic for supporters of the war to expect the president to give the speech John McCain would have given, or to expect President Obama to put the war in the context we would put it in. He simply doesn’t believe the war in Iraq was a necessary part of a broader effort to fight terror, to change the Middle East, etc. Given that (erroneous) view of his, I thought his speech was on the whole commendable, and even at times impressive.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat

George Packer at The New Yorker

Scott Johnson at Powerline

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner

Matt Welch at Reason

UPDATE #2: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

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Filed under Iraq, Political Figures

Worst. List. Ever.

John Hawkins:

Out of all the gangsters, serial killers, mass murderers, incompetent & crooked politicians, spies, traitors, and ultra left-wing kooks in all of American history — have you ever wondered who the worst of the worst was? Well, we here at RWN wondered about that, too, and that’s why we decided to email more than a hundred bloggers to get their opinions. Representatives from the following 43 blogs responded…

101 Dead Armadillos, Argghhhh!, Basil’s Blog, Cold Fury, Conservative Compendium, The Dana Show, DANEgerus Weblog, Dodgeblogium, Cara Ellison, Exurban League, Fausta’s Blog, Freeman Hunt, GraniteGrok, House of Eratosthenes, Infidels Are Cool, IMAO, Jordan Woodward, Moe Lane, Mean Ol’ Meany, The Liberal Heretics, Midnight Blue, Pirate’s Cove, Nice Deb, Pundit Boy, Professor Bainbridge, Pursuing Holiness.com, Liz Mair, Moonbattery, mountaineer musings, No Oil For Pacifists, No Runny Eggs, Right View from the Left Coast, Russ. Just Russ, Say Anything, Don Singleton, The TrogloPundit, The Underground Conservative, This Ain’t Hell, The Virtuous Republic, Vox Popoli, WILLisms, Wintery knight, YidwithLid

All bloggers were allowed to make anywhere from 1-20 selections. Rank was determined simply by the number of votes received. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is a fairly conservative group of bloggers and their selections reflected that. Also, I made a decision to combine the votes given to the Rosenbergs and Julius Rosenberg into one group since most people associate the two of them together. Some people may disagree with that decision, but I thought it was the best way to go.

Well, that’s enough about the rules — without further ado, the worst figures in American history are as follows (with the number of votes following each selection)…

23) Saul Alinsky (7)
23) Bill Clinton (7)
23) Hillary Clinton (7)
19) Michael Moore (7)
19) George Soros (8)
19) Alger Hiss (8)
19) Al Sharpton (8)
13) Al Gore (9)
13) Noam Chomsky (9)
13) Richard Nixon (9)
13) Jane Fonda (9)
13) Harry Reid (9)
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)
11) Margaret Sanger (10)
9) Aldrich Ames (11)
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)
7) Ted Kennedy (14)
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)
5) Benedict Arnold (17)
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)
4) The Rosenbergs (19)
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)
2) Barack Obama (23)
1) Jimmy Carter (25)

Jim Geraghty at National Review:

I’m no fan of most of the Democrats on the list, and there are some good picks. But most of the modern political figures look ridiculous when we compare their actions to some of America’s most really notorious figures.

No Al Capone? No Machine Gun Kelly or the Lindbergh baby kidnappers?

No Jefferson Davis or anyone else associated with the Confederacy beyond John Wilkes Booth? Speaking of presidential assassins, no Lee Harvey Oswald? (Oh, I know, I know, he was the fall guy for the big conspiracy.) Aaron Burr gets a pass for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel?

Isn’t Johnny Walker Lindh or Robert Hanssen a more clear-cut case than Jane Fonda or either of the Clintons?

No Charles Manson? Come on. You’re really telling me Al Sharpton and Michael Moore outrank somebody like Jeffrey Dahmer, who ate people? Race-baiting and rabble-rousing outrank cannibalism?

No Jim Jones (cult leader, not national security adviser) or David Koresh?

Not one villain from America’s business world? No ruthless layoff king like “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap? No Ken Lay? Bernie Madoff couldn’t reach the top 20?

Matt Lewis at Politics Daily:

Certainly, one could make the case that political leaders — because of their reach and immense importance — actually have much greater impact over our society as a whole than any serial killer ever could (though I would argue the Manson murders actually had a major impact on American culture, and essentially ended the ’60s).

But this, of course, is sophistry. Hawkins’ list was not titled “the worst political leaders,” but rather “the worst figures” in American history, and thus, the results seem to betray what we already know to be true: Too many political bloggers view their political opponents as being worse than serial killers.

Of course, this is not merely a reflection of conservative bloggers, but rather, of the current state of political discourse. I have no doubt that members of (as Robert Gibbs has called them) “the professional left” might rank Ann Coulter as being more harmful than, say, Al Capone.

Steven Bainbridge:

John Hawkins asked a bunch of right of center bloggers to list the “20 Worst Americans of all time,” from which he compiled the following list. The comments are mine. Personally, I find the collated list pretty much of a joke. It reflects the partisan passions of the moment, not anything resembling a serious verdict of history.

23) Saul Alinsky (7)–a bad guy, to be sure, but top 20?
23) Bill Clinton (7)–GOPers still mad because he beat the crap out of them; sour grapes
23) Hillary Clinton (7)–I don’t like her, but I think she’s making a good Secretary of State
19) Michael Moore (7)–agree
19) George Soros (8)–maybe top 40
19) Alger Hiss (8)–the traitors are way to low on this list
19) Al Sharpton (8)–eh
13) Al Gore (9)–depends on whether global warming is as bad as he thinks it is
13) Noam Chomsky (9)–annoying to be sure, but not in top 20
13) Richard Nixon (9)–fair enough
13) Jane Fonda (9)–has been much less annoying in recent years
13) Harry Reid (9)–he’s effective and wrong but not evil
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)–annoying? yes. one of the worst? no.
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)–finally somebody I wholeheartedly agree with, but should be higher
11) Margaret Sanger (10)–nope
9) Aldrich Ames (11)–yes, but should be higher
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)–yes, but should be higher
7) Ted Kennedy (14)–higher than the worst domestic terrorist? no
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)–ditto
5) Benedict Arnold (17)–too low
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)–huh?
4) The Rosenbergs (19)–good
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)–give him some credit for managing the winning coalition in WW II
2) Barack Obama (23)–way too high, even if socialized medicine ends up being his legacy
1) Jimmy Carter (25)– being feckless and sanctimonious doesn’t make him a bad guy
All in all, I have to agree with Jim Geraghty that:

I’m no fan of most of the Democrats on the list, and there are some good picks. But most of the modern political figures look ridiculous when we compare their actions to some of America’s most really notorious figures.

I agree with a lot of his alternatives too.

Anyway, I was one of the bloggers Hawkins polled, but as you’ll see my list differs in a number of respects from the norm. Mine’s in alphabetical order, BTW.

  1. Aldrich Ames–traitor
  2. Benedict Arnold–traitor
  3. John Wilkes Booth–killed our greatest President, contender for #1 on my list if rank ordered
  4. James Buchanan–feckless President whose inaction allowed the Southern rebellion to get off the ground
  5. Aaron Burr–traitor and murderer of Hamilton
  6. Robert Byrd–KKK member and the worst pork politician in history, plus an insufferable prig
  7. Jefferson Davis–leader of the traitorous Southern rebels
  8. Louis Farrakhan–race hate monger
  9. Nathan Bedford Forrest–treasonous Rebel general, caused or condoned the mass murder of black soldiers at Fort Pillow, founder of the KKK, contender for # 1
  10. Rutherford B. Hayes–President who threw Reconstruction under the bus to steal election
  11. Paris Hilton–personification of the celebrity obsessed culture
  12. Alger Hiss–traitor with really annoying apologists
  13. Jim Jones–mass murderer and race hate monger
  14. Ted Kennedy–Chappaquiddick, probable rapist, almost certainly a rape abettor, and progenitor of what might become socialized medicine
  15. Bernie Madoff–worst financial swindler
  16. Timothy McVeigh–worst domestic terrorist, probably # 1 on my list if rank ordered
  17. Michael Moore–he just oozes evil
  18. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg–atomic bomb traitors
  19. Roger Taney–Chief Justice who decided Dred Scott and Ex Parte Merryman
  20. Morrison Waite–Chief Justice whose decision in United States v. Cruikshank effectively disabled the federal government from protecting the freed blacks from white southern terrorists during Reconstruction

As you see, I focused mainly on traitors, since it is in some ways the worst of social crimes. Few crimes affect all of society in the way that treason does. Since I believe the Southern rebellion was the worst act of collective treason in our history, I gave it high priority. Since I believe the failure of Reconstruction is one of the great tragedies of our history, it deserved recognition too.

And then there’s just a couple of folks who really annoy the crap out of me. But I tried to keep them to a minimum. And I really think you can make a case for Byrd and Kennedy deserving to be at least in the top 100. In their own ways, they each personify and symbolize some of the worst aspects of our political life. So I’d argue that only Hilton and Moore are real reaches on my part.

The one person who slipped my mind, but whom I probably would have found room for if I had thought of him in time is L. Ron Hubbard as our worst religious false prophet.

Tyler Cowen:

It’s bizarre that Jimmy Carter comes out as the all-time worst from the right-wing bloggers and I don’t have to tell you who is number two.  It’s also hard for me to see how Bainbridge ends up with Paris Hilton and Michael Moore in his list of the worst and he seems to acknowledge this oddity toward the end of his post.

The most plausible picks are, I think, any number of political figures behind slavery and its continuation (it’s debatable who is truly focal here), Woodrow Wilson, the Rosenbergs, and any number of assassins, domestic terrorists, and serial killers.

Who am I forgetting?  Are there focal figures who held back public health advances?  Led slaughters against Native Americans?  What else?

Who is the worst Canadian of all time?

Rick Moran:

Absolutely astonishing. One mass murderer (McVeigh) and one assassin (Booth) made the list. No gangsters. No old west gunmen. Both Woodrow Wilson and FDR in the top 5 worst? If you’re going to penalize presidents so severely for having wrongheaded ideas about economic policy, why not include George Bush? Or the modern Republican party who never met a deficit they didn’t embrace as long is it was caused by tax cuts.

Frankly, this is embarrassing. Putting the Clintons, Pelosi, Reid, Gore, Sharpton, and other contemporary Democrats ahead of someone like Nathan Bedford Forest who was at least partly responsible for creating the KKK after the Civil War and spent his spare nights riding around the countryside whipping, lynching, and burning at the stake innocent African Americans demonstrates an extraordinary ignorance of American history.

No Aaron Burr? His descendant, Gore Vidal, might have made honorable mention on the list, but Burr was a genuine bad guy. He not only murdered Alexander Hamilton in a duel, Burr hatched a plot to take over large swaths of land in the west, set himself up as king, and secede from the US.

I guess making idiotic, dishonest documentaries about America (Michael Moore) is a bigger crime than killing one of the Founders and anointing oneself a monarch.

Here’s my list of “The Top 5 Worst Americans Missed by Idiotic Conservative Bloggers:

5. Ted Bundy. Might have killed more than 50 women.

4. William Randolph Hearst – the inventor of modern liberal journalism who singlehandedly whipped up war fever against Spain in his 30 newspapers while dominating the media – to the detriment of democracy – like no one before or since.

3. John C. Calhoun – his constant threats to take South Carolina out of the Union if the institution of slavery was touched were bad enough. But his embrace of the doctrine of nullification and his being an inspiration to the secessionists was a direct cause of the Civil War.

2. William Walker – one of the most unlovely Americans who ever lived. His attempts on behalf of the south to bring parts of Mexico and central America into an “Empire of Slavery” – setting up colonies that would then be annexed by the US – was not only a cockamamie scheme but thousands died because of it.

1. Bloody Bill Anderson – speaking of thousands being killed, how about the terrorist Bill Anderson? Not only did he ride through Missouri and Kanas during the Civil War, killing wantonly and with great glee, (200 massacred in Lawrence Kanas in 1863) some of his men ended up carrying on the “fight” for years afterward, including the James brothers and the Younger boys.

Doug Mataconis:

Obviously, this poll isn’t to be taken all that seriously but it has raised some interesting questions. Matt Lewis cites it as proof that American politics is broken, Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher notes the blatant political bias reflected in the list, and Ed Morrissey notes that this question came up in the political blogosphere before, about five years ago:

Just for disclosure’s sake, John usually invites me to participate in his polls, but I’m usually too busy to put much time into them (sorry, John).  This time, I passed for a couple of other reasons.  First, I had already done this exercise five years ago at Captain’s Quarters, about which more in a moment.

After reading through Ed’s list, which is very interesting to say the least, and following a few links, I realized that I had done the same thing five years ago as well. That list was made when I was still a relatively new blogger, so I’m going to take this opportunity to revise it. Like Stephen Bainbridge, I will list my choices alphabetically rather than by order of “worseness.” And, like Ed, I’m going to so with this definition of what “Worst American” means to me:

For my consideration, I decided that the status of American had to be part of their “crimes”. In other words, simply picking someone like Ted Bundy or Charles Manson would be too easy. Their evil, though real and in most cases worse than what you’ll read on this list, doesn’t have to do with their innate American heritage. I went looking for the people who sinned against America itself, or the ideal of America. Otherwise, we’d just be looking at body counts.

I also tried to avoid picking contemporary political figures, as we do not have sufficient historical perspective to make that kind of determination. (I do have one exception to this.) Don’t expect to see Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi on this list, nor Teddy Kennedy or Bill Clinton.

So, with that in mind, here we go:

1. Benedict Arnold

Not just because he betrayed his country in it’s infancy, although that is certainly contemptible, but also because of what he did after he became a British General.

2. John Wilkes Booth

Of all the Presidential assassins throughout American history, Booth’s motives were the most venal and his impact on history was the greatest. But for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the post-war history of the United States, and the entire Reconstruction Era, would have been much different and, arguably, much better.

3. James Buchanan

What I said in 2005 still applies, “the bachelor President who bungled his way through four years in office and left America on the verge of destruction.”

4. Aaron Burr

In addition to murdering Alexander Hamilton, Burr also engaged in a conspiracy to foment a rebellion against the United States in the territory covered by the Louisiana Purchase.

5. Jefferson Davis

President of the traitorous Confederate State of America, defender of the slavocracy. Some will object to my putting Davis in the list because he was, admittedly, hardly alone in rebelling against the United States, but he was the leader so he deserved to be deserves to be singled out by name, and he stands in for everyone else.

6. Nathan Bedford Forrest

A Lieutenant General in the CSA Army, part of the mass murder of black Union soldiers during the Battle of Fort Pillow, one of the Founders of the Ku Klux Klan

7. Alger Hiss

A traitor to his country and a spy for a regime dedicated to eradicating freedom.

8. J. Edgar Hoover

For the reasons Ed Morrissey listed five years ago:

He didn’t last 47 years as America’s top cop by playing fair. He used his influence and abused his power to accrue files on almost every political player, friend or foe, to use as blackmail to increase his personal power or as leverage for legislative and executive action. He became the closest thing America has ever known to an emperor and managed to die before his empire came crashing down around him. The tragedy of his life can be seen in his contradictions: a gay man who persecuted homosexuals; his undeniable love of country getting consumed by his thirst for power; his desire to enforce the law giving way to his paranoid domestic-espionage activities designed to derail political opponents, such as Martin Luther King and others he deemed dangerous. Hoover did good work as well in creating a first-class law enforcement agency, but his ego forced it to miss the rise of the Italian Mafia and his racism kept it lily-white far past his death.

9. Andrew Jackson

For the Indian Removal Act, the forced re-location of Native Americans that followed, and the horrible precedent it set for future Americans dealings with native tribes

10. Lyndon Baines Johnson

As if lying to the American people about Vietnam weren’t bad enough, he also set in motion the tax and spend philosophy that lives with us to this day.

11. Joseph McCarthy

A man who did more damage to the anti-Communist cause, and the reputations of countless innocent Americans, than any Communist ever did.

12. Timothy McViegh

Because of this.

13. Richard Nixon

Watergate, Cointelpro, the Pentagon Papers case, Daniel Elsberg, wage and price controls, and the largest expansion of federal bureaucracy since his predecessor.

14. Roger Taney

Fifth Chief Justice of the United States and author of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford

15. Woodrow Wilson

The man who ushered Progressivism through the American political system, involved America in a war in which she had no vital national interests and stake, and took it upon himself to remake the map of Europe in such a way that made a Second World War virtually inevitable.

So, there’s my list. You’ll notice several changes from the 2005 version. Why no Jimmy Carter this time, for example ? Because I consider Carter incompetent, not evil. Anyway, criticize away !

Jazz Shaw:

At one end of the spectrum we have Ed Morrissey’s contention that we should discount serial killers, mass murderers and their ilk, since they boil down to nothing more than “a body count.” While I can see how Ed’s explanation of being misled by John’s rather vague invitation into thinking we should primarily include political figures, I disagree that “worst Americans” would leave out the real monsters. They did far more damage than the raw number of corpses they stacked up. Every mass murderer who terrorizes entire cities like Beltway Sniper John Allen Muhammad and every serial rapist ruining the lives of dozens of women steals something important away from everyone. They take away our faith in a civilized system to protect us. They make us look at strangers with wary glances rather than welcoming smiles. They continue to kill our innocence, not just the bodies of those they defile. They are clearly some of the worst Americans.

But does the wrong-doing in question have to be intentional? Doug Mataconis – to take one example – rightly (in my opinion) leaves Jimmy Carter off of his revised list because he considers the Georgia peanut farmer to be “incompetent, not evil.” Where does the line from incompetence to criminal stupidity get crossed? Edward Smith, captain of the Titanic, was clearly not out madly dashing across the Atlantic looking for icebergs to crash into in the hopes of killing all of his passengers. (Not to mention himself.) He was, by all accounts, an experienced seaman with decades at the helm under his belt. But he made one massive, terminal mistake which took hundreds of lives. Was he evil and malicious? No. Should he land on this sort of list? It’s an interesting question.

But that brings us back to the question of politicians in general. If you approach this as nothing more than an exercise in partisan rock throwing, it’s easy enough to compile a list of politicians from “the other team” that you don’t like and lump them in here. This has little or no value. People who aspire to a life of public service, including high elected office, should be considered to be trying to serve and improve the country, even if some of us completely disagree with their philosophy and how they go about it. (If you’re looking for an excuse to really hate me, those of you I see on Twitter every day talking about Obama’s secret plans to destroy America because he’s some sort of Manchurian Candidate simply put me to sleep.)

But again, at what point does a bad plan cross the line to a criminally bad plan which, given your experience and position, you should have known better than to implement? Going back once again to the choices by the other entrants, almost everyone selected Jimmy Carter. (Except Doug, who had him on his original list from five years ago.) Look, I served in the military under Carter. His economic policies were a disaster and his tentative stance on the use of military force damaged our international standing, in my opinion. He was awful. But was he a “worst American?” Did he have malicious plans for the nation he duped into electing him?

No. As I see is, he honestly – if misguidedly – thought his fiscal plans would help. On the national security front I saw him as a God fearing man who honestly believed that he could both speak softly and hold off using the big stick, preferring a path of peace and diplomacy. It was unproductive and, in the end, largely damaging. But I still believe he meant well and I would not today put him on a list of villains.

I have a few bones to pick with some of the common choices on several of these lists as well. Why is anyone selecting Aaron Burr? Doug and Ed are unhappy because he shot Alexander Hamilton. It was a duel! Nobody made Hamilton show up and he had a gun as well. Reports of his “intentionally missing Burr” have been widely disputed. He is also accused of trying to set up some sort of Western Empire and leave the union. He was eventually cleared of those charges by the Supreme Court and many analysts of the period believe it was a plot by his political rivals. The man served his nation for a lifetime, was a Vice President got beaten up for it. Give him a break.

[…]

I won’t even waste space on those who select currently elected Democrats with whom they disagree for such a list. Rick Moran already took care of that.

Frankly, this is embarrassing. Putting the Clintons, Pelosi, Reid, Gore, Sharpton, and other contemporary Democrats ahead of someone like Nathan Bedford Forest who was at least partly responsible for creating the KKK after the Civil War and spent his spare nights riding around the countryside whipping, lynching, and burning at the stake innocent African Americans demonstrates an extraordinary ignorance of American history.

Everyone who opposed the Iraq war could just as easily assemble their own list and put George W. Bush somewhere on there. It’s pointless.

But enough of that. This has already gone on far too long. Let’s get to my list of some of the worst actors in American history. I’ll follow Doug’s example and go in alphabetical order, since it’s hard to say here who is the worst of the worst. Here are the dirty dozen.

1.) John Wilkes Booth – See Oswald, below

2.) Nathan Bedford Forest – If you don’t know who or what he was, head for Google.

3.) John Wayne Gacy – Anyone who rapes and kills that many children deserves a special place in hell. And on our list.

4.) Alger Hiss – Enough said

5.) Jim Jones – He didn’t just poison a ton of people. He did it under the pretense of speaking for God and upset the applecart of faith for many.

6.)Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling and Bernie Madoff – All three come in at a tie. Not unlike religious examples robbing us of our faith in God, they robbed thousands of their cash, hopes, dreams, and faith in an honest marketplace where people could realize the American dream.

9.) Timothy McViegh – Patriots… please.

10.) Lee Harvey Oswald – I don’t care what you thought of J.F.K. or the fact that he led to Johnson, the guy shot the president and sent shock waves through the nation.

11.) D.C. Stephenson – Grand Dragon in the Klan and friend of one of the most corrupt politicians in Indiana history, his crimes against the nation and his fellow man are legendary.

12.) John Anthony Walker – You want to talk about intentionally doing things to destroy your own country? His picture is by the term in the encyclopedia.

There you have it. Some of the worst we have to offer. Sleep well.

UPDATE: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

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Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! Morphs Into Barry! Barry! Barry!

Julie Mason at The Washington Examiner:

President Obama is going to New Jersey this week for remarks on the economy, with a little detour to NYC for a DNC fundraiser and a taping of “The View.” It’s his third appearance on the show, but the first of any sitting president — on any daytime talk show.

From the ABC release:

President Obama’s interview, scheduled to tape on Wednesday, July 28th, will touch on topics including his administration’s accomplishments, jobs, the economy, the Gulf oil spill, and family life inside the White House.

Sigh. Really? Is daytime talk a realm that really needed conquering by a U.S. president? Yes, the president should be seen, and certainly “The View” has its moments — they do try to be topical. But this feels like a potentially high ick-factor scenario.

Among other things, it’s very pandering, and there’s a great potential for embarrassment, on all sides. Are they going to tell him how handsome he is and then Elizabeth Hasselbeck launches into him on national security?

Shani O. Hilton at Tapped:

Obama, who released a new National HIV/AIDS strategy last month, has a chance to shift the heat to the show’s hosts. When comedian D.L. Hughley visited the show in late June, he and host Sherri Shepherd had a “hot topics” discussion that touched on the prevalence of HIV and AIDS among black Americans.

Hughley said, “When you look at the prevalence of HIV in the African American community, it’s primarily young women getting it from men on the ‘down low.'” Shepherd added: “[HIV/AIDS] is so big in the black community with women because they’re having unprotected sex with men who have been having sex with … with men.”

But as Jorge Rivas at Colorlines magazine noted, that’s simply not true. Not only has the “down low” myth been debunked time and time again, it’s a dangerous idea that deflects attention from the real issues around the high rate of HIV and AIDS among black women. Unprotected heterosexual sex, and limited access to STD prevention and safe-sex tools, plus a lack of health care and regular screenings are the major contributing factors.

No one at The View bothered to correct Shepherd or Hughley. After GLAAD placed an ad in Variety magazine pointing out the misinformation being spread on the widely watched show and calling for a retraction, ABC non-responded, saying: “A guest moderator on the show expressed his interpretation of data about one way the virus can be transmitted. The topic of HIV/AIDS has been raised many times over the show’s 13 years, with many voices and opinions contributing to a conversation that we expect to continue as long as The View is on the air.”

Clearly, ABC was trying to couch Hughley’s statement as opinion. But when ill-informed opinions like Hughley’s and Shepherd’s are given air on a nationally syndicated show, there’s little reason for viewers to think those opinions aren’t fact. This is dangerous, if not deadly, because a clear public understanding of the factors that contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS is crucial to containing the epidemic. And while it’s doubtful that Obama will directly address the HIV/AIDS mythology being shared on The View, for the sake of building stronger support for his initiative, he should.

Matt Lewis at Politics Daily:

News that President Obama was set to appear on ABC’s “The View” on Thursday — the first time a sitting U.S. president will appear on a daytime talk show — has been met with predicable concerns about the dignity of the presidency.

(During the 2008 campaign, Obama and John McCain both appeared on the program.)

But while you might expect Republicans to be critical of the president’s appearance on the show, even some of Obama’s fellow Democrats are skeptical.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”‘ Tuesday (video below), Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) was less than confident that Obama was making the right move. As Rendell said:

I think there are some shows . . . I wouldn’t put him on ‘Jerry Springer’ either, right? . . . It is different, a little bit. But look, I think the president of the United States has to go on serious shows. And ‘The View’ is — you can make a case that ‘The View’ is a serious show — but also rocks and rolls a little bit. I’m not sure he has to go on ‘The View’ to be open to questions.

Meredith Jessup at Townhall:

Who says President Obama doesn’t transcend petty political differences?  He is uniting people like never before… against him.

In the latest case of individuals putting politics aside to bash Obama, Pat Buchanan–who disagrees with most everything the president does–and Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., appeared on MSNBC yesterday and came to one sound conclusion: Obama should not go on “The View”:

Rendell: I think there’s got to be a little bit of dignity to the presidency.

Mika Brzezinski: What are you saying, Ed?

Willie Geist: What a horrible insult to “The View.”

Rendell: I think there are some shows I wouldn’t put him on, “Jerry Springer,” too, right? … I think the president of the United States has to go on serious shows. And “The View” is, you can make a case that it’s a serious show, but it also rocks and rolls a little bit. I’m not sure he has to go on “The View” to be open to questions.

TV Newser reports that Obama will be taping his guest appearance with Babs Walters & her motley crew tomorrow for the show that will air Thursday.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

Barack Obama will skip the Boy Scout 100 year Anniversary Jamboree…

Instead he will travel to New York City to appear on “The View.”

Maybe they’ll call him “sexy” again?

Wonkette:

President Barack Obama will do just about anything to avoid his most important duties in office, which involve, as Chuck Norris pointed out, doing Boy Scout stuff. The latest chapter in Obama’s conspiracy against America’s boy industry is that he’s now blaming his absence at this year’s Jamboree on a scheduling conflict: He is taping The View on Wednesday. Why does Obama continue to disrespect our brave children in uniform?

Housewives can vote, you see, whereas Boy Scouts cannot — even though these costumed boy-children must collect the Democracy Badge, the Electioneering Badge, the First-Past-the-Post Badge, the Gerrymandering Badge, the Proportional Representation Badge, the Instant-Runoff-Voting Badge, the Shooing Away Black Panthers Badge and the Nixon Honor Badge to become an Eagle Scout.

Thus, the leader of the free world will chat with a handful of quasi-celebrities about lady stuff (like their periods, probably), instead of doing his real job, which is hanging out with eight-year-olds and teaching them how to build a campfire.

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You’re Reading The Moulitsas/Scarborough Feud, Brewed By Starbucks

The full Markos Moulitsas post at Daily Kos:

In case you were wondering why you haven’t seen me on MSNBC recently, it seems that Joe Scarborough, he of the lowest rated morning show in cableland, has blackballed me. And Phil Griffin, the alleged president of MSNBC, is going along with it.

It all began May 29, with Joe Scarborough taking to Twitter to whine about the media coverage of the supposed Sestak scandal (remember that one?):

JoeNBC: The Sestak story is as unbelievable a cover story as Nixon throwing little Checkers under the bus. A farce on it’s face. Luckily for the White House, the media has been negligent on this story since Day 1. The press will let this laughable story slide.

That was too much horseshit for me. If there was someone who had ZERO ground to stand on whining about media bias, it was Scarborough. So I shot back:

markos: Like story of a certain dead intern. RT @JoeNBC: Luckily for the White House, the media has been negligent on this story since Day 1.

Markos: But if you want to talk about bullshit “scandals”, @JoeNBC, there’s this one about Joe Sestak and the White House you might’ve heard of.

It degenerated from there.

JoeNBC: @markos Unbelievable. You have a long history of spreading lies suggesting I am a murderer. This is the 3rd or 4th time by my count.

Markos: @JoeNBC, I’ve never suggested you’re a murderer. I’ve noted media hypocrisy in going after Gary Condit. But he was Dem. You aren’t.

JoeNBC: Anyone in media who interviews @markos, know that you’re extending your credibility to someone who regularly suggests that I’m a murderer.

Markos: A bit touchy, @JoeNBC? Links for where I accuse you of being a murderer please.

There were no links, of course. I never accused him of murder, much less three or four times. In fact, we had just had a pleasant chat in the Meet the Press green room in December, which wouldn’t be the case if I was bedeviling him with accusations of murder. The only time I ever mentioned the incident was this post in 2005, in which I discussed him as a potential Senate candidate.

Note that there wasn’t an accusation of murder. In fact, I called the murder accusations “tin foil” (aka conspiracy theories). Yet Gary Condit got hounded out of polite society for a murder he didn’t commit, while Joe Scarborough got a show on MSNBC. As my tweets made clear, this was about media double standards, and it was about Scarborough trying to invent a scandal from nothing (as was the case with the conspiracy theorists and his deceased aide). One could disagree with those points, but to argue it was somehow an accusation of murder was bizarre, and of course, Scarborough was unable to back it up.

Instead, Scarborough, unable to keep it together, ran crying to Phil Griffin. And while admitting to me that Scarborough’s claims were baseless and overblown, Griffin banned me from the network. Asked for on-the-record comment, Griffin offered this statement:

Markos,

Blog if you must, but here is my on the record statement to you which I ask that you print in full:

Yes, after I became aware of the ugly cheap shot  you  took at Joe on Twitter, I asked the teams to take a break from booking you on our shows for a while. I found the comments to be in poor taste, and utterly uncalled for in a civil discourse.

I’m hoping this will be only temporary and that the situation can be resolved in a mature fashion, but until then I just don’t know how one could reasonably expect to be welcomed onto our network while publicly antagonizing one of our hosts at the same time.

The DailyKos community has been among the most supportive of MSNBC, and we continue to appreciate that support.

I’ve criticized Chris Matthews before, sometimes harshly, and it never led to me being banned. This was not about criticizing some random MSNBC host, but about criticizing the network’s token conservative, a man who wilts in the face of the awesome power of Twitter and its 140-character limit. Morning Joe happens to be Griffin’s pet project at MSNBC. He’s staked his career on it, and as such, lets Scarborough call the shots — to the point of having its least successful host dictate the guest list of its most successful one.

Look, it’s been good for Daily Kos to have me on, but it’s not my favorite medium, I’m often uncomfortable, and part of me would be grateful if I never had to do a TV spot again. I did as much MSNBC as I did because I like and respect Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz. If they decided they didn’t want me on anymore, I’d be perfectly okay with that. However, I do think it’s noteworthy when I’ve been booted from the network because of a Scarborough temper tantrum.

John Byrne at Raw Story:

Lauren Skowronski, a public relations employee for MSNBC and NBC Universal, MSNBC’s parent company, told Raw Story, “MSNBC is not commenting.”

MSNBC is generally considered a liberal-leaning network, so the claim that a large liberal blogger has been banned has raised eyebrows.

Steve Krakauer at Mediaite:

Moulitsas had been a semi-regular guest on Ed Schultz‘ show as well as Countdown with Keith Olbermann. We’ll see when he’s back.

And speaking of Olbermann, he hasn’t weighed in yet on Twitter on Moulitsas but he has about NBC’s Amy Robach. A fan asked “Keith!! How goes Operation Save Amy Robach’s Career from having to do features about Cougar Conventions, by coming 2 Contdwn.” Olbermann’s response:

I think she’s said previously that she made the choice not to be on Countdown

Interesting. Stay tuned for more on all the comings and goings at MSNBC.

Greg Sargent:

It’s funny. I don’t recall the chief of MSNBC publicly banning Liz Cheney from appearing on the network when she cut an entire Web video “publicly antagonizing” Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews for allegedly being too frightened to debate her about terrorism

[…]

See, conservatives are expected to demonize the media, and can always count on being granted a platform by the same major networks they hammer publicly on a regular basis. It’s all part of the game, get it? But it seems Markos got publicly dressed down and banned by the president of the network, no less, all because he got under Scarborough’s skin with a few nasty little Tweets.

Alex Pareene at Salon:

This is what Markos is talking about: Back in the summer of 2001, Scarborough, who was divorced at the time, announced his intention to retire from Congress to spend more time with his children. Shortly after that announcement, an intern named Lori Klausutis was found dead in his Florida office.

At the time, the national press was obsessed with Gary Condit, a Democratic Congressmen who was all-but-accused of killing an intern whom he’d been sleeping with. No such attention fell on Scarborough. (Then 9/11 happened.)

Kos was arguing that Scarborough was the beneficiary of a media double standard whereby scandals ginned up by conservative activists receive attention far beyond what they merit. (Kos was also intentionally needling Scarborough.)

Scarborough responded by saying Kos regularly accuses Scarborough of being a murderer, which Kos disputes.

Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

Digby:

Now I have to assume that Scarborough is either brain damaged or must want people to look at that story again because otherwise he would have let some innocuous, snarky tweet pass by. Now we all have no choice but to rehash the whole thing in order to explain why Markos has been banned from the network.

I’m guessing he’s running for office again. After all, in today’s GOP if you aren’t picking up men in bathrooms, harassing pages by the dozen or hiking the Appalachian trail, you just aren’t worth the teabag you’re steeping in.

I’ll be curious to see if any of the MSNBC hosts put up a fight. I doubt they will. There seems to be some kind of village Omerta when it comes to Joe Scarborough.

Michael Stickings at Moderate Voice:

What Kos is getting at here is that there appears to be a double standard, just as there was with the coverage of Levy/Klausutis, one driven by partisanship and ideology. And it’s all about the media giving conservatives a free pass. It may not be clear-cut, and there may be exceptions to it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Meanwhile, the Kos-Scarborough flare-up probably could have been handled more maturely, but it’s really only Kos’s first tweet that went a bit too far (if anything, he could have been more tactful). After that, it was Scarborough who lost it, throwing a “temper tantrum” and complaining to his boss (who “lets Scarborough call the shots” and so who was bound to side with his low-rated morning host).

Regardless, it’s pretty stupid for MSNBC to blacklist a major progressive voice and new media icon like Markos Moulitsas. It would do well to rethink its priorities, and to think through its double standards.

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So Your Choice Is Earl Grey Or Oolong…

Matthew Continetti at The Weekly Standard:

As a student in the exciting new field of Tea Party Studies, I’ve noticed that no one agrees on what the Tea Party actually is. Is the anti-Obama, anti-big government movement simply AstroTurf fabricated by Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks? Is it a bunch of Birthers, Birchers, conspiracists, and white power misfits? Is it a strictly economic phenomenon—the inevitable result of high and persistent unemployment? Or are the Tea Partiers nothing more than indulgent Boomers who combine 1960s social libertarianism with 1980s laissez-faire economics? Does the Tea Party draw on longstanding American constitutional, political, and economic traditions, eddies of thought that one can trace back to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson? Or is it of a more recent vintage: Are the Tea Partiers simply the same folks who once were called Reagan Democrats and Perotistas?

All of the above. There is no single “Tea Party.” The name is an umbrella that encompasses many different groups. Under this umbrella, you’ll find everyone from the woolly fringe to Ron Paul supporters, from Americans for Prosperity to religious conservatives, independents, and citizens who never have been active in politics before. The umbrella is gigantic. But there are discernible ribs that extend outward from its central post, and points of shared concern that support the overall structure.

[…]

The Tea Party, like the Roman god Janus, has two faces. One looks to the future. The other looks to the past. One wants to repair deformities in the American political structure and move on. The other is ready to scrap the whole thing and restore a lost Eden.

They are the faces, in other words, of the cable TV stars who are arguably the Tea Party’s two founders: Rick Santelli and Glenn Beck.

Return to Thursday, February 19, 2009. The economic picture was bleak. Employment was in free fall. The political system was in a state of emergency. Several months earlier, Congress had passed the TARP bailout. Less than a week before, Congress had passed the $800 billion stimulus bill by a narrow vote. The previous day, the new president had unveiled his “Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan.”

At 8:15 a.m., CNBC on-air editor Rick Santelli appeared on that network’s Squawk Box program from the floor of the Chicago mercantile exchange. Most of the traders hadn’t yet shown up to work. The floor was quiet. Santelli’s booming voice echoed throughout the room. He began to rant about the Obama housing plan, and as his rant gained force some of the traders joined in. By the time the segment was over, the Tea Party had been born.

The topic may have been economic policy, but Santelli really was making a moral argument. For him, the housing plan rewarded bad behavior. It changed the rules so people could remain in homes that they shouldn’t have been able to purchase in the first place. The responsible taxpayer’s earned wealth was being diverted to bail out the irresponsible. Government modification of interest rates was a band-aid that didn’t address the underlying problem. “You can go down to minus 2 percent [interest],” Santelli said. “They can’t afford the house.” This, in Santelli’s view, was the textbook definition of moral hazard.

America was on a path, Santelli said, that its Founders would not recognize. “If you read our Founding Fathers,” he said, “people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson, what we’re doing in this country now is making them roll over in their graves.” That was why he was planning a “Chicago Tea Party” for all “the capitalists out there” who were fed up with the situation. It turns out that there are a lot of capitalists out there. Santelli’s rant has been viewed on YouTube more than 1.2 million times.

[…]

Beck is not simply an entertainer. He and his audience love American history. They are hungry for new ways to interpret current events. And Beck is creating, in Amity Shlaes’s words, “a competing canon” of texts and authorities. This competing canon is not content to assault contemporary liberalism, but rather deconstructs the very foundations of the New Deal and the Progressive Era. Among the books Beck regularly cites on his programs are Shlaes’s Forgotten Man, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, Larry Schweickart and Michael Allen’s Patriot’s History of the United States, and Burt Folsom Jr.’s New Deal or Raw Deal? And books like Matthew Spalding’s We Still Hold These Truths, Seth Lipsky’s Citizen’s Constitution, and William J. Bennett and John Cribb’s American Patriot’s Almanac all belong on the list as well.

This intellectual journey has led Beck to some disturbing conclusions. Whereas Rick Santelli says the housing plan and the stimulus aren’t sensible, Beck says the Obama administration is the culmination of 100 years of unconstitutional governance. On the “We Surround Them” episode, Beck said, “The system has been perverted and it has to be restored.” In between bouts of weeping, he asked, “What happened to the country that loved the underdog and stood up for the little guy?” That country, he implied, is vanishing before our eyes. In Beck’s world, politics is less about issues than it is about “us” versus “them.” We may have them surrounded. But “we can’t trust anyone.”

The reason no one can be trusted, Beck says, is that the political system is compromised by the ideology of progressivism. At his keynote speech to the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference, Beck wrote the word “progressivism” on a chalkboard and said, “This is the disease. This is the disease in America.” He said again, “Progressivism is the cancer in America and it is eating our Constitution.”

When he refers to progressivism, Beck is not only highlighting the liberals’ latest name for liberalism. He is referring to the ideas of John Dewey, Herbert Croly, and Walter Lippmann. According to Beck (and many others), these early 20th-century thinkers believed that there is no such thing as natural right. The Constitution, in their view, was not equipped to deal with the complexities of modern society. They argued that government should do more to protect free competition by busting trusts, and also promote equality and individual development through redistribution. The progressive tendency found political expression in Theodore Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” speech of 1910 and in Woodrow Wilson’s presidency from 1913-1921. It became the foundation for FDR’s New Deal.

Beck believes progressive ideas infect both parties and threaten to destroy America as it was originally conceived. “Progressivism,” he wrote in Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, “has less to do with the parties and more to do with individuals who seek to redefine, reshape, and rebuild America into a country where individual liberties and personal property mean nothing if they conflict with the plans and goals of the State.”

By attacking progressivism, Beck is taking on a big idea. He is forcing people to question their assumptions. He is introducing new thinkers to the reading public. But he is also engaging in a line of inquiry that—interesting though it may sometimes be—is tangential to the political realities of our day. And his intellectual inquiries have a purpose: to foster the perception that a benighted American public is being preyed upon by an internationalist conspiracy.

So, the difference between communism and progressivism, Beck argued at CPAC, is “revolution” or “evolution.” In other words, the difference between communism and progressivism is one of means not ends. “There is no difference,” he said, “except one requires a gun and the other does it slowly.”

“Socialism and fascism,” the author writes in Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, “have been on the rise for two administrations now.” Beck’s book Arguing with Idiots contains a list of the “Top Ten Bastards of All Time,” on which Pol Pot (No. 10), Adolf Hitler (No. 6), and Pontius Pilate (No. 4) all rank lower than FDR (No. 3) and Woodrow Wilson (No. 1). In Glenn Beck’s Common Sense Beck writes, “With a few notable exceptions, our political leaders have become nothing more than parasites who feed off our sweat and blood.”

This is nonsense. Whatever you think of Theodore Roosevelt, he was not Lenin. Woodrow Wilson was not Stalin. The philosophical foundations of progressivism may be wrong. The policies that progressivism generates may be counterproductive. Its view of the Constitution may betray the Founders’. Nevertheless, progressivism is a distinctly American tradition that partly came into being as a way to prevent ideologies like communism and fascism from taking root in the United States. And not even the stupidest American liberal shares the morality of the totalitarian monsters whom Beck analogizes to American politics so flippantly.

Read and watch enough Glenn Beck, and you realize that he is not only introducing new authors and ideas into public life, he is reintroducing old ideas. Some very old ideas. The notion that America’s leaders are indistinguishable from America’s enemies has a long and sorry history. In the 1950s it led Robert Welch, the head of the John Birch Society, to proclaim that President Dwight Eisenhower was a Communist sympathizer. For this, William F. Buckley Jr. famously denounced Welch and severed the Birchers’ ties to mainstream conservatism. The group was ostracized for decades.

But not everyone denounced Welch. One author, the Mormon autodidact W. Cleon Skousen, continued to support the Birchers as he penned books on politics and the American founding. And Skousen continued to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that American political, social, and economic elites were working with the Communists to foist a world government on the United States.

Glenn Beck is a Skousenite. During the “We Surround Them” program, he urged his audience to read Skousen’s 5000 Year Leap (1981), for which he has written a foreword, and The Real George Washington (1991). “The 5000 Year Leap is essential to understanding why our Founders built this Republic the way they did,” the author writes in Glenn Beck’s Common Sense. More controversially, Beck has recommended Skousen’s Naked Communist (1958) and Naked Capitalist (1970), which lay out the writer’s paranoid scenarios in detail. The latter book, for example, draws on Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope (1966), which argues that the history of the 20th century is the product of secret societies in conflict. “Carroll Quigley laid open the plan in Tragedy and Hope,” says a character in Beck’s new novel, The Overton Window. “The only hope to avoid the tragedy of war was to bind together the economies of the world to foster global stability and peace.”

For Beck, conspiracy theories are not aberrations. They are central to his worldview. They are the natural consequence of assuming that the world hangs by a thread, and that everyone is out to get you. On his television program, Beck promised to “find out what’s true and what’s not with the FEMA concentration camps”—referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a federal bureaucracy that chiefly funnels relief funds to victims of natural disasters, and is more commonly (and accurately) thought of as punchless. Beck later acknowledged that his staff could not find any evidence for such camps.

Beck has urged his viewers to read The Coming Insurrection, an impenetrable political tract by a French Marxist group called The Invisible Committee that has no clear relationship to U.S. politics (or to reality). In Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, the author writes that “efforts are now also being made to empower the State to retain, test, and research the blood and DNA of newborn babies.” The plot of The Overton Window is one big conspiracy theory in which the United States government, Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and the Trilateral Commission are all plotting an antidemocratic coup. It is a fever-dream that Oliver Stone would envy. “Who needs a list when they can monitor you whenever they want?” says one of the book’s characters at a fictional Tea Party rally. “You’ve all heard of that ‘Digital Angel’ device that can be implanted under your skin, right? They say it’s to store medical information and for the safety of children and Alzheimer’s patients.” Scary stuff. But also fantastical. In an author’s note, Beck says his novel is not fiction but “faction”—“completely fictional books with plots rooted in fact.” Which “facts” are those?

FrumForum:

In response to an article written by Matthew Continetti in the Weekly Standard, Glenn Beck’s producer is attacking the magazine and pushing for a boycott:

Look, we usually love The Weekly Standard. They are typically an extremely useful and important source of analysis (I think?). But, this is horrible. It’s a hit piece barely worthy of Media Matters, and I’d rate it as impossible that the author doesn’t know it.

The piece is filled with so many discredited attacks and poorly researched nonsense (the list is just one small example) that you might think it is just laziness. But it’s worse than that. It’s intentionally misleading. It’s a collection of lies they are proud of.  They put it on the cover. I mean, it’s enough to doubt anything they print.

I don’t understand the motivation, but luckily their circulation is so impossibly small that Glenn reaches more people in 11 seconds on the air than they do in 6 months. Oh, but how will we compete with those creative cartoons on the cover!!! So innovative for 1962!

Truly embarrassing work.

You can cancel your subscription by calling 1-800-274-7293. When you’re done…might I suggest another option.

Daniel Foster at The Corner:

Before I get to why, let me first say that there is much I love about what Beck is doing. Anyone who puts Hayek at the top of Amazon is not without his merits. Continetti captures this:

Beck is not simply an entertainer. He and his audience love American history. They are hungry for new ways to interpret current events. And Beck is creating, in Amity Shlaes’s words, “a competing canon” of texts and authorities. This competing canon is not content to assault contemporary liberalism, but rather deconstructs the very foundations of the New Deal and the Progressive Era. Among the books Beck regularly cites on his programs are Shlaes’s Forgotten Man, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism*, Larry Schweickart and Michael Allen’s Patriot’s History of the United States, and Burt Folsom Jr.’s New Deal or Raw Deal? And books like Matthew Spalding’s We Still Hold These Truths, Seth Lipsky’s Citizen’s Constitution, and William J. Bennett and John Cribb’s American Patriot’s Almanac all belong on the list as well.

For the record, I think Continetti actually underestimates the debt Beck owes to Jonah and Liberal Fascism for the very structure of his critique of progressivism. I trust you’ll believe that it isn’t mere collegiality that compels me to say that that book seems more important with each passing day.

[…]

At this point in the proceedings, by the way, I’m actually halfway between Beck and Continetti. Like Continetti (and like Jonah, for that matter) I think that the unique political culture of America means that European-style totalitarianism would have a much tougher time gaining ground here. Indeed the very existence of the Tea Party is proof of this. But I also think certain — ahem — neoconservative elements of the right are too quick to reflexively beatify the likes of Wilson and Roosevelt, and too selectively blind to the breathtaking statism they advocated.

[…]

This cuts right to the core of Continetti’s thesis in that piece —  that the as-yet amorphous Tea Party movement must lead with free-markets and small-government, not conspiracy theories and doom-saying. As I’ve said above, both Beck and I happen to think that conservatives like Continetti are too kind to the post-New Deal order, but whether one sees that order as the well-intentioned but fatally flawed American project, or as the fruits of an Illuminati conspiracy, is surely important to the future of the Tea Party — and the discourse.

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

I’m with Foster on the proposition that “conservatives like Continetti are too kind to the post-New Deal order.” Whatever accommodation politicians must make with the post-New Deal federal government, it represents a deep rupture with the doctrine of limited government embodied in the Constitution.

Taking issue with Beck, Matt defends the Americanness of progressivism, asserting that “progressivism is a distinctly American tradition that partly came into being as a way to prevent ideologies like communism and fascism from taking root in the United States.” Here Matt is clearly referring to referring to Roosevelt and the New Deal, and one understands the point. Yet Roosevelt’s battle with the Supreme Court was no accident, and it is not wonderful that Roosevelt ultimately prevailed. As James Ceaser writes, the progressives “sought to replace, which meant virtually to efface or supplant, the original Founders.” (I am borrowing the Ceaser quote from William Voegeli’s Never Enough.)

Moreover, if one traces the origins of progressivism, as Ronald J. Pestritto does in Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, one discovers the deep hostility of the progressives to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The progressives’ hostility to the Declaration and the Constitution is rooted largely in nineteenth-century German thought.

Wilson and other progressives thought that the insights of German philosophers such as Hegel rendered the thought of the Founders obsolete. (Paul and I quoted some of Wilson’s more pointed comments on Hegel and the Founders in “From Hegel to Wilson to Breyer.”)

Anyway, my point, and I do have one, is to suggest that you read Continetti, and then Foster…and the important books cited in their pieces.

Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene

Matt Lewis and Conor Friedersdorf at Bloggingheads

Kevin Drum:

Here’s the thing: as near as I can tell, tea partiers are not, in fact, especially put out by bailouts to the wealthy. Santelli’s founding rant, as Continetti points out, was aimed at homeowners being bailed out of mortgages they couldn’t afford. And as Continetti himself admits just a few sentences later, tea partiers don’t have much to say about Wall Street banks. That’s pretty odd for a movement supposedly opposed to big bailouts. The reality is quite different: if the tea partiers are really upset that Congress hasn’t yet reined in the financial sector, they sure have a funny way of showing it. All the evidence I’ve seen suggests just the opposite: most tea partiers think not that Obama’s financial reform proposals are too modest, but that they verge on socialism. They think he wants to take over the banks the same way he took over the car companies.

Ditto for securing the borders — though here the schizophrenia is a little more explicable. Tea partiers do indeed seem to be temperamentally outraged by illegal immigration, but Dick Armey and FreedomWorks, who are big tea party funders, aren’t. So that’s tamped things down a bit on the immigration front. (Though obviously that could change if immigration becomes a front-and-center legislative issue later this year.)

In other words, the inchoate rage of the tea party movement is, if anything, even worse than Continetti says. Tea partiers are, obviously outraged about Obama, outraged at his “socialism,” and outraged at the increasing deficit and the social programs it funds. But there’s simply not much evidence that they’re really outraged at Wall Street or at the business community in general. Nor are they outraged by two foreign wars and skyrocketing military spending. Nor are they outraged by the obvious possibilities for government overreach that are inherent in things like massive warrantless wiretap programs and a less than robust attitude toward constitutional rights for anyone suspected of terrorism.

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

I finally got around to reading Matt Continetti’s piece on the tea parties. I’ve got to say I find it pretty flawed. First of all, it’s not really a piece on the tea parties. It’s a hit piece on Glenn Beck. And that’s fine. Conservatism is big enough and Beck is controversial enough, for people to take different sides on a vast range of topics. But I think Matt’s analysis simply comes up short.

(Warning: Long post ahead)

My chief complaint is that he desperately wants to force a Manichean critique of the tea parties (Santelli = good, Beck = bad) by lambasting Beck for being too conspiratorial and Manichean. The title of the essay says a lot: “The Two Faces of the Tea Parties.” Note, Continetti  isn’t being hypocritical. One could argue that the chief flaw of, say, Stalin was his us-vs.-them worldview while at the same rightly arguing that we should have an us-vs.-them attitude toward Stalin and Stalinists.

[…]

For starters, the notion that Reagan and Goldwater represented two distinct and irreconcilable factions would come as a shock to nearly every conservative and liberal commentator from, say, 1960 to 1990. Heck,  it would have come as a shock to both Reagan and Goldwater. The Goldwater forces inside the conservative movement in large part became the Reagan forces. (Matt also does a grave disservice to Goldwater by comparing him to Beck, given what Continetti thinks of Beck). So I have no idea how Matt thinks this historical analogy supports his argument that the Santelli and Beck faces are irreconcilable with mainstream conservative politics.

But then again, I largely think he’s wrong to divide the movement this way. And it is telling that he has to offer a literary interpretation to support this claim. If there were true wings to the movment, he would deploy  polling data, and speech excerpts from Beckians denouncing Santellians. Where are the primary fights manifesting these supposedly durable and longstanding schisms? We aren’t seeing any because, I suspect, the more radical tea partiers do not define themselves in terms of their opposition to the Santelli wing of the movement at all. That’s why the Beckians supported Scott Brown, and why the Santellians supported Nikki Haley — because this schizophrenia that Matt ascribes to the tea parties isn’t all that pronounced according to the tea partiers themselves. In other words, Matt is simply taking a journalistic short cut to get to the Beck-Bashing.

This is a big problem for Matt’s analysis given that he says Beck can’t be integrated into the conservative movement.   Again, he offers little to no empirical data on this point. Rather, he lambasts Beck’s conspiratorial streak — and I think Matt is right that Beck has one, even if he might overstate his case.

Matthew Continetti at TWS, responding to Goldberg:

In a response to my article, “The Two Faces of the Tea Party,” Jonah Goldberg writes that “at times [Continetti] seems to be trying — and trying very hard — to use [Glenn] Beck to discredit the entire conservative argument against the progressive revolution in politics.”

I am doing no such thing. The long passage Goldberg excerpts in his post, in which I describe Beck’s construction of a “competing canon,” is not meant as an attack. Indeed, I respect Beck’s ability to introduce conservative authors into public discourse. I happen to like many of the books on that list. All of them are interesting. So let me settle any disagreement between Goldberg and his colleague Daniel Foster, who Goldberg says “seems to think Continetti is celebrating Beck’s bibliophile prosletyzing.” Foster is right: “Celebrating” — or at least, cheerfully acknowledging — is exactly what I was doing in that passage.

I make two critiques of Beck in my article. The first is that, as valuable an intellectual exercise as it might be to explore, as Goldberg puts it, the “progressive revolution in politics,” it is hard to see how such an exercise translates into today’s politics. The welfare state is here to stay. A Republican party that ran on the platform of repealing the Progressive Era would no longer be a force in American life. Hence the Tea Party may prove to be self-limiting, as its anti-statist ambitions grow more and more utopian. Now, obviously this is a debatable assertion, and I’ve been happy to see my article provoke a lot of discussion. But to disagree with Beck or anyone else on the relative merits of progressivism is not to write a “hit piece” on him.

Which brings me to my second critique. While Beck is introducing many excellent authors to his radio and television audiences, he is also introducing crank conspiracy theorists such as Carroll Quigley and Cleon Skousen. Goldberg concedes that Beck has a “conspiratorial streak,” but then says that I “might overstate my case.” I’m sorry, I don’t. Take, for example, Beck’s June 22 television show. His guest was Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, who has written a new book on the Weimar banker Sigmund Warburg. “His family is conspiracy central, right?” Beck asked Ferguson, and then referred, once again, to Quigley’s 1966 Tragedy and Hope.

Tragedy and Hope, as I write in my piece, is the bible of conspiracy theorists. Why? Because in it Quigley, a Georgetown professor for many years and a man of the left, “admitted” that most of world history since the early twentieth century has been the design of secret societies. From page 950:

“There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, in the way the radical Right believes the Communists act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other groups, and frequently does so. I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960s, to study its papers and secret records.”

Of course, Quigley is the only individual, dead or alive, who has studied “the papers and secret records” of the Round Table Group — perhaps because no such records and no such network exist.

Ross Douthat:

Yes, there isn’t actually a self-identified Santellian faction of the Tea Party, or a self-identified Beck wing. And yes, no binary will ever capture all the nuances of a diverse and motley movement. But the point of Continetti’s “literary” analysis was to identify tendencies, not factions — and tendencies can co-exist not only in the same movement, but often in the same people, without being formally acknowledged as competing ideologies. (There’s probably a little Beck and a little Santelli in every conservative heart …)

Moreover, once you start applying the frame to real-world figures, it’s pretty easy to see what Continetti’s talking about. Nikki Haley and Scott Brown are both Santellians, for instance (even though Haley is more right-wing than Brown), because they’re forward-looking and positive rather than conspiratorial and apocalyptic. Rick “Gather Your Armies” Barber, on the other hand, is a Beckian. So is Michelle Bachmann, at least when she’s fretting about Barack Obama’s sinister plans to create a “global economy.” When Tea Party darling Marco Rubio talks about the need to reform Social Security, he’s being Santellian. When Tea Party darling Sharron Angle talks about how Social Security and Medicare “can’t be fixed,” that’s Beckian. Paul Ryan’s Roadmap is Santellian. Rand Paul’s critique of the Civil Rights Act is Beckian. And so on and so forth.

I’m more sympathetic to Goldberg’s broader complaint about Continetti’s essay — namely, that it’s possible to separate some of the arguments that Beck endorses (particularly the critique of early-20th century progressivism and its consequences that’s obviously close to Goldberg’s own heart) from the conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric that the TV host favors.  Certainly there can be virtues in radical ideas and vices in the comforts of the “mainstream,” and with the conservative movement in the wilderness, a deep rethinking of all kinds of issues (even if Goldberg and I might disagree about which ones) may have more to recommend it than Continetti’s piece sometimes seems to allow. (Though I don’t think that he intended to be quite as sweepingly dismissive of such rethinking as Goldberg suggests: See his response on that front for some clarification.)

But Continetti’s ultimately right that any such rethinking needs to circle back to the realities of contemporary politics, and the challenges of actual-existing policy issues, rather than indulging in manichaean fantasies about a final battle between virtuous liberty-lovers and wicked statists. What’s more, he’s right to suggest that certain ways of rethinking American politics are simply toxic and self-discrediting and ought to be labeled as such, no matter how many copies of “The Road to Serfdom” they inspire people to buy.

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Like A Rolling Stone

Michael Hastings at Rolling Stone:

How’d I get screwed into going to this dinner?” demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It’s a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the Hôtel Westminster in Paris. He’s in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies – to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany’s president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.

“The dinner comes with the position, sir,” says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn.

McChrystal turns sharply in his chair.

“Hey, Charlie,” he asks, “does this come with the position?”

McChrystal gives him the middle finger.

On the ground with the Runaway General: Photos of Stanley McChrystal at work.

The general stands and looks around the suite that his traveling staff of 10 has converted into a full-scale operations center. The tables are crowded with silver Panasonic Toughbooks, and blue cables crisscross the hotel’s thick carpet, hooked up to satellite dishes to provide encrypted phone and e-mail communications. Dressed in off-the-rack civilian casual – blue tie, button-down shirt, dress slacks – McChrystal is way out of his comfort zone. Paris, as one of his advisers says, is the “most anti-McChrystal city you can imagine.” The general hates fancy restaurants, rejecting any place with candles on the tables as too “Gucci.” He prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux,

Talladega Nights

(his favorite movie) to Jean-Luc Godard. Besides, the public eye has never been a place where McChrystal felt comfortable: Before President Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan, he spent five years running the Pentagon’s most secretive black ops.

The Spill, The Scandal and the President: How Obama let BP get away with murder.

“What’s the update on the Kandahar bombing?” McChrystal asks Flynn. The city has been rocked by two massive car bombs in the past day alone, calling into question the general’s assurances that he can wrest it from the Taliban.

“We have two KIAs, but that hasn’t been confirmed,” Flynn says.

McChrystal takes a final look around the suite. At 55, he is gaunt and lean, not unlike an older version of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn. His slate-blue eyes have the unsettling ability to drill down when they lock on you. If you’ve fucked up or disappointed him, they can destroy your soul without the need for him to raise his voice.

Looting Main Street: Matt Taibbi on how the nation’s biggest banks are ripping off American cities.

“I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner,” McChrystal says.

He pauses a beat.

“Unfortunately,” he adds, “no one in this room could do it.”

With that, he’s out the door.

“Who’s he going to dinner with?” I ask one of his aides.

“Some French minister,” the aide tells me. “It’s fucking gay.”

Get more Rolling Stone political coverage.

The next morning, McChrystal and his team gather to prepare for a speech he is giving at the École Militaire, a French military academy. The general prides himself on being sharper and ballsier than anyone else, but his brashness comes with a price: Although McChrystal has been in charge of the war for only a year, in that short time he has managed to piss off almost everyone with a stake in the conflict. Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaos-istan.” The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile

Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. “I never know what’s going to pop out until I’m up there, that’s the problem,” he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”

“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”

When Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, he immediately set out to deliver on his most important campaign promise on foreign policy: to refocus the war in Afghanistan on what led us to invade in the first place. “I want the American people to understand,” he announced in March 2009. “We have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” He ordered another 21,000 troops to Kabul, the largest increase since the war began in 2001. Taking the advice of both the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he also fired Gen. David McKiernan – then the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan – and replaced him with a man he didn’t know and had met only briefly: Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It was the first time a top general had been relieved from duty during wartime in more than 50 years, since Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.

Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn’t go much better. “It was a 10-minute photo op,” says an adviser to McChrystal. “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”

Eric Zimmermann on The Hill:

On Tuesday morning, Rolling Stone Executive Editor Eric Bates suggested that the magazine gathered even more devastating information that could not be published.

“They said a lot of stuff to us off the record that’s not in the story, so we respected all those boundaries,” Bates told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Bates said the magazine has gotten zero pushback from McChrystal’s people.

“No. No, I haven’t heard that,” Bates said when asked whether McChrystal has claimed the magazine misquoted him. “Didn’t hear that during the course of the story. I didn’t hear that in his apology.”

Byron York at The Washington Examiner:

I just got off the phone with a retired military man, with more than 25 years experience, who has worked with Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the Pentagon.  His reaction to McChrystal’s performance in the new Rolling Stone profile?  No surprise at all.

“Those of us who knew him would unanimously tell you that this was just a matter of time,” the man says.  “He talks this way all the time.  I’m surprised it took this long for it to rear its ugly head.”

“He had great disdain for anyone, as he said, ‘in a suit,’” the former military man continues.  “I was shocked one day in a small group of people when he took [former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to task in front of all of us.”

“The other thing about him is that he is probably one of the more arrogant, cocksure military guys I have run across.  That in itself is not necessarily a character flaw, but when you couple it with his great disdain for civilians, it’s a very volatile combination.”

The former military man is under no illusions about the general nature of relations between the military and the civilian leadership.  “I don’t consider this an anomaly,” he says.  “You can find examples of this going back to the founding of the republic.  Nevertheless, it is very disturbing that he would have such disdain for the civilian leadership.”

Andrew Exum:

I have been struck by the degree to which a lot of smart friends are in disagreement about what should be done about l’Affair Rolling Stan. In some ways, the argument about whether or not you dismiss Gen. McChrystal for comments made by the commander and his staff in this Rolling Stone article breaks down into unhappily familiar lines. Critics of the current strategy in Afghanistan unsurprisingly think McChrystal should be fired. Supporters of the strategy think that while the comments made to Rolling Stone were out of line, McChrystal should be retained in the greater interest of the war effort. Neither side, that I have yet seen, has acknowledged that either course of action would carry risk. The purpose of this post is to outline the risks of dismissing Gen. McChrystal as the commander of ISAF in response to the affair. This is an uncomfortable post to write. I very much admire Stan McChrystal and have looked up to him since my time in the Rangers when I fought in Afghanistan under his command. I know the man personally and worked with him last summer in an effort to analyze the war in Afghanistan and NATO/ISAF operations there. And so there may be a limit to how objective I can really be, but I’m a defense policy analyst, so I’m going to try and soberly analyze these risks without letting my admiration for McChrystal get in the way.

James Fallows:

If the facts are as they appear — McChrystal and his associates freely mocking their commander in chief and his possible successor (ie, Biden) and the relevant State Department officials (Holbrooke and Eikenberry) — with no contention that the quotes were invented or misconstrued, then Obama owes it to past and future presidents to draw the line and say: this is not tolerable. You must go. McChrystal’s team was inexplicably reckless in talking before a reporter this way, but that’s a separate question. The fact is — or appears to be — that they did it

The second step is what this means for US strategy in Afghanistan, the future of COIN, etc. But the first is for the civilian Commander in Chief to act in accordance with Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution and demonstrate that there are consequences for showing open disrespect for the chain of command.

And, yes, I would say the same thing in opposite political circumstances — if, for instance, a commander of Iraq operations had been quoted openly mocking George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Resign in protest: yes, a course of honor. But protest and mock while in uniform, no.

Jon Soltz at VetVoice:

I know something about this. In 2006, I worked with two Generals, appearing in national television ads critical of President Bush and his strategy in Iraq. Or, should I say, retired Generals. Major Generals Paul D. Eaton and John Batiste each made the painful decision to leave the military they loved, so they could speak out. To that point, they had held their tongues.

Why?

Because the order and efficacy of our Armed Forces falls apart without respect for the chain of command. Whether it’s a grunt respecting his company commander, or a General respecting the Commander in Chief, every single thing is predicated on the integrity of the chain of command. As soon as someone – especially someone as high up as General McChrystal – violates that respect, every single person under him begins to not only question the orders they’ve been given from above, but is given the signal that it’s OK to openly disagree or mock his or her superior.

And, violate that respect General McChystal and his subordinates have. Among other things, the Rolling Stone story reports first-hand that:

* McChrystal was disappointed with his first meeting with the President, and that he feels the President is uncomfortable and intimidated with military brass.

* McChrystal’s aid calls National Security Advisor James Jones a “clown.”

* Another aide says of envoy Richard Holbrooke, “The Boss [McChrystal] says he’s like a wounded animal. Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”

* Bolstering that, McChrystal himself, receiving an email from Holbrooke says, “Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke. I don’t even want to read it.”

* On Vice President Biden, who disagreed with the General’s strategy in Afghanistan, McChrystal says while laughing, “Are you asking me about Vice President Biden? Who’s that?”

* An aide, mirroring his boss, adds, “Biden? Did you say Bite me?”

Anyone of lower rank would be immediately dismissed if he or she said of their superiors what General McChrystal said, or what he allowed members of his team to say.

This, of course, isn’t the first time that the General has been in trouble. Following a very public campaign for his preferred strategy in Afghanistan, which included a 60 Minutes interview that challenged the President, McChrystal landed in some hot water with the President, and was told to cool it. Frankly, McChrystal got off easy.

When General Eric Shinseki testified to Congress about his opinion on the force levels needed to invade Iraq, countering the strategy laid out by President Bush and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he was forced into retirement. Shinseki, unlike McChrystal, was asked his opinion, under oath, in front of Congress. There’s a difference between that professional conversation, and personal attacks on your superiors. Shinseki didn’t lead a public campaign to air his views, either. At any rate, McChrystal was given a second shot, where Shinseki was not.

Whether he continued his insubordination purposely, or stupidly and unintentionally, isn’t an issue. The issue, here, is that it happened. Again.

Thomas Donnelly and William Kristol in The Weekly Standard:

If Stan McChrystal has to go—and he probably does—it will be a sad end to a career of great distinction and a low moment in a lifetime devoted to duty, honor, and country. But the good of the mission and the prospects for victory in Afghanistan may well now demand a new commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

While there are obvious issues of civil-military relations exposed by the general’s cringe-inducing quotes in the “Runaway General” article in Rolling Stone—and while his staff appear to be off the leash entirely, a command climate for which McChrystal is responsible—the original source of the problem is above the general’s pay grade.

So McChrystal should not be the only one to go.  Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and “AfPak” czar Richard Holbrooke should likewise either submit their resignations or be fired by President Obama.  Vice President Biden and his surrogates should be told to sit down and be quiet, to stop fighting policy battles in the press.  The administration’s “team of rivals” approach is producing only rivalry.

Max Boot at Commentary:

McChrystal was undoubtedly stupid to grant so much access to a hostile reporter, and his aides were equally clueless in making some disparaging remarks in front of this reporter about Vice President Biden and National Security Adviser Jim Jones, among others. But that in no way invalidates McChrystal’s plan, which should be carried out, with some inevitable adjustments, by whomever is the NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Should that person be McChrystal? Despite the calls for his firing emanating from the usual quarters on the left, the general is certainly not guilty of violating the chain of command in the way that truly insubordinate generals like Douglas MacArthur have. Recall that MacArthur publicly disagreed with Truman’ strategy in the Korean War. Likewise, Admiral Fox Fallon was fired as Centcom commander in 2008 after publicly disagreeing in an Esquire article with Bush-administration strategy over Iran. McChrystal does nothing of the sort. At worst, one of his aides says that McChrystal was “disappointed” by his initial meetings with the president, who looked “uncomfortable and intimidated.” Most of the disparaging comments heard from McChrystal’s aides are directed not at the president but at presidential aides who oppose the strategy that the president himself announced back in the fall and that McChrystal is working 24/7 to implement. Is this type of banter enough for Obama to fire McChrystal?

It could be, but if he does it could represent a setback to the war effort — and to the president’s hopes to withdraw some troops next summer. The least disruption would occur if a general already in Afghanistan — Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs day to day operations, is the obvious choice — takes over. If an outsider were chosen (e.g., Marine General Jim Mattis), there would likely be a delay of months while the new commander conducted his own assessment of the situation. That’s a delay we can ill afford right now. On the other hand, we can ill afford having McChrystal stay if he is so discredited with the commander in chief and so weakened in internal-administration deliberations that he cannot stand up to the attempts by Biden and other internal critics to downsize the mission prematurely.

McChrystal has undoubtedly created a major problem for himself, his command, and the larger mission in Afghanistan. But I still believe he is a terrific general who has come up with a good strategy and has energized a listless command that was drifting when he took over. Notwithstanding the current turmoil, the war remains eminently winnable, and the McChrystal strategy remains the best option for winning it.

Spencer Ackerman:

You can read Gen. McChrystal’s apology in full here at the Washington Independent. No “clarification” that I expected last night after seeing the AP writeup of McChrystal’s Rolling Stone interview disrespecting the Obama administration. “It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened,” McChrystal emailed reporters instead. “Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard.” You think?

McChrystal gets called to the White House on Wednesday to direct the monthly Afghanistan/Pakistan briefing — oh, and to explain himself and see if he can keep his job. As I wrote for the Washington Independent, firing him carries its risks. There’s only a year to go before the July 2011 date to begin the transition to Afghan security responsibility and the Kandahar tide is starting to rise. It’ll be hard to fire McChrystal without ripping the entire Afghanistan strategy up, and I’ve gotten no indication from the White House that it’s interested in doing that. On the other hand, if senior administration officials are and I just haven’t picked up on it, McChrystal just gave them their biggest opportunity.

And what an opportunity. You can read the Rolling Stone profile through Politico. The amazing thing about it is there’s no complaints from McChrystal or his staff about the administration on any substantive ground. After all, McChrystal and his allies won the argument within the White House. All the criticisms — of Eikenberry, of Jones, of Holbrooke, of Biden — are actually just immature and arrogant snipes at how annoying Team America (what, apparently, McChrystal’s crew calls itself) finds them. This is not mission-first, to say the least.

In fact, you have to go deep in the piece to find soldiers and officers offering actual critiques — and what they offer is criticism of McChrystal for being insufficiently brutal. Everyone of them quoted here is a mini-Ralph Peters, upset because McChrystal won’t let them “get our fucking gun on,” as one puts it. I have a lot of respect for Michael Hastings, the author of the profile, but there are many greyer shades of on-the-ground military perspective than that, and I’ve seen them up close. But Hastings does a good and insightful job of showing that McChrystal is stepping into a diplomatic vacuum and acting as an advocate for Hamid Karzai despite Karzai’s performance in office.

We’ll have to wait for Wednesday to see if McChrystal keeps his command. My guess is he’ll stay, because now the White House knows that a chastened McChrystal isn’t going to say anything else outside of his lane to any reporter. McChrystal’s apology, emailed to me and other reporters well before the Rolling Stone story dropped, suggests that he wasn’t trying to walk away from his command in a blaze of arrogance. But it’s on him to repair his relationship with his colleagues and his bosses.

Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy:

My bet is that Gen. Stanley McChrystal will be gone within a week or so. Defense Secretary Gates canned Admiral Fallon as Central Command chief in the spring of 2007 for less pointed remarks, so he will look like a hypocrite if he does less here in response to McChrystal dissing Obama, Biden, and the White House in a new  article in Rolling Stone.

At any rate, it may be time for a whole new team in Afghanistan. My nomination is for Petraeus to step down an echelon and take the Afghanistan command. You could leave him nominally the Centcom chief but let his deputy, Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, oversee Iraq, the war planning for Iran, and dealing with Pakistan and the Horn of Africa. But more likely is that Petraeus will ask for another Marine general, James Mattis, who is just finishing up at Jiffycom, and who had planned to retire later this year and head home to Walla Walla, Washington. Petraeus and Mattis long have admired each other. The irony is that Mattis has a reputation — unfairly, I think — for speaking a little too bluntly in public about things like killing people. I think Mattis is a terrific, thoughtful leader.

I do wonder if this mess is the result of leaving McChrystal out there too long-he has been going non-stop for several years, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. At any rate, his comments reflect a startling lack of discipline. He would expect more of one of his captains. We should expect more of him. I know, I’ve said worse about Biden. But part of my job is to comment on these things, even flippantly sometimes. Part of his job is not to.

CNN:

[Updated at 4:41 p.m.] Gen. Stanley McChrystal has submitted his resignation, Time magazine’s Joe Klein told CNN, citing an unnamed source. CNN is working to confirm Klein’s information.

UPDATE: Andy McCarthy at The Corner

UPDATE #2: Allah Pundit

Jim Pinkerton at Ricochet

Spencer Ackerman

Doug Mataconis

UPDATE #3: David Brooks in NYT

Dylan Stableford at The Wrap

The Week Magazine

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone

UPDATE #4: Conor Friedersdorf and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #5: Max Read at Gawker

Glenn Greenwald

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