Thursday, September 30, 2004


This is a couple days old, but seems worth looking at. Here's Christopher Hitchens making specious arguments about liberals "rooting for bad news in Iraq and Afghanistan". He's up in arms about this:

"I wouldn't be surprised if he appeared in the next month." Teresa Heinz Kerry to the Phoenix Business Journal, referring to a possible capture of Osama bin Laden before Election Day.

This is "Deplorable, detestable, unforgivable" he says - though he, unlike Mrs. Heinz Kerry (or me) would apply those terms to her, rather than George Bush. She is expressing, after all, the notion that Bush would cynically produce OBL at the last minute. Hitch finds that a dreadful slander:

The plain implication is that the Bush administration is stashing Bin Laden somewhere, or somehow keeping his arrest in reserve, for an "October surprise." This innuendo would appear, on the face of it, to go a little further than "impugning the patriotism" of the president. It argues, after all, for something like collusion on his part with a man who has murdered thousands of Americans as well as hundreds of Muslim civilians in other countries.
* * *
The unfortunately necessary corollary of this—that bad news for the American cause in wartime would be good for Kerry—is that good news would be bad for him. Thus, in Mrs. Kerry's brainless and witless offhand yet pregnant remark, we hear the sick thud of the other shoe dropping. How can the Democrats possibly have gotten themselves into a position where they even suspect that a victory for the Zarqawi or Bin Laden forces would in some way be welcome to them? Or that the capture or killing of Bin Laden would not be something to celebrate with a whole heart?

This is a fine example of missing the point. He was closer up above - this sentiment is a direct attack on the integrity of the president. It is not hoping for bad news - it is suspecting that if there is good news, it comes with a twist. It's achieved by abandoning substative policies in favor of a quick propaganda hit; it's done in the face of the real bad news that exists...

This, then, is the central statement: "But I also know the difference when I see it, and I have known some of the liberal world quite well and for a long time, and there are quite obviously people close to the leadership of today's Democratic Party who do not at all hope that the battle goes well in Afghanistan and Iraq."

This is not a serious argument. It never is. It is blinkered. Kevin Drum illustrates the point well - reminding us that Bush's administration are the ones "dicking around":

After all, Hitchens has chosen to ally himself with the most unserious group of war leaders this country has ever seen. They treated the runup to war like a marketing blitz for a new soft drink; they have trivialized critical issues of national security because doing so made them into better partisan cudgels for congressional campaigns; they have ignored the advice of military professionals because it was electorally inconvenient; they have repeatedly misled the American public even though they surely know that this is disastrous for long term support of the war; and they have refused to seriously address the exploding guerrilla war in Iraq for months because they're afraid it might hurt their reelection chances.

The left does not root for the enemy - they do not excuse the enemy or hope the enemy wins. What the right calls "rooting for bad news" is more of a prediction. We say - because of Bush's policies, bad things are going to happen. It is true that, in the heat of the argument, sometimes predicting disaster will look like hoping for disaster - and especially when disaster comes, the urge to say "I told you so" can be hard to resist... But still" we do not want to lose. We want to see Al Qaeda undone and Iraq made safe and stable and peace restored - we just don't think those things are likely to happen with Bush and company in charge. "Hope is not a plan." Doing things that are clearly misguided and foolish and then hoping it will all work out all right is obviously worse than calling foolishness what it is, even if that means you have to emphasize the odds against us. Ultimately, what this amounts to (in the broad sense) is holding Bush and his administration responsible for the damage they have caused.

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