Dover Bitch

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Ivory Tower

(Cross-posted at Hullabaloo)

Washingtonian punditry has given us much to revile, but there are few examples more illustrative of what vexes me than this, from David Brooks:

As Mark says, there's been this year-long momentum, but it has stopped or at least stalled for the time being. And I personally think the Senate will do nothing to change Iraq policy at least for another three or four months.

And that's for a couple of reasons. One, a lot of Republicans who detest where the White House is are furious at Harry Reid. And a colleague of mine wrote a good piece today saying that partisan feeling, rancor in the Senate was already phenomenally high, but now it's extra-phenomenally high. And over this issue, a lot of Republicans would like to peel off from the president, but they feel that Harry Reid is making it impossible. He's taking this as an issue, forcing them to vote with the president for political reasons. So that's stalled it on partisan grounds.

As Digby noted, the piece to which Brooks refers is likely that of Fred Hiatt.

The savants at the Washington Post have really had a banner month. David Ignatius wrote in 2006 that the media's failures in the run up to the Iraq War were excusable, as "the media were victims of their own professionalism," if you can believe that. He explained that "journalistic rules" prevented them from challenging the administration's claims. They were simply powerless to "create a debate on [their] own." The blame, therefore, should be pinned on the Democrats for not being critical enough.

Two weeks ago, however, Ignatius decided that the country would be better off if the Democrats and Republicans stopped disagreeing. "Political disharmony," he wrote, is bad for America. So, even if Bush and Cheney are completely and dangerously wrong about something (imagine that), journalistic rules tell Ignatius not to question the president unless the Democrats do -- and they shouldn't, either.

That would leave it up to us, but David Broder followed Ignatius with a column explaining that any criticism the public might have should simply be ignored, again, for the good of the country. In other words, the view from the ivory tower at the Washington Post is that nobody should question the president. This president.

And now this nonsense from Hiatt, that Harry Reid has done a great injustice by forcing GOP senators to choose between they think is good for their party and what they believe is best for America.

Were an observant outsider to step into the ivory tower, in which all things are viewed solely in a political context, our visitor might ask a few questions. Wouldn't doing what they believe is best for America also be good for their party? Did Bill Frist or Dennis Hastert ever once schedule votes for the benefit of the Democrats? Isn't it strange that my colleagues in the ivory tower find it irresponsible for Reid to make the GOP vote on legislation that would actually accomplish something the American public wants, while they expressed little outrage when the GOP forced votes on resolutions that did nothing but say "hooray for our side" in an obvious effort to embarrass Democrats?

But with midterm elections less than five months away, House leaders -- driven in part by dissenting voices in their party -- decided that their members needed to confront the Iraq issue directly.

"I think all members are going to have to express themselves on this issue as the year goes on. There is no way of avoiding it," Boehner said.

But Republicans wanted to air it out under the most favorable circumstances, debating over 10 hours a leadership-tailored resolution that would not be subject to amendment and would not face competing policy statements. By drafting a resolution that supported U.S. troops, emphasized triumphing over terrorism and called for victory in Iraq, GOP leaders had constructed a measure that was "hard not to support," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.).

After the vote, Republicans crowed that they had held ranks while highlighting Democratic division. Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said, "We are pleased that 42 Democrats defied their leadership and stood with House Republicans to support both our troops and their mission to win the global war on terror."

Those would all be obvious questions for an objective person, not full on cocktail weenies, to ask. But they would still represent the view from the ivory tower, where everything is a game and there are absolutely no consequences. In the real world, one might instead ask these questions of David Brooks and his colleagues:

How would delaying a vote in order to placate the Republicans be any different than "stalling it on partisan grounds?" How long should we stick with a failed policy just to allow the GOP senators time to feel comfortable about doing what's right for America? How many soldiers should America tolerate sacrificing while GOP senate aides channel their inner-Frank Luntz and write a series of Friday press releases? 100? 200? 1,000?

How many limbs is it OK for our troops to lose while Mitch McConnell figures out how to save face? How many more terrorists should we be OK with breeding in Iraq? How many more billions of dollars should we be willing to spend?

How much deeper should we dig the hole we're in before the Washington Post decides it's no longer "irresponsible" for Harry Reid to make life awkward for Bush's minions? The Republicans like to portray the Democrats as defeatists who believe the troops are dying for nothing. Now the GOP is actually asking soldiers to die so they don't have to look bad on C-SPAN.

Here's a tip for the pundits at the Washington Post: Nobody gives a crap if any senators are furious at Harry Reid. In the real world, people die when politicians play stupid games. They're not pawns on a board. They're people. These are what we call "consequences."

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