Giving Up Snark for (Real) Straight Talk on Iraq
Like a lot of people, I didn't have high hopes for the Baker boys' Iraq Study Group. Nearly a month before the report was released, I wrote:
The Baker commission's only reason for existence is to provide a formal channel for telling the President that there's no pony in Iraq — that failure/defeat is not only an option, it's basically the only one left. The question is whether he'll listen even now.
We pretty much know by now that Dubya didn't listen, as McClatchy News reported on Thursday:
President Bush is weighing whether to make a deeper American commitment in Iraq despite growing public unhappiness with the war, according to senior U.S. officials and former officials familiar with Bush's high-level review.
. . . The president signaled Wednesday that neither the study group's pessimistic assessment nor the bleak situation in Iraq nor the results of the midterm elections have shaken his belief that victory in Iraq is possible.
"We're not going to give up," said Bush, who plans to announce his new strategy early next year
As disheartening as this news was, though, even worse was the explanation later in the same story:
Bush appears to have been emboldened by criticism of its proposals as defeatist by members of the Republican Party's conservative wing and their allies on the Internet, the radio and cable TV.
Lots of progressive bloggers have cited this passage, most notably The Editors (who saw that "embolden" apparently now means "To be terrified that Rush Limbaugh, Jonah Goldberg and Glenn Reynolds will call you a pussy"), but I don't know if any recognized it for what it really was: a statement of total defeat for our side of the blogosphere.
I mean, here we are, in the wake of a huge victory in the November elections, supposedly riding a progressive wave — where was our voice, our message, keeping the pressure on so that Dubya had no choice but to make concessions to reality in Iraq?
My fear is that we succumbed to a bit of overconfidence, relaxing into our natural habits of
incoherent lack of message discipline herd-of-cats diversity in our opinions and communicating through clever snark rather than unambiguous talking points.
In New Hampshire this a.m., Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) will confront Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Iraq.
The White House is leaning towards adopting McCain's proposal to add tens of thousands of combat troops to U.S. forces in Baghdad in a final effort to secure the city.
Here's what Richardson says:
“The leading advocate for escalating the war is Senator John McCain. I have served with John in Congress and I respect him. But John McCain is wrong, dead wrong to think that we can solve Iraq’s political crisis through military escalation.”
That's the kind of "we're right, they're wrong and here's why" messaging we need to express persistently if we're going to counter the neocon-friendly Wurlitzer and create some real change in our country's Iraq policy. We need to recognize that on this issue, our opinions represent the "sensible center" of American politics, and so we should state them clearly:
- This country demanded a change in policy on Iraq in the November elections — a new policy that stops sacrificing American solders' lives to false promises of military victory.
- By ignoring this demand, President Bush isn't just betraying the trust of the American people who elected him, and of the troops who volunteered to serve; he's making himself a laughingstock throughout the world as someone who is too weak and cowardly to face reality.
- Public figures like John McCain and Joe Lieberman who call for more troops do not care about what is best for Iraq; they are just pandering politically so they can call others "defeatists" — when in fact it is the President's policies (which they endorsed) that are leading us to defeat in Iraq.
- Pundits who praise McCain, Lieberman, and the "bipartisan consensus" sought by the Baker-Hamilton commission are spitting in the face of the "sensible center" of the American electorate, which has demanded change.
As we do this, let's stop sneering about "St. John" and who's "serious," and referring to ourselves derisively as "dirty fucking hippies." It's fun, but the sarcastic message isn't getting through, and people are dying. Let's just state the facts as they really are, and hammer them home until the powers that be have no choice but to listen.
We're not hippies; we're the center. They need to know that.