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Sep 08, 2006


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History Observer

If Friedman thinks that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld are in the political "center" of US politics, then Friedman has jumped about 6-8 sharks.

We're really down to two camps on Iraq. One camp suggests the way to the right outcome is to cheer louder for bad decisions, and smear those who say the emperor has no clothes. The other camp wants to accept harsh realities and adjust our approach based around the question of whether or not we are creating terrorists faster than we kill them.

One of these two positions is so absurd that there's no way to straddle the two points of view to be in the center unless you say "we were right to go in, let's double the troops there to win." Since nobody is going to advocate this strategically reasonable but politically impossible position, the election is about the battle of the sane versus the insane on foreign policy.

Currently, the insane hold all the cards.

Samuel Spagnola

That was fair and balanced, Mr. Observer. I don't know what history he is observing. I agree there is merit to the statements about the first camp, but the second part absolving the anti-war Left of any foolishness is partisan political poppycock. The second camp wants simply to criticize everything done on the war regardless of whether the criticism is warranted and regardless of whether the criticism undermines our security for political gain. So there is hardly one unreasonable side and one reasonable side.

The center lies in between being blind to the shortcomings of the war policy and being blinded by hatred of the White House so much that nothing else matters.


It truly, truly baffles me why a president who bet so much of his legacy on this project never gave it his best shot and tolerated so much incompetence.

You'd think, five years after 9/11, that a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New York Times who is widely reputed to be the go-to guy on the most important story of our time might have, oh, I don't know, done some REPORTING on this issue, maybe tested some of the many hypotheses out there, maybe even interviewed some of the people (and they're out there) who PREDICTED this behavior on the president's part, rather than sitting around for five years going, "Why, why, why".

You'd think. And you would be wrong.

I haven't, either, of course, but then it ain't my job.

Good thing the Times only charges $50 for access to this wisdom. If they were charging real money I'd be annoyed.

Samuel Spagnola

So you fault Friedman for not doing a psychoanalysis on Bush and then reaching a political conclusion based on said analysis? Is that really news Lex, or does one simply need to go out and buy one of the many books that are critical of Bush for material to support such a prediction? Friedman's own quote that you cited is an opinion, not news. I only hope that your enthusiasm for opinion as news (one of the chief criticisms of Fox News by its detractors) is the same the next time a Democrat holds the White House. It is becoming more apparent over time that you have a hard time distinguishing between the two, especially in your own writings.

History Observer

Mr. Spagnola has been listening to too much right wing radio, methinks, and confuses what Rush Limbaugh tells him the "anti-war left" says with what actual Democratic leaders are saying.

The vast majority of the Democratic caucus is calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq to BEGIN. The far-left, anti-war, everybody-out-of-Iraq-tomorrow contingent, as far as I can tell, has somewhere between zero and 10 Democratic members of Congress pushing their point of view. Feel free to name them, by the way, and cite some quotes, because.

Most of those calling for withdrawals are calling for slow but deliberate drawdown of troop levels so the Iraqis know when they will have to truly sink or swim on their own. Locally, Larry Kissel is campaigning with "we went in in one year, we can be out in one year." Is that an INSANE position? Or just one that recognizes that staying the course is futile, and that Osama Bin Laden is still making videotapes 5 years after he pulled off the greatest attack in history on the world's greatest superpower-- all from a cave in Southeast Asia?

Anybody with eyes to see knows that the Bush actions (it's not a policy, it's just a group of poorly considered actions) are not working. The Bush position is based on trying to make people believe that screwing up royally is the path to victory. The Democrats are saying it's time to admit we're failing and do something else, and that includes admitting that removing troops from Iraq in a thoughtful way may actually be in our best interests national securitywise.

This is not "Bush hatred," this is the ability of many congressmen and congresswomen, including some Republicans, who initially backed this misadventure, showing that indeed, having thought once, they are capable of thinking again.

Finally, yes, I think that those on the left who say "everybody out tomorrow" are extremely naive. But those people aren't governing, they're yapping on very liberal blogs. Bush and co are at the insane extreme, and they hold the reins. The reflective core of elected Democrats and moderate Republicans who are capable of putting country above party are on the other side of the fence.

Samuel Spagnola

Perhaps before you slam me, you should call Lt. Col. Tim Dunn, who was running before Larry Kissell and who is a personal friend of mine. Although Tim and I don't agree on a lot of political matters, I think he would disagree that I am an unreasonable person. It's a shame he got out of that race, because he is one hell of a great guy. I know him and Robin Hayes, and I supported Robin in past elections when I lived in Concord, but when Tim got in the race, I supported him.

My response to you was that you seemed to put forth a false choice when you divided the public into the two camps you did and suggested that the division was between the reasonable and unreasonable, when there are plenty of unreasonable opposed to Bush that you failed to mention. I agree that we should start a pullout strategy because at this point, we are acting as peacekeepers, and I don't believe that is the best long term role for our military.

Samuel Spagnola

...and the "he listens to too much right wing talk radio" catch phrase wears rather thin after a while, and does not apply to me. I haven't listened to Limbaugh for any substantial period of time for quite a while. Most of the time, my dial is set to WZTK, which carries a pretty even balance, though it may be a little tilted more to the Left during the prime hours. I really don't have any idea as to what Limbaugh thinks specifically on this issue. You seem to be quite familiar with his position which leads me to believe you listen to him more than I. Or are you just going by what you heard in the liberal media?


So you fault Friedman for not doing a psychoanalysis on Bush and then reaching a political conclusion based on said analysis?

Uh, Sam, did I say that? Did I even imply that?

Please. Such straw-man argumentation is beneath you.

The implication of my comment is, rather, the same as its explicit meaning: that had Friedman spent some time reporting over the past five years, he probably could have come up with an answer to his own question. This isn't about Bush, it's about Friedman.

Samuel Spagnola

A reporter reports. Friedman stated an opinion. What is a "prediction of a behavior" if not a psychological study? I.E., based on GWB's past behavior, he is likely to do X. If Bush does X, then report it. Predictions, and writing articles about likely outcomes based on past behavior is for pundits, not news reporters. Who are these people that "predicted" it? Jeanne Dixon? Nostradamus? Freud? How are they qualified, and on what evidence did they base their prediction? Talk about using straw men.

There is no "straw man" in my comments. Did you use that term because it actually had any application to what I said, or because it sounded good? Who and/or where is the "straw man" in my comment?


"Anybody with eyes to see knows that the Bush actions (it's not a policy, it's just a group of poorly considered actions) are not working."

(yawn) SSDD

As if the not-so loyal opposition has ANY sort of a plan having ANY chance of being successful.


"Actually, a more accurate metaphor would be that they have put no eggs in the war policy basket, but have been trying merely to destroy the eggs President Bush has placed in the basket. They are relying exclusively on deriding President Bush's policies, while conspicuously and defiantly offering no alternative policy agenda of their own.

When pressed for a plan, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Harry Reid, and DNC Chairman Howard Dean have all said, in effect, that it isn't incumbent on Democrats to come up with a plan; their naked criticism is sufficient.

When further pressed, they promised to present a plan but repeatedly missed their deadlines to produce it. Finally, they did present a 'plan,' which was nothing more than a broad statement of policy goals that were not that different in substance from current policy. They said they wanted to effect a transition of control to Iraqi forces during 2006. Well, who doesn't?

Oh, I almost forgot, they also said their leadership would be 'tough and smart,' which doubtlessly had Osama quaking in his boots."

Which alternate History have you been Observing?


Sam, I'm about to decide you're not even TRYING to read what I'm saying, but I'll give you one more try.

I didn't say Friedman should predict Bush's behavior. I said he should talk to those who DID correctly predict it, to see what their reasons for doing so were, so as to see if there is anything we can learn. Implicit in my suggestion is the possibility that there isn't.

And my original point, again, was: Friedman has had plenty of time to REPORT on why Bush has, in his view, gone off the rails. I just find it a little bit precious that a Pulitzer Prize winner can type "Why? Why? Why?" and think he can sell it to the public as insight, which is what people are paying for.

If you don't want to hear what I'm actually saying, that's fine. Heck, if you disagree with it, that's fine. But don't pretend I said something else.

Samuel Spagnola

Lex, who are the people who should have spoken to who predicted it? Reporting on other peoples predictions (even if he had) is not news, it's punditry.

History Observer

Mr. Spagnola, I think we are talking past each other a bit, and you misunderstood my point, or I was not clear enough. I think there are FAR more than 2 positions (in fact, there are probably 1 million) on what to do about Iraq among the American people.

Unfortunately, the debate within the halls of Congress and the White House, I only see two camps, as described above. I have been writing in both previous posts on the perspectives articulated by political leaders in or running for Congress- not among average citizens. For every George Bush kool-aid conservative I encounter, I run into 5-10 Republicans who don't like the idea of leaving Iraq but know something has to change.

But within the halls of power, Bush and his supporters spend far more time trying to improve the PERCEPTION of the war in Iraq than they do trying to improve the OUTCOMES of the war in Iraq. This is insanity.

Dick Cheney today said again that debate about how things are going in Iraq only hurts the war effort- more "smear and stay the course." Ultimately, these guys can't govern. They can only repeat slogans, and it's a national tragedy.

Samuel Spagnola

HO, I have thought about this over the past few days, and I think there are several camps that people can be placed into on this issue. I'm still trying to hone it down. If I have the time soon, I'll offer my analysis. I agree with some of what you just said, but I also think there is another dark side from the Left that is also obsessed with perception and merely playing politics. There are a lot of people with different views in the area between these extreme "Bush can do no wrong" people and the "Bush can do no right" people.

History Observer

Mr. Spagnola, there will always be people on both extremes of the political spectrum who are out to score points above all governance purposes.

I'd be interested to hear what camps you think are out there, particularly among Republicans who don't support "stay the course" and are also against troop withdrawal.

I'd also be interested to hear if you think those more variegated views are represented by more than 1-3 Republican congresspeople here and there, and if not, why that is.


"....I also think there is another dark side from the Left that is also obsessed with perception and merely playing politics."

From NRO:

"We have also seen bizarre and revealing political realignments, the war and terror bringing together strange bedfellows: On one side traditional leftists lie down with neo-cons and true liberals; on the other are anti-American new leftists, anti-Semitic isolationists, Chomskyites, and Islamists."

-- Jonathan Foreman


Reporting on other peoples predictions (even if he had) is not news, it's punditry.

No, depending on how it's done and the qualifications of the person making the prediction to make predictions on that particular subject, it can constitute analysis. To take one example, let's say there's a case before the Supreme Court, with which you are not involved but on a legal issue with which you are intimately familiar, having argued and won cases at the trial and appellate levels on that same subject. Depending on how it's done and the level of detail with which you respond, asking you to predict how the high court would rule, and why, and reporting what you say, could be more than mere punditry.

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