Thursday, October 9, 2003

Spinning the recall

Some amazing contortions are now on view. First, there was Terry McAuliffe’s spin that Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stunning victory was a terrible harbinger for George W. Bush. Say what? During the entire campaignthe anti-recall forces were describing their opponents as hard-right, radical Republicans. And these Republicans’ victoryisnow viewed as a defeat for Republicanism? Oooo-kay. The truth, one suspects, is that this was about the state of California government, Gray Davis’ corruption and incompetence, and a bipartisan support for a change. Mr. Bush was a non-issue.

Then, yesterday morning, the New York Times, perplexed by the result, decided that it was all because Mr. Schwarzenegger ran as a … Kennedy! Now it seems to me perfectly plausible that Mrs. Schwarzenegger, i.e. Maria Shriver, played a critical role in the Terminator’s campaign. So, why didn’t the New York Times report on that during the campaign? It would have seemed particularly appropriate during the mudslide of allegations against Mr Schwarzenegger in the last week of the battle. The NYT’s headline said it all: “California Recall Race’s No Longer ‘Secret’ Weapon.” But who exactly had kept it “secret”? No one had stopped the NYT from profiling Maria before yesterday. But such a reporting emphasis might have actually helped the Schwarzenegger campaign, mightn’t it? And, reporting like that — unlike all the smears and slurs from the anti-Arnold media — has to wait till after the election, doesn’t it?

Spinning the prewar

A reader sums up one way in which the anti-war left is still fighting the war — by trying to create a new narrative of the prewar period. Of course, the analogy is from the Simpsons. The argument about the war is a little like Apu’s citizenship exam (my reader paraphrases from memory):

Exam Giver: “What was the cause of the Civil War?”

Apu: “The split between abolitionists and secessionists had come to a head in in the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 when…”

Exam Giver: “Just say slavery.”

Apu: “Slavery it is, sir!”

“What was the reason given for the war against Saddam?” “Well, the previous Gulf War’s truce required Saddam to give up all WMD research and development and weapons, and U.N. Resolutions. “Just say we said he was on the brink of killing us with nukes!” “Weapons it is, sir!”

So we get the baldfaced untruth that the war was because Iraq posed an “imminent” threat. It wasn’t. Or that it was about a causal link between Saddam and September 11. It wasn’t. Or, that it was based in intelligence from Niger. It wasn’t.

Technically, the war was a continuation of the last one, and was fully supported by umpteen U.N. resolutions, including a 15-0 Security Council vote to force Saddam to comply. September 11 made a war far more conceivable because it revealed the America’s vulnerability to fanatical terrorists who might get hold of WMDs from Saddam. The casus belli was not proof of Saddam’s existing weapons, but proof of his refusal to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors or account fully for his WMD research. Nothing we have discovered after the war has debunked or undermined any of these reasons. And the moral reason for getting rid of an unconscionably evil regime has actually gotten stronger now that we see the full extent of his terror-state.

But the anti-war left sees a real advantage in stripping down the claims in people’s receding memories to ones that were not made but which can now be debunked. It’s propaganda, to which the media in particular seems alarmingly prone to parroting. We have to resist it at every stop — because this war has not yet been won, and the really crucial battle, now as before, is at home.

Sontag award nominee

“The September 11 attacks were probably closer to Dresden or Hiroshima in that a lot of planning and resources were put into deliberately killing civilians in large numbers. The IRA’s killing of civilians is equally wrong, but the IRA would argue that it did so by accident. That is no succour to the victims’ families, but the IRA was one of the few guerrilla organizations that gave warnings.” — Gerry Adams, Irish Republican Army front-man, interviewed in the anti-war British newspaper, the Independent.

I love the idea of terrorists killing civilians “by accident;” and the equation of America in 2001 with Nazi Germany or fascist Japan in the last world war. And then there’s this answer to the wonderfully blunt question: “Was the IRA right to try to blow up Mrs. Thatcher?” Mr. Adams’ answer begins, “Well, you have to see it in the context of the time.” Every now and again, the mask slips and you realize that many people out there are not just anti-American. They are actually pro-terror.

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