Monday, February 16, 2004

Dumb as a Post?

Today's Washington Post editorial page carries a piece that purports to point toward a number of elements of John Kerry's career that they say "can lead to puzzlement." Oh, please.

It's one thing to disagree with some, or even all, of the positions that Kerry has taken on a range of issues during his career. It's another thing altogether for the editors of a prominent journal of American news and opinion to claim that those positions aren't clear, or are somehow contradictory. They just can't be that dumb, can they?

Case in point. Kerry, says the Post "...says he opposes gay marriage, yet voted against the federal Defense of Marriage act." Well, yes. But he's been abundantly clear that his position on the issue of gay marriage is one personal to him, and that he believes that it is ultimately a state's rights matter and that any legislative approach to the issue must allow for the equal protection of rights through state laws which permit civil unions. You don't have to agree with his position on this issue (I, for instance, would argue for more expansive federal protection for the rights of gay Americans) to understand it, or to grasp that DOMA was in its essense a nasty bit of hate legislation designed to divide the country, one that defended nothing but bigotry.

They go on, saying that "He voted for the North American Free Trade agreement yet now talks in protectionist terms, promising he will provide American workers "a fair playing field..." I'm not sure I'd equate supporting a fair playing field with 'protectionist' in the sense that term is ordinarily meant, but yes, John Kerry has observed, as have many others, that the implementation of an agreement which seemed to offer many benefits has produced an outcome that has produced a number of negative consequences as well. Sometimes you try something, it doesn't work as intended, and you make appropriate adjustments. It's called learning. Smart people do it all the time....but maybe the Post editors are that dumb.

"The most important confusion," though, according to the Post, "surrounds Mr. Kerry's position on Iraq." Why? Because "In 1991 he voted against the first Persian Gulf War, saying more support was needed from Americans for a war that he believed would prove costly. In 1998, when President Clinton was considering military steps against Iraq, he strenuously argued for action, with or without allies. Four years later he voted for a resolution authorizing invasion but criticized Mr. Bush for not recruiting allies. Last fall he voted against funding for Iraqi reconstruction, but argued that the United States must support the establishment of a democratic government."

To conflate these four circumstances and argue that one must support or oppose all of them or be somehow inconsistent seems to require a willful level of stupidity. Take the two war resolutions. The circumstances in 1991 and 2002 couldn't have been more different.

In the first case, it was a vote to abandon ongoing diplomacy and move immediately to armed conflict, with a massive armed force that was already staged. In the other, it was a vote to mobilize force in order to support the resumption of diplomacy in the face of Iraqi intransigence. Again, a reasonable arguement can be made for or against either position, but it's plainly nonsense to argue that different votes in dramatically different circumstances is an indication of self-contradiction.

To wrap the Clinton administration's policy of limited strikes on specific military targets into the discussion of the Bush wars, well, it's simply nonsensical piling on. The $87 billion dollar question at least has the merit of being an arguably debatable point, but can the Post editors really be so dense that they can't distinguish between supporting the original resolution, which authorized force, and opposing the manner in which the resolution was implemented, with unilateral action, sweetheart contracts and the total absence of end-game planning? Again, disagree if you will, but don't pretend to misunderstand.

Frankly, this is the kind of (I hope) feigned stupidity that I fear far more than the bludgeoning attacks that will come from the Rovian forces of darkness or the gutter journalism of Drudge, et al. Much of that will be so transparently foul and partisan that it can be dismissed. This kind of nonsense must be confronted directly and forcefull wherever it's found.

Because they just can't be that dumb, can they? And if not, what is their point, and who do they serve?


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