Saturday, October 15, 2005


The hawkish liberal

There is a strange1 little book review by Gideon Rose in which he refers to the author as a "hawkish liberal." I couldn't determine with any certainty Rose's reasons for calling George Packer a liberal. Maybe it's just me, but "hawkish liberal" has the oxymoronic ring of "military intelligence" and "benevolent despot."

Rose writes,

The United States would not have gone to war just to spread democracy in the Middle East (as even the war's intellectual architect, former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, acknowledged), but the case for democratization played an important role in buttressing the other two arguments and was the most exciting aspect of the endeavor for neoconservatives and liberals alike.

And Rose, who says he supported the war, concludes,

It is not too soon, however, to return a judgment on those at the helm who took a difficult job and made it infinitely more so, dramatically undermining America's regional and global position in the process. They were "careless people," as Fitzgerald said of Tom and Daisy Buchanan, who "smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." That, if nothing else, can stand as a lesson for future tender souls contemplating the possible benefits of liberal imperialism and mulling attempts to do the right thing with the wrong partners. ·

These quotes suggest that Rose defines a hawkish liberal to be someone who supports imperialist adventures for the purposes of spreading democracy. I would say of any such true believers that—far from being characterized as "hawkish liberals" they should better be known as "those who have drunk the Kool-Aid."

Or perhaps "liberal" in this context implies a conservative who feels that genocide should only be committed abroad.


1I'll be kind and assume that Rose is merely being disingenuous when he writes,

In the run-up to the 2003 war, three rationales were offered for the invasion: fear of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, links between Iraq and terrorism, and a desire to bring liberal democracy to Iraq and the Middle East at large. The first was essentially an honest mistake; almost all knowledgeable observers thought Iraq was hiding prohibited weapons programs, although they disagreed about how to handle the problem and the fears proved overblown.


Admonition of the Day

Leave our homos alone
—Girl with long, silky hair and a backpack as quoted by Anne Hull in "Coming Out for One of Their Own"

Friday, October 14, 2005


Perspective of the Day

When we journalists fail to get across the reality of events to our readers, we have not only failed in our job, we have also become a party to the events that we are supposed to be reporting.
— Robert Fisk in his book The Great War for Civilisation: the conquest of the Middle East as quoted by Phillip Knightley

Quote of the Day

For the remainder of his presidency, George W. Bush will govern without the consent of the governed. —Professor John Kenneth White as quoted by Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post

Statistic of the Day

George Bush's job-approval rating among African Americans: 2%1
—NBC/Wall Street Journal poll as reported by Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post



1A misguided poll by the Pew Research Center found the level of African American support for Bush to be at 12%. [back]

Thursday, October 13, 2005


My aspens have been turning ...

Just because there are no aspens here, please don't assume that the title of this post is some kind of code, much less that it indicates a conspiracy. The truth is that it's an excuse for some days off based on nothing more than a phonological similarity between "aspens" and other issues that have been on my mind. No... really!!!

After a year and a half I'm taking a week off, which doesn't mean that I may not write something over the course of the week, only that I will not feel compelled to write.

Now about this aspen business—you know, the lines that Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's aide, wrote to the imprisoned Judith Miller in his letter of September 15:

Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work—and life.

The first thing that is odd about these lines—aside from their prima facie oddness—is that there have been, by latest count, only two journalists in the entire MSM who thought they were odd, or at least thought they were odd enough to put it in print: Columnists Gene Lyons of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and, derivatively, Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher.

Even Greg Mitchell didn't think they were odd until a confidential source in the MSM told him so. Get this

I’m proud to say that I was the first to print the full text of the letter, at E&P Online, early last Saturday.... Within hours, the blogs were linking, and posters were finding codes and conspiracies in Scooter’s suggestion that the aspens that Judy supposedly knows and loves out West would be “turning” together this fall because they are, after all, “connected at the roots.”

Some bloggers recalled a significant meeting of neo-cons and/or Iraqi exiles in Aspen, Colo., that Miller might have attended. And so on.

I scoffed at first, but today I read a confidential letter from a top Washington editor who seemed to think there was something to this code business.

Mitchell then cites his only "above ground" source Gene Lyons. Is it just me, or is this odd—that journalists don't find this odd? No wonder there's no investigative reporting going on these days!

Lyons himself was noncommittal about the meaning of the aspens but had little doubt that there was meaning to be had. He wrote,

The letter also implicitly promised Miller big scoops on, get this, Iran's nuclear weapons, and closed with a poetic line reminding her that ''(O)ut West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them.''

Ponder that metaphor for a moment.

Here's all I know: If Hillary Clinton had written Susan McDougal a letter like that, the Washington press would have exploded with indignation. The TV talking heads would be predicting indictments, and the phrase of the week would be "criminal conspiracy."

Now in the blogosphere there has been quite a bit of speculation on the meaning of the message. At the Democratic Underground the favorite is that "aspen" is a reference to the recent Aspen conference where columnist Robert Novak was shocked to find the right-wingers bashing Bush. In this view, Libby is using "aspens" as a metaphor for the Neo-cons. Of course, that implies that Judith Miller, assuming that she is connected at the roots with Scooter Libby, is herself a Neo-con.

Actually, the metaphorical meaning of the aspens is a key to understanding the message. What "roots" do Scooter Libby and Judith Miller have in common? If you can figure this one out, please alert the MSM and the blogosphere. They won't publish it, but at least you'll know they know.

Meanwhile, it's just our secret.

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