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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Debating David Brooks is a waste of time but I can't resist.

Jesse Taylor has the definitive interpretation of this column here at pandagon

But at too much more length.

1) Yes Jesse, Brooks lives in a world of words and spin and has forgotten that the orders of the commander in chief matter more than his slogans.

2) Brooks shows that it is impossible for him to argue that Bush should be elected without twisting Kerry's words. "Kerry vowed to mitigate the problem of terrorism until it became another regrettable and tolerable fact of life, like gambling, organized crime and prostitution. [snip] Well, the Osama bin Laden we saw last night was not a problem that needs to be mitigated. " Brooks does not admit that Kerry has very clearly said that the only way to make Bin Laden a mere nuisance is to kill or capture him. Is Brooks problem that an unburied Osama Bin Laden corpse would, indeed, be a nuisance and Kerry is not determined to bury Bin Laden's dead body ? Kerry never suggested that his aim could be achieved without killing or capturing Bin Laden. Brooks knows this perfectly well. He must also know that he will not deceive many readers of the New York Times. Clearly he doesn't mind making it clear that he is a hack.

3) Brooks assumes that on any battlefield either US forces must overwhelmingly outnumber allied forces or must be outnumbered by US journalists. "When we rely on allies everywhere else around the world, that's multilateral cooperation, but when Bush does it in Afghanistan, it's "outsourcing." In Iraq, Kerry supports using local troops to chase insurgents, but in Afghanistan he is in post hoc opposition." Kerry is inconsistent, since there is no middle ground between what Bush did in Afganistan and what he did in Iraq. Bush, on the other hand, is resolute, since he made opposite choices in successive wars.

4) Bush and Brooks fail the Osama litmus test. The assumption that, if getting Bin Laden is too important to oursource, then occupying Iraq is too important to outsource can only make sense to someone like Bush or (he claims) Brooks who has not grasped how specially deadly a threat Bin Laden is and how contained a former threat Saddam Hussein was.

5) Brooks thinks that all our allies are no more reliable than Afghan warlords who were loyal allies of the Taliban until the winds shifted. Maybe Brooks just assumes all foreigners are alike. More likely, Brooks is making an anology which he knows perfectly well is bogus.

6) Bush is not responsible for his underlings. " Bush's response yesterday to the video was exactly right." Bush is not responsible for Pletka delcaring accurate criticism to be treason, nor can he fire her. Bush is not responsible for Brooks (granted) or Bartlett (why not?) trying to use the Bin Laden video to silence Kerry in the last days of a campaign. Kerry shouldn't have mentioned the obvious, since the facts, as usual, make Bush look bad.

7) "Since he joined the Senate, what cause has he [Kerry] taken a political risk for? Has he devoted himself selflessly and passionately to any movement larger than himself?" asks Brooks having run out his 700 words so he can't answer the question. Hmm investigating BCCI, contra Contras, normalising relations with Vietman (a no lose for McCain and a no win for Kerry), the vote against the defence of marriage act, and, of course, the 11th most liberal voting record in the Senate, which is obviously not the way to get elected President. It is obscene that Bush's supporters both use Kerry's courageous votes against him and claim that he never showed courage in the Senate. One claim must be false and Brooks knows perfectly well which one.

Now obvioulsy candidates race to the center, which means they are not blunt, frank or candid. I didn't notice Brooks doubting the character of the suddenly moderate candidate Bush.

8) Brooks elides the difference between Bush supporters' beliefs and facts "Many people are not sure that he gets the fundamental moral confrontation. Many people are not sure he feels it, or feels anything." This is a sudden shift from Brooks stating his own opinions to Brooks speculating about other peoples opinions. It is a cowardly way to suggest that Kerry feels nothing without taking responsibility for the smear.

9) Again Bush failed the Osama litmus test,. I am sure he does not get the "fundamental moral confrontation" or else he would not have pulled resources outof Afghanistan to devote them to Iraq. We know that, although he lied about it, on September 12th he wanted to blame Saddam Hussein. Osama didn't hold his attention for two full days, because Bush just does not get it.

10) Kristof is cleaning Brook's clock. He actually quotes Bush. He does not have to pad his essay to get to 700 words without admitting that he is trying to slide over all the real issues.

Update: Laura Rosen has an excellent post on Brooks. The one point which Brooks made that I did not address is the claim that Kerry supported the outsourcing strategy at Tora Bora. I suspected that the claim was based on a distortion of something Kerry said, but I didn't try to look the quote up. Reader KL of Laura Rosen's blog claims exactly that.

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