BY JAMES TARANTO
Friday, August 26, 2005 3:01 p.m. EDT
Dems' Iraq Dilemma
This column yields to no one in our irritation at comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam.
But as we've observed before, there is one similarity: Just as in 1968, the
Democratic Party is divided. Mickey Kaus has a bit of analysis that rings true
to us (emphasis in original, ellipses omitted):
Recent multiple exposures to Westside L.A. liberals confirms that (as George
Will and Kevin
Drum suggest) Hillary Clinton is currently heading for a much bigger train
wreck in her party than anticipated--a wreck all her cautious planning failed
to anticipate, and probably exacerbated.
The same press drumbeat of defeatism about Iraq that has helped bring down
Bush's numbers has also emboldened the party's mainstream left base (i.e.,
not just MoveOn or the DailyKos crowd). They hardly care whether Hillary is
a member of the DLC. But they do not want to support someone who voted
for the war, as Hillary did. Worse, they want a Democrat who is willing
to break from the respectable Beltway Tough-It-Out Consensus now, publicly,
in a way Hillary has been unable to do. They're so desperate for a champion
they're even temporarily captivated by Sen. Hagel's mere mention of "Vietnam."
Hagel/Dean for America! Or maybe Hagel/Gingrich.
P.S.: Hillary's dilemma is similar to the one that must have been faced by
Bobby Kennedy in 1968--how to break with LBJ and the surface D.C. consensus
in favor of the war. But Hillary's dilemma is worse, because Iraq isn't
Vietnam and the current Beltway consensus she's being asked to denounce is
a lot righter than LBJ was. Even mainstream Bush-bashing libs, in my experience,
readily recognize that just withdrawing from Iraq now would be a global strategic
disaster in a way withdrawing from Vietnam wasn't. That of course makes them
even more determined to hold accountable politicians who got us into Iraq
in the first place, and Hillary is arguably one of them.
It seems to us that as in the 2004 presidential campaign (about which see our
July piece in The
American Spectator), the liberal media are ill-serving liberal politicians
and activists by telling them what they want to hear.
The Great Summer 2005 Iraq Panic has been built almost entirely on two wisps
of public opinion: President Bush's approval ratings, which have declined since
his re-election, and the increasing number of people who tell pollsters it was
a "mistake" to liberate Iraq. Those who conclude from this that the
war effort is doomed forget that public opinion is (1) fickle and (2) more complicated
than a few poll questions can capture.
Specifically, what are we to make of polls showing 55% or so of Americans think
the war a "mistake"? It seems very likely that this group can be broken
down into two distinct subgroups: those who opposed the war from the start (about
30% of the total, to judge by polls back then), and those who initially supported
it but now have misgivings.
Now, there may be a few people who backed the war but have come around to the
Michael Moore-MoveOn.org-Sheehanoid worldview. But our guess is that most of
those who've had second thoughts about the war have been influenced by that
"press drumbeat of defeatism" Kaus cites. Their views could change
if the tone of the news coverage changes, or if they are persuaded that the
tone doesn't reflect reality. The point is that if they now think, or fear,
that the war was a mistake, it is because they are afraid we may lose.
The other group--the antiwar core--consists of people whose priority is ending,
not winning, the war, and some of whom actually want America to lose. This is
the group that, as Kaus notes, is increasingly getting the attention of the
media and asserting itself within the Democratic Party. That will make it difficult
for the Democrats to offer a credible alternative to nervous voters who want
"I'm just so honored that the universe chose me to be the spark that has set
off a raging inferno," Cindy Sheehan, back in Crawford, Texas, tells the
Los Angeles Times. "And when I had to leave, it proved that you don't need
the spark anymore, because the fire is burning. And it's not going to go out.
If George Bush came out and spoke with me today and we went home, this wouldn't
In a speech
to supporters Wednesday, Sheehan claimed the support of "tens of thousands
of angels." The Associated
Press reports that New York racial demagogue Al Sharpton plans to join Sheehan
in Texas on Sunday, while the neo-Nazi Web site Stormfront.org
says its backers will arrive tomorrow to "help put up a White Nationalist
voice in the protest against Bush's War for Israel that was started by Cindy
Next, according to blogger Jonathan
Wilson: "Celebrity boxing with Tonya Harding." The universe certainly
has a sense of humor.
Would Many Do Without Polls?
"Poll: Many Back Right to Protest Iraq War"--headline, Associated
Press, Aug. 26
Not the Penult?
Some readers objected to our observation, in an item
yesterday, that Kevin Pannell, a soldier who lost both legs in combat in
Iraq, had "made the penultimate sacrifice." Writes Edward Maddox:
I know what you were trying to say: "the closest thing to the ultimate sacrifice."
But that's not what you said. You said "the next to last sacrifice." The sacrifice
before the last sacrifice is not the same as the second greatest. However,
I don't have a suggested alternative yet; maybe Bill Safire will do a column
Take it away, Safire--but in the meantime we're going to defend our usage.
True, death is by its nature "ultimate" in a chronological sense,
but when we refer to death as the "ultimate sacrifice," we are referring
to the magnitude of the sacrifice. When Forrest Gump was wounded by shrapnel
in the buttocks, that was his last sacrifice, but no one would call it the "ultimate"
Thus, when we referred to loss of limb as the "penultimate sacrifice,"
we meant the sacrifice that would come next to last on a list of sacrifices
in increasing order of magnitude.
Would We Do Without CIA Panels?
"CIA Panel: 9/11 Failure Warrants Action"--headline, Associated Press,
Branch Cabell Meets the Angry Left
Pat Robertson's latest idiocy has prompted some hilarious letters to the editor
of the San Francisco Chronicle. Our favorite comes from David B. Murphy of Petaluma,
Calif. (fifth letter):
Pat Robertson has succeeded in vaulting himself to the No. 1 spot on the
list of reasons why there should be complete separation of church and state
in this country. This man was a serious candidate for the Republican nomination
for president in 2000. It is not too much of a stretch to envision the possibility
of his having been nominated by the Republicans and his having won in 2000
with the help of his fanatical conservative Christian Fundamentalist followers.
What an American dystopia that would have been!
I can envision bands of Christian Fundamentalist death squads roaming the
East and West coasts of the U.S. searching out openly gay and lesbian people,
Unitarians, French chefs, "Hollywood types," poets, writers, artists, evolutionary
biologists and anyone else who they feel is an "elite."
Now, one might think this is hysterical (not to mention ill informed; Robertson
ran in 1988, not 2000, and it's a stretch to say he was a "serious"
candidate). But many on the Angry Left think we already live in a fascist
dystopia. David Murphy at least acknowledges that things could be worse. By
this standard he qualifies as an optimist.
We Too Nice?
"You're too nice to Jimmy Carter," blogger Glenn Reynolds e-mails
us--something we never thought we'd be accused of. At issue is our item
last Friday in which we listed the 55 mph speed limit--actually a Nixon-era
initiative--as a common presidential misattribution.
Reynolds point us to a 2003 InstaPundit.com entry in which he describes his
education on the matter. He'd written a column for TechCentralStation in which
he attributed the limit to Carter, and left-wing blogger Duncan
"Atrios" Black called him on the error. But as it turns out, Carter
did support the 55 mph limit, signing legislation in 1978 that authorized federal
sanctions on states that failed to enforce the limit. So we suppose the speed
limit was Carter's in the same sense that Vietnam was "Nixon's war."
Atrios's post, although ostensibly a defense of Carter, ended by comparing
the former president to Saddam Hussein! Poor Carter can't get any respect.
Make SUV, Not War--II
yesterday about hysterical opposition to sport-utility vehicles brought
this thoughtful comment from reader David Bookstaber:
I must admit I hate SUVs. I think they are obnoxious and dangerous compared
with lower, lighter cars, and I believe relatively few SUV owners use the
cargo, towing, and off-road features that would justify their expense. But
still, this anti-SUV hysteria misses the mark.
Rank the following groups according to their guilt in keeping us dependent
on foreign oil:
- People who choose to drive an SUV that gets 15 miles a gallon instead
of a sedan or wagon that gets 25 miles a gallon
- People who choose to live 10 miles from where they work each day instead
of five miles.
- People who choose to commute to work in private cars instead of on public
- People who choose to heat and cool a 5,000-square-foot house when they
could maintain a 2,500-square-foot-house with the same number of rooms.
- People who choose to fly overseas for vacations instead of going to a
- People who oppose nuclear power plants.
I don't believe the SUV owners are at the top of the list. And my guess is
that many of the SUV haters won't countenance somebody questioning their decisions
to live where they want, in what they want, or to vacation when and where
they want, even though on net those decisions probably consume more oil than
an individual decision to drive an SUV.
I would also wager that the anti-SUV crowd has a large intersection with
the anti-nuclear-power crowd. which, amusingly, also intersects with the pro-Kyoto
treaty crowd. You just can't win with some people.
Were They When Galileo Needed Them?
"Experts Confirm Earth Spin Theory"--headline, Financial Times, Aug. 26
Alternative to Virginia Slims
"N.C. Farmers Experiment With Burley Tobacco"--headline, Associated
Press, Aug. 25
Can We Keep Using Orphans as Markers on Driving Ranges?
"Brigitte Bardot Calls for Halt to Use of Puppies as Shark Bait"--headline,
Agence France-Presse, Aug. 26
Life Imitates 'The Twilight Zone'
"Conrad becomes terrified when he hears someone banging outside the
ship. But he becomes relieved when he goes outside and sees that the Martians
are indeed human, and they appear extremely friendly. The Martians present
Conrad with a surprise: a house built exactly like one on Earth. Conrad is
left alone inside, but soon realizes that the building has no windows and
all the doors are locked. Suddenly, a wall slides upward, revealing that Conrad
is actually in a zoo."--description of "People Are Alike All Over,"
an episode of "The
Twilight Zone" that originally aired March 25, 1960
"London Zoo unveiled a new exhibition--eight humans prowling around
wearing little more than fig leaves to cover their modesty. The 'Human Zoo'
is intended to show the basic nature of human beings as they frolick [sic]
throughout the August bank holiday weekend. 'We have set up this exhibit to
highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance
of man's place in the planet's ecosystem,' London Zoo said."--Agence
France-Presse, Aug. 25, 2005
The Union Leader of Manchester, N.H., reports on a kerfuffle that broke out
at a discount store in Conway:
There are times in a Wal-Mart store when customers need a little assistance
from associates, but a request for help Tuesday by a Pittsburg teenager wearing
an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs had clerks calling police.
"He asked them for a hacksaw," said Conway Police Lt. Joe Faia.
It turned out that Joha D. Turner, 18, had not escaped any official custody,
but was instead pulling a prank.
But now he's going to court next month to answer a charge of disorderly conduct,
after being freed on his own recognizance.
We hope young Joha learns his lesson: Next time, go to Home Depot.
(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to William Katz,
M. Gilbertson, Ron Ackert, C.E. Dobkin, Ethel Fenig, Tom Linehan, Bob Krumm,
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Kalina, Tod Kemper, Andrew Robinson, James Croak, Dan Rorabaugh, Ruth Papazian
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Today on OpinionJournal:
And on the Taste page:
& Outlook: Why are the media hostile to the idea of young American
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& Tacky: Turkmenistan bans Ashlee Simpson; a man becomes a "woman"
and lives to regret it.
Crowley: It's August. Where is everybody?
Akst: What do Jimmy Carter, Bill Weld, Saddam Hussein and Winston Churchill
have in common?
Wolfe: The author of "The Purpose-Driven Life" goes to Rwanda.