June 21, 2004

Clinton, Bush, Lies

"When Clinton Lied, No One Died."

I saw this quote today and, to my surprise, it annoyed me. There are times when the partisanship gets in the way of our goals. This is one of those red meat statements - throw it to the base, watch them salivate. It feels good when we want to put blinders on, but it isn't so great for convincing anyone.

There are probably quite a few people on the right these days that are laboring to make the current state of affairs make sense to them. Repeating statements like the above isn't going to help matters, because it's relatively see-through. For all of Bush's flaws, we can't exactly argue that his goals were to go off and kill him some American soldiers. This isn't the case where he made some careless lie, and then whoops, some soliders died.

The point is that Bush had a vision. Bush justified it with lies, but sending our soldiers to war wasn't some sort of negligent accident on his part. It was a design.

The point is that Bush's lies, infuriating as they are to the base, are still only smokescreens to what the real issue is. In other words, his lies aren't actually the point. Focusing on his lies, in my opinion, doesn't help to beat him in the election.

What matters is that Bush was wrong. And he's not backing down from how he was wrong, which is a problem for the future, and why he must not be re-elected.

Bush justified Iraq by saying that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Overall, Iraq didn't have WMD. Now, folks from all sides of the political spectrum were wrong about this, to various degrees. But Bush overstated, and acted like this reason alone was reason enough to behave as we did towards Iraq. This is a style of lie, in that it's acting in bad faith.

But, it's beside the point, because Bush had a real reason for invading Iraq.

Bush justified Iraq by saying that Saddam was a ruthless tyrant. Now, this is obviously true, but it's not like a ruthless tyrant is an automatic reason for the U.S. to go to war to topple that tyrant. Again, it was a style of lie, because he was acting in bad faith.

And again, it's beside the point, because Bush had a real reason for invading Iraq.

In order to oppose Bush responsibly - and reach the swing voters - you have to oppose him on the merits of his case. It's not sufficient to focus on the tortured justifications, because they are distractions. People that support Bush are used to thinking in terms of agenda, not truth - they knew that these justifications weren't the real reasons to go to war. They just saw it as an exercise of power, to fulfill an agenda. They recognized that Bush had an agenda, and they believed that agenda was worthwhile. Screaming and crying about Bush's lies won't matter much to these people. Attacking the merits of his case, however, will.

Bush believed that invading Iraq would make us safer from terrorism. That's really what this all comes down to. You get these neocons drunk, and they'll defend this point on the merits. Richard Perle will all the time, even though they try to get him to shut up about it. They believed that toppling Iraq would lead to a respected American bastion of Democracy right in the middle of the middle east, that the rest of the middle east would be cowed, and that this position of American influence would either convince the terrorists that they could never win, or would convince surrounding governments to crack down on terrorism or they would be invaded too.

It's a gross miscalculation, it's incompetent, and it doesn't take a highly advanced analysis of the Arab people to understand why. There were many, many people who believed that this was an incompetent idea even before he started - senior-level officials that knew a lot more about middle east dynamics than the administration did. They either didn't speak out enough, or the media was intimidated enough to not give them ink, but it's a large part of the national dialogue that has not yet been uttered, and needs to be.

For all the progress that we've made over the past year in furthering our voice and making our protestations reflected in the mainstream press, there are still many examples of ludicrous bully logic that haven't been challenged. One is that the "islamic extremists" hate us because of our freedom. For one thing, that an inherently racist attitude. But it's also self-defeating because it gives our enemies too little credit, which keeps us from being able to understand them, which keeps us from being able to effectively oppose them.

Our entire war has come from simplistic, incompetent bully logic like this. Bush believes that invading Iraq makes us safer from global terrorism. All we need is a strong, disciplined message that explains, No, Georgey, it doesn't quite work that way, as you can see, and educate the rest of the population. You look at occurrences of terrorism. You look at AQ visibility. You look at troop movement - where we took troops away from to fight Iraq. You look at opportunity cost. You look at Iraq's attitudes about America. And then you ask, are we safer from global terrorism? Safer than if we hadn't invaded?

Ignore the lies. They are transparent to everyone, anyway. They're nothing but a distraction from how ridiculous and incompetent Bush's actual agenda was.

Posted by Curt at June 21, 2004 02:12 AM