Saturday, January 01, 2005

Seen one, seen 'em all.

Can someone please tell me why an editorial like this is in the "Arts" section of The New York Times?

Frank Rich decides to watch the "Kennedy Center Honors," and is upset that, from his position on the sofa, he can't detect "an underlying ethos of shared sacrifice." He talks about a disconnect between the war in Iraq and the homefront, "starting with those in government who had conceived, planned, rubber-stamped and managed our excellent adventure in spreading democracy."

The disconnect is Rich's, however.

On the same day that CBS broadcast the Kennedy Center special, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 70 percent of Americans believed that any gains in Iraq had come at the cost of "unacceptable" losses in casualties and that 56 percent believed the war wasn't "worth fighting" - up 8 percent since the summer. In other words, most Americans believe that our troops are dying for no good reason, even as a similar majority (58 percent) believes, contradictorily enough, that we should keep them in Iraq.

Rich doesn't understand that there is no contradiction here. The first question referred to the war in Iraq -- the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The second question referred to the post-war period -- keeping the troops in Iraq until order is restored. See the list of questions, here.

But more importantly, it is a disconnect to believe that an administration should set foreign policy by opinion polls.

As James Dao wrote in The New York Times, "support our troops" became a verbal touchstone in 2004, yet "only for a minuscule portion of the populace, mainly those with loved ones overseas, does it have anything to do with sacrifice." Quite the contrary: we have our tax cuts, and a president who promises to make them permanent. Such is the disconnect between the country and the war that there is no national outrage when the president awards the Medal of Freedom to the clowns who undermined the troops by bungling intelligence (George Tenet) and Iraqi support (Paul Bremer).

Such is the disconnect that Rich believes that if we really wanted to support our troops we would ask the president to raise our taxes. Such is the disconnect that Rich probably still believes the lie about Paul Bremer scurrying out of Iraq in the middle of the night without so much as a "so long" to his Iraqi hosts.

Soon Mr. Rumsfeld was off to Iraq for a P.R. tour (message: I care) in which he used troops as photo-op accessories and thanked a soldier for asking a softball question "not planted by the media." Washington could go back to worrying about more pressing domestic problems, like how to cook the books so that Social Security can be fixed cost-free.

Gotta bring in Social Security in an otherwise unrelated rant. But hey, there's more where that came from. Rich rants about Abu Ghraid, "Mission Accomplished," and the unholy sight of our President wearing a military-style bomber jacket (as if no other president has ever worn such a thing). I think he only left out the "fake turkey" complaint.

But three years into it, can we win a war that most of the country senses has gone astray in Iraq and that the party in power regards as a lower priority than lower taxes?

Again with the lower taxes. I think we've seen in recent days just how generous private citizens can be with their own money. If the President asked his citizens to donate to the war cause, you can bet they would respond.

As to the line that "most of the country senses" that the war has gone astray; in the very same poll Rich cites, 60% of respondents believed that the war in Iraq has contributed to the long-term security of the United States. And 48% of respondents believe that the US is making significant progress toward establishing a democracy in Iraq. (Compared to 44% who say there isn't significant progress.) Must be some new usage of the word "most."

The editorial is just a mishmash of the usual complaints about our efforts to help Iraq. Seen one, seen 'em all.

But I'm no closer to figuring out why it's in the "Arts" section.


At 3:55 PM, Blogger Shelly said...

Well, Drew - the only thing that I can tell you is that it may be a fictional piece and finally the Times has recognized it! Ha! Ha!

Any polls quoted or done by any MSM organization are suspicious in nature. So, I would just enjoy the sheer contradictory nature of it. And as we EC journalism grads know, Merit is rolling over in his grave over this stuff!

Nik's sis

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Drew said...

This would have been a good year to be in J-school again, if only because there would be so much to discuss in all those "Press and Society"-type classes.

At 6:55 AM, Blogger Shelly said...

It woul

At 6:57 AM, Blogger Shelly said...

Sorry, my little one hit the would have been. Do you think they were all libs??? I wasn't too political in those days.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Drew said...

True confession: I voted for Mondale in 1984. My political awareness was obviously stunted back then. I think that's why I'd love to go back. . . . but only for the discussion classes. I don't miss the term papers at all.

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