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  xThursday, October 16, 2003

planet swank mailbag

I don't often get email regarding my blog, but apparently this relatively high-traffic month has drawn some new visitors, one of whom took it upon himself to raise objections to my criticism of the Bush Administration. Here goes, verbatim:
found your site, thought it was interesting, left when I started reading ignorant,biased jibberish against our President's efforts to defend our nation from cowardly terrorists. Four children at the grade school where my wife works, lost parents to these cowardly bastards when the Twin towers were destroyed, one of my colleagues at work lost a friend, my cousin's wife lost a relative. So when you get all warrn and fuzzy when you think you are latching on to some chic trendy way to mock the defenders of our Constitution and our Nation who are there to defend us from these low life shitbags, remember innocent Americans were sucker punched by cowards and these cowards don't give a rat's ass if you are one of their victims.
Name Withheld
Vote Freedom
Vote Republican

My response:
Thank you for your comments. It's a pity that they so resembled ignorant and biased gibberish.

It's clear that criticism of the President's policies makes you uncomfortable. I'm sorry about that. If you can point to a specific criticism that you think is incorrect, I'd be happy to entertain your argument, and more than happy to point out why I think you're wrong. But you'll have to forgive me if your contention that the mere act of
criticizing the President is somehow wrong fails to impress me.

Perhaps you could enlighten me as to how blowing the cover of a covert CIA agent working in weapons proliferation strengthens our national defense.

Perhaps you can explain how our situation in Iraq improves, not diminishes, our ability to combat terrorism.

Perhaps you can explain how the Patriot Act is the work of an Administration committed to defending the Constitution.

Frankly, sir, I doubt you can. But in the meantime, consider this: You say that you know people personally affected by 9/11. Can you name one thing the President did to defend our nation from terrorists prior to then? Something, perhaps, he did after Condoleeza Rice warned him in August of 2001 that al Qaeda planned to hijack American aircraft? I fear you're in for quite a shock when you realize how greatly Bush failed to act; failed to defend this nation.

You're within your rights not to care for my antiwar comments, and certainly to let me know about them. I understand and share your anger toward terrorists. It may surprise you to learn that I, and many who opposed the war on Iraq, did so precisely because we wanted to see al Qaeda broken and bin Laden caught, as opposed to running off on a completely irrelevant tangent by invading a country that posed little actual threat, as Colin Powell himself claimed in 2001. Tell me, has Bush managed to catch bin Laden yet?

Vote Republican? Not until they start demonstrating some competence, and
not just big talk, thank you very much.

I see comments like this individual's a lot on blog comment threads and Internet discussion boards. Comments full of invective and a truly staggering confusion of issues.

It's sad, in a way. After the trauma of 9/11 -- a tragedy that's directly attributable to Bush's incompetence and an undeniable failure in his duty to protect this nation -- many Americans desperately needed to believe that the President was strong and in charge, and would wisely follow the best policies to protect this nation. And to his credit, Bush took some positive steps. He gave some good, healing speeches. He confronted the Taliban -- a move I fully supported, and indeed I wish Bush would have the political courage to finish the job. And he quite rightly repudiated wrongheaded attempts to stigmatize loyal American muslims.

But needing to believe in Bush, sadly, does not make him capable. This blog has lodged many objections to his policies, not the least of which was an obvious attempt to sell the war on Iraq based on a hysterical drumbeat of fear. (Really, the notion that Iraq posed any threat at all to the US -- let alone an imminent one -- is simply laughable.) Many other blogs have done a much better job of cataloguing Bush's mendacity and rank incompetence.

Most other Western-style democracies wisely employ a dual executive -- a head of state, and a political leader. Thus, while in England, Tony Blair's political career may well be over as a result of his own distortions regarding Iraq, the people still love the Queen. Unfortunately, in America we have no such luxury, and so a frightened nation must instead turn to a weak, venal man who's proven all too willing to turn popularity in polls to his political advantage.

There are those who arrive by their positions in good faith and can defend them intelligently. But the sheer emptiness of the rhetoric -- replete with name-calling and unsupportable assertions -- that parrots the lying liars of the Right is truly staggering in its worthlessness. The misguided faith in a President who seems to regard his rank-and-file supporters as suckers undeserving of an honest presentation is genuinely sad. And the .

I can't help but wonder why, if individuals like this one are so confident in their positions, why they feel so threatened by those who disagree with them. There's something almost Freudian about it.

Of course, I welcome feedback of any time. I reserve the write to post blog-related email. And if you've got something critical to say, I suggest you reach beyond dittohead talking points if you want to be taken seriously.

Update: As I was composing this post, my correspondent weighed in with an enlightening response:
Your commentary is cliche and mocking, nothing of substance. Blowing the cover of a CIA operative? That clown who's wife is a secret agent , oh yeah the publicly known analyst, has changed his partisan motivated story so many times that the ink hadn't time to dry on the convenient book deal he just signed. Wake up clown shoes, we are at war and the weak extreme leftist loonies such as yourself are going to get out of the way whilst us adults take care of business and secure out nation's freedom ,safety and prosperity. This way it will be safe for you tantrum throwing immature pseudo-intellects to get out there and cry about whatever nonsense you are in crisis about today.
I've yet to see any constructive alternatives from the nine or ten dwarves jockeying for the leftist democrats presidential nomination, other than bush is wrong I'm better vote for me , because bush he's not good . he's bad, oh yeah I did vote in favor of going to war, but no I'm better,bush he bad....blah blah blah ...oh you leftists are so funny and sad
thanks lefty
Name "American and not guilty about it" Withheld

I replied:
Great to hear from you again! It's always refreshing to hear the ad hominems, non sequitirs, and misplaced blind faith that mask the emptiness of the Bush apologists. Where to start...

Nothing of substance? To the contrary. I presented you with three substantial arguments, only one of which you took a stab at refuting. Unfortunately, your statements regarding the Plame scandal are completely wrong. She was, in fact, covert, as you'd know if you actually read any of the several posts I've made on the subject. I'll make it very clear:

Plame was indeed covert as the CIA has confirmed in asking Justice to investigate the crime. Two individuals in the Bush Administration blew her cover, which action constitutes not only a felony but egregious damage to our intelligence on real weapons of mass destruction. Wilson -- who is not partisan in the first place and was correct about the Administration's mendacious claim about African uranium in the second place -- is irrelevant to the commission of this crime. He could be -- is not, but could be -- the most partisan individual ever, but there's nothing in the statute that makes an exception in such a case. Indeed, the fact that you're reduced to repeating the slime-and-defend talking points suggests the emptiness of your argument. Since blowing the cover of a covert agent working in weapons proliferation damages our national security, it's clear that your only recourse is to refuse to believe it happened. I'm sorry to inform you that such a fantasy is simply not supportable in light of the facts.

Of course, you completely fail to address the other two questions. (For the record: Perhaps you can explain how our situation in Iraq improves, not diminishes, our ability to combat terrorism, and Perhaps you can explain how the Patriot Act is the work of an Administration committed to defending the Constitution.) Are you admitting you have no answer, and therefore the criticism is justified? Come on, sport, dazzle me.

As for the canard about the "adults" running the show, in what way does the recent behavior of Rice and Rumsfeld regarding the administration of Iraq support that argument? What evidence do you have that Bush is even in control of his own Iraq policy other than his lame assertion that he is?

Once again, it may come as a suprise to you, but I'm as proud to be an American as you are, your slimy implication to the contrary notwithstanding. In fact, because I, for one, believe that America is worth improving, and am unwilling to condone its ruin by the misguided policies of this Administration, I'd assert that I'm prouder of this country than you are.

I've made a series of strong, well-informed assertions about the danger to this country posed by the Bush Administration's unique combination of incompetence and dishonesty. You seem to believe that any criticism of the President's policies is inherently wrong. But the overwhelming evidence is that Bush's specific policies are weakening this nation and placing us at a disadvantage in the war on terrorism. As such, it's quite enough to simply oppose the damage he is doing to this great nation; no alternative plan is necessary. Now, do you have an argument of substance to back up your faith in him? If you don't, your rantings and name-calling are just so much hot air and unworthy of consideration. I suggest you're wasting your time and mine.

Have a nice day.

And in an immediate follow-up:
One more thing, Name Withheld:

In my original response, I challenged you to justify your faith in this Administration's ability to cvombat terrorism to name one thing they did in that regard prior to 9/11. I'm still waiting.

I'll make it easy on you. In August 2001, Condoleeza Rice briefed the President that there were warning that al Qaeda planned to hijack US airliners. (You'll recall, of course, that she later claimed the 9/11 attacks occurred *without* warning.) Surely you'd agree that the President should take action against such a threat. Can you name anything at all the President did to make America safe in the month before 9/11?

This exchange gives me a good opportunity to subject the lame "I haven't seen an alternative to Bush's disastrous policies" argument to the scorn it deserves. For starters, the intellectual dishonesty behind this line of argument is evident in Buh's repeated -- and dishonest -- assertions that opposing his coveted war on Iraq was tantamount to "doing nothing." In addition, any high school debatoer could tell you that it's a rhetorical trick -- the argument then becomes over the counterproposal, and the original thesis is assumed valid.

Well, I'm not buying. Simply opposing a policy, and providing solid reasons for doing so, is enough. The burden of proof is, and always has been, on the Bush Administration to justify its proposals. Given its complete failure to do so honestly, critics are more than justified in criticizing the policy and noting that its real costs and benefits are likely not all that is claimed. (It's at this point, of cours,e that you hear the "Well, what else do you suggest" argument.)

Moreover, when it's apparent that proposed policy has very foreseeable ill consequences -- massive structural deficits and a long, expensive, and bloody occupation, to name only two -- opposing said policy on those grounds is sufficient. As some have said, when a care you're riding in is speeding toward a tree, it's enough to tell the driver not to do that.

And, I would assert, opposing deceiving the American people to justify a coveted was should be a no-brainer. It's a true pity that some on the Right appear inclined to give Bush a pass on that one.

No, no, my friends -- the burden of proof is all Bush's. When his policy is criticized, it's up to him and his supporters to defend it, and the tactic of asking for a counterproposal is a tacit admission of the weakness of the case.

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