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Friday, June 24, 2005

Karl Rove

Karl Rove's comments from the other day are stirring up a lot of controversy. In particular this bit, as reported in the New York Post Online Edition::

But perhaps the most important difference between conservatives and liberals can be found in the area of national security. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban. In the wake of 9/11, the liberals believed it was time to submit a petition. I'm not joking. Submitting a petition was precisely what Moveon.org, then known as 9/11peace.org did. You may have seen it in The New York Times or The Washington Post, the San Francisco Examiner or the L.A. Times. (Funny, I didn't see it in the Amarillo Globe News.)
Charges of hypocrisy are flying around from both sides, with Conservatives claiming Liberals are hippocrits because they are condemning these remarks but did not condemn Durbin's and Liberals claiming exactly the reverse. Politicians being hippocrits is neither new, nor particularly interesting as far as I am concerned. I take it as a given that that will happen. However, I think it is interesting to examine the two statements for similarities and differences. I will try to do so in a fair manner, and not let my own political preferences show. First off, lets look at how the statements were similar. Both Rove and Durbin made claims of questionable accuracy. Certainly not all liberals believed that 9/11 deserved a petition, not a military response and as most are aware Guantanamo is quite different in conduct, scale and certainly lethality than the brutal regimes Durbin mentioned. I do not think it particularly useful to try and decide which is more untruthful or dishonest. Let us simply leave accept that neither statement is totally honest. There are some signifigant differences between the two statements though. First off is the forum they were speaking at. Dick Durbin made his statements on Senate floor, as part of the public record, while Rove was addressing the New York State Conservative Party dinner. This is, I believe, a signifigant difference. Another difference is in the subject matter of the two speeches. Karl Rove was talking about his political ideology and the opposing ideology, Durbin was talking about U.S. policy and the actions our Armed Forces were taking. We somewhat expect, and frequently encounter, distortions of an opponents political beliefs. This certainly is a bi-partisan practice, and while something we should perhaps condemn, is not something we commonly demand an apology for. Usually the correct response to such distortions is considered to be to refute such charges. We more or less expect politics to be somewhat 'rough and tumble.' However, we also expect our politicians to honor our basic institutions, particularly the men and women who volunteer to serve our country. This may or may not be a fair distinction, but it is one that we more or less commonly accept. The last difference that I see is the reletive importance of the two subjects. I expect that there will always be contention between Liberal and Conservative ideologies. We will forever be debating what the proper solution to various problems is based upon our political predilections. Liberals will assume the worst motives and outcomes of Conservative proposals and Conservative will do the reverse. Simply put, the subject matter of Rove's speech was unimportant. Dealing with 'enemy combatants' on the other hand is an important responsibility of our time. We need to answer the fundamental questions of how to treat these people and maintain our security. Durbin brought up a very important topic, and I think he also brought up some very important information about that topic. He then felt the need to engage in some over the top rhetoric, presumably as an exercise in political theatre. He hampered, rather than fostered a very important debate. Further, his inititial refusal to apologize continued to hamper that debate. Certainly, those who spent their time calling for an apology didn't help matters, and that didn't help the debate either, but the initial opening of this can of worms was Durbin's, and the response to his words was entirely predictable. I was not one of those calling for Durbin's apology. I preferred to ignore his statement, because I felt it was not helpful to an important debate that we needed to have. I did laud him for making the apology when he did so however. Whether Karl Rove apoligizes or does not, it will not substantially change the nature of politics. I won't say whether Rove should apologize or not. As far as I am concerned that is up to him. I certainly will encourage any Liberals who disagree with his remarks to present their case as to why what he said is inaccurate.


Anonymous Chris Rasmussen said...

Sorry to disagree with you, but I really don't believe that even the vast majority of liberals wanted to prepare "indictments and offer therapy."

Many, like myself, supported the war in Afganistan. Many, like myself (and notably not some conservatives in Congress), supported Clinton's strike on Al Queda in 1999.

This is a deliberate strategy, not a misstatement. It doesn't shed light on the debate -- unless you describe the false use of a strawman as "debate".

Durbin's remarks were stupid. But they were, if incredibly unartfully put, concerning a very real international concern regarding Gitmo.

Rove's remarks are both stupid *and* an attempt to deflect attention -- and stifle debate -- from the very real and very disastrous results of our Iraq policy. Would Rove had made this remark in his prepared remarks if, say, the WH was at 50+ in the polls?

Liberals -- even the Deans and Durbins of the world -- supported the military action against Afganistan and an active effort on the WoT. A no-brainer. I believe the US military should have been used against the Taliban -- as did most liberals (90% of Americans, if memory serves). We just didn't see the Iraq invasion as properly planned or an effective use of our resources.

Iraq is a different circumstance (as most conservatives will concede, Iraq-Al Queda links were tenuous at best) and, as we have discussed off-line, this is a genuine debate with very real consequences and not worthy of this kind of abhorrent political hatchery.

6/24/2005 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

To be fair -- many liberals (err, Democrats) supported the war in Iraq as well. At least until they learned that the motivations weren't exactly WMD-related.

My brother and I both wrote up our thoughts on the Durbin/Rove mess. Obviously, my thoughts (pligtbo) are much better than his (clightbo).

6/24/2005 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I believe that I stated both statements were innacurate. Perhaps I should have been clearer and said that 'most Liberals', rather than simply 'not all Liberals' wanted military action after the 9/11 attacks. I thought that my statement that both were innacurate was sufficient though. As I also said, I don't know how profitable, or signifigant it is to determine which one is 'more innacurate'

The best analogy to Rove's remarks is probably some of Howard Dean's remarks, for example Republicans are white Christians. People that called for an apology for those remarks are probably being hipocrits if they are supporting Rove's remarks.

I hold that the fact the Gitmo is a real problem the we have to deal with a reason to hold him more accountable for them. He hurt rather than helped that debate.

I certainly agree that Rove's remarks were politically motivated. His entire job is to do politically motivated things.

However, the specific things Rove mentioned were truthful, even if tarring the entire Democratic Party or all Liberals with them were not.

I also don't think the characterization that Liberals are in general more reluctant to use the military than Conservatives is unfair. While there are some Liberal Hawks, and some Conservative Doves, certainly if one were to ask which party is more hawkish one would have to answer the Republican Party.

6/24/2005 01:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Rasmussen said...

Oh, sorry. Let me be clearer.

Everything you mention -- Dean's remarks, Durbin's remarks, Rove's remarks (let me add Byrd's remarks and Santorum's remarks) -- were wrong. In fact, one reason I'm here is that I actually like honest conservatives who I can discuss things with -- particularly compared to some partisan liberals (you, Cole, Sullivan, Belgravia fit the bill -- and I often vehemnently disagree with all of them).

"However, the specific things Rove mentioned were truthful, even if tarring the entire Democratic Party or all Liberals with them were not."

With one notable exception dripped with irony. Karl Rove deserves an apology to of all people Howard Dean: he supported the war in Afganistan and the first Gulf War.

Is the Republican party more "hawkish"? Yes. The debate is whether their strategy is smarter in engaging our enemy in the WoT, particularly concerning Iraq.

6/24/2005 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

You are correct about Dean supporting Afghanistan.

Certainly though Dean captured the hearts of the far left, many of who did not support Afghanistan, by being so strongly against the war in Iraq. The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party as I believe Dean referred to them as.

However, Dean certainly did support Afghanistan.

It is I think understandable though that Democrats get tarred with this brush, and why Rove can effectively use it. Michael Moore is not an 'outsider' who is repudiated by the Democratic Party. Indeed he is often treated by them as the guest of honor and many of them have happily lauded his movies.

There was a pretty loud conservative backlash against Jerry Falwell when he said something to the effect that America deserved 9/11 because it was a judgement of God for our sins. When Michael Moore called the Iraqi Insurgents 'Minute Men' or any of his other comments the Democrats and the Left didn't heavily criticize him, at least not to my knowledge.

This all creates an impression that the party as a whole agrees with him. And since Moore is a very loud and flamboyant person, people will notice what he does.

This all doesn't make what Rove said true, but it explains why it will work to his benefit.

6/24/2005 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Rasmussen said...

Okay, let me be the first on my side to condemn Michael Moore (there are others, ya know):

the first half of the movie was, well, occasionally dishonest. The second half of the movie, dealing with the Flint family with a person serving in Iraq, was occasionally compelling. And, yeah, serious concerns raised by him in his movie are thwarted by his Afganistan conspiracy theorizing and his willingness to overlook that Saddam was a vicious tyrant.

But Michael Moore is, ultimately, a popular gadfly who represents no one. Unlike Mr. Falwell, he never has spoken at the Dem. Party convention -- and, in fact, was quite vocal in *not* supporting the Democrats in 2000. (BTW, Clark was rightly condemned for his support of Moore in the primary campaign -- and the debate in which that occurred was the first time Clark was damaged in the 2004 primary campaign)

Karl Rove, on the other hand, is inarguably one of the three to five most influential people in Washington.

Ok, it might even arguably reward the GOP (and I honestly disagree with you: Iraq is serious, the WoT is serious and a majority of Americans want the WH to get serious about it -- not engage in silly diversions)....

... but let's say it does. Isn't it still disgusting?

Michael Moore is a gadfly. Rove, the WH and the President are supposed to *lead* during a time of war and be above this.

6/24/2005 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

Once again, I think one should compare Rove to Dean, not Moore either. We could go back and forth a long time comparing over the top comments that Rove has made to over the top comments that Dean has made.

My point about Moore is that his general acceptance by mainstream Democrats, and there were no shortage of them happily praising his movie makes attacks of this nature credible to people.

Certainly Falwell makes attack from Democrats on Republicans being 'white Christians' more credible as well.

I will admit that I could be biased here, but I do think Republicans on the whole do a better job of condemning Falwell's more nutty remarks than Democrats do with Moore's.

I certainly agree that Iraq, and the WOT are serious business and that such grandstanding isn't particularly helpful. However, I don't expect partisan politics to disappear. I also don't think you can credibly say that partisan attacks on this issue are only coming from one side.

At no point have I said Rove was correct in what he did. I have only said that what he did and what Biden did are different, and that I feel Biden committed a more aggregious sin.

Getting Democrats and Liberals fully engaged in the WOT is important to me. If I had felt Kerry was a reasonable alternative I would have supported him in '04 based upon that. I may well end up supporting a Democrat in '08 for that very reason. I certainly don't want the WOT to be a Republican only endeavor.

6/24/2005 08:12:00 PM  

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