alien & sedition.
Friday, February 23, 2007
  This Week in Conservative Organs: Muddy Waters

Sometimes all we liberals want is a little moral clarity. Right is right, wrong is wrong, and justice should be done. Well honey, ain't no way in the world could we be satisfied. Our conservative organists are well versed in the postmodern possibilities of multiple truths, and of all the shadows they cast on America, the one they're trying hardest to cast these days is the shadow of doubt.

TWICO Feature: I have got in a little trouble

Reasonable doubt, mind you. Exhibit A: The trial of one I. Lewis Libby. Writing at the National Review, Byron York asks: "did Fitzgerald prove his case?" On the charge of lying about his conversation with Matthew Cooper, York doesn't think so:
Certainly Fitzgerald’s evidence for the two Cooper Counts is quite weak. Libby says one thing, while Cooper says another. It’s entirely possible the jury simply will not accept Fitzgerald’s allegation in the absence of more definitive evidence.
Tim Russert, though, is a little more skilled at giving the impression of truthiness, and York suggests that his testimony may be more damaging to Scooter. Still, "there is no more documentary evidence to support Russert’s story than there is to support Cooper’s," says York. What's more, Russert himself could not absolutely guarantee that he was 1000% percent sure about every detail:
[FBI agent Jack] Eckenrode, who took notes but did not record the conversation, wrote that “Russert does not recall stating to Libby, in this conversation, anything about the wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson. Although he could not completely rule out the possibility that he had such an exchange, Russert was at a loss to remember it, and moreover, he believes that this would be the type of conversation that he would or should remember. Russert acknowledged that he speaks to many people on a daily basis and it is difficult to reconstruct some specific conversations, particularly one which occurred several months ago.”

During the trial, Libby’s lawyers emphasized the “not completely rule out the possibility” and the “difficult to reconstruct some specific conversations” parts of Eckenrode’s notes in hopes of introducing some doubts in the jurors’ minds about Russert’s recollection.
So what might it take to propel the jury out beyond that shadow of a doubt? Well, there's always sheer liberal fecklessness:
In the end, it seems hard to believe that Libby will be acquitted on all counts. The jury is, after all, a District of Columbia jury, and it stretches the imagination to believe they would unanimously exonerate Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.
Setting aside the fact that there are probably few places anywhere in the country where you could assemble twelve individuals who wouldn't like to stick it to Dick Cheney, York suggests that Libby's defense just may have raised enough doubts to get Scooter off the hook on at least some of the charges.

But of course there is another shadow in this case, and as Patrick Fitzgerald has pointed out, it looms over the Vice President. York, in the next installment of his trial coverage, complains that "the undertone of Fitzgerald’s argument, and, in retrospect, of his entire investigation, was that a simple effort at political pushback — the bid to discredit Wilson — was somehow a criminal act."

Here York gets to play public defender for the Bush administration. He's got the burden of proof on his side, since, as Judge Walton pointed out, this case is specifically not about whether or not Valerie Plame was in fact under cover, or whether the administration deliberately and illegally outed her. The case is about whether Scooter Libby lied to the FBI and to a grand jury. Thus, technically, one can analyze the case without discussing whether there were any misdeeds perpetrated by the White House, or the Office of the Vice President. There may or may not be a forest here, argues York, but the important thing is what to make of all the damn trees:
After three years of investigation, Fitzgerald did not charge anyone with leaking Mrs. Wilson’s identity. Yet throughout the trial, Fitzgerald attempted to create an atmosphere of accusation, an accusation that Libby and Cheney and the Bush White House criminally exposed a covert CIA operative. On Tuesday, he reached for the big payoff.

The problem was, of course, that he had no proof of what he was saying.
Because, of course, he was not allowed to offer any such proof. And thus the shadow of doubt returns, this time shielding the administration. Sure, there was an "effort at political pushback," and sure, there was a CIA operative whose cover was most likely blown in the course of the effort, and sure it's a bit silly to imagine that Scooter Libby cooked this all up on his own, especially given the public record. But that's not what's on trial here.

York observes that "a trial ... is not necessarily a search for truth." Which may be lucky for Dick Cheney.

ALSO AT NRO... Bill Buckley seeks to muddy the waters on the evolution "debate," specifically over whether John McCain should be considered a fool for accepting an invitation to speak at the neo-creationist Discovery Institute. Hey, says Buckley, let's not rush to judgment:
The questions are profound, and the arguments subtle. It is not reasonably expected of Senator McCain, or any other contender for the presidency, that in his public appearances he will explicate all the conundrums.
Indeed. We shouldn't expect the Senator to have figured out all the nuances of whether it's crazy to go around saying the earth is flat.

Evidently, the Buckley piece generated some complaints, as John Derbyshire feels compelled to offer a rebuttal - though, when you're dealing with the patron saint of your movement, a rebuttal can come across looking almost like an apologia. The Derb ruminates interestingly - if somewhat confusingly - on the psychology of human interaction, especially as it pertains to religion and politics - and he points out that the methodology of science doesn't really accomodate such psychological practices. The conclusion, I think, is that scientists and creationists will never understand each other, and we should understand that these debates are just always going to be with us. All in all, an entirely moderate piece - though I'm not sure whether moderation in the pursuit of reality is a virtue.

MEANWHILE... Kathryn Jean Lopez recounts Mitt Romney's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week: dissed twice in the Washington Post, mocked at NRO, exposed in the Boston Globe (not to mention dumped at RedState) - should the good Governor pack it in? No way, says K-Lo: "it's way early." Lopez quotes us a couple of experts:
Don’t rush to any conclusions, some professional politics-watchers say. “Romney can be saved — no religious pun intended,” University of Virginia professor and oft-quoted horserace expert Larry Sabato tells NRO. “A presidential campaign, especially this one, is a long and winding road. He has the money, the basic skills, and the fundamental charisma to overcome his challenges.”

“It’s still early. Romney can recover,” Republican pollster Robert Moran, vice president of Strategy One, agrees. “The real question may be ‘when will McCain and Giuliani implode?’ Neither of these two is a good fit for the base, and the conservative media will batter these two.”
Further reinforcement is offered by James Bopp Jr., who tells us that Romney is a true social conservative - even if only lately. The point, says Bopp, is that pro-lifers are always trying to make converts, so why should they reject one who's running for president? Yeah, sure he's a Mormon, but:
his faith should be viewed by social conservatives as a good sign, not as a matter of concern. The Mormon religion, while having tenets that Christians do not share, is profoundly conservative in its support for life, family, and marriage. Thus, Romney’s religion reinforces, rather than conflicts with, his conversion.
And what are your other choices? Giuliani? McCain? Please:
the fact remains that Romney opposes public funds for embryo-destructive research that McCain and Giuliani support. Romney has fought for a federal marriage amendment and McCain and Giuliani oppose one. There is the simple question of whether social conservatives want someone who is currently on their side or someone who currently opposes them.
At least someone at NRO is seeking clarity.

MISC'ALLY... Bruce Bartlett blames Bush for choosing a Vice President with no "ambitions of his own" [Er, WTF? - ed.] thus depriving the GOP of a presidential heir apparent; Thomas Sowell reveals how the poor are "human shields" for those whose true interest in the welfare state is government control of the golf courses; David Lewis Schaefer takes the National Park Service to task for unpatriotically failing to gloss over Jim Crow; and Victor Davis Hanson tells us that "Democratic senators and candidates should simply confess that ... most of the earlier reasons to remove Saddam remain valid." Which is a great point, if by "valid" Hanson means "completely and totally debunked."

Up-is-Downism Award: You better not be messin' with the man

I have a feeling that TWICO's favorite honor is only one more brilliant column away from being renamed the "R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. Up-is-Downism Award." R. has done it again, this time excoriating the Democrats for pretending that Congress has anything to do with war powers. Just what are these jokers up to?
If they can effectively hamstring our efforts in Iraq, they somehow think the American electorate will blame the whole thing on the Republicans.
Sussed! I can't imagine how the American people could possibly blame the Iraq debacle on the Republican party, but you can always count on the devious libs to find a way. And the result?
The more Iraq descends into anarchy, the more likely the American people will whoop it up for the political party that, as the Washington Post has put it, linked "support for President Bush's war-funding request to strict standards of resting, training and equipping combat forces."
Well, only if the Republicans don't rig the whooping machines next November. At any rate, as R. tells us, the point is that "the Democrats' political meddling in this war is obviously dragging it out and endangering our troops."

And certainly, the fact that the Iraq war has dragged on longer than World War II can be blamed on the Democrats, who after all were the ones who failed to plan it properly and then had total control of government for three and a half years while everything went to hell. And then there's the fact that Democrats have been misleading the public: R. points out that they "fabricated a complaint, to wit, 'Bush lied to us about WMDs.'" Whatevs, Dems! Bush lied honestly!

ALSO AT THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR... G. Tracy Mehan, III is sort of cute how he's totally blown away by the fact that "only 17" Republican members of the House voted for the anti-escalation resolution:
Discipline within the GOP is truly a sight to behold. Despite predictions of 50, even 60 Republican votes for the Democratic leadership's anti-surge resolution, only a fraction of that number actually voted for it.
What's this game called? The Expectations Game? No sir, I've never - MY GOD THAT'S AMAZING.

Mehan thinks that, far from being split, the GOP is actually pulling together over the Iraq war, which is good, because as his fellow 'III' - W. James Antle III - observes, things aren't so hot on the social front. Why, wonders Antle, are McCain and Romney such incompetent boobs when it comes to picking up the abortion stick and beating Guiliani with it? At least Rudy hasn't joined the pandering, and that consistency is probably why he's not taking hits from the sociocons. Says Antle: "perhaps the moral of the story is this: If you can't respect life, at least try to respect pro-lifers' intelligence."

MEANWHILE, Lisa Fabrizio reacts negatively to her readers' readiness to believe Rudy when he says he'll appoint "originalist" judges. A true originalist, argues Fabrizio, would have done the right thing as mayor and let Manhattan sidewalk vendors sell Uzis to all comers. And then she makes a bid for the Up-is-Downism award:
It seems to me that he is open to abuse of the U.S Constitution in order to serve a "greater good." I suspect that the overwhelming majority of conservatives would agree that when the supreme law of the land is at stake, the end can never justifies the means.
Except, you know, every so often.

AND... The Prowler reports that Mitt's getting Jeb folk while McCain is losing Hollywood folk; Peter Hannaford says "Karl Rove Was Wrong" (who knew that could happen?) - in the age of 24-hour cable news cycles, a two-year-long presidential campaign is just about right; Jackie Mason compares Anna Nicole to a bakery; and Megan Basham pines for the days when the dirty hippies actually dug Jesus: "he even inspired a colorful and refreshingly non-blasphemous musical and film." You don't see Amanda Marcotte in Godspell!, that's my point here.


At the Weekly Standard, Victorino Matus explains the joys of 'Civilization,' the video game. It's actually an interesting piece, if pitched somewhat towards the "get off my lawn" crowd, who need some reassurance as to why the whole thing amounts to something more than just a buncha damn beatnik nonsense. But there's an itchy irony you start to feel, reading an article extolling the virtues of a game that lets you be a Ceasar or a Napolean - considering that it's published at the Weekly Standard. Matus quotes the game's creator, Sid Meier, saying that "the game kind of lets you be yourself," and you start to think about what that means to some of this crowd, and Meier says that:
"people like to be in these positions in games that they probably don't have a chance to be in real life and it tapped into that fantasy to a certain extent of being the leader of a civilization and having the destiny of all these people depending on you, and that was fun."
and you just get the damn creeps.

But there's this funny line from Meier, who as a kid played 'Risk' but not 'Diplomacy':"You had to have friends to play Diplomacy so that kind of left me out." Speaking as an American citizen, Sid, I know how you feel.

MEANWHILE, the Standard's own champion civilization-game-player, Bill Kristol, introduces us to the "slow-bleed" meme, in yet another one of his bitter anti-anti-war screeds; Joseph Leconte blames liberals for not believing conservatives when they shout "wolf!" over Iran; Michel Gurfinkiel gives us the "good news" about the French presidential election, which is that both major candidates are pretty conservative; Igor Khrestin tells us that Russian President Putin's harsh criticism of U.S. foreign policy "does not indicate a significant shift in policy;" and Peter Berkowitz plays a nifty little moral equivilance game, where he balances Dinesh D'Souza and Ann Coulter, who have accused liberals of treasonously collaborating with the terrorist enemy who not long ago killed thousands of Americans, and the latter of whom has more or less openly called for the deaths of her political opponents, with Alan Wolfe who once used the writings of Carl Schmitt to analyze Republican political strategy. Muddy waters indeed.

I've actually got more to say on that last article, and so at some point I'll say it, but for now, my keyboard won't write no more.

Have a great weekend.

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"An obscure but fantastic blog." - Markus Kolic


Critical analysis of the American conservative movement from a progressive perspective. Also some stuff about the Mets.

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