[Mb-civic] On Iraq, Plenty of Scores to Settle Even If the Dust Hasn't - Howard Kurtz - Washington Post Op-Ed
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Mon Mar 20 04:02:35 PST 2006
On Iraq, Plenty of Scores to Settle Even If the Dust Hasn't
By Howard Kurtz
The Washington Post
Monday, March 20, 2006; C01
For some liberal pundits, it's payback time.
For some conservative commentators, it's time for uncomfortable
For the rest of us, it's the best show in town.
It was probably inevitable, once the Iraq war started to go badly --
though how badly remains a matter of political dispute -- that those who
opposed it from the start would begin kicking sand in the face of those
who backed it from the start. Had the war been a smashing success,
accusing fingers would undoubtedly be pointing in the opposite direction.
Some of those on the right now say they were wrong, or that they
miscalculated, or that the Bush administration has bungled what remains
a noble effort. Others insist the war is not going all that badly, given
the difficulty of bringing democracy to Iraq, and that history's verdict
is not yet in.
But this is no high-minded debate about military strategy and ancient
religious hatreds. It is an old-fashioned smackdown by those who detest
George W. Bush against those who once defended him.
Andrew Sullivan, the author and blogger, wrote in Time that he and his
fellow neoconservatives made "three huge errors" in underestimating the
difficulty of invading Iraq three years ago this week. "We have learned
a tough lesson," Sullivan wrote, "and it has been a lot tougher for
those tens of thousands of dead, innocent Iraqis and several thousand
killed and injured American soldiers than for a few humiliated pundits."
This drew a blast from Paul Krugman, the liberal New York Times
columnist, who wrote: "Mr. Sullivan used to specialize in denouncing the
patriotism and character of anyone who dared to criticize President
Bush, whom he lionized. Now he himself has become a critic, not just of
Mr. Bush's policies, but of his personal qualities, too. . . .
"If you're a former worshipful admirer of George W. Bush who now says,
as Mr. Sullivan did at Cato, that 'the people in this administration
have no principles,' you're taking a courageous stand. If you said the
same thing back when Mr. Bush had an 80 percent approval rating, you
were blinded by Bush-hatred. If you're a former hawk who now concedes
that the administration exaggerated the threat from Iraq, you're to be
applauded for your open-mindedness. But if you warned three years ago
that the administration was hyping the case for war, you were a
Sullivan conceded that he "lionized George W. Bush for a while after
9/11" and "criticized many whose knee-jerk response immediately after
9/11 was to blame America, and whose partisanship, like Krugman's, was
so intense they had already deemed Bush a failure before he even had a
chance." But he accused Krugman of "grossly distorting" his record,
noting that he has criticized Bush on a wide range of issues, from Abu
Ghraib to federal spending, and endorsed John Kerry in 2004.
A similar squabble erupted after National Review founder William F.
Buckley, the intellectual godfather of modern conservatism, wrote that
Bush must face reality: "One can't doubt that the American objective in
Iraq has failed. . . . And the administration has, now, to cope with
David Corn, the Nation's Washington bureau chief, used the concession to
jab at Rich Lowry, National Review's editor, for having said while
debating him that opponents of the war were enemies of democracy and
freedom. "How can he not apply the same label to Buckley?" Corn
demanded, adding: "If one side is willing to accuse the other of being
weak, treasonous, and fans of tyranny, it is difficult to have a decent
Lowry responded by saying he didn't remember using that phrase, but that
"I do remember complaining that in all our debates David had never once
expressed the slightest pleasure at Saddam's ouster or the Iraqi
elections. . . . For the record: I don't think David is an enemy of
democracy, just a partisan blinded by Bush hatred. And I see no
connection between the crowd-pleasing bile he sometimes spews at our
debates, and Buckley's prudential doubts about nation-building in Iraq."
It would be easy to dismiss all the sniping as pundits behaving badly.
After all, the usual drill is for liberals to declare some
administration policy a failure (the economy, Hurricane Katrina, the
Medicare drug program) and for conservatives to insist that things are
going much better than the Bush-bashers and left-leaning press would
have you believe. There were exceptions to this pattern -- many
conservatives savaged the Harriet Miers nomination and the Dubai ports
deal -- but their rarity made them especially newsworthy.
As Bush continues to flounder in the polls, more on the right are
breaking ranks. Bruce Bartlett, who was dropped by a free-market think
tank over his new book "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America
and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," recently called the administration
"unconscionable," "vindictive" and "inept."
Peggy Noonan writes that she would not have voted for Bush had she known
he was going to turn into a big-spending Lyndon Johnson. Jonah Goldberg
writes that "most conservatives never really understood what
compassionate conservatism was, beyond a convenient marketing slogan,"
and the "reality" is "that there was nothing behind the curtain."
Not everyone is jumping ship. Fred Barnes, executive editor of the
Weekly Standard, who remains a strong Bush supporter, writes that "the
mainstream media likes nothing more than to play up conservatives who
attack other conservatives."
Maybe so. But the war is the overriding issue of the Bush presidency,
and when conservative commentators begin shifting their stance on
whether the conflict has been mishandled, it's hardly surprising that
their liberal counterparts are going to pile on. Iraq, like Vietnam, may
well stir passions for a generation, and those in the opinion business
will not be able to escape the question: Which side were you on?
"The cover photograph in The Times Magazine on Sunday rendered colors
incorrectly for the jacket, shirt and tie worn by Mark Warner, the
former Virginia governor who is a possible candidate for the presidency.
The jacket was charcoal, not maroon; the shirt was light blue, not pink;
the tie was dark blue with stripes, not maroon. . . . The film that was
used can cause colors to shift, and the processing altered them further;
the change escaped notice because of a misunderstanding by the editors."
-- Wednesday's New York Times.
Huffy Over Huffington
It all depends on the meaning of the word blog.
George Clooney is mighty steamed at Arianna Huffington for stitching
together comments from a couple of his interviews and running them as a
posting on her Web site. Clooney says the Huffington Post created the
false impression that he wrote the short essay about being a proud liberal.
The Oscar-winning actor told the New York Daily News he feels "abused"
and that Huffington had warned him that his griping would be "bad for my
career. . . . I'm not going to be threatened by Arianna Huffington!"
Huffington's blog response is that it was all "an honest
misunderstanding" and she believed she had written permission from
Clooney's PR person. "But any misunderstanding that occurred, occurred
between Clooney and the publicist." Over the weekend, however,
Huffington apologized for making a "big" mistake and said she will now
make clear when blog postings are reprinted from elsewhere.
Veteran magazine editor Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine.com is siding with
Clooney: "How Hollywood can this go: 'I'll have my person link to your
person'? . . . Huffington was wrong to try to create a faked-up post
under Clooney's name."
NPR's High Standards
"I was so micromanaged that they were telling me how to pronounce
syllables of words." -- Bob Edwards on his former employer, National
Public Radio, telling Newsweek he feels liberated at XM Satellite Radio.
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