Topic: For policy wonks...
WMD for Dummies
Every time I see the columnist Tom Oliphant on television - usually on the PBS News Hour in some endless discussion - I think he is a very odd man. Rail-thin in his bow tie with prissy manners and precise diction he's a political and anorexic version of Felix Unger from The Odd Couple - the Central Casting version of an effete liberal from Boston, on camera to provide, no doubt, a dramatic contrast to the virile, manly but simple-minded and rather inarticulate conservative in the scene. Oliphant may, for all we know, be the invention of some news director who loves entertaining contrasts - and just an actor playing the assigned role.
But Oliphant seems to write columns. And he's not the sort of fellow to offer the opposition, in public, on the floor of the US senate, an eloquent "Go f--k yourself!" - and then say there is just no need to apologize as the opposition richly deserved the words and, gosh, it felt so good to say them. Oliphant prefers explanation and exposition to, in the case above, Dick Cheney's sincere and deeply felt, if somewhat limited critique of what he finds logically wrong with another fellow's position on this matter or that.
Well, each side has its preferred modes of discourse.
Oliphant's most recent Boston Globe column on Bush and his team was republished in Paris on Thursday and probably shows Oliphant at his most typical - arguing a convincing position with great logic and clarity, but ultimately calling on examples that make any conservative reader think him a great fool. Oliphant refers to education and literature and assumes some respect for them. He doesn't see the problem. Such things are not what real men (our leaders and the conservative right) consider of any consequence at all.
Bush flunked his test on Iraq
Thomas Oliphant, Boston Globe and International Herald Tribune, Thursday, July 15, 2004
The column opens in a snide way -
You see the problem and almost hear the words from the Oval Office - "Condi, why is this guy talking about that Vegas magician guy David Copperfield? And who is Uriah Heep - one of the bad guys over in Muslim-land? And isn't Dickens one of our guys in the Senate?"
Oliphant is writing for the liberal elite, obviously. The Senate Intelligence Committee report is his topic, but he gets at it an odd way. Oliphant point is clear enough - everyone is missing the "truly jarring" truth. "In plain English, the Central Intelligence Agency was serving Bush large helpings of baloney in the form of summaries of analyses and conclusions that were directly contradicted by the detailed information on which these analyses and conclusions were supposedly based."
The "so" according to Oliphant is that for those seeking to blame the summaries, including Bush's own campaign and "policy big shots," the "desperate finger-pointing" works only on the basis of an assumption that is grounds for tossing Bush out of office.
Why, because he bought a load of baloney without asking for any details?
But Tom, Bush did tell us all he doesn't do nuance. We WERE warned.
It is, then, not Bush's fault.
Do you believe that? Many do.
Then, Oliphant says, if you do, you have to buy into the corollary beliefs:
Well, Tom doesn't believe all this - but it could be so. Tuesday night the widely respect CNN news guy Wolf Blitzer was interviewed on The Daily Show - and the host, Jon Stewart, asked Blitzer, in his opinion, how the whole government, and almost all of the news media, get it all so very wrong?
Blitzer gave a simple and devastating answer. "Haven't you ever made a mistake?" And Blitzer would say no more on the topic. Case closed.
Oh well, so much for our watchdog media.
But back to Oliphant...
Like any good essayist he ends with a return to his opening metaphor -
That - folks turning on Bush for stupidly trusting a faulty cheat-sheet (WMD For Dummies) and not asking questions - is not going to happen. Perhaps Bush's Cliffs Notes were faulty, and the whole mess is thus not Bush's fault.
And who knows? - Maybe the Las Vegas magician David Copperfield did murder the al-Qaeda terrorist mastermind Uriah Heep in the library, and with the fireplace poker. Dickens doesn't say that didn't happen, does he? Dickens does NOT come out and DIRECTLY SAY that this didn't happen. As Dick Cheney says again and again about that meeting between Saddam's guys and the 9/11 hijackers in Germany to plan the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - everyone says that meeting never happened, but there is no solid proof that it never happened. No one is saying that he or she was there, that very day in Munich, at that very place, and DID NOT SEE the bad guys meet. So maybe it happened, or probably, it DID happen.
Rumsfeld said it even better - "There is another way to phrase that, and that is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." (Reuters Newswire - June 6, 2002) Clear enough.
Oliphant doesn't get their logic.
No one, by the way, is ever going to see the White House Cliffs Notes on the whole matter -
White House Balks at Releasing Prewar Summary on Iraq WMD
Reuters, Wednesday, July 14, 2004 04:24 PM ET
Ah, let it go. It is far too late now to matter. We had our war and what's done is done.