You fasten the triggers / for the others to fire

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

As George W. Bush's chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson wrote the words through which this country was purposely and dishonestly led down the road to disaster in Iraq. Here, Newsweek and The Washington Post, two members of the So-Called Liberal Media (SCLM), have given him an opportunity to continue the campaign to exonerate the guilty and accuse the innocent, as his former boss did virtually every time he addressed this topic, without accepting so much of a scintilla of responsibility for the creation of this disaster. In the column, he quotes Fred Kagan, Ken Pollack, and Henry Kissinger -- exactly the same experts whose analysis has been discredited by the disastrous results of the implementation of their policies. And he puts the onus of dealing with the disaster that he and his friends and political allies created on those who were (largely) innocent and who, like Barack Obama, were actually right and could have saved this country from the catastrophe he helped inflict upon it.

Saddest of all, this is par for the course.

Even crazier, giving this kind of analysis prestigious space in these two august publications makes no dent in the nutty notion of a liberal conspiracy in the media.

Reels the mind.

Final point: There are no good options in Iraq. It is the height of irresponsibility -- even if Mr. Gerson did not have this catastrophe on his conscience -- to criticize people's honest attempts to deal with it unless you posit your own, superior alternative. And believe me, anybody who refuses to repudiate the leadership of this administration, has none, save continuing to allow American soldiers to die so that Bush doesn't have to admit a mistake.

One's only consolation is that these Bush folks are ruining the Republican Party, politically, for a generation to come.

Speaking of which, it weren't for the soothing tones of The Washington Post's opinion pages, how would Scooter Libby sustain himself in his hour of need? Post opinion writers are this close to organizing noisy sidewalk protests on Libby's behalf. Read more here.

I'd like to find the time, soon, to respond to Rick Perlstein's criticism of my immigration position, but before I do, I'd just point out the following:

1) Just because you disagree with me, does not mean that my position is the result of having "fallen for a dangerous piece of right-wing propaganda." That's rather insulting and not justifiable on the basis of what I wrote. I know Rick didn't say it, his source did. But he quoted it approvingly and should not have. We should be able to disagree without the insults.

2) I believe I stated, if not in that post, then the next day, that I supported a fence on the condition that it could be demonstrated to be effective. Rick misinterprets the big "if" in my sentence. I said "if," and I meant "if." I can't really be "very, very wrong" -- which, my position as an English professor allows me to instruct you, sir, is no different than merely "wrong" -- about the reality because I didn't take a position on the reality. My position, merely, is that I am in favor of whatever works to get the current system under control and does not involve the use of deadly force. Many progressives are extremely woolly-minded about the current system, which exploits the poorest and least powerful the most. I heard of a guy yesterday who works in a Brazilian restaurant in New York as a busboy for twelve hours a day and even with tips, ends up making barely $6 per hour, with no benefits and no health protections and no luck whatsoever in the case of an accident. That, people, is the current system. If you want to defend it, then more power to you. I don't. I also think the rule of law counts for quite a lot in a liberal society, even when I'm not so crazy about its results. Encouraging people to break the law in one area leads to its happening in many areas; it's not as if we get to choose which laws we'd like to obey. I'd like to be able to obey immigration laws and not be put in the position of exploiting people and participating in the commission of a crime, and possibly considerable cruelty every time I order a meal or eat a piece of fruit.

3) So I'll say it again: I support a fence if a fence can be shown to work effectively to allow us to have a legal, humane, immigration policy. If something else works, I'm fine with that instead. Getting hung up on the symbolism at the expense of the reality is where liberals have gone wrong so many times in the past and I'm tired of it.

OK, I spent more time on that than I expected. I'm done.

From our sponsors:

Luntz -- PBS' pick to survey public response after Democratic forum -- was longtime Giuliani pollster

As Media Matters for America has noted, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who the Public Broadcasting Service has announced will provide "public feedback" following PBS' coverage of the June 28 Democratic presidential forum, has shown open disdain for Democratic priorities and candidates and has reportedly been reprimanded and censured by his peers for withholding and misrepresenting polling data and methodology. But, in addition to leaving out these facts from its press release announcing Luntz's participation, PBS, which referred to Luntz only as a "noted pollster," made no mention of the fact that Luntz has worked for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a potential general election opponent of one of the forum's participants, and has heaped praise on Giuliani this year. On the February 7 edition of PBS' Tavis Smiley, after referring to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) as the "[b]est communicator out there," Luntz said: "Giuliani, it's about results and success. ... [T]his is a guy who took a city that was on its knees and brought it back to its feet. You can now take your kids there. You can hang out on Times Square at 11 p.m. on a Friday night and not be afraid." Luntz concluded: "Imagine if you could do that for New York, what he could do for America"

Good Morning America's Chris Cuomo interviews Coulter, promotes Godless

Syndicated columnist and right-wing pundit Ann Coulter appeared on the June 25 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, asserting that she "wouldn't insult gays by comparing them to [Democratic presidential candidate] John Edwards." Coulter added that at "about the same time" as the March 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference, where she said that she "can't really talk about" Edwards because "you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' " HBO host Bill Maher "was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack." Coulter continued: "So I've learned my lesson. If I'm going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he has been killed in a terrorist assassination plot."

Kurtz again cited report on journalists' donations without noting that only tiny fraction gave at all

In his June 25 "Media Notes" column in The Washington Post, Howard Kurtz cited an MSNBC report and wrote that journalists "overwhelmingly gave to Democrats," again without noting that the 143 journalists identified in the study as having made political contributions "are a tiny fraction of the roughly 100,000 staffers in newsrooms across the nation," as MSNBC itself stated. As Media Matters for America has noted, the people named in the MSNBC report represent less than two-tenths of 1 percent of news staff in this country.

From TomDispatch:

This January, President Bush announced his "surge" plan for Iraq, which he called his "new way forward." It was, when you think about it, all about numbers. Since then, 28,500 new American troops have surged into that country and there has been a hidden surge of private armed contractors as well. In the meantime, other telltale numbers in Iraq have also surged.

Now, Americans are theoretically waiting for the commander of American forces, General David Petraeus, to "report" to Congress in September on the "progress" of the surge strategy. But there really is no reason to wait for September. An interim report -- "Iraq by the numbers" -- can be prepared now (as it could have been prepared last month, or last year). The trajectory of horror in Iraq has long been clear. So Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch has offered his own carefully sourced early version of the "September Report."

He presents 45 examples and comparisons involving Iraq's surging numbers, ranging from the percentage of Iraqi refugees, internal and external, under 12 (55 percent) to the percentage of American soldiers who, in May of the surge, died from roadside bombs (70.9 percent). You'll learn that there are probably at least as many armed private "contractors" in Iraq now as the number of American troops Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz thought would be garrisoned in Iraq in August 2003, four months after Baghdad fell; that 1,000 American staffers at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad is too few for Ambassador Ryan Crocker; that, out of an Iraqi police force of 188,000, at least 32,000 were out of action (7,000-8,000 simply "unaccounted for") by January 2007; and that 54 percent of Iraqis are now, according to the UN, living on less than $1 a day.

He concludes, based on the cumulative story told by these figures: "If anything catches the carnage and mayhem that was once the nation of Iraq, it might be a comment by the head of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, in 2004. He warned: 'The gates of hell are open in Iraq.' At the very least, the 'gates of hell' should now officially be considered miles behind us on the half-destroyed, well-mined highway of Iraqi life. Who knows what IEDs lie ahead? We are, after all, in the underworld."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Rajesh
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

What liberal media?

Indeed. Witness this admission from the SacBee:

"A badly written letter in favor of Bush is more likely to get into the paper than a badly written letter on another topic," said [editorial pages editor David] Holwerk.

The SCLM is so hard up for pro-Bush press that it will print any old crap that it gets, ahead of anything else more substantial.

What the paper strives to do over time, Holwerk explained, is give a fair representation of readers' views, "but we never do a count, for or against; it doesn't work that way."

But that won't stop Holwerk from practically begging for a letter from any Bush sycophant.

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: http://dailyrevolution.net

I've been openly critical of the Huffington Post's inclusion of a gossip page, and now it's time to give credit to that loveliest of lefties, who has upgraded her site, removed the gossip, and regularly gives voice to the pre-appointed also-rans of the 2008 campaign--you know, the people who are telling the truth, like Mike Gravel.

Imagine, if you can, an actual government where criticism is handled with receptive attention and positive response...

Name: Mark Richard
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Dear Altercation,

Regarding the Dedman story and your response, well, if I were a political party I'd rather have the reporters and editors on my side than the owners, frankly. What your response may unintentionally illustrate is that corporations (including GE, one-time carrier of your blog) are pretty tolerant of political dissent within their ranks. One thinks of Henry Luce's response when someone asked him why he didn't hire more writers who agreed with his Republican political views. "Damned conservatives can't write," I believe he said.

People who are good at things like engineering and business administration usually become Republicans, and people who are good at writing and teaching and the arts usually become Democrats. I thought everyone knew that!

Name: Tom Andersen
Hometown: Pound Ridge, NY

I love the Mets too and that photo (which I had just e-mailed to my 14-year-old daughter with the subject line "isn't this the greatest photo ever?") is a joy. But you're way too defensive about the Mets vs. the Yanks in the Times.

The Mets were good last year, they were expected to be good this year and they ARE good this year. The Yanks have been good for more than a decade, they were expected to be good this year, but they stink this year. By definition that's a bigger story then the Mets performing as expected.

It's also another reason for us Mets fans to feel great. So just enjoy it!

Name: JJ Coker
Hometown: New Orleans

Your answer to Aaron's question regarding your Kerry prediction was spot on. As the Chinese say, prediction is very difficult, especially in regards to the future. Also their great philosopher Lao Tzu said those who have knowledge don't predict; those who predict don't have knowledge. All in all the Chinese are definitely not fond of prediction.

Name: Donna
Hometown: Howell, NJ

I agree with Lisa from Quincy, MA regarding your enlightening the masses via Mr. Pierce. Along with the esteemed Mr. Pierce and Lt. Col. Bateman, Altercation has become a valuable resource to the populace. I have greatly missed Stupid, however.

Recent polls and data have been announced in the MSM about rising gas prices and the slumping housing market not affecting consumer spending, but I never see anything about how much Americans are saving, (if they are) and whether any of that spending we are all supposedly doing is coming from debt/credit sources or income.

Has Siva or anybody else out there got any leads on this?

Thanks again for your excellent work!

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

Your quotation from Jerry Nadler was well chosen. I heard him on the radio on this topic, and I'm happy we have someone like him involved in these hearings. In that same interview, he also made another very interesting point with respect to the call for impeachment--something I've seconded every time Charlie Pierce expresses it so eloquently. As Nadler pointed out, impeachment is a political process, and as such it would complicate unnecessarily the other political process that will be unfolding over the course of 2008. The solution: skip the politics, win the election, and then turn our sights on a criminal prosecution. Now that sounds even better -- more like justice.

And bravo to Pierce for skewering Romney's claim about longing to have been in Vietnam. My older brother served and chewed me out for skipping college and therefore not getting a deferment. He later congratulated me on having a lottery number high enough to miss out on the opportunity to "be representing our country there." Yeah, that was some representing.

Name: Bob Wenning
Hometown: Chicago

Hi Eric:

Two GOP senators, Voinovich of OH and, more importantly, Lugar of IN, have indicated they feel the surge has failed and it is time to start to extricate ourselves from Iraq. If the Democrats don't over-reach clumsily as they did last month, we may be able to at least get ourselves out of the middle of the Iraqi Civil War and go after the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq, as suggested by Rep. Murphy of PA. In this way, the Dems can't be accused of shirking the terrorist threat -- this strategy would actually address the terrorist threat, instead of continuing to play middleman in the black hole Sunni vs. Shiite fighting. But this probably still won't happen until the magic month of September.

In general, other than over-promising on Iraq, I think the Dems have done about as much as they can do to this point. After all, they have only a slight majority in Congress and so are unable to override vetoes since the GOP (with very few exceptions) puts party ahead of country. They also are viewed as on the "wrong" side of the immigration issue so they are getting it from both sides -- liberals think they are not doing enough and of course, conservatives will never approve anything supported by the Democrats.

As your friend Mr. Pierce has urged a number of times, Bush or Cheney or Gonzalez is begging for an impeachment. However, I don't think it will happen because it will look too overtly "political" and inappropriate when we should be focused on resolving Iraq. This is probably the most frustrating thing of all -- we bring to account the people responsible for the catastrophe of Iraq because we need to conserve the political capital to solve this problem for these same people.

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