Still crazy after all these years ...


We've got a new Think Again column here, called "Why We're Liberals." It's a peek at the book, which you can buy here, here, here, and here. Eric also has a new Nation column, "The Ritual Sacrifice of Samantha Power," here.

It's George Zornick once again, as Eric is on his way to St. Louis to give a reading at the Ethical Culture Society there, sponsored by Left Bank Books, at 7 p.m. His full schedule for the Why We're Liberals tour is below.

It's become fashionable for journalists to ask Democratic candidates and their supporters some version of the following question: "We keep hearing the same rhetoric over and over on the campaign trail. What happens if a Democrat is elected and sits down with their generals on the first day and the generals say, you're crazy, we can't do this?"

That's from Campbell Brown on CNN last night, and it's been a somewhat common refrain recently. There's a lot of biases packed into this formulation, the first being the tired assumption that Democrats would naturally be in a position that's in conflict with the military. There isn't a ton of evidence for this hypothetical, given the number of former generals and current troops that support withdrawal. Many retired generals and Army officers have called for withdrawal, and donations from U.S. troops have favored anti-war candidates. Now, it is likely that the current top military brass, hand-picked by the administration, would oppose withdrawal -- but as Laura Flanders informed Brown last night, that's why they have their jobs now. Generals and other officials that don't support the administration's policy usually have short careers. And finally, the bottom line is that in this democratic nation, civilians control the military. It's perfectly reasonable, especially with the overwhelming mandate that already exists from voters, for a Democratic president to order withdrawal and simply ask the military brass to draw up a plan that makes it happen as quickly and smooth as is possible. So it's a pretty silly question all around.

Speaking of the polls that overwhelmingly oppose the occupation of Iraq, here's this from Martha Raddatz's interview with Vice President Dick Cheney on ABC's Good Morning America yesterday:

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there's a general consensus that we've made major progress, that the surge has worked. That's been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it's not worth fighting.


RADDATZ So? You don't care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

It's almost like they're not even trying anymore. But if Cheney doesn't care what the American people think, he should at least do us the courtesy of permanently retiring this insulting argument, which he made yet again this week: "Now, was that a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda? Seems to me pretty clear that there was."

The Iraq-al Qaeda connection Cheney is recycling is now pretty universally seen as bullflop, but it wasn't always so. In 2002 and 2003, Jeffrey Goldberg, then of The New Yorker and now The Atlantic, and Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard peddled this lie to great effect, despite the fact most of the real experts at the time knew there was no connection. Spencer Ackerman has the whole story in the Washington Independent:

The Bush administration will leave office with the legacy of a disastrous and unnecessary war, which threatens to undermine the Republican Party for a second straight election. Bush and Cheney will probably leave office distrusted and loathed by a large majority of the electorate, and if they ever travel to Europe they might even face indictment as war criminals.

By contrast, Goldberg and Hayes have seen their careers flourish. Goldberg traded his New Yorker post for a lucrative spot at The Atlantic. Hayes wrote a lengthy hagiography of Cheney for major New York publisher, HarperCollins. Publicity for the book got him a special spot on "Meet The Press," befitting his status as a high-profile television pundit who is never treated as the conspiracy theorist he is.

Read the rest here.

McCain Suck-Up Watch: "Joe Scarborough asserted on MSNBC's Morning Joe: "John McCain has never attached himself to these people on the far right that say if you're gay, you're going to hell, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." In fact, McCain has "attached himself to" some notable religious figures who have made controversial statements, among them John Hagee and Rod Parsley."

Also, we have this from Eric Boehlert:

It's true that Bush is once again propping up his ritual crusade to slash funding for public broadcasting. The good news is the cuts won't likely survive Congress. The bad news is this year the Bush attack picked up a quasi-endorsement from The New York Times in the form of a recent, above-the-fold cover piece in the newspaper's influential Sunday Arts & Leisure section headlined, "Is PBS Still Necessary?" The article, by writer-at-large Charles McGrath, echoed long-standing conservative talking points questioning the need for taxpayer-supported television since viewers today can choose from so many cable programs. The essay really was a mess.

Read more here.

This Week on Moyers:

Bill Moyers interviews former talk show host Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro on the true cost of war and their documentary, Body of War, depicting the moving story of one veteran dealing with the aftermath of war. With extensive excerpts from the film, the filmmakers talk about Iraq war veteran Tomas Young, who was shot and paralyzed less than a week into his tour of duty. Three years in the making, Body of War tells the poignant tale of the young man's journey from joining the service after 9-11 to fight in Afghanistan, to living with devastating wounds after being deployed to Iraq instead.

The Why We're Liberals tour schedule -- stop in and say hi:

Thursday, March 20, 7 p.m.
Ethical Culture Society (Sponsored by Left Bank Books)
St. Louis, MO

Monday, March 24, 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, 82nd and Broadway
New York, NY

Tuesday, March 25, 7 p.m.
First Congregational Church of Berkeley
2345 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA
Sponsored by Cody's Books

Wednesday, March 26, 12:30 p.m.
Stacey's Bookstore
San Francisco, CA

Thursday, March 27, 7:30 p.m.
Powell's Books
Portland, OR

Friday, March 28, 7:30 p.m.
Town Hall Seattle
sponsored by Elliott Bay Book Co.
Seattle, WA

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Jim
Hometown: Swanzey, NH

I hope when you use the word "sad" regarding the "General Betray Us" uproar, you mean that it is SAD that an accurate, non-obscene descriptive nickname widely used by lower ranks of the active military would cause such vapors among our political press and elected representatives, SAD that so many Democrats would jump to the Right's tune and condemn an organization that helped get many of them elected, and SAD that a professional military man would behave in the politicized fashion that earned him such a sobriquet. You want to be clear that you aren't tarring MoveOn or its many supporters with that term.

Name: K. Castro
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA


Your one-sentence reply to Steve Stein's comment today on the popularity of the Potter books was rather flippant. I agree with you that popularity means little in the long run. However, as a parent in my mid-50's, ANYTHING that gets kids to read (especially a novel, of all things) these days is a good thing. When I was a teen, many of us were reading McLuhan, Bucky Fuller, Asimov, Tolkien, Vonnegut, et al. We didn't have the distractions of the internet, x-box, cell phones, ipods, a TV in every room, etc, which bombard kids today. So, I say again, anything that gets kids to read, even if it's the Potter series with their amalgam of plotlines that seem to be stolen from every fantasy/scifi writer from the last 75 years, is a good thing. It may serve as a gateway to other, more substantial books, and thus open up their creative little minds....

Eric replies: Cut it out, people. It is no slur on anyone -- save perhaps Bob Dylan -- to say he or she ought not be casually compared to the Beatles ...

Name: Mark Cashman
Hometown: Yonkers

Actors like Paul Scofield are rare. With an immense talent that illuminated the human condition, he remained grounded in the reality of home, family, and work. No actor I have ever seen on stage or on film has been able to move as much as he. He was a giant. I will miss him.

Name: Derrick Gibson
Hometown: Miami, FL

I had to pen my whole-hearted agreement with Robert from Torrance, CA on those annoying "new" camera angles TV producer keep trying to introduce into sporting events.

I have lost count of all the play action I have missed because some hotshot is trying to do tricks with making a camera swoop and zoom, this way and that -- instead of just showing the d*** game!

(rant over)

Much love to the Altercators! Alterman/Pierce in '12!

And can we hear from Lt. Col. Bateman on the "resignation" of Admiral "Fox" Fallon?

Name: Dennis Gilbride
Hometown: Providence, R.I.

Providence is a wonderful place for food. It's often said that the best Italian food in Boston is on Federal Hill in Providence. So I would like to recommend Caserta's on "The Hill." Thick crust, spicy gravy, excellent cheese, but limited toppings. Also Alforno, thin wood fired crust fresh toppings outstanding. Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito jump in from NY to eat here.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.