Yesterday I offered the following commentary on the debate over the authenticity of the alleged memos on Bush’s alleged no-show for Air National Guard appointments:
Sam Haque defended the claim that Bush’s war record does matter:
Well the issue is important beacause as President he shouldn’t be giving orders for US soldiers to do things he wouldn’t do himself. These countries are being invaded on the authority of President who knows of war from Hollywood. To quote Vonnegut,the ones who hated war the most, were the ones who’d really fought.
I responded to some of these points in situ on the page; but there is a larger point to insist on here. Although I certainly agree with Sam that Bush’s bellicose Hollywood strutting (bomber jacket,
War President, and all), when held up in comparison to his (perfectly rational!) unwillingness to ship off and fight in Vietnam, reveals him as a pretty contemptible character, I don’t think it would have made him better to have signed up to fight in Vietnam. John Kerry’s voluntary enlistment in Vietnam was bold but it was not courageous–there is no virtue in letting yourself get duped into volunteering to ship off and kill people for another dumb imperial war. John Kerry was courageous to live up to his own conscience and, after getting out of Vietnam as quickly as possible, standing up to oppose the war. Which is part of the reason it’s too damn bad that he can’t seem to live up to that anymore.
All well and good, but the thing is that none of these issues, or the issue that Sam originally raised, are the issue that’s being debated in the bluster over the Killian memos. All the parties to that debate are already well aware that Bush dodged the draft by heading into the Texas ANG, and that part of his ability to land that cushy position was due to being the fortunate son of a powerful Dad. The debate here isn’t over whether he dodged the draft, but whether (a) he dodged the draft and then failed to show up for some of the pointless rigamarole involved in a pointless position he never should have been coerced into taking, or (b) dodged the draft and then showed up for all the stupid stuff he was told to show up for. (Actually, that‘s not even the debate; the debate is over whether or not some of the evidence claimed for (a) is genuine or a forgery.)
On that note, I echo my own statements from yesterday’s post, and sympathize with John Lopez’s comments:
Not at all. My interest is in the fact that Dan Rather is a confirmed lying sack of garbage. I don’t care one iota that Kerry and Bush dodged the draft – I’d say “good for them”, if I didn’t hold them both in utter contempt. As for what “the most important political issue in the world” is, that happens to be my one-and-only life, which is affected more by the culture of willful self-deception we live in than by, say, the mess in Iraq.
George Bush had every right to dodge the draft, and happened to have the opportunity at hand. If he was also able to get away with skipping some of the pointless rigamarole that his draft-evasion technicality supposedly required, then more power to him; would that everyone had the opportunities that he did.
If there is any interesting issue here, as John Lopez rightly points out, it hasn’t got anything to do with whether or not Bush actually failed to show up for something or another. The only real point where interesting discussion might be possible (unless other observers are willing to honestly take on the issue of individual rights, the draft, and Vietnam–and they are far too busy dickering over the latest inconsistent poll numbers for that) is CBS’s conduct: whether one thinks that they published a major
exposé based on forgeries, and if so, how culpable they were in the process.
John thinks that they are forgeries, and that CBS and Dan Rather are being revealed as at best casually indifferent to the truth. I don’t have much of a dog in that fight–I haven’t spent much time researching the issue, have mostly skipped over posts about it on other blogs because of the fact that I don’t care, and only mention it at all here in order to point out why I think the whole debate is a waste of time–in particluar when it’s being pursued by apparatchiks such as Drum or that other Charles Johnson dude, who–unlike John Lopez–are trying to make some partisan hay out of the memos (whether at Mr. Kerry’s or Mr. Bush’s expense). I will say, though, that I think that, say, the on-going disaster in Iraq and the never-ending stream of lies and Newspeak coming out of the ruling class in the attempt to justify it or explain it away, or the know-nothing bellicosity that the rank and file of the Right lap up, is a lot more troubling than the sort of nonsense that’s produced by the everlasting jabber of court intellectuals talking to each other about each other’s opinions. (N.B.: I’ve read too much of John Lopez’s excellent contributions at No Treason to include him in this characterization–but I do think that he has–as we all do sometimes–fallen victim to one of its smelly red herrings.)
If you want cases that reveal Rather and his colleagues in network and cable news as a bunch of dishonest gasbags, war coverage is where it’s at. (When PIPA found that television news actively made you stupider about the Iraq War, nobody should have been surprised.) And these are the sorts of lies and prevarication and ruddy-faced ignorance that actually hit home, that most people end up listening to and arguing about and having to sort through when they think about how politics impacts their lives. Not to mention, say, the crying need for rational discussion of abortion rights–which reminds me that I need to get back to part II of
Pro-Choice on Everything–or something, Jesus, anything that actually bears on your life or the lives of some folks that you know.
The kind of gossip-rag material that flies around most election coverage, on the other hand, is an excellent indicator of how degraded political culture has become. But the rules of the game with the chattering class are so twisted that it’s no longer clear that either truth or rationality is even expected–even part of the rules in the language game. Or perhaps that these terms could, in those contexts, only be deployed to indicate the conformity of a position to the party line. Spending much of any time trying to get to the bottom of this sort of noise, or to correct it, seems much less to the point than simply working to replace it; certainly it’s not a strategy that has ever seemed to me to be well-justified by its success. The sort of people who bring themselves to hang on the twists and turns of issues such as these–who provide the major market niche for channels devoted to 24-7 soundbite repetition–who are outraged at Dan Rather but not at Brit Hume (or vice versa)–are not really the sort of people who are worth worrying about, or addressing, or trying to convince of the bankruptcy of the professional news media.
- GT 2004/08/16: The Long Memory
- GT 2004/06/12: Outrage Fatigue
- GT 2004/03/20: The War on Iraq One Year On: Countdown to Regime Change
- GT 2004/02/08: What you mean
- GT 2003/11/12: White House Press Flack Tells All
- GT 2003/11/12: Roderick Long Unblogs Veteran’s Day
- GT 2003/08/17: Who Has the Better Argument? We Report, You Decide