2007/05/05

More on David Broder

I've written before about David Broder, a once-respected columnist who appears to be ready for the rocking chair, who just the other day opined for an online chat. He's asked first why he's a "centrist" as the country seems to have gone pretty solidly for liberal solutions in preference to the conservative solutions in just about every category:

I have to disagree. I think the country is closely balanced, with a controlling group in the center that rejects extreme positions and seeks practical solutions drawn from the agendas of both liberals and conservatives. Most Americans I meet are not ideologues of any sort; they are practical people seeking practical solutions to real challenges.

Nah, that doesn't make any sense to me, either. The main problem with the last six-plus years is that we've had an extremist, right-wing government that seeks fringe, far-right, highly ideological solutions for every problem. The latest diplomatic missed opportunity is typical. Secretary of State Rice attended a conference of Middle Eastern nations devoted to stabilizing Iraq. It was attended by Iran, but nothing happened diplomatically between the US and Iran because apparently, no prior groundwork had been done to make anything happen. A question-and-answer session with a Democratic national-security expert established that:

3. "But Rice didn’t talk to Iran. Tell us about the interesting news out of that hand off to underlings." - TM
BEERS: "That’s right. only the ambassador and the State Dept. coordinator talked to Iranians. Not a good start. Someone reported this week that the State Dept. was told by the Iranians that their Foreign Minister wasn’t plugged in enough to talk to. Go figure."
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6. "Honestly, how 'plugged in' do you have to be to get talks started where none existed before?" - TM
BEERS: "EXACTLY. You have to start. and it doesn’t matter where. That’s diplomacy 101, but these guys and girls don’t get it."
[minor edits done]

This is not simply a Bush Administration problem. This is a problem of conservatives vs liberals. Bush and Co have taken the approach of "Do it our way. NOW!!!" or as you like "My way or the highway." It's simply not possible to split the difference on this sort of issue. One cannot simply borrow from both liberal and conservative views on how to solve this. There's a fundamental incompatibility between the conservative/Bush Administration approach to foreign nations and actually getting something done. BTW, our Democratic national-security expert, Rand Beers, continues on the possibility of war between the US and Iran:


15. "Care to comment on this? The results of an attack on Iran could be horrendous. After all, according to a recent study of 'the Iraq effect' by terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, using government and Rand Corporation data, the Iraq invasion has already led to a seven-fold increase in terror. The 'Iran effect' would probably be far more severe and long-lasting. British military historian Corelli Barnett speaks for many when he warns that 'an attack on Iran would effectively launch World War III.' ” - Oklahoma kiddo
BEERS: "An invasion of Iran would be an ever greater disaster than Iraq, no question. WW III, probably not, but a major expansion of hostilities against a much more effective enemy than bin Ladin or the Iraqi insurgents."

As the Bush Administration appears to be pretty gung-ho for an invasion of Iran, this doesn't strike me as a problem that's really open to discussion and negotiation between conservatives and liberals:


Iran, too, was in the administration’s sights. The Israeli attack on Lebanon, according to Seymour Hersh, was to 'serve as a prelude to a potential American preemptive attack to destroy Iran's nuclear installations.' But first, the Bush administration needed to get rid of Hezbollah’s capacity to retaliate against Israel in the event of a U.S. strike on Iran, which apparently prompted Hezbollah's buildup of Iranian-supplied missiles in the first place.

The fact that Bush and Co are being less-than-forthright about their intentions via-a-vis Iran is another reason NOT to see the Bush Administration vs America split as being one that can be arranged or negotiated between conservative and liberal factions. In order for there to be serious negotiations, both sides have to honestly and forthrightly "put their cards on the table" and tell the other side what their intentions are. There's no sign that Bush and Co are doing this.

Here's an interesting Q&A that occurred later in the Broder interview:


Anonymous: "Your anti-Reid column was thoroughly unconvincing. It struck me as a rather desperate attempt to maintain your 'pox on both their houses' schtick, the other side of your ever-present 'bipartisanship is the answer' coin. Why is it so hard for you to admit that Bush is, in fact, a uniquely bad president who has led the Republican party into a ditch that no blue-ribbon commission of respected elder statesmen from both parties can save us from?"
David S. Broder: "Perhaps because I have come to have deep respect for the wisdom of the American people, who, in 2004, chose to reelect George W. Bush as president. I have been very critical of his policies, economic, diplomatic and military. But I am unwilling to assume that I am so much smarter than the voting public that I will dismiss as worthless someone they have chosen as president of the United States."

First off, the interview piece points out that Broder had no such scruples when it came to dealing with President Clinton and second, it seems to me that, due to the "Swift Boat Veterans" smear job on presidential candidate John Kerry, it's not exactly like America made a calm and deliberate choice for president [all emphases in original]:

But we were even more struck by The Dean’s assessment of those Swift Boat Veteran complaints. What happened this summer, according to Broder? According to Broder, John O’Neill and his Swift Boat Veterans launched "a scurrilous and largely inaccurate attack on the Vietnam service of John Kerry." But then, The Dean displays some strange reasoning. For reasons only The Dean can explain, he slams his colleagues for having been "diverted" into "chasing this sham event."
What a strange bit of reasoning! Broder doesn’t say who is at fault for "chasing this sham event." But surely, if Broder’s assessment of the Swift Vets is accurate, the major media should have done more in taking apart their fake claims! It’s hard to measure such matters, of course. But the "scurrilous" claims of those Swift Boat Veterans may have transformed this White House campaign! If the claims in these ads were "scurrilous and inaccurate," why shouldn’t news orgs have taken them on? Indeed, shouldn’t the nation’s big news orgs have gone after these claims that much harder?
"No, Broder doesn’t flesh out his reasoning. But good news! By way of contrast, his real-time conduct is there for all to see. According to Broder, John O’Neill launched a "scurrilous attack" on a White House front-runner—a scurrilous attack which was "largely inaccurate." So here’s our question: Did Broder ever tell readers this, as these scurrilous attacks gained traction? Did Broder ever warn his readers about these bogus charges? Did Broder ever inform his readers that John O’Neill was a vile, nasty man? In short, did Broder ever get off his ass and try to defend his democracy?
The answer is obvious—no, he did not. This tired old man was dozing again as these "scurrilous, largely inaccurate" claims transformed your White House campaign. And it’s not as if he simply said nothing. Six weeks ago, when the press should have acted, Broder wrote a pair of columns which focused on the Swift Boat ads. But neither column says a word about the Swift Vet claims being bogus. Quite the contrary—Broder almost implied that Kerry deserved his butt-whuppin’ from the riled Vets.

The 2004 election was not only NOT an example of Americans making a sober and reasoned choice between Bush & Kerry, Broder himself assisted the Swift Boat Vet attacks by remaining silent at a critical time. At a time when he could have used his influence as a "big-foot" columnist to ensure that American citizens were enabled to make an intelligent, informed choice, Broder instead assisted the Bush camp into pulling the wool over the eyes of Americans. Broder performs a two-step where he maintains the appearance of wide-eyed innocence while doing a great deal, through silence and inaction, to assist Bush into being the "choice" of Americans and then says "But I am unwilling to assume that I am so much smarter than the voting public that I will dismiss as worthless someone they have chosen as president of the United States."


One looks at David Broder's picture, one can then look at my attack on him and say "Aw geez, there's Rich, attacking poor old, frail Dave again, mugging the ol' guy for kicks." But it's very important to understand just what Broder is saying and that the "bewildered innocent" act is an act and that the inspiring rhetoric is just that, rhetoric. Broder has been an opinion columnist for many decades. There's nothing accidental or unwitting about what he says.

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