Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 5, 2004
WAR: Moore is Not Better
One of the nuttier memes rising on the Left is an effort to seek a moral equivalence between Michael Moore and the Bush Administration; we'll let Paul Krugman play the tune, although people like Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias are following him to the sea:
Leave aside the laughable notion that Moore didn't get anything seriously wrong. (My favorite example is when ABC's Jake Tapper confronted him with Richard Clarke's admission - very much against Clarke's interest - that he and he alone, not dark, powerful moneyed interests around President Bush, authorized the flights of members of the bin Laden family out of the US after September 11, and Moore countered that "I don't agree with Clarke on this point." Yeah, what would Richard Clarke know about decisions made by Richard Clarke?)
Anyway, this is a classic debater's trick of raising the level of generality to the point where factual refutation is almost pointless . . . the comparison is so obscene that I hate to give it credence by trying to refute it, but consider just a few obvious points:
1. The Adminisration made a number of well-supported and nearly undisputed points in the run-up to war about intelligence relating to Saddam Hussein's WMD programs, past stockpiles, ongoing deceptions, and connections to Al Qaeda. From this, the Administration argued for some inferences - such as an ongoing and/or future threat of Saddam-Al Qaeda cooperation or the existence of large WMD stockpiles - some of which remain controversial and others of which haven't panned out. The chief charge of late against the Administration is that, by some sort of Jedi mind trick, it sought to subliminally (or subliminablely, as it were) convince people of an Iraqi connection to September 11, for which the evidence is exceptionally sparse and generally unconvincing.
By contrast, the issue with Moore isn't that he made valid points but some people think he was insinuating something unsupportable. Virtually all of Moore's points of any substance are wholly speculative and either rely on non-existent evidence or ignore substantial contrary evidence. If you peel back the frauds and the tricks, there's nothing there at all.
2. Even considered in the most uncharitable light, the Bush Administration was asking us to draw dark inferences about the most diabolical and conspiratorial characters on the face of the earth. Saddam having WMD? Well, this is a guy who's used the stuff, both in battle and against civilians, let alone the whole record of his cat-and-mouse games with inspectors. This is rather like accusing Steve Howe of being mixed up in drugs. And Saddam doing business with bin Laden, and maybe participating in a crazy attack on the U.S.? This is a textbook totalitarian dictator with a rap sheet a mile long of unprovoked aggressions that were manifestly not in his best interests, including trying to assassinate a former president of the United States, which would serve no purpose at all but spite. Is it really that crazy to suggest that a regime who boasts of paying suicide bombers and puts up murals and celebratory newspaper coverage of the September 11 attacks would get mixed up with terrorists?
Moore, meanwhile . . . I mean, I just don't know anymore what color the sky is in Krugman's world, but Drum and Yglesias can't really believe that Bush went to war in Afghanistan principally to benefit Unocal, or that Bush is somehow in bin Laden's pocket. Is it really easier to believe that Bush is a tool of bin Laden than that Saddam would do business with him? Or have they become so consumed by Bush-hatred that the difference between the President of the United States and a guy who sat and watched with glee while his subjects were eaten by dogs is totally lost on these guys?
UPDATE: Drum's still at it. This is apparently now one of his favorite hobbyhorses.