Thursday, January 20, 2011

Glenn Greenwald Bites Into a Bitter Reality Sandwich

[by Mr.Hengist]

Glenn Greenwald put out a piece on January 18th, 2011 which must have been as difficult for him to write as it was amusing for me to read. With a title that, well, coming from Greenwald, makes one suspect we're in for a massive treat of sarcastic jibes, "The vindication of Dick Cheney" is instead a diatribe lambasting the Obama Administration for continuing and even strengthening Bush Administration GWOT policies.

I have... comments.

"In the early months of Obama's presidency, the American Right did to him what they do to every Democratic politician: they accused him of being soft on defense (specifically "soft on Terror") and leaving the nation weak and vulnerable to attack."
Well, yes, but historically, post-Kennedy Democrat Presidents have an abysmal track record on Defense. Democrats in general have a shameful history of cutting our Defense budget, undercutting our allies, making nice with our enemies, and belatedly authorizing only weak and ineffectual military actions when they do resort to force.

Besides which, Obama promised so many things that would hurt National Defense like cutting the Defense budget, pulling out of Iraq as fast as possible, killing the missile defense program, and so on, that it would be reasonable to conclude that, should he follow through, he would, well, hurt National Defense.

Only his promise to expand the war in Afghanistan seemed contrary to that, but we got fooled, didn't we? If Bob Woodward's "Obama's Wars" is to be believed, POTUS Obama had no intention of fulfilling that promise, but the Pentagon would not accommodate his wishes. The surge he authorized was about a third of what the Pentagon wanted, and the results speak for themselves.

"But that tactic quickly became untenable as everyone (other than his hardest-core followers) was forced to acknowledge that Obama was embracing and even expanding -- rather than reversing -- the core Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism."
With the high degree of hyperbole so common to the Left, Greenwald ignores the many criticisms the Right has made of Obama's GWOT policies. From the dismal slog in Afghanistan to the attempts to close Gitmo and try the detainees in U.S. courts, the record has been less than stellar. His overblown point is, nevertheless, well-taken: the Obama Administration has continued and/or strengthened many Bush-era GWOT policies.

"As a result, leading right-wing figures began lavishing Obama with praise -- and claiming vindication -- based on Obama's switch from harsh critic of those policies (as a candidate) to their leading advocate (once in power)."
Again, note the over-the-top hyperbole, "lavishing Obama with praise." I'd like to pause here for a moment to note that, if you think about it, across-the-aisle praise basically comes from one direction. When have you read of Democrats or Liberals giving straightforward praise to their political opposition for doing something good? I'm reminded of an article I read a few years ago - didn't save the link, sorry - in which the author was talking about AIDS in Africa, and he actually did praise W for dramatically increasing U.S. expenditures in fighting it over there. It was tepid praise, but fairly straightforward, and so unusual that I found it a little surprising - you know, that it was there at all. Then, immediately after that praising of W, the author went on to list a half-dozen things that W had done which the Left just hated - you know: the Enron, the Iraq war, the tax cuts, the this, the that - completely non sequitur in an article on AIDS in Africa. It was there so that the author could both remind the readers of how much they should hate W, and to insulate the author from criticism for committing the Liberal faux pas of praising the Right. Remember the response when Bono praised W for this? So do I.

VPOTUS Cheney and other leading figures of the Right are now praising POTUS Obama. They will not be denounced, hounded, or even roundly criticized for it, either. The Right doesn't have a problem when one their own praises the Left, when they finally get it right. It's worth noting.

Well, anyway, Greenwald further states that POTUS Obama has been the "leading advocate" of Bush/Cheney GWOT policies. This is just absurd; most of the announcements of his continuation of Bush/Cheney GWOT policies have been made quietly and with little comment from the White House.

Greenwald fills much of the middle of the piece with a litany of woes, rife with the canon of Liberal attacks on those policies (illegal-this, power-grab-that), after which he gets to the red meat of the article.

"First, it creates the impression that Republicans were right all along in the Bush-era War on Terror debates and Democratic critics were wrong. The same theme is constantly sounded by conservatives who point out Obama's continuation of these policies: that he criticized those policies as a candidate out of ignorance and partisan advantage, but once he became President, he realized they were right as a result of accessing the relevant classified information and needing to keep the country safe from the Terrorist threat."
Why, yes, it certainly does leave that impression, doesn't it? I didn't need to quote all that, but it paring it down would diminish the gladdening of my heart. I'd also add that it adds merit to the warning of Right that Obama is a lightweight. So, was he pandering to Liberal fantasies or is he a lightweight who learned real-world realities only after having been sworn in? Probably both.

"Second, Obama has single-handedly eliminated virtually all mainstream debate over these War on Terror policies."
Well, no, POTUS Obama has done no such thing, and I find it amusing that Greenwald would choose to credit him with this ability. No, Liberals shut down the debate, quenched the rage, and dialed down their hysteria to a quiet, occasional grumble. They did that because they've been fundamentally dishonest in these debates. Their double-standards are on full display as they grudgingly accept their Democrat POTUS doing what made them made them scream, shout, and stamp their little feet when the Republican POTUS did the same thing. They marched by the tens, hundreds of thousands back then. Now, not so much. Was it naked partisanship that made the difference, or are they just so easily manipulated that, absent their opinion-leaders telling them what to think, they don't much care about these things anymore? The cognitive dissonance must be unbearable.

"Third, Obama's embrace of these policies has completely rehabilitated the reputations and standing of the Bush officials responsible for them.
[...] But Obama's impact in this area extends far beyond that. Dick Cheney is not only free of ignominy, but can run around claiming vindication from Obama's actions because he's right. The American Right constantly said during the Bush years that any President who knew what Bush knew and was faced with the duty of keeping the country safe would do the same thing. Obama has provided the best possible evidence imaginable to prove those claims true."
That's really shiny! So, Glenn, you're going to reconsider your positions from the last ten years, then? You've been given "the best possible evidence imaginable to prove those claims true" - that pretty much demands from you, if you consider yourself to be a fair and objective person of reason, that you revisit both your facts and arguments and those of your political opposition. I'd suggest you start with the opposition since I'm doubtful you've given much time to them firsthand. The archives of National Review, Power Line, and Instapundit will be most illuminating, I'm sure.

On the other hand, maybe it's still hard for me to tell where Greenwald's genuine beliefs end and his proclivity to rant hyperbole begin. Hyperbole is a safe bet, so I'll go with that.

"If Obama has indeed changed his mind over the last two years as a result of all the Secret Scary Things he's seen as President, then I genuinely believe that he and the Democratic Party owe a heartfelt, public apology to Bush, Cheney and the GOP for all the harsh insults they spewed about them for years based on policies that they are now themselves aggressively continuing."
If we ever get this - and I'm assuming only a witnessed and notarized statement signed by Obama in his own blood will suffice - then we'll get to see whether Greenwald can own up to his own divisive dishonesty during the W years. At any rate, it's good to see someone from the Left even float the idea that an apology might - just might - be in order.

In truth, my sincere hope has been that Liberals will revisit those policies and the debates of the last decade with fresh eyes and an open mind. There are policy issues of relevance to our present and future which should not be sacrificed on the altar of partisan political gain. I'm afraid this will fall to the next generation as they look back at history, decades late.

Failing that, I'd settle for a collective change in the collectivist mind. Perhaps Liberals will, having been given motive and permission to change their beliefs, will do so for partisan gain or to toe the new party line. In any case, I am glad they haven't taken to the streets in protest - again - or made much of an issue at all about this. It would be ideologically and logically consistent of them to do so but, more importantly, it would be harmful to the country. Again.

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