Sometimes the right wing of the blogosphere is full of incisive commentary that those on every side should look at and absord. It's often smart, and full of biting and independent criticisms. A lot of the time, though, it's a bonanza of talking points hysteria and poser madness that can make the most shilling moments of the Daily Kos look enlightened by comparison. Take the recent rampage of manufactured outrage from Powerline
about some apparently heretical (at least that's the idea you would get from reading this tirade) remarks by Bill Clinton on This Week.
Here's a summary of what Bill Clinton said here
Now, this is fairly typical criticism. It's not only watered down from what liberals have said, but it's a mishmash of things even Republicans have said (though probably not all in one sitting). But apparently Power Line has decided it's much worse than that. First of all, they open their piece with the following choice lines:
This has never happened before. Until now, both parties have recognized a patriotism that, at some level, supersedes partisanship. Consistent with that belief, former Presidents of both parties have stayed out of politics and have avoided criticizing their successors. Until now. The Democrats appear bent on destroying every element of the fabric that has united us as Americans.
I find this not only laughable but the most hypocritical bunch of nonsense I've ever heard. The stately line that "this has never happened before" is such a piece of fiction that I can't help but laugh. Former Presidents not criticizing their successors? That would've been a bit tough for Grover Cleveland, who not only had such a "successor" between himself and HIMSELF when he ran, but also for Teddy Roosevelt, who actually ended up running against a "successor," Taft, under the Bull Moose ticket. But Powerline loves to forget history. Especially within its own party. Memory gets in the way of making sweeping statements about the last 200 years. Also, of course, a blog like Powerline and its brethren can feel free to blast the unholy shit out of Clinton and blame him for every problem that happened during the Bush Administration and somehow Clinton is to cling to his "patriotism" and stay above "partisanship" while he's endlessly attacked by said unpatriotic partisan hacks. And if you want an example of said attack, Powerline feels free to provide you with one in its intellectually dishonest rebuttal of Clinton's criticism of Bush on Iraq:
This attack was false in every respect. The invasion of Iraq had the support of dozens of nations. The UN's inspections could never be "completed," but the UN itself had reported that large quantities of WMDs remained unaccounted for. On the other hand, Clinton's suggestion that there was "no real urgency" about the situation in Iraq was probably sincere, as it typified Clinton's approach to terrorism: he perceived no urgency after the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, or after al Qaeda's attempt to simultaneously destroy a dozen American airplanes over the Pacific in 1995; or after the attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998; or after Saddam's attempt to assassinate former President Bush; or after Saddam repeatedly tried to shoot down American aircraft; or after the Cole bombing in 2000; or after the Taliban took over Afghanistan and converted it into a training ground for anti-American mass murderers; or after any number of other provocations.
Hmm, could that be because there was a certain Republican Congress that decried every one of Clinton's attempts to use his military as "global social work" (thanks to Felonious Monk on that one) or "wagging the dog?" Of course not! Perish the thought! But then again, if Clinton was a good patriot he would grin at such partisan snipes
and say "of course I caused 9/11!" Oh, I think I've stumbled onto John Hinderaker's wet dream.Because responding to criticism by partisan hacks is so unpatriotic and so partisan. What did Clinton criticize Bush for? Some things many members of his own party have at this point (although Powerline would probably dub them heretics, RINOs, or worse.) Not enough troops. Not as urgent as other hot spots. The international support and UN inspectors lines are old hat by now, and despite all of Powerline's fantasizing no WMD's appeared. Powerline wants to deny what in retrospect are genuinely legitimate criticisms of Bush's choice to go to war. And while some of it is hindsight, it is still a reality.
But where is Powerline reaching the most? Clinton had this to say about the budget:
On the US budget, Clinton warned that the federal deficit may be coming untenable, driven by foreign wars, the post-hurricane recovery programme and tax cuts that benefitted just the richest one percent of the US population, himself included.
"What Americans need to understand is that ... every single day of the year, our government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, and our tax cuts," he said.
"We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a conflict, military conflict, by borrowing money from somewhere else."
Clinton added: "We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover my tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina. I don't think it makes any sense."
Powerline fumbles this nonsense in response:
More lies. As Clinton well knows, the Bush tax cuts benefited all taxpayers. And by historical standards, the current deficit is relatively small as a proportion of GDP, and is dropping.
Again and again, President Bush has tried to work with the Democrats as if they were loyal Americans first, and partisans second. He has treated Bill Clinton with a friendship and respect that, candidly, is disproportionate to Clinton's meager accomplishments. Again and again, the Democrats have rebuffed Bush's overtures and taken advantage of his patriotism and good faith. Clinton's politically-motivated tissue of lies and distortions is just the latest example out of many. But it is unprecedented, coming from a former President. That is a sad thing: the latest wound inflicted on the body politic by the Democratic Party.
First of all, this last paragraph is too fictional to even bother talking about. Because we all know Bush has been such a uniter and has never done anything partisan and has always been about hugs and kisses with the opposition party and has never done anything polarizing at all. Mmmm hmm. But the first part, the typical farce uttered by sell-out conservatives about how its no problem the government is a maniacal spendthrift that seems determined to dye us all with red ink splashes for the next few coming generations, is especially sad. While it might be comforting to a supply sider to talk about how these tax cuts have somehow benefited everyone, they can't so easily also ignore the fact that the historical increase in discretionary spending that even puts the later years of Clinton to shame and is starting to approach LBJ's Great Society is a huge demand side stimulus. The fact that government spending has gone up and up and up and up and up IS, in fact, pumping even more money into the economy that's having an impact too. So all of it can't be attribute to tax cuts, a good portion is attributed to the unsustainable binge of tax cuts plus runaway spending. But Powerline would probably love to join Felonious Monk in a chorus about their being no fat left to trim in the federal budget. If you're not upset about the budget, you're just not paying attention.
Oh, I missed the fact that Powerline was upset because Clinton was disappointed with "the authorities" for their response to Katrina, and even though he said that included State and Local Officials he put SOME, SOME of the responsibility on Michael Brown and FEMA! How partisan! Let's not forget the Weekly Standard
was even critical of FEMA for a couple of minutes.
So did anyone hear anything in Clinton's comments they haven't heard before? I sure didn't. And it was pretty tame. When Lindsey Graham is talking about Iraq being another Vietnam, when John Podhoretz says some Republican budget nonsense is indefensible
, and when Bush himself actually admits his administration's response to the Hurricane wasn't all that great. Gee, Bush attacked himself! Does that mean Bush lost his sense of patriotism and succumbed to partisanship in attacking himself? Or was it actually a mature moment in a maturing administration?
Now wonder even The Weekly Standard
doesn't have full faith in the constructiveness of the right-wing "new media" sometimes. What Bill Clinton said was tame and watered-down versions of old streaks of criticism you hear from Democrats in a more rabid form and disgruntled Republicans in the same form. It, in fact, had a few grains of truth to it. And that Powerline is so insane to lash out in blind, hyperbolic fury smacks of one thing: desperation.