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McCarthyism Writ Small


In a post with rather more protein than wisdom, Jeff Goldstein accuses Kevin Drum of “lying by omission” because while Drum claimed that Reynolds was attacking the patriotism of “Democrats” Reynolds was just resorting to the first refuge of the wanker where “Democratic politicians” are concerned. As Drum says, this is silly (particularly since given Reynolds’ logic, in which criticizing the President’s selling of the war is ipso facto unpatriotic, his argument would not in any way seem to be confined to Democratic politicians.) It’s also hilarious to see Goldstein accusing people of “begging the question,” given that, of course, his claim that people who criticize Bush’s claims that Iraq was a serious threat to give biological or nuclear weapons [it was nowhere close to acquiring] to terrorists [it had no working relationship with] must be arguing in bad faith is a rather definitive example of begging the question (I take no position, however, on whether this question-begging is”writ large.”) Goldstein’s projections of bad faith require the assumptions that 1)available intelligence unambiguously suggested that Iraq had this kind of weapons capacity (which is utterly false) and 2)The central claim of Bush’s speech, that Democratic politicians had access to the same intelligence to Bush (also utterly false.) Bush’s claims that Iraq presented a significant security threat were, in fact, highly contestable as of March 2003, and in fact many people did contest them in real time. Goldstein is welcome to disagree with this assessment, but to smear the patriotism of people who believe that Bush was not presenting the evidence accurately (a claim that, of course, been proven right in retrospect) is disgraceful.

And moreover, there is no reason to interpret Reynolds charitably. Goldstein lies by omission by leaving out the fact that Reynolds is on the record as believing that large numbers of American liberals are anti-American traitors. He has, of course, claimed that an obscure college professor of no discernible influence who called 9/11 victims “Little Eichmanns” represents “the very image” of the “Left,” which is a “seething-yet-shrinking mass of self-hatred and idiocy.” (Also note that he calls a speech by Ted Kennedy “borderline-traitorous,” which blows his assertion that he only uses McCarthyite smears against politicians who changed positions about the wisdom of the war right out of the water.) He has claimed that many Democrats “are actively rooting for the other side,” based on an ad placed by something called the “St. Petersburg Democratic Club” (as opposed to, say, some official apparatus of the Democratic Party, or something or somebody that might reflect the views of anybody but the tiny number of cranks involved.) He has also claimed that preserving Saddam Hussein is the “top priority of the left.” The last quote is particularly telling, because it reflects his belief, consistently expressed, that opposition to the war could not possibly have been based on a conception of the American national interest, or on a cost-benefit analysis in terms of democracy promotion, but reflected some latent sympathy for a brutal dictator. And this claim is, of course, appalling nonsense.

I guess I can’t really blame Reynolds for engaging in these McCarthyite smears; he’ll get hooted on by people like Goldstein, and if I were him I wouldn’t want to defend the claim that the evidence that Iraq was a security threat to the United States in 2003 was as unambiguous as Bush said on the merits either. But these smears are reprehensible, Drum was entirely correct to call him out on it, and (perhaps optimistically) I expect better of Goldstein than to applaud them while attributing bad faith to people who disagree with him.

…UPDATE: Josh Marshall has an excellent summary of Bush’s false claims, large and small, about the war.

Brian Linse nails it.

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