This is Rich

Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of Operation Iraqi Freedom or the efficacy with which it has and is being carried out. However, the malice and spite with which some critics of the Administration and particularly of President Bush express their disagreement suggest that these critics have long ago ceased exercising prudence and care in their disagreement. One can find evidence of this in far-Left blogs and even in the Left’s more conventional mouthpiece, the New York Times, and particularly in columns by Frank Rich.

In a recent article, Frank Rich employed such extreme and imprudent language that he is yielding his right as a legitimate critic. Even important and legitimate criticisms loose their saliency when continually expressed in extreme terms.

For example, there is recent attention paid to the fact that one of the half-way houses associated with Walter Reed Hospital is infested with rats and mold. The conditions have been described by the Associated Press as “substandard living conditions.” However, Rich describes the same places a “subhuman,” a term, that if applied to the policies of Islamic radicals who behead their captives, would be considered unnecessarily provocative. The Left was upset when Ronald Reagan described the Soviet Union a “the evil empire” or when Bush identified Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the “axis of evil,” but have no problem calling conditions in US hospitals as “subhuman.” The more the Left indulge is such hyperbole, the more they internalize their animosity.

Unless one works in a press room where there are people who challenge your ideological position, there is a tendency to cling to and repeat assertions that have long since been debunked. Again Rich asserted that Bush claimed that the Iraqi threat was “imminent.” Bush did not make that claim. Spinsanity, a non-partisan site, has thoroughly studied the claim. They conclude that, “As a factual matter, conservatives are largely correct and liberal critics and journalists are guilty of cheap shots or lazy reporting.” The term “imminent threat” has a very specific meaning and Bush never invoked the term. Indeed, his argument was that if the threat became imminent, it would be too late to respond. In the 2003 State of the Union Address, Bush explicitly said, “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.”

The argument about whether the Administration claimed that the Iraqi threat was imminent is no longer one that serious people can misunderstand, but Rich cannot remove it from his mind because the assertion plays so well in his internal narrative. Some of the Left claim that Bush has lost touch with reality. However, columns like Rich’s continually provide evidence that irrational anger can loosen the already slippery grip on reality on the part ofBush’s critics.

Perhaps most disturbing is that there is no possible evidence could change Rich’s view of the present troop surge. Certainly, if matter grows worse in Iraq or at least do not improve, the case that the surge is not working would be strong. However, it now appears in the short-run that violence is declining and this is also viewed by Rich negative. As Rich explains, “Moktada al-Sadr’s militia ominously melts away…lying in weight to sprint a Tet-like surprise.” Even a positive development is thus carefully spun into a negative. If the radical militias were fighting American troops vigorously, I suspect Rich would view it as a sign of insurmountable resistance to the Americans. For Rich, when matters go badly in Iraq, it is evidence of bad policy. When things go well; it is just a lull until things go wrong again. In Rich’s circular reasoning all evidence of whatever kind all serve his anti-war stance. Why even bother to gather evidence?

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