David Frum, Sophist
With startling alacrity the attack dogs on the Right have begun stretching and spinning and nipping and tucking the facts about Wesley Clark. Exhibit A: David Frum in the National Review Online
One hates to pick nits--or pick on nitwits--but I can’t resist noting that his piece is titled “Wesley Who?” The suggestion, I suppose, is that Clark is unknown. (The suggestion, of course, is snide; the Right is nothing these days if not snide. It’s what passes for humor at the country club, I suppose) Why this is supposed to count as a dialectical coup, I’m not sure. Perhaps we can anticipate future Frumian screeds titled “Oh Yeah?” “I Know You Are, What Am I?” and “Says Who?” Lacking any criticisms, one guesses, he couldn’t resist getting in a kind of schoolyard dig. Perhaps he should have title the piece: “Sure, Your Guy is Better Than Our Guy In Every Identifiable Way, But We’re Still Going to Win, Nya, Nya, Nay.”
Frum starts off with what could be a classic of Right-wing sophistry, if it didn’t face such stiff competition:
“Democrats think they can inoculate themselves from the charge of being weak on national security by hiring a general to express their weakness for them. It’s an old antiwar fantasy. Back in the 1930s, the U.S. Communist Party recruited a former Marine Corps general, Smedley Butler, to give speeches on the eve of World War II denouncing military preparedness as a capitalist racket. The idea was that by persuading an individual man of valor to propound shameful views , those views would somehow become less shameful. It didn’t work then. I doubt it will work now.”
Note the deft comparison of Democrats to Communists, and the subtle invocation of WWII, with its suggestion that anyone who questions current levels of defense spending is an appeaser…and quite possible a Nazi… A montage of classic Right-wing rhetorical themes. It seems to have not crossed Frum’s mind that politics might be serious business requiring something like serious discussion. But, then, if that HAD crossed his mind, I suppose he wouldn’t be writing for The National Review
His next effort is a beauty as well. Wesley Clark, he writes, “sums up the illusions and errors of the 1990s” since:
“Clark was the general who led the U.S. into a purely humanitarian war in Kosovo – at exactly the moment that the Clinton administration was disregarding the gathering threat to the United States from Middle Eastern terrorism.”
This is another masterpiece of deception. First, note the sneaky attempt to make this seem like a criticism of Clark. But Clark is not even being accused of any failing or error here--he’s just supposed (somehow, inexplicably) to “sum up” the “illusions and errors” of the 1990’s. Translation: “I didn’t like Bill Clinton, and I don’t like Wesley Clark neither.” (By this point one starts to think thoughts like: David Frum sums up the illusions and errors of the National Review…its petulance, its mendacity, its intellectual irresponsibility…)
Second, note that Frum is careful to indcit Clark for leading a purely humanitarian war. Since the Bush administration has fallen back on claiming that part of their justification for Gulf War Episode II was humanitarian, they have to be careful to say that humanitarian considerations can justify war, though they can't be the only justification. This is a barbaric (and, technically speaking, false) position, but that's a different story for a different time.
And as for Clinton “disregarding” terrorism, that simply isn’t true. Perhaps he didn't do enough—that isn’t clear—but he did at least try to take out bin Laden, which is far more than W and company did, despite the warnings about him they got from the allegedly negligent Clinton and company. And, incidentally, one might recall the Republican outrage and opposition that resulted from Clinton’s attacks on al Qaeda. If it hadn't been for Republican opposition, my guess is that Clinton would have done much more than he did.
But my favorite part of this whole loathsome mess is this:
“Clark has criticized the supposed and alleged errors of U.S. planning in Iraq – notwithstanding that his campaign in Kosovo was based on an unending series of errors,” This is one for the books. Literally. It’s a perfect, textbook example of an ad hominem
fallacy (a specific, particularly bone-headed version known as ‘tu quoque’
meaning roughly ‘you too’). Even if Frum were right about the Kosovo campaign (I suppose I don’t need to point out that he probably isn’t) this would in no way invalidate Clark’s cogent criticisms of the Iraq campaign. Perhaps someone could inform Mr. Frum that no number of errors, real or imagined, in an unrelated war thousands of miles away can rectify the mistakes in Iraq. Alluding to or inventing errors elsewhere won’t make the current debacle any less of one.
You would think that Frum would be over even his estimable error quota by this point, but there’s more:
“Beyond that, though, Clark epitomizes the great Democratic miscalculation of 2004. The miscalculation is that they can win the election by running against President Bush on national security – and that their anti-security agenda will be enhanced by finding a man in striped pants to promote it.”
Their “anti-security agenda?” Does he write his mother with that keyboard? I wonder why he didn’t just call it “their pro-terrorist agenda?” And does he really think it will be that hard to win against George “the ‘W’ is for AWOL” Bush on security? If Clark gets the nomination, military service will become an actual issue in the campaign (as it should have in the election of 200), and the American public, now somehow still generally ignorant of Bush’s shameful record, will finally learn that the commander in chief is a deserter. And then the tape of Bush strutting around on the flight deck of the Abraham Lincoln will start to look a damn sight more ridiculous than Michael Dukakis ever looked in that tank.