View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Thursday, September 25, 2003

Littwin Truth Squad

Jared Keller, over at Exultate Justi has another take on this "slovenly piece of work."

Mike Littwin's spiteful job this morning in the Rocky Mountain News must have taken him minutes. He starts with the now well-overworked quote from Ring Lardner, "Shut Up, He Explained." I've only seen this about 4 times in the last week, but it's doubly appropriate. Lardner wrote one of the great baseball stories of all time, "Alibi Ike," and this column strongly suggests that Littwin would have been better off sticking with sports.

  • This president doesn't beg for help, after all.

    No, we don't beg for help. We're the US. This President doesn't beg, and neither should any President. Ever. Ask, work with, propose, yes. Beg? Littwin makes it sound like a shortcoming.

  • No one expected him to admit any mistakes - hey, we still call 'em freedom fries, dammit - but there might have been something about bygones being bygones. Or, at minimum, as a show of solidarity and just to prove he can, Bush could have used "multi" and "lateral" in the same sentence. Hey, I just did it.
  • The last time Bush showed up at the United Nations, looking for a little wartime backing, he called the place irrelevant.

    Well, not exactly. We'll get to the first bullet there in a second. But Bush didn't call the UN irrelevant the last time. He said that, unless it stood up for the principles that everyone in that room supposedly believed in, first and foremost the relevance of the resolutions the UN itself had passed, that it risked becoming irrelevant. Insofar as the Security Council is concerned, its purported restrictions on the use of force, that has happened. But it hadn't then. And Bush was letting them know they still had a chance to prevent it.

  • This time, when he needs money and troops and possibly even some non-superpower expertise, he didn't exactly come on like the Jerry Lewis telethon.

    Again with the begging. The point of the speech, which seems to have completely gone over Littwin's head, is that this is the fight of everyone there. Or should be. It is the fight of civilization against barbarism, and that the people in that room, the governments they represent, have a responsibility to the people under those government to fight this fight. It was an appeal to duty, to responsibility. This is a language that Littwin will cheerfully use when he's talking about my taxes, but seems to have a hard time comprehending when life and death are at stake.

    Also, it would be interesting to know what "non-superpower expertise" we're talking about here. Our main need is to get our troops out so they'll be available in case we need them in North Korea or Iran. Anybody can direct traffic. But we've done this sort of thing before, and we'll do it again.

  • The New York Times story says that, so far, America has found approximately no nuclear weapons, no chemical weapons, no biological weapons. That leaves only, I guess, the unmanned drone. Somewhere, Hans Blix is smiling.

    There's no question this bad news. There's no use spinning it. Therefore, we need to remind the world that not one responsible government said different at the time. The French, the Germans, the Russians, the British. We heard France cry crocodile tears for all the American troops that would die in the fighting. We heard dire warning about how this would just prompt Saddam to use these weapons against us. To dwell too hard on this is to indict everyone else, as well. To mention it is to prompt them with an uncomfortable reminder that they thought so, too.

  • Bush once again was accusing Saddam Hussein of "cultivating" terrorists, even though he had just finally admitted Saddam had no connection to 9-11.

    Mike, Mike, Mike. Al-Qaeda not just about 9-11. It's about the next attack, too. The training camps in the north, and at Salman Pak we real. The money to suicide bombers' families was real. The buddy-buddy with Arafat was real. The intelligence services meetings in Prague are still open to question. Richard Miniter, who has also been doing yeoman work on the prior administration's willful failures in this war, provides ample documentation of Iraqi-Al Qaeda collaboration over the years. Again, this is not a war to punish the 9-11 crowd; they all killed themselves in the course of their crimes. The point is to deprive the terrorists of state aid, logistical and monetary and intelligence support that only states can provide.

  • No wonder the reception was so chilly. And, yes, I saw that Bush and German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were making nice a day later. Let me know how many troops and how much money the Germans offer up and then we'll talk.

    Actually, this matters. A number of countries which had insisted on Security Council oversight - largely because outside the Council nobody give a tinker's damn what they say or do - have now backed down and will allow a Council resolution encouraging countries to help out. (I can't believe I'm quoting the State Department here, but Richard Boucher actually called these bozos the "Chocolate Makers" a few weeks ago. They were meeting in Belgium to talk about a common European army. Let's hope the soldiers don't melt in the sun.) It amounts to an admission that the US should be running the show, not the UN.

  • ...Bob Woodward's Bush at War quote[s] Bush as saying (OK, in context of Cabinet meetings, but still): "I'm the commander. See, I don't have to explain why I say things . . . Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

    Right. And Lincoln is cited as a model of strength when the Cabinet voted Nay, he voted Aye, and famously said, "The Ayes have it." Why on earth should Bush be required to explain to the Secretary of Agriculture why he makes foreign policy pronouncements? Ripped from context, he could be referring to anyone. I'm not buying Woodward's book to find out, either, but wasn't this the guy who had Bill Casey confessing to kidnapping Judge Crater or something on his deathbed?

    Littwin goes on to quote the Gallup Poll in the USA Today a few days ago. The trend is down, as we all knew it would be. Karl Rove never said anything different, and nobody who's watched politics for more than 15 minutes would have thought anything different. But that particular poll was seriously flawed, polling "adults," without reference to party, voting habits, or attention to the news.

  • And even the governing council in Iraq - hand-picked by the Bush administration - is growing restive and lobbying for a greater role in the country's affairs.

    Yes, and they're getting it, little by little. Everyone wants that council to be making the big decisions.

  • I've been reading the complaints about the coverage of postwar Iraq being unduly bleak, as if the media were somehow responsible for the continued guerilla attacks and for the complaints about the slow rebuilding of services.

    No, Mike, nobody accuses you of making anything up. It's not that you're covering anything wrong. It's that you're covering the wrong things. Do you notice the number of deaths and attacks going down? I do. Do you notice the services coming back up? I do. This isn't even a partisan issue anymore. Both The Hill and the Atlanta Journal Constitution carry complaints from Democrats that the public is getting the wrong picture. Recent Gallup polls in Iraq show overwhelming support for what we're doing there. (I know polling techniques in Iraq aren't quite as refined as they are here. For instance, asking about party affiliation could lead to some embarassing responses. But, good grief, you just elected President Clark with a poll whose demographic rigor mimics the "What Do You Think?" feature in the Onion.

    The starting quote itself is rich with irony. A small child senses that her father can't find his way around the Big City, and asks is he's lost. "Shut up he explained" is his reply. It's not just arrogant. It's the arrogance of someone who can't admit he's made a mistake, is too proud to ask for help, and takes out his embarassment on his own child. While I'm sure that's exactly how Litwin sees Bush, it bears scant resemblance to reality.

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