Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Noam Scheiber Is Annoying Me

In case anyone is interested, Noam Scheiber's blog on TNR has now annoyed me for two days in a row.

First, Scheiber posted a piece stating that although he had earlier apologized for providing a false example of the alleged White House efforts to portray the Iraqi threat to the US as "imminent," no one should assume that the absense of evidence was evidence of absence, as Donald Rumsfeld would say. To the contrary, according to Scheiber, everyone knows that the White House "lie[d] about its characterization of the imminence of the Iraqi threat." The sole evidence about these "lies about . . . characterization" appears to be a press conference in which Ari Fleisher, in response to a question at a daily press briefing, did not challenge a reporter's use of the term "imminent." What a fiendish lie! No wonder the American people supported the president!

Second, Scheiber now has a piece arguing that Bush deserves to get harassed about his decision to volunteer for the National Guard because the White House "deployed these tactics so effectively" against Max Cleland in 2002.

What irks me is the way that Scheiber takes issues that are very much open to debate and publishes them as accepted truth.

First, there is a very interesting debate to be had about whether the White House characterized the Iraqi threat as imminent. I happen to think Scheiber is wrong,{*} so it would be nice if he identified what he thinks "imminent" means and provided some meaningful examples of the White House selling that meaning, or at least a link to a reasonable discussion of the topic.

Second, Scheiber's received wisdom on Cleland is exactly backward. I'm preparing a more detailed post on this, but here's the short version of why Scheiber is wrong - Cleland and Chambliss were in an ugly campaign, and both politicians were running negative ads. However, the ad that's made Cleland into the sainted martyr of the Democratic party was an issue ad, not a personal attack. Chambliss made the factual statement that although Cleland had stated that he "supported Bush at every opportunity" in the war on terror, he had in fact voted against Bush's homeland security efforts eleven time.

It was Cleland who thought that he should be immune to criticism on his homeland security votes, because he fought in Vietnam, and particularly because he lost three limbs in a grenade accident.

There's no turnabout here at all. Instead, Cleland and Kerry are masterminding the same line of ad hominem attack that Cleland used (unsuccessfully) in his senate campaign - that because Kerry, like Cleland, distinguished himself in Vietnam, he should be immune from criticism on domestic security.

{*} (On the "imminent threat" issue, I don't think you can have an honest discussion from the left without addressing two important facts. First, Bush clearly stated in his pre-war state of the union address that he did not believe it was necessary to wait for an imminent threat to attack. Second, the September 2002 National Security Strategy stated that the whole concept of "imminent threat" as used by the left was no longer essential to the theory of preemption, and that preemption was now an option for countries that presented "emerging theats," even if those countries would not present a classic example of "imminent threat."