It might be hard to appreciate a political humor columnist sometimes. They have a difficult job that has them trying to say something serious in a light, humor-laced way. Today, I found one such article that I thought I’d share with you.
In the cleverly titled essay “Warriors and wusses“, LA Times humor columnist Joel Stein declares his lack of support for our troops.
Unlike many other right-wing bloggers I’m going to congratulate him for staking out this well-thought out, if humorously stated, position:
I’ve got no problem with other people — the ones who were for the Iraq war — supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.
But I’m not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they’re wussy by definition. It’s as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn’t to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.
Many of my brethren on the right will take this as an excuse to ridicule Mr. Stein or the left in general. After all, Mr. Stein is only re-affirming what many people to the right of center feel are the actual thoughts of those to the left of center, and when someone demonstrates that your feelings have been correct all along, it’s kind of natural to gloat just a little bit.
But, I actually find his position a legitimate one to take. Notice that he’s staking out a philosophical position based upon his declared distaste for the Iraq conflict. [I, of course, disagree with his position on the Iraq conflict. My only complaint about removing Saddam Hussein from power is my own feeling the Kim Jong-Il in North Korea has always been a bigger threat than Hussein, so we should have cleaned up North Korea first. But, I've never felt that cleaning up Iraq was a bad idea.]
There are a couple of interesting tidbits here though. First consider this bit:
Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else. Trust me, a guy who thought 50.7% was a mandate isn’t going to pick up on the subtleties of a parade for just service in an unjust war. He’s going to be looking for funnel cake.
I just ran the numbers. According to Infoplease, you have to go all the way back to 1968 to find a larger turnout of the entire voting-eligible population in a Presidential election. But, you only have to go back to 1992 to find a larger turnout of the total of total number of registered voters (2004: 69.9% vs 1992: 78.0%) yet, unlike the 1992 race, a clear majority of voters cast their ballots for George W. Bush.
In 1992, the voting pool was 40 million voters smaller and Bill Clinton won with a plurality (43% of the vote). George H. W. Bush would have won had H. Ross Perot not siphoned disgruntled Republicans away. The same is true for 1996 re-election of Bill Clinton (although he almost broke the 50% barrier that time with 49% of the vote). Yet, the 1992 election resulted in claims for a mandate for Bill Clinton. (See here) The only reason that no mandate was claimed for 1996 was that Clinton came into office in 1997 with 11 fewer Congressional seats in addition to not garnering 50% of the vote.
Now those on the left usually start looking at percentage differences at this point. It’s a mandate, they say, not when you get more than 50% of the vote, but when you beat your closest opponent by 6% of the vote or more. Yeah, right. The fact is, getting more than 50% of the vote means that when you add up even all of the fringe candidates you still didn’t lose. That’s a mandate in my book — and it’s a mandate that no one has managed to pull off in the last 3 presidential elections.
So, Mr. President, where’s the funnel cake?
Next, we have this quote:
After we’ve decided that we made a mistake, we don’t want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.
But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they’re following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying.
There is a reason that blaming the president is too easy. And he managed to hit upon it in the first paragraph. The president was looking at the same flawed intel that the Congress was seeing. I’ve seen no credible evidence (and allegations by those “who should know” don’t count as evidence) that indicates that either President Bush or Prime Minister Blair moulded the evidence to fit their own predetermination to go to war. The entire international community thought that Saddam either had, or was trying to get, weapons of mass distruction.
The only thing I think is dubious about the run-up to the Iraq conflict would be the claim of “extensive ties” to terrorist organizations. Yet, we do know that Saddam was aiding al Qaida-linked Ansar-e-Islam because they had a common enemy in the Kurds who live in northern Iraq. We know that he was providing a haven for Abu Musab al Zarqawi (now the leader of al Qaida in Iraq but then only wanted in connection with the murder of American diplomat Lawrence Foley) as he received medical treatment in Baghdad during May and June of 2002. When you combine that with Saddam’s drive to get weapons of mass distruction, I find plenty of cause to be alarmed.
But, at least Mr. Stein’s stance is entirely self-consistent. And he even managed to state it humorously.
So, even though we disagree, job well-done, Mr. Stein.
MickC @ January 24, 2006