Neoconservatives uniformly came of age on elite colleges in the late sixties and early seventies, a period during which elite colleges were a hotbed of liberal and leftist activism. Conservatives were underrepresented, since they are typically unable to succeed in meritocratic systems. Those conservatives that managed to eke in felt a profound sense of alienation, relying on a conspiratorial victimology to explain their isolation. Combined with their well-earned inferiority complexes, this hypersensitivity has distorted politics for a generation.
Such mediocre minds as Gingrich and Armey, Krauthammer and Kristol, deserve our pity, not our opprobrium. It is difficult to succeed in a competitive academic environment, and those who are unable are not necessarily lesser human beings.
This Terry Neal article in the Washington Post is chock full of nutty arguments. It uses the obnoxious horserace reporting style without commenting on the substance of the issues, it uncritically repeats RNC talking points, and it independently distorts Kerry's position on the War Authorization.
Bush asked Kerry for a yes or no answer to this question: "Knowing what we know now [would Kerry] have supported going into Iraq?" Kerry "said that he 'would have voted for' the resolution that permitted the possibility of going to war in Iraq even given what we know now. But he added that as president, he would have 'used that authority to do things very differently.'"
Neal calls this a "finesse," and goes on to act as though Kerry responded "yes" to Bush's question. But he didn't, and it's abundantly clear that he didn't. Bush asked it Kerry would have supported going to war, Kerry responded that he supported giving authority to go to war. Neal should be explaining the distinction between these two positions, not pretending there isn't one.
Neal argues that because the main assumptions underlying the resolution were proven false in the aftermath of the war, the only reason Kerry would still support it is because of those minor rationales that haven't yet been disproved. But those obviously aren't the only reasons. The authority was a powerful bargaining tool in getting inspectors back in Iraq. Even knowing what we know now, that Iraq didn't have WMD, it doesn't follow that it couldn't have restarted a program in the future. Having inspectors in Iraq would deter that action, as well as reducing future uncertainty surrounding Hussein's capabilities. We needed to get inspectors back in the country, and the authority was an important tool for accomplishing that. It's just too bad that Bush doesn't give a shit about weapons inspectors – why listen to Hans Blix when God is whispering in your ear?
Neal then repeats Ed Gillespie's threat:
"After months of attacking President Bush's motives and credibility during the Democrat presidential primary, going so far as to declare himself the anti-war candidate, John Kerry now says knowing what he knows now he would still have voted for the Iraq war," said Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie at a news conference this week. "Senator Kerry's ever changing positions on Iraq are not the kind of steady leadership we need in these times of challenge and change. And we're going to continue to make that point between now and November 2."
Let me count the errors here. 1. Kerry didn't declare himself the anti-war candidate, as Chris Matthews has made clear. 2. John Kerry didn't vote for the Iraq war, he voted for authority for war. The decision to invade was Bush's, and he should have used it wisely. 3. Kerry's stating that he wouldn't change his position is characterized as "Kerry's ever changing positions." 4. Gillespie claims we need "steady leadership," when our current leadership has taken us off a cliff (ok, maybe not an error, but still an idiotic statement). Then he drops the threat: JK, we are going to keep lying about you. Neal doesn't challenge any of this, despite the fact that they are misrepresentations, deceptions, misleading, distortions, lies, whatever you want to call them.
Neal simply declares "whatever the case, Kerry's position on Iraq is similar enough to Bush's to make the most important issue for most voters a non-issue." Kerry's position on Iraq appears similar because Neal is a fuckwit and can't be bothered to recognize or explain the differences. Whatever the case isn't good enough for the Washington Post. The horserace is a horserace because Neal insists on calling Kerry's race car a horse.
In Nixon's Oval Office, John O'Neill, a leader of the SBVfT, says "I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water." He had previously maintained that it was impossible to enter Cambodia.
His explanation is that "I was in Cambodia" meant "I was near the border." That could just be weird Repbulican attack dog speech, a coded language I'm not privy too. But certain conservatives that might want to be a little less instant and a little more careful say: "works for me." You think it'd "work for him" if Kerry gave the same explanation?
Here's the exchange, where Milquetoast Colmes challenged O'Neill about the quote:
Fox News 8/25/04: ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Mr. O'Neill, just in the interest of time, look, there are so many inconsistencies here, in my view, in the swift boat story.
I thank you for being on the show, and again, as you know, I admire your service, as I do all those who served their country, although we may disagree on this issue.
Look, this issue of Cambodia, you said, on George Stephanopoulos' show over the weekend that you knew that Kerry was not in Cambodia, that you could not have been in Cambodia on a swift boat, that he didn't go north of Sadak. They just didn't go that far. You were 15 miles away.
There's a tape of you, as you now know, in the Oval Office, saying you were in Cambodia, you said to Richard Nixon. You worked along the border or you were in Cambodia.
That seems very different than being 15 miles away and saying the swift boats didn't go to Cambodia. So they can't both be true.
O'NEILL: Alan, yes, they are, Alan. It's two different places, Alan. One place is along the Mekong River, right in the heart of the delta. The second place is on the west coast of Cambodia at a place called Ha Tien, where the boundary is right along that border.
Where Kerry was in Christmas of 1968 was on this river, the Mekong River. We got about 40 or 50 miles from the border. That's as close as we ran.
Later, Kerry went, and I went, to a place called Bernique's Creek — that was our nickname for it — at Ha Tien. That was a canal system that ran close to the border, but that wasn't at Christmas for Kerry. That was later for him.
So it's two separate places, Alan, and the story is correct.
COLMES: All right. Well, either you were in Cambodia or Kerry was in Cambodia and you claim he wasn't in Cambodia. You claimed at one point you weren't and then you claimed you were. This is very confusing to people.
O'NEILL: Well, it shouldn't be confused. I was never in Cambodia and Kerry lied when he said he was in Cambodia.
COLMES: You said to Richard Nixon you were in Cambodia.
O'NEILL: And it was the turning point of his life.
COLMES: You said to Richard Nixon, "I was in Cambodia, sir."
HANNITY: On the border.
COLMES: There's a tape of you saying that to Richard Nixon.
O'NEILL: What's the next sentence? I was along the Cambodian border. That's exactly right. What I told Nixon and was trying to tell him in this meeting was I was along the Cambodian border. As Sean clearly read...
COLMES: "I was in Cambodia," Those are your words.
O'NEILL: Yes, but you missed the next sentence. You're not reading the next sentence, Alan.
COLMES: Yes, along the border. But you're in Cambodia or you're not in Cambodia.
O'NEILL: Well, I'm sorry, Alan. I was talking in a conversation. And the first thing, by the way, I told him in the conversation, as you know, was that I was a Democrat and I voted for Hubert Humphrey.
STEVE GARDNER: “I spent more time on John Kerry’s boat than any other crew member.
John Kerry hasn’t been honest, he’s been deceitful.
John Kerry claims that he spent Christmas in 1968 in Cambodia and that is categorically a lie.
Not in December, not in January.
We were never in Cambodia on a secret mission, ever.”
VO: “Swift Boat Veterans for truth is responsible for the content of this advertisement.”
So here's the question. Conservative smear artists think this can all be cleared up by Kerry releasing his military records (which are already publicly available on his site). But if Gardner was on the boat with him, why doesn't he just file his Form 180 and get his military records? Shouldn't they show where the boat was? Why rely on the 30 year old reminiscences of a guy with a poor memory, when you can just get the documents?
Note the wordsmithing in the ad, by the way. Kerry "claims that he spent Christmas in 1968 in Cambodia." Actually, no he doesn't. He claimed he crossed into Cambodia on Christmas eve. Gardner denies that they were ever "in Cambodia on a secret mission..." This is separate from the Christmas issue, and it is either evasion or deception. It is evasion if it is meant to hide that they were in Cambodia on Christmas eve, but not on a secret mission. It is deception if Gardner means to imply that Kerry was never on a "secret mission," since Gardner was only on Kerry's boat about half the time Kerry was in VN.
Steve Gardner is the SBVfT member that served on John Kerry's boat. When you hear his charges, keep this article by Douglas Brinkley in mind.
Gardner alleges Kerry brainwashed his fellow boatmates:
He dismisses the glowing eyewitness accounts of his crewmates Jim Wasser (Radarman), Bill Zaladonis (Petty Officer), Drew Whitlow (Boatswain’s Mate) and Stephen Hatch (Boatswain’s Mate) as bunk. “Kerry sat some of them down and convinced them to buy into his side of what happened over there,” he explains in bizarrely conspiratorial fashion with no evidence to back him up. “When you’re as persuasive as Kerry it’s not hard to make a guy change something that he saw.”
Gardner still holds a grudge from 35 years ago:
Which brought the interview to the crux of Gardner’s beef against Kerry. Gardner—who remembers no important dates or times or locales—claims that Kerry once threatened him with a court martial. The incident happened when Gardner, who told me he had “no trouble shooting gooks,” saw a Viet Cong guerilla with an AK-47 in a boat and started firing. “I lay the hammer down on him,” Gardner explains. “I just put a finger on the gun: boom, boom, boom, boom. He’s done. He got flipped out of the boat, he went straight down. That’s when Kerry came running out of the guntub screaming ‘ceasefire, ceasefire, ceasefire.’ Then he turned to me and said, ‘I ought to have you court-martialed for shooting.’ I said, ‘Hmmph…sorry big boy. When somebody brings a gun up on me I’m gonna shoot and I’ll ask questions later ‘cause I ain’t goin’ back in a body bag.’”
Note Brinkley's reference to Gardner having a poor memory. His memory seems to be refreshed. As a big Limbaugh fan, appearing on shows like Hugh Hewitt's must be quite a rush (Hewitt's permalinks are broken).
Slavoj Zizek, Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?, 3: Throughout its entire career, 'totalitarianism' was an ideological notion that sustained the complex operation of 'taming free radicals', of guaranteeing the liberal-democratic hegemony, dismissing the Leftist critique of liberal democracy as the obverse, the 'twin', of the Rightist Fascist dictatorship. And it is useless to try to redeem 'totalitarianism' through division into subcategories (emphasizing the difference between the Fascist and the Communist variety): the moment one accepts the notion of 'totalitarianism', one is firmly located within the liberal-democratic horizon. The contention of this book is thus that the notion of 'totalitarianism', far from being an effective theoretical concept, is a kind of stopgap: instead of enabling us to think, forcing us to acquire a new insight into the historical reality it describes, it relieves us of the duty to think, or even actively prevents us from thinking.
Zizek's law: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Communism or totalitarianism approaches one. When that point is reached, the discussion has outlived its usefulness, and the invoker has lost the debate.
Liberals are too eager to assume that government will solve everything. Libertarians are too eager to assume that government will wreck everything. Conservatives are too eager to prove Libertarians right.
A nice offering from Newsmax. A random Newsmax smear artist accuses John Kerry of being mentally ill and of being worse that Goebbels (he isn't as "artful" in his "big lies").
What is the evidence for Kerry's insanity? Projection. That's right, Kerry is guilty of projection.
Leaving aside the poor understanding of Freud - projection is not a sign of mental illness - the charge is doubly ironic in this case.
First, George W. Bush is a textbook case of projection. It is his clear strategy to attempt to preempt criticism of himself by firing the first shot against his opponent. One of his first anti-Kerry ads, focused on the $87 billion, accused Kerry of not approving funding for body armor or humvee up-armoring. Bush's defense department was, and still is, woefully inadequate in these areas, particularly when it comes to provisioning National Guard units. Not only that, but Bush himself threatened to veto an alternate bill which would have provided the same level of funding for troops, but funded through current revenue rather than borrowed.
Other examples of Bush projection abound, from accusing Kerry of running a relentlessly negative campaign, to accusing Kerry of talking down the economy, to accusing Kerry of flip-flopping, to accusing Kerry of being beholden to special interests, to accusing Kerry of not understanding the nature of the threats we face, to accusing Kerry of being weak on counterproliferation.
Moreover, Bush seems incapable of introspection, of accepting responsibility for his actions. He is always either the victim of Bill Clinton and Democrats or natural forces (the "trifecta").
Second, of course, Perry himself is projecting. He accuses Kerry of being a negative campaigner on the same page that he accuses Kerry of being worse than Goebbels and mentally ill.
Bush's projection is tactical. It must not be rewarded.
“John Kerry is the personification of the great rift. He is simultaneously a war hero and a war protester. One moment he was with the establishment; the next he was anti-establishment. To the Right, he went over to the enemy. To the Left, he came around. Nobody should be surprised that he remains deeply conflicted about his experiences or that he is a lightning rod for criticism by his fellow soldiers and sailors. He is a living symbol of something we cannot, and perhaps should not, forget.
One wonders whether a man who is so conflicted has the capacity to lead a great nation in dangerous and uncertain times. He seems sometimes to be living in the past, to be refighting old battles, to be trying to find himself. Some will say that it's others who insist on refighting old battles, but this would not be accurate. John Kerry can't let go of his past. He, not his critics, is the one who brings it up. Again and again. Even his supporters acknowledge this.”
Fighting in that war does not indicate support for it. He didn’t “come around” – he had serious doubts about the war before entering it, and his doubts grew into concrete objections while he was in it. That is the true heroism of Kerry, that he would join the military out of a sense of patriotic duty even though he had serious concerns about the justness of the war at hand.
There is no conflict here. He can be proud of his service, proud of those he served with, while still believing it was a misguided war directed by an unhinged civilian and military leadership. Soldiers don’t leave their minds behind - in fact, they fight to keep them.
Your belief that Kerry has called down calumny and libel for emphasizing his service is morally wrong and an implicit threat to those serving today. If returning soldiers denounce Iraq, their opinions have added weight – they aren’t evidence of diminished capacity.
Defenders of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth like to point out that 250 veterans have signed up with the group. Here are some of the tactics used to build that number:
Houston Chronicle 8/20/04: The group [SBVfT] decided to hire a private investigator to probe Brinkley's account of the war — to find "some neutral way of actually questioning people involved in these incidents," O'Neill said.
But the investigator's questions did not seem neutral to some.
Patrick Runyon, who served on a mission with Kerry, said he initially thought the caller was from a pro-Kerry group, and happily gave a statement about the night Kerry won his first Purple Heart. The investigator said he would e-mail it to him for his signature. Runyon said the edited version was stripped of all references to enemy combat, making it look like just another night in the Mekong Delta.
"It made it sound like I didn't believe we got any returned fire," he said. "He made it sound like it was a normal operation. It was the scariest night of my life."
At this otherwise uninteresting post at Reason's, blog, where the comments are now closed, commenter raymond m makes the trite libertarianism that income taxes are slavery. Here is his comment in full:
slave 1. A person who is held in bondage to another; one who is wholly subject to the will of another; one who is held as a chattel; one who has no freedom of action, but whose person and services are wholly under the control of another.
slavery 1. The condition of a slave; the state of entire subjection of one person to the will of another.
2. A condition of subjection or submission characterized by lack of freedom of action or of will.
Bondage 1. The state of being bound; condition of being under restraint; restraint of personal liberty by compulsion; involuntary servitude; slavery; captivity.
Is the taxpayer subject to the will of another? Does he have freedom of action insofar as his services are concerned? If he fails to provide the service the state requires, does he risk being wholly under the control of another?
Must he submit to the the will of others? Is he restrained, compelled?
And when the draft is reintroduced (and there is talk of this)...
Comparing taxation to slavery both demonizes a necessary government power while diminishing a real moral atrocity.
How is taxation as it is practised in most countries a "necessary government power"?
Do governments get their just powers from the consent of the governed?
The legitimate powers of a government come from putting into a common pot certain natural rights which the individual may not be able to exercise fully. The individual still holds these rights, but he lends them to his agent, the government. (Paine)
Can a government legitimately do what the individual cannot?
If an individual steals from me or forces me to work for him, isn't this an "atrocity"? If the state does it, is it any less atrocious?
Does the fact that one is not aware of the violation of his fundamental rights or acquiesces to it make the violation any more acceptable?
There are degrees of horror. I'll grant you that. But any persuasive argument in favour of the sort of taxation you people are talking about can, with little difficulty, be extended to the question of the draft. And the draft is, in my opinion, about as horrendous a moral atrocity as is possible to imagine.
Comment by: raymond_m at August 25, 2004 05:27 AM
The italicized wisdom is mine. First, an outline of the rebuttal to this argument.
1. Taxes do not violate property rights. Property rights are dependent morally on reliance interests, and actually on the provision of a government remedy for violation. There is no property right to something if the government doesn't sanction one's domain over it. Taxes do not take away a legally cognizable property. At worst, it is damnum absque injuria.
2. Taxes are in fact essential to maintain the regime of property rights. There are no property rights without government activity, and that activity needs to be funded. This is part of the rationale underlying progressive taxation: those who benefit most from the contours of our property protection regime can be fairly expected to pay for their significantly larger benefit.
3. "Redistributive" taxation is not redistributive, it alters the initial distribution. Because there was no initial entitlement to the taxed revenue, it was never distributed to the taxed person.
4. Social programs are part of the regime that strengthens property rights. All social programs have one background goal that strengthens property rights: increasing domestic stability. They have disparate particular goals that strengthen property rights: encouraging ownership, enhancing education, combating crime, improving public health. This compromise was much more clear to Scoop Jackson Democrats who used the war on poverty as an anti-communist strategy. It is the idea of interest convergence, explained by Derrick Bell.
The argument can be deepened, but it is not even particularly radical, except in the age of free-market fundamentalism, where our contingent, fairly arbitrary economic system is believed to be derived from tablet. For moderate formulations, see Sunstein and Holmes, The Cost of Rights, or Murphy and Nagel, The Myth of Ownership. Also see Hohfeld.
Now to the particulars of raymond m's argument. He begins with a definition of slavery. This is nice, but irrelevant except as a rhetorical introduction to a semantic argument.
He then proceeds with what he thinks are a series of questions with obvious answers. Is the taxpayer subject to the will of another? He must assume that the answer is obviously yes, but it isn't nearly so clear. First, our government is at least moderately democratic, which implies a degree of self-governance, which blurs the self/other dichotomy as applied to government. Two, he must somehow suppose that it is possible not to be subject to the will of another. If one person decides to violate your interests, however defined, a person is subject to the will of another. Even the threat of such a violation entails subjection. Richard Hale still has the best formulation of this argument. Does he have freedom of action insofar as his services are concerned? Yes. Unless one adopts a theory of freedom derived from natural law or a problematized theory of freedom like that in Hale, there re no impediments to his freedom, merely higher costs associated with it. If he fails to provide the service the state requires, does he risk being wholly under the control of another? Presumably, this means can he be incarcerated for not paying taxes. Yes, but he can also be incarcerated for infringing private property interests, through the state. Does this make every person the slave of property holders? In a sense, yes, it does, but only in a sense that trivializes slavery. The two remaining questions are redundant.
The draft is a separate question, one I would be happy to debate. I have largely mixed feelings about it.
How is taxation as it is practised in most countries a "necessary government power"? It's contours are contingent, but its existence is necessary. Do governments get their just powers from the consent of the governed? In a sense, yes, that legal construct is the source of governmental legitimacy. That legitimacy is what makes taxation distinct from slavery.
The legitimate powers of a government come from putting into a common pot certain natural rights which the individual may not be able to exercise fully. The individual still holds these rights, but he lends them to his agent, the government. (Paine) I like Paine, more than anyone I know. But to read him thusly is painfully anachronistic, not to mention out of context. Libertarians affix the libertarian ethic of Paine to the moral sensibilities of John Adams, producing a Frankenstein monster. Paine's libertarianism was coupled with a radical support for democracy, he was a major player in the French revolution, and he was branded a scoundrel by the original Federalists.
Can a government legitimately do what the individual cannot? Yes, of course it can. People can negotiate about property interests, they can't define or create them, which government can and does do. If an individual steals from me or forces me to work for him, isn't this an "atrocity"? For theft, not necessarily. It may be an injury, but it is just entirely possible that it is a legal injury without real harm. Forced labor is somewhat different, though the idea of wage labor isn't terribly different from this, absent a guaranteed minimum income. Both are bad, but their wrongness is relative, and neither describe taxation, which is neither theft nor forced labor. Does the fact that one is not aware of the violation of his fundamental rights or acquiesces to it make the violation any more acceptable? There is no violation of fundamental rights, the only fundamental rights are those protected by the constitution (which was amended to allow income taxation, if anyone wants to fall back on an enumerated rights position), and of course acquiescence to rights violations changes their character. It's called consent, which makes an activity not a rights violation. A person may have an exclusive right to property, but if they let someone else borrow it, they aren't having their rights violated.
There are degrees of horror. I'll grant you that. But any persuasive argument in favour of the sort of taxation you people are talking about can, with little difficulty, be extended to the question of the draft. And the draft is, in my opinion, about as horrendous a moral atrocity as is possible to imagine. I disagree that the draft is a moral atrocity, but the analogy here is inapposite, so we don't need to go there. The draft entails military service, which enters a whole new discussion about the prudence of militarism.
Another commenter had this to say:
Hey Dave - nice blather that ignored every point I made, but pretended to address them. Do you practice at such evasion and smearing, or does it simply come naturally to you?
Come on - if you are going to take the perspective of the House Slave and try to justify the actions of your slave master to a bunch of abolitionists, at least present an ARGUMENT. As it stands, you post's reliance on logical fallacies simply indicates you do not have a leg to stand on - and that you KNOW it.
In other words, you abdicate the argument without ever participating in it.
Being generous, and assuming you are merely ignorant of the link between slavery and taxation, I will suggest you try reading. On this topic, a good read is from - gasp - an ACTUAL slave - Frederick Douglass. He makes quite clear the fundamental link you 'poo poo' with your off handed and unjustified dismisal.
Comment by: RadCap at August 25, 2004 06:51 AM
I hope this contribution counts as "participating" in the argument. The most frustrating thing about arguing with libertarianism is how they cloak their fundamentally emotional, sentimental arguments in a rhetoric of reason, fact and rights. Given their detachment from reality, their "idealism," to put it charitably, they are more reliant on appeals to visceral sentiment than either liberals or conservatives.
Edwards then gets to the heart of his complaint. He wants the president to say three little words, "Stop these ads." He says, "We're not asking the president to give us the same old rhetoric, that John Kerry's service was honorable, you know, that we're proud of his service in Vietnam. That's the same thing he was saying about John McCain when they were smearing him back in 2000." Then Edwards delivers his toughest line: "No, these ads were intended, and have been running now for about three weeks, they were intended to attack the character of John Kerry. In fact, they've shown us something about the character of George W. Bush."
George Bush stepped into the row over his presidential opponent's war record yesterday, declaring John Kerry had served "admirably" in Vietnam and calling for an end to all political attack advertisements sponsored by non-party groups.
Runyon said Kerry was wounded after one vessel tried to avoid an inspection.
"Lt. Kerry said, 'I'm going to pop a flare, and when I do, I want that engine started,' " Runyon said. But the outboard would not crank. Meanwhile, the sampan's crew steered it to the riverbank, and people started running on the shore. Runyon said shooting broke out.
Somehow, Kerry's weapon stopped firing. Runyon thinks he ran out of ammunition. He said Kerry bent down to pick up another gun and got hit in the arm.
"It wasn't a serious wound," Runyon said, and Kerry was able to start shooting again. When the firefight was over, Runyon said Kerry told him all he felt was a "burning sensation." [Emph. added]
"Shooting broke out"? Shooting by the people on the riverbank, or shooting only by Kerry and his crew? The story leaves the impression there was a two-sided firefight, but it doesn't quite say that, does it? ... Again, the ambiguity may be inadvertent. Or not! ... P.S.: According to the Swifties, the Boston Globe's Kerry book has Runyon saying "I can't say for sure that we got return fire or how [Kerry] got nicked." [Why not check the Globe book yourself?--ed I'm in Richfield, Utah and it's the middle of the night is why. I'm sure they have a fine local bookstore but not a 24-hour bookstore.] 11:18.A.M.
According to Kaus, Runyon's account "doesn't quite say" there was a two-sided firefight. Except of course, where he calls it a "firefight." Italics in quote.