OxBlog

Saturday, October 16, 2004

# Posted 11:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KRAUTHAMMER RIDICULOUS: Josh may have liked Charlie K's most recent column, but I thought it was ridiculous. John Edwards may have said something sort of dumb, but Krauthammer's reaction is completely over the top. Edwards said:

If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.
That's optimistic campaign trail fluff. A closer reading of Edwards' statement implies that somehow Bush & Cheney are against Chris Reeve being able to walk again. Edwards' fluff hardly merits that kind of analysis, however. But here's what Charlie K says:

In my 25 years in Washington, I have never seen a more loathsome display of demagoguery...

There is no apologizing for Edwards's remark. It is too revealing. There is absolutely nothing the man will not say to get elected.
A demagogue willing to say anything? Perhaps Krauthammer is confusing Edwards with Dick Cheney. Remember Cheney? He's the guy whose remarks about Saddam and 9/11 George Bush had to publicly disavow.

Of course, there are Democratic demagogues as well. From where I stand, there is no excuse for John Kerry saying that George Bush wants to bring back the draft. By the way, it's worth comparing the NYT and WaPo comments about Kerry's remarks. In a straight up news article, the Post said that

Kerry offered scant evidence to support the allegation of an impending draft under Bush.
So much for he-said/she-said journalism. The NYT avoided that sort of overt analysis, but did include this failry damning paragraph

When the candidates debated a week ago in St. Louis, Mr. Bush ruled out reinstating the draft. "We're not going to have a draft, period," he said. "The all-volunteer Army works." In his rebuttal then, Mr. Kerry did not question the president's assertion.
That last sentence is a classic. It provides coverage of a literal non-event. But it has the exact same connotation as the WaPo's front-and-center analysis.

Anyhow, getting back to Charlie K, I'd like to propose my own candidate for the most loathsome display of demagoguery in the past 25 years. On December 2, 1983, a high school student said to Ronald Reagan:
This week you vetoed a bill passed by Congress which linked military aid in El Salvador with human rights. Why did you veto this bill, and how can we justify supporting governments, be they leftwing or rightwing, which violate human rights?
Reagan gave a fairly detailed response to the question, which included this statement:
We're doing everything we can, not only to help [the Salvadoran] Government deal with these rightwing squads, but I'm going to voice a suspicion now that I've never said aloud before. I wonder if all of this is rightwing, or if those guerrilla forces have not realized that by infiltrating into the city of San Salvador and places like that, that they can get away with these violent acts, helping to try and bring down the Government, and the rightwing will be blamed for it.
Reagan's comments made the front page of the next morning's papers because there was absolutely no evidence to suggest that Communist guerrillas were masquerading as right-wing death squads. While it is theoretically possible that such a masquerade took place, overwhelming evidence indicated that anti-Communist forces were responsible for 90 percent or more of the tens of thousands of civilians murdered during the first years of the Salvadoran civil war (and that the other 10 percent didn't involve masquerades).

Moreover, those murderous anti-Communists were soldiers and policeman employed by the Salvadoran military and acting with its explicit support, not independent "rightwing squads" as Reagan suggested. And his administration knew it. Less than ten days after Reagan's controversial remarks, Vice-President Bush handed a list of known murderers to the Salvadoran high command and demanded their explusion from the armed forces.

In my dissertation, I argue that Reagan's demagoguery was not intentional, but rather a reflection of the 40th President's unparalleled ability to blind himself to the obvious truth. Declassified CIA reports, now available from the National Security Archive, demonstrate that the administration's knowledge about the death squads was detailed and unequivocal.

Of course, anyone capable of reading a newspaper knew what was going on in El Salvador -- that is why Reagan's comments were almost incomprehensible. White House spokesmen backtracked from the President's remarks almost immediately. No other Republican stood up on the President's behalf.

The only plausible explanation for the Great Communicator's self-destructive rhetoric was that he himself believed in it.
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