Monday, November 14, 2005

# Posted 9:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SCORECARD: INSTAPUNDIT VS. KEVIN DRUM. In the post below, I agree with Glenn and Tom that lying about the war is unpatriotic. But Glenn also makes a different argument about patriotism, with support from John Cole. Cole writes, and Glenn concurs, that
Painting as unpatriotic those individuals who change their opinions simply for political reasons is wholly appropriate, and that is what Glenn stated. Reynolds is not, as Kevin Drum would have you believe, simply calling anyone against the war or anyone who believes that the the reasons used to go to war were inaccurate ‘unpatriotic.’
It is wrong and offensive to argue that simply changing one's opinion is unpatriotic, regardless of the motive.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that most Democrats have come out against the invasion only because of the polls. This fact may demonstrate that the Democrats have no ideas of their own about foreign policy, but it isn't immoral. Public opinion has a democratic legitimacy of its own. Therefore, it is in no way unpatriotic for elected representatives to change sides in order to satisfy their constituents.

In democratic systems, there is an enternal tension between representation in terms of doing what the people want and representation in terms of doing what one believes is right. The role of politicians is to balance these competing demands on their allegiance.

This argument does not, however, contradict my assertion below that if the Democrats are consciously lying about the origins of the war, then one may consider them unpatriotic. The right to change positions does not entail a right to lie in order to defend that change of positions.

The reason, I think, that Kevin and Glenn are getting so angry at one another is that they are conflating these two arguments. Kevin paraphrases Glenn as saying that
Democrats who claim that George Bush misled us into war are being unpatriotic.
At times, Glenn makes it clear that it is not the Democrats' claim per se that is unpatriotic, but rather the fact that it is false. Yet Glenn is also responsible in part for the confusion, since his initial post simply said that
The White House needs to go on the offensive here in a big way -- and Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicans pandering to the antiwar base, that it's deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad.
So what's wrong here? The pandering? The effect on the troops? Or the dishonesty? I hope that my efforts to explicate the differences between these arguments has shed some light on a very important debate.
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