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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, November 30, 2006


What are we, three weeks past the election? [pauses to count on his fingers] Yeah, three weeks.

I would have thought that teaching Sykes, P-Mac, and Owen a lesson in denial and sore losership that first week after would have been enough. (I didn't think I needed to cover Dohnal's "What Hoppened," since he lives so far outside of reality everyone knows he's probably bunking with denial anyway.)

But the usually sensible Lance Burri visits denialville this week, in a post titled "Foiled by Fate":
That was 2006. Republicans lost, and Democrats won. Everything, everywhere. It was a tidal wave of 1994-esque proportions. A massive, inevitable defeat, brought on by forces that were well beyond our control.
The UW Dems' Andrew Gordon, in a post with the kind of language you'd expect from a college kid, rightly calls Lance on this:
In the end, it was this strong record of failure that cost Republicans in November. It's shocking that GOP talking heads still haven't figured it out. The Democratic Tsunami didn't come out of nowhere. Republicans made it, and lost because they consistently made wrong decisions on pretty much every issue. To blame it on fate avoids accepting any responsibilities for the shortcomings and failures of the last 12 years.
Indeed; for Lance to suggest that this year's Republican defeats were inevitable is like suggesting that the explosion at the bottom of the canyon was inevitable while forgetting that somebody had to drive off the cliff first.

In the comments to Andrew's post, Lance pipes up that he was really just "trying to figure out what we should have done differently." But, as I think Andrew's post makes clear, Lance at best makes excuses: All of these things that went wrong, he asks himself, could we have seen them and changed things? "Probably not," he answers.

This is a classic case of what we call hindsight bias. And what makes it funny is Lance's nomination of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker as Prophet of the Election. Never mind the reasons why Walker really dropped out of the primary (Ken Mehlman clearing the field, an inablility to raise money, God told him to), for Lance, Walker's decision--in hindsight--was prescient:
If you were planning to run for office, you had to make your decision months ago. July, June, or even earlier. Case in point: Scott Walker, who dropped out of the Governor’s race in May.

Did he know something? Did he read those tea leaves – take a long, careful look – and decide this wasn’t the year to be a Republican candidate? If so, then he is officially the smartest guy in the room, whatever room he’s in.
All hail Scott Walker, the Nostradamus of the Wisconsin GOP!

No, Lance, the responsibility lay with Republicans and six--or twelve, depending on how you want to count--years of policies designed to shrink and alienate the middle class, polarize this country along economic and religious lines, and drag our troops into unnecessary, costly, and tragic entanglements overseas. Anyone with common sense, rather than ideological blinders, could have seen the spanking coming from miles before you actually went off that cliff.
I promised denial squared, and the second power here comes on the subject of Iraq, and, more specifically, Jessica McBride's waist-deep denial of what is happening in Iraq.

That post of hers merits not one but two eviscerations from the Brew City Brawler, as well as a savvy take-down from Tim Rock. Neither of them, though, hits what I think to be the most critical facet of McBride's denial here. Toward the end of a long piece asking, "Rethinking Iraq?" (her answer, "an emphatic no"), she throws this in:
In addition, I believe that many of the Democrats - and the MSM - have failed to respond to changing circumstances.
MSM, in McBride's leetspeak, is the "mainstream media," of which she is firmly a part, as an employee of the state's largest media conglomerate and host of a show on Milwaukee's highest-rated talk radio station. The irony, of course, is that the media have been, of late, responding to the changing situation on the ground, and they've been pilloried by conservative critics who can't believe, for example, that NBC should be allowed to call it "civil war."

It's McBride who goes on and on about how "we must finish the job" and "it's crucial [. . .] that we not accept defeat." But the vast bulk of the violence in Iraq today is not the United States versus anybody--it's the centuries-old conflict between Sunni and Shia with our troops being caught in the crossfire. There is a case to be made that we should be fighting the "al Qaeda in Iraq" group that has filled the void we created in Anbar Province; but al Qaeda isn't killing thousands of civillians every month. al Qaeda isn't shelling neighborhoods the way the Sunni and the Shia are.

It was absurd before the election for conservatives to suggest the the uptick in violence was an attempt to influence the vote in favor of Democrats, and it is absurd now to say that the violence is an attempt to embolden Nancy Pelosi. The violence in Iraq is being perpetrated by people who could not care less who's running this country; they are instead interested only in generations of blood debt and hostility.

Fareed Zakaria, not known for being anything close to a shrill anti-war anything, sees what McBride denies:
If you want to understand the futility of America's current situation in Iraq, last week provided a vivid microcosm. On Thursday, just hours before a series of car bombs killed more than 200 people in the Shia stronghold of Sadr City, Sunni militants attacked the Ministry of Health, which is run by one of Moqtada al-Sadr's followers. Within a couple of hours, American units arrived at the scene and chased off the attackers. The next day, Sadr's men began reprisals against Sunnis, firing RPGs at several mosques. When U.S. forces tried to stop the carnage and restore order, goons from Sadr's Mahdi Army began firing on American helicopters. In other words, one day the U.S. Army was defending Sadr's militia and, the next day, was attacked by it. We're in the middle of a civil war and are being shot at by both sides.
Is that really the position McBrides wants us to be in, to stay in, to persevere in? We're no longer on one side of this war; we're caught in a crossfire. How do you "win" when you're in a crossfire? What does "accepting defeat" even look like in that situation?

How do you decide not to "rethink Iraq," unless you've waded so far into denial that you can't see how much we've already lost?

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