Charlie Sykes said the word “disgraceful” often today on a segment about the Iraq war.
The war is an important topic, but broad. Charlie chose to focus it using this question: Who is worse, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? That’s right, the most important task before us was to compare their different responses to the Senate resolution Thursday that condemns MoveOn.Org and praises Gen. Petraeus.
You might think the question itself is disgraceful, given the gravity of the underlying Iraq War. It is a juvenile trick in a mode equivalent to fabricating a “debate” with a question like: “Is George Bush a tremendously great president or is he merely really good?”
Hearing the question, I couldn’t help but recall that only yesterday Charlie was praising himself for better journalistic balance than the Journal Sentinel. Then the issue was the football fracas involving a Pewaukee player and a New Berlin Eisenhower coach. Because the player’s dad on his own initiative had called Charlie’s show, Charlie was congratulating himself for getting more sides of the story than Laurel Walker’s column in the paper. But if high school football deserves both sides of the story, why doesn’t real war deserve it too?
This was just one of many facets to his hypocrisy that glared like zirconium in just the short time I listened.
Charlie’s message about Obama and his decision not to vote on the Petraeus/MoveOn resolution was that Obama chose to “take a powder” or to run away. Obama’s own explanation, which was not aired on Charlie’s show believe it or not, was that the resolution was another Republican stunt. “By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against these empty politics,” Obama said.
Obama is obviously correct here. The Senate resolution that damns MoveOn.Org and sings hosannas to Petraeus was part of a coordinated GOP political strategy. Notice that in the past the Republicans loudly proclaimed that congressional Democratic actions, such as the Levin-Reed nonbinding resolution on the Iraq War in July, was a political stunt and therefore preventing meaningful work. But when the GOP uses Congress, and a presidential press conference, for stunts of their own, the fact the Democrats don’t play along is part of the GOP strategy.
The flaw in the strategy is that these GOP attack poodles can not effectively lob concepts like "manly" and "integrity" at the Democrats who see through their stunts. That's because the White House they exist to defend is itself disgraceful and unmanly. It hid behind the skirts of General Petraeus when it came time to defend its war in Iraq. If the right wing, from George Bush down to Charlie Sykes, was itself concerned with the integrity of General Petraeus, if they did not want to hurt his feelings, then they should have been against using Petraeus to convey the policy. The fact those criticisms came made their day.
Now to Hillary, where Charlie’s message was that because she voted no on the resolution, she hates troops. (Russ Feingold also voted no, by the way. Herb Kohl voted yes and helped it to pass 72 to 25.) The “Sense of the Senate” resolution uses a sleight of hand. In its initial findings the resolution praises Gen. Petraeus only, but its subsequent proclamations at the end of the resolution state that the Senate supports all men and women of the military including Gen. Petraeus. Then it condemns MoveOn.Org. Look here for the Sec 1070 part to read the tricky text.
It’s enough to give a logics professor a migraine, and not at all clear what a yes or no vote is actually saying. Many right wingers will spin it into the allegation that Hillary is bought and paid for by MoveOn.Org. I think that she, like Obama and Feingold, didn’t want to play this GOP game.
But Hillary’s motives were crystal clear to Charlie, who declared that Clinton “is more than willing to offend the military.”
Speaking of not playing the game, among Charlie’s callers who chose either Obama or Hillary as the worst, a level-headed guy phoned in to instead object to a premise. He couldn’t figure out how any criticism of Gen. Petraeus necessarily means the criticizers also hate the troops. He correctly said that generals have often faced criticism in our history, and mentioned specifically the firestorm that toasted George McClelland during the Civil War (sorry, no hyperlink to the story available). Did McClelland’s detractors ipso facto loathe all Union soldiers?
Charlie Sykes didn’t answer that question. He took a powder.