November 22nd, 2012

John Podhoretz takes his turn at an election postmortem

By now you’re probably heartily sick of these “what went wrong for Republicans in the 2012 election and what we should do about it” articles. But Podhoretz has a somewhat different take on the whole thing, and it’s worth reading whether you end up agreeing with him or not.

One of the more interesting parts of the article to me was probably one of the more minor, but it shed light on a bit of a mystery. Towards the beginning of the campaign, when Republicans were throwing their hats into the presidential ring or declining to do so, I became more and more puzzled and disappointed when the people I thought might have had the best chance to win failed to enter. I wondered why so few wanted to even try to defeat Obama although he seemed vulnerable this year.

Of course I knew that many of them must have been reluctant to face the scrutiny, hatred, and downright defamation that would be their lot and the lot of their family members if they entered the race against the president. But still, it seemed that a few more of them should have braved it.

Podhoretz offers the following explanation:

Obama and his team let it be known in the spring of 2011 that they intended to raise and spend an unprecedented $1 billion—$250 million more than in 2008—without having to drop so much as a nickel on anything but the general election against the Republicans. This is probably the key to understanding why the Republican field in 2011 came down to the distressingly uncharismatic array of B-listers like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, and a couple of ludicrous outliers who thought they had nothing to lose by running. A Republican senator explained it to me at the time: “That’s one billion dollars aimed like a laser-guided munition at the reputation of a single person.”

There were more attractive, more presentable, and more (theoretically) electable possibilities—potential candidates as conversant with conservative ideas as they are with practical governing strategies and who possess the vocabulary to unite the two. But those possibilities might either have had problematic family issues or other private matters they did not want aired—or they were simply intimidated by the immensity of the challenge or by the relative paucity of their own experience on the national stage. They would not enter the race no matter how much they were touted or how eagerly major donors assured them they would raise the necessary dollars to win the nomination. The conditions were favorable for a dramatic charge at a wounded sitting president, and yet they would not go.

Thus, the $1-billion-dollar laser-guided munition, discussed early enough in 2011 to make anyone nervous, may have been the “killer app” of the entire campaign.

Sounds plausible to me.

There’s an awful lot more in there; read the whole thing and see what you think.

And on a different topic, Andrew McCarthy has an excellent summary of Benghazi so far. Send it to some liberals you know and ask them if any of it concerns them at all—that is, if you can get them to read it in the first place.

74 Responses to “John Podhoretz takes his turn at an election postmortem”

  1. Mitsu Says:

    Okay, since I’m in one of my periodic “let’s visit Neo’s blog and chat” modes, I did, in fact, go ahead and read the article. At the risk of a lengthy and perhaps tiresome debate, I will, in fact, go ahead and respond, as best I can, to the points raised by the article.

    Regarding his first point, that the Libyan intervention in some way led to the Benghazi attack, empowered Islamists, etc… the United States, the West as a whole, are far more popular in Libya today than in nearly any other Arab country in the region, and no place more than in Benghazi, which was directly saved by our intervention. Libya is the only post-Arab Spring country to elect secularists after their uprising:

    Stevens himself was personally popular in Benghazi, and there were angry demonstrations in the city after the attack in which crowds of people seized control of Islamist militia barracks and forced many of them to disband:

    It makes some sense that the Administration was more concerned about security in Tripoli than in Benghazi, which is probably the most pro-Western city in the Arab world, at present. The militants who attacked the US compound won themselves no new friends in Libya as a result of their action.

    Regarding the second point, that it was a “7-hour seige” of the compound by the Islamists — it’s quite obvious that nobody really understood what was going on either at the time or for some days thereafter. To get up in arms about Obama’s particular actions in a tactical situation on the ground far away is to engage in a strange belief that the President is personally responsible for every tactical situation everywhere in the entire world, at every US facility, military or diplomatic. As it happens, Ansar Al-Shariah (now thought to be responsible for the attack) reportedly told bystanders they were attacking the compound because of anger over the “Innocence of Muslims” film:

    The fact that these attackers weren’t a spontaneous group of demonstrators but were instead an Islamist group was something that took a while to figure out — but the initial reports that it was prompted by the film appear to have some supporting evidence. Situations on the ground are self-evidently chaotic and confusing.

    I would be saying the same thing in the aftermath of an attack that happened under a Republican president’s watch. It’s obviously chaotic in the aftermath of any situation such as this.

  2. Mitsu Says:

    Oh, and to anticipate another line of argument: I am aware of the email that said that Ansar Al-Shariah took responsibility for the attack. However, it was merely one of thousands of often conflicting data points coming in from the field during that period. Other Ansar leaders have denied responsibility. The picture is hardly clear, even now, and the group itself is quite amorphous:

  3. Sam L. Says:

    NYT 10/18: I don’t trust the NYT as a source.

  4. Otiose Says:

    Podhoretz makes a lot of good points and has several insights that need to be given some thought. Worth coming back to and rereading.

    One of the more disturbing points he makes is about Romney not being a real ‘conservative’ (not sure of the litmus test for that, but…) and this flaw showed itself in his 47% comment and in middle and home stretch when he really needed to explain to the voters to get them to appreciate a conservative vision of how things should / could be vs Obama’s offerings, but couldn’t because at bottom he might at best be an opportunistic moderate – a bit skeptical of leftist view, but very sympathetic. Reminds me of Dole’s plaintive wail once to conservatives that he would be whatever they wanted him to be, which kinda misses the point of the process of selecting a standard bearer for the movement.

    Was Romney’s not making the case a tactical move to win the election which with 20/20 hindsight turned out to be wrong? Or did he not make the case because he can’t?

    I thought or was hoping that Romney was moving to the center and right up until it didn’t work I thought it was OK. I totally bought into the explanation that the left leaning polls were over adjusting the samples – that replicating the turnout of 2008 was not possible – and therefore Romney’s strategy was working.

    The left thought along similar lines regarding Bush’s reelection in 2004. I can remember liberal acquaintances who were totally shocked at the outcome on election night.

    One lesson here – as Podhoretz points out – is that the incumbent – Republican or Democrat – has a huge advantage in being able to build their reelection machine over four years vs the challenger’s few months.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if both parties try to act on this by building (and funding) standing facilities and staff focused on these data / vote pool managing techniques that have already worked so well for both parties, so that the challenger won’t have such a steep curve to chase.

    That’s probably easy compared to how to structure the selection process i.e. the primaries, to encourage a better outcome. Is it even possible?

  5. Steve Says:

    mitsu, who rejected the request for additional security before the attack? Who denied support during the attack? Maybe you should read a little.

  6. NeoConScum Says:

    I like John, love his Dad & Mom and am a 3-decades subscriber to the wonderful journal, COMMENTARY. That said, John, STFU and give the piehole a little rest.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. GoneWithTheWind Says:

    Some good points but given what we are learning about massive voter fraud it would appear that Obama actually lost the legitimate vote and is a illegitimate president. But no worries, the media certainly won’t investigate and the Republicans have a history of being gutless so the illegitimate president shall stand. My question is what would we do if the Democrats had openly stolen the election as we have seen numerous times in banana republics and communist nations? Would we still do nothing? No attempt to even find the truth never mind over turn the illegtimate election. No attempt to prosecute and punish those who commited crimes. Nothing! Really!

  8. Paul A'Barge Says:

    Take this away:
    How can Romney’s loss invalidate the right when he was not a candidate of the right

  9. Oldflyer Says:

    I have not read Podhoretz’s article. I have had my fill of self-important, after-the-fact critics. I presume from Neo’s comment, and her quotes from Podhoretz, that he did not name those mysterious persons who could have won the election–but did not venture into the arena.

    I am not in the least interested in people who might have done great things–if only they had tried.

    Romney put himself out there; he took the abuse, he tried. Interestingly, another famous critic, Charles Krauthammer who spent the whole campaign gouging Romney, finally said when it was all over: (from memory) “he would have been a great President”. Gee, thanks Charles.

    Mitsu, or should I call you Valerie or David? Thank you for the Obama talking points. One little logical inconsistency. If the folks of Benghazi were so pro-US, then why would our government assume that the Consulate was under siege by an angry mob? An angry pro-US mob? In fact wasn’t Benghazi a known hot bed of extremists, notwithstanding the attitude of the larger population? Didn’t the Brits and the Red Cross pull out of Benghazi because of the danger from extremists? Wasn’t that the reason we had a clandestine CIA post located in Benghazi to track down weapons that were migrating into the hands of extremists? Did the US not have repeated warning pre-9/11, not to mention actual attacks, in the Benghazi area? Come on.

  10. Gary Rosen Says:

    “I would be saying the same thing in the aftermath of an attack that happened under a Republican president’s watch.[”

    I call bullsh*t.

  11. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    From the NYT article cited by Mitsu: “But the attackers, recognized as members of a local militant group called Ansar al-Shariah, did tell bystanders that they were attacking the compound because they were angry about the video. They did not mention the Sept. 11 anniversary. Intelligence officials believe that planning for the attack probably began only a few hours before it took place.”

    The attackers told unidentified bystanders that they were angry about the video? This obviously refers to the original report by NYT on 9/12 that I linked to in previous posts. Who are these bystanders? Can any of them be identified? Are there videos of their claims? It’s a typical NYT technique – the anonymous “bystanders” or “observers” or “those close to the scene” claimed this or that. Therefore, the NYT expects that you must accept their version. If you need a certain narrative to be true that is what you do, provide anonymous statements and expect everyone will accept them as the truth.

    Unless the NYT, NBC, CBS or Fox can find some of these “bystanders” and get their names, faces etc on the record, I say this is hearsay and a typical NYT, NBC, CBS, etal technique for framing a false narrative.

  12. Gringo Says:


    ….since I’m in one of my periodic “let’s visit Neo’s blog and chat” modes…

    Then perhaps you could do me the courtesy of answering a point I recently made at a previous thread. And I quote:

    Reagan was far to the left of today’s conservative litmus tests.

    Gringo: Please document your claim.

  13. Harold Says:

    Taking Neo’s summary at face value, Podhoretz is saying that the Republican establishment are spineless cowards.

    Does anyone think that in 2016 the Democrats aren’t going to have the same amount of money available to attack Republicans?

    Republicans refuse to recognize that they are up against serious opponents. And that in order to win they have to use the same tactics as the left, or come up with some extraordinary new set of tactics.

    So Romney like McCain before him refused to attack Obama personally and politically thus ceding all that territory to the One.

    I do not think that any of the so far mentioned candidates will be able to fight the left effectively in 2016. When the Republicans lose again in 2016 they will do what the Conservatives did in Britain (stupidly), become a leftist party.

  14. rickl Says:

    Harold Says:
    November 22nd, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    When the Republicans lose again in 2016 they will do what the Conservatives did in Britain (stupidly), become a leftist party.

    They’re already halfway there as it is.

    And it won’t be 2016; it’ll be 2014. I expect to see losses in the midterms. Unless there are drastic changes in the leadership, the party will continue to hemorrhage conservative and libertarian voters. The Republican Party as we have known it is pretty much finished. 2012 was the last chance.

  15. Curtis Says:

    Well, since I’m in one of my periodic “let’s visit Neo’s blog and I will now regale them with my brilliant comments and they had damned well better be grateful” modes, I will now respond with well known narrative and other talking points. Aren’t y’all lucky. OH! Just for you, I actually did read the article.

    Sheez. Does Mitsu have a clue? Wow. Funny though.

  16. Curtis Says:

    It would be a comfort to conclude that Obama didn’t win but Romney and Republicans lost, which appears from my reading to be Podhoretz’es thesis. Thus, conservatism is free to fight and will win by an appropriate and clarifying criticism of the coming collapse of liberalism:

    “The United States will now undergo a four-year stress test of American liberalism, as Obama will get his tax hike and ObamaCare will be implemented. Those who think Obama cared about people like them will now experience the full extent of his caring. Conservatism will explain to them what is happening as it happens, and in the process, reveal how there is another, better, more effective, and more compassionate way forward.”

    I definitely agree with the strategy of that part but can’t feel free to blame Romney as freely as Podhoretz does. On Romney was everything and it was an impossible task.

    Podhoretz says “This fact heightens the primary reality of Election 2012: Obama’s victory was an astonishing technical accomplishment but in no way whatsoever a substantive one.” Podhoretz’es assertion is astonishingly simplistic and does not recognize that “substantive” issues had been wiped clean from Obama’s canvass by way of media, entertainment and academia who had already created the minds without ideas. It is so unfair to demand of Romney that he suddenly contradict 100 years of dedicated and mostly unopposed work.

    On Romney, too, is “contentless,” a misleading word which hints at its true value. We all understand immediately what it means, but in strategy, weren’t we all claiming the mass voter was too stupid to understand or be exposed to anything too “content-oriented.” Further, was it “contentless” of Obama to malign Romney and define him? Quite the opposite. Was it “contentless” of Obama to offer student loans and other goodies to victim groups? Why then should it be “contentless” of Romney to offer jobs. The content may have been simple or merely wrong, but Podhoretz uses this term in a contradictory and confusing way.

    On Romney, too, is the loss of “mechanics.” Well, some of this may be true: We know of the failure of ORCA. We also know of the diligence and effectiveness of big city politics. Again: advantage Obama. We can correct technicalities; the correction of lacking big city politics,however, is to make politics our religion. The message is a double bind, good and distressing news at the same time to the conservative person. No wonder a good portion of the electorate found it more distressing than good and decided to stay home.

    The efficacy of Obama’s machine is that of a Master having a good account of all its slaves. It’s a large task, indeed, but with today’s technologies and Obama’s dedication to it, it is not surprising his order to vote was obeyed by his servants. The one corresponding good news seems to be that there are actually less true servants than those who, in 2008, truly want a unified government.

    Facing Romney was the truth that there is no conservative complement to “liberal” advantage. If the people want to embrace security over freedom, no content and no machine will work. Still, for hope, double binds have a way of working themselves out. Usually by massive famine, war, something along those lines, so no worries, okay? Podhoretz hopes the double bind is resolved by the growing failure and misery of liberalism. However, liberalism already has a plan for that: Transfer the misery of the big city to the suburban, or more correctly, transfer the wealth of the suburban to the urban.

    Over and over again we have been warned about the Republic’s vulnerability. Podhoretz’es hope, seems to me, to be a “contentless” idea, based as it is on conjecture with no historical or even ideological support. Our children have not been wrested away from the evil complex which promises providence for votes. The re-structuring of our society will not happen by the next election, but by the next generation or two, and only if we demand the right to train and raise our children away from the influences of the evil complex. It is indeed the reason why the Pilgrims left Holland.

  17. expat Says:

    There will be different issues in 2014 and 2016. Some effects of Obamcare will be felt. The courts may have made some moves on affirmative action. The first black president won’t have to be defended. Rep governors may be making even more gains in getting their households in order, making a bigger contrast with California. New Yorkers may be tired of things like Sandy victims being subjected to NY Health Dept rules about hairnets for food donors. Petraeus and Gates may grant long interviews to Bob Woodward describing The Won’s incompetence. This little list also fails to include issues like Iran, China, Egypt and the EU money problems.

    I really don’t know why you believe the country will be attracted to the Choom gang elements of the libertarians. I am getting sick of people who put articulated principles above the ability to get the job done. We’ve seen enough flavors of the months this year.

  18. Gary Rosen Says:

    “Reagan was far to the left of today’s conservative litmus tests.”

    (mitsu via gringo)

    Doubtful, but there’s no question Obama is way to the left of Carter if we’re going to engage in rhetorical trickery.

  19. Mitsu Says:

    >“I would be saying the same thing in the aftermath of
    >an attack that happened under a Republican >president’s watch.”
    >I call bullsh*t.

    Well, you might call bullshit, but you’d be wrong. Had Romney or GWB or anyone else been President, I’d have the precise same assessment: the idea that the government ought to have known the exact parameters of who did what, when, in an attack like this, right after the attack, seems quite farfetched to me. It doesn’t matter who is president, these situations always take a while to settle out. We had no idea who hit us on 9/11, for instance, right after the attack.

    >If the folks of Benghazi were so pro-US, then
    >why would our government assume that the
    >Consulate was under siege by an angry mob?
    >An angry pro-US mob? In fact wasn’t Benghazi
    >a known hot bed of extremists, notwithstanding
    >the attitude of the larger population?

    This isn’t a “logical inconsistency”, you’re talking about a completely different issue. My point is that I think the evidence is quite strong that the Libya intervention strengthened our reputation in Libya and in Benghazi in particular. Those guys hate the Russians and Chinese with a white hot passion because they resisted the intervention. The West’s position was clearly strengthened by the intervention. I’m simply taking issue with the claim that somehow the intervention “strengthened” the hand of the Islamists in any way. Obviously the fact that the US and the West is generally popular in Benghazi doesn’t mean that there are zero Islamists in Benghazi or in Libya. The question here is what the net effect of the given intervention was.

    For instance, the situation is obviously different in Egypt. There, the Islamists have been strengthened by the revolution. They took power. They appear, so far, to be relatively moderate Islamists, but time will tell. I’m restricting my comments specifically to Libya.

    So there’s no “logical inconsistency” here. Of course there are still some Islamists in Benghazi. However, not only are they marginalized, after their attack on our facility, they are even more marginalized.

    >mitsu, who rejected the request

    I specifically said the State Department did seem to be concerned more about security in Tripoli than in Benghazi. This may well have been a mistake. At worst, however, this was an error in judgement within the State Department, not some sort of broad conspiracy. I find it difficult to see the “conspiracy”. They underestimated the need for security perhaps because the West is generally relatively popular right now in Benghazi. This doesn’t mean there was no threat at all, and obviously events showed there was a threat.

    Nevertheless the post-attack events (angry mobs overrunning Islamist militias in Benghazi) show that the general population is pretty hostile to the Islamist militias there.

    >The attacks told unidentified bystanders

    That’s a valid criticism of that quote; I searched to see if I could find another source for that and couldn’t find one. I am curious to know how the NYT justifies that statement.

    >please document that claim

    Here’s just one of many articles on the subject:

  20. Mitsu Says:

    (I might note, by the way, that Islamists were also elected to power in Iraq as well, after the intervention there. In general, Arabs elect Islamists when they have a chance to have elections. Libya is the single exception to that rule so far, which seems to lean against the hypothesis that our intervention was a net negative for our reputation in that country.)

  21. Curtis Says:

    I might smell, by the way,of cabbage put in the pot, as well, after the carrots. In general, cabbage emits odors when it has a chance to have the lid lifted. The exception, to the odor, it seems, so far, is not my butt, which seems to lean too far in the favor of cabbage odor and against the hypothesis of general odor so that intervention against us, in the use of peppermint and listerine, is a net negative for our reputation.

  22. Gary Rosen Says:

    “the idea that the government ought to have known the exact parameters of who did what, when, in an attack like this, right after the attack, seems quite farfetched to me.”

    Then why did we get such a strong indication from administration sources that the attack was incited by the video? Yes, they covered themselves by not making absolute statements but that idea did not come out of nowhere even though it was at total variance with the facts. It’s like Obama falsely claiming at the debate that he called it a terrorist attack. He used the word “terror” in his remarks but *not* specifcally to the Benghazi attack, only after he brought up the obvious terror attack of the original 9/11. That is what leads some people to believe that the statements were worded to try to promote the idea that the attacks were caused by the video while leaving enough wiggle room to disown that later.

  23. Gary Rosen Says:

    “you’d be wrong. Had Romney or GWB or anyone else been President, I’d have the precise same assessment”

    Spare us. It’s a little too easy to piously claim this with its implication that *you* are so fair-minded and even-handed. Anyway, you missed your chance to prove your point. You should have voted for Romney.

  24. Mitsu Says:

    >even thought it was at total variance with the facts

    Total variance? There were protests going on all over the world with respect to the video. The NYT says the militants themselves claimed the attack was due to the video. There was a ton of information coming from many sources at the time. As far as we know, even now, the attacks may well have been in response to the video — the mistake was thinking they were spontaneous, rather than carried out by an Islamist militia.

    >You should have voted for Romney

    Very funny.

  25. neo-neocon Says:

    Mitsu: you are the strangest sort of troll I’ve ever encountered. Unfailingly polite and endlessly patient, you think of yourself as openminded but almost never really take in what anyone says to you. I have never quite figured out why you come here, except to take up people’s time in fruitless and endless attempts at dialogue that go nowhere.

    You also seem to enjoy visiting after Republican electoral defeats. Your motivation is mysterious, unless it’s a sort of quiet Schadenfreude. I’m not sure whether you’re unaware of what you’re doing or whether you’re very aware, but you remind me somewhat of the journalists described in Peter Wehner’s Commentary piece:

    They appear to be completely blind to their biases and double standards. If you gave them sodium pentothal, they would say they were being objective. Self-examination, it turns out, is harder than self-justification.

  26. Gary Rosen Says:

    “the strangest sort of troll I’ve ever encountered. Unfailingly polite and endlessly patient”

    Don’t get taken in by superficial politeness, neo. I’ve often seen it used to only thinly veil the most hideous ideas and agendas.

  27. Mitsu Says:

    Neo, I’m sorry you feel that way about me. I come here mostly because of you — your writing, your thoughts and ideas. I think it’s unfortunate that you’ve decided that I’m a “troll” — obviously that’s not my intention. A troll, as I understand it, comes to simply stir up trouble by spewing thoughts and ideas that the troll doesn’t really believe, simply in order to spur some kind of reaction. As you must know from the example of your own friends and family, the views I’m expressing are views which I, and a very large number of people, hold quite sincerely, based on our own careful investigation.

    I come here partly because I think the political discourse in our country has taken a step backward since the Balkanization afforded by the Internet — we cease to see the other side as honest interlocutors. Instead, we think of each other as nefarious or somehow evil, attempting to subvert the Republic in some way. As you must know this view is very widespread about conservatives among people on the left. I don’t happen to share that view — I think most people on the left and the right honestly believe they are advocating policy which would advance the interests of the nation. I’m sure you, at least, think that your friends and relatives don’t actually want the downfall of the Republic.

    I find you in particular interesting because it’s clear that some of your insights happen to coincide with mine — for instance, you wrote a post once about a section of _The Book of Laughter and Forgetting_ about the “variations on a theme” which I mentioned to you before, a passage I specifically have always found very moving, myself. I suppose that little overlap has made me intrigued by you in particular.

    When you say I never really take in anything people say to me — I’m not sure what you mean by that. I think I listen and read as carefully as I can, and I reply with what I think of as a direct response that attempts to address the central point. Since I’m just one person with a finite amount of time, I can’t respond to literally every point all of your posters raise — but I think I’m responding to the central arguments with what appear to my mind at least to be serious replies. But, for instance, there are cases where your commenters raise important points: for instance, I accept that the NYT article claiming that the militants said they were attacking based on the video was problematic in that they didn’t cite a source and I can’t find any other reports about that in the MSM.

    What I’m interested in here is not convincing you that I or liberals in general are “right” — that’s not going to happen. I’m simply interested in communicating the possibility that we have reasons for thinking the way we do, which aren’t necessarily completely without basis. I mean, quite frankly in order to see some terrible conspiracy around the Benghazi attack I think you have to engage in a lot of speculation, and ultimately that speculation doesn’t appear to me at least to have a substantial basis. If you’re predisposed to assuming the State Department must have had some nefarious reasons for saying or doing what they did, then you might well presume something nefarious occurred. But I’m simply arguing that the simpler and more parsimonious explanation, that they simply didn’t know what the f— was happening for a while, and were interpolating based on incomplete analysis, seems far more plausible at least to me.

    As for why I come now; I first visited your blog in 2007, before the Obama election. Each time I left I suppose it was mostly because I had spent too much time here. I suppose I came back now because I hoped that maybe in the wake of this election there might be an opening for a broader reevaluation of issues.

  28. neo-neocon Says:

    Mitsu: that’s why I said you are the strangest sort of troll I’ve ever encountered. I am pretty well convinced that you are basically sincere and even basically well-meaning, but you just don’t see what you do and how little you take in. I think you are earnest, I just see that nothing seems to penetrate.

    In that respect I think you are correct that you very much like a lot of people I know, many of whom are friends of mine. You are actually more patient than most of them, but as I said, although you seem to be listening I think there’s some sort of wall up that means what we are saying here just doesn’t penetrate.

    For example, when you write, “I mean, quite frankly in order to see some terrible conspiracy around the Benghazi attack I think you have to engage in a lot of speculation…” it’s a good example of what I mean. Actually, if you read what people here are saying, a certain segment are just saying that the administration is extraordinarily incompetent, and then engaged in a cover-up. So they’re not even speculating on some extraordinary conspiracy. And then, in fact, one hardly has to engage in speculation at all to see the incompetence and then the cover-up; all one has to do is look at the facts. So we are talking at cross-purposes, and it’s wearying and never seems to go anywhere, like parallel roads that never meet.

  29. Mitsu Says:

    (And by reevaluation I don’t mean that I think you guys are going to change your minds. The most I hope to accomplish, as I said above, is to communicate the possibility that each side has some rational basis for their views, and secondarily to perhaps get across the idea that there are many possible political positions, not merely “left” vs “right”. I have views which are at variance with many of my friends on the left, and I’ve been attacked, ridiculed, flamed, etc., in some of those contexts many times in the past. There is a wide spectrum of political views, and I partly hope to at least convey that idea, even if I can never hope to convince anyone here.)

  30. Mitsu Says:

    Your post slipped. Well, I’m quite curious to hear an example of what you mean by that, specifically. In this discussion or any other, what’s an example of a point someone has raised which you feel I’ve not “taken in”? I am asking that quite sincerely. And what do you mean by “take in”? Do you mean convinced? Or are you saying that you think I’m simply ignoring points you or others make?

    I am, quite honestly, attempting to respond to points, and not simply ignore them. (As I’ve said, however, I am never going to be able to respond to every point). Being convinced by an argument is something quite different, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to be easily convinced: I don’t expect that of you or any of your commenters, either.

    But I would sincerely be interested in a specific example or two — you may well be right, I may have skimmed something or elided over something, or misunderstood. Seriously: I am not just asking this as a rhetorical device.

  31. neo-neocon Says:

    Mitsu: once again our comments crossed. I was adding on to my above comment when you wrote yours.

    Benghazi is a complex fact situation where you have to have been following it in some detail to see what we’re talking about here. The NY Times and other liberal papers would not give you the full picture, believe me. If you want to do a search of all my posts on Benghazi, just type the word “Benghazi” into the “Search” box here and start reading, and read all the comments, too. Of course, that would take an enormous amount of time, and I could well understand if you don’t have that time. But that would at least establish a baseline where you might begin to understand what I and others here are talking about.

    And even then, we still might be walking down those parallel roads.

  32. copper thorn Says:

    Neo Neocon initiated a conversation. “Send this article” by Andrew McCarthy “to liberals and ask them if any of it concerns them, that is if you can get them to read it in the first place.

    Mitsu took up the conversation. As will I.

    No. Nothing that McCarthy brings up about the conduct of the Obama administration concerns me.

    Being outraged and offended is historically the most common use of politics. Fox News sells this outrage. Many people are consumers of this outrage. From the content of this blog, outrage towards Obama is one of the primary relationships in the lives of Neo Neocon and the commenters here.

    Fox News has to create outrage out of fresh ingredients and they have been working this story very hard. There are four dead Americans and waving a bloody shirt is a good place to begin cooking up indignation. But there are clear reasons why this story gets zero traction outside of the community of people who are oriented to being scandalized by the Obama administration.

    I myself don’t feel like I have access to the classified information that put me in a position where I could meaningfully second guess the tactical decisions of military commanders in the field or CIA and NSC or State Department operatives. It is possible that mistakes were made as I am sure mistakes are made in every battle. I haven’t seen a mistake clearly articulated in a way that isn’t based on guessing and hoping in a context of having an outrage to feed.

    The criticisms in the McCarthy article to me are vague conjecture rooted in the same insinuation floated by Mitt Romney on the day of the Benghazi attack. Namely, that Barack Obama is more sympathetic with muslim terrorists than he is with his own ambassador. For this reason, it is to be presumed, Obama perceives a political advantage in minimizing the dangers of Islamic terror and from this orientation, the whole ‘scandal’ flows.

    I know there is also a community of people among whom it makes sense to say that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ. I myself am not concerned to investigate these claims further. I do not expect my news outlet to investigate these concerns except as an expression of political neurosis. The perception that Barack Obama is temperamentally sympathetic with Muslim terrorists is in the same family.

    During the Bush administration there were ten attacks on American embassies resulting in dozens of dead and injured. I am left seeing Barack Obama’s record on embassy security as one more metric of success to go along with his record of accomplishment in neutralizing terrorists and terrorism.

  33. Mitsu Says:

    Thank you very much for that, it is quite illuminating. I went back and read some of your posts about Benghazi. I was not aware of some of these details (although I was aware, for example, that the Libyan government had been claiming the attacks were coordinated as early as the day after the attacks, but I didn’t know on what basis they were making that claim).

    I commend you on correctly calling the attack coordinated based on early reports you saw, such as that report you linked to based on Artfldgr’s comment, published on the morning of the 13th; Susan Rice, according to the CBS report, was given talking points on the 15th that didn’t mention this. Clearly there was a bigger failure on the part of the CIA and/or State Department than I had thought earlier. On the other hand, I still don’t see the motive for intentional deception here — at most, all this did was delay the more correct assessment by a week or two; is this really that significant? There have been SO many intelligence failures under both Democratic and Republican Administrations it’s hard to count them all, most with far greater significance — for instance, Iraq WMDs? Our Angola misadventure? Toppling Mossadegh which eventually led to massive blowback? The Iranian hostage crisis under Carter and our failed rescue attempt? And so on.

    Regarding the militants and the video, this article discusses eyewitness accounts:

    It says eyewitnesses say the attacks were coordinated, but that the militants specifically were getting people to chant about the video. This backs the NYT characterization. There was a connection to the video; it just wasn’t spontaneous, it was organized.

    While I commend your correct call on the consulate attack, regarding this post about Libya (which I actually read at the time — I do check into your blog from time to time, I just haven’t commented for a while), I still don’t think your characterization has turned out to be correct:

    vis a vis “selling the Libyans the rope”. It seems to me that the overwhelming evidence is that the majority in Libya supports secular government, are relatively friendly to NATO and the US at this point, and the militants are being increasingly marginalized. This isn’t to say that you aren’t correct that there was inadequate security in Benghazi. I still don’t see what the Obama Administration would have to gain from a two-week delay intentionally misleading the public which would be significant enough to be worth the risk of intentional deception.

    However, like I said, I’m open to the possibility that somewhere in all your posts and comments there is information about which I am not informed.

  34. Mitsu Says:

    copper thorn slipped — the “thank you” was in reference to Neo’s post.

  35. Mitsu Says:

    Oh, and one last comment regarding incompetence vs conspiracy — I see that you characterized it as either incompetence or conspiracy; I’m just saying the conspiracy argument seems rather weak. As for incompetence, there does seem to be a pretty strong argument there, I grant you, and it is stronger than I had assumed prior to reading your earlier posts. Nevertheless, the entire matter doesn’t seem particularly significant, as I argued above.

  36. M J R Says:

    Okay, good folks . . . (and one or three other readers out there (smile)) . . . here’s an antidote of a sort to the Podhoretz piece and to many others in a similar vein:

    (It’s just over 15 minutes long, but it moves quickly — at least it did for me.)

    Happy Thanksgiving to neo and aggregated neo-denizens.

  37. Gary Rosen Says:

    “Being outraged and offended is historically the most common use of politics. Fox News sells this outrage.”

    Yes, I mean who ever heard of the left being outraged at conservatives. They are *so* much more decent and civil.

  38. Gary Rosen Says:

    “During the Bush administration there were ten attacks on American embassies resulting in dozens of dead and injured”

    1. How many of the dead and injured were Americans?

    2. How many American ambassadors were killed?

    3. After how many of these attacks did the Bush administration suggest an explanation that was politically advantageous to it but later proven not to be true?

  39. Richard Aubrey Says:

    What some folks don’t realize is that the real info is out there. They act as if the people to whom they (Mitsu) are talking are ignorant of the facts. Shortly after the attack, the House Oversight Committee had two State Dept security people who’d been in country, and two from the home-bound class. Of the latter, one, Charlene Lamb, said she was on the phone with the consulate as it happened. Lots of detail on refusals to provide the requested security.
    Lots and lots of real info was available to the admin in real time, and, unfortunately for them, to the rest of us very shortly thereafter. This is what people like Mitsu have not figured out.
    It may be one thing to take Rice, who, according to Obama had nothing to do with Benghazi, and give her a bogus script and expect her to not be curious. It may be one thing to say something unclear within, say, a day. It’s another to go to the UN two weeks later and lie his sorry ass off. Thing is, he expects us to believe him. That would be a bad idea even if we didn’t know better. But we do. Zero knows, however, that he has supporters who know as well as he does that he’s lying like a rug but try to tell us he’s good as gold. In a way, it’s insulting.
    For example, we know, but Mitsu doesn’t know we know, or hopes we don’t, that Stevens walked the Turkish ambassador out of the consul that evening an hour before the attack and all was peaceful.
    Mitsu seems to think we haven’t heard Mike Rogers.
    For Mitsu, read “liberals”.

  40. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    copper thorn said, “Namely, that Barack Obama is more sympathetic with muslim terrorists than he is with his own ambassador. For this reason, it is to be presumed, Obama perceives a political advantage in minimizing the dangers of Islamic terror and from this orientation, the whole ‘scandal’ flows.”

    You did not observe Obama’s apology tour in the ME? You did not hear his vow to stand with the Muslims when things got tough? You have not observed his disdain for Israel? You have not heard him say that Islamic terrorism and Iran are no real threat to us? You have not heard his claims that al Qaida is dead or in disarray?

    It is upon such observed speech and actions that we here consider that Obama is soft on Islamic terrorism. If you accept Obama’s beliefs, then of course, you see nothing objectionable. He is just being “diplomatic and even-handed.”

    He has embraced the CIA’s missile strikes and black ops as a stealthy way of waging war because it’s cheap as compared to conventional operations, the allied casualty rates are much lower, and it receives little or no media attention. Under Bush those ops received a lot of media attention – all of it negative. It’s an effective way to kill indiviual terrorists. But is it effective in winning the war? IMO, not so much. The terrorists are motivated by a deeply held, intolerant faith. Killing a few here and there does little to change their minds about their beliefs that they are destined to rule the world.

    You are very much of the same mind as the typical journalist. You cannot recognize your own biases because you accept as gospel truth all the assumptions of the Obama administration. Therefore, he is, in your opinion, acting quite rationally. Our host and many commenters here do not accept Obama’s ideas as always valid and rational. Thus our disagreements with him.

    You claim to see hate, and probably in your mind, bigotry. The fact is that we have a very different view of the realities of combating Islamic terrorism and Islam itself. Time and events will show which of us has a better grasp of reality.

  41. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Forgot to mention that the House hearing I described was on C-Span at least twice. Damned inconvenient for the Mitsus of the world, I call it.

    ‘nother question for grins. We all know we’re supposed to be sorry for the Crusades and all. Try asking somebody who’s promoting that what the religion of the area was before the Muslims arrived in the MENA. And should the Muslims be apologizing?
    Whyever not?

  42. neo-neocon Says:


    Those posts of mine on Benghazi that you read are just the tip of the iceberg. I would wager that if you followed this and other stories much more carefully, and read reliable sources on the right as well as whatever you usually read, plus all my many posts on the subject, it would become very very clear to you what I’m saying and why I say it.

    You still might not share my values as to what is important and what’s not. however. But at least you’d have the fact base to potentially understand it. That’s why I mentioned in my post that readers should ask liberal friends to read McCarthy’s article and then say whether the things in it concern them. Sometimes I think that if liberals knew what I know they would agree with me. That’s probably true of some liberals. But increasingly I have come to believe that for others (perhaps the majority? I’m not sure of that), they would not agree with me, because deep down there is a difference in values and priorities as well as facts and thoroughness. A mind is just too difficult a thing to change, and too threatening.

  43. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I think, sorry, you’re overthinking this. The question for libs is whether the pres at the time is dem or rep.
    Per Iod.
    The answer to that question can be considered a multiplier. Either it is a multiplier more than one–like a milliion or something–to decide the concern if the pres is rep, or it’s a tiny fraction to apply to the same issue if the pres is dem.
    They do the math and there’s the answer. Values, morality, likely consequences, ethical consistency, all of those things they claim to possess in copious amounts, especially compared to conservatives, Do Not Count.

  44. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Aubrey: I’m talking about those liberals who might be amenable to change, the ones who don’t always march in lockstep with groupthink. There definitely are such people; I was one myself.

    Remember that even though in retrospect I can see a ton of signs that I wasn’t ever firmly in the liberal camp, at the time I was living it I very much thought I was, and I had always voted that way. There are others like me. They probably aren’t a big percentage (a mind is, after all, a difficult thing to change) but in terms of sheer numbers there are probably quite a few.

  45. Steve Says:

    neo, that is an interesting observation about mitsu. Have you heard of the law of infinite cornucopia? Robert Wargas on pjmedia had a column about it. Basically people can always find another argument to justify their position. Maybe there is an idea that reality is malleable. I think soon enough the ‘blue state model’ will collapse. Maybe then there will be a forced re-examination.

  46. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Steve. No. en that happen in a smaller venue and the response is to blame the “greedy”. Reality will not reach these people.

    Neo. You came over to the dark side, but there are damn’ few.
    Problem is that for 99%+ of libs, conservative ideas and even questions are evil and wrong. So there’s no need to examine them. If I were to ask a lib who’s going on about the Crusades my question about what the religion of the MENA was pre-Muslim and if there were any parallels, I would be accused of racism. There would be no thinking involved. It’s unnecessary. I know. I’m related to some of them.

  47. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Aubrey: I disagree, and I know a lot of liberals. The percentage that are closed is not 99% IMHO, although it’s high. A lot of liberals are not especially polarized or intensely interested in politics, they are liberals through habit and a cursory reading of the MSM. Some live in purple states and know a lot of Republicans, and don’t necessarily think they’re evil.

  48. Otiose Says:

    In a book “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” the author Jonathan Haidt makes a point I believe to be valid – it is much more difficult for a ‘liberal’ to understand a ‘conservative’ than the reverse. Liberals tend to focus their priorities on one dimension (sometimes two e.g. care/harm and fairness/cheating) whereas depending on various factors conservatives spread their concerns over those two plus four more (loyalty, sanctity, authority, and liberty).

    This means that a conservative tends to have an easier time stepping into a liberal’s shoes and that a liberal tends to be more likely to assume bad intent on the part of conservatives.

    My impression from watching a tiny bit of Fox vs MSNBC is the the latter really do believe the former are evil whereas the Fox talking heads think their colleagues at MSNBC are just misguided.

    I’ve never had much success getting someone I know to move from liberal towards conservative. People have to notice something not fitting with their existing worldview and want to correct it. Living in CA I’m numb from years of exposure to people who see MSNBC as a shining example of unbiased news reporting.

  49. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I didn’t say that liberals think conservatives are evil, although I’m sure many do. How else would they be throwing around the term “racist” when they know it’s bogus?
    What I said was that libs don’t see a single reason to engage cons’ ideas or questions. The ideas and questions are evil and engagement is thus unnecessary.
    My liberal relations have seen me do some–almost–heroic good for others right in front of them. I’m sure it’s incomprehensible. But when I ask why a doctor would work for thirty cents on the dollar, the response is….”That’s the problem, we’re too greedy.”
    Or why a trip to the Rosebud reservation where the visiting youth group was taking trash out of the locals’ front yards was necessary. Who put it there, why didn’t the locals take care of it? “You just don’t understand.” Actually, I do. And they think they might–which would be catastrophic–if they actually engaged my question.
    Fortunately, since my ideas are evil, such engagement is comfortably unnecessary.

  50. Gringo Says:

    Mitsu: Reagan was far to the left of today’s conservative litmus tests.
    Gringo: Please document that claim.
    Mtsu: Here’s just one of many articles on the subject: Why Ronald Reagan Would Not Lead Today’s GOP. [troglodyte wingnut utilizes HTML coding.]

    As a Hollywood actor, Reagan had been the head of a labor union, the Screen Actors Guild, and was proud of the higher pay and benefits he negotiated for his members. As president, he praised labor unions…

    Does not support your point that Reagan was far to the left of today’s conservative litmus tests, for the following reasons. Regan’s time in the Screen Actors Guild, where he confronted overt and covert Communist attempts to take over the SAG, was instrumental in his change from lib to wingnut.
    Deeds count more than words. While Regan may have uttered boilerplate praise of unions while he was President, his breaking the air traffic controllers’ strike says more.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt was Reagan’s political hero and he voted for him for president 4 times. As president, he said, “F. D. R. was an American giant, a leader who shaped, inspired, and led our people through perilous times.”

    Does not support your point Reagan was far to the left of today’s conservative litmus tests, for the following reason. Neo along with me and many other commenters here, used to vote for Democrats. I have not noticed any hostility from Pubs from my formerly having been a member of the Democrats. Could FDR, Harry S Truman, or JFK have been nominated by the Democrats today?

    Abortion: While Reagan did sign the abortion law in California, while President he also expressed personal discomfort with abortion – not too different from what Romney has said. For all the attempts of Democrats to raise the red flag on the abortion issue, I would point out that since 1980 we have had 20 years of Republican Presidents who have all expressed some sort of discomfort with abortion, yet nothing much has changed regarding abortion law.

    The no new taxes approach from the Pubs is in response to the no spending cuts approach of the Demos.

    Regarding taxes, I would support the following:
    1) Cut of 10% in spending in all areas except Defense. Cut 5% in Defense. Not a bad idea to abolish some of the current Fed Departments, such as Housing and Education.
    2) Repeal ALL the Bush tax cuts. The rich would pay more, but the percentage of income earners paying income tax would also increase from the current ~53%.
    3) Repeal deductions for state income taxes.
    4) I like Glenn Reynold’s [Instapundit] of a 50% surcharge on the income of former government political appointees, above what they had made in government. Start at $100 K , say.

    I could go on, but will stop for now.

  51. NeoConScum Says:

    Liberals and Lefties rarely(..and I mean RARELY..!) expose themselves to the ‘unaccustomed torture of thought’. Bubbles inside bubbles inside vapor pockets inside koolaid jugs. Only very RARELY is one of the little twits open–really OPEN–to critical thinking.

    I was open to said thinking and various learned texts, articles, combative POVs from various directions and that–combined with a long developing feeling in my Gut–brought on my ‘mugging by reality'(Thank you, Godfather Irving Kristol)3-decades ago.

  52. Gringo Says:

    Richard Aubrey
    Neo. You came over to the dark side, but there are damn’ few.

    A fairly high proportion of commenters at Neo used to be libs. Not just Neo.

  53. Gary Rosen Says:

    It is particularly ludicrous to try to portray Reagan as a “union” man (and therby “leftist”) because of the SAG when one of his signature moves early in his first term was to lock out the air traffic controllers union.

  54. Gary Rosen Says:

    To be honest I can’t remember if he locked them out or hired strikebreakers after they went on strike but in any case it was very bold anti-union move.

  55. Mitsu Says:

    Richard Aubrey: I don’t even know who “Mike Rogers” is, nor am I able to really follow your argument. You seem to be indicating that it’s obvious that I “actually know” the truth that you guys seem to take for granted, and I’m just pretending to disagree. Well, that’s not the case, but you’re welcome to believe whatever it is you believe about my motives or the motives of the vast majority of liberals out there. Do you actually think we’re all just pretending to think what we think? Since I have never heard of “Mike Rogers” perhaps I’m not understanding the import of your post.

    >the law of infinite cornucopia

    Of course, this is precisely how we liberals think of conservatives; that many conservatives look at the evidence and spend a great deal of time and effort fashioning elaborate reasons why what seems apparent to liberals leads to radically different conclusions.

    For instance, Hamilton College surveyed pundits and judged how accurate their predictions were; Paul Krugman’s came out on top:

    From a liberal standpoint, this is fairly clear evidence that Krugman’s model of how things work is closer to the truth than many others. But, of course, I can easily imagine conservative counterarguments: the study was biased, the evaluation of the predictions is not objective, etc. And we just continue to go round and round.

    We can just throw such accusations, or actually get down to brass tacks and discuss the issues in a concrete fashion.

    I have very strong theoretical and empirical reasons for thinking that conservative economic policy is too extreme in the direction of deregulation. You and other conservatives may well disagree. I’d love to have a discussion about it, even though we will probably not convince each other.

    “I would wager that if you followed this and other stories much more carefully, and read reliable sources on the right as well as whatever you usually read, plus all my many posts on the subject, it would become very very clear to you what I’m saying and why I say it.”

    That could well be the case. I read several more posts of yours on the subject (in particular the fact that Abu Khattala is still at large) and I think these are concerning data points. However, I still feel there are three larger points which I have not yet seen you address in any of the posts I’ve read: again, that 1) this intelligence failure does appear to have been a failure, in the sense that it took a couple of weeks when it should have been more clear earlier to figure out what happened, but in the annals of intelligence failures it seems to be a pretty minor one, all things considered, and 2) the Libyan intervention seems to have bolstered the reputation of the West in Libya vis a vis other Arab nations, as evidenced by the fact the Libyans actually elected secularists to a majority in their Parliament.

    It seems to me that these two points are on pretty solid ground — but if you have any specific data points or facts which would militate against this, I would love to read about it. I have been convinced there was an intelligence failure, and I’m not particularly surprised that they’re trying to cover it up and/or deflect attention from it. But these other points make this all seem rather uninteresting as “scandals” go.

  56. Mitsu Says:

    Sorry, I was going to list three points but then decided to focus on two… I do know how to count, but not, apparently, how to edit.

  57. Gary Rosen Says:

    Note mitsu is now completely avoiding the “Reagan left” argument. By the way how are things going in Egypt?

  58. rickl Says:

    Paul Krugman is batshit crazy.

    If he is the most accurate prognosticator, then what does that say about the world we live in?

  59. NeoConScum Says:

    Paul Krugman…? Oy veh iz mir.

    And, I’m pure-WASP mongrel goyim.

  60. copper thorn Says:

    Someone asked how many American diplomats were killed during the Bush administration. Diplomat David Foy was killed in Karachi in 2006 by a car bomb.

    I don’t accept the premise that any of what the Obama administration said afterwards had any political advantage.

    I take it as fairly well clarified ithat the energy in this conversation comes from the perception this is the smoking gun that confirms how Obama’s sympathies are more aligned with Muslim terrorists than with his own ambassador.

    And I have the same reaction to that as when people present me evidence that Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ.

  61. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Mitsu. Rest assured that most people following the Benghazi issue know who Mike Rogers is–hint, House of Reps intel–and have seen him speaking to reporters and seen his comments in papers and magazines.
    Your pretense to not know that the rest of us know doesn’t actually, you know, make the rest of us not know. We do. That’s why watching you carrying on as you do is so amusing.

  62. Richard Aubrey Says:

    copper thorn. I think the question was “ambassadors”. If Foy was not an ambassador, then we have a goal-post moving incident.
    Point is not using b-gate to prove what you pretend to think it’s being used to prove.
    It’s being used to demonstrate that Obama and his cronies are incompetent, don’t have a clue about MENA and/or Islamism, and are too dishonest to admit what actually happened.
    Whether zero actually favors Muslims at the expense of the US or not is another question. In fact, the motivation doesn’t actually matter when judging the results.

  63. Mitsu Says:

    Okay, I’ve Googled Mike Rogers and the news. I’m sure I have read his comments before while reading about this, but I have a terrible memory for names, so I didn’t remember who it was you were talking about. All of this seems to boil down to this: who altered the talking points to remove references to potential terrorist involvement? I see Mike Brown keeps saying there “was no intelligence failure” but Petraeus himself testified that early on the CIA only thought there *might* be terrorist connections, not that they had definitively determined there were. I’m sure there were analysts who, like Neo, had determined that terrorists were behind the attack, but that is different from the entire intelligence community or the CIA as a whole settling on that explanation, and it’s also different from the unclassified talking points given to the State Department.

    Like I said, however, I’m convinced there was a fuckup here but in the annals of fuckups it doesn’t seem particularly major.

    I’m more concerned about the fact that one the main suspects is roaming at large in Libya. Explanations I’ve seen for this are simply that the Libyan government is rather afraid of the militias and/or the local officials are afraid to move against the militias. The government did, however, take action against the militias in that they ordered them disbanded and the headquarters of the militia under suspicion has been closed. But, clearly more needs to be done. My guess is the Administration is doing things behind the scenes, but that could turn out to be incorrect. Time will tell. Our government has a strong political and strategic incentive, however, to make a move.

    Regarding the Reagan debate, yes, I am ignoring it not because I don’t think you have made good points but because I have limited time, and the question of how “left” Reagan was is a fairly unimportant one, as he is dead and this is just a rhetorical exercise at this point. I will simply note that Neo herself mentioned that she thought Reagan was less conservative than many people seem to believe, and that’s in line with numerous accounts and comments I’ve read over time. Exactly where he stood in the spectrum is obviously something people could debate forever, like who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo.

  64. Gary Rosen Says:

    “I am ignoring it not because I don’t think you have made good points but because I have limited time, and the question of how “left” Reagan was is a fairly unimportant one, as he is dead and this is just a rhetorical exercise at this point.”

    It was important enough for you to engage in the rhetorical exercise, now you’re running away from it.

  65. Mitsu Says:

    >now you’re running away from it

    No, I still believe Reagan was to the left of the Republican Party today, but I also believe I don’t care enough to engage in an interminable debate about this one person in which one could take any given point and interpret it endlessly in whatever way suits your fancy.

    By more objective measures the Republican Party has moved significantly to the right in recent years:

    (scroll down to the see the graph). The Democratic Party has also moved to the left (contrary to the view of many on the left, which I can tell you perceives the Democratic Party as having moved right.)

    That’s a more interesting set of measurements than an abstract debate about Reagan.

  66. neo-neocon Says:

    Copper Thorn: your remarks have sparked a draft of a new article of mine, which will take a while to write. I’ve seen arguments such as yours all around the blogosphere. The article will be my response, but right now in summary I’ll just say that your analogies are not analogous whatsoever. All of the incidents you cite lack the characteristics that make Benghazi so dreadful. For example, in none of the embassy and consulate attacks was a single American even wounded, much less killed, nor was the inner part of the embassy or consulate breached. Nor were there requests for additional security that was denied, either previously or during the attacks (which were mostly car bombs, a very quick form of violence, as opposed to the lengthy battle at Benghazi). Nor were there coverups. No one is alleging that the problem during Benghazi was the attack itself: it was the previous security, the response during the attack, and the aftermath (including multiple coverups).

    Oh, and the car bomb that killed diplomat David Foy happened in the parking lot of the Marriot Hotel in Karachi. Absolutely no relevance to Benghazi whatsoever.

    No one here is suggesting that a president—either Bush or Obama or any other president—has to have zero casualties in the diplomatic corps on his/her watch (although zero casualties would be nice). But not all violent incidents/attacks are alike. Benghazi has characteristics that are completely unique and indicate truly astounding negligence and then mendacity. Nothing of the sort happened with Bush.

    Actually, I think you know that, and are hoping we’re too lazy to look up the facts.

  67. Mitsu Says:

    >Nothing of the sort happened with Bush

    Without doing the research into all the embassy attacks during the Iraq and Afghan war, I won’t dispute your research there, Neo. But what strikes me as so odd about this is that you seem to ignore what appear to most of us on the left side of the political spectrum dramatic and vast levels of incompetence, mismanagement, and mistakes on the part of Bush’s foreign policy throughout his tenure, the consequences of which are orders of magnitude more significant. The list is quite long: talking about a failure to respond in an aggressive manner to the threats in Benghazi vs the failure to respond in an aggressive manner to the situation with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the false conclusion that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, the mind-boggling failure related to disbanding the Iraqi Army, the lack of preparation for the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, the lack of attention to finding and capturing Osama bin Laden, and on and on. Each of these issues have been commented on and reported on and discussed in depth by foreign policy analysts on both the right and the left, and they represent failures which dwarf, by a huge degree, in scope and significance, the mistakes the State Department and CIA made in Benghazi, it seems to me, by nearly any objective standard. These mistakes led to thousands, tens of thousands of deaths both of our own soldiers and personnel and of innocent civilians.

    And this is not to say that only Bush made mistakes. Every president, from both parties, have made terrible mistakes. On balance, I’d say that Obama has been, in the large, very effective at foreign policy. This one incident is, to my mind, an indication of clear errors, but I still can’t see how it’s remotely of any great significance in the grand scheme of security and/or intelligence fuckups.

  68. neo-neocon Says:

    Mitsu: I’ve dealt with Iraq to the tune of 147 posts to date. Read them in order to see what I say about Bush and Iraq. No one’s ignoring mistakes.

    One big difference is that Iraq was an extremely difficult and exceedingly complex situation. The Benghazi attack was neither—and basic and very ordinary security precautions were not followed, either beforehand or during, and then it was both covered up and lied about in order to win re-election.

    And one of the very worst things about Benghazi is the fact that the media was and still is complicit in the cover-up. As I wrote today, here:

    Power-hungry and/or incompetent politicians count on the ignorance and/or inattention of the public. Sometimes the press functions to hold those politicians in check by informing the public what’s going on, but not now—at least, not where the Democrats are concerned.

    Obama has been one of the very worst presidents in foreign policy in my lifetime. Again, I’m not going to argue with you about it; a waste of time at the moment. My views, and the reasons behind them, are quite well documented on this blog already.

  69. Mitsu Says:

    >One big difference is that Iraq was an extremely
    >difficult and exceedingly complex situation.

    That’s true, but it was made considerably more complex by these errors. Just as you correctly realized the Benghazi attack was likely carried out by militants, I correctly foresaw the Iraq War was going to be far more difficult than the Administration thought, and more specifically I correctly foresaw the disastrous effect of disbanding the Iraqi Army; at the time I was flabbergasted by the move. So yes, of course I agree the situation was bigger and more complex, but that just made the obvious (to me) mistakes even more consequential, with much more disastrous effects down the line.

    To my mind, mistakes with gigantic consequences are far more worrisome than what appears to be mistakes regarding the security of a single diplomatic mission in a country which is largely friendly to the United States at present. The President is responsible primarily for these larger decisions, it seems to me, not as much for operational security at a small scale at every diplomatic mission, much as the way this was handled both prior to the attack and afterwards raises legitimate questions.

    It still seems a bit odd to many of us on the leftward side, however, that there just seems to be a double standard here: the Iraq War deposed a somewhat more secular dictator with a democratically elected Islamist government which is rather friendly to Iran, a country which is a legitimate and serious threat to the region. Why is there not the same level of objective concern about this as there is about a similar situation in Egypt? The Libyan conflict, by contrast, deposed a dictator who had engaged in terrorist attacks against Western targets, and their government is now run by relatively pro-Western secularists. Not only this but the Libyan intervention cost a few orders of magnitude less in dollars, and zero American lives. While I am open to the argument that the Egyptian situation is still murky, I can’t see a strong argument that the Libyan situation is much of anything but a clear win for our side. However, I agree, it is probably too time-consuming to engage in a lengthy debate in your own comments section, and I apologize if I’ve pulled you too far into that here. I do appreciate the efforts you’ve made here, and I apologize for not having the time right now to read every one of your posts… though I do wish I did have the time, actually.

  70. Mitsu Says:

    (I mean zero American military casualties during the war, though there were two American journalists killed and of course the Benghazi attack caused casualties).

  71. Gary Rosen Says:

    “Someone asked how many American diplomats were killed during the Bush administration.”

    No, I asked how many ambassadors. Try a reading comprehension course before posting here. Of course maybe your reading comprehension is great and you deliberately changed it.

    “I don’t accept the premise that any of what the Obama administration said afterwards had any political advantage.”

    Sure, it’s not like he was running on his claims of thwarting terrorism or anything.

  72. Gary Rosen Says:

    Noted that CT did not answer any of my questions except for one he distorted.

  73. NeoConScum Says:


    The massive & costly Victory in Iraq was completely ABANDONED by B.Hussein Obama. The Surge and its aftermath worked. Obama, who claims(cough)to have “ended the War in Iraq”, in fact–bottom line–RETREATED from that Victory and Stability. Say, for example, if the US had withdrawn in total from the hard won victory in Korea. Shameful beyond expressing.

    President Bush: Large Thundering Cojones.

    President Obama: Vast Testicular Concavity.

  74. NeoConScum Says:

    Follow Up…That shameless Retreat was followed by weakening, fatally, a Surge in Afghanistan. Now, for all our enemies, The Bama has thoughtfully(and INSANELY)provided an End Date & Exit Date for that country.

    Further, he has broadcast to all our enemies and potential enemies that he is tepid, flabby, reticent and largely disinterested in Gloabl Power Politics.

    Lucky us. Lucky world. SHAMELESS Moral Cowardice.

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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