Saturday, April 17, 2004

Davy, Davy Brooks: King of the Wild Frontier

When I started today's Brooks' column, I was like, damn Dave, you're too hard on yourself:

The first thing to say is that I never thought it would be this bad.... Nonetheless, I didn't expect that a year after liberation, hostile militias would be taking over cities or that it would be unsafe to walk around Baghdad. Most of all, I misunderstood how normal Iraqis would react to our occupation. I knew they'd resent us. But I thought they would see that our interests and their interests are aligned.

C'mon, buck up old sport. Remember, everything's okay. Don't get down. Maybe you just need to take a trip into the Woody Allen-free wilds of Franklin County, Penn., to clear your head.

But after reading this raggedy-assed op-ed from start to finish -- with his closing remarks of, "We hawks were wrong about many things. But in opening up the possibility for a slow trudge toward democracy, we were still right about the big thing." -- I have one thing to say. "Davy, you got me again!"

For a split second, I thought they had discovered the tumor in Davy's brain that causes his conservativism (but then, if Brooks is off killing bears and Injuns in the woods in Franklin Co., he probably doesn't have time to see Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You"). But after 500 words or so, it has been proven that the golf ball is still lodged in there.

A Dissembling Hawk: David Brooks concedes a few points in order to preserve his "I'm still right about Bush and war in Iraq" main point. Observe:

We hawks were wrong about many things. But in opening up the possibility for a slow trudge toward democracy, we were still right about the big thing.

Whether you speak of your humility or not, that's not humble. That's clever. That's making it seem like you're human and willing to make mistakes -- perhaps even likeable -- and taking advantage of the political capital it gives you to win what you really wanted anyway. It's the difference between George Bush naming a mistake he has made and George Bush saying he's sure he's made mistakes, but he can't think of them.

No, David. You're wrong about the big thing. And as Richard Cohen recently noted in the Washington Post, "Once you make the initial mistake, little you do afterward is right."

- Marc

Friday, April 16, 2004

Indispensable Indie: My article on Snow Patrol and Sebadoh is now online at Still no word on when it will appear in the newspaper, but they're hoping for Monday or Tuesday. Sweet.

- Marc
Another Pitchfork Diss: So my Snow Patrol/Sebadoh article hasn't appeared in Chicago Red Streak yet. I'll let you know when it does.

In the mean time, as Snow Patrol's Final Straw has emerged as one of my favorites of 2004, I've realized yet another flaw in Pitchfork's embarrassing review of the disc. You see, it was like a "C"-worthy English paper: It observed the obvious, but failed to take into account the significance of what it saw. Pitchfork's word processor-wielding cretin writes:

"Spitting Games" veers dangerously close to high school poetry: "My heart is bursting in your perfect eyes/ As blue as oceans and as pure as skies."

This is true. The "high school poetry" is also intentional. The song describes the shift from the immature, idealized romance of high school crushes and the ensuing disillusionment when this proves not to match reality. One of the song's opening lines is "I'm far too shy to speak to you at school." I suppose the reviewer would take this to mean that the 27-year-old Lightbody is still in school! But the song's closing lyrics are telling:

After that the floodgates opened up
And I fell in love with everyone I saw
Take your time I'm not in any rush
And it's in everything I ever write

It's not as if I need the extra weight
Confused enough by life so thanks a lot
Lonely written words for company
Just raise the roof this once and follow me.

This hits pretty close to home for me. When I was in middle and high school, I was the type to develop overweening crushes that poured out in lyrics about "perfect eyes." Then in college, I "fell in love with everyone I saw," but this time it only went as far as first sight. For about a year I was convinced that there was no such thing as love. "It's not as if I need the extra weight," I thought.

A year later I fell in real, grown-up love -- the kind that's so mundane it's almost impossible to describe in songs, but which is the most important part of my every day. That's what the rest of the album brilliantly encapsulates, especially the superficial bickering of an adult romance (which Mr. Deusner, like most Pitchfork scribes, has likely never experienced). But "Spitting Games" is all about high school poetry. Deusner notices this, but is too dense or self-absorbed to comprehend why it sounds like high school poetry.

For this, Whopundit gives the critic a "C" and demands to speak with his high school English teachers. Perhaps the poor review-scribbler will one day find his true love in David Brooks, whose columns are ephemeral as starlight and as empty as space.

- Marc

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Brooks Kills 'Em: Remember columnist David Brooks' defense for his lies? That he was just joking? Remember wondering why he wasn't funny? Turns out, sadly, we were wrong. Here's a humdinger from yesterday's Newshour with Jim Lehrer:

LEHRER: David, is it fair to say that events have literally forced the president to have this news conference tonight?
BROOKS: Actually George Bush wakes up every morning and says, can you please let me into a room of reporters? That's what I really want to do today. No, it's clearly there's a sense, first of all, we have the crisis in Iraq last week.

Well, maybe that wasn't so funny. Here's Brooksy's sweetest irony, though:

BROOKS: The worst thing [Bush] could do is be too Pollyannaish, too much happy talk. That would be the worst possible outcome.

That's gold, Jerry!

- Marc

Best Article About Last Night: Try as I might, I'm not going to top this jarring response:

George Bush's press conference on April 13 was a scary performance.

Not because his second sentence was ungrammatical: "This has been tough weeks in that country."

Not because he pronounced "instigated" as "instikated" in his fourth sentence.

Not because he said Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of State.

Not because of his foolish comment that before 9/11 "we assumed oceans would protect us." (Ever since the Russians built their first ICBMs fifty years ago, the oceans haven't protected us.)

Not because he said of the August 6 briefing, "Frankly, I didn't think it was anything new"!

Not because he said that even if he had known beforehand that Iraq did not have WMD stockpiles, he still would have gone to war against Saddam Hussein.

Not because he had no coherent answer as to why Dick Cheney must hold his hand when he testifies to the 9/11 commission.

And it goes on...

- Marc
"War footing" is the new "shaking the trees" is the new "hair on fire" is the new black.

Talking Points Update: Bush's made many troubling statements last night, but most deal with, as William Saletan notes, what's going on inside of Bush. Therefore, much of his talk was a matter of faith; either you believe him, or you actually read the news and you know that he is stonewalling.

The emergence of new spin points, however, is now a matter of record. A "reporter" whom neither CNN nor Noam Scheiber recognized (yet who was one of Bush's "must-calls") asked the following question:

You have been accused of letting the 9/11 threat mature too far, but not letting the Iraq threat mature far enough. First, could you respond to that general criticism?

Brooksy's new talking points have spread! But they are false. Who among us has accused the President of "not letting the Iraq threat mature far enough"? What critics have said is that (a) Iraq simply was not a threat, (b) the Bush administration distorted and concealed evidence in an effort to falsely persuade Americans of the alleged Iraqi threat, (c) the President's go-it-alone policy in Iraq was wrong, and (d) the President currently has no plan for how he will accomplish his goals in Iraq.

Last night, Bush did nothing to counter those arguments. He did, however, suggest that his previous go-it-alone stance might now become Kerry's stance, mentioning U.N. involvement. But though Bush said we must stick to the June 30 deadline for turning over Iraq, he did not say to whom he plans to turn it over. That's a glaring omission, and it reveals the practical bankruptcy of the administration's grandiose rhetoric.

UPDATE: The reporter was Bill Sammon, of the Rev. Moon's Washington Times and the Rev. Murdoch's Fox News, according to Josh Marshall.

- Marc
Before We Get Serious: I'd like to scoop Slate by pointing out this classic Bushism from the opening seconds of last night's statement:

This has been tough weeks in that country.

That's from the official transcript.

- Marc

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Bush Flip-Flops Again: Spinner David Brooks says those who criticize Bush on both 9/11 and Iraq are hypocrites. Oh, really?

Bush on Iraq, Jan. 28, 2003:
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?

Bush on 9/11, yesterday:
There was nothing in there that said, you know, there's an imminent attack. There was nothing in this report to me that said, oh, by the way, we've got intelligence that says something is about to happen in America.

Is it hypocritical of Brooks and Bush to espouse such contradictory perspectives? We don't know. The more importance questions are: When Bush received the Aug. 6 PDB, did he do anything to thwart Bin Laden, who was "determined to strike in [the] U.S."? (We're not asking him to "move mountains" here.) Did we attack Iraq without enough evidence to justify such an attack and without planning for how to win the war?

Presumably, Bush will answer these questions tonight. When will Brooksy?

- Marc
The Talking Points Are In: This morning David Brooks went about his usual logic-bending assault on anyone who disagrees with President Bush. He talked about two irrelevant Reagan-era officials, with whom he knew most of his readers would not be familiar, and championed them as paragons of honesty and credibility. Iran-Contra notwithstanding, the argument of the liberal media's favorite conservative slug boils down to this: Critics of the administration are "hypocrisy-laden" for claiming that Bush should have done more to prevent 9/11 but done less to prevent Saddam Hussein from attacking us. Oh, and Bush needs to send more troops, which he is doing anyway. (As Fritz notes, "Brooks always throws in that 'And the administration is wrong too.' But it's always: Democrats kill and eat cute puppies, and the administration sometimes doesn't rub puppies' bellies for quite as long as the puppies would prefer.")

Seem crazy? Crazy like a Fox. It appears Brooks, as usual, has come into possession of Karl Rove's latest attack plan. Noam Scheiber at TNR has discovered a pattern: Mary Matalin and the Wall Street Journal editorial page are advancing the same irrelevant claim.

As I rebutted on "Is it hypocritical for Bush to be inactive on threats preceding September 11, and conversely to be too agressive on Iraq? If Brooks is correct, and we are hypocritical, then so too is Bush." Of course, Bush is a known flip-flopper.

Look, this argument is silly. To critics of the administration, 9/11 was part of the war on terrorism. It was our Pearl Harbor. Attacking Iraq is not part of the war on terrorism. It is tantamount to if Roosevelt had attacked Mexico instead of Japan. It is, in other words, total folly. Even White House press secretary Scott McClellan has now acknowledged that the war on Iraq is not part of the war on terrorism:

Q How are you going to get unity, strength and resolve if you have large populations in Europe opposed to what the United States has done? And if you get the leadership to shift, as happened in this election in Spain --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let's distinguish here, there's the global war on terrorism, and I think in some instances you're referring to some differences on Iraq.

Who's the hypocrite here? E-mail me the answer, Brooksy, and I'll send you a vial of truth serum.

- Marc
Support Our Troops: An Islamic group has called for a Pentagon investigation into a "gag" photo of a member of the U.S. Marine Corps posing with two Iraqi children, Marine Corps Times reported. One of the children holds a sign: "Lcpl Boudreaux killed my Dad, th[en] he knocked up my sister!"

"Gag" or not, this is pretty despicable. I hope Mr. Boudreaux is held fully accountable in a court of law. We can spare his father and sister -- this time.

- Marc

Monday, April 12, 2004

Good Morning, Vietnam: Newsweek seems to be hitting Bush from all angles this week. First, a Newsweek poll showed Kerry opening a commanding lead over Bush.

Now, the magazine's cover story broaches "The Vietnam Question."

The article's subhead launches the opening volley: "In Iraq, the scale is smaller, but there are echoes. How it compares with Vietnam—and doesn't."

Though the reporters hesitate to conclude that Iraq is exactly like Vietnam (because, of course, it isn't), it seems significant that such a widely circulated publication is raising that specter. Newsweek isn't Senator Robert Byrd; it's a magazine many Americans invite into their homes every week. And it's comparing Bush's war to the worst in American history.

The question is, will Newsweek's readers pay attention?

- Marc

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Depends What Your Definition of "America" Is: The AP headline: "Bush Says Memo Said 'Nothing About an Attack on America'"

The memo's title: "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US."

I'm not sure why they're so intent on lying about this. I mean, mistakes were made. None of us expected such an attack. But on Easter Sunday, our President is lying about the worst attack ever on U.S. soil. Don't you wish he was getting more blowjobs?

Impeach the bastard.

Update: Even in context, the President doesn't look much better:

"That PDB said nothing about an attack on America. It talked about intentions, about somebody who hated America -- well, we knew that."

Intentions to do what, Mr. President? To attack America.

Come to think of it, I don't think Bush really said anything about tax cuts in his 2000 campaign. Just about intentions.

- Marc

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