Harvey Mansfield
I'm Sorry I'll Miss This

Pasting Feathers Together and Hoping for a Duck

John Holbo writes:

John Holbo: Like pasting feathers together and hoping for a duck: If you haven't, you should read this Intel-Dump post, "National Insecurity" http://www.intel-dump.com/archives/archive_2006_09_17-2006_09_23.shtml#1158687984. And then read all 154 comments. If every American voter had to read the whole thread (it's only, like, 30,000 words) I think the Democrats would get about 70% of the popular vote, showing most dramatic improvement in red states. Of course, we would still have no real plan for Iraq, sadly. But accountability starts at home.

The moral progress of the spectacularly ill-named Diogenes, through the thread, is worthy of special attention. He is the first commenter, leaping in with a brash accusation of partisan bias. When it is pointed out this thing he calls "a subsidiary of moveon.org" is a catalogue of facts, he fires back, guns blazing in all manner of directions. Gradually he is reduced to mounting a narrow but determined point defense: we need to be roughing up some terrorists. He's shining a lantern beam of, like, moral darkness, in the dead of factual night, looking for a bad man. Or, to put it a bit less unkindly, he is bound and determined to find some way to be bloody-mindeder than thou. The last stand of the moral clarity brigade. The fact that Diogenes in effect sidetracks serious discussion of Iraq and national security issues by loudly making the case for torture is a hideous illustration of just how wrong the frame of the national debate is, at the moment.

I'll just quote the thread's owner, in comments:

Some will wonder why I bother to respond to Dio instead of ignoring him as a troll? Because he is not a troll. He believes what he is saying, and 32% of US voters agree with him. They can't really say why they agree, or they rely on "documents" that even the White House won%'t push for fear of giving the Democrats another cudgel to beat them with -- in short, the administration knows that such talk is nonsense. But why do they still imply such nonsense? Because people WANT to believe that the president has a plan, they WANT to believe that our nation was not misled or lied to, they WANT to believe that our cause, for which we have sacrificed so much, is just and right. They WANT to believe that invading Iraq was the right thing to do.

The title of this post is taken from another commenter, who thusly characterizes the CPA. The torture debate, I guess, is what happens when "pasting feathers" turns nasty. We'll show that duck.

The first step for the Dems is becoming the party of speaking hard truths about what is going on NOW before they can hope to be the party of making plans about what should be done. (Plans they have no hope of implementing before 2008, after all. But telling the truth can start today.) Democrats will, of course, be maligned as traitors and defeatists and Bush-hating partisans -- a thousand Diogeneses, as if to make up for the duck, will tar and feather with terrible zeal. But I simply refuse to believe that telling hard truths and holding a couple yards of high moral ground -- about torture -- isn't a stance that can win the approval of a majority of the American people.

One of the great things about the internet is that one virtually meets so many people who make one proud to belong to their species. And then there are people like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the 101st Fighting Keyboarders.