Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Monday, January 4, 2010

In Which I Berate an Editor - Again

This week, Detroit News editor and columnist Nolan Finley treats us to the brilliant and strikingly original concept that WE LACK THE WILL TO FIGHT TERROR.  Really.  You can't make up stuff like this.  As both of my loyal readers will no doubt have already sussed, it prompted the following letter, which I just sent via e-mail.  This might become a weekly JazzBumpa tradition.
Dear Mr Finley:

Congratulations!  This week you managed to write 202 words of relatively coherent prose.  Unfortunately, though, you kept on writing past that point, and your knee-jerk reactions took over.

Why would you mention President Obama, nearing the end of the first year of his presidency, in the context of a problem that is decades old?  You must want us to believe it is his fault.  Never mind that his policies and those of his predecessor, St. George of Crawford are, on balance, pretty darned similar.  Oh, yes, there is a difference, and we'll get to it.

Besides blaming the president, what else do you have to offer?  Ah yes, profiling and torture.  You see, Mr. Finley, and sorry for the metaphor mashing, but when the knees jerk so spasmodically, that's when the wheels come off.  How many Muslims do you suppose there are on the planet - 1.8 billion maybe?  In your next column, please describe the mechanism and logistics for managing the profiling of over 27% of the population of the world.  I'm sure, with your creative imagination, you'll have no problem.  And your imagination is manifest - I don't believe anyone else have ever called a federal jail cell "cozy."

And, please, let us speak plainly, not in code.  When you say "We lack the will" you mean Mr. Obama lacks the will.  And why mention Briney Spears, as awful as that prospect might be, when what you really mean is Lady Gaga, or more likely waterboarding?  We all know, from our experience in treating Khalid Sheik Mohammed to those tender mercies, how effective that is.

Which brings us to the difference.  Mr. Obama has banned torture, and wants to close Gitmo, though that is not going particularly well; while Mr. Bush loved torture in all of its manifestations - though probably not with the same passionate dedication as Mr. Cheney, who was rather more focused.  But your claim that Mr. Obama is conflicted on terrorism is asinine, inane, and absurd.  And, unless you are an even bigger idiot than I suspect, a bare-faced lie.  Since I really don't want to think that of you, I'll just give you credit for a woefully inept turn of phrase.  The real problem, after all these decades of terrorism, is what to do about it.  Mr. Obama is conflicted about solutions, as any thinking person would be.  Clearly, the long-standing policies of wars, rendition camps, and torture that he inherited haven't solved the problem.  But your solution: more of the same.

As was pointed out on ABC News Roundtable yesterday, It's highly unlikely that the underpants bomber's father would have turned his son in, for whatever that might have been worth, had he thought he would be sending him into a black hole, rather than a civilized criminal justice system.  Beware of unintended consequences.  It was also pointed out that Mr. Obama is, in fact, not straying far from the Bush protocols.  Remember Richard Reed?

Here is the clip.


I have to amend what I said to you last week.  Truth is, you are both a scoundrel and a fool.  And your feeble attempt to lay the blame at the feet of the current president reveals that you are nothing more than a partisan hack.  Bush does something, that's A-OK.  Obama does the same thing, and he is "conflicted on terrorism."  Further, you are the kind of pseudo-patriot who genuinely lacks the will to preserve and protect our Constitution during difficult times.  As Mr. Franklin, one of the framers, put it, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Sooner or later, there will be another terrorist attack.  No method or technology is ever going to be so perfect as to screen out every possible terrorist.  If that sad day happens during the Obama presidency, you and your ilk will be gloating.  I can see your column title now: "I TOLD YOU SO."

What a pity people like you, who place partisanship above country, are in the press corps.

Very truly yours,


Update:   The lovely wife found an article which is very much to my point.

A half-dozen former senior Bush officials involved in counterterrorism told me before the Christmas Day incident that for the most part, they were comfortable with Obama's policies, although they were reluctant to say so on the record. Some worried they would draw the ire of Cheney's circle if they did, while others calculated that calling attention to the similarities to Bush would only make it harder for Obama to stay the course. And they generally resent Obama's anti-Bush rhetoric and are unwilling to give him political cover by defending him.

Since I thought it would only be fair to share this new-found information with Mr. Finley, I sent him this follow-up note.

Dear Mr. Finley:

Here is an update to my earlier letter.

As it turns out, some actual conservatives from the actual previous administration actually think Obama is actually doing it right.

It must be cold and lonely on the dark, bleak peninsula you share with Mr. Cheney.  If he invites to to go hunting, please find some excuse to decline.



Update 2: Clicking through the HuffPo link, we find Yglesias saying this:

It’s really staggering what this says about the ethical caliber of the people we’re talking about. These are the toughest issues out there. Obama is, they think, doing the right thing. But some of them don’t want to say he’s doing the right thing because that might make Dick Cheney mad and they’re timid, gutless careerists? And others don’t want to say he’s doing the right thing because their feelings are hurt that a Democrat said bad things about his grossly unpopular Republican predecessor? For this they’re going to undermine support for policies that they themselves believe are keeping the country safe?

Wow.  Wish I would have thought to put it that way to our esteemed editor.
The source of the quote attributed to Franklin is  An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania. (1759); the book was published by Franklin.  Evidently the actual author was  Richard Jackson.  More info here.

Hat tip to Prometheus 6 for the ABC clip.

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