Joe Conason's Journal

Democrats finally wake up. Plus: Who does the better Chomsky imitation, Gore -- or Sullivan! You decide.

By Salon Staff

Published September 25, 2002 2:58PM (EDT)

Changing the tone in Washington
At long last, the Senate Democrats responded today to the grotesque political spectacle of recent days, when both president and vice president have publicly questioned the loyalty of anyone who dares to disagree with the administration on war and homeland security. Insinuations about the patriotism of the opposition have festered in the mouths of Republicans for some time now -- but only when the president himself shrilly claimed that the Senate "doesn't care about the security of America" did Tom Daschle react. Frankly, I thought Daschle incapable until now of answering with appropriate heat this kind of McCarthyite attack. A hawkish president and an ultrahawkish vice president who both found ways to avoid serving in Vietnam, talking trash about senators like Daniel Inouye, who left an arm in Italy, and Max Cleland, who left three limbs in Vietnam? That's enough to make anyone furious.

By the way, are Bush, Cheney and the Senate supporters of their homeland security bill saying that unionized public employees are less patriotic than they are? The president should go back to ground zero and tell it to the firefighters.

Sullivan channels Chomsky
Rather than assume the daunting task of correcting all that's false and overheated in Andrew Sullivan's article today, I'll post a link to Al Gore's San Francisco speech and let readers decide whether it's "Chomsky-like" in any respect. Oh, all right, here's a very Chomsky-like bit:

"I believe that we are perfectly capable of staying the course in our war against Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, while simultaneously taking those steps necessary to build an international coalition to join us in taking on Saddam Hussein in a timely fashion.

"The president should be authorized to take action to deal with Saddam Hussein as being in material breach of the terms of the truce and therefore a continuing threat to the security of the region. To this should be added that his continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially a threat to the vital interests of the United States.

"But Congress should also urge the president to make every effort to obtain a fresh demand from the Security Council for prompt, unconditional compliance by Iraq within a definite period of time. If the council will not provide such language, then other choices remain open.

"But in any event, the president should be urged to take the time to assemble the broadest possible international support for his course of action."

Sullivan speciously charges the Clinton administration with "eight years of indolence and passivity" on Iraq. He knows that as soon as the UNSCOM inspectors were forced out of Iraq in December 1998, Clinton directed heavy airstrikes at Saddam's installations -- without concern for the fact that cheap politicians and their echoes like Sullivan would falsely accuse the president, against all the available evidence, of "wagging the dog."

Back then, Sullivan wrote the following Chomsky-like sentence in a column for a London newspaper: "The many Iraqi civilians being wounded or killed in Operation Desert Fox surely deserve some assurance that they are regrettable victims of a just war, not missile fodder for a narcissist's final gamble."
[2:21 p.m. PDT, Sept. 25, 2002]

Get him a Handi-wipe
Only readers with a strong taste for the pathological should examine -- perhaps wearing protective face gear -- Michael Kelly's spittle-flecked freak-out about Al Gore. It provides further evidence for the clinical diagnosis offered by Marty Peretz to explain Kelly's dismissal as editor of the New Republic. Oddly, much of what Gore said that drove Kelly into fits of distemper can also be found in a thoughtful piece on Iraq by James Fallows, in the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly. That magazine, still edited by Kelly, also featured a Fallows profile of Gore in July 2000, with a disgraceful cover illustration showing the then-vice president sporting vampire fangs. (Kelly says he will soon relinquish the Atlantic editorship to write a book about the early steel industry, or something like that.)

For a refreshing alternative, read today's funny but worried Maureen Dowd on the aging male clique of Heathers now in charge of Western civilization.

Them dumb liberals
Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, former economics professor at a fourth-tier university -- and thus one of the Republican leadership's top intellectuals -- thinks conservatives are smarter than liberals and that people in the "hard sciences" are more deeply intelligent than those attracted to the arts. He blurted this pearl at a public forum in Florida, while uttering other tasteless comments about smart and dumb Jews. Specifically, Armey says he knows two different Jewish communities, "One of deep intellect and one of shallow, superficial intellect."

Matching wits with Professor Armey may be the ultimate fool's errand, but just for fun let's see how his observations stand up to brief empirical scrutiny.

The smartest Jew of the past century, by most reckonings, was indeed a "hard" scientist. Albert Einstein was also a hardcore democratic socialist. He won the Nobel prize in physics in 1921. The names of numerous other laureates whose politics Armey might correctly categorize as liberal can be found here, and here, as well as over here. Almost all of these are luminaries of such hard sciences as physics, chemistry, biology or (ahem) economics. I'm hoping Armey will expand on his theory when he delivers his Nobel address someday.
[8:06 a.m. PDT, Sept. 25, 2002]

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