Joe Conason's Journal

Torch is out -- but are his critics really happy?

By Salon Staff

Published September 30, 2002 3:14PM (EDT)

Getting what they want
Just four days ago, Republican senatorial candidate Douglas Forrester demanded that Bob Torricelli step down. "Mr. Torricelli has disgraced himself and New Jersey," he said. "The people of New Jersey deserve better. I reiterate my call for Mr. Torricelli to resign his office and apologize to the people of New Jersey." But before Torricelli decided to follow his rival's advice, Forrester's friends began whining.

"This is a cynical attempt by party bosses to manipulate democracy," cried the executive director of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee." In other words, they've suddenly realized that the Torch's resignation would allow Gov. Jim McGreevey to name a new Democratic senator -- who would probably beat Forrester in a special election. Some people are just never satisfied.

A voice from the attic
In today's Wall Street Journal, former editor Robert Bartley shows us why he was ushered into the attic and awarded his own space, much in the manner of Abe Rosenthal. Bartley always wrestled with facts and usually lost, but now it's clear that his memory is terrible, too. This meandering column of "selective" Vietnam history is somehow meant to prove that although the antiwar movement is "dead," it will nevertheless ruin those Democrats who are still in its thrall.

As he concludes after much space-filling blather, the Democratic Party has "been able to win the presidency only with Southern governors who had no foreign policy record to connect them to the anti-war movement." He must be talking about Carter and Clinton. But didn't the Journal publish the first investigation of Clinton's draft record and antiwar activism? Didn't Bartley's editorial pages publish one nutty essay after another excoriating the draft-dodging Arkansan? Didn't a "Review & Outlook" editorial about Clinton end by endorsing P.J. O'Rourke's strangely masochistic desire that a Vietnam vet "punched me in the face for being a long-haired peace creep?"

How could anyone forget an editorial as witty as that?
[2:53 p.m. PDT, Sept. 30, 2002]

Mooning Bush
Those soft-on-Saddam appeasers in the liberal media are still busy undermining the White House case for unilateral war. Those blame-America-first types are saying we sold Iraq biological and chemical weapons, and that the president is wrong about Baghdad's nuclear weapons program.

Oh, sorry -- that isn't the liberal media, it's the Washington Times. The ultra-right-wing Beltway daily not only scooped the rest of the press corps, but published an important story last Friday that is highly unfavorable to the president and his position on Iraq. Apparently reporter Joseph Curl called the International Atomic Energy Authority in Vienna to request a damning report cited by Bush on Sept. 7.

Remember? The president stood next to Tony Blair and said, "I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied -- finally denied access [in 1998], a report came out of the Atomic -- the IAEA -- that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need." We need more, because that evidence doesn't exist, as an IAEA spokesman told Curl. The story gets funnier, in that dark Washington way, when the reporter calls the White House for comment. Would the president "mislead" the public about war, as Rep. Jim McDermott said so bluntly over the weekend from Baghdad? Perhaps not, but the only other explanation is that he has been badly misled himself. (If Bush knows how to surf the Web he should stop relying on Condi and start looking up this information himself. There's almost always an executive summary. For example, the IAEA's actual reports and other information about Iraq's efforts to build an atom bomb are available here.)

If all this makes you wonder whether we're going to war because Saddam tried to kill the president's dad, there are some American veterans asking about that, too. They love their country at least as much as the tough-talking superhawks (like the bug exterminator and the Ole Miss cheerleader) who just never had time to join the service.
[8:10 a.m. PDT, Sept. 30, 2002]

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