July 12, 2006

BLIND CHAIT:

Purely foolish Democrats (Jonathan Chait, 7/9/06, Los Angeles Times)

Ned Lamont's challenge to Sen. Joe Lieberman in next month's Connecticut primary has blossomed into a full-scale Democratic civil war. What's at stake is the legitimacy of partisanship.

A good window into the competing mentalities can be found in two arguments, one by prominent Lieberman supporters, the other by a prominent critic. First, the supporters. Writing in the Hartford Courant, Marshall Wittmann and Steven J. Nider of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council complain that "far too many Democrats view George W. Bush as a greater threat to the nation than Osama bin Laden."

Those loony Democrats! But wait, is this really such a crazy view? Even though all but the loopiest Democrat would concede that Bin Laden is more evil than Bush, that doesn't mean he's a greater threat. Bin Laden is hiding somewhere in the mountains, has no weapons of mass destruction and apparently very limited numbers of followers capable of striking at the U.S.

Bush, on the other hand, has wreaked enormous damage on the political and social fabric of the country. He has massively mismanaged a major war, with catastrophic consequences; he has strained the fabric of American democracy with his claims of nearly unchecked power and morally corrupt Gilded Age policies. It's quite reasonable to conclude that Bush will harm the nation more — if not more than Bin Laden would like to, than more than he actually can.


Jonathan Chait talks with the nutty, yet lovable crank. (Hugh Hewitt and Jonathan Chait, 7/11/06, Radioblogger)

HH: Do you still hate George Bush?

JC: I've grown no more fond of him over the years, but I'm very glad that I'm the one who invented the whole thing. I didn't know that.

HH: But you did write in September, 2003, I hate President George W. Bush.

JC: It's true, it's true. I did. I just think it would be giving me too much credit to give me credit for sort of inventing Bush hatred, or authoring Bush hatred.

HH: Do you still hate him?

JC: I do.

HH: You do? Why do you still hate him?

JC: Well, look. There's the sort of separate questions of how I feel about him personally, and how I feel about him as a president.

HH: Hatred's kind of all-encompassing.

JC: It's both. I mean, you can hate someone as an individual, and…

HH: Are you going soft on your hatred here, Jonathan?

JC: I'm not, no. Let me try to explain what I mean by that, because you, you're a longtime…you have a long-time avid interest in the topic, so let me try to explain it for you. You can hate someone individually, and you can also be extremely opposed to their policies, or you can do both, which is my view of George W. Bush. I have a very strong dislike of him as an individual…

HH: Hatred? Not dislike, hatred.

JC: Correct.

HH: You hate him.

JC: That's right. [...]

HH: All right. Let's get to the two paragraphs that I want to talk about. These are paragraphs three and four.

JC: I knew what it would be. But let's go on.

HH: "Those loony Democrats, but wait, is this really such a crazy view? Even though all but the loopiest Democrat would concede that bin Laden is more evil than Bush, that doesn't mean he's a greater threat. [...] It's quite reasonable to conclude that Bush will harm the nation more, if not more than bin Laden would like to, than more than he actually can." Now, we begin by a couple of facts. Bin Laden was behind 9/11, right? No bin Laden, no 9/11?

JC: That's correct.

HH: So George Bush, in your opinion, has done more damage…

JC: No, no, no. I wouldn't…well, first of all, no, I wouldn't necessarily say that no bin Laden, no 9/11. No, no, no. That's personalizing history to much to high of an extent. No, I wouldn't say that.

HH: Well, I mean, there might have been other terrorist attacks, but no bin Laden, no 9/11, Jonathan.

JC: Look, you can't necessarily say if bin Laden was dead that they wouldn't have carried that out, no. I don't accept that premise. [...]

HH: Okay. How about the Canadian cell that we broke up last month in Canada? Were they followers of al Qaeda?

JC: I don't know about that one.

HH: Yeah, they were. Were they capable of striking at the U.S?

JC: Tell me. Were they?

HH: Yes, they were. You see, I think you're being very dismissive here of the amount of harm, because it flows into your premise that what bin Laden can do is much less that Bush has done.

JC: Well, no, wait a second. But all of these plots were foiled, so in a way, that makes my point for me, right? I mean, none of these guys had the ability to get anything done.

HH: No, it doesn't. Exactly the opposite. How many terrorists are there, Jonathan Chait?

JC: How many terrorists? You tell me.

HH: No, you wrote the article, and you asserted that there are apparently very limited numbers of followers capable of striking at the U.S. How do you know that?

JC: Because they haven't had a successful strike at us since 9/11.

HH: And that is, in fact, evidence of what? That there are very few followers, or that we're very good at blocking plots?

JC: Well, how many attacks have they had on us before 9/11?

HH: In the United States, '93 and 2001. Outside, scores.

JC: That's one every eight years.

HH: Yeah, but Cole counts, and the Tanzanian and Kenyan Embassies counts, and the Khobar Towers count. And I could name other ones for you. They all count.

JC: Right.

HH: Striking at Madrid's rail station counts, because it lost us an ally in the war. It counts to bomb London as an ally in the war. It counts to kill people in Bali. Don't you believe that? [...]

HH: Do I…am I in that wonderful inner circle of hatred with George Bush?

JC: No…

HH: Do you hate me, too?

JC: No, I don't hate you. I think you're a kind of nutty, but lovable crank.


Imagine having the ability to calmly eviscerate your opponent to the point where he sounds like a raving loony, and then getting him to say that at the end.

Posted by Matt Murphy at July 12, 2006 9:29 PM
Comments

Bin Laden is hiding somewhere in the mountains, has no weapons of mass destruction and apparently very limited numbers of followers capable of striking at the U.S.

Gee, how did that happen?

Posted by: David Cohen at July 12, 2006 10:51 PM

David Cohen:

And, hey, we know Bush is terrible because he's focusing intently on an enemy who hasn't launched another terrorist attack since 9/11!

Posted by: Matt Murphy at July 12, 2006 11:30 PM

This was a prime example of what James Lileks calls "the patented Hugh Hewitt death-by-literal-interpretation radio interrogation."

Posted by: Mike Morley at July 12, 2006 11:35 PM

The 'nutty' thing is that Chait already went through this with Hugh before, back in 2003 when he first declared he "hated" George Bush. This was merely a reprise.

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 13, 2006 2:05 AM

Few better than HH in grinding these nitwits into a fine paste by the end of the interview.

Posted by: Rick T. at July 13, 2006 10:38 AM

Seriously, though, how far is Chait from OJ's position on this? As far as I can tell, the only difference is that what Chait calls "damage" OJ calls "achievements". If you went with a more neutral "change", I am not sure I see any difference.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at July 13, 2006 11:53 AM

AOG:

Exactly. OBL is a footnote to history.

Posted by: oj at July 13, 2006 12:26 PM

Imagine what Hugh can do for laughs if Joe Biden ever does take up his offer to be a co-host on the show.

Posted by: John at July 13, 2006 3:34 PM

Mike Morley:

So do you (and presumably Lileks) view that as a good thing or a bad thing? It sure produces great results.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at July 13, 2006 7:40 PM

Am I setting sights too high, or is this the sort of rigor one would expect in a slip-and-fall case? Not to take anything away from Hugh Hewitt (particularly after yesterday's bracketing of McCain as "a great American, a lousy Senator, and a terrible Republican", thank you), but it seems that you subject guys like Chait to routine cross-examination and they just dissolve like Alka-Seltzers.

Posted by: joe shropshire at July 13, 2006 11:00 PM
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