The Dishonest Antiwar Antitroop Meme Keeps on Trucking...

I'm heartened that Democrats, primarily in the House, are going to try to cut off funding for the escalation.  Still, there's a whole lot of nonsense in how it's being reported in the Washington Post today.  There are two particular examples of Jonathan Weisman and Dan Balz mangling history and the facts so as to explicitly hurt liberals.

Here's the piece.

Senior House Democrats said yesterday that they will attempt to derail funding for President Bush's proposal to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, setting up what could become the most significant confrontation between the White House and Congress over military policy since the Vietnam War.

Senate Democrats at the same time will seek bipartisan support for a nonbinding resolution opposing the president's plan, possibly as early as next week, in what some party officials see as the first step in a strategy aimed at isolating Bush politically and forcing the beginning of a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from the conflict.

The bold plans reflect the Democrats' belief that the public has abandoned Bush on the war and that the American people will have little patience for an escalation of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. But the moves carry clear risks for a party that suffered politically for pushing to end an unpopular war in Vietnam three decades ago, and Democratic leaders hope to avoid a similar fate over the conflict in Iraq.

As this chart shows, it was not the antiwar movement that cripped the Democrats on national security.

Democrats suffered not because they sought to end the war in Vietnam, but because Vietnam was a Democratically initiated war based on lies. The well-known phrase 'credibility gap' came about because LBJ was not trustworthy, and that's why the party fractured and the public stopped trusting Democrats on security.  The national security skew started in 1967, and widened considerably in 1968, during the Tet offensive.  Tet was not an antiwar movement, it was a military strike by the Vietnamese that showed that Johnson was (a) lying and (b) a bad military commander.

The reason the Democrats suffered is because a towering Democratic figure made a massive mistake and lied about it (sound familiar?), but the notion that the post-Vietnam antiwar sentiment was the cause of Democrats' low credibility on national security is false.  I know it's been fun to repeat for thirty years, but it's not true.

The second piece of nonsense is as follows.

House Democratic leaders have said they will not use the power of the purse in any way that would harm troops in the field, a position that had run afoul of the party's liberal activists.

That is a mischaracterization of the antiwar movement, a piece of lazy bullshit.  Weisman and Balz should try to find a Democratic or progressive leader that wants to take a position to harm troops in the field.  They should try because they won't find one.  What we object to is a failure to use all political means to stop Bush's insane war. It's Bush and the Republicans who are hurting the troops (body armor anyone?), and who have zero regard for national security.  This antiwar equals antitroop idea is just false and needs to stop.  It's lazy, it's not true, and it's a disservice to the public to report it as fact.

Tags: Dan Balz, George Bush, Iraq, Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post (all tags)



Re: The Dishonest Antiwar Antitroop Meme Keeps on

Democrats suffered not because they sought to end the war in Vietnam, but because Vietnam was a Democratically initiated war based on lies

Phew. 'Bout time people started saying this ... I can't believe the CW believes what it/they believe. Right now, the GOP numbers on "national security" are following pretty much the same trajectory as the Democrats in the late-60s, all without a bunch of Freepers marching in the streets against the war.

by BriVT 2007-01-11 04:38AM | 0 recs
Isn't there a timing problem here?

Those Dems who want to cut off funds to prevent the escalation want to avoid cutting off funds from troops already in theater.

But for that to happen, the bill cutting off funds must be passed before the extra troops arrive in Iraq.

The only possibly effective way of cutting off funds is by way of a rider to a must-pass bill - the supplemental defense apps bill would be the first to come to floor votes.

(So that Bush can't veto the funds cutoff without consequences - as he could always do with a stand-alone bill.)

But, by the time the supplemental apps bill arrives on the floors, the escalation troops will already be in Iraq!

That's abstracting from the problem that there may well not be a simple majority in either house for a cutoff of funds for troops not in theater.

Or that there may be a majority in the House, but not the Senate.

Amongst other things.

by skeptic06 2007-01-11 04:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Isn't there a timing problem here?

There is a timing problem, and it's probably impossible for Democrats to prevent the escalation.  What they can do is create the conditions whereby escalating the war becomes a criminal act.

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-11 05:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Isn't there a timing problem here?

I should add that Bush may back down in such a case, since options that he will not like will then be on the table.

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-11 05:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Isn't there a timing problem here?

I think you are right, but by taking a stand against escalation, Democrats at least give a strong voice to the notion that escalation is wrong. Regardless of whether or not that pays political dividends later, it is the right the thing to do.

by LiberalFromPA 2007-01-11 08:41AM | 0 recs
Amazing chart, by the way

It shows that, in 1967, each party was trusted more than the other on national security (via proxies, as detailed in the note to the chart) by around 30% of voters.

That implies that, in 1967, 40% of Americans didn't give an opinion, or said they didn't know, or said they trusted both parties equally.

Can that be right? Or is it an artifact?

by skeptic06 2007-01-11 05:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Amazing chart, by the way

That was a genuine bipartisan consensus.  

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-11 05:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Amazing chart, by the way

Probably they didn't trust either party.

by Flynnieous 2007-01-11 06:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Amazing chart, by the way

From my understanding, the primary difference between the two parties (in the public mind) at that time was economic. On both social and national security issues, the parties were pretty much viewed the same, with certain figures (such as McCarthy) viewed as outliers from the norm.

by LiberalFromPA 2007-01-11 08:39AM | 0 recs
Re: The Dishonest Antiwar Antitroop Meme Keeps on

It's not just lazy and untrue, it's also a grave insult.  How dare they?  How dare they imply that people who are against this war are anything but concerned for our troops?  We're the ones trying to extricate them from this GOP-instigated clusterf*** that serves no national purpose and actually makes America weaker in the world, not stronger.

Wiesman and Balz are just another reason that the Washington Post is going straight down the tubes.

by kenfair 2007-01-11 05:51AM | 0 recs

     Dan Balz's presence is an assurance that Broderism will survive long after David Broder himself. Politicians may come and gay, but the Permanent Government of the Beltway Kool Kidz will go on forever.

by Ron Thompson 2007-01-11 06:17AM | 0 recs

     "come and go". Sorry.

by Ron Thompson 2007-01-11 06:19AM | 0 recs

I don't buy it. It is pretty rare when an executive's mendacity permanently affects the public's view of the entire party on a specific issue.

People distrusted Democrats on national security during the Carter Administration, because they thought Carter was just as Mendacious as LBJ on national security? We do see a big spike in distrust toward the Democrats in the late 70s, but I don't think that's why.

What about Nixon's lying over Watergate? That was a much more infamous incident of mendacity, and yet we see very little movement to the Democrats on national security.

My personal take is that Democrats lost short term credibility due to management of the Vietnam War, and that short-term loss turned into a more permanent loss when the party seemed to be captured by factions that were deemed to be too shy in using force to accomplish sufficiently important, or easily obtainable, policy goals. The American public recovered from Vietnam syndrome much faster than the Democratic Party did.

If so, I wouldn't necessarily expect Bush to bring about any permanent change in the GOP's national security reputation. If the GOP takes a permanent hit, I think it will be because of the party's reaction to the failures in Iraq - denial, blame-shifting, continued hubris. If they they think the GOP is going to get us into another Iraq, or hasn't learned from its mistakes, the GOP will take a hit.

But this doesn't mean a free ride for the Dems. What scared me about the 2004 election is that the public had seen 4 years of Bush, and 18 months of incompetence in Iraq, and still trusted Bush more than Kerry on national security.

While specific reasons for not trusting the GOP on national security will help the Dems, the Dems need to give the public a reason for trusting them. I don't see that happening until a Democratic President successfully presides over a major/medium-sized military action in defense of American interests. Something akin to the 2001 intervention in Afghanistan, only more successfully concluded.

by Raskolnikov 2007-01-11 07:48AM | 0 recs
Wishful thinking

The idea that LBJ's mistakes in Vietnam are the primary reason for Americans not trusting Democrats on national security is wishful thinking.

As you say, that may have been the reason for the initial break between the public and Dems on this issue, but the image of the pacifist anti-war protester is the long-term image seared into the public mind.

by LiberalFromPA 2007-01-11 08:36AM | 0 recs
Democrats don't have conviction
This piece has another piece of "conventional wisdom" that the media constantly pushes.

The bold plans reflect the Democrats' belief that the public has abandoned Bush on the war and that the American people will have little patience for an escalation of the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

This is perpetuating the Right-Wing narrative that Republicans have conviction and do what they think is right, while Democrats just blow with the breeze of public opinion.  This has been a longly held narrative that the media so blindly accepts that it slips into their writing probably without even them realizing it.
by maddogg 2007-01-11 07:52AM | 0 recs


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