Explosives and Sandefur, Round 4

Sandefur writes:

Yes, I know Brayton claims not to be a Kerry supporter, but so did Andrew Sullivan.

There is a real difference between the two. Sullivan was a Bush supporter who slowly swung over to being a Kerry supporter (rather reluctantly), and for many of the same reasons I've criticized the administration. He was a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq, but has been appalled by how incompetently it's been handled by the administration. I, on the other hand, was never a Bush supporter, and I've made clear several times that I am voting Libertarian this year, as I have in every election since 1992. I am not going to vote for Kerry, regardless of how much I despise Bush, and I've made that very clear. Sullivan decided several months ago that his vote was up in the air; mine has been set for years. I momentarily hesitated when the LP nominated Badnarik, a man I regard as a first class wingnut (and so does Sandefur, I think), and wondered if I should still cast my vote that way. But that still didn't have anything to do with Kerry. I have never voted for a Democrat in any election at any level; I have voted for one Republican for the House of Representatives. Other than that, I have voted very consistently libertarian because I have always taken a long term view of voting as a means of changing the system, not a means of getting a specific person in office. It should probably mean something that as much as I thoroughly despise Bush, I'm still not going to vote for Kerry, even if that means it's more likely on some minute scale that Bush remains in office. The truth is that I don't just "claim" to not be a Kerry supporter, I genuinely do not support him and will not vote for him. Period.

I am truly bewildered by the vitriol against Bush in this campaign. Bush is not a great president, and I disagree with almost everything in his domestic policy. But to say that he is "he single worst president of [Brayton's] lifetime" is absurd, especially when you consider how old Mr. Brayton is. I mean, Andrew Jackson, come on!

Well, Andrew Jackson was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before my lifetime. I did restrict it to my own lifetime, for crying out loud (and I would name Jackson as the worst ever, by the way). I really do think Bush is the worst of my lifetime (though not, obviously, of anyone's lifetime), and frankly I think we've had a lot of lousy presidents in my lifetime. I don't think I'd name even a single one since 1967 that was a good president, but I consider Bush the worst of a pretty bad bunch. Maybe my standards are too high. I think our system is built in a way that almost guarantees that we have bad presidents; some of them are just worse than others.

And Bill Clinton was far more corrupt than George Bush. You talk about a leader who destroyed anyone standing in his way! Clinton would even destroy friends if they turned out to be useless to him.

I would agree that Clinton was every bit as ruthless and corrupt as Bush, but I still think he was a better president than Bush (better, mind you, not a good one). In some ways, Clinton combined the worst of Bush and Kerry - ruthless, corrupt, but still politically spineless and pandering. His absurd stance on gays in the military is a good example of how Clinton operated - make a bold and true statement up front (gays can serve as honorably as anyone else in the military and should be given equal opportunity to do so); take some heat on it; end up doing nothing to change the situation at all, but still declare victory. But he had one thing that Bush couldn't dream of and Kerry likely only CAN dream of - enormous personal diplomatic skill, both here and abroad. It helped him build coalitions to get bills passed (including many bills that originated with Republicans, such as the Telecom bill, welfare reform and the various financial deregulation bills) at home, and helped him come closer than anyone else has come to finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem (which he did invest an enormous amount of energy and political capital in during his first term, resulting in the Oslo accord). So I'd still rate Clinton a bit above Bush for having a few positive things to balance out all the obvious negatives; I can't think of anything to balance the negatives for Bush. And by the way, I'd rank both Reagan and Bush the Elder above Clinton on the scale of presidents in my lifetime.

Mr. Brayton's hostility to Bush is just unwarranted by the facts--and his newest tirade shows just how emotionally driven it is. This knee-jerk hatred for Bush has led Brayton time and time again into unjustified condemnations of the Bush administration. Take his falling for the CBS faked memo scandal. Those memos were obviously fakes to anyone who did not very much want them to be real. Yet Brayton clung to them as long as any conceivable argument could be made for them.

First, I think my hostility is well warranted and I even offered a list of the reasons for it in my last post with no substantive response from Sandefur. Second, I welcome any of our readers to go back and look at what I actually said at the time of the memos and judge for themselves whether this is a fair characterization of my position at the time. I maintain it is not and I have explained in detail in the past why it is not, again with no substantive response from Sandefur, merely with a repetition of the same claim as though it had not been responded to already. Again, feel free to go back into my archives and compare what I actually said to his view of what I said and decide for yourselves whether my position was a reasonable one or not.

Or take his condemnations of Cheney's claim that terrorism would be more common if Kerry won the election. Turns out Cheney said no such thing. But Brayton latched on to it and pounded his virtual podium for days about it without bothering to even read the statement in context.

Here again, I invite my readers to go back and look at the posts on that subject. I didn't "pound my virtual podium for days", I wrote one post hammering him for it and another post hammering his spokespeople for their lame defenses of it. And those defenses WERE lame because they also didn't say what I ultimately found out was the case, that the context showed the statement to be something quite different. Every article I read about it showed the statement out of context; Cheney's spokespeople didn't quote the surrounding statements at all, they just said "he didn't say that". It was only after Sandefur sent me an article that had the entire paragraph that I found out that, in fact, Cheney's statement was a lot more reasonable than the out of context quote made it appear. And I immediately retracted what I had said and thanked him for sending me the information that led to the retraction. There is a difference between being wrong and being embarrassingly wrong. Using the information that was available to me at the time, I made a conclusion and when given new information that showed I was wrong, I immediately and graciously retracted it. What more would one expect, bloodletting and self-scourging?

Now he has declared that the Administration is responsible for these missing weapons even though "[i]t appears increasingly likely that it went missing not only before the 101st Airborne arrived on April 10, but also before the 3rd ID showed up on April 3." http://instapundit.com/archives/018682.php Now, maybe these explosives really were stolen after American occupation. I don't know. Nobody knows. But the fact that Brayton latches on to this as conclusive evidence of Bush's inherent failure as commander in chief is not dispassionate analysis, to say the least.

What this really means is "Ed Brayton says this is incompetence even though Glenn Reynolds says otherwise". Well, yes, I do say this looks like incompetence and I don't think Glenn's statement is supported by the evidence at this point. And yet again, I have explained in great detail why his statement is not warranted and offered several lines of evidence to support my conclusion. Sandefur's answer? Ignore the substantive argument and repeat the charge, this time with an appeal to the authority of...Instapundit? I dare say at this point my analysis is considerably more dispassionate than Sandefur's. At least I have offered the actual analysis and why I conclude as I do, what evidence and logic it is based on, and so forth. At this point he has offered not a single substantive argument for why my conclusion is unwarranted, as he has not offered a single substantive argument for why my past conclusions about the incompetence with which the Iraqi war and occupation have been handled by this administration are unwarranted.

The argument comes down to this - "Ed has been wrong in the past on a couple of things, and Instapundit says he's wrong now, so therefore without even bothering to address the multiple lines of evidence and analysis that he has laid out over multiple posts for his present conclusion, I claim that his present conclusion is also wrong and is proof of his bias." I don't think that's a logical argument at all. In fact, I think a stronger case can be made that rejecting a conclusion without bothering to address the substantive arguments offered to support it, and substituting an appeal to authority (especially when it's not really an authority but merely another blogger who disagrees) for rational analysis, is a much more reliable sign of bias.

Less coy than Brayton is Jason Kuznicki, who I think showed too much of his hand when he said "once Bush is safely out of office--and Kerry is safely in office--you'll see me attack him with all due savagery. But not a moment before." That's a remarkable statement. It's okay to hand the keys to John Kerry without skepticism; only once he's in office for a good solid four years will we turn our eye on him!

This has nothing to do with being "less coy", it has to do with an entirely different position on the matter. Jason is voting for Kerry, reluctantly; Sandefur is voting for Bush, reluctantly; I'm not voting for either, and not the least bit reluctantly. Still, I get accused of a pro-Kerry bias. It's all quite odd. For the record, I'm sure I'll be attacking Kerry with a good bit of zeal if he makes it into office (and at this point, I don't think he will). But at this point, Bush is the one in charge, and Bush is the one who has thoroughly screwed up the single most important thing going on in the world right now. And he is the one who is pushing an agenda supported by the elements of American politics I fear the most. So he gets most of my vitriol, and if he's reelected, he'll likely continue to get it. And that doesn't have a damn thing to do with John Kerry.


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Re: Andrew Jackson. Ed, I think you fell for a bit of sarcasm. :)

By Steve Reuland (not verified) on 27 Oct 2004 #permalink