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Monday, December 10, 2007

David Brooks: We're Now in 'Postwar' Period

The most idiotic campaign punditry in recent days has been the assertion that the Iraq war as an issue is so over. Like, so last summer. It reached a climax today, Tuesday, with David Brooks' column in The New York Times declaring that we are now in the "postwar" period. Brooks calls this suddenly "a postwar election," repeating that phrase several times. The public, he suggests, is changing from "a war mentality to a peace mentality."

Postwar? Peace? Try telling that to the soldiers in Iraq, and the families whose kids are still coming home minus a limb or part of their brain. Last I checked we were still spending billions of dollars a month Over There and I haven't heard about any bases, or the grand embassy, being dismantled. A new Gallup poll (see below) disputes the notion, anyway. Is the issue a little less "hot"? Surely. But to say it is over is an obscenity.

With rose-colored glasses still in place, Brooks takes a world tour, finding more reason to relax about Iran, Pakistan (?), even the Palestinian question. My favorite line then follows: "The world still has its problems." Gosh, you think? Later he admits, "Something terrible could happen in the world" to change the hopeful mood. As if little terrible is happening now.

This all started last week with Peter Beinart’s self-serving column in The Washington Post -- Brooks cites it today -- which flatly called the war a "non-story." He took as his main evidence that questions about the war were not being asked all that much at the Democratic and Republican debates. The fact that all of the Democrats are much in agreement against the war, and all of the leading Republicans in agreement in support of the venture, apparently did not occur to Beinart as an explanation. Of course, if any of the Democrats faced off against any of the Republicans right now, is there any doubt what would be the hottest issue? But Beinart – an original hawk on the war, like Brooks – had good reason to downplay the disaster he helped cause.

On Sunday this argument was pushed again on Sunday talk shows, and then in a Tim Russert report on NBC Nightly News. Russert went so far as to suggest that next year would likely be a “lunch pail” election with the war in the background. I guess all of the troops will be home in a few months.

Now, today, comes a new Gallup poll which, of course, reveals, as Gallup puts it, that when “asked which issues will be most important in determining their vote for president in next year's election, Americans by a wide margin say the war in Iraq, with more than one in three mentioning the war.” Only after that do they mention the economy, healthcare, and illegal immigration. Gallup said that Iraq has diminished only “somewhat” as the top issue over the course of the year. The poll was conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

The raw numbers for top issue: Iraq 36%, the economy (i.e. lunchpail) 16%, health care 15%. Nearly 1 in 2 Democrats say it is the top issue and even 29% of Republicans feel that way. It's also easily #1 in every section of the USA.

Perry Jefferies, a former Army sergeant in Iraq, blogged at the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America site today: "Too many commentators like David Brooks, too far removed from the heat, heroism, and hard times of Iraq try to ignore the struggle and sacrifice that our troops and families go through....They distill the deaths of Soldiers into a few numbers or a trend, draw their own only-self-supporting conclusions about it and move on to their own agenda. I think that Mr. Brooks needs a little vacation to somewhere warm to let his brain thaw out. Maybe there’s a hotel room available in Baquaba for him."
John Lennon's take on "War Is Over":


Anonymous said...

Susan Page writes about this in USA Today and mentioned it on the PBS NewsHour today. Her evidence is that the war in Iraq dropped as the top issue of concern for people from 42 percent in April to 36 percent in November, but SWEET JESUS people it's still the NUMBER ONE ISSUE.

The fact that this has become a media meme as evidence that "Oh, well, the American public think Iraq is going oh-so-well" is absolutely ridiculous. This claim is refuted -- and buried -- in Page's her own article: "However, 57% call the invasion a mistake, and 59% support a timetable to withdraw troops. Both percentages are unchanged from earlier this year."

Well, whaddya know? People still want us to leave Iraq, and it's still the number-one issue. How this has become an argument that Iraq is now a "non-story," a la Peter Beinart, is amazing to me. The media works in strange ways sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Beinart's correct in one sense: the campaign media will not pursue the Iraq issue and the leading candidates will not address it (in any substantial, detailed way). That a plurality of Americans consider Iraq "most important" is, if anything, an inducement not to talk about it.

Unknown said...

OK Greg...so now what? With all due respect, why does your column and fact checking matter at all. You've just shown that a key argument to a NY Times columnist's article is complete crap. But what will this change? Every day people all over the webs how how journalists for the Times, WaPo, Time magazine, and everywhere else, just make up whatever the hell they want for their articles. Do you see anything change? Do you see any accountability? Why don't you organize a group of people to slam the Time with emails and calls asking Brooks to justify his comments. Why don't you ask the Times why Brooks is allowed to keep reading if he apparently just makes stuff up. or at least make him a fiction writer and take away his editorial spot.

Anonymous said...

This is part of the traditional media's campaign to make the war"disappear" as an issue. And plenty of Republicans and Democrats are on board with that too.

The pundits were relentless war boosters, year after year. Victory was always just around the corner, just a Friedman unit or new Iraqi coalition or surge away, blah, blah, blahl.

And they were all spectacularly, relentlessly wrong. The war is an on-going unmitigated disaster. So from the pundit and politician viewpoint, the less said about it, the better. "Don't talk about the war!" The more the public focusses on it, the worse these guys look.

Digby says this same crew is trying to "disappear" Bush as an issue in the campaign and for the same reason.

It's amazing, really. The press and the Repubs spent nearly eight years, slavishly devoting themselves to a virtual cult of personality around W, protecting him, flattering him, anouncing that any opposition or questioning of W. was unpatriotic, giving him the best possible spin, drooling over his codpiece and laughing at his jokes and nicknames. And now that W.'s turned out to one long disaster, the Repub candidates never even mention him. Instead, it's Reagan, Reagan, Reagan, 9-11, 9-11, 9-11 and look over there, scary Brown People. Also. BOO! Hillary in a pansuit!

I don't think the public will be so quick to forget all this though......

Anonymous said...

What these folks are referring to is a tacit agreement among all candidates (D and R) to not talk about Iraq. Everyone wants to fixate on the horse race and the Pete Hoekstras keep whispering to the Joe Kleins to look away from Crazy Uncle George - which they are only too happy to do. That soldiers are dying while they ignore it until 1/20/09 is an unforunate bit of reality they will reflect deeply on at a later date.

Anonymous said...

OK Greg...so now what? With all due respect, why does your column and fact checking matter at all.

Someone has to record this. Someone has to call out the falsehoods. Someone has to actually tell the truth.

It matters because even if a little truth is told to a few thousand people, it still counts as the truth.

Greg can't destroy the lazy media infrastructure, but he can maintain integrity so that when collapses under its own irrelevance, there will be smarter, better, more honest writers there to fill the void.

Ulysses said...

You're right on the money here about this absurd media meme. Yet the whole bunch of nonsense, currently cropping up in the same vein, does have a sinister purpose. Wankers like Brooks et al. know full well that many of us opposed to the war are tired of begging Democratic "leaders" on Capitol Hill to stop funding it. Thus, the war-- as something that can reasonably be expected to wind down soon-- still infuriates us, but also frustrates us. Some less motivated opponents might be falling into a somewhat more apathetic, or even defeated, stance. People like Brooks are only too happy to pounce on sullen, dejected frustration as the next best thing to real acceptance! These idiotic commentaries seek to sway the completely clueless into thinking the anti-war movement is somehow "over," or "done."

Steve M. said...

Saying "The war is over" and meaning "The public has started tuning out the war" isn't even original with Brooks -- Frank Rich said the same thing two years ago.

Anonymous said...

ian: why don't YOU do these things instead of whining about it?

Anonymous said...

SteveM - do you think it's cute or funny to try to trick people by citing a piece diametrically opposed in intent and meaning to the pieces by Beinart and Bobo to lend them support? The Rich piece says that the public is against the war and that it cannot be won without public support, so the war is 'over'.

I swear, without the lie you people would have literally nothing to say.

Potato Head said...

Jesus fucking christ. Does anyone think that if, say, the Social Security (non) "crisis" were polling at these numbers, the WaPo and over other Village outlet would not be screaming at the top of their lungs, demanding that every candidate to discuss nothing else?

The level of propagandization of our discourse, the fraudulence of how democracy is conducted in the US, is a matter of unceasing amazement and discouragement to me.

Unknown said...

thank you. i do them every.single. day. leave messages. write emails. send snail mail. send pictures of now dead soldiers to the politicians that keep funding this war. i protest. i do everything i can. for what. even when i and thousands of others can prove without question that politicians and writers have no idea what they are talking about, they get to stay in office, keep writing articles, keep being brought on as experts to tv shows. still i try, and until people start working together to collectively attack these 'experts" and make them miserable if they lie, nothing will change.

Gadfly said...

I agree with Mark. The "Big Three" Dem candidates don't want to discuss Iraq in depth; to the degree they've said anything, their approach is "Stay the Course"-lite.

Anonymous said...

David Brooks is incomparably stupid. As I wrote to him after one of his incomparably stupid columns prior to the Annapolis conference:

"Perhaps you hadn't noticed, but a region that lived in an uneasy but at least mostly nonfatal peace on Jan. 20, 2001, is now pretty much 2,000 unbroken miles of bloodshed, mayhem, and chaos -- from the Indus to the Mediterranean. Now, as their crowning achievement, George and Condi are going to bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Why am I not reassured?

Gore Vidal has taken to calling our fearless leader President Jonah, because like his Biblical predecessor, he brings catastrophe to whoever is near. Aznar, Berlusconi, Blair, those Polish twins -- so much roadkill. Howard and Musharraf are next.

Once, the road to Jerusalem ran through Tehran. Now you tell us the road to Tehran runs through Jerusalem. Well, I'm always curious to see how things look
Through the Looking Glass.

Anonymous said...

Hi Greg-
not about the article, but rather about the caption to the photo of Van Gogh's tombstone, which is in Auvers-sur-Oise, not Arles.
Thanks for the blog!

Anonymous said...

Like soooo much with these guys it has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with perception. The idea is to keep the issue out of the '08 elections because its a loser for the Republicans. If its repeated enough Democratic politicians will believe it and and leave the war off the table. Thus removing a very large thorn from the collective Republican rump. My guess is that it'll work exactly as planned.

Anonymous said...

The war *is* over.

We are now an occupying military in Iraq.

Will the candidates begin to use the word 'occupation?'

Steve M. said...

eveM - do you think it's cute or funny to try to trick people by citing a piece diametrically opposed in intent and meaning to the pieces by Beinart and Bobo to lend them support?

No, I think it was a bad error on my part. I linked the wrong Rich columns

Rich has said more than once that when it comes to the war in Iraq, Americans have "tuned out." The second, later link in particular is Rich saying something not very different from what Brooks is saying, although Rich was saying (I'm paraphrasing), "Americans think the war is going so badly that they've given up and tuned out" and Brooks is saying (again a paraphrase), "The war is going better, so voters are tuning out."

I just don't remember a lot of howls at Rich at the time.

Anonymous said...

Hell, I say bring it on. Democrats out poll Republicans on every issue, but the margins are much bigger on issues outside of the Iraq war.

They're grasping at straws.

Dick Mulliken said...

What else would you expect from moral felons like Brooks and Beinart? Of course they want to distract us from their nightmare. Not to hide theur mistake but to prolong it as long as possible. They know they can't 'win' but every day spent in Iraq further cripples the state's long term recovery. so that's a victory in neocon terms. Just k8ill Arabs that's what counts.

Jim said...

It's imperative for the MSM to make the war disappear, because they operate on Republican talking points. This is a way of establishing the discourse-what will be written about. Since the Right Wing controls so much of our media, they would rather talk to their base about religion and immigration.

Anonymous said...

Now isn't this nice, but it confirms what I've been suspecting ... that the editor of E&P is a liberal hack. No wonder journalism sucks these days!

Anonymous said...

Hey Greg,
you are right to point out that both the dems & repubs have said what they need to say and revisting the "Iraq question" might be redundant. However, lets keep in mind that the traditional media, the hacks that ask the questions, choose and edit the questions. we therefore have no real idea just what is being presented by curious minds.
The manipulated 24 hour news cycle really wants to move beyond this pesky occupation. They only cover Iraq when there is no religious controversy or they can't find a white girl who has been abducted.

Anonymous said...

Shorter Brooks: bygones.

Anonymous said...

Good, let's send all the Republican members of congress on a fact-finding tour of every hamlet and village in Iraq to verify these statements. That should keep them occupied (or running for their lives) for the 2008 election year, and FORCE the remainder of the congress to do the job they were sent there for i.e. get this country OUT of Iraq.

Anonymous said...

"The most idiotic campaign punditry in recent days has been the assertion that the Iraq war as an issue is so over."

Hasn't this been the MO of the western media on Palestine since forever? First, ignore. If that doesn't work, derisively dismiss. If that doesn't work, insult the naysayers with ad Hominem attacks.

Why do so many of the techniques used to mask the criminal intent and actions of the American government in Iraq appear to have been developed in that laboratory of never-ending criminal assault on the innocent, Palestine?

Brooks and his well-paid ilk deserve to be imprisoned for the criminal disservice they do to their country – the country they ostensibly support, but do not.

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