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September 10, 2013

Speaking of Our Dumb and Fake Political Culture, Here's Mitch McConnell

Why am I picking on him?

It's not that what he's doing is so exceptional here. There will be 70 other Republicans making the same basic case: The reason I'm against this war is that I'm so pro-war and Obama's being all weak about war and stuff.

There is a silly tradition of claiming both sides of a debate in America. Why be the anti-war candidate when, like Barack Obama, you can be both the anti-war candidate (brb not negotiatin' an SOF with Iraq) and also the super pro-war candidate (brb gonna really take it to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan).

Every once in a while there's an issue where you really can take both sides of it, or attack your opponent from both sides on it, but as a general rule, this whole "I'm voting for Peace because I'm such a Super Hawk" (or, I suppose, I'm voting for War because I'm so pro-Peace) is just a bit of stupid nonsense for LIVs.

So here's McConnell's too-cute-by-half-stupid formulation that annoys me. He objects to the limitation on the duration of force specified in the now-shelved AUMF:

“There is absolutely no reason, no reason to signal to the enemy when and how and for how long you plan to strike them. None. As I’ve said before, you don’t send out a ‘save the date’ card to the enemy.”

Really? Did you want an unconditional AUMF for a war none of us particularly wish to be involved in the first place? (Caveat: Some people say he meant that we shouldn't telegraph our punches. I answer that in a comment.)

I don't believe he believes that. I believe the only circumstances he'd entertain approving an AUMF in this particular case -- a minor war of choice in which the goal is, apparently, to "send a message" and "preserve credibility" -- if there were in fact some limitation on presidential authority to call up the reserves and mount a full invasion.

At least I hope that's what he thinks.

Here's an idea:

Why don't politicians just try telling the truth ? Why get cute about it? I'm sure Mitch McConnell has some genuine and defensible reasons for opposing this war.

Such as: The Free Syrian Army is increasing dominated by Al Qaeda.

Such as: Obama hasn't specified exactly what is plan is. Like, does he plan to take out Syria's airplanes, airports, and artillery brigades? If so he should say so, so we could make an... what's that old term that no one uses anymore? Oh, right... an Informed Decision upon an important matter in a democratic system of government.

There is no particular problem with an end-date for an AUMF. Here's the thing: If there's a good reason to continue the war, the President could always come back to Congress to get a fresh authorization, and, assuming there's a good reason for such an extension, then Congress would presumably grant it.

Why does everything have to be cute?

You know what's a really cute and powerful method of persuasion? The Truth. The truth, and talking to American citizens as if they're adults.

Just telling them what you actually think. Just leveling with them like adults level with each other, once in a while, when there aren't cameras on them.

Again, this isn't McConnell's sin per se. This infects every aspect of public communication. Everything is cutesy messaging and stagey posturing.

Not only is it false, but worse yet, people know it's false. We see through it. It's silly.

So who is the show for, exactly?

How about we start doing what Americans used to do when we were so thrilled to have a free democratic republic two hundred years ago? Where we just explain our Actual Positions and Genuine Beliefs and trust that the truth will win the day 7 or 8 times out of Ten?

Actually, Like Most Things, This is Probably John McCain's Fault. McCain's idea of war is that you never fight a war halfway.

I guess he gets this from Vietnam. I understand that.

But he's always the guy pushing the idea that we must have Boots on the Ground if we're going to take any military action at all.

That is, that military action is a binary thing: We either have None of it, or All of it.

Can this possibly stand up to scrutiny? It's a fun thing to shout and you feel self-righteous yelling it, but is there really no place in American War-Planning for a few cruise missiles and B-2 bombings as an attack which is neither "Nothing" nor "Everything"?

Isn't it more reasonable to say that there will be some threats or harrassments that demand a deterring, punishing strike, and yet are not quite so severe as to require the Full Faith and Credit of the entire American Armed Forces?

Was Reagan a girly-girl for just bombing Tripoli a little and letting Qaddafi understand he could, and would, attempt to kill him if he didn't learn to mind his manners?

I was always baffled by McCain's insistence that we must be willing to put Boots on the Ground in Kosovo, a war I barely even supported. (Or, actually, didn't support, but so long as it was a nearly cost-free air campaign I didn't get loud in my opposition.)

Why would I wish to compound the error by doubling down on it?

Worse yet, I picked up the hue and cry for Boots on the Ground from McCain, myself. I wanted a way to oppose the war, and McCain's SuperHawk "Let's commit 100%!" mantra sounded good.

But it was opportunistic and I never believed it. It let me pose as a Kosovo Super-Hawk, which, I guess, felt "good" or something, while actually opposing the operation as Not My Concern.

I guess we all have our vanities. John McCain more than most. But we shouldn't let our vanities and our cheap political slogans be confused with our Real Beliefs and Actual Opinions and Real Thoughts.

I don't want to go through this process again where I pick up on some convenient political sloganeering again -- like Bush's Idealistic talk of bringing democracy to foreign shores -- and, by dint of sheer repetition, begin thinking it's Real.

It's not. It's a slogan. And slogans are for bumpers, not for brains.

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posted by Ace at 06:21 PM

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