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August 13, 2005

Comments

Re noble cause: is any soldier's death in any war for a noble cause, because he died for his country?

Rilkefan:

There are no noble causes; there are only good reasons and bad reasons to die.

But we should not discuss it in the context of an emotionally-charged argument over a grieving mother or as part of an attempted game of political gotcha.

Quite frankly Von, the pro-war forces have been using those tactics to promote their agenda since 9/12/2001. If they don't like it now that the firehose has been turned back on them...well that's too bad.

I'm all in favor of discussing the Iraq war in calm and reasoned tones, laying out the all evidence so that it can be analyzed dispassionatly and logically. When the Bush administration or the media starts doing that, you just let me know.

Oh, and by the way, using the word "whore" to refer to the mother of a fallen soldier -- and yes "media whore" has the word "whore" in it -- is beyond the pale.

So basically Bush was handing the country a line of bs when he used the phrase? If that were publically acknowledged by the admin, I would hope Mrs. Sheehan would consider her work done and go home.

Von claims: What noble cause did your son die for? This country. Our ideas. Our persons.

I thought Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq, in which case he didn't die for the US, and he didn't die for "our ideas" (well, not unless you mean "Bush's ideas", which is true, but not a "noble cause"), and he certainly didn't die for "our persons".

You may be content that American soldiers should die in Iraq for Bush's ideas and vague platitudes, but it still doesn't answer Cindy Sheehan's question: what "noble cause" was Bush thinking about?

Sophmoric? Maybe. More like a grieving mother. Bush should have talked to her. He can't talk to anyone with a script and handlers. If so those so-called "townhall meetings" would have been real. This foray into Iraq was poorly run and was a mistake from the beginning. Now ther are three groups that want to tear the country apart. We could stay there for the next 20 years and they would STILL fight each other and kill our young men and women.

"I'm all in favor of discussing the Iraq war in calm and reasoned tones, laying out the all evidence so that it can be analyzed dispassionatly and logically."

I have been known to do that , but I see no point in doing it with the Bush administration.

Incidentally, John Cole, Reasonable Republican, says Atrios is "pimping" Sheehan, so I guess the subtle and acceptable metaphor is just becoming more popular. I don't provide a link to such stuff.

Well, I vote for bad reason to die then, since nothing in the U.S. was essentially at risk in Iraq.

I still can't get past the Right's desire to parse the term 'media whore'.

Erick at Redstate said Mrs. Sheehan is a media whore or ,in other words, she was whoring herself in order to get media attention. He later apologized for using that term.

I don't think anyone is stupid enough to think Erick was implying Mrs. Sheehan was having sex for money (the primary definition of a whore). I think most people with three digits in their IQ, knew that Erick was suggesting Ms. Sheehan was compromising her principles for personal gain. The principle being the memory of her dead son and the personal gain being the media attention.

Stop trying to tell my fellow liberal elitists and me what the term 'media whore' means. It isn't a difficult concept to understand.

P.S. I couldn't agree with you more about the ugliness and stupidity of those who harrassed Erick yesterday.

Von, I think Ms. Sheehan's question, "What noble cause?" is more than fair and that your answer doesn't work because it is generic. She wants to know what noble cause THIS war is for, not a one-size-fits-all philosophical response covering all wars.
And what noble cause is this war for? Bush made a very big mistake when he sold this war on the basis of a salespitch and a slogan. Now that the salespitch is discredited and the slogan has gotten worn out, many people are wondering why we are there. That's why support for the war is dropping. It isn't good leadership to change the reasons for a war every month or so, while never articulating the real goals.
Her thoughts of Isreal might well be sophomoric--I don't know because I'm not interested in her thoughts on that subject. But her question, "What noble cause?" is one hundred percent valid.

Hey I got it:

Is it ok to say, when Laura goes out to make speeches, that Mack-Daddy Bush is political ****ing his political ***** of a wife? Or would that be offensive?

Note the difference;I can't even bring myself to type the words. This is not a small difference.

Everyone else should shut the fu_k up -- and that includes the aforementioned Mr. Erickson

does it include you?

guess not

What noble cause did your son die for? This country. Our ideas. Our persons. Casey Sheehan was your son, but he was also our soldier, our fellow citizen, and our brave protector. There are no private wars in a Republic; the cost of equal representation is equal responsibility. When the nation commits troops -- rightly or wrongly, Democratic President or Republican President -- the thyose fight for all of us. They are our sons and daughters, our fellow citizens. They die for us.
How can I put this gently? Well, I can't, so I'll be blunt.

She doesn't care what your opinion on the issue is, von. You're not the President, you didn't pick this fight, and you didn't order her son over there.

It's funny, though -- YOU can give her a reason, despite the fact that you had absolutely nothing to do with it. Yet Bush, the man whose word started this whole affair, cannot.

As for her sophmoric views -- you know, that's funny too. Conservatives often decry the "ivory tower" intellectual views on the right, but when faced by a mourning mother -- a solid Red State mom whose son died in service to his country -- all they can do is insult her and claim her concerns simply aren't intellectually sound enough to bother with.

I don't think it's very seemly for anyone to castigate a grieving mother as a "media whore," even if she is seeking media attention. I also don't think we are obligated to accord her opinions any extra weight just because she is a grieving mother, either. The only reason anyone - on either side - is paying any attention to this story is the pathos, and/or as an excuse to score political points.

If I could answer her question as to what "noble cause" her son died for, I would say that he died for his fellow soldiers, and for the people of Iraq. I doubt that answer would satisfy any mother, but it's the only one that anyone can give.

"And the insane harrassment that's currently plaguing him reminds me why I blog (semi) anonymously."

And it reminds me why I prefer to blog under my own name. I hope it keeps me honest, or closer to it. And it reminds me that I will have to stand behind my words. It reminds me that the person I am talking with may come and visit me in person some time, so I'd better be willing to say it face to face.

And it encourages me to reserve my invective for political figures, and not say really horrible things about regular American citizens.

So, yeah, if you blog under your own name, and if you say really inexcusable things, then people will hassle you.

Facing that fact, you can blog anonymously, or you can just avoid saying inexcusable things.

ThirdGorchBro: I would say that he died for his fellow soldiers, and for the people of Iraq.

The thing is, I bet under the same circumstances you'd head down the drive, offer her a cup of tea, and tell her that face-to-face.

Bush... won't.

(I disagree with you, as you know, and Cindy Sheehan might disagree with you, but I bet you'd have the generosity and kindness and faith to speak to her, not ignore her.)

"YOU can give her a reason...yet Bush, the man whose word started this whole affair, cannot."

Right, Morat. You'd think Bush could at least muster a "Freedom's on the march" or one of his other feeble plattitudes for the suffering Ms. Sheehan.

Erick Erickson of RedState did not call Ms. Sheehan a "whore"; he called her a "media whore." There's a difference, and it's not a small one.

Oh good, thanks for explaining that the Redstate guy wasn't actually saying that Sheehan sells sex, but was using the word metaphorically. I had been confused.

So Erick isn't saying she's selling herself out, he's saying she sells herself out for media attention - "no small difference," you see. The specific nature of her (metaphorical!) prostitution is apparently very important to understand, the better, I suppose, to imply that Sheehan is a phony.

(That may not be your intent, Von, but that's what you participate in with this silly parsing.)

I also don't really have any problem with the term "media whore;" there's that old Washington joke about how the most dangerous place to be is between X and a camera. The problem here isn't that Sheehan is a mother, it's that the term doesn't apply. She's not, one would/should assume, doing this just because she loves to be in fron of the camera, she's doing it because she's grieving.

But, attack the enemy at her strongest point, I guess, call the grieving mother a narcissistic whore.

p.s.--
I should make it clear that I too condemn the kind of weird threats and invective that have been leveled at Erickson and his family. I referred to being "hassled" above; that might seem too slight of a word for the kind of harrassment he has been subjected to, but I do not want to be taken to be minimizing it, much less condoning it.

All sides have an obligation to increase the level of civility in political discourse.

Yes, we should discuss "what to do next in Iraq." But we should not discuss it in the context of an emotionally-charged argument over a grieving mother or as part of an attempted game of political gotcha.

Maybe in 2009.

Save your incisive putdowns and attack-queries; they not as clever as you think. For we demean the importance of our discussion over Iraq -- and demean our duties as free citizens -- by resorting to a snarkfest. We will consider in calm, once the silly chatters are silent and Ms. Sheehan has gone home to her grief, because that's the smart thing to do.

*shrug* Von, if Bush were capable of doing the smart thing, he'd have listened to the people who had considered the Iraq invasion/occupation "in calm" back in 2003. Instead he, and his administration, and supporters of his administration, have done nothing but engage in a snarkfest about people who were right, when Bush & Co were wrong. So, there's no real point in calling for the "silly chatters" to be silent: the silly chatters are in the White House, the Bush administration is the snarkfest, and there will be no point in "calm consideration" unless there's an administration who's interested in doing the smart thing.

Meantime, why not pay attention to one grieving mother who is pointing out by her actions exactly how heartless and stupid Bush is?

What noble cause did your son die for? This country. Our ideas. Our persons.

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. Seems like a cop out.

I think TGB's answer is more along the lines of what Sheehan is looking for - you know, something concrete instead of platitudes.

I think Ms. Sheehan is doing us all a great service by asking her question and by making Bush accountable for answering it. No she should NOT go home.
Look: when we went into WWII everyone knew that the noble cause was to defeat Germany, Italy, and Japan, and drive them out of the countries they had invaded. Since the goals were clearly stated it was easy to measure success and failure.
What are we fighting for?
1. WMDs--not there
2. Get rid of Saddam--done
3. Fight terrorism--can't be done through conventional combat except under unusual circumstances and certainly not by invading a country not linked to terrorism in any important way. In any case, there are more terrorists in iraq now than before the invasion.
Above is the sales pitch and the slogan. When those evaporated the noble cause changed to creating a democracy (4) That might happen. Some success has occurred. However the expectation was that it would be a liberal pro-American democracy and, instead, it it will more likely be a very conservative pro-Iranian democracy, not the exactly the noble cause any Bush supporter had in mind.
6. Spread democracy by planting one in the middle of the MIddle East. This is based on the paternalistic assuption that Middle Easterners wouldn't want a democracy unless they saw one physically close by--Turkey is too far. Apparently they can't learn about the idea from books or travel either. Well this noble cause isn't working right out either, partly because it is proving so difficult in Iraq and partly because real democracy is likely to give political power to religious conservatives and fundamentalists, not the people the Bush administration would like to empower. The Middle East is very different from Eastern Europe. The fall of Saddam is not the equivelent of the fall of the Iron Curtain and will not the have the same effect.
7. Extablish bases and use them to contain or attack Iran. This noble cause won't happen because Iraq won't allow it.
So what is the noble cause? I don't really know why Bush was so bent on war. I have to guess. And it looks very much like he has already failed at most of what I guess were his goals.

Von,

If you are a male attorney in a big law firm and you call a female colleague, who you really don't know, a media whore, because she, say, was always giving TV interviews, how do you think she or your firm would react?

He called her a whore. Period. I'm sorry he was attacked but you don't call a woman a whore, no matter what qualifiers you use. Didn't his mother teach him better?

"media whore" is nothing. this guy thinks Mrs Sheehan outta be in the public stocks, or if not that, "at the very least bitches like this Sheehan witch should be shunned".

yes indeed, these are the same people who claim to be doing God's work in bringing the flowering tree of democracy to the poor oppressed Iraqis. i guess they can only muster so much sympathy at a time - sorry grieving mothers of America, you shut just STFU.

It's nice that von thinks we should now have a calm, rational discussion of the war in Iraq.

Too bad we didn't have one before the war started.

Or after "Mission Accomplished."

Or after the mercenaries were killed in Fallujah.

Or after Fallujah was leveled in retaliation.

Or after the Abu Ghraib pictures were released.

Or after any one of the Big Events that were supposed to be Turning Points: the capture of Saddam, the levelling of Fallujah, the sort-of restoration of sovereignty, the Election. What's the next one? When they finish writing the Constitution?

Or before, during, or after, the 2004 election. Maybe before, during or after the 2006 elections? How about 2008?

Or after US casualties numbered 500. Or 1000. Or 1500. Maybe when we reach the 2000 mark? How about 2500?

We've never had a calm, rational discussion of the war in Iraq.

If we did, there would have to be a calm, rational discussion of why the war with Iraq was so badly planned; why people like General Shinseiki were dismissed as having nothing worth saying; why soldiers were (and are) sent out to combat without the necessary equipment; why we still cannot secure one major highway, or the borders or so much as one police station.

If we did, we might even have to have a calm, rational discussion about stove-piped, cherry-picked, intelligence that was used as disinformation to the world, our allies, and to our own people.

If we did, there would have to be a calm, rational discussion of the deceit used to sell the war, the way the war is used as a political cudgel, the way the war is used to call anyone who doesn't lavishly support it a traitor, "objectively pro-terrorist," a media whore, or any of the other lovely terms the RW likes to toss around.

If we did, we might have to have a calm, rational discussion about the future of the US military, and what further adventures Bush has in store for us all.

Gosh, it sure would be nice to have a calm, rational discussion about the war in Iraq before, say, Bush decides to go to war against Iran.

Erick Erickson of RedState did not call Ms. Sheehan a "whore"; he called her a "media whore."

Yes, and either makes him a piece of s---.

When the nation commits troops -- rightly or wrongly, Democratic President or Republican President -- [they] fight for all of us. They are our sons and daughters, our fellow citizens. They die for us.

The honor owed those troops is widely acknowledged Von.

We're talking about the President and the Congress who decide when and where the troops will be fighting for us.

Do we let them imply that simply by committing honorable soldiers to battle, their own decisions become honorable? Do we let them obfuscate their motives and hide from judgement behind those soldiers?

No. We force them to explain to the citizenry and, more particularly, to the troops and their families, "Why there, why then, and for what non-negotiable goals?"

I find this whole sojourn offensive in that it’s boiling down to scoring political points. This has become a Terri Schiavo type affair in reverse. It’s turning a tragic, personal event into an excuse to score some political points. We’re back to trotting grieving members of the family up before the cameras or reading their letters in a repugnant “he-said” “she-said” manner. All of this being done over an issue that most people would be mortified to have dragged out for public display.

Is there anything that Bush can say that will really appease her (and not provide for additional criticism)? How would any of you feel knowing that you’d already given her some time and now she is saying, in as public and critical a manner as possible, that it wasn’t good enough and you should give her more time? I’m a big critic of this administration’s foreign policy, but this just comes across as unseemly on her part.

However, that still does not excuse the bull-headed stupidity of Bush for not giving her a few minutes of his time. I have to wonder what on earth the admin. could be thinking. This could have been defused in an instant with a token gesture on his part.

Now, to top it off, we see the right-wing blogosphere and media getting involved. You can see from the recent posts (or lack thereof) at Redstate, that many on the right are trying to ignore the Plame affair into obscurity. Yet, they choose to ignore this strategy in the one instance where it might actually be beneficial. Instead, they’ve been inflaming the situation with their unseemly attacks on Sheehan’s character. This is the opponent that keeps winning elections with their master strategy.

One last thing... regardless of the context, calling a grieving mother a whore is flat out wrong. Von, your continued defense of this does you absolutely no service.

Everyone else should shut the fu_k up -- and that includes the aforementioned Mr. Erickson

does it include you?

guess not

Jeebus, Cleek, congratulations on completely missing my point. Here it is in simplier form:

Attacks on Ms. Sheehan/statements that she's "dishonoring" the memory of her son: out of line.

Responses to the question that she herself poses? Absolutely, yes. She asked it; she gets a response, even if it may not be to her (or your) liking.

BTW, I frankly don't care that a certain percentage of our readership doesn't understand the (clear and uncontoversial) difference between a "whore" and a "media whore." Your claims that I've been somehow "diminished" myself by reading and applying the dictionary will not keep me up at night.

I don't think anyone is stupid enough to think Erick was implying Mrs. Sheehan was having sex for money....

Except for Atrios, Jerome Armstrong, Steve Gilliard, and legions of their easily-roused readers, you're probably right, Blue. Actually, it was just the readers who were that stupid -- I'm pretty sure the named prominent lefty bloggers are merely dishonest.

Von's dead right on this one: way too many on the left are suddenly developing severe English comprehension problems with this one. They really don't, as an aggregate, have a problem with the term "media whore" per se -- unless I missed all the indignation over MWO -- but they do see Cindy Sheehan as somehow inviolate. Erickson refused to heed that conceit, and his use of the term "media whore" is merely the handiest (albeit dumbest) tool with which to beat him for it.

So why did he apologise, Tacitus?

Simplest way to neutralize the bilious idiots. Hasn't worked, though.

Last time I checked Yahoo hits on "Cindy Sheehan whore" were at 7950. Von added one more. I added one more. There plenty who will giggle at the count.

Nobody has tested von's very thick skin yet to see if whatever was inside has been replaced of thinner consistency and different color? No fun here, clear posting rule bait was set, and nobody bit.

"All sides have an obligation to increase the level of civility in political discourse."

I expected better of you than this, Brennan.

Simplest way to neutralize the bilious idiots. Hasn't worked, though.

Soooo....you're saying Erick wasn't sincere in his apology? It was merely a ploy?

von: BTW, for those kind enough to worry that their comments will insult me, please don't.  I have very thick skin.

Hmmm. In this instance von, your skin appears to match your head.

If you are a male attorney in a big law firm and you call a female colleague, who you really don't know, a media whore, because she, say, was always giving TV interviews, how do you think she or your firm would react?

GT, I've been accused in my practice of (a) racketeering and (b) participating in an international RICO conspiracy;* "media whore" is pretty far down on the list. If the shoe fits, I'm perfectly comfortable calling another lawyer a media whore (although why I'd say so about a fellow lawyer in my firm -- and why I wouldn't instead try to butt in on her media whoredom -- completely escapes me).

von

*FWIW, on Thursday my client's motion was granted to dismiss all of the relevant RICO claims on the pleadings & with prejudice; the Judge also (as I had requested) made a specific finding as to the rest of the claims of my client, which may very well lead to the dismissal of the rest of the case as a matter of law. It was example number 14 million in support of rule number 1 of advocacy: do not overstate your case.

Hmmm. In this instance von, your skin appears to match your head.

Ha! (Touche')

What noble cause did your son die for? This country. Our ideas. Our persons. Casey Sheehan was your son, but he was also our soldier, our fellow citizen, and our brave protector. There are no private wars in a Republic; the cost of equal representation is equal responsibility. When the nation commits troops -- rightly or wrongly, Democratic President or Republican President -- the those troops fight for all of us. They are our sons and daughters, our fellow citizens. They die for us.

I've never heard empty platitudes more emptily expressed. Well done, von; it took some real skill to devoid your response of all context, applicability or, when you get right down to it, meaning. OTOH, since I'm fairly sure Casey Sheehan didn't die to give you an opportunity to waft vacuous jingoism in our general direction, can I ask that you take another stab at answering the actual question?

Here, 2shoes, something shiny: I endorse the "media whore" appellation. Fire away, ye witless ones.

"There are no private wars in a Republic; the cost of equal representation is equal responsibility."

That there are some who find this statement "vacuous jingoism" is frankly appalling. It's a basic truth, the purveyors of the imaginary "Bush's War" notwithstanding.

Apologize!=Retract.

That there are some who find this statement "vacuous jingoism" is frankly appalling.

It's vacuous jingoism when the cost of this war isn't being apportioned equally, and when the person uttering this statement has not, to the best of my knowledge, advocated measures to ensure equal apportionment. [All the more so given that the Administration seems hellbent on ensuring unequal apportionment.] And, fwiw, I find it frankly appalling that you don't consider Cindy Sheehan, as a mother bereaved by this war, inviolate insofar as her personal character is concerned. Have you no decency?

Oh, and for the non programmers, != means does not equal.

My two cents: A grieving mother's ideas are no more likely to be right than anyone else's, nor are grieving mothers immune from criticism. (Imagine if a mother whose child was killed in Iraq took to running supporters of the war down with her car.) However, grieving mothers are entitled to be treated with respect. They (and grieving fathers) have lost more than most of the rest of us can even imagine, and they have suffered that loss for us.

This doesn't mean we can't disagree with them or criticize them. (It's not their views or their conduct that we have to respect; it's them.) It does mean that we should do so respectfully. This is especially true when what we're disagreeing with them about is: the proper response to the loss of their child. I don't think even that is exempt from criticism or disagreement (see homicidal grieving mother above. If you knew someone who had become unhinged in that way, you would, I think, owe it to her to try to talk her out of it, out of compassion not just for her potential victims but for her.) But, again, it would have to be careful and respectful criticism.

Calling someone a media whore is not the same as calling her a whore. But both are completely disrespectful, and thus wrong.

Especially since, in this case, I don't think we have much idea whether it's true. At all. I can imagine her doing this out of some such motive. I can imagine her doing it because it just came to her that she should. I have a somewhat easier time with the second -- it's exactly the sort of reaction I suspect grief might bring out in me, and I don't think I'm alone in having, in some kinds of extreme emotional circumstances, the sense that someone other than me should be paying attention; that I have to make people listen, somehow.

On the other hand, my problem with imagining her doing it just for effect is not e.g. that I don't think people do that sort of thing -- of course they do -- but that it is, in those terms, a pretty dumb move. Things like this sometimes catch on, as her vigil has, but much more often they don't. I think it's completely unpredictable which is which; but the odds are against anyone who tries. But then, the fact that if she were going for attention for its own sake, this would have been (ex ante) a dumb way of doing it obviously doesn't rule it out: it's not as though no one on earth is stupid.

Which is it? I have no idea. But for my own part, I think that people who completely rule out the first explanation or the second might not have tried hard enough to imagine it.

Sheehan is taking a salary for her media appearances, and sacrificing her integrity to keep those paying her salary happy? I did not know that. Thank you Tacitus for informing me.

Your assertion is that she was spouting things she doesn't believe (and compromising her integrity), yes? Or are you saying that she just likes the media attention, and the use of the word "whore" is just gratuitous insult? This "values voter" conservatism thing never ceases to amaze.

You can duck all of that if you'd like. Those answers are less important than knowing why the President has not yet felt it necessary to explain what success in Iraq will constitute, and what demonstrable failure would look like. An explanation of that particular brand of "leadership" would be much more useful.

Here, 2shoes, something shiny: I endorse the "media whore" appellation. Fire away, ye witless ones.

Surely this is a posting violation. Surely?

Anyways, thanks to Tacitus, I will now know to approach Erick's writings with a degree of caution.

Von,

I don't know where you work. But where I do (major financial institution) if I used those words I would be fired immediately, and for a good reason. The lawyers I work with (in places like Sidley Austin, for example) work under the same rules.

You don't call a woman a whore. Even if it's just a media whore. Period.

I hope Erick has learned something from all of this, something his mother should have taught him long ago.

In the end the worst part of what Erick wrote was not that it was wrong. It's that it was crass.

I endorse the "media whore" appellation.

I think you're lying.

Fire away, ye witless ones.

and bored.

I don't have much of an opinion on Sheehan's specific actions--unless they should manage to provoke our President into clarifying what it is that would constitute victory in Iraq--but villifying her is at the very least unseemly.

More immediately, I'd like to commend conservative newcomer 3rd Gorch Bro--and ask him where he hangs out when not at ObWi.

Some people here think that shortening "media whore" to just "whore" is a self-serving equivocation. Sure it's techinically true, and it's sort of metaphorically true, but the connotations are clearly pretty different.

Is it not also an act of self-serving equivocation to attribute this to a comprehension-level failure in understanding? It may be self-serving spin, but to say that it is caused by "severe English comprehension problems" or that 'a certain percentage of our readership doesn't understand the (clear and uncontoversial) difference between a "whore" and a "media whore."'? Do you really believe that?

Tacitus: Here, 2shoes, something shiny: I endorse the "media whore" appellation. Fire away, ye witless ones.

Jesus Christ. Is this really necessary? What did 2shoes do to deserve being spit on like this?

Gromit, odd that you take offense to that comment, yet not to the one calling another a liar. Indignation is a funny thing.

bob mcmanus--

I wrote:
"All sides have an obligation to increase the level of civility in political discourse."

you wrote:

"I expected better of you than this, Brennan."

Well, I'm flattered that you have higher expectations of me, but I'm not sure in which respect I have failed to meet them.

Is it the prose-style? A bit boiler-plate, I'll admit. Is it the sentiment? Yeah, kinda trite.

But I don't yet see that it has major problems like, e.g., being false. Stilll strikes me as true.

But, look, write me a better line, and I'll see if I can endorse it--I would be delighted to fire my old speech-writer.

The other thing is--some of the things that were said and written to Erickson just do strike me as over the line. Same line that he crossed in insulting Sheehan. The line of fundamental decency towards fellow citizens.

I didn't say "all sides are equally guilty of incivility"--I don't think all sides *are* equally guilty. I didn't say "we need to clean up our act as much as they do"--I think that the Rove Republicans have a lot further to go.

Still, those asymmetries noted, there is an obligation on all sides etc. etc. The horrible behavior of the Rove Republicans does not suddenly excuse us from all such obligations.

But I'd be happy to hear more about the "better" you expected from me. I might like it better, too.

"What did 2shoes do to deserve being spit on like this?"

Nothing.
Obviously.
Just Tacitus showing off.
Obviously.

"BTW, I frankly don't care that a certain percentage of our readership doesn't understand the (clear and uncontoversial) difference between a "whore" and a "media whore.""

You might be right about there being a difference in meaning and in impact; but doesn't that trouble you? How can "media whore" mean anything other than a person who sells his/her integrity/dignity/character for some price? How have we reached the point where it is a *minor* insult to claim that someone sells there integrity for 15 minutes on the evening news? Come-On! Snap out of it! Have we all been worn down so much by the Loathsome Talking Heads who, for their hundreds of thousand / few million dollar salaries -- or for the raw power of controlling the publics opinion --, are willing to abandon all pretense of truth and honesty? And by "abandon all pretense of truth" I do not mean to shade and urge an interpretation of facts as might an advocate. I refer to those who out and out lie, who endeavor to convince the public of a set of facts that they know are not true. I do not even refer to those who do so in the name of an idea or policy that they truly believe in, but to those who do so for the raw power and glory of *winning*.

When I say "media whore" I mean someone I cannot trust, I will not listen to, who I hold in contempt.

While I appreciate the pragmatic difference between selling one's integrity and selling one's sexuality, in both cases, however, the issue is selling one's dignity/integrity/character? In short, it's a distinction without a difference; and the fact that we are tempted to claim a difference speaks ill of *our* standards and expectations, and the fact that we permit the true "media whores" to prosper.

Beats me, Aaron. He's certainly an interlocutor unblemished past and present. Gosh.

I find it frankly appalling that you don't consider Cindy Sheehan, as a mother bereaved by this war, inviolate insofar as her personal character is concerned.

That's weird. So since her son died, everything about her in her public life is off-limits? Utter nonsense.

Sheehan is taking a salary for her media appearances, and sacrificing her integrity to keep those paying her salary happy?....Your assertion is that she was spouting things she doesn't believe....yes?

If Charlotte Raven were here, and had moral integrity, her response to CMatt would contain the phrase "deeply dumb."

Finally, xanax, I assure you that I do find Ms Sheehan to be a media whore. However, since your side regards the contrary opinion to be synonymous with virtue, I'll take your belief in my dishonesty as a sort of compliment.

Many on this thread have decried the "scoring of political points" or words to that effect.

Of course what Cindy Sheehan is doing is political, and she is well aware of that herself. You can read her own views on this for yourself (it's easy enough to find them).

As usual, I agree with hilzoy -- we may not agree about her position, or even her way of calling attention to it, but she deserves respect. It seems to me the posting rules here at ObWi are an attempt to encourage respect among those who participate. That is a primary reason I visit here.

Alas, such respect is often missing from political discussion elsewhere, even sometimes here. We can wish for reasoned discourse and respect among participants, but we are foolish to expect it. No doubt we would disagree about who is at fault for this situation. Still, we have to deal with things as they are, not as we would wish them to be.

As to whether Cindy Sheehan's political statement is valid, or appropriate, or justified, or serves a good purpose -- well, I think it is and it does. Perhaps her policy ideas are not the best ones. Isn't the decision about making war, committing troops to fight, kill, and die a political decision, one to which we must all give sincere and careful thought? It's about time we did.

Attacks on Ms. Sheehan/statements that she's "dishonoring" the memory of her son: out of line.

And, this must be stressed, her opinions are sophomoric and her ideas are for crap.

you've got that hair split mighty fine.

What noble cause did your son die for? This country. Our ideas. Our persons.

BllSht.

this country would be just fine if Saddam was still there, our ideas wouldn't suffer a bit. our persons ? thousands of them would still be alive, many thousands more would not be permanently disabled. tens of thousands of Iraqis would not be dead at our hands.

all Bush can do is repeat his finely crafted platitudes. all his supporters can do is parrot them. neither of them make a lick of sense. and now you're trying to redefine "noble".

disgusting.

[Oh, the "her" in paragraph 3, above, is of course Cindy Sheehan, not hilzoy. Darn pronouns!]

Actually, I'm perfectly happy to take Tac at his word. His belief that Ms Sheehan is not driven by her grief over her dead son but but by her desire for the media spotlight seems right in line with his writings to date.

I'm merely surprised that he didn't go whole hog and call her "objectively pro-terror" or "on the other side". Half measures sir? I'm dissapointed.

Just Tacitus showing off.

I'm not sure "showing" is the verb you're looking for.

If Charlotte Raven were here, and had moral integrity, her response to CMatt would contain the phrase "deeply dumb."

Charlotte Raven (apparently a journalist, who also apparently has never used the words "media whore" in a column - see my url) is not here. And I could give a fig how you'd like to Karnak the woman's response to questions I directed at you.

Thank you for not explaining why you feel the phrase "media whore" is appropriate to a private citizen currently seeking media attention. Thank you also for not addressing the rest of my post. Or pretty much anyone else's. Your "...I'll take your belief in my dishonesty as a sort of compliment" is noted, and extremely impressive. Troll on.

That's weird. So since her son died, everything about her in her public life is off-limits? Utter nonsense.

He didn't say "public life". He said "personal character".

"But I'd be happy to hear more about the "better" you expected from me. I might like it better, too."

Do not take me so seriously, please. It was a joke, not entirely at your expense but directed at the foul comity seekers and filthy civil discussers who would take all the snap and snazzle out of politics.

Reasoned discussions are for....I don't know who they would be for...sophomores?

Schiavo and Sheehan are how politics are actually done, by the pros. They want to win, not look pretty and have lots of friends.

His belief that Ms Sheehan is not driven by her grief over her dead son....

No need for Miss Raven to do it: I'll be the one to call this deeply dumb. This ain't hard, folks. Reading, I mean.

On which point, CMatt, you're Googling the wrong phrase, Cochise.

Ah, bob m., I thought of you as I was writing. Like I said, I'm glad Cindy Sheehan is there.

I'm no political strategist, and sometimes I get the feeling what you post is a little over the top, but I agree in principle that civility for its own sake is useless, even harmful. We're playing for keeps.

You know what ain't hard, Tac? Actually saying what you mean. Why don't you try it some time? It would make a nice change.

As your first assignment, perhaps you'll be so good as to explain to the class what it is you mean when you call Ms. Sheehan a media whore.

Media Whore definitions

Jesurgislac,

Bush just won another election. He represents the U.S. That's much more than just Bush.

"if Bush were capable of doing the smart thing, he'd have listened to the people who had considered the Iraq invasion/occupation "in calm" back in 2003."

Bush did do the smart thing. He ignored didn't let crtics like you stop him from doing the right thing. He didn't bow down and let the terrorist and dictators walk over innocent people.

Tac ('witless'), xanax ('lying'): posting rules.

everyone else: it's not worth it.

So...let's get this straight, WonderWhy. If the President of The United States of America met with the grieving mother of a fallen soldier, then he'd be bowing down and letting the terrorists and dictators walk all over innocent people. Thanks for clearing that up.

And Hilzoy, with respect, it is worth it. Tacitus waltzes in here and defends something odious that's posted in his sandbox by playing Humpty Dumpty with the word "whore". I think he deserves a few metaphorical kicks in the teeth before he scurries back to RedState.

This just in: Cindy Sheehan has parlayed her media notariety into an invitation to be a contestant on the new series "American Idol: Moms of Dead Marines!"

Wow. You were right all along, Tac.

Sheesh.

DougM: Thanks. I was not aware that the definition had become quite so expansive.

People seeking fame for the sake of fame, people who use their access to media to promote a particular commercial or ideological message, and
In the area of news reporting, the term is used to describe ideologues who lie and obfuscate for themselves, others, or their cause out of sincere devotion to their beliefs, and mercenaries who engage in the same conduct as services rendered in exchange for money or favors.

What a boon to civil discourse though.

Every CEO and company spokesman, advertisers, every political activist (of any scale, if using the media) not to mention wannabe stars, actual hired guns, hatchetmen, etc.

Whores, the lot of 'em.

Using that definition, I'd have to concede Tacitus' labeling of Cindy Sheehan to be accurate. Unless I'm mistaken, however, it would be equally applicable to him at least once in the past. And would be again if he appeared in a media forum to discuss any topic even tangentially related to politics or commerce.

The definition seems entirely too broad to be useful, save for begging someone to take offense.

Tacitus, Cochise (why?), if you are using this definition, you could have noted it as quickly and easily as DougM did. And had time left to address what success in Iraq will constitute, and what demonstrable failure would look like..

Cindy Sheehan has parlayed her media notariety into an invitation to be a contestant on the new series "American Idol: Moms of Dead Marines!"

what fantastic luck! that whole dead son thing is really paying off for her.

And had time left to address what success in Iraq will constitute

I don't think they really know.

That's weird. So since her son died, everything about her in her public life is off-limits? Utter nonsense.

"This ain't hard, folks. Reading, I mean."

Actually, it appears that Ms. Sheehan's son died to help in the establishment of an Islamic Republic:

But whatever the outcome on specific disputes, the document on which Iraq's future is to be built will require laws to be compliant with Islam. Kurds and Shiites are expecting de facto long-term political privileges. And women's rights will not be as firmly entrenched as Washington has tried to insist, U.S. officials and Iraq analysts say.

"We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity. "That process is being repeated all over."

U.S. officials now acknowledge that they misread the strength of the sentiment among Kurds and Shiites to create a special status. The Shiites' request this month for autonomy to be guaranteed in the constitution stunned the Bush administration, even after more than two years of intense intervention in Iraq's political process, they said.

"We didn't calculate the depths of feeling in both the Kurdish and Shiite communities for a winner-take-all attitude," said Judith S. Yaphe, a former CIA Iraq analyst at the National Defense University.

Somehow I doubt that she'll find that comforting.

rilkefan: Re noble cause: is any soldier's death in any war for a noble cause, because he died for his country?

I thought of this originally but decided to leave it out of my post. Upon reflection, though, a large part of what angered me about von's "empty platitudes" is that, when the fine language is stripped away, they reduce to: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. And I'd like to think we've evolved somewhat in our attitudes over the past two millenia, or even the last century pace Wilfred Owen.

that whole dead son thing is really paying off for her.

AND... the lucky girl has three more kids.

I guess she won't be needing no stinking social security.

Anarch,

My thinking exactly and more's the pity that we haven't. Here's a link to Owen's poem, written by someone who actually experienced warfare with WMD's.

Von? Tactitus? Your conflation of the general principle that soldiers fight for their nation and the specific political decision to send troops to Iraq is, wait, how did Von put it? Ah, right: "sophomoric."

You are quite right, equal represenation entails equal responsibility, and that means being angered when a politician asks soldiers to die frivolously. A politican who can't be bothered to argue convincingly for the justness of a war he decided to fight to the mother of a soldier who died in that war is not a leader. A banal statement of general principles that are true of all soldiers in all wars, just or unjust, is no substitute for a deeply felt and clearly argued explanation of why a leader sent his soldiers to fight and die.

I should add that I do acknowledge that the point of whether or not Bush has offered such an argument in general is debatable. However, it seems clear that, confronted with Sheehan, Pres. Bush failed to rise to the occasion.

"Isn't the decision about making war, committing troops to fight, kill, and die a political decision, one to which we must all give sincere and careful thought? It's about time we did."

Do you realize that this statement comes right after your appeal to respect other people's opinions? It isn't exactly as if we haven't debated the Iraq war for more than two years here. The fact is that people disagree about the political decision. But that doesn't mean that those who disagree with you don't give the problem sincere and careful thought.

"If the President of The United States of America met with the grieving mother of a fallen soldier, then he'd be bowing down and letting the terrorists and dictators walk all over innocent people. Thanks for clearing that up."

Bush has already met with her. How many times do you believe that it is necessary to meet with her? Until she agree with him?

The point I want to make about this manufactured media game is that her son was not some naive fool who got tricked into things. He wasn't a teenager, he was in his mid twenties. He had re-enlisted knowing full well about Iraq and the fact that he would be sent there. He even volunteered for the mission when he died, though he could have easily gotten out of it and was fully aware that it was dangerous. I can't claim to the past minds of the dead, but two things are clear.

He was not tricked into doing what he saw as his duty.

The anti-war push of his mother is not in line with the actions he took in his life nor the military choices he made with it.

Sebastian, have I touched a nerve? Good.

Manufactured media game

Heh.

"Spending time outside Washington gives the president a fresh perspective of what's on the minds of the American people," press secretary Scott McClellan exclaimed earlier this month. "It's a time, really, for him to shed the coat and tie and meet with folks out in the heartland and hear what's on their minds."

The anti-war push of his mother is not in line with the actions he took in his life nor the military choices he made with it.

The mind-reading abilities around here never cease to amaze me. If I hang out here long enough, will I gain the magical ability to discern the innermost thoughts and feelings of a dead man? One I never met in life?

Or do only Republicans get that? It's a pretty nice perk. I might switch parties over it.

The mind-reading abilities around here never cease to amaze me.

No no no...in this case it's not "mind-reading". It's "communing with the dead".

It doesn't matter that much other than one has a dental plan.

"Bush has already met with her. How many times do you believe that it is necessary to meet with her?"

In my case, I just want to see a sincere demonstration that Bush respects her disagreement and a well-thought out statement to her of why he believes that her son's death was meaningful. It doesn't have, and probably shouldn't be a meeting with Sheehan, just with a mother who lost her son in the war and who opposes it.

I realize that that's somewhat nebulous, since a hack can always argue that his explanation wasn't heartfult or well-thought out enough. However, if Bush has really thought about why he went to war, about the criticisms of that decision, and he still believes that he is doing the right thing, he should be able to convince someone that sincerely believes that their son died for a good cause, and that the decision to make that sacrifice was one he lost sleep over. I really don't think you can lead in war if you can't make the sort of connection people that convinces them that you've thought through every option and that you see no satisfactory alternative, and I think the current bitterness over Iraq is in part a symptom of that failure of leadership on Bush's part.

dougm: Gromit, odd that you take offense to that comment, yet not to the one calling another a liar. Indignation is a funny thing.

Lets not be coy. Just what insight into my character did you gain from this single data point?

Tacitus: Beats me, Aaron. He's certainly an interlocutor unblemished past and present. Gosh.

That's not an answer. Would you prefer that I just speculate on your motives, rather than ask you up front?

It isn't mindreading to note that Casey voluntarily reenlisted while well aware of the war in Iraq. Despite Democratic rumors to the contrary, there isn't a draft.

It also doesn't take much to note that Ms. Sheehan's suggestion that we immediately withdraw from the Middle East (and support for Israel) and leave them all to rot is a really bad suggestion.

Which leads to: " I just want to see a sincere demonstration that Bush respects her disagreement"

I don't respect her disagreement in a substantive way. I think her policy suggestions are atrocious and would lead to disaster. So I'm certainly not going to ask Bush to respect her arguments. And if you want procedural respect of the "everyone is entitled to their opinion in these here United States" variety, that has already been given. Her son was killed by insurgents fighting for Iraqi autocracy. She met with the President. He unsurprising didn't agree that we should immediately withdraw all the troops. She is pissed about it. So what?

"She met with the President. He unsurprising didn't agree that we should immediately withdraw all the troops."

Her account of her meeting with him indicates that he was barely paying attention and did not know her name or who had lost, not that they had talked about Iraq and he had simply disagreed with her. Her account may not be accurate. I don't know. What will suffice for me is a demonstration that the president can treat a person in her position with repect.

There is a substantial difference to holding to a principle that "everyone is entitled to their opinion" and actually respecting disagreement. Simply holding that one is entitled to an opinion doesn't involve engagement with that opinion or respect for another person, but rather it allows one to simply dismiss another person's opinion as soon as one finds some convenient excuse to. Respecting disagreement in the manner I have in mind involves understanding that the core argument for freedom of speech is that criticism, arguement, and disagreement are a means by which we come closer to the truth by confronting positions and incorporating criticism into our understanding of situations in order to refine that understanding.

From what I've seen of her thoughts, even in Pres. Bush were to approach her from this position, she wouldn't be particularily receptive at this point, which is why I would be satisfied with another family which opposed the war and lost a child.

Gromit sez: Lets not be coy. Just what insight into my character did you gain from this single data point?

Where did I ever make such a statement? Did I mention your character? Indeed, lets not be coy, lets try to stick with what is said instead.

dougm: Where did I ever make such a statement? Did I mention your character? Indeed, lets not be coy, lets try to stick with what is said instead.

Therein lies the problem. You didn't explicitly say anything at all:

"Gromit, odd that you take offense to that comment, yet not to the one calling another a liar. Indignation is a funny thing."

Why is it odd? Why is indignation a funny thing? If you don't want me to draw inferences from your comments, then come out and say what you actually mean rather than relying on innuendo.

Gromit sez: If you don't want me to draw inferences from your comments, then come out and say what you actually mean rather than relying on innuendo.

I came out and said exactly what I meant. That (a) it was odd that you took offense to that comment, yet not to one calling someone a liar, and (b) that indignation -is- a funny thing, it often leads one to make strange statements, which is quite evident on your last two comments. I once again hope you will read what is said, and if you feel it neccessary to respond, respond to that. Not some ghost in the shadows.

Her account of her meeting with him indicates that he was barely paying attention and did not know her name or who had lost, not that they had talked about Iraq and he had simply disagreed with her. Her account may not be accurate. I don't know.

Her account at the time was

Since learning in April that their son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, had been killed in Iraq, life has been everything but normal for the Sheehan family of Vacaville. Casey's parents, Cindy and Patrick, as well as their three children, have attended event after event honoring the soldier both locally and abroad, received countless letters of support and fielded questions from reporters across the country.

"That's the way our whole lives have been since April 4," Patrick said. "It's been surreal."

But none of that prepared the family for the message left on their answering machine last week, inviting them to have a face-to-face meeting with President George W. Bush at Fort Lewis near Seattle.

Surreal soon seemed like an understatement, as the Sheehans - one of 17 families who met Thursday with Bush - were whisked in a matter of days to the Army post and given the VIP treatment from the military. But as their meeting with the president approached, the family was faced with a dilemma as to what to say when faced with Casey's commander-in-chief.

"We haven't been happy with the way the war has been handled," Cindy said. "The president has changed his reasons for being over there every time a reason is proven false or an objective reached."

The 10 minutes of face time with the president could have given the family a chance to vent their frustrations or ask Bush some of the difficult questions they have been asking themselves, such as whether Casey's sacrifice would make the world a safer place.

But in the end, the family decided against such talk, deferring to how they believed Casey would have wanted them to act. In addition, Pat noted that Bush wasn't stumping for votes or trying to gain a political edge for the upcoming election.

"We have a lot of respect for the office of the president, and I have a new respect for him because he was sincere and he didn't have to take the time to meet with us," Pat said.

Sincerity was something Cindy had hoped to find in the meeting. Shortly after Casey died, Bush sent the family a form letter expressing his condolences, and Cindy said she felt it was an impersonal gesture.

"I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis," Cindy said after their meeting. "I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."

The meeting didn't last long, but in their time with Bush, Cindy spoke about Casey and asked the president to make her son's sacrifice count for something. They also spoke of their faith.

While meeting with Bush, as well as Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was an honor, it was almost a tangent benefit of the trip. The Sheehans said they enjoyed meeting the other families of fallen soldiers, sharing stories, contact information, grief and support.

For some, grief was still visceral and raw, while for others it had melted into the background of their lives, the pain as common as breathing. Cindy said she saw her reflection in the troubled eyes of each.

"It's hard to lose a son," she said. "But we (all) lost a son in the Iraqi war."

The trip had one benefit that none of the Sheehans expected.

For a moment, life returned to the way it was before Casey died. They laughed, joked and bickered playfully as they briefly toured Seattle.

For the first time in 11 weeks, they felt whole again.

"That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together," Cindy said.

Now this is not wholly inconsistent with her current account, but there are some discrepencies.

"But in the end, the family decided against such talk, deferring to how they believed Casey would have wanted them to act."

There is also the fact that at first Mrs. Sheehan thought the letter was impersonal, but later:

"I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis," Cindy said after their meeting. "I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."

This seemingly indicates that the lack of respect which so many are charging Bush with was NOT evident in their meeting.

As for the 'respect her opinions' topic:

Respecting disagreement in the manner I have in mind involves understanding that the core argument for freedom of speech is that criticism, arguement, and disagreement are a means by which we come closer to the truth by confronting positions and incorporating criticism into our understanding of situations in order to refine that understanding.

Frankly her opinions about foreign policy are quite dismissible. You are correct about how good disagreement should work, but it really doesn't apply here because not all arguments are worth engaging at length. Good questions provoke the response you want. Probing questions do that. Part of my frustration with the discussion on the left is that it is not about "confronting positions and incorporating criticism into our understanding of situations in order to refine that understanding" when the topic is the Iraq war. It isn't about trying to make things work. It is about attacking Bush.

Her foreign policy views beyond "My son died and I'm in pain" as expressed thusfar are actively bad. It simply would not be a good idea to just pull out all the troops right now and let Iraq collapse or be taken over by Iranian puppets. I'm sorry but that isn't a good idea, and it doesn't take yet another personal meeting to show that it isn't a good idea.

Chuchundra: Hilzoy's right: responding to a newbie troll isn't worth it.

Dougm: Given the context, I find it quite understandable that Gromit didn't take offense at one person calling another a liar. When an uncle says at the dinner table "All [offensive epithet]'s are [repellent comment]!" it is perfectly correct to glare at the uncle in shocked fashion and say "What a terrible thing to say! Uncle, I KNOW you don't mean that!"

Sebastian: Part of my frustration with the discussion on the left is that it is not about "confronting positions and incorporating criticism into our understanding of situations in order to refine that understanding" when the topic is the Iraq war. It isn't about trying to make things work. It is about attacking Bush.

Well, yes. That's because Bush started this war, and Bush & Co made all the bad decisions that turned the Iraq war/occupation into a catastrophic and expensive failure. It is impossible to criticize the Iraq war without attacking Bush, and it is impossible to discuss how things might be turned around in the future without attacking Bush, since Bush's refusal to acknowledge that his previous policies and decisions were catastrophic and need to be reversed is part of the ongoing problem.

Unfortunately, often people on the right aren't interested in discussing the Iraq war/occupation: they want to defend Bush against attack.

Why? I mean, given the principle that the last thing that the extreme right wing wanted was a Democratic president, I can actually see (if not forgive) why so many on the right so fervently supported Bush and so irrationally attacked Kerry last year. But, Bush won: admittedly by .5%, but he won. So now you have Bush for the next four years, and no matter what, he can't another election. So why bother defending him? He's a terrible President, and you now have nothing to lose by admitting it and moving on to discuss, in detail, his catastrophic mistakes.

There are no private wars in a Republic; the cost of equal representation is equal responsibility. When the nation commits troops -- rightly or wrongly, Democratic President or Republican President -- the those troops fight for all of us. They are our sons and daughters, our fellow citizens. They die for us.

If this is not the essence of fascist ideology, then I don't know what is.

Mussolini, in a speech delivered on October 28, 1925, stated the following maxim that encapsulates the fascist philosophy: "Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato." ("Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State".) Therefore, he reasoned, all individuals' business is the state's business, and the state's existence is the sole duty of the individual.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascist

Hmm. I agree, on the whole it appears that her reports of the meeting vary widely, and while it is possible that her current account is simply a reevaluation of the meeting in retrospect, we can't firmly come to the conclusion that the President was disrepectful based on her accounts alone.

I'm still not entirely unconvinced that a meeting with another family with questions similar to those which Sheehan suggests she would ask might not be valuable, so long as we could somehow be assured that the family chosen here would be willing to display the same respect for Bush as a President as I would like to see Bush display for them as a grieving family. This is probably a pipe dream, I admit, since actually arranging such a meeting would probably turn into another poltical circus in which the original purpose of the meeting would be quickly lost.

There is a great deal of animus towards Bush on the left, and I won't pretend that all of it is strictly rational. I'm not sure that this isn't a product of the state of political discussion in the nation- perhaps thw world- as a whole, or perhaps even the nature of poltical discussion in actual practice. I don't think you need to be on the left to see that the right also produced a great deal of partly-irrational bile toward Clinton, Gore, and Kerry as well. That doesn't dismiss the problem that a good deal of the left simply isn't interested in making things work (and at this point, I don't think we have any choice but to make things work, and I really think we passed the point were were could have just left things alone as far back as the decision to impose a sanctions regime after the first war) and would rather attack Bush than propose reasonable solutions. But the frustration is shared by people on both sides of the political spectrum who are interested in finding actual solutions to poltical problems.

Of course, there really isn't a clear division between people with an irrational dislike of opposing politicians and those who are rational. This comes out on the left, for example, when a genuine frustration with the Bush administration for a failure to admit that the initial stated reason for entering Iraq- weapons of mass destruction- has turned out to have been based on incorrect information and a legitimate desire to establish whether or not the administration undertook an adequate assesment of the relevent data turns into snide comments about the "reality based community" and a desire to attack any reason other than WMD to have entered Iraq, legitimate or not. In turn, part of this frustration derives, on the left, from people who are just as eager to defend Bush at all costs as many of the left are to attack him, and are willing to call legitimate criticism treason in order to do so.

The point that I'm getting at is that we really can't expect the other side of a debate to suddenly become paragons of rationality, but a core part of the problem is that both sides engage in "actively bad" arguments which seek to blindly attack the other side. However, I think that we need to, at least occasionally, attempt to engage "actively bad" arguments without dismissing them as simply irrational or attacking them as being too exteme to be legitimate, because these "actively bad" arguements are part of what lead us to become so frustrated with those who disagree with us. Many such arguments actively invite counterattack or outright dismissal because the worst arguments tend to contain the strongest elements of attack. If we just dismiss them, though, they simply fester in echo chambers and add fuel to the arguments of those on both sides who claim that the other is simply a collection of irrational and self-interested idiots. If we attack back, the debate just goes downhill. However, occasionally, one can make some headway by ignoring the blind hatred and explaning, with as much respect as one can muster, the flaws in the substance of a poor argument without adding the tempting element of derision one feels.

That doesn't mean that Bush should meet with Sheehan, but I think is illustrates the potential value of him taking her arguments seriously and making a show of respect by answering the questions of a family similar to Sheehan's. What I'm really looking for, I suppose, is for someone in a position of leadership to take the first step in inviting more rational discussion, and this seems like an opportunity to do so. It probably is a pipe dream, though, because many people seem to be simply too far gone, and even places of relatively rational debate are full of bile.

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