Watching CNN this morning, it’s readily apparent that old habits will be hard to break.
A conversation I had more than once this weekend involved Janeane Garofalo, and not just because Janeane Garofalo is fun to talk about. During the runup to war, and even during its execution, the anti-war face of TV news debate was either Phil Donahue (cancelled) or Garofalo (celebrity). The standard trick was to place her against a Very Serious Member of the Foreign Policy Community, letting them rattle on about the various ways that ethnic and religious subgroups of Iraq would be trampled into bliss using the magic power of unprovoked invasion. Garofalo’s standard answer was that invading a country based on bad evidence, a shaky rationale and no clear aim except making oil cheaper would probably turn out very, very poorly. That answer was generally met with, at best, a scoff, coupled with the sort of stern yet irrelevant lecturing that informed us going to war was a very weighty decision whose obvious righteousness was validated by the fact that we were going to war, dammit.
Five years later, and some hippie who criticized the war in the first place is on his way to Iraq to talk to a prime minister who agrees with him on getting the fuck out…and said hippie could be president soon.
First, let’s talk about how Obama’s trip is being covered. Despite the fact that his foreign policy vision has been largely validated in the past week – McCain caught up to Obama on Afghanistan and the aforementioned endorsement by Maliki – the main discussion today and over the past few days has been whether or not the press is covering Obama’s trip too much and whether or not the coverage of them talking about the coverage results in too much (and too favorable) coverage for Obama. It’s a tesseract of inanity – a new fourth dimension of coverage about the coverage of the coverage will soon emerge, with Jessica Yellin invited on to discuss how she talked about her in-depth discussion of the impact of Obama’s trip on the race…without ever mentioning what Obama did, how he did it or who he did it with.
Call it the Fafblogging of the media: CNN is the whole world’s only source for CNN! Next, we’ve got the McCain camp’s response to their rapidly escaping credibility on Iraq: the way to ensure success in Iraq is to listen to him, facts and Iraqis be damned.
McCain: “I have been there too many times. I’ve met too many times with him, and I know what they want. They want it based on conditions and of course they would like to have us out, that’s what happens when you win wars, you leave. We may have a residual presence there as even Senator Obama has admitted. But the fact is that it should be — the agreement between Prime Minister Maliki, the Iraqi government and the United states is it will be based on conditions. This is a great success, but it’s fragile, and could be reversed very easily. I think we should trust the word of General Petraeus who has orchestrated this dramatic turnaround. And by the way, we would have been out last march if Senator Obama’s original wish would have been called for. Not 16 months from now, but last March. He was wrong on the surge, he was wrong today when he says it didn’t succeed. And obviously we have challenges in Afghanistan which will require more troops and more NATO participation, but we can win. If we had lost in Iraq, we would have risked a much wider war that would have put enormous challenges and burdens on our military.”
It leaves McCain in a really bad (but never risky) position, given that he’s a Republican – he’s stuck arguing that the “success” which would allow us to get out of Iraq is at risk if we get out of Iraq, which would lead one to logically conclude that we haven’t really had much success at all, but would be wrong because he really knows everything that needs to be known – the known knowns, the unknown knowns, the known unknowns and the unknowns unknowns. And if he’s really going to start channeling Donald Rumsfeld in the Iraq debate, he should be more fucked than he even is.
That is, if coverage of Obama’s overwhelming rightness on the Iraq debate is ever turned into a story about him actually being right, rather than a continual series of analyses of whether or not covering him being right lends too much to the impression that the media favors him over the stumbling jackass who may propose we invade Qurac any day now.