It is an age-old device in politics, making a personal slam sound more high-minded by attributing it to someone else.
Typical formulation: "There are those who say that Congressman X is a gutless wonder." Not that I'm saying it, I'm just faithfully repeating what some other critic said. Or: "I was talking to someone just the other day who questioned whether Congressman X is a gutless wonder." Or: "Now I don't agree with those who say Congressman X is a gutless wonder, but he does owe us some answers. . . . "
These are all ways of getting the gutless wonder thing out there, and politicians who use these tactics know exactly what they're doing.
Which brings me to Jean Schmidt and John Murtha.
Schmidt, the recently elected Republican congresswoman from Ohio, has every right to take on Murtha over his let's-get-the-troops-out stance on Iraq. She has every right to attack the Pennsylvania Democrat if she so chooses. But when she attacks him by attributing the denunciation to some colonel, let's be clear: She's still attacking him. The device of attributing it to someone else is just that, a device used by professional politicians.
By the way, after both Vice President Cheney and White House spokesman Scott McClellan ripped Murtha, President Bush used a version of the same technique: "I heard somebody say, well, maybe so-and-so is not patriotic because they disagree with my position. I totally reject that thought." Somebody? So-and-so? Who could he be referring to? The administration has apparently made the calculation that attacking a decorated Vietnam veteran who spent 37 years in the Marines was not the wisest political strategy.
Anyway, Schmidt's defenders say she didn't realize Murtha had been a Marine. But her Ohio nickname will probably stick, thanks to this NYT | http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/20/national/20ohio.html profile:
"She grew up in the rough-and-tumble of a family auto racing business, went through concealed-weapons training, and bears a local nickname seldom applied to shrinking violets: 'Mean Jean.'"
And who was the Murtha-basher she was quoting? HuffPost contributor Max Blumenthal | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/max-blumenthal/who-is-mean-jeans-marine_b_10993.html has done some digging:
"On Friday, freshman Republican Rep. 'Mean Jean' Schmidt mounted one of the fiercest, most personal assaults Congress has witnessed since Preston Brooks caned Charles Sumner to a bloody pulp in 1856. The target of Schmidt's attack was Rep. John Murtha, a Vietnam vet who had just introduced a resolution calling for a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq within 6 months (which included several measures designed to ensure regional stability upon pullout).
"'A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course,' Schmidt declared from her lectern. 'He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.'
"By employing Bubp, a Marine reservist, as her surrogate attack dog, Schmidt sought to give the impression that the military rank-and-file overwhelmingly deplored Murtha's resolution. Murtha may have been a Marine a long, long time ago, but he doesn't understand the harsh realities of the post-9/11 world. But that tough-talking paragon of the modern warrior, Colonel Danny Bubp, whoever he is, sure as hell does. Or so Schmidt would have us believe.
"A quick glance at Bubp's background reveals him to be a low-level right-wing operative who has spent more time in the past ten years engaged in symbolic Christian right crusades than he has battling terrorist evil-doers. And throughout his career, Bubp's destiny has been inextricably linked with Schmidt's. Bubp may be a Marine, but his view of Murtha as a 'coward' is colored by naked political ambition. He is nothing more than cheap camouflage cover for the GOP's latest Swift-Boat campaign.
"March 1999 marked the beginning of a brilliant career. It was then that Bubp became pro-bono legal counsel for Adams County for the Ten Commandments, an ad-hoc Ohio group formed to keep 10 Commandments monuments displayed in local public schools after the ACLU filed a lawsuit demanding their removal. Bubp was assisted by a Who's Who of Christian right leaders, including James Dobson, Don Wildmon, Judge Roy Moore and Jay Sekulow."
I think we've established that he's not exactly neutral. Where was the MSM on this?
Not only that, but the colonel says | http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/22/politics/22murtha.html?pagewanted=2 it didn't happen that way:
"A spokeswoman for the colonel, Danny R. Bubp, said Ms. Schmidt had misconstrued their conversation. While Mr. Bubp, a Republican member of the Ohio House of Representatives, opposes a quick withdrawal for forces, 'he did not mention Congressman Murtha by name nor did he mean to disparage Congressman Murtha,' said Karen Tabor, his spokeswoman. 'He feels as though the words that Congresswoman Schmidt chose did not represent their conversation.'"
What a difference a lead makes. Here's the L.A. Times | http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/11/22/cheney_tries_to_soften_rhetoric_on_war_critics/:
"Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday sought to tone down what has become a bitter and personal fight in Washington over the Iraq war, offering praise for a senior House Democrat who has called for the full withdrawal of troops and saying that an 'energetic debate' over the war was part of a healthy society."
And here's the Washington Times | http://washingtontimes.com/national/20051122-121625-1279r.htm:
"Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday accused Democrats of 'corrupt and shameless' revisionism on the Iraq war and called their demands for a pullout 'self-defeating pessimism.'"
Hint: Both are correct.
Roger Simon | http://www.rogersimon.com/archive/2005/11/the_white_house.html#002818 notes that McClellan had attacked Murtha as a Michael Moore tight who would surrender to the terrorists:
"Surrender to the terrorists! That ought to smear him good! (Remember how easy it was to smear John Kerry with the Swift Boat veterans' attacks?)
"But the mood is different now. The war is far more unpopular than the White House recognizes. And Murtha does not strike anybody as a coward or friend of terrorism.
"The smear not only failed, but it made the White House look bad, so three days later, President Bush took the high road and called Murtha a 'fine man and a good man.'...
"Murtha is such a powerful critic because he knows where he stands and what he wants for this nation and he is willing to pursue it whether it is popular or not.
"What kind of Democrat does that make him? A rare one."
Andrew Sullivan | http://www.andrewsullivan.com/index.php?dish_inc=archives/2005_11_20_dish_archive.html#113251316583397474 still clings to hope about the war:
"John Burns has been a pretty reliable guide | http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/20/weekinreview/20burns.html to reality in Iraq. His piece makes sobering reading. The next phase looks messy, but not necessarily more disastrous than what has happened up till now. (Yeah, I know that's not exactly a high standard). I'm hanging in there with David Brooks. It's not intellectually easy to continue supporting a war when you've lost faith in the honesty and competence of the president who's leading it, but what choice do we have?
"There are other good people struggling to make this work: Casey, Rice, Khalilzad, McCain; and the thousands of troops who are risking their lives in this project. They key is to grasp how little we know, how badly we've screwed up, but also not to throw in the towel when, in fact, there is still a chance for leveraging the current situation to our and to Iraqis' advantage."
In the Weekly Standard, Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol | http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/372sueqv.asp tackle Murtha--on policy grounds:
"Rep. Jack Murtha has had a distinguished congressional career. But his outburst last Thursday was breathtakingly irresponsible. Nowhere in his angry and emotional call for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq did the Pennsylvania Democrat bother to ask, much less answer, the most serious questions his proposal raises. What would be the likely outcome in Iraq if the United States pulled out? Does Murtha actually believe the Iraqi people could fight the al Qaeda terrorists and Saddam Hussein loyalists by themselves once American forces left? He does not say.
"In fact, he knows perfectly well that the Iraqi people are not yet capable of defending themselves against the monsters in their midst and that, therefore, a U.S. withdrawal would likely lead to carnage on a scale that would dwarf what is now occurring in Iraq.
"But that would be just the beginning. If U.S. troops were withdrawn and the Iraqi people were not able to defeat the terrorists and Saddam loyalists, what would happen? What if Zarqawi and his al Qaeda allies were able to make common cause with the Baathists to turn Iraq into a terrorist state or to provide a haven for terrorists, complete with an oil supply to finance their global activities?"
Bill Clinton's recent comments on Iraq as a "big mistake" draw the wrath of the Wall Street Journal | http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110007573 editorial page:
"A man can change his mind. It's unfortunate, however, that a former President couldn't leave policy differences at the water's edge. And Mr. Clinton would do well to consider that while it's one thing for Senators to grasp at poll numbers to win an election, it's quite another for a former President to give them political cover. Mr. Clinton's remarks will only make it harder for the next Democratic President--maybe his own wife--to lead the country during wartime."
The Plame case may be getting most of the press, but a lot of Republicans are nervous about a plea agreement yesterday:
"Michael Scanlon, a former business partner of the lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a former top aide to Representative Tom DeLay, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to bribe a member of Congress and other public officials," says the New York Times | http://nytimes.com/2005/11/22/politics/22scanlon.html?hp&ex=1132635600&en=7c3a51fbdc7a1a94&ei=5094&partner=homepage.
"Mr. Scanlon also agreed to repay $19.6 million to his former Indian tribe lobbying clients.
"He acknowledged in a plea agreement that he and Mr. Abramoff, identified in the court papers as 'Lobbyist A,' agreed to make lavish gifts to public officials, including all-expense-paid trips to Europe and the Super Bowl, in exchange for official actions."
Court papers say that Representative No. 1 "accepted gifts, including a 2002 golf trip to Scotland and regular meals at Mr. Abramoff's restaurant, "in exchange for a series of official acts and influence. Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Administration Committee, has acknowledged that he is the lawmaker, while saying there was no quid pro quo with Mr. Abramoff or Mr. Scanlon. Mr. Ney, who was subpoenaed this month by the grand jury investigating Mr. Abramoff, has said he was 'duped' by the lobbyists."
How knowledgeable are folks about foreign affairs? The New Republic's
Michael Crowley | http://www.tnr.com/blog/theplank spots some disturbing stats:
"A new Pew | http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/263topline.pdf Institute poll helpfully reminds us not to take U.S. public opinion about foreign affairs too seriously. When asked whether certain countries possessed nuclear weapons, nearly a third said that Libya does. More people--55 percent--believe Iran has nuclear weapons than think Great Britain (52 percent) or France (38 percent) does. Only 48 percent got Israel right. And just over one-fifth didn't know or weren't sure about Russia--Russia! Which has some 20,000 nukes. Yeesh.
"On a slightly more pertinent note, the poll found that the savvier Americans are about global affairs (based on their knowledge of key world figures and events), the less likely they are to support a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Sixty-six percent of the least knowledgeable folks--i.e., ones who couldn't even ID Vladimir Putin--support a fast withdrawal. Only 48 percent of the best-informed ones took that position. Perhaps that offers some small consolation to the currently besieged stay-the-course crowd."
The Alito story has faded a bit, but Slate's Dahlia Lithwick | http://www.slate.com/id/2130599/nav/tap1/ is struck by the right's handling of the abortion revelation:
"The revelation that Judge Samuel Alito is on record, as early as 1985, insisting that he 'personally believes very strongly' that there is no constitutional right to abortion should have conservative pundits and thinkers jigging for joy. After all, they claim that they're dying to have this big, defining, national conversation about the role of judges; about the need to repair the damage wrought by renegade liberal activists who've been trampling all over the Constitution for decades. So, here is Sam Alito, unequivocally opening the door to that national conversation with his personal assertion that Roe is bad law.
"And what are Alito's supporters, and Alito himself, doing? Backpedaling so fast, all you can see is the blur of their lost integrity.
"Listen to Fox News' Brit Hume, who says: '[T]these were not personal views he was discussing, in all fairness, though were they? . . . No, he has said these were the legal arguments that he made as a lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department.' . . .
"Or listen instead to the near-deafening silence from the columnists, advocates, and politicians who only weeks ago begged the president to ditch Harriet Miers for a candidate who would boldly and lucidly articulate the arguments against liberal judicial activism, 'legislating from the bench,' and the results-oriented judging that brought us decisions like Roe. . . . Might it be that your calls for this big old national bull session over activist judging are as cynical and results-based as the holding in Roe that you so revile? Could it be that the national polls -- which indicate robust support for Roe and strong opposition to justices who'd reverse it -- have rendered this conversation too dangerous? Or is it the prospect of the national backlash that would follow from actually reversing Roe that has rendered you speechless?"
Finally, conservative blogger Michelle Malkin | http://michellemalkin.com/archives/003955.htm sounds off about her marriage and ethnic stereotyping:
"During one of countless book-related radio interviews this week, a liberal radio host insultingly asked me whether I write my own column. His question was prompted by vicious anonymous bloggers who portray me as a greedy Asian whore/dupe/brainwashing victim who simply parrots what my white slavemasters program into my empty little head. These critics have stepped up attacks on my husband Jesse as a fanatical right-wing puppeteer orchestrating all I do and say.
"I assume these tinfoil-hat wearers also think I'm secretly wired during my TV and radio appearances, speeches, and debates-- you know, just like George Bush.
"As I've noted in several newspaper profiles and television interviews, I met my husband in college, where he founded a right-of-center student publication that I wrote for and edited. He started off as a Berkeley-born Dukakis liberal; I was a congenital conservative who helped him see the light. We have been each other's best friend, editor, and sounding board for nearly half of our lives. . . . And when my career took off after I published my first book in 2002, he cut back on his own ambitions to be with our kids.
"In his spare time (such as it is with an active kindergartener and an Energizer bunny preschooler), he helps me out when he can. Al Franken needs a dozen, overpaid Harvard-trained research assistants. I have my hubby's help for a few hours a week. . . .
"The racist and sexist 'yellow woman doing a white man's job' knock is a tiresome old attack from impotent liberals that I've tolerated a long time. It is pathetic that I have to sit here and tell you that my ideas, my politics, and my intellectual capital are mine and mine alone in response to cowardly attacks from misogynistic moonbats with Asian whore fixations. My IQ, free will, skin color, eye shape, productivity, sincerity, and integrity are routinely ridiculed or questioned because I happen to be a minority conservative woman."
Misogynist moonbats, you've been warned.