Monday, April 07, 2008

A quick hit on something that irritated me

Several folks have commented on an exchange between Cokie Roberts and Katrina Vanden Heuvel on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, during which Roberts avowed that "Americans would prefer to win" in Iraq. D-day at Hullabaloo slapped Roberts for
blather[ing] on about what Americans would prefer. Not that she's likely to have talked to anyone who's had to serve in this war or felt the burdens of this war, of course, but she just feels it in her very sensible and serious gut.
In a similar vein, Glenn Greenwald described Roberts as being in line with
the bulk of establishment pundits [who] regularly deploy the same method - simultaneously holding themselves out as Spokesmen for the Regular People while showing complete contempt for what they actually think by lying about their views.
He punctuated the last point being by referring to polls showing in one case that 60% of the public supports sticking to a timetable for withdrawal regardless of what is going on in Iraq at the time and in another case that 61% say that the next president should withdraw most US troops from Iraq within a few months of entering office.

Which is all good and to the - or at least a - point, but neither of them address what I think is a more basic point about Roberts' assertion: It is a fundamentally idiotic argument. Not because it's wrong (which it is) and not because it's presumptuous (which it is) but because it tells us absolutely nothing.

"Do you want to win or do you want to lose?" Who the hell is going to say they want to lose? Hey, you're taking a vacation in Las Vegas! Play some slots! Do you want to win or do you want to lose? Your favorite team is playing today! Do you want them to win or do you want them to lose? Do you want your preferred candidate to win or to lose? Any question phrased that way about anything, including Iraq, is going to get a heck of a lot of support for "winning."

But particularly in the case of Iraq, unless the question is followed up by asking you what you think constitutes "winning" (which Vanden Heuvel raised, to her credit), what you think are the chances of that happening, what you think it will cost to achieve that end, and if you think the price in blood, treasure, and disruption is worth it, any statement about a "preference" for "winning" is utterly vacuous, devoid of both meaning and useful content. Not that much of what people like Roberts have to say has either, but this one just ticked me off and I wish that instead of replying by asking "What is winning?" Vanden Heuvel had said "Don't be stupid."

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