From this morning's lollapallooza editorial from The New York Times calling for withdrawal from Iraq:
It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.
Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.
At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.
While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.
Read the whole thing; if you like, put on some weight and have it tattooed on your torso. And I don't mean to kick the Times in the nuts just as it's coming through the clubhouse door. But I wish they'd said something more about why they felt the need to "put off that conclusion" and wait so long for a sign that they had no logical reason for believing might come. It raises the suspicion that the Times has been waiting for that clear magical moment when it was okay to say the obvious. ("Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor.") Thirty years ago, Russell Baker wrote a Times op-ed about those who had suffered and even been driven out of office--including Al Gore's father, Senator Albert Gore, Sr.--because they had been right about Vietnam "too soon." For their prescience, Baker noted, they were note regarded as prophets, not even after most of the rest of the country agreed that they had been right. There are no consolation prizes in this country for being ahead of the curve politically. Today the representative Times columnist is not Russell Baker but Thomas Friedman. In 2000, Friedman went on the Charlie Rose show and was asked, given his understanding of the international scene, which of the two presidential candidates would be better suited to serving as leader of the free world. Friedman said that he preferred not to name names but added that this was absolutely, unequivocally, "not a time for a dummy." Then as now, there was no way to take this as anything other than a prediction that a George Bush, Jr. presidency would be disastrous. He can take credit for having been right about that, but he also has to live with the fact that, once George Bush, Jr. was installed as president, and especially after 9/11 "changed everything," Friedman led the league in declaring himself in sync with anything and everything the president did and wanted to do, and even joined in the hog-calling about how what we needed most at this fragile point in history was a dummy, the biggest dummy possible, who wouldn't fail to keep us safe because he was slowed down by crippling bouts of thought. A lot of people talked like that after 9/11; Andrew Sullivan is one of the few who I've heard summon the courage, and the balls, to admit that he did it not because anything changed or because it's better to have stupid people in charge when things get hairy, but simply because he was afraid.
Mainstream journalism is afraid to get out in front on the issues because mainstream journalists and their publishers and editors are afraid they'll be accused of reaching beyond conventional wisdom, thus leaving them open to charges of partisanship, class bias, elitism, whatever. So they try to carefully balance actually breaking news with carefully keeping step with what they think of as status quo opinion, and when it turns out that status quo opinion is wrong, they'll go a long ways towards justifying publishing dishonest reporting as having been more properly representative of the times than honest reporting could have been. After Ronald Reagan died, The New Republic noted that it was common during the years leading up to the breakup of the Soviet Union to exaggerate the size of the Soviet threat, and then insisted that it would have been "irresponsible" to have reported on it honestly and accurrately. The Times is still defending its "investigative reporting" on the Whitewater hoax, and it wasn't that long ago that they were defending Walter Duranty's Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporting in the 1930s that tried to draw a smiley face on Stalin's tyranny. Word is already out that this is an historic editorial, and it is, but not in the way that the Times may intend. By buckling now, they've exactly pinpointed the moment when the arbiters of conventional wisdom decided that they could no longer support the Iraq War without looking like a laughingstock.
[x-posted at The Phil Nugent Experience]