REMEMBER THE NUKES AND ANTHRAX ON 9/11? PEGGY NOONAN DOES.
Noonan today, writing about campaign arguments in 2008 in favor of an Obama presidency (emphasis added):
A ... foreign-affairs argument for Obama is that we had entered the age of weapons of mass destruction (we'd entered it before 9/11, but only after that date did everyone know) under solely Republican rule. Which allowed anyone who wanted to, to perceive it, or play it, as a Republican war, a Republican drama. There were potential benefits in a change in leadership, one being that the Democrats would now share authority and responsibility for the age and its difficulties. They'd get the daily raw threat file, they'd apply their view of the world and do their best. A primary virtue of that: On the day something bad happened -- and that day will come, and no one in the entire U.S. intelligence community will tell you otherwise -- we would as a nation be spared, as we got through it, the added burden of the terrible, cleaving, partisan divisiveness of 2000-08. This would help hold us together in a hard time.
That's right: "everyone kn[e]w" after 9/11 that "we had entered the age of weapons of mass destruction," according to Noonan.
Um, Peg -- what "weapons of mass destruction"? Box cutters? Utility knives? Did Noonan absorb so much smoking-gun/mushroom-cloud Bush propaganda starting in 2002 that she now actually thinks WMDs were used on 9/11? Or that Iraq had WMDs when we invaded?
As for the rest of this paragraph's argument: I love the demarcation of America's "terrible, cleaving, partisan divisiveness." Did you know it started in 2000? Impeachment and Whitewater and the Clinton death lists? Ha! Never happened! Figments of your imagination!
And Peggy, there was no "terrible, cleaving, partisan divisiveness" in foreign policy between 9/11 and the onset of the campaign to sell the notion of an Iraq war. You're saying we needed both parties to own foreign policy for at least some time so partisanship would end? No -- we needed one party not to pursue a deadly, nation-dividing lunatic crusade based on disprovable conspiracy theories. And, in the process, throwing out legal principles about prisoner treatment that had served us against well against far more dangerous enemies than al-Qaeda.
And, of course, prior to your column today, no one ever argued that a sharing of the foreign-policy burden would, in and of itself, end partisanship. Anyone naive enough to believe that only had to watch the McCarthyite McCain/Palin/Wurzelbacher campaign to know what was coming if Obama won, regardless of what he did.
I also don't understand one of Noonan's specific concerns about possible congressional hearings on torture:
... hearings would not take place only in America. They would take place in the world, in this world, the one with extremists and terrible weapons. It is hard to believe hearings, with grandstanding senators playing to the crowd, would not descend into an auto-da-fe, a public burning of sinners, with charges, countercharges, leaks and graphic testimony. This would be a self-immolating exercise that would both excite and inform America's foes. And possibly inspire them.
Inspire them how? They already know we've done these things -- they've known for a long time, while many of us have been in denial. We're going to grill (and maybe eventually indict and convict), say, John Yoo for enabling torture -- and that's going to upset them?
I have to confess that I take seriously the argument, advanced by Noonan and others, that torture might now consume Washington, at a time when we have a lot of other problems to focus on. But my fear in this specific case is of Republicans, not jihadists. Jihadists won't hate us any more after congressional hearings, or even trials and convictions, than they already do. It's Republicans who are going go even further around the bend.