Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Chris Cillizza is reporting that Michael Steele is likely to stay in his job through the midterms, but probably not long after that, no matter how well Republicans do. I'm a few days late getting to the story of Steele's recent remarks about Afghanistan, but I think the poor SOB is getting a raw deal.

I don't say that because (as some lefties and Ron Paul have argued) Steele hit on an uncomfortable truth about the futility of the Afghan war. That's true, but that wasn't his point. The guy was trying to be a good Republican -- a good Bush-era Republican. He just got confused about what year it is.

People forget this now, but right-wing talk about foreign policy in the Bush years was like a Surrealist European art film from the 1960s, one in which the same character could be played by two different actors and the same location by different landscapes. When it suited right-wing bloviators, Osama bin Laden was played by Osama bin Laden; at other times, he was played by Saddam Hussein. When an al-Qaeda tape surfaced and spreading fear was useful, we were told that the most dangerous enemy was in (or was being dispatched from) Afghanistan and Pakistan; at other times, Iraq was Afghanistan and Pakistan ("the main front in the War on Terror"). And on and on.

It could be very, very confusing. The one thing right-wingers knew back then was that whatever the Bush administration did was right, and whatever deviated from the True Bush Path was treason.

Bush is gone now, but Steele was really just trying to be a good Bushie when he said,

It was the president [Obama] who was trying to be cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be Afghanistan.

At one time, that really did seem to be pure Bushism. Recall President Bush saying of bin Laden on March 13, 2003,

I truly am not that concerned about him.

He wasn't alone. On the day of the London train bombings, an astonishing Free Republic thread was begun by a naive Freeper who asked,

Maybe it's time FINALLY to go and get Osama? Remember Osama? Anybody? Anybody?"

and was met with responses like the following:

You go find him and show us how easy it is.


Please explain how capturing Osama is going to stop this?


If we get him dead or alive all we will do is have 100 other crazies trying to outdo him.
As much as I hate the SOB we are better off if OBL is in hiding; at least for now anyway.


Sure. Go barging into the Northwest Frontier - a region no foreign power has ever controlled. Make it to where our presence in Afghanistan will no longer be tolerated and spark a widespread tribal war that will make the Sunni Triangle look like a school zone. Makes loads of sense.


People like you both amuse and disgust me. You expend energy to mock and impede the war on terror, you're nowhere to be found as daily we post victory after victory in the GWOT, but the second something like this happens you proclaim defeat, using the Brits' suffering for your own weak position. You should be ashamed.

Message: Whatever Bush is doing is right.

And surely we recall this moment of conflict between Barack Obama and John McCain in the 2008 primary season:

... Last night at his Wisconsin victory speech in Columbus, Ohio, McCain came out swinging against what he perceives as the Illinois senator's naivete of international affairs and world events.

Providing a potential sneak preview of his general election talking points, he asked, "Will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan?"

... Obama at the time was talking about attacking known al-Qaeda terrorist targets, not suggesting mounting an attack on the country or government of Pakistan. Still, he caught flak shortly thereafter from some on both sides of the aisle for discussing the merits of attacking a sovereign ally....

Steele was just trying to play a variation on these themes. He apparently forgot that the conservatively correct line is now that Obama gets a pass on Iraq (because withdrawal from Iraq can be portrayed as a sign that Obama is tacitly acknowledging a Bush victory there), while the correct course in Afghanistan is "more" -- more blood, more treasure, forever (and Obama is complying, at least for now). It's a simpler riff to master, but Steele clearly hasn't mastered it yet. He's still playing the oldies.

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