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Monday, June 30, 2008

The Grand Hissy Redux

by digby

I suppose everyone remembers waiting for The Man Called Petraeus to come home from the front and give us all a report on the Grand Surge Campaign of The Great Iraq War. We were told for months in advance that all judgment in Iraq vested in him, The Man who Knew Everything and for whom we must show our Utmost Reverence. He was a General, which according to the gasbags was only slightly less worthy of worship than Jesus and Tim Russert. In fact, when Move-On ran an ad criticizing the General, the senate took up a resolution that called for the body to "strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces." Seventy Five senators voted for it.

The point of that hissy fit wasn't to uphold the honor of General Petraeus or even the armed forces. It was shut down any criticism of the war in Iraq. That's what today's hissy fit against Wes Clark is all about too, with the added bonus of shutting down all criticism of John McCain's truly embarrassing ignorance on foreign policy in general.

The idea that Clark doesn't respect the military or was dishonoring a POW's service is absurd. The man spent a lifetime serving his country. He, of anyone, has the standing to combat this ridiculous conventional wisdom that says John McCain is a great world leader because he was a POW. It doesn't take anything away from his war record to to point that out. But now Clark has been repudiated. I'm sure the full spectrum of very serious people, from David Broder to David Brooks, are greatly reassured.

This was a case where the Art Of The Hissy Fit became a thing of enduring, classic beauty --- the Mona Lisa of fits, the Parthenon of hissies. They so cowed the political establishment around that General Petraeus pageant that now even a retired four star general and former CIC of NATO can't call McCain's military leadership credentials into question without the entire village media reflexively calling for the smelling salts. (And the Democratic leadership helped them do it, which makes it all the more lovely and perfect.)

Wes Clark is a very special person in the Democratic Party and should be highly valued. They don't have many people like him. He not only brings national security credibility and experience in a unique way, he has proven himself to be a tireless worker for Democratic candidates and causes for the last four years. He is very, very smart and would be an asset in any Democratic administration. Indeed, I think it was assumed that he would be in any Democratic administration. Certainly, one would think any Democrat would want him.

As I wrote yesterday, I think the Obama campaign is working overtime to prove to the Village that he isn't "dangerously" radical. At least that seems to be the campaign's overriding message at the moment. I have little doubt that everyone who's anyone has decided that Clark "screwed up" and that he had to be cut loose. The gasbag reviews are sure to be glowing. Everyone knows that you are not allowed to assail the military record of a war hero, right? (Oh wait .... only certain war heroes. I forgot.)

Again, it's all very convenient for Republicans. There's one less super smart,liberal military expert to contend with, paving the way, no doubt, for someone a little more ... reliable.

It's depressing, but predictable.

For those who need to come up to speed on what Clark said and how the hissy fit was written, Media Matters has the whole sordid rundown. And Columbia Journalism Review also looks at the right's phony meme pulling the media's strings.

I'll just put this up again so that everyone can see what a real fighting Democrat looks like for what might be the final time in this campaign. I would have thought the Democrats could use a fellow like this. Apparently not:

Update: I wonder if Rand Beers is going to have to be cut loose too?

Update II:
Bowers has a similar take on why this is happening: to discredit an important liberal foreign policy and national security voice.

Update III: For those of you who insist that this is some kind of super-duper jiujitsu, well --- if it is, it's not very effective. When you have a "surrogate" go out and say something which you want to "repudiate" but need to get "out there" you don't send one of the most important and credible voices on the left. You send some lowly factotum or political operative whose job it is to be publicly slapped down and whose credibility is irrelevant. You don't repudiate someone of Clark's stature unless you are prepared for him to be damaged and undermined in the future.

I don't believe the Obama campaign sent out Clark to say this. I think Clark was speaking for himself as a Democrat and respected four star General. And what he said was perfectly reasonable and uncontroversial. The establishment reflexively turned it into one of their little pearl clutching pageants. It isn't real. One of these days Democrats will learn that the hissy fit is designed to make them look weak and unprincipled.

Here's Clarks statement:

Statement by General Wesley K. Clark (ret)

"There are many important issues in this Presidential election, clearly one of the most important issues is national security and keeping the American people safe. In my opinion, protecting the American people is the most important duty of our next President. I have made comments in the past about John McCain's service and I want to reiterate them in order be crystal clear. As I have said before I honor John McCain's service as a prisoner of war and a Vietnam Veteran. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. I would never dishonor the service of someone who chose to wear the uniform for our nation.

John McCain is running his campaign on his experience and how his experience would benefit him and our nation as President. That experience shows courage and commitment to our country - but it doesn't include executive experience wrestling with national policy or go-to-war decisions. And in this area his judgment has been flawed - he not only supported going into a war we didn't have to fight in Iraq, but has time and again undervalued other, non-military elements of national power that must be used effectively to protect America But as an American and former military officer I will not back down if I believe someone doesn't have sound judgment when it comes to our nation's most critical issues.