Obama’s Missed Opportunity

My latest for The National Interest, "Obama's Paris Blunder: Part of a Much Bigger Problem," has posted.

world-leaders-paris-march

My latest for The National Interest, “Obama’s Paris Blunder: Part of a Much Bigger Problem,” has posted.

“Blunder” isn’t my word choice or my assessment but it’s better headline fodder than “missed opportunity.” The piece makes two points, one about the president:

From his change of course on Eastern European missile defense to the “pivot” to Asia to the decision to largely stay out of the Syrian civil war, this president has combined sound strategic instincts with phenomenally bad messaging and rollouts. As Jonathan Chait notes in an entirely different context, this is ironic, since Obama emerged on the public scene and swept to the presidency largely on the strength of his skills as an “inspirational speechmaker.”

And one about the culture that surrounds our presidency:

Magnifying the failure to send a high-level representative to such a high-profile event was the reason given: the onerous demands of presidential security. White House press secretary Josh Earnest explained that, “We’re talking about a march that came together in about thirty-six hours, and a march that took place outdoors.” Secret Service spokeswoman Nicole Mainor added, “It would have been a challenging advance to have a Secret Service protectee attend the Paris rally based on what we know. Our logistic and security requirements had the potential to affect the planning and/or event.”

What message does it send that millions of French citizens and heads of state and government from around the world are willing to gather to show unity in the face of terrorists trying to stifle free expression, but the leader of the free world can’t go, because hey, it’s outside and there’s only thirty-six-hours notice?

Does Barack Obama—or Joe Biden or John Kerry—really need more security than Benjamin Netanyahu? King Abdullah? Some forty world leaders put together?

This was, after all, a rally held in one of the most developed countries with some of the most sophisticated security forces on the planet. And, ironically, the leaders were apparently cordoned off from the public, anyway.

John Kennedy was assassinated before I was born, but there have been serious attempts on Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan in my memory. Obviously, a presidential assassination is a national trauma and we rightly take great pains to protect our leaders. But making a fetish of security hampers their ability to lead.

More at the link.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Published Elsewhere, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. SC_Birdflyte says:

    I agree that we have a Presidential security fetish. It didn’t start with Obama.

  2. LaMont says:

    I’m sorry but I can not understand why this story has the legs it has in the media. Especially sense the people over in France does not appear to even care. Why do we have our panties in a bunch about it. Even Chris Mathews joined the circus! It was an oversight – big deal! The world knows our position of terror. The two idiots that did this were on our no-fly list.. This really baffles me. This story goes way beyond my capacity to care. In the grand scheme of things, this issue is just not that important. My God – Mercy!!!

  3. CET says:

    Or perhaps…[he] believes “that tomorrow’s historians will be more rational and forgiving than today’s political commentators.”

    This. I’ve been re-watching the early seasons of the West Wing recently, and while there are parts of the show that are laughable, I think one of the things it does a good job of capturing is this weird preoccupation with moment to moment optics. While it is possible that this omission may have annoyed various other leaders or governments*, I’d imagine its impact on domestic politics is going to be zero, within a week.

    Should we have sent someone, sure, we probably should have sent John Kerry,** but we didn’t. Moving on . . .

    *And I would want to see some evidence of this, which I am not aware of at present.

    **I actually find our concern with presidential safety to be totally reasonable, and while the 36 hour thing might have been post-facto, it makes sense to me.

  4. Tony W says:

    OMG are we doing another 300 comment thread on this? Feel like we’ve beat it to death….

  5. James Pearce says:

    @LaMont:

    I’m sorry but I can not understand why this story has the legs it has in the media.

    I don’t like it but I get it.

    A) The right is going to criticize this president over anything and everything. There is no Obama faux pas they are not wiling to escalate into a full scandal. If their guy neglected to send anyone to the rally, they wouldn’t find the move so indefensible.

    B) The left has an inordinate belief in the power of symbolic gestures. It’s not important if the rally changes anything. It’s important to just be there. Because their guy neglected to send anyone to the rally, it somehow diminishes the power of the rally and, by extension, the power of “their guy.”

    That’s why this story has legs. Our competing ideologies have certain flaws and from time to time, they’re exposed. That’s alright. If this issue -who attended what rally- had higher stakes, the conversation would be much different.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    I don’t know if Obama ” really needs” more security than other leaders – but he has more. As @SC_Birdflyte: points out, that’s not Obama’s doing, and he can’t turn that security bureaucracy around in 36 hours. Especially with them hypersensitive due to criticism of recent failings and in the middle of a management shakeup.

    And what does “leader of the free world” mean since the fall of communism? I hope we’re not implying leader of the non-Muslim world.

  7. Rick DeMent says:

    … but you know all the histrionics over “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom Toast” were sublime measures of solidarity with the French people. Obama is still more popular with the French people than anyone on the right could ever hope to be and for good reason, he’s not an a$$hole.

  8. Moosebreath says:

    @LaMont:

    “I’m sorry but I can not understand why this story has the legs it has in the media. Especially sense the people over in France does not appear to even care.”

    Because the So-Called Liberal Media isn’t. It has a great deal of willingness to skew its coverage to favor Republicans, not merely at the bought-and-paid-for outlets like Fox and talk radio, but in the supposedly mainstream to leaning liberal sites like CNN, Washington Post, et al.

    The media also prefers to cover anything which it can blow up into a scandal on the part of a President of either party over anything approaching an actual discussion of policy. Which is why coverage of items like the new Congress’s plans to create a phony Social Security crisis in this session in order to create support for a new attempt to privatize it has been entirely absent in the mainstream media.

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Two things I think add a little here:

    1) Attorney General Eric Holder — whose closeness to Obama is well-established — was in Paris already, and could easily have attended.

    2) On May 10, 2005, in Tbilisi, a Georgian threw a live grenade at President George W. Bush, and it was only the most amazing luck that it didn’t go off.

  10. Barry says:

    @James Pearce: “The right is going to criticize this president over anything and everything. There is no Obama faux pas they are not wiling to escalate into a full scandal. If their guy neglected to send anyone to the rally, they wouldn’t find the move so indefensible.”

    And if he did go, they’d have criticized him for ‘making it all about HIM!’, ‘spending tax dollars while blah’, etc.

  11. Franklin says:

    I’m generally supportive of this President. The given reasons for his absence have some validity, but I think we definitely should have sent someone. Kerry, sure. Holder, no. But there were a few other choices.

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    What message does it send that millions of French citizens and heads of state and government from around the world are willing to gather to show unity in the face of terrorists trying to stifle free expression, but the leader of the free world can’t go, because hey, it’s outside and there’s only thirty-six-hours notice?

    I dunno. What What message does it send to millions of French citizens and heads of state and government from around the world that the United States, in the face of clear evidence that it committed gross violations of international law by the savage and illegal torture of helpless prisoners, is willing to thumb its nose at the law by not prosecuting those responsible? That it holds others to a standard it is not wiling to enforce on itself?

    I mean, if that doesn’t bother you, James, then I don’t see why you have your knickers in a twist over a purely symbolic march.

  13. CB says:

    It’s a little jarring to see Mahmoud Abbas there, but no American delegate. Still, this is like a 1.5 on the scandal-o-meter. Count me as part of the “why does this have such legs” crew.

  14. JKB says:

    Well, given that many of those leaders in Paris went home to order the arrests of dozens of their citizens for exercising free speech, perhaps it will turn out to be fortunate that Obama had the playoffs to watch?

    On the other hand, empty gestures are Obama’s signature move.

  15. C. Clavin says:

    The White House admitted it was a mistake to not go…so I guess I’m an outlier here…but I don’t see how missing an entirely symbolic event is a big deal especially when France turned around and arrested 54 people for so-called “offensive speech”.
    Having a parade and talking about free speech is sweet…but arresting people when they actually practice free speech says a lot more.

  16. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    What message does it send that millions of French citizens and heads of state and government from around the world are willing to gather to show unity in the face of terrorists trying to stifle free expression, but the leader of the free world can’t go, because hey, it’s outside and there’s only thirty-six-hours notice?

    Why don’t you tell us what message you think it sends? If actual harm has been done, tell us what you think it is. Support your argument.

    As I said before, I am surprised Holder did not participate. He was there, how hard is that? Sending Biden would have made sense. Obama going? Not so much. Not the administrations best day, but still more or less a tempest in a teapot.

    If Obama had gone, the right would be shrieking that he wasted millions of dollars stealing the moment from the French because his ego demanded it. The French don’t seem to care that he was not there.

    Bottom line is we have these media frenzies because this sort of “reporting” is easy, whereas actual journalism is hard work. A little while ago ebola was going to kill us all. Before that it was ISIS. Next month there will be something else to rant about.

  17. anjin-san says:

    Tell me something James, since this is a “missed opportunity”, what would be different if Obama had gone? What specifically would he have accomplished?

    Would terrorists be rethinking their plans, perhaps even their decision to become terrorists? Would France be a happier place, with the populace sleeping more soundly at night? Would the people who loved the victims be less grief stricken? Would Europeans have more resolve to fight Jihadism than they do today?

    I’m pretty sure the answer to all of these questions is no.

  18. anjin-san says:

    @JKB:

    empty gestures are Obama’s signature move.

    Actually, Obamacare is his signature move. Thanks to Obama, I can’t be denied coverage due to a prior condition. Neither can you. So I am benefitting directly from his signature move in a rather critical area of my life. So are you, even if you are apparently not bright enough to see it.

  19. al-Ameda says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    … but you know all the histrionics over “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom Toast” were sublime measures of solidarity with the French people. Obama is still more popular with the French people than anyone on the right could ever hope to be and for good reason, he’s not an a$$hole.

    The only question is: when is the Right going to return to their regularly scheduled mocking, scorn and derision of the French people?

  20. CB says:

    @anjin-san:

    Bottom line is we have these media frenzies because this sort of “reporting” is easy, whereas actual journalism is hard work. A little while ago ebola was going to kill us all. Before that it was ISIS. Next month there will be something else to rant about.

    This. It’s part of the reason why the Paris attacks get headline treatment weeks later, while Boko Haram killing hundreds gets a back page mention.

  21. Pinky says:

    @Rick DeMent: That’s something I don’t get on the recent threads. Is there are reason a person can’t be critical of France when it does something he thinks is wrong, and be supportive of France when it does something he thinks is right? Wouldn’t it be blind hatred, or blind loyalty, to do otherwise?

    I remember a lot of criticism of France when they didn’t support the War on Terror the way we would have liked. (The “freedom fries” thing was immediately perceived as stupid, and it didn’t really go anywhere, but there was a lot of anti-French sentiment.) Now, as France has fallen victim to terrorism, a petty or sick person who opposed terrorism would be happy about it. A decent person who opposed terrorism would show support. So we say “boo France not fighting terrorism” and “yay France standing up for free speech”. What’s the problem with that?

  22. anjin-san says:

    @al-Ameda:

    The only question is: when is the Right going to return to their regularly scheduled mocking, scorn and derision of the French people

    As someone of French extraction who is a lifelong Francophile, I find the Faux solidarity with France coming from the right to be more offensive than under participation in the march by the Administration.

    But then we have to remember who we are talking about. After all, it was Bill O’Reilly, a leading voice in conservative politics, who said it was OK with him if terrorists bombed San Francisco. That’s the mentality we are dealing with.

  23. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:
    His signature move is actually getting shit done.

  24. anjin-san says:

    @Pinky:

    I remember a lot of criticism of France when they didn’t support the War on Terror the way we would have liked. (The “freedom fries” thing was immediately perceived as stupid, and it didn’t really go anywhere, but there was a lot of anti-French sentiment.)

    The criticism of France (in that case) was over their lack of support for the Iraq war, which did not have a damn thing to do with the “War on Terror.” In fact, it was detrimental to is. So the argument that you appear to be making – France was weak on terror, and now they themselves are victims of it – has a lie at it’s core. Hardly surprising coming from you.

    It’s worth noting that the rights ongoing trashing of France goes much deeper than events in 2003.

  25. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Tony W:

    OMG are we doing another 300 comment thread on this? Feel like we’ve beat it to death….

    This.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  26. humanoid.panda says:

    Over/under on length of thread, anyone?

  27. humanoid.panda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Your no. 2 would be only relevant only if Obama never went abroad for fear of his security. Otherwise, comparing an attack that happened during a carefully planned visit to a hypothetical visit on a 36 hour notice is rather ridiculous.

    [By the way, if anyone wanted to really berate Obama over this, the proper comparison would be Rabin’s funeral. It happened about 48 hours after the murder, so security arrangements were necessarily haphazard. Clinton’s speech in that funeral was so ground-shakingly good that the public opinion boost he got in Israel gave him the space to apply hard pressure on Bibi during his first prime-ministership, and even play a crucial role in bringing it down in 99. If there is a lost opportunity here, that’s where one goes to look for it. However, a crucial difference is that there is nothing in particular the US wants from France right now, so I am not sure what even what the most stirring of speeches would have done to promote US interests.]

  28. jewelbomb says:

    @James Pearce:

    A) The right is going to […]
    B) The left has an inordinate belief in […]

    Dude, you seem really invested in trying to draw false equivalencies. It’s okay to criticize right-wing insanity without grasping at straws trying to prove that folks on the left are somehow bad too. Every critique of the right doesn’t have to couched in such nonsense.

  29. humanoid.panda says:

    @JKB: So, NOT going to the rally is proof that Obama likes empty gestures? Congratulations sir, you broke the other thread’s record for absurdity, ten comments in!

  30. humanoid.panda says:

    @al-Ameda: You already had people on Fox News blabbering how the Frenchmen brought it on themselves before Obama gave them opportunity to berate him for disrespect for the sufferings of our beloved ally. Also, we were always at war with Eastasia.

  31. Moosebreath says:

    @Pinky:

    “Is there are reason a person can’t be critical of France when it does something he thinks is wrong, and be supportive of France when it does something he thinks is right? Wouldn’t it be blind hatred, or blind loyalty, to do otherwise?”

    Yes. The problem is that in recent decades, the Republicans have alternated between being insultingly critical of France in trivial manners (“Freedom Fries”, arguing Kerry should not be President because he “looks French”, Jonah Goldberg’s 1999 essay titled “Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys from Hell”, etc.), and complaining that Democrats are insufficiently supportive of the French over matters that the French don’t care about.

    In other words, the French are treated as props for the Republicans’ lines meant for domestic consumption, while not accepting that the French are able to hear what the Republicans are saying.

  32. al-Ameda says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    Over/under on length of thread, anyone?

    Well there’s the faux-outrage fatigue factor, so, I’m guessing 73.

  33. Franklin says:

    @Franklin: Let me amend my comment. Yes, I think we should have sent someone, but I agree with CB and Clavin that it doesn’t qualify as a scandal.

  34. gVOR08 says:

    @Pinky: @Moosebreath: A conservative friend of mine does the same thing with cops. If the cops are being criticized for killing a black kid, then they’re all heroes, risking their lives daily to protect us. If those stories are cold he defaults back to the cops are jack booted thugs and a waste of tax money because they give him tickets and we still have crime. He doesn’t even need Cliven Bundy. There’s no in-between for him, black or white. And he’s completely unaware he switches between them. It’s a complete lack of nuance and the ability to simultaneously believe contradictory things.

  35. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Pinky:

    That’s something I don’t get on the recent threads. Is there are reason a person can’t be critical of France when it does something he thinks is wrong, and be supportive of France when it does something he thinks is right? Wouldn’t it be blind hatred, or blind loyalty, to do otherwise?

    No, there is nothing wrong with that. And for some–many–I’m sure that is the case. I will take it on your word that this is the case for you as well.

    However, when a presidential candidate is attacking another candidate because he speaks french, it’s pretty indicative that there is at least a decent segment of the Republican party that is reflexively anti-French. This is on top of the already above documented silly anti-French articles, comments, etc., from a variety of conservative thought leaders and candidates.

    Hence the unflinching support of France–and the outrage that Obama didn’t participate in what is acknowledged to be an empty gesture–smacks of opportunism and inauthenticity.

  36. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pinky:

    I remember a lot of criticism of France when they didn’t support the War on Terror the way we would have liked.

    No, you don’t. You remember a lot of criticism of France when they didn’t support the illegal and unprovoked attack on and invasion of Iraq in a way we didn’t like, an invasion which was entirely unrelated to al Qaeda — and a decision that, by the way, France was entirely right about and we were entirely wrong about.

    France is, however, a close US ally in the so-called “War on Terror” and has fought alongside us in Afghanistan.

  37. Pinky says:

    My point is, there’s nothing contradictory about saying you like a country for A and dislike it for B.

  38. anjin-san says:

    @Pinky:

    My point is, there’s nothing contradictory about saying you like a country for A and dislike it for B.

    It would be more accurate to state that most folks on the right will reliably parrot whatever the Fox News talking points du jour happen to be, without giving much thought to any contradictions they might present.

  39. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @humanoid.panda: Your no. 2 would be only relevant only if Obama never went abroad for fear of his security. Otherwise, comparing an attack that happened during a carefully planned visit to a hypothetical visit on a 36 hour notice is rather ridiculous.

    That observation was in direct response to the citations of the assassination attempts against Ford and Reagan — no more, no less.

    I thought about mentioning the White House fence jumpers as well.

  40. Rafer Janders says:

    “Blunder” isn’t my word choice or my assessment but it’s better headline fodder than “missed opportunity.”

    “Missed opportunity” to do what, specifically?

    To show France we’re on their side? To show that we oppose Islamist terrorism? Everyone knows that already.

    So a “missed opportunity” must mean that there was a chance to do something that now won’t be done. And that chance to do something was…what, exactly?

  41. Jeremy R says:

    @James:

    Does Barack Obama—or Joe Biden or John Kerry—really need more security than Benjamin Netanyahu?

    Israeli security services weren’t comfortable with the security situation either. Netanyahu only attended because his Right-most politcal rivals sandbagged him by announcing they were coming the night before.

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.636557

    [T]he Shin Bet security service unit that protects public figures considered the arrangements for the prime minister’s security to be complex. And so, on Saturday evening, Netanyahu’s people announced that he would not be flying to Paris because of security concerns.

    However, on Saturday night, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett announced their intention to go to Paris and take part in the march and meet with the Jewish community. When Netanyahu heard they were going, he informed the French he would be attending the march after all.

  42. Dave Schuler says:

    Still not interested.

  43. PJ says:

    @al-Ameda:

    The only question is: when is the Right going to return to their regularly scheduled mocking, scorn and derision of the French people?

    I think that will happen if they sit down and read the magazine.

    It might be worth knowing that the main target of Charlie Hebdo was the Front National and the Le Pen family. Next came crooks of all sorts, including bosses and politicians (incidentally, one of the victims of the shooting was an economist who ran a weekly column on the disasters caused by austerity policies in Greece). Finally, Charlie Hebdo was an opponent of all forms of organized religions, in the old-school anarchist sense: Ni Dieu, ni maître! They ridiculed the pope, orthodox Jews and Muslims in equal measure and with the same biting tone. They took ferocious stances against the bombings of Gaza.

    Even if their sense of humour was apparently inacceptable to English minds, please take my word for it: it fell well within the French tradition of satire – and after all was only intended for a French audience. It is only by reading or seeing it out of context that some cartoons appear as racist or islamophobic. Charlie Hebdo also continuously denounced the pledge of minorities and campaigned relentlessly for all illegal immigrants to be given permanent right of stay.

    But then, it’s in French…

  44. michael reynolds says:

    The reason it has such legs is that all the alternative Republicans might be talking about are such bad news for Republicans and good news for Americans:

    1) The US economy is doing well. In fact, it’s almost the only economy in the world that’s doing well. This despite Republican sabotage.

    2) Unemployment is down, hiring is up. Despite six years of Republicans screaming that Obamacare would be a job killer.

    3) For the first time ever, fewer Americans are in financial straits such as bankruptcy due to health costs. Thanks to Obamacare.

    4) Gas prices way down.

    5) Vladimir Putin? Wishing he’d traded all his rubles for dollars.

    6) ISIS? Contained. In 5 months time at the loss of three Americans, IIRC.

    Now, what part of that do Republicans want to talk about? None. Which are more important than this small story? All of them.

    James’ party is busy trying to find ways to drag children out of their classrooms and ship them to Guatemala. Of course the GOP wants to talk about this.

  45. CB says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Then you hate America and free speech and apple pie and puppies.

  46. anjin-san says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Let’s not forget about the GOP laying the groundwork for an assault on Social Security.

  47. humanoid.panda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Fair enough. By the way, the road leading from Tbilisi airport to the town is named the George W. Bush highway, and is crossed by the Condoleeza Rice avenue. I am enough of an asshole to have enjoyed the faces my rather hippy in-laws made when they saw that when I took them to a family vacation there.

  48. humanoid.panda says:

    @PJ: In related news, you should check out this story. Turns out that the Kurds fighting (and beating) ISIS in Northern Syria are led by an anarchist, radical feminist, party- basically Occupy Wall Street with guns!

    Democratic confederalism takes a hard line on the role of women in society. While Americans may like the picture of sexy young women smiling while they kill IS soldiers, their official program verges on what Reddit might call “misandry.”

    “The fundamental question is why man is so jealous, dominant and villainous where woman is concerned,” Öcalan writes, “why he continues to play the rapist.” He calls for a “total divorce” from “the five-thousand-years-old culture of male domination,” including but not limited to capitalism, the state, the nuclear family, prisons and the constructed gender binary. Part of the practical application of this theory includes the formation of women-only organizations like the YPJ, which operate alongside rather than beneath gender-integrated associations like the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Decision-making in Rojava at all levels requires a quota of 40 percent women, and every municipality is led by a male-female team. Hardly the stagnant, patriarchal image Americans assign to Middle Eastern communities.

  49. C. Clavin says:

    Ron Paul’s website says that the attacks were carried out at the behest of the US.
    No, really.
    It does.
    http://www.ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2015/january/14/charlie-hebdo-shootings-false-flag/
    This would explain why Obama didn’t participate.

  50. michael reynolds says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    And they’re winning. But communists always have been excellent unconventional fighters – Mao, Ho, Pol Pot, Tito, Che.

    In fact, the Arab middle east could use a big dose of Marxism. They do not appear to be sufficiently advanced culturally to cope with democracy. What they’ve got right now is Tyrants + Fanatics. The tyrants crushed every institution other than religion, so religion has “benefited” by being the only means to oppose tyrants. Unfortunately that leads right back to a blend of Tyrants + Fanatics.

    They need a third way. It’s not a great third way, it’s not what I’d prefer to see. But seriously, who else can motivate, organize and fight like the communists? Imagine if we could replace our pathetic so-called moderate Arab allies in Syria with even a third their number in committed communist cadre?

    If you gave Ho Chi Minh ten percent of the resources we poured into Iraq and now Syria, Assad would be on his way to Switzerland and Al-Baghdadi would be in a cage.

  51. Steve V says:

    Count me among the apparently small minority who still doesn’t understand why *any* world leaders were at this thing.

  52. DA says:

    I really can’t take any right-wing criticism of Obama seriously. For years and years, everything he has done, and everything he has said, and everything he has not done, and everything he has not said, has been treated as a disaster of world-historical proportions by the right wing, James included, and then echoed in the mainstream press. If he had attended the march, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Republicans would make political attacks based on his attendance. Given that he didn’t attend the march, of course, the Republicans are making political attacks based on his non-attendance. And the sun rises and sets, and rises and sets, and so it will go on.

  53. Pinky says:

    @anjin-san: Huh?

  54. humanoid.panda says:

    @michael reynolds: The problem is that Marxists already had their go at the Middle East- and failed. Fundamentalism was a response for its collapse.

  55. humanoid.panda says:

    @DA: If he came and didn’t give a speech, he would be charged with leading from behind. If he came and gave a speech, he would be charged with being a narcissist, making the event all about himself, and being addicted to empty gestures.

  56. Franklin says:

    BTW … when did Republicans start defending the French, anyway? I thought we should only eat Freedom Fries and derp derp derp.

  57. Hal_10000 says:

    You know, I just can’t work up a huge mad about the President not walking with a bunch of censors, thugs and oppressors pretending that they support free expression. Many of those world leaders came from that rally fresh off of imprisoning journalists and persecuting people for blasphemy. And they’ll go back to arresting people for insensitive remarks and trying to control social media. Big whoop.

  58. gVOR08 says:

    @Pinky: See my anecdote above. @gVOR08:
    Anjin is just making the fairly obvious observation that a lot of conservatives firmly believe whatever FOX tells them today, that the French are dedicated anti-terrorists. A couple years ago FOX told them the French were cheese eating surrender monkeys and they believed that. And they don’t know they flipped.

    I know it sounds absurd when I say it, but we watch it happen all the time. Orwell knew what he was talking about, “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.”

  59. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @michael reynolds: In fact, the Arab middle east could use a big dose of Marxism.

    We’re talking about one of the most violent regions in the world, and you want to foment an ideology that’s already accounted for the deaths of well over a hundred million people?

    Marxism filled graveyards in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia, just to name the big three. How effing insane are you to want to deliberately give it more opportunities?’

    I wonder if that’s the same diseased mentality that had Obama initially backing the rebels in Syria and Libya, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — to assume that since things are bad, than anything would be an improvement. And in each case, the “alternative” was far, far worse than the prior powers that be.

  60. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: You may well be right that Arabs aren’t “sufficiently advanced culturally to cope with democracy”. There are a lot of days I’m convinced we’re not sufficiently advanced for democracy.

  61. Pinky says:

    @gVOR08: Consider this choice. There are two ways of interpreting an event. One of them is consistent, and to interpret things that way allows you to at least approximate an understanding of the subject. The other way assumes an inconsistency, and requires you to assume that the subject is insane – effectively preventing you from ever reaching another conclusion about the subject. If you follow the latter, you declare that the subject is unreasonable, and you deny both the capacity for meaningful conversation and your ability to perform any further analysis. Are you sure you want to take the second path?

    Edited to add: That second path also leads to dehumanizing your opponent, turning him into the Other.

  62. PJ says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    We’re talking about one of the most violent regions in the world, and you want to foment an ideology that’s already accounted for the deaths of well over a hundred million people?

    Marxism filled graveyards in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia, just to name the big three. How effing insane are you to want to deliberately give it more opportunities?’

    I wonder if that’s the same diseased mentality that had Obama initially backing the rebels in Syria and Libya, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — to assume that since things are bad, than anything would be an improvement. And in each case, the “alternative” was far, far worse than the prior powers that be.

    Don’t forget all those who died in the Israeli kibbutzim.

  63. Guarneri says:

    Boy, you guys are amazing mind readers. Do you do Lotto numbers, too?

    It’s clear we have precious few people here who have been CEO or GMs, Board members, coaches, or any other positions of leadership and understand what you project from that position does in fact matter. Somehow I don’t think any of the head coaches of the football teams in the playoffs will be reading the Sunday morning paper rather than speaking with his players before the game because, you know, “what difference can it really make now.”

    Maybe the explanation is simpler. They didn’t have time to erect Greek columns and get a TelePrompTer.

  64. C. Clavin says:

    @gVOR08:
    We are no longer a democracy.
    Starting in the 80’s, with the war on the middle class that Reagan began, this country has slowly been transformed into the oligarchy that it is today.

  65. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Pinky: .

    Edited to add: That second path also leads to dehumanizing your opponent

    Not to beat an already dead horse, but…”dehumanizing” in the same way that describing your ideological opponents as taking joy in a cop’s death is dehumanizing?

    Until you apologize for that remark, all of your whiney remarks about how commentors are being illogically mean can only be viewed as disingenuous.

    Edit: I mean, seriously, that entire comment you posted could be written directly about you. Can you really have this much cognitive dissonance?

  66. Pinky says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Not to beat a dead horse, but didn’t you already say you’re not interested in understanding?

    As to that comment of mine, as I said, I’ll probably only respond one time in a dozen to any reference to it, because otherwise things would get boring.

  67. Pinky says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Eh, you know what, I’m going to reply to this one, because I think it’s illuminating. If I were going to dehumanize OTB’ers, I’d say that they really believed that cops should be killed. Instead, I indicated that they probably hadn’t thought through the implications of their positions with candor. I could have gone with the dehumanizing angle (as whoever did above with the Fox News propaganda line, and the all-conservatives-hate-France-except-when-a-black-president-is-involved nonsense), but instead I went with an angle that recognized that people probably aren’t evil, just mistaken.

  68. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    You’re mistaken.

  69. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Pinky:

    Again, provide one. single. comment. that when “thought through with candor” would imply anyone takes joy in a cops’ death.

    Realize that every time you pull out the fainting couch because someone dared to be uncivilized, it won’t fly with us. We have seen your true stripes. You couldnt’ win an argument so you went with base accusations.

    Until you can provide a single quote that backs up your assertion, or you apologize, your attempts to portray yourself as a rational person in a sea of base commentors will only be met with derision (and a reminder of just how full of sh*t you are).

  70. Tyrell says:

    There was no way the president could have made the trip there in time. He still had another round of golf to play.

  71. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Dude. Seriously? You thought I was making a practical suggestion?

  72. humanoid.panda says:

    @Guarneri:

    Maybe the explanation is simpler. They didn’t have time to erect Greek columns and get a TelePrompTer

    Nothing says “Unlike you liberal sissies, I’m a leader, mover and shaker” quite like recycling an 8 year old joke that wasn’t funny the first 10,000 times it was told.

    Are you going to tell us that Obama ate dog next?

  73. al-Ameda says:

    looks like I’m the 73rd comment

  74. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    Eh, you know what, I’m going to reply to this one, because I think it’s illuminating. If I were going to dehumanize OTB’ers, I’d say that they really believed that cops should be killed. Instead, I indicated that they probably hadn’t thought through the implications of their positions with candor. I could have gone with the dehumanizing angle (as whoever did above with the Fox News propaganda line, and the all-conservatives-hate-France-except-when-a-black-president-is-involved nonsense), but instead I went with an angle that recognized that people probably aren’t evil, just mistaken.

    Ah … the far-be-it-for-me-to-suggest that “they really believed that cops should be killed” or the nonsensical “all-conservatives-hate-France-except-when-a-black-president-is-involved” approach.

    Please continue.

  75. PJ says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Dude. Seriously? You thought I was making a practical suggestion?

    Well, there was quite a bit of Marxism, Socialism, and Communism involved in the foundation of Israel and its early governments, but also among the Jews living in the region during the early 20th century before the founding of Israel, and with Israel seen by many as the only democracy in the region, it might very well be something to try…

  76. Joel says:

    @PJ:
    Of course, leftists (by which I mean the actual radical left, not most democrats here) generally hates Israel because of its western connections. A lot of them would say its mere existence is imperialistic.

  77. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @gVOR08:

    And what does “leader of the free world” mean since the fall of communism? I hope we’re not implying leader of the non-Muslim world.

    Unfortunately…

  78. michael reynolds says:

    @PJ:
    Not sure where I’d find any actual communists nowadays. Costco doesn’t stock them.

  79. Tyrell says:

    Breaking news: Belgium forces stop “grand scale” terrorist plot !. US man planned to blow up the Capitol ! Both incidents linked to ISIS.
    So much for the so called ISiS “containment” policy.
    “No terms except unconditional surrender” General U.S. Grant
    “Mr., you can go home pig or pork. Make your choice” Marshall Dillon, “Gunsmoke”

  80. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    So you are saying that containing a plot linked to ISIS means we haven’t contained ISIS?
    Care to expound on that logic???

  81. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    In addition I think you should explain your glee over terrorist plots to the class.

  82. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    And the actual qoute from the 60’s TV show you want to base foreign policy on is:

    “Gunsmoke: Fandango (#12.21)” (1967)
    Marshal Matt Dillon: Mister, you’re going back pig or pork, now make up your mind!

    So you didn’t even get that nonsense right.

  83. anjin-san says:

    @Pinky:

    all-conservatives-hate-France-except-when-a-black-president-is-involved nonsense

    So now you are breaking out the victim fiddle?

    In the first place, no one said that, so you are simply making things up. Again. In the second place, conservatives have in fact been trashing France consistently since the Reagan years. This is well documented.

    No one is trying to “dehumanize” you, but I think everyone here has seen that you tend to be deeply dishonest in your commenting, and you don’t appear to have enough character to stand behind your own remarks.

  84. Pinky says:

    href=”#comment-1994903″>anjin-san: I’ve never tried to link across threads, so sorry if I get this wrong. But on the other Obama/France thread, when PJ said:

    None of the last seven Presidents have appointed a career diplomat as Ambassador to France.

    you replied

    @anjin-san:
    In case you have not heard, the current President is black. That changes things.

    What did that mean, other than that Republicans were viewing this story differently because the President is black?

    Further down on the thread, in response to Slugger saying

    Everything that happens is not apocalyptic.

    Dennis said,

    @dennis:
    No, Slugger; but apparently, a black man in the White House is, to some.

    What did that mean?

  85. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Rafer Janders: I mean, if that doesn’t bother you, James, then I don’t see why you have your knickers in a twist over a purely symbolic march. photo op staged several blocks away from the actual event for which the participants would have needed security.

    FIFY

  86. anjin-san says:

    @Pinky:

    I’m going to second what Neil said:

    Again, provide one. single. comment. that when “thought through with candor” would imply anyone takes joy in a cops’ death.

    You do that, then you can come back and demand that I explain myself. I don’t think you can. So you can crawl under the same rock where Jenos and bithead hang out. You have indeed show your true colors.

  87. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @anjin-san:

    Bottom line is we have these media frenzies because this sort of “reporting” is easy, whereas actual journalism is hard work.

    James, is there a message in the above statement that you should consider taking to heart? After all, you are now part of the “media frenzy” (disguised as a “serious academic/foreign policy figure,” of course).

  88. Pinky says:

    @anjin-san: Wow, quick retreat on that black thing.

  89. jukeboxgrad says:

    Pinky:

    If I were going to dehumanize OTB’ers, I’d say that they really believed that cops should be killed.

    Also Pinky (link):

    If some of you guys believed the things you’ve typed over the last few months, two dead cops should be like an early Christmas present for you.

    English translation of your latest convoluted spin: ‘I didn’t really insult anyone, because I said you said you wanted cops dead but I also said I know you didn’t mean it.’ That’s pathetic nonsense.

    By the way, after lots of discussion over multiple threads, so far you have managed to quote this many of those words that were allegedly “typed:” zero.

  90. Pinky says:

    @jukeboxgrad: Would you want to go back over months of threads about black-hating cops and 26:1 and the rest? Do you remember the OA on whose thread I made the comment? Why did someone think it necessary to write an article about that? I mean, anjin-san forgets that he made a racial accusation a few hours ago, and calls me a liar! Do you not get that the atmosphere of cop-hating and race-baiting has implications and consequences?

  91. HarvardLaw92 says:

    So, in other words:

    “you suck!”

    “No, YOU suck!”

    “No, you are the suckingest sucker of all sucktime!”

    “Screw you …”

    “Feck off!”

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Yawn – somebody wake me up when it’s over.

  92. anjin-san says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    I think what Pinky is trying to say is that he likes Jenos’ style and he has decided to imitate it.

  93. jukeboxgrad says:

    Pinky:

    Would you want to go back over months of threads

    It’s typically disingenuous of you to pretend to not understand what you have been asked to do. You have not been asked to “go back over months of threads.” You have been asked to show a few specific examples to support the outrageous accusation you made. Funny how you have not been able to do so. This tends to create the impression that your accusation is false.

    Do you not get that the atmosphere of cop-hating and race-baiting has implications and consequences?

    On 4/9/14, Jerad Miller wrote this on Facebook (link):

    I will be supporting Clive Bundy and his family from Federal Government slaughter.

    Six days later, National Review wrote this (link):

    The Case for a Little Sedition … The Bundy standoff reminds us that government is our servant, not our master. … the American order … was born in a violent revolution … in measured doses, a little sedition is an excellent thing

    A couple of months later, Miller shot two cops. Explain why your concept of “atmosphere” and “implications and consequences” does not apply here. You said this:

    If some of you guys believed the things you’ve typed over the last few months, two dead cops should be like an early Christmas present for you.

    Explain why Miller’s “two dead cops” should not be seen as “an early Christmas present” for the people at National Review who wrote about the glory of “violent revolution.”

  94. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “There was no way the president could have made the trip there in time. He still had another round of golf to play.”

    And it only took you, what, three days to come up with that. Or to copy it down when some radio loser said it. Bravo for you, speedboy.

  95. grumpy realist says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Heck, it’s anti-them-evil-foreigners thing and a gut feeling that everyone in the world should speak English, dammit.

    I’m sure that if I ever ran for POTUS, what with my polyglot background, that the Republicans would be screaming TRAITOR out of the gate.

  96. munchbox says:
  97. Moosebreath says:

    @Pinky:

    “My point is, there’s nothing contradictory about saying you like a country for A and dislike it for B.”

    And our point is that there’s nothing contradictory about saying you like police forces for A and dislike it for B. Somehow, you have come to the conclusion that if liberals actually thought about their dislike of police forces for escalating conflicts into situations where their only choice is to shoot unarmed people, then they realize there is no situation where they actually like them and instead wish they were all dead. No one on the left side of the fence has the least clue how you got there.

  98. James Joyner says:

    @munchbox: So, of all OTB commenters, you and Jenos have managed to outsource your thinking of this to the same Ace of Spades post on separate days. Knock it off. If you want to post behind a pseudonym, do so. But sock puppetry is against our commenting guidelines.

  99. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’m sure that if I ever ran for POTUS, what with my polyglot background, that the Republicans would be screaming TRAITOR out of the gate.

    Eh, I don’t think that’s really fair. Nearly half of America’s Presidents have spoken at least one foreign language, and several more than one. Americans in general tend to be impressed by multilingualism.

    Of course, there are always the idiots, but just like death and taxes they can’t be escaped…

  100. Mikey says:

    100!

  101. PJ says:

    @Mikey:

    Eh, I don’t think that’s really fair. Nearly half of America’s Presidents have spoken at least one foreign language, and several more than one. Americans in general tend to be impressed by multilingualism.

    If one would believe Wikipedia, and the factual accuracy is disputed, then most Presidents who spoke another language natively or fluently have died quite a long time ago.

    13 of the first 22 Presidents spoke at least one foreign language either natively or fluently, 10 of them more than one, three more than two.

    4 of the last 22 Presidents spoke at least one foreign language fluently (none natively), three of them spoke two fluently.

    The last President to be considered to have been able to speak a foreign language fluently, FDR.
    That’s 70 years ago.

    I don’t think that voters have stopped caring about multilingualism, I doubt that they ever cared. Instead, It’s no longer needed in the same way as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  102. Mikey says:

    @PJ: But there are few Americans who would scream “TRAITOR” at someone for speaking another language. Even the great majority of Republicans wouldn’t do that.

    There are enough problems with the GOP, we don’t have to strawman more into existence.

  103. PJ says:

    @Mikey:
    True, except for Michael Steele making fun of Huntsman speaking Mandarin, and that really doesn’t amount to screaming TRAITOR, I can’t find anything.

    Voters who cares about Romey speaking French most likely are already not voting for him because he’s a Mormon… (And the same is probably true for Huntsman speaking Mandarin.)

  104. Ken says:

    @Guarneri: Maybe the explanation is simpler. They didn’t have time to erect Greek columns and get a TelePrompTer.

    HAHAHAHAHA

    Now do the one about 57 states

  105. al-Ameda says:

    @Ken:

    @Guarneri: Maybe the explanation is simpler. They didn’t have time to erect Greek columns and get a TelePrompTer.

    Isn’t it amazing that so many conservatives never knew about teleprompter technology until Obama became president? Maybe we should tell them about smartphones too?

  106. PJ says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Isn’t it amazing that so many conservatives never knew about teleprompter technology until Obama became president? Maybe we should tell them about smartphones too?

    Keep quiet.

    ORCA_(computer_system)

    Let them live in the dark ages.

  107. jukeboxgrad says:

    munchbox:

    http://ace.mu.nu/archives/354316.php

    Thanks for this excellent demonstration of how conservatives lack self-awareness. You are citing Ace citing this quote:

    “We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends,” Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Bernard Holtrop.

    How much do you know about Charlie Hebdo? Link:

    Charlie Hebdo … was sued 13 times by Catholic organizations for its offensive depictions of popes, Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity. The Catholic groups reportedly filed the lawsuits in reaction to several offensive covers that depict Christian figures, such as the Holy Trinity and Pope Benedict XVI, in compromising positions. One of the covers features an older man as God, a drawing of Jesus, and something that resembles the eye of horus meant to be the Holy Spirit, all engaged in sodomy. The drawing was intended to mock the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage. … Another controversial issue features a fictional retelling of the story of the birth of Jesus and suggests that He was a child of sin, scourge of dragons, sandpit faith healer, child-killer, blinder of men, hyperactive child king, tormentor of His teachers, and apprentice prophet.

    Link:

    The magazine came from a strongly left-wing, feminist, and staunchly liberal background. … when France’s right-wing Catholics organized huge protests against the legalization of gay marriage, the magazine responded in kind. Published in November 2012, the cover of their “Mariage Homo” issue featured Jesus and God sodomizing one another while the Holy Spirit, to coin a euphemism, brought up the rear. … The reaction in France was nothing short of apocalyptic. Catholics and Christians of all stripes got up in arms, and gay marriage opponents were deeply offended.

    Can you name a single conservative who defended this “strongly left-wing, feminist, and staunchly liberal” magazine when it “was sued 13 times by Catholic organizations for its offensive depictions of popes, Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity?” No, I didn’t think so. So when Holtrop says “we vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends,” what makes you think he’s not talking about people like you and Ace?

  108. PJ says:

    @jukeboxgrad:
    I didn’t think of this in my earlier comment about what might make the right start hating the French again, that the people writing for the magazine would see what kind of people had started to support them and then start to attack them. Of course that’s a lot more plausible than Ace or the resident OTB right wing trolls actually reading magazine.

    Charlie Hebdo is against austerity, against the bombings of Gaza, and for giving all illegal immigrants a permanent right of stay.

    But all Ace and the resident OTB right wing trolls are able to see is a caricature of Muhammad.

  109. Tillman says:

    I mean, all I’m getting from these threads is that this story has legs in the media because Pinky isn’t apologizing for making a derisive generalization about liberals and cop deaths. Which is weird because every time a liberal commenter makes a derisive generalization about conservatives, that seems to go off without a hitch!

    @Hal_10000: I think the missed opportunity was Obama didn’t get to speechify. Conservatives won’t admit too many virtues to the man, but they usually concede his speechifying (along with pejorative caveats about teleprompters).

  110. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:
    People on the right are entitled to defend themselves against various attacks, just as liberals are doing here. But they seldom do, and it’s not that they are intimidated. It’s that they often fundamentally agree, and even when they don’t, they lack the tools to engage.

    You know how many times superdestroyer has defended himself against a charge of being a racist? None thatI’ve seen. Why? Because he’s a racist, and he knows it, and he’s proud of it. He’s here as the semi-official representative of white supremacists.

    Why don’t conservatives defend themselves against charges of indifference to other people’s suffering? Because they’re proud of being indifferent to other people’s suffering. It’s a virtue in their eyes.

    In other cases they lack a basis in fact for defending themselves. For example, when they are called out for cut-and-pasting (literally in many case) whatever happens to have spewed from Roger Ailes that day. They aren’t defensive about regurgitating right-wing propaganda, they’re proud of it. It’s a demonstration of faith and identity for them. Their facts tend to be wrong, and they don’t care, because logical, defensible truth is not important to them, they prefer revealed truth that comes from various authority figures.

    In some cases there’s an IQ component, as well – people who are just sort of helpless to defend themselves.

    Liberals defend themselves against some charges because 1) they believe the charges are wrong, 2) they can often (not always) back their arguments with fact, and 3) they tend on average to be brighter. Liberals care more about truth, conservatives care more about provoking liberals. It’s core definitional stuff, core character in effect.

    Liberals tend also by virtue of being liberals to have put at least some thought into opposing points of view, which makes them weaker at stubbornly defending a fixed position, but more agile, much better at avoiding obvious pitfalls (factual error, logical error) than conservatives.

    These are the factors that I see defining the comment dialog and making it so one-sided. Fundamentally, conservatives just aren’t good at any of the tools of debate, they prefer simple unsupported assertions of faith, repetition, stubbornness and rigidity. So they get their brains beat in. They have a win loss ratio that would humiliate the New York Knicks. They can’t play the game. I wish they could, they’d be better sport.

  111. Tillman says:

    Ah, the crimson spectre of downvotes.

    Nothing wrong with taking politics seriously in person, but over a message board with strangers on the Internet? It gets tiresome, and is degrading to your mental health. Once your mind starts going, you begin emphasizing trivial social niceties in inconsequential settings that you’d never enforce in lucid moments in response to slights that, thanks to your now-warped perception, have ballooned into mountains from molehills.

    “How dare he imply that I imply that I’d like to see cops die?” I know! It’s like no pro-lifer ever called you a child-murderer to your face.

    Come on, people. I’ve been accused of having Nazi sympathies for claiming the logo of the SS (the two lightning bolts, not the skull) was fashionable and cool, which it was designed to be. I’ve made my own implications that were stretches at the least. I’ve seen nearly all of you make at least one such similar stretch. But I guess that argument was so damn passionate!…

  112. munchbox says:

    James and junkie I never said they were my friends. But they took the brunt of more islam doing its thing, so I stand against that. Don’t get angry at me that Charlie is mocking your hash tag activism. So what’s you point? To prove that Catholics sue instead of firebombing and murder? Point taken. Remember those who slander the prophet, the future doesn’t belong to them.

  113. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:

    Who’s dumb enough to argue against Nazi iconography? It was brilliant. Their uniforms were cooler, their tanks were cooler, their flag was cooler. Much better than ours or the Russians’ or the Brits.

    So obviously inferior was our own sartorial and set design, that we had to make lemonade from the lemons. It’s become part of our identity: we are the scruffy Guardians of the Galaxy, or the mismatched Avengers, or the Dirty Dozen. Has there ever been a fictional conflict of Good and Evil where Evil didn’t have better uniforms? Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker? Please. Luke’s wearing pajamas for Christ’s sake.

  114. Pinky says:

    This site has a weird environment. I like sites where all sides are comfortable talking, and are well-represented (in quality and quantity). Any site that’s dominated by one side tends to have herd animals on the dominant side and trolls in opposition. It takes an unusual sensibility to keep coming back to a site where most people dump on you. But at least I have the chance of changing someone’s mind. The guys in the majority, what do they show up for? (Of course, the best is where people aren’t bimodal, but how often does that happen?)

  115. Tillman says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Why don’t conservatives defend themselves against charges of indifference to other people’s suffering? Because they’re proud of being indifferent to other people’s suffering. It’s a virtue in their eyes.

    Or they believe the question is beyond the pale, loaded with so many presumptions about someone’s political belief system as to be an unanswerable charge to begin with. (Or at least unanswerable without a lot more effort than initially imagined. On an Internet message board, how much effort is one supposed to put into a comment?)

    You’ll forgive me if I find most of what you wrote excessively reductive? I feel like most people here are dealing with cartoon versions of what a liberal or conservative is, does, or believes. It’s not as if conservatives only exist to provoke liberals and their utopian thinking, nor is it true that liberals don’t have their own provocateurs. In terms of argument, we’ve usually only judged the facts behind such (or the source of those facts) and not the arguments themselves, because on that score I can assure you no one’s coming out looking good. Especially if we agree that the point of having an argument is to persuade someone to your way of thinking. The posts I see are more political posturing than political argument.

    Maybe I’m just suffering from being a Pollyanna today and wondering why we can’t all get along. 🙁

  116. Pinky says:

    Why don’t people defend themselves against accusation of indifference to other people’s suffering?! Yeah, that sounds likely to be an adult conversation! How about you call someone a stinkypants and get surprised when they don’t lay out a reasoned argument in response?

  117. James Joyner says:

    @Pinky:

    This site has a weird environment. I like sites where all sides are comfortable talking, and are well-represented (in quality and quantity). Any site that’s dominated by one side tends to have herd animals on the dominant side and trolls in opposition. It takes an unusual sensibility to keep coming back to a site where most people dump on you.

    It’s been a gradual process. In our early years, our commentariat was mostly from well right of center but there was a reasonable number of reasonable lefties to balance them out. Over time, most of the good conservative commentators drifted away and we’ve been left with mostly poor representatives of that side; they simply don’t defend the position very well.

    I don’t read enough comments sections these days to know what’s out there. Most that I see on mainstream media sites are pretty much all trolls. It may just be that old style debate is largely gone.

  118. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:

    I think you’re talking about a type of conservative that has largely disappeared. The pre-Fox conservative is a completely different animal from the post-Fox “conservative.” Their positions on issues have changed drastically. Their ethos is different.

    Used to be the argument was between the utopian, please-think-of-the-children liberal and the green eye shade, numbers-are-numbers conservative. That argument is long gone. Ronald Reagan wounded that kind of conservatism, Bill Clinton wounded that kind of liberalism, and the net result was a lib-con debate that strengthened liberals and weakened conservatives. We can be “for the children” and also for the drone war, or for welfare reform. But conservatives took a net loss in surrendering their green eyeshades. Minus their attachment to hard, cold facts, conservatives became unhinged and focused more and more on social issues they were doomed to lose.

    Which of our conservative regulars do you think could even lay out an explanation of what conservatism is or what they believe? I can name half a dozen liberals here who can make the liberal case fairly cogently, and some could give you a pretty good paper or even a book. Do you think Jenos or bill or Florack or Jack or even Pinky can do the same for conservatism? You know they can’t. I’ve asked them, they can’t do it. I’ll bet you a dollar I could make a better, more coherent case for conservatism than any of the conservatives here. I’m tempted at times to create a conservative sock puppet just to see whether I can’t elevate the game a bit.

    That said, no, the comment debate is not about convincing Jenos or Pinky. My guess is that for every person who comments there are ten lurkers. They are the audience. We are the dance troupe.

  119. jukeboxgrad says:

    munchbox:

    Catholics sue instead of firebombing and murder

    Link:

    In the U.S., violence directed towards abortion providers has killed at least eight people, including four doctors, two clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort … since 1977 in the United States and Canada, property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidents of trespassing, 1264 incidents of vandalism … The New York Times also cites over one hundred clinic bombings and incidents of arson, over three hundred invasions, and over four hundred incidents of vandalism between 1978 and 1993.

    And that violence was supported. Eric Rudolph was hidden from the FBI and treated as a hero. Palin refused to call Rudolph a “terrorist,” and righty blogger Rick Moran correctly described this as a form of “moral cowardice.” Palin understands that the people of Murphy NC, who sheltered Rudolph for years, are the kind of people she likes to fleece. When Palin said “the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America,” she was less than 300 miles from Murphy.

  120. munchbox says:

    That’s funny Reynolds

    My guess is that for every person who comments there are ten lurkers.

    because I heard junkboxgrad argue the exact opposite before getting (I assume banned) over at national review. Talk about a troll sssesh. If anything you’er one of those he is talking about. I mean your rant about white people shooting black people the other day was classic. You obviously don’t have anything better to do then comment on every thread as if your gods gift to the internet much like junkie was at nr. I mean at least I know I am an insulting troll…but that’s because I can only read so much crap that spews out of your turf mouth

  121. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    When Republicans started running up deficits, they lost their moral high ground. Ronald Reagan, so revered by the right, set the stage for the decline of the right by growing government and growing deficits and changing the underlying GOP posture from “Stern but fair father who says money doesn’t grow on trees,” to “Embarrassing uncle who won’t stop using the n-word at Thanksgiving.”

    Abortion sealed the deal. Republicans started waving fetuses in women’s faces and calling middle class women murderers. That’s not exactly Taft or Eisenhower stuff there. The Limbaughs and Aileses came in and found they could make more money appealing to the fetus-wavers than they could by appealing to the “but who’s going to pay for all this?” crowd.

    Now the GOP is defined far more by race identity, sexism, homophobia and jingoism — all emotion-driven — than by abstract concerns over the size and role of government. They gave up their ace. And they boxed themselves in demographically.

    Not that the Democrats are much better, we haven’t had a new idea since about 1968 and we are running out of people to liberate, but all we had to do is stand still and watch the GOP turn itself into the National White People’s Party.

  122. munchbox says:

    Turd lol!

  123. michael reynolds says:

    @munchbox:

    Than you for demonstrating why your side loses debates.

    Your honor, I rest my case.

  124. humanoid.panda says:

    @Pinky: Here are some adult questions for you:

    Do you support universal provision of healthcare?

    If not, are you aware that Kenneth Arrow showed fifty years ago that the free market cannot provide it?

    Do you know that plenty of Red States refused to expand Medicaid, even though that decision costs them serious money?

    If you think it would be a good idea, but is impossible to do, are you aware that every other Western state provides universal healthcare, in some form?

    Most conservatives would argue that even if the free market cannot provide universal healthcare, the government should not do it, either because of costs, or because of moral reasons. In light of questions one or two, how can describe those people as anything but indifferent to human suffering?

  125. Joel says:

    I’ve been lurking since 2010 or so and I’ve noticed a definite change in the style of the comments and debates. Sometimes I think about wading into an argument and occasionally I’ll even post, but most of the time I figure that when the environment is so toxic, why bother? With that said, it’s still better than most political sites, which is a sad commentary on the internet really.

    I sort think of myself as a conservative, by the way. Though in practice I end up leaning Democrat at least half the time (it’s complicated).

  126. munchbox says:

    Rofl!!!!! as I was typing you come out with with that screed…. We’re all a bunch of racist baby fetus wavers eh?

  127. munchbox says:

    That’s just about as good as yesterday when pipes updated his website a second time to make my argument kinda mute.

  128. Pinky says:

    I agree about the general decline in message boards. This isn’t my first one, and I usually have a few that I check regularly along with basketball scores and Hannah Montana / Buffy crossover fanfic. I think that Facebook and Twitter and “likes” in general have reduced our patience for good argumentation. I’ve heard the history of OTB, and I’ve seen other sites go through the same thing. I’m usually just too lazy to find better sites, and waste hours or years on a site until it often literally crashes. But over the past few years, when I’ve gone in search of decent message boards, I’ve mostly found troll nests.

  129. jukeboxgrad says:

    munchbox:

    when pipes updated his website a second time to make my argument kinda mute

    He didn’t make your argument moot. He made it wrong. The latter is worse.

    I can’t tell if you’re ignorant about the meaning of the word (which would be nice icing on the cake of you being too ignorant to spell it right), or if you’re still trying to distort what Pipes said. Maybe both.

  130. jukeboxgrad says:

    Pinky:

    It takes an unusual sensibility to keep coming back to a site where most people dump on you.

    For a couple of years I did most of my commenting at National Review. You can imagine how I was treated there. I only stopped because they finally banned liberals. Years before that I mostly posted at a Power Line forum that doesn’t exist anymore. I could show you a bunch of death threats that were directed at me. Over the years I have been banned from many fine right-wing sites: Just One Minute, Protein Wisdom, Captain’s Quarters, probably some others I don’t remember that don’t exist anymore.

    At those sites I was often asked why I was there. Pasted in below is an example of that question, followed by my standard answer. It’s relevant to your remark.

    =================

    Do you ever try commenting at sites where your ideas are more the norm?

    Unlike you, I enjoy learning new things, and it’s important to me to test my beliefs to make sure they are correct, so I can always improve them and make them more correct. Surrounding myself with people who think just like me would not be a good way to do that. Always surrounding myself with people who think just like me would be a good thing to do if my beliefs were fragile, and I wanted to hang onto them at all costs, whether they were well-founded or not.

    I try to avoid aprioristic reasoning, which has been nicely explained as follows:

    Normally we allow facts to be the test of our principles. When we see what the facts are, we can retain or modify our principles. To start out with principles from the first (a priori) and to use them as the basis for accepting or rejecting facts is to do it the wrong way round. It is to commit the fallacy of apriorism. “We don’t need to look through your telescope, Mr Galileo. We know there cannot be more than seven heavenly bodies.” (This was a short-sighted view.) Aprioristic reasoning is widely used by those whose beliefs have very little to do with reality anyway. The fallacy is the short brush which sweeps untidy facts under a carpet of preconception. It is a necessary household appliance for those determined to keep their mental rooms clean of the dust of the real world.

    If you’re a member of that group (“those determined to keep their mental rooms clean of the dust of the real world”), you will probably be annoyed by someone who presents “untidy facts,” and you will probably call them names and do your best to chase them away, instead of viewing them as precisely the kind of person who might help you improve your beliefs. Do you notice how most people here are behaving? Do you notice how you are behaving?

    The GOP is at war with reality. Sometimes I am concerned that it will wake up and realize that this is, by definition, a losing battle. But then I stop by here and people like you reassure me that I have nothing to worry about.

  131. jukeboxgrad says:

    munchbox:

    I heard junkboxgrad argue the exact opposite

    You are full of sh*t, as usual. What you are claiming is “the exact opposite” of the truth. Examples of me making the same point Michael made can be found here: link, link. I also made that point frequently at NR, but there are multiple reasons why those links are harder to find (one reason is that they have deleted many of my comments).

  132. Pinky says:

    @humanoid.panda: I don’t really think those are adult questions. First of all, they’re on the Obama’s Missed Opportunity thread, which admittedly has followed a tangent and then turned meta, but it hardly seems the place to start this up. More importantly, I don’t see how you can have a mature conversation about “health care”, given that the term includes everything from preventative care to emergency surgery, from splints to MRI’s, and funded by government, insurance, private charity, individuals, and usually some combination thereof so complex that the patient couldn’t even understand it. And given that we probably can’t agree about what “free market” or “universal” mean either, or even “red states”, I’m willing to sit this one out.

  133. Pinky says:

    @jukeboxgrad: I agree with much of that. I don’t go to threads on explicitly ideological sites, though. I don’t expect a good conversation at TPM, for example (or National Review).

  134. PJ says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Who’s dumb enough to argue against Nazi iconography? It was brilliant. Their uniforms were cooler, their tanks were cooler, their flag was cooler. Much better than ours or the Russians’ or the Brits.

    Our symbols were all quite nice.
    Stars, stripes, lions, sickles.

    Watch this video.

  135. wr says:

    @al-Ameda: “Isn’t it amazing that so many conservatives never knew about teleprompter technology until Obama became president? Maybe we should tell them about smartphones too?”

    Obamaphones. They’re called Obamaphones.

  136. michael reynolds says:

    @PJ:

    “Are we the baddies?”

    Never seen that before. Thanks!

  137. wr says:

    @Pinky: “But at least I have the chance of changing someone’s mind.”

    Here’s a friendly hint to help build the comity: If you want to change someone’s mind, don’t start by claiming that he cheers the murders of cops — and then when busted on it, don’t say that you only meant that if he weren’t too stupid to understand his own thoughts he’d realize he cheers for the murders of cops.

    And if you find your self in that position and you still hope to change minds, apologize politely for saying something stupid and toxic. Because right now no one who doesn’t agree with you will listen to a thing you say.

  138. wr says:

    @Pinky: Shorter Pinky: I’m good calling liberals cop killers, but discussing anything of substance is too hard.

  139. anjin-san says:

    @wr:

    “Isn’t it amazing that so many conservatives never knew about teleprompter technology until Obama became president?

    I’m not sure what liberal alternate history you are subscribing to. Everyone knows that the O-Prompter is new technology, created because the negro president can’t string three sentences together without help.

  140. JJ says:

    Don’t think this non event was not discussed with the French