Stupid Is As Stupid Writes

Speaking of brain impairment, check out Jonah Goldberg’s latest column.

I THINK ALL intelligent, patriotic and informed people can agree: It would be great if the U.S. could find an Iraqi Augusto Pinochet. In fact, an Iraqi Pinochet would be even better than an Iraqi Castro.

Both propositions strike me as so self-evident as to require no explanation.

I thought that Iraq had an Iraqi Augusto Pinochet. His name was Saddam Hussein. We deposed him, allegedly for being brutal and gassing his own people and such. But if Pinochet is our model, then the brutality part was not the real problem. I guess we deposed Saddam Hussein because he was bad for business. Or maybe he wasn’t Latino.

Anyway, Goldberg doesn’t want Saddam Hussein back …

But these days, there’s a newfound love for precisely this sort of realpolitik. Consider Jonathan Chait, who recently floated a Swiftian proposal

I thought Chait’s column was stupid, but “Swiftian” is a key word here.

that we put Saddam Hussein back in power in Iraq because, given his track record of maintaining stability and recognizing how terrible things could get in Iraq, Hussein might actually represent the least-bad option. Even discounting his sarcasm, this was morally myopic.

No, dear, it was “Swiftian.” That puts it closer to satire, or maybe caricature, than to mere sarcasm. What I am writing right now is sarcasm, but not satire or caricature.

But it seems to me, if you can contemplate reinstalling a Hussein, you’d count yourself lucky to have a Pinochet.

Yes, child, but you’re (note example of sarcasm) a bleeping idiot. Your argument is that Pinochet didn’t kill as many people as Castro; therefore, he wasn’t so bad. Moral relativism, sir?

Apparently the Right has been playing this Castro v. Pinochet game for the past several days. Hey, I can play that game, too — Mao killed a lot more people than Hitler; therefore, Hitler wasn’t so bad. So would Iraq be better off with Hitler? Hitler killed a lot more people than Saddam Hussein, after all. I guess Saddam Hussein want so bad, by Goldberg’s reasoning.

The BooMan explains it all, with sarcasm:

See, contrary to your prejudices, all serious, patriotic, and informed conservative thought revolves around nuance. You see, Pinochet displaced a duly elected official and imposed a brutal dictatorship. Saddam replaced a brutal dictatorship with an even more brutal dictatorship. Therefore, Saddam is worse and unfit for a restoration. That would be morally myopic. But if we could find a guy just a little less brutal and a lot more business friendly, then that would be excellent. …

… But what if unfrozen-reanimated-Iraqi-Pinochet-man found that he couldn’t stabilize Iraq without being every bit the son-of-a-bitch Saddam was? Well? Shit, I guess putting Saddam back in power wouldn’t have been that myopic after all.

I mean, if numbers are all that matters, according to this chart Augusto Pinochet was responsible for more deaths than our old nemesis, the late Al Zarqawi. I guess that means Al Zarqawi wasn’t so bad.

Another Update

I am sorry to be out of the loop today, but I am still reporting to the courthouse for jury duty. I have to show up again tomorrow.

So I rushed home to catch up on the news. On Memeorandum there was a stack of headlines that seemed to tell a story:

Sen. Johnson in Critical Condition After Surgery

Should Johnson be unable to continue to serve

Fox News Speculates How Officials Could ‘Declare’ Sen. Johnson ‘Incapacitated’

Sen. Johnson recovering after brain surgery

In a nutshell: Elements of the Righty (notably Faux Nooz) are salivating over the possibility of keeping the Senate, even as they feign shock that anyone is even talking about what might happen if poor Senator Johnson leaves the Senate. And they are dumping on the Left for … well, whatever. For breathing. The usual stuff. Anyway, as I keyboard the most recent news is that Senator Johnson is still critical, but recovering. There won’t be a long-term prognosis for a couple of days.

CNN reported this afternoon

The Democrats’ slight hold on power in the Senate is largely safe despite South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson’s health scare, Senate Historian Don Richie tells CNN. As stipulated by Senate rules, Johnson could retain his seat even if he is incapacitated, unable to vote, and not even able to show up to work.

Moreover, the Senate does not have the power to forcefully remove Johnson unless he committed a crime.

Such a scenario has even occurred in Johnson’s home state of South Dakota. After South Dakota Sen. Karl Earle Mundt had a stroke in 1969 he remained in office until his term expired in 1973 without casting another vote after the governor refused Mundt’s wish of appointing his wife to the post.

A state governor has the power to appoint a new senator only if the current senator dies in office or resigns his seat.

There is “little or no precedent for forcibly unseating a member of Congress due to illness or other incapacitation,” writes Jonathan Singer at MyDD.

Senator Johnson Update

Senator Johnson underwent surgery last night, although no one is saying what made him ill. If they’re operating on him, I assume the doctors have a theory.

More on Senator Johnson from today’s New York Times:

An unassuming fourth-generation South Dakotan, Mr. Johnson was first elected to the Senate in 1996, after serving 10 years in the House, where he had replaced Tom Daschle, a fellow Democrat who ran for the Senate and ultimately became the majority leader.

Mr. Johnson faced a tough race in 2002 against John Thune, a Republican. With the state suffering billions of dollars in losses from a severe drought, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Daschle promised $5 billion in drought relief, and Mr. Johnson won narrowly after President Bush visited the state for Mr. Thune and declined to announce that he would support the relief. (Mr. Thune went on to beat Mr. Daschle in 2004.)

Mr. Johnson is up for re-election in 2008. His oldest son, Brooks, served in Afghanistan and is serving in Iraq.

Click here for Senator Johnson’s biography on his web site.

My understanding is that if the Senator survives he is under no obligation to resign from the Senate, even if he is impaired. Back to the New York Times:

He is the second senator known to become ill since the November elections. Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming, a Republican, is being treated for leukemia, but has been at work.

According to information from the Senate historian cited on, at least nine senators have taken extended absences from the Senate for health reasons since 1942. Robert F. Wagner, Democrat of New York, was unable to attend any sessions of the 80th or 81st Congress from 1947 to 1949 because of a heart ailment. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, missed about seven months in 1988 after surgery for a brain aneurysm. And David Pryor, Democrat of Arkansas, suffered a heart attack in April 1991 and returned to the Senate in September that year.

The Right has decided it’s indelicate to even mention the significant political consequences of losing Senator Johnson. In fact, posts about Senator Johnson on rightie blogs this morning are so consistently conciliatory about the Senator one wonders if they were all on the same conference call with someone from the RNC.

It is of course quite possible to be genuinely concerned about the Senator as a person and worried about the political consequences of his death or resignation at the same time. This is especially true for those of us who fear that if the Senate stays in Republican control our country will be significantly impaired. Here’s another New York Times story about something that won’t happen if the GOP stays in charge, for example. If it’s indelicate to be gravely concerned about the future of the United States of America, then I will be indelicate.