Same Old Song

Ready for a “my eyes glaze over” moment? Just see this pro-torture op ed by Alan Dershowitz. In fact, just look at the headline: “Democrats and Waterboarding: The party will lose the presidential race if it defines itself as soft on terror.”

Please. The Right has been screaming that “Democrats will lose the trust of the American people if they define themselves as soft on [CHOOSE ONE: Communism, spies in the State Department, the nuclear threat, defense, crime, Islamofascism] since before I was born, which wasn’t exactly last week. Most of the time the allegation of “softness” is pure hysteria and has little to do with any actual softness. About half the time righties are whistling in the dark about what voters will do.

Over the years I’ve observed that voter opinion on security issues goes in cycles. For a time voters want to be “tough,” followed by another time in which they are tired of being tough and paying for bloated military budgets. I suspect we’re coming to the end of a “tough” cycle.

Cernig of Newshoggers has a fine takedown of Dershowitz, so I don’t have to write one. (See also Sadly, No.) I only want to add that favoring strong and effective antiterrorism measures and favoring waterboarding are not the same thing. They are no more the same thing as “effectively countering the spread of Communism” and “nuking China ” were the same thing 50 years ago.

IMO Dershowitz belongs with some of the other “savant idiots” mentioned in this essay by Daniel Davies.

Being extremely intelligent is rather like fucking sheep – once you’ve got a reputation for either, it’s extremely difficult to get rid of it. If someone was, at some long gone time in the past, a boy genius or an academic superstar, then they’re “incredibly smart” for life, no matter how many stupid things they actually say or do.

The cases on my mind at the moment are Enoch Powell and Larry Summers, but I daresay I could dig up a dozen more if I spent the time. Both of them amazingly intelligent, “scary smart”, capable of quoting reams of Ancient Greek at you while simultaneously calculating the complex conjugate of a plate of spaghetti, backwards. On the other hand, could someone tell me one single example of a clever thing either of them did or said? Not so easy.

In fact, both of these famously intelligent men are not famous for intelligent things they did or said, or even for possessing a modicum of ordinary common sense. They’re famous for actually stupid things that they did and said. In fact, as far as I can tell, the career trajectories of nearly everyone commonly regarded as a “genius” seem to be marked by one boneheaded blunder after another.

Seriously, how stupid do you have to be to get up in front of a “Women in Science” conference and tell them that the reason you don’t employ many women as science professors is that they aren’t good enough? Incredibly intelligent, apparently, that’s how stupid. How stupid do you have to be to not only start talking about “the River Tiber foaming with blood”, but then subsequently to claim that you didn’t realise that it would be controversial? Apparently, only the cleverest man in the House of Commons has what it takes to be as dumb as that.

What this suggests to me is that we greatly overvalue book-larnin’ these days. Lots of otherwise sensible commentators will regularly admit that a “genius” politician was not very good at politics, or a “genius” academic administrator was a terrible manager, but then continue as if they regarded mere incompetence at one’s chosen career to be of secondary importance, compared to the far greater value of being a genius.

In fact, I’d put most of our public “intelligentsia” in the same pot.

Yesterday’s state and local elections showed us that many “hot button” issues dear to the Right had little impact on voters. For example, Amy Gardner writes at the Washington PostIn the Ballot Booths, No Fixation on Immigration.”

Voters across Virginia chose candidates in state and local elections yesterday not out of anger over illegal immigration but based on party affiliation, a preference for moderation and strong views on such key issues as residential growth and traffic congestion.

With a few notable exceptions, the trend benefited Democrats and not those who campaigned the loudest for tough sanctions against illegal immigrants.

At The Hill, Jonathan Kaplan writes “GOP turns impeachment resolution against Dems.”

House Republicans on Tuesday nearly forced Democratic leaders to vote on a resolution to impeach Vice President Cheney.

Anti-war presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced a privileged resolution, used to circumvent the committee process, to get his impeachment measure to the House floor.

The vote to kill Kucinch’s privileged resolution began as a largely party-line affair, but halfway through the vote, Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) persuaded Republican leaders to get rank-and-file GOP lawmakers to change their votes to force the debate.

At one point, the vote to table the motion stood at 246-165. Once Republicans began switching their votes, momentum swung the other way. When the vote stood at 205-206, some Democrats began switching their votes.

The vote to kill Kucinich’s resolution finally failed 162-251, giving Republicans the opportunity to watch Democrats debate whether to impeach Cheney — a debate in which many liberal Democrats were more than willing to engage.

House Republicans clearly enjoyed watching Democratic leaders squirm during the series of votes, which lasted more than one hour.

I would have enjoyed watching Democratic leaders squirm also, and I’m sorry I missed it. But if the Republicans think that impeachment is a loser issue for Dems, they need to get out more. As Kagro X says, “Republicans believe everything is good for Republicans.” Well, wait ’til next year …

9 thoughts on “Same Old Song

  1. I’ve known for a long time that Alan Dershowitz is a sheep-bleeping idiot. I’m not even sure how he has held on to the “savant” reputation, since he takes positions purely for their inflammatory nature, rather than any intellectual merit. He’s kind of like Rush Limbaugh without the Viagra.

  2. Well, part of it is that people regard intelligence as being seamless like an egg, when our brains are actually a bunch of compartments that can work well together.

    For instance, I can write code and deconstruct Moby Dick, but my cooking is a kind of random lottery. Everyone has these differing levels of competence. Why some people constantly assume intelligence in one thing means intelligence in all things has always baffled me.

    But that’s how we got here; a bunch of people thought enjoying a beer with someone implied the someone would make the right decisions about war and human rights…

  3. The kind of torture that President Clinton was talking about is not designed to secure confessions of past crimes, but rather to obtain real time, actionable intelligence deemed necessary to prevent an act of mass casualty terrorism.- Dershowitz

    In this he is just flat-out wrong. The Gov’t has used torture and the threat of torture to extract confessions from innocent people.
    Abdallah Higazy was in a NYC hotel on 9/11 and a airplane radio was found in his room. He was innocent but he confessed because the FBI threatemned to have his family tortured in Egypt if he did not*. He was released three days after confessing when an airline pilot, the previous occupant of Higazys room, showed up at the hotel asking for his radio back.

    *From the, now since withdrawn, court documents [Abdallah] ” Higazy alleges that during the polygraph, Templeton told him that he should cooperate, and explained that if Higazy did not cooperate, the FBI would make his brother “live in scrutiny” and would “make sure that Egyptian security gives [his] family hell.” Templeton later admitted that he knew how the Egyptian security forces operated: “that they had a security service, that their laws are different than ours, that they are probably allowed to do things in that country where they don’t advise people of their rights, they don’t – yeah, probably about torture, sure.”

  4. Last night I watched an old movie and realized it had been bouncing around in my head for the last couple of years as the perfect parallel of the current outcry against ‘islamofiacists’. The movie – and if you saw it you will see the similarities – was the 1966 ‘The Russians are Coming’.

  5. Oh, I love that movie! “Emergency, emergency! Everybody to get from street!” Good old Alan Arkin.

  6. Ah, the old ticking bomb scenerio..the ultimate justification!. Committing evil in the name of good. During the Inquisition it was a common practice to cut out the tongue of the accused heretic in order to prevent them from uttering blasphemies. It was considered as an act of mercy to reduce the penitent’s judgment before god.
    It’s also the same sick thinking that allows modern day clowns like Dershowitz to justify torture. Once you cross the threshold of justification there is no crime that can’t be committed. After all, Hitler destroyed the Jews, the Gypsies, the Slavs, the mentally ill, and the homosexuals as an act of good for the betterment of mankind…just like Bush is authorizing torture for our benefit.

  7. SWAMI, speaking of Hitler reminds me of Goebbels reminds me of the Dershowitz(s) poisoning our public discourse – arrogant fools, yes, but not harmless fools.

    In ’42, Goebbels said, “We must win the war against the Jews. Should we lose it, then the harmless appearing Jewish good-fellows would exact on our people, women and children, a revenge for which history gives no precedent.” He went on to say, “The Jews are our destruction. Every Jew is a sworn enemy of the German people.”

    It’s probably safe to say that Goebbels wrote apologies for the use of torture. Dershowitz should keep Goebbels in mind when he writes apologies for the use of torture.

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