Thursday, December 21, 2006

Welcome Rich Lowry to the Reality-Based Community

Well, it seems that the guy who wrote this May 2005 front page article for the National Review:



. . . is finally coming to terms with the fact that he was full of it:
. . . Most of the pessimistic warnings from the mainstream media have turned out to be right -- that the initial invasion would be the easy part, that seeming turning points (the capture of Saddam, the elections, the killing of Zarqawi) were illusory, that the country was dissolving into a civil war.
Unfortunately, it also seems that Lowry can't admit to being a buffoon who got everything wrong without at least one attempt to blame the "liberals" for forcing his and the President's stupid actions. You see, the liberals are responsible for being right about Iraq -- so annoyingly right that it just FORCED the President and his neoconservative enablers to continue to be wrong just to spite the hated media and liberals:
Partly because he felt it necessary to counteract the pessimism of the media, President Bush accentuated the positive for far too long. Bush allowed himself to be cornered by his media critics. They wanted him to admit mistakes, so for the longest time, he would admit none. They wanted him to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, so for too long he kept him on. They wanted him to abandon "stay the course," so he stuck to it. In so doing, he eroded his own credibility and delayed making the major strategic readjustment he needed to try to check the downward slide in Iraq.
Well, at least he is finally admitting that some new schools getting painted isn't exactly of the same newsworthiness as a burgeoning civil war with our troops exposed perilously in the middle, which empowers our enemies, weakens our international position, and threatens to expand to a broad regional war:
The "good news" that conservatives have accused the media of not reporting has generally been pretty weak. The Iraqi elections were indeed major accomplishments. But the opening of schools and hospitals is not particularly newsworthy, at least not compared with American casualties and with sectarian attacks meant to bring Iraq down around everyone's heads in a full-scale civil war. An old conservative chestnut has it that only four of Iraq's 18 provinces are beset by violence. True, but those provinces include 40 percent of the population, as well as the capital city, where the battle over the country's future is being waged.

In their distrust of the mainstream media, their defensiveness over President Bush and the war, and their understandable urge to buck up the nation's will, many conservatives lost touch with reality on Iraq. They thought that they were contributing to our success, but they were only helping to forestall a cold look at conditions there and the change in strategy and tactics that would be dictated by it.
I suppose this is as good as can be expected from Lowry.

Some of his cohorts are even slower on the uptake, opting to cling with all their might to something, anything, to blame for their mistakes in judgment -- other than themselves and their ideological leaders, of course. See, for example, National Review Online's Stanley Kurtz, who proposes that the REAL reason he and the rest of the "Iraq is going swimmingly" chorus got everything so wrong is (get this) because they couldn't tell it was going badly because the media wouldn't tell them how well it was going. No, seriously. That's the stunning argument. Conservatives are so distrustful of news reporting from non-Rupert Murdoch-owned media outlets that unless the media reports things are going well, conservatives apparently cannot believe that it is actually going badly. It's an honest to goodness proof of the reverse-psychology psych-out theory of how to communicate with the right wing paranoid mind:
Media coverage of Iraq has been biased, and that bias has indeed helped to shape events there for the worse. At the same time, conservative distrust of the media’s very real bias has inclined us to dismiss reports about problems in Iraq that are real.

In the end, I think the media bears fundamental responsibility for this. Had they been less biased–had they reported acts of heroism and the many good things we have done in Iraq–I think conservatives would actually have taken their reporting of the problems in Iraq more seriously. In effect, the media’s consistent liberal bias discredits even its valid reports.

But you are right that MSM’s failings place a burden on smart conservatives not to be too dismissive, just because of the bias. We wish the media were more balanced, and therefore more believable. But we only hurt ourselves if we automatically dismiss anything MSM reports. Again, I think the media bears the lion’s share of the responsibility for this problem. But conservatives still need to be smart about this, or we only end up hurting ourselves.

. . . The media has discredited themselves, making it tough to take them seriously even when they are right, and that has hurt us all.
A commenter at Matthew Yglesias' place nailed it:
Shorter Kurtz: If the media had reported that things were going great in Iraq, we would have perceived more quickly that things were going badly.
It's an interesting shift from the "the American People are to blame for not having the will power to support the President's disastorous, I mean totally awesome and working if we only gave it more of a chance, war" meme (actual quote: "President Bush bet his presidency — and America’s world leadership — on the war in Iraq. Tragically, it looks as though he bit off more than the American people were willing to chew."). And if this scapegoat of the week doesn't catch on, there's a few others waiting in the wings.

Update:

Even Scarborough Country can see the problem for what it is:
But when all of his generals abandon him, when the Joint Chiefs abandon him, the admirals abandon him, when John Abizaid abandons him, when Colin Powell abandons him, everybody abandons him, he‘s standing alone! He just doesn‘t seem to have any credibility. And this is extraordinarily disturbing to me, as a guy who supported this war and supported this president twice.

. . .

Well, this is uncharted territory. And Josh Green, I want you, if you will, to imagine, how would Republicans have responded if President Bill Clinton had ignored the advice of all of his Joint Chiefs, his top general in the war zone, his former secretary of state, and 80 percent of Americans? Is it not a stretch to say that many Republicans would have considered impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton if this situation were identical?
And that isn't even the worst of it.

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