Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Who's Suprised?

So, who is suprised that Ann Coulter has decided to weigh in (read: show off her craziness) about the supposed "liberal racism" that is the conservatives' response to defending the indefensible records of Condoleeza Rice and Clarence Thomas? If so, get out your tack hammer...

As I have previously discussed, unless conservatives can show us how liberal criticisms of Rice and Thomas are different than liberal criticisms of white conservatives of a similar level of incompetence, then the criticisms amount to nothing more than conservatives asserting, "Criticizing minority conservatives is racist in and of itself," which is patently absurd.

Does Coulter do this? Of course not.

First off, Coulter says:

Joseph Cirincione, with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (so
you know they don't have an agenda or anything), said Rice "doesn't bring much
experience or knowledge of the world to this position." This was reassuring,
inasmuch as that was also liberals' assessment of the current president before
he took office and he, to put it mildly, has been doing rather well.

Well, this would be a good argument, were Bush's performance in office not still in dispute. Coulter is simply preaching to the converted here, since those who agree with her unprove assertion that Bush "has been doing rather well" would almost certainly think Rice, an integral part of the Bush regime, has also "been doing rather well."

But this is just a way of sidestepping Cirincione's argument. Rather than dealing with Cirincione's actual remarks about Rice's competence, Coulter simply compares Rice to someone Cirinicione isn't talking about -- Bush -- who, she believes, her readers all believe did a good job, thereby making the argument, "It doesn't matter what Cirincione or any other liberal say about Rice, as long as you believe that Bush 'has been doing rather well.'" If Cirincione had been criticizing Bush, no doubt, Coulter would have said, "It doesn't matter what liberals say about Bush, as long as you think Reagan did a good job." This way, you can infinitely regress to Adam and Eve or God, if necessary, never actually defending anyone's actual record. Awesome!

Then, Coulter proceeds to dismantle any semblance of rational debate by engaging a straw man:

The Kansas City Star editorialized that Rice "has not demonstrated great
competence in the last four years," which is to say, Dr. Rice failed to be
sufficiently clairvoyant to predict the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Here, Coulter simply reinterprets the Star's statement to mean something that she can easily knock down, a straw man, that is, that the Star is criticizing Rice for failing to predict 9/11 rather than questioning her overall competence over "the last four years," as they obviously are.

In the same way, if someone were to say, for instance, that Mike Brown, owner and general manager of the Bengals since 1990, has "not demonstrated great competence in the last fourteen years," during which the Bengals were the worst team in the NFL, Coulter would say, "which is to say, Mr. Brown failed to be sufficiently clairvoyant to predict the injury that ended Ki-Jana Carter's career before it began." But Brown made a whole host of mistakes aside from drafting Ki-Jana Carter, just as Rice has made a whole host of mistakes other than failing to predict 9/11.

Also, if Coulter thinks it truly would have taken "clairvoyance" to predict 9/11 after the CIA's Presidential Daily Briefing titled, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States," then she doesn't understand what "clairvoyance" means. Clairvoyance means knowing something without having any rational, non-supernatural way of knowing it. Whether Rice could or should have known something like 9/11 was going to happen is certainly debatable, but certainly it would not have taken "clairvoyance" to do so. The information was there. Whether Rice should have been able to interpret the data in order to foresee 9/11 is another matter. But no "clairvoyance" would have been needed.

Columnist Bob Herbert sneered of Rice's nomination in the New York Times:
"Competence has never been highly regarded by the fantasists of the George W.
Bush administration." For example, these are the bumbling nitwits who conquered
Afghanistan, the "graveyard of empires," and toppled Baghdad in less time than
your average Jennifer Lopez marriage lasts. (Wait, I can't remember: Was it the
Bush administration that hired Jayson Blair?)

Wait a minute... Is Coulter questioning Jayson Blair's competence? After all, Blair is black. If questioning a black person's competence is a priori racist, as Coulter is asserting, then she is racist for questioning Blair. Since the actual competence or incompetence of the subject seems to be irrelevant to Coulter, she is just as racist for criticisizing Blair as any of the people criticisizing Thomas or Rice.

And yes, Ann, these "bumbling nitwits" conquered Afghanistan but failed to capture Bin Laden, failed to wrest control of most of the country from local warlords, and failed even to clear out most of the Taliban. To the point that Afghanistan's new president is starting to offer amnesty to former Taliban members! And, of course, Afghanistan has increased its opium production to make it the largest exporter of opium in the world since the fall of the Taliban. But, I guess the US "conquered" Afghanistan in much the same way as it has taken control in Colombia, which is to say, not at all.

The "nitwits" did topple Baghdad as well. But taking the world's most powerful military and running roughshod over a third-world country using obsolete Soviet-era equipment and still suffering from the effects of ten years of sanctions isn't exactly rocket science. The hard part was planning for the peace. Which the Bush regime, "bumbling nitwits" that they are, utterly failed to do. They were somehow caught off-guard by an insurgency in a part of the world where "insurgency" is almost a synonym for "normal state of affairs."

So far, Dr. Rice has demonstrated her abundant competence only in academia,
geopolitics, history, government, college administration, classical music and
athletics. I eagerly await the Bob Herbert column in which he lists the subjects
and pursuits he's mastered. If only Rice talked about her accessorizing like
Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, she might impress the sort of
fellow who writes for the New York Times.

So far, Ms. Coulter has not demonstrated any competence in rational thought. What difference do Rice's accomplishments outside being National Security Adviser have to do with Herbert's criticisms of her stint in that office? Further, Mr. Herbert's mastery of any subjects or pursuits outside being a journalist are irrelevant. It doesn't matter if Rice can kill people with her mind or not if we're not discussing her ability to kill people with her mind. It also doesn't matter that Rice can kill people with her mind and Herbert can't if we're not discussing her ability to kill people with her mind. That's like saying you can't criticize Einstein's hairstyle because he's a brilliant physicist. They have nothing to do with each other.

And then, Coulter fails to engage in any sort of rational debate by bringing in Madeleine Albright not to compare Albright's record with Rice's, but simply to insult Albright personally. Maybe if Coulter talked about the actual records of the people she is defending and criticizing, Coulter could "impress the sort of fellow who writes for the New York Times."

Now, I have read from some people knowledgeable about the law that, in fact, Senator Reid's comments about Thomas' opinions being "poorly written" are not true. They say that Thomas' opinions are frequently, and badly, flawed, but that they well-written. So, I will actually admit that Reid may have been wrong about Thomas' writing skills.

Now, personally, I wouldn't praise Scalia as any better than Thomas. In fact, I am more appalled by someone like Scalia, who comes across as being more intelligent and articulate, having opinions like he does rather than someone like Thomas who doesn't seem quite as sharp. But Thomas may well not come across as being as sharp as Scalia because Thomas doesn't speak when the Supreme Court is in session and doesn't really ever appear in the media or give interviews. My opinion of Scalia as a person, rather than a justice, is largely informed by his participation in legal discussion programs I have seen on PBS. While I found Scalia's opinions to be utterly wrong, he was articulate in the way he presented them, which made me feel he was pretty intelligent, moreso than average. As such, I would tend to think him more intelligent than someone who has not impressed me particularly with his intelligence, like Thomas, even if only because I haven't had a chance to form an impression.

The point? That there are quantitative differences between Scalia and Thomas, other than race, that could account for people like Senator Reid thinking better of Scalia than Thomas, such as Scalia's more visible profile. There are definable reasons other than race to think that Thomas is Scalia's puppet. Until and unless people like Coulter can demonstrate that these reasons are insufficient to explain the stance of Reid and other liberals, it makes no sense to jump to racism, unless one has a political ax to grind for which the truth is irrelevant.

In any case, comparing the opinions of liberals on Scalia to their opinions on Thomas is comparing apples to oranges. Scalia didn't face the same kind of challenges in his confirmation hearing nor was Scalia's nomination as controversial as Thomas'. A more accurate comparison would be to compare the bile being directed at Thomas to the bile being directed at, say, Robert Bork. I think you would find that Bork, though white, has gotten similar, if not worse, treatment by liberals, and, is by far a much more apt comparison.

Also, Coulter and others have harped on some cartoons that came out after Bush nominated Rice for Secretary of State which were racist and drawn by liberals. It turns out, of course, that the cartoons most criticized by Coulter and other conservatives weren't drawn by liberals. But, you see, conservatives have become so adept at controlling the conversation that they take it for granted that they can simply label anyone who criticisizes them as a "liberal," regardless of that person's actual political views across the entire spectrum of issues, or what that person identifies him- or herself as.

If Coulter really had evidence of liberal racism, don't you think she would plaster it all over her columns and website? Of course she would. The fact that she is unable to do anything better than use fallacious logic and irrational arguments to fail to make any kind of case that the criticisms of Rice and Thomas are about anything other than Rice's and Thomas' incompetence, shows that Coulter knows she doesn't have a case, whether consciously or not.


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