being smart as well as quick

It’s pretty obvious that the Bush Administration will try to counter public dissatisfaction with the Iraq war by calling critics “appeasers,” “quitters,” and the like. It is also obvious that the national Democrats, having gone through the Swift Boat Experience, are now ready to counter-punch speedily. But will they respond cleverly?

After Secretary Rumsfeld’s VFW speech, the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, was ready with a zippy quote. She said, “Secretary Rumsfeld’s efforts to smear critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy are a pathetic attempt to shift the public’s attention from his repeated failure to manage the conduct of the war competently.”

This reminds me a little of the press releases Mary Matalin used to issue on behalf of George H.W. Bush in 1992. She would call the Democrats “sniveling,” “pathetic,” “cowardly.” Her rhetorical style, in other words, was to rely exclusively on pejorative adjectives. You can imagine people looking over a first draft in Pelosi’s office and saying, “Let’s add ‘reprehensible’ there.” “No, ‘abhorrent’ sounds tougher.” “Too fancy. How about ‘pathetic’?”

Matalin’s candidate, as you will recall, lost. If you’re going to counter-punch, you have to say something that makes people stop and think. It has to have some content. For example: “No Democrat wants to ‘appease’ Osama bin Laden. We want to destroy him. By the way, why is bin Laden still at large, Secretary Rumsfeld?” Or: “Instead of going to Nashville to reminisce about World War II, Secretary Rumsfeld should be back in his office trying to figure out how to end the war he started.”

This is not a kind of politics that inspires me. But it’s going to happen, and it might as well be effective.

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4 Responses to being smart as well as quick

  1. airth10 says:

    I agree with Nancy Pelosi. She is combating a reckless and distorted argument.

    The Republicans have proven, through their misguided ideology, that the procedures of the past, which America built-up in diplomacy, multilateralism, containment and engagement are still the best approaches to the world?s problems. Ms. Pelosi should also emphasis this. ?The beacon-on-the-hill has to be restored.?

    What I would also say as a Democrat is that the war on terror and Iraq is going badly and things will not change until this administration is replaced. I would add that it would not be wise to cut and run in Iraq until America stabilizes things. America’s image has been badly damaged by the events in Iraq and if it leaves without fulfilling some of its basic promises, like restoring the infrastructure, that image will be further tarnished. However, things cannot improve until this administration is gone and replaced. America needs a new approach and the people who are presently running things are incompetent, tired and out of ideas. Republicans have always accused Democrats of having no new ideas. Well here is one, let?s change this administration before it ruins everything America stands for and has build-up over the years, its optimism, its can-do spirit and know-how. We need new leadership across the board.

  2. airth10 says:


    Rumsfeld?s argument makes as much sense as the one used to stop women?s suffrage, that their getting the vote would be very destabilizing and ruinous for the nation. People also once thought that democracy would be an egregious mistake for the same reason.

  3. Peter Levine says:

    I agree with Pelosi, too. I just don’t think her rhetoric was very effective. What she said wasn’t original, thought-provoking, witty, or especially hard-hitting. — Peter

  4. airth10 says:

    Yes, Pelosi could have been more original in her comment. But I can see myself being as unoriginal in arguing against such an idiotic rhetoric as that which came out of the mouth of Donald Rumsfeld. I found myself as gobsmacked as anybody and thus at a loss for an intelligent comeback.

    The whole episode is like the AFLC commercial where the duck is flabbergasted by a Yogi Berra utterance, where the duck just shakes his head and says, Huh!!

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