No matter who he meant the dumb folks were, the idea that smart college kids become dovish Dems is a powerful sub-text in Kerry’s remarks. ~Stanley Kurtz
In the great Whit Stillman classic, Barcelona, Fred and Ted are walking along the street talking about literature and, after being told about subtext, he asks Ted, “Okay, so that’s subtext. But what about what’s above that? What’s above the subtext?” Ted says, “That’s the text.” It would seem that some people are having so much fun reading the subtext of Kerry’s remarks that they are no longer able to see what is above the subtext.
What were Kerry’s words of warning? They were: “If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” Not, “you go to war with Iraq,” but “you get stuck in Iraq.” The idea here is not that smart people become antiwar (which is readily disproven by all kinds of intellectuals and supposedly high IQ people who are warmongers and interventionists–the more people think they know about the world, the more willing they are to try to fix everything), but that Bush’s ignorance, intellectual laziness and his and his administration’s complete failure to prepare for the post-war phase have all contributed directly to the present mess in Iraq, in which the United States is assuredly “stuck.” Further, the idea behind the “joke” would be that someone who actually knew something about Iraq (“I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!” said the philosopher-king Bush when presented with the differences between Sunni and Shi’ite), the region and what would be required to stabilise the country after the invasion would have done a better job. That claim is controversial in a way, because it assumes that Iraq could have been done “well” and it was only Bush who screwed it up, which I think is a mistaken assumption–but it is one widely shared on left and right. No wonder Republican flacks have been hurrying to read an entirely different meaning into those remarks, because the indictment of administration incompetence and the President’s own rather shocking ignorance of the region he would transform are both substantially correct and are plainly devastating to the GOP.
The “powerful subtext” was not that smart or educated people become doves (in fact, all surveys I have seen indicate that preference for interventionist foreign policy rises in direct correlation with formal education and is lowest among those with the least education, which seems to show that formal education is doing something horrendously wrong), but that “Bush is a stupid, colossal blunderer,” and you’ll notice that very few people are running to say the contrary. Hence all the caterwauling about how the troops have been maligned–because otherwise they would have to defend a bungled war that killed over 100 American soldiers last month that was unnecessary and which was poorly planned and mismanaged by none other than Mr. Bush. In the Bush Era, it is so much better to feign respect for the military while wrecking it than to actually show respect for it and treat it accordingly.