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Stealth Endorsement Or Open Attack?

Via Sullivan [1], this Focus on the Family candidate guide [2] is something to behold.  How far out do your views on the Iraq war have to be for you to believe that Mike Huckabee is somehow insufficiently supportive of it?  Responding to a statement that Huckabee made that “we broke it, we have to fix it,” one man on the candidate guide video declares in disbelief, “We didn’t break Iraq.   Saddam Hussein broke it!…To say that we broke it, we have to fix it, rings a bit hollow.”  This is crazy stuff.  No wonder Huckabee can’t gain any traction on foreign policy, even when he repeats the party line on the war, “Islamofascism” and takes a position on the Palestinians far more extreme than Likud’s.

The Romney video states, quite inaccurately, that Romney has acknowledged that Mormonism is “not a Christian faith.”  He has done no such thing, and every informed observer knows that he hasn’t.  Viewed one way, this is a transparently pro-Romney deception aimed at putting the religion question to the side.  Then again, considering the target audience, the Romney campaign could reasonably complain that Focus on the Family has injected anti-Mormonism into its campaign video in a direct attempt to undermine his candidacy.  Whatever the intent was, the effect of this video will be to remind the audience that Romney is not a Christian, which is probably exactly the opposite of what his campaign wants to see from such organisations.  Huckabee’s people are trying to spin this as an endorsement of Romney, but if it is it is one of the most poorly-worded endorsements ever.

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12 Comments To "Stealth Endorsement Or Open Attack?"

#1 Comment By Koz On January 25, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

“We didn’t break Iraq. Saddam Hussein broke it!…To say that we broke it, we have to fix it, rings a bit hollow.”

What’s wrong with this, unless you want to argue that Iraq was broken before Saddam took over, which obviously wasn’t the context here. I think it’s in fact a very important point that isn’t circulated enough.

#2 Comment By Daniel Larison On January 25, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

Yes, Hussein did a great deal of damage to Iraq, which I’m sure Huckabee wouldn’t dispute and which I don’t dispute. But that wasn’t what Huckabee was talking about, and it wasn’t what Powell was talking about when he first said something to this effect. The speaker’s point was to make Huckabee appear as someone engaged in a “blame America” argument, when he was reiterating the standard Republican realist line on why we have to stay in Iraq.

The nature of this response showed me that the speaker was so insistent on not recognising any American role in creating the current situation that he was seemed ready to condemn Huckabee for saying what the administration and probably most elected Republicans in Congress have said at one time or another. There is support for the war, and then there is this sort of denial that the invasion and post-invasion policies had anything to do with the present situation. The latter seems quite excessive to me. The way that it was applied to Huckabee also seems rather unfair, since it did take this statement of the context of his broader views on the war.

#3 Comment By bsebse On January 25, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

Ah, how many Iraqis are death, seriously injured and/or dislocated? What is the state of the economy, power, and commerce? What about the level of ethnic violence.

And a lot of the stuff that took place under saddam was the result of the sanctions, not from saddam directly.

Yeah, saddam was not a good guy, but being are suffering all over including right next store in Mexico. Go to any Mexican jail to find out.

You need to take responsibility for your actions, my friend.

#4 Comment By Magnus On January 25, 2008 @ 6:41 pm


What the hell are you talking about? If you had actually bothered to read this blog before commenting, you would have known that its author is one of America’s most eloquent opponents of the war in Iraq. Do your homework.

#5 Comment By Daniel Larison On January 25, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

Easy. I’m pretty sure bsebse was not addressing me. He has been a regular reader and commenter here for a long time, so he knows my views on the war. I appreciate the compliment and the defense, but in this case I don’t think the latter was required.

#6 Comment By Magnus On January 25, 2008 @ 7:03 pm

In that case, my apologies to bsebse. It seemed he was blaming you personally for the Iraq War, which seemed somewhat over-the-top.

#7 Comment By Koz On January 25, 2008 @ 8:02 pm

Leaving aside Huck or some guy from Focus on the Family for a moment, Daniel, where are you on the Pottery Barn theory? My guess is that you would be opposed, but that’s just a guess. Personally, I’m opposed to it.


Btw, are you still behind Bramwell’s review of Jonah’s book?

#8 Comment By Daniel Larison On January 25, 2008 @ 8:12 pm

I don’t agree with the Pottery Barn theory. Remaining in a country where a large majority of the population doesn’t want us out of a sense of an obligation to the people who want us to leave makes no sense to me.

I thought the review, as a polemical review, was pretty devastating in its ridicule of the book, but I certainly have my disagreements with parts of his argument. I may disagree with more of it once I actually finish the book. There are plenty of other historical problems with the book from what I have seen of it that Bramwell never addresses, and I think that makes the review weaker than it could have been. There was something to the opening sections of Bramwell’s take, but it did read like a more specific version of the article he did two years ago for the Left/Right symposium, which I criticised pretty strongly at the time for its “pox on all your houses” approach to various kinds of conservative arguments.

#9 Comment By Koz On January 25, 2008 @ 8:30 pm

Devastating how? Does this mean we take whatever Bramwell writes at face value without caring if it’s really true or not?

I don’t buy it. If that’s all there is, then it just illustrates that right wing dissidents are mostly motivated by personal petty grievance.

#10 Comment By Daniel Larison On January 25, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

I mean that he wrote a well-crafted polemic. Polemics are often by their nature unfair and filled with exaggerations–that’s the point of a polemic. Maybe I should have simply called it a polemic and left it at that, rather than referring to it as a review in the first place. I don’t take whatever Bramwell writes at face value, as my critiques of him should have shown by now. On my first reading of the review, his points seemed plausible enough and, if accurate, it was devastating in its attack, but evidently Bramwell didn’t engage that closely with the book, or so people say.

I don’t claim to know what motivates Bramwell, but I assume his distaste for Goldberg’s entire project is tied closely to his general antipathy to anything like this sort of intellectual history argument, which he has also shown in the past. My early objection to it was that it seems as if it is going to overuse and expand the word fascism to the point where it can mean almost anything. I am going to read the book, and I will come back with my assessment of whether it is any good as political theory or as a work of intellectual history, and then I will be better-suited to judge whether and how Bramwell got things wrong. Considering that I am not exactly a fan of Goldberg’s, I think I have been pretty fair towards the core of his thesis as I have understood it from early descriptions and reviews, and I intend to keep trying to be fair. I can’t speak for anyone else, but what motivates me in these matters is a respect for the truth and an interest in accuracy and the proper use of language.

#11 Comment By Koz On January 25, 2008 @ 9:11 pm

You probably know more about Bramwell than I do, and I think that’s an important subtext that I’m not getting. As far as I can see, Austin Bramwell is young guy, maybe 30 by now, who styles himself as some sort of deep thinker on the Right. Ok, so he doesn’t like what he sees as conformity and groupthink in the major organs in mainstream conservatism, especially National Review.

On the other hand, Bramwell would be entirely obscure except for being the major beneficiary of nepotism (what’s the right word, exactly, anointing?) from WFB and shortly thereafter the whole thing turned into a big pissing match. On a substative level, his gripe is that contemporary conservatism is too ideological, I guess. Give him that I suppose, but does he have a point, or am I missing something?

#12 Comment By bsebse On January 26, 2008 @ 12:42 am

I was addressing Koz.