Steve Benen rightly points out that there is a great deal of hypocrisy on the right regarding Syria. He quotes Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel as saying, “Does anyone truly believe that if Mitt Romney had been elected president and had asked House Republicans for exactly what President Obama is asking, that House Republicans would oppose it to the extent that they’re opposed to what President Obama wants? The level of hypocrisy is what amazes me.” Benen notes that it really isn’t true that the Democrats are hypocrites in the opposite direction. When Bush Jr was in power, Congressional Democrats were really terrible when it came to issues of war and surveillance. And now, they are really terrible when it comes to issues of war and surveillance.
I think that the situation is far worse with the Republican base. These are people who are now and forever more for war whenever and wherever they can find it. And now that Charles Krauthammer is telling them that this is a Bad War, they are all falling in line. It isn’t so much that the Republican base is hypocritical as that it is made up of a bunch of sheep who would gladly line up for castration if Fox News told them to. You can see this in a recent poll that found that 40% of Republican voters were against attacking Syria just two weeks ago and now 70% are against it.
The Democratic base is not as reliably anti-war as the Republican base is pro-war. But it is pretty reliable. It also seems that Democratic voters are less easily led. Two weeks ago 48% were against it and now 53% are against it.
But what I find most interesting is how hypocritical liberal-leaning pundits are. Steve Benen himself has tread lightly on the issue. So has Greg Sargent. Both of them—and many more like them—want to focus on the mechanics of votes and such. This is despite the fact that neither seems to think that attacking Syria is a good thing. But they are part of the larger liberal punditocracy that claims that anyone who thinks the situation is clear is not serious. This is just an apologia for the Obama administration.
This is all part of a worrying trend in the liberal media—especially on MSNBC. The idea is that it is fine to disagree with Obama, but it must be done lightly. (In quiet rooms?!) We can’t risk undermining him. This is right up their with Bill O’Reilly’s claim that after a war starts, those against it must shut up and fall in line. But that’s not how a democracy works. Democracies are messy. If you want a rigid system that maximizes a country’s (or party’s) power, you should go for something in an authoritarian government. The idea in politics is to get the best policy, not to cheer lead for whomever we voted into office.
So just to be clear: Obama has totally fucked up on Syria. I do not support him. I really do think he would kill thousands of innocent Syrians in order to avoid a minor political embarrassment. I’m glad that Russia is providing an escape route. I hope he takes it. If he doesn’t, he’s wrong. The fact that he’s better than Romney isn’t part of the calculation at all.
A big problem with our politics is that liberals accept so little from the Democratic Party. We all worry that we will allow a Republican to get in. But doing this over the last 40 years has given us Democratic politicians who are not liberal. And we’ve gotten policy where gay people can technically marry, but in practice they can’t because they are too poor. That’s what we get from accepting that liberal social policy is enough to make up for conservative economic policy. The only way forward is to hold the Democratic Party accountable. We don’t need to worry about the Republican Party; it is doing a fine job of destroying itself.
Update (11 September 2013 12:07 pm)
Today Steve Benen writes, “The crisis in Syria is nuanced and complicated. There are plenty of reasonable, knowledgeable, and fair-minded folks on every side of the U.S. political fight, and there’s no reason to question the sincerity of those with sincere disagreements.” Sigh. He writes it to then attack those who were for war with Syria right up until Obama was. And to be clear, I don’t question the sincerity of those who argue for war. I question their intelligence. The arguments for war are exactly the same as the arguments that get us into every war. So I don’t question Jonathan Chait’s sincerity for being in favor of war with Syria. But I don’t understand how he can fail to see that the exact same justification for this war would apply to dozens of conflicts all over the world. And I don’t understand why he ignores the fact that we wouldn’t be doing anything in Syria if Assad were an ally.