Dispatches > The Buzz


buzz from online journals of politics & culture

Issue: "California's total recall," Aug. 2, 2003

Nothing makes proÐIraq War bloggers see red like the word quagmire. They are ready to debunk, or "fisk" (a bloggism derived from journalist Robert Fisk, whose articles often needed debunking), any hint of a Vietnam comparison. The New York Times quoted CentCom chief Gen. John Abizaid's comment that troops were fighting a "classical guerilla-type campaign"-and used it as an opportunity to wax poetic about the phrase's "resonance of the messy, protracted and unpopular American involvement in Vietnam." James Taranto's "Best of the Web" (opinionjournal.com/best) lost no time pointing out the differences in the two conflicts: While mourning "every American who makes the ultimate sacrifice for his country," Mr. Taranto thinks that "33 combat deaths in 77 days, or a rate of 156 a year," is hardly another Vietnam. He did the math: "At the current rate, the death toll from Iraq's guerrilla war will reach Vietnam's level sometime in the year 2306."

Jeff Jarvis (buzzmachine .com) chimed in with similar sentiments about grumbles of mutiny coming from soldiers in Iraq. While sympathetic to the travails of servicemen, he notes, "This is their job; this is what they volunteered for (and they all volunteered). And in Vietnam, soldiers went for a year at a time; in WWII, they went until they won." Mr. Jarvis, an ex-TV critic, also doubts that "the whining is as widespread as we are being led to believe." He blames the media for, you guessed it, "Vietnaming Iraq": "The truth is that we all knew bloody well that this was not going to be over in weeks; we knew that we were going to have to stay there until we get things in order; we knew what we were in for; the soldiers especially knew."

Besides criticizing the mainstream press, bloggers love dispensing political advice. The first tip for Democrats running for president, Glenn Reynolds (glennreynolds.com) says, is to drop the Niger uranium scandal. "It's a loser, and though it generated some sound and fury ... it now seems to be a tale told by idiots, signifying nothing." Mr. Reynolds points out, "Bush's critics have conflated one bogus document relating to Niger with Bush's statement about all sorts of other evidence relating to Africa, a continent of which Niger is, of course, only a small part." Better, Mr. Reynolds suggests, Democratic hopefuls could hit the administration's refusal to pursue a Sept. 11 investigation, its soft policy on Saudi Arabia, and the ineptitude of the Homeland Security Department. He adds one surprising suggestion: Lower the drinking age to 18. As Mr. Reynolds says, "Democrats are having trouble firing up younger voters. This should help. And with a war on, the 'old enough to fight = old enough to drink' argument seems a pretty strong one."

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The Vodkapundit (vodkapundit.com), Stephen Green, blames Dick Gephardt's fundraising problems-he missed his second-quarter fundraising goal-on the candidate's being "too old school." As for Sen. Lieberman, Mr. Green thinks his struggles have something to do with the emotional scarring Democrats received during the 2000 election. "Many Democrats strongly feel, rightly or wrongly, that the Supreme Court robbed them of Florida in '00.... No matter what they do or where they go, they just can't get rid of that bad taste. And Lieberman is a living, breathing testament to that oh-so-painful loss."

While Tony Blair is in hot water at home, American bloggers were enamored of the speech he gave before a joint session of Congress. Andrew Sullivan (andrewsullivan.com) wrote three gushing posts on the speech, which he described as "a masterpiece of concision, precision, and passion." Mr. Sullivan thinks that the prime minister presents a stark contrast to American liberalism: "When was the last time you heard a 'liberal' actually speak of liberty in so enthusiastic and unambiguous a manner?" Jeff Jarvis describes why the British don't get it. "Distance lets statesmen be statesmen. Distance lets them rise above the petty sniping of politics. Distance-like time-puts them in a truer perspective. Britain is wrong about Blair. We're right."


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