Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kathleen Parker Introduces Romney to the Horrors of the Comfy Chair

If this is what it's like to be pilloried, I expect most politicians who have made significant non-forced errors will happily sign up.

Kathleen Parker attempts something of a David Brooks act, presenting herself as detached and offering what she would claim is a serious criticism of Romney's mendacious comments about the attack on the Cairo embassy:
His comments condemning President Obama’s “apologist” foreign policy were premature, inappropriate and too politically motivated to be effective either as proper criticism or as a campaign maneuver.
The word "false" isn't in her vocabulary? The problem was not one of timing - it was that Romney's attack had no basis in fact.

It's telling that the first half of Parker's column is devoted to describing anti-U.S. protesters in the Muslim world, along with the filmmaker whose anti-Islamic film ostensibly triggered the protests, as "imbeciles". Never mind the fact that the protests are a symptom of a larger problem. Never mind that the assumption that the "imbeciles" who "killed perhaps their bravest advocate in the Western world" don't necessarily share Ambassador Stevens' goals. Parker disregards those in Libya who have publicly deplored the attack and murder, as her case depends largely upon her painting with the broadest possible brush.

Parker knows that the suggestion that the protests and killing were a reaction to the film may be false:
The storming of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11 may have been a planned attack, possibly orchestrated by al-Qaeda and possibly having nothing to do with the movie.
If that's the case, then Parker's lament about how demonstrators are overreacting to a movie, or that the attackers were undermining their own interests, is misplaced.

But internal inconsistency is not her worst sin. Parker's "critique" of Romney is offered, it seems, to prop up the larger structure of Romney's narrative. Parker claims,
First, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued what amounted to an apology to the mobs for any hurt feelings they may have suffered because of the film in question.
Parker knows that is not true.
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
Nothing in that statement can be construed as an apology. It does not "amount[] to an apology" - it apologizes for nothing. Parker continues her prevarication,
The film was idiotic and not worth the attention of our president or secretary of state. The response has made clear that an apology doesn’t work, which is why both the White House and the State Department initially distanced themselves from the embassy’s statement.
First, it was not the film that drew the attention of the President and Secretary of State, it was the protests that the film inspired, the attack on a U.S. embassy and murder of an ambassador, and serious security issues at the Cairo embassy, that inspired their reaction. Even in Parker's world, those events should be sufficient. Second, note how Parker doubles down on her false that the Cairo Embassy's statement "amounted to an apology" to now say that it was an apology. Third, the distancing came from the false suggestion that the Cairo embassy had apologized for something - less the statement itself and more the false spin that opportunists like Romney and partisans like Parker advance in lieu of the facts.

Having completed her effort to buttress Romney's latest fabricated claim of an "apology" by the Obama Administration, Parker argues,
Obama critics have long held that his post-exceptionalist, lead-from-behind model invites only contempt in the Middle East.
Does Parker consider herself to be an Obama critic? If so, I would like to hear her explanation of what she means by "post-exceptionalist". I expect she is implicating Tea Party rhetoric that the President does not view this country as exceptional - who cares what the President actually says on the subject - that she's rebranding her "he's not a whole-blooded American" argument of years gone by.

Parker then alludes to "leading from behind", a poorly chosen phrase that (allegedly) originated with one of Obama's advisers in relation to Libya, as an explanation for how the U.S. might avoid taking the lead role in every minor conflict in which it becomes involved - of how the U.S. might support NATO and assist its allies, advancing its goals at a lower cost - both financial and human. The adviser who allegedly made the statement has never been identified. Parker knows that the President has never expressed that he "leads from behind", nor does she offer any substantive criticism of the intent behind those words. Instead she simply repeats a right-wing talking point without any concern for the facts.

It's fair to ask - what about the Obama Administration's actions in Libya does Parker believe "invites... contempt in the Middle East"? What would she and her fellow critics have done, instead? Parker's best answer,
Since no policy thus far seems to have been very effective, we’ll have to rely on history for more information.
No, really, if you're going to regurgitate that sort of innuendo you need to do better than, "But who knows what might work?"

Parker closes by reinforcing her fabrication of an "apology", her pretense that the Administration was reacting to a film as opposed to riots, the burning of an embassy and the murder of an ambassador, and suggests that the response "lent unnecessary gravity and impetus to the conduct of imbeciles" - the people she pretends are motivated to protest only by this one movie, and whom she admits may not have had anything to do with the murder.

Ask yourself, had the Secretary of State and President issued no statement in response to the attack, would Parker be congratulating them for refusing to acknowledge the "imbeciles" or condemning them for their incompetence? I would hope she would be doing the latter, as it's beyond obvious that any nation must condemn attacks against their embassies and diplomats, but if so... talk about wanting to have it both ways. Now ask yourself, had the President issued a statement that deported the attack but omitted any mention of its context, would Parker be congratulating the President for refusing to acknowledge the "imbeclies"? Perhaps, she would, but if so she would be betraying something of a tin ear for diplomacy. (Romney for President and John Bolton for Secretary of State, a Kathleen Parker dream team?)

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