Ed Driscoll

Barone: Left Wing Nostalgia Dies Hard

Speaking of being trapped in a fashionable Mobius loop, Michael Barone explores how the war in Iraq is framed by the left:

Historians may regard it as a curious thing that the left and the press have been so determined to fit current events into templates based on events that occurred 30 to 40 years ago. The people who effectively framed the issues raised by Vietnam and Watergate did something like the opposite; they insisted that Vietnam was not a reprise of World War II or Korea and that Watergate was something different from the operations J. Edgar Hoover conducted for Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy. Journalists in the 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s tended to believe they had a duty to buttress Americans’ faith in their leaders and their government. Journalists since Vietnam and Watergate have tended to believe that they have a duty to undermine such faith, especially when the wrong party is in office.

That belief has its perils for journalism, as the Fitzgerald investigation has shown. The peril that the press may find itself in the hot seat, but even more the peril that it will get the story wrong. The visible slavering over the prospect of a Rove indictment is just another item in the list of reasons why the credibility of the “mainstream media” has been plunging. There’s also a peril for the political left. Vietnam and Watergate were arguably triumphs for honest reporting. But they were also defeats for America–and for millions of freedom-loving people in the world. They ushered in an era when the political opposition and much of the press have sought not just to defeat administrations but to delegitimize them. The pursuit of Karl Rove by the left and the press has been just the latest episode in the attempted criminalization of political differences. Is there any hope that it might turn out to be the last?

Err, not in the forseeable future. On the other hand, as Barone notes, trying to shove events into a pre-existing template has its downsides:

It has been a tough 10 days for those who see current events through the prisms of Vietnam and Watergate. First, the Democrats failed to win a breakthrough victory in the California 50th District special election–a breakthrough that would have summoned up memories of Democrats winning Gerald Ford’s old congressional district in a special election in 1974. Instead the Democratic nominee got 45% of the vote, just 1% more than John Kerry did in the district in 2004.

Second, U.S. forces with a precision air strike killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on the same day that Iraqis finished forming a government. Zarqawi will not be available to gloat over American setbacks or our allies’ defeat, as the leaders of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam did.

Third, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald announced that he would not seek an indictment of Karl Rove. The leftward blogosphere had Mr. Rove pegged for the role of Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman. Theories were spun about plea bargains that would implicate Vice President Dick Cheney. Talk of impeachment was in the air. But it turns out that history doesn’t repeat itself. George W. Bush, whether you like it or not, is not a second Richard Nixon.

Add one more to the list, as Jonah Goldberg notes:

I don’t think we can over-estimate the significance of the fact that Dan Rather will be leaving CBS. I don’t see how you can interpret this as anything less than his firing over Memogate. Undoubtedly, in my mind, CBS felt in 2004 that they couldn’t sack him on the spot because of how it would appear. His slow departure and temporary job-shuffling was a face-saving effort for both Rather and CBS. But, the delay doesn’t discount the fact that if it weren’t for Memogate, Rather would probably still be the esteemed anchor of CBS News. This constitutes a monumental triumph for the rightwing blogosphere and I don’t think we should let it be obscured by the kabuki dance CBS put on to downplay their embarrassment.

And another example of Mobius loops coming full circle ad infinitum (sorry, just intertwining as many metaphors as possible), CBS is ejecting Rather to make way for Katie Couric, in much the same way Rather forced the issue for Walter Cronkite two decades ago.