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Thursday, August 23, 2007

In which I yell at the City Paper

Today is thursday, which means that I read the new City Paper during lunch today. I'm a fan of the paper, which is easy, because it's free and it carries Tom Tomorrow. It's usually thin on articles, compared to the daily papers, but it makes up for it with several interesting short pieces, a cover story long enough to flesh out a local story that often goes undercovered, and typically excellent local reporting. So today I noticed they have a new feature (pheature?) called "Philly on the Potomac" that presumably keeps tabs on our congresscritters in DC. Good idea, I thought. It only took about three minutes to finish the piece and decide to blog about my frustrations.

The main thrust of the piece was how two local representatives were handling the Iraq war. Rep. Gerlach (R-6th) is portrayed as a moderate who is pressing Bush with "creative suggestions" about cleaning up the mess, while Rep. Sestak (D-7th) is reported to have spoken about Iraq at the Center for American Progress. The two following excerpts from the article are exactly the kind of lazy narrative that we have come to expect from reporters, and this is why there is such a huge demand for bloggers like Atrios to call them to account for it. Now, Paul Fain may be an otherwise excellent reporter, and I'm not familliar with the body of his work. This post is not about calling him out, because I see this kind of thing all over the place. Click "There's more..." and follow me below the fold.

The first excerpt is from the lede.

"Now, the area's lone Republican rep is also asking tough questions about the war."
The second is about Sestak.

"...Sestak, a Democrat who represents Media and Drexel Hill, told an audience at the Center for American Progress - a liberal think tank - that calls for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq are unrealistic."
So there's the narrative. Gerlach is a serious congressman, because he's bucking his party and asking "tough" questions and pressing "creative suggestions." Sestak's got the cred to talk about withdrawal as a democrat (he's a retired three-star admiral), but he has to set straight those crazy liberals who are calling for getting 160 thousand troops out of Iraq tomorrow.

The problem? This is the false dichotomy between irresponsible liberals who want all the troops out tomorrow, and responsible republicans who want to get out of Iraq, but only responsibly. In reality, though, those responsible, serious republicans (and their democratic enablers) aren't asking tough questions about how to leave. They're just stalling. They're kicking the can down the road, six months at a time, trying to buy time for Bush to come around (he won't) or for a magical pony to appear in Iraq.

Nobody that I can think of is advocating pulling all the troops out over the weekend. Everyone recognizes the logistical difficulties involved, that would mandate a withdrawal over at least a year. The problem is trying to get the emphasis on leaving, rather than staying while we wait for a pony to appear. Joe Sestak is exactly right when he discusses the logistical difficulties of getting out of Iraq, but to write the story as though liberals are arguing for overnight withdrawal is silly. None of the democratic candidates, not even Gravel, are arguing for a "precipitous" withdrawal. Everyone is arguing that we should FIGURE OUT HOW AND WHEN we will withdraw. Until the debate is about how and why, rather than if, we will be in Iraq indefinantly.

So when Gerlach puts forward his "creative suggestions" and his "tough questions" he isn't doing anything to alleviate the clusterfuck over there. He's just trying to buy himself political cover for this deeply unpopular mess. He's trying to postion himself as a responsible critic, which is a label that the media dishes out generously to hacks and shills alike.

Here is CAP's breakdown of Sestak's appearance. He laid out his vision for how to disengage American forces from the civil war in Iraq, and it's important to hear what he has to say. The fundamental reality that people need to recognize, however, is that until people stop pretending there's still a pony in Iraq, we'll be there forever, six months at a time.

Same shit, different day.

Blogger Novice Addendum:
For people unfamiliar with the pony references, it comes from this. Basically, fools look at Iraq and see a huge pile of shit, and they say "Boy, with all that horse manure, there must be a pony in there!" And so they keep digging.