An Exercise in Tautology: The RTD Endorses Allen

Stop the presses! The Richmond Times-Dispatch has shocked the world by endorsing Senator George Allen for re-election next month.

The paper’s reasoning goes like this: We have always endorsed Allen in the past. Allen supports George Bush “even in [his] most confunding moments,” and the paper has endorsed the President in the past. Because Allen supports the President, therefore we support Allen.

What’s missing in that circular logic is a strong independent reason why Bush should be supported in the first place. The editorial emphasizes Allen’s support for the President’s venture in Iraq, despite “the manifold difficulties.” In particular Allen is quoted saying that the goal should be an Iraq that “by their own backbone . . . does not become a safe haven for terrorists.” Webb, in contrast, says we should never have gone into Iraq in the first place.

Yet Allen’s statement and Webb’s opposition to the war are not in logical contradiction. Those who oppose the war in Iraq  and opposed going in in the first place don’t want an Iraq that is a safe haven for terrorists, either. Rather, they can cogently argue that the war has created a terrorist-friendly space in Iraq, and that the continued American presence there is  exacerbating the  ongoing  violence.

Even more tellingly, Allen’s call for Iraqis to “take control of their destiny,” if it is anything other than a nice-sounding rhetorical flourish with no substantive meaning, would seem to imply that American policy should 1) bow to the will of the Iraqi people and 2) turn over the work and responsibility of reconstruction to Iraqis, with the U.S. playing a supportive, not a decisionmaking role. The practical implication of both those maxims is that the U.S. needs to find a responsible way to get out of Iraq: the Iraqis certainly don’t want us there, and they certainly are not going to assume sovereign power (and the responsibility that goes with it) so long as America maintains continued military oversight.

Those are the logical conclusions of Allen’s own statement, yet it appears that he (and the RTD) are more interested in vagaries such as showing that the U.S. has “will and resolve” rather than dealing with the reality of the situation in Iraq.

The truth is, serious conservatives who care about the actual problem and not about rhetoric realize things have gone very, very wrong in Iraq and that continuing down the same path on the basis of very general rhetoric is both unhelpful and irresponsible. As George Will points out in a column on the opposite page, the Iraq study group led by Bush 41 wiseman James Baker is expected to recommend a major course change in Iraq in its report, conveniently timed to appear after the election.

On a side note, the RTD describes Webb’s concern about economic inequality and giving “a voice to people who have no access to the corridors of power” as “mishmash.” Since when is supporting equal democratic voice for all citizens mishmash? Does the RTD endorse an alternative theory of governance, in which it is right and proper that some people have access to power and others don’t, and if so what justification can they provide for that theory?

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Published in: on October 22, 2006 at 2:53 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. T-D endorsements are a kind of mood ring (remember them?), a gauge of corporate-establishment enthusiasm for the GOP candidate.

    The nod to Allen is lengthy and fairly assertive, in contrast to the paper’s tepid endorsements of Jerry Kilgore in 2005 and Mark Early in 2001. That says Allen hasn’t been written off by the conservative establishment in Richmond and rural Virginia, as Kilgore and Early were ahead of their defeats.

    The usual followup to a more-than-perfunctory T-D endorsement of the Republican is a series of attack-eds on the Democrat. Expect shots at Webb on taxes, judicial nominees and control of the Senate (a vote for Webb is a vote for Chairman Ted Kennedy).

    What will the editorialists say about Iraq now that Jim Baker, John Warner, George Will, et al., are moving away from “stay the course” and toward Webb’s position, with Allen flip-flopping in their wake? Best guess is that they’ll avoid the subject. Or maybe they’ll do their talk-in-circles-in-faux-Mencken routine.

    Bad news: There’s no new recording of “Tristan und Isolde” to distract them.


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