29 June 2008

Assessing Sunday Morning TV ~ 25% is Not Terrible

Back home in Rochester I do not have a TV; here in Ann Arbor the apartment I am subletting comes with one. So this morning I had the mercifully rare experience of watching "This Week with George Stephanopolos" on ABC. The part of the show I caught started off irritatingly enough with a segment on which Ralph Nader ran his mouth about the poverty of the two-party system in the U.S. without, of course, admitting that, not only does he have no chance (because voters are strategically rational) of getting more than a minuscule number votes, but that he has done precisely nothing to build an alternative political party.* The next segment was a talking heads round table that actually consisted of a fairly wide range of ideological views. (Katrina vanden Heuvel from The Nation, Byron York from National Review, Hugh Hewitt of Townhall.com, and Arianna Huffington of Huffinton Post.) The two women basically ate the right wingers for brunch. (Of course, I largely agree with KvH's politics and I greatly admire Huffington's gumption ~ she does not back down from right wing windbags.) But at least Byron York was sensible enough to stay silent while Hewitt repeated the inane mantra "the surge is working," "the surge is working" ... as though, well, as though this did not make him seem like a total idiot.**

Hugh seems to have missed this report, issued last week by the Government Accountability Office. (Summery here.) The report finds that yes, violence is down in Iraq, while noting the significant costs in military commitment as well as the multiple causes for the decline in violence. But it also concludes that:
(1) Despite some progress, in Iraq, "the security environment remains volatile and dangerous."
(2) The Iraqis remain light years away from being able to assume responsibility for their own security.
(3) Progress on political and constitutional matters in Iraq is, politely, lacking.
(4) The Iraqis are not coming close to funding the social and physical reconstruction of their country.
The report then recommends that BushCo articulate a new strategy for Iraq aimed at accomplishing, well, ... accomplishing what the surge was supposed to have accomplished in the first place.

In short, even if we were to overstate the extent to which it has worked on the military dimension, "the surge" - which was, after all, intended to underwrite the process of social, political and physical reconstruction - can be said to be "working" only if you are willing to wholly dismiss the GAO report. Hugh Hewitt, in other words, is a bullshitter. Having said that, there seems only to have been one bullshitter among the four members of the panel this morning and that, I suppose, is not bad for a network talking heads show.
* What's wrong with Ralph? See the earlier posts here and here.
** On this theme see these earlier posts.

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