February 25 2014
Rice, Durbin And Their Straw Men
Senator Dick Durbin made an outlandish remark on Fox News on Sunday. Speaking of developments in the Ukraine, Senator Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, who appeared on the show with New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, said:
A lot of my colleagues, and I'm not pointing to my friend Kelly Ayotte in this instance, but a lot of my colleagues think any answer for a conflict in the world is for the United States to invade. I am not one of them.
I have watched two wars, thank goodness, come to an end, and I want to make certain that --
Whoa! Have you heard anybody in the U.S. proposing an invasion of the Ukraine? Durbin wasn’t being entirely candid. He was scoring points by mischaracterizing Republicans, none of whom want to invade the Ukraine. Invading the Ukraine is a bizarre idea.
Fox’s Mike Wallace briefly called Durbin on this, but Ayotte let it pass, perhaps because she wasn’t quick enough on her feet or also possibly because she wanted to make serious points about the situation in the Ukraine. Fancy that.
Maverick liberal columnist Richard Cohen notes that National Security adviser Susan Rice pulled a stunt similar to Durbin's with regard to Syrian policy Sunday on “Meet the Press.” Cohen writes:
Susan Rice ought to stay off “Meet the Press.” The last time she was on, she misrepresented what led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. On Sunday she was back, this time misrepresenting critics of the Obama administration’s Syria policy. Last time her misrepresentation was unintentional. This time it wasn’t. I prefer it, though, when she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Rice described the horrific conditions in Syria and then said this:
“But if the alternative here is to intervene with American boots on the ground, as some have argued, I think that the judgment the United States has made and the president of the United States has made is that is not in the United States’ interests,” she continued.
Unlike Wallace, however, Gregory didn’t call Ms. Rice:
Gregory, usually as alert and twitchy as a squirrel, flat-lined. He did not ask Rice who, precisely, advocated boots on the ground. He did not ask her to name just one prominent critic or to wonder why this is “the alternative” when there are so many others.
He just pushed on, leaving this straw man to crinkle and crackle under the hot TV lights and allowing Rice, who is the president’s national security adviser, to get away with rebutting an argument that has not been made. She did, though, exhibit an administration mind-set — all or nothing — that, in practice, amounts to nothing.
Rice’s was a splendid performance, characteristic of an administration that values the sound of policy over its implementation. …
An increasingly messy world is looking for guidance. But not only does the United States refuse to be its policeman, it won’t even be its hall monitor. The utterly false choice in Syria articulated by Rice — America can do nothing because it won’t do everything — is noticed by the rest of the world. Obama threatened “consequences” if someone stepped “over the line” in Ukraine. Ah, another line. Is it red?
I take note of Durbin’s and Rice’s Sunday performances not so much to comment on the complicated situation in the Ukraine as to comment on the continued demonizing of Republicans by mischaracterizing their views. It is very difficult to talk about serious foreign policy issues when Durbin and Rice and others like them regard such discussions merely as political opportunities.
The world is more dangerous than when President Obama took office. Lying about Republicans isn't going to make it safer.