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Tilting at Windmills

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September 22, 2010

THE AMERICAN CAPACITY TO 'ABSORB' ADVERSITY.... Bob Woodward has a new book, "Obama's Wars," which will be released on Monday. Based on news accounts this morning, the crux of the text will be about the tense debate among leading officials last year over how to shape U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

This morning, it appears one quote from the book in particular is sparking interest.

Woodward's book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them. During an interview with Woodward in July, the president said, "We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger."

This strikes me as an eminently sensible thing to say. Of course Americans can absorb an attack and come out stronger. What's the alternative? That an attack permanently destroys the American psyche, leaving us cowering under our beds for the foreseeable future?

We're better -- and stronger -- than that. We mourn, we rebuild, we bring justice to those responsible, we make every possible effort to prevent future attacks, and we move forward. It's a testament to the American character and the strength of the fabric that holds us together. We get knocked down; we get back up.

The metaphor that comes to mind is that of a boxer known for "absorbing" punches. It doesn't mean the hits don't occur, and it doesn't mean the punches don't hurt, but the pugilist who can "absorb" the hits and keep on going tends to win in the end.

Except, conservatives don't see it that way. Indeed, the right has already begun throwing a tantrum over the president's remarks. Fox News' Gretchen Carlson suggested Obama is "inviting" an attack. (Gretchen, "Bring it on" invited another attack; saying we can absorb violence does not.)

John Bolton appeared on Fox News to declare the president's comments "outrageous," adding, "How can an American president say that as if he's a detached observer and doesn't care about Americans dying?" Bolton went on to say Obama's words "proves" he's not qualified to be president.

Expect Republicans, who take their cues from their cable network, to start repeating this nonsense later today.

Is it me, or is our discourse actually managing to get dumber?

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Comments

They're laying the groundwork, folks. If they manage to retake Congress, this will be in the Articles of Impeachment introduced ten minutes after the first gavel.

Posted by: dalloway on September 22, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

"Sticks & stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me" is an invitation to be called names. And pelted with sticks & stones.

Posted by: Grumpy on September 22, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

WP story describes the military as blocks of granite. Headline should have been that the military has no exit plan for afghanistan. They want to stay there forever, regardless the cost.

Posted by: steve on September 22, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Love how no one but Steve will mention, "Bring it on!" And love how that never got any play.

Posted by: Dems can't play game on September 22, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Dumber. Definitely dumber.

Even TPM has fallen hard on its fanny:
If all I wanted to do was ogle Saint Gidget...
I can google her sexiest pics...

Meanwhile, the one piece of republican sanity in the last week:
Colin Powell's remarks on Sunday...
Gets buried beneath the sparkles.

Posted by: koreyel on September 22, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

I take it that the Republican view is perilously close to a denial of what the president said, namely we can't take it, the bill of rights is not a suicide pact, no price in liberty, common sense and the like is too high to pay for security. Keep fear alive!

Posted by: J on September 22, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Oh jeez, Woodward again. Why do Dems feel they should keep talking to this guy? By this point, no one should have any illusion that being the subject of one of his books is going to do you any good. The only one who benefits from them is Woodward, which is of course the point (for him). He and Bernstein of course deserve a place of respect in the US history for their role in Watergate (and I sure wish there were a few more people around these days doing that kind of digging in the Republithugs), but he hasn't been anyting but a sensationalist of questionable veracity for a long time now.

Posted by: dcsusie on September 22, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah J, I think that is what is going on. If you think that you can absorb a punch, then you do npot do everything possible to avoid the punch including not getting in the ring in the first place. Dumbya was so terrified of another attack that he shredded the Constitution and lost all sense of humanity. Obama has not been startling different, but that won't stop folks from claiming he was soft on terrorism if we get hit again and the quote will be used to justify their position.

Posted by: Terry on September 22, 2010 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

About a week before our national hysterical pity party on the anniversary of 9/11 color footage of the bombing of London during WWII surface..I thought the timing was interesting.

9/11 was terrible, but it pales in comparison to London, Dresden, Hamburg, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Leningrad, just about all of Poland...and that's not faded past history. People are still around who lived through it.

Personally, I find this country's over reaction to 9/11 to be embarrassing. Terrible? Yes. Monstrous? Certainly But in the larger scheme of things its no where near the horror people have lived through with far more dignity.

We need to grow up and get over it.

Posted by: SaintZak on September 22, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I would argue that 9/11 didn't make us stronger. Oh, it brought out the best in our first responders, I'm not taking away from them. But at the end of the day we were reduced to a quivering bundle of ninnies, all too willing to be led into a stupid fucking war that we were told (and wanted to believe) would make us safe.
After the next big terrorist incident, we will look like an anthill that's been stepped on and the wingers with guns will be on the march, sure that Obama caused it.
We are screwed. And yes, Steve, we are dumber.

Posted by: rusty chainsaw on September 22, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

DCSusie, I think the reason the Dems talk to Woodward is the same reason all the big shots talk to him: You're better off talking to him than not talking to him.

Let me express awe at the sheer balls and imagination of Gingrich and Bolton in taking Obama's completely unobjectionable and even patriotic statement and twisting it into something they can claim is a manifesto of anti-American godlessness. How stupid do you have to be to be persuaded by this?

Posted by: beejeez on September 22, 2010 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I can't even think of something that would sound sufficiently patriotic to satisfy these chuckleheads. Woodward says, "How do you think America would react to another terrorist attack?" What should you say? "Release the Kraken!" maybe?

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on September 22, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

What really gets me is this wholesale mainstreaming of McCarthyism without the stupid-but-naive quality of the original. It's one thing to be paranoid and irrational. It's something far worse to be cynical in order to make others paranoid and irrational.

Posted by: walt on September 22, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Dems and liberals need to be READY for this! When the rightwing mouthpiece starts ranting about the quote, the response, in tones of disbelief and outrage (and butting in and cutting off the rightie to respond is good), HAS to be - "What are you SAYING? That America can NOT absorb a terrorist attack?! Are you THAT contemptuous of the American spirit? Are you calling us spineless? Do you think we're cowards? Why do you hate America?"

Posted by: JoyceH on September 22, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

beejeez, "How stupid do you have to be to be persuaded by this?"

It's not that people are persuaded. Using the statement as Gingrich et al do to attack the president only reinforces the palpable dislike their legions have for Obama in their rascist bones. That is the method of the right. Constant reinforcement of hate. It need not be logical or true. It need only feed the hunger.

Posted by: reduced on September 22, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

..."doesn't care about Americans dying?"

It's okay to die at the hands of a health insurance company or a compnay that spreads food poisoning. Republicans want to kill Americans, just as do terrorists.

Posted by: flyonthewall on September 22, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK
Is it me,

No.

or is our discourse actually managing to get dumber?

Yes.

Posted by: navamske on September 22, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

I have said numerous times and will say it again that the right wingers are basically a bunch of wee timoring cowering beasties with panic in their breasties. Why else are they so enamored of their guns (yeah, I know. Basic feelings of sexual inadequacy)? Why do they wet their pants every time the panic light goes from yellow to orange? Why are they so afraid to hold trials or terrorists on the mainland? This business from Bolton just exemplifies the theory (theory = hypothesis with supporting data) that he believes the rest of America is like him, ready to fall down and cry in his own piddle at the slightest threat.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on September 22, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

I second - it is dumber, tangibly. Which is scaring as it begs the question: what is the floor for stupidity in this country? Especially if we haven't yet reached it. Terrifying, because when the people are stupid, the bad guys win, they can't do so otherwise. But then again, by any prediction 2010, especially the latter half, was going to be a banner year for abject stupidity and unhinged banshee screaming. Doesn't make the experience any less unnerving, but you knew it was out there on the schedule.

Posted by: jsacto on September 22, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

I've always said it and I'll say it again in their hearts republicans are basically pussies. If they can bully someone and get away with it they will but if you stand up to them they quake in their boots and piss their pants. So to use an alliteration(which they wouldn't have the slightest idea of the meaning) they're a bunch of pants pissing pussies.

Posted by: Gandalf on September 22, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

What rusty chainsaw said. The US freaked out, thanks to GWB and crew, and as a result did more damage to itself than OBL ever dreamed of.

Posted by: beep52 on September 22, 2010 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

The boxer analogy? Perhaps a more apt one. Asked about his opponent after a fight, the winner said:

"Naw, he never hurt me,but he did damage me."

We bounced back admirably after 9/11, but the mostly self-inflicted damage is irreparable.

Posted by: Wes on September 22, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure how to formulate this thought, but what I find depressing is the way the gatekeepers in the media and many of my fellow citizens have internalized the idea that Republicans aren't to be held responsible for what they say. Even when people don't believe the latest lie or slander, they don't take the next step and blame the authors of the lies and slanders. And I suppose they take away the general impression that Obama and the Democrats are on the defensive. But if one does nothing but lie and slander, in a way that shows one hasn't a scrap of honor or decency and doesn't care in the slightest about the well being of one's fellow citizens, the effect should be to discredit one, but it ain't.

Posted by: J on September 22, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

I don't agree with the Presidents comments. There's no way you can rationally say the attacks of 9/11 made us "stronger".

If he had said we absorbed the attacks and they made our country dumber and more reactionary, that I can agree with.

Posted by: 400metres on September 22, 2010 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

The best thing everyone on the left could do would be to ignore the right-wing totally. They are going to find a way to spin anything and everything that Obama says in the most negative light possible. Read Drudge Report for a couple of weeks - Drudge is a master at this game (although he is a disgusting, low-life pervert). If Obama recited the poem, "Mary Had A Little Lamb", Drudge would have a headline - "Obama favors white sheep over black - encourages beastiality". It's how these human vermin roll.

What is sad is that Bob Woodward, who used to be a great journalist, has been reduced to being a stenographer for the military-industrial complex and a defender of the corporate interests that control the mainstream media!

Posted by: Sam Simple on September 22, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

John BOLTON said the President's remarks are outrageous? Geeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzz...that's kind of a stretch...he's such a MORON.

Posted by: SYSPROG on September 22, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Come on, at first read the quote is a little callous, it's not unexpected for it to get blown-up. We get what he was saying, but the language leaves little to be desired.

The boxing analogy doesn't even come close, we weren't in a ring and to be frank, we didn't want, nor did we expect a hit. It might work in Afghanistan where there is a war we are actually in and hits are expected.

We got hit over the head with a brick and the absorption is arguable. Did we start a war, toss away basic human right, and go into mass hysteria, yes. I wouldn't call that absorbing a blow, I would call it unhinged revenge unleashed on the closest target, it didn't matter if that was the brick user or not, it looked like him, which is all we needed to exact our revenge.

Can we absorb another attack, again, depends on your definition of absorb. Even Obama isn't above looking the other way with human rights and the basic protections afforded by the Constitution in regards to enemy combatants.

I don't think we absorbed 9/11, so it's highly unlikely we can absorb another one. The larger the attack, the smaller our rights will be.

Posted by: ScottW714 on September 22, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

SaintZak wrote: "9/11 was terrible, but it pales in comparison to London, Dresden, Hamburg, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Leningrad, just about all of Poland"

9/11 pales in comparison to the more than 30,000 Americans killed in traffic accidents every single year.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 22, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

That was the beauty of Fox News for the conservative movement. It basically mainstreamed ridiculous AM radio talk. It also forced other media outlets to either catagorically reject any information coming from Fox News or treat the station and it's rhetoric as legitimate. The media decided to play ball with Fox so now it's propaganda get's treated as "news", while civil discourse, rationality, and journalism slowly deteriorate in this country.

Posted by: Archon on September 22, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure "dumber" is quite it. I'd argue for less scrupulous. I remember a lot of misguided or ill-informed arguments when I was coming up in the '60's and '70's, but the willingness to take seriously things that both the speaker and much of the audience know to be untrue has really ramped up since then. Somewhere in the '80's it began to be considered embarassingly naive to object to it - all part of the game, you know.

Posted by: drkrick on September 22, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Steve -- Need to respectfully disagree with you (and second various others above): we didn't get stronger post 9/11 -- we got DUMBER.

Thanks to Bush/Cheney/GOP pussiness and greed, we WAY overreacted, wasted trillion$ (and counting) in treasury on unnecessary wars and significantly increased war spending, all which has in turn been hugely responsible for f***g our economy.

Stronger? Maybe Halliburton, Blackwater, and the war profiteers. But for the rest of us, sorry.

Until we get out of this ridiculous, GOP-induced pussified, fear-everything (communists, terrorists, illegal immigrants, muslims, gays, blacks, you name it...) mentality, we'll continue our sad decline.

Posted by: lrtc on September 22, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Is it me, or is our discourse actually managing to get dumber?

It isn't you, Steve. Our discourse hasn't gotten dumber, it actually passed the last outpost of dumb years ago. For the Right, it's now (on television especially) gone headlong into the area of the farcical and the inane.

As for 9/11, the GOP and its media sycophants are like a kid who got beat up once in second grade, and is still moaning, whining and shedding tears over it -- in the tenth grade.

Posted by: electrolite on September 22, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

9/11 was terrible, but it pales in comparison to London, Dresden, Hamburg, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Leningrad, just about all of Poland...and that's not faded past history. People are still around who lived through it.

Personally, I find this country's over reaction to 9/11 to be embarrassing. Terrible? Yes. Monstrous? Certainly. But in the larger scheme of things its no where near the horror people have lived through with far more dignity.

We need to grow up and get over it.

Posted by: SaintZak on September 22, 2010 at 11:14 AM

Thank you, SaintZak. That ought to be put on billboards across the country.

Posted by: electrolite on September 22, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

It is getting dumber, everyday right in front of our eyes. Every time that percentage of conservatives watching Fox goes up another point.

Posted by: rdalin on September 22, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK
We're better -- and stronger -- than that. We mourn, we rebuild, we bring justice to those responsible, we make every possible effort to prevent future attacks, and we move forward. It's a testament to the American character and the strength of the fabric that holds us together. We get knocked down; we get back up.

This makes no sense.

There has been some 'mourning'' but mostly I've been seeing Chest-Thumping.

'Rebuild'? On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 the WTC site shall still be unready for prime time.

'Justice'??? from 'cowardly launched drone attack on schools & wedding parties? Fuck this gameboy war that's just killing real people for sadistic fun.

'....effort(s) to prevent future attacks...' And then some. How does Shocking & Awing Iraq prevent anything.

'move forward.' Yea Palin & Palladino will lurch us into a bright amerikan future all right.

'strength of the fabric that holds us together'... That would be outright laughable,,, except the truth is plain - & simply sad.. the threads of the new amerikan fabric are torture, rendition, kidnapping, murder, etc. on its own citizens & others
& you somehow find strength of character in that???

The US is worse than an embarrassment (h/t SaintZak @ above), it is a global monster.

You're usually spot on in these discussions but it is beyond the pale to believe any of this goody-good-guy nonsense about the US at this time.

If and when the US punishes those guilty of war crimes & stops committing additional war crimes, then & only then will I help celebrate the Redeemed American Character.

Posted by: cwolf on September 22, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

"Of course Americans can absorb an attack and come out stronger. What's the alternative? That an attack permanently destroys the American psyche, leaving us cowering under our beds for the foreseeable future?"

Yeah, except 9/11 DID destroy "the American psyche, leaving us cowering under our beds."

How else do you explain the complete fucking freak-out that transpired afterwards? I remember: Bush's use of the C Word (crusade) in his first official speech. The "Axis of Evil" and other absolute pejoratives became commonplace, so much so that my kids started using "evil" in their playground banter (I put a stop to that).

That was just the beginning: Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, "enemy combatants," "preemptive defense." The list is endless.

We're still freaked out, and I am disgusted by the sheer cowardice displayed by my fellow Murkans.

Posted by: bdop4 on September 22, 2010 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Quote: "Is it me, or is our discourse actually managing to get dumber?"

Definitely dumber. If "bring it on" was somehow defensible when it came from Bush, but "We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger" is inviting attack because it comes from Obama, then we've gotten dumber.

Posted by: Lynn Dee on September 22, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry to blogwhore, but Bush said the same thing, using the same words ("absorb," "stronger"), and wingers (of course) said nothing.

Posted by: Steve M. on September 22, 2010 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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