Political Animal


October 16, 2011 10:45 AM The absence of accountability

By Steve Benen

Andrew Sullivan asked the other day, “Now that DADT is over, can the hysterics who warned it would destroy the military concede they were wrong?”

Thomas Ricks noted a major on active duty who raised the same point.

At what point in time should journalists, bloggers, etc … hold those who made wildly inaccurate predications on the lifting of the ban accountable? All the retired generals and officers (LTG Mixon, Merrill A. McPeak and Col. Dave Bedey for example) who predicted that soldiers would leave the military by the thousands, or John McCain and other politicians describing how it would affect us as a fighting force?

At some point I feel that the public should be reminded of their predictions so the next time they make predictions that are way off the mark, fewer people will give them credence.

That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Granted, the official end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” only happened last month, and I suppose it’s still possible that God will punish the United States for this transgression with a series of meteors, but it’s not too soon to say the right’s anti-gay critics, led in large part by John McCain, had no idea what they were talking about. The dire predictions that said thousands of active-duty soldiers would quit the armed forces and recruiting would become nearly impossible were, we now know, entirely wrong.

But the notion that there might be some accountability for this is, alas, fanciful. The political world just doesn’t seem to operate this way. McCain will continue to enjoy his standing as a leading voice on military affairs because the establishment says so.

If ridiculous predictions had any bearing on credibility, conservative Republicans would never be able to utter a word about economic policy in public again without being laughed at. We’re talking about a group of folks who said Reagan’s tax increases would be a disaster, Clinton’s agenda would cause an economic collapse, Bush’s policies would work wonders, and Obama’s agenda would make the 2008 crash even worse.

“At some point I feel that the public should be reminded of their predictions so the next time they make predictions that are way off the mark, fewer people will give them credence.” We should be so lucky.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • DAY on October 16, 2011 11:04 AM:

    Wm Kristol.

  • stormskies on October 16, 2011 11:05 AM:

    Reminded by who ? Brian Williams, David Gregory, Wolf Blizter, and all the rest of the corporate = repiglican employees of the General Electric, etc ? That's not what they are paid to do. Instead we get the likes of McCain forced feed down our throats on just about every Sunday. This is what they are paid to do.

  • Mark-NC on October 16, 2011 11:08 AM:

    Yes, it would be nice if the press would point out the deliberate cold-blooded lying from the righteous right. Hasn't happened and won't.

    Unless, of course, they add in a balance like "Obama lied about the CLASS Act when he said it would work".

    I'm convinced that the "liberal press" will always lean Republican, or worse, mimic FAUX NEWS.

  • JD on October 16, 2011 11:08 AM:

    And since we're talking about military matters (and John McCain), why don't we throw in their wildly inaccurate predictions about Iraq?

  • Fr33d0m on October 16, 2011 11:34 AM:

    Give me a flippin break here. Some are wanting the media to act like credible journalists a month after a bill is signed into law? No way, really? Or perhaps we just want someone somewhere to loudly point out what? That some were wrong and shouldn't be given the air of credibility that they were given?

    Your answer can be found in the fact that they were given that air of credibility in the first place!

    MLK is getting a memorial on the national mall and I was reminded by Chris Hayes this morning of the sentiments, as expressed by the media, of the era. Its incredible to think how wrong the sentiments and the people that expressed them were, but it is stupidly astounding to think Strom Thrumond was a sitting member of Congress for as many years after that and that the right felt it important to celebrate him on departure.

    This isn't just about DADT. It is about the excruciatingly stupid national discourse that is impelled by the same folk day after day and the status they are given.

  • c u n d gulag on October 16, 2011 11:47 AM:




    We'll sooner see the Cubs win six World Series in a row than have anyone question John McCain's bona fide's when it comes to war - even though as a pilot, he made a great prisoner.

  • mellowjohn on October 16, 2011 12:17 PM:

    if the sunday shout show hosts had to hold their guests accountable for what they say, there soon would be no more guests.

  • ComradeAnon on October 16, 2011 12:54 PM:

    This is no different then ANYTHING else that's come out of their mouth. They are proven wrong over and over again. And there is virtually no follow up. Why would you think this would be any different?

    Now I'm getting scientific symbols on captcha. WTF? HOW DO I FILL IN GODDAMN SCIENTIFIC symbols??? Captcha has to be run by Grover Norquist.

  • William on October 16, 2011 1:07 PM:

    It seems that the only one that regularly reminds us of all the outrageous predictions made in the past is John Stewart on The Daily Show. Is it any wonder that today's young people, to the extent that they pay any attention at all, mostly identify with a more rational progressive agenda?

  • arkie on October 16, 2011 1:38 PM:

    While it is too early to say that the lifting of DADT has had any significant impact on the military, we do have almost 20 years of data to examine the effect DADT had on the military when it was in place.

    I was serving on the Joint Staff when DADT was instituted. I remember well the screams from the religious right and some old generals that DADT would destroy the military. 20 years later those same people and groups are now saying that DADT must be kept in place because without it the military will be destroyed.

    And before DADT, these people were frantic over the increasing role of women in the military - the feminization of the armed services.

    And before women, they were in panic over the integration of African-Americans into the armed forces.

    One thing in common with each of these changes was their opponents fixation on showers. Who would shower with whom. When they ran out of other arguments, they would always bring up the showering arrangements.

    Some psychologist should do a study of these people's fixation on what other people are doing in the shower.

  • zandru on October 16, 2011 1:43 PM:

    It Would be Foolish...

    ... and premature to assert that repealing "don't ask, don't tell" obviously did not destroy the US military, after it was in effect for barely a month.

    Wait a year, until a few months before the November election. THEN come out BIG against those (Republicans and Bluedawgs) who predicted disaster. Hang them for their misjudgment and bigotry. Do you really want clueless Senator Y to remain in office, after he was SO WRONG about Our Boys and Girls in Uniform™?" There will be more data (one hopes) about how successful the repeal has been - cite it.

    But there's zero point in crowing this early in the game.

  • Ken D. on October 16, 2011 2:15 PM:

    On sex/cultural issues, the battle lines shift, but the intensity does not. Over the last couple of generations, society has shifted ground remarkably on gay marriage and rights, cohabitation, abortion, sexually explicit materials, and just about every related issues. In each case, the "traditionalists" remain just as strident as ever. Thus, most likely, it ever shall be.

  • Trollop on October 16, 2011 3:11 PM:

    Wait! It's too soon to say that John McCain doesn't know what he's talking about?!
    That's the funniest joke I've heard in a long, long time.

    Maybe it was just the circles I was in but when I lived in San Diego every "gay male" I knew was in the Navy or the Marines and every "lesbian" I knew was in the Army. Of course, that was the 80's so.. The idea that gays would tilt the military off of it's preverbial axis (of evil) is not only outdated by at least a century or more but also so misguided.

  • bleh on October 16, 2011 5:15 PM:

    Oh please. It was -- and is -- all dog-whistle for "hate gay people," and that's just as "valid" as it ever was.

    They won't admit they were wrong because they were right in their own minds.

    Just like Vietnam.

  • exlibra on October 16, 2011 6:17 PM:

    bleh, @5:15PM

    If you're not in your right mind, it doesn't matter whether or not you're right in your own mind.

  • Doug on October 16, 2011 8:08 PM:

    I agree that one month is too short a period for any accurate assessment of the effects of DADT repeal. It's not very scientific, but there HAVE been four weekends, and two paydays, since the repeal of DADT and as the MSM HASN'T been inundated with stories about mobs of drunken straight military members (that just DOESN'T sound right) attacking gay soldiers, DADT repeal is probably going over okay.
    However, Republican/Teabagger efforts will continue on maintaining DoMA. When they're defeated noone will call them on the carpet for being wrong then, either.

  • Schtick on October 16, 2011 8:46 PM:

    Rule 1: the tealiban is never wrong.
    Rule 2: anyone other than the tealiban is wrong.
    Rule 3: when in doubt, refer to Rule 1.

    crapcha....ywaided mapping....we so needed it too

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  • Jason on October 17, 2011 5:59 AM:

    Don't expect them to state in even the most hinted manner that they were not right.