Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bill Kristol on Monday's Daily Show

Bill Kristol, the neoconservative editor of The Weekly Standard and cheerleader for ubiquitous and eternal war throughout the Middle East, was the guest on Monday night's Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. Despite the overwhelming evidence that neither Kristol nor Bush nor Rumsfeld nor any of the rest of the neocon cabal had any remote clue, Kristol defiantly maintains that we are on the right course in Iraq. Jon Stewart did a fairly good job of holding his feet to the fire, but he was unable to pierce Kristol's reality-proof bubble. Looking through the server logs, I see that a lot of readers are looking back at the transcript of Kristol's appearance back in December, so here is this week's exchange.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, original air date 2007-08-13, ©2007 Comedy Central
Jon Stewart: Welcome back to the 5th or 6th edition of "Two Jews Disagreeing."

Bill Kristol: I can't recall. I can't recall anything any more.

Stewart: You can't recall? Ah, it is viral, it is communicative [communicable], I tell you! Obviously, you and I have differing views on Iraq. You have just been to Iraq. You've spent — how long were you there?

Kristol: About eight days.

Stewart: Eight days. I assume it was to check on the surge?

Kristol: It was, yeah, to find out what's going on, trying to learn for myself.

Stewart: And you have found — and I'm just gonna go out on a limb here — it's all going well. Am I right? [Kristol nods.] I am right. What do you think?

Kristol: It is going well.

Stewart: It is going well.

Kristol: It is going well. It was going badly in 2005 and 2006; one of the most striking things — no, seriously, talking to the soldiers, their morale is high because we now have a serious strategy, which is being executed down the line and is succeeding. Now, it's late, we've wasted two or three years, a lot of damage was done, it's a tough situation, but things are better than they were in January.

Stewart: Here's what — now, I, obviously, have been against the war from the start, didn't think it was a very good idea. How, if it doesn't go well, if it continues to go badly, how will that be my fault?

Kristol: It will be your fault if we pull the plug on a strategy that is now working. We finally have a good commander —

Stewart: This is interesting to me.

Kristol: No, I'm being serious, though. Look —

Stewart: No, I know.

Kristol: I said somewhere, about a month ago, I don't really blame the voters for electing a Democratic Congress in 2006, much as I don't much like a Democratic Congress, because Bush and Rumsfeld had so mismanaged the war that it was a reasonable reaction to say, "We need to send a message." Bush took the message, though. He fired Rumsfeld, he brought Petraeus in, they're running a serious counterinsurgency, and it is working.

Stewart: Can you see how someone who is skeptical — basically, we're hearing from people like yourself, people like the President, "Trust us to undo the terrible thing that we did." Don't you see where it's — it's tough to say —

Kristol: Don't trust me, not that you were going to —

Stewart: Who should I trust?

Kristol: Well, trust skeptics of the war, like Mike O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack, who went over, who've been there before —

Stewart: They weren't "skeptics."

Kristol: They were. They came back and they had seen it in real time —

Stewart: Ken Pollack would like us to invade Iran, for god's sake.

Kristol: That's an idea.

Stewart: I mean, those are two very hawkish guys.

Kristol: It's not a bad idea. Or, trust other people, trust even Democratic Congressmen who come — look, things are getting better. That's the whole point. [Stewart laughs.] No, no, seriously. Look, don't trust me, but look, and don't trust President Bush. On the other hand, he is the President. We have to make a serious decision, do we let General Petraeus play this out for the next six months, or do we pull the plug on it next month? That's the practical decision. It's not a matter of trusting.

Stewart: When you say "play it out," what does "play it out" mean? That's the part I'm having trouble figuring out. What is the end game?

Kristol: The end game is increase security. The Sunni areas, which are now flipped against Al Qaeda, are now becoming pretty stable, and I think we have a pretty good shot in Anbar and elsewhere at a reasonably stable situation there —

Stewart: But Anbar is not the surge; that's a different place. The surge is Baghdad.

Kristol: No, no, we added actually an important brigade into Anbar, which cleaned out Ramadi, and we walked around Ramadi, and it's pretty amazing what's happened there. Baghdad is very difficult and complicated; we are making progress there, but don't trust anyone; I mean, you just have to make a serious decision going forward. Things are getting better; no one doubts that. The question is, are they getting better enough, and can we end up in an acceptable end state where there's enough security that we don't have a terror state —

Stewart: Why the anger towards people that were against the war? I'm trying to wrap my head around, and I read the editorials. The vitriol that's heaped on people [who] were against the war, seems so misplaced to me, this idea of, like, they're defeatist, they're cut-and-runners, they don't understand the threat — where do you think that comes from?

Kristol: Well, I don't think I'm angry at people who were against the war. I am angry at people who would pull the plug now, based not —

Stewart: If you were to call someone a defeatist and a cut-and-runner, who is making it so that they don't support the troops, would you say that's anger?

Kristol: No, I would say if you — look, some people think — Harry Reid said we have lost the war; is it fair to call him defeatist? What is he saying? He's saying we've been defeated and we should acknowledge it and get out. He thinks we need to acknowledge —

Stewart: But you said Sunni and Shia would get along. You've said a lot of things that, if we went back and picked through, I could say to you, should I call you terrible names? No, of course not, you're just a simple fellow who's devised a plan that the President executed. My point is this — isn't it, when people say —

Kristol: I've been wrong about plenty of things.

Stewart: One thing you've said is, you feel like President Bush has been a steadfast leader. How?

Kristol: Yeah, he's been mistaken about some things.

Stewart: But where has he displayed leadership? Isn't leadership —

Kristol: No, he's stuck with this war when it was unpopular, and I think he was right to.

Stewart: He's displayed stubbornness. Isn't leadership bringing along a country and not chastising those who disagree and making them feel like pussies?

Kristol: I don't think he's ever —

Stewart: He does!

Kristol: He's never made you feel like a pussy.

Stewart: He called me a pussy.

Kristol: No, he's never felt — I've talked to the President about you, and I want to assure you, he told me to tell you this, he does not consider you a pussy.

Stewart: What does he go with?

Kristol: He's showing leadership now, which is he is making a case for sustaining the surge, I think he's making it responsibly, he's not demagoguing the issue, Petraeus is a non-partisan general, he will come back in September —

Stewart: All he's saying is, "Trust Petraeus." If we get the security down, then they build a democracy, and then that flourishes and spreads throughout, like pretty flowers throughout the Middle East, and then —

Kristol: I think they could have a decent regime there, which would have an effect elsewhere in the Middle East, but certainly — look, you cannot go there and talk to our soldiers and talk to the Iraqi army soldiers and hear the stories of what al Qaeda does and hear the stories of what the Shia militias do —

Stewart: You're exactly right.

Kristol: — and then say cavalierly, "It's ludicrous, we're not doing any good there." We are doing a lot of good there.

Stewart: Nobody says we're not doing any good there. Here's what they say, honestly, and this is what I think, if the President would say, he'd do a lot better with people. They say, "Al Qaeda and terrorism were a huge threat, and going into Iraq was a big mistake that diverted our resources from that actual fight." And as you see them become resurgent in Afghanistan and in that area of Pakistan, by not acknowledging that, is, when I speak of that arrogance, it is hard for people to get past original sin. It's hard for people to get past it, and a real leader —

Kristol: Well, we Jews have no problem. We don't believe —

Stewart: [laughing] How could you bring it back to that?

Kristol: We don't believe in original sin. I mean, I think they're doing their best, and let's see what General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker say in September, and they will convince you, and you will be for sustaining —

Stewart: Have you talked to General Petraeus?

Kristol: I saw him when I was over there, yeah.

Stewart: Will he come and sit on the program?

Kristol: He thinks you're a pussy.

Stewart: [laughing] That's the best line I've heard in a very long time!
Kristol is correct, by the way, that the "surge" is not only Baghdad, but also Al Anbar governate. However, Kristol and the other salesmen of the invasion were off on another planet with their expectations of what would happen after the invasion, and Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney's decisions to throw out plans that had been worked out by experts familiar with both the physical terrain and the demographic challenges of Iraq, in favor of ideologically driven fantasies, created a far worse quagmire than we would have faced with competent leadership in the early days of the war. I agree that it was wrong to invade Iraq, and particularly with Jon Stewart's point that it was a diversion from the real fight against terrorism, but given that we did invade, we could hardly have done a worse job of managing the occupation if we had tried. Bush thinks of himself as "the CEO President," but if he were the CEO of a corporation, the stockholders would have run him out of town on a rail, with the SEC in hot pursuit for criminal charges of breach of fiduciary duty.

The bottom line: Bill Kristol had no answer for why we should give the Bumbler in Chief any slack at all, or trust him to do anything to undo the mess he himself has created. Bush is a woefully incompetent leader, and the tragedy is that it has taken so much of the American public so long to wake up and realize it. The further tragedy is that, even now, most of the Democratic Party is too timid to stand up to Bush and tell him to his face that we don't trust him, we don't think he has done a good job so far, we don't think he's doing a good job now, and we don't have faith that he will do a good job in the next 17 months. More than anything else, Bush has squandered the American people's trust in him.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , ,

Click below for more...