Tuesday, April 24, 2007


by William Kristol

"We, who are willing to support this new strategy, and give General Petraeus the time and support he needs, have chosen a hard road. But it is the right road. It is necessary and just. Democrats, who deny our soldiers the means to prevent an American defeat, have chosen another road. It may appear to be the easier course of action, but it is a much more reckless one, and it does them no credit even if it gives them an advantage in the next election. This is an historic choice, with ramifications for Americans not even born yet. Let's put aside for a moment the small politics of the day. The judgment of history should be the approval we seek, not the temporary favor of the latest public opinion poll."
Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), speaking at the Virginia Military Institute, April 11, 2007
"We're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), speaking to reporters, April 12, 2007
"This war is lost."
Reid, April 19, 2007

Usually, politics is a murky business--gray upon gray, one set of mixed motives jostling with another. But sometimes there is a time for choosing--between courage and cynicism, between honor and disgrace.

John McCain's speech to the cadets of the Virginia Military Institute is the best single analysis by any political figure of where we stand in the war in Iraq. It is a serious and sober attempt to persuade the American people that the war is winnable, that we should give Gen. Petraeus a chance to win it, and that accepting defeat would be both ignoble and disastrous to American interests. With this morally and intellectually impressive speech, John McCain took leadership of the fight for victory in Iraq.

McCain was hard on the opponents of the war here at home. He didn't just describe troop withdrawal proposals as unwise. He derided "the fanciful and self-interested debates about Iraq that substitute for statesmanship in Washington." And he suggested that the Democrats had decided "to take advantage of the public's frustration, accept defeat," and hope that "the politics of defeat" would benefit them.

McCain continued: "In Washington, where political calculation seems to trump all other considerations, Democrats in Congress and their leading candidates for President, heedless of the terrible consequences of our failure, unanimously confirmed our new commander, and then insisted he be prevented from taking the action he believes necessary to safeguard our country's interests....I watched with regret as the House of Representatives voted to deny our troops the support necessary to carry out their new mission. Democratic leaders smiled and cheered as the last votes were counted. What were they celebrating? Defeat? Surrender? In Iraq, only our enemies were cheering."

Tough words--especially because, here in America, much of the mainstream media was also cheering. McCain, a onetime media favorite when he last ran for president, was effectively forswearing the possibility of regaining their favor.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media paid little attention to Harry Reid's comments quoted above. Republican criticisms of them were treated as the normal tit-for-tat of partisan politics. Reid's cynicism wasn't thought noteworthy, and his defeatism wasn't thought extraordinary. Apparently, cynicism in the service of the defeat of Republicans is no vice. Undercutting the efforts of American troops you have voted to send to fight in a war is a virtue.

Earlier this month, the "surge" was beginning visibly to work. Al Qaeda fought back, with massive slaughter of civilians, whose purpose was in part to undercut support for the war against al Qaeda on the home front. Harry Reid followed script.

Now we are at a moment of truth. There is McCain's way, a way of difficulty and honor. There is Reid's way, a way of political expediency and dishonor. McCain may lose the political battle at home, and the U.S. may ultimately lose in Iraq. But some of us will always be proud, at this moment of choice, to have stood with McCain, and our soldiers, and our country.



It’s been a tough month. Those of us who successfully resisted the temptation to write about radio shock jock Don Imus’ racial slur of the Rutgers womens’ basketball team may have been left off Oprah’s invitation list (and Tim Russert’s), but we may have gained the advantage of perspective. Let’s pull back on the stick and gain some altitude, because this is the next stage of the battle for the media in 2007 that will substantially affect the results in 2008.

What Imus said was both predictable and inexcusable. He got fired, and deserved it. But such -- and worse -- will be repeated forevermore in gangsta rap, on satellite radio and wherever else it is tolerated by the same people who fired Imus. But the fact that Imus was forced off the air by an apparently well-orchestrated assault on his advertisers may be a lesson conservatives need to learn because liberals will study and apply it with all the energy they can muster.

As I’ve written before in this space, liberals are prepping the media battlefield while Republicans and conservatives (sigh; yes, there is a difference) fail to defend their assets and prepare to battle the liberals’ amen chorus in everything from the blogs to the New York Times editorial page.

Those of us who study the military all day and half the night are familiar with the notion that “getting inside the adversary’s decision loop” is one of the surest ways to win a fight. Translating from Pentagonese, when you get inside the other guy’s decision loop, you have managed to: (1) determine what his next move is likely to be; and (2) take countermeasures -- in attack and/or defense -- to defeat that next move and use the adversary’s momentum against him. On the kinetic battlefield, that can mean everything from seizing a piece of real estate before the other guy gets there to bombing a force maneuvering for position, and everything in between. In the media wars now going on, the liberals are inside the conservative decision loop.

We’ve watched, and not answered, the assault on Fox News. Beginning with Bill Clinton’s well-planned attack on Chris Wallace last year and succeeding in blocking Fox’s key role in Democratic candidate debates, the one cable news network that even tries to be fair to both sides is being marginalized. So what is to be learned by the facts surrounding the Imus firing? What will the liberals try to do with it?

For decades, conservative talk radio has been a hugely effective political weapon. Rush Limbaugh has proved over and over again that conservative radio is effective both politically and economically. In the free market of ideas, Rush -- and Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and so many others -- have succeeded. Sponsors gladly pay for time on shows that reach millions of people every day.

On the other side, liberal talk radio has been the Edsel of the broadcast media. When the folks at Air America weren’t cooking their own books, they were striking out as regularly as a Little Leaguer would facing the Minnesota Twins Johann Santana or the Toronto Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay. No matter how loudly they preached liberalism, they couldn’t succeed in either market: for commercials or in the market of ideas. (RA’s “star” -- thuggish Al Franken -- is surrendering to market forces and running for the US Senate in Minnesota.)

In the past, liberals have taken every shot they could at Rush and the others, seeking to force them off the air. In 2002, then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.) accused Rush of inciting violence against him after Limbaugh said -- correctly, of course -- that Daschle and others were obstructing progress on Homeland Security legislation. Dachle said, “Rush Limbaugh and all of the Rush Limbaugh wannabes have a very shrill edge…But what happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren’t satisfied just to listen. They want to act…and so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically, on our families…” If Daschle could have had Rush arrested, he would have.

That assault on Rush failed, as it had to, because it attacked him at his strong point. But what could the libs learn from the Imus mess?

If you want to get inside the liberals decision loop, you have to understand their intent -- to destroy conservative talk radio -- and their capabilities, from blogs to pols and all the politically activist media in between. What would you do if you were, say, George Soros? If you had a ton of money and wanted to render conservative talk radio ineffective in the 2008 election cycle?

What you’d do is employ some group to pick at the statements of the talkers, and make every politically-incorrect utterance a cause celebre. Take words out of context. No one will notice. Make any statement about Hillary, Obama or whoever into some sort of outrageous racial/religious/sexist/whatever slur. Petition the advertisers on that show, bash them by name in every corner of the blogosphere and rely on the media to contrive stories around the blogs. Create media feeding frenzies to threaten advertisers who continue to buy time on the supposedly “offensive” shows.

If that’s what the libs will try, and they will -- if that’s the weapons they will use, and they are -- we are now inside their decision loop. The question is what to do before they get started? What’s the countermeasure?

There are two. First and foremost, we need to dig hard to discover the sources of the attacks, and we will. When we do, we’ll expose them, naming names and by doing so showing that the attacks aren’t by consumers or about them. We have to deal in facts, not fiction and whenever we get them we need to be as aggressive as the liberals in stirring the media to show how the attacks are orchestrated.

Second, conservatives must refuse to be intimidated. Political correctness is a threat to free speech. The talkers are usually right, and when they are we must stand with them.