You might be right, Melinda , that experience doesn't make Hillary Clinton or John McCain the "safe" candidate in light of the Bhutto assassination. (I'll admit I've found myself warming to McCain while he survived the greatly exaggerated reports of his death, and as the other GOP candidates I thought I might support have begun flailing.) But (via the excellent Ed Morrissey )...
OH, I'm sorry; introductions. The writer being informed by the excellent Ed Morrissey here is the redoubtable Rachael Larimore, whom I like to think of as Slate's desperate attempt to prove that whole anti-contra-reverse-counterintuitive contrarianism schtick is in fact so genuine that it extends to their hiring practices.
...I hope that we can agree that Bill Richardson is a wildly dangerous candidate in comparison.
Let's back up just a bit here, but not enough we're tempted to mash the accelerator and smash into these people, forcing us to exchange insurance information: 1) Benazir Bhutto is assassinated, leading any number of Americans to feel they need to have an opinion about what this means. 2) Some of these Americans have column inches to fill, if only in cyberspace. 3) One of them is John Dickerson. 4) Dickerson decides that what it means is we'll be backing "safe" candidates like John McCain and Hillary Clinton from here on out, seeing as how we now know the world is a dangerous place, especially for opposition leaders returned from exile to the powderkeg of their homelands in a desperate attempt to make the US State Department look like a player. 5) The campaign discussion group at Slate then comment on his comments, after first checking Cap'n Ed to assure a firm grounding in Subcontinental politics.
Here's what Gov. Richardson had to say :
President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately. Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government. Free and fair elections must also be held as soon as possible. It is in the interests of the U.S. that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists. Musharraf has failed, and his attempts to cling to power are destabilizing his country. He must go.
Really? He wants President Bush to overthrow the government of another country?
Fer chrissakes, "what Richardson had to say" would have been regarded, as recently as two years ago, by these very same people, as a sort of Hopeless Hippie Unicorn-Flavored Pacifism, assuming it wasn't aimed at someone the Bush administration had foolishly bet the farm on. And we can just forget about pointing out that Richardson initially supported overthrowing the government of Iraq; recognizing this would have required fact-gathering, and you can't put that sort of thing on a Slate expense voucher.
Now, the doctor told me that if I keep my head perfectly still in these sorts of situations I could minimize the risk of further, possibly catastrophic, injury. So, this being Slate 'n'all, let's see if we can manage to throw a net over what this might actually mean. Not that we necessarily have a net that large.
1) Larimore actually means it. Okay, that's impossible, you say; "conservatives", even the Facile Libertarian branch, actually live for overthrowing governments. Plus, the very idea that it would be shocking for Bush to overthrow another government is so absurd it must be an ironic suggestion. Fine, except a) this is Slate, after all; maybe they want you to think that and b) this is precisely the sense the excellent Cap'n makes of it: "Richardson is a dangerous kook for suggesting a serious US diplomatic response in terms which would allow someone like me to claim he supports a US-military-backed coup".
2) She means to chide Democrats. As in, "Right, now Democrats are in favor of overthrowing foreign governments with military force. Fucking peaceniks." We might raise the objection that this would negate the complaint: even if you can pump enough air into Richardson's remarks to make it sound like he's suggesting military action without the thing blowing up on you--and you can't--haven't you been cheering that sort of thing on (from the sidelines, despite one's Naval commission) for the better part of a decade now? But then, this is Slate and movement "conservatism", the land where Francis Bacon is a Sunday watercolorist. We would also note the Cap'n makes this argument, as well, but it wouldn't do the vertigo any good.
3. The Ol' Switcheroo. Having turned American foreign policy into a flaming bag of dogshit on the front porch, maybe they figure now is a good time to start whistling and walking in the opposite direction. This would certainly explain the elevation of Bill Richardson to Democratic Party spokesman and dead solid lock to be your next Secretary of State, a rise which must have pulled double-digit Gs, assuming gravity operates in Nowheresville, where the ride started. Unfortunately, the worst you can say about Distorto Bill Richardson is that he sounds sorta like a Republican, only saner. But maybe that's the thing they fear the most! Or, maybe...that's what they want you to think they fear the most! Ow, my head!
UPDATE: Okay, it's not an UPDATE, but the Cap'n had a really cool one about how Richardson did too use the word "force", so there. This was part of an internal debate with the "Richardson apologists" who plague his comments and those of every other right-wing site that allows them, however, we were somewhat unclear about how Richardson saying, as both we and the Cap'n quote, "We must use our diplomatic leverage and force the enemies of democracy to yield..." turns into a justification of taking "force" to mean whatever the fuck you say it means. So we scanned the piece again, and we're not about to do that without some marginal payoff. So here's a look at how this important matter is seen by Shot & Sail Republicans. Friggin' in the riggin':
The stupidity of this statement cascades through several levels. First and foremost, how would the US "force" Musharraf to step down? Should we invade Pakistan to fight on the side of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who have pursued that same goal for the past six years, thanks to Musharraf's alliance with the US? Or does Richardson expect us to conduct an assassination?
Okay, first, we are simply going to ignore that business about Musharraf as sudden recipient of radical Islamic attentions on 9/12, after innocently siding with The Good Guys; it is, after all, merely a device to buttress the claim that Bill Richardson wants to send US military forces to fight side-by-side with, if not under the command of, Osama bin-Laden, and as such must be seen as fungo practice for a possible future Democratic administration. And we'll just pass on by that "diplomatic leverage...does that mean assassination, Bill?" routine, on the grounds that "diplomatic leverage" is an altogether foreign concept to the Right at this point, so it would not surprise us to find your average wingnut asking if it involved waterboarding, ice skates, or refried beans. We will simply note that Richardson had, in fact, answered the question before it was asked. That this answer is not taken as satisfactory is grounds for disputing it, impugning it, or questioning the sanity of the speaker, but it's not grounds for redefining common terms to make them mean what you wish they meant. But let us sail on:
Better yet, why should we dictate who runs Pakistan? Isn't that a rather bald assertion of so-called American imperialism?
The other day I jokingly remarked somewhere that the major cultural advantage of living in Indianapolis was that I could drive a couple miles down 16th Street and buy myself one of those head-restraint systems they use in auto racing and so avoid crippling whiplash injuries from crap like this. Now I wish I'd really done it. One: if you believe in something--and people who supported preemptive war in Iraq either believe in the right of the US to dictate to other governments, or they believe in nothing whatsoever, in which case they should have admitted so in 2002--or you don't, but you are not allowed to simultaneously profess belief and question others for apparently doing the same, without regard for the sometimes devastating effect that can have on the innocent soft tissues of other people's necks. Two: the single exception to this rule occurs when someone--let's call him "Bill"--has put forward a definition of "so-called American imperialism" which both rejects it and defines it as "dictating who runs something-or-other" and then urges precisely the opposite course of action. At this point you may criticize "Bill", but it'd be nice if you quote him to that effect while you're at it. Alternately you can a) praise him for finally seeing the intense otherworldly glow of your own brightness or b) shut up.
And after we somehow force Musharraf from power, what comes after? Even with a passive removal of support, something has to push Musharraf from power. Does Richardson have a clue what that might be?
In fact, he does, or he imagines he does, and it can be discerned by the simple expedient of reading what the man fucking said.
I'll give him a hint. We did the same thing in 1979 with Iran and the Shah.
So now, not content just to ignore what Richardson said in the first place, we offer to explain to him exactly what he said, except by faulty historical analogy, which, to the extent that it's true, undermines our own case! If you'll excuse me for a few minutes, I need to drive a few miles down 16th Street.
Okay, I'm back. Assuming that withdrawal of US military support led to the overthrow of the Shah--a man we'd actively propped on the Throne we righted for him, and who had spent every Cold-War dollar we'd given him in the intervening thirty-five years on pissing off every single subject who had survived genital electrocution--is gratuitous at best, and suggesting the Iranian Revolution represents an inevitability is pure flummery. Bhutto
Of course, a really, really good time to have thought about all this was before we threw in with an anti-democratic military strongman with a history of duplicitousness, just for the sake of some Bush-administration puffery and a guaranteed opportunity to capture bin-Laden and lead him down Pennsylvania Avenue as a prelude to remaking the Middle East. And how'd that one go?