Beware the Strawmen

The greatest weapon in the sophist’s arsenal is the strawman argument, and they are out in force today.

Ezra Klein:

Americans, for our part, will spend the morning watching CNN say the same thing a thousand ways. We’ll exult in the mystical power of voting, but next week, it’ll be back to the news ticker’s impersonal body counts. So elections? Count me in, I think they’re great. But with the rebellious, terrified minority that’s driving the insurgency boycotting the polls, let’s not pretend that the Ballot Fairy will sprinkle constitution dust on this razed country and out of the ashes will emerge a stable, pluralistic democracy. Iraq’s task is monumental, and its solutions anything but telegenic.

No one is pretending this is anything but what it was- the first election the Iraqi’s have had in 50 years, and a step in the right direction. Obviously Iraqi’s are thrilled; most normal Americans are as well. Only the professionally dour would and could feel otherwise. No one thinks the future is all of a sudden going to be easy- quite the opposite.

Juan Cole:

Iraq now faces many key issues that could tear the country apart, from the issues of Kirkuk and Mosul to that of religious law. James Zogby on Wolf Blitzer wisely warned the US public against another “Mission Accomplished” moment. Things may gradually get better, but this flawed “election” isn’t a Mardi Gras for Americans and they’ll regret it if that is the way they treat it.

Groan. And now for the obligatory Oliver silliness:

Pardon me if I’ve had enough of these Iraqi “turning points”. I work in Washington, D.C. so I can’t just pretend and make the terrorists go away like the other sheep.

Oliver has worked in DC for a year now. Beware the jaded insider.

The Turn-Out

Still no hard numbers on the turn-out, but I do not think the 72% figure will hold:

The Independent Election Commission of Iraq clarified an earlier estimate of a 72 percent turnout in Sunday’s election, saying that the “figures are only very rough, word-of-mouth estimates gathered informally from the field.”

“It will take some time for the IECI to issue accurate figures on turnout,” the statement said. “What is certainly the case is that turnout has exceeded expectations throughout the country.”

More than 14.2 million Iraqis were registered for the vote. Polls have closed, although voters who were in line at the time of poll closings were being allowed to cast their ballots.

U.N. election organizer Carlos Valezuela told CNN that while he was “happy with the turnout,” it was too early to report numbers.

“I would rather until we have much better reporting to be able to come up with figures,” he said.

If the final number drops below 72%, expect some on the left to seize upon this that the election was a fraud, even if the UN and Iraqi’s are satisfied with the vote. This should come as no surprise- after all, these are the same people who can not accept the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections.

Blinded By The Spite

Oliver doesn’t like Geraldo Rivera’s coverage of the elections much. Sayeth the ‘moderate’ Democrat:

Geraldo Rivera and Fox News, a match made in propaganda heaven.

Here is the offending Rivers quote (via Media Bistro via Johnny Dollar):

“They are casting their ballot for the first time. It was so inspiring. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It really is like the Berlin Wall going down in 1989. It really is like the beginning, like the dawn of the civil rights era, when black people could vote for the first time. It is the most amazing sight. Only a hard-bitten cynic, only a person with absolutely no upside to their feeling of optimism, could look askance at what is happening, truly happening today.”

Oliver Willis yesterday:

You know, I really wish Iraq were having an honest, safe, real election. But that isn’t happening, and that’s a shame. Even if you were and are opposed to this war, as I am, you would wish the Bush people would do things right just for the simple reason that it would help our standing in the world. But they can’ even do that.

The Daily Kos, today:

This Election is simply, in my estimation, an exercise in pretty pictures.

Matt Yglesias, today:

It’s time to prepare for three weeks of gloating from the hawks before they realize that nothing has really changed and they return to previous hawk practice of not mentioning Iraq.

Geraldo, meet your hard-bitten cynics.

The Shifting Goalposts

First, critics* said the elections couldn’t/wouldn’t happen.

Then, critics* said they would happen, but they would be wracked with violence and no one would vote because the ballots were too confusing or the security situation would keep people away from the polls.

What happens when you are wrong twice? Why, you continue, undaunted, to make dire predictions:

Looks reasonably successful so far, no mass casualties, turnout low only in a few trouble spots. It’s time to prepare for three weeks of gloating from the hawks before they realize that nothing has really changed and they return to previous hawk practice of not mentioning Iraq. The interesting thing to watch, I think, will be whether or not Shiite political unity starts to break down now that the elections are behind us.

Pessimism masquerading as realism should not be regarded as insight, and you should note the real cause for concern- hawk’s gloating. We aren’t gloating, we are just happy and relieved, and no one thinks this is the final step for our involvement in Iraq. It is, however, an important real and symbolic victory, and everyone should be happy.

Do I think this means we can start shipping soldiers home tomorrow? No.

Do I think this means that Iraq is going to turn into an American/European style Democracy by tomorrow? No.

But was this an important first step? Yes. Why can’t some Democrats embrace this? Why must they constantly position themselves and their party in such a way that they gain politically when things go poorly?

John Kerry, btw, was on Meet The Press this morning, and did everything he could to piss all over the administration and the election. According to him, we need to have a massive outreach to the international community in order to make sure the election is viewed as legitimate. And the Democrats wonder why they are the minority party. “This is the last chance for the President to get it right.” Go fuck yourself.

I am so sick and tired of playing Charlie Brown to their Lucy.

*** Update ***

Matt Yglesias emails:

Pardon me, John, but there’s nothing I hate more than this business of having my views mischaracterized. When did I say elections wouldn’t happen? When did I say turnout would be low? Well, I never said those things. Why should the fact that other people have made bad predictions in any way discredit my prediction? This “they” business is silly. Why are they? Why am I one of “them?”

My apologies. Clearly ‘they’ is any member of the crowd who attempted to or is attempting to delegitimize the elections, before, during, or after. While you may not have been a member of the former two, you are clearly a member of the third group, as this second snotty post from you clearly demonstrates. As to why you are a member of that group, it beats me.

But as maybe you are right, nothing has changed at all. Says Jeff Goldstein:

And by nothing has really changed, Matt of course means besides Iraq having successfully pulled off its first democratic elections in history with a minimum of violence, thus landing a huge body blow to the increasingly scattershot insurgency.

In Matts defense, thought, they do remain Mesopotamian.

*- Posted edited, changing ‘they’ to ‘critics.’

A Challenge To You

Now that the turnout had been high enough to become difficult to deligitimize, some on the left will have to turn elsewhere for cynicism and criticism. Here is your challenge- Be the first to find a left-wing pundit or blogger who states some version of the following-

“It’s amazing. Bush can run an election in Iraq, but he can’t run a fair one here in the United States.”


“I don’t trust the results in Iraq. BushCo are masters at fixing elections.”

If you are giggling, it is because you know someone will say it.

As an extra challenge, look for press attempts to change the story. I just heard a reporter on MSNBC state that now the problem is that the turnout was so high that Iraqi’s don’t believe the results. I couldn’t believe my ears.