Irony Deathwatch, Corner Edition

by Belle Waring on November 1, 2006

Michael Ledeen blew my mind today:

More on Media Coverage [of the Kerry flap—Belle] [Michael Ledeen]
Nothing at all on the front page of the WSJ, quite disgraceful. In case you wondered about the WSJ newsroom, the main political story is an allegation of graft against a Republican congressman.

A story that should have been delayed until after the election. Talk about journalistic ethics! Get a new editor for the news section.

Is this supposed to be satirical in some way? I think not, but then again surely he doesn’t think…that is…I

Moving on, John Derbyshire continues to stoke my guilty admiration:

Yes, But [John Derbyshire]
John Kerry is awful, and anything we can do further to degrade his political prospects is worth doing. But really, I saw a clip of him making the much-deplored remark, and it was obvious that the dimwit in Iraq that he referred to was George W. Bush, not the American soldier. It was a dumb joke badly delivered, but his meaning was plain. My pleasure in watching JK squirm is just as great as any other conservative’s, but something is owed to honesty. There’s a lot of fake outrage going round here.

Is this why Derbyshire always posts from home, so as to avoid uncomfortable moments around the NR watercooler? Do they have tenure at the National Review? This blithe insouciance, these outright accusations of bad faith against one’s colleagues, seem to me rightly to belong to the tenured. Perhaps William F. Buckley has given him an endowed chair in Disarmingly Frank Racial Prejudice/Old-fashioned Tory Studies.

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Outside The Beltway | OTB
11.01.06 at 2:43 pm

{ 48 comments }

1

CJColucci 11.01.06 at 10:38 am

Kerry shouldn’t do jokes. He’s just awful at it, even though he sometimes has great material. He just can’t deliver.

2

Steve LaBonne 11.01.06 at 10:45 am

If the Republicans could destroy that useless putz’s political career they’d be doing the Democratic Party a great favor. If only they’d done so before he led us to defeat in ’04…

3

abb1 11.01.06 at 10:49 am

Isn’t a typical soldier, especially in a volunteer force (American or not), indeed a dimwit? Somehow I can’t imagine a smart fella signing up. Where’s the controversy?

4

Keith M Ellis 11.01.06 at 11:19 am

Ah, yes. Now I recall why even before today I associated the words “abb1” and “dimwit” with each other.

5

bi 11.01.06 at 11:53 am

OK, wait a minute. What happened to all the supporters of free speech who were all up in arms over the attempts to “censor” Path to 9/11?

One should be allowed to hurl abuse at Muslims, Bill Clinton, and Michael Moore the Fat. But it’s a constitutional principle that one must never, ever say anything that may be remotely construed to be an insult to the Great US Troops! Because, remember, it was the troops, not Martin Luther King, who fought for blacks’ civil rights and gave them the freedom they now enjoy. And free speech is free, except when it’s not free.

6

P O'Neill 11.01.06 at 11:55 am

I think it’s JPod who has to stay at home, for his spluttering rage at a post like Derb did would be too much for anyone else to bear. As Frank Foer said, “I had that JPod in an elevator once.”

7

beloml 11.01.06 at 12:06 pm

But why would Kerry joke about Bush’s educational record when Bush had the higher GPA?

8

Seth Finkelstein 11.01.06 at 12:19 pm

abb1: Pre-Bush II, the military was sometimes seen as a fairly safe way for a smart but poor kid to get the money for an education. I don’t want to dig for a reference, but for a while, I think the applicant pool was so good the Army was quite selective about it. After all, before Iraq, there hadn’t been a big US shooting war for decades (Gulf War I actually being a cake-walk). So the chance of actually getting maimed/killed seemed pretty small, and the government benefits rather generous for what seemed to be a small risk. That’s why.

9

BruceR 11.01.06 at 12:32 pm

Me soldur, but me too stoopid to come up with witty retort to #3. Me sorry.

10

abb1 11.01.06 at 12:33 pm

I don’t know, I lived in New England and I did know a few relatively bright guys who joined the national guard to get the money for education; that’s relatively common, I suppose. But the army? To spend years in a military base somewhere? Are you sure?

11

abb1 11.01.06 at 12:49 pm

Keith, you upset me. So I as soon as I got home from work I quickly took an IQ test at http://www.iqtest.com. Here it is:

Dear abb1,

Thank you for your interest in the test at IQTest.com.

Your general IQ score is: 136

136 – not great, but classified as gifted (2.3% of test takers) on their FAQ page.

Thank god, not a complete dimwit yet.

Sorry if I offended anyone, but when I was a kid, it would be a rare day when I wasn’t told: study hard and go to college or you’ll be drafted.

12

Uncle Kvetch 11.01.06 at 12:51 pm

Of course Kerry didn’t intend to insult the troops–but even if he did, so what? My understanding of the Republican position on these matters is that I only need to appreciate someone’s service to the country to the extent that I agree with their politics.

13

Keith M Ellis 11.01.06 at 12:57 pm

I know at least two people (of about 100) from my graduating class in college–a relatively elite liberal arts college with no ROTC program–who joined the Army after graduation. One, a woman, became a helicopter pilot. The other went into psyops. Both, I can assert from personal experience, were brilliant. This is a judgement which could probably be substantiated by various test results, GPA, and whatnot.

There’s a huge number of reasons why someone might be motivated to join the military. For some, like in my pilot friend’s case, it may be because joining the military provides for them a reliable route to a post-military career doing something they love and have long pursued (and which may elsewhere have stronger institutional sexist roadblocks). Others might do it for student loan forgiveness. Still other might do it because they have a family tradition of military service. I could go on and on.

It’s hard for me to imagine that any bright and thoughtful person wouldn’t almost immediately grasp both the likely existence of these sorts of reasons nor how wide-ranging they must be. The very limited thought process of “people in the Army get killed and serve on an boring, old base somewhere therefore smart people wouldn’t join” seems both willfully lazy and somewhat malicious to me. But there might be other explanations.

14

Barry Freed 11.01.06 at 1:04 pm

Perhaps William F. Buckley has given him an endowed chair in Disarmingly Frank Racial Prejudice/Old-fashioned Tory Studies.

I wonder if he get’s an intern with that deal.

15

bi 11.01.06 at 1:11 pm

For the record, I do agree it’s bad taste to poke fun at people who are stuck in an unenviable position — mostly through no fault of their own.

But I’m sure the Bush supporters will use this incident as a pretext to ask Kerry to be charged for treason or something. Which is also very bad taste.

16

BruceR 11.01.06 at 1:18 pm

Abb1, me score 149 in same test. How come you so stupid? Me must be in wrong job!

17

abb1 11.01.06 at 1:26 pm

I’m not saying that everyone in the military is stupid, I don’t doubt for a second that there are brilliant people there. But c’mon, a typical case; this how George Carlin gets the best laugh: military intelligence and jumbo shrimp.

18

bi 11.01.06 at 1:30 pm

This isn’t about the intelligence of the military, dang it. This is about the Republican Party using the troops as a rhetorical device (just like Darfur, the Inquisition, and all that). And about Kerry refusing to apologize.

Personally I think he should apologize and point out their bogus rhetoric. Then again, I’m no politician.

19

abb1 11.01.06 at 1:34 pm

He already apologized.

BruceR, good for you. That’s why I like it here – high concentration of smart people.

20

Keith M Ellis 11.01.06 at 1:39 pm

In the context of this Kerry brouhaha, I read yesterday somewhere, I can’t recall where, that both the IQ and level of completed education of people in the military is notably above average. Not being able to even find where I read that, I’m not able to find the primary source. So, take it with the big grain of salt it deserves. But I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if it were true: most of the sorts of supposedly commonsensical assertions about such things are often shown to be false. I have at the outset always a great deal of skepticism concerning statements such as abb1’s. Self-servingly, this apparent distinction between abb1 and myself goes closer to the heart of where the matter of “dimwittedness” lies than does the score on a web-based IQ test.

21

bi 11.01.06 at 1:40 pm

abb1 s3z, “He already apologized.”

Or did he? “I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy, If anyone owes our troops in the field an apology, it is the president and his failed team.”

Actually I think he does owe the troops in the field an apology. As I said, it was in bad taste, even if it was unintentional.

22

abb1 11.01.06 at 1:50 pm

Alright, I apologize too.

23

Steve LaBonne 11.01.06 at 2:04 pm

Yes, he has apologized (rightly) to the troops for f’ing up the joke. No, he has not apologized (again, rightly) to Chimpy.

24

stuart 11.01.06 at 2:42 pm

Hmm, sites that get you to spend a few minutes doing stuff (like taking an IQ test) before asking for an email address are pretty sneaky. Lucky its so easy to make disposable email accounts in a couple of minutes I guess. They put me in the top 1% for some reason, personally I just think I am good at those sort of logic puzzles (but crap at memorizing by rote, hence poor exam performances generally).

Btw I don’t think that assuming Bush is stupid for getting mire in Iraq is necessarily correct, he could alternatively just be self interested and have a complete lack of interest in the fate of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Its what I would expect of a politician anyway. I suppose you can also argue the stupid puppet with evil puppetmaster side of things on the same principles though.

25

BruceR 11.01.06 at 3:19 pm

Personally, I think soldiers are tough enough to take being called a little thick. Hey, a lot of us are sometimes.

Even without that aspect, Kerry’s remark, sans context, is still offensive because telling young bright college students that they can do little good for Iraqis, or in the military generally, would be wrong. Smart people do make good soldiers, and smarter soldiers stand a higher chance on every level of saving Iraqi lives and maybe even improving them. One thing we’re not suffering from in Iraq is a surfeit of Americans of smarts or privilege.

If Kerry had meant what he said, it would be appalling on that basis alone. In his own context, he’d basically be saying that his own personal choice to leave a place of privilege to engage in Vietnam service was misguided and wrong. Clearly he didn’t mean that. Still, I wish his non-apology had made reference to the value of young people of talent devoting a part of their lives to serving their country, militarily or outside.

26

terence 11.01.06 at 3:20 pm

don’t you love this:

Kerry “insults” the troops,

GWB gets them killed.

And who’s being asked to apologise???

27

lemuel pitkin 11.01.06 at 3:24 pm

Not to pile on abb1, but I have a number of friends and acquaintances in the military, including a couple of relatives. One is not academically inclined (not the same as stupid, not at all) and went into the Navy instead of college. He stayed after getting into a bad bike accident right at the end of his first hitch and needing the health insurance. The others are all very bright by any standard — one I went to grad school with (he was blown up by an IED last year) and another, who served in Afghanistan but is now thankfully done, jsut started a very competitive graduate program in political science and could more than hold its own here, if he didn’t have better things to do.

So no, soldiers are not dimwits. It’s a really stupid thing to say.

28

engels 11.01.06 at 3:34 pm

My experience (in England) is similar to Lemuel’s but he makes the point better than I would have done.

29

Uncle Kvetch 11.01.06 at 3:39 pm

Even without that aspect, Kerry’s remark, sans context, is still offensive because telling young bright college students that they can do little good for Iraqis, or in the military generally, would be wrong.

Sigh.

Kerry’s remark, with or without context, was not at the expense of soldiers. It was at the expense of the President. He clearly meant that it is the President (who has bragged throughout his political career about not studying and squeaking by on connections and “gentlemen’s C’s”) who is “stuck in Iraq.” Kerry, deeply mediocre politician that he is, botched the joke, but the fact remains that he did not intend to make fun of soldiers. He actually was one himself once, remember?

Jesus. I despair for this country, I really do.

30

engels 11.01.06 at 3:51 pm

Granted, John Kerry did not, and given who he is, could not, have meant it. Whether abb1 really means anything he says is another matter.

31

abb1 11.01.06 at 4:28 pm

I simply can’t understand why anyone in their right mind would want to join the army; and not specifically in the US – anywhere in the world.

Now y’all convinced me and I am ready to accept that this is defect in me, not in them.

Amen and God bless.

32

BruceR 11.01.06 at 5:13 pm

Uncle Kvetch, either you didn’t read the last para of my post, or you’re somewhat thick. Hey, have you considered joining the military? :-)

Seriously, I did read the Kerry statement and it was still kind of obtuse, because it didn’t take the opportunity to address an actual serious issue here: that the “bright” (aka privileged) Americans like those Kerry was talking to have overwhelmingly chosen to avoid military service this time, and no one in America seems to feel particularly bad about that.

33

engels 11.01.06 at 5:19 pm

Well, if you’re concerned about the example that is being set there, Brucer, you should really take it up with President Dumbfuck.

34

nick s 11.01.06 at 6:50 pm

At least Bush only fucked up a war and not a punchline.

As for Derb, he’s a refugee from the Telegraph letters page. And even those crusty old brigadiers tend to dislike cant.

35

Christmas 11.01.06 at 7:21 pm

Thank god Kerry apologized. Now there’s nothing to stop us from winning the war!

36

Gene O'Grady 11.01.06 at 7:32 pm

I find abb1’s remarks repugnant (as well as uninformed and provincial), but I suspect that he hit the nail on the head when he talked of being told to study lest he be drafter when younger. I’m not quite as old as Kerry, but this was a common thing for any young male in the 50’s or 60’s to hear. And the people we heard it from were by and large veterans of the second world war. Probably the existence of the draft had something to do with it?

At my (somewhat dubious) high school the typical form was “I send you to Fort Ord” directed at some of the more obvious cutups and space cadets.

37

bad Jim 11.01.06 at 11:13 pm

I was in the cohort that was subject to the draft during the Vietnam war. While service was deferred during college attendance, dropping out or graduating put one in the draft pool. Friends of mine who graduated before me chose enlistment (3 years in the army, 4 years in the navy) to avoid winding up in the infantry as cannon fodder.

By the time I was at risk, the lottery had been instituted and troop levels were being drawn down. Before that, a diploma was effectively accompanied by a draft notice.

38

bi 11.01.06 at 11:54 pm

terence, engels, nick s: Right on.

And does Michael Ledeen really believe that uttering a stupid remark is a bigger crime than bribing people? Or that purposely delaying a piece of bad news counts as “journalistic ethics”? What? What? What?

Get thee to ethics, you raw meat preclear.

39

bi 11.02.06 at 2:18 am

Well, it’s probably impossible to change the course of the Democrat’s campaigning, but maybe we can help them along. How about this: we spread the words of his written apology far and wide:

“I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform and I personally apologize to any service member, family member or American who was offended.”

Let it be shown that those people who continue to demand an apology are being unreasonable, and care not about the troops but only about themselves.

40

bi 11.02.06 at 3:21 am

Aw… shucks. No, the main issue isn’t even the Iraq war, or Mike Foley, or Osama bin Laden. It’s this. :-(

41

abb1 11.02.06 at 7:06 am

Probably the existence of the draft had something to do with it?

Well, Gene, you find my remarks repugnant, uninformed and provincial, yet you seem to acknowledge that to a rational person the draft is something to be feared and to be avoided. So, then, I take it, my conditioning wasn’t entirely unreasonable. If so, why would volunteering (which is really just a slicker form of the same thing) be a rational choice? Don’t confuse me, help me re-educate myself.

Wiki article on counter-recruitment.

42

bi 11.02.06 at 7:09 am

Hey abb1, I think bad Jim just pointed out that voluntary enlistees end up in better positions than involuntary draftees.

Jeez, can we just stop talking about the military and focus on more important issues like those goddamn Diebold machines?

43

bi 11.02.06 at 7:17 am

“Mauricio Raponi wanted to vote for Democrats across the board at the Lemon City Library in Miami on Thursday. But each time he hit the button next to the candidate, the Republican choice showed up. Raponi, 53, persevered until the machine worked. Then he alerted a poll worker.”

Maybe this will be enough to convince abb1 to shut the heck up about irrelevant and distracting trivia and start focusing on the issues at hand.

44

Uncle Kvetch 11.02.06 at 7:55 am

Uncle Kvetch, either you didn’t read the last para of my post, or you’re somewhat thick. Hey, have you considered joining the military? :-)

Uh, yeah, guilty as charged, brucer…I didn’t get your point, but I get it now: John Kerry is “obtuse” for not taking the opportunity presented by his botched joke to initiate a serious national conversation about military recruitment.

As if a serious national conversation about anything were possible in this 3-ring circus of manufactured outrage. As if any of the folks spitting with rage at Kerry would take him seriously. I may be thick, brucer, but I’m not that naive.

45

abb1 11.02.06 at 8:07 am

Hey abb1, I think bad Jim just pointed out that voluntary enlistees end up in better positions than involuntary draftees.

To clarify, I wasn’t talking about draft vs. enlistment in the 60s, but about 60s draft vs. enlistment today – when there is no draft.

Now I’ll try to shut up.

46

Al 11.03.06 at 6:32 am

So, just to be clear.

A decorated war hero makes a crap joke about the limited career options available to students who don’t study, and the main beneficiary is a deserter turned failed president who killed 2000 troops to save his career?

Sweet.

47

Uncle Kvetch 11.03.06 at 11:13 am

You got it, Al.

What a country, eh?

48

radek 11.04.06 at 12:54 am

Well, here’s MR on the topic:
According to historian David Kennedy, quoted in the October issue of the Atlantic, 50 percent of 18-24 year olds in the general population have some college education compared to only 6.5 percent of the same age group in the U.S. military.

Of course “education” isn’t the same thing as “intelligence” (if it were grad school be a much nicer place to be in). My experience has involved knowing some really really really, no, really, DUMB military people and some really really, yes, really SMART military people. So my guess would be that the mean’s about the same but the variance is higher, relative to the civilian pop. One oughta control for rank and rank-mobility in this, but as a snap shot in time I believe it’s essentially correct. Let’s face it (I feel like I’m in a seance invoking abb1 here) an effective military needs BOTH thougthless automatons and some really street and (as the War Nerd will tell you) book smart platoon, battalion, company, etc. leaders.

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