Friday, September 14, 2007

Fallows on the Iraq Speeches: Edwards amazing, Giuliani insane

James Fallows (The Atlantic) watched yesterday's Bush speech (Iraq) and the responses -- twice. Unsurprisingly, it drove him to near-madness, but I appreciate his sacrifice.

Bottom line: Giuliani is a raving loon. Bush is Bush. McCain is finished. Edwards impresses - a lot, and a CNN journalist appears to have become sentient.

Fallows has two posts. I'm embedding his f/u statements in with quotes from the first version.

James Fallows (September 14, 2007) - Man from Mars perspective on tonight's speeches

... Just now CNN International did run Bush's latest speech; plus the Larry King followup with candidates Obama, Giuliani, Edwards, and McCain; plus an Anderson Cooper followup from Iraq. So what do you notice if you haven't seen these people in action in a long time?

- Bush: no surprises. At this point you buy the argument or you don't. Simply as performance, this struck me as being in the higher end of Bush's range... Bush was sobered but looked less rattled than he has in many of his previous "we are at a crucial moment" speeches about Iraq.

...How long has John Edwards been sounding like this? Wow!

Of the three Democratic responses to the president in this hour on CNN -- Jack Reed, Barack Obama, plus Edwards -- Edwards was by a mile the most impressive. To apply the Man from Mars perspective: if you'd heard of none of these politicians before, based on this sequence you'd immediately assume that Edwards was the dominant one from either party (including the actual president)...

... Those crisp arguments were all, and only, what Edwards presented. I don't have a transcript, but the gist was: we're patrolling a civil war, nothing matters without political progress, and that's not happening; it's shameful to keep making the link to 9/11 that does not exist, etc. Compared with the last time I'd seen Edwards handling foreign policy questions on live TV, he has come a very long way in knowledgeability and confidence..

[next day comment on Edwards: "Senator Edwards: Again I saw, Wow. What a powerful, no-nonsense appearance. In his heyday Bill Clinton could deflate a Newt Gingrich argument by saying: Look, here's what's really going on. Edwards was Clintonesque in that good sense tonight."]...

- Republicans: Wow, in a different way.

John McCain: Sigh. He looks like an old man, and a man who has lost and knows it. Making no inside-politics assessment here: just reporting on snap reaction to the TV shots after not seeing him speak for nearly a year.

Rudy Giuliani: He looks like a man who is crazy. Making no clinical diagnosis here, just talking about his affect as it comes across on TV. I am sure this is partly just my unfamiliarity with his tic of stressing a point by opening his eyes so wide you can see the whites all the way around. He does that a lot, and at first glance it's odd. But beyond that is the eerie sense of how strongly he resembles the earlier, cockier G.W. Bush of two or three years ago.

... Great certainty about "staying on the offense" against terrorism; zero displayed knowledge of what that means or indeed what he was talking about at all. Giuliani added to this sloganeering impression with his repeated invocations of "General Petraeus" as the answer to all problems, notwithstanding Petraeus's deliberate narrowing of his claimed expertise to the progress of his own mission, not the largest strategic questions about Iraq.

[next day, Fallows reconsideration on Giulian "...Is this how he's been all along? To start with, he doesn't know anything. To be more precise: not a single sentence that he utters suggests any familiarity with what people have been saying and arguing -- about terrorism, Iraq, the situation of the military, security trade-offs, etc -- for the last few years. He's out of date in two ways: He displays the "fashionable in 2003 and 2004" assumption that if you say "nine-eleven, nine-eleven, nine-eleven!!" enough times, you end all debate about military policy. He displays the "fashionable about three weeks ago" assumption that if you say "General Petraeus, General Petraeus, General Petraeus" enough times, you've offered an Iraq policy. And through it all he seems totally self-confident. Hmm, have we seen anything like this combo before?"

- CNN: ... CNN's Michael Ware joins John Edwards as the star of the night. As noted recently here and here, on a show earlier this week Ware had (surprisingly) followed what is apparently the new CNN diktat, in using the plain term "al Qaeda" to refer to "al Qaeda in Iraq" and Iraqi insurgents more generally. But this evening, Ware did not use that term (that I noticed) -- and responded to President Bush's claims in a withering, rapid-fire, highly-detailed, and devastating way.

Remember when Anderson Cooper made his break to the big time, thanks largely to his genuinely-outrage-seeming, borderline-impolite questioning of federal officials about Hurricane Katrina? "Brownie" and others would say: we're doing our best. Anderson Cooper (and others) would say: what the hell are you talking about?? There are bodies floating down the street!

That was Michael Ware's approach to the claims in Bush's speech. Is Iraq returning to normal life? Oh, sure, if normal means living in the dark most of the time, huddling for fear of being shot, etc etc etc. There are moments in journalism that can't be faked, when reporters on the ground are so disgusted by what they hear from remote official spokesmen that they just can't contain themselves. That was Ware's reaction this evening, and in a way it was the most important response to the speech...

I'm glad Edwards is back on track, he'd seemed a bit lost recently. If Giuliani, but some horror, were to become our next President I think a lot of Rationalists would be considering whether it was time to move to the Idaho mountains ...

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