William Kristol is, of course, the man who helped to kill health care reform in the nineties, with the wildly successful Republican talking point that “there is no health care crisis,” leaving us fifteen years later with a bigger mess than ever. This is a man who understands the power of words, and the extent to which they can triumph, at least momentarily, over reality.
Today, he attempts to redefine the meaning of a recent MoveOn ad:
The ad is simple. A mother speaks as she holds her baby boy:
â€œHi, John McCain. This is Alex. And heâ€™s my first. So far his talents include trying any new food and chasing after our dog. That, and making my heart pound every time I look at him. And so, John McCain, when you say you would stay in Iraq for 100 years, were you counting on Alex? Because if you were, you canâ€™t have him.â€
I’ll even grant Kristol his point that little Alex isn’t in much danger of being sent to Iraq by a McCain administration, given that Alex would only be nine years old at the end of an excruciatingly unlikely two-term McCain presidency. Nonetheless, the meaning of the ad is clear: this is my child, and I do not intend to sacrifice him on the altar of an unnecessary, and unecessarily prolonged, war.
Hard for any parent to argue with that.
At least, not until the master propagandist plies his trade:
Hereâ€™s what the mother of an actual soldier has to say about the remarks of the mother of the prospective non-soldier in the ad:
â€œDoes that mean that she wants other peopleâ€™s sons to keep the wolves at bay so that her son can live a life of complete narcissism? What is it she thinks happens in the world? … Someone has to stand between our society and danger. If not my son, then who? If not little Alex then someone else will have to stand and deliver. Someoneâ€™s son, somewhere.â€
This is the sober truth. Unless we enter a world without enemies and without war, we will need young men and women willing to risk their lives for our nation. And weâ€™re not entering any such world.
* * *
The ad boldly embraces a vision of a selfish and infantilized America, suggesting that military service and sacrifice are unnecessary and deplorable relics of the past.
And the sole responsibility of others.
Note how deftly he replaces the implicit understanding that Iraq is a disaster borne of the grandiose fantasies of neocons like himself with the assumption that our imperial adventure is necessary to our very safety — and having made that conceptual leap, proceeds to note matter-of-factly that young parents whose dreams for their childrens’ futures do not include an appointment with a roadside IED some twenty years hence in a country we should never have invaded in the first place … are simply being selfish.
And from there, of course, it is a short hop and a skip to the conclusion that such parents are motivated by their irrational hatred for the troops.
You have to admire the sheer, breathtaking chutzpah of it all — particularly given the crowning irony that Kristol is one of the many architects of this war who themselves never served in the military, and who are entirely comfortable viewing the necessary sacrifices of wartime as the sole responsibility of others.