The point I was trying to make

I’m quoted in an article in the New York Times today about left-leaning writers and the war, and I think it may be one of those quotes which makes sense in the context of a forty-five minute conversation with a reporter, but which is too easily misinterpreted when read in the cold stark light of dawn.

This is the quote:

“Being against the war is somewhat analogous to defending the rights of Nazis to march in Skokie.”

I think this is a slight misquote — I think what I actually said was that it was analagous to when the ACLU defends the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, an admittedly small distinction. More to the point, I emphasized that this was an extremely imperfect analogy, emphasis which unfortunately didn’t make it into the article. For clarification’s sake, I was not — as some emailers seem to think — suggesting that the anti-war movement was ever about defending Saddam — I was actually trying to make exactly the opposite point. What I hoped to convey was that, as the ACLU was not pro-Nazi, the anti-war movement was not pro-Saddam — in both cases, the concern was with larger principles and precedents. The successes of the war notwithstanding, I am extraordinarily troubled by the Pandora’s box which may have been opened by our declaration that pre-emptive strikes are a fine way for nations to do business — India, for instance, is already considering a possible pre-emptive strike against Pakistan, using the U.S. precedent as justification.

The analogy falls apart, of course, if one thinks about it too long, which is exactly why I hoped to stress that I understood it to be imperfect. I guess this is the problem when you step outside of your own sandbox. If I have something I want to say here, or in the cartoon, I spend hours, days sometimes, thinking about it, trying to make sure that my words are not open to misinterpretation. In the course of an interview with a reporter, you have no such luxury. Which is why smart people go into these things armed with talking points, I suppose, and don’t try to ad-lib it.