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Faking a Difference

A Serious Debate?

by JOHN L. HESS

The Times says hurrah!–we’ve now had "the start of the kind of serious and useful debate the American people deserve."

Well, goody, but how did the two opponents differ?

We’ve been here before, in another war that everybody now admits to have been–to put it kindly–a mistake. In 1968 the contender, Richard Nixon, implied that he had a plan to get out. Four years later, he said he WAS getting out, by degrees. Today, neither guy has any plan but to stay the course.

Dubya Bush should be in bad trouble, but he’s so cocky that he went to the United Nations — that house so hated by the far right–to tell the whole world off. Kerry’s backers are in a panic–for good reason. Paul Krugman prays that he won’t let himself be trapped into neo-con fantasies — which of course he has done when he talks of enlisting foreign and Iraqi support. He says that winding down our occupation and letting others work it is probably the best we can hope for. Nixon call that Vietnamization. He didn’t mean it, and it didn’t work.

David Brooks takes on the neocon side. Typically, he begins by praising Kerry for finally taking a stand. He asks a keen question about drawing down our forces — what do you say to the last man who dies before you finish pulling out. His column is typical of Brooks — pretending to look at it sympathetically from our side, while slipping in a dart now and then. Only a year ago, Brooks was caught faking a political portrait of a redneck county in Pennsylvania. That didn’t keep him from getting a fat job at the Times. Poor Dan Rather bit on a forged memo that was essentially true, and he’s being made the villain of the day.

When does the serious debate begin?

JOHN L. HESS is a former writer for the New York Times, a career he chronicles in his excellent new book My Times: a Memoir of Dissent. Hess is now a political commentator for WBAI. Hess’s blog can be read at: johnlhess.blogspot.com