Case Study In How Bias Rots Integrity: Washington Post Columnist Harold Meyerson

You see, Harold, this is your brain on bias. Yes, I know it looks yummy...

You see, Harold, this is your integrity on bias. Yes, I know it looks yummy…

Back in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, I exchanged some e-mails with Harold Meyerson, the left-est of the Post’s op-ed liberals. He had been condemning the Bush administration’s decision to go to war against Iraq—we were technically still at war with Iraq, since no peace terms had ever been agreed upon from the previous war, and Saddam was blatantly violating the terms of a cease-fire, but never mind—saying, among other things, that this was the first time in American history that the nation had embarked on a “war of choice” rather than necessity. This was a popular, and ignorant, “talking point” used by the anti-war critics at the time, and I was thoroughly sick of it being shouted in CNN debates without any objective participant protesting that it was a lie. I pointed out to the columnist that this was historical fantasy clothed as fact, and that he owed his readers better.

Most U.S. wars have been “wars of choice,” I wrote, and presumably Meyerson knew this. Arguably only the War of 1812, World War II and Afghanistan didn’t fit that description. The Revolution wasn’t a “war of choice”? Of course it was….most of the country would have been happy to stay subjects of the Crown. The Mexican War was not merely a “war of choice” but a war of “let’s trump up a reason to take away all this land belonging to Mexico” war.  Lincoln certainly didn’t have to oppose the secession of the Southern states and start the Civil War; indeed, the best Constitutional analysis is that he was acting beyond his authority to do so.The Spanish-American War? World War 1? Korea? Vietnam? Granada? Desert Storm? What country was Meyerson talking about?

To my surprise, Meyerson replied, politely and, I thought, a bit sheepishly. Yes, he said, of course you are right, but this war is more of a war of choice than those were. Translation:I oppose this war, and the party of this President, so I’ll say whatever is necessary to get people to agree with me, and I’ll convince myself in the process.” I’ve never taken a Meyerson column seriously since. His reasoning process, like so many on the ends of either side of the political spectrum, is to frame reality in the way that most comfortably supports his ideological objective, and then to allow that warped reality to become part of his own world view. I think this kind of thought process by confirmation bias should disqualify any infected media pundits from commentary, as much as habitual dishonesty, dementia or insanity.

Today, Meyerson once again shows how his biases rot his reasoning and integrity. His column is, as far as I can tell, a nosegay to President Obama’s decision to send the question of whether to shoot missiles at Syria in a “limited” but “decisive” attack (whatever that is) because it will place the GOP’s small-government and no-deficit  fanatics face-to-face with their own hypocrisy. How can they vote for national security while deriding the existence of government, Harold asks:

“That’s why the coming collision of libertarian fantasies with reality will be instructive. Can a congressman vote to defund the government and approve a military action in the same month? Or vote to authorize cruise missile attacks while insisting the government default on its debts? All these issues will soon come before Congress in rapid succession.”

Apparently Meyerson sees nothing wrong with the President intentionally mixing national security with political warfare, in the one area that is supposed to be non-partisan. Hey, killing some innocent Syrians to impose imaginary punishment on a brutal dictator who has already shown that he doesn’t mind killing his own people, defying the U.N., breaching international law to uphold it, throwing a smoldering match into the flammable mess of the Middle East and making America look weak, confused and hypocritical to the world is all well and good to Harold, as long as a Democrat is doing it and can stick it to Republicans in the process.

Wait…is there any mention in Harold’s essay that this is a “war of choice”?

Why, no, actually, there isn’t.

In the process, Meyerson gives his similarly brain-locked fans another yummy dose of false history.

“If the American right increasingly seems to occupy an alternative planet, that’s largely because its media outlets — we can throw Fox News into the mix — dwell on stories so exquisitely calibrated to excite the right that they may not be stories at all. The New Black Panther Party? The Epidemic of Voter Fraud? The calculated perfidy of Benghazi?”

The American right occupies an alternative planet? With that paragraph sentence, Meyerson proclaims his residence on Melmac:

  • The New Black Panthers did, in fact, post two intentionally menacing members, one of them armed, outside a Philadelphia polling place in 2008, and a hyper-partisan Thomas Perez did, in fact, ensure that the Justice Department reverse the decision to charge the two with voting rights violations. The subsequent Inspector General’s report on the incident confirmed that the decision was probably ideologically driven and that many in Justice did not believe that the Department should be bringing civil rights cases against African-Americans. This wasn’t a made-up story. Meyerson just pooh-poohs it , like any good leftist radical ( he is like a clone of the SDS screamers I argued with ad nauseum in college)  because he also thinks racism runs in only one direction. Let Whitey get a little taste of his own medicine. How post-racial.
  • “The Epidemic of Voter Fraud” is Harold’s cute, deceitfully false characterization of  the voter ID debate. I don’t care if there are ten instances of voter fraud or 100,000; the voting process should be as secure as possible. The election of 2000 was determined by a handful of votes. Requiring voters to prove that they are who they say they are is reasonable, obvious and necessary. Last year, the son of my crooked Congressman (Jim Moran, D-VA ) was caught on video explaining how someone should orchestrate a voter fraud effort. Harold could be lying, but because he was nice enough to respond semi-truthfully to that 2001 e-mail, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and just conclude that he’s deluded.
  • “The calculated perfidy of Benghazi”….I’m not going to be nice about this, however. The fact that the Obama administration intentionally misled the public regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of the American ambassador to Libya and other American personnel has been thoroughly established, with only media lackeys  like Meyerson keeping alive the Orwellian myth that there wasn’t a multi-party cover-up to avoid having to deal with inconvenient truths before the voting booths opened on a tight election. That the Obama Administration has been the beneficiary of the ironic Clinton-era phenomenon of superceding scandals—the IRS, NSA, now Syria—doesn’t excuse any pundit from going back to the demonstrably false “Susan Rice was telling the truth as the Administration knew it” talking point. Really, how dare Meyerson do this? How dare a Washington Post editor permit him to do this? Lies are not legitimate opinion.

Harold Meyerson’s a smart man, and a scholarly, analytical view from the hard ideological left would add a welcome counter-point to the commentary of George Will and Charles Krauthammer from the conservative side. Unfortunately, Meyerson, either by choice or by compulsion, seems to be unable to prevent his ideology from fracturing his integrity.


Source: Washington Post

18 thoughts on “Case Study In How Bias Rots Integrity: Washington Post Columnist Harold Meyerson

  1. In this case, limited but decisive likely means the use of guided missiles against, key Syrian military equipment, infrastructure, and/or troop concentrations to cripple or severely degrade its war making ability. Which is a form of attack that, historically speaking, we have a good track record with.

    • That isn’t decisive. Not by any military analysis. It may accidentally lead to an advantage for the rebels (unlikely on its own) it may degrade some chemical calabilities. Still not decisive.

      • By all historical accounts precision strikes on formal militaries are crippling. The Gulf War and the second invasion of Iraq are prime examples of the efficacy of these attacks. Hell, they’re a huge reason for the transition into decentralized insurgency by our enemies – a strategy built in part to negate this advantage. Assad’s regime is not a decentralized insurgency, it is a fairly conventional force with clear and obvious concentrations of power (in keeping with the Clausewitzian concept). If the purpose of these attacks is to topple the Assad regime then they are by all means decisive.

        • Limited almost certainly refers to the totality of military investment by the United States. Which is to say little to no boots on the ground or anything in the way of a major invasion – to allay fears of engaging in yet another major war. And by “little” I mean maybe some high speed SF or SF-capable type guys to secure chem-weapon depots against ransack by rebel forces and (potentially) allied terrorist groups.

          • Regardless of how limited or all-out the military action is against the Assad government, there remains the risk management problem concerning the killer chemicals.

            In the internal war situation of Syria, if you degrade a party that currently controls the poisons (in the manner of degrading that is evidently being debated at this time), you risk enabling additional parties – parties of even less predictability and of less reliable responsiveness to more trustworthy parties’ “influence” than the targeted party – to gain control of at least some of the poisons. Is that risk worth taking? I don’t think so.

            Why can’t the U.S. either let Russia lead in dealing with Syria, or just leave it alone? You know, I don’t see Russia planning to lob cruise missiles into Mexico because of the internal warfare that’s going on there (thank God). But then, of course, Putin did not make a “red line” statement about Mexico’s (supposedly) narcotics-driven war.

            U.S. military strikes on Syria – in the developing, self-appointed “cowboy” or (at best) “vigilante posse leader” role – can only lead to worse security situations for all who have interests at stake in the Syrian people’s situation and its evolution. “Special forces” plans play out beautifully in the movies and in war games, but are messy enough in reality as to be foolhardy to rely upon in Syria. Violence in Mexico is instructive.

            • To summarize the first and second paragraphs, which revolve around the risk of destabilizing Assad and his grip of the chemical weapon stock piles, I refer you the last sentence of one of my other comments: “And by ‘little’ [in the way troop deployment] I mean maybe some high speed SF or SF-capable type guys to secure chem-weapon depots against ransack by rebel forces and (potentially) allied terrorist groups.” We have forces purpose built for missions like this.

              The third paragraph revolves around a strawman (or at the very least dishonest) metaphor. Russia is not calling for action against Mexico because, unlike Syria, the Mexican government is not committing broad and serious crimes against humanity – which is one the generally accepted reasons for a third party country to perform an armed intervention.

              “U.S. military strikes on Syria… can only lead to worse security situations for all who have interests at stake in the Syrian people’s situation and its evolution.” How so? Is this The One Truth its presented as? There are no other possibilities? Of course, these rhetorical questions illustrate the weakness of the point. Its unsupported, absolutist, and narrow in scope. Its more likely that the Syria, after the removal of Assad, will go the way of other recently revolutionized middle-eastern countries and try to set up its own democratic government. It may devolve into an Egypt type scenario rife with instability, or it may not. Cross that diplomatic/military bridge when it actually shapes because right now, there isnt enough known about the Syrian rebel’s political or ideological disposition to make that call. But in the mean time, a man responsible for serious crimes against humanity will be removed from power and the world will have yet another reminder of how the international community reacts to these kinds of governments.

              “Special forces [with omitted scare-qoutes] plans play out beautifully in the movies and in war games, but are messy enough in reality as to be foolhardy to rely upon in Syria.” In reality its the opposite. Special Forces missions are dramatized and actionized in the movies and rarely reflect the reality of an operation. These are men who have every resource and bit of training the modern technologically advanced military can give them. Years of day-in and day-out training. The best equipment money can buy and near unrestricted access to on call support platforms. The reality is that we have an extremely fine tuned, experienced, and capable Special Forces corp with a truly astonishing success rate.

    • Wrong. The Administration has specifically said that it does not intend to tip the balance of power in the civil war. So the attack by definition can not be “decisive.” War is Peace. Limited is Decisive. Uh-huh…

      • To be clear my intent is to point out that limited and decisive, with reference to military action, are not somehow oxymoronic as implied in the 4th paragraph and in the above comment. As it turns out Obama just doesnt know what hes talking about, but that seems to be the point of the last couple posts on Syria, and its not something I disagree with.

        • I gather you are saying that “limited” and “decisive” is not necessarily oxymoronic when spoken by someone who knows what he is talking about and not simply spinning bullshit to get by. I’ll buy that. But it is tangential to the issue at hand, where the limited strikes being talked about cannot possibly be decisive and the striker has said in advice that he doesn’t intend them to be. How about “limited,” “decisive,” and “a shot across the bow.” Oxymoronic yet?

          • Its tangential in the sense that it seems like a minor logical correction that doesnt fundamentally alter your argument. Agreed. I mention it because without the context of Obama’s contradictory claims (which I was unaware of) it seems to argue that the general idea of a limited and decisive strike is an idiotic one, when in reality (I would argue) its one of the most reasonable and feasible options – and in this capacity very relevant to Obama’s options in Syria.

  2. I wouldn’t characterize this as a fault of hard-core love of Leftism. His a hardcore love of the messiah Obama. I don’t think the use of war is a right or left thing… Rather the reasons for war may be a right/left thing.

    His support of this war has nothing to do with rightist/leftist reasons because I don’t think Obama has any leftist reason for this war (hell, I don’t think he has any reason for this war other than diversionary purposes and a need to look tough afte his foolish words). Meyerskn is Just blindly following the leader.

  3. Jack – I believe the politically correct term for a ‘nosegay’ is a ‘tussie-mussie’!!! Sorry. I just couldn’t resist (erm . . . Not really but I thought it would be funny).

    During the run-up 9and aftermath) to the Second Iraq War, all we heard from the center-left to the progressives to the Michael Moores to the MSNBC types was the “Bush lied and people died” and that it was pay-back for Hussein’s attempted assassination of his father.

    Now, our President used inartful language, establishing a condition to US military force and, in order to save face, now he has to act militarily, so that he doesn’t look weak or indecisive. After that, he further bungles it by saying he doesn’t need Congressional authority only to reverse course and say that, while really needing it he’s going to do it anyway just because he thinks it will be a good political move. If the resolution fails, then he can declare that intransigent, partisan and uncooperative Republicans don’t care about people’s suffering. If the resolution passes, then he can say that he had Congressional approval for his actions. In his mind, it is a political victory either way.


  4. Remember, we were the injured parties leading up to the Mexican-American war and we were the long-shot underdogs in that war. It was a war of choice but it was a choice of ‘fight to be taken seriously as a country’ or ‘not fight and continue to be ignored and treated as a joke’. Don’t look at such a war through modern prejudices.

    • I don’t see that. The “American blood shed on American soil” was a pretense. Polk had run on a Manifest Destiny platform. Who was the oddsmaker setting the U.S. as an underdog? Texas had managed to beat Mexico with as ragtag a bunch as one could imagine. The War was widely derided…by Rep. Lincoln, among others, as a moral outrage. And it was certainly a war of choice.

      Hey, I’m glad we have Arizona, New Mexico and California, but the Mexican war was as Machiavellian as it gets.

  5. How were the British-American War (as we call it, given that what Napoleon was doing in Russia was the more important war in 1812) and Afghanistan not “war[s] of choice”? Even supposing that British actions provided a genuine casus belli for the former (which is improbable, given that they had not led to war in earlier decades), they were in fact lawful pending full U.S. compliance with the 1783 Treaty of Paris and would have been resolved had that been delivered (e.g. agreed reparations and amnesties), and as for the latter, the Taliban government of Afghanistan expressed willingness to deport Osama bin Laden if they received a prima facie case for his guilt over the U.S. terrorist attacks. That means that the casus belli for each of those wars followed from a U.S. choice not to pursue a diplomatic solution.

    It is also worth pointing out that the previous embargo, that had been made out to be even handed, in fact asymmetrically harmed vital British naval supplies (timber, cordage, tar, etc.) but not French ones sourced from the Baltic, that Napoleon was attempting to cut off with his “Continental Policy” at the same time; they may well have been co-ordinated efforts. Both attempts failed, Napoleon’s through Russian recalcitrance and the American one through Canadian second sourcing; both wars of 1812 served the purpose of giving them full effect, and may have been intended to do so. Had those supplies failed, Britain would shortly have been unable to sustain its defence against invasion. (When I first looked into this, I wondered if this information was not available at the time but only with hindsight, so that the threat to Britain might have been inadvertent and not realised by those making it. However, I found that Tom Paine specifically alluded to the strategic necessity of those resources in his “Common Sense”, so it must have been general knowledge at the time as he never looked more deeply into things than most people – had he done so, like Chalmers in his rebuttal of Paine “Plain Truth”, he wouldn’t have connected.)

  6. Pingback: Harold Meyerson: A tea party purge among the GOP – The Washington Post | Ye Olde Soapbox

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