It fell, it seems, to David Brooks to start the effort to distort what John Kerry said in his speech yesterday and pull the debate back from any discussion of what is actually going on in Iraq. His column in tomorrow's Times is a classic Brooks' 'faint praiser' in which he structures the column as an attempt to give his quarry his due while actually distorting what the person in question actually said.
I'll try to comment on this tomorrow. But for now a few salient points.
To read Brooks' column, Kerry came out foursquare for a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. But read the actual speech. That's not what he said at all. Brooks hangs the claim on a passage toward the end of the speech in which Kerry says that if the president does all the right things now we could begin withdrawing troops a year from now -- next summer -- and "realistically aim" to have all of our troops out in four years.
That, to Brooks, is rapid withdrawal and retreat: the possibility of any end in sight, ever.
Whether you agree with the speech and policies or not, what Kerry called for in the speech wasn't withdrawal. He said the president's policies have failed and that we need different policies and a different president if we are to prevent Iraq from "becom[ing] a permanent source of terror that will endanger America's security for years to come."
The point of Brook's column is to allow only two options: denial and 'retreat'.
The Brooks line, which is the Bush line, is that "the U.S. should stay as long as it takes to rebuild Iraq." But this platitude is simply a way of ducking discussion about whether the president's policies are working and whether things are getting better or worse.
Brooks, like Bush, is like a man in the sea, a fifty pound lead weight chained to his feet, slowly sinking into the waves. It's a tough road, he says as the water laps around his neck, but I'm going to keep at it as long as it takes until I start floating up instead of sinking down.
As long as it takes.
I'm staying the course.
Bubble, gurgle, bubble ...
Denial ... and did I mention the weight is chained to your feet too?