Thursday, October 10, 2002


The Bush campaign for war against Iraq has been insulting to American citizens, not just because it has been dishonest, but because it has been unserious. A lie is insulting; an obvious lie is doubly insulting. Arguments that stumble into each other like drunks are not serious. Washington is abuzz with the "real reason" this or that subgroup of the administration wants this war. A serious and respectful effort to rally the citizenry would offer the real reasons, would base the conclusion on the evidence rather than vice versa, would admit to the ambiguities and uncertainties, would be frank about the potential cost. A serious effort to take the nation into war would not hesitate to interrupt people while they're watching a sitcom.

But citizens ought to be more serious, too. They tell pollsters they favor the Bush policy, then they say they favor conditions like U.N. approval that are not part of the Bush policy. Many, in polls, seem to make a distinction between war, which they favor, and casualties, which they don't. Neither side in this argument has an open-and-shut case, and certainly agreeing with the president's case doesn't make you a fool. Agreeing with the president even though you didn't hear his case—because he apparently didn't much care if you heard it—is a different story.