Thursday, November 15, 2007

True Fairness

I have to admit that I am uncomfortable doing so, but I have to hold up Glenn Greenwald's piece on Mit Romney as an example the kind of thing I find irrelevant, and underhanded. Part of me wants to say to Greenwald, "So, Mr. Big-Shot Lawyer, why don't you put up or shut up and act on all your convictions all the time?"

It is completely fair to criticize Romney's support of Bush's War Without End. It is completely fair to criticize Romney for claiming his children's work on his campaign is morally equivalent to military service in Iraq. It is, finally, even fair to criticize Romney's support of the Vietnam War.

It is irrelevant to say that his support of Vietnam was hypocritical because he did not serve in the military. It is irrelevant to say that, because he had the opportunity to serve and did not do so, any statements about Vietnam in the first instance, or Iraq in the second, are to be discounted. Implicit in Greenwald's piece is the idea that, in essence, Romney was a coward then, and a political opportunist now, willing to risk others' lives but not his own for wars he supports but isn't willing to fight (or send his sons off to).

Unlike Bill Clinton's complicated maneuvering about his draft status, Romney received a perfectly legal missionary deferment. Millions of college students also received deferments. By not serving, was their protest of the war in Vietnam as illegitimate as Romney's lack of service coupled with a support of Vietnam? In the end, Greenwald's argument boils down to one of two possibilities - either only those who have actual military service are qualified to speak out, for or against, military engagement; or in this instance, Romney's position, while perhaps hypocritical, is qualitatively different from the position of millions of other Americans who may support the war but do not, have not, and will not enlist in military service. In either case, he is wrong.

The piece is really a snide attack on Romney's "character"; Greenwald is, in essence, saying to Romney, "You have never put your blood or the blood of your sons on the line in military service; how dare you demand others do what you have never done?" This is merely the flip-side of the argument that only those who have served in the military are qualified to be President because the President is Commander-in-Chief, and only those with experience understand the military lifestyle.

This is not only unfair, it is among the cheapest, shallowest pieces I have read from a person whose writing, up until now, has been quite flawless. It is one thing to discuss the merits or lack thereof of candidate Romney's position on the war in Iraq. It is quite another thing to say, in essence, "Romney is a big chicken, yet a blood-thirsty one as well because he is quite willing to send others to do his dirty work for him."

The bit about the treatment Romney and his fellow missionaries in France received versus the harrowing life-threatening situations of his age-cohort confreres in Vietnam is perhaps the silliest, cheapest, most meaningless thing I have read on a left-wing blog in a long time. There is no absolute scale of suffering here; Romney and his fellow missionaries were in France to do a job, and it was most likely quite difficult because of the stupid, criminal war in Vietnam. Comparing the problems Romeny faced in France with those combat personnel encountered in Vietnam is snide and irrelevant.

You know, sometimes I hate being fair. The truth is, I was quite shocked by Glenn's piece, because it was exactly the kind of shabby, shoddy writing I really detest so much. The fever, it seems, has struck him, too. It is far easier to carry on about trivia and use inaccurate and unfair analogies to attack a candidate that to just say, "His position on this issue is wrong," and then go on and explain how wrong, and why it is wrong.

Virtual Tin Cup

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