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11.2.04

My Interest Is AWOL

Much like politicians' pro forma denunciations of "special interests," there's an unspoken rule that political commentators are required to denounce the media's obsession with scandals and "gotcha" politics, yet dive into the latest scandal with gusto, particularly if it helps their side. I guess that makes me a bad commentator, because despite my desire to see Bush slinking back to Crawford in January, I don't think the "Bush AWOL" scandal is terribly important. Despite the embarrassing awfulness of my first ever political commentary, I stand by its central premise -- that we should judge politicians by what they will accomplish on the job. Perhaps for someone without much of a political record it might be relevant how they spent their days during the Vietnam War. We have to construct a hypothesis about their probable execution of their office. But in the case of a sitting president, we don't need that kind of hypothesis. We have three years' worth of actual direct data about how George W. Bush does his presidenting. Would it change the security situation in Baghdad if we proved that the now-president blew off his National Guard duty thirty years ago? Would the Iraqi and American deaths suddenly become more justified if Bush vindicated himself and showed that he had been on the base the whole time? The AWOL scandal, and the whole "chickenhawk" meme, is a sort of ad hominem, suggesting that the validity of the case for war depends on the character of the person making it.

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