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Smear Politics.....From Joe Klein

The Weekly Standard's Scrapbook takes on Joe Klein's distortion of the truth in last week's Time magazine column "The Perils of the Permanent Campaign":

Joe Klein last week went after the Bush White House for what he alleged was its reflexive technique for dealing with unpleasant news: "destroy the messenger." Klein's evidence?

A prominent Republican . . . told me that the White House had sent out talking points about how to attack Brent Scowcroft after Bush the Elder's National Security Adviser went public with his opposition to the war in the New Yorker magazine. "I was so disgusted that I deleted the damn e-mail before I read it," the Republican said. "But that's all this White House has now: the politics of personal destruction."

Take it from The Scrapbook, Joe: You need to find yourself a better class of prominent Republican, starting with one who reads his email and doesn't lie to you about its contents. We're assuming, of course, that your source even received the email, although he may simply have read a rumor of its existence on an especially hysterical anti-Bush blog, which claimed that "the White House revenge-team is out to get Brent Scowcroft."

Why does The Scrapbook speak with such confidence about your source's unreliability? Because, notwithstanding our own lack of prominence, we received the email in question. Not only were we not disgusted, we actually read it, and it was about as ad hominem as a seminar paper.

In the interest of further enlightening the public on the "smear" machine at the White House, here is the entire rebuttal from the email in question:

Some Thoughts in Response
1. Bernard Lewis is perhaps our greatest living historian on the Middle East.
2. Ronald Reagan calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire" was accurate, courageous, and important, as we learned from (among others) Soviet dissidents.
3. The assertion that we have had "fifty years of peace" in the Middle East is an odd one, if you consider (a) America's 1991 war against Iraq (which General Scowcroft favored); (b) the Iraq-Iran war (in which there were a million casualties; (c) the conflict in the early 1970s between Jordan and the Palestinians; (d) the civil war in Lebanon; (e) the four wars between Israel and Arab nations; and (f) the attacks of September 11, 2001 (which was carried out by Islamic radicals who emerged from the broader Middle East).
In some ways this point underscores the enormous difference between the worldview of Mr. Scowcroft and those in the Bush Administration. Mr. Scowcroft seems to believe that the status quo in the Middle East is tolerable, maybe even preferable; we do not. The President believes that if the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation and anger and violence for export. In the words of President Bush, "In the past, [we] have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold."
4. The "bad guys" -- the most ruthless among us -- do not "always" rise to the top. In fact in many elections - in Spain and Portugal, Nicaragua and El Salvador, the Czech Republic and Romania, South Africa and the Philippines, Indonesia and Ukraine, Afghanistan and Iraq, and many more - we have seen enormous strides toward freedom. For example, the Western Hemisphere has transformed itself over the last two decades from a region dominated by repressive, authoritarian regimes to one in which the overwhelming number of countries there have democratically-elected governments and growing civil societies.
It's also worth bearing in mind that some pretty bad guys (like Saddam Hussein) "win elections" in authoritarian and totalitarian societies. Indeed, non-democracies make it far easier for the "bad guys" to prevail than is the case with democracies. Is it the supposition of Mr. Scowcroft that from a historical point of view dictatorships have a better record than democracies? Or that because democratic elections don't always turn out well they can never turn out well? Or that because democratic elections don't always turn out well we should prefer authoritarian and totalitarian regimes? The habit of mind that sees all the weaknesses in democracy and all the "strengths" in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes is, well, curious.
5. Mr. Scowcroft insists we will not "democratize" Iraq and that "in any reasonable time frame the objective of democratizing the Middle East can be successful." Except that in the last two-and-a-half years Iraq has moved from tyranny, to liberation, to national elections, to the writing of a constitution, to the passage of a constitution. By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress. Iraq still faces challenges, including a ruthless insurgency -- but there is no question that the people of Iraq long for democracy and for victory over the insurgency.
The charge that the way we have sought to bring democracy to Iraq is "you invade, you threaten and pressure, you evangelize" is itself deeply misleading. Mr. Scowcroft's invasion was in fact a liberation -- and overthrowing one of the worst tyrannies in modern times and replacing it with free elections is a good start on the pathway to liberty. And of course this year we have also seen political progress -- not perfection, but progress -- in Kuwait, Egypt, and among the Palestinians.
6. The notion that democratic progress in Lebanon is "unrelated" to the war in Iraq is undermined by what the Lebanese themselves have told us. To take just one example, here are the words of Walid Jumblatt, who was once a harsh critic of American policy: "'It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
7. Mr. Scowcroft seems to wish that Syria were still ruling Lebanon with an iron fist. Brutal repression may be;wicked -- but (Scowcroft seems to believe) it does keep a lid on "sectarian emotions."
8. Sometimes when given a chance, we humans don't screw up. Sometimes ;human beings reach for, and (even if imperfectly) attain, nobility and the advancement of freedom and human dignity.Which seems to me to be an argument against cynicism and despair -- to say nothing of repression and tyranny. Let the debate proceed.
 We will let you decide who is really doing the smearing in Washington these days.

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