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Criticism Election 2008 McCain Politics

Where did the real Glenn Greenwald Go?

Glenn Greenwald has been one of the best – and most influential – voices in the blogosphere. Every day he writes an incisive piece exploring some hypocrisy within the Republican establishment and/or the press. He has been one of the few voices keeping alive such vitally relevant stories as the Pentagon propaganda scandal, the US attorney firings scandal, the many torture scandals, and the general media acquiescence to telling their stories on terms set by the Right. Greenwald’s writing does have a particular sense of continuous outrage that becomes off-putting. As serious as the issues we face are, outrage can become wearing. Despite this stylistic critique, I have found Greenwald to be one of the most insightful commentators on our current politics.

But since Glenn Greenwald has gotten back from his book tour, his writing has seemed off. Take these three lines from three of his latest blog entries:

They’re as transparent as they are dishonest and bloodthirsty.

The central truth of the 2008 election is that, with the exception of a few relatively inconsequential and symbolic matters, John McCain enthusiastically embraces the Bush/Cheney worldview in every way that matters.

John McCain is the ultimate embodiment of America’s hoary, Vietnam era “stabbed-in-the-back” myth. We should fight wars with massive bombing campaigns and unleashed force, unconstrained by excessive concerns over “collateral damage” and unimpeded by domestic questioning. That’s how we could have (and should have) “won” in Vietnam and how we’ll “win” in Iraq. That’s why the central truth of the 2008 election is that, when it comes to foreign policy, the Kristol/Lieberman-supported John McCain is a carbon copy of the Bush/Cheney warmongering mentality except that he’s actually more extreme about its core premises.

With all of these, I agree with the basic points Greenwald is making – but he veers into the territory of unconvincing polemicism instead of the more nuanced yet strongly worded critiques that are his best.  For me, even worse are the topical errors he has made.

In today’s piece about McCain embracing the “stabbed-in-the-back” narrative about Vietnam, Greenwald has to retract one of the more damning insinuations he makes – that McCain cares nothing for civilian casualties in war.

In another piece last week, Greenwald wrote about “The right’s selective political manipulation of Catholicism.”  But instead of taking the arguments of his opponents seriously, he – whether through laziness or misunderstanding – simply ignores their points.  Kathyrn Jean Lopez of the National Review is an extremely lazy thinker who Greenwald should be able to defeat handily in a blog-battle.  Yet Greenwald’s response to Lopez ends up being wildly off the mark.  He tries to attack her for hypocrisy for saying she wants to protect innocent human life while supporting Republicans.  Republicans have started a war that has cost over a million lives, Greenwald rightly points out.  What he fails to acknowledge is that Lopez would point to the hundreds of millions of “innocent lives” lost to abortion as a countervailing force.

She can – and should – still be taken to task for hypocrisy.  Andrew Sullivan has been especially effective on this front.  But Greenwald ended up seeming like a petty hack.

I know he’s better than that which is why I’m disappointed.

I have hope though that after some time to recuperate, the real Greenwald will be back.

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