Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Yep, Stuff Happens.

In a recent blog entry titled "Stuff Happens," Frere Dreher begins by criticizing the supposed nonchalance with which the Bush Administration reacts to failures in its foreign policy, before going on to criticize the administration's idealism.

Never mind that Rumsfeld's quote reflects neither idealism nor naivete, but realism in the face of the rather obvious fact that looting often follows in the aftermath of war, and never mind that the media's reaction to that particular comment was built on the ridiculous assumption that, even in war, stuff in fact doesn't happen.

Never mind all that: Dreher concludes the blog entry this way:
And now look at where our idealism has got us. Oh, and by the way? A new top-secret authoritative intelligence assessment by the US Government finds that the Iraq War -- for all the dead and maimed, and all the hundreds of billions poured down a rathole -- has made America less safe from terrorism. Stuff happens.

I don't think you'd know this from reading Rod's blog, but Bush authorized the declassification of that top-secret assessment. Apparently, the immediate context of the money quote to which Rod is referring reveals that the New York Times were either deceived by their sources or are guilty of themselves being deceitful.

There were apparently reasons to doubt the trustworthiness of the media's accounts of that assessment, even before its full release and certainly more so since then.

So -- not for the first time -- Rod has egg on his face from trusting a second-hand account from the mainstream media.

How will he handle this? Will he simply ignore the error that was made? Will he claim that he's "just" a writer?

Or will he tell us that stuff happens?


Blogger kathleen said...

dreher knows nothing about realpolitik, the military, etc., and has demonstrated complete lack of interest in learning about such. i watched an episode of the Aaron Sorkin's new show "studio 360", -- (Sorkin wrote west wing and is familiar with narcotics). there's a "born again christian" character on the show, and the character is a TV actress who thinks bashing bush is totally cool and rigorously defends the right of her producers to mock christians in comedy sketches, etc. For sorkin, since the character is really attractive and talented, being christian isn't a fatal flaw, it's just part of her zaniness. it occurs to me that dreher is modelling himself as a "sorkin conservative" -- he obviously aspires to please those who deride conservatives while meaninglessly calling himself a conservative at the same time. and he apparently thinks the foreign policy angle is the best with which to prove his sorkin-esque bona fides. (i conclude this because he gives no other substantive reasons for being against bush's foreign policy, other than war and killing and terrorism really suck so any president who doesn't try and magically abolish them is bad.)

oooh there i go "obsessing" about dreher again.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Personally, I'm willing to give Dreher the benefit of the doubt in terms of sincerity: maybe he isn't trying to appeal to liberals with his kneejerk opposition to Bush's foreign policy, maybe he (bizarrely) means what he says.

But: he seems to be fully aware of the threat that militant Islam poses...

(Yet another inconsistency, it seems to me.)

...he has no genuinely constructive criticism (i.e., suggestions for how we ought to improve our foreign policy), he has nothing to say to those of us who have responded to his snarky criticism, and -- most damningly -- he doesn't seem to be aware of the consequences of what he does support.

He has advocated and presumably still supports Rumsfeld's resignation. Does anyone truly think that al Queda and Hezbollah, Iran and Syria will tremble if that happens? Will our reputation be stronger if the United States' Secretary of Defense resigns in disgrace, not because of criticism from the hawkish right, but because of criticism from the appeasing left?

It's insane to think so, and it's irresponsible for a newspaper editor not even to give thought to the subject of cause and effect.

Regardless of his motives, is there any reason to take Dreher even half as seriously as he clearly thinks we should?

5:55 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

"Personally, I'm willing to give Dreher the benefit of the doubt in terms of sincerity: maybe he isn't trying to appeal to liberals ..."

oh, i don't think "sincerity" precludes dreher wanting to appeal to liberals. he sincerely wants to appeal to them, or perhaps to the liberal in himself. maybe a matter of wanting to fit in socially in some way. in any case, he's unmoored.

7:23 AM  
Blogger JB said...

Rod strikes me as one of those smart but kinda nerdy guys who thought they should have the hottest chicks and tons of friends because they read books and felt deep thoughts in high school but is mad because he didn't.

He can't just get on board with being a conservative, he has to come up with these outrageous and unfounded criticisms to show that he is a little smarter than the average bear.

It gets old.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Someone mentioned pumpkin beer in a combox over there recently. What an apt metaphor for crunchy conservatism. I like beer and most pumpkin products but I don't think they need to be mixed -- I tried it once, and I didn't get it. So "Hey, we might be conservative, but we're COOL too!" is the mantra I here ringing in almost every page and post Rod has written.

So to JB's point about being cool and popular: if you're conservative, you're not. Face it, accept it. Get married, have kids who look up to you because sorry, that hottie in the coffee shop doesn't.

Interestingly enough, Rod recently slammed a couple of seminarians for posting a goofy youtube video. A small minority of readers agreed, most notably Kathleen and yours truly! Possibly for different reasons; at least Rod realized that maturity can be a more important trait than coolness in a priest or seminarian, indeed, that there are some things, uh, call 'em "the Permanent Things", that are beyond cool.

7:16 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

yeah, my big problem is with priests, or priests in training over the age of 18, acting like, and calling themselves, "boyz". or even just "boys".

and the rayrod has a problem with that too apparently --while calling himself Our Working Boy all the time.

8:34 AM  
Blogger SiliconValleySteve said...

Rod's problem is that he has no center. He converts from one opinion to the next like he's ordering dim sum. He has drifted all over the map in his life and doesn't see the flakyness of any of it. He actually reminds me of Jerry Brown. What I always say about Jerry is that if you don't agree with him now, just wait awhile.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Art Deco said...

I have always rather liked Jerry Brown.

That aside, I would not wager his social thought (such as it is) is in the form of a set of fickle consumer preferences. Looked at roughly and impressionistically, it appears to have two consistent features:

a. an origin in the viscera

b. understandable as a series of rejections: of West Feliciana; then of the campus leftoid nexus; now of the Catholic Church, the Republican Party, and the conservative press.

Gilbert Meilander wrote of contempt being a consistent feature of his writing but a default mode of accusation might be closer to the mark: something borne not of a sense of superiority but of a sense of having been injured.

6:21 PM  
Blogger SiliconValleySteve said...


If I get what you're saying, you're take is that Rod has taken the counter-culture left idea of "the personal is political" and defined it as "the political is a manifestation of my personal psycho-drama."

Is that it?

6:33 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

"the political is a manifestation of my personal psycho-drama"

exactly the point i was trying to make with the post "9/11: The Day That Rod Was There"

9:22 PM  
Blogger Art Deco said...


I do not imagine he does so self-consciously. He has defensible (if not necessarily compelling) reasons for advocating what he does at any given point in time. I think Paul Hollander has tried to make the case that political views are often a function of a person's personal travails, though how often who knows.

Any idea has to be defended or rejected on its merits, not the inner life of its advocates. But it does seem as if a fairly fixed understanding of who he himself is in relation to his environment IS the unifying theme of his social thought. He affiliates, is disaffected, disaffiliates, then repairs to another set which has a standing critique of wherever he has been before. There is a certain sense to where he goes, so it is not like ordering from a Chinese menu.

As has been noted, it is his default to apprehend public events or ordinary mishaps as injuries to his kith and kin. Consider how one might examine Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath: as a natural disaster, as a failure of engineering, as a failure of political and administrative social organization, or as a cautionary about the dangers of political patronage. You could also regard it as a betrayal of people like your father by the Republican Party and the Bush Administration. Consider how you might regard discomfort in practicing natural family planning. You could say that for occult reasons, it is more difficult for you than for others; you could also accuse the people who write NFP promotional literature of having sold you a bill of goods.

I tend to share some of Brother Dreher's (current) distaste for aspects of contemporary life, but he does not show that he has the analytical skills to delineate the problem properly (which cannot be well understood through narratives, much less one's personal narrative).

3:24 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

AD: "I tend to share some of Brother Dreher's (current) distaste for aspects of contemporary life, but he does not show that he has the analytical skills to delineate the problem properly..."

Well put, Art, the whole lot of it. His recent post about the Kansas farmer is another good case to look at for these tendencies. I myself can feel bad for this guy, but only in the same way I feel bad for my 4-year-old when it comes time for his friends to go home and he becomes extremely sad, to put it very mildly. But is it anyone's fault really, or just something that happens as change happens?

Many people who gravitate to Rod's camp read this and immediately want to rectify this "injustice" via some type of revenging action. But the frustration they then have is who do you punish? According to this guy, the Dems and Repubs are sleazeballs from "smoke-filled rooms" unlike the saintly FDR, his fave pres. You remember him, the philandering 4-term com-in-chief whose famous photograph portrays him smoking with an enormous grin?

I was born in the same year as Rod and had many of the same experiences. I long to say to people like him "Don't believe all those made for TV movies that we saw growin' up," and have him repeat after me "I. Am. Not. A. Victim."

8:36 AM  

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