Obama, Fox, the GOP, the media, and nuclear strategy: why not call a lie a lie?

The treaty Barack Obama just signed with Dmitri Medvedev, and the strategy statement that went with it, are impeccably sensible. Fox News runs footage of mushroom cloulds while Newt Gingrich lies through his teeth about what’s in the statement. The mainstream media sits on its hands, and only Jon Stewart does the job of an actual journalist.

The next time Newt Gingrich appears one of the Sunday talk shows – which he does constantly, despite having held no office since he left the Speakership in disgrace – some actual journalist, were one present, might ask him a simple question:

Mr. Speaker, why are you such a m@therf%cking liar?

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Alas, the only actual journalist left on TV works for the Comedy Channel. Too bad, really.

Look, this isn’t a close call. On an issue as important as nuclear strategy, Rupert Murdoch and his subordinates in the Republican Party have managed to spread an astonishing falsehood, and current journalistic conventions call for George Stephanopoulos to demand that the President of the United States respond to the lunatic ravings of a former half-term governor but do not call for anyone except Jon Stewart to call the liars to account. Not a single Republican leader – not even the formerly reasonable Dick Lugar – has come to the President’s defense when his borderline-insane enemies accuse him of opening up the country to biological attack. Instead, the Republicans, and their lickspittle from Connecticut, are lined up to use the ratification process to extract tens of billions of dollars a year in useless spending on “modernizing” the nuclear arsenal.

The brute fact of the matter is that the Republican Party has rendered itself utterly unfit to hold power, and has done so largely invisibly because the mainstream media lack the backbone to report what’s in front of their nose.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

18 thoughts on “Obama, Fox, the GOP, the media, and nuclear strategy: why not call a lie a lie?”

  1. The current defense secretary, when serving in the prior administration, gave a speech arguing for a much different nuclear policy than Obama and Kleiman are in favor of. That strategy favored deterrence against the use of chemical and biological weapons by means of the threat of a nuclear response. Gates argued that Iraq–a NPT signatory–was in fact deterred by the policy which Obama has abandoned. Gates also argued that the current arsenal was in need of modernization, and that modernization was necessary for a reduction in stockpiles. Now, of course this means that Gates is unfit to serve–anyone holding the views that Gates has expressed is "unfit to hold power". I guess it also says something about Obama, since he chose someone unfit for the office.

  2. No, Thomas, you don't become "unfit to hold power" by having different opinions on complex topics. You become unfit to hold power by lying about them, and by putting forward the ex-Mayor of Wasilla as an expert on strategic deterrence. Do you seriously believe that Secretary Gates would remain in office while the President he serves was laying the country open to biological warfare attack? No, you don't. So why pretend to be a Gingrich?

  3. In asking Obama about Palin's remarks, Stephanopoulos was not putting her forward as an expert on strategic deterrence. He was aiming to elicit a deprecatory response that would make the news, and he succeeded. Nothing more to it than that.

  4. Mark, you remind me of a kid on the playground asking to be hit in the face.

    The fortunate thing about this silly exercise is that NO ONE who is actually a threat thinks that if they pull some weird bio-shit, we won't storm the white house, throw out Obama, and then nuke the jesus out them.

    Because my brother, we are that kind of people. And thats a fact, no matter what your opinion.

  5. Mark, you're just confused. You and your comedian friend pretend that there's no possible way to reasonably disagree with the changes in policy that Obama has made, and yet Gates previously had a much different position (and no event has occurred which would undermine the basis for it), and Obama's critics are merely adopting his former position. Presumably you'd agree that our current secretary of defense is an expert on strategic deterrence; certainly he is in comparison to the president (a former law lecturer and state senator–apparently good ways to become expert on these matters). And your intemperate criticism of Lieberman for adopting the same position that Gates publicly argued for 2 years ago again seems to me to be a difficulty for you. Why do you think the modernization spending is useless, when Gates believes (or believed) it's necessary?

  6. Morgan,

    If you'd actually bothered to watch the video clip, you'd know that the new "nuclear stance" has exceptions for bio-attack, and for non-signatories of the NPT. Remember, this is samefacts.com, not shitijustmadeup.com.

  7. Thomas is just so right. You really are just confused, Mark. See, it's all about reasonable disagreement. For example, it's pretty clear that properly construed, Palin's analogy of Obama to a kid inviting schoolyard bullies to hit him in the face and vowing not to retaliate is really just to say, "Well, President Obama has implemented a policy we don't believe is sound, but that's something about which reasonable minds can disagree." Because we all know that reasonable minds can disagree about whether it's a sound idea to invite schoolyard bullies to hit you in the face and vow not to retaliate. See?

  8. The links the addled will go to in order to hide the cognitive dissonance from themselves. Surely there is a dissertation or post-doc applied work in here somewhere.

  9. Guys,

    Three things:

    1) This treaty seeks to reduce Russia's and the United States' nuclear arms by one third, still leaving about 1500 nukes per country, but going in the right direction. If we're going to have any chance of controlling nuclear arms proliferation, we and Russia have to lead. Whatever part of the political spectrum you find yourself, I contend this is good for the nation and the world.

    2) In 1973, as a then young Army 2Lt, my Infantry Officer Basic Course class at Ft. Benning, GA, saw a firepower display. These were conventional weapons (artillery, mortars, missiles, and aerial bombs) and their destructive capability was chilling. If we are attacked by chemical or biological weapons, we have some truly frightening weapons that don't cross the nuclear line.

    3) I have no way of knowing what needs to be modernized and what doesn't. All I know is that use of any kind of nuclear weapon ("modern", "bunker buster", and so on) crosses a line that makes the world far more dangerous than it is right now. Look at the policy and what it does for the nation. We can't afford this kind of willful ignorance when nuclear weapons are being discussed.

  10. Wife: yes, the fallacious reasoning at that link you provided is exactly the kind of dissonance-hiding sought in links the addled go to.

  11. Thomas, Stewart pointed out a totally false claim made by Gingrich. You assert that this means that he claimed there is no reasonable criticism of Obama. Your inference is insane.

    Stewart's view is that lies damage the debate and should be punished. It is alarming that you don't agree.

    In fact, just because there should be a serious debate about Obama's polciy, Gingrich's lies are damaging to the debate, because they obstruct any consideration of any valid argument against Obama's policy which might exist.

    Kleiman's view (which you might have deduced from his url) is that it is important that people debate the facts and don't introduce falsehoods. There is no way that this can be held to imply that he thinks the conclusion supported by a liar is indefensible. He hates lies. Why do you object to that ?

  12. Hans, only one of the two things you assert is true. You'll tend to get these basic facts wrong when you rely on Comedy Central (and Mark Kleiman) as sources. The Obama administration was good enough to put the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report out on the internets, so you can read it for yourself. It does not have exceptions for "bio-attack." Rather, one of the points of the new policy is that the US would not use nuclear weapons in response to a biological weapon attack on the US. The reservation of rights that is actually in the policy is much different from what Stewart portrayed–the right to go Truman, I think is what he says, the right to use nuclear weapons in response. Which of course isn't the exception, because then the exception and the new rule are entirely at odds. What the exception says is that the US reserves the right to make changes to the negative assurance provided as "may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and U.S. capacities to counter that threat." In short, it isn't an attack that would lead to a change in the policy, but a change in the capabilities or proliferation of new biological threats.

    As for Gingrich's statement, I have no idea whether in context it was misleading or not. The new policy does not commit the US to not responding to biological or chemical attacks, just to not responding with nuclear weapons. Given that Stewart got the basic policy wrong, I'm not sure why I should think he did a better job of editing Gingrich's exchange.

  13. Thomas, proliferation isn't enough? Here's the excerpt:

    "In making this strengthened assurance, the United States affirms that any state eligible for the

    assurance that uses chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies and

    partners would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response – and that any

    individuals responsible for the attack, whether national leaders or military commanders, would

    be held fully accountable. Given the catastrophic potential of biological weapons and the rapid

    pace of bio-technology development, the United States reserves the right to make any adjustment

    in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological

    weapons threat and U.S. capacities to counter that threat.

    In the case of countries not covered by this assurance – states that possess nuclear weapons and

    states not in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations – there remains a

    narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a

    conventional or CBW attack against the United States or its allies and partners. The United

    States is therefore not prepared at the present time to adopt a universal policy that deterring

    nuclear attack is the sole purpose of nuclear weapons, but will work to establish conditions under

    which such a policy could be safely adopted."

    Do you really feel like there's not a big enough loophole to use nuclear weapons if we experience anything approaching devastation to our citizenry? Proliferation just means that we think the enemy might be stockpiling more of these. What else could it mean? And what else could you possible want here, without sounding like an imperialist?

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