Glenn Greenwald’s Mitt Romney Surrogacy


I might just as well have titled this Glenn Greenwald’s Collateral Damage, The Politics of Animus, or the Politics of National Destruction or the Puritopian’s Dilemma – the list goes on. Here’s a list that goes on longer, among Glenn Greenwald’s last eighteen blog posts:

Probing Obama’s secrecy games; U.S. again bombs mourners; Tough Guy Leaking: Iran edition; How extremism is normalized; Obama the Warrior; “Militants”: media propaganda; The Authoritarian Mind; The Imperial Mind; WH leaks for propaganda film; John Brennan’s new power.

The last twelve posts are all attacks on the Obama administration or President Obama himself. Of the six before that, four are directly critical. Even a post entitled “Egyptian wisdom,” ostensibly intended to praise emerging “democratic accountability” (a subject on which Greenwald regularly displays a penetrating lack of discernment) is merely a short set-up, using an Egyptian “man-on-the-street” quote, for a closing link intended to criticize Obama for not pursuing Bush era criminal prosecutions.

Of course, these topics should all be open to consideration and criticism. But it should take little of that discernment Greenwald lacks – absent ideological blinders or that politics of animus – to recognize that context matters, and consequence, and that we do not rail against the demigods, or what passes for them, on an island. Glenn Greenwald does not care. He is angry, he is right, and he will destroy what doth of late preoccupy him to target – sort of like a drone – even if the collateral damage is the American nation.

We are in an election year. The alternative to Barack Obama is Mitt Romney and a reactionary GOP, the goal of which is to undue not just the accomplishments of the Great Society, but of the New Deal, to reverse the gains in Black civil and women’s rights, in labor and working people’s rights, in voting rights, and to stop in its current advance the progress of gay rights. As I wrote at greater length in “From the People Who Brought You Richard Nixon and George W. Bush,” the effects of these monomaniacal Puritiopian visions – “There is no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans” – is felt for generations, in people’s financial and job security, their health care (and thus their lives and deaths), their loving and familial relationships, in the developing governance of the nation, and in the very rights of individuals as citizens.

For all of Greenwald’s calculated and small “c”/big “C” constitutional hysteria over the Threats to Democracy perceivable in post 9/11 anti-terror policy, for all of GOP hysteria post the election of the first Black Democratic president of the threat to democracy of “big” federal government, the truth of American history is something other: the most consistent source of threat to American freedom – electoral and other tyrannies of the majority, restrictions on civil rights, abuse of minority rights – has occurred neither in the federal government per se or from its national security powers, but has taken place at the state level. That is what we have seen on a massive scale just since the GOP electoral victories of 2010. This is what a GOP win in November promises, with a solidification of a reactionary Supreme Court that, just as in consequence of GOP presidential dominance over the 1970s and 80s, offers reactionary conservatism the opportunity to shape American culture for a generation or two.

Many who read and fulminate over Greenwald would not vote for the Democrats in November anyway. But like all public voices, Greenwald has influence – he, unfortunately, more than most. He may offer whatever high-minded rationales he likes. The first truth is that he is not high minded. He is as disingenuous, hypocritical, and vitriolic a smear-monger (“smear” serving as one of his favorite projected insults) as may be found on either side (you decide) of Rush Limbaugh, though with none of the low entertainment value. I have documented and analyzed his techniques multiple times at this site, but an easy sum of his argumentative character can be found in Brad DeLongs words about Noam Chomsky.

What I object to is that Chomsky tears up all the trail markers that might lead to conclusions different from his, and makes it next to impossible for people unversed in the issues to even understand what the live and much-debated points of contention are.

To campaign so constantly against the Obama administration at this point in an election year has consequences. Greenwald may claim to feel whatever disregard he might toward Mitt Romney. His efforts to diminish Obama can only have the effect of diminishing, in return, among some segment of the electorate, the enthusiasm for Obama’s reelection and the ultimate turnout on Election Day for Obama. This will only help elect Mitt Romney. Then everyone to the left of Scott Walker and Rick Scott can decide how they like that America.

And Glenn Greenwald will need to face his own accountability. Accountability he will reject. And accuse someone of smearing him.


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15 thoughts on “Glenn Greenwald’s Mitt Romney Surrogacy

  1. I’m sorry, but your position on the Drone program IS a sacrifice of principles. Greenwald’s is a principled stand against the killing of innocents. Not sure how you can claim a principled stand by supporting this program.

    What was your position on these matters during the Bush Admin? From my experience with Greenwald, he has remained consistent, he admitted being wrong in his initial support for the Iraq War (if only our democratic elected officials would be that honest) and then went after Bush relentlessly on Civil Liberties issues and on the lies told that got us into that war.

    He hasn’t changed, have you? I ask that seriously as I am not familiar with your position on these issues during the Bush years.

    1. Miriam, It’s unfortunate that you’re willing to call me unprincipled without knowing the range or history of my views and that you are willing to do so on the basis alone that I hold a different view on an issue from what you hold. That may be a product of reading too much Greenwald. It would also be pleasing to us all if human conflict – war as I and others term it in this case – could easily and without fail discriminate between the killing of the warranted and of innocents. But that has never been so in war. The only way to avoid it for oneself is to be a pacifist, in which case innocents die at the hands of others, though it is evasion to think we bear no moral burden when that happens.

      For the record, I have since 9/12/2001 believed that the response to Al-Qaeda is most properly conceived in terms of a new paradigm for war, and I have always supported aggressive war efforts against Al-Qaeda, at this point most certainly a drone campaign rather than any further protracted military engagement in Afghanistan or similar circumstances. As much as I abhored the Bush administration, I did not oppose any policy it pursued simply because it was a policy of that administration. I believe that is what the GOP does now.

      But this is not about me, or, finally, about Greenwald – it is about the honest consideration of complex issues and respect for real intellectual engagement with them, rather than demagogic and slanted polemics. My post tomorrow has more to say on that subject.

    2. Because it’s relevant to his intellectual honesty, let’s be clear about HOW Greenwald admitted he was wrong to support the Iraq War. He wrote about in only one place: the Preface of his first book. He never mentioned it in any of his blogs, either at Unclaimed Territory or at Salon.

      Meanwhile he spent years spewing venom at anyone who did the same thing he did: support the Iraq War. Some of his most ardent supporters were pretty surprised by that revelation when it came to light. To wit, he was busily savaging people online without ever revealing — online — that he could be counted amongst the “psychopathic” “bloodthirsty” “slaughterers,” he was so ardently condemning.

      Have you ever seen him write an honest account on the internet about how he was once an ardent Bush supporter? Have you ever read anything online about how he wanted to wreak “vengeance” on Muslims and how he placed his trust in Bush because he was “loyal” to his “leader”?

      Of course not. He’d have rather kept that part of his life hidden. It was only after five-and-a-half years of blogging that he admitted he supported Bush’s wars. And that was only because his hand was forced by the revelation, not because he was forthright about it from the beginning of his blogging career.

      The vast majority of his readers know him through his online persona, and yet, he’s still NEVER WRITTEN a column about supporting Afghanistan and Iraq. If you challenge him in his comment section, he’ll hem and haw, maybe call you a “liar” based on some hairsplitting, and then tell you you’re acting like a third grader because you haven’t read every word he’s ever written, including his first book, which he’ll be sure to tell you is available for purchase.

      Why Glenn Greenwald has never chosen to write a coherent and honest online piece about his past as a Bush cheerleader and war supporter is obvious. He’s as intellectually dishonest as they come.

  2. You can’t have it both ways. You say that the issues Greenwald raises “should all be open to consideration and criticism,” but we can’t talk about them because there’s an election going on? Isn’t that the best time to put pressure on a politician, when they might actually have to listen to what you have to say?

    You say pointing out bad things the President does should have consequences… for the person doing the pointing. Maybe there should be consequences for the President, too.

    1. Scarletyoshi, you make a fair point – except the first of my two major points in this (aside from Greenwald’s character as a polemicist) is not the criticism, but the unrelenting and vicious nature of it. Putting “pressure” on one candidate as a political tactic requires, with good judgment, that we weigh the likely and positive benefits for that candidate and our goals against the likely and positive benefits for the other candidate and his goals, which are bound to be even more displeasing to us.

      As to consequences, I don’t argue,as my second major point, that our criticisms should have consequences – I argue that they do, and not just for the President, but for the nation. It’s that old saw about noses, spite, and faces.

  3. Apparently you do not believe in independent non-partisan scholarship? So one must either support Democrats or Republicans? It’s very easy to reduce your position to its essence—unprincipled & opportunistic.

    1. Well, bdill101, it is easy to reduce my position to whatever you like – if, for instance, you are obviously far less familiar with my writing than I am with Greenwald’s. If you had read my post of even a few days ago, to which I even linked in this one, you would know that I completely disagree with Greenwald even on the matter of the drone program. I have written about that before too. So there is no sacrifice of “principle” or opportunism in my argument here. More to the point, the notions that Greenwald is any of “independent,” “non-partisan,” or productive of “scholarship” are ridiculous on their face. He was, previously, professionally, an advocate, not a scholar, and his blogging since has been sheer political polemic and advocacy. It contains in every post unsurpassed levels of slanted language opportunistically manipulating his readers’ understanding of the issues. Even an actual scholar who, in an election year, chose to produce writing with all the earmarks of scholarship, but focused almost exclusively on the policies of one political party would be clearly partisan. In fact, we have such institutions of partisan scholarship in the many ideological think tanks so active today.

      1. Well I will let Greenwald defend himself, and his credentials as an “advocate”, “an actual scholar”, or to my knowledge, a constitutional lawyer who frequently comments on the dangers of expanded executive power.

        There is a pretty strong case that Obama has expanded executive power, to dangerous levels. Clearly, many “scholars” have written about this, along with Greenwald.

        Certainly, you cannot believe the president is immune from scrutiny—particularly scrutiny of the constitutional issues arising from his policies in war-time—just because it is election year. I find that very dubious.

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