A Farewell to Smarm


In honor of Ari Fleischer's last day as Capo di Tutti Spinners, let's all take a moment to recall some of our favorite Ari moments. I still get misty eyed when I recall the time his well-worn righteous indignation schtick ventured so far into the preposterous that the Washington press corps actually laughed him off stage. And there's the classic:

I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are.

Ari was a "Whopper of the Week" regular at Slate, and you can review the good times here, here, here, and most recently here.

If you're finding it hard to let go, you can always stop by the Ari Fan Club to commiserate with other Ari-lovers.

NEXT: Blame (Air) Canada

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  1. Say what you will about Ari, but I can’t imagine a job that would be a bigger pain-in-the-ass than being the mouthpiece of an idiotic administration (Bush & the gang) to an idiotic media (DC media certainly fall into that category).

    I like the way Rumsfeld handles the media. He doesn’t put up with stupid questions – which constitute the majority of today’s media’s questions.

  2. I’m getting very tired of the “Mother Jones” style of commentary here from Mr. Sanchez. I gave up reading the “Independent” here in Raleigh years ago for this reason, and I’m getting tempted to drop Reason from my reading list.

  3. What do you mean by “Mother Jones”-style commentary, other than disagreeing with the Bush administration?

  4. I’m not sure what the “Mother Jones” comment is about, but I’ll keep reading Reason, in part because I enjoy Mr. Sanchez’s blurbs.

  5. I agree with Mr. Blank. Hooray for Julian Sanchez. He’s a good addition to Reason.

  6. Yeah Mr. Sanchez, why do you hate America? All right-thinking Americans support our President without question. Go back to Russia!

  7. this is like the third time in three days i’ve seen mr sanchez attacked. whats with this stuff? i don’t even really notice that the stuff he posts is that different from the other contributors.

  8. Mother Jones was a good start, but I think of him as having more the subtelty , nunace and charm of Michael Moore, mixed with the wit and originality of Al Franken or Molly Ivins, mixed with the astute policy analysis of Maureen Dowd, mixed with the paranoia and visceral, unreasoning hatred of all things Bush of the combined editorial board of Mother Jones plus the Nation raised to the 10th power. He’s good for a laugh though.

  9. I think of Mr. Sanchez as a thoughtful, astute commentator- something that Matthew Cromer and Eric Dreamer are not. I say that because they’ve offered us ad hominem attacks, as opposed to arguments (which the good Mr. Sanchez has provided).

    I believe the url you boys are after is http://www.freerepublic.com.

    You’re good for a laugh, though.

  10. all these freepers can drop dead. bush is a terrible, terrible man and anyone who says anything positive about the administration is probably a CIA plant.

  11. Why is it that half the time people complaining that someone has knee-jerk anti-Bush sentiments, what they end up revealing instead is their own knee-jerk pro-Bush sentiments?

    And good Lord — I can see liking Bush, but do you really want to stick up for Ari Fleischer?

  12. Wow, I’ve been anti-trolled. I’m flattered. And I do hope Mr. Deamer is right; I should be due for a NY Times column any day now.

  13. Sir Real,

    What evidence of anything has Mr. Sanchez presented?

    In the instance at hand, he gives three “whopper of the week” items from Timothy Noah of Slate. Slate is a publication that polled how their staffers were going to vote in 2000 and found, in their own words “a near-monolithic Gore cult”. I don’t think they are exactly an un-biased source regarding things Bush.

    The other “evidence” proffered was the quote, and I don’t see what’s wrong with it. Everyone in the world, including Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac, Kofi Annan etc. all agreed that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Desturction as recently as 1998. If you believe they weren’t there anymore at the time of our invasion you have to have some kind of explanation for where they went. Were all of these intelligence assessments wrong? Or did the neocons some how get to Chirac too?

  14. eric deamer: c’mon now, lets be reasonable. i am no antibush crusader: remember when i took your side against croesus on the topic of anti americanism? but mr sanchez is really not that bad. he said a press secretary lied; and no matter what president you pick, his press secretary has probably lied. it doesn’t impugn a president to say “his press secretary is a liar,” in fact, all that really says is “he has a press secretary.”

    so lets not get out of hand here.

  15. That Ari fan club site was a fake. Right?

  16. eric deamer: did you even read the quote?
    “I think the burden is on those people who think he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are.”
    if somebody thinks there are no weapons of mass destruction, they couldn’t say where the nonexistent) weapons were.

    I’m thinking that this is a case where you thouhjt, “hmm, sanchez” and then your mind creaked into gear saying “must be some unreasonable pack of lies implying that bush is more shades of nixon than of the gipper.

  17. My guess is that Julian is adopting a persona, a marketing gimick to attract leftist readers. It won’t work, as leftists don’t read Reason and never will. Except for a few paleocrackpots, most libertarians were for the War and are more-or-less neutral on Bush.

    As long as Julian harps on Bush’s shitty domestic programs, most Reason subscribers probably won’t mind blatent anti-Bush bias (though it won’t sell any additional subscriptions). But if he drifts into DemocraticUnderground/Indymedia land, he will only succeed at gradually pissing off his subscribers.

  18. I’m not into ad hominem argumentation. I think, however, that I understand what the critics of this initial posting were getting at.

    Look at what the writer considered to be a “classic” case of Ari Fleisher’s preposterous spinning: “I think the burden is on those people who think he [Sadam] didn’t have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are.” Sure, this sentence would give the typical Mother Jones-style essayist an opportunity to take a gratuitous swipe at the seeming contradiction. That’s what they do. But put in context, and interpreted with a nod to, well, reason, the comment was unobjectionable. What Fleisher was saying was that since at one point virtually everyone agreed that Saddam Hussein had at least chemical weapons and perhaps some precursors of bio weapons, and was trying to build nukes, to believe that none of these existed at the time of the war was to believe that Hussein had done something with them. Destroyed them? Hidden them? Shipped them off to some other country? We don’t know. Fleischer was making the correct point that, according to the agreement that ended the last Gulf War, it was Iraq’s burden to prove what happened to them. It failed to do so, apparently to the satisfaction even of the French.

    Libertarians get to disagree with the president’s policies, naturally, and many have at Reason (writers and readers). But when you transparently twist a spoken-word statement — which inherently tends to degrade in meaning and clarity when written down and detached from the context — into a not-very-funny episode of “Slap Bush and his War-Mongering GOP,” you start to resemble the Michael Moores and Joe Conasons of the journalistic world.

    In other words, you start to resemble leftist twits.

  19. Look, this president sucks. He sucks HARD. And you conservatives who think that being a good conservative means standing by your man because the Democrats suck too are laughable.

    What has this president done to advance a conservative (let alone libertarian) agenda? He’s a bigger spender than Clinton (and if you think there aren’t going to be massive tax increases as a result of this, you’re unfamiliar with basic economics). His free-trade credentials are a joke – steel tariffs for. He or his administration exaggerated evidence of WMD in Iraq to wage a war against a country that had never attacked the U.S. He even appoints shitty judges. What’s this guy done for conservatism.

    But I know, even if your guy sucks hard, he’s still your guy.

  20. Sorry: in my previous post, I misspelled the former Iraqi dictator’s name. It is/was Sodom.

    I mean Saddam.

  21. MarketingMan: yeah, because libertarianism isn’t the antithesis of neoconservative foriegn policy, right?
    Curt Warner: no, its the actual factual.
    DC: damn straight. i was handing out propaganda for the JAL (thats the jefferson area libertarians, the central VA wing of LPUSA) and like ten guys came up to me talking about “now i am a right wing republican and i am so pissed at bush i have lost all words.”

  22. He was done an excellent job with national defense DC. And as much as you would like to poo-poo the terrorist threat, that is an important issue for senisble Americans (and libertarians). That doesn’t mean he is above reproach, but saying he has done *nothing* is just plain wacko.

  23. jacob,

    I completely agree. The job of the press secretary is pretty much to lie, and I’m sure if there was ever a Libertarian Pary president his press secretary would do the same thing.

    I guess what irks me is that, while most of the other Reason staffers who post to this blog write about matters of substance or principle, Mr. Sanchez seems to have a fixation with Bush as a man. By which I mean, he’s the guy who puts up all the stories of the malaprops or the bizarre (to an intellectual in Washington DC) turns of phrase, or just about anything which can be spun in some way to demean Bush, no matter how inane or hackish it is.

    This post is case in point. So what, a press secretary is quitting. It happens all the time. Political partisans think he lied more than a press secretary from their side of the aisle would. Big surprise. None of this stuff is insightful or even interesting, unless you’re a rabid anti-Bush partisan. And if the intent is to be funny, IMO it was an unsuccessful attempt. I don’t think humor is a strong suit of this site nor should it be. The Daily Show might be able to do something funny with this, but not Mr. Sanchez.

    I’m ashamed at how much some of these posts make me come off as this rabid pro-Bush partisan, or (god help me) pro-Ari Fleischer partisan. I’m not. I just think that this type of material is tiresome and petty, and there really are about a zillion other places to get it (Slate, Salon, The Daiy Show, Doonesbury, NPR etc.) I come here to put my point-of-view up against intelligent, principled opposition, not to see the same sort of personal attacks on the Administration you could get at any number of lefty sites.

  24. jacob: What is libertarian FP? All I read is isolationism or internationalism, neither of which are native to libertarianism. Part of Reason’s charm is offering an alternative viewpoint. Paleocrackpotism is already covered in the American Conservative and I can read All About The Oil/Neocons/Skull&Bones over at Mother Jones, the Nation, etc.

  25. I have to applaud Mr Sanchez and his very reasonable critique’s the President’s unreasonable warmongering foreign policy.
    I had stopped reading Reason when Virginia Postrel edited it, but now it actually speaks for libertarians who understand that statism and war go hand in hand. Conservatives who promote statism and war are statists, even if they throw a few rhetorical bones to the pro-capitalist right.
    Keep it up, Julian.

  26. libetarian used to also mean classical liberal

    such as hayek and friedman and other whigs

    no it is only for the cult of paleoanarchists

    so reason and others serve that tiny group

    so when does a new pub open for whigs?

    and others for free minds and markets?

  27. “Say what you will about Ari, but I can’t imagine a job that would be a bigger pain-in-the-ass than being the mouthpiece of an idiotic administration”

    I always used to feel sort of sorry for Tariq Aziz around the first Gulf War. How would you like to have to appear on CNN and argue Iraq’s side? What do argue – national sovereignty? Peace? Anti-imperialism? No blood for oil? It was Comical Ali, ten years earlier.

  28. marketingman:
    i’ve always understood it to be that, since the state shouldn’t act coercively, it should generally not engage in wars except of direct self defense (which afghanistan counts as) which would be done preferably by militias by i suppose the actual party platform is a smaller military. but no wars like iraq or liberia.

    a lot of libertarian FP is free tarde agreements, again, because LP thinks corporations and private entities should be choosing, not the government.

  29. btw ED i completely sympathize with getting overly defensive of bush when morons squawk lies

    happens to me ALL the time

  30. jacob: Well I don’t think Reason is mouthpiece of the LP or “official Libertarianism.” If it now is, I wish it the best of luck serving that tiny irrelevent audiance. The Reason I enjoyed was one that had alternative real world solutions, not rehashed Rothbardian crackpotism (I was going to say “philosophy” but caught myself in the nick of time).

  31. The Bush administration borrows from Groucho: “Who are you going to believe?us or your own two eyes?

  32. John Hood-
    I don’t think context saves the quotation at all. You make a correct point about the burden the U.N. placed on Iraq pre-war, but that has nothing to do with the burden on domestic critics, and attempting to shift it in the way Fleischer does is preposterous on the most generous reading. He’s still essentially saying: “well, we can’t find any weapons, but you don’t get to raise any questions about them as a basis for war unless you can prove a negative… that is, prove they’re not there somewhere.” He could’ve phrased it in a way that didn’t sound as silly on the surface, but in this case his actual phrasing is rather revealing.

    For what it’s worth, my “fixation” on Bush constitutes, so far as I can tell, maybe three other posts out of roughly a hundred over the course of the last month. I suspect that their combined word count is lower than that of your contributions to this thread.

  33. MarketingMan is right about the shift in this publication. Doctrinaire,strictly constructed libertarianism, anarcho-capitalism, mutualism, minarchism, and pacifism or isolationism at any cost all hold little appeal for me and only appeal to a tiny minority of the already converted. Those who are “libertarian” in the more loosely constructed, colloquial use of the term, i.e. those who are tolerant on social issues and conservative on economic issues will be happier at a conservative site like NRO, where you only have to wade through an increasingly small bit of theocratic nonsense before you get to the reasonable stuff. Reason trying appeal to American Conservative readers or to Mother Jones readers doesn’t make much sense as a strategy. As soon as there isn’t a war for everyone to oppose together the paleos will be railing against free trade and for shooting illegal immigrants and and homosexuals on sight and the lefties against pretty much 90% of the other positions espoused by Reason. Its such a nonsensical quixotic gambit I can only think it comes from pure principle.


    I wasn’t saying that you had posted that much in quantity on Bush, just making a comment about the content of the posts. The ones I can remember are: 1) an account of what Mahmoud Abbas told Ha’aretz Bush told him. In other words, a highly suspect quote, which you accepted at face value and then went on to say you were “disturbed by the language” or words to that effect, and then went on to take a swipe (I know, intended to be humorous) at Paul Wolfowitz diabolically pulling Bush’s strings. (I guess referencing the WASP Rumsfeld doesn’t have quite the same frisson)
    2) Your calling the “Bring it On” quote “creepy” (or words to that effect), which, in my opinion,
    as in the case of all the other pundits who were so offended by this, is nothing more than a result of northeastern liberal intellectuals’ cultural distaste for Bush’s language. We all know he isn’t the most eloquent extemporaneous speaker, so what? Pointing it out for the zillionth time, in my opinion, is simply hackwork and reveals a, yes, fixation with the man that goes beyond political disagreement, like that “play” in the village where the guy just goes on stage and plays tapes of some Bush malapropisms and then rants for a couple of hours.

  34. Marketing Man said “as leftists don’t read Reason and never will”

    As in “leftists read exclusively leftist publications”, or in “libertarians don’t read anything other than Reaon”.

    Hold tight: a FRENCH LEFTY reads Reason. Ha. I dont read the Figaro though.

  35. “But playing to the tiny LewRockwell/anarcho-commie nuts”

    You’re pretty far wide of the mark if that’s what you’re imagining as my ideological orientation. My intellectual common ground with the Rockwell crew basically begins and ends with opposition to the administration’s foreign policy. I’m certainly much less of a libertarian “purist” than, say, most of my former colleagues at Cato.

  36. Julian: Sorry, but I cannot agree. Fleischer is still correct in his original quote, in context. Moreover, for domestic critics of the war policy there is no burden by law or treaty but there is a sort of rhetorical burden on the weapons. The leftists have no problem rushing to satisfy this burden. They assert that the whole kit and kaboodle was made up by the imperialist/Haliburton/Zionist/PGA/Scaife/oil company conspiracy to justify taking over the country. For them, apparently, virtually the entire world was in on the deception over the years, perhaps deciding late in the game to come clean to stop the American Hegemon.

    But for the rest of us, the problem is an acute one. Either 1) Saddam bluffed and fake his way for years to give an inaccurate impression that he had a program but it never existed, 2) the program existed but sometime in the past four years was destroyed and then Saddam bluffed, 3) the program existed and the resulting weapons or precursors (biochems wouldn’t likely be stored fully assembled in big stacks) are hidden or spirited away in another country, or 4) the program existed, exists, and coalition forces are in the process of uncovering its extent within Iraq.

    Possibilities 3 and 4 justify intervention on national security grounds, it seems to me. Possibilities 1 and 2 are more problematic, but if Saddam was willing to pretend to have weapons, thus taking on the risk of intervention but also attempting to gain regional power by terrorizing others, then he was manifestly a dangerous man. Once international pressure was relaxed and his ability to maneuver freed up, he would have been able to build what was needed to back up his bluff.

    Naturally, there is much more to say here, and there are counter-arguments. The original point of your critics, though, is that a flippant dismissal of Fleischer’s comment, and of the very important and timely issue it spoke to, demonstrates a style of argument somewhere below the level of reason.

  37. John-
    Well, not to belabor this, but surely you see that if (1) or (2) were the case, then Fleicher’s challenge constitutes the imposition of an unreasonable burden. In other words, those of us who opposed the war aren’t allowed to call the administration to account for what now looks to have been faulty intelligence until we can give an inventory of weapons that may no longer exist. This doesn’t seem like a bad rhetorical trick to you? What would your reaction be if the DEA raided a former drug den, found no drugs, and then insisted that nobody was at liberty to criticize the agency’s error unless they could explain where the drugs went?

  38. marketingman: do you really think that saying free trade and avoidance of war is generally better than war is crackpotism?

    do you really think the libertarian sentiments that propelled reagan into office and the united states into existence are so irrelevant?

    no, reason isn’t the mouthpiece of the LP. nor am i. but i think its fair to say reason represents a libertarian viewpoint.

  39. Jacob:

    “do you really think that saying free trade and avoidance of war is generally better than war is crackpotism?”

    But that isn’t what the paleocrackpots say: What they say is “all war is wrong” without factoring in the consequence of this belief in the real world. Reflexive anti-war sentiments and platitudes may make them philosophically consistant, but they are repellent in the face of an actual, real world problem (instabilty in the ME & terrorism).

    “do you really think the libertarian sentiments that propelled reagan into office and the united states into existence are so irrelevant?”

    No, I think they are very relevent. But I think Libertarian Dogma is (justifiably) irrelevent.

    “but i think its fair to say reason represents a libertarian viewpoint”

    It does, but its main selling point is and was representing libertarian viewpointS (plural), including whiggish, Hayekian non-dogmatic viewpoints along with left-libertarianism and paleostupidity.

    It still does this to some extent, but did so more under Postel. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jesse and Julian in small doses. But playing to the tiny LewRockwell/anarcho-commie nuts is unappealing for me — and I suspect for many others. LewRockwell and indymedia already has the nutball market covered.

    In the mean time, it looks like NR is taking over the whiggish, Hayekian non-dogmatic viewpoint (but it still includes Derbshire right-wing fundie bullshit). That is a gain for NR and a loss for Reason — which is a damn shame.

  40. marketingman:

    did you ever stop to think that mayeb if the US didn’t flex its military so often terrorists wouldn’t care about us?

    you have to admit that the things usama has a problem with are
    1. israel
    2. house of saud
    3. gulf war 1

    these are the three main reasons he switched from US sponsored guerilla mujahideen to sept 11 gangster

    and all thsoe things are connected to the US via military spending and interventionism

    i dig hayek too, and hadly consider myself to be a lunatic

    in fact LPUSA doesn’t say “no war”
    but saying “no war in iraq or liebria” is hardly the same as saing “no war period”

  41. Julian:

    No desire to belabor this point either, but . . .

    First, I went back and looked again at the original quote in context (from the NYT). Fleischer said this right after noting that the American people were solidly behind the action in Iraq and continue to be so. It looks like his remark was aimed at foreign critics rather than domestic ones, though perhaps I’m missing something.

    On those domestic critics, however, I still don’t get your point. Consider the example you gave of a former drug den that is raided. No drugs are found. Assuming we want to fight a war on drugs (!), your example should include the fact that the raid killed or captured much of the drug gang and drove the drug kingpin from power. Even if you didn’t find the drugs there, you’d still be advancing your cause. Not a perfect example, of course, because a drug kingpin in a hideout can still have some authority over a drug network, but Saddam Hussein in his hideout can no longer command the military resources necessarily to threaten neighbors, enable terrorist plots, etc.

    I would continue to argue that while critics of the war have a number of legitimate points to make, they cannot legitimately claim that Hussein was never involved in WMD programs and never posed a threat. That is such a staggering leap, contrary to logic and evidence, that, yes, it shifts the rhetorical burden.

    This is not to say that the administration and the coalition can’t be legitimately criticized. Did they flub the occupation of Baghdad, letting the bad guys and bad stuff get away? Did they fail to foresee foreign (e.g. Syrian or French) plans to aid Hussein’s cronies in fleeing or exporting the material? Should they have simply continued (costly and in my view indefensible) sanctions as an alternative means of bringing the regime to heel?

    Don’t expect to see discussion of these real-world questions in Mother Jones or the various lefty web screeds. I do expect them (and have seen them) in Reason.

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