Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From A Bumper Sticker

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Matt Yglesias, who I'm pretty sure isn't actually voting for John Edwards, gives him props for saying "the war on terror is a bumper sticker slogan."

He had the balls to say what everyone knows is true (but only parenthetically) and is too afraid to say and . . . he wasn't struck down by lightning. Hillary Clinton's shameful efforts to play right-wing demagogue in response to Edwards have no sting whatsoever in my view. For years and years this kind of dogma has built-up among Bush administration critics that None May Say The Obvious about the "war on terror" lest they face dire, dire political consequences, but a party that doesn't have sufficient confidence in its national security chops to offer a really banal criticism of the Bush administration is bound to end up projecting that insecurity to voters in a way that's much more damaging than taking a 48 hour hit as the White House borrows the Clinton campaign's talking points.

Well, nobody likes Clinton campaign talking points. But the problem with Edwards is that he didn't used to believe "war on terror" (w/ or w/o "ism") was a bumper sticker slogan. Here's the senator showing leadership and striking good looks shortly after 9/11:

Edwards' problem is that the anti-bumper sticker line is yet another admission that he used to believe one thing when it was politically popular and he believes another that that's now (barely) politically popular. It's also another tacit admission, like with the Iraq War resolution, that Edwards is easily fooled and easily led. Whatever one thinks about the Clinton campaign, you can't blame Democrats for wanting to prevent a habitual (and oddly proud) dupe from facing one of the sure-footed GOP nominees. And I'm not sure you can blame reporters for yawning at Edwards's shtick.

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  1. OT, but is no one going to mention Ron Paul’s appearance on The Daily Show last night?

  2. hier are some examples.

  3. In a sense he is right, it is a stupid bumber sticker slogan. We are not at war with terror. If we were, we would be at war with every group in the world who used terror as a means to an end. The Basque separatists are terrorists, are we at war with them? No. The Columbian FARC are terrorists, are we at war with them? Not really. The U.S. is not at war with terror. The are at war against a particularly virlent strain radical Islam. We are not fighting “terrorists” we are fighting radical Muslims who are sometimes terrorists. I don’t understand why we can’t just admit that.

  4. “Shortly after 9/11,” the term “War on Terror” was used to refer to our efforts against al Qaeda.

    It’s only since Bush’s appropriation of the term as a “Whatever the Hell I Want” card that it has become a bumper sticker slogan.

  5. John,

    “We” can’t admit that because an honest debate about what this fight is about, and what it is not, would not allow so much disparate gallivanting to be equated with our efforts to fight the people who attacked us on 9/11.

  6. Joe we can’t admit it because we are too politically correct to admit that truth. We can never admit that an ideology or a large section of a religion is evil. Also, to do that would require asking the Saudis about their screwed up society. With at least one former President, Carter, and perhaps another, Bush I, on the Saudi payroll, we can’t have that.

  7. Mr. T has been pitying John Edwards since 1983.

  8. I prefer the tandem bumper sticker combination of

    “JESUS IS COMING!
    ESCAPE TO WISCONSIN!”

  9. Edwards’ problem is that the anti-bumper sticker line is yet another admission that he used to believe one thing when it was politically popular and he believes another that that’s now (barely) politically popular.

    Or, it means that Edwards is willing and able to change his opinion on things as new information becomes available to him. Unlike some certain standing Presidents that we know.

  10. We didn’t have any problem “admitting” that Naziism, fascism, and (pre-neocon popularity) imperialism were evil, John.

    You seriously want to pretend that the term “War on Terror” has been expanded beyond its original meaning because Americans don’t want to “admit” that al Qaeda’s ideology is evil? What country do you live in? Here in this one, that’s really not a subject that’s up for debate.

    BTW, the nice fellas Shrub holds hand with are our allies in the War on Terror. Didn’t you hear?

  11. My favorite bumber sticker of all time is “Ban Crime”. I always imgine your typical do gooder statist scratching his head and thinking, “hey that is a good idea, why haven’t we done that”.

  12. “You seriously want to pretend that the term “War on Terror” has been expanded beyond its original meaning because Americans don’t want to “admit” that al Qaeda’s ideology is evil? What country do you live in? Here in this one, that’s really not a subject that’s up for debate.”

    You can’t even say it yourself Joe. You say Al Quada like they are some alien species or something. Will the average person admit the obvious that radical Islam is the problem, of course. But who in public life will admit that? No one up to and including the President.

    Not of course Nazism and Imperialism involved white people. No modern politician can ever admit that any ideology coming from the third world is in any way “evil”. Instead of saying we are at war with radical Islam we get war with “Al Quada” as if they are some alien species standing apart from their religion and ideology or war on “terror” whatever that is. It would be no different if Al Gore were President.

  13. John, I’m not sure that being at war with a religion makes any more sense that being at war with the tactic of terrorism.

  14. When has the US ever declared Imperialism “evil” in any general sense? We and our allies have practiced various strains of it, and I think our opposition to it has always been to particularly objectionable flavors (e.g., Fascist Imperialism, or Communist Imperialism, or Imperialism by Europeans in the Western Hemisphere) rather than to Imperialism in itself.

  15. bitter and surreal white boys crack me up

    ****No modern politician can ever admit that any ideology coming from the third world is in any way “evil”.****

  16. “You can’t even say it yourself Joe.”

    Um, do you mean “al Qaeda’s ideology is evil?”

    I have not problem saying “al Qaeda’s ideology is evil.” As demonstrated by the fact that every instance of the phrase “al Qaeda’s ideology is evil” in this comment is cut-and-pasted from an earlier comment of mine.

    Look what happens when I hit “Control” and “V” at the same time:

    al Qaeda’s ideology is evil al Qaeda’s ideology is evil al Qaeda’s ideology is evil al Qaeda’s ideology is evil al Qaeda’s ideology is evil al Qaeda’s ideology is evilal Qaeda’s ideology is evil al Qaeda’s ideology is evil al Qaeda’s ideology is evil al Qaeda’s ideology is evil al Qaeda’s ideology is evil al Qaeda’s ideology is evil

    “You say Al Quada like they are some alien species or something.” Huh?

    ‘No modern politician can ever admit that any ideology coming from the third world is in any way “evil”.’ What are you, kidding me? If I quote statements from ten separate public officials who describe al Qaeda as “evil,” will you promise to stop posting for a month?

  17. For years and years this kind of dogma has built-up among Bush administration critics that None May Say The Obvious about the “war on terror” lest they face dire, dire political consequences, but a party that doesn’t have sufficient confidence in its national security chops to offer a really banal criticism of the Bush administration is bound to end up projecting that insecurity to voters in a way that’s much more damaging than taking a 48 hour hit as the White House borrows the Clinton campaign’s talking points.

    ……………………

    Feel free to use these periods. I have plenty more.

  18. John,

    “Instead of saying we are at war with radical Islam we get war with “Al Quada” as if they are some alien species standing apart from their religion and ideology”

    That is because we are not at war with radical Islam (whatever that means). The ideology we are at war with goes by the name “Al-Qaeda.”

    The term allows for a more precise determination regarding the ideology we find ourselves in a war with…not all forms of “radical Islam” are bent on the destruction of the US.

  19. “It’s only since Bush’s appropriation of the term as a “Whatever the Hell I Want” card that it has become a bumper sticker slogan.”

    “war on terror,” like similar wars on drugs, poverty, cancer, sickness, sleeplessness, itchy foot syndrome, high prices, marriage and hamsters has ALWAYS been a bumper sticker slogan. that’s the point of a slogan. it’s easy to remember. it sums up – and hopefully transmits – an emotional signal abstracted from a larger cluster of events and values.

  20. A federal appeals court has spoken: The FCC can’t punish a TV network when someone unexpectedly swears during a live broadcast.

    If the FCC thinks we really have to have a law, why not one that punishes the person who swears?

    First Amendment? Like the FCC worries about the Constitution.

    Since most of the regulars seem to be here this morning, I wonder if there would be any interest in something I’ve been mulling over for a while. What if we had the capability of creating user profiles that others could access? It could be either H&R run (preferably) or set up independently.

    When you make a comment fill in the URL field with your personal website URL. Remember to start with “http://”

    Anyone can then click on your name and get whatever you want to share.

  21. Oops. Wrong thread. Sorry.

  22. It’s only since Bush’s appropriation of the term as a “Whatever the Hell I Want” card that it has become a bumper sticker slogan.

    joe, it was that way from the beginning. Bush was very, very clear right after 9/11 that he intended the War on Terror to be a war against all terrorists everywhere, and that it might take decades to win. He’s stuck with that viewpoint ever since.

    Of course, that viewpoint is wrongheaded and dangerous IMHO, but it’s disingenuous to claim that War on Terror was synonymous with War on al-Qaeda at the time.

  23. Whatever one thinks about the Clinton campaign, you can’t blame Democrats for wanting to prevent a habitual (and oddly proud) dupe from facing one of the sure-footed GOP nominees.

    Uh, I’m just wondering which of the GOP candidates would be “sure-footed” on the Iraq issue in summer 2008. Unless a miracle happens during the next few months and Iraq stabilizes, Rudy McRomney is going to be desperately explaining away his previous support for a clearly failed war.

  24. Not to mention, the term “radical Islam” does not encompass secularist Ba’athists in a state of war with radical Islamists.

    You want to know why the White House adopted broad, fuzzy term like “War on Terror,” instead of one that clearly identifies the enemy as radical Islamists, John? Let Donald Rumsfeld tell you why.

    “There are no good targets in Afghanistan. There are plenty of good targets in Iraq.”

  25. crimethink,

    Actually, there were a couple of weeks, in between 9/11 itself and the Axis of Evil speech, when the focus really was on al Qaeda. Even after that, with the invasion of Afghanistan going on, the term was widely understood as applying to that mission.

    Why do you think the country spent three years debating whether or not the Iraq War was part of the War on Terror? Because it was clearly understood as being one thing, not everything.

  26. George Bush’s Second State of the Union Address (Jan 2002)

    Our military has put the terror training camps of Afghanistan out of business, yet camps still exist in at least a dozen countries. A terrorist underworld — including groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Jaish-i-Mohammed — operates in remote jungles and deserts, and hides in the centers of large cities.

    While the most visible military action is in Afghanistan, America is acting elsewhere. We now have troops in the Philippines, helping to train that country’s armed forces to go after terrorist cells that have executed an American, and still hold hostages. Our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy. Our Navy is patrolling the coast of Africa to block the shipment of weapons and the establishment of terrorist camps in Somalia…

    Our war on terror is well begun, but it is only begun. This campaign may not be finished on our watch — yet it must be and it will be waged on our watch.

    We can’t stop short. If we stop now — leaving terror camps intact and terror states unchecked — our sense of security would be false and temporary. History has called America and our allies to action, and it is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom’s fight…

    In this moment of opportunity, a common danger is erasing old rivalries. America is working with Russia and China and India, in ways we have never before, to achieve peace and prosperity. In every region, free markets and free trade and free societies are proving their power to lift lives. Together with friends and allies from Europe to Asia, and Africa to Latin America, we will demonstrate that the forces of terror cannot stop the momentum of freedom.

  27. Yup, crimethink, terrorist groups, terrorist camps, assisting our allies in fighting against terrorists.

  28. joe, I’m not saying Iraq is a legitimate part of the War on Terror, however broadly defined. You know I agree with you on that.

    But to claim that Edwards only pushed the War on Terror meme because he thought Terror was only meant to include al-Qaeda, is as ludicrous as to claim that Hilary didn’t really vote to go to war when she voted to authorize military force against Iraq.

  29. Don’t even try to confuse Joe with facts crimethink. It is hopeless. Al Quada is a group not an ideology. Further, groups like Hamas and the Iranian Mullahs are just as much or more threat to the U.S. as Al Quada. The problem is Islam and various strains of it.

    Joe the last thing you want to do is actually fight Al Quada. Al Quada is currently all over Iraq and you want to leave the battlefield to them. It is just a joke. It is like when you talk about “increasing U.S. intelligence”, when someone actually does that, then you are on here whining about how the government is spyging and not respecting the rights of terrorists sufficently. You want to fight Al Quads until doing so actually involves something hard, then we must go home and achieve the peace. If only the world were as easy as the slogans you put out, we would all have a merry Christmas.

  30. BTW, reading that Second State of the Union from 2002 is a hilarious (in a macabre way) experience. One nugget:

    Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens — leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections — then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

    If only we knew then what we know now.

  31. Bush was very, very clear right after 9/11 that he intended the War on Terror to be a war against all terrorists everywhere, and that it might take decades to win.

    Well, except the terrorists who attack Cuba. We’re not sure what to do with them yet.

  32. Joe the last thing you want to do is actually fight Al Quada. Al Quada is currently all over Iraq and you want to leave the battlefield to them.

    I dunno, John. Invading a country with no al-Qaeda presence, and standing by while al-Qaeda sets up shop all over that country, doesn’t sound like a good way to fight al-Qaeda.

    BTW, John, I’m with joe on the general Iraq issue, it’s his ludicrous explanation for Edwards’ trumpeting the same shit as the administration was that I differ with him on.

  33. John, the fact that Al Qaeda is on the ground in Iraq does not necessarily mean that it is in our strategic interest to fight them with ground troops in Iraq.

    I could certainly be persuaded that the US should fight Al Qaeda. But I would think that we would want to fight them on terms that play to our strategic strengths and not to our strategic weaknesses.

    If after our withdrawal from Iraq, Al Qaeda establishes bases in Iraq, bomb them. That will accomplish exactly as much as the ground occupation is accomplishing, at a fraction of the strategic and human cost and without creating nearly as many recruits for Al Qaeda. If you worry that we can’t be sure that we’re taking out Al Qaeda’s total capability with mere bombing, I will remind you that we aren’t taking out Al Qaeda’s total capability with ground occupation, either – they attack our forces every day, no matter how many doors we kick in or how many times we change the name of the policy.

    The fact of the matter is that if you apply a cost/benefit analysis to what we’re doing in Iraq, any reasonable calculator would conclude that we should leave. The 28% who still don’t want to leave certainly aren’t digging in their heels on the basis of a policy calculation – they’re doing so on the basis of national pride and virtually nothing else. They don’t want to leave because that “sends a message” or because it makes it look like America has been beaten. And making your policy decisions on the basis of pride will guarantee you failure.

  34. I just WTFV and O’Reilly mentioned the laundry list of countries that the “War on Terrorism” would involve (including Iraq!) and Edwards agreed that they were part of the war on terror.

    There goes your argument, joe.

  35. John, even if we admit we have a problem with radical Islam (there is a problem), its very difficult to fight a “war” against an idea.

    And since such a war is unwinnable, my fear is the government will use this “war” to justify everything from further wars to tax hikes to erosion of civil liberties to whatever the hell the feel like at the time.

  36. John,

    The only response I’m going to give to your faulty mind-reading, and determined ignorance about what I’ve been writing for five years, is to point out that there is no “u” in “al Qaeda,” dumbass.

    OK, I’ll give you one more – where’s Osama, asshole? Good job at Tora Bora – hope it was worth it.

  37. crimethink,

    Streaming video is disabled on my ‘puter.

    Yet another strike against Edwards, I guess. At least he’s man enough to admit he was wrong.

  38. “Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From A Bumper Sticker”

    …the sticky side. Ladies?

  39. joe,

    We didn’t have any problem “admitting” that Naziism, fascism, and (pre-neocon popularity) imperialism were evil, John.

    These ideologies only became evil shortly before we went to war with states that espoused them. Furthermore, we’ve never declared imperialism as a per se evil. I’m sure that if Britain and France still had large swaths of their empires left we wouldn’t be terribly troubled by it.

  40. Streaming video is disabled on my ‘puter.

    Mr. T also pities joe’s computer. Not because it is foolish, he just regular pities it.

  41. Grotius,

    Fair enough.

    I hereby amend my statement to “Liberals didn’t have any problem “admitting” that Naziism, fascism, and imperialism were evil, John.”

    Liberals denounced fascism, Naziism, and imperialism well before we went to war with any states advocating those ideologies.

    Thank you for the correction.

  42. “We can never admit that an ideology or a large section of a religion is evil.”

    “You can’t even say (that al Qaeda is evil) yourself Joe.”

    ‘No modern politician can ever admit that any ideology coming from the third world is in any way “evil”.’

    “Joe the last thing you want to do is actually fight Al Quada.”

    “Al Quada is currently all over Iraq…”

    “Don’t even try to confuse Joe with facts crimethink.”

    I just love the way it builds up to the conclusion.

  43. joe,

    Many liberals as a rule weren’t particularly keen on objecting to Communist imperialism or the barbarities associated with communist rule. One of the sad facts of both liberalism and conservatism was the turning of a blind eye (by many adherants of these ideologies) towards the atrocities of groups which they found some ideology kinship with.

  44. Grotius,

    True enough, but the statement I was refuting was “no one can admit that an ideology is evil,” not “we only sometimes admit that some ideologies are evil.”

  45. 9/11 was criminal, it was not an act of war. It was pitched as a (xenophobia inspiring) act of war because the criminal acts committed on and leading up to that day weren’t limited to the foreign perps.

    I read a quote someplace that went something like this:

    “If 9/11 had happened to Japan there wouldn’t be anyone left in government to turn off the lights after the purge.”

    Our leaders hauled our republic into the bathroom and drowned it in the toilet, all the while lying to us when asked what they were doing and why.

    pointing: “Look! Al Quida’s number two man!” muffled thrashing and splashing noises in the background

    “they hate us for our freedoms!” gasping

    and finally, “we can save you from this threat, but we’ll need lots more money, lots more secrecy, and lots more leeway with the rule of law”.

    and we fell for it (in aggregate anyhow).

    I liken our nation’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks to Major League Baseball if it decided to start moving all outfield fences to over 526 feet away from the plate all because one skinny and light hitting shortstop hit one mammoth home run that “shocked the world!”

    ??It just might be a one shot deal??

  46. Thanks for the heads up, Gro!

    Somehow this line, On Sunday, several channels were taken off air as they tried to broadcast images of Justice Chaudhry’s trip to Abbottabad strikes me as funny.

    *to the batcave!

  47. VM,

    Well, it strikes me as being worthy of the sort of coverage given to the Venezuelan media situation.

  48. I rather pathetically blog about it here.

  49. I know (at least, I think) it was just a playful line, but am I the only person on earth who doesn’t get the whole “striking good looks” thing re John Edwards?

    Granted, I’m a heterosexual male whose idea of good looks is more along the Jessica Alba line. Still, stepping back as objectively as I can muster, I’m genuinely perplexed by the conventional wisdom of “wow, Edwards is really good looking.” The bowl haircut, the dopey eyes, the plastic sheen… I just don’t get it. He looks like a cheesy movie character, or the sort of dude most girls I know would make fun of in a bar.

  50. The problem is Islam and various strains of it.

    The problem is not even fundamentalist islam, at least in isolation. There are plenty of fundamentalist desert bumpkins living out in the desert backwater that are about as violent as your average backwoods mountain holy roller. They never even leave the little village that they were born in, much less travel halfway around the world to strap bombs on themselves.

    The problems erupt – as always – when you combine a radical POLITICAL agenda with a religious position of absolute moral certainty. In case you haven’t noticed, most of the middle east – and most muslim countries in general – are ruled by SECULAR autocracies. These rulers have a tendency to jail political opposition, and for the most part, that works. However, a religious population is much less tolerant of having a holy man jailed than a journalist, and the secular lean of these governments gives radical holy men a lot of motivation to be involved in politics. So political opposition tends to coalesce around religious leaders and organizations, and you get events like the Iranian revolution.

    The main difference between Jerry Falwell and the Ayatollah was that Falwell lived in a society where political change could be effected without violence.

    It’s the situation in which the religious/political movement arises that determines how violent it is – a group arising in a totalitarian society that jails, murders and tortures dissidents is going to be much, much more likely to resort to means like revolution to achieve change than one arising in a western democracy.

    The US, then, is largely peripheral to these conflicts. We are involved only so much as we stick our noses into middle eastern politics and are seen as supporting what are undoubtedly oppressive regimes (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria). The best thing that we could do to prevent future attacks on US soil by organizations orginating in the middle east is just to get the fuck out.

  51. Gro – I like your blog!

    It was particularly fun seeing the Bjarne Riis coverage there. 🙂

    *pours a big glass of Schaudenfreude (brand) Iced Tea

  52. EMERGENCY media controls were signed into law by embattled President Pervez Musharraf yesterday in a desperate attempt to thwart the “revolution by television” taking place in Pakistan against his rule.

    Another oppressive regime that we support. We’re really going to be up against a wall when the revolution comes to Pakistan, because they DO have nukes.

  53. “Well, it strikes me as being worthy of the sort of coverage given to the Venezuelan media situation.”

    I’d go so far as to say that the actions of close allies who enjoy economic and political support from our government deserve even closer scrutiny than those of hostile governments.

  54. We didn’t have any problem “admitting” that Naziism, fascism, and (pre-neocon popularity) imperialism were evil, John.

    Actually, we (as the United States), did. Hitler was quite popular in the US when he first came to power for saving the German economy and fighting the communists. It was only leftists like Charlie Chaplin that were really aware of who he was and what he intended. Of course, the leftists at the time were similarly blind to the atrocities occurring in the USSR. Groetius is right – people are better at seeing the evil of their political enemies than their allies.

  55. And here I thought Hiss was dead.

  56. Tacos mmm,

    Folks tend to forget (or don’t know) how popular the German-American Bund was in the 1930s. Then again they were one a kaleidoscope of radical groups which gained quite a following at the time.

  57. “And since such a war is unwinnable, my fear is the government will use this “war” to justify everything from further wars to tax hikes to erosion of civil liberties to whatever the hell the feel like at the time.”

    That’s the whole purpose. We have to have wars and potential wars to justify the existence of the military industrial complex. It was a sad day for the military industrial complex when the wall came down. It didn’t take them long to find a new enemy to start up “world war IV” as Podhoretz calls it.

  58. Grotius,

    LoL! Wow, that little Name box screw-up certainly puts an interesting spin on my comment.

  59. “Bush was very, very clear right after 9/11 that he intended the War on Terror to be a war against all terrorists everywhere, and that it might take decades to win.”

    We weren’t fighting terrorists when we attacked Iraq. The terrorists didn’t come in until we created chaos by our invasion.

  60. “groups like Hamas and the Iranian Mullahs are just as much or more threat to the U.S. as Al Quada.”

    How are they a threat to us? They wouldn’t be if we stopped meddling over there. If you shake a hornets nest, you’re going to get stung. We’re in danger of terrorist acts against us because of our meddling foreign policy.

  61. “Or, it means that Edwards is willing and able to change his opinion on things as new information becomes available to him. Unlike some certain standing Presidents that we know.”

    You really believe that? You can’t see through Edwards as another political opportunist?

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