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This and that / September 29, 2021
A minor kerfuffle has broken out on our Commentary page over the past few weeks, involving observations made by yours truly about the end of the U.S. military’s involvement in Afghanistan, which was followed by a reader who wrote an angry letter in response, then a counterpoint letter from another reader, and now a counter-counterpoint letter from our first commentator, and it all has to end somewhere. Thanks to all for participating, and now it’s time to move on, as they say.

But I’m going to make a few final points before we depart:

Point 1: There has never been a war in human history that produced a clean-cut outcome entirely favoring one side without any ill consequence. Just to limit our scope to American history, the Revolutionary War begat the War of 1812, the Civil War was followed by the collapse of Reconstruction and the racist terror of the Ku Klux Klan, and World War II — the last of America’s great wars in living memory — ushered in the Cold War and the repression of Eastern Europe that took generations to lift. Because wars are messy and cruel, they are not to be undertaken lightly. All the wars mentioned above were fought for great stakes and noble causes. Which leads us to ...

Point 2: Can someone please articulate what we were supposedly doing in Afghanistan after 20 years? And, relatedly, how many more years it would have taken to accomplish our objectives, which no one seems able to convincingly define?

Point 3: Accusing a sitting president of treason for ending a war that the American people tired of long ago, however imperfectly the execution was handled, is, um, pretty darn ridiculous.

Point 4: On the specific matter of the credibility of Fox News, two facts bear keeping in mind. One, Fox News personalities led by Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have persistently undermined America’s vaccination efforts, lending their prime-time platforms to an anti-science disinformation campaign that has killed an untold number of Americans. (Ed Brown of Clarksville writes elsewhere that “Dr. Fauci’s organization” worked with “China doing research on making a virus that can be used as a bioweapon” which is exactly the kind of deranged nonsense that comes from watching too much Fox News.) How exactly do we know Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham are lying about the vaccine and its alleged perils? Because Fox News has imposed a vaccine mandate on its own workforce, which includes Carlson, Ingraham and the entire sorry bunch, and yet these vaccinated Fox News “personalities” take to the airwaves on a regular basis to egg on covid deniers, many of whom have gotten very sick from the virus, and some of whom have died. Talk about people who ought to be ashamed of themselves ....

To summarize: Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have gotten their shots, regardless of what they may want you to believe, and you should too.

Movin’ on up ...

It’s very difficult to know what to make of the latest developments out of Washington, D.C. Let’s compile a short list:

(1) Congress is headed towards another shutdown of the federal government, which is bad enough in an old-hat sort of way, but, far worse, there’s grave doubt it can muster the votes to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. By “Congress” and “votes in doubt,” we mean, of course, Mitch McConnell and fellow Republican senators, all of whom voted multiple times to raise the debt ceiling when Donald Trump was president. They are now refusing to do so with Joe Biden in charge. Is anyone surprised by this news?

The debt limit extension would pay for spending incurred during the Trump Administration, amounting to almost $8 trillion in fresh debt over a single presidential term. The subject of the national debt is catnip for the political press, which by and large is populated by people who likely can’t balance their checkbooks, and as such it’s the kind of thing that produces reams of dumb copy and the resulting poor public understanding of the consequences of further indebtedness (which aren’t much). But understand this much: Defaulting on the nation’s financial obligations would be a very, very bad thing, a historical breach of American creditworthiness, and shame on anyone in the political arena who thinks playing with this particular fire is OK, by which we mean McConnell and company.

(2) While all this is going on, Democrats appear bollixed up by internal disputes over how far to go with their domestic agenda. This agenda calls for spending billions of dollars on measures related to climate change, universal child care for the pre-K ages, college affordability (free community college, mostly), a permanent child tax care credit, expanded Medicare (with vision and dental coverage), and other initiatives to make life a little less harsh and more fulfilling for millions of Americans. You can say this comprehensive agenda will cost trillions, because it will, but you also ought to know that it can be largely paid for by rolling back the trillions of dollars wasted on tax breaks for the very richest members of society. (Trump, Reagan, Bush and allies, they’ve all had a hand in this.) Will Democrats in Washington get their act together and pass the Biden “Build Back Better” package that the president ran on in winning the presidency, with a record number (81 million) votes? Or will they shrink from the moment? Only The Shadow knows, right?

One thing you eventually learn following politics: In practically no time, insurmountable obstacles can turn into problem solved in practically no time, to the seeming surprise of everyone. For Democrats, a limited number of options present themselves in the days ahead. Either they rely on the goodwill and sober action of their opponents across the partisan aisle — never a good bet — or they use their narrow majorities in the House and Senate to pass a few all-important bills, whether it’s down the gullets of their Republican friends or not. Or, as a third option, members of the majority party can watch their political fortunes and the full faith and confidence in the U.S. financial system swirl down the drain. Why are life’s answers always so complicated?

I won’t hazard any predictions here, but boy oh boy, I suppose you need to be a member of Congress to fail to understand what needs to happen here.

To be continued ....


One last quick aside: The Washington Post published a fine report this week on our neighbors in Blackstone and Nottoway counties, home to Fort Pickett, where thousands of Afghan refugees are being temporarily housed as they await long-term resettlement. Not surprisingly, the article delves into the predictable fearmongering and disinformation that has greeted Fort Pickett’s newest residents, but it also paints an uplifting picture of local citizens who have rallied to help these refugees through their darkest times. The story does a fine job capturing the decency of ordinary people who have answered the call to action to help the less fortunate, a kindness that no doubt will be repaid by generations henceforth. Check the piece out: You can search the internet for the headline: “Afghans arrived near a small Virginia town, exposing two different versions of America,” at It’s well worth your time.

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