Had a Toby Ziegler moment yesterday, listening to the House "debate" on Bush’s gift certificate for one (1) free Declaration of War. Toby is most often the occasion for the phenomenon that causes me to wince when watching The West Wing: smug, self-righteous, preaching-to-the-choir impatience with the pluralism of our society that requires accommodating the interests and voices of howlingly ignorant people. Toby frequently lets himself become exercised about hypocrisies spouted by political opponents, professing incredulity that anyone could possibly swallow such calumnies, until he begins to expectorate bile and his interlocutor gives him a weary look, as if to ask, Why are you shouting at me?
I wince at this because it is not persuasive; it is patronizing and alienating. It provides ammunition to those who claim that liberals are elitist and out of touch with the "common people." Yesterday, however, I was too demoralized to wince. I was cast into Toby’s pit of despair, and only Toby’s rage could get me out. From the floors of the House and Senate, 9/11 was repeatedly invoked as the reason why legislators were forfeiting both their prudence and their Constiutional duty to check the reckless adventurism of Pretender Bush, but there was no acknowledgement of the fact that affecting a "regime change" in Iraq will do nothing to reduce the likelihood of a similar terrorist atrocity in the future. No one looked at the pertinent and pressing example of our failure to achieve any lasting success in Afghanistan as a model for this Administration’s contempt for the very idea of foresight and patience in foreign policy. No one pointed out that it was obvious before the first WTC tower fell that there is not much to be done about suicidal zealots with high technology. We are much more inconvenienced and restricted in our civil liberties than before 9/11, but we are no safer. In calling for this non-sequitur war, Bush is exploiting American outrage and fear from 9/11 but has failed to demonstrate any Iraqi responsibility for 9/11. Instead, we have been spooked by the possibility that Iraq might have a nuke or two. Meanwhile, there are thousands of kilograms of fissile material in the former Soviet Union that this Administration has refused to help secure. Without qualifying the Iraqi nuclear threat, isn’t it a bit disingenuous for Bush to suddenly display such concern? Is it possible that the Bush Administration’s agenda in all this is just a bit impure?
Why am I shouting at you? I don’t know.