National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: Hell Hath No Fury

While, admittedly, the brief 60-year retrospective on the history of NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Nov. 18 was a genuine tour de force, sometimes watching the Sunday morning blab shows can be downright depressing. It is often evidence of a painful disconnect between Washington’s insiders and the real grass roots across the land.

Last weekend you had a “round table” of Republican strategists Mike Murphy and Mary Matalin and Democratic counterparts James Carville and Bob Shrum, as if idly gathered for Sunday eggs benedict. Chattering on Tim Russert’s “Meet the Press,” they handicapped the presidential race based on their usual parlor game calculus: Who’s left or right of whom, who’s saying what Constituency X or Y wants to hear, who’s got money and who doesn’t.

To them, it’s all about posturing on a two-dimensional checker board, without regard for the unpredictable nature of the game, itself. There’s a kind of indifferent determinacy shared by them all.

At least over on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” someone mentioned in passing the candidacy of Ron Paul. No one did on “Meet the Press.” But he’s the gorilla pounding his chest in the corner of the room.

Not Paul, per se, but the American grass roots’ intractable contempt and disgust for one of the most criminal acts ever perpetrated by government anywhere, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

It’s not about how many are against the war. It’s about the depths of passion about it. What’s driving America’s opposition to Bush, and to Washington’s inaction, is an emotional fury akin to a lover scorned or a two-timed spouse. There been a hard-core violation of trust in this case, of a sacred trust between the government and its people, and the people are deeply hurt and enraged.

They’ve added up the ingredients of this world-historic fiasco, and at the top is the burning resentment they feel about their president looking them in the eye and lying about the reasons for the invasion, including his claims to know the exact location of “weapons of mass destruction.”

This has been compounded by their president’s disingenuous, lying insistence to his own people that there was a connection between 911 and Saddam.

There was the president’s lie that American soldiers would be greeted as liberators in Iraq.

Add in the cost, closing in on a trillion dollars.

There is the wholesale death and maiming of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians, with consequences that are going to cut deep into our society’s and Iraq’s for decades to come.

There is the government-encouraged greed and war profiteering by Halliburton and others.

There is condoning the exercise of the dark side of otherwise civilized human natures in prison abuses and the security-contracted wanton murder of innocent civilians.

There is the ripping asunder of a nation’s infrastructure for basic living, driving millions out as desperate refugees, unleashing the forces of bloody civil war and creating an environment for the recruitment and nurture of legions of new young suicidal terrorists.  

There is the humiliation citizens feel knowing their great nation is now the reviled and hated everywhere in the world, all because of Iraq.

Dismissive Washington pundits are dead wrong when they put Iraq as just one item on a list of campaign issues to address, and so are their candidates. Democrats are making a huge mistake by soft-pedaling Iraq now, worried that the “surge” there may be working (it won’t) and might make them look bad if so.

What’s making them look bad is playing down Iraq, like they are now. Politicians and the media didn’t start piping up about Iraq until the polls clearly showed the American people overwhelmingly opposed to it, to begin with.

Now they’re not paying attention again and it could well cost the Democrats the election. Maybe it will take Ron Paul winning New Hampshire to wake someone up.