02 March 2005

Spinning Good News

Yesterday (see here and here), I noted that the Democrats and their supporters were beginning to acknowledge the gravity of the changes wrought in the Middle East by the liberation and democratization of Iraq; except for the most partisan of the Democratic partisans, these changes are indisputably good news. Bad news, however, is the true life's blood of politics: partisans crow about the bad news affecting their opponents and spin their own bad news to minimize its damaging effects on themselves. When political operatives point to "good news", it's often transparently self-serving. Other times, what's termed "good news" is a silver cloud with a dark lining -- items which please the faithful while simultaneously providing ammunition to one's opponents; an example would be "pork barrel" spending: incumbents are quick to point out to their constituents how much public money has flowed to their districts through their efforts, while their opponents and other observers see much of that money as "pork" and tantamount to political payola on the public dime.

Genuine good news like that reported daily from the Middle East presents a different sort of problem: how do you spin such good news when it didn't result from your efforts (and more probably occurred in spite of them), and how can you jump on the bandwagon now without anyone noticing? The comments of Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, to host Steve Inskeep on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" program this morning may provide some indication of how the Democrats plan to spin the good news from the Middle East:
Levin: We're not going to know whether or not, for instance, this war made a fundamental change for the better probably for a decade.

Inskeep: For a decade?

Levin: Yeah, in terms of fundamental change in the Middle East, absolutely.

Levin then notes the positive democratic developments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but tempers them by saying, "We can't determine whether that is going to stay or whether these are delaying tactics trying to fend off criticism from the West, and we won't know that, I think safely, one can say a decade, optimistically we can say a few years."

This is probably the most defensible position the Democrats can take in the absence of any actual regression in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. If Syria also begins to show some internal effects either from its ouster from Lebanon or from the democratic movements elsewhere in the region, it too can be safely added to the list without difficulty; in other words, this can be a consistent Democratic position for some time to come -- "It's good, but will it stay good? No one can reasonably say [at least not until there's some more bad news from the Middle East or until after the next election cycle, whichever first occurs]." Well played, Senator.


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