Monday, December 28, 2009

JOURNEY INTO FEAR. The Corner at this writing is largely devoted to demands that Janet Napolitano be fired. In a crowded field, Jonah Goldberg has distinguished himself. Early on, he reiterates the general willful misreading of Napolitano's statements, then huffs, "I thought the head of the DHS was supposed to have the trust of the American people." I must have missed those days when American parents named their children after Tom Ridge, and kept portraits of him over their kitchen tables. Apparently Goldberg did too, because later he says
Well, if memory serves, I've never been much of a Tom Ridge supporter. And this magazine was awfully tough on him and DHS in general.
Maybe he meant the Golden Age of Michael Chertoff. Sometimes I think Goldberg suffers the same condition as the guy in Memento and has right-wing talking points tattooed on his belly, so whenever he comes to, he can just start bellowing away, blessedly unaware of what he said just hours before. Would that I were similarly blessed, at least regarding what Goldberg has said.

Goldberg also complains that Obama used the words "allegedly" and "suspect" regarding the incident. His post includes an almost perfectly Goldbergian sentence -- "If we know it, how 'allegedly' can it be?" I bet he mutters that to himself whenever he reads crime reports in the papers, or when he gets queries from his editors at other publications.

Goldberg acts as if Obama were going to blow the whole case, dammit, because he used careful language at a delicate time, rather than the pirate impersonation Goldberg favors. Presumably if Obama referred to Abdulmutallab as "yon scurvy dog" his chances of lifelong incarceration would be increased from certain to oh totally.

This obsession with tough talk is shared by Andy McCarthy, who wants to know why the Secretary of Homeland Security did not quickly and definitively attribute the failed crotch-bombing to Al Qaeda:
That is to say, indications of a larger plot abound. The prudent course is thus to say, "We are aggressively investigating all possibilities" and leave it at that. At this premature stage, no sensible person would be surprised to hear that; but saying it suggests we might be open to the possibility that there's a massive international Islamic terror conspiracy -- can't have that.
No normal person, hearing Napolitano's actual words, would assume that an Al Qaeda connection had been ruled out. Why is McCarthy doing this? His tell is "massive international Islamic terror conspiracy." McCarthy wants the most terrifying description of the possibilities front and center in the public's mind. And if people inclined to listen to him aren't terrified enough, he heads directly from certainty to speculation -- "They may very well be complicit. For a better sense of the potentially involved Yemeni players..." -- so that they'll go away in an imaginative frame of mind to draw webs of their own.

His purpose -- like that of Pete Hoekstra, quoted by Robert Costa in complaint that Napolitano is "reluctant to use the word "terrorism'" -- is not to enlighten but to spook. These guys discovered a while back that the public liked them better when they were scared, so now they're picking nits to suggest the Administration is incompetent or just not bloodthirsty enough, hoping to draw Americans back into the state of fear that increases Republican chances.

Goldberg pops back in to run the old Animal House clip of Kevin Bacon getting flattened by a panicked mob as he cries "All is well." His joke is that Napolitano is behaving like Bacon, but it would work better if the frightened mob had actually materialized anywhere but in National Review's offices. It remains to be seen if he and his buddies can get the extras to follow direction.

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