Ernest Partridge and Jonathan Simon: An Exchange

From Ernest Partridge:


So what do you think of Simon’s hypothesis?*

Seems to me that the implication of Simon’s qualm is that the left should do all it can to support and sustain USAPATRIOT lest the post-catastrophe fallout fall on the left. Sorry, I don’t buy that. The best way to oppose USAPATRIOT is to oppose it.

The Simon hypothesis attributes a subtlety and complication of Bushite thought-processes that strike me as far beyond their demonstrated capacities. Besides, the more complicated the scheming, the more likely the backfire. Iraq has proven that. If we are hit by another catastrophe — a loose nuke, bio-attack, or whatever — this week’s Senate vote will be the last thing on the public’s mind, and any attempt to hang the responsibility for the attack on this vote will be too much of a stretch for the public to swallow.

If this “defeat” in the Senate is what it seems to be on the surface, by all means let’s make the most of it. Treat it as an authentic setback for the Bushistas. In politics, perception is reality.

With all due respect to Jonathan Simon — and his contribution to “the cause” has been considerable — I believe that in this case we can score one for our side.

After all, as Freud said, sometimes a cigar is simply a cigar.

Ernest Partridge
The Crisis Papers

*I say “hypothesis” rather than “theory,” and choose to confine the use of “theory” to its scientific sense (as a comprehensive “model” of reality, comprised of facts, laws, etc.). Using “theory” in its popular sense (as a “hunch”) gives support to the creationist’s claim that “evolution is only a theory, not a fact.” It’s a hopeless gesture, I know, but it’s got to start somewhere. EP

Jonathan Simon responds:

Hi Mark-

Thanks for giving me a crack at Ernest’s take on this. I am indeed concerned that an opening has been deliberately and strategically created for the next 9-11; the eerie comments from Sen. Hatch and other right-wingers seem to support that reading. An inadvertent opening would be just as damaging, however.

As far as subtlety of thought, I don’t see that self-sabotage requires all that much, and it certainly has been undertaken before. It’s a simple syllogism really: “war on terror” good for ratings and power, and brutal for dissent; “war on terror” requires periodic “terror” to keep the seltzer from going flat; with safeguards filibustered and voted down by civil liberties hair-splitters, the next benificent 9-11 is “invited” (Hatch’s word) and certainly not the regime’s fault; PDQ.

I don’t credit the regime with much in the way of subtely of thought and, yes, their corner-cutting in certain areas has managed to backfire to a cretain extent. Nonetheless, they managed to get us into Iraq through deception and, last I checked, we were still there-a classic fait accompli. And it is precisely the breakdown of measured and logical thought and process after an incident like 9-11 that makes such things as the Patriot Act and Iraq possible. It is naive, I think, to believe that we could not see such madness again.

I agree with Ernest that supporting the Patriot Act is quite Listonian, and my advocacy for such a course was prompted by the initial shock of my realization of what a dangerous window was being opened and how Frist and Co. seemed to be salivating at the prospect. Let’s take the victory as such and celebrate.

However, I think it remains critical to make it absolutely clear to the public that this window was opened (whatever comes through it) by Frist’s (and Bush’s) refusal to allow a temporary extension of the protections while civil liberty-based concerns were addressed-not by the senators raising those concerns.

I do not think as Ernest does that in the aftermath of the next 9-11, “this week’s Senate vote will be the last thing on the public’s mind, and any attempt to hang the responsibility for the attack on this vote will be too much of a stretch for the public to swallow.” If we learned one thing from 9-11 it’s that nothing is too sacred or solemn or traumatic to be beyond the reach of the spinners and scorekeepers, especially of the right. Whether or not 9-11 was an inside job, political and structural hay was being made before the week was out (probably before the clock struck noon) and it has not stopped being made. The scorekeepers never sleep and the connection between this vote and the next attack is already being built.

I ask again why Frist (and Bush and the House and all those seemingly so concerned about America’s sudden vulnerability) would not, as good patriots, in a heartbeat, make sure the ostensibly essential protections of the Patriot Act remained temporarily in force? Why did he pull it off the table with apparent glee? I agree that at this point, if Frist is seen to be calling Feingold’s bluff, the opponents should stand strong.

But if 12/31/05 passes and Frist and Bush do not cave and put forward a temporary extension, which is certainly within their unilateral power, then it will be of the utmost importance to establish that their failure to do so was the proximate cause of any ensuing catastrophe; because you have to know that they will be out in full force setting it up the other way and we have seen how receptive the public is to their bullshit when sufficiently traumatized. The email below to Senator Feingold further elaborates this position.

With respectful partial disagreement with Ernest, but great appreciation for his views and work.

Jonathan Simon

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