Thursday, July 09, 2015

Failure at the Bully Pulpit

On Wednesday, Medea Benjamin of Code Pink confronted Lindsey Graham at a press conference, and really didn't do a particularly good job.
Benjamin was supposed to be asking the Republican presidential candidate a question, but instead held onto the microphone for more than two minutes before security escorted her out of the room. While she still had the floor, Benjamin implored Graham to speak out against beheadings in Saudi Arabia and the Israel’s “repression” of the Palestinians, among other issues.
Graham had a chance to respond appropriately, and instead he chose to flounder.
“Is there a question?” an uncomfortable-looking Tapper asked as Graham chuckled to himself and rubbed his eyes.

“I’m going to put her down as undecided,” Graham joked after Benjamin’s mic had been taken away. While he said he respected her right to express her opinion, the senator said, “I couldn’t disagree with you more.”

“I think people like you make the world incredibly dangerous,” he continued. “I think people like you are radical Islam’s best hope.” He argued that the Iraq War did not create ISIS just as American intervention did not set the stage of 9/11. “You’re not going to fool me that somehow we brought this upon ourselves,” he said.
So, apparently, despite being a US Senator, Graham is either willfully ignorant or a liar. (I'm willing to say "both," but perhaps I'm too forgiving.)

OK, let's go through this quick: in the 80s, the CIA funneled money to train fighters in Afghanistan. One of those fighters was the son of a rich architect, a guy named Osama bin Laden who would go on later to create a little social club called Al Qaeda. So, already we see where American intervention over there didn't do us much good.

Then we went into Iraq and started blowing shit up. People lost their homes, their families and their hope. And like many hopeless people through history, they turned to religion.

On top of that, we left former Iraqi soldiers and former Al Qaeda operatives with no jobs, and since all of their training was in the area of "urban destruction," and they suddenly had plenty of time on their hands, they needed a hobby as well. So, Lindsey, that was how we helped create ISIS. Simple, right?

But both Lindsey and Benjamin held the national stage for a moment and neither one used it appropriately. Benjamin came to the Atlantic Council knowing that Graham would be there, and had plenty of time to prepare. She could have asked him a question that he could have been forced to respond to in some way.

For instance, "Senator Graham, you supported the invasion of Iraq. You consistently support our relations with Saudi Arabia, a repressive regime where most of the 9/11 terrorists came from. You have been consistently wrong in every way in dealings with the Middle East. Why do you think we should listen to you now, and especially why do you think we should put you in the White House?"

Instead she chose to do what CODE PINK does most of the time and just disrupt the proceedings with some incoherent rambling and unfocused anger.

Lindsey could have found a way to respond graciously, or could have begun discussing Middle Eastern policy. Instead, he make a lame joke and tried to dismiss with non sequiturs and lies.
“I think people like you are radical Islam’s best hope.”
How is that, Senator? Because she chose to exercise her right to free speech (even if she didn't do it well)?

Lindsey Graham showed that, at his best he would probably be an ineffective president; at his worst, he would most likely be that most dreaded of all natural disasters, a third Bush term. Medea Benjamin and Lindsey Graham met Wednesday night. But they were both prisoners of their own ideology.

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