Friday, September 07, 2007

More About the NARLs

I got a certain amount of flak in comments to this post for being unfair to the NARLs [Not a Raging Lunatics], and I think there's some justice to it. I didn't really mean to slam them--writing the thing, I thought of my "where were you when it mattered" bit as something of a side comment--and for whatever it's worth, I do have a lot of respect for many of the NARLs who have come forward and denounced the raging lunatics they used to work for.

My real mistake, I think, was in lumping together (for example) Jack Goldsmith (who by all accounts did repeatedly stick his neck out to do the right thing) and Unnamed Neocon (who strikes me as a profile in cowardice, given that even now he keeps his sniping strictly anonymous). "Where were you when it mattered" is largely unfair to Goldsmith (not wholly unfair, I think, but mostly); not unfair to Unnamed Neocon; and fair or unfair to varying degrees to the folks in between.

That said, I think we should be wary of embracing the NARLs too enthusiastically, because it's too tempting to project our own opinions about the Bush administration onto critics whose basis for criticism may be wholly different from our own.

Goldsmith himself is an example of this, as this post by Glenn Reynolds illustrates. Reynolds, reading an advance copy of Goldsmith's book, posts excerpts apparently arguing that the administration's problem was too many legal constraints--which is kind of the opposite of what I think most of us have taken away from the excerpts published in the Times. Now, I don't know who's closer to the truth (on the one hand, the excerpts do appear to support Reynolds' interpretation; on the other hand, Reynolds is a complete idiot, incapable of interpreting even the simplest text without imposing his own ideological preconceptions; on yet another hand, he claims Goldsmith has confirmed his interpretation; on Kali's fourth hand, which leaves her two to spare, we have only Reynolds' reading of Goldsmith's e-mail--not the e-mail itself), but that's almost beside the point; the point is that somebody (and possibly everybody) is projecting their agenda onto Goldsmith here.

So, Go NARLs! up to a point...but let's also be sure we know exactly what it is they're speaking out about, and why.