Wednesday, January 28, 2009

William Kristol v Matt Damon: Bets?

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Iraq War Showdown: Bill Kristol Agrees to Debate Matt Damon After Actor’s “Idiot” Slam
by Andrew Breitbart

On Sunday afternoon Weekly Standard editor and New York Times columnist Bill Kristol — in an email exchange with Big Hollywood — agreed to debate Matt Damon on his Hollywood home turf after being informed the 38-year old actor ridiculed Kristol in an interview in the Miami Herald.

“He’s an idiot — he wrote that we should be grateful to George Bush because he won the Iraq war. We! Won! The! War!”

As the sponsor of the event, Big Hollywood is offering $100,000 to Damon (or to the charity or carbon credit of his choice) to publicly debate Kristol at a mutually agreed upon time, date and venue.

Boy, I wish I had 100 grand to toss around like that. But I do agree that it would be fun to watch. I disagree with the Drudge-traffic as to why, and at who's expense the fun would be had.

Krystol took umbrage at the following line.

[C]onservative William Kristol, according to Damon: ''He's an idiot -- he wrote that we should be grateful to George Bush because he won the Iraq war. We! Won! The! War!'' (The opinionated Mr. Damon-Miami Herald.)

Breitbart and Kristol together have confirmed for me (ok, I infer from context) a long-held assumption; they can't read. Or at least, they suck at opposition research.

You see, context is rather important. What the context shows is someone who is quite well informed on the issues, human, ethical and practical.

Instead, the small talk -- if that's the right phrase -- ranged from which New York Times columnist is the worst (conservative William Kristol, according to Damon: ''He's an idiot -- he wrote that we should be grateful to George Bush because he won the Iraq war. We! Won! The! War!'') to the proper place of torture in American foreign policy.

''Look, the best line about torture I've heard came from [retired CIA officer turned war-on-terrorism critic] Milt Beardon,'' Damon says. ``He said, `If a guy knows where a dirty bomb is hidden that's going to go off in a Marriott, put me in a room with him and I'll find out. But don't codify that. Just let me break the law.'

``Which I think is right. You can't legalize torture. But anybody would do it in that situation. You'd do it to me in that situation; you'd pull out my fingernails if you thought I knew something like that.''

This is an extremely important point, showing a sophisticated understanding of the ethics of realpolitik and real life. Sometimes, yes, one must break the law in order to preserve things worth preserving - including the institutions that uphold and defend the rule of law. But the people doing that cannot and must not evade responsibility for the fact that their choice was between this wrong and that wrong.

That is to say, Nixon was right in saying that Presidents very often have to do things that are not, technically, legal. He was wrong in saying that "when the President does it, it is NOT illegal." No, it may well be necessary, but the person in charge of the law MUST know where the line is, even in the act of crossing it.

There's a dictum I firmly believe in: "Never let morality get in the way of doing the right thing." But that is by no means a defense of either amoral or immoral behavior. Ethics is about assesments of balances of harm and benefit, in specific cases. Morality (and law) is supposed to be a general guide for most people in most circumstances.

But Kristol is one of many NeoCon apologists who would like you to believe that torture is a tool that can be morally justified if "the right people" do it unto "the proper suspects," and supports the practice of a public posture of doing it and letting people KNOW it's being done.

That makes it both state terrorism and the foundation for an argument for "regime change" identical to the one Kristol was famous for touting, vis-a-vie Saddam Hussein, one of huge numbers of bizarre and inherent cognitive dissonances and factual conflicts one must accept in order to accept Kristol's apologias and spinmiestry.

Nonetheless, the pinheads are agog at the possibility that Matt Damon might take up Kristol's challenge to a debate! It's sort of hubris by proxy!

Sandy - January 26th, 2009 at 9:26 am

In a real-world debate between pretend-smart and actually-smart, Damon would be like the Texas girl’s basketball game where the coach got fired for winning 100-0.
It would be like me playing chess against Kasparov.


Shellie Lewis - January 26th, 2009 at 9:26 am

Bill Kristol will clean Damon’s clock! I bet this debate never happens. Typical libtard bombast, all mouth, no guts. We don’t go to the movies, either. Matt Damon is particularly irritating. I guess George and Brad, et al, use him as their mouthpiece. And, how about money for a Bill Kristol charity when he wins?

And hundreds more. Hundreds upon hundreds more.

Generally speaking, it's unwise to assume that someone with a viewpoint that disagrees with you is "not smart." It's far safer to assume they are lots smarter than you, source their facts and look to their arguments. The FIRST thing you want to do in a debate - or ANY intellectual dispute - is to ensure that your own facts and assumptions are as inarguable as possible. That's what they taught ME in debate class. Then, of course, they gave us topics that were arguable by definition. The facts don't change, but the assumptions based on what the facts mean... that's where the fun zone is.

And here's some of the rules of thumb for fun in that zone.

If a person who can be shown to be an idiot agrees with you, you really should re-assess your position. The proposition is not reversable. Being disagreed with by an idiot does not make you correct. Nor does being disagreed with prove that the critic is an idiot by definition. Ideally, we want as little space between what is true and what we wish to be true as possible - and opponents who do not understand that that gap is the ideal place to wedge The Crowbar Of Truth.

What's that saying? "You have a right to your own opinion, but not your own facts." And that, I presume is why Matt Damon thinks Kristol is an idiot for saying what he did.

Holy crap, it's an amazingly, breathtakingly idiotic statement on the face of it, the sort of statement that requires far more than "and I'll stake my reputation upon it" as an argumentative foundation. It is a statement that requires some sort of proof; certainly a definition of terms, such as, what do you mean by "victory," or "what did we win?"

Now, I can actually see an argument that could look at the war retrospectively as being a good thing, on the whole, but the problem is that for that to work out, a whole lot of people who are not subject to US influence, much less Kristol's, have to make very good, rational and dispassionate choices in an environment that - thanks to the neocon war effort - is rather hostile to rationality.

Frankly, I think that final historical view of history will be as arguable as the typical views as to the benefits of the War Between The States or US accounts of that great victory over British aggression, the War of 1812.

Ok, here's MY take on the contenders and their potential strenghts and weaknesses as a person actually trained in debate.

Bill Kristol is a professional NeoCon, and has taken literally thousands of positions in the public record that have turned out to be less than entirely correct. Not even close enough for government work, not even by the below-sea-level standards for government that Bushites adhere to. And let us remember that political philosophy aside, at the end of the day, that is what he's paid to be, as a think tanker and pundit - to be correct on the facts and to take those facts and make correct forecasts from those facts so that others may profit by them.

Otherwise, why pay him?

Debate is an important public policy tool; it allows those listening to evaluate both the facts (which must actually be factual and will be challenged if they are of doubtful provenance) and the use those involved make of those facts to found their arguments.

Now, all I know about Damon is that he's a Harvard trained actor. Which means, aside from everything else, he may well have had very high-level competitive speech training. And, like him or hate him, there's a lot less ammunition just lying around waiting to be used against him.

So, he's at least as well prepared as The Great Communicator was when he handily won HIS debates - with far less to work with.

So, this is where these facts lead me. Matt Damon disagrees with Bill Kristol - in public. Kris - in fine NeoAuthoritarian tradition - responds with a challenge to meet him in the playground after school.

I think I've seen this movie.

But there's a difference. Damon doesn't know "just a little karate."

Now, philosophically, I would differ with both. I'm neither a Liberal nor a NeoConservative. But - and this is an important point here - I know the foundational assumptions of each and can argue those positions, should I wish.

Moreover, I've enjoyed and learned from people who argued from those positions skillfully and with great apparent sincerity. Say what you will about Margerate Thatcher; no-one took her lightly and came away unscathed. Or, again, say what you will about Noam Chomsky. Many on the right do - but all too commonly, in saying it, they reveal that they simply don't have the slightest idea of what he said. This is not to say that his conclusions are correct, or that one could not successfully argue with him, as William F. Buckley famously proved.

The core issue here is that you simply cannot pull unfounded, unfactual assumptions about economics, human nature and the dynamics of warfare out of your ass and make them true by presenting them in a way that is appealing to fools who wish to believe your mythos.

Liberal or Conservative, War on Terror or Kumbyah; believing the propaganda is the first sign of the sort of intellectual deficit that should keep you far from any position of influence - such as, say, the editorial page of the New York Times.

And finally, we have seen Kristol in action, getting owned by John Stewart - no editing needed.

Who can forget when he told Stewart he was getting wrong information because he was relying too much on... the New York Times. Stewart replied: "But you work for the New York Times, Bill!"
Now, when you are prone to saying things things like that with very little provocation... imagine what he'd say if he was seriously challenged?

The debate would be Damon's to lose, frankly. And wouldn't it be lovely, Matt, to take Brietbart's money and put it into, oh, say, stem cell research, solar energy or possibly an organic arugula farm?

Or maybe a small film about the history of the NeoConservative movement.

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