Today's Blogs

War of the Words

Bloggers debate whether to call conflict in Iraq a “civil war.” They also rip into potential House Intelligence Chair nominee Jane Harman and fight over Mormon undergarments.

War of the words: NBC’s Matt Lauer announced on the Today show Monday morning that the network would start referring to the sectarian violence in Iraq as a “civil war.” The White House says the war has entered a “new phase,” but is avoiding the term “civil war.” Bloggers put on their linguist hats.

Boston Herald columnist and conservative blogger Jules Crittenden calls the announcement “essentially meaningless. Like pointing out that the war in Iraq has now lasted longer than World War II. Like making headlines out of the war dead in increments of 500.” He also digs in to the motives behind the phrase: “NBC’s unilateral declaration of Iraq as a civil war follows … is intended to support the idea that we don’t belong there.” Conservative Mark Kilmer at RedState dismisses NBC’s change as pure rhetorical frenzy.

Liberal Michael J.W. Stickings at The Reaction thinks it’s about time the media adopted the phrase: “Better late than never, I suppose, but the media’s hesitation to [call] sectarian violence a civil war has essentially belittled the violence, prevented them from taking it as seriously as it ought to have been taken.” Liberal ThinkProgress takes issue with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest’s statement on MSNBC that the paper has “not labeled it a civil war” partly because “the elected government itself does not call its situation a civil war”: “The Washington Post’s job is not to act as stenographers for officials in positions of power, but rather to report facts as they exist on the ground.”

Fellow liberal BooMan at Booman Tribune rejects the argument that calling it a civil war would equalize the insurgency with the government and thus undermine U.S. strategy. He calls it “a very astute observation with a highly invalid conclusion.”

Brent Baker at the conservative watchdog NewsBusters compares the recent rhetoric of different network anchors: “[T]he Today show repeatedly announced how NBC News had decided to call the situation in Iraq a ‘civil war,’ as if that decision was major news itself. … Meanwhile, CBS and ABC didn’t go quite as far as CBS’s Katie Couric referred to how Iraq ‘slips ever-closer to civil war’ and ABC’s Charles Gibson suggested ‘you can call it anarchy, you can call it chaos, you can call it civil war…’ “

The Huffington Post has a clip from The Daily Show in which Jon Stewart and John Oliver offer alternatives such as “faith-based melee” and “internal sovereignty challenge.”

Read more about the “civil war” debate.

Harman’s next: House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has reportedly decided against appointing embattled Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings to head the House Intelligence Committee. Bloggers wonder whether another potential nominee, California Rep. Jane Harman, has what it takes.

Liberal Glenn Greenwald is none too pleased: “Jane Harman, like Steny Hoyer, is the symbol of official Washington, the broken, rotted, corrupt Washington that propped up this war and enabled this administration in so many ways.” Conservative Tom Maguire at JustOneMinute sarcastically calls Greenwald’s post a “breakthrough intellectual effort.” He points out that Harman’s supporters, who Greenwald considers “extreme Bush followers and neoconservatives,” include the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

On the New Republic’s The Plank, Michael Crowley remembers Harman as less than a “lantern in the darkness” before Iraq, given her credulous take on weapons of mass destruction. But Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog smells “more than a whiff of retribution” in attacks against Democrats like Harman: “After all, nearly half the Democratic caucus supported the resolution, and we really don’t want to declare every one of these folks persona non grata on all issues related to national security.”

Meanwhile, conservative Michelle Malkin compiles an extensive list of the allegations against Hastings, urging Pelosi to “put the garbage out, not in.”

Read more about Jane Harman’s bid.

Boxers, briefs, or Mormon underwear? Cyberspace is achatter over Massachusetts Gov. (and likely Republican presidential candidate) Mitt Romney’s Mormonism—specifically, the sacred undergarments worn by many Mormons.

After posting a photo of the undergarment, Catholic blogger Andrew Sullivan responds to offended Mormon readers: “My policy on this site is to publish reality, within certain boundaries of religious respect. … I mean no disrespect. It’s a largely irrelevant issue. The racial history of the LDS church is far more pertinent to Romney’s candidacy. And none of this would be relevant at all, if the Republicans did not now base their politics on explicitly religious appeals. You wanna play by the rules of theoconservatism? Then deal with the consequences.”

Law blogger Ann Althouse lambasts Sullivan’s move, calling it “an ugly one”: “He doesn’t like social conservatives and the way they use religion, and he sees an opportunity to drive a wedge into them by raising questions about religious doctrine and prodding people to feel hostility toward Mormons. … [S]tirring up hostility toward one sect … is a dangerous thing that goes far beyond the targets you think you’re aiming at.”

Shaun Mullen at The Moderate Voice followed Sullivan’s lead by running a clothing photo alongside an item on Romney. He also drew Althouse’s ire, sparking a skirmish that devolved into recriminations and name-calling. Althouse has the thread here.

Read more about Mormon underwear.