Over at New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait has authored a masterpiece critiquing the absurd liberal culture of political correctness. It is a long read, but it is worth every minute you spend delving into the inanities that have subverted productive dialogue on the left.
Just one quibble with Chait’s piece: The term “politically correct” speech doesn’t really describe the phenomenon he is denouncing. The malady plaguing the modern left is more akin to Soviet-style newspeak. Self-criticism bordering on flagellation, manifestly immature identity and class politics, hopelessly contrived acronyms and initialisms all serve as signifiers designed to separate revisionists and wreckers from the right-thinking proletarian. This instinct to police thought as well as speech would be as at home in the Kremlin apartments in 1925 as they are on American campuses 90 years later.
If the now defunct political correctness movement was aimed at repairing and healing divisions within American society, the present linguistic authoritarianism popular on the left is designed to exacerbate them. They are not the same thing.
That minor critique aside, Chait’s piece is a profoundly enjoyable read. It is a happy historical accident that it dropped on the same day that reports indicated that the Pentagon may charge Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion. It gives us an opportunity to ask why a perpetually aggrieved set of feminists, who are never more agitated than when someone accidently stumbles into an oppressive gender binary construct like English pronouns, seem perfectly happy to give the liberal administration in the White House a pass for regularly abusing Dr. Susan Rice.
The White House was subject to a number of criticisms for releasing Bergdahl in exchange for five ranking Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay. Many charged that the Pentagon had violated the law by failing to provide Congress with a 30-day notice of the prisoner transfer, a charge the Government Accountability Office later substantiated. The administration was criticized for sending these prisoners to Qatar where few believed they would be kept from communicating with their former colleagues in Afghanistan. This faultfinding, too, was proven prescient. Finally, the White House was condemned by many for lauding Bergdahl as a hero when the soldiers who served alongside him in Afghanistan believed that he not only deserted but that he put the lives of his fellow servicemen at risk when he did.
The White House bristled at this charge, and they sent Susan Rice out to rebut it.
“Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield,” Rice said. “He served the United States with honor and distinction.
“We’ll have the opportunity eventually to learn what has transpired in the past years, but what’s most important now is his health and well-being, that he have the opportunity to recover in peace and security and be reunited with his family,” she added. “Which is why this is such a joyous day.”
The administration knew perfectly well by this point, days after President Barack Obama joined Bergdahl’s parents in the White House Rose Garden for a press conference announcing the Army sergeant’s release from Taliban captivity, that the freed soldier’s record was suspect. At best, Rice was left in the dark when she was shuffled onto the set of ABC News’ This Week. At worst, she was directed to legitimize the administration’s glorification of an American serviceman whom they knew had abandoned his fellow soldiers and attempted to join Taliban ranks.
You would think that the White House would be more cautious with Rice, particularly given reports that she is one of the president’s closest advisors and may have more sway over American defense policy than any of the last three secretaries of defense. What’s more, this was not the first time Rice was asked to sacrifice her credibility in order to protect her male superiors.
Then United Nations Ambassador Rice was responsible for the now infamous claim on five Sunday news programs in the autumn of 2012 that the Benghazi attack was “a spontaneous — not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo.” And what transpired in Cairo was “violent protests outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video.”
Whether or not the White House knew Rice’s remarks were misleading when she made them remains in dispute. Democrats would like to insist that the investigation into this incident has concluded, and the findings of an HSPCI investigation, one which was extraordinarily deferential to the CIA, are the final word on Benghazi. In fact, the House’s investigation into the response to the Benghazi attacks is still out and so should be the public’s final judgment.
Regardless of whether Rice was aware in 2012 that she was disseminating misleading information with the aim of providing the White House political cover – precisely the same conditions that prevailed when Rice made her comments about Bergdahl less than two years later — she was still serving as a tool for the benefit of the president. You would think that modern feminism would be disturbed by this propensity from a liberal Democratic administration to abuse the loyalty of an accomplished and powerful woman. Perhaps they are just too busy conducting the imperative war against gendered t-shirts.
Update: An earlier version of this post indicated that the Army would charge Bergdahl with desertion. The Pentagon denies those reports.