I've noticed a lot of bloggers using some variation on Swift's title “A Modest Proposal”, and I'm glad to see bloggers are so well-read. It's one of the things that makes the group one you'd want to be part of, because it wouldn't have you (to invert the old Groucho joke). It is, after all, a tempting title that Swift has bequeathed us.
It seems that many blogizens blog because they feel that other people, especially other blogizens, are reasonable folks who might in the right circumstances, perhaps accompanied by a nice wine, be persuaded to see reason. That if reason can be put in sufficiently attractive words, it will be seen for what it is and the differences between us will disappear, or at least shrink it to a manageable size.
I admit that I harbor a similar belief with respect to blogizens, but I'm not so sure about the world at large. I do think that Faulkner meant it when he said that everybody wants to be better than he is, but, if memory serves, he said “wants to be”, not “tries to be”. The Nazis no doubt wanted a peaceful Europe, if they could get it on their own terms, but they weren't about to expend any effort in that direction.
I think a lot of diplomats also harbor such beliefs, though they're not as outspoken as bloggers, and they often have to couch their beliefs in obscurities. Historically, the error of supposing that “If I could just sit down and talk with the Tsar/King/Prime Minister man to man, I'm sure we could reach an understanding” has bedeviled more than one career. Still, it seems that diplomats have both more reason to think this, and more skill at determining when it's actually true, than the rest of us.
It's been in many ways heartening to see some of these prejudices validated by what I consider the exemplary behavior of Joseph Wilson. I imagine from what I read that Valerie Plame is a similarly honorable person, though I haven't seen her on TV. I have seen him, and wow! Josh Marshall says:
...another reporter told me that "I think that, outside of Novak, everyone in the press who talks to Wilson realizes he is what the US gov should be all about, and wants to defend him against scurrilous attacks." And I think that's about right.
I think it's about right, too. Only the attack dogs are dissing Wilson, and they look bad doing it because he's got too much background for them, like the glowing letter from 41 (quote from Democracy Now!):
"Your courageous leadership during this period of great danger for American interests and American citizens has my admiration and respect. I salute, too, your skillful conduct of our tense dealings with the government of Iraq," President [George H.W.] Bush wrote Wilson in a letter. "The courage and tenacity you have exhibited throughout this ordeal prove that you are the right person for the job."
So here's my modest proposal: Draft Joseph Wilson to run for President in 2004. I don't care what party's ticket he's on, I'd even vote for him if he claimed to be a Republican. It's clear from how he's handling this situation, not to mention the well-known image of him standing forth in pre-Desert Storm Iraq with a noose around his neck, that this is one of those people you're proud to claim as a fellow countryman. He certainly doesn't know everything, and he's undoubtedly wrong about some things, but he's not a bald-faced liar, and he is a patriot in the positive sense of that word, not the negative one with which we've had so much recent experience.