Dean's "The ends do not justify the means"

In an editorial today, Safire talks about Howard Dean’s claim that he never criticized the killings of Odai and Qusai (Saddam Hussein’s sons) by saying, “The ends do not justify the means.” Dean has referred to it as an urban legend.

Safire has tracked down a specific quote from Dean, however:

Safire claims that this proves Dean was being a spinmeister extraordinaire, that Dean was obviously saying that the ends (killing Odai and Qusay) do not justify the means (use of military intelligence).

However, reading that quote several times, I simply cannot derive that meaning. To me, it seems clear he’s saying that the ends (killing Odai and Qusay) do not justify GOING TO WAR IN THE FIRST PLACE.

What do other people think? Does Safire have a point, or is he twisting Dean’s words around to make them mean something they don’t?

As I read Dean, he was making an argument similar to one I’ve made. Even if it turns out that Hussein was minutes away from perfecting a nuclear missile, Bush was STILL wrong to use deception, trickery, and bullying to move the war effort apace. A corrupt cop who frames a murderer for a different crime in order to get the murderer behind bars should still be prosecuted for his own violation of the law. The ends, in other words, do not justify the means.


Nope, you’re right on the mark. Safire has been loudly and thoroughly wrong about almost everything related to either Iraq or 9/11, and looks desperate for something true to hold on to. Remember that this is a guy who learned his PR philosophy the same place he learned practical politics, in the Nixon White House.

Not that any of the above matters to someone looking to score a political point, or at least help contribute to an atmosphere, which seems to be McCain’s motivation in making the claim that Safire is picking up. Anyone wanting to think McCain’s somehow different, somehow better, than the rest needs to remember that he’s still a politician.

This is more a general response than particular to the Dean comment/denial/whatever.

I’m not convinced (As I know others are) that the ends, in general, do not justify the means. In a perfect world, then yes, this would hold as people would be indifferent to personal animosities or political partisanship. However, we do not live in that kind of world.

If, to use your hypothetical, Bush knew that Saddam was on the brink of creating a nuclear weapon which he would then use against the US or in a manner that would draw the US into a much greater conflict, then I feel he would be correct in usin a wide variety of means to get the necessary support for war. I have no doubt that if he brought his case to the American people there would be a substantial number of democrat partisans (as there would be republican partisans if Gore were president) who would deny the validity of the information, the need for war, or any thing else they could think of to undermine the effort. At this point, there is a power struggle, delaying the effective launch of operations until a point at which it may be too late to avoid serious complications: a nuclear blast in New York City, battlefield WMDs used against our troops, etc.

The question of partisanship bogging down the open and free exchange of ideas is self-evident within the OP. Safire is either genuinely mis-reading Dean’s quote or intentionally attempting to mislead others about it for partisan political ends - namely to undercut a potential presidential candidate from the other party.

Certainly, it is not always a case that the ends do justify the means. The ends must be of a substantially great enough nature and the ends certainly must fall within some bounds. This complicates matters, but in a practical world there are no clear-cut yes or no questions (at least not of any significance). It is therefore more instructive perhaps not to ask whether the ends justify the means generally, but whether a specific set of means are justified by the end to which they are applied.

So, we are left to ask the following questions. What means did Bush use that are distasteful? What was the end to which he applied these means? Is that end of sufficient enough worth to validate the use of questionable means? Did he cross a line over which no one can be forgiven their transgressions?

Here, I think we will see a large departure from the cool, collective discussion of disinterested parties and delve deep into partisan debate and bickering.

As for the questions posed in the OP, I fully believe that Safire is quite intelligent and as such is more than able to understand the nuance and meaning of Dean’s statements. However, I am unsure at this point if his partisanship is clouding his judgment as to what Dean really means or if he is maliciously mis-representing what was said. As for this (registered, but displeased) Republican, I think the OP has the sense of Dean’s comment much more so than Safire.

I agree, Safire’s really reaching. Dean’s statement is perfectly clear - the death of Uday and Qusay was a ‘victory for the Iraqi people’ but that fact is irrelevent to any support of the war.

I don’t know if it’s bad journalism or dishonest journalism, but I don’t see how any other reading of Dean’s quote is possible.

I read that Safire piece yesterday and I had exactly the same reaction. It’s obvious that the ends/means statement was referring to the war as a whole and not just the killings of Uday and Qusay.

Someone explain why anyone bothers to take Safire seriously? I would have thought his ludicrous attempts to keep the Mohammed Atta/Iraq/Prague story alive months after it had been discredited would have destroyed his credibility by now.

Safire’s diet consists largely of his own feet.

It’s quite the same reason any partisan is taken seriously - most of America (and probably the world for that matter) walks around all day, every day with blinders on their eyes. They see only what confirms their pre-concieved notions of the world. It’s like the line in Metallica’s My Friend of Misery “Hearing only what you want to hear, and knowing only what you’ve heard.”

A case in point, on the other side of the spectrum, are those partisans who totally support Michel Moore and his lies/distortions/half-truths/and un-truths. I was sitting in a bar the other week (hey, I’m in college, was drinking a beer while doing some research for a paper) and I listened as two students talked with a professor about Bowling for Columbine. All three sat there talking about how great it was and how it really made a good point, even while acknowledging that much of it was made-up or taken out of context. I fought the urge to laugh in their faces at how stupid they sounded, and only managed not to do so by realizing that nothing that could be said would have made any difference.

Thank God (or whomever) for the SDMB and the few other places I can go where there are at least some people who are willing to take a look at their own pre-conceptions.

I get the impression that the Times is immensely proud of their hiring practices that result in having conservatives as prominent members of their staff. Even when one of these conservatives turns out to be dishonest and a sloppy journalist, their desire to trumpet their diversity overshadows their need to keep high standards amongst their writers. And it’s not like there aren’t qualified conservatives out there, although sadly, some people will probably read Safire’s commentary and come to that conclusion.

It’s another case of affirmative action for conservatives resulting in lower standards in general.