Let me finish with that wonderful rule codified by columnist Michael Kinsley. "A gaffe is when you tell the truth."
I have a hunch this Kinsley rule will reign for years, you know, a watch-phrase in the political arena like Tip O'Neill's observation that "All politics is local."
Latest example of the rule: Republican leader Michael Steele's observation that "the one thing you don't do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan." He added that "everyone who has tried it over a thousand years of history has failed."
Is there something "un" true in what Mr. Steele has presented? Is there evidence in the last millennium of a successful intervention in Afghanistan? Did the British succeed there in some way that escaped the chronicles? Did the Soviets miss some chance to claim a great victory?
No, Steele had it right. He will remain right absent some awesome change in Afghanistan history - some serendipitous event, some never-before-seen change of culture that generates a hard affinity for clean, united national government, that creates a fierce fighting spirit by a national Afghan army, a national spirit strong enough and determined enough to repel al-Qaida and keep it repelled.
Absent this, something I've heard no one in uniform or without predict, who has the right to knock what Michael Steele said? The facts here are mean, but they are facts nonetheless.
Progressive columnist E. J. Dionne applauded Steele for opening up the debate on Afghanistan. He makes the solid point that if Democrats said it was patriotic to oppose President George W. Bush on foreign policy, including on where to conduct war, can anyone rightly deny the right of Democrats to oppose the escalation of a war by a President of their own party, which is precisely what we're getting in Afghanistan?
The president proposes that we attempt to nation build in Afghanistan then begin to clear out next July. A vote in Congress earlier this month showed a majority of Democrats are skeptical of that policy. They want a plan for troop withdrawal.
Looking at this historic record, who holds a stronger claim to what will happen between now and when the President says we should start leaving? Those who predict Afghanistan will undergo some dramatic transfiguration from what it has been or those who predict that the best guide to what Afghanistan will be like next July is the Afghanistan of this July.
I think it may be wise to think long before next year what Michael Steele said last week.