REFUSEDNIK….I missed this while I was out stimulating the economy yesterday, but here’s the latest piece of Chistmas cheer from Andrew Sullivan. First he quotes Wesley Clark: “And I would say to the Europeans, I pledge to you as the American president that we’ll consult with you first. You get the right of first refusal on the security concerns that we have. We’ll bring you in.” Then he follows with this:

The right of first refusal. I’m with Clark on consultation and on building the U.S. alliance in Europe. But first refusal? That’s tantamount to Howard Dean’s view that we should seek the “permission” of the United Nations before military action. Permission?

“Right of first refusal” doesn’t mean “permission.” It means that if I’m planning to do a deal, I promise to offer the deal to you first. If you refuse it, then I can do the deal with someone else.

In this context, Clark is obviously saying that if we have security issues, we’ll consult with Europe first and try to find a solution. We’ll go elsewhere only if we can’t reach agreement. This is perfectly consistent with the rest of Clark’s statement and with everything he’s been saying on this subject for over a year.

And this is no innocent mistake on Sullivan’s part. If there are readers of this blog who don’t understand the meaning of “right of first refusal,” that’s understandable. But Sullivan has spent his entire life in the publishing industry, where the term is used routinely, and he knows precisely what it means. He’s just deliberately trying to twist Clark’s words into something they aren’t.

Which I suppose isn’t a surprise. But what really makes me shake my head about stuff like this is why? If Sullivan truly doesn’t like Clark’s internationalist vision, there are hundreds of honest ways to criticize it. And if he does like it ? as he rather unconvincingly says ? then why bother trying to pretend it’s something it isn’t?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just habit with him.

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