September 28, 2006
So here's a bill that Arlen Specter says "will take our civilization back 900 years." A bill which Patrick Leahy calls "the darkest blot on the conscience of the nation." And yet the Democrats do nothing effective to stop it--when all that would have been required was to move it (as the wiretap bill was moved) past the end of this session.-Howard A. Rodman (Huff Post)
In The Wild Bunch, Deke Thornton (played by Robert Ryan) says to his band, "You think Pike and old Sykes haven't been watchin' us? They know what this is all about - and what do I have? Nothin' but you egg-suckin', chicken stealing gutter trash with not even sixty rounds between you... The next time you make a mistake, I'm going to ride off and let you die."
That about says it. For fear of being called weak the Democrats sat there and sucked eggs. There was an occasional burst of noble rhetoric, but no concerted effort or real opposition when it would have counted, and no political will to delay the juggernaut. Leahy said, "There is no new national security crisis. There's only a Republican political crisis." And, having said that, voted and lost.
Should we ride off the next time the Democratic Party makes a "mistake" of this magnitude? Or should we ride off right now?
UPDATE: Lieberman's still a jackass.
September 26, 2006
This, from a column this morning by a novelist named Andrew Klavan, who seems to have the same high regard for the Big Dog that Hugh Chavez has for the current incumbent. That Ronald Reagan was a "great" President, or even the "greatest President of the last half of the 20th Century," is an argument for historians. He certainly wasn't the "greatest" President if you were an African-American, or if you lived below the poverty line, but I will admit he accomplished many things that, in retrospect, benefited the country, including his sharp repudiation of neoconservatism at the end of his second term, which in turn led to accomodation with Gorbachev and a relatively bloodless victory in the Cold War.
My beat is human psychology and the nature of reality and fiction. It's in those realms that at least one key difference between Reagan and Clinton can be found — a difference that sits at the heart of our current divisions.
Reagan was a man who believed in truth. Not your truth or my truth but "the truth," the one that is out there whether you happen to believe in it or not.
"I never thought of myself as a great man," he said, "just a man committed to great ideas." Those ideas — our founders' ideas — were great because they recognized a central truth: the good of individual liberty. And they guaranteed human beings those rights endowed in them by the "big truth" — their creator.
Clinton, on the other hand, is a narcissist who finds it difficult to grasp in any real sense that there is a place where his "inner man" ends and the rest of the world begins. Clinton's stock phrase, "I feel your pain," is really the insistence of a man who does not truly feel anyone else's pain, does not truly understand that there are other inner realities as urgent as his own.
But to claim that ol' Dutch had some special loyalty to "the truth" is almost psychotic. There has probably never been a President, present company included, who had less interest in what the facts were in any given situation than Ronald Wilson Reagan. Whether it was fictitious "welfare queens" (a racist lie that helped discredit conservative efforts at welfare reform for a generation), or denials that his administration was selling arms to the mullahs in Iran as his principal hostage negotiation strategy, to his frequent juxtoposition of movie plots with reality, Reagan was a man who debased the truth at will.
I would even go so far as to argue that the reason President Clinton was able to ride out the Lewinsky scandal was that the bar for honesty had been set so low by his predecessor. What Clinton's adversaries forgot, but his supporters vividly remembered, was that the public eventually made their peace with Reagan's frequent lies, seeing that trait as an eccentricity gifted upon successful politicians rather than a character flaw. If you could forgive a President for not being honest about sending graft and kickbacks from Iran to the Contras, then what's the big deal about lying about a consensual affair? Reagan's most important legacy may well be the moral relativism that he legitimized in our political system, an attitude towards "the truth" to which both parties have made their accomodation.
September 25, 2006
The Salon article is here, btw.
When George Allen told Mike Stark that he'd never used the word "nigger" the absurdity of the claim was obvious. Of course that word had passed his lips at some point in his life. I imagine there are few Americans who haven't used the word in some fashion at some time. For the record I have. I just typed it a few seconds ago. I'm reasonably sure that I've never used it as a direct racial epithet, though I can't be sure I've never used the word in ways my older more enlightened self wouldn't consider to be inappropriate.
Though his denial was absurd that doesn't mean he'd ever used it in a fashion such that he should be harshly judged now. And, frankly, I'd even forgive "stupid awful shit he did as a college student" if there was reason to believe he'd evolved since then.
September 24, 2006
[UPDATE (9/28)]: According to Mr. Archibald, the Pulitzer "nomination" was actually submitted by his employer, the Washington Times. As I've noted before, it's not a real nomination, any more than an Academy member nominating a buddy is a true "Oscar nomination", but it does add context, both to the claim and to Archibald's perceived importance with his former employer.
[UPDATE (9/29)]: Now Archibald's bio at HuffPost is stating that he "went on to win four Pulitzer Prize nominations from Times editors." I'm not a professional journalist, so what I want to know from those of you who are is whether this sort of thing, which looks like resume padding to the layman, is actually considered to be an honor within your ranks. Do writers at the same newspaper compete with each other for the coveted honor of being nominated by their employer?