Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Read my lips

The thing about John Kerry's speech in Los Angeles, which argues that being in the military is a job for losers and being in Iraq a fate for chumps, is that he and many others from his background may really believe it. He's almost certain to backtrack and make pious noises about the nobility of Service to the Nation (he already has), but there will be something about his hair gel that suggests he may not be entirely sincere. Only suggests. I'm no mind reader and can't claim to know, as other people somehow seem to know, a politician's real thoughts. But hypothetically now, what should prevent him from holding the view that it's so much better to be a lawyer, movie star or senator than it is to be a grunt talking to a sheik in mixed Arabic and sign-language somewhere back of the beyond? A lot of people, especially lawyers, movie stars or senators, might actually share that view. One thing that could seal his lips is the quest for votes, which imposes a curious reticence upon the otherwise voluble. 

Matthew Yglesias had some advice for liberal campaigners.

It would be useful, for the purposes of electoral politics, for liberals in the media to avoid expressing the view that the belief -- adhered to by millions of Americans -- that failure to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior will result in eternal damnation is daft. On the other hand, the evangelical view of this matter is, in fact, completely absurd. And not just absurd in a virgin birth, water-into-wine, I-believe-an-angel-watches-over-me kind of way. On this view, a person who led an entirely exemplary life in terms of his impact on the world (would an example help? Gandhi, maybe?) but who didn't accept Jesus as his personal savior would be subjected to a life of eternal torment after his death and we're supposed to understand that as a right and just outcome. That, I think, is seriously messed up. But I shouldn't say so!

The practice of saying things you may not believe or holding your fire on things that you hate is justified not simply on the grounds of political expedience but on the high-minded principle that it is an elected official's duty to echo the Voice of the People. Hence the practice, raised to an art by many politicians, of turning to their pollsters before saying anything at all. Unfortunately the human amplifiers for the latest polls probably have secret thoughts and even beliefs — yes beliefs! — that occasionally emerge when they're in their cups or typing on Instant Messaging and which subtly affect their official behavior. The result is that in politics what you see is not necessarily what you get: a kind of NWYSIWYG. Children's advocates who are child molesters; advocates for national defense who are really appeasers; point men on an border fence who would vote for anything but; people who celebrate their "faith traditions" but who are really militant atheists; "men of the people" who are really snobs of the worst kind. The list goes on and on.

In response, voters and political observers have become adept at decrypting coded messages in official speeches, listening to conversations when mikes are accidentally left on, parsing body language and engaging in what amounts to a form of dumpster diving to sound out a man's heart from his trash. This creates the bizarre situation, exploited ruthlessly by the tabloids, in which the relationship between signal and noise in public discourse is partly inverted. Often the signal is noise and the noise is the signal. When a politician's most sincere moment doesn't come when he has his hand to heart, eyes uplifted and lips parting in peroration but when he's drunk or off-guard then we really are no better off than a grunt in the back of the beyond straining to know whether the sheik before him is friend or fiend. From a certain point of view a job on the battlefield has certain advantages over high office in Washington. Sometimes it's cleaner.


Blogger hamint said...

Kerry, the feckless do nothing, should be drummed out of the Democratic Party. It would be one of the best things for the Party as well as the Country, but, of course, nothing much will happen regarding his insulting remarks in California.

10/31/2006 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

As I have said before, the worst thing about working in DC is that you have to lie.

You have to lie primarily because you are being attacked by people who do lie - and by people who lie out of ignorance - and because you don't have time to find out the truth, explain it to the biased and ignorant and still meet the absurd deadline you have been handed.

You have to lie because there are so many people in DC who really, truthfully, believe that once the policy is established the question of the resources to implement it are a minor detail that someone else can worry about.

So lying is not unusual. And thus you really learn about a man not merely when he is caught lying – which everyone does - but when he tells what he sees as the truth.

We caught Kerry telling the truth.

10/31/2006 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Yeah, ok, I'm no fan of Kerry's, but the fact is that he has served, he has been under enemy fire, been decorated and certainly despite any other defects he might have, he can't be accused of being a chicken hawk. After all that has happened in Iraq (the last bit about the serial numbers!!!!) could you really advise a kid to join up to be used up so frivolously and incompetently.

10/31/2006 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

Even though a majority in NC voted for Bush in the last two elections, we have a liberal Dem governor and a Dem majority in both state legislatures. It strikes me as odd in this campaign season that Republican candidates here are campaigning on their being solid conservative while the Democrats are resolutely avoiding being labeled as liberal; the only local Dem campaign theme being "for the children".

Now here we have Kerry, who has run on purely false premises his entire political career, who finally slips up and reveals who he really is.

I heard a national news report that Kerry "came out swinging" in response to the WH press secretary's comment that he should apologize to those in the armed forces. Kerry, being the shrewd politico that he is, refuses to do so - his majesty will never allow such.

How this phony ever garnered the votes for the position of most powerful officeholder in the land….

I’m starting to agree with folks like Neal Boortz, who says we have waaaay too many stupid people in this country. Too many who vote for sure.

10/31/2006 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

It was certainly ad man Rosser Reeves who described the process and progress of the depth interview as developed by James Vicary et. al. in the 1940s and 50s.

Unfairly exploited by Vance Packard in The Hidden Persuaders, the depth interview was developed as a response to generally poor sales of products built and marketed according to consumer responses to direct questions about what they wanted. It turned out they either didn't really know, or they lied.

10/31/2006 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger lugh lampfhota said...

Kerry has only been interested in one person his entire life...and that person is himself. So his exhortation for others to only think of themself is not surprising.

Personally, I never let whores lecture me about morality. So Kerry can just speak to the soiled handpuppet that is his base.

Kerry owes American soldiers an apology

10/31/2006 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

lugh lamp

Yeah, that's two now.

I'm suprised some gunny doesn't go postal and make him a martyr for the left.

10/31/2006 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Your noise-to-signal problem is only a problem during campaign season, when politicians have more to gain by posuring and lies than sticking to any higher order of morality. Luckily for us, with respect to Kerry, we have the real meat & potatos: the voting record. That's pure signal, baby.

The voter who is considering a new candidate is taking a higher risk than the voter who votes for the incumbent, thanks to lacking of a voting record. That's why things like a war record or business acumen are so important: they are indicators of quality or values which are really hard to fake. Only someone as dedicated to political posturing as Kerry would really go to war simply to advance a political career.

Of course, when the promises don't materialize (Contract with America? What's that?), the voter who took the higher risk is also subject to higher disappointment. High risk should mean high reward. Since that reward did not materialize, I expect that Kerry's accidental honesty will have little effect on the disappointment Republicans are facing. I moved to a new state in August and forgot to register to vote in my new home. Oh well. Not sure I would have went anyway. I'm abstaining on the theory that (1) Republicans need an object lesson, and (2) Democrats can't totally ruin the country in just two years. It's a risky strategy, but hopefully one that will reap a reward.

10/31/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Kerry is fighing the last war. Its sad a guy who can not even manage to pull of a scripted joke was a serious contender for the Presidency.

Kerry needs to realize given his past history how it is quite easy for many to believe he was directly insulting the troops, but Kerry is so into himself he will never figure it out untill the next such incident. Then he again he will respond quite incompetently and incorrectly.

10/31/2006 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

The ship that I was on helped to clean up Phu Quoc Island in '66. I wish that we hadn't.

10/31/2006 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...


Correct analysis of the "chickenhawk" concept. Among other things, they felt no such restriction on criticizing we in the military in the 1970's.

It would appear to me that taking that concept to its logical conclusion would mean that we could not criticize politicians, since we have never been one.

11/01/2006 06:41:00 AM  
Blogger herb said...

Noise to Signal is hard to decipher in a skilled or intelligent politician such as Clinton. Kerry is neither skilled nor intelligent. His signal has been clear since 1972 and consistently delivered as late as last year where he was talking about the troops terrorizing women and children. Kerry is an illustration of the principle that endowment is no substitute for class.

11/01/2006 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...


I mean Kerry's war against the Swift Boat Veterans.

11/01/2006 07:41:00 PM  

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