Saturday, January 05, 2008


The phrase "can't we just move on?" encapsulates one of the deepest revolutionary yearnings of all: the desire to start from scratch. It is a feeling familiar to refugees fleeing a strife-torn country and equally familiar to those trapped in a loveless marriage contemplating divorce. It's the desire to be rid of the accumulated consequences of previous decisions. It's the longing for new beginnings. The two traditional ways to escape the weight of history upon the present -- "the dead hand of the past" -- were either in a return to some mythical past (like Osama's 8th century Islam) or in an insistence that events could be reset simply by willing them to be. The subtle difference between Hillary Clinton's mantra of "Change" and Barack Obama's promise of "Hope" is that the first retains a link to the past while the second taps into that truly revolutionary desire to start at a new point in history.

But as anyone who goes back to recover a lost past or remarries soon discovers, the promise of a completely new beginning is largely illusion. William Dalrymple, writing in the International Herald Tribune, reminds us of what we would as soon forget about Benazir Bhutto: that she was no better than Pervez Musharraf and perhaps a good deal worse. Pervez Musharraf may be every bit as evil as he is made out to be; but Bhutto did not represent a return to a new beginning; she was at best the chimera of "Hope" -- the past tricked out as the future.

When, in May 1991, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India was killed by a suicide bomber, there was an international outpouring of grief. Recent days have seen the same with the death of Benazir Bhutto: another glamorous, Western-educated scion of a great South Asian political dynasty tragically assassinated at an election rally.

There is, however, an important difference between the two deaths: while Gandhi was assassinated by Sri Lankan Hindu extremists because of his policy of confronting them, Bhutto was apparently the victim of Islamist militant groups that she allowed to flourish under her administrations in the 1980s and 1990s.

It was under Bhutto's watch that the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, first installed the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was also at that time that hundreds of young Islamic militants were recruited from the madrassas to do the agency's dirty work in Indian Kashmir. It seems that, like some terrorist equivalent of Frankenstein's monster, the extremists turned on both the person and the state that had helped bring them into being.

The redoubtable John Burns makes the same point as Dalrymple, but over a broader swath of history, pointing out that there have been no completely clean or idealistic leaders in Pakistan -- civilian or military -- for the last 60 years. To create a completely new start one would have to find a completely new country. But short of imagining one we are trapped by the "dead hand of the past" where one must play the ball as it lies. 

For 60 years since its founding in the partitioning of British India, Pakistan has seesawed between military dictatorships and elected governments, and now new hope for stability is being placed on the chance that democracy there can be revived. But while attention is currently focused on the failings of Pervez Musharraf, the latest in a long line of military rulers, Pakistan’s civilian leaders, too, have much to account for in the faltering history of Pakistani democracy. Over the decades, their own periods in office have been notable mostly for their weakness, their instinct for political score-settling, and their venality. ...

While widely lauded in the West, Pakistan’s current generation of civilian politicians — indeed, most of its civilian political leaders, going back to the country’s origins in the portioning of British India in 1947 — have repeatedly failed to bring the stability and prosperity they have promised. And the reasons for their failure, many who know Pakistan’s history have concluded, rest about as heavily with the politicians as with the generals.

To make matters worse, Pakistan is trapped not simply in the recent past of post-Raj politics, but in the matrix of its own make-up.  It was led, like many other Third World countries moving from colonial administration to Western-style nationhood, by elites whose primary loyalties were to their class or tribal allegiances instead of to the larger Nation. The label "Pakistan" papered over a crazy jigsaw of rivalries, hatreds and ambitions to present it as a single entity to Western eyes. 

Historians trace some of Pakistan’s problems to the British conquest of Moghul India, when centuries of Muslim rule in the subcontinent gave way to an era when Muslims, alwaysn suspect among the British for resisting their new colonial masters, became ever more an underclass.

When the struggle for Indian independence began in earnest in the 1920’s, the leadership rested mainly with Hindus — especially Gandhi, whose philosophy was egalitarian, secular and nationalist. In the 1930’s, the Muslim League began agitating for a separate Muslim homeland, but power within the league rested with Mohammed Ali Jinnah, an elitist, British-educated Bombay lawyer with a taste for expensively-tailored suits and little affinity for the common man. He would become Pakistan’s founding father.

Many of those who gathered around Jinnah were from the feudal landowning class, and tribal leaders. With scant interest in democracy, their concerns centered more on the protection of their ancestral privileges. When the British abandoned the struggle to fashion an independent India that would keep Hindus and Muslims together, the landowning aristocrats and the tribal chiefs became the political elite of Pakistan. From the beginning, they vied for power with the generals, in a struggle that intensified when the revered Jinnah died soon after Pakistan was established.

The gap between Western expectations and the natural aspirations of the Bhutto clan is highlighted by an anecdote in which a New York Times reporter shows Benazir Bhutto's husband,  Asif Ali Zardari, a sheaf of bank statements from French, Swiss and Middle Eastern institutions detailing tens of millions of dollars worth of kickbacks to the family. The NYT reporter probably expected Asif Ali Zardari (now the party leader following Benazir's death) to express regret or at least to deny the authenticity of the documents. He did no such thing. Instead, Bhutto's husband shrugged his shoulders and wondered aloud why the Bhuttos should be blamed for doing what was, after all, the done thing in Pakistan.

The bank statements were genuine, he said airily, as though confident — justifiably, as it transpired over the next eight years, which ended with his release from prison and flight, like Ms. Bhutto, into self-exile — that nothing much would ever be proved against the couple in a Pakistani court. But what bothered him, he said during a conversation in the prison governor’s office, was not so much the fact that a lawyer the couple had trusted had leaked their personal banking documents to investigators; it was The New York Times’s decision to investigate the financial dealings of himself and Ms. Bhutto, rather than others, including Mr. Sharif, who, he said, had grown rich in power. “You could investigate anybody who has held power in this country, and you’d find the same.” he said. “Why us?”

"Why us?" is the cry of a society which finds legitimacy, rather than confinement in the 'dead hand of the past'. The prerogative to exact a bribe, hang a rival or assassinate challengers is hallowed in Pakistan's past almost to the same degree to which politicians are allowed to promise some imaginary future or cure-all nostrum to voters in America. What happens when world history meets Washingtonian aspiration can be either tragic or comic. Often it is both. John Burns describes a strange kind of dialogue in which Pakistani politicians speak to Washington in words purposely calculated to be misunderstood, like some political equivalent of Abbot and Costello's conversation about Who's On First.

The legend cultivated by Pakistani politicians like Ms. Bhutto and her principal civilian rival, Nawaz Sharif, cast the generals as the main villains in stifling democracy, emerging from their barracks to grab power out of Napoleonic ambition and contempt for the will of ordinary Pakistanis. It is a version of history calculated to appeal strongly to Western opinion. But it has been carefully drawn to excuse the role the politicians themselves have played in undermining democracy, by using mandates won at the polls to establish governments that rarely amounted to much more than vehicles for personal enrichment, or for pursuing vendettas against political foes.

William Dalrymple, a British author who has written widely about India and Pakistan, put it bluntly in an article for Britain’s left-of-center Guardian newspaper in 2005. “As Pakistan shows, rigid, corrupt, unrepresentative and flawed democracies without the strong independent institutions of a civil society — a free press, an independent judiciary, an empowered election commission — can foster governments that are every bit as tyrannical as any dictatorship,” he wrote. “Justice and democracy are not necessarily synonymous.”

“Justice and democracy are not necessarily synonymous.” But it's annoying to puzzle out the difference. And to voters tired of trying to tell one foreign leader from another, it is sometimes easiest for politicians to recast the problem in a simplified narrative, using terms with which we are familiar to describe phenomenon for which no English word has yet been coined to describe. The United States supported Pakistan against India for almost the entire duration of the Cold War, supported the civilian democratic process against Pakistan's own military leadership and in no other country in the region is it so universally despised. Stephen Sondheim in his musical play A Little Night Music, wrote what is perhaps the most poignant commentary on misunderstanding; about the desire to find new beginnings only to find that they were old; to seek love only to encounter rejection; and to crave transcendence only to be ridiculed.

Don't you love farce?
My fault I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don't bother, they're here.


Blogger Bob said...

Obama--the Pandora candidate.

1/06/2008 12:54:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Tangential to the thread, but still intersting, I think:
Hillary and Bhutto in China

One thing Clinton certainly didn't do is remember the good times she and Bhutto shared as leaders at the United Nations' infamous Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, in 1995. At the conference, the two women were on opposite sides, one Ivy League grad arguing for every girl and woman's right to abort innocents (that would be then first lady Clinton, who earned her law degree at Yale), another Ivy League grad arguing to protect all human life (Bhutto, a Harvard alum).

Bhutto wasn't perfect by any stretch. Her tenure was riddled with corruption, she had friends we'd call enemies -- but she still managed to offer the world an alternative model of feminism. As she argued for protecting the most innocent, she sounded more feminist than those who claim to speak for all women. In a speech at the opening of the gathering, she warned: "To please her husband, a woman wants a son. To keep her husband from abandoning her, a woman wants a son. And, too often, when a woman expects a girl, she abets her husband in abandoning or aborting that innocent, perfectly formed child."

In reporting at the time, her speech was explained as being a condemnation of violence against women. Fair enough. But it was more than that: She was arguing against the forced abortion of female babies, and she was also arguing on behalf of innocent human life.

Bhutto heard "the cries of the girl child," and she said: "This conference needs to chart a course that can create a climate where the girl child is as welcome and valued as the boy child."

Serrin Foster, executive director of the group Feminists for Life, emphasized in a statement memorializing Bhutto, "Bhutto also refused to choose between meeting the needs of women or between protecting unborn children from abortion." Foster pointed out that Bhutto called the common practice of gender-selected abortions "tragic," and said it "still haunts a world we regard as modern and civilized."

1/06/2008 01:56:00 AM  
Blogger tckurd said...

I fear nothing like I fear someone who promises to ignore the past in order to create their vision of the future.

If Wretchard's interpretation is correct, AND I had to vote for a democrat, then I guess I'd vote for Clinton. And this would literally rip my heart out.

To think that ignoring all that has led us the point we are at is our strategic hope is certainly the mindset of most late-teen, early twenties types.

But who would let people of that mental maturity actually run something of any importance? Like a country, for example.

Today's youth know nor care nothing about WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Cold War, etc. All they might claim to "understand" is Gulf War 1 & 2. They don't know about the evolution of music from vinyl to reel-to-reel to 8-track to cassette to cd to ipod. They only know about the cd and ipod.

They don't remember a time when we could freely transfer music - they only know about the times where the RIAA sued you.

They don't remember cold 70's winters - they only recall warm late-90's winters. So when the global warming activist shows up and shows you the "evidence," you are gullible and swallow it hook line sinker.

They come from a time when Michael Jackson was sorta white and a child molester, not a time when he was black and a pop star.

They know nothing of when scientology was a joke by a science fiction writer, but instead of a time when bazillionaire hollywood-types converted and espoused Hitleresque defenses and looked cool doing it.

No, just moving forward is a nice thought, but life and government seem to be about the slower crawl of evolution.

Stephen Gould talked about the punctuated evolution - the world changing event that made it all go faster briefly, causing true mutational shifts in species.

Are we to say that Barak Hussein Obama (My Lord what a bad choice in names) is THAT event? He's THAT good?

1/06/2008 04:34:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

There's two kinds of people who think they can start from scratch: those with nothing to lose and those who have never known it was possible to lose.

The fact that America is objectively prosperous and relatively secure doesn't mean there is not a vast pool of frustration out there. Obama has found a way to tap into that discontent. For many of the other candidates, actual experience has tarred them as being part of the hated world of "business as usual". Hillary is business as usual; Edwards, by being that familiar figure, 'the lawyer' is by definition part of business as usual. But Obama by being exotic has the virtue of standing outside the cesspool -- even of standing outside the cesspool of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

The phenomenon of the inversion of experience -- the less you have the better the qualification -- is a familiar phenomenon in Third World and revolutionary situations. Vaclav Havel had practically no qualification other than that he was not part of the old regime. The same might have been said of Lech Walesa. That America might be in this psychological space shouldn't come as a surprise. We live in revolutionary times, a time which has the whole world in its grip.

But as tckurd points out, the discontent is not based on that appreciation but on relative memory. It's not the discontent of the 1860s, nor the Depression, nor even the fear of the Cold War. It's the impatience with the stupidities since the 1990s. The kind of Hope Obama offers isn't the same kind of Hope FDR held out.

If we are in revolutionary situation, it is one driven by being on the cusp of events, in the eye of the storm, rather than of being one meal away from starvation. And in that situation, the word "Hope" alone will be little to set against the vast forces of globalization, epic migrations, renewed religious extremism and technological change whose wings we can hear beating on our eaves. In that storm steering the right course will consist of more than leaving the patch of water we currently occupy.

The 21st century will not begin on a blank slate of our own choosing. Rather it will begin with a new page written over with strange, cryptic symbols. It will be new in that it resembles nothing we have seen before. In that world, Obama's Hope, compounded of cuts in the nuclear arsenal, withdrawal from Iraq, talks with Iran, and sundry other things, consists of answering the question before it is posed.

1/06/2008 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew X said...

This certainly speaks to soemthing I have been trying to get across to those around me of late, and that is how utterly childish and shallow this "I'm for CHANGE!".... "No, I'M more for change than YOU are!"... "Uh-uhh, I'M the changiest of changers out there!!" that has infected even both sides of this campaign.

What the hell is "change"? Nationalizing every and all industries is "change". Deporting all non-white people is "change". Declaring the US military a criminal organization and outlawing it is "change".

Is any of that what you mean, Senator / Governor?

What is saddest is not that the campaigns feel entitled or even compelled to speak in this juvenile manner, but the sheer numbers of millions that will swallow such a cheap and simple-minded argument wholesale.

1/06/2008 06:02:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

So if Obama wants to start with a blank slate and Hilary supports gradual change, where on this spectrum would Operation Iraqi Freedom fall? Naomi Klein in Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in Pursuit of a Neocon Utopia sure seems to be saying that OIF was much more of an Obama-type operation. So was Iraq a mistake since no one can say that it was anywhere close to gradual change?

1/06/2008 06:40:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

It was an Anglo-French utopia before it was anything else. Iraq was a colonial creation, the result of the 1925 Sykes-Picot agreement in which a corner of the Ottoman empire, consisting broadly of Kurds, Shi'ites and Sunnis, were incorporated into an entity called Iraq and administered by a congenial dictator.

But to affirm this would be to acknowledge that America was not writing on a blank slate, but rather upon a wall that had been defaced by the graffiti of European great power politics. It may have been forgotten but the British Army campaigned in Iraq during the Great War, long before 3 ID set foot in it.

However that may be, there is the circumstance that the Iraqis have devised their own constitution; elected their own government and that is not so common in the Middle East. Obama can hope to reverse that and Hillary can change that. But neither hope nor change are desirable in themselves unless you approve of the direction they take.

1/06/2008 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Maybe I shouldn’t’ have picked Iraq to analysis the question of whether gradualism is preferable to radical change since the subject is so politically charged. A comparison between the Chinese gradual approach to moving towards capitalism vs. the “shock therapy” applied in Poland and to a lesser extent in Russia might have been better.

But for what it is worth, obviously the US actions taken in Iraq were not on a blank slate, just as any imagined “change” that Obama is peddling will not take place on a blank slate. The original premise of the post was that radical change, which ignores recent history, creates the blank slate and therefore Hilary Clinton-style gradualism is preferred. At least Hilary is more honest since there will be little to no change coming from either of these candidates, and certainly nothing radical.

But the question still remains. In Iraq a Sunni dictator was overthrown (whether by the Iraqi people or not) and a Shiite democracy of sorts installed. This is Obama-style radical change (at least in the premise of the post). Would a Hilary-style gradual transition from Sunni hegemony to Shiite democracy, say over 20 years have been preferable. This does seem to be what the post is promoting, albeit not explicitly in Iraq.

Of course the answer is that such a slow change would have been preferable, if one was certain that after twenty years that the required changes really did occur. Which gets more to the heart of the original question. Gradual change is better than radical change except if what it really means is that no change takes place. In that case radical change is better than doing nothing (assuming there is agreement that the present coarse is untenable).

To translate this back to America and if we just cut to the chase, politics is about distribution of resources and little else. In America there is a growing realization that the middle and working classes have been and will continue to lose ground. Britain just caught up to the US in per capita GDP, the rest of Europe is not far behind. And remember Europeans work far fewer hours and take many more vacations than Americans can ever dream of doing. Middle and working class wages have not increased since the 70’s in real terms although hours worked per year have moved higher. The American rich though are doing just fine.

The question is: do Hilary or Obama, whether g4radually or radically, have what it takes to take on America’s wealthy elite. Will they be able to wrestle resources away from the wealthy elite as effortlessly as George W Bush stole from middle America? I would say no but maybe I’m just a pessimist.

1/06/2008 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger tckurd said...

I received more back during the GWB era than was taken from me in the WJC (Clinton) era.

If I had lost my entire retirement at Enron or Worldcomm, for example, I at least had a chance to make it back. Specific tax code items were introduced [e.g. 2001 EGTRRA). Of course, the government didn't actually bail me out or anything, but gave me an opportunity to catch back up. Plus, the scumbags perps died horrible deaths or await horrible prison. I can complain, but not *too* much.

I now hear that to pay for universal healthcare, people like me will have to pay taxes on the last 5 paychecks of the year whereas today I don't. That $2000 may not be the world, but it's Christmas - It's money I spend on the economy, or I save.

These folks are not offering any hope - they are offering wealth distribution.

If that's your Hope, then your retirement plan is winning the lottery.

I am not a college grad, I obssess and worry constantly about losing my well-paying job and 20+ year career, and I try to stay motivated to do for myself.

I'm not happy paying the way for others with at least equal opportunity and background, but it seems inevitable.

My taxes alone pay for 2 other people - I am single with no kids in the public system - I'm soaked enough... Please!

1/06/2008 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

No, the U.S. is not writing on a blank slate in Iraq – but neither were the British and French in the 1920’s , or for that matter, the Turks before them. Some people are fond of saying that each and every ethnic minority should have its own special country – but that would merely ensure a huge proliferation of non-viable countries. I suppose you would have to call them “The Fourth World” – groups that don’t even come up to Third World standards. In Africa there seem to be too many countries, but if the British, French, Belgians, Dutch, Italians, Arabs, etc, had left the people there alone to divide the land according to tribe there would be a hundred more small nonviable pestholes there.

Even the countries of Europe were created through a multi-millennia process of disagreements, forced consolidations, and breakups based on military realities. The breakup of the USSR and Warsaw pact showed that this process had merely paused at the end of WWII, and once unfrozen by the thawing of the Cold War it began again and is still going on. President Bush should have greeted Chiroc’s bragging of the expertise of the “old experienced nations of Europe” by rolling on the floor and whooping. “Excuse me, Mon Presidente, are you laying claim to the heritage of Louis 14, Napoleon I, or Vichy? I can assure you that we do not claim the heritage left us by English kings named James or George nor even our own Jefferson Davis.”

The Golden Age in which the lions and lambs lay down together never was. All those folks dancing on the hilltop in their national costumes only existed in a TV commercial that embodied all of the gritty realism of an episode of I Dream of Jeannie.

1/06/2008 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

Regarding the stupidity of "change" for the sake of change:

I had a friend in the mid90s who developed buyers remorse over Clinton, whom he confessed voting for in '92.

I asked him why in hell he did that.

His answer? He was mad at Bush 1 for breaking his "no new taxes" pledge.

My response was WTF? You're unhappy with the guy who very reluctantly raised taxes in the budget crisis, so you punished him by voting for people who think more taxes are great? Again, WTF?

He had no response other than a sheepish, embarrassed grin.

1/06/2008 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Kevin and Wretchard you are both completely and absolutely wrong.

Obama is not the agent of change at all. He represents nothing that is radical.

Obama is the agent of elitist fantasies. Pacifism, abject PC-Multiculturalism, hatred to dislike of America, and worship of every pathetic and loser "authentic" third world idiocy.

What IS revolutionary is the dislike to disgust to anger of ordinary people for PC which punishes them and benefits their enemies. Hucka-fool has tapped into that though he represents elitism too in his Jimmy Carter-esque pacifism, coddling of criminals (who prey on ordinary people) and "apology for America" which is similar to Obama.

Ordinary people are fed up with: PC coddling of criminals who prey on them. Displacement of natives by foreigners, and special privileges for foreigners (worse in the EU, particularly Britain, but getting bad in America). Being told their culture and history is crap and that the stupid idiocies of things such as the burqua, female genital mutiliation, animal sacrifice, polygamy are better than their own sacred history.

Elites in Europe and the US are telling ordinary people: your lives mean nothing. Your existence means nothing. Your culture and history mean nothing. And we aim to replace you with a trendier, hipper bunch of third worlders.

This is Obama's message. It is to a lesser extent Hillary's as well. Of course Obama is far trendier and hipper (look at his crowds -- pampered wealthy young people and trendy yuppies).

Meanwhile the dangerous, unscrupulous, and threatening Huck-afool rides the wave of "Angry Jacksonian" discontent just as I feared. Perhaps a better candidate will capture that.

Rather, what we will see Wretchard and Kevin, is not the continued revolt of the elites against the people through the misery of PC (which has resulted in a crime rate in England far exceeding that of the US, and brutality encouraged by the craven PC-bound Police and Courts and Government). But rather a revolt of the people against the elites to hold onto the little that they have.

Ordinary people see their houses threatened by an influx of illegal aliens lowering property values, requiring more taxes, creating more crime, and making them foreigners in their own country. Meanwhile PC is shoved down their throats at every opportunity and America, American history, and Christianity denied a place in the public square while every other cult/third world idiocy given pride of place and celebration. The idea of right and wrong ridiculed, and things such as "So Long White Boy" bandied about by Democratic thinkers and politicos.

In the distinction between the hip/edgy and the non-cool, there are far more non-cool. They have had it, quite likely, up to here and we'll see in the West generally and certainly in America a return to old values in rejection of Obama's foreign hipness.

EVEN Hucka-fool could beat him. Because the vast middle of America is sick and tired of PC being shoved down their throats.

1/06/2008 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Newscaper: One of the saddest episodes in American history occurred when Bill Clinton, having promised a tax cut, immediately upon taking office pushed through the largest peacetime tax increase in history. When he was not lynched the next day by an angry mob of the very people who voted for him, I think a part of America died that was larger and more important than the part that supposedly expired when Kennedy was shot.

Whisky 199: Concur. Obama does not represent change but a bag of the same old crap that has been being pushed around DC for the last 40 years. His victory speech in Iowa even said “That I am going to become President and end this war.” Okay, whiz bang wonder – is that the war that we are rather obviously winning now and which we were never losing except when Bill Clinton was in office? Talk about clueless – he sets new standards. The only change he represents is that of Groundhog Day. SSDD!

1/06/2008 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Obama does not represent change but a bag of the same old crap that has been being pushed around DC for the last 40 years.

Obama's ascendancy isn't an sign of strategic strength but of weakness. As you say, throughout the first part of the 21st century, the Left has had nothing to offer but the same old crap, which it tried to flavor with the sauce of Clinton nostalgia. But now that sauce has been tasted and found rancid, and the emptiness of their position is plain. But what if emptiness itself could be turned to an advantage?

When a check in your hand has bounced, the huckster will always offer you Hope: the big wonderful payoff with no definite amount, encashable on no particular date, but so large it will make you forget the fact you have nothing in your policy pocket at present. It works time and again.

The infallible sign of bankruptcy in a side is the desperate search for one miracle man after another. The McClellan or the Hooker who would miraculously find the answer to Robert E. Lee. A Marshal Petain whose appeal lay in the conjury of his name; he once saved Verdun, surely he could stop Guderian? Petain was selected not on the strength of his strategy, but in the hope of the magic of his name. Evita, Benazir, and the wunderwaffe all offered one thing: Hope. Hope is all you have when you don't have a plan. But you can still sell a pile of lottery tickets that way. There will be no shortage of buyers.

1/06/2008 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

It seems that, like some terrorist equivalent of Frankenstein's monster, the extremists turned on both the person and the state that had helped bring them into being.

I describe this phenomenon using the oxymoron, "Muslim gratitude".

Whiskey_199 has my vote with respect to Obama. He represents the current vision of reality that holds novelty as innovation and the primitive as authentic. Never mind that the novel and primitive have a snowball's chance in Hell of summoning forth any actual talent and expertise. Such once-important character traits are no longer needed in an age when facts are merely troublesome precursors of judgments that no one dares—or even wants to—make. Instead narrative reigns supreme over truth and perception—especially in the form of media appearance—far outweighs actuality. Few things define this brave new century better than it being the incontrovertible triumph of style over substance.

I would even go so far as to say that the issues of gradual, incremental or radical change are of little import compared to the single issue of substance. "Character" has often stood in for this timeless quality. Now that the cult of personality has gained sway we must look through "character"—too often a perception-based element—for more tangible assets in the form of real substance. "Leadership, "integrity", "moral fiber" and "intelligence" are what should matter. How many modern candidates from either side of the aisle embody even just one or two of these significant attributes? Nothing demonstrates this better than how often recent elections have been more about denying a given candidate office than installing a certain person of choice.

1/06/2008 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Arnie's Devastating Dissection (6 min)
(Check out Bill and Chelsea's faces when Hill starts blabbing.)
At the Hour and a Half Mark, she's talking about an abscessed tooth, and people are filing out.
The Clinton twilight
After Hillary Clinton's stinging defeat in Iowa, talkshow host Arnie Arnesen sees a wounded campaign in New Hampshire and wonders if Hillary can recover.

1/07/2008 02:31:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Voting for a Smile
Listening to Hillary and Obama evokes the famous scene in the classic “The Night of the Hunter,” when Robert Mitchum, whose fingers are tattooed with “LOVE” on his right hand and “HATE” on his left, has a wrestling match with his hands to see which emotion triumphs.

In the movie, love does, but it’s a close call.
The Hillary forces at the Plymouth Church caucus in Des Moines weren’t averse to bribes.
They were passing out See’s chocolates to Richardson supporters.

And they weren’t averse to threats. “My wife told me I’d have to join them or I’d be sleeping on the couch tonight,” said Ed Truslow, a compact 68-year-old manufacturing representative. He was still wearing his Chris Dodd sticker when he lumbered over to his wife’s side. A Clinton organizer slapped a Hillary sticker over the offending Dodd sticker, and with a frantic cheeriness told him: “Hillary now, right? God bless!”

They weren’t averse to bending the rules. When they realized that they might not have enough people to get even one Hillary delegate, they sneaked out of their assigned room to Red-Rover their neighbors over, before they’d been officially counted themselves.

It was understandable that Hillary’s “Golden Girls” acolytes would freak out when they saw the throngs of young Obama hopemongers swarming the caucuses. As one Dodd supporter said, looking for her little Dodd corner, “I’m lost in the Obamas.”

A caucusgoer drily noted that it did not seem the most propitious harbinger for Hillary that the fateful evening began with a threat to withhold connubial bliss.
By the time she got to New Hampshire, Hillary was reduced to urging voters not to buy into “false hopes.”

At a hangar in Nashua, with chatty Bill and chatless Chelsea, Hillary tried to purloin more of the Obama message. Besides saying the word “change” as often as possible, she said she was particularly reaching out to young people to help them “reclaim the future.” She claimed that she disliked the red state, blue state terminology — “We are one country,” she said, echoing Obama — even as she added that she should be the nominee because she’s the best one “to withstand the Republican attack machine.”

What she doesn’t mention is that she knows how to fight off the Republican attack machine because she and her husband were so adept at revving it up.

1/07/2008 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

St. Barack, Not
The banality of pap.=
By John J. Pitney Jr.
(John's Dad addressed my little Highschool!)

Barack Obama speaks of a “new politics” of unity: “You know that we can’t afford four more years of the same divisive food fight in Washington that’s about scoring political points instead of solving problems; that’s about tearing your opponents down instead of lifting this country up.” He is surging because more and more Democrats see him as a virtuous statesman who soars above “our broken and divided politics.”

But the message isn’t new and the image isn’t true.

There is nothing Satanic about Obama’s tactics.
He and his team are just playing tough, old-fashioned politics.
What’s offensive is his insistence that he’s above it all.

His supporters are swooning over a halo that isn’t there.

1/07/2008 05:56:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Wretchard: Note that the Left invariably has TWO versions of the Miracle Man – positive and negative. Just as their latest Hero will solve all the problems their earlier policies had created, and make the new old bag of crap work, finally, so will dealing harshly with a single individual solve the problems they don’t even admit they can address.

North Korea? Well, the Carter Supremacy during the Clinton Era solved the problem, but it was George Bush that, Miracle Man, that caused the North Korean nuclear program to be resumed, And Did So Even Before He Was Elected! Iran? All things were just fine before Bush riled them up. And that goes double for Iraq. Win the war on Terror? Simple, arrest and put that Miracle Man, Osama Bin Laden, in the dock. And maybe George Bush, too for good measure. Low-ranking people under the non-command of a female general officer putting underwear on people’s heads at Abu Grabe? Fire Rumsfeld and impeach Bush!

France brought back Marshall Petain and installed him in Vichy after they lost. Surely, putting a Miracle Man in would fix the problems of decades of military incompetence and political sabotage.

Doug: My Mom watched that debate and howled with laughter the whole time. She specifically remarked on the look on Chelsey’s face when Hillary was trying to answer the “how would you fight the war on terror” question.

1/07/2008 09:41:00 AM  

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