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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Thursday, 19 August 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

From the department of Oops! - Need some spin here, and some damage control....

Three items - sex, soccer and religion....

Sex

Markos Moulitsas Z?niga (known as Kos) points out an event here - the Bush administration's "point man" charged with getting Catholics to vote for Bush, and get the Church to deny Kerry communion and maybe get him excommunicated, has just resigned. The fellow's name is Deal Hudson. It seems he fondled two underage students and engaged in public sex with a third, all in one night.

This qualifies as an Oops. And how did he get that first name Deal?

Kos points to the Catholic Reporter here - they broke the story.

The matter-of-fact New York Times item is here.

He also points to commentary here in the Revealer arguing the Times underplayed it.
... we think it should be huge on the front page. Not because Hudson turns out to be a hypocrite [...] but because of what even a perfunctory investigation reveals about the administration's approach to the Catholic vote. "'If you wanted to get something to the top inner circles of the White House from a Catholic perspective, you could contact Deal Hudson and it was delivered.'"
Maybe so. But this is not a big deal. There's war on, after all. And everyone is trying to figure out whether John Kerry faked his service in Vietnam and is really a cowardly wimp and secretly French and all that.
Kos himself says this -
... Hudson hardly represents mainstream American Catholicism. As readers of his magazine, Crisis -- or his frequent email blasts -- know, he's the Ann Coulter of Catholicism, a profoundly angry writer who expresses his faith via vitriolic denunciations not just of liberals, but of anyone within the Catholic Church who doesn't conform to Hudson's rulings. He's a punisher.
It's easy to see why he fit in nicely in the Bush administration.
Ah, but he's left the Bush administration. It seems good Catholics have these problems with sex, even the priests (or especially the priests). There is a reason all of us guys in high school loved those girls from the Catholic schools, in those cute uniforms with the tiny skirts. Such conflict and guilt meant action. It is all most curious.

For background on the Bush administration's efforts to turn the Catholic vote from Kerry, a Catholic, to Bush, a born-again evangelical Methodist, see Just Above Sunset:
April 25, 2004 - The Vatican Rag
May 9, 2004 - On your knees, America!
July 4, 2004: Heresy - In the Specific Religious (and Los Angeles) Meaning of the Term


Soccer

Just out in Sports Illustrated (part of Time-Warner, the parent company to CNN and all that) we find this -

Iraqi soccer players angered by Bush campaign ads

Say what?

Well, if you click here you can see the television ad the Bush folks have been running concerning the Iraqi soccer teams tearing up at the Olympics. Yep, the really are winning big. In the ad you see the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan. The voice-over - deep and resonant and male - intones, "At this Olympics there will be two more free nations - and two fewer terrorist regimes." Bully for our side. Bully for Bush.

Many of us have seen the spot here and there on the major networks.

But the Iraqi players are ticked off.

From the Sports Illustrated interviews -

Iraqi midfielder Salih Sadir - "Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign. He can find another way to advertise himself." And this: "I want the violence and the war to go away from the city. We don't wish for the presence of Americans in our country. We want them to go away"

Ahmed Manajid, who played as a midfielder on Wednesday - "How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes." And this - as he is from the city of Fallujah. He says coalition forces killed a cousin, who was fighting as an insurgent, and several of his friends, and adds tha if he were not playing soccer he would "for sure" be fighting as part of the resistance. "I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists? Everyone [in Fallujah] has been labeled a terrorist. These are all lies. Fallujah people are some of the best people in Iraq."

Iraqi soccer coach Adnan Hamad - "My problems are not with the American people. They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?"

Scott Stanzel, a spokesperson for Bush's campaign - "The ad simply talks about President Bush's optimism and how democracy has triumphed over terror. Twenty-five million people in Iraq are free as a result of the actions of the coalition."

Free, perhaps. But not exactly happy.


Religion

Lieutenant General William G. Boykin has come up before in Just Above Sunset - see November 23, 2003: Why We Fight.

He's the fellow who gave all those speeches in churches, in uniform, that said this was a religious war. Our God against theirs. My favorite? Why we won the first war so easily and the second war so quickly - when he directed the battle against this enemy "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.''

Boykin also said the enemy in the war on terror was Satan and that God had put President Bush in the White House.

By the way, Boykin is deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence - no small irony there, and he works closely with his boss, Douglas Feith - one of the most famous neoconservatives. (Many believe the Abu Ghraib business and our torture-as-policy comes from these two guys)

Cool. And for additional detail check out David Corn in The Nation on November 24th last year - Ann Coulter's Religious War - Republicans and conservatives say the darnest things - as it's kind of funny.

But the Associated Press is reporting this -

Probe Examines General's Remarks on Terror
August 19, 2004

Busted!
A Pentagon investigation has concluded that a senior military intelligence officer violated regulations by failing to make clear he was not speaking in an official capacity when he made church speeches casting the war on terrorism in religious terms, a senior defense official said Thursday.

... The Boykin investigation report has not been publicly released. Its findings were described Thursday by a senior defense official who is familiar with its conclusions. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because the report has not been acted upon yet by acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee.

... The Washington Post, which first reported the conclusion of the inspector general's investigation in its Thursday editions, said the probe determined that Boykin discussed his involvement in the war on terrorism at 23 religious-oriented events since January 2002 and that he wore his uniform while speaking at all but two. He spoke mostly at Baptist or Pentecostal churches.

The Post also reported that the investigation concluded that Boykin violated a regulation by failing to report reimbursement of travel costs from one of the sponsoring religious groups.

After the controversy erupted, Boykin later issued a written statement apologizing to those who were offended and saying he did not mean to insult Islam. He has remained at his intelligence post during the investigation.
Ah, fudging the expense reports and saying things that inflame our enemies and enrage those of our friends who haven't yet found Jesus?

Well, he said he's sorry. But he's still on the job.

Dick Cheney this week said, "Those who threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively. They need to be destroyed."

Boykin is safe.

Posted by Alan at 18:31 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 20 August 2004 06:08 PDT home


Topic: Election Notes

Listen to the Women: Points to Consider

Dahlia Lithwick, the attorney who writes a column for Slate on legal issues and provides insider views of the give and take at sessions of the Supreme Court, and who now and then appears on the news show as an expert on legal matters, is doing a turn as a guest columnist at the New York Times. Yes, a few of the regular Times columnists do take summer vacations.

Here she takes to task critics who portray George Bush as a kind of child, or, shall we say, as a childish frat-boy.

See
Babies and Bath Water
Dahlia Lithwick, The New York Times, August 19, 2004

Her point is that we should not be framing a national conversation about the president this way, as it doesn't do his opponents any good at all.

What she's talking about?
It cannot have escaped anyone's notice that much of the current Bush-bashing aims to infantilize him. The most devastating segment in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," for instance, features the president - just after he learned of the second attack on the World Trade Center - perched on a chair in a Florida classroom, looking glazed and confused as he listens to a reading of "The Pet Goat." Mr. Bush's aide might well have whispered the news to one of the assembled students to greater effect, and the implication is inescapable: for seven long minutes, the president was Not a Man.

A glance at the top 150 ads selected by MoveOn.org for its recent political advertising contest, "Bush in 30 Seconds," similarly reveals the extent to which childishness is woven into the current Bush-bashing. While children have long been used in political ads to represent the future, many of the MoveOn entries use them to satirize the actual candidate. Several of the proposed anti-Bush commercials use kids to condemn the president for unsophisticated thinking, for an infantile worldview, for the fact that his daddy purchased his every big break and for the fact that he is desperately beholden to the wealthy and powerful grown-ups surrounding him. The clear message is that Bush is more a child than an adult.
Ah, guilty as charged here.

But Lithwick says that thinking of Bushas a not-particularly-smart third grader make me look bad. Why? Because "it plays to every stereotype of liberals as snotty know-it-alls who think everyone in a red state is anti-intellectual or simple-minded. It answers name-calling from the right with name-calling from the left."

That is perhaps true.

And Lithwick also points out that this is an implicit insult to anyone who voted for Bush last time around. Those who maintain this Bush-as-petulant-child view are just sneering, as she says, and saying a little under half of all voters last time around "voted for a kid - and a dumb kid at that."

Well, if the shoe fits....

Then Lithwick discusses this in relation to the Bush-Gore debates four years ago and suggests Gore's behavior - the deep sighs and the eye rolling and all that - shows how dangerous such a view is. Gore came off badly.

[The media watchdog Bob Somerby here suggests this was not the case at all.]

Be that as it may, she says there is a bigger problem than Bush opponents of this sort coming off as arrogant, smug, condescending twits -
... the campaign to cast Mr. Bush as a bumbling child ignores the very grown-up machine that stands behind him. Infantilizing the president shifts the focus away from the Cheneys, Rumsfelds, Ashcrofts and Wolfowitzes. These are the men who promised us short, easy wars and painless little suspensions of the Geneva Conventions. These are the men of the secret energy-policy meetings. They aren't a bunch of rowdy juveniles. They represent one of the most secretive, powerful administrations in recent memory. Whether the president could outscore your kids on the SAT is a distraction from that fact.
Oh yeah, those guys, the old white men who run the country. Almost forgot about them.

The she lays another one out there - the psychological consequences of pointing out that the president is, perhaps in fact, an incurious frat-boy.
With each attempt to cast Mr. Bush as a baby, we craft excuses for his childish behaviors. If Mr. Bush misled us into a war in Iraq, it's because children have trouble telling the truth. If Mr. Bush sees the world in too-stark terms, it's because nuanced reasoning isn't easy for children. With each comparison between the president and a youngster, we subtly lower national expectations and exonerate bad behavior.
Hey, who said anything about exoneration?

Yes, jokes may not be useful, and she cites the one about Laura Bush tying the president's shoes each morning before she points him toward the Oval Office. But the "child" thing may be absolutely true, and at the same time, no one is excusing anything here.

Jeff Popovich here says he agrees with most of the Times essay, but says what's wrong is the implication is that the portrayal of Bush "as a dope" is strictly the screeching of the left. He suggests the Bush team is using this image carefully.
I myself waver between thinking 43 is a mindless puppet or an evil political genius. Whether one or the other or somewhere in between, what seems clear to me is that someone in Bushco understands the dynamic that Lithwick presents and has deliberately courted the Bush as dope portrayal. Hence the demonization of the word "nuance" and its sneering use in describing Kerry's positions, as if having grown-up, sophisticated thought processes is a sign of weakness. The left may call 43 a child, but Bushco calls Kerry much worse: an adult. Bushco is making the comparison.
Curious. Our Bush may be a spoiled, nasty child, just as you say, but your Kerry is an old man and wimp?

That may be a successful ploy. Energy, however mindless and destructive, is always more interesting than plodding and dull thoughtfulness. And that thought comes to you from out here in Hollywood. It is the first law of the box office - just basic marketing.

__

Molly Ivins, the Texas liberal (a strange species) has a slightly different take. She takes us back to Thucydides writing about the day when the leaders in Athens watched their fleet leave port to go off and conquer Sicily. That would be 2,419 years ago, if you keep track of such things. And of course, the Greeks got trounced - they lost the whole fleet. Oops.

Thucydides had this to say -

"To think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just another attempt to disguise one's unmanly character; ability to understand the question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action; fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man... Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect."

Nothing much changes, does it? Ivins runs with that idea.

What. A. Mess.
Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate 08.19.04 -

She sets the stage thusly -
Remember what it was like just before the war? Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction -- Colin Powell told us to the pound how many tons of this, that and the other -- Saddam had a reconstituted nuclear program, he had numerous ties to Al Qaeda, and he was an imminent threat.

As the president put it, we couldn't afford to wait until the smoking gun was a mushroom cloud.
Well, she goes on to explain that her gripe is that Kerry is running such a cautious campaign that Bush can get away with falsely claiming that Kerry would have supported the war even if he had known then what he knows today.

And she thinks this is just painful, given how things are going in Iraq - thus the title of her essay.

But what to do now?
What we need to figure out is why so many of us then became so invested in this awful enterprise. As the president says, fool me once, shame on, uh, somebody or other. John Kerry isn't going to remind any of us we were wrong -- that would be rude. (Sooner or later, someone is going to ask Kerry the question he so famously asked about Vietnam: "How do you ask someone to be the last man to die for a mistake?" He'd better have an answer ready.) The reason Kerry won't "blame America first," as the Rush Limbaughs would put it, is not just because none of us likes to have our nose rubbed in our mistakes, it's a political calculation. In case you hadn't noticed, John Kerry is winning this presidential race -- that's why he's running such a cautious campaign.

... Wretched excess always accompanies war fever -- in World War I, "patriots" used to go around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that they were "German dogs." As I have noted elsewhere, people like that do not go around kicking German shepherds.

Some of that bullying, swaggering tone remains with us, in our politics. To treat with contempt any effort at "nuance" or "sensitivity" -- in one of the most fraught and sensitive situations we've ever been in -- is just ugly know-nothingism. As Republicans used to say to Democrats abut the election debacle in Florida last time, "Get over it."
It seems she is counseling Kerry and his folks to flaunt this "nuance" or "sensitivity" business, just as the other side flaunts the opposites. And let the people decide which approach will get us out of this mess.

Lithwick and Ivins? We need more such women.

Posted by Alan at 11:04 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
home

Wednesday, 18 August 2004

Topic: Election Notes

George Bush has read Immanuel Kant - What's really going on here?

The job of the President of the United States is to forcefully emote the conscious and unconscious will of the American People? He is not the commander-in-chief? He is the Happy Warrior? He is the Priest-Avatar of the State?

Say what?

Over at the site Fafblog the Medium Lobster explains it all -
Stephen Richards asks:

I seek your enlightenment on the question of how much knowledge a true citizen should need before an election. In particular I am curious to whether the candidates - if deemed elected - would invade Iran to protect us all from the forces of evil. ...

However I am unsure if the press should even ask such a question. How much truth is too much truth for the American voter in a war for truth in the world? Should America be allowed to know where both candidates stand on this issue - before November? ...


Ah, Stephen. The larger issue - should America invade Iran? - is a serious one, and will surely be addressed by the Medium Lobster in the days to follow. But your question - should the press ask George Bush and John Kerry if they support an invasion of Iran? - is even more crucial, for it goes to the very heart of the nature of the Presidency itself.

No, Stephen, the media should not press a candidate - or an elected President, for that matter - on his wartime plans. Not because the public does not have a right to know - although this is questionable indeed - but because it is not the job of the President to invade Iran, or conduct a war, or decide matters of policy in general. No, Stephen, the President does not exist to make petty decisions such as these, to muddy his hands in the tedious affairs of state. He exists not to guide the nation to where it should be. He exists to project an image of what it wants to be.

America doesn't need a President to lead them; America needs a President who projects leadership. America doesn't need a President who's honest with his country; America needs a President who's honest with his wife. America doesn't need a President with a firm grasp of policy and a commitment to serving his country; America needs a President with the appearance of irrepressible optimism and Wholesome Heartland Values. America doesn't need a capable wartime President; America needs a President who makes himself look like war.

And President Bush has done a magnificent job of that. Indeed, he's even started a couple of them. Remember, it's not the President's job to finish or win wars - that falls into the lower realm of policy. But within the realm of Strength - or the appearance of Strength - it is the Strong Leader who charges boldly into wars, undaunted by the humdrum webs of "post-war planning" and laborious "coalition-building" called for by "sensitive" policy-makers.

The job of the President of the United States is to forcefully emote the conscious and unconscious will of the American People. He is not the commander-in-chief. He is the Happy Warrior. He is the Priest-Avatar of the State.

As Colorado Governor Bill Owens said when defending President Bush's supposedly-infamous seven minutes sitting before schoolchildren on September 11th, "A lot of what governors and presidents have to do is project a level of confidence and a level of calmness." Indeed, and that is exactly what the President did on that terrible day: when America needed to be protected, George Bush was projecting an aura of protectedness; when America needed to be safe, George Bush was looking like safety; when America needed to be strong, George Bush was exuding something like strength. When you watch that clip again, in Michael Moore's detestable piece of propaganda or elsewhere, remind yourself, This is what a President is for: projecting, smiling, posing, waving, doing nothing.
Ah, if only this were not true. But it is. Or at least the seems to be what we are being told.

My friend in upstate New York just has this to say to the Medium Lobster -
You make just want to cry - and get a new tattoo of MOM and APPLE PIE and the FLAG, and Bart Simpson.
I like the idea of the tattoo. Bart Simpson... and the Bart Simpson tattoo would read UNDERACHIEVER AND PROUD OF IT, I guess. A guy I used to work for at Hughes-Raytheon one "casual Friday" wore a t-shirt to work that had that message and a picture of Bart on it. They made Dennis go home and change. These days I suppose they sell those shirts at all Bush campaign events. They must be available in all the gift shops on the Yale campus. Times change. The frat-boys won.

And, as the Medium Lobster notes, the style of the general concept has become the thing in and of itself. That'll do.

Anyone who runs for office knows you sell the image, and substance doesn't matter that much to the voters. You sell the sizzle, not the steak? Something like that. And most people vote on the personality of the candidate - how they feel about him or her. Issues and policy positions give most people a headache, or bore them. Bush works that angle. So does Kerry. So does Ralph Nader. They all do. Each wants you to vote on their style of leadership.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, put it differently -
I was beginning to get annoyed with all that Republican sniping in Boston that Kerry was not giving us much by way of specific policy proposals. Yes, it's nice to hear some examples here and there, mostly because it gives us an idea of the big picture of what the guy wants to do. But that's really about it. Otherwise, we just get a long list of campaign promises that later we can accuse the candidate of breaking once he gets into office. I personally would rather give him more leeway to deal with real situations when he gets to the White House.

After all, I'm not voting for a policy, I'm voting for a person who will put together a team to do the sorts of things that I would like to see get done.
Fair enough. Specifics can cripple you. We do vote for the general approach of one guy or the other.

Or do we just vote for style? Maybe that is all we can do.

Of course Immanuel Kant said we can never actually know the thing in and of itself. There really is no empirical object. Was ist die Sache in sich? Beats me.

If we continue to fervently believe the shadow is the real thing? No, that's Plato. But we do seem to be too satisfied with the shadow on the wall of the cave. The folks who support Bush are.

Posted by Alan at 21:37 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 19 August 2004 12:12 PDT home


Topic: Political Theory

Conspiracy Theories: Assuming Competence on Scant Evidence

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, asked an interesting question in the August 8th issue of Just Above Sunset -
Lately I've been wondering if there isn't a way to launch a campaign to bring the word "liberal" back into the mainstream where it belongs. Maybe in the process, also find a way to demonize the word "conservative"?
See Rehabilitating the word LIBERAL - and Elvis? for the discussion that followed. Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, even suggested we pull in Elvis as a token liberal, or a real one.

And just now I received a query from a friend in Rochester, in upstate New York -
Do you know at exactly what point the Democrats let the Republicans succeed in making Liberal a dirty word?

I remember hints of it with Goldwater, but not with any real emphasis, and the same with Nixon. I do not remember it as anathema until Reagan. And how did they successfully spin economics so that "tax and spend" is Satan's work but borrow and spend (usually more, plus financing) is God's work?
And curiously, within a few minutes I received a similar query from a friend in Montreal -
I too ask the same question...

It seems to me that the Clinton (Democratic) years, and correspondently, the Jean Chr?tien, now Paul Martin (Liberal) era was wildly successful. To have liberal governments with balanced budgets and generous military spending, riding large down the center two-lanes of the political highway, they seemed unstoppable.

Anything Republican and conservative looked fundamentalists and extremist in those days.
Now suddenly liberal is bad. How did American Republicanism succeed in being the voice of America?

What happened?
Well, I do have an answer, or maybe a non-answer.

It is an interesting question.

I suspect this happened slowly and there was no meeting in Dallas or Washington where any such thing was decided. Folks on the dark side just talked to their audiences and some wording seemed to work, and thus they used what worked. Think random mutations leading to the evolution of what works surviving - except these guys don't believe in evolution. Maybe it's more like throwing lot of various kinds of mud against a wall and they found out, by dint of a whole lot of throwing, what particular mud sticks.

I don't much believe this was something some group of planners carefully chose to do, but rather one more thing that was tried, and glorious day, over the years they discovered that this particular wording worked for them.

I wrote the following to a friend recently, a fellow who I think falls too easily into conspiracy theories of life.
My natural tendency is to assume incompetence, not malevolence. That's how I look at the world. And that's where we part ways. In the world I know the bumblers outnumber the cunning by tens of thousands to one. The cunning and intelligence and careful attention to detail that goes into even a half-assed conspiracy is beyond most folks. Cheney is smart enough - and maybe a CEO here and there like Ken Lay. But they are rare, thank goodness. And Jeb Bush and his Florida crew? Well, they're just pathetic. Stuff comes out fast - the press is far smarter than they are - and they just look like fools. Hell, if you're going to conspire to rig an election you don't get caught so easily doing such stupid, obvious things. Amateurs! And Jeb is the smarter brother? Please.

Where we really do part ways is that you make this assumption that people always plan what they end up doing. I think you give people far too much credit. Most folks don't think that carefully, and act on regrettable impulse most of the time, and generally make it up as they go along. Then, sometimes, comes the oops and the regret. Then they backfill with rationales that are often just silly - like Bush and his war to rid us of Saddam Hussein's WMD that morphed into this reason then that reason then another. WMD program related activities? Gave me a break!

Why did we do that, really? Because Bush wanted to do that. But he just wasn't thinking it through. That's the kind of guy he is. And everyone has always cleaned up his messes for him before, so he saw no reason not to launch the war in Iraq. The thought of there being any downside to such a war just never crossed his mind.

Did he lie to us about the WMD - and have other hidden reasons? No. He's just not that smart.

In short, your opinion of folks is, to my mind, too high. But maybe my opinion of folks is too low. Who knows?
The liberal is evil business? It just happened.

Posted by Alan at 20:24 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
home

Tuesday, 17 August 2004

Topic: Backgrounder

Follow-Ups: Sensitivity and Madness (Cheney and Keyes)

Item One:

On the matter of the Republicans jumping all over John Kerry for saying this - "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history." - see Sensitivity and its Limits Sunday from 15 August 2004.

Yes, Vice President Dick Cheney ridiculed Kerry's call for a "more sensitive" war on terrorism and said it would not impress the terrorists who took down the World Trade Center or the Islamic militants who had beheaded Daniel Pearl. Cheney said, "Those who threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively. They need to be destroyed."

Clear enough, although we see that the family of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded in Pakistan two years ago, has requested that his name not be used in a political context. Pearl's father, said that the request was a general one and was not directed at Mr. Cheney in particular, and that it was intended to prevent the stoking of moderate Muslim ire. "We don't take sides between Bush and Kerry," Judea Pearl said. "I don't even know who I'm going to vote for."

One assumes Cheney is angry beyond belief about this request that he be a bit more sensitive. If Cheney is more sensitive then the terrorists will have won? Something like that.

And yes, Bush uses the word all the time, with no problem.

Joseph, my expatriate friend in France commented -
A bit or real irony here: "Sensitive" has many meanings - a sensitive document, to be compassionate and so on. But if the way Kerry meant it was in the sense "to be aware of other's perceptions of ones words and actions," then Kerry wasn't nearly sensitive enough. I knew these words would come back to haunt him the moment I heard them. This is the big-time. This is what politics has become in America. Deal with it.

Bush used the same word? So what. He's entitled. He's dropped a lot of ordinance. When he uses the word, he's speaking softly and carying a big stick, no? Kerry's people should have known better.
Okay, I get it.

Then again, Juan Cole, the professor of history at the University of Michigan, the middle-east expert on Iraq who travels down to Washington to testify before congress now and then, and pops up on the PBS "News Hour" every month or two, here adds some historical perspective.
Many pundits pointed out that George W. Bush had used exactly the same language about a sensitive approach to the war on terror, so that Cheney was implicitly criticizing his own superior.

But as a historian, I have to say that Cheney's statement is bizarre and uninformed. Let me just give one example. The practice round for World War II was fought in North Africa, then controlled by the Vichy French. Dwight Eisenhower developed Project Torch, involving the landing of US troops in Morocco and Algeria.

It was essential to the US effort that the French colonial soldiers be quickly won over and convinced not to put up stiff resistance to the invasion. The original plan would have explicitly used British naval power. But the Free French objected loudly to this plan, since they did not want the British Empire's ships anywhere near their North African possessions. The French and the British had old rivalries in this regard. Moreover, there were still French bad feelings about the British attack on the French fleet at Mers al Kabir in Algeria in 1940.

So Roosevelt and Eisenhower asked Churchill to keep the British navy in the background off Gibraltar and out of sight of the Moroccan coast. Churchill agreed.

That is, Roosevelt and Eisenhower had their successful landing in North Africa precisely because they were entirely willing to bend over backward to be sensitive to French feelings.

And that is the big difference between Cheney and Bush as wartime leaders on the one hand, and on the other Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Cheney and Bush are diplomatically tone deaf, projecting nothing but arrogance and being all too willing to humiliate traditional allies. They have no sensitivity. And it is for that reason that they have the U.S. stuck in Iraq with only one really significant military ally, the U.K. ...
So is it really true that at one time we actually cared what the French thought? Roosevelt and Eisenhower asked Churchill to be sensitive?

Well, in that context it made tactical sense. I'm not sure that Kerry wasn't saying the exact same thing. It's just common sense. You don't piss people off needlessly, and expect them to love you for it. Sometimes being sensitive, and, as in this historical case, diplomatic, is just common sense.

But I guess that's wrong now. Common sense and diplomacy, in the traditional sense where it means something like "sensitivity" for tactical and strategic ends, is now inappropriate. See September 7, 2003 Opinion in Just Above Sunset for how we have redefined diplomacy. It's full of examples of how we have scorned diplomacy of this kind for the whole of the latest Bush administration. Win points in the international community with ridicule and scorn? Mock them and they'll deeply respect our power? Could that really be the idea? Many parents seem to feel they can shame their children into appropriate behavior by sneering at them and mocking them. I don't think that works very well but I've certainly seen that applied quite a bit - watch the parents at any Little League game. In regard to international policy, for the last three years the product we were being sold, and have bought, happily, is that, as Americans, we don't take crap from anyone, and we'll do what we want. And if you don't like that? Too bad.

John Kerry is going to change that dynamic?

In defense of his second amendment right to bear arms, even automatic weapons with armor-piercing cop-killer bullets, and as president of the National Rifle Association, Charlton Heston used to famously say of any gun control laws, "The government will have to pry this rifle from my cold, dead hands." Everyone would cheer.

I'm sure Cheney feels that same way about his right to be as arrogant as he wants, and to humiliate anyone he chooses. No one messes with us. And Judea Pearl can go fuck himself.

__

Item Two:

Last weekend in Just Above Sunset - in Racial Identity: Who Gets to be Black? - the latter part of the item covered the race for the open senate seat in Illinois where Barack Obama is being challenged by Alan Keyes.

Much of the discussion centered on comments that Barack Obama isn't really black - or is a new kind of black - or something. The idea was that Alan Keyes - the guy the GOP just decided to run against Barack Obama - is the real black guy? Whatever.

The item linked to and quoted many assessments of Keyes - and they were not flattering. Since the item was published Keyes has added more fuel to the fire. Keyes suggested it would be a good idea the we repeal the seventeenth amendment, so senators are not elected at all but, rather, appointed by each state legislature. This has something to do with states rights, but that's a bit confusing. And he has moved to the Chicago area from Maryland, as he must be an Illinois resident on the day of the election to qualify for the office. But he has leased a home, on a month-to-month basis. One suspect he knows the polls are showing he cannot possibly win.

Too add one more touch of strangeness to the whole business we get this -

Keyes likens abortion to terrorism
Natasha Korecki and Scott Fornek, The Chicago Sun-Times, Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Does this make sense?
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes said Monday that women who choose to undergo abortions and the physicians who perform the procedure are essentially terrorists because "the evil is the same."

The remarks came as Keyes was explaining why three months ago he said that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were a "warning" from God to "wake up" and stop "the evil" of abortion.

"Now, you think it's a coincidence that on September 11th, 2001, we were struck by terrorists an evil that has at its heart the disregard of innocent human life?" Keyes said in a May 7 speech in Provo, Utah. "We who have for several decades killed not thousands but scores of millions of our own children, in disregard of the principle of innocent human life -- I don't think that's a coincidence, I think that's a warning. ... I don't think that's a coincidence, I think that's a shot across the bow. I think that's a way of Providence telling us, 'I love you all; I'd like to give you a chance. Wake up! Would you please wake up?' "

The speech and transcript of that talk appears on the Web site of a Keyes supporter.

Since he entered the U.S. Senate contest just over a week ago, Keyes has attacked Democratic rival Barack Obama for his support for abortion rights, saying the Democrat holds "the slaveowners' position."

Obama called it "deeply troubling" that Keyes is now evoking the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks in his anti-abortion arguments.
Deeply troubling? Maybe it is, but only in the psychiatric sense. Let him rave. The percentage of potential votes swayed by such an argument is so small as to make no difference. And psychotropic medication gets better all the time. Not to worry.

Keyes seems to be burying himself politically, or trying out some sort of new stand-up comedy routine for his next career, which will be back in Maryland.

What to make of this man? If I remember my sub-atomic physics right, the four properties of the subatomic particle known as the quark are up-ness, down-ness, strangeness and charm. These are some times called the quark's flavors. (What you need to know about ultrarelativistic heavy ion physics might be found here.) One thinks of Keyes, the human quark.

Posted by Alan at 19:22 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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