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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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Monday, 6 September 2004

Topic: Photos

Follow-Up: Low-Rent Crystalnacht (...it continues)

At some point in these pages you will find a continuation of what started with the "Low-Rent Crystalnacht" idea here (and published in Just Above Sunset on the weekend here).

I don't like what is in the air, but I want to avoid being one more lefty yelling Nazi and fascist like so many others. Bush is not Hitler. And Karl Rove is not Hermann Goering. Yes, Rove's grandfather was Karl Heinz Roverer, the Gauleiter of Oldenburg. Roverer was Reich-Statthalter - Nazi State Party Chairman - for his region. He was also a partner and senior engineer in the Roverer Sud-Deutche Ingenieurburo AG engineering firm, which built the Birkenau camp - according to this research. But so what? The father of Arnold Shwarzenegger was a Nazi officer, but Arnold is our governor out here now. That's all in the past.

Lots of folks like to point out the seizures in late 1942 of five enterprises Prescott Bush, the grandfather of the president, managed on behalf of Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen. Prescott Bush got caught red-handed and a whole bunch of assets were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Yeah, there were these Nazi financial transactions, from 1924 on, and maybe through 1951 actually, involving Prescott Bush and the private bank, Brown Brothers Harriman. Yep, Averell Harriman seems to have been involved. (Read all about this stuff here.)

But really, George Bush is not his grandfather. Arnold Shwarzenegger is not his Austrian father. And I taught the grandchildren of Averell Harriman back in the seventies at that fancy prep school in upstate New York. Nice kids, and not Nazis as far as I could tell. But the family did run the oldest fox hunt in America, yearly, on their big estate down in Geneseo.

"The world may be divided into people that read, people that write, people that think, and fox-hunters."
- William Shenstone, Works in verse and prose (1764).

Everyone has their faults.

But is there something fascist and Nazi-like in the air? The idea that Andrew Sullivan floated - the cult of the Great Leader - fascinates me, particularly in how it makes certain attitudes and behaviors (like the minor Crystalnacht-lite vandalism noted previously) almost inevitable. But I don't know. I just put this week's Just Above Sunset to bed and may take a rest. It's about 110 right now here, really, and I'm drained. Los Angeles is in the middle of a four-day heat wave. Let it rest.

But just to keep the issue alive, here you can watch an ABC news video from last week's Republican National Convention - a clip from the floor of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. You will see a young Republican supporter kicking a female protester inside the Garden as she is lying on the ground being held by three secret service agents. The protesters were arrested. The young Republican was not. A search is on for his identity - and here and here you can announce you know this young fellow, if you do.

The question that comes to mind for me is simple. When a political leader becomes something like a cult leader, in the sense that his decisions and actions cannot be doubted or even questioned - as that would be unpatriotic and an attack to the personality of the leader - is such behavior to be expected, or even glorified? Or put it another way. When you base your campaign on your attitude - and not on your ideas or your actions or your decisions or your accomplishments - does such behavior in your followers, well, just follow naturally? Even more simply? If all you have to run on is swagger and sneers, then, when people buy into that, what else did you expect?

There will be more of this.

As for the young Bush enthusiast, my young prep school students back in the seventies looked much like this.



Posted by Alan at 17:37 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 6 September 2004 17:47 PDT home

Sunday, 5 September 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Political Methodology: Fighting Dirty

Mark A. R. Kleiman says things here that I have not seen elsewhere, thus I distrust this assertion.
Bush's return to drinking is apparently common knowledge in DC, though it seems unlikely anyone will talk on the record.
So it's common knowledge? That's an old political dirty trick. Make a wild claim that cannot be proved and hope people start believing it? Maybe there's a reason hardy anyone will talk on record. Maybe it's not true.

Does that matter? This methodology worked for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. And Dennis Hastert has tried it out on George Soros. Are we coming down to this on both sides?

Hell, there has been word out for two years now that Larry Flynt has the goods on George Bush, that Bush arranged an illegal abortion for a girlfriend long ago. Flynt says he's waiting to reveal all. But he hasn't.

Kleiman also says this -
The abortion story is old news, but seemed to be solid, at least by Swift Boat standards: the woman in question denies it, but the two then-friends who drove her to the (illegal) abortion mill have supposedly signed affidavits.

It's [Adlai] Stevenson's challenge to Nixon: if you don't stop telling lies about us, we're going to have to start telling the truth about you. Bush has been asked politely, and he hasn't. Now it's our turn.
Yipes. The battle is joined?

Enter Susan Estrich, the former campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988 - a local lass with offices down the street in Century City. Yes, she is paid to be regular commentator on Fox News, the token Democrat who is more than willing to say over and over all that all Democrats are idiots, and Bush should selected for another four years because he's a neat guy.

But over the weekend she herself senses the battle is about to get quite nasty.

Lies move Democrats to dig up dirt
The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, Florida, Saturday, September 4, 2004

Her thesis? The Bush side has told so many flat-out lies about Kerry that the mild-mannered girly-men of the Democratic Party are going to abandon their characteristic wimpy pleasantness, and abandon their usual method of appealing to reason and sense, and haul Bush over the coals. None of this "Can we reason together for the common good?" crap. Stuff is going to come out, and it will be bad stuff. Gentlemanly restraint and circumscription? Don't mention bad things you know about the other guy? Don't say the obvious because you might seem unreasonably bitter and negative?

That just so last week. The Bush team, and particularly Karl Rove, decided that's how they'll play the game? Then so will the Kerry side. They called it down upon themselves.

Here's how Estrich sees the situation now -
My Democratic friends are mad as hell, and they aren't going to take it any more.

They are worried, having watched as another August smear campaign, full of lies and half-truths, takes its toll in the polls.

They are frustrated, mostly at the Kerry campaign, for naively believing that just because all the newspapers and news organizations that investigated the charges of the Swift Boat assassins found them to be full of lies and half-truths, they wouldn't take their toll. The word on the street is that Kerry was ready to fire back the day the story broke, but that his campaign, believing the charges would blow over if they ignored them, counseled restraint.

But most of all, activist Democrats are angry. As one who lived through an August like this, 16 years ago - replete with rumors that were lies, which the Bush campaign claimed they had nothing to do with and later admitted they had planted - I'm angry, too. I've been to this movie.
Lies move numbers.
Whoa! Is she going to quit her lucrative job at Fox News? What is this change of heart?

It seems she suddenly recalls how one of Bush's close friends planted the rumor about Dukakis suffering from depression after he lost the governorship - and remembers her side lost six points in the polls over that one, the work of the late Lee Atwater, the mentor of Karl Rove. And she suddenly remembers how someone claimed Kitty Dukakis once burned a flag at an anti-war demonstration. That wasn't true and the Bush folks denied having anything to do with it. But she recalls that that it turned out to have come from a United States senator by way of the Republican National Committee.

Estrich is gracious enough to point out that Lee Atwater did apologize to her for both things, later, and, as she puts it, on his deathbed. But then she points out that Atwater's widow is connected to the woman running the Swift Boat campaign.

She's not a happy camper.

And she has some suggestions (my emphases) -
The trouble with Democrats, traditionally, is that we're not mean enough. Too much is at stake to play by Dukakis' rules and lose again. That is the conclusion Democrats have reached. So watch out. Millions of dollars will be on the table. And there are plenty of choices for what to spend it on.

Will it be the three, or is it four or five, drunken driving arrests that Bush and Cheney, the two most powerful men in the world, managed to rack up?

After Vietnam, nothing is ancient history, and Cheney is still drinking. What their records suggest is not only a serious problem with alcoholism, which Bush but not Cheney has acknowledged, but also an even more serious problem of judgment.

What if Bush were to fall off the wagon? Then what? Has America really faced the fact that we have an alcoholic as our president?

Or how about Dead Texans for Truth, highlighting those who served in Vietnam instead of the privileged draft-dodging president, and ended up as names on the wall instead of members of the Air National Guard.

Or maybe it will be Texas National Guardsmen for Truth, who can explain exactly what George W. Bush was doing while John Kerry was putting his life on the line. Perhaps with money on the table, or investigators on their trail, we will learn just what kind of wild and crazy things the president was doing while Kerry was saving a man's life, facing enemy fire and serving his country.

Or could it be George Bush's Former Female Friends for Truth? A forthcoming book by Kitty Kelley raises questions about whether the president has practiced what he preaches on abortion. As Larry Flynt discovered, a million dollars loosens lips. Are there others to be loosened? ...
Cool. Those will do for a start.

I like the Dead Texans for Truth - because it hits the hardest. Who is dead because GWB was allowed a safe stateside commission that he kind of kissed off anyway?

The times may be changing.

Her conclusion?
The arrogant little Republican boys who strutted around New York this week, claiming that they have this one won, would do well to take a step back. It could be a long and ugly road to November.
George? Karl? You asked for it.

Thinking about it, I'd guess Estrich won't really need to resign from Fox News after laying this all out. They'll fire her, after O'Reilly tells her, repeatedly and with vigor, to shut up.

The only problem with this is Bush has an out.

Alcoholism, the hidden abortion, AWOL issues, and an obvious lack of the basic capacity - intellectually, temperamentally and morally - to do the job?

He can pull a Jimmy Swaggart.

You recall that in February 1988 televangelist Jimmy Swaggart admitted in a tearful, Sunday-morning sermon that he had engaged in "improprieties" with a (gasp!) prostitute. Yeah, the year before he had called down fire and brimstone and denounced his fellow Assemblies of God televangelists Jim Bakker and Marvin Gorman - for their extramarital fooling around. Oops.

But Swaggart asked for forgiveness, on television, with tears, and although he's not pulling in the hundred million a year like he used to, he's doing just fine.

The Christian Right are a forgiving lot (save with flaming queers who want to marry and with bloodthirsty Muslims who think Jesus was only a prophet and not the Messiah).

George can pull a Jimmy if he has to.

And George already has an ally in the Assemblies of God at his side now, right there in his cabinet - John Ashcroft, a leader in the Assemblies of God. Ah.

The Democrats are screwed. Lay it all out. And all will be forgiven. And pass the Kool-Aid.

Posted by Alan at 20:35 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
home

Saturday, 4 September 2004

Topic: Photos

Today in Paris... and Just Above Sunset ...

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log, is in the works. It will go on line mid-day tomorrow.

That would be Volume 2, Number 35 ...

Look for extended versions of what's been in these pages, along with a new column from Ric in Paris - Politics and Celebrities, Headscarves, Hostages and Short People. Bob Patterson has a new hot column, and there is a new item on the relationship of guilt and shame to the law and to the general culture, but it is not as heavy as it sounds.

And there are new photos from the editor and from Bob.

As a tease, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, snapped this in Paris this afternoon.


Posted by Alan at 17:11 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 4 September 2004 17:57 PDT home

Friday, 3 September 2004

Topic: Bush

Perspective: Bush Speaks

The Republican National Convention ended Thursday night with the speech in which George Bush accepted the nomination of the party and set out his arguments for why he should be elected in November. Given that his surrogates had thoroughly trashed his opponent, and that was pretty much taken care of, this was Bush's opportunity to explain his plans for the next for years. They were general ideas, to the point of being vague, but that is to be expected. One hardly expected policy detail with subparagraphs on specific actions. But as one observer noted, the whole presentation was built around what seem to be becoming almost a cult of the Great Leader. He is resolute. He may be wrong. But he is determined. And you want that, you really do.

The most acerbic comments come from William Saletan, written a few moments after the speech ended.

Back to the Future
What Bush would do if he were president.
William Saletan - Posted Thursday, Sept. 2, 2004, at 11:47 PM PT in SLATE.COM

Saletan has a problem with the whole concept of the speech.
... This was a speech all about what Bush will do, and what will happen, if he becomes president.

Except he already is president. He already ran this campaign. He promised great things. They haven't happened. So, he's trying to go back in time. He wants you to see in him the potential you saw four years ago. He can't show you the things he promised, so he asks you to envision them. He asks you to be "optimistic." He asks you to have faith.
Well, this was the right audience in the right venue for this approach. These were his people. Blind faith in the absence of any evidence - faith without, yet, any works, to put it in religious terms - was here for the asking at this event.

He didn't need evidence with this particular crowd. They trust him. Swing voters and undecided voters - he can get back to them later.

Saletan suggests the problems, should he deliver variations on this same speech over the next two months to a more skeptical audience -
... Recession. Unemployment. Corporate fraud. A war based on false premises that has cost us $200 billion and nearly a thousand American lives. They're all hills we've "been given to climb." It's as though Bush wasn't president. As though he didn't get the tax cuts he wanted. As though he didn't bring about postwar Iraq and authorize the planning for it. All this was "given," and now Bush can show up, three and a half years into his term, and start solving the problems some other president left behind.

It's all downhill from here, he assures us. The mountain precedes the valley. Because the results have been bad, they'll start to be good--but only if we keep doing the same thing. Everything that hasn't happened will happen. Bush "will" control spending, he pledged. He "will make our country less dependent on foreign sources of energy." He "will lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code." "Soon every senior will be able to get prescription drug coverage." "More people will own their health plans."
The folks in Madison Square Garden may have thrown up their arms, rolled their eyes to heaven and shouted I BELIEVE! - but will anyone else?

Well, if everyone had a more positive attitude I suppose anything is possible.

I often mention my conservative friend who argues again and again that the one sole criterion for success, or at the one key necessary criterion, is having a positive attitude - a belief that such and such will happen, no matter what seems to be in your way.

I call that the Tinkerbell Theory. See May 2, 2004 - It is all a matter of having the right attitude...
As you recall, at the end of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, children are urged to clap to signify their belief in fairies and to bring the expiring Tinkerbell to life. They have to clap - or Tinkerbell DIES! It always works (using the term "works" quite loosely) in the play (and in the movie oddly enough) - but I always wondered what would happen if, in some theater somewhere, just to see what happens, the kids all decided not to clap. Dead silence, if you'll pardon the pun. Would the actor or actress playing Tinkerbell then have to improvise a death scene? What if the kids all just sat on their hands, as a kind of thought-experiment, a kind of existential dramatic trap for the cast? How would the other characters cobble together an alternative ending? That really would be interesting.
That's what is going on here. I see it. Saletan sees it.
... Why will these things happen? Because resolve brings good things, and we've maintained our resolve through bad times. "Having come this far, our tested and confident nation can achieve anything," said Bush. The bad things that have happened while we've stayed resolved show that good things will happen if only we stay resolved.

... But standing and thinking are not doing. Beliefs and promises are what you talk about when you have no progress to report. Bush pointed to the wars he had launched and the bills he had signed, but he couldn't point to the benefits those laws and wars were supposed to deliver. The benefits haven't happened yet. They "will."
You have to believe. And it helps if you clap. Be optimistic. Tinkerbell will live.

Nick Burbules here uses an entirely different metaphor.
So, the election has come down to this: "Most of you think the country is headed in the wrong direction, you think my policies have mostly failed and most of you don't support the things I intend to do in a second term. You're pretty convinced that I lied to you about Iraq and a lot of other things. But aside from all that, stay with me: I'm basically a nice guy."

If the American people buy this, they will be acting like others in abusive relationships, who keep making excuses for the partners who abuse them and always ask for just one more chance...
That's cold.

Ellen Goodman adds a different analogy.

RMC: Real Men Convention
Ellen Goodman - Washington Post Writers Group
09.03.04 - NEW YORK

Goodman knows me. Ask either of my ex-wives -
If nothing else, the Republican National Convention is bound to revive all those jokes about men and driving.

"Why does it take a million sperm to fertilize one egg? They won't ask directions."

"Why were the Jews lost in the desert for 40 years? Moses wouldn't stop to ask directions."

You know the drill.
Yes, I do. Guilty as charged.

But here's her point -
The polls show that half of all Americans think the country is on the wrong track. But the delegates and speakers here all praised George W. for being the President Who Wouldn't Ask Directions.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the "once-scrawny boy from Austria," cited his two role models as John Wayne and Richard Nixon before he said what he admired most about Bush: "perseverance."

Leadership, said Arnold, is "about making decisions you think are right and then standing behind those decisions." And in case anyone didn't get it, he then teased those who disagreed with the president's rosy jobs scenario by reprising his line: "Don't be economic girlie men."

Zell Miller, the angry old Democrat of the Republican Party -- no, you can't give him back -- sounded like he was suffering from the side effects of Cialis when he called Kerry a "bowl of mush" and praised the president's, uh, "backbone."
And as for the Bush acceptance speech?
It didn't seem matter what he did as much as the fact that he said he'd do it. It didn't seem to matter as much where he was leading as that he was leading. The president put it best Thursday night when he said, "Even when we don't agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand."

... In times of anxiety, many do gravitate to a very traditional, even archetypal image of male strength. Whatever the gender jokes, it isn't just men. There are also women in the passenger seat who are only comfortable with a man who behaves as if he knows where he's going.

... In a powerful acceptance speech rife with distortions, the same resolute, persevering, backboned president who went into Iraq claiming weapons of mass destruction now defends the war as one of liberation. In Bush's head, al Qaeda and Saddam are still connected. And anyone who worries that Iraq is breeding more terrorists than it had to begin with is suffering from what Zell Miller called "analysis paralysis."

My father used to describe a friend as "often wrong, but never in doubt." On the last day of the convention, Dick Cheney described his friend to a breakfast of Ohio delegates as "decisive."

"He doesn't waffle, he doesn't agonize," said the vice president. "That's exactly what we need in a president. We don't need indecision or confusion."

Well, I am sure that Dick Cheney isn't asking me for directions. But guess what? It's not George Bush's decisiveness that's the problem. It's his decisions.
But for so many, it just is NOT the decisions at all.

OFTEN WRONG, BUT NEVER IN DOUBT

Start printing up the bumper stickers and t-shirts. Actually, I think the Bush supporters would embrace the slogan. It does differentiate Bush from Kerry in ways they seem to approve.

Andrew Sullivan, the gay conservative columnist, long a Republican stalwart and, until recently, a defender of Bush and all he's done, here offers his take on the speech -
It was the second best speech I have ever heard George W. Bush give - intelligently packaged, deftly structured, strong and yet also revealing of the president's obviously big heart. The speechwriters deserve very high grades for pulling it off, to find a way to get the president to deal substantively with the domestic issues he is weak on and to soar once again on the imperatives of freedom in the Middle East. I will be very surprised if the president doesn't get a major boost from the effort, and if his minuscule lead in the race begins to widen. In this way, the whole convention was a very mixed message - but also a very effective one. They presented a moderate face, while proposing the most hard-right platform ever put forward by a GOP convention. They smeared and slimed Kerry - last night with disgusting attacks on his sincerity, patriotism and integrity. And yet they managed to seem positive after tonight. That's no easy feat. But they pulled it off. Some of this, I have to say, was Orwellian. When your convention pushes so many different messages, and is united with screaming chants of "U.S.A.", and built around what was becoming almost a cult of the Great Leader, skeptical conservatives have reason to raise an eyebrow or two.
Ah yes, very positive, except the whole week was Orwellian and there that bit about the cult of the Great Leader. Curious.

But Sullivan has bigger fish to fry. The big concept? (The emphases are mine)
But conservatism as we have known it is now over. People like me who became conservatives because of the appeal of smaller government and more domestic freedom are now marginalized in a big-government party, bent on using the power of the state to direct people's lives, give them meaning and protect them from all dangers. Just remember all that Bush promised last night: an astonishingly expensive bid to spend much more money to help people in ways that conservatives once abjured. He pledged to provide record levels of education funding, colleges and healthcare centers in poor towns, more Pell grants, seven million more affordable homes, expensive new HSAs, and a phenomenally expensive bid to reform the social security system. I look forward to someone adding it all up, but it's easily in the trillions. And Bush's astonishing achievement is to make the case for all this new spending, at a time of chronic debt (created in large part by his profligate party), while pegging his opponent as the "tax-and-spend" candidate. The chutzpah is amazing. At this point, however, it isn't just chutzpah. It's deception. To propose all this knowing full well that we cannot even begin to afford it is irresponsible in the deepest degree. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only difference between Republicans and Democrats now is that the Bush Republicans believe in Big Insolvent Government and the Kerry Democrats believe in Big Solvent Government. By any measure, that makes Kerry - especially as he has endorsed the critical pay-as-you-go rule on domestic spending - easily the choice for fiscal conservatives. ...
Lost another one, George.

And on the war? Sullivan echoes Goodman and Saletan -
I agreed with almost everything in the foreign policy section of the speech, although the president's inability to face up to the obvious sobering lessons from Iraq is worrying. I get the feeling that empirical evidence does not count for him; that like all religious visionaries, he simply asserts that his own faith will vanquish reality. It won't.
Sullivan won't clap for Tinkerbell?

But here's the kicker. I am neither gay nor conservative, being, I suppose, morose and liberal, but this one has to respect -
I will add one thing more. And that is the personal sadness I feel that this president who praises freedom wishes to take it away from a whole group of Americans who might otherwise support many parts of his agenda. To see the second family tableau with one family member missing because of her sexual orientation pains me to the core. And the president made it clear that discriminating against gay people, keeping them from full civic dignity and equality, is now a core value for him and his party. The opposite is a core value for me. Some things you can trade away. Some things you can compromise on. Some things you can give any politician a pass on. But there are other values - of basic human dignity and equality - that cannot be sacrificed without losing your integrity itself. That's why, despite my deep admiration for some of what this president has done to defeat terror, and my affection for him as a human being, I cannot support his candidacy. Not only would I be abandoning the small government conservatism I hold dear, and the hope of freedom at home as well as abroad, I would be betraying the people I love. And that I won't do.
Dick Cheney may disown his daughter. Sullivan knows better.

One is reminded of the late British novelist E.M. Forester - "I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country. Such a choice may scandalize the modern reader, and he may stretch out his patriotic hand to the telephone at once to ring up the police...."

Will someone call Attorney General Ashcroft about Sullivan? Or will they only call the Republican Party headquarters? Maybe it's the same number.

__

Footnote -

Just to make the dynamic even weirder, note this...

Card says president sees America as a child needing a parent
Sarah Schweitzer, The Boston Globe, September 2, 2004
NEW YORK -- White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said yesterday that President Bush views America as a ''10-year-old child" in need of the sort of protection provided by a parent.

Card's remark, criticized later by Democrat John F. Kerry's campaign as ''condescending," came in a speech to Republican delegates from Maine and Massachusetts that was threaded with references to Bush's role as protector of the country. Republicans have sounded that theme repeatedly at the GOP convention as they discuss the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq.

''It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child," Card said. ''I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children."

The comment underscored an argument put forth some by political pundits, such as MSNBC talk-show host Chris Matthews, that the Republican Party has cast itself as the ''daddy party."

A Kerry spokesman, seizing on Card's characterization of Bush as a parental figure for the nation, contended that the president had failed.

''Any parent that ran a household the way George W. Bush runs the country would find themselves in bankruptcy court on the way to family court," said Phil Singer, a Kerry spokesman....
Ha! Just when you thought the whole cult of the Great Leader couldn't get any stranger.

Posted by Alan at 17:15 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 3 September 2004 17:20 PDT home

Thursday, 2 September 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Choosing sides: The defining moment of the Republican National Convention...

I rather like the summary Sidney Blumenthal provides of the key political event this week in the United States - Zell Miller addresses the Republicans, and the nation.

Backwoods preacher pours hellfire on Democrats
Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian (UK), Friday September 3, 2004

Now Blumenthal is a former senior adviser to Bill Clinton, and is Washington bureau chief of salon.com - a pesky, overly-intellectual online commentary site. But he nails it -
The belligerence of the Republican convention's keynote speaker was so overpowering it easily obscured the monochromatic performance of Dick Cheney. Senator Zell Miller of Georgia did not vary his grim expression or his shouting like a backwoods preacher casting out the devil. But his raw rhetoric framed the most profound questions about patriotism and democracy in wartime.

The previous speakers, from Rudy Giuliani to Arnold Schwarzenegger, had been chosen for their lack of partisan regularity in order to better carry attack lines against John Kerry. Superficially, Miller was to be the crescendo of this tactical march to the podium, a Democrat regretting his party's fall from grace and singing the praises of the Republican president.

Miller had been a keynote speaker at the Democratic convention of 1992 that nominated Bill Clinton. His politics then were a vibrant southern populism against the special interests. In the Republican sweep two years later, however, Miller experienced a near-death experience, almost losing as governor because he suggested removing the Confederate battle-flag from its corner of the state flag where it had been placed during the white resistance to civil rights laws.

Afterwards, Miller tacked steadily rightward.

Upon leaving the governorship, he jettisoned his Democratic alliances and became a lobbyist for the Phillip Morris tobacco combine. Elected as a US senator, Miller played as though he had been betrayed, aligning himself with the Republicans. In this he was following the tragic trajectory of southern populists past, who had transformed themselves into their opposites.

"Today," Miller said, "at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief." In one sentence, he advanced a new stab-in-the-back theory, achieved the seamless merger of Iraq and Afghanistan, attributed political division to the Democrats (who had supported the war in Afghanistan and overwhelmingly backed the congressional war resolution on Iraq), and stripped the presidency down to its military function.
Yeah, well, that's about it.

Other highlights?
... he offered a peculiar history of the constitution and the bill of rights. "It has been said so truthfully," said Miller, "that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest."

Kerry, by contrast, was plotting a betrayal to the United Nations and, even worse, "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending".
Ha! You can't have a Republican National Convention without mentioning the French!

But the whole thrust?

"Miller's skewed history of the United States was intended to taint political debate itself as subversive."

That about sums it up.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, notes he has hear that when people in the White House first turn on their computers in the morning, they go first to Andrew Sullivan's blog." They ain't gonna be happy with this. But Andrew Sullivan is not a real Republican. He's gay. And was born in the UK. Yeah, he's a pro-Reagan, pro-Contra, pro-SDI, pro-Gulf War conservative... but he's GAY!

Here's part of his take on Miller, and Cheney who followed him -
THE MILLER MOMENT: Zell Miller's address will, I think, go down as a critical moment in this campaign, and maybe in the history of the Republican party. I kept thinking of the contrast with the Democrats' keynote speaker, Barack Obama, a post-racial, smiling, expansive young American, speaking about national unity and uplift. Then you see Zell Miller, his face rigid with anger, his eyes blazing with years of frustration as his Dixiecrat vision became slowly eclipsed among the Democrats. Remember who this man is: once a proud supporter of racial segregation, a man who lambasted LBJ for selling his soul to the negroes. His speech tonight was in this vein, a classic Dixiecrat speech, jammed with bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric. As an immigrant to this country and as someone who has been to many Southern states and enjoyed astonishing hospitality and warmth and sophistication, I long dismissed some of the Northern stereotypes about the South. But Miller did his best to revive them. The man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude.
Ouch!

And note these items on Barack Obama in Just Above Sunset: August 1, 2004 - Cain's Question and August 15, 2004 - Who Gets to be Black?.

Barack Obama and Zell Miller are as different as night and day - or would that be as different as black and white?

But back to the dyspeptic Sullivan, and what he thinks of this Miller fellow.
THE "OCCUPATION" CANARD: Miller first framed his support for Bush as a defense of his own family. The notion that individuals deserve respect regardless of their family is not Miller's core value. And the implication was that if the Democrats win in November, his own family would not be physically safe. How's that for subtlety? Miller's subsequent assertion was that any dissent from aspects of the war on terror is equivalent to treason. He accused all war critics of essentially attacking the very troops of the United States. He conflated the ranting of Michael Moore with the leaders of the Democrats. He said the following: Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator. And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.

That macho invocation of the Marines was a classic: the kind of militarist swagger that this convention endorses and uses as a bludgeon against its opponents. But the term "occupation," of course, need not mean the opposite of liberation. I have used the term myself and I deeply believe that coalition troops have indeed liberated Afghanistan and Iraq. By claiming that the Democrats were the enemies of the troops, traitors, quislings and wimps, Miller did exactly what he had the audacity to claim the Democrats were doing: making national security a partisan matter. I'm not easy to offend, but this speech was gob-smackingly vile.
Yes, only Brits use that gob-smacked term. But it works here.

And further on the French come up again -
THE FOREIGN AGENT: Another lie: "Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations. Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide." Miller might have found some shred of ancient rhetoric that will give him cover on this, but in Kerry's very acceptance speech, he declared the opposite conviction - that he would never seek permission to defend this country. Another lie: "John Kerry wants to re-fight yesterday's war." Kerry didn't want to do that. Yes, he used his military service in the campaign - but it was his opponents who decided to dredge up the divisions of the Vietnam war in order to describe Kerry as a Commie-loving traitor who faked his own medals. What's remarkable about the Republicans is their utter indifference to fairness in their own attacks. Smearing opponents as traitors to their country, as unfit to be commander-in-chief, as agents of foreign powers (France) is now fair game. Appealing to the crudest form of patriotism and the easiest smears is wrong when it is performed by the lying Michael Moore and it is wrong when it is spat out by Zell Miller. Last night was therefore a revealing night for me. I watched a Democrat convince me that I could never be a Republican. If they wheel out lying, angry bigots like this as their keynote, I'll take Obama. Any day.
Yeah, well the Republicans can dismiss Sullivan. He's gay. What does he know?

He also had this to say about the Cheney speech which followed the Miller thing (my emphases) -
CHENEY'S SPEECH: It was a sound one, certainly defensible in its sharp attacks on Kerry and heartfelt in its defense of the character of the president. But it was over-shadowed by the foul rhetoric that went before him, rhetoric he blessed with his opening line. On a substantive note, it is astonishing to me that neither he not anyone, in invoking the war on terror, has mentioned any developments in Iraq or Afghanistan over the last year. These speeches could have been written as Baghdad fell or at the latest, when Saddam was captured.

And this party and president claim to be war-leaders. Real war-leaders explain defeats and set-backs, they recognize the current situation, they grapple with reality. But this war is easy, it seems. There are no problems in Iraq. Everything is peachy. Democracy is breaking out everywhere; no mistakes have been made; no rethinking is necessary after the travails of the occupation (sorry, Zell). I understand the political need to put a gloss on things. But the surrealism of the rhetoric is, in some respects, an insult to the American people, who deserve a real accounting of where we are. Of all the difficult choices we have to make - in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia - nothing is spoken. There is not even a nod to reality. Just an assertion that only the Republicans have the balls to fight this war. It may well work in the election. But it speaks to the character of our leaders that they prefer bromides and denial to a real accounting and real leadership.
Lost another one to the side of the wimps, it seems. Sullivan has gone over.

My comments - Shwarzenegger gave a speech the previous evening saying those who don't think the economy is just fine are "economic girly-men." Out of work, can't find a job? Suck it up! Arnold may have a net worth nearing a billion and used to get forty million a movie. Trust him. He knows. One summary I saw? "Once I was a skinny kid in Austria with a Nazi father and I was scared of the communists, but since then I've taken steroids and I'm rich. Also don't worry about troop strength because the soldiers we've already got still have some limbs left. Vote for Bush or you're a big faggy queer sissy nelly gay person."

But Sullivan says "smearing opponents as traitors to their country, as unfit to be commander-in-chief, as agents of foreign powers (France) is now fair game. Appealing to the crudest form of patriotism and the easiest smears" is wrong.

Sullivan needs to grow up. That's the game now.

Oh yeah - Cheney had better disavow is daughter, quickly.... Alan Keyes is on his case.

As your recall, Barack Obama now faces Alan Keyes in the race for the open senate seat in Illinois. His first opponent dropped out after it was revealed that his glamorous Hollywood wife divorced him partly because he kept insisting she would really enjoy naked hot monkey sex with him in front of large crowds at sex clubs. She suggested she wouldn't like that at all. Oh well. Obama was far ahead in the polls anyway. The Illinois Republicans then tried to the run Mike Ditka, the former Chicago Bears football coach with the notoriously short fuse. But Ditka stepped away. There was some talk of the Republicans trying to get Ted Nugent to run - the former rock star, avid hunter and NRA guns-for-everyone enthusiast. He hates wimps and girly-boys too. But that went nowhere. So the Republican tapped Alan Keyes, of Maryland, to run against Obama.

And Keyes is a gas. And in tune with the zeitgeist for the party.

Keyes takes jabs at his own party
Jennifer Skalka and Ofelia Casillas - September 1, 2004
... As the Republican National Convention focused on unity Tuesday, Keyes lashed out at Vice President Dick Cheney's gay daughter.

... Keyes' first comments about Mary Cheney came during an interview Monday night on Sirius OutQ, a New York-based satellite station that provides 24-hour gay and lesbian programming.

After the candidate told the hosts that homosexuality is "selfish hedonism," he was asked whether Mary Cheney is a "selfish hedonist."

"Of course she is," Keyes replied. "That goes by definition. Of course she is."

On Tuesday, Keyes defended his remarks, adding that if his daughter were a lesbian, he would tell her she was committing a sin and should pray.
Oh man, the lines are drawn. On one side the manly men, with a vengeful God on their side, who asks no questions and punish those who do. On the other side? The girly-men, the fags, and, of course, the French, who shun God's rues about proper sex and think too much - the questioners, the doubters.

The next sixty days are going to be a lot of fun.


__

Footnote:

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, points to this - a Georgia Democratic Party-produced ad run on CNN by a local
Atlanta cable system. Zell Miller exposed. Amusing.

Posted by Alan at 21:37 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 3 September 2004 07:43 PDT home

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