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"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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Wednesday, 25 August 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Political Theater: Our President Doesn't Deal with Losers, or Cripples, or Whiners

Here's the barebones store as reported by the Associated Press -
Cleland unable to deliver letter to Bush
Wednesday, August 25, 2004, 2:09 PM
CRAWFORD -- Former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland tried to deliver a letter protesting ads challenging John Kerry's Vietnam service to President Bush at his Texas ranch today, but neither a Secret Service official nor a state trooper would take it.

The former Georgia senator, a triple amputee who fought in Vietnam, was carrying a letter from nine Senate Democrats who wrote Bush that "you owe a special duty" to condemn attacks on Kerry's military service.

"The question is where is George Bush's honor, the question is where is his shame to attack a fellow veteran who has distinguished himself in combat?" Cleland asked. "Regardless of the political combat involved, it's disgraceful."

Encountering a permanent roadblock to Bush's ranch, Cleland left without turning over the letter to anyone.

"I have a letter signed by nine members of the U.S. Senate, all of whom have served honorably and I'd like to hand it to a responsible officer here on the gate," Cleland said as he tried to deliver it to security personnel at the roadblock. He accused a member of the president's security detail of trying to evade him.

"I am just going to return the letter and make sure it gets in the mail," Cleland said as he returned to his car.

In their letter, the senators said, "This administration must not tacitly comply with unfounded accusations which have suddenly appeared 35 years after the fact, and serve to denigrate the service of a true American patriot." ...
And AP provides much additional he-said she-said detail.

Oh, these Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are causing no end of problems.

Of course this is all over the news.

As Digby over at Hullabaloo comments, this was made for the evening news and cable "analysis" shows.
This is creative and the press loves it. Max Cleland, disabled veteran and former US Senator is greeted by some lowly functionary in Crawford because Bush is too much of a pussy to talk to him himself.

Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton would have used the moment to show himself as a regular guy with respect and humor.

Bush hid. As usual.
But perhaps this was calculated. Our president doesn't deal with losers, or cripples, or whiners. Call it tough love.

Cleland had with him that Rassman fellow - who famously said John Kerry saved his life way back in 1969 in Vietnam, pulling him from the water under enemy fire, even though Kerry himself was wounded. The Navy gave Kerry a medal. The Navy says it happened. Everyone who was there said it happened, just like that. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth say it just isn't so, as that is not what they heard. Everyone is lying, including the Navy. Oh well.

And the Bush folks tried to give Cleland a counter-letter, saying the Democrats should stop picking on George Bush. Cleland said no thanks.

Atrios at Eschaton says sure, Cleland ambushed Bush for a bit of theater, but a real man would have known how to handle it.

And then Atrios points to this comment - from Steve Gilliard:
Yes, this was a campaign stunt, and yes, Cleland has his own grudges against these people, but a real man would have invited Cleland and Rassman up to the ranch house, gave them some sweet tea, taken the letter and let them go.

... Now, let's be real. Cleland probably owes Kerry a $20 because one of them had to have bet Bush would live down to character, and the other bet that he couldn't be so stupid as to turn away a triple amputee from his home. But make no mistake, they knew what Bush would do, and they bet on him doing it.

Yet, once again, the Bush campaign walks into a trap set by Kerry. Two decorated veterans show up to you door and you hide from them? That's just stupid. It's bad politics if nothing else.
Really? Maybr it is good politics. As was pointed out previously here it seems half the country likes this child bully who can sucker-punch the skinny, brainy wimp and get away with it. The same probably goes for crips and losers. This is know as playing to your base, in many senses.

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has a number of things to say about this, and about this guy Patterson (not our Bob) he sent out to meet Cleland and hand Cleland the counter-letter.
... The president gets called on to step up to the plate and say one way or another way he supports his friends' (rapidly deteriorating) smears on his opponent's military record.

And he just won't do it.

First, he sends out his chief spokesman to dodge the question.

Then he dodges the question.

And now, politically on the defensive, he calls another veteran and asks him to rush over to the ranch to face Max Cleland.

(It turns out that Patterson, the guy who got the 911 call from the president, has received $150,000 in campaign contributions from Bob Perry, the funder of the Swift Boat ads.)

Needless to say, the president doesn't have to play into the Kerry photo op by showing up to take Cleland's letter; a straight answer about the Swift Boat smears would do nicely.

But he just can't do it -- a classic bully.
But Marshall hones in on another detail.
Cleland got stopped at the first roadblock.

He tried to give the letter to secret service officials guarding (giving the word rather a new meaning) the president. But the president got a political ally from Texas, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson -- who is also a vet -- to show up and offer to take the letter, if Cleland would take a letter from him in exchange.

Cleland told him never mind; he'd rather stick it in the mail.

That prompted Patterson to utter this pricelessly unlovely retort ... - ""I tried to accept that letter and he would not give it to me," said Patterson. "He would not face me. He kept rolling away from me. He's quite mobile."

Yes, quite mobile. Classic.

Did I mention that President Bush is addicted to having others do his dirty work for him?
Well, gee, these triple-amputees can be damned tricky! And rude like you wouldn't believe. And insulting. Cleland wouldn't even face Patterson.

The nerve of some people - as you'd think they'd show the third string substitute representative of the president (who was no doubt busy running the country) a little more respect. Cleland must think he's a big shot because he was stupid enough to actually go to war, and then careless enough end up in a wheelchair with no legs and only one arm. Hell man, the guy could have joined the Texas Air National Guard way back when. It's his own fault. What a loser.

You have to love political theater.


Of course, you have to grant that the Bush folks are under a lot of pressure and we should understand if they are a tad short-tempered. Tuesday Vice President Cheney said Bush's call for a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage was something he thought was the wrong thing to do. And also on Tuesday the commission headed by a former secretary of defense released its findings - and said the responsibility for the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere went all the way up the chain of command to Rumsfeld - crappy planning and lousy resource planning (not enough folks for much of anything that was done in Iraq) and not much oversight at all. Just bad management. And then John Kerry again called for Rumsfeld to resign, or be removed. Then on Wednesday morning a second commission reported its findings - the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib was far worse than reported and did indeed include actual torture, and some senior commanders needed to be brought to courts martial. Geez. And then Wednesday evening, after Cheney had floated his idea that maybe the administration could be a bit more moderate on this business with the gay folks (Cheney has a daughter who is a lesbian) - well, the Republican National Committee finalized its plank on this matter, the official party position. No gay marriage should be allowed anywhere, and the constitution really should be amended, and further, no "civil unions" should ever be allowed for gay couples in any state - no contracts, no shared insurance, no tax breaks like "real" married folks get, no "family" hospital visitation rights when one or the other falls ill - no nothing. Now the party may fight itself, and the gay wing, the Log Cabin Republicans, may bolt.

And then too on Wednesday we discovered that the Bush campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth shared an election lawyer - one Benjamin Ginsberg who helped out with the Florida recount arguments in 2000 - and he resigned from the Bush campaign. That's against the law. These independent "527" opinion organizations are not allowed to coordinate with candidates - or they fall under the traditional spending restrictions. What was Ben thinking? He told Reuters he was thinking this - "I was at the nexus of making sure (coordination) didn't happen. To suggest otherwise is flat wrong." Huh? He was coordinating the non-coordination? Guess so. So the Bush campaign lost its top outside attorney.

Max Cleland just showed up on a bad day.


Ah yes, and here's the latest (via Josh Marshall) from the Bush folks (at - If Kerry Can't Handle the 'Swiftees,' How's He Going to Handle the Terrorists?

So the high-minded discourse continues.

Posted by Alan at 21:39 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 25 August 2004 21:59 PDT home

Topic: Oddities

Three odd political items...

Item One: If it's good enough for Paul Wellstone....

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post - Tuesday, August 24, 2004; Page A15 - notes this -
The White House travel office signed a contract last week with an airline called Primaris to fly the press corps to Bush events. The two-month-old company has only one airplane. True, media representatives gave their blessing to the deal. But that was before they learned that the company's president twice had his pilot's license revoked related to his flying of an "unairworthy" aircraft, that the chief executive flopped in his last attempt to start an airline and that the 15-year-old plane itself was damaged in a hailstorm a decade ago and spent most of the past two years mothballed in France.
Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, adds this -
I like the way the coup de grace was saved for the end: "France."

It is said that when a Chinese person wants to insult a foreigner who doesn't know any better, he presents him with the gift of a clock. (Something about a reminder that he will die someday, maybe soon.) And I imagine that when the Bush administration wants to insult you, it makes you fly around in a rickety old plane that spent its last two years in France.
No problem, as Rick no longer works for CNN and his wife is was never a reporter/anchor there, but she is an executive who manages resources, like reporters. Will she advise not taking the pool plane?

Item Two: No wonder Bill O'Reilly fumes about the Canadians and is calling for a US boycott of all Canadian products...

Carolyn Parrish is at it again.
OTTAWA, Aug 25 (Reuters) - It was damned bastards last year, "idiots" this year.

Canadian Member of Parliament Carolyn Parrish had said she hated "damned Americans" and called them bastards in the run-up to the Iraq war. She found a new moniker, idiots, on Wednesday in discussing the planned U.S. missile defense system.

"We are not joining the coalition of the idiots. We are joining the coalition of the wise," the Liberal legislator told a small group of demonstrators.

Parrish, who had to apologize for her "bastards" remarks last year, at first denied using the term idiots, and when reporters pointed out they had her remarks on tape, she said: "I don't mean Americans are idiots."

"The world respects Canada. If we were to join this then it will be giving credibility to what they're doing," she said.

Parrish then begged reporters not to use the remarks: "Please guys don't put that on tape," she said. "I already got into trouble once.... Really, please, I've had enough trouble." ...
What? Is she afraid of Bill O'Reilly's once more calling for boycott of Canadian goods and services? Well, he did single-handedly destroy the French economy, according to the Paris Business Review.

Item Three: Life Imitating Art - Paddy Chayefsky LIVES!

MSNBC notes this -
NEW YORK - Al Franken wants you to get up out of your chairs, open your windows, stick your heads out and yell...fuggedaboutdit?

Well, yes.

In the spirit of Paddy Chayefsky's classic movie monologue from "Network," the liberal comedian Wednesday urged New Yorkers -- and other Americans -- to simultaneously scream the all-purpose local wisecrack at the moment that President Bush accepts the nomination.

"This is a form of protest that is very non-disruptive," Franken said at a press conference in the Park Avenue office of Air America radio network, where he hosts a talk show.

Franken said the Sept. 2 protest, called the "Great American Shout-Out," will not "tax our public safety system at all."

"This is our way of venting," Franken added. "It will be a catharsis."

Franken said he expected the shouts to last less than five minutes. Out of "respect for the office of the presidency," he asked that participants quiet down once Bush begins speaking so "people can hear him give a bad speech."

Franken said he expects 100 million people nationwide to participate, adding: "Anything less would be a horrific failure."

Unlike the movie version -- "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" -- this protest has been tailor-made for regional dialects, Franken said.

In his native Minnesota, people are to yell "Oh no ya don't!" in an exaggerated accent.

In California, the suggested shout is: "No way, dude!"

Air America has created a Web site,, where participants can plan "shout parties" or let their solo shout be counted.
Franken has been floating this idea for the last week or two. I'll lean out my window at the appropriate time and report back if I hear ringing choruses of "No way, dude!"

Posted by Alan at 19:55 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 26 August 2004 08:11 PDT home

Topic: Making Use of History

History - The Liberation of Paris (and the rise of California)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004 looking back on August 25, 1944 - sixty years after Paris was liberated from the German occupiers....

Ric Erickson over at MetropoleParis has many details of what's up in the city on the anniversary. Check it out.

Ric additionally sends this along by email from the scene -
The entry of the French 2nd Armored Division was re-enacted today in front of the city hall of the 14th arrondissement. There were Parisians costumed in WWII French and US uniforms, and as civilians were dressed in 1944. There were scout motorcycles, jeeps, army trucks, a DUK, a half-track with four Brownings, plus some FFI rides, a firetruck and some old Renaults and Citroens.

There was a popular band on a flat-deck and a marching band on the city hall steps. Stage producer Jerome Savary, responsible for this evening's big dance show at the Bastille - and for organizing 1944-era dance lessons using the Hotel de Ville ballroom as a rehearsal hall - was on hand to say a few words mangled by a defective sound system. Schoolgirls sang a popular air of the times, and Parisians in their costumes danced, with flags fluttering.

Just as the rain started the motorcycles were fired up, to lead the ensemble out of the place and over to the Avenue Leclerc, to make the run northwards to the city center. The heavy rain had almost stopped by the time the historical parade reached Denfert-Rochereau, no more than 500 metres away. This place, named for a hero of the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian conflict, was partially renamed for Col. Rol-Tanguy, leader of the FFI resistance fighters. His headquarters were located in the underground catacombs which have their entry in this place.

The parade stalled by accident or design at Denfert-Rochereau, enabling more Parisians to show off their recently acquired jitterbugging skills. Later the parade reached the Luxembourg, which was a scene of heavy fighting on this day 60 years ago. The parade eventually wound through a very crowded Quartier Latin, to the Pont Neuf.

There was a parallel parade, starting from the Place d'Italie. It represented the 4th US Army Division that also entered Paris in tandem with the French 2nd Armored Division. Originally, it was another unit of the French 2nd that entered Paris here, almost entirely manned by Spanish Republicans. The American division came into Paris more from the west in 1944.

Besides a popular 'bal' staged by the French Senat at the Luxembourg Place, there was a solemn ceremony of remembrance at the Hotel de Ville. According to today's papers there was to have been a modern military display of some sort in the Place de la Concorde.

The stage show at Bastille tonight is also supposed to be followed by a popular 'bal' there, but the weather isn't cooperating. Live TV coverage is supposed to begin just after midnight; perhaps as a recap of the day's festivities. Unlike the formal military parades on 14 July and 11 November, all Parisians were invited to take part in today's parades.
And Ric send these shots -


Additional comments on the day sixty years ago from this:

60 years of memory: Paris of myth, Paris of reality
Mary Blume, International Herald Tribune (Paris) Wednesday, August 25, 2004
... Analyzing the event is like taking apart a birthday cake. What does matter is the emotion Albert Camus described in the Resistance paper Combat: "This huge Paris, all dark and warm in the summer night, with a storm of bombers overhead and a storm of snipers in the streets, seems to us more brightly lighted than the City of Light the whole world used to envy. It is bursting with the fires of hope and suffering, it has the flame of lucid courage and the glow, not only of liberation but of tomorrow's liberty."

... The past, with its defeatist generals and complaisant Parliament who voted Marshal Henri-Philippe P?tain to power by a great majority, was unthinkable, the future unimaginable. "I calmed down and lived wholly in the present," Simone de Beauvoir wrote. The present meant seeking heat in the Caf? de Flore and cooking up her infamous turnip sauerkraut. "But previously the present had meant a happy proliferation of new schemes in which the future bulked large; reduced to itself alone, it crumbled away into dust. Not only time but space had contracted."

... If everyone has his or her own Paris, arguably the city is most important to Americans who, unlike older civilizations, came to it unlumbered by history, tradition or fancy lifestyles of their own. Even Ben Franklin took up flirting in Paris in order to be ? la mode; others studied science or political theory, wrote books or just loafed, moving eastward, as Malcolm Cowley wrote, into new prairies of the mind.

It cannot be claimed that Paris welcomes foreigners, distrusting the Other as it does, but in ignoring them it tolerates them; it is accommodating in its indifference.

"I have a feeling that there's a voice saying take it or leave it, kid," said Mavis Gallant, who has gladly taken it. "I have lived half my life in Paris," Gertrude Stein said. "Not the half that made me, but the half in which I made what I made."

One thing Americans liked from the start about Paris was that while they fully enjoyed its sensual pleasures they felt they had retained their native virtue. "We have not as much refinement, but more of everything that is good," a New Yorker wrote to his son in the mid-19th century.

This moral self-satisfaction persists. Parisians, for the most part, don't think a lot about high-minded ideas, these having been resolved by the heavy thinkers memorized in the lyc?e. Americans trumpet moral views and find them, especially to their cost today, hard to enact. Americans want to do the right thing, not realizing it can be plural. Parisians want to do things the right way; that is, with precision and style. This can require more discipline than many realize: being Parisian is not a free ticket to indulgence.

The Parisian is deeply superficial, the American superficially profound. This should balance out, but the French are more complicated than we are, as Henry James noted in a letter telling a friend not to be put off "by what I might call the superficial and external aspect of the superficial and external aspect of Paris."

New Yorkers are merely self-absorbed but Parisians are world-class narcissists. This is a city made for preening, and the endless public grandstanding, physical and intellectual, may shock Americans, but in our innermost hearts wouldn't we love to gaze at ourselves in the mirror with unabashed delight and let fall from our lips a well-timed and irresistible mot juste?

The differences are endless, the similarities often more than skin-deep. Maybe we all need a Paris. What Paris is, and not just for Americans, is wishful thinking come true, whatever the wish.

Sixty years ago, the wishes ranged from the most basic (more meat) to the most lofty (peace forever). Many agreed that the thing they had most missed was the freedom to speak. "Paris is fighting today so that France may speak up tomorrow," Camus said. Speaking up meant daring to hope out loud. "Peace," Camus said "will return to this disemboweled earth and to those hearts tortured by hope and memories.... Happiness, tenderness will have their moment." He was surely speaking to the dead as to the living.
You might want to click on the link and read the whole item.

Other items of interest -

'You can't know how wonderful it was to finally battle in the daylight'
Jon Henley talks to Madeleine Riffaud, a Resistance fighter who helped save the city
Saturday August 21, 2004 in the Guardian (UK) -
August 15 1944 Paris police and metro workers begin all-out strike, followed the next day by postal workers

August 17 German-controlled state radio stops broadcasting; BBC reveals capture of Chartres and Orleans. Heated debate by resistance officials on when to call uprising. Raoul Nordling, Swedish consul, negotiates prisoner exchange that frees Madeleine Riffaud. Marshal Petain, head of Vichy government, told to leave France

August 18 Collaborationist press fails to appear. General mobilisation of Paris declared

August 19 First fighting of the uprising. Several government buildings taken. Police occupy their HQ. German commander Dietrich von Choltitz makes first contact with Resistance.

August 20 Street-fighting continues. US 4th Infantry crosses Seine. De Gaulle lands at Cherbourg. Paris city hall occupied peacefully.

August 21 Street fighting. General Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division send advance detachment to Paris. First Resistance newspapers on sale.

August 22 Street fighting reaches peak. Barricades all over the city. US general Omar Bradley gives Leclerc order to advance on Paris.

August 23 Von Choltitz receives order from Hitler to raze Paris to ground. Leclerc runs into resistance near Orly.

August 24 2nd Armoured fights on. Advance detachment, escorted by Resistance, reaches city hall in evening.

August 25 Von Choltitz signs formal act of surrender at Paris police HQ in afternoon. De Gaulle appears at city hall.

August 26 A million people crowd Champs-Elys?es for De Gaulle's victory parade.

August 31 Seat of provisional French government transferred to Paris.
From l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) by way of The Tocqueville Connection an interesting detail here -
For the French, the liberation of Paris stands as a stirringly patriotic moment. Unlike the D-Day and Provence landings, which were led by US and British forces, the first Allied forces the Parisians saw in the streets were their own countrymen, followed by the Americans.

Therese Henry, 74, told AFP of her experience that day: "On the 25th and in the days following, the Americans gave us chocolate bars with hazelnuts and almonds in them. I never again tasted chocolate that good."

De Gaulle, the designated leader of the free French forces, marched in victory along the famed Champs-Elysees the day after Paris's liberation, on August 26, and attended a mass in the Notre-Dame cathedral to give thanks for the city's liberation.

On Thursday, Chirac -- who sees himself as de Gaulle's political heir -- will attend a mass at Notre-Dame, following in his predecessor's footsteps.
And this below is good - and contains these lines - Nick rolled his eyes when I described to him how I had held forth to Sartre. "Him big cheese in some circles," he commented.

Paris: 1946
Paula Fox - Paris Review - Summer, 2004 - Issue 170 (with link to and interview with the author)

But Le Nouvel Observateur (Semaine du jeudi 19 ao?t 2004 - n?2076) at the kiosks all over Paris this week points to the future. The past is Paris. The future is out here in California, the home of Just Above Sunset.

Here are some of the items -

Californie : Voyage au pays du future

300 km par jour pour travailler ? Los Angeles
Des champignons dans le d?sert
Pour ?chapper ? la saturation immobili?re de L. A., les nouveaux urbains font pousser des villes au milieu de nulle part
(Yeah, folks do commute from Apple Valley to work in Los Angeles - day in and day out.)

Des puces et des hommes
Plong?e dans la soci?t? de demain
C'est l'endroit le plus high-tech de la plan?te mais les machines ? laver y ont parfois vingt ans de retard. Et si ce mariage du pass? et de l'avenir ?tait une des cl?s du g?nie californien?

Aime ton chien comme toi-m?me
Ici, on peut confier ses poissons rouges ? une clinique de remise en forme et faire cloner son chat. Ici, on entend instituer le droit au bonheur des animaux
(To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, "They shant clone Harriet.")

Retour aux racines
Dans l'Etat le plus riche des Etats-Unis, la derni?re mode est ? l'asc?se, ? la m?ditation, ? la protection de la plan?teet aux plaisirs simples et bruts de la vie de pionnier
(Yes, there is a Zen ashram up in the Hollywood Hills not far from here.)

La ru?e vers l'eau
N?cessit? ou g?chis, la Californie a puis? plus que sa part dans le fleuve Colorado et les lacs environnants. Devra-t-elle se rationner?
(Always a problem here, as the city was built in a desert.)

Note also Myl?ne Farmer's breathy pop ditty has these words -

A?roport, a?rogare
Mais pour tout l'or m'en aller
C'est le blues, le coup de cafard
Le check out assur?
Vienne la nuit et sonne l'heure
Et moi je meurs
Entre apathie et pesanteur
O? je demeure
Changer d'optique, prendre l'exit
Et m'envoyer en Am?rique
Sex appeal, c'est Sunset
C'est Marlboro qui me sourit
Mon amour, mon moi, je
Sais qu'il existe
La chaleur de l'abandon
C'est comme une symphonie

C'est sexy le ciel de Californie
Sous ma peau j'ai L.A. en overdose ...

[You can download this in MP3 format here.]

This song from the album Anamorphos?e (1995) did well in France and French-speaking Canada (saw the music video several times when I was living in Canada and it looked as if it actually had been filmed in the courtyard of the apartment building where I live, down by the pool). The album was recorded at the old A&M Studios six blocks east of here, on La Brea, one block south of Sunset Boulevard. The French love California?

Oh yes, Le Nouvel Observateur has the usual political item.

La n?buleuse anti-Bush
Pour battre le pr?sident sortant, ils organisent des concerts, l?vent des millions de dollars et alertent des milliers d'activistes par internet. Ils ont dop? la campagne de John Kerry

Bruce Springsteen, REM, Jackson Browne, James Taylor en tourn?e pour MoveOn. Un joli coup de plus pour la nouvelle star de la campagne pr?sidentielle am?ricaine! MoveOn? Certainement pas un groupe de rock, encore moins un parti, et ? peine une organisation: avec seulement quatre permanents, mieux vaudrait parler d'un r?seau. C'est pourtant cette n?buleuse de 2 millions de membres qui a convaincu le Boss et ses potes rockers de se lancer dans une s?rie de concerts pour un ?Vote for change?. Les concerts anti-Bush, annonce Eli Pariser, le directeur de MoveOn, constitueront ?la sonnette d'alarme pour l'?lection la plus importante de notre vie?...
MoveOn et consorts sont-ils en train de r?inventer le Parti d?mocrate et la politique am?ricaine en g?n?ral? Trop t?t pour le dire, mais le mouvement a largement d?pass? le stade de l'?piph?nom?ne. Quand Howard Dean s'est pris une racl?e lors des primaires, d?but 2004, on avait beaucoup rican? sur cette n?buleuse internet qui le soutenait. Cette frange d'?lecteurs plus jeunes et plus ? gauche que l'ensemble de la population n'avait pas pes? lourd devant la volont? g?n?rale de d?signer un candidat centriste cr?dible face ? Bush. Mais John Kerry s'est empress? d'emprunter ? la campagne Dean son savoir-faire pour la lev?e de fonds par internet. MoveOn, ACT (America Coming Together) et une n?buleuse de ?comit?s d'action politique? ou de ?groupes de pression? ont pris une importance chaque jour plus grande dans cette campagne.

A l'exception des partisans de Ralph Nader, toute la gauche est aujourd'hui rang?e sous la banni?re ABB (Anybody But Bush - n'importe qui plut?t que Bush). ...
You get the idea.

But back to the past - Wednesday's French national dailies. -

Posted by Alan at 11:45 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 25 August 2004 17:31 PDT home

Tuesday, 24 August 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Spite and its uses... Why One Votes for Bush

Why one votes for Bush? You will find this comment at the end of the last column, From the Department of Useless Advice - "...half the country likes this child bully who can sucker-punch the skinny, brainy wimp and get away with it. Hey, it is entertaining - and plays to the secret fantasy of so many who feel life, and brainy wimps who get along with the French, have treated them unfairly and mocked their lack of education and their simple incurious values and tell them life is complicated when it really isn't."

Here - (Mark Ames in the NY PRESS - Volume 17, Issue 23), curiously, this is explained in great detail - and this is an executive summary with key quotes -
PREMISE: In this country, tens of millions of people choose to watch Fox News not simply because Americans are credulous idiots or at the behest of some right-wing corporate cabal, but because average Americans respect viciousness. They are attracted to viciousness for a lot of reasons. In part, it reminds them of their bosses, whom they secretly adore. Americans hate themselves for the way they behave in public, always smiling and nodding their heads with accompanying reallys and uh-huhs to show that they're listening to the other person, never having the guts to say what they really feel. So they vicariously scream and bully others into submission through right-wing surrogate-brutes. Spending time watching Sean Hannity is enough for your average American white male to feel less cowardly than he really is.

PROPOSITION: What if Americans are not a likeable people? The left's wires short-circuit when confronted with this terrible possibility; the right, on the other hand, warmly embraces Middle America's rank soul and exploits it to their full advantage. The Republicans know Americans better than the left.

THE POWERLESS VOTE OUT OF SPITE AND ENVY: This explains the mystery of why Bush still has a chance of winning in November, even though most Americans acknowledge that his presidency is little more than a series of slapstick fuck-ups with apocalyptic consequences. Inspector Clouseau meets the Book of Revelations. Close to half of this country will support Bush simply to spite that part of America that it sees as most threatened by the Iraq debacle. If the empire ends up collapsing into that filthy, sizzling hellhole in the desert, if more terrorists are created to help set off dirty bombs in Manhattan or Los Angeles, our spiteful voter has a real chance of finally achieving some empowerment.

... Spite voting is mostly a white male phenomenon, which is why a majority of white males vote Republican. It comes from a toxic mix of thwarted expectations, cowardice and anomie that is unique to the white American male experience.

... One look at Bush and you'll know why: Bush is the privileged frat-boy/jock asshole that every spiteful male recognizes from his school days. Spiteful males may have supported him in the past, but only because Bush's cartoonish stupidity gave a daily dose of stomach cramps to the responsible, concerned Americans who voted for Gore. And really, what white male in his spiteful mind could possibly have voted for Al Gore, with that pained "Am I pleasing you?" smile he beamed at you? Spiteful white males don't want to be pleased-they want other people to be displeased.
Of course the whole item is much more detailed, and angrier. This summary is, after all, only that, a summary.

Read the essay here.

What to conclude? Never underestimate the power of spite. The old adage that some people will cut of their nose to spite their face? Maybe that applies here in some way.

The Bush campaign as planned by Karl Rove effectively harnesses this spite. What possible counter effort can his progressive-liberal-Panglossian opponents mount?


ADJECTIVE: Blindly or naively optimistic.
ETYMOLOGY: After Pangloss, an optimist in Candide, a satire by Voltaire (1694-1778).

A Voltaire quote -
"I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O, Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it." (Letter to M. Damilaville - May 16, 1767)

Posted by Alan at 15:05 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Election Notes

From the Department of Useless Advice

Previously in The Story That Won't Die - leading to a precise definition of cowardice.... you will find passages from Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo where Marshall makes a brief argument about George Bush, asserting he is a specific kind of coward, a moral coward.

Marshall elaborates a bit a day later (Tuesday, August 24, 2004) and gives us this, and the excerpt here is only a taste. The emphases in bold are mine.

I'm not sure this is good campaign advice for John Kerry.
The current debate about these two men's military service has put the spotlight on physical courage. But that really is a side issue in this campaign, if we're talking substance. The real issue isn't physical bravery but moral cowardice.

President Bush is an exemplar of that quality in spades. And it cuts directly to his failures as president. Forget about thirty years ago, just think about the last three years.

Before proceeding on to that, one other point about the two men's service. On the balance sheet of moral bravery, as opposed to physical bravery, the two men are about as far apart as you can be on Vietnam. On the one hand you have Kerry, who already had doubts about whether we should be fighting in Vietnam before he went, and put his life on the line anyway. On the other hand, you have George W. Bush who supported the war, which means he believed the goal was worth the cost in American lives. Only, not his life. He believed others should go; just not him. It's the story of his life.

That is almost the definition of moral cowardice.

We have a more immediate sense of what physical bravery and cowardice are. In fact, when we speak of bravery and cowardice, the physical variety is almost always what we're talking about. It's whether or not you can charge an enemy position while you're be fired at. It's whether you're immobilized by the fear of death.

Moral cowardice is more complex. A moral coward is someone who lacks the courage to tell the truth, to accept responsibility, to demand accountability, to do what's right when it's not the easy thing to do, to clean up his or her own messes. Perhaps we could say that moral bravery is having both the courage of your convictions as well as the courage of your misdeeds.

As I've been saying here for the last couple days, the issue isn't that Bush ducked service in Vietnam. It's that he tries to smear other people's meritorious service without taking responsibility for what he's doing. He gets other people to do his dirty work for him.

... The key for the Kerry campaign to make is that the president's moral cowardice is why we're now bogged down in Iraq. It's a key reason why almost a thousand Americans have died there. President Bush has set the tone for this administration and his moral cowardice permeates it.

Consider only the most obvious examples.

The president didn't think he could convince the public of the merits of his reasons for going to war. So he lied to them. He greatly exaggerated what was thought to be the evidence of weapons of mass destruction and completely manufactured a connection between Iraq and al Qaida. He couldn't get the country behind him on the up-and-up. So he took the easy way out; he took a shortcut; he deceived them. And now the country is paying a terrible price for it.
He and his advisors knew that if they leveled with the public about the costs of war -- in dollars, years, soldiers -- he'd have a very hard time convincing them. So he didn't level with them. He took the easy way out.

The sort of forward planning that would have made a big difference in post-war Iraq was scuttled or attacked because it would make the job of selling the war harder. Those who sounded the alarm had their careers cut short.

Once we were in Iraq and it was clear that we had been wrong about the weapons of mass destruction -- a judgment that's been clear for more than a year -- he wouldn't admit it. And he still hasn't. A year and a half after we invaded Iraq and he still can't level with the American people about this. He still relies on his vice president to try to fool people into thinking Hussein was tied to al Qaida and the 9/11 attacks.

More importantly, once it became clear that the president's plans for post-war Iraq were producing poor results, he refused to shift policy or to reshuffle his team. He refused to demand accountability from his own team because of how it would have reflected on him. He's preferred to continue on with demonstrably failed policies because to do otherwise would be to admit he'd made a mistake and open himself to all the political fall-out that entails. And that's not something he's willing to do.

The stubborn refusal ever to change course, which the president tries to pass off as a sign of leadership or devotion to principle, is actually an example of his cowardice.

For the same reasons, he runs from soldiers' funerals like they were burying victims of the plague -- because it's the easy way out. If there's a problem, he denies it or finds someone else to take the fall for him.

Everyone has these tendencies in their measure. No one is perfect. But they define George W. Bush.

The same sort of moral cowardice that led him to support the Vietnam war but decide it wasn't for him, run companies into the ground and let others pay the bill, play gutter politics but run for the hills when someone asks him to say it to their face, those are the same qualities that led the president to lie the country into war, fail to prepare for the aftermath and then refuse to take responsibility for any of it when the bill started to come due.

That's the argument John Kerry needs to be making. And he needs to make it right now.
All very well argued, but were John Kerry to stand in front of a national audience and say this - "President Bush. Be a man. Take responsibility for what you do, and what you have done. Grow up." - Kerry would change no voters' minds.

Almost all votes have made up their minds already. And half the country likes this child bully who can sucker-punch the skinny, brainy wimp and get away with it. Hey, it is entertaining - and plays to the secret fantasy of so many who feel life, and brainy wimps who get along with the French, have treated them unfairly and mocked their lack of education and their simple incurious values and tell them life is complicated when it really isn't.

I don't think this will fly.

Posted by Alan at 09:46 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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