Once again the Pentagon thoughtlessly squeezes John McCain into ever-higher, vertiginous stammerings of senile crackpottery and creative bullshit.
Here, I've been fortunate, blessed with commenters of uncommon intelligence. But elsewhere ...
"There you are, peacefully reading an article or watching a video on the Internet," writes the Times today in the amusing "Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt." "You finish, find it thought-provoking, and scroll down to the comments section to see what other people thought. And there, lurking among dozens of well-intentioned opinions, is a troll....
"Trolling, defined as the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums, is a problem as old as the Internet itself....
"Psychological research has proven again and again that anonymity increases unethical behavior. Road rage bubbles up in the relative anonymity of one’s car. And in the online world, which can offer total anonymity, the effect is even more pronounced. People -- even ordinary, good people -- often change their behavior in radical ways. There’s even a term for it: the online disinhibition effect.
"Many forums and online communities are looking for ways to strike back."
Really? Should "trolling" ever become an issue here, I've the perfect and apparently too-obvious(?) too-simple(?) solution: I'll just close the comments section.
I once wrote for a progressive Web site infested with hardcore specimens of this retrogressive, Darwin-unvisited species. I never understood the merit of tolerating them. They not only added nothing to the discourse, they routinely, almost universally failed to even comprehend the theme of the article they were commenting on -- oblivious comments drenched mostly in ad hominems.
Within a few weeks I stopped reading them altogether, as I imagine most evolution-blessed readers did.
But largely my abstinence came from the unbearable realization that so many "progressive" commenters harbor disturbed personalities indistinguishable from those of right-wing Beckian types. In my opinion, the underlying cause? Ideology. Left or right it makes little difference; it warps the mind, lessens the intellect, and degrades the vital virtue of, simply, thinking for oneself.
Never have I read such a gripping, compelling summary of the undying fears and anxiety that lay at the root of the "Greatest Generation's" worldview, as that of W.H. Auden's (an England-to-America poetic transplant, in 1939) "The Cave of Making" (third canto of "Thanksgiving for a Habitat"). The most poignant section, to me, is that in which he writes, in 1964, to a deceased friend: [We]
became self-conscious at a moment
when locomotives were named after knights in Malory,
Science to schoolboys was known as
Stinks, and the Manor still was politically numinous:
both watched with mixed feelings
the sack of Silence, the churches empty, the cavalry
go, the Cosmic Model
become German, and any faith, if we had it, in immanent
virtue died. More than ever
life-out-there is goodly, miraculous, lovable,
but we shan't, not since Stalin and Hitler,
trust ourselves ever again: we know that, subjectively,
all is possible.
I, a member of the succeeding generation, post at this time those 13 lines of magnificence not to dismiss or embrace the West's occasionally paranoid, often excessive reaction to its global foes' machinations, but merely to remind the West's young Julian Assanges of the quite real historical horrors that led to our elaborate, postwar security measures.
Just as the modern right requires frequent reminders that prior to Europe's liberalism and America's New Dealism life was for many a living hell utterly without safety nets, the modern left needs reminding that not all national security measures are a "military-industrial" scam.
Once, "all [was] possible," and the very worst of those possibilities materialized. Has humanity evolved fundamentally in only three-and-a-half score?
Were Sarah Palin's recent, critical comments about the GOP's beloved former presidents akin to Sen. Joe McCarthy's self-devastating attacks on the U.S. Army?
Perhaps it's too soon to know. But Joe Scarborough's column this morning is more than a brushback or bow shot; it's a thermonuclear blast designed (Please, say it ain't so, Joe) to send Palin packing right out of the presidential running.
A few choice samples:
Palin can’t stop herself from taking swings at Republican giants. In the past month alone, she has mocked Ronald Reagan’s credentials, dismissed George H.W. and Barbara Bush as arrogant “blue bloods” and blamed George W. Bush for wrecking the economy....
When Sean Hannity asked Palin whether being in a reality show diminished her standing to be president, the former half-term governor mocked Reagan’s biography, dismissing him as “an actor.” Sounding like every left-wing politician and media elitist who ridiculed Reagan for decades, Palin sneered that she could be president if the actor from “Bedtime for Bonzo” managed to do so....
After Palin mocked Reagan’s credentials, the TLC reality show star took aim at the 41st president and his wife.... Palin was perturbed that a former president and his wife would dare to answer a question about whom they preferred for president in 2012. Perhaps her anger was understandable. After all, these disconnected “blue bloods” had nothing in their backgrounds that could ever make them understand “real America” like a former governor from Alaska who quit in the middle of her first term and then got rich....
I suppose Palin’s harsh dismissal of this great man is more understandable after one reads her biography and realizes that, like Bush, she accomplished a great deal in her early 20s. Who wouldn’t agree that finishing third in the Miss Alaska beauty contest is every bit as treacherous as risking your life in military combat?...
I am offended by Palin’s attempt to build herself up by tearing down great men like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush....
If Republicans want to embrace Palin as a cultural icon whose anti-intellectualism fulfills a base political need, then have at it. I suppose it’s cheaper than therapy. But if the party of Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio wants to return to the White House anytime soon, it’s time that Republican leaders started standing up and speaking the truth to Palin.
This morning the Post's Jonathan Capehart again repeats what he insists "bears repeating," a repetition I reluctantly endorse. It's pitiable, but the presumption behind this argumentation scheme of writing the same bloody thing seemingly every other day is that the GOP's Big Lies can be effectively counteracted only by Democratic tediousness.
Capehart's clarified target: Despite the GOP's hurt and tender feelings on theatrical display for nearly two years, President Obama never crowed "I won" to Republican lawmakers in that post-inaugural, bipartisan meeting about an economic stimulus package -- not, that is, in the despotic way Republicans have ever since claimed he did.
Capehart quotes a contemporary article from ABC News: "[T]he president ... told [Eric] Cantor this morning that 'on some of these issues we're just going to have ideological differences.' The president added, 'I won. So I think on that one, I trump you.' " And from the Wall Street Journal: Aides present, both Democratic and Republican, "who heard the remarks stressed that it wasn't as boldly partisan as it might sound."
Indeed as it could sound, given enough false and misleading emphasis -- something that Republicans are always happy to supply. In their minds, there's no distorted public debate that cannot be further disfigured.
And, naturally, they're now doing what they have repeatedly denounced Obama for: They're insisting that "They won" the midterms in such a prodigious manner that their victory cinches whatever they desire legislatively.
Good grief. This is going to be a very long, exceptionally monotonous two years.
A superb example of smart politics defeating intelligent economics:
"President Barack Obama announced that he would freeze pay for civilian federal employees for two years in a move that precludes a looming debate in Congress about how best to tackle the growing federal deficits."
Franklin Roosevelt's Economy Act of 1933 also cut federal workers' pay, which merely accentuated the economy's deflationary spiral.
A more sensible solution -- and I'm not joking, much -- to both the unemployment and deficit problems would be for the U.S. government to hire 7.5 million jobless Americans to dig holes east of the Mississippi, then transport the dirt to the holes dug west of the Mississippi by the other 7.5 million jobless Americans, who sent their dirt eastward.
Re-dig, re-transport, and repeat until the diggers are gradually hired away.
I suspect that WikiLeaks is discovering the perils of modern re-marketing, a la New Coke's disappointing rollout.
"Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington - the country's first President - could not tell a lie," writes the spook-disrobing Web site with respect to its latest releases. "If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today's document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments -- even the most corrupt -- around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures."
... the rim shot: "I would think Noam Chomsky would be incredibly disappointed reading these [cables]," said the Council on Foreign Relations' Walter Russell Mead.
I've read a few of them myself, and relieved is the word that springs to mind. Turns out that Woodrow Wilson's cheerleading for "Open Diplomacy" was somewhat superfluous rah-rah. On the whole, this supersecret stuff is routinely unshocking.
"From what I have seen," adds the British historian Timothy Garton Ash, "the professional members of the U.S. foreign service have very little to be ashamed of." What the cables in large part show, observes Ash, is "diplomats doing their proper job: finding out what is happening in the places to which they are posted, working to advance their nation's interests and their government's policies."
Indeed, if horror there is in the documents, continues Ash, it lies in the bracing reality of "how serious [our] threats are, and how little the west is in control of them."
The conspicuous irony from all this: a redoubling of unnecessary secrecy, hence anarchistic transparency delivers on closing the lid even tighter.
Why the Founders feared democracy unbound:
For a few days this month, it was illegal in Oklahoma for a state judge to base a court decision on Islamic religious law.... It was a manufactured problem; the issue has never come up in the state’s courts. But more than 70 percent of voters in Oklahoma still approved a state constitutional amendment [which, as a Times editorial understates it, because there is no overstating it, was a "pernicious folly," "Islam-bashing for political gain," "fear-mongering," "a violation of the nation’s Constitution" and "a profoundly un-American measure"] to that effect, apparently persuaded by anti-Islamic activists, and a few cynical politicians, that Oklahoma was about to be brought under Islam’s heel.
They the People -- the ignominiously unwashed and excessively entertained, armed with a voter registration card -- are, despite Churchill's favorable assessment of Anglo democracy, a vindication of modified Fabian socialism, once described as "an ounce of [leftist] theory with a ton of practice," i.e., pragmatism.
Is that elitist? By definition, you bet their Drudgian asses it is. But why not wear those Palinesque stabs as bloody badges of honor?
A splendid ignorance, these past five days in my second home, the Missouri Ozarks. I beheld no news, with the unavoidable exception (Politico felt the need to email thousands about this but nothing else) of the president's split lip, which seemed too comically metaphorical to spoil by exploring further.
I even resisted tuning in to the local talk-radio venom, or phoning in any antidotes. Perhaps this was imprudent. I'll never know what fresh inanities they engaged during my stay. Educational case in point: Once, a few years ago, the weekend morning host, who was a bloodthirsty defender of all wars Bushian, was prattling on about our absolute need to be in Iraq. At some point I realized the host had less of a clue about Iraq's predicament and our involvement in it than even your average bloodthirsty moron. Exposing this fact -- live and on-air -- struck me as an immediate and immensely necessary task. So I called in: "Say, tell us please, is Saddam Hussein an Iraqi Sunni, an Iraqi Shiite, or an ethnic Kurd?" Sure enough, his frantic dancing around the question revealed a stunning benightedness. He loved the war but possessed no knowledge of even its largest particulars.
Minutes later one of the show's regular callers phoned in to clarify that Saddam Hussein was ... a Kurd. Or least he thought he was. He was pretty sure. Nevertheless the host leapt at this cognitive gesture of support and anxiously agreed: Yes, that's right, he said, Saddam Hussein was a Kurd. End of the stirring intellectual badminton on right-wing talk radio.
While there last week I did however learn that the area had just elected one of its leading cretins as a U.S. congressman -- an auctioneer, for years a platitudinous fixture on local talk radio, who Angled his campaign by talking to no press and answering no questions. He's a tea-partying Palin type who for at least the next two years will unearn close to $200,000 in annual federal salary and luxuriate on his hated government's benefits; all he must do is vote however Eric Cantor tells him to vote.
I'm thinking of relocating there permanently -- with a plan. I'll read no news, watch only Fox, lose all contact with the real world and work on forgetting virtually everything of thoughtful value I've ever learned. And then when the auctioneer retires from Congress, if I've become dumb enough I'll run myself.
Tomorrow's early morn. The highway beckons not a minute too soon.
Sanity regained -- assuming I've the fortitude to resist the race-baiting, Obama-hating, fear-mongering madness of my vehicle's AM dial -- for a few cloistered hours. Beethoven on CD I think, perhaps Brahms, or Ellington. Then, four sacred days with family and Shakespeare and Auden and Hemingway in the Missouri Ozarks' modern wilderness; yes there's satellite TV there, but on it is Turner Classic Movies -- sanity secured, however briefly.
No cable news or major press. My personal pledge. Well, maybe a peep now and then, just to confirm that the tea partiers haven't yet flamed the Reichstag or anything like that. Though only in part I'm a political commentator, so if they were, say, to burn Washington, I'd likely feel obligated to comment. It's my unholy cross, for others to bear or not.
I'm giddy just imagining the sensation: four whole days -- five if I fully recover -- absent from the liberal media's earth-shattering insight that Sarah Palin is maybe a trifle wanting in the presidential qualifications department; an equivalent recess from the conservative media's insight that Barack Obama is a jackbooted fascist bent on pressing my "junk." (Ah, but I'm fooling the oppressive bugger, I'm driving).
Can I just say No to Dionne? can I betray Brooks? can I impoverish my Sunday by ditching Rich? can I resist watching Schultz re-air the exact same program for the 500th time? It is that -- that "time" thing -- as they say, that will tell. But because my heart is raw my intentions are pure.
I may yet be back today. It's early and this fierce addiction tugs. On the road, though, tomorrow morning, I'll arm myself with cold presses and nerve-calming aromatic coffee -- (in my nagging, maturing mellowness I've forsaken whole vats of wine) -- and perhaps I'll even partake of snippets, just snippets mind you, of NPR methadone.
No, no consciousness-streaming Kerouac-tripping for me. I'm in pursuit of merely a mind-blanking, news-negating, contemporary-culture-denying total escape. And not to unduly project or anything, but I hope you have one too.
A White House official on the Dream Act: "It will take a few Republicans to get this through Congress, but they have to realize we can’t keep kicking the can down the road. They have to help govern and to solve some of the problems."
Get used to an increasing drumbeat of that line -- (in)direct from 1948, it's the 2012 campaign slogan.
"The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing," observes Paul Krugman this morning. "And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming....
"It’s hard to see how this situation is resolved without a major crisis of some kind."
I'd argue that we're in the crisis now; we have been for years -- our original pathogen being the Reagan administration's acute fiscal irrationality, which has since transformed into chronic obliviousness.
But that point is scarcely controversial, hardly even debatable. So the real question is, How will this prolonged crisis end?
My guess -- no better or worse than any, I suppose -- is that if the GOP's wingnut wing persists in its internal dominance, the party's genuine conservatives will someday organize a Conservative Party that will almost instantly constitute less a third party than the second of two major parties (the GOP will itself slip into third-party status).
These conservatives will represent, as did the GOP before losing its mind, the center right; thus they will have, potentially, a preformed base of a whopping three-fourths of the American electorate (about 35 percent of whom consistently self-identify as ideologically moderate, 40 percent as conservative).
The practical mechanics of such an invention are of course hugely difficult to achieve. What's even harder, though, is to imagine today's hugely irresponsible and prime-demographics-hemorrhaging GOP sustaining itself another decade or two as a major political player.
"In the 20 years that I’ve been involved politically, I’ve never had the misfortune of working with such sheer, utter incompetence," said the NRSC's political director of Sharron Angle's campaign manager, Terry Campbell. "If they were filming a sequel to the movie 'Dumb and Dumber,' [he] would have a feature role."
No kidding. "In one instance ... Campbell called the National Republican Senatorial Committee to inquire if it had heard anything about the president coming to the state and attacking Angle -- two days after President Barack Obama visited Nevada to campaign for Reid....
"At one point, Campbell hired a digital billboard truck with Angle’s face on it that drove around the tourist-drenched Las Vegas Strip -- a tactic he referred to as a 'game changer.' "
But here, from Politico, is the juiciest part, dripping in a menage a trois oxymoron: "In the late 1990s, Campbell ... worked at a Reno-based conservative think tank."
My, high-profile progressives are starting a bit early with their fashionable woe-is-us, all-is-doomed defeatism, aren't they?
This morning for instance Frank Rich, in his dueling-and-dual-answered (more on that later) "Could She Reach the Top in 2012? You Betcha," ventured that Sarah Palin's laughably false confidence -- expressed of late to Barbara Walters -- that she could whip the president in 2012 "wasn’t an idle boast."
Why? "Should Michael Bloomberg decide to spend billions on a quixotic run as a third-party spoiler," wrote Rich, "all bets on Obama are off."
No analysis followed, none whatsoever. Vague spookiness sells better.
Rank-and-file progressives can now fear a fresh boogeyman under the bed -- "Say, Frank Rich says Palin could go all the way because of Bloomberg; oh Jesus, I knew it, I just knew things would get worse" (note the progression from conditional to inevitable) -- which seems oddly emotionally rewarding for the perpetually beleaguered. (A persecution complex fulfilled?)
Somewhere, a bundle of reality just might intervene, such as Bloomberg's uncanny penchant for spending money on only virtually sure things; Bloomberg's uncanny ability to count to 270; Bloomberg's uncanny knowledge that third-party runs are roadways to implosion and obscurity; Bloomberg's uncanny hunch that a moderate conservative would only split the overall conservative vote ...
One could go on. And who knows. Bloomberg the pol, and not the businessman, also has an ego the size of Long Island, which could muscle his usual good pragmatic sense into retreat. But that's a long way from declaring that a Bloomberg run would radically upset Obama's odds in 2012.
Indeed, only in his conclusion did Rich pull the rug from under his own Jeremiah: "there’s little reason to believe now that [Palin] cannot dance to the top of the Republican ticket when and if she wants to."
That's quite the thematic shift ("And the poet, taking a breather/Round his garden before starting his eclogue,/Does not know whose Truth he will tell" -- W.H. Auden): from "Reach[ing] the Top in 2012" to wresting the nomination from competing GOP buffoons through greater appeal to her party's primary-voter buffoons.
But, assuming nuances won't be caught or belabored by the target demographic, the former theme sure makes for a terrific boogeyman tale around the old spooked-progressive campfire.
From Wisconsin, via the Times, "blue-collar workers said they had voted Democratic in 2008 and switched to Republican this time -- mimicking the blue-collar political shift throughout the Midwest -- because the Obama administration, in their view, had failed so far to help them."
... Well how about fire-bombing one's house if one's trash service is late? Or careening one's car into a pond if those recent repairs didn't quite fix that malfunction?
Jesus, stupidity like that almost deserves what it gets. It's also why some late 19th- and early 20th-century radical intellectuals, such as Friedrich Engels and Leon Trotsky, began resketching their once-hopeful vision of the "proletariat" as a class-conscious force of revolutionary potential. By century's end, even the bare launching point of unified consciousness seemed distressingly unreachable.
In the United States, contra Howard Zinn's eccentric histories, the working class has by and large exhibited an extraordinary willingness to reject solidarity in favor of protecting Number One's crumbs, in which there inheres, I think, a certain unfortunate but self-interested political conservatism. Historians will disagree on this -- the younger ones, especially, always locating more working-class spirit than actually existed, which should indicate to you just how objective scholarly historical analysis is -- and I confess here an individual interpretation, too. But there you go ...
... as goes the working class of Wisconsin. There are, of course, real take-it-or-leave-it reasons for their on-the-job capitulations; but "switch[ing] to Republican ... because the Obama administration, in their view, had failed so far to help them," and in the process throwing Sen. Russ Feingold overboard?
Again, that's not instructive or corrective pique. That's just monstrous stupidity.
Brooks on Americans' erstwhile need "to be conversant in philosophy, theology and the great political events of the wider world":
Magazines like Harper’s, Saturday Review, Time and Newsweek arose to satisfy this tide of cultural aspiration. For decades, Time and Newsweek devoted more space to opera and art and theology than to Hollywood or health. You may never have visited New York City, but to be a respectable figure in your town in Wisconsin or Arizona, it was helpful to know what operas were playing or what people were reading in Paris. The magazines supplied this knowledge....
About a generation ago, this earnest self-improvement ethic came under attack. People no longer believed that there was such a thing as a common culture that all educated Americans should study and know. The new ethos valued hipness, not class.
It's true that that earlier American media also fed the dilettantism of Mencken's booboisie and Lewis' Babbitry, but David Brooks' point is well taken: We were once a more serious, more thoughtful people -- before the consecutive ages of first "finding ourselves" and then escaping through TV dinners with "Roseanne" and evenings of Bristol's "Dancing."
Also culturally axiomatic is that each generation looks back on its perceived grounded predecessors and tsk-tsks its own irrecoverable failings -- I believe I recall once reading Socrates, no less, grumbling about "these kids today" -- yet this conservative act of solemnly looking backward seems to fulfill, however dramatically overdone, the invaluable service of drawing the younger generation forward, of binding the generations with some sort of sustaining, cultural glue.
Brooks embraces hope that we'll indeed find "a respite from," say, "the deluge of vapid social network chatter" that now distracts and trivializes our daily lives. And to that, after considering all the noses I see stuck in blackberries and ears mechanically attached to cell phones (to me reminiscent of an old Barsotti New Yorker cartoon: "Twisting paperclips, Ed," says one business executive on the phone to another, "how about you?"), I can only say, Here's to hope.
That President Obama is now forcing a showdownwith Senate Republicans over the New Start treaty is either a fresh demonstration of his unshakable commitment to responsible policy or an opportunistic wedge gleaned from Dick Lugar et al's insurgency over "Don't ask, don't tell."
I'd like to think it's exclusively the former -- Reason engaged in an epic squabble with Fatuity -- but in this sour political environment it would be sweet indeed, if nothing else, to savor another GOP family feud.
Of course there's another possibility: Obama's showdown might also be of the Potemkin kind. The world has no doubt noticed by now that the United States is growing ungovernable and frivolous and chillingly ignorant, what with so many Jon Kyls on the loose, thus a muscular show of presidential adulthood is in urgent order. Obama knows the children will peremptorily close it, but that itself will be but more ammunition for the campaign trail.
"Sad" is an insufficient word for the cynical depths to which the contemporary GOP has reduced all policy measures -- even those including the globe's nuclear welfare -- but that, as David Axelrod recently groaned, is the sad reality in which the Obama administration finds itself. There is, it seems, nothing, absolutely nothing that Republicans are unwilling to risk in the service of striking at a Democratic presidency, right down to a thermonuclear "mishap."
At any rate, the Potemkin theory looms even more plausible when one ponders the Senate's short and winding lame schedule, which is, to put it conservatively, already brimming over. Majority Leader Reid wishes to tackle DADT, immigration and tax cuts -- each deserving of at least a year and a half of our dysfunctional Senate's petty disputatiousness -- and now a nuclear treaty with Russia?
In the best of all miserably modern worlds, reports the Times, "Democrats would ... take the treaty to the floor in December for up to seven days of debate and force Republicans to choose sides." Sen. Levin is eying early December for hearings -- just hearings, mind you -- on DADT, whose prospects are suddenly looking in excellent fettle, yet two successes in one brief session is almost unthinkable these days.
And, again, all of this will arrive amid knifefights over the GOP's fiscal insanity and its dreary opposition to stunningly sober acts such as Dream.
But whatever the fate of the New Start treaty, its title's double meaning is unmistakable. For Obama, this battle represents a New Start for combativeness. He has lighted the fuse, and the fireworks are about to begin.
The poor dears. Turns out, as Politico reframed it yesterday with as little eye-rolling as possible, that Congressional Republicans can't make Dinner with Barack tonight because their feelings are still bruised -- from January, when the president "dominated a GOP meeting in Baltimore and delivered a humiliating rebuke to House Republicans."
You no doubt remember the meeting. The humiliation was televised.
Leaving aside Republicans' monstrous disrespect of protocol and tradition -- when the president of the United States invites you to the White House, you accept, period -- one is left supremely aghast at their extraordinary revisionism.
"He has a ways to go to rebuild the trust," said a conniving, prevaricating, double-dealing House Republican aide to Politico. "The Baltimore thing was unbelievable."
The aide meant that the Baltimore thing was unbelievable then, according to the GOP's wholesale inventions about an Obamian surprise attack; the truth is that the Baltimore thing, as peddled by these Orwellian goons, is unbelievable now.
But if one is in search of spiritual uplift, it seems another contributing reason for House Republicans' dreadful manners is that they quite literally still don't know what they're talking about: "Democrats ... said the [meeting's] delay is self-serving -- [in part] because Boehner and McConnell ... haven’t yet put together clear positions to parry Obama." And that of course harkens January's Baltimore meeting, in which Obama publicly decimated the knuckle-dragging simplicity of attending-Republicans' "arguments."
To me, though, of superior interest were Obama's comments en route home from Asia, before his dinner guests bailed: "[W]hen I sit down with Mitch McConnell and John Boehner this week ... [I'll say] that there are a set of things that need to get done during the lame duck, and that they are not going to want to just obstruct, that they’re going to want to engage constructively."
That was more than just a bow shot. It was a slam to the wall and a knife jutted under their chin: Welcome, boys, to a new age, one in which your epic obstructionism shall be symetrically countered, every bloody step of the way, by my presidential thundering.
Obama then added: "[W]e’re going to have a whole bunch of time next year for some serious philosophical debates."
And by that he meant, I suspect, a Baltimore redux -- with or without his new playmates.
What could be more non-partisan than President Obama's efforts to reduce nuclear stockpiles and ensure Ronald Reagan's goal of mutual verification? What, given the saintly Gipper's imprimatur, could be more patriotic? What could be, indeed, more ... American?
So naturally Sen. Jon Kyl is filibustering the New Start treaty -- an uncommonly cynical maneuver whose straightforward, purely partisan origins even the Russians comprehend: "The problem is not that the document is bad," said the parliamentary head of Russia's foreign affairs committee. "We are confronting the [singular] fact that Republicans refuse to ratify the treaty."
Again: document, fine; ratification, no way.
Kyl's formal objection to the treaty is that the Obama administration failed to adequately cater to his horsetrading demands for nuclear-weapons modernization. But "White House officials counted 29 meetings, phone calls, briefings or letters involving Mr. Kyl or his staff. They said they thought they had given him everything he wanted...," which of course they had, I'm sure, short of Obama's resignation.
Yet there's an upside to this debacle. According to this morning's NY Times, Kyl's "announcement ... blindsided and angered the White House." The earlier the anger, it seems to me, the better.
Few observers doubt that the next two years will be mostly defined by partisan rancor and gridlock. My fear, though, was that the GOP, whose contempt for responsible governance is still breathtaking, would spend the first six months or so playing as strategically nice as the White House, which would postpone what the White House knows it urgently needs to do: start the 2012 campaign -- of Total War.
Instead, the GOP is helpfully removing all White House inhibitions; it is handing Obama the public justifications he needs to go on the political warpath -- to strike earlier than he might otherwise have done.
Such a presidential offensive will not, of course, come quite yet. We're not even out of the lame-duck period, and over some unspecified time Obama must show an anxious, essentially non-ideological electorate a record of attempted compromises versus the GOP's blanket refusals. But come it will.
So I understand the White House's strategy of, so to speak, anger management. What I don't quite comprehend, however, is why the GOP is so nakedly -- and foolishly -- laying the necessary groundwork for a massive Obama counterstrike.
The Stewart-Maddow-Olbermann-Koppel war rages on, with fewer genuinely interested spectators than in most media wars, I suspect, but what the hell. It's news and personalities and therefore entertainment, right?
Last night the mighty Olbermann struck back, slashing through Koppel's particulars, it seemed, while ignoring their spirit. A handful of Olbermann's particulars were intriguing enough by themselves, however -- such as Keith and friends, at MSNBC, are not "doctrinaire."
How did Olbermann validate this claim? Why, you see, he on occasion criticizes the president! You know, the one who's not progressive enough for the progressive hosts/commentators at MSNBC.
Worry not: you're mentally well if your head just spun in bewildered exasperation. Olbermann's argument made no sense (even though his Murrow poses were meant to compensate), and in fact was contradictory, so much so that Keith sped past it just as fast as his big doctrinaire feet could carry him.
Olbermann's principal argument, however, was appallingly legitimate in a kind of bittersweet way: The other guys are even worse. That means not only Fox, but the conventional networks. It is undeniably and sickeningly true: the early coverage of the Iraq war and political events leading to it were a lasting embarrassment to American journalism. Almost anything else would have been an improvement.
Still, that's not to refute that they're all in a race to the bottom, pandering to their market share's most vulgar denominator. And in that, "news" coverage of politics only mirrors the politics itself.