Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Mendacity of Dumb

[Weekend rant to follow: my thoughts on the Tuesday primaries. Misery multiplies.]

Well, for a while there I actually allowed myself to think there was a chance things could change. I guess I was the stupid one. All along I've acknowledged that I could be kidding myself; but it felt good, really good, if only for a minute. Like a gentle touch under cool sheets. Until someone busted in and turned on the lights.

Living in the pacific-most and northwest-most corner of the Pacific Northwest, where the air is liberal and the coffee frothy, some might excuse me for thinking the idea of issue-based politics could take hold. Hanging with people who, like me, are information junkies and politically obsessed, I could even be forgiven for concluding that people were ready to reject the oldest and most Rovian ways of winning elections. Overlooking for a moment the reality that we are a nation of people who can't identify whole continents on maps, who can't list the three branches of government, who can't name the first president, I actually let myself imagine civil discourse and energetic attention to the important issues of our time -- now, finally, when it matters most. What an imbecile I am. You'd think the last person I'd delude would be me. (Yeah, like that's never happened before...)

I guess you can't blame Hillary for doing whatever it takes. Her campaign was floundering, and salvation was hanging there like rotten fruit on the lowest branch. Stating the obvious, she told herself it has always worked and is still there for the taking -- one man's call for the contrary to the contrary. So, like any smart politician -- and if nothing else, she's surely that -- she reached into the toilet of time and threw handsfull. He's not a Muslim.... far as I know. The phone at three a.m. Stuff that, while clearly false and fear-based (in what way, exactly, has she been "tested" to handle that call?) appeals to those who need short answers to long questions. You win elections by assuming the worst of us, not the best.

Now she claims both she and McCain have "crossed the Commander-in-Chief threshold." How, exactly? In the single most important military decision ever made, they were both wrong. Sleeping in the White House (on the other side of the bed from "the phone") is no more qualification, ipso facto, than is bleeding in the Hanoi Hilton. In fact McCain, who says his experiences have taught him what war is, not only agreed to the disaster but didn't speak up when he was told by the Army Chief of Staff that far more troops would be needed. Not until it was well past too late. Saying you're qualified doesn't make it so. Showing judgment when the chips are down might. I can see no objective measure by which Senator Clinton has a claim on the mantle more than Senator Obama. There just isn't one. But there is a reason the Constitution makes the Commander-in-Chief a civilian: he or she is supposed to be able think independently and separately from the military mind. One did. Two didn't.

Oil prices have more than tripled since Bush took office. The dollar is at an all-time low, and falling. Deficits -- and foreign ownership thereof -- are rising unsustainably. Yet people are convinced the over-riding issue is what happens at three a.m. in some imaginary scenario. The real danger, the very possible destruction of our economy from within -- which not only has more capacity to damage us than any terrorist, but is already under way, not imaginary at all -- gets no mention. We are treated like idiots. And like idiots we respond.

Yes, after these years of despair at what the old politics hath wrought, it turns out it still works, and, no doubt, always will, until we're entirely past the tipping point. And by then, waking up won't matter. Bullshit carries the day. So why the hell not? Other than the fact, of course, that Hillary Clinton has poisoned the pool and then drowned in it any hope of changing the political climate (not to mention any chance of a Democrat in the White House). So, great. She can fight like a Republican. Whoop-de-fricking-do. See ya around, America, it was nice knowing you. Show yourself out, if you don't mind. I need to sit here for awhile.

40 comments:

Justine Hemmestad said...

Or...she could have given him an amazing opportunity. In this, he can continue to demonstrate that he is not from the political machine of Washington, that he has a heart and a conscious and insight. He can prove that, while she's throwing the toilet at him, his concern is with the very things that could affect America positively. He will distinguish himself.

Sid Schwab said...

Yeah. But the problem is less that she dipped into the toilet, than the fact that people buy it after all.

Annie said...

I appreciate your perspective and thoughtfulness. I recognize the frustration and the despair.

For my own edification, I started blogging about the US Constitution, and was amazed and profoundly disappointed at both my ignorance of it, but also at how much effort it took to be at least marginally apprised of current events affecting it - and the core principles of our country.

It's an open group blog, and there have been a few other authors who have brought very interesting and informed perspectives to it. But not a single person from a traditional conservative point of reference has participated. I find that telling. I also find visitors reading from Kabul, Riyaud, Constantinople, Baghdad, Cairo, etc. to be interested in posts about Constitutional principles. That's heartening.

I have discovered a lot of primary source documents, and I've been skipping through and reading letters to and from the founders and framers. They are heavily laden with the events of the day: raising funds, paying bills, building consituencies, building diplomatic ties. But they are also eye-opening: they wrote in multiple languages, their private libraries were painstakingly built with works in the original languages and the best translations - often NOT into English. John Adams, for example, read, wrote and/or conversed in seven languages. Ben Franklin's letters collection fills dozens of volumes. Thomas Jefferson read religion, philosphy, agronomy, classic literature, politics, history, music, science, physics, geology, archaeology, etc.

They all sought out divergent opinion, and they all relied on logic, reason and the classic virtues to plead the case for a free republic. Look how far THAT got them!

(If you ever get a hankering to muse about the Constitution, PLEEZ come on over and play in the sandbox!)

Justine Hemmestad said...

Dr. Schwab,
Maybe Wyoming stands to show that people are waking up to what they've been feed, and, as some of the people who voted said, Barack Obama's character and steadfastness is what people (reflection of those in Wyoming) really want. And seriously, I wondered, can he loose with the way the delegate count stands? Wouldn't there be a revolt? Maybe people just need to take a breath and think about it like they did in Wyoming?

JP said...

I enjoyed your comments, Annie. The founders of this country were living in a far more idealistic time, and it's not too much of a stretch to see the same countenance of those early leaders in Obama.

Dr. Schwab, you entertain healthy disagreement about politics and opposing views like few other liberals of your degree! Your tolerance is impressive (and a source of pride to me as a liberal; rarely do I encounter well-versed conservatives so willing to do the same). Your frustration with voters as would-be vectors of change is heartfelt and shared by many. Disenchantment is rampant. Hang in there! Idealism is a powerful thing.

P.S. Have you ever thought about running for city council or other local office? It’d be a slam dunk!

Sid Schwab said...

JP: several years ago my wife, a political amateur, ran for the local school board against a much better known and formidable opponent. I spent hours making and placing (and replacing) signs; we raised money; the effort required to run for an essentially non-paying and comparatively thankless job (for which she had true passion) was eye-opening. (She's been re-elected twice, unopposed.) I've given lots of money over the years to many candidates. Asking for money is quite another matter. Don't think I'm up to it

Ros said...

You're right that the politicians are treating us like idiots, but you're wrong about the number of them who are doing it. It isn't just two. ;)

Sid Schwab said...

I never said it was only two. It's the entire Bush administration, as well as many on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Some, including Obama, assume better of us. But the question is will it prove true. I once thought it might. Now, I doubt it.

Patrick said...

You are correct. The ugliness here isn't dirty politics. It's the fact that voters love dirty politics.

But your post reads like all is lost . . . really? Maybe the quick victory was lost with Texas and Ohio, but this race isn't over yet! As a latecomer to the Obama clan (I voted for Hillary by absentee in December -- a choice I would make differently today) I feel pretty confident that anything can happen yet.

Incidentally, as a side note, I would like to inject a polite"?" into the Obama-and-founding-fathers analogy. He is way better than those crooked clowns! The current Bush administration is a far better analogy to the clannish, insular nature of the first 30 odd years of government in this country . . . .

Ros said...

Heh! I'll put it another way; the difference isn't in Obama, it's in you.

Politics is further proof that with enough advertising you can convince people that they must pick between eating a **** sandwich or **** tortillas. And most of them will report having enjoyed it afterward.

BC Cook said...

Don't believe everything you read. Look at the actual transcript:

From the March 2 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes:

KROFT: You don't believe that Senator Obama is a Muslim?

CLINTON: Of course not. I mean, that's -- you know, there is no basis for that. You know, I take him on the basis of what he says. And, you know, there isn't any reason to doubt that.

KROFT: And you said you'd take Senator Obama at his word that he's not a Muslim.

CLINTON: Right. Right.

KROFT: You don't believe that he's a Muslim --

CLINTON: No. No. Why would I? There's no --

KROFT: -- or implying, right?

CLINTON: No, there is nothing to base that on, as far as I know.

KROFT: It's just scurrilous --

CLINTON: Look, I have been the target of so many ridiculous rumors. I have a great deal of sympathy for anybody who gets, you know, smeared with the kind of rumors that go on all the time.

Sid Schwab said...

I don't need the transcript: I saw the segment (which is also available on youtube. The "far as I know" was gratuitous and deliberate. It's her style. Put stuff out there, then sort of take it back after it's taken root. Over and again she has done it; just like all the "old politics" teaches. She finds it works. I find it nauseating, no matter from whom it comes.

Jessica said...

Bush administration...
And I'm supposed to be writing a presentation on how awesome iraq has been.

Although my parents want to see John McCain become president...

Anonymous said...

McCain: too old
Obama: meretricious

Clinton: next POTUS, with able assistance from Slick Willy.

What a tragic country.

Sid Schwab said...

Jessica: I see you are 14 years old, so I won't say anything to disagree with your parents. But I appreciate your comment, and I'm glad to see someone your age politically aware and involved. Keep it up. That's a hopeful thing.

Sid Schwab said...

anonymous: meretricious is a four-dollar word. What's your basis for the claim? It's only true if you assume he's lying about what he believes. He may be, but I don't see it. I think his life confirms it. But any big-league politician has to be suspect, prima facie.

Jessica said...

They feel that way, but I don't.
And I certaintly don't feel positive about iraq haha... I've been assigned for a government project :(

Patrick said...

lol @ "prima facie"

Anonymous said...

A backwards compliment for Obama: here in Texas, I know staunch Republicans who voted for Hillary in the primary because they worried that if Obama won, he might be able to beat out the Republican candidate when it came to the final vote. They strongly doubt that Hillary could actually win the White House, she's a much safer opponent, and so she got their primary votes. Obama strikes fear into their Republican hearts.

AlisonH said...

Newsweek's take on it was, if the superdelegates put Clinton in despite the popular vote and despite the huge outpouring of new and young voters, they will destroy their own party. The assertion there was, they won't do it.

Something to take hope from.

Shmendrik said...

I liked your blog so much better when it had a higher ratio of interesting medical stuff to boring knee-jerk liberalism.

Of course, you're not writing for me, you're writing for you. Out of curiosity though, which kind of post gets more page views?

Sid Schwab said...

I've stated my intention to post like this on the weekends, on issues I consider very important; each post comes with a warning. Presumably people who read further do so of their own volition. I don't expect to change minds, only to speak mine. Those who have a knee-jerk reactionary response are warmly welcomed away, on weekends or whenever else they feel like not dropping by.

And, FWIW, since I've been doing this, my Sunday visits have increased by about 25%. Not that I care: I don't have ads, so there ain't nothing in it for me. Of about 325 posts, around 5 are overtly non-medical. Last month (short month) had more page views (±42,000) than any previous months but one (long month.) Guess now I'll have to settle for 41,999.

scalpel said...

Obama wasn't going to change anything anyway, but he's apparently pretty good at convincing some folks that he would have. He's the same-old same-old, essentially just another liberal wrapped in a bright, colorful, and less-annoying (than Hillary, anyway) package.

His delegate success is mostly based upon his victories in a relatively small number of predominantly black congressional districts in each state. Every state has some of these districts, which are gerrymandered to give minorities a guaranteed voice in government.

It was a brilliant strategy in the primaries, because it exploits the Democrats' poorly-conceived nominating procedure, but it won't work in a national election that uses the electoral college's "all or nothing" method of apportioning electors.

Clinton has a valid argument that the Democrat nominating system is flawed and that she deserves more superdelegates in order to more accurately represent the will of the people.

Jen said...

I appreciate your political posts- it's nice to read something thoughtful about the Presidential race. Unfortunately all that they do for me is make me very glad that I'm Canadian. Not that some politicians up here don't try negative ads, but they generally don't tend to work very well.

Here's to hoping that elections (especially those that will affect the entire world), will eventually become issue-based, and not about personal power, or partisanship.

Sid Schwab said...

scalpel: if "the will of the people" were the operative method, Al Gore would be president. Also, Obama currently has more popular vote than Clinton. I don't disagree that the primary system is screwed up.

scalpel said...

I'm not fond of the electoral college concept either. Why should Florida and Ohio decide who gets to be president?

Bongi said...

firstly, i'm far removed from your politics, so anything i say must be viewed with supreme scepticism.

but having said that, i too found myself hoping for an obama in the whitehouse. today i read that bush vetoed a law making torture illegal. it seems when the bad guys torture it is wrong but when the "good" guys torture the end justifies the means.

sid, sorry to say but you are right. the vote is not based on reason but on "stupidity". why else would you lot have voted the bush in for a second term?

having said all this i think the only president worse than yours is ours (with the possible exception of mugabe), so i'm the last to speak.

maybe a second clinton is at least better than a republican???

scalpel said...

Oh, and if you include Florida and Michigan, Clinton leads the popular vote over Obama. The Democrats ruled that the delegates from those states shouldn't be seated, not that their votes wouldn't be counted.

Obama has fought to a near tie, but his delegate lead is based upon an over-representation of the black vote because of how the delegates are apportioned.

The purpose of the superdelegates isn't necessarily to parrot the pledged delegate count, but to allow the party leaders to have a degree of influence in cases like this. I'm a big believer in playing by the rules as written, but you can't pick and choose which rules you follow.

It's entertaining to watch.

Sid Schwab said...

scalpel: picking and choosing the rules, ie counting Michigan (where he wasn't on the ballot) and Florida (where all agreed -- and I do think it was stupid -- not to campaign or count the votes). On the other hand...

No one ever said the Democrats didn't have the ability, despite the most unpopular president ever, a tanking economy, lack of energy policy, fighting the "war on terror" in such a way as to make it worse, to screw things up for themselves and fail to win an election that ought to be a gimme. In that, they are endlessly resourceful.

scalpel said...

Those are seriously flawed estimates, not actual numbers of popular votes.

"I have taken the total Democratic turnout as reported by state media and used the percentage of state delegates won by each candidate to determine popular votes received in states not reporting actual numbers."

As I pointed out, delegates are not distributed randomly, so some delegates represent many more popular votes than other delegates.

Anonymous said...

Bongi:

Justice Scalia recently made some similar points about torture to the BBC. As always, he made a good case.

Anonymous said...

I'm a card carrying republican. Dislike John McCain. If Obama is the democrat nominee, I will vote for him. If he's not, i'll vote, with a frown on my face, for McCain. NO WAY ON EARTH I WOULD EVER VOTE FOR HILLARY. The clintons have brought enough smut, sleeze, illegal behaviour, ect to the white house, I'm in no mood to go through another 4-8 years of it. uck!!!!

The reason I like Obama, is I don't think he is full of sleeze. I don't always agree with what he wants but I also know some of his more "liberal" idea's have to get past the senate and house of reps, so I don't worry too much.

gay CME guy said...

Anonymous 3/10, 1:59--

As I've said to many a republican friend (and foe), "How many members of our armed services lost their lives because Bill Clinton got a bj?" The illegalities of this administration supercede anything attributed to the Clintons. But I guess if you say "God speaks directly to you", somehow it's ok. If Clinton had done a tenth of what w has done in office, he'd have been drawn and quartered. w has NO moral (or ethical) superiority over Bill & Hillary.

GDad said...

Dr. Schwab,

I like the picture of the shirt at the top of this post. I've thought of making a similar one with the finger pointing down.

GDad

Sid Schwab said...

Gdad: This.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sid Schwab said...

anonymous "canadian" person: I deleted your post. I don't mind disagreement. I do mind when it sinks to the level of your diatribe. Please don't bother to return, unless you can think of a way to make your arguments civilly. I can see why you are threatened by a person like Barack Obama: he can make his case without resorting to gutter talk. Evidently, you can't.

athenivanidx said...

Anonymous Republican:

I'm a democrat, and I feel the same way you do about Hillary............UGH!!!! I think I won't vote at all if she becomes the nominee....I'm not sure......if I did end up voting for her by reason of insanity, I'd probably wind up going out that night with friends and getting totally blotto to forget the dirty deed........

Sid: dipped into the toilet? No way! She crapped in it, drank from it, and then threw it at Obama............shit and all.

Sid Schwab said...

Yeah. The way I feel now I'd have a real hard time voting for her, because it would be a validation of her style. On the other hand, I'd never vote for McCain. Hopefully, there won't be a need to face it.

Leigh said...

Good news, then -- you won't have to hold your nose and vote for Clinton.

I was a John Edwards supporter, and in the Texas primary voted and caucused for Obama.

But if we Democrats nominated Bozo, I'd still vote for him. Anything on earth is better than four more years of Republican thuggery and treasonous dismantling of the Constitution.

Annie, I have been making a study of the Revolution and creation of our country. Have you read "Miracle at Philadelphia"? It's a readable and illuminating account of the Constitutional Convention.

I have bookmarked your blog and will be visting very soon.