I will be glad when this is over... though it may take us a decade to get the mess cleaned up, budgets balanced, courts neutral again, the civil service and officer corps re-professionalized, our international reputation and popularity back up to levels that we'll need in order to restore alliances and trust and lead again... and so on...
I look forward to non-political postings and topics like the long-delayed series on "Theological Questions in an Age of Science." But still...
...these are the times that try men's souls... If Thomas Paine were alive today, he would recognize the urgency of fighting new aristocratic lords and cronies of the king, who would take away our rights and turn our great experiment into one more tedious pyramid of inherited privilege. Alas, he is NOT alive. So some of us must channel for him, guessing, imagining, knowing what he would say.
Here are some final comments and items and bullets. Use them well.
More on the stunning article in January’s Vanity Fair, in which Rummy’s Iraq war cheerleaders, “Cakewalk” Ken Adelman and Richard “Nix Blix” Perle, are falling all over themselves to knife the Pentagon boss who (they say) betrayed all of their fond hopes for a supremely competent Pax Americana, militantly spreading utopian values around this benighted world. Scaling new heights in the annals of Now They Tell Us, the two men blame the “dysfunctional” Bush team for the “disaster” in Iraq and say that if they had known then what we all know now (and what some of us knew then), they never would have pushed to invade Iraq.
Bright dingbats. Writhing rationalizers. But they are welcome. After all, they are here when we (civilization) need them. Their reasons for standing up may be infantile and whiney... but they are here, now, standing up.
Toward the end of this election-eve posting, I will cite another voice from the right who is stepping up... well, partly, in a nervous dance that does not get full points, but at least may help you talk to that wavering conservative who is still on your last minute arm-twist list. See below who I’m talking about; but first, some brief points.
Speaking of neocon dopiness, put the lie to “nobody expected to need more troops!” Professionals and adults expected it, all right. And yet, to me it is distilled (as I’ve said before) by the plight of the U.S. THIRD INFANTRY DIVISION. During the initial invasion of Iraq, those heroes did the work of an entire armored corps, saving Donald Rumsfeld’s hash, so that he could caper and crow and proclaim “Mission Accomplished.” Their reward? Relentless deployments in a purgatory of danger and ingratitude. Push this in the face of goppers who screeched at Clinton for putting too-few tanks in Somalia, resulting in 10 (that’s t-e-n) extra US troops lost there. That was bad. THIS is orders of magnitude worse.
Along similar lines, Russ Daggatt is really on: ”So let me get this straight. Shiite radical mullah Sadr, who heads the militia believed to be holding a US serviceman, is a key supporter of the Iraqi prime minister who orders the US military to back off from its search for the US serviceman believed to be held by Sadr's forces. And the US complies?!!? And nobody on the right complains? Can you imagine if this happened under the watch of, say, Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter? The entire right-wing noise machine would be going ballistic! (Even more than when John Kerry flubs a joke.)”
"President Bush demanded that Kerry apologize. Can you imagine that -- Bush demanding an apology for someone stumbling over his words? ... Kerry should have tried the Bush strategy: say so many stupid things, no one cares anymore." --Jay Leno
And more: Bechtel, the giant engineering company, is leaving Iraq. Its mission — to rebuild power, water and sewage plants — wasn’t accomplished: Baghdad received less than six hours a day of electricity last month, and much of Iraq’s population lives with untreated sewage and without clean water. But Bechtel, having received $2.3 billion of taxpayers’ money and having lost the lives of 52 employees, has come to the end of its last government contract. (And, mind you, they are absolute pros compared to Haliburton!)
Paul Krugman comments: As for how this could have happened, that’s easy: major contractors believed, correctly, that their political connections insulated them from accountability. Halliburton and other companies with huge Iraq contracts were basically in the same position as Donald Rumsfeld: they were so closely identified with President Bush and, especially, Vice President Cheney that firing or even disciplining them would have been seen as an admission of personal failure on the part of top elected officials. As a result, the administration and its allies in Congress fought accountability all the way. Now, Congress has passed a bill whose provisions include the complete elimination of the Inspectorate whose job it is to shine light on contract abuse....
You can see why a Democratic takeover of the House provokes terror: suddenly, committee chairmen with subpoena power would be in a position to investigate where all the Iraq money went. Ooooooh. But then, there are those pardons.
Back to Daggatt: So, two days before the election they sentence Saddam. By contrast, what have the Republicans pushed off until after the election?
The National Intelligence Estimate on the Iraq War.
The Jim Baker Iraq Study Group report.
The Mark Foley Ethics Committee investigation report.
Also, the IRS is postponing notification of back taxes to Katrina victims until after the election.
And the Agriculture Department's "Hunger Report" (usually released in October) has also been pushed back until after the election.
Man, if they are holding back the BAD NEWS until after the election, we're really in trouble.
All right, back to that teaser from the beginning of the posting.
Last time I spoke unfavorably of how some other intellectuals of the right have failed us by obstinately refusing to recognize their duty to stand up, when their nation and civilization needs them. (Indeed, to save their conservative movement from spiralling into hell.) One of those I’ve mentioned was George Will, who oscillates frenetically, between sage and rationalizing apologist. Recently, Will took a turn toward the former, when he wrote in a New York Times book review (10/06):
“Brooke Allen, an author and critic who has distilled her annoyance into “Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers.” It is a wonderfully high-spirited and informative polemic that, as polemics often do, occasionally goes too far. Her thesis is that the six most important founders — Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton — subscribed, in different ways, to the watery and undemanding Enlightenment faith called deism. That doctrine appealed to rationalists by being explanatory but not inciting: it made the universe intelligible without arousing dangerous zeal.”
Here are some more excerpts from this piece by Will, who is apparently, like Bob Woodward, trying to redeem himself as the Old Union and the Enlightenment rebel against the monstrosity that conservatism has become,
“Eighteenth-century deists believed there was a God but, tellingly, they frequently preferred synonyms for him — “Almighty Being” or “Divine Author” (Washington) or “a Superior Agent” (Jefferson). Having set the universe in motion like a clockmaker, Providence might reward and punish, perhaps in the hereafter, but does not intervene promiscuously in human affairs. (Washington did see “the hand of Providence” in the result of the Revolutionary War.) Deists rejected the Incarnation, hence the divinity of Jesus. “Christian deist” is an oxymoron.
“What Allen calls Washington’s “famous gift of silence” was particularly employed regarding religion. But his behavior spoke. He would not kneel to pray, and when his pastor rebuked him for setting a bad example by leaving services before communion, Washington mended his ways in his austere manner: he stayed away from church on communion Sundays. He acknowledged Christianity’s “benign influence” on society, but no ministers were present and no prayers were uttered as he died a Stoic’s death.
“...In 1781, the Articles of Confederation acknowledged “the Great Governor of the World,” but six years later the Constitution made no mention of God. When Hamilton was asked why, he jauntily said, “We forgot.” Ten years after the Constitutional Convention, the Senate unanimously ratified a treaty with Islamic Tripoli that declared the United States government “is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”
... “Christianity, particularly its post-Reformation ferments, fostered attitudes and aptitudes associated with popular government. Protestantism’s emphasis on the individual’s direct, unmediated relationship with God, and the primacy of individual conscience and choice, subverted conventions of hierarchical societies in which deference was expected from the many toward the few. But beyond that, America’s founding owes much more to John Locke than to Jesus.”
And, finally, as long as we’re on the topic of sanctimonious hypocrisy... alas... there are downsides even to giggle news. While it seems righteous and right for the self-righteous to get comeuppance -- and specifically, for the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Pastor Ted Haggard, to be revealed having had a three-year relationship with a male prostitute that include the use of crystal meth -- in fact, Pastor Ted has been among the leaders in the evangelical movement in drawing attention to the climate crisis. So even when we win... we lose.
Ah well. Nevertheless, the hypocrisy is too rich to let go. Dare your friends to compare this to Monica-gate... at any level, and by any criterion, whatsoever. Watch the contortions ensue!
On second thought... maybe we should stop trying to convert “sincere conservatives” at this point. If they haven’t yet realized what’s going on... that it is time to take great-grandpa’s blue uniform out of the trunk and put it on, while singing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”... then they have already decided which country and century they want to live in. And it ain’t America. And it ain’t the future.
Turn your efforts to get-out-the-vote. Check on your friends till they find your nagging irksome. Prod the angry cynics off their lazy duffs and drag them to the polls.
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Franklin D. Roosevelt
"The only thing we have is fear."
George W. Bush
People. We have done better.
We can do better.