I'm heading out of town, so there won't be much to read here for a few days. While I'm gone I'll no doubt be listening to (and with any luck, capturing the spirit of) Afternoon Song—one of my favorites since the moment I first heard it, and one of very few songs I know of where the music and lyrics work together so perfectly to express the underlying meaning. Here's a small sample, though nothing can do Justin Sullivan's lyrics justice except to hear them sung (especially so in this case where the harmonized, chant-like vocal melody is used as a contrast to the chaotic energy in the music itself):
Time passes slow... Fields stretch out across open acres Time passes slow... The giant steps of mankind touch us so little in the great lands
Our little storm Whirls away out across calm wide oceans... In this sacred breath You and I falling for ever and ever and ever
And here's the song itself. Enjoy.
(Previous forays into similar musical territory here and here.)
Imagine, for a moment, that these were George W. Bush’s policies at work. A quest for regime change in Libya, conducted without even a pro forma request for Congressional approval. A campaign of remote-controlled airstrikes, in which collateral damage is inevitable, carried out inside a country where we are not officially at war. A policy of targeted assassination against an American citizen who has been neither charged nor convicted in any U.S. court.
Imagine the outrage, the protests, the furious op-eds about right-wing tyranny and neoconservative overreach. Imagine all that, and then look at the reality. For most Democrats, what was considered creeping fascism under Bush is just good old-fashioned common sense when the president has a “D” beside his name.
But (this being Ross Douthat) he's usually right for the wrong reasons, and you can count on him going on to draw the wrong conclusions:
Having one of their own in the White House has forced Democrats to walk in the Bush administration’s shoes, and appreciate its dilemmas and decisions. To some extent, the Bush-Obama convergence is a sign that the Democratic Party is growing up, putting away certain fond illusions, and accepting its share of responsibility for the messy realities of the post-9/11 world.
This really does demonstrate an impressive inability to grasp one's own point. Douthat goes straight from a) accurately observing that most Democrats are now treating Bushian policies as "common sense" simply because a Democrat is carrying them out, to b) attributing this rank partisanship to "growing up", "putting away certain fond illusions", and "accepting responsibility". Does he really not understand that they'd turn on a dime yet again if Newt Gingrich were to move his horns and pointy tail into the White House in 2012? It's as though after demonstrating the conservation of energy, Joule decided it was just a transient phenomenon rather than a law of some sort.
Mitt Romney and Obama apologists have plenty of differences, but one thing they do agree on is that Obama's health care plan that will force people to buy private health insurance is clearly different from Romney's health care plan that forced people to buy private health insurance, and it would be absurd to equate or even compare the two. Romney was at it again this week, acknowledging that the similarities between the two plans are a liability for him while still trying to explain why this rose isn't actually a rose as long as he calls it a chicken pot pie:
“Our plan was a state solution to a state problem,” Romney said of the 2006 health-care measure he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts. “His is a power grab by the federal government to put in place a one-size-fits-all plan across the nation.”
Sure, Mitt, whatever you say. But unfortunately for both Romney and Obama apologists, the White House is eagerly embracing its Republican role model:
“We have said before that health care reform that then Governor Romney signed into law in Massachusetts is in many ways similar to the legislation that resulted in the Affordable Care Act,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in an off-camera briefing at the White House. [...] “We wholly endorse flexibility and we obviously feel that Massachusetts took a smart approach towards health care reform,” the press secretary added.
I watched a debate a few years ago between Romney and a doctor from Physicians for a National Health Program—whose rejection of Romney-style private insurance mandates and advocacy for a single-payer health system was so commonplace as to be a banal article of faith among Democrats at the time. Of course, that was before a Democratic president's embrace of Romney's system changed many of their minds for them, and they switched from opposing private mandates to supporting them, usually without even passing acknowledgment of the extreme cognitive dissonance.
It's hard to imagine a better illustration of Obama's Midas touch: all he has to do is adopt Republican policies as his own, and they instantly turn from liberal defeats into golden progressive achievements!
(Previous trip to Massachusetts here, if you're interested.)
Jonathan Schwarz has an excellent catch based on entries from Osama bin Laden's journal:
In one passage, Bin Laden wondered how many Americans would have to die in U.S. cities to force the U.S. government to withdraw from the Arab world. He concluded that it would require another mass murder on the scale of the Sept. 11 attacks to spur a reversal in U.S. policy, an official said.
So...it turns out bin Laden's real, private motivation was exactly the same as his stated public motivation: to stop U.S. intervention in the mideast.
Click on over there to see the rest of his analysis, which is spot on as usual. This hearkens back to something I wrote at Jon's site a while back, in response to someone saying we should take bin Laden's claimed motives with the same degree of seriousness we'd give to Bush's:
George Bush has become the most powerful man on the planet by lying about his motivations in order to service the needs of the wealthy, and he's lived in comfort and privilege as a result. Osama bin Laden rejected a life of extraordinary wealth and privilege to live in caves, constantly on the move, at risk of dying at any time either thanks to the price on his head or from easily treatable illnesses—all in order to fight for the causes he believes in.
Whatever I might think of his tactics or ethics, I don't doubt his stated motives.
This is just one of the reasons why I've never seen any reason to doubt that bin Laden really did mean every word he said about the U.S. presence in the Arabian Peninsula, the treatment of Palestinians, the sanctions in Iraq, U.S. puppet governments in the Middle East, and so on. You don't toss aside a gazillionaire playboy lifestyle to pick up a gun in Afghanistan, move on to making yourself the most wanted human being on the planet, and then fill your steady stream of long, rambling manifestos with lies intended to disguise your true motivations and goals.
(Especially when your stated motive for removing U.S.-backed governments is not to give the people the right to govern themselves however they see fit, but "to make the Shariah the supreme law"—just one example where strategic deception would have gone a long way toward making the message more appealing to the presumed target audience.)
And on the equally-important flip side: if someone's pursuit of power and privilege eventually lands them the presidency of the United States, and then they continually use that office to do things that contradict the elevated rhetoric that got them there in the first place—like servicing corporate benefactors, backing coups, punishing whistleblowers, expanding government authority and impunity, and vaporizing human beings around the world—that's an unmistakable indication that their words were nothing more than sound waves propagated through the vibration of air molecules.
Everyone who feels pride and satisfaction in bin Laden’s fate must also acknowledge the bold action and sound priorities of President Obama, who has coolly and cleanly fulfilled a promise he made during his campaign. [...] The performance of the president and those around him should permanently dispel the perennial right-wing slur against Democratic leaders as deficient in the strength and courage to defend our security.
This was a week for flag-waving, fist-pumping, and nationalistic chanting: even -- especially -- among liberals, who were able to take the lead and show the world (and themselves) that they are no wilting, delicate wimps; it's not merely swaggering right-wing Texans, but they, too, who can put bullets in people's heads and dump corpses into the ocean and then joke and cheer about it afterwards.
In the media tidal wave following the killing of Osama bin Laden, I've run into a few commentators noting approvingly that Obama didn't take the John Kerry route of treating terrorism as "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation" and forego this opportunity at extrajudicial execution. After I managed to contain my gag reflex and get my eyes back inside my skull, I decided it would be worthwhile to re-run a posting of mine from seven years ago that speaks to Kerry's homicidal bona fides.
And as long as we're taking this trip down memory lane it seems like a good time to remember Bill Clinton's deep commitment to due process, human rights, and other similarly quaint notions:
"We're not inflicting pain on these fuckers," Clinton said, softly at first. "When people kill us, they should be killed in greater numbers." Then, with his face reddening, his voice rising, and his fist pounding his thigh, he leaned into Tony, as if it was his fault. "I believe in killing people who try to hurt you. And I can't believe we’re being pushed around by these two-bit pricks."
People who still think of Clinton as the good Democrat should keep rereading this quote until they can recite it from memory. Of course committed Democrats wouldn't see anything wrong with it, just as they're oozing with joy over Obama's latest achievement:
It is always a happy moment when Americans are reminded of our country’s greatness, especially when we are so often warned about its imminent decline—and the elimination of Osama bin Laden, fanatical murderer of thousands of Christians, Jews and Muslims, was certainly such a moment. [...] Everyone who feels pride and satisfaction in bin Laden’s fate must also acknowledge the bold action and sound priorities of President Obama, who has coolly and cleanly fulfilled a promise he made during his campaign.
("Elimination" and "fate" are so much less offensive than "assassination", aren't they? They don't harsh that glow of pride and satisfaction.)
And now let's set the Tardis back to October of 2004:
The Kerry campaign has obviously decided that it's important for Kerry to emphatically state, over and over, just how much he wants to "kill" terrorists. In fact, the full approved phrase appears to be "hunt down and kill." With Bush and Cheney, the word choice has more often been along the lines of "capture and kill" or "bring to justice"; as on so many other issues, the Democrats are attempting to outflank Bush from the right by making their rhetoric even more extreme.
Kerry and Edwards bleat the "kill" mantra whenever they get a chance; they literally said it in every single one of the debates. Here was Kerry in the first debate:
Appropriate for so many reasons on this particular Mother's Day:
Click on the image if you just can't get enough of this heartwarming indoctrination. This one might be my personal favorite given everything the Clinton and Obama administrations have been doing to make the Earth "feel better again", but it's hard to choose with so much top-flight competition.
If you need a laugh, check out this Internet belch (which was the vector for the influx of petulant Democratic apologists on the "Words speak louder than actions" posting). I warn you that if special liberalism were a city, that site would be one of the dingiest back alleys of the red-light district, where the sewer covers are always off and the crackheads don't even bother demanding your wallet before they try to roll you. So if you do click through just try not to step in a vomit puddle.
It reminds me of the old joke:
Q: What's the difference between FreeRepublic and Democratic sites like this?
Here's Chris Floyd singing one of my favorite songs:
Digby and many other progressives whose writings show they are perfectly aware of the atrocities that Obama has committed and the evil policies he embraces – such as the unrestricted license to kill – still display an active affection and celebratory support for him. To them, even though he has killed these people and claimed these awful powers, he is still one cool guy. [...] Oh, they often shake their heads sadly or waggle their fingers sternly at some action or policy of Obama’s. They often can’t understand why he does these things – cut taxes for the rich, bail out the bankers, torture Bradley Manning, form commissions to gut Social Security, escalate and prolong the Terror War, kill hundreds of people with drone missiles, etc., etc. But nothing douses their fundamental (fundamentalist?) fervor to keep him in power and to scorn those who oppose him. Nothing keeps them from seeing themselves as his true and faithful "base," still waiting for him to return to them, despite his many betrayals.
Dead on. And why will she and other head-shaking, finger-waggling progressives get behind Obama? Here's one reason straight from the horse's mouth (she was writing about one of the 2007 Democratic debates):
[A]ll these people are so much better than the non-sequitor dribbling absurdists on the Republican side that every time I see them I feel a little bit better about the future. If any of the Dem contenders make it, we will have a president who speaks normal English, in complete sentences and responds to questions fluently and with real meaning. I can't tell you what a relief that will be after these last six years of alien gibberish and bizarre, robotic responses that everyone has been pretending are normal ways of speaking.
And my response to her, which I'll take the liberty of quoting at length:
I know just what you mean. Hearing Bill Clinton speak after a few years of Bush was like breathing fresh air for the first time in your life. The eloquence, the perspicacity, the evident intelligence.
But here's the one little thing:
BILL CLINTON, A DEMOCRAT, WAS A HEARTLESS, CYNICAL, MASS-MURDERING ASSHOLE WHOSE ADMINISTRATION WAS DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATHS OF HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF IRAQIS--MAINLY CHILDREN.
AND JOHN KERRY, A DEMOCRAT, SAID THAT UNLIKE BUSH HE WOULD "NOT BACK OFF FROM THE FALLUJAHS AND OTHER PLACES, AND SEND THE WRONG MESSAGE TO TERRORISTS," AMONG OTHER HORRIFIC NONSENSE.
Who gives a royal rat's ass if the Democrats speak good English, finish a sentence, or handle questions well? Look at the policies, for Christ's sake.
Unfortunately they do care, and care very much, if the Democrats speak good English, finish a sentence, and handle questions well. That's it. That's all it takes. Just a president whose words are more pleasing to the ear, no matter what they're actually saying. Someone articulate and educated. Someone who's probably listened to a few episodes of This American Life. Someone who reads the New Yorker or the New York Times or best of all, both. Someone who has a favorite espresso drink, whatever it may happen to be. In short, someone who at least gives the appearance of being one of us.
Just that and nothing more and the tedious minutiae of betrayals and crimes is not only forgiven, but all but forgotten. The platitudes of Democrats like Obama are not just "the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair", but over reality.
I've been actively avoiding TV news for the past few days, but I still see random stories going by on my news page, and I think the following headlines taken together paint a pretty accurate picture of this country:
I haven't actually checked the liberal blogs today but I'm sure they're filled with praise for George W. Bush, since the killing of bin Laden clearly vindicates his strategy of continuing the war in Afghanistan and expanding it to Pakistan.
I congratulate President Obama and his team for this significant accomplishment. I also congratulate President Bush who carried the War on Terror to our enemies and adopted the legal framework for that effort that continues today.
Via ThinkProgress, who I thank for illustrating my point.
Juan Cole seems to have misplaced his skepticism. Did he leave it here, in response to a Democratic president who was already waging war in four countries declaring that he was motivated by humanitarian concerns in attacking a fifth?
President Barack Obama in his Monday evening address to the nation on Libya outlined an effort of limitations. The US could not intervene everywhere, but it could intervene to good effect here. [...] Our temporary good luck is that we have a president who knows what he is talking about, knows how to assemble a complex international alliance, and has the moral vision to do the right thing even if it is unpopular.
Nope, not there. Maybe in his reaction to location tracking by one of his favorite lifestyle corporations?
I love my iPhone, and I admire Apple as a well-run and innovative company that exemplifies the best of what we can hope for in a post-industrial America [...]. The discovery of the consolidated.db file on iPhones came as a shock to many consumers, and raised suspicions that Apple was secretly tracking its customers. There is no evidence, however, that the data was stored anywhere but on our own phones and in the back-up files on our computers. The argument that this was a software glitch seems convincing.
No, not there either. Hmm...how about in response to reports of civilian casualties from the country his Democratic hero is bombing?
I’m going to play skeptic on the Libyan government account of the NATO airstrike. The cover story is that Muammar Qaddafi and one of his wives was visiting son Saif al-Arab and the grandchildren and suddenly a dastardly NATO airstrike killed the son and three grandchildren but left Muammar and the wife unharmed.
NATO says they struck at a command and control center, which is perfectly plausible. [...] I would be cautious about believing without confirmation the allegation of grandchildren killed; if true it would of course be highly regrettable, but Qaddafi shouldn’t have allowed them near a command and control site.
Ah, there it is! It was right next to his victim-blaming instinct all along. (And we found it just in the nick of time, since he's going to need it if he hears about the NATO airstrike that destroyed a school for children with Down syndrome.)
You can always count on liberals like Cole to be appropriately skeptical—of Republicans and officially-designated enemies, that is.