Friday, March 05, 2004
Lileks lays it bare again.
"Heard some of the moveon.org Soros-financed ad today, about Bush eliminating overtime. The ad made it sound as though he had signed an executive order that outlawed the practice of paying ANYONE any overtime EVER, which of course isn’t the case. It fits with the worldview of the intended audience, I guess – the people who think that once upon a time the United States strictly adhered to the Kyoto protocols, had legal gay marriage, and allowed overtime pay, and the President has undone these pillars of society one by one. Because he hates people, you know. He really wants to screw people over. That’s how you get reelected: wage unrelenting war against the electorate so they’ll vote for you in hopes that the beatings will slacken somewhat in the lame-duck term. This is especially important in light of the revealed ineffectiveness and corruption of the UN. As far as I'm concerned, (at this point the information is all out there, ignorance is no excuse,) anyone who would insist that our foreign policy be contingent on UN approval is an enemy of the United States. It's willful dangerous ignorance.
Obligatory statement: I am tired of making the following obligatory statement, but I must. Obligatory Statement the Second: I do not believe Bush walks on water. I have arguments with many policies. McCain Feingold: gah. Gah in excelsis deo. Other policies I understand as political expediencies, but that doesn’t mean I like them. I have one issue above all: the war. And yes, I’m one of those deluded types who thinks we’re at war, and that the absence of attacks since 9/11 no more means we’re not at war than the absence of air raids on Manhattan in 1942 meant we weren’t at war with Germany and Japan.
Obligatory Statement the Third: I was not a Clinton hater. I eventually developed an eww-ick distaste of the man, but I was frequently amused and impressed by the politician; he was good. And he did some things I liked. It’s possible, you know: you can disapprove of a politician’s value set, applaud some decisions, dislike others, and wish his exit - that’s normal and American. If you see the guy on TV and you have an aneurism because the crawl doesn’t say THIS MAN BURST FROM A CARBUNCLE ON SATAN’S BUTT! you have a problem.
Statement the Fourth: it’s the war. That’s what counts. If I had a choice between an isolationist Republican who would withdraw all American troops from everywhere and cast Israel adrift, OR a Joe Lieberman Democrat who understood the threat and wanted to take the fight to them - and nevermind what our valiant allies thought, like Russia - I’d pull the lever for the D. As I've said before: we can argue about the future of Western Civilization after we've ensured Western Civilization will survive.
So there. Obligatory opening statements. I wish we could just have a chord that would stand in for one’s position. A nice augmented chord for those of us who have our beliefs but respect the loyal opposition, a bright shining major tonic for those who are unabashed partisans, and a minor-key fugue that strays into atonal chaos for those who hate the opposition and don’t care who knows it. You’d load the page, hear the chord, and know what you were in for.
This relates to the Soros-funded ad, how? Well, when I heard the ad I recognized the music bed: it’s a Soundtrack loop. I used it in the start of my Doctor Poppycock tune. To those guys it sounded downbeat and ominous; to me it sounded mysterious and ethereal. Compare and contrast with the music beds for the Bush ads. They remind me very much of the music for the Rick Burns New York series; it’s “American” music, because it’s plain, simply arranged, with a touch of sadness. The Burns documentary used a few simple tunes over and over again – strong and potent pieces that to this day make me well up; I saw the documentary in the months after 9/11, and when I made my first trip to New York after the attack, and saw all the shrines and memorials I kept hearing the themes over and over again. The music in the Bush ads is cut from the same cloth.
“American” music in a political season was much different in previous eras – it usually harkened back to an ideal age far removed, so its flaws had been softened and forgotten.
The text of the ad doesn’t mention 9/11. The visuals – which I haven’t seen – apparently show a body being removed from the wreckage. And this is beyond the pale, I guess. It is now unacceptable for a president to remind people he was president during an attack on American soil.
Hmm. Well. It’s called running on one’s record. They get to do that. But now people who were secretly relieved that Bush was in the White House after 9/11 are complaining that Bush is reminding us . . . that he was in the White House after 9/11.
At Target today we went down the camping aisle; Gnat chattered about this and that as she paged through her new coloring book. I had a different emotion. I hate that row. I loathe it. After 9/11 I made the weekly Target run, and wondered whether it might not be prudent to get some camping stuff in case, well, we had to leave. What would we need if something awful happened, and we had to light out for the territories? If this seems like a ridiculous overreaction, then either you’ve forgotten what it felt like after 9/11, when no one knew what the hell was around the corner (besides anthrax). Or your primary reaction to 9/11 was to fight American overreaction to a regrettable but understandable act of karmic comeuppance. Me, I just channeled the inner Boy Scout. Be prepared. So I bought waterproof matches and a small cook stove and some propane tanks and a wind-up radio, and put them in a box in the garage with some canned goods and fresh water. I didn’t think it was likely we’d have to leave. And I didn’t want to be caught flat-footed if the worst happened. Toss the box in the trunk and roll.
That box is still up on the shelf in the garage. The threat level could be light beige, and I wouldn’t take it down. Why would I?
So the ad is bad because it reminds us of those days. I know, I know – some things ought not be used for transient political advantages. For some, the the real issue isn’t what Willie Horton did, it’s pointing out that he did it. I know. But we need to be reminded. In an odd way, the attacks on New York and Washington were so harsh they cauterized the wound they caused. Or to switch metaphors – we were stabbed in the back, and that’s not a scar you see when you face yourself in the mirror.
People forget. People must not forget.
People forgot the Cole the day after it happened. People forgot the embassy attacks – if they were aware of them at all – by nightfall. People shrugged at Desert Fox and the Tomahawk attack on empty Afghan camps. No one took it seriously until we were all sitting in a dark room at 1 AM staring at the TV, watching the crawl, wondering what was next, stunned and horrified and scared. Three moments: Bush’s speech on the pile, the speech at the National Cathedral, and then the jaw-dropping State of the Union address, which was the moment when the national mood got off its knees and balled its fists and said that’s not going to happen again.
The way some people are complaining, you’d think the ad had text like this:
“In the dark days after the attacks on America, President Bush gave the nation hope that this was not the end of our society, but the beginning of a new era in which grave threats would be met and overcome.”
That would be unacceptable, of course. Politicizing 9/11! Wrapping himself in the flag! Implying his opponents are unpatriotic! Plastic turkey! Aircraft carrier landing! Mission accomplished! AWOL! French goodwill squandered!
By this logic, FDR should have run his 44 campaign on his domestic agenda.
The theme of the Democratic primaries was clear: Bush is the problem, not the war. Clarification: the “war.” The “alleged” war. The “war” is a smokescreen to keep us in fear while a few top-hatted plutocrats convene in Texas to complete their grand strategy: we’ll invade Iraq for reasons we know will fall apart, and then we’ll turn the oil revenue over to the people under UN supervision, and the publicity will cause Halliburton stock to fall so we can buy it back at artificially depressed prices. Let’s all do the secret Mason handshake! Right. Paging Oliver Stone: you’re needed to script-doctor the third act, where Karl Rove’s shocktroops put Bill Maher and Howard Stern in a trunk so they don’t blow the whistle on the secret code in the electronic voting machines that returns a 99.9% mandate in the 2004 election.
Will Bush run ads that accuse the Democrats of fumbling the ball on al Qaeda in the Clinton years, and suggest that the last Democrat in the office seemed more concerned with slipping in some lap nooky before quitting time than killing bin Laden? No. Will Bush run ads that contrast John Kerry’s sonorous litany about “the worst foreign policy” with pictures of women in Kabul throwing off the burqa or men in Iraq toppling a statue? I can only hope; it would be right on the money. We fought back – but they were not wars of retribution. We salted no fields. We entered their lands – but they were not wars of conquest and sublimation; we demanded no tribute. We could have nuked the place flat. History will note that when we left, we left them with a constitution, a hundred thousand roofs festooned with satellite dishes, a souk where people could speak their mind again and buy newspapers that criticized the nation that had made this freedom possible.
Another suggested ad: “Some say that we shouldn’t haven’t invaded Iraq. Even after the discovery of mass graves. Even after the realization that the UN’s Food-for-Oil program diverted billions to Saddam’s pockets. Even after seeing how the terrorists have poured into Iraq to make a last desperate stand against freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Some say we should have listened to our allies.” A stock shot of Marcel Marceau in full-mime makeup, pretending to be trapped in a box. “Some people are a little too worried about what the waiter will think the next time they take a trip to Paris.” Shot of a Kerry lookalike in a bistro, saying “No, really, I’m Canadian.”
Reality check. That’s a cruel mean harsh nasty ad.
A few days before the Minnesota caucuses a flier was stuck in my door. It was from “Peace in the Precincts,” an organization that wanted five planks inserted into the laundry list of caucus resolutions. Number four caught my eye:
Be it resolved, that the US should renounce the doctrine of preemptive war and promote the rebuilding of the international community through the United Nations to track down and incapacitate international, terrorist organizations, and to intervene to stop genocides, tyrannical regimes, and international armed conflicts through diplomacy, the promotion of democracy, focused and forceful nonviolent intervention, and peaceful conflict resolution.
Okay. A simple quiz.
1. We should promote the rebuilding of the international community through the UN to stop tyrannical regimes through forceful nonviolent intervention.
2. "You’re either with us, or with the terrorists."
Imagine a bomb just went off in your local mall. Choose one."
. . .
Just in case anyone was wondering, I love Tony Blair. I disagree with his domestic policies, but since I don't live there it doesn't matter much. I thought I'd take a minute to interupt the nonstop ranting for a little tribute to one of my favorite liberals. I wish he'd give Bush a few pointers on effective public speaking.
. . .
Diagnostic isn't it?
"North Korea warms to Kerry presidency bid
By Andrew Ward in Seoul and James Harding in Washington
Published: March 4 2004 20:24 | Last Updated: March 4 2004 20:24
North Korea's state-controlled media are well known for reverential reporting about Kim Jong-il, the country's dictatorial leader.
But the Dear Leader is not the only one getting deferential treatment from the communist state's propaganda machine: John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic candidate, is also getting good play in Pyongyang.
In the past few weeks, speeches by the Massachusetts senator have been broadcast on Radio Pyongyang and reported in glowing terms by the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), the official mouthpiece of Mr Kim's communist regime.
The apparent enthusiasm for Mr Kerry may reflect little more than a "better the devil you don't know" mentality among the North Korean apparatchiks. Rather than dealing with President George W. Bush and hawkish officials in his administration, Pyongyang seems to hope victory for the Democratic candidate on November 2 would lead to a softening in US policy towards the country's nuclear weapons programme.
But both Mr Kerry and Mr Bush are committed to North Korean disarmament. Mr Kerry, however, would renew bilateral negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, while Mr Bush has sought to manage the conversation with North Korea through multilateral talks. Mr Kerry has also been more forthright about setting out the economic rewards for North Korea if it disarms.
The Bush administration appears in no hurry to tackle the North Korea issue before the election, aware that a US compromise with Pyongyang would represent an embarrassing climbdown, while confrontation would risk a bloody - and electorally disastrous - war.
If North Korea is hoping that a Democratic victory would herald a return to Bill Clinton's policy of engagement with Pyongyang, then Gordon Flake, head of the Mansfield Centre for Pacific Affairs in Washington, cautions Mr Kim against expecting too much from Mr Kerry. "It would be harder for a Democratic president to do a deal because there would be a lot of pressure on him not to be a soft touch," he says.
Either way, the North Korean media is a constituency Mr Kerry could do without. Second only to the warm words Mr Kerry has enjoyed from Jane Fonda, the actress and antiwar liberal who is still a bugbear of the American right, a signal of support from the Dear Leader will delight conservative talk-show hosts and Republicans eager to paint Mr Kerry as soft on national security.
A small group of Vietnam veterans has already branded Mr Kerry as "Hanoi John" - a reference to his antiwar activities in 1971 after he returned from serving in Vietnam.
Mr Kerry was first introduced to North Korea's information-starved people in early February, when Radio Pyongyang reported that opinion polls indicated he was likely to defeat Mr Bush.
A few days later, the station broadcast comments by Mr Kerry criticising Mr Bush for deceiving the world about Iraq's elusive weapons of mass destruction. Later in February, KCNA welcomed Mr Kerry's pledge to adopt a more "sincere attitude" towards North Korea if elected.
"Senator Kerry, who is seeking the presidential candidacy of the Democratic Party, sharply criticised President Bush, saying it was an ill-considered act to deny direct dialogue with North Korea," said the news agency.
Pyongyang's friendly attitude towards Mr Kerry contrasts with its strong anti-Bush rhetoric."
. . .
Umm... not to be critical, but do you really think that it's wise to publicize this?
I mean just this week there's a Lileks column that says:
"Let's just be blunt: The North Koreans would love to see John Kerry win the election. The mullahs of Iran would love it. The Syrian Ba'athists would sigh with relief. Every enemy of America would take great satisfaction if the electorate rejects the Bush doctrine and scuttles back to hide under the U.N. Security Council's table. It's a hard question, but the right one: Which candidate does our enemy want to lose? George W. Bush."(No I'm not conflating the two. However, there are certainly a sizeable number of voters out there who will see this kind of thing in the news, remember the Palestinians dancing in the streets, and draw certain conclusions.)
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .