Monday, August 18, 2008

That's what eight years of Dubya will do to a person.

So over the weekend, I dutifully watched the post-mortems of the much-ballyhooed Saddleback sitdown, hosted and moderated by pastor Rick Warren. Incidentally, you may recall that it was Warren who, back in 2002, kicked SHAM's spiritual wing into high gear with his breakout book, The Purpose Driven Life, which reposed on the New York Times best-seller list for, oh, a million weeks, give or take a few.

Though it's been a while since I had much faith in mainstream media's ability to perform complex diagnostics, I guess I'm still naive enough to be shocked by the reasoning of those who felt that Obama lost the "debate" (and there was no shortage of such critics; even staunch Democratic partisans like Donna Brazile seemed uneasy about speaking out too strongly on Obama's behalf). Understand, I'm not merely shocked that he lost it, in the view of such observers. It was how they thought he lost it: Basically, he was too smart. (See title, above.) Analyst Pat Buchanan voiced the majority opinion on MSNBC, declaring that, while Obama was going off on "long, intellectual" disquisitions, McCain, in contrast, was "clear" and "decisive." As a particularly striking example of this clarity and decisiveness, Buchanan cited McCain's
reply to the question, "Is there evil in the world and what would you do about it?" Before Warren had even gotten to the question mark at the end, McCain barked, "Destroy it!" (thereby, no doubt, causing all sorts of right-wing stirrings between Pat Buchanan's legs).

Oh really? Destroy it?

So then I suppose that if McCain were in office right now, we could expect bombs to begin falling on Beijing, one of the most notorious human-rights violators in world history, as soon as Mark Phelps gets home safely....and that there'd be a little shock-and-awe in Kim Jong Il's
future, too. While we're on the subject, I seem to recall that Ronald Reagan, that undying GOP icon, once characterized the former Soviet Union as "the Evil Empire." Inasmuch as the new Russia is acting very much like the old Russia by sending troops into Georgia*which, let us not forget, is a U.S. ally, technically just like IsraelI presume we'd be launching against Moscow soon.** For that matter, Amnesty International over the years has condemned many actions by the United States itself, notably the war in Iraq but also our ongoing fondness for the death penalty. So we'd probably be nuking ourselves before long as well. (Nuking? Of course. The man didn't just say defeat, did he? He said destroy.)

Ya see, John (and Pat, and others), maybe the answer to questions about "evil" isn't quite as cut-and-dried as you make it out to be. Maybe it's a subjective concept, depending, among other things, on which national anthem you know the words to at the Olympics. (And maybe it's also a pragmatic concept, depending, among other things, on which nation has really big bombs it can lob back at us.) In any case, maybe we need to give a bit more thought to precisely what we're going to consider evil, and under which circumstances we feel compelled to destroy it.
You'd think we've learned at least that much from this whole $12-billion-a-month fiasco in Iraq.

I understand sound-bite politics. I just don't want any more sound-bite thinking. Tell me: When did nuance and sophistication and intellectual vigor become negatives? (See title again.) When did this nation, which once took immense pride in the wisdom of its founding documents and the brilliance of its high-level public oratory, become so enamored of simplistic gut reactions? Sure I want my president to be a man of action. I'd just like that action to be the end result of a process somewhat more cerebral and deliberate than, well, what we've seen for the past eight years.

Or is that asking too much...

* Note to college students: not the one near Florida.
** Answer: Actually, no. These days our definition of "an exigent circumstance that requires U.S. action" seems to rooted in "how badly can they hurt us in return?" Oh, we'll go into Kuwait or Baghdad in a heartbeat. But Moscow or even Pyongyang?
Well, um, hold on now, fellers, maybe we just oughtta think about this here thing a li'l bit more....


Jen said...

"Is there evil in the world and what would you do about it?"

"Destroy it!"

If people would recognize that the Big E exists in each one of us, and master it inside rather than continually pointing fingers all around at how other people are failing to master it within themselves (a neverending occupation, by the way), maybe some of this intelligent dialogue we yearn for in the political world would happen more often.

Anonymous said...

Amen brother. One of your best.

Mike Cane said...

There was a debate? I would have known, had Nader been invited.

Then at least you'd have had *two* people to make McCain look like an eejit.

Just wanted to say for someone who was going to give up all this blogging stuff ... WELCOME BACK!

I knew your will would fail.

In fact, I was VISUALIZING it.


Steve Salerno said...

Mike: As we might've put it back in Brooklyn (and to take the low road for which I'm not-quite-famous), "I got yuh visualization right heah..."

Anonymous said...

For a guy who was packaged as a refreshing change and a breath of fresh air, Obama's long-winded ("nuanced"?) answers were as dull and disjointed as anything Joe Biden - the senate's windbag epitomical - ever hacked up.

The feisty Old Fart spoke in lucid sound bites. Obama babbled.

If the press had done its job and smoked out the Edwards scandal on a timely basis, Hillary Clinton would have the nomination wrapped up and we would not have to suffer through Obama's rookie mistakes. Hillary would have made mincemeat out of McCain.

Cal said...

I guess I don't understand why the process by which we choose Presidents now is just some glorified high school debate. Both parties started the process early last year, and that was enough for me. Does anybody remember anything from those debates for more than five minutes? Unless it was a dig or a gaffe. Will the process for 2012 begin withe debates in 2010?

Would you (and your wife) consider McCain old if used Just for Men? I mean, I see Costas on the Olympics. He's one year younger than you, Steve, and yet he's trying to look like he did in 1985. McCain just let his hair go white. I give him props for that.

Also, is there any difference between Obama now and Dan Quayle in 1988 as far as "experience"? Other than Obama obviously is a polished speaker, and Quayle always looked like a deer in the headlights when he was speaking or being interviewed.

This leads me to my last stream of consciousness point. Why does it seem like some of the members of the lucky sperm club have terrible speaking and interview skills? G.W. Bush, Al Gore, John Kerry and the aformentioned Quayle. Although Jeb Bush got high marks from me on his handling of the hurricanes in Florida. I think the wrong Bush scion ran for President. Jeb probably has his sights also, but the question is that will the American people still have Bush fatigue in 2016?

Anonymous said...

"Tell me: When did nuance and sophistication and intellectual vigor become negatives? "

By the time Adlai Stevenson ran for president, they'd become negatives.

When told he had the vote of every thinking person in the country, Stevenson replied, 'That isn't enough. I need a majority.'

Mike Cane said...

Hey, Steve, I went and watched that and tormented all my Twitter followers to a running commentary:

I Watch & Tweet The Rick Warren Obama-McCain Thing

You'll be VERY interested in the YouTube I embed at the end. Warren is an outright liar!