Monday, November 26, 2007

A few comments

I've been off the blog for a few days, so I'll just throw out a few pithy remarks concerning some of the items I've come across over the past few days that have caught my eye.

The first item of note is Fred Thompson's newest campaign commercial which features the Senator in a "local bar" setting casually chatting with the camera and delivering down home, common sense, wisdom on the hot button issues of the day (mostly immigration). Unfortunately, the guy really comes off looking and sounding as phony as a Bartles & Jaymes commercial from the 1980s, with even his "thanks for watching my message" postscript seeming to ape "Bartles & Jaymes" trademark "thank you for your support."

Through Andrew Sullivan I learned that Grover Norquist is endorsing a constitutional amendment to prevent dynasticism in American politics. It would prevent the children, siblings or spouses of presidents from immediately succeeding them. And while such an amendment could be debated on its merits, such a proposal is simply laughable coming, as it does from a man who worked tirelessly to promote the presidential candidacy of George Bush the younger in 2000. More likely Norquist is merely trying to sew seeds of discontent with Hillary Clinton's candidacy in a manner that he hopes might stealthily traverse party lines. In all honesty, I doubt there's a single seed of intellectual integrity to the man, or that he is capable of serious political reflexion and contemplation. Rather his single, overriding goal, his life's mission, his raison d'ĂȘtre is, always has been, and likely always will be the reduction of the tax burden on wealthy Americans. Everything utterance that escapes Norquist's lips, every flourish that leaves his pen is geared toward securing that goal. So: nice try, but no cigar.

Next was this piece in Slate concerning the politicization of the Thanksgiving holiday. It would be just as much a mistake to think of the trend as advocating the "Christianization" of Thanksgiving as it would be to view the whole "war on Christmas" polemic as promoting the same (let's face it, neither of the two holidays has any strict Biblical basis, which is why some ultra-fundamentalist Christians eschew Christmas and "Satan Clause"). The simple fact is, the debate has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the politics of divisiveness. The Right in this country long ago realized that the way to forestall measures that would promote social and economic justice in this country is to divide the working class among religious and racial lines. Recently other issues such as sexual preference have been added to the mix, but the essence of the strategy remains the same. As long as the lower classes can be set at war against themselves, the Republican party can prevent them from demanding fair wages and universal access to health care with a unified voice (and a unified vote). Sorry for the Marxist rhetoric, but despite the spectacular failure of centrally planned economies, much of the Marxist critique of laissez-faire Capitalism and the dehumanization effects it has upon labor (AKA: people) remains just as valid as ever.

More recently I stumbled across this video clip from an interview that Charlie Rose conducted with Karl Rove. Rove has a new book out and has been hired by Time magazine to write a column of political commentary. The brand of commentary that Time can expect is likely foreshadowed in the interview in which Rove, quite stunningly claims that the Bush administration would have preferred that the 2002 Iraq war authorization vote not have taken place at the time it did to avoid the sense that it was being politicized in the context of the upcoming elections. And while I am prepared to believe that the administration would have preferred the vote not take place, the idea that the administration eschewed politicizing the impending conflict is simply laughable. Assuming that the administration did, indeed, wish to avoid such a vote, the motives were more likely driven by a political calculus that saw the Democratic party as more vulnerable to defeat if such a vote had not yet taken place. This is because it would be easier for the Administration to attack vulnerable Senators (and to a lesser extent congressmen) as being too pacifistic to protect the country from "the immediate threat of Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction" (or somesuch) before they'd had a time to vote to authorize the president to takes the measures he saw as necessary. And while I would have much preferred a bold and coordinated strategy of defiance (and a little backbone) from the Democrats, however their far less praiseworthy strategy of voting to authorize the war likely prevented a few more Senators from suffering the same fate as Max Cleland, the Vietnam Veteran double-amputee who was defeated in his reelection bid by an opponent who questionaed his commitemnt to defend the country and ran ads featuring side-by-side images of Cleland and Osama Bin Ladin.

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