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October 15, 2008

John McCain and our National Respect Deficit

Fred Hiatt thinks the presidential race is suffering from a respect deficit. Naturally, he blames John McCain:

... as the McCain campaign grew uglier last week -- casting Obama as dangerous, dishonest and un-American -- it was tempting to imagine the campaign McCain might have waged if he had based it on the respect for his opponent, and for the process, that he had long professed.

...imagine if McCain had selected for his running mate not a partisan attack dog but someone with deep knowledge of the economy and a record of reaching across the aisle.

Imagine if McCain himself had decided to respond to this crisis as an American first, a candidate second.

Last week, McCain was asking darkly, "Who is the real Senator Obama?" Imagine, instead, if he had followed his own advice from the spring, when he repudiated a state party attack ad that he said "distracts us from the very real differences we have with the Democrats." Imagine if he were challenging Obama on those policy differences.

I can understand Mr. Hiatt's confusion and anger. You see, I feel it too. Here I sit less than one month from the election, watching as my country is slowly torn to pieces. Is this the change I was promised? If so, it hasn't left me feeling terribly hopeful for the future.

A few short months ago, Barack Obama informed us that as a biracial candidate, he is uniquely qualified to understand and heal the divisions between black and white America. If that were true I might be happy to support him. But the reality his candidacy has ushered in is a divisive and disturbing one. Instead of healing and unity, when I open my newspaper or turn on my television set, I find myself bombarded by ugly accusations; hurtful and divisive fear mongering, and partisan mud slinging.

Fred Hiatt blames John McCain for this.

But John McCain has yet to call me a racist either openly or by implication. He has not insulted my intelligence or my values. He doesn't lie to me by commission and by omission every single day. No, it is Barack Obama, his supporters, and the media who entered this race as unpaid political consultants on his behalf who do so.

I don't enjoy being told I'm a racist for continuing to vote the way I have voted all my life simply because this time the Democratic candidate happens to be half black. If I were to change my voting pattern simply on account of his skin color, that would be racial discrimination. I see no reason to engage in that kind of behavior. I certainly will not do so in response to threats or browbeating.

It is an insult to not just my intelligence but that of every American to imply that if I don't vote for a man whose ideology is profoundly distasteful to me, there is only one rational explanation. that I hate blacks. It is even more insulting to continually make that accusation while ignoring a much more startling, but related phenomenon. According to many of the same polls, 90% of African Americans will vote for Barack Obama. If it is germane that some small fraction of whites may NOT vote for Obama (ostensibly due to skin color) why is it not germane that a very large number of blacks will vote for him because he is black, or that a significant number of whites also support him in large part from a laudable, if foolish, desire to get past the perception that whites prefer to vote for those of their own race? All of these groups are voting - at least partly - based on skin color. Is that really a good reason to vote for a President? Why is it news only when it suits a certain agenda, or when it appears to harm Mr. Obama, but not if it helps him?

And if Barack Obama is truly qualified to hold the office of President by virtue of his achievements and character, for what conceivable reason would questions about his qualifications, background, or associations be off limits? A truly qualified candidate’s attributes should stand up to strict public scrutiny, shouldn't they? What does it say when a candidate ducks questions about his record or associations? When have similar questions ever been off limits for white candidates applying for the same job? Isn't it patronizing to hold Senator Obama to a lower standard than previous candidates for the same office? Would going too easy on him not tend to indicate a lack of confidence in his abilities and qualifications, rather than respect for his abilities?

During a previous election, George Bush was tarred and feathered by the media for merely speaking at Bob Jones University. That far more trivial and incidental "association" was deemed substantial and damning enough to merit continual and ongoing media coverage, a public mea culpa and vehement denunciation by the likes of Jesse Jackson and the mainstream media, yet Fred Hiatt seems to think Obama's association with a domestic terrorist who (contrary to the media's dishonest characterization, was involved in murderous acts of domestic terrorism, at least according to Salon, that Bushie rag) is unworthy of mention:

... by the spring of 1970, he was a fugitive terror suspect, fleeing federal charges that he'd planned bombings and incited riots in various Midwestern cities. Three Weathermen had blown themselves up while building a bomb in a Greenwich Village townhouse, no more than a mile from where Rudd is sitting today. To the group's everlasting shame, that bomb was intended for an officers' dance at Fort Dix, N.J., where it presumably could have killed not only military personnel but their civilian dates and whoever else might have been in the building.

In the wake of the townhouse explosion, authorities finally grasped that the Weathermen, although small in scale and limited in capacity, were earnestly dedicated to the violent overthrow of the United States government. Like two dozen or so other core members, including such movement stars as Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, David Gilbert, Kathy Boudin, Cathy Wilkerson and Brian Flanagan, Rudd lived "underground," moving from city to city under assumed identities and holding a series of menial jobs, for more than seven years.

Dubbed the Weather Underground, the group carried out several more bombings in the 1970s, including high-profile attacks on the U.S. Capitol mailroom and New York police headquarters. Perhaps the Weathermen's greatest achievement, such as it was, came in September 1970, when they helped LSD guru Timothy Leary escape from a California prison and flee the U.S. with a forged passport. Leary lived in Eldridge Cleaver's Black Panther compound in Algeria until the two had a falling out, but was ultimately recaptured by U.S. agents in Afghanistan. In a final twist not mentioned in Green and Siegel's film, once Leary was back in prison he reportedly ratted out his Weather Underground allies to the FBI in exchange for early release.

As misguided and counterproductive as the Weather Underground's activities may have been, after the townhouse bombing the group never again planned attacks against human beings. Their post-1970 bombings were symbolic in nature and happened at night when the buildings were empty.

Which begs the question: why won't heinous racists like mccain_supporter.jpgthis gentleman, obviously a bigot and a hater, stop trying to distract us from the REAL issue - the economy? Why do they implore John McCain to ask more disrespectful, divisive and racist questions about the postracial candidate's completely irrelevant past? Why can't they stop hating on Barack Obama?

"We have the good Reverend Wright. We have [the Rev. Michael L.] Pfleger. We have all of these shady characters that have surrounded him," Harris bellowed. "We have corruption here in Wisconsin and voting across the nation. I am begging you, sir. I am begging you. Take it to him."

Why am I racist and disrespectful to ask precisely the same questions about a man whose resume places him solidly in the bottom 6th percentile of presidential candidates chosen by a major political party in the past 150 years that I would ask of any candidate, white or black? Why am I supposed to show this man more deference
because he is less qualified than just about any candidate in modern history, when Sarah Palin (the Governor of Alaska, who has more experience than Barack Obama, but is running for a lesser position) has already been subjected to harsher scrutiny than the man who is campaigning for the job of leader of the free world under the rather flimsy pretense (stoked at every possible opportunity) that it's just possible John McCain might die while in office?

Maybe Fred Hiatt can explain this to me. After all, he is a professional journalist - one of the intelligensia. You know, one of those smart folks David Brooks says Republicans look down on, as he politely tells us we're all a bunch of uneducated, backwoods rubes:

Conservatives are as rare in elite universities and the mainstream media as they were 30 years ago. The smartest young Americans are now educated in an overwhelmingly liberal environment.

"no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin."

What utter nonsense. It isn't the Republicans who have been playing the class warfare card. Did Mr. Brooks happen to listen to anything that was said at the Democratic Convention? Whether it was race, class, or gender warfare, it was all on display, front and center. Even the invocations to Almighty God commanded our Maker in no uncertain terms that He was to implement the DNC's policy prescriptions for affordable housing and child care, economic justice, and a speedy withdrawal of our noble, childlike murdering troops from Iraq and Afghanistan so they can be redeployed to Darfur where we have no discernible national security interest.

I'm still trying to figure out this man. Obviously though, he's a racist:

me.jpgI'm glad I'm not this woman, because I'd sure hate to be accused of being obsessed withcharacter assassination:

"I don’t know him."

"I don’t know him."

"I didn’t know him."

"I had nothing to do with them."

If I had asserted in one of my autobiographies that I chose my friends and associates carefully and people began to examine the character of my friends and found nothing but thieves, terrorists and racist demagogues, I might be tempted to disclaim them also.

The thing I find so amazing, however, is how easily Barack Obama denies the persons with whom his ties are deep, meaningful and long-standing. How easily does Obama abandon his friends! Is there no such thing as loyalty in that crowd? Perhaps it’s a natural lack.

Many observers find Obama's associations terrifying and they should. But his reactions (besides the all-purpose racist cudgel) to any controversy stemming from these associations are even more terrifying—and more indicative of Obama’s character.

I would hate to be the person who made this video , because only a hate-obsessed bigot would bother to catalog the serial evasions, half-truths, and outright lies Barack Obama engaged in to the press and the American people regarding Jeremiah Wright:

1.“I don’t think my church is particularly controversial.”
2. I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Rev. Wright that have caused such controversy.
3. This is a church that I have been a member of for some 20 years. This is a well established, typical historically African American church on the South side of Chicago with a wonderful set of ministries and what I have been hearing and had been hearing in church was talk about Jesus and talk about faith and values and serving the poor.
4. For some…nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course.
5. Olbermann: Did you know that these statements were made before the video tape appeared?
Obama: You know, frankly I didn’t. I wasn’t in church during the time that these statements were made… now I..
6. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church? Yes.
7. I did not hear such incendiary language…uh….myself personally….uh….either in conversations with him or when I was in the pew. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely.
8. Had I heard those in the church, I would have told Rev. Wright.that I profoundly disagreed with him, that they didn’t reflect my values, and that they didn’t reflect my ideals.
9. Just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagree.
10. ..and had I heard or known about some of these statements I would have been very clear about it.
11. But the remarks that caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s efforts to speak out against perceived injustice.

Was Wright's preaching controversial? Did Obama hear it, and did he disagree with it? Would have have set his friend and mentor straight in no uncertain terms, had he only heard the highly inflammatory, profoundly disturbing, divisive and unacceptable, yet utterly unremarkable and ordinary sermons about Jesus Christ that he was fully aware of and disagreed with but missed because he was never in church when they occurred?

It depends on which side of his mouth Obama was speaking out of that day.

But of course it is disrespectful to call him on this.

Dishonorable, almost.

One wonders what kind of campaign would have made Fred Hiatt happy?

If only John McCain had told the truth:

If only he had not insulted our intelligence with divisive race baiting and misleading guilt-by-association ads:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has launched a new Spanish-language TV ad that seeks to paint Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as anti-immigrant, even tying the Republican to his longtime conservative talk-radio nemesis Rush Limbaugh.

As first reported by the Washington Post, Obama's ad features a narrator saying: "They want us to forget the insults we’ve put up with…the intolerance…they made us feel marginalized in this country we love so much."

The screen then shows these two quotes from Limbaugh:

“…stupid and unskilled Mexicans”
—Rush Limbaugh

"You shut your mouth or you get out!”
—Rush Limbaugh

The narrator then says, “John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces. One that says lies just to get our vote…and another, even worse, that continues the policies of George Bush that put special interests ahead of working families. John McCain…more of the same old Republican tricks


There are some real factual problems with this ad, which is titled “Dos Caras,” or two faces.

First of all, tying Sen. McCain – especially on the issue of immigration reform – to Limbaugh is unfair.

Limbaugh opposed McCain on that issue. Vociferously. And in a larger sense, it’s unfair to link McCain to Limbaugh on a host of issues since Limbaugh, as any even occasional listener of his knows, doesn’t particularly care for McCain.

Second, the quotes of Limbaugh’s are out of context.

Oddly the WaPo's "fact checker" didn't bother to check any of these facts - not that there is no "relationship" between Limbaugh and McCain, nor that Obama's ad grossly distorted the Limbaugh quotes (in fact, twisting their meaning 180 degrees around until they appeared to mean the opposite of what he had actually said).

Dishonest? You betcha. But that's hardly the only Obama ad to take tiny quotes out of context and distort their meaning to smear John McCain. Perhaps Fred Hiatt would find this Obama ad more to his taste:

Ann Althouse looks at the latest Obama ad, which seems to have taken the low road:

"What's happened to John McCain? He's running the sleaziest ads ever. Truly vile."

"Dishonest smears that he repeats, even after it's been exposed as a lie. Truth be damned. A disgraceful, dishonorable campaign... It seems deception is all he has left."

The ad is an unsettling pastiche of cut and paste smears taken from various unseen sources, in many cases using only a word or two. There is no context, no proof, and no defined accusation one can directly refute.

Just a litany of slurs: faceless, anonymous, and very, very ugly. Althouse comments:

It seems likely that the viewer is just supposed to accept the assertion that there have been sleaziest ads, smears, and a lie, mainly because the names of newspapers appear on screen next to quotes.

... I think quite a few voters, like me, will feel very skeptical about generic assertions and quotes taken out of context. We American voters are competent ad watchers, and I don't think this will work on us.

... This ad screams its negativity. The ominous music. The string of very ugly words: sleaziest... vile ... dishonest smears ... lie ... damned ... disgraceful ... dishonorable ... deception. And yet the ad seeks to inspire outrage about McCain's negativity. But we're not watching McCain's ads. The example of sleaziness is the one before our eyes now.

John McCain wasn't my candidate.

I wanted Mitt Romney. I thought he would have made a fine president.

But I'll take McCain head and shoulders over Barack Obama. And regardless of what he and David Brooks seem to think, I may just be a RINO/conservative housewife with a bachelor's degree, but I'm not stupid and I'm not a racist. I don't want a president who "organizes the community" to shout down those who inquire too closely into his background.

Funny thing about that term: "community organizer". It keeps cropping up in the oddest places. Like here:

TO discover the roots of to day's economic crisis, consider a tale from 1995.

That March, House Speaker Newt Gingrich was scheduled to address a meeting of county commissioners at the Washington Hilton. But, first, some 500 protesters from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) poured into the ballroom from both the kitchen and the main entrance.

Hotel staffers who tried to block them were quickly overwhelmed by demonstrators chanting, "Nuke Newt!" and "We want Newt!" Jamming the aisles, carrying bullhorns and taunting the assembled county commissioners, demonstrators swiftly took over the head table and commandeered the microphone, sending two members of Congress scurrying.



And here:

Well, I’ve known [convicted terrorist] Kathy [Boudin] since 1967 or 1968, when she was one of the great community organizers in S.D.S...

Maybe someone should check some of these connections out.

Or would that be .... disrespectful?

Posted by Cassandra at October 15, 2008 08:02 AM

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It is an insult to not just my intelligence but that of every American to imply that if I don't vote for a man whose ideology is profoundly distasteful to me, there is only one rational explanation. that I hate blacks. I

But hasn't that been their explanation of why blacks don't vote Republican from day one, Cass? That Republicans are the party of anti-civil rights and pro-slavery and pro-racism?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 15, 2008 09:45 PM

You know, Ymar, I just get so tired of this whole race thing being so in-your-face all the time.

We are constantly bombarded with it, and I want it to be over, and it never is.

I do not buy the proposition that race is the determinative factor in how I need to treat or judge another human being: that I must completely ignore it and pretend it is not there.... unless, of course, they want me to take it into consideration, in which case I am being unbearably insensitive if I ignore it and pretend it makes no difference.

The only sensible strategy here (given that there are factors we fallible humans can never fully tease out) is to treat everyone the same. We are intelligent beings with free will. I will judge other people as they merit.

And I just want to let all this silliness go, and the accusations too. And so I will every now and then shove the silliness back in Obama's face when he pulls this stuff, and in his supporter's faces too, because we are all better than that. I want my children to grow up in a better world than that.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 15, 2008 10:13 PM

Identity politics and 'identity' voting has been around since the birth of the Republic.

Racial identity politics is just particular version of it.

For decades after the Civil War, Black Americans always voted (when they could) Republican. That was the party of Lincoln and the Emancipation. Black Americans who knew about slavery in living memory were not fooled by the other stuff.

Something happened in the 1920's and 30's, and that vote flipped to Democrat. There are a lot of historical reasons given (F.Roosevelt, the New Deal, etc.), but it is not entirely clear why, to many.

I think it had to do with the rise (world-wide) of class war politics (Leninism-Marxism, the "success" of the Russian Revolution) and what was preached in the pulpits of Black churches all over America. Something that flipped in less than a generation and has not been re-examined since (by Black Americans) and has not greatly changed and been re-inforced since is not some trivial accident.
That comes home to roost when you read about Liberation Theology, which is the most recent intellectual rationalization for that phenomenon.

While Marxism-Leninism is not explicitly mentioned most times, there is plenty of economic "social justice" throughout the Civil Rights movement from the 1950's through today.

I was reminded of that by watching a few minutes of Tavis Smiley the other night on PBS.

Barack Obama is truly the "one that we have been waiting for", in the minds of those who have been prepared for it.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 16, 2008 12:08 AM

Something happened in the 1920's and 30's, and that vote flipped to Democrat.

Didn't the KKK resurge during the early 20th century at about that time?

Republican government didn't take hold in the South so that probably disenfranchised a lot of blacks against the Republican party, one way or another, after a couple of decades once the new generation were no longer slaves just discriminated against.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 16, 2008 02:22 AM

I'm talking about Republican government taking hold after Civil War reconstruction.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 16, 2008 02:23 AM

The only sensible strategy here (given that there are factors we fallible humans can never fully tease out) is to treat everyone the same. We are intelligent beings with free will. I will judge other people as they merit.

I got used to the Left's charges of racism. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now, but the difference is that now I know the shame is wholly theirs.

As to your quote, the thing is that if you treat people the same you then lose out on two major sources of power: white guilt and class exploitation.

Rich people give so much of their money away because of one thing: guilt. That and taxes, but still.

If you treat people the same and see them as the same, then that means you can't lawfully extract power from one faction and give it to yourself while playing off the other faction in a kind of European colonialist divide and conquer strategy.

When your political identity has gained so much from white guilt and class differences, Cass, then it becomes an addiction that you must hold or or otherwise admit the defeat of your political philosophy. And most people can't do that in one lifetime.

And so I will every now and then shove the silliness back in Obama's face when he pulls this stuff

I have no problems with that.

I want my children to grow up in a better world than that.

But some people believe that a better world is created by trying to force people of different cultures to live under one political ideology enforced by government or military violence.

For example, Biden's plan to divide up Iraq as a solution to the violence and chaos there. You didn't agree with the partition strategy, Cass, why? Wasn't it because you knew that perpetual wars are sourced from humans exploiting cultural divides that can't be bridged with mutual security interests, economic interests, or social compacts?

But some people believe the exact opposite. They believe that a better world is created by strengthening people's divisions: wider language divisions, wider cultural divisions, wider political and religious differences. Isn't that why people say that they have to fight hard against Republicans because the momentary loss of unity is better than compromising with corrupt Republicans out to control Presidents like puppets, i.e. Rove and Cheney? Isn't that their excuse why their class warfare inside America is justified, that they are just fighting "something worse" than they themselves? Isn't their justification for character assassinating Sarah Palin that they are just doing what we have already done to them?

They open up differences and enlarge them because they believe this is necessary to create a better world while we want to bridge differences and close them. It seems very mutually exclusive to me, Cass.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 16, 2008 02:33 AM

On the same topic of respect, but with the focus on the Navy rather than on politics, is this post by Bookworm when she went on a get together.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 16, 2008 02:45 AM

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 16, 2008 02:45 AM

2 of my 3 co-workers on third shift in this shop are Black...and I have expressed to them that race is not a valid reason to vote either for or against someone.

Their policies are...

Posted by: camojack at October 16, 2008 03:54 AM

That is tribalism, pure and simple.

If race becomes a valid reason for voting as a bloc, how are Blacks behaving any differently than Whites did during the Jim Crow era: promoting "me and mine, right or wrong" over "you and yours"? It becomes the spoils system all over again, with whoever is in the power exacting their pound of flesh from whoever is out of power, and the cycle of retribution never ends.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 16, 2008 06:20 AM

And yes, Ymar, that is precisely what I am reading from the Dems right now: anything goes in order to beat the Republicans.

Any tactic is justified. Go ahead and attack Sarah Palin's children - her support for abstinence-based education, or the fact that she took her 7 year old to a hockey game, justifies exposing her children to the most vile nonsense.

Any school child understands the moral rule that two wrongs (even if you were to accept the ludicrous notion that simple political disagreement with Progressive ideas is a moral "wrong") do not make a "right".

Pathetic. Just pathetic.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 16, 2008 06:24 AM

I have yet to meet the schoolchild who actually agreed with that rule, although they can parrot it when asked. :)

I'm convinced that there is a segment of the Obama campaign that is hostile to the Republic, and actually working against it. And that holds true for his supporters as well. We're talking about the Alinsky model today in the comments to the most recent post at the Hall.

Yet there is a huge issue at work here, which is: how do you respond to the model? You suggest that the proper method is to have a rule, and apply it to everyone. The problem is that the Alinsky model loves rules. Saul Alinsky said that you should insist on the rulebook, because every time your opponents don't live up to every particular you can use that to discredit (a) them, and (b) the whole rulebook.

What may be needed instead is forgiveness, mercy, and kindness. The rules may not be enough: we may have to forgive when they are broken. That's the one thing that seems to be toxic to the model they propose.

Posted by: Grim at October 16, 2008 07:10 AM

Small children may not agree with the rule because they exist in a dog eat dog world.

If they live in a world supervised by parents, they see that if you live by rules, kindness and trust are often reciprocated. Not always, but very often.

The obverse, however, is almost never true if you happen to be the weaker party: if you do evil to someone who doesn't believe in rules, they will not return good for it.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 16, 2008 07:33 AM

The only hope for things getting better instead of worse is mutual agreement (or even unilateral agreement) to some moral framework.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 16, 2008 07:34 AM

Saul Alinsky is an ass.

You don't have rules because people are perfect.

Rules are themselves imperfect, and exist to resolve disputes between imperfect people.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 16, 2008 07:37 AM

The only hope for things getting better instead of worse is mutual agreement (or even unilateral agreement) to some moral framework.

I don't disagree; but what "unilateral agreement" means is that we don't apply the rules to everyone equally. We apply them to ourselves, and hope others follow.

When they don't, we forgive them, and hope to be forgiven in turn should we fall short.

The Alinsky model is based on this approach: Never forgive. If you do something wrong, you needn't be forgiven because you won't admit it. If they do something wrong, they'll never be forgiven, because the failure to uphold every aspect of their rules proves they are hypocrites to the core.

And if they apologize? That proves they broke their own rules. Hypocrites.

The model is genuinely evil. It is no wonder Alinsky dedicated his book on the subject, Rules for Radicals, to Lucifer.

Like you, I hope to see things get better instead of worse. That means, though, something other than insisting on the rules. I think we need to focus on the concept of 'not making the perfect the enemy of the good,' and of the idea that morality needs to be humane. We don't have to do the right thing every time to be good people; it's enough, at least to start, that you try to do the right thing once in a while.

As the Chinese say, 'if you want people to follow you, make the path wide; for otherwise there will be nowhere on it for your own foot.'

Posted by: Grim at October 16, 2008 07:44 AM

With all due respect, Grim, that's a completely unworkable model due to human nature.

If you only try to do the right thing "once in a while", you don't hold yourself accountable to any consistent standard of behavior.

The right model is that you try to do the right thing all the time, 24/7, yet understand the people are by nature only human and will screw up. There is never any acceptable excuse for not trying to do the right thing, and you don't get to duck that call. What you *do* get to do is (having faced up to the fact that you screwed up) get back up, dust yourself off, not beat yourself up unduly about it, and try again.

It's like the way I plan projects.

I have a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C.

Plan A is my dream vision for the way I'd like it to turn out if everything went ideally. I can't think of too many times that has happened, but this is ALWAYS what I aim for - it's my working plan, because people generally fall a bit short of whatever they aim for and things always go wrong. Always allow yourself a bit of wiggle room.

Plan B is Plan A, minus some of the bells and whistles. It's what usually happens after a few things DO go wrong - someone lets me down at the last minute (and they always do, no matter how often I call and check up on their progress), it rains on the day of the picnic, my computer freezes up and I have to use the slides on my USB stick and someone else's overhead projector instead of the fancy presentation I had on my PC - good thing I had a contingency plan!

Plan C is the disaster scenario. It's the minimum acceptable outcome. It's always good to know the non-negotiable, do or die priorities so you ensure that at a minimum, they are accomplished.

But I certainly don't want this to be what I aim for.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 16, 2008 08:09 AM

As long as we stay away from "Plan 9 From Outer Space" we are ahead of the game. :)

The success, or at least the continued existence of our Republic relies implicitly on the personal virtue of the citizens not to live down to their worst tendencies as human beings.

"History. Read it and weep" -Bokonon, from "Cat's Cradle".

Once perverse incentives are introduced to connive anyone, Republican, Democrat, whatever, to live DOWN to the worse devils of our nature (to paraphrase), we are asking for an authoritarian government to police our lives.

If no public virtue is inculcated in people (usually as children) and re-inforced from time to time in the real world, 'cry havoc!', and let loose the dogs of harsh government.

Rousseau and Locke and Hobbs have been down this road before. The ideals of Locke influenced the Founders the most, but that doesn't mean he was 100% right about Man, the Killer Angel.

There is nothing new under the sun, but we could be heading for really strange times.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 16, 2008 09:34 AM

It pains me to reveal that I am so small that regarding many of the actors involved in the on-going power struggle I've witnessed my entire adult life, I can not forgive...

In the context of the '08 election, I can understand people who might think that BO being a smooth operator, having above average intelligence or at least managing to convey that image, having political savvy and eloquence, will be good for the office of the Presidency and the nation.

And I can understand people who will look at BO and the Dem's as social levelers. The political party who will provide all goods and services that many in our society could never attain on their own. Those folks who never out grew the it's not fair mentality of their childhood.

I can even pass on being bitter and clingy regarding folk who would not go any further when making their choice of the President of the U.S. than to base that decision -upon something so trivial IMO- as in thinking that the most important objective would be to elect a black man... Damn the associations, history, performance, qualifications or voting record of said man, just do it because he's black and he talks purty.

What I can not forgive is those who seek to tear down the nation using whatever means possible. Those who plot and execute actions to steal the election through voter fraud using similar methods employed in totalitarian states and banana republics.

Too many good U.S. citizens have sacrificed, fought and died to allow the present group of people fortunate enough to be U.S. citizens the right to fairly choose their government representatives without the use of force. Yup, the people I'm ready to fight are those who would rather see the United States as a second or third rate nation, populated by a nation of equals in all regards as determined and enforced by the few ruling from the USSA Kremlin. Equal opportunity? No, equal by mandate. Forgive? Forget? Ain't gonna happen.

Now I'm late for my daily tasks and I must get busy.

Posted by: bthun at October 16, 2008 09:50 AM

If it is germane that some small fraction of whites may NOT vote for Obama (ostensibly due to skin color) why is it not germane that a very large number of blacks will vote for him because he is black, or that a significant number of whites also support him in large part from a laudable, if foolish, desire to get past the perception that whites prefer to vote for those of their own race?

Because only white people can be racist in America.

After hanging out on left-wing blogs (in a continuing research on 'WTF are these people thinking?') I have learned that it's being taught that racism != the presumption of inferiority on the basis of race. No. Racism = the presumption of inferiority on the basis of race AND the power to enforce consequences reflecting that viewpoint on the rest of society. And since only white people have that power, only white people can be racist.

Really.

This is being taught in schools. This is progressive. This is not a position for debate on the left. This is an axiom. Attempting to debate it is racist.

Posted by: RonF at October 16, 2008 11:04 AM

Cass:

You're talking about the moral framework you impose on yourself. You can be as strict as you want with yourself (although I notice that you say that you end up with Plan B 'most' of the time, which suggests that your standard is fairly humane -- if you insist on Plan A most of the time and are down on yourself when you have to resort to Plan B, you probably won't be very happy with yourself or your life).

What I am talking about is the problem of trying to set up a standard that other people will follow. The place to start with that is not by telling them that they need to try to be perfect all the time to earn your respect. If you do that, they will decide that they can live without your respect (since they have little chance of earning it anyway).

If you start by praising people for doing the right thing whenever they do it, they may begin to climb toward that standard. What you're saying then is, "You're OK as you are; but when you do right, I really admire it." That locates the moral discussion on a different ground. They see that respect can be gained; and they get to enjoy the reward of it once in a while, and decide that they like it. The reward in their mind becomes something they're disappointed not to get, rather than something they never expect to obtain at all.

So, if you want people to follow you, make the way wide.

Posted by: Grim at October 16, 2008 11:52 AM

Grim,
That must be why they sometimes refer to Barack Obama as the Messiah, because what you are saying is hauntingly like something that Jesus might say out of the Gospel.

I just want to live in a country that has a modicum of respect for the fact that we are all different, yet a expects a modicum of common civility and 'patria' in return.

I think expecting us all to reach common moral judgements too large a percentage of the time puts too great a strain on the whole notion of a civil society of sovereign individuals.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 16, 2008 12:32 PM

Well, if the Alinsky model looks to Lucifer, looking to Jesus may have some advantages.

Posted by: Grim at October 16, 2008 12:48 PM

And if they apologize? That proves they broke their own rules. Hypocrites.

It is still a rather elegant strategy for people who have no ethics or honor yet wish to use a divide and conquer type strategy, Grim.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 16, 2008 12:57 PM

I don't think you are distinguishing "try" from "be", Grim.

In general, I find that people behave up or down to the standard one expects from them.

I expect people to behave well here at VC, and in general they do. I would not say that they are perfect, and I don't expect perfection. I'm not a martinet. But I won't excuse the failure to try.

Period. If I begin to get the impression someone is not *sincerely* trying, they're out of here. They can screw up, as in lose their temper, more than once especially if they've been goaded. But if, on a day-in, day-out basis, they continually exhibit a failure to try to meet the standard, that's it.

There is a reasonableness test.

Posted by: Cass at October 16, 2008 01:02 PM

It certainly is, Ymar. I've been encountering it regularly from certain commenters at Winds of Change. The method is simple: first, declare that McCain has behaved dishonorably. Then, if challenged, point out that he has had to apologize for 'bad behavior' in the past (e.g., in 2000 over the Confederate flag issue). State that this proves he has no honor, since he has not lived up to his every principle.

If anyone attempts to defend him (as I have done) by pointing out that the apology shows that he actually does care about the principle, accuse them of also being dishonorable. This is 'proven' by the fact that you are willing to excuse dishonorable behavior in others (if they ask for forgiveness and try to do better).

I normally point out that the people engaging in this tactic clearly don't understand honor, aren't interested in understanding it, and aren't trying to live within such a code themselves. But that's OK with them, because they don't claim to be: you can't be a hypocrite if you have no standards. You're in a cost free position, following the Alinsky book: you don't have to be better than the person you are criticizing. You don't have to care at all about the issue that you're criticizing them for -- indeed, you can be totally against the very moral code you're criticizing them for not following perfectly.

And of course, if they are outraged by being called a hypocrite, liar, or whatever -- all the better, because it radicalizes the discussion and makes compromise, or even understanding, less likely. For Alinsky, this is an attack on the whole process: it's not just about winning a political debate or election, but about undermining the system of government in which it is necessary to have debate or elections. It goes hand in hand with ACORN, etc.

I think this is a small number of people, who have managed to swing the whole system toward radicalism. The Obama campaign is heavily populated with them: we've seen them use these methods at the Texas caucuses and elsewhere to build up an early lead, against WGN and other media that were carrying messages they didn't like, threatening lawsuits against conservative groups that might run anti-Obama ads, the increasing evidence of massive voter fraud, and so forth.

Yet I think the vast majority of Obama supporters -- and even some people directly involved with the campaign, who don't come out of this Alinksy/community organizer/radical model -- aren't doing this with the intention of attacking the system itself. They're just following the lead of their candidate, or they're not noticing what he is doing out of confirmation bias ("I've already declared that I support him, and I wouldn't support a bad person, so he must be a good person who wouldn't do bad things").

A counter to this model has to begin with disaggregation -- and that means reaching out to people we respect on the other side. We also need to correct those on our side who are racheting up the rhetoric in ways that destabilize the whole model. That was Alinsky's goal. Ours is the opposite: to preserve the Republic.

Posted by: Grim at October 16, 2008 02:38 PM

Cass:

You know that I have certain standards at Grim's Hall. Debate there tends to be pleasant, with hotheadedness being somewhat rare and usually easily contained. Membership in the Hall, though, is wholly voluntary; anyone who doesn't like the standard can leave.

That really isn't the case with national politics. Liberals occasionally threaten to move to Europe or Canada if Bush/McCain/whoever wins, but few do. For most, it's not an option anyway -- you can't get a visa, your job is here, and so forth.

For conservatives, the situation is worse: not only are there at least as many practical problems in terms of leaving for somewhere else, there is nowhere else. America is the last bastion of traditional Western/Anglospheric liberty. If you have adequate wealth, of course, you can live much as you like in a large part of the Third World; but you won't have rights there, just the privileges you can buy.

We need a public-space system that is far more accomodating than the rules we apply to our homes, or blogs. As Don rightly says, we need a Federal system that is far more accomodating than the rules we might apply locally, in a city or state. The system needs that capacity for different standards and rules. It makes the system more robust, and less brittle.

Take abortion. The outrage over abortion has come largely because of a mandated Federal solution. If Sen. Obama becomes President Obama, he's said that the first thing he'll do is pass a law banning all restrictions of any kind on abortion nationwide.

Now, that's a single standard to which we'll all be held. I don't think it's apt to make American politics less furious, though. I think it's another thing that undermines the model: it forces everyone to live by one standard, whether they like it or not.

By the same token, I wouldn't support a policy of electing a different President/Congress, and having them pass a law that instituted my preference on abortion (to whit, that it not happen). I wouldn't, even though I think I am right both morally and rationally, with both strong feelings and good reasons to feel and think as I do about it.

I know that's roughly your position as well, so I highlight this issue as an example of what I'm talking about. This is a model that is forgiving of differences; but it becomes forgiving by allowing multiple standards. We have one for ourselves (say, 'no abortions except to save the life of the mother'); but we are ready for them to have another. "The same standard for everyone" is what makes the system brittle.

Posted by: Grim at October 16, 2008 02:54 PM

You don't have societies at the federal level, Grim.

No one's social circle is that large, so the analogy breaks down.

Posted by: Cass at October 16, 2008 03:07 PM

I would not say that they are perfect, and I don't expect perfection.

I've met people who were perfect idiots -- does that count?

Posted by: BillT at October 16, 2008 03:53 PM

A counter to this model has to begin with disaggregation -- and that means reaching out to people we respect on the other side

Wasn't that a derivation of some principles of warfare in the conduct of counter-insurgency: disaggregation?

Another question I have is: do you have any difference of opinion compared to what you wrote to me before concerning my views on active internal American insurgency warfare as engaged by people like Soros and Ayers and Alinsky or is the view you have currently described in your comment here already contained in your mind back then?

I disagreed with you that Soros, Ayers, and Alinsky (though I don't believe he was ever mentioned except for the implicit assumption that this was the intellectual manifold upon which Obama and Ayers rests) were just harmless individuals exercising their free speech and using up their private funds on foolish or clownish endeavours. You challenged me to name one student that Ayers has produced that is a true revolutionary and would present a true danger to the Republic or the US Constitution. I chose to highlight the steady division and corrosion of philosophies, ideological philosophies, that will lead, in the long term, to destabilization and crisis since the threat aren't active revolutionaries but people who disguise themselves as moderates while working to sabotage the system from the inside out.

Regardless, I have one name that Ayers has taught: Obama.

I normally point out that the people engaging in this tactic clearly don't understand honor, aren't interested in understanding it, and aren't trying to live within such a code themselves.

I believe they have at least two compartments. One compartment realizes that McCain doesn't follow the same standard of conduct as the accuser and the other compartment recognizes that McCain's own standard of conduct can be used to weaken him. This allows the accuser to say McCain has done wrong while at the same time realizing that if McCain had been given the Democrat code of conduct, there wasn't much you could say in criticism of a Democrat that did the same things as McCain is being accused of.

This kind of compartmentalization is akin to a conscience redactor. It prevents the individual from being fully aware of how indistinct, abstract, or factual data connects with each other. In preventing the awareness of an individual's mind on how the dots are connected the conscience redactor is able to allow them to operate in fully consistent fashions while at the same time being completely inconsistent.

As a byproduct of the conscience redactor, or doublethink (the ability to hold two mutually exclusive premises at the same time while believing both are true), the individual is unable to truly control or learn the art of propaganda or warfare. Most of the critical thinking capacity goes into maintaining the workings of the conscience redactor: which leaves little for introspection or analysis. Or you may call it the confirmation bias, which is simply one of many safeguards on this little Pandora's Box.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 16, 2008 04:20 PM

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 16, 2008 04:27 PM

Disaggregation is a core principle of Kilcullen's COIN model. It is not limited to COIN work, however -- it functions in politics and diplomacy as well. We may wish to disaggregate nations that are currently in China or Russia's sphere of influence; that need not be war, nor insurgency. It's a good concept to apply across the board.

(You might say it is the 'divide and conquer' model, except that conquest is not necessary -- the method often works best by building genuine friendships or commonalities of interest. Yet it is also more than just dividing, since the aim is not merely to split two parties apart, but to bring one of them into a different sphere of influence: perhaps yours, or perhaps a third party whose goals you find more acceptable than the first party.)

...active internal American insurgency warfare as engaged by people like Soros and Ayers and Alinsky or is the view you have currently described in your comment here already contained in your mind back then?

George Soros is a problem, but I don't think he's a warfighting problem. I'm not sure just what to do with him, to be honest. I don't have a very good model for responding to what he's doing. Ideally it's a counterintelligence problem, but that requires a law. What he is doing seems to be legal.

The Alinsky issue is similar, in that it's normally technically legal, or its illegalities are very difficult to prove -- what they are doing is using the rules to undermine the system that guarantees the rules. He described it as an active attempt to undermine and overthrow the system. It's being used currently both by people who want to do that, but also by people who find it useful as a political tool. The second group is doing something immoral, but it isn't treasonous. Even with the first group, which is engaged in treason in every sense except the legal sense, it's hard to say where they are actually breaking the law. (How many people will go to jail over the ACORN violations? I'm guessing in the low zeros.)

Now, we certainly could reply to these characters with a warfighting model. I'm looking for a different way to address them, however, because warfighting means setting aside a number of the traditional rights, liberties, and protections that it is the function of the Republic to protect.

The Lucifer/Jesus model strikes me as one that may prove very powerful at undoing this kind of bad acting. It allows us to explain just why and how it is bad acting. It also directly undercuts the anger and disharmony that the Luciferians... er, Alinsky radicals are attempting to create. In that sense, it is destructive to their model in a way that actual warfighting would not be. If you waged war against them, they would be using the Geneva Conventions against you, filing suits, and so on and so forth. If you follow this model, you are able to disarm them, disaggregate people away from them, and without having to put liberties at risk or see the chaos of war at home.

Posted by: Grim at October 16, 2008 05:49 PM

Well, what I am laughing my a** off over, but have not written about is this:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/breakingnews/Secret_Service_says_Kill_him_allegation_unfounded_.html

Anyone else notice a pattern emerging?

Because I have.

Posted by: Cass at October 16, 2008 06:20 PM

Heh, saw that blurb this a.m. and wondered why Gov. Palin did not reprimand the rethug haint that did not make the threat before Gov. Palin entered the forum. Sheesh.

Posted by: bthun at October 16, 2008 07:05 PM

Anyway Grim, I think you and I are talking at cross purposes.

I don't divide the world up into "good people" and "bad people".

I don't see that as a useful model. Even really bad people can learn, for the most part. Sometimes they need to fall down or experience a lot of pain before they learn. Sometimes they never do. But it is possible.

Sometimes people who were strong become damaged and begin to do evil.

So this "good/bad" dichotomy is useless to me.

To me, good is as good does, and vice versa. Every day is a new start. We are imperfect beings: all I require of a man or woman is a good heart and willing spirit.

But I absolutely DO require that they are TRYING. And you don't get to aim for the crappy standard. I'm sorry - that doesn't cut it, because I've seen how people excuse themselves for all kinds of vile stuff when they don't have the right goals.

Aim high, and never flinch from what you have done if you don't meet the standard. But don't hate yourself either because it can be perilously hard to do the right thing. I screw up all the time.

At least that is how I see it.

Posted by: Cass at October 16, 2008 07:12 PM

I think you may be right; I'm not talking about good or bad people, but about approaches to dealing with political and ethical differences in America.

It does happen that there's a model at work that Alinsky self-consciously based on Lucifer; and not shockingly, it seems to have bad effects on society. I think there's a way to counter that model, which -- as Don pointed out -- relies on the principles that Jesus advocated; and not shockingly, that seems to have good effects on society.

The models are good or bad. The people? It's hard to say. I do believe in bad people; I don't think I believe in good ones. "The best men" are still men, which leaves a lot of room for evil when you let your guard down.

Posted by: Grim at October 16, 2008 07:45 PM

Anyone else notice a pattern emerging?

What do you mean? There's no pattern in propaganda, Cass. *thud*

What was that sound?

I'm looking for a different way to address them, however, because warfighting means setting aside a number of the traditional rights, liberties, and protections that it is the function of the Republic to protect.

The fiction military sci fi works of people like Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling raised this situation, which I found eerily similar to Iraq after I had picked up some things about Iraq after 2003.

The King of Sparta, an interstellar colony of an Earth dominated by a US-Soviet alliance of corruption and megalomania, had to deal with the illegal immigration from Earth. Earth were sending criminals and various other non-conformists to Sparta as a sort of cheap solution. There was an eventual terrorist movement that developed between Helots and Spartans (non-citizens and citizens) and the King of Sparta had to decide to engage in warfare against the enemies, both Spartan and Helot and those from Earth, or wait and see if political compromises could resolve things.

What ended up happening was that the various traditional rights, liberties, and protections of Sparta were used to foment lawlessness and violence, much as agents in Iraq used America's desire for representative government. This was Sadr's plan, for example. It depends upon an overwhelming advantage either politically via demographics or thug militias or it requires an army that can beat the status quo power (the US in Sadr's case).

The US is a much tougher nut to crack given that the US military is loyal unto death and won't fail, either on the battlefield or due to lack of intelligence or lack of discipline that terrorists seek to create on the status quo forces.

Sparta was a hereditary dual monarchy in the story so the Helots could only gain power by political compromise or terrorism (which had to translate into battlefield victories eventually).

The US has a representative democracy, however, which means the final solutions for victory for any insurgents differ. They don't need an open field battle victory. THey don't need to defeat the US military, because the US military won't be used against them if they play their cards right. And even if it was, they could just call in the ACLU and CAIR.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 16, 2008 08:56 PM

"As Don rightly says, we need a Federal system that is far more accomodating than the rules we might apply locally, in a city or state."-Grim

That's not exactly what I said or meant. I meant that there has to be a civil society. i.e., the society that is not compelled or ruled by the government, but the conscious, voluntary associations that free men make, that has to be tolerant of the fact the we are not going to ever be unanimous, yet we do owe each other a level of consideration, and a level of 'patria' to the Republic that we live in. Not a level of patria to the President, the Democrats or Republicans, the Congress or whoever controls it.

But to the Republic, 'one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all'.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 16, 2008 10:16 PM

the society that is not compelled or ruled by the government,

The social compact between citizens and the trust in the rule of law?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 16, 2008 10:55 PM

I don't divide the world up into "good people" and "bad people".

I don't see that as a useful model. Even really bad people can learn, for the most part.

What about ALinsky and Communist philosophy that says you can make good people into bad ones, Cass? Do you believe that is feasible and do you recognize its existence?

But I absolutely DO require that they are TRYING.

What if, for example, there are people trying to free those like Kuntar who enjoyed dashing the heads of Israeli infants across a rock with a rifle butt or something but believe their attempts are creating a better world?

Would that attempt apply as "trying" in your view, Cass?

The Alinsky issue is similar, in that it's normally technically legal, or its illegalities are very difficult to prove -- what they are doing is using the rules to undermine the system that guarantees the rules. He described it as an active attempt to undermine and overthrow the system.

I think if you cut it all down to the principles it is a challenge that says "our methods and philosophies are superior than yours". Meaning, they don't need to adopt the things that made the Republic strong to win over the republic. As in warfare, this becomes a test of strength as to whose beliefs deserve to live. Just as there was a test of strength between AQ's beliefs and Iraqi/American beliefs in Iraq.

If our beliefs were wrong or flawed on some fundamental level, then we would have been required to become more and more like our enemies in order to survive. This would have proven the strength and veracity of their philosophy, sharia for example, over ours. However, if they are required to adopt our methods or codes (even if it is only to exploit them for gain) they are demonstrating that they have the weaker position and need us to prop them up. Cause they can't stand on their own beliefs and philosophy.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 16, 2008 11:03 PM

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