Work and Days

Conventional Nights

The Triumph of the Therapeutic

Let us hope that the Republicans avoid the teary-eyed, drippy stories that almost all these Democratic speakers insist on inflicting on us: in this Oprah world, one would think that there is mass starvation, depression, and general mayhem. In every introduction, we hear that the speaker to come was poor, deprived, and a multifaceted victim. Not since reading the Attic Orators has one heard how horrible life has been to such heroic figures, who nonetheless somehow ended up in such a cruel country with big salaries, enormous homes, and influential jobs.

On Satellite Radio’s Potus station, they are playing clips of conventions long past, and one simply does not hear a Truman, Stevenson, or Eisenhower indulging us with tales of their own brushes with cruelty, illness, death, poverty, etc. and how only their own character allowed them to survive their absolutely singular experiences.

Eloquent Distortions

Did Clinton in his speech tonight really think that Reagan ending the Cold War was part of a 25-year long foreign-policy catastrophe, while his own record of doing nothing much about the World Trade Center bombing, Khobar Towers, the attacks on East African embassies, and the USS Cole in bin Laden’s serial path to September 11 was inspired leadership?

I don’t recall Clinton signing a Kyoto Treaty, or giving $15 billion for AIDs relief in Africa, or passing universal health care, or going to the UN or Congress to bomb Serbia, so why attack Bush on such similar topics?

Biden’s speech drew praise, but in candor he was almost on the verge of constant tears and right on the crest of an hysterical wave. And when he talked about McCain’s integrity, I almost choked—given Biden’s past complete fabrications about his nonexistent coal-mining family, serial plagiarism, and crudity when interrogating Supreme Court Justice nominees. Remember this was a politician who once boasted he would like to run for Vice President with McCain and is now accusing McCain of poor judgment, again from someone who voted against Gulf War I, and then flipped several times on the second Iraq war, and then pontificated about his  bankrupt plan of trisecting Iraq.

Why evoke Georgia and Obama—when Obama had a three-strike-out response: 1) initially both sides were equally at fault; 2) then go to the UN and find resolution; 3) then suggest our taking out a genocidal dictator was equivalent to Russia attacking a democracy.

And why would Biden evoke timelines as proof of Obama’s wisdom on Iraq? It only reminds us that Obama wanted all troops out by March 2008 that would have ensured defeat. The only reason why there is a discussion of timelines at all is due to General Petraeus’s success in stopping the violence. The present plan is Petraeus’s; the notion that an Illinois Senator had any input, influence, or effect on it is ludicrous.

Hubris to Nemesis: Obama and his Temple

Why and how did McCain catch up? Let us count the ways: the disastrous European victory lap of Obama’s; the uninspired professorial pontificating to Rick Warren; the deer-in-the-headlights serial responses to the Georgia crisis; and the McCain ads that were as cleverly effective as they were derided as childish by outraged liberals.

But perhaps the greatest consideration is Obama’s Hellenic hubris, which is different than simple arrogance. Hubris is a sort of fit, a haughtiness steeped in delusions of grandeur and divinity that takes over a weak individual, and soon encourages recklessness and overreaching (atê), all culminating in ruin and divine retribution (nemesis).

Go figure: Obama/Oedipus goes to Berlin. There he speaks in front of a grandiose Victory Column commemorating Prussian arrogance (after begging in vain to have a JFK/Reagan presidential moment at the grander Brandenburg Gate). He reviews American sins, revises the history of the Berlin Airlift, and claims (falsely) he’s the first black high official Germany has dealt with before. Then to hysterical applause from 200,000 Berliners, eager for subsequent free music and beer, he prances home, convinced that this was a success rather than an Apollonian trap.

Meanwhile an Ethel in Tulare turns on the TV and sees thousands of Europeans (who habitually make fun of her country) applaud Obama—and makes the logical assumption that they apparently think he is one of them, rather than one of us.

Next, drunk with pride, Obama thinks that such a losing paradigm (again, really a warning from the gods) apparently was not only successful, but will work again in Denver. So he transfers his speech to an outdoor forum, where tens of thousands of raving fans can watch him apotheosize in front of a faux Doric temple and accept nomination.

Isn’t there one sane person on his staff who can stop this divine madness, a single henchman who can whisper in his ear as puts on his golden crown not Vero possumus (“Yes! We can!”), but as was true of returning heroes during  Roman Triumphs—”Respica te, hominem te memento” (“Watch behind you; remember you’re just a man!”)?

The Democratic Ball and Chain

Many readers have written asking why I have given up on the presently constituted Democratic party, at least at the national level (I vote consistently for my local Democratic Congressman Jim Costa). I think a lot of us might call it the ball and chain effect.

There was a time when Republicans were weighed down with a lunatic fringe. I remember as a boy those pink letter-ads that would arrive in the mail, listing prominent Americans from Earl Warren to George Marshall as “reds” and “commies.” The poor Republicans had to deal with John Birchers who were convinced fluoride was a communist plot to sterilize, a la Dr. Strangelove, virile American males. And while the Democratic South was the bastion of Jim Crow, there was a live and let live attitude on the part of too many Republicans about matters of racial separatism that hurt the Party of Lincoln.

But now it is the Democratic Party that drags around a clanky, rusty ball and chain. Ayers and Rev. Wright are typical, not exceptional, furniture in the left-wing study of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton hugs the race-hustler Al Sharpton who was deeply involved in lies, riot, and racism. The vicious Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore, just a few years ago, were courted by Democratic politicians as useful idiots to bash George Bush. And so on.

Why wouldn’t Obama have problems?

We are surprised that Obama, in an ideal Democratic year, is running neck and neck? But why so?

The man has only three years of experience in the Senate; yet in that brief window he has managed to be acclaimed its most liberal member. Every northern liberal—Humphrey, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry—since the centrist JFK simply has not won general elections. Now Obama, who only shed Ayers and Wright when forced to by popular outrage, has picked whom?

Yes, another northern liberal with the third-most liberal ranking in the Senate. Neither can appeal to red-staters on the basis of centrist positions, or past military service (I think this is the first election that a Democratic ticket did not have either a President or Vice President that had been in the armed services, at least since the 1940 ticket of Roosevelt and Wallace ; compare the heroic service of a George McGovern or Lloyd Bentsen), or executive experience in the business world or as a governor. Given all that, it is surprising not that Obama has not capitalized on a Democratic year, but rather has not already blown it altogether. Bottom line: what got Obama here was fluff; apparently what must finish the race is not more fluff; ergo…?

Obama’s Dilemma

Obama now has hinted that he won’t hope and change his acceptance speech (a sort of damning admission ipso facto that his prior fluffy orations were, well, fluffy). But the problem is that ‘hope and change’, the teleprompter, and the Rev. Wright cadence, mixed up with white guilt, African-American pride, and weariness with the Clintons got him here. If he is wonkish, then he is not different from better informed wonks in his party; if he is an attack dog, then he is not the transcendent healer; the Clintons are gone (but not forgotten). In other words, to win Obama must do something unaccustomed to what got him here. He may, but I suspect he won’t and will instead sound like a saner John Edwards.

I was watching Sen. Obama speak on the stump the other day. After the hope and change mantra, he walked around the stage, unsure, and with Dan Quayle’s cartoonist spiraling eyes. The audience was baffled, a sort of collective quiet ensued: “You mean this is what all that uproar was about?”

Stanley Kurtz

I was surprised to see the Obama people call Stanley Kurtz “a slimy character assassin,” “smear merchant,” etc. for trying to figure out exactly what former terrorist Bill Ayers and Barack Obama were doing in their tandem distribution of foundation monies to various community action groups. Chicago’s Milt Rosenberg evening radio program is hardly a forum for extremism, but a reflective evening of cultural discussion. The very notion that a Presidential candidate’s staff would urge his supporters to call a radio show and disrupt and complain about a guest is Orwellian.

I know and respect Stanley Kurtz. He has a Harvard PhD in anthropology and is a meticulous scholar and a soft-spoken, circumspect journalist. He is engaged in legitimate inquiry and trying to find textual support for a nebulous relationship involving the possible next President. Obama should welcome the scrutiny, urge full release of the archives, and then in a professional manner seek to refute Stanley’s conclusions. Their present reaction is not merely shameful, but will prove counter-productive.