Work and Days

Doing Penance

Words and Deeds?

This is a very strange time, in which loud public protestations of liberal morality are supposed to suspend memory itself-and override all past and current behavior.

We are in a sort of medieval mode in which the suspect wine-bibbing, fornicating priest cleverly launches a general inquisition against the use of alcohol and sex to escape scrutiny. As a general rule of thumb, the more one hears or reads about a fanatically angry official or pundit on a moral crusade, the more likely they were involved in just the sort of behavior they are railing against. We saw this on the Republican side with a Larry Craig, Duke Cunningham, and Mark Foley, but the liberal establishment has taken it to new heights.

You Don’t say?

We were going to get a liberal pantheon of financial and political pros savvy enough to raise taxes on the demonized “them” and get us out of the mess. So they zeroed in on that damnable elite, the top 5% who supposedly got away with murder. An entire vocabulary of abuse was aimed at the entrepreneurial and technocratic class. Who then stepped up to the plate to run the new high-tax-collecting Treasury Department? Timothy Geithner, high-salaried member of the very class he was to target, who not only took dubious write-offs on his own taxes, but pocketed for himself the very pre-alloted funds that were paid by his employer for his own FICA contributions.


Tom Daschle was supposed to run a gargantuan HHS Department whose directive was to help provide services for the less privileged, who suffered so under the elitist Bush administration. He eagerly lobbied for the job- despite his own tastes for private limousine service paid for by rich associates and never reported as income to the government. Rule? The more DC officials like limousines, the more likely they like the poor.

No Geneva Convention For You!

Attorney General Eric Holder supposedly was going to reexamine Bush-administration lawyers to find out whether they committed impropriety by their recommendations at Guantanamo. Yet Mr. Holder in 2002 publicly went on record with CNN to defend Guantanamo-and, well beyond that, by arguing that the detainees could both be held indefinitely and were not subject to the Geneva Convention. (But then 2002 was when the Bush administration was highly praised for keeping us safe when the Buffalo Six, Bali, John Lee Mohammed, Jose Padilla, the Chechnyan hostage taking, the intifada, the Indian parliament attack, etc. made it look like Islamic lunacy was unstoppable worldwide)

Waterboarding? What waterboarding?

Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller, Charles Schumer and other noteworthies after the November election were apparently eager to review the past Bush anti-terrorism record, and dredge up for political purposes supposed proof of near criminal activity. But did they ever think that a poor CIA agent who briefed Pelosi and Rockefeller about “enhanced interrogation techniques” would remain silent in the face of such contortion and reinvention? Did Sen. Schumer not remember that he is on tape warning his colleagues about the need to have a resort to such harsh techniques in times of national crisis?

Damned Advocates of Violence and Deception

Much of the furor over the interrogations in the blogosphere is vented by one moralist Andrew Sullivan. But Mr. Sullivan himself once went way beyond advocacy for the Iraq war. He accused Bush II of softness in his apparent hesitation about invading Iraq, warning him not to revert to his father’s squishiness. When the anthrax letters surfaced, Sullivan contemplated the possible use of nuclear weapons in retaliation. He fanned rumors that Gov. Palin’s latest pregnancy was actually faked, the Down’s Syndrome child  supposedly delivered by her own daughter, a slur that was as unfounded as it was cruel-and ironic given the deception of Mr. Sullivan’s own past personal sexual scandals that entered the public domain.

We Won It, You Lost It

A book could be written on the Democratic Senators who gave impassioned speeches in October 2002 right before the November election (my favorite is Harry Reid’s) to go into Iraq, juxtaposed with the later even more impassioned speeches damning the Bush administration for doing so. A bigger book could be written on those experts and pundits who called for a preemptive attack on Saddam (some going back to the Clinton era in 1998), collated with their equally furious attacks on those who took them at their word and actually did so.

Money Really Is Green

Al Gore is angry at the recent Cheney appearances. Fair enough-but oddly he objects to the idea of a Vice President emeritus entering the public fray. But if anyone were to collate Cheney’s public appearances with Al Gore’s frenzied attacks against Bush in 2002-3-when he almost seemed rabid in front of the cameras, screaming slurs and accusations of lying-then Cheney seems the paragon of sobriety. Meanwhile the media suggests at every occasion that Cheney was a Halliburton pawn, but I would be willing to bet that the net worth of Al Gore from his various entrepreneurial activities, meshed with and predicated upon his vehement advocacy of global warming and substantial government contacts and relationships, have made Gore both the wealthier man, and the more ethically suspect. After all, he wants the nation to embark on a radical agenda of green promotion-which thus far has turned Gore into a capitalist worth over $100 million. 

We’re All Renters Now

Barney Frank recently lectured on the need to remind Americans that not all of us can own homes, and warned that the efforts to put the unqualified into them can jeopardize the financial system. Naturally, then, we knew that Mr. Frank himself was not long ago on various video tapes fulminating to get Freddie and Fannie to make shaky loans to shakier applicants, a fraud that jump-started the entire September financial collapse.

Bush Made Me Do It

(I’ll pass on the strident anti-Bush 2002-2007 speeches by Barrack Obama on the cruelty and illegality of Iraq, Predator attacks into Pakistan, renditions, military tribunals, the Patriot Act, wiretaps of phone calls, and email intercepts-and both the present anti-terrorism policies of now President Obama, as well as his ongoing, serial pejorative references to those who created them. Let it be said only that Barack Obama is not going to let his Presidency be wrecked by the loud, unserious soapbox advocacy that Barack Obama used to excel at).



Casting Stones

 I am sure that Mr. Daschle gets around Washington more expeditiously to help others through the use of limos. Mr. Geithner is working hard to finance the government, and understandably forgot we must pay Social Security taxes. Mr. Holder can explore legitimate questions about the pros and cons of waterboarding in 2002. The Democratic Senators may now be making legitimate requests about such activity. Mr. Sullivan may rightly raise points about the illegality of these cases of torture. Al Gore may do some good in warning about climate change. And Barney Frank now may be right to suggest renting is preferable to buying for many. Perhaps Barack Obama believes that tribunals and rendition are as necessary now as he once thought them proof of Bush’s sinister nature.

But the problem is not that we all can change our minds as events change, or that acts sometimes are at odds with words. Rather the rub is the vehemence in which views are expressed-and for some, the propensity to slur and slander others, and the readiness even to call for criminal penalties. Once that extremism, fueled by self-righteousness, begins, we rightly suspect the virulence comes not just from the issue in question, but rather from some deep psychological desire for penance, to expiate one’s own past sins by finding their new counterparts in others.