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Doing Penance

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.