May 5, 2008
NYT: Leadership and Patriotism Merely "Symbolic" "Distractions" From the Issues
Here is a fascinating (and betimes repellent) glimpse inside the liberal mindset, where a "distraction from the real issues" is any ground on which the Democrat in question doesn't want to fight.
Yesterday, the New York Times published another of its unbiased, nonpartisan analyses of the race; oddly, it turns out that Democrats are fighting on important issues (like gasoline prices -- what is Obama going to do, impose price controls?)... while Republicans are squabbling over irrational, distracting, and "symbolic" issues -- leadership, character, patriotism, and the candidates' visions of a future America:
Sometimes, as Senator Barack Obama seemed to argue earlier this year, a flag pin is just a flag pin.
But it can never be that simple for anyone with direct experience of the 1988 presidential campaign. That year, the Republicans used the symbols of nationhood (notably, whether schoolchildren should be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance) to bludgeon the Democrats, challenge their patriotism and utterly redefine their nominee, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts.
The memory of that campaign -- reinforced, for many, by the attacks on Senator John Kerry’s Vietnam war record in the 2004 election -- haunts Democrats of a certain generation.
And by the way, Barack Obama is now playing the race card. I know this comes as a great shock to readers here, who never thought that the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy -- and a Democrat! -- would ever use his race as an issue in the campaign. I mean, that’s a storybook, man. But there he goes again:
Mr. Obama himself seemed chastened by the re-emergence of the old politics last week. “Let’s be honest,” he said in an interview on NBC. “You know, here I am, an African-American named Barack Obama who’s running for president. I mean, that’s a leap for folks. And I think it’s understandable that my political opponents would say, ‘You know, he’s different. He’s odd. He’s sort of unfamiliar. And what do we know about him?’ ”
Note that he didn't try to demonstrate any actual racism directed against him; he flings the inuendo of bigotry while taking constant refuge within real bigotry, as with his twenty-year flirtation with the race-baiting Jeremiah Wright. It's as if racism has no inherent evil but is freely available for anyone to use as a weapon against the Right ("any stick to bash a conservative"). Consider this a preview; we'll come back to this later, when it will become the central point.
What fascinates me is that Democrats still don't understand the whole "values" thing; and I begin to believe that, like eunuchs in a seraglio, they're aware of something wonderful going on, but they're unequipped by their natures to participate.
Like George H.W. Bush and the "vision thing," that failure to understand speaks volumes, saying more about the unacceptability of Democrats in a time of war than any policy dispute their political opponents can raise. Consider this, the heart of what drew me to this Times story in the first place:
But David Axelrod, chief strategist to Mr. Obama, argues that any Democratic nominee will be subject to the same withering attacks on values and character.
Character, of course, is a moral value; it includes such "symbolic" elements as courage, honesty, loyalty, patriotism, civility, constancy, and -- wait, what is that again? oh yeah -- leadership. Democrats still can't wrap their brain lobes around the fact that the American people consistently elect their president based on these "symbols," rather than on the "plan" that the "man" (or woman) enunciates.
Perhaps it would penetrate if we noted that absent those seven deadly virtues above, it's impossible to know whether the man will actually implement the plan... or will change his mind, lie to his constituents, and do something completely different once elected.
Remember this? Bill Clinton ran, among other platform planks, on fully integrating gays into the military; it was, he said several times, going to be his "first executive order." But once elected, the Democratic Congress turned truculent on gays. So without a second thought, Clinton dropped the whole issue like a wad of used Kleenex
It makes no difference whether you agree or disagree with the policy. The point is that character matters a great deal more than any particular "issue." Those who voted for Clinton because he had "the plan" they liked, and who were angry and impatient with anyone who questioned his character, got the shock of their lives when "the plan" went straight into the can:
- He ran as a moderate charter member of the Democratic Leadership Council, but immediately turned hard left; then after the 1994 elections handed Congress to the Republicans, Clinton made another U-turn to start "triangulating" on issues such as welfare and taxes. This is inconstancy.
- He threw a bunch of Army Rangers into Somalia, vowing to track down Mohamed Farrah Aidid and bring him to justice (Operation Gothic Serpent); but when a couple of Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 Rangers killed in the subsequent battle -- and even though they killed about 700 Somali militiamen -- Clinton nevertheless panicked and yanked out the troops; this demonstrates a distinct lack of courage.
- He denied the accusations of having an affair with Monica Lewinsky (in the Oval Office of the White House -- rather, the small working vestibule off of the Oval Office) and even sent surrogates out to the talk shows to insist it was all a GOP hit job on him. He detailed Hillary Clinton to declare it a "vast right-wing conspiracy." Then, when the blue dress was produced, he almost casually did another about-face, admitting everything (including the lies)... leaving all his sock puppets looking like liars and fools (including Mrs. Rodham Clinton Rodham). Thus his basic dishonesty.
One of the most gifted politicians of the post-World War II era did himself in by his own colossal narcissism, dishonesty, and other character flaws. One would think, given this example, even Democrats would understand why character is not just a "distraction," and values are not just "symbolic" issues.
Yet evidently not; they still don't get it... and I believe this stems from the very character flaws that led them to liberalism in the first place: moral vacuity, nihilism, and terminal egoism.
This isn't the 1930s, 40s, or even early 60s, and today's liberals didn't become so in response to Jim Crow, Joseph McCarthy, or the Great Depression. The most seminal influence on their political walkabout was the rioting and unrest of the late 60s and early 70s. Their heroes were the overeducated, overfed, and overly pampered ersatz "revolutionaries" of that era. Their heroes were those:
- Who zealously took up the Red crusade to create the New Socialist Man;
- Who spouted the jingoisms of America's enemies during the Vietnam War;
- Who accused America of being the biggest terrorist and war criminal in the world;
- Who didn't want to save the environment for people, but rather from people;
- Who demanded that we fight "racism" (meaning the bad life decisions made by people of "protected" racial groups) by instituting even more racism;
- Who preached that whites were racially guilty, males were sexually guilty, and ordinary, middle-class people had stolen everything they had from the poor, from minorities, and from "Native Americans;"
- And who never saw a problem they didn't want to politicize and turn into a statist grab.
These are the saints of contemporary left-liberaldom: Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Bernadine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, Andrea Dworkin, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Malcolm X, Russell Means, and "Field Marshal Cinque" of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
Their contemporary followers are neither so grandiose nor as infamous; in fact, they are rather squalid: Markos Moulitsas, Keith Olbermann, Sean Penn, Janeane Garofalo, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee, Ward Churchill, and Eli Pariser of MoveOn.org. Their worldview is likewise squalid, unimaginative, concrete-bound, and transcendentally narcissistic. David Axelrod -- chief "strategist" to Obama, remember him? -- continues, with an interpretive assist from Times reporter Robin Toner:
“The question,” Mr. Axelrod said, “is whether given the abysmal state of our economy, given the war, given all the challenges that people sense we face that have led George Bush to have the lowest rating ever, do you believe that voters are going to be distracted from the fundamental need for change? I think the answer to that is no.”
In fact, as Mr. Axelrod suggests, these are very different times.
Twenty years ago, the nation was in an era of comparative peace and prosperity; a sense of crisis did not hang over the election [I reckon the imminent collapse of the evil empire doesn't count]. Today, with the war in Iraq in its sixth year and the economy stumbling, more than 8 in 10 Americans say the country is on the wrong track. A new generation of voters have entered the electorate, who may not be as susceptible to values issues.
In such a climate, it would presumably be far more difficult than in 1988 to keep the campaign focused on symbolic, values-related issues, or matters of personality.
Honesty, courage, loyalty, patriotism, civility, constancy, and leadership -- just "matters of personality." A belief in freedom, personal responsibility for one's own life, Capitalism, rugged individualism, the unique greatness of America... just "values-related issues."
Some people are tone deaf; they literally cannot distinguish one melody from another or from a random collection of notes. Contemporary liberals are values-deaf -- they cannot distinguish virtues from vices, their only principle is expediency, and they imagine that any grab-bag of disconnected "issues" constitutes a "political philosophy."
Thus, they fly into a rage whenever Republicans or conservative, the elite media, or the people themselves begin questioning them about "distractions" from the "real issues," distractions like Hillary Clinton's fundamental dishonesty or Barack Obama's appallingly bad judgment and almost belligerent vagueness... from the complete lack of a real vision for America that both Democrats share. (According to the Times: "Mr. Obama rose to national prominence largely on the basis of his oratorical skills, and has never been accused of lacking vision!")
To leftists, American values have no intrinsic worth or meaning. The only function of such "symbolic" issues is to bludgeon the enemies of contemporary liberalism. For example, the New York Times falsely accused John McCain of adultery in February of this year, made no attempt to back it up, and refused to make a correction when the charge fell apart. Yet have they ever been concerned about such "distractions" when the accused was a Democrat? To paraphrase Tim Rice, lyricist of Jesus Christ, Superstar, "What is this new respect for marriage? Till now this has been noticibly lacking!"
Liberals fling accusations of sin and corruption the way monkeys fling poo at rival tribes... as a smelly missile weapon that actually came from themselves, not the target.
So the next time some progressive New Leftist works himself into a lather about the "distractions" of "symbolic, values-related issues" -- followed immediately by an attack on the character of the nearest conservative -- give him a banana, and maybe he'll go away.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 5, 2008, at the time of 4:46 PM
TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/2993
The following hissed in response by: hunter
When the NYT is not willfully lying, they are merely feckless and out of touch.
The following hissed in response by: eliXelx
"It makes no difference whether you agree or disagree with the policy. The point is that character matters a great deal more than any particular "issue." Daffydd Ab Hugh
Well, well! What happened to the endlessly looped Mantra of "McCain-Feingold" "Mccain-Lieberman" "Keating 5" and all those fantastic particular issues that made you swear you'd never vote for Mccain?
Welcome to the World, Daffydd. You've grown up! Mubarak!
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
Well, well! What happened to the endlessly looped Mantra of "McCain-Feingold" "Mccain-Lieberman" "Keating 5" and all those fantastic particular issues that made you swear you'd never vote for Mccain?
EliXelx, you creep perilously close to outright fabrication about the site owners; I considered simply deleting your comment, but I concluded instead that you should be corrected... this time:
- You are well aware that I never said I would "never vote for McCain;" you simply made that up. In fact, I have said all along that, while I liked Romney's policy ideas better on all issues but the Iraq war and immigration, I would certainly vote for John McCain were he nominated.
- You truly make a fool of yourself when you falsely claim I denounced "McCain-Lieberman" -- meaning the carbon cap-and-trade bill sponsored by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman. Not only have I never denounced it, I don't believe I've even mentioned it.
I am completely neutral on the idea, not having enough information to guess whether it would work.
- And I notice you forbore saying even a word about McCain's signature proposal: an illegal immigration bill that would strengthen the border, set up a guest-worker program, create a path to citizenship for illegally resident aliens, and reform the legal immigration system to be more biased towards immigrants who are more American in attitude.
There is a good reason you let this one slide down the memory hole: because you are very much aware that I strongly support that bill... in fact, I championed it here on Big Lizards many times, running the risk of alienating my more conservative readers.
EliXelx, you play a buffoon long enough, and the red rubber nose, the greasepaint, and the size 48 shoes will stick to your flesh and become assimilated. You'll go through the rest of your days honking horns and riding around in a clown-car with 40 other McCainiacs.
You do far more harm than good to John McCain's cause than good with your snide antics. What was the purpose of your comment? Even allowing you the benefit of the doubt that perhaps you had forgotten how even-handed I have been with McCain in the past, you must be aware that I am certainly trumpeting his virtues now that he is the de facto Republican nominee.
Therefore, the first thing that popped onto your "to do" list was to attack me and try to drive me towards opposing John McCain. It must be a sickening feeling to know that if your hero, McCain, were aware of what you were doing -- he would denounce you as an agent provocateur working for the Democrats.
You need to sit down, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if life might be happier were you not so angry all the time. Not everybody is out to get you... yet; but you're rapidly making it so.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at May 6, 2008 6:24 AM
The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist
WOW!!! Great post! You've put into words what I had been thinking, but could not express. Values do matter, and as you point out that without them the electorate does not know what they will get in a candidate.
Problem is, in this election, we see that a large portion of the electorate lacks honesty, courage, loyalty, patriotism, civility, constancy, and leadership…heck, just look at the two Democratic candidates chosen by the leftists. Such choices have even divided their own party into ‘two-camps’ of hatred…with the ‘Obama-camp’ being the worse of the two.
Hillary we knew about, but Obama was never even vetted!? Fortunately, for America, the Reverend Wright shows up, reflecting a racist side of America that many/most Americans didn’t even know about. Obama’s words of “uniting the country” ring hollow when one looks at what is going on in the Democratic Party right now. Just imagine the division now at the Trinity United Church of Christ…
I just checked out the Trinity United Church of Christ’s website…Wright is still listed as the Pastor. Was his sudden “retirement” just a ruse to cover for Obama, or is the webmaster just this slow in updating the website? Well (after checking closer), under Pastoral Staff, it does add:
Rev. Otis Moss, III currently serves as Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.
Anyway, I don’t plan on “uniting” with any side that basically advocates for the destruction of America. America has enough problems as it is, after having shifted even further to the ‘Left’ (again!) over the past decade or so, and the biggest problem is the electorate…just look at the elected Congress.
The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist at May 6, 2008 7:16 AM
The following hissed in response by: AMR
As one of your more conservative readers, I thought EliXelx was off base. I disagree with you at times, but you do give such logical, and many times funny, posts outlining your positions. I too was not a McCain supporter and was against McCain-Feingold AND McCain-Kennedy. I tended toward Romney too,before Thompson entered the race. I was against McCain-Kennedy because it was not placing border security first and the rest to follow; bad memories of the 1986 amnesty on my part.
Just a small point: Mr. Axelrod’s statement was, I believe wrong, , Harry Truman had a somewhat lower approval rating than President Bush. President Truman – 22% (modern-us-history.suite101.com/article.cfm/trumans_numbers_hit_a_new_low). Mr. Bush per Gallup was 28% in April but 22% by the American Research Group (americanresearchgroup.com/economy); Mr. Truman is now however considered one of the better modern presidents, of which I concur even though he was a Democrat.
The above hissed in response by: AMR at May 6, 2008 7:43 AM
The following hissed in response by: Geoman
Excellent post, perhaps one of your best.
"American values have no intrinsic worth or meaning." I would say that to most Democrats, words have no intrinsic value and meaning. This makes it possible to challenge things like the meaning of the word "is". To throw about vague charges of this and that. To pretend that even innocent questions are a challenge to their patriotism, or racist, etc. Words are just a tool to get elected for liberals.
Liberals say one thing, while they wink and nudge their followers. Obama was angry at Rev. Wright mostly for one statement: "I do what I do. He does what politicians do." The truth laid bare. It is all just words, words, words.
Yet the oddity is it is their own disdain for words that drives our desire for more intangible symbols of their beliefs. Any Democrat will say he is patriotic, but if he won't wear the flag pin...well... Past and on-going demagoguery by the left is why these symbols matter to most people.
In answer to Axelrod - symbols matter because words don't. Words don't matter because liberals have diligently worked to make them irrelevant.
"When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain."
The following hissed in response by: MTF
At the very least this post should be developed into an essay in National Review or City Journal, so as to become more visible to the self-important lefties. You'll see an explosion of evil hand-wringing dislike sent your way to end all explosions!
In other words, great essay. Thanks!
The following hissed in response by: leftnomore
With the exception of your campaign against Mr. Stein, I would hope this site be read by every American registering a 98.6 temperature (or IQ).
I concur with you on the commentator who accused you of McCain hate-- he's confusing you with someone else. Democrats are infiltrating our blogs and leaving continuous anti-McCain comments, trying to give the impression that no Republican would ever support him. Unfortunately, it has damaged his name among those who need to support this candidate.
Keep up the good work... maybe someone NOT in the "choir" will read and be prompted to think for a change.
Hmm, McCain's new slogan: "Think for a Change"?
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