Saturday, January 13, 2007


So Crunchy Con Man Rod Dreher has had his come-to-Jeebus moment on NPR, much to the doughy chagrin of Monsieur Pantload:

You'll actually have to go there to hear him 'cause I'm not going to type up his comments. I can't fault Rod for his frustration with the war, though I think he comes across as pretty anti-intellectual and unfair in his tirade — as if there was no good faith or no good arguments for the positions he once held and which lots of folks he respects still hold. I should also say that the comparison to Jimmy Carter is really quite weak. Simply because Carter's feckless foreign policy and Bush's over confident foreign policy elicited similar feelings in Rod doesn't mean that they can be glibly equated. Indeed, even if the result of Bush's foreign policy has had the consequence of projecting an image of weakness around the globe as Rod asserts, that doesn't mean they are similar foreign policies. They do come from very different impulses, I think everyone can agree.

Likewise, simply because Rod has the same feelings as hippies that doesn't mean the hippies were right then (or that Rod is right now). In short, there's a lot of talk about feelings.

He actually has some correct points here -- Carter and Bush, while both being tragically ineffective foreign policy presidents, arrived at their destinations by much different paths, obviously. And Dreher's hippie-based epiphany does not, in and of itself, assert some amazing prescience to hippies per se. If anything, Dreher's being passive-aggressive in his hippie props here, implying that the people who took a principled anti-war stance and stuck to it were dropping acid and forming daisy chains at The Presidio. It's a nonsensical assertion at best, as even the initial wave of anti-war sentiment had plenty of middle-class suburbia voicing its displeasure, when they had the time to get off the hamster wheel and say something. And at this point, even lifelong Republicans, even meat-and-potatoes veterans from the sanctified heartland, have had enough. Is Chuck Hagel a pussy or a hippie, if Pantload or Dreher say so?

This is less interesting in a pure political sense, because neither Dreher nor Goldberg has ever had anything truly insightful to say. Dreher is essentially a milquetoast cultural conservative, a Bobo Lite who fancies himself something of a Hank Hill character, moving out to the heartland because he thinks it's all Jesus and flag factories, and finding out the hard way that a lot of it is crank labs and high unemployment, people squatting in dirt plots with nothing but fear and desperation motivating them. So he's tried to cultivate some sort of spiritual trend among people who drive Hummers to megachurches, because they rilly rilly believe in cultivating a personal relationship with God, especially when He provides a Starbucks and a Dunkin Donuts in His house, as well as preacher with a headset mike and a 5000-watt PA system. Raise da roof in His name, yo!

Goldberg is....well, Goldberg -- intellectually sloth-like, to the point where he literally finishes the cover to his next book over a year before he starts writing the fucking thing. He is able to lob epithets at Carter's "feckless" foreign policy without batting an eyelash, apparently forgetting that the word not only means "feeble", but also "careless and irresponsible", like a certain brain surgeon we all know and loathe. So perhaps comparisons of Bush to Carter are not entirely inapt, considering that the end results meet much more than they diverge. Carter cost us prestige on the world stage, but for a lot less blood and treasure, if you want to be practically minded about it.

Which is where this little dance is particularly interesting, at least to me. Again, the political aspect of it is dry and predictable -- someone goes off the reservation; the remaining tribe members instantly find ways to either discredit him or downplay his apostasy. Nothing new to see there. But in the taxonomic, cultural anthropology sense, it is interesting. Actual conservatism used to be at least somewhat practically minded, even at the expense of idealism, not so long ago. Conventional wisdom presumes that 9/11 presented an existential necessity in which conservatism was forced to morph into interventionism, if not actual idealism.

This is flat-out untrue; the pieces were in play long before 9/11. Conservatism did not morph so much as get marginalized by the Gingrich revolutionaries, who subverted and commandeered cultural tropes and semiotic benchmarks to grab power and assert dominance. These people are not conservatives, they are authoritarians. They are pushing power in the guise of idealism, which would be anathema to an old-school conservative. Instead it is interventionism, endless adventurism, wrapped in heuristic affirmations of the people on whose backs their own jihad is waged.

Dreher's instincts, however he arrived at them, are correct. It's not about whether "hippies" were right or wrong, nor "liberals", nor "conservatives", nor the useless pod-people who pretend to be conservatives. Dreher has finally come to the fundamental realization that Bush can not be trusted. That he took six years to figure that out is no feather in his intemellectual cap, but better late than never. Goldbleg's continued employment, on the other hand, apparently depends on his never understanding such an obvious fact. When Bush doubles down in another few months and decides to expand the war to Damascus and Tehran, indiscriminately ending thousands of lives with air strikes and "tactical" nukes, he will find an excuse. That's what he does; that's all he does. But if he thinks that merely being wrong for all the "right" reasons somehow absolves him from taking responsibility for what he tacitly and explicitly endorses -- always at the price of someone else's skin, never his own -- then he's simply compounded his own moral dilemma.

Politicians, and the puling scriveners who follow them around and lionize them uncritically, are an odd lot in terms of accountability. In what other jobs can you be so consistently, tragically wrong, and still be handsomely rewarded?

1 comment:

Joe Blow said...

"Carter cost us prestige on the world stage"


Carter came up with the concept of "Human Rights" which turned the tables on the communist insurgencies by saying that the US would NOT always support the worst tin-horn dictator that came down the pike but would ACTUALLY HELP people form their own democratic and representative governments.

Before that if you were a freedom-fighter, you had an AK47 and a soviet advisor and/or cuban troops.

It did help, really. and don't forget ANWR.