Sunday, June 03, 2007

None Dare Call It Reason

Ideally we would all readily agree with Eugene Robinson's plea for a return to at least some semblance of intellectualism in politics:

I want the next president to be intellectually curious -- and also intellectually honest. I want him or her to understand the details, not just the big picture. I won't complain if the next president occasionally uses a word I have to look up.

The conventional wisdom says that voters are turned off when candidates put on showy displays of highfalutin brilliance. I hope that's wrong. I hope people understand how complicated and difficult the next president's job will be, and how much of a difference some real candlepower would make.

I don't want the candidates to pretend to be average people, because why would we choose an ordinary person for such an extraordinary job?

Sounds good, but there are too many handy examples that still indicate something else:

Republican Fred Thompson, making his first appearance since his late entry into the 2008 White House race, criticized the immigration pact in Congress on Saturday and said the United States was battling threats from "forces of evil."

In a speech at a Virginia state party dinner, the conservative former Tennessee senator and Hollywood actor made only passing reference to his presidential ambitions but took a jab at Democrats while praising limited government and lower taxes.


"This is a battle between the forces of civilization and the forces of evil and we've got to choose sides," Thompson said.


He won a standing ovation from the dinner crowd of more than 450 in Richmond with a call for stronger borders and an attack on the immigration compromise pending in Congress, and backed by President George W. Bush, that would give 12 million illegal immigrants a shot at citizenship.

"This is our home and we get to decide who can come into our home," he said.

He said Washington's partisan politics had bred cynicism about government and there was a "disconnect" between Washington politicians and Americans.

Thompson, a supporter of the Iraq war, also criticized the Democratic-controlled Congress for its debate on bills that would set withdrawal deadlines and timetables for U.S. troops in Iraq.

"The only real debate going on in Congress is what our surrender date is going to be," he said. "This is what passes for policy in the Democratic Party."

Thompson's only reference to his White House run was an aside after saying Republicans were on a comeback that would take "us" to the White House. He explained to laughter that the us meant "Republicans collectively."

Oh ho ho, he got us there, boy. The logical incoherence of that last bit seems lost on Thompson and his audience -- if you have one of your own party in the White House, and he's been there wasting oxygen for six years already, how would that be a "comeback" that would "take" (as in, presumably, a return to or reclaiming of after being away from) that office? What the hell is wrong with these people, really?

The rest of it is all so pat and predictable. Peel away Reg'lar Guy Fred's rote surrender-monkey one-liners and the manichean boilerplate, and whaddya got? Well, you got the classical definition of insanity -- doing the same thing over and over again, and somehow expecting a different result. Fact: even many self-described conservative Republicans concede that what we've been doing has not worked, will not work, can not work. Fact: Fred Thompson wants to continue the current policy. Why? Same reason Bush wants to continue the current policy -- because he says it must work.

That's what Eugene Robinson's sensible plea for a return to reason and logic is up against -- insane tautologies of paternalism and reassurance. Hopefully he's right, that more and more of us are on our way back to being responsible stewards of rational self-governance, because there's still a lot of folks that are just looking for their daddies to tell them what to do and chase the boogeymans from under their beds, at all costs.


Ripley said...

I keep thinking I'd like to hear one candidate, or any number of them, simply come out and say:

"Yes, I'm smarter than George W. Bush and I'll be a more competent and honest leader."

That should be - should be - a gimme for the Dem candidates. But I'd love to hear a reporter ask a Repub candidate if they'll do a better job than Bush and his "administration" have sold us.

But what about Issue X???

"I'm smarter than George W. Bush and I'll be a more competent and honest leader."

I suppose that would be incivil, though. Heavens to cornflakes!

Another nice one, brother.

Heywood J. said...

Thanks, Rip. And you're right -- something like this should be a no-brainer (pun intended) for the Dems. But they're clearly still gun-shy, still cowed by that wide streak of yahooism that runs through American political discourse. And the "objective" media are never going to help them.

It's an uphill struggle, because it requires changing the entire mode of discussion from the short, memorable, repetitive sound barks that actually mean very little. And since the media themselves are invested merely in horse-race coverage, they're content to wrap themselves up in the cover of "civility", where as long as people don't use naughty words, they can endorse the most despicable things.

Cindy Sheehan was right -- a country that pays more attention to who's winning American Idolt than to anything important is a country that is blind to its impending demise as a functioning entity.