August 3, 2010 - July 27, 2010
. The Corner is pointing somewhat happily at a Wall
Street Journal op-ed by Patrick Caddell and Doug Schoen. It's
worth reading because they take Obama to task for being the petty
divider he is. By all means read it and then wait for the public
stoning they'll be subjected to by the administration. But narrow
I am, I want
to take issue with one lefty shibboleth they smuggled into their piece:
This is nonsense. In both cases actually, but more particularly in the
case of George W. Bush. It's been forgotten over the years, but Nixon
drew up an enemies list because he had enemies. He hated the press
because the press hated him and ultimately they succeeded in bringing
him down. As
president, he was in fact a moderate, desperately anxious to please the
voters with nary a nod to ideology. He imposed wage-and-price controls,
for God's sake, in a speech that included the rueful comment, "I am now
Nixon did other things that appalled conservatives. He recognized Red China and laughed it up with Mao, the greatest mass murderer of the twentieth century. He ended the Vietnam War, concluding what amounted to surrender in a war he did not start. (What's not to like about that, Democrats?) He also did a lot of noncontroversial things that were aimed far more at unifying than dividing the nation. He appeared on the most irreverent comedy show ever, Laugh-in, and he had his most personally popular moment ever when Sammy Davis, Jr., spontaneously hugged him at a concert in the White House. But it bought him nothing. The press had a grudge against him dating back to his days as a congressman on the House Un-American Activities Committee, and they succeeded in provoking the paranoia that led to his self-destruction. What's been lost in the history is that he won reelection by a staggeringly huge landslide. The American people had accepted him. It was the liberal establishment that didn't. Interestingly, given the mantra during the Clinton impeachment melodrama, no one at the time suggested that partisans were trying to "undo the election of a president by the American people." Not even Republicans.
I'm not carrying a brief for Richard Nixon. I didn't like him because he wasn't a conservative, because he pandered to the middle. But facts are facts and shouldn't be falsified for contemporary purposes. I talk about Nixon because the experience of George W. Bush is parallel in one highly significant respect. From Day One, the liberal establishment hated him and conspired to destroy him, politically and personally. But unlike Nixon, Bush never took the bait. His administration is remarkable, particularly in light of Obama's performance in the first third of his first term, for a long list of "Didn'ts." He didn't single out individual reporters, commentators, or networks for presidential rebukes. He didn't blame his predecessor for anything he inherited, including the Clinton administration's hands-off approach to al qaida. He didn't sneer at individual segments of the American public he thought were greedy, corrupt, or disrespectful to his awesomeness. He didn't haunt the popular media to play star or celebrity in a culture where that has become the currency of approval and acceptance. He didn't brand his critics as ideologues, bigots, or haters of any sort, though they clearly were. He didn't fire members of his administration because they got some bad press in the 24/7 news cycle. He diidn't use his bully pulpit to bash individual senators, congressmen, or the Supreme Court. He didn't abandon his campaign promise to be "a uniter rather than a divider"; he never spoke in any other terms than as president of the American people, all of them. His administration was divisive because his enemies had, if not the bigger megaphone, the one that was used to the maximum, unrelentingly, unscrupulously, and unbelievably viciously.
The truth is, Bush would have been more successful if he had done some of these things. But to call him "divisive" because so many people hated him so irrationally is typical liberal misdirection. Caddell and Schoen are still trying to save the Obama administration. However sneakily, this column is yet another "Blame Bush" variation. Obama hasn't yet fixed what George Bush wrought. Bullshit. Obama is divisive because he's a small-minded creep hunting down the tiniest of sleights in a media environment that loves the ground he walks on. Remember that.
Here's the real deal. Whether you're a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, President Obama wouldn't be in nearly as much trouble, regardless of his policies, if he were half the man George W. Bush was. And is. Note that Bush hasn't yet broken the obsolete presidential code of not publicly criticizing his successor. Divisive? Stick it up your ass, Caddell and Schoen. I'm not sure that we've ever had a more gracious president than George W. Bush.
. I just talked with an old friend of mine from
lives in Las Vegas now. I asked him if he misses the City of Brotherly
Love. I should mention that we have a lot in common. Both our dads were
WWII pilots, and both of them are now dead, along with our mothers.
We're also both exiles, of which there are two kinds in America. There
are those who leave their homeland never to return, and those who
become part of the population of what I call corporate ronin, those who
live where their companies insist they must. I was one of the latter,
and Rob is defiantly one of the former. I, of course, have returned to
the county of my birth and draw strength from that reestablishment of
my damaged roots. Which is why I asked Rob if he ever misses
"No," he said. "Not for a moment."
We talked. There are many reasons for his declaration. He once wrote a lovely and moving piece about Wanamaker's department store in Philadelphia at Christmastime. How I knew he was a writer. I said, "You don't miss even that." He said, "It's all gone, every bit of it."
It's true. Wanamaker's is gone. So is the Philadelphia of Rob's youth. "I used to be able to get on a train, trolley, or streetcar and go anywhere in the city. Would I let my daughter do that today? No way."
He has no more family in Philadelphia. All gone. But I'm thinking cheesesteaks, Tastycakes, Phillies, South Street, and Fairmount Park. "No. Nothing."
And I'm also thinking phony pyramids, ersatz Eiffel Tower, all the glitz and kitschy madness of Las Vegas. How can this be home?
You see, contrary to Thomas Wolfe's silly nostrum, I did go home again. I left the corporate rat-race to return to south Jersey, where I was born and grew up. The smell of salt marsh, the taste of sweet corn, the winding roads all called me back and I am at home again, under skies without streetlights and with stars that make me think of God.
Whereas my friend Rob is apparently content to live in Hell. In a trumped up cityscape of fake landmarks from across the world and the ages. A city full of cheap copies of accomplishments no one could credit as anything but bad 3-D Xeroxes of history.
Except. Except. Rob has a couple of things to say about that. He doesn't even see the buildings of Las Vegas. They're no more real to him than the climbing spires of Philadelphia now that it's no longer forbidden to build higher than Billy Penn's hat on City Hall. To Rob, buildings are just ephemera. What matters are the people and the opportunity. He's Jewish. And he's found a community in Las Vegas that represents the age-old Jewish response to antipathy: we're here for each other, and it really doesn't matter where we are. But it's more than that for Rob. He also sees the desert underneath Las Vegas. He's discovered that he's not so different from me. His real home is the kind of land he came from. My soul lives in the wetlands; his lives in the dusty heat.
Which makes the cities themselves irrelevant. Props. Phantasmagoria. The real story is, as always, human. Depending on who you are, Philadelphia is a good dream or a bad dream. Las Vegas the same. Do you get it yet? Rob thinks Las Vegas is Ayn Rand's paradise. Capitalism incarnate. He just isn't sure she'd make it there.
"If you don't have a sense of humor and if you can't adapt to people who disagree with you, that would be your finish. In Vegas."
So says Rob, a capitalist somehow still surviving in Las Vegas.
Well okay, it's not
quite like that* yet, but it never will be unless you get over to the new InstaPunk
commenter Null pointed out that we've done a poor job advertising the new forum's
So here are road signs & the neon lights and stuff. Right
here. And here
link to the forum, which is where you should go right now.
It's free to join. Yes, that means that when you register you have to deal with an annoying pop up once that wants your email address. But if you're not savvy enough to navigate through that then you're probably not reading this post, either, because it's likely that you've never heard of the internet. Apotheosis just gave it my email address instead of his, which is cool because I can never get enough Canadian Viagra, stock tips and $3 Rolexes.
Everyone's welcome, even people who majored in two useless things and don't know anything except how smart they are. Not that I can think of any examples of that off the top of my head. Just saying.
We're talking about lots of things. We're collaborating on putting together InstaPunk books. We're talking about Lost (even though everyone knows the proper subject is the superior superiority of Babylon 5). We're saying all sorts of awful, incendiary things we're not supposed to say about a certain religion of peace whose Prophet (PBUH) we're not allowed to call by name or draw pictures of because we might get beheaded or stabbed in the street. We're (sort of) telling InstaPunk what we want him to write about. We're ruminating about what's going to happen between November and 2012. And I'm trying to figure out if Eli was actually supposed to be blind, which I can't bring myself to believe, because that would be just plain silly, but nobody has given me any answers yet.
Which is where you come in. So why aren't you there yet? It'll be lots of fun until the Internet Neutrality Act or some other Obama hope'n'change reform shuts us down. Come join the discussion, start a new thread, or just be a silent lurker** and take notes for your upcoming grad school class on the Dangers of Unregulated Rightwing Internet Access. Hurry up and join. Here.
*I wanted to put a really cool picture like this up top (I don't even know what it is, but isn't it cool?). However, I know how the old man hates sci-fi, so I went a more hellishly traditional route instead.
**Just kidding. Don't be a lurker. Lurkers are pussies.