Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

When a cartoon of reality becomes a joke

Two of America’s best-known Republican intellectuals may have reached the outer reaches of their credibility. If they keep it up, we’ll start hearing branches falling off the GOP. Peggy Noonan whispered to Obama to hire a “special assistant for reality.” Saying:
“What a president should ideally have, and what I think we all agree Mr. Obama badly needs, is an assistant whose sole job it is to explain and interpret the American people to him. Presidents already have special assistants for domestic policy, for congressional relations and national security. Why not a special assistant for reality? Someone to translate the views of the people, and explain how they think. An advocate for the average, a representative for the normal, to the extent America does normal.”

Rehearsing for the job of second-guessing 536 elected representatives of the American people, she proceeds to explain the fuss at the airport. It’s that inner John Wayne, the muse of her speech-writing career for President Reagan. Savour this:
“John Wayne removes his boots and hat and puts his six-shooter on the belt, he gets through the scanner, and now he’s standing there and sees what’s being done to other people. A TSA guy is walking toward him, snapping his rubber gloves. Guy gets up close to Wayne, starts feeling his waist and hips. Wayne says, “Touch the jewels, Pilgrim, and I’ll knock you into tomorrow.”

Do normal Americans check in with their John Wayne fantasy when waiting at airports? Do frustrated, tired voters put their X compulsively beside the hardest ass on the ballot?
Are traditional American characteristics of practicality and respect for the complexity of modern life only alive amongst elites?
Charles Krauthammer, the Mars of conservative polemicists, probably doesn’t really care. His antagonism toward Obama seems existential; in serving it, he feels better. However, his screed, “The irrelevance of START,” baldy appeals to those who think telling Obama to “man up” is wit. Dismissing a treaty that would further shrink nuclear arsenals and resume mutual verification, he asserted:
“A nuclear exchange between Washington and Moscow is inconceivable. What difference does it make how many nukes Russia builds? If they want to spend themselves into penury creating a bloated nuclear arsenal, be our guest. …Moreover, Obama's idea that the great powers must reduce their weapons to set a moral example for the rest of the world to disarm is simply childish.”
Click on:
Was it only the clash of ideas that kept us up during the Cold War? Have Russian generals stopped drinking vodka? Can American military strategists never have nervous breakdown? Can the world be assured that the two powers that hold over 90% of the world nuclear weapons are fail-safe? Not a single former Republican or Democratic Secretary of State agrees. They see substantive merit in reducing nuclear weapons now and increasing respectful, reliable relations with Russia.
Krauthammer sees Obama’s efforts to get the Senate to ratify the New Start treaty as a distraction. It is a distraction to him because he’s not interested in joint Russia, US, and UN Security Council measures to dissuade Iran, or in joint China, US, and South Korean measures to dissuade North Korea. His inner John Wayne is still on his horse: diplomacy, economic boycotts, and alliances with others are for children and dwarfs.
The Russian defense machine could spend Russia into penury, but America can afford to keep its growing forever. Apparently, America can tame Iran without the cooperation of her neighbours, including Russia. And can handle North Korea that way too.
Presumably, Krauthammer’s America can afford to act unilaterally and violently on another two fronts. Inside the bubble of responsibility, however, Obama and his advisors have chosen a different approach. Along with reality, they may end up with politics on their side as well.

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