Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

First as tragedy, then as farce

January 13, 2007

Many warbloggers and other assorted Iraq-war supporters fancy themselves to be followers of Winston Churchill.

And one of the most widely read biographies of Churchill is the two-volume hagiography by William Manchester. (As a boy, I read the first volume. For boys, it’s a good history.)

I had never thought to connect the two, though, until I read the following, from a 1989 review of Manchester’s second volume by David Cannadine, reprinted in his book History in Our Time:

[Manchester’s] concern is to retell (and to reburnish) the familiar story of Churchill’s wilderness years, which were, Manchester insists, undoubtedly the greatest and noblest of his career. For most of the 1930s, Churchill was out of office, out of power, out of favour, and out of luck. He was spurned, derided and rejected by the lesser men in government; he was regarded as an outcast by the Tory Party managers; and he was banned from speaking on the BBC. […] Truly, Churchill was a prophet without honour in his own country. But, undaunted and undismayed, he put together a vast underground intelligence network, which meant he was better informed about German rearmament and territorial ambitions than the Foreign Office. He made a succession of brilliant, unanswerable speeches, in Parliament and throughout the country, damning appeasement as cowardly folly, and struggled to alert the western democracies to the growing menace of Hitler. And so, in the eleventh hour, when all the grievous events that Churchill had so valiantly and vainly foretold had finally come to pass, the people eventually turned to him, as the rejected prophet became the national saviour and gave his country its ‘finest hour’.

While Manchester waxes thus fulsome in his eulogistic evocation of Churchill, he shows no mercy to the cynical Judases who were, he believes, the ‘betrayers of England’s greatness’. […] Without exception, Manchester insists, they were weak, shabby, irresolute, provincial mediocrities, who vainly believed that Hitler could be trusted and should be appeased. And they were supported in their ignoble endeavours by […] unimaginative and hypocritical politicians […] who believed in peace at virtually any price. Nor, Manchester insists, was this the full extent of their duplicity. For it was not just that they did not want to offend the Führer. Obsessed as they were with the fear of Communist subversion, they actually wanted to support and strengthen Nazi Germany as the most effective European counterpoise to what they saw as the much greater threat of Soviet Russia. And in order to do so, they deliberately misled the British public about the true nature and intentions of the Nazi regime.

Does any of Manchester’s mythology sound familiar? Sound, perhaps, like a mythology we have been hearing since 9/11?

If you wanted to pretend to be Manchester’s Churchill — wanted to interpret the geopolitical crisis of your own time so that you could enjoy the thrill of posturing in that particular heroic way — then would you have acted much differently than the warbloggers and their ilk have over the last five years, with their fisking and their demonizing and their unrealistic idealism and their blood-thirsty sermonizing?

A fine fantasy for boys. But isn’t it time they grew up?

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You can’t work with someone who won’t work with you

December 4, 2006

An interesting post-midterm wrapup by Rolling Stone contained this questionable assertion by David Gergen:

Voters don’t want a whole series of confrontations over the next two years. […] Democrats have got to be willing to work with the administration […] That’s going to be very hard for them to do.

I believe that the next two years will see “a whole series of confrontations” because that will be what the Bush administration will want. I see no indication that it has any intention of working with a Democratic Congress.

An e-mail to Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR)

November 8, 2006

Dear Senator Smith,

I was a Republican from the early ’80s until 2003, and I’m sad to say that I agree with this assessment someone wrote yesterday:

“The modern GOP — or, more specifically, the axis of ’70s campus Republicans now running it — really is just a criminal enterprise disguised as a political party.

“Dirty tricks, large and small, are a sorry fact of life in American politics, but what the Republicans have done over the past few weeks — the surrealist attack ads, the forged endorsements, the midnight robo calls, the arrest threats, the voter misinformation (did you know your polling station has been moved?) — is sui generis, at least at the national level.”

I hope, Senator Smith, that you want to play a role in cleaning up the GOP. I have been horrified with what I have seen during this election campaign.

/s/ Steve Casburn

What conservatism is for me

October 31, 2006

A self-described leftist writing in to Andrew Sullivan summed it up well:

[Y]ou see classic conservatism as the defense of liberty from brutality through doubt, caution, common sense and rigorous self-examination[.]

The right-wing paradox

October 31, 2006

The right wing in America is stuck with the paradox of holding a philosophy of “conserving” and an actual order it does not want to conserve. It keeps trying to create something new it might think worthy, someday, of conserving.

— Garry Wills, Confessions of a Conservative, pg. 211.

Parties and libraries

October 30, 2006

There is a Multnomah County library levy on this year’s November ballot.

When a library levy was last on the ballot (November 2002), there was a decided split in who supported it. In the ten precincts that would be John Kerry’s best two years later, 73.93% of voters supported the levy. In the ten precincts that would be Bush’s best, 39.69% supported it.

Narrow the comparison to the best five precincts for each, and Kerry’s precincts gave 75.88% of their votes for the levy while Bush’s gave 36.20%.
(Kerry’s precincts, in order: 4027, 3151, 3274, 4106, 3097, 4022, 2099, 1025, 4041, 3004.)

(Bush’s precincts, in order: 5602, 0158, 5604, 5846, 0547, 5842, 5425, 5855, 5851, 5201.)

Too little, too late

October 28, 2006

Peggy Noonan has not left her President. Her President has left her.

I left the Republican Party three years ago because the truth of every one of Noonan’s criticisms of Bush (and several other criticisms as well) was obvious by then, and I was disappointed and disgusted that no one in the GOP was willing to challenge him. Every major Republican political figure (Noonan included) was content to stay silent and let things go to hell. I wanted someone to have the courage to run against Bush in the 2004 presidential primaries; to take a stand for a different vision of what the Republican Party could and should be. No one did.

That’s why I have no sympathy for Noonan and her ilk. They made the bed in which they are about to lie.

My ballot

October 24, 2006

The votes on my November ballot:

U.S. House (3rd): Earl Blumenauer (D)
State Governor: Joe Keating (G)
State House (42nd): Diane Rosenbaum (D)
State Supreme Court: Virginia L. Linder
State Circuit Court (4th/28): Ulanda L. Watkins
State Circuit Court (4th/31): Cheryl Albrecht
State Circuit Court (4th/37): Charles Henderson [write-in]
State Measures (39, 44): Yes
State Measures (all others): No
County Measures (all): Yes

The torturers

October 8, 2006

A friend wrote the following about the compromise a few weeks ago between the Senate and the President about the use of torture:

The Senate, whose majority leader systematically killed cats obtained under false pretenses from local animal shelters, has given the sole authority to determine exactly what does and does not constitute torture to a man who used to blow up frogs with firecrackers.

Perhaps pick a different cause, John?

June 9, 2006

I received a mass-mailed advertisement from John Edwards, asking me to contribute money to help the Democrats re-gain control of the Senate.

If Edwards were so concerned about that, shouldn’t he have run for re-election to the Senate in 2004 rather than giving up his seat (which the GOP picked up) to run for President?