Thursday, August 21, 2008

“Over my cold, dead, political carcass”

The words stand out for some reason. It's not that the rhetoric of the cold and dead is anything unusual in politics. We had Charlton Heston's "cold, dead hands" a long time ago, which certainly wasn't the first time. This post at Think Progress is littered with tough talking politicians going after McCain on his stance on the 1922 Colorado River Compact. But the above quote stands out from the rest for me.

“Over my cold, dead, political carcass” -Bob Schaffer (R-CO)
The issue in question is not important to me. What I find interesting is the use of the word political. The connection between the abstract, elitist, withdrawn realm of the political and the corporeal. Strauss, among other philosophers, talks about the political realm as being separate; a concern for the elite. Schaffer has made it a physical divide; a sort of dualism. Maybe he could have said "over my cold, dead political soul." Turning the political into the secular religion; not too big of a leap for a Republican.

In this metaphor Schaffer has two bodies; his physical body and his political body. His legislative accomplishments, his career, are given a physicality. If he were to lose his bid for the U.S. Senate to Udall it would be, in a sense, an actual death. He will cease to exist in the political sense, and his "cold, dead, political carcass" will be powerless in its attempts to stop anything. If he runs for another office in the future it will be the attempted reincarnation of his political corporeality. Like Nixon's pheonix, rising from the ashes of his failed California gubernatorial bid to run again for the presidency.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Daughter of the Sheriff, The Daughter of the Judge

I just watched We Jam Econo, a documentary on the Minutemen. That's the awesome band, not the wacko vigilantes trying to keep Mexicans out of the country. It's a great film. I even got a little choked up when they talked about D. Boone's death. The Minutemen are great, but also love Mike Watt's solo stuff, especially Big Train. This video even had my little girl singing along.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bob Casey

“We’ve got a mountain of problems, the likes of which we haven’t seen since 32.”
-Bob Casey Jr., on Pennsylvania News Makers this week

I forget who it was that called Bob Casey Sr. the "last of the new dealers." I've been reading the Drury book on Strauss, Pierson's book on the Kennedy assassination, Zizek, Foucault's biopolitics lectures and there is one thing that I've been thinking, especially in the context of current events, what we really need right now is a good old fashioned New Dealer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Quote of the Week

"Libertarianism is a politics born to be subsidized."
-Thomas Frank, in The Wrecking Crew, explaining why the number of libertarian think tanks in the U.S. is higher than the number of libertarians (h/t Political Wire)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Faux News at its best

From the beginning of the conflict between Russia and Georgia I've gotten the feeling from most of the coverage that Russia has been portrayed as an unprovoked aggressor. If there has been more balanced coverage I haven't seen it. Of course I would not argue that Russia is justified in invading Sheppard Smith says, there are a lot of gray areas in war.

I love when a conservative expresses moral ambiguity.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Liberalism and Not Liberalism

Recently my reading list has included an interesting book on neoconservatism’s roots in the political thought of Leo Strauss. In this book Shadia Drury contends, among other things, that modern neoconservatism consists of the “three pillars of…religion, nationalism and economic growth” (149). It is the nationalism that most concerns me because, as Drury points out, that nationalism “invites an aggressive foreign policy, it also destabilizes domestic politics” (p. 153).

It is in that context that we are forced to confront two recent news items; the crisis between Russia and Georgia and the murder (potential political assassination) of Bill Gwatney, the Chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party. Within these two events we see the potential impact of neoconservatism’s nationalism.

It is, admittedly, only conjecture, but it does not require too great a leap in logic to see the potential political implications of Gwatney’s murder. One need only turn to Ann Coulter to find a member of the mainstream of conservative thought advocating violence against liberals. Is it possible that a maniac who owned fourteen guns walked into Democratic headquarters and just randomly chose Gwatney to kill? Certainly. It is also possible that this is the rhetoric of the likes of Coulter being taken to its logical conclusion.

There is a violence and nationalism present in neoconservatism that is not present in liberalism. Neocons attempt to define “out” liberalism from the American identity. A similar tactic is not present in liberalism. The transformation of these words into violence against "others" has already happened; it is entirely probable that it has happened again; it is also probable that it will continue to happen. This is the destabilizing impact that neoconservatism has on our domestic politics.

Our foreign policy is not much better after two terms of Neocon rule. It should be said more often by Democrats, one Democrat in particular, that neoconservative policy has weakened America both diplomatically and militarily. Is there anyone who honestly believes that Russia would be doing what they’re doing if we weren’t still working on our time horizons? Meanwhile the neoconservatives are reverting to their cold war posturing. In the twilight of the Bush presidency they get what they really wanted: another fight with the Russians. We can all look forward to an overabundance of “Reagan single handedly won the cold war” film clips at the RNC convention.

And in our current state it’s not too far fetched for the Russian public, and much of the rest of the world, to accept the conspiracy theory claim that Dick Cheney is personally involved in creating the Russia/Georgia conflict in order to boost the candidacy of John McCain. This quote exemplifies the current divide between the U.S. and Russia:

In the old days under Soviet rule we didn't believe a word of our own propaganda but we thought that information was free in the West and we longed for it,” said Katya, a middle-aged Muscovite. “But we have learnt since that the West has its own propaganda and in some ways it is more powerful because people believe it.
This brings me to an internal debate I’ve been having. Political philosophy has become a debate between liberalism (that is free market, libertarian liberalism) and everything that isn’t liberalism. As Drury points out, neoconservatives themselves, a very illiberal bunch, have made allies with anyone and everyone who opposes true liberalism.

This may be a false choice, but it’s the choice that liberalism has created through its use of political debate. It’s a debate that we see in the quote above; it’s similar to how Siebert, Peterson and Schramm explained the contrasting views of liberalism and Soviet Communism. It’s a debate that is happening once again between the Russians and the U.S. More importantly, it’s a debate that we’re currently having internally, with the neocons on one side and liberals on the other.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Postmodern Right

"Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime."
-Attorney General Michael Mukasey

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that, by definition, every violation of the law is a crime. Mukasey, in this comment, exemplifies neoconservatism. It is the belief that those who govern are above the law. The ghost of Nixon coming through Mukasey, saying that if the president does it it's not illegal. Even if it violates the law, it's still not a crime.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Over the last couple weeks two anti-Obama books have hit the shelves at your local Barnes and Noble. They both appear to be run-of-the-mill, unspectacular polemics, written in the mold of the “if candidate X gets elected the world is going to end and the suffering of all Americans will be limitless” kind of mold. The people who already hate Obama will read them and have their feelings reinforced, the people who support Obama will see them on the shelf and call them propaganda; nothing new to see here. However unspectacular they may seem, I could not resist writing a few notes about them because the quotes from the dust jackets are mind-boggling.

The first comes from Jerome Corsi, oh so cleverly titled Obama Nation. Corsi is no stranger to polemics being one of the authors of the Swift Boat Veterans book that help to sink the Kerry campaign in 2004. Here’s the quote that really got me. Just try to read it without feeling disbelief:

After an Obama presidency we would be a militarily weakened and economically diminished nation. Instead of being more united, our internal conflicts could well become more sharpened and more abrasive from four years of Obama leadership.
One has to wonder if Corsi has spent the Bush presidency in a cave, with his eyes closed and his fingers in his ears. Let’s start with the lack of unity from Obama leadership. Has Corsi even heard of Karl Rove? Does he not see the way the conservative echo chamber has turned “liberal” into a derogatory term? It’s also puzzling that Corsi would choose to write something that instantly brings the Bush presidency to mind. It’s as if he took something that someone had written about the last seven years and just changed the name Bush to Obama.

Our second entry comes from David Freddoso’s The Case Against Barack Obama. Like Corsi, Freddoso applies to Obama a criticism that is actually more fitting of George W. Bush:
As the least experienced politician in at least the last one hundred years to obtain a major party nomination for President of the United States, Obama appears to be escaping the appropriate examination that any man (or woman) who covets the Oval Office deserves.
Let’s compare just the political experience of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Bush had a term and a half as Texas governor. Obama has seven years in the Illinois State Senate and four years in the U.S. Senate. That’s not to mention that Bush’s political career was preceded by a less than stellar business career and Obama was a law professor and community organizer.

Of course, any Democrat or liberal who pointed out Bush’s lack of experience was branded as an elitist. With a quote like the above one has to wonder if Freddoso has even heard of George W. Bush. I especially love that Freddoso implies that Obama “covets” the White House. Is it actually a sin for him to run for president?

While these two books will probably go largely unnoticed by the general public it is still a little troubling that there are two such books on the market and no high profile equivalent attacking John McCain. What does that say about the two candidates or their attackers? Maybe someone could take a few quotes criticizing Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs and just swap out Clinton’s name for McCain’s.