Note to Self [What You Say | What I Think]

Yes, you really did just hear that gaffe. Here is the question: Did a Democratic Member of Congress just gaffe up really, really badly in one direction, or the other?

Translation: Did he botch, or tip, it?

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If It’s Tuesday I Must Be Whining

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton works from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya, 18 October 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/Associated Press)

Microcosmic: As Rachel Maddow asks Michael Beschloss his opinion on campaign norms―e.g., releasing tax returns―it occurs to me that we are quite possibly witnessing a microiteration of a problematic thumbnail sketch: If achieved, then change standard.

As Maddow asked, what about the future? And that would approximately make sense: Hillary Clinton is about to be elected president of the United States of America. We’ve already decided that everything else in her career is just that much more volatile and alarming and inappropriate than any man who came before her, repeatedly suggesting with each iteration that we will, in fact, attempt to change the rules in order to forestall certain outcomes.

For instance, who remembers the One-Drop Rule? Was there nothing incongruous or untoward about the proposition that we finally laid the One-Drop Rule to rest when Barack Obama was elected? Okay, that’s not fair; we lynched the One-Drop Rule and then put the corpse in whiteface: If Barack Obama is one-drop white, we haven’t yet elected our first black president.

Remind me all you want that it didn’t work; I’ll just shrug and wonder why we bothered trying.

Still, though, if we call off the customary tax return release? It’s easy enough to expect the ritual to survive Donald Trump, but we’ve seen this happen before. No, really, did you know that politicians were never supposed to get paid for public speaking when they weren’t in office? Apparently this has always been the rule, and Hillary Clinton just wasn’t smart enough to know. And since her predecessors didn’t really use the private email systems that they actually did, Secretary Clinton should have known that behaving like her predecessors was forbidden; I mean, it’s not like we suddenly invented this standard that what she did was unacceptable out of thin air just because she’s Hillary freakin’ Clinton, right? It’s not like we didn’t care when it was anyone else and then just decide to care because some scandalmongering political opponents decided to pretend something entirely ahistorical and―you know, since it’s “Her”―well, yeah, why not, sounds great. Sorry, I guess that’s just a distraction, isn’t it? Because while we’re spinning pay for play fancies because transparency means we can, the only reason we don’t care about the idea of pay for play through Colin Powell’s foundation, while he was Secretary of State, is because he’s Colin Powell, not Hillary Clinton, so that sort of thing could never, ever happen.

Nor is it just about girls, though it’s true in this case it kind of is. But the underlying principle of schoolyard socialization dynamics includes a function whereby a bellwether among the despised might achieve a threshold of respectability, and the communal response is to alter the threshold in order to maintain exclusion. That is to say, some kids will simply never be allowed by their peers to be cool; it’s a general bully principle, because without it the list of people bullies are allowed to treat poorly pretty much crumbles to dust in the wind.


Image note: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton works from a desk inside a C-17 military plane 18 October 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/Associated Press)

Maddow, Rachel. “Historic debate could reset campaign norms”. msnbc. 27 September 2016.

On the Complexity of Making Things Complicated

Hillary Clinton

Sometimes the key to politics is to make things complicated not so much by making them actually complicated, but by complicating things with additional layers and steps. Political discourse is something like the living, realtime inspiration for internet chatter; after two or three quick rounds it’s hard to tell what anyone is referring to, anymore.

But at the same time, it is not as if the rhetorical devices of American politics are especially complex. Consider, for instance, Paul Krugman:

This policy unity has been helped by the fact that Obama has had a moderate degree of success in achieving these goals. If he had had an easy time, the party might be divided between those wanting more radical action and those not in a hurry; if he had failed utterly, the party might be divided (as it was for much of the past three decades) between a liberal faction and a Republican-lite faction. As it is, however, Obama has managed to achieve a lot of what Democrats have sought for generations, but only with great difficulty against scorched-earth opposition. This means that the conflict between “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” — exemplified these days by Elizabeth Warren — and the more pro-big-business wing is relatively muted: the liberal wing knows that Obama has gotten most of what could be gotten, and the actual policies haven’t been the kind that would scare off the less liberal wing.

One would think this easy piece of political perspective would not be so rare in our discourse, but for some reason—perhaps a tendency toward equivocation for the sake of narrative simplification—it sometimes seems useful to take a moment and think about how it comes about.

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This America Is Brought To You By ….

Remember this ....Via that blessed scourge otherwise known as Facebook comes a lovely gem that everyone should grab a local copy of, and hang onto until the 2016 presidential race. Some things really are that important.

(Tip o’the hat to D.P.)