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.

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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.

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What the hell is wrong with these people?


Let us pause for a moment to consider … well, what should we consider? Indeed, amid the high-volume histrionics of Republicans lamenting the end of the world now that Senator Barack Obama has been elected president, complaining such as they do about things Obama has not even had an opportunity to do—pre-emptively defending themselves against any further loss of credibility, or something like that—one could easily forget that there is, in fact, another man currently serving as President of the United States. For his part, though, it is enough to say that even he seems, at times, to have forgotten that he is still president.

Nonetheless, some, including McClatchy’s Warren Strobel seem surprised at attempts by the Bush administration to revise history in order that the outgoing president will be treated more kindly in our memories. Wait a minute, that can’t be it. Who the hell is surprised at that? After all, the administration has been trying to revise history for most of its tenure.

Perhaps, then, it is the shameless severity of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s remarks in an interview with C-SPAN’s Steve Scully on Monday that caught Strobel and his colleagues’ attention:

QUESTION: But as you know, even overseas, some of that sharpness, some of that derision has been aimed at George W. Bush. So despite all of the accomplishments that you just outlined, why is he, in some parts of the world, detested?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President had to do some very difficult things. Look, we came out of September 11th having to make a choice about how we were going to defend this country. Were we going to stay with a strategy that essentially considered terrorism a law enforcement problem, or were we going to go to war against them? And in some quarters, it wasn’t popular to talk in the terms and act in the manner in which we – at recognizing that we were at war with these people. And yes, we had to do some very tough things.

But you know, I think I’ve found over the years, particularly in these most recent years, that much of that rancor is gone. We have outstanding relations with our European allies now. When I go to a NATO meeting, it is about the incredible fact that NATO is fighting together in Afghanistan. Yes, we’d like to see more contribution here. Yes, there are national caveats there that are constraining. But imagine NATO fighting in Afghanistan as its core mission.

When I go to Europe, I no longer see any difference in the view that a stable and secure Iraq is in everybody’s interest, and that an Iraq that is democratic and in which Saddam Hussein, that brutal monster that caused three wars in the region, including dragging us in twice, that used – who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, that an Iraq that is democratic and friendly to the West is better for the Middle East. I don’t see much disagreement about that.

I see no disagreement that Iran has to be prevented from getting a nuclear weapon. And on the Middle East, I’ve never seen greater harmony behind the Annapolis process as the basis on which a two-state solution will eventually come into being.

And so whatever we went through in the difficult days of 2003, 2004 it would be a mistake to think that we have problematic relations with our allies. We simply don’t. We may not agree on everything, but the transatlantic relationship is in very, very good shape. And you can even say that more so for our core relations in places like Japan and South Korea and India and, indeed, China.

Tell me, please: Do these people ever stop lying?
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