Oxy Mora: Personas Eat Policy Wonks for Breakfast
As I've been regaled with requests to blog (or more accurately, "get off my lawn, go shit on your own"), I've been looking for inspiration to return to a post (or reason to quit commenting at all, and Get.A.Life, as I often suggest to others).
It's not that I'm not inspired or urged on by events, with a chronic distaste in my mouth. But what to say that I haven't already said or is being droned on by others?
[yes, I posted something like 150 diaries of my own over the course of a couple of years - some serious, humorous, distasteful, incendiary, lame, and other aspects to my personality]
One reader's comment, "I call it Somerbyitis," almost got an "oh yeah" response, but it goes back to Greenwald and Digby and Gene Lyons' "Fool for Scandal".
I'm tired of people making shit up. Left, right, conservative, liberal, centrist, whatever.
Life is complicated. You can always rearrange facts and get away with it if you cover the right bases. And typically you can justify it - the other side's a bunch of Huns, they're eating our babies, and they pollute as well.
A tape editor at NBC got fired for badly bolloxing an edit of Zimmerman's 911 call - making it seem extremely racist. Another tape editor for CNN won't get fired for finding "fucking coons" in a recording a week before a 3rd found it to say "fucking punks". (I squint my ears, and only hear "fucking cones", whatever that would mean).
But what won't happen is that the outrage engendered by these cockups won't be put back in the bottle. If the outrage was based on reality, that would be great (Occupy Wall Street sadly has lost momentum). But typically, we have "truthy" outrage - the outrage that works on a soundbite, but not on the full transcript.
We justify this as satire or symbolism or just playing by Fox's rules or other excuses. But besides usually only appealing to the smug kids in the back row, we damage our brand - if our complaints are expanding on mischaracterized hyped-up trivialities, when pray tell would someone take us seriously?
Now, quite frankly, that's not completely fair - because the right has done an ingenious job of hyping trivialities into grassroots approval. But they also stick to a message, and seem to enjoy playing continual self-destructive games of chicken. It's hard to play proper mumbley-peg with a true masochist.
But that's the right's brand - that wasn't supposed to be ours. We had a rightful reputation of herding cats, but at the end we were supposed to do the right thing.
Instead, we've tried to discover our own brand of character assassination - as exemplified, but not created, by Rachel Maddow. It wasn't just the right wing that attacked Clinton or Gore - a lot of people in the "liberal press" and on the left joined in or spearheaded the attacks.
So a trumped up real estate deal, a sex scandal, an appearance at a Buddhist temple, a fantasized column about "wearing earth tones" - all became symbols of something deeper, a hidden corruption that should be accounted for.
Except it wasn't. There was no greater boastfulness and ego in Gore vs. all the Giulianis/Liebermans/Gingriches/Obamas/Bushes/John Edwards in our political circuit. For all the investigations of Whitewater, they couldn't even pull out a Martha Stewart $40k insider trading link, much less Bernie Madoff or Goldman Sachs corruption. And for all the talk of Clinton sleeping around and harrasment, the only verifiable story we ever got was not-full-intercourse with a consenting 22-year-old professional subordinate.
But we weren't finished. We then went through a period of psychoanalyzing Hillary for how she could stay with Bill - craven power-seeking? career? And those pantsuits, and the Post's cleavage articles, and the Times' 10,000 word essay on how Bill might be "still doing it". But not just the Clintons - every campaign became a search for a higher metaphor - or a way to blow up positive attributes into scandal-ridden dead weight.
Howard Dean's wife is a practicing doctor - who had the wisdom to not want to campaign rather than help people. And she was attacked. John Kerry was a decorated soldier and well-known protestor - and his heroics were turned into a Gore-like fibbing about his time on swift boats. Dennis Kucinich for all his good policy suggestions couldn't find any media time except to laugh at him about a UFO statement.
And one by one, the actual important policy issues disappeared. Instead of Gore's superior engineering of policy proposals and focus on a Social Security lockbox, we got distracted with Willie Horton and Love Story - and ended up with 9/11, Iraq War and the botched FEMA handling of Katrina. (but oh what fun it was to find Gore didn't talk to the head of FEMA on 1 particular day when they successfully handled 3 Florida hurricanes in one month)
We shot down Dean, our anti-war candidate, and then let the war mongers ride to victory in 2004 while our overall campaign theme was whether Kerry was too French and stiff and looked bad wind surfing.
We focused on whether Hillary was too divisive in 2008, while the divisive Republicans had been ramming attorney general appointments and Iraq extensions down our throats.
All through 2008 we were getting dark forebodings of our future with Obama's reversal on FISA, his lobbying for a no-strings TARP, his appointment of Wall Street insiders to high positions.
But our overriding concern has been whether Republicans are cracked up with their Kenyan Muslim obsession. Whether the Teabaggers are racist. Whether Sarah Palin spent too much on her campaign warddrobe.
Actual policy decisions are hardly discussed anymore. The Supreme Court just approved full public & group cavity searches for any one arrested - not convicted - with the Obama Justice Department approvingly pushing for more and deeper. Anyone picketing the White House?
We're deeper into Afghanistan with our drones and military deployment, with embarrassing and disgraceful drone misstrikes and renegade soldiers killing civilians - but public protest against the war is scant, and as an election topic, it's non-existent.
Our primary season has been about whether we should bomb Iran later vs. right away. And the big issues of a candidate's former dog, the deep question of "do candidates change positions between primaries and generals", and the surprising issue of contraception as a campaign platform. (As Rush isn't running, his slut comments don't technically fit as election material).
Only Ron Paul actually came out about ending our wars quickly and reining in Wall Street plus ending our war on drugs - which made him an unserious candidate.
The only actual policy issue we're seeing is with Obama now dancing with Paul Ryan over their budgets. Optimistically at $1.3 trillion deficit, it's hard to see how Obama's repeal of Bush tax cuts will pass the Republican House, and I'm skeptical about any actual defense savings or that Medicare cuts will be limited to providers and not beneficiaries. Ryan's budget is more fanciful and less detailed, and obviously friendlier to the rich. Things look dismal.
While not completely equal, our deterioration of rights and worsening economic situation means we're stuck with "going to hell in a handbasket" vs. "going there in a minivan". And little chance that these concerns will play out seriously in the media. And unless protests can be revived as the weather warms up, the looks headed for an even more vacuous conclusion - likely "who's the more serious daddy".
My guess is that typical liberal concerns will be lost, but we'll get some hot trigger petty scandals to keep us complaining and pacified. My recommendation: invest in Wall Street and oil companies, sell public services short.