Friday, August 04, 2006

still not posting enough

'kay, I still need to blog, but I find it harder to stay away from kibitzing on everyone else's turf.

Ruth Ann Dailey talked on Monday ( about the limitations of public discourse. She spun it from a positive angle, she gets Bush where the liberals don’t because … um, well, she likes him, and finds positive motivations for his actions. She dwelled a bit on asinine criticisms of Bush, like doctor’s charting his decline (?) in the last 12 years. She was reminding us that many liberals will sink to any depth to attack Bush. And she’s right.

Welcome to the world of cognitive dissonance, ascribing evil motives to any behavior of your enemy, no matter how hard you have to bend reality. The thing is, none of us is immune, even Ms. Dailey.

In the same piece she let us know that she can’t let Bill Clinton go either. She compares Clinton and Bush at the 2000 inaugural,

“For me, a more resonant moment occurred at George W. Bush's first inauguration. On one side of the platform he stood with his parents, both men almost managing to hide how overwhelmed they felt and looking down when they could not. On the other side of the platform stood Bill Clinton, rhythmically working his jaw muscle to communicate pomp and circumstance, his chin jutting, his eyes glittering with self-awareness.

A man struggling to conceal his emotions because they should be private? That I understand. It's the gentleman's code I grew up with. An adult manufacturing emotion for public consumption and wallowing in it like a teenager? That I deplore, in both men and women, Republicans and Democrats; it's a sure sign that sooner or later, I'm gonna get hornswoggled.”

She finds charm in the Bush’s apparently shy behavior and duplicity in Clinton’s “Self-awareness” and apparent emotion. Maybe Clinton was thinking about leaving, maybe after eight years he was used to the public gaze and able to emote in public. Why does she think Clinton was manufacturing emotion? Why does she care? He was on his way out, how could he hornswoggle anyone else, and to what effect? Criticism is always unfair when directed at your guy, but the enemy is apparently always fair game.

Bush 1 and Clinton famously had grown closer as they worked on Tsunami relief. Bush 1 was touched that Clinton gave him the bed on Air Force One, a younger guy deferring to an older one. Bush 1 also noted that Clinton might have wanted to play poker with the reporters on the plane, but Bush 1 chose to embrace the positive idea. Ruth Ann surely could learn from Bush 1.

She attacks middle class baby boomers (a code phrase for liberals) as hypocrites, by damning them with faint praise:

“We like to see some quality we can relate to in the men and women we elect. For a generation of middle-class baby-boomers who made it to the Ivy League and the top of their fields, Mr. Clinton is the manifestation of their own merit, and Mr. Bush is the embodiment of the undeserved advantages of birthright.”

My understanding of Clinton’s early life is of a decidedly poor background, not particularly middle class. Getting to Georgetown, getting a Rhodes Scholarship and a Yale Law degree from where Clinton started are way past most boomers "own merit", even Ivy-Leagers. I can't (even) comprehend how hard Clinton had to work, how much to overcome, even with evdient intellectual ability. Part of Clinton’s later success was surely that he had a past in so many groups, he could talk to policy wonks, the rich and still be credible that he had felt the pain of being poor in his childhood. Of course, eyes wide open, a lot of people even now would not leave their daughters alone with Clinton, and you have to think of the incredible ego that fed his affair(s).

I don’t want to take anything away from Bush 2 in this. I didn’t apply to Yale, probably wouldn’t have gotten in. Bush 2 was a legacy, maybe that helped him get in. His grades were unremarkable, but he passed and got out. His GPA was pretty damn similar to John Kerry’s, and frankly my GPA at Oberlin was similar to both theirs. Bush 2’s relationship to Kerry reminds me of what JFK said about Adlai Stevenson (I read it in Beschloss). If anything, Ruth Ann is shorting Bush, focusing on his fluent “religious language”. Both Clinton and Bush 2 have attained the ultimate, and separately have shown depth of character and discipline (Bush ran a 3:45 marathon, Clinton was something like five hours, and we are pretty sure Bush has never had an affair). It is fair enough not to forgive someone for breaking your trust, as some feel about Clinton, but Ruth Ann never did trust or like Clinton.

And Ruth Ann, you lose credibility in your calls for understanding:

“The pitfall behind "getting" someone is identifying so closely that you can't see the flaws or problems that need to be addressed. And conversely, the problem with proudly not getting someone, with defining yourself reflexively as "not that guy" -- a peculiarly adolescent posture -- is that you will condemn and reject without attempting objective thought.

The failure to examine not-always-praiseworthy motivations that lie behind our connection with them, does more to keep our public discourse intemperate and childish than Mr. Bush's barnyard sound-bite ever could.”

How can we respect this notion when you took totally unnecessary shots at Clinton? We all make mistakes, repubs and dems, and we all will, and some times we and other people look at harmless behaviour and still ascribe evil intentions. You have to ask yourself why you think someone is trying to hornswagle you.

A different tack: There was a brief mention on another blog about Santorum's use of immigration as a wedge issue. I gotta say it has the only traction for him, though it means parting company with his beloved resident, er president (too much Ted Rall in my youth). Illegal’s in Pennsylvania, specifically Mexicans (because we don’t want the Chinese restaurants to close), hmm. You are always afraid of the thing you can’t see.

I noticed the NYT article about the ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) division in Ohio and, um, Kentucky or Indiana (?) cracking down on companies that hired illegal’s. They gave the administration credit though this might just be a rogue regional director. I hate to say it, but it seems to me that the war on terror part calls for a different strategy. ICE should be profiling, talking to individuals from the Middle East, giving terrorists fewer places to hide in the US. Of course, I have always wondered why we worry about corporate security (as opposed to national security) and then put poorly paid contract cleaners that might well be illegal in our offices overnight. If I ever pursue a career in industrial spying, I will start a cleaning crew business and underbid my rivals for the Sun or Microsoft contracts.


Amos_thePokerCat said...

Rather than pointless and tiring fisking the entire post, I will comment on just one point.

Since, "with eyes wide open", you acknowlege at a minimum Clinton's philandering and trusting him with the prototypical daughter. Whether extends from his losing a sexual harassment in the workplace lawsuit, or the possibility of outright rape and assault, I don't know. At least you are willing to critize Clinton for the obvious.

Therefore I am puzzled by your quesitoning "Why does she think Clinton was manufacturing emotion?".

Surely, you have seen the infamous video from the Ron Brown funeral where Clinton was walking and laughing? Upon spotting the camera, in a span smaller than one stride, Clinton's visage undergoes a frightenly convincing chameleon-like transformation from obviously amusment, sharing a private anecdote, which would be completly apropriate, to an expression utter grief. His walking companion, oblivous to the cameras, and Clinton's lightening fast emotional reaction, continues to chuckle.

Having seen that, I doubt Clinton has almost any emotion that is not manufactured, except maybe the everpresent self-pity of those reared in alcoholic families.

EdHeath said...

Well, I haven’t seen the video, so I can only speculate based on your description. *Simply* based on your description, I could imagine that Clinton felt it would be inappropriate to be seen as being too jovial at the funeral, and switched to more fitting demeanor. Its not so much that you don’t chuckle with friends at a funeral, but you want to be restrained and avoid getting caught at it. Some people might call that mature. Obviously Clinton had more trouble with restraint and maturity in his private behavior.

I don’t know, I don’t subscribe to the notion of Clinton as master performer or devious salesman. To say that he has lied as a politician is to say nothing, no politician tells all the truth he knows ever, much less all the time. Clinton was surprisingly disciplined in his campaigning, but frankly his emotions failed him time and again for someone who is supposed to be so slick. At the end of the day a man not ordinary, but still a man, not a caricature.

I plan at some point to post on welfare reform (as we hit the 10th anniversary) and on educational tax credits. I don’t think there is a law of unintended consequences (neat phrase, though) but if there were, I am beginning to think that the tax credits would be the poster child. That is where I would be more interested in holding Clinton’s feet to the fire.

In any event, Ruth Ann’s description of Clinton’s behavior at Bush’s first inauguration is still troubling to me. Remember, the title of the blog is Cognitive Dissonance: just because Clinton was showing emotion in public, Ruth Ann equated that with his being duplicitous. If you automatically label any behavior by a political opponent as negative, the chances for productive discourse and cooperation diminish. On both sides, liberals are just as judgmental about the current administration.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

This has nothing to do with him being a politician, or about politicians lying, which I would concider normal.

I have been to plenty of funerals, or wakes, where it is not automatic to be serious 100% of the time. I think it is quite natural to smile at an amusing anecdote about the deceased. To remember good times, and celibrate that person's life does not seem inappropriate.

Here is just one of many videos, and probably not the best one, of Clinton's crocodile tears at the April 1996 memorial for Ron Brown. It has been so long ago, I forgot all the details. Not only did Clinton go from smiling, to serious, but he even manufactures several tears.

It is the fake tears that is the damning part. That Clinton was caught behaving poorly, that would be dismissed. Never mind, that he does not even nudge the person is walking with. This goes beyond realizing there is a camera filming and changing your behaviour. This is acting, and manufacturing emotion.

RA's point was not that showing emotion was duplicitous, but that manufacturing emotion was. Given Clinton has a documented track record of manufacturing emotion, this is not just labeling any behaviour. It is just spotting what someone was done before.

EdHeath said...

Well, I doubt we can reach a point of agreement about this, but … I wouldn’t say it has nothing to do with Clinton being a politician, for a couple of reasons. If Clinton was performing for the camera, faking seriousness at a funeral, I would still say that is fairly appropriate for the President at the funeral of the Secretary of Transportation. It’s not really like other funerals, and the Prez is no ordinary funeral-goer.

That said, some people just rub some other people the wrong way. I don’t know that that I agree that Clinton has a documented record of manufacturing emotion. If there is such a record, I think reasonable people might disagree about whether emotion was manufactured or what the motivation was, all other things being equal (which they never are). What Clinton does have a documented record of is lying to the public on camera, specifically involving the Lewinsky thing (at least). He shares that with Nixon (the lying to the public part, not Lewinsky, as far as I know), and they both had tremendous problems because of it. Another guy who had a negative nickname (Tricky versus Slick).

I was watching an internet video from Fox News of a recent Bush news conference about the wiretap decision, Bush on a lawn, in Friday casual. The section shown makes Bush seem incoherent, but it occurred to me that he might just be speaking in potential sound bites. Sure enough, the sound bite of the day was pulled from that segment. I am one of the people rubbed the wrong way by Bush, but I don’t want to suggest the he might be addled or stupid when he might just speak a certain way as a political strategy. Besides, I can complain at length about Bush’s policies, I don’t have time to insult the man personally.

EdHeath said...

One more point on the specific of Ron Brown's funeral. The Wikipedia article mentions a scandal connected to Mr. Brown. Without making any suggestions about Clinton's guilt or innocence, the issue of the scandal might have fueled Clinton’s apparently bizarre behavior. He might have felt that any appearance of anything other than somber reflection would be misconstrued by his critics. There might be more sinister reasons as well, and Clinton might have ordered Vince Foster’s death. But there is nothing conclusive about any of that, so I will just note possibilities and move on.
For what it is worth.