Saturday, June 30, 2007

Israel's Future Tied to Land for Peace--not War

Jeffrey Sachs is a Columbia economist who in the early 1990’s was a key advisor to the Russian government. More recently, Sachs has called for massive aid to Africa, a strategy attacked here. Now, Sachs is criticizing both Israel and U.S. policy toward Israel. He believes that since the Six-Day War of 1967, there has been one realistic possibility for peace: Israel's return to its pre-1967 borders.

Instead, Sachs maintains:

• religious Israeli settlers and hard-line Israeli nationalists pushed Israel into a disastrous policy of creating and expanding settlements on Arab lands in the West Bank.

• even when the US or Israel have tabled peace offers, they have included convoluted ways to sustain the West Bank settlements and large settler populations.

• Islamic militants killed Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian peacemaker, while a Jewish militant killed Yitzhak Rabin, the would-be Israeli peacemaker. Violent extremists on both sides have ratcheted up their actions whenever the majority succeeded in getting closer to peace.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Good Times, Bad Mood

The Chicago Tribune’s Steve Chapman returns us to one of the oddest facts about America in 2007--we falsely believe the economy isn’t working. Chapman quotes “a recent Gallup poll” that found 66 percent of Americans think national economic conditions are "only fair" or "poor,” and that “fully 70 percent think the economy is getting worse.”

Chapman’s facts:

• Unemployment stands at 4.5 percent, down from the peak rate of 6.3 percent four years ago.

• The stock market is near record levels.

• Economic growth, which slowed in the first quarter, has since rebounded.

• Inflation is running below 3 percent.

Chapman’s inference:

A major cause of the misperception. . . is President Bush's sagging popularity. It's clear that many people let their discontent with the president color their view of everything. . . some people won't acknowledge anything good here lest it suggest competence on the part of a president they can't stand. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, . . .79 percent of Democrats take that view. "People are giving partisan responses," says public opinion expert Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Chapman ends by writing, "When things eventually change, trust me: We may not miss Bush, but we will really miss the good times.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Media Bashing Gets Serious (III) (Correction)

The previous post contains results of a of MSNBC’s Bill Dedman's survey of journalists' campaign contributions during 2004-06. Dedman may be neutral; MSNBC leans left. Therefore, I have decided to take issue with Dedman’s exclusion of at least 22 people from his list of 143 donors, because these 22 paid for tickets to hear Bruce Springsteen’s “Vote for Change” concert, but did not otherwise contribute directly to a political campaign. The Boss’ pals included an MSNBC producer (Dedman’s own Boss) and 21 other journalists. Dedman said, “Although all of the purchase price went to the effort to defeat Bush that fall, the intent may have been entirely musical.” No. Entirely musical + political.

Adding “at least 22” to the previous total of 143, and counting all of the “at least 22” as Democrats, raises the Democratic percentage of Dedman’s givers to 90.3%, eerily close to the 91% of Washington reporters who supported Clinton in 1992.

It’s like a Cuban election to re-elect Castro.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Media Bashing Gets Serious (III)

The UK's the source for the two previous posts about the media falling short. The BBC’s documented bias is big news, because the BBC is a public corporation, and thus under real pressure to report the news straight. Ironically, the BBC’s left-leaning, politically-correct bias hasn’t helped Labour's Tony Blair, for the BBC is part of the media pack that has excoriated him for being “Bush’s Poodle” in Iraq.

Our media, though benefiting hugely from the U.S. constitution’s absolute guarantee of a free press, is largely independent of government subsidies. Press freedom includes the freedom to lean heavily to one side in national politics. Bill Dedman, an investigative reporter for MSNBC, has looked up the campaign contributions of 143 journalists. To no one’s surprise, I suspect, 127 gave to Democrats. That’s 89%. It’s nearly the same percentage of Washington journalists (91%) who said in an informal 1992 poll they had voted for Clinton for president.

This is a big story, even though it’s “dog bites man.” The media are very powerful, as Blair has said, and they comment on the news, don’t just report facts. Yet they pose as impartial and get away with it, because our system has no way of forcing journalists to be unbiased. Unlike the BBC, which can force changes when bias appears.

Of course, a small share of U.S. media is—like the BBC—government financed: PBS and NPR. Dedman says CNN’s Guy Raz, who now covers the Pentagon for NPR, gave $500 to Kerry the same month he was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq. After noting that both CNN and NPR forbid political activity, Dedman quotes Raz’s e-mail response: "I covered international news and European Union stories. I did not cover U.S. news or politics." When Dedman then asked how one could define U.S. news so it excludes the U.S. war in Iraq, Raz made no further reply.

PBS’s bias has shown in its refusal to air the segment of “America at a Crossroads” it paid Frank Gaffney and his partner $675,000 in taxpayer money to produce. Gaffney is a former Reagan administration official. PBS asked Gaffney’s more non-political partner about Gaffney, saying to the partner, “Don’t you check into the politics of the people you work with?” Imagine the Democratic-fueled firestorm that would have erupted had a Bush administration official asked any PBS producer such a question! What’s especially outrageous about the $20 million “America at a Crossroads” series’ refusal to air the Gaffney segment is that the series on Islam today was seeking a spectrum of views.

Well, part of a spectrum, anyway.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Media Bashing Gets Serious (II)

The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger provides this coverage of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s blast at the media for sometimes operating as a "feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits." According to Henninger:

In my experience, no subject triggers longer conversations around the U.S. now than "the media." People are fascinated by what's happening to newspapers, the role of cable TV and, of course, the Web. . .

Deep wells of energy are emptied daily in political or professional life now, says Mr. Blair, "coping with the media, its sheer scale, weight and constant hyperactivity. At points it literally overwhelms. . . .Any public service leader . . . will tell you not that they mind the criticism, but they have become totally demoralized by the completely unbalanced nature of it." . . .

Tony Blair seems to believe the media has become mostly melodrama: "Things, people, issues, stories, are all black and white. Life's usual grays are almost entirely absent. 'Some good, some bad'; 'some things going right, some going wrong.' These are concepts alien to much of today's reporting. It is a triumph or a disaster. A problem is a crisis. A setback is a policy in tatters."

He attributes this change to the decline of what we call "straight" reporting and the rise of analysis or commentary in news columns, which most newspaper people will acknowledge, arguing that readers get straight news today from the Web. . . commentary on the news has become "more important than the news itself." . . .Comment, [Blair] says, "is a perfectly respectable part of journalism, but it is supposed to be separate. Opinion and fact should be clearly divisible. The truth is a large part of the media today, not merely elides the two, but does so now as a matter of course. It is routine."

Mr. Blair claims that the "relationship" between the media and public life is "damaged" and "requires repair." The damage, he says, "saps the country's confidence and self-belief; it undermines its assessment of itself, its institutions; it reduces our capacity to take the right decisions."

Media Bashing Gets Serious (I)

Three major stories emerged this week about problems with media bias—except that, unsurprisingly, none generated major media coverage in the U.S. The first was about bias at the BBC. An official 80-page report, commissioned by the BBC and written by independent program-maker John Bridcut, found the BBC out of touch with large swathes of the public and guity of self-censoring subjects that the corporation finds unpalatable. The BBC's own controller of editorial policy admitted that people felt that the corporation was guilty of a "bias of omission" by not covering their views.

The report called for the BBC to be more "open-minded" in the views it reflects and warned against "bias of elimination" which it branded "offensive". According to the report, the BBC had "come late" to several important stories in recent years, including Euroscepticism and immigration , which as it happens, were 'off limits' in terms of a liberal-minded comfort zone".

Research for report showed that viewers were "frustrated" by political correctness, and warned that if viewers did not feel that the BBC was reflecting their lives and attitudes, people would lose faith in it. Staff were told to avoid imposing their own liberal assumptions on the audience and told to "embrace a broader range of opinion".

Roger Mosey, former head of television news at the BBC, admitted having sympathy with claims of a "liberal/pinko" agenda at times. He recalled a news item about ethnic communities becoming the majority in parts of east London, where a reporter had told him that they had "worked really hard" to find a white resident who was happy with the situation.

BBC political correctness over Muslim terrorist suspects who were arrested last summer may have gone too far. One member of the public surveyed for the report claimed: "The BBC were saying '21 men have been arrested' and I thought 'what's happening?' So I flicked over to Sky [Television] and it says '21 Asian men have been arrested."

The report also quoted a senior BBC executive as saying that impartiality regarding Africa was "as safe as a blood bank in the hands of Dracula".

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Socialism: The Left’s Secret Religion

Capitalism works, as Adam Smith explained, because thousands of individual decisions made in the pursuit of self-interest, with the right laws and price mechanisms in place, yield a common good of rising prosperity. But the pursuit of self-interest is soulless. And some capitalists are wildly more successful than others. Socialism was a reaction to capitalism’s excesses, an effort to take power from selfish capitalists and give it to the state. Or, more precisely, to bureaucrats, who tend to be wiser and better educated than the rest of us. Today’s priests.

Here’s Karl Marx’s view of capitalism in his 1848 Communist Manifesto, 75 years after Adam Smith:

Modern bourgeois society. . . has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange [that it] is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. . .

In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed -- . . . These laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market. . .

Marx believed the proletariat, who controlled their own labor, would to everyone’s benefit seize power and usher in a utopia of equality. The Communist Party, the vanguard of the proletariat, would lead the way.

Socialism sought to achieve the utopia of equality peacefully. As an economic system, socialism is held in low repute today. The last half of the 20th century is a history of socialism’s failure to generate a better life in the U.S.S.R., in China, in Vietnam, in Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, and in India and much of the Third World. Now France, one of the birthplaces of modern socialism, is also turning away from a state-run economy.

But socialism has long been as much religion as economic system. A century ago, French socialist Georges Sorel presciently drew the parallel between the Christian and the socialist revolutionary when he wrote:

The Christian's life is transformed because he accepts the myth that Christ will one day return and usher in the end of time; the revolutionary socialist's life is transformed because he accepts the myth that one day socialism will triumph, and justice for all will prevail.

Now, The Nation’s Ronald Aronson’s discussion of God’s decline in America similarly recognizes that:

Living without God means turning toward something
[emphasis added]. . . creating conditions in which people are free from the kinds of existential vulnerability that have marked all human societies until the advent of Europe's postindustrial welfare states. Markedly more religious than any of them, the United States provides a life that is far more unequal and far more insecure.

“Europe’s postindustrial welfare states.” That’s code talk for socialism. Aronson’s new religious ideal for America is achieving European socialism, which he contrasts with the “unequal and far more insecure” life Americans know under capitalism.

In fact, workers in America do better than they do in Europe. But try telling that to someone whose religion teaches him otherwise.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Democrats cheered by 1) conservative mistrust of corporations, and 2) decline of religion.

1) Mistrust of Corporations. Peter Beinart, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, sees Republicans having problems holding onto their anti-elitist core. This is because, Beinart says:

the right-wing base. . . is turning . . . against corporations. The first sign came in February 2006, when the Bush administration . . . support[ed] a Dubai company's plans to manage six U.S. ports. The political backlash -- stoked . . . by conservative commentators such as Sean Hannity -- combined distrust of foreigners and corporate elites. And . . .it presaged the current, much bigger, conservative revolt on immigration. In the past two years, with Iraq going south, immigration has become the hottest issue among conservative activists. But unlike terrorism, it is a doubled-edged sword, wielded against pro-immigration Democrats but also against the pro-immigration corporate right, which largely funds the GOP. [This means that t]he GOP no longer has a unifying populist cause.

2) Rise of Secularism. Ronald Aronson, writing in The Nation, believes Republicans are hurt by the country’s noticeable turn away from God. [The cartoon above, which knocks the GOP for being too focused on religion, is in the spirit of Aronson's argument.] Aronson reasons that:

[With] five books by the New Atheists . . . on bestseller lists in the past two years—[maybe] Americans are beginning to get fed up with the religiosity of the past several years?

We know how zealously the conservative Christian denominations have politicized themselves in the past generation, how the GOP has harnessed this energy by embracing their demands. . .So effectively have they framed the issues that, according to the Pew Research Center's 2006 report on religion and public life, fully 69 percent of Americans believe that liberals have "gone too far in trying to keep religion out of schools and government."

[But a]ccording to the American Religious Identification Survey, which interviewed more than 50,000 people, more than 29 million adults--one in seven Americans--declare themselves to be without religion. [A]llowing space not only for the customary "Not sure" but also for "Would prefer not to say"--and 6 percent of Americans chose this as their answer to the question of whether they believed in God or a supreme being. . . [adding in] those who declared themselves as atheists or agnostics and, lo and behold, the possible sum of unbelievers is nearly one in four Americans.

. . .unbelievers are concentrated at the higher end of the educational scale--a recent Harris American poll shows that 31 percent of those with postgraduate education do not avow belief in God (compared with only 14 percent of those with a high school education or less). The percentage rises among professors and then again among professors at research universities, reaching 93 percent among members of the National Academy of Sciences. Unbelievers are to be found concentrated among those whose professional lives emphasize science or rationality and who also have developed a relatively high level of confidence in their own intellectual faculties. And they are frequently teachers or opinion-makers. . .

[We need] a coalition between unbelievers and their natural allies, secular-minded believers. I am speaking first about many millions of Americans who nominally belong to a religion but effectively live without any active relationship either to it or to God, or belong to a church and attend services but are "tacit atheists," living day in and day out with only token reference to God. And I also include . . .members of the liberal Jewish and Christian denominations . . .a whopping 49 percent believe that Christian conservatives have gone too far "in trying to impose their religious values on the country."

This, then, is an unreported secret of American life: Considerable numbers of Americans, religious and secular, are becoming fed up with the in-your-face religion that has come to mark our society.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

GOP To Lose Powell?

Former secretary of state Colin Powell said on “Meet the Press” Sunday several things that suggest he has gravitated to the Democrats’ side in the upcoming election, and will be available for service in a Democratic administration. Powell, after all, was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the beginning of the Clinton administration in 1993, though that carry-over responsibility had nothing to do with Clinton.

Powell’s key “I’m not a Bushie” statements:

• he would close down the U.S. military prison for enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "this afternoon" because it has become a major problem in "the way the world perceives America."

• "We didn't prepare ourselves well enough for the kinds of challenges that occurred in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad. . . we didn't have enough troops there to restore that order, nor did we have the political understanding of our obligation to restore that order."

• Iraq is a sectarian civil war "that ultimately will be fought out between Sunnis and Shias, Shias and Shias, Sunnis and al-Qaeda." In that turmoil, Powell said, al-Qaeda "is a relatively small percentage of this overall problem, but a very violent percentage."

• Commenting on recent in U.S. military leadership changes in Iraq and the new White House war czar, Powell said: "You can move the deck chairs around and you can bring in new people and you can change organizational arrangements, but ultimately the president has the responsibility."

• Powell declined to pledge support for the Republican presidential nominee, saying that he would back "the best person I can find." He wouldn’t rule out returning to public service and had no favorite in the presidential race.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Munich or Vietnam?

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

--George Santayana

Analogy is the worst form of reasoning. Why? Because an analogy’s “proof” is a single example. History is more complex. So if we are to learn from history, it helps to go deeper than one analogy.

Republicans watch Islamic extremism’s unfolding with genuine concern. To conservatives, al-Qaeda’s intolerance, hatred, and glorification of violent death is like the Fascism that gave us World War II. Republicans believe Democrats who downplay Islamic extremism (calling the War on Terror, as did John Edwards, a “bumper sticker”) are modern day versions of the Munich appeasers who wouldn’t stop Hitler in 1938, when there was still a chance to avoid world war.

Here’s a deeply divided France in the 1930’s, according to “The World at War” narration: “The left was more concerned with hounding rogues at home than with fighting Fascism elsewhere.” To Republicans, that describes today’s Democrats. Like the pre-war French left, Democrats seem more concerned about hounding Bush and his oil industry pals at home than they are about fighting Islamic extremism abroad.

Democrats prefer a different analogy: Iraq is today’s Vietnam. Iraq’s an unnecessary war, wasting resources needed at home. Iraq becomes more of a disaster with each new death. We should end the war as soon as possible. Vietnam taught us these lessons—avoid elective wars, intervene only when we can win quickly, and most important, be very wary of insurgencies.

Whatever their true worth, the Munich and Vietnam analogies are widely used today. It so happens that the two choices each correspond to one part of this blog’s goal statement. The analogy to Munich connects with the need for “capitalism + democracy,” and Vietnam links to “peace.” Here’s how:

“Capitalism + Democracy”. Al-Qaeda’s prospective soldiers are millions of unemployed Arab youth, similar to the unemployed German petit bourgeoisie whose distress helped Hitler’s rise. In Iraq, we are supporting democracy and free markets because reforming Iraq may help the whole Middle East defeat al-Qaeda.

“Peace”. As during Vietnam, the world cries out for peace. The Middle East especially needs peace. But the U.S. instead delivered a “preventive” war. We should lead by example. We should return to modeling peaceful behavior and get out of Iraq. We should make America a better democracy at home.

Here’s my problem. America can’t pursue “peace” by staying home. To defend ourselves we should be in the world, strengthening “capitalism + democracy.”

As suggested here repeatedly, Iraq isn’t Vietnam. Yes, the U.S. moved past its loss to North Vietnam. But the Vietnamese weren’t out to conquer an entire region—they settled for Laos and Cambodia. Al-Qaeda is. It’s using terror to transform the Arab world, and ultimately all of Islam. Al-Qaeda slaughters its enemies wherever al-Qaeda can do the most damage. If we lose in Iraq, we may expect to have al-Qaeda killing Americans in America once more.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Iraq Death Toll Reaches New High

Here’s our latest monthly, highly abbreviated version of the Iraq Index, published and updated twice a week by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution:

Americans Killed in Action, Iraq (monthly average)
2003: 32
2004: 59
2005: 56
2006: 58
2007: 85
May: 117

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (monthly average)
1965: 128*
1966: 420
1967: 767
1968: 1140
1969: 785
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar Peak: 2.50
Goal: 2.10 (Revised downward, 1/07)
actual: 2.02 (5/07)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 3,675 (5/07)

Since our last monthly report, the American KIA total rose from April's 95 to 117. The surge continues to cost American lives. The April-May two-month total of 212 KIA is the highest for any two-month period in the war. [Please note: the number of KIA is almost always lower than the media-reported total of American deaths, which covers all causes, including non-hostile. Our Iraq and Vietnam figures are KIA only.]

Both oil and electricity output declined from April to May, dropping below pre-war levels in the case of electricity, and in oil's case, dropping below even the target revised downward in January.

O’Hanlon has offered his evaluation of the surge’s success to date. Here, from that evaluation:

the basic US and Iraqi military inputs to the surge have now been almost entirely deployed. The picture that emerges from Iraq as summer begins is inherently mixed. Given America's waning patience with the war and the bad circumstances that prevailed in Iraq when then surge began, that conclusion is on balance bad news. . .

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Pyrrhic Victory?

The Six Day War began 40 years ago today. It was Israel’s complete and total humiliation of Palestine and the Jewish State’s Arab neighbors— Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

PBS had a good look at the war last night. Israel knew almost from the beginning that its victory was too good to last. And so it has proven to be. The Middle East presents a complex picture. But the heart of its problem is the humiliation Arabs received at Israel’s hands in 1967. It lead directly to Arab terrorism we can see in Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan’s assassination of Robert Kennedy exactly a year later, and that year’s first aircraft hijacking, when Palestinian militants forced an El Al flight to Algiers and held it for 40 days.

The violence has never stopped since. There has been progress, but perhaps less than if Israel’s 1967 victory had not been so lopsided. The secular states of Egypt and Jordan survived, but do not enjoy bright futures today. As for Israel. . .

Priestly Rule (V)

It may seem ironic to call American intellectuals “priests.” They are largely secular, leading the evolution that has taken us away from the Church and Christianity starting with the Enlightenment, continuing with Darwinism, and helped by the "lost generation" that followed a Great War both sides fought in God's name. Furthermore, the women’s movement that is so central to the Democratic coalition is fueled by alienation from Church stands on birth control and abortion. Intellectuals view Christian conservatives as a core GOP opposition group; Evangelicals have so been since Reagan took over the party in 1980.

Though the Democrats’ intellectuals are mostly secular, they resemble priests in that:

• They are better educated;

• They revere knowledge, and the superior position learning provides;

• They use their authority openly on behalf of the masses, whom they view as child-like;

• They treat warriors as rivals for power, put captains of industry in the same category, and seek to assert their superiority over their rivals where possible, and;

• They exercise domination by creating categories of persons whom are blessed, and whom are cursed.

Intellectuals in America today yearn for the larger meaning of life. They gain immortality by doing good for others less blessed—the poor, the minorities, women, GLBT persons, animals, and all things nature, including (especially in 2007) glaciers.

Their emphasis on superior knowledge—“reason” in the words of Al Gore, author of The Assault on Reason—means they are deeply concerned about Americans who spend 4.5 hours a day watching mindless television instead of reading. That makes people brain flabby; easy prey for simplistic messages that lead to Bush and Chaney’s election, followed by the Bush-Chaney systematic destruction of democracy's pillars—prohibition of torture, ban on warrantless wiretapping, and protection of our standing with intellectuals abroad—as well as their using the national treasury as a piggybank for friends and supporters.

Reading between the lines, I see modern day priests not as protectors of democracy as Gore suggests, but with their put-down of the masses' level of intellectual achievement, today's intelligentsia instead display a genuine fear of democracy. “The people, Sir,” Alexander Hamilton is supposed to have said, “are a beast.” Harvard’s Gore seems to agree.

Priestly Rule (IV)

Priests, the forerunners of today’s intellectuals, use their superior grasp of knowledge to help the rest of us find purpose in our lives. The priests controlled the world of tomorrow, while their natural rivals, the warriors, ruled the world of today.

The Great War (1914-18) was a total war, engulfing a whole generation of young men and civilians of all ages. After that war’s use of patriotism to drive millions to their premature deaths, intellectuals determined to rid the world of warriors, and disarm the great powers. That disastrous course of action prepared the ground for Hitler’s conquests and World War II.

FDR, Truman, and Kennedy understood the need for military power in a world with real enemies. European intellectuals, from nations that had suffered more than the U.S. through two world wars and that had lost their empires, were more committed to “better Red than dead,” “ban the bomb,” and “nuclear freeze.” Our war in Vietnam went down badly in Europe, convincing intellectuals there that America was a true threat to world peace.

Against that backdrop, American intellectuals fought to end the Democratic Party’s involvement with Vietnam, and beyond that, move the U.S. away from reliance on military power. Warriors were a national danger intellectuals needed to separate from power in the U.S., as warriors already had been in Western Europe.

Republicans under Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush 41 and 43 have all benefited from Democrats’ post-Vietnam hostility toward America’s military and national security. Intellectuals believe they have an unfinished mission. Having straightened out the Democratic Party, they must still convert other Americans who misguidedly think employing U.S. force overseas protects civilians at home.

That’s why it’s so important to intellectuals that Bush lose in Iraq. Intellectuals want to drive a wooden stake through the heart of American militarism and its GOP supporters to make sure that never again will our sons and daughters die in foreign wars—except in small numbers while staving off humanitarian disasters such as Rwanda and Darfur. Obviously if we are attacked directly, we have the right of self-defense, which justifies our being in Afghanistan. But that’s it.

The business of America is at home, finishing the agenda of the New Deal led by intellectuals, restored to the positions to which they are entitled.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Priestly Rule (III)

Intellectuals are usually in the elite mix for a share of power, and have been since priestly rule at the dawn of civilization.

It is said Washington D.C. is the nation’s SAT capital, staffed by the meritocracy that has done well in school. That’s true for the bureaucracy, the media, the Third Sector, and law firms that represent special interests included in the Democratic coalition. All this intellectual entitlement is frustrated, however, by GOP control of the White House.

In 1988, with Reagan completing his final year in office, it seemed intellectuals would again run the city. Reagan, like Eisenhower in the 1950’s, was an aberration, someone too popular for the masses to resist. It was time for the Democrats’ natural majority of labor, minorities, and women to recapture power and provide intellectuals the positions to which their achievements entitle them.

From the intellectuals’ viewpoint—and remember, they write the history books—Lee Atwater [pictured] is the villain who blotted this pretty picture. On behalf of Bush 41, using dirty big business money, Atwater mounted a vicious, unimaginably dishonest smear campaign against Democratic nominee Dukakis, thereby hijacking the election. The brains behind the Democratic Party resolved never to be outsmeared again, and to be smarter about at what a low common denominator of intellectual debate elections are won.

Intellectuals believe “the politics of personal destruction” began with Atwater. (What was it that brought down Johnson and Nixon--creampuffs?) Now “personal destruction” would be the norm against Bush 41 in 1992, Newt Gingrich in 1995-98, and Bush 43 and Chaney from 2000 onward. The GOP of Atwater responded with its own misguided effort to impeach Clinton (1997-99), then with the brutally-effective Swift-boat attacks on Kerry (2004).

Above the slime of negative campaigning, however, the intellectual drive to recapture control of Washington involves real issues. We will take up two: national security and Christianity.