Posted by James McPherson on October 14, 2008
After endorsing Barack Obama in a piece titled, “Sorry, Dad, I’m Voting for Obama,” Christopher Buckley felt compelled to leave the National Review, perhaps still the best conservative magazine in American despite its unfortunate descent into neoconservatism. Buckley’s endorsement and resulting departure are most noteworthy, of course, because “Dad” in this case founded the National Review at the remarkably tender age of 29.
Indeed, William F. Buckley was one of the founders of the modern conservative movement, and as such gets a fair amount of ink in my new book. As the younger Buckley points out, “The only reason my vote would be of any interest to anyone is that my last name happens to be Buckley—a name I inherited.”
There’s another reason to be interested in Buckley’s vote, however: because he is the latest in a line of conservative intellectuals to jump from the sinking McCain/Palin ship. Much of the blame is directed a Sarah Palin, about whom George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Frum and Ross Douthat all have expressed reservations. David Brooks has called her a “fatal cancer” for the Republicans. Kathleen Parker has called on her to drop out of the race, prompting conservative critics to call her a traitor and an idiot whose “mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn’t, I should ‘off’ myself.” Gotta love those family values.
On the other had, though it seems fairly clear that unless something dramatic and unexpected happens McCain will lose by a significant margin, it is worth remembering that many conservatives warned before the nomination that McCain “couldn’t win” the general election. My own suggestion back in June that McCain pick Palin as a running mate now looks a bit silly, though at least I can argue that I only spent a couple of hours on researching the issue and didn’t have a staff or tons of campaign funds to vet her (assuming the McCain camp did so). Still, Palin’s pick did energize the conservative base, and gave McCain a boost that perhaps no one else would have. Had he picked someone else, he might have been this far behind even sooner.
And did you notice that the day after Obama offered his economic plan and the stock market soared, McCain offered his plan this morning and the Dow fell by 302 points to close 76 points lower than where it started the day? Just coincidence, I’m sure. And the one argument that many conservatives have been trying to make, about Obama’s “associations,” may have taken a serious hit with today’s Huffington Post revelation that McCain’s presidential transition chief was a lobbyist for Saddam Hussein.
By the way, unlike some of my liberal friends, I don’t consider the term “conservative intellectual” to be an oxymoron–at least not yet, though Brooks is among those who points out that we may be headed that direction, noting, “What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole.” Brooks also notes accurately that the anti-intellectual conservative criticism of virtually all educated groups–journalists, educators, doctors, lawyers–gives young conservatives little incentive to enter those professions.
I would argue that other factors such as more education, a higher regard for public service, and less regard for personal wealth contribute more to the more relative (though far from absolute) scarcity of conservatives in journalism and education, but Brooks’ central point remains valid–if you favor leadership by stupid people, you’re more likely to get stupid policies.
Incidentally, the erudite William F. Buckley–who held relatively little regard for neoconservatives and once suggested that George W. Bush should resign over his inept foreign policy–would have made the same argument. With Buckley’s wit and wisdom, I wouldn’t put it past him to have died earlier this year just to avoid having to endorse Obama himself.
Saturday update: In her Wall Street Journal column, former Reagan staffer Peggy Noonan writes: “In the end, the Palin candidacy is a sympton and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It’s no good, not for politics and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.” Noonan said she expects criticism from the same anti-intellectual conservatives who have attacked Buckley, adding, “At any rate, come and get me, copper.”
Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: Barack Obama, Buckley endorsement, Charles Krauthammer, Christopher Buckley, conservatism, conservative movement, David Brooks, David Frum, Dow Industrial Average, George W. Bush, George Will, Huffington Post, John McCain, Kathleen Parker, liberal bias, liberal elites, McCain economic plan, McCain lobbyist, National Review, neoconservatism, Obama economic plan, Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan, Ross Douthat, Saddam Hussein, Sarah Palin, stock market, Wall Street Journal, William F. Buckley, William Timmons | 3 Comments »
Posted by James McPherson on September 28, 2008
Here is the complete 20-part series chronicling the history of George W. Bush’s Iraq War, perhaps the most astoundingly stupid presidential event in American history.
Axis of evil
For sake of definition
Can’t beat the devil
God’s soldiers attack
Saudi pilots slam towers
Time to hit Iraq
They ripped out our heart
We must avenge them all
Chickenhawks are thrilled
Three thousand were killed
Nine-eleven is the call
We win at Wal-Mart
Yes, we must attack
We can’t find bin Laden’s cave
So we’ll bomb Iraq
Bray it long and loud
Bush’s war will protect us
From a mushroom cloud
Why attack Saddam?
Weapons of mass destruction
None there? We’ll be damned
Please world wish us well
And God bless America
Flags throughout the land
Jingoistic fervor reigns
Don a black armband
Let’s not be out-Foxed
Lapel flags in great demand
How about those Sox?
Don’t count on the press
To learn what’s fact or fiction
The real truth? Just guess
Soldiers bravely toil
Thousands come home draped with flags
From their war for oil
God save George the King
Chinese car magnets for troops
Who don’t mean a thing
War is hell, he said
As if he had ever been
Your kids go instead
Shake bittersweet Rice
From a sheltered brittle Bush
Harvest has its price
Watch for terrorists
Those who’d offer civil rights
Must be communists
They’ve not hit again
Three-fourths as good as Clinton
Check back in oh-ten
Now the country’s broke
Try to change the rationale
Use mirrors and smoke
Go to war we can
If we must we must, they say
What about Iran?
Spin the bottle or the truth
Ending up the same
Posted in History, Journalism, Poetry, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: 9/11, American flag, Axis of evil, Bill Clinton, Bush administration, Bush's war, car magnets, Chinese magnets, Clinton administration, Condi Rice, Condoleezza Rice, devil, flag, flag pins, foreign oil, Fox News, George W. Bush, haiku, Iraq bombing, Iraq War, justification for war, made in China, mushroom cloud, news media, patriotism, Poetry, political spin, Politics, press, protest, rationale for war, Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia, September 11, soldiers, support the troops, terrorism, terrorist attack, war for oil, war is hell, war on terror, war on terrorism, warku, weapons of mass destruction, WMDs, World Trade Center, World Trade Center attack | 13 Comments »
Posted by James McPherson on September 15, 2008
This is the seventh of a series related to Bush’s war, perhaps the most astoundingly stupid presidential event in American history. Also see Warku #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, and #6.
Why attack Saddam?
Weapons of mass destruction
None there? We’ll be damned
Posted in History, Journalism, Poetry, Politics | Tagged: Bush administration, Bush's war, George W. Bush, haiku, Iraq War, justification for war, mushroom cloud, Poetry, rationale for war, Saddam Hussein, war on terror, warku, weapons of mass destruction, WMDs | Leave a Comment »
Posted by James McPherson on August 1, 2008
An Army scientist who may have mailed anthrax to various news organizations and government officials in 2001 is dead of an apparent suicide. (Despite the fact that he was reportedly a committed Catholic, for whom I think suicide would have been a mortal sin, letters to the editor show that he was obviously confused.) Though friends and family claim that Bruce E. Ivins was innocent and the victim of FBI harassment, he also had been accused recently of having “a history dating to his graduate days of homicidal threats, actions, plans, threats & actions towards therapist.”
Perhaps I’ve just watched too many episodes of “The X-Files,” “Prison Break” and similar programs, but If the accusation about long-time violent tendencies is true, one might wonder why Ivins was allowed to work in Army biodefense labs–WITH ANTHRAX, FOR GOD’S SAKE–for EIGHTEEN FREAKING YEARS! One would hope it was merely oversight or stupidity and not related in any way to all the help Ivins allegedly gave the Bush administration in its efforts to curb civil liberties in America and start a war in Iraq.
Perhaps no one has covered the anthrax issue better than Glenn Greenwald, who today offers another detailed and thought-provoking piece (one of a series of such stories). As Greenwald writes, “It was anthrax–sent directly into the heart of the country’s elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and other leading media outlets–that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism.” Greenwald previously has pointed out that ABC played a significant role in the false impression that Saddam Hussein and Iraq may have been involved in the anthrax attacks.
I have suggested to many people over the years (though not previously in writing), that if the culprit was ever found, he or she would likely be someone or strongly sympathetic to–if not associated with–the Bush administration. I did note a couple of years ago in my first book that the anthrax scare came just before Congress was asked to pass the USA PATRIOT Act. You’ll notice that the targeted Congressmen were somewhat liberal members of Congress, who might some might have expected to opposed the administration’s attempts to run roughshod over civil liberties. Apparently the terrorist neglected to send an envelope to Russ Feingold, the only Senator to oppose the act (which passed 357-66 in the House).
Many aspects of the Patriot Act had been proposed before 9/11, but Congress hurried to push it through in October 2001, just after the anthrax mailings. President George W. Bush created the Office of Homeland Security at about the same time, and began a concerted effort to link Hussein and Iraq to anthrax and other weapons of mass destruction. John McCain made the same connection: thinkprogress has video.
Perhaps the anthrax culprit has been identified, is dead, and is no longer a threat. But so far the 2001 anthrax scare has helped kill thousands of American soldiers, tens of thousands of Iraqis, and American civil liberties.
AUGUST 3 UPDATE: Greenwald continues his excellent coverage of the issue, asking important questions about journalists’ knee-jerk protection of even obviously dishonest government sources.
Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: 9/11, ABC, anthrax, Bruce E. Ivins, Bush administration, civil liberties, FBI, George W. Bush, government, Iraq, Iraq War, John McCain, NBC, Pat Leahy, Patriot Act, Politics, Russ Feingold, Saddam Hussein, thinkprogress, Tom Brokaw, Tom Daschle, USA PATRIOT Act, World Trade Center | 2 Comments »
Posted by James McPherson on July 8, 2008
Apparently longing for the bad old days when it actually mattered much as a nation in the overall scheme of world politics, the Czech Republic has agreed to let the U.S. deploy part of a disputed, unproven and perhaps unworkable anti-ballistic missile defense shield in former Soviet-held territory.
“Ballistic missile proliferation is not an imaginary threat,” said Condi “Mushroom Cloud” Rice, an expert on imaginary threats. The Bush administration promotes the shield as it has promoted pretty much everything else it has wanted to do since Saddam Hussein was dug out of a hole, as a defense against Iranian extremism. In this case, the shield would supposedly defend the U.S. and European allies from long-range missiles launched from Iran.
Even if Iran had weapons capable of reaching the U.S. and a reason to risk total annihilation by using them, of course, this would be a ludicrous argument. On the other hand, Bush and his cronies know that most Americans couldn’t use a globe to find Iowa, let alone Iran. If we really worry about missiles from the Middle East hitting the U.S., we should be building defenses in Canada. But then the Canadians aren’t as easily swayed by promises of foreign aid as are the eastern Europeans (and even Poland, another planned shield location, is holding out for a bigger U.S. payoff, which may force a shift to another former Soviet territory, Lithuania).
Iran’s missiles could reach Europe, and so maybe that alone is an argument for the shield, and of course the Bush administration strives to never avoid exaggeration, unless outright lying might work better. But Europeans also have little to fear from Iran, since the European Union is Iran’s biggest trade partner. Eastern Europeans do fear Russia, however, so they’ll appease Bush’s bait-and-switch if the U.S. might protect them from the Russians. And speaking of the Russians, of course they’re protesting the U.S.-Czech plan, with Mad Vlad Putin claiming it could lead to a new Cold War. They were already upset and understandably suspicious because Bush had previously rejected a missile treaty that even Ronald Reagan thought was OK.
And perhaps a new Cold War–which more than anything else helped give various forms of conservatism both the enemy and the credibility they needed to gain power–is Bush’s real aim. After all, just before he ran for office he bought a ranch like Reagan had, fashioned himself as a bumbling cowboy like Reagan did (OK, how much of that was intentional is debatable, but still…), attacked a country he thought would be easy to whip (sorry, Gee-dub, Iraq ain’t no Grenada), and tried to bring back the Gipper’s “Star Wars” defense system.
And still Bush’s approval ratings hover in the 20s. So maybe if he can get Putin (or Putin puppet Dmitri Medvedev) to rebuild the Berlin Wall, then insist that he tear it down, all in the next five months…
We could even lend some wall-building expertise and some undocumented labor.
Next day update: The Bush and news organizations are making a big deal of the fact that Iran just just fired nine missiles–with a maximum range of 1,200 miles. Of course Fox’s headline (for what it made the lead story of the day) was the scariest: “Iran Test-Fires Missiles Capable of Hitting Israeli, U.S. Bases.” Not Europe or the U.S., of course, meaning it took only a day for Condi Rice to be again revealed as a serial exaggerator. But with media attention spans being what they are, if the administration screams loud enough, perhaps people will think today’s story actually supports yesterday’s claims. The least surprising part of today’s story? “Oil prices jumped on news of the missile tests.”
Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: Berlin Wall, Cold War, Condi Rice, Czech Republic, Dmitri Medvedev, Fox News, George W. Bush, Iran, missile defense shield, oil prices, Ronald Reagan, Russia, Saddam Hussein, Sovieth Union, Star Wars, Vladimir Putin | 7 Comments »