And Now For Something Completely Different

It’s really instructive that the drama of the current campaign is deemed to be so crushingly relevant. The near lynching of ABC for its temerity in asking the Crown Prince about things any other candidate would surely endure? It seems to reflect more on his irrational adoration than anything else. We’ve even fallen for the attention in posts below.

Yet in truth, we should all perhaps take a step back. And ask ourselves — isn’t this a mosquito bite in the larger span of time? Won’t the details of this campaign itself disappear faster than John Kerry’s desperately wooden attempts to mimic spontaneity? Isn’t Gary Will’s breezy comparison of the Crown Prince to the greatest president in U.S. history a bit much? . Even Petraeus’ lack of candor regarding the Iraqi Army’s abysmal performance in Sadr City doesn’t merit a footnote in, as Ross Johnson (so memorably portrayed by James Garner) said, “the sands of time.”

We know, for example, that Vietnamization failed as an overall policy. Particular engagements in its failure are ignored by history’s cold and remorseless prism. (We will note, however, the lives lost and sacrificed here). So with U.S. strategic failure in Iraq. History may invoke Vietnam’s failure in a short kaleidescope: the Tet execution, innocents fleeing napalm and the helicopter. A couple of paragraphs in the not too far distant future given the Cold War’s outcome. And even then, more likely than not, in sociological books looking at hippies, Woodstock, the Haight and a summer of love.

We can all submit our favorites for the Excellent Adventure in the Sands.

Yes, it’s true that Iraq itself is a more profound historical matter than Vietnam. And that personalities such as the Warlord, Cheney, Rumsfeld and General Jello exerted decisive impact. But let’s be candid. The war’s presence (or looming presence) in the campaign is also a sideshow. All of the devastating effects of its launch can not be changed. Regardless whether the U.S withdraws in a year, 5 years or 10 years. The impact now is on the volunteers who sacrifice while the nation shops. “Judgment” who said what (true for all candidates, a fact suppressed by many in the besotted media) — a blip. All the damage already is on the balance sheets: the war’s genesis, deceptive inducement, catastrophic diplomatic ineptitude (continued with a blank smile by Cher Condi), and a supine armed forces knowingly led to its exhaustion, failure and near destruction. That train is long gone.

Cheney and Rumsfeld’s international coercive politics will not be tolerated or even possible again. Their “ram and cram” (here is what you are going to eat, today, Dearest Darling Virginia)) to Old Europe is already in the distant past (beyond chronological years). We are not fans of Joe Nye’s deification over “soft power” (such an obvious concept for him to be given a de facto “trademark”). Yet it is without doubt that the U.S. destroyed forever the century old mythos of America as benign hegemon. A new president reaching out will not change the global perceptual damage. That dream is gone out of the corner of the eye. The Warlord succeeded in one thing: he took us down to becoming just another declining Great Power.

All of that is fine and good. But U.S. real power is eroding even faster than the Warlord’s wanton destruction of our soft influence. More pressing is the economic and financial collapse of the foundation of American power. The implications here and abroad are staggering if not understood. When exactly America lost its understanding of its own power is another post. The simple fact remans: we, as a people, do not understand these things.

The American standard of living and consumptive behavior (private individuals and government) is eroding before our distracted eyes. The dollar’s free fall and the flight to the Euro are only the first of seismic tremors to come (much like animals sensing coming events with greater sensitivities). All of us know the cant about Western eclipse by “the Asian Century” (China and India merely the most obvious). Yet the financial collapse also diminishes the decisive impact by individuals committing U.S. power abroad — such as Iraq, supra.

There no longer is a need for a Suez Crisis to remind the U.S. its hegemonic days are in the past. We simply can no longer afford it without substantial approval from creditors. The individual meets systemic economic realities. Moreover, attempts to “moderate” the unfolding of Chinese power are futile. It is happening whether we like it or not. These days are only slowly dawning on the Imperial City — for example, talk about Iran still assumes that money, finance and resources don’t matter; all that determines events are some amorphous but crushing “U.S. power” and assessments of Iran and the ground, etc.

Let’s agree among ourselves that events may force the U.S. to return politics to economics. One could argue either way one supposes that this in fact validates the pressing need for this or that candidate to prevail. Notwithstanding McCain’s laudable and candid admission he doesn’t understand economics (which we noted most Americans don’t anyway). Perhaps this view from 50,000 feet serves us best. All here surely must concede that most of tectonic geopolitical pieces noted above are already in place. Perhaps Fineman and Joe Klein et al.s’ adoration of the Crown Prince is harmless. After all, if this post’s assessment is true then paraphrasing Keyne’s in the long run history won’t care much about Wright or Bosnia.

Still, in our view, the Crown Prince’s hollowness would accelerate matters. Motivational speeches belong on late night cable. The American reduction in standard of living already is taking place. We don’t see the Crown Prince managing this reality (and visceral future). How that decline unfolds with its inevitable outcome can still be ameliorated. At the margins. Even so, no one, not even Ron Paul, put forth an economic program even remotely relevant to compete with, or reduce reliance upon, Asian economic ascendancy. Perhaps that is asking too much. Can one truly expect a more dramatic and government-led effort to lower it to counter U.S competitors and induce savings? Not only are there too many U.S.-based self interests primed to subvert even mention. Wealth from both the Middle East, China, Japan and India and even the ASEAN states will buy power through porous U.S political structures. It’s a political non-starter. Bill Clinton learned this after 1992 after criticizing (correctly in our view) GHWB’s kowtow after 1989. Clinton struggled with a relationship locked into empty “dialog”. And this was during the Internet boom years.

Perhaps the Crown Prince’s coronation won’t matter much at all.

Comments

  1. Aldershot says

    “The reckoning has begun. This election was never about change – even for the masses that were lapping up that word. All the major candidates are running on a fear of change, as most people actually like the status quo and are afraid that the Bush years will bring a change in our ability to consume/feel good/eat all you can to which during the last 15-20 years we have grown very accustomed. ”

    Well said.

  2. Aldershot says

    “Yet you asked about HRC. As noted earlier, her capacity for dealing with cold realities without flinch or flights to fancy are fact: in the Watergate Committee, Bubba’s 1992 campaign, her oversoon botched health care plan, her efforts to marginalize Dick Morris (earning his eternal hatred), as well as facing down what essentially amounted to a VWRC coup d’etat.”

    Thanks for the considerate reply, Doc. Yes, I have to agree, she’s a tough cookie. A while back I saw about five minutes of a Hillary bio, probably on CNN or MSNBC. The part I caught was, maybe, during Bill’s second run for governor. He was tied up elsewhere, so she went and openly challenged his opponent while he was giving a news conference. As she was speaking the camera swung to catch his reaction, which was one of, best as I can describe, cynical amusement, bemusement, and what the hell?

    And her doggedly never giving up during this campaign is most admirable. Dammit, I’m pulling for her. But she screwed it up so. She had more black vote than Obama at the beginning, and could have kept it by running on experience, competence, and promises. Their campaign philosophy should have been, ‘don’t go there, stupid.’

  3. Comment says

    From the NY Times editorial:

    First – note Powell’s name. regularly he is written up as a torture opponent – Yet, he was silent and it was Ashcroft that offered objections.

    “But recent accounts by ABC News and The Associated Press said that all of the president’s top national security advisers at the time participated in creating the interrogation policy: Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Rumsfeld; Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser; Colin Powell, the secretary of state; John Ashcroft, the attorney general; and George Tenet, the director of central intelligence.

    These officials did not have the time or the foresight to plan for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq or the tenacity to complete the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But they managed to squeeze in dozens of meetings in the White House Situation Room to organize and give legal cover to prisoner abuse, including brutal methods that civilized nations consider to be torture.

    Mr. Bush told ABC News this month that he knew of these meetings and approved of the result.

    Those who have followed the story of the administration’s policies on prisoners may not be shocked. We have read the memos from the Justice Department redefining torture, claiming that Mr. Bush did not have to follow the law, and offering a blueprint for avoiding criminal liability for abusing prisoners.

    The amount of time and energy devoted to this furtive exercise at the very highest levels of the government reminded us how little Americans know, in fact, about the ways Mr. Bush and his team undermined, subverted and broke the law in the name of saving the American way of life.

    We have questions to ask, in particular, about the involvement of Ms. Rice…”

    —-

    This would have been an excellent thing to ask the candidates about, during a debate. Both Hillary and Barack would prefer not to discuss this in detail – both because torture is not as unpopular as some think , but also both risk losing support or raising problems if they say they will hold people accountable.

    It’s a tough issue – Comment thinks it is a disgrace what Buhs & Co. did. A total disgrace – Yet, we would be very reluctant to investigate and/or charge them for war crimes. For a variety of reasons. A lot of democracts think otherwise and both Hillary and Barack muddle the issue – not because they think Bush is innocent, but because they know he is not and the implications are stark.
    A lot of people don’t want to think of our leaders as war criminals. Us included.

    George and Gibson were both afraid to ask Obama about flag pins. They didn’t want to sully their hands with a ‘non serious’ issue, so they outsourced the question to an echt working class voter to ask.

    Surely some journalist could do the same thing with torture questions and other material they are afraid to press because of right wing backlash.

    McCain has been given a pass – he voted with Bush on three seperate occassions on this issue. He should be pressed about it and about legal accounability.

  4. Anon says

    Damm those typos above – We’re having some keyboard issues = But as to the “who could predict” question. That’s a great question. We were skeptical of Bush, but not surpriseed is invaded Iraq. Yes – were surprised by the apparatus he brought to bear.

  5. Anon says

    Agree to disagree – we agree with that – One area that is not getting attention is HRC’s unilateral decision to extend a NATO-type guaruntee to almost all of Isreal and the Gulf area. We see Leon H wrote about that – We have not read his piece yet, but to us this seemed like Hillary proposing something she would not have the power to carry out – Unless she believes in the Addington/Yoo conception of the Executive.

    But we really should have a debate – re Rosenthal – what Graham said on the tapes was wicked. Imagine if Bush was forced to answer for it? If they played it every day on TV in the context of Bush’s supposed Kennebunk conversion walk. That would have been unfair, no doubt.

  6. says

    Could anyone foresee the true radicalism to come? Sitting there in Philadelphia not really to most. After being on the ground in South Carolina, we felt a lurking inkling and distaste. Despite the cavalcade of moderation (now obviously props) such as General Jello, etc. The Warlord-to-be himself compared to Gore in the debates seemed far more comfortable.

    History can be sudden.

    Yes, it took me too long to recognise the real game as well. You can map people by the point at which they jumped off the train; like chromatography. I was after Camp X-Ray but before when (we now know) Addington and co wrote their justifications. Andrew Sullivan took until 2005.

  7. DrLeoStrauss says

    We should agree to disagree on that question. Regarding Abe Rosenthal, we just have to say that he extended an extraordinary courtesy to the Stiftung above and beyond what we can say here. That is our own personal experience. The questions are framed that way to bring forth a non-programmed response and see where the personalities of candidates go — scramble back to talking points, expand on tolerance, etc.

    With Wright to the Stiftung it is a no-brainer and would be professional malpractice not ask it.

  8. Anon says

    Also – there was a dishonest presumption when Stephanopolous later in his defensive crouch – He tried to pretend this was a new story, rather than something that had dominated the news for weeks and he decided to re-hash.

    Oh wait – we’re being unfair to George – we recall in 2000, he asked Bush on a live debate –

    “Gov. Bush. Does Billy Graham love Jewish Americans as much as you do? Does Billy Graham love Abe Rosenthal as much as you do?”

  9. Anon says

    That was a bizarre way to frame a question – Who the hell talks like that in real life? It’s was insincere on many levels – The question posed as being sincere – But it was full of cowardly guile – Stefanopolous was afraid to ask direct questions about Wright? He hid behind a false inquisitorial pose. He’s a joke – He’s been a joke this whole season on his show with his purely horse race questions. He is acting out from his mal-treament in the early 90s/

  10. DrLeoStrauss says

    That question did not seem unreasonable. The overreaction to ABC says more about the hysteric nature of his train.

  11. Anon says

    YMMV – but this is a funny dead on description of G. Will. lol – And we don’t care who is voting for who – but there was just no excuse of the form and style of Stephaopolous question : “Does your minister love America as much as you do?” How much false earnestness can someone squeeze into a question. It was misleading on so many levels – Stephanopolous was slapped around quite a bit back in the day and he lost his self respect – Should be funny to see him with that preposterous snob Will on TV tomorrow:
    http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=f9944ce3-fc34-4112-8f1a-34e7e6a7b7c9&k=44586

  12. DrLeoStrauss says

    This blog has made a point of not endorsing any candidate. Our criticisms of the Crown Prince arose out of scorn for the simplistic embrace we saw all around us.

    So let’s be clear we are not endorsing a candidate yet are unconvinced of the Crown Prince’s glory.

    re above, we don’t see him having the political understanding, capital, will, or staying power to engage. He has never shown any of these characteristics. Defeating Alan Keyes surely can’t count.

    Some in the Democratic Party worry about a Dukakis presidency, but for all his failings, Dukakis was a fairly substantial and experienced executive. In our view, we think of the Peanut Farmer, lurching trying to catch up to one event after another.

    Of course, the Crown Prince’s PR will be better. And in a meta age of symbology over substance maybe that will be enough. An eloquent speech offering a sweeping vision can be offered proof of his engagement. But actually will change on the ground? We just don’t think the Crown Prince has the spine, the experience or background to engage all the centers of power successfully to change the American experience. He simply doesn’t merit this office at this time (absent some future seasoning in a substantial executive position).

    We’ve avoided embracing other candidates, as noted. Yet you asked about HRC. As noted earlier, her capacity for dealing with cold realities without flinch or flights to fancy are fact: in the Watergate Committee, Bubba’s 1992 campaign, her oversoon botched health care plan, her efforts to marginalize Dick Morris (earning his eternal hatred), as well as facing down what essentially amounted to a VWRC coup d’etat. All these factors in our view give her an understanding of political realities and brutal realities and strength that outweigh in our view whether the Crown Prince is down with Jay Z.

    On substance, the American military has developed a profound respect and appreciation for her preparation and knowledge of military issues. She will need to draw on that for extraction, procurement struggles, and posture realignment. Recall Carter was nearly castrated for hinting a change in Korea (Singlaub et al.) The Crown Prince simply doesn’t have the gravitas here or there to pull it off in our opinion.

    On the domestic front, HRC in our opinion would be better positioned to restructure the eviscerated federal regulatory apparat under the Warlord. HRC understands knife work and purges. A purge to Obama is hitting CTL ALT DEL on a bad law review article.

    Yet, for all that, given her other negatives, would she survive a general election and be able to govern outside the Executive? Open questions.

  13. Aldershot says

    “Still, in our view, the Crown Prince’s hollowness would accelerate matters. Motivational speeches belong on late night cable. The American reduction in standard of living already is taking place. We don’t see the Crown Prince managing this reality (and visceral future). How that decline unfolds with its inevitable outcome can still be ameliorated. At the margins.”

    Doc, will you please expand on this? What do you foresee him doing differently than Hillary and what are her strengths in this regard?

  14. Anon says

    re Global adjustments – We admire Sexton’s boldness of vision, but we think this article is apropros of what was discussed earlier – This university is a byproduct of our massive military spending in the region propping up and helping otherwise vulnerable dictatorships prosper.

    There is a lot of comedy in this – Note the punishment for drug use – We recall NYU in the 80s and 90s as having a high level of drug use. Like 100 percent.

    So now one of the most liberal Universities in the US is going to partnered with a dictatorship. It may work, but …
    http://nymag.com/news/features/46000/index2.html

  15. Dr Leo Strauss says

    A complete distraction. The TPM author’s an idiot. And so is anyone reacting to this. Say what one will, Joe Klein’s book about 1992 said this all far more clearly and broadly. There was a fricking movie about this dichotomy. Even Stephenopolous has described the divergence between Bubba and HRC.

    The precise comments might have tactical utility to the Crown Prince. We doubt he has the spine to deal with catastrophic situations. We are convinced his first and deepest instinct would be to give another speech. And given his advisors ala Wright, one can only conclude the comments would be far more incendiary.

    As far as our former union card in the VRWC at the time we were stunned by our own new found power. Yet in 1995 always suspected and in fact believed in the marrow that this was the way things operated. Bubba proved elusive in the shutdown and repeatedly out counterpunched the VRWC.

    We lost faith in the VRWC even before 1996 but still pretended to be a Believer. An internal perspective can do that.

    By 2000 in Philadelphia, as we sat literally two seats away from Hannity and a mere ten feet from Bo Derek we were Outsiders. We had made the journey. We had far more fun at the Counter Convention. Gore, however, remained Gore.

    Could anyone foresee the true radicalism to come? Sitting there in Philadelphia not really to most. After being on the ground in South Carolina, we felt a lurking inkling and distaste. Despite the cavalcade of moderation (now obviously props) such as General Jello, etc. The Warlord-to-be himself compared to Gore in the debates seemed far more comfortable.

    History can be sudden. Remember, the then-Shrub’s first address after the election was about stem cells. He had no mandate for radicalism or delusional self imagery. Only 9/11 gave Cheney, Rumsfeld, the Neocons, et al. the license and turned Democrats and the other Separate Branches of Power into eunuchs.

  16. Tbilisi says

    The reckoning has begun. This election was never about change – even for the masses that were lapping up that word. All the major candidates are running on a fear of change, as most people actually like the status quo and are afraid that the Bush years will bring a change in our ability to consume/feel good/eat all you can to which during the last 15-20 years we have grown very accustomed.

    My prediction is that the real ‘change’ election will be in 12-20 years, after the Reckoning has taken its toll. I’m optimistic – but not certain – that this change will be positive and not some sort of authoritarian restoration like the doctor has mentioned here before.

  17. Comment says

    Tweety just took two more – in passing – shots at Jon Stewart. Ha! He is still PO’d ar Stewart – What’s so funny is how Matthews tries to squeeze his digs at Stewart into the flow of his show, but he cannot do it in cool way – It’s always akward and in a forced phony context that he transparently manufactures for the sake of his dig. He is a bit like George Costanza with his “jerkstore” comeback – If you saw that eipsode you know what we mean.
    On time Matthews literarlly dedicated half his show to trying to bait his guests into commnenting negatively about Stewart – But he lost his patience half way into it and blurted out, out of context, that he was still mad at Stewart. What a madman! A trainwreck in waiting.

  18. Comment says

    re Beyonce and JayZ – Don’t forget Denzel too. lol – Let John McCain’s buddies complain about Tiger. – Tweety on TV now complaining about Hillary’s loud voice. LOL – Hillary should used Tweety as a punching bad a bit – it will serve to marginalise him if she treats him a bit like a clown.

    if Venture runs – he’s gotta grow those beard braids going again.

  19. Comment says

    Aside from us thinking it wise (depending on circumstance) to push back (or even mock) media debate monitors, we think it could be come good TV.

    Stephanopolous casually embedded a neocon counter-narrative into one of the premises of his question – He said Iran was pursuing nukes yada yada yada. Is Iran pursuing nukes? Maybe – we think they might be. But the point is, Bush’s own Community said they stopped doing so. So that should be the default positions.
    No one grabbed Stephanopolous and shook him and said he should leave his own tendentios ideas out of the question – But a candidate could start getting used to doing that and it could be good TV.
    Poor George would have been spooked if he was cleverly mocked in the beginning of the debate. He would have been self conscious.

    It could be a new part of the entertainment factor.

    Incidentally – Jesse Ventura was excellent at doing this to reporters – making them wince and feel defensive. We hope he jumps into the race in Minn and wins – We are not fans of Franken the overrated comedian.

  20. Comment says

    Just to make one last point about that dumb debate – Leave aside the resentments of the one time Limbaugh punching bag and his flashbacks for being hazed for his innane WaPo/Washingtonian profiles in the early 90s – Charlie Gibson, with those made-for-comedy reading glasses perched obnoxiously at the end of his nose while he pretended to ve Samuel Seabury. Who the **** does Gibson think he is lecturing both candidates not to talk at the same time?

    This is a long pet peeve of ours – We have long believed that candidates – all of them – should push back at these clownish overpaid media figures. It will take some time getting used to, but we think its been downhill since Bernie Shaw tried to steal the show.

    We think McCain is open to the idea of a format free of monitors more concerned about their own contracts and their own hate mail than being inconspicious.

    Interesting that David Gregory is still defending the idea of debates based on solely on this stuff. That’s because this format benefits his class – so he clings to it, since he has no guns to cling to – unlike comment. lol

    Gibson and those glasses – same stupid prop used by Brian Williams.

  21. Dr Leo Strauss says

    The Crown Prince certainly knows how to drop the Beyonce and JayZ bomb – perhaps that is both funny and ironic.

    As for the future, the above is not necessarily pessimistic if the U.S. is prepared psychologically, strategically and internally for these developments instead of reflexively denying that anything has changed since 1945-1999. As we note, the developments will occur regardless of whether the Crown Prince internalizes his historical ready at the seasoned age of 47, etc.

    A strategic recalibration’s other sign will be the shock that we can not pay for generational replacement of Reagan-era materiel consumed or destroyed in Iraq. So will be infrastructure and all the other bills. It’s yet to be on the agenda is real terms. The budgetary knife fighting will be intense. So will be the public’s dismay.

    Even so, as you note, the U.S. over the horizon presence in the ME is objectively unmaintainable — as well as the mindset. U.S. failure in Iraq crushed the Arab ruling elites’ concept of American Power as invincible Deity. Sustaining an historical policy engorged in December 1979 by the Peanut Farmer and Zbig makes no sense.

    Our overall assessment above did not address nor did it seek to address the impact of economic development in Asia for individuals, societies and regions. That remains for another day.

  22. Comment says

    Interesting – all the poinst Wills makes in his first few paragraphs are ones that we made a while ago to a some friends just to provoke an uproar. We have not read the rest – we will later. But most people who admire Lincoln today would have thought him ridiculous before he became President. It’s actually pretty interesting to read contemporary accounts of the Lincoln campaign because it’s possible to see current personage equivalents in those historical actors.
    IMO – one of the things Lincoln shares with Obama and differs with McCain is the way he thinks and talks about historical figures. It’s hard to factor Hillary here because her true thoughts are more guarded. She did not write her own books. Neither did McCain, but his collaboration w/Salter is close. But getting back to McCain – McCain reads quit a bit of history, but his thoughts on what he has read are usually unreflective and reductive. He sees historical figures almost like someone reading a Management book. Obama and Lincoln are very different – They are both highly self conscious and self reflective. Obama lacks Lincoln’s unique sense of humor – He has own, but it’s not as deep. But he also a very creative mind and rueful sense of irony.

  23. Comment says

    We have not seen Ben Stein’s new documentary “Expelled,” and we are not sure if we’ll bother. But we happen to notice that Stein got snotty negative review in the NY Times today. It was the snottiest negative review we’ve read in the Times since Frank Rich mocked Gore’s movie – ridiculing its box office chances/impact.. Rich is often a contrary indicator (he thought Drudge was over following the impeachemnt vote – said “no one reads Drudge”) Not sure about this current reviewer, but Stein might have come up with a winner – at the box office.

  24. Comment says

    If the Indian economy continues to grow at a brisk pace there is a chance the average Indian could have an income level similar to Ireland’s forty or more years ago. Same with China. There will be many many wars along the way and much suffering. But the overall betterment of peoples lives is a blessing and it’s hard now to figure all the benefits to come. The number of medical and scientific advances that will come out of Asia will be stupendous and all mankind will benefit in ways hard to parcel out on a geo-political balance sheet.
    Too much emphasis on the Middle East – Just at there was once too much emphasis on the sugar producing West Indies.

  25. Comment says

    You make salient points – though we disagree with your overall pessimism. The US has every reason for a bright future, providing we begin turning the battleship now. The Asia Century will surely happen – But it will not necessarily be at our expense. In the short to medium term – there will be wrenching adjustments. Sending trillions to Arabia will have to stop at some point. Playing chumps and guarding the world’s oil supplies will have to stop. These retrenchments are all victories – Once the reactionary politics in the US subsides and there is less focus on face saving and ephemeral credibility issues, then the US can start acting in its own interests

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