Even A Broken Clock, Yada, Yada,Yada

It pains us to write this. To our very core. But consider this hastily (so it seems) written item at NRO from the esteemed VDH. Naturally, all the predicates he uses to reach his rather limpid conclusion are delusional, but consider that denouement nonetheless:

Two, billions of people in India, Russia, China, Asi, and Latin America, having copied American business and culture, are now doing better, and demand the same good lives we take for granted.

Our rivals suspect that we are played out, short of energy, long on debt, and hogging the world’s resources. They see no reason to stop pushing just because of our past strength and reputation. They think the future is theirs, the past ours. And so all over the globe they will surely challenge the next president, however nice, to prove them wrong.

The first paragraph is dismissible as mere random thinking — on all three counts: (a) business; (b) culture and even (c), demanding the American lifestyle. In fact, the hallmark of the 21st century so far is a backlash against rootless consumerism and mass market lowest common denominatorism. (It’s interesting from a Kindleberger point of view to see the current financial history being written as well). So we will will not knock down a strawman (if readers think we duck out of the point we can take it up in comments).

He is, however, most assuredly right about the latter. If 40 years ago the phrase on the walls of Shanghai to the dorms of Berkeley was “paper tiger”, surely many international actors see the rubble of Cher Condi’s fabulousity as once in a generation opportunity. International order is still essentially anarchical and governed by self-interest, no matter how much idealists in the U.S. would like to re-assemble the tatters of international law that the U.S. did much to build itself until the Warlord/Cheney’s destructive radicalism.

So who is best positioned to navigate these treacherous times? Most politically aware Americans correctly see that Congress long ago jettisoned the DNA of the Dirksens, etc. There are none there who even remember the responsibilities and greatness that a co-equal branch of government  deserves and shoulders. Except Byrd and he is a curiosity for media mockery. We live in diminished times.

2008 promoses little relief on the executive front. Texas and Ohio are looking like the Vistula and Oder to the Stiftung. We could be wrong but the free media in the tank for the Crown Prince looks unstoppable. True, HRC has been a mediocre candidate. Yet she successfully raised a great deal of money this month, only to be surpassed by the Crown Prince again. One can almost hear the outbursts from Over There:

“Obama has raised another $15 million dollars this month!”

“Nonsense! Whoever is reporting these numbers is a lunatic and needs to be locked up!”

It truly is terrifying when one stops to think about it all. Should the Crown Prince prevail, the world’s undeniably deflating but still preponderant Power will veer from the Warlord’s sociopathic embrace of violence to rapturous adoration of vacuity. Within an historical blink of the eye. Such gyrations are hardly the means of creating the foundation of a stable and rational strategic re-assessment necessary to align ends with means. Our guess? We will witness the usual, such as Richard Holbrooke’s sheer lust and ambition and other squalid scrambles for perches, each thinking they can be the Cardinal to the Crown Prince. The result? Inconsistent policies of personality and lurches. In some ways, more disheartening than Neocon irrational bellicosity — simply because one is trying to grasp cotton candy. At lower levels, we will see in all likelihood an exchange of one ignorant youth cadre (the Evangelicals) for Obama’s (what). With the Warlord’s regime, one at least knew what the ideology was. We could confront it and draw lines and distinctions.

But what the hell is Obama-ism? Besides air.


  1. wwz says

    sglover and others now supporting Obama,

    I appreciate the spirited responses and thoughtful points of view. Really, I do. This is the messy part of democracy, I suppose. A part of me would love to surrender to the current wave seemingly ready to usher in living history. But I have this inescapable, nagging feeling of being suckered by the empty promise of hope. There is just no there, there, for me. Nothing in the man’s career even remotely suggests he is ready to be President of the United States.

    But that’s why we have elections. Reasonable people can disagree. For me, Clinton is more prepared to run the country. (likes and dislikes come after, not before) Barack has to prove he will/can do better. He has not.

    Clinton comes with a lot of baggage. There is no doubt in my mind I would be very displeased with some aspects of her presidency. Yet, I think that is preferable to Obama, who I see as an unprepared, opportunistic empty suit. I view this as a risk with an element of danger. He has produced nothing I can honestly say has a chance to change my mind that Hillary hasn’t already covered better, and in more detail. Perhaps he will.

    If Obama gains the nomination I will vote for him in the fall. The outrage that was the last seven years has burned me out. Any one of the democrats would be preferable to any one of the republicans. Thats the best I can offer.

    ps – sglover, I didn’t mean to appear as if I was quoting you specifically, thus the single quotes. It was meant to reflect the general meme of supporters. I should have left them off entirely for clarity’s sake.

  2. Comment says

    Here’s Naomi Klein’s advice to Obama : (Naomi has her moments and makes some good points in her columns, but her Doc “The Take” celebrating the seizure of an Argentine factory by the ‘workers’ was sort of a jump the shark moment for her kind of leftism)

    “As the most visible target of this rising racism, Obama has the power to be more than its victim. He can use the attacks to begin the very process of global repair that is the most seductive promise of his campaign. The next time he’s asked about his alleged Muslimness, Obama can respond not just by clarifying the facts but by turning the tables. He can state clearly that while a liaison with a pharmaceutical lobbyist may be worthy of scandalized exposure, being a Muslim is not. Changing the terms of the debate this way is not only morally just but tactically smart ….”

    Can you imagine worse political advice for an aspiring President? Maybe Tweety’s “What Obama Should Say” speech suggestion. But still.

    Ofcourse, Obama would never do anything like what Klein suggests. He’s cool and he rejects cheap points. That’s part of his appeal.

  3. Comment says

    FDR’s campaign in 1932 had little or no relation to his actual program when he got in.

  4. Comment says

    re WWZ, AUMF & HRC. – You just can’t underestimate that vote. It plays into great fears that HRC is secretly pro permenance re Iraq. The endless interpretations of her vote are tiresome. Obama is a fresh start. HRC’s 3am ad will be bought by McCain on Ebay when/if she folds up shop and then McCain will do the whole grown-up military schtick properly against Obama.

  5. Tbilisi says

    Dr, I’ve been considering your question “What is Obama-ism?”

    Other than air, it is process-ism. He is essentially campaigning to make the political process better, without any specific end objective for that process. Obama-ism as stated is simply “fair play-ism” or maybe “rationalism” (i.e. the opposite of the “ideological hysterico-assholism” currently dominant).

    For me the unsettling thing about Obama is that even though process is a necessary part of any democratic (small ‘d’) governing philosophy, it is not sufficient. So what is the rest comprised of? Air, maybe. PRobably though just the mediocre/poor Democratic policies of the last 20 years, which is of course preferable to the catastrophic policies of the Republicans.

    The Economist this week said his chief economics advisor is a “very young, but respected” economist at U Chicago. I thought this was telling. I would expect more “best and the brightest,” who are likely to be neither.

    Still, no way in hell will I ever vote for another Clinton or McCain.

  6. sglover says

    I’m not saying that Obama is “The One”, and he wasn’t my first choice for the nomination. As I hope I made clear in my first post, I’m very leery of all the adulation he’s getting. In that sense, he really is Kennedy-esque, but I say that as somebody who’s always considered Kennedy easily the most over-rated President in the postwar era, and very possibly the whole of American history*.

    But I do think that it’s incorrect to judge the man simply because people are swooning over him, because this is not a “normal” time. Given the last seven years, it’s simple common decency to welcome a guy who ISN’T waist-deep in the Beltway mire. Little Hil is, and her squawks about “experience” only emphasize her complicity. And make no mistake, “complicity” is the right word: By now, the Iraq disaster is every bit as much the Dems’ war as it is Bush’s. By and large, the Congressional Dem leadership and membership is a disgrace.

    You’re correct that we can’t “know” how Obama would have voted in the original AUMF travesty, but we do really truly know that at the time he made one of the more cogent anti-war speeches. And again, we also really truly know how little Hil ACTUALLY voted. I don’t understand how her DOCUMENTED votes somehow balance Obama’s hypothetical ones.

    * I might nominate Reagan as most over-rated, but I think his luster comes from a whole lot of artificial rubbing and buffing. I expect his star to dim very rapidly, and it won’t be too long before he’s down around Harding — where he belongs.

  7. wwz says


    Its fair to call her out on the vote. She made it. I don’t agree with it, or your limited multiple choice analysis but, no matter. Senators build records which others can use against them, fairly or not. They do have constituencies, after all. People will think what they want.

    It still comes down to –it always does with Obama supporters– they would rather voted against Hillary for that vote, and for what Obama didn’t do. As if nothing else matters. Its a mistake in the making. People want to vote for a guy because of what he didn’t do. He didn’t even have a chance to do, btw, because he wasn’t in Congress. He was standing in the crowd waving at Hillary driving by in the metaphorical motorcade of your snide remark.

    Hillary is not perfect by any stretch, certainly. My candidate isn’t even in the running. But this isn’t about Albright or Holbrooke. That’s gathering hay.

    Perhaps Obama is ‘the one’; Mr Anderson. But that opinion can only be based on hope, a luxury I don’t feel we have.

    Using the AUMF vote against Hillary as the prime reason to support Obama is thin. There is no assurance whatever that Obama wouldn’t have done the same. It also distracts from laying blame for the complete mess Iraq has become at the feet of the one who actually deserves it. Hillary didn’t invade Iraq, Bush did. So then, of course, pick Obama? Makes no sense to me.

  8. Comment says

    “… She [Hillary] worked to get inflammatory speech out of Palestinian textbooks …”

    Maybe she hasn’t looked at Palestinian textbooks in a while – Many of them come from Arab countries and they would make Der Sturmer blush. The head of the Palestinian authoritys actually got his PhD in Holocaust denial and he’s Bush’s buddy. So it goes.

    John Hume should STFU. That was all due to Bill letting Adams have a visa and then Blair accepting the inevitable.

  9. Comment says

    Madeline Albright has one of the all time gaffes – telling Stahl it was “worth it” to let 500000 Iraqi kids die, because it prevented Saddam getting wmd.
    A couple of years later she forgot that Saddam had no wmd and suddenly wanted to invade. So much for the 1/2 million sacrifice. Then when there was no wmd, she re-remembered that fact and said she misspoke about the alleged deaths.

  10. Comment says

    Spengler had several things in there that have only appeared in necon journals. Factually dubious things. Besideds, any casual reader of Spengler columns would have to laugh at the idea of him accusing anyone of hating America – His whole column drips with loathing for the US as a nation of chumps, dupes, and losers

  11. sglover says

    It’s nice that HRC got to drive in the big car during some motorcade. And references from Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke — wow, those are names that are gonna resonate through the ages, you bet.

    Look, it’s real simple: Whatever “experience” little Hil claims, she VOTED FOR THE WAR. Which makes her either a cowardly political opportunist (like most Dems who went along) or a strategic imbecile (like most Republicans). Or maybe she’s a bit of both. Either way, she isn’t worth the loyalty of any sentient American.

  12. wwz says


    Far be it for me to try to defend the likes of Penn, or the other handlers. Thats tall duty. And if I thought that campaigns were more than slightly relevant to executing the office of President I’d grant you a better argument.

    However, to offer a taste of what better informed advisers might have said, I would proffer this:

    Concerning HRC’s involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process: John Hume wrote, “I can state from firsthand experience that she played a positive role for over a decade in helping to bring peace in Northern Ireland.”

    Let’s recall her trip to China: “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” She backed up her rhetoric and was under considerable pressure to retract, which she never did.

    Hillary was instrumental in convincing President Clinton that the US should take action in Kosovo. Madeleine Albright, Wes Clark, and Richard Holbrooke have recognized her role in this.

    Hillary has real foreign policy experience concerning the intractable Israel/Palestine conflict as well. She worked to get inflammatory speech out of Palestinian textbooks, and is considered pro-Israel. A simple googling will reveal praise from both the Israeli’s and Palestinians for her involvement.

    Add to that, she was simply President Clinton’s closest and most trusted adviser, which puts her at arms length from the most powerful position on the planet. To one like Laura Bush it may mean little. But HRC is smart, ambitious, and a very interested policy wonk. Those years were not lost on her. She saw power wielded from the cockpit. Policy judgments aside, she has lengthy exposure to how the game is played at a world class level with the Pentagon, and both foreign and domestic adversaries. Unless people are willing to elect what’s behind door number two based on handlers, I would make the case that people are enabled to choose poorly by your words, not informed to choose wisely.

  13. sglover says

    ah yes, BO appears to be the quintessential manufactured candidate. They all are to some degree. BO, OTOH, has had little vetting and sparring that seasons a pol to the way things get done, shapes the art of the possible, and solidifies ones own mind on weighty matters such as how to handle power.

    Clinton is far superior in this regard, of that there can be little doubt to a clear mind.

    Heh. Hilarious. You can give a listen to exactly how much “experience” her own handlers can summon up, when they’re asked a simple question:


  14. Comment says

    re Motive – Matthews gave away at the end of the show what’s bugging him – He claimed the stock market crashed – which it didn’t do. But Matthews probably lost money anyway. We recall O’Reilly taking it personally when the dotcom bubble burst and there were corporate scandals. Interesting – even thought Bill exaggerates his working class creds and flipped out when Kinsley called him on it, he is still more authentic and intelligent than Matthews.

    So this is why Matthews is freaking out about Obama supposedly going all bourgeois and Cosby on him – even though Obama gave the exact same speech many times before.

    re HRC’s scare ad – Bad ad – McCain could use the same ad against Hillary that Hillary is using againt Obama. Obama is the only one to change the game, by calling into question the whole Iraq war mentality.

  15. Comment says

    Matthews is truly a troubled soul – He is flipping out about some run of the mill speech Obama gave about self help. Obama has given this exact riff literally hundreds of times in the campaign – But just because Tweety’s producers never showed it to him, he thinks its new.

    Matthews puts so much falsehood in the air because he thinks narrative is all. So he gets in this stupid argument with Katrina tonight – She also is flying blind, unaware that this is not a new speech

  16. Comment says

    Bill Kristol thinks Democrats should read Kipling. Meant to say Aldershot.

    Tweetys in one of his weird moods today – Lots of spittle and bluster – fake working class yelling. Not blarney – no, won’t give him that.

  17. Comment says

    Aldeshot – Maybe you could adopt the Mulligan Guard march in Kipling’s Kim for the Barackistas

  18. Comment says

    WWZ – perhaps there is a case against Obama, but Spymaster Johnson, the Allen Dulles of the Plamesphere, is one of the weakest ones to make the case. Johnson just blows his stack at the smallest slight and he has no sense of perspective. Perhaps he was a great spy, when he was operating in secret. But he is not a good pundit, imo. The anti-Plameulards often got his goat.

  19. Comment says

    Turned on Tweety and he has Dee Dee Myers on and they are discussing Clinton on Arsenio – Amazingly Dee Dee had to correct Tweety on his revisionist memory of something so recent as Clinton’s saxaphone strategy. Then Jennifer Palmieri had to box him in again when Tweety suggested Clinton was fighting an Ivy League image at the time.

    Matthews grew up in a middle class suburban Phili and went to a prosperous high school. But he has to pretend, in his own mind, that he grew up on the gritty streets of Philly and was schooled by hard knocks priests and nuns out of the Bells of St. Marys. He has all these honorary degrees, but he is an ignoramus.
    No wonder he is still threatned by Clinton – a truly smart (if often banal) man who had a rough family life and uneasy rearing.
    So Tweety thinks Clinton has to play the sax to fight the false image planted by Tweety and his pals.
    Most Republicans we know who worked against Dukakis have the decency to admit now the absurdity of painting the son of Greek immigrants as a snob vis-a-vis a Bush of inherited privlidge. But it seems Tweety believes this propaganda in earnest.

  20. Aldershot says

    Besides, it ain’t over till it’s over. Don’t despair, Doc, anything could happen in the next six weeks, and HRC won’t give up till the last dies.

  21. wwz says

    ah yes, BO appears to be the quintessential manufactured candidate. They all are to some degree. BO, OTOH, has had little vetting and sparring that seasons a pol to the way things get done, shapes the art of the possible, and solidifies ones own mind on weighty matters such as how to handle power.

    Clinton is far superior in this regard, of that there can be little doubt to a clear mind. Personally, I don’t buy HRC as the nest WJC either. Similar on some points to be sure. But she is her own person, and more responsible for making Bill than the other way around. She’d blaze her own way, in her own way. Read her papers. Angles. Covered.

    Still, HRC has much of the baggage that comes with knowing the ropes and building insider constituencies. I don’t believe we have the luxury of hope and prefer a steady, capable hand on the wheel at the moment, even if I don’t agree with every turn. BO is as likely to get lost on the streets of Grozny as not.

  22. Comment says

    Anyway – the winner is a long way off. But the General election will be lots of fun. It was awesome watching McCain turn on Cunningham. It will drive the ‘Democrat party’ faction of the GOP nuts all summer long as their inability to refrain from saying “Hussein” marginalises them as racists – fair or not.
    Why can’t we say his name? Why can’t we say his name? Hussein! Hussein! LOL! They will stew in their juices with a bitter Gee Dubs as the whole world tells them to go to hell.
    But keep in mind Barack “reveres” McCain’s service.

  23. Comment says

    VDH underestimates the role specific policies of Bush played in weakening the USA vis-a-vis the rest of the world. The disgraceful invasion of Iraq will be infamous for a long time. The disgusting way he mislead and duped his own supporters to believe basic falsehoods will hurt this country for a long time.
    Just not doing stuff like that would be superior. HRC is not convincing in her claimed opposition to the Iraq war and the mentality that allowed that war.

  24. Comment says

    Obama is truly blessed to have Warlord attack him today – Bush and his old hands managed to spend trillions of dollars and make tough talk, but even Castro, before his health went, became stronger (and benefited from Gitmo hypocracy) and Iran went from being on the ropes, to being on the move.

  25. Comment says

    Dick Cheney could not walk two blocks in South Side Chicago without soilinng his chickenhawk pants.

  26. Aldershot says

    You know when, during the debate, he said that if Hillary thought so, he would reject AND denounce Farrakhan? Heh. He’s cool as the other side of the pillow, and honestly, honestly, I don’t think he’ll do any worse than Hilldog.

  27. sglover says

    I can understand skittishness about all the adulation that’s flowing Obama’s way, but I really don’t think that in itself is reason to write the man off as a lightweight. You guys seem to place a lot of stock in media political reports — check out the Vanity Fair piece about Obama. It’s not at all clear to me that a guy schooled in Illinois and Chicago community work and politics is a naif.

    And here’s the thing: Don’t you think it’s possible that much of Obama’s appeal sprouts from a quite rational revulsion against the available alternatives? The Jimmy Carter parallels that you mentioned before are real enough, and worrisome. But there’s good sense in rejecting anyone with very much Beltway “experience”. Look where that crowd’s got us.

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