Year In Review 2014: And The Winner Is?

More than most years, 2014 will be retrospectively consequential. The US post-1945 order finally enters its transition era. Most obviously, Putin launched an ill-conceived war to challenge its foundations. Other developments promise significant portent. Modi’s rise in India is but one example. Domestically, Americans’ facade of a post-racial society collapsed. And Neocons re-emerged.

American Luck Holds

Americans remain lucky internationally for now. Russia’s war began with clumsy improvisation and lurched to a strategic dead end. Ukrainian grit surprised Moscow – just one of many Russian strategic intelligence failures. China, India and others support Moscow symbolically in part yet preserve their own options and interests in the present order. They follow their own timetable for systemic change, not Putin’s.

America avoided directly engaging Russia, denying Moscow the co-equal status it craves. That US stance encouraged Merkel and the EU to confront Russian aggression themselves. Russian hawks (like Sergei Markov, etc.) concede their hopes to split the alliance (to date) are unrealistic. One would like to think a coherent US strategy helped shape these events. Equally plausible is American tactical improvisation simply was more fortunate.

Putin? We’d rate him 2014’s net loser. Had he stopped at Crimea, he faced no sanctions and enjoyed stratospheric domestic approval. Russia is far weaker, more isolated, and domestically more fragile than during the Sochi boondoggle. From canceling Russia’s pet Southstream pipeline into Europe, ruble woes – Russian Central Bank Chief Elvira Nabuillina may have the toughest job in Russia today – to a bad gas deal with China and Putin’s isolation at the G20, Russian horizons shrunk a great deal.

Ukraine, conversely, is far more unified and committed to a European liberal path than ever. Two successful elections and a newly vibrant society show potential. Russia’s war in the Donbass forged a new nationalism and but sidelined a region (along with Crimea) that would’ve sent significant votes for Communists and pro-Moscow parties in Kiev.

Ukraine’s struggles are still beginning. IMF-driven reforms will pack a dislocating wallop. Kiev’s economy will remain on edge for some time. And vital domestic initiatives such as lustration and anti-corruption are still embryonic.

Merkel’s clear stance against Russian revisionism surprised Moscow. Many predicted she would follow German SPD party’s equivocation and German industrialists’ demands for “understanding”. Her marathon 6 hour November conversation with Putin in Australia may mark a watershed. Merkel now directly confronts Russian subversion in the Balkans. It’s a new German EU foreign policy leadership role. Will it work? Does she have the vision to sustain it? Can she maintain German domestic support?

2015 may be another story. EU sanctions expire soon if not renewed. Some US European experts are certain sanctions will be lifted. Moscow re-packages itself as a peace maker yet again to empower EU apologists. Putin hedges bets by advising Moscow technocrats to prepare for ten years of confrontation.

Wine In A Brand New Jar?

Neocons took 2014 by storm. 2015 can only offer more blue sky.

2014 marked the year Democrats en masse scrambled to join. Yet Democrats can’t articulate an alternative to Obama’s foreign policy that differs. The Right and Rand Paul’s conversion to internationalist Realism (while Paul remains instinctually an isolationist) remain the exception. Interestingly, Fred Kagan and others openly declare their true home is in the Democratic Party (again).

The Neocons’ greatest 2014 success is framing ISIS as an existential threat. A tentative and reactive Obama Administration jumped on to ill-advised, ill-considered spastic kinetic force without a clear strategy.

The New Republic‘s demise is a different story. The larger and more important indictment? TNR long ago ceased to be an authentic, liberal, progressive voice.

Should TNR be a new Gawker or Buzzfeed for a certain social set, perhaps it’s a fitting epitaph. The staff’s reaction to young owner Chris Hughes’ decisions reveals a mindset accustomed to benefactor patronage. To discover they’re employees like much of America is a harsh lesson.

Home Alone

America’s long vacation from social realities crashed on a global stage. Ferguson, Eric Garner in NY, Tamir Rice (the 12 year old boy shot by police because he had a bee bee gun) and so many others highlight the cost in lives and potential lost. American social dysfunction can’t be obscured. And it’s more than de-legitimized, excessively militarized local law enforcement.

The US for the first time nationally experienced how social technologies fueled protests from Tehran to Tunisia, Hong Kong to Maidan. Many Americans didn’t like uncensored voices. Protestors (from varied backgrounds) self organize, distribute video and photos, and use Livestream for alternative broadcasts to cable “news” coverage. (That America in 2014 lacks an actual cable news channel at all is merely symptomatic).

Racial inequality is the most prominent aspect of American disinterest in forging a healthy, inclusive society. Socio-economic stratification continues to widen. Congress’ roll back of its own weak 2008 Wall Street reforms — at the request of Wall Street — underscores the fault lines only grow. Dysfunctional government that responds only to the few doesn’t happen by accident. Nor is it sustainable.

Richard Haas observed that Foreign Policy Begins At Home. Our effectiveness abroad is directly linked to good governance at home. The link above deliberately is to the Daily Show. American youth (or young at heart), unfettered by old wedge issues on race, gender and class, can make a powerful difference – if they choose to engage politically.

These are the year’s highlights (or low points) to us. What did we miss? Who or what do you think made 2014?

Nixon And The Dog Days Of August

Nixon is back, haunting every August as usual. This year he fights the centennial of the Great War for media mindshare. It’s an uneven match. Americans emerged almost unscathed from the first European civil war.

Relentless Pat Buchanan cuts and pastes his annual apologia. He reminds us:

Then he [Nixon] succeeded where liberalism’s best and brightest had failed. He ended the Vietnam War with honor, brought all our troops and POWs home, opened up China, negotiated historic arms agreements with Moscow, ended the draft, desegregated southern schools, enacted the 18-year-old vote, created the EPA, OSHA and National Cancer Institute.

Another reminder of how far we’ve come. The Nixon Center/National Interest can’t resist agreeing, too. Just attempting any of Nixon’s acts would galvanize the Movement to start impeachment calls. John McCain today would be against freeing John McCain.

Most striking? Nixon remained an internationalist realist even as America turned inward, indeed to his last day. Nixon advocated his views in both policy and practical political terms.

We’re certain Nixon would be baffled by Obama’s passive acceptance of the political status quo as setting limits on himself and the country. Nixon understood presidents are above all political actors. To lead they must engage political means to achieve their ends – beyond empty rhetoric. (We speak of his legal actions).

Obama believes politics is about judging others and declaiming rational choices. His job is to explain them, often as scold. Societies, however, require politics to address and somehow give meaning to the irrational as well. Aristotle understood we are all political animals.

His comments about Russia could be about anything:

But Obama says, quote, “people don’t always act rationally.” He says sometimes people don’t act based on their own interests.

True, the Movement after 2010 essentially destroyed functioning government beyond even the 1973-77 era. Obama’s passivity is a major causal factor there, too. We all together warned here in 2009-10 about the then embryonic Movement. We explained how Obama should act to co-opt, marginalize or impede it in early 2009.

The Obama White House publicly mocked the Movement, doing nothing, politically. And the Movement seized Congress and ended his presidency.

Nixon, Watergate, Vietnam

Obama sees the world as defining his limits, and thus ours. Successful presidents use politics to change the world and elevate us. Obama’s ISIL airstrike address this week merely another version of his earlier West Point address fiasco. At West Point, he may be the first modern president to “subtweet” his critics so passive aggressively.

Our Obama critique unfortunately remains true since 2007. He seems small today because he abdicated most of what makes a successful president.

In this sense, Obama is the anti-Nixon. And that’s not a compliment.

Passive Aggressive Rot Sets In

Obama’s troubles are ours now. We collectively identified Obama’s peculiarly militant brand of passive aggressiveness beginning in March 2009. Recall our frustration watching the Rightist initial fabrication of the Tea Party then go unchallenged. Or behold Obama’s White House spokesman joke in Summer 2010 they might even lose the House.


Seeing This Car Wreck In 2007

We could do little but share why the re-constituted Movement would quickly mutate into a demonstrably feral brand of anti-Enlightenment, anti-democratic emotive rejections. In the face of Obama and Democratic inaction, we argued ‘the fever’ would not quickly subside. Did we not — at the time in 2008-09 –declare Obama’s chief task to be seen doing one thing surpassingly well? To rebut Rightist narrative and restore faith in empirical government?

Even before his 2008 victory, Obama’s congenital “Goldilocks Syndrome” of compromise in the face of extremes was obvious. Didn’t we predict with scary accuracy how it would work?

Here’s our take from 2007 for new Readers. NPR’s “Spilled Bong Water” show assessed the Obama Campaign and his presidency like a seer.

NPR Spilled Bong Water on 2007 Obama Campaign

[Read more…]

State of Play Spring 2013

Enough time has passed since the election for us to ask “What precisely has been learned?”

Unsurprisingly and unfortunately, “Not much”.

Our politics remain inert and non-enrolling because there aren’t any, aside from the febrile paroxysms within the Movement. We remain isolated and suspended, our very expression of self denied by the suffocating paralysis of Obama and the Democrats’ admonition “At least we are not Them”. Their impotence is imposed upon us.

Witness the Commentariat. What to make of self-identified progressives and liberals [sic] trolling CPAC in 2013? Old 6 years ago. How little understanding still. One well known ‘liberal’ commentator asked “Why do Republicans allow CPAC to happen?” And so on. Decrying Politico’s transactional information culture misses that’s always been DC.

More damningly, the same Commentariat continuously is surprised by events. After their ‘reporting’ these last years purporting to explain Movements, political and economic histories. Do they not read their own words? Demonstrating that the last 20 years taught them nothing. Leaving us further stifled.

The Post November Hangover
It’s Just Something In The Eye

Cheney et al. re-taught the world the basic lesson: process is not politics. Process can serve political purposes, can illuminate and clarify values and goals, but by itself is a nullity. Yet for the last five years, non-radicalized political space in America has been wholly subsumed by nothing other than process and related commentary. We remain stupefied, distracted from concrete engagement by empty rhetorical ephemera and Tweets.

Nothing has changed.

That’s not to say, for example, that real choices aren’t being made. They are. But as defensive reaction to a fraction of a minority’s submersion in ritual role-play as self-identity. So we are dosed with ‘victories’ permanently enshrining 99% of Cheney’s tax cuts. Surely, you have another favorite.

Perhaps you are thinking health care? Recall health care largely began in the House. With the Senate trailing. A disaster in the making because the other Branch remained bizarrely mute at times – after the infamous Tauzin meeting. Many times the entire enterprise careened into near failure needlessly (from the Ds point of view). Labeling the legislation Obamacare later does not make it so. These words have profound meaning.

As one example, Andy Pincus, former General Counsel at the Clinton Commerce Department, largely on his own initiative and tardily dominated a Republican controlled conference successfully on a major bill that affects your very ability to read this. The EOP wasn’t even really paying attention. Pincus manipulated the appearance of EOP interest to sow discord among Republican factions.

Don’t take our word for it. Committee staffers for a once powerful ex-senator from Texas railed in the press about the Republican debacle. Among others who blamed Lott, etc.

That’s just example when a departmental lawyer can have an impact on a frozen, tectonic situation. The level of toxicity then only seems less with time. Knowing when and how to engage is crucial. Or being lucky. It’s possible Pincus never planned or even knew how Republicans perceived his role. But he acted even if as Quixote.

So back to today. Dinners are nice. Phone calls, too. But if not wed to an expression of goals transcending serving process they’re ultimately nihilism. All of us here have long prepared for accepting calamity by disengaged default in lieu of catastrophe. Long before others, our hearty band here diagnosed the Disengagement Disease (AKA as Goldilocks Syndrome – ed.). November’s sweet escape from Movement’s grasp turns sour quickly.

If only so-called progressives, etc. mocking CPAC, for example, could husband that energy building real, tangible post-2016 politics. All of us in our hearts feel their lack. Perhaps the 2008-2012 crowd took our measure correctly. And dreams of escaping our marginalization become merely recursive. One thing we do control: our hope.

Obama’s Inauguration 2013: Sometimes A Little Is Enough

Watching Obama move through ritual and choreographed set pieces yesterday, one couldn’t help but imagine it had things gone otherwise in November. That mercy alone validates another 4 years of tactical placeholding.

That’s not to say Obama’s post-November actions reek of the same political ineptitude and disengagement that marked his tepid first term. He’s beginning to show glimmers that he finally grasps his role is inherently political. That it is OK to win and be seen winning. His decision to spin off his electoral database/network into a 501(c)(4) for future political deployment is likewise encouraging. Could Goldilocks be a thing of the past?

Obama On The New, New Frontier
Obama On The New, New Frontier

Yet it’s still remarkable how feeble these steps are after the last 12 (30) years. Democratic triumphalism now is particularly disturbing. The underlying political incompetence of the Democratic party has not changed. Assuming temporary Movement narrative disarray will be permanent just an example. More damning, the sophomoric gloating of a permanent future majority on birthrates alone is utterly dubious.

Malthusian extrapolation of future generations based on 2012 demographic voting blocks is simply not professionally defensible. True, Republicans debate whether Obama represents a tectonic shift or a personality-led (read ‘black’ but not on their powerpoint slides) phenomenon. But to assume blithely that Latinos, etc. will bestow offspring genetically committed to Democrats is to squat on sand. Beyond a turnout machine, what have the Democrats or Obama really built?

Let Obama Be Reagan . . .

Sadly, not much. People too young actually to remember Reagan tell us Obama was ‘Reagan-esque’. Albeit of the so-called progressive bent. Those ‘progressive’ cable bloviators who do remember Reagan utter banal delusions that we should return to the Reagan era’s collegiately and bi-partisanship. That Reagan was a kindly grandfather who just had a fixation about the Soviets. Ignoring Iran-Contra, the Sandanistas, Bork, Zero Option and SDI.

All nonsense. First, Reagan’s election (and inaugural addresses) culminated the Movement’s first massive co-opting of the Republican Party. Not the converse like Obama. Aside from shared sentiment, there is little to suggest the Democratic Party as an institution is configured for such a political campaign.

Second, Obama has it backward. The Movement was already solidly entrenched, coordinated and linked by infrastructure before Reagan’s election. The Movement hit the ground running. For example, when Heritage published ‘Mandate for Leadership’, Morton Blackwell and many others had already placed key personnel on the Hill and provided troops to sweep into the Executive Branch. Case in point? Gary Bauer, who toiled over at the Education Department at an obscure junior level, believe it or not. And so on across the Administration.

Finally, the Movement as a coherent (if amorphous) collection of ideological strands was already a real local and state presence before Reagan won in 1980. The Movement’s strands may have bickered internally but all sure as hell knew the enemy, and all were dedicated to its destruction. And when they began in the 1970s, they were willing to work for a future triumph knowing it might be far off.

The differences with the Democratic Party 2013 or Obama’s GOTV apparatus clear. MSNBC, Twitter, etc. might compress the time required for replicating the Movement’s meme distribution ala Reagan. But cadre development and building institutions take time regardless. Certainly more than the year (year and a half?) available to Obama before 2016 overshadows all.

Obama’s campaign database might be a useful first step in that direction. A long term political realignment requires a more robust infrastructure intellectually and physically than one election’s volunteer mobilization and GOTV.

To seek a Reagan-like political alignment, Obama (note not the Democratic Party) would be bizarrely trying to do on the fly, upside down. It’s a shame because we urged the Democratic Party and ‘progressives’ to start this effort since 2005. Had that happened, much that happened yesterday would have profound and real impact. Today it’s just, well, hope.

Can Obama build a durable political transformation now, when he is already a lame duck walking? It’ll be interesting to watch a man so utterly disdainful of political engagement try.

Still, how pleasant to write this instead of witnessing November’s alternative lurching to life.

Riding The General Staff

Tawdry inconsequentiality sums up the Petraeus matter. Petraeus and Allen, two Imperial Viceroys from CENCTOM, strode across the globe with more direct and indirect power regionally than any U.S. diplomat or civilian, outstripping in many ways their Roman forebears. Yet the Pro Consuls are socially seduced by shameless con artists. How does this happen?

Jill Kelley, the Philadelphia native, is apparently a ruthless social climber only five years in Tampa. Her apparent wealth masking profound insolvency, alleged IRS fraud, and a litany of creditor lawsuits for staggering sums. Her potentially sociopathic sister knows both generals well enough to finagle two ineffective letters of character support in her child custody war. A judge saw more clearly than the two Titans of CENTCOM. He rejected them, noting her mendacity and untrustworthiness are well known to the court.

‘Camp whores’ (of both genders) are a well known sociological phenomenon. Yet these two did little more than play hostess at various functions. None are obviously stunningly attractive outside the Jersey Shore framework. But flaunt a lifestyle vastly beyond their means. Something else must explain their extraordinary access. It’s not about Petraeus or Allen individually, but a systemic phenomenon.

Reports now indicate that Petraeus used to arrive at Kelley’s parties in military motorcade with 28 Tampa police as escorts. Kelley in return offered expensive cigars, bottle service and musical serenades. It’s corrupt from both sides. Why does CENTCOM condone this?

Kelley tried to get her house declared the other day a diplomatic mission because of a flimsy volunteer certificate bestowing the awesome title of ‘Honorary Ambassader’ [for cheese whiz, or the like]. This is the person who trades personal emails with the Titans of CENTCOM? She has those bona fides. Besides 30,000 pages of emails with General Allen. Her intimacy with Allen involves flying up from Tampa to see him in Washington, D.C. Evidence suggests she had some similar access to Petraeus.

A foreign intelligence service couldn’t design a more useful penetration of Imperial Viceroys. Especially when Jill Kelley is millions in debt and fighting foreclosure and her sister, she of the court order, just declared $3.5 MM bankruptcy. There are a dozen intelligence services that would toss some coin for their access and then guided/targeted collection efforts.

Apparently, to penetrate an American Viceroy you just need some decent tits a good profile, cigars, a foreclosed Mercedes, ruthless self-promotion and South Philly/Jersey shore moxi. The Chinese might well be dumbfounded at the ease and minimal funds involved.

The Affair and Petraeus

Quick thoughts. We’re somewhat sympathetic to both original ‘sinners.’ Everyone probably knows an ex that did not take a breakup well (or been that ex). Sure, she pursued him. He was the alpha male in a system based on latent crypto-homoerotic glorification of the top dog. He made the mistake. To sociological analysis noting the affair began 2 months at CIA without his accustomed staff, etc. we repeat the above: he made the mistake. Full stop.

re Petraeus’ departure and reducing CIA paramilitary interest, history teaches it’s the President, not the Director that determines this. CIA built up its capacities in every major military conflict to compete with and complement the Pentagon. Stan Turner’s famous 1978 ‘Halloween Massacre’ under Carter was in part (though not entirely) a house cleaning of paramilitary personnel from Vietnam. Few can say that his refocus on technical collection by itself improved things.

Current CIA paramilitary interest began in the Fall of 2001 and grew in a steady line. If you’re here you likely agree the drone program is out of control. What calls itself CIA these days still responds to White House interest, priorities and wishes (spoken or unspoken). Obama must be the one to set new priorities, not a Director.

We agree the FBI’s role is both ominous and pathetic. We also agree the underlying emails should not be sufficient for an FBI investigation. One silver lining: people see that the Bureau does not need a court to access all of their email and Cloud data from 6 months ago. The Bare-Chested Dude (take that, Cigarette Smoking Man!) adds to the entire South Philly/Jersey Shore-in-Tampa motif. His circumventing Bureau Protocol to ignite Congress directly a further warning that the FBI can not be trusted to control information.

Should Petraeus have resigned? Yes. Not because of all the pontification of blackmail, etc. That same 1959 mindset has always been used to enforce needlessly orthodox lifestyle preferences. It’s been rolled back in many areas. Had he chosen to remain, he would of necessity be defending his actions and be perceived as bureaucratically weakened, internally and externally.

Misc.

These past days may be the only time ever among grown men, we’ve heard someone actually say “Look at those arms, pretty hot, eh?” So there’s that.

Status Quo – The Line Holds, For Now

Such relief to see the map turn blue. We’ve four more years with Obama as placeholder. Certainly more acceptable than the alternative.

How delightful to see our old good acquaintance Liz Warren triumph. She now sits in the body that refused to give her an up or down vote.

Last night the Movement’s despair and disbelief the finest wine. Watching Rove rage at Megyn Kelly so sweet. You probably have your own favorite story.

Obama Steps On A Bug, Barely

All acknowledge Obama’s technical mastery of the ground game. That advantage will be transient. Political techniques and technologies proliferate quickly.

It’s worth realizing that Democrats and the so-called ‘Left’ [sic] would have lost to Romney and Movement revanchism but for that transient advantage.

It’s worth recalling that Democrats and pundits sputtered about Romney’s shameless serial expediency. Neocons ran with it in 2002-2003. And in 2012 Democrats and non-Rightist media are still clueless. And call out ‘unfair’ to some non-existent referee.

It’s worth realizing that in November 2012 Democrats and the so-called ‘Left’ [sic] were stunned to see overt voter suppression. The Ohio Secretary of State or Rick Scott in Florida flaunted brazenly contempt for the Constitution. Sure, Democrats earlier launched scattered legal actions, but the outcomes left the Rightists free to suppress and Democrats unprepared narratively.


The Days Ahead

Obama’s victory offers some unalloyed bright spots. The Supreme Court won’t be radicalized and suborned. The Neocons are not running DoD, State and the NSC. Bibi will not write 100% of U.S. policy in the region.

For the Democrats, the question remains what have they learned from 2001-2012? They are still consumed with process. Movements evolve (by definition). Democrats have yet to demonstrate they can confront and defeat an opponent with purposeful ideological focus.

For Republicans, the Movement naturally circles the wagons. Scapegoats get attention. Today, we heard a lot about revenge on Chris Christie.

The notion of a new, ‘moderate’ Republican Party is implausible. First, realigning a Movement based on empirical data and rational analysis is antithetical to the very notion of the Movement. Movements expand or alter their shape and ideological content through new narratives, and enrolling people in that new line. If a Democrat doesn’t understand that by now, they should be fired for professional malpractice.

Who can start that narrative? Among the elected leadership there are no moderates. Those called ‘moderate’ by talking heads like Chris Christie are moderate only when compared to Paul Ryan. Perhaps one or two may seek to gain brand visibility by ‘going Maverick’. Changing a narrative, however, requires internal influence and control.

On the periphery, professional Republican operatives are furiously sending each other PPT slides and speadsheets and they may have narrative impact on the margin. Already they’re calling for a smarter, more agile Movement that retains its inherent nature but seeks to poach elements from Obama’s turnout on an issue by issue basis. Republican operatives, however, don’t determine primaries.

Any change in the Movement narrative requires infiltration into the thought generation centers and distribution channels. Fox is merely the most obvious. It’s a monumental undertaking, far more audacious and protracted than a 10 minute chuckle-fest with Mika and Joe. If any of our Righist friends embark on that journey we wish them well.

Four more years. They will go by quickly. May they treat each of you, Dear Readers, and everyone, well.

Obama Debates Romney: “Can You See The Real Me? Can You?”*

We’re all social creatures in the end, responding to rational and irrational, often subconscious cues every day of our lives. Obama’s calamitous first encounter with a Mountain Dew-amped Romney a case in point.

We all saw the real Obama. It explains much about his tepid first term, his inability to engage in actual politics, his passive enabling of the Movement’s unnecessarily swift resurrection. In other words? Every single post here ever about him.

Let’s dispense with canards. Of course, Obama is rusty for debates. So too, sitting presidents are unaccustomed to challenge. The ephemeral opinion cycle (why bother calling it ‘news’ anymore?) minutiae offers other transient tidbits about Obama’s alleged debate’strategy’, etc. None really matter.

The True Obama Is Frankly Not Appealing

Obama as man and president doesn’t like practicing politics. Or deigning to talk with people to win their support. Obama has two modes: aspirational bromide salesman and the reclusive decider, judging other people and policy. Otherwise, he’s oddly more artificial than Romney.

People intuitively sense when someone wants to win their support with passion (Clinton, in a compulsively needy but successful way). Or even Romney. Last night, Romney came across as someone doing a well rehearsed offering roadshow. (We’ve done them with The Blackstone Group). He was selling. As they say in the movie, “Always be closing”.

We don’t respond well as social animals to being told it’s rational to do this or that. Remember that relative from Hell at a holiday dinner? Without aspirations, what does Obama really have to sell? Beyond he’s a good compromiser?

Mitt, It’s President Kerry On Line Two

One debate doesn’t necessarily an election make. Look at President Kerry. Obama is bright enough to be coached to better performances. As Lee Atwater famously said, “Once you fake sincerity, you’ve got it made”. We’ve a race over who’s the most plausibly inauthentic.

Will the debates matter? Only to the extent they alter the few battleground states. Romney’ll gain ground in both Ohio and Virginia at least. Both candidates fluctuate within 47% to 51%. We still think it’s Obama’s to lose but now with less margin for error.

What disturbed us most about Obama’s debate performance? What it means for Obama’s second term. We saw last night Obama unleashed. Feel the excitement?

Neither do we. But then, placeholders are rarely memorable.

______
* At maximum volume.

P.S. We’re loathe to remind the netroots and so-called progressives ‘We told you so.’ But we did. Daily in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Election 2012: Tyranny Of The Synthetic

We know no one energized by either campaign. We doubt you do, either.

Our simulacrum of ostensible politics doesn’t conceal any truths. The truth is that there isn’t any. We are stupefied by the brutal collage of jittering, meaningless sensation. That’s the truth. All of which we’ve discussed together here at length before.

That’s not embracing moral or even situational relativism. Our professional conservative friends echo what you, Dear Reader, noted long ago: a Romney ‘victory’ would be a poisoned chalice in any event. Few believe his capacity to govern or control an emboldened Movement.

In the end we happen to be optimists in one narrow sense. We believe a significant number of people yearn for — even if unrecognized — the return of actual Meaning to our culture, our politics and our lives. That we collectively both reject and embrace those rejecting substitution of the false, the symbology, the AutoTuned, the ‘meme’.

Existing politics, however diffuse, can not lead. And may not be able to follow, focus groups and micro-targeted opinion research aside. People craving granular truth are similar to what Apple once said about its customers and market research: they didn’t do any. Because people often don’t know what they want until they see it.

That choice doesn’t exist now. Whatever happens in the Fall of 2012, the synthetic will still be entrenched. Readers here noted that change may not necessarily (or even likely) arrive as a democratic one. The real question is whether anyone would notice.

P.S. Jaime at Blood & Treasure concisely deconstructs Romney, foreign policy, Israel, Palestine, imperialism, China, Thomas Kinkade paintings and the Corporal.

The Baroque Incentives Of A President Addicted To Dealing Death

Overtly covert wars and drone assassinations happen because Obama and his unremarkable White House national security staff want them. Obama’s fulsome embrace of tactical expediency only accelerates degeneration of American strategic thinking into compartmentalized, impulsive, unconnected random spasms of violence.

Ignatius repackages known struggles within the U.S. Islamabad embassy over who controls U.S. drone war in Pakistan, the ambassador or CIA? (Ignatius adds a morsel that St. David Petraeus is cross).

Drone War, Obama
Bureaucratically, ambassadorial struggles for policy control are not unprecedented. State overall has been fending off encroachment on ambassadorial authority for a long time. Rummy pushed DoD assassination teams into embassies who expressly were exempt from ambassadorial oversight. Earlier, even Commerce and FBI drove wedges. Managing an embassy now is far more demanding for any ambassador than just 20 years ago. Without the drones.

In Pakistan’s case, the ambassador’s attempt to control policy predestined to fail. He didn’t understand Obama court political realities. Obama faces domestic gridlock. (Much of it his own doing). Foreign policy and especially ‘covert’ action are his release. The ambassador really contested Obama’s authority and the one sphere of presidential positive feedback.

Foreign policy as mentioned here recently is the preferred refuge for domestically stymied presidents. CIA, CTC and DoD covert militarism cater to Obama’s frustration and proclivity for judging others. They tease and often deliver instant gratification: ‘results’ (aka death), action, baseball cards, full motion video and alleged secrecy. Approving who lives or dies? Doesn’t get any judgier.

Per the NYT it requires a veritable death bureaucracy, faceless GS and super grades, to feed the Addict-In-Chief. The death apparatchiks routinely offer candidates like discussing draft picks in ‘Moneyball’. The rot is deep. Think about this the next time someone suggests watching ‘Conspiracy’. Obama insists on bringing the Cesarian thumbs up/down into the Oval Office. Is it really noble sacrifice to control the otherwise out-of-control system? Then why the leaks bragging about it all?

It’s a compartmentalized program, except spread very far and with direct presidential patronage. The secrecy, insularity and reward mechanisms (presidential approval, a ‘good kill’) create an alternate reality, smug, aloof and at odds with those not read in (let alone ‘Consensual Reality’).

Into this disposal, the ambassador in Pakistan stuck his hand. Others control the switch. Only a poor poker player challenges Obama to abandon his one area of seeming control and instant kicks for what? Prolix cables back to Foggy Bottom? More complexity and frustration with brown people far away?

State’s failure in Pakistan is part of a wider pattern. Lack of strategic coherence is in some ways unavoidable. Institutions of all types erode and dissolve into digital ADD across American society. Tactical impulsiveness commands media, corporations and individuals. Why should foreign policy be any different? Compartmentalized thinking and operations are perfectly suited for a fractured age.

Crafting and implementing enduring, strategically rational architectures perhaps was easier under the old monoculture. No one can deny contemporary American inability to govern domestically. Still, it’s not that we are powerless even so. The root enabler of American imbalance abroad — and Obama’s personal mechanism of death — are the budgets we craft here at home. DoD and the Community must be pared down from their wartime extravagances. Eliminating the gross resource imbalance at least makes a more coordinated, recalibrated strategic posture likely. And State restored to a modestly functioning role.

One unanswered question is would Weberian bureaucratic logic compel any president in these circumstances to pursue similar activities — regardless of character?

All we know is this president isn’t interested in trying to find out.