Circus Maximus MMXVI: Now someone yelled timber take off your hat

7 11 2016

VII. As someone who’s as cold-blooded as they come about elections, I am unshocked by the declarations of support by various Christian conservative pundits for Donald J. Trump.

I am similarly unshocked by the argument that prudence, rather than God, dictates such support.

Finally, the next-breath argument that “you have to vote for the bad man to prevent the bad woman because that’s what God wants“, however much that contradicts the argument from prudence, is not only not shocking, but predictable.

There are things you want and you need to win in order to get the things you want so it is easy to justify doing almost anything to win so that you get the things you want.

If not the whole of politics, that is a not-inconsiderable part of politics.

So these men act politically in a political arena, which is fine. And they seek to wrap that political action in Christian robes, which, however annoying, is entirely ordinary.

But if I were a Christian who took seriously the obligation to act in accordance with godly principles in all matters in life, I might just side-eye those who’d put an asterisk next to politics.

VIII. It can be difficult to parse one’s principles when it comes to politics.

I don’t remember how I reacted to Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. I almost certainly was dismayed for reasons of both principle and politics (unfair in different ways to Lewinsky and his wife; ammunition for opponents), and I thought impeachment a gross overreaction to his misdeeds, but. . . did it affect my view of him as president?

Maybe? I really don’t know. I mean, I voted for him in 1992 but not in 1996 (third-party—I know), and was never in thrall to the man. He clearly had political skill, but his lack of discipline limited his effectiveness as a politician. And while I don’t recall paying attention to the crime bill I do know I fucking hated welfare reform.

He was better, policy-wise (and definitely judiciarily) than Bush or Dole, and thought Gore an idiot for declining to make use of him on the 2000 campaign trail. Overall, I didn’t love, but in retrospect I think I voted for the right guy in ’92 and probably* should have voted for him again in ’96.

But my own asterisk: What about the allegations not of stupid consensual extra-marital sex, but of decidedly non-consensual sexual harassment and sexual assault? If I didn’t vote for Clinton’s re-election because he was too conservative I think I was wrong, but if I had refused to vote for him because he was a rapist. . . ?

That would not have been wrong.

Like I said, I don’t remember what I thought of these allegations 20+ years ago, but given how I voted in 1992, I probably minimized or possibly even dismissed them. I probably take them more seriously now than I did then.

I don’t think a man who’d been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment or assault could be nominated for president in the Democratic party going forward, but if he were, I’d like to believe that, no matter how left-wing he was, I’d say Nope nope nope.

But I honestly don’t know.

IX. I tend to give a pass to family members of politicians for their support of those politicians and alleged criminals.

I mean, your dad is running for president, whattya gonna do?

That said, I do admit to unkind thoughts regarding the business prospects of Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Eric Trump.

X. And while I also tend to give a pass to those defeated or who’ve left office—they’re no longer in public life, let them live their private lives in private—I may have said that I hope Trump’s business empire crumbles, his brand dissolves, he loses all of his money, and his wife leaves him.

I’m not proud of this, but there it is.

XI. Happier thoughts? I think Hillary Clinton will be a better president than her husband.

She’s not as good a campaigner as he is, but man, she knows how to follow the many threads of policy without getting tied up in them.

Also, she’s explicitly seeking to strengthen and extend the legacy of a man who has, all things considered, governed mostly well and wisely.

XII. I’m going to miss Barack Obama as president, and the Obamas as First Family.

I think skepticism toward the charm of politicians is always warranted and am leery of the alleged authenticity of their behavior in highly scripted events, but yeah, the Obamas got to me—not least because of how they acted when seemingly unscripted.

Maybe nothing is ever unscripted, not the interviews with comedians in cars or the crawling on the floor with babies or even the laughter at a toddler pope, but I did enjoy those times when the Obamas seemed to be enjoying themselves.

That was unexpected. And nice.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: All this chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter

21 08 2016

Few bits:

I’m a fan of President Obama’s cool-competence approach to governing, and think he’s right to wait a bit before visiting flooded Louisiana (or burnt-over California): aid before optics.

That said, optics do matter, and some extended public remarks by the president (and candidate Clinton) about these disasters beyond a tweet or two wouldn’t interfere with the recovery, and might help to soothe some (although certainly not all) distressed people.

Material help matters, a lot, but so does recognition.

~~~

Is the Trump statue body-shaming?

Yeah, maybe, probably. From a cultural-studies point of view, the critics of the statue (and of many mirthful reactions to it) are likely correct.

But I’m reading this less from a cultural perspective than a political one, and that political one says, Look at this ridiculous man who thinks he should be president.

Is it nasty? Absolutely, as are the Hillary nutcrackers, as are most political paraphernalia  aimed at political opponents. They allow Us to smirk at Them, to cut them down, to reduce the other side’s champion to a joke; it’s not elevating, but then, put-downs rarely are.

There’s a lot that Carl Schmitt missed about politics, but he also nailed an aspect of it the more genteel would prefer to ignore: politics is a fight, and anything that can be weaponized, will be.

~~~

Have you listened to this old audio of Hillary Clinton’s Wellesley address?

She sounds so relaxed, so confident.

So unlike how she sounds today.

It was another online writer—who I can’t find—who first pointed out how at ease she was back then in front of a microphone. She was direct and open and conversational and even inspirational. She is as yet unbroken.

It’s tough to think of her, likely 45th president of the most powerful nation on earth, as broken, but I think the decades of political battering have shattered some bones. And while I admire those who, like Obama, seem to glide right past whatever hits are directed their way, there’s something to be said for the scrappers.

In any case, that she has been shattered doesn’t mean she hasn’t recovered: she is hardly fragile. But she is scarred, and that her experiences have toughened up has meant she’ll likely never be as easy and open as she was as that 21-year-old graduate.

There’s no tragedy in that—many of us grow wary as we grow older—nor any pity. It’s just the cost of experience.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Let’s get it on

8 06 2016

And now there are two.

Bernie Sanders put up a hell of a fight, and I don’t know that anyone, including he, thought he’d last into June. And if he wants to go thru the DC primary, well, why not? He’s earned it.

Side note1: Bernie gets to be a little pissed off about losing and given a little time to get over his pissiness. As others have pointed out, he ran a hell of a campaign, but wasn’t prepared to go the distance against someone who has been all kinds of prepared since long before 2008.

I was ambivalent, for different reasons, about both Sanders and Clinton, but of course I am not at all ambivalent about the choice between the two-time senator and former secretary of state and the burnt sweet-potato french fry and real estate brand man. There will be no reluctance whatsoever in ticking off her name in November.

I’m also about as worried about Bernie-or-busters as I was about the PUMAs in 2008: not at all. Sure, some will hold out, but most will shrug and sigh and maybe mutter a curse or two as they, too, pull the lever/punch the ticket/connect the arrow next to Clinton’s place on the ballot. Doesn’t matter: a reluctant vote counts as much as an enthusiastic one.

Side note2: Some political scientist have floated various voting reforms which would allow someone to register the intensity of the vote—say, give each voter 5 points and allow her to allot them as she sees fit. I don’t have an opinion one way or another about this, but, as every fervid backer of every losing candidate has been pained to discover, pulling that lever extra hard doesn’t make your vote count more than once.

Still, it sucks to lose, so I’ll wait a week or so before telling the Busters to pull their heads out of their asses and vote against the giant orange bathroom troll.

I have no idea what will happen over the summer or how the vote will go in the fall. I didn’t think Trump had the organizational stuff to pull off a nomination win, but he did, so I don’t know what to do with stories of his lack of organization for the general. I think it’ll matter, but how much? I ain’t guessing.

I do think Clinton will put together a pretty fucking good general campaign. Her husband was arguably a net negative during the primary—he can get surly when arguing with the left—but he’s golden when going after the right. I think Sanders will continue to burn it down in college towns, even if he mentions his own agenda more than Clinton.

And then there’s the little matter of a generally popular president who is crazy popular with the Left Set. If only out of self-interest (and I’d guess, probably a bit than that), he’ll campaign for the person who can protect and extend his achievements.

So: the preliminaries are over. Let the games begin.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Oh won’t you stay just a little bit longer

14 04 2016

It helps to have low expectations of one’s president.

I think that’s a big part of why I’m not really into the Democratic primary: there’s nothing about either of them which leads me to think he or she would be an A-MAZING president.

I like Sanders’s focus on economics and that Clinton’s a hard-ass; I don’t know that Sanders would be that effective and I distrust Clinton’s instincts. That said, I think both would bring in good people to help compensate for their respective weaknesses. So, y’know, they’re both fine.

Still, like many others, I do think that a president can exceed expectations, and when that happens, it’s hard to say So long.

It’s gonna be hard for me to say So long to President Obama.

Oh, there are all kinds of policy decisions with which I disagree with him, and there are certainly disappointments—you probably have your own list—but man, this guy just gets presidenting.

It’s true that I prefer a cool to a hot temperament (not least because I run towards hot, so am unimpressed with it), but I also think a president has to have some kind of core calmness if he or she is to do the job. It’s an impossible job: the president has to make far too many decisions based on both too much and too little information and more often than not has to try to control situations which are not controllable. Thus, the person in that chair has to reconcile him- or herself to the absurdities of the powerlessness of the most powerful position on the planet if he or she is to have any chance at all at failing well.

And yes, he or she will fail, precisely because it is an impossible job. The only issue is will she or he fail well or fail miserably.

President Obama has failed well, exceedingly well. He has grown into his role rather than having been shriveled by it. He seems, against all odds, to enjoy being president, perhaps because he’s never much paid attention to odds.

I wonder if this is how Republicans feel or felt about President Reagan: that the job of the president just seemed to fit him.  That I hated Reagan’s policies meant I was never able fully to see the man’s political gifts, and as Bill Clinton (who wasted what gifts he did have) was the only Democratic president in my adulthood, there were few opportunities for wistfulness at the end of a presidency.

But yeah, I’m wistful. For all of his faults and for all of my disagreements, I’m going to miss Barack Obama in the White House.

I don’t think I’ll see in my lifetime another president who will fail as well as he has.





Free, free, set them free

19 01 2016

Consider:

Village Voice hed

Why, it’s almost as if they would have preferred Ronald Reagan’s method. . . .

Via.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: We will we will rock you

30 08 2015

Trump will not be the nominee of the Republican party.

I’m not much for predictions, but I feel pretty good in making this one: he’s peaking too soon—the nomination fight won’t be decided until next spring, at the earliest—has little support among party elites, and, most crucially, lacks the infrastructure to win the nomination.

He has an audience, not an organization.

That said, I do get why some folks on the right are excited by him: he lays it out there with, as the saying goes, no fucks to give.

That’s what I’ve liked about Hillary Clinton—I keep posting that photo of her banging her fists at one of the endless Benghazi hearings, and head any post about her with “Army of me”—and I’m not the only one. And think about the delight some of us are taking in President Obama’s willingness to plant his flag where’er the hell he pleases.

No more fucks to give, indeed.

It’s just tribalism, a part of the passion of the partisan, and it’s neither pathological nor puzzling: we want our guy or broad to win, and we want to see our guy or broad want to win. And we want them to win for us.

Oh, sure, I’m all about policy and the common good and all that, but, goddammit, I’ve also chosen a side, and I want the candidate on my side to be glad s/he’s on this side. I don’t want someone who’s sorry that s/he’s taken a side.

And I think that’s what those crowds like about Trump: he ain’t sorry for nothin’.

That’s not enough to get him the nomination, but it is enough to get folks to show up and cheer.

And hey, as long as Trump keeps eating away at the base of this fucking guy, I’m all for it.





God bless America

20 01 2015

I liked Charlie Pierce’s suggestion for the State of the Union address (even if it was missing a “boot in the ass” reference)—and for about half of the speech, it kinda followed that spirit.

Unfortunately, there was the other half. Not that it was bad, but Fata Morgana did it go on and on and on. At one point I thought This is like that last Lord of the Rings movie, with ending after ending after ending.

Shorter. Shorter shorter shorter. Almost no one ever complains that a speech is too short, and those who do, are wrong.

Update: And then, of course, there’s this: