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.


Hippy-hippy forward

2 08 2011

I will try to restrain myself from commenting any further on the debt-deficit-deal-debacle—but only after making the following two points:

1. Politics is not one thing. Yeah, Duh, I know, but in this debt bill there are two crucial pieces: the substance of the deal and the optics of the deal-making.

I am unenthusiastic about the substance, and am pleased that my representative (Yvette Clarke) and one senator (Kirsten Gillebrand) voted against it. I’m convinced by those who state that cutting spending during a time of low demand and high unemployment is a bad idea because such cuts will simply push the lows lower and highs higher.

Yes, I am effectively unemployed and no it’s not because this is hitting me, but I think a far bigger concern than the deficit is unemployment.

Get people to work, and those people start paying taxes on their paychecks. You may at some point need to raise taxes and/or cut spending to curb the deficit, but right now the emergency for tens of millions of people and their communities is unemployment.

Regardless of my unenthusiasm for the deal and small pleasure in Clarke’s and Gillibrand’s votes, I also understand why others voted for it. The debt ceiling had to be raised, most of the cuts are pushed back to 2013 and beyond, and, well, default would have been catastrophic.

Upshot: this is lousy on its merits, but it could have been worse.

On the optics, however, this is worse-er than merely lousy. Obama and the Dems could have dealt with the debt ceiling back when they were still in the majority, and, oh yeah, could have gotten in front of the budget issue in general.

Yes, Republicans were uncooperative before the 2010 elections and even less cooperative between the elections and the seating of the new Congress, but Obama, Reid, and Pelosi could have pushed forward a strong enough agenda that would have required the TeaPer-fueled GOP at least to have to fight for their “No!No!No!” platform. As it was, the Dems retreated before the wave rather than holding on and waiting for the wave itself to recede.

The Dems weakened themselves both in terms of not going hard at the Republicans and in not defending, much less advancing, their own vision for the country—probably because they seem to have forgotten that they ought even have a vision.

There are some good, tough Democrats out there, and yes, I’ll vote for Obama again in 2012, but beyond stopping the conservative onslaught, I have difficulty discerning what is the purpose of the Democratic Party.

Saying “it could be worse” is a truism, not a rallying cry.

2. The notion that Obama’s weakness in, ahem, “negotiating” this deal is due to the apathy of the left and/or the party base is false and infuriating because false.

I’ll give half-credit to those who note that people have to vote, and those who stayed home did failed in not taking advantage of one of few powers we have.

The other side of this, which goes unmentioned, is that it’s up to the candidates and the party to motivate them to vote, and the Dems did themselves no favors in the many months preceding the elections by not promoting what were, in fact, some solid accomplishments.

Again, telling us the other guy is worse ain’t enough.

What really flips my lid, however, are those who raise the FDR card: “The president told us to push him to do the right thing, and we didn’t do that.”


Axelrod and Plouffe and the president himself looking for some hippie to smack when they were, in fact, pushed—how does fit into the whole “keep me accountable” gig?

Mocking and deriding as hippies those left-critics who you invited to speak does at least indicate that the president retains the ability to go after his detractors. Too bad he only deploys this ability against his own side.

Finally, when is telling people to “make me” do the right thing a sign of strong leadership?

Lead from behind, wait-and-see, blah blah—yeah, I get it: the president isn’t a bully and for the most part he dispenses with the pulpit.

But you can be cool without losing strength:

No, the president can’t do what Malcolm did, for all kinds of reasons.

But there’s no reason he can’t also lift his hand and point to where he wants us to go.