Late last year, I wrote a post describing my frustrations with political writing, which once so dominated this blog. Before I reexamine that frustration, I'd like to give you two essays from that politically dominant era. The first is from 12/01/2008, less than a month after the election that put Barack Obama in the White House:
What's the Appoint?
I know it's been a foregone conclusion for about two weeks now that Hillary Clinton would be our next Secretary of State, but I wanted to be absolutely, positively, empirically, unquestionably, and pretty gosh darn sure before I posted this...Let me check again just to be sure. Be right back.
Yep, she's got the gig. All the talking heads think it's a great choice. She's smart. She's respected. She's experienced.
So why ain't she president?
I mean, wasn't that her main argument during the primary race, that she was more experienced than her main opponent, a one Barack Obama. But Obama, if you'll recall, had one great comeback. HILLARY HAD VOTED FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ! How could you possibly trust her judgement?
Apparently Obama can. Oh, well. What was that Jesus said again? Oh, yeah. Love your enemy. Especially after you've kicked his or her ass.
Maybe he'll appoint Bush to something next.
Are Van Helsing and Dracula Next?
Samantha Power, the Harvard University professor and Pulitzer Prize winning author who was dumped as a foreign policy advisor by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama for calling Hillary Clinton a "monster", will soon be hired as a foreign policy advisor by now-President Barack Obama, according to the Associated Press.
Wait a second, it's not the victim who's supposed to rise from the grave.
Then again, Jamie Lee Curtis did star in at least two Halloween sequels.
How does the monster, er, Hillary Clinton, feel about all this? According to an official close to the transition, the two have decided to "bury the hatchet." As senior director of multilateral affairs (is there a director of single lateral affairs?) at the National Security Council, Power will have close contact, and maybe even travel with, Clinton, now Secretary of State. No word as to whether Power will bring along wolf bane and garlic, just in case.
You have to hand it to Obama. If nothing else, he knows how to bring about reconciliation within his own party. Of course, it was something of a surprise when, after all the insults traded between the two campaigns, Obama appointed Hillary to State in the first place. I remember the press conference he gave right after that announcement, in which he dismissed all that dissing back and forth as "just politics, heat of the campaign, you know."
Huh? They weren't serious?
IF YOU CAN'T TRUST POLITICIANS WHEN THEY'RE TRASH TALKING EACH OTHER, WHEN CAN YOU TRUST THEM?!
If I don't have strong feelings, pro or con, about either Power or Rice, why did their nominations/appointments pique my interest? Something I read online by Peter Beinart, a former editor of The New Republic. In a Daily Beast article titled "Obama Unbound", Beinart argues that with these second-term appointments (including Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense), the "true" Obama is emerging. The first time around he appointed people he didn't really want, such as Hillary, strictly because it was good politics to do so:
"The Democratic Party has finally freed itself from the long shadow of Vietnam. For decades after the end of that war, Democrats peered nervously over their shoulders at a public that considered them soft. That’s why in 1988 Michael Dukakis climbed goofily into a tank. It’s why in 2004 Democrats tried to convince America that the single most important thing about John Kerry was that he had served in uniform. It’s why Obama couldn’t close Guantánamo Bay.
"Now those anxieties are gone, first because George W. Bush destroyed the GOP’s foreign-policy brand, and second, because by ordering the military operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, Obama won himself all the tough-guy swagger he needed. Thus, last fall, when Mitt Romney tried to out-hawk him on Iran, Obama didn’t scramble to his right. To the contrary, in the foreign-policy debate he smacked Romney for being 'reckless' in his willingness to 'take premature military action.' It worked. According to virtually every poll, Americans said they trusted Obama more as commander in chief.
"Since the election, it’s been more Obama unbound. He’s appointed a wildly controversial Defense secretary who has talked bluntly about his determination to keep America out of future wars. Then, late last month, he gave a speech vowing to close Guantánamo Bay and declaring the 'war on terror' over. Now he’s appointing Rice. It’s quite a change. In 2009, Obama chose a Defense secretary and a national-security adviser Washington Republicans loved. This year, he’s chosen a Defense secretary and a national-security adviser they hate. The reason: he no longer needs to care as much what they think."
Beinart goes on to compare Obama to Bill Clinton, who behaved like a conservative in his first term so as to have the freedom to be liberal in the second. Or would have, had a stained black dress belonging to a White House intern not been a major distraction.
Beinart ends his piece this way:
"So what will Obama pursue? A comprehensive deal with Iran? A new initiative on climate change? A real effort at slashing nuclear stockpiles across the globe? One last presidential push for Mideast peace? He has laid the table for the kind of big, controversial foreign-policy initiative that would have been too risky in his first term. If Republicans are angry now, just wait. The real fun has yet to begin."
All well and good. Now to the second thing that piqued my interest, the following headline:
NSA Monitoring All Verizon Calls in the US, Leaked Memo Says
Or was the leaked memo part at beginning of the headline? Anyway, you probably saw something similar. According to Obama, whose White House the super-secret agency answers to, all this has something to do with the War on Terror, the one that is supposed to be over, and is sanctioned by the Patriot Act. There's been a relative firestorm of relative controversy over all this. Notice I said "relative". That's because I don't think most Americans are bothered by this, least of all Verizon customers. There's been similar stories in the past 12 years, and only the ACLU seems to care. Oh, the party not in the White House--first the Democrats and now the Republicans tries to make the most political hay they can about it. But they soon back off. They know the public fears terrorism, a fear they've both helped fan. To be fair, they get other help from time to time from the likes of the Tsarnaev boys.
This could even help Obama politically. It could contribute to the Presidents tough guy swagger. Ensure even more confidence in him as our commander-in-chief. Shorten the shadow of Vietnam even more. These are my thoughts, not Beinart's, but it does fit in with his thesis. It's an argument that can be made, an excuse to be offered. Extremist politicking in the name of foreign policy idealism is no vice.
It also reminds me of the old Vulcan saying, "Only Nixon can go to China." Except first Obama has to become Nixon.
Or J. Edgar Hoover.
I'd prefer to think that we can get a comprehensive deal with Iran, a new initiative on climate change, slashed nuclear stockpiles across the globe, and Mideast peace without bringing Big Brother into it. Politically, it only makes sense.
In the meantime, I'm going to return to writing about old TV shows, movies, and comics. Pop culture may be no less compromised than politics, but at least I'm more comfortable making excuses for it.