Your opponent isn't your enemy

>> Thursday, February 14, 2008

Oh hell, I think I'm going to do it again. What I should do tonight is sit down with the soundtrack from the film More. What I'm actually going to do is comment on politics again, because there's something going on among a certain set of Democrats that's really driving me nuts.

I was annoyed enough yesterday that I even posted a few comments in Slate's "Fray" that I'm not going to bother linking to because it's just too much trouble for too little effect. We're talking about responses to one particular commenter who was being an ass the other day.

Except here's Erica Jong doing the same exact thing over on The Huffington Post yesterday. Doing what, you ask? Do I really have to go read it or will you just tell me?

Sure, I can just tell you: Jong thinks that people who support Barack Obama hate women. Hillary Clinton, especially and specifically, but the real root of all naysaying is that Clinton has a vagina. And all of the rest of those feminine parts, primary and secondary sexual characteristics.

If you weren't supporting Clinton's bid for the presidency, you might not have realized you hate women, you miserable, misogynistic bastard or traitor to your gender, you. You don't think you hate women at all? So can we put you down for a campaign contribution, or sign you up as someone who will boycott the general election if the Democrat's engage in a massive clitoral circumcision and widow-burning at their national convention?

If you ignore Clinton's gender and focus on her Senate record, her political associations, and an assessment of her strengths and liabilities, you might well conclude that there are reasons not to support Clinton in the primaries. She voted for the Iraq war, has strong associations with the crypto-conservative Democratic Leadership Council, and is a lightning rod for the inane knee-jerk rage of social conservatives who (a) believe that the Clintons are ultra-leftists who will tolerate abortion, legalize gay marriage, and socialize healthcare within minutes of a Clinton swearing-in and (b) that these are bad things (oh noes!).

And it's also possible to ignore Obama's ethicity and focus on his career as a community activist, background as a con law professor, relative disengagement from the centrist wing of the Democrats, apparently fresh perspective, and polls indicating that Obama will match well against John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, and to conclude that Obama is an excellent presidential candidate.

So you end up with this perverse thing: to accuse Obama's supporters of sexism and racism (because they're endorsing an African-American male) is to engage in sexism and racism. Because it's possible that at least some of Obama's supporters are ignoring the very factors that critics like Ms. Jong are elevating above all else: Clinton is a woman, and women have been oppressed for so long that she should be treated differently, and not evaluated the way you might evaluate a male candidate, and anyway you were only supporting Obama because he's black, weren't you? You're either also black or you're a guilty white person, you bigoted jerk and traitor.

It's absurd, of course. Insane. Idiotic. You know, it's possible--perhaps probable--that your opponent isn't your enemy. Just because Clinton is someone's second choice doesn't mean that Clinton is therefore despised. Just as one can evaluate Clinton without regard to her gender and conclude she's not one's favorite candidate, one can simultaneously conclude that Clinton has merits: a record of public service, brilliance as an attorney, experience in dealing with Congress, and progressive positions on several issues (including healthcare). Although I will admit to having some reservations in the past--the Clinton circus and Bill Clinton's minor betrayals of liberalism still rankle me (perhaps, in all fairness, I shouldn't hold Mr. Clinton's failings against Ms. Clinton, though she did share in one of the first and greatest: the healthcare debacle)--I think I can vote for her in November without hesitation, with confidence that she is intelligent and qualified, and relatively liberal.

It should also be emphasized that Ms. Jong (and the Slate commentator I dealt with yesterday) have at least one point: there are critics of Clinton who prefer to attack Clinton's gender and not her policies or record. Does it need to be said that shouldn't be tolerated? That Clinton, like so many Senators, abdicated her legislative responsibilities when she gave George Bush a blank check to invade Iraq is relevant to whether she exercises good judgment; her choice of pantsuit over skirt or color of said clothing, not so much. If you see or hear some asshat focusing on such trivialities or commenting on a woman's ability to lead, I hope you'll rip them a new one even if you plan on voting for McCain come November.


MWT Friday, February 15, 2008 at 1:20:00 AM EST  

Hmmm... being as I am neither black, white, male, OR female ... does that mean my opinions are the only valid ones? :D

Eric Friday, February 15, 2008 at 9:54:00 AM EST  

Unfortunately, the way some people seem to be thinking, you just hate everybody. Or you hate everybody with the following exceptions:

If you don't vote for... you must hate:
McCain... America
Obama... African-Americans
Clinton... women
Huckabee... Jesus
Paul... money.

Ergo, if you don't know who you would support, you're an anti-American, racist, sexist, atheist communist. It's simple logic. And here's the really bad news: no matter who you actually vote for, the terrorists win. Why? Because Mitt Romney is no longer in the race, dammit! I don't know what they win, but it'll be something to see!

(I'm thinking it might be a free ride on a pony or maybe a golf lesson, but I'm no expert on national security.)

Nathan Friday, February 15, 2008 at 2:29:00 PM EST  

Yesterday, TNH blogged on Making Light that essentially, Clinton is running at exactly the wrong moment in US History and that its really just kind of sad for her.

Stolen snippet:

Hillary Clinton is a good politician and a good candidate, but she’s getting run down by a historic freight train. It’s a strange and tragic thing that she and her husband should both get hit by those. In her case, it’s coming from within her own party. And right now, it’s not her job to see that what’s bearing down on her is a different kind of power.

I think that's a pretty good summation of the situation.

MWT Friday, February 15, 2008 at 3:07:00 PM EST  

Yeah. That was my assessment too, actually - that Clinton would really make a great president if she weren't running in times like these.

I've heard the interpretation that the Democrats are "deeply divided" when that's not how I'm seeing it at all; it's more that we have two people to vote for instead of people tho vote against. Two good choices instead of two bad ones. It's kind of nice...

(But what do I know - as the perfect anti-American, I hate everyone. ;) )

Eric Friday, February 15, 2008 at 3:23:00 PM EST  

Both of you really hit the thing that I find most annoying about the "if you're not for us you're against us" bloc that Jong was writing for the other day. The Dems' field is down to two exceptionally intelligent and capable candidates who--amazingly--are both historic candidates. This could be seen (and I think should be seen) as a win-win situation in a lot of ways.

What could suck all the air out of the moment is if the Dems do get divided. It's one thing to say "Obama is qualified, but I prefer Clinton." But to go to the extreme and say "Obama is unqualified and I prefer Clinton" is to put yourself in a difficult position if Obama is the nominee. (Obviously, the converse is just as true, for those who might go overboard in hacking Clinton in favor of Obama.)

I've had reservations about Clinton, but I'm dropping them: I'm going to focus on her strengths. I hope Obama is the nominee, but I'm not going to complain if he isn't.

Now I'm off to actually read the TNH piece.

Right is Right,  Saturday, February 16, 2008 at 9:52:00 PM EST  

I just don't like Hillary, AT ALL. I could care less if she had a penis, vagina, or both. I know you think I'm strange, but I am one of the minority who believes GWB was not a bad president. (Stop laughing at me), but at the end of the day, it would be nice to end the pattern of "Clintons" or "Bushs" in the whitehouse. Time to move on. I don't dislike Obama, I just think he needs a good 8 years before he runs to get some experience. I'm voting McCain, by default. Why? because Romney is out, and Paul has no chance, and I love Jesus, but Huckleberry Hound is an idiot

Eric Sunday, February 17, 2008 at 11:09:00 AM EST  


As long as it's "I don't like Hillary Clinton" as a person/politician/dynasty, I think you're well outside the scope of the race and gender thing some of my fellows on the left (like Erica Jong) seem to be focusing on right now. Indeed, the real issue would be that Jong's piece suggests that your decision to default to McCain is based on sexism or racism, which is an unfair and unwarranted assumption. She's projecting her biases onto you, and what gives her (or anyone else) the right to do that?

You're entitled to vote your conscience. Hell, the First Amendment even entitles someone to say racist, sexist or agist things about Obama, Clinton and McCain. What nobody's entitled to do--tho' Ms. Jong and some others keep trying--is to tell other people that the only reason they're disagreeing with something is because they're horrible people, absent some evidence to the contrary.

So don't sweat it.

As for GWB, though... who are you comparing him to? Nixon? Grant? I mean, sure, he's had fewer cabinet members indicted than Reagan or Clinton, but is that really the gold standard?

In the grand scheme of things, GWB probably isn't the worst President ever--I think Nixon still has more points--but thanks to a helpful/oblivious/ineffective Congress, he's left Wilson and Harding in the dust. Secret meetings, an unnecessary war, squandered international goodwill, guttering domestic agenda, and the list goes on.

I'm not going to laugh at you--but forgive me if I scratch my head with a nonplussed expression on my mug.

Right is Right,  Sunday, February 17, 2008 at 6:49:00 PM EST  

Don't worry...I scratch myself on my head when my grandparents talk about how wonderful Jimmy Carter was. Now HE is the gold standard of horrible presidents in my book. Bad domestic policy, bad foreign policy; just a disaster from day one in 1977.

By the way....GWB is loved in Albania and much of Africa... I know, I know... He isn't the PRESIDENT in those places.

Eric Monday, February 18, 2008 at 12:03:00 AM EST  

Besides the fact that he isn't President in those places, they don't have to deal with the entirety of his policy. It's not their Constitution that's being compromised by expansions of Federal surveillance, their budget that's being run into a deficit, their international goodwill squandered by their reckless foreign policy, their military that's overextended, etc.

And, obviously, there's no accounting for tastes. This country has admired its share of rulers who are dirty rotten scoundrels at home and beloved by the folks here: right off the tip of my tongue rolls Chiang Kai-shek, Batista and Putin; leaders who were/are unpopular, corrupt and/or incompetent in their homelands and beloved by Americans--no doubt it works the other way, too, with American leaders who are disliked here being well-regarded on foreign soil for their generosity, antagonism towards an enemy, or merely for being American.

Carter was a mediocre president for sure, and despised. Some of it wasn't wholly his fault and some of it was, entirely. Still, as far as I know, he didn't actually break the law by (for instance) bombing foreign countries in violation of an act of Congress (Nixon) or authorizing violations of the Geneva conventions (Bush). Was Carter a bad president? Sure, why not? It's certainly hard to come up with an accomplishment like desegregating the military (Eisenhower), helping defeat Nazism (Roosevelt), reuniting the Republic (Lincoln) or even dying before screwing anything up (Harrison*). But worst ever?


*William Henry Harrison is arguably the greatest President in American history.

Right is Right,  Monday, February 18, 2008 at 8:53:00 AM EST  

I guess you have your opinions as do I. I am not opposed to the war; I spent mid July 2001 working in the World Trade Center at Morgan Stanley; 3 people I had become close to perished that day in September.

Again, I believe history will view Bush differently. I CAN understand why some people do not like him; if someone is opposed to the war, or do not like his economic policies, that is up to them. I on the other hand do not view it that way. As a graduate with an MBA in finance, and a BS in Econ, I feel I have some "arrows in my quiver", but education does not matter when someone is having a difficult time financially. I know Clinton gets an awful lot of credit for the economy during his tenure, sure the market went wild, but earnings certainly were not part of the equation back then. They have been while the current administration has been in office for the most part. And, I'm not just talking about Defense and Oil.

600,000 Americans died to free the slaves when Lincoln was president. I imagine the media would chew him up today, but one cannot know for sure. Was is worth it? I can imagine a large part of our population that would think so. Is it sad that nearly 4000 of our young people have died in the middle east? Certainly. I have known a couple of them who willingly enlisted knowing that the purpose of a military may be to go to war at some point. If you believe that was based on lies, then that is of you opinion, and obviously the opinion of many others. I on the other hand find it amazing that the media touts the deaths of 4000 soldiers, and not the multitude more aborted young children everyday. In my opinion, that is the greatest tragedy of our time.

And in the end, I just don't want Hillary to be president.

I don't imagine you are easily offended, so if I did, please accept my apology. I do enjoy speaking with you. You have an entertaining blog.

Eric Monday, February 18, 2008 at 11:37:00 AM EST  

No offense was taken at all. And thank you for enjoying the blog.

You mention the World Trade Center when you talk about your support of the war. If you're talking about the forgotten war, we're talking about different wars. The Afghanistan Taliban sheltered the terrorists who planned the 9/11 attacks, and were a horrifyingly repressive regime. Although I philosophically skew towards pacifism, I'm enough of a realist to say we were justified in going into Afghanistan and turning things over. The Afghanistan War isn't the problem.

The problem is the other war, the one in Iraq. The one in which it is very clear to me that the Administration went to Congress under false pretenses, and Congress (not wanting to look weak and apparently forgetful of what happened in the '60s with the Tonkin Gulf resolution) gave the President a blank check.

One might try to argue Hussein was a bad man or that Iraq sometimes harbored terrorists, but that wasn't the justification that was initially presented: the original justification was the allegation that Hussein had or was seeking WMDs, an allegation that was based on shell games (using Iraq's WMD possession in the '80s as evidence of contemporary possession), questionable intel (the Nigerian yellowcake claims), and outright lies (accusing Hussein of being involved in 9/11).

Had the Administration made a case based on Hussein being a bad man and Iraq needing to be liberated, it might have been a different thing--at least any Congressional and public approval would have been based on an upfront adventurist interventionist foreign policy similar to Woodrow Wilson's. (I loathe Wilson, but he still has his admirers.)

Instead--and this might be the worst thing about the war, even worse (in the grand scheme) than the cost in American blood and treasure--the lies have been repeated so many times that there are plenty of intelligent, educated people who believe Hussein helped plan 9/11 or that Iraq was in the position Iran and N. Korea are in with regards to fielded WMDs and delivery systems.

Meanwhile, Rumsfeld's decision to invade Iraq without an occupation plan or sufficient troops to hold and rebuild the country leaves us overextended and compromises our ability to rebuild Afghanistan and our ability to deal with other potential threats.

I regret your loss on 9/11, but the Iraq war is the wrong war.

On another note: Lincoln was castigated during the Civil War and there were draft riots in New York and elsewhere. Nor is Lincoln's legacy unblemished: the suspension of habeas corpus still ranks as a gross failure of and stain upon his presidency. Still, preserving the Union ranks as an achievement no matter how the final balance sheet comes out. There may be no President, with the exception of the great William Harrison, whose presidency has no failings whatsoever. But as much as Bush obviously wants to believe his balance sheet will come out in the black, it seems unlikely: he's presided over the largest expansion in executive power since FDR, given more cause for mistrust than any president since Nixon, presided over the least effective military intervention since LBJ, among other failings. But we'll see. People admire Wilson, forgive Nixon, and worship Reagan; apparently being a dirty rotten president and questionable human being has surprisingly little bearing on one's legacy....

Right is Right,  Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 12:07:00 PM EST  

Can we ever give the man an ounce of credit for anything?

Eric Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 12:45:00 PM EST  


Sure, okay: Bush's efforts in Africa have been great. Damn shame about that domestic wiretapping and Iraq war. And I'm surprised a conservative is looking to an old unabashed lefty like Sir Bob Geldof for support (you do realize that Geldof has evolved into a fairly able fundraiser/schmoozer who will say something nice about anyone who's supporting his causes? not that there's anything wrong with that).

I'm not trying to be uncivil--we've had a good discussion here--but do you think we ought to give him a cookie or something? Even Nixon had China: that doesn't make Nixon a decent president any more than Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus makes him a lousy one. You try to take things on the balance.

Let me give a personal example: I admire Lyndon Johnson for the Great Society. I think that LBJ could have been a great president, and would have been if not for Vietnam. I'm inclined to admire LBJ. But I'm not inclined to lie for him or whitewash his legacy: he screwed the pooch on Vietnam, getting the U.S. into a quagmire and offsetting much of the good his social agenda might have accomplished, irrevocably staining his legacy with blood. I may admire Johnson's qualities, but I'm not about to excuse his faults.

I'm prepared to be honest about LBJ. I wonder how many folks on the other side of the aisle are prepared to be honest about GWB.

Can we give him an ounce of credit? Sure. Are you then ready to acknowledge that the Administration misrepresented the case for the Iraq war, mishandled the occupation of Iraq, is advocating a dangerously anti-(small "r") republican policy with the unitary executive theory, has tarnished America's reputation in much of the world, and has established dangerous precedents for circumventing the Fourth and Eighth Amendments?

Right is Right,  Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 1:46:00 PM EST  

I'm quoting Ann Coulter (I know you love her):

If George Bush discovered a cure for cancer, democrats would complain about unemployed lab rats.

And as far as Iraq goes, the previous administration and HIS cronies also believed Saddam was looking to get WMD's.

Okay. I'm done, and yes, a cookie would be nice.

Right is Right,  Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 2:08:00 PM EST

I just had to share the picture Obama/Kennedy photo on this page. I think we can all agree it's funny.

Eric Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 3:59:00 PM EST  

I don't think anyone disputes that Saddam wanted WMDs. I want a big TV and an XBox360, a Tesla roadster and a three-day work week. My ability to achieve any of those goals range from "maybe in the next year" to "yeah, right." The question is whether or not Hussein was in a position to actually acquire WMDs in the near term, and the best evidence is that his WMD program was stalled.

I don't know if Coulter is right about Democrats, but since she often conflates Democrats and liberals, let me say as a liberal: it would be awesome if Bush cured cancer. Indeed, at this point I wish he'd gone into medicine instead of politics.

And yes, that is a funny picture. Thanks for the link.

Right is Right,  Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 6:55:00 PM EST  

OOOH! A tesla roadster! Me too. XBox 360 is cool, but I'm kind of a Wii guy.

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