Dumb quote of the day--every single thing that comes out of this man's mouth edition

>> Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My question is whether this man thinks before he says a single goddamn thing. I'm not nearly as upset he wants to politicize the death of an American envoy to Libya and three other Americans as I am about the sheer cluelessness of the substance of his comments. If Romney wants to raise questions about whether our embassies abroad are sufficiently secure or somesuch--I'm not saying such criticisms would be valid, but they would at least be less incoherent and insane than what Romney is saying, which largely seems to boil down to it being disgraceful that the American embassy in Cairo issued a placating statement to Muslim protesters angered by a low-budget film produced by a real estate developer and promoted by infamous Quran-burner Terry Jones (not the British comedian) which, "portray[s] Muhammad as a pedophile-appeasing, bumbling spreader of false doctrine". That statement, far from being an "apology" for American values, appears to be a sympathetic statement referencing the American values of religious diversity and sectarian tolerance; per the New York Times:

The Embassy put out a statement condemning the "continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims--as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."

Elsewhere in the Middle East, rioters gathered outside the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and subsequently breached the premises and four Americans were killed, including Envoy Christopher Stevens. The riots and deaths were roundly condemned by the State Department and the President stated that the United States would work with the Libyan government to bring the killers to justice--over-optimistically going so far as to say "Make no mistake. Justice will be done." (If you want to criticize the President, feel free to observe that the United States has no power to exert any authority within Libya and little capability to pressure, coerce or beguile the Libyan government into doing anything it doesn't want to, short of military action vastly disproportionate to the loss of life and property, and that the promise that "Justice will be done" is essentially empty, though I obviously wish us good luck with that.)

There are several points to be made about Romney's inept, shambling, smug press conference. First, one that's already been noted everywhere: his critique of the Administration's actions is factually wrong in almost every particular--there was no apology, the placating statement was made before the deaths in Libya, the placating statement was issued by the Egyptian embassy, the placating statement was clearly intended to defuse tensions primarily in Egypt, the placating statement was disavowed by the Administration, the assault on the Libyan consulate was condemned. Second, one that I alluded to in the previous paragraph: in truth, American power in these situations is shockingly limited--we can condemn, we can consider diplomatic and economic pressure imposed with or without the assistance of relevant mutual allies, we can bring the brute blunt force of our military to bear; in the context of Libya, it appears to me at this stage that all we can realistically do is the first while evaluating whether we have any leverage at all with the nascent government of what has largely been (and to some extent still is) a rogue state; the third option, military intervention, is for the frothingly insane.

I think this is possibly the right point to digress just a tiny bit and point out that Romney is sort of right that the Administration is, in some sense, responsible for everything that comes out of one of our embassies, whether or not it's been cleared or is later rescinded or disavowed: that's what Truman's famous Poker reference meant. Having said that, I also think the sitting President and Secretary Of State have the authority to withdraw or disavow the statements of their appointees and underlings: Presidential responsibility isn't a kind of irrevocable, suicide-pact-like kind of thing, and while an ambassadorial statement is a statement made by an extension of the Administration and by the United States, it's also trumped by final words of all the stops further up the pipeline from the relevant department head to the Cabinet Post to the Oval Office to the American People at large. But what's really most interesting, and what I really wanted to throw out there, is that it seems a bit funny to me that the guy who's made a big deal about when or if he was really in charge of Bain Capital at a time when he was receiving benefits and had a job title but was conveniently removed from the operations of the company (or so he says) wants to talk about the President's responsibility for the doings of his underlings and employees. It seems to me, you know, that there's some relevant wisdom about geese and ganders.

Third thing I'd have to point out is that Romney keeps talking about values, values and values, and fuck him and the horse he rode in on with that horseshit. This is one of those situations where he couldn't be picking a worse cause to try to bootstrap his electoral chances on, at least if he wants to appeal to anyone except the hateful religious bigots wing of the GOP, which is certainly a loud and prominent and influential division of his party but I'm reasonably sure it isn't enough to win a national election--those folks have a hard enough time winning state races or anything bigger than heavily gerrymandered local runs, and thank goodness we're not as awful as all that.

I will be frank that I'm a little tired of catering to the sensibilities and easily-hurt feelings of religious zealots, and maybe it's a question of geography, but they all seem to be Abrahamic zealots--you hardly seem to ever hear anything about rioting Buddhists or see Shintoists going on TV to whine about how their views are neglected in public schools, though maybe I'd see more of that if I lived on the other side of the world. I find it particularly offensive that there's one particular Abrahamic sect that gets especially aggrieved if you portray their founder in an unfavorable light--or at all, it seems--and ends up issuing calls for murder and mayhem, violence Christian fundamentalists reserve for abortion providers and occasionally Democrats.

But I also can point out that I don't generally go around publicly pissing on religions for no good reason, least of all do I knowingly create situations where I'm liable to cause myself as much grief as achieve anything else. I could write lengthy diatribes about how Lot, Patriarch of Israel and Prophet of Islam, was a pimp and drunken pervert, but what's the point? (Wait... did I just...?) Because the bottom line is that I believe I shouldn't really care what you believe so long as you aren't hurting anyone else with it. I even have a flowchart I like to follow:

I don't think I'm totally out of line with American values, or at least America's express values on this particular score: matter-of fact, you might've noticed my flowchart kinda goes back a littleways and has some small historical precedent. Ironically, it's probably America's tolerance for diversity of belief that's kept this country from secularizing to the degree a lot of other Western nations have--American religion has never been a binary proposition where people are largely set a choice between the national church, the residual minority sect remaining after the medieval wars or national purges, and some kind of vague agnosticism (possibly tinged with a contempt provoked by the blood spilled by the first two choices); American religion has been a surprisingly live-and-let live affair, despite occasional notable exceptions like the Mormons being driven from Missouri.

What I'm trying to get around to is this: while I think it's noxious for any religious group--Christian or Muslim or whatever--to get exercised by a shitty video, I also think it's pretty damn asinine to make a shitty video whose entire raison d'être appears to be pissing somebody off by going the extra mile just to shit on their beliefs.

Which is what I think we're talking about here. No, I haven't seen it: but the ScatterKat watched as much of it as she could stand last night to know what the fuss is about, and I'll take her word on it. Not to speak for her, but she seemed baffled, irritated and angry anyone troubled to create the damn thing, and I do believe "piece of shit" was the kindest thing she had to say about the production values and message of the piece. I'm not terribly surprised: the video has been promoted by Terry Jones (again, not the British comedian), a slimy little shit who has fallen beneath this blog's contempt in 2010 and in 2011 for such nadirs of douchebaggery that the 2011 post I just linked to was mocking Jones for being such a rat bastard bigot not even the Ku Klux Klan wanted to have anything to do with him (seriously, go back and read for yourself).

We're not talking The Last Temptation Of Christ, here. This isn't one of America's greatest living directors collecting an amazing cast of brilliant character actors to gorgeously film a screenplay by a justifiably-respected screenwriter in which the "Son Of Man" angle of the Jesus story is studiously examined beneath a soundtrack composed by a prog/alt-rock legend, and conservative Catholics get their cassocks and habits all twisted up and organize protests (which, justified or not, admittedly consisted of peaceful boycotts, far as I can recall).

No, we're talking about a hateful piece of propaganda evidently meant to insult an entire faith and for religious bigots to circle jerk to.

Which you've got a First Amendment right to do, mind you. It's just that the fact you can do something doesn't mean you should, especially when all you're really doing is being a dick. A dick, you know, who is potentially endangering people's lives, seeing as how the people you're being a dick to have a history of violently overreacting even to non-dickish portrayals of their belief system. (We're also not talking about The Satanic Verses, a serious literary novel that managed to trigger a fatwā that led to several violent incidents and deaths.)

And this is what Romney is going to defend? He doesn't have to, you know. He could, for instance, condemn everybody, taking the Voltairian stance he doesn't condone what anyone says but will defend their right to say it, peaceably, here or in the Middle East while condemning the video as bigotry and the violence as zealotry; or, for that matter, if he was going to say anything, he could simply focus on condolences for the families and friends of the victims and the hope the international community will join in strong, appropriate action, etc.

I want you to understand something here, which is that I'm not saying Romney condones religious bigotry. Regrettably, I think that's far too concrete a position for as inchoate and all-seasons a political whore like Mitt Romney to ever take. What I think is, "He doesn't have the foggiest idea what the hell comes out of his mouth, he's not thinking before he says it and he isn't listening to what he just said, either." Look at that video: he keeps talking about values; well, d'ya think he's really all in favor of dickishness as an American value? Listen to the way he seems to be squeezing religious freedom and freedom of speech together in a way that condemns Islam without taking a corresponding stand against Christian religion, that attempts to praise the right of free speech without getting into thorny issues of responsibility for what one says or respect for those who hear. He wants to conflate freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, and to do so in a jumbled way that that the filmmakers have a right to their faith and the offended faithful have nothing, and to call this amorphous blobby thing "values", but what values are we talking about, exactly? Conscience? Hate speech? Would Romney have defended a right of Libyan Muslims to assemble and protest outside the American consulate so long as they didn't break in and kill anyone, or do American values just extend to low-budget portrayals of religious icons as pedophilia apologists?

And this is why everything he says in the above video is the Dumb Quote Of The Day, every single damned thing that comes out of his mouth to circle round his head like dying moths looking for a lightbulb to kamikaze and coming up with impenetrable darkness. He doesn't know what the hell he's talking about, and I'm not even sure he cares.

It's stupid. It's reprehensible. It's insulting.

For Obama? Hell, I'd vote for a stale muffin to keep that jackass, Romney, from getting past the concrete baffles on Pennsylvania Avenue. Preserve us if he manages to get his sorry self elected.


Seth Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 4:16:00 PM EDT  

The Administration shouldn't have distanced itself from the statement. I think that was a mistake; now Romney gets to play "Look at how they're sending mixed messages!" There was nothing remotely inappropriate about the Embassy's statement -- which, far from being an apology for America, firmly set forth the American government's distance from any sort of attack on anybody's religion. It set forth the great Jeffersonian ideal of government's distance from, and neutrality toward, all religions. They should have stood by that and just smacked Romney hard for being an idiot.

That said, you are of course right that it's also within the President's purview to override and countermand a statement by his subordinates, especially when such statements are released in an emergency by people who feel their lives may be in danger. If the embassy's workers had been captured and forced, at gunpoint, to repeat Islamist propaganda, no one would think the U.S. government was "sending mixed messages" if the President quietly said, "Those statements obviously don't reflect U.S. policy." In fact, he wouldn't have to say it (I hope), because surely no one would be crass enough to exploit the statements of U.S. envoys in fear for their lives to score cheap political points.


Eric Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 4:25:00 PM EDT  

Good point. I agree, Seth, and that would be another legitimate critique of the Administration's response.

Obviously not Romney's... whatever you want to call his word salad, however.

John the Scientist Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 5:53:00 PM EDT  

What Obama should have said was: "no, we don't condemn anyone making fun of anyone else's religion because we stand *for* free speech. They may be dicks, but that's not a cime. And speaking of free speech, Mitt, your magic underwear is just plain fucking goofy."

Nathan Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 6:56:00 PM EDT  

Some developments that have arisen during the day...for what they're worth:

-Sam Bacile, the Israeli responsible for the film---is now purported to really be an American Christian right winger who operated under an alias.

-The attack in Libya is now alleged to possibly have been a pre-planned Al Queda attack that took advantage of the cover of an otherwise (relatively) peaceful demonstration. (I'm not sure what I think of this one, but Whatzizfuck did call on Muslims to launch attacks on September 11th.)

-In an interview Obama gave to 60 minutes today, he said Romney "has a tendency to shoot first and aim later". (Damn, that man can talk!)

BTW, I'm reading "In the Garden of Beasts" right now -- the story of Ambassador Dodd in Germany during Hitler's early years. There's a part of the book describing a series of large scale protests that Jews were staging in New York and Chicago to condemn Hitler (in 1933-34) and how the Nazis tried to get Dodd and Sec.State Hull to put a stop to them. The officials (in spite of not being very fond of Jews themselves), gleefully told Hitler and Goebbels that the First Amendment prevented them from having any influence over the protests. I don't mean to condemn the Embassy's statement in Egypt, but there's a certain value in explaining to foreign people that Americans are allowed to say any stupid fucking thing we want to without getting arrested or otherwise hassled by our government.

Warner Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 11:40:00 AM EDT  

"...And my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they're in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office." the President.

Doesn't exactly sound like a disavowal which is what I'm seeing on a lot of RWNJ sites.


Eric Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 2:36:00 PM EDT  

Warner: yeah, between the Secretary Of State's response and the President's, I think there was more nuance and credit there than I was acknowledging in my summary of the situation. Fair enough, and thanks for pointing that out.

Chez Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 3:57:00 PM EDT  

You write and think the way I used to before my brain melted out of my ears, I began having to crank out and extended piece four times a week, and I got a 16-ton-anvil's worth of TV work dropped onto my desk.

Eric Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 5:34:00 PM EDT  

Thanks, Chez! For what it's worth, by the way, I'm pleased you're getting the work and appreciation--it may be brain-melting, but hopefully in the best possible way, right?

Seth Friday, September 14, 2012 at 12:00:00 PM EDT  

Hey Warner -- thanks for pointing that out. That is a more subtle and nuanced take on things than what's generally been reported, and I'm glad to see it.

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