Saturday, November 06, 2004Caveat: this may be a slightly disjointed post, between the attention-stretching influences of PBS, a bubbling soup pot and a pint of Guinness. So, here I am sitting in front of the computer, watching - or more accurately, listening and periodically turning my head toward the TV - The McLaughlin Group, an old favorite from my high school and college days, on Chicago's PBS affiliate WTTW-11...what a delicious - as my friend Cindy would say - chocolate-covered clusterf$@& of a show.
You know what's strange? I used to believe Pat Buchanan was the Bogeyman back when I was in college, but jeezum crow, his brand of rhetoric sounds positively tame compared to some of the extremist blather I'm hearing today. To mix metaphors, compared to the vicious oily doublespeak rising to the top of the rotten political apple barrel these days, I'm almost soothed by the sight of Pat's greasy combover and spraying spittle - "Fetuses, morals and Bork, oh my!" How Ivory soap mild, how Special K crisp. Why?
I recommend a peek at Ron Suskind's "Without a Doubt," which appeared October 17th in the New York Times magazine. Tonight, a friend left a paper copy of it on the kitchen counter with a handwritten note on top that read, "God help us." Suskind writes,
"In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend - but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.God help us, indeed. I turn my head toward the tube. John McLaughlin and crew are actually talking about the possibility of state secession in the next 20 years. Secession is staring to sound tempting, but where's our Mason-Dixon Line? Do the West Coast and Mid-North-East get an easement? Voila! - a Solution!
The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors - and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.' ...
And for those who don't get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me.
'You think he's an idiot, don't you?' I said, no, I didn't. 'No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!' In this instance, the final 'you,' of course, meant the entire reality-based community."
Buchanan manages to say "Bork was a genius" and "the Democrats are demoralized" in one sentence. I'm tempted to create a McLaughlin Group drinking game.
Demoralized? Not quite. We may be in a temporary loser's funk - but, ahem - 49% of the vote isn't a beatdown in any sense of the word. Sorry, guys. 2004 was a squeaker, claims of "overwhelming cultural mandate" notwithstanding.
One blog I frequent displayed a postelection county-by-county red vs. blue map of the nation, gloating, "look at all the real estate we red states have!" Sorry to burst the bubble, but the last time I checked, wasn't it "one man one vote"? Per acre, plenty of that red 'real estate' boasts ten times more cattle than voters. Who'd have thought Americans ever would be proud to call themselves "Red"?
Up next on WTTW, one of my favorite classic British sitcoms: Keeping Up Appearances. I laughed at it 20 years ago, and it's still a hoot. *sigh* It's like being in the Reagan era all over again; new verse, same as the worst.
More: from South Africa, "Faith Secures Bush a Second Term," a op-ed piece by Harvard professor and Hoover Institution member Niall Ferguson for the Cape Times