HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

August 18, 2008
Implication for the Long Run

Developments Last Week

John Turner


The Genuine Struggle
August 13, 2008

The publication of Jerome Corsi's new book attempting to hatchet Barach Obama is a symbol of the process the American people have to go through in order to reinstitute a democratic republic. The book is a pack of lies, but shortly it will be at the top of the New York Time's list of nonfiction bestsellers, boosted by large numbers of bulk sales. Its influence on the contest between John McCain and Barack Obama will be a pretty good indicator of the distance Americans have to travel to regain national sanity.

Gradually, ever so gradually, the American people are waking up to the kind of operatives who have directed their national experience over the past decade. Yet, still, a good portion of the population is not only willing, but eager, to gulp down nonsense that has been crippling the nation. When Joseph Lieberman can introduce John McCain with the slam that McCain is a real patriot whereas Obama is not, as he did recently, and not be booed off the stage as the freak and fanatic he has become, it shows we are still in deep danger.

The problem is that many people, including many journalists who should know better, continue to swirl through the same cycle without discerning a pattern in it. Remember when Michael Mukasey's appointment to head the Justice Department was hailed as a return to integrity for the nation's legal organization. Why did anyone believe that when Mukasey was appointed by Bush? Why did anyone think Bush would appoint a person who would take an independent stance at Justice? Now we see pretty clearly who Mukasey is. His argument that violating the law is not necessarily a crime will define him forever, and, I suspect, will end up making him more of a joke than Alberto Gonzales ever was. But why were we willing to be deluded in the first place, and why did it take us so long to see what had been foisted on us?

At the moment many of us are listening to the message that McCain is not really another version of Bush. He can fail to vote on the renewable energy bill eight times in a row, and people will still believe he supports an energy policy that's not designed to reward oil companies as much as possible. Why? Do they not really know how he has voted during his time in the Senate?

The Afghan war has gone on for seven years now, consuming thousands of live and uncountable resources, and yet some Americans appear to believe McCain's proclamations that military victory is just around the corner, if we will simply clinch our jaws tight enough.

A hideous bill of goods has been peddled to the American people, and they will continue to suffer from it unless they wake up and recognize it as a pack of tripe. How quickly that can happen is the fundamental political question facing us. You might even say it's the only one that matters.


Journalistic Ineptitude
August 14, 2008

I certainly don't know for sure what's happening on the border between Russia and Georgia, but I do know for sure that I'm not going to find out by listening to the network news reports. From them, you get the impression that the outbreak of violence is no more than inexplicable aggression by the Russian military. And the New York Times this morning had an editorial that was so mixed up it was hard to tell what was being said, yet the impression it left was that Russia is just bad for no reason at all.

I have no doubt that the Russian government can be brutal. They have demonstrated that quality before. But to paint Georgia and its president Mikheil Saakashvili as innocent, democratic victims is more than naive. The Georgian army did kill some people in South Ossetia, the province in which Russian forces were supposed to be keeping the peace. How many people the Georgians killed, and why, is uncertain, but at the least it's fairly obvious that their actions gave Russia an excuse to retaliate.

The goal of the United States should be to calm passions there, rather than exciting them by nonsensical bluster. John McCain's commentary on the situation is close to irrational, and shows no grasp of the complexities at work. If this is how he's going to react to outbreaks of violence around the world, then we're in deep trouble if he becomes president.

Reason is the only tool the U.S. has to apply in the region. We clearly can't exercise any force there. The kind of school yard taunts and threats President Bush and Senator McCain have been directing at the Russians will only make them more belligerent. And if Russian does decide to take over Georgia, what will we do then?

If the press had intelligence enough to let the American public know that this isn't a black/white situation, then American officials might be pressured to exercise intelligent diplomacy. But with the people in the dark, figures like McCain conclude they can enhance their reputation for toughness by issuing empty threats, and not run the risk of being considered reckless.

The media supposedly learned something from their childish support for Bush's aggressive rhetoric in 2002 and 2003. But what they learned is hard to discern right now.


Softening Rigidity?
August 17, 2008

Watching Rick Warren interview Barack Obama last night, I was reminded that Stuart Shepard, who makes videos for Focus on the Family recently asked people to pray for torrential rains when Obama makes his acceptance speech in Denver on August 28. He and his sponsor received so much ridicule for the request that they eventually backed off and said it was a joke. But it's pretty clear they didn't mean it as a joke when they first announced it.

I'm not sure that Rick Warren is the kind of person who thinks God would respond to prayers of that sort, but on the other hand, it wouldn't surprise me if he were. Warren is supposed to represent a new style of Evangelicalism which "is more socially minded and diverse than the orthodox religious movement of the Christian right," according to the New York Times report. But it seemed to me, watching Warren's encounter with the two candidates, that his difference from Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson is more of manner than of substance.

He continues to be, as his predecessors have been, devoid of any grasp of complexity. Everything is black and white, good and evil, godly or ungodly. There's little inclination to accept that situations can be complex and involve some things that we like and some that we don't.
Now, once again, we are being told that the candidates must appeal to people who think that way or risk failure. And we're also told that there's something invigoratingly American about dismissing all subtleties. It's a euphemistic way of saying that American strength and virtue lie in stupidity.

Whenever I see shows like the one broadcast last night, I'm grateful that I'm not a politician. Having to respond to Warren's syrupy questions without pointing out their foolishness requires a form of patience I'm not sure I have. At, at the moment, I don't see the lack as a weakness.


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