Response to The New York Times’ Julian Bond Obituary is also Post-Mortem On Bill Clinton, Good Guy

Many people rightly took The New York Times to task for its obituary of Julian Bond last week.  His great-grandmother, a slave, could not have been a “mistress” of his white great-grandfather, her owner.  The power dynamics of slavery allow only for rape.

This week marks 17 years since Bill Clinton’s admission of a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.  It occurs to me that Clinton’s lecherous persona would not be tolerated in the Office of President, in primaries, on social media, were he rising now. That the Left gave him an intentional pass was, of course, the chorus of Clinton-hating conservatives then.  That progressives today question the possibility of consent when one party is the Most Powerful Man in the World is important, not just because it births another irony about the daylight between them and reactionaries regarding sex in general.  More to the point:  The Bill Clinton presidency would be impossible as a native development now.  By 2015’s standards, he is a predator.  The degree to which his inherent power muted the personal agency of Miss Lewinsky is a debate worth having, considering the limitations it assumes for the later.  There are implications for feminism here, of course, but also for the wider issues about cycles of power and abuse.

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Teenage Thatcherites and 90s Young Republicans

Alright, stop. Collaborate and listen…

Andrew Sullivan, talking about being a teenage Thatcherite in the late 70s and early 80s. Someday, I will make the same video about Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton and the ’94 mid-terms. I consider myself a progressive independent now, mostly because of what’s happened to the economy, the country, and the world in the wake of the financial crisis. My main political concern has always been, and continues to be, liberty. I understand the contours differently now than I once did. I hope no one reading this has the same exact views on everything that they did 20 years ago.

Bill Clinton Has Obviously Never Seen “The Big Lebowski”

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts,...

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, 2008 US presidential candidate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matt Bai says Bill Clinton’s advice to frame Mitt Romney as an extreme conservative rather than the nihlist voters believe him to be was a mistake (here in the New York Times).

Crux of the piece:

“The bottom line here is that one can over-think this whole notion of framing your opponent. Ninety-nine times out of 100, the line of attack that works best is the one that really rings true. In the case of Mr. Romney, whatever his stated positions may be, the idea that he’s a far-right ideologue, a kind of Rush Limbaugh with better suits and frosty hair, just doesn’t feel especially persuasive.

On the other hand, the notion that Mr. Romney isn’t centered in any philosophical impulse — that he will say or do whatever it takes to win — seems more plausible, given his contortions on a range of policies, and given his excessive caution as a candidate.”

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan said that Romney’s singular skill at reversing positions whenever it seems expedient (or, to be generous, right) could be understood in the context of his mid-century Mormonism.  Mormons believe in continuing revelation, Sully says, pointing out that Africans and African Americans were classified as cursed in the LDS until 1978.   He quoted Mormon leader Bruce McConkie’s statement that year: “It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978.” (Sully also points out that for close to 40 years, Mitt Romney remained active in a racist church, and that no one is raising that issue the way Obama’s connection to Jeremiah Wright was held up for all to see).

Sullivan claims that it’s okay to use Mormonism, “the only consistent intellectual thread in Romney’s life,” as a kind of decoder.  Readers accused Sullivan of not understanding what Mormons believe about the efficacy of continuing revelation.

Is it possible that Romney’s left-to-center-to-right-to-center-to-right-to-center dash of the last 18 months is simply the candidate’s inner life lived out in public?  Maybe.

And then there’s the belief, which Bai basically says most voters hold, that Romney is a manipulative nihilist.  The Lebowski Problem come home to roost.  Unfortunately for Barack Obama, Bill Clinton was otherwise engaged when Walter Sobchak instilled in us a deep distrust for that particular non-ethos.

Third party!

photo by Gage Skidmore

Did NPR Just Endorse Newt Gingrich?

oh, but I tried.

It depends on how you feel about the ’90s.  Brian Naylor’s Friday piece, entitled “To Imagine a Gingrich Presidency, Look to the ’90s” ends on the obligatory NPR dead-note (“It’s impossible to predict what kind of president Gingrich would make, but if his speakership is any guide, it seems safe to assume a Gingrich White House would be one of bold ideas and polarizing politics,”) but otherwise paints a picture of Speaker Newt as a shrewd, if closeted, bi-partisan compromiser due a big slice of the credit Bill Clinton often gets for making the 90s rock just that hard.

Even the title sounds like an endorsement.  Weren’t the ’90s the last good American decade?  The last American decade, period?  Oh, sure, we were blissfully sewing the seeds of every problem we now face, only kind of trying to contain Al Queda, and doing a Wag the Dog war in Kosovo because Kosovars are white (even if they’re Muslim, right?) and Clinton had a sex scandal.

Whoa, wait a minute.  That sounds really, really cynical.  But maybe that explains the influx of visitors to this blog searching for information about Thomas L. Day’s recent Washington Post op-ed.

In any case, I will always love you, The ’90s. You had me at hello.

Lawrence Lessig has a different take on Gingrich. What do you think?

Romney, Huntsman Vie For Reagan’s Mantle, Green Lantern’s Coif

You probably know by now that Jon Huntsman made his president bid facebook official today.  While the media rather callously waxes about the novelty of TWO (count ’em! TWO!) Mormons in the presidential race, I’d rather look at what seems, on the surface, a more superficial similarity between Huntsman and GOP front runner Mitt Romney:

There's a joke in here somewhere about being made in the 50s or the "it's the 56 Chevy of hairstyles" or something.

Those gorgeous temples.  The gray ones they both have above their ears.  The common trope is that as men age, these kinds of things add an air of distinction and gravity to their personae.  I think that’s probably true in most cases, unfair and shallow as it is.  That said, both gents rock the look like champs.  But which two-tone coif do you prefer?

Personally, I think Huntsman has the better siding.  It’s thicker, wider, and grayer than Romney’s.  But Romney’s look offers more overall contrast: it’s more stark, which is precisely what Romney needs to be if he’s going to break out of the empty suit rap he’s earned himself over the last five years.

If you think all this hair business isn’t important, I want you to remember that the world went crazy when Jimmy Carter decided to part his hair to the left instead of the to the right (was that his response to Ted Kennedy’s demands that the President move more to the left? Come on, now.  Well, okay, maybe.).  I want you to remember Reagan’s hair, which had the power to sign its own executive orders.  Remember all the bru-ha-ha about how quickly Clinton grayed.  And then when Sec. Clinton’s hair looked all a fright at that big important meeting at the UN.  You remember that, right?  The hair clip incident?  And remember when the CIA tried to make Castro’s beard fall out?  And when Bill Clinton was a Foghat roadie?

If Ronald Reagan had the Superman of presidential dos, and let’s be honest, he absolutely did, Huntsman and Romney sport the Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards versions respectively.  Neither Jordan or Richards are slouches by superhero standards, but they’ve both had their share of public image issues.  Food for thought, gents, as you proceed.

Let me also go on the record as a staunch opponent of religious discrimination:  these guys are both Mormons.  Get the hell over it already.

Does President Obama Need a New Producer?

Wag the Dog

No, you're the greatest actor of our generation. No, YOU are! And then Bill Clinton's all like, heh guys, 'member me? I'm like the Pete Rose of disbelief suspension. Settle down.

Remember all those things we realized too late that we should have done before engaging Iraq in 2003?  John Boehner does, and he’s pretty sure the President doesn’t.  From CNN:

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Obama Wednesday complaining that “military resources were committed to war without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress, and our troops what the mission in Libya is and what America’s role is in achieving that mission.”

“In fact,” Boehner said, “the limited, sometimes contradictory, case made to the American people by members of your administration has left some fundamental questions about our engagement unanswered.”

Among other things, Boehner asked whether it is acceptable for Gadhafi to remain in power once the military campaign ends.

“If not, how will he be removed from power?” Boehner asked. “Why would the U.S. commit American resources to enforcing a U.N. resolution that is inconsistent with our stated policy goals and national interests?”

Boehner also posed other questions for the president. Since the “stated U.S. policy goal is removing” Gadhafi from power, “do you have an engagement strategy for the opposition forces? If the strife in Libya becomes a protracted conflict, what are your administration’s objectives for engaging with opposition forces, and what standards must a new regime meet to be recognized by our government?” his letter said.

Another piece on CNN.com has John P. Avlon proposing that the Left feels as though the world  is experiencing a third Bush term.  An interesting excerpt:

An objective assessment of the Obama record on foreign policy shows that he has not been the soft liberal ideologue that conservatives want to run against. An excellent book by my Daily Beast colleague Stephen Carter, “The Violence of Peace,” analyzes Obama’s War Doctrine at length from a legal, but readable, perspective. Carter writes, “On matters of national security, at least, the Oval Office evidently changes the outlook of its occupant far more than the occupant changes the outlook of the Oval Office.”

While Obama has changed the unilateral style of the Bush administration, he’s kept much of the substance. He has drawn down troops in Iraq, as promised. But on many other fronts, he has found that campaign rhetoric often does not square with the responsibilities of governing.

Because many on the left define themselves in opposition to authority, they are historically quick to turn on presidents of their own party for being insufficiently liberal — whether it is Truman’s and Kennedy’s Cold Warrior enthusiasm, LBJ’s escalation of the Vietnam War, Jimmy Carter’s budget cuts or Bill Clinton’s welfare reform.

Frankly, I’m surprised that no one has brought up the fact that Clinton’s 1999 airstrikes in Kosovo were basically lifted directly from Wag the Dog.