YOUVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! Sign us up for something wrong, we said after reading Krugman: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2008
Youve got to be kidding: Good grief! We scanned his words a second time, to see if wed read them correctly. Were fairly sure you know our view: Paul Krugman has been the very best, at the top of the pile, for a very long time now. But golly Ned! Heres how he started this mornings column. We had to read it twice:
If those are the rules of the current game, sign us up for something wrong with you.
Were we stirred Tuesday night? Were not quite sure. Teary-eyed? No, although moist at times. And we very much admired Obama when he took the hand of Bidens mother and led her to the front of the stage. It made us think of Bill Clinton, on Inaugural Day, when he stopped to talk to a man who may have been homelessand addressed him as sir. In each case, we were pleased to have a president who had such excellent judgment.
But proud of our country? No, not at all; well stand with the early Michelle Obama when it comes to such gauzy constructions. Although we see and hear people, every day, engaging in splendid behavior. Wednesday afternoon, we happened to be driving home from the dentist. For that reason, we heard this woman, on the phone from Kansas City, speaking to Talk of the Nation. To hear her phone call, just click here, then scroll to 35:40:
We didnt vote the way this woman did. Eventually, she said she ended up casting her vote for McCain because for me, it came down to national security and who I trusted more as commander-in-chief But then, she told Neal Conan this. We thought this was splendid behavior:
We had a reaction to that call; we thought this womans children were lucky in who they got for their mother. But this womans splendid behavior didnt make us proud of our country. Nor were we ashamed of our country when we watched Rachel Maddow that night, churning a string of unfortunate jokes about McCain being too old to drive a car any more, and laughably short besides that. We just shook our heads again at the state of progressive wisdom.
Should we have been proud of our country because of the election of our first African-American president? Many African-American citizens have reacted to this weeks events with deep emotion; for just one (second-hand) example, read the letter from Donald Graul in this mornings Post. This week, weve often recalled the professor who wrote, earlier this year, about her elderly parents in Mississippi; the professor said she was thrilled that her parents had lived long enough to see Obamas campaign. For ourselves, if that professor pays travel and lodging, well go down to Mississippi ourselves and carry her parents around on a chair. But when it comes to this part of the question, our own thumb largely comes down on a different part of the scale.
First, were not surprised that the country elected Obama, who was in most ways (not necessarily all) the clearly superior candidate. And we dont plan to pretend were surprised, as many big pundits have done (not Krugman). Duh. We recall the way pundits stood in line in 1995, urging Colin Powell to run. And we recall the November 1996 exit polls: Had Powell been the GOP candidate, voters said they would have elected himsaid so by a wide margin. (Powell 48, Clinton 36, Perot 8. Just click here.) To heighten the drama, pundits pretend that Tuesdays election was something no one ever imagined. When they do so, some are lying again, as they do with such endless aplomb.
So no, we actually werent surprised to see Obama elected. Nor are we proud when voters do sensible things; as in the days when we taught fifth-graders, we expect sensible conduct. Beyond that, our thumb comes down on the part of the scale which says that Barack Obama should get to be Barack Obama, without having the mountain of race hoisted up on his back. It has been a very long time since any white person had to bear the burden of his ethnicity, which was never as big a mountain as race; were tired of seeing white folk insist on making Obama be the black guy. Rather than get all excited and proud about our first African-American president, wed like to see people put their focus on having our first recent successful president.
By the way: Many children will not be able picture themselves as president of the United States, though thats a separate question.
Should we be proud of our country for electing Obama? In most ways, he was the clearly superior candidate; why exactly should we be proud when voters make such a choice? Frankly, we think our standards have been dumbed way down when we clap ourselves on the back for such conduct.
Beyond that, we think we might to revisit the context in which this decision occurred.
Should we be proud of Tuesdays outcome? In many ways, McCain was an utterly gruesome candidate. Are we supposed to be proud of the country whose groaning, store-bought, brain-dead elites worked so long, so hard, so dumbly to hide that matter from you? The same pundits who tell you about their surprise told you, for many years, that McCain was the worlds greatest known living human, although he plainly was not. How could anyone be proud of a country whose structures have conspired, for such a long time, to support these grisly elites in such gruesome, gong-show behavior? Guess what? Your political culture is a screaming disgrace. But so what? Even your smartest, most superlative columnist is saying that you should be proud of the country whose elites refuse to stop behaving that way. Whose elites agree not to tattle.
Guess what, kids? McCain was a horrible candidate nine years agobut your elites (pause for laugh) told you different. Sometimes they did so because of their dumbness; sometimes they did so through bleating obedience to their groups pre-approved standard scripts. But sensible people should be ashamed that this charade got anywhere near this place. McCain was ahead in many polls in mid-September, when the financial world collapsed.
Should you be proud of your country? Just consider what happened in early 2000 when Candidate McCainthen widely pimped as a moral sun godspoke with Jonathan Chait. As Chait explained in his lengthy New Republic piece (no link available), McCain had been traipsing all about, boasting about the way his tax cuts were aimed at helping the have-nots. But as with so many other topics, McCain seemed to have no f*cking idea how his plan actually worked:
They are in the have-not group! Go aheadlaugh out loud! In a rational world, a candidate like that would be laughed off the stagebut you live in a world thats full of Chait, and all the Chaits were very proud of how magnificent this great man was. In a sadly comical effort, Chait found ways to see the best in McCains endless flips and confusions. This man is not a Republican, his headline announcedand he went on, in his lengthy piece, to explain away McCains flips and confusions. The great man was on an intellectual odyssey, he wroteon a journey away from the right.
In fact, McCain bungled almost every topic during Campaign 2000, but the star-struck boys and girls on his bus found ways to ignore these bungles. With minor exceptions, they even managed to look away from the race man McCain had picked to run his South Carolina campaign. In The New Republic, Benjamin Soskis offered a short, biting profile. His headline said this: Race Man:
The mainstream press had met the most wonderful guy, so McCain was allowed to talk his way out of even this odd situation. (Bush was trashed for visiting Bob Jones University, a standard stop for Republican candidatesuntil the press corps fell in love with McCain and began pimping his narratives.) Ditto with his anonymous, inaccurate robocallsthe ones his campaign lied about, right in the press corps faces. Ditto with his bogus claims about the Bush budget plan; his nasty, bogus jokes about Gore; his serial lying about the negative fliers his campaign kept handing out. In the end, the great man was widely praised for his lyingfor lying about that confederate flag. When he told the truth about his lyingafter it no longer mattered, of courseit just showed us how honest he was!
In a rational worldin a country which might make a sane person prouda candidate who did these things would have hooted from the stage. Instead, McCain was pimped ahead into the future. This year, having decided Obama was better, pundits had to fake it again. They had to pretend they were shocked, just shocked, by the strange way McCain had changed. But then, your journalistic elites will lie in your faces in much the way normal folk breathe.
Tell us again why were suppose to feel proud of the country whose elites create such endless deceptions. And yesfor all his superlative service, Krugman belongs to the elite which has handed you this decade of blather. Has he ever stated his full understanding of this system? Wed have to guess that he has not.
Lets be clear: Our lack of pride had nothing to do with the conduct of American voters. To our ear, that callers decency spoke for itselfand she didnt even vote the way we did! But why on earth would any sane person be proud of a country of Riches and Dowdsof Milbanks, Joe Kleins, Beinarts and Chaits? People like Talk of the Nations caller live inside a culture of clownsand very few career players are willing to tell them. Well praise her decency to the skies. But proud of our country? Please.
What kind of country do you live in? Last night, Chris Matthews clowned for the full hour about Sarah Palin, pretending that anonymous claims about her dumbness are somehow plainly accurate. He has no idea if these claims are truebut hes pimping the world your way now. You see, he wants to run for the Senateas a Dem. So last night, he kept pimping your novels.
Your country? A hall of mirrors, staffed by clowns. Proud of it? Sorrywere not. Well proudly sign our name on this list: Something wrong with us.