Saturday, October 10, 2009

Going feckless into that dark night

The President's unexpected winning of the Nobel Prize for peace, and his inexplicable acceptance of it, beggars my ability to be sanguine... I didn't froth at the mouth when I heard, as some people did; I didn't laugh or cry about it. But I can't be sanguine.

The only explanation for it is that Oslo, at any rate (I'd assume they represent a big whomp of Europe, though clearly not our again-friends the French, nor the truly heroic Lech Walesa, whose ideology I disagree with but whose courage and persistence earned him what used to be this honor), hopes to influence American foreign policy - and just as discomfiting, that they believe they can do it, with this president. Why reward a chief executive for doing nothing except to be a different president from the previous one? Why? Because they want him to continue doing nothing. Doing something, and worse yet, urging allies to do something along with us, is so distasteful, so risky at the ballot box.

That this desire is freaking short-sighted, stupid, and transitory (wait until Norway gets into hot water; we'll see how long the "America as unexceptional parvenu" thing lasts) is beside the point. The point is that Pres. Obama was a fool to accept. He either tied his own hands or presented the near-certainty that he'll have to "betray" his neo-Viking BFFs sometime soon, squandering his presidential credibility overseas as he's squandering it at home.

I say again, as I said in election season: Why on earth THIS man? Who anointed this naif?

Charles Krauthammer looks deeper:

The corollary to unchosen European collapse was unchosen American ascendancy. We--whom Lincoln once called God's "almost chosen people"--did not save Europe twice in order to emerge from the ashes as the world's co-hegemon. We went in to defend ourselves and save civilization. Our dominance after World War II was not sought. Nor was the even more remarkable dominance after the Soviet collapse. We are the rarest of geopolitical phenomena: the accidental hegemon and, given our history of isolationism and lack of instinctive imperial ambition, the reluctant hegemon--and now, after a near-decade of strenuous post-9/11 exertion, more reluctant than ever.

Which leads to my second proposition: Facing the choice of whether to maintain our dominance or to gradually, deliberately, willingly, and indeed relievedly give it up, we are currently on a course towards the latter. The current liberal ascendancy in the United States--controlling the executive and both houses of Congress, dominating the media and elite culture--has set us on a course for decline. And this is true for both foreign and domestic policies. Indeed, they work synergistically to ensure that outcome.


In Strasbourg, President Obama was asked about American exceptionalism. His answer? "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." Interesting response. Because if everyone is exceptional, no one is.

In other words, our president considers himself elected to preside over our decline.

I am not ready to decline.

Physical decline, our culture of youth notwithstanding, is the right and proper condition for the elder whose grandchildren are old enough to fetch and carry, responsible enough to want to be helpful; it's a well-deserved rest after a lifetime of striving. Whether it's the right and proper condition for a nation, I can't say - but certainly, when decline overtakes a nation as it overtakes an otherwise vigorous person stricken with a wasting disease (like France, with its life-sapping repeated revolutions focusing on egalite at the expense of liberte) or a sudden double-amputation (like Britain, losing so many of its people and God knows how much of its treasure to war twice in two generations - with Churchill's speeches still echoing down the rubbled streets of London, Britain no longer had legs to stand on), it's a tragedy, not something to be sought. What's the deal with the neo-Vikings? Have they utterly forgotten themselves? Or are they so envious of the vigor of those who are still vigorous that they have to do their best, in grand Leftist style, to even the field at their low level?

Not that Vikings were like us. Vikings took what they wanted; we keep trying to give back what's thrust upon us. We're the perfect hegemon, not, as Krauthammer says, just the accidental one: we're the hegemon who never wanted the job, who is terribly uncomfortable with it, who, while repeatedly and sometimes wearily stepping up to fulfill the responsibilities of it, is constantly on guard against the nation-state equivalent of the droit de seigneur that goes along with it.

Be careful what you wish for, Europe.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Illustration of expediency

No children, please. I use some inappropriate language below.

I've avoided writing about the Polanski horribleness because it all seemed so rarified to me - how could anyone in his right mind believe the ridiculous celebrity "defenses" of Polanski's actions? They can't even really believe it themselves, can they? Goldberg's "not rape-rape," all the "but he's so GIFTED" junk, coupled with the "and now he's old, and it was a long time ago, and anyway the victim - um, I mean the woman in her forties he... um... had unspecified (by me) relations with three decades ago, anyway, she wants to drop it, right?" All that. It's all, to my mind, veddy veddy P!ss Christ: we the hoi polloi are simply not sophisticated enough to understand the art (of the p!ss, or of the defenses). All we know is that it stinks.

But now we get to this, in which Patterico quotes at length from a WaPo chat with Tom Shales, Columnist:

Tom Shales: Hello, Dunn Loring, I didn’t want to sign off without trying to answer your question. I didn’t realize I had written a column defending Roman Polanski and minimized his crime – are you sure it was me? I mean, I? There is, apparently, more to this crime than it would seem, and it may sound like a hollow defense, but in Hollywood I am not sure a 13-year-old is really a 13-year-old.

It was, indeed, he, back in summer '08; he claimed that Polanski was never charged with rape. Goldberg believes this too, on the grounds that Polanski copped not to "rape by use of drugs," which was one of the charges, but to "unlawful sexual intercourse." ("Unlawful sexual intercourse" speaks to his iconoclastic artistic sensibilities, dunnit? After all, all genii make their own rules, including sexual mores; even Heinlein said so. Pfah.) But in the snippet Patterico reproduced and I re-reproduce here, Shales again minimizes the crime with his "I am not sure" statement about the nature of Hollywood 13-year-olds.

Now. I am not stupid. I know that Goldberg meant, "It was statutory, not violent." (Technically true but ABSOLUTELY false in that Polanski's 'luuding the kid up certainly diminished her capacity to fight back - so he didn't have to get violent with her. Smart man.) I know that Shales means, "A 13-year-old model in La-La Land is not exactly the same in her life experience as a Kansas small-town 13-year-old; look at Drew Barrymore, after all." But for God's sake, is either of these observations ANY kind of defense?

From Patterico's comment thread:

35. When twenty year old street thugs go to war over drug turf that’s ‘children dying from gun violence.’

When an ideologically select forty year old rapes a thirteen year old ’she’s not really a child.’

Orwellian doesn’t begin to describe Shales and his ilk..

Comment by ThomasD — 10/6/2009 @ 11:22 pm

And that, in a nutshell, is expediency in the service of ideology and tribal (celebrity, that is) identity. It's... well, like P!ss Christ, no matter how often and how passionately you put it forth as Great Art, at root it's gross. And everybody knows it.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Executive != Diplomat

What was he thinking?

Once I was my company's representative in a civil trial; I sat beside our outside counsel for three days listening to testimony on a matter of no importance herein, but of great important to my company both at that moment and in future, with regard to the precedent the judge's decision would set, and tried my darnedest to help our counsel interpret that testimony. She was very very smart, well versed in the law and in the particular subject of the trial, and a terrific presenter and cross-examiner; she did not need my help. But it's part of the process, I gather, to have a company rep present, and I was it.

So one guy was on the stand, and suddenly something he said set off big alarm bells in my head. I scribbled a question for our counsel to ask on my notepad and pushed it across to her, and on cross, she asked it. The guy answered - but it had been a while since I'd heard the alarm bells and jotted the question, and frankly his answer meant nothing to me - I hadn't written down the ramifications of what I expected his answer to be, because in the heat of the moment I was sure they'd be obvious. So there stood our counsel, thrown off by a meaningless answer to a question she hadn't planned to ask.

Fortunately she was no rookie; she shook herself a little, shook it off, and continued with the line of questioning she'd had planned. But after we finished for the day, she spoke sternly to me. The gist: Never ask a question unless you KNOW THE ANSWER FIRST. Court is not discovery.

And a President, the Chief Executive of the United States, is not a diplomat; he does not "do" diplomacy. In matters of high-level diplomacy (that is, matters that require the imprimatur of a head of state), the real diplomats do all the heavy lifting ahead of time, and the President shows up when the deal is done, to pretend that he or she is actually negotiating something but actually just to show how important this event is.

So what the heck, Mr. President? What on this earth could make you squander so much - so much time, credibility, resources, to risk your personal safety and that of your whole entourage, et cetera, et cetera - on the freaking Olympics? When you apparently didn't have them in the bag, so the perception would be a big V-for-Victory for the O-for-Obama team?

The Olympics? They were worth it? (I'd ask the same about the stupid global warming bash-the-Western-world-fest at the UN, but what's the point? To his side, nominally at least, "climate change" is indeed something requiring the attention of heads of state - even though none of them actually act as if they believe it.)

<rubbing temples>Oi veh.