After I posted last night about the debt limit deal, the Senate did as I had hoped and passed it. So that’s done.
No thanks to Lindsey Graham or Tim Scott, who were among the 36 — all but five of them Republican — who voted instead for the United States to default on its debt, plunging the U.S. and world economies into turmoil.
Graham, for his part, offered an excuse that gave us a glimpse of his old self, the senator we knew before he lost his mind in 2016 — he said it was about national security. But that doesn’t wash. I’ve seen nothing on his vote since it happened, but hours before, he made a speech:
Graham made an impassioned speech Thursday on the Senate floor, saying small increases in fiscal year defense spending are not part of a “threat-based budget” but one that lacks safety and security for Americans. He later said that a supplemental defense budget for Ukraine and other spending must be agreed upon swiftly by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to make up for the House GOP’s below-inflation 3 percent military increase….
None of the amendments were adopted. But in an effort to alleviate concerns from defense hawks that the debt ceiling bill would restrict Pentagon spending too much, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a joint statement saying the “debt ceiling deal does nothing to limit the Senate’s ability to appropriate emergency supplemental funds to ensure our military capabilities are sufficient to deter China, Russia, and our other adversaries.”…
As for Tim Scott — I’ve found nothing about why he voted the way he did. Maybe I’ve looked in the wrong places, but I found nothing on his website, on social media or in any news reports. Which reminds us of why it’s weird that he’s running for president. He’s not a guy who tends to be out front on anything, making his views known in developing situations. He’s not making an effort to tell us, and if he said something on the floor of the Senate, no one covered it.
He’s just this nice guy who’s happy to be a U.S. senator — his bio line on Twitter says “Just a South Carolinian living his mama’s American Dream” — and who doesn’t get swept up in what’s actually happening. Look at that Twitter feed, by the way. There’s nothing there — at least, anywhere near the top — posted in real time in response to anything that was happening, or anything he was doing. It’s just a bunch of prewritten campaign stuff, going on about how awful Joe Biden is.
You know, the Joe Biden who threw his all into working with McCarthy to keep the nation from defaulting for the first time in history.
And then, Graham and Scott basically said Nah, let’s go ahead and crash into the mountain…
Not to mention, of course, the little ol’ national economy.
Those who voted against the deal Joe and Speaker McCarthy came up with to avoid the completely unnecessary spectacle of the United States defaulting on its debt were:
None, of course, were Democrats. There were some Dems who voted against the measure scattered across the country, but since all we have is Jim Clyburn — and Clyburn is a responsible grownup, the man who saved the country in February 2020 — we were spared that humiliation here at home.
Having identified all of the malefactors as Republicans, allow me to note that my own congressman, Joe Wilson, did the grownup thing and voted with Clyburn. So did Jeff Duncan.
If any of those who voted against come up with creditable explanations for their inexcusable, I’ll come back and mention it. But don’t hold your breath, because I find it hard to imagine that happening.
Of course, I offer my greatest congratulations and thanks to my man Joe — he won’t get the credit he deserves, as Jennifer Rubin has pointed out — but he certainly deserves it. And you’ll notice he’s not doing any dances in the end zone himself — because that’s not the way he rolls. (As Matt Bai writes, “in decades of writing about budget standoffs and ideological clashes, I can’t recall another moment when a president achieved total victory and then tried to pass it off as a painful compromise.” But that’s what Joe has done, because he’s Joe. And because this is the smart way to get substantive things done.)
And McCarthy deserves a pat on the back for holding his barbarians off long enough to get the thing passed. Joe, while winning, helped with that — giving him the opportunity to claim to the yahoos that he had “made” Joe make concessions.
Well, here I go again — urging you all to read something that you probably can’t see because you don’t subscribe. But I don’t know what else to do.
Once communities across the country were tied together by common narratives. It was cheap to subscribe to the local newspaper (because the cost of producing the paper was born by advertisers, not readers — and that’s gone away). Their local journalists generally weren’t necessarily oracles of wisdom (I just said “generally,” mind you), but they had little trouble agreeing on basic facts of what had happened, and report it. And a calmer reading public accepted that plain reality, and worked from that as citizens.
But then several things happened. First, starting sometime in the 1980s, politics started getting really, really nasty, and partisan divisions started festering to a degree previously unseen in post-1945 America. Meanwhile, local media’s advertising base disappeared, and press and electronic media were reduced to skeleton staffs, increasingly finding it hard to cover anything adequately. Finally, people started more and more being deluged by media that had nothing to do with journalism, and cared more about advancing the fantasies of their respective bitter factions than about dispassionately informing the public. Tsunamis of it.
Even the best journals in the country, the ones that still had adequate, talented staffs, started focusing more and more on the bitter divisions, the things that separated us more than what we held in common as Americans. Why? Because that’s what the world looked like now. They were describing reality, although painfully superficially.
But sometimes, those journals still something thoughtful, something that offers a little hope for sanity, something that might even make you feel OK about the human race, sort of. In recent years, I’ve focused as a reader mostly on that stuff, not the latest shouting over the debt limit or whatever. Unfortunately, those things appeared in the still-healthy journals to which I subscribe. So I write about those things, and try to share them when possible.
The language of the academy is increasingly centered on who or what is centered — what voices, what values — and there wasn’t the least doubt, on a day that also honored a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, a magisterial historian, a groundbreaking biochemist, a media pioneer and a four-star admiral, that Dr. Hanks was the center of attention. It takes an astute understanding of human physics to redirect all those energies and center the students. Over and over, he found ways to send the focus back to them, rising from his seat to kneel in awe before Latin orator Josiah Meadows, hugging Vic Hogg — who recounted a harrowing recovery from gunshot wounds suffered during a carjacking — grace notes and gestures aimed at the musicians and speakers whose names he wove into his own remarks, and at the parents whose pride pulsed across the sea of caps and gowns.
Our public square suffers an acute shortage of such acts of grace. Leaders find power and profit in crassness and cruelty, and signal that virtue is for suckers. It’s a cliché that Tom Hanks is “the nicest guy in Hollywood,” that he and his wife of 35 years, Rita Wilson, somehow manage to represent decency at a time when the country is so divided we can’t even agree on who is worth admiring. On a brisk spring day, watching the radioactive level of attention on him, and his ability to refract it into pure joy and shared humanity, was a healing energy in a sorry time. You can imagine that normal comes naturally to some people; but how often do people who are treated as being bigger, better, more special than everyone else resist the temptation to believe it?
And when it was time for Hanks to deliver his formal message, the script, while occasionally overwritten, rhymed with the mission. Flapping banners exalted the university motto, “Veritas,” and Hanks took up the battle cry. “The truth, to some, is no longer empirical. It’s no longer based on data nor common sense nor even common decency,” he said. “Truth is now considered malleable by opinion and by zero-sum endgames. Imagery is manufactured with audacity and with purpose to achieve the primal task of marring the truth with mock logic, to achieve with fake expertise, with false sincerity, with phrases like, ‘I’m just saying. Well, I’m just asking. I’m just wondering.’”
The opposite of love is not hate, Elie Wiesel said, but indifference, and Hanks put the challenge before his audience of rising leaders and explorers, artists and environmentalists, teachers and technologists. “Every day, every year, and for every graduating class, there is a choice to be made. It’s the same option for all grown-ups, who have to decide to be one of three types of Americans,” Hanks said. “Those who embrace liberty and freedom for all, those who won’t, or those who are indifferent.” Bracing as the words were, the actions spoke louder. For those of us in the truth business — which is to say, all of us — it was an actor who never finished college who set a standard we can work to live up to.
This is not a big-deal story. Just a writer — Nancy Gibbs, a former editor in chief of Time magazine — witnessing an incident in which a famous person was given a forum and used it to show respect to other people and to say a few words that made some sense. I thank her for sharing that, and the Post for running it, and I wanted to share it with you to the best of my ability…
My next thought was, When did THEY get so old? I mean, Marty looks like he could be Joe Biden’s dad! Johnny Boy’s not quite as bad, but can you believe he’s the guy on the left down below?
The one below is from 1973, and I realize that was a couple of years ago, maybe a little more, but this is ridiculous! The dames aren’t gonna go for the guy in the picture above, no matter how many Seven and Sevens he buys them! On the upside, maybe Johnny Boy’s calmed down a bit, and Charlie won’t have to worry about him so much.
But come ahhhn…
Scorsese (center) directing De Niro and Keitel in ‘Mean Streets’…
Oh, wait. With “Mean Streets” in the air, I shouldn’t end this with a still. Here’s a clip, the one with the mooks:
I got one “like” — from Mandy Powers Norrell. Maybe I should ask her to write the speech for me. After all, I wrote a speech for her once.
It was back during the campaign. James never asked me to write a speech for him, although I wrote plenty of other things — releases, social media and the like. He preferred riffing off talking points, so I wrote out some of those a few times.
But Mandy did ask me to write one out, that one time. She was going to speak to a group of medical students, and wanted to urge them to be involved in politics. Right up my alley. And so I wrote her one that released all my communitarian and Mr. Smith-goes-to-Washington impulses. It was a lovely little secular sermon on civic virtues.
And she got a reaction. She said one of the students came up to her after, and asked whether she had ever seen “Parks and Recreation.” She said that she had.
“Well,” said the student, “you sound just like Leslie Knope.”
Which I guess was not what she was going for. Because she never asked for another speech…
I meant to post this over the weekend. But here you go…
Our friend Lynn Teague retweeted this from up in the Midwest:
Diocesan schools hiking tuition to cash in off the #schoolvouchers subsidy, other private schools taking it out of employee tuition discounts. #IAed adding more data to what we’ve long known from other states as vouchers kick off this month.https://t.co/nA3kXl7ldt
And that really got me going. First, I responded as you see above: “You know what’s anti-Catholic? Accepting money diverted from schools that exist to educate all the children….”
But I had a little more to say. My favorite homilist Bishop Barron had had a really good sermon on May 14, distilling more or less what our faith is all about — or, to be more precise, what love is. Rather than sending the whole video, I looked for a tweet when the bishop said it (he had mentioned saying it often), and found that here:
Friends, in today’s Gospel, the Lord says that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.
And after THIS, you were supposed to go to Papua New Guinea…
NPR One has been driving me nuts.
I listen to it (and Pandora, and podcasts) whenever I go out to walk, and I always start with their most recent hourly National Newscast. And every time I’ve called it up this week, it has started with a bunch of nothing about these alleged debt limit talks. Fortunately, it’s easy to wait for other news, because there’s never anything to report, so it only lasts a few seconds.
But it makes me mad anyway, as I mutter, “Get back to me when it’s resolved, and when you do so, sum it up in a sentence, and move on to other things.” Because this goes under the heading of Doing Your Job, especially if you’re in the legislative branch, but — since the legislative has over the years surrendered so much to the executive — it’s now also the president’s job.
And what do we get? Day-after-day drama and trauma as both Team A and Team B predict disaster (and defaulting would indeed be disastrous), and preposition themselves to be able to pin it all on the other side when it happens.
If you’re going to arrest our attention with meetings and debates, make them about something that isn’t routine and is actually difficult — something like, say, countering China’s multifront, full-court press to make sure it dominates the world in this century.
The White House is defending its decision to cancel President Biden’s plans to visit the tiny Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea and key ally Australia — stops that were aimed at demonstrating U.S. leadership in countering China….
Papua New Guinea had declared a national holiday in honor of Biden’s visit — which would have been the first ever visit from a sitting U.S. president. China’s President Xi Jinping has been there, and China has invested a lot of money in projects for island nations….
Just to give my isolationist American friends a general idea where to find Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea was so proud that this important meeting was happening on its turf that it declared a national holiday! The fact of the meeting itself, regardless of how the talks actually came out, went a long way — at least in that country — toward undoing the diplomatic ground lost when this country abandoned the Trans Pacific Partnership. And when I say the country abandoned it, I mean everybody including Hillary Clinton, who had been a big part of bringing things as far as they got.
It seems she had decided that that global affairs genius Donald Trump was right. She couldn’t be troubled any longer to defend doing the right thing in the face of one of America’s periodic isolationist tsunamis. (I wonder: Since she lost anyway, does she ever lie awake at night wishing she’d done the right thing?)
And why would the president do such a thing? Well, you see the ellipses in the middle of the excerpt below? Here’s the part I left out, the second and third grafs:
Biden is still traveling to Japan to talk to G-7 leaders about the war in Ukraine and strengthening the global economy. But he’s cutting short the rest of the trip because he said needs to get back to Washington to finish talks with congressional leaders on a deal to raise the debt ceiling.
The United States could run out of money to pay its bills as early as June 1. Defaulting on its debts would throw the economy into recession, and Biden has said his top priority was to make sure that doesn’t happen….
Yeah. Because seeing that routine business gets done back in Washington is his “top priority,” which beats out addressing what is perhaps the nation’s top long-term worldwide concern.
Again, would it be disastrous if our political “leaders” did something so insanely irresponsible as letting the United States default? Hell, yes. And here’s what matters about it to me: It’s one thing to childishly foul our own nest, but default would wreak destruction all over the world.
So what should the parties in this fiscal farce do? Well, I didn’t come here today to map out a detailed plan, but here are a couple of simple tips.
Go ahead and raise the limit.
Then immediately schedule REAL talks, instead of all this posing brinksmanship, on reducing deficits.
And when you do this second thing, I would add this rule: If you come into the room unwilling to consider BOTH significant spending cuts AND significant revenue increase, you should be thrown out, and replaced with serious grownups. Because making the claim that anything can be accomplished by only doing the things palatable to your team is not only grossly stupid, but frighteningly insane…
I am involved with a well-regarded community theater that has made significant efforts to diversify its membership, casts and audience. A conflict has arisen over a proposed production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Yes, we know, “Fiddler” has been done to death in community theaters. A different issue.) The director proposing the production has committed himself to colorblind casting. Others involved say that, in view of the Jewish community the play is about, they would consider this to be a cultural appropriation. How should we approach this conflict in values?
Set aside the fact that someone thought this was an “ethical” question, rather than a conflict between — I don’t know what to call it — two currently fashionable cultural phenomena. But this person so troubled as to feel the need to apologize for putting on a play from benighted times of long ago.
The Ethicist made quick work of the cultural appropriation issue: “Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, the Jewish American duo behind ‘Fiddler,’ certainly weren’t hung up on anything like cultural appropriation; early on, they were in touch with Frank Sinatra for the part of Tevye…”
Alfred Molina as Tevye.
Yeah. I like the idea of having an all-Jewish cast (and I’m glad Ol’ Blue Eyes didn’t get the part), but it’s certainly not necessary. I saw it on Broadway in 2005 with Alfred Molina as Tevye. It was awesome. It was the best show I’ve ever seen on Broadway. Of course, it was the only show I’ve ever seen on Broadway, so…
It wasn’t a stretch to believe in Molina as Jewish. He’s Spanish-Italian. But did being Mediterranean make him look more the part? I dunno. Wasn’t Tevye Ashkenazi? Maybe not. It doesn’t matter.
It’s certainly not an ethical issue. It’s an esthetic one. Did Molina work in the role? Did Topol? Yes to both.
Ditto with the recent fashion of casting black actors in “white” roles — does it work? Are they compelling as the characters they portray, or do you perceive a distinct lack of, I don’t know, verisimilitude?
For instance, here’s an example that I think worked. (And of course, all I can tell you is what “I think,” since whether a particular bit of casting in a film or a brushstroke on a canvas “worked” is a complex subjective impression.) In 2016, Sophie Okenedo played the part of Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI, in the second season of The Hollow Crown, an excellent presentation of Shakespeare’s plays covering the Wars of the Roses, all strung together chronologically.
But it didn’t take me long to realize that I loved the idea. It was, in fact, a rebuttal to some of the sillier aspects of Identity Politics. Who could now dismiss the achievements of the Founders as the irrelevant doings of a bunch of “dead white men?” This magnificent musical told even the most skin-conscious observer that these were people who did something pretty wonderful for all of us, and the amount of melanin they exhibited didn’t matter.
At the moment, there’s a lot of hullabaloo over Cleopatra being portrayed by a black actress in a show on Netflix. The Egyptians are calling it “a falsification of Egyptian history,” and I suppose they’re right, on the melanin front. She was of Macedonian heritage, being of the Ptolemaic dynasty. In her case, she might have also had some Persian DNA, but that seems neither here nor there to the controversy.
And, you know, here we go again, with both sides of the IP obsession going at each other hammer and tongs.
As for “its own merits,” such as they are, I see a couple of things going on. One, you have someone thinking it would be cool to dramatize the widely held, but rather dubious, notion that Cleo was a sub-Saharan. Personally, I’d rather see some random historical queen played by a black actress (say, Margaret of Anjou) than reinforce erroneous notions about history, but that’s me. The difference is, my way says race doesn’t matter; the other way seems to argue that it matters quite a bit. And misleads people doing it.
The second thing is that someone is trying to ride the cultural wave that has given us “Sanditon,” “Bridgerton,” and “Queen Charlotte.” That seems popular at the moment, so why not? Next year it will be something else. I once wore wide, white belts on houndstooth pants with loud-colored shirts. Briefly. Then, the Carnaby Street thing passed.
The thing is, there is no great overriding moral issue here. Slavery is a moral issue, one of great consequence. So were Jim Crow laws. The complexion of Cleopatra, not so much.
But some people are terribly worried, and fortunately we have The Ethicist to sort it out.
At this point I would go into the strange contradiction of the same group of folks both a) worried about having a “diverse” cast and b) afraid of committing the sin of “appropriation.” And someone sitting between them feeling conflicted. But so go our modern modes of “thinking.”
I’ll just stop there. If I ever watch the new “Cleopatra,” I’ll report back on whether it worked. But I warn you, I don’t think I ever got all the way through the Elizabeth Taylor version…
What? Are you saying Cleopatra had purple eyes?!?!
Effort to dissolve DHEC headed to SC governor. Here’s what’s in the final plan — That’s one a them there newfangled kinds of headline. At least, the last part is. Headlines used to give you news, and the first part of this one does that. But the “here’s what’s in the final plan” part tells you “Click on this and we’ll tell you something.” But you don’t care about that, do you? Anyway, the thing that grabbed me about it was that the story can’t fully tell you what this bill will do, no matter how many times you click on it, because the details aren’t in it — at least, on the health side. As the story says, “the bill doesn’t parse details about how the agency would be structured.” So, it’s about to become law, but we don’t know the details? Huh. As Gilda Cobb-Hunter suggests, this bears watching…
Limiting what novelists can write about won’t help readers — This is a column by Kathleen Parker. My reaction to it was, you want to worry about books being “banned?” Worry about it happening before the books are published, or even written. That’s what this is about. Unfortunately, I don’t see a “gift link” for this one. So if you can’t read it, maybe I’ll post about it separately, with some excerpts…
Cunningham: With Biden trailing Trump, we need a third option for president in 2024 — As usual, Cunningham is full of… nonsense. I can’t think of anything more likely to get Trump elected — if, you know, he is the nominee of the former GOP. My man Joe Lieberman doesn’t think so, but hey, nobody’s perfect. I saw a tweet this morning from someone who said, “Wait is Cunningham really aligning himself with the disastrous no labels crowd? Man that’s incredibly disappointing.” Actually, it’s more the other way for me. “No labels” is a group that, at least in theory, I would see as having good points. But the fact that they’ve hired Cunningham lowers it in my estimation.
Jonathan Clarke, writing in the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, of which he is a contributing editor, said the “democratization of dress” in recent decades has produced “the rapid casualization of American life.” But this has calcified into an unattractive norm. Is there a more obvious contemporary ostentation than tech billionaires conducting business wearing T-shirts to advertise that they are too rich to have sartorial concerns?
Clarke, who confesses a “slightly antique sense of propriety,” writes “few things are more heartening than to see a man or woman of advanced age very well dressed.” Such muted rebellion against what Clarke calls the “dubious new catechism of perpetual leisure” is not, as some might censoriously insist, the sin of asserting “privilege” in violation of the ethic of “inclusiveness.” Rather, it is a way to quietly assert that attention to one’s presentation is a form of respect for those to whom one is presented. And it is a way to acknowledge this: Because not all occasions are created equal, not all ways of dressing are equally appropriate.
In this column’s first 50 years, the strongest reaction it elicited was a tornado of fury in 2009 when the column disparaged American adults’ infantile manner of dress: everyone everywhere wearing denim — a democratic conformity to egalitarian shabbiness. J. Crew, J. Press, J. Almost Anything would be an improvement.
So I’m glad he isn’t privy to the Zoom meetings in which I participate these days. I look a bit… different. Since COVID, and particularly since my stroke, I don’t go to an office. So I see little reason to dress as though I were going to an office. Oh, if I’m going to meet with a client for the first time, I might shave and put on a button-down shirt, but that’s about it.
But I seldom do that. All I can say in defense of the way I dress the rest of the time is that the president of Ukraine dresses the same way, and we all respect him, don’t we? I’m sometimes particularly struck by that when I see myself on a Zoom screen, as in the screenshot below from a February meeting. He has his reasons to dress the way he does, and I have mine — although I’ll admit that mine are less compelling.
How about this? I’ll start shaving and putting on a coat and tie every day again when the war’s over. Maybe…
Above, you see my results from an exercise offered today by The Washington Post that promised to show me “what kind of budgeter you are.” It was offered, of course, within the context of the debt ceiling “debate” going on in Washington.
It is laughable. Apparently, since I’m not, I don’t know, a member of AOC’s “squad” or something, I “believe that the national debt is the foremost crisis.”
It says that, even though I said a flat no to “Cut Defense Spending.” So go figure. I also, by the way, said no to “Enact House GOP debt ceiling bill.”
“Play our budget game,” the headline that led to the above brilliant conclusion. As though I were a child to be entertained. But at least they admitted that it was a game, and didn’t claim it bore any resemblance to real budgeting on the federal level — which, like everything else in government, is a tangled web of conflicting priorities.
Bottom line, as a more-or-less rational person, I believe we should reduce the debt. And I don’t see any way we get there without doing both of the following:
Cutting some spending.
Raising some taxes.
In fact, it will involve both cutting more spending, and raising more taxes, than most people even want to think about. Still, note the “some” in each case. Only a fool would cut all spending in sight or raise every tax suggested. The decisions to be made along the way are staggeringly complicated, and neither ideology nor simple rule of thumb will not guide you to anything that could remotely be recognized as wise governance. The process requires discernment and deliberation.
And putting silly labels on yourself or others — especially simplistic ones assigned by such a “game” as this — doesn’t help you acquire those qualities…
Doug Ross, earlier today, put it more harshly than I would have. But yeah, having Kamala Harris in line for the presidency is not a pleasant thought. I mean, it’s light years better than having a Donald Trump, but it’s still far from being a good thing.
It’s about… I guess it’s about in the same ballpark as having Nikki Haley as president, in terms of qualifications, temperament and so forth.
Which is not a pleasant thought, as I said. You know me. I’ve got this thing about qualifications. A bit of a fetish, really. And neither of these ladies has them at the level I expect for this particular job. Unless you call “being a woman” or “being black” to be qualifications, which I don’t, any more than I would consider being a man or white to be relevant credentials. I mean, let’s face it: Most white guys don’t measure up to this job. Most other people don’t, either. And Nikki and Kamala are in the “most people” category.
Before I abandon my Kamala/Nikki comparison, though, I will say this in the veep’s favor: She’d probably retain a huge portion of Joe’s administration if he were gone, whereas I have no confidence at all in the random newbies Nikki would be likely to bring in. If you doubt me, ask Darla Moore about Nikki’s judgment on appointments.
Anyway, Matt Bai came closer than Doug to my view on Kamala Harris, in a column the other day headlined, “How Joe Biden should solve the Kamala Harris Conundrum.” It was a good piece, and I wish you could read it without a subscription. Here’s an excerpt… he said Joe’s biggest handicap is “the uncomfortable question of whether voters can get their heads around Biden’s vice president as a potential president — a question that is probably more pressing for Biden, who would be 82 if he takes the oath for a second time, than it has been for any nominee since Franklin D. Roosevelt sought a fourth term.”
And it’s a tough topic, especially for Democrats…
Because to understand the root of Biden’s Kamala Harris Conundrum now, you have to understand his thinking in 2020 — which means touching on fraught subjects of race and gender. (This is a thankless task in the current environment, but let’s do it anyway.)
Having publicly promised to choose a woman during his primary campaign with Bernie Sanders, and then wanting to hold his party together during an agonizing summer of racial unrest, Biden determined that his running mate should be a Black woman. It was the right call at the time, morally and politically — although I would argue that by publicly crowing about his criteria, Biden’s campaign did his eventual running mate a disservice, ensuring that whomever he chose would be seen as the best Black female candidate rather than the best candidate, period.
Given the country’s long struggle with inclusivity at the highest levels of politics, however, the list of Black women with obvious credentials wasn’t long, and most of the candidates were untested….
That’s probably all I dare lift directly from the column, but it’s all very much on point, in my view.
Y’all know I really like Joe, but that doesn’t mean I always think he does the right thing (abortion, Afghanistan, just to talk about the A’s). And I don’t think he should have promised to pick a woman, for the reasons Bai points out.
Of course, once he did, I didn’t think it was too bad, since I thought Amy Klobuchar was the best of his rivals during the primaries. Although, she deserved to be seen as the best candidate, not merely, as Bai points out, the best of a certain gender.
I was a lot more concerned when he said she also had to be black, because as Bai is also correct in noting, while we have more black women in politics than we used to, there’s a great lack of black women with “obvious” presidential credentials.
But Joe went with the black woman who was one of the three black women I would least have wanted him to pick. Obviously, I think he was looking at different things from what I was looking at. And no, I don’t mean what President Obama was looking at in 2013 (although it was hard to argue with the president at the time, unless you were an ardent feminist).
I think he saw her as politically helpful, perhaps even politically necessary. And maybe he was right. Maybe it was close enough that he’d have lost without whatever portion of the electorate she helped turn out. And that would have been disastrous for the country. So Joe picked her, despite the way she had unforgettably stabbed him in the back the year before. He didn’t care about that as much as I did.
Anyway, he picked her, and I tried to be optimistic. But I have to say that in the last three years, I haven’t seen her take on any qualities that would increase my confidence in her. Of course, admittedly, I don’t spend a lot of time scrutinizing what veeps do.
And now, Joe’s stuck with her. And while Matt Bai’s diagnosis of the problem was really good, he didn’t really come up with what I would call a solution to the conundrum.
What he suggested seemed kind of fatalistic, really. But I admit I don’t have any better ideas. And neither does anyone else. As long as there are no acceptable alternatives to my man Joe for the top job — and there aren’t ANY — it may just be a problem we have to live with. Which is kind of what Bai said…
This morning, the national papers to which I subscribe were topping their apps and browser sites with the apparently stupendous news that that twit George Santos was under arrest for at least some of his nonsense.
My first reaction was, why did this take so long? I thought, wouldn’t it be great if these things worked like in an old Western movie? It would go like this:
The doofus rides into Washington.
He enters the House chamber through the swinging doors (you know, like in a saloon in a Western town).
Someone — preferably a House member who looks like this — would shout, “It’s that no-‘count hornswagglin’ George Santos! He’s got no bidness bein’ here! Somebody fetch the sheriff!”
A kid who sweeps the place would drop his broom and go tearing out through the swinging doors, leaving them flapping.
The sheriff would come, and throw George into the hoosegow.
The story — about something more interesting, one would hope — would resume…
All of that would take about 30 seconds of screen time, if properly edited.
Yeah, I know why it took more time in real life. We have this thing called the Rule of Law, and our latter-day sheriffs needed to come up with something more substantive than bein’ a lyin’ doofus before tossing him into the hoosegow. Which is a good thing, if often unsatisfying.
But of course, none of this solves the problem. The problem is that he was there because some people in a district in New York voted for him.
Which brings us to the more substantive story, which had just happened a few hours before, but inexplicably got pushed way down on the page because of the stupid Santos thing. I mean this:
Which is gratifying to see. Of course, I’d like to see something done — something effective, that would assure us it won’t happen again — about the greater crime, which is the fact that this slimeball was actually, once upon a time, president of the United States.
Of course, the guilty parties in that case are the people who voted for the slimeball, and would do it again whatever happens. Because we live in a post-truth world, one in which people are easily duped into voting for a Santos, or much worse, a Trump.
So what are we going to do about that? Somebody fetch the sheriff…
This is how time gets wasted. And consequently, why I post so seldom, among other derelictions of duty.
The other day I had an earworm, and I was trying to figure out what it was. You know how those torment me. Rather than a pop song, it was an instrumental piece, of the grandiose sort. I decided it was the theme music from one of those blockbuster war movies from the 1960s or ’70s, with every actor from the A list, but apparently no writers, and no directors capable of demanding decent acting. You know, like “The Longest Day.”
That made me start thinking about what an abominably disappointing film it was. It wasn’t quite the greatest insult Hollywood has ever flung at my late father-in-law’s war service. That distinction belongs to “Hogan’s Heroes.” (My father-in-law was captured in the Ardennes, and spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp. A real one. There was nothing cute or amusing about it.)
But it was pretty bad. I got to pondering what made it so bad. Was it Henry Fonda? Of course not. How could I be critical of Mister Roberts (although don’t get me started on how he was more than 20 years too old for that role)? Although the prig colonel played by Dana Andrews, whose job it was to scoff at Henry’s premonitions, was pretty insufferable. Telly Savalas? Well, the cuteness of the black marketeer’s relationship with the impossibly pretty Belgian girl (yeah, like she’d go for Kojak) was utterly absurd. Both he and Robert Ryan were more fun in “The Dirty Dozen” (of course, as much as I loved that one as a kid, I assure you it didn’t hold up well over the years, either).
My experience over the years has taught me that nobody reads blogs on Fridays, especially not late on Fridays. So that makes this the perfect time to try to slip a few things by you:
What to expect at the coronation of King Charles III — and how to watch it. — Um, let me guess — we should expect a guy to put on a fancy hat, right? Oh, and I saw a picture of the Stone of Destiny this morning, and there was no sword stuck in it! Who overlooked that? I don’t mean to commit lèse-majesté or anything, but these kinds of “guides for the breathless” headlines irritate me. The only ones I hate more are the ones that go, “What you need to know about…” This is a close relative. I reassure myself that the reporters who have to write these hate them as much as I do…
Too many tattoos in Five Points? — Yes, absolutely! In fact, I see too many tattoos pretty much everywhere I go. It’s like every street in America has become the red light district near Subic Bay, circa 1971. But that’s not exactly what you were asking, was it?
Yevgeny Prigozhin: Wagner Group boss says he will pull fighters out of Bakhmut — This is the oligarch who runs the big mercenary operation that’s been fighting for Putin, and getting a lot of its guys killed, in Ukraine. It’s not that he’s against killing innocent Ukrainians, it’s just that he doesn’t want his guys doing it without ammunition, so he’s ticked at the Russian supply people. (There’s something kind of oxymoronic about the phrase, “Russian supply people,” isn’t there? I mean, what’s the last government in the world you would rely on to keep you supplied when your life depended on it?) Finally, check out his picture: If you were trying to find a guy to play a Russian oligarch who runs a mercenary operation, this is pretty much the face you would cast, right? This is like Dr. Evil’s way scarier twin brother…
Haley said Tuesday that she does “believe there is a federal role on abortion.” She added: “I want to save as many babies and help as many moms as possible. That is my goal. To do that at the federal level, the next president must find national consensus.”…
Yeah, the word is “consensus.” I would fully explain why that word is key if I had time. And it would take a lot of time, because the reasons it appeals to me are so alien in this ones-and-zeroes age in which we live. It would take so many words that lately I’ve been thinking about writing a book about it. But if I were a betting man, I’d lay heavy odds against that book being written. I don’t know when I’d find the time, between the commitments I have at the moment. Especially since I have another book sketched out in my head that I would write first. I don’t know when I’m going to get to that one, much less the consensus one, which is far less fully formed.
But it’s there. And I thank Nikki for reminding me of it.
Perhaps I should explain that I don’t see consensus as key to solving our abortion problem alone. Consensus is something we need on many, many issues, from guns to the national debt limit.
But abortion does provide a particularly stark example. The challenge is, how on Earth do we get from this small thing of an otherwise unimpressive candidate using the word in a speech — in this case, to try to recapture some of the moderate appeal that taking down the flag won her several years ago — to the point at which we have the consensus to which she refers?
I don’t know. Which is a good reason why if I get time to write a book, the other one is coming first. I’ve got that other one pretty well mapped out.
But I’m increasingly sure it’s what we need. And abortion is a good example of why we need it. I don’t see any other way of approaching it that gets us to where that issue — and others — stop tearing our country apart.
I don’t know how else even I, personally, can get to where I feel that we’re on the right track.
You folks who’ve argued vehemently with me over the abortion issue for years probably think ol’ Brad is pretty pleased now that Roe is gone. But I’m not. You see, while I am most definitely and clearly opposed to legalized abortion on demand — to human lives being made subordinate to other individuals’ “personal autonomy” — I’ve never been able to feel at home with the way folks on “my side” approach the issue, either.
And I’ve always seen it as destructive to think of the issue in the terms in which it has been framed in our politics for the last five decades, with both sides embracing the notion that “if we can just elect a president who will change the court so that a majority of justices vote our way, the problem is solved because then we can just cram it down the throats of those bastards on the other side.” Excuse the language, but a big part of the problem is that too many of us now view those who disagree with us in that way.
Consequently, I’ve never made an electoral decision based on such thinking, but millions of others have, and I’ve watched our representative democracy — which is supposed to be based on the deliberative process — crumble away as they have done so.
So what do I mean by “consensus?” Well, that’s hard to explain, especially since most people who read my words have been conditioned to think in ways that preclude understanding it. One thing it is not is numbers. You don’t think in terms of, If I can get five votes for my side and the other side only has four, I win. Consensus is about getting the group to think, Is this something all of us can live with?
It’s the way we got through our morning meetings every day when I editorial page editor at The State. My goal was always to guide discussion of each issue to a position that respected, to varying degrees, the views of everyone in the room. That may sound like a recipe for incoherence, but it wasn’t. We took very clear and strong positions. We just didn’t leave dissenters figuratively bleeding on the floor in defeat. The advantages of this approach ranged from enabling us to move on amicably to the next difficult issue — not a small thing when you have so many issues to consider — to helping us arrive at solutions that were more practical because they might appeal to a broader range of readers.
I didn’t invent this approach. I had actually first encountered it when I served on the parish council of the church we were attending in Tennessee in the early 80s. Our priest didn’t want us to vote on issues. He urged us to seek consensus instead. A lot of us thought this was kind of nuts, but I ended up being impressed with how well it worked.
This idea will engender all kinds of strong objections, and I’ve heard most of them thousands of times. Hearing them again will likely just persuade me even more that I’m on the right track here. Most of the objections — such as, “You just want to force everyone to think just like you!” — will be wildly off-base. But I know what I’m saying is a little hard to follow, in the America of the 21st century. Which is why so many people will reject the premise of this post entirely. Not everyone, but probably most people.
I grew up in what was probably the most consensus-rich time in American history. My favorite examples, which I often cite, tend to include that stunning series of accomplishments when LBJ was president — the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and so forth. Sure, LBJ was a masterful politician, but he was blessed with a country that, for all its differences, was open to a good argument.
There were still vestiges of this in evidence in the later decades of the century, showing up in Reagan’s amnesty on immigration, and the all-too-temporary banning of assault weapons. But try accomplishing such things in an era in which, for far too many in our country, “amnesty” is a cussword.
Of course, it’s more than a process or a strategy. It’s more an attitude among the population involved in the process. And how do you get people to have that attitude? How do we get from here to there?
Well, I don’t know. And Nikki Haley doesn’t know, either, which I suppose is why she didn’t take questions after that speech. But I appreciate her using the word…
But before I start sharing travelogues, I thought I’d try to get some basic, everyday posts up. I’ve had several on my mind the last three days, but have been too busy trying to catch up with work (still not there) and emails (about 2,600 waiting, still unread).
So let’s start with this:
You know why they see no other choice? Because there IS no other choice. So whatever this supposed reluctance is about, it’s irrational and counterproductive…. https://t.co/cd8YGzJAvm
If you go to that on Twitter, you’ll see I got some likes, but also some new things to think about from our good friend Phillip Bush. He wrote:
‘Reluctance’ probably isn’t the right word. There’s no single word I can think of for this, but ‘being disheartened that we have no other choice’ probably covers it for many people.
I responded that “disheartened” is hard for me to understand as well. For my part, I’m deeply grateful that Joe is willing to do this. I think he sees, just as I do, that there’s no one else available right now.
But Phillip wasn’t done:
But Joe bears some responsibility for there being “no one else available” on the D side. And, will you still be grateful to Joe when he loses to DeSantis?
I’m not sure how Joe is responsible for the lack of other suitable candidates. That’s a problem that already existed, to which he responded by stepping up himself. (Maybe Phillip can elaborate on that point here.) And I’ll always be grateful to him for stepping forward when his country needed him — whether he succeeds or not.
This leads to my original concern about this “reluctance” I keep hearing about, which I continue to see as irrational and counterproductive.
Irrational because, what is it these people want? Who is it they see out there who could carry the banner better? Who do they think is MORE likely to beat DeSantis, or anyone else? I’m not seeing anybody. And Joe didn’t cause that problem. He stepped forward to offer himself to fill the void.
And it’s counterproductive because if Democrats don’t enthusiastically back Joe — their only option — this nation will plunge back into the steep decline we experienced starting in 2016. And it’s likely to be worse this time around.
So what’s your problem with Joe? His age? Hey, I’d love it if Joe was 20 years younger — he would, too, I’m sure. But that’s not being offered as an option. We’ve got the Joe we’ve got. And I like him…
At the beginning of the Wordle craze I found it mildly irritating to see social media references to what people were encountering on the game on a given day. I was all like, “Keep your diversions to yourselves, people!”
That was before I tried the game myself, and became addicted. I’m now on a 94-day streak, but I must confess to having cheated one day back in the low 60s.
I didn’t mean to cheat — or at least, not to the extent that I did. I wasn’t actually looking for the answer. I was going to spend a turn on a throwaway word, just to try out certain letters that might be helpful in getting me toward the answer. But I couldn’t think of one. So I searched for five-letter words with this or that letter in a certain position, and it gave me a list, and my eye scanned the list, and landed on a word that was obviously the answer. And it was.
So really, I’m only on about a 30-day streak. The app just doesn’t know it.
Now I have confessed to the world, and you need not assign me any penance; I assure you I have beaten myself up thoroughly over it.
But I am here today not to speak of my own sins, but to condemn The New York Times, which owns and operates Wordle, for its trespasses. Not particularly grievous sins, but sins nonetheless.
Actually, this list I’m about to share is only partly from Wordle. I’ve also gotten hooked on the NYT’s Spelling Bee, an even greater time waster. And since you end up entering far more words playing that game, most of the words on this list are now from that.
The problem is, I keep entering perfectly good, long-established English words, and they get rejected as “Not in word list.”
Well, I don’t know where they’re getting their “word list,” but the source is obviously not the OED or any other major English dictionary. Here are words that one of these games has recently rejected:
luff — Oh, don’t ask me what it precisely means, but it’s something sailors used to do with sails. As in, “Luff and touch her!” It also has a noun form.
clew— To repeat myself: Don’t ask me what it precisely means, but it’s something sailors used to do with sails. As in, “Clew up, mate!” (I’m not trying to be creative here. I’m trying to sound like a foremast jack, not a poet.) It also has a noun form.
whinge— Surely you’ve seen this. It’s another form of the word “whine.”
coney— Don’t the NYT folk have any alternative ways of saying “bunny?”
conn— Again, go read The Hunt for Red October. Or just about any books that involve maneuvering ships on the sea.
trull— Don’t call a lady this, because it has a rather specific meaning, and not many would consider it a compliment.
wold— I’ll just quote the dictionary: “a usually upland area of open country.”
limey— Mind you, this one isn’t a British term. It’s a term Americans use to describe Brits.
telly— OK, definitely from across the pond. But we all understand it, don’t we? Just today, Spelling Bee refused it.
Note that each is linked to its dictionary definition.
OK, admittedly a lot of these words are British, and quite a few are nautical. But they are long-established words with definite meanings in English, and should never be rejected. They should be perfectly legitimate by the rules of the games. They’re not proper nouns or anything.
Yeah, I think there’s some sort of mechanism for appealing, or at least reporting, such errata (oh, and notice I haven’t included any words such as “errata,” accepting them as still pretty firmly identified as Latin — my list is purely English). But I couldn’t find it this morning, and I thought I’d just go ahead and complain here.
I left one word off my list. I had originally saved “droog,” but decided that being a Nadsat word disqualified it. But mind you, Nadsat was invented by an English writer. And I, for one, prefer it to Tolkien’s Elvish…
Our first glimpse of the island, approaching from the air on April 5. More to come…
Yeah, I know you haven’t heard from me in two weeks. Sorry about that.
We’ve been on the Caribbean island of Dominica, where my youngest daughter lives. Not the whole time. We didn’t leave until April 4, but we were extremely busy getting ready in the days before that. We got back yesterday.
We had a great time, and I plan to tell you about it, but that will probably take me the rest of the weekend, at least. When we came back from Boston last summer, it took me eight days to pull the pieces together and summarize it for y’all. I’ll try to be faster this time.
I’ve found that waiting until a trip is over and trying to put it all in one post works better than trying to tell the story in bits and pieces while in-country. I tried doing it that way in England years ago, and it proved impossible to find the time to sit down with reliable wifi and tell you anything in depth, so on that one I just gave you an occasional hasty tidbit about something I saw in a newspaper or whatever. Not very satisfying.
It takes hours of concentration and selection (the pictures alone take a lot of that time) to tell it all at once — which I do in a few minutes here, a few there while doing the many other things I have to do in catching up from a trip. But in the end I find it a more satisfying form of storytelling….
In the years after I first read about it, I was enough of a bore about the concept in the editorial suite of The State that one April 1st, at the instigation of then-Publisher Ann Caulkins, my colleagues played a truly elaborate April Fool’s prank on me that was entirely based on some supposed new research debunking subsidiarity. It was probably the most esoteric, nerdy prank ever played on anyone in South Carolina history. The sort of thing the geeks on “The Big Bang” might play on each other, only with them it would be about physics instead of political philosophy — some knee-slapper having to do with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, perhaps….
In the end, the joke didn’t work out, because I was too impatient to play along. It went like this: We gathered for our morning (or perhaps it was the weekly, since the publisher was there, eager to participate in the gag) editorial board meeting, a session in which all sorts of issues were thrown onto the table for discussion so we could discuss and arrive at positions for editorials.
As we started, Cindi Scoppe produced a long, dry-looking document, bound in the kind of folder we used in school for term papers, that she said contained some important new findings that completely debunked the validity of subsidiarity. She said they were all sure I’d be interested. She urged me to read it immediately.
I got irritated instead of interested. We had a lot of issues to talk about, things we needed to write about. And they wanted to sit there and watch me read something and have my mind magically changed on something this complex? It was absurd anyway; there was no way this could, in a few minutes’ reading, disprove something like that.
But they urged me, “Just look over it!” and “Just scan it briefly!” Which was even more ridiculous, because a mere scan would never convince me of such a thing. I kept putting it down and trying to move on, but finally Cindi said something like, “Just look at the last page!”
So, in order to end it, I did. And of course, it said, “April Fool’s.”
Yeah, OK. Ha, and also ha.
I feel a bit bad for ruining my friends’ fun, but there it was. It had probably been funny when they first thought of it. And it was nice that it was so personalized, so esoteric, so very much something that would appeal only to the kind of dweeb who is on an editorial board. It was, in its way, thoughtful towards me and who I was.
Which reminds me of an old poster I found in my closet while cleaning up the other day. I didn’t go to the conference, but I liked the poster. I’ll see if I can roll it out and take a picture of it…