Six Degrees of Speculation: October 2007: Archives
Robin Prosser was fifty years old when she ended her life. By all accounts her life was filled with debilitating pain...first the physical pain of an "immunosuppresive disorder" and then the emotional pain that accompanied her efforts to utilize her medical marijuana license to obtain the drug that reportedly eased her constant discomfort.
She was a high-profile campaigner for the Montana Medical Marijuana Act, and like others, she was dismayed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that drug agents could still arrest sick people using marijuana, even in states that legalized its use.
The ruling came to haunt Prosser in late March, when DEA agents seized less than a half ounce of marijuana sent to her by her registered caregiver in Flathead County.
At the time, the DEA special agent in charge of the Rocky Mountain Field Division said federal agents were “protecting people from their own state laws" by seizing such shipments.
“I feel immensely let down," Prosser would write a few months later, in a guest opinion for the Billings Gazette published July 28. “I have no safety, no protection, no help just to survive in a little less pain. I can't even get a job due to my medical marijuana use - can't pass a drug test."
Federal prosecutors declined to charge Prosser, but fear spread through the system of marijuana distribution set up in the wake of the medical marijuana act. Friends said Prosser turned to other sources for marijuana, but found problems nearly everywhere she turned.
A number of bloggers have written about Prosser's tragic death and while the topics of medical marijuana and the "war on drugs" warrant discussion, I think a larger issue merits even more attention. That issue is the growing need to view others through a template which relies upon the belief that society is best served when homogeneity is embraced and enforced.
The problem begins with a reliance upon statistics and soon morphs into the conclusion that all situations and all individuals can be understood by looking at the prevailing data to determine what is acceptable and what must be rejected. While this model serves us well with regards to the approval of drugs by the FDA; it fails miserably when attempting to predict each individuals capacity to lead a functional life...especially when that life is lived outside the norm.
At its worst, I believe that such a construct not only leads to a mind set which demands similitude; but it encourages the mediocrity that seems to have become a burgeoning affliction in this country. Differentness seems to have become a disquieting condition which has led us to react with fear to all that is outside the safe confines of the normative range of behaviors.
As I read the many comments on the Prosser situation, I was struck by the countless assertions of certainty regarding the use of marijuana and the propensity to cite the evidence proffered by the government in its ongoing opposition to marijuana. Here's the problem. For every study that offers a rationale to prevent its use, there are ten that document the dangers of consuming alcohol. Unfortunately, the powers that be support the notion that adults can and will make reasoned decisions with regard to their use of alcohol while prohibiting those same adults from doing so with marijuana and other recreational drugs.
The individuals who so boldly claim that marijuana is a gateway drug...a drug which can lead to depression...a drug whose use is indicative of a surrender to the travails faced by the individual...are the same individuals who believe they can judiciously manage their own use of alcohol...a drug with all of the same contraindications.
Let me be clear...my comparison to alcohol is not offered as a justification for the legalization of marijuana even though it may be a compelling argument. I offer the comparison to highlight the inconsistency inherent in the arguments which attempt to apply statistical data without regard for the varying abilities of the individual. The exceptionalism which is so often applied to America by Americans is mysteriously absent when looking at individuals who operate outside the safe zone of the proverbial bell curve.
Truth be told, the exceptional traits which we so frequently attribute to this nation clearly resulted from the efforts of individuals who refused to be confined by conventionality and the prescribed standards we now cling to with more unfounded fears than those associated with a child's reliance upon a security blanket. Each submission to our fears is another piece of evidence that the average American identity grows ever more fragile. That fragility also facilitates the flattening of the curve and an across the board free fall towards a safe but shared inferiority.
As we acquiesce to all that defines a nanny state, we are fast becoming a nation of sniping adult children who succumb to pettiness because it is far easier than confronting the many complex discriminations that accompany the human condition. In our rush to mediocrity, we hasten the demise of the creative spirit, we stifle those who would otherwise take the risks that have allowed us to exceed all others, and we force the Robin Prosser's of the world to believe that their very existence is so antagonistic that they can no longer live amongst us.
When we allow the pain of our irrational fears to exceed our ability to empathize with those in our midst who are suffering tangible tragedy we move ever closer to the very demise we imagine may come if we were to make allowances for our differences. Robin Prosser is no longer living...but we who remain are less alive each time we foster the intolerance we're unable or unwilling to overcome.
Tagged as: Drug Enforcement Agency, Medical Marijuana, Robin Prosser, Suicide
Daniel DiRito | October 28, 2007 | 11:31 AM |
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Clarence Thomas, in his new book titled My Grandfather's Son, draws perhaps one of the most inane conclusions I've heard in a long time. Thomas contends that affirmative action rendered his Yale law degree virtually worthless...leading him to literally and figuratively attach a paltry value of fifteen cents to it.
Perhaps I'm treading on fragile ground, but Thomas' conclusion suggests to me that his view of reality may actually emanate from persistent resentments and a series of misguided attributions.
The conservative justice says he initially considered his admission to Yale a dream, but soon felt he was there because of his race. He says he loaded up on tough courses to prove he was not inferior to his white classmates but considers the effort futile. He says he was repeatedly turned down in job interviews at law firms after his 1974 graduation.
"I learned the hard way that a law degree from Yale meant one thing for white graduates and another for blacks, no matter how much any one denied it," Thomas writes. "I'd graduated from one of America's top law schools, but racial preference had robbed my achievement of its true value."
Thomas says he stores his Yale Law degree in his basement with a 15-cent sticker from a cigar package on the frame.
Excuse me, but isn't is possible that what Mr. Thomas exuded, and employers perceived, in his post-Yale interviews was the same surly "chip on his shoulder" persona that many point to this very day? The fact that a man burdened by such insecurity and conflicted by so many inferred grievances sits on the highest court in the land and likely filters each case through this skewed template is a frightening thought. The fact that many of the current GOP presidential candidates point to Thomas as a model for future judicial appointments is unconscionable.
Let me be clear. No doubt Thomas is a man of extraordinary intellect and possesses the credentials to warrant his position. Notwithstanding, anyone who has been in a position to hire employees realizes that a stellar resume can be negated by an incongruous attitude. In fact, this very circumstance is often rife with the potential for distorted perceptions to overwhelm an otherwise eRudyte individual.
Anecdotally, one could also argue that Thomas' difficulty in securing a position following his graduation may have resulted from residual racism that certainly existed in 1974, the year of his graduation. The fact that affirmative action may have facilitated his education and provided the grounds to reject him as an employee (his view) needn't nullify the significance of the opportunity it afforded and the eventual benefit it provided.
If Mr. Thomas believes his inclusion at Yale was a function of an ill-advised quota system, do his eventual achievements not suggest that affirmative action actually succeeded in opening doors that may have otherwise been closed to those who should have been welcomed based upon merit? Had Mr. Thomas been excluded from Yale and subsequently written a book which argued that racism played a part in denying access to education for individuals of merit, he could easily be a champion for the very program he seeks to skewer...and his seat on the Supreme Court would provide the very same justifications for that argument.
Frankly, Thomas' difficulties finding work are not foreign to millions of qualified Americans...black, white, brown, Italian, Catholic, or gay to name a few. Fortunately, the vast majority of them don't focus upon harboring animosities...animosities which tint or taint the views they hold for the remainder of their lives. Some of his fellow Yale students support that very argument.
His view isn't shared by black classmate William Coleman III.
"I can only say my degree from Yale Law School has been a great boon," said Coleman, now an attorney in Philadelphia. "Had he not gone to a school like Yale, he would not be sitting on the Supreme Court."
Edgar Taplin Jr., raised by a single parent in New Orleans, said he landed a job after graduation at the oldest law firm in New York, and does not recall black graduates struggling more to get jobs than their white classmates.
"My degree was worth a lot more than 15 cents," said Taplin, who retired in 2003 as a global manager with Exxon Mobil.
William Coleman says it's time for Thomas to move on.
"You did OK, guy," he said.
In fairness to Thomas, I'm certain he encountered unwarranted obstacles and that is supported by some former classmates and teachers at Yale. His book is noteworthy for the sincere homage he pays to his grandfather. Had it not included the portions that suggest he remains an unresolved and vengeful individual, one could actually view his life as a tale of remarkable resiliency. Unfortunately, my impression is that Thomas is appreciative of the former but driven by the latter.
Thomas has declined to have his portrait hung at Yale Law School along with other graduates who became U.S. Supreme Court justices. An earlier book, "Supreme Discomfort," by Washington Post reporters Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher, portrays Thomas as still upset some Yale professors opposed his confirmation during hearings marked by Anita Hill's allegations that Thomas sexually harassed her.
If Clarence Thomas' experience represents the worst of affirmative action...and it seems he believes as much...then it seems to me that the benefits have far outweighed the costs. Lest we forget, for every Clarence Thomas there was no doubt ten others who faced the discrimination and the inequity of opportunity that affirmative action sought to correct. Mr. Thomas, through his words and actions, continues to ignore the relevance of that actuality.
Mr. Thomas, if your charmed life is so insufficient as to warrant the angry recitations you felt compelled to include in your biographical account and you seem to exhibit in the positions you take as a Supreme Court Justice, then may I suggest you're little more than the bastion of bitterness many have come to believe you to be?
Tagged as: Affirmative Action, Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather's Son, Supreme Court, Yale
Daniel DiRito | October 21, 2007 | 10:58 AM |
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The Republican Party remains unconvinced by their front running presidential candidates. This weekend religious conservatives are holding a Values Voter Summit in Washington DC...hoping to identify a candidate they can support. Despite the many pundits who believe Rudy Giuliani is headed towards the Republican Party's nomination, I have my suspicions that we will see Mike Huckabee emerge as a viable alternative. Here's the basis of my speculation.
1. Giuliani will not be able to undo the damage done to his prospects by the strident opposition of evangelical leaders like James Dobson. While polling indicates he has support from Christian conservatives, the same polling suggests that support is soft and therefore vulnerable.
2. Romney may be willing to say whatever evangelicals want to hear but when its all said and done, he remains a Mormon and that's a hurdle far too many evangelicals will not be able to overcome.
3. Thompson created high expectations by delaying his announcement to run and his performance since entering the race has been disappointing. His opposition to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage put an exclamation mark on the disappointment.
4. McCain may have the best track record on social issues but his history with evangelicals has been confrontational and I suspect many GOP voters simply don't think he can win the general election. The fact that he supported the President on immigration and is so closely aligned with the President on the war in Iraq doesn't help his cause with independent voters.
5. The anticipated withdrawal of Sam Brownback eliminates one of Huckabee's primary rivals for the evangelical vote...as well as the votes of conservative Catholics. The fact that Brownback believes the GOP nominee must be "a pro-life candidate" suggests the Kansas Senator will not support Giuliani.
So how does Huckabee enter the top tier and become a legitimate contender? Partly by who he is...inclusive of his Christian credentials...and partly be default especially if he can succeed in becoming the protest candidate in the Iowa primary. The challenge Huckabee faces is formidable. He has his detractors amongst traditional conservatives and they include the influential Richard Viguerie. My own belief is that Viguerie favors establishing a third party nominee and is therefore doing his best to disqualify the existing GOP candidates.
Notwithstanding the opposition Huckabee faces from the evangelical elite, his down home approach appeals to the average church goer in the GOP...individuals who will ultimately decide the winner of the Iowa primary. Huckabee may also be the best speaker in the field and his conciliatory tone plays well with those evangelicals who fear another abrasive candidate like George Bush may turn off moderate conservatives and independents who have grown weary of the unyielding gridlock. The fact that Huckabee holds true to the GOP social agenda but seeks to enact it with civility and a seemingly sincere style is also appealing.
If one looks at the criticisms of Huckabee from the likes of Viguerie; they may represent differences on issues that will play well with middle class Republicans...voters who many believe have supported the GOP even though doing so may have not been in their own best interest. The fact that the GOP has had success in painting prior Democratic candidates as elitists may have actually opened the eyes of these mainstream Republicans who now feel they may have been used by their own GOP elite.
What evangelicals are beginning to realize is that elitism exists throughout the political system and the promises they received from the GOP on social issues may have been nothing more than the means to guarantee their votes. Viguerie's criticisms of Huckabee may actually represent the other concerns that impact values voters...interests which are beginning to resonate and may influence their future votes...votes that may be cast for men like Mike Huckabee who support their values but do more than provide lip service. A few of Viguerie's objections to Huckabee follow.
Not only did he increase Arkansas's minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.25 per hour, but he even encouraged the U.S. Congress to do the same thing nationally.
He supported President George W. Bush's 2003 massive expansion of Medicare by adding a prescription-drug benefit.
He called the No Child Left Behind Act, which increased federal education spending by 48 percent and expanded big-government control of local schools, "the greatest education reform effort of the federal government in my lifetime."
The GOP elite seems to believe they can take values voters for granted with little more than stating the right things with regards to social issues. However, these voters may be ready to embrace a candidate who not only shares their religious values but will support programs that provide them with other important economic considerations. Truth be told, many values voters who have repeatedly supported the GOP received little benefit from the Bush administration's policies (think tax cuts). A candidate like Mike Huckabee may offer a much more palatable formula.
A number of stars have to align for Huckabee to emerge as a viable contender...but he can look to the path taken to the presidency by another former Arkansas Governor. The fact that Bill Clinton, frequently regarded as one of the best political minds in recent history, cites Huckabee as the second tier GOP candidate to watch suggests that those stars may be more malleable than we may realize.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Bill Clinton, Christian Conservatives, Evangelicals, Fred Thompson, GOP, James Dobson, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Richard Viguerie, Rudy Giuliani, Sam Brownback
Daniel DiRito | October 19, 2007 | 12:14 PM |
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The internet is abuzz with reports that Air America Radio personality Randi Rhodes will be off the air while she recovers from injuries she sustained last evening.
There are conflicting reports on how Rhodes sustained her injuries. According to a fellow Air America personality, Jon Elliott, Rhodes was the victim of an attack while she was walking her dog. That statement led to immediate speculation that the assault upon Rhodes may have been politically motivated; making her the victim of a hate crime.
The following is from the Air America blog:
Air America host Randi Rhodes experienced an unfortunate incident hindering her from hosting her show. The reports of a presumed hate crime are unfounded. Ms. Rhodes looks forward to being back on the air on Thursday.
As the story has continued to unfold, the following alternate explanation comes from the New York Daily News:
Air America radio host Randi Rhodes is temporarily off the air, but claims she was brutally attacked near her Manhattan apartment are bogus, her lawyer and a police source said today.
A police source said Rhodes never filed a report and never claimed to be the victim of a mugging. Cops from Manhattan's 17th Precinct called her attorney, who told them Rhodes was not a victim of a crime, the source said.
Rhodes' lawyer told the Daily News she was injured in a fall while walking her dog. He said she's not sure what happened, and only knows that she fell down and is in a lot of pain. The lawyer said Rhodes expects to be back on the air Thursday. He stressed there is no indication she was targeted or that she was the victim of a "hate crime."
The network released a statement that said Rhodes "experienced an unfortunate incident."
"The reports of a presumed hate crime are unfounded," the statement read by a receptionist at the network's New York offices said. "Ms. Rhodes is looking forward to being back on the air on Thursday."
First and foremost, I hope Rhodes is recovering from her injuries and will soon be able to resume her work at Air America. With that said, I have to admit that I find the speculation and the commentary related to the incident sickening. In a country we contend represents the best of the civilized world, the truth of the matter is that there is less and less civility to be found.
Honestly, the stories making headlines in the last couple weeks highlight the endless bickering which has come to typify our political discourse...a discourse that has deteriorated into hate filled diatribes designed to destroy the "enemy" regardless of the facts or the likelihood of collateral damage.
In a country which goes out of its way to revile terrorism and the terrorists who carry it out, we are on a fast track to fomenting the anger and animosity which is the hallmark of these hate groups. We are on the precipice of virtually every event being filtered through one of the two polarized political templates...whether warranted or not.
As I've read the various comments on the Rhodes incident, I noticed several sites mentioned the murder of Denver talk radio personality Alan Berg in 1984. I was a fan of Berg's radio program and I remember my feelings of sadness upon hearing of his death. While no one was ever convicted of the murder, it appears that a white supremacist group called The Order may have been involved in Berg's death.
In 1984 Berg was undoubtedly abrasive...but he was also eRudyte. He loved the debate and he routinely savaged those who were unable to elucidate their position on the subject at hand...but I don't recall that he engaged in the organized political rhetoric that dominates today's dialogue. Alan Berg was his own man and the views he held were his own convictions. His contact with listeners was heated but his positions were more than hyperbole. The innuendo of swift boating wouldn't have appealed to Berg. If he believed in something, he didn't just seek to discredit his opponent by raising doubt, he sought to sink the boats of those who disagreed with him and he did so with a full frontal assault which was replete with an arsenal of tangible evidence.
As I draw comparisons between the Alan Berg era and the current political environment typified by the debate on Randi Rhodes, one thing becomes abundantly clear...a murder which what was likely carried out by a fringe group in 1984 is today apt to be committed by an otherwise ordinary citizen.
Let me be clear. I don't offer such conjecture in support of the assertions that the Rhodes incident was politically motivated or a hate crime. In fact, we simply don't know enough about the incident to draw any conclusions...which is integral to the argument I seek to make. I offer my thoughts as evidence of an environment where we're too willing to jump to conclusions and far more focused upon escalating animosity than encouraging deliberate debate.
While the Alan Bergs of the world were content to live in isolation on a virtual island rather than compromise their principles...today's provocateurs will willfully compromise principle if they can be convinced it may lead to a world that is populated with malleable minions...virtually programmable robots who have had their ability to reason replaced by a susceptibility to subjective subterfuge. The Randi Rhodes incident is simply the vehicle upon which this manufactured reality is built.
In the ultimate of ironies, Alan Berg died while opposing the silencing of societal critics and promoting the open exchange of ideas in the year (1984) we associate with George Orwell's famous tale (1984) of a world dominated by the deceptive efforts of the "Ministry of Truth". Some three decades later, we live in a world inhabited by individuals who willingly embrace one of the available ideologies of insinuation with nary a passing consideration of our proximity to the truth.
Is it possible that what Orwell warned would result in "the individual person's subordination to the Party collective" has come to pass? On days like today, with stories like this one, my answer is yes.
Tagged as: 1984, Air America Radio, Alan Berg, George Orwell, Jon Elliott, Ministry of Truth, Randi Rhodes, The Order
Daniel DiRito | October 16, 2007 | 11:37 AM |
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We've all heard the expression, "Can't see the forest for the trees". It's simple yet poignant, and it's message is abundantly accurate...yet all too often ignored. In the last few days, all I've been able to see is the forest...not because I possess prescient abilities or feel that I'm above the fray; rather because there are times when the fray is so disheartening that I'm pushed over the edge into what I have long called my moments of hyper-reality...those periods of time when I let myself see and feel all that I've learned to suppress in accordance with the rules we've established and accepted in this sometimes all too calloused existence.
Look, I'm no angel and I'm not writing this to garner any accolades or to assert any position of advanced awareness. More likely, I'm writing to purge what feels like a persistent period of ad hominem attacks and the hatred which now accompanies our efforts to extend one groups hegemony over another.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy robust dialogue and I'm more than willing to engage in an argument. Notwithstanding, I ultimately attempt to see others as more than objects in an elaborate chess game...pawns one can sacrifice in order to succeed. Yes, it is a slippery slope because we all encounter individuals we believe exert more influence over our environment than we believe is reasonable...which leads us to conclude it is a right or even a requirement to undermine or end their authority.
In a representative government, we enlist others to act as our emissaries and we hope they do so with conscience and consideration. Unfortunately, there are times when the divisions are so pronounced that elections serve to embolden one faction while negating another. Sadly, America seems to be locked in that dynamic and I'm not optimistic our intentions or our efforts are designed to extinguish it.
Let me provide some context. I don't understand what is sought or achieved in making the wearing of a lapel pin a relevant measure of a presidential candidate's patriotism...in reducing one's support or objection to the Iraq war to a debate about whether we issue a congressional condemnation of a political advertisement by MoveOn.org and/or the political ramblings of Rush Limbaugh...in drafting lists of Republicans and Democrats who have committed crimes or ill-advised acts in order to paint half of America's beliefs as wrong and half as right...in assaulting the credibility of a twelve year old boy and his family in Baltimore in order to determine the threshold by which our nation intends to extend access to necessary health care...in pointing to the circumstances behind the death of a minister in Alabama as the means to invalidate the agenda of the religious right or those opposed to them and their agenda...in arguing that a poster using the imagery of The Last Supper for a gay event in San Francisco either proves or disproves that gays are anti-Christian and therefore either good or bad people.
As I was thinking about all of these issues and getting ready for bed last night, I wrote down the following words, "Can we actually argue that we love America if we spend so much of our time hating so many other Americans? Does America even exist if our perceptions of her and what she represents are so polarized? When did we stop being the United States of America?"
Frankly, I've begun to think that America has become the equivalent of two people locked in a surly and pathetic marriage...one in which the participants have become so resentful that neither side has any interest in communicating; rather each side rails on endlessly about each and every aspect of the other such that little, if anything, about the other remains acceptable or warrants anything but ridicule and abject animosity.
I don't know what we want anymore...and in saying as much it becomes evident that just seeing the forest doesn't cure what ails the trees which inhabit it. What once were similar beings weathering the same storms, being nourished from the same soil, drinking from the same stream, have seemingly become twisted and gnarly protrusions...self-absorbed and obtuse...fighting for their share of the sun while wantonly casting shadows of immense darkness.
Worse yet, what lies beneath is even more convoluted and entangled...a mess of barnacled beliefs entwined in a battle for validation...each day more entrenched...locked in a deadly game of tug of war...one that advances out of sight but is clearly marked by the heaving soil upon which we walk and have apparently come to accept. Passed from tree to tree like an insidious disease, death is measured in agonizing inches...a slow yet certain culling of those less able or less willing to defend against the ever advancing encroachments.
Like an overgrown forest, there is no time to mourn the dead...the fallen become fodder for the formative saplings who grow stronger in their beliefs as they are encouraged to feast upon the carnage...each tribe elated at the other's loss...each death an opportunity to acquire more literal and figurative territory...each birth an affirming act and a source of hope that the tribe will one day defeat the demon and thus be granted their deserved dominion.
In a world where gardens have given way to garrisons, what we cultivate is more apt to kill than to coddle. Instead of giving thanks for the bounty mother earth provides, we beseech her to yield to our demands and then we ignore her cries for consideration. Are we not a species out of sync with our world? If we are, then did we not become so by first being a society in the throes of a self-sustaining suicide spiral?
In this last man standing mind set, there may be a survivor...but rest assured there will be no solace and no salvation. Humanity may continue to build its future on the bones of the beleaguered, but when that task is completed, our humanity will be nowhere to be found. I weep at the thought.
Tagged as: Barack Obama, Folsom Street Fair, Gary Aldridge, Graeme Frost, Humanity, MoveOn.org, Rush Limbaugh
Daniel DiRito | October 10, 2007 | 9:13 AM |
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There are days when I wish the blogosphere would disappear...and then I reconsider because by and large it is a valuable venue for the exchange of ideas and information. Unfortunately, there are times when the content provides more spin than a spinning class at the health club.
One of those items is making the rounds today and it involves an article in the Examiner which makes the assertion that Sandy Berger is a foreign policy advisor for the Clinton campaign...a fact the Senator's staff has denied. The focus, of course, is on the fact that Berger was caught removing classified documents from the National Archives.
Sandy Berger, who stole highly classified terrorism documents from the National Archives, destroyed them and lied to investigators, is now an adviser to presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Berger, who was fired from John Kerry’s presidential campaign when the scandal broke in 2004, has assumed a similar role in Clinton’s campaign, even though his security clearance has been suspended until September 2008. This is raising eyebrows even among Clinton’s admirers. “It shows poor judgment and a lack of regard for Berger’s serious misdeeds," said law professor Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve University, who nonetheless called Clinton “by far the most impressive candidate in the Democratic field."
The Justice Department initially said Berger stole only copies of classified documents and not originals. But the House Government Reform Committee later revealed that an unsupervised Berger had been given access to classified files of original, uncopied, uninventoried documents on terrorism. Several Archives officials acknowledged that Berger could have stolen any number of items and they “would never know what, if any, original documents were missing."
At his sentencing in September 2005, Berger was fined $50,000, placed on probation for two years and stripped of his security clearance for three years.
The USA Today reported the following exchange with the Senator in which she denies that Berger is an advisor:
"He has no official role in my campaign. He's been a friend for more than 30 years. But he doesn't have any official role," Clinton said.
But he's an unofficial adviser, Susan asked?
"I have thousands of unofficial advisers," said Clinton, "and, you know, I appreciate all of that. But he has no official role in my campaign."
No doubt the Clinton response could have been better...but there is also a risk of overreacting to a non-event and giving it more credence than it warrants. Take whatever side you want on Senator Clinton's candidacy...but when this situation is coupled with the Obama lapel pin "scandal"...I find myself wondering what's next in the political pursuit of petty prevaricating.
Perhaps if Sandy Berger had only been indicted on federal cocaine charges like the Giuliani "official" South Carolina campaign chairman...or endorsed for Secretary of Homeland Security to the Bush administration like Rudy Giuliani's business partner, Bernard Kerik...or arrested for soliciting sex in a public restroom like Senator McCain's "official" campaign operative in Florida...or plead guilty to disorderly conduct in Minnesota after being arrested for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom while serving as the "official" Idaho chairman for the Romney campaign...or raised thousands of dollars for numerous GOP candidates...including the President...before pleading guilty to fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy...then just maybe his inferred "unofficial" role in the Clinton campaign wouldn't be such a serious matter worthy of intense scrutiny.
Better yet, if Mr. Berger had worked for the Vice President, he may have garnered the sympathy of the Bush administration and received a commutation from none other than the President.
Too bad Mr. Berger isn't a Republican...they have so much more experience with these types of situations.
Image courtesy of Talk Left
Tagged as: Bernard Kerik, Hillary Clinton, Hypocrisy, Jack Abramoff, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Sandy Berger, Scooter Libby
Daniel DiRito | October 8, 2007 | 5:31 PM |
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Paul Krugman has an interesting opinion piece in today's New York Times in which he argues that, despite assertions to the contrary, the GOP (conservatism), under the tutelage of George W. Bush, "is the same as it ever was".
Generally speaking, Krugman makes a number of convincing points. While one could argue that some of his citations may have represented the actions of fringe figures who did not, at the time, actually denote conservatism, they did, in retrospect, assist in shaping our understanding of how it is presently defined. As such, it may well be reasonable to suggest that the tail wagged the dog. Regardless of the process, it is what it is.
There have been a number of articles recently that portray President Bush as someone who strayed from the path of true conservatism. Republicans, these articles say, need to return to their roots.
Well, I don't know what true conservatism is, but while doing research for my forthcoming book I spent a lot of time studying the history of the American political movement that calls itself conservatism — and Mr. Bush hasn’t strayed from the path at all. On the contrary, he's the very model of a modern movement conservative.
For example, people claim to be shocked that Mr. Bush cut taxes while waging an expensive war. But Ronald Reagan also cut taxes while embarking on a huge military buildup.
People claim to be shocked by the Bush administration's general incompetence. But disinterest in good government has long been a principle of modern conservatism. In "The Conscience of a Conservative," published in 1960, Barry Goldwater wrote that “I have little interest in streamlining government or making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size."
People claim to be shocked at the Bush administration's efforts to disenfranchise minority groups, under the pretense of combating voting fraud. But Reagan opposed the Voting Rights Act, and as late as 1980 he described it as "humiliating to the South."
People claim to be shocked at the Bush administration's attempts to equate dissent with treason. But Goldwater — who, like Reagan, has been reinvented as an icon of conservative purity but was a much less attractive figure in real life — staunchly supported Joseph McCarthy, and was one of only 22 senators who voted against a motion censuring the demagogue.
The above excerpts give the reader a taste of Krugman's argument but I highly suggest you read it in its entirety to garner the full flavor. My goal today isn't to focus upon the specifics of Krugman's piece. Rather, I will attempt to put forth a theory as to why the GOP has been so successful in its efforts to portray conservatism favorably and to paint liberalism as an unseemly scourge.
The short answer, which I intend to expand upon, is that the GOP has adopted the view that elections are best approached with little more than a strategy for success; relying upon current considerations to craft a palatable message which will garner the most votes. Part and parcel of this strategy is a willingness to maximize the visceral while not emphasizing the eRudyte. In so doing, they portray the opposition as pedantic elitists who revile the regular in favor of all that is highfalutin. In essence, they do not seek to elevate the electorate; they elect to engage it where it resides.
As such, they have demonstrated that intellect, while a requisite tool, should not be presumed to be singularly sufficient to secure success. Instead, it is more likely the subtle segue. Those with intellect must therefore be mindful of the needs of those they seek to enlist and enroll. Hence, the GOP has determined that intellect must be utilized to first manufacture the message and then apply history as an effective embellishment.
I contend that the Democrats suffer from a belief in the reverse; whereby they ascribe to the threadbare theory that the message is revealed through an understanding of history which will then also provide the reasoned rationale to embrace it. This might be effective if voters were content to discern their decisions accordingly. I'm not convinced they do.
We generally think that intelligence is a measurable trait and we purport to have the tests to prove that assertion. Little did we know, the equation is far more complex because we frequently equate success with intelligence even though the two are arguably not one and the same.
At the same time, the effort to divorce success from intelligence is far more difficult than the effort to marry the two. In acknowledging as much, perhaps the notion of a zero-sum equation is better suited to understanding intelligence than economics...or perhaps in all human interactions, they are both essential integers in an elaborate formula which will always lead us to a sum of zero.
If one accepts that premise, and I contend the argument is compelling, then success and intelligence are clearly dependent upon each individual's stated objectives. Alas, one must therefore conclude that the moment individual objectives (arguably read as the pursuit of power in politics) become the relevant considerations, everything suddenly becomes subjective...and the slippery slope of sagacity is exposed. Notwithstanding, it is arguably the mechanism by which the human experience unfolds. Success, power, and prosperity may all flow from intellect...but how each is defined may be different for each one of us. More importantly, how they are achieved is no doubt a function of countless formula's.
For example, a scorned spouse who elects murder over divorce may well equate intellect and success with ending the life of their partner. The fact that we have law enforcement suggests the formidability of the criminal mind...wrong as its objectives may be. Despite the fact that faith may tell many of us that death isn't a zero-sum equation, some individuals operate as if it is; therefore believing that accelerating it's occurrence meets with their notion of success.
Conversely, one could also argue that premature death equates with a form of success...albeit one that shifts the individual to a new reality which many of us embrace in the abstract but rarely as a matter of choice. While this is an extreme example, it clearly illustrates that success and intellect are difficult to define...and we haven't even touched on the millions of other definable constructs. With regard to politics, this exercise ought to tell us that there are numerous definitions of success.
Coming back to the Krugman piece, yes, there is little doubt that the GOP is in trouble. At the same time, the argument herein points to the risks associated with all efforts to simplify our understandings of where they've been, where they're at, and where they're going. Without knowing how other's define and pursue success, little can be unequivocally discerned. The fact that the players change over time serves to minimize our predictive capacities even though it creates our history.
Krugman's ability to trace the history of the GOP to this moment in time will not insure success for the Democrats nor will it preclude the GOP from rapidly revising its message and accessorizing it with seemingly edible accoutrements. Democrats may be justified in believing that history illuminates our heritage and therefore our destiny...but if they get caught flat-footed, they run the risk of being duped by the GOP's documented dance of dexterity...a dance found in countless iterations throughout all of human history.
That would seem to suggest that today's "successes" are destined to be defined as some expression of intellect in the future...if for no other reason than they influenced it. Nevertheless, only one thing is certain - history remains uncertain so long as the future arrives. Isn't it possible that should lead us to presume that the sum is zero because the equation remains infinitely incomplete?
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Conservatism, Death, Democrats, Faith, George W. Bush, GOP, History, Intellect, Paul Krugman, Politics, Success, Zero-Sum Equation
Daniel DiRito | October 8, 2007 | 10:38 AM |
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With the 2008 presidential campaign in full swing, we are beginning to see each campaign initiate efforts to cast doubt on the opposition. As the primaries approach, candidates hasten their attempts to derail each other's momentum in order to position themselves for the primaries as well as the general election.
Over the years, the methods and means utilized to achieve these goals have become far more negative. At the same time, the rhetoric and the rationale of each candidate has also become far more superficial. While it is easy to assail politicians for the current environment, one mustn't ignore the fact that the voting public has lowered the bar...demanding less substance and accepting more hyperbole. Frankly, clever phrases and short sound bites work because voters have embraced the simplistic nature of partisan politics over the complexity of careful consideration.
Simultaneously, the passage of time tends to anesthetize us...enabling us to travel great distances without an understanding of where we began nor a recognition of where we've arrived. Such journeys are fraught with danger as they are journeys which often occur more by chance born of complacency than by choice derived from deliberation. The former tends to leave us tone deaf while the latter has the potential to launch a legion of luminaries. One is a series of steps in the sand; quickly washed away by the wind...the other is a map of measured marks; able to withstand the worst of storms.
One recent event illuminates the importance of remembering our roots and respecting the growth they so eloquently engender. As such, a tree provides an important metaphor...one which should remind us to look beyond the surface. Hence, we arrive at the substance of my musing. It is a mistake and a miscalculation to malign the absence of a flag pin on the lapel of Senator Obama. What's not present on the surface likely tells us little about what lies beneath. To conclude otherwise negates our journey, ignores our roots, and darkens our destiny.
After completing the below graphic, I came across an article by Andrew Sullivan in which he points to a Wall Street Journal piece which was written by Peggy Noonan. While no fan of Noonan, her thoughts amplified my concerns with the criticism being directed at Senator Obama. Taken together, their thoughts provided the symmetry that can only come with the passage of time and an appreciation for what history can teach us about ourselves and the prospects of our future. I offer the following excerpts...first Noonan, then Sullivan.
From Peggy Noonan - The Wall Street Journal:
Barack Obama has a great thinking look. I mean the look he gets on his face when he's thinking, not the look he presents in debate, where they all control their faces knowing they may be in the reaction shot and fearing they'll look shrewd and clever, as opposed to open and strong. I mean the look he gets in an interview or conversation when he's listening and not conscious of his expression. It's a very present look. He seems more in the moment than handling the moment. I've noticed this the past few months, since he entered the national stage. I wonder if I'm watching him more closely than his fellow Democrats are.
Mr. Obama often seems to be thinking when he speaks, too, and this comes somehow as a relief, in comparison, say, to Hillary Clinton and President Bush, both of whom often seem to be trying to remember the answer they'd agreed upon with staff. [...]
You get the impression Mr. Obama trusts himself to think, as if something good might happen if he does. What a concept. Anyway, I've started to lean forward a little when he talks.
Mr. Obama is fortunate to have one with the grace and vigor of Ted Sorensen, John F. Kennedy's great staffer and speechwriter, who told me this week, "I am supporting Obama."
When I asked if his support was connected in any way to the idea of breaking away from the Bush-Clinton-Bush rotation, he said, "Above all, I believe this country needs change, and continuing the 20-year hold on the White House of the same two families is not my idea of change."
The Bushes are winners; the Clintons are winners. We know this, they've won. The Bushes are wired into the Republican money-line system; the Clintons are wired into the Democratic money-line system. For a generation, two generations now, they have had the same dynamics in play, only their friends are on the blue team, not the red, or the red, not the blue.
Is this good for our democracy, this air of inevitability? Is it good in terms of how the world sees us, and how we see ourselves? Or is it something we want to break out of, like a trance?
From Andrew Sullivan - The Atlantic:
I don't always agree with her [Noonan], but she represents for me that brand of blue-state conservatism that came of age in the Reagan era, one that was often Catholic (though not dogmatically so), repelled by the bile of the far left, respectful of religion and tradition but very much at ease with the modern world, often urban and ethnic, and very susceptible to the charm and rhetoric and deep seriousness of Reagan. I guess she reminds me of my mum and sister. These kinds of conservatives are meritocrats. They were much more Reagan than Bush. And they are deeply distrustful of dynasty and inheritance. They're not country club Republicans. But they're not Dobsonites either. And they don't always vote for the party of the right.
I've been following him [Obama] for a while and got to interview him the other day for a forthcoming cover-piece in the Atlantic. He's still a real human being, a commoner. She's [Clinton] to the Manor wed. I don't believe this race is over. I think it has barely begun.
Now it's no secret that Noonan and Sullivan both despise Hillary Clinton...which should make one skeptical of their words with regard to the selection of a Democratic presidential nominee. Moreover, Noonan may well be singing the merits of Obama as a result of her believing the GOP nominee stands a better chance to defeat him. On the other hand, I've found Sullivan to be more forthcoming so I doubt he would praise Obama just to undermine Clinton...though it is possible.
Regardless, both of them were Reaganites and see the former president as the last representation of a true conservative Republican. Truth be told, I suspect both of them believe George W. Bush squandered the Reagan legacy and will leave the GOP in a state of shambles...forced to grapple with its identity.
Unfortunately, the GOP's problems have become part and parcel of America's problem...a problem which has emerged under the tutelage of two families...a duality which has come to represent two distinct ideologies in a woefully divided nation.
In this dynamic, the nation and it's citizenry is therefore more susceptible to the pitfalls discussed above. Consequently, as the two sides have jockeyed for dominance, the words of the war have continued to escalate...and to devolve into narrow black and white arguments intended to mobilize the combatant constituencies. Success has become an equation dependent upon division.
As I think about the assault triggered by what isn't on Senator Obama's lapel, I can't help but think back to Ronald Reagan. In saying as much, I am not suggesting that President Reagan's policies were palatable to all Americans...they weren't. Notwithstanding, his approach to the political process...the means by which a president must govern in a two party nation...was in many ways functionally superior to what has now emerged at this juncture in the Bush and Clinton years.
When Ronald Reagan stated that he didn't wear his religion on his sleeve, he established a necessary barrier between political practicality and ideological intransigence...a move that arguably served both the president and the nation. In so doing, he also set a tone of moderation...one which has subsequently evaporated. Just the opposite is now the norm. Not only has politics moved away from moderation...moderation has become synonymous with capitulation to those on different sides of the political spectrum.
The nation that took Ronald Reagan at his word without demanding sacramental symbols...because it was brave enough to believe that his deeds would speak even louder...has seemingly lost its way. In the intervening years, emblems have become evidence of authenticity while reasonability has become the signature of insincerity.
If one endeavors to understand the statement of Barack Obama with regard to not wearing a flag pin on his lapel...and does so by first looking backward to Ronald Reagan and then coming forward to the present...he was, like Ronald Reagan, attempting to place substance ahead of superficiality...an action meant to suggest that living one's patriotism is preferential to dangling it as a badge. Further, he undoubtedly believes that love of country cannot be reduced to acts of symbolism...that it must be an ongoing set of actions meant to advance the nation; not just the political aspirations of one candidate or one party.
If we hope to reconnect with that which has steadfastly sustained us, integrity must emerge, sanctimony must surrender, and rancor must retreat. Ronald Reagan once said, "Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation." I'm afraid that before we can begin to do so again, we may first have to recommit to using what already sits atop our shoulders. If we do, perhaps we'll learn to look beyond each other's lapels.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Andrew Sullivan, Barack Obama, George Bush, Hillary Clinton, Patriotism, Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Flag
Daniel DiRito | October 5, 2007 | 1:52 PM |
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OK, let's face it...we live in a divided country. While it seems intuitive to believe that the events of 9/11 would bring us together (and it did for a while), in the long run, it may have helped to further divide us. Let me be clear...all American's abhor what happened on 9/11...but differences have emerged with regards to how to best address the threat of terrorism.
The invasion of Iraq seems to have been the primary catalyst in advancing the divide. While one could rehash all of the reasons, it actually serves little purpose at this point. Additionally, debating the war in Iraq doesn't alter the underlying issues. Terrorism does exist...it comes from hidden corners...and the hatred which facilitates it is real.
At the heart of any reaction to terrorism is an element of fear given the absolute uncertainty with regard to personal safety. Mothers want to protect their children...husbands want to protect their wives...and no one wants to witness another 9/11. How that is best achieved naturally creates conflict...and it also creates a degree of irrational expectations.
Fighting the school bully is a straightforward proposition; fighting a terrorist movement is anything but straightforward. Yes, both can be identified as the enemy...but one has a face and the other doesn't. That frustrating reality leads many of us to look for ways to simplify the problem.
For some, it's a call to secure our borders against all who may attempt to enter illegally...for others it's a condemnation of Islam as a violent religion which has as it's goal world domination...for some it should be a heightened level of intelligence gathering, law enforcement, and persistent vigilance, but by no means a suspension of civil liberties...and for some it is a call for the indiscriminate elimination of those nations which foment terrorists.
All of these views are flawed because they seek a solution to a problem which may never be eliminated. So where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us in disagreement as well as permanently burdened with our fears. It shouldn't leave us at each others throats...but it often does. May I suggest that while we may not agree, no one view is all right or all wrong. At the same time, our differences of opinion are natural and should be expected since we are not a nation of clones.
Unfortunately, we tend to vilify those who possess different views and beliefs...all the while ignoring the fact that wherever humans gather, differences will emerge. Hence, we endeavor to identify types of people...seeking to create a finite list...one that will inform us of all the possible kinds of people we may encounter. Sadly, life isn't that simple.
With that in mind, I decided to post the following videos. Each of them is relative to this topic and they demonstrate our efforts to understand each other in simplistic terms and types which I contend is a futile process but one that seems to bring us some level of comfort...even if that comfort results from blatant denial.
The first video was taken at a College Republican convention (by a Democrat) and it seeks to convey that these young Republicans are in favor of war but unwilling to serve in the military (the chickenhawk hypothesis). No doubt the videographer sought to prove his point and likely edited the footage accordingly in what I would remind the viewer is an attempt to bring certainty to an uncertain world.
The second video is from Real Time with Bill Maher and it is also an attempt to identify and portray those individuals who can be labeled as "chickenhawks"...those individuals in favor of an aggressive approach to terrorism but unwilling to serve in the military. Maher, like the prior videographer, seeks to prove a point and provide a level of certainty...albeit through humor in his case...but with essentially the same goal.
The last video is perhaps the most informative with regards to our futile attempts to bring order to a world which lacks order. This video posits that there are ten types of Republicans and then sets out to define each one. Again, it looks for certainty in hopes of understanding all of the people we might encounter...a task which cannot be achieved.
What each of these videos provide is a tangible representation of the fears we embrace as human beings who are afraid of death. Whether one is a Democrat or a chickenhawk or one of these 10 types of Republicans, the answers we seek will not be found and the certainty we prefer will not emerge.
Notwithstanding, these videos do provide some certainty...the certainty that we are all human, we are all flawed, and we are all different. Perhaps its time we focus upon what we can know and forego our efforts to discern and define what is beyond our capacity. What we share ought to be more important than what we don't. There is little to be gained in the attachment of labels. If we continue down the current path, it seems likely that all that will remain is the killing.
Tagged as: 9/11, Bill Maher, Chickenhawks, Death, Democrats, Republicans, Terrorism, War
Daniel DiRito | October 3, 2007 | 3:52 PM |
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As expected, George Bush has vetoed the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) which was recently passed by wide bipartisan margins in the House and the Senate. The veto occurred without the fanfare which has typified most of "The Decider's" actions. There will be no "Mission Accomplished" banners on this one...no gathering of the snowflake babies as was witnessed in vetoing legislation to expand government funded stem cell research. You see, when the culture of life fits the President's ideology, babies matter; when it doesn't, we get statements like the following:
"I believe in private medicine, not the federal government running the health care system."
Mr. President, let's make one thing perfectly clear, "private medicine means no medicine if one is too poor to purchase health insurance." George Bush can couch his argument anyway he chooses, but it will not change the fact that his actions will deny health care coverage to those in greatest need. Further, when the President argues that health care coverage should be expanded by offering tax deductions to those who purchase private insurance, he is really promoting the status quo. Apparently the President can't see past his own silver spoon.
Under the legislation, the program would double -- from 4 million to 8 million -- the number of children covered.
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah was among those Republicans who split from the president. "It's very difficult for me to be against a man I care so much for," he told his colleagues on the Senate floor before the vote. "It's unfortunate that the president has chosen to be on what, to me, is clearly the wrong side of this issue."
A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted September 27-30 found 72 percent of those surveyed support an increase in spending on the program, with 25 percent opposed. The poll's margin of error was 3 percentage points.
Bush and many Republicans contend the program's original intent would be changed under the bill.
The program gives coverage to parents who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy private insurance for their children. Critics have said their concern is that parents might be prompted to drop private coverage for their children to get cheaper coverage under the bill.
Just what would be wrong with covering an additional 4 million children and providing insurance to some parents who can't afford to buy private insurance? Further, if the President wants these parents to buy private insurance, where are they going to get the money to do so? If they had the money for private insurance, don't you think they would buy it for their children? If they can't protect their own children, how in the hell are they going to obtain coverage for themselves? Private insurance is already available...get a clue Mr. President...poor people can't afford it!
George Bush may think this veto will restore his credentials as a fiscal conservative...but the truth of the matter is that it simply highlights the fact that this President is neither conservative nor compassionate. He is a man driven by political considerations and calculations...and little else. George Bush is a petulant and pompous man who suffers from delusions of divinity. If there is a heaven, he had better hope the Bush family has already purchased a majority ownership. Then again, what would make me think that he doesn't already have the deed in his privileged little paws?
Let's be honest, this President may tell us he supports "no child left behind"...but he lives by a different motto...the one that says, "no Bush left behind".
Tagged as: Congress, George W. Bush, Health Care, Medicine, Poverty, SCHIP, Veto
Daniel DiRito | October 3, 2007 | 12:10 PM |
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I have a new theory...one that crystallized after reading Glen Greenwald's latest offering at Salon.com. My hypothesis is that the election of Rudy Giuliani as the next president would simply be a continuance of a phenomenon which I have chosen to call "The Impotence Equation". Before detailing the substance of my argument, a review of the Greenwald article is warranted.
Greenwald's piece discusses the attacks he has endured in the aftermath of his thoughts about the growing anti-Muslim sentiment which seems to have emerged in the aftermath of 9/11. Greenwald refers his readers to the constant chatter by right wing bloggers about the evils of Islam and the threat they perceive is posed by this seemingly diabolical belief system.
As Greenwald aptly points out, any effort to refute the polemic beliefs of those consumed by their hatred of all things Islam is met with unbridled and unabashed attacks. These assaults are launched with a certainty...a belief that they embody every aspect of right versus wrong, good versus evil. Shades of gray do not exist and those who suggests otherwise are often assailed as unpatriotic, treasonous cowards who lack the good sense to identify the clear and present danger.
In fact, many of the individuals who are preoccupied with their dislike of Islam exhibit an indignation reminiscent of an older sibling...one who believes he or she is being forced to protect their younger, more naive family members from threats which they may not yet recognize...leaving them vulnerable to victimization and in need of oversight.
Greenwald then pivots; attempting to provide the reader with an understanding of this mind set...a set of beliefs that seem to be the connecting point for these individuals who exhibit a hypersensitivity to the evils of Islam. Greenwald posits that these traits represent the hallmark of neoconservatism. He points to a recent article by Jamie Kirchick of The New Republic, the blogging of Michelle Malkin and Charles Johnson, and the past writings of Norman Podhoretz (perhaps the founding father of neoconservatism and currently an advisor to Rudy Giuliani) to support his contention. The following excerpts form the basis of his argument.
Bombing and killing Muslims is the only path for avoiding the humiliating scenarios which our nation's war cheerleaders carry around obsessively in their heads, and which are currently filling my inbox. They're not going to be the ones on their knees, begging. They're not going to be the "faggots." Instead, they are going to send others off to fight and bomb and occupy and kill and thereby show who is strong and tough and feel protected.
In his excellent and well-documented book "The Wimp Factor," Psychology Professor Stephen Ducat reviews clinical studies which demonstrate that many men "are more likely to experience a vicarious boost in their own sense of power and potency when American military forces attack, and especially when they defeat, an enemy." Neoconservative war tracts almost invariably are suffuse with explicit warnings about submission and humiliation.
There will never be enough bombings and sending others off to start new wars that will erase those feelings. But Podhoretz and his bloodthirsty followers -- including his combat-avoiding protegee Rudy Giuliani -- will never stop trying.
Now onto my own thoughts. First, an important caveat. While I have a background in psychology, I am not offering my opinion as a psychological thesis; rather my comments are the observations of an individual who has long been fascinated with human behavior and has sought to identify the traits that come to define certain personality types and the motivations that underlie them. Such efforts possess the natural flaws of generalization...yet they often serve to instruct and inform.
As I've watched Rudy Giuliani, I'm convinced that a number of defining traits have emerged...traits that place him in the neoconservative arena and which begin to paint a picture of a man who fits the profile put forth by Greenwald.
Life is an interesting process...and in that process we're all running away from some things and we're also running towards others. Understanding those motivations is essential to understanding ourselves as well as those we encounter. This basic concept can be easily applied to Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani's background isn't dissimilar from that of many Italian's who found themselves living in the United States in the middle of the prior century. Life was a struggle for his family and his father's checkered past likely served as the backdrop for Giuliani's drive and determination...leading to a desire to separate himself from his father's indiscretions as well as to make amends for them.
In that construct, Giuliani's primary understanding of fear was undoubtedly defined...and it likely had at it's origin a need to avoid humiliating scenarios which had the potential to damage one's ego. Giuliani's assertive and abrasive style may well be traceable to his fundamental years...that period of time which likely included his awareness of how his father and other family members may have been perceived in the community.
His flirting with the priesthood and his subsequent immersion into law school and a career as a prosecutor support the argument that his actions were evidence of what he ran from and what he ran towards...in order to expunge the fears that accompanied his early years.
On the one hand, the humility and contrition of the priesthood seemed appealing and a means to atone...and on the other hand, a career as a prosecutor and a man of law and order offered the means to rise above...to not only distance oneself from the unacceptable past but to confront and defeat it. I contend that the former would have left Giuliani burdened with guilt and the need for forgiveness, while the latter would allow him to place blame and punish...a far more fulfilling elixir for fundamental fears.
Unfortunately, our primordial fears are the most persistent and they may well cast a shadow over the remainder of our lives. As we follow Rudy's life, the evidence of their ongoing influence seems to emerge. Giuliani, like many Italians of his era, chose to embrace the safety of familiarity...going so far as to marry his second cousin...a woman who no doubt shared in the family history which created his fears and therefore spared him the risk of exposure which may have accompanied more distant associations and involvements.
Predictably, as Giuliani's career advanced, his need for safety and the security provided by ethnic and familial kinship began to wane. With the acceptance of a position in the Attorney Generals office in Washington DC, Giuliani began to sever these ties...leading to the end of his first marriage as well as the beginning of his second relationship...with a woman far removed from his roots, Donna Hanover.
Notwithstanding, Giuliani sought an annulment of his first marriage; arguing that the couple had erred in assuming they were third cousins. Since they were in fact second cousins...a status allowed but frowned upon at the time...the church granted the request. In so doing, Rudy was able to wash away the nagging fears presented by a failed marriage...fears that lessened the distance between that which he had been and that which he sought to be.
Still plagued by the need to manipulate perceptions, Giuliani subsequently married his second wife...in the Catholic Church...a move that preserved his identity as a man of faith in the good graces of his chosen religion.
As Giuliani's career progressed, so too did his willingness to venture beyond the prison of his fears. In fact, during his tenure as mayor of New York, Giuliani became so bold as to conduct extramarital affairs...making little effort to conceal their existence. As it played out, Giuliani and his second wife held separate press conferences to announce the end of their marriage. Giuliani's revelation came after it was already widely known that he no longer lived with his wife in the Gracie Mansion and that he was involved with Judith Nathan, the woman who would eventually become his third wife.
In perhaps the ultimate of ironies, during the divorce proceedings with his second wife, Giuliani's attorneys made note of his impotence...a condition precipitated by his battle with prostate cancer. Strangely, the filing sought to detail the fact that Giuliani and Nathan hadn't engaged in sex for over a year...a move viewed by many as an effort to define a significant relationship between Nathan and Giuliani...one that was more than a conventional affair.
I argue that the move is further evidence of the fears that continued to nag Giuliani as well as his need to create a favorable public persona...one that could no longer be tied to that which he sought to deny.
While it is a widely held belief that Giuliani withdrew from the New York Senate race as a result of his prostate cancer, I remain unconvinced. Clearly I cannot prove otherwise, but if my theory is correct, the fears surrounding his messy divorce and what may have been revealed by his angry second wife and those familiar with the details played a larger role. I contend he withdrew in response to the fears that plague him...fears that would not allow him to accept the negative attributions that would most probably result.
As obtuse and offensive as this may sound, 9/11 was a stroke of good fortune for Giuliani. The mayor who had reconciled himself to serve out the remainder of his term and retreat to a life with his new wife was suddenly thrust into the limelight and he performed admirably in handling the situation and the attention.
Suddenly, his then current regressive period...one that could be compared with the time he spent weighing the merits of the priesthood versus a career in law...provided a moment of renewal and the opportunity to replicate the feelings that accompanied his days as a prosecutor...days that allowed him to focus on those guilty of egregious acts while relegating his own fears and doubts to a position of obscurity.
Further, the magnitude of 9/11 was far more significant for the nation and for the Mayor. Frankly, one would be hard pressed to identify an event that could create more distance between Giuliani and whatever valid or perceived fears he still held. In that regard, perhaps nothing better offsets fears which manifest in the ego than an opportunity to play the role of a hero...and Giuliani must be given credit for his fine performance.
The events of 9/11 may have changed the dynamic surrounding the Mayor and his professional circumstances, but there is no reason to believe that it significantly altered the core identity of Rudy Giuliani. Yes, the man that was able to augment his own persistent doubts years ago by choosing to attend law school and become a prosecutor is the same man who took the reigns following 9/11. Notwithstanding, the man who followed his career as a prosecutor with episodes of ego induced impotence is the same man who emerged from the events of 9/11. To assume otherwise is to ignore the wisdom of history.
Even worse, the psychological parallels which can be drawn between the life of George Bush and Rudy Giuliani are frightening. I contend that both men are prone to compensation...a process whereby their own innate fears and impotence are masked by making choices they believe...consciously or sub-consciously...may augment each man's chronically challenged self-concept.
Rudy may be better spoken and better educated than George Bush...but with men so similarly susceptible...such attributes may only amplify the opportunities for him to draw America into activities which serve his neediness...all the while eroding what remains of the respect we have commanded by electing leaders who possess the capacity to not only see past their individual needs...but embody the empathy essential to enable and enact actions that serve the greater good of the entire world community.
Further, I fear that Rudy Giuliani exhibits even more of the bravado which has become the Bush administration's foreign policy concept of "Cowboy Diplomacy"...a propensity to paint the problems which plaque us with a broad and arbitrary brush...one that is couched in certainty despite a deficit of details...one that removes repressed feelings of emasculation and which engenders feelings of empowerment.
Sadly, 9/11 has unlocked an analogous mechanism for many Americans with which to address their feelings of inadequacy...feelings that feed upon those opportunities that allow us to focus our frustrations upon the failings of others while fully ignoring or acknowledging our own flaws. America's answers and our own individual aspirations will not be achieved through the arbitrary assassination of all things alien. America must not only defend and protect itself from outside threats; it must commit itself to addressing our own internal, individual, and often implacable ailments.
America can ill-afford another president plagued by a history of reacting to deep seated and persistent fears...fears which have a fragile and frequently impotent ego at their core. Just as George Bush embraced 9/11 as an opportunity to mask his own recurring feelings of inadequacy...feelings that are best suppressed when one is able to point to and punish others believed to be far worse...so too will Rudy Giuliani. Balance is not the mainstay of these men. They are prone to compensations which address their own feelings of impotence while ignoring other more obvious and objective realities.
Any presidential candidate who cannot see the error in taking phone calls from his wife while in the middle of a speech is not a man who should have his finger on any trigger. The pathology which leads a man to view his taking of a phone call from his wife in such circumstances as evidence of his virility and proof of his potency is a man caught in the throws of an insufficient ego and the talons of a woman who has mastered the art of playing him like a fiddling fool. Americans must not place our fate in the hands of another human who is hamstrung by his insatiable search for hero status.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Cowboy Diplomacy, Fear, George W. Bush, Glen Greenwald, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Jamie Kirchick, Michelle Malkin, Norm Podhoretz, Psychology, Rudy Giuliani
Daniel DiRito | October 2, 2007 | 10:35 AM |
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