Monday, November 26, 2007

Like Hot Needles Being Poked In My Eyes

Sometimes the level of our public discourse seems to have touched bottom. I feel satisfied that at least there is no way it can sink any lower. Then, I come across a piece like this by Jon Keller at The Washington Post and I realize the depths of stupid have yet to be fully plumbed.
It's surprising that more hasn't been made of the link between voter dissatisfaction with their 2008 choices and the preponderance of boomers on both parties' ballots.

In the first place, this lede is buried in the third paragraph of the op-ed. In the second place, the "surprise" here may be that no one thought to ask as meaningless and abjectly dumb a question as this. Yet, in exploring the depths of our cultural animosity (which doesn't seem to have hampered the careers of either Clintons, or of our current President), Keller re-opens the wounds of another, almost equally stupid non-issue:
Consider Obama's response when a reporter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, asked him last month why he stopped wearing an American flag pin on his lapel. He'd had one right after Sept. 11, 2001, he said, but as the country lurched toward an invasion of Iraq, he began to see the pin as "a substitute" for "true patriotism." Instead of sullying his suit coat with what apparently now was a reprehensible symbol of reckless militarism, Obama said he was "going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism."

Unsurprisingly, the right wing pounced, framing Pingate as yet another example of knee-jerk left-wing contempt for the national symbol. Even ABC's George Stephanopoulos noted that "it probably appeals to some in the Democratic base who are very much antiwar, but it could limit his gains further on down the road."

Why would Obama damage himself this way just to make a debatable rhetorical point more suitable for a Georgetown cocktail party than a post-9/11 political campaign? After all, he has seemed more alert than most to simmering anti-boomer sentiment, cultivating an image as a generational change-agent skillfully enough to persuade pundit Andrew Sullivan to write in the Atlantic that "he could take America -- finally -- past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation."

The whole flag-pin controversy was the invention of the right-wing nonsense machine, and yet Keller brings it up as if it "proves" something. By bringing it up, he only proves that he is as much a tool of that machine as any member of the Washington press-corps.
Obama wants voters to believe that he's the antidote to the right-leaning Beltway groupthink that got us into Iraq. But he eagerly indulged in left-leaning posturing on a topic he had to know was a political land mine.

"Left leaning posturing"? A "topic" that "was a political land mine"? None of this makes any sense whatsoever. Nor does Keller's equally stupid attempt to criticize Mit Romney's statement that his children were serving their country by working for his candidacy.
[Romney] expects the electorate to see his close-knit family as an allegory for his presumably inspired leadership. But he had no decent answer to a question as obvious as why his sons weren't serving in the war he so loudly backs.

Keller's entire piece is awash in this kind of really stupid claptrap. He attempts to make lemonade out of the lemons of his column, by linking the "gaffes" of Romney and Obama to what he calls "boomer narcissism", along the way misidentifying narcissism with self-regard. His list of the partial legacy of boomer failings includes a paragraph replete with howlers of almost Biblical proportions:
Over the years, the elevation of self at the expense of consensus, compromise and community has given us a string of unwanted gifts: the squandered second term of Bill Clinton; the voter-repelling posturing and sighing of Al Gore; and the Jesus-made-me-do-it follies of the Bush years.

Bill Clinton left office more popular than at any time during his Presidency; had the Constitution allowed it, he would have walked past the finish line to a third term. The only "wasting" during his second term was the money and emotional energy and patience of the citizenry by a Republican machine hell-bent on destroying his Presidency. Its failure should have taught them humility, but Keller apparently is part of the tribe that believes that a blow job is worse than an illegal war and the shredding of the Constitution in the name of national security.

As for Al Gore's sighs . . . wow. Just . . . wow.

Keller ends his piece not with a bang, but with a simper:
After 16 years of a Me Generation White House, could it be that voters, desperate for leadership that's less personal and more presidential, are likely to turn to what they see as more reliable retro models, shipping the flashy boomer merchandise back to the store? After all, when a country traumatized by terrorism and war is confronted with superficial candidates who tout their pristine lapels and casualty-free households as selling points, the torch clearly has been passed. And it turns out it's a lava lamp.

It is writing like this that makes me wish I couldn't read.

Virtual Tin Cup

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