With Mitt Romney all but divinely ordained Republican nominee for President after the New Hampshire results last night, I think it is important to wonder at the strangeness of this political season. The Republicans have been trying to convince voters who among them is crazy enough to hold that title - Republican Candidate for President. It isn't enough that some, like Jon Huntsman and the putative nominee, have surrendered every scruple and principle in the dogged pursuit of the nomination. It isn't enough that true oddballs like Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum are spoken about in the deep measured tones one used to hear in reference to McGeorge Bundy and that old war criminal Henry Kissinger (but he's a professor, you know). It isn't enough that Newt Gingrich put even pride on the line, and rather than wait for a public outcry for his presence in the race, has actually campaigned, only to remind people exactly why the whole party got rid of him thirteen years ago.
This whole spectacle has taken place in a bubble tough enough to prevent any reality to penetrate. There have been serious discussions about all sorts of things that have nothing to do with reality. In his speech last evening upon winning New Hampshire, former Gov. Romney proclaimed the President, who began life the peripatetic child of a wandering scholar, then settled for borderline poverty in the care of his grandparents only to rise through hard work and some luck and an acceptance letter from Harvard University to become the President of the United States, to hold "resentment of success".
And none among the normal folks drowned out the cheers with their laughter.
Meanwhile, the silence on the Democratic side due to Pres. Obama cruising to renomination, has been oh-so-briefly broken by a spectacle I have longed for: Glenn Greenwald and Katha Pollitt, two lions of the left, smacking the crap out of one another all because Greenwald made the not-uncontroversial point that the only candidate talking about real issues also happens to be the one candidate who hides his sociopathic tendencies the best - Ron Paul (the part about sociopathy is my addition).
For those not familiar with either, Greenwald is a former civil liberties attorney who rose to prominence in the left-blogosphere in 2006 with searing attacks on the Bush Administration. He jumped from writing a private blog to getting a steady paycheck from Salon with the publication of his first book, How Would A Patriot Act?, and success has made his pomposity and self-righteousness coalesce through some weird personal chemistry to become, in a word, an asshole of the highest water.
Pollitt, a poet and columnist for The Nation, has those qualities so many on the left treasure the most. Not only does she have the ability to speak for whole swaths of the population without blushing, she manages to do so while still publishing a memoir in which she confessed that she considered herself emotionally abused by a man who later dumped her, then spent months semi-stalking him - the whole call-and-hangup routine; driving by his new digs - which only shows that left-feminists can be as creepy as anyone, I guess.
The subject of the dispute, Ron Paul, first gained some lefty attention in 2008, because he was the only Republican candidate for President who talked in negative terms about the Iraq War. It took me about ten minutes of digging to realize that Paul is The Last Bircher, a dogged defender of the ideas of Robert Welch who, sitting in a hotel room late one night, dictated to friends (who dutifully wrote down each word in what has become known as The Blue Notebook, which I used to own but lost in a basement flood) a rambling dissertation on the insidiousness of the Communist Conspiracy, which included, among others, then-Pres. Dwight Eisenhower. While Paul does, indeed, speak on matters from American Imperialism to economic exploitation that need to be addressed, he does so from a deep well of sinister beliefs concerning the myriad conspiracies that control these dangers to the Republic. Worse than a broken clock that may well be right twice a day, Rep. Ron Paul is the street person you meet, take for a cup of coffee at the diner because he starts talking about the family he lost and wishes to get back, only to discover he lost them to aliens who put an implant in him. The coffee you just bought him may well dissolve the chip, or it may well hold more insidious drugs that will make of him even more the slave to the aliens.
In other words, Ron Paul is just bug-shit nuts.
Greenwald noted, with his usual panache and flair for detail, the many ways Paul is the only "mainstream candidate" (doesn't writing that indicate a sickness in our polity) addressing these issues. Ms Pollitt made the not unimportant point that Ron Paul is kinda nuts, and a white supremacist to boot. Had she stopped there, I do believe she would have been fine. She couched her argument, however, in the measured tones of shallow identity politics*, in the process managing to claim to speak for all sorts of people. Not only "lefty women" but "people of color" (God, I really detest that last phrase, reducing the matter of race to pigment), it seems, were forthrightly behind Ms. Pollitt's disdain for Paul and his long-time residency in crazytown.
With that, the fight is on. Since the goal in these things isn't so much "let's find out if Glenn Greenwald made some valid points, while Katha Pollitt reminded the world that Ron Paul is loony", but "I'm right! No, I'm right, and you're a closet-crypto-fascist! Well, you're a hypocritical blowhard who doesn't care about "lefty women" and "people of color" as much as I do!", it has entered the popcorn-popping stage.
In other words, these two are worse than children. My sincere hope, at this point, is they just beat the crap out of one another.
Meanwhile, is it at all possible to ask a question? Is anyone going to make Pres. Obama face up even to one failure? Not the imagined failures and betrayals one reads about in the fever swamps of the right, mind you. I'm just wondering if we can have a thoughtful discussion of Mr. Obama's failings, instead of crazy on the right, and a duel to out-pompous one another on the left.
*I say "shallow identity politics" because all politics are about identity. In Pollitt's case, however, it is identity-as-physiognomy, genetics is destiny politics that are not only shallow, but deeply, deeply troubling.