Tuesday, May 20

Cat Dancing

Bill Kristol, "McCain Exceptionalism." May 19

IF you're old enough, like I know I am, you can remember, roughly, the point at which Quaker Oats became a health food, as sold by Wilfred Brimley, professional oldster. What was interesting about this is that in the decades leading up to it Quaker Oats couldn't have cared less about your health; they'd have sold you Sugar-Frosted Asbestos Flakes, or Frooty Tar N' Nicotine Breakfast Squares if there'd been a profit in it, and you, and I, and everyone in the Quaker Oats boardroom, and possibly even Wilfred Brimley knew it. But then one day there's a JAMA article which probably did no more than announce the results of a small study suggesting that college students in NW Saskatchewan had fewer heart-valve defects if they reported eating oatmeal their whole lives, and the next day Quaker Oats is the multi-national holding behemoth that's good for you.

Before that oatmeal had been the fraternity hazing of breakfast foods. It was a hot cereal for cold weather, generally viewed as something for adults to inflict on children because they'd been inflicted in turn, designed to "stick to the ribs", if it didn't congeal somewhat earlier, and the only gustatory attraction came from adding edible things--or raisins--to it, as a reward for eating it.

(I like oatmeal, and raisins, m'self, but I remember as a child this being greeted, even by my mother, with a disbelief bordering on suspicion, as though I'd expressed a preference for turnips, or horsemeat.)

All right, so Quaker (now a fine family member of the health merchants at Pepsi-Frito Lay) Oats' conversion to health consciousness may not be particularly earth-shaking, or even particularly villainous; no doubt breakfast food providers around the globe are more self-interested than not. But it's the ease with which the Speeding Locomotive of American Public Opinion can be switched onto a siding while everyone pretends to be none the wiser that's so remarkable.

Or so I was thinking, anyway, while pondering Bill Kristol. When he turned up at the Times a few months back, Left Blogtopia, no so much drunk with power as sugar-buzzed off power's snack tray, erupted. But in the event the man has proven to be little more than David Brooks minus fifteen IQ points. And those are points Brooks cannot afford to give. Here's Mr. Neocon, Neocon Royalty, Second-Generation Neoconnage, given the keys to the Holiest of Wholly Librul Media, and he can't even be bothered to re-write the GOP talking points they hand him.

Who does he imagine he's writing to? Or, put another way, to whom does he imagine he's writing? Where's the fucking red meat with the melted butter chaser? Sure, sure, flaccid is a compliment to his prose style, but now it's shorn of its neo-Bircherite themes, the only thing that made Kristol even remotely worth paying attention to, like you'd keep an eye on the quiet loner across the street.  At the Times Kristol has somehow become David Brooks without the coy, which apparently resides somewhere in those additional fifteen points.

Yeah, I know, I know: every last sentence the man's uttered in his public career has been proven to be complete bullshit, thanks in no small part to his Doppelgänger in the White House. Why should that stop him? It was bullshit when he uttered it, and he knew that as well as anybody. Bullshit is the fucking growing medium Movement "Conservatism" has thrived on for thirty years. And it used to be a source of pride, in that sort of cocktail-party-cum-boardroom entre nous sense of theirs. Now Kristol tries to write like he's David F. Broder reheating last week's CW. It seems curious.
In fact, Republican hopes of denying Democrats complete control of the federal government for the next couple of years may rest on the promise of “McCain exceptionalism.”

Oh, Silly Billy! You'll (seemingly) always have the Court!

What sort of self-respecting hack recipient of affirmative action for well-born idiots says such a thing? When people began expressing their glee at the upcoming GOP meltdown, is this what they imagined? Bill Kristol, forced "reluctantly" to semi-endorse John McCain (despite the fact that McCain's done nothing but pander to party elites for months)? You'd think a calculating professional lunatic would at least be able to stage a competent-looking meltdown, wouldn't you?

We're reminded of the great Alstair Sim in Kind Hearts and Coronets; the real monarchists sent their idiot offspring into the clergy, where they could do damage only one day a week, or at table. Their American cousins roam loose. The election of Ronald Reagan served, to them, what an innocent wave to a crowd from a semi-starlet might do to the potential stalker in the middle of it who imagines it was aimed directly at him. We've played Fantasyland for three decades since. (This ought, by the way, to be a warning about New Voters riding to the rescue; it is very difficult to understand the hidden clockwork of such matters when the time frame exceeds your own.) It was led by a bunch of elitists waving the banner of Anti-elitism; by appeals to patriotism from people who sacrificed nothing but their country's treasury (for their own gain); by convincing the Little People they spoke for them, via phone from the private jet; and with the assistance of Men of the Gospel who knew all the prohibitions of Leviticus, and agreed with some, but drew a blank at Mammon. That it came apart around the Schiavo case, where the financial elites were shocked, shocked! to learn they shared a party with anti-freedom riders.  It smelled like duckshit then, and in rearview it looks like a last desperate attempt to salvage the brand from the disaster that is the George W. Bush they'd just elected. Brooks would start writing about how their were actually fifteen or more varieties of "conservative", and how the literate ones nearly came to blows every weekend over Burke and cosmopolitans. Funny how we'd never heard about 'em before. Funny how "conservatives" had just finished going ape over the knowledge.

Kristol doesn't mean any of this, of course--he's like the man who remember's his son's birthday at the last minute, and the promised baseball glove, and gets to the sporting goods place five minutes before closing to find they're out of everything but girls' softball gloves. And they're pink. There's plenty of time for recriminations later. For now he just ties a bow around Honest John. But if he really wants to whine about the future of the party, he might consider leaving it.


Anonymous said...

That next-to-last paragraph pretty well summed up the legacy of Reagan. Nice essay.


Anonymous said...

Kristol has some oddly concocted rep for being an earnest smoothie and not your typical Limbaugher, but watching him spewing at the Fox news roundtable, or in the occasional unguarded moments captured on video, he's really a mean-spirited sonuvabitch and a loathsome peesa work. What's depressing is that this reptile's fucking opinion appears regularly the NY Times, while some guy in Indiana with a blog so masterfully has his number.

By the way, I think you mean Alec Guinness or perhaps you've got some other movie in mind.

Anonymous said...

What's depressing is that this reptile's fucking opinion appears regularly the NY Times, while some guy in Indiana with a blog so masterfully has his number.

Sadly, yes.

But you know what -- it's starting to eat away at some of the ensconced pundits, this getting called out on bullshit by bloggers. And it's interesting to see who among the NYT's writers have balls enough to allow online reader responses to their columns.

And a passing observation: the NYT should just title every Kristol column Correction Appended because every time you view a Kristol column online, that's the header that appears.