Saturday, June 15


“I THINK it’s good we’re having this discussion” ought to be the official motto of the Democratic party. It’s got everything required: it conveys a lack of backbone over the most serious issues, a willingness to meet hardcore insanity halfway before working on a compromise, and it won’t fit on a bumper sticker.

As usual, I ♡ Pierce:
No. The manifestation of "the security age" that is presently under discussion began [on 9/12], but "the security age" as we know it began during World War II, with the Manhattan Project, and it really got rolling after the war, when the Russians ended up with the bomb and there was hell to pay here. Garry Wills is right in his book Bomb Power. It was the combination of those weapons, and the military-industrial complex that produced them and against which Dwight Eisenhower was right to warn us, that embedded "the security age" in the institutions of free government, and it has operated like rot and termites within them ever since. Everything since has been just technology. The impulse toward "the security age" has been present at almost every level of law enforcement, let alone the military. A lot of The Patriot Act was made up of proposals that had been gathering dust on the shelves of the FBI for years and that then got swept into a bill nobody read before they voted to approve it, and most of those proposals were aimed at curbing drug trafficking, and what is the "war on drugs" but an elaborate performance piece of "the security age."

I will go to my grave believing that Lyndon Johnson really had no choice but to escalate US involvement in Vietnam, because in 1965 no President was going to tell America it couldn’t win a war. The fact that Johnson understood that it was, indeed, a war that couldn’t be won is what makes him my candidate for sharpest man to hold the office since FDR.

Which is why that doubly isn’t an excuse. The political “reality”—that is, the unreality of the Cold War mentality—should have been made the handmaiden of concrete reality. Instead Johnson oversaw an operation which of necessity included demonizing everyone who chose to tell the truth. And which led directly to Richard Nixon being put in charge of the thing, and if anyone’s ever untangled exactly what it was Nixon was up to in Indochina or, hell, anywhere, please let me in on the secret.

Johnson at least put principle over politics on Civil Rights; where would Barack Obama be today if he hadn’t? Not weaseling on the security state, or drone attacks.

Listen, I certainly didn’t expect the man to dismantle the Bush security apparatus, but then I'm enough of an optimist to believe that few people are as cynical as me. I’m not particularly surprised we still have Gitmo to kick around. This is the 21st century, and apparently damned near everyone of the President’s generation has faux balance for marrow. The little sidebar tale here of how the “worst” of post-9/11 “excesses” can be understood as the result of Understandable Panic is the lowest grade baloney. Americans love this crap. Americans love blowing shit up, and the further they are from harm’s way when it happens the more enamored they are. Where was the outrage here? Americans are fine with the G opening mail. They’re fine with pursuing possible criminality anywhere it leads, unconditionally, so long as it doesn’t include tax cheats. If someone had figured out a way to make airport searches actually shorten wait time, America would be demanding more anal probes, and helping undress grandma. Am I wrong? America didn’t sign over its Fourth amendment rights reluctantly after 9/11. America was half convinced Due Process was a commie plot to begin with.

No sir, I didn’t expect any particular courage or leadership from Barack Obama in the matter of the Bush-era excesses, let alone the fifty-five years that preceded it. He admired Ronald Reagan (“but not for his politics”). Admiring Ronald Reagan requires much the same thing that Orson Welles noted was required for a story to end happily: stopping it before it was over.

Okay, so by now it’s forty years too late, but what if a Democrat stood up and consistently called out the weenieness of our Chicken Little security state? Maybe then this wouldn’t be a country waiting for Rand Fucking Paul to figure something out.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Why heart Pierce?

Obama actually ran on "Hope and Change".

Biden criticized Bush for doing what Obama and Biden are doing now.

Mostly what I've seen from Pierce over the Obama is years is "grow the hell up (and lick 3rd Way Corporatists boots)".

Fuck him.

R. Porrofatto said...

Lyndon Johnson really had no choice but to escalate US involvement in Vietnam, because in 1965 no President was going to tell America it couldn’t win a war.

Thank you. I'd add Kennedy as someone who, pace Oliver Stone, also was never going to not escalate our involvement in Vietnam. People that fighting commies in Vietnam was popular in the early sixties, with opinion polls showing large majorities of Americans supporting that idea (thanks to decades of work by the Dulles brothers, HUAC, et multus) and other fun foreign diversions.

R. Porrofatto said...

Fuck. That should read "People forget that fighting commies in Vietnam was popular"

Unknown said...

Members of our generation, Doghouse, had (or should have had) our political cynicism cemented in place on the day Nixon kicked the livin' shit out of George McGovern. It's pretty much been downhill from there ever since, certain high spots excepted--though, as you note, even those high spots have led to sadly predictable lows.

Stanky 46 said...

I don't think LBJ or any choice LBJ made led to Nixon, Reilly. I think you're over-thinking it. What led to Nixon was pretty much what led to LBJ, ie that RFK got shot down, and he would have beat Nixon. This stuff was all pretty random.

I voted for 'Omphrey in 1968, knowing he was awful but not Nixon, not a Republican, so I may be biased. But, really, he almost won it. Omphrey came way close for a guy who was saddled with all he was saddled with-- he almost beat Nixon.

The way things turned out, kid, it was all just weird coincidence, the assassinations, the long hair and acid, what people saw on TV, the turning of a few electoral votes. It didn't happen the way it happened because of LBJ or history, it just happened by simple twists of fate, so it turned out sucking to be us.

Look at it another way-- what happened in 2000. Gore wins, but by strange twists of fate we end up with Bush II.

Jesus, we could have easily been spared that whole Reagan era if only a few molecules had turned another way. It was just a long period of bad luck-- I lived through the whole fucking thing, and let me tell you, we were that close to coming through OK, we could have made it through OK but for a few unexpected twists and turns.

It was just bad luck, dude,and there's no way to make sense of it or blame it on choices that actual people such as LBJ could have made. It should have been better and it could have been better, if only.

But at least we live in interesting times. Or shitty times, if you want to put it that way. It didn't have to happen. It was just the luck of the draw.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

hat if a Democrat stood up and consistently called out the weenieness of our Chicken Little security state?

One did. His name was Russ Feingold. Let's see if we can Goofle to see what happened to him, shall we?

Our congresscritters may be dimwitted, but they still understand when an example is made.

But, and just to remind, let's recall that Obama actually DID try to close Guantanamo. And how that went. Much as his leftist hater like to present it, he is not a singular, omnipotent leader and the Green Lanternism of the 'bully pulpit' doesn't give him magical Harry Potter powers to change things.

grouchomarxist said...

let's recall that Obama actually DID try to close Guantanamo

Well, yes and no. He proposed to move the prisoners into the territorial U.S., but he still planned to detain them indefinitely without trial.

Davis X. Machina said...

RFK loses to Nixon. He doesn't flip any Wallace states, and carries a couple of Humphrey states by larger margins, while Labor does to him four years early what they did to McGovern.

It's not enough. People didn't know the 1973 Nixon in 1968.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the snarky but typically perceptive article before I noticed the new wall decoration: Jeeesus Sanitized Christ! A nightmare image from my old Sunday school class. The surprises never stop here, Riley. Please continyuh.


Anonymous said...

please please please please gotta read this in its entirety. esp para 63.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Well, yes and no. He proposed to move the prisoners into the territorial U.S., but he still planned to detain them indefinitely without trial.

I don't see the "no" part of that. Closing Gitmo was the promise, not freeing all the prisoners and giving Mumia a Corvette.

Also, it may be noted that Congressional Republicans, when Obama started to make an effort to close Guantanamo again, pre-emptively passed blocking legislation.

Look, I know y'all want to blame Obama for everything including deer ticks and friction, but in this one he doesn't have some magical Green Lantern ring that makes it happen.