Tuesday, November 09, 2004


While liberals fear that fundamentalist Christians wield inordinate influence over the Bush administration and the future direction of the United States, Christopher Hitchens argues that Bush is fighting a war to make the world safe for secularism:

George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he—and the U.S. armed forces—have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled. The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries. The "antiwar" faction even recognizes this achievement, if only indirectly, by complaining about the way in which it has infuriated the Islamic religious extremists around the world. But does it accept the apparent corollary—that we should have been pursuing a policy to which the fanatics had no objection?

Secularism is not just a smug attitude. It is a possible way of democratic and pluralistic life that only became thinkable after several wars and revolutions had ruthlessly smashed the hold of the clergy on the state. We are now in the middle of another such war and revolution, and the liberals have gone AWOL. I dare say that there will be a few domestic confrontations down the road, over everything from the Pledge of Allegiance to the display of Mosaic tablets in courtrooms and schools. I have spent all my life on the atheist side of this argument, and will brace for more of the same, but I somehow can't hear Robert Ingersoll* or Clarence Darrow being soft and cowardly and evasive if it came to a vicious theocratic challenge that daily threatens us from within and without.

Hitchens, with whom I often disagree when it comes to the war in Iraq, has nonetheless offered the war's most vigorous intellectual and moral defense, and his arguments cannot be easily dismissed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

J, you should read Dissent. There were a number of compelling arguments for going to war against the Baathist regime there. As a longtime leftie, I have subscribed to this war for many of the reasons Hitchens mentions, and because I believe it's always good policy to usurp dictators, facists and theocratic thugs.

But that's just me.

10:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For what the electorate did on Nov. 2 was essentially (or maybe just merely) turn down John Kerry, a candidate who until very late in the Democratic primaries was almost no one's choice as the nominee, the party's last option because it could rally around no one else. What a pathetic vessel in which to have placed liberalism's hopes! A senator for two decades who had stood for nothing, really nothing."

-- Marty Peretz, stringing at WSJ


"Thanks, Iowa!"

-- Anonymous Guy, J Potts' website

4:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this gem, too:

"Teresa Heinz's version of Tourette's syndrome (has she ever had an unexpressed thought?)"

Thanks to Iowa, we got an "I was in Vietnam" candidate, iteratively and stupidly, and his "shove it" wife, iteratively and stupidly.

But, don't forget, he's a closer! Any day, Fester and Comments From Left Field will announce the victory of John Forbes Kerry!

But at least Fester assures us the Dems "had pretty good agricultural/rural outreach programs for both the Gore and Kerry campaigns."

If by "good" you mean "non-existent unless the United Mine Workers were doing it" and by "outreach" you meant "let Move On handle all the ad buys!" then you're on to something! Make that boy chairman of the DNC!

4:21 PM

Blogger girl said...

I wish the Dems had listened to Marty earlier. :/

6:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for Joementum to find some purchase in NH!

You now have a Democratic Party that believes (53 percent of the base) U.S. military policy should be constructed so that we immediately and unilaterally withdraw from Iraq. So, you have Michael Moore ideas driving the base's foreign policy.

Lieberman/Edwards: Why does that combination sound so much better than what we got? Or Gephardt/Edwards? Or any permutation of the three? At least the campaign would've stood for SOMETHING, even in defeat.

In ought four, all we got was, "I served in Vietnam. I served in Vietam. I served in Vietnam. Braaack. Polly want a vote! Polly want a vote!"

And the rest of the news cycle: "Shove it! Shove it! Shove it! Wellness Department! Shove it! Voters love independent women! I'm saucy! He's the handsome one! He's the smart one! Shove it!"

Boring but principled Gephardt at least could have kicked Shrum's ass over the exurbia numbers earlier. You know he would've been watching them like a hawk. A MO pol would've picked up on that sooner than Kerry's geeks from MA.

Oh, yeah, and Dick was in the Air National Guard during Vietnam, too. And he's a Baptist! Take that George W. "United Methodist" Bush!

Don't get me wrong. Gephardt still wouldn't have carried MO for the Dems, but he probably could have helped in Iowa. Ironic, isn't it?

7:32 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Let's avoid denigrating other bloggers' Web sites, unless they decide to join the fray.

8:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marty Peretz hasn't "joined the fray," but he wrote this nifty epigraph today on the campaign of John Flubs Kerry (subscription only, so I'm printing it out for you):

Bad Messenger
by Martin Peretz

In its January 19 edition, The New Republic endorsed Joe Lieberman for the Democratic presidential nomination. The decision elicited some ridicule, as it was already clear that Lieberman had no chance of winning. But Lieberman had stood with us on critical issues--the Gulf war, Bosnia, Hollywood's toxic influence on our children, breaking the grip of the teachers' unions on educational policy--and so we stood with him. Nonetheless, Howard Dean, Richard Gephardt, Wesley Clark, and John Edwards had at least one supporter among the magazine's editorial board and each was lauded, more or less, in a signed article by a different editor in the same issue.

Dean was then the front-runner. But, as many people recognized at the time, he was an ideological and temperamental disaster of McGovernite proportions. He would have won Washington, D.C., and maybe Vermont, but lost virtually everywhere else, perhaps including Massachusetts.

Gephardt was a sensible legislator and surprisingly strong on foreign policy. Still, he didn't evoke the kind of enthusiasm that, alas, is required in a modern campaign. Clark was the fashion for a moment (at least in Manhattan and Hollywood) but quickly showed his lack of familiarity with national issues. Edwards failed to meet electoral expectations. Still, his winning personality won him the vice-presidential nomination and made him a lively contrast to the party's stiff and dour presidential designee.

Dennis Kucinich made Dean look moderate. Carol Moseley Braun -- who proved calm and even sensible in the debates -- partially redeemed a Senate career stained by scandal and a Jesse Jackson-esque affinity for African tyrants. Al Sharpton was the scandal of the campaign. A racist charlatan, he had broadcast Tawana Brawley's libels against conscientious law-enforcement officers and fomented bitter racial conflicts -- pitting blacks against Jews in Harlem and Crown Heights, Koreans in Brooklyn, and whites throughout New York. Had he been Caucasian, he would have been treated like David Duke. But John Kerry gave him a prized speaking spot at the party's Boston convention nonetheless and, later on, a grandiloquent title and some flying-around money to serve as the candidate's surrogate. (Not that it did Kerry any good--Sharpton hadn't even won the black vote in the primaries. The African American electorate, thank goodness, no longer has any use for such charlatans.) No editor favored any of these marginal candidates, and none supported Kerry, either. (Some in the Kerry campaign incorrectly blamed me for this. But then, Kerry himself also seems to have thought me decisive in keeping Al Gore from choosing him as vice president in 2000, which was also untrue.)

Still, in the end, the nomination fell to Kerry, who, as I expected all along, duly lost the election to George W. Bush. Kerry (assisted by genius advisers like Bob Shrum and John Sasso) underperformed -- in comparison with both Gore and with his own expectations -- with virtually every demographic group he had targeted: youth, women, Latinos, African Americans, Catholics, Jews. The big money behind the Democratic campaign -- roughly $100 million ploughed into 527 committees by three of the wealthiest men in America -- was not enough. The convention had been an exercise in false enthusiasm, and the campaign was an exercise in failed enthusiasm.

I actually believe that, had Lieberman won the nomination, he would have won the election. I think Gore would have as well. Notwithstanding his Iraq position, with which I disagree, Gore is not a foreign policy patsy, as he showed during the Clinton administration. Like Lieberman, people know where he stands -- in the solid center.

Tuesday's Boston Globe brings two pieces of chilling news. Apparently, Howard Dean is contemplating a bid for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. It almost makes you want Terry McAuliffe to stay. The second item was a run-on interview with Kerry's brother, Cameron, who revealed that John just might run for president again and that, in any case, "he's going to ... be a voice for the 55 million people who voted for him." Another aide confided that Kerry "has been working the phones like crazy." But Kerry is not the voice of 55 million people, or even the 55.9 million people who voted for him. It was these people's slightly hysterical antagonism to Bush that brought them (reluctantly) to Kerry rather than anything intrinsic to Kerry himself. In any event, Bush won't be around in 2008, so disdain and hate will no longer produce Democratic votes.

I've known John Kerry for 34 years. We met in the peace movement, and I was present in 1970 when a huge convention of peaceniks rejected him as their candidate in a primary race against Philip Philbin, a Democratic hack and hawk who, through seniority, was then second in command of the House Armed Services Committee. The caucus instead nominated Father Robert Drinan, dean of Boston College Law School, who won the seat and held it for five terms, until Pope John Paul II made him resign.

Even then, no one seemed to like Kerry. (The only person I've known who really does is David Thorne, the brother of his first wife and his classmate at Yale.) Kerry's initial defeats (he also lost a race for Massachusetts' fifth congressional district in 1972) did not deflect him from his ambitions, but he deferred them to attend BC Law School and then work as a prosecutor. He got back into politics in 1982, with his election as Michael Dukakis's lieutenant governor, where his own unpleasantness was somewhat shielded by that of his boss.

He was first elected to the Senate in 1984, the same year as Al Gore. Something demonic in Kerry persuaded him to belittle Gore whenever we met. As their first term started, Kerry boasted to me that he had beaten out Gore for a coveted seat on the Foreign Relations Committee, while Gore had to content himself with Armed Services. But it was the latter committee that went on to do much of the heavy lifting of the next two decades, while J. William Fulbright's old Foreign Relations Committee went into a steep decline. Kerry also became a member of the Intelligence Committee, whose public meetings he attended sparingly and -- if one judges from his book The New War -- from which he learned little about the terrorist threat that he described so murkily in the last campaign. By contrast, Gore created a real record for himself: on the environment; the Internet; arms control; and nuclear strategy, where he introduced the revolutionary idea of the single-warhead missile.

Today, Democrats are overcome with despair. And I do not doubt that Bush's second term will have its abuses and its nastiness. But they should not delude themselves: John Kerry would not have been a good president; he might even have been a dangerously bad one. Next time, Democrats need to nominate not merely a candidate who they imagine can win but a candidate who deserves to.

5:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To which, I humbly add, "Thanks, Iowa!"

5:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daily Variety has this just in:

"Fifty-one percent of the American people lacked information (in this election) and we want to educate and enlighten them. They weren't told the truth. We're communicators and it's up to us to start doing it now."

-- Plump "progressive" filmmaker Michael Moore, on why he's working on "Fahrenheit 9/11 1/2," a sequel to his successful "documentary."

Optical scan machines in Florida and Ohio! Stolen election! Stolen election!

If Moore keeps making a movie for every election cycle, at this rate there will be no more Democrats in the House or Senate within 12 years. Thanks, Mike.

7:19 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Here was my view of celebrities in politics back in the spring, as it appeared in Pulp:


Whoopi jumps ship

First, the White House gets pummeled for National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's refusal to testify publicly before the September 11 commission. Then a series of attacks against Americans in Iraq has the nation wondering if we are hopelessly bogged down in a quagmire there. And now comes a revelation that can only spell certain doom for George W. Bush's re-election bid: Whoopi Goldberg doesn't like the president.

It seems that this year's nearly politics-free Oscar was but a Hollywood subterfuge. According to the New York Times, anti-Bush sentiments have been showing up in several TV shows, including Whoopi. (No, I don't watch it either.) On a recent episode, the hotel manager portrayed by Goldberg grew testy when a fictional version of President Bush stopped at her hotel to use the bathroom. "I can't believe he's in there doing to my bathroom what he's done to the economy!" she said.

Not since Walter Cronkite famously proclaimed that the Vietnam War was unwinnable has a public persona so influenced the course of events. One can imagine Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, skulking into the Oval Office to deliver the bad news to his boss.

"What's with the long face, Rovinator?" Bush says.

"Sir, there's no way to sugarcoat this. We've lost Whoopi Goldberg."

"Oh, God."

Bush is stunned. He gets up from his desk and turns away from Rove, looking out the window. His lower lip quivers.

"If we've lost the star of Jumpin' Jack Flash and Eddie, we've lost America," Bush says, his voice cracking. "Does my father know yet?"

Rove collapses into a chair, sobbing.

Now, I'm going to go out on a limb here and give Whoopi the benefit of the doubt that she truly and deeply believes with all her heart that the president's policies are bad for the nation, and I'm not going to suggest that she's merely using the president as a comic punching bag simply because it's fashionable in celebrity circles to do such things.

Nor would I suggest that the other glitterati mentioned in the Times articles -- the creators of Law and Order, for example, or Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm -- are being opportunistic in using their highly acclaimed television shows as a platform for their political beliefs.

What I would submit, however, is that these celebrities -- and you'll forgive me if I'm stating the obvious here -- are arrogant. Arrogant and out of touch to believe for an instant that anyone, either in the nation's capital or in the nation's heartland, would care for a single instant what their views are on the economy, the war in Iraq, or anything that affects the lives of real people.

In some ways, I can't blame them. They were spoiled by President Clinton into thinking their voices mattered in the great national conversation that shapes public policy. Clinton was, after all, the consummate Hollywood president: attractive, roguish, selfish and supremely interested in style over substance. Clinton was the model for the chief executive portrayed by Michael Douglas in The American President, a film whose creator, Aaron Sorkin, has given us another liberal prototype commander-in-chief in Jeb Bartlet, portrayed on TV's The West Wing by Martin Sheen.

But I've got news for them: No one cares what they think anymore. And that includes those of us who happen to agree with them. When Whoopi Goldberg says, as she did in the Times, "Is this man leading this country as an American or is he leading the country as a Christian?" she fails to grasp is that to many Americans, those two things are one and the same, and that's part of the reason George W. Bush is president right now. Karl Rove has been on a mission to get to the polls the four million evangelical Christians he believes sat out the 2000 race. I've got news for Whoopi: If those people vote this time around, it won't be for John Kerry.

There is one good thing to say about the political proclivities of Hollywood celebrities: They are about the only group of millionaires that you can count on to consistently vote Democrat. Kerry recently raised $2.5 million at a Beverly Hills fundraiser. A partner in the company that produces Whoopi has given $500,000 to a Democratic-leaning interest group; Laurie David, the wife of Larry David, has given $100,000.

"Not a day goes by when I'm not getting a dozen calls from people saying to me, `What can I do?' And it's all with one goal: to change the course of what's going on in this country and get rid of this administration," Laurie David told the Times.

My advice to Hollywood, then, is this: Keep your wallets open. And your mouths shut.


1:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps because I'm one of the millionaire minorities spatchcocked into your story (but don't ask my rabbi to clue you in), I would suggest that part of the reason you see Hollywood millionaires going Dem isn't simply because it's in fashion.

Jews vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates (although Kerry certainly tested us, and there was a significant rise in Jewish Bushites), and millionaire Jews tend to follow a trend. For those of us who are of the Reformed denomination, voting for a worthless New England Democratic every four years is almost the only sacrament we have left. It's just something we do, like atoning every October for the world's sins.

Ditto for African-American zillionaires (although don't ask around for Democratic supporters in an MLB, NBA or NFL locker room, see Lynn Swann, Jerome Bettis, Charles Barkley, et al). It's not as if there's an economic reason for Whoopi Goldberg (with that last name, does she get counted twice in my minority poll?) to vote for Kerry.

Without disclosing too much of my own financial story, there's also a certain amount of "who cares" to a vote by the very, very rich. It's called "fuck you" money. You can do it because you, and likely your progeny, are set for life. What's a few ticks on the marginal tax rate for you? Teresa Heinz Scary paid $12 million in taxes last year. Would $14 million or $10 million have made any difference in her world? No.

Based on my own highly unscientific observations (OK, growing up), I would say that those without "fuck you" money are more likely to vote GOP because they're not quite rich enough not to. A vote for Bush does them some good.

But if you took a gander at the super rich, you would find a lot more Dem voting (and not just Kennedyesque noblesse oblige ballots) because you can afford to do so.

Just a hunch.

But I'm saving my vote for you, no matter your party, when you run for Congress. We need you to fix social security.

3:17 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Actually, just a few weeks ago, I read an article that illustrates your very point. Once you get above a certain income level, statistically, you are just as likely if not more likely to vote Democrat than Republican. At a certain income level, as you say, people just don't care about their tax rates anymore. Also, new money is more likely to vote Republican.

4:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you could, post it. It might make for interesting discussion.

What am I doing? This is like a piano bar and I'm asking you to play favorites. Do you know that George Will ditty? Post that.

4:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, let me return the favor. You haven't posted yet on the death of Yasser Arafat. If I may be so bold as to suggest a submission:


It's titled "Yasser Arafat killed my cousin." It was written by a staffer of the Louisville Courier-Journal in 1978, when the then family-run CJ was one of the best newspapers in the world.

With the moment of silence in the UN General Assembly today and the doting biographies in The Guardian and other papers worldwide, I thought it would be swell to pay homage to what the butcher also represented, which was the cruel knife of Jew-hating terror.

And the Miami Herald, which also once was a great newspaper, had the balls to run it. It seems the editors there had been saving it for 26 years, waiting for the day they would gladly run heds of Arafat's demise.

5:19 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I also liked this editorial cartoon:


6:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or the single most disturbingly phallic editorial cartoon of all time:


Bish as Mapplethorp.

6:18 PM


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