Thursday, September 10, 2009

Scorning Both Sides

Camille Paglia is one of the most interesting commentators on the contemporary socio-politico landscape. She's a lesbian leftist (maybe more libertarian-left) who writes very clear-sighted criticism of politicians both liberal and conservative. She's an Obama supporter, but she's very tough on both him and the Democrats in general in this piece at Salon. I highly recommend her essay. She's equally hard, as is her wont, on the GOP and certainly doesn't soften her fire when she directs it toward the Bushies and other GOP targets. Here she is on Republicans:

Having said all that about the failures of my own party, I am not about to let Republicans off the hook. What a backbiting mess the GOP is! It lacks even one credible voice of traditional moral values on the national stage and is addicted to sonorous pieties of pharisaical emptiness. Republican politicians sermonize about the sanctity of marriage while racking up divorces and sexual escapades by the truckload.

This is only a slight exaggeration. Her point is well-taken that a party that professes to defend traditional values has little credibility when so many of its major office holders have been caught in flagrante, as it were. It's true that GOP malefactors are not in the same league as the Democrats, but the Democrats don't claim to be concerned about "family values," so no one is particularly surprised when a Democrat is caught siring children with his paramour (John Edwards) or engaging in rough sex with prostitutes (Eliot Spitzer).

They assail government overreach and yet support interference in women's control of their own bodies.

This raises a very interesting question for conservative Republicans, one that really needs to be addressed more than it is. What exactly is the role of government in regulating personal morality? Most conservatives say they want government out of our lives, but then they want the government to enforce obscenity laws and to limit or ban abortions. I think there is a defensible principle involved here (the government has the obligation to protect our rights, especially the right to life, and therefore the government is acting within its proper sphere if it regulates abortion), but the principle needs to be articulated and argued for more than most Republicans seem inclined to do.

Advanced whack-a-mole is clearly needed for that yammering smarty-pants Newt Gingrich, who is always so very, very pleased with himself but has yet to produce a single enduring thought. The still inexplicably revered George W. Bush ballooned our national deficits like a drunken sailor and clumsily exacerbated the illegal immigration debate. And bizarrely, the hallucinatory Dick Cheney, a fake-testosterone addict who spooked Bush into a pointless war, continues to be lauded as presidential material.

Here again, Paglia is voicing some difficult truths (I'll let her characterization of Newt pass). George Bush ruined his presidential legacy, in my opinion, by increasing the deficit (although compared to what Obama has done, Bush's irresponsible contribution to the deficit was like the weight of a fly on the back of an elephant) and by his desultory approach to stemming the tide of illegal immigrants flowing into this country. Nevertheless, Bush kept this country safe for eight years from a determined terrorist enemy and liberated (for how long remains to be seen) fifty million people from oppression. No President in American history can say the same.

It is regarding Dick Cheney, however, that I think Paglia detours off the highway of truth she's been cruising. I think Cheney will go down in history as one of the most unjustifiably maligned men ever to serve in high office. Paglia's accusation that he spooked Bush into a pointless war is neither supportable by the facts nor fair to either Cheney or Bush. Nor is it by any means clear that the war was pointless. I think Cheney, whether he was right or wrong, has shown exceptional courage, calm, and clarity. Few men in elective office have demonstrated the ability to think as clearly about the nature of the conflict with radical Islam in which we are immersed, and will be immersed, for the next several decades, as Cheney has, and, yes, I wish he had been the Republican nominee in 2008 instead of John McCain. At the risk of suffering Paglia's derision I would have voted for him.

Anyway, now that you've read what Ms. Paglia has to say about the GOP, read what she has to say about her own party at the link.

Thanks to Byron for passing it along.


Hillary in 2012?

The Weekly Standard reports that Hillary Clinton is planning to step down as Secretary of State in order to run for the office of Governor of New York. This makes sense on several levels. First she seems to have been marginalized, perhaps deliberately, by the White House which has appointed "czars" to manage most of the world's trouble spots. While Hillary was sweating in Africa entertaining school children her husband was sent to North Korea to get much of the credit for the release of two young journalists that the North Koreans had accused of spying. Whatever her portfolio she seems to be much less prominent in foreign policy than any of her most recent predecessors.

Then there's 2012. Ms Clinton may well smell blood in the political water. If the President is limping toward 2012 Ms Clinton may want to challenge him in the primaries just as a weakened Jimmy Carter was challenged in 1979. It would be very awkward to do this as a cabinet secretary, but a governorship would be the ideal vehicle from which to launch a bid for the presidency, an office she doubtless still covets. If Obama is strong going into the primary season the governor's office will still serve her even better as a launch pad in 2016.

If the Weekly Standard report is borne out her resignation will surely be stage-setting for a 2012 run at the White House, and a challenge from within the party to a sitting president. That should produce a lot of fireworks.