Re: Travesties Of The Political/Media Complex
by Lawrence R. Velvel
I gather it is common to become less tolerant of nonsense, stupidity and their like as one gets older. Never having had a high threshold for these things to begin with, I find myself getting even shorter with political bullroar (a 1950s Chicago word), and with political stupidity, in my late 60s. So here comes some unvarnished, sometimes (even mainly?) politically incorrect sentiments.
Let’s start with the imbecile, Geraldine Ferraro. Here is a woman whose husband and son were indicted and sometimes were convicted of crimes ranging from extortion to falsification to possession of a drug, and who herself had connections to her husband’s business and had to pay back taxes owing. Yet somehow she was a vice presidential candidate -- maybe she rose above it all? -- and said, of one of her husband’s indictments and his guilty plea, that they “brought to an end the difficult period my husband has endured stemming from my historic candidacy.” Right, it was all because of her “historic candidacy.”
Now, two decades later, this loser, who had some kind of merely honorary position with Hillary -- in an effort to mount some sort of comeback? -- opens her mouth about Obama. She said:
If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.
And she also is quoted thusly:
“Every time that campaign is upset about something, they call it racist,” she said. “I will not be discriminated against because I’m white. If they think they’re going to shut up Geraldine Ferraro with that kind of stuff, they don’t know me.”
Now there are two possible major reasons for Ferraro’s first statement. One is that Obama is not qualified because he has been in the Senate only a shade over three years. If this was her reason -- and, forgive me, but I don’t think this really was her reason -- she is a hypocrite. For she forgets that she was only in the House of Representatives a bit over four years when she was picked to be Vice President, an official who can become President in the blink of an eye, in the flash of a weapon.
Of course, it is far more likely, and apparently most of us believe, that her reason concerned race, in which case it has two possible sources. One is that Obama gets votes because he is black. Well, big effing deal. Hillary gets votes because she is white. Hillary gets votes because she is a woman. Ferraro was nominated for Vice President strictly because she was a woman. For scores of years, Irish men and women, Italian men and women, Jewish men and women, Catholic men and women, WASP men and women and so on have gotten votes because they were Irish, Italian, Jewish, Catholic, WASP or so on men and women. But it’s not okay for Obama to get votes -- from blacks or whites -- because he is black. That is sheer racism.
But, as said, there is yet another possible racial source for her comment. It is that Obama is not smart enough to be running for President, is not competent enough. This would be recognized, and he would lose, if he were either a white man or, because of prejudice against their sex, if he were a woman of any color. But since he is a black man, nobody will say, recognize or care that he is not smart enough to be President.
Now, this possible source for her comment is truly offensive because Obama is likely far smarter than either Hillary or McCain, and probably is a lot smarter than anyone else who has been in the race on either side (with only one or two merely possible exceptions of guys who conceivably could be as bright as him). I have written of this before, have pointed out that, while nobody talks about it, Obama succeeded mightily in competition with the brightest of the bright at Harvard Law School, where he was the President of the Law Review, while Hillary -- and Bill -- were no great shakes when facing such competition at Yale.
You know, I’ve spent a lot of years railing against the kind of elitism just reflected in these statements about succeeding at Harvard or Yale. But the older I get, the more I think that, in politics, we should be looking for the kind of academic records that Obama had -- just as the English used to make a point of mentioning it when a politician had scored “firsts” at Oxbridge. For politics has now long been the home of the second rater, the second or third rate mind who gets us in trouble because he is dumb. The first rate minds generally want nothing to do with politics; it is too corrupt and sycophantic for them. They want to succeed, and/or make money, in law, in business, in medicine, in scientific or technological research, and so forth. They want nothing to do with a rotten business like politics. So when we do find a politician whose academic career shows a first rate mind -- which Bush Jr.’s did not, Kerry’s did not, the two Clintons did not, McCain’s does not, etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum -- we should embrace the person. And Obama looks to be one to embrace.
Now, two things must further be said in this connection. I am certainly not saying that everyone who performed well or even brilliantly in academia has the tools to be a president, has the judgment, personality, speaking ability, and stamina that are needed. Such a statement would be absurd. What I am saying, rather, is that if a politician has a brilliant academic career and these other needed attributes, we should likely embrace him or her, and we should be wary of a politician who wants to be president, and may have needed characteristics of stamina, speaking ability, desire, etc., but has not shown real brains such as are needed to do really well in academia.
Nor am I saying that brains are the possession only of those who do really well in academia. This too would be false. Lots of people did not do so well in academia for one reason or another, or did not even have an opportunity to get a higher education (e.g., because they were poor), but are really smart. Indeed, I often get emails from people (in response to postings) who plainly don’t have higher educations but obviously are quite smart nonetheless.
So what we are left with regard to Ferraro is that she opened her big mouth, said things showing hypocrisy or racism, and ended by appearing to argue, stupidly, that she is being discriminated against because she’s white, and saying that “If they think they’re going to shut up Geraldine Ferraro with that kind of stuff, they don’t know me.” Geraldine, we know you. Shut up.
Let me turn now to a granddaddy of hypocrisy, the Spitzer affair (so to speak). That Spitzer himself was a hypocrite is beyond argument, since he publicly excoriated and prosecuted prostitution but was (or became) a customer of prostitutes. He was like the Republican gays in Congress who excoriated homosexuality while engaging in it. Of course, if memory serves, their positions on other issues were sometimes bad, while Spitzer’s were heroic (albeit he apparently was purely obnoxious in pursuit of his aims). But he, and they, had very similar forms of hypocrisy in common.
As well, the political/media reaction to Spitzer’s actions is the very height of hypocrisy if viewed from what could rightly be called the systemic standpoint -- from a standpoint that looks at a plethora of American actions, not just Spitzer’s patronage of prostitutes. In seeing vast hypocrisy in the body politic and the political/media complex, I find, to my amazement, that the views of a famous rabbi, Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun, extensively coincide with my own. (Lerner’s views are set forth in OpEd News in a piece aptly entitled Elliot Spitzer and America’s Ethical Perversity). This is a country which perpetrates, condones, and/or ignores the most awful conduct. We are fighting wars and killing people by the gross, but nobody with power gives enough of a damn to put an end to it, neither the worthless Democrats, nor the courts, nor anyone else. Indeed, it is sometimes claimed the public cares less and less, and even left wingers profess that we cannot leave Iraq lest matters get worse -- the old Viet Nam argument that led, and leads, to ever present war instead of leading, for example, to dividing the country into three parts, giving each of the three contesting ethnic or religious groups its own part, and getting out. The Republican candidate, McCain, would continue fighting for a hundred years -- of him it was recently said he never saw a country he did not want to bomb or invade, and that (being third generation Navy) he thinks war the natural state of affairs -- as, evilly, do so many of my generation. Nor do many stop to realize that war, about which people care so little because it is not them that go to it, contributes mightily to the horrendous economic situation that it is said they do care about.
Our hypocrisy extends to economics, where we favor or permit policies that are screwing the poor and the middle class while enabling the already incredibly rich to get even richer. Were Jesus to come back today and see this, who can doubt he would quickly depart in horror? Our policies entrap people in poverty by denying them a decent education as the way out. Our medical profession is a shambles. The ignorant mental slut in the White House holds back vital medical research. The votes of the poor and minorities are taken away from them defacto or dejure. What decent person can doubt that Lerner is right when he says “that there is no moral outrage at the entire system that produces this impact, is America’s moral perversity”? What decent person can doubt that Michelle Obama has damn good reason, and has had it all her life, not to be proud of America? There is one person who doubts this about Michelle Obama, of course, because Obama went to Harvard and is a successful lawyer, experiences which, one gathers, are supposed to disqualify her from seeing the truth. That doubtful person is the super reactionary Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal, who never met a reactionary idea she didn’t love. But, then, I asked what decent person can have doubt.
So, as Lerner and this writer agree, there is truly vast systemic hypocrisy. There is also, in connection with the Spitzer case, a hypocritical refusal to discuss what may be the truth about the relationships between men and women. This refusal to discuss the possible truth has gone on here for probably hundreds of years and is rampant in the Spitzer matter.
Can anyone be unaware that, on a by and large basis, on the basis of something that is generally true though not always true, men and women see the world differently? (Illustrating this undoubtable fact in connection with the Spitzer case, last Wednesday a New York Times article by a woman began by claiming that men and women viewers had quite different reactions when the story broke on Monday, March 10th, that initially the opinion shows were dominated by men so that there was “a lot of talk about ‘victimless crime,’” and that it was not until Tuesday morning’s shows “that female commentators could really unload, and they did” on such subjects as “‘Why Men Cheat’” and whether Spitzer’s wife was right to stand by him. (Like Hillary did when she lied -- by saying something like she was no Tammy Baker standing by her man -- so that Bill could become President and so she could have a shot at it later). But that men and women often see the world differently is only the part of the story that people will talk about. What they hypocritically refuse to talk about is the possibility that, not only are men and women different, and not only do they see the world differently, but they are so different and see things so differently that, as a general matter, after the flush of first love and sex have passed, men and women in a supposedly romantic relationship do not even like each other and sex is dead. If they did continue to like each other, how come so many husbands and wives barely speak to each other? (If memory serves, in his autobiography, which I read perhaps 40 years ago, Arthur Krock, who was the New York Times’ leading columnist before and around the middle of the 20th Century, had an unforgettable description of his father refusing ever to speak to his mother. It was quite remarkable.)
So, if it is possible that as a general matter men and women in a “romantic” relationship don’t like each other after a sufficient period has passed, and sex almost certainly is largely dead, how does this bear on Spitzer? Well, in the obvious way that nobody will talk about, except, God help me, Dr. Laura Schlessinger. (When I find myself agreeing with her, it may be time to reconsider my own position.) Here is what the Times said, in part quoting Dr. Schlessinger:
The biggest issue [on the TV talk shows) was not whether the governor would resign or face criminal charges. It was whether Ms. Wall Spitzer was right to stand by him, and even more urgently, whether all husbands stray, and why. It got testy at times.
“Are you saying the women should feel guilty, like they somehow drove the man to cheat?” a visibly aghast Meredith Vieira of Today asked Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a radio host.
Dr. Schlessinger replied, “Yes, I hold women accountable for tossing out perfectly good men by not treating them with the love and kindness and respect and attention they need.”
There it is: the elephant in the room that nobody in the political/media complex will discuss or even speculate about -- and for which other female media people (besides Vieira) blasted Schlessinger -- even though they speculate about every other thing connected with the matter. Did Spitzer have a good marriage (unlike most people, I would judge) or did he have an unhappy marriage, with little sex, that caused him to seek out prostitutes?
We probably are unlikely to ever know the answer to this question, and that may be a good thing. But it doesn’t mean the question doesn’t exist. Most women, I would hazard, like Meredith Vieira, wouldn’t see it this way. And men and women alike are quick to say, probably rightly, that men are driven by their Johnsons and that Spitzer was, besides, an arrogant guy who thought he could get away with it.
But the question does not down because of these easy answers. Okay, Spitzer was a man, and men want sex as much as possible. (Do you remember Lyndon Johnson’s comment that he had more women by accident than John Kennedy had on purpose?) And, okay, Spitzer was an arrogant guy, and judging from what has appeared in the papers, sometimes a mean, mouthy guy too (even if also a great white hope of liberalism confronting what I think Theodore Roosevelt or Franklin Roosevelt called economic royalists). But Spitzer presumably was not completely stupid, must have known he was taking a huge risk that could destroy his political career (and he doubtlessly wanted to ultimately become President), and, reflecting knowledge of danger, tried to take steps (one of which he couldn’t manage to achieve) to hide what he was doing. Why, then, did he do it in the first place -- unless one assumes he simply was crazy, unbeknownst to the rest of us. Well certainly, though Americans won’t talk about it, one possibility, at least, is a very unhappy, sexless or nearly sexless home life (plus, as one colleague often says at the lunch table -- jokingly, but not really as a joke -- in our country affairs simply require too much of an investment of time, so that very few really busy persons have time for one).
While, to reiterate, we probably will never know the situation in Spitzer’s marriage, and everything is mere speculation, there are signs that have surfaced. As I understand it, his wife wished he had gone into his father’s business and made another pile of money instead of going into politics. She never wanted to be a “political wife” (but, like Howard Dean’s wife, would probably have caught hell from the crumbbums of the political/media complex if she had declined to be a “political wife”). She sacrificed her own lucrative career to raise their kids and be a political wife, and apparently is not happy about the sacrifice or the fact that all her outside work is now charity stuff done for free. And she urged Spitzer not to resign, when it is transparent that his resignation nullifies -- makes a farce of -- all the undesired sacrifices she made for her husband’s career. Add this all up, and it does not seem to spell a marriage made in heaven. (Few marriages are so made, of course). And, though hypocritical America refuses to talk about the generally existing problem, but buries its head and mind in phony pieties one way and another, it could at least conceivably provide the reason why Spitzer risked career-destroying conduct.
And one thing we can be sure of is this. Until America begins to discuss the general problem, it will never be solved -- if, indeed, there is a solution. (Maybe the French have one -- their attitudes towards sex are far different than ours and, many think, far saner.)
I shall close with a brief discussion of a subject whose grave importance, combined with its comparative (not total, but comparative) inattention by the political/media complex, yet again shows our systemic hypocrisy. I speak of the firing of Admiral Fallon -- but please to call it resignation, to crib part of Tom Lehrer’s phrase about plagiarism. It is claimed, especially by some well meaning former generals, that the firing occurred not because Fallon disagreed with his Commander-in-Chief about a possible war against Iran, but because he disagreed too often, too vehemently, and, most particularly, publicly -- outside of channels. To which my answer is: gimme a break. Do you think Petraeus would be fired for stating his views often or strongly to Bush, or stating them publicly? Even with vehemence publicly? Of course not. Petraeus says what the claptrap boob in the White House wants to hear. He would never be fired for saying it either within or outside of channels, no matter how often and how publicly vehemently. (At least not until Bush changes his own mind.) Fallon went the way of Shinseki and Lindsey: that is, you disagree and you’re gone.
More importantly, why did Fallon speak publicly, and what, therefore, does his firing portend? Fallon’s not a fool -- quite the contrary, apparently. He knows what happened to Shinseki. He certainly knows what happened to MacArthur. He may even know what happened to McClellan. So why did he risk his position and an end to his career by speaking out publicly? The logical answer, one that generals who speak of staying within channels and the supposed likelihood of being more effective that way will not want to hear, is this: Fallon -- an insider who is in the know -- is so worried about the Administration’s desire and plans to go to war with Iran, and feels so concerned over his inability to stop this by arguments within channels, that he felt he had to speak out publicly in an effort to stop it. I’m sorry, but unless and until proven wrong, this seems to me far and away the most likely possibility. But one does not hear word one about this from, on or in the political/media complex. Hypocrites and fools, virtually the lot of them.
War with Iran could well be nuclear or partially nuclear, you know. One would think the political/media complex would be hellbent to inquire into and discuss the reason(s) Fallon left before Bush and Cheney perhaps start telling us that Iran (like Iraq) has or will get and use WMDs, that we have no choice, that we must immediately act preventively, etc.
The media doesn’t show much interest in the problem, however, and it remains to be seen whether relevant committees of Congress will have Fallon appear before them to discuss the matter. So far, at least, we’ve gotten much discussion of Ferraro, even more about Spitzer, but comparatively little about the truly important subject of a possible war with Iran*
This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, or on the comments of others, you can, if you wish, post your comment on my website, VelvelOnNationalAffairs.com. All comments, of course, represent the views of their writers, not the views of Lawrence R. Velvel or of the Massachusetts School of Law. If you wish your comment to remain private, you can email me at Velvel@mslaw.edu.
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