The Moment of Truth — July 31, 2008

The Kristol Method

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: your brain on substance.

I would like to sum up the pellet of reading matter linked to in this essay. It is an op-ed by William Kristol in the New York Times, entitled “Be Afraid. Please” which, in a nutshell, says this: the belief of some Democrats that Obama will be the next President amounts to hubris, and will be revealed as such as soon as McCain reminds non-elitist voters that for the last two years Democrats have been in charge of Congress.

Kristol’s piece describes his journey surfing the net and driving around DC, seeing evidence that people are excited about Obama. This depresses him. It depresses him because he doesn’t want Obama to be President. He wants McCain to be President. Every campaign bumper sticker in favor of Obama makes Kristol either sad or angry. Kristol thus reveals himself to be emotionally unable to handle democracy, with its demand that views other than one’s own be allowed to air in the public arena.

The fact that the word “hope” is used in Obama’s campaign slogan makes Kristol agitated and dyspeptic. He mocks what he sees as the silliness, the frivolous infatuation, of those who support Obama. Oh, if they only cared about real issues instead of the fact that their candidate seems so much better than his.

But the more substantive part of his piece comes at the end, where he asserts that voters will need only to be reminded of what a bad Congress we’ve had for the past two years to get them off this Obama-is-great kick. He, like many neo-conservatives who purposely reside at arm’s length from the world around them, seems to believe that the disaster our nation has been crushed into by unfettered neo-con rule for the last eight years, less the most recent two, during which they’ve still occupied the executive branch—the miserable economy, the unemployment, the inflation, the severely unpopular war, the egregious arrogance of the oil and the private military industries, all of which are synonymous in the pubic imagination with Bush and Cheney and the neo-cons and the Republican party—that somehow voters will be persuaded in the next three months that this sorry state of the nation is Nancy Pelosi’s fault.

Kristol, delusional to a degree that makes Charles Manson look like a realist, believes John McCain is just the man to do the persuading. I’m sure he means that McCain would be most persuasive by comparing Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Surely that will demonstrate that voters should elect more people synonymous with misery and corruption. Because asserting that Obama is like a wealthy slut or a young girl who has tragically mismanaged her life is surely much more weighty and serious than the word “hope” on a bumper sticker. How can you support a man who uses words like “hope” when there’s a perfectly good candidate calling him a slut—a serious candidate who happens to be synonymous with unemployment, corruption, squandering a treasury surplus of three trillion dollars, letting people die in New Orleans, and sending well-intentioned, trusting young men and women to get blown up in a country we attacked for reasons that turned out to be false? Don’t you see him, standing right there calling Obama a skinny white slut? Don’t you see how great that is? What a genius McCain is? What a war hero? What a great mind for policy he has? Doesn’t that open your eyes?

I’m sure that’s how Kristol figured McCain would take the bloom off Obama’s rose. After all, Kristol indulges in delusions as a matter of public policy, which is how the neo-cons got us into this mess in the first place. You’d think he’d have smelled the coffee by now, but no. He believes that somehow the voters will be gulled again by calling abortion and birth control bans “protecting unborn children,” continuing to pursue a catastrophic foreign policy “winning wars,” and enshrining tax cuts for the wealthy “Americans keeping their hard-earned dollars.”

That pig won’t fly, my friend. No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people, but we get annoyed if you let on how stupid you think we are, and we really don’t like it if you rub our noses in it and say “Why are you rubbing your noses in your own stupidity, stupid?”

It’s said that if you’re not liberal when you’re young you have no heart, and if you’re not conservative when you’re old you have no brain. But what if you have neither? You become Bill Kristol, is the answer. Or perhaps “neo-conservative” would be more inclusive.

And speaking of inclusiveness, let us not forget to thank the liberal media for its open-hearted outreach. I think it’s wonderful that the New York Times is helping Mr. Kristol earn a living. It shows the enlightened ethos of our times. Only a century ago men like him were used as experimental subjects for the therapeutic uses of high-voltage electricity. Still earlier he would have been a wild man of the forest who now and then terrorized villagers by making off with their children, or a quack murdered for recommending his patients eat a scone made entirely of lead every day, washed down with a jigger of mercury. In a kinder era he would have at least found a niche as the village idiot. That era is today.

But we ought to remind Mr. Kristol that such kindness historically came about through the efforts of progressive, compassionate people, the type he disdains as “liberals.” In the dog-eat-dog meritocracy he imagines he advocates, he would, unable to figure out how to feed himself, simply be left to die of starvation, or crack his skull falling down a hole of some sort, or ignore clearly posted warnings and be eaten by baboons in a zoo enclosure. Because that’s the kind of pragmatic realist William Kristol is.

I know what I’m about to advocate is not going to go over well as a campaign strategy, given how it’s panned out in the last two elections, but maybe this time we should let the Republican masterminds control the narrative. Because the narrative they seem to be developing is, “We are so jealous and scared that your candidate is in any way a successful politician that we are driven to flabbergasted, drooling, gibbering dementia.”

However, Obama’s poised responses so far have only helped to solidify that narrative. So I guess his campaign doesn’t really need my advice. That’s okay. I don’t mind. I can sit on the sidelines razzing the opposition. Obama’s a good candidate. My familiarity with the model for his education policy, for example, has made me trust that there’s plenty of substance there. He’s not averse to ruffling the feathers of some traditional Democratic allies, like teachers unions, if it’s in the service of advocating a policy that has a proven track record of improving schools—as well as, and in the not-too-long run, the working conditions of teachers themselves.

So I’m sure our skinny little slut can hold his own when it does come time to talk issues. We just have to wait for McCain and his supporters to figure out what the word “issues” means, and how to talk about them. It’s not looking too good right now though. It’s looking pretty hopeless, really. Maybe Kristol should try some behavior modification. Cultivating an aversion to “hope” might not be helping his cause.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!