Irenic. Adj: favoring, conducive to, or operating toward peace, moderation, or conciliation. Notes from a Politics and Economics undergraduate just back from somewhere in the MidWest. "You said you were going to Ohio? Where the Hell's that?"

Friday, March 7, 2008

One of the very few things Michelle Obama and Margaret Hodge have in common: interest obsession

Chris Matthews has compared her to Jackie Kennedy. I'm going to do her a great disservice and compare her to the crazed excuse for a woman that is Great Britain's Minister of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Margaret Hodge. For there was something in Mrs Hodge's comments at IPPR that reminded me of Michelle Obama's "first time in my adult lifetime I'm proud to be an American" whoopsy. Mrs Hodge trashed the Proms this week in a thoroughly misguided attempt at defining the cultural apparatus of "Britishness" (anyone who can say the Proms aren't inclusive and then go on to praise The Archers for being a broadcast "everyone can feel part of" just needs help). But she also said this:

"National mottos and statements of shared values have to be lived and made real if they are to fulfil their purpose. Equal economic and educational life chances must match the grander statements in order for people to invest their confidence and their trust. Without them, exhortations about identity, belonging and cohesion will not succeed"

This seems to me similar to Mrs Obama's Freudian slip at Madison. It appears to be a common trait of liberalism either side of the pond. Mrs Hodge is saying economic and educational advancement is a pre-requisite for patriotism. Mrs Obama echoes this sentiment in rather narrower terms, pride in her country is conditional on the (as it happens, prescient) emergence of a movement for the kind of economic and educational change she approves of.

Yet for many, patriotism isn't about self-interest, or the consequence of the success of a view of the common good that one may happen to feel is one's self-interest. Of course, a known impossible ideal would be a depressing motto for a nation and the pursuit of perfection can always lead to frustration (See Franklin's speckled axe story). But by adopting the standard of these two very different women we give up on the nation as an entity capable of driving us to live outside of ourselves, its very raison d'être.

Al Gore and Willie Horton

Viz. the mudslinging that is beginning in earnest between Clinton and Obama now Hillary has her mojo back, I went and read this story on Slate from 1999 about the real origin of the Willie Horton story. Al Gore did it! He brought up the issue in a candidates debate shortly before dropping out of the 1988 race. I love this quote from Bush Snr. strategist Jim Pinkerton, :

"That's the first time I paid attention," said Pinkerton. "I thought to myself, 'This is incredible' ...It totally fell into our lap."

Jonathan Friedland, Mr Guardianista, is right. This thing is raw meat for McCain. If an unsuccessful, testing of the waters candidacy like that of Gore '88 could inadvertently imperil its party's chances to such a degree, Tony Resco, the Bill & Hillary tax return and (insert any scandal to be dredged up between now and Pennsylvania) could have a devastating effect. The GOP could well be in a position to make some cutbacks in its "Oppo Research" department this year. Or they could spend time putting all this dirt in perspective...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Alberto Gonzales: Brave or Foolish?

So former US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, visited Ohio State today and did a curious thing. Not a year out of public office he volunteered to give a speech and Q&A to an audience which he, one can only assume, knew would be composed mostly of hostile college students (and those who wish they still were). Yet, he chose to present his audience with a series of "follow your dreams" platitudes that wouldn't be out of place on the presidential campaign trail. Skipping the scandals that plagued his his time at the Justice Department , he clearly sought to defuse the tension yet only gave his attention-seeking detractors more ammunition for their childish rebukes (Gonzales: "Live your dreams". Heckler: "Like torture").

Gonzales' central theme, that effecting your dreams is put at risk by terrorism, is hackneyed to say the least. But it was as if he came to Ohio State deliberately to piss off opponents of his former boss's administration. Citing the extended adolescence thesis (the "Odyssey" of young people in their twenties who can't make their minds up) he seemed to be saying, "You can criticise all you like but when you're a grown up sometimes you have to make decisions, other than Wayne's or Mike's on Friday night". Not a good premise for a Q&A. Unfortunately, the exciting legal arguments for increased executive power that the former government counsel knows inside out took second place to Alberto Gonzales' ego.