Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NOW can we call her a monster?

I don't have a book of quotations handy, but I imagine somebody both cleverer and famouser than me has already observed that the things left undiscussed in a narrative are usually far more telling than the things spoken about.
Off the top of my head, the best I can do is Gershwin's line from Porgy and Bess:

The things you're liable
to read in the Bible,
They ain't necessarily so.

American politics is arguably like that. For example, I think about the controversy about Samantha Power calling Hillary Clinton a monster back around five or six weeks ago. Even though it was undoubtedly a spontaneous event(as you probably recall, Power tried to qualify it as off-the-record), but the various players in the Obama and Clinton camps and the media immediately knew how to respond to this, as if a script was ready, questioning Obama's judgment in selecting Power as an adviser, insisting Power apologize or resign, Obama dutifully apologizing for her remarks, etc.

I wondered how many people out there in Real-People-Land even paid any attention to the whole dustup. Not terribly many, I'm guessing. I also wondered, why precisely does Power feel Hillary is a monster? Should I automatically assume it's for reason x or y, and weren't other people curious about Power's reason(s)? I realize this is one of those mutually and tacitly agreed upon things, the rolling out of a familiar script by which to deflect the impertinent questions of people like me, as per the nonplussed onlookers at the parade when the naked emperor goes by.

I'm guessing the answer to my question wasn't necessarily that interesting, that it had to do with Clintonian campaign tactics, but that's not really my point. When the Clintons and Obamas and the TV press and the Powers respond in the preordained, scripted ways, it seems designed to avoid the question, because once you have Sam Power's answer, inevitably other persons with other reasons for regarding Hillary as monstrous might gain some scrutiny, and the next thing you know some of those brains out there in Real-People-Land might start ruminating, and that would be-- I don't know, monstrous.

Likewise, this afternoon I watched the nightly news, and it seemed as if people just stopped dying in Iraq and Afghanistan(just like Somalia), nobody objected to China hosting the Olympics, nobody lost their house, nobody was kidnapped in Colombia, and nobody was waterboarded or forced to evade questions about torture. The only thing worth discussing was the Pennsylvania democratic primary, the most important primary, the most important event ever, since Reagan freed the hostages or Grant surrendered to Lee at Appomattox. The world dutifully stood still. (And yes, this kind of sarcastic trope about a single event being made to dominate the news isn't original either-- just hard to resist.)

There was a sound bite of Hillary Clinton telling a crowd that with her 10 point win, she'd pulled ahead in the popular vote viz-a-viz Obama, and a chart graphic saying that Obama was ahead of her by 600,000 votes, but that Hillary was counting the disputed primary votes from Michigan and Florida, which Obama hadn't contested. The Penn primary, and various prognostications about which states Obama could win in the general election versus ones Clinton could win, was of course pretty much the whole news show. (I watched CBS, but I imagine the others were pretty much the same.)

I saw nothing about the ABC interview HRC gave (admittedly on Monday morning) with Chris Cuomo on Good Morning America-- I heard about that through Raw Story. (But if you knew about it, how could you not wonder about its impact?)

“I want the Iranians to know, if I am president, we will attack Iran,”( if they launch nukes against Israel), Clinton said. “I want them to understand that. … We would be able to totally obliterate them. That’s a terrible thing to say, but those people who run Iran need to understand that.”

Clinton said she hoped her stern warning would serve as a deterrent from Iran doing anything “foolish and tragic.”

The quote in the Reuters article is somewhat misleading, suggesting in parentheses that she immediately added "if they attack Israel."(But to be honest, in referencing the video above, it looks as if it's been edited to take some pauses out.)

Again I find myself wondering about the people out there in Real-People-Land. Does the sickness of this register with them? You wonder how many people are even aware and paying attention to this, trying to be good citizens and keeping up with the news while they drown in the soporific horse-race minutiae of who would be more likely to beat McCain in Colorado or Tennessee, eventually giving up on the sucker's game of trying to stay informed.

Some of the articles about this have titles that say Hillary says she will obliterate Iran, while others note the "would be able" and reproduce the quote more accurately. I can't help but be reminded of Kerry's "for then against" position and Bill Clinton's tortuous question about what the word "is" means. If you look at the real-life pacing of her words and her body language, she has unamiguously threatened to attack Iran if she's elected. I think that's a violation of international law, and I'm sure that Mrs it takes-a-village has frightened a lot of ordinary people in Iran, including kids, who are now aware that one of the leading candidates of the opposition party is just as demented as George W. Bush.

In one way, however, the follow up by Cuomo and Clinton was even more disgusting:

Cuomo: Is it difficult to reconcile the logic of a statement like that, with the realities of what it would be like to make that desicion?

HRC: It is. It's very hard. And that's why you hope to deter such behavior.

Boo hoo. Isn't it horrible, when you have to kill thousands of people cause their gummint don't act right, the toll it takes on you? Years ago whenever the Labour party in Israel capitulated to demands from the right that they start yet another offensive against the Palistineans, somebody once referred to the rationalizing speeches offered in the Knesset as "shooting and crying." Only Mrs Clinton seems more gleeful than a good liberal should be about it.

The things you're liable
to read in the Bible,
They ain't necessarily so.

Simon Jenkins:Despite Iraq, America's love affair with war runs deep

Independent(UK): Tough-talking Clinton vows to 'obliterate' Iran if it ever dares to attack US ally Israel

CNN's political blog: "Clinton: Iran would pay a 'very high price' for nuclear attack"

El Baradei interview(from 2007)regarding Iran's nuclear program[video]

Marketwatch: "Has Hillary's tough talk increased pain at the pump?"

Clark(Montana)Chronicle:Ron Paul: Clinton 'doesn't understand the presidency'

Dennis Trainor, Jr: "Hillary: I can do war bigger and better than Bush"

ABC News:"Pennsylvania's Six Week Primary Ends Tonight"
[original title of this ABC article on Tuesday:
Clinton on Iran Attack: 'Obliterate Them']

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