May 20, 2024

Too Thin Political Skin

James Carville, one of Bill Clinton’s campaign advisers back in the day, wrote this dead-on piece as a post-mortem to the sad little affair of Samantha "Monster" Power.

To prevent her candidate from further embarrassment, Ms Power performed the ritual act of American political hara-kiri and resigned. The problem is that calls for resignation are becoming cries of “wolf” in US politics today.

Every time one campaign’s surrogate says something mildly offensive about the other candidate, resignation calls are swift.

The number one advocate and proponent of this idiocy is the editorial page of The New York Times which accused Mrs Clinton of racism when she pointed out (correctly, I might add) that President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1965. Have we really reached the point where you cannot call your opponent a monster (even if you think her one), and are no longer allowed to cite facts of US history?

It is not the attacks that are unprecedented; it is the shocked reaction to them.

Some comments are within bounds, while some are not. But by whining about every little barb, candidates are trying to win the election through a war of staff resignation attrition and Americans are losing the ability to distinguish between what is fair game and what is not.

That’s almost right.  The finger-pointing game of "poor me" and "so-and-so needs to resign" is childish and stupid.  Strange that the people who play it are often highly intelligent, apparently to the point that differentiating oneself from the competition requires stooping to the most back defense of all:  "He called me a name and it hurt my feelings!" 

Sad.  But I don’t agree that Americans have lost the ability to tell the difference between fair and unfair attacks. 

While the campaigns’ spin masters and the journalists who spin their spin into stories may have lost the ability to tell the difference between what truly matters and what’s garbage, many voters recognize the lack of value inherent in these exchanges, that so much of the high-minded chatter is simple bullshit.

In fact, I’d say that Barack Obama’s campaign is built on that fact.  His message of Change and Hope resonates because people are frustrated by the perpetual obfuscation of the truth.  They know they’re not hearing the unvarnished truth from most politicians and media outlets and they want things made plain badly enough that they have latched onto a candidate who’s different and says he can make that happen.  Ironic then that Obama caved so quickly over Power-gate, playing out his part in the farce per the script.

It’s pathetic, really, this insistence that in modern American culture we can not and will not tolerate the slightest offense to our beliefs.  This at a time when the expectation of change demands that we accept that which is uniquely offensive.  The contradictions are glaring, yet modern propriety demands that we not acknowledge them, even at the price of accepting lies as truth.  Small wonder then that our enemies think us weak.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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