Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again

It occured to me as Mojo and I were driving home from the lovely Will and Meghan's Inauguration Party that I'd kinda-sorta been here before.

Y'see, I remember that day in August, 1974 - I was seventeen - when I heard on the car radio that Dick Nixon had resigned. I think I jammed on the horn of the Ford Pinto station wagon (and THERE was a chick magnet, let me tell you; I don't remember getting laid that year and I'd like to think the Pinto was to blame...) and shouted out the window with excitement. I wasn't a real political kid but my mom and my cousin were; they'd gotten me following the Watergate Hearings and by '74 if there was one thing I knew it was that Tricky Dick was a Grade A rat-bastard prick that hanging was too good for. But resignation would work in a pinch.But here's where the picture was different. There was none of the elation then that I feel from many of my friends today. I checked in on facebook when I got home and read many friends' comments about excitement and gratitude and happiness. And in a sense it is good; the election of a young man, a man who promises hope and change, is a good thing after the past eight years of stupidity, shame, war and wastefulness. I listened to President Obama's inaugural address and thought that it was a good speech. Full of many of the usual bromides of promise and hard work, hope and freedom, yes, but also somewhat realist and clearly thought through.

I don't think that things will change, not that much, and given the wretched economy and the fact that he's going to have to govern with Rush and Michelle and Anne and Newt and the other monarchist and Christopathic traitors meeching and shouting and praying for Obama and America to fail so that they can do their mean little "I told you the nigger was too stupid to govern!" dance I wouldn't have the Presidency as a gift.

But back in '74 we had Jerry Ford. Not the Jerry Ford we have now, overlaid with the moronic bumblings of Chevy Chase, but the pallid, competent timeserver from Michigan, an Organization Man, and one that we hoped, at best, would try and "do something" about the mess Nixon had left behind. Of course, what he did was pardon the sonofabitch, and so we've had to put up with the wretched refuse of Nixon's teeming execuive shores, the Cheneys and Rumsfelds and the like. Gaaah.

But as Nixon-pardoning, mediocre, and lame as Jerry Ford was, he was just lame and mediocre. His little country-club-Republican-lawn-jockey-kiss-the-wealthy's-ass-nightlight flckered feebly beside the neutron star blackness of Nixon's pure monarchical evil. So that when that power-sucking dark star imploded the light admitted, the remaining shadow cast by Ford was a little less dark than the black hole of Nixonism we had loured in before.

So perhaps that's the real best that we can say that about today; the darkness that was Bushism is officially gone. Our work now is to illuminate the shadowy corners that remain and relight the light of democracy and government of the People, by the People, and for the People.

26 comments:

Aviator47 said...

While the Captain leads the ship, it is the crew that really gets the job done. The major contributor to the morass we are in has been the work of the crew. Crew who pursued self interest. Crew who allowed greed to be their compass. Crew who would not man a full watch at the oars. Crew who thought that each deserved his own helm. Crew who were so pleased with their cuhy duty station that they cared not to warn of the rocks ahead, lest they be required to work to avoid going aground. Crew who simply adopted the role of passenger.

On Nov 4, a significant portion of the crew tossed the old Captain and his principles overboard. The question now is whether or not the crew will man the oars, stand their watch in foul weather, accept only their rightful ration of rum and be crewmembers, not passengers.

If our ship of state can become a focused team of Captain and crew, perhaps we have something to be elated about. Tossing GWB & Co overboard is not a new course, but the simple repudiation of the old one. Now the real work begins.

Al

Aviator47 said...

oopsss

cuhy = cushy!

pluto said...

Well said, Al, I agree completely. The first and biggest group that needs to mend their ways is Congress.

sheerahkahn said...

And yet the Republican historical revisionism of Bush's Presidency and the war in Iraq has already started, Chief.
I picked up the article from TPM, and posted it in it's sickening entirety on my site today.

Warning: You might want to take a shot or two of Brandy, rum, or Scotch...cause you are not going to believe what you're going to read...well maybe you will believe, but god, it's pretty sickening imo.

FDChief said...

Al: Agreed. Strongly agreed.

That said, what I see as the problem is that since the Goldwater/Reagan Revolution the fundamental philosophical position of the GOP is: government is the problem. If you believe that government is THE problem, then you cannot, by definition, govern. Or if you attempt to govern you will do it poorly, as we have seen.

So my concern is that the next four years will decide your question, Al, about being passengers versus being crew, but will decide whether the ship of state can sail with 30-40% of the crew actively fighting and resisting the Captain and the remainder of the crew AND the passengers.

I think Obama is as good a Captain as we can hope for. What I fear is that we have become too politically polarized and too cash-sated to crew the ship. And...

Pluto: ...perhaps the BIGGEST problem there is in the Congress. Looking at the ludicrous pandering and greedy corruption of that body makes me feel all Late Roman and despairing.

Sheerah: We knew that, didn't we?

bigbird said...

On the night of Jan 20th, 1969, I was in a room at the Rhein-Main AFB Hotel, listening to the radio as Nixon was inaugurated. There was euphoria in the air, not only because I was flying back to the land of the round doorknobs the next morning, but because Johnson was finally out of office.

Boy, were we fooled on that one. It seemed as though the '60's would never end.

FDChief said...

Bigbird: The difference I see here is that while in 1968 Nixon was the greater of the two evils and in 1974 Ford was the lesser, in 2009 Obama seems like a genuinely decent, intelligent man who wants to lead the nation (or captain the ship, as Al would say) into better times and better ways.

But I still question whether we as a people have not fractured too badly to go there. I sense that the times are similar to the first half of the 19th Century, only instead of slave vs. free we have the pathological conservative wingnuts - the people who would rather bring the nation to a halt than allow an abortion, a welfare mother to wear a kaffiyah, or a labor union to strike a WalMart - versus, well, pretty much any and everyone to the left of them.

mike said...

What is "meeching"?????

I am perhaps a little more cynical than you Chief (if that is possible). Yeah, it was a good speech. But then Reagan was a good speechmaker also and look how far up the creek he got us. Talk is cheap and I am opining that Obama has a long way to go to live up to his words.

However, his appearance and words last night at the Military Ball and the invitation to enlisted men and their families, and wounded vets from Walter Reed did impress me greatly. It was a gesture long overdue in Washington. For the words he said there (and for dancing with a WAC buck Sergeant) I will forgive him for Rezko, and for Jeremiah Wright, and for any other sins that he has or has not committed.

I do not agree with your depiction of President Ford as lame and mediocre. He was a good man and a good Prez under horrendous circumstances which he had inherited. He was a negotiator and dealmaker like Obama. He never was in love with ideology. All of the righty-tighty Reagan crotch-sniffers share your view of Ford as he was too moderate for their tastes. In their thinking he was a traitor for Helsinki and for not intervening militarily in the fall of Saigon. Reagan screwed over him in the 76 primary, otherwise he would have been re-elected and perhaps in the 1980s we never would have had to put up with the damage that Reagan did to the country.

It never ceased to amaze me at the time that Reagan was considered a war hero and football star because of his Hollywood roles. He ducked out of active duty when his reserve cavalry unit was activated and became a PR flack for the Air Corps. Ford was the real deal. He volunteered for duty in the Pacific in WW2 when he could have sat out the war as a football coach and PT Instructor. He did his duty serving as a shipboard antiaircraft officer during campaigns in the Gilbert Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Marshall Islands, Hollandia, Marianas, Western Carolines, Western New Guinea, Leyte and Mindoro.

As far as the pardon of Nixon goes, so what? Was that any worse than Obama hugging Bush instead of handing him over to the Hague for the war crime of torture? I think not.

FDChief said...

"As far as the pardon of Nixon goes, so what? Was that any worse than Obama hugging Bush instead of handing him over to the Hague for the war crime of torture? I think not."

Mike: I agree; if Obama and the Dems let the Bushies and Bush himself go without investigations and prosecutions it will be as bad as the Nixon pardon. We will have to see - right now it does not look good.

The difference is that, while we suspect much about Bush & Co.s crimes, we KNEW then what Nixon had done. Ford himself knew. And even at the time most of political Washington, and most of the country felt like I did: indict the man, try him, and in so doing draw the poison that he had inflicted on the nation.

Ford chose, instead, to "spare the country the agony" of a Nixon trial, with the result that Nixon's creatures continued to infect his own party, finally rising to the top again in this administration. And we see the results.

Jerry Ford seems to have been a good man, personally, and he managed to be a fairly efficient caretaker after Nixon's departure. But I do not and cannot share your affection for him. He was the last gasp, the last hope, for the Republicans like my father and I, the Rockefeller Republicans. And he proved no match for Reagan and his Luddite Christopathic legions of Goldwater droolers. They blamed him for HLsinki and Saigon and the Panama Canal (that, too, as if somehow we could maintain the imperial traditions of the Canal Zone into te 21st Century) and he was unable to explain, either to them or to the American People wht Helsinki and the Canal Treaty were good ideas and Saigon was a dieseased fruit destined to fall from the tree anyway, after we had sickened of eating it. He allowed Jimmy Carter to campaign as the first of the "Washington outsiders" without explaining that White House is the People's house.

So I stand by my characterization; Jerry Ford, decent man, honest politician, fatally mistaken and unable or unwilling to rise to and fight for his own beliefs. His failings owed much to his times, but also to himself.

sheerakahn said...

"I sense that the times are similar to the first half of the 19th Century, only instead of slave vs. free we have the pathological conservative wingnuts -"

We were talking about this at work yesterday, and someone was asking me how it is that America seems to have split.
I gave it some thought, and pondered that in "some" ways, not all, but some, we are seeing the same split in the country that existed around 1855...minus of course the casus belli.
However, our greatest threat right our nation now doesn't seem to be OBL or his circus of ass clowns...no, the greatest threat to our national security is our financial crisis. We don't get a good solid death grip on that puppy we can pretty much kiss it all good bye.

FDChief said...

"the greatest threat to our national security is our financial crisis. We don't get a good solid death grip on that puppy we can pretty much kiss it all good bye."

Sheerah: But we've done this before, and we managed to hang on from 1929 until the end of WW2. We've faced massive depression and world war and come out of it as strong or stronger.

I think the difference between then and now is that then the wingnuts had the sense and the shame to take their hiding and hang their goddam heads for a decade or so. They were so frightened by the spectre of a Red revolution that they stood back angrily and let FDR reconstruct the country to include the poor and the old and the other outsiders.

I get a strong sense that they're not willing to do that today. They will fight for their excess proportion of the nation's wealth, and rather than share it with the poor and the darkies and the muslims and the wimmin they will gleefully pull the nation down. Better dead than Red.

So in a sense you're right - the oncoming economic disaster is the primary physical threat. But the shattered public is the primary political and social danger. The tsunami is the same tsunami that hit in 1929; but the malefactors of great conservative wealth were forced to stand aside and let us progressives bail the nation out from 1930 to 1941. I fear that today we will be to busy fighting with the bastards to bail, and instead we all risk drowning.

Publius said...

I voted for Hubert Humphrey in 1968, in my first presidential election. It was a no-brainer for me; I knew what a twisted and evil man Richard Nixon was. I also knew that, even as upset as I was with the Democratic Party and Lyndon Johnson because of Vietnam, where I'd already spent time, Nixon, being Nixon, would not and could not fulfill the promises he made about "peace with honor."

Dick Nixon was truly a dick, one of the worst in our history. I spent the summer of '74 in Washington, D.C., listening to the hearings on the D.C. all-news station. It was enthralling. I was also working in a job where I got unique insider perspective and knew full well just what Nixon and his crew had done. In August, I was enormously happy to see that asshole skulk off in disgrace. And the nation was relieved.

Ford wasn't a bad man. I voted for him in '76. And I agree that Reagan screwed him and that our history would have unfolded far differently and likely better if Carter had not been elected. Imagine no Reagan and no Bushes. Probably no Clinton, either. Amazing how history hinges on single actions. Think Gavro Princip and Sarajevo. We're all likely where we are right now because of that single action.

Pluto, Sheer and FDChief excoriate the Congress. I agree that our Congress is shameful, but I look more to Al, who focused on the crew. I don't think Al was talking about Congress. I think he was talking about us. Vox populi.

The preamble to the Constitution begins with "We the people of the United States...." Oh, yeah, baby, we the people. We're the ones. We did it. You can blame Bush, Reagan, Nixon, Congress, Wall Street, whoever, all you want, but it all comes down to we the people. We elected Nixon. We elected Bush. We elected all of these dudes. We empowered them. And in the particular case of Congress, we the people (those in their states or districts) just kept on reelecting them. Yeah, they fucked us, but we gave them the power to do so.

I think Obama will be a breath of fresh air. I hope and pray he is successful. I hope he's not just an empty suit that we latched onto in desperation. But I also know that he can't do it without us. He's already given signs that he's going to ask us to act like grownups. I like that. As a people, we have to start acting like this is our nation and that we actually care about it. We have to act like a homeowner who works his ass off to keep his house and yard up, doing whatever it takes to do. We have to start acting as if we own this nation. We do. If we don't, welcome to the death spiral.

So don't give me any shit about how it's Congress's fault. Our Founders wisely told us to never trust government, to never trust anyone to whom we've delegated power. Government is not our friend. We've not done real well in adhering to this: "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars......"

FDChief said...

."Our Founders wisely told us to never trust government, to never trust anyone to whom we've delegated power. Government is not our friend. We've not done real well in adhering to this: "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

Publius: True. All true.

But -

Government is not our enemy, either. At least, the theory behind our government is that it's US - the People - acting through the intensely scrutinized actions of our representatives and senators.

We let Nixon get away with starting an imperial presidency. Carter, the poor boob, thought he could bring the government back to the people only to get handed his ass for asking people to turn their thermostats down and take the bus. And then there was Reagan...

The author of the phrase "government isn't the solution; government is the PROBLEM!" The inventor of the idea that if you just printed money and bought guns and stuff and didn't ask people to pay for it they'd reelect you. Well, he was right. The American people have been pig-stupid for that crap ever since.

So I'm still afraid that we stand to be paralyzed by the combination of 1) the Left trying to "compromise" and "work with" the Right, while 2) the Right cheerful grins (in the words of Darth Cheney) "Go fuck yourself!" while sitting on the sluice gate handle as the economic tsunami roars in upon us.

I don't know if it's so much forgetting to distrust our government. I'm afraid that we can't - or in the case of the GOP, won't - trust each other. We're a house divided against itself, and remember what Lincoln said about that.

Lisa said...

There is much truth from everyone here. I agree with Mike, despite Chevy Chase, Ford was better than a cipher, and he certainly did his military duty. Sheerah is right about the primacy of the economic disaster.

Chief is right about the difference between 1930 and now. The "oncoming economic disaster is the primary physical threat. But the shattered public is the primary political and social danger."

I don't know how you tone the people up, and what one does with a profligate Congress.

FDChief said...

Lisa: Neither do I nor, I suspect, does anyone else. That was the problematic road we started down in the 1800's, and it took sixty years for us to find that the only way left was through the dark gates of civil war.

While I do not think that we will come to force of arms over this, I can certainly see us getting to the point of our own Revolt of the Gracchi, with the government failing between the lack of trust and civil amity between Left and Right.

But completely off-topic, your new icon is quite ravishing (not that your earlier picture was so shabby...); it's like the moment in one of those old Hollywood pictures where Betty Grable takes off her prop glasses and smoulders and Bob Cummings does a double take and moans "But Gloria, your're...you're beautiful!!

Wow!

Aviator47 said...

Publius: "I don't think Al was talking about Congress. I think he was talking about us. Vox populi."

Absolutely. We need a "culture shift", or we are going to go down the drain. We need to realize that "sacrifice" is not an extra trip to the mall. We need to understand that there are limits to "buy now, pay later", not the least of which is that it should be the buyer who does the ultimate paying.

We elected the dicks who have damaged our nation by catering to our more selfish interests. We can either change the way we live or continue down the drain. And "we" means the people.

Allegedly, we have a government "of the people, by the people and for the people". If government is bad, then it is simply because it is of, by and for bad people.

To paraphrase a widely read book, "And man created government in his own image and likeness". Whether they realize it or not, the neo-con construct of government being inherently bad is ever so consistent with that paraphrase, especially in terms of their image and likeness!

Al

mike said...

Chief -

If my post on Jerry Ford came across as affection, then I mis-stated my case. That was not my intention. I just think the guy got a bum rap.

But then after thinking it over, perhaps you are right. Any American president that gets scorned and slimed by both the right and the left deserves a little good will.

Lisa said...

FDChief,

You are so sweet, but I think I take simply horrid pixs! That one was from last Fall's trip, which I'm only now developing. I figured a warmer scene would be an antidote to the cold weather.

Aviator47,

You are right: we are them, and they are us (goo goo g'joob.) The greed is so pervasive, and people seem so ready to abdicate their decision-making powers to anyone in authority. Of course, they've been raised that way.

I wonder if economic privation will teach these erstwhile vertebrates to grow a backbone.

Aviator47 said...

Lisa: "The greed is so pervasive, and people seem so ready to abdicate their decision-making powers to anyone in authority."

It is not just greed, it is a sense of entitlement and impunity that those in positions of authority and/or wealth develop.

In my final assignment, I worked for a 2 star who exhibited considerable integrity. One of my tasks was to "make sure he made no mistake that would put his name on the front page of the Army Times", as he put it. He traveled a lot, and, under Army regs, was relegated to coach. A 3 star buddy of his tipped him off on how to guarantee he'd always be offered an upgrade to first class on one specific airline. Simply set up a regular customer account identifying yourself as a general officer, and the "Special Services Agent", who scans every manifest for certain indicators would do the rest.

He called me in and asked my opinion. I pointed out that the reg said he could only accept an upgrade under circumstances that any average joe would be offered such, and his buddy's gimmick was based on the airline knowing he was a general officer, even though he was traveling in civies.

I advised him that since the upgrade was based solely on the rank stored in the regular customer account, it was a no go. I further mentioned that he, like his buddy, were easily recognized by the troops, even in civies, and that all it would take was a disgruntled snuffy seeing him turn left on boarding when the snuffy turned right, and you had a first class ticket to an investigation of an ethics violation.

My boss took the advice to heart and suggested to his buddy he rethink the practice. About a year later, a disgruntled officer saw the 3 star take a first class seat and reported it. The resulting inquiry found that the 3 star did all kinds of cute tricks to travel in better comfort. While none of it resulted in increased cost to the taxpayer, all of it violated travel and/or ethics regulations. The 3 star retired as a 2 star.

Then of course, there's Mr Thain, of Merril Lynch, who spent $1.2 million redecorating his office while simultaneously laying off employees due to corporate financial problems. Where was his brain in doing something like this?

We have been evolving into a society of "haves" and "have nots" for quite a while. We have reached the stage when a key element of being a "have" is that it is subject to no limits. Indeed, it cannot be tarnished by any "unhad" anything, tangible or intangible.

WASF

Al

FDChief said...

Al: I'm not surprised that you found the same sory about Thain, poster child for our 21st Century version of TR's "malefactors of great wealth".

I think the thing I fear most is the dearth of the Rockefeller Republicans this time around. The LAST time we were here - the Gilded Age of the late Nineteenth Century - the remnants of the aristocratic noblesse oblige combined with a lingering small-r republican sensibility to place influential members of the ruling class alongside the muckrakers and good-government types who forced the wealthy rentier class to disgorge much of their power after the 1929 meltdown. Not all of it, not even most of it, but enough to restore the social contract and prevent the division of American society into serf and noble.

I don't see that happening this time. I think we as a mass are not prepared to fight for our republic, and I think the elites and the political class and the media barons are better organized as well as fortified with thirty years of Goldwater/Reagan/Bush "greed is good" rhetoric. I think we are finally headed for the desuetude of our democratic framework.

Hard to say what comes afterward.

There might be a Second American Revolution to restore the vigor of the polity. But how, I can't see.

Lisa: Unfortunately, economic hardship more often encourages desperation and defeat. People on the dole or terrified for their jobs are usually unlikely to rebel. It's hope that storms the Bastille, not despair. The motto isn't "Why not, it can't get worse" but "Now we have our chance!"

And I stand by my opinion: you look like the Muse of Philosophy; beguiling affection while you inspire refletion!

Lisa said...

Chief and Aviator,

When I spoke of economic privation, I was not clear: I meant it as it applied to all sectors of society (mostly the wealthy and middle class (if that still exists), who would feel denied when their financial jigs were up.)

Aviator, I enjoyed the story of making an ethical decision. Oh that everyone went through those deliberations correctly. Unfortunately, it is the "more-for-me" mentality which usually triumphs.

When you speak of the "sense of entitlement and impunity that those in positions of authority and/or wealth develop" -- yes, the wealthy enjoy the largest entitlements of all.

As Chief says, the sense of noblesse oblige is much reduced today. It is an odd thing, isn't it: as everyone attained the franchise and other rights of citizenship, any sense of paternalism goes out the door (?) Consumption is the highest good, and Christian religion even tells its followers that God wills you to be wealthy, in the greenbacks sense.

[And Chief: flattery will get you everywhere ;)]

Aviator47 said...

Lisa-

Might I edit your comment to read:

Some Christian religions even tells its followers that God wills you to be wealthy, in the greenbacks sense.

Otherwise you are spot on in that observation. But then, that "Gospel" sells. Look at Osteen, who was able to parlay that message into an operation wealthy enough to purchase a former pro basketball arena to use as his performance center (just can't bring myself to call it a church).

There is another peculiarity of the Christian Right that fits into what we are discussing. While, from my reading, the mainline message of Christianity is one of self-discipline, the WingNuts want to impose discipline - on others.

Wealth and power. That's what life is all about.

Al

Lisa said...

Aviator47,

I accept the edit. The "performance centers" are galling, no? Even in small towns, there is competition along each strip as to which Baptist church has the best sound system, and the best clientele. Petty. "Wherever two or more of you are gathered. . ."

The Wingnuts do wish to discipline and sanction The Others. Agreed on "wealth and power" being the prime mover for most people.

But what happens when one does not play that game?

FDChief said...

Lisa, Al: I'm afraid that what happens, if the Pharisees get a-hold of the temple, is that the one who choses not to play the game, who insists upon calling the Powers that Be a "viper's brood" and their cash-stuffed collection plates a "den of thieves", is arrested on a trumped-up charge, brought before an indifferent or corrupted magistrate, convicted out of hand, scourged, beaten and driven forth to die alone and in pain.

Before I lost my faith perhaps he single most admirable thing I could envision as to be a true Saint, whether that sainthood came from Jesus, Allah, YHWH, Buddha or Vishnu. To "live just, love mercy and walk humbly with Thy God". To fight for the innocent and the weak with the weapons of faith and peace and die, if need be, poor, forgotten and ignored by all but the God and those you served.

But that Way is a hard way, and so much less attractive than the God of the Terrific Sound System and the doctrine of Prosperity. I can understand how much more attractive the more popular version of religious faith is.

I just can't forgive it.

FDChief said...

Lisa: flattery, my dear, is the tribute lechery pays to beauty. I speak, rather, of what delights both mind and eye.

"All that's best/of dark and light/meets in her aspect/and her eyes..."

Lisa said...

Chief,

I smile in great satisfaction at your humanity, but also at your specific kindness to me. I consider our friendship to be one of the great rewards of this whole endeavor.