In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock

Eleanor Clift’s take on the senator-elect Jim Webb dust up with Bush, No Pandering Here

Dec. 1, 2006 – Every so often a politician comes along who doesn’t pander to the president. Fresh off a nasty campaign that centered on the war in Iraq, Virginia Senator-elect Jim Webb had no interest in a picture of himself with President Bush, and he didn’t want to exchange small talk with the man whose war policies he opposes. So he skipped the receiving line at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, creating the first of what we should all hope will be many ripples in Washington.

Webb’s presumed snub of Bush is rare enough in a city where everybody who’s anybody has a glory wall, and social occasions are geared to a parade of picture taking. But what happened next is where the story really takes off. President Bush, spying Webb across the room, walked over to him and asked, “How’s your boy?” Webb’s son is a Marine in Iraq.

A more seasoned politician might have been flattered that the president knew his son was in the line of fire and bothered to ask about him. That wouldn’t be Webb, a best-selling author who got into electoral politics for primarily one reason, his opposition to the Iraq war. “I’d like to get them out of Iraq,” he replied, according to several published accounts. “That’s not what I asked you,” Bush said, repeating his question: “How’s your boy?” Webb’s reply: “That’s between me and my boy.” Afterward, a source told The Hill newspaper that Webb was so angered by the exchange he was tempted to slug the guy. That might have prompted the Secret Service to pull their weapons, which wouldn’t have been the first time Webb, a highly decorated Vietnam combat veteran, faced the barrel of a gun.

A quirky individualist who wants no part of the phony collegiality of Washington, Webb was rightly insulted when Bush pressed him in that bullying way—“That’s not what I asked you”—trying to force the conversation back to Webb’s son. Webb could have asked how the Bush girls are doing, partying their way across Argentina. He could have told Bush he was worried about his son; the vehicle next to him was blown up recently, killing three Marines. Given the contrast between their respective offspring, Webb showed restraint.

But that’s not how much of official Washington reacted. Columnist George F. Will was the most offended, declaring civility dead and Webb a boor and a “pompous poseur.” Were the etiquette police as exercised when Vice President Dick Cheney told Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy to perform an anatomically impossible act on the Senate floor? Or is that amusing by Washington’s odd standards?

Webb isn’t exactly my kind of Democrat ( anyone that admires Ronald Reagan has some issues as far as political philosophy goes) though as part of what Democrats and the sum of their their individual degrees of separation on the issues, Webb fits in pretty well. Clift describes Webb as an individualist which I think is only partially true. As a Reaganite he closed his eyes and fell in line with the conservative movement like a good little follower and that individualism didn’t get a wake up call until his friends and family were in the line of fire based on BushCo’s lies and distortions about Iraq. That kind of epiphany happens sometimes, though not frequently enough. For Webb and America I’m glad that it did. It is a sad display by George Will and others that think of Bush or any president as some Pope-like figure who is to be cow-towed to. If you lay bricks, empty bed pans, draft mechanical drawings, or whatever you pay taxes and those taxes pay the president’s salary. He is your employee. While president’s should be treated with respect, it is very much the president’s duty to treat America with respect. Bush is way over in the debit column when it comes to respecting America and American values. If Webb would have decked Bush it would have been a small fraction of the justice that America deserves.

That there has been so many attacks on Senator Webb is a little surprising until we remind ourselves of how the Right views the world and its emphasis on power and authority at the expense of truth and liberty, A Question for Neoconservatives of the Catholic Right

Particularly illuminating was the chapter on Leo Strauss. It was Strauss whose very undemocratic reading of Plato and Aristotle still influences the actions of both the Institute on Religion and Democracy and Ethics and Public Policy Center many common members (as Right Web observes, “The Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) is one of several policy institutes established by neoconservatives to promote the increased role of religion in public policy”). It is their commonly held scorn for modernity and its dominant philosophy, Liberalism that leads them in an arrogant crusade to remake society in Strauss’s more aristocratic vision; one that perniciously distrusts the common man so celebrated by Americans of all mainstream political philosophies.

Central to the Straussian neoconservative belief is that humanity must be led by a select group of philosophers who keep “the truth” from the masses lest society splinter into disorder and chaos. But just what is this “truth” that they believe cannot be disseminated to the greater society, even if it must be guarded by “noble lies.”?

As a southern the concept of the power of denial takes on an almost larger then life meaning when working class men and women in the south think people like Bush and Cheney are just “folks” like them and really have their best interests in mind. There are two kinds of elite. One is the rich and well educated that realizes the role that luck and circumstances has played in their lives and as such that have certain moral obligations to society and are genuinely thankful. Then there are the elite like Bush, Limbaugh, Cheney, Gingrich, etc that think they are where they are because they “worked” for it and that they have zero moral obligations to America – the I’ve got mine tough luck you didn’t school of elitism. This is the Republican elite who have never done an honest day’s work, have never had to worry about health-care, and paying for their kid’s dental work that shove the mantra down throats of the southern working class that spending a few billion dollars a year on food stamps for elderly shut-ins is one the most evil things to ever happen to American culture. I do have to tip my hat to Strauss and his elite followers as cynical as I can be I would have never thought that such pettiness could be exploited so well and parlayed into the degree of success that conservative have enjoyed over the last forty years.

I wouldn’t want one in the living room, but I’ve always liked bears – Polar bear survival rate falls as climate warms: study

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – Polar bear cubs in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea are much less likely to survive compared to about 20 years ago, probably due to melting sea ice caused by global warming, a study released on Wednesday said.

The study, published by the U.S. Geological Survey, estimated that only 43 percent of polar bear cubs in the southern Beaufort Sea survived their first year during the past five years, compared to a 65 percent survival rate in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
Thomas Jefferson