BOOK REVIEW: “The Empty Throne” makes a better argument for not having one

I’ve said before there’s a seductive idea that some more competent version of American hegemony was once in effect and is desirable to return to.

Without meaning to, what Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay book The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership seems to persuasively advocate for is how bad of an idea it is for the United States to have a throne at all when the person in it is as likely as not to wield that leadership destructively.

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BOOK REVIEW: “Activism, Inc.” and the sin of ideals procrastinated

There’s never a good time to tell people about how their sausages are made, but Dana R. Fisher’s “Activism, Inc.” came out at just about the worst time possible for its message to be heard.

Part research, part hunchy anecdote, this short work is largely a post-mortem on the failures of paid, third-party canvassing operations, especially as connected to the Democratic Party and progressive Left that used them during the 2004 Presidential Election between John Kerry and George W. Bush.

Democrats relied on paid—but still highly intrinsically motivated—mostly young canvassers working out of temporary offices around the country to mobilize voters quickly. Meanwhile, Republicans tapped more permanent civic institutions for mobilizations, such as white evangelical churches.

For Democrats, Fisher concludes, “very few enduring connections remain at the local level after campaigns are concluded that can be used in the next campaign cycle”. Unlike volunteers, people who rely on wages to do election work can’t be expected to show up when the money isn’t there.

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BOOK REVIEW: The airing of grievances in Donna Brazile’s “Hacks” comes at her true crime memoir’s expense

Source: This Week/ABC

Given her media blitz leading up to the release of her 2016 campaign memoir Hacks, Donna Brazile’s recollection of what it was like to be on the receiving end of the Russian cyberattack against the Democratic National Committee was far more enlightening than I’d had any expectation.

That’s because, ahead of the Virginia state elections in November 2017, Brazile’s press interviews and excerpts tended to be internecine and conspiratorial, focusing on how the Hillary Clinton campaign had unethically bought the DNC at “Bernie’s” expense, or how Hillary didn’t call Brazile for a while after she lost the Electoral College, or how staffer Seth Rich’s murderer still needed to be found.

Now, this is not what most of the book, subtitled The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House, turns out to be about, but the strategy was successful. It reached No. 5 on the New York Times bestseller list, sold out on Amazon, then was subsequently completely forgotten.

The modern political memoir and tell-all has become the publishing equivalent of Hollywood’s superhero and sci-fi franchise films.

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Racism toward President Obama

Several years ago, at the height of the first wave of gasoline-price hysteria, an older white man came into the convenience store I worked at complaining about a lot of stuff. Real salt-of-the-earth type fellow, had a twang and maybe even cowboy boots on, although I may just be adding stuff I wish were true to my memory upon recall.

The only reason I remember this grumbler, as opposed to the dozens of others that came through each day, was that he suggested, apparently quite seriously, that George W. Bush be strung up and hung ’til death.

The man may be racist, and considering his age I wouldn’t be surprised, but there was nothing racist about him suggesting a lynching of a U.S. president. If he felt the same way about Barack Obama, of course, most people and establishments would consider it totally unacceptable.

The New York Post incident with the cartoon chimp getting shot was the same sort of thing where for eight years George W. Bush was outright drawn as a chimp caricature, called stupid and uneducated — every Texan/Southern stereotype you could think of. We know it would not be acceptable to do the same thing with black stereotypes and Barack Obama (except to call him “cool” and “stylin'”).

You may say, “Well, Barack Obama was never part of the stereotypically black culture, so it would be absurd to mock him in that way.” George Bush is not in any way a cowboy and only marginally a Texan, but it was safe to put a hat on him and set him on a horse for an editorial cartoon.

I’m not saying geographic discrimination is anything like racial discrimination historically, or that a white Southerner is less likely to get a job than a minority solely based on that. But as many racists are there are who hate “that —— spending our money,” publicly I can almost guarantee that Obama will receive less personal criticism than Bush, because it was safe to call Bush an imbecile, fascist, and child molester in ways it probably will never be to criticize Obama, unless you’re Rush Limbaugh or have his fanbase.

It’s hard to run into a rich person these days

The other day I was at a bar with a friend, sipping longnecks at the end of an otherwise empty table, conversating lazily about this, that and nothing really.

I know what you’re thinking. No, it wasn’t the Crawl On Inn, and no, I didn’t see Bubba®. This isn’t that kind of column.

Anyway, about halfway through the first beer, some feller gripping a bottle of Coors Light moseyed up, stood right next to our table and started talking to us. Never seen him before in our lives, but there he was, joining in our conversating without any invitation. He was pretty far ahead of us, and slurring a bit, so that may explain why he didn’t mind intruding, and why a few minutes later, without any prompting, he didn’t mind pulling up a stool.

And we didn’t mind, either, because the drinks in our hands were the last we paid for ourselves that night.

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There’s something to be said for leaving a bit to the imagination

In his suicide note, rocker Kurt Cobain, quoting Neil Young, said “it’s better to burn out than fade away.” I imagine it’s nice to catch alight at all. I’d rather almost anything but fizzle out, but then whoever lived up to expectations?

I’ve always hated the 19th century Romantic poet John Keats. If he isn’t it, he’s at least in the conversation of greatest English poets. “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” and “The Eve of St. Agnes” are really good stuff, by any measure, and “Ode on a Grecian Urn” gave us one of the handful of all time wonderful poetic lines: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all ye know on earth and all ye need know.” He died at 25 and has haunted high school students and their exams ever since.

Twenty-five! And famous forever. How could you not hate him?

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Two things are constant: Change and the Constitution

Today president-elect Barack Obama gets to drop the “elect” and become president-proper. Whether he’ll make a proper president, no one knows for sure, but everyone except bigots and professional partisans certainly has to be hoping he will, out of self-interest if not patriotism.

Change is constant in America, and whatever our nostalgia, once we start preferring the old to the new wholesale, we’ll know it’s the end of us. But that hasn’t happened yet, and whenever we find ourselves exhausted, stagnant or frustrated, we manage to find a source of rejuvenation and come out the other side better for it.

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