Saturday, December 10, 2005

Maybe they were kidding

Another thing that interests me is how people always take historical quotations at face value.

For one example, Robin Edgar recently quoted P.T. Barnum in saying "More persons, on the whole, are humbugged by believing in nothing, than by believing too much."

The quote itself is nothing unreasonable. I don't agree with him as my spiritual method is to start with believing in nothing, and then see what the evidence your life presents forces you to believe. If you're not believing in much, to my thinking, you might just be early in the process, while if you're believing too much, you haven't started yet. I'm sure a lot of fine people agree with him, though.

But P.T. Barnum made his living by never underestimating the credulousness of the American people. He claimed to have mermaid's remains, after all.

Maybe when he talks about lack of belief being a bad thing, he has his own agenda. It would have been a bad thing for his bottom line, after all.

Similarly, every hippie I've ever known has brought up Nixon saying that the vietnam war protests really made a difference.

So the most famously treacherous president in American history had a moment of candor and told people that a practice of his opponents' that some argue makes them look stupid and alienates people from their cause, was actually something that made a difference in his decision-making when he made decisions that seem to fit well with his overall approach to foreign policy anyway, and we believe him?

So now we have hippies who think that getting on the news with a giant "Fuck Bush,' sign "really makes a difference" all because Richard Nixon said so.

I think he's right.

As old ladies, young families and religious people who don't like war see what antiwar protesters look like, they turn off their televisions and abandon any thought of joining the movement.

It does make a difference. Exactly the difference a Republican would want.

But every protester to ever mention it quoted that line to me straight, as if there was no possible way that Richard Nixon could have been anything less that downright candid when he said it.

It's not like he was a famous weasel or anything.



Anonymous said...

If it were only the hippy protestors, it wouldn't be a problem. When the head of the Democratic party says America cannot win the war, it's a bigger problem. When Al Jazeera and Islamist websites have video clips of Senator and presidential candidate John Kerry saying American soldiers break into homes and terrorize women and children in the middle of the night in Iraq, that's a bigger problem still. I don't think it makes as much difference in the Arab world as the conservatives who complain think it does... but it will certainly make a difference in the next presidential election- I can see ads with that sound bite back to back with his "clipping ears for trophies" soundbite from 30 years ago, showing his consistent contempt for the American soldier.

Those who were on Beliefnet or CFUU know that I publicly and correctly predicted that Bush would be the first president in a generation to pick up seats in the off-year election, and that he would be reelected. I now predict that if there's not a big shake-up the Democratic party leadership within the next three months, Republicans will retain majority in both houses in the upcoming election. I further predict that if Republicans retain control of Congress, a Republican will be elected president in 2008. Yes, I know, foolish guesses. Go ahead and laugh... just remember.

Robin Edgar said...

BTW Joel do you have any prophetic predictions about the fate of The Emerson Avenger? ;-)

Anonymous said...

To answer your second question first, any project with so dedicated a founder will prosper. :) More seriously, my predictions are not prophecy, but judgement calls based on 30 years of working elections, half of that time as an elected official, on having been a convention delegate, and seeing what sells to the electorate.

As to your first question, no, I am not worried about Senator Clinton. She is unelectable, so much so that if she is the candidate, Democratic candidates up and down the ticket will lose races they deserved to win on her coattails.

Chalicechick said...

"And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up."

Part of Rumsfeld's answer to the American soldier who wanted armor.

That strikes me as far more aiding and comforting to the enemy than anything Kerry has ever said.

I'm sorry, Marie Antoinette called, she wants her attitude back.

Frankly, cops break into houses in the middle of the night ad terrorize people a fair amount right here.

If you were on the B-net politics forum right before the election, you know that Gail put up a thread asking what it was really like in Vietnam and encouraging veterans who had actually fought to post about how wrong Kerry was. The overwhelming majority, conservatives included, said that truly terrible things happened in Vietnam and that most of Kerry's claims weren't too terribly far off. (The conservatives tended to maintain that he still shouldn't have told people about them as soldiers are supposed to quietly report such things to their commanding officers then shut up, but they admitted that rape, torture, killings of civilians all happen a lot in war.)

Goodness knows I've never been to war, but my uncle has been in and our of asylums for decades since his return from Korea. The things he mumbles sometimes tend to back up Kerry's claims as well.

It is indeed dismaying that to admit that and say we should cut it out shows contempt for the American soldier, when a Democrat does it. A Republican can stress how easily our tanks are blown up on international TV, and he's still a friend to the soldiers.

Since Abu Gharib, I've been making the point that the Stanford prison experiment told us all we needed to know about what happens when we tell poorly-trained kids who their enemies are and give them weapons and the bible would seem to back me up when I say that people have always gotten raped, murdered, stolen from in times of war. All invading armies do stuff like that. As Americans, we want to be above such things, but we haven't figured out how to get there yet.

That's not contempt. It's the truth.

And to be honest, I have no idea how to communicate with people who want to be deceived.


Anonymous said...

My point was not that such things never happened, or shouldn't be told, or if told will help the enemy- in fact I said, "I don't think it makes as much difference in the Arab world as the conservatives who complain think it does... "

My point was that a video capture of him being quoted on Al Jazeera-or worse, on Islamist websites- especially combined with the footage from his testimony 30 years ago will make absolutely devastating political ads. Would Rumsfeld's remarks make him just as unelectable? Yes- but he's not running.

And perhaps I'd better clarify why I think Senator Clinton is unelectable. It's nothing to do with her policies- her record in the Senate is better then Some Republicans. It's nothing to do with character or personal life- she's far better than Bill in those respects. It's resume- people want executive experience for the presidency; they want a leader, whether from politics, or military or industry. The only one to win from a senate seat was Kennedy, and he had help from a third candidate splitting the vote; he won with less than 50%. The only way Senator Clinton could win is the way her husband did, by having Ross Perot split the Republican vote.