Nov 6, 2007

Cowards, Orwell, and Pogo

New York's Senator Schumer--who sends regular emails soliciting funds for the Senatorial campaigns, and California's so-called Democratic Senator, Diane Feinstein formally announced over the weekend that they would support the nomination of Judge Mukasy to be attorney general, despite his refusal to do the right thing and denounce water boarding as torture.

Feinstein's argument, as I am sure she will repeat until her death--was that Mukasy was the best candidate we could expect from the President, who would probably fall back on an interim emergency appointment when Congress closes its current session. Rather than demand a good candidate, she will settle for second best, and act with condescension towards the idealists who hoped that she would have been able to help send a message to the Bush administration that breaking the law is unacceptable behavior.

Like all cowards, she will rationalize her decision as "practical wisdom," not understanding that she--and Schumer for that matter, since he gave the same reasoning, not having the courage to admit that he had made a mistake to support Mukasy because of New York political friendship--stood at one of those moments that would have perhaps earned her a place in an updated Profiles in Courage. But no, she is incapable of courage, bound as she is, and has been, to the military industrial complex through through the business connections of her husband, bound as she is to ordinary go along to get along thinking, bound as she is to interests other than her constituents. She actually turns out to be the Republicans' senator in California, and would be seen as such if the Republicans had not transmogrified themselves into something else over the past few decades and didn't understand that they have an ally in the Senate. Her votes have more often than not on political and security matters, blindly followed the wishes of the administration.

Feinstein won re-election in 2006, and it is a shame that she ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination and against an extremely weak Republican cypher Richard Mountjoy. She has $3.2 million cash in hand and raised $8.3 million for the 2006 election. Thus she has five more years in office, and I am sure she will continue to disappoint Californians who are looking for some intellectual and moral leadership from a senior member of the senate.

Don't support any of her efforts to raise money for herself. Protest her decision silently or loudly when she participates in the national elections six months from now. She does not provide the leadership we need so sorely at this point in our country's history. Her cooperation with the Bush Administration's continuing erosion of the Constitutional rights of the citizens of the United States is a bitter thing to contemplate. Her decision will provide footnote in the history of shame that will be written eventually about these times.

Obliquely related to that--well, perhaps directly related to that--is George Orwell, who has been on my mind for the last few years now. I used to teach "Politics and the English Language" to my students many years ago, and the failure of journalism to play its proper role as the fourth estate during the past two decades plays off nicely against that brilliant essay. In fact, upcoming this week--Wednesday, at the New York Public Library--is a symposium on Orwell, called There You Go Again: Orwell Comes to America. Check out its website.

In case you still have the Los Angeles Times "Opinion" section from this Sunday laying around, don't toss it until you have had a chance to read the four small essays on George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" (and after you read the essays, refresh your mind with rereading the essay). One, by Mark Danner, is excellent, elaborating on the presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Tommy Franks, L. Paul Bremer III, and George Tenet in December 2004, and Danner's meditation on the quotation from Orwell:
From the totalitarian point of view, history is something to be created rather than learned. A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible.
And when I re-read those familiar lines, I thought immediately of the Bush administration poobah telling a journalist that they create reality and the rest of us comment on it. And then comes Orwell's kicker:
But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened.
And of course, that raises all kinds of wonderful parallels, like the joke about the Russians, when there still was a USSR, that they "rewrote" history, or how they excised figures from photos when they had been sentenced to the Gulag, or had been "liquidated." That's the terrible version of the revisions in the story. Positively Pogo-esque.

No comments: