Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Getting Smaller

When John Bolton saw Bill Clinton go to North Korea, his penis got a little bit smaller. And that's really what it's about.
Bill Clinton's successful trip to North Korea, securing the release of journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, should be seen as obviously positive development. Regrettably, some Americans don't quite see it that way.

John Bolton was on the offensive, condemning the diplomacy yesterday, and he wasn't alone among conservatives who blast the White House.

Right-wing critics wasted no time in attacking the former president's visit as rewarding hostage-taking and conferring legitimacy on a rogue regime. Although the White House described the trip as "solely a private mission," Clinton would not have undertaken it without a blessing from President Obama, or at least from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- his wife. Because North Korea desperately wants recognition from the United States, critics argue that the meeting was a big win for the dictator. It's possible that it was of some benefit to Kim, but it also was of value to the United States, which must protect its citizens as well as pursue strategic goals. This was not a zero-sum game.

The ailing Kim is trying to hand off power to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, and like the country's recent nuclear tests and missile launches, the Clinton visit provided propaganda to demonstrate the strength of the family dynasty to those who might challenge it from within. But Clinton won the women's release, apparently without concessions from the U.S. government beyond a visit from a former president who is now a private citizen.... Beyond the journalists' release, and perhaps more important, Clinton got the chance to look the reclusive Kim in the eye, to judge his state of mind and health and, quite likely, to hear firsthand Kim's demands in exchange for nuclear disarmament.

So, Americans were freed, we didn't have to give up anything, and no shots were fired.

Bolton's angry, a far-right blogger is accusing Clinton (and Obama) of "appeasement," Sean Hannity and Dana Perino chatted on Fox News last night about how yesterday's talks may have undermined U.S. foreign policy.

It immediately reminded me of the hostage standoff in April with Somali pirates holding Richard Phillips. The key for the right was to blame President Obama for the incident -- the standard line was that the pirates wouldn't have attacked the Maersk Alabama if they didn't think the administration was "weak" -- and then deny him credit when the standoff was resolved.

The key, apparently, is to make sure positive, encouraging news is immediately stepped on, just in case anyone might be tempted to give the White House recognition for something good.


The competition has been fierce, but I think we can safely hand out the award for The Most Spectacularly Ridiculous Column Written About Health Care Reform to Pat Buchanan. This 840-word monstrosity is hard to read without wincing.

Ed Kilgore does a terrific job highlighting the blisteringly stupid errors of fact and judgment Buchanan makes, but let's quickly run through the highlights.

Buchanan's basic pitch is that health care reform will necessarily prompt the government to encourage senior citizens to die. In fact, the far-right demagogue said "there is little doubt as to what is coming" -- a U.S. system that resembles "de-Christianized Europe," where, apparently, governments routinely try to snuff out their grandparents.

Beneath this controversy lie conflicting concepts about life.

To traditional Christians, God is the author of life and innocent life, be it of the unborn or terminally ill, may not be taken. Heroic means to keep the dying alive are not necessary, but to advance a natural death by assisting a suicide or euthanasia is a violation of the God's commandment, Thou shalt not kill.

To secularists and atheists who believe life begins and ends here, however, the woman alone decides whether her unborn child lives, and the terminally ill and elderly, and those closest to them, have the final say as to when their lives shall end. As it would be cruel to let one's cat or dog spend its last months or weeks in terrible pain, they argue, why would one allow one's parents to endure such agony?

Yes, the same man who helped popularize the phrase "culture war" in 1992 believes health care reform should be defeated because its proponents' moral and spiritual failings might lead to the death of millions.

Buchanan proceeds to compare the non-existent Democratic campaign to kill off old people to "Hitler's Third Reich, marrying Social Darwinism to Aryan racial supremacy."

As Kilgore concluded, "So in one short column, Buchanan manages to associate 'Obamacare' with the intentional infliction of pain on seniors to encourage them to commit suicide, as part of an anti-Christian and proto-Nazi drive to destroy 'the sanctity of life.'"

I'd just add that Buchanan, merit notwithstanding, remains a prominent political figure. A column like this would, under sane circumstances, make him something of a laughing stock, and yet we can probably measure in days, if not hours, how long it will be before he's back in front of a national television audience.

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