Friday, October 10, 2008

TPM: Sit Down With the Thugs and Talk

There are no contradictions, only degrees of humour.

Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari



I think these remarks are dead on.

We use the Brits because they've done this stuff a lot. They've sat down with thugs throughout their history, including us in our early days, I suspect ... a point we never miss an opportunity to remind them of.

This sense of not just an "imperfect union" but an imperfect world, this (for lack of a better word) sense of humour, which Obama and Petraeus seem to share, gives me a strange kind of (not at all tranquil) hope for life in the Empire during the Obama Adminstration.

(PS I'm only just starting to realize the profound service to the citizenry that Talking Points Memo is performing.)

11 comments:

Kirby Olson said...

Obama is up about three points in most polls. It's odd that the point spread is still so thin in spite of the economic meltdown, and many other problems.

George Will wrote about McCain in his column this week, -- is this as good as you are going to get? -- in response to the mediocre performance he gave in the second debate.

There wasn't much going on there, and McCain looked quite old. He needs to drink a cup of coffee before the next debate, or maybe just mainline some speed.

Meanwhile, voter fraud in Ohio, ACORN being investigated in 13 states, and on the other side --

bailout for CEOs, in some cases at millions and millions --

where are the principles?

It's just madness and chaos on every side.

The notion of law and order -- how can you sit down and talk with thugs without losing your own moral perspective?

Thomas Basbøll said...

I already answered that question: it takes a sense of humour.

McCain will make a terrible president for that simple reason: he loses his moral perspective whenever he has to meet someone who doesn't share it.

The disturbing thing about his refusal to say straightforwardly that he would sit down with the prime minister of Spain was not so much that that's just plain dumb, but how he explained it: he would sit down with anyone that shared his "ideals and fundamental philosophy" (or something like that). World leaders have to sit down with people they disagree with on EVERY point except that dialogue is, at this moment, better than silence, or violence.

Another way to say it: it takes character to talk to, and even sit on the same board with, people whose basic views you don't share. McCain can only keep his sense of himself among "my friends". That's great for his friends, but it's not a world-class character we're dealing with there.

soren buhl said...

Is it just me or is this a highly unusual way to talk when you're in a uniform? But then, considering the realities of Iraq, maybe this style is not so surprising.
As with the notion of Obama's global appeal (and funk, goddammit) I'm somewhat more pessimistic. Humour, as revolutionary eloquency, is not as universally potent as you hope for, THomas.

Thomas Basbøll said...

I think it's a very American way to be a (top) soldier. He's also (I just read in Wikipedia) considered a top "intellectual".

I think/hope this is sort of humour we'll see at White House press conferences after Obama is elected.

Like Patraeus, Obama will be able to use his surplus of respect to answer questions in much more interesting (even if less universally appealing) ways than Bush.

Obama's strength is that he does not have be universally appealing. He connects with people in complex ways.

Bush is universally appalling. That's his charm. That's how he gets through press conferences.

McCain's straigh-talk express turns out not to be complex enough enough to connect. He certainly does not have universal appeal. And it turns out that he connects with his "friends" at a pretty simple level.

Kirby Olson said...

But a lot of people don't connect with Obama. I don't connect with him. I hate the rhythm of his phrasing. I can't bear it.

I do connect with W. He's simple and ordinary and natural and normal.

Obama has a kind of dogged cattiness that I find fishy and I refuse to be cowed by it.

McCain is more like a turtle out of his shell.

In Aesop's fable, the turtle that just keeps going beats the flashy dogged cattiness that I find fishy.

You can't find a common denominator with a common criminal.

Ahmaninadude for instance says he wants to destroy Israel entirely.

Talking to him would be like trying to talk to Manson.

I don't see how you can find any common ground, or common principles, with people like that, much less the president of Spain.

However, McCain will be able to talk with the leader of France, or the leader of Canada, or anyone who has their head on straight, as he does, in his turtle-necked sweaters, and his basic good sense.

But McCain also does like Obama.

He says that if Obama wins, America will be ok.

Kirby Olson said...

Also, humor.

At the heart of humor has to be something TRUE.

That is, humor has to have an insight, a clean clear insight, that shakes our a prioris.

Also, Bush is not universally appalling. I find him appealing, at least, as do a final 30% of the electorate, who still like him.

That same 30% will find Obama's appeal appalling, in that he has no truth, only a kind of sophistry, built on will o the wisp words like "change," that have no spelled-out truth underlying them.

He's just a demagogue.

Bush has a sense of a truth: if he can spread liberal capitalism, we will have more friends, and fewer enemies. He put a huge hole in Islamo-fascism, almost single-handedly, and thirty years down the road, we will owe him plenty if this succeeds in spreading liberal capitalism to those deserted areas of the Khyber Pass over to Karthoum.

Not everyone will find this appealing, but the emerging middle class of those areas very much will, and it will be he, rather than Ahmaninajd who they will have to thank. Humor doesn't exist at present in Islam because truth itself is not permitted to exist.

Which is not to say that there was not originally a truth in that sphere, and which continues to find expression through the very funny Sufis.

Humor is not a kind of nihilism. It has to be founded on an idea that is adequate to reality, and is therefore, true.

Amen.

Kirby Olson said...

If McCain can't twist and wrangle this evening, then the election's over, a sealed deal, or so that's what everybody's saying on this side of the Atlantic. Somehow I don't believe it.

As for me, there are degrees of humor, sure, but I'm more interested in degrees of truth.

If we could rig up Obama and say to him, Are you a communist? And if he could say NO, and be within the margins of truth, I think he'd be just fine.

The thing is, I think we'd hear a beep.

Kirby Olson said...

Last night I heard the beep when he was talking about redistributing Joe the Plumber's wealth. He basically said as president he'd pick Joe the Plumber's pocket, and redistribute the wealth among his associates.

That's socialism if anything is, isn't it?

Kirby Olson said...

I suppose there's a degree of humor in it, as long as you're not Joe. The audacity.

Presskorn said...

Actually McCain strikes me as the funny guy...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N-j0W6MW-U

I suppose your looking for a sense of humour different from this...

Thomas Basbøll said...

Kirby, a quick question. The whole "Ahmadinejad wants to destroy Israel" talking point seems to be based on a mistranslation. It is more plausible that he said he wants to defeat Zionism. I.e., the sort of thing Reagan was saying about communism, and the sort of thing many people say about Jihadism.

See, if we talked to him, instead of just putting words in his mouth to make him sound like an outright thug, we might realize that he's just a common thug, like the people who run our affairs.