August 11, 2011 - August 4, 2011
Our Dissolving President:
. Good God. Just a few days worth of headlines and
What are the symptoms of an anxiety attack? Shortness of breath? A
gathering feeling of dread? Moments of sheer panic?
I wish I had those instead of what I have. Which is a feeling of cold contempt for the incompetent twerp who preens in the White House when he isn't entertaining phalanxes of champion athletes or attending various sporting events with all the pomp and circumstance of an office he isn't fit to hold. Or the cold rage I feel for all the idiots who saddled us with this disastrous, sinister mediocrity of a perpetual college radical who hasn't even the slightest idea what his job consists of, let alone how to do it.
A simple lesson we should never have needed such a risky experiment to learn. The ship of state doesn't run smoothly or well without a captain. We don't have one. What we have instead is a country club sailor in a blue double-breasted blazer (epaulets optional, depending on the social occasion) and a spotless captain's hat.
I got news. The hat ain't going to save him from the gail.
And it won't save us, either. Who cares how well your togs fit when the fatal waves start breaking over your head?
They're coming from all sides now. When will anyone notice? And why do I keep thinking of Captain Queeg
fretting about strawberries?
Talk about anxiety...
. Mrs. CP just got off the phone with me. She objects
to the term
'American Exceptionalism,' because it's suddenly au courant after not
being being part of our national lexicon, well, ever. She's right about
that. But sometimes a term acquires meaning by being denigrated, as
Obama did with this one. It's traceable to this:
Before that, the term was more an academic historical discussion topic
than an easy label.
The idea is hardly new, however. Most Americans know there's
something supremely special about this country, its history, and its
Probably, though, American "specialness" wouldn't qualify as something
network news organizations would even dignify as a concept worth
covering. Although Obama addressed it directly in his presidential
The term that can be
discussed and parsed and criticized and ridiculed by the Post-Modern
cognoscenti is 'American Exceptionalism.' Mrs. CP conceded the point on
that basis (after blowing her top when I asked her if she agreed with
Obama... Phew. Talk about your ill-advised ripostes...) Supposedly,
this is one more of an endless list of imperialistic American delusions
we need to get over like some pernicious brain virus.
Which brings me, inevitably, to World Cup soccer. (I'm a master of smooth transitions. Have you noticed?) The World Cup is more important in the scheme of things than the United Nations. The U.N. is all about deadly dull diplomacy where every word means something like its opposite, unless it doesn't mean anything at all. The World Cup is about the passion and character of the competing nations. The ESPN advertisements for the tournament say exactly this if you've bothered to look at them. Big problems can't be fixed and don't really matter. The World Cup, on the other hand, does matter.
In a sense I'm inclined to agree. Because it's a chance to see who
we're really dealing with and how we differ when something we care
about is at stake. The United States is, of course, a latecomer to this
worldwide soap opera, but we're there because, uh, we're the United
States and someone's having a tournament and what the hell, why not
enter it? We've got guys who can kick the ball too.
Now permit me to draw a few unfair inferences about what we've seen so far. Then you tell me if they're far-fetched or might actually matter in some small way.
Team England is being vilified for lacklustre performances, as if they somehow lack the necessary heart. Team France has imploded entirely, so much so that their own citizens were observed rooting against them on Jumbotrons at the Eiffel Tower. Team Italy -- the defending World Cup Champion -- was so busy flopping and faking against lowly New Zealand that they, well, lost a tiedraw with the "All Whites."
Meanwhile, all the African nations have been losing, losing, losing, the way they seem to do in every international situation.
Throughout, soccer remains the same boring, boring game it has always been, even though there are ways it could be turned into the "beautiful game" it asserts itself to be.
With one notable exception. Team USA. Which may not be the best soccer team in the tournament but has so far proven against all odds that when Americans are involved, "boring" isn't the only possible outcome.
That's my tribute to our underdog team. They've somehow contrived to make this sad-sack sport dramatic. Who'd a thunk it?
They duel the sanctimonious Brits to a tiedraw. No big deal. But it sure upset the Brits. Then they play a game the way Americans generally fight wars, not showing up for the first half then storming back from a 2-0 deficit for the first time in World Cup history to score a winning goal in the final minutes against Slovenia. Except that the referee refuses to allow them the victory. Those damn Americans, don't you know. Which, as we've seen, would send the fragile European teams into a fatal funk.
Only that's not what happened. Team USA proceeded next to do the impossible. Make the end of a soccer game incredibly exciting. By scoring a winning goal after official time had expired, just as if they were a baseball team playing extra innings or a football team playing in sudden-death overtime. Positively thrilling.
Jeez. Is America kewl? Or what?
That's all I have to say.
To be honest, I've never been a McChrystal fan. I thought he should
have resigned when Obama kept him twisting in the wind for months and
then arbitrarily reduced his troop requests for the sake of appearing
Now I think he just wants out but not quietly. He wants a Big Splash.
[I've been listening to Rush defend him. I just now turned it off.]
A few random points before I proceed. It's being reported now that he saw the article as it would appear and had no objections. Also, Rich Lowry is reporting that he's always talked this way and surrounded himself with a staff that talks this way. He's being compared to MacArthur. Not so fast. First, he's not in MacArthur's league. For example, MacArthur scored a series of striking military victories, including the defeat of the Japanese in World War II. McChrystal is closer in terms of performance to McClellan: big ego, not so big record of success. Furthermore, MacArthur was fired for insubordination, yes, but not because he gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine. MacArthur was fired for disobeying a direct order of his Commander-in-Chief. Sound like I'm defending McChrystal? I'm not. MacArthur was trying to win a war. I haven't seen much evidence that McChrystal is trying to win a war. I think he's another Wesley Clark, trying to win a larger-than-life reputation he's done nothing to earn. With a bunch of bitchy, backbiting gossip.
What he's done with this Rolling Stone debacle is a disgrace to his uniform and a betrayal of his troops. His men are dying because he made unacceptable compromises in terms of troop strength and rules of engagement that he now wishes to be spectacularly freed from by an act of pure, selfish bravado. He wants to be the martyred hero. Never mind what the transition precipitated by his self-destruction will mean in terms of troop morale, operational coherence, and momentum on the ground.
No hero. What he is is a jerk. Whether or not he was right about everything he said. He had his chance to make a stand when his plan was eviscerated in the first place. He didn't make that principled stand. Now he's a mere, publicity-seeking egomaniac.
Who actually voted for Obama. What a dolt.
Fire him, Obama, and find yourself a general.
. Don't tell anyone. Don't want to jinx anything. He's four
months old and we're getting him on Tuesday. Here's what he looks like
We obviously won't know what name suits him until he responds to one,
but you're all welcome to offer suggestions.
The greyhounds don't know yet. But we're thinking they're going to be happy. God knows, they've been miserable and neurotic since, well, a week ago Sunday. The pug's been a complete pain too. Not to mention her Izzie-ness.
Wish us well. The poor boy doesn't know what he's getting himself into. He's been living with twelve other deerhounds. Now he's got Molly and Andrew and Eloise. I expect Izzie will get him through the early rough patch...
. Our much admired colleague Doctor Zero has a book out containing the
best essays from his first year of blogging:
You should be able to purchase it at Amazon within the next week or so.
It costs $16.95 and we're betting it's well worth the investment.
Doctor Zero is a master of the formal essay, he writes exceptionally
well, and amid all the noise of the Internet, this is an opportunity to
hear one clear voice speaking sense from a wise and educated
If possible, we'll offer a review when it's generally available, but in the meantime we'd like to offer what support we can by reminding readers of the cacophonous Internet context which forms the backdrop, or background static, behind his book. That's why we've assembled an archive of our own past year of diverse blog noisemakers. Think of them as the vuvuzelas that caterwaul during the beautiful game represented by DZ's more formal explication of unfolding events on the world stage. Maybe you can read them against one another, week by week or month by month.
Maybe not as much light but a little more laughter and a lot more
buzzzzzzing. Don't forget that vuvuzelas are, however
obnoxious, expressions of fandom.
Grandfathers don't care about getting Hallmark cards. Mrs. CP and I met
Friday with some old friends who were moving to Florida. Bon voyage and
all that. Except Bud immediately handed me a sheaf of papers. An After
Action Report and a Citation. His grandson had died in Afghanistan. He
reads Instapunk. He wanted me to honor his grandson. So that's what I
want to do with this Father's Day. Honor Bud's grandson.
The papers were voluminous. But they can be boiled down to human terms. Sergeant Hrbek was assigned on 23 December, to Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7. The team responded to an IED containing "screws, nails, glass, and other foreign objects." What happened next:
I have more. The rest of the After Action Report. The Citation. But we
don't need more. The story is
self-evident. A Marine who takes care of his own men without regard to
his own safety. Then dies taking the same risks his responsibility
requires him to ask of his men. War and heroism in less than a thousand
But life is never worth less than a thousand words. Chris Hrbek wasn't just a warrior. He believed in helping the people he was there to defend.
I won't show you pictures of the comical, off-the-wall Chris. I have
them, but you haven't earned them because you didn't know him. The same
goes for me.
This is for Bud and Vikki. I won't even tell you how sorry I am for your loss. That's just empty. All I can do, in this poor space, is honor your loss. I asked a Marine friend how I could do that. He said, "You can't. All you can do is say is that he was a Marine."
Chris Hrbek was a Marine.
Ains a year say a prayer faur me...