The Sun Rises, the World Turns,
by shef, Tue Jun 03, 2008 at 12:15:09 AM EDT
AND TIME MAGAZINE'S JOE KLEIN ENGAGES IN IDIOTIC HACKERY.
Crossposted atIch Bin Ein Oberliner.The ever-Responsible and Important Joe Klein has a post up at Time Magazine's politics blog, Swampland. In it, he praises the new New York Times columnist William Kristol's idiotic rant, "What Obama Left Out". Klein's post is titled "Kristol's Right", which, I suppose, should have been a dead giveaway that, yet again, Klein's Wrong. Alas, I never was good at ignoring people I didn't agree with.
Kristol and Klein have were both responding to a recent commencement speech by Barack Obama at Wesleyan. In it, Obama gave a plea for a commitment to public service; pretty standard fare for a commencement speech. What Kristol and Klein take issue with is that Obama didn't talk about military service. He "engaged in the soft patriotism of low expectations", to quote Kristol--whatever the hell that means.
Oh... I'll just come out and say it: it means Obama doesn't respect the troops enough. And neither do those elite Northeastern college types (Kristol manages to squeeze elite in there twice). It was Obama's "sin of omission" that Kristol finds so abhorrent. It is a sin because, after all, isn't military service good? isn't it more dangerous than community organizing? The answer to both of these questions is "yes" (though, for the second one, we might want to note that it's more dangerous because of Kristol's White Man's Burden-esque warmongering). And, I'm quite sure that Obama would agree.
But, why, then, Kristol wonders, doesn't Obama want to challenge those elite, pansy-ass fops at Wesleyan to serve in the military? Why didn't he "disturb the placid atmosphere of easy self-congratulation." Well, that is a question. And it's apparently a deep enough one to inspire a reaction from Klein, so let's see if we can't answer it.
Maybe Obama didn't tout military service because that wasn't the point of the speech. After all, I can't turn on the television without being bombarded by young, fit boys battling fire-dragons, climbing cliffs, and being an "army of one." I couldn't help but notice the myriad mailers when I graduated high school, proclaiming the eXtreme Marines (Yes, it said eXtreme). I think, the military's recruitment budget is big enough that every late-teen knows about the possibilities. But, strangely, I don't see a lot of ads for other ways of public service; I don't often see mailers about the eXtreme peace corps. The point of Obama's speech was to encourage these other, less advertised ways of service. As Kristol notes, Obama did say, "At a time of war, we need you to work for peace."
And Obama's Right. We should be framing community organizing and peace corps work and Teach for America as public service. Too often, it isn't. It's given lip service and dismissed.
Here would be the place where I'd engage in some fun, albeit ad hominem attacks on Kristol. I'd point out that he doesn't encourage our young men and women to fight in the wars he advocates (except when he can score cheap political points). I'd point out that for all his dismissive, anti-intellectual ranting about "elite""northeastern" fops, he has a PhD and went to Harvard and didn't serve in the military. I might even point out that his column manages to contradict itself pretty glaringly (here's a game: see if you can find the contradiction! post it in the comments; first to find it gets a week's worth of my ad revenue!).
I won't do that, though; that would be petty.
While Kristol is fine with just dogwhistling Obama's lack of patriotism; Klein just comes right out and says it. He writes:
But Obama is going to have to understand what the military wants to hear--not just victim-sympathy for returning warriors, not just social programs like the G.I. bill, but--as Senator Jim Webb points out in his new book--a real sense of pride and gratitude for what the military does downrange, in battle zones around the world.
I guess, the point here is that it isn't enough to say that one is grateful for the troops and their service (Klein's ever-so pejorative "victim-sympathy"). It isn't enough to push for more and better benefits for troops (a real G.I. bill, giving troops adequate armor and health care). No, one must also talk up the military to kids at Wesleyan. Or something.
Klein says that Democrats have to do this to regain their credibility. That is utter bullshit. I don't think it is necessary that politicians talk about the glories of military service at every opportunity in order to demonstrate his commitment to our men and women in uniform. I think that politicians need to actually give funding, benefits, and protection. I think that politicians need to only send them to war when necessary. I think that politicians need to ensure that there is adequate planning and good intelligence before we engage in battle.
Kristol and Klein, on the other hand, think politicians need to talk up the ROTC and military service at commencement speeches. I'll let you, my gentle reader(s) decide which is more important.
But there is a deeper, scurrilous, and more inane message to Klein and Kristol's blathering, crocodile concern. The Serious and Important Pundit class equate strength (read: machismo, militarism, and warmongering) with patriotism and normalcy. And what could be more antithetical to this than talking about peace as public service to a group of faggoty, elite, northeastern intellectuals-in-the-making?
My guess is, Obama could have personally given a foot massage to every member of the military while eloquently extolling the virtues of military service, and he still wouldn't love the troops enough. Kristol and Klein don't really care about commencement speeches at Wesleyan; they care that Obama doesn't want to bomb a-rabs enough. Thus he's anti-military and a girly-girl.
I grow tired of being called an elitist for having education. I grow tired of being unmanly and unpatriotic for being a liberal. I grow tired of Joe Klein and the establishment media enabling this narrative.
I think that it's a good thing to tout peace as patriotism. To equate teaching with service. To make community work laudable.
Both Kristol and Klein want to talk about ROTC recruiting and military service. I'll gladly debate this. But not when the rules stipulate that disagreement is unpatriotic and unmanly.
While I write this, somewhere the sun rises; the world turns; and Joe Klein and Bill Kristol will continue to blow hard.