Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obama’s New American Century

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on April 28, 2009

The real lesson of Vietnam was that so long as you don’t draft college kids they’ll let you do anything you like. Like we are doing today in heading into Afghanistan. But fires and riots at Kent State, plague in Mexico and swarms of rabbits is not a good sign. This could turn on them yet and in ways unexpected.

“Has either the great God above or his creatures here below designated us to run the Middle East?” asks George McGovern in an essay in The Los Angeles Times this past week.

In the beginning was Gulf War I which scared the country half to death. When it turned out to be a cakewalk aggression rose like a swell. The Clinton/Gore administration initiated moves to push NATO into Russia’s back yard while it was still weak and 90 Senators agreed. The lesson here was that aggression was okay so long as you had a few Czech poets who liked Frank Zappa in your support group. It was left to conservative Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina to lead opposition and some of the best foreign policy minds of the time called it “ . . . a mistake of historic proportions.”

The Clinton/Gore initiative was culled from Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and folded into Robert Kagan’s and William Kristol’s new Project for a New American Century. Kagan and Kristol are what we found to replace the old fashioned State Department. All Presidents starting with Clinton do exactly what they say. The Kagan/Kristol plan was Phase 1 of an idea conceived to confirm our country and culture to be primarily Western, European and Christian and to establish this in a new global matrix, so we would not have to worry about those inscrutable Chinese gaining on us. This was the matrix which Clintonism, which used to be called the Democratic Party, thought would be a good thing because Bill would be god king with Al Gore a kind of wus (William Shatner’s description) sideman talking about global warming as they advanced the sales of millions of Buicks into China.

Then the plan entered Phase 2 with the Bush/Cheney/Wolfowitz invasion of Iraq in the wake of 9/11. This month, April, 2009, when Helen and Harry Highwater’s Unknown News claims that at least 723,206 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimates and as the largest American embassy in the world opens in Iraq, President Obama, gilded by an astonishing crop of hagiographers and proselytizers who present him to us as an absurd composite of Kennedy, Roosevelt, Lincoln and Jesus – and unfortunately he plays upon this formula himself – brings Phase 3 when he advances the same systematic aggression into Afghanistan and the Upper Dir in Pakistan.

”Our policymakers in Washington contend that we must maintain U.S. troops in the Middle East to curb terrorism. I strongly believe that it is our military presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East that is driving terrorism against the United States,” writes McGovern. “No country that longs for national sovereignty wants a foreign army in its midst.”

Barack Obama is Kagan’s dream come true: A happy face version of Dick Cheney.

It was the innocence and naivety of the new Irish President that advanced us into an intractable situation in Vietnam in the early 1960s. The same tragic innocence drives us again into the Punjab.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Torture: To Discuss Freedom is to be Free

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 424, 2009

After the abuses at Abu Ghraib were revealed, The New York Times and other major newspapers and the networks opened their op-ed pages a congenial and brotherly discussion of torture. Torture then had binary parts; those sort of for and those sort of against - this is a sort of Hegelian dialectic which insures the establishment of torture in one realm or another and to a degree to which it has never existed in our republic before. It is a complete compromise of character by the weakling, cowardly and appeasing voice of the horde, today's mainstream journalists who stood on the front of M1A1 Abrams battle tanks and M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicles, hair in the wind, leading the invasion of Iraq.

Arthur Koestler – novelist, agent provocateur and spirit father of the neocon adventure - referred to torturers in his time - the children of Franco - as the scum of the earth and it is interesting that the neocon journalists who were originally formed by Koestler's heroic character in opposition to Stalin’s murderous thugs first advanced this discussion. But in Koestler's time, the torturers were them; The Others. They were not those among us and we did not consider them to be part of our humanity: We defined our humanity in opposition to them and their very existence as if they were a different moral species. Today, as per the discussion in the press, it is us.

To discuss freedom is to be free. To discuss torture is to enter the penal colony and become the torturer. That this discussion exists at all today is evidence that the American republic as it was born and reared has lost its talisman.

It is startling that the appeasers in the press only accommodate to a new force in Congress which insults 2,000 years of the European tradition and religious history. As torture, like the repeal of habeas corpus and the establishment of American gulags for supposed terrorists – supposed without trial or defense - has only entered into the American political realm and discussion since the rise of the hungry pack of wolves which brought forth George W. Bush.

To discuss torture is to enter the moral condition of the true slave; the one who prefers moral submission to clarity of heart and mind; the one who has not the courage to stand free and fast in opposition; the one who enters the discussion in objectivity; the coward who lacks passion and holds on head down through the difficult years lest s/he lose the pension. This is William Whyte’s Organization Man now a pale Xerox copy of the original banality on into the third generation; s/he is the weakling who enables the Wolf. And in our time it was very few; Wesley Clark, Ron Paul, Colin Powell chief Lawrence Wilkerson and John McCain, who spoke with the cold, clear voice of rigid opposition and without nuance, bullshit or discussion. As Dr. Paul said at the time on Fox TV, disarming their commentator who hoped to accommodate him as a fledgling into their tribe: "Upton Sinclair once wrote that when American became a fascist state it would do so wrapped in the American flag and carrying a cross."

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman today correctly calls for America to reclaim its soul by investigating the roots of torture because, as he says, “America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals.”

Those who brought us into this realm will soon descend to the Hole of Shame and Nothingness from which they have come sputtering forth. Consider that their life force was not, never was, can never be, strong enough. America is an Awakening land, an Enlightenment culture and the Land of the Free. One day we will again be a slave culture perhaps in the mind and in the heart only, beholding to priest, the brute and the politician alike, as everything which awakens returns to sleep.

But not today.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Son of Sam Law for Bill and “W”

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 4/22/09

Carol Felsenthal writes in The Huffington Post that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will share the stage in Canada.

The Globe and Mail Reports:

Former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will appear together in Toronto next month on a public stage for the first time since Mr. Bush ended his presidency, in a remarkable twist on the cultural cold war that Barack Obama and others are trying to lay to rest.

The two will be appearing at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on May 29 for a moderated "conversation" that is expected to last about two hours.

Felsenthal writes:

Although fees were not disclosed, the two former presidents -- both represented by lecture agents; Bush by Washington Speakers Bureau and Clinton by the Harry Walker Agency -- will surely be well paid. (Clinton's fees, which the law required him to reveal when his wife was Senator from New York, showed that Canada has been generous. As I wrote in my book on Clinton's post presidency, Clinton in Exile, Bill was paid $650,000 for two speeches in June 2005 -- one day in Toronto and the next in Calgary. Before the speech in Calgary Clinton gave another in Toronto for an additional 125,000.

There is no pretext this time of helping anyone but themselves -- a change from the days after Bill left the White House but before Hillary started to run for the nomination when "W" dispatched his father and his predecessor to work in tandem for the world's good.

If we accept this as leadership we have come to the end of things. This would be a good time to start our world again with soldiers. Let’s get some real grown ups together for an Iraq War Truth Commission and start at the beginning. No phony South African touchy-feely thing with celebrity priests and Matt Damon and friends. Only soldiers and only those who have been injured in war or seen others killed before their eyes, who understand the bloody material consequences of the mindless, unconscionable and irresponsible detachment and abstraction of the war’s Secret Santas. No Senators. No dilettantes. No career hustlers as in Watergate. No poseurs and no one allowed to report on the results for cash later. We need a Son of Sam law like the one in New York which prevents criminals from profiting on their crimes for these unruly undergraduates who continually disgrace their high office and embarrass our country.

David Brooks of The New York Times boyishly reported years ago that they used to sit around the offices of The Weekly Standard trying to decide which countries to invade. We should know who and for what our Americans died and for whom we killed. We should know where it started and when as President Barack Obama – Kissinger’s favorite new pupil - follows blindly now on the path to the 100 years war. All we want is some truth. My recommends to head Commission: Wes Clark, Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s former chief of staff, Haviland Smith, former CIA station chief and political commentator and Captain Tammy Duckworth.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rick Perry: “ states rights, states rights, states rights . . .” – a Jeffersonian Awakening in Texas

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 4/19/09

Something of possibly great historic importance occurred on April 15 at the “tea party” anti-tax demonstrations. Heartland America found a voice and a natural leader: Rick Perry.

The story, which made a sardonic splash on the op-ed pages of The New York Times and the other major venues this Saturday, was not so much about the substance of what he said, but that the Governor of Texas, American native son, rancher and Texan back to the fifth generation, had the audacity to speak at all. Perry, the most temperate, main street, main stream, straight-arrow Eagle Scout of governors, was widely accused of threatening Texas secession. He did use the phrase, “states rights.” Indeed, he used it is a chant, like “ . . . states rights, states rights, states rights . . . .” He did not of course endorse Texas secession, but he did remind listeners that we are a nation of states and that states form the first circle of our responsibility and power.

History enters the world hiding in plain sight. It is ignored at first, then patronized. Next, hostility builds against it, then panic.

Libertarians still may be largely ignored by major press outlets but their ideas are being rapidly assimilated today by both major parties. And Libertarians today are the primary purveyors of Jeffersonian ideals; ideals and ideas which call for state, local and regional control and local-grown culture rather than federally dictated policy and mandates. Could New England ever find its own nature and identity again and get its mo-jo back from New York? Hard to say. So much has come and gone since 1865 and dominance by the territorial imperatives of Wall Street, the Empire State and the Hamiltonian federalists, like the huge mother ship in the movie Close Encounters, hovering over our heads.

I first felt the new Libertarian influence just five years ago when Mitt Romney, then Governor of Massachusetts, disparagingly used the phrase “one size fits all federalism,” a phrase Perry repeated in his speech on April 15. The core of the complaint is that what is right for the Gulf States and the Katrina region is not necessarily right for New England. And what it good for Kansas is irrelevant to the Pacific Northwest. People are different and they are better different.

New visions of federalism like those of Jefferson and Madison were being suggested at The Federalist Society where Romney had given a speech. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. became apoplectic when newly appointed Justice John Roberts was said to have had some relationship with The Federalist Society. Later Schlesinger’s political ally Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury, started something called The Hamilton Project. The core of Hamiltonian thinking is One Size Fits All Federalism; a centralized government which controls all; optimally, all of the world. It is a vision which has since taken a quantum leap in the Obama administration, where the New Man of Washington – Obama Man - is that bland and neurotic protagonist of so much 19th century Slavic literature, the dreary government clerk in a heavy overcoat carrying his tea slowly through the night and fog.

“In the beginning of Washington’s administration two men defined the fundamental principles of the two societies, Alexander Hamilton for the North and Jefferson for the South,” wrote the Vanderbilt Agrarian Frank Owsley. “The one was extreme centralization, the other was extreme decentralization; the one was nationalistic and the other provincial; the first was called Federalism, the other States Rights, but in truth the first should have been called Unitarianism and the second Federalism.”

The Obama interlude aside, the Hamiltonian part of our American journey may be drawing to an end. As Hamilton’s vision dominated from Jay’s Treaty in 1795 to the present, we are seeing now the Jefferson tendency arise.

That is what was going on across agrarian America in the anti-tax “tea party” demonstrations on April 15.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bedbugs and Pirates: Every State a Free State

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 4/16/09

This is the way the world ends: Bedbugs and pirates. But we know what the Commander-in-Chief will do because he wears a little bracelet on his arm that says: W.W.M.D? (What would Mitt Do?).

Mitt Romney can’t be feeling all that bad right now. Last week he advised crowds of Republicans to support President Obama on issues when they are confluent with their own desires. Threatening General Motors with bankruptsy and the war on Afghanistan, for example.

Romney was the first to call for letting Detroit fall into bankrupsy when the singular voice of press and politicians was in a love fest for Obama bailouts. And Romney was already right there right along with Gates and Obama on Afghanistan.

Like the Democratic mayor of Atlanta who hired Mitt Romney’s boys at Bain & Company to do the books, so it appears that Obama will be mining Mitt’s site for best practices.

I hope Romney has some advice on bed bugs and pirates. Should we negotiate with pirates? What if they sought a global alliance with China and Russia? Supposed they called for a shift in the global reserve currency from dollars to dubloons?

And anyone who thinks that bed bugs is a minor issue has not had the terrifying and lengthy experience. We did at a very popular chain of motels passing through the high country of Virginia five years ago. It still stings.

They like certain types, like my wife, who woke up covered with small, bloody wounds all over her body. I was not attacked, possibly because I used to smoke. (Tobacco is an excellent organic pesticide. When everybody smoked there were no bed bugs. Just saying.)

You cannot see them in the evening because they hide inside the mattress. You cannot get rid of them. You will carry them home in your luggage and they will invade your house. You will have to throw out all your stuff. You will carry them to other motels. It is like a ponzi scheme of vermin. They are everywhere. They are worse than pirates.

Sun Tzu says the first object of war it to psychologically destabilize your enemy. Bed bugs have now, having had the experience, fully destabilized our travel. First thing my wife does is check the beds; futile and paranoid, as they are hidden deep in their mattress caves. Instead, we stay with friends and family whenever possible.

I hope Mitt can fix this. He can fix anything, like Eisenhower and Robert C. Gates; that is why they call him up. They call Mitt when things get broke. I can personally attest to the swift skill that turned around the cursed Winter Olympics in 2002. And for a Mormon, who has the reputation of being a real square, he seemed thoroughly entertained by Robbie Robertson’s delightful hippie review and the “Oklahoma” style drama about the White Buffalo awakening the Age of Aquarius. I’m sure he can save the world from bed bugs and pirates but he might not get the chance. It might be too late.

The April 15 anti-tax “tea parties” put a lot of pins on the map. Conservative Instapundit Glenn Reynolds said a third party could result if the Republicans don’t listen up. It was not the total number of protesters but the hundreds of separate events that was striking, as each can be seen as a starting point. This could develop into a thoroughly original movement. America is getting New Hampshire-ized. As New Hampshire calls itself a free state or strives to be, so the rest might now find this slogan: Every state a free state. We here in New Hampshire are simply tolerated as cranky, independent and perpetually irascible; we are an impotent entertainment to big power and money; like a caged bear at the county fair. But if only 20 more states developed the same temperament it would be big trouble.

It is part of our vanity perhaps to see ourselves dying in a big way; a nuclear holocaust, a global financial meltdown or some Al Gore extravaganza of melting poles and burning forests. Bed bugs would never make a very good Jerry Bruckheimer disaster film. And being bitten to death by bugs doesn’t suit our global ego. But this, wrote T.S. Eliot, is the way the world ends: Nor with a bang, but a whimper.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sex, Drugs and Secession in Vermont

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 4/13/09

If you drive across the hills between Brattleboro and Burlington where most people with more than one generation in Vermont live, you will see signs which read “Take Back Vermont” passionately painted on the sides of barns. They intensify on the way up to the Northeast Kingdom, as we call it, where there are still evangelical pockets left over from the 19th century. Everyone from the outside thinks these signs are in opposition to the civil union law passed during the Howard Dean administration. The signs began long before that.

But it is because rural Vermonters are generally so tolerant of outsiders, or at least so amused and bewildered, that free-thinking people come here. Helen and Scott Nearing, Taoist economic radicals, were early pioneers. They found the good life here in splendid isolation during the Great Depression. They were on pretty good terms with the locals but were magnets for the post-war alienated and disaffected, many of whom – bohemians, world socialists and utopians came here because the Nearings were here. Brahmins who identified with the world proletariat, the Nearings drank only water and homemade herbal teas—never alcoholic, carbonated, or caffeinated beverages. They were ill at ease with the fashionably hip, new leisure class from Boston, New York and beyond that started arriving up here in the early 1950s.

“Krishna had said each person must liberate her- or himself and strike out on her own path,” Helen wrote. “And so I did, without too much delay.”

Scott and Helen, like Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan, were chthonic spirits; wild, original awakenings of the earth; crouching tigers, hidden dragons and spiders from Mars which, if they lived long enough, would invariably see their original forms leave them far behind, arc independently into their own life cycles and finally resolve in a sea of penguins. Dylan, in his autobiography, Chronicles, would describe his adoring followers as a bunch of freaks trying to break into his house through the roof. Kerouac, beatnik founder and New Age Father Abraham, at the end of his life took pleasure in opposing everything the hippies stood for. He supported the Vietnam War and became friends with conservative columnist William F. Buckley, Jr. When more people headed north to Vermont, the Nearings built another house farther away, bringing their light to a forest further north. “Different values,” said Scott, when asked why he moved away from the newcomers.

The hippies were fun, but the conversation improved markedly when the huge gay scene arrived in the mid-Eighties. The tenor and sophistication of the choirs in the decrepit old Puritan churches did as well and so did the buildings. Most half at least of the 18th and 19th century buildings on my common here in northern New Hampshire were restored to top historical standards in that period. But most of the macho originals who brought with them elegance, élan and big cash have moved back to the city at least ten years ago. Too boring up here. A few remain, but usually keep a town and country thing between here and New York or Boston.

Each of these originals brought with them an idea whose time had come and when they left, that idea went forward without them of its own accord on a new level of management. It is a classic arc in the life cycle of an idea. Once it reaches a wider audience it has the needs of acculturation, sociology and institutionalization. At that point, phase two, the monkey gods who thought it up and embodied the idea, his and her work complete, return to the forest.

This week, when the Vermont legislature brought overriding victory to the idea of gay marriage after more than a decade of conversation, debate, acculturation and institutionalization, and countered Governor Jim Douglas’s veto, the original idea reached its apogee in phase two and entered phase three; entrance of the fully formed concept to the outer world. Now the other states will instinctively take it up.

After it has received the Vermont imprimatur, the issue faces a high likelihood of success elsewhere. 20 years hence gay marriage will likely be as uncontroversial as marijuana where in California today it is available to “almost anyone who tells a willing physician he would feel better if he smoked,” as the Washington Post reports this week. Barely more than four decades since friends of Kerouac on Vespa motor scooters with little pointy beards and black glasses first arrived up here, detouring from the Newport Jazz Festival back to New York, with beautiful dark-haired girls in pony tails and toreador pants riding behind, lighting up jumbos on main street.

For whatever reason, Vermont is a Petri dish. Whatever initiative awakens up here does so apparently in original mind and the rest of liberal America will consider it without discrimination. The other states simply amplify the action and passion of the original idea without the experience of the action and passion themselves. Oddly enough, this is a binary condition between Vermont and New Hampshire. When my friend and neighbor proposed a states sovereignty resolution in the New Hampshire state house a few weeks back based on Thomas Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions, 28 red states immediately followed suit.

The New Hampshire initiative and its sudden popularity across the country brought a shock to people knowledgeable about secession and nullification, but contemporary use of the Kentucky Resolutions as a tool to oppose the federal government - the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 made the claim that if the federal government does not keep to the conditions of the Constitution, the relationship between states and federal government is null and void - did not start in New Hampshire. It started across the river in Vermont at the beginning of the war on Iraq.

And it was likewise first conceived of by free and independent thinkers. Thomas Naylor, a retired economics professor from Duke who now lives in Vermont, proposed at the beginning of the war on Iraq that Vermont and the northernmost New England states not participate and under Jefferson’s view, had the Constitutional right not to participate. He was joined in this by Carolyn Chute, author of, among other works, The Beans of Egypt, Maine. Carolyn is every bit as fierce and dangerous in the mind as Helen and Scott Nearing and if there were only ten up here with her character and courage, the war on Iraq might never have gotten off the ground.

But there was little general interest in the idea at first. Massachusetts representative Barney Frank perked up at the idea of a “states rights solution” for gay marriage. And later, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California brought states rights challenges to the feds on auto emissions and trade, and even declared California to be not just another state, but the “ . . . modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta.”

Then in January, 2006, The Nation proposed in its “Top ten bold ideas” for the new century a regionalized America. One plausible example would be California asserting more powers of regional self-determination and “groups of states like New England or the Northwest might demand similar change.”

The authors, Gar Alperovitz and Thad Williamson, mentioned that George Kennan was one of a few influential policy makers who suggested regionalism. In one of his last books, Around the Craggy Hill, Kennan proposed that the United States might develop better as a dozen “natural states” as Tolstoy might have described them.

I have often diverted myself, and puzzled my friends, by wondering how it would be if our country, while retaining certain of the rudiments of a federal government, were to be decentralized into something like a dozen constituent republics, absorbing not only the powers of the existing states but a considerable part of those of the present federal establishment. I could conceive of something like nine of these republics—let us say, New England; the Middle Atlantic states; the Middle West; the Northwest (from Wisconsin to the Northwest, and down the Pacific coast to central California); the Southwest (including southern California and Hawaii); Texas (by itself); the Old South; Florida (perhaps including Puerto Rico); and Alaska; plus three great self-governing urban regions, those of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles—a total of twelve constituent entities. To these entities I would accord a larger part of the present federal powers than one might suspect—large enough, in fact, to make most people gasp.

Indeed, between 2001 and 2003 Kennan corresponded with and talked on the phone with Naylor even as America’s greatest ambassador since Franklin was on his deathbed on his 97th birthday. Kennan fully endorsed the idea of northern New England separatism.

Kennan wrote that in the idea of Vermont’s and the northeastern regions’ ultimate independence, whether separately or in union, I see nothing fanciful, and nothing towards the realization of which the efforts of enlightened people might not be usefully directed. Such are at present the dominating trends in the U.S. that I can see no other means of ultimate preservation of cultural and societal values that will be not only endangered but eventually destroyed in an endlessly prolonged association of the northern parts of New England with the remainder of what is now the U.S.A.

Of course, any attempt to separate territories from the remainder of the U.S. could, if it were to be any less than tragically unsuccessful, have to be gradual and protractive, he added.

Recently, as states sovereignty legislation has spread from New Hampshire across the red states, the idea of Vermont secession has begun to wander boldly out of the wilderness as well.

Ian Baldwin, founder of the E.F. Schumacher Society (US), co-founder of Vermont’s Chelsea Green Publishing Company which publishes the best of the Nearings’ work, and founder of and contributing editor to the pro-secession web site, Vermont Commons, writes eloquently this month of Vermont secession on the popular new age web site, Reality Sandwich, a web magazine for “ . . . this time of intense transformation.” Its subjects run the gamut from “ . . . sustainability to shamanism, alternate realities to alternative energy, remixing media to re-imagining community, holistic healing techniques to the promise and perils of new technologies.”

I long to be peaceably bounded in a small-scale polity, shorn of taxation for endless arrays of weaponry, ever-mounting war debts, insurance blackmail schemes for illnesses incurable and expanding, and free at last of my country's ceaseless chase after loot in all corners and every crevice of the globe. This is my dream. And Vermont seems a place where it could be realized.

To be free at last, he writes, “from the tyranny of what political scientist Sheldon Wollin calls inverted totalitarianism (aka ‘democracy in America’).”

The idea of Vermont secession has now entered phase two of its life cycle; the world of institutionalizers and acculturators, the people of cash and luxury, of beauty, taste and goodness. Captain Phillips aside, these are the people that the outside press seeks out and listens to when it imagines Vermont. Furthermore and this is most important, the idea of secession is now fashionably hip. It is now acceptable to a wide swath; the avante garde of the middle class (20% they say up here), as gay marriage was hip 20 years ago and smoking reefer was when it left the bohemian cellar club for the strip malls and suburbs, the corporate wives’ luncheons and the dusty stair wells of federal buildings 40 years ago.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hillary/Wesley Clark 2012?

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 4/10/09

Will Obama run again in 2012? Conventional wisdom says yes, they always do. But others are driven by Power, while Obama is driven more by an academic sensory motivator. He sees himself giving speeches, like Kennedy, like Roosevelt, like Lincoln. He sees himself in hindsight. In this he is the anti-Reagan as Reagan had set objectives and didn’t care what history or anyone thought of him. (Nor did Roosevelt and Lincoln for that matter.)

As he is not power motivated as an individual and as a President – as Romney is, as Hillary is – and has never been so in his career, he will not correctly intuit power and it could well get beyond him. Perhaps it already has: The world beyond senses poor power motivation (that is, it senses weakness) and responds as nature does, red in tooth and nail. It did with Jimmy Carter and quickly. It could as well with Obama.

Obama has already completed his mission. Let’s talk straight: He wanted to be the first black President and that is what the American people wanted of him as well. That is all. If he stays until 2016 and the pop culture prediction of an end-of-the-world flood in 2012 turns out to be one of paper money, it could really screw that up. And so many other things could go wrong. Already are.

It was being said two years back by wags and pundits – just before Obama popped up –that there was no longer a Democratic Party. There were only the Clintons, and that was where all the money was going. Then Obama found a moment via Oprah, via Caroline Kennedy and Uncle Teddy, via 100 million voters beat with the war on Iraq and seeking novelty. But he did not seek this Presidency for himself aggressively as others do.

Then why would he place his chief competitor, Senator Clinton, in as Secretary of State? Corporate power management would send her into exile with hubby in tow to mark the territory. She was only half qualified to be President at best when she ran in 2008. Now as Secretary of State she is fully qualified to run in the first rank in 2012, thanks to Obama. Did Obama want change, or just a moment of celebration before he returned the party, intact, to its Clinton root?

Actual change agents; Reagan, Kennedy, Roosevelt, Lincoln, bring in all new people. Obama brought back all the old Clinton people, including Hillary, who was supposed to be President by now.

It is not on the radar now, but it is worth watching from a distance. Hillary rising and Obama receding. Then Obama stepping aside in 2012 and returning to a comfy chaired professorship at the University of Chicago and trillions in speaking engagements. Mission accomplished. Obama a world avatar.

Then Hillary running in 2012 with General Wesley Clark as VP. The way it was supposed to be in 2008 until a coyote appeared out of nowhere on main street in Chicago.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Sarah and the Volcano

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 3/7/09

Newt Gingrich said lately that if the Republican Party doesn’t respond correctly to the President’s “monstrosity” of a budget there could be a third-party challenge come 2012. Those comments folded in nicely with South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who challenged the administration and tried to refuse the federal bailouts, folding his hand. But this is not over for Sanford. His theme could well grow in the heartland. To his call came Rick Perry of Texas, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sarah Palin of Alaska.

But if we are at a historical pause; that is, an organic economic shift, not to devastation but to moderation, which will stretch some ten or 15 years as some prominent economists suggest, change in our time could find its way through gradual cultural avenues rather than new over-night political venues and economic strategies. That is, change could be “heart” based and grow from the community rather than “head” based coming from Washington think tanks. It would be a transformation of values which would come gradually by osmosis; it would be intuitive and sensory like a slow-moving volcano which flows to a meandering path, rather than a direct third party confrontation.

That is why Sarah Palin’s speech to a Right to Life Group in Indiana on April 16 is important.

Student protests have hit Notre Dame for the school administration’s decision to bring in President Obama as commencement speaker on May 17. Governor Palin, who turned down or was removed from an important Republican event in June may have taken this speaking engagement just before to confront the Obama administration directly on the issues of abortion and family values rather than to wait for her party to act.

Palin will never be effective as the Republican Party’s official country bunny all dressed up for the big debate with the tall men. She is a force of nature and brings her own life force to public life. She must speak her own mind and speak with her own voice. And she speaks almost exclusively to the heartland.

The clever economist Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan, made an interesting point lately. When many of the major voices were writing off the Russian economy and the ruble, Taleb took a different view. We face hard times globally, he said. The Russians are tough and endure and even flourish in difficult situations. He won’t write them off. The American heartland is like that as well.

We are seeing in our time the complete alienation of American heartland and city – the red states and the blue states. They are different worlds. The heartland today is highly adaptable to changing economic forces. The city is fully dependent on “military/educational/(entertainment)/industrial complex” spiraling out of control and global economic movements that have now gone well beyond its command. Heartland Americans do not see themselves through the eyes of Europe as Obama and the New Yorkers do. They do not strategize their lives in matrices of corporate structure and federal long-term planning, but rather work in the soft structures of church, parish, local community and extended family. Heartland volunteers for military service and a study done at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton concludes that the great majority of current soldiers on duty abroad are from the heartland. The heartland works with its hands; the city remains in its head. There is no “leisure class” in the heartland.

What Gingrich’s third party would bring is confrontation. Another version of two men fighting. That might be the immediate historical necessity, but in short time, a new third party like that will resemble a compromised version of the last men in suits.

Palin should let them come; Tyra Banks, Peggy Noonan, Sally Quinn and the others chosen by the tall men to guard the gate against such rustic outsiders. It makes her stronger and it makes the heartland which identifies with her stronger. She should speak her own mind to her own and talk to the barbecue at the Volunteer Fire Department, the local church supper and the Legion Hall. She should ignore the others and see where the volcano travels.

And she should speak at the ladies tea at Evansville and maybe to the students at Notre Dame. It is possible that something indistinguishable and unknowable today will come from this and something far more lasting will grow out of it over time, bringing with it a new vision of America.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The First Lady and the Queen: Don’t Touch the Queen!

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 4/02/09

I’ve an old North Carolina friend, long gone now – Joe King – a one-armed artist and trickster who sometimes went by the name of Vinciata – who painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. It was one of those hands-across-the-waters post war friendship things. Day in, day out, Joe tucked away in a corner of her gloomy London castle and longed for North Carolina, painting the oppressive, threatening skies he used as the backdrop for all his portraits, and the Queen smiled that benign, half-sad, quite smile. Like the smiles on money. It was the smile that brought England through the war; on her mother then – the Queen Mum - but she seems to have inherited it later in age.

Same smile when she drove up Market Street with Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo waving to us during the Bicentennial. A mother’s smile; the smile of a mother who has seen a nation through triumph, sadness and difficulties but endured through joy and suffering alike. But a mother’s smile as well in that you couldn’t tell if she was really happy or was mad at you.

Always the same smile. That is why I was so surprised to see the picture of First Lady Michelle Obama and the Queen in the paper yesterday morning smiling together and holding hands. Different smile. The Queen looked at the First Lady directly and her eyes lit up. Was as if this was the one she had been waiting all these years to connect with; the Queen had finally met her friend, her equal.

It was like that moment in Casablanca when the heroic resistance fighter Victer Laszlo all dressed in white comes into Rick’s café and offers to buy him a drink. Captain Renault says, oh no, no, Monsieur Rick never drinks with the customers. But Rick drinks with Victor Laszlo.

So I have a thought about the First Lady putting her arm around the Queen that caused such an uproar. Everyone knew the rules: “Don’t touch the Queen!” Mia Farrow touched the Queen decades ago. She didn’t like it. But as the handlers of the Queen pointed out yesterday, and you can clearly see it from the video clips, the Queen already had her arm around the First Lady. My thought is this: The Queen has not until now actually liked anyone from this side of the waters or maybe anywhere well enough to hug as she did the American First Lady. And it tells us something: When she does, she will abandon protocol and do what she likes.

I grew up in an old Victorian Irish family where everyone of my grandparents’ generation came from England but were born in Ireland. The whole family and some 30 Irish-born secondary relatives gathered every Sunday after Mass at my grandmother’s apartment which was two city blocks from the dock where she arrived from England. I almost didn’t meet anyone who wasn’t an Irish cousin or an English half-relative until I was a teenager.

Our grandmother was like the Queen in our family. And then when she died it all died. We never met or joined with the others much again. I can’t imagine what will become of us when we lose this good mother.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Seeing Demons in Sarah; Mitt Romney’s New House

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 1/01/09

In its greatest crisis of both cash and confidence, California seems to have been forgotten by the press this side of the Rockies. Possibly Los Angeles and San Francisco were only distant cultural provinces of Brooklyn Heights and Central Park West, like Provincetown and Vermont are, and everybody went back home. Or like Tony Soprano’s sister Janice, who headed west then out of the blue returned years later and asked to be referred to by her new West Coast name, Parvati, after the Hindu goddess. Maybe they go west to find the goddess then come back to north Jersey and be Janice again.

But Mitt Romney has not forgotten California. He is selling his Massachusetts house and a vacation home in the mountains somewhere, and settling in at La Jolla. He’s not only smart as paint, but clever as well. He was the first to observe last summer at the Republican Convention and possibly the only one that with the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate, the country entered a new phase which might be considered the New York/Brooklyn old world socialist tradition, like Norma Desmond, trying to make one final come back before the curtain falls, and the California Barry Goldwater born free, Emersonian, self-reliance tradition trying to be born. East vs. West. And he will be in perfect position to run from that perch in the 2012 race from southern California.

He could easily predict now as well that the drastic state of political and economic decline California is experiencing today will be felt nationally in 2012 and that will be his format. He also senses perhaps that this will be the first most important contest of the century and will set the paradigm for the age ahead.

Romney is also in very good position to accommodate the Three Shadows: Sarah Palin, Twilight, and Ron Paul; heartland America (Palin), the very young rising generation, (Twilight, which the critics hate because they’re not in it), and us red necks in the mountains (Ron Paul).

Hollywood swami Deepak Chopra (They still have him?) wrote is September that Palin is Obama’s Shadow. Shadow is a specific psychological term derived likely from the Hindu by C.G. Jung and his friend Toni Wolff who knew about those things. It refers to the contents of the psyche or the collective psyche that the conscious mind is not using or is hiding from or is generally against and hates. Like the Emperor and the Sith. You can tell the ferocity of the Shadow by the hatred it generates.

Palin represents small town values -- a denial of America's global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism, says Obama-supporter Chopra, ignorance of world affairs -- a repudiation of the need to repair America's image abroad, family values – “a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice.” Also patriotism, “the usual fallback in a failed war.”

“It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in,” he writes.

Endorsements like this from pop divas and dweeb fests like Chopra hurt Obama. To a less original politician they might have cost the election. As it was, he had to go out of his way to defend his patriotism by putting on a flag pin and calling in Michelle and the kids to illustrate his “family values.” Anyone can see that there has perhaps never been a more dedicated parent or husband in the White House. And Obama himself frequently mentioned Reagan as an important innovator and said he always thought George W. Bush to be a “good guy.” Clearly today he follows the same policy initiatives in what Chopra fashions a “failed war.” But it shows the unfortunate and unnecessary baggage this president hauled along with him to the White House.

The Shadow is fierce with Sarah. Whenever I mention her name in an article I always get the most ferocious hate mail and in the same banshee shrill screeching voice like the horses the Black Riders make in The Lord of the Rings whether it is from a suddenly unhinged classical professor from a great university like the one I got this morning, or just from a common, garden-variety schizophrenic cruising the internet.

This could actually tell us something very important about ourselves as Americans today. Just before he died in the early 1960s, Jung warned of the dangers which could result from America projecting its collective Shadow (as Chopra does with Palin) onto the Soviet Union. This ferocity of feeling about Sarah, and the press attacks and TV interviews set up to embarrass her are manifestations and reinforcements of this, could mean perhaps that we are today beginning to internalize a conflict like the one we began to externalize more than 100 years ago with the communists. But this time we are projecting the same internalized hatred onto the American heartland.

In one of the very first reactions to her, a regular New York Times commentator spontaneously compared Palin to Hitler. The big people at The New York Times and the interviewers at CBS are the guardians of the cave. They warn against going there. For to enter the Shadow is to enter a cave, like the Mines of Moria – there will be dangerous encounters with cave trolls; goblins will stream down from the ceilings like rabid bats – like the armies of mice who would accuse her thereafter of overspending on her allowed clothes budget for her VP debate with Joe Biden and would even make the most savage and absurd claims, like her delightful new daughter was not really her daughter at all but her grand daughter. Welcome to the Dark Side, Luke.

This division is the internal East/West conflict described above. It’s been growing really since the Sixties – the red state/blue state thing. It’s been variously benign and active since the first settlements in Plymouth and Williamsburg. This could turn dark. Maybe Romney who is as comfortable in the west as he is in the east can help resolve this.

Romney was governor of Massachusetts between 2002 and 2006. He brought with him some very strange karma. During that period and leading up to it and descending down from it later we started winning championships. Winning everything. Super Bowls, World Series. Prior to that we never won anything. It was called The Curse and it was lifted in 2004 in Romney’s tenure during a total eclipse of the moon. He will be back in Boston on April 16 for a fund raiser for Bobby Jindal. I hope they can bring the Alaska governor along because all three represent a very new vision for the country and the new century and it could be something to which we in New England might be getting ready to sign on to once we get past the Orcs.