Saturday, July 30, 2011


Sarah Palin and the Hobbits

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 8/1/11

Interesting how the WSJ commentary referring to Tea Partiers as hobbits caught on after John McCain repeated it in the Senate. It might hold. Note on hobbits: Joseph Campbell wrote that myths reveal the deepest psychological passages of a people. “Lord of the Rings” by Oxford professor J.R.R. Tolkien, may be the most important myth of transition in modern times for the English-speaking people. I know a psychologist in Israel who says so. Because what the hobbits did was take the ring of power from golem and destroy both ring and golem. This can be seen in context of Rabbi Loeb of Prague’s great myth which introduced golem at the beginning of the modern age; golem the symbolic figure of rising unlimited power; golem the shadow which blocked the path of God and nature. The destruction of the ring and the golem allowed the world to be born again. Worth noting that the warrior Aragorn was not able to do that. Only the common people; the people of the earth, the hobbits, were.

McCain did express a kind of alienation from the rising times; that something was happening . . . again . . . and he doesn’t know what it is. But those pesky Tea Partiers are certainly behind it.

George Will, on the other hand, has a remarkably good grasp. In his Saturday column, “Declaration of Independents” he talks of Michele Bachmann’s summer reading, the dense tome of Ludwig von Mises, “Human Action” in a thoughtful review about a new libertarian book: “Autodidacts less exacting than Bachmann should spill sand on the pages of ‘The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America’ by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch. These incurably upbeat journalists with Reason magazine believe that not even government, try as it will, can prevent onrushing social improvement.”

The hobbits take their inspiration from Gillespie and Welch and for the longest time, the hobbits were the only ones who listened.

“America is moving in the libertarians’ direction not because they have won an argument but because government and the sectors it dominates have made themselves ludicrous. This has, however, opened minds to the libertarians’ argument,” writes Will.

But his Post colleague, Kathleen Parker, is not so gracious: “Take names,” she says. (Frodo, Bilbo, Sam?) “Remember them. The behavior of certain Republicans who call themselves Tea Party conservatives makes them the most destructive posse of misguided ‘patriots’ we’ve seen in recent memory.”

And where do they get their crazy ideas? Look no further than Sarah Palin’s Facebook page, where she warned freshmen about contested primaries and urged them to “remember us ‘little people’ who believed in them, donated to their campaigns and “spent hours tirelessly volunteering for them, and trusted them with our votes.”

Primaries. That is a dangerous idea. And I guess the “little people” Palin is referring to are those hobbits. So I guess that should make her Galadriel, Lady of the Woods.

RE Mythology: The Founders often compared fledgling America to Rome and recently the analogy has expanded to include Los Angeles; Rome and Athens. These are correct approximations of Europe’s prehistory or framework. But it was the brave Gauls in the center that gave the millennia their actual life force and history. And that is what we see rising here with the hobbits and their Galadriel; America’s center awakening to its destiny.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Third Manassas: Obama’s war on America

by Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/29/11

The greatest bungle in the debt crisis was on July 19 when as NPR reported: “Former President Bill Clinton said if faced with default, he would single-handedly raise the debt ceiling using the 14th Amendment and he’d do it ‘without hesitation . . . .’”

The boorishness and bluff of the language calls to mind Bull Connor in the Civil Rights days, but this from a laconic, Big Hair Southern governor with 50 gold watches and a string of mistresses who so wanted to be a New Yorker; a kind of Simon Legree in reverse. Since, a garden variety of prominent Democrats like House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer and Barbara Boxer have called for the 14th amendment and Obama himself preposterously said that he was “tempted” to solve the debt crisis himself. Dictatorship is always the temptation and should reveal the illusion of representative government with these people. Obama would be facing reelection under impeachment so it is not likely to happen.

And I would make the suggestion that Jefferson provided a defense against unconstitutional behavior by the president like this in the Kentucky Resolutions which would leave our collective relationship null and void. Wouldn’t be the first time. This defense was proposed here in New Hampshire and Vermont at the beginning of the war on Iraq. And New Hampshire state rep Dan Itse did just that with Obamacare two years ago and it started the Tea Party.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner first broached the 14th amendment strategy. I proposed here that he should be released. Geithner sheepishly walked it back, but too late. Clinton picked up on it. Still Geithner should go.

Clinton’s random and irresponsible statement hit a cord that many no longer thought existed. It reminded people who had never thought of it themselves in their lives or even in their generations that they were not authentic Americans like Obama and Hillary and Rudy and Mitt. They were intruders in the dust. They were Southerners. Because the 14th Amendment was a post Civil War amendment specifically proposed to threaten and intimidate the South.

But Clinton had thought of it as anyone raised in Arkansas in public school in the 1950s would know that the date approaching, July 21, was the date of First Manassas, the battle called by the north, Bull Run. It was the battle that started the Civil War.

Perspective comes clear through a glass darkly: Those vast places between New York and its California annex where people work with their hands is considered to be a greater Confederacy, one governed by conquest when the means provided in which the conqueror still has territorial rights. It reveals the inner life and secret agenda of Geithner, Hoyer, Boxer and co. and without question, for President Obama as well.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Glenn Beck’s religion and mine

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/28/11

I was delighted to see that The Jewish Press, the largest independent weekly Jewish Newspaper in the United States, published an essay by Moshe Feiglin, a conservative Israeli leader, repudiating Glenn Beck’s upcoming pilgrimage gathering in Jerusalem. Feiglin wrote: “The problem is not Beck's beliefs. He is a good person who believes in what he is doing. The problem is that the most loyal Jewish public is giving him its support without thoroughly checking his message. They are unwittingly abetting a very gentle and heartwarming type of modern crusade.” Delighted because the only other place this essay occurred outside of Israel was here in my blog at The Hill and I am not a Jew. But I see Beck’s event in Israel as the height of blasphemy.

I do not go to church nor do I particularly admire those who do. My problem in that is Americanism. It feels the religion I was born into was left behind in Ireland and those who made the journey here as my grandparents did were left to their own devises to find guides where they could. This has been elementary to the American condition at least as early as James Fennimore Cooper who looked to the Indians for spiritual guidance.

Here are three August ideas which might help the discussion. Pretty much outside the box:

1 - In the classic text “What the Buddha Taught” (1959) by Walpola Rahula, the author writes that all religions are really political organizations. He speaks against that. For 30 years now we have had religious groups rising here as political parties. I don’t see that they should have any problem in claiming territory and that is their human right to be free among themselves. The small sanga can find its way inward, but the large extraverted group tends to totalitarianism. Beck’s attempts now in Israel are perhaps the most despicable.

2 – If you asked anyone what was the most important event of the post-war period they might say Nixon’s visit to China or the end of the Cold War or the Civil Rights Movement of the hippie experience of the Sixties. My opinion – again as a non-Jew – is that the most important event of the century was the return of the Hasidim to Israel and the visionary writings of Rabbi Dov Ber. This and this alone made Israel possible. Israel had been a secular state, a socialist state, a European state, a pseudo-American state, a UN enclave, but all of these are political states with folkloric trimmings. With Dov Ber Israel was able to return inward to the timeless state, not even a state or a place but a state of mind. This is the true Israel. The only public thinkers I’ve ever heard make this kind of observation about Dov Ber are C.G. Jung and Bob Dylan.

3 – Moshe Feiglin is constantly referred to in the press as a “right wing extremist.” Indeed, anyone not one of the now accepted pop religions like Beck’s popular politics or pop culture mavens like Deepak Chopra , secular, external, political manifestations like Rahula talks about, could not possibly understand the inner life of a non-secular state. It is part of our American journey and moral and material conquest. It is an American existential problem; we are stuck on the outside - but it is not Israel’s problem.

Recently Feiglin wrote, “There are today more Jews living in Israel than outside of Israel. The exile is over.”

But not for America. And not for Glenn Beck.
Moshe Feiglin repudiates Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Courage” event in Jerusalem

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/20/11

Glenn Beck plans to hold a “Restoring Courage” event in Israel on August 24th. The title incredibly assumes that his Israeli audience used to have courage but now does not so he will bring it back to them. From Beck’s site:”Now is the time to Stand and Restore Courage. We ask those of you who value freedom, honor and faith to travel to Israel and stand with Glenn Beck and leaders from around the world with one united voice.”

Initially he intended to hold his event at Temple Mount but fears prompted a move to the Mount of Olives, according to the Jerusalem Post.

"I invite you to join us," Beck said recently to a gathering of influential Israeli conservatives, quoting the Scroll of Ruth. "Your nation is my nation and your God is my God.”

But apparently not all Israelis want to be restored by Beck.

Moshe Feiglin, leader of Manhigut Yehudit, the Jewish Leadership Movement, which seeks authentic Jewish leadership for Israel, writes this week in Arutz Sheva, and Israeli news outlet, “As Glenn Beck is not in the process of conversion to Judaism, it is impossible to understand his quote from the Scroll of Ruth as meaning, ‘I am joining you.’ Apparently, the real meaning of his words is ‘I am replacing you.’"

“As long as Glenn Beck and his friends support Israel from the outside, understanding that your nation is your nation and my nation is my nation; that your god is your god and my G-d is my G-d, all is well and good and it is important to cooperate with them. But when it turns out that the agenda is actually replacement theology; a theology that aims to bring waves of Christian aliyah here and to use the Jewish renaissance in Israel as a springboard to a Christian renaissance – I cannot lend it the legitimacy of Manhigut Yehudit.

“Glenn Beck speaks a lot about our obligation to tell the truth, so let us do just that: The Temple Mount is the home of the Holy Temple of the Jews – exclusively. All the non-Jews who understand that are invited to come to the Temple Mount (in the area where they are permitted according to Jewish law) to pray to the Master of the Universe, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Esau and Ishmael have their own holy places. Please honor our exclusive sovereignty over Jerusalem, including our spiritual sovereignty, just as we respect your spiritual sovereignty in your lands.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A zen history of Canada

by Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/29/11

Ten years ago Canada was on the skids. The Bloc Quebecois was on the rise, the IMF was glaring and Canadians were self effacing and avidly in between, not sure if they were real unto themselves or a kind of cold country American. They knew neither who they were nor who they were not. As Canadian novelist Robertson Davies said, Canada was the “introverted half of America.” What a great image. A columnist for the Boston Globe who wanted to be Charles Krauthammer when he grew up said, “There will never be a Canadian century.” At that time the Canadian dollar was converting to 75 cents American. Today it is worth $1.06 U.S and rising rapidly. What happened? How did Canada get strong? It overcame two existential and psychological challenges, the United States and Quebec.

Over long periods history can be looked at as a chemistry experiment. England’s fate can be seen broadly over two thousand years as going back to only two days in particular: The day Elizabeth I removed one of the chemical elements by chopping off the head of Mary Queen of Scots is the first. It changed the chemical makeup of England. It ended a long thousand year irritant – longer – from those pesky Picts who came from Ireland to the space now Scotland and just wouldn’t go away. It is the kind of irritant that makes you strong and keeps you on your guard. Trafalgar again changed the chemistry. Tiny England soared to world conquest and remained in the game until Sean Connery was knighted.

Canada faced a similar situation with Quebec, natural enemies united from the first in confederation as protection against colonization by the Unites States in the 1800s. Today Canada and Quebec have come to terms. In the recent election the Bloc Quebecois, which seeks secession from Canada, received only three seats. The movement has effectively ended. I have felt that the Quebecois movement was a conspiracy to make Canada stronger and more independent from the United States and when that happened the two would find common ground.

And that moment happened when the little Krauthammers who had been sitting around the offices of the Weekly Standard for years trying to decide which country to invade when the opportunity arose finally got their opportunity to act after 9/11 and easily convinced George W. Bush to invade Iraq.

Canada, under the leadership of Jean Chr├ętian, the “little guy from Shawinigan” who spoke English with a hilarious accent, directly told the U.S. he would not support the effort. Quebec, which has zero pseudo-Americanness, vehemently opposed the American invasion. Bernard Landry, leader of the Bloc, openly expressed his support for Chr├ętien and the Bloc and Canada were one.

But Canada and the U.S. no longer were. Canada would no longer be a footnote to American efforts. Canada broke free at that moment. Since, with the election of Stephen Harper and the weakening of the Liberal party and demise of the Bloc, Canada has gone its own way. I believe it will now be seen as leading the way if Rick Perry makes progress into 2012 as these two share characteristics in culture and politics. And a Perry presidency will accommodate the Tea Party much as Harper was able to accommodate Quebec.

The Canadians might have gotten it right first. It is easy today to imagine the Loonie worth $1.30 one day soon given the situation in America today.
Perry takes the lead

Texas governor Rick Perry has taken the lead at Intrade, “The World’s Leading Prediction Market,” giving him a 35.0% chance to be Republican Presidential Nominee in 2012. Mitt Romney came in second with a 27.8% chance. Michele Bachman has a 9.0% chance.

Nate Silver comments on his FiveThirtyEight blog at the New YorkTimes:

“Are the bettors being sensible or getting ahead of themselves? Although this is all fun and games as compared to the debt ceiling debate, a quick overview of the state of play is in order.

“An average of the seven most recent polls of Republican voters (the six contained in the Real Clear Politics average plus the Economist / YouGov poll) finds Mr. Romney with the lead, with an average of 22 percent of the vote. After that, there’s essentially a four-way tie between Ms. Bachmann (13 percent), Sarah Palin (13 percent), Mr. Perry (12 percent) and Rudolph W. Giuliani (11 percent in the polls in which he is included). Herman Cain’s momentum appears to have faded, while Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty are now often polling in the low rather than the high single digits.”

Based on Gallup numbers, Mr. Perry is recognized by only slightly more than half of Republican voters, writes Silver. Of those who recognize his name, 21 percent list him as their first choice, just slightly behind Mr. Romney at 25 percent.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why professional athletes should run for office

by Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/26/11

Because they solve their problems.

And when did you last hear this from Washington: “I’d like to apologize to the fans, that for the last five, six months we’ve been talking about the business of football, not what goes on the field.”

That from Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, who players say was instrumental in reaching an amicable agreement, even as his wife was dying of cancer.

Granted, Kraft is a towering figure and rightly, we have come to expect more from men like Kraft and Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and player rep Jeff Saturday, center for the Indianapolis Colts, well pictured on the front page of the NY Times this morning, affectionately comforting the mourning Kraft cuddled under his wing; big and bearded, vaguely giving the impression of God the Father. Because America is still healthy in the center, even if it is fraying on the edges and at the center of the American journey at this moment is football.

It forms the matrix of who we are and what we will become. Up to 100 million Americans will watch at the best moment and most times, almost no one outside of our boundaries will watch. As it should be. It defines our parameters, just as hockey does to Canada. It tells us who we are and who we are not and protects us from the gargantuan, Leviathan, totalitarian illusions of universalism. We are people in a specific time and place and this is our time and place.

So the contrast with the Washington debt deliberations is startling. And it has been like this for a long time. There is crisis ahead; there should be, there must be, but it will all work out well because the center holds; the center is strong.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Obama needs a cigarette

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/24/11

The very first question President Obama should ask Speaker John Boehner when they meet next is this: “Got a cigarette?”

Gone are the days of the soaring oratory and the early speeches better than any president including Lincoln has ever given. Gone is the original, elegant prose, the moving images, the complexity of thought, the subtle historical nuance of his early autobiography and it went so quickly. He did write that stuff, no?

Now, as of last Friday, the eyes grow wide as he berates America in flowing formless and alien anecdotal vindictive and righteous indignation like a neurotic cat chasing a string. We are entering dire straits, says Dan Balz of the Washington Post, but both parties see only the end and not the beginning.

They got big problems, no question. It’s that pesky Particle/Wave issue Niels Bohr talked about: Something happens to one is felt by the other, so gay marriage celebration with Andy Cuomo in NY drops Obama support down 14 points in NC almost overnight. Hard to recall a time when State wasn’t focused on gay marriage in Italy so Lady Gaga could get a gig. Hart to recall when pop stars like Bono and Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats didn’t actually establish foreign policy; the Bob Geldorf Institute for International Studies.

But the Republicans are no better off. Ask any establishment Republican for a great candidate and they will invariably name someone from a dead or dying state; a state too dangerous to even drive through or one post-industrial rusting quagmire momentarily revived from flatline by dashing Tea Party rhetoric. And leave it to them to dig up and celebrate the most dutifully boring potential or someone else named Bush. Better run that by Don first, as they say in “Mad Men.” And how’s that murder rate doing in Florida, Jeb? Is it true that liberals darkly dream of Dexter to do the job because law enforcement is fully incompetent? Can we still call that a “first world” state?

With 45 pack years, I can help with this. Grab a smoke. The First Lady proudly told the press last February that the president had kicked the smoking habit for almost one full year. It shows in his work. It shows in the poorly conceived prose and mad non-policy at home and abroad and in the president’s personal frustration and anxiety. Like last Friday, his critical moment and he gave the worst performance of his presidency, opposing without policy, opposing for the sake of opposition. That is not politics. It is demagoguery. It borders on the edge of witchcraft. He needs a cigarette.

What is different from Obama and any other president I can remember is that he is first and foremost an accomplished wordsmith. And like the best of them, he came to the task while smoking. Quitting under such major responsibility can be disastrous. I quit 20 years ago when my kids were born and it took more than five years to get past it. At that, the first cigarette with coffee in the morning was a paradise lost, never to be regained.

This is not Oprah. Stop listening to the women with the floppy hats. Do you job. And if you need a cigarette to regain your mojo, do it. You’ll have plenty of time to quit after 2012 if you don’t.

John Boehner, on the other hand is neither elegant nor oratorical. He is nicotine tanned and leathery. He sits alone on his own bench, smoking by himself, the last survivor of the age of smoke. But his resolve clear and confident, and his language models Hemingway’s goal of simple, declarative sentences.

And Boehner understands the rules: The Congress approves the budget. There is nothing ambiguous about it. Those are the rules. The Democrats haven’t lived by the rules since Roosevelt, the Republicans since Lincoln, but they are still the rules, and Boehner is convincing in his willingness to faithfully stand by them.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Perry, Palin, Giuliani, Trump

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/22/11

In the past week a connection between Texas Governor Rick Perry and former NY mayor Rudy Giuliani has popped up in the press. Makes sense. They like each other. And when I asked Giuliani last Friday at Dartmouth College if he would support Rick Perry, that characteristic great-big-sea of a smile spread across his face. “I might,” he said. I took that as an absolutely.

The Perry/Giuliani connection has been so sudden, fast and furious that Mike Huckabee already asks in a press release yesterday, “For all his [Perry’s] new found commitment to hyper-conservatism [not], he’ll get to explain why he supported pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage Rudy Giuliani last time.”

Oh, I can explain that: Perry is from Texas. Giuliani is from New York City.

There is vitriol in Huckabee’s tone, so I’d like to suggest the Mr. Rogers’s threshold test for presidential aspirants. Mr. Rogers says, “I like you just the way you are.” Does Huckabee? Does Michele Bachmann? Romney, a Mormon in Irish Boston surely does and so do Perry and Giuliani (who was married in Graceland, I believe). They all pass the NASCAR test as well. But Huckabee - and playing the stupid guitar doesn’t help – doesn’t help anybody – like Michelle Bachmann, it feels, doesn’t like our ways, which makes sense, but unlike Mr. Rogers, we wonder if they don’t like us either.

May I suggest to Huckabee Rick Perry’s book Fed Up! Our fight to save America from Washington, in which he writes, “We are a diverse people – incapable of being governed from a faraway capital by people who do not share our values. Recognizing this fact is critical to the preservation of a free state.”

Because it’s not just Mr. Rogers, it’s Mr. Jefferson. Does that explain it?

Said here last year that the primary Rick Perry faced in his gubernatorial race in Texas would open the paradigm for the century. In it, the entire Republican eastern establishment, including George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Karen Hughes as a proxy for W. and others lined up to support Kay Bailey Hutchison. Perry had only the support of Sarah Palin and won in a landslide. I’d contend that that intraparty division between establishment and new thinking is today more important than the traditional Democrat/Republican split. And the 2012 race will be a definitive moment in the new century.

But now it will be more than Palin behind Perry. It will be Giuliani as well, and my guess he will have another New Yorker who passes the NASCAR test, Donald Trump.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Al Qaeda in the Horn of Africa

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/19/11

Jon Huntsman made an interesting comment the other day. He said the al Qaeda terrorism sweeping the world these last decades represents the collapse of old regimes much as collapse swept old Europe and the Ottoman Empire a hundred years ago. It would run another five to ten years, he said. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a rising expert on global terror and has recently been interviewed in Wired and Salon on current threats, particularly in the south of Africa, and published dozens of articles on terrorism.

The Horn of Africa is currently wracked by what seems to be its worst drought in 60 years, with tremendous humanitarian consequences. Compounding the problem, and creating a dilemma for the United States, some of the hardest-hit areas are controlled by an al Qaeda-aligned organization that regularly extorts humanitarian organizations -- and will likely do so again, Gartenstein-Ross and Tara Vassefi write in this month’s Atlantic.

The southern parts of Somalia are the drought crisis's "ground zero," as David Shinn, the U.S.'s former ambassador to Ethiopia, put it in an interview with the authors. This creates a perplexing dynamic, since the dominant force in the drought-stricken areas of Somalia is al Shabaab, the extremist, al Qaeda-linked militia that many U.S. policymakers see as the region's most significant strategic challenge.

Part of Shabaab's legitimacy rests on its claim that it is a better regional administrator than Somalia's weak transitional federal government (TFG), they write. The flood of refugees into neighboring countries from the areas it controls has been a major embarrassment. Shabaab has thus backtracked on its previous expulsions of a number of humanitarian NGOs.

“In February 2010, for example, Shabaab expelled the World Food Programme. Somali farmers had complained that the free food aid was driving market prices down so far that subsistence farmers could no longer support their families. Shabaab banned three more aid groups in August 2010 and another three in September, accusing them of ’promulgating Christianity and Western ideology.’ "

Since January 2007 there has been much more U.S. presence on the ground in Somalia than has been reported and much more than most people realize, Gartenstein-Ross said in an interview with Salon.

Asked by Salon why have both the Bush and Obama administrations seen getting involved in Somalia militarily as in the U.S. interest, Gartenstein-Ross replied:
“If you look back to 2006, there clearly was some connection between the Islamic Courts and al-Qaida at leadership levels. There's a legitimate debate about how strong those connections were. But moving forward to where we are now with Shabaab, the group is clearly connected at its top levels to al-Qaida. There have been multiple statements coming out of Shabaab's leadership that they align themselves with al-Qaida. One Shabaab leader, Omar Hammami, issued a manifesto a few years ago explaining the split between Shabaab and the other insurgent factions. He said that part of the reason was that the other factions were committed to the colonial borders, but in contrast Shabaab was dedicated to reestablishing the caliphate, which is one of al-Qaida's goals. Other leaders have come out and pledged their allegiance to bin Laden or al-Qaida more generally. So this is why the U.S. sees what's going on Somalia as of concern to the U.S. national interest. Couple that, of course, with the experience of Afghanistan pre-9/11 where a safe haven in another part of the world ended up allowing terrorist strikes to occur here.”

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross directs the Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Tara Vassefi is a faculty member at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn: the new paradigm

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/19/11

Two stars are born this season, Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn, westerners travelling in righteous vengeance. She with the “author of all things” watching over her and a fine horse. He with true grit. The Coen Brothers in “True Grit,” this the greatest ever movie, return us to ourselves in the western epic we last visited in 1968 after a 40-some year skywalk. And in our time their players, Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn, come to resemble two new and rising stars on the political scene, Elizabeth Warren and Rick Perry, governor of Texas. In Perry, Andrew Jackson has found his avatar. In Warren, Rachel Maddow has found her anti-Palin.

Warren says she will now consider running for senate in Massachusetts. I hope she does. Interesting, we have now two formidable politicos come to us from the west: Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, and now John Wesley’s own Oklahoman grandmother, Elizabeth Warren, whose old-rugged-cross character and diligent work ethic suggests her to be Mattie Ross incarnate. We need this badly in New England. Potentially, we are finally leaving Europe behind as Emerson demanded. I’d like to see Warren look ahead to bigger goals like governor of Massachusetts, but this will do. I don’t see that Scott Brown will be that much of a problem. He has not made much of an impression. His great gift seems to be the ability to drive a truck. I’ve tried it. It’s not that hard.

Perry may have seen his first vital moment on the national scale this past Thursday with an essay in the Washington Post signed with South Carolina governor Nikki Haley on the debt crisis. He used the phrase “cut, cap and balance.” It has since become a mantra. It will identify the rising paradigm in conservative politics and Rick Perry will be identified with it. The states’ rights perspective in now imbedded in conservative politics. Every candidate in this race including Jon Huntsman, Jr. and Mitt Romney, references states rights as Rudy Giuliani did up here at Dartmouth College last Friday when he told a college audience that what the next president should do to cut the size of federal government is “to move functions of the federal government down to the state and local level, which are better at delivering what states and cities need.” This is boilerplate Tea Party.

Should be recalled that the “true grit” feature in American politics – the Jacksonian, heartland uprising which evolved into the Tea Party – was started on the left by the tobacco-chewing, Glock-toting Scotch-Irish Virginian Jim Webb, writer, warrior, former Secretary of the Navy and currently Virginia’s Senator. John McCain had the good literary sense to pull in the Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin to advance the theme.

Andrew Jackson liberated the American frontier and heartland. It brought the end of the Colonial period and the domination of American politics by the Eastern colonials. To regain influence, the northeast had to go country as well (thus the funny whiskers and silly hat on Abraham Lincoln). Today, the agricultural heartland has arrived in America as a political influence, finally gaining its birthright. The Democrats will have to do the same today as the Republicans did back then to gain influence: go country.

Their new Okie star Warren is a beginning. Look to Montana governor Brian Schweitzer and farmer/senator Jon Tester of Montana to advance. Look maybe to more from Jim Webb.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Why states rights? America is at a sea change.

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/16/11

Granma eating Alpo? This presidency will grow increasingly sordid. Will it bring a challenge?

Peggy Noonan on Friday:

In the Old America there were a lot of bad parents. . . But in the old America you knew it wasn't so bad, because the culture could bring the kids up . . . Grown-ups now know you can't send the kids out to play in the culture, because the culture will leave them distorted and disturbed.

Always in politics we expect the future to be like the immediate past but it never is. That is generational wishing. Kennedy will be back, Reagan will be back, Clinton (Bush, Brittany?) will be back because we think of them as immortals. When they ask England hundred years hence when her drooling peasantry is rooting for potatoes why did Gordon Brown sell England’s gold in 1999, the answer will be because he like at least half of his generation thought Bill Clinton was a god.

Maybe it comes from that old saw . . . one of those misguided truths scribbled on a three-by-five index card in college, that history repeats itself and those who don’t read history are condemned to repeat it. But those who do read history are condemned to repeat it as well. It is what we do. History runs in cycles and changes like water, like swirling fire, like the hands of Dancing Shiva swirling left and right in his dance of the creation. Worth noting that thing beneath his feet. He dances on the corpse of the last creation. But in the center of that famous icon of life’s circle of fire the right hand stabilizes, palm out, in the center as if Shiva is posing for a photograph. It means this and this is the real story of history: It is a comment repeated by Mad Men’s Don Draper, perfect master of his imagined time and our own, and it is repeated in many episode. And sometimes he holds his hand up in the same way Shiva does when he says it: “Everything will be alright.”

I’ve never really seen the difference between optimists and pessimists. They seem rather extraverts and introverts. The extraverts hope to build the recent past into the future but they never see the turnings. The introverts always see the turnings. But then the extraverts take over. As a rule of thumb, they generally then burn the introvert at the stake and eat his babies. The optimist wants to build the current temple higher, the pessimist dreams of the oldest temple being born again, the ancient temple, the golden temple inside, the temple without walls, the timeless temple, the Temple Mount. And sees it rising again – it is always there, under the rubble and it returns again when the optimists’ buildings grow too tall and collapse.

But today, as Noonan says, the culture the extroverts have brought us is disturbed and distorted. When they invaded Grenada they blasted the opposition relentlessly with poisonous, soul-killing pop music. Now the music plays here, everywhere, and you cannot escape it.

Rule of thumb: When the elegant nihilist gains the competitive edge – Victoria’s last days, Jimmy Carter’s disco-era presidency, our present moment – the culture has stopped producing. It will then either die or be born again. Such is the turning ahead. Hard to decipher, so we strive, like Cher, to hold back time. But now it is upon us like a deep cerulean tide.

Friday, July 15, 2011

notes for monday

America is at a sea change
We always in politics expect the future to be like the immediate pat but it never is. Thatis generational withing . . . Kennedy wil be back, Reagan will be back, Clinton (Bush, Brittany?) will be back because they are all immortals . . . when they ask England hundred years hense when it is back to drooling peasantry rooting for potatoes status on the global specgtrum why did they sell their gold in ____ the answer will be because like more than half of his generation Gordon Brown thought bill Clinton was a god. Maybe it comes fro old saw . . . one of those misguided truths scribbled on a three by five index card in college, that history repeats itself and that those who don’t read history are condemned to repeat it. But so are those who do read history are condemned to repeart it. As history runs in cycles and changes like water, like swirling fire, like the dancing hands of shiva swirling left nad right in his dance of the creation. Worth noting he dances on the corpse of the last. But in the center of that famous icon with the left foot kicking beneath the circle of fire anm that the right hand stabilizes in the center as if posing for a photograph. It means this and this is the real s tory of history an da comment repeated by mad men’s dond draper at almost every episode. And sometimes he holds his hand up in the same way when he says, “Everything will be alright.”
Toynbee said that history flips that the yin b ecomes the yand; that rock becomes water and water in time becomes petrified
The rise of washingtonh in opposition to ny that is the vitriol now from ny so much like that which came form th southern Christian against he Beatles, against the hippies against everything.
I’ve never really seen the difference between optimists and pessimists . . . they sesem rather extraverts an dintraverts – the extraverts hope to build the past into the future but they never see the turnings; the introverts always see the turning – as Lincoln said it was looking to a river seeing to the next turn – and then the extraverts take over . . as a rule of thumb, generally buring the introvert at the stake. The optimist wants to build the old temple higher, the pessimist dreams of the old temple, the ancient temple, the golden temple, Temple Mount. And sees it rising again – it is always therer, hidden underneath - when the optimist building builds too tall collapses.
Rule of thumb: When the elegant nihilist gains the competitive edge – Victoria’s last days, Jimmy Carter’s disco-era presidency, our present moment – the culture has stopped producing. It will then either die or be born again. Such is the turning ahead. Hard to decipher, so we strive, like Cher, to hold back time. But now it is upon us like a deep cerulean tide.

Don draper perfect master of his imagined time and our own

History repeats itself and so do historians and bloggers

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rick Perry/Nikki Haley ’12 (this is a draft)

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/15/11

By the end of August there will be a slingshot effect; a rapid rise in cultural and political velocity like that they used to swing the astronauts around the earth to pitch them to the moon. The budget ceiling bickering will be over but more than that football will be back, brought to a fever pitch after the recent threats of cancellation. And one candidate will ride that American energy forward as Pecos Bill rode the cyclone: Rick Perry, governor of Texas. There may be another, Sarah Palin and maybe a third, Rudy Giuliani.

But the one long awaited and the one in my opinion likely to ride the new conservative energy to the Republican nomination will be Rick Perry. His choice for vice president might look back to the “establishment” to bring continuity; best for that would be Rob Portman from Ohio. Better would be Jon Huntsman, Jr. in an all western ticket to follow the contours of the demographics heading west and the new economy travelling across the Pacific. And he needs someone young and someone new to the national field. But don’t overlook Nikki Haley, the exciting new governor of South Carolina. Perry and Haley have signed together an op ed in the Washington Post today titled “Break the spend-and-borrow cycle.”

The new governors movement which became a forerunner to the Tea Party to challenge spending of the fed in bailing out banks began in December, 2009, in opposition to the W. Bush administration’s initial bailouts. Perry and then governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford then challenged other governors to join them in opposition. It is interesting that Haley, who replaced Sanford, has picked up the thread and tagged teamed again with Perry. She repeats again and again that she does not want to be selected for Vice President; that she is only now the “flavor of the month” but she is an extraordinary individual from a strong family and it is hard to imagine a more perfect candidate.

The lead from their essay:

As governors of states whose residents, like all Americans, are desperate for the restoration of fiscal responsibility in Washington, we are proud to have signed the “Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge” amid the debate over once again raising the federal debt ceiling.

We oppose an increase in the federal debt limit unless three common-sense conditions are met: substantial cuts in spending; enforceable spending caps to put the country on a path to a balanced budget; and congressional passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment should include a requirement for a congressional supermajority to approve any raises in taxes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Warren for Governor

For The Hill on 7/14/11

I hope that when she finishes her gig at the new consumer bureau which is in the words today of CNN Money, is “set to sail with no captain” Elizabeth Warren remembers where she came from. She may be an “Oklahoma grandmother” but I hope she comes back to New England. I’d love to see her run for governor up here. Because in my 60-some years as a New Englander she returns us to something we left behind some time ago: A New England work ethic. Work ethic, self reliance and rugged individual character were synonymous with Emerson’s New England and even Thoreau’s. But we, the Irish, who commandeered the neighborhood these past hundred years, had a somewhat different approach.

Indeed, those W.A.S.P.s – White Anglo-Saxon Protestants – like Warren were the universal object of scorn through the Sixties and Seventies. But by pitching ourselves against Protestant New England until we drove them all to Texas, it left us debilitated and to some degree it poisoned Massachusetts and the Democratic Party. And it didn’t do Texas much good. To the degree that we came to see the dark before we could see the light. It is not for nothing that every movie ever made about South Boston is either about fighting or drinking.

Jack Kennedy gave us our turn. But we then brought our oppositionalism to a national scale and transferred the debilitating Boston Irish v. Boston Unitarian/Episcopalian to a national scale. And other ethnics and minorities joined the opposition. The condition broke with Ronald Reagan and for the first time entire ethnic northeastern neighborhoods voted Republican. For the first time we were no longer Irish, but American and could vote for whomever we wanted. But viral ethnic karma remained in Boston and Uncle Teddy – considered by many of us from the old neighborhood to be the dark brother - carried oppositionalism to its very end game. Which made authentic and original opposition say to the war in Iraq difficult for you if your allies always opposed everything.

I first felt a delightful sea change in the Democratic ranks when Mark Warner was elected governor of Virginia. With Wes Clark as well and then Jim Webb of Virginia. Warner brought prosperity to the South, and Clark and Webb, along with Russ Feingold, brought character and singular courage to the issues, much like the stand-alone, venerable old war horse, Senator Robert C. Bryd, of West Virginia. I would say that Representative Dennis Kuchinich has earned a place today in that select group with his opposition to the illegal invasion of Libya.

But what the Democrats wanted was a “rock star.” Left over from the Sixties much?

If Warren doesn’t get her position there is other work to be done. How about a consumer’s agency on torture or random and illegal invasions of foreign lands which have no bearing whatsoever on national security? How about running for governor of Massachusetts? How about considering a regional authority to study relative economic, moral and cultural issues in post-ethnic New England so we can begin to solve our own problems instead of relying on the one-size-fits-all model designed for the colonies and the vast and endless North American forest which surrounded them in 1776.

How about rebuilding the Democratic Party here again from scratch, without the dark mask and with NEW ENGLAND values. How about running for president in 2016?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Timothy Geithner should go

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/11/11

Last week Lawrence H. Tribe, the professor of Constitional law at Harvard, wrote in the NY Times that Secretary Geithner’s suggestion that Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, known as the “public debt clause” provides “false hope of a legal answer that obviates the need for a real solution.”

Week by week and month by month it has become increasingly clear that the suggestion by Jim Rogers, the legendary investor and co-founder of the Quantum Fund, that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was a poor choice for the job because he “doesn’t know what he’s doing” was prescient.

Geithner’s citing of the 14th Amendment, one of the Reconstruction Amendments passed in1868, has nothing to do with law – Geithner studied Mandarin in college and has no law degree - and everything to do with culture. Questions should arise now if President Obama, who won election by following the “Whistling past Dixie: How Democrats can win without the South” theme of Thomas Shaller, hopes to draw the Republican opposition in the crude caricature of red neck neo-Confederates as Geithner does by citing law intended to dominate the South in the contentious Civil War period.

Is the Obama administration orchestrating a new war against the South? Is that why FEMA funds are so reluctantly released to storm victims in Virginia and Texas? Is that why the National Labor Relations Board acted so swiftly against South Carolina in the notorious Boeing case?

As The Hill reports, RepresentativeTim Scott (R-S.C.) said Geithner’s absurd suggestion should be considered “an impeachable act” and David B. Rivkin, Jr., an attorney who served in the Department of Justice during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, agreed.

"Any president who did something like this would be engaging in the most outrageous conduct of any president in … constitutional history. There's no doubt that this would be an impeachable offense," he said.

Time for Obama to explain. Time for Geithner to go.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Good bye space shuttle with affection

by Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/11/11

By returning and rest we shall be saved . . . - The Book of Common Prayer

Can’t of course speak for everyone in New England but for myself, there was a large gap in space/time – a period of wu chi like that well described by the master bard who was getting married at Gibraltar while in a parallel event his cosmic counterpart, Neil Armstrong, was playing golf on the moon; “no heaven . . . no country . . . no religion too . . .” – a time between creations that started its long pause when Ted Williams left Boston in 1960 and finally ended when Tom Brady came to Boston in the year 2000. In between we, the people, left the earth for space.

So much in the “between” – bar-do, that space between “real time” I think Tibetans call it; the time in which we actually went to space and lived there. Then this weekend we came back.

A featured op-ed writer in the NYTs called the last shuttle flight “the end of optimism.” I myself much enjoyed the ride but appreciate the return as well and look forward most of all to the next thing just ahead. I don’t see what optimism has to do with it.

There were things we learned and metabolized while we were in space – George Lucas’ long tutorial on Taoism and Tibetan Buddhism – “the Force” - in the Star Wars series, for example – so that when the Dalai Lama holds a Kalachakra in Washington, D.C. as the shuttle makes its final landing, it feels to be as American as apple pie. As American as Woopie Goldberg or Jimi Hendrix. But Ted Williams might not have understood.

We might not have grasped these things so readily earth-bound; shacked to earth and its burdensome ancient memories. But one professor friend said back then that when he studied the Tao it helped him “understand the Bible more.”

Walking with Skywalker was more than just movies. Critic Stanley Kauffman said “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in 1977 was “an event in the history of faith.”

And it is interesting that the mythic, epical space journeys of Obi-Wan Kenobi and his extraverted twin Captain James T. Kirk and his half-sister Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, who so generously loaned her ovaries to Andromeda – our mother in space - so we the earthbound may be born again in space – these and a 1000 other images and stories all occurred in the real-time age of the space program.

And then stopped abruptly around 2005 and we came back to earth: Interesting as well to a place called “Redemption Island” in the “Survivor” series. And the mystery we saw in space in the 100 years prior to lift off we see now on earth with shows like “Survivor” and ”Lost.” Seeing the earth as if – in T.S. Eliot’s phrase – for the first time.

Maybe we were better prepared there in space for the new millennium. Which probably starts now with the last shuttle flight. But we are an earth-based species. It should be the most obvious observation about human nature. This is where we belong, this is where we rest and this is the place to which we return at space journey’s end.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Georgia Rep. Paul C. Broun calls for lowering the debt ceiling

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/7/11

Will President Obama default to the 14th Amendment on the debt ceiling and ignore Congress? Could bring problems. Sen. Jim DeMint says he’s ready to accept problems including “serious disruptions” to the economy. But U.S. Rep. Paul C. Broun of Georgia is upping the ante. In National Review Online yesterday he called for lowering the debt ceiling.

“Today, I introduced a unique bill that goes in a completely different direction than everything else we’ve been hearing out of Washington. It would force politicians to start practicing what they’ve been preaching by lowering the debt ceiling from $14.3 trillion back down to $13 trillion,” he writes. “Admittedly, this is not your run-of-the-mill kind of law, but it would make it imperative for Congress to think outside of the box and come up with ways to pay off a portion of our debt while drastically cutting back spending. Since 1996, the national debt has increased by an inexcusable $8.79 trillion. I firmly believe that this calls for emergency measures to reduce the debt.

“In the midst of our economic emergency, which is beginning to resemble a full-on Greece-style meltdown, every politician in America has taken to the soap box to say the exact same thing: We need to reduce our national debt and cut spending to get America back on track, he says. Unfortunately, Congress has produced all talk — and very, very little action.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are equally responsible for the government’s past fiscal irresponsibility, says Broun. Sadly, whenever Congress has been given a chance to make a real impact on the budget, our spending habits, and our nation’s livelihood, Democrats and Republicans alike have caved.

“Moreover, in this time of crisis, liberals are pushing for a $2 trillion increase in our debt ceiling. And their only answer for our financial fiasco is to cut nothing and raise taxes on everything — which would simply give Washington more money to burn through. Even more disturbingly, under the president’s budget proposal, the debt would double to $26.3 trillion by 2021, and he has no intention or plan to pay it down.”

Should his legislation be signed into law, Broun says Washington would have to get serious about making the cuts they’ve been talking about, and our national debt would be one step closer to being manageable. His legislation would not just slow down, or stop the reckless spending train; it would completely turn it around.
“To be realistic, we can’t lower the debt limit today, but if we set a deadline, the beginning of FY 2012, it would force politicians to make those decisions in the months to come.”

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Laozi and Henry Kissinger

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/6/11

Henry Kissinger’s new book, “On China,” explains what might be seen as a modern telling of China’s fourteenth-century epic novel, “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” the three kingdoms being Mao’s China, the Soviet Union and the United States. Nixon’s Nobel-Peace Prize winning National Security Advisor focuses on President Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China in 1972. What I found to be of particular interest is how the diplomatic relationship developed between China and the United States. Ambassador George Kennan had proposed that the Soviet Union would not survive if it could not expand and would fall apart internally. A U.S./China diplomatic friendship would fence the Soviets in and sure enough, less than 20 years later the Soviet Union fell apart.

But something – someone – is missing from Kissinger’s book. Laozi, Taoist sage and author of the “Daodejing.”

Rightfully so, as Tao played no role in Mao’s revolution nor does it in today’s China. I began to worry about China’s future, because China without Tao is like Israel without torah or India without the Bhagavad Gita. Kennan’s observation could just as easily be made about American capitalism and the “Beijing model”; without expansion, they would fall apart. And China has survived these six thousand years on the Tao – the Path – the path of receding power or the way of return.

Liu Junning, an independent scholar in Beijing, suggests today in a Wall Street Journal essay titled “The Ancient Roots of Chinese Liberalism” that Beijing’s power path without Laozi is brittle. Last week Chinese Communist Party’s 90th anniversary, Hu Jintao said “Success in China hinges on the party.” Liu Junning writes:

That view is to be expected from the party secretary. Perhaps more surprising is the extent to which outside observers have come to believe it, too. These foreigners—academics and journalists prominent among them—look to the "Beijing model" or the "Beijing consensus" as a desirable alternative to Western-style economic liberalism.

The Washington consensus counted on free trade and open capital flows, plus deregulation, the rule of law, and the pre-eminence of the private sector to spur development. China at first glance appears to have achieved 9% annual growth rates or better for years by challenging that rule book. Visiting dignitaries and columnists see gleaming skyscrapers, straight roads, booming industries and upwardly mobile citizens.

This view fundamentally misunderstands the country's growth progress. China has indeed made great strides since 1978's "Reform and Opening" in alleviating poverty, opening up to the world, and making slow steps down the road of legal reform. Yet on closer inspection, the most significant transformations from the perspective of boosting prosperity have involved loosening of control over the people, not some alchemy of power and Marxism.


The Beijing model has the "virtue" of allowing the government to act quickly and decisively, writes Liu Junning. But when Beijing makes mistakes, the result historically has been a Cultural Revolution or a Great Leap Forward.

What we now call Western-style liberalism has featured in China's own culture for millennia, he writes. We first see it with philosopher Laozi, the founder of Taoism, in the sixth century B.C. Laozi articulated a political philosophy that has come to be known as wuwei, or inaction. "Rule a big country as you would fry a small fish," he said. That is, don't stir too much. "The more prohibitions there are, the poorer the people become," he wrote in his magnum opus, the "Daodejing."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

“cruel, racist and counterproductive”

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/5/11

A better definition of totalitarianism might be the desire by any means necessary to get people you don’t know and don’t like to do what you want them to do. That would be the NYTs virtually always in how it writes about the South, that would be Hillary in Catholic Italy at the head of the gay parade – actually that would be Hillary everywhere where “universal values” – meaning hers – are demanded: Every land is Hillaryland. This would be the Phil Specter “wall of sound” syndrome which has cast the shadow these past 60 years: Our music is louder and we will play it everywhere and relentlessly and we will wear you down. And then we will send in the soldiers and the hillbilly preachers and the ambassadors and anthropologists and at the end of the world we will send in Hillary. And that would be Michele Bachmann in her strong support for DOMA, unconstitutional by any standard. It has always been a problem in an America without walls; in the Don Draper post-war creation where America is everywhere you can see, everything you can imagine; an America where everybody walks in everyone else’s garden.

Regarding DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, enacted September 21, 1996 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, whereby the federal government defines what marriage is and who may marry, either in Provincetown or Peoria, Rick Perry has a better idea. In his book “Fed Up!” he writes, “We are a diverse people - incapable of being governed from a faraway capital by people who do not share our values. Recognizing this fact is critical to the preservation of a free state. Federalism enables us to live united as a nation, with a federal government that is focused on our national security and that has specific enumerated powers, while we live in states with like-minded people who share our values and beliefs. Crucial to understanding federalism in modern-day America is the concept of mobility, or “the ability to vote with your feet.” If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don’t come to Texas. If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California.”

Politicians today like to use the work “evolved.” They say President Obama is “evolving” on gay marriage, meaning it was not expedient to support it last time but it may be this time. It may even be “evolved” to throw Joe Biden off the ticket and quickly replace him with New York governor Andrew Cuomo because he signed gay marriage into law recently, the New York Post reports.

But when Jean Cretien, who was then prime minister of Canada, brought it up during the war on Iraq, it seemed to be about more than the right of gay people in Quebec to be free. It was about George W. Bush. It was about what would really piss them off in Texas and gay marriage seemed just the ticket.

Because there is now and always has been antipathy between the cerebral cold places and the heart-driven warm places, here, there and everywhere. Thus today when the NYT describes the “do-it-yourself anti-immigrant schemes” of Nikki Haley’s South Carolina, Nathan Deal’s Georgia and Robert Bentley’s Alabama, the language is identical to that which drove New York to invade the South in 1860: “cruel, racist and counterproductive.” What is new is that today Arizona, Utah and Indiana share in their wrath. The “South” is growing. Or maybe the North is retreating.