Monday, February 18, 2008

Enh, Kristol

He really doesn't seem to be up to the standard of the Times, but this week he tries, oh dear me, how he tries.

His topic is the defense of retroactive telecom immunity which the House of Representatives is -- for now -- resisting. We might recall that the Senate, too, briefly resisted the commands of the White House to pass immunity legislation without "further" debate, the Time For Debate being Over and all, or maybe we don't recall since the gameplan was obvious from the outset when Harry Reid brought the Intelligience Committee bill to the Senate floor rather than the Judiciary Committee bill. From that point on, everybody knew immunity would pass. But not without the courtesy of Senate Debate. And not without a bazillion calls and emails from the people telling them Not to Cave (again.) Calls and emails ignored as they usually are.

So it is that the White House has now ordered the House of Representatives to pass the Senate bill immediately and without "further" debate, the Time For Debate being Over and all. Like the Senate before them, the House says "No." Only this time, they don't have to yield to the commands of the White House at all, they've already passed a bill without immunity, so that can go to conference with the Senate bill, and the conference committee can come back with a resolution (which will no doubt include immunity) which the House and Senate can pass in the dead of night by unanimous consent and be done with the whole stinky mess.

Only Kristol doesn't like the mechanisms in place to pass bills that he likes, for example "updating" FISA to include immunity for past "cooperation" with the Government by telecoms. He doesn't like the way the Senate works and he doesn't like the way the House works. What he likes is legislative bodies following the commands and orders from the White House, bodies lacking any legislative authority but to follow orders from on high. That's what he routinely calls for. That's his agenda as it were. Not simply an authoritarian state -- which the United States has long been -- but an Autocratic state, which he's been spinning and working overtime in his numerous venues for years to accomplish before he dies of heartbreak or ennui.

In his column today, he posits George Orwell's consideration of Kipling, c. 1942, as the correct metaphor for his increasingly desperate longing for American (Bushevik) Autocracy. We have to be clear here; he's not talking, thinking, or dreaming about an Autocracy clean of political considerations, by no means. His metaphor is explicit:

Having controlled the executive branch for 28 of the last 40 years, Republicans tend to think of themselves as the governing party — with some of the arrogance and narrowness that implies, but also with a sense of real-world responsibility. Many Democrats, on the other hand, no long even try to imagine what action and responsibility are like. They do, however, enjoy the support of many refined people who snigger at the sometimes inept and ungraceful ways of the Republicans. (And, if I may say so, the quality of thought of the Democrats’ academic and media supporters — a permanent and, as it were, pensioned opposition — seems to me to have deteriorated as Orwell would have predicted.)

In other words, the Autocracy he seeks is that of the Ruling Party alone, with no consideration whatsoever of the "sniggering" opposition. The Ruling Party, of course, is the Bushevik version of the Republican Party.

Orwell was describing his view of Rudyard Kipling's adherence to British Imperial "outreach" (now there's a word I've come to despise); Kipling had a “morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting” belief in the rightness of the British Empire which, according to Orwell, acknowledged "reality." Indeed. In 1942, that Empire was under fierce and bloody assault all around the world. But in 1900, when Kipling was in his heyday, the Empire went about its business of conquest and exploitation, expansion, and the White Man's Burden, with slight opposition by the Natives, soon crushed, and with what amounted to a pro-forma opposition in Parliament, an opposition long since coopted by the Ruling Power.

Kipling therefore fit his times, say what you will about his literary achievements.

Somehow, in Kristol's warped imagination, that commentary by Orwell about British politics between 1900 and 1942 is turned into an overt approval of Bushevik Imperialism and Will to Power and Domestic Autocracy, c. 2000-2008. Of course nothing of the sort should be imagined. It's quite simply deranged to think so, and yet it is so utterly of a piece with everything else Kristol and his ilk have been twisting to suit their ideological need for Autocracy. Kristol is using the thoughts of the man who wrote 1984 to justify the imposition of 1984-like universal surveillance. Of course. He's been doing this sort of thing for years, and tristero over at Digby's place has an excellent post and commentary of his own on how the Right Wing Authoritarians, Kristol's imaginary Ruling Party, manage to get their twisted perspectives mainstreamed all the time.

So Kristol gives it a shot at the Times. Why not? It works so well everywhere else.

Not once in his entire column does the concept of "Law" intrude in his reverie. And "Law" -- of some sort, whether it be FISA or the Constitution, or what have you -- is at the core of the dispute over retroactive telecom immunity. This is the way the RWA has always discussed the topic: something bad happened, the telecoms "cooperated" with the Government, they should be held harmless for it; what they did -- egregiously breaking the Law -- is never, ever to be mentioned. And the concept of "Law" itself is always to be denigrated.

Orwell would have mordantly chuckled, to say the least.

Why does Kristol have a forum outside his own publication, again?

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