Thinking of Pesky reminded me that one of the ridiculous aspects of the conflict so far has been the constant slurring of the Serbs (as a people) as a bunch of subhuman weirdos. Last week, on the night that our F-117 got shot down and shown on Serbian television, CNN found an absolute lunatic, a retired major general named Edward Atkeson, who meandered off into discussing Capt. Scott O’Grady, whose plane was shot out of the sky over Bosnia a few years ago. Atkeson bragged that he’d been in Moscow, with a bunch of Serbians, when it happened. Those Serbians cackled at the shootdown, and when news broke that O’Grady had been rescued by a helicopter team, they tried to claim that Serbian authorities had probably arranged for O’Grady to be handed over. That really frosted Atkeson. “They’re quite ready to lie through their teeth under any circumstances, so I think it’s regretful we have to deal with these people.” Now Atkeson started to shout. “But that’s the nature of the opposition.”
Thank God we have Bill Clinton to rid the world of people who lie through their teeth.
Unfortunately, Atkeson’s attitude seems to be the one the Clinton administration is waging its war with. The ridiculous Jamie Rubin replied to the capture of three American soldiers last week by calling it “illegal.” Sorry? You drop 1700 planeloads of bombs on a country and you tell them that capturing enemy soldiers in wartime is against the law? And really, shouldn’t CNN’s Christiane Amanpour be identifying herself as Rubin’s wife when she files those stand-ups from Albania claiming there’s not a grain of truth in Milosevic’s claim that the bombing led to the refugee crisis?
Oh, Mr. Rubin and the Clinton administration are soooo against genocide. They’re just not willing to break their plans to go down to Starbucks for an extra-tall mocha skim latte this afternoon in order to stop it. I’m worried that something in the logic of this operation could lead to barbarities on our side. If (a) failure is not an option and (b) we’re unwilling to see a single one of our soldiers get his pinky scratched in combat and (c) we think of the Serbs
as a bunch of irrational barbarians and (d) President Clinton is serious when he says no target is immune, then pretty soon we’re going to be tempted
to hit Belgrade’s residential neighborhoods as a sort of whoopsy-daisy means of escalation.
About the only thing you can say about the out-of-his-depth Rubin is that he’s not as bad as George Robertson, the brain-dead Scotsman Tony Blair keeps trundling out to level accusations of “genocide”–just to make sure that when we bring our troops home it will be read as an endorsement of genocide.
As the bombs continued to fall, so did Al Gore’s poll numbers. In New York, he’s running weaker against Bush than Bill Bradley is, and in Michigan
he loses to George W. Bush by 24 points. Yet Gore continues to limit his message to the idea that Republicans are focusing on “risky tax schemes.”
Actually, Republicans are focusing on Kosovo. As we noted last week, Gore just likes those lines because they worked so well in ’96.
Perhaps it’s a mistake to look at polls in the first place, which at this stage are rigged by the candidates to serve as fundraising bait. Still, even in a
Washington where everyone knows how self-serving polls can be, last week saw the most self-serving poll of all time. The Family Research Council commissioned pundette pollster Kellyanne Fitzpatrick to ask people about drugs. The way Kellyanne did it was to walk people through the FRC’s slanted reasoning and then pop the question. My personal favorite was the one about medical marijuana, which ends this way: “Studies show that crude marijuana contains fungus and has more cancer-causing substances than tobacco. Knowing this, do you approve or disapprove of prescribing crude marijuana as medicine?”
Once you bring fungus into the picture you could get even Cheech & Chong to vote against medical marijuana. That this poll is an exercise in bullying rather than research is worth bearing in mind the next time former FRC honcho and presidential candidate Gary Bauer stands up at some debate or family convention to say that “48 percent of Americans oppose medical marijuana.” And he will, of course–that’s why the poll was taken in the first place.
Yet, even with the slant, 43 percent of those polled still approve of medical pot. Americans appear unwilling to let ideologues the right to set the terms of argument. That’s great news. As the French art scholar and political scientist Alain Besançon put it in his recent book Le Malheur Du Siècle: “In battling ideological regimes, the main thing is to refuse–without discussion–the description of reality that it proposes. You have to stick to this line until the bitter end. Once you put your finger into the gearworks and grant that their description has ‘an element of truth’…you’re lost, and your political will can only respond with a falsified intelligence… In ideology, the ‘element of truth’ that provides the seductive power is precisely the place of falsification–and the biggest falsehood of all.” Besançon was talking about Nazism and communism, but he holds his rule to be true of “all ideologies.” He’s right–and it’s a meditation that will save a thoughtful person from all sorts of silly thinking.
I never would have thought that Hillary Clinton read Deborah Orin’s anti-White House ravings in the New York Post, but it looks like she does. In late
February, Orin wrote that Hillary, if she decided to run for senate, would have a hard time campaigning in a town whose number-one obsession–the Yankees–she doesn’t share, particularly if she wound up running against a lifetime Yankees fan like Rudy Giuliani. “Everyone knows Mrs. Clinton is mad about the hapless Chicago Cubs,” Orin wrote. “Just imagine the potential TV ads–matching Giuliani in his Yankee cap against Mrs. Clinton in her
Cub cap and asking who can be trusted to fight for New York.” A good point. But Orin’s gleeful sense that this was a big deal was easily dismissed as wishful thinking.
Until last week. Hillary devoted her syndicated column to a eulogy of Joe DiMaggio, recalling the time she’d met him in a West Virginia airport. She’d been standing in front of the flight board, and there was Joe. “As we neared the plane, I told him that I knew who he was and that, although I had always been a Cubs fan, I had long ago adopted the New York Yankees as my American League favorite.”
Now call me a cynical creep for asking, but do you believe any of this for a microsecond? I cannot get over the suspicion that Hillary is lying in an obituary–and for the sake of silencing Debbie Orin’s objections, small though they may be. First, what reason in the world would she have to root for the Yankees in Arkansas, and at a time–the 1980s–when there were far more glamorous American League franchises? (Think of the scrappy Brewers and pitching-rich Os at the turn of the decade, those incredible 1984 Tigers, the gutsy Red Sox and the overpowering As who battled into the 90s.) Second, what does Hillary know about baseball in the first place–except that a taste for it is a mark of regular-guyhood that helps politicians win votes? What evidence do we have that she is a Cubs fan? Maybe she can give us her opinion on whether Santo-Kessinger-Beckert-Banks is the best infield of the 1960s? Does Billy Williams belong in the Hall? Was Ted Abernathy a better reliever than Randy Myers?
In her defense, it’s highly unlikely she wrote the column. As for the meeting with Joltin’ Joe, I’ll grant it’s possible it took place.