Thursday October 30, 2014
June 1st, 2014
We've learned so much this election season. True, almost nobody has noticed yet that there's been voting. But trust me, the lessons are mounting.
For instance, in Texas this week, the Tea Party had a wave of triumphs in critical primary runoffs. We thought the Tea Party was dead! What happened? The secret may lie somewhere in the wave of political excitement that swept through the state and drew an energized 7 percent of registered voters to the polls.
A strong contender for quote of the month comes from Dennis Loy Johnson, of the small publishing firm Melville House. "How is this not extortion?" he said to David Streitfeld and Melissa Eddy of The Times, in a story published last week. "You know, that thing that is illegal when the Mafia does it." He was referring to Amazon.
As I walk up to Bobby Van's Steakhouse to meet Gerry Adams, I'm surprised to see him sitting alone outside. Wearing a dark three-piece tweed suit with a green ribbon on the lapel, the alleged terrorist on the terrace is calmly reading some papers.
We no longer have news. We have springboards for commentary. We have cues for Tweets.
Something happens, and before the facts are even settled, the morals are deduced and the lessons drawn. The story is absorbed into agendas. Everyone has a preferred take on it, a particular use for it. And as one person after another posits its real significance, the discussion travels so far from what set it in motion that the truth - the knowable, verifiable truth - is left in the dust.
When President Barack Obama sits down to write his foreign-policy memoir, he may be tempted to use as his book title the four words he reportedly uses privately to summarize the Obama doctrine: "Don't Do Stupid Stuff" (with "stuff" sometimes defined more spicily).
As we hiked on a bamboo bridge over a river, past a police checkpoint, by water buffalo, over abandoned rice paddies and past a hamlet where 28 Muslim children had been hacked to death, word raced ahead of us. Farmers poured out to welcome us from two besieged villages that for two years have been mostly cut off from the world.
As I drove my son back to college last week, where he'll take a summer chemistry course, he said something that struck me: "I believe it's very important for everyone to be a feminist."
He didn't say it for effect, to shock or provoke conversation. It was just one of those thoughts that surface on a road trip, a kind of sorting out of life by a son before his father.
A while back I published an article titled "The Rich, the Right, and the Facts," in which I described politically motivated efforts to deny the obvious - the sharp rise in U.S. inequality, especially at the very top of the income scale. It probably won't surprise you to hear that I found a lot of statistical malpractice in high places.
If you want a prime example of what's wrong with our politics, study the response to the veterans' health care scandal. You would think from the coverage that the only issue that mattered to politicians was whether Gen. Eric Shinseki should be fired.
Shinseki is a true patriot, and his resignation as Veterans Affairs secretary on Friday calls Congress' bluff. He played his part in a Washington sacrificial ritual. Will the politicians now be honorable enough to account for their own mistakes?
You've got a Nunn running in Georgia, a Pryor in Arkansas and a Landrieu in Louisiana.
And waiting in the wings for the big show, of course, you have a Clinton and a Bush.
Does politics run in the blood, or is it just that connections -- especially to money and influence -- are the lifeblood of politics?