Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Trouble and Turmoil, and Reagan's Third Term

If I hadn't been off my feed for the past couple of weeks, my Right Wing Acquaintance 1 was giving me plenty of fodder for blog posts, like his link to this National Review Online article on Hugo Chavez, to which he added this comment:
Venezuela is in for trouble and turmoil, whatever Chavez's health. He has been Castroizing the country with the help of experts from Cuba, and the opposition is systematically being jailed, intimidated, and suppressed. It is probably not too late for the opposition to resist, but the situation looks precarious. This is caudilloism under the red flag.
The usual sack of lies. If Chavez really were a dictator -- a Mubarak, a Pinochet, a Suharto, a Duvalier, a Saddam Hussein -- RWA1 and the National Review crowd would be behind him all the way, with perhaps some faux-fastidious concern about his going over the top now and then but you can't be too fussy about a little torture and murder because he had to do something! Chavez isn't a patch on people like Mubarak or the usual run of Latin American dictators, and RWA1 was not happy to see Mubarak go. I doubt he even knows what Venezuela was like before Chavez came along. The prediction of "trouble and turmoil" for Venezuela is of course a hope, not a prediction: gotta punish those grimy yahoos for trying to throw off the benign yoke of American corporations and their local friends.  Give 'em a bloodbath, a constructive one, to teach them obedience.

Soon after RWA1 put that story up on his wall, I learned that the Guardian, the most liberal if not left of mainstream British newspapers, had tried to smear Noam Chomsky for writing a letter critical of Chavez (via). It wasn't the first time the Guardian had misrepresented Chomsky, either.

Chomsky said:
It's obviously improper for the executive to intervene and impose a jail sentence without a trial. And I should say that the United States is in no position to complain about this. Bradley Manning has been imprisoned without charge, under torture, which is what solitary confinement is. The president in fact intervened. Obama was asked about his conditions and said that he was assured by the Pentagon that they were fine. That's executive intervention in a case of severe violation of civil liberties and it's hardly the only one. That doesn't change the judgment about Venezuela, it just says that what one hears in the United States one can dismiss.
(RWA1 has been silent about Bradley Manning, on Facebook at least. And it's not irrelevant that Human Rights Watch, which has criticized Chavez, also has called for an investigation of Bush-era torture by the US, which President Obama has no intention of doing, but of course Human Rights Watch are just a bunch of backward-looking extremists when they can't be used for US propaganda against its official enemies.)

Chomsky also told the Guardian:
We may compare [Venezuela's record] to Colombia next door. Colombia's human rights record is incomparably worse. The judges in the constitutional court have been investigating cases of corruption, crimes at the highest level, and they have been intimidated. They have received death threats, and they have to have bodyguards and so on. And apparently that's continuing under [President José Manuel] Santos.
RWA1 has been silent about Colombia too; but hey, human rights violations in countries that enjoy massive US support aren't news, it's like dog bites man. Besides, our allies around the world are under attack by Communists and terrorists -- they have to do something!

But it was RWA1's link tonight that was the most amusing: an opinion piece, "Winning Moderate Millennials," by one Elise Jordan. It's mostly a review of a book by Herbert Hoover's great-granddaughter Margaret.
... To attract the next generation of Republicans, Hoover says, we need to re-brand conservatism or risk extinction.
"Re-brand" -- you can tell RWA1 is depressed when he doesn't jeer at an article with that kind of marketing jargon in it.
Hoover nails how Millennials — that next generation of voters, ages 18 to 29 — view the GOP’s brand as almost exclusively socially conservative. She discusses what she calls “conservative tribalism,” the labels — neocon, crunchy con, paleocon, lib-con, and theocon — that are tearing the party apart in the absence of a unifying leader. She points out that when Millennials look at the infighting, they see only the most socially conservative ideas winning. But if we were to focus on conservative principles embodying individual and economic freedom, we could actually tap into this fifth of the electorate. Hoover’s message is that there are conservative issues that should be a priority — such as education reform, expanding legal immigration, and combating radical Islam — and there are those that should not — fighting gay rights, pushing intelligent design, or denying climate change.
But here's the punchline:
[Hoover] points out that Reagan himself was very “impure” — he raised taxes, left Lebanon, and cut deals with Tehran — yet he was still the most successful conservative president — thanks to his pragmatism, not in spite of it.

So let’s be on the lookout for the next Reagan, not the next Trump.
Um, the next Reagan is in the White House, right now. Of course he's wearing the wrong brand, but he's on record as admiring the Great Communicator and his party, and he's worked very hard to show that he means it.

I'm reminded of the way that some liberal writers have been wringing their hands over Obama's political future, and what will happen to the Democratic party. For party loyalists (and RWA1 is a party man, just like Elise Jordan and Margaret Hoover), the letters D and R trump everything, including the good of the vast majority of human beings.