Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Torture, Physical and Economic


Here’s a less twee note than yesterday’s entry: At the GOP convention, Fred Thompson glumly intoned the tale of McCain living in a small box into which his captors stuck him in Viet Nam, pressing the idea home as if inviting us to “think inside the box.”

Around the same time, as it happens, I saw a compilation of TV comedy routines at the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television & Radio), and one politically interesting bit was an early-90s Dennis Miller routine, showing a hint of where his thinking was headed even before he became a libertarian and then a hawkish libertarian.  He talked about the then-recent vice presidential debates in which independent Ross Perot’s running mate, Admiral James Bond Stockdale (his real name), was widely perceived as a laughingstock for leading with the drifty-sounding question “Who am I?  Why am I here?” and later being caught with his hearing aid off.

Miller noted, rapidfire, that laughable Stockdale was the most-decorated military man in American history, taught philosophy, and needed a hearing aid in that ear precisely because he’d heroically endured torture in Viet Nam, not so unlike McCain.  But, finished Miller, despite Stockdale’s many accomplishments, he had still committed the ultimate sin of our era: He did badly on TV.

And indeed, that was the night that my boss at the time decided to give up and stop wearing his Perot for President button.

Now, Perot is a protectionist loon, and I don’t much regret the fact that he didn’t win — but given his strong emphasis on deficit reduction, paying off the federal debt, and generally putting our house in basic economic order rather than hunting for ever more petty things to regulate (and fear, and fight about), not to mention his fondness for explaining fiscal crises in simple terms with charts and pointers (including his alligator-foot “voodoo stick”), you have to wonder whether he and his tortured running mate might not have helped nudge us toward focusing on the basic fiscal issues that now appear to matter most.

Here’s hoping someone prominent will soon decide to base a compelling campaign on these sorts of things — or that the public becomes sufficiently dissatisfied to seek out the Bob Barrs when they come along and judge them by slightly more important criteria than telepresence.

But if people are going to judge superficially, I would suggest McCain consider making his remaining TV spots look like the ads for A Quantum of Solace, which will be running heavily around the election, and that he start appearing in a tux at all times and emphasizing his past as a ladies’ man, gun user, and target of international intrigue.  Perhaps a public eager to see Bond will reward McCain for being a partial substitute.  He might even consider changing his name to James Bond McCain.


Christopher said...

It’s hard to think of late model Miller as a libertarian (though “hawkish” certainly fits) given his unabashed love of Bush specifically (as opposed to, say, the more libertarian-leaning policies of the GOP). He went so far as to declare that he would never criticize or joke about Bush on his show because he had too much respect for him. Now admittedly, that was before Bush decided to turn us into Sweden, but there has never been anything of substance about Bush that could be considered libertarian beyond some of his campaign rhetoric (which, of course, he went back on completely soon after taking office, and has never looked back). But hey, being forced to buy shares in failing banks is what being an American is all about these days, I guess. Maybe we can all get a “free” toaster or something out of it.

Todd Seavey said...

Well, as Miller himself said: “I’m basically a libertarian. I’m pro-gay marriage and pro-choice, but nobody wants to hear all that…They determine who you are based on the war.”

To imply that supporting Bush _for the right reasons_ must still disqualify someone as a libertarian because of other, bad actions by Bush is nonsense — but if that’s the standard, I look forward to a swath of Obama-leaning libertarians being similarly excommunicated from the movement, for balance.

Whoever remains when the smoke clears is presumably permitted to vote for Barr, though some would deny that, too, of course.

Christopher said...

“To imply that supporting Bush _for the right reasons_ must still disqualify someone as a libertarian because of other, bad actions by Bush is nonsense”

I couldn’t agree more. The problem is that he kept supporting Bush very strongly after it was clear that none of the right reasons applied anymore (or, it turns out, ever really had). Is there ANYTHING that Bush did in office that might be considered libertarian-leaning? I suppose the tax cuts, though they weren’t accompanied by an decrease in spending, so the size of gov’t didn’t shrink. For Miller, the war outweighed all of the massive increases in gov’t in other areas (the war itself being a massive increase in gov’t itself, of course). One might feel that he was right to do so, but that just makes him a hawk, not a libertarian. Being pro-gay marriage and pro-choice certainly doesn’t make one “basically libertarian,” or a lot of pro-big gov’t dems are suddenly libertarians (but not Obama and Biden, who I believe are against gay marriage).

On a non-political level, I find the fact that Miller obviously likes Bush so much as a person to be the most troubling, but that’s a different story.

Todd Seavey said...

Bush has seen some of his admirable free-trade pact efforts thwarted by the always-evil Democrats, and his concerted effort to partially privatize Social Security, for which he toured the country like a presidential campaigner even after having won reelection, is probably the closest America has ever gotten to rolling back advancing socialism and is a reminder he was a mixed bag of good and bad — but of course, that’s not good enough, we all agree, and I’m sure President Obama will spend plenty of time lambasting the prior administration for causing all our problems.

So let’s examine the grim bigger picture regarding the prospects of both conservatism and capitalism in tomorrow’s entry, shall we?

And if a right-wing McCain supporter and left-wing Obama supporter, each with some sort of “cred,” want to volunteer to be on our Nov. 5 day-after-the-election panel in Manhattan to help assess where we’re headed, by all means contact me.

Todd Seavey said...

P.S. Oh yeah, and there was the whole toppled-two-totalitarian-governments thing, but that, too, is a complex mixed legacy we’ll be analyzing for years to come.

Todd Seavey said...

UPDATE: So much for the McCain-as-Bond plan, at least according to the actor playing Bond. As noted on Drudge, Daniel Craig thinks Obama would make a great Bond: