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This Week In Politics

Happy 233rd birthday, America. I was going to buy you something really nice, but instead I wrote you this blog entry.

A lot of shit happened this week, but none of it warrants a full-length post, so rather than launch into a lengthy diatribe on one particular issue, I’ll just comment briefly on each of the major stories. I think I might get into the habit of doing this every weekend, but we’ll see. This week I want to touch on Michael Jackson, the Mark Sanford affair, Sarah Palin’s resignation, Al Franken’s arrival in the senate, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities.

As for Michael Jackson, I feel that even if I were a big fan of his, which I never was, I would still feel like the coverage was excessive. I completely understand that he was the single biggest celebrity on earth, and I even get the fact that the circumstances surrounding his death are rife with the kind of intrigue and personal conflict that the media thrives on. The fact that there’s been so much coverage is no surprise at all. However, the major news networks still warrant criticism even for doing exactly what you’d expect them to do. One of the jobs of a serious news organisation is to be an information filter, devoting more time to more important stories and less time to less significant things. While the death of the world’s biggest pop star certainly has a lot of cultural significance, it is decidedly unimportant in terms of major world events. While the situation in Iran has slowed down a bit, significant things are still happening there and we’re not hearing about it. The withdrawal from Iraq’s cities, which I’ll comment on at the end of this entry, is also very significant but it’s barely getting covered at all. And the debate over healthcare reform, arguably the most significant piece of legislation to move through congress in the last two decades, is getting almost no attention whatsoever. Instead we’re hearing all about Michael Jackson’s drug problems and the legal battles over his kids and property. Yes, there are plenty of people who find that shit fascinating, but let them get their gossip from the entertainment news, not the major news channels.

Another story that is perhaps getting too much coverage is the Mark Sanford affair. Here I can forgive the media just a little easier because it does have some political significance, and Sanford is bringing it all on himself. He could have, and indeed should have just stepped down and quietly slid into the shadows, but he decided not only to remain governor but to keep talking in extensive detail about his love affair as though his infidelity were the only issue. I couldn’t care less about his infidelity, and I suspect most South Carolinians feel the same way. It’s not the first time a politician has been unfaithful to his wife and it won’t be the last—not even the last time this year. Not only that, but I do feel some genuine empathy for the man on a personal level. By all outward appearances, he really seems to love this woman, which puts him in a very difficult personal situation. When you’re married but you then find a woman who you believe is really your soul-mate, what’s a man to do?

One thing you don’t do, particularly if you’re the chief executive of a state, is to disappear for five days to go see her without telling anyone. That’s what people are pissed about, and that’s why he should resign. Any ordinary person with an ordinary job would get fired for pulling that kind of shit, especially if they’re in a position of responsibility. If a hurricane had hit while he was away, nobody would have been able to reach him so nobody could have legally given the executive order necessary to declare a state of emergency and get those emergency services in gear. Lives could have potentially been lost because of this. And yet he seems to think that the only issue is the infidelity, and the rest of the republican party (with notable exceptions, I’ll admit) seems to think that as long as he can work things out with his wife he can remain governor, as though the sole criterion for public office is adherence to one’s marital vows. How about making sure your staff always knows where you are?

What he did was completely bone-headed and irresponsible and the only honourable thing for him to do is step down, because if he worked in any kind of real job he would have been fired or at least suspended until he could get his act together. Now he wants to stay in office to “learn from his mistakes” and “grow as a person”. Well, that’s really sweet of him, but the people of South Carolina need a governor who actually does his fucking job—not some caricature of a romance-novel protagonist on a deep journey of personal introspection.

The republican party as a whole had a chance to finally draw a line in the sand and call on him to resign, to say that there are certain things that are unacceptable for a person in public office and that no matter what party you belong to you should resign if you cross that line. That might have helped them out a little in the long term when it comes to their credibility, because as of now they have none. Instead they looked at the short-term political calculations and saw that they’d have a better chance in the next election if he stayed on, and so they asked him to stay. The special interests whom he’s serving as governor also wanted him to stay, so he stayed. The people of South Carolina want him to go, but obviously it’s not up to them—this is, after all, the United States of America, where the public doesn’t participate in government but instead merely plays an advisory role every few years.

While Mark Sanford clings to his office for dear life, another republican governor, the last governor I would ever expect to give up power, actually has resigned. I could hardly believe the news that Sarah Palin was stepping down. That’s the most uncharacteristic thing she’s ever done, and she usually never does anything uncharacteristic. She’s a complete caricature—always doing the dumbest, most attention-grabbing ignorant red-necky soccer-mom thing you could possibly do. The only explanation I can think of is that some new scandal, something even worse than any of the hundreds of scandalous news stories that have already broken about her, is about to come out and she knows she can’t survive it. The only thing I’m sure of is that she’s not doing it out of love for the people of Alaska.

I confess that I’m a bit disappointed to see her go. I was really looking forward to her 2012 presidential campaign, which I expected to be the most hilariously entertaining presidential campaign of all time. She represents everything I hate about small-town redneck America, and it’s been quite gratifying to see all of the negative press she’s been getting over the past ten months. She’s been quite fun to hate, and if she finally does slip below the public radar I’m going to miss her. And yet knowing her I just can’t see that happening. She might just be doing this as some kind of tactic to position herself for 2012, or to open herself up to new possibilities like becoming a day-time talk-show host. Either way, she’s such an obvious narcissistic attention hog that I just don’t see her disappearing any time soon.

One person who finally did decide to disappear this week was Norm Coleman, who’d been holding up Al Franken’s confirmation to the senate for over half a year after the election. Now the democrats have 60 senate seats, which means Obama can finally push through his progressive agenda without having to compromise at all to win republican votes…just kidding. Obama and the democrats are too spineless for that. Harry Reid, possibly the biggest pussy ever to walk the face of the earth, has already said that they won’t have 60 votes to pass healthcare reform with a public option. There are a few senators who are democrats in name only, like former republican senator Arlen Specter and the two biggest sacks of shit in the senate: Ben Nelson and Joe “I-fuck-myself-in-my-own-face” Lieberman. They won’t vote for a public option because it’ll hurt the poor struggling health insurance companies (who let people die for profit).

At least that was the republican argument, and we all knew the republicans weren’t going to vote for any Obama legislation anyway. The democrats, also bought and paid for by the health insurance lobby, had the convenient excuse that they might have to get rid of the public option in order to win some republican votes and break a filibuster, but now they’ve got enough votes to break a filibuster and pass the damn legislation even if it’s just with a 51-49 vote. Independent senator Bernie Sanders has made a very good point—if Ben Nelson and Joe fuckface Lieberman want to vote against the final bill, that’s their prerogative, but what excuse could they possibly have for not voting for cloture and blocking a republican filibuster? You don’t need 60 votes to pass a bill, just to end a filibuster, and if any democrat refuses to block a filibuster they ought to be flagged and removed from office at the earliest opportunity because they will have single-handedly killed the public option, thus killing hundreds, perhaps thousands of Americans whose lives might have been saved by that crucial reform. Any democrat who does not vote to block the filibuster is working for the health insurance industry against the American people, and every effort should be made to destroy them as soon as they’re up for re-election.

Finally, I come to the most important and underreported story of the week: the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities and subsequent escalation in violence. The uptick in violence was fully anticipated by everyone, but that didn’t stop Dick Cheney from warning that this move came too soon and any subsequent violence in Iraq will be all Obama’s fault—conveniently ignoring the fact that it was Bush who signed the order to make this withdrawal at this time.

We don’t know whether the Iraqi army and police forces can handle things on their own, but the experts don’t seem to think that they can. Insurgents who have been laying low and only withholding fire because the Americans have been paying them to do so will probably come back to the surface and the situation will deteriorate once again to the point where the Iraqis—80% of whom want us out of there—have to ask us to come back to the cities and stick around. That’ll cause major problems for Obama and the military, but it may help just slightly in terms of the psychology of the Iraqis. So far we’ve been unwelcome occupiers, but if they have to ask us back to the cities we’ll be necessary peacekeepers. They won’t be able to resent us as much for being there because they asked us to be there. Of course they’ll still be completely justified in resenting us for having invaded in the first place, but since we broke the place it’s our responsibility to stay and fix it. The only worse thing than going in the way we did would be to pull out prematurely and leave the place in chaos. Sorry, troops, but you’re going to be paying for Bush’s mistake for a long long time to come.

Either way, I’ll be happy. If the violence does subside and the Iraqis can govern themselves as a sovereign independent nation—good for them. If insurgents still want to rise up and force Americans to stay—that’s good too because it’ll force the neocons who are already claiming victory to put their feet back in their fucking mouths and shut the hell up. I wrote years ago that anything resembling success in Iraq would be a bad thing because in spite of all the mistakes and unnecessary death the neocons would be able to say, “Hey look, we had a few rough patches but now Saddam is gone and Iraq is a free and democratic society just like we promised it would be—wasn’t invading a great idea? Shouldn’t we do the same thing in Iran, and any other part of the world we don’t like?” At this point, the longer our troops are there, the less chance there’ll be of the neocons successfully campaigning for another invasion in the future.

And that’s it for this week. Tune in next week for more bitching about political bullshit—as long as there’s something to bitch about. I have a feeling there will be.

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