Join 3,432 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


...plainly jinxed by whatever faith he cringes before ...
January 28, 2006 12:25 PM   Subscribe

President Jonah --an essay/history lesson/bible lesson/etc by Gore Vidal. ...We have also come to a point in this dark age where there is not only no hero in view but no alternative road unblocked. We are trapped terribly in a now that few foresaw and even fewer can define ...
posted by amberglow (33 comments total)

 
Bush is an ass, but Vidal's sure hitting the square peg hard to get it through the round hole on that analogy. I always thought of Vidal as having a firmer grasp on allegory than that. He is obviously extremely riled up by Bush (and rightfully so) to actually publish such a thinly stretched comparison.

In the end, I think the point of the essay is diluted by the overwrought attempt to bring the Jonah story into it.
posted by JekPorkins at 12:41 PM on January 28, 2006


maybe he thought religion would work to get through to some people?
posted by amberglow at 12:56 PM on January 28, 2006


did you catch this? ...Nor did they care about the revelation in July 2004 (reported in Newsweek), that for several months the White House and the Department of Justice had been discussing the feasibility of canceling the upcoming presidential election in the event of a possible terrorist attack." ...
posted by amberglow at 1:03 PM on January 28, 2006


I did catch that. I guess there are at least two (and surely more) ways to view the idea of canceling (postponing) the presidential election in the event of a terrorist attack: On the one hand, it could be a dastardly plot to manipulate the electoral process and seize control of the presidency and achieve global domination for corporate interests, etc. On the other hand, it could be that they were sincerely concerned that there might be a terrorist attack, and figured they should have a plan in place in the event that there was one on or near election day. Naturally, whatever the possible interpretations are, we should go with the one that paints Bush in the least favorable possible light.

The biggest mistake anyone can make in a democratic-ish society is to give anyone in power the benefit of the doubt.
posted by JekPorkins at 1:16 PM on January 28, 2006


did you catch this? ...Nor did they care about the revelation in July 2004 (reported in Newsweek), that for several months the White House and the Department of Justice had been discussing the feasibility of canceling the upcoming presidential election in the event of a possible terrorist attack." ...

Weren't the NYC mayoral elections delayed in 2001? Isn't it a good idea to delay elections in the event of a terrorist attack? Isn't it a good idea to plan for the eventuality rather than fly by the seat of your pants if it happens?
posted by loquax at 1:18 PM on January 28, 2006


I think Fred Clark is right. It's more like President Ahab.
posted by EarBucket at 1:19 PM on January 28, 2006


Isn't it a good idea to plan for the eventuality rather than fly by the seat of your pants if it happens?

absolutely. witness all that has been since 9/11. yep. planners with deep insight, that's what these fellers are.
posted by quonsar at 1:21 PM on January 28, 2006


I don't question their incompetance in many areas, just their level of deliberate evil-doing.
posted by loquax at 1:25 PM on January 28, 2006


Naturally, whatever the possible interpretations are, we should go with the one that paints Bush in the least favorable possible light.

As opposed to whatever interpretation that gives him the largest possible benefit of the doubt the known universe has seen.
posted by Rothko at 1:40 PM on January 28, 2006


You know it is getting harder and harder (for me at least) to believe that they are not actually evil. I find it hard to blame mere incompetence for things like kidnapping civilians and holding them hostage (which is explicitly against the Geneva conventions).
posted by dopeypanda at 1:45 PM on January 28, 2006


It's a wonderfully written essay, thanks for the link.
posted by digaman at 1:49 PM on January 28, 2006


Rothko, I think that's called a "false dichotomy."
posted by JekPorkins at 1:49 PM on January 28, 2006


Since when does "canceling" equal "postponing"?

I don't get it how you can actually change their clear language to make it more acceptable. That's been going on for years now--why is that?
posted by amberglow at 1:49 PM on January 28, 2006


Rothko, I think that's called a "false dichotomy."

I'm just quoting your snark.
posted by Rothko at 1:56 PM on January 28, 2006


And, amberglow, thanks for the link.
posted by Rothko at 1:57 PM on January 28, 2006


I don't get it how you can actually change their clear language to make it more acceptable.

You mean you don't get how Gore Vidal can actually change their clear language to make it less acceptable. Vidal didn't use their language, he changed it, omitting the words "and reschedule" from the quote. How can he do that? Easy, he just does it, and people just assume that he's honest -- bad assumption.

Will you rail against Vidal now for lying?

Here's the actual quote that Vidal manipulated, from the Newsweek article that he cites after manipulating it:

"Soaries noted that, while a primary election in New York on September 11, 2001, was quickly suspended by that state's Board of Elections after the attacks that morning, 'the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election.' Soaries, a Bush appointee who two years ago was an unsuccessful GOP candidate for Congress, wants Ridge to seek emergency legislation from Congress empowering his agency to make such a call." (emphasis added)
posted by JekPorkins at 2:00 PM on January 28, 2006


EarBucket writes "I think Fred Clark is right. It's more like President Ahab."

EarBucket's link quotes a Ted Olsen (not Ted Olson)
Ted Olsen, of Christianity Today's blog, says these bloody court prophets are in a bind:
The pro-war evangelicals have a very hard task ahead of them, because their arguments for the war haven't held up. Those who argued that war was justified because it would lead to greater religious freedom in the country now need to answer whether the war was unjustified because it has brought less religious freedom to the country.

Others are in a greater bind. One Christian leader told Christianity Today in September 2002 that two requirements must be met to justify an attack on Iraq: irrefutable evidence connecting Hussein to the attacks of September 11 and proof that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are being prepared for imminent use.

"If you fulfill these, an attack is justified," this leader told Christianity Today. "The president has an obligation to communicate why he is asking our nation to sacrifice, as well as why he is willing to sacrifice combatants and innocents on the other side."

That person was Robert McGinnis, vice president of policy for Family Research Council, one of the most conservative religious groups in Washington. Other evangelical leaders also told us that proving connections with the 9/11 attacks was imperative to attacking Iraq. Many others in Christianity Today's survey of evangelical opinion before the war had much stricter standards.
This wasn't just true of evangelical war preachers -- it was also true of Senate Democrats, New Republic editors, and a whole lot of other people. They offered strict standards and criteria for advocating the invasion of Iraq. The invasion and ensuing occupation have not met those standards, but these advocates of the war remain advocates of the war. We can only conclude that their earlier claim to have standards was meaningless.
To our credit, no MetaFilter user declared the war would only be justified only if Saddam had WMDs and was complicit in 9-11, but nevertheless continues to support the war.
posted by orthogonality at 2:00 PM on January 28, 2006


Sounds like Berman's book would be a good read:

For what we are now seeing are the obvious characteristics of the West after the fall of Rome: the triumph of religion over reason; the atrophy of education and critical thinking; the integration of religion, the state, and the apparatus of torture—a troika that was for Voltaire the central horror of the pre-Enlightenment world;

... but Freeman points to the latter as the epitome of a more general process that was underway in the fourth century: namely, ‘the gradual subjection of reason to faith and authority.’ This is what we are seeing today, and it is a process that no society can undergo and still remain free. Yet it is a process of which administration officials, along with much of the American population, are aggressively proud.”

posted by kgasmart at 2:06 PM on January 28, 2006


The biggest mistake anyone can make in a democratic-ish society is to give anyone in power the benefit of the doubt.

I'm pretty sure JekPorkins was trying to be facetious, but you know, I'm going to have to agree with that statement wholeheartedly. I will never give my full trust to anyone with power. That's what makes me a patriot.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:08 PM on January 28, 2006


Actually, that particular statement of mine was not intended to be facetious. I wholeheartedly believe that, too. Not to toot my own horn, but I think Faint of Butt and I are both patriotic because of that.
posted by JekPorkins at 2:14 PM on January 28, 2006


To our credit, no MetaFilter user declared the war would only be justified only if Saddam had WMDs and was complicit in 9-11, but nevertheless continues to support the war.

posted by orthogonality


:-/
posted by darkstar at 3:18 PM on January 28, 2006


JekPorkins: The biggest mistake anyone can make in a democratic-ish society is to give anyone in power the benefit of the doubt.

What does benefit of the doubt mean? Are we talking politically? Like, Bush says the invasion of Iraq is necessary, so we will let him do it. Strategically, Rumsfeld decided the invasion would have only 150,000 troops to prove that America has the power to do whatever it wants. Tactically, it was decided that securing the oil infrastructure was more important than weapons stockpiles. Diplomatically, it was more important to secure the documentary record of America's previous cooperation with Saddam than to protect the cultural and artistic history of Mesopotamia. All of those issues were known before the invasion, and the administration recieved council on all of them. Did they deserve the benefit of the doubt on all of them? How about now, do they deserve the benefit of the doubt for future decisions on Iran?

As Chomsky says (this from the recent Amnesty International Lecture):
One of the insights, deep insights, of the anarchist tradition, is that all hierarchic structures, whatever they are, any structure of domination and hierarchy should be challenged. None of it is self justifying.
So, benefit of the doubt? Maybe on a very select subset of issues for a very limited time... But that has nothing to do with what's going on at all.
posted by Chuckles at 4:57 PM on January 28, 2006


Should have previewed :)

Still, it was a nice rant... I needed to fume at something tonight.
posted by Chuckles at 4:58 PM on January 28, 2006


Rant away. You got that my statement that you quoted directly agrees with your rant, right?
posted by JekPorkins at 5:12 PM on January 28, 2006


WTF?
posted by jonah at 6:31 PM on January 28, 2006


They're not talking about you, jonah.
posted by billysumday at 6:37 PM on January 28, 2006


Thanks for that link, amberglow. It's one of the most coherent and honest attempts to explain the current frightening state of American political reality. Gore Vidal has always been a clear voice in a sea of noise, and I personally feel that future historians are damned well going to consider this one of the darkest periods of American history. Broadcast media really is a fucking car crash, shrill and without much intelligence or depth. People are distracted, stressed, drugged and anxious about making morgarges, rent and medical expenses. Religious fundamentalism instead of reason is dangerous folly. The corporate feudal state is brutal, unforgiving, disorienting and destructive. It's about money, the freedom to make all the money you want with no responsibility. Accountability is rendered to The Corporation, not The People. Actual freedom of choice and expression is not on the agenda. We've become an aggressor state, and this will be our undoing.

It makes you wonder how we're going to come out the other end. But, like El Presidente Gorge Bush says, who cares, we'll be dead.
posted by dbiedny at 7:21 PM on January 28, 2006


morgarges! Jeez, mortgages. A Fucked Word™.
posted by dbiedny at 7:23 PM on January 28, 2006


The fall of the Roman Empire saw... ‘the gradual subjection of reason to faith and authority.’ This is what we are seeing today, and it is a process that no society can undergo and still remain free. Yet it is a process of which administration officials, along with much of the American population, are aggressively proud.”
posted by caddis at 9:05 PM on January 28, 2006


I confess that when I read the title I thought Vidal was imagining a President Jonah Goldberg.

(Hail to the Pantload!)

At the same time, though any new Vidal is a delight, this piece seemed just a little phoned in. Vidal surely knows we're all fucked, the damage is largely done, and that a majority of Americans are only worried that the Old Republic isn't being flushed down the commode fast enough. Sure, there's no harm in running to your window on the 31st and shouting "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" But I don't think many of us, least of all Vidal, believe that will be very effective. America under George W. Bush, like John Cave, believes that it is "good to die." Easier to imagine Vidal hiding out in Egypt hurriedly writing about the end than encouraging half-hearted protests.
(But he did run for Mayor once, so he isn't all Olympian disdain.)
posted by octobersurprise at 10:30 PM on January 28, 2006


Ah, the Gore Vidal. Y’know, I can’t help but like him even as I violently disagree with how he frames things.
Whether he’s right or wrong is debatable (I think he’s often right).

But he reminds me of a guy who tells you - while you’re walking along - that banana peels are slippery. Then as you look at him and say “Huh?” you slip on a banana peel.
Then he says “I told you.”

At that point it doesn’t matter whether you were headed to the right or to the left, only that your ass is on the floor.

I think (some of) Buckley’s criticisms of him are apt. I don’t know that Vidal’s trying to DO anything other than be clever and be seen as such.

“One of the insights, deep insights, of the anarchist tradition, is that all hierarchic structures, whatever they are, any structure of domination and hierarchy should be challenged. None of it is self justifying.”

Good lord, I’m an anarchist!
But any system needs good feedback.
I’m thinking more of the Baldridge principles of constantly refining process rather than overthrowing the whole thing tho... I suppose it hinges on what we mean by ‘challenge.’
posted by Smedleyman at 7:46 AM on January 30, 2006


octobersurprise: President Goldberg?


posted by Smedleyman at 7:49 AM on January 30, 2006


New updated ending to the essay: ... Reason requires that we explain to the media and to this self-anointed “war-time president” whose “inherent” powers, to hear him babble, transcend the Constitution itself. But they can’t: First, we are not at war with another country; second, presidential powers are enumerated in the constitution, not inherent--despite the weird legal misreadings by ambulance-proud White House lawyers.

Nevertheless, our neo-totalitarians are planning new wars in the Middle East, Far East, Conga Line! while his latest State of the Union speech justifies eavesdropping (without judicial warrants) on anybody in the United States that he wants to listen in on. This is what we call dictatorship. Dictatorship. Dictatorship. And it is time we objected.

Can we wait till the next election? Only if the electronic voting machinery has paper trails or, perhaps, honest old-fashioned paper ballots. In any case, with one voice let us say, “We’ve had enough of you. Go home to Crawford. We’ll help you raise the money for a library, and you won’t ever have to read a book. We the folks are not cruel even though we must now echo our spiritual ancestor Oliver Cromwell’s order to the infamous long Parliament: ‘You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately in the Ninth Ward. Depart, we say; and let us have done with you. In the name of the God who created that whale – Go!’”

posted by amberglow at 8:56 PM on February 8, 2006


« Older "A human being should be able to change a diaper, ...  |  Ask a Republican.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments