The New York Times describes the desperate efforts of White House courtiers and advisors to prevent full-scale revolt. They failed.
In the great health care debate of 2009, President Obama has cast himself as a cold-eyed pragmatist, willing to compromise in exchange for votes. Now ideology — an uprising on the Democratic left — is smacking the pragmatic president in the face.
Stung by the intense White House effort to court the votes of moderate holdouts like Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, liberals are signaling that they have compromised enough. Grass-roots groups are balking, liberal commentators are becoming more critical of the president, some unions are threatening to withhold support and Howard Dean, the former Democratic Party chief, is urging the Senate to kill its health bill.
The White House scrambled Thursday to tamp down the revolt, which has been simmering for weeks but boiled over when the Senate Democratic leadership, bowing to Mr. Lieberman, scrapped language allowing people as young as 55 to buy into Medicare.
Pass this “heinous mandate” at your peril, Senators, warns Keith Olbermann.
The Kos says remove the mandate or kill the billl.
In the New Republic, Ed Kilgore warns that Barack Obama has achieved the perfect political storm, a tactical convergence between the left and the right in opposition to his policies.
(O)n a widening range of issues, Obama’s critics to the right say he’s engineering a government takeover of the private sector, while his critics to the left accuse him of promoting a corporate takeover of the public sector. They can’t both be right, of course, and these critics would take the country in completely different directions if given a chance. But the tactical convergence is there if they choose to pursue it.
Brendan O’Neill, like yours truly, finds the Roman Polanski left-right skirmish a competitive exercise in narrative-framing with a lot of posing.
(T)he worst aspect of the Polanski affair is the competition of victimhoods. It is testimony to the domination of the victim culture in contemporary society that both Polanski haters and Polanski defenders, both sides in this bizarre re-enactment of the Culture War of the 1960s and its aftermath, have used the language of victimology to make their case. For many American and British commentators this is all about Samantha Gailey, whom they have transformed into the archetypal and eternally symbolic victim of the alleged great evil of our time, Child Abuse. ‘Remember: Polanski raped a child’, says a headline in Salon, in an article that provides sordid, misery-memoir-style details of what Polanski did with his penis… (Remember, Roman Polanski raped a child, Salon, 28 September 2009 ). For European observers, by contrast, Polanski’s actions can be explained by his own victimised past, especially during the Holocaust. We have to understand his ‘life tragedies’ and how they moulded him, says one filmmaker (Roman a Clef: Wanted and Desired, Documentary.org, 2003). Anne Applebaum, the American commentator who spends much of her time in Europe, says Polanski fled America in 1978 because of his ‘understandable fear of irrational punishment. Polanski’s mother died in Auschwitz. His father survived in Mauthausen. He himself survived the Krakow ghetto.’ (The outrageous arrest of Roman Polanski, Washington Post, 27 September 2009 ) (Applebaum fails to disclose that she is married to the Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, who is actively campaigning against Polanski’s extradition.)
This spat in victimology confirms that the politics of victimhood, the pursuit of law, politics and morality in the name of respecting and helping victims, dominates debate on both sides of the Atlantic, but in the Anglo-American sphere it is the victim of child abuse that is most sacrosanct, while in Europe it is the victims of the Holocaust who enjoy the greatest, most unquestioned moral authority – to the extent that Polanski’s pretty cowardly fleeing of America in 1978 can be excused as a latent reaction by a tortured man to the emotional horrors of Auschwitz.
L’Affaire Polanski has become a Culture War that dare not speak its name, a pale and dishonest imitation of the debates about values and morality that have emerged at various times over the past 50 years. As a result we are none the wiser about the legal usefulness of 30-year-old arrest warrants or contemporary extradition laws, as desperate political observers have instead turned Polanski into either a ventriloquist’s dummy or a voodoo doll for the purposes of letting off some cheap moral steam.
David Zincavage, failed to disclose when he editorialized against the Polanski extradition, that he is married to Karen L. Myers, who has seen several Roman Polanski films. She also alerted me to Brendan O’Neill’s article.
Mark Steyn reflects on the ideological division between the two Americas.
The term “cold civil war” was originated in William Gibson’s Spook Country, and applied about a year ago to current politics by Hyacinth Girl.
In the United States, especially in the present election, we get glimpses of two political solitudes that have been created not by any plausible socio-economic division within society, nor by any deep division between different ethnic tribes, but tautologically by the notion of “two solitudes” itself. The nation is divided, roughly half-and-half, between people who instinctively resent the Nanny State, and those who instinctively long for its ministrations. And every kind of specious racial, economic, cultural and class division has been thrown into the mix to add to its toxicity. ...
Only in America are they so equally balanced. Elsewhere in the West, the true believers in the Nanny State have long since prevailed.
Democrats and Republicans have become two solitudes, and so, the result of the election will be ugly, no matter which side wins.