Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Items #1 & #2 from the Cognitive Dissonance File

Many of the POWs still express anger at Lyndon Johnson for mismanaging the war, and in particular they blame the organized left, and what they see as its sympathizers in the press, for mislabeling a North Vietnamese offensive [Tet] that was clearly repelled as a defeat for the Americans. "The thing that really bothered me was that LBJ, he let those demonstrations on college campuses really affect him," Paul Galanti, a Navy pilot who was shot down and taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese in 1966, told me. "He should have smashed those demonstrations. To let them happen was anarchy."* Galanti, like several other ex-POWs, was a supporter of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that spread unfounded accusations about John Kerry in 2004. The "Swift Boat" attacks against Kerry were a delayed reaction to what some veterans saw as Kerry's betrayal of their cause upon his return home from Vietnam. "I have some pretty strong feelings about these sorts of people," Galanti said.
— Jeffrey Goldberg, "The Wars of John McCain." The Atlantic Monthly, Oct. 2008
* — While it's certainly possible that Paul Galanti entered the Naval Academy in hope that he would one day be tasked to kill Asian people (and considering WWII and the Korean Conflict had both occurred within the last 20 years, it doesn't seem so unreasonable), in all likelihood he viewed the war in Vietnam as necessary to preserve the freedom of the South Vietnamese people. After all, he wasn't there just to be there. So you've really got to admire that he considers stamping out the freedom of American citizens necessary to complete the objective of bringing those same freedoms to the Vietnamese. You have to wonder: if you asked Galanti to build houses for Habitat for Humanity and then he suddenly discovered that his house had dry rot and needed extensive renovation, would he burn his own house down to eliminate a costly distraction from his objective?

— Also, while he doesn't explicitly say the word, the general attitude toward Kerry, amongst those who still trade in the Dolchsto├člegende concept, is that he dishonored the cause, the men and the uniform. In short, that he either lied or wrongly minimized the capabilities and sacrifices of his fellow soldiers when he said that Vietnam was a mistake that could not be corrected. Incredible that Galanti's response to being dishonored, sold short and lied about is to put his name on a bunch of made-up shit about John Kerry. You have to credit him, then, when he maintains his support for the American misadventure in Iraq: not only does he believe "two wrongs make a right" is the right choice for him; it's also the right choice for America.

Obviously, there isn't a single objective and rational reason to vote for John McCain, but it's striking just how much his campaign not only seems to acknowledge this but run as hard as possible in the wrong direction in response. To begin with, it's almost hysterical that the party of fiscal responsibility chose — in contradistinction to pretty much every other nation in the entirety of human history — to lower taxes before declaring war. It's even more hysterical that this selfsame party managed to precipitate the most catastrophic banking and real estate crisis in America since the Great Depression. But, on top of all that, they chose as their candidate a member of the Keating Five.

But what pushes it past the ridiculous and into the sublime is the fact that McCain seems to have recognized this and, to counter it, assembled a kind of crack team of economic failure, despite himself admitting that he doesn't know much about economics. He's got the guy who a former Treasury official under Clinton repeatedly refers to as "The Stupidest Man Alive," an oil company VP and a guy who predicted that the Dow would hit 36,000 points as late as 2004. But there's also Arthur Laffer, the nauseating fraud who ginned up that eponymous curve on a cocktail napkin, basically tailoring economics to partisan ideology in order to justify the tax cuts republicans so desperately needed in order to pay back mllionaire cronies and gut the budgets of every social program and regulatory agency (how'd that work out?) they wanted to destroy. Bringing in Laffer after an economic crisis precipitated by irresponsible tax cuts is like Theodoric, Barber of York, curing the gashes in your legs by giving you a "good bleeding."

But the two superstars have to be Carly Fiorina and Phil Gramm. Fiorina's famous for taking Hewlett-Packard, a company one might describe as "unfuckupable," firing 7,000 employees and tanking the stock until she was kicked out by the board. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the senior associate dean for executive programs at the Yale School of Management, said of Fiorina, "You couldn’t pick a worse, non-imprisoned C.E.O. to be your standard-bearer." This, then, is one of the people who advise a candidate who doesn't know how the economy works. A blind person asking a mute to describe a picture would be better off. And of course one can't forget Phil Gramm. He wrote the legislation that repealed Glass-Steagall, deregulating the banking industry and allowing this crisis to happen. Then he called everyone who noticed the economic destruction he enabled "whiners."

Between the Keating Five thing and the quality of advisers he's assembled, the audacity of McCain's attempting to sell himself to America as "the solution" simply astounds. McCain represents a perfect storm of "wrong," for the United States, but especially so at a time like this. No single analogy of failure can encompass it. Voting for him to solve this crisis isn't simply like going halfsies on a bar with an alcoholic. It's getting your friend with the gambling problem to do the accounting. It's hiring the "really cheap contractor" named Sergei, recommended to you by a guy named Mario who wears track suits, no socks and an $8,000 watch, to build the thing. Then choosing a stilt design mounted onto a hillside, on a site in a muslide area, on a fault line. Then financing it all by taking out a second Adjustable Rate Mortgage on your house.

Perhaps this summarizes it best: