Monday, January 28, 2019

Joan Dideon: Worth Reading

Joan Dideon: Worth Reading
Peter Schultz

Here are some quotes and reflections of Joan Dideon’s book, Political Fictions.

“Washington, as rendered by Woodward, is basically solid, a diorama of decent intentions in which wise if misunderstood and occasionally misled stewards will reliably prevail. It’s military chiefs [are] pictured as Colin Powell was in The Commanders, thinking on the eve of battle exclusively of their troops, the ‘kids,’ the ‘teenagers’, a human story....Its opposing leaders will be pictured, as President Clinton and Senator Dole are in The Choice, finding common ground on the importance of mothers: the ultimate human story.” Joan Dideon, Political Fictions, p. 213.

And of course the reaction to the recent death of “Poppy Bush” and all the accolades bestowed upon him confirm that it isn’t only Woodward who takes this view of Washington. “the ultimate human story”: Just like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Very interesting. I am re-reading Joan Didion’s “Political Fictions” about, among other things, the impeachment of Bill Clinton and was surprised how much of it could be said about Trump. Then it was taken for granted by the Washington establishment that what was needed was a “moral and spiritual regeneration” of the nation. And this was to be accomplished by bringing down a president, viz., Bill Clinton, who allegedly represented the worst traits of the Sixties. In Didion’s words: “What we now know occurred was . . . a covert effort to advance a particular agenda by bringing down a president. We know this covert effort culminated in a kind of sting operation that reliably creates a crime where a crime may or may not have existed otherwise.” This involved “first of all, a sense of a ‘movement,’ an uncharted sodality that was dedicated to ‘remoralization,’ (William Kristol’s word) of the nation....” [p. 274] And there was also “the shared conviction of urgency, of mission, of an end so critical to the fate of the republic, as to sweep away possible reservations about means.” [p. 275] “‘For the model of cultural collapse to,work,’ Andrew Sullivan observed . . . “‘Clinton must represent its nadir.’” [p. 278] As David Broder, a Washington insider, said: “He came in here and he trashed the place, and it’s not his place.” [p. 287] And of course, if this campaign to get Clinton was the forerunner of a project that has been launched against Trump, it is little wonder that Bill Kristol,, is so comfortably in the anti-Trump camp. Now Trump and not Clinton represents the degradation of the American republic and points to the necessity for a “moral and spiritual regeneration” in the United States. But this regeneration need not touch much of our “politics as usual,” with a few exceptions but none of which come close to touching the current arrangement of forces within American society. Doing away with Trump has nothing to do with resetting our socio-economic arrangements. And, perhaps, the longed for moral and spiritual regeneration of the nation has nothing to do with realigning those socio-economic forces. In fact, that regeneration will solidify, not undermine, those forces. And, unlike the case with Clinton, the American people are more malleable with regard to Trump’s failings than they were with regard to Clinton’s, which were viewed by the American people as having little to do with his capacity to govern. Trump’s dalliances are no more important to the people than were Clinton’s. But if it can be shown that his dalliances were with Russia and not just with women, then the people will not let him slide as they did Clinton. And then the “moral and spiritual regeneration“ of the United States can begin once Trump has been deposed. This is perhaps, however, not a prospect we should look forward to insofar as it will mean less individual freedom along with a fortified politics of the status quo, e.g., a fortified imperialism. Is it possible then to hope that the establishment’s campaign against Trump fails, not for Trump’s sake but for ours? Seems almost surreal, doesn’t it?

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