Wednesday, September 25, 2013

America the Exceptional

I owe my readers an apology. I neither watched nor read Obama's sermon at the United Nations yesterday. I did not savor his appearance at the Clinton Greed-Washing Rich People Confab. I am not joining the required liberal mock-fest of Ted Cruz's phony filibuster. I did not and do not eat Green Eggs and Ham. (the progressive blogs are reverse-orgasming over the Cruzian rape of Dr. Seuss. I imagine Gail Collins will devote a full column to it)

Okay. So my denial of watching the latest American Atrocity Exhibition is a fib, kind of. Because, although I did turn on CNN yesterday, I  kept the mute button on my remote firmly in the ON position the entire time. Did you ever watch Obama speechifying with the sound off? Let me tell you, the body language was a pretty scary sight to behold. It was a non-stop hodgepodge of  ambidextrous scolding, defiance, self-righteousness and barely disguised surliness. 


His facial expression was a contorted mélange of sanctimony, prissiness, and general aggrievement. Watching with the sound off sort of reminded me of the old films of those World War II despots that Walter Cronkite used to show on his 21st Century TV show. My fondest memory of childhood Sunday nights is being curled up in the den with my dad, watching Hitler and Mussolini and Stalin gutterally bloviate. Of course I didn't understand a word they said. And what really baffled me was that they always seemed so consumed with rage. They really seemed to hate the whole human race. And yet, there were those infinite throngs of people, cheering their every word!

But back to Obama. I did read the New York Times version of the United Nations event. Some editor, I suppose out of a sense of smarmy fairness, inserted one token dismissive paragraph of Dilma Rousseff accusing America of criminal behavior deep within the body of the Obama hagiography. Talk about burying the lead! When the seventh largest economy on Earth calls out America for breaking international law, you'd think there would be banner headlines. The gratuitous Times mention so jarred with the whole tone and gist of the piece that it was obviously a last-minute decision, lest the wrath of the Public Editor be evoked. And nobody managed to call out the president for being for war before he was forced to be for diplomacy. Or, how much he seemed consumed by the Cheney borg, trumpeting American Exceptionalism. Or, as a precious few journalists noted, how he took his allotted 15 minutes of fame and tripled it without so much as a by-your-leave from the Lesser Countries.

It was apparently a Big Lie-a-Minute extravaganza. See David Swanson's excellent deconstruction here.

Maureen Dowd, meanwhile, waxed vituperative about the photo-op of Barry shaking hands with the successor of the "provincial Iranian fruitbat" never coming to fruition before he fled into the "sweaty and freighted embrace of the Clintons". And by the way, I think Dowd is getting a bad rap from the commentariat. She is an equal opportunity abuser. Her schtick is the display of the Inside-the-Beltway Shallowness in all its atrocity, for which she herself is accused of being shallow. She has the gift of showing, not telling. She is increasingly a parody of herself, and she does it exceedingly well.

Most readers of her latest column were incensed over her shockingly mean-spirited lead, in which she wrote that "The One" had once been heralded as the Messiah. Nobody seems to remember that, yes indeed, he and his handlers did actually embrace the Barack as Christ meme. It was Oprah who called him The One, saying that "we need politicians who know how to Be the Truth." (as opposed to a mere mortal who might only be expected to tell the truth.) Michelle promised Americans that he could heal "the hole in our souls." At one campaign speech, Obama himself intoned in response to the cheering crowd, "I give all praise and honor to God. Look at the day the Lord has made." 

So, I says to the embattled Maureen, who I am sure reads all the comments:
But didn't you know America is exceptional? It was announced at the U.N., as the whole world listened ever so politely. With the refreshing exception, of course, of Dilma Rousseff. And Ted Cruz in his ostrich Keds, filiblustering his heartless heart out. 
We have the most billionaires, paradoxically coupled with the highest wealth disparity ranking on earth. We're 24th in both life expectancy and per capita income. We imprison more people than any other country on earth. And why not? We have more prisons than the lesser countries. 
The USA ranks a dismal 19th in retirement security, yet the Serious People all agree we need to cut Social Security. Our kids, a shameful quarter of them poor, scored 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading. Ergo, they're closing schools and firing teachers. 
We have the most expensive health care system in the world with some of the worst outcomes. Seven people get shot every hour -- but six are lucky enough to live another day!
So God Bless Us. With our 1,000 military bases and our long history of doing the greatest good for the fewest number, we are truly exceptional. 
And God Bless Hillary. Looking toward 2016, which began for the pundits In November 2012, she actually makes me glad that Obama is still president. Because the only thing worse than a potential prez bragging about American exceptionalism is a politician telling a magazine that she loves elephants, stupid movies, laughing at dogs, and going for walks. 
God help us.

It's official. Running for president is now just like auditioning to be the new Miss America. Hillary (whose resume-padding State Department stint Maureen rightly castigated as being nothing but a marathon international good-will tour) is starting to sound like a better-educated version of that hapless beauty contestant from a few years ago:

I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh, people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our children.

Are you there, God? It's us, the holey-souley United Statesians.


Jay - Ottawa said...

Watching the telly while muting the sound certainly has its upside, Karen. The critical listener can take a rest from the endless business of parsing and deconstructing nonsense, which nonsense when intentionally crafted used to be called lies.

Likewise, watching and listening but with a different kind of ear, in particular the uncommon ear of aphasiacs or agnosiacs, can help explain what’s really going on when certain worthies rise to address us.

As explained in the intro below, Oliver Sacks, through his patients, provides an insight better to evaluate the Great Communicator of yesterday, Ronald Reagan, the sandman who told us it was “Morning in America” as he led us into night.

Your pictures of the Big Speech at the UN might help us see through the Great Communicator of today, another sandman adept at deceit.

The best show and tell at the UN yesterday was still the Little Speech by Dilma Rousseff, only worth a paragraph in the top story of New York Times and about which others have commented here.

In his 1986 New York Times best-seller The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, an examination of various bizarre neurological disorders, Oliver Sacks provided an account of oppositely impaired patients – aphasiacs, who can’t understand spoken words but do take in information from extra-verbal cues, and tonal agnosiacs, who understand the actual words but miss their emotional content – watching a speech by President Reagan.

“It was the grimaces, the histrionisms, the false gestures and, above all, the false tones and cadences of the voice,” wrote Sacks, which caused the word-deaf aphasiacs to laugh hysterically at the Great Communicator, while one agnosiac, relying entirely on the actual words, sat in stony silence, concluding that “he is not cogent ... his word-use is improper” and suspecting that “he has something to conceal.”

“Here then,” wrote Sacks, “was the paradox of the President’s speech. We normals – aided, doubtless, by our wish to be fooled, were indeed well and truly fooled ... And so cunningly was deceptive word-use combined with deceptive tone, that only the brain-damaged remained intact, undeceived.”

Zee said...


I'm glad that I took my lunch some time before reading your latest essay, because the thought of Bill 'n' Hill walkin' hand-in-hand, with Buddy, their noble chocolate Laborador Retriever strollin' ahead on his lead, makes me want to retch.

That dog deserves so much better company than those two horribles.

Oh, wait... Buddy—then only four years old, about the time when a Lab changes from overly-energetic puppy to faithful companion—has gone to that Great Duck Blind In The Sky, where, I hope, he is totally in his element; perhaps he is leaning, for warmth, against a kind-hearted, dog-loving hunter as the sun comes up on a chilly, fall morning, and the ducks are about to come in for their landing.

And Socks the Cat was, at last report, in the hands of Bill's secretary, Betty Currie, because he just couldn't get along with Buddy. Well, I hope he is better loved in his new home.

For such do the Clinton's with their pets and friends when they become too great a burden. Can't have a dog or cat around when you're globe-trottin' and speechifyin' to make some dough, or runnin' for the U.S. Senate.

That's somethin' else that I picked up on while reading a portion of the New York Magazine article for which you provided the link, before the vomit began to well up deep in my throat and I had to quit.

Hill is quoted as sayin' “Right now, we’re trying to just have the best time we can have doin’ what we’re doin’. ”

I guess she's decided that if Obama's “g-droppin'” folksiness worked for The One, well, mebbe it'll work for her too, in 2016. And so New York Magazine wants to make damn' sure that we all know that Hillary is just plain folks, like you 'n' me.

God help us, indeed.

Cirze said...

Woman, you just get better and better.

I certainly remember when Obama was touted as god's gift to his US chillen (my insides froze up listening to the Oprah blather). And what a dark day that was in my memory.

His appointment of Geithner and Summers ended my own hopes for his tenure as far as any change actually being allowed. I've seen nothing since then but hollow histrionics and faux folksy concern trolling.

I used to be a Mo fan but I think we've all gotten past that celebrity love/hate bashing mode of political criticism she made a genre all her own of and realize that it's all just been used to blind us to the corruption and attention-seeking that attenuated it. I can't stomach her anymore knowing how her decades-long "reporting" helped normalize the Bushes' villainous behavior to unobservant and otherwise engaged citizens (even though she is still one amusing chatterer).

You're much much better. Everyday.

Go girl!

If we could start our own "Times" blog, you'd get my vote for her position.

steve-o said...

Karen, YOU ROCK!!
Like a posted earlier, I check for updates from you several times a day. Good things come to those who wait. You have helped me realize that deep down I truly loath the Great OZ. He spoke yesterday, the little bit I heard on the radio, but I was hoping for more insight into Dilma Rousseff's tirade which I believe he listened to and smirked at, like DUBYA. I do hate him. Really, I do.

Bonnie said...

Freedom Rider has an interesting article on Obama:

(Excerpt)"Black Americans have sold their souls just to see people who look like them commit the acts of evil which were previously reserved for white people. The penultimate example of this phenomenon is Barack Obama, the president of the United States. His ascension was the death of black politics, common sense and morality."

Pearl said...

Unfortunately, the majority of readers' comments to the report of Obama's UN speech in the NYTimes were overwhelmingly impressed by his sense of statesmanship. Even the 'liberal' regulars were enthusiastic and enthralled and only a comparatively few responders saw the sham. Yes, the false rhetoric is still working and one wonders where the thinking of people who surely should know better is coming from.
It is very discouraging and encourages our lawmakers to continue along the same paths leading nowhere.

annenigma said...


Don't get too discouraged by the commenters at the NYT. It's a club. Most of the really thoughtful commentators (except our dear Karen) abandoned that ship long ago when the NYT went behind the paywall and admitted those to the club only those who agreed to become 'trusted' by joining Facebook. I'm sure many feel like I do that it is simply a waste of precious time to read those insipid comments.

The clubbers will occasionally disingenuously criticize Obama but only temporarily. It's meant to make them appear objective so they can bond with those of us on the fence or on the other side, hoping to drag us back into the fold along with them them as they gently return to the wolf, I mean the shepherd.

Obama often does the same thing. If there is a groundswell of criticism, he openly acknowledges it in order to defuse the energy behind it and lead us back to him. (He welcomes debate about his illegal surveillance dragnet, he welcomes diplomacy to resolve the Syrian crisis, etc.) By acknowledging criticism, he can control it and quickly twist it (and himself) back into an acceptable shape. He's the Pretzel President.

H. M. Stuart said...

Karen, we'd like to invite you to become one of our Authors in Alexandria.

In addition to posting on anything you wish, as you desire, you may of course mirror posts you've already written from here or elsewhere to gain a different or additional audience or for any other reason that appeals to you.

If you think you might be interested, contact me through Alexandria or by return email via this comment and I'll forward our formal invitations for you to look over and return if you decide to proceed.

Come contribute your perspectives and opinions to the ongoing conversations there or, even better, start some new - and different - ones of your own.

I look forward to hearing from you.

H. M. Stuart

Zee said...


On the topic of “billionaires,” whom you briefly touched upon in your comment on the Dowd column so perhaps I am not completely off-topic, I found Paul Krugman's 9/26 column propelling me—against my will—toward the conclusion that many of our plutocrats are, indeed, sociopaths.

This is a popular, Progressive diagnosis that I have often questioned, perhaps because, as a firearms-owner, I have often been the target of sarcastic, shade-tree Freudian “analysts,” myself. (I use this only as a personal “point-of-reference.” Let's just leave it at that.)

So I am constantly suspicious of “from-a-distance” psychological evaluations by non-professionals, or, in fact, even “professionals.”

Still, I think Krugman “hoist[s] [a number of plutocrats] with [their] own petard,” viz., by using their own self-damning quotes:

“So here’s what Mr. Benmosche [CEO of the notoriously bailed-out-and-bonused American International Group (AIG)] did in an interview with The Wall Street Journal: He compared the uproar over bonuses to lynchings in the Deep South — the real kind, involving murder — and declared that the bonus backlash was 'just as bad and just as wrong.' ” –My bold emphasis.

Huh? Depriving a Wall Street minion to the Masters of the Universe of a single bonus is tantamount to “murder?”

And then there's Charles Munger of Berkshire Hathaway, of whom Krugman says:

“Sometimes, in fact, members of the 0.01 percent are explicit about their sense of entitlement. It was kind of refreshing, in a way, when Charles Munger, the billionaire vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, declared that we should 'thank God' for the bailout of Wall Street, but that ordinary Americans in financial distress should just 'suck it in and cope.' Incidentally, in another interview — conducted at his seaside villa in Dubrovnik, Croatia — Mr. Benmosche declared that the retirement age should go up to 70 or even 80.”

So, OK, I surrender. At least on this one analysis.

These guys are indeed sociopaths, who view the other 99.99% not even as parasites, but as “Soylent Green,” food for consumption by the Über-Rich, properly seasoned, of course.

And Karen, I enjoyed your comment on the Krugman column, too.

Perhaps you could reproduce it here?

James F Traynor said...

All those pictures of the idiot got me so rattled I put my comment, below, in the prior thread, twice no less. it's all Karen's fault - bad Karen.

Karen, I do wish you'd stop sprinkling your pieces with photos of Obama. It keeps my mind off the print. I see enough of him as it is. And it makes me anticipate with distaste the probability of seeing, in the immediate future, the Clintons, the whole damn family, in his place (I suffer terribly from comma splice). Oh God, will it never end!

Will said...


The first step in recovery is recognizing you have a problem. I admire you for your courage & wish you well in the future. Here's a video that helped me tremendously in my own battle with the comma splice. Good luck, my friend.

Meredith said...

Karen....since you cited Dowd....I must comment.
She may be an equal opp abuser....I have different criteria. Your critiques of Obama are fact based--hers are just spite and the desire to bring down the mighty. So Dowd belongs in the Style Section, or Magazine, along with Bruni--he's a lightweight habitual scold, criticizing people from his lofty perch. They would add to those sections, instead of reducing the quality of the op ed page.

Do you realize that in 2013 there are only 2 woman columnists and 10 men on the op ed page? The women are lightweights, like the Women's Section of old. Their schtick is cute, snarky wisecracks, and teenage gotcha put downs. They can't or don't want to deal with the why /wherefore of issues & their affect on society. We learn nothing. Collins recaps and jokes compulsively about a few points from the political news we already know. What a gig.

I don't know if it's due to A. Rosenthal or what, but the page is stuck in the early feminist 1970s--or maybe the 50s? The men, whether you agree with them or not, are mostly more serious, & heavy weight with a wider range of interests/knowledge to draw from. Occasional sarcasm for spice. Several are vastly superior writers/ explainers than the 2 women.

The men don't go for celebrity and scandal to fill up their columns. What example is this for the young, to see this wide gulf in gender quality on the op ed page? This sets back the whole woman's movement--the last thing we need now. I've written to the public editor and Rosenthal--a waste of op ed page prestige--time to update the Times to 21st C. I wonder when we will see any change.

Is this what the woman's movement has achieved since the book "The Girls in the Balcony" and the book about the Newsweek lawsuit, etc.?


Meredith said...

I agree with poster above, the fewer pictures the better. We don't need illustrations--prose will do. Karen wanted to illustrate her point on watching Obama's expressions with the sound off. But reading the web, and everything else, i'm so sick of pictures.

In internet explorer i could turn pictures off, but in chrome, and even firefox, it didn't seem to work.

Even the Medicare booklet we get in the mail has pictures of models posing as happy grinning Medicare users. As if without these pics we wouldn't buy their product? Why do they have to manipulate their 'customers' with visual ads? I also get this with united health care material--as if these pictures actually do anything accept annoy. What a waste of money.