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by Christopher Chantrill
September 11, 2006 at 4:37 am
THE FLAP OVER ABCs mini-series The Path to 9/11 is a beautiful thing to behold. It reminds us of the glory years of the Clinton Spin Ballet, Balanchine-like in its exquisite choreography. The principals, Clinton and Clinton, dance a sorrowful adagio about the truth, loyally backed by by second-string soloists like Albright and Berger. Aging retainers like Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (age 88) hobble on to pronounce on inaccuracies as dangerous and disingenuous. And a muscular corps de ballet of Democratic committee chairmen-in-waiting issue naked threats about broadcast licenses.
Talk about censorship! But hey, we knew that, apart from a few aging Democrats of the old school, Democrats have always believed in political power first, and the First Amendment a distant second. If you dont understand that, the postmodernists have laid it all out for you with their doctrine of narrative, marginalization, and overdetermining. Never mind peace and justice, its all about power, they say, and its the job of journalists, intellectuals, and historians to construct a convincing narrative to justify the power of their masters.
It took a generation for conservatives to grasp what the postmodernists were talking about: Liberals.
But while the Clintons are reviving their ballet The War Room the other partner in the Third Way project facing the end of the smash hit New Labour that played to sell-out audiences for years on the other side of the Atlantic. While the Clintons manipulate us to think of them as doughty fighters in the war against terror Tony Blairs plan for a farewell tour is turning into a danse macabre.
Meanwhile The Illusionist is playing at local multiplexes across America.
You might think that the all-consuming spin obsession of Third Way politics was designed to mislead us about Blair and Clinton. But no, they really were centrists. The spin was designed for another purpose. It kept our attention away from the political parties they led.
When Tony Blair told Matthew dAncona way back in 1996, It is absolutely obvious that New Labour is a reality, he was saying: Dont look at the Labour Party, look at me. Last week as several junior ministers resigned from the Blair government the follow spot on Blair sputtered out to reveal on-stage the same Old Labour Party, leftist to the core.
Bill Clinton used the same tactics. To distract our attention from the Democratic Party which was in 1992 and is now a left-liberal party, he maintained a 24/7 War Room operation to make Clinton the face of the Democratic Party and keep the Blame America First Democrats out of sight.
But the center wouldnt hold. Clinton wasnt even out of the White House before Vice President Gore ran for president as a populist of the old school fighting for the people against the powerful.
Just to prove that Gores campaign was no aberration the netroots have emerged to push the Democratic Party relentlessly leftwards to old-style progressive politics where Democratic voters get free education, affordable housing, universal health care, peace, and justice, and Democratic cadre get budgets and tenure and power. Republicans get to pay for it all.
On the morning after the Third Way we can all agree that it was a memorable experience. It had a good choreography, the astonishing charisma and stage presence of Clinton and Blair, and the superb production values put out by their spinmeisters, true professionals every one. Now the performance is over. It was just a night at the theater.
Serious politics uses political theater for serious reasons. President Reagan played the harmless old buffer while he transformed the US economy and won the Cold War. Margaret Thatcher played the Iron Lady that was not for turning so that she could defeat the coal miners union and transform the economy of Britain.
The political theater of Clinton and Blair seems, in retrospect, not to have had a strategic purpose. All that spin was a masking operation, designed to hide the Democratic Party and the Labour Party from our eyes. Now that the performance is over we can see that nothing has changed.
But the Clintons arent quite finished yet. They need us to forget about their fecklessness in the 1990s and think of them as terror warriors. Whats the point, we complain? Couldnt the Clintons do the unthinkable? Couldnt they tell the truth and admit that they were asleep at the switch along with everyone else? Lets face it: before 9/11 nobody was paying much attention to the Islamist threat except a few obsessed bureaucrats and authors with books to sellcranks who turned out to be right.
The point is that as the Clintons ramp up for Hillarys run in 2008 they still need to make the voters forget they are Democrats.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,
Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop
discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values
Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion
The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America