Wal-Mart Torquemadas

Republican Debate South Carolina – S.C. Debate: The Ultimate Waterboarding Championship – Esquire

Oh, my goodness, they do love their waterboarding, all of them except Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, who is still battling a chronic case of invisibility. Herman Cain thinks it’s okay as long as we call it “an enhanced interrogation technique,” albeit one that results in an enhanced inability to breathe. (Otherwise, on Saturday night, Herman Cain announced his willingness to delegate the entire job of being president to various subordinates, which will be the nicest thing he’s done to a subordinate in a while. It’s going to be like Reagan without the senility.) Rick Santorum, when he’s not out there killing Iranian nuclear scientists, as well as their neighbors’ cats and whomever’s trimming their hedges that day, is fine with it, too, and for many of the same philological reasons that so appeal to Herman. La Bachmann is busy pricing designer thumbscrews and also is busy going completely off her admittedly limited rails and deep, deep into the outer bananasphere.

“If I were president, I would be willing to use waterboarding.”

(And, over at The Hague, pictures inexplicably begin to fall off the wall. Meanwhile, at the Cheney household, what may be a human heartbeat is detected by the sensors, setting off a Stage Four alert in Dick Central.)

“[President Obama] is letting the ACLU run the CIA.”

(Good idea. The ACLU sent me a copy of the Constitution in the mail the other day. The CIA never sends me anything… as far as I know…)

Paul and Huntsman came next, with their rationality and their pestery-pestering about what’s against the law and so forth. However, Bachmann kept yipping away in the background because she hadn’t yet unburdened herself of all of her warm Christian devotion — two millenia ago, she’d have been wearing an “I (Heart) Pilate” button — to the sacred task of drowning people. (This is where Pelley began to give up, I’m thinking.) I swear, she’s still out on the sidewalk right now, buttonholing winos on the topic. The last time I heard a woman talk that enthusiastically about torture, it cost me eight bucks for a Halloween midnight show in a movie theater on the north side of Milwaukee. Jesus Mary, it’s Ilsa, She-Wolf of the Bean Salads.

Even Bachmann fell short of our boy, Goodhair, though. Somehow, as though most of them already hadn’t revealed themselves to be abject moral algae on the subject, it came up again. Again, Ron Paul voiced an objection, which gave Perry an opportunity to leap in with both feet. Alas for him, neither of them was in his mouth this time. He was clear, precise, and totally batshit:

Waterboarding is not torture… and I’ll be for it until the day I die.

This is precisely, and in every respect, the position taken by several Japanese military officers in 1945. They felt exactly the same way, which is why we fucking executed them. 

There were a number of other highlights, two of which deserve special commendation, if only because they were what you would hear on The History Channel if it were run by marmosets. Newt Gingrich blamed the spottiness of our intelligence in Pakistan on the reforms of the intelligence community that emerged from the Senate committee led by Sen. Frank Church in 1975. (Give him another debate or five, and Newtie’s liable to demand the Panama Canal back, or another war with Spain. He is a historian, you know.) Still glowing with her inquisitional fervor, La Bachmann announced that she will be campaigning hereafter against “Lyndon Baines Johnson and his Great Society programs.” I wish her as much luck as Goldwater had with that.

Ah, you may be saying to yourself, I thought this was supposed to be a foreign-policy debate — “the Commander-in-Chief Debate,” as Pelley kept calling it, which made it sound like something you compete in at a Mary Kay weekend seminar — so how in the name of Jerry Jeff Walker did poor old LBJ get dragged into this kennel of mutts? Let La Bachmann explain — and remember, this is a person who believes that she, above all others, should be president of these United States:

“Look at China! They don’t have food stamps! Their workers save for their own retirements! They don’t have AFDC!”

(And, somewhere in a hut in Shandong province, a man comes home from a 16-hour day at the Happy Carcinogens Manufacturing Plant, stirs 27 grains of rice into a pot, garnishes it with what’s left of his sandal, and thinks to himself, “Goddamn glad we don’t have Head Start here. Freedom!.”)

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One comment on “Wal-Mart Torquemadas

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  1. Listening to Charlie Pierce is torture enough, it’s not surprising he can’t tell the difference between the Kempe-Tai, the Khmer Rouge, and the US Army, Beside if he hasn’t been paying attention, the same ‘devils advocate’ for Gitmo, Stafford smith, is going after the ‘targeted killings ‘ as well, maybe the comfy chair will be what’s left in the end.

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Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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