Our Polemicists, Our Saviors

I try to make it a point not to clutter my weekends with any sort of unnecessary activity (dedicated as I am to my weekend projects and relaxation and –ahem– cleaning). And Sunday morning I think, just a little blogging, just a few quick notes which become longer and longer.

Frank Rich on the significance of the Plame affair:

This case is not about Joseph Wilson. He is, in Alfred Hitchcock’s parlance, a MacGuffin, which, to quote the Oxford English Dictionary, is “a particular event, object, factor, etc., initially presented as being of great significance to the story, but often having little actual importance for the plot as it develops.” Mr. Wilson, his mission to Niger to check out Saddam’s supposed attempts to secure uranium that might be used in nuclear weapons and even his wife’s outing have as much to do with the real story here as Janet Leigh’s theft of office cash has to do with the mayhem that ensues at the Bates Motel in “Psycho.”

This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit – the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes – is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That’s why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.

Frank Rich is vocificerous and caustic as usual. (Who would have ever thought that this venom could come from a theatre critic?). Many liberals like myself are more resigned than angry about Bush’s reelection, hoping against hope that he will shoot himself in the foot or that the hoi polloi will finally see the president (judging by polls) for what he is. Of course, it’s Rich’s job to be contentious, and we’re glad somebody is being paid to say these things. Still, it’s consoling to read such polemic, to be reminded of just how ridiculous things are, and how outraged we should be.

At the moment, my diehard liberal friends no longer get so upset about Bush’s claim to power, instead finding joy in jabs taken against him; “did you see that Jon Stewart episode?” someone says. “Did you read that Tom Tomorrow cartoon?” “Did you see that SNL skit?” “Did you hear Michael Moore on Democracy Now?” Therein we find the consoling power of laughter. Powerlessness is an awful feeling, and I’ve lived in 2 other countries (Ukraine and Albania) governed by incompetent leaders. Many intellectuals actively and openly hated the leader of the moment (there was no longer political fear in these countries), and yet they tried not to obsess over these matters, long since used to living inside a state where its leaders controlled everything. Intellectuals cannot obsess over political affairs; it just consumes too much energy, too much emotion. Our lives must go on, and besides, we can hope that such affairs will eventually be settled.

It is in this state of mind that we find polemicists to be our saviors.