Thursday, May 24, 2007

It's Still about Will!

No matter how many YouTube clips I see, I still cannot bring myself to watch broadcasts of Countdown. I appreciate the value of Keith Olbermann's bully pulpit; but the product is just too slick (not to mention commercial-laden) for my tastes. Whether or not he is "on my side" matters less to me than the uncomfortable truth that, like most of the other plays in mainstream media, he is contributing to the culture of what I keep calling "A World Without Reflection." I found this particularly evident as I watched the full ten minutes of, as Truthdig put it, "disbelief and disgust over the Democrats’ war funding capitulation." (I watched the video on the Truthdig site.)

Fortunately, there was more reflective value in the comments submitted by Truthdig readers/viewers. I was particularly struck by one made by unregistered commenter david e:

The Democrats’ collapse illustrates the bankruptcy inherent in any opposition based on instrumental, as opposed to moral, criteria. “This isn’t working” cannot sustain a position. “This is wrong” can. Until enough Democrats embrace the latter, they will lack the strength and justification to employ the only real tool they have---to refuse any appropriation for continuation of the war.

This is well put; but it has good-news-bad-news implications. The good news is that the comment states in the most explicit language what it is that Bush has that the Democrats lack, the power to reduce everything to right and wrong (or good and evil) from the point of view of a personal moral stance. The bad news is that the Bush tactic still trumps anything the Democrats try to do, even when their efforts involve responding to the demands of their respective constituencies.

Let me try to make this a bit more specific. One way to interpret Bush's position would be to say, "I do not care what Cindy Sheehan is saying. My personal morality tells me that we are waging war against evil and must prevail, whatever the price may be." The Democrats do care what Cindy (and all of those who sympathize with her) says. They should, because their respect for that opinion got them elected. To put it in david e's terms, their morality has more to do with the "goodness" (or "sanctity") of the voice of voting Americans.

So what's the difference? Yesterday I argued that Russ Feingold seems to have assessed the situation most accurately: "There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action." The bottom line is that Bush has the will to stand behind his morality; and the Congress prefers "political comfort" to strength of will.

By the way, if there is any remaining doubt about what the strength of will can do, Sundance is currently airing the documentary Sir! No Sir! This is an excellent chronicle of the efforts to end the war in Vietnam that took place within the military. It left me with hope that a parallel effort may yet emerge.

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