July 15th, 2024


The rest of the news

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published Nov. 5, 2014

   The rest of the news

This season of ill will is over at last. When the polls closed Tuesday, the biennial seizure called an American election campaign had finally passed. Whew. Glad that's over.

Every couple of years, the same thought occurs the morning after the mutual attack ads, robocalls, smears and counter-smears have finally, mercifully stopped:

At last it's safe at last to lift our heads above the ramparts without any danger they'll be blown away by the next billion dollars' worth of campaign ads. And have a look at the political carnage all around. Every true red-white-and blue, star-spangled American believes in Mom, apple pie and democracy, but if anything could turn a patriot into a royalist, it would be the kind of election we've all just been through.

Yes, here The People Rule. Regnat Populus and all that. Which is fine in theory, but to watch it in practice can be ... disheartening, to say the least. It's much better to take that fine motto with a pinch of salt, if not a whole boxcar. To quote that sentimental old cynic Mr. Mencken, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." Which may be what we are indeed about to get. Again.

This carefully crafted constitutional republic, with all its checks and balances ticking away like an antique timepiece, has been transformed over the years and centuries into a mass democracy, and the result isn't pretty. Indeed, the metamorphosis can be as disconcerting as the one that greeted Franz Kafka's poor hero/victim when he woke up one morning with a hard shell and delicate antennae -- a human being become a giant bug. For there's nothing like the fervor of an election season like the one just past to turn even the nicest people into mudslinging pests.

As an incorrigible Englishman named Churchill once observed, democracy is the worst form of government -- except for all the others that have been tried. So we might as well celebrate the end of this biennial spectacle and the return to an era of good feelings, let us hope, as the losers smile fixedly and congratulate the winners, if only in a pro forma kind of way. But form can be all in these matters. It may be the one thing that can turn the dreariest campaign into something bearable.

The sincerest concession statement I've ever heard of was delivered by a joker named Dick Tuck after he lost a race for the state Senate in California: "The people have spoken, the bastards!" But the end of an election season is a time for politesse, not candor. It's time to end the bitterness of the campaign, not continue it.

As all the losers are about to find out, there is life beyond politics. A real life.

Rather than just celebrate the end of this latest outburst of democratic passions, the pundits would do better to peer through all the hullabaloo and hurrahs in search of some meaning -- if any is to be found. It's surely out there even if it takes a little perspective -- and the healing that time alone can bring -- to find it. Now that the smoke begins to clear, surely the significance of this election, or lack of it, will begin to emerge.

In the meantime, it's time to note that some other stuff happened while Americans were transfixed by election madness. For example, there was another unfortunate, uh, accident at a nuclear facility in Iran. One moment it was there but, as the satellite photos revealed, the next it wasn't. Oh, my. Accidents will happen, and where the mullahs' pet nuclear project and geopolitical obsession is concerned, they seem to happen with a regularity that belies any belief these kabooms are just coincidental.

What with Teheran, Washington and Moscow all trying hard to look the other way while Iran gets ready to announce that it has become a nuclear power, the only source about these matters that has proven halfway credible is Israel's defense ministry, which has nothing to gain and everything to lose if the mullahs finally get their Bomb, for all it would take is just one nuclear-tipped rocket to set off Armageddon, and in the process wipe out that little country.

According to the Israelis, the satellite photos of what was once a nuclear facility not far from Teheran show "damage consistent with an attack against bunkers in a central locality within the military research complex at the Parchin military compound," specifically in a part of the base where tests were conducted involving "controlled detonation (of fuses) intended to serve as triggers for nuclear devices." It must have been quite a fireworks show, for even Iranian media say the explosion blew out windows 15 kilometers away.

Ah, well, never mind. This latest little setback isn't likely to deter the mad mullahs -- or their international enablers, including the Obama administration. The toasts are already being prepared, the champagne chilled, and the smiles and handshakes readied for the biggest celebration since the Nazi-Soviet Pact was announced with all it portended, namely a world war.

It shouldn't be too long before American and Iranian diplomats, with Secretary of State John Kerry in the lead, announce the dawn of this New (and nuclear) Era for Iran, a deal that will doubtless go by the old Kissingeresque term Detente.

No, don't shudder, but get ready to. Geneva, site of the death throes of the old League of Nations, would be a fitting place to make the announcement. It's been the site of so many dreams betrayed before.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world speeds ahead on its disastrous course, courtesy of our bystander-in-chief in the White House, who always seems so surprised when his rhetoric turns out to have only a coincidental similarity to the dreadful realities he's invited around the globe. For this is what the world looks like without American leadership: one unchecked crisis after another.

Having stood idly by while Tsar Vlad's resurgent Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, the White House is also only watching, not even "leading from behind," as Moscow carves out a New Russia in eastern Ukraine, which once upon a time was a separate, sovereign Ukraine -- and now has been left to twist slowly in the ill wind.

If you seek a monument to our president's idea of leadership, look no farther than the burnt-out husk that once was the Donetsk International Airport in what was once Ukraine, where the blood continues to flow.

It may be dangerous to have the United States as an enemy, as the old saying in the Middle East goes, but to have it as an ally can be fatal. That observation applies again as old American allies find themselves scorned by this administration. Even as the swirl of catastrophes emanating from the years-long passion of Syria continues to produce one bloody tragedy and ruthless enemy after another.

This not-so-new outfit that calls itself ISIS or ISIL or Islamic State -- the name scarcely matters, only its bloody deeds -- is but the latest offshoot of al-Qaida to emerge out of the blood and chaos in that never quiet part of the world. Yes, that al-Qaida -- which our president assured us some time ago was decimated, degraded, on the run ... without mentioning that its still active elements were running straight toward us, whether in Baghdad or Benghazi.

It's all the same Islamist nightmare, and our president and "commander-in-chief" has been blowing it off for years. Having sown the wind, to adapt another saying of Sir Winston's, this administration -- and the rest of what's left of Western civilization -- is reaping the whirlwind.

However high the cost of action against aggression has proven, the cost of inaction is proving even higher. Again. But this administration, impervious to the lessons of history, goes whistling on past the graveyard of many another nation that ignored the lessons of the past -- and paid dearly for it.

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.