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Friday, August 14, 2009

The Battle for the Soul of America

14 years of acquaintance with Strauss and Howe's books prepared me for the current crisis in American life, but could not (by the nature of their theories, actually) predict exactly what form it would take. They proposed an organic theory of atrophy, death and rebirth--but the new United States now being born was as unpredictable as the personality of a new child, since it will carry, in one way or another, all our DNA in combinations we cannot predict. Meanwhile, the two previous crises in our national life--the Civil War and the Roosevelt era--provide some basis for comparison. We are off to a most depressing start, and health care reform is beginning to look like the first Battle of Bull Run, but the struggle is going to be a long one.

That we are seeing a battle of reason against emotion is becoming clearer and clearer. The President, as Paul Krugman pointed out this morning came to office believing that he could inspire a change in the tone of our politics so that we could work together to solve our very real problems. He has failed to do so, albeit through no fault of his own, because he faces a Republican opposition that has defined him and all his plans as evil by nature. Anyone who doubts this should simply listen to one hour of Rush Limbaugh. Since in his view Obama is determined to establish a dictatorship, there is no reason to believe anything that the President actually says, much less to acknowledge that he might (for instance, with the cash-for-clunkers program, which has actually given the Ford motor company a huge boost) have done some good. Millions of Americans obviously share that view--and did before Obama ever took office, as illustrated by the fraudulent email, first published the week after the election, that has brought many of you here. Nor is this all. Today's Times also included a fine piece of front-page journalism on the origins of the "death panel" rumor. That rumor had nothing to do with the text of the health care bill--it began months before one was written, fueled by the simple belief that since Obama favored abortion rights he must be in favor of genetic culling and euthanasia as well.

Sarah Palin's endorsement and inflation of that rumor, by the way, can be matched with another piece of information that surfaced this week that confirms what she really is: a professional hate-monger who enjoys being as inflammatory as possible. That information, published in a new book about the 2008 campaign, is a sequence of text messages between her and the McCain campaign staff (who apparently designated her as agitator-in-chief while keeping the candidate on the high road, in the best Eisenhower/Nixon and Nixon/Agnew manner.) The sequence--featured this week by Gary Trudeau on his Doonesbury site--follows.

"[Obama] is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country."
-- text sent to Sarah Palin by McCain staff during '08 election

"Yes yes yes. Pls let me say this!!!"
-- Palin's e-mailed response

"It was awesome."
-- Palin, in another e-mail after delivering the lines

How could such a person resist the idea that the President wanted to put her child to death?

Now the impact of the "death panel" campaign does not bode well. Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, identified this week in yet another Times story as the place where the real health care negotiations are happening, now want to drop the actual proposal, which simply would have require to pay for an end-of-life consultation if patients desired one. Today Limbaugh immediately jumped triumphantly upon this--how could the death panels have been dropped if they had never existed in the first place? In addition, the media are not helping matters, because the hostile protests at town hall meetings, rather than the content of various proposals, have now become "the story" of the hour. The Times (yet again) contributed to this on Wednesday. On the previous day the President had held a town hall in New Hampshire while Arlen Specter held one in central Pennsylvania. Specter's made page 1 while the President's was buried inside--the only possible reason being that Specter's crowd was much more hostile. This plays into the hands of the Republicans, who enjoy provoking outrageous behavior, which in turn allows them to complain that they are being misrepresented by the media (which Limbaugh now refers to as the "state-run" media.) That the atmosphere of the meetings, rather than the content of the bill, has taken over the news represents a major Republican victory.

It seems quite possible that all this may culminate in actual acts of violence. Another piece of required reading this week is the report of the Southern Poverty Law Center on the resurgent militia movement, now more closely allied than ever to white supremacists in the wake of Obama's elections. Armed men have been showing up at town hall meetings.

Meanwhile the President continues to try to remain largely above the fray. Krugman's column today, linked above, argues clearly that this simply cannot work. This is a classic generational divide. Krugman, like me, is a Boomer who enjoys calling a spade a spade rather than a shovel, and whose instincts are to meet fire with fire. That, as I showed a couple of weeks ago, was what FDR did when his achievements only aroused greater and greater hatred. But Obama is a Gen Xer who does not give in to his emotions, and his style may indeed be more appealing to the younger generations, if he can find a way for them to make their weight felt in the health care and other debates. A little-noticed Gallup poll this week showed his popularity increasing to 60%. In last year's campaign for the Democratic nomination Obama proved to that quintessential Boomer Hillary Clinton that he was the smarter and wiser of the two. He may do the same to Krugman and myself, or, he may not.


Anonymous said...

You should read that email someone else authored in your name, Mr. Kaiser. He has a firmer grasp on history and its frightening parallels with regard to Obama's ascendency to power than you. But I guess that is to be expected. You are, after all, an academic who dwells in an echo chamber of retrograde philosophy. You a modern day Tory, extolling the virtues of good King George while redcoats lay waste to our villages and townships.

Reggie said...

Mr. Kaiser, I'm intrigued as to why such a fraudulent email was sent out in your name is none of it rings true to your personal political or historical stance regarding the current administration. Do you have any idea why it was credited to you? I've read through several of your blog pieces this morning and I find no reason anyone would associate the email's opinions to your own. I personally feel that the email is much to emotionally driven and while there are some parallels that can be drawn, I don't believe the email does justice in providing proof beyond emotion. Having read some of your pieces on this blog, I can say I agree that the ramifications of Health Care issues we are facing today will not fully be known or appreciated until much further down the road. No matter the outcome of this very heated debate, the rammifications will no doubt be resounding for quite some time. To this point, I agree with you.

David Kaiser said...

1. I deleted the previous comment--the text of that fraud is NOT going to appear on this blog.

2. The misattribution was made by someone familiar with me and the blog. The idea that the US is reaching the climax of a long crisis is one which I share--but it isn't because of some kind of leftist conspiracy. The perpetrator knew that. I have a feeling that I know where he encountered me and I even have a suspect or two, but the truth will never be known. He undoubtedly enjoyed, in addition, attributing it to some one from the Naval War College, just as some one else enjoyed fraudulently attributing to a professor at a Baptist college in Missouri.

Unknown said...

I agree with anonymous. You should read that editorial posted in your name and embrace it. It speaks sense.

The president's polls are plummeting -- the single outlier poll you cite is meaningless -- and with good reason.

His policies are flawed, he cannot act with a supermajority (!) in the senate and overwhelming numbers in the house. It's not Republican scare tactics -- it's American's waking up to see the empty suit in the oval office.

Anne Marie said...

I agree with the commentators above. When I found your site, I thought I would at least find that the email had some foundation in the truth, even if you didn't write it. However, it doesn't reflect your beliefs at all. It's interesting that it was attributed to you.

Please go to my blog and read the articles that I have re-printed from many other blogs. What is going on in the United States of America goes back further and is deeper than Republican v. Democrat.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kaiser,

You cannot be serious. Obama has not cultivated bipartisan relationships through no fault of his own??? Truly, you must be a satirist. That is the only logical explanation for this hogwash. Someone forgot to teach Obama that working "with" others doesn't mean they have to do everything his way. Especially when his way seeks to entirely remake the greatest nation in all of history and turn it into a third world country. This, in some inexplicable attempt to ensure that the USA is well-liked by other third world countries whom we support. Thank God I never paid a dime to have you instruct my children during their college years. All anyone needs to do is read the NY Times to know what you think. Much cheaper and equally laughable.

Anonymous said...

The Hearts and Minds... America is now being grouped into camps of ideological factions each one with it's particular evil or devine guidance. The disecting, parsing and misleading of each group or organization continues the war of words and name calling. Allow me to chime in. As to the aweful people who shouted down the legislators at the town meetings; perhaps the questions were answered with "I really can't answer that because we have 4 committee bills all with different provisions -- but we need this reform NOW so trust me! I just don't understand why anybody would get upset with that kind of response. Hopefully Americans will sift it all out and do what is right for our future; if the country isn't bankrupt.

Stop Political Insanity Now said...

Needless to say you are eloquent and erudite. I am vastly dissapointed that you are not the author of this email piece I received, for that article has a much more comprehensive (although less eloquent) expression of our current situation.

Obviously you have possess intelligence, hence, it would be logical to assume that you embrace Socialism and abhor the very system that enabled you your successes. (just as Kerry, Rockefeller, Feinstein, Kennedy, et al have accumulated their wealth via the system they now demonize to the public).

Those, such as yourself, that have these convictions are unapproachable, for you are immutable in your beliefs and judging from your blog post, your perceptions are also tainted by your zealous cathexsis.

Regardless that you have many facts a tad distorted, your opinion of the political climate is so far off the mark that it warrants retort. You state over and over how much more organized the Right is than the Liberals. This is actually laughable. I gagged on my coffee when I saw this. Obama @ Co. has every resource at it's disposal, has more websites than I can count continually pumping out his non-stop agenda, is using taxpayer money by the billions in support of his "on the street propoganda machine", ACORN and the SEIU, not to mention market manipulations by the Federal Reserve, use of the CDC, IRS, FCC, and every loophole in law he can take advantage of since he never repealed the Patriot Act. (which btw, was the #1 thing his voters asked for when he asked the public via his website to participate in "change" and ran a contest for ideas.) Funny that I never hear a Liberal ask: "why didn't you repeal it"?

Perhaps you should read the FEC report on campaign contributions. Perhaps you should see who and how much was donated to the Clinton Foundation....perhaps you should open your eyes. It is obvious you are no scientist. But as a historian, one thing is immutable: The Constitution set forth a precedent to insure that this country was founded upon a rule by law. With intent and specificity its; aim was to prevent a rule by man. Those sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution have an obligation to preserve the freedom of each individual. The rule of law is blind, and does not favor one individual or group at the expense of another individual our group.

Your facts are wrong, that you are a socialist by choice is your right, but it is NOT what this country is founded upon nor has it in any way contributed one iota to our greatness. In fact, it has been the pernicious evil chewing away at what was once our great nation. "Progressives" are truly regressive, because history has clearly demonstrated the outcome of Socialism. (not to mention they are regressive inasmuch their seems to be an arrestment of maturation process, a longing for infantility and safety, sucking at the tit of government). I could write very compelling articles likening the new liberal progressive socialism to "death anxiety", narcissism, pathologies in transient development from primary archaic narcissism and formation of super-ego, etc etc).

Ironically enough...just about everyone was liberal when they were young...just some grew up, others did not.

Stop Political Insanity Now said...

Reggie...you want some "proofs"? I will be happy to provide them. I use the word proofs loosely, because you have to actually connect-the-dots yourself...you must discern a pattern, and then question its direction and outcomes. I think if anyone OBJECTIVELY considers what few facts we do know, there can only be one conclusion:

These articles are merely commentaries, but their conclusions are drawn after having read all these Bills in their entirety as they get thrown at us left and right. The Congressman don't read them. Chances are you don't read them. I have yet to have met a Liberal that has actually read any of these Bills. It seems Obamanites are so narcotized by the baritone rhetoric of their Messiah, they have lost the ability to question anything. And yes Reggie, I already know the first 2 sentences out of your mouth..."we have Bush to blame for all this"...and..."you are a racist". I was no Bush fan, and I am certainly not a racist. I am an American. I believe in the Constitution. I believe it should be upheld by anyone in office, Democrat or Republican. I believe Washington is corrupt to the core, and that corruption is the only thing that is bi-partisan.

Predominant Bills:
2. Fairness Doctrine (now re-cloaked as localism/diversity)
3. Global Poverty Act
4. Health Care
5. Cap and Trade
6. Cyber Security Act
7. The Give Act
8. The "Food" Act

...in conjunction with the Youth Corp that "is to be as well funded and well equipped as any militia". ALso, the nature and structure of ACORN, SEIU, Appollo, Tide Foundation...and their Federal funding and influence in our current adminstration...(not to mention all the Czars and their bio's). Here are some links:


If you are so inclined, you can read a bit more about some of these Bills at this site as well...this link is my synopsis.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kaiser,

These people who comment above were captivated by the authority the banner of your name carried when they originally received the fraudulent email, touting your many laurels as reason to believe its content. Yet now that they know you did not pen it, they ridicule you because you disagree. I find it fascinating that the appeal to authority grabbed them, initially, only to find them sheepish afterwards. You are a wise man, not prone to hysteria; a man whose authority in the realm of history still stands. Shallow minds find fault in you to cover their own ignorance.

Anonymous said...

everyone but the person above me sucks :D

Jim Baxter said...

Obama's self-chosen disability.....

Deterministic systems, ideological symbols of abdication
by man from his natural role as earth's Choicemaker,
inevitably degenerate into collectivism; the negation of
singularity, they become a conglomerate plural-based
system of measuring human value. Blunting an awareness
of diversity, blurring alternatives, and limiting the
selective creative process, they are self-relegated to
a passive and circular regression.

Tampering with man's selective nature endangers his
survival for it would render him impotent and obsolete
by denying the tools of variety, individuality,
perception, criteria, selectivity, and progress.
Coercive attempts produce revulsion, for such acts
are contrary to an indeterminate nature and nature's
indeterminate off-spring, man the Choicemaker.

Until the oppressors discover that wisdom only just
begins with a respectful acknowledgment of The Creator,
The Creation, and The Choicemaker, they will be ever
learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.
The rejection of Creator-initiated standards relegates
the mind of man to its own primitive, empirical, and
delimited devices. It is thus that the human intellect
cannot ascend and function at any level higher than the
criteria by which it perceives and measures values.

Additionally, such rejection of transcendent criteria
self-denies man the vision and foresight essential to
decision-making for survival and progression. He is left,
instead, with the redundant wreckage of expensive hind-
sight, including human institutions characterized by
averages, mediocrity, and regression.

Humanism, mired in the circular and mundane egocentric
predicament, is ill-equipped to produce transcendent
criteria. Evidenced by those who do not perceive
superiority and thus find themselves beset by the shifting
winds of the carnal-ego; i.e., moods, feelings, desires,
appetites, etc., the mind becomes subordinate: a mere
device for excuse-making and rationalizing self-justifica-

The carnal-ego rejects criteria and self-discipline for such
instruments are tools of the mind and the attitude. The
appetites of the flesh have no need of standards for at the
point of contention standards are perceived as alien, re-
strictive, and inhibiting. Yet, the very survival of our
physical nature itself depends upon a maintained sover-
eignty of the mind and of the spirit.

It remained, therefore, to the initiative of a personal
and living Creator to traverse the human horizon and
fill the vast void of human ignorance with an intelli-
gent and definitive faith. Man is thus afforded the
prime tool of the intellect - a Transcendent Standard
by which he may measure values in experience, anticipate
results, and make enlightened and visionary choices.

Only the unique and superior God-man Person can deserved-
ly displace the ego-person from his predicament and free
the individual to measure values and choose in a more
excellent way. That sublime Person was indicated in the
words of the prophet Amos, "...said the Lord, Behold,
I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel."
Y'shua Mashiyach Jesus said, "If I be lifted up I will
draw all men unto myself."

As long as some choose to abdicate their personal reality
and submit to the delusions of humanism, determinism, and
collectivism, just so long will they be subject and re-
acting only, to be tossed by every impulse emanating from
others. Those who abdicate such reality may, in perfect
justice, find themselves weighed in the balances of their
own choosing.

"No one is smarter than their criteria."

Jim Baxter
semper fidelis
- from "2010 AD: The Season of Generation-Choicemaker"

Anonymous said...

guy above me... sucks

Unknown said...

Well I'm guessing you rarely read for various reasons, many of these comments. I came here because of the fraudulent email like others & we all know why your name was attached to it as author. I have to say it has always fascinated me to know, that the facts are, that very few, two supposed "expert" historians ever agree upon the same subject. And why is that? Because no matter the FACTS, most of us choose to ignore them depending on our own personel views/emotions. My TRUTH, is as diametricly opposed to your TRUTH as it gets, but untill hummankind changes our DNA, most of us will continue to shy away from TRUTH. Because too few of us are pure & powerful enough to see, comprehend & pursue it. And IQ has NOTHING to do with seeing, comprehending & pursuing TRUTH.