October 10, 2006
Mark Foley is Not ImportantBy Bookworm
One of the blessings about having come of age in the Watergate era is that I have no illusions about politicians. Keeping in mind Lord Acton's handy—dandy dictum that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," I've always had incredibly low expectations when it comes to that breed.
For the most part, our representatives are ordinary men and women who operate in an environment filled with sycophants, opportunists, and way too much money. Even worse, many of them make this unhealthy environment their life's work. Sen. Robert Byrd, for example, between his time in the House and the Senate, has spent more than fifty years working D.C.'s political beat. It's small wonder, therefore, that hubris is the politicians' besetting sin, with the result that they are often caught with their hands in the till or their pants on the floor.
Considering my jaundiced view about politicians, am I at all surprised that Mark Foley engaged in unseemly conduct? No. Nor am I surprised at the bungling ineptitude the Republican leadership is showing in the wake of Foley's exposure. My view of the"scandal" — assuming it is a "scandal," since non—sex with non—underage, non—gay pages, while disquieting and vulgar, scarcely ranks up there with history's great political sexcapades — I'm inclined to be lenient.
I don't think the emails about which the Republican leadership actually knew could reasonably have required forceful action, especially since doing so would have resulted in a homophobia accusation. Even if I were not inclined to be lenient, however, the fact remains that the most I expect from Congress under these circumstances is manic and usually ineffectual scrambling aimed, not at solving any ethical or moral problems, but at covering all backsides.
In other words, understanding politicians helps us understand what this so—called scandal is not about: It's not about whether the men and women wandering Congress' halls are moral, decent, strong—back boned human beings. Many are not, and you're being disingenuous if you acted surprised when they hide, waffle, dissimulate, or panic every time their turf is threatened. So let's not all get our knickers in a twist about the horror, the shocking horror of politicians doing foolish things, or attempting to avoid troublesome situations. That's practically what they're paid to do. As the cops used to say, "There's nothing to see here, folks. Move along."
This whole over—hyped story is completely irrelevant — and it's irrelevant for precisely the same reason I jettisoned a lifetime affiliation with the Democratic party and became a staunch (indeed, my family would say, fanatic) conservative.
The Clintonistas vaulted to the White House, and stayed there, relying on one pithy, Carville—esque phrase: "It's the economy, stupid." Today's modified message would read "It's the jihad, stupid."
While the Democrats may wish to bury themselves in Foley's underpants, or whatever convenient scandal they can easily find amongst the venal in D.C., I can't keep my mind off the fact that the Jihadists around the world have repeatedly, loudly, forcefully announced that they are determined to take over the world. Nor do I feel that one can dismiss these as the ravings of lunatics. While it's doubtful whether they can actually succeed in their quest for world domination, there is no question but that they are trying their hardest to achieve this goal.
To date, while they've fallen well shy of their world domination goal, the Jihadists have drawn blood in every corner of the globe. As an American, 9/11 and the recent depredations committed against American troops in Iraq stand out most strongly in my mind. In many ways, though, America has been the smallest battle in the war only the Republicans recognize. While the bloodiest single attack was that committed on the Twin Towers, there have been other murderous attacks in the four corners of the earth, all of which bear the Jihadist fingerprint. Just a short list of recent attacks would have to include Spain ; East Africa (bombings that were also directed against Americans); Bali; Beslan; Sudan, where the Islamists started by slaughtering Christians and are now merrily killing their co—religionists; London; and, over and over again, India. The ongoing war against Israel, of course, stands in a class by itself.
The Jihadist initiatives aren't always so spectacular. Sometimes they're either too small in scope to strike fear around the world, or they're too bland to be characterized as anything more than a riot. And while European riots may be unnerving, mothers in Ohio suburbs aren't hurrying to the polls to protect their children against these assaults. A few examples of the small scale acts of terror are Theo van Gogh's murder, which did at least shock Holland, if only briefly Ilan Hariri's murder, which saw a Jewish man tortured to death by Islamic North Africans in Paris ; and the murder at the Seattle Jewish Community center.
The civil unrest side of the Jihadist threat showed up most spectacularly both in last year's Paris riots and in the infamous cartoon riots. Aside from these two big—ticket riots, it also seems as if there are other riots going on constantly throughout Europe. Rioting has resumed in Paris, with the police throwing up their hands in despair (which somehow seems very French) . Running battles have been going on in Windsor too, which is ironic given that Windsor is home to some really core "English—ness." The Queen lives there part time and Windsor is home to that bastion of British education, Eton (on whose playing fields the Battle of Waterloo was said to be won).
Not to be left out, Belgium's "North Africans" have also been running amok lately. And to those who would fall back on the rubric that economic oppression is to blame for this "youth," "Asian" or "North African" unrest (all three of which are the weasel words the press uses when discussing these European riots), the fact remains that other poor, oppressed people worldwide are not regularly taking to the streets to burn cars and attack policemen.
To a Western culture that is used to comfort (I count myself firmly amongst that number), these worldwide Islamic initiatives are unsettling at best, frightening at worst. We can see how the Europeans have responded to this Pavlovian conditioning, since there are daily news stories about how they're constantly trying to wiggle away from the threatened Jihadist terror in their midst. The most recent press has been about the German Mozart concert that was cancelled, not because it was offensive to Jews and Christians (which it was), but because it was offensive to Muslims.
The best place, of course, in which to see the dominant culture steadily back down before Muslim demands is England. A quick list of traditional British concepts that are being shut down would include Piglet; the Florentine Boar; the flag of St. George; and even the English language.
During World War I, these same British rather crudely said of the Germans that "the Hun is either at your throat or at your feet." I think the same can be said, equally crudely, of the Jihadists arrayed against the West. Those who espouse this radical vision of Islam, and who have their hearts set on worldwide conquest, are not people who will meet us peaceably across the negotiating table. They are binary. Either they are the winners, which is a thought too horrible to contemplate; or they are the losers, which is something I can live with and something that they will probably benefit from — if Japan, Germany and Italy are any example of what happens to those who lose a war with the United States.
All of which leads me back to my original point, which is that, in the upcoming elections, the only thing that matters to me is backing the party that understands that radical, Jihadist Islam is a threat to the comfort, safety and freedoms we Americans take for granted. I'll be the first to acknowledge that the Republicans, who have a fairly shabby history as a Congressional minority, and who are subject to all the handicaps that come with being politicians, have been less effective than I would wish in dealing with this real and imminent threat as a majority. However, they've been more effective than the Democrats could ever be, since the Democrats deny that such a threat even exists (a state of cognitive dissonance difficult for me to understand in a post—9/11 world).
As for the baggage the Republicans bring with them — such as lowering taxes, cutting welfare, cracking down (I wish) on illegal immigration, even abortion — I can live with all that. For example, with regard to taxes, real world experience has taught me what I hadn't yet figured out as a well—indoctrinated twenty—something: People, not governments, make money. The more money a government controls, the less money the people have.
If you doubt me, look at the former Soviet Union as the extreme example of government economic control. Even Europe, which looked like such a halcyon socialist dream in the 1970s, basking in beneficent cradle—to—grave care, is proving to be an economic nightmare, with a population rendered helpless by decades of relying on the government, not themselves. I'm also willing to abandon a federal right to abortion on demand, which is something the Democrats hold as their Holy Grail. Aside from the fact that motherhood has left me much less willing to casually dismiss that "clump of cells," I've also come to be deeply distrustful of the kind of cavalier attitude that easy abortion has engendered. All things being equal, I think our culture is safer with the Republican "I say to you, choose life" attitude , than the Democratic "every woman is the center of her own universe" view.
The bottom line for me, a line that transcends all the other differences between the two parties' style and substance, is that one party (the Republican Party) recognizes the biggest Islamic threat the West has faced since 1683, and the other party has its head in the sand (that would be the Democrats). In the upcoming elections, anything that distracts us from this fundamental issue, including Foley's folly, is irrelevant.
Bookworm is the pseudonym of the proprietor of the blog Bookworm Room.