|Wednesday, March 2, 2005
11:54 - Keep the dream alive
Via Instapundit and transcribed by James Taranto, a fly-on-the-wall moment where the horror of the realization that maybe there might be some good in the world coming of the Bush Doctrine creeps out, manifested through Jon Stewart's ever-increasing cognitive dissonance at seeing everything he's fought so hard against having such positive consequences for the world.
Soderberg: The truth always helps in these things, I have to say. But I think that there is also going on in the Middle East peace process--they may well have a chance to do a historic deal with the Palestinians and the Israelis. These guys could really pull off a whole--
Stewart: This could be unbelievable!
Soderberg:---series of Nobel Peace Prizes here, which--it may well work. I think that, um, it's--
Stewart: [buries head in hands] Oh my God! [audience laughter] He's got, you know, here's--
Soderberg: It's scary for Democrats, I have to say.
Stewart: He's gonna be a great--pretty soon, Republicans are gonna be like, "Reagan was nothing compared to this guy." Like, my kid's gonna go to a high school named after him, I just know it.
Soderberg: Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's hope for the rest of us.
Stewart: [crossing fingers] Iran and North Korea, that's true, that is true [audience laughter]. No, it's--it is--I absolutely agree with you, this is--this is the most difficult thing for me to--because, I think, I don't care for the tactics, I don't care for this, the weird arrogance, the setting up. But I gotta say, I haven't seen results like this ever in that region.
Soderberg: Well wait. It hasn't actually gotten very far. I mean, we've had--
Stewart: Oh, I'm shallow! I'm very shallow!
Soderberg: There's always hope that this might not work. No, but I think, um, it's--you know, you have changes going on in Egypt; Saudi Arabia finally had a few votes, although women couldn't participate. What's going on here in--you know, Syria's been living in the 1960s since the 1960s--it's, part of this is--
Stewart: You mean free love and that kind of stuff? [audience laughter] Like, free love, drugs?
Soderberg: If you're a terrorist, yeah.
Stewart: They are Baathists, are they--it looks like, I gotta say, it's almost like we're not going to have to invade Iran and Syria. They're gonna invade themselves at a certain point, no? Or is that completely naive?
Soderberg: I think it's moving in the right direction. I'll have to give them credit for that. We'll see.
But there's "always hope that this might not work". Just as some have held that a KFC outlet in Baghdad would be a far worse fate for Iraqis than a lifetime under Saddam, for some people—even aides to President Clinton, such as this Nancy Soderberg—find it far more important to ensure that Bush and the Republicans don't get credit for any positive change in the world than for that change to happen in the first place. Better the Middle East status quo should endure for another eight years than have Iraqis and Lebanese SMS'ing each other "Thank You George W. Bush" messages.
As Soderberg also says: "As a Democrat, you don't want anything nice to happen to the Republicans, and you don't want them to have progress. But as an American, you hope good things would happen." It speaks volumes right there that these two goals, these two identities, should be at odds, doesn't it?
Right now the big thing that MoveOn.org is gearing itself up for is the defense against Bush's Social Security renovation. They're soliciting Flash ads bolstered by talent from John Cusack, Aaron McGruder, and other luminaries, with the goal of preventing Bush's plans for partial Social Security privatization from becoming reality. This is an issue I have no strong opinions on; I stand to be convinced either way. I don't know a whole lot of facts on the subject. But I do know a few bits of trivia that seem to be getting covered up and kept out of the public discourse on the matter:
FDR never intended Social Security to be a mandatory federal program for perpetuity; he explicitly stated that he intended it to be privatized over a gradual process (or maybe he didn't—but there's plenty of debate over what he meant Social Security to be);
Bush's plan is entirely voluntary—you can continue to put your money into Social Security if you'd rather trust it than the stock and bond markets;
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been direly warning us of the imminent doom of Social Security for decades now; I spent my high school years listening to earnest adults telling me solemnly to make sure to save money in private accounts—just stick $1000 in a savings account at age 18, they said, and let the compound interest accrue—because there would be no money to pay for my retirement if all we relied on was Social Security; and as far as I know, nothing has changed to make that less true in recent years;
"Safe until 2038" is not a very reassuring thing for the Democrats to be saying. I don't consider 30 years to be sufficiently long-term for any program that has an effect on my life—it's barely sufficient to hope that UNIX timestamps will be retrofitted by that time.
So given these pieces of information, what exactly is the genesis of this reluctance to make a few changes in the interest of greater flexibility and freedom with our money? The college kids rallying behind Michael Moore must understand that they'll be retiring at just about the date that Social Security is being projected—by their own statistics—to run out its guarantee of solvency. Can't they see that it's in their interests to do something? It must go against their very nature, too: what college-campus mob ever rallied around banners saying EVERYTHING'S OKAY and KEEP THE STATUS QUO? It's ridiculous. It's like a bumper sticker Principal Skinner would have on his car.
What it comes down to, apparently, is simply that it's something Bush is in favor of, so automatically it's something that must be opposed. The worst outcome ever, of course, would be if Bush were to fix Social Security—and then get the credit for it. Better to ride a sinking ship down into the deep than to be rescued by a boat with an elephant printed on the side.
It's all the harder to escape this conclusion when we've got Howard Dean showing his dedication to pluralism by kicking off his stint as head of the DNC saying "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for." Really, Howard? Everything?
I've seen this kind of reactionaryism in several places before, but nowhere so vividly as in Muslim victims of bombs or earthquakes or tsunamis refusing to be rescued by Israelis.
That isn't what the Democrats have become, is it?
UPDATE: Not if people like this are as capable of putting dedication to the greater good above party purity. Guys, nobody's going to laugh at you if you say you were wrong. Here's a little secret: it'll make people respect you more.