Sunday, September 7, 2008

"I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over"

I've been bemused by the pro-Palin hysteria on NZ blogs the last week or two, as I was bemused by the anti-Obama hysteria before it (and don't tell me you didn't notice any anti-Obama hysteria - on No Minister alone, he's been denounced as an Al Qaeda candidate, having an insane wife, involved with a corrupt political machine, that his only work experience is as a social worker, that some bizarre and incomprehensible theory about his birth certificate means he isn't a US citizen, and that he's some kind of Muslim.) For months, we had right-wingers railing against the "Obama-Messiah," now suddenly they found a Messiah of their own and the posts are coming just as fast.

I don't have any great enthusiasm for Obama. From early in the Democrat primaries, I didn't see how you could be anything but suspicious of a man proudly proclaiming "Change!" without once explaining exactly what kind of change you were in for if you voted for him. For example, you may feel like a change, but if you were to get cancer tomorrow, would that be the kind of change you were thinking of? "Change" doesn't tell you much by itself - could be good, could be really, really bad.

And of course, I certainly don't have any great enthusiasm for either McCain or Palin. They represent the status quo, which is at least not an unknown quantity like "change," but also isn't something I would have considered a very salable product.

The thing is, there isn't really that much at stake in a US presidential race, when you look at recent history. Clinton may have looked after the economy way better than the last few Republicans, but he proved just as fond of military misadventures, and such left-wing reform as he had planned was soon stalled and defeated by the inertia of the system. Bush has been about the worst US president in living memory: responding to an attack on America with his own full-frontal attack on Americans' civil rights; starting a criminal and disastrous war; wrecking the US economy; failing basic stuff like hurricane disaster relief; and so on - but the US continues much as before. And what if Gore had won in 2000 (well actually he did, but that's an argument for another time) instead of Bush? We wouldn't have had the illegal and disastrous war, but Gore has his own expensive and foolish obsession: global warming. So he just would have fucked things up in a different way. Basically, there's not that much at stake when you look at it - no point in getting all agitated over what terrible things await us if so-and-so wins.

The above isn't really what's bemusing me about the hysteria over the candidates on NZ right-wing blogs, though. What's bemusing about it is that it's all, at the bottom line, utterly and completely irrelevant to us. For most NZers, their level of self esteem would be unable to cope with the knowledge of just how deeply and conclusively unimportant we are to the USA. We not only don't have a horse in this race, there is absolutely nothing for us whatsoever in this race. We are equally unimportant to both candidates, and I'd be willing to bet the Republican Veep candidate has never even heard of us. So why all the fuss, guys?


chicken little said...

Spot on.

I must say, I do like a woman with a gun though.

Barnsley Bill said...

Top post PM. I agree about our complete irrelevance and am only following the campaign as a drama fan.
If a preference were to be offered I would obviously go with self interest and that would have to be McCain. But only because he is more open to free trade than Obama.
On the Palin matter I think it would be nice to see an American politician on our TV that does not have a face like an old man's scrotum. So I guess that would make me a republican voter.

davidinnz said...

I can think of 2 ramifications from the US Presidential elections that will affect NZ:
- likelihood of a Free Trade Agreement;
- defence.

The Democrat candidate is not a man for increased FTAs. He want to shut the gates and bar them, to try to preserve US jobs.

If NZ was invaded by Indonesia or China, we could not expect any help from an Obama-led USA. (Mind you, it is a huge deriliction of duty that the NZ govt considers Defence to be something one does, only to earn brownie points with the UN.)

phil sage (sagenz) said...

I have certainly been entertaining myself over at hard news(we are over 500 comments & counting), so guilty as charge your honour.

I think the single thing that defines if is that Palin & the reason she is on the ticket took on corruption in her own party and won.

Obama would be an interesting but risky choice for the world. I dont like his 130 high indecision and I dont like his attitude to trade.

Insofar as how it impacts. We are all citizens of the world. I have ties to 3 countries, one of which was liberated from oppression by the US of A. I like what McCain has to say about improving democracy.

Anonymous said...

Well Obama is a communist (look up Frank Marshall Davis) and a weatherman (urban terrorist).

while Palin loves America.

you can choose


Wonderful PM. Love your cynicism and while we are irrelevent to the USA, the fate of the USA is not irrelevent to us.
There are the free trade and defence issues as people people.
You say Palin probably doesn't know where NZ is, well, considering he claims to have visited 57 states in the US, I doubt Obama would either.
We are also perhaps carrying on our own battles by proxy in that US contest.
And unlike here, there does seem to be a wide gulf between the two candidates.
Whether the realities of office temper things a little remains to be seen.
But I for one am most concerned about Obama. His extremism fill me with fear.
Looking back, I was never concerned about Bill Clinton. He seemed a decent candidate and his presidency was fine.
It is a pity the Democrats are no longer the moderate party they one were.


as people say.

Gooner said...

Hear, hear Milt.

Nice post.

Heine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gooner said...

Oh yeah, and for those who argue it matters for defence and trade consider this. The US Agricultural market is the most protectionist in the World despite the rhetoric of the US President being the leader of the free world. We are not going to get a FTA with the US unless the nuke policy goes and I doubt Key will do that, and Calrk certainly won't. In terms of defence, defence of who or what? The reality is that whoever becomes Le Prez will still have foreign policy directed towards US aggression, but the way that aggression is delivered will be different

In short, different means same

Anonymous said...

You make it sound like the US is guilty of aggression, Gooner.

With the War in Iraq, it was all about Saddam Hussein who was widely believed to have had weapon of mass destruction.
Even many Democrats at the time agreed with Bush.
It was saddam who was the agressor, or would have been given the chance.
There were many UN resolutions condemining him , which were ignored.
Obama will try much UN diplomacy but unless he is willing to back it up with force, it will get him nowhere.
We have seen how Obama was wrong with the surge which finally brought peace to Iraq.
The lesson from this is that the US needs to fight its battles with greater committment and respources, not less.
I see no committment at all from Obama.
Indeed, he is such a malleable piece of outty who will do anything for power that he is purging his website of comments critical of the sure and now he expre4sses surprise that it wporked, saying it was a surprise for everyone that the surge worked.
But McCain knew the surge would work, as did Bush, as did gen Patreus. But obviously not Obama and his leftist allies both inside and outside the media.

But yes, New Zeal;and is an insignificant pinprink on world events, and we will have to choose whether we are on the side of Red China and totalitarianism or on the side of the US and freedom.
A McCain government, with his better record of free trade should make it easier for New Zealand to make the right decision.


Psycho Milt said...

Gooner's pretty much pre-empted my response. People who think the candidates' attitudes to free trade matter are deluding themselves. Those dreaming (and I use the word advisedly) of free trade agreements, consider this: NZ counts for jack shit in the US even compared to other foreign countries, let alone compared to the US agricultural lobby. Comforting delusions won't make you rich.

Davidinnz: if NZ was invaded by Indonesia or China (or hell, aliens from Sirius if you're going to get that far removed from reality), we will get exactly the same help from an Obama- or McCain-led USA that Georgia got from a Bush-led USA. Again, comforting delusions won't keep you safe.

Anonymous: why should anyone in NZ give a rat's ass who loves America? To which I can add: some of us love our countries without idolising or fetishising them, and are capable of recognising when the national interest isn't equivalent to the moral high ground. This doesn't seem to be a feature of Republicans.

Psycho Milt said...

It was saddam who was the agressor, or would have been given the chance.

I vote this for most unintentionally funny comment of the week.

Barnsley Bill said...

I second PM's nomination

Anonymous said...

Well of course the intelligence making that comment had just murdered four people and attempted to murder a fifth - all in pursuit of a mission it felt they threatened. A mission that was its all-consuming reason for existence.

Or is that pushing the analogy too far?

Tom Hunter

Psycho Milt said...

Probably - I generally stick to sarcastic comments, rather than killing my opponents. The mission is also unclear to the point of non-existence.

Anonymous said...



Heine said...

I would dispute your assertion that Bush is "about the worst US president in living memory".. I remember a certain Harry S Truman who left the White House on 23% approval ratings.

I posted this link on my blog recently - quite an eye opener. I think most readers will enjoy it :)

Psycho Milt said...

Well, I think I've got a good case. The Telegraph writes:

The overthrow and execution of a foul tyrant, Saddam Hussein; the liberation of the Afghan people from the Taliban; the smashing of the terrorist networks of al-Qa'eda in that country and elsewhere and, finally, the protection of the American people from any further atrocities on US soil since 9/11, is a legacy of which to be proud.

This is a fine, even classic, example of what is known as "spin" - the attempt to put unpleasant outcomes in a positive light without actually lying.

Take, for instance, "the overthrow and execution of a foul tyrant, Saddam Hussein." That was indeed a positive outcome of the Iraq invasion. There remains however the not-insignificant matter of cost-benefit ratio, and in this case the most apt comparison I can think of is of a man who finds mice in his kitchen, decides to burn the house down and rebuild it from scratch, and tells his wife she should be grateful he got rid of the mice.

On the benefit side of the ledger, we have Saddam Hussein dead and the likelihood of less brutal regimes running Iraq post-occupation (maybe). On the cost side: Bush has eradicated any moral authority the US had to tell Russia or anyone else that invading sovereign states is wrong; the cost in budget allocations alone is already at half a trillion dollars, with other associated costs unquantified; the US economy is in the shit because of all the debt built up to cover those costs; the war has killed more people than Saddam did; and perhaps most important of all for Bush's historical legacy, the war in Afghanistan is basically a failure due to his inexplicable decision to open a second front.

Basically, if the surge does work and US troops are able to pull out within the next few years, the term "Pyrrhic" will be ludicrously over-generous to describe the victory.

WAKE UP said...

As a not entirely irrelevant aside - everybody seems to have missed how great Rudy Giuliani's pre-Palin speech was, his best line skewering the waffling Obama perfectly: "Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy". Go Rudy ! :)

WAKE UP said...

And quoting HEINE: "I would dispute your assertion that Bush is "about the worst US president in living memory".. I remember a certain Harry S Truman who left the White House on 23% approval ratings."

Exactly - and we all know now what a great and courageous president Truman actually was. Well said, Heine :)