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Foreign Affairs

Taking Joe Seriously

Joe Biden's remarkably absurd and outrageous comments last month in Brussels were noted here on these pages with righteous indignation.  But apart from that sound judgment, it seems that the remarks have been given the usual pass from both the right and the left.  "It's just Joe being Joe," people are apt to say.  Perhaps dismissal of this kind is to be expected when one earns for himself the reputation of being a moral idiot on the one hand, and a useful idiot on the other.  But, because this conclusion is so easily arrived at, perhaps we shouldn't be so eager to draw it?

It should be noted that Biden has, on more than one occasion, used his reputation for general idiocy to his and to his benefactors' benefit; and this may be another such occasion.  Conservatives, especially, ought to avoid the temptation to roll their eyes when Biden speaks.  All the more true when one notes, as Jonah Goldberg does here, that Biden's remarks in Brussels were no "off the cuff" gaffe.  They were part of a prepared speech.  They reflect his--and the administrations'--true sentiments.  Given that, Biden's idiocy ought to be more useful to us than it is to his patrons.  He is not a clever enough student or politic enough as a speaker to learn the subtleties of selling the outrageous opinions of his clan.  He takes to them with childlike wonder and cannot imagine why anyone might take exception to these notions or differ with him and his betters.  Like a puppy with a bloody offering, he lays it bare and presents it with pride in all its horrific glory--and he seems genuinely hurt and confused when he is repulsed for his good efforts.  He thought that he was doing good work on behalf of a big "*ing" deal, after all.
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So the next time Joe speaks, open your eyes and your ears.  A friend of mine likes to say that "stupid people are dangerous."  Yes, they are.  But we ought to make sure that this particular stupid person is more dangerous to those who embrace him than he is to those of us who are too easily tempted to ignore him.  Dangerous people, after all, should be observed with more care than are the benign.
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Discussions - 15 Comments

How many years was he on the Senate Foreign Relations committee? For how many of those years did he head it?

Obama took him on as VP to add some "gravitas" to the ticket. That comes to seem like a bad joke. But then, so does the whole administration. Is he really any more absurd than the rest? Not really, though his bloopers are more -- bloopy -- than most. I think Biden is being given a pass on this kind of silliness because we are all just waiting to be done with this crowd.

I recall a point in the Carter presidency when Americans began talking about it as if it were a migraine that would not respond to medication. You can do nothing but wait it out, get through it, endure. Somehow, America will survive, because it has to. I don't remember at what historic point in that presidency it happened, I just remember it did happen.

I hope we can find a good Republican for 2012. I am sure candidates will emerge after the coming November elections. If things go on as they are, it won't much matter who the GOP puts up. Still, I hope it is someone good, someone I can support with enthusiasm.

I mean a good Republican for president. Leaving the phrase wide open like that was not my intent and some people on here are liable to jump on that sort of error if not corrected.

Kate, I think you've put your finger on it -- we need a leader who can articulate our worldview. He/she can't be the old establishment-style log-rolling Republican, but a person espousing limited government and common sense (with a track record reflecting the same).

And we need the Contract with America II -- and right NOW. Alas, I feel the GOP has fallen into its old comfortable role as aiders and abettors of the welfare state. Yet they have only to open their eyes; when real conservatives run for office they tend to win.

Why in a country of 300 million is it so damned hard to find someone who is sensible, articulate, and effective!

Funny thing about the Contract with America is that after the amazing 1994 elections, people were polled about what they thought of the Contract with America and not very many of them had even heard of it. So I don't know how essential it is--though I hear a new version of it is coming whether necessary or not. I think that I think this is a bad idea. Why? Because it will be an occasion for pointing to the '94 "Contract" and reminding voters of it (or informing them of it, as the case may be!) and insinuating that ideas have already been tried and found wanting. It will remind voters of their disenchantment with the GOP.

I think we need to be sticking to the message that 2010 is a new day and a new way--new faces, new (policy) ideas, and a stronger more fortified populace (and pols) who understand that hard choices will have to be made. The ideas we have have NOT been tried and found wanting . . . they've been talked about, but never really fully implemented. Although the ideas are not something strictly "new" (they are timeless and eternal in that sense) they are not the kind of thing that you can form a simple policy around and watch it go. We have a complex understanding of America, citizenship and the role of government within that. It is more subtle than that of the Dems and more respecting of people's right (and capacity) to govern themselves--but it does require fortitude in them.

We should start talking like that and leave the gimmicks to the ash-heap of history. THAT kind of thing has been tried and, despite the short-lived victory of '94, it was found wanting as a rallying cry. Or maybe it was the rallying cry that no-one heard? It certainly seemed to be the one that was forgotten.

Perhaps one can say that the Contract with America had the purpose of keeping candidates on message and, therefore, assisted in getting them elected. That's all fine . . . and Michael Medved made the point yesterday that if there were such a "Contract" now, perhaps Rand Paul would not have stepped in it so easily. (But I kinda doubt that would have mattered in his case.) I am not violently opposed to a new contract because it might have the good effect of keeping some guys who are running and don't know much from talking out of turn . . . but then, why are guys who don't know much our candidates? Though I know the world is imperfect in this way, in the end, there is no substitute for good men, good ideas and the hard work of persuasion. There is no short-cut to it or gimmick that can replace it either.

"Perhaps one can say that the Contract with America had the purpose of keeping candidates on message and, therefore, assisted in getting them elected."

I am one that can say that. The Contract was better than a party platform for keeping Republicans in line and on message. It may have been more conservative than that years' party platform, too. It was a public declaration and candidates had a choice between clinging to it as a ready-made statement on intent or explaining why they didn't. Even those for it had to explain why, for just the reason you say, people didn't always know what it was.

Another benefit was that the media went after the Contract more than the candidates, except for Newt, who weathered it well.

Again, I am not violently opposed to it. It's just that I really don't want to see it adopted as the lazy man's way to appear to be "doing something" or as something to point to in lieu of serious thinking on the issues. Much more than this is going to be needed. And with it there will be a temptation to shorthand. As long as the shorthand stands for something worthwhile in long hand, however, maybe that's ok.

It gets back to what Redwald said about articulating a worldview. What expresses that? What expresses that in a practical way? The problem of not have a multiplicity of Reagans is ameliorated, though not solved, by having some such articulation.

Got a manifesto, anyone?

I can get us started on a manifesto.

Rule #1: No political elite has the authority, nor can ever be given the warrant, to reshape/reform/rebuild society (or civil society) in its own image. As Thomas More might have said "Parliament hath not the competence."

Rule #2: See Rule #1.

I don't think I can ask anyone to go on the campaign trail with that.

How about "save our freedom" at home and "restore our honor" abroad?

I like them as slogans, but if someone asks our candidates what they mean by those phrases, they will need more than those words. Freedom, for example means different things across the political spectrum. And I think Obama thinks he is restoring our honor abroad, especially with anti-nuke talk.

The local Tea-Party guys toss around slogans like that, but this one or that one seem to mean different things.

Maybe it is a start, though.

OK, how's this:

1) America, hell yea!

2) Get a job, hippie!

3) Civil liberties, they aren't just for ACLU scumbags anymore!

Slogans always need explaining, but they hardly renders them ambiguous, for candidates and other citizens will fill in the details. Try to think a single term these days that doesn't mean different things to different people. If our long two-party history isn't enough, add the moral relativism that has divided our nation against itself, led by the moralizer-in-chief, Barack Obama. We know that liberals have converted liberty into license and equality into egalitarianism, so we have plenty of educating to do. Fortunately, many Americans who have risen up against the current ruling party understand better than many pundits and professors, what freedom and honor mean.

THAT hardly renders them ambiguous! Try to think OF a single term

Yes, they do.

Those are good slogans and yes, they would work as a good basis for campaign rhetoric.

Of course, even Redwald's have a certain appeal, but I can't see putting them in a candidate's mouth, unless there is some Al Franken of the Right running somewhere that I don't know about yet.

I heard Mitt Romney at an Ashbrook Dinner about a month ago and his speech was more like, "restore our honor" abroad and "save our freedom" at home -- just the different emphasis and maybe for the audience.

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