Decadence And Dishonor

James Fallows:

“In the short term, a worldwide financial panic and crisis. Just beyond that, the real economic and social problems that come when large numbers of people lose their jobs, their businesses, their investments, their homes, and even larger numbers become fearful about what might happen to them. And then, when we get a minute to think, profound global energy and environmental challenges, security concerns that range from loose nukes to terrorist organizations, plus a couple of ongoing wars and ever-rising medical costs. Just as starters. The United States is still incredibly rich, powerful, and productive. But the current situation is no joke, for America or the world.

In these circumstances, and with a presidential election four weeks away, is it conceivable that candidates will waste time arguing whether one of them has been in the same room with a guy who had been a violent extremist at a time before most of today’s U.S. citizens were even born? (William Ayres was a Weatherman in the late 1960s. Today’s median-aged American was born around 1972.) Of course, it’s not only conceivable: it’s the Republican plan for this final push — “turning the page” on economic concerns and getting to these “character” and “association” questions about Barack Obama.

Grow up. If John McCain has a better set of plans to deal with the immediate crisis, and the medium-term real-economy fallout, and the real global problems of the era — fine, let him win on those. But it is beneath the dignity he had as a Naval officer to wallow in this mindless BS. I will say nothing about the dignity of a candidate who repeatedly winks at the public, Hooters-waitress style. A great country acts great when it matters. This is a time when it matters — for politicians in the points they raise, for journalists in the subjects they write about and the questions they ask of candidates. And, yes, for voters.”

When I read the histories of great powers in decline, sometimes they manage it well. But much more often, they do not. And one of the common threads is this: that at a moment that seems self-evidently to be a real crisis for the nation, people who should know better continue to tear one another apart, fighting for some tiny scrap of advantage rather than thinking of their country. They cannot summon up the common decency, let alone the greatness, to respond to a crisis with the seriousness it requires.

We are in a crisis. People who want to divert our attention to questions like “just how close do you have to be to serve on the same board with someone”, or describe candidates they oppose as “A Terrorist’s Best Friend”, rather than facing up to the challenges we actually face, reveal whether they actually put country first, or just say they do.

So do voters who allow themselves to be distracted by this sort of idiocy.