DYING PLANETS: In the absence of skillful political leaders!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2017

Part 3—We turn to professional athletes:
We've often thought that LeBron James—he's a professional athlete—is almost preternaturally mature.

He went from being a high school senior straight into the NBA. He scored 25 points in his first game, has barely received a parking ticket in the years since.

At age 25, he handled his departure from his home-town team fairly poorly. But let's be fair, if only this once:

Not counting Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life, how many people, at age 25 or below, have ever had to navigate the pressure of saving his home town?

We regard James as something resembling a model citizen. When he said, this Monday, that he'd spent the summer with his two sons (and their youth basketball teams) and his daughter, it sounded to us like he was probably telling the truth.

That said, LeBron James is a professional athlete. He's not the U.N. ambassador. Neither is Colin Kaepernick. Therein lies a problem.

Over Here, on our liberal planet, we tend to be convinced of our tribal greatness. It's hard for us to see how poor our tribal leadership actually is. But in the absence of skilled "professional" leadership, we're forced to turn to professional athletes to exercise leadership on difficult "culture war" topics.

That brngs us to something James said in Monday's lengthy press conference. First, though, let's talk about Hillary Clinton, who has always pretty much lacked the "political gene."

Once again, let's be fair. Most people, by and large, "lack the political gene." When people become transcendent political leaders, it's because they have important abilities which everybody else lacks.

Hillary Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, was widely praised for his political abilities. By and large, Hillary Clinton, like most people, has tended to lack that political gene. Consider what she said, in January 1992, on that 60 Minutes special.

Good God! In a lunatic press event, Gennifer Flowers had accused Bill Clinton of conducting a torrid, twelve-year love affair with her bombshell self. We will guess that Hillary Clinton knew this was total crap.

Gennifer Flowers made oodles of money pimping this unlikely claim. The Clintons were forced to appear on a special broadcast of 60 Minutes—right after the 1992 Super Bowl game!

Did we mention the fact that this CBS special aired right after the Super Bowl? Tens of millions of American men had been drinking beer since 6 AM. Had Bill Clinton said, "Yes, I blanked her, so what?" a lusty roar might well have gone up all across the nation.

Bill Clinton didn't say that. As far as we know, such a statement would have been false.

This morning, though, we're talking about what Hillary Clinton said. A fair amount of what she said did, in fact, make very good sense. But good lord! She also blurted this:
KROFT (1/26/92): I think most Americans would agree that it's very admirable that you have stayed together, that you've worked your problems out, that you seem to have reached some sort of an understanding and an arrangement. But—

BILL CLINTON: Wait a minute, wait a minute! Wait a minute! You're looking at two people who love each other. This is not an arrangement or an understanding. This is a marriage. That's a very different thing.

HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I'm not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I'm sitting here because I love him and I respect him and I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together. And, you know, if that's not enough for people, then, heck, don't vote for him.
Steve Kroft had his nose in the underwear drawer. (The Clintons had reached "an arrangement!") But alas! With her remark about Tammy Wynette, that one Clinton took the bait.

"Then heck, don't vote for him?" That was a sound political move. But we recall being very surprised by the Wynette reference:

"How could the long-standing first lady of a Southern state make a statement like that?" we inquired. And sure enough, Hillary Clinton had to spend a chunk of time explaining away what she'd said. Given the way our journalism and politics work, the clumsy statement has followed her down through the annals of time.

Was anything really so horribly "wrong" with what she said that night? Truthfully, no—unless your husband is running for office, in which case you're doomed to spend a chunk of time cleaning up what you had said, and you're going to lose some votes, perhaps even decades hence.

Hillary Clinton's tone of annoyance that night seemed to come from a real person. But it also came from a person who lacked the political gene.

Twenty-five years later, that same person has written a book explaining why she lost last year's election to Donald J. Trump. (She received 2.9 million more votes than the winner.) We're still reading that book, but we've already been blown away by several things she has said.

Hillary Clinton just keeps insisting that half the people who voted against her are "deplorable," perhaps "irredeemable." In her book, she bases that astounding assessment on a bunch of embarrassing non-evidence evidence.

Then too, there's what she says at the start of her "Sisterhood" chapter. We just started reading that chapter this morning. Go ahead! Read pages 112-115.

In those few pages, you'll see it again. You'll see Clinton blaming "the American electorate" for the fact that she lost last year. She says she wishes that we had a better, more receptive electorate. ""But that's not who we are. Not yet," she amazingly says.

We hope to discuss that tone-deaf passage at greater length at some point. But in those pages, you see Clinton fall prey to one of the deeply flawed political instincts which infest our "liberal" planet.

We meritocratic liberals! Again and again and again and again, we're committed to the proposition that the American people haven't quite managed to rise to the level of our own vast insight and our obvious moral greatness.

It's the oldest instinct in the "human" playbook, the source of our millions of wars. This instinct deeply infests our self-impressed tribe. It represents one of the most significant ways we insistently practice to lose.

There have been times when our liberal tribe has had "professional" leadership which was astoundingly brilliant. Rosa Parks was astoundingly brilliant. So was Dr. King.

At this time, such leadership doesn't exist. As a result, we liberals turn to 28-year-old quarterbacks to engineer our important crusades.

This is profoundly foolish. Even someone as preternaturally mature as LeBron James shouldn't be thrown in that patch, unless we self-impressed liberals simply don't care whether we win or lose.

Doggone it! On Monday afternoon, we watched all of James' press conference. He discussed our nation's latest culture war at some length.

He said a lot of perfectly sensible things. His frameworks were much more politically savvy than those we've been seeing in many other places.

That said, James is a professional athlete, not a U.N. ambassador. At one point, he got a perfectly sensible question, and he fumbled his response in the way our tribe is inclined to do.

Below, you see the question he was asked. It came from Steve Aschburner, of NBA.com.

Aschburner's question was perfectly sensible. We'll show you the fumble below:
ASCHBURNER (9/25/17): You live and work in a state in which the majority of voters voted for the current president, some of whom, many of whom probably had valid reasons beyond his twitter account or his social graces. How do you reconcile having called that choice a mistake when many of those people are also Cavaliers fans?
Aschburner's question made perfect sense, That said, James is a professional athlete, not a professional political leader. This was his initial response:
JAMES (continuing directly): Well, I mean, that's a great question.

[Long pause]

At the end of the day, like I said, you can—

[Pause]

I don’t think a lot of people was educated. And I think that’s the biggest, one of the biggest problems when it becomes vote time, that people are just not educated on either the individual, or on what’s actually going on in the state of the world right now, not in that particular state, but in the state of the world. I don’t think a lot of people are educated, and they make choices and say things that’s uneducated.
On a political basis, Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ! But this is very much the way how our tribe tends to think.

(To watch that exchange, click here, move ahead to the 8:30 mark.)

To his credit, James seemed to realize that he'd headed down the wrong track. As he continued, he seemed to look for a way to take his framework back.

"And am I saying that the people of Ohio wasn’t educated?" he said as he continued. "Am I saying that some of the people in the other states that voted for him was uneducated?

"They could have been, or they could not have been. But that doesn’t mean it was the right choice," he said.

He tried to take his framework back. But this is very much the way we liberals tend to think Over Here, on our dying planet.

(Things only got worse as James continued from there.)

At present, our highly self-impressed liberal tribe boasts little political leadership. As a group, we fail to see how dumb it is to think that young, well-intentioned professional athletes should be conscripted to fill this leadership void.

"We don't have a single person to waste." That's what the Clinton who won the White House said during his upbeat campaign.

The "American electorate" was to blame, and half The Others should go straight to Hell. That's what the other Clinton is still saying in her book, after a campaign which sent our country's craziest person live and direct to the White House.

Over Here on our dying planet, we're so short on leadership that we expect young quarterbacks to provide it. Tomorrow, we'll briefly touch on the kind of leadership we get from our endless string of assistant professors—and from Michelle Goldberg, the New York Times' new columnist.

She wrote an excellent first column this Monday. But we know what she did that spring, on her way to the Times.

Tomorrow: Assistant professors and Goldberg oh my! Ways we practice to lose

23 comments:

  1. Largely, the way this has played out and will continue to play out
    vindicates Rachel Maddow. against her critics.
    I too find her banter too cute and annoying.

    If you are willing to rationalize Trump as Bob does here, you
    should be in the loony bin.

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    Replies
    1. I am Greg. And I seek Gordon Jump.

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  2. Yes, liberals should really set up a committee to vet all comments made by purportedly "liberal" athletes, movie stars, professors, etc, so that they a) conform to the proper liberal messaging and b) don't in any way upset conservatives. Bob Somerby can be the head of this thought police.

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  3. Hillary Clinton supposedly lacks the political gene because she made a statement that even Somerby admits had nothing wrong with it, but conservatives pretended to be outraged so she had to "clean it up". And all that means Hillary is a crappy politician. Uh huh.

    Why does Somerby buy this meme whole hog the way he does? If someone is predisposed to oppose a female politician, but can't find anything really wrong with her, why not point to an occasional remark and pretend it is a gaffe and then call her something bad, such as "her own worst enemy"? Male politicans are given far more latitude. For example, no one pretends Biden lacks any political gene despite being an acknowledged gaffe machine and too handsy for comfort to boot. But he has a penis, so all is forgiven with him.

    I am sick of Somerby's insistence that Hillary must be perfect or she is too imperfect to be counted as a real politician along the the guys, because she lacks that crucial gene (in this case a Y chromosome). This is an absurd post today.

    Somerby dislikes her Sisterhood chapter. Despite the release this past week of a study showing that straight white women who are married vote along with their husbands, even when it goes against their own interests on women's issues, such as equal pay. Does that sound like a study that support Hillary's observations, or is she making shit up to justify her loss? Only Somerby would react in his bigoted way to claim she is wrong when she says America wasn't ready for a female president. We all know it is true -- even the reactionary conservatives know this. It is why Trump was able to run as a blatant misogynist (pussygrabber) and win. But Somerby thinks her analysis is self-serving.

    Somerby is an ass and I hate his ass face.

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  4. "As a result, we liberals turn to 28-year-old quarterbacks to engineer our important crusades."

    I guess I missed the meeting where we all voted to do this. But hey, better the quarterback than a line backer I suppose.

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  5. ""We don't have a single person to waste." That's what the Clinton who won the White House said during his upbeat campaign."

    When Bill Clinton ran for president, he and Hillary were a team and they even talked about themselves as the two-for-one presidency. Hillary was deeply involved in the campaign.

    When Hillary Clinton ran for president, Bill Clinton was her most important political advisor. Again, they remain a team. They low-keyed his involvement so that people would not consider her a puppet, just as they low-keyed her involvement in his campaign so that he would not appear pussy-whipped (a sin for alpha males with political genes).

    That's what makes comparisons between the two ridiculous. They are and always have been a team, in ways the someone like Somerby perhaps cannot imagine.

    Note the use of the word "upbeat," as if Hillary were not herself upbeat in this last campaign. Somerby needs to go back and watch the DNC and her various ads and her public appearances. Does he perhaps think she didn't smile enough? What at ass Somerby is.

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  6. "Most people, by and large, "lack the political gene.""

    Thank god for that.

    "When people become transcendent political leaders, it's because they have important abilities which everybody else lacks."

    Yes; well, almost everybody else. 95% of that ability is being a sociopath.

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    1. Mao dear, I'm afraid that there will always be politics, and therefore always politicians. There are good ones and bad ones, and sometimes horrible ones, depending on your point of view, prejudices and interests.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Unlike most pro basketball players, James never went to college. So, it seems ironic that he faulted Trump voters for being uneducated.

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  8. Though LeBron James used the words educated and uneducated, he was referring to knowledge about the candidate and the state of the world. If he had used the word "uninformed", would that have passed muster? A lot of Trump voters stated they voted for him because he was a businessman, or they liked what he openly said about and to liberals.
    Would knowing a lot of biographical information have changed their vote? Most still seem content with their choice.

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  9. "Hillary Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, was widely praised for his political abilities."

    Would it surprise Somerby to know that Hillary was more praised than Bill for her political abilities, back when they were both college students? Why do you suppose she got less praise once she entered politics in real life? Did she suddenly lose her political gene?

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    1. Sam Bowie was drafted out of college ahead of Michael Jordan.

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    2. The key words being "in real life". The meritocratic "New Democrats" have a tendency to believe where one went and what they did in college is the key determining factor in defining one's abilities. Practically speaking, that's far from the truth.

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  10. “Was anything really so horribly "wrong" with what she said that night? Truthfully, no—unless your husband is running for office, in which case you're doomed to spend a chunk of time cleaning up what you had said, and you're going to lose some votes, perhaps even decades hence.”

    Emails, speeches to Wall St, and to some extent the Clinton Foundation; together these also represented a large amount of self-inflicted wasted cleanup time. Why couldn’t the speeches and foundation stuff have waited until BOTH OF THEM were permanently out of public life? Why couldn’t someone among her lifelong team of legal advisers from the best laws schools in the land have informed her that the email (don’t use an f-ing private server!) stuff could be used by people who have been out to destroy for 25 years? We were tired of the Clinton’s habit shooting themselves in the foot! How did the other two presidents (Carter and Obama) totally avoid this dumb self-sabotage that handicaps the entire liberal agenda?

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    1. Why couldn't they have waited?

      1. Maybe they didn't plan their life but made choices as they went along.
      2. The problems of the world addressed by the foundation were urgent so waiting costs lives.
      3. The career of Bill was over. Is he barred from philanthropy because of his wife?
      4. It hasn't worked that way for any other couple where both are in public life, so why should Clintons be treated differently?
      5. No matter what they did they would be criticized -- criticisms don't have to be valid, those against the Clintons weren't.
      6. What about the jobs of all the people working for the foundation?
      Etc.

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    2. (don’t use an f-ing private server!)

      Why?

      The Bush WH used multiple private email servers and nobody said boo. Special Clinton Rules I guess.

      You let David Bossie and Roger Stone and the Mercer family and Steve Bannon twist your mind into attacking a good woman who would have made a great president.

      TDH is right. We're too fucking stupid to deserve anything good. You deserve president pussygrabber flimflam man. I hope he fucks you real good. At least you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you got Hillary and Bill.

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    3. I voted for Clinton, and think it is bizarre that Trump got elected - though there is a lot of bizarreness now (and maybe that's they way it almost always is). But the Clintons did seem to me to become part of the super rich technocratic Davos set, which is alien from all the average people out there; she moved to Chattaqua (sp?) from Arkansas, I can't blame her, but . . . Hey, if I could get $250,000 for a lame speech, I'd jump at the chance, but it opened her up to criticism. It's not all black and white - I voted for her but I was disappointed when she proved the pundits right and decided to run. Would she have been been a great president? - no way to know, but it could have been a surrealistic circus with all the nuttiness out there that seems to have taken hold.

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    4. AC/MA: compared to what? A fucking 70 year old guy who had to settle a fraud suit soon after the election and has been screwing over the little guy for his entire career, bragged about not paying taxes, would not let us see his tax returns, and was a virtual fire hydrant vomiting lies at full pressure the entire campaign.

      And on our side we wring our hands because former President Bill Clinton started a wildly successful to provide aid for poverty and health in poor countries. fuck me, I have no more patience for morons who swallowed the right wing attacks on the Clintons that's been going on since 1992, I have no patience for people who actually complain that the former president of the United States used his position to bring aid to impoverished nations and help with the aids epidemic. Sorry he embarrassed you.

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  11. Replies
    1. Higher in the comment stream, Mao makes a thought-provoking claim about the ostensibly sociopathic nature of the political class – one which his would-be rebutter leaves entirely unresponded to in his/her condescending reply. And here Mao raises a sound point about the hard-to-convincingly-deny corruption of the DNC, at least where the 2016 Democratic Primary is concerned.

      Surely it's high time someone calls him a troll for the upteenth time, and maybe an ass, too, as Somerby is thoughtfully called above (most memorably here, "Somerby is an ass and I hate his ass face"), without ever directly addressing any of the points he makes? I mean, why should today be any different?

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    ReplyDelete