Do we Divorce our Past Presidents?

Once I happily joined the ranks of the unmarried and no longer had to deal with heavy sighs, eye-rolling, and that persecuted look my ex-husband used to give me every time I bought my daughters new shoes to replace their outgrown ones, or asked one more time when we finally we’re going to get out of that hell hole in Nebraska like he promised before I would marry him, or after I woke him up so he’d stop snoring  in the middle of the largest indoor production of Aida that included a live zoo animal parade, I found out that he had already been on the prowl for the next wife.

They’ve been married for some time now and I’m equally happy to say I’ve never met her because she was awful to my daughters among other things.  So, I’ll stop blathering and get to my point.  Every one I know who has met her says she is the anti-me.  She’s got no formal education.  She wanted now Doctor Daughter to go to community college.  My mother-in-law–who I didn’t divorce–calls her horseface.  She gambles and replaced all my antiques with cat statues.  Actually, she cashed out the antiques I left there for the girls on ebay and bought cheap, tacky cat statues.  Catch my drift?

So, that’s the first thing I thought about when reading Kurt Anderson’s op-ed in the NT today.  I have to disclose that I helped a love lorn friend of mine stalk Kurt in the journalism classroom as a sophomore in high school so maybe I also feel a little guilty and want to showcase anything he does now. But, anyway, you’ll see the connection when you read “Our Politics are Sick”.

We have a tendency to elect presidents who seem like the antitheses of their immediate predecessors — randy young Kennedy the un-Eisenhower, earnest truth-telling Carter the un-Nixon, charismatic Reagan the un-Carter, randy young Clinton the un-H.W. Bush, cool and cerebral Obama the un-W.

 So Rick Perry fits right into that winning contrapuntal pattern. He’s the very opposite of careful and sober and understated, in his first days as an official candidate suggesting President Obama maybe doesn’t love America (“Go ask him”) and that loose monetary policy is “treasonous.” (“Look, I’m just passionate about the issue,” he explained later about his anti-Federal Reserve outburst, before switching midsentence to first-person plural, “and we stand by what we said.”)

Yet the most troubling thing about Perry (and Michele Bachmann and so many more), what’s new and strange and epidemic in mainstream politics, is the degree to which people inhabit their own Manichaean make-believe worlds. They totally believe their vivid fictions.

The heart of his piece is a list of all the vivid fictions which we’ve already covered endlessly over here.  As an economist, I cringe every time one of them opens their mouth. But, Kurt’s a great writer and he capsulizes their complete fictions wonderfully.   So, our politics are sick and I did notice the same pattern apparent in the electorate swinging from one brand of narcissism to another in his opening paragraph.  Anderson thinks are politics are like an autoimmune disease. I’m looking at the voters who vote the in-guy in–unlike me whose only winning presidential votes were both Clinton terms–and I think of my ex-husband and how he ran immediately to the anti-me like some kind of reaction formation.  This will undoubtedly leave me more cynical than I’ve been in the past, so be forewarned.

Anyhow, I thought I’d put it to you.  Do you think we get so tired of 8 years of the same narcissism that we switch to the opposing brand out of some psychological reaction formation that I’ll leave BostonBoomer to categorize?

36 Comments on “Do we Divorce our Past Presidents?”

  1. dakinikat says:

    The life of Bryan, or what did monetary policy ever do for us?

    To understand why Rick Perry this week picked a fight with Ben Bernanke and why media pariah Ron Paul continues to attract a cult following, it helps to know what happened on the evening of June 20, 1790 at a New York dinner party.

    Thomas Jefferson, fresh from his stint as American minister to France, had the day before literally bumped into Alexander Hamilton, who looked “somb[er], haggard, and dejected beyond comparison,” according to the future President’s writings.

    Fair enough; the young treasury secretary had a lot on his mind. Hamilton wanted the restructuring of states’ debts and a fiscal union — which has a contemporaneous echo, as FT Alphaville’s Joseph Cotterill noted 221 years later.

    Jefferson and his fellow Virginian James Madison were less keen. Nevertheless, a deal was struck — Hamilton got enough votes for his fiscal union, while the Commonwealth received a $1.5m tax break and an agreement for the US capital city to be located on the banks of the Potomac.

    As with a more recent political dinner across the pond, the details and the importance of Jefferson’s shindig are disputed.

    No matter. The pertinent point is that the agreement allowed Hamilton to turn his considerable energies to creating the Bank of the United States, with a monopoly over fiat currency and the support of north eastern financiers. A mix of Scottish Enlightenment ideas and Bank of England practice, the new central bank, argued Hamilton, was necessary for “the future exigencies of government”.

    Jefferson, following what he later called the worst mistake of his career, was left to advocate an alternative view of central banking and political economy: one that exalted labour above capital; countryside above city; French thought above English and Scottish. “Those who labour in the earth are the chosen of God,” wrote Jefferson, a few years before the dinner party. For him, the “First Bank” was unconstitutional and would undermine state banks.

    Crudely, these two narrative threads — Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian — spooled out over two centuries and continue to shape the way America sees central banking. The Hamilton view has generally been that of the Establishment (to borrow a British term) — centralised power, paper credit, tight-ish money, and close ties with rich financiers.

    The alternative view was dominant for much of the nineteenth century, dormant for much of the twentieth century and, though mutated and muted, is embodied today in the likes of Perry and Paul.

    • B KIlpatrick says:

      Hamilton’s plan was a massive screw-over to the people who originally held the debt… After it became increasingly clear that the states would never repay it, they sold it to third parties at a deep discount. B/c of Hamilton, these third parties were then paid an amount much closer to the face value.
      Hamilton, it should be remembered, favored a nearly-autocratic system of government headed by an aristocracy which, of course, would include him. His ideas, and the descendants of those ideas have been a persistent cancer in the American body politic. Wilson’s jailing of dissidents, FDR’s NIRA, LBJ’s bulldog tactics, Nixon’s lying, etc ad nauseum on down to Obama’s sell-outs, have all been expressions of this tendency.

  2. The Rock says:

    You make an interesting point (as only someone that has been through a divorce can make). The marriage we have between our number one leader and ourselves is based on trust, and when that trust is violated, our history suggests that we look in the exact opposite direction for our next ‘companion.’ In your examples, the public lost trust in the CiC before moving in the opoosite direction (H.W. told the country no new taxes then raised taxes, W wasn’t the brightest bulb in the room, made us a torture nation and lied to us repeatedly, LBJ got us into a mess that he couldn’t fix, Hoover took all are money and spent it on crap leaving us broke and needy, etc). It would seem that we as a nation react to our hurt by looking for the exact opposite of what we just had. The hope in THIS election cylcle will be that the United States recognizes that the opposite of Obumbles isn’t Romney or perry or anybody in Obumbles party, but rather, Hillary. John Smart has a great post about what Obumble’s role is as set by his overlords suggests that he was just a stop gap til the next GOP idiot can take the helm.

    What’s funny is that it would seem that the GOP is following the script that your post suggests. The country is Obumbles-fatigued, and with the media’s portrayal of the GOP field and their wonderful knowledge of the political gyrations of this nation, we are seeing the cycle play out. As the post from John Smart suggests, it almost seems like the powers that be are following the same script to put useless people in the WH. And it will continue until we the people break that cycle.

    Great post Dak. Screw the horseface new wife. She is an asshat (and probably an Obumbles supporter)….

    Hillary 2012

  3. B KIlpatrick says:

    Reminds me of my dad’s second wife, who was the wicked stepmother par excellence. At their wedding, my grandma overheard her saying that she would “put us in the attic.” Not quite how it happened. She and her kids (who needed my dad to buy something that cost 1k+ at least once every month and a half) lasted about a year and a half there before my sister and I decided to turn her life into living hell. heh

    • dakinikat says:

      When she moved in she brought her cigarettes with her and vowed to quit. My oldest daughter would pull them out of the fridge and then bury them in the snow outside. I got a real kick out of that. Unfortunately, she outlasted both kids because she needs the money train and I guess it was worth the short term aggravation. Her own daughter moved out on her and went to her alcoholic father when she was teenager. She’s now a wife and mother of 2 and they haven’t talked for like 10 years. That says something too.

  4. Minkoff Minx says:

    I think it is curious how both of us dak used something personal, as a way to describe the feelings we have about the 2012 presidential election.

    • dakinikat says:

      Yes. I think sometimes that the only way you can process such acts of ignorance.

    • dakinikat says:

      The Republican contenders sound like they were all let of of the asylum. I’ve never seen so many crazy people in my life. The religion crap is just over the top! Rick Perry is so bad even Karl Rove can’t stand him. Michelle Bachmann scares the living daylights out of every one with deep pockets in the Republican party too. I actually have to say that I’d make the effort to get out of bed and go vote for Obama if either of them come through. Sarah Palin and Ron Paul would make me go vote for Obama too. It’s amazing to me that people that just tell out and out lies about stuff could even be taken seriously. I guess people there’s a ton of people in this country gullible enough to believe anything these days. I’d think the Republicans would be happy with Obama and his policies. Every thing he’s pushed for was something that Bob Dole pushed for back in the Clinton years. But, Perry and Bachmann are the worst I’ve ever seen. I mean really, how much science can you deny and still be considered something other than a lower life form?

      • B KIlpatrick says:

        So you’d vote for your civil liberties to basically disappear, for domestic spying, a hypertrophic military, and the continued killing of people in foreign countries just because someone has some odd monetary ideas?


      • dakinikat says:

        It’s more than “odd monetary ideas”. These people think the government should regulate my body. That’s slavery.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        I know Perry and Bachmann are real bad, but I just can’t bring myself to vote for Obama. And in my red neck of the woods…the GOP are always the ones coming up on top of the polls.

      • B KIlpatrick says:

        Look at how things work in practice – they might think that, BUT is there any capacity to do anything about it? Paul, Perry, Bachmann all lack the ability to make the SC disappear, and they would never be able to force a bill through removing abortion from the SC’s jurisdiction. Perry, Bachmann, et al might (hell, probably would) try it. Paul? I doubt it. Most importantly, he has other priorities. Look at his higher-ups. None of them are pro-lifers. They’re all anti-war libertarians first and foremost. Secondly, he knows that half of his support would peal off overnight.
        Even so, none of that matters because it’s really just something that’s never going to happen.

  5. northwestrain says:

    The voters do seem to be 1. drawn to toxic “leaders” or 2. anyone who gets far enough into Prez politics is a narcissist.

    One exception to the narcissistic/evil rule is Gary Locke — as governor wasn’t perfect. He’s a geek, he worked hard on the County level — King County (Seattle) and then moved up. He knew the job, did the work, knew the problems and was good at number crunching. He was a no new taxes sort of guy and did his share of budget cutting.

    He’s worked for what he has — knows what hart work is and he is a minority who’s felt the hatred because of his race. For a politician he is probably as normal as humans can be. He gave the democrat response to one of GW’s state of the Union — and as a result some racists out there sent the hate his way. He’s now the Ambassador to China and charming the Chinese.

    I grew up in Hawaii so it was no big deal to see people of many different races in political offices — in fact when I returned to the states for HS — I was shocked to see so many white faces in public office. My first concern about politicians is competence and honesty.

    How many of the class of 2012 wannbes are both competent and honest? Oh s%%% Ron Paul is consistent for a typical chauvinist pig.

    Humm — yes we do relate to the larger political picture based on personal experience. I can’t stand people who are two faced and lie — even when there is no PC reason for them to lie.

    0bowma gave the best demonstration of what sort of liar he is and how he would govern when he was romancing Ohio. 0 told the Ohio voters one thing about Free Trade and has his Economic adviser tell the Canadians to ignore what he was telling the Ohio voters. He hasn’t changed.

    As a military brat I watched adults lie about just about everything. The military Pr machine lied to the public (via the newspapers) on a regular basis. Growing up on military bases was sort of a crash course in political manipulation. As young kid I knew by looking at the base when there was a political fight over the budget — the base landscaping always told the story. If the trees were cut way back and looked terrible — then congress wanted to cut the military’s budget. Kids pick up little things like that.

    • B KIlpatrick says:

      How is Ron Paul a “chauvinist pig”? Having spent more than a little time around him, I’m going to be interested in what evidence you’ve got on this…

      • northwestrain says:

        Ron Paul is of the the ass**** males who are anti choice — a front runner on the war on women.

        Ron Paul strongly opposes keeping abortion legal
        “…It’s academic to talk about civil liberties if you don’t talk about the true protection of all life. So if you’re going to protect liberty, you have to protect the life of the unborn just as well. I have a bill in Congress [“Sanctity of Life Act of 2007″] which I certainly would promote and push as president…and what it would do is establish the principle that life begins at conception.”

        Next time use Google — google is your friend.

        ALL of these Republicans scream and blather on about Government control — and taking away rights etc. Yet at the same time they want to turn women into baby machines. Most want to ban abortion even in the case of incest and rape as well as the life of the mother is at risk.

      • northwestrain says:

        As Dak says — Ron Paul and the rest of the Republicans want to turn women into slaves. 0bowma is falling close behind with his Prez directives. He’s not women’s friend — he is the enemy as well.

      • dakinikat says:

        Here’s a QUOTE from the little neoconfederate twirp.

        The idea that the social do-gooder can legislate a system which forces industry to pay men and women by comparable worth standards boggles the mind…The concept of equal pay for equal work is…an impossible task…. By what right does the government assume the power to tell an airline it must hire unattractive women if it does not want to?

        Click to access freedomsiege.pdf

        • dakinikat says:

          and another from the same source:

          Why don’t they quit once the so-called harassment starts? …[H]ow can the harassee escape [any] responsibility for the problem? Seeking protection under civil rights legislation is hardly acceptable…pressure and submission is hardly an example of a violation of one’s employment rights.

      • B KIlpatrick says:

        Here’s why I’m voting for Ron Paul:

        You all can go around and around with these distractor issues like abortion, which will never be overturned, or harassment laws that are unenforceable because you can always watch someone closely until you find a reason to fire them.

        In the meantime, I’ll concern myself with issues that actually matter. IE., life and death.

      • B KIlpatrick says:

      • B KIlpatrick says:

        And now, here’s a second question: in Ron Paul had female primary and secondary sex characteristics, would “he” still be a wicked chauvinist pig?
        I doubt it – rather, I suspect that now “she” would be a traitor.

        Believing that everyone who disagrees with you is either evil or dishonest – now there’s a way to be a human being! (snark)

      • B KIlpatrick says:

        Repeated reference was made to him being a MALE chauvinist pig. The sex of the person in question seems pretty relevant.

        In re life threatening pregnancies – there’s just no chance that access to abortion in those cases will be threatened. Politicians who spend their time calling for that might as well spend their time hoping that Martians invade (you get the idea.)
        Given that that won’t change – then the corollary question is, what CAN be changed, and by whom? That’s my question.

        Why waste a vote for O’Bomber because he’ll protect abortion rights when Ron Paul lacks the ability to touch them? A vote for ANY candidate who isn’t a pro-peace candidate is a vote for that picture to happen again and again and again. If waterboardings and mass death in foreign countries are the price you’re willing to pay to protect a right that isn’t even under serious threat, then so be it. But know the price to be paid for supporting such things.

      • northwestrain says:

        There are lots of FEMALE chauvinist pigs. One is running to be the GOP Prez candidate.

      • bostonboomer says:

        B Kilpatrick,

        Excuse me? Abortion is not a “distracter issue.” It is a life and death issue for women and men who care about them. And nowadays the Repubs are getting so emboldened that they are banning birth control and prenatal care. It’s a war on women and children, who–in case you haven’t noticed–are the majority of the population. And if you think Obama will protect abortion rights, you must have been living in a cave for the past three years.

      • B KIlpatrick says:

        The SC has a well-established body of case law in re this matter. Congress is extremely unlikely to remove it from the SC’s jurisdiction. Hence, it is not under threat.
        As to BB’s reply, Obama can defend it but won’t. Paul could attack it, but won’t. So maybe I’m dense, but I fail to see the difference here.
        Maybe this is going out on a limb, but I suspect that maybe this is sort of a dharma-ending-age sort of thing when people are perfectly willing to commit hundreds of thousands of their fellow human beings to real deaths in wars as part of a deal with the devil that they’ve made with mainstream politicians such as HRC or Obama or Gee-Dubya or whoever (they differ in their outward ideology and whatnot, but at the end of the day, they all will remember who writes the checks and will act accordingly) in exchange for them not launching attacks that are guaranteed to fail on rights that have solid public support.

        My calculus is basically this: preventing real death and injury in war > preventing hypothetical attacks on a right that isn’t going anywhere.

        Also, BB, I would be incredibly interested to hear where and how birth control and pre-natal care have been “banned” (keeping in mind, of course, that a refusal to pay for something is not a ban – no one would say that, for instance, the govt’s refusal to subsidize the construction of churches is the same as banning religious worship.)

        • dakinikat says:

          SCOTUS has a majority of people that would like to overturn Roe v. Wade and their latest case–Carstein-Nebraska– shows opening to do so which is why we’ve seen a flurry of laws passed that are working their way there now. It is no way safe with this SCOTUS.

          • dakinikat says:

            There’s also been a de facto elimination of the right in many states who are regulating it away. Ron Paul is all for these christofascist regulations that enact specific religious edicts.

    • T says:

      Gary Locke? Ewww. For one thing, he shoved a stadium down our throats. We said no, voted it down. He said, sorry, yes….the man was a typical politician, big business sellout and just awful.. Your shining analysis is completely off the mark.