Demagoguery is not Passion

William Butler Yeats, by John Singer Sargent



The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

–The Second Coming (1919/1920), William Butler You-Know-Who

Recent days have heard a raft of criticism of Barack Obama for not responding with more passion to the threat posed by the underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. This is a welcome sign, frankly. Compared to the supposedly heroic and “passionate” George W. Bush, Obama’s measured response is entirely appropriate to an incident that caused no casualties, and which doesn’t change a single fact about the scope or scale of the terrorist threat, or of the competencies (or lack thereof) of  those who wish us harm. The simple fact of the matter is that Islamic extremist terrorism, as awful and bothersome as it is, poses no real day-to-day threat to the average American, and only in the most long-term and improbable circumstances — China or Russia becoming full-bodied allies of Al Qaeda, thus changing the global military equation — will they ever pose such a threat. Al Qaeda blew its wad on September 11th, and most everything that follows will be a mop-up operation. The existence of the Al Qaeda threat has not tangibly changed anything about the daily lives of Americans, except maybe to add a bit of humiliation, at the hands of our own government mind you, at the airport check-in counter, the blow to our mutual self-esteem inherent in our willingness to expose our children to military personnel and unsheathed M-16s on our streets and at the regional railroad station.

"and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"

For all the demagogic rhetoric of the Bush administration — for all the “bring it on’s” and “crusades” and “dead or alive’s” — Osama Bin Laden and his entourage are still at large; something that can’t be said of last week’s penis bomber. And buried by all the demagogic rhetoric and war-talk is the simple fact that throughout this era the Republicans have never stopped for one day quietly pursuing their Restoration reactionary agenda — eliminating the progressive income tax and the inheritance tax; substantially and permanently reducing the capital gains tax and effective corporate tax rates; guaranteeing that the President, the Vice President, their families and supporters would profit personally and maximally from our two-front “War on Terrorism”; stripping away the last vestiges of regulatory control of corporate entities; and making worker organization and unionization virtually illegal — all at a time when our spirits and our resources should supposedly have been mobilized to meet the great existential, military threat posed by six turbaned guys hiding in a tenement in Peshawar (or a cave, if you prefer; but that is so passé). 

These domestic affronts to the liberty and livelihood of the vast majority of Americans, which proceeded unabated while Junior and Darth Vader held the mike and prattled endlessly on about war, are the real threats inherited by the American People of 2010 — the things that really affect our daily lives today, as we suffer through massive loss of real income and 10% unemployment. And so it is, in my view, infinitely appropriate that our new President ratchet down the hysteria, and concentrate on fixing our broken home. Thank heaven for a real leader at last!

And for those liberal hawks — I’m thinking of you Chris Matthews — who have their panties all twisted about Abdul the Panty Bomber: get over it, baby. This guy can’t hurt America. Seriously. And if not adding to the panic costs the Democrats some seats at the mid-terms — well, so it goes. Better to be lead by real men for a short time than to succomb to the lies and panic that have brought us, altogether, to this ugly present.

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