Dear Reader (and those of you who I wish knew what it was like to have a 200-pound G-File sitting in your e-mail box demanding that you submit),
Qaddafi is dead. I think it’s good news. As I’ve long said, what has two thumbs and digs it when brutal dictators who’ve killed lots of Americans are killed? This guy.
Still, when you put yourself in his shoes for a second, you have to appreciate A) Man, these are really comfortable, what are they? Silk? And B) what a bad day he had yesterday. First of all, everyone could see his bald spot, which he successfully hid under throw pillows, Leona Helmsley head scarves, and the head gear of various Los Vegas hotel doormen for like four decades.
Also, those had to be some long final minutes in the drainage pipe. When they caught him, he kept saying “What is the matter? What’s going on? What do you want?”
It’s possible, even probable, that he was saying that because he was concussed and disoriented from the whole run-in with the arsenal of democracy and all. Hellfire missiles are a bitch. But I like to think he went down trying to bluff his way out of the situation.
Qaddafi was a certain kind of reptilian creature who survived by always assuming or acting as if he was in command of the situation. Like the Force, it’s stronger in some than others. Depending on context and character, it can be a beneficial thing. It’s not natural leadership so much as the charisma and presence that gives natural leaders that extra leg up. But it’s also the charisma that lets grifters run the long con and the worst sorts of people survive when the best do not.
Regardless, I like the idea that he ended his days filthy, staggered, and bloodied, thinking that if he just got out of that drainage pipe with an air of indignation and authority he could brazen his way out of yet one more tough spot. Tucking in his puffy pirate shirt, he acted like it was all perfectly natural for him to emerge from a dark hole in the ground. And, in a sense, it was.
What Does It All Mean?
Good golly, how the heck should I know? Everything is speculation at this point. Libya could go Islamist, authoritarian, or simply tits-up Somalia style. The headlines for NATO are great, but the fine print not so much. Not only did NATO keep lying about not targeting Qaddafi, it ran into any number of serious problems imposing its will without the U.S. I don’t think anyone expects NATO to do this sort of thing again anytime soon, so the deterrence effect is not exactly as powerful as some think. The lesson for dictators in the region is hardly to cave to the Arab Spring. It might be to kill your dissidents faster and more thoroughly. Or it might be that America is an unreliable friend and so forgoing WMDs is a bad idea. Who knows? The future is unwritten.
The State of the Race
About six millennia ago, on a day called “Tuesday,” there was a GOP debate in Nevada. It was in almost every respect the worst one yet, but it was also the most consequential because everyone came out diminished, with the possible exception of Newt Gingrich.
I’m not going to get dragged into a lot of post-debate punditry at this point, because there’s really not much new to be said. But I think two points are worth making. First: This was the first debate of the season where the clips that came out of it mattered more than the actual debate itself. I think by any measure Romney won the debate, but Perry won the news cycle. All the news shows repeated that one clip where Romney was flustered (I couldn’t find it, but this will do).
Second, one thing is clear from these debates. Tim Pawlenty really, really blew it by getting out of the race. But what’s so weird is that his strategy was essentially right. He was gambling that the party would be desperate for a not-Romney candidate to Romney’s right. The party is now desperate for a not-Romney candidate to Romney’s right. But Pawlenty is out of the picture and there’s a major hole in the field where he could neatly slide in.
I’m sure that two years ago, it seemed like he had to run a big, honking national campaign to scare off Mitch Daniels and other Republican governors and to round up big money. But, at least in retrospect, that was a dumb play. If he’d simply gone lean and mean in Iowa and bided his time, he’d certainly be in much better shape today than Bachmann and maybe even Perry.
Oh, one last thing about the debates. I don’t much care that Rick Perry kept calling Herman Cain “brother.” But I will say this: When he said “I’ll bump plans with you, brother,” it sounded to me like the sort of thing really wonky gay dudes say.
Occupy Wall Street!
As I mentioned in the Corner, I love this story about the fraying tensions among the Occupy Wall Street crowd.
Aside from the general schadenfreudtasticness of it all, I found this bit to contain some fascinating contradictions. Apparently some of the “facilitators” — you might call them the avant-garde of the avant-garde of the avant-garde of the lumpenproletariat — have started censoring and taxing the drummers.
To Shane Engelerdt, a 19-year-old from Jersey City and self-described former “head drummer,” this amounted to a Jacobinic betrayal. “They are becoming the government we’re trying to protest,” he said. “They didn’t even give the drummers a say. . . . Drumming is the heartbeat of this movement. Look around: This is dead, you need a pulse to keep something alive.”
The drummers claim that the finance working group even levied a percussion tax of sorts, taking up to half of the $150-300 a day that the drum circle was receiving in tips. “Now they have over $500,000 from all sorts of places,” said Engelerdt. “We’re like, what’s going on here? They’re like the banks we’re protesting.”
Wait a second. The leadership of OWS is imposing a 50 percent tax rate on the most successful and entrepreneurial protesters and they’re regulating their ability to satisfy the consumer (as it were)?
This Engelerdt guy’s grasp of political theory is a bit off, though. First he says that the organizers are becoming the sort of government they’re protesting. Except that has it exactly wrong. They’re becoming the sort of government they’re demanding!
He then goes on to say that the decision to confiscate so much of the drummers’ obscene profits makes the organizers like the banks. But the banks don’t tax anybody — that’s government’s job. In fact, if these guys had their way, the drummers should be taxed at a much higher rate, right? Why should the drummers make so much more than the guy running the seminar on how to make hemp-twine condoms or the lady teaching folks how to recycle everything from urine to toilet paper?
Let’s Cut Red Tape — With a Giant Spool of Bright Burgundy Adhesive Material!
A month ago today, I wrote a column on “Catch-22 Liberalism.” I wrote, in part:
The Left yearns to “go big” but it wants to do so through the extremely narrow routes it has created for itself. They say government must rush into this economic crisis like firemen into a burning building. But they also don’t want to lighten the useless baggage the firemen must carry or remove the Byzantine obstacle course they’ve decreed the figurative firefighters must run through before getting to work.
Here’s another small example of the mess liberalism is in. HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius says:
It’s time to cut the red tape. Our new proposals eliminate unnecessary and obsolete standards and free up resources so hospitals and doctors can focus on treating patients.
They do so with 955 pages of new regulations!
Now, I understand that this may — or may not! — constitute progress. But take a step back. If you need to issue just shy of 1,000 pages of rules in order to cut red tape, you’ve got some major problems. This is like digging a hole to China and deciding that there must be a better way, so you change course to Australia.
Some circumstantial evidence is quite strong, as when you find . . . this. Note: This video is for dog lovers only.
Here’s my column on Joe Biden. My apologies for all the points I could have made about the guy and didn’t, but writing this column was like sitting next to a huge pile of horse manure and trying to figure out how much could be crammed in a five-pound bag.
If you missed me on C-SPAN earlier this week, you can watch it here.