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Knowing whose ass to kick is crucial

June 11, 2010

In dealing with the BP oil spill disaster, NBC’s Matt Lauer suggested to President Obama this week that “this is not the time to meet with experts and advisers,” but rather, it’s a time to “kick some butt.”

The president explained, “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick.”
Washington Monthly: Kristol The Clown

And Bill Kristol’s response?  “Real men don’t need experts to tell them whose asses to kick.”

President Obama can’t catch a break on his response to the catastrophe but he hit the right note for me.  If there’s anything I want leaders to do, it’s think twice before they start kicking ass.  Get all the facts, and find out who’s really responsible.  For that matter, ask yourself if kicking ass is even the right response.  And then think about it some more.

Our country’s history of ass-kicking does not reflect that level of reflection.

Take the War On Drugs, please.  In 1970 the US incarceration rate was about 150 per 100,000;  today it is over 700.  In practice this means that instead of waging a war on poverty, we’re waging a war on the poor.  And since “the poor” (defined as people who can’t afford good lawyers) are disproportionately black, that’s a war on the African-American family.  According to The Economist;

Between the ages of 20 and 29, one black man in nine is behind bars. For black women of the same age, the figure is about one in 150. For obvious reasons, convicts are excluded from the dating pool. And many women also steer clear of ex-cons, which makes a big difference when one young black man in three can expect to be locked up at some point.

The article quoted is about the effect on black families, but imagine the effect it has on the black workforce as well.  There is no more certain road to entrenched poverty than a prison record, and poverty feeds back into crime.

That, friends, is kicking the wrong asses, and it’s using ass-kicking as a blunt instrument to boot.  It’s stupid, it’s unjust and counterproductive, and while it undermines our economy it also takes away any moral credibility we could hope to have on ethnic justice issues anywhere else in the world.  But hey, it makes politicians look “Tough On Crime™”

Want more examples?  How about No Child Left Behind, which penalizes under-performing schools in poor neighborhoods by taking away their funding?  How about… well just about every war we’ve blundered into since World War II?  How about Gitmo and Bush’s recent admission that he violated international law by approving torture, and he’d do it again?

Yeah, he’s a “real man”, as Kristol would say; he doesn’t need to consult any experts to know whose ass to kick.

Wisdom literature from every culture is full of warnings that anger is a direct cause of self-defeating stupidity.  Most of that literature is hard-won knowledge; compiled by someone languishing in defeat and humiliation, or sitting in the ashes of a Pyrrhic victory.  It’s no sign of manhood to be mastered by your anger. To the contrary, lack of self-mastery means you’re vulnerable to any enemy who knows how to exploit your weakness for bluster and chest-thumping.  We need to get hold of ourselves.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. June 12, 2010 at 02:05 | #1

    I think this post needs to be read to every single politician in Washington, five times a day.  Include the pathetic pundits while we’re at it.  Maybe with a lot of repetition and someone available to explain the two-syllable words to them, they’ll eventually get it.

    In order for that to happen, we’ll have to take their corporate cash away, too.  Otherwise, they might not be able to focus.

  2. June 13, 2010 at 09:27 | #2

    Kristol wouldn’t know a real man if he saw one.

  3. David Engel
    June 13, 2010 at 20:17 | #3

    I agree. Chest thumpers, in any party, are dangerous.

  4. Neil
    June 14, 2010 at 15:12 | #4

    3.“I agree. Chest thumpers, in any party, are dangerous.”

      Agreed.  It’s a good thing that there are only a few in the Democratic party, and just about none in any of the minor parties.

    I can’t help but notice that the Republican party has embraced chest-thumping, threatening, demonizing, and shouting down as the only political tools they need.  From the liberal-bashing, brown-people-fearing grassroots, to the astroturf teabaggers, to local & state politicians, to Fox network talking heads, to Congressmen (“LIAR!”) to the torture admitting, axis of evil labeling ex-president and vice-president, they have become the party for the promotion of personal wealth by brute force, and just about nothing else.

  5. Donno
    June 15, 2010 at 19:48 | #5

    I do mostly agree with George, but I would warn that we not get caught up in turning a fact finding mission into a study on how to prolong finding the facts which make the whole task so tedious that everyone involved becomes bored with the flavor of the month and just throws the whole issue to the side to collect dust.  I do not forsee this issue disappearing anytime soon, but I do see the American people as a whole getting tired of the blame game and finger pointing.  If lighting a few fires under some feet get people moving to get things accomplished, then so be it.  I am for moving forward.  Even advancing to the rear in order to regroup and be effective as a nation would be acceptable to me as long as we are keeping our leaders in check. 
    Hey George, the typewriter guy is back and now wearing civilian clothes and a beard.  The old blue Smith Corona is still up and running.  Typed a 6 page paper on it and got an “A”.  Thought the professor was going to cry when she saw that it was manually typed.

    Glad to be back!

  6. June 15, 2010 at 20:39 | #6

    Glad you’re enjoying it Donno!  That typewriter will probably still be working when you and I are gone.

    One thing about a manual typewriter; it’s work to make corrections, so you spend time thinking first.  I bet your professor knows that.

    “Blame game” is an easy phrase to let those responsible slip away.  Often used by those who are to blame, as Jon Stewart says.  But if this were a terrorist attack, we’d sure as hell be kicking some ass.  Does it matter if the damage is done by a corporation or some Jihad group? 

    And while we’re at it, does anybody know how to protect an oil rig from terrorist attack?

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