Today I'll bake; tomorrow I'll brew,
Then I'll fetch the queen's new child,
It is good that no one knows,
Rumpelstiltskin is my name.
-- "Rumpelstilzchen" (slightly altered), Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Two common themes in our oldest fairy tales are about the mighty power of words. There is the power of the trickster, who uses words of lies and flattery and, usually, the complicity of the powerful and the cowed silence of the mob to achieve his ends, and there it the usually polar-opposite power that comes from Invoking The True Name of things.
Magic, trickster incantations can summon terrible forces, steal children or lay a curse over an entire kingdom; the spell-breaking power that comes from discovering and invoking the true-but-secret names of things can, in the right hands, lift a curse and drive out monsters. Or at least make Peggy Noonan shit herself on national teevee:
And thus we find ourselves today in morally stunted fairy tale village of the Washington Beltway, where the entire political and media power structure is built on the invocation of the magic conjure words "Both Sides Do It" and an absolute ban on the public utterance of the True Names of the vampires and goblins who run the place.
For example, one must never ask why slandering warpimps like Bill Kristol or David Brooks are allowed a seat of honor at every Beltway table, unquestioned and unmolested. One must never point out that the real problem with the Republican Party is simply that it is full of Republicans. And one must never, ever call out the traitors who lied us into the Iraq War by name and political affiliation.
If you leave these matters alone -- if you agree to betray the rest of us and actively ignore the monsters rampaging through the square in broad daylight -- you can make a damn fine living in The Village. But dare to call attention to the monsters or raise the alarm, and Comcast or Fox News will cast your ass out into the wilderness with the beggars and the bloggers and all the other cursed and unsavory types.
And yet by some fluke of the Great Storyteller, this week the twilight struggle between the dark wizards of deception and denial, and the plucky, outcast speakers-of-truth reached a sudden and remarkable climax.
On the one hand, the entire Beltway continued to contort itself across nine dimensions trying desperately to account for the rise of Donald Trump without mentioning the toxic human shitpile of Republican rage and paranoia which gave him life. As usual, David Brooks was hot on the case, frantically troweling "Both Siderist" spackle over this gaping hole in the Beltway Conventional Wisdom by explaining that 1) Donald Trump was a lot like Bernie Sanders so lets not start pointing fingers people. And, anyway, 2) the rise of Donald Trump was really everyone's fault.
Hell, even Chris Matthews rushed to the barricades to defend Beltway Conventional Wisdom
by getting in on the "Kick Bernie" action.
So status quo.
What came entirely out of left field (pun intended) was the President of the United States. The Kenyan Usurper really has apparently had it with his failed policy of trying to deal with the GOP as responsible public officials, and has decided to spend the rest of this time in office treating them like the brain-dead sabotaging yahoos they really are. And so yesterday, POTUS used his speech on Iraq at the American University to smash every teacup in the genteel Beltway china shop and send an entire generation of pundits crashing into their fainting couches by going Full Driftglass (emphasis added):
Today, I want to speak to you about this deal and the most consequential foreign-policy debate that our country has had since the invasion of Iraq, as Congress decides whether to support this historic diplomatic breakthrough or instead blocks it over the objection of the vast majority of the world. Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should, for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal....Today, Iraq remains gripped by sectarian conflict, and the emergence of al-Qaida in Iraq has now evolved into ISIL. And ironically, the single greatest beneficiary in the region of that war was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which saw its strategic position strengthened by the removal of its long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein....For the last couple of weeks, I have repeatedly challenged anyone opposed to this deal to put forward a better, plausible alternative. I have yet to hear one. What I've heard instead are the same types of arguments that we heard in the run up to the Iraq war. "Iran cannot be dealt with diplomatically." "We can take military strikes without significant consequences." "We shouldn't worry about what the rest of the world thinks, because once we act, everyone will fall in line." "Tougher talk, more military threats will force Iran into submission." "We can get a better deal."I know it's easy to play in people's fears, to magnify threats, to compare any attempt at diplomacy to Munich, but none of these arguments hold up. They didn't back in 2002, in 2003, they shouldn't now.
That same mind set in many cases offered by the same people, who seem to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong lead to a war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United States than anything we have done in the decades before or since. It's a mind set out of step with the traditions of American foreign policy where we exhaust diplomacy before war and debate matters of war and peace in the cold light of truth....
And then he did the worst thing of all: underscoring his giant Fuck You to the Neocons and the GOP by daring to invoke the name of Saint Ronald Reagan...
"Peace is not the absence of conflict," President Reagan once said. It is the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means. President Kennedy warned Americans not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than the exchange of threats. It is time to apply such wisdom. The deal before us doesn't bet on Iran changing, it doesn't require trust, it verifies and requires Iran to forsake a nuclear weapon...
Right now, these two narratives -- the Denialists, in the terrified thrall of Donald Trump, who dare not speak the truth about our politics, and the Dirty Hippies, suddenly joined by a newly emancipated POTUS, who will not shut up about what is warped and rotten about our politics -- are running full-steam, flat-out on close but parallel tracks.
If they every collide it will be something to see.