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A fellow of infinite jest

By Owen Paine on Wednesday February 1, 2006 10:29 PM

Here's domestic donkey Realpolitik in clown shoes: enter one Dana Milbank, whose Washington Sketch, "an observational column about political theater in the White House, Congress and elsewhere in the capital," runs in the Washington Post.

Here are a few highlights from his turn on the new admonitory Post theme: "O stop good donkeys, stop before you run off another cliff again."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006:

The new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds congressional Democrats in the best position they've held in 14 years, besting President Bush and Republican lawmakers on Iraq, the economy, health care, immigration, ethics and more. All of which can mean only one thing: It is time for the Democrats to eat their own.
He tells us of a recent gathering of left forces in town, to stoke the fires under the impeach-the-brutes movement. Millbank, after great fun twitting the headliners there -- Cindy Sheehan, Ramsey Clark, Kevin Zeese -- has this to say:
Elected Democrats and their liberal base are in one of their periodic splits....
(pay attention here)
"between pragmatism and symbolism."
That's nice, eh? Not a split between pragmatism (read: selling out) and substance-- no, pragmatism and "symbolism". In other words, those who oppose the foot shuffles of our Nan Pelosi -- those of us who want to throw medicine-show slicksters like Steny to the wolves, and send Lex Luthors like Rahm back to the comics -- we're the ones who are into symbolism. We are -- not the crafters of wan gestures like this week's Kerry/Alito frigglefluster.

I think this illutrates a great law of life -- you won't go too far wrong if you turn every tenet of conventional wisdom on its head. Oh, and another one too -- there's nobody more banal than a "humorist."

Comments (4)


There's far more dignity in jumping off a cliff than being chloroformed and thrown off. At least with the former, you can take in the Sunset over the Grand Canyon for a few seconds before you pass out.

It's refexive in instapundits like Dana to sneer down their patrician noses at anything that reeks of integrity or principle. If they're not constantly, gutlessly caving in at the slightest pressure, they feel the hollowness that now resides where their integrity once was.

Tim D:

All these semantics surrounding the words pragmatism and symbolism and realism and idealism is a important issue in my mind. In college, I took an Intro. to International Politics and the prof introduced the great sages of political philosophy in regard to what school they belonged to: idealist and realist. Can you guess to which camp Rousseau and Marx belonged as opposed to which belonged Hobbes and Machievelli? I found that this classification system is common fare in politics courses. A year ago I took a group of Fulbright scholars from Jordan to visit an AP Government class in a DC suburb school in which the teacher was presenting these philosophers in the same fashion. I don't know about you, but I have rarely ever heard the term idealist used in the United States with wholly positive connotation. I assume you can see where I am going with this...


Tim D --

Luciano Canfora, whose Democracy in Europe I'm reading just now with great pleasure, makes the point that how you choose to define the periods of history is ideologically driven. How much more so one's classification of previous thinkers.

The idea that Marx is less "realist" or more "idealist" than Hobbes is intensely funny, of course.

What's also intensely funny is the idea that there's anything "realistic" about DLC-type Democrats. Their whole raison d'etre is to squeeze themselves into the same phone booth of gibbering delusionality as the Republicans -- at least in their exoteric aspect. Esoterically, of course, they're realists to the core, of that particular breed immortalized by C Wright Mills as "crackpot realists."

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