See our post of last Thursday by David Pence.
|"IC XC" -- Greek shorthand for Jesus Christ
And, indeed, if it had ever happened that everything to the least point could have been considered and finally settled, and no uncertainty of any kind had remained, he would, it seems, have renounced it all as something absurd, monstrous, and impossible. But a whole mass of unsettled points and uncertainties remained.Raskolnikov leaves details unsettled in order to remain in uncertainty. In principle, he could live forever in this in-between state, except that he happens by sheer chance to learn that Lizaveta will be out at 7:00 PM and so the old woman will be home alone. Since he could never hope to acquire such information again, he must either act on his dream or give it up. But he postpones doing either. As 7:00 PM approaches and the territory between action and renunciation shrinks almost to a point, he loses track of time, falls asleep, and wakes up just a bit late to keep his appointment for murder.
|Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan in Saint Petersburg
"The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!"
I have formulated my creed, wherein all is clear and holy to me. This creed is extremely simple; here it is: I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper and more sympathetic, more rational, more manly and more perfect than the Saviour. I say to myself with jealous love that not only is there no one else like him, but that there could be no one. I would even say more. If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth did really exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ, and not with truth.
|Dostoevsky by David Levine
"I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak."
(Hillary Clinton on CNN, April 2016)
"I mean. All of the men were petrified to speak to women anymore. "
(Donald Trump in Spokane, May 2016)
|The Shawnee Prophet
|Statue of Old Hickory
HOW DID A FICTION WRITER LIKE RHODES - WHOSE BROTHER IS PRESIDENT OF CBS NEWS - BECOME A TOP FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR?
Rhodes served as Hamilton’s staff member on the 9/11 Commission, where he met Denis McDonough, another Hamilton protégé, who had gone on to work for Tom Daschle in the Senate. Rhodes then became the chief note-taker for the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan commission that excoriated George Bush’s war in Iraq. He accompanied Hamilton and his Republican counterpart on the group, former secretary of state and Bush family intimate James Baker, to their meetings with Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, David Petraeus and many others (Vice President Dick Cheney met with the group but didn’t say a word). According to both Hamilton and Edward Djerejian, Baker’s second on the I.S.G., Rhodes’s opinions were helpful in shaping the group’s conclusions — a scathing indictment of the policy makers responsible for invading Iraq. For Rhodes, who wrote much of the I.S.G. report, the Iraq war was proof, in black and white, not of the complexity of international affairs or the many perils attendant on political decision-making but of the fact that the decision-makers were morons. One result of this experience was that when Rhodes joined the Obama campaign in 2007, he arguably knew more about the Iraq war than the candidate himself, or any of his advisers. He had also developed a healthy contempt for the American foreign-policy establishment, including editors and reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and elsewhere, who at first applauded the Iraq war and then sought to pin all the blame on Bush and his merry band of neocons when it quickly turned sour. If anything, that anger has grown fiercer during Rhodes’s time in the White House. He referred to the American foreign-policy establishment as the Blob. According to Rhodes, the Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East.
THE DUMBING OF THE PRESS AND THE ROLE OF A COMMUNICATOR
The job he was hired to do, namely to help the president of the United States communicate with the public, was changing in equally significant ways, thanks to the impact of digital technologies that people in Washington were just beginning to wrap their minds around. It is hard for many to absorb the true magnitude of the change in the news business — 40 percent of newspaper-industry professionals have lost their jobs over the past decade — in part because readers can absorb all the news they want from social-media platforms Rhodes singled out a key example to me one day, laced with the brutal contempt that is a hallmark of his private utterances. “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
HE AND OBAMA SEE THE CATASTROPHIC FAILURE OF THE FOREIGN POLICY ESTABLISHMENT WHICH INCLUDES RICHARD GATES, LEON PANETTA, AND HILLARY CLINTON
Barack Obama is not a standard-issue liberal Democrat. He openly shares Rhodes’s contempt for the group-think of the American foreign-policy establishment and its hangers-on in the press. Yet one problem with the new script that Obama and Rhodes have written is that the Blob may have finally caught on.
What I (the interviewer, David Samuels) don’t understand is why, if America is getting out of the Middle East, we are apparently spending so much time and energy trying to strong-arm Syrian rebels into surrendering to the dictator who murdered their families, or why it is so important for Iran to maintain its supply lines to Hezbollah. He mutters something about John Kerry, and then goes off the record, to suggest, in effect, that the world of the Sunni Arabs that the American establishment built has collapsed. The buck stops with the establishment, not with Obama, who was left to clean up their mess. [AOA note: This is an encouraging revelation that they understand the Salafist Sunni nature of the enemy. They see that our true present enemy has sprung from our oldest alliances - this is what "the Blob" cannot clarify]
PANETTA, GATES, AND HILLARY NOT REALLY THE 'IN' CROWD
In Panetta’s telling, his own experience at the Pentagon under Obama sometimes resembled being installed in the driver’s seat of a car and finding that the steering wheel and brakes had been disconnected from the engine. Obama and his aides used political elders like him, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton as cover to end the Iraq war, and then decided to steer their own course, he suggests. While Panetta pointedly never mentions Rhodes’s name, it is clear whom he is talking about.
WHY RHODES ROSE TO THE TOP AS A STRATEGY THINKER
His days at the White House start with the president’s daily briefing, which usually includes the vice president, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Adviser Avril Haines and Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco.
|Obama's Security Trinity: Susan Rice, Avril Haines, Lisa Monaco
SAMANTHA POWER ON HIS STRATEGIC DOMINANCE AS THE WRITER
Early on, what struck her (Samantha P) about Rhodes was how strategic he was. “He was leading quietly, initially, and mainly just through track changes, like what to accept and reject,” she says. When I ask her where Rhodes’s control over drafts of the candidate’s speeches came from, she immediately answers, “Obama,” but then qualifies her answer. “But it was Hobbesian,” she adds. “He had the pen. And he understood intuitively that having the pen gave him that control.” His judgment was superior to that of his rivals, and he refused to ever back down. “He was just defiant,” she recalls. “He was like: ‘No, I’m not. That’s bad. Obama wouldn’t want that.’ ”
Expecting to read a book about political corruption, I discovered a story with penetrating insights into the human condition. When Warren was writing some 70 years ago, populist rhetoric was common in America. Our current political climate certainly suggests that everything old is new again in American politics... To my mind, the celebrated Pulitzer Prize-winning novel reveals something important about who we all are.
Warren’s brilliant story considers politics as a feature of human nature, and he leaves his reader with two options to consider: We are all corrupt and manipulative in the pursuit of self-interest, however noble and good our ends may appear to be; or, we can find (through spiritual regeneration) a new way of being in the world that transcends our fallen humanity.
Protagonist Willie Stark, proletariat turned quintessential politician, comes to accept the former position, but his political goals are shaped by an aspiration to bring about a social condition that reflects that latter. The pervasiveness of depravity is met with the hope of redemption. This hope provides an alternative to nihilism, both political and existential. One episode in the novel is particularly revealing.
When characters Adam Stanton and Jack Burden discuss the similar effects of a lobotomy and baptism, i.e., a new and transformed personality, Jack reveals that, despite his interest in the right things, he is unable to act in any meaningful way. Moreover, he cannot help being implicit in the corruption. In fact, his research uncovers information that leads to the death of his own father and the loss of his one true love. His desire for greater meaning in his life can only take shape in following a man like Willie Stark, because he cannot see the possibility of meaningfully engaging life and acting in the polis in any other way. As tends to be the case, his contributions ultimately lead to his redemption because he is forced to confront the horrific consequences of his actions.
Warren provides his reader with a view of politics as an expression of our nature as social beings. Together, we act with deliberation in pursuit of the common good. He has in mind much more than we typically attribute to politics—so much so that we might to fail to recognize that Warren is not simply telling a tale about ambition and a corrupt politician. To reduce his work to a “political novel” is to lose sight of the world Warren depicts for us that reveals the extent to which we are bound up with one another in our everyday lives.
Warren’s more important comment is about politics as contextualized, an artifact of culture and an expression of our community. Your decision about how to live your life affects me. It shapes the political landscape. The redemption of Jack through his mother is especially poignant. When she renounces her material wealth and exploitation of men to return to her former life of poverty and simplicity, Jack is finally able to be a real presence in the world, who gives authentic shape to his community and is no longer dependent on the system for his identity. Arguably, Jack learns to love when his mother accepts who she is.
Warren’s story is one of love, family, honor, masculinity, the pitfalls and promise of modernity, and salvation. For Warren, something essential has been lost in society, and he reminds us that though we may not even recognize this loss, and even though we have been wounded by it, our hearts yearn for the infinite. All of our hearts—those of corrupt politicians as much as those of the daughters of honorable men.
It seems undeniable that in response to this longing for all that is good, corruption infects even our most noble aspirations. Can we hope to bring about a proper and just ordering of society, a way of life that contributes to our ultimate salvation? Warren seems to suggest both that we can and we can’t—and that any accomplishments we achieve are not likely to take shape the way we expect or think that they should.The tragic narrator and protagonist, Jack Burden, whose life and career are thoroughly intertwined with the larger-than-life Willie Stark, reminds me of someone who gives expression to the exhortation to “work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.” This is truly the challenge for all of us, and even that pursuit is conditioned by our circumstances and experiences. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us: "No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone." Somehow, both are true.
When it comes to politics, Warren’s novel encourages me to refrain from judgment. Even Willie Stark, for all his crooked ways, ruining of lives, exploitation of women, and countless foibles, desired and served the common good. He died as an idealist who lived in pursuit of one dream for something he created to be perfectly pure. Politics demands a reflection of our ourselves, our hopes and our dreams, our tattered nobility, and our conspicuous vice. A conversation about our leaders can never be separated from a conversation about ourselves. This is truly a novel about all the King’s men.
|Painting of Mr. Warren by Conrad Albrizio, 1935
It is as bumpy and uneven as a corduroy road... Nevertheless, Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men" is magnificently vital reading, a book so charged with dramatic tension it almost crackles with blue spark... Here, my lords and ladies, is no book to curl up with in a hammock, but a book to read until 3 o'clock in the morning, a book to read on trains and subways...
Through the eyes of his narrator, a corrupt and cynical newspaper man enrolled in the dictator's service, he sees Huey Long's career without illusions as to his personal faults, his "tomcatting all over the State," his use of bribery, blackmail and force, his contemptuous destruction of freedom and decency. But he magnifies the roads, schools, income taxes, etc., introduced in Huey's regime. "At least the Boss does something," says one of Mr. Warren's characters...
[I]t is quite possible to argue with Mr. Warren about the meaning of his book and to hold reservations about several of his characters (Anne Stanton, the aristocrat whom Jack loves in his fashion and who becomes the Boss' mistress, is hard to imagine and harder to understand). But such matters in no way impair the superb effectiveness of Mr. Warren's story telling. Jack may be morally as blind as Willie Stark, the Boss, but Mr. Warren has endowed him with his own exuberant skill with words.
"All the King's Men" is really a double story, that of Willie, the hick from the red-neck country who rose to power through eloquence, leadership and ruthless mastery of dirty politics, and that of three aristocrats drawn into Willie's orbit. Jack was one of them, and he betrayed everything he should have stood for. Anne's brother, Adam, was another, a distinguished surgeon whose conception of honor and whose desire to good could not be adjusted to the filthy world where men like Willie got results. And Anne was the third, a well-intentioned waverer between opposing systems.
The two themes are woven together adroitly so that they cross, and recross, with flashbacks in time, with interpolated stories almost completely independent in themselves, with episodes of thundering melodrama. Willie Stark as a man and a politician is superbly well realized. Jack tells his story with a cynical humor, a raw vitality and an awed wonder that are immense. He is equally skillful in suggesting the futility of the old tradition when confronted with men like Willie, and, in poetic passages of pure atmosphere, rushing highways at night, old towns on the Gulf, the noisome aggregate of crawling, subhuman life around the great man...