Saturday, September 08, 2012

Bloodlust at the DNC

All in all, the just-wrapped Democratic convention went off swimmingly. In terms of messaging, they had a series of powerful speeches all punctuating their big pitch that the country would be better off re-electing Barack Obama than taking a chance on the untried Mitt Romney (talk about a reversal from four years ago!). Also, unlike the previous convention, which had most of the air sucked out of the room the day of the nominee's speech by an octogenarian actor talking to a chair, this one was a masterpiece of coordinated messaging leading up to Thursday's big finish.

Bill Clinton easily takes the prize for the most memorable speech, proving yet again why he's one of the most agile and able political minds of the modern era, but President Obama was no slouch either, and I was as surprised as anybody at what a great job John Kerry did at not only lampooning Romney, but also his own image as the Democratic party's own Mitt Romney. However, while the presentations and pageantry were pretty effective overall, there was one particular trend I found a little unsetting, which Glenn Greenwald elaborates on:
It is hard to count how many times a Democratic party speaker stood up proudly to proclaim: 
Osama. Bin. Laden. Is. Dead! 
Almost every time Bin Laden's scalp was paraded around on its pike – all thanks to the warrior spirit and unflinching courage of our commander-in-chief – the crowd of progressives, liberals and party faithful erupted into a prolonged "USA. USA" chant.
And just to be clear, I get it. In political terms, in foreign policy terms, this is a feather in the Obama administration's cap. Of course they're going to place it high on the resume. And just to be very, very extra clear about this, my unease was not because the world isn't better off without Bin Laden in it. Rather, I was unnerved by the Roman gladiator-style exultation on display. The "Are you not entertained?" of it all. Later in the piece, Greenwald makes some more very cogent observations about the two ways to think about it, in terms of politics and in terms of conscience:
If one wants to mount a political defense of all of this – that it is about time the Democrats gave the GOP a taste of its own medicine, that Kerry, in particular, has the right to exact vengeance, that anything is justified to win the election, etc – that's fine. I have no real quarrel with, or interest in, that perspective. In so many ways – political adeptness, party solidarity, effective exploitation of national security for political gain, media favorability, message discipline – the two parties have experienced a radical role reversal in the matter of a few short years, and it's understandable why one is happy about that if one's overarching political concern is Obama's re-election. 
But the collective bloodlust on display over the last week, especially Thursday night, was nothing short of creepy. Even in those instances in which state killing is justified and necessary, it ought to be a sombre and regrettable affair (as many Democrats righteously argued when some attendees at a GOP debate cheered Texas Governor Rick Perry's touting of his execution record). Boastful, raucous, nationalistic crowd-chanting at every single mention of someone's corpse, even when that someone is Osama bin Laden, is warped.
This is of a piece with the concerns I mentioned earlier in the week. When extra-judicial killings -- of American citizens or otherwise -- are applauded on either side of the partisan divide and trumpeted as a point of American exceptionalism, that's worrisome. When a so-called liberal president keeps a secret kill list he doesn't ever discuss except when there's a political point to be scored -- and yet he's continually harangued by his opponents for being too soft -- that tells me the political center in our country has shifted a little too far. And that should worry us all, regardless of where our political leanings lie. There's more from Greenwald here. Give it a read.

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