Sunday, October 13, 2019

Just for the cartoons, a moment with a bedbug ...

The pond happened to click on The New York Times, and what do you know, Bret "bedbug" Stephens’ piece Goodbye, America. Goodbye, Freedom Man turned up, as bed bugs are wont to do.

It sighed and sobbed, in a mock turtle way, Under Trump, the U.S. becomes the world’s fair-weather friend.

It’s in full here, but it ended this way:

...Trump’s instinctive need to appease dictators appears to be even more powerful than his aversion to imitating his predecessor. Distracting attention from impeachment surely played a role, too, based on the view that ending “stupid endless wars” is generally a political winner — at least until the consequences of our geopolitical fecklessness are again felt fatally at home.
All of which makes it noteworthy that Trump’s Kurdish betrayal has elicited such a political backlash, including among some of hismore reliable lackeys in the Republican caucus. People like Senator Lindsey Graham understand that what the U.S. is now doing isn’t simply foreign policy folly. It’s a national disgrace.
It’s a signal that Americans are the friends you never want: there for you when, and only when, it’s convenient for them. It’s evidence that our moral values are tissue paper around the glass fragments of our president’s ego. It’s proof that the idealism that stormed Normandy, fed Europe, democratized Japan, and kept West Berlin free belongs to an increasingly remote past.
It means that American sailor or soldier seen on the horizon is no longer “freedom man.” He’s fair-weather friend.
Even now, this is not how most Americans, including many of Trump’s supporters, would wish to see themselves. People on their way to the bottom have their occasional moments of clarity, seldom seized. In the Syria debacle, Republicans have a chance to see, if not save, themselves.

Phew, here, have another cartoon:

Why did this piece by Stephens irritate the pond so much? Apart from the way just about everything about Bret Stephens irritates the pond?

Well please allow the pond to flashback to Bret Stephens on 16th September 2008, scribbling for the WSJ under the header Palin and the ‘Experience’ Canard (available online but may be paywall affected here):

If nothing else, the media meltdown over Sarah Palin's candidacy for the vice presidency has exposed the not-unsuspected truth that, when it comes to historical ignorance and political amnesia, our cultural panjandrums are in a class by themselves.
ABC's Charlie Gibson is only the latest to offer himself upon the altar of self-parody with his pop-quizzing of the Alaska governor during their interview last week.
Gibson: "Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?"
Palin: "In what respect, Charlie?"
Which was a sensible answer, given that no higher authority than Jacob Weisberg of Slate has counted six versions of the thing (including "absence of any functioning doctrine at all"). Further pressed on the subject, Gov. Palin explained that "what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism," which better sums up the gist of Bush policy than Mr. Gibson's cramped definition of the doctrine as "anticipatory self-defense."
And so the candidate, without so much as the benefit of a junior year abroad, managed (maybe luckily, though luck is often a function of wit) to get the better of the anchorman, Princeton '65.
Still, Mr. Gibson's high-toned condescension pales next to that of former Dick Gephardt speechwriter Matthew Dallek, who managed a loud guffaw over Mrs. Palin's supposed inexperience in an interview with "It would be one thing if she had only been governor a year and a half, but prior to that she had not had major experience."

Golly, feeling a little faint already? Perhaps another cartoon …

Uh huh. Luckily, amazingly, Bret "bedbug" Stephens' great and unmatched wisdom was once deployed in support of Sarah ...

Mr. Dallek is also a presidential historian, so he must have some acquaintance with the career of Calvin Coolidge. When Coolidge was named to Warren Harding's ticket in 1920, he had been governor of Massachusetts for less than two years. Aside from a largely powerless stint as lieutenant governor and other smaller legislative posts, his chief previous government experience was as mayor of Northampton, to which he was first elected in 1910 by a Wasilla-like margin of 1,597 to 1,409.
Another year-and-a-half governor to be nominated for the vice presidency: Teddy Roosevelt. It's true that TR, as a former assistant secretary of the Navy, had more foreign policy experience than Mrs. Palin, though one wonders what today we would make of a candidate whose proud boast was that he had killed an enemy soldier "like a jackrabbit."
Then there is Harry Truman, to whom Mrs. Palin compared herself at the Republican convention. "He had only to open his mouth and his origins were plain," wrote David McCullough in his biography of the 33rd president, in lines that might also have been written about Mrs. Palin. "It wasn't just that he came from a particular part of the country, geographically, but from a specific part of the American experience, an authentic pioneer background, and a specific place in the American imagination."
The Truman comparison seems especially to rankle Mrs. Palin's critics, perhaps because in many respects it rings true. Take vetting. John McCain may have met Mrs. Palin only once before he offered her the job, but Franklin Roosevelt admitted "I hardly know Truman" in July 1944, the same month the "Senator from Pendergast" was put on the Democratic ticket.
Or take foreign policy experience. It's fair to say that Mrs. Palin has none, and the McCain campaign should drop the transparent pretense that Alaska's proximity to Russia, or her nominal responsibility for the state's National Guard, gives her some.
Then again, what did Truman know? "Truman had no experience in relations with Britain or Russia, no firsthand knowledge of Churchill or Stalin," writes Mr. McCullough. "He didn't know his own Secretary of State, more than to say hello. . . . Roosevelt, Truman would tell [daughter] Margaret privately, 'never did talk to me confidentially about the war, or about foreign affairs or what he had in mind for peace after the war.' He was unprepared, bewildered."
Truman, it's true, had served bravely as an army captain in World War I; he knew the nature of war. But his chief recommendation as a U.S. senator was as a good-government type who bucked his home state's machine politics (though not so frontally as Mrs. Palin bucked hers) and fought waste, fraud and corruption in military spending.

Sheesh, with that sort of logic, it must be time for another celebratory cartoon:

Ah, the sort of military strategy a younger Bret Stephens might have found admirable ...

This is closer to Mrs. Palin's turf. But why should her critics even care about her qualifications? Vice presidential candidates are always chosen with a view toward strengthening and broadening a ticket. The job is political; the office is mainly ceremonial. Recently, the vice presidency has developed some of the functions of a shadow presidency, which seemed to disturb liberals in the days when Dick Cheney was suspected of pulling George Bush's strings. Shouldn't they be vastly relieved that no such scenario will likely play out in a McCain administration?
Of course there is the issue of being a proverbial heartbeat away from the presidency, and of Mr. McCain's now having a fairly old heart. Doesn't that weigh against Mrs. Palin's candidacy?
Maybe. But as a man who knows whereof he speaks recently observed, "You can argue that nobody is ready to be president. You can argue that even if you've been vice president for eight years, that no one can be fully ready for the pressures of the office."
Wise words, and historically true. If even Bill Clinton can offer such a benediction to an inexperienced candidate, surely Mrs. Palin's critics can do so as well.

Yes, the rot began long ago, and back then Stephens and the likes of Bill Kristol were promoting the enormous stupidity of Sarah Palin, and now, they’ve inherited the wind, in the form of Donald Trump, and suddenly they're sighing and moaning and sobbing, in a bed buggish sort of way. And suddenly the pond should care what they say?

Still, the pond likes to see what it can take from any piece, and just like the Donald, Stephens berated others with words that might well be ascribed to himself. You know, that immortal line:

...when it comes to historical ignorance and political amnesia, our cultural panjandrums are in a class by themselves.

Panjandrum, Merriam Webster advises here, is used to describe a “powerful personage or pretentious official.”

It doesn’t quite fit Stephens. Pathetic, pretentious, preening, prattler of bedbug humbug might be more to the point.

But at least the word is an interesting curiosity with a comical pedigree:

Panjandrum looks like it might be a combination of Latin and Greek roots, but in fact it is a nonsense word coined by British actor and playwright Samuel Foote around 1755. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Foote made up a line of gibberish to "test the memory of his fellow actor Charles Macklin, who had asserted that he could repeat anything after hearing it once." Foote's made-up line was, "And there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies and the Grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at the top." Some 75 years after this, Foote's passage appeared in a book of stories for children by the Anglo-Irish writer Maria Edgeworth. It took another quarter century before English speakers actually incorporated panjandrum into their general vocabulary.

A nonsense word deployed by a scribbler dedicated to nonsensical positions involving historical ignorance and political amnesia.

Well to borrow a headline, goodbye America, goodbye Bret Stephens, goodbye all the pompous jackass conservative pundits who paved the way for the Donald.

As for Palin? Aside from the way she's been in the news of late with divorce proceedings?

She championed the grassroots Republican Tea Party movement, and was also a vocal supporter of US President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. (here)

Well of course … but here's the thing. The Donald realised that she was too much of a dropkick and a loser for him to need her in his campaign.

Now there's an irony for the bedbugs of this world …

Dear Sarah, you were a wonderful candidate, and won the hearts of the likes of Bill Kristol and Bret Stephens, and now get lost …

As for her spawn, that September 2019 BBC report kindly updated the pond:

Last year, eldest son Track Palin was sentenced to a year in custody after he refused to let a female friend leave his home in Wasilla, and took away her phone and hit her in the head.
In 2017, Track was accused of breaking into his parents' home and leaving his father bleeding from cuts to the head. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in a military veterans court.
Daughter Bristol Palin briefly starred in MTV's Teen Mom programme after giving birth to her son at the age of 17.

Only in America, or perhaps more to then point, only in the world of pompous Bret panjandrums, who get paid handsomely to get it wrong consistently …

Okay, there's even bigger laughs at Slate, in Bret Stephens Backs Out of Bedbug Debate

….Karpf, for his part, said that if Stephens had never written the column comparing Karpf to Nazi propaganda ministers, he might have relented. “If he’d just said, ‘You know I’ve been teased a lot about this because of that one email that I sent you—I’m willing to talk with you, but I don’t want it to be public,’ then I probably would have been OK with that,” Karpf explained. “But if you’re going to go full Godwin against me in the New York Times, I don’t think you then get to say, ‘Oh, by the way, it’s all off the record from here on out.’ That’s just creating a safe space for him so that he could talk about how the Bretbug affair felt for him, but not in a way that anyone would be able to cover. It didn’t seem reasonable or appropriate to me.”

Sarah's stooge lives on, but never mind, here, have another cartoon or three …because the pond is only in it for the cartoons these days, and the comedy of Republicans, former or present, without a memory …


  1. Bret 'Bedbug' Stephens is a frequent 'contributor' to Murdochratia in the Australian, it seems. And makes occasional appearances at Lowy Institute Media Awards nights, apparently.

    Well, he makes a great rival for the Doggy Botherer I reckon, but the Bromancer has it all over him.

    1. PS: great selection of cartoons, as always, DP

  2. Truman, it is true, was cut out of the loop regarding "first hand" interaction with foreign leaders and generally was ignored by FDR to the point he wasn't informed of the Manhattan Project.Many historians now ascribe FDR's actions to the fact his health was already(fatally) failing though he insisted on pretending otherwise.
    Truman's presence was a  undeniable reminder of his mortality as Harry was VP because the Democratic mandarins in 1944 had chosen him knowing FDR wasn't long for this world. Given the world situation this was disgraceful on FDR's part.

    David McCullough: "Truman had no experience in relations with Britain or Russia, no firsthand knowledge of Churchill or Stalin," writes Mr. McCullough. "He didn't know his own Secretary of State, more than to say hello."

     Palin's utter ignorance of foreign policy was because she was in fact, ignorant.
     She and her family are Ockers squared, they only started wearing shoes when she became governor.
    Truman was ignorant of current foreign interactions only at the highest level because of FDR's shortsightedness.
    The self educated Truman, on entering the White House, was probably the most knowledgeable and informed president concerning the history of the world and how it had arrived at it's current condition except for Tricky Nixon.
     Truman famously was visited by a trio of snotty Harvard blue bloods from the State Department shortly after becoming president. They proceeded to patronize him while giving Harry a lecture on the Balkan situation that was so full of manipulative "facts" designed to bend Truman to their point of view that Truman exploded.
    He spent the next hour lecturing them on the Balkans and how transitory political considerations meant little in terms of century long blood feuds and that eventually Tito could very well end up being a useful pawn against the Soviets. Events proved him right.  
    I like Truman if only for what happened when he finally arrived home after driving across America - just him and Bess - right after Ike's swearing in. The yard and garden was a mess and Harry had spent many days cleaning and weeding. An admiring townsman leaned across the fence and said "It's amazing what God can do."
    Truman replied "Hell, you should have seen the place when God had it on his own."

    1. Yeah, it's always seemed that Truman was under-rated all round.


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