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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Monday, December 15, 2008

Insane In The Membrane

Amongst the many articles this weekend, there seemed to be a theme developing. It was about the underlying motives of why certain politicians act the way they do, namely, two.

Vice-President-Elect Joe Biden and Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Up to now, the received wisdom about both men was that the first was just "Joe being Joe": a gaffe-o-matic with a history of saying and doing awkward things. Then there is Rod Blagojevich, who everyone knew was dirty (they just didn't know how much).

But now, there are two new conjectures floating out there to explain away their behaviour.

For it seems that some believe that Joe Biden may have had more cerebral damage after his aneurysisms scare over two decades ago, than might have been imagined. The other suggestion, which I found to be rather surprising given that even Democrats are saying this, is that Biden has Alzheimer's.

"An official close to his thinking", as Politico put it rather sketchily, said that Joe Biden has every intention of reducing the role of the Vice-President -- he will not operate a "shadow government", such as Dick Cheney has done according to popular belief.

(In fact, Ruth Anne Adams had expressed a similar opinion to me about the role of the Vice-Presidency having been overemphasised, and this being one of the reasons there was undue attention being paid to Governor Palin)

This also is in line with my earlier post called "Do Not Overshadow Obama, Joe". I had noticed that the "Biden" in the Obama-Biden campaign logo was almost an afterthought. If it had been blurred out altogether, I wonder how many would've noticed.



I wrote:

Though Biden doesn't have a Clintonesque ego, let alone an Obaman one, he is a man with pugnacious touchiness, and he's not above putting some poor schmoe down publicly.

I wonder if he has realised just how much of a second banana he is going to be, especially after Michelle and others are factored in?

Because, if the ticket is elected, this is how it will look like after he's done his bit in November.

Just fair warning, Joe. There's no room for another One in Obama Nation.

Whether this reduction in power is his own doing, in line with his idea that the Vice-President shouldn't be an over-powerful officer in the Administration, or his staff's suggestion, or it has been forced on him in part due to concerns about his mental health, remains to be seen.

I personally think that since the "Joe The Prophet" routine at the two California fundraisers, that Barack Obama and his staff realised the absolute folly of their decision to bring him on to their tightly controlled team, and just put the lid on him ever afterwards. Biden probably figured out (or had told him) that he had no choice but to scale back, anyway.

And speaking of mental health, the reason being touted for Governor Blagojevich having acted as greedily as he did, was that many wonder if he's not just plain nuts.



This is not a recent observation apparently. According to an article about Blago's delusional state these recent months, he has exhibited these signs before.

In 1996, a Democrat who shared a campaign office with Blagojevich, John Fritchey was told that his stepfather had suffered a serious stroke. He walked over to Blagojevich, who was making fund-raising calls, and shared the news.

"He proceeded to tell me that he was sorry, and then, in the next breath, he asked me if I could talk to my family about contributing money to his campaign," recalled Fritchey, now a state representative and a critic of the governor. "To do that, and in such a nonchalant manner, didn't strike me as something a normal person would do."

It's curious to see this being written about a Democratic politician, as I just saw Ron Howard's "Frost-Nixon" (more anon). Howard wanted to bring out what many people of that generation felt was a sickening component to the man -- the money-lust Nixon had.

When will it dawn on people that politicians seek power in part because all else follows; not just influence, but money too.

This isn't a Republican or a Democrat "thing"; it is sadly, a trait common throughout all time with people at the pinnacle of power.

Of the two suppositions, I am much more likely to believe that Biden is a victim of Alzheimer's (and possibly will one day be forced to resign, perhaps ushering in Hillary Clinton as Veep, which makes her strategic move to State that much more sense), than that Blagojevich is batty.

Desperation often feels like insanity, and certainly desperate people can do crazy things. But do not try to make sense of corruption.

It stands alone in the cannon of human failings, an odd filthy combination of weakness and strength.

IN THE COMMENTS: Althouse regular, Ron St. Amant (nice to see you, by the way!), writes about that Nixon characterisation of having "money-lust":

FWIW,

I don't think Nixon had a money lust per se, though in the aftermath of Watergate he was quite assertive about being paid at every turn- but that's an easy one considering his legal fees by then.

Nixon did lust for power for the control he felt it would give him over others. He always wanted to belong. He had an obsessive need to be liked, which only made him seem less likeable.

This is why he floundered so much in personal relations and seemed to flourish in times of great crisis when aloofness allowed him to focus his mind and energy of something other than winning people over.

I haven't seen the film yet, so I can't speak to its portrayal, however I have long owned the book Frost wrote about the interviews titled "I Gave Them a Sword" and Frost himself focuses on the paradox of Nixon demanding payment and his constant refrain (from Checkers on down) of his being disinterested in financial enrichment.

I think Nixon was truly the first modern President, Ron. You will remember that President Truman was so broke, and actually very close to bankruptcy, that a special Act had to be drawn up for Presidential pensions, after they leave office. It was never explicit, but it was assumed Presidents came from means, whether by inheritance, or from having made it in business, before their Presidencies.

It is known that Pat Nixon was mortified when Richard Nixon gave the 'Checkers' speech, saying, "Now everyone will know exactly how much we have" (implying, not very much) and I think this lack of means haunted both of them, for separate reasons.

It's not that he was trying to cash in, exactly, but he realised that money was a buffer towards the hardships of social oblivion and a power-substitute.

In reality, only Bush Sr. and Clinton so far have truly attempted to "cash in" on their Presidency. Their speaking fees (Bush Sr.'s famous Japan tour, and Clinton's exorbitant appearance fees) discomfit me.

On the other hand, they ARE US Presidents, and the lifestyle expected of US Presidents is such that their pensions simply do not compensate their outlays.

In my opinion, Nixon's attitude was not out-of-the-ordinary for a man of his generation, or his psyche (that of the perpetual outsider).

It's just that, well, the things that go unremarked or diminished with some guys, suddenly seem sinister with someone one hates -- Nixon wasn't wrong about this. People genuinely disliked him, and had it out for him (deservedly or not).

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3 Comments:

  • Vic, are you ever going to start commenting at the blog that shall remain unnamed or have you sworn off it?

    By Blogger knox, at Tue Dec 16, 03:25:00 pm GMT-5  

  • FWIW,

    I don't think Nixon had a money lust per se, though in the aftermath of Watergate he was quite assertive about being paid at every turn- but that's an easy one considering his legal fees by then.

    Nixon did lust for power for the control he felt it would give him over others. He always wanted to belong. He had an obsessive need to be liked, which only made him seem less likeable.

    This is why he floundered so much in personal relations and seemed to flourish in times of great crisis when aloofness allowed him to focus his mind and energy of something other than winning people over.

    I haven't seen the film yet, so I can't speak to its portrayal, however I have long owned the book Frost wrote about the interviews titled "I Gave Them a Sword" and Frost himself focuses on the paradox of Nixon demanding payment and his constant refrain (from Checkers on down) of his being disinterested in financial enrichment.

    By Blogger ron st.amant, at Tue Dec 16, 10:53:00 pm GMT-5  

  • You're talking to a Nixon scholar you realize :)

    re: Pat vs Dick- definitely true, probably because Nixon came from modest means and Pat further along the social strata. Also I think the fact that Nixon's childhood was turned upside down by financial hardship and health in his immediate family, so that while at one point his family was self-sufficent it was almost immediately thrown into having to rely on charity.
    Rather than celebrate his hard-earned rise to prominence though he seemed terribly bitter toward people of inherited wealth.
    If you're up for it by the way I'd recommend some great books on Nixon:

    'Shadow', by Bob Woodward looks at Nixon's legacy and how it affected the president's that followed from Ford to Clinton.
    Also a great book written by one of my professors and mentor, Margaret MacMillan, called 'Nixon In China'

    I have as you might imagine a mini-library on Nixon, including an as yet to be read volume by Stephen Ambrose on Nixon's childhood.

    You've jumped here into my wheelhouse so forgive my yakkity and obsessive-ness. :)

    By Blogger ron st.amant, at Wed Dec 17, 09:50:00 pm GMT-5  

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