Saturday, November 22, 2008

Yon Cassius hath a lean and hungry look

When I read that Barack Obama was seriously considering Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State, I thought he had lost his mind. Looking at it again, I think it's a shrewd move. Resigning her Senate seat, she can't hinder any of his preferred legislation out of pique, and if she displays the same persona on the world stage that she did in the primaries, she will appear even more plainly for what she is, while Obama will only win sympathy for enduring her.

Michael Hirsh argues that the position of Secretary of State is as much subject to Presidential control as any other and cites three instances in which, rightly or wrongly, Secretaries of State were pushed aside. However, his argument seems to depend on the presence of an Acheson- or Kissinger-like figure in an Administration to take the place of the original appointee, while Obama specifically tries to avoid conditions that make such changes necessary to begin with. I hope that Newsweek's observation is accurate: that Obama is unusually detached and self-aware for a politician. The seven words that even waterboarding could never force from Hillary's lips were also spoken by someone of unusual detachment, who ate locusts and wild honey.

(A friend kindly passes along David Brooks's column from yesterday's New York Times; Brooks reminds us that Clinton, whatever else she may be, is one of a galaxy of daunting talent assembled by the President-elect. The Governor of Alaska, on the other hand, seems to be among those who embrace the creed, "Ye need not any man to teach you," though admittedly, the author of those words was speaking of a spiritual assurance and not knowledge of geopolitics. This week's Time notes that Palin will get a $7 million book deal, and Oliver Stone nominated her for Time's Person of the Year.)

Speaking of detachment, it appears that Obama is about to govern a nation in which, "According to a 2006 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a third of white evangelicals believe the world will end in their lifetimes." Michael Gross analyzed the effect of this strain of thought in The Atlantic a few years ago.) One zealous soul runs a web site that he wishes to be known as "the eBay of prophecy," a concept so amazingly oblivious to the context of its own religious origins that one hardly knows where to begin. Those who are less convinced that the dread day is upon us may have been among the admirers lined up at Wolfchase Mall in Memphis yesterday to get the autograph of Thomas Kinkade, "Painter of Light™." It seems that Kinkade's works hang in 1 in 20 American homes, a fact that, in itself, is enough to make one hope that the apocalypse is not so far off after all. Eighty-five years ago, the art of choice for 1 in 4 American homes was Maxfield Parrish's Daybreak. To be sure, Parrish was no Rembrandt, but at least his work reminds one of Alma-Tadema.

I was in 6th grade when Kennedy was shot. The Zapruder film became the horrifying precursor of YouTube. I remember seeing John Jr. salute his father's casket as it passed down Pennsylvania Avenue, though I had forgotten that his mother induced him to do so; I thought I remembered it as spontaneous. A classmate of mine visited Martinique the week after the assassination, and locals were asking him if there would be a coup in the United States.

© Michael Huggins, 2008. All rights reserved.

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