Comments: Honor Thy Leader

Rachel Maddow, on MSNBC, expressed the same absurd sentiments as Rick Perlstein.

Posted by Don Lorenzo at December 19, 2008 12:55 PM

Truly excellent post, Prof. Chazelle. On par with your best.

Posted by Pepito at December 19, 2008 01:08 PM

Yup, this Perlstein guy shows he's an authentic piece of shit. If Montazar el Zaidi deserves to go to jail for a long time, then for long should W. be imprisoned? For eternity?

Posted by Pepito at December 19, 2008 01:15 PM

Dennis writes: I explore all this and more in my next book, "Savage Clowns: The Democrats and Endless Crawlspace."

Damn! There's more in that book title than in my entire post.

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at December 19, 2008 01:29 PM

Yup, this Perlstein guy shows he's an authentic piece of shit.

He may be mistaken (and I feel that he is, mostly) but I really don't want people calling others pieces of shit here. Exceptions may be granted in cases of high-level government officials who conduct wars.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at December 19, 2008 01:33 PM

"This is not how we do politics..."

No, we lie, take bribes, do favors, bomb foreign countries that can do us no harm, slaughter civilians, torture and enrich our friends and fellow members of the establishment.
That's how we do politics, schmuck.
And how galactically stupid to suggest that a pair of tossed shoes at a war criminal inclines anyone toward fascism. And what's it got to do with anarchy?
Perlstein is an establishment journalist, good at stringing together anecdotes and summarizing clips and stories. He's short on analysis and shows no understanding of political philosophy, mass movements and the leaders who inspire them.
And, I suspect, he's never seen Chaplin's "The Great Dictator."
If only a journalist had thrown a pair of those heavy Bavarian hiking boots at Adolf, coulda caused enough minor brain damage to turn him from Fuehrer into greengrocer.

Posted by donescobar at December 19, 2008 01:46 PM

This was maybe your best post ever (even apart from the fact that I got to see my name at the beginning.) I especially liked this--

"Two interesting points: first, Perlstein presumably confines his sphere of respect to "our kind of leaders" (not Pol Pot, Kim Jong-il, Saddam, etc.) Second, Kant's theory of respect-for-persons as an end in itself is neatly swept aside. It's OK to spit at a terrorist but not at a president. Why? Because, as liberal bloggers write, out of spectacular ignorance, one should "despise the man but respect the office." Do they realize the essence of the Enlightenment was to reach precisely the opposite conclusion? That shoes should be aimed at kings and presidents, not at the persons behind them.

Perlstein speaks from the gut. His insistence on a long prison sentence is visceral. He feels violated by a bit of lese majeste, a touch of desacralization, and a pinch of blasphemy. The sentiment behind it is reflexive deference to authority. Many Americans just can't shake their royalist instincts."

Yeah, exactly. Aside from your examples, one of the best pop cultural examples of President-worship is in the show "West Wing". I loved/hated that show--I like the dialogue and the wit, but the entire show was built around President-worship. It was the liberal's alternate fantasy universe during the Bush era, the Middle Earth where the Presidential throne was occupied by someone worthy of it--Bartlett as Aragorn. On foreign policy it was grotesque--the writers wanted to show that liberals could be every bit as jingoistic and smug in their bomb-dropping as any Bushie. But that wasn't in every episode. The notion of President as our god-king deserving of ultimate loyalty was.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 19, 2008 01:47 PM

So, the guy is a liberal. So what. It's not so bad. They have problems, but who doesn't.

Posted by abb1 at December 19, 2008 01:50 PM

That's very compassionate of you, abb1.

In this case I think part of what Perlstein is doing, aside from instinctive President-worship, is just taking the position he took in "Nixonland" to an absurd extreme. His thesis in that book was that the crazier sorts of hippies helped drive away Middle America, though he's also very critical of Middle America. So you have this Arab guy throwing footwear at our President, and the last thing he wants to see is the left blogosphere looking like a bunch of crazed yippies cheering for this kind of thing. So he attacks the crazed people to his left and stands up for stiff long prison terms for shoe-tossers, for the sake of the electoral viability of the progressive movement. Or something like that.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 19, 2008 02:02 PM

So what. I disagree about the hippies and I disagree about the shoe-thrower, but I know exactly where he's coming from. And it's not so bad.

Posted by abb1 at December 19, 2008 02:09 PM

So what, so what? I know where he's coming from too, and disagree with him, and on a scale of badness this is nothing compared to some badnesses I could name. So what?

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 19, 2008 02:12 PM

How does throwing shoes at a fascist war criminal lead to anarchy or fascism?

Posted by par4 at December 19, 2008 02:21 PM

I mean, I don't see a reason to hate the guy, like one of the commenters above, that's all.

Posted by abb1 at December 19, 2008 02:24 PM

Okay, abb1, I agree--no hatred of Perlstein. But I went too far just now--what he did is pretty bad, calling for a long prison sentence for the "crime" of tossing shoes at one of the biggest war criminals of our day. The charitable thing to assume is that he's not thinking this through.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 19, 2008 02:27 PM

It doesn't, but Perlstein is trying to say if we descend into a Weimar-Republic-like chaos, an American fascist might ascend.
Crap, but P is no historian and he knows which side his bread is buttered on.
I say, more shoe throwing. Might force the boys from Harvard-Yale-Princeton to duck more and steal less.
Americans already are good at taking their shoes off from airport practice. Throwing them could be the next step in our path to participatory democracy.


Posted by donescobar at December 19, 2008 02:31 PM

Yeah, and just to be the first to bring up Hitler, what would Perlstein think of those July 20 Operation Valkyrie plotters who wanted to do a whole lot more than throw shoes at die Fuhrer?

What a putz.

Posted by Solar Hero at December 19, 2008 02:33 PM

Liberals believe that it's almost always possible to make deal. To reason, to bargain, and to make a deal.

They believe that where it is possible to make a deal, no matter how remote the possibility, throwing shoes is tremendously counterproductive.

They would turn the French revolution example against you and point out that the killing of the king produced a chain reaction of other killings all over the place and that didn't end very well.

But they do know that in some cases it's impossible to make a deal. The Nazi Germany is one example; the Muslim extremists most recently. Those guys you just have to kill.

But the American system, they believe, is nothing like that; it's ruled by more or less reasonable people willing (usually) to make a reasonable deal. They know the names of these people. They don't realize that the thing is controlled by the institutions, not individuals.

Also, they unfortunately tend to be unpleasantly self-righteous. But that's normal.

Posted by abb1 at December 19, 2008 03:16 PM

It may have little or no relevance, but I think the invitation extended by Obama to a preacher who is on record publicly advocating the assassination of the Iranian president to speak at his inauguration juxtaposed with this incident and the "respect the law and order of political office" sentiment is interesting.

Posted by Justin at December 19, 2008 03:23 PM

"The sentiment behind it is reflexive deference to authority. Many Americans just can't shake their royalist instincts. I see it in the classroom and on campus every day."

I see it in myself when I sing along with extra gusto to certain sections of Handel's coronation anthems.

"kings shall be thy/
nursing fathers."

There is something pleasurable in the idea of a correct and benevolent monarch.

As for Perlstein himself, I still think his comments relate primarily to his appearing in Newsweek.

Posted by Mark at December 19, 2008 03:26 PM

Don, I thought "Nixonland" was an absurd extreme in and of itself. Perlstein seems never to grasp the significance of the actions and language of his subjects on the right, admiring them far beyond their desserts. I'm really dreading to see what he comes up with as he works his way through the history of the conservative pantheon with Reagan and the Bushes.

And frankly, he wimped out in "Nixonland" by cutting his narrative in '72 and ignoring the legacy of the Watergate scandal.

Posted by darrelplant at December 19, 2008 03:38 PM

darrelplant
He strives for a kind ofjournalistic "balance" that precludes historical judgment of any sort. Like Woodward, he's a stenographer--industrious and obedient. It's (mostly) all there, but it signifies little.

Posted by donescobar at December 19, 2008 03:46 PM

WE ARE TALKING GEORGE BUSH, RIGHT? Call Nan @1-202-225-0100 tell her about it. She needs to hear from U.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 19, 2008 04:26 PM

WE could save the NEXT Man from a severe beating.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 19, 2008 04:28 PM

Exceptions may be granted in cases of high-level government officials who conduct wars.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at December 19, 2008

And this would leave out whom, exactly?
All aboard for the exceptions!

Unfortunately, our being in Mr. Al-Zaidi's debt doesn't help him at all. God damn, I wish there were something we could do, not only for him, but for a lot of things.

Posted by catherine at December 19, 2008 04:30 PM

i thought it was a kind gesture toward the naked emperor....

Posted by hapa at December 19, 2008 06:43 PM

Honor Thy Leader
--should be--
Honor Thy "Leader"

There is nothing in the Constitution that says that the President is a national leader. He is the chief executive, charged with executing laws passed by the peoples' representatives, the Congress.

Or as Edward Abbey, the anarchist, said (from memory): No man is qualified to lead another. Every man is as good as the next, if not a damn sight better.

Who among us needs a leader?

Vive Rousseau! Vive le revolucion! (Tiny type.)

Posted by Don Bacon at December 19, 2008 07:11 PM

Catherine: What could one possibly do for him? He's ALREADY beat up, faceing years or a hangman, BUT he did say what needed to be said, what NOBODY ELSE on the planet would say to Bush's face. He said what IS IN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF AMERICA, only NONE would face Bush with the TRUTH. Its NOT what WE can do for him, its what he has done for US. He's ONE IN 6 BILLION.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 19, 2008 07:19 PM

Hardly anybody reads Brecht anymore.
He wrote: "Great men (ie leaders d) should be honored (build monuments, declare holidays d), but not believed."

"Change you can believe in."
Brecht would have smelled a rat.
Why can't we?
We don't want to.
Our very stupid and now sad "exceptionalism."


Posted by donescobar at December 19, 2008 07:27 PM

I admire a lot of Rick Perlstein's writing, but like many liberals with a platform, he values his status as one of the Serious People and is more than willing to get pompous at the threat of hippie rabble.

Posted by Nell at December 19, 2008 07:46 PM

John, I don't have time to read the Chomsky link--I'm guessing he may criticize the wilder behavior of some segments of the antiwar left in the 60's, because IIRC he's done that before. I agree with that--I don't think it was morally defensible to plant bombs in the 60's as a way of protesting the much larger use of bombs in Vietnam. In general I don't like mob violence either and I also don't think protests that offend most people rather than change their minds do much good and as Perlstein argues, they may do more harm than good. I don't know if that's your point. You might get some disagreement in this thread if that was the topic of discussion. But what we've got here is Perlstein saying, as though it was completely obvious, that al-Zaidi should get a long prison term for tossing shoes at Bush, and not some general point about how to reach people. Since you think al-Zaidi deserves nothing but praise, on the issue in this thread you're part of the unanimity we've got going here.

And anyway, al-Zaidi seems to have reached quite a few people in the Arab world and some here as well. I wouldn't recommend an American doing this, even if they just threw dirty socks--it wouldn't go over well at all, quite apart from what the Secret Service would do to the person foolish enough to try. And it would outrage people here. About the only way it might conceivably garner sympathy would be if it was done by an Iraq War vet or a bereaved parent, but even Cindy Sheehan's peaceful approach didn't win her universal respect. But an Iraqi in a country destroyed by Bush's war--you have to be an American narcissist not to sympathize.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 19, 2008 09:01 PM

I think we'd be a healthier society, though, if protestors could show contempt for Presidents (in a nonviolent way) without causing outrage.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 19, 2008 09:05 PM

Since you think al-Zaidi deserves nothing but praise, on the issue in this thread you're part of the unanimity we've got going here.

No, the unanimity you've got going here is behind the notion that Perlstein is a signal example of an authority-worshiping, infantilized, royalist liberal throwing a hissy fit because someone dared to show disrespect to the President of the United States, and I'm definitely not a part of that. I think it misreads the point entirely.

(And that point was a general one—not tied to al-Zaidi or Bush in particular.)

But what we've got here is Perlstein saying, as though it was completely obvious...

Actually he was careful to say "in my humble opinion" and "this seems open and shut to me."

This is the part of the Chomsky essay I have in mind:

What is important is not whether one who commits civil disobedience thinks that he is right, but rather the harder questions: Is he right? Will the act help to achieve a just end? Would strictly legal means be ineffective?

How do the over-all social consequences of obeying the law, in this instance, compare with those of disobeying it? What are the effects on nonparticipants? Are they injured or unfairly inconvenienced (as in many legal actions, say, a strike); and if so, how does this compare to the injury caused by refraining from acts of civil disobedience, if such acts are an effective means to overcome the inertia that (in this case) permits the destruction of Indochina to continue?

Are nonparticipants induced by civil disobedience to become criminals, as the absolutist argument against civil disobedience implicitly suggests, or will the act of civil disobedience lead them to explore the social consequences of their own silence and docility?

Will the act of civil disobedience serve to direct attention to the action itself and away from its ends, or will it help to overcome the natural tendency to let unpleasant matters recede from view and to trust in authority? ...

These are some of the questions that must be asked by those contemplating particular acts of civil disobedience. No doubt they are hard questions, involving uncertain judgments.

The title is "Mayday: The Case for Civil Disobedience" in case you're wondering where Chomsky's coming from. You shouldn't assume that I either agree or disagree with any part of his argument (or Perlstein's), by the way; my point in bringing it up is that al-Zaidi decided to engage in a particular and (yes) violent form of civil disobedience, and that raises real questions which do not have easy answers in the general case. With the exception of Jon's "mostly", I've seen no recognition of that either in the original posting or in the comments.

Posted by John Caruso at December 19, 2008 11:10 PM

"With the exception of Jon's "mostly", I've seen no recognition of that either in the original posting or in the comments."

Well, with my comments there's been some more recognition. And I'm pretty sure about at least one or two other people here besides me not being in favor of violent protest in general, or shocking the bourgeois element for the sheer fun of it, though I won't speak for those people.

We're bashing Perlstein because in his humble opinion it's an open and shut case to him that an Iraqi who threw shoes at the President should receive a long prison sentence. You are thinking of a broader issue, which is fine and important to discuss, and might shatter the unanimity here, but Perlstein said something very specific and very stupid about this particular individual and his "crime". If he was trying to make Chomsky's point about the moral complexities of protest, violent and nonviolent, he failed miserably--I suspect Chomsky himself might make exactly the kind of points Bernard made if shown Perlstein's remark. Chomsky is very big on pointing out double standards, and nobody would dream of saying (humbly or not) that an Iraqi should be jailed for a long time for throwing a shoe at Saddam or at a terrorist. Perhaps we're bashing Perlstein unfairly, but the charitable interpretation is the one I offered upthread--he wasn't thinking it through.

The issues you raise are important, but you're the one bringing it up, not Perlstein. And the fact that we're united in bashing Perlstein's dumb remark doesn't mean that people here haven't thought about whether we support violent protests in general or radical protests aimed at shocking Middle America, effectiveness be damned or that we're all in agreement. With one or two exceptions, I don't know what most people here think about that.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 20, 2008 12:26 AM

A friend of mine says no politician would dare comment directly on the shoe flinging, and that would seem to be the case with President 44.
But the silence from the next holder of the office which had the shoe thrown at it seems, I don't know - empty. An empty silence from President-elect Obama.
A real leader would have had something to say, a politician maybe not.
And there you go.
A subtext of Perlstein's call for a long prison sentence for al-Zaidi is that, however egregious Bush's wrongdoing, nothing he's done justifies violence in response. There's a line in there somewhere that either gets crossed or doesn't.
If al-Zaidi had shot Bush that line would have moved, and been far more visible, but it would still be there.

Posted by roy belmont at December 20, 2008 12:35 AM

John Caruso:
my point in bringing it up is that al-Zaidi decided to engage in a particular and (yes) violent form of civil disobedience, and that raises real questions which do not have easy answers in the general case. With the exception of Jon's "mostly", I've seen no recognition of that either in the original posting or in the comments.

I am against any kind of violence and personally, I did not think, throwing a couple of shoes at GWB was a violent act. And when you write, al-Zaidi decided to engage, it sounds like it was premeditated. From different videos and accounts, to me, it seemed more like a spontaneous act, precipitated by pent up anger, frustration, pain of losing family and friends and himself being kidnapped and tortured.

And as regards Mr Perlstein being "mostly mistaken" as pointed out by you in Mr Schwarz's comment, could you please elaborate? Is he mistaken in his analysis of Mr al-Zaidi's action and punishment for that or what he recommends in terms of how a president should be treated or both? Honestly, I do not understand as there is no ambiguity in what he has written from what I understand ( of course, I could be wrong). Or does that mean, he wrote something but did not mean it and does not believe it!


Posted by Rupa Shah at December 20, 2008 12:50 AM

How do our laws categorize throwing a pair of dress/casual shoes at someone from that distance, surrounded by a crowd and under the eyes of security?
Would it be seen primarily as assault/battery with the intent to cause physical harm or more to attract attention, annoy and disrupt?
Does that not matter? The suggestion of a long prison term says much more about Perlstein than the action itself.
It is my impression not that many people outside the Beltway got all that riled up over this. The humor won out over indignation. Much like the humor/fuss over midget tossing. Poor midgets, poor president, ha, ha, ha.
After Nixon and Watergate (not Vietnam, alas) and Clinton and Monica, the "dignity" of the office ain't what it used to be. (Or, perhaps, ever should have been.)
Presidential affairs (of state and other) should be cover like gang warfare used to be.


Posted by donescobar at December 20, 2008 01:06 AM

covered, above, not "cover"

Posted by donescobar at December 20, 2008 01:10 AM

John:

I am not sure that I can add to Donald Johnston's post but what the hell its Friday night. On Chomsky's point that whether the "over-all social consequences of obeying the law, in this instance, compare with those of disobeying it," Zaidi's shoe throwing was an expression of the frustration of many in the middle east and beyond at the sight of an American dominated media providing a respectful exit to a war criminal. By providing a relatively non-violent expression of this frustration it probably prevented much more violent expressions of this frustration which would have been counter-productive. So, in the Chomsky sense what Zaidi did was effective where strictly legal acts would not have been effective. And regardless of how Jon feels about expressing such opinions Perlstein is an idiot.

Posted by empty at December 20, 2008 01:18 AM

OK, take a look at the website "SOCK AND AWE"
It's a game with the objective of hitting President GWB in the face with your shoes.
The website claims
46,429,342 shoes have hit the target so far! (out of how many thrown?)

Funny? You bet.

Posted by donescobar at December 20, 2008 01:41 AM

OK, take a look at the website "SOCK AND AWE"
It's a game with the objective of hitting President GWB in the face with your shoes.
The website claims
46,429,342 shoes have hit the target so far! (out of how many thrown?)

Funny? You bet.

Posted by donescobar at December 20, 2008 01:42 AM

Excellent point scored against Marilyn Klinghoffer Prof. Chazelle! Thank you for reminding us all of her vulgar act...how timely and necessary.

Posted by Seth at December 20, 2008 01:42 AM

Let's remember what triggered Perlstein's response: a plan to mail a pair of shoes to the President. There are good reasons to object to this lame-ified version of what Muntadhar al-Zeidi did (here's a clue: if the only people who know about your "protest" are the staff in the White House mail room, it's not really a protest) but the fear that it "tends toward anarchy" isn't one of them.

And I'm as much for nonviolence as your average peace activist, but I think there's a problem with people who live comfortably far from an occupied country dictating what form the resistance to occupation should take. Let's remember that the violent resistance of the Vietnamese people did more to force the U.S. out of Vietnam than the nonviolent protests by Americans. I expect the same will be true of Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm not willing to second-guess the Iraqi who places a car bomb in the path of a Humvee, so I'm certainly not going to second-guess Mr. al-Zeidi's vastly less violent protest.

Posted by SteveB at December 20, 2008 10:09 AM

John Caruso:
Thank you for the clarification though I do not agree with all your points of view ( and if I was a war criminal and someone threw shoes at me, I deserved it! ). And as regards premeditation, there are different versions so they cancel out, I guess!
http://baghdadbureau.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/15/brother-is-proud-of-shoe-tossing-iraqi-journalist/

I think the overall point that people in office shouldn't be targets of attack has a lot of validity to it, though, and is worth some actual thought.

As such, heads of states have immunity from any prosecution while in office. While a head of state ( hos) continues to commit crimes in another country( torturing, killing one's people ), where does that indivudual go for justice if the people of the country to which the "hos" belongs, will not remove him from office? And, once the hos is out of the office, his victim ( al-Zaidi) is not going to be able to receive justice ( I am a law and order person and I do not belive in vigilate justce, whether the perpetrator is hof or an ordinary member of the society ). I still believe, al-Saidi did not commit a malicious act and his action was to send a message rather to do physical harm ( I am no expert but I have watched different videos of the shoe-tossing and to me at least, it was random throwing-- he did it so quickly and in general direction of where bush was. If he was REALLY aiming, he would not have been able to throw the second one ( I am not arguing for the sake of arguing--I am just trying to explain how I perceived the whole drama).

And as regards the President's office which should be respected, GWB has digraced himself and the office he holds. How can anyone respect that office considering who occupies it? The office will be respected again, ONLY AFTER he leaves.

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 20, 2008 10:18 AM

Serious discussion of civil disobedience and violent protest are fascinating, but miss one point: with W, almost all is personal.
The black sheep, drunk frat boy now Prexy couldn't nail anyone for 9-11, so we faked a connection and WMD and killed thousands and wrecked much of a country that couldn't harm us and couldn't stop our slaughter.
It's like setting fire to the frat house next door because somebody stole your kegs of Bud the night before the party and you couldn't get at them.
The W admin operates on that level.
Law and political philosophy--those were the days--but they did end.

Posted by donescobar at December 20, 2008 10:43 AM

Perhaps if he had used the bloodied shoes of some slaughtered Iraqi child? Perhaps then WE (THE AMERICAN PEOPLE) might act on the statement and provide relief to the Iraqi people from OUR Frankenstein March To The Oil. With lack of responce comes proof that Mr. al-Zeidi just did it to satisfy himself and his jailers will satisify their desires as his payment. With the APATHY of this present generation of Americans and given OUR particularly ruthless president, I predict a long dance at the end of a short rope for OUR impromptu omsbudsman.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 20, 2008 11:15 AM

funny thing is, just this last few weeks, straight-laced environmental campaigners have begun debating the need for CD viz-a-viz the disconnect between planetary situation and response.

i've been sitting around wanting to say, if he'd taken a shot at W or tried to blow him up -- legal acts of war, in a war zone, and very politics-as-usual -- that would have made the sentiment much more general -- "filthy arab tries to kill american leader" -- and less sympathetic to US onlookers. now we are debating whether W the human being has honored the office.

good timing, though. if W weren't a lame duck, his standard-bearer officially repudiated by the only measure the unitary executives have ever offered us to judge them, the shoes would have been taken more nationalistically-personally. if W had been out of office, there would be no stain on those who collaborated. maybe this is the few weeks every four (or eight) years that people really have free speech.

Posted by hapa at December 20, 2008 12:14 PM

... and we waste them on family holidays ...

Posted by hapa at December 20, 2008 12:15 PM

And quotes taken from below..
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/58223.html

"Because of Muntathar, I lift my head high. And to be frank, I haven't been proud to be an Iraqi for five long years of humiliation," said Sheikh Mohammed al Inizi, a leader in the Sons of Iraq movement, which brought Sunni tribes together with American forces to fight terrorist cells.

Wonder what it must be like to be humiliated and stripped of dignity in addition to having to live with atrocities being committed all around you!

"We should call him Muntathar al Iraqi — not Muntathar al Zaidi; all of Iraq is his tribe now," Inizi said.

Munthatar's younger brother, Maythem, 28, said the family would take part in the protests until the court allows them access to him. "I affirm that his was a heroic act, and we as a family are proud of him. He was able to unite all of Iraq, all its Sunnis, Shiites, Arabs, Kurds, Turkomen and Christians."

And for a change, should not Americans for ONCE, let the Iraqis decide what they should think of their fellow citizen?

And regards, Americans sending their old, dirty shoes to White House, I am all for it. If certain individuals were put to work in getting rid of them, we could keep our country from making mischief temporarily, at the least!

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 20, 2008 12:34 PM

I don't share that reading—my strong impression is that Perlstein would have the same response no matter which leader was the target (and I emphasize "leader", because that was Perlstein's actual word).

So you could honestly see Perlstein solemnly declaring the need of a long jail term for someone doing the same thing to, say, Islam Karimov, or perhaps a Tibetan doing the same thing to a Chinese official? Christ, for the sake of whatever decency he may have, I sure hope you're wrong (and I think you are), because I'd have to go vomit uncontrollably if I tried to say something that obscene in public.

It's the jail term thing people are hung up on, obviously. It would be one thing to tut-tut about the dangers of mob rule, it's another to look at a person who we know has suffered immensely and specifically demand he be sent away for years while George Bush retires happily to slip into an alcoholic coma. It seems to be a clear case of insisting on the harsh letter of the law rather than the spirit of it, which strikes most reasonable people as ridiculous. I have considered what he's saying and yes, I think he deserves mockery and scorn for it. (Plus, I don't trust anybody that Digby thinks is brilliant, knowing what kinds of absurdities she spouts on a regular basis.)

And what SteveB said - it's not our place to tell them how they're allowed to act when confronted with the grinning monster who did this to them. I guarantee you that most of the people splitting legal hairs over this would do the same thing, even worse, if we were somehow on the receiving end of what we've been dishing out to the Iraqis for the last couple decades, and we had a chance to stand a few feet away from whatever war criminal had done it to us.

Posted by Upside Down Flag at December 20, 2008 12:56 PM

Well, John, I read his point, goggled at it in disbelief, and then concluded that it would likely require a "power-infatuated liberal with a daddy complex, exhibiting his spectacular ignorance of history with his visceral, gut reaction against the effrontery of someone would dare to profane the majesty and splendor of his god-king president" to say such a thing. I'm guessing a lot of the others did the same thing. Strong emotional reactions don't mean there wasn't intelligent thought beforehand, of course.

Since you brought up the Freepers, I would say that they also sometimes make points, such as they are, but I don't feel the need to take many of them seriously either. I think most of us would say that sometimes an assertion conflicts so violently with what you call sanity or common sense that you don't really feel a need to honor it with a sober, thoughtful discussion. This is one of those times for me.

Posted by Upside Down Flag at December 20, 2008 02:08 PM

I still don't see how Perlstein deserves your defense, John-- he may not be a royalist, but for all the reasons outlined above, I think he is totally out of his mind with this comment. And if he really is consistent about jailing the tossers of shoes at war criminals, then upside down flag expresses my sentiments. I'd actually prefer double standards, where someone thinks a US President should not be treated the same way as a foreign war criminal, to someone who thinks that if you toss a shoe at a monster, any monster, he should go to prison.

Suppose Saddam had come to America when he was still our ally, in 1989, and some Iraqi-American had tossed shoes and insults at him while standing next to the previous President Bush? Would Perlstein really be so heartless as to say he should get a long prison sentence? If so, then Bernard is probably
right about him. If not, then he's just not thinking it through.

Seth--Fascinating misreading of Bernard's point about Marylin Klinghoffer. I don't know how you do it.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 20, 2008 02:17 PM

Possibly Perlstein thinks George is NOT a war criminal, NOT a monster, NOT a liar, an HONORABLE man.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 20, 2008 02:49 PM

From different videos and accounts, to me, it seemed more like a spontaneous act, precipitated by pent up anger, frustration, pain of losing family and friends and himself being kidnapped and tortured.

That's how it seems to me as well. Bush is standing there talking about how this great moment of agreement between The U.S. and Iraqi government has been achieved due the success of the surge, etc... with no mention of what this war has done to Iraq and its people. It's an outrage almost beyond human comprehension. The guy just snapped and started throwing shoes.

Posted by cemmcs at December 20, 2008 02:58 PM

Naw, Mike, he thinks Bush is deservedly hated. He just thinks that people who toss shoes at sovereign leaders should go to jail for a rather long time, thereby demonstrating that liberals don't do politics with shoe-tossing. Shoe tossers in a liberal regime need to be put in their place, which is prison, lest people think liberals condone or make light of anarchist/fascist styles of doing politics.

Anyway, enough on the political thoughts of Perlstein. How have the rest of you fascist anarchist fellow travelers been doing on the shoe-tossing website? My highest score out of maybe a dozen tries has been a "6"--sometimes I've gotten as low as "0". I blame my mouse.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 20, 2008 03:02 PM

An anarchist friend has asked me to request that you all stop lumping the anarchists in with the fascists, as P did.
"They commit violence for the state, we do it against the state," he shouted. I couldn't hear anymore because the uniforms were putting the restraints back on him.


Posted by donescobar at December 20, 2008 03:25 PM

donescobar: UR anarchist friend will only have to endure 72 hours of "interogatin'" (beatings) before the Judge has to see him(in court or his cell). (UNLESS, of course, he goes to Gitmo, in which case---???)

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 20, 2008 03:34 PM

Twelve for me, Donald!

And while Rick's comment was really the worst of the ones I've seen, I should also say that I've seen quite a lot of similar sentiments from other bloggers and their commenters. They might not think the guy deserves jail time, but they express unease and discomfort at seeing an American president treated like that, and here's the thing for me: I don't think it has anything to do with a fear of mob rule, it's good old American exceptionalism - our "mistakes" are always at least born of the best intentions, so everyone should recognize that and not get all bent out of shape over unfortunate results. They honestly seem to expect that our inherent, obvious goodness should prevent the most typical, predictable reactions from the recipients of our generosity. Cynical as I am, I doubt they would be willing to grant that sort of protective bubble to any other national leader who had done what Bush has done, and would accept similar physical expressions of outrage as being as natural as the law of gravity. (Hey, are there any examples of Chechnyans throwing things at Putin that we could show to Rick and see how tough-on-crime he gets about them...?)

Frankly, I think Perlstein is just getting ready, like so many other "progressives", to start seeing America as the city on the hill again with a president we're all proud of, and is just preemptively disallowing this sort of behavior from being acceptable if done to him.

Posted by Upside Down Flag at December 20, 2008 04:02 PM

What if they'd connected? Or to make it clearer: if someone hit you in the face with a pair of shoes, would you consider that violent?

John Caruso, do you think he was really trying to hit him? He wasn't that far away. He had time to throw a second shoe which tells me he had plenty of time to line up the first shot. He didn't throw it very hard and he called something out as he did it. I think this was an expression of contempt and not an attempt to inflict physical injury.

Sure, I might view the situation differently if the shoe had hit Bush or if the second shoe had hit Maliki's hand when he reached out to deflect it (It's all very funny until somebody loses an eye or breaks a nail), just as I would view Bill Ayers' actions differently if his bombs had actually injured or killed somebody but nobody was hurt and I do not think the "perp" intended to do physical harm.

I am inclined, as well, to think it was not premeditated. In that article it says, Colleagues said that he "detested America" and had been planning such an attack for months.

Well, who doesn't detest America? I bet a lot of people in The Middle East have thought about throwing a shoe in Bush's direction and have said as much to colleagues and friends.

Posted by cemmcs at December 20, 2008 04:03 PM

John Caruso
All I've been saying is that Perlstein is in fact making a point. Namely: that we should not "do politics" such that we allow any and every person to claim for themselves the right to assault any head of state, anywhere, at any time, for whatever reason they (personally) feel is sufficient.

Perlstein: Liberals should not make light of or license the physical assault on the leader of a sovereign state, no matter how much he's deservedly hated. This is not how we do politics, unless we're in favor something tending toward anarchy, or fascism.

I would like to declare that I do not give myself labels so being a liberal or otherwise is not my point. Honesty and integrity are attributes I admire and respect in a person and I believe in Human Rights and Justice for all.

That being said, is Mr Perlstein trying to separate WAR and its consequences and POLITICs? Is it ever possible? And I strongly believe that a specific incident has been generalized. In Mr.al-Zaidi's case, it is not a matter of ANYONE claiming for himself or herself the right to assault a 'hos' or for that matter anyone else. I do not think any commenter has said that. The issue here is Mr. al-Zaidi, illegal invasion of Iraq and GWB. And by generalising it and specifically relating it to the so called liberals, Mr Perlstein has lost his argument.

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 20, 2008 04:06 PM

People threw eggs at Nixon's motorcade and nobody seemed to mind.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 20, 2008 04:07 PM

You could wish him a happy holiday:
The Anarchist
c/o Perlstein Long-Range Detention & Reeducation Facility
Black Hand Unit
Stamford, CT

Posted by donescobar at December 20, 2008 06:02 PM

a journalist assaulting the paranoiac-in-chief is not the best precedent....

Posted by hapa at December 20, 2008 06:32 PM

I understand Jon's point and respectfully disagree. I don't want you to ban me from ATR, Jon, because I really enjoy yours and prof. Chazelle's insights, but after this funny ping-pong over the legitimacy of Pearlstein's remarks and the endless blathering about the appropriateness of showering a political figure with shoes (literal or not), bricks or kisses, I still think, for reasons very well explained by professor Chazelle in his wonderful post, that Pearlstein is a piece of shit (albeit a pompous one). It's open and shut to me, in my humble opinion.

Posted by Pepito at December 20, 2008 07:27 PM

Donald: I still don't see how Perlstein deserves your defense, John...

I think you may be misunderstanding what it is I'm defending, but I don't want to repeat myself on that. It's all in my 01:36 PM comment.

But I will ask a question: are you willing to sign off on the notion that anyone, anywhere, can attack any leader of any nation, for whatever reason they consider sufficient, in whatever non-lethal manner they consider appropriate? Without threat of sanction? If not, who gets to judge whether or not the act was justified (in all its aspects)? The perpetrator? The target? You? Me? Society at large? Those are questions worth thinking about.

There are basically three positions: 1) it's never ok, 2) it's always ok, and 3) it's sometimes ok. Perlstein is subscribing to 1 and Bernard was describing 2. I personally go for 3, and I'm guessing most of the people on this thread do as well.

There's a close analog to the free speech debate, where the critical question is whether or not you're willing to defend the free speech rights of people you consider completely odious, like holocaust deniers or the KKK. If you (like me) are willing to excuse this behavior when Bush is the target, you're now on the downside of the slippery slope where you have to explain just which attacks are ok and which aren't—and, critically, why anyone else should accept your criteria. Unless you're willing to go the number 2 route and declare that a left-wing torture victim like Michelle Bachelet or an indigenous leader like Evo Morales who rises to the presidency through mass popular support are also deserving of a shoe to the face.

Perlstein is claiming to be a no-attacks-on-national-leaders absolutist. Whatever we might think of that position as it applies in this case, it's consistent.

Posted by John Caruso at December 20, 2008 08:53 PM

John Caruso: Whatever anyone thinks, this IS what is consistant. Protest 1, 2, or 3, when security gets their hands on U, UR gonna get UR ass beat. (no matter whose leader it is)

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 20, 2008 09:58 PM

Ifigure---If its worth taking the wicked ass whipping YOU are going to get, plus some time and maybe even YOUR life as in Mr. al-Zaida's case, then go for it. Who knows? YOU may well be doing the world a favor.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 20, 2008 10:05 PM

YOU sure as hell won't be doing YOUR self any favors.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 20, 2008 10:07 PM

are you willing to sign off on the notion that anyone, anywhere, can attack any leader of any nation, for whatever reason they consider sufficient, in whatever non-lethal manner they consider appropriate?

Except that nobody is talking about anything like that. We're willing to sign off on the notion that some people, sometimes, can attack this leader of this nation because he's a liar, a murderer, a thief, and an all-around sociopath.

Yes, I'm afraid this does require that one actually make a judgment about something. Sorry for that, really I am.

Posted by dan at December 20, 2008 10:27 PM

John, I'm happy just to jump up and down on Perlstein for this one particular idiotic remark. It might be out of character for him, or he might be angling for a position among the crowd of Serious People. I don't know. I won't draw any general conclusions about him--we all say stupid things at one time or another and maybe that's all this was.

Devising a general rule on when it's appropriate to toss shoes or engage in activities more or less violent than this is, as Chomsky says, a very hard thing to do, certainly much too hard for me.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 20, 2008 10:53 PM

so many people need to go jail. so many of them national heroes. how are we ever going to fit them in between drug offenders and fake terrorists?

Posted by hapa at December 20, 2008 11:01 PM

John-- even if we concede Perlstein's (and maybe, um, not sure, your) point and declare that al-Zaidi committed a crime, the punishment a) al-Zaidi has already received (torture in custody) and b) that Perlstein thinks is a great idea (many, many years in prison) vastly outweighs the crime. What would happen to him if he'd tossed that shoe at his brother-in-law? An evening in county jail? Professor Chazelle's post was all about the necessity of reminding ourselves of the essential humanity of our leaders, not elevating them to the point where minor, "cool your heels in jail" type crimes become extreme, "many years in prison" type felonies just because the person at whom your ire was directed happens to be a head of state! Such is the massive, fundamental error of Perlstein's statement-- which, framed this way, has not much to do with loftier intellectual discussions of the relative merits of civil disobedience.

And, personally, I'd far rather err on the side of your number 2 view of non-lethal (or injurious) civil disobedience than either 1 or 3. I've read The Wretched of the Earth and found it persuasive.

Posted by Alaya at December 21, 2008 02:11 AM

I thought that Bernard's point was not that it's always OK to attack leaders, but that the leaders don't deserve any special immunity against such attacks.

If Perlstein said something like this: we don't use violence against persons, unless in self-defense, this is why we are against the death penalty - then he would've made a point that can be argued, but leaders? Come on.

Posted by abb1 at December 21, 2008 07:21 AM

But I will ask a question: are you willing to sign off on the notion that anyone, anywhere, can attack any leader of any nation, for whatever reason they consider sufficient, in whatever non-lethal manner they consider appropriate? Without threat of sanction?

Reasonable sanction, sure. Which, again, is the whole, entire point. Perlstein is being an obtuse jackass for insisting on a punishment that far exceeds the crime. If anything, the guy should be getting reparations for being brutalized in custody, but if he hadn't been, then a fine or perhaps community service would be more than enough. (And do we really need to get into all the problems with Kant's categorical imperative? Personally, I heard enough holes punched in that back in Philosophy 101.)

Perlstein is claiming to be a no-attacks-on-national-leaders absolutist. Whatever we might think of that position as it applies in this case, it's consistent.

Um, so? It's consistently stupid (sorry, Mr. Schwarz, but facts is facts). Pam Atlas is pretty consistent in asserting that Obama is Malcolm X's secret Muslim love child, but I doubt you consider that garbage to be worthy of respectful dialogue. I'm glad to know Rick is such a shallow thinker I don't need to waste my time considering much of anything he has to say. If he wants to seriously clamor for draconian punishment for anyone who throws a harmless object at Kim Jong-Il or Putin or the ghost of Jorge Haider, then he deserves to slide into complete irrelevance.

And to answer a hypothetical question you asked earlier, sure, I'd consider a shoe thrown at my face to be assault. But, most likely, it would be settled by good old-fashioned fisticuffs, and in the unlikely event that it ended up in court, I would be aghast if the guy who did it got sentenced to more than a couple weeks in jail.

Posted by Upside Down Flag at December 21, 2008 09:00 AM

As far as presidential political statements, this one leaves "I am not a crook" waaaaay behind in the dust.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 21, 2008 12:26 PM

What if he had thrown a shoe (and missed) at someone who wasn't George Bush?

Give the guy a week in the slammer for disorderly conduct. Since he's already been inside for a week, sentence him to time served.

Posted by Colin Laney at December 21, 2008 01:20 PM

What if he had thrown a shoe (and missed) at someone who wasn't George Bush?

Give the guy a week in the slammer for disorderly conduct. Since he's already been inside for a week, sentence him to time served.

Posted by Colin Laney at December 21, 2008 01:20 PM

I liked Perlstein's book and blog and am willing to give him a pass, for the time being, on this particular stupid statement before dismissing him as a hopeless authoritarian.

And I got this in my mail today:

Rick Perlstein sent a message to the members of Tom Geoghegan for Labor Secretary.

--------------------
Subject: Tom Geoghegan for Congress!!!!!!

I have unbelievably exciting news. My wife and I just got back from dinner with Tom Geoghegan, and learned he has just made the commitment to run for Congress from Illinois's Fifth District, for the seat latterly occupied by Rahm Emmanuel, Esq.

Most of you know who Tom is, if not from his brilliant books, from his heroic legal activism on behalf of liberal values.

All this is very preliminary; no organization is yet in place. But
some impressive progressive operatives have already pledged to help. A web site will be in place very soon. In the meantime, anyone interested in helping the cause should contact Tom directly at [redacted].

He's in it to win it. This is a true Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
moment. Kathy and I will be emptying our piggy bank for the cause; we hope you will too.

Posted by mtraven at December 21, 2008 01:38 PM

John, you'll no doubt have noticed that Chomsky also addressed the "slippery slope" and "What about the KKK?" arguments in that article you linked. (Which I hadn't read before, and is quite wonderful. Contrary to [I think] Donald Johnson's impression, it is a defense of the antiwar demonstrations against liberal charges that the participants were just a bunch of DFH's and obnoxious kids out to make trouble.)

I don't think I support the throwing of "eggs, tomatoes and other produce" at politicians, mainly on Chomsky's principle of what it's supposed to achieve, whether it will help to achieve a just end, and so on. On the other hand, I did and do support and endorse the White Night riots that followed Dan White's cursory conviction for the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone in San Francisco, because of the specific situation there.

One thing that occurs to me is that many people in the "mainstream" are perfectly willing to countenance, endorse, and celebrate violence against persons, as long as the persons are of no account -- the beating by police of nonviolent antiwar or civil rights protestors, for example, will be defended indignantly by your ordinary American. One can usually hear the satisfaction in their voices that those dirty fucking hippies and communist troublemakers finally got their just dessert.

If Al-Zaidi had simply stood up and yelled at Bush, without throwing anything, he probably would still have been dragged off and beaten, and there would have been plenty of American pundits who'd have denounced him and supported the punishment. Maybe not Perlstein, but I recall a Congressman (Rangel?) who was furious when Hugo Chavez disrespected George W. Bush at the United Nations a couple of years ago, and he wasn't alone. Or during the first Bush regime, a 12-year-old girl who'd been awarded some community-service medal by the President had the temerity to criticize him and his policies; she was also widely attacked. I'm sure y'all can think of other examples. Lese-majeste is a serious offense, especially in a country like ours which doesn't have a king.

I can only say that violence is terrible and one should never resort to it, but violence begets violence and those who live by the sword have to expect some payback for it. Bush is a blood-soaked butcher, like most rulers, and any attempt to dignify either the man or his office is despicable. If Bush's helicopter had been shot down on the way in or out of Iraq, I wouldn't waste a tear on him. But I would have a hard time dealing with the mourning afterward, the hypocritical piety, references to a martyred president, etc. So, thank Cthulhu the thrown shoes didn't connect.

Posted by Duncan at December 21, 2008 01:50 PM

Might be helpful to remember the scene at Nixon's funeral, when all the "leaders" praised and wept for the fallen giant of our political life.
Hunter Thompson wasn't there to read his eulogy: "He was a crook."
Dole, bless his dour soul, did speak truth when he called the second half of the 20th century "The Age of Nixon."
And we're still in it.
Used car salesmen and crooks are our destiny. Melville saw it long ago. Read his shamefully neglected master piece, "The Confidence Man."


Posted by donescobar at December 21, 2008 03:26 PM

ONE must admit, George and Dick knows how to edumacate a bunch of suckers.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 21, 2008 03:59 PM

I can only say that violence is terrible and one should never resort to it, but violence begets violence and those who live by the sword have to expect some payback for it. Bush is a blood-soaked butcher, like most rulers, and any attempt to dignify either the man or his office is despicable.

Exactly. I'm sure someone who's written on power and punishment, like Foucault, perhaps, has already spelled this idea out in more detail, but if you expect things like peaceful protest and orderly conduct to obtain, the responsibility belongs most to those atop the power structure. You cannot honestly expect the al-Zaidis of the world to care about such things as rules and laws when the GW Bushes of the world are openly contemptuous of them, and coming down harder on those lower down on the rungs of power, as idiots like Perlstein would do, while monsters like Bush and Cheney never pay the slightest price only confirms to them that the system is hopelessly rigged against them, and therefore they have no choice but to resort to violence.

Posted by Upside Down Flag at December 21, 2008 04:12 PM

I agree with Perlstein and Caruso that el Zaidi should get the full fifteen-year sentence that's being planned for him, as a matter of liberal principle.

Posted by reasonable middle at December 21, 2008 05:19 PM

Meanwhile, the Turkish manufacturer of the shoe tossed at W, "Model 271'" is flying off the shelves and orders for it have jumped wildly.

Holy Marx, why does Capitalism always have to win?!!?

Posted by donescobar at December 21, 2008 07:06 PM

I agree with Perlstein and Caruso that el Zaidi should get the full fifteen-year sentence that's being planned for him, as a matter of liberal principle.

I don't think that is what Mr. Caruso was suggesting. You should read his commment again.

Posted by cemmcs at December 21, 2008 07:54 PM

I meant "comment".

This is comment#100 which is pretty cool.

Posted by cemmcs at December 21, 2008 07:57 PM

cemmcs: Thanks for pointing that out, though I think "reasonable middle" was trolling.

Even though some people are confusing my opinion that we should address Perlstein's actual point with an endorsement of his viewpoint, and are addressing their remarks to me (as though I don't think al-Zaidi's action was justified, or think he deserves a jail sentence, or am a pacifist), it also seems to me that the discussion is much more substantial now. If the price of a better discussion is having a few people mistake me for Rick Perlstein's personal mouthpiece, I can live with that.

I still think nobody has addressed what I'd guess was Perlstein's actual argument, though. But I'm getting tired of being the skunk in the punchbowl, so I'll let it rest.

Duncan: John, you'll no doubt have noticed that Chomsky also addressed the "slippery slope" and "What about the KKK?" arguments in that article you linked.

I'm glad (and not a bit surprised) you noticed that, and thanks for not doubting that I would have as well. In fact that's exactly what I had in mind when I said that nobody should assume that I either agree or disagree with any part of Chomsky's essay. I think that point demanded the most careful attention, but he basically resorted to proof by intimidation and straw man. And I disagree with him, or at least with the loaded examples he used and the implicit assertion that there's some absolute notion of "right" to which we can appeal (which is by far the most critical point).

One thing that occurs to me is that many people in the "mainstream" are perfectly willing to countenance, endorse, and celebrate violence against persons, as long as the persons are of no account -- the beating by police of nonviolent antiwar or civil rights protestors, for example, will be defended indignantly by your ordinary American.

Very good point. Though to stay on topic, I doubt Perlstein's one of them (not that you were necessarily trying to imply that).

And I think this is worth considering: you and I and others here see al-Zaidi's actions as being justified because we consider Bush a war criminal and know this may well be the only punishment he'll ever face for his crimes—but many liberals are just cheering because they like seeing someone they hate with a passion humiliated publicly. And if that sounds unlikely, what do you think their reaction would be if someone threw a pair of shoes at Ralph Nader? If they connected? If he was injured, or knocked out, or even hit in the temple and killed? They'd be overjoyed, and cheering even louder than they are now.

So even if we might be happy about this for justifiable reasons, I think we should be aware of the company we're keeping. Viewed in that light, the fact that Perlstein (a liberal who apparently feels Bush is "deservedly hated") is not willing to go along with the schadenfreude party actually merits respect.

Posted by John Caruso at December 22, 2008 03:10 AM

John:

How many people has Nader slaughtered?

Posted by Dennis Perrin at December 22, 2008 03:50 AM

Dennis: That's exactly my point, so asking the question would seem to mean you've missed it.

Posted by John Caruso at December 22, 2008 04:06 AM

How many people has Nader slaughtered?

Well, there was that one time he shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

Posted by SteveB at December 22, 2008 08:36 AM

You're not funny Steve. Actually the Iraq government is talking about putting al Zaidi in jail for two years, which is comprable to the worst sentence any coalition soldier has gotten for killing an Iraqi child in cold blood, just to put it in grim perspective. So to hell with Maddow and Perlstein and their sanctimonious colonialism.

Posted by Tiffa at December 22, 2008 09:17 AM

Viewed in that light, the fact that Perlstein (a liberal who apparently feels Bush is "deservedly hated") is not willing to go along with the schadenfreude party actually merits respect.

No, it does not. Plenty of other people - from commenters at Hullabaloo to one of the bloggers at Pandagon, to name a couple off the top of my head - expressed discomfort and unease over seeing the president assaulted without turning into "lock 'em up and throw away the key" reactionaries.

And I don't know what else it is you think made up his point; it was only a few lines long, so it's not that hard to grasp. Hence my quip about Kant's categorical imperative. He thinks it's never okay to "assault" (which apparently could be anything from flying spittle to a bullet) a leader of a sovereign nation. I offered up examples of some leaders who might serve as disproof of that idea, and I didn't even mention the guy with the funny mustache.

And once again - even being a "no assault on Dear Leader" absolutist does not explain why he thinks this particular offender deserves such a draconian sentence (other than the reasons already suggested by Bernard, which seem just about right to me), which is what everyone is so pissed off about to begin with. You keep saying that everybody else has missed his banal point about being willing to make your action universal law, but you seem to miss the way he ties it into his absurd conclusion of stiff punishment being necessary (because having the living shit kicked out of you in custody is never enough, naturally). Is he willing to make that sort of response universal law? Then he's a fool, not only for the immoral aspect of severely jailing people who assault tyrannical leaders, but for the reason I suggested, that cracking down in such a needlessly harsh way is sure to engender more of the violence he wants to avoid (and a much more harmful form of it, too).

Posted by Upside Down Flag at December 22, 2008 09:33 AM

John--I remain totally confused about why you think your point has anything at all to do with Perlstein's indefensible comment. Maybe in some alternate universe Perlstein made an interesting and subtle remark worthy of respectful discussion, but in this universe he made a remark that was entirely deserving of ridicule and contempt. The only thing I'd say in his defense is that he might have had an off-day. I also think it's possible, as I said very early in this thread, that he's taking his thesis in Nixonland to a ridiculous and discreditable extreme--he is so afraid of "liberalism" being discredited by lefties endorsing a violent act of protest that he calls for a long prison term for this Iraqi, which is a heartless and cruel reaction. In fact, I think that's the most likely interpretation and it does him no credit.

You apparently connect people cheering for this shoe-tossing with partisan liberal Democrats who are cheering simply because it's Bush and you suspect they'd cheer just as hard (probably harder) if Nader were the target. Well, yeah, that's quite likely in some cases. It's also true that people like that might favor a war crimes trial for Bush, but not necessarily for a Democrat. Shame on them, but it still doesn't justify Perlstein's comment. If he wanted to warn people away from blind partisanship and mindless loyalty to the Democrats and expressions of violent hatred, he could have done that, rather than calling for a long prison sentence for this guy.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 22, 2008 10:29 AM

CORRECTION:
I probably have misquoted Prof Chazelle so you you can ignore that part of my comment and due apologies to Prof Chazelle.

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 22, 2008 10:30 AM

and think of the damage to gween zone touwism.

Posted by hapa at December 22, 2008 10:55 AM

"Perlstein is claiming to be a no-attacks-on-national-leaders absolutist. Whatever we might think of that position as it applies in this case, it's consistent."

I don't see it that way at all. What would Pearlstein have said if the target was, say, Hugo Chavez? I am almost sure he would say that putting the attacker in jail is another proof of Chavez's "authoritarian populism" or some shit like that.

Posted by Pepito at December 22, 2008 11:14 AM

Donald: You apparently connect people cheering for this shoe-tossing with partisan liberal Democrats who are cheering simply because it's Bush....

Nope, not remotely. That's why I explicitly distinguished between them twice in that very comment, and even identified myself as being one of the shoe-tossing cheerers.

Hay caramba.

I'm just repeating myself at this point and for all I'm getting across I may as well be typing in Swahili, so I'll bow out now. Sorry about the punch.

Posted by John Caruso at December 22, 2008 12:35 PM

That's AMERICAN JUSTICE for U, al-Zaida should have gotten praise and awards and George needs that ass beating and a coupla of years, BUT??? (DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU)

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 22, 2008 12:44 PM

Caruso's mistake is in interpreting al-Zaida's shoe-throwing as an act of protest. In fact it's an act of violence--a physical attack on the president.

Seen in that light it's up to Caruso to show that Iraqis do not in fact have the right to attack the American president--ie. their attacker. I don't see how he can.

This isn't a difficult case. We reserve the right to violence in instances of self-defense. Circumstances might be mitigating but the principle is nevertheless well-accepted. It'd be wrong of me to attack Ralph Nader (to use Caruso's example) because Ralph Nader hasn't attacked me. But if he had, then I'd be right (in the sense of, permitted) to be violent.

Posted by Mark at December 22, 2008 02:45 PM

I BELIEVE IN EQUAL RIGHTS. I beleve EVERYONE should have the RIGHT to disrespect George Bush and Dick Cheney, NO MATTER what race, religion, ethnic affiliation, or nationality, equally.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 22, 2008 04:33 PM

President IS just a job, it don't make anyone GOD. (no matter HOW much the press slobbers over U)

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 22, 2008 04:45 PM

"Donald: You apparently connect people cheering for this shoe-tossing with partisan liberal Democrats who are cheering simply because it's Bush....

John--
Nope, not remotely. That's why I explicitly distinguished between them twice in that very comment, and even identified myself as being one of the shoe-tossing cheerers."

I didn't mean that you said the people here are partisan liberal Democrats--I meant that part of the reason you seem upset is that you think we're keeping company with a bunch of partisan liberal Democrats who'd cheer if Nader were pelted with shoes.
That's why you then go on to tell us to look at the company we're keeping, and then give Perlstein credit for not engaging in shadenfreude. No, he just wants the shoe-tosser in prison. It might be nice if Perlstein had made your points, but he didn't, he didn't come close, he's not even within ten light years of saying the reasonable kinds of things you've been saying.

But yeah, that's it for me in this thread too. I'll repeat--Good post, Bernard.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 22, 2008 06:09 PM

John C, I'm basically with those who are disgusted by Perlstein's advocacy of a long prison sentence for Al-Zaidi. His distaste for the reactions of some liberals to the incident does not legitimate his recommendation. (To paraphrase Chomsky in the article you linked, if by some miracle George W. Bush were to be arrested for aggression and other crimes against humanity, do you think the arresting officers would beat him and administer electric shocks to him until he agreed to sign a confession?)

I just now had a chance to look again at at the part of Chomsky's article where he rebuts to critics of civil disobedience, and I don't see any "straw men" there, as you claim. I remember exactly such arguments being made by distinguished mainstream commentators in those days, not only against college students demonstrating in DC but against the Berrigan brothers and Martin Luther King Jr. (It's been a long time since those days, so I can't name any specific examples offhand.) Chomsky goes on to quote some fatuous remarks from Time magazine, Hugh Sidey, and Senator John Tunney, that resemble more recent attacks on critics of Bush's aggression in Iraq. So I don't see where you got the straw man bit, or the intimidation for that matter.

Whether Bush deserves to be hated is irrelevant; what is relevant is that he's a criminal who should be behind bars, yet our fine leaders, including the Messiah-elect, have no intention of enforcing the law. Is that civil disobedience, I wonder? If Perlstein has a case, let him make it.

Posted by Duncan at December 22, 2008 06:38 PM

I second that Prof Chazelle, and will say, this has been a great post. Have enjoyed it thoroughly.

ps I DISAGREE with some commenters but try my best not to be disagreeable but will not change my opinion and will admit my mistake if I find out I am wrong.

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 22, 2008 06:47 PM

IF HE WERE SENT TO GITMO, then I feel that he and Cheney could be LEGALLY beaten/electrically shocked or other "inhanced interrogation techniques" (which WE know that we don't know about due to security concerns) to develope enough EVIDENCE for a confession, then one IS forced to say YES.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 22, 2008 07:24 PM

Hey, this thread can't end until we hear from No One of Consequence!

But I'll end by noting a couple things: I spent so much time arguing against the idea of an absolutist stance against assaulting a national leader that I didn't really point out that this seems to be something Caruso attributes to Perlstein; I don't see him actually saying that he thinks this should be a universal principle (and dearly hope he would never say anything so stupid). He says that this should not be how "we" do politics, once again, at least to me, suggesting that American officials are a special case, and they shouldn't be subject to reactions that would be completely expected anywhere else.

Again, I sure hope he's not so blindingly arrogant as to speak about al-Zaidi as if Iraq is the 51st state and he's one of our citizens who needs a lecture on how to mind his manners; I think he's saying we, as American citizens, are not even allowed to approvingly reference such an act by simply mailing shoes to Bush's presidential library, an act which hurts no one at all. I would think this should be self-evidently ludicrous, regardless of whether Perlstein is consistent in applying this principle or whether he writes in complete sentences while saying it.

There's no reason to apologize, John, no hard feelings or anything, I just don't see why you insist on seeing some complex nuance to Perlstein's thought that just isn't there.

Posted by Upside Down Flag at December 23, 2008 01:16 PM

I call Pelosi(1-202-225-0100) everyday (DC business days) and badmouth Bush and Cheney and don't get ANY beatings or get jailed because I don't say it TO THEIR FACE. And there lay the difference!!! CONCIDERING the quality of todays world leaders, the MORE said to them, the better. Mr. al-Zaida did the whole world a favor by saying what NEEDED to be said to EXACTLY who NEEDED to hear it, TO HIS FACE.

Posted by Mike Meyer at December 23, 2008 03:51 PM