Monday, January 28, 2008


The news lately has had me thinking about James Joyce. The great Irish master wrote wonderful books (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), challenging ones (Ulysses) and impenetrable ones (Finnegans Wake). Joyce's most accessible work was Dubliners, a series of short stories he wrote while living in Trieste around 1905 that was published in 1914. All of the stories are well worth your time and are easy enough to digest. Joyce meant the stories to serve as a moral history of the Irish people and he uses the short story form to present a variety of vignettes, roughly chronological, with the earliest stories concerning children and the latter ones concerning adults.

The common theme of all the stories is the notion of the "epiphany," by which Joyce meant a realization that a character comes to, often quite by surprise, that changes the meaning of the events experienced and, in the broader sense, changes the character's understanding of his life. This particular season has been a time of many epiphanies, it seems. A careful observer of the scene would note that many of these epiphanies have taken place in the last few weeks, in a place where self-realization is often quite rare; i.e., the campaign trail.

Jonathan Chait has been a prominent political writer and occupies a pretty prestigious spot as the writer primarily responsible for the venerable TRB column in The New Republic. Chait wasn't, for the longest time, particularly concerned about the political carnage that the former president and his wife have wreaked. But lately the subtle ministrations of America's favorite couple have been trained on Barack Obama, putative wunderkind of the Democratic Party who is bidding to save us all from ourselves. Oddly, some of the tactics that were ignored, or even admired, are now the source of concern, disdain and even disgust among the bien pensants of our betters in the Democratic Party. Chait states his epiphany this way:

But the conservatives might have had a point about the Clintons' character. Bill's affair with Monica Lewinsky jeopardized the whole progressive project for momentary pleasure. The Clintons gleefully triangulated the Democrats in Congress to boost his approval rating. They do seem to have a feeling of entitlement to power.

Then there's my friend Strolling Amok, who described Mrs. Clinton this way a while back:

I know a lot of people who like Hillary's husband Bill a lot but can't stand her. I'm not one of those people - as I've mentioned I always found Bill to be
an unctuous sleaze even though I thought he was an OK president. Hillary reminds
me of one of those Meryl Streep characters who seems completely detestable but
is actually kind of an OK person. Like that Australian lady who everyone thought
murdered her baby even though it was actually eaten by a dingo.

Not any more, though. Now that the Clinton dingoes have been unleased on Senator Obama, SA has learned what a lot of us wingnuts (or Repuglicans, to use a favorite SA term of affection) knew a long time ago. You might even say that SA, Chait and a lot of other portsiders have had an epiphany.

One of the things that I do seriously admire about Obama is this: despite his callowness and his wrong-headedness about most issues, Obama is clearly a very smart man and is capable of learning. As it turns out, so are some of his supporters.


Gino said...

i was rather hard on obama,blogwise, back last yr.
but now, i have to say, he may be 100% wrong on everything, but he aint no fool, and appears to be a decent (mostly) character as well.

besides, he stickin it to Tha Man (in this case,clinton power), and i always root for that.

Dan S. said...

I agree. While Obama is wrong on nearly every issue, it seems he has arrived at his positions honestly through his personal convictions.

If he is the Democrat nominee, I look forward to a civil debate on competing worldviews, as opposed to the dirty tricks and personal attacks we'd see from Billary.

Of course, I still don't want Obama to be president, but just wrong is an improvement over wrong, corrupt, and classless.

Strolling Amok said...

Oh well. At least when I came to my epiphany there was a Democratic politician who I could believe in. So out with the Bush/Clinton/Bush years and on to something better.

A. Truck Driver said...

I just finished a pretty good book by Mr. Chait, "The Big Con." Sounds more like a Raymond Chandler work. By the way, Mr. Dilettante, speaking of books, have you read any Cormac McCarthy? I read No Country for Old Men when I heard the Coen Brothers were making it into a movie, and felt rather stupid about having previously ignored this guy. Since then, I have either read or purchased his remainging works, which are a project for this year. Just finished Blood Meridian. They stick with you, though they are rather bleak.

When I see Hillary and Obama on a stage together, I cannot fathom how anyone would want to support her over him. He is smart, and genuine. Hillary is stiff, cold, calculated and depressing. Bill's antics in South Carolina surprised me some. He has many drawbacks, but I have never thought of him as being so tone deaf politically.

I would say that Democrats who are anxious to run away from Hillary are not all necessarily having epiphanies, but also recognize that she is simply not as viable of a candidate as Obama. I think McCain could beat her (with little regard to what a shattering blow this would deliver to Tom Delay).

A. Truck Driver