In this long and ugly campaign, I am getting tired of the suggestion that President Obama should imitate Lyndon Baines Johnson.
By that theory, Obama should have long ago grabbed his opponents and saboteurs by some vulnerable part of their anatomy and squeezed until they cooperated.
This thoughtful and active president has been catching hell for four years for the crime of PWB – Presiding While Black. We all know that race is the subtext for this campaign. Obama has had to deal with congressional leaders with the smirks of southern sheriffs and South African apartheid enforcers back in the bad old days.
Just the other day, when that great American Colin Powell endorsed Obama, John Sununu made the despicable suggestion that Powell was only doing it for racial reasons. (Piers Morgan, an outsider currently working in American television, did not know the territory well enough to push Sununu on this.)
Obama would only have made it worse by morphing into LBJ. Lately I’ve been talking to veterans who watched their companions die in Vietnam, and when they lived long enough to read memoirs and histories they discovered Johnson and his pals had known the war was not working.
Yes, give credit to Johnson for pushing through civil-rights and anti-poverty legislation, for muscling the southern tier, his own constituency. He was also a bully who could not face his grotesque mistake.
Obama did fine in his second and third debates against a candidate who swerves all over the place, as Colin Powell said. Reason and record -- and dignity -- will win out.
"Among the things that have long fascinated people about Jesus and explain his enduring appeal is his method of dialogue and teaching. "He asked a lot of questions and told a lot of stories in the form of parables. In fact, parables form about a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. The Gospels were written decades after he died, so his questions and parables clearly left a deep impression on those who bore testimony to him....
"Some of Jesus’ questions were rhetorical; others were meant to challenge or even provoke. In some cases, Jesus used questions to parry attacks by religious authorities who set traps for him. In others, he used questions to enter more fully into the lives of others and to help people look at the state of their hearts. He asked people about their fears and their faith. Jesus used questions to free a woman caught in adultery from condemnation and to inquire whether people considered him to be the Messiah. He probed deeply into questions not many had asked before him, like “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
---(Peter Wehner, long-time White House consultant and writer, in the NYT last week about Jesus Christ’s method of teaching by asking questions.)
"Would that I could mention all the illuminating details in this biography, for example, why Wells praised Black Americans so highly, saying, 'I took a mighty liking to these gentle, human, dark-skinned people,' and 'Whatever America has to show in heroic living today, I doubt if she can show anything finer than the quality of the resolve, the steadfast efforts hundreds of black and colored men are making today to live blamelessly, honorably and patiently, getting by themselves what scraps of refinement, beauty and learning they may, keeping their hold on a civilization they are grudged and denied.''
-- "How H.G. Wells Predicted the 20th Century," Charles Johnson, NYT Book Review, Nov. 19, 2021. ***".
...the monsters arrive."
"They come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and death. I would call them mechanical locusts, descending upon every patch of gold in the neighborhood the way the grasshoppers of old would arrive, in numbers so great they darkened the sky, to lay bare a cornfield in minutes. But that comparison is unfair to locusts.
"Grasshoppers belong here. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers are invaders, the most maddening of all the maddening, environment-destroying tools of the American lawn-care industry."
---The great Margaret Renkl, from Nashville, one of my favorite NYT bylines, Oct. 26, 2021.
(She describes our Long Island enclave to every decibel, every stink.)