Those Dread Tales

You’d think someone who has won the Nobel Prize would know a thing or two. Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005 – the Swedish Academy said Pinter was “generally regarded as the foremost representative of British drama in the second half of the 20th century.” Of course, as with Al Gore winning the Peace Prize, many thought Pinter’s prize was just another poke in the eye at America, given Printer’s political views: 


… he has called the President of the United States, George W. Bush, a “mass murderer” and the (then) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, both “mass-murdering” and a “deluded idiot”; he alleges that they, along with past US officials, are “war criminals.” He has also compared the Bush administration (“a bunch of criminal lunatics”) with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, saying that, under Bush, the United States (“a monster out of control”) strives to attain “world domination” through “Full Spectrum Dominance.” Pinter characterized Blair’s Great Britain as “pathetic and supine,” a “bleating little lamb tagging behind [the United States] on a lead.” According to Pinter, Blair was participating in “an act of premeditated mass murder” instigated on behalf of “the American people,” who, Pinter acknowledges, increasingly protest “their government’s actions” … Pinter published his remarks to the mass peace protest demonstration held on 15 February 2003, in London, on his website: “The United States is a monster out of control. Unless we challenge it with absolute determination American barbarism will destroy the world. The country is run by a bunch of criminal lunatics, with Blair as their hired Christian thug. The planned attack on Iraq is an act of premeditated mass murder.”


When he accepted his Nobel Prize he said much the same thing, but toned it down, a little.


But the man wasn’t always political. Much of his earlier work was concerned with the personal stuff, with loss and memory, like his 1993 play Moonlight, sort of a reworking of James Joyce’s “The Dead.” That was his first full-length play since Betrayal in 1978. He returned to existential stuff – what do we really know, and how do we know it, and if we do know it, which we may not, what does it all really mean anyway? Yes, he’s not a cheery fellow.


But he often gets off a good line, which is probably why he’s written fine screenplays, like The Servant (1963), The Go-Between (1970), The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), The Trial (1993), and Sleuth (2007) – all of these examples of his improving the source material. You note that all of these are about people not really knowing what’s going on, and finding out what’s really going on too late. That’s life. 


One line from Moonlight does jump out at you – “I know little of women. But I’ve heard dread tales.”


Some of us had that line from the play pop up from whatever part of the brain stores such things when we stumbled across an item in Newsweek from Eleanor Clift. Clift lays out something that many of those who are repulsed by Hillary Clinton fear, that should Hillary Clinton win the nomination, it will be payback time:


Notables who abandoned her for Obama will get the Big Chill. “He’s dead to us,” a Clinton aide was quoted saying of John Kerry, who along with Ted Kennedy was turned off by the perception of race baiting that led up to the South Carolina primary. A major donor, conflicted between the two candidates and apologetic over his backing of Obama, found Hillary less than sympathetic. “Too bad for you, because I’m going to win,” she snapped.


What’s this – kiss the ring or sleep with the fishes? Well, not “sleep with the fishes” actually – more like a promise that those who supported Obama in any way would be locked out of the government and their careers would be ended. You should consider the consequences, and, if you already made your unfortunate choice, you should know it’s all over for you. Pinter was onto something.


Matthew Yglesias just isn’t buying it:


Maybe. On the other hand, current Obama endorsers include, among others, the Senators who chair the committees on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (Kennedy), Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Dodd), Judiciary (Leahy), and Budget (Conrad). Unless Clinton is uncommonly stupid, she’s not really going to try to govern the country while freezing those guys not. Nor would it make any sense to make a big push for health care reform while simultaneously freezing out the Obama-backers in SEIU [the Service Employees International Union, the largest union in America, that endorsed Obama].


And Yglesias points out that the example Clift uses is silly, as is the whole idea:


Kerry is someone a President Clinton could plausibly afford to ignore, which is probably why he’s used as the example, but it’s actually pretty rare for a legislator to be noteworthy enough for his endorsement to matter and also sufficiently unimportant to ignore.


But could she be that uncommonly stupid and vengeful? Many of us have heard dread tales. 


Duncan Black says Clift is just being inane:


Yes, different people will have their pecking order in the Washington hierarchy changed, depending on which candidate ultimately triumphs, but that’s a sort of “duh” point which is less exciting than describing Clinton as a vengeful bitch.


But many of us have heard dread tales.



But many of us have also heard pleasant tales, that the Republican in the race, John McCain, will run a clean campaign, with no personal attacks, no swift-boating and innuendo. He says this often – he demanded that the North Carolina Republican Party pull a television ad featuring Obama’s former minister, Jeremiah Wright, an ad that ranted on about extremism, and they did. McCain will discuss policy positions and issues – not who can be associated with whom from their past. He will be civil. So McCain will presumably not ask Obama to explain Harry Belafonte and Langston Hughes and Eldridge Cleaver and Chris Rock and any other assorted black folks who have upset white people with what they have said. That’s nice.


Except that’s a fairy tale. Earlier this month, Ahmed Yousef, the chief political adviser to the Prime Minister of Hamas, said an interesting thing on WABC radio – “We like Mr. Obama and we hope he will win the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy.”


When Obama campaign manager David Axelrod heard about this odd endorsement, just after the debate in Pennsylvania, he took McCain at his word and laughed it off, saying that it was “flattering when anybody says that Barack Obama would follow in [JFK’s] footsteps.”


And that was that, until Friday, April 25, when McCain said this:


I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. So apparently has Danny Ortega and several others. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare…. If senator Obama is favored by Hamas I think people can make judgments accordingly.


Hey, who needs Jeremiah Wright? Hamas will do just fine.


And the McCain folks said that’s fair:


The McCain camp has just blasted out a statement saying that Obama’s alleged “endorsement” by Hamas will “definitely be an issue in the election,” an indication that McCain intends to honor his promise of a “civil” campaign more in the breach than in the observance.


McCain spokesman Brian Rogers called the supposed endorsement by Hamas, something that McCain hit Obama for earlier today, “a legitimate issue for the American people to think about,” on the basis of Obama’s call for negotiations with Iran.


Rogers added: “It is not only responsible to raise these critical issues in this election, but it would be the height of irresponsibility not to have this discussion with the American people.”


See Andrew Sullivan:


My response is simply that honorable campaigns do not allow foreign agents, especially terrorist organizations, to insert themselves into American presidential politics. No respectable foreign governments do such a thing; and the gambits of al Qaeda, Hamas, or any other grouping to play one candidate against another should in general be ignored, not exploited.


It is, of course, a perfectly legitimate campaign issue to fight over what US policy should be toward Hamas. Are there circumstances in which we should negotiate with them? How coherent is American foreign policy when it rests on a belief that democracy should spread in the Arab world, but refuses to recognize one of the very few governments that does have some democratic legitimacy? Are we right to see Hamas as an extension of Iranian power? Etc. But you can make these arguments and talk about these issues without resorting to canards such as “the terrorists want my opponent to win.” It’s a lame and cheap shot – and beneath McCain.


This is turning into a nasty Pinter play – time, place, identity and language are ambiguous and fluid. So be it.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Attack Politics, Hardball Politics, Harold Pinter, Hillary Clinton, McCain, Obama, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Those Dread Tales

  1. Pingback: The Issue of Age and the Race Card « Just Above Sunset

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