Monday, October 13, 2008

Krauthammer Derangement Syndrome

Back in 2003, when the geniuses of TV were hymning the greatness of Churchillian George W. Bush, Charles Krauthammer thought it would be clever and witty to piss on the rest of us from his lofty medical perch. Quoth Prince Charles:

It has been 25 years since I discovered a psychiatric syndrome (for the record: ``Secondary Mania,'' Archives of General Psychiatry, November 1978), and in the interim I haven't been looking for new ones. But it's time to don the white coat again. A plague is abroad in the land.

Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush.

I thought back then that perhaps the A.M.A. ought to look into the medical ethics of Krauthammer using his M.D. to call his political opponents mentally ill (as is his habit) while in the same column soliciting contributions for his political favorites. It might remind one of an old KGB tactic, something like “depriving of civil rights under color of authority,” which, if the uniform is police blue rather than lab coat white, is not merely unethical, but a crime in this country.

This notwithstanding, long before Krauthammer perpetrated his bit of journalistic malpractice, many very sane and sensible people had taken to loathing George W Bush. Some disliked and distrusted Dubya on good information, such as Joe Conason’s February 2000 Harper’s article which, long before the disgraceful Bush v. Gore ruling made him Decider, detailed W’s long history of criminal incompetence and incompetent criminality. Other people just hated Bush on instinct – their gut reaction to his phony folksiness and his ignorant-yet-superior smirk was deeply aversive. Still others realized that the deer-in-the-headlights look on W’s face, as he sat in that classroom with the Pet Goat book in his lap, was rich evidence of the man’s real fitness for and likely performance in the Presidency. Now, as we (let us hope it is we, and not again Scalia et al) are about to choose another President, we should perhaps think back on Dubya’s innumerable dubious achievements and wonder which of us were well served by their instincts, and which were delusional – especially since Charles Krauthammer still feels qualified to pontificate on the character of our would-be leaders. Recently he wrote:

Convicted felon Tony Rezko. Unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers. And the race-baiting Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It is hard to think of any presidential candidate before Barack Obama sporting associations with three more execrable characters. Yet let the McCain campaign raise the issue, and the mainstream media begin fulminating about dirty campaigning tinged with racism and McCarthyite guilt by association.

But associations are important. They provide a significant insight into character. They are particularly relevant in relation to a potential president as new, unknown, opaque and self-contained as Obama.

As usual, one hardly knows where to begin answering Krauthammer. But first of all – Rezko, Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright – none of these people defrauded thousands of people of their life savings as John McCain’s porn-fighting buddy Charles Keating did – with McCain’s active support. Now that’s an “execrable character. “ Or two.

To the best of my knowledge, none of Obama’s associates have claimed that his opponent fathered a mixed-race love-child in order to appeal to racists, nor have any counterfeited a causus belli resulting in an utterly needless and counterproductive trillion-dollar war, costing hundreds of thousands of lives, and America’s priceless good name. Nor has any of Obama’s associates ordered torture and other war crimes, dispensed with habeas corpus, criminally politicized the Justice Department and in general made a mockery of the laws they were sworn to uphold. Talk about execrable characters! Yet John McCain has clapped those characters to himself as tightly as he could. Perhaps this says something about McCain’s “cynicism and ruthlessness” – to use Dr. Krauthammer’s words.

But actually there’s no point in trying to refute Krauthammer’s mess here. Factually and logically, it is, as usual “not even wrong.” Krauthammer is just doing his duty, echoing the Party’s racist canard the idea that Obama is “unknown, opaque and self-contained.” It's the moral equivalent of the internet smears about Obama’s secret Muslim faith. This mission appeals to Krauthammer, who is in fact a projective racist loon, because it lets him pretend again to superior analytical powers (providing “a significant insight into character”) and pretend also to both moral superiority and kinship with the all-wise Average American. He asks us “Would you attend a church whose pastor was spreading racial animosity from the pulpit?” and he answers, “Most American would not, out of sheer decency.”

With respect to Charles Krauthammer’s sheer racial tolerance and sheer decency, all his readers should be aware of a bit of history from M.J Rosenberg. A few years ago at a local synagogue (Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, Maryland to be precise), Tsvi Marx, a visiting Israeli rabbi gave the High Holiday sermon, Tsvi Marx. As Rosenberg recalls:

The rabbi had offered some timid endorsement of peace — peace essentially on Israel's terms — but peace anyway. Krauthammer went nuts. He actually started bellowing at the rabbi, from his wheel chair in the aisle. People tried to "shush" him. It was, after all, the holiest day of the year. But Krauthammer kept howling until the rabbi apologized. The man is as arrogant as he is thuggish. Who screams at the rabbi at services? For advocating peace?

Krauthammer the Omniscient, Krauthammer the Arbiter of Sanity, presumes to shout down a rabbi who actually lives in Israel, who thus might have more factual and moral insight about the situation than one gains in the Fox TV studio. Apparently the idea of peace with the Arabs he so hates was insupportable to the good doctor; his “decency” demanded he make a scene.

And yet Krauthammer feels entitled to conclude, “Obama is a first-class intellect and a first class temperament. But his character remains highly suspect. There is a difference between temperament and character. Equanimity is a virtue. Tolerance of the obscene is not.”

This should make us all wonder two things: Why does Krauthammer, insightful inventor of Bush Derangement Syndrome, presume to be a judge of first class intellect? And why does the Orh Kodesh Congregation tolerate his obscenity?


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