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Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Andy StoneThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado

Just for fun this week, let’s examine this great nation of ours through three bits of wisdom: a little quasi-folk wisdom, a little Hollywood faux-folk wisdom and a little left-wing muckraking wisdom.Here we go:

That’s our quasi-folk wisdom, and it does sound like something passed down through the generations: “Ahh-yup, sonny. As grandpa always said, “In fact, it has a very non-folk origin: Abraham Maslow, a 20th-century psychologist from Brooklyn, N.Y.Still, it’s a good bit of wisdom: When your tools are limited, so are your responses to the world.Putting that into a modern American context, we might get this: To a country with an army, everything looks like a war.Boy, that’s us, isn’t it?When Muslim extremists from Saudi Arabia blow up a building in New York, we launch a war on Iraq.Actually, first we launch a war on Afghanistan – but since our military philosophy has long been that we need to be able to fight two major wars at once, adding a war on Iraq was an easy matter.And now, even as some people panic that the nation is broke – “We’ve greased the skids, and we’re skidding into Greece!” or something like that – those same people get the fantods when anyone suggests cutting the military budget.In a world full of nails, only a fool (or a Kenyan, Muslim, socialist president dedicated to ending America’s greatness) would give up his hammer.Or, as Donald Rumsfeld once sang (in that gorgeous baritone voice of his), “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning … oh, wait! I do have a hammer! Shock and awe, y’all. Wham!”OK. Next:

Again, sounds pretty folksy, but we all know it’s from “Forrest Gump” – pure genuine Hollywood faux-folk wisdom.And from the annals of what stupid does, we get a delightful quote from the always frothy Rick Santorum, the surging candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.Santorum declared that President Obama’s problem is this: “He thinks he’s smarter than you.”Now there indeed is a grave failing: A president who is smarter than the average guy. Worse yet, a president who’s smart enough to know he’s smarter than the average guy.Who needs a smart president? After all, we did so well last time around with a president who made it clear he wasn’t smarter than anyone. President “Don’t Misunderestimate Me.” The man who said, “Our enemies never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”(And by the way, have you noticed that none of the current crop of Republican candidates ever mentions George W. Bush? In fact, these days, when they talk about Moses receiving the word of God, they say the voice came “from out of the midst of a burning … um … hedge. A shrubbery.”)Since when is being smart a disqualification for holding the office of the president? (Hint: Ever since Santorum decided he ought to have the job.)Ah well: Stupid is as stupid does. And nobody does stupid better than our boy Rick “Don’t-Google-Me.”And, our final bit of wisdom:

Not folksy at all, I know. It comes from Upton Sinclair, socialist rabble rouser, whose book “The Jungle” led to the passage of the Pure Food & Drug Act (and that was a good thing).Now, if I may translate just a little: “It is hard to see the truth when your paycheck depends on not seeing it.”And that brings us to “think tanks,” institutions which are much more focused on tanking than thinking.These are places with ideologies (predominantly right-wing). Thus, the people who work there are hired, not for (or, at least, not just for) their piercing intellect, but for their ideological track record.And, if their thinking strays off that track, off the right and narrow … whoops! There goes the paycheck.One quick example: David Frum, a thoroughly right-wing Republican guy (George W. Bush speech writer, etc.), who lost his position at the American Enterprise Institute (one of the most unthinkingly tankish of right-wing think tanks) for disagreeing with Republican tactics during the health-care debate.Frum thought Republicans would do better to compromise. AEI thought Frum would do better to be unemployed.AEI denies that. Frum, they say, was just worthless and lazy, so he had to go. Yes, it was right after his unfortunate comments about Republican tactics, but there was no connection. Really.Interestingly, doing a little research on this topic, I found a stirring piece defending AEI and agreeing that Frum was worthless and lazy.That item was written by “a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution,” another mighty-righty among the ranks of tanks.

See how the game is played?So, quick example: I listened to a brilliant fellow from the fiercely right-wing Cato Institute (also, by the way, a former fellow at the Hoover Institution) in a debate over whether the health care act was constitutional.He spent his debate time noting how many states’ attorneys-general had sued to overturn the health care act; how many pages long the health care bill was; the Tea Party victories in the 2010 elections; and how the Supreme Court “stood the constitution on its head” and approved the New Deal after being intimidated by FDR. It was all the work of “the elite … who thought they knew how to run our lives.”He said a lot – all very eloquent, I suppose – but virtually without any references to, you know, the actual legal issue of whether act is constitutional.That was a man who was not about to risk his paycheck by actually thinking.

Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com.


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