Rep. Ryan Zinke prepares to crack a walnut.
Remember a few days ago, before we were all mad at Donald Trump for implying that someone should shoot Hillary Clinton, when we were all mad at Trump for insulting the parents of a dead Muslim serviceman? At the Democratic National Convention, where Khizr Khan lambasted Trump for his bigoted remarks about Muslims. “You have sacrificed nothing and no one,” Khan said to the billionaire restorer of American greatness, who missed Vietnam due to bone spurs. It probably would have chastened a normal person, but Trump hit back, suggesting that Khan’s wife, Ghazala, hadn’t spoken during her husband’s speech because Muslim custom forbade her.
These remarks put Montana’s Rep. Ryan Zinke in a bad spot. Zinke is a freshman congressman, and he can’t afford to buck his party too often. On the other hand, the unimpeachable dignity of military service is his whole thing. His political brand is rooted in his identity as a former Navy SEAL, and his personal ethics seem to hold veterans in the highest regard. So he released this statement on his campaign website:
Both of our candidates for president have picked fights with and said extremely regrettable things to the families of service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our great nation. As a grateful nation, we cannot allow this to become the norm, and we cannot allow it to go without notice. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should swallow their pride and apologize to the families and service members they have offended. Politics has no role in the military.
Can I get partial credit on this? Because I can definitely think of the extremely regrettable things one candidate said to the family of a service member that should occasion an apology, but I’m blanking on the other one. Was it Benghazi? Was it the part where she runs against Trump, and therefore must be made equivalent to him in all things? These and another pressing question—why would Zinke, who has a future in politics, risk his credibility for a man who is to his party as the chicken pox is to a sixth grader?—are explored in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.
Gottfried Leibniz and his wig
Gottfried Leibniz famously theorized that we are living in the best of all possible worlds—a striking assessment from a man in a wig who lived in a world where someone else invented calculus. But Leibniz never said the world was perfect. He only said there was no better alternative. In this he joins a tradition of resignation that runs from Epictetus through Nietzsche, who wrote that it was foolish to say this world was good or bad when no other one exists. Today is Friday; thank God if you want, but I have a feeling he was going to do it anyway. Won’t you ponder the alternatives with me?
Officer Darren Wilson in the hospital, hours after being attacked by Michael Brown
As details emerge from the grand jury investigation into Darren Wilson’s fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, commentators are crying foul. The New York Times editorial board issued a scathing indictment of the decision not to indict, saying that prosecutor Robert McCulloch—“widely viewed in the minority community as being in the pockets of the police”—handled the proceedings “in the worst possible way.” The National Bar Association issued a press release “questioning how the grand jury, considering the evidence before them, could reach the conclusion that Darren Wilson should not be indicted” and called for federal charges. Meanwhile, at Vox, Ezra Klein has called Wilson’s account of the shooting “literally unbelievable.”
"You hold the base of its spine in one hand, and then you put the other hand on top of its head so you can get that twisting motion. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to keep a firm grip. It's a baby; it's gonna squirm."
Foolishly, we here at Combat! blog assumed that the political climate of the United States would settle down a little bit after Sunday’s House vote on health care reform. On some level we’d rather not have to consciously acknowledge, we were even a little disappointed. The vicious political rochambeau that had so dominated the past year seemed finally at an end, and as heartening as that was, it also meant we’d have to turn our attention back to Miracle Whip commercials. How wrong we were. Finally freed of the pretense of opposing a specific bill, the anti-health care reform movement has assumed its true form as an unmoored cloud of hateful bullshit. Gone is the obligation to talk about actual health care policy. Gone is the pretense of bipartisan intent, and gone is the salutary need to anchor one’s statements to any element of the real world. What remains is the essence of the Tea Party right, scurrying out from the corpse of town hall democracy like those shadow things in Ghost. Now that it has been released from its host body, the soul of American politics can make statements like this:
If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they’d be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let’s hope we don’t have to do that! Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!
A congressman said that, which makes the hypothetical at the beginning kind of odd. You already have a country, asshole, and it sucks right now, largely because of you. The asshole in question is Steve King, as usual, but he’s not alone. Now that it no longer has to maintain the illusion that it’s talking about health care reform, reactionary populism has unsheathed the long knives.