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October 25, 2005

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Naturally, within five minutes of posting this, I discover that Mark Kleiman has written a really great post about this. A (large) part of it:

"With Mr. Bush's allies out there pre-emptively sliming Patrick Fitzgerald and claiming that what he's investigating isn't a crime at all, what could have possessed Mr. Bush when he said last week, "The special prosecutor is conducting a very serious investigation. He's doing it in a very dignified way..." ?

I can come up with three explanations:

1. It happens to be the truth, and Mr. Bush prefers to tell the truth.

2. It was a generous thing to say, and Mr. Bush is habitually generous to his adversaries.

3. Mr. Fitzgerald has Mr. Bush by the gonads, and Mr. Bush, a coward as well as a bully, is begging him not to squeeze.

Which seems most plausible to you?

Of course, if you choose #3, you'd be forced to believe that Mr. Bush is, disloyally, putting his own welfare ahead of the welfare of a group of men who have been unfailingly loyal to him. And yet we all know that Bush puts a high value on loyalty.

So I guess it must be either #1 or #2.

Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious business! Don't you have any respect for a wartime President? If you don't stop laughing, the terrorists will have won."

Long time lurker, first time poster.

I don't see why people refer to happiness about the Plame investigation as Schadenfreude. If the investigation were somehow crooked, if Rove, Libby and anyone else were getting treatment they didn't deserve, then it would be shameful to be happy at their problems. But so far, it appears that they are being held account, with all due legal process, for activities of questionable legality. I am happy to see that even the president's advisors must defend actions that may have been illegal, and will be punished if those actions are - and I'm not shameful about it in the least.

Shinobi, you're right, but I suspect people use the term because Rove has gone so long without paying for his despicable behavior. Add to that (for me), the fact that the President drapes himself in his Christianity while his closest advisor makes a mockery of Jesus' teachings, and the fact that Rove is regularly praised for his behavior, and you have folks who see any Rove indictment -- no matter how justified in its specifics -- as a (hopefully) first step in his getting what's coming to him.

Of course, what's really coming to him is much, much darker and damn scary, but I don't imagine we'll get to see that.

"Lawyers in the case." This isn't coming from Fitzgerald, and it certainly isn't coming from Cheney/Libby. Looks to me like THIS is a Rove operation. And it looks like 'no harm, no foul' is recognized as insufficient as the official narrative.

Maybe it's Rice/Hadley, though.

You know, there are plenty of times when vague identification of anonymous sources is OK, where the identity of the source isn't every bit as important as the story. This is not one of those times. I guess reporters are just too caught up in their little gotta-preserve-confidentiality world to see it.

Ah....Republican's just doin' God's work...you must be jealous.

Shinobi - not to quibble, but...well, yes, to quibble: schadenfreude, in its English transliteration, anyway, simply means to take joy from the suffering of others. There is no definitional exemption for enjoying the suffering of those who really, really deserve it, and it doesn't only apply to enjoyment of the unjust suffering of others. Rove is (presumably) suffering, and would certainly suffer if indicted. Deriving joy from that fact is schadenfreude.

The impulse away from schadenfreude is presumably part of an intrinsic revulsion to suffering, in any form, and in this case specifically, a distaste for the metallic savor of revenge.

As for me, I'm no paragon of virtue. I'll be delighted if Rove goes down.

How pleasant it is, and how reviving
To the spirits of just men long oppress'd,
When God into the hands of their deliverer
Puts invincible might.

Question: Does the Plame Affair (assuming it concludes as anticipated) destroy or reinforce your faith in democracy? The latter for obvious reasons. The former because, if it hadn't been for those pesky kids and that mangy dog, they would have gotten away with it.

ie. Is this an example of random chance - a flukish misstep by those in power - or an example of the "inevitability of institutional structure" (or some such) of the American Republic righting a wrong?

Schadenfreude can be temporarily satisfying but it does not satiate. On top of that, my liberal sensibilities get to me; Rove's suffering, if it is not wholly manipulation on his part, will get to me and I'll then feel badly for my engagement in the previous Schadenfreude.

Richard Nixon's Shakespearean (one of the minor Kings) blubbering at his resignation press conference completely ruined my previous ferocious Schadenfreude.

But then, when King Richard III offered his kingdom for a horse, I'd have given him some sort of equine creature on which to ride out of there. Christ, how would you feel if you had a hump and a limp and a gnarled little hand, the poor sod?

Now, I would like to see Rove led around on a leash to apologize to legions of various people, John McCain's adopted child being one of them. Then he may retire from his, umm, service, to my government and sell breakfast cereal by ruthless means in the private sector. There will be a restraining order keeping him two or three million miles away from government.

I will then turn away, a tear forming in my eye. My bodyguard, not given to indulging in any sort of freude, will watch carefully to make sure Karl does no lunging at my back with long knives.

My favorite decoying and frustration of Schadenfreude in a film occurred in "The Night Of The Hunter", that uneven but haunting work directed by Charles Laughton and performed in weirdly by the great Robert Mitchum. After a buildup to pure malevolence by the Mitchum character, the Lillian Gish character shoots him in the behind with buckshot and he gives a whoop and a yelp and runs to hide in the barn, where he is taken into custody.

It is the "yelp" and the "whoop" that simultaneously dissipate and satisfy the foregoing buildup of Schadenfreude on the viewer's part. It is not the sound of pure evil taking buckshot in the butt; it is the sound (that it comes out of Mitchum's mouth is doubly delicious) of a mere scalawag* who managed to overshoot his mere scalawagginess.

The viewer feels, I don't know, like the guy who found Saddam in his hidey-hole. Vaguely disappointed. Incidentally, the resemblance of George W. Bush to the Lillian Gish character is illusory.

*If you look up "scalawag" in the dictionary, your inner Gary Farber will tell you that there must be a better word to use in this comment. ;)

I'm split on that - there's one side of me that figures that when you break the law as often as they do, with arrogance and carelessness, then the odds are against you. The other side of me shivers at the realization that, if your law-breaking gains you power, you're less vulnerable to the consequences of it.

I got into a brief discussion on Volokh with regard to the Plame Affair, and it seems to me that those who still maintain that nothing happened that was wrong (especially if no indictments are handed down specifically for leaking Plame's identity) really need to answer the question: If what [whoever did it] was so innocent, why (a) didn't the White House do it openly, and why (b) didn't [whoever did it] stand up promptly two years ago and admit "Yes, I did it"?

Anyone would think, reading their comments (it's findable: it's the latest post on Volokh to do with Plame) that Novak's column was an official White House bulletin, issued as a public service to protect the public from the hidden dangers of nepotistic, crony appointments.

John Thullen suggests: Then he may retire from his, umm, service, to my government and sell breakfast cereal by ruthless means in the private sector. There will be a restraining order keeping him two or three million miles away from government.

I'd go for 19.489 AUs, which would let him sell breakfast cereal on Uranus*.

Your restraining order would let him sell breakfast cereal well beyond the orbit of the Moon, but not even a tenth of the way to Mars. Not bad.

*That's funnier if you're British. Sorry.

(Very) small complaint: I wish reporters who write about Libby and want to start with his name would not include the first initial. I always think I'm reading an affidavit or something.

Fry: Did you build the Smellescope?

Farnsworth: No, I remembered that I'd built one last year. Go ahead. Try it. You'll find that every heavenly body has its own particular scent. Here, I'll point it at Jupiter.

[Fry sniffs.]

Fry: Smells like strawberries.

Farnsworth: Exactly! And now Saturn.

[Fry sniffs.]

Fry: Pine needles. Oh, man, this is great! Hey, as long as you don't make me smell Uranus.

[He laughs.]

Leela: I don't get it.

Farnsworth: I'm sorry, Fry, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke once and for all.

Fry: Oh. What's it called now?

Farnsworth: Urectum. Here, let me locate it for you.

Fry: Did you build the Smellescope?

Farnsworth: No, I remembered that I'd built one last year. Go ahead. Try it. You'll find that every heavenly body has its own particular scent. Here, I'll point it at Jupiter.

[Fry sniffs.]

Fry: Smells like strawberries.

Farnsworth: Exactly! And now Saturn.

[Fry sniffs.]

Fry: Pine needles. Oh, man, this is great! Hey, as long as you don't make me smell Uranus.

[He laughs.]

Leela: I don't get it.

Farnsworth: I'm sorry, Fry, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke once and for all.

Fry: Oh. What's it called now?

Farnsworth: Urectum. Here, let me locate it for you.

Can we now cut the crap about "is Bush evil or just clueless?" It has to be obvious from his Plame charade ("I don't know who did it and want to get to the bottom of it") that he is gladly neck deep in the swill.

There is a reason why his chosen nickname for Rove is "turd blossom." Bush has willingly employed the gutter for his own gain since the beginning of his political career, and as others have noted in great detail, was schooled in the gutter of politics during the long years while in his father's shadow.

He is basically an evil little [email protected]#$t.

spartikus:

Is this an example of random chance - a flukish misstep by those in power - or an example of the "inevitability of institutional structure" (or some such) of the American Republic righting a wrong?

Like Blanche DuBois, who clung to the philosophy of depending on the kindness of strangers, our institutions do rely to some degree on luck and the missteps of the evil to finally bring them down. But this is nothing to fret about unless you are only happy with perfect justice. What really matters is to be able to check the excesses of the mighty at some point in time so that the amount of harm they can inflict is limited.

And since crooks never seem to be able to rein in their own excesses (this is my last job -- really!), they inevitably make one too many missteps and go down. It would be nice if they would get cut down earlier and spare us all the pain, but no one really wants to live in Singapore and have every crime small or large always get its due. Freedom has its price, which includes having to put up with inefficiency in ridding ourselves of the bad guys.

Can we now cut the crap about "is Bush evil or just clueless?" It has to be obvious from his Plame charade ("I don't know who did it and want to get to the bottom of it") that he is gladly neck deep in the swill.

There is a reason why his chosen nickname for Rove is "turd blossom." Bush has willingly employed the gutter for his own gain since the beginning of his political career, and as others have noted in great detail, was schooled in the gutter of politics during the long years while in his father's shadow.

He is basically an evil little [email protected]#$t.

spartikus:

Is this an example of random chance - a flukish misstep by those in power - or an example of the "inevitability of institutional structure" (or some such) of the American Republic righting a wrong?

Like Blanche DuBois, who clung to the philosophy of depending on the kindness of strangers, our institutions do rely to some degree on luck and the missteps of the evil to finally bring them down. But this is nothing to fret about unless you are only happy with perfect justice. What really matters is to be able to check the excesses of the mighty at some point in time so that the amount of harm they can inflict is limited.

And since crooks never seem to be able to rein in their own excesses (this is my last job -- really!), they inevitably make one too many missteps and go down. It would be nice if they would get cut down earlier and spare us all the pain, but no one really wants to live in Singapore and have every crime small or large always get its due. Freedom has its price, which includes having to put up with inefficiency in ridding ourselves of the bad guys.

Can we now cut the crap about "is Bush evil or just clueless?" It has to be obvious from his Plame charade ("I don't know who did it and want to get to the bottom of it") that he is gladly neck deep in the swill.

There is a reason why his chosen nickname for Rove is "turd blossom." Bush has willingly employed the gutter for his own gain since the beginning of his political career, and as others have noted in great detail, was schooled in the gutter of politics during the long years while in his father's shadow.

He is basically an evil little [email protected]#$t.

spartikus:

Is this an example of random chance - a flukish misstep by those in power - or an example of the "inevitability of institutional structure" (or some such) of the American Republic righting a wrong?

Like Blanche DuBois, who clung to the philosophy of depending on the kindness of strangers, our institutions do rely to some degree on luck and the missteps of the evil to finally bring them down. But this is nothing to fret about unless you are only happy with perfect justice. What really matters is to be able to check the excesses of the mighty at some point in time so that the amount of harm they can inflict is limited.

And since crooks never seem to be able to rein in their own excesses (this is my last job -- really!), they inevitably make one too many missteps and go down. It would be nice if they would get cut down earlier and spare us all the pain, but no one really wants to live in Singapore and have every crime small or large always get its due. Freedom has its price, which includes having to put up with inefficiency in ridding ourselves of the bad guys.

spartikus: "Does the Plame Affair (assuming it concludes as anticipated) destroy or reinforce your faith in democracy? The latter for obvious reasons. The former because, if it hadn't been for those pesky kids and that mangy dog, they would have gotten away with it.

ie. Is this an example of random chance - a flukish misstep by those in power - or an example of the "inevitability of institutional structure" (or some such) of the American Republic righting a wrong?"

-- I have faith in criminals' tendency to try to get a little too cute a little too often, and in the legal system, and in democracy. But I also think it's a mistake to rely on that faith. Democracy is the rule of the people, and as one of the people in question, I think that it's my job to make it unnecessary for scummy politicians to be taken down by the legal system, by advocating as strongly as I can for their defeat at the polls.

Shorter hilzoy: democracy works if we make it work. That's our job, as citizens.

Wow. I only posted this once -- honest.

dmbeaster,

What I tell you three times is true.

(only if it really was an accident :-)

B.t.w., the comments on the article above this are inaccessible.

cleek: the server is being odd, but I think I fixed it.

The latest round of Bush defenses - "perjury and obstruction of justice aren't really crimes" and "Fitzgerald is an evil moralist who thinks he's on a mission from God" - make me wonder who the target audience is.

I mean, yes, there is Bush's irreducible 30%... but it seems peculiar that the GOP is still pitching to them, since Bush can't still be President after January 2009 (not legally, anyway), and I doubt that 30% is fully transferable to whichever Bush-like mounteback the GOP decides to annoint next.

Meanwhile, though the general public hasn't paid much attention to Plamegate until now (if even now), it has been paying attention to all the other rot and malfeasance the Bush Admin can't hide anymore: the continuing Iraq debacle, the Katrina debacle, the Miers mess, rising oil prices. Because things in general have gone from bad to worse, Plamegate hits the news just when the public is ready to believe the worst.

I'm rather glad the GOP is still hitching its wagon to Bush's scrofulous horse. I want the GOP to be closely identified with the Bush Admin as we go into the 2006 and 2008 elections. It'll be more difficult to monkeywrench election processes if no GOP candidate is polling better than the high 30s.

CaseyL, the rest of the GOP still has a horse in this race, so to speak. If the scandal can be smothered at birth with a wheelbarrow of BS, then Bush will suffer less damage. A less-damaged Bush is a lesser problem for the '06 elections - I'm sure that many Congressmen will run against him, in attempts to save their own skins, but I'm also sure that they'd rather have a Bush who is a positive asset, or at least a net neutral.

And in '08, this will still be an election about Bush. The GOP's major campaign theme will be 'stick with us'. If Bush is a liability by then, the GOP presidential candidate, and all GOP Congressmen, will have to carry him as a liability.

"He's a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things," one White House ally said, referring to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald."

Are they completely sure the erstwhile ally wasn't referring to GWB?

Hilzoy: And yet we all know that Bush puts a high value on loyalty.

Bush puts a high value on loyalty to Bush. This in no way implies that there is any obligation to return such loyalty when the loyal retainer becomes a liability rather than an asset. Then they're disposable.

John Thullen: Richard Nixon's Shakespearean (one of the minor Kings) blubbering at his resignation press conference completely ruined my previous ferocious Schadenfreude.

Maybe my earliest memory of anything relating to politics is of being very, very put out at being dragged home from the county fair to listen to Nixon's resignation speech, then bawling about how sad it was. (Forgive me, I was eight.)

ral:

That's funny.

Actually, after posting I got the "website not responding" message. I have learned from past experience that this probably means my post made it. But to get back to the site, I refreshed the page -- twice. The page still did not load, but apparently this caused the post to be resent two more times.

Live and learn.

DaveL: that was Mark Kleiman, not me; and I think he was kidding ;)

[for lj: This thread, that thread, what's the difference?]

Hasn't anyone else noticed the plot thickening? I always wondered exactly where those forged documents came from.

I know, but the point is made often enough, and the character flaw is common enough, that it's worth pointing out again, and Gary doesn't seem to be around right now, so I saw my duty and I done it.

The thing that's really sad about GWB is that there isn't even enough substance there to make a plausible cautionary tale. It's just the Nixon Administration replayed as farce.

"Anyone would think, reading their comments (it's findable: it's the latest post on Volokh to do with Plame) that Novak's column was an official White House bulletin, issued as a public service to protect the public from the hidden dangers of nepotistic, crony appointments. "

Posted by: Jesurgislac

Professor Bainbridge has expressed a similar attitude, that perjury and obstruction of justice aren't good enough unless the defendant is also indicted on the original crime.

In the end, it just confirms my belief that 90% of self-declared 'libertarians' are just dishonest Republicans, who found that lying about their beliefs was very useful.

I call it 'deniable Republicanism'.

the rolling-up of Rove, Libby, Cheney, Miller, Novak, Hannah, Bolton, etc.. has spawned a new term: "Katamari Democracy"..

Defective Yeti

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