Friday, September 29, 2006

The Voice of Saruman

I caught Joe Biden on Imus this morning. I didn’t know it was he at first, but listening to his arguments, I had that Joe Biden feeling: Gee, this guy is really hitting the president with good arguments. I’m not sure I’ve got a snap answer to that point – I didn’t know that background. Then, just by chance, he wandered into an area that I happened to be reading about last night. And he was wrong on the facts. Wrong in such a way that he either completely misunderstood the document in question, or had read only excerpts. The speaker was earnest. He was forceful. He made sweeping statements with complete assurance. Hmm, I wonder if it’s Biden. I may have recognised the voice better than I thought.

I usually don’t catch him up until later, when I read someone who knows more of the facts. Biden was once angry at John Ashcroft, for example, and making an impassioned statement about how American treatment of prisoners should be one way and not another. I don’t remember the specifics of what was being debated. I think I was originally more on Biden’s side of whatever it was, because I was pleased he was making such an eloquent case. I found it especially poignant when Joe related it back to his own family, noting that he didn’t want his son, who was serving in the military, to end up being mistreated as a prisoner because of what John Ashcroft forced on the country. I thought that was a fair point.

So I was pretty angry at Biden when I read the facts: Biden’s son is a stateside military attorney. Ashcroft’s son was in Iraq at the time.

I don’t want to be misunderstood here. Just because young Ashcroft was in Iraq doesn’t give old Ashcroft much extra moral standing on his views. Just because young Biden is working stateside doesn’t mean that old Biden can’t be correct on the merits. But if you are Joe Biden, knowing that your son is never going to be captured for anything, where do you get off with this moral outrage at someone whose son actually is in danger? How can you make those “My. (deep breath) Son…” clutch-the-breast statements without throwing up at your own deceitfulness?

Thus, I was primed when Biden – I was now 90% sure it was Biden I was hearing on Imus – went on to his main point of the morning and stated that the NIE report completely contradicted everything Bush has been saying, and vindicated what Biden has been “saying every day for years.” Read carefully here: Not the three leaked sentences that came out earlier – Biden was talking about the three page report. Joe Biden may be correct on his assessment of Iraq and George Bush may be wrong. But the document says what it says, and Biden’s claim is just false. Yet Joe spoke with passion and earnestness, his sincerity of how deeply he cares about what happens to America oozing out of every pore.

When I read Gandalf’s interview with Saruman at Orthanc, I accept as a convention of the story that Saruman is persuasive and can daunt lesser minds. But following the conversation, I mentally wonder how Theoden’s soldiers and even Theoden can be fooled by that crap. It seems unrealistic that even a child couldn’t see through Saruman's words. Well, we have a considerable advantage, of course, because the author tells us frequently that Saruman is lying, and we have seen the destructiveness of his actions. The old wizard doesn’t seem plausible to us – we are well-defended in advance.

I believe Joe Biden when I am listening to him. There is something about him that carries such a weight of sincerity that the power of his voice pulls me in. He has the trick of sincerity.

The claim is often made that Bill Clinton is an excellent liar. How can you be an excellent liar when even your supporters know it? Even the most die-hard Friends of Bill defend him because they believe he gets the essential truth correct, and only lies to get himself out of traps that others set for him. But everyone knows he lies. I once compared Clinton’s plausibility to Saruman’s, but perhaps that only fits the later Saruman, not the wizard at his peak.

Joe Biden knows that very few people are ever going to check the statement of his son’s military duties and compare it to John Ashcroft’s son. It’s a small point in the debate, and if challenged he can always say he meant everyone’s sons, including Ashcroft’s, removing the statemnt from context. I heard it in context. He didn’t mean anything remotely like that. In the debate that is swarming around the NIE documents released, the cautious wording of the report gives props to W. That report may be wrong. It may be politically shaded to tell the president what he wants to hear. It may be stupid. But it says what it says, not its opposite. Joe Biden knows that most people aren’t going to read it, and will only be able to hold the earlier-leaked “we’re creating more terrorists” thought in their heads.

Is he running for president again?


copithorne said...

Other than "I did not have sex with that woman." what lies did Bill Clinton tell?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Just last week he had a whole series: "you never asked the Republicans these questions...The Republicans accused me of being obsessed with bin Laden...Dick Clarke's book says we had a plan in place..." Those are not matters of opinion, but of fact. And they aren't true.

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled on your blog and this was a great post. You have quite a way of painting with words.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Thanks for stopping by. It's a small group, and we get to know each other a bit.