Nicholas Lemann’s interesting Talk of the Town piece pokes through the ashes of one of the great original Cold War threatmongering sets, The Committee on The Present Danger. That Committee, formed in the McCarthy era to wrest anti-communism from the vulgar and demagogic and relocate it on a higher echelon – namely, Harvard – was headed by James Conant, the great patron of Thomas Kuhn, and one of Harvard’s “forward looking” presidents. Lemann points out that the first Committee was formed to advocate for a universal draft. And one of Conant’s assistants on this ultimately quixotic quest was John Kerry’s father.
Lemann’s history lesson backgrounds the spurious reconstruction of the Committee on The Present Danger, run by your usual assortment of neocon Post Office Wanted types: Joe Lieberman, Newt Gingrich, and the rest of the breathy, self-regarding crowd. They generated a little excitement by hiring an ex Reagan admin. employee who had been capturing a stream of revenue for his little ones by fronting for Jorg Haider’s neo-Nazis in D.C. Unfortunately, in a display of callousness towards the rules of the capitalist game, after word leaked that Peter Hannaford had fed on Haider’s leftovers, the man was tossed. But, according to the CPD, this is no time for distracting controversies. No, we have at least two more wars to drum up under the indefatigable leadership of George Bush. The Committee wants us to be aware of the militant Islamic threat. And the two major threats are, you guessed it, the Palestinians and the Iranians.
D.C. has been described as Hollywood for ugly people. These ugly people are, in fact, exceedingly Hollywoodish, having contrived one absolute bomb – the occupation of Iraq – and moving on to the occupation of Iraq 2: Iran, the evil twin. One’s faith in Kerry, who seems unable to mount a critique of the worst foreign policy disaster since the Vietnam war, wavers – until we realize what goodies the Bush culture has hidden up its sleeve. In another lifetime -- say, in 2000 -- I would dismiss that as stupid threatmongering of another order. Sure, extremists hang around the Republican party, but the outlines of foreign and domestic policy don't change that much. Now, of course, that isn't true. It is only too easy to see Bush charging into Iran, with an inadequate force, and killing tens of thousands of Iranians, and thousands of Americans, in pursuit of the Crusade: to make the world safe for Christianity.
This is not an election between two of the best and the brightest, but between a mad evangelical gunslinger and the town’s creepy High Church minister. What we need is to paint everything in America red -- a la High Plains Drifter -- and elect a willing midget president.