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I’ve been away for the past week so over the next few days I’m going to catch up by posting some of the best stories and items I read on vacation. First up is this terrific piece by James Wolcott, which should be savored word by delicious word. In it, Wolcott eviscerates former Senator Bob Kerrey (“one of those bipartisan junkies who thinks the only way to solve America’s problems is to glue an Abe Lincoln beard on Sam Waterston and heed his craggy wisdom”) for the unsolicited advice he recently offered Barack Obama on how to conduct himself with John McCain. Obama should handle Kerrey’s advice “with tongs and dispose of in a plastic baggy,” Wolcott writes:
Kerrey’s message to the Democratic victor is that he should take the initiative and strike a preemptive note of cooperative assent with his opponent, emphasizing their shared goals instead of sharpening and highlighting their differences. “From this comes a modest proposal and an immodest wish: That Obama begin now to look for opportunities to say to McCain: ‘I agree with you on that.’” Stuffing words into Obama’s mouth, Kerrey offers a rollcall of issues on which Obama can reach out and ally himself with McCain…
This is so wrong I barely know where to begin. First of all, it’s boring–if Obama wants to disillusion even more Democrats than he has recently, the best way to do it is by mouthing mush such as, “I agree with you about the need for a comprehensive solution to immigration–help me help you help me to help America.” And what is John McCain going to be doing while Obama is doing all this agreeing?–he isn’t going to face pressure from the Republican side to make similar overtures to Obama. The voters, watching Obama strike one note of harmony with McCain after another, are going to think, Hell, if McCain is right on so many issues, why not just vote for him to begin with? Why go for the echo when you can have the golden-oldie original? The time for Obama to be conciliatory and solicit McCain’s help in the Senate is after he’s beaten his ass in the general election, not before.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”