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March 25, 2008

The "Judas" Argument for Obama

The minor dust-up over James Carville’s reaction to Governor Richardson’s endorsement of Barak Obama says as much as anything else might about the appeal of the Illinois senator. Drawing attention to its Easter week timing, Carville told the New York Times “Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic.” When feathers were ruffled, Carville took the opportunity the next day to reiterate his own analogy. He told the Times, and anyone who cared to listen, “I was quoted accurately and in context, and I was glad to give the quote and I was glad I gave it. I'm not apologizing, I'm not resigning, I'm not doing anything." He explained that Richardson’s action should be “branded” for what it was, and he was satisfied that his remark accomplished that goal.

Fair enough—but who cares?

I know I don’t. In fact, it only underscores the point that David Gergen made a few nights ago that, given the Clintons’ virtual sponsorship of Richardson’s career, the endorsement required a bit of courage. So, we have conflicting narratives. And in the contest between “Richardson the Judas” and “Richardson the Courageous,” the only thing that surprises me is that Carville would think that John Q. Public would be moved by the narrative of betrayal. Sure, betray your country and you hang. Betray your people and you’re shamed into exile. Betray an idea and you’re stigmatized as a, well, a politician. But, betray your benefactor over a matter of conscience and they write sonnets for you.

Unless, of course, the “they” are the insiders you’ve betrayed. And that’s the point. The problem with the Judas analogy is not (as I suppose some hand-wringers fret) that the remark was distasteful, or beyond the pale. (Carville certainly knew it wasn’t.) Moreover, I certainly wouldn’t begrudge them the right to feel hurt and abused. (Lordy, who wouldn’t?) No, the real problem is that they shared their feelings with us, made it public, because they thought we would care. And in so thinking, the remark illustrates perfectly the extent to which the Clintons confuse and conflate their own careers with the public interest. They seem to assume that to betray them is to betray us all. Precisely the kind of ego-driven, self-interested, insider politics that Obama stands in opposition to.

Posted by stevemack at 04:04 PM | Comments (0)

"A Whitman for our Time."
- Jerome Loving,
"Stephen John Mack's The Pragmatic Whitman: Reimagining American Democracy, [is] The most thoroughly informed philosophical reading of Whitman to appear in decades. Mack develops the premise . . . That Whitman shares with John Dewey a vision of democracy as a 'civic religion' in America, a profoundly secularist and progressive perspective.

- M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Texas A & M University
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