I’ve noticed an increase sense of cynicism lately about the way I think and write about American politics. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s probably the usual dull realisation that one administration is about to be followed by another administration that will largely disappoint me.
But perhaps that makes it sound worse than it is.
I’m certain that any Biden administration would be infinitely superior to Trump’s in the places where it matters. It won’t swing crazily into the outside lane all the time, pandering to extremists, or generally treating politics as cynically as Trump has done for the past four years. Yet in recent days, I’ve also been reminded of my long-standing frustration with Democrats, who are too often ineffective in the moments when they’re called to make a difference.
I somewhat stupidly sat and listened to five hours of William Barr’s testimony yesterday as I was drawing. In the dim shadows cast by my 40-watt brain, I thought I might actually want to write about it today. By the end, I was happy to turn off the lamp and go to bed.
Barr was shameless. There’s not much more one can say about that, though if I was forced to do so, I’d say that I was surprised at how shameless he was. He reminded me of the school bully who had been expelled so many times that he knows there’s nothing and no one that can touch him. Barr’s attitude was too often a shrug and a “so what?” His attitude towards Democrats was that he just didn’t care. There was nothing they could do to punish him. Somebody needed to remind him that they could. Or perhaps they can’t. He also reminded me of a man who has only months to live. He really did have that far way look that Michael Douglas develops in Falling Down. If you’ve ever wondered what looking into an existential void feels like, simply look at William Barr’s face.
Democrats, on the whole, were pretty underwhelming. I know Republicans are playing a game when they get prissy about the process. If the roles were reversed, they’d be laying into the Attorney General rather than lobbing him softballs and tickling all three of his chins. However, I found myself agreeing with their complaints. Democrats just didn’t want to hear what Barr had to say. They rarely afforded him a right to reply and instead simply made speeches for the cameras.
The argument in favour of their approach was that it allowed Barr less time to spin nonsense about Antifa and violent protests.
Against the approach: it just made them look histrionic and as bad as Republicans.
Yet perhaps I shouldn’t be so rough on them. Yesterday was a reminder that America will still have a badly flawed system once this president has gone. Giving interrogators 5 minutes and then docking them the time it takes the witness to reply is simply an invitation to witnesses to do what Barr did: claim he didn’t hear half the questions and ask that they be repeated. There surely has to be a better way. Constantly they’d ask him as simple question and he’s pick it apart. “Don’t worry, the answer is X” they’d reply, quickly because they were so aware of the clock.
It was also shocking how they didn’t hit him with simple questions that weren’t easy to spin. The few that did were a class apart. I’ve said lots of things about Eric Swalwell over the years, especially about his love of the camera, but he’s always impressive in committee. It’s easy to be distracted from noticing what a good politician he’s become. Val Demmings too, though it’s harder to overlook how good she is since she’d still be a good outside bet for the VP slot. Myself, I still think Harris has it but in a way I’d prefer the longer odds for Demmings. She’s from Florida which will be a key state. Biden leads at the moment but I’m minded by Rick Wilson’s advice. He says that if Biden is leading by 10% then the state is tied.
Another who surprises me – to the extent that I’m always surprised that people don’t speak about her more often – is Mary Gay Scanlon from Pennsylvania. Just an understated but intelligent politician who knows how to marshal her material. All three, I thought, really got under Barr’s skin, especially around the subject of Roger Stone. The more he said about Stone, the guiltier that he, Stone, and Trump began to look.
Right, tonight I want to finish some cartoons. I’m going to replace the baby in my meal cartoon. I think it was too on the nose. I’ve been a vegetarian all my life but I’ve never made that a conscious decision. Since I was a child, I’ve never understood the appeal of meat (red meat in particular) and I don’t know why. It just seems like a weird thing to eat and, to put it bluntly, I’ve never quite got over the reality that you’re eating something that once had an arsehole (or, indeed, you might be chewing on a bit of anal meat along with the usual beak and gristle).
All my life, however, I’ve been told to not judge a food until I’ve tasted it and every time I have to explain all of the above. Hence the baby in the cartoon. To me it’s that level of “obvious”. I mean, it even transcends moral choice. I don’t know much about the ethics of eating meat. I don’t even know much about the pros and cons. I just can’t get over that fundamental hesitation I have about eating something that might once have been running around or harbouring something akin to a consciousness. Maybe I was a Buddhist in a previous life, though I’m not sure that makes much sense either. I thought they only reincarnated as plant pots or wind chimes.