Jiu Jitsu

The U.S. presidential campaign is turning into a Jiu Jitsu match, in which each side turns its opponent’s attacks back upon themselves. For example, in recent weeks the McCain campaign has been attempting to turn one of Obama’s own greatest strengths against him, by characterizing him as a “celebrity” – an interesting attempt to convert Obama’s very charisma into a liability.

A weakness of this strategy is that McCain supporters are not stupid. They may disagree with Obama’s proposed policies, but they know that he is not Britney Spears or Paris Hilton, and they know full well (even if they are loathe to admit it) that they are being talked down to by the McCain campaign.

And sure enough, the Obama camp devised a counter-Jiu Jitsu of its own. Realizing the weakness of the McCain campaign’s rhetoric – by promoting an unsupportable myth the McCain camp had exposed its own soft pink underbelly – Obama lay low and bided his time, allowing the McCain folks plenty of opportunities to repeat the comment ad nauseum, letting his opponents believe that they were scoring a victory each time they uttered the word “celebrity”.

Which set the stage perfectly for Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Rather than soaring rhetoric, instead of ringing pronouncements about The Audacity of Hope, Obama showed the nation his real strength – his ability to speak to specific issues, to clearly frame the differences between his positions and the positions of his opponent, and to use those differences to tear apart his opponent’s case on the merits. After all – for anybody who’s been paying attention – this is a skill Obama has been continually developing since his days running the Harvard Law Review two decades ago.

All of which ends up making the major recent talking point of the McCain campaign look rather silly. On the other hand, the McCain camp immediately followed with some new Jiu Jitsu of its own – it arranged for its candidate to select a woman as his running mate. And not just any woman! Governor Palin is adamantly against women’s reproductive rights and has no experience whatsoever with either national or international policy.

I just read the following comment about her, from a Republican delegate: “She hunts. She fishes. She is an environmentalist.” Trying to unravel that thought makes my head hurt – as though Madonna had actually said “McCain is like Hitler, because some of his best friends are Jews.”

Come to think of it, picking Palin is not as much a threat to Obama as it is a threat to women – the gender equivalent of appointing Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. If Hillary Clinton had made it to the White House – whether you agree with her policies or not – we would most likely have had a seasoned and capable chief executive, with a clear view of national and international policy. Her tenure in the Oval Office would have cleared a path for future female U.S. presidents.

But if, for whatever reason, McCain cannot serve out his term and Palin should become president, her complete lack of experience at the national or international level and her strong stand against women’s rights will ensure that it might be another century before either party will be able to rally women voters to support a woman for president.

Hmm. Maybe the McCain folks are better at this Jiu Jitsu stuff than I’d thought…

6 Responses to “Jiu Jitsu”

  1. troy says:

    I’m curious where you came up with the “she is against women’s reproductive rights” part. I don’t believe this is true. Clearly she has reproduced and I understand that she believes that women (as well as men) also have the right to reproduce.

    If it is an anti-abortion issue that you are giving the “reproductive rights” misnomer, I would argue that a woman has the ability and right to reproduce. My argument is that once she does reproduce, she does not have the right to speak to the detriment of those who cannot yet speak.

    Your closing statement, you posit that Palin has a “strong stand against women’s rights” again, here, I’m confused. Which rights is she opposed to?

    I’m also curious why you can’t unravel “She hunts. She fishes. She is an environmentalist”. Those who hunt and fish are some of the largest contributers to environmental issues. There are many organizations such as Ducks Unlimited that works to promote and sustain migratory waterfowl and Trout Unlimited that spends huge amounts of money cleaning up rivers and streams and going after polluters, poachers, and encroachers to protect native fish species.

    If you think about it, hunters are outdoor oriented and have more at stake with the preservation of forests, wild space, wetlands, etc. because they use it. Hunting licensing and regulation promotes a natural balance with human encroachment on predators. There are many areas where deer populations would explode causing an unnatural inbalance and deforestation if herds were not “culled” by hunters. There are less natural predators such as wolves, mountain lions, etc. to keep these populations in check.

    Environmentalism is a lifestyle-affecting cause for any hunter/fisher as it affects what they like to do. Wilderness is not just an abstraction that they admire from afar. If the statement was “She’s a tract home developer. She builds smelting facilites. She’s an environmentalist.” Then I’d agree that it was similar to your Hitler comparison. Otherwise, I think it makes perfect sense.

  2. admin says:

    Troy, I think these are both questions about what constitutes an individual, and they are both questions of first principles, so while we can explain our points of view to each other, I don’t think either you nor I will be changing the first principles behind those respective points of view.

    From the perspective you describe (and from which Governor Palin operates) an individual, deserving of the right to exist, starts from the moment of conception. Many don’t agree, but it’s not the kind of disagreement that can be argued – it’s a metaphysical disagreement. Which, as we’ve all seen, has a very strong bearing on the lives of women.

    Also, from the perspective you describe (and from which Palin operates) an individual, deserving of the right to exist, must be human. If you start from a different first principle – that non-humans also have individual lives – then you also get to environmentalism, but of a very different kind. And not necessarily a mere abstraction.

    What the the two issues have in common (to which I was obliquely alluding in my tongue-in-cheek post) is that these are both issues that divide people largely along religious versus secularist lines. Governor Palin starts from a solid traditionally Christian set of values – that a woman has a fundamental obligation to subjugate her individuality to what is happening inside her womb, and that humans have dominion over all other species.

    To me these two positions symbolize a religious mind-set, an implicit assertion that “goodness” and ethics in this country should fundamentally derive from a Christian set of values. Clearly I don’t think that this set of assumptions has led us to a good place as a nation in recent years, in either our domestic or our foreign policies – hence the tone of my post.

    I appreciate that you don’t agree. As I said, these differences are rooted in fundamental metaphysical assumptions, and so they are not really arguable. You and I may need just to disagree on these underlying first principles and leave it at that.

  3. Andras says:

    Clearly, Sarah Palin’s preservationist instincts inform her environmentalism

    Ronald Reagan said “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”. If there is such a thing as a self-fulfilling aphorism then Governor Palin, a proud Republican Vagina-American as Samantha B. would name her, proves that a woman’s place is in the igloo.

    p.s. If I can be cloned from my body’s cells then are all my non-cloned cells little children that will never be? Just asking.

  4. admin says:

    I should hasten to add, before things get out of hand, that my mention of “Hitler” in this context was actually a poke at Madonna’s recent unfortunate remark. I do think, from what I see so far, that all four – Obama, Biden, McCain and Palin – sincerely believe they are serving their country, and that Palin seems to be a very decent and ethical individual.

    That said, I have seen nothing as yet to indicate that Palin would be qualified to step up to the presidency, should it ever come to that, whereas I have seen much to suggest that she operates from what I consider to be an extreme, even radical, political and social viewpoint, and I find that very worrisome.

  5. Andras says:

    Secondary reaction:

    Jiu Jitsu involves transforming your opponents strength into a weakness.

    By selecting a 44 year old political neophyte for a running mate and demonstrating his apparent belief that Hillary supporters can be lured to his side by literally nothing more than estrogen, McCain transforms his opponent’s biggest weakness into a strength.

    McCain thereby demonstrates that the inverse of political jiu jitsu is slap stick.

  6. troy says:

    Andras, never underestimate the ability to manipulate a Hillary supporter… 🙂

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