…So I went to a performance of Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale at the Kennedy Center the other night. It was directed by Edward Hall, the son of Sir Peter, and performed by an all-male British company called Propeller. The performance was lively and energetic and had particular fun — as you might expect — with the sheep-sheering in Act IV. Perhaps it was because the female parts were all taken by men, but the company avoided any real engagement with the moral and spiritual issues raised by the play. They galloped through the first three acts, had a wild party in the fourth and then in the fifth blew a raspberry not only at the recent conventions of the theatre but at Shakespeare himself. For the final scene — in which King Leontes is finally made spiritually whole after 16 years of bitter penitence for having made a false accusation against his wife, Queen Hermione, and his best friend, Polixenes, his lost child is returned, he is reconciled to Polixenes and Camillo and the statue of Queen Hermione comes to life — is all played as a dream. It ends with Leontes alone on the stage, all his happy recoveries having turned away and abandoned him as they fade away into the starry darkness. Thus do Mr. Hall and Propeller take a play about the possibility of redemption and turn it into a play about the impossibility of redemption. The only question is, do they or do they not reckon they’re giving us our Shakespearean money’s worth? What are we complaining about, after all? All the Shakespearean words are there, aren’t they? My guess is that they don’t even care that they have flipped the play’s meaning. The point was merely to show off their own cleverness in showing that it could so easily be flipped. That’s post-modernism to a T.
The recent suicide bombing of a Jordanian wedding in Amman, like last Friday’s of a mosque in Khanaqin, Kurdistan, are reminders that the enemy takes rather a different view from the Democrats about those famous links between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. The opposition to President Bush grows ever more shrill in insisting that there was no such link and that therefore the invasion of Iraq was a completely gratuitous act on the President’s part. But what is the link between a wedding party in Jordan or worshippers in an Iraqi mosque and the jihadists’ supposed sense of grievance against the U.S. and her allies? The woman would-be bomber who survived the blast in Amman claimed to have been avenging her brothers who had been killed by American troops. But what had their deaths got to do with a wedding party in Jordan? She seemed to take it for granted that her act would be understood as a natural response to her brothers’ deaths. In the same way, it seems probable that al-Qaeda very well understood that the American invasion of Iraq was a natural response to 9/11, even if the Democrats never have understood it. In an honor culture, attacking the family and friends of your enemy is often a more devastating riposte than attacking the enemy himself.
It’s no surprise, of course, but what the media and their political allies don’t seem to understand about the debate on torture is that it’s not really about torture at all but about who gets to define what torture is. Those who would write statutory restrictions on torture into the law would take that power away from the security forces who are carrying out all the most dangerous operations against a ruthless enemy and hand it over to judges, or international bodies, who may well have a political agenda of their own. You don’t have to be in favor of torture to be against handing over to the highly politicized opponents of the war yet another stick with which they can beat the administration. For the same reason, endless disingenuous calls like that of Richard Cohen last Thursday for the President to admit his mistakes in the conduct of the war have no other end than weakening him politically and so curtailing his ability to continue conducting the war. In politics, no one ever acknowledges a mistake unless the acknowledgement is itself for political advantage. Could it be that Richard Cohen doesn’t know this? But of course he’s only pretending not to know it, because the call for confession or apology is also a political maneuver on the part of the opposition.
As I was passing along the street on Friday, I heard some guy who was handing out leaflets talking about “LaRouche’s plan for rebuilding the country.” There you have it, yet another exercise in LaRouchean solipsism (see my “Beast-Man Politics” from the New Criterion of February, 2004). It has long been a commonplace that American politics is flirting with narcissism, but this may be its true destination: where every politician gets to define for himself the political realities his policies are designed to deal with. So far as Lyndon LaRouche is concerned, it’s always 1933 and FDR’s first hundred days are about to begin. Rebuilding the country. What is the man talking about? We’ve just had more than 20 years of almost continuous economic growth. Building and rebuilding have been going on for decades, but LaRouche isn’t going to change his portfolio of measures designed for a country in ruins. That’s how he fancies himself coming into office, like a second FDR, and he’s not about to change it just because reality has changed in the last 70 years. And yet today, he’s not the only Democrat living in his own political world. That’s the point President Bush was trying to make in attacking those who would “re-write history.” Once again, LaRouchism begins to look like the future of the Democratic Party.