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Oct 03 2013

I’m Jealous of Charles Pierce

I only recently discovered the writing of Charles Pierce, who blogs for Esquire, and I’m rapidly becoming jealous of him. I’m a good writer, I know, but he is such a brilliant wordsmith that I envy him. Just take a look at this passage about the shutdown, which is as on-target as it is eloquent.

We have elected an ungovernable collection of snake-handlers, Bible-bangers, ignorami, bagmen and outright frauds, a collection so ungovernable that it insists the nation be ungovernable, too. We have elected people to govern us who do not believe in government.

We have elected a national legislature in which Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann have more power than does the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who has been made a piteous spectacle in the eyes of the country and doesn’t seem to mind that at all. We have elected a national legislature in which the true power resides in a cabal of vandals, a nihilistic brigade that believes that its opposition to a bill directing millions of new customers to the nation’s insurance companies is the equivalent of standing up the the Nazis in 1938, to the bravery of the passengers on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, and to Mel Gibson’s account of the Scottish Wars of Independence in the 13th Century. We have elected a national legislature that looks into the mirror and sees itself already cast in marble.

We did this. We looked at our great legacy of self-government and we handed ourselves over to the reign of morons.

He’s also fairly cynical about the prospects that even this level of utter absurdity will do much to change it:

What is there to be done? The first and most important thing is to recognize how we came to this pass. Both sides did not do this. Both sides are not to blame. There is no compromise to be had here that will leave the current structure of the government intact. There can be no reward for this behavior. I am less sanguine than are many people that this whole thing will redound to the credit of the Democratic party. For that to happen, the country would have to make a nuanced judgment over who is to blame that, I believe, will be discouraged by the courtier press of the Beltway and that, in any case, the country has not shown itself capable of making. For that to happen, the Democratic party would have to be demonstrably ruthless enough to risk its own political standing to make the point, which the Democratic party never has shown itself capable of doing. With the vandals tucked away in safe, gerrymandered districts, and their control over state governments probably unshaken by events in Washington, there will be no great wave election that sweeps them out of power. I do not see profound political consequences for enough of them to change the character of a Congress gone delusional.

I agree. Unfortunately. And I wish I could write that well on my best day.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    Doubting Thomas

    If only eloquence was a useful tool against stupidity.

  2. 2
    jenny6833a

    It’s an impassioned screed, with lots of big words, but he offers no real analysis, no solution, and not even a means of working towards one.

  3. 3
    laurentweppe

    If only eloquence was a useful tool against stupidity.

    This is not stupidity: this is Malice. Throw your hanlon’s razor in the trash can, the only thing you’re cutting with it is yourself.

  4. 4
    Modusoperandi

    Don’t worry. Look to a Brighter Future. The Death Panels with get ‘em.

  5. 5
    thascius

    @2-and what solution do you think he should have suggested? If President Obama and the Democrats make any concession at this point they will simply be validating the Tea Party’s strategy and guaranteeing another round of hostage taking as soon as another deadline approaches. It’s been pointed out that even the so-called “clean resolution” gives the Republicans almost all of their demands regarding the budget, including leaving the sequester intact and a level of federal spending only slightly higher than the Ryan budget proposal. The only real solution is for the Republicans to lose, and lose so clearly that they don’t try this tactic again.
    And on a side note, just imagine what the people cheering the Tea Partiers would be saying if a Democratic House was shutting down the government to force unwanted policies on a Republican president. They’d be screaming bloody murder.

  6. 6
    Geds

    jeny68331 @2: It’s an impassioned screed, with lots of big words, but he offers no real analysis, no solution, and not even a means of working towards one.

    Yes, and? What exactly is your proposal to solve the problem of Charlie Pierce not writing in the manner you prefer and how do you intend to achieve those ends? I notice that you offered neither in your impassioned screed.

  7. 7
    Reginald Selkirk

    Pierce occasionally shows up on NPR’s news quiz show, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. He keeps himself well informed.

  8. 8
    timberwoof

    Well, hell. I read, “We did this. We looked at our great legacy of self-government and we handed ourselves over to the reign of morons,” and realized that a Godwin is inevitable. You see, I come from a country where [i]We did this. We looked at our great legacy of self-government and we handed ourselves over to the reign of … assholes.[/i] That should be the first lesson of all that “Never Forget” stuff that so many people like to use to point at those damn Germans.

    Jeny, actually, Charlie Pierce did offer a solution: “The Democratic party would have to be demonstrably ruthless enough to risk its own political standing to make the point.” People have been saying for years that the Democratic Party should grow some glands and adopt some radical liberalism: “Be nice or else!”

    But that’s only part of the problem. The Democrats won’t do that as long as they too are owned by the corporate interests.

  9. 9
    David C Brayton

    …the Democratic party would have to be demonstrably ruthless enough to risk its own political standing to make the point, which the Democratic party never has shown itself capable of doing.

    Bingo. Harry Reid has the leadership backbone of wet tissue paper. The Democrats simply can’t pull it together and be in front of any issue. They are reactive to the antics of the Republicans. They simply don’t do a good job of politicking.

  10. 10
    rabbitscribe

    Really- you’d never heard of Charles Pierce? Boy, are you in for a treat. His main gig is as a sportswriter for the Boston Herald. Great stuff.

    And I wish I could write that well on my best day.

    I shall artfully dodge the question of who is the better writer overall and disagree with that point specifically. In my opinion, your best day so far was the day you composed Obama: Liar, Fraud, Disaster. That’s as good as anything anybody short of a Twain or Mencken ever wrote. If you decide to try and top yourself, you could do worse than simply update it. Cheers!

  11. 11
    tmscott

    Hey Ed,
    IMHO you neglected the best part. Pierce’s opening paragraph so completely sums up the situation, so deftly, and so clearly that it rings like a bell.

  12. 12
    keithb

    He is on Stephanie Miller every Tuesday.

    He is great at Nicknames. Paul Ryan is the “zombie-eyed granny-starver”.

  13. 13
    archfiend

    Hey, no fair! I quoted that yesterday!

    http://the-archfiend.livejournal.com/219424.html

    But yeah, it’s an awesome example of polemical writing to say the least.

  14. 14
    brundlefly

    Pierce is pretty great, but I wish he would give his little crutch words a break. I could do without reading “Tigerbeat on the Potomac” or “gobshites” for a while.

  15. 15
    irisvanderpluym

    You of all people needn’t be jealous, Mr. Brayton. You are a fine writer and thinker. Mr. Pierce, like Mr. Obama, is certainly a gifted wordsmith to be sure. But that gift is by no means a reflection of one’s ethics, values, rationality, intellectual rigor or integrity.

    Another view: http://vastleft.blogspot.com/2012/10/charles-p-pierces-cynical-defense-of.html?m=1

  16. 16
    Doc Bill

    Charles Pierce is a gem! He even emailed back a gushing fan (me). Go figger. Oh, wait, I once ate ribs with Ed in Austin.

    Enough name dropping, as I once commented to the Queen.

    Pierce wrote “Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free,” a great read and depressingly true in a humorous way. Laughed ’til I cried.

    He’s also on NPR a lot – game shows, sports shows and, I think, Political Wednesday.

  17. 17
    bobcarroll

    Ed, that piece was beautifully written. But my nitpicking nerve was twitching when he used “presently” to mean “currently’ or “now,” when it clearly means “soon” or ” in a little while.” Yes, words change their meanings. But the reason for this shift is the shiftless thinking of those who care little for meaning in English.

  18. 18
    lancifer

    Certainly well written, but mostly a petty harangue.

    I like his stuff on Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me! but he is more of a rotten egg tosser than a political analyst.

    Perhaps “political satirist” best describes his work.

  19. 19
    Set Kouwenhoven

    Purely by coincidence, I was listening to Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship” as I read this, and tears came to eyes. They multiplied as music and text coagulated to form a most beautiful eulogy for our great nation.

  20. 20
    David Empey

    bobcarroll, you can let your nitpicking nerve relax about “presently” , which has meant “at present” continuously since 1485.

  21. 21
    bobcarroll

    Thanks, David! It is now about as relaxed as possible.

  22. 22
    grumpyoldfart

    When Christians latch on to an idea they hang on pretty tight.

    * The Dark Ages lasted 600 years.
    * Crusades were all the rage for another 200 years.
    * And the Inquisitions went on for about 600 hundred years.
    * During the19th century Christianity was almost overwhelmed by scientific advancement.
    * Now the true believers are experimenting with fundamentalism.

    Pierce predicts more of the same. I think he’s right.

  23. 23
    cry4turtles

    @#1 Doubting Thomas, and remember- Stupid hurts.

  24. 24
    Dave Maier

    Set @19: Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship”

    What a great track, from possibly my favorite disc ever.

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