Edge of Apocalypse: pages 73-77 (Chapter Fifteen)
Now we’re back to Washington, D.C.
I’m going to warn you: if you thought you’d seen enough of the bizarro world LaHaye and other RTCs (and indeed some political conservatives generally) inhabit with regard to how left-wing politics operates, you really ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Let’s start out by meeting the president, Virgil Corland. As students of Roman history will know, Virgil was a Roman poet and lyricist. Kind of an oddly appropriate name for a politician, who needs to be good with words as part of his or her job description. 🙂
Although I couldn’t find anything useful on “Corland”, if one regards it as a corruption of “Cortland”, one finds that it is (Pearl clutch!) Old French in origin! Land sakes! (Actually I have also found that it can be Dutch, but given the way Americans bash the French sometimes…)
“Inside the White House, the violent images flashing across the panel of Internet television screens deeply troubled President Virgil Corland. He shook his head and wondered exactly how much PR damage was going to result from the coverage of heavily equipped riot police overpowering unarmed truckers in the heart of the nation’s capital.
Corland fidgeted uncomfortably in his swivel chair like a man with a bad back problem.
‘I don’t like what I’m seeing here, Hank. You’d think this was Somalia, not Washington.’
Chief of Staff Henry Strand was seated near the president on a white leather sofa, nodding in agreement. He too was concerned with the fiasco taking place down the street and over the airwaves, but he wasn’t about to let it show.”
Ok, already we’re beginning to get an unflattering portrait of this man. Notice how he cares more about the “PR damage” from a riot than the fact that there was one in the first place and that there will be people injured, perhaps dead, and feelings will be running high.
Incidentally, given Libertarian fantasizing, I find it amusing that LaHaye and Parshall explicitly contrast the USA and Somalia, even though the latter is held up as a daring Libertarian paradisaical experiment by people who wouldn’t go there for a million bucks. Oddly like how the Soviet Union used to be praised by people who didn’t know a damn thing about the nasty secrets they were hiding from the outside world.
Moving on. We get some back story via the television news:
“The president’s eye was then drawn to the third screen from the left where a young female reporter, standing with a mic along Constitution Avenue, was about to go live. With his remote, Corland selected that particular screen’s volume and pumped it up.
‘The protesting truckers,’ the reporter announced, ‘are angry with the administration’s recent decision to allow the four-month-old federal gas-rationing initiative to remain in place for the trucking industry. Last month, President Corland sent special envoys to OPEC and Russia to try and resolve the oil crisis that has been escalating since August of last year. The administration’s resolution to lift the rationing order for some industries and not others has been controversial, particularly with our continuing financial crisis. Most Americans realize that a crippled trucking industry will lead to even higher prices for goods. And with the president’s approval rating dwindling in recent weeks due to…'”
In principle, selective application of rationing could work; I seem to recall that during World War II, the OPA was given some discretion on allowing or disallowing price increases. John Kenneth Galbraith wrote about one time he ended up negotiating that a company could raise some prices if it agreed to lower others, and he signed off.
However, this required an environment far more conducive to national solidarity than in the 2000s and 2010s where years of catering to self-centeredness and selfishness in ways large and small have diminished the federal government’s capability to effectively administer prices and wages. A smaller version of this happened in the 1970s, when Nixon’s imminent wage and price controls meant people scrambled to fire workers, raise prices, or even raise wages, before the controls went in. I’ll be making reference back to the Nixon controls later, so keep an eye out.
So the bottom line is, economic problems are being responded to by trying to keep the price of fuel from exploding. I find it always a laughing matter when economists insist that if the government just let the price of oil and gas spike upwards without restraint, the magic of the market will immediately solve the economic dislocations that causes.
As Keynes once said, “In the long run we are all dead.” Certainly, letting the market “work things out” might fix stuff, but these things take years sometimes.
The better trade-off is to sometimes accept smaller economic dislocations in the form of rationing rather than a larger one in the form of such high prices that nobody can afford anything, resulting in the government choosing to print more money to temporarily solve the problem (which, as the most recent example of Zimbabwe has proven) leads down a road to a veritable Grand Canyon of problems.
Ok, now for the bizarro stuff. It’s amazing what these RTCs and their political kissing cousins believe.
“Corland huffed as he squeezed the mute button quite a bit harder than necessary. ‘Who is this woman? I don’t recognize her. She must be new.’
‘A recent hire,’ Strand responded. ‘I’ll have Finley talk to her boss this afternoon. As you know, Mr. President, it’s sometimes difficult to control these kinds of media events when they’re happening live. I wouldn’t get worked up too much over this. By seven p.m., after all the network anchors have signed off from their nightly newscasts, the majority of the American people will believe that you are the hero and that these foul-mouthed truckers are the bad guys. Because that’s what they’ll have been told to believe.'”
So not only do they believe ‘liberals’ still control the media, they also believe that ‘liberals’ think Americans are stupid and easily led around.
It’s kind of ironic how the kind of behavior and commentary you see above is probably far more likely to be realistically portrayed between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Tight control-of-message-in-the-media is a staple of right-wing governments, because for some reason, they just don’t seeem to quite believe in their fatuous rhetoric about people knowing their own minds better than the government. It’s happened in Alberta and BC where all government public relations stuff is now funnelled through “Public Affairs Bureaus” which keep all the government ministries on-message and on track.
In the US, one needs only remember people like Ari Fleischer, who would act patronizingly toward the members of the media. I seem to recall that the Bush Administration also practiced the habit of punishing or rewarding reporters depending on how they reported on the President.
Also, the very last line could far more easily be applied to the way many Americans still believe Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11 – because that’s what George W. Bush told them to believe, because he repeated that lie so many times himself.
So psychological projection is occurring here. Fascinating. Just fascinating.
“Strand continued. ‘I don’t know how heated this thing is going to get, but we’ll make sure our PR people get us booked on the Sunday shows just in case. We can send our assistant secretary of commerce, Bud Meyerling, over to handle the TV stuff. He’s great on the talkinghead shows. Two weeks from now, no one will remember any of this. The streets will be clear.’
‘Hank, I hope you’re right. But you and I both know nobody watches those Sunday shows,’ Corland replied with a slight laugh. ‘Heck, they’re not even watching the nightly news anymore. Who knows? Maybe the conservatives are on to us.'”
I swear, are these guys even for real?
This is one of those I-don’t-even-get-it times when I just wonder what Earth LaHaye and Parshall actually live on. The stuff these fictional White House characters are saying sounds like it’s been taken straight from the mouths of the Bush Administration and just remixed a little.
Because I know my own political ideology’s basic nature and it’s one that’s fundamentally inimical to the idea of military-style command-and-control over media messaging. (To be honest, we could use a little more of it, but going too far can create situations where the government feels it perfectly fine to treat citizens like children)
Notice, again, that these folks are essentially caricatures of Democrats – much as I noted in a previous chapter regarding how LaHaye and Parshall have written this book.
Now for the next bit. Brace yourselves, folks, because you’ve gotta just shake your head and wonder what the hell LaHaye and Parshall were smoking to come up with this:
“Strand paused for a moment before reacting, unsure whether or not Corland was trying to be funny. “I’m sure some of them are, Mr. President.”
“So what’s the latest timetable for keeping this inflation business going?” Corland asked. “Remember, I’m the one who’s taking the brunt of the blame for it.”
“Sir, as you know, this economic crisis is actually helpful in moving our global agenda forward. We can get a lot more things pushed through when the American people are sidetracked with concerns over their finances. Obama’s guys proved that a few years ago. The conservatives out there would want our hides if they knew what we were doing, just like they wanted to with Barack. But it’s to everybody’s benefit that we go global, even if the pick-up truck crowd in the Bible Belt does’t recognize it.””
Ok, let’s deal with the inflation bit first.
This kind of bait-and-switch about the economy would be worthy of a guy like Richard Nixon, who purposely pushed for expansionary fiscal and monetary policies at the same time as he kept wage and price controls going for two years to get him through an election. It’s kind of like trying to keep a car moving at a steady speed, not by setting cruise control, but by dragging a huge one-ton rock behind a car and using its mass to keep your speed steady as you put the pedal to the metal.
I mean, remember, Richard Nixon pulled this kind of crap with the US economy. It fell to the likes of Gerald Ford (a positive liberal by today’s standards) and Jimmy Carter to try and undo that mess, because Nixon’s early-70s economic expansion, causing inflation, ran smack into the OPEC shutdown of oil supplies in 1973, triggering an inflationary recession in 1974-75.
But it’s not surprising that LaHaye and Parshall would attribute nefarious economic maneuverings to a Democrat. Republicans, after all, believe in the magic of the market and would neeeeever purposely make the US dollar lose value EVAR! Trufax. But those mean ol’ Big-Government Democrats will debase the currency and take your money out of your wallet by any means! TRUFAX.
Now read that last paragraph. I mean, really read it. It’s absolutely stunning in the magnitude of the callousness attributed to Barack Obama’s Administration.
A Bush-era, Bush-precipitated, Republican-abetted economic crisis that Barack Obama made his mission to solve (and even on the SGS alternate measure of GDP growth there’s been a sharp bounceback which can be attributed to ARRA spending rather than that TARP bailout orchestrated by BushCo), is being re-interpreted and re-framed as just another trick by Democrats to pass their nefarious agenda.
It’s jaw-droppingly amazing what these people seem to think really happens in the world around them. Words on a screen just can’t convey this well enough. Even this emoticon doesn’t:
As we keep reading it’s like seeing Richard Nixon all over again:
“‘Hank, you’re stalling. How long?’
‘Till the end of next year.’
‘What? That’s cutting it awful close!’ Corland retorted.
‘It still gives us ten months before the November elections to get the economy back on track, which, of course, will be a direct result of your policies. You’ll easily win reelection. In fact, I predict a landslide,’ Strand reassured.”
Then we move to where this whole chapter links up with Joshua Jordan and the RTS-RGS.
“‘Yes, sir. The Pentagon is sending over the vice chairman.’
‘What’s his position on the North Korean incident?’
‘The Joint Chiefs have been informed of the secretary’s suggestion that we share our Return-to-Sender weapons technology with several other nations. However, several people at the Pentagon are opposed to the idea,’ Strand reported. ‘Hopefully we can get around them.’
‘Well, the Return-to-Sender technology would be a great leveraging tool. It’d be nice to get some more oil flowing in our direction. And more credit. We can never have too much of that. So what’s their objection?’ Corland asked.
‘They still have national-security concerns about other nations having the technology. You know, the risk of it being leaked to rogue nations or terrorists. Unfortunately, these Pentagon guys are really dug-in on this. They’re even arguing that the congressional committee ought to ease off a bit on Joshua Jordan. They don’t want him pressured into giving up his documents.'”
Ok. WTF? Do LaHaye and Parshall really believe that Democratic politicians would be this stupid and venal? American exceptionalism (and even just plain old national-security common sense) would militate strongly against even conceiving of the idea of giving up American primacy in the realm of being Nuclear Number One in the world.
Again, it’s just amazing what their caricatures of political liberals looks like in broad daylight on the printed page. If nothing else this book is a great look at figuring out why Republicans act the way they do.
Also notice the implication that Democrats, not Republicans, are the borrow-and-be-spendthrifts who don’t care that they’re mismanaging the American economy. Did the last near-decade just not exist? I mean, seriously.
Now let’s meet Madam Vice President. This is what makes me swear to God that LaHaye and Parshall think Democrats would act like McCain and Palin (or Bush and Cheney). Because every bit of this next part is like they think the interpersonal and political dynamics here between Republican politicians is all just someone’s imagination and that TRUFAX Democrats act like this:
The door to the Oval Office swung open, and Vice President Jessica Tulrude* confidently strode in. The forty-six-year-old brunette ex-senator had helped Corland take the swing states in the last election–aided by the media’s palpable love for this outspoken feminist.
‘Mr. President…Henry,’ she began, smiling politely.
‘Jessica, let’s talk about this briefing.’
‘Thank you, Mr. President,’ Tulrude responded, charging ahead without waiting for a wider opening. ‘It’s critical that we back up Secretary Danburg. He wants to begin immediate negotiations with the EU, Russia, India, and, of course, China, who, after all, remains our biggest financial creditor, to try to do something in terms of a swap–their economic chips to us in return for the RTS technology.'”
(Ed. Note: The star after the Veep’s name is mine. see the end of the text.)
Note the coded shout-out by calling her a “femimist” – she’s obviously a man-hating ball-busting you-know-what. *rolls eyes*
The ironic thing is that it’s poliicies of aiding and abetting the wealthy sectors of the US in exchange for political control by the right or center-right that have led to the very economic weakness that now, Democratic politicians are being fantasized as giving up vital national security in exchange for borrowed bits of paper. The delusion is strong with these ones, people.
Ok, more fantasizing about what those European peacenik socialists would do:
“‘Well,’ Tulrude offered, ‘the peace conference in Davos, Switzerland, is coming up soon. We haven’t responded to their invitation yet. We have a lot of nations outraged at us over this North Korean incident. The president of the European Union has called us ‘warlords’ because of our use of the RTS system.'”
Seriously, WTF? Satellite pics, weapons telemetry, radioisotope mass-spectrometry and gamma-ray spectra wouldn’t convince the whole world that the North Koreans did something so amazingly stupid it would take the intelligence of a rock to outsmart that?
LaHaye and Parshall really do seem to think that everybody outside the US just irrationally hates the US for no good reason, instead of realizing that bullying behavior is not attractive, but basic self-defence is justifiable.
Most people didn’t protest too hard when the USA invaded Afghanistan, considering that yeah, it was Osama Bin Laden and all, and booting the Taliban out is a way of saying “naughty, naughty” (even though that really stretches the self-defence doctrine).
“‘Is he still asking for proof that we didn’t provoke the North Korean navy into firing their nukes?’
‘Yes, as a matter of fact,’ Tulrude responded with eyebrows raised. ‘So this conference would provide an excellent platform for the administration to address the issue.'”
I swear, the way the authors are… they really don’t seem to get why the rest of the world might occasionally think the USA needs to back up what its government claims.
Then they go onto Joshua Jordan and discuss him, basically repeating what Senator Straworth was discussing.
“‘Yes, Mr. President…about the congressional hearings.’
‘It is an international embarrassment that this Joshua Jordan, a private defense contractor, is creating the impression that he’s holding the president and the U.S. Congress hostage by refusing to release information on his weapons technology.’
‘That’s valid,’ Corland agreed. ‘One single private citizen can’t be allowed to direct our national defense policy.'”
The Veep concludes by saying (dun-dun-DUN…!) “Don’t tolerate this man’s defiance. You must pin Joshua Jordan to the ground […] Pin him to the ground like you would any other criminal”.
Now, we’ll take a breather to digest this incredibly bizarro-worldview of the US’s political and economic issues. ‘Cause, just… damn, you know?
Stay tuned for Chapter Sixteen, upon which we revisit with Mr. Jordan.
* “Jessica” conveys a beach-babe kind of name; anyone who’s read Sweet Valley High knows of Jessica Wakefield, perfect size-six blonde. “Tulrude” – I can’t find it at all via Google, but the word ‘rude’ in her name is probably intended to convey a subtle sense that she’s not inclined to Be Very Nice.