Hu Jintao and Barack Obama represent Important Matters of the State. If any of us have visitors, we might go to the trouble of preparing a good meal and serving good wine, but State dinners and such are totally different. It's a very Big Deal. There are many people who are impressed by all this -- otherwise, no one would go the trouble. It probably has something to do with monarchies of the past, the glorification of Kings, Queens, powerful countries, empires,Nation-States. Perhaps, it's a carry over from the historical pomp and circumstance surrounding Those In Charge from all stripes, Kings to Dictators to Presidents. Power is seductive, mysterious, dignified, attractive, mesmerizing -- it's many things to many people, and all the symbols, rituals, grandeur and lavish presentations go to elevate certain occasions to the proper level of dignified glory and Importance. I maintain that all this pomp and circumstance and mystique go toward maintaining a protective shield around our current State and President which protects them from rational and objective critiques of statism.
It doesn't hurt the protected image of the State to be remind us of all the threats we face, the fragility of international relationships, dangerous nations in the international community and the potential for global armed conflict or global financal disasters. When you contrast the awesome, worldly concerns of the US President to a Tea Party protest with signs accusing the President of being a "communist", it's easy to dismiss the protest as silliness from the hoi polloi who have no idea how truly important the work of the President has become in a complex, dangerous world of competing interests.
To Joe Scarborough's credit and to Ariana Huffington's credit, they called for us to exit Afghanistan, but the main themes this morning were Obama's image, how it has improved, and the contrast between Important Matters of State and the smallness of Republicans and others who are criticizing Big Government. Thomas Friedman was on, and he talked about America's inability to accomplish things that are big, hard and done together. He repeated "big, hard, together" several times, to the point I felt he might be a little tone-deaf in the humor department -- maybe "grand, difficult and in unity" would be less open to an attack by Jon Stewart.
The idea, however, and Friedman ideologically contradicts himself, is while we need to cut spending, Government needs to "invest" in grand infrastructure projects and "invest" in education. Friedman said China has an advantage because they are a one party autocracy in which things can get done quickly without resistance, while America is a one party democracy, Democrats being the one-party, who are blocked by Republicans from getting things done. Friedman then went on to praise "bottom-up" innovation in, I assume, the private sector. Friedman can't have it both ways. The very nature of grand, statist infrastructure schemes is antithetical to bottom-up innovation in the private sector. I think this is what Friedman means by "together", though. Friedman is thinking about the Chinese unity of purpose where private and public are one and there's no conflict between political parties. This seems to be the direction modern liberalism is headed -- a joint private/public effort to get things done and accomplish Big Goals, getting people back to work and the economy growing again -- sort of like stimulus, but not.
Modern liberalism believes in the grandeur of the State, as it's represented by the first Camelot of Kennedy, the second Camelot of Clinton and the third Camelot of Obama. Compared to this vision of Smart Government working hand in hand with the private sector to "get things done" and make changes which are for the common good, Republicans and "anti-government" extremists are small and ignorant, obstacles to progress. This is a good way to marginalize the right and avoid our serious problems of spending and a failing welfare state. Friedman always presents himself as being on the cuttng edge, but it's laughable at how these same, tired statist schemes are pushed over and over in fashonable new clothes.
What supports the modern liberal idea regarding "hard, big, together" is image management. Now that the Wall Street/NBC poll is out, according to the Morning Joe gang, Obama is back on top and the Republicans are looking small. Never mind whether the healthcare bill is bad for the nation, or whether the efforts by Republicans to repeal and replace are needed or not, at least a big debate and reform of the bill, just present the image of Obama doing Big Things and the Republicans acting small trying to block big things -- then contrast this to China which is, in unity, doing Very Big things.
The State is once again being inflated in Importance. All the little voices yelling warnings about debt and loss of freedom can't be heard over the band, the tinkling of champagne glasses and the loud, proud talk about doing Important Things.