Robertson and Kennedy

By Callimachus | Related entries in Partisan Hacks

An odd couple? Hardly. Seems they both buy into the notion that God uses hurricanes as punishment for political positions.

Take it from the horse’s mouth.

In 1998, Republican icon Pat Robertson warned that hurricanes were likely to hit communities that offended God. Perhaps it was [Mississippi Governor Haley] Barbour’s memo that caused Katrina, at the last moment, to spare New Orleans and save its worst flailings for the Mississippi coast.

So, if it’s execrable when Pat Robertson says it, why is it cool when a Kennedy writes it? Kennedy doesn’t have even the excuse of not knowing how foolish you look when you say things like that.

Oh, yeah, of course, he was just picking up the stupid meme and hurling it back in the general direction of its source. So, that makes it OK? So anything that the stupidest Republican on the planet ever utters automatically becomes legitimate rhetorical material for a major figure in the most prominent of Democratic dynasties?


This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 and is filed under Partisan Hacks. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

17 Responses to “Robertson and Kennedy”

  1. Justin Gardner Says:

    Man, that is one ridiculous post by Kennedy. He could have made that point in so many other ways. He’s doing Dems no favors with this type of rhetoric.

  2. Phillip J. Birmingham Says:

    Seems they both buy into the notion that God uses hurricanes as punishment for political positions.

    Yeah, and Swift bought into the position that people should eat Irish babies.

  3. Justin Gardner Says:

    Yeah, and Swift bought into the position that people should eat Irish babies.

    Big difference here. Kennedy hasn’t given us any sort of obvious “modest proposal.” His writing suggests that he actually believes what he says. Point to a place in his column which may suggest that he’s satirizing Robertson and we’ll reevaluate.

  4. Phillip J. Birmingham Says:

    Big difference here. Kennedy hasn’t given us any sort of obvious “modest proposal.� His writing suggests that he actually believes what he says. Point to a place in his column which may suggest that he’s satirizing Robertson and we’ll reevaluate.

    You seriously don’t get this? Do you also think that there are people out there who seriously believe that the earth was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

    Point to anything in his column that indicates that the line about God punishing Barbour is anything other than the sarcastic throwaway it obviously is, and I’ll stop thinking that you and Callimachus are reeallly reaching to make a point. Give one iota of evidence that he actually *believes* that Katrina is an instrument of God’s vengance — that he actually expects others in his audience (other than those who have conveniently come down with literal-itis) to believe it. I double dog dare you.

  5. Rebecca Says:

    If it was satire it was in very poor taste and timing. Tin eared and Tone deaf is more like it, the disaster happened on Monday, we haven’t even gotten to all of the dead and by Wednesday we have idiotic statements and the blame game from Robert Kennedy Jr. You think it is satire, I think it is extremely poor taste.

  6. Phillip J. Birmingham Says:

    You think it is satire, I think it is extremely poor taste.

    Gee, ya think it could be both? (oh, and I wouldn’t exactly call it “satire,” that’s just Mr. Gardner being over-literal in his reading of my writing, which appears to be a pattern in this thread.)

    In any case, your “that’s not funny” reaction indicates that at least you understand that Kennedy isn’t being serious here, so I got no bones to pick with you. I’m just here to fight the foolish notion that Kennedy and Robertson have similar views about deities using hurricanes as weapons of vengance. Callimachus and Mr. Gardner are exhibiting the same sort of ignorance as the folks who once complained about “niggardly” being a racial slur.

  7. Justin Gardner Says:

    Phillip, I’ve gone back and reread it a few times now. I understand your point, but one can’t earnestly determine that he’s being anything but serious. Perhaps if had actually used the word “ironic” in their somewhere, I could see your point.

    Did he take Robertson’s words and turn them around to attack somebody else? Yes. But that doesn’t make it satire. Also, with a continuous declaration of the gravity of one man’s decision, taking Kennedy at his literal word is probably more likely to be the majority opinion on this one.

    In fact, if you take a look at the very first comment on the post, you’ll see my point:

    I can’t believe it but I think you are being entirely serious. You really seem to believe that Gov. Barbour’s rejection of Kyoto is responsible for this hurricane.

    I declare this to be an instant HuffPo classic. Satire is – once again – made redundant.

    Here’s another (partial clip):

    When Rush and his clones (Savage, Hannity, et.al) use over the top rhetoric, outright lies and analogies that don’t hold water, the rest of us (the left in their mind, but really anyone that disagrees with them) should express our outrage and challenge the attacks and lies with truth. What we should not do is play their game. And, I fear, Mr. Kennedy, that is exactly how your article will be taken. I abhor the Bush Administration’s tactics and their dismissal of scientific studies. I never had any respect for Haley Barbour. But, really, to even intimate that his position on global warming is somehow responsible for the destruction caused by this hurricane is, frankly, sickening in its presentation…

    In fact, I continued to scroll down the massive list of comments and I found only a handful of comments who saw this as satire. This is one.

    I loved Robert Kennedy’s satire, which was obvious a play on Robertson’s ridiculous statement. Mother Nature doesn’t care who is messing with her, she will pay us back big time and right now the repugs don’t seem to be connecting her seethe to their greed!

    What I don’t understand is why people spend so much energy demonizing Robert Kennedy instead of asking the hard questions that he raises? Kennedy’s point was that we are merely catching a “glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children� if we don’t stop passing bills that contribute to human-induced global warming. So to go from this point to thinking that he meant Barbour caused Katrina to happen is just showing people like me you don’t really care to understand! Your real intentions are just to demonize for the sake of staying loyal to the republicans who are mostly responsible for destroying our environment through their anti-environmental policies.

    But, hey, remain deaf, dumb and vicious just so you can protect the repug’s fat pockets because there will be more man-made environmental disasters that will wreak havoc on us regardless of what you think.

    So exactly how are we being ignorant? Because we seem to take a man at his words? Hardly.

    And let me caution you that those those who are willing to throw insults around so casually, are oftentimes guilty of exactly what they accuse. In other words, you can do better than this. Make your point and make it well. Resorting to name calling only cheapens your credibility here.

  8. Phillip J. Birmingham Says:

    Okay, granting you the assumption that statements of fact can be settled by majority vote (and what is the majority opinion on evolution these days?):

    Of all of the messages that addressed the whole “god did it” issue, the majority appear to acknowledge my point that this was not meant literally, and one even anticipated that people would take it the wrong way:

    HOWEVER, please don’t stoop to the level of the religious wingnuts and claim this as an act of God (I know you were being ironic – but they aren’t that clever you see!)

    The majority of the posts seem to center on whether global warming was responsible for the hurricane, not whether it was steered by a deity.

    Now, Kennedy does (to way too great a degree, in my opinion) blame Barbour’s complicity in the GOP non-policy toward global warming, but that’s not the point I took away from the original article here, which was:

    An odd couple? Hardly. Seems they both buy into the notion that God uses hurricanes as punishment for political positions.

    Now, maybe I’m the one being over-literal now, but seems to me that Callimachus wanted to call Kennedy on the carpet for saying that God steered Katrina into the Mississippi gulf coast. I don’t think Kennedy seriously meant that, and I think that at the least a large minority of the commentors recognize that fact. Since the majority of posts don’t even address the “hurricanes as the foot of an angry Jehova” angle, I don’t think you should read too much into the fact that this large minority is not a majority — maybe people were too offended to comment, or maybe they recognized it as a sarcastic throwaway requiring none. Neither you nor I know.

    Now, as an aside — I have savagely attacked your ideas and perceptions, but I haven’t called you any names. I apologize for calling you ignorant, but I think you missed the point initially and I think you are actively resisting efforts to lead you to it. If you can come up with some non-credibility-cheapening way to express that condition, I will be glad to have it.

  9. Callimachus Says:

    So “satire” in writing is decided by a majority vote of the audience?

    How will you prove Pat Robertson wasn’t being satirical,or partially satirical, too? After all, he now tells us he didn’t really mean “assassinate Chavez,” despite the most likely literal meaning of what he said. Shall we cut him the slack, too?

    Justin’s right. We know what Kennedy was trying to get away with saying. We know he always had in mind, when writing that, the fall-back position of “I was just kidding.”

    My son, when he was 10, used to do that. Say something out of bounds and then retort with, “I can’t believe you thought I was serious.”

    Sometimes, that defense doesn’t cut it.

    Especially when your only possible goal, even in the satire, is to get a political knife into your opponents at a moment of national crisis.

    Not funny, not politic, not fair. Out of bounds. As bad as Pat, since they’re both full of s***.

  10. Justin Gardner Says:

    Okay, granting you the assumption that statements of fact can be settled by majority vote (and what is the majority opinion on evolution these days?):

    My comment was about this particular instance and you know that. Also, we’re talking about a matter of perception, and you characterized ours as some sort of fringe ignorance. If that’s the case, then there were quite a few over in RFK’s comment section that would fall into that category.

    And why? Because they simply DIDN’T read into something. Remember, I’m not the one diving his intentions here. I know you say I have a case of literalitis, but with a title like “For They That Sow the Wind Shall Reap the Whirlwind”, it’s difficult to see how you can’t understand why I wouldn’t take it literally. Just because the guy is a liberal does not mean he isn’t deeply religious and believes in God’s wrath.

    I think you missed the point initially and I think you are actively resisting efforts to lead you to it.

    After the several posts I’ve put up in response to this, I would hope that you’ll trust that I’m not purposely avoiding the “truth”, which in this case, is most certainly in the eye of the beholder.

    And by the way, your original point was to compare this to Swift, which I took exception to. And I think for obvious reasons. If it is indeed, it’s so deadpan it defeats the purpose. So is it satire? Well, I wish RFK would address that point, although whenever I’ve seen him on the news channels, he’s a pretty serious guy. In other words, he appears to be a man who believes in what he says. That’s another reason why I think he’s being serious.

    However, this is a valid point:

    Since the majority of posts don’t even address the “hurricanes as the foot of an angry Jehova� angle, I don’t think you should read too much into the fact that this large minority is not a majority � maybe people were too offended to comment, or maybe they recognized it as a sarcastic throwaway requiring none. Neither you nor I know.

    I think this is really the overarching point of this whole exchange. We can volley this verbal ball back and forth, but we’re going to end up arguing opinions.

    I take him literally. You don’t. Let’s move on.

  11. Phillip J. Birmingham Says:

    I’m accepting Justin’s offer to agree to disagree, and I swear I’m letting this go, but…

    So “satire� in writing is decided by a majority vote of the audience?

    Well, no. It was with some reluctance that I accepted that standard, and I think it unfair of you to blame *me* for it.

    I basically went with my experience of “do I think the author *really* meant that? When people of Kennedy’s education and background say that sort of thing, do they really mean it literally?” In my experience, they do not, but that wasn’t good enough, so we went to the polls. All clear now?

  12. Callimachus Says:

    Ah, OK, so only smart people can do satire. So smart people can do my 10-year-old’s “I can’t believe you thought I was serious” trick to escape the implications of anything they say.

    Forgive us ignoramuses, then, if, even when we smell the satire, we loathe the mind that would gleefully go in that direction, and set it all on paper, and publish it to the world, knowing he didn’t have to stand behind his words.

    In the classical definition, the motive of satire is amendment; its province is morals and manners; its method is accentuation. I don’t think Kennedy’s little squib fits any of that. I would call it sarcasm, which uses inversion as its method and has inflicting pain as its purpose.

    Buy, y’know, I’m just an ignoramus. I’ll let the geniuses decide it.

  13. Phillip J. Birmingham Says:

    Forgive us ignoramuses, then, if, even when we smell the satire, we loathe the mind that would gleefully go in that direction, and set it all on paper, and publish it to the world, knowing he didn’t have to stand behind his words.

    Loathe away, if that means you’ll quit misconstruing what he really meant, and maybe lose the boo-hooing about perceived elitism.

    I would call it sarcasm, which uses inversion as its method and has inflicting pain as its purpose.

    Actually, I believe I called Kennedy’s remark a “sarcastic throwaway” when I saw fit to label it. My use of Swift was only to point out that people do not always literally mean what they write. Mr. Gardner took the “satire” ball and ran with it; I have (weakly) objected all day.

  14. Callimachus Says:

    Swift wrote a monograph of many thousand words in an attempt to amend the laws and additudes of the English people toward the suffering of the Irish poor.

    Kennedy wrote a throwaway cheap shot to score political points during a tragedy.

    To paraphrase a great Democrat, “Mr. Kennedy, you’re no Jonathan Swift.”

    I have no idea what he “really meant.” Do you? You write as though you do. If so, how do you know that? What does Kennedy think about God and nature? Why does he think tragedies happen the way they do?

    Please show me where I used the word “elitism.” You are all-wise and I am a mere ignoramus, so I’m sure I overlooked it.

    Thank you Mr. Philip, for teaching us that when a liberal politician talks about the Judeo-Christian God (who, after all, if you take him seriously, has a long record of punishing obstreperous municipalities with natural forces), we should assume he’s just flapping his pie-hole for the sake of rhetorical effect and doesn’t mean a damn word of it.

    I mean, the right-wingers had been telling me that for years, but I sort of dismissed it, in my ignorant way, as a slander. But Mr. Philip assures us it should be accepted unless proven otherwise.

    Nice to have that cleared up. Mr. Philip is such a patient man, to spend all day casting his pearls before us.

  15. Phillip J. Birmingham Says:

    I have no idea what he “really meant.�

    Your story about your ten-year-old implies that you do not really believe that, as does this sentence from earlier:

    We know what Kennedy was trying to get away with saying.

    Do I know what Kennedy was trying to say? I can’t say certainly, but I have already explained where I would lay my money down if I were betting on it. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.

    Now:

    Please show me where I used the word “elitism.� You are all-wise and I am a mere ignoramus, so I’m sure I overlooked it.

    You are, in that very paragraph, implying that I consider myself to be on a higher intellectual plane than you, capable of grasping truths that are beyond your reach. If that’s not a form of elitism, maybe you should quit calling me all-wise.

    Unless you don’t actually mean it.

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