Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"I myself dabbled in pacifism at one time..."

I'm a little late getting to this, but I would be really remiss in my schlub-credentials if I didn't mention David Haglund's piece last week in Slate making the case that Walter "Jewish as fuckin' Tevye" Sobchak of Big Lebowski fame is actually a neocon.

Oh, please!

Gun nut? Sure. Vietnam vet? You bet. Jewish fanatic? Well, there's no question about that. But I don't think that those are really qualifications for neocon status.

While there are certainly a disproportionate number of Jewish intellectuals in the neoconservatism movement (see Wolfowitz, Paul) Walter Sobchak ain't no intellectual.

And while I agree that there may be some overlap between personality and politics, I don't really see in Walter the traits that were apparent in all the subjects of James Mann's The Rise of the Vulcans. Despite the fact that Walter might have "dabbled in pacifism" at one time, or that he knows some quotes by Lenin, he's not really the sort of guy who could have been a former Trotskyist or an arrogant Wasp (see Rumsfeld, Donald).

Haglund says that the Coens were inspired by John Milius -- who doesn't strike me as much of a neocon, either. He was a survivalist.

All that being said, I take my hat off to Haglund on the fact that there is something eerie in the fact that the Coens decided to set Lebowski during the first Gulf War. (And, hey, I for one think that the neocons are morons... so my initial statement, "Walter ain't no intellectual" might actually be a point in Haglund's favor.)

But I think there is something else to consider:

There's an underlying sweetness to Walter that is utterly absent from neocons by and large.

Sure, guys like Douglas Feith and Richard Perle are very convinced of their own rectitude. And I'm sure that many of them believe with all their heart that they are on the side of virtue. But I find the self-righteousness and glibness with which the neocons dismiss opposing points of view to be not sweet at all. I find it arrogant.

Say what you will about Walter, he is never glib or arrogant.