…it actually does repeat itself. This is from Henry George, Jr.’s The Menace of Privilege, subtitled “A Study of the Dangers to the Republic from the Existence of a Favored Class.” It was published in 1905.
There would, perhaps, be little need for the creating of corporations were it not for the granting of privileges. But artificial persons, which have more powers than natural persons and life-everlasting, are far better suited than natural persons to take care of privileges — to fight for their continuation and extension. As a consequence, it has now become almost an invariable rule either to form artificial persons under the general corporation laws to receive from Government the special grants of power; or else such privileges, being granted to natural persons, are at once turned over to corporations or artificial persons. And these artificial persons possessing Government grants, are the most active and most potent of all persons in politics.
The very significant aspect of the Presidential contest of 1904 was the charge by the opponents against the managers of each of the two great parties of receiving campaign contributions from the large privilege-possessing corporations. More significant still was the common belief that the charge was true, the partisan view being that, while the opposing candidate would of necessity be contaminated by such money, their own candidate was too upright and too strong to be swerved in the least from principle, affected in the least for evil. Yet Presidents are but men, subject to men’s strengths and weaknesses. And just as Mr. Buchanan was most complacent in the face of the growing aggressiveness of the slave power which seated him and supported him in the Presidency, so monopoly powers might reasonably expect at least protection from a Chief Executive which their money and their efforts materially contributed toward seating in the White House…
In April, 1904, Mr. William Bourke Cockran of New York, on the floor of the House of Representatives, repeated in an insinuating way a newspaper story that the election of 1896 — the campaign that was won for “honest money” — was bought. Mr. Cockran named $16,000,000 as the sum which was said to be paid…
If it should mean protection and profit, what would $16,000,000 mean to a syndicate such as, under Mr. Morgan’s guidance, cleared $100,000,000 within the space of a few months in underwriting and manipulating steel stock? The sum of $16,000,000 would be only one item in the expense account of railroad combinations whose annual gross revenue is $2,000,000,000. Have not the tariff-engendered monopolies first and last put many times $16,000,000 into Presidential, Senatorial and Congressional elections, to the end of shutting out competition and thereby conducting a systematic robbery of the people at large?
Lifted without permission from Carl Strock:
It is generally acknowledged that the low turnout in our just-completed election was a disgrace. We promote ourselves as a beacon of democracy, feeling pity for those people of the world who don’t have the right to vote, and how many of us trouble to vote in our own elections? This time it was a risible 36 percent nationally, and just 29 percent in our own state, which The New York Times characterized as “shameful.”
But I don’t know. I have never considered voting the civic virtue that public figures invariably consider it. Maybe knowledgeable voting is a virtue, but voting just for the sake of voting, whether or not you have any idea of who the candidates are and what kind of horse thieves they might be, I’m not sure. It might be just as well that you stay at home if you haven’t made a minimal effort to inform yourself. What is the value of combing the woods for the ignorant and uninterested and carting them to the polls?
I have sometimes entertained a fantasy of testing people in basic civic knowledge before allowing them to vote. Nothing too demanding. Nothing like having to explain the commerce clause or the doctrine of habeas corpus. Just, what state do you live in? Who is the governor? Which way is up? I know it wouldn’t work. Some people would do worse than others, and then there would be charges of discrimination, and that would be the end of that. But it would be interesting — wouldn’t it? – to see how elections might turn out if the only people who could vote were those who knew up from down.
I’m also not convinced that the reason so many people don’t vote is apathy, that much maligned lack of passion. It may be that they’re wise to the game and figure it doesn’t make any difference, or very little difference, who becomes their representative in the state legislature, in City Hall, in county court, or even in the White House. All politicians have the same primary interest, getting themselves reelected, and all are dependent on the same big-money backers. Voting “only encourages the bastards,” as the old saying goes.
Or they may figure the contenders are all equally unattractive and refuse to take the bait of voting for the lesser of two evils and thus seeming to endorse what they do not wish to endorse. That’s how I felt in this last [New York] gubernatorial contest, in which I declined to fill in an oval. I wasn’t indifferent to democracy, I was pissed off at having no choice that remotely reflected my own tortured values. Democracy is what I wanted more of.
So let us not be too quick to bemoan low turnout. Maybe non-voters are on to something.
…not if you live in the White House.
Googling myself, I just now came across a piece I had forgotten writing for Salon back during the 2008 presidential campaign:
Is a man fit to be commander in chief if he won’t even fly the flag from his buttonhole?
Does that man, Barack Obama, think he’s “too good — too patriotic! — to wear a flag pin on his chest?” Because that’s what William Kristol believes.
Grow up, the Chicago Sun-Times advises: “Oh for Pete’s sake, Senator Obama, pin the darn American flag to your chest.” Otherwise, the poor dope will “catch a world of hurt for … polarizing comments [that] make him sound like a hardened leftist.”
Has Obama’s failure to wear a flag pin really done “more damage to his White House hopes than a bomb bursting in air?” The New York Daily News thinks so.
Or is it just possible that Barack Obama knows more about getting to be president than all of these pundits laid end to end, as they probably should be? Is it possible that an empty buttonhole might actually help a candidate of either party, now that the nation’s No. 1 flag-wearer is circling the bowl with the lowest presidential approval ratings ever recorded?
Let’s go beyond the Beltway and take a look. Out there on the campaign trail, who’s actually been wearing lapel flags in this race and who hasn’t — and how’s that been working out for you guys anyway?
On April 26 of last year in Orangeburg, S.C., the Democrats held the first debate in the campaign that never ends. First thing that morning the candidates were all in a hurry to throw on their clothes, grabbing any old thing that came to hand. Yeah, right.
It was the most important day of their political lives to date, and they agonized over each tiny sartorial decision. Windsor knot or four-in-hand? Blue or red?
Here’s where everybody came out on lapel flags. The photo coverage of the debate shows that only Joe Biden decided to wear one. The other seven — Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Chris Dodd — went without.
Of course you’d expect that from a bunch of surrender monkeys, wouldn’t you? So let’s turn to the Republicans, tough-talking patriots to a man. Their first debate came a week later in Simi Valley, Calif. And sure enough, Tommy Thompson, Tom Tancredo and Rudy Giuliani, nonveterans all, were careful to pin on their flags.
Wait a minute, though. Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, Jim Gilmore, Duncan Hunter and Mike Huckabee all left their little flags back home on the bureau. And so did John McCain. Hmm.
By May 15, at the Columbia, S.C., Republican debate, Tancredo had stopped wearing his flag. By June, Democratic candidate Joe Biden had deflagged as well.
The only candidate of either party who chose to add a flag in the course of the campaign was Bill Richardson, who flagged up toward the end of the summer. With Biden’s flag gone by then, Richardson had become the only Democratic candidate to wear a flag in the debates.
On the Republican side, Tommy Thompson continued to wear his flag till the bitter end, which came in August when he placed sixth in the Iowa straw polls. The empty Thompson slot was filled the following month by Fred. The lobbyist/actor picked up Tommy’s banner, so to speak, and was still wearing it in January when he, too, dropped out.
Rudy Giuliani, who probably wears a flag to bed, dropped out a week later after racking up a pathetic 15 percent of the vote in the Florida Republican primary.
Do we see a subtle pattern emerging here? Every presidential candidate of both parties who ever wore a lapel flag during the debates, even as briefly as Biden, bought himself a one-way ticket to Palookaville.
And every major party candidate who remains viable today — John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — has seldom if ever been spotted with a flag in his or her lapel.
Don’t think the press hasn’t been noticing, either. To this day there has been a steady drumbeat of silence in the media over the flaglessness of Huckabee’s, Clinton’s and McCain’s lapels.
Nor would Obama’s disrespect have made news if only he had thought to point the finger at everyone else still in the race when a TV reporter posed his trivia question back in October. But instead he gave an honest if incomplete answer.
Obama said he had worn a pin after 9/11 but stopped once he began to notice, and here I paraphrase wildly but no doubt accurately, that most of the people still wearing lapel flags were assholes.
On the evidence of the campaign so far, Obama wasn’t the only one who noticed. Clinton, Huckabee and McCain, we may say with confidence, would wear anything or even nothing at all if they thought it would help them win the nomination. Then why, when it came to miniature flags, did the three join Obama in opting for nothing?
Dosed with Pentothal, each would most likely come up with a variant of the answer Obama had hinted at: that lapel flags no longer signify simple patriotism, but something that you don’t want sticking to your fingers these days.
For these past six years and more, men with those bright little flags apparently riveted to their lapels have fed the voters a daily diet of fear, secrecy, lies and a cruel war with neither point nor end.
No sensible politician would want to march under this tiny, metallic banner. Just look at all the fallen stars who did.
Nevertheless Obama, once in office, seems to have had the stars and bars stapled immediately to every lapel in his closet. What was he afraid people would think he was president of? Kenya?
…since 1996, when the late, great Mollie Ivins wrote this:
There is some kind of magical thinking that seizes politicians in election years. “I know how to fix welfare — we’ll just require them all to get jobs!” What jobs? The reason most people are on welfare in the first place is that they can’t find jobs — or child care. Or the jobs don’t carry health insurance, so when a kid gets sick his mom has to go back on welfare to get medical treatment for him.
The way this society works is really simple: The shit flows downhill and the people at the bottom are drowning in it. Every little change that makes it harder for them to climb up means that millions more of them drown. And most of them are children.
From Down With Tyranny!:
One trend that was interesting last night is that clear, strong progressives like Jeff Merkley (OR), Tom Udall (NM), Brian Schatz (HI) and Al Franken (MN) — who had massive right-wing money thrown at them — won, while conservative Democrats like Mark Warner, Mary Landrieu, Mark Udall, and Kay Hagan stumbled and the most conservative Democrat of all, Mark Pryor, lost badly. In the House, conservative Democrats — Blue Dogs and New Dems — lost everywhere, even in Democratic districts…
So, every single PVI neutral district with the exception of Israel’s own (which, honor among thieves, the NRCC doesn’t contest) and that of fellow Wall Street whore Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18, which was extremely close) is now in the hands of the Republicans. The Blue Dogs were effectively wiped out and this was a very bad cycle for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.
I had missed this political factoid in Tuesday night’s general catastrophe, but it seems logical and significant. Why would an actual Democrat bother turning out to vote for a phony one?
I knew if I looked hard enough there’d be some good news coming out of yesterday’s election. From the New York Times::
PORTLAND, Maine — Bear hunting with bait, dogs, traps will stay legal in Maine because voters rejected a ballot initiative to ban the methods.
Animal rights advocates and others pushed for the law change, which they said would have eliminated cruel and unsportsmanlike hunting methods. Hunting groups, outfitters and the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife campaigned hard against the referendum.
Bait — typically sugary human food such as doughnuts — is by far the most common method of bear hunting and accounts for about four-fifths of the hunt.
Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce tries to make sense of the curious fact that so many Americans so reliably vote not only against their own interests but counter to their own actual beliefs. Turns out it’s not so much about ideology. It’s mostly about filling the political vacuums in millions of heads, and that ain’t cheap. Read it all here.
Citizens United — and its ungodly spawn, McCutcheon — have sent our politics into refraction. Nothing is what it appears to be any more. Chozick is right to point out that the result of the decision has been to create candidates drifting ever closer to the ideal of Nashville’s Hal Phillip Walker, who campaigns through that film only as a voice from a sound truck. Thanks to John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, we now have candidates who campaign primarily as characters in television commercials, like Flo from Progressive Insurance, or the two people in the bathtubs for Cialis.
Moreover, the flood of money now flows so swiftly and powerfully, and so far underground, that the best you can do is guess what effect it is having on the process. Then, after it’s over, ideology gets credit for what money has purchased. The new world of unregulated political money has given an even deeper sense of unreality to the way we govern ourselves. Nothing is as it seems to be. Nothing can be reckoned fully to be genuine. Not the polls. Not the campaigns. Not the candidates. Not even the results, truth be told. Unregulated political money has worked as an accelerant to all the worst aspects of modern political campaigns. More than ever before, our elections have become design contests.
Oddness is breaking out here and there in American politics. Look at this by Nat Stoller on Naked Capitalism. Tiny cracks in the bipartisan military-industrial-congressional complex appear. Could there be hope?
To put it another way, Cuomo paid roughly $48 for every vote he got, where Zephyr paid roughly $2.70 (UPDATE: Philip Bump has a more accurate count, and calculated that it’s $60.62 for Cuomo to $1.57 for Zephyr, though all the data isn’t in yet). That’s a very big differential, in terms of the power of the messaging. If Zephyr had had a bit more money, she could have easily won…
Zephyr’s base bloc isn’t enough to win a primary, but it is part of a potential coalition that could do so. It’s the Occupy voter bloc, perhaps what Howard Dean had from 2002–2004 but infused with an economic justice frame. It is the only organized voting group that is able to sit outside the political establishment…
Zephyr Teachout consistently drew her biggest applause line with “It’s time for some good old fashioned trust-busting.” She made a point of saying that big cable is too big, and that Amazon is a threat to open markets. Zephyr often said she is an old school Democrat. What she meant is not just that she backs more funding for schools, but that she believes in a redesigned relationship between powerful private actors and the state similar to the one implemented by FDR. This is first and foremost about a strong antitrust agenda…
Micah wrote: What I find most intriguing about this is the way some tech VCs and entrepreneurs really seem to understand their success as tied to (or born up from) the open Internet and how we may link that to open politics or open democracy (defined as a system where the little guy can enter and compete on an open playing field, rather than one dominated by political and economic monopolists and duopolists). In other words, Comcast and Verizon are to the 21st century economy what the Democrats and the Republicans are to the political system.
This from The Washington Post. Why am I not outraged?
Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.
The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.
Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.
Thank God Almighty, the 1% is free at last! The Kochsucking majority on the Supreme Court just ruled that money speaks louder than words — your words anyway:
(CNN) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down current limits on the total amount individual donors can make to political campaigns…
The 5-4 ruling could have an immediate impact on November's congressional midterm elections, and add another layer of high-stakes spending in the crowded political arena.
Scalia Thomas & Roberts LLC, the legal branch of the Republican Party, thus returns us to the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Constitutional precedent for today’s ruling is to be found in the three fifths compromise, which took imaginary votes away from slaves and awarded them to their masters.
Today the local Democratic Socialists meeting was held in my town. After the typical business of a volunteer organization, we began a discussion of Adolph Reed’s article Nothing Left – The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals (behind a firewall unfortunately) in the March issue of Harper’s. Far be it from me to attempt a synopsis of this article, but quoting Reed’s closing statements may suffice.
We need to reject the fantasy that some spark will ignite the People to move as a mass. We must create a constituency for a left program — and that cannot occur via MSNBC or blog posts or the New York Times. It requires painstaking organization and building relationships with people outside the Beltway and comfortable leftist groves. Finally, admitting our absolute impotence can be politically liberating; acknowledging that as a left we have no influence on who gets nominated or elected, or what they do in office, should reduce the frenzied self-delusion that rivets attention to the quadrennial, biennial, and now seemingly permanent horse races.
It is long past time for us to begin again to approach leftist critique and strategy by determining what our social and governmental priorities should be and focusing our attention on building the kind of popular movement capable of realizing that vision. Obama and his top aides punctuated that fact by making brutally apparent during the 2008 campaign that no criticism from the left would have a place in this regime of Hope and Change. The message could not be clearer.
This is a bitter pill for long-time leftists to swallow – admitting impotence is not easy for any of us. The discussion went in a few different directions, but ultimately we all came to realize that in electoral politics, leftists have no alternative – either support the Democrat or take the risk that the usually far worse Republican will win.
Every two years, leftists who know that the Democratic candidate does not share their views nevertheless turn out to campaign for that candidate. Most around the table admitted to voting for Obama in 2008, although most of us knew at the time that he was going to serve the interests of Wall Street, not Main Street. A majority voted for Jill Stein in 2012, but only after doing the math and ascertaining that Romney had no chance of winning our state. But what’s a leftist to do?
My own position is that leftists have failed to convince a significant number of working Americans that the interests of the wealthy do not and will never be the same as the interests of workers – elementary Marxist class analysis. Without that essential bit of political understanding, workers will be easily swayed by the enormous advertising campaigns for and against the two major party candidates and will vote for one of them, thus sealing their fate for another two to four years. Left organizations, including even the American Communist Party, covered their web sites in 2012 with pictures of President Obama and urged their followers to support him, not because they believed he was a leftist, but because there was no alternative.
It strikes me that unless the left spends as much of their limited time, money and resources on creating an alternative, they will continue to face the choice between two corporate parties that are anti-labor, pro-war, and eager to bail out the next failing bank. Continuing to hold rallies, send petitions, or hold placards in front of Congressional offices about this or the other righteous cause will have the same effect it has had for the last 40 years – things will keep going in the opposite direction.
We were lucky to have a political science professor in our midst who said this reminded her of the situation in Chile. Chile had a multi-party democracy, but the post-Pinochet era has been dominated by two parties, both of whom espouse neoliberal policies. However in recent years, the students and the indigenous population have formed splinter parties that are truly socialist and although the recent election has returned Michelle Bachelet to power, she is far more likely to pursue real socialist policies rather than the more centrist policies of her 2006-2010 presidency. It is those new parties and their popular support that push her in that direction.
Can we move in that direction here in the United States? I think it is possible, but difficult. Students, and recent ex-students, are a natural constituency for a party that has a platform to eliminate student debt and provide free higher education. Recent immigrants and their communities might support a party that calls for easy naturalization for those whose only crime is entering the country without proper documentation. Unorganized labor, such as those in the service industry, might support a party that supports a $15/hour minimum wage indexed to inflation. Lots of thinking people might support a party that is calling for a repeal of the Bush and Reagan tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans and Medicare for all. It will take a lot of work to convince people to support a third party, but failing to do so traps us in a duopoly that gives us only a choice to make our lives worse quickly or more slowly.
Young, old, democracies are all the same. From the New York Times:
NEW DELHI — At a certain point this fall, the presidential elections in the Maldives stopped looking like the hiccups of a young democracy and veered into the realm of farce.
Mohammed Nasheed was the leader after a first-round election back in September, but the country’s Supreme Court begged to differ. The court, which was allied with one of his rivals, voided the September election before it could reach a second round, citing irregularities in voter rolls…
Practically every adult American is a felon, most of us repeat offenders. Think not? Have you ever been in possession of marijuana? Sold a little to a friend? Left the scene of an accident? Lied to the police (just a couple of beers, officer)? Slipped a little something into your purse at Macy’s? Cheated on your taxes? Sold subprime mortgages? Worked for Goldman Sachs?
Why, then, do we allow nonsense like this:
Around one in every 40 American adults is ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction. While most states forbid felons in prison from voting (Maine and Vermont are the only exceptions), 19 others also forbid those on parole or probation from voting and 11 states disenfranchise felons even after they have served their time, accounting for nearly half of the 5.85m disenfranchised. That number is five times higher than it was in 1976. It includes one in every 13 black adults, and in three states (Florida, Virginia and Kentucky), more than one in every five.
If we truly wanted the United States to be an actual democracy, of, by and for the people, we would make it a felony for felons not to vote.
Unable to find any actual voter fraud anywhere, the Republics were forced to create their own. See, the Republics were then able to cry to the Democratics, we told you so! Nyaah nyaah.
Two former employees of Strategic Allied Consulting, a company once hired by the Republican Party of Florida, admitted that they forged voter registration forms. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Tuesday that the two, Rebekah Joy Paul and Christian Davis Price, were charged with a third-degree felony. Republicans hired the company for registration drives in Florida and other states. Last fall, the state party fired the company and filed an election fraud complaint with the state.
…the Captains and the Kings depart. But famed Connecticut artist Mark Wilson remains, to capture the scene as the Inaugural’s cheap seats empty out.
The GOP is continuing its charm offensive among the lesser breeds. Here (h/t to Sister Pat in Ann Arbor) is one Ron Weiser, who was named finance chairman for the Republican National Committee last year:
“There’s no machine to go to the pool halls and the barbershops and put those people on buses and then bus them from precinct to precinct where they vote multiple times,” Weiser says in the video. “And there’s no machine to get ’em to stop playing pool and drinking beer in the pool hall. And it does make a difference.”
He added: “Obama has hired a lot of people to help him get that vote out. But if you’re not from Detroit, the places where those pool halls and barbershops are, you’re not going to be going at 6:30 in November. Not without a side arm.”
It seems these days High Lord Romney doesn’t quite know what to do with himself.
Four weeks after losing a presidential election he was convinced he would win, Romney’s rapid retreat into seclusion has been marked by repressed emotions, second-guessing and, perhaps for the first time in the overachiever’s adult life, sustained boredom, according to interviews with more than a dozen of Romney’s closest friends and advisers.
Dear Mitt: I know this won’t help you, but millions of middle-aged men find themselves in your position every single day in this country. That is, they find out the hard way that all their years of experience and all their hard-won expertise count for absolutely nothing at all. And they learn that, in part, because of a philosophy of business that you yourself have helped to foster, and have profited from. No, Mitt, you’re not a victim of age discrimination like they are. But I bet they feel a lot of what you’re feeling. Unfortunately, they do not have multiple houses in which to brood. Chances are they lost the single home they did have.
Here’s another way in which those millions differ from you, Mitt: They genuinely have something to offer.
I'm sure none of this has occurred to you. After all, if you were the kind of guy who was capable of picking up on things like that, it’s entirely possible you would not be in the position in which you now find yourself.
Nothing lowers the level of public discourse more than playing the Hitler card. So let’s play it. (h/t to DownWithTyranny)
Gary Younge has another fine article up at the Guardian site. A black Briton whose parents immigrated there from Barbados, he spends a lot of time trying to explain us Americans to his British readers. It’s often in such outside appraisals that we first realize something interesting about ourselves.
In this one he’s talking about the situation faced by black people in the US today. As he points out, African-Americans are the most optimistic demographic group over the past few years. They’re more likely to feel that the economy is improving, that the country’s best days are yet to come, and that they themselves are better off than they were four years ago. They’re more likely to believe that the gap between blacks and whites in terms of income is decreasing. The problem is, most of this is not true.
In fact, blacks are worse off than they were four years ago. The wealth gap between blacks and whites has doubled, with whites now having 22 times the average wealth of blacks. The education gap has increased. While the national unemployment rate has remained fairly steady under the Obama administration, black unemployment has gone up 11%.
One can argue about the cause of those changes and the degree to which Obama bears any responsibility for either creating them or fixing them. But one cannot argue about the fact of them: the ascent of America’s first black president has coincided with the one of the steepest descents of the economic fortunes of black Americans since the second world war both in real terms and relative to whites.
This situation stands in stark contrast to the devotion of black voters to the president’s election. Both four years ago and now Obama can count on 90% of the vote from the African-American community, though as one community leader told Younge, that’s 90% of those motivated enough to go vote. Yet the fact remains that the group most loyal to Obama has benefited least from his tenure. Still, very few members of that group have questioned the president's approach or policies, at least publicly.
In part this is understandable. If a black leader publicly criticized Obama the comment would be replayed endlessly on Fox and all the right-wing radio stations and websites. Still, Younge reports that even among themselves black American intellectuals can be thought disloyal for critiquing the president, though the critic be known as a solid Obama supporter. This helps neither the country in its quest for the right path nor the black community in its search for a fair and equal place in American life. I hasten to add that this is not meant to blame the disadvantaged but to point out that all sectors of society must be willing to view others as they view themselves, and vice versa. Any group is proud to have one of its members in the White House for the first time, and no group has been more exploited and poorly treated than African-Americans except perhaps the Native Americans. Thank heaven we can finally get past the theory that a black person cannot be president. Now the question is whether this one is doing well or poorly.
Rather than bringing a post-racial era, Obama’s election has led to the most polarized electorate on racial issues in a generation. A recent AP poll found that just over half of all Americans now harbor racist attitudes against African-Americans and about the same for Hispanics. We have by no means cast aside our racist past and grown up. Considerations such as these recall
an era of black political leadership, where black politicians emerged from the church or historically black colleges, and fought not to win office outside the black community (white people wouldn’t vote for them) but to put the needs of that community on the agenda. There was, in a previous generation, a sense of ownership that black communities had over their politicians that no longer exists. This is partly progress. Ivy League universities will admit them, corporations will hire them, funds will come to them, white people will now vote for them. A whole range of opportunities are open to politicians of Obama’s generation that were created by Cornel West’s generation.
But that, in turn, has changed what it means to be a black politician and what, if anything, we mean when we talk about black politics. Unlike, say, Jesse Jackson or Martin Luther King, Obama was not politically produced by the black community, but presented to it after he had made his way through the mostly white elites. His political ties to the black community are not organic but symbolic. His arrival in the political class is hailed as the progress of a community when in fact it is the advancement of an individual.
“[Obama] is being consumed as the embodiment of color blindness,” Angela Davis, professor of history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told me in late 2007. “It’s the notion that we have moved beyond racism by not taking race into account. That’s what makes him conceivable as a presidential candidate. He’s become the model of diversity in this period … a model of diversity as the difference that makes no difference. The change that brings no change.”
There’s lots more in this meaty article. Did you know that Obama’s most recent State of the Union speech was the first one since 1948 not to mention poverty or the poor? And as Younge says, when he does talk about it, it’s to recommend better parenting, healthy meals, and greater discipline. How, one might ask, are parents to provide healthy meals and greater discipline when they’re struggling or unable to pay the bills in a depressed economy in a failing empire where for generations their exploited families have not had a fair shake?
At a Congressional Black Caucus meeting in September [Obama] told his former colleagues: “Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying.” Compare that to the meeting he had with bankers not long after he was elected when they thought he was going to impose serious regulation. “I’m the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks. I’m not out there to go after you,” he told them. “I’m protecting you.”
All our public resources go to maintaining the ability of our corporations and financial institutions to exploit the world, and of course the ability of our military machine to take and hold whatever territory or resource those corporations deem necessary for their health and well-being, in other words their profit margins. Our economy has tanked because certain elements of society whose wealth gives them inordinate influence have discovered how easily they, through the media outlets they collectively monopolize, can gin up enthusiasm for war, tax cuts for the rich, reduced access to health care and education for the rest of us, and other such programs that would be impossible to impose on an informed citizenry. One cannot count on informed citizens in a democracy judging correctly at every single election; but an uninformed citizenry is hardly ever right and then only by chance, when it has failed to grab the bait dangled by the professional misleaders.
Unfortunately it is often those at the bottom of the economic ladder who are most familiar with the facts. They may or may not be exposed to the same amount of propaganda as those above them, but they are most certainly exposed to the harsh facts on the ground, to use the phrase government planners, especially military ones, have made us all familiar with in recent years. For African-Americans in particular this is not new knowledge; they’ve been exposed to the harsh facts for almost four hundred years, and it has shaped their political views, leaders, and movements. It has shaped their expectations. This, Younge suggests, might help us understand their optimism for the future despite difficult current circumstances and poor prospects.
That black Americans are doing worse than everyone else, and that the man they elected to turn that around has not done so, does not fundamentally change their view of how American politics works; almost every other Democratic president has failed in a similar way while Republicans have not even tried to succeed.
Conversely the fact that a black man might be elected president, that enough white people might vote for him and that nobody has shot him, really has changed their assumptions about what is possible.
This is why I cast my ballot for Obama last time, voting for a Democrat for the first time since 1988. William Greider argued that Obama’s election would end white supremacy in America; and I came to see that as a step that would be difficult to reverse, thus justifying my vote for someone I expected to be a poor president. (Little did I know.) To my mind the re-emergence of relatively open racism on the public stage seems entirely predictable: white supremacy will not concede its unearned privilege and power as long as any recourse remains. Nor is that subset of society among the more enlightened or introspective, rather the opposite; thus rationality and argument are of little use.
In the end, though, white supremacy cannot be allowed to direct the course of society, and the lowered expectations of African-Americans and other mistreated groups must not be continually confirmed, if the United States is regain the path toward the ideals stated in the country’s founding documents. We must practice looking at policies and effects, judging for ourselves what might help modify our current hell-bound trajectory. Critiques are not treason.
The day Obama took office, the world may have looked at black America differently, but black America has yet to look at Obama differently. When he went from being an aspiration to a fact of political life, the posters that bore his likeness in socialist realist style over single-word commands like Hope, Believe and Change should have been replaced with posters bearing the single-word statement: power. As Frederick Douglass said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Having cast my vote for Barack Obama four years ago hoping for, and getting, nothing more than an African-American president, I feel liberated now to return to my beliefs and vote for Jill Stein. If Romney wins California you can blame me; but it would be more sensible to blame Obama’s alliance with, even sellout to, power.
Now this is just plain pathetic—
…Romney’s event here had been scheduled to be a “victory rally.” But on Monday, his campaign announced he would cancel his political events on Tuesday out of respect for those affected by the storm.
KETTERING, Ohio — There was no Kid Rock playing on the loudspeakers, and the campaign signs were gone, replaced by a giant American flag. But Mitt Romney’s “storm relief event” held at a local athletic complex here still had some of the trappings of a regular campaign rally, from the biographical Romney video to the woman in the crowd who wore a shirt that read, “Obama, You’re Fired.”
It also featured the same celebrity guests, including Randy Owen, the lead singer of the country group Alabama, who performed after Romney spoke.
But the Republican nominee still tried to cast a nonpolitical tone, scrapping his usual stump speech in favor of remarks about those “suffering” and “hurting” in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy…
The Pope won’t let his bishops dodge and duck when it comes to abortion, even in election years. But the Mormon God is evidently a more reasonable sort of fellow, who just wants to see His boys get ahead in life.
Geoffrey Dunn, at Metroactive:
As a founder and member of the editorial board of Exponent II, Dushku had helped usher Sheldon’s anonymous account of her tribulations with Romney (then unnamed) into print in 1990. So when Romney was claiming to be a proponent of choice in his 1994 Senate race against Kennedy, Dushku knew better. She publicly identified Romney as the previously unidentified ward bishop in Sheldon’s chronicle of the disquieting encounter over her pregnancy.
Moreover, she directly confronted Romney about his apparent flip-flop, which she clearly believed was politically motivated. According to Dushku, Romney told her that his change of position on the issue of choice had been approved in Salt Lake City. “They told me it was OK to take such a position in a liberal state,” Romney said.
Among my circle of Facebook friends — many of whom I used to interact with in the real world before the internets relieved me of that burden — there is a tendency to celebrate the common-sense wisdom of one Dwight David Eisenhower. (There is also a seemingly endless fascination with kittens and Star Wars, but that's for another post.) The good general’s quotes are brought up to demonstrate that the Republican Party was not always dominated by con artists, shills, and flat-out lunatics. “Why isn’t the GOP this sensible today?” or something similar is usually the comment that accompanies these citations.
What my friends don’t seem to realize is that The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today (since it would be an oxymoron to call it “The Modern GOP" or even “Today's GOP”) has its roots in a reaction against the very moderation that Eisenhower embodied. The short version is that early in Ike’s first term, a small group of right-wing reactionaries concluded that Eisenhower was a communist dupe (!) because he did not move immediately to uproot every last trace of the New Deal immediately upon taking office. So they decided they would do it themselves. Step One was to take control of one of the two major political parties, and we can all guess which one they picked.
Step Two was to get a candidate of their choosing onto the national ticket. That turned out to be Goldwater in 1964 — which was rather sooner than expected. Goldwater’s campaign is usually depicted as a setback for this peculiar brand of conservatism. But the reality is that winning the election was not the point of his candidacy, although I’m sure the folks who put him there would have viewed it as a nice perk if he had actually won. (All of this is admirably recounted by Rick Perlstein in Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, which I consider indispensable in understanding how we got into this mess.)
Step Three was to actually take the White House, which as we all know was accomplished by Saint Ronnie of Reagan.
Which brings us to another point my Facebook friends have made fairly regularly: The notion that Ronald Reagan — yes, even Ronald Reagan — would be “too liberal” for The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today. Nor is this point limited to Facebook. It seems to be Conventional Wisdom (which would explain why it’s disseminated on Facebook.) Last week it showed up here:
A lot of people have said that Reagan wouldn’t even recognize the Republican Party of today. Do you think that’s right?
I think that’s right. I don’t think Reagan or myself or any of us could win a primary now with these standards...
The problem with this idea is that it completely ignores the basic reality of what Reagan was — an opportunist. He would have become whatever his handlers told him to become in order to win a primary, and then a general election. I know The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today likes to claim that Reagan was a great leader. And certainly he exhibited many of the outward qualities of leadership. What he never exhibited was any actual leadership. Reagan was a follower, not a leader. It’s as simple as that.
So, let’s review:
1) Eisenhower was not representative of the GOP even when he was its nominal head.
2) Ronald Reagan is not our friend. Not then. Not now. Not ever.
Please make a note of it.
Following up on Pennsylvania’s shame when the legislature and governor decreed that in order to vote citizens needed two government issued forms of picture IDs, now finally the courts have thrown the whole thing out.
Registered voters now may sign the voter roll book and vote just like last year. The shame, though, continues because the GOP-controlled administration decided to send a full color mailer to every voter in the state saying two government-issued picture IDs were needed to vote. Conveniently they sent the mistaken mailer before the courts threw out the controlling law. No corrective mailers have been sent.
In addition, several counties in this cradle of democracy have failed to change their online voter directions to reflect the court’s rulings. It is fair to say that thousands of Keystone State voters will believe they can’t vote because of the Republican efforts to suppress the vote. This is all part of the continuing effort by the GOP to deny large groups of voters their Constitutional rights.
Incidentally there has never been a prosecuted case of voter ID misrepresentation in Pennsylvania, though Florida has seen a wholesale voter fraud attempt this year funded by, you guessed it, the Republicans.
Interviewer: So, how’s your visit going?
Martian: Cool. Love your planet.
Int: And you’re campaigning for Romney?
Mar: Yeah, Martians love Romney.
Int: What is it you like about him?
Mar: We love that he’s rich. And he says funny things.
Int: How so?
Mar. Just funny, man. When he told the Brits they probably couldn’t pull off the Olympics — that was a gasser. And how about insulting forty-seven percent of all American voters? That was fall-down-on-the-floor funny. The man ought to be on Comedy Central.
Int: If you say so. I see you’ve been doing some shopping.
Mar: Yeah, this is a great planet for shopping.
Int: Looks like you’ve got some hats in that tote bag.
Mar: That’s right. I needed some sun hats for my heads. Not much shade back home. So I thought, why not Romney hats? Talk though your hat. Isn’t that the expression?
Int: Not exactly, but I see the hats say, “Have a Nice Day.” What’s that got to do with Romney?
Mar: “Have a Nice Day”— that’s the Romney campaign platform…
Mar: “Have a Nice Day” is a great message. It captures Romney’s philosophy of government, the way he solves problems. It would go over great on Mars.
Int: But down here, we like things a little more — I don’t know — pointed.
Mar: What’s the point of pointed?
Int: Never mind. What do Martians for Romney think of Obama?
Mar: Bad news.
Mar: He’s a commie.
Int: Anything else?
Mar: He wasn’t born in the U.S. He was born on Mars.
Int: Obama’s a Martian?
Mar: You got it.
Int: How many Martians are there?
Mar: Twelve. Well, eleven since we got rid of Obama.
Int: You threw him out?
Mar: Yeah. Martians hate big government. Also, didn’t like his looks. Also, he’s a Muslim.
Int: What wrong with his looks?
Mar: He’s odd-looking. Got a weird color and only one head.
Int: You’re a little odd-looking yourself, if you ask me.
Mar: Yeah, but nobody asked you.
Int: Did the other Martians come with you?
Mar: Just my other half. Most Martians hate politics.
Int: I noticed that half of you was missing.
Mar: Yeah, she went to Wal-Mart. Loves the prices.
Int: Is your other half also a Martian for Romney?
Mar: Damn straight. She thinks he’s handsome. And she loves that he has a speedboat.
Int: Those are good reasons.
Mar: You bet. Listen, gotta run. Meeting the other half at a Have a Nice Day rally. Don’t want to be late. Maybe Romney will actually say something. You never know, right?
The Sage of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution makes it possible for you to watch Honey Boo Boo instead of Rachel Maddow between now and the election:
While others may have math, I have THE math, in the form of my own statistical model. It has been carefully calibrated over the years to the point that after the fact, it has accurately predicted the outcome of every presidential race dating back to Grover Cleveland. In the interest of transparency, I’m about to let you in on the secret details of how it works:
In my model, as in most such models, we start with the basics: The number of women to whom the GOP candidate’s grandfather was married at any one time, which in this case would be (4). You multiply that by the number of extramarital affairs conducted over a lifetime by the spouse of the current secretary of state (237). (CAUTION: This number could shift at any moment.)
You then add the number of emails sent in the past four years depicting the Democratic nominee with a bone through his nose, which would be 457,283. You divide that by the total number of beers and cigarettes tried by the GOP nominee in his lifetime (2), divided again by the total number of beers and cigarettes consumed by the Democrat (58,399).
You multiply that by the square root of the number of hair follicles transplanted into the Democratic VP (√6,798=83.53) divided by the best marathon time fraudulently claimed by the Republican VP nominee (2.55).
Subtract the percentage of Americans gratuitously insulted by the GOP nominee (47), add the number of times in a best-two-out-of-three match that the First Lady would beat you arm-wrestling (3), and then also add the number of dog-lover votes — in units of tens of thousands — lost by the Republican for transporting an aptly named Irish setter (Seamus) on the station-wagon roof (236.5).
Finally, you add the number of percentage points that all polls but Rasmussen are skewed in favor of Democrats (10). Voila!
You now have the mortal-lock number of electoral college votes that the Democratic nominee will win in any given year.
From the Washington Post:
A federal judge won’t block Florida’s plan to cut the required early voting days from 14 down to eight.
Judge Timothy Corrigan ruled that there was not enough proof that the change burdened the ability of African-Americans to vote. Nor did opponents prove that the law was discriminatory in intent or effect, he wrote.
In addition to cutting the number of mandatory early voting days, the new Florida law eliminates early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, a day when high percentages of minority voters headed to the polls in 2008. (That surge might be in part due to black church activism, known as “Souls to the Polls.”) The new law mandates two Saturdays and one Sunday for early voting, but not the Sunday before Election Day.
You will be astonished to learn that Judge Corrigan was appointed by George W. Bush, who was an American president for eight years despite what the Republican Party would like you to think.
From an article by Judge Corrigan, on a possibly unrelated matter:
Finally, how many of us have faithfully followed the admonition that we “never reject from any consideration personal to ourselves, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay anyone’s cause for lucre or malice”?
Connecting.the.Dots evaluates Mitt Romney, a presidential candidate:
“There’s two ways to look at this guy. One is that the glass is half empty,” said a Republican dean of public policy at the University of Massachusetts in 2007. “The other is that the glass is totally empty.”
Jay Bookman nails it:
In his tweets urging Romney to “draw clear line: offer specific path,” [Rupert] Murdoch hits on one probable cause for the GOP nominee’s aversion to specifics: “Stop fearing far right which has nowhere else to go.”
Romney understands that the policy specifics that would be acceptable to his party’s base would be unacceptable to the general-election voter, and vice versa. So he grimly refuses to go there, judging that the cost of silence will be lower than the cost of clarity. His entire presidential campaign has been built around the goal of establishing himself as “severely conservative,” to use his own description, and he has internalized that goal to such a degree that he simply doesn’t dare to put that reputation at risk.
The problem is, there’s no reason to believe that he would show any more independence while governing than he has in campaigning. As Grover Norquist said back in February, “We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it.”
That’s the job description that Romney is attempting to fill.
Saying he could no longer abide the burden of deceit, Mitt Romney announced last night that he is withdrawing from the presidential race.
The Republican nominee, who has been running for president since he was fourteen years-old, told a gathering of sobbing supporters at his Boston campaign headquarters that “he just couldn’t take it anymore — the smugness, the deceit, the gross distortions of the facts, the cheap racial innuendoes, the hypocrisy, the nauseating outright lying. Oh, the lying, the lying, the endless disgusting lying.
“My father brought me up to tell the truth and that’s what I’m going to do,” Mr. Romney told a hastily gathered press conference attended by a few disbelieving reporters and stunned supporters. Gone were the paste-on smile and the pathetic regular-guy pose as the former Massachusetts Governor, tears gathering in the corners of his eyes, tried to explain why he was withdrawing from his endless quest for the presidency only two months shy of the election.
“A couple of nights ago I was in bed and I heard the voice of my father, saying, ‘Hey, boy, I know you want to be President so bad you can hardly stand it, but, Mitt, was it worth turning yourself into a cheesy, two-faced, double-talking, flip-flopping, lying faker?’
“Well, you can imagine how I felt. I adored my father and to hear this from him was painful beyond description. It was like having Newt Gingrich call you a friend. It was like a Rush Limbaugh lecture on ethics and morals. What people admired most about my father was his integrity. He always told the truth, and it came to me that these days I almost never tell the truth.
“I had thought maybe if I could just win the presidency then I could go back to the time when I told the truth too, back when I was fourteen years-old. But then what’s-his-name — Ryan — came out of nowhere and started piling whoppers on my fibs and there was no chance, no hope, that I could ever pretend to be a truth-teller like my father unless I quit the game here and now.
“They’re saying I made a great speech at the convention and I could tell the crowd really liked it. The problem was that the whole speech was as phony as that look I get on my face when I’m trying to seem like a caring human being. Believe me, I hate that face as much as anybody else. And that walk of mine! Those little, mincing steps. They told me to walk that way to look more presidential. But it doesn’t look presidential at all; it looks stupid and I’m not going to do it anymore.
“I’ve been under increasing pressure to reveal my plans for the country — the economy, health care, Afghanistan, whatever. Well, here’s the truth — I don’t have a plan. I haven’t the slightest idea what to do about the economy or anything else. Ryan has a plan. It’s called The Ryan Plan, and he’s been shouting about it for a couple of years. His plan will fix the economy by doing away with everything except more tax breaks for rich people. I guess I could adopt his plan but there are at least two things wrong with that strategy: One, it’s the Ryan Plan, not the Romney Plan, and, two, it’s the worst plan I’ve ever seen.
“People say Mitt’ll fix the economy because he knows all about business and that’s how he got so rich. Well, here’s the truth: The reason I haven’t released my tax returns is that I don’t have any money. Bain Capital was a three-card-monte scheme that made a lot of noise but not much money. Best-paying job I ever had was Governor of Massachusetts. Nowadays, Sheldon Adelson gives me an allowance and all the rest of it — the houses, the cars, the boats — all that is owned by the RNC. “Heck, even my family is a fake. Those fine-looking young men — some of whom speak foreign languages — they’re not my sons. They’re Rick Santorum’s kids. On loan for the duration of the campaign. You know Rick and birth-control; he’s got about thirty kids and they’re having a hard time finding work.
“So that’s the story: No more fibs, no more distortions, no more empty promises. I feel like a man freed from prison. I feel great. And you know what? I don’t think I would have been a very good president anyway.”
Headline on Yahoo NewsGOP convention story:
Big deal. So what? I mean really, who cares? What if somebody followed Jesus around all the time, fact-checking every little thing He said? Where would we be today? Think about it.
The shame of Pennsylvania keeps piling up. For me it’s personal because I have worked for the county at the polls each election day. I assume they’ll call me like always before the November election. I will decline, saying, “I will not, even for a much-needed $120, participate in the GOP effort to disenfranchise voters.”
The poll workers will be the on-site enforcers, and they are required to take an oath upholding the law in Pennsylvania. That part of the law which requires picture ID issued by the government is outrageous and immoral. It will deny the vote to young and old alike. l’ll have no part in it.
There are more important things than money.
It’s kind of endearing, really, the way the vote suppressors of the GOP are coming right out and saying what they really mean. Fom The Columbus Dispatch:
…A study by the Franklin County Board of Elections shows that 48 percent of early, in-person votes in 2008 were cast after hours on weekdays, on weekends or on the Monday before the election — almost none of which is available to 2012 voters.
And those late ballots came predominantly from blacks and Democrats, the research shows. In all, 8 percent of whites cast early in-person ballots, while 13.3 percent of blacks did, said the study, which used census data to estimate the racial breakdown of voters…
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the county Republican Party and elections board member who voted against weekend hours, in an email to The Dispatch. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.”
He called claims of unfairness by Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern and others “bullshit. Quote me!”
From the Los Angeles Times:
EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — As protesters assembled on a beach in advance of Mitt Romney’s evening event at the home of conservative billionaire David Koch, the candidate slipped to East Hampton for his first of three fundraisers on this tony stretch of Long Island…
A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. “I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. “Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.
"We've got the message," she added. "But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies — everybody who's got the right to vote — they don't understand what's going on. I just think if you're lower income — one, you're not as educated, two, they don't understand how it works, they don't understand how the systems work, they don't understand the impact."
From this month’s Frank Rich column in New York magazine. Read it all here.
In defiance of the whither-democracy laments of such fellow academic authorities as Kathleen Hall Jamieson (the author of Dirty Politics) and Thomas Patterson (The Vanishing Voter), Geer chastises all the doomsayers for being “so worried about ‘civility’ in campaigns.” He argues not just that “democracy can survive negativity” but that “without negativity, no nation can credibly think of itself as democratic.” He points out, as others have, that negative ads tend to be more accurate than positive ads — a low bar, to be sure — and contain more news that voters can use. Mike Murphy, the irrepressible GOP political operative and wit, agrees. “We have a joke in the business,” he told Geer, that “the only difference between negative and positive ads is that negative ads have facts in them.”
After all, who can say they have never used the bus? Maybe not on a regular basis, maybe only for an emergency. I myself have done both. When I lived in San Francisco I could not afford a car (something else Mitt Romney has never experienced.) But I didn’t actually need one. I could get just about anywhere in 30 minutes or so. All sorts of people took the bus. People in business suits, people in waitress uniforms — some of those were even women — people in jeans and t-shirts. It was all very democratic. (And I got some decent exercise and a lot of reading done.)
In Los Angeles, the buses aren’t quite as useful. Oh, they go just about everywhere, but LA is so goddam big that relying on them is something of a desperation move. (Mind you, I don’t denigrate the people who depend on them - rather, they have my sympathy.) So I use the buses every now and then, usually when my car is in the shop. I make a conscious decision to do without a rental, and take a bus home. My wife will invariably ask why I didn’t call someone to pick me up. But the fact is I like to take the bus every so often. I feel it’s an experience to which I should maintain a connection.
Sometimes it’s quite an experience. The last time I took an LA bus there was a guy sitting in the back having a very spirited conversation with his own reflection in the window. At one point he said to his reflection, “I don’t care — I’ve got a bullet for everyone on this goddam bus!” To which I mentally replied: “And it’s neatly mounted on a nifty plaque, right? With a commemorative T-shirt?” I was quite relieved when he got off at the next stop.
So that’s something else I’ll be Mitt Romney has never done — having to wonder, really wonder, what someone five feet away from you is contemplating. Even in San Francisco where the “right” people also took the bus, I was engaged in conversation by a guy who kept his entire right arm suspiciously concealed in his coat. Turned out he was a Moonie, turned out he’d hurt his hand and it was in a cast, but it took a good ten minutes to find that out. And then there were all those guys who wandered past the bus stops shouting at the air. (This was in the 80s, when he had not yet started electing people who shout at the air to state legislatures and Congress.)
So there are several experiences that are not uncommon that I’ll just bet Mitt Romney has never had. I’d also be willing to bet that were he to have them, he would not learn the same things from him that I did. If Mitt Romney is elected, there will most likely be fewer buses, and they will wind up costing more. Those who have to wait will find themselves waiting longer — for a lot of things.
I figured the quote below would get at least as much MSM attention as Ed Rendell kvetching about Obama, but either nobody noticed or nobody cared. It’s Grover Norquist, during episode 16 of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (my transcription). I see no other way to read this than that the GOP’s leading intellectual expects President Obama to win a second term, with the Democrats retaining the White House till at least 2032.
The modern Republican Party has been president-centric for the last 40 or 50 years because they knew they’d never have the House and Senate. In the same way that the Democrats for the last 60 years have been a congressional party. Their power is in the congress and then when Obama came in, what did he do? He signed the stimulus package that the Democrats in congress wrote. He signed the Dodd-Frank Bill which was not the Geithner bill, it was written in Congress…
The Democrat party for the last 60 years has been run out of the House and Senate. Republicans have been president-centric. That shifts, because if you look at the next 5, 10, 20 years the Republican are more likely to have the House and
Senate than the President, and that’s where the leadership is going to come from.
You gotta hand it to the Republicans, at least they’re equal opportunity election-riggers and ballot box-stuffers. They even do it to each other. Read the whole amazing story from which this excerpt comes (h/t to Charles P. Pierce):
Opinions remain divided as to whether the convention chaos that has been witnessed at recent state conventions across the country is a result of a coordinated national effort by Republican party leaders to disenfranchise Ron Paul delegates.
In both Maine and Nevada, for example, Romney supporters were caught distributing counterfeit delegate slates. In Arizona, there were complaints of ballot stuffing and the convention was eventually shut down when it appeared likely that a Ron Paul supporter would be elected as the national committeewoman. In Massachusetts, after Ron Paul supporters won 16 of 27 district delegate slots, state party leaders quickly moved to try to invalidate the results.
It could just turn out that events force Obama to do what we’ve needed him to do all along. Personally, though, I doubt it.
More likely, in my opinion, is that he’ll continue to try splitting the difference and having it both ways. That seems to me a pretty risky approach to re-election because it basically depends on events to carry him through rather than asserting a reason for continuing in office. But at this point it’s hard to imagine anything but an equivocal response from Barack Obama. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.
Consider the Obama campaign’s approach to what seems intended as a touchstone for the election strategy, the attack on Romney’s time at Bain Capital. Certainly there is much to despise in the Bain record, including exhibitions of capitalism at its worst. And it’s hard to make the case for the capitalist’s favorite meme, creative destruction, at a time when so many mortgages are underwater, so many people are out of work, and so many corporations and their executives are rolling in cash. They get the creation, we get the destruction.
This strategy, though, doesn’t have everyone on board.
Some Democrats in Virginia expressed concern that voters in the business-oriented suburbs around Washington would not coalesce around attacks on Bain. Sen. Mark R. Warner, a former cellphone entrepreneur, said in an interview that Bain is “a valid issue and debate” but also a company that “did a good job for their investors.” One prominent Virginia Democrat who requested anonymity to speak candidly said the Bain strategy is “risky” because it feeds an existing narrative among business leaders that the Obama administration is not friendly to their interests.
The problem is that it’s so hard to criticize Bain without critiquing capitalism itself. That, of course, is what the country desperately needs right now, and the Occupy movement has brought the issue to our collective consciousness. Now would be a perfect time to bring the discussion to basic questions of fairness and sustainability. But the Democrats are just as owned by Wall Street as the Republicans. Can you guess which business sector’s contributions to the two campaigns dwarf all others?
So it may come to the point that all Obama’s efforts to cozy up to Wall Street will come to naught and the Street will pick the Mitt, who after all is much more like them. Will Obama then choose to swing for the fences and try to recruit the non-voters with a full-throated denunciation of the destructive side of capitalism, or will he try to split the difference between reality and Wall Street? If he picks the latter he stands a good chance of losing in November.
It came out this week that Mitt Romney was an asshole back in prep school, too. The hijinks cited in the Washington Post article include assault and battery, and whimsically tricking a vision-impaired teacher into walking into a door. Romneybot’s empathy simulation protocols were malfunctioning even then. In short, our Willard was something of a bully.
Oddly enough, that’s okay. Or it might be. Sort of.* People do stupid things when they’re young, and some of them are egregiously, even criminally stupid. Part of growing up is learning that those things were stupid or wrong. Part of being a grownup is to be able to acknowledge one’s mistakes, and what one learned from them.
I’ll let Steve Almond explain that part that is not and could never ever be by any stretch of the imagination even sort of okay:
I don’t mean to suggest that Romney is without compassion. I believe, for instance, that he loves his wife and his children, and that he believes in God and the flag. But there is something in his character that I am starting to get frightened about, an unwillingness, or an inability, to feel remorse, to simply own up to a moral failing, to apologize not just if “somebody was hurt” but because you know, deep down, that you hurt someone.
Think about it: here are these half dozen men who took part in a savage act nearly fifty years ago. It has haunted all of them. And the ringleader, the guy who made the plan and led the mob and cut the victim’s hair off remembers … nothing?
It’s just bullshit, total fucking sociopathic bullshit. And it makes me sad that such an episode comes to light and all Romney can do — a guy who wants to be elected to our highest office — is nervously lie and make excuses, as if this were political problem.
Nicely put. And it got me to asking a very simple question: What is Romney afraid of here? Is he afraid to admit to having been cruel and thoughtless as a teenager? Or is he afraid to admit that he is no longer cruel and thoughtless as an adult? Frankly, it’s pretty clear that he’s still thoughtless, if not cruel, as an adult. But hell, even George W. Bush knew enough to pretend to care. Even George W. Bush could declare, however glibly, “When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.”**
All of this has crystallized in my mind just what it is I find so troubling about Mitt Romney. I don’t think this guy has the slightest idea just who it is he wants us to think he is. Never mind who he actually is — I don’t think that one’s even knowable. Who does he want us to see when we look at Mitt Romney?
Obviously, Mitt wants to be president in the worst way. And if elected, he would be. (Ba dum pum!) But here’s the thing: He’s not even willing to pretend to do the first part of the job — i.e. act like he gives a shit during the process of campaigning. He was willing to pretend to be something he wasn’t when he ran for Governor of Massachusetts. And in the earlier primaries he was obviously willing to pretend to be anything else. But here — when he arguably should have the sense to put up a good front — nothing. I guess putting up a good front, like laws and taxes, are for little people.
(In reflecting on this I can’t help hearing in my head the voice of Greg Marmalard from Animal House saying, “Let the unacceptable candidates worry about that.”)
There’s one other thing that really bothers me about the bullying story. Consider: Mitt was born into a rich family. His father was the goddam governor. He didn’t just go to Harvard, he knew he was going to Harvard, pretty much from the moment the doctor announced “It’s a boy!” What’s more Harvard knew it too. And all of this wasn’t good enough for our Willard. No, he had to torment classmates and teachers alike to prove — what, exactly?
I’m guessing we’ll never know that one either.
* By saying it might be okay, I don’t mean that bullying is acceptable or something to shrug off. I was myself bullied in high school for being gay — even though I wasn’t gay. My point here is that if Mitt showed an iota of reflection or empathy, we could at least put his actions in prep school in some sort of perspective.
** Okay, it’s waaaaaay too early to be starting any sentence with “Even George W. Bush...” Hell, it took 35 years for things to get bad enough to start sentences with “Even Richard Nixon...” Says something about our friends in the GOP that they can hit a moral nadir and keep going down.
From Robert Stein, at Connecting.the.Dots:
After morphing into a Tea Party zealot to win nomination, the GOP choice is in the kind of tricky transition described by JFK while running against Nixon in 1960: “It must be hard getting up every morning trying to decide who you’re going to be that day.”
Nixon lost then but won eight years later by virtually erasing himself to edge out disorganized Democrats. Covering his campaign, Gloria Steinem wrote: “When Nixon is alone in a room, is anyone there?”
Frank Rich explores the history of the GOP’s devolution from birth control crusaders to vaginal probers. You will be astonished to learn that politics and not primitive religious doctrine was behind the shift. A taste:
…The GOP started backing away from its traditional beneficence on women’s issues at the tail end of the Nixon presidency. Nixon had a progressive GOP take for his time: He supported the Equal Rights Amendment, appointed an impressive number of talented women, and in 1972 signed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act to strengthen the policing of workplace discrimination. But, in a telling shift a few months earlier, he also vetoed a bipartisan bill enabling child care for the millions of mothers then rapidly joining the workforce. As Melich observes, it would have been consistent with GOP frugality if Nixon had rejected the bill solely because of its cost. But his veto was accompanied by a jarring statement that child care would threaten American families by encouraging women to work. The inspiration for this unexpected reactionary broadside came not from fundamentalist clergy but from cynical, secular political strategists eager to exploit the growing backlash against the sixties feminist movement, much as the “southern strategy” was exploiting the backlash against the sixties civil-rights movement.
This tactic preceded Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973. The new GOP was hostile to female liberation, period, not just female sexual freedom. The pitch was articulated by Newt Gingrich in his first successful congressional race in Georgia in 1978. His opponent, a state senator named Virginia Shapard, crusaded for the Equal Rights Amendment and bankrolled her own campaign. That uppity profile gave the Gingrich forces an advertising message: “Newt will take his family to Washington and keep them together; Virginia will go to Washington and leave her husband and children in the care of a nanny.” Newt won by nine percentage points. One of his campaign officials tied his victory to the strategy of “appealing to the prejudice against working women, against their not being home…”
Willard Romney, eBay’s current top bidder for the GOP presidential nomination, is the proud owner of no less than six homes.
Romney’s personal real estate includes six homes: one in La Jolla, two in the Boston area, a ski lodge in Utah and two lakeside residences in New Hampshire.
No word on whether any of those homes have a dog strapped to the roof.
Here are some assumptions that I think it is safe to make from the above list:
1) Willard’s houses will all abut nicely paved roads. After all, he wouldn’t want to risk gravel dings on any of his wife’s Cadillacs. Who paved those roads? That’d be “the government.” Who paid for that roadwork? That’d be “the taxpayers.”
2) Willard’s houses will all be hooked up to a sewer line. Said line will feed into a municipal system and ultimately a treatment plant. Who runs those? That’d be “the government.”
3) Willard undoubtedly sits placidly in each of his six houses, untroubled by the prospect that any of them are likely to collapse about his head. How can he do this? Because those houses will have been built to code. Whence cometh this code? That’d be “the government.” This same code also means that our Willard doesn’t have to spend any of his valuable time worrying that faulty electrical wiring will reduce his home to a pile of ashes. (Of course, if he turns out to be wrong about that, the help will promptly call the socialist Fire Department.)
4) I know nothing of the geography of Boston. But it’s safe to say that Willard’s two houses in Boston will be in the nicest parts of town. What makes them so nice? One thing would be well-maintained roads, which we’ve already covered. Another would be a solid police presence, in the form of either regular patrols or prompter response times should there be trouble. Government and taxes at work, once again.
5) La Jolla I’m more familiar with. Let’s say that Willard’s home there has a lovely ocean view. What makes that ocean view so lovely? One of those things would be government protection of coastal areas. And I’d be willing to bet there are some very nifty zoning laws that help to keep the ocean view unobstructed.
6) We can make similar assumptions about the lakeside residences in New Hampshire. Willard simply would not live next to a lake that was a fetid pool of waste and pollution. What keeps those waterways so pristine? One way or another, that will be overseen by that terrible horrible no-good very bad government.
The evidence is clear — Mitt Romney is a lousy stinking socialist! You don’t hear him denouncing any of these benefits he receives from the Government, do you? Nope. Not a peep. That means he must approve of them.
That, of course, is always how it is: It’s only “socialism” when it benefits someone else. (Especially if that someone else’s skin tone is darker than beige.)
From an old piece by Russell Baker, the most perceptive and sensible New York Times columnist of my lifetime:
Implicit in the politician’s call for “family values” is a summons for people to shape up and start living their messy lives the way government wants those lives lived. Listen closely and you can hear politicians insisting on a government duty to meddle in the strange ways of families. You can hear government asserting a duty to promote moral uplift. What could be more loathsome than a government supervising the moral elevation of the family?
As all of us here must know when not mesmerized by political quacks, every family is a self-governing institution and, in every case, entirely idiosyncratic. To ascribe nobility to such structures is absurd, for each operates under its own rules and morality. There are large loving families, and large families whose members detest each other while loving the blood that unites them, and dark families primed for intra-family murder, and foolish families stuffed with pride in their genealogy charts, and little two-person families headed by single parents, and divorced families, and families like Ma Jarrett’s and Ma Joad’s and Ma Barker’s.
What do the Oscar presentations and the Republican debates have in common?
Most of my male friends prefer the soft, rounded kind to the Republican kind, but it should be noted that these preferences are by no means unanimous, or political. I am told there are people, real masculine persons, who actually admire one or two of the boys on the Republican presidential debate team. No kidding. Think they’re swell, win-one-for-the-Gipper kind of guys, men you’d want with you in your foxhole or riding at the head of the cavalry column.
But…had the last debate aired at the same time as the Oscars, would those same admiring male persons have been watching Ron Paul’s Adam’s apple go up and down or would they have been ogling J-Lo’s cleavage? We’ll never know but it’s a question that will haunt us like all the great mysteries of human existence. Why are we here? What is the meaning of it all? Is God a Republican or a Democrat?
Over at the Oscars, Meryl Streep took the best actress award for playing Margaret Thatcher almost as well as the old bat played herself. A remarkable performance and one that might serve to inspire Mitt and Rick and Newt when they’re rehearsing for their next audition for the Big Part.
Meanwhile, Mitt, who can play the role of a desperate man as well as any actor alive, tried hard to get his foot into his mouth once again — not easy when your mouth is already jam-packed with feet. Mitt told the voters that in the great state of Michigan, one of his several home states, the trees were just the right height. Many people found this puzzling so Mitt enlightened them by repeating the statement. Apparently, Mitt believes that if you say something incredibly stupid and baffling you can make it right by saying the same incredibly stupid and baffling thing again. Don’t explain, repeat — that’s the idea.
Mitt tried to win some Motown points by reassuring Michiganders that the Romneys were an American-car family. His wife drives not one but two Cadillacs. This is the sort of factoid that resonates so well with the unemployed and the foreclosed-upon. No matter, you need a good car if you’re going to drive to Canada with a dog strapped to the roof.
Newt the Cheerful was named best historian/non-lobbyist in a trailing role based on an existing work of fiction. Good actor though he is, Newt has always had trouble playing anybody but himself. Kind of like Jimmy Stewart but not as tall, a lot chubbier and immeasurably less likeable. As if to confirm that he hasn’t even a skinny ghost of a chance to land the Republican presidential nomination, Newt released an “infomercial” in which he sits at a desk and talks about energy for half an hour. If anyone has sat through the whole thing he or she is not telling.
And let’s not forget Santorum the Sanctimonious, who has also done some fine work in front of the cameras in recent days. Rick ran well against the Mitten in Michigan and he has scored numerous points among the backward, the intolerant and the ignorant. His main problem is that he is running in 21st-century America instead of 15th-century Spain.
But the Rickster knows what plays in the media. He called President Obama a snob for wanting all American children to go to college and he characterized as sickening John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech reaffirming the constitutional separation of church and state. Made him want to throw up, he said. So, not surprisingly, Rick walked away with the award for the biggest hypocrite in a sometimes leading role except maybe for Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney.
Of course any awards ceremony or political debate is thrilling. But the GOP debates might have been that much more interesting if J-Lo and Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek and a few others had made an appearance. Just a thought.
At last night’s debate — which I made a point of not watching — we had this exchange, when John King asked each candidate what was the top misconception about them, and Romney responded with the usual blather:
KING: Is there a misconception about you? The question is the misconception.
ROMNEY: You know, you get to ask the questions you want, I get to give the answers I want.
KING: Fair enough.
Far be it from me to tell John King how to do his job. But I humbly suggest a better response might be along these lines:
“Governor Romney, has it occurred to you that while I’m employed as a journalist, I am also a citizen and a taxpayer? Has it occurred to you that the reason we are here is that you are asking me as a citizen to vote for you, and as a taxpayer to cover your salary and benefits for four to eight years? Do you understand that one of the fundamental principles of this republic is that the president is answerable to the citizens — like me, for instance? Is it your contention that you are not in fact answerable to citizens — or only answerable to those with whom you happen to agree?”
I’m not holding my breath for that kind to follow-up to any exchange with a Republican...
Foster Friess, one of the leading bidders in the current E-Bay auction of the 2012 election, is being rightly excoriated for saying this:
“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such [sic] inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly,” he said.
There are men in this world still who think contraception is solely the woman’s problem. Clearly, Mr. Friess is among them. That would be fine, maybe, if they would at least get out of the way and leave it to the women to solve. Right?
Apparently not. For we also have this:
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of [Issa’s] decision, citing frustration over the fact that the first panel of witnesses consisted only of male religious leaders against the rule. Holmes Norton said she will not return, calling Issa’s chairmanship an “autocratic regime.”
So what we have is what we always have, in the Republican worldview: It’s your problem, whatever it is - until you try to do something about it. Then and only then will they take an interest - and only to tell you that you can’t solve it at all.
And they call this process “freedom.”
It’s been far too long since I visited with Princess Sparkle Pony. What would the doyenne of coiffure criticism make of Callista Gingrich? Plenty, as it turns out. A snippet of which is below:
…Instead of just touching up the roots, some slipshod (local?) hairdresser went wayyyy overboard and redyed the Platinum Orb in its entirety, and it is FRIED. Chemical burns are clearly evident. Judging from wire photos, the coiffure vandalism happened either yesterday afternoon/evening or (more likely) this morning…
The Moderator, a self-important TV news person, a man called Wolf: Gentlemen, let’s begin with a question for Speaker Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, could you tell us…
A Man Called Newt: What I’d like to know is how so many seriously stupid people could get on the same stage with me and challenge my right to be president?
A Man Called Mitt: I’ll answer that one, Fig Newton, but first let me say this. I make no apology for being successful, although I must admit I was a little surprised to find out I made $45 million last year for doing absolutely nothing. Of course, it helps if you don’t pay much tax.
Wolf: Gentlemen, could we get back to the question?
Mitt: I’ll answer Newt’s question. You’re never going to be president, Tons o’ Fun, because you’re simply too weird to be president. The American people don’t want weird; they want boring. They want me.
Rick Somebody or Other: That wasn’t the question. The question was…
Newt: Wait a minute. Isn’t your name Rick Somebody or Other? I thought you dropped out of the race.
Rick: That was the other Rick. Rick Perry, the Texas dude who couldn’t remember the name of one of the federal agencies he was going to shut down. I’m Rick Sanitorium.
A Man Called Ron, Also Paul: I remember you very well; you used to stand next to Michele Bachmann in the early debates. Where is Michele, by the way? Always liked that girl, even if she was an idiot.
Rick: She dropped out, too. But I’m not dropping out. I’m from Pennsylvania and I think contraception is a sin and so is abortion and so is sex, for that matter, although I love my kids.
Ron: Well, I’ll be damned, all this time I thought you were the other Rick. Hey, while I’ve got the floor, let me suggest that a good way to bring down the deficit would be to get rid of the navy, the air force and the Supreme Court.
Newt: Snappy thinking, Ron. While we’re at it, let’s get rid of Congress, too, okay? Ah… Bear, Wolf, Coyote — whatever your name is — might we move things along? Why don’t you ask me a question and thereby raise the level of discourse.
Wolf: I tried to ask you a question, you lard-assed egomaniac, but you interrupted…Oh, for God sakes, will you stop crying.
Mitt: See that! He’s crying again! The American People don’t want a crybaby for president. They want a kindly family-oriented businessman who pulled himself up from nothing, made some important dough, and figured out how to game the tax system.
Wolf: Hold on, I’m getting a call in my earpiece. Did anyone order a pizza?
Ron: Good Lord, it must be that double-talking screwball Cain.
Wolf: Mushrooms, peppers, extra cheese?
Newt: Could be Cain. He makes a good pizza. I ate about twenty-five of them in New Hampshire.
Mitt: I can see that.
Newt: Don’t get smart with me, Mitten. You’re nothing but a vulture capitalist who made his money feasting on corporate carrion. I am a jolly, amazingly intelligent historical advisor to quasi-public real estate lenders. Who happens to be pleasingly plump.
Mitt: Whatever you say, fat boy. Blubber is as blubber does.
Rick: I have a question for you, Newt. What do you and the gang up at Freddy Mac talk about if not how to exert influence on the government?
Newt: Oh, we talk about the Missouri Compromise, Truman’s relationship with the Soviet Union, George Washington’s idea of government — things like that.
Wolf: So Freddy Mac pays you a bundle to get your thoughts on the French and Indian War… is that what you’re saying?
Newt: Oh, are you still here, Coyote? I was hoping you’d shut yourself up in the Situation Room. And it’s none of your business what Freddy Mac and I talk about.
Ron: Well, look who’s here — the pizza king!
Herman Cain: Hi, everybody. Who ordered the pepperoni? Who had the extra cheese?
From Gail Sheehy’s 1995 profile in Vanity Fair comes all you need to know about Newt — semi-smart but with nutty ideas, poor follow-through, and a mess left for somebody else to clean up.
Surprisingly, the boy in the bottle-thick glasses with a plaid shirt and plastic pocket protector was only a runner-up as a National Merit Scholar. He did make the debate team, but, according to his stepfather, Bob Gingrich, “he wasn’t an A student … He wasn’t the class pride.” His mother Kit claims that Newt’s I.Q measured in the 120s…
“He always tried to be one of the boys,” says Kip Carter. “He never quite was.” To illustrate the point, Carter tells a down-home kind of story from the 1970s. Newt and Carter, who was then his campaign treasurer, used to barbecue hogs in the Gingriches’ driveway in Carrollton, Georgia. They would go to a friend’s farm and pick out a hog and shoot it.
“One day, Newt says to me, ‘I need to be the one to kill the hog. It’s only right, just morally.’”
Carter showed Newt how to use a Walther P-38, a W.W. II German pistol. “I said, ‘Put some corn in your left hand. When the pig comes over to get it, put the pistol against his head and shoot him between his eyes.’”
“So the pig comes over and he starts eating,” says Carter. “Newt flinches as the round hits the pig on the side of the head and ricochets down.” But the shot only stunned the hog and sent it fleeing back into the pen. “Newt keeps trying to get this pig to come back to him. Newt’s getting madder and madder. I said to him, ‘You just shot the son of a bitch in the head, Newt, why do you think he’s gonna come to you?’”
Carter recalls urging his comrade-in-arms, “‘You gotta get in there, in the hogpen, and go get him.’ But Newt wouldn’t do it. So I ended up going in the pen and killing the hog.”
In what is surely the longest, most peculiar slog ever toward a GOP nomination for president, nothing has been or will be weirder than this story from Newsweek.
Go take a look. Trust me on this one.
From Tom Degan at The Rant, a line I wish I had written:
Well over a year ago I predicted on this site that the religious bigots and crazy people who long ago hijacked the “the party of Abraham Lincoln” would never nominate Mormon Mitt Romney. “David Duke will be named head of the NAACP before that ever happens” I speculated at the time. It appears that I might be forced to eat a healthy dish of crow on the occasion of Mitt’s victory in the New Hampshire Primary last night. This is not to imply that the half-witted “base” of that party are happy about what happened last evening. Anything but. Let me put it to you this way: The Republicans just got the news that they’re pregnant and they’re trying to fall in love as rapidly as possible.
Tacked on to the end of The Rude Pundit’s daily scatology is the question below. None of Romney’s Republic opponents will dare to raise it, for fear of having to answer it himself. However we can surely count on the truth-seeking pit bulls of the MSM to… Okay, okay, forget it.
In other words, everything Mitt Romney wants to do would harm Americans. Everything. So of course he’s gotta get out there and be the total dickhead he always was and always will be.
Here’s the question someone needs to ask, repeatedly, of Romney: “If you had been elected in 2008, what would you have done to clear the wreckage left behind by George W. Bush?”
Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest and a history professor at Barnard College, writing in RD Magazine:
When I lived in Iowa in the 1970s, my father was pastor of one of the largest evangelical congregations in the state. Although he remained a Republican to his death, my father was resolutely apolitical in the pulpit.
Things began to change for Iowa evangelicals — and for politically conservative evangelicals elsewhere — in the late 1970s. Iowa, in fact, was the proving ground for abortion as a political issue. Until 1978, evangelicals in Iowa (as elsewhere) were overwhelmingly indifferent to abortion, even after the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973; they considered it a Catholic issue.
The Iowa race for United States Senate in 1978 pitted Dick Clark, the incumbent Democratic senator, against a Republican challenger, Roger Jepsen. All of the polling and the pundits considered it an easy win for Clark. In the final weekend of the campaign, however, pro-lifers (predominantly Catholic) leafleted church parking lots all over the state. Two days later, in an election with a very low turnout, Jepsen narrowly defeated Clark, thereby persuading Paul Weyrich and other architects of the religious right that abortion would work for them as a political issue.
Politically conservative evangelicals in Iowa began to mobilize. Ronald Reagan carried Iowa in 1980 over Jimmy Carter, the incumbent, evangelical Democrat. In 1988 I returned to Iowa for the precinct caucuses to write about evangelicals negotiating the vagaries of political life. Many were self-identified “housewives” who were “lobbying from the kitchen table.”
The religious right in Iowa never looked back. Concerned Women for America, Beverly LaHaye’s organization, became a political force. Rush Limbaugh and other fixtures of the downstream media became staples on WHO, Iowa’s Clear Channel radio station. The radio station KWKY, located — literally — in the middle of an Iowa cornfield, became a beacon of evangelical political rhetoric, most of it leaning toward the hard right. Gannett’s purchase of the Des Moines Register in 1985 diminished the newspaper’s independent voice.
Here’s a post from W.W., on The Economist’s Democracy in America blog. You won’t get any argument from me, except over the author’s assumption that religions other than Mormonism are not equally “weird and made-up”:
Pundits keep talking about the “non-Romney” candidates, but what they really mean is the “non-Romney, non-Paul” candidates. Mr Paul, who clinched a close third-place finish Tuesday night, filled Iowa’s airwaves for months with ads aimed squarely at social conservatives, but he didn’t win anything close to Mr Santorum’s support from evangelicals or tea-party movement symps, despite the fact that Mr Santorum barely advertised at all. Why? Because Ron Paul is anti-war.
Mr Weigel, citing Sarah Posner, is spot on; the tea-party movement is “a new framework for the same conservatives who dominated the GOP a month before the Tea Party began.” Which is to say, the tea-party movement is just another expression of the American right’s signature brand of identity politics. It’s overriding concern is elevating the power and social status of those who hold dear a certain conception of American authenticity — white, evangelical, exceptionalist nationalism — and it does this, bizarrely, using the rhetoric of constitutionalism, limited government, and free markets.
Actual laissez-faire constitutionalists, such as Mr Paul, don’t stand a chance as long as they insist on leavening their exceptionalist rhetoric with the insistence that it is appropriate to evaluate American foreign policy by the same standards we use to judge others. Mr Romney’s desperate, almost lunatic jingoism keeps him in the running, but the suspicion that he is a squish on zygote murder and gay nuptials, in addition to his membership in a weird, made-up religion, keeps American-authenticity conservatives casting about for a better champion.
Mr Santorum may or may not have the talent necessary to obscure his brand of big-government, right-wing paternalism with tea-party rhetoric. But it’s certain he can’t obscure his Catholicism, which isn’t nearly as bad as Mormonism, but sure isn’t great. I reckon a combination of Mr Santorum’s popery and unusually explicit hostility to freedom will do him in. That’s why Rick Perry’s staying in the race, I think. American-authenticity conservatives don’t mind that much if their man can’t utter a non-mangled sentence, as long as he’s right with God, and it’s the right sentence.
Son Ted boils it down for us: “So coming out of Iowa, the GOP contest is Senator Man-on-Dog vs. Governor Dog-on-Car.”
From The Loyal Opposition:
At an early-morning rally today, a few hours before the Iowa caucuses begin, [Romney] discussed his love for the patriotic song — probably the most beloved in the canon — and recited several of the song’s verses, strongly suggesting that its vision of the country differed from President Obama’s…
The lyrics were written in 1894 by the Massachusetts poet Katharine Lee Bates, an ardent feminist and lesbian who was deeply disillusioned by the greed and excess of the Gilded Age.
Her original third verse was an expression of that anger:
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!
I think you should all watch this holiday beauty:
It was probably not a great idea for Rick Perry to rent a hunting camp once called Niggerhead. Not that Rick minds offending blacks — he questioned President Obama’s patriotism, didn’t he? — it’s just that sensibilities have changed in the past fifty years in ways that the Texas Governor may not have noticed.
He has called Hispanics in his state “Josés,” as in, “The Josés will sue you at the drop of a hat.” He has implied that President Obama, while lacking any true feeling for the country, is also a coward. Likewise he has said that the head of the Federal Reserve Bank, Ben Bernanke, is “almost treasonous” if he orders more money to be printed before the election. He has called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. He thinks Medicare is a socialist conspiracy and will bankrupt the country. He says government is the problem and the best place to create jobs is in the private sector. To make his point, he cites the large number of new jobs in Texas during his tenure and doesn’t mention that most of them are government jobs.
Even if this latest blow-up on the tough-talking Texan’s yellow brick road is just another dust devil, does it suggest that in his case the N-word might have a different meaning? Nitwit, perhaps? Do you get the feeling that soon enough we won’t have Rick Perry to kick around any more? The cowboy governor’s campaign is reeling.
Yesterday, it was stammering performances against the likes of Michelle Bachmann, Newt and the Mitten. Today it’s the hunting camp; tomorrow, who knows? Pick your favorite gaff, stumble, screw-up, but whatever the reason, the ‘charismatic’ governor is falling fast in the polls and nowhere more precipitously than among those of a tea-party persuasion.
Apparently the tea partiers are disillusioned with Ricky because he’s started to tone down some of his best attention-getting positions. They liked him better when he was completely irrational, like them. Now he’s beginning to sound more like the other Republican candidates, except they’re better at grammar than he is.
Politicians are forever blathering about how canny the American electorate is: “The American people are too smart to be taken in by empty promises,” they say as they make yet another empty promise. Of course, to be fair, when your choice eventually comes down to two candidates, both of whom are running on a platform constructed entirely of empty promises, what are you supposed to do?
Still, there is little evidence to suggest that ‘smart’ is a good word to describe the American voting public. ‘Smarting’ might be better. ‘Fed up’ is good. But ‘smart?’ We elected George W. Bush, not once but twice. Was that smart? Look where it got us. Thousands dead and maimed and trillions of dollars spent, a huge increase in the national debt, and nobody can say for what. Nobody except, of course, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who chant, “We won. We won.” Won what? What did we win? Halliburton won enormous defense contracts and Cheney and Rumsfeld both won fat book contracts. Maybe that’s what they meant.
So now we’re in for another whole year of political bluster and bombast. A lot of us may be disappointed in Obama’s leadership but we can at least be thankful that we will be spared any serious challenge to his candidacy and all the misstatements, cheap posturing, and flatulence that would entail.
The Republicans will have to carry the burden for most of the year and we can all take comfort in the obvious talents they bring to the party. There are lots more N-words to draw on. Yes, N is for nitwit, but that’s not all. N is also for nothing, nada, nil, not, nonentity, nowhere, nobody home, nausea, numskull, nincompoop, none, no one, and no, no, no.
From Frank Rich’s latest, in New York magazine:
The important thing to remember about Perry is that he’s anathema to Mitt Romney, Karl Rove, and many conservative pundits no less than to liberals. His swift rise does not just reflect his enthusiasts’ detestation of Barack Obama. Perry’s constituency rejects the entire bipartisan Establishment of which Obama is merely the latest and shiniest product.
For two decades, the elites in both parties and in the Beltway media-political combine have venerated a vanilla centrism, from Bush 41’s “thousand points of light” to Clinton’s triangulation to Bush 43’s “compassionate conservatism.” They’ve endorsed every useless bipartisan commission and every hapless bipartisan congressional “Gang of Six” (or Twelve, or Twenty, not to mention the new too-big-not-to-fail budget supercommittee).
Perry, by contrast, is a proud and unabashed partisan. If he’s talking about gangs, chances are they’re chain gangs, not dithering conclaves of legislators. He doesn’t aspire to be the adult in the room, as Obama does, but the bull in the china shop of received opinion…
Should Perry get the GOP nomination, he could capsize like Goldwater on Election Day. That’s the universal prediction of today’s Restons. But maybe he won’t. Perry would have a cratered economy to exploit, unlike Goldwater, who ran in a boom time when unemployment was under 6 percent and the GDP was up 5.8 percent from the previous year. Whatever Perry’s 2012 electoral fate, his lightning ascent is final proof, if any further is needed in the day of the tea-party GOP, that a bipartisan consensus in America is as unachievable now as it was after 1964…
Doris Potter pointed me to this, which I pass along as a model for all politicians running for national office. Actually not quite all. McCain and Romney could teach this octopus a thing or two.
Turns out Michele Bachmann doesn’t have a title yet for her forthcoming campaign bio, so The 6th Floor asked readers to help:
The Age of Disenlightenment: How Science and Reason Ruined America
Good with Animals
Certifiable: Michelle Bachmann in Her Own Words
Doncha Know: Words of Wisdom from the Queen of Flyover Country
I'm Straight-Talking, and So Is my Husband
Not As Dumb as I Sound
Are You There, Michele? It's Me, God
A little one-sided? Well, so were the comments. What did you expect from Times readers? But here’s one from Brad, in Arizona:
Here’s an excerpt (via Jay Bookman), but watch the video for the full intellectual experience. That Rick Perry will probably be the GOP’s White Hope in 2012 would be hard to believe — if we hadn’t just lived through eight years of George W. Bush.
SMITH: Governor, why does Texas continue with abstinence education programs when they don’t seem to be working? In fact, I think we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.
PERRY: “Abstinence … works.”
SMITH: “But we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country. The questioner’s point is, it doesn’t seem to be working — abstinence education.”
PERRY: “It, it, it works. Maybe it’s the way it’s being taught, or the way it’s being applied out there, but the fact of the matter is it is the best form of — uh — to teach our children.”
SMITH: “Can you give a statistic telling me that it works?”
PERRY: “I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works …”
Tim Dickinson disassembles Roger Ailes in The Guardian, from which this excerpt comes. Dickinson writes that Nixon was married twice instead of once and that Ailes lives in New Jersey instead of Putnam County, New York. But no one’s perfect, and the rest of the piece looks pretty solid to me. Scary stuff.
Ailes knows exactly who is watching Fox News each day, and he is adept at playing to their darkest fears in the age of Obama. The network’s viewers are old, with a median age of 65. Ads cater to the immobile, the infirm and the incontinent, with appeals to join class action hip-replacement lawsuits, commercials for products such as Colon Flow and testimonials for the services of Liberator Medical (“Liberator gave me back the freedom I haven’t had since I started using catheters”). The audience is also almost exclusively white — only 1.38% of viewers are African-American. “Roger understands audiences,” says Rollins, the former Reagan consultant. “He knew how to target, which is what Fox News is all about.” The typical viewer of Sean Hannity’s show, to take the most stark example, is a pro-business (86%), Christian conservative (78%), Tea Party-backer (75%) with no college degree (66%), who is over 50 (65%), supports the NRA (73%), doesn’t back gay rights (78%) and thinks government “does too much” (84%)…
In fact, a study by the University of Maryland revealed that ignorance of Fox viewers actually increases the longer they watch the network. That’s because Ailes isn’t interested in providing people with information, or even a balanced range of perspectives. Like his political mentor, Richard Nixon, Ailes traffics in the emotions of victimisation.
“What Nixon did — and what Ailes does today in the age of Obama — is unravel and rewire one of the most powerful of human emotions: shame,” says Perlstein, the author of Nixonland. “He takes the shame of people who feel that they are being looked down on, and he mobilises it for political purposes. Roger Ailes is a direct link between the Nixonian politics of resentment and Sarah Palin’s politics of resentment. He’s the golden thread.”
Quick note on the occasionally entertaining but never enlightening Republican candidates’ debate still going on as I write this:
A few moments ago — I swear I heard it — Rick Santorum dumped all over Iran for its anti-gay policies. Rick Santorum? Man-on-Dog Rick Santorum? Could I have misunderstood somehow? Or was Rick slipping in, through the back door as it were, something he wants us to know about him? If so, what is it? Who is the real Rick Santorum? And who cares?
Addendum on the morning after:
At least one other person noticed Santorum’s newly-found solicitude for gay rights. Here’s Michael Scherer, live-blogging on Time.com:
80 minutes. This is where things start to get weird. Santorum is asked if he really thinks Attorney General Eric Holder is “perhaps smoking mushrooms” for wanting to try terrorists in civilian court. Santorum responds by saying that the Iranian regime “tramples the rights of women, gays and people throughout their society.” This is Santorum, the guy who was saying just a few minutes ago that it would be good to impose morality from the federal government. The non-sequiter is jarring. But perhaps it can only be understood by injecting marijuana or drinking cocaine.
From historian Taylor Branch’s 2009 book, The Clinton Tapes:
At home, the president analyzed twisted political maneuvers heading toward the fall elections. He focused on Newt Gingrich. The speaker had given spring speeches across the presidential testing state of Iowa, discussing his thoughtful book about future challenges from cyberspace to the world economy. Gingrich also met with Clinton’s chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, whom the president had persuaded to stay on awhile, about a compromise legislative agenda before congress adjourned.
Bowles was optimistic, but the speaker’s pollsters brought him disastrous results the same day. Clinton said he knew, because Gingrich later confirmed it himself, that all the numbers recorded a sharply negative reaction to him from core GOP voters across the nation, not just in Iowa. They rejected overwhelmingly the speaker’s softer, pragmatic image. The White House had similar poll numbers, and so did House Republicans who were jockeying to replace Gingrich if he ran for president.
Overnight, the speaker reverted to red-meat politics. He turned publicly against all Clinton’s legislation, including a bipartisan tobacco bill sponsored by Senator John McCain. He accused Clinton of “blackmailing” Israel to help the Palestinians. He called Clinton the nation’s “Defendant-in-Chief” for cover-up, corruption and crime. He said Clinton was wrong to claim that tobacco advertising induced young people to smoke …
In their singular request to choke off all but the military aspects of government, Republicans were reduced to invective and cries for perpetual tax cuts. Clinton hoped a proper campaign, by framing and comparing programs for the voters, could expose the Republican strategy as anemic and spent, if not cynical. Their few moderates in Congress were resigned, and the dominant conservatives were splintered.
Almost enough to make a fellow sorry for Sarah. Almost:
“…We looked online for the latest movie playing,” Jessie added. “But all the Harry Potters were sold out, and then we saw ‘The Undefeated.’ We don’t even actually know what we’re seeing.”
“Well welcome to California,” I said. “You’re about to see a documentary about Sarah Palin.”
“Oh, really?” they said, and started giggling again. I think they were expecting an action flick. When I returned to my seat, I thought maybe I’d talk to them after the movie, and get the perspective of two people who went in with no expectations. But they only lasted 20 minutes before walking out.
After that, it is strictly accurate to say that the theater was empty, except for me. On screen there were clips of a younger Sarah Palin helping to reform Alaskan governance. “In politics, you’re either eating well or sleeping well,” she said. I jotted this down: “And which of those are you doing now?”
Shortly before the end of the film, a young couple entered, walked to the back row, started making out, then interrupted their session and left (spoiler alert) as Andrew Breitbart, who made one of several guest appearances, started talking about eunuchs. Then I was alone again, working. Instead of researching civil liberties violations, or the war in Libya, or the contest to elect the next president of the United States, I was both a journalist and the only member of the public willfully paying attention to Sarah Palin, as if standing in for the pathologies of my profession…
This is from a speech by native-born Iowan Michele Bachmann, announcing in Iowa her candidacy for president of Iowa and the other 49 states, none of which can hold a candle to Iowa, poor things.
My late father-in-law was also from Waterloo, although he was too modest to boast of it outside the family. His were the instinctive good manners of the American peasant, and he would never have lorded it over those unfortunate enough to have been born in states without caucuses. “T’warn’t no big thing being born in Iowa,” he would say to us young’uns. “Ma done the hard part.”
But enough of my own deep roots in Waterloo. Here’s Congresswoman Bachmann:
It’s great to be in Iowa and even better to be in Waterloo where I was born. It’s fitting to be here at the Snowden House, the place that once served as the home of the Waterloo Women’s Club. I stand here today in front of many friends and family to formally announce my candidacy for President of the United States…
I often say that everything I needed to know I learned in Iowa. It was at Hawthorne and Valley Park Elementary Schools and my home, both a short distance from here, where those Iowan roots were firmly planted. It’s those roots and my faith in God that guide me today. I’m a descendant of generations of Iowans. I know what it means to be from Iowa — what we value and what’s important. Those are the values that helped make Iowa the breadbasket of the world and those are the values, the best of all of us that we must recapture to secure the promise of the future.
Below is footage of Congresswoman Bachmann groping George W. Bush as he flees her advances like a Guinean housekeeper in the Hotel Sofitel. Bush himself was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, although he never gives speeches about it. It’s like he was ashamed or something.
From the Washington Post:
In one-quarter of the country, girls born today may live shorter lives than their mothers, and the country as a whole is falling behind other industrialized nations in the march toward longer life, according to the study…
What surprised Murray and his team was that despite increased consciousness about disparities and per capita spending on health care that is at least 50 percent higher than European countries, the United States is falling farther behind them with each passing year.
What failed to surprise me and my team was this:
The region where life expectancy is lowest, and in some places declining, begins in West Virginia, runs through the southern Appalachian Mountains and west through the Deep South into North Texas.
This is a swath of red states where the right to bear arms is particularly cherished. Without it, voters would have trouble shooting themselves in the foot on election day.
Below is a video showing Florida Republican Dan Webster in the process of ousting the progressive Democrat, Alan Grayson, from his seat in Congress. The date was October 5, 2010; the event was sponsored by the West Orlando Tea Party.
You just heard the candidate saying, “The first thing we need is to actually take up a budget and talk about it.” Well, the new Republican majority in the House, after a brief pause to push a few hot button social issues, has finally delivered itself of that budget.
And below is a screen grab from the raw video of the freshman congressman indeed talking about it at the Orlando Town Hall yesterday. Just from the Schadenfreude aspect it’s worth watching the whole thing. But I can’t shake the suspicion that many — maybe most — of these red-faced hecklers were the exact same people who were shouting down Alan Grayson during the Tea Party’s summer of rage.
Democracy, saith the wise man, is that system of government whereby you give the people what they want, and give it to ’em good.
Just about four years ago the Grand Old Tea Party held a cattle call in South Carolina for its hapless crew of presidential hopefuls. A lot of the old gang are still around and still hopeful. One is Ron Paul, for whom I’ve had a soft spot ever since. Here’s why, from my post of May 16, 2007:
Sure enough, Pastor Mike Huckabee had the crowd in giggles right off the bat with this thigh-slapper: “We've done what Senator McCain has suggested. We've had a Congress that's spent money like Edwards at a beauty shop.”
My, how they laughed! The folks wouldn’t have been more delighted if good old Mike had just gay-bashed Mark Foley or Ted Haggard or Ken Mehlman or Mary Cheney or Karl Rove’s beloved stepfather. Probably less delighted, actually.
But enough of that.
A few minutes later an odd thing happened. Some guy that nobody ever even heard of grabbed a mike and committed common sense, right up there on the stage with women and innocent children watching.
It came as a mild but not unpleasant shock, like pulling up the lid and finding a rose in the toilet …
The perpetrator was named Ron Paul, who turned out upon investigation to be an obstetrician with libertarian leanings, an Air Force vet and an obscure Texas congressman who once represented Tom DeLay’s old district. Here’s some of what he said:
We’ve started with — we’ve just — the Republicans put in the Department of Homeland — it’s a monstrous type of bureaucracy. It was supposed to be streamlining our security and it’s unmanageable. I mean, just think of the efficiency of FEMA in its efforts to take care of the floods and the hurricanes…
We were spending $40 billion on security prior to 9/11, and they had all the information they needed there to deal with the threat, and it was inefficiency. So what do we do? We add a gigantic bureaucracy, which they’re still working on trying to put it together, and a tremendous amount of increase in funds…
There’s a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.
Q: Congressman, you don’t think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?
No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years …
We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we’re building an embassy in Iraq that’s bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us. (Applause.)
Q:Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?
I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we’re over there because Osama bin Laden has said, “I am glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.” They have already now since that time — have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don’t think it was necessary.
MR. GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.)
And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that. (Applause.)
I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.
They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think if we were — if other foreign countries were doing that to us?
This is the first time I can remember that any candidate for the presidency, of either party, has taken seriously the question that Osama bin Laden once suggested we ask ourselves: Why didn’t his men attack Stockholm? The misnamed “War on Terror” can only be won once we react to that question like grownups, not like Rudolph Giuliani and the fools who cheered him so wildly last night.
Robert Stein at Connecting.the.Dots reminds us of what the late, great Adlai Stevenson once said:
“The hardest thing about any campaign is how to win without proving you’re unworthy of winning.”
Chuck Butcher at Chuck for… says something that probably needs saying:
In Wisconsin half of you bothered to vote. Half. That means about a quarter of the eligible voters picked your elected officials. How many of you teachers didn’t bother, how many of you public janitors didn’t bother, how many whatevers of you just didn’t bother?
That begs the question of how many of you ignored your actual interests to vote against Obama or for some social right wing hobbyhorse that you won’t get. In point of fact, regarding the “Family Values Party,” not only won’t you get it but they don’t bother with it themselves.
You folks are providing endless amusement for the national media. What the hell, you haven’t listened to what the GOP has actually had to say? You didn’t pay any attention when reputable analysts said, “liars, liars, pants on fire?” Are you now saying, “We thought we were voting for reasonable, responsible Republicans,” and continue to believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa?
I pass along this from Robert Paul Wolff so you won’t have to waste any more of your time reading crap about Sarah Palin’s presidential prospects.
Back in the early seventies (when the late unlamented Richard Nixon was as yet an undisgraced president), I was sitting around with several UMass colleagues gossiping, as was our wont, about a mutual friend. He had just been elevated from the faculty to a Deanship, and we were speculating about what sort of administrator he would be. Since he had not even served as a Department Chair, we had no track record on which to base our speculations, so we were very much at a loss.
Then Zina Tillona, a Professor of Italian in the Romance Languages Department (since phased out as part of a long, tragic world-wide assault on the Humanities) offered a bit of folk wisdom that, with the benefit of many years of hindsight, I now recognize as truly profound.
“Well,” she said, “most people do most things the way they do most other things.”
At first, what she said struck me as being very close to tautological, but as I reflected on it, I began to realize the deep insight of that simple remark. People have styles of behavior, modes of interacting with the world, that are grounded in their character, and a person’s style of being manifests itself in small things as much as in large.
If a person is perpetually late, lingering with a student in her office rather than promptly moving on to the next student on her appointment list, she will probably continue to be late when it is Deans and Provosts she is dealing with. If a professor’s desk is neat and cleared of all papers, with six pencils lined up in a row, their newly sharpened points exactly aligned, then he will almost certainly be punctilious, precise, and obsessively complete in his scholarly work.
I thought of Zina’s maxim when trying to puzzle out the political ambitions and intentions of Sarah Palin. Would she run for the Republican presidential nomination? Did she even want to be president? One of my sons, to whom I had long since passed on Zina’s folk wisdom, recalled it for me, and went on to suggest that it held the answer to my questions.
Palin has held three significant positions in her life: mayor of Wasilla, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission, and Governor of Alaska. She walked away from the second and third, each time because she saw an opportunity to maximize her fame and personal wealth. She clearly had no interest in actually being Governor of Alaska, nor is there the slightest indication that she wanted actually to be, or even had any idea what was involved in being, Vice-President of the United States.
Since most people do most things the way they do most other things, she will almost certainly run for the nomination, because that is the best way to remain famous and to develop new money-making opportunities without working for them. But should she have early successes in the 2012 primaries, as well she may, she will find some way, before the nomination process is complete, to drop out of the race, presenting herself as a victim of all manner of plots and prejudices.
Indeed, even if she secures the nomination, it is a virtual certainty that she will quit the race before she is defeated on election day. That this will cause chaos in the Republican Party will be of no concern to her, for at no time in her entire career has she ever exhibited the slightest loyalty to anyone or anything beyond her own immediate interest.
Andrew Trees in the Los Angeles Times:
“Swilling the planters with bumbo” was what it was once called — the Colonial American tradition of treating voters with gifts during election campaigns, particularly plying them with rum (including a concoction known as bumbo). Virtually everyone who could afford the practice did it, including George Washington, who served 160 gallons of rum to 400 voters during the 1758 campaign for the Virginia House of Burgesses. Needless to say, this was a prohibitively expensive way to campaign, and it meant that politics was largely the preserve of the rich.
I was reminded of this phrase when a recent Center for Responsive Politics study of 2009 data found that 261 of the 535 members of Congress were millionaires (this probably understates the actual number because members of Congress aren’t required to report their homes as assets). When looking at both houses together, the legislators weighed in with a hefty median income of $911,000. For the Senate alone, median income was an astounding $2.38 million…
John Adams railed against this development more than two centuries ago. At the time, the prevailing view was that government positions should pay little, if any, salary so that only men with virtuous intentions would fill them. But Adams pointed out that this so-called solution did not ensure the election of virtuous men, only the election of rich men…
Adams’ great fear was that we would have what he called “an aristocratic despotism”: the possibility of “the rich, the well born and the able acquir(ing) an influence among the people that will soon be too much for simple honesty and plain sense.” In typical fashion, his judgment of that aristocracy was unstinting in its harshness. He wrote of “the weakness, the folly, the pride, the vanity, the selfishness, the artifice, the unbounded ambition, the unfeeling cruelty of a majority of those (in all nations) who are allowed an aristocratical influence…”
As [Adams] warned back then, you get the politics you pay for.
My God, what have they turned me into? Just now, watching the news from Alaska, I discovered myself rooting for Lisa Murkowski:
How to explain the mostly dismal results of yesterday’s elections? Here are a few comments on the AP’s story on Tea Party-backed Republican Paul LePage’s victory in Maine’s gubernatorial race over a moderate, experienced and able independent challenger, Eliot Cutler:
LePage will do some good.Maine has too many unemployed bums roaming the streets.Busy bodies in everyones personal business are driving people away that could benefit the state…
good things still do happen, thank you Maine…
Their brains seem to be working better up there ,maybe it's the water, maybe it's the air, and maybe its because, they are tired of dimschit socialist bullschit, which would be my first choice…
Finally - a true American has ousted the communist & racist left from Maine. Power to American moraled values that founded this country!…
Still haven't heard........DID MAINE VOTE YES TO LET ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS VOTE???? I didn't think I'd have to ask this question in AMERICA!!!!…
This man should be praised for once being a homeless child, and then making his mark in the business world. It would have been easier for him to grow up in a gang like the inner city kids, and then sell drugs I guess.. huh Democrats? Then all of America could have helped pay his way through life. This is a win for America! It shows that the dream is still alive and well…
There is an old political saying: As Goes Maine, So Goes the Nation! Republicans, Democratic Conservatives and TEA Party members will make their voices heard in 2012. The new wind sweeping across our great country will blow away the Socialist, Libertarians and weak Social Democrats, who are freeloaders of any society. No Red Flags here! Fascism and Socialistic Communism is dead-let them stay that way, RIP!…
Umm Since when is it the job of the Federal Government to FORCE companies to hire American workers? You REALLY have no concept of how our Government works, what it can and can not do. Do you realize that , The Takeover of GM and Chrysler by Obama caused to loss of 7 million jobs to other nations and counting? GM is now owned by Canada and the US Governent and Chrysler is owned by FIAT. Not to mention what Cap and Tax would have done to send jobs over seas. Regulation, the EPA, and Taxiation caused jobs to flee the Nation. I know its a strange concept but companies are in business TO MAKE A PROFIT, not to provide you with a job or health care or anything else. It is not up to the Government to say who can make what where and employ who. that is the job of COMMUNIST Governments not Free ones and we have all seen what success stories Communist Governments are. Get a clue, Get a life, or maybe get a girlfriend andmaybe you would not be so prone to rants on subjects you know nothing about
Lauren treaded right on my foot with her mean old head, mommy. Really, really hard, too. It really, really hurt. Really, I’m not kidding.
When she was on the ground, [Timothy] Profitt put his foot on her. “I said, ‘Now you stay down,’” he said.
Profitt said he and others were only trying to subdue Valle because of the potential threat to Paul. Profitt apologized, but also blamed MoveOn for forcing the incident.
“It was actually like a self-defense thing, the way I see it,” said Profitt, who is retired.
Who can blame the poor little frightened fellow (shown below with a friend)? Not the even more little friend, who bravely manned up as follows:
“It really was something where you walk into a daze of lights flashing, people yelling and screaming, bumping up. There was a bit of a crowd control problem,” Paul said. “I don’t want anybody, though, to be involved in things that aren’t civil. I think this should always be about the issues. It is an unusual situation to have so many people, so passionate on both sides, jockeying back and forth, and it wasn’t something that I liked or anybody liked about that situation.”
Both the Rude Pundit and I watched last night’s debate between Sharron Angle and Harry Reid, but only he had the wit to call it an inarticulate tortoise fight, and to caption the picture below
“Photos That Make the Rude Pundit Wonder if Parents Can Be Aborted.”
So I’ll spare you my reactions and refer you instead to his obscene, pornographic, scatalogical, thoroughly tasteless and absolutely dead-on coverage here.
Populism imposes its own humiliations on anyone considering a run. How many times can you stand in front of an audience and state: “I will always put the people of X first”? (Quite a lot of times, to judge by recent campaigns.) This is to say no more than that you will be a megaphone for sectional interests and regional mood swings and resentment, a confession that, to you, all politics is yokel.
The immediate impact is that the GOP became that much less likely to take over the Senate in November. A clear Republican win in Delaware became a likely Republican loss. But though that’s getting all the headlines, it slightly misses the point: The long-term impact of these primaries is not going to be on the incumbents who have been defeated. It’ll be on the incumbents who survived.
It was hard for incumbent Republicans to see Sens. Bob Bennett and Lisa Murkowski unexpectedly toppled in their primaries. But Alaska and Utah are conservative, quirky states. They were likely targets for an angry conservative electorate. The same cannot be said for Delaware, a moderate state that often goes blue. Rep. Mike Castle’s defeat was proof that no heterodox Republican is safe from a primary defeat — it doesn’t matter how popular you’ve been, or how clearly purple your electorate was. You’re not safe. You’re never safe.
Politicians are, by nature, a fearful species. But their nightmares became a lot more specific last night. The Tea Party, for all its unexpected successes, cannot topple every incumbent Republican in the country. But by toppling the right ones, it can make every incumbent Republican vote and speak and act with the Tea Party in mind. So though the Tea Party isn’t likely to send all that many of its own Republicans to Washington, the likely outcome of last night’s primaries is that the Tea Party takes over the Republicans who are already in Washington, and don’t want to be sent home.
More good sense, as usual, from Daniel Larison at The American Conservative:
According to the story Republicans tell themselves, they lost power because they spent too much, and they believe they are proving that they understand where they went wrong by opposing all forms of new spending. Even though they may be winning by default because of economic conditions, they very much want to link any success they have with this new opposition to more spending.
It’s a very neat, tidy, convenient and completely false narrative. According to the same narrative, the public supposedly soured on the stimulus because they became anxious about deficits. In fact, the stimulus lost support because it wasn’t enough of an actual stimulus bill, and so did not “work.” In some of the early Republican criticism of the bill, there was a basic acceptance of the belief that enough money spent in the right way would be stimulative. Now that a majority finds fault with the original bill, the new interpretation is that there should never have been one at all.
This makes the same mistake that Barone and a thousand others have made about the health care bill. They take all opposition to a complex, flawed, compromised, unaffordable bill and treat it as if it were all one thing, but opposition to the bill came from many different sources, including from those on the left who thought it was too weak, too much of a sell-out to insurance companies, or insufficiently ambitious in some other way.
Hostility to the compromised bill that was passed does not imply support for returning to the way things were, and hostility to the compromised bill does not necessarily reflect opposition to an increased government role in the health care sector. Barone wants you to think that it does, and he is basing almost his entire interpretation of the public mood and his expectation of a big midterm victory for the GOP on this misunderstanding. Barone’s mistake is the national GOP’s mistake in miniature: he is treating the election as a national one with a unifying theme that has a clear ideological meaning when it isn’t and it doesn’t.
Barone may end up being right that the GOP is going to win the House, but it will have been mostly by accident, because he refuses to acknowledge the real reasons why the GOP is in a position to win. The party is in a similar position: possibly on the verge of a great victory, but unable or unwilling to accept the real reason for it.
Here’s Daniel Larison in The American Conservative, making some excellent points (points, that is, with which I agree).
As I have said before, I don’t think the GOP will win the House, but if that did happen it would primarily be bad news for the Republican Party and the conservative movement. If that seems a little too counterintuitive for you, let me explain. Should the GOP somehow win the House, they will not have earned it and they will not deserve it, and they will proceed to destroy themselves in very short order.
Arguably, there was nothing worse for the American right than to be given the free gift of winning the 2002 midterms, because this win encouraged them to pursue the policies that proved to be their undoing, and a similar win in 2010 would have the same effect of enabling Republicans’ most destructively self-indulgent impulses. As one horrified by the prospect of Republicans in power, Erik should look forward to this.
After all, even if the Republicans won the House there would not be much that they could do once in office, except waste their time as they did in the ’90s hauling executive branch officials before committees to testify on this or that outrage of the week. They would likely be stymied by the Democratic majority in the Senate on any major legislation, and Obama would veto just about anything they passed if it somehow got to his desk. At the same time, Obama would make them into a much more effective foil for his arguments once they had some hold on power, and out of frustration they would become increasingly obsessed with “getting” Obama and become even less interested in representing the interests of their constituents…
Connecticut was once called (by its residents; who else would come up with such crap?) the Land of Steady Habits. That was then. Now we’re closing in on South Carolina for weirdness champion of the mid-terms. Setting aside the groin-kicking GOP senatorial candidate, Linda McMahon, the mogulette of pro wrestling, let’s concentrate for now on the governor’s race.
The Republican candidate is one Tom Foley, a money manipulator from Greenwich who drives a hundred-foot yacht named “Odalisque” which proudly flies the flag of the Republic of Marshall Islands.
Let’s set him aside, too, and return to the Democrats. The losing candidate in Tuesday’s primary was Ned Lamont, who came from family money, as we WASPs delicately say, and made millions more in cable television.
The winner was Dan Malloy, born in Stamford as the youngest of eight children. He got his law degree from Boston College and rose to become Stamford’s longest serving mayor. If he has a million dollars, nobody has heard about it.
So there’s the cast of characters as we close the first act in the race for governor. (If I mix metaphors, why then I mix metaphors.) As the second act opens:
1. Connecticut’s campaign financing law provides extra money to a publicly financed candidate who is outspent by a millionaire;
2. The Second Circuit recently ruled that the initial grants given to candidates who chose public financing were okay, but the law’s extra grants to match millionaires were unconstitutional;
3. The Connecticut legislature then passed a law that simply increased the size of the post-primary grants to gubernatorial candidates;
4. The outgoing Republican governor then vetoed the law increasing the grants;
5. So the Democrat-dominated Senate then voted to override the veto;
6. The gubernatorial primary occurred. Result: the GOP nominated Foley, a self-financed millionaire, and the Democrats in an upset nominated publicly financed Malloy;
7. Tomorrow, the Democrat-dominated House votes on veto override. The Democrats will be doing their best, that is, to benefit one single person in Connecticut: their own gubernatorial candidate.
To complicate the equation further, the Speaker of the Hous backed the losing Democratic candidate, the self-funded millionaire Lamont. And Malloy won’t be able to lure votes with the promise of jobs, having already promised all the good ones to win support in the primary. Or so rumor has it.
Are you with me so far? Good, because I’m not. Stay tuned.
Who could have guessed, only a short year ago, that mid-term elections would be so darn much fun? Yet here we are, five months away from elections that are usually a major snooze, enjoying all the political melodrama of a high school election for Prom King and Queen — and we’re only at the Primaries.
Some credit is due, of course, to the Tea Party’s transformative pseudo-populism that has turned garden variety conservatives into political contortionists trying to fit themselves into the Tea Party’s anti-establishment agenda — at least long enough to bag some of their votes. The Tea Party’s major contribution to electoral politicking, however, has been to legitimize the prospects of some seriously inexperienced, quasi-anarchic radical demagogues that couldn’t have won the proverbial office of dog-catcher in more rational times. But “the times, they are a-changin’…”
Just as we don’t have a clue how to fix the man-made disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, neither do we have any idea how to right our seriously listing “Ship of State,” in which our fearless leaders have decided to fire the cannons continuously over the bow, instead of bailing and plugging the leaks, to keep the ship from going down.
If one listens carefully to the campaigning of mid-term candidates (I know, I know, it can be quite disturbing) it becomes very clear that we no longer care very much what our political candidates think (or don’t think) about issues that theoretically impact life in America because, clearly, they don’t live in the same America that we do. Neither do candidates care very much about the general electorate’s thoughts on the issues because the general electorate doesn’t contribute enough to finance 21st century political campaigns — corporations and PACs do that.
The conundrum, for politicians, is that ordinary voters still provide the grease (tax dollars) they need to quiet the “squeaky wheels” that finance their political careers; so ordinary voters must still be courted. And it takes large amounts of money, and political capital, to persuade blocs of taxpayers/voters that the interests of corporate donors coincide with their own public interest.
Voting in America has become very much like playing the lottery — if you are extraordinarily lucky and beat all of the odds, it might pay off in a material way — but no one really expects to win. Meanwhile, for the losers, life goes on very much as usual, without any fortuitous assistance from the gods. Win or lose, millions of people will pony up for lottery tickets, week after week (whether they can afford it or not), because “you have to play to win.”
Politics, like lotteries, depend on a certain predictable level of participation and a great deal of hope and trust. Lotteries take your small contributions, which add up to huge amounts of money, and guarantee that someone will win big; all of those contributors who don’t “win big” can be comforted by the fact that their money has provided some amount of feel-good commonwealth, like better schools or assistance for the elderly.
Those are, I believe, some contributing factors to some of the more sophomoric campaign performances we are currently being treated to and, ultimately, the deadly voter apathy that can only make a bad situation worse; but then who cares to carve out a portion of their Tuesdays to go to the polls and choose between Dumb and Dumber?
Whether you choose to vote with a ballot or vote with your feet, it’s quite educational to take a look at the candidates and their efforts to win the “hearts and minds” of American voters…
Rand Paul, who recently won the Kentucky Republican primary for a Senate seat, gave us our first taste of a true Tea Party candidate floundering for a solid platform as spectacularly as the party that he aligns with. Paul came out of the gate, politicking like a pro running for President, à la Scott Brown; national media were only too happy to provide ample high-profile opportunities for Paul to trot out his half-baked ideological ramblings, committing political hari-kari in the process.
If the Tea Party, whose passion is for installing “newbies” in public office, had any misgivings about Rand Paul being the offspring of Congressman, ex-presidential candidate and Libertarian standard-bearer Ron Paul, Rand’s post-Primary victory-lap performance should dispel any notion that he knows what he’s doing in the political arena.
In the span of a few short days of peddling his “ideology” on national television Rand Paul has managed to be: unceremoniously excommunicated by orthodox Libertarians; publicly eviscerated by a reluctant Rachel Maddow for his stated support of business owners who have been stripped of their “right to discriminate,” by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, against clientele that they deem “undesirable”; mercilessly lampooned for his “accidents do happen” position on the Deepwater Horizon disaster along with his judgment that President Obama was treating BP in an “un-American” way by holding them accountable; excoriated for his view that the Americans with Disabilities Act is unfair to small business owners; and, last but not least, sued by the Canadian rock band Rush for copyright infringement for misappropriating one of their tunes as his during his campaign.
Someone with a little more political savvy than “The Candidate” finally pulled the plug on the Rand Paul Gaffe Machine and there was a brief quiet spell during which it is easy to imagine Paul being trained, by political handlers, to think before he speaks, because the American public is not as forgiving as loving parents or fraternity brothers who are inclined to indulge and, indeed, provide standing ovations for every pearl of pastoral wisdom that drips from the favored son’s honeyed lips.
Paul’s most recent tentative step back into the limelight is a little Op-Ed apologia that he penned for the Bowling Green Daily News that basically begs the public’s pardon for his excess of wonderfulness and pronouncing himself on an equal footing with Martin Luther King, Jr. That should dispel any rumors that Rand might be racist as well as casting himself in the role of the terribly misunderstood, but no less monumental, idealistic intellectual. Which, according to Rand Paul, is exactly what we’re lacking in American government today.
Paul’s “Ode to Himself” Op-Ed starts out like this:
“Kundera writes of a balcony scene in the winter snow of 1948 Prague. Clementis offers his fur cap to the new leader Gottwald. Later Clementis is purged by the Communists and airbrushed from all the photos. All that remains of Clementis is the fur cap on Gottwald’s head.”
Anyone who’s ever attended a pretentious, country club cocktail party knows this guy and also knows how his story ends whether he wins or loses elections. He’s right when he says that he’s not a pragmatist, but wrong when he defines himself as an idealist. He’s a narcissist — pure and simple, and professional politicians are poised to eat his lunch — if he gets a foot in the door.
A recurrent theme that is emerging out of Team Paul is that no matter what cockamamie thing comes out of the candidate’s mouth it’s tangential to the real issues which, I have to assume, he’s keeping “closer to the vest.” Jesse Benton who holds the unenviable position of serving as Paul’s campaign manager made this statement to USA Today regarding the Rush lawsuit:
“The background music Dr. Paul has played at events is a non-issue. The issues that matter in this campaign are cutting out-of-control deficits, repealing Obama Care and opposing cap and trade.”
But, wait a minute Jesse, aren’t Libertarians supposed to be all about respecting others’ property rights?
Then again, at the head of Paul’s Op-Ed piece he reminded readers that:
“I support the Civil Rights Act, but 2010 battles are about government overreach in lives.”
I vaguely remember hearing similar rhetoric, back in the day, from members of my generation who joined the SDS and who subsequently learned (the hard way) that the real world chews up and spits out ideologues for kicks.
Rachel Maddow just did a pretty comprehensive (and entertaining) rundown of those areas in which Kirk has taken some “political license” that is well worth watching.
In the meantime, here’s a summary:
Kirk is now famous for “misremembering” the fact that he did not win the U.S. Navy’s Intelligence Officer of the Year award (Instead, Kirk’s entire unit won a privately sponsored, not a Navy, merit award). Undaunted by the need to publicly retract that “mis-rembrance,” Kirk went on to “mis-remember” that it was his staff that caught the error in his official bio, when, actually it was the Department of the Navy that demanded that he correct his record.
Other notable Kirk “mis-remembrances” include having served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as Operation Desert Storm. And then there was the time that Kirk came under fire while flying a plane over Iraq not to mention his stint at “commanding the war room” at the Pentagon. All Flights of Fancy…
Clearly, Kirk believes that one’s military service is an important distinction when running for office so he has spared no embellishment in distinguishing his own military record. But Kirk’s “gift of gab” doesn’t stop there. As Maddow says: “He also makes stuff up about the world at large…”
Like Kirk’s rationalization that, of course the US should be drilling off its shores for oil, because, after all, the Chinese are drilling off the coast of Cuba and sucking up all the oil that could be ours (which assertion, of course, has no basis in actual fact). And while we’re on the topic of oil, Kirk promises to do his best to persuade the US government to stop getting oil from Iran — he even gives figures of 80 million barrels a day — which should be an easy sell, since the U.S. doesn’t get oil from Iran. Finally there’s the entirely fabricated story regarding the relationship between Somali pirates and France that is so convoluted that it makes me weary to think about it, so you’ll just have to watch the Rachel Maddow clip to hear it in all of its “fabulous” detail.
So. If Rand Paul is “simply a narcissist,” Mark Kirk is simply a liar.
Of the three Republicans, no one has been behaving particularly like an establishment politician, but then again we have to keep in mind that this is Nevada. The primary campaign has essentially broken down into a catfight with a detached bystander.
According to Brian Seitchik, Danny Tarkanian’s campaign manager, “Danny’s the only one who’s talking about issues, while Sharron and Sue club each other.”
I guess that’s why Danny was not doing as well in the polls.
Sue Lowden has snagged national attention for comments at a recent town hall meeting in Nevada in which she said that patients could barter with their doctors for health care — she suggested chickens as a once acceptable remittance for medical services. Easy for Sue Lowden to say since I’m sure that health care coverage is not an issue for her now and certainly wouldn’t be if she wins the November election and lands in the US Senate.
Sharron Angle, on the other hand, is of a more generous spirit, as Sue Lowden pointed out in her now-viral ad claiming that Angle had supported a program designed to use taxpayer dollars to provide prisoners with massages and spa treatments — a program of “detoxification protocols” attributed to the founder of the Church of Scientology.
Angle, who campaigned as a morally driven Christian crusader all about cracking down on government spending (and thereby securing the blessing of outfits like Tea Party Express and the Government is not God PAC), decided it might be best to purge her website of any whiffs of Scientology, like her fundraising work with celebrity Scientologist Jenna Elfman.
Elsewhere we have similar shenanigans in what has become known as the Polygraph Primary in South Carolina where Republican Nikki Haley is seeking to replace sex-scandalized Mark Sanford as candidate for Governor. As soon as Haley appeared to “show some legs” in the contest, rumors started to swirl about Haley’s own sex life. Not one, but two, men came forward to allege that they had known the otherwise married Haley “in the biblical sense.”
Both civic-minded champions came forward armed with evidence of the veracity of their claims: one provided text messages and phone logs to make his case; the other brought along polygraph results. Not to be outdone, another of Haley’s Republican opponents, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer jumped on the polygraph bandwagon to prove he had nothing to do with any of it.
According to Alex Pereene, covering the story for Salon, one of the purported lovers is, “Larry Marchant, a local lobbyist and former strategist for Haley opponent (and dimbulb bigot) Andre Bauer, says he had a one-night stand with Haley at a ‘school choice convention’ in 2008.”
The local Fox affiliate was happy to administer a polygraph test to confirm Marchant’s story; the results — inconclusive.
Pereene goes on to note that, “Marchant, suspiciously, ‘admitted’ to the indiscretion the day he was fired from the Bauer campaign, less than a week before today’s election.”
“Haley told the local media that all these allegations happened as soon as polls showed her with a lead over her rivals.”
I don’t know about you, but I have no interest in seeing any of these Yahoos in high office. As parents, most of us wouldn’t want them teaching in our schools so why, in God’s name, would we let them run the country? Maybe it’s a lack of viable alternatives…?
This astonishingly cute little kid is my second youngest grandson, Wyatt (with his once-cute father, Ted). If you live in Connecticut, do as the kid says. Vote for Jonathan Harris for Secretary of State.
…when you could register low-income voters in far greater numbers with a national ID card?
As DDay reported, the Reid-Schumer-Menendez draft on Immigration Reform calls for a national ID card (which they call a “biometric” or “fraud proof” social security card). Perhaps in a move to placate civil libertarians, the draft insists the card will only be used for employment.It will be unlawful for any person, corporation; organization local, state, or federal law enforcement officer; local or state government; or any other entity to require or even ask an individual cardholder to produce their social security card for any purpose other than electronic verification of employment eligibility and verification of identity for Social Security Administration purposes.
Now, let’s pretend for a moment that this national ID program would actually fix the problem of employers trying to hire cheap, vulnerable labor rather than paying market rate wages. Let’s pretend for a moment that this national ID program would avoid all of the security and privacy issues that such a program will be bound to have.
Why in fuck’s name would anyone with a “D” next to their name advocate for a national card — of any sort — without at the same time attaching it to automatic voter registration, also tied to the card? Why would the Democratic party propose any national program that did not, at the same time, insist on getting rid of our byzantine voter registration system that leaves large chunks of the population exposed to disenfranchisement?
Even if this is just a stunt designed to prove Democrats are “serious” about compromise so they can embarrass the bigots even more for their refusal to accept the compromise, why would you ever miss the opportunity to tie a universal registration card to a potential fix to the problems in our election system?
What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote — and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas…
Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer’s command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected…
The weapon she used to slice the Arizona voter rolls was a 2004 law, known as “Prop 200,” which required proof of citizenship to register. It is important to see the Republicans’ latest legislative horror show, sanctioning cops to stop residents and prove citizenship, as just one more step in the party’s desperate plan to impede Mexican-Americans from marching to the ballot box.
[By the way, no one elected Brewer. Weirdly, Barack Obama placed her in office last year when, for reasons known only to the Devil and Rahm Emanuel, the President appointed Arizona’s Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano to his cabinet, which automatically moved Republican Brewer into the Governor’s office.]
I didn’t realize how liberal the United Kingdom had become. Of course this is a country where the Conservatives are solidly for the National Health Service, an overtly socialist health-care system, so you know something’s up. Maybe it’s the Prozac in their water; in 2004 there were reportedly 24 million prescriptions for antidepressants in a country with just under 60 million inhabitants. But we’ve probably got at least as high a proportion of folks high on prescriptions in the US, and here they don’t stereotype as liberal.
Sure, you say, but the NHS there is like Social Security for us, the third rail. After all, look at how conservative Labour has become, leading the charge in Europe for the Iraq war everyone else was skeptical of, and attacking civil liberties with all the gusto of a Clinton or Bush. New Labour is to Old Labour as Clinton Democrats are to FDR Democrats.
Well, here’s what I offer as evidence, from an unimpeachable source. You might have heard that the leader of the third party, the Liberal Democrats, was generally agreed to have won the first-ever American-style televised election debate among the three party leaders, who would become Prime Minister if their party gained enough seats. Here in the US, of course, we deal with problems like Nick Clegg’s counter narrative simply by restricting the debates to candidates the two major parties approve.
So who are the Lib Dems, and what do they stand for? You can read the voluminous reports of the debate, or take a one-page quiz on which party you’d agree with most. I’m a Green there too, if Greens are considered, Lib Dem if not; and this has been my result in UK politics polls for years.
After all, in Britain right now the supposed liberal party, Labour, which had to scrap its plans for mandatory national ID cards due to widespread resistance, wants to extend the pre-charge detention limit, which I believe is a GWOT-era manifestation and thus a Labour invention, from 28 days to 42. Conservatives are fine with 28 days, but interestingly also propose such reforms as a Bill of Rights and stripping local authorities of surveillance power — actual conservative positions. Lib Dems want the limit reduced to 14 days, plus what the Tories want, plus some other stuff like protecting non-violent protest and extending the Freedom of Information Act. Who’s right wing here?
And it’s not just civil liberties: on transportation, environment, relations with Europe, foreign policy, I’m with the Lib Dems. Occasionally, according to the quizzes and comparisons, I’m with Labour, mostly on economic issues, and I think I ended up with the Conservatives on transportation, who want to build a bunch of new high-speed rail. Their damn Conservative party is so far to the left of our whole political system!
This entire rant was provoked by reading an article in the Times, and no I don’t mean the Murdoch paper. It consistently referred to the Conservatives as center-right, Labour as center-left, and the Lib Dems as centrist. No wonder Americans are confused about what’s happening abroad! The Times has always had certain blind spots, like Israel and Venezuela; but I thought they’d at least have someone who knew more about British politics than the readers.
To me the most interesting prospect is that of a hung Parliament, where no party gets enough votes to govern on its own. In the weird system Britain uses, Labour could actually poll third in total votes and still get the most seats in a hung Parliament. In that case, which looks increasingly likely, the Lib Dems will be kingmakers. What will they demand in return for coöperation? It’s been sugggested that they want election reform. Which will change everything.
Where’s the American counterpart?
From Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen:
On today’s episode of CNN’s “State of the Union,” viewers can tune in to find yet another Sunday interview with last year’s unsuccessful presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). For those keeping score, this will be McCain’s 14th Sunday morning appearance since President Obama’s inauguration in January. That’s 38 Sundays, for an average of a McCain appearance every 2.7 weeks.
Oldtimers will recall with what boring regularity Walter Mondale was invited onto the talk shows in 1985, Michael Dukakis in 1993, Al Gore in 2001, and John Kerry in 2005.
I run the following first as an admirable piece of snark, but also read Colin McEnroe’s whole posting here, for news on why Japan is buying up American political blogs — and for more on the wonderful candidacy of wrestling queen Linda McMahon for Chris Dodd’s senate seat.
While were on the subject of Chris Dodd, I wholeheartedly support his reelection, not in spite of the fact that he accepted a handcrafted mortage on his home from subprime grifter Anthony Mozilo but because he did.
Dodd’s indiscreet mortgage was pretty tame stuff as Congressional behavior goes, but nevertheless he is now obliged to be a bulldog on reform of the financial sector. And that particular strain of bulldog is pretty scarce on Capitol Hill.
Okay, back to the snark:
Alan Schlesinger was the Republican nominee for Senate in Connecticut, and it’s generally accepted that he would have found that experience a lot more enjoyable if the Republican Party had actually decided to support him. Instead, Joe Lieberman ran on the slogan, “There is no principle of the Democratic Party that I am not prepared to swap for a reasonably good chocolate chip cookie,” and Republicans took that as a sign they should probably vote for him.
Bad Attitudes has just hired, at the usual rates, a chief European correspondent. She is Jennie Erin Smith, a Florida journalist and author currently expatriated to Germany. Here is her first report from the dark heart of Sozialismus.
I left Germany for a month to attend to some business at home, and when I came back, ten days ago, it seemed more time had passed than I’d realized. The hills around St. Wendel, formerly wet and green, had dried to an ugly yellow, the whole landscape cocooned by an unfamiliar dry heat.
The one change I had eagerly anticipated, and was flabbergasted not to see any evidence of, was the end of a dubious excavation in front of my apartment. That minor project – the ripping up of about a quarter mile of street, changing out some pipes, and replacing a perfectly workable asphalt sidewalk with a decorative, woven-looking pattern of cement bricks, began in the spring, after the German government’s 50 billion Euros worth of stimulus really started flowing, and they flowed a good deal faster here than back home, though no one here has any real idea how all this will be paid for, either.
So every morning at 7 a.m. and no later the publicly funded jackhammers start, and though the heat is mild enough in St. Wendel that no one even bothers with air-conditioning, the work is over by about noon, when the guys sit around the tables outside the bakery looking very satisfied with themselves. This has something to do with Kurzarbeit, the shortened-workday program meant to keep unemployment from rising. There is no obvious reason this particular project couldn’t start later in the day, sparing us a lot of misery, but this is how it’s done.
My downstairs neighbor, a retired diplomat named Mertens, is far more pissed off than I am about the interminable project, because it’s his taxes. He goes to all the council meetings and said no one had ever mentioned the necessity of the decorative sidewalk until the stimulus. Every afternoon, when the equipment lies about dormant and unprotected, he walks the site with a serious expression, as though surveying casualties on a battlefield. “This — waste!” he yelled up to my window yesterday. “They will never finish. Never. Not for months.”
Angela Merkel and her fellow Christian Democrats were pissed off this week, too, by Vera Lengsfeld, a blonde, middle-aged CDU politician running for a seat representing Kreuzberg, a very left-wing Berlin district where Lengsfeld stands no chance in September.
A desperate Lengsfeld decided to use her melons to get votes, which would have been fine had she stopped there, but then she co-opted the Chancellor’s melons, too. The Lengsfeld campaign poster showed both women in low-cut evening dresses — Merkel’s rather striking photo was snapped at an opera last year. “We have more to offer” was Lengsfeld’s tag line (see below). This is how the German equivalent of Republicans behave.
“German economy unexpectedly grows in second quarter” was this morning’s headline, all over the place.
Speaking as one who was paying taxes back then, I would gladly have kicked in to give Todd Tiahrt’s mom the chance to deny us his great mind:
From McClatchy Newspapers:
…Speaking on the House floor, Representative Todd Tiahrt wondered: What if President Obama’s mom had had the chance for a taxpayer-funded abortion?
“If that financial incentive was in place, is it possible that his mother may have taken advantage of it?” he asked.
Tiahrt reasoned, “If you think of it in human terms, there is a financial incentive that will be put in place, paid for by tax dollars, that will encourage women who are single parents, living below the poverty level, to have the opportunity for a free abortion. If you take that scenario and apply it to many of the great minds we have today, who would we have been deprived of? Our president grew up in a similar circumstance.”
Tiahrt, who is running in the Republican Senate primary in Kansas next year, mentioned Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, too, asking “is it possible that we would be denied his great mind?”
Wonderful post on unions by Joe Bageant today. The taste below contains a quote — the one about one man, one vote — that was new to me. The unnamed speaker had nothing to worry about. In two short years the Supreme Court would solve his problem by ruling in Buckley v. Valeo that money was the functional equivalent of votes: the more of the former you had, the more of the latter you could buy.
If a few pricks and gangsters have occasionally seized power over the dignity of labor, countless more calculating, bloodless and malevolent pricks — the capitalist elites — have always held most of the cards — Gould could sneer, “I can always hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” And why a speaker at the U.S. Business Conference Board in 1974 could arrogantly declare, “One man, one vote has undermined the power of business in all capitalist countries since World War II.” And why that same year Business Week magazine said, “It will be a hard pill for many Americans to swallow — the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more. Nothing in modern economic history compares with the selling job that must now be done to make people accept this new reality.”
George W. Bush came close to winning the 2000 presidential election by pretending to be a closet Democrat — this being the barely-coded message of his “compassionate conservative” nonsense.
And Reagan won the 1984 presidential election fair and square by doing the same thing, although this is less generally understood. A while back I went into the question in some depth. I’m dusting off that 1988 piece now not because it’s particularly relevant to anything in the news, but because I was reminded of it yesterday when I posted that old video from Ronzo’s pink period.
And because it’s my party and I’ll post if I want to. So here goes:
Now Ronald Reagan has beaten the Democrats twice — not because he was an elephant, but because he had done such a good job of looking like a donkey.
Most foreigners could no more tell a Democrat from a Republican than they could distinguish between the male and the female of the Galapagos tortoise. But just as the tortoises are able to sort themselves out, so can we Americans. In the narrow mainstream of our politics, ranging from kind-of-far right to pretty-far right, the Democrats are the liberals and the Republicans are the conservatives.
The normal way to tell a liberal from a conservative is that the liberal is an optimist, while the conservative is a pessimist. The liberal imagines that the world can be changed for the better. The conservative imagines that it can’t. He looks into his own heart, supposes that all hearts must be similar, and concludes that very little can be expected of mankind.
Others must be as ready to attack him as he is to attack them, and so praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. Government is bound to be organized theft, so that the only remaining question for the intelligent man is who gets robbed. Liberated woman would prove to be no better than liberated man has been, and thus, in the interest of reducing the general level of mischief, should be kept barefoot in the winter and pregnant in summer. Only a sucker would believe that faith could move mountains, but greed will do the job just fine. Look at Appalachia. The mark of Cain is on all of us, and we are none of us any better than we should be. “In Adam’s fall,” as the New England Primer said, “we sinnèd all.”
These things being so, the path of history must lead downward, and it would be useless to stand in the way of this general decline. About the best a conservative can hope for is to preserve the status quo; the absolute best is to turn back the clock for a few moments, so as briefly to recapture some status quo ante…
In his most usual guise, then, the conservative is full of gloom and pessimism. He knows our sloth will drive us to bankruptcy, our lust to license; our anger to war; our envy to civil unrest, our covetousness to crime; our gluttony to a triple by-pass; and our pride to a fall.
The point is not whether this view is correct. The point, politically, is whether such pessimism is appealing.
Someone with a more favorable view of mankind’s capacities — someone, in other words, more liberal — might indeed think that the voters were up to hearing a few unpleasant truths.
Carter and Mondale seemed to have thought the country was mature enough for a little castor oil, at any rate. In Carter’s world petroleum was running out and the American Century was in danger of ending before it was over. His was a complicated world that required careful planning to manage.
Nor was Mondale’s world a cheerful one. It, too, required planning and discipline if we were to cope with Reagan’s deficits while at the same time restoring fairness to American life. Carter’s and Mondale’s faith that the voters could grasp these concepts was essentially liberal in its optimism about the human condition. And it was essentially misplaced, as the country showed both men on election day.
Reagan didn’t seem to see the world this way at all. In Mondale’s America, as the Republican commercials said, it was always April 15; in Reagan’s it was always the Fourth of July. Whether by temperament or by design Reagan ran as an optimist, which is to say that he ran as a Democrat.
His issues may have been traditional Republican ones, but this misses the point. If you campaign in poetry but govern in prose, as Governor Cuomo likes to say, then Reagan’s poetry was Democratic.
In both campaigns, but especially in the 1984 one, Reagan went beyond poetic license and into outright theft. The bands at his rallies played “Happy Days Are Here Again.” He adopted Roosevelt and Truman as Republican saints, and it worked; he sounded more like a Democrat than Mondale or Carter did. He talked about tomorrow with the cheerful optimism of the Happy Warrior, Hubert Humphrey; he talked about America’s role in the world with the mindless, adolescent macho of the early Kennedy; he offered guns and butter with the fiscal abandon of Lyndon Johnson.
In fact he made Johnson and those other Democrats look like pikers. They wanted to tax and spend; by 1984 it was clear that all Reagan wanted to do was spend. He was the Peter Pan of politics, never growing up and settling down. He was the grasshopper and the Democrats were the ants. Never mind what he actually said; after four years, everybody knew he didn’t mean all that stuff anyway. What he actually was, in both races, was the Democrat.
But how could he be the Democrat when he opposed virtually every social measure the Democrats had passed, over the years and over his dead body? The trick was that he went the Democrats one better. He said we had once had all these good things for nothing, and we could have them again for the same attractive price.
Cut red tape and the mighty engine of American industry will provide jobs for all. Cut funds for libraries and some new Carnegie will build them once again. Cut taxes for the rich and revenues will go up. Cut Matilda off the Social Security rolls and her children will take her in. Cut funds to enforce environmental and safety laws, and voluntary compliance will go up. Cut forests and you cut air pollution.
Reagan offered no-fault government to the Me Generation and to their parents, who often enough were vagabonding around in their RVs with messages like “I’m Spending My Children’s Inheritance” on the bumpers. (The message on their children’s BMWs was likely to read, “The One Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins.” The apple, the French say, doesn’t fall far from the tree.)
The old folks liked it that Reagan, old folks himself, stood foursquare for God, the nuclear family, enforced pregnancy to term, creationism, prayer in schools, heterosexuality between married adults — none of which would cost a nickel in taxes.
The younger folks had grown up in a world of homosexuals and casual sex and abortion and divorce. They seldom went to church. They saw little of their kids. But they forgave their permissive and nicely naughty Grandpa Ron for all his preaching, because they knew his fingers were crossed. No way he could really mean all those terrible things he kept saying about what had been, after all, his own lifestyle.
Reagan sounded like an optimist because he was able to sell Americans the notion that to retreat to the past was to advance, that yesterday could become tomorrow. That this might not be such a good idea didn’t occur to people who had little knowledge of what yesterday had been like. Their memories were either too short or, like Reagan’s, too selective.
In his 1986 State of the Union message, Reagan gave Congress an unusually explicit (for poetry) statement of his view that progress is just a question of retracing our footsteps:
Never has there been a more exciting time to be alive a time of rousing wonder and heroic achievement. As they said in the film, Back to the Future: ‘Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.’ Well, today, physicists peering into the infinitely small realms of the subatomic particles find reaffirmations of religious faith; astronomers build a space telescope that can see to the edge of the universe and, possibly, back to the moment of creation …
We are going forward with our shuttle flights. We are going forward to build our space station, and we are going forward with research on a new Orient Express that could, by the end of the next decade, take off from Dulles Airport, accelerate up to 25 times the speed of sound, attaining low-earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours. And the same technology transforming our lives can solve the greatest problem of the 20th Century. A security shield can one day render nuclear weapons obsolete and free mankind from the prison of nuclear terror.
It’s all there. Magical time machines to take us back to the 1950s. White-coated scientists ranging out in front of the rest of us and stumbling over, of all the darned things, proof of God and His creation of the world. Trips to the Exotic East with Sidney Greenstreet and the gang in a sure-enough time capsule, this one so fast that you arrive hours before you started out. And the same science that gave us the space shuttle will soon give us a warm and woolly security blanket to keep us safe from the Russian bogeyman.
Never mind that the space shuttle itself just blew up a few weeks ago and that the majority of graduate engineering and science students in America are foreign exchange students. Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.
That all this stuff is nonsense doesn’t matter, any more than it matters that the poem “Xanadu” doesn’t make much sense, either. They both invite us not to think, but to dream.
And Reagan’s dreams are appealing. Where Carter and Mondale offered self-improvement, self-criticism, and self-discipline, like a couple of country club conservatives advising the lower classes to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, Reagan offered no-fault government. High-paid volunteers will take your place in the armed services. Never mind about all those dead marines in Lebanon: look at the way our boys rolled over those commies down in Grenada.
Don’t worry, mon. Be happy.
Maybe it has been explained to everybody else’s satisfaction, but I don’t remember reading this odd fact about voter behavior anywhere before. Now, for the first time, I grasp what the hell has actually been going on in the Franken-Coleman mess.
Minnesota’s modern optical scan machines are astonishingly accurate when the voter completely fills the oval with a black pen. But 7 out of 7 peer-reviewed academic studies confirm that Democrats just do not follow this instruction as well as Republicans. Since the recount tallies any ballot with clear evidence of voter intent, Democratic candidate Al Franken’s march to victory was steady — just as predicted here. The State Canvassing Board, including two Supreme Court justices (and only 1 out of 5 members a Democrat), certified Franken’s margin at 225 votes after a hand recount.
Minnesota’s modern optical scanners had close to zero counting errors where the voter filled out the oval, as all obedient persons well-trained in taking SATs reliably did. But 6 out of every 10,000 voters didn’t follow directions, didn’t completely fill in an oval, or made other markings that the machine couldn’t be expected to interpret. That’s 1,672 ballots that were inspected by hand and interpreted by the Canvassing Board, many of them by less-educated or simply rebellious voters.
Mike sends this amazing Popular Science picture, taken from space, of yesterday’s inaugural crowd. It has to be scrolled through at full size to be appreciated, so click on the link above.
In re: Caroline Kennedy and Roland Burris, Dracomicron has said it for me at MyDD. So go over there and read it. Brief excerpt:
What I’m saying is, we need to stop being such outrage addicts. This election season was the most dramatic in modern memory, and there was a lot of stuff that we got outraged over, both legitimate and specious... I get that it will take some time for us to chill the hell out, but we need to do it. Barack Obama needs a functional legislative branch that can work on tackling the huge challenges he faces right away, and whether an appointee can effectively and honestly work at implementing his agenda is a bigger concern to me than if an appointee was selected in the dying throes of a corrupt governor’s career.
This was Hunter S. Thompson’s last dispatch from the presidential campaign of 1972. Try substituting George W. Bush for Nixon and John Kerry for McGovern. It isn’t a perfect fit, but it’s close enough for government work.
This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms about killing anybody else in he world who tries to make us uncomfortable.
The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his imprecise talk about ‘new politics’ and ‘honesty in government,’ is really one of the few men who’ve run for President of the United States in this century who really understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.
McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose, as a matter of policy and a perfect expression of everything he stands for.
Jesus! Where will it all end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?
It all ended on November 4 of 1972, when our nation of used car salesmen relected Richard Nixon in a landslide, George McGovern carrying only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.
This in spite of the fact that almost a month before election day the Washington Post had led the paper with a story that began as follows:
FBI agents have established that the Watergate bugging incident stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of President Nixon's reelection and directed by officials of the White House and the Committee for the Re-election of the President.
That’s how low you have to stoop.
My nephew Will Doolittle is an editor of The Post-Star in Glens Falls, New York. Like so many of us, he teared up on election night. But he had a special reason:
I haven’t felt this sleepy since 1996, when my daughter Zoe was a baby.
Back then, it was the nighttime excitement of having a newborn in the house that had me drowsing at my keyboard during the day.
When I got up in the night to warm a bottle for her, I would carry her down to the couch and turn on the TV and watch old movies while I fed her. My wife would find the two of us on the couch in the mornings — the bottle on the floor, Zoe slumbering on my chest.
Now, it’s the excitement of the election. I became a political junkie over the past few months — switching on CNN or MSNBC or C-SPAN every time I walked through the bedroom at home; checking an expanding list of Web sites every time I shifted in my seat at work (maybe something had changed in the last three and a half minutes!); tuning my radio only to POTUS ’08, the all-day all-politics station.
Back then, being a new father of a black baby, I was enamored of all things African-American. My infatuation with Zoe spilled over into an immediate affection for anyone with brown skin and curly hair. And the feeling seemed to be mutual. When I went out for walks with Zoe and passed black strangers on the street, their faces would inevitably light up and their eyes soften when they saw us.
It might have been my goofy smiles that moved them, but, more likely, it was the sight of the beautiful child accompanying me.
Zoe is much taller now, and I don’t flash that new-dad smile anymore. When she and her sister and her mother and I go out, we’re another family, bound by love and laundry, and that’s how everyone sees us.
Back then, sometimes when I was holding Zoe and trying to put her to sleep, I would read to her Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, because it was short and beautiful and, more than 130 years later, still resonant with truth.
But, when I reached the part about every drop of blood drawn with the lash being paid by another drawn with the sword, I would always get choked up, sometimes so much so that I couldn’t finish.
The last three days have been like that, as I watched Obama speak Tuesday night and saw people in the crowd crying; as I listened to people like Colin Powell talk about the way his entire family, sitting together at home and watching the election returns, wept when they saw Obama had won; as I read essays, even by conservatives, about how wonderful it is that America has elected a black president.
It is not out of happiness for Obama that we weep, but for our country, feeling, in some measure, we are redeemed.
We’ve already got Rahm, and I expect to see Dennis Ross’s name in the news soon. But please God, not Eric Holder as AG.
My sister Patsy went door-to-door for Obama in Michigan, as she wrote about weeks ago here. For weeks my brother Bill worked the phones for Obama in his Pennsylvania hometown, East Stroudsburg. Monroe County, in some small part due to him, went for the Democrat by 11,000 votes.
My lawyer son Ted took unpaid leave to travel to Pennsylvania work the phones as well, and on election day he did sentry duty at two polling places in Philadelphia.
And the blogger Papa Bonk went to Erie County, Pennsylvania to — cut up stickers. The thanks of a grateful nation (and world, for that matter) are due to all four of them, and to hundreds of thousands of others like them, and now here’s Papa Bonk:
Busch (sic) was a continual embarrassment … and finally an endless source of humor. That was his highest value.
Funny how I started getting the idea that it was my fault. Something my daddy told me one election night when he took me and my brother to the county courthouse to watch the election returns come in. “Politics starts with setting up chairs at the committee meeting,” he said, “Somebody has to do it.”
So I went to Pennsylvania…
Friday night before the election I am in Edinboro’s little store front office. I have a stack of sheets of stickers with a nice picture of Barack Obama that say Vote November 4. I am one of three people who are cutting them out and putting them into a box. I am using a little pair of scissors that hurt my hand. Someone asks,“What are you doing that for?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Georgia (the office manager) asked for them.”
“How many will you do?” I am asked.
“As many as it takes to win,” I said.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer:
Democrat Barack Obama is the unofficial winner in North Carolina, but the victory over Sen. John McCain won’t be sealed until provisional ballots are counted and certified next month.
Unofficial returns show Obama ahead by 13,746 votes.
Trends over the last 14 years point to Obama having a wider lead after the provisionals are counted, said Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections.
“I’m going to hold my breath until I die and then you’ll all be sorry” department: from The Kansas City Star—
As of late Wednesday, just more than 121 million votes had been counted in the race for president. In 2004, there were 122.3 million voters.
This year’s number may grow as returns from California and Oregon are added. Still, experts’ predictions that this year’s turnout would far surpass that of 2004 may have been too optimistic.
The main culprit: While Obama’s total vote exceeded that of George Bush’s four years ago by more than a million ballots, McCain’s total votes ended up far short of John Kerry’s losing effort in 2004.
In other words, Republican turnout dipped substantially.
“I always said there was going to be a downturn in the Republican turnout,” said Curtis Gans, a nationally known voting expert.
“There was discouragement about an election it didn’t look like they could win … and right-wing Republicans didn’t see McCain as one of their own.”
First I want to remind everyone once again that I predicted in May, 2007, that Obama would be elected.
However, I admit that I was wrong about who I would vote for. I’m probably gonna regret it soon, maybe even tomorrow, but it was glorious coming home on BART tonight.
San Francisco’s African-American population has dropped in percentage terms in recent years, but the neighborhood I live in is still largely black and Hispanic. Here, fireworks are going off. A black man about 70 was sitting by the BART door with a smile. A white guy in his thirties shook his hand out the way out, and I don’t think they’d even been talking. He and I exchanged smiles, both of us with teary eyes. A Hispanic kid about college age asked if I’d voted, and when I said yes, he asked, “Obama?” I said yes, and we talked about which states had been called.
San Francisco is happy today. I hope I didn’t do something I’ll be sorry for.
But hey, it can’t be that much worse than learning that you’re infatuated with someone who’s unavailable because of gender preference. I did that today, too. God, I love San Francisco.
Ever wondered just what the hell a petard was anyway? Here’s a hint: “ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from French pétard, from péter ‘break wind.’”
This clip, courtesy of Outta the Cornfield, was made at a GOP rally in Denver.
Funny piece from Ketchup Is a Vegetable. Sample:
We have decided that it is necessary at this stage in the game to RAMP THINGS UP a bit. We’re in the hole, and the old man is wandering all over the place stammering like an idiot. I’ve been tempted to make him lip sync, but our tech guys can’t figure out how to make that work. We tried him on an earpiece so we could direct him a little, but we put an end to it after the Brokaw debate; it just makes him wander around the stage even more, looking for that disembodied voice. No, what we need to do is to now is to employ a much-discussed theory that’s not yet been tried: The mythical “Rove Batshit Crazy Motherfucker.” Yes, it really does exist…
From Doonesbury’s daily feature, “Say What?” —
“For eight U.S. presidential elections during the period 1960-2004, the rapid blinker during debates received fewer overall votes than his opponent. In seven of these eight elections, the rapid blinker also lost the electoral vote and was defeated at the polls.”
— Journal of Psychology observation, cited on net in reference to McCain blinking 3,000 times during the third debate
From The Guardian:
Two hours later, they had filled the centre of the 8,500-seat stadium (though there were still empty seats in the stands) and were kept stamping their feet in the damp cold — first to a Christian rock group and then to Hank Williams, Jr, who sang one populist tune after another, some of them tailored to the current election.
In the original version of his song, Family Tradition, Williams defended his hereditary penchant for drinking Jim Beam and smoking dope. But rewritten as “McCain-Palin Tradition,” the song encourages voters to ignore the “leftwing liberal media” and support the Republican ticket “cuz they’re just like you and ol’ Hank.”
He goes on to explain the causes of the financial crisis: “The bankers didn’t want to make all those bad loans / But Bill Clinton said ‘you got to!’ / Now they want to bail out, what I’m talking about / Is a Democrat liberal hoodoo!”
Williams’s tribute in song to Sarah Palin compared her to a “mama bear” who could be counted upon to “protect your family’s condition” because “If you mess with her cubs, she’s gonna take off the gloves, / That’s an American female tradition.. It ended with a musical question to the vice-presidential candidate: “How can you be so smart and be such a good lookin’ dish?”
For a long time now it has been obvious that Democratic administrations, historically, are better for the economy than Republican ones. Why hasn’t the peasantry noticed, then? Why do so many of the chickens vote for Colonel Sanders?
Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly has an intriguing answer: that GOP presidents are able to pass anti-inflation measures and hand out money to their rich friends most easily during their first year, when their political power is at its peak.
These measures do nothing for the rest of us, of course. However:
Republicans, by contrast, tend to focus their honeymoon period on tax cuts for high earners and inflation-fighting measures. This may produce poor economic results on average, but it turns out to be timed to briefly produce a spike in activity three years in the future.
Add in some extra generous spending just before election years and a possible partisan boost from the Fed (research by University of Texas economist James K. Galbraith suggests that, controlling for economic conditions, the Fed’s monetary policy during election years is looser for Republican presidents than for Democrats), and you get consistently great economic performance during campaign seasons.
These odd and sad parallels hadn’t occurred to me, but they did to Jim Fallows:
The plotlines and character-motivations of the two Bush Administrations, 41 & 43, are perhaps too broad and obvious ever to support a first-rate novel. At least that is what reviews of Oliver Stone’s W suggest to those, like me, who have not seen the film. (Not yet on the pirate-video market here in Beijing. Maybe next week.) Or if could be simply that Stone and other Bush chroniclers have taken a family saga of Shakespearean scale and presented it without corresponding richness and nuance.
Still, someone will eventually do something compelling with the intersecting stories of John McCain and Colin Powell, including the latest chapter that began today.
Close contemporaries, born eight months apart; both headed toward military careers, but from very different starting points — immigrants’ son, versus son and grandson of admirals. Lives changed by the Vietnam War, including ultimately putting both on the track to top-level politics.
Powell declining to take what could have been a promising path to the Republican nomination in 2000; McCain trying hard for that nomination but losing out to a slime-rich campaign by GW Bush and Karl Rove. It was during a debate in this campaign that McCain delivered his famous and withering line directly to Bush’s face, about his campaign’s character-assassination ads. The line, spat out with more contempt than anything McCain later displayed toward Obama, was “You should be ashamed” — and, when Bush tried to answer, “You should be ashamed.”
After that, diverging arcs: Powell providing cover and legitimacy for the Bush-Cheney WMD argument in favor of the Iraq war, and despite acclaim for his record as Secretary of State clearly understanding how his historical standing had been diminished. McCain increasing his “maverick” reputation, before that term became a joke, right through his defense of John Kerry against the Bush-Rove Swift Boat ads in 2004.
And now the arcs reverse again. Powell, with his endorsement of Obama, taking a cleansing step not because he is endorsing a Democrat or the person who, instead of him, has a chance to become the first black President. But rather because Powell is at last free to say the many “Cut the crap!” things that his fealty to the Administration had kept him from saying publicly while in office or until now, ranging from the perverse effects of anti-Muslim hysteria to the dangers of scorched earth political campaigns.
Meanwhile, John McCain, once laid low by those very tactics, embracing them as his best chance for victory this year. Powell, tainted by his association with the Bush Administration, choosing at age 71 to restore his reputation for recognition of higher principles. McCain, who earlier opposed Bush tactics, choosing at age 72 a path that in the end is likely to bring him both defeat and dishonor. Maybe we need a Shakespeare to do this story justice.
I promised another Beatles song earlier this week and here it is, sung by the incomparable Nina Simone. Another Simone song will follow next week, a post in which I will explain why I don’t agree with my good friend and mentor, Jerome Doolittle, one generation ahead of me in age and several in wisdom, in his previous post. I believe that the pen — or perhaps the keyboard — is mightier than the click, and will explain why.
From AFP photographer Emmanuel Dunand comes the signature image of last night’s debate: the image that McCainiacs never, never, ever wanted to see:
Ben Smith has an interesting post up quoting at length from an email sent by a Republican consultant he knows. The consultant has been pushing for hard-hitting anti-Obama ads, and recently got the chance to test the kind of ad he wants with a focus group from an upper-Midwest state.
He wasn’t particularly happy about the results:
The two most unreal moments of my professional life of watching focus groups:
54 year-old white male, voted Kerry ’04, Bush ’00, Dole ’96, hunter, NASCAR fan… hard for Obama said: “I’m gonna hate him the minute I vote for him. He’s gonna be a bad president. But I won’t ever vote for another god-damn Republican. I want the government to take over all of Wall Street and bankers and the car companies and Wal-Mart run this county like we used to when Reagan was President.”
The next was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. “Well, I don’t know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I’m sick of paying for health insurance at work and that’s why I’m supporting Barack.”
I felt like I was taking crazy pills. I sat on the other side of the glass and realized… this really is the Apocalypse. The Seventh Seal is broken and its time for eight years of pure, delicious crazy…
Absolutely. What else can you call it when people want health care, object to handing over their life savings to a bunch of bankers whose scam fell apart, and aren’t comfortable with being spied on or sent to war on false pretences? Stone-cold crazy, that’s us.
The funny thing is, I can kind of imagine what the consultant might be thinking, or perhaps more accurately feeling. You saw, no doubt, the recently reported study that seems to show a genetic component to political leanings. Apparently conservatives are more easily spooked by unpleasant images, while liberals can see pictures of spiders on faces and not react as strongly.
So this guy is perhaps actually in thrall to his ideology, and has come to believe that Obama hangs out with terrorists and will destroy Truth, Justice, and the American Way, or at least the White American Way. He sees his influence waning as the team he tied his fortune to goes down big time. He’s afraid.
Welcome to the club.
Events and personalities are combining in ways that point to a very strong showing by the Democrats next month. With the last debate scheduled for this evening, it appears that Obama has calmed the fears of the late tuners-in that he might be too Other. So the competition for the White House is now mainly a prism for viewing the Senate races.
If, that is, the election isn’t stolen again.
Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. believe that the 2008 elections have already been stolen. What’s an American to do given these circumstances? They suggest: “Steal it back”.
Those who are at most risk for having their vote stolen are new voters, people of color, low-income, elderly and swing state voters, Palast told Truthout.
In 2006, Palast says that 40 percent of citizens who were purged from the voter rolls in California had Islamic, Vietnamese, Chinese and Hispanic names. These names were at most risk for misspellings.
The Steal Back Your Vote Guidelines promote the importance of going to the secretary of state Web site for your state to confirm that you are registered ahead of the election.
So make sure you’re registered, eh?
In a post from about a year and a half ago I began this way:
I continue to predict that our next President will be Barack Obama. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to vote for him.
A couple months back, I chipped in a couple more unsurprising predictions (“The price of gasoline will drop by at least a dollar between now and the election. After Obama’s election it will go back up.” Duh.) The only one that generated any discussion was about Obama winning big in November. This was about a week into August, which seems nearly a lifetime ago now. I was neither student nor teacher, Sarah Palin’s vault onto the stage was three weeks in the future, and I didn’t realize precisely what a piece of crap John McCain really is.
When he plucked Palin from obscurity, I initially considered it evidence of his unstable mental situation. That evening, I realized what was happening: “McCain hasn’t screwed the pooch; they’ve given up on him”.
Suppose Rove’s models show the Republicans bound for a historic thrashing in November. The only remaining question is whether they can keep the foothold of the filibuster. That requires retaining enough Republican Senate seats, which might be possible if the base turns out. McCain’s hopeless, so they can use the VP slot to rile up the base. They need those Senators re-elected, and they’ve got to get past all this corruption and scandal stuff ASAP. Republicans: the Party of Change! And Godliness! And the Democrats don’t have all the hot women, after all!
Today’s Steve Thomma piece for McClatchy agrees. His experts are looking at gains for Democrats everywhere, and they no longer consider a filibuster-proof majority out of the question.
Building on the Democrats’ sweeping wins two years ago when they seized control of both chambers of Congress, big gains this year would be reminiscent of the Republican gains in 1978 and 1980 that delivered “the Reagan Revolution.”
Former Reagan political adviser Ed Rollins likened today’s landscape to that in 1980, when voters were angry at President Jimmy Carter and the Democrats and turned to Reagan in droves once they felt comfortable with the idea of him as president.
“Barack has met the threshold,” Rollins said. “Once Reagan met the threshold, people wanted to get rid of Carter and they did in a landslide. This is going to turn into a landslide.”
The best news by far is how the Republican rot is affecting candidates nationwide. Who would have thought six months ago that Saxby Chambliss would be in trouble, and Elizabeth Dole actually behind? I thought I saw signs of bad moons rising for Mitch McConnell, and I’ve long felt that Norm Coleman is going down.
But it’s not just Republican rot. It’s also Democratic excitement. And fear.
A dispatch from Michigan, the state McCain forgot but my sister Pat Shure didn’t. She is an honest-to-God hockey mom who knew Bill Ayers slightly back in the 60s when he ran the Children’s Community PreSchool in Ann Arbor.
Lots of things can happen when you’re registering voters in the blue collar suburbs of southeastern Michigan.
Going from one little house to the next past the occasional American flag or tattered Red Wings banner or UAW emblem or “For Sale” sign, most people were friendly. Maybe they just weren’t afraid to open their door to a grandmotherly-looking person in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.
When I asked if anybody in the house needed to register, most said “Nope, we already are,” and as always a few answered, “Nah, they’re all crooks.” (Actually, a bit hard to dispute.) Obama supporters said so right away and seemed to know instinctively that I was one of them, maybe because I was THERE.
I was a little hesitant as I knocked on a door with a Police Officers Association decal:
“Sir, are you registered to vote?”
“Un, hah, but I’m not gonna, never do.”
“Have you ever voted?”
“Sure, I voted for Nixon.”
“How’d that go”?
He chuckled. “Not so good.”
An angry dog barking at the window of another house and the sign on the door persuaded me to move on. The sign read, “My shitty opinion is none of your *!#! ing business.”
Sometimes you get to end the day with something really sweet. I was standing outside a Dollar Store in downriver Detroit late one rainy evening, smiling and holding a clipboard that read REGISTER WITH ME, LAST CHANCE. I approached a woman and asked if she was registered to vote yet. Standing ramrod straight she replied, “Chile, I voted for Truman!”
Sarah Palin’s M.O. during her brief political life has been to cozy up to some unsuspecting mentor, then knife him in the back and step over him. Now she’s at it again. Colin McEnroe spells it out:
Palin is pretty clearly running a double campaign these days — one for Nov. 4 and the other for her future position as a leading Republican voice during the Obama era.
It was most noticeable when she openly questioned McCain’s decision to pull out of Michigan. What kind of language do you think McCain used when he heard about that one? This is not a guy who reacts well to being crossed or second-guessed, especially by a woman he yanked out of obscurity five weeks ago.
Since then Palin has announced a bare-knuckles strategy of denouncing Obama as a strange guy with terrorist pals and Stokely Carmichael attitudes. She has again questioned McCain’s tactics — this time his reluctance to brawl and spill blood and bring up Rev. Wright — and openly announced that she will advise him to follow her lead.
Do you not see a little needle directed at her boss in the way Palin worded this? Particularly the phrase “I guess”:“I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more,” Palin said, “because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character.”
“I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up,” Palin added.
You guess? That, my friends, is classic passive-ag[g]ressive criticism…
So that’s at least twice that Wilderness Woman has told her boss to man up. First she called him on the cut-and-run from Michigan. Then she told him to knock off the soft stuff. My guess is that McCain is steaming. He’d send her home if he could. No wonder he renewed his vows to Joe [Lieberman] last night.
Meanwhile, Palin’s no dummy. She can read polls, and she knows that a loss is more likely than a win. She has become a favorite Republican of Republicans…
If they lose this election, the GOP will probably want to get her out of Alaska and into a Senate seat where she can be closer to the limelight and more able to speak out for the loyal opposition. She knows this, and that’s why she’s running two races. McCain may go down, and, if so, she’s not going down with him.
Charlie Peters founded The Washington Monthly and edited it until his retirement in 2001. A “relentless centrist,” he focussed all his life not on party but on process. How does government actually work or not work? If the latter, how can it be fixed?
When Charlie speaks on this topic, he is worth listening to. Particularly when he speaks about a legislator who is being regularly accused of legislative ineffectiveness by a man whose own legislative successes, considering how long he has been in Congress, are negligible.
Enough already. Read:
…It had not been easy for a Harvard man to become a regular guy to his colleagues. Obama had managed to do so by playing basketball and poker with them and, most of all, by listening to their concerns. Even Republicans came to respect him. One Republican state senator, Kirk Dillard, has said that “Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanor that defused skeptics.”
Obama proved persuasive enough that the bill passed both houses of the legislature, the Senate by an incredible 35 to 0. Then he talked Blagojevich into signing the bill, making Illinois the first state to require such videotaping.
Obama didn’t stop there. He played a major role in passing many other bills, including the state’s first earned-income tax credit to help the working poor and the first ethics and campaign finance law in 25 years (a law a Post story said made Illinois “one of the best in the nation on campaign finance disclosure”). Obama’s commitment to ethics continued in the U.S. Senate, where he co-authored the new lobbying reform law that, among its hard-to-sell provisions, requires lawmakers to disclose the names of lobbyists who “bundle” contributions for them.
Taken together, these accomplishments demonstrate that Obama has what Dillard, the Republican state senator, calls a “unique” ability “to deal with extremely complex issues, to reach across the aisle and to deal with diverse people.” In other words, Obama’s campaign claim that he can persuade us to rise above what divides us is not just rhetoric…
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman thinks that in order for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to beat her Democratic rival, Sen. Joe Biden, in tonight’s debate, she needs to keep it from turning into an “IQ test.”
“What she needs to do tonight is get this public consideration of her back to who she is and her strong points and, frankly, get it away from being a, kind of, IQ test — she's plenty smart — getting it away from being a, sort of, final college exam,” Lieberman said on MSNBC…
How much IQ does it take to avoid admitting in public that your vice-presidential candidate couldn’t pass an IQ test?
Here’s a great rant from Alicia Morgan, whose enemy you would definitely not want to be.
…George W. Bush, in celebrating his own lack of intellect and curiosity, has made a virtue of ignorance, and by breaking the glass ceiling on stupidity, demonstrated to those who already think this way that there are no limits to where ignorance can take you. He has also demonstrated that governing by ignorance is not only possible, but easily done, and that ignorance can beat intelligence, given the right set of circumstances…
Case in point is the love child of George Bush and Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin. While George Bush is a relative latecomer to the fundamentalist fold, he insisted that “God told him to attack Iraq.” He relies on his ‘gut’ instead of brains, and considers that a completely acceptable, even preferable choice.
Sarah Palin takes those traits to a whole different level. No Johnny-come-lately she, Palin was steeped in fundamentalist principles from birth, and is both far more radically religious and far less educated than George W. Bush. Which, in the Bizarro-World of right-wing logic, makes her...even better! According to the Bush standard, all you need is a mule-stubborn refusal to yield to be a successful world leader, and intelligence just gets in the way of that. Sarah Palin describes it as “you can’t blink.” What she means is “you can’t think.”
This demonization of intelligence is getting worse, not better, as the ignorant and venal are rewarded ever more richly in our society. If the unthinkable come to pass, with a McCain presidency Sarah Palin — would-be book-banner, science-hater, reproductive-rights-destroyer, Rapture-ready end-timer — will be a fibrillation away from being the leader of the free world. One would not think it possible, but she makes George W. Bush look like Noam Chomsky.
Hell, yes, I’m an elitist. You should be, too.
Some conservative thinkers are finally saying what needs to be said about Sarah Palin. They deserve some credit for coming around to reality at least on this issue. And if you want to, reach out to them and write them and tell them you appreciate their willingness to put country ahead of party on this issue. Read the rest of the story from The Grey Lady here for a more complete list of those conservatives who no longer support Palin. The Republican party is going to need more free thinkers to create a new ideology that puts country ahead of party and also one that works, and these folks might be some of their best and brightest. I don't know their complete ideological record but on this one issue they have shown good judgement. Good for them.
Kathleen Parker, a writer for TownHall.com, reversed her initial support for the Republican vice-presidential nominee and said Ms. Palin should drop out. Put the country first, she basically advised, by saying you need to go take care of your family first.
In a devastating assessment, Ms. Parker writes:
Palin didn’t make a mess cracking the glass ceiling. She simply glided through it.
It was fun while it lasted.
Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.
No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.
I’m sorry, but I just can’t help myself. I’m in love. Here’s another of Sara Benincasa’s small masterpieces. In this one she discovers Africans, Joe Lieberman, and other exotic fauna native to the lower 48.
Close readers will know that I am a huge fan of lapel pins. Others may go here to find out just how huge. Naturally, then, I was impressed by the large, double-flag lapel device of the true Übervaterlandsfreund that Sarah Palin has been wearing since her anointment. God forbid we should think she was running for vice president of Brazil or the United Arab Emirates.
And yet it slipped past me that she has lately abandoned Old Glory entirely. It didn’t slip past Don da Man, who sends the picture below and wonders what the hell that thing is. My first thought was Gold Star Mother, except the star is blue. Anybody actually know?
Here’s Timothy P. Carney of the Evans-Novak Political Report. The noncrazy wing of the Republican Party seems to be in a state of deep despair.
- Congressional Republicans and conservatives, meanwhile, are almost completely at a loss. Republicans are still finding their footing after denying for months that the economy is endangered. Frantic behind closed doors, they seem unable to propose any solution that approaches the magnitude of the problem. Promising more drilling, capital-gains-tax cuts, and full business expensing comes across as laughable — the same things the GOP was pushing while saying the economy was strong.
- At the presidential level, it’s not only that McCain and Palin lack credentials and knowledge about economics, but McCain also lacks a real rudder. As the GOP nominee, he has taken up free-market talk, but does he really have any roots in a philosophy? Does Palin have the clout or the know-how to guide McCain? The answer to both questions is probably not.
- When Republicans highlight the Democratic big-government programs that contributed to the mess — Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act directing private capital in low-income housing — they lack conviction and credibility, having long been champions of policies such as IRAs and 401(k)’s driving money to Wall Street, or the home-mortgage interest deduction and the “ownership society.”
By now, many of you have read that John McCain has suspended his campaign and said he wants to cancel Friday night’s scheduled debate with Obama.
The first polling results are in from SurveyUSA since this news came out and Americans overwhelmingly say: Let the debate go on!
America’s First Reaction: Friday's McCain-Obama Debate Should Still Be Held On Friday, But Perhaps with New Focus: Immediately after John McCain's announcement 3 pm ET today, Wednesday 09/24/08, that he was suspending his campaign and seeking to postpone Friday’s schedule presidential debate, SurveyUSA interviewed 1,000 adults nationwide. Key findings:
A majority of Americans say the debate should be held. Just 10% say the debate should be postponed. A sizable percentage of Americans, 36%, think the focus of the debate should be modified to focus more on the economy. 3 of 4 Americans say the presidential campaign should continue. Just 14% say the presidential campaign should be suspended. If Friday's debate does not take place 46%, of Americans say that would be bad for America.
I don’t usually pay attention to Herr Bush, but I must admit that I’m going to watch to see what kind of fraud he tries to pull over on us tonight. The Republicans must be getting real nervous with the results of the polls Jerry just posted. The election isn’t close enough to steal at this point and they’ll do anything to try to get their “cover up the theft” candidate into office. Watch for the weird to keep happening. We are living in perilous times. Too bad old Cut and Run McCain seems to be trying to avoid this debate. That old soldier seems to have lost his fighting ability.
…there’s a silver lining in that cloud over Wall Street:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Democrat Barack Obama has opened a 9-point lead over Republican John McCain in the U.S. presidential race amid turmoil in the financial system and growing pessimism about the economy, according to a Washington Post-ABC News national opinion poll released on Wednesday.
Among likely voters, the poll found Obama now leads McCain by 52 percent to 43 percent. Two weeks ago the race was essentially even, with McCain at 49 percent and Obama at 47 percent, the Post reported…
I am beginning to sense that McCain’s behavior is destroying himself and that Obama has the good sense or instinct to take a deep step back and let McCain dig a hole so deep he can not get out.
After all, McCain has spent years branding himself as a straight talker of truth who puts country ahead of self ... it was always a phony image, but now he is aggressively destroying that brand name and replacing it with the opposite Rovian brand.
This is something we have seen all too often — a man who will do anything and say anything to get elected, to include selecting someone for vice president who is obviously not qualified to be President, even though he would be the oldest person ever to be elected President, and is a cancer survivor to boot, with a heart condition and an abused body (from torture), and therefore, actuarially the most likely President in history to die in office, if elected.
Maybe Obama’s behavior is akin to subtly waving the red cape to lure McCain into reinforcing the rebranding operation. I think Obama did a cape job on Hillary, and she ended up up with the immoral alternative of either having to destroy the Democratic Party in order to win its nomination or quitting. I think (hope?) Obama is doing a similar thing with McCain, and McCain is walking into the trap.
In the end, this election is a battle that takes place within an overarching moral context, and as Boyd showed, you can not isolate your opponent in moral warfare…
Your opponent has to morally isolate himself, and he does that by destroying legs of the moral triangle, and in so doing, exhibits behavior that promotes his own well being by violating the codes of conduct or standards of behavior he professes to uphold and others expect him to uphold.
I have this vague sense that Obama’s goal (maybe instinct is a better word) may be to create an atmosphere (perhaps by looking weak, inter alia) that encourages McCain to reinforce this self-destructive behavior and thereby make his hypocrisy obvious to a majority of the undecided voters. But then maybe I am seeing visions in cloud formations.
…and so I won’t even try. These are excerpts from Women Against Sarah Palin, the wonderful website to which my sister Pat alerted me, and about which I blogged earlier this week.
Sarah Palin is the classic example of a woman being used by those in power to remove power from women.
I want to love a mother, governor and VP candidate, but Palin horrifies me, she seems to epitomize the American inability to be introspective, to polarize and see everything in terms of black and white, good or evil, right or wrong. This intolerance and inability to get out of a narrow perspective and see the divine spark in all is at the core of the danger America is creating for itself, and feeds the dissension in America. She has a sharp, but not a deep mind fast with the comebacks, but more interested in bullying an argument than in understanding the truth.
Even in this very red state of Alabama, we know the difference between a show horse, a hobby horse, and a work horse. You do not represent working class women, farm wives or single mothers — ALL of whom turned to Hillary Clinton with great hopes. You charged women for their own rape kits when you were mayor in Wasilla. You use housekeepers and nannies to care for your kids. You don’t want sex education in schools, but you let your daughter get pregnant! You do not now, nor will you ever speak for us!
I can hardly begin to express the depth of my anger at hearing Ms. Palin denigrate the many community organizers I worked with and proudly call my friends. Community Organizers make the world a better place, doing God’s work day in and day out, night after night. To hear that convention audience laugh in response to her snide remarks really pissed me off. I didn’t realize just how steamed I was until a dear friend (another longtime community activist) sent me an e-mail with this message: Jesus was a Community Organizer. Pontius Pilate was a Governor.
Sarah Palin represents the slap of the dinosaur’s tail — a deadly, horned swipe of a breed going extinct; quite likely, in her throes of excited thrashing, to kill off many individuals, many careers, many dearly held gains, won since 1963, for which many of us fought with our brains, our convictions, our blood, our time, our eloquence, and our money…
Are we ready to stand idly by while an old, ill man, watches Sarah’s shapely behind, while fingering his wedding ring? Are we ready to give up our time to choose, our right to decide and let this mockery of a modern woman, this poorly educated bigot tramples our civil rights? Are we ready to die if our life is endangered by an unhealthy pregnancy? Are we willing to let Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and the other megalomaniacs at the helm of the Republican party decide the course of our lives, our daughters’ and granddaughters’ lives?
Even the power she gained as the mayor of a town of a mere 5000, immediately corrupted her; her wide swipes through the administration she inherited were so disruptive to that small government entity that an immediate remedy was set in place — an administrator had to be hired to do the job of running the town while she was mayor. And still, the surplus she inherited turned into a deficit — IMAGINE the damage she could orchestrate on a national level.
The Alaskan legislature took to wearing buttons that said, “Where’s Sarah?” because she spent so little time in Juneau. Once again, the GOP is deceiving the American people in a most callous and calculating way — just because they put a skirt on this time doesn’t change a damned thing!
Women in particular should project hope and love and caring for others, and Ms. Palin does none of this, choosing instead to be mean-spirited and accusatory in every single speech and action. I can only hope that with time, people will recognize this and realize that we need someone quite different from her to take us down the road to respect and REAL morality.
But she is not the problem — our problem is the white old men that insist on running this country with their need to control, their archaic laws and ideas. Their lives are based on fear and ridiculous needs to dominate our pocketbook, our bodies and to shoot before thinking and talking. They also have a great need to distort the truth — in other words LYING. This young woman from Alaska is being fooled with — she is their decoy — but she might be elected and then she could be a heartbeat away from being in charge of our lives.
The American people have become distracted. Palin, participating in this election as a trojan horse, has come with phrases that involve animals and lipsticks, bridges to nowhere, and eBay, leading americans in to an abyss of distractions pulling away from the very sobering facts that who she represents and the policies she supports are a complete replica of the current Bush administration, on paper, and without personality mud-slings, the Palin/MCCain ticket represent four more years of the same policies the world has come to hate.
Here we have the ideal ticket for anyone who supports women’s rights — Obama and Biden — versus two people who think women are brainless fools. The fact that Palin wears a skirt doesn’t mean she has respect for women. On the contrary. It just means that she uses her sex to stop any questions about her competence by accusing the questioner of sex-discrimination. Frankly, I didn’t buy that argument when Hillary made it and I’m certainly not buying it from Palin.
This classic bait and switch move has the electorate once again focusing on the culture wars instead of the real ones, on pseudo-feminism instead of tolerance and equality.
Her extreme beliefs regarding abstinence-only education did not work even for her own daughter! and yet she wants to force it on our daughters! We will not have it. We can do better, there are stronger, more thoughtful and fair minded women in this country who are fit to run it.
Is Ms.Palin really the best the Republican party has to offer in terms of a female? I guess there are slim pickings for a woman who will support an antiquated and sexist Republican agenda.
The cruel irony of Senator Clinton blooding herself on that glass ceiling only to have a puppet escorted through on the arm of a warrior…
These people are two loose cannons on a rolling deck and I genuinely fear for the future of our great country. If John McCain is unable to see his term through, Sarah Palin is next in line as leader of the Free World.
“To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.” Really? Because the parents of children with disabilities in Alaska don’t have much of a friend or advocate right now. Even in years of great surplus, she actually cut state funding for special education services and Medicaid — the program that children and adults with disabilities rely on for health care.
Ms. Palin is also well documented as a local bully who tries to fire anyone who disagrees with her. After eight years of an unqualified President who has done everything in his power to position America as a global bully, this characteristic is the last quality we need in the White House for four more years.
Sarah Palin sees the hand of God in a $30 billion Alaskan national gas pipeline. “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that,” she has stated.
Ms. Palin and I clearly worship very different gods. I see the hand of God not in the wallets of the oil companies, but in the pristine Alaska coastline, its majestic polar bears, whales, and glaciers — all of which Big Oil will despoil. Perhaps Ms. Palin has made the mistake that afflicts a frightening number of our citizens: confusing God with money.
Sarah Vowell, in today’s New York Times:
During a gubernatorial debate in 2006, Governor Palin claimed that if her daughter, then 16, were impregnated as the result of being raped, Ms. Palin would hope that the girl would “choose life,” which is a polite way of saying she would expect a tenth-grader to give birth to her rapist’s baby.
Here’s a not-so-polite fact about the United States: According to Amnesty International, a woman is raped here every six minutes.…
This year, Senator McCain himself didn’t bother to stand up to the right wing of his party to insist that the rape and incest exception be written into the Republican Party platform.
One thing about the Brits, they know their snark. A self-described “liberal European elitist journalist” — Oliver Burkeman of The Guardian — live-blogs last night’s performances in St. Paul:
8.18pm: [Quoting Romney] “I know what makes jobs come, and I know what makes them go.” What made jobs come and go often enough in the past, as Ezra Klein points out, has been the noted private equity firm chief executive Mitt Romney.
8.32pm: Mike Huckabee actually just said this: “My Dad lifted heavy things”. And this: “I was in college before I found out it wasn’t supposed to hurt to take a shower.” It’s something to do with having to clean himself with stones, because he grew up so poor. But this is an almost entirely crazy speech, I’m afraid to say. That’s an unbiased opinion.
8.50pm: Themes of the evening so far: xenophobia, “anti-elitist” rabble-rousing, media-bashing, smalltown boosterism versus liberal city people. Pretty unpleasant, all told.
9.05pm: Wait, wait, wait, WHAT? John McCain was a prisoner of war. He has proved his commitment with his blood. On the other hand, Obama worked as a “community organizer”. “What?” says Giuliani, pretending not to understand. He laughs unpleasantly. The crowd laughs. “Then he ran for the state legislature — where nearly 130 times he was unable to make a decision yes or no. It was too tough. He voted ‘present.’ I didn’t know about this ‘vote present’ when I was mayor of New York City. Sarah Palin didn’t get to vote present when she was mayor or governor.”
“Barack Obama has never led anything. Nothing. Nada. Nada. Nothing.” This is real, jeering anti-Obama stuff, the nastiest we’ve heard, and the delegates are loving it — yelping and whooping.
9.18pm: If you say the war in Iraq is lost, you are saying that Osama bin Laden has won, and that makes you a terrorist. Or something like that.
There’s something rather troubling about the way in which Giuliani enjoys the roiling up the audience. He claps softly to himself, and chuckles.
10.12pm And in a parallel to Obama’s surprise arrival at the end of Joe Biden’s speech, here’s John McCain. “Tremendous, tremendous, fantastic, tremendous,” he says, vaguely hugging the Palins. “Don’t you think we made the right choice for the next vice-president of the United States? And what a beautiful family!” Militaristic music. McCain and Palin are both doing an awful Republican version of Hillary Clinton’s already sufficiently awful pointing-and-smiling thing.
Shortly, these psyched-up delegates will hold a roll-call vote officially to nominate McCain. First, three country singers including John Rich are reading out random bits of famous American speeches and documents, in between lines of the national anthem. Extremely strange.
Brilliant, now Rich is singing his criminally stupid song Raising McCain.
This is from Hunter Thompson’s last piece on the presidential campaign of 1972. That campaign ended with the reelection of Richard Nixon some three months after every sentient American voter was in possession of every significant fact about Watergate. Of course Watergate was trivial compared to what the American voter knew about George W. Bush in 2004.
This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.
The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his imprecise talks about ‘new politics’ and ‘honesty in government,’ is really one of the few men who’ve run for president of the United States in this century who really understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.
McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life on purpose, as a matter of policy and a perfect expression of everything he stands for.
Jesus! Where will it all end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?
From the Washington Post, this portrait of the straight shooter as a young man:
McCain was closer to Richey than to any other Episcopal [High School] student, and during a summer night after McCain’s sophomore year, the two found themselves cruising in a car, with Richey behind the wheel. As Richey remembers, he and McCain spotted a couple of older girls near Arlington and called out to them, asking if they wanted company. The girls laughed. Insulted, McCain leaned across the driver’s-side window and shouted an expletive at them. “Our feelings were hurt. They unveiled our masks and revealed us for the boys we were,” Richey says.
Minutes later, a car stopped them on the road. Police were called, and McCain and Richey were ticketed for what Richey remembers as public nuisance and profanity. Soon they were standing in an Arlington court, with Richey hoping that McCain would tell the truth: that he alone, not Richey, had shouted the profanity at the girls. As Richey recalls, McCain said nothing — explaining to Richey later that he didn’t know what good it would have done to speak up.
Now let ’em argue that God’s on their side.
Historians will note many failures in the Bush presidency, obviously led by the invasion of Iraq. But nothing is more stereotypically Bush than the bungled Katrina response: incompetence writ large, cronies everywhere, complete cluelessness at the helm of every vessel, promises made and not kept, poisonous trailers, and the general impression just as Kanye said: that George Bush doesn’t care about black people. I would add, or poor people of any color. But especially dark-skinned, and especially Democrats. N’awlins was doomed, or rather abandoned.
Of course God has sent hurricanes as messages to the GOP in the past, but the American disaster of Katrina wasn’t God’s fault, it was the Bush administration’s. We’ve had hurricanes before; Bush’s father no doubt remembers Andrew hitting Florida in 1992, to which he similarly responded without enthusiasm.
So is Gustav, currently on track to hit the Gulf Coast as a full-force hurricane next week, just as the Republicans convene in Minnesota, a condemnation?
Staging a convention during a major natural disaster would be a public relations challenge for either political party. But GOP officials say the burden could be especially heavy for their party, whose reputation was tarred by the Bush administration’s bungling of Katrina and its aftermath in 2005.
A hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico could also cast unwelcome attention on the offshore oil rigs that McCain has championed as a solution to rising gasoline prices — they are now being evacuated in the face of the coming storm.
Or an opportunity?
Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who said in a recent book that Hurricane Katrina left “an indelible stain” on the Bush presidency, said Bush should be making plans to cancel his speech.
“If it’s a major hurricane, I think that they certainly need to show they learned lessons from three years ago, both from a policy and perception standpoint,” McClellan said.
He also suggested that McCain could benefit politically from such a scenario: It would allow Bush to mount an effective GOP response to a disaster, while removing the unpopular president from the convention roster. “It could be a two-fer,” McClellan said.
I can totally see Bush’s Homeland Security team riding to the rescue. More likly this will just turn out to be an excuse to avoid the visual of Bush and McCain together. In partial compensation for which:
“This may be the October surprise in September,” said George W. Foresman, former undersecretary of preparedness for the Department of Homeland Security. “Public messaging and attention to the public affairs part of the response is going to get added attention.”
If it were a question of spending huge sums on deceptive advertising to a distracted audience, I might be concerned about the electoral ramifications. But a skeptical public will be watching the Department of Homeland Security’s response to a hurricane very closely. Closely enough that every success will emphasize the previous failure — in a non-election year.
President Bush today declared a state of emergency for Louisiana and Texas, as former tropical storm Gustav strengthened to become a hurricane and continued on a collision course with the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The president’s declaration came three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi, overwhelming levees designed to protect New Orleans and inflicting record damage on the region.
Is there a level of dishonesty that would embarrass Nancy Pelosi? It appears not.
Asked whether she classified herself as a “Washington insider” at a briefing sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Pelosi answered, “Oh, absolutely not. No.”
Who could possibly imagine that a mere 22 years in Congress made the daughter of a “prominent Maryland political family” part of the system? Just because she’s spent her time as Speaker of the House making sure Bush and Cheney get everything they want?
Pressed for an explanation, Pelosi said that being an insider is about a person’s “state of mind,” not their tenure in politics.
“Inside, outside — you have to know the territory so you can work it, but you never become a part of it”, she said.
This kind of dishonesty with herself helps us understand why she’s been so dishonest with us.
Cindy Sheehan for Congress! Honesty, for a change.
One thing about rising stars, they don’t hang albatrosses around their necks:
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Rising Republican star Bobby Jindal — the young Indian-American governor of Lousiana — on Sunday ruled himself out of the race to become John McCain’s vice-presidential pick…
His youthful enthusiasm and ability to bridge the divides of race and party has led some to see him as the Republican party’s future answer to the Democratic Party’s Obama.
The Obama campaign seems to have learned a thing or two from John Kerry’s passivity when a slimeball named Jerome Corsi swiftboated him in a lie-filled book.
Here’s the campaign’s prompt 41-page response (pdf file) to Corsi’s attempt to do the same thing to Barack HUSSEIN Obama.
James Fallows on the 2008 presidential primary debates, in The Atlantic:
When politicians do try to lay out a new thought or policy, they tend to do so from the safety of incumbency, rather than as part of a campaign. For instance: when Carter ran for office, he talked about the importance of human rights around the world. But not until six months into his presidency, in a commencement speech at Notre Dame, did he explain in the fullest sense how the United States could balance an emphasis on human rights with awareness of its practical interests and obligations. It is a speech that survives re-reading 30 years later. (I am biased, having been involved, but Jerome Doolittle was the main writer.) Nothing from [Obama’s] campaign does so. I expect some of the addresses Obama has already given will, whether he is elected or not.
Who knew it was possible to hurt the oil industry’s feelings? Well, it is:
A Barack Obama ad ready to air at Florida gas stations that have pumps topped with TV screens was nixed at the last minute because the advertising company's chief said it reflected poorly on the oil industry, according to the presidential candidate's campaign…
Paris Hilton faces John McCain totally:
Leonard Pitts Jr. captures the essence of the hysteria over the New Yorker cover.
Unless you’ve been in a cave for the last week, you’ve heard about and probably seen the cartoon showing Barack and Michelle bumping fists in the Oval Office, he in Muslim garb, she in Angela Davis, while a portrait of Osama watches an American flag burn in the fireplace. To me, even a straight description is humorous, and the cartoon is hilarious; but many Obama supporters apparently find it offensive.
Or perhaps it’s the long article about him in the same issue they’re worried about. But if they were offended by the cover, they probably wouldn’t read the article.
Which, to me, is part of the point of the cover.
To be effective, satire needs a situation it can inflate into ridiculousness. But the hysteria surrounding Obama has nowhere to go; it is already ridiculous. In just the last few days, we’ve had Jesse Jackson threatening to castrate him and John McLaughlin calling him an “Oreo.”
Add to that the whispers about Obama’s supposed Muslim heritage (not that there’s anything wrong with that), the “terrorist” implications of bumping fists, and Michelle Obama’s purported use of the term “whitey” (a word no black person has uttered since The Jeffersons went off the air in 1985), and it’s clear that “ridiculous” has become our default status. What once were punchlines now are headlines.
So, as absurd, as over the top, as utterly outlandish as the New Yorker image strikes the more sophisticated among us, there is a large fringe out there for whom it will represent nothing more or less than the sum of their fears.
Most of the arguments people made against the cover in the various comment sections I perused were strikingly weak. Anger certainly tends to cloud logic; as Bertrand Russell said,
The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder’s lack of rational conviction.
One person applied the theory of democracy to that of humor, proclaiming that it’s only satire if “at least” a majority thinks it is. (I’m not sure what’s more than a majority in this case. Since by definition at least the artist and the editor consider it satire, there’s no possibility of unanimity. But that’s how the argument was worded, so I reproduce it in case others grasp what I missed.) Another person argued that the November vote is a life-and-death matter, and the need to elect Obama, who presumably represents life, precludes Barack-mocking in the interim.
Speaking of which, Andy Borowitz has written a fake Obama statement of sympathy with those who struggle to make jokes about him. The statement includes five officially sanctioned Obama jokes.
Barack Obama and a kangaroo pull up to a gas station. The gas station attendant takes one look at the kangaroo and says, “You know, we don’t get many kangaroos here.” Barack Obama replies, “At these prices, I’m not surprised. That’s why we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
This kind of thing is why Colbert has to push it so far, play such an over-the-top character, to satirize the current state of our various media. As Pitts says, “These days, there’s nothing more ridiculous than the truth.”
Since I unflaggingly rag on the Democrats, it’s incumbent on me to praise when I see them do something praiseworthy. And they’ve managed to keep Hans von Spakovsky off the Federal Election Commission, so here’s a heartfelt Bravo! going out to the Democrats for that achievement. Since I read this in an AP article, I dare not link to it, though it was on the New York Times website; but I’m sure you can google up someone else’s article on the same topic.
It’s a small enough victory in some ways — I mean, considering
But it’s real, and it’s likely to have some positive effects on the honesty of the election. One might even dare to hope that the backbone shown in standing up against the Spakovsky nomination is a harbinger of things to come. In any case, it’s certainly a win to remove this smiling dirtbag from any office, organization, or assembly he’s in, or indeed near.
The lesson appears to be that the Democrats can make a stand on principle, and succeed in forcing the White House to act (at a minimum) according to the law. In the end, the administration withdrew Spakovsky’s nomination as a means of returning the Commission to working order: there are normally six commissioners, there’ve only been two since the beginning of this year, and decisions require a minimum of four votes.
Now we might hope for the laws to be faithfully executed. McCain has been combining attacks on Obama for opting out of public election financing with open violations of the very same laws himself, and getting away with it because the FEC only has two members.
But is this really the lesson? McCain’s campaign is expecting a pile of public-financing bucks. Problem is, he can’t simply grab the money and run; there’s got to be a vote by the FEC. Which, you recall, requires four votes, which haven’t been available. So McCain may have to eliminate the campaign-finance law violations, but he’ll get $85 million to cover his transition costs.
Maybe I’m too cynical, but I see in this saga not a harbinger of hope, and certainly not one of audacity, but one of compromise extended to the horizon. The Democrats won the day not by standing up for what was right and organizing support and holding fast to their beliefs, but by in effect holding hostage the public campaign-finance funds the McCain camp anticipates.
Not that I complain about extortion as political method; it happens all the time. In fact some form of extortion is pretty much basic tender in politics. What I’m trying to do here is puzzle out the behavior patterns of the party and see if anything can be done to influence it in positive directions.
What seems to have happened in the Spakovsky case is that the Democrats used their control of the money to force compliance. I’m fine with that strategy. I just want them to use that strategy when it counts. Which they haven’t in the past, and didn’t in this case. Democrats won this battle because the other side decided they wanted $85 million in public funds more than they wanted Spakovsky on the FEC. They changed plans, and the Democrats claimed victory.
Here’s exactly what I’m afraid the Obama dream might become. The Democratic party has always fought internal battles with at least as much ferocity as it employed against the opposition. But since the Reagan administration brought what Obama has called new ideas into the White House, the Democratic party has synonomous with — well, I’ll spare you the invective and limit myself to “spinelessness”.
Which is bad enough when we’re talking about domestic issues like where the wealth goes and who gets education and health care and who goes to prison. California used to have an educational system that was the envy of most of the world, nearly free as far as your work and your smarts would take you. The point was clearly to educate as much of the population as possible.
Then came the Republican Revolution, much of it starting here, and our point is once again clear: we’re scared of everybody. We’re educating fewer and imprisoning more, and passing the savings on to the very rich. What savings, you say? There are no savings from educating fewer and imprisoning more? True. Thus we must create savings, which we do by changing the tax structure so that wealth flows up the ladder, increasing inequality and thus providing more work for the prisons. Synergy, I think they call it.
As Americans we have the God-given freedom to crucify ourselves on whatever cross of gold strikes our fancy. But when the Democrats’ spinelessness extends to complicity in criminal wars, that’s a different thing. Going by the peer-reviewed and apparently methodologically sound Lancet studies, about a million Iraqis have been killed one way or another by the American invasion, plus about five million “displaced”, driven from their homes, nearly half of whom have left the country.
If Mexico invaded the US, it would have to kill 11 million Americans and displace 55 million more to match these percentages. Such actions might be expected to leave a certain amount of disgruntlement behind. Thus blowback. Thus 9/11. Thus fewer civil liberties and greater concentration of wealth. Producing more disgruntlement, and so on. As I said a year ago, it’s a great business.
I suspect the best hope for maintaining the current structure of power and privilege (if that’s your goal) is to allow the insertion of a soul into the juggernaut of capitalism. Otherwise, our trajectory seems headed for something between another Depression and another Paris Commune.
My fear is that the Democrats are too heavily invested in the business of American Business to realize what’s going on: the business has morphed into a war machine, and is attempting to set itself up as a modern Colossus. This business model is bound to fail. The country must disinvest. The question that remains is whether the Democrats continue to resist the obvious necessity.
Here, for your viewing pleasure, is Not Alex. It’s the antiMcCain, antiwar ad from MoveOn.org which is being called tasteless by the conservative punditry. Being called tasteless by it/them is of course like being called ugly by a frog.
Personally I thought the ad was (1) tasteful, (2) fair, (3) well-produced, and (4) effective. What’s more, (1) the baby was cute, and (2) I fell in love with the young mother.
So, as Thomas L. Friedman might say, and did, Suck on this, okay?
The Obama campaign has put up a web page to rebut the smears, calumnies, false rumors and innuendos, anonymous charges, viral emails, libels, defamation, slurs, sleaze and slander that are standard in GOP presidential campaigns.
In fact the Swift Boat operation is already humming along nicely in high gear. Slime-lovers will find prime specimens at Obama’s new site, Fight the Smears.
All right, horndogs, here’s the first film from TruthThroughAction.org — “a new political organization founded by independent filmmakers in New York. By bringing the Indie community and political activists together, we're creating edgy short films and online videos that support the Democratic Party.”
It’s called Blue Balled.
Just finished listening to Hillary’s speech, which struck me as graceful and useful. And from as much of the subsequent pundibabble as I could endure, this seemed to be the consensus.
So I’ll only bother to add two things that are unlikely to come up in everybody else’s instant analysis.
First, both Hillary and Chelsea clapped back at the audience. New rule, as Bill Maher says: Keep your hands to yourself. Otherwise you look as stupid as every show biz jackass who bounds into camera range clapping for — well, for whom?
If for your own wonderful self, it amounts to an unattractive act of public masturbation. If for the audience, it is the gesture of a desperate suck-up.
The second thing was Hillary’s juxtaposition of two words that I doubt have been uttered in sequence by any major presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, for 30 years. They are “promoting” and “unionization,” presented as a desirable goal.
Not “recognizing the importance of” unionization. ” Not “backing” or “championing” or “defending” it. Promoting it. Maybe the word was carelessly chosen or insincerely spoken. But if not — if the active promoting of unionization by government has become mentionable once more in mainstream Democratic rhetoric — this could turn out to be huge.
Having written for a president who was terrific at town meetings and terrible at prepared speeches, this Gail Collins op-ed made me feel a tiny — barely perceptible actually — twinge of sympathy for McCain’s speechwriters. McCain, you’ll remember, wants to do a sort of buddy road flick with Obama, the two of them spending the summer together doing weekly town hall appearances:
But for all the talk about McCain wanting a “higher level of discourse,” the bottom line is that he is begging to be rescued from the big problem his campaign has encountered: which is that the only thing their candidate is good at is town-hall meetings.
This was driven home Tuesday night when the Republicans decided to try to insert a McCain speech into the Democrats’ final primary night. They were hoping to steal thunder from the moment when Obama clinched the nomination. The actual effect was to offer viewers a chance to compare the skills of the greatest orator in modern American politics with a guy who has never really learned how to read a teleprompter…
MDC at Foreign Policy Watch dissects McCain’s various nuclear disarmament stances. Excerpt:
Tuesday’s speech, on the whole, is a bit of a mixed bag. As for nuclear testing, McCain wants to appear tough:
“This would include taking another look at the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to see what can be done to overcome the shortcomings that prevented it from entering into force.”
Well, one of “the shortcomings that prevented [the CTBT] from entering into force” was McCain’s own vote against it in the Senate, when it was up for ratification by the US in 1999. And it’s not certain just how he wants “to take another look at it” in a “dialogue with our allies.” 144 states, many of which include staunch allies of the US (the continent of Europe, for example), have already ratified the treaty. Good luck revisiting that.
Want to remove all slime from the election this fall and limit debate strictly to the issues? Rick Hertzberg knows how:
The solution is obvious. Obama should ask McCain to be his running mate. McCain should ask Obama to be his. And both should say yes.
A campaign pitting an Obama-McCain ticket against a McCain-Obama ticket would absolutely guarantee a general-election campaign that would be about The Issues and nothing but The Issues…
Is this the end of Nixon’s Southern Strategy? (Incidentally, note the lapel pin in the photo below. Do we see a pattern emerging here? For instance, did Mussolini wear a lapel flag?)
The result in Mississippi, and what Republicans said was a surge in African-American turnout, suggested that Mr. Obama might have the effect of putting into play Southern seats that were once solidly Republican, rather than dragging down Democratic candidates.
Maureen Dowd today:
Obama breezed through West Virginia, the state he couldn’t charm even wearing a flag pin and promising to invest in “clean coal.”
Jimmy Carter was an expert at this sort of thing, too. His Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare had lately been enraging the tobacco belt by his attacks on smoking — but North Carolina’s support had been a key element in Carter’s election. So during the 1978 midterms the president visited a tobacco warehouse there and and delivered himself of this wonderful straddle: “We must find ways to make cigarettes even more safe.”
And when Carter was governor of Georgia he unveiled a portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the state capitol and soothed the crowd with, “The time for racism is past.” The subtle beauty of this bank shot may be clearly seen by substituting “slavery” for “racism.”
Let’s say you’re in favor of letting the states legalize abortion and and drugs and same sex marriage if they want to. And you favor an immediate start to our withdrawal from Iraq. And you think the telecom companies should be punished for warrantless wiretapping. And you hate the Patriot Act for its gutting of civil rights. And no matter what the Creep from Crawford thinks, you think habeas corpus belongs in the Constitution after all.
Folks, have I got a candidate for you! He’s an Iowan born and bred. He went to high school in Iran. He’s a former CIA spook and federal prosecutor. Plus he’s a proud member of both the NRA and the ACLU.
Ladies and Germs, let’s hear it for the only candidate who’s really got your back — Big. Bob. BARR!
From the normally mild-mannered Bob Herbert, in his New York Times column today. Wow.
…class is not a Clinton forte.
But it’s one thing to lack class and a sense of grace, quite another to deliberately try and wreck the presidential prospects of your party’s likely nominee — and to do it in a way that has the potential to undermine the substantial racial progress that has been made in this country over many years.
The Clintons should be ashamed of themselves. But they long ago proved to the world that they have no shame.
Pollster John Zogby thinks it’s all over but the face-saving:
The Illinois senator showed himself to be resilient in the wake of three weeks or so of crisis and, much more importantly, he got back on the winning track. This is the evidence that some super-delegates have been waiting for.
Many of them — most of them — had clearly made up their minds that they would not support Mrs. Clinton, and so this had become a case of whether or not Mr. Obama could close the deal. That is what appears to have happened last night.
Where do we go from here? My understanding is that probably today, but certainly within 48 hours, about 30 super-delegates will endorse Mr. Obama. That should give him further momentum.
Mathematically, this will widen the gap between him and Mrs. Clinton. He has a bigger share of the popular vote, more pledged delegates, and will now overtake her in terms of super-delegates too.
I honestly believe that she will find a way to get out of the race before the next primaries — so as to not hurt her future and to not be blamed for hurting Mr. Obama and his chances in the general election.
Here are the reasons:
* There really is no mathematical chance for her to win
* Her campaign is virtually out of money - and it will be difficult for her to raise significant amounts of money after last night
* Not enough happened last night to give her any hope, so continuing would only give the appearance of wanting to damage Mr. Obama
Confused by all the blabber last night from Tim and Keith and Chris and Pat? Want to find out what actually happened in Indiana and North Carolina? Go here for your reality pill from Jay Cost, Doctor of Politics. Excerpt:
As you can see, North Carolina performed roughly as we might expect, falling in between Virginia and Tennessee. Nevertheless, it is surprising that the results were closer to the Virginia end (i.e. Obama +29) than the Tennessee end (i.e. Clinton +13). What might explain the difference?
Unlike Indiana, it doesn’t come from Clinton’s core voting group. She did extremely well among white voters in North Carolina. Obviously, she didn’t do as well with them as she did in Tennessee. However, she still trounced Obama among white men and white women, regardless of their religious affiliation.
Clinton’s problem was with the African American vote, which came in at about 33%. Her trouble in North Carolina, as well as the South in general, is that white voters are more likely to be Republican than in decades past. This has given Obama a demographic edge in the region — one that has actually grown in the past few months. Note that African Americans in North Carolina went for Obama more strongly than they did in either Tennessee or Virginia. In fact, we can see a general trend in the African American vote toward Obama — not just in these states, but nationwide. It has not been much commented upon — most likely because African Americans have been supporting Obama more strongly than any other group. Nevertheless, as time has gone on, the African American vote has clustered around Obama much more tightly.
As usual, the Rude Pundit comes right out and says it about Obama’s chances today in Indiana:
Ah, fond memories of living in a town northeast of Indianapolis, of car rides past homes that that flew the Confederate flag on poles on their front lawns (and this was in a medium-sized city, not a small burg), of towns with black populations so disenfranchised and isolated that they are practically invisible, of migrant workers regularly abused by employers when violence wasn’t being committed against them by townspeople. And that’s not even to get into how flat and gray and ugly most of the state is for most of the year, after harvest and before planting season.
When a large swath of a state is populated by people from the Appalachian region who migrated northward for factory jobs decades ago and then those factory jobs dry the heck up for the most part, what you are left with is a bunch of resentful crackers looking to play “where’s the scapegoat?”
By all means go and read the whole screed, but bear in mind that I had to look hard to find an obscenity-free passage as long as the one above. And even then I had to make a substitution, since the word “heck” has never made it out of the Rude Pundit’s computer. What he really wrote, I am sorry to report, was “*uc*”.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights, validating Republican-inspired voter ID laws.
In a splintered 6-3 ruling, the court upheld Indiana's strict photo ID requirement, which Democrats and civil rights groups said would deter poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots. Its backers said it was needed to prevent fraud…
The case concerned a state law, passed in 2005, that was backed by Republicans as a way to deter voter fraud. Democrats and civil rights groups opposed the law as unconstitutional and called it a thinly veiled effort to discourage elderly, poor and minority voters — those most likely to lack proper ID and who tend to vote for Democrats.
From the Charlotte Observer:
RALEIGH — The N.C. Republican Party says it will not back away from a planned TV ad that uses footage of Barack Obama’s controversial former minister, despite objections from the expected GOP presidential nominee, John McCain.
The ad, released Wednesday on the Internet, tries to link the minister to two Democratic candidates for governor, both of whom have endorsed Obama…
McCain called the ad “offensive” and said it “degrades our civics and distracts us from the very real differences we have with the Democrats.”
“From the beginning of this election, I have been committed to running a respectful campaign based upon an honest debate about the great issues confronting America today. I expect all state parties to do so as well,” McCain wrote in an e-mail to Republican chairwoman Linda Daves, asking her to pull the ad.
Actually that’s only part of the story, as Bad Attitudes has learned from a source within the McCain campaign who could not to be identified because he is not authorized to talk straight to the press. Here is the rest of McCain’s email:
Suck on this, you silly bitch. If that ad runs even one more time, the first day I’m in the White House your ass is grass and I’m the lawnmower. Your taxes will be audited from now until death do us part. Your body cavities will be searched every time you get so much as get near an airplane. I will veto any spending bill containing funds for North Carolina until such day as the North Carolina Republican Party drives you from the leadership post which you presently disgrace. And then I will burn down your garage and if it is is an attached one, so much the better. Are we clear now?
Bad Attitudes, for one, is not about to pull down such a shitstorm as this on our own head. Consequently we will do exactly what the Straight Talker wants us to do, which is to give Ms. Daves’ ad a little more out-of-state exposure:
The excerpt below is by Joe Bageant, the bard of Winchester, Virginia, and the author of Deer Hunting with Jesus. His fuse has been lit by the media tizzy over Barack Obama’s mostly accurate look at white working-class resentment. Read the whole essay here. (The photo below is not of Joe, but of the younger and more photogenic Larry the Cable Guy.)
In any case, Obama has proven you cannot even use the innocuous word bitterness in conjunction with the national lie of white American culture. In the officially sanctioned media lexicon, Blacks can be angry, disillusioned and even bitter enough to burn down Watts. But the white race, being blessed by a Christian god and divine providence, never harbor bitterness in their hearts. The reason the word bitterness has caused such horror is because what is really going on out there is the sprouting seeds of class animosity. And no candidate or pontificating media mugwump dares touch that one because they are in the class that benefits from our classist society.
There are many positives about the British political system as compared to the one we use in the US. Perfect example: in the British system, the Democrats could cast Joe Lieberman out of the party, no matter what he calls himself. Not that they would, but it would be possible.
Since JoeMentum had the last laugh, it’s particularly fun to catch ’em on the little stuff. Like when his campaign claimed that supporters of Ned Lamont had instituted a denial-of-service attack on, or DOSd, his website on the eve of the primary election.
When the Web site went down on Aug. 7, 2006, the Lieberman campaign asserted it had been hacked in “a coordinated attack by our political opponents.”
But the F.B.I. saw it another way.
“The server that hosted the joe2006.com Web site failed because it was overutilized and misconfigured,” the newspaper said the F.B.I. wrote. “There was no evidence of (an) attack.”
The Lieberman campaign workers probably caused the site to crash themselves, to judge from the report. The campaign site was configured to allow only 100 e-mail messages an hour, but when that limit was exceeded many times on the day before the primary, the site crashed, according to the report.
Yet the campaign did not realize that at the time, and said it had been the target of what is known as a denial-of-service attack, in which a server is purposely crippled by a flood of data.
It all sounds reasonable to me. If I’d been a Lieberman groupie, I might have figured that he wouldn’t be a big email recipient.
But at least I would have checked the basic stuff before accusing my opponent of dirty tricks. Perhaps it’s this that keeps Lieberman at the top of the list of Democrats Republicans Love.
Just think, if Al Gore had had the run of the White House kitchen all this time, we might have been stuck with JoeMentum invading Iran.
I offer up for what it’s worth, and you’ll notice I’m not charging for it, my candidate for the bottom half of the McCain ticket. He is shown at the United Nations, holding up a vial which does not contain anthrax so that the world would tremble at the thought of how many people could be killed by a little vial like that if it did in fact hold anthrax. Remember Anthrax and how much fun we all had with it? What ever happened to old Anthrax anyway?
The sad thing about the attacks on Senator Obama for things said by his wife and by his pastor is that attention was paid to them by anyone except Jon Stewart. It was as if the Senator were being pilloried for consorting with persons who claimed that grass is green and — the horror, the horror! — that water runs downhill.
Reverend Wright and Michelle Obama may, for all I know, harbor private beliefs as evil as those which lurk in the minds of Richard Cheney, Osama bin Laden or, back in the day, Vlad the Impaler.
If so, however, the fact has not been reported. What has been reported proves only that both the Obama pastor and the Obama wife are guilty of truth-telling in the first degree. For example, anyone who believes that American foreign policy bore no causal relation to the 9/11 attacks is simply a fool.
And as to Michelle Obama’s deplorably recent feelings of pride in her country, I will refer you, as Judy in Canada has referred me, to this efficient evisceration of the whole issue by Rick Salutin of The Globe and Mail. I’ll add only this from Edmund Burke: ‘For us to love our country, our country ought to be lovely.”
The problem of patriotism really comes down to one question: Are patriots permitted to be critical of their nation, or must they be proud and unquestioning at all times? Once that’s answered, the puzzles dissolve.
Take Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, who said: “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback..” That’s Position 1. Candidate John McCain’s wife, Cindy, took Position 2: “I have and always will be proud of my country.”
It’s odd that no reporters put Cindy McCain on the spot, named dubious things the U.S. has done, like its genocidal assault on aboriginals, and asked: Are you proud of that? Michelle Obama is the one they keep saying has dug her and her husband a big anti-American hole, one she still hasn’t got past.
But under Position 1 — criticism allowed — her words imply she is a true patriot, and one with a generous spirit. She didn’t wait for solutions to what presumably blocked her pride in the past: like failure to deal with the ongoing problems of race in the U.S. She was ready to be proud on the fairly flimsy basis of reactions to her husband’s campaign. She’s not just a patriot, she’s an optimistic one.
Under Position 1, the patriot test is: Does she continue to want to be proud of her nation, while demanding it live up to standards. By that test, she is a patriot with no hole to climb out of, and so probably is her pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who has taken a lot more stick than she has.
What did he say that anyone could object to on patriotic grounds — that the chickens are coming home to roost in events like 9/11? That’s just foreign policy analysis, stated metaphorically. You can disagree, but it isn’t unpatriotic. Or: “The government ... wants us to sing God Bless America. No, no, no, God damn America ... for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human.” That is utterly in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
According to the Hebrew prophets, God consigned his beloved chosen people to exile for allowing social injustice, allying with evil nations — i.e., shabby foreign policy — and religious infidelity. (The black church in the U.S. has always had a preferential option for the Old Testament parts of the Bible.)
Another way to put Position 1 is: You cannot say, Blessed is the nation, unless you can also say, Cursed is the nation — they go together under love of nation. As political philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote: “There can be no patriotism without permanent opposition and criticism.”
She said that in 1963, under fire from other Jews for her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. She was a lifelong Zionist but critical of the direction Zionism had taken. In fact, Jews often split into the two positions over loyalty to Israel. It’s odd how that, too, has now been woven into U.S. politics. Candidates for president are required to show unquestioning allegiance to Israel as much, or more, as to the U.S. The same is becoming true in Canada.
Of course, we also have unique Canadian versions of unthinking patriotism. When the “loyal” opposition criticized the handover of detainees by our forces in Afghanistan despite possible torture, Stephen Harper and his instruments replied: Why do they criticize what our troops do? Why do they care more about the Taliban than our brave Canadian soldiers? Got that — it’s unpatriotic to ask if our country did anything to be ashamed of?
Hannah Arendt also wrote about Judah Magnes, a Zionist pioneer and founder of the Hebrew University. “Being a Jew and a Zionist, he was simply ashamed of what Jews and Zionists were doing.” The sense of shame is what can save the honour of the group and the nation. It is what Position 1 patriots provide. If there are no patriots capable of shame for what is done in the nation’s name, so there is only praise and pride everywhere, then patriotism easily slides into stupidity and worse.
BBC moved this story at 10:22 p.m. (EST) Thursday, and the 11 o’clock news only carried a sentence or two on it. But it will be all over the news by Friday morning, barring massive media misconduct. Which of course we can’t bar at all.
The US Department of State has fired two contractors and disciplined a third for accessing the passport file of presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
A spokesman for the department, Sean McCormack, said the cases were likely caused by “imprudent curiosity.” But he said it was not clear what the employees may have seen or what they were looking for.
A spokesman for Mr Obama suggested that the government could be using private information for “political purposes.”
The BBC’s North America editor, Justin Webb, says it is an extraordinary lapse in security which allowed temporary state department employees access to personal information on a man who is guarded by the secret service day and night .
The state department tracks those who access its passport database. Breaches occurred on three separate dates — 9 January, 21 February and 14 March.
“We believe this was out of imprudent curiosity, so we are taking steps to reassure ourselves that that is, in fact, the case,” Mr McCormack said…
It’s called “Why, you’d almost think this election actually means something,” and it’s addressed to “Obamaniacs and Clintonistas.” I’ll go one sad step further and add McCain. I’ll add this, too, from Edmund Burke:
“There never was for any long time a corrupt representation of a virtuous people, or a mean, sluggish, careless people who ever had a good government of any form.”
This piece of mine ran several days ago in Salon. com. To see it in its original home, go here. One of the commenters, Blueturtle, made a point that hadn’t occurred to me, but seems aesthetically solid:
Beyond the Left's often correct belief that wearing the flag is facile posturing, there is a larger, deeper problem with the lapel pin.
Isn't it the great unspoken truth that the American flag is simply ugly? Bold, primary colors parceled out in too small stripes and indeterminant stars. It has always paled in comparison to the understated tricolor of France, the composite crosses of the Union Jack, or the beautiful exoticism of any number of developing nations' standards.
The stars and bars speaks for a nation that never could really figure out what it stood for. In response, states' rights and muddled federalism left us with a compromise guidon of cobbled together symbols.
Obama knows that will clash with any outfit that is not made for preschoolers in their bold jumpers.
Is a man fit to be commander-in-chief if he won't even fly the flag from his buttonhole?
Does that man, Barack Obama, think he's "too good — too patriotic! — to wear a flag pin on his chest?" Because that's what William Kristol believes.
Grow up, the Chicago Sun-Times advises: "Oh for Pete's sake, Senator Obama, pin the darnn American flag to your chest. Otherwise, the poor dope will "catch a world of hurt for ... polarizing comments [that] make him sound like a hardened leftist."
Has Obama's failure to wear a flag pin really done "more damage to his White House hopes than a bomb bursting in air?" The New York Daily News thinks so.
Or is it just possible that Barack Obama knows more about getting to be president than all of these pundits laid end to end, as they probably should be? Is it possible that an empty buttonhole might actually help a candidate of either party, now that the nation's number one flag-wearer is circling the bowl with the lowest presidential approval ratings ever recorded?
Let's go beyond the Beltway and take a look. Out there on the campaign trail, who's actually been wearing lapel flags in this race and who hasn't -- and how's that been working out for you guys anyway?
On April 26 of last year in Orangeburg, South Carolina, the Democrats held the first debate in the campaign that never ends. First thing that morning the candidates were all in a hurry to throw on their clothes, grabbing any old thing that came to hand. Yeah, right.
It was the most important day of their political lives to date, and they agonized over each tiny sartorial decision. Windsor knot or four-in-hand? Blue or red?
Here's where everybody came out on lapel flags. The photo coverage of the debate shows that only Joe Biden decided to wear one. The other seven -- Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Chris Dodd — went without.
Of course you'd expect that from a bunch of surrender monkeys, wouldn't you? So let's turn to the Republicans, tough-talking patriots to a man. Their first debate came a week later in Simi Valley, California. And sure enough, Tommy Thompson, Tom Tancredo and Rudy Giuliani, nonveterans all, were careful to pin on their flags.
By May 15, at the Columbia, South Carolina Republican debate, Tancredo had stopped wearing his flag. By June, Democratic candidate Joe Biden had deflagged as well.
The only candidate of either party who chose to add a flag in the course of the campaign was Bill Richardson, who flagged up toward the end of the summer. With Biden's flag gone by then, Richardson had become the only Democratic candidate to wear a flag in the debates.
On the Republican side Tommy Thompson continued to wear his flag till the bitter end, which came in August when he placed sixth in the Iowa straw polls. The empty Thompson slot was filled the following month by Fred. The lobbyist/actor picked up Tommy's banner, so to speak, and was still wearing it in January when he, too, dropped out.
Rudy Giuliani, who probably wears a flag to bed, dropped out a week later after racking up a pathetic 15 percent of the vote in the Florida Republican primary.
Do we see a subtle pattern emerging here? Every presidential candidate of both parties who ever wore a lapel flag during the debates, even as briefly as Biden, bought himself a one-way ticket to Palookaville.
And every major party candidate who remains viable today — John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — has seldom if ever been spotted with a flag in his or her lapel.
Don't think the press hasn't been noticing, either. To this day there has been a steady drumbeat of silence in the media over the flagless-ness of Huckabee's, Clinton's and McCain's lapels.
Nor would Obama's disrespect have made news if only he had thought to point the finger at everyone else still in the race when a TV reporter posed his trivia question back in October. But instead he gave an honest if incomplete answer.
Obama said he had worn a pin after 9/11 but stopped once he began to notice, and here I paraphrase wildly but no doubt accurately, that most of the people still wearing lapel flags were assholes.
On the evidence of the campaign so far, Obama wasn't the only one who noticed.
Clinton, Huckabee and McCain, we may say with confidence, would wear anything or even nothing at all if they thought it would help them win the nomination. Then why, when it came to miniature flags, did the three join Obama in opting for nothing?
Dosed with Pentothal, each would most likely come up with a variant of the answer Obama had hinted at: that lapel flags no longer signify simple patriotism, but something that you don't want sticking to your fingers these days..
For these past six years and more, men with those bright little flags apparently riveted to their lapels have fed the voters a daily diet of fear, secrecy, lies, and a cruel war with neither point nor end.
No sensible politician would want to march under this tiny, metallic banner. Just look at all the fallen stars who did.
James Fallows passes along a participant’s perspective on the so-called crucial role of so-called organization in Obama’s recent string of stunning victories. Read the whole thing here.
My note re organization: At 11 AM I got a call asking if I could be the Obama “lead” at our [Washington state] caucus location, which had 12 precincts caucusing. Someone delivered to me a few hundred campaign pins, a few posters, and lots of stickers. When I showed up, a few minutes after noon, the place was plastered with Hillary posters. Obama early-arrivers volunteered to take all the materials off my hands. The materials were all snapped up before 20% of the ultimate attendees arrived. There were 2,000 people there. They voted at least 5 or 6 to 1 for Obama over Clinton overall, if not higher. I was the only “organizer” for Obama, and I did almost nothing nor could I. We were simply swamped with people.
Today, when I didn’t have any info on the Maine caucuses, except that she was expected to win, I read that Obama had addressed an overflow crowd yesterday, with 3,000 people not being able to get in and being forced to stand out in the snow. Note that this is just what happened in Seattle at Key Arena on Friday. The giant overflow crowd left outside in foul weather is a sign of an organization that has been overwhelmed, not an organization that has been successful. As soon as I read that, knowing what had just happened in WA, and having seen the amazing demographic diversity of the Obama supporters in our caucuses (which made me think, “This is not a regional phenomenon”), I told [xx], “He’s going to carry Maine.” It didn’t take a genius!
Rick Hertzberg clears the whole thing up:
We’re awash in numbers from yesterday’s primaries, but there’s one number that nobody ever seems to crunch: how many votes did the candidates get?
I don’t mean how many delegates, or how many states, or the margin in this or that state. I mean: across the nation, which is to say in all 23 states that held Democratic primaries or caucuses yesterday (I’m focussing on the Dems for the moment), how many human beings voted for Clinton and how many for Obama?
I just spent some time with a calculator and the latest CNN state-by-state totals, and here’s what I came up with:
* Hillary Clinton: 7,347,477 (48.8%)
* Barack Obama: 7,293,887 (48.5%)
* John Edwards: 408,622 (2.7%)
One way to look at this: Clinton crushes Obama by more than fifty thousand votes!
A second way: Despite trailing Clinton by five to seven points in national polls on the morning of the primaries, Obama finishes within half a percentage point!
A third way: A majority of Democrats voted against Clinton.
A fourth way: A majority of Democrats voted against Obama.
A fifth way: If Edwards’s votes split 57-43 for Obama, Obama wins.
Then there’s my way, which is also the high way:
It was a tie.
John Edwards, sadly, is out. With him went what seemed like the only chance to end our occupation of Iraq before 2012, when a presumably Democratic president will presumably be reelected.
If Edwards had been able to end the occupation next year — Bush’s warhogs are right about this — the results would have been the shameful abandonment of our allies there, a bloody civil war killing thousands or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and a destabilized Middle East descending into God knows what new horrors.
If Clinton or Obama is elected, exactly the same things will happen, only four years later. By that time we will have lost another trillion dollars or so and thousands more American lives. In addition the Iraqis would have lost — Oh, well, who cares?
Obama or Clinton will happily pay such a price for reelection, just as Nixon did before them. The awful irony is that this time it might not even work. Bush has left his successor a far worse mess to clean up than Kennedy/Johnson did. We could wind up with a Republican president in 2012, or even a Scientologist. On the evidence so far this century, we’re dumb enough to elect anything.
The only bright spot in today’s announcement is my suspicion that Edwards has cut a deal with Obama and will wind up as vice president. This would halfway realize the advice I generously offered on December 16: “As between Edwards and Obama my considered opinion is that they should swap wives and then flip for the nomination.”
As usual, read Bill Greider in The Nation. Immediately. Brief taste below. Full meal here.
Bill Gross, the insightful managing director of PIMCO, the major bond-investment house, has called for virtually doubling the federal deficit in order pump hundreds of billions into new economic activity. When bond holders are more alarmed about the economy than political leaders, you know something is backwards in American politics.
Edwards, alas, probably restrained the size of his stimulus package to convince the media gatekeepers he is not wacko and thus win some coverage for his forward thinking. No such luck. Edwards has his own shortcomings, but he has been victimized by the shallow political culture that empties meaning from presidential campaigns. The press early on consigned him to the “populist” stereotype and largely ignored the serious content of his agenda.
This is the curse that leads to enervating, brain-dead presidential cycles. Substance bores political reporters. Most of them do not understand economics or even know much about how government actually works. Given their ignorance, they prefer to play the role of theater critics and imagine that readers are desperate to hear their highly subjective and utterly unreliable reviews of the sideshow.
The excerpt below is from a piece at Smirking Chimp by Paul Rogat Loeb. His argument seems pretty sound to me. In fact I said something along vaguely similar lines last month, although more briefly and with an added integrationist twist.
As media commentators proclaim Hillary Clinton's rebirth from the ashes of defeat, they miss a critical story--Obama and Edwards won the New Hampshire primary. Add together Obama's 36 percent and Edwards's 17, and they beat Clinton's 39 percent by 14 points…
Those who make up the Obedwards constituencies recognize the problems with so many of Clinton's approaches and stands. That's part of what's driving them, along with a genuine passion for Obama and Edwards, and a sense, confirmed by the polls, that either of the two has a better shot at beating the leading Republicans than does Clinton.
If we look just at delegates, both Iowa and New Hampshire advanced the Obedwards combined cause. But because the coverage has focused so exclusively on the Obama/Clinton match-up, they've missed that a solid majority of Democrats in both New Hampshire and Iowa rejected a candidate who a short while back was proclaiming her nomination as nearly inevitable…
Here’s an old classic, updated.
Is it the year before a presidential election again? If I am a self-loathing Irish bully presidential wanna-be Democrat who never herself had the guts to go into politics, then that means it is again time to begin the quadrennial tear-down of any and every Democrat with a reasonable shot at winning.
Since the Democrats in the past few cycles by and large have put forth a steady stream of capable and impressive candidates, the key here is to focus like a laser on personal foibles of the candidates. Anything less than a total focus on the personality of the candidate in question risks inserting context into the equation. That is to say, it risks the reader thinking, for instance, something like, “Hey! Isn’t this the same spiteful asshole who savagely tore down Al Gore in 2000 without the slightest glimmer of acknowledgment that his opponent was — George W. Bush. And, ditto, re John Kerry in ’04?”
I don’t know if Obama is ready or not. But I do know that Maureen Dowd (scum-sucking paid link; sorry) thinks he has a shot at the presidential seat that by rights should be hers. Why else would she say awful, viperous, and irrelevant things like:
Using the dreaded third person that some candidates slip into, he told the press that one of their favorite narratives boiled down to “Obama has pretty good style, he can deliver a pretty good speech, but he seems to prioritize rhetoric over substance.” After an ode to his own specificity, he tut-tutted, “You’ve been reporting on how I look in a swimsuit.”
He poses for the cover of Men’s Vogue and then gets huffy when people don’t treat him as Hannah Arendt. …
After talking to high school journalists, he took a sniffy shot at the loutish reporters who were merely whispering where’s the beef: “Take some notes, guys, that’s how it’s done.”
No fewer than three times last week, Mr. Obama got indignant about the beach-babe attention given to a shot of him in the Hawaiian surf. …
When The Times’s Jeff Zeleny asked him on his plane whether he’d had a heater in his podium during his announcement speech in subzero Springfield, Mr. Obama hesitated. He shot Jeff a look that said, “Are you from People magazine?” before conceding that, unlike Abe Lincoln, he’d had a heater.
Take some notes, senator, that’s how it’s done.
Slow down, Mo. We know how it’s done. Where “it” means denying election to any Democratic candidate, no matter how qualified or capable.
We know because we have for years watched you tear down basically decent men, like Al Gore and John Kerry, who had the temerity put themselves in the public arena and get in line for the job you crave but never had the courage to pursue.
Good luck, Sen. Obama. You’re going to need it. Yes, there are no snakes in Ireland; but that’s only because Dowd’s forebears emigrated to America. So she was born here instead.
The Biggest Loser out of the ’06 elections? Any GOP presidential candidate who has spent the past five years in an accelerating attempt to become the mainstream GOP heir-apparent to President George W. Bush, especially in terms of embracing the Iraq war.
McCain’s clumsiness and lack of political timing now stand exposed as never before: he was an independent, critical, truth-telling outsider in 2000, at a time when the GOP needed a mainstream, establishment candidate. (We’ve since learned that Bush is a crazed millenialist, but he ran then as a moderate who could keep his pants on.) Now, when it is clear that in order to have any chance of retaining the White House in 2008, the GOP will need an independent, critical, truth-telling outsider who is distanced from a profoundly incompetent and increasingly unpopular Republican administration, John McCain is locked into a new, awkward-fitting, mainstream, establishment, heir-apparent candidacy. Not to mention that he is tar-babied to the electorally fatal Iraq war.
If the GOP is stupid enough to nominate McCain in ’08, the commercials write themselves: simple voice-overs of McCain’s thousands of quotes defending and pushing stay-the-course, playing over the grotesque visuals of the awkward hugs between Bush and a toadying, insincere McCain.
The most dangerous possible GOP candidate, and he or she simply does not exist among the front ranks of those reported to be considering a White House run, is an anti-war, anti-Bush strict fiscal and social conservative. (Possible exception on substance: Newt Gingrich, but he is so personally unlikeable and tainted as to be unelectable.)
Actually I am the one responsible for the Democratic takeover of the United States Senate.
Let’s have some fun with numbers, all right? Saddam Hussein was captured on December 13, 2003. So 365 times three less 38 less another day for leap year gives us 1,056 days from that day to this one.
Now all join in and count along with me. One, two, three, four, etc., etc., etc. and so on and so forth, keep going now, still a long, long way to Tipperary. Count, count, count, don’t give up now …
Oh, man, at last, we made it. One thousand and fifty-six. Take a couple of deep breaths and now let’s wind down with something easy. Count the days between Saddam’s death sentence and the midterm elections. All together now!
Well, I’ll be damned. What are the odds of that happening?
The Rude Pundit provides us with this link to selections from Lynne Cheney’s erotic masterpiece, Sisters: The Novel of a Strong and Beautiful Woman Who Broke All the Rules of the American Frontier. So sin-sodden am I that I wasn’t at all offended by these excerpts. But then I wasn’t offended by James Webb’s novels either.
Nor was I offended when I heard Webb speak at a 1985 conference of The Asia Society on “The Vietnam Experience in American Literature.” The conference brought together such writers and editors as William Broyles, Asa Baber, C.D.B. Bryan, John Del Vecchio, Nan Talese, Osborn Elliot, Joe Klein, Ron Kovic, Myra McPherson, Kevin Buckley, Tim O’Brien, and Wallace Terry.
As well as James Webb, who at the time was an assistant secretary of defense in Reagan’s Pentagon. In that crowd, he was the Christian and we were the lions.
Webb didn’t give an inch in the hostile questioning that followed his speech. Politely, intelligently, and with quiet dignity, he defended a war that most of his audience loathed.
Like most everyone else I didn’t agree with him. But I admired him. I wasn’t surprised when he later quit his job with Reagan; nor when he eventually became a Democrat. If you live in Virginia, I urge you to help send him to the Senate. It desperately needs him, and more like him.
My wife’s friend Marie passes along a message below. Pete Seeger, appearing on YouTube, adds to the message.
Unless you’re dead or moribund, you’ve noticed that a number of Democrats have a good chance of winning, but most of them still need money. If you have a few bucks go here.
You can give to selected candidates or to all of them.
Please feel free to pass the link on or post it on your blog if you have one. It’s a lot more pleasant to part with a few bucks now than to stand naked in a cold room and have cold water poured over you later because someone thinks you’re supporting terrorists.