In a message to the 26-year-old stripper from Oregon, named Lynsie Lee, Mr. Booker wrote that “the East Coast loves you, and by the East Coast, I mean me.”
Ms. Lee, whose photograph on Twitter features her splayed topless across a yellow couch, replied, “Well, now I’m blushing :)”
…Ms. Lee, who works at Casa Diablo, which bills itself as the world’s first vegan strip club, said she became acquainted with Mr. Booker when both were included in a film about social media. In an interview over Twitter on Wednesday night, Ms. Lee said she developed a “slight crush on the mayor.”
Here’s your monthly link to Frank Rich’s column in New York magazine, and an excerpt:
Plan B for a GOP resuscitation is — or was — the quick fix of finding a ready-made messiah, preferably one who could be anointed the new Ronald Reagan. Such was the Platonic idea, if not the reality, of Marco Rubio, the 41-year-old first-term Cuban-American senator from Florida who induced orgasms among conservative elders with his potential to put “a new face” on the party. Rubio is “the best communicator” since Reagan, in the estimation of Rove — an analogy echoed by many, including John McCain. (McCain has also judged Romney and Sarah Palin to be Reaganesque, but never mind.) Rubio “can explain his views on Univision without a translator,” enthused the awestruck Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush speechwriter. Or, as another onetime Bush spin artist, Nicolle Wallace, chimed in: “He’s everything we need and more. He’s modern. He knows who Tupac is. He’s on social media.” A Spanish-speaking young (or at least youngish) guy who has listened to a black person (if only through headphones) and is on that newfangled Facebook — cool! The only way he could check more demographic boxes coveted by Republicans would be if he turned out to be gay. Alas, Plan B fizzled while the Time cover anointing Rubio “The Republican Savior” was still on the newsstands. The savior’s disastrous response to Obama’s State of the Union address did for a bottle of Poland Spring water what Clint Eastwood did for an empty chair…
Here’s the GOP’s Messiah of the Month, Senator Ted Cruz, remembering grim times at Harvard Law School from 1992 to 1995:
“There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”
OMG, back then I used to walk past the law school every day on my way to work! Innocent me, I never dreamed there was a Republican inside.
From Candice Millard’s new book, Destiny of the Republic, on the assassination of President James A. Garfield:
Inexplicably, it seemed that the only cause for which Garfield would not fight was his own political future. In an early-adopted eccentricity that would become for him a central “law of life,” he refused to seek an appointment or promotion of any kind. “I suppose that I am morbidly sensitive about any reference to my own achievements,” he admitted. “I so much despise a man who blows his own horn, that I go to the other extreme.” From his first political campaign, he had sternly instructed his backers that “first, I should make no pledge to any man or any measures; second, I should not work for my own nomination.” The closest he had come to even admitting that he was interested in a political office was to tell his friends, when a seat in the U.S. Senate became available in 1879, that “if the Senatorship is thus to be thrown open for honorable competition, I should be sorry to be wholly omitted from consideration in that direction.” After a landslide victory, his campaign’s expenses amounted to less than $15o.
When it came to the presidency, Garfield simply looked the other way. He spent seventeen years in Congress, and every day he saw men whose desperate desire for the White House ruined their careers, their character, and their lives. “I have so long and so often seen the evil effects of the presidential fever among my associates and friends that I am determined it shall not seize me,” he wrote in his journal in February 1879. “In almost every case it impairs if it does not destroy the usefulness of its victim.”
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.
Eric Hartsburg, the 30-year-old Michigan City, Ind., man who had Mitt Romney’s campaign logo tattooed on his face, has had enough.
Even though in the wake of Romney’s defeat, Hartsburg said he planned to keep the 5-by-2-inch image, he told Politico on Wednesday that he’s now preparing to get the image removed by laser after Romney’s postelection comments. Hartsburg pointed to Romney’s claim that President Barack Obama won because he offered gifts to minority voters.
“It stands not only for a losing campaign but for a sore loser,” Hartsburg said of his tattoo and its connection to Romney. “He’s pretty shameful as far as I’m concerned, man. There’s no dignity in blaming somebody else for buying votes and paying off people. I can’t get behind that or stay behind that.”
● April 30, 2013: Bobby Jindal grows mustache, looks in mirror, says to himself, “I could pass.”
● May 25, 2014: Washington Post ombudsman takes George Will to task for over-reliance on obscure Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende references in his columns.
● December 18, 2015: Arizona governor Joe Arpaio thrilled to announce that Nogales has been chosen as the site of 2016 Republican National Convention.
● January 4, 2016: In desperate last-ditch effort to win Iowa caucus, Rick Santorum changes first name to “Speedy.”
Not a lot to add to Chuck’s post below about the self-delusion of our Republican friends. Ultimately, I think the level of surprise about Mitt’s more-than-apparent cluelessness is more surprising to me than the fact that he really thought he had this one all sewn up. I know any number of people who have said, “I just don't see how anybody could vote for that man!” Such people tend to be rather uninformed.
However, one would like to think that the nominee for the office of President of the United States of America from one of only two major political parties in this country would be rather more perceptive than a suburbanite in a bowling alley. Which brings us to what I consider the real problem with Mitt, and the rest of his ilk: He was never running for President of the United States of America. Mitt was running for President of People Who Agree With Him. As were all the sterling political minds he beat out for the nomination.
Arguably, Mitt was never running at all. Oh sure, he made the campaign stops and bought the air time. But this was a man who never seemed to accept that it was his job to convince the electorate to support him. Rather, he seems to have genuinely believed it was the job of the electorate to recognize what he considered so obvious as to be beyond question: That it was time for High Lord Romney to ascend to the presidency of this country. Which is in line with his much-touted business experience: Mitt was always the one making the evaluations — he never had to learn what happens on the other side of the desk.
One would also like to think that reaching the heights in the business world that Mr. Romney did would require a little more perception than Mr. Romney has to date displayed. That was what struck me about his remarks about the 47 percent — not that they were callous (which of course they were) but that they showed so little imagination. But if we’ve learned nothing since 2008 (and it looks increasingly like we haven’t) we should have learned that imagination and perception have very little to do with reaching the pinnacles of the business world. It seems the people who believe government should be run like a business really don’t know much of anything about running either.
So farewell to Mr. Romney, for now. He’s not going away, and the things he represents are not going away. He has, in his way, much to teach us — though not in a way that he could imagine. The question now is how much of it we are willing to learn.
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.
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:
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Tuesday that contributions by teachers’ unions to the Democratic Party represent an “extraordinary conflict of interest” because many times those unions will be sitting across the table from Democratic lawmakers in negotiating their contract terms…
The most important factor in having a “productive relationship” between government and teachers’ unions, he continued, is “that the person sitting across the table from them should not have received the largest campaign contributions from the teachers’ union themselves.”
It would also be an extraordinary conflict of interest for Wall Street banksters to sit across the table from Republican lawmakers as they gutted financial reform. That, Mitt, is the whole point of large campaign contributions. Surely you must have noticed?
Professor Wolff at The Philosopher’s Stone:
The angle of the video makes it clear that it was not recorded by one of the guests, so we can only conclude that one of the wait staff managed to set up a camera and film the proceedings.
Upper classes always ignore the presence of their servants, a fact that gave rise to an entire genre of eighteenth century French comedy. [Think “The Marriage of Figaro” without the immortal music.] Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they seem constitutionally incapable of remembering that the working class is populated by actual human beings with eyes and ears and fully functional intelligence. This failure is ideological, not personal, in nature. Were the rich and powerful of the world to acknowledge the full humanity of those they exploit, they would find it difficult to sustain the easy air of superiority that they consider their birthright…
At Romney’s rich donor dinner, it is a virtual certainty that the wait staff consisted of men [and perhaps women — one cannot tell from the video] who make too little money to pay federal income taxes, and hence are among the 47% whom Romney says are dependent moochers who cannot take personal responsibility for their lives. These people were obviously in full view of Romney as he stood at the podium and spoke for more than an hour. The fact that it obviously never occurred to him that he was talking about people present in the room says more about Romney than any formal biography or hatchet job exposé possibly can.
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.”
From the New York Times:
CLEVELAND — Seeking to counter federal hate crime charges, defense lawyers for 16 Amish men and women on trial here said Tuesday that their clients had cut the beards and hair of perceived enemies out of compassion — trying, with admittedly misguided methods, to help them repent and see the true Amish way.
“He was motivated purely by good intentions,” J. Dean Carro, the lawyer for Lester M. Miller, said of his client, in a statement echoed by several other lawyers.
Perfectly understandable. Didn’t Mitt Romney do practically the exact same thing back in prep school, for equally merciful reasons?
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.
“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenage son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.
A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.
One thing about Republicans, they never underestimate the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.
And to the wonderment of those of us still clinging stubbornly to reality, nonsense works. Consider death panels, birtherism, trickle-down economics and rape-detecting vaginas. Consider this, from a New York Times story headlined “Romney Adopts Harder Message for Last Stretch”—
Mitt Romney is heading into his nominating convention with his advisers convinced he needs a more combative footing against President Obama in order to appeal to white, working-class voters and to persuade them that he is the best answer to their economic frustrations…
“We will absolutely be able to get our message out,” said Russ Schriefer, a senior campaign adviser. “We still have an opportunity to tell the story of the last four years of how President Obama has failed the country…”
Mr. Law said his group, Crossroads, had reserved roughly $35 million in advertising for the rest of the campaign and planned to spend more on efforts speaking to their other perception, that Mr. Obama had not been able to deliver.
“These folks know they are not happy with what Obama has done, but they are struggling between, ‘I voted for him, I liked him, but he’s not getting the job done,’ ” said Carl Forti, political director for American Crossroads. “That’s where Mitt needs to take advantage.”
A close textual reading of this compelling new message reveals its meaning to be, “Vote Republican, suckers, because Obama let us sabotage his economic recovery plan.”
It’s a message that could only resonate in empty heads, which ought to make the rest of us very afraid.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A group of former U.S. intelligence and Special Forces operatives is set to launch a media campaign, including TV ads, that scolds President Barack Obama for taking credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden and argues that high-level leaks are endangering American lives…
Calling itself “OPSEC” for short — which in spy jargon means “operational security” — the anti-leak group incorporated last June in Delaware, a state that has the most secretive corporate registration rules in the U.S.
It also set itself up as a nonprofit organization under section 501(c)4 of the U.S. Tax Code, allowing it to keep donors’ identities secret. Spokesmen for the group declined to discuss its sources of financing.
And so the Swiftboating begins. Can Karl Rove and those adorable Koch boys be far behind?
Exciting news from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
FORT WORTH, Texas — George P. Bush has signed on to serve as deputy finance chairman for the Republican Party of Texas.
The nephew of former President George W. Bush and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the 36-year-old Bush has been closely watched from his days at law school to his deployment to Afghanistan as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve…
“Clearly he is being groomed for great things in Texas and perhaps beyond,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “This is about his current visibility, his access to fundraising lists and his name recognition to people who will be on the other end of his fundraising calls.”
Mitt Romney returned to his many stateside homes this week after a triumphant foreign tour that left no doubt that The Mitten has a delicate sense of foreign relations unequaled by any presidential candidate in recent memory.
Possibly more at ease than usual in a place where no one was going to ask about his tax returns, Mitt felt free to warn the English that the country’s ability to run the Olympic Games might fall short. Tricky business, those Olympics, especially if you’re not a go-to, standup financial kind of guy, a guy like, say, Mitt. The English — why are they so prickly? — apparently took offense at Mitt’s generous and good-natured advice. The Prime Minister himself joined the discussion with an entirely gratuitous observation that running the games in London is not quite the same as putting them on “in the middle of nowhere,” a nasty reference to Salt Lake City, the scene of Mr. Romney’s Olympic administrative triumph. In a matter of hours, London newspapers were vilifying the presumptive Republican presidential candidate with headlines referring to him as “Mitt the Twit.” With allies like this, who needs enemies?
Never mind: the English were always thin-skinned, not to mention perfidious, viper-tongued, pretentious, and self-important. On to Israel where a man can speak his mind and not worry about stepping on someone’s precious little feelings. In no time, Mitt had Netanyahu and the whole country eating out of his hand, or his pocket, or something. He told them if he were president he would consider all options, including force, to keep nuclear arms out of Iran. The Israelis were glad to hear this but wondered why the perpetual presidential candidate was presenting as new a policy that was already in force. You mean Obama’s policy? the Israelis asked.
Sensing that he had stumbled into a cul de sac, The Mitten saw that the best way out was to inflame tensions with the Palestinians, usually a winning strategy when you’re dealing with hardliners, but not so great for wimpy peaceniks, of which there are far too many. Next thing you know, the creepy liberal media are saying that the well-intentioned, upright, front-running, standard-bearing, square-jawed conservative GOP putative presidential candidate has insulted an entire people by suggesting that they are culturally backward, especially when compared to the Israelis, who, it must be remembered, have an influence on American presidential politics beyond all reason.
So what’s the big flap about? Of course the Palestinians are culturally backward. They’re Arabs, for God sakes. And almost all of them are Muslims. And Muslims, as everyone knows, are terrorists. Just like Osama bin Laden.
The creepy news media finally got what they deserved on the last day of Mitten’s trip, in Poland. Rich Gorka, one of Mitt’s press aides, let ’em have it when they kept asking annoying questions about all the so-called gaffes the candidate had committed during the trip. “Kiss my ass,” said Gorka to some impertinent news hounds. And then he closed the, er, discussion down with a statement that was hard to misunderstand. “Shove it,” he said. Now, maybe that kind of language doesn’t have Mitt’s subtlety, but it’s the only way to talk to these people. News people have no respect for anybody’s feelings and they have no sense of the fragile nature of foreign relations.
But that’s politics and nobody has a better feel for it than the Mitten. Sometimes the wise guy reporters think they can have a good laugh at Mitt’s expense. But he always turns the tables on them. He always has the last word. People say he hasn’t got much of a sense of humor, but they mistake the stiff, robotic, clueless, mincing, foot-in-mouth public Mitt for the real Mitt. The Mitt who will take opposite positions on any subject with equal force, the Mitt who in the same sentence can answer yes and no to the same question — that’s the political Mitten, the vote-getter. The real Mitt is the one we saw in Europe and the Middle East, the one with the Mitten touch.
It is practically never that Thomas L. Friedman commits good sense in good writing, both at the very same time. Let us all rejoice, therefore, in this:
I’ll make this quick. I have one question and one observation about Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel. The question is this: Since the whole trip was not about learning anything but about how to satisfy the political whims of the right-wing, super pro-Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, why didn’t they just do the whole thing in Las Vegas? I mean, it was all about money anyway — how much Romney would abase himself by saying whatever the Israeli right wanted to hear and how big a jackpot of donations Adelson would shower on the Romney campaign in return. Really, Vegas would have been so much more appropriate than Jerusalem. They could have constructed a plastic Wailing Wall and saved so much on gas…
Mitt the Twit offers us this assessment of the choices we face in November:
...I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.
Mitt, Mitt, Mitt… “stuff from government” is not free. We pay for it. That’s what those things we call “taxes” are supposed to be used for. It’s not free. And most of us realize it’s not free. You only think “stuff from government” is free because you’re not paying those same taxes.
I hope this has been helpful, Mitt. Feel free to drop me a line if you find any other fundamentals of the social contract to be confusing.
Something I've done that I’ll bet Mitt Romney has never done is... fill out a job application.
Guys like Romney don’t fill out job applications, y’see. According to Mitt’s Wikipedia page — and here Wikipedia's notorious subjectivity works in our favor — his employment history begins thusly:
Romney was recruited by several firms and chose to remain in Massachusetts to work for Boston Consulting Group (BCG), reasoning that working as a management consultant to a variety of companies would better prepare him for a future position as a chief executive.
In contrast, my employment history began with a clean shirt, my own pen, and an index card on which I had jotted down three personal references. I went to the mall just north of town and went from store to store, asking at each one if they were accepting applications. If they were, I reasoned it would make a better impression if I had my own pen than if I asked to borrow one. There’s something else I bet Mitt Romney has never done: give an iota of thought to the impression he would make by asking to borrow a pen.
Eventually, my efforts yielded the sort of job one would expect from a shopping mall in the late 70s — a minimum wage gig that turned out to be seasonal. I was told when I was hired in September that this particular store did not hire seasonally, which led me to expect that I could work there for as long as I did a good job. However, when there were massive layoffs the following January — myself among them — I realized that I had been lied to about that. I would bet that, too, is an experience Mitt Romney has never had. Rather, my guess would be that Mitt has always been the one lying to employees. (Although one could argue that currently he is lying to his prospective employers, which to varying degrees we have all done.)
Since then, I have filled out many job applications for all sorts of jobs. One is worth mentioning. When I fled Ohio for San Francisco (to launch my illustrious stand-up career) I had to choose between necessities and luxuries. One of the things that came under the heading of luxury was... a telephone. Ya know why? Because I had no credit history, the phone company required a prohibitively large (for me) deposit. And because I had no phone, a prospective employer refused to take my application. Apparently, what I considered a minor inconvenience he considered an insurmountable barrier. I will bet Mitt has never had to worry that he would not be seriously considered for any position in which he was interested. And I don't have to bet on this one — I will guarantee you Willard M. Romney has never had to do without a phone, for any reason.
I am happy to report that it has been a long time since I’ve had to fill out a job application. I have graduated to the ranks of people who get hired by circulating resumes, and from there to the exalted ranks of those who have their resumes dismissed out of hand. I am quite sure the being in that latter category is another experience that Mr. Romney and I will never have in common.
Romney recently suggested adding a Constitutional qualification that “the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States.’” I might go along with that — if those three years began with filling out a job application. Unlike Mr. Romney, I think that would educate any would-be president in the way this country reallyworks.
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.
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 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.
The RNC, long known for its deft use of humor, is at it again:
The Republican National Committee is out with its first explicitly pro-Mitt Romney web ad, which mocks President Obama for “slow jamming” Tuesday on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
The video, entitled “A Tale of Two Leaders,” intermingles clips of Obama’s appearance on the show, in which Fallon calls Obama the “Preezy of the United Steezy” as the president stands in the background, with cuts from Romney’s general election kick-off speech the same day.
Pay special attention as Richie Rich tells the cheering crowd, “I see children even more successful than their parents — some successful even beyond their wildest dreams — and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.” Nobody loves a whiner, Mitt. Didn’t your less successful father ever tell you that?
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?”
While the rest of us were giggling over Rick Santorum’s fact-free attack in California’s university system, Sara Robinson wasn’t. I’d bet ten thousand Romney dollars that her decoding of Santorum’s babble is right on target.
Santorum was setting the stage. He warned us, very clearly: Following the War on Public Employees and the War on Women, this will be the summer of the War on Public Universities. Whether the proposals will be to revoke their charters, close campuses, or sell off their facilities to for-profit colleges, you can bet that ALEC already has the bills in the can, and will be introducing them in state legislatures presently.
…you really can’t. From Yahoo News:
Per ABC News’ Emily Friedman, Ann Romney told Baltimore WBAL radio that she’s working to show another side of her husband. Asked about criticism that Romney is “too stiff,” Ann Romney laughed and replied, “I guess we better unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out because he is not!”
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 Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
In his mind, of course, the best proof of that rampant stupidity is the failure of Newt’s party, opponents and the country at large to ask him to save the country. If you fail to recognize the frankly astonishing, the profoundly fundamental and the fundamentally profound transformational genius contained in the skull of Newton Leroy Gingrich, well then, you must be stupid.
On the other hand, wouldn’t a smart person understand that you don’t win friends and support by going around and treating everyone else in the world as stupid? Isn’t that pretty basic stuff? I don’t recall Ronald Reagan, for example, lecturing people on how stupid they must be not to appreciate him.
In fact, most of us learn that lesson no later than the third grade. If at the age of 68 you’re still making that mistake and still wondering why people don’t like you, then no, you’re not very smart after all.
One wonders what remains
Inside Mitt’s head
That he has had the brains
To leave unsaid.
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...
Professor Wolff did:
The nation’s Catholic Bishops, a shameful cabal of child molesters and enablers of child molestation, have found in Rick Santorum the perfect embodiment of their ideal altar boy.
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.”
Hey, all you Callista fans, Princess Sparkle Pony is back with another in-depth probe of his Goddess, plus a fascinating bit of speculation: “At breakfast this morning, one of my coworkers couched the idea of the hairdo's majestic side tentacle actually being prehensile. Oh wow, my mind was flooded with such visions!”
Returning to the hard news, though, January’s crise de coiffure seems to have passed: “The formidable hair sculpture has recovered nicely from its recent run-in with a cruel, overzealous dye pot wielder. Phew.”
For the full snark, and a stunning portrait, go here.
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.”
Robert Paul Wolff is a Jewish philosopher who taught at Harvard, Columbia and Chicago before becoming head of the Afro-American Studies department at the University of Massachusetts. Now retired in North Carolina, he blogs at The Philosopher’s Stone. The excerpt below is from an essay called “Free, White, and Twenty-one.” In it he takes on the political question of the week: What Can South Carolina Possibly See in Newt?
It was more or less at this time that a new and curious linguistic practice entered the public speech of America. Ordinary White working class families began to be referred to, and increasingly referred to themselves, as “middle class.” Now “middle class” is itself a rather suspicious bastard sociological category. It does not have the historical roots and deeper meaning of “petty bourgeoisie,” which conveys the notion of shopkeepers and small business owners who, although owners of their means of production, are yet not the great geldbesitzeren or haute bourgeois who command the economic heights. But it also does not merely mean “between rich and poor.” It does, in the American context, somewhat correspond to the old distinction between “suits” and “shirts” or “white collar” and “blue collar.” However, in the racially segregated America of the ’50s and ’60s, “middle class” clearly meant suburban, respectable, not living in an inner city ghetto. It meant NOT BLACK.
The Civil Rights Movement challenged the Black Codes, it challenged Jim Crow, it challenged the deeply embedded caste system of American society. And it was successful! I will yield to no one in my outrage at the discriminations that still afflict Black Americans, but I am old enough to recall what this country was like in the ’40s and ’50s, and that change has been dramatic, transformative, and irreversible.
We may celebrate this change as the greatest progressive victory of the twentieth century, but to a large number of Americans, the change has been devastating, incomprehensible, and hateful. No longer can Whites at the bottom of the economic ladder console themselves, in the dark night of their souls, with the secret thought, AT LEAST I AM NOT BLACK.
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:
God know what he was telling Freddie Mac, but here's a summary of the clueless Newtster’s most recent attempt on history:
Gingrich, who explained that he was outraged by activist liberal elitist judges imposing their secular values on America (and more generally by “lawyers” who have come “to think that they can dictate to the rest of us”), declared that as president he would simply ignore Supreme Court decisions he didn’t like, abolish Federal appeals courts whose “anti-American” judges ruled in ways he didn’t like, and encourage Congress to subpoena judges to explain their decisions.
He claimed that Lincoln had similarly “just ignored” the Dred Scott decision, when he issued his Emancipation Proclamation; he said that Jefferson had similarly abolished Federal circuit courts whose judges he opposed; and he asserted that Jackson and FDR had also taken stances against what he declared to be the spurious doctrine of “judicial supremacy”— that the courts can pass judgment on the constitutionality of presidential actions or acts of Congress.
He insisted that the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision on detainees at Guantanamo could be declared “null and void” by the president “because it infringes on my duties as commander in chief to protect the country.”
He wrapped up his case by invoking those infallible and all-seeing guides, the Founding Fathers, who he said “were very distrustful of judges, saw them as an elite instrument of government designed to oppress people. And, as a result, consciously made the judicial branch the third branch and the weakest branch.”
You knew instinctively, of course, that all this was just more waste product from the GOP’s current White Hope (its Black Hope having self-destructed). But you probably didn’t have the time or inclination to do exploratory surgery. However The Liberal Curmudgeon (from which the above excerpt comes) has done a thorough dissection for you; sadly, the patient did not survive.
From The Liberal Curmudgeon:
I have been perplexed for some time why Newt Gingrich is routinely acknowledged even by his bitter enemies within the Republican Party as a “genius,” but the answer turns out to be simple: he acts exactly like one of those obnoxious elitist intellectual know-it-alls that the right-wing know-nothings think is the hallmark of an intellectual. He is constantly reminding us of his doctorate in history; he routinely claims he understands issues more deeply than anyone else; he has made a career of denouncing or (when he had the authority) eliminating professional expertise that might challenge his own certain pronouncements; and he is a veritable fount of crackpot “big” ideas (mining minerals on the moon, protecting the United States from sci-fi doomsday scenarios, and “fundamentally transforming” everything as a first step to doing anything.
Another useful rule of thumb: real geniuses, as opposed to simple egomaniacs, do not generally refer to themselves in the third person.
From The Carter Center:
Half of the workforce of the artisanal mining sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is comprised of children. Children as young as two years. Without viable economic alternatives, most children must join their parents in rudimentary mining pits. Children as young as two years transport, wash, and crush minerals to earn half a dollar a day.
These schools should get rid of unionized janitors, have one master janitor, pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work; they’d have cash; they’d have pride in the schools. They’d begin the process of rising…
Go out and talk to people who are really successful in one generation. They all started their first job at 9 to 14 years of age. They are selling newspapers, going door to door, washing cars. They were all making money at a very young age.
I suppose dopey comments from Michelle Bachmann aren’t really worthy of notice. Stupid people have been saying stupid things for millennia, after all. But this one caught my eye, nonetheless.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she would add former presidents Ronald Reagan, James Garfield and Calvin Coolidge to Mount Rushmore Tuesday in an ABC News/Yahoo! interview Tuesday.
When asked who she would add to the South Dakota monument, she proposed Reagan. She then mentioned James Garfield, who was president for just over seven months before being assassinated. She reportedly said she chose him because he is the only person to become president from the House of Representatives. (Bachmann could be the second if she is elected president.) She then said Calvin Coolidge would be a good candidate for the monument, since he “got the country’s budget back on track.”
Of course she would. But I have to ask, why not Eisenhower? Why not Grant? I mean, Garfield and Coolidge aren’t exactly heavy hitters in the proud history of the GOP. Of course, history doesn’t seem to hold much interest for our Republican friends, not even when they might invoke it to their credit.
For the record, there is a reason each of those four men is memorialized on Mt. Rushmore. Washington was instrumental — if not indispensable — in creating this nation. Jefferson doubled its size. Lincoln kept it from tearing itself apart. And Roosevelt turned it into an empire (although McKinley helped on that one.) Each of them, in other words, fundamentally transformed the country — physically, not just ideologically. The reality is that there aren’t any other presidents about which that can be said. That’s not to say those are our four best presidents ever (FDR, anyone?), of course, or that these men did not have flaws to balance against their achievements.
As for Bachmann’s choices, Reagan began the dismantling of this country. Coolidge is generally cited as a positive example by his admirers precisely because he did next to nothing, and Garfield is remembered for being shot. (Robert Klein once observed that when you look up Garfield in the encyclopedia, it says “See ‘Assassination.’”) Like Sarah Palin invoking Paul Revere’s bells, this doesn’t even cut it as glib and superficial pandering.
Luckily, Mt. Rushmore isn’t exactly sound enough structurally to add another sculpture. Unless, of course, the plan is for Marcus Bachmann to pray away all the parts of Mt. Rushmore that don’t look like Reagan, Garfield and Coolidge. So I guess we don’t have to worry about that happening any time soon. We do, however, have to worry for the foreseeable future about boneheaded conservatives proposing that Saint Ronnie be added to Mt. Rushmore…
Why you never, ever want to get Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi on your case:
Perry lumbers onstage looking exceedingly well-groomed, but also ashen and exhausted, like a funeral director with a hangover… Then he waves and walks offstage. The whole thing has taken barely 10 minutes.
I can’t believe it, and neither can the assembled crowd of Georgia conservatives, who hesitate before breaking into polite applause. I feel like a high school cheerleader who just had her leg jizzed on in the back of a convertible. That’s it? It’s over? That was Rick Perry’s stump speech?…
After all, you have to go pretty far to stand out as a whore and a sellout when you come from a state that has produced such luminaries in the history of political corruption as LBJ, Karl Rove and George W. Bush. But Rick Perry has managed to set a scary new low in the annals of opportunism, turning Texas into a swamp of political incest and backroom dealing on a scale not often seen this side of the Congo or Sierra Leone…
Perry is a human price tag – Being There meets Left Behind…
He sweats profusely. He can’t stand still. When he does manage to get off a zinger, he cracks a smug grin, looking like he’s just sewn up the blue ribbon in a frat-house dong-measuring contest.
This doesn’t seem to have made it from the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times into the MSM, so I guess I’ll have to step in. For the latest in libertarian cosmetology, by all means go here. Laugh if you like. Or cry.
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…
Rick Santorum offers up this frothy bit of wisdom:
“Does anybody in this room believe that somebody that’s 62 years old is too old to work in America today?” Santorum asked. “Social Security was established for people who were too old to work and therefore they needed the support of the federal government.”
For the moment, let’s leave aside that this is not historically correct. (Thom Hartmann neatly pointed out on his show today that both Roosevelts believed people should be able to retire after a lifetime of work. But since they were both commies, that probably doesn’t count.) Instead, let’s take Santorum’s statement on its own terms. Just for a few moments.
I don’t know specifically who was in the room when the statement was made. But the reality is that there are a lot of people who believe that someone who is 62 years old is too old to work in America today. Most CEOs. Most HR managers. Most of the so-called “job creators.” Pretty much everybody, in other words, in a position to actually hire someone who is 62 years old.
But don’t worry — they feel the same way about someone who is 52 years old. This is the reality in America today: the de facto retirement age is somewhere in the neighborhood of 49. That’s the age at which business is done with you — unless it’s your own business, of course. But if that’s the case, you’re most likely not hiring people older than 49 either. And if you’re a Republican you are most likely berating everyone you think is too old to hire for being lazy when everyone else with a job to offer makes the same unfair assessment of older workers that you did.
So, Rickster, here’s a modest proposal: Ask your campaign contributors if they think 62 is too old to work.
And then get ready to offer “the support of the federal government” to a whole lot of middle-aged, able-bodied people.
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 …”
What’s clear from the record is that [Michele] Bachmann brought deeply held religious values and legal training from outside the mainstream to her career, values shaped during her unusual law school experience at Oral Roberts University.
“It was a real shocker for me to show up and hear people speak in tongues in chapel,’’ said Burnetti, Bachmann’s classmate. “It was a very exceptional place to go to school.’’
Karl Rove attacks James Richard Perry (incidentally, is America ready for a president with three first names?) and Seasoned Political Observers examine the tea leaves as far back as the 1990 race for Texas agriculture commissioner.
It’s simpler than that, people.
Rove is a courtier, at the moment without a king. If I had a shot at becoming president, Rove would be indifferent to the fact I am a socialist, agnostic, semi-anarchist enemy of everything he thinks the Founding Oligarchs stood for. He would be prancing around me 24/7, blowing kisses and moistening his lips suggestively.
That Rove is sticking it to Perry today has nothing to do with old feuds. It means only that he needs a new king and he doesn’t think he could make this particular enemy of the people into one.
So he’s abandoning Perry early as a signal of friendship and availability to all the other Republican hopefuls.
Speaking of whom, I went to a meet-and-greet Saturday with four Democratic contenders for our district’s seat in the U.S. Congress. One was the speaker of the Connecticut House, another a House representative, and the other two were very young men with no political experience but impressive backgrounds in academia and foreign affairs. Each spoke briefly, then answered questions and worked the crowd for an hour or so.
On the drive home it struck me that any one of the four would in all likelihood make a better president than any of the Republican aspirants. (I’m open to persuasion on Huntsman, but just barely. My general feeling about anyone who would seek the nomination of today’s Republican Party is summed up by the old graffito: A man’s ambition must be small, to write his name on a shit-house wall.)
Remember, folks, you read it here first. Even if you didn’t.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Wayne Slater, let’s assume Governor Perry has no shortage of confidence here.
Tell us something else about Governor Rick Perry that folks outside the great state of Texas may not know.
WAYNE SLATER, COLUMNIST, “THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS”: Well, let me tell you a couple things. One, you’re right. He is George Bush on steroids.
People who thought they knew who George Bush was, Rick Perry is the real thing. He was actually born on a west Texas — raised on a West Texas ranch. He wears cowboy boots every day, as do a lot Texans. He was educated at Texas A&M. That’s the Aggie college, where he was a Yell Leader.
He carries a pistol with him, laser-fired pistol, laser-lighted pistol when he jogs. And at least this is not necessarily Texan, he’s a man of trust in his family. His father-in-law actually did his vasectomy. He’s a man who trusts his family and lives big in Texas.
The MSM media will no doubt be on this story like white on rice in the next few days. Here’s a handy check list for reporters:
1. Was the operation a success? Normally semen samples are tested for sperm following this procedure. Were these taken? How?
2. Was the operation done under general or local anesthesia? If the latter, what did the two men chat about?
3. Whose idea was the vasectomy? Possible answers include but are not limited to: Governor Perry, Mrs. Perry, the governor’s father-in-law, the governor’s mother-in-law, and the governor's parents.
4. The governor and his wife have two children. Would God consider this to qualify as being fruitful and multiplying? Has the governor brought the question up in his talks with Him?
5. Romney has five children. Compare and contrast.
6. Is vasectomy a family value?
7. Does the governor plan to provide foster care for 23 teenage girls? Related question: How come Michele Bachmann didn’t take in any teenage boys?
8. Is Governor Perry’s father-in-law a doctor?
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…
I have nothing informative to say about Callista Gingrich’s hair, but I knew that Sparkle Pony would. He, after all, is the Sultan of Hair, the Historian of Hirsutery, who chronicled Condi Rice’s stylings on an almost daily basis. What would he do with Callista’s do? Go look.
…and that nice Bachmann couple have made it:
Along with offering faith-based counseling at his clinic, Bachmann also gives presentations at various conferences. In November 2005, he and Rep. Bachmann both ran sessions at a “Minnesota Pastors’ Summit” in Eden Prairie, Minnesota: hers focused on the gay marriage amendment she was trying to push through the state legislature, and his was titled “The Truth About the Homosexual Agenda…”
The climax of the presentation was when, according to Prins, Bachmann brought up “three ex-gays, like part of a PowerPoint presentation.” The trio, two white men and a black woman, all testified that they had renounced their homosexuality. “One of them said, ‘If I was born gay, then I’ll have to be born again,’” Prins recalls. “The crowd went crazy.”
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.
This is from the maiden speech of Florida’s Senator Mark Rubio, and a childish, thought-free piece of work it was. In it he asked, trembling with fear for the world beyond our borders where there be dragons:
If America declines, who will serve as living proof that liberty, security and prosperity can all exist together?
Gosh, that’s a tough one, but I’ll give it a try. Great Britain, maybe? Canada? The Netherlands? Costa Rica? France? New Zealand? Norway? Switzerland? Australia? The Isle of Man? Japan? Ireland? Sweden? Belgium? Spain? Germany? Italy? Iceland? Denmark? Luxembourg? Austria?
There must be others, but I’ve got to go now. They’re calling me for din-din.
Sarah Palin had this to say on the subject of Paul Revere:
He who warned, uh, the ... British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.
But here's what really pisses me off: Paul Revere's ride had already been distilled down to its simplest possible terms. It was already shorthand. It was already a cartoon. It doesn't require an explanation of any kind. And Palin doesn't know even that.
It's as if she was trying to explain what Bugs Bunny looks like, but doing so by describing Daffy Duck.
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.
Joe Klein seems to be a tad put off by the current crop of Republican presidential kinda-sorta-candidates:
This is my 10th presidential campaign, Lord help me. I have never before seen such a bunch of vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers coagulated under a single party’s banner. They are the most compelling argument I’ve seen against American exceptionalism. Even Tim Pawlenty, a decent governor, can’t let a day go by without some bilious nonsense escaping his lizard brain.
Nicely put, except for the part about Pawlenty being a decent governor. After all, this is a guy who prefers letting bridges collapse to raising the taxes necessary to maintain them.
Here is the sad and simple reality of our current political landscape: America has two major political parties. One of them is conservative. The other is insane.
You can decide for yourself which is which...
Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, whose heart brimmeth over with compassion for the littlest people of all, spake thus to the Conservative Political Action Conference:
“My first year as governor my pro-life agenda was adopted by our Democrat-majority legislature, and Americans United for Life, I am proud to say, named Mississippi the safest state in America for an unborn child,” Barbour said.
He made no mention of born children, perhaps because life expectancy in Mississippi, 73.6 years, is fiftieth among the states. Topping the list at 80.0 years is Hawaii, where President Obama may have been born in the summer of 1961. If so, he can be expected to live until August 4, 2041, a Sunday.
It’s all about The Finesse, The Donald explains to The Fox News:
I think my whole life has sort of been about finesse when you get right down to it. I mean it's — what running a country is, is to a certain extent we have to bring principle back and we have to also bring common sense back," Trump said.
When I use the brush tool in Photoshop most of the time it comes out with a circle. And then suddenly it turns into a crosshair, which is very annoying. Why?
If the image is sized such that there are currently 100 pixels of the image currently visible, and your brush is set to a diameter of 300 pixels, then the circle of that brush will be too large to display within the image area. In that case, the brush will be shown as a crosshair rather than a circle.
In case you thought they were surveyor’s marks…
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.
From the New York Times:
But Mr. McCain took time on the Senate floor on Tuesday morning to profusely praise Mr. Feingold, who lost his bid for a fourth term this month to Ron Johnson, a Republican businessman. “The Senate will be a much poorer place without Russ Feingold in it,” said Mr. McCain, who detailed their disagreements — specifically over the war in Iraq — and the civility with which they debated them.
“I will sorely miss his presence here,” Mr. McCain said. “I will miss the daily reminder of what a blessing it is to have a true friend in Washington.”
His voice sometimes seemingly choked with emotion as he continued: “In his time in the Senate, Russ Feingold every day and in every way had the courage of his convictions,” Mr. McCain, said adding, “I think he is one of the most admirable people I have ever met in my entire life … I don’t think he is replaceable.”
This is sad stuff. It is as if McCain were mourning not the loss of Feingold, but of his own imagined self.
You’d expect this sort of thing from the Rude Pundit or the Huffington Post. But the Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s new cybersheet?
Sarah Palin took a leave of absence from her Russia-watching post in Alaska to become a Fox News contributor. Who could have seen that coming? She represents diversity on Fox as that network’s only non-blonde correspondent…
Sarah Palin does have charisma and a certain following. A woman resembling her once walked into a Florida breakfast place and nearly caused a riot. Folks soon realized she was not the former Alaska governor when she started reading a newspaper.
From the Huffington Post:
Closer inspection of a photo of Sarah Palin, during a speech in which she mocked President Obama for his use of a teleprompter, reveals several notes written on her left hand. The words “Energy,” “Tax” and “Lift American Spirits” are clearly visible. There’s also what appears to read as “Budget cuts” with the word Budget crossed out.
To see Ms. Palin sneaking an actual peek, start paying attention about 45 seconds into the clip:
The Washington Independent reports:
Speaking to reporters at the Capitol moments ago, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) seemed surprised by his own endorsement three months ago of a Medicare buy-in proposal he now opposes — saying that he finally saw the video “last night,” as if it were someone else who granted the now-infamous interview to The Connecticut Post in September.
Stuck in a corner, he offered two explanations. (1) He first said that it appeared like his September comments referred back to his endorsement of the Medicare buy-in 2000, when he was running as the vice-presidential candidate on the Al Gore ticket.
“I finally got to see that on TV last night,” Lieberman said, “and it looked to me like I was referring back to things I had supported in the past to make that point that, though I was against the public option, I was not against health care reform.”
(Nevermind that the Post interview was conducted clearly in the context of the current health-care debate.)
And (2) he argued that the comments were made before the Senate Finance Committee had introduced its reform bill, which grants generous insurance subsidies to folks aged 55 to 64. (Nevermind that the Senate HELP bill, which passed earlier in the summer, contained similar subsidies and everyone knew that the Finance bill would follow suit.)
He didn’t seem to mind that the explanations were contradictory.
Only two conclusions remain. Either Lieberman is an amnesiac, or he is a posturing, pompous, preening, self-satisfied and self-deluding little popinjay — a sociopathic liar and spotlight-seeker who would shame the United States Senate if such a thing were possible and has certainly shamed the State of Connecticut.
And he is not an amnesiac, although he plays one on TV.
Here he is once more with his soulmate and BFF; I love this picture.
…but he got over it. From a New York Times piece on the man who wants to bring President Obama to his Waterloo by denying health care to uninsured Americans:
Rather, South Carolina voters seem more interested in whether [Senator Jim] DeMint might run for president.
“I wouldn’t get out of my driveway without my wife shooting me in the back,” he said in Greenville. “You’ve got to find somebody who’s smart enough to be a great president but dumb enough to want to be president. Right now, I think I’m still too smart to be president.”
South Carolina’s governor just retired the Wandering Politico’s Apology Cup for all time.
He apologized to his wife. He apologized to his four sons. He apologized to his staff for “creating a fiction in regard to where I was going.” He apologized to his friend Tom Davis and to “all the Tom Davises of the world.” He apologized to people of faith in South Carolina and throughout the nation. He apologized to his spiritual adviser. He apologized to his father-in-law. He apologized to his “dear, dear friend” from Argentina, where he had “spent the last five days of my life crying.”
He did not apologize to me, but he didn’t need to. What he does with his dick is none of my damned business, and that goes for the dicks of McGreevey, Spitzer, Clinton, Edwards, Vitter, Warren G. Harding and so on and so forth throughout the long annals of American politics. It does not go for specimens like Ensign and Craig, who obsess unwholesomely over the uses to which other people put their dicks.
Actually I thought Governor Sanford handled himself with a certain amount of class during his public ordeal, and I applaud him for it. And I particularly applaud his wife for the dignity she displayed in not standing by her man during his self-crucifixion.
Carl Sandburg once wrote, “Why does a hearse horse snicker/ Hauling a lawyer away?”
And why should I snicker when yet another Republican pol is caught with his zipper down? Gingrich, Craig, Vitter, etc., etc., and now the beat goes on: Nevada senator John Ensign.
Snicker? When I gave Clinton and Edwards and Spitzer a pass?
Here’s why (h/t to Doonesbury):
“Last year I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. It is the worst thing I have ever done in my life.”
— Senator John Ensign
“I came to that conclusion recently, and frankly it’s because of what he has put the country through. He has no credibility left.”
— Ensign, calling for Bill Clinton to resign over the Lewinsky affair
Here we have Mitt Romney, the silver-tongued orator of the GOP, offering advice to the rhetorically-challenged Barack Obama:
WASHINGTON – Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Wednesday accused President Barack Obama of failing to sufficiently highlight America’s strengths in his travels and speeches around the world…
Interviewed from Boston on NBC’s “Today” show as Obama set out on a tour that will include a speech in Egypt on U.S. relations with the Islamic world, Romney said that “of course, America makes mistakes.” But he also said considers it inappropriate to “go around the world apologizing.”
Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination last year, said Obama should talk more about the sacrifices the United States has made on other nations’ behalf, such as during World War II, “what we have done in blood and sacrifice.”
If I’m understanding this correctly, and I am, Romney is accusing Obama of failure to be a sufficiently arrogant asshole.
Sure it’s like kicking a cripple, but let’s explore the crossed synapses of the Newt brain anyway. Here’s Thomas Frank, the Wall Street Journal’s house liberal:
…As an example of this habit of mind, consider the essay that Mr. Gingrich published in Human Events last week. “The current liberal bloodlust over interrogations,” he wrote, referring to the Nancy Pelosi-CIA flap, is merely “the Left’s attempt to hunt down and purge its political opponents.” And yet, in a different essay he published on the very same day (this one in the Washington Times), Mr. Gingrich regretted that, in all the years of Republican rule, “there was a strategic failure to root out the left and the special interests of the left.”
Mr. Gingrich’s side failed to “root out” and destroy their opponents; now he imagines that this is what is being done to his team.
Psychotherapists might call this “projection,” and something similar pervades the essay the remarkable Mr. Gingrich published only two days later in the Washington Post. Here the former speaker can be found calling for a populist revolt in the “great tradition of political movements rising against arrogant, corrupt elites.”
A healthy sentiment, to be sure, except for the fact that “elites” are exactly what decades of conservative rule gave us by unleashing the banks, smashing the unions, and funneling the economy’s gains into the hands of the rich…
Here’s a terrifying look into the mind of McCain, excerpted from a Politico posting. One wonders — well, one doesn’t really wonder — just how far out of the ball park Governor Palin’s answers were.
John McCain’s lead vice presidential vetter said Friday that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin “impressed” in her interview, knocking the senator’s most important questions “out of the park.”
A.B. Culvahouse, a powerful Washington lawyer and former counsel to President Reagan, told an audience of Republican lawyers that for McCain, selecting a vice president came down to three questions: Why do you want to be vice president? Are you prepared to use nuclear weapons? And the CIA has identified Osama bin Laden, but if you take the shot there will be multiple civilian casualties. Do you take the shot?
“She knocked those questions out of the park,” he said at an event held at the National Press Club by the Republican National Lawyers Association. “We came away impressed.”
From today’s New York Times:
[South Carolina Governor Mark] Sanford, a wealthy real estate investor, is often mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, in part because he is seen as an exemplary adherent of the party’s low-government, antispending philosophy. He recently wrote an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal saying he was opposed to a “bailout” for states…
Mr. Sanford once carried two piglets onto the floor of the House chamber to symbolize his opposition to what he considered wasteful spending. One of the piglets promptly defecated; lawmakers were not amused. Indeed, though Republicans dominate both chambers, they have overriden hundreds of his vetoes on spending over the years, including, in one recent session, money to expand children’s health insurance, indigent defense, and to provide cost-of-living adjustments for retired state employees.
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.
Barack Obama’s campaign has approached Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel about possibly serving as White House chief of staff, officials said Thursday …
That should put partisan politics behind us and unite both left and right, who’ll despise the chief of staff equally.
Good news, if true. It would seem to rule out an October (or November) Surprise from that particular set of evildoers anyway. Now all we have to worry about is the ones in the White House — Bush coming to the last-minute aid of a desperate McCain.
But what more can the little fellow do along those lines? He’s already plunged us into two more wars with his illegal attacks on Pakistan and Syria and the voters didn’t even notice.
DUBAI (Reuters) — An al Qaeda leader has called for President George W. Bush and the Republicans to be “humiliated,” without endorsing any party in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, according to a video posted on the Internet.
“O God, humiliate Bush and his party, O Lord of the Worlds, degrade and defy him,” Abu Yahya al-Libi said at the end of a sermon marking the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, in a video posted on the Internet.
Libi, one of the top al Qaeda commanders believed to be living in Afghanistan or Pakistan, called for God’s wrath to be brought against Bush equating him with past tyrants in history
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
Another reason to suspect Obama:
… if Tehran is not eventually prepared to permanently abandon its enrichment of uranium on its own soil — a position that is certain to be rejected by Iran ab initio — then war becomes inevitable, and all intermediate steps, even including direct talks if the new president chooses to pursue them, will amount to going through the motions (presumably to gather international support for when push comes to shove). While I would certainly not be surprised if such an approach were adopted by a McCain administration, what is a top Obama adviser doing signing on to it?
Update: I should have pointed out that the Obama advisor Jim Lobe is referring to is the same Dennis Ross I objected to on Wednesday.
This is supposed to make me more comfortable?
… Obama Wednesday works to look like a cool commander in chief, meeting in Richmond with what he calls his “Senior Working Group on National Security.”
Sure to include pictures and video with Obama surrounded by his wise men and wise women — watch to see if it looks eerily like a president at a cabinet meeting — Obama will meet with:
- Lt. Gen. John G. Castellaw (USMC, Ret.)
- Greg Craig
- Richard Danzig
- Gen. Paul Eaton (USA, Ret.)
- Former Rep. Lee Hamilton
- Amb. Richard Holbrooke
- Gen. Geoff Lambert (USA, Ret.)
- Gen. Al Lenhardt (USA, Ret.)
- Adm. John Nathman (USN, Ret.)
- Former Sen. Sam Nunn
- Sen. Jack Reed
- Rep. Tim Roemer
- Amb. Dennis Ross
- Mara Rudman
- Amb. Wendy Sherman
- Brig. Gen. Jim Smith (USAF, Ret.)
- Jim Steinberg
Biden will participate by phone, along with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Sen. Gary Hart, and Susan Rice.
The problem is not just the military men and the diplomats, it’s which military men and which diplomats. Holbrooke, Hamilton, Lenhardt, Nunn, Reed, Eaton, Ross, Albright; the war machine must be getting a cozy feeling. Which means oil knows it won’t be under any serious attack either.
Which means we’re screwed, and the empire will crumble under Obama. The nation may pick up and go on; we all hope so, because we need it to be so. But the best way to hurry the demise of the empire is spending our time and resources on oil and weapons. That era is over.
Kudos to David Lightman and William Douglas at McClatchy for their article about the Republicans crying “Socialism!”. It’s on the money, with one major exception. It’s good to see mainstream media reporters calling out political distortions.
A Republican activist in a St. Louis suburb expressed the McCain campaign’s fervent wish:
“Make no mistake… this campaign is a referendum on socialism.”
And also on Nazis, baby-killers, and the plague! I’m worried that Barack is pro-bubonic! (What? I never said I thought Barack was pro-bubonic! That is absolutely a lie!)
What issue has aggravated the true Republicans enough to release the hounds? Taxing the rich, of course. If that’s not socialism, what is?
Favoring higher tax rates for the wealthy than for the less fortunate isn’t socialism, and if it is, then the U.S. has been a socialist country for nearly a century, under both Democrats and Republicans.
“The answer is clearly no, Senator Obama is not a socialist,” said Paul Beck, a professor of political science at The Ohio State University. “We’ve had a progressive tax system for some time, and both Republicans and Democrats have bought into it.”
Socialism involves state ownership of the means of economic production and state-directed sharing of the wealth. America’s democratic capitalist system is neither socialist nor pure free market; rather, it mixes the two, and it has at least since the progressive income tax was introduced 95 years ago. Under it, the wealthy pay higher income tax rates than those who are less fortunate do. It’s a form of sharing the wealth.
Government intervenes in U.S. “free markets” all the time. The deduction that homeowners get for mortgage interest is one form, for it subsidizes housing. The Pentagon procurement that sustains U.S. defense contractors such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics is another.
For that matter, President Bush and many other Republicans, including McCain, backed a massive federal government rescue of ailing financial institutions this fall, one that’s committed more than $1 trillion so far to “private” banks, even taking partial state ownership of the nine biggest.
And they note the repetitious behavior:
Conservatives often charge that Democrats are engaging in “class warfare” when they want to raise tax rates on the rich — McCain and Palin have used the phrase to attack Obama — but they rarely find such fault when tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy. Nevertheless, the “socialist” charge against Obama sticks with some voters.
Mainly with those euphemistically called “low information voters”.
Though most of the description is accurate, it’s not true that “socialism involves state ownership…”. State socialism certainly does, but not libertarian socialism. Americans have sat on the couch, and valued the remote, and believed the ads, for so long, many of them can’t even imagine controlling their own lives; but theoretically it is possible for people to take of themselves without relying on corporations and armies.
In fact, given the approaching ecological disaster, for which Americans get most of the blame, doing things locally is likely to become extremely popular over the next couple of decades. Invest in green now, because oil and steel are on the way out.
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.
With loyal Republicans braying “Socialism!” at the top of their fearful voices, I was reminded of Bertrand Russell talking about the ideas of the early Socialist Robert Owen, who actually implemented them in the factories he owned, and started a utopian community in an attempt to perpetuate them. Imagine saying this in 1833:
Eight hours daily labour is enough for any human being, and under proper arrangements sufficient to afford an ample supply of food, raiment and shelter, or the necessaries and comforts of life, and for the remainder of his time, every person is entitled to education, recreation and sleep.
And this in 1841:
Is it not the interest of the human race, that every one should be so taught and placed, that he would find his highest enjoyment to arise from the continued practice of doing all in his power to promote the well-being, and happiness, of every man, woman, and child, without regard to their class, sect, party, country or colour?
Owen, it turns out, was a friend of Jeremy Bentham, the utilitarian philosopher. Bentham was the leader of the Philosophical Radicals, a group that included John Stuart Mill’s father James, about whom Russell says:
…James Mill was horrified. He wrote:Their notions of property look ugly; …they seem to think that it should not exist, and that the existence of it is an evil to them. Rascals, I have no doubt, are at work among them… The fools, not to see that what they madly desire would be such a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring upon them.
This letter, written in 1831, may be taken as the beginning of the long war between Capitalism and Socialism. In a later letter, James Mill attributes the doctrine to the “mad nonsense” of Hodgskin, and adds: “These opinions, if they were to spread, would be the subversion of civilized society; worse than the overwhelming deluge of Huns and Tartars.”
“After me the deluge”, said Madame de Pompadour. Without domination by the rich, how would society hold together? The answer, of course, is “not in its current form”, which to those on top sounds like disaster. To others it’s the equivalent of heaven for the medieval peasant. Is it not striking how desperately we hold onto the illusions that mislead us? If dealt a good hand, we consider the game fair for all, and bad hands evidence of lack of grace; if a poor one, we consider the game rigged and good hands unfairly distributed.
If cash is speech, as the Supreme Court declared in Buckley v. Valeo, then those with the most cash get to speak louder than anyone else. “Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one”, said A.J. Liebling with customary vigor. Nowadays there are many fewer media outlets with the kind of scope that newspapers had in Liebling’s day — he could find a dozen New York papers on his doorstep in the morning. The owners of modern corporate media are not individuals or families like they were in Benjamin Franklin’s time, or even in Liebling’s; they’re faceless corporations fronting for faces from smoke-filled back rooms, like GE and ClearChannel and Fox, and they have insidious rather than overt agendas.
Namely, they want control, ownership, of everyone and everything everywhere. And if they had it they would need more. Property, and its concentration in the fewest possible hands, is the central tenet of the American religion. Which has led us so close to ruin that no one can still believe completely in the old dogmas. Capitalism unrestrained and unregulated is destructive to humanity and the environment.
As Jay Billington Bulworth said, “Let me hear that dirty word: Socialism!”
I have been reading Gore Vidal’s memoir, Palimpsest, and believe me, he gives great gossip. What person of delicate discernment could fail to love a book that gets right down to business on page seven with this little life lesson taught by Mrs. John F. Kennedy to the author’s still-virginal 19-year-old half sister, immediately following the latter’s wedding:
Later that day, in a bathroom at Merrywood, the Virginia house where we had all served time as stepchildren or children of Hugh Dudley Auchincloss, Jr. (known as Hughdie or, more often, poor Hughdie), Jackie hitched up her gown and showed the innocent Nini how to douche post-sex, one foot in the bathtub and the other on the white-tiled floor.
Nor will you want to miss the description of how Vidal’s mother, poor Hughdie being impotent, had been obliged to conceive Nini in the first place with the assistance of a spoon. But I digress. Our text today is from page 89, where Gore writes of his schoolboy years at Exeter, prewar:
This was at the height of the struggle between the America Firsters, of which I was one of the student leaders, and the interventionists, which included most of the Anglophile faculty. Of the teachers, only Tom Riggs was on my side. A radical young man, he had, while at Princeton, organized the Veterans of Future Wars. This caused a national stir, particularly when he demanded that we be given our bonuses now, before the war and possible death.
We have since adopted the Riggs plan more or less intact, handing out generous enlistment bonuses to the lower classes and recouping the cost at the other end by scrimping on medical care and educational benefits for those veterans who make it home alive.
This reversal of the World War II pattern has so far kept the suckers quiet, or enough of them anyway. For every Cindy Sheehan there were three or four Cindy McCains (although none of them, it is safe to say, was nearly as rich). And Bush was able to get so close to being elected in 2004 that he was able to steal the White House again, this time in Ohio.
But eight years of whacking America’s normally docile proletariat over the head with a two-by-four may have finally succeeded in getting the mule’s attention. If so, President Obama might want to dust off the old World War II approach to veterans affairs and see if it still works.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The deployment of US missile defenses in eastern Europe is in the US interest and not a move against Russia, a senior foreign policy adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Thursday.
“I do not think Russia has a legitimate security concern here,” Richard Danzig, a former Navy secretary in the Clinton administration, told defense reporters here.
Danzig’s remarks to defense reporters here was a strong sign that a Democratic administration would continue to back the European missile defense system despite tensions with Moscow and misgivings among some Democratic lawmakers.
Another of those cases where we can only hope that Obama is lying to get elected. Although it’s hard to see the political benefit to him, in this instance. Where’s the public hue and cry for bringing back the cold war?
Unfortunately there’d be plenty of hue and cry if Obama were to be heard advancing a sane foreign policy toward, say, Pakistan — such as promising to call off the war against it which Bush is currently waging with strong support from both parties and, to the extent that they’re aware of it, the American public.
And what are we to think of a presidential candidate who promises to pull us out of an endless occupation of Iraq so that he can plunge us into an endless occupation of Afghanistan. Again, we can only pray that Obama is lying about that one, too.
And refer him back to Rudyard Kipling’s The Young British Soldier, which ends with this advice:
When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
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.
Here’s part of this week’s dispatch from the Evans-Novak Political Report. Increasingly the GOP’s old-line pundits seem to be filing from Heartbreak Hotel, poor things. Yeah, right.
The picture is as grim for Sen. John McCain and Republicans as it is for the U.S. financial sector. If the election were today, Sen. Barack Obama would win in a blowout, with huge coattails at the Senate and House level…
It's not simply anti-incumbent sentiment dragging down Republicans, either. Vulnerable freshmen House Democrats have seen their poll numbers improve along with Obama's. Democratic House gains, which we predicted last week to be a mere 6 seats, could reach 20 seats if things keep going the way they are now…
Republicans may have made a devastating mistake in nominating McCain, whose lack of clarity, conviction, and understanding on the economy has handed the Democrats a win on this issue, where a more economically savvy Republican could have won the day.
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…
This is the best political news I’ve heard all year, maybe even forever. A friend of mine was taking a cab in Cleveland last week. The driver went on and on about the economy — no jobs, low wages, medical bills, gas prices, foreclosures. At last he said, “You know what, fuck it! I’m voting for the nigger.”
It’s a little disconcerting how traditional media try to convey the corporate message in the story lead, then slip in the dispositive truth right at the end to cover for the PR.
The bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which sets up the debates, only allows those candidates who have the support of at least 15 percent nationally as measured by an average of five polls.
Libertarian candidate Bob Barr and independent candidate Ralph Nader did not have enough support.
The last third party candidate included in the debates was Ross Perot in 1992.
The commission is chaired by the former chairmen of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Who are each dedicated to finding new voices outside the traditional two-party system and including them in the conversation. Just look at the record, n’est-ce pas?
In fact, of course, the Democrats and Republicans conspire to exclude views unfriendly to the corporations they each represent. From their point of view, this is done for the good of the country, which might otherwise meander off toward something less hierarchichal.
ROCK: The guy with one house really cares about losing a house, because he is homeless. The other guy can lose five houses and still got a bunch of houses. Does this make any sense? Am I the only one that sees this?
KING: It's unique way of …
ROCK: I’m just saying, John McCain could lose half his houses.
KING: You got a point.
ROCK: And sleep well.
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.
Bet you’ve been wondering why Sarah Palin has been ducking the press. No, of course you haven’t. And you were right, because take a look. The potential president was just permitted to hold the world’s shortest Q & A with her traveling press corps — her first.
Jesus, this so embarrassing:
CNN: On the topic of never letting this happen again, do you agree with the way the Bush administration has handled the war on terrorism, is there anything you would do differently?
A: I agree with the Bush administration that we take the fight to them. We never again let them come onto our soil and try to destroy not only our democracy, but communities like the community of New York. Never again. So yes, I do agree with taking the fight to the terrorists and stopping them over there.
POLITICO: Do you think our presence in Iraq and Afghan and our continued presence there is inflaming islamic extremists?
A: I think our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead to further security of our nation, again, because the mission is to take the fight over there. Do not let them come over here and attempt again what they accomplished here, and that was some destruction. Terrible destruction on that day. But since September 11, Americans uniting and rebuilding and committing to never letting that happen again.
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.”
Gail Collins, God love her, in the Times today:
On Friday, McCain looked steamed when he gave a new policy speech in Wisconsin with Sarah Palin at his side. The Republicans have discovered that McCain can’t draw a crowd without Palin, and the dangers of letting her float off by herself are apparent. So the two are manacled together these days like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in that old escape-from-a-chain-gang movie.
I’m probably the last to get it, but I’ve finally grokked the whole white-woman and black-man thing that the Palin choice was meant to activate. Here’s a woman who can shoot a gun, whom one expects might successfully resist incursion by a dark-skinned intruder. It’s by no means Eldridge Cleaver’s supermasculine male and superfeminine female; but primal tensions remain active in the psyches of the audience for McCain commercials. (If you want an archetypal American life, check out Cleaver’s story: Black Panther, convicted rapist, wannabe technical writer, convert to Mormonism and conservative Republican politics, crack addict after supporting Reagan in 1980 and 1984, and — worst of all — radio talk-show host.)
Still, I continue to predict, as I have since May 2007, that Obama will win. Despite my best instincts I toy with the idea of voting for him. He’s dumped me every chance he had, and I know he’ll continue to do so. He’ll enable the worst parts of our society over the best, not from ill will or corruption, but because they’re richer and more powerful and thus louder. He needs — I mean, needs — the largest available consensus, ipso facto privileging the establishment, AKA the War Machine.
I think. I hope I’m wrong. I can almost imagine voting for that hope. I’ll regret it the next morning, but I’m tempted.
In any case, I continue to brand the Palin nomination a rear-guard action, intended to reduce the pain of retreat, and lay claim to a defensible redoubt. Nader has been wondering how the Democrats could possibly lose the upcoming election for many years now, and they keep inventing ways to do so. But it would require a legendary screw-up to lose the election of 2008, beyond perhaps even the facility of the Democratic party. Not only will the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to claim (mostly non-combatant) lives, but the economic downturn caused by the end of the dot-com and housing bubbles will by no means have bottomed out. Foreclosure, I expect, would tend to concentrate the mind. Unemployment certainly does; ask J.J. Cale.
As November approaches we are presented ever more clearly with the distinction between a Christian soldier and a twenty-first century world citizen. Many will choose the former; and many on that side prefer to cheat rather than accept defeat. But it’s a losing bet. In the end, people the polls aren’t counting as likely voters will actually vote, because even voters who can’t tell AIG from Countrywide know the economy’s been derailed by GOP ideology. The Republicans need to puncture that balloon ASAP, because if people start to believe the government might be able to help them rather than steal from them, things will change.
So they get a gun-toting Republican woman to defend truth, justice, and the American way. Big Oil and the Fundies versus the Rest of Us, with the War Machine gloating on the sidelines.
Remember how the Republican smear squads scored with the lie that Al Gore claimed he invented the Internet? Well, it turns out John McCain gave us the Blackberry:
Asked what work John McCain did as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee that helped him understand the financial markets, the candidate’s top economic adviser wielded visual evidence: his BlackBerry.
“He did this,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin told reporters this morning, holding up his BlackBerry. “Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce committee so you’re looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that’s what he did.”
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.
As much as it pains me to say it, I think Obama will lose this election. The American public really is far, far more stupid than we tend to give them credit for. A majority of people eagerly buy into whatever Republican meme is being peddled, facts be damned.
As a rather personal example, I have my own father. He loathes George Bush with every fiber of his being. Yet, not two weeks ago my father was telling me how Obama is really a secret Muslim — he knew this because Obama’s campaign symbol is an “O” and that could only mean something Muslim.
I asked him what he thought of John McCain’s campaign symbol — a red star — which happens to be the communist party symbol, and whether there might be some connection to McCain’s five years of being held by communists. No, the red star doesn’t mean anything at all — it’s just McCain’s symbol, see?
Back in 2004, some of us were excoriated for saying the public was stupid enough to buy into all the Swift Boat lies. Yet, as we now know, those lies helped give Bush a second disastrous term.
So you will have McCain running his campaign on the theme that he represents true change in Washington because he will continue all the policies that you hate — and he’ll add a few more that you despise as well.
Joe Sixpack has no clue — none at all — what Bush’s policies have been. All Joe knows is that Bush did great against those Muslims, and that maybe the economy needs a little perking up. He doesn’t much like Bush, but he probably can’t tell you why he doesn’t like Bush.
Enter McCain, who will promise to perk up the economy by cutting taxes — and everyone knows that works because they’ve been told for 30 years by Republicans that cutting taxes ALWAYS boosts the economy. McCain will talk tough, tough, tough — and Joe Sixpack likes the idea that we’ll be killing more Muslims. McCain will promise to begin drilling off Miami on Jan. 21, and Joe knows gas has been expensive lately.
McCain will present every existing Bush policy as though it is his very own, and he’ll tell Joe Sixpack that the existing policy is change. And because Joe doesn’t really pay any attention to these things, Joe will think McCain is actually promising change from Bush’s policies.
And Joe will be constantly reminded that John McCain — who owns four (or six, or nine) houses, flies in private jets he personally owns, has held exactly one private-sector job in his life (and that for just a few months), wears $500 shoes and $2000 slacks — is just a regular guy. Obama, however, is a rich fat-cat elitist who eats funny-sounding vegetables and is just so out of touch with Joe.
And a majority of voters will joyfully pull the lever for McCain.
If you’re worried that Joe Biden will be barred from attacking Sarah Palin on policy because of her gender or inexperience, check out this video. This guy truly loves politics. He knows how to play. He’s been dealt a historically good hand. Get back. (h/t James Fallows)
Polls indicate the Republicans got a good bounce from their convention. perhaps as good as the Democrats’. But more importantly the two conventions were announcements of strategy and audience.
The Democrats’ plan is pretty conventional policy-wise, hewing close to the well-trodden DLC path down which you’ll see reminders of the Clintons carved into the occasional rock or tree. Fortunately both their speeches were big hits; that certainly helped to further the party’s goals for the fall. If they campaign for Obama with anything like the grace and energy they showed at the convention, Obama will cruise, and his coattails will be long. Lots more Democrats will go to the polls than we’re used to seeing in recent elections. We might even have a chance of dumping Lieberman and still sometimes breaking filibusters. Too bad Hagel’s quitting. I hope to see him in the Obama administration; how about Secretary of Defense? He might not want the fights. Okay, how about Veterans Affairs, where he’d be overkill?
The Democrats played up the big-tent thing with the media savvy and image obsession normally expected from the Republicans, while (mostly) avoiding schmaltz. The big tent pulls in the hopeful segment of the party that’s responsible for most of the actual votes (says Tom Edsall in Building Red America). This segment didn’t much benefit from the last two booms, dot-com and housing. Its major interests tend to be jobs, health and child care, and education.
Then there’s the pro-big business segment that Democrats long ago adopted as part of the Republican Lite facelift. It’s the Wall Street wing, basically tolerant on social issues, but oriented toward the accumulation of wealth in a restricted number of hands. These two segments have a long history of opposition, mirroring the Republican divide between country-club and social-conservative wings.
The full support of both the Clintons would of course have great impact here. We’re talking two Democratic heavyweights, in a way we weren’t even a couple of years back. I was critical of some Clintonian tactics during the primary, but my respect for Hillary was increased by how she ended this candidacy. It was a tough row to hoe, and I thought she handled it with a fair amount of class.
I’m not sure her husband could have pulled that off right now; he’s struggling with his own internal contradictions. But he’s still got it as a speaker, and as a framer of issues. With the Clintons on board, Gingrich would remain a voice in the Fox wilderness. Obama should try to sell Bill on how many political scores he could settle with six or eight weeks of campaigning.
In the end, though, the Clintonian seal of approval might come in different flavors, and Obama can get along with less than the premium version. Obama’s own primary results, plus the Kennedys’ full-throated endorsement, plus a decent one from the Clintons, coupled with the extremism of McCain’s choices are probably enough to decide things for American business, or at least most of it.
Oil folks will remain heavily Republican, of course, but their image isn’t the best right now so they’ll probably try to stay out of sight. How much have you heard about the evacuations of oil rigs in the Gulf recently? Has it affected gas prices? I don’t have a car, so I honestly don’t know. Or are they immune from increase during the Republican convention, and for as long as the favored Big Oil candidate is perceived to be in trouble? Just over eight weeks, in other words. Stock up now! “Or would that be a federal case?”
Taking stock, the Democrats managed to converge around some consensus basics. Internal frictions and fissures are legion; but these divisions pale in comparison to the gulf the party wishes to paint between it and the Republicans.
The convention managed to mix DLC types with labor and minority interests — these days, peace and racial justice qualify — fairly harmoniously, because everyone can see that a reasonable degree of coöperation will bring victory in November. The economy might even bring back some former Democrats who wandered to the Republican side in the culture wars. And of course the elephant in the room, to mix political metaphors, is the situation in Iraq. Supporters on this side, opponents on that! Would that it were so simple.
McCain has ceded so much room to the right that Obama instinctively moved to take some of that ground. In the process Obama has taught another subset of his supporters an important lesson: he’s wherever the consensus is largest. It’s a feature, not a bug.
With his choice, if it was his, for running mate, McCain threw in the towel. I doubt he knew it, and maybe he still doesn’t. They may have shown him electoral projections that included enthusiastic participation by The Base gaving him that snowball’s chance he doesn’t have in real life.
McCain dumped his maverick stances, so he picked up a sign reading “Maverick” (at least, that’s what it’s supposed to read). He will personally avoid the direct attacks and coded racial references he’s directly disparaged in past campaigns. But his campaign will be rife with them from his VP candidate and high-level surrogates on down. It’s open cultural warfare.
The Republican convention therefore seems an implicit admission that they won’t win the White House this time, and had best focus on holding onto the filibuster and rebuilding for the next round. Right-wing Christians and Big Oil are non-trivial constituencies, but they won’t win national elections. So they’ve re-oriented their focus to The Base, the Republican equivalent of the Democrats who want education and health care, except that these folks want religious education and insurance-company health care. As the New York Times editorial puts it, “Rather than remaking George W. Bush’s Republican Party in his own image, Mr. McCain allowed the practitioners of the politics of fear and division to run the show.” There’s a surprise.
Where does this leave us? I’ve been predicting a President Obama since at least May, 2007, and if I’m right I’ll really wish I’d put money on it somewhere.
The take-away from the two conventions seems to be that it’s Big Oil, the Rapture crowd, the explicit and the implicit racists, and the aggressive side of the War Machine with the Republicans. Versus everyone else. That is an opposition the Rapture folks interpret as validation, so they’ll be energized. So will the people they scare. And the people Big Oil scares, and the rational self-interest side of the War Machine, in search of future golden eggs.
The Republicans, who controlled all three branches of the federal government for six of the last eight years and faced a criminally compliant Congress the other two, are trying to re-brand themselves as agents of change. So they find a Republican governor who ran against Republican corruption as a symbol, and if they have to misspell a word now and then, or say nukular instead of nuclear, so be it.
This reflects a very low opinion of the intelligence of the American public, but the Republicans are falling back in disarray to their redoubt, and the message machine is in transit.
You’ll recall that a few days ago Joe Biden sorta, kinda said that a Democratic administration would make Bush and his capos pay for their crimes. Well, it turns out that Biden sorta, kinda misspoke and his former statement is now inoperative. And so, as usual, crime pays:
I don’t know where that report is coming from. What is true is the United States Congress is trying to preserve records on questions that relate to whether or not the law has been violated by anyone.
Any administration — anybody should be doing that. And if it turns out after the fact that there is — there is substantial evidence that somebody violated the law, the fact they’re no longer in office — and no one’s talking about President Bush. I’ve never heard anybody mention President Bush in that context.
But, you know, there’s been an awful lot of unsavory stuff that’s gone on. And the mere fact that we — that it occurred in a previous administration doesn’t mean Justice Department, if, in fact, there’s evidence, shouldn’t pursue them. But I have no evidence of any of that. No one’s talking about pursuing President Bush criminally…
But, no, there is no — the Obama-Biden administration is not going to start off saying, “God, let’s go take a look at what” — the American people want to know what we’re going to do, not what happened.
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.
From The Guardian, and about time:
Biden’s comments, first reported by ABC news, attracted little notice on a day dominated by the drama surrounding his Republican counterpart, Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
But his statements represent the Democrats’ strongest vow so far this year to investigate alleged misdeeds committed during the Bush years.
“If there has been a basis upon which you can pursue someone for a criminal violation, they will be pursued,” Biden said during a campaign event in Deerfield Beach, Florida, according to ABC.
“[N]ot out of vengeance, not out of retribution,” he added, “out of the need to preserve the notion that no one, no attorney general, no president — no one is above the law.”
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?
Now I realize, McCain hasn’t screwed the pooch; they’ve given up on him. If:
If the Republicans have completely thrown in their lot with the so-called social conservatives, AKA right-wing Christians, they must be desperate. They can’t really expect to attract libertarians or centrist independents with a maternal version of noun-verb-POW on Charlie Rose:
National security issues. I think, you know, candidates are going to be asked, are you doing… and are your intentions to do all that you can to help secure these United States? And I think every elected official needs to ask themselves that. And I say that, Charlie, even personally. My one and only son, my 18-year-old, he just signed up for the United States Army. He is at boot camp right now and I`m thinking, you know, this kid is doing all that he can within his power to help secure and defend the United States. Every elected official had better be asking themselves, are you doing as much also? Are you doing all that you can?
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!
So they pick a woman who courageously decided to raise a baby she knew would have Down Syndrome. According to Blumenthal’s report, those gathered to hear Palin speak were so excited at the thought of her on the ticket, they were standing on their chairs. It’s a grand slam from the base’s point of view. As usual, they’re being used by the Rovians as a steppingstone to power, though in this case even the sought-after power is a pretty sorry one, and the last bastion left to them.
We’re heading for a confrontation about the place of religion in politics more open, and possibly more hostile, than we’re used to at election time. The very things that attract the Republican base to Palin are what most Americans realize we’re ridiculed for around the world. If she remains the candidate (and if she doesn’t, it’ll be even worse), she’ll be the avatar of one side and the symbol of everything the other fears and distrusts. The oil industry and the premillennial dispensationalists against the rest of us, with the war machine happy either way, as usual.
Or maybe this gambit will fail. Biden can’t attack her for inexperience in the debate or he’ll come across as overbearing; but he doesn’t have to. Biden’s a political version of Brett Favre: whether or not you root for him, it’s obvious how much he loves playing the game. Bertrand Russell says anything you’re good at contributes to happiness, and Biden’s a good speaker. All he has to do is come across as friendly and down-to-earth, as usual, and preternaturally competent, as usual, and much of the audience will be feeling sorry for Palin. But the base, if Blumenthal is right, will be cheering.
The hits just keep on comin’ from the McCain campaign. Steve Schmidt, known as The Bullet for a couple of reasons, is rumored to be a smart man, and the representative from Atwater, Rove, and Co.; so he must have known that questions would be asked about Governor Palin’s 17-year-old daughter being pregnant.
Reporters at the Republican national convention hammered McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt about the Palin pregnancy during a press conference. All Schmidt would say is Palin and McCain had discussed the pregnancy and considered it to be a private matter.
He wouldn’t say if they talked about it before McCain picked Palin as his vice presidential nominee.
“I answered that question nine times,” he said.
What stands out here is not the details of the Palin situation. Everyone’s seen this sort of thing happen, and be resolved through the standard operations of family and community. Hopefully things work out great for everyone involved. It’s really not a public matter in that sense.
What is a public matter, and one of great moment, is the judgement shown by the candidate in his choice of running mate. And McCain has very publicly screwed the pooch here. He’s shown blinding flashes of temper in the past, but we’ve let him slide on that; he was a POW. He’s approached every problem with military solutions in mind, but we let him slide on that, too, because he’s the son and grandson of admirals — what would he think? He doesn’t understand economics, but we figure he’s smart enough to have married too well to need to. Not a very scalable plan, but it works for him.
In this case his campaign seems not to have applied Vetting 101 techniques to their Vice Presidential candidate. They refused to confirm that McCain knew about the pregnancy when he picked Palin. Nine or ten times. We already know that the Obama campaign sent an oppo researcher to Palin’s small-town newspaper to check its archives, which are not online, and was surprised to be the first to ask for them. Apparently the McCain people had Googled but not phoned. Or perhaps Karl’s databases show she’ll bring in more than she costs, regardless. Certainly we haven’t expected this sort of apparent amateurishness from Republican Presidential campaigns recently. Is this a new Primitivist approach, or are they just out of it?
And of course all this is in addition to the scandal known as Troopergate, and lots of other indications of insufficient vetting. Having their convention pre-empted might actually be a gift for the Republicans; they’ll be able to talk about Gustav and Country First and avoid Bush, Cheney, Iraq, and honest answers.
The question has arisen what the evangelical and fundamentalist wings of the Republican party, which this choice hopes to cement, will think. The knee-jerk reaction might be for the media to expect social conservatives to condemn the prenuptial goings-on, but my guess is that’s unlikely. As long as there’s a wedding soon, they’ll be fine. If the marriage proves to have been ill-fated because ill-considered, well, SEP.
What Palin brings to the ticket is the voter who wishes Monica Goodling were still on the job because we need more Regent grads in government. The social-conservative mindset tends to model the world from internals like feelings, thoughts, philosophies, and beliefs; it’s not much based on externalities. Once this mindset finds a champion or a cause, it believes with all its heart and soul. It often considers powerful belief the greatest human accomplishment. They’ve adopted Sarah Palin because she shares their beliefs, and that’s that. She’d have to admit a secret relationship with Satan to lose them now.
Still, if the Republicans are picking an NRA creationist, who thinks we can drill our way out of the problem, and we’re not causing climate change, just to solidify the base, Rove must be worried; he can’t believe they’ll come out ahead. Can he? I mean, imagine you’re the theoretical undecided voter, seeing some value in McCain, maybe his heroic military service, and some in Obama, perhaps his hopeful message. Does picking a grossly unprepared political symbol for VP make you more or less likely to vote for the candidate? How much do you have to hate abortion to be willing to hand Sarah Palin the second set of keys to history’s most powerful military machine? Obama’s gotta be gloating over his VP choice right now.
It’s looking like McCain might have been a guy you’d follow in battle; he has a strong will to survive, and doesn’t mind taking chances when he feels it’s necessary. Such a method would work occasionally, even if it wasn’t prudent. But how many people want that kind of President? Not nearly as many as are in diapers over the prospect of a hot-headed leader doubling down in Las Vegas one night and Washington the next.
Some of McCain’s signature actions arrive directly from his unconscious, unmediated. He’s making decisions on instinct and gut reaction, sometimes failing to apply standard logical procedures to his impulses before he acts on them. And this aspect of his campaign seems to me entirely honest; this is really who he is.
One of the nice things about being a former president is that you can tell the truth, right out in the open where the children can hear:
Carter said in a USA Today interview on the sidelines of the Democratic convention in Denver last week that McCain had been “milking every possible drop of advantage” from his time as a prisoner of war.
It is a little ironic.
The attack dogs will eagerly embrace formerly hated targets. All last week Republicans lauded the achievements and brilliance of Hillary Clinton, seeking to exploit divisions in the Democratic Party. It has rounded up former Clinton supporters who now back McCain and paraded them like captured prisoners of war. “[McCain] really does admire and respect her and honours the campaign that she ran,” said Carly Fiorina, a top McCain adviser. Those are astonishing words from a senior figure in a party which spent two decades demonising Clinton as a left-wing uber-feminist. But that is the key to the success of the Republican attack machine: the past does not exist. What matters is what works now. Democrats know more of the same is coming. “This is going to be the most vicious campaign we have ever faced,” said Terry McAuliffe, Clinton’s former campaign chairman.
There is an industry devoted to publishing anti-Obama screeds. The most popular has been The Obama Nation, by conservative polemicist Jerome Corsi. The book paints a radical picture of Obama as having a secret Islamic past — but critics say the book can be proven to be wrong. Corsi has also called for Obama to take a drugs test and warned that he might create a “department of hate crimes” if elected. The Obama Nation has been a bestseller, relentlessly promoted by sympathetic media figures such as Fox News’s conservative host Sean Hannity. On his show, Hannity allowed Corsi to claim Obama wanted to allow women to have “abortions” even after their child was born. Instead of refuting the ridiculous claim, Hannity merely expressed shock. The incident forced a liberal media watchdog to issue an analysis showing Obama had never actually supported the murder of newborn children.
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.
Turns out that cheeks swollen from oral surgery and the resulting lack of choices for eating, drinking, conversation, and other diversions tend to combine with the slight haze induced by hydrocodone bitartrate to generate frequent blogging motivations.
And what a wonderful day for this to be so! John McCain, whom I predicted three weeks ago would self-destruct weekly between now and the election, has decided instead on a spectacular self-immolation, doubtless in an attempt to put the whole painful process behind him. He’s asserted his independent streak in the most flamboyant manner, handing the Democrats so many arguments that you have to assume the main point was to get Obama off the front pages. Well, that worked. And you’ve gotta figure the Obama campaign folks are out celebrating.
McCain’s harped on judgement and experience, so you’d think he’d be looking for a running mate who’d demonstrated such qualities. As Jim Lobe says,
John McCain has repeatedly defined “the battle and struggle against radical Islamic extremism” as “the transcendent issue of our time.” If he’s correct, of course, one would expect his chosen running-mate to have said something publishable about the issue since she entered public life. But I just did a Nexis search for anything Sarah Palin may have said or written about that issue — I searched her name with “Muslim” and “Islam” or any variant of those words — and didn’t find a single citation. Of course, there probably aren’t many Muslims in Alaska and she doesn’t profess any foreign policy expertise. But if this is indeed “the transcendent issue of our time” on which just about every national political figure has said something in the last couple of years, …well, I leave you to reach a conclusion. (She hasn’t said anything noted by Nexis about Israel in the last two years either.)
Has the erstwhile maverick had enough of handlers telling him what he can and can’t do? Is he so shallow he thinks newness is a selling point? Does he think he can buy as many female votes with this admittedly extraordinary pick as he loses from Palin’s baggage?
Did his campaign actually vet this woman, yet not have a response ready from Day One for the scandal?
[Former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walter] Monegan, 57, a respected former chief of the Anchorage Police Department [who was fired by Palin in July], said in an interview with The Washington Post’s James V. Grimaldi on Friday that the governor repeatedly brought up the topic of her ex-brother-in-law, Michael Wooten, after Monegan became the state’s commissioner of public safety in December 2006. Palin’s husband, Todd, met with Monegan and presented a dossier of information about Wooten, who was going through a bitter custody battle with Palin’s sister, Molly. Monegan also said Sarah Palin sent him e-mails on the subject, but Monegan declined to disclose them, saying he planned to give them to a legislative investigator looking into the matter.
Palin initially denied that she or anyone in her administration had ever pressured Monegan to fire the trooper, but this summer acknowledged more than a half a dozen contacts over the matter, including one phone call from a Palin administration official to a state police lieutenant. The call was recorded and was released by Palin’s office this month. Todd Palin told a television reporter in Alaska that he did meet with Monegan, but said he was just “informing” Monegan about the issue, not exerting pressure.
As TPM has been saying, it’s not just the use of influence to pursue a personal vendetta, it’s being caught lying about it afterward. Kinda messes with the whole “reform” message.
It makes you wonder if McCain is unconsciously loosing his latent frustrations on those around him, who in so many ways control his life. Screw everyone! I’ll do it my own way, and if I lose it’ll serve them all right. Of course it’s not a rational response, but the unconscious doesn’t give a damn about rationality. Then, of course, there are those references to Czechoslovakia, and the border between Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Sunni/Shia confusion, and so on. Do we have a budding Reagan, or is he just losing it under pressure?
I expected self-destruction, but this exceeds my projections.
What does Sarah Palin bring to the McCain campaign? Well, that depends to some extent on what shape you think the McCain campaign is in at this stage.
“America needs a vice president who can eat a mooseburger,” joked Republican strategist Alex Castell[a]nos on CNN this morning. But he quickly added that “she’s got all the conservative credentials. She’s a reformer. She cleaned up state government. She brings a lot to the table. But I think the most important thing she brings is a fresh face to the Republican party.”
What does it say that the most important thing a Republican attack dog finds here is a fresh face?
My view is that the GOP is grasping at straws. They know the Republican brand is in the toilet. They expect a thrashing in the House; the most important question is whether they can retain enough Senate votes to filibuster, which they tried to outlaw two years ago just prior to Palin being elected to her first state-wide office. They’re looking at a slim chance, at best, of imposing four more years of war and record oil-company profits through the imperial White House. (Not that the war machine is worried.)
So it appears McCain’s people have decided their best shot is to lure disaffected Hillary supporters.
“It would be a clear sign by the McCain campaign that they would be making a bid” for women voters, Rove said. “In the last 24 hours, we’ve seen both campaigns refocus themselves in a powerful way on the Hillary Clinton supporters.”
Here’s where it gets weird: in order to do that, the Republicans have picked a woman who first came to public attention with her second-place finish in the 1984 Miss Alaska contest. She’s strongly anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, a lifetime NRA member, from an electorally tiny state, whose husband works for British Petroleum. Do they really think women don’t care about issues like abortion rights, gun control, and the environment as long as the candidate is female? IANA woman, but if I were I might consider that theory insulting.
Palin, the campaign said, “has the record of reform and bipartisanship that others can only speak of. Her experience in shaking up the status quo is exactly what is needed in Washington today.”
This is a difficult argument to make. First of all, when you start talking about her experience, you remind voters that even Obama has more experience than Palin. And while it’s true that both years of her governership show some interest in reform, those reformist credentials were earned fighting corrupt Republicans, people like Don Young and Ted Stevens. Just last month, Palin gave Stevens the minimum possible support, saying it “would be premature at this point” to call for Stevens to resign. Of course, McCain’s distate for Stevens is legendary; maybe he figures he can at least take Ted down with him. (For which we’d owe him one.)
If nothing else, the Republicans are consistent in their respect for creative use of the law.
Palin also faces problems in her own state over what appears to have been questionable efforts by her staff to force the firing of her sister’s ex-husband from the Alaska Public Safety Department. The state legislature hired a private investigator to investigate after the governor fired the head of the Public Safety Department, Walt Monegan, who says she did so because he would not fire the trooper.
After initially denying that her staff had brought pressure to have the trooper, Mike Wooten, who was involved in a child custody dispute with Palin’s sister, dismissed, Palin had to reverse course after an audio recording emerged in which Frank Bailey, the governor’s director of boards and commissions, urged the dismissal of the trooper.
P[al]in suspended Bailey, but she also admitted that people close to her, including her chief of staff, the state attorney general, and her husband also contacted Monegan about the trooper.
Which, realistically, is small potatoes in Alaska, and red meat for loyal Bushies.
If Palin had been a POW, then I’d understand the choice. As is, it looks like desperation to me. Or perhaps John’s thinking Sarah could compete with Cindy for Miss Buffalo Chip.
Wow! What a pick!
This is from an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times by Jeffrey Rosen, an intern on the Senate Judiciary Committee when Joe Biden was chairman:
His performance during the Thomas hearings in 1991 was just as restrained. He focused his opposition on Judge Thomas’s radical views on property rights and limitations on federal power. When Anita Hill’s charges of sexual harassment began to circulate in private, Senator Biden angered liberal interest groups by insisting that the Judiciary Committee handle the accusations confidentially.
After the charges were leaked to the press, Mr. Biden insisted that they did not justify postponing the Senate vote on the nomination. Even after finally bowing to the public pressure to allow Ms. Hill to testify, Mr. Biden still refused to call three additional witnesses who were ready to corroborate her charges about his interest in pornography.
Although, in his recent memoir, Justice Thomas rages against Mr. Biden’s unfairness, the reality is that, by insisting that no further witnesses be called, Mr. Biden ensured his confirmation. Mr. Biden later observed that he could have “decimated” Judge Thomas by allowing more testimony about pornography, but “it would have been wrong.”
Rosen clearly approves of Biden’s gentlemanly restraint, but let’s think about this.
At issue was the credibility of two witnesses at the hearing: Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. She accused him of sexual harassment. He denied it. One of them was lying. Lying to Congress is a crime, pure and simple. Many people, less tolerant than Joe Biden of mankind’s little foibles, feel that criminals should not serve on the United States Supreme Court.
The one who was lying, as proven beyond a doubt by the Pubic Hair Test, was Clarence Thomas. But since the PHT is not widely understood by U.S. Senators, it became not merely relevant but crucial to determine by other means whether the nominee was a criminal liar.
One obvious path was to explore Thomas’s denial to the committee of Hill’s charges that he was fond of pornography. Additional witnesses could have made her charges stick — would in fact, have kept this pathetic, self-loathing racist toady off the Supreme Court.
And would that have been so “wrong?” Oh, I don’t know. Let’s ask Al Gore.
It’s hard to believe they’re still running this scam, but apparently it pays them a decent salary. And it’s about as easy a gig as you could imagine.
It is a fraying, combed-back helmet that barely covers a longtime fact of Washington life: The senator from Delaware has taken steps to pre-empt baldness.
The most common hypothesis is that he received a hair transplant, where follicles from the bushier back of the head are grafted onto fading spots closer to the front of the dome.
Well, it’s a good thing someone’s keeping us up to date on the Hair of the Democrats. I wonder how long it’ll be before someone determines how much Biden has spent on his hair, compares that sum to what McCain spends on his, and turns the comparison into an implication that McCain of the Seven Houses would be a better manager of the economy.
Fortunately, not everyone in the traditional media, which Politico certainly is despite its web-based delivery method, is that vapid. Another article there reminds us of a Biden zinger at the Democratic debate on July 23, 2007.
Via a video clip, a man identifying himself as Jered Townsend from Clio, Mich., said: “To all the candidates, tell me your position on gun control, as myself and other Americans really want to know if our babies are safe.”
Then Townsend picked up what appeared to be a semiautomatic assault rifle.
“This is my baby, purchased under the 1994 gun ban,” he said. “Please tell me your views. Thank you.”
After a lengthy explanation of past Democratic difficulties with the gun issue, we get a reprise of Bill Richardson’s pander to the NRA.
Then [Anderson] Cooper turned to Joe Biden. “Senator Biden,” he asked, “are you going to be able to keep his baby safe?”
And Biden gave an answer that was 100 percent Joe Biden.
“I’ll tell you what, if that is his baby, he needs help,” Biden said. “I don’t know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun.”
Biden went on to say that he was “the guy who originally wrote the assault weapons ban” and “we should be working with law enforcement, right now, to make sure that we protect people against people who are not capable of knowing what to do with a gun because they’re either mentally imbalanced and/or because they have a criminal record.”
Then Biden added sardonically: “I hope he doesn’t come looking for me.”
It was, as Roger Simon says, “a tough, honest answer that did not play to the crowd.” If only we could get that kind of honesty on the bankruptcy bill, or Iraq, or NAFTA.
It’s encouraging how readers can extract value from writing that’s truly inept. I’ve recently returned to school as a student after three decades, and my first reading assignment was the initial two chapters of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. You kinda know it’s gonna be ugly when the first sentence is this:
While the problem of humanization has always, from an axiological point of view, been humankind’s central problem, it now takes on the character of an inescapable concern.
Apparently I lack the perspicacity necessary to distill any meaning from that sentence, axiological or otherwise.
Freire mixed his Christianity with his Marxism, and was thus a liberation theologist. Along with a great heart went a definitional approach to writing that obscures as often as it clarifies. An impressive guy, who lived his ideals even when they brought him jail time and exile. But an editor wouldn’t have helped him much; he needed a ghostwriter.
Still, he had some valuable ideas, and could sometimes communicate them.
In the following excerpt, one of the less obscure portions of the reading, ellipses, bracketed words, and punctuation are (in some cases unfortunately) exactly as in the original, except that I’ve removed the superscripts for the footnotes. The first two quotes are taken from Erich Fromm’s The Heart of Man, the last from Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society.
When their efforts to act responsibly are frustrated, when they find themselves unable to use their faculties, people suffer. “This suffering due to impotence is rooted in the very fact that the human equilibrium has been disturbed.” But the inability to act which causes people’s anguish also causes them to reject their impotence, by attempting…to restore [their] capacity to act. But can [they], and how? One way is to submit to and identify with a person or group having power. By this symbolic participation in another person’s life, [men have] the illusion of acting, when in reality [they] only submit to and become a part of those who act.
Populist manifestations perhaps best exemplify this type of behavior by the oppressed, who, by identifying with charismatic leaders, come to feel that they themselves are active and effective. The rebellion they express as they emerge in the historical process is motivated by that desire to act effectively. The dominant elites consider the remedy to be more domination and repression, carried out in the name of freedom, order, and social peace (that is, the peace of the elites). Thus they can condemn — logically, from their point of view — “the violence of a strike by workers and [can] call upon the state in the same breath to use violence in putting down the strike.”
Eileen Jones provides “The Proof That Obama Isn’t an American”. It’s a photo, followed by photos of Americans. They don’t look the same.
It’s such a persistent problem that columnist Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, clearly an Obama fan, is trying to roil up similar doubts about John McCain. Today he’s running a column called “Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye,” arguing that, though McCain is as old and ever-present as mold spores, we really don’t know who he is or what he stands for. It’s no use, though. We know John McCain like we know our own insane uncle. Again, all you have to do is look at him:
Is that an American or what? The family resemblance to a billion other annoying native sons is stunning. Nobody’s bothering to study this guy’s birth certificate or carp about it being signed in Panama.
A day has arrived that I thought would never come. A major party candidate (a presumptive one, anyway), turns out to have a smaller net worth than I do. On the other hand Joe Biden has a contract to write a book and I don’t. Inquiries invited.
If you know how the states will allocate their electoral votes in November, the Washington Post will give you $500.
>2008 Election Contest: Pick Your President - Predict the winner of the 2008 presidential election and enter to win a $500 prize.
Thanks to Buck’s posting below, I’ve just been on a virtual tour of the working ranch Cindy built for her Sweet Man. Like Buck, I was particularly taken with the down-home wine room, which seems to have been ripped straight from the pages of Grit Magazine, Celebrating Rural America Since 1882.
This glimpse of Cindy’s cellar answers what for me, as for so many Americans, is the central consideration in picking a president: Which candidate would you rather sit down and have a wine with?
Here’s something I never expected to say in this lifetime: David Brooks is not completely full of shit.
Biden is a lunch-bucket Democrat. His father was rich when he was young — played polo, cavorted on yachts, drove luxury cars. But through a series of bad personal and business decisions, he was broke by the time Joe Jr. came along. They lived with their in-laws in Scranton, Pa., then moved to a dingy working-class area in Wilmington, Del. At one point, the elder Biden cleaned boilers during the week and sold pennants and knickknacks at a farmer’s market on the weekends.
His son was raised with a fierce working-class pride — no one is better than anyone else. Once, when Joe Sr. was working for a car dealership, the owner threw a Christmas party for the staff. Just as the dancing was to begin, the owner scattered silver dollars on the floor and watched from above as the mechanics and salesmen scrambled about for them. Joe Sr. quit that job on the spot.
Complementing the compromiser with a fighter is a better balance than I expected. Not enough, but a positive step nonetheless. Biden is going to whip whoever McCain picks in the VP debate. That might be the only one I watch, just for the joy of seeing a Republican publicly humiliated.
A commenter who goes by the wholly admirable handle of CD shares some despair with the TPM crowd.
First there’s what CD perceives as an insufficient response by the Obama campaign to the “Celebrity” ad.
The ads are working. How do I know? Because they’re working on me. I’m a huge Obama supporter, and he’s the first candidate I’ve given significant money to, and his lack of push back on the celebrity issue has planted the seed in my mind: “is he really so arrogant to think he doesn’t need to refute these claims?” I’d like to see some conviction, some insult taken by Obama at these attacks. He is the outsider, he is the change candidate, and he does have more work to do to introduce himself to the voters.
Letting this celebrity-line-of-attack go so unchallenged, to me, is the worst way to go about doing that. He’s letting McCain introduce Obama.
At this point I’m fairly certain that CD hasn’t read the New Yorker article that was the true irritant (not the cover, which as Barack said is just a cartoon). In it, Ryan Lizza points out that this is standard operating procedure for Obama, who has long believed that if the campaign centers on him he’ll win, in part because of his story and character, and in part because he’ll find an arrangement that works.
Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them. When he was a community organizer, he channelled his work through Chicago’s churches, because they were the main bases of power on the South Side. He was an agnostic when he started, and the work led him to become a practicing Christian. At Harvard, he won the presidency of the Law Review by appealing to the conservatives on the selection panel. In Springfield, rather than challenge the Old Guard Democratic leaders, Obama built a mutually beneficial relationship with them. “You have the power to make a United States senator,” he told Emil Jones in 2003. In his downtime, he played poker with lobbyists and Republican lawmakers. In Washington, he has been a cautious senator and, when he arrived, made a point of not defining himself as an opponent of the Iraq war.
Then there’s the theory advanced by CD that Obama coasted through the last few primaries and is still coasting.
I’m a big believer in Obama’s message. I think Bush is a criminal. I think our nation is in a truly perilous state. But for the first time since his campaign started, I’m truly worried and disappointed by him. He looks outclassed, outgunned, and outspun.
I’m an average American, I would say, and I believe I want what most Americans want: a fighter. I don’t like to see, nor do I think the country likes to see, someone who isn’t up for a fight, and right now Obama just doesn’t appear up for a fight. This doesn’t just worry me in terms of the political race, it worries me in terms of his ability to actually be President. Me, a progressive mind if there ever was one. That I have this perception should scare the bejesus out of the Obama campaign, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, I am not unique in these matters.
Wait, wait, wait. You’re a progressive who wants a fighter and you’re in the Obama camp? I can understand the argument that the most important thing to you is Supreme Court appointments. Or you might have convinced yourself that Obama will bring the troops home from Iraq, despite his clear statements to the contrary. Or you could just say Anybody But McCain. But a progressive fighter? He was never a progressive. And when was the last time he fought for something other than office? Read Lizza’s article, unless you can’t afford that knowledge. It’ll vastly reduce the probability of future disillusionment.
There’s also the point that the Obama campaign is following the Howard Dean model rather than that of Rahm Emanuel. Obama expects to win, so he’s spreading his resources over a broader area. This is in fact the only hope for anything that might hint at liberalism (progressivism is not in the cards): election of lots of relatively left-leaning Democrats to Congress. Failing that, we’re in for eight more years of Wimpy Liberalism.
The wimpy liberals came into their own (actually, someone else’s, but they call it their own) during the Reagan presidency. True, some saw the signs of incipient wimpiness, also called the onset of DLCism, in the Carter administration. But it took the ruthless dishonesty of Reagan-era ideology to realize that the wimpy liberals, hot to compromise, were vulnerable to “extreme” bargaining. You could simply demand eight times what you wanted, play the compromise game, and end up with four times what you wanted. The WimpLibs were left feeling good about themselves, so you could pull the same stunt repeatedly. Eventually the WimpLib negotiating position would evolve toward something Nixon could have been happy with, as a means of showing their “negotiating partners” how well they understood the situation.
Or, as Robert Reich says:[T]he so-called center has continued to shift to the right because conservative Republicans stay put while Democrats keep meeting them halfway.
Every time you compromise with the right wing, you lose. CD is right, this is not what Americans want, the polls make that very clear. But it keeps the powerful in power, and that is unfortunately their only goal. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, meet Barack Obama. You’re gonna like him.
Of course this is systemic rather than personal. Therefore it cannot be approached on a personal basis. If you’ll vote for someone no matter what they do, say, or promise, you have no leverage; they couldn’t care less what you want. Threats are the only currency, and they have to be credible.
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.
If you’re an Obama fan who believes there’s more political hay to be made on the left than the right, you might be less than overwhelmed by the idea of former DLC chairman Evan Bayh as VP.
“The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) is pleased to welcome Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) as an Honorary Co-Chairman. Bayh becomes the third U.S. Senator to join the committee after Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced their participation on January 28.
No doubt you fondly remember the CLI, where Bayh joined not only McCain and Lieberman but other well-known progressives such as Bill Kristol and “Mr. WW IV” Jim Woolsey, plus Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s top foreign policy advisor whose somewhat-former firm lobbies for Georgia.
Since then, Bayh has of course tried to distance himself from the war he supported before he opposed it. But Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic quotes Bayh:
You just hope that we haven’t soured an entire generation on the necessity, from time to time, of using force because Iraq has been such a debacle. That would be tragic, because Iran is a grave threat. They’re everything we thought Iraq was but wasn’t. They are seeking nuclear weapons, they do support terrorists, they have threatened to destroy Israel, and they’ve threatened us, too.
These are not incorrect statments, they’re lies. Iran has not threatened any such thing, and every honest person knows it. Bayh is a classic DLC warmonger. Do we need more of those?
If you don’t think so, you can take action. Or you can just join the Facebook group 100,000 Strong Against Evan Bayh for VP.
Not that it’ll matter. Bayh fits the Obama campaign perfectly.
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.
How low can McCain the maverick, the crusader against corruption, go? Truth is, we don’t yet know. What we do know is that, as expected, the Republicans continue to follow the Rove playbook.
Stephen Waldman at BeliefNet points us to a memo from the Eleison Group about the McCain campaign’s ad calling Obama “The One”. Turns out, surprise, there’s a coded message intended for a subset of the population.
Those who keep up on Fred Clark’s wonderful Left Behind summaries are familiar with Nicolae Carpathia, the engaging, dangerous, shallow Anti-Christ. So are the Republican political ad-makers. So they’ve produced an ad that will tweak the fears that drive the premillennial dispensationalists.
From the title of the ad (that immediately reminds anyone familiar with the Left Behind series of the name of the false church set up by the anti-Christ) to the quotes (with no respect to context) and images that the McCain camp chose to use, which basically allude to every symbol of the anti-Christ possible short of flashing 666 on the screen, this ad is an attempt to stir up already circulating falsehoods about Obama and add more fuel to the fire.
The memo makes many interesting points. For instance, the ad was produced in a format that allows distribution over the internet that McCain is so fond of. Perhaps it’s a sign that Republicans have given up their historical fondness for secrecy and are now down with the idea of information distribution. Or perhaps the point is to help the PMD folks circulate the lies to their fellow believers; they’re aware, after all, that the rest of society, including many evangelicals, considers them wackos and heretics. They’re used to being ridiculed, and though they claim not to like it, they actually need that sense of separateness to fuel their views of superiority.
Lest we dismiss the effort as aimed at a trivial population,
…here are some facts on how predominant and wide-spread the Premillenialist (also known as Darbyist or dispensationalist) views are… A Time Magazine poll that came out after the 9/11 attacks found that 1 in 5 Americans believe the world will end in their lifetime; 1 in 4 felt 9/11 was predicted in Revelation; and 1 in 3 Americans who support Israel said they do so because they believe Israel must reconquer the Promised Land for Christ to return.
The Left Behind series has sold nearly 70 MILLION books (plus a 40-book children’s series, graphic novels, books on tape, movies, etc). Another recent poll found that 3 of 4 Americans believed that the Left Behind series accurately depicted the events described in the Book of Revelation, although less than half believed that was an accurate description of how the world would end.
Oh, and you do realize that he doesn’t write those speeches that everyone (read stupid people, celebrities, and straight-line liberal/marxist/socialist whackjobs, and naive/historically uneducated young people) is so moved by? Those are created by people called “speechwriters,” who are professionally trained and tested political writers of moving prose. Barack does not have the command of history of global politics to attempt to pull off his speeches’ content himself, that much you can be guaranteed.
Ipso facto. Where those guarantees come from is left, well, unsaid. Fortunately we still have the honest Republicans to fall back on. They write their own.
In fairness, Mr. Petersen, whose word cloud leads with “American Idol”, is not
a fan of McCain, especially with his pandering to the global warming activists, ideas for amnesty, and a litany of dealing with “the other side” when there is no need to, [but] he sure is a better choice than the Obama-man: Nicolae Carpathia.
Not only does Obama employ speechwriters (horrors!). Worse, he’s made some noises that give premillennial dispensationalists the willies: he mentions peace.
We’ve noted earlier (see “Cursed are the Peacemakers”) how Nicolae’s pacifism and his dedication to peacemaking marked him as morally suspect from the authors’ point of view. This idea is simply a given for Tim LaHaye and his premillennial dispensationalist colleagues, and they treat it as such, presenting this audacious bit of up-is-downism with a disarming matter-of-factness. The Antichrist is diabolically evil, they say, and so of course he’s a man of peace, what else might one expect?
This might seem to contrast with the message of the Prince of Peace, but ’tis not so according to the authorities behind Left Behind.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the most popular “Bible prophecy scholars” — from Hal Lindsay to Tim LaHaye — moved away from the idea that the Antichrist would be making false promises of peace and began to suggest that this ultimate personification of evil would be an actual peacemaker. This happened, in part, due to their reinterpretation of PMD through the lens of America’s so-called “culture wars.” LaHaye came to PMD carrying with him all the baggage and presuppositions of his John Birch Society, McCarthyist Cold-War paranoia. Lindsay came to it in full-blown panic over Vietnam and the ’60s. Neither of them was capable of imagining such a thing as a false peacemaker because they did not believe there was such a thing as a genuine peacemaker.
To LaHaye and Lindsay, all peacemakers were, by definition, false. All proponents of peace, from their point of view, were duplicitous fools — not peacemakers, but peace-niks. At best they might merely be cowardly, dovish dupes, but at worst they are subversive fifth-column agents of the enemy. The PMD teaching that the Antichrist himself will one day rise from the ranks of such peaceniks simply confirms what they already believed to be true: that anyone advocating peace should be presumed guilty.
So the biblical warnings not to be deceived by false promises of peace have evolved into the belief that any promise of peace — or any effort to achieve peace, or any policy that includes peace as its ultimate stated goal — is itself false and, in fact, Satanic.
Of course, in the story, Carpathia appears after the Rapture. I’m still vague on why the Left Behind crowd cares what happens on earth then, other than, as Fred Clark loves to point out, the joy they take in imaging the tortures those left behind will suffer. But logic and history and chronology and psychology — hell, fact — are not popular with them.
If the McCain camp was trying to spoof Obama as Messiah, they missed a number of more obvious images and did a very poor job with this ad. If they were trying to draw parallels to Obama as anti-Christ, they nailed it. Considering that this ad cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce and was made by marketing professionals who McCain is paying millions of dollars for their expertise, which option of these two options do you think is more likely to be THE ONE?
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:
Hoping to becoming a modern-day Cassandra, with all the attendant rewards, I offer these predictions. Risky though they seem.
In the end, our only hope for progress is to elect so many progressive folks to Congress that they force Obama’s hand. I’m optimistic because I choose to be.
It seems we now have two women running for President.
The only good news is that no debates will be moderated by anyone from ABC. Remember that the next time around, George and Charles! If you can.
Jim Lehrer of PBS, who moderated all the debates in 2004, will handle the first presidential debate Sept. 26 in Oxford, Mississippi.
Gwen Ifill of PBS will moderate the vice presidential debate Oct. 2 in St. Louis.
Tom Brokaw of NBC will moderate the Oct. 7 presidential debate in Nashville.
And Bob Schieffer of CBS will moderate the Oct. 15 presidential debate in Hempstead, New York.
Perhaps in an attempt to cover for for a speaking style that makes John Kerry look dynamic, John McCain manages to pack a lot of symbolism into his words.
He used his Saturday radio address to explain how “With all the breathless coverage from abroad, and with Senator Obama now addressing his speeches to ‘the people of the world,’ I’m starting to feel a little left out. Maybe you are too.”
McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, kept up that sardonic tone throughout the address, charging that Obama, who is wrapping up a tour of the Middle East and Europe, has taken “multiple positions on the surge in Iraq.”
The problem is, the message is internally inconsistent, and McCain himself is more vulnerable than his opponent on precisely these issues. Presumably the Republicans are assuming another Gore/Kerry-style campaign, with an equally uninterested population. Because no one who’s paying attention could fail to notice a certain inconsistency, the kind that arises from desperation, in McCain’s attack on Obama:
We’re left to wonder how he can deny that the surge in Iraq has succeeded, while at the same time announcing that a surge is just what we need in Afghanistan. I’ll leave all these questions for my opponent and his team of 300 foreign policy advisors to work out for themselves. With luck, they’ll get their story straight by the time the Obama campaign returns to North America.
First there’s the problem of McCain, of all people, accusing Obama of changing positions. That might betray the hand of Rove; it’s been a trademark of his to hit the opponent on the areas his candidate is weak on. But Obama’s shown both the ability and the willingness to hit back immediately in those situations. If the opponent responds directly and quickly, the Rove bluff is called. It’s way too easy to mashup all those McCain flip-flops over the much longer time he’s been running for office.
Then there’s the apparent hypocrisy of McCain talking about Obama’s refusal to acknowledge that the surge has “succeeded”, despite not having met any of its most important benchmarks. McCain opposes the surge in Afghanistan, perhaps reflexively to distinguish himself from the right-wing Democrat whose plan for Iraq he seemed superficially to endorse last week. And most likely he’s expecting few Americans to put together the two pieces of information. But how can McCain claim that the surge that worked in Iraq is not a good idea in Afghanistan? Well, probably because conditions are different. Which Obama might say as well.
Which leads to the main problem with McCain’s symbolism. The voters he appears to be courting, beyond the defense establishment, are the fearful, the evangelicals, and the blue-collar-comedy fans. That’s a difficult courtship to begin with, because he kind of despises them all.
His conversions to Republican orthodoxy are widely suspected. His prime candidate for Treasury Secretary had to drop out of sight after whining about a “nation of whiners”; this after the candidate had openly confessed to not knowing much about economics, the concern most Americans list first. And in the week when Obama swishes his first try at a three-pointer, McCain is the butt of late-night jokes for his response when asked if he goes online himself:
They [aides] go on for me. I am learning to get online myself and I will have that down fairly soon. I don’t expect to be a great communicator. I don’t expect to set up my own blog. But I am becoming computer-literate to the point where I can get the information I need.
West Wing fans can almost see the aides wincing in the background. “Learning to get online” reminds one of Bush 41’s encounter with the optical scanner at a grocery store. But where it’s not really surprising that a President doesn’t get to the store often, it’s hard to imagine doing much of anything in today’s complex interactive world without a computer. One assumes that candidates for President have access to high-speed connections, and are no longer required to do anything other than sit down in order to be considered online.
If McCain can do his job with paper, that’s fine with me. But he seems severely unhip when he’s unclear even on the basic terminology of something that is part of the daily lives of 88% of Americans, many more than care about three-pointers.
He’s gunning for the less cosmopolitan, less educated, the folks with viewpoints severely restricted by lack of experience; people, in a word, unlike him. These folks are not the best audience for sardonic comments about the opponent; they need red meat. Which McCain will at some point break down and throw them. It’ll get ugly and bitter, because those are fires Republicans seem to congregate around.
And he’ll still lose, big time. Because in the end Americans who see the choice as new hope versus old toughness will break for hope, and worry about how realistic that hope is later. The war machine has already signed off on both, so it doesn’t care.
Obama’s speech in Germany was heavier on symbolism than details. But the 200,000 people who came to hear him were probably not expecting anything else, and they enjoyed the substance they heard, to wit: an Obama administration would embrace the rest of the world as partners rather than sidekicks.
Of course, he was careful not to use any construction like “an Obama administration” or “if I’m elected”. His campaign, eager not to appear presumptuous, carefully orchestrated the trip to present him as a citizen rather than a candidate; and he pulled off the role with typical grace. Some reports commented on the rather obvious nature of the facade. For example, the Pentagon wouldn’t let him visit soldiers at a military base in Germany because his Senate staff had gone back to the US, and a visit with his campaign staff was off limits.
He also was careful to include a request for troops from Germany that he knew would not be forthcoming, thus insulating himself from charges of surrendering to the cheese-eaters and beer-drinkers.
Events in Germany might have produced the most impressive photos of the trip, but that was by no means the most important stop. The Iraqi prime minister’s declaration of support for Obama’s 16-month withdrawal plan was a huge blow, which forced the White House and the McCain team to retool their message significantly.
Now we have Bush agreeing to an aspirational goal of withdrawal (Milbank: aspirational goal? Is that like having the body you want without exercise or diet?). We have McCain arguing, with his version of The Smirk, that he agrees a 16-month timetable is great, if conditions on the ground warrant it, and that he hasn’t changed his position at all. He also told Wolf Blitzer that al Maliki wouldn’t ask for American troops to be withdrawn in 16 months, never mind what he said recently. How, Blitzer asked, did McCain know that? Because I know al Maliki, and I know his thinking, was the reply. He didn’t say anything about looking into al Maliki’s eyes and seeing his soul, at least in the bit I saw.
All in all, there’s no doubt it’s been a tough week for McCain. Just barely past the Phil Gramm kerfuffle, after canceling a trip to an oil rig because of the oil spill in the Mississippi, and eating sausages at a German restaurant in Ohio while Obama speaks in Berlin, he’s handed a pink slip by the ungrateful Iraqi PM. So he dreams up a narrative that keeps him happy with himself, even if it doesn’t fit reality very well.
One of the best things I’ve heard said about McCain is that he considers decisions in light of how he’ll feel about them on his deathbed. It does seem to match the pattern of a lot of his actions, though it’s hard to fit the Keating scandal in there. But he is in some ways a crusader, keeping faith regardless of the circumstances. Right now, he’s flashing on the failure he perceived in Vietnam, which he’s determined will not happen on his watch.
Obama’s talent, on the other hand, is to find the truths at the center of relevant opinion, and espouse them with all the art at his command, which is considerable. In other words, we’re looking at a truly exceptional politician.
In an age of religious fervour, the most artful statesmen are observed to feel some of the enthusiasm which they inspire; and the most orthodox saints assume the dangerous privilege of defending the cause of truth by the arms of deceit and falsehood. Personal interest is often the standard of our belief, as well as of our practice…
And of our votes. But Obama calls us to something more, and that’s what gets people excited about him.
On this trip, he appeared to be someone who could pull off the role of President, and that was the point. He didn’t need a bounce in the polls; he needed Americans to see pictures of a cheering throng in Berlin, warm greetings from leaders of allies, the candidate applauded by troops in trouble spots. The swish was gravy, but as the ball dropped through the hoop you could hear the collective sigh from the McCain folks, wondering how many more things can break Obama’s way.
Isn’t a rudimentary knowledge of the economy required to become a Professor of Business? Well, I suppose it depends on your definition of “knowledge”.
No doubt you got a chuckle out of Phil Gramm’s recent diagnosis of our current financial troubles. After all, the guy credited with such classics as “Has anyone ever noticed that we live in the only country in the world where all the poor people are fat?” and “I have as many guns as I need, but I don’t have as many guns as I want” is bound to have something pithy to contribute.
Sure enough, Gramm thinks it’s all in our heads: “You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession”, and “We have sort of become a nation of whiners, you just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline.”
John McCain clearly enjoyed the performance as much as you did.
But there’s apparently a non-zero constituency for the idea that gas is only nearing $5 a gallon in our heads.
“I think the way consumers feel about things is very emotional,” [consumer psychologist Kit] Yarrow told “Good Morning America” today. “Those emotions are trumping reality, creating a snowball, which makes the economy worse. It’s not as bad as consumers feel like it is.”
Yarrow, who is also the Russell T. Sharpe Professor of Business at Golden Gate University, says that lack of consumer confidence has been caused by an negative overreaction to recent economic trends.
“We’ve had great prosperity for the last few years,” Yarrow said. “We had very cheap gas. We’ve had a lot of increase in our home values. We’ve had it really pretty good as the stock market increases. Emotion is always caused by this mismatch between what we perceive and reality. It’s really emotion, the psychology, that’s contributing to our economy right now in a negative way.”
Right, it’s not the foreclosures. There are only projected to be two million families losing their homes over the next two years; and most people won’t be among the 40 million whose homes are projected to lose value. The odds are 5-1 against you being in either of those groups, though of course you’re competing with non-players in the housing market like infants and the imprisoned.
It’s true that IndyMac, which was nationalized on Friday, was “the largest regulated thrift to fail and the second largest financial institution to close in U.S. history”. And that the FDIC estimates the cost to the taxpayers at between $4 billion and $8 billion. And that people are now worrying about mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And that 300 more banks might fail in the next three years.
But the real problems are not structural, they’re emotional. If consumers will just continue spending more than they take in, the Phil Gramms and Kit Yarrows will be fine.
In the end, Gramm states his position rather clearly.
“I think we’ve become entitled to a sense that we’re going to have continued prosperity, and if we hadn’t had it good for so long, I don’t think there would be this level of emotion that’s causing us to draw back on our spending,” [Yarrow] said. “We expect great growth. Any sort of normal growth is considered a catastrophe now.”
Yarrow told “Good Morning America” that this overreaction could be caused, in part, by the media and the preponderance of the term “crisis.”
“It’s described in anecdotal terms, as well,” Yarrow said, “which causes consumers to be especially fearful.”
In an interview with the Washington Times this week, Gramm agreed.
“We’ve never been more dominant; we’ve never had more natural advantages than we have today. … Misery sells newspapers,” he said. “Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day.”
If you’re struck by the gap between reality and Gramm’s “we’ve never been more dominant”, you might try interpreting “we” to mean Gramm’s social circle, whose dominance over us lesser Americans is indeed near the historic peak. An intelligent person recognizes that historic peaks are rarely maintained. Just as historically low interest rates are likely to rise after you sign that ARM, historic peaks of power precede historic diminishments.
This is taking a sad turn, as some people adopt a belief system based on Obama that has little to do with his actions, very much the way Bush supporters believe in him no matter what he does. Is the kind of change we can expect from the upcoming Obama administration? “We’re not against cults of personality, we just want someone who calls himself a Democrat to worship rather than some Republican. Ugh!”
Personally I find some truth in the old Lazarus Long observation.
Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
Unfortunately those who run for political office are nearly all from the first category. People in the second category tend to belong Bill Hicks’s People Who Hate People Party, whose organizing and voting rates are not very high.
Mr. Obama initially said he would try to filibuster a vote [on immunity for Bush and the telecoms], but on Wednesday he was among 69 senators who voted for the measure, which to many liberals represents a flagrant abuse of privacy rights. The legislation grants legal immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the wiretapping program.
The unbiased reporters at the Times have apparently discovered that only the wacko left-wingers think this is an issue of whether to follow the Constitution. Apparently everyone else, the mainstream as the Times article keeps calling them, has moved on from the quaint concept of civil liberties in a society based on laws, a weltanschauung clearly made obsolete, most likely by 9/11. Now it’s about who you believe in. (Once again, I blame it all on Paul.) Along the way we’re proudly becoming the image of our imagined opponents.
One thing about Obama, though, is that he unites the true Democrats.
For all the idealism and talk of transformation that Mr. Obama has brought to the Democratic Party — he managed to draw a crowd of more than 70,000 here in May — there is also a wide streak of pragmatism, even among many grass-roots activists, in a party long vexed by factionalism.
“We’re frustrated by it, but we understand,” said Mollie Ruskin, 22, who grew up in Baltimore and is spending the summer here as a fellow with Politicorps, a program run by the Bus Project, a local nonprofit that trains young people to campaign for progressive candidates. “He’s doing it so he can get into office and do the things he believes in.”
Nate Gulley, 23, who grew up in Cleveland and is also here as a Politicorps fellow, said too much was being made of Mr. Obama’s every move.
“It’s important not to get swept up in ‘Is Obama posturing?’ ” Mr. Gulley said. “It’s self-evident that he’s a different kind of candidate.”
At first I couldn’t stop laughing, but then I started to feel sad. Question for Mollie Ruskin: can you give an example of someone voting the wrong way during the campaign so he could get into office, then doing the right thing once he got there? And if Obama doesn’t believe in punishing corporations who knowingly violate the law, what does hope mean? Question for Nate Gully: do facts matter, or is the self-evidence of Obama’s difference enough to cover for his actions, including his votes on civil liberties issues? What does difference mean if one’s votes are the same?
What appears to be vital to the young Obama supporters interviewed by the Times is not to think about what Obama does, because doing so will burst the bubble of belief. And after all, what’s more important, what happens in the real world, or what you believe? This is not an attitude the country needs more of.
If any good is to come of the Obama administration it will be from the grassroots. Obama will lead the Democrats into their normal submissive pose, with the normal lack of result, though he’ll do it stylishly, with more class than we’ve seen in the White House for many years. But change will only come if we force it on him; neither Obama nor anyone else in government will lead the charge until the charge becomes unstoppable.
Joyful Alternative sends along a viral message about Obambi Bin Barack that infiltrated her inbox. There are bad viruses but then there are good viruses too, so…
There are many things people do not know about BARACK OBAMA. It is every American’s duty to read this message and pass it along to all of their friends and loved ones.
Barack Obama wears a FLAG PIN at all times. Even in the shower.
Barack Obama says the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE every time he sees an American flag. He also ends every sentence by saying, “WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.” Click here for video of Obama quietly mouthing the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE in his sleep.
A tape exists of Michelle Obama saying the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE at a conference on PATRIOTISM.
Every weekend, Barack and Michelle take their daughters HUNTING.
Barack Obama is a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN. He has one HAND over his HEART at all times. He occasionally switches when one arm gets tired, which is almost never because he is STRONG.
Barack Obama has the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE tattooed on his stomach. It’s upside-down, so he can read it while doing sit-ups.
There’s only one artist on Barack Obama’s iPod: FRANCIS SCOTT KEY.
Barack Obama is a DEVOUT CHRISTIAN. His favorite book is the BIBLE, which he has memorized. His name means HE WHO LOVES JESUS in the ancient language of Aramaic. He is PROUD that Jesus was an American.
Barack Obama goes to church every morning. He goes to church every afternoon. He goes to church every evening. He is IN CHURCH RIGHT NOW.
Barack Obama’s new airplane includes a conference room, a kitchen, and a MEGACHURCH.
Barack Obama’s skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL.
Barack Obama buys AMERICAN STUFF. He owns a FORD, a BASEBALL TEAM, and a COMPUTER HE BUILT HIMSELF FROM AMERICAN PARTS. He travels mostly by FORKLIFT.
Barack Obama says that Americans cling to GUNS and RELIGION because they are AWESOME.
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.
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…
I don’t know whether or not it is a good idea for Obama to pick Hillary for his VP, and that’s not the point of this post.
I point out only that a good part of any resistance the Obama team may have to the Hill4Veep idea may be based on the fear that her heart really wouldn’t be in it, and more, that she may actively or passively seek to sabotage the Obama campaign so that she can run again in ’12.
But the loyalty/sabotage issue is one that is easy to solve: make Hillary resign her senate seat. That way, her only route to the presidency is to make sure Obama wins in ’08. Sabotage Big O? Suddenly not a paying proposition. We know she’ll fight like an alleycat if she has skin in the game.
You say, “Hillary’d never agree to that?” Again, no prob: Obama tells Hillary that he’ll resign too.
I think women who believe a woman in the White House would mean someone who would keep us out of military confrontations, someone nurturing and sensitive who would respond to the people, someone who is less testosterone-driven are crazy. When I see women say that, I think, “Honey, any woman who gets to the White House isn’t going to be like you — isn’t going to be a soft-spoken, nurturing type. That’s not the personality that wants to be President. The gender is irrelevant. That’s why Hillary got so far.”And I add:
So what happens now? Is Obama totally screwed? Would he ever choose Hagel as a running mate? Or would that actually drive most Republicans away from the ticket?
Indira Gandhi, Gold Meir, Maggie Thatcher…
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.
Obama partisans have been claiming that Paul Krugman had it in for their guy for some time. I didn’t take it seriously, in part because of the attitude of religious devotion that generally oozes from the partisans in question, but more importantly because Krugman’s criticisms of Obama were based on policy disagreements, and I generally agreed with Krugman.
But I certainly see what the Obama folks mean. Consider today’s entry from Paul of Princeton, in which he seems to adopt, indeed in a smooth way to parrot, the Clinton camp.
Clintonians complain that when she talks about assassinations of Democratic presidential primary winners, and minimizes Martin Luther King’s part in the civil rights struggle, the grief she gets for it is proof of misogyny, or worse. They send out the Big Dog or Terrible McAuliffe to claim that in fact it was the Obama camp that played the race card, that no reasonable person could have taken her several statements about not dropping out of the race because RFK was assassinated in June, and twisting them into a theory that she’s hoping for an assassination. How could anyone possibly have thought that?
They have the gall to support a former Vice Presidential candidate claiming (hilariously) that Obama is lucky to be black, and that he wouldn’t be where he is otherwise, and yet to claim that Hillary’s where she is due solely to her skills and talents, and the only thing keeping her from assuming her rightful place is the old-boy network. At the same time she claims that Obama can’t win because he’s black: just look at all those West Virginians and Kentuckians who admitted they wouldn’t vote for a black person, and those Ohioans who didn’t admit it but wouldn’t either!
To find Krugman among this group is not distressing, because his heart’s been there the whole time. But his strong support of the Edwards healthcare plan, and of Edwards’s economic-populist message in general, may have got me thinking Paul had learned. Clearly I was wrong. Today he’s suggesting that Obama needs the votes Clinton’s loss will deny him, so what he should do is stop demonizing her. I suppose he would also suggest that Barack stop beating Michelle.
Update: Now we even have McAuliffe claiming Hillary wasn’t thinking of Barack when she mentioned the winner of the 1968 California primary being assassinated. No, not at all; she was actually thinking of all those other people ahead of her in the race to steal what she’s entitled to. Or maybe she was trying to comfort the Kennedy family.
Everyone seems to be wondering why Senator Clinton hasn’t had the grace to admit defeat yet. Maybe we’re overreacting to the RFK assassination remark, as Senator Obama seems to suggest; but the reason for that overreaction is that we’re expecting the Clintons to pull some outrageous stunt. If you saw Olbermann’s contribution to the discussion, you know that the reference to Bobby wasn’t a one-time event, though it appears that the actual word “assassination” only appeared once.
The thing is, Clinton has come to be seen as a vicious fighter in the political arena. I don’t think that’s a popular image in American politics. You can be vicious in action, but you need a softer image to cover it. FDR and LBJ come to mind as being among the most effective political operators the country has been graced or cursed with. One country, one overtly elite, both had personas that allowed them to appear friendly and attractive in public. Clinton’s husband was perhaps a lower-level version.
Some people might put Reagan in that group, but I always figured Reagan was a puppet, not the true decision-maker. Just like with W, it would have been trivial to convince him that he was making the decisions by controlling what you tell him. He had such a poor mind with the facts that he could not survive a true press conference, or even a unscripted question; so they had to keep the helicopter blades whirling until Reagan managed to reach the safety of the White House, with reporters shouting questions the whole time, and Saint Ronnie signaling with his hands that he couldn’t hear them, couldn’t talk right now, but hey, what a great country, huh? His supporters now say maybe it was his Alzheimer’s, and that’s possible. But it’s easily documented that he was an idiot when he was in his twenties, so it’s equally possible that he never recovered from that.
To some extent, Hillary was stuck with a conundrum from the start: the problem of convincing a macho nation that a woman could be strong but not bitchy, friendly but not weak. So she boldly tried to forge a path down the middle with a “tough” persona, which had the advantage of fitting her pretty well. She was unstable in it for the first few months of the campaign. But as she became more comfortable, she found herself trailing in a race she expected to win handily.
The Clinton campaign picked up some momentum near the end. Once the knives came out, their instincts, honed by the war with the Gingrich army, flooded back. As Olbermann details, the Clinton camp has done what it promised and thrown the kitchen sink at Obama.
Why? As Tom Edsall says, she’s looking at two main possibilities. In one, she concedes gracefully, Obama wins easily, and likely is re-elected. In 2016 she’ll be two years younger than McCain is now, and two terms of Democratic incumbency might bring a new generation of leaders. In the other, she fights to the bitter end, and if Obama’s candidacy in the general election proves to be collateral damage, and McCain is elected, she’s got one more chance in 2012. Somehow it turns out that such calculations are anathema to many in her party.
One excuse the Clinton camp has offered for the sink strategy is that it will help Obama “if” he wins the primary, because he’ll face worse from the Republicans in the fall. And in one sense that might be true: Obama’s “rise above it” strategy worked against the Clinton machine, leaving room to hope it can work against the Rove machine as well.
In the end, it might be simply that the Clintons figure there’s no way Obama can lose to McCain. Consider the case of McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis.
Mr. Davis is overseeing new lobbyist-related guidelines that the campaign has issued in an effort to safeguard Mr. McCain’s reputation as an opponent of special interests. The plan, among other things, bars “registered” lobbyists, those who must file disclosure reports listing their clients, from working on the campaign.
Mr. Davis, who last worked as a registered lobbyist in 2005 and took a leave from his lobbying firm in 2006, appears to meet those guidelines. Still, his own business dealings in recent years — roles that include consultant and investor — extend beyond lobbying and illustrate the limits of the guidelines in defining what it means to be selling expertise and helping to provide access.
About three years ago, the Times article says, Davis worked on setting up a “new private equity firm. That firm was to focus on investments in domestic security companies, including those that vied for federal contracts”.
A draft proposal for the new firm described Mr. Davis as a power player among Washington influence brokers.
“For the last three decades in the White House, Congress, federal agencies and politics both here and abroad Rick has operated at the highest level of decision and deal making,” according to a copy of that proposal reviewed by The New York Times.
Along with his work as a lobbyist, Mr. Davis at the time was also drawing a salary as the part-time president of the Reform Institute, a Washington group that Mr. McCain helped found to reduce “the influence of special interests” in politics and government.
The proposed firm never took off. But Pegasus also offered another opportunity to advisers, like Mr. Davis and Mr. Manafort, who worked with it — the chance to get in on some of its investments.
As Edsall says, if McCain dumped all his lobbying-related advisors, he’d have a lonely, low-probability campaign.
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…
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.
Ken Silverstein finds ways to understand.
That said, there are a few things that make me like Hillary. First, she’s a bloodthirsty monster who’ll stop at nothing in her quest for power. That is refreshing, given that the Democrats’ default presidential-campaign strategy is to whine about how rough the Republicans play and to get trounced. Another thing that warms me to Clinton is that the media (in general) hates her and loves Obama, which makes me sympathetic toward her and suspicious toward him.
Two very good points. I don’t know that either of them would affect the likelihood of my voting for Hillary, but you do have to admire, in a certain way, someone who refuses to give up. Her political acumen and her fierce, dogged refusal to admit defeat would be great assets in a Vice President. Problem is, look who you’d get for Second Gentleman.
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
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*”.
Assuming it doesn’t destroy itself at the convention, what will the Democratic party look like in December?
It’s often said that the bitterness generated by fierce campaign attacks fades after the election if common interest sets in. But it’s also clear that antipathies have developed, and ill will has been borne, over long periods by those whose feelings were hurt. Will the Clinton attacks on Obama leave such wounds on the party?
Everyone’s starting from the premise nowadays that Clinton has no realistic path to the nomination. I think that locution is chosen to allow for the possibility that the Clinton machine, having already ineffectively employed the kitchen-sink attack, will proceed to pull out the plumbing behind the sink and throw it, then reach into the pipes and throw whatever it finds there. Whether they’d go to the point of tearing out the walls to have something to throw is uncertain at this point.
Given that the only path to victory for Hillary involves shenanigans at least, more likely outright cheating, and that everyone knows this and is looking for signs of an incipient con, it would seem a task beyond anyone. But that famous Clinton sense of entitlement kicks in; the mental lists of wrongs suffered and disappointments swallowed are rehearsed; and the determination to fight to the end arises. One can admire the discipline and persistence, yet fail to fathom the idea that the individual’s needs override the community’s.
What purpose is served, for example, by the Clinton campaign’s circulation of standard right-wing attacks on Obama to a pro-Clinton email list?
Almost every day over the past six months, I have been the recipient of an email that attacks Obama’s character, political views, electability, and real or manufactured associations. The original source of many of these hit pieces are virulent and sometimes extreme right-wing websites, bloggers, and publications. But they aren’t being emailed out from some fringe right-wing group that somehow managed to get my email address. Instead, it is Sidney Blumenthal who, on a regular basis, methodically dispatches these email mudballs to an influential list of opinion shapers — including journalists, former Clinton administration officials, academics, policy entrepreneurs, and think tankers — in what is an obvious attempt to create an echo chamber that reverberates among talk shows, columnists, and Democratic Party funders and activists.
There’s no question some damage has been done to the party’s probabilities of winning in November; Obama’s likability numbers have dropped, and his national lead over Clinton has nearly disappeared. Most likely, the damage will turn out to be trivial compared to the coming surge of propaganda from the right. Clintonistas might argue that these things were going to come out anyway, and Obama must be able to handle them to deserve the nomination.
But in addition to the counterarguments that attacks from Democrats have a certain kind of legitimacy that attacks from Republicans won’t, and that the Rovians will probably recycle some Clinton ad ideas against Obama this fall, there’s this: in the general election proper there’s only so much time. All the attacking done by Clinton, growing nastier as her chances dim, softens up Obama and obviates the need for that particular attack from the VRWC. It’s as if a deal had been struck between Hillary’s camp and McCain’s to ensure that the pro-war crowd can hold onto the reins.
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:
If I were being honest, I would have to admit that now and then I teeter for a moment or two on the brink. Then I recall that I disagree with most of his announced positions on the matters most important to me, and I recover my balance.
After all, we can overestimate the importance of the occupant of the Oval Office. No doubt the character of the President colors the administration, and thus to some extent the American stage. But it seems to me that the President is an expression of the country, and can only do what the population allows. It’s true that Bush and Cheney initiated a war that most of us didn’t want. It’s also true that, unlike the current one, most US wars were popular at the beginning. I would argue that the biggest single factor in the difference is that people are generally better informed about the world than they used to be.
That may sound like a stretch. I mean, have you ever looked at a McGuffy Reader? Along with a bunch of socialization messages, some racial, some religious, some national, the Readers offered some decent literature, expecting quite a high level of reading accomplishment even in the lower grades. It’s as if they were trying to create thoughtful citizens of the world, or at least the weird world they believed in.
Nowadays we see the world as one big market under God, so we teach our children to be intelligent consumers. But our own actions make it a hard sell. We talk to them about the environment as we drive them to school in our SUVs. We teach them to coöperate and to share, but we invade other countries to steal their oil, and to generate opportunities for war profiteering by our most favored families. We tolerate grotesque inequities in wealth, education, and health care, yet we take pride in our classless democratic society. It’s this kind of stuff that muddles the minds of our kids and leaves them angry and vulnerable to odd theologies.
In the light, or rather fog, of the Zoroastrian dichotomy the dominant US religions incorporate, Americans often see candidates for office as avatars of the forces of Good and Bad. Indeed, one can argue that this problem has worsened in recent years as the parameters of political and religious thought have been stretched to extremes.
But a balanced view requires us also to weigh our technological and experiential advances in the balance. We transmit news around the world nearly instantaneously (though we edit it unmercifully). And people are more sophisticated about propaganda because of their lifelong familiarity with advertising. That doesn’t mean we generally notice it; but when we do, we can decode (most of) it.
As evidence for my “the President’s not so important” thesis, I offer the war in Iraq, in particular the beginning of it. What, you say, doesn’t the fact of the war happening in the face of world-wide protests prove the potency of the office? Yes, but that was never in doubt. Even before Walter Lippman manufactured consent, geostrategists understood the nature and importance of public opinion. And that understanding became quite explicit over time; take, for example (subscription required), Mao and Kissinger talking on Feb. 17, 1973.
Mao: We do not understand your affairs. Your domestic affairs, we don’t understand them. There are many things about foreign policy that we don’t understand either.
Kissinger: You have a more direct, maybe more heroic mode of action than we do. We sometimes have to use more complicated methods because of our domestic situation. But on our fundamental objectives we will act very decisively and without regard for public opinion. So if a real danger develops or hegemonic intentions become active, we will certainly resist them wherever they appear. And as the president said to the chairman, in our own interests, not as a kindness to anyone else.
Just in case you were confused about whose interests come first. Were you? If so, then you might want to consider what you probably already know about the history of the United States entering wars: namely, that popular enthusiasm for each one had to be ginned up, usually by employing various levels of falsehood and fable. Whether the war machine was channeled through William Randolph Hearst in 1898, Woodrow Wilson in 1917, FDR in 1940, or Lyndon Johnson in 1964 — and regardless of what you think about the justifications for those wars — the people were not demanding that the nation go to war. Perhaps this is the source of the general fear of rule by elitists: they keep sending our kids to some overseas conflict, the source and use of which we don’t understand.
There have never been such huge anti-war demonstrations before a war as our latest Middle East adventure provoked. The failure of those protests actually to stop the war was predictable; yet they were still useful, because they let the war machine know we’re paying attention. That may not sound like much, but in historical terms it matters.
History can be read as an attempt to set limits on the power of Thorsten Veblen’s leisure class. This task has consumed millions of lives so far in conflicts like the revolt of the English barons against King John, the Napoleonic wars, and the revolutions of 1848. The founders of the United States, rich white male owners of land, and in many cases slaves, were tired of paying for the instruments of their own subjugation. The civil rights movement was a similar revolt against a form of exploitation both longer in duration and more vicious in character. Likewise, the various attempts at gender equality intend to right wrongs perpetrated over millennia.
As we celebrate the bits of progress we’ve made in some areas, we simultaneously notice a consistent pattern of two steps forward and one step back. Sometimes failing even to reach that standard, we’re left playing whack-a-mole with the Seven Deadlies.
I claim this is due to a fundamental advantage owned by one side in the Great American Class War, the single most taboo subject in our culture of free speech. That advantage consists of nothing more than an overt consciousness of the existence of the war.
As much as we strut our so-called democracy, we Americans struggle still with our own monarchical demons. As Bob Altemeyer tells us, there are plenty of people in the US today who pay lip service to the Constitution and the republic, and even convince themselves that they honor the principles, but would willingly coöperate with a heavily repressive government against their neighbors, according to their own responses about hypothetical situations. Many believe that what the country needs is a strong leader to force everyone to follow the rules (lots of Canadians think this too, it’s not just Americans).
How they reconcile this naïve faith in the strongman theory of government with professed beliefs in freedom and democracy is, to say the least, beyond the scope of this discussion. But Altemeyer’s work leaves no doubt that more of our neighbors fit this category than we might expect or hope. Not convinced? Consider how many Americans will vote for John McCain in November. Think of those who spent their day trying to get within cellphone-camera range of the Pope. High RWAs are everywhere; I still see, here in perhaps the ultimate Left Coast city, bumper stickers proclaiming the owner’s true President to be the no-longer-Presidential Charlton Heston.
The most hopeful aspect of Altemeyer’s data is that those students who arrive at his university classes are able to grow and to some extent transcend their limited viewpoints when their personal experience doesn’t fit with their preconceptions. This, really, is all one can hope from a human, it seems to me. We make models of the world. When we’re young, our models are pretty much mashups of stuff from adults we like and admire. As we grow up, we encounter mismatches between our models and the world around us. Then what? As long as we keep modifying our models, we’re okay; it’s when we begin to berate the world for not matching the model that we create trouble for ourselves and those around us.
Altemeyer’s data suggest that people, even those brought up in very conservative households more oriented toward tradition than thinking things through for yourself, do tend to modify their models when confronted with new information. Education, thankfully, does seem to impart some wisdom along with the socialization.
A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.
Which brings me, finally, to my central question. What is the source of, and where are the supply lines for, the sense of entitlement that oozes from the Clinton machine? As we see this new strain of activism arise among younger Americans, why are Clinton supporters moved to complain that Obama has brought so many into the party?
They make no secret of it ! They BRAG that this new party is made up of Newbies and Youngsters and Independents and CrossOvers from the other party.
Yeah, well, you certainly wouldn’t want to attract any new voters into the party; that would upset the apple cart, or more accurately the bribery trough (subscription again, sorry).
I plan to keep reminding people that I predicted Obama would win at least as long ago as May 2007. I still doubt I’ll vote for him, largely because I don’t agree with his policies.
But what I find particularly galling is the Clintonites’ apparent belief that the nomination is theirs by right. From Herself to Carville to Penn to bloggers, the Clinton folks somehow can’t seem to wrap their minds around the idea that line is being cut, that they might not get that chance at the wheel (or the trough) that they’ve striven and sacrificed and perhaps prostituted for.
How do they justify trying to show that Hillary would be leading if only the Democratic primaries were run like the Republicans? Why do they persist in thinking that the nomination is theirs by right, and anyone who fails to help them get it is cheating? Is it just that they think their time in line deserves the expected payout? Can they imagine actually caring about the country more than themselves? Can they even separate, in their hearts and minds, the country’s welfare from their own personal advancement?
I’ve come, I must admit, to a certain cynicism about establishment politics. The American system, like all others, is at root a cover for plutocracy. In reality, this is the only type of government, though there are many skins for it. The question is, who profits, who’s fooled, who’s angry?
It seems at this moment that the Clinton/DLC wing of the Democratic party would rather see McCain in the White House than Obama, would choose to be in charge of the flailings of a dying empire rather than contribute to the building of a new world. I hope that evaluation is wrong.
When I encounter some of the ravings of the Hillary crowd, the thought crosses my mind of climbing on the Obama bandwagon, just to drive the Clinton machine and the DLC crazy. But I admit I’d probably be hoping also that we’d recover the wheel of the Democratic party, a hope bound to be frustrated. At least, so says the omniscient TM.
In this one-size-fits-all analysis, Mr. Obama must be the new Dukakis, sure to be rejected by white guys easily manipulated by Lee Atwater-style campaigns exploiting race and class. But some voters who lived through 1988 have changed, and quite a few others are dead. In 2008, they are supplanted in part by an energized African-American electorate and the young voters of all economic strata who fueled the Obama movement that many pundits didn’t take seriously before Iowa. And that some still don’t. Cokie Roberts of ABC predicted in February that young voters probably won’t show up in November because “they never have before” and “they’ll be tired.”
However out of touch Mr. Obama is with “ordinary Americans,” many Americans, ordinary and not, have concluded that the talking heads blathering about blue-collar men, religion, guns and those incomprehensible “YouTube young people” are even more condescending and out of touch. When a Washington doyenne like Mary Matalin, freighted with jewelry, starts railing about elitists on “Meet the Press,” as she did last Sunday, it’s pure farce. It’s typical of the syndrome that the man who plays a raging populist on CNN, Lou Dobbs, dismissed Mr. Obama last week by saying “we don’t need another Ivy League-educated knucklehead.” Mr. Dobbs must know whereof he speaks, since he’s Harvard ’67.
From Xymphora. What think?
I’m starting to think Obama is crazy like a fox. He keeps saying true but outrageous things which provoke Hillary and the Republicans into an over-the-top frenzy, so over-the-top in fact that it just emphasizes the truth of what he said. Once the smoke clears, Obama’s popularity goes up.
There has been an ongoing Great Depression in the rust belt and the mid-West since the late eighties (which has lifted in some farming communities due to the biofuel craze). People are bitter about it, and particularly bitter about how lying Clinton-era stats show how the 90s were the Golden Age, when their own communities were dying.
The Coasts, where people make money talking and manipulating intangibles, did well at the expense of the middle, where people used to make things. Having the mansion-owning Bi-Coastal elites feign outrage on behalf of the working classes makes people even more bitter.
I am not so completely clueless as never to have heard of the Obama Girl. But until recently I was clueless enough not to know who she was or what she did.
Now I find that she is a kid from Hazelton, a town in Pennsylvania that is about as hard as scrabble gets. And here is what she does:
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.
From today’s Washington Post:
Standing with two of his Senate colleagues at the Citadel, a set of ancient ruins in downtown Amman, McCain told reporters that he is concerned about Iran’s influence in Iraq and cited a recently discovered cache of weapons that he said could be particularly lethal in being used to target Americans in the country.
“We continue to be concerned about Iranian [operatives] taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back,” he said in comments after meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Tuesday afternoon.
Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it is “common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran; that’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.”
A few moments later, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in his ear. McCain then said, “I’m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda.”
I was disorganized enough to have missed Obama’s speech in Philadelphia this morning, nor have I read it yet. But here’s the transcript. More later…
Okay, this is later. First a couple of other people’s reactions to the speech. Here’s James Fallows of The Atlantic, Jimmy Carter’s chief speechwriter:
…as impressive and intelligent a speech as I have heard in a very long time. People thought that Mitt Romney’s speech would be the counterpart to John Kennedy’s famous speech about his faith to the Houston ministers in 1960. No. This was.And here’s the Rude Pundit, your basic tough audience, live-blogging from under his bridge:
Will this defuse the Rev. Wright issue? Who knows what cable news will make of the speech. But it was a great moment, to which Barack Obama rose.
(Update: …I will correct the preceding sentence. It was a moment that Obama made great through the seriousness, intelligence, eloquence, and courage of what he said. I don’t recall another speech about race with as little pandering or posturing or shying from awkward points, and as much honest attempt to explain and connect, as this one.)
10:59: Damn. We’re not used to this sort of honesty from a candidate. Can’t compute. Cynicism circuit shorting out.
11:00: Talking about Wright, he’s gonna hang the Reverend out to dry, says Wright’s comments present a “distorted” view of America. Whew. Thank god, the cynicism circuit can work again.
11:02: Oh, shit, now he’s getting Wright’s back. Saying that Wright’s a Marine who has credibility, intelligence, compassion. Shorting out again.
11:16: Addresses affirmative action and welfare anger and how politicians and the media have exploited those things. How the Reagan Revolution was based on it. The Rude Pundit gets an erection.
11:23: Brings up OJ, Katrina, Wright, says we can keep race as a divisive issue and “nothing will change.” This is the straightest talk this blogger has heard from a major presidential candidate in a very, very long time, maybe, truly, without hyperbole, in his lifetime.
11:27: “This union may not be perfect, but...it can always be perfected.” That’ll be the line that’s quoted endlessly. Like here.
Bottom line: that was a m______f___in’ speech by a m______f___in’ President of the United States. You remember what that’s like? No, not here either.
And here’s video of the whole speech.
Stipulating that true change must come from true grass roots rather than national politics, I propose a thought experiment related to the upcoming Presidential election.
The way I read the campaign right now, Sen. McCain is chortling on the sidelines watching Sen. Clinton, whom one of his supporters famously called a bitch, ripping into Sen. Obama, the purveyer of hope to many young and otherwise formerly excluded voters. What can one project from such a scenario?
First, it appears that we can confidently look forward to a Senator moving to the Oval Office for the first since JFK.
Second, the Clinton machine seems to be willing to exercise the Sampson option, bringing down the house to avoid losing. They’ve already run through a good portion of the book of tricks. They’ve tried to change the rules when it looked like it would help them; they’ve played the race card every time there’s a chance; recently they’ve switched to the victim card; and they excuse the lot by explaining that the Republicans will do worse in the general. Even some people who consider themselves friends and supporters are dismayed by the tone taken by the Clinton machine in the primary. It’s almost as if the Clinton/DLC faction has adapted to Republican attacks by mirroring the style.
This leaves Obama’s campaign in a quandary. To strike back is to abandon his most saleable feature, the ability to rise above the hurly burly and remain focused on hope, and, we can hope, solutions as well. Can he be provoked into losing his above-it-all-ness? (After all, Putin will be worse…)
Which provides the backdrop for my experiment. It looks like there four possible scenarios:
Options 1 and 3, either Clinton or Obama is nominated but loses to McCain, seem to me to leave the Clinton machine in the cold. If the Democrats lose in November in this political and economic climate, as Nader says, they should close up shop and go home. Or at least the DLC should. Maybe then we could begin to tilt the Democratic party back toward its democratic roots. Either way, the US and the world will be a weird and dangerous place with a temperamental lobbyist-loving militarist like McCain roaming the White House at night.
Option 4 avoids the worst dangers of McCain, but makes the Clintons the previous generation, no longer exciting or relevant.
Option 2, Clinton becomes President anyway, seems to me the least likely of the four, but it’s the only one in which the formerly all-pervading influence of the Clinton Clique on the Democratic party heirarchy is not greatly diminished.
The current direction of the campaign process, fodder for the VRWC’s echo chamber, is alienating many Obama supporters and some potential ones as well. Clintonian campaigning, like Rovian, is nearly the political equivalent of total war, i.e., there are no civilians and nothing is banned. Presumably it’s the lack of alternatives to the loss of power that has brought the Clinton machine to this expedient.
The question that intrigues me is, will true-blue Democrats blame the Clintons if the Democrat loses in November? Should they? Or will they blame the left wing for not signing onto four more years of Iraq and Wall Street-friendly financial policies?
Good stuff from Dennis Perrin on the MSM’s current fan-fluttering and attacks of the vapors over Obama’s pastor’s ventures into truth-telling.
In the real world, out where the flag-lapel crowd and the yellow ribbon boys never venture, 9/11 was indeed, as Reverend Jeremiah Wright said, the result of stupid and provocative actions taken by the United States in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Israel.
This is not to excuse the 9/11 attacks. They were evil, murderous and unforgivable. But so had been our own actions in the Middle East and Afghanistan, over many years and many presidents. There are no good guys in this alley fight. This is essentially what Reverend Wright said, and he was right. Get over it, people.
And go read Perrin’s piece on the Reverend, from whence cometh this:
I've been pretty hard on the Obama campaign, and still am; but if anything would soften my view, it's this bullshit furor over Jeremiah Wright. If you are white and don't listen to black talk radio, now would be a good time to start.
Wright's opinions are not deemed crazy there, and you'll hear much stronger denunciations of imperialism and racism than you ever will on a white liberal's show. Sure, some dementia is present: this is America, after all.
But contrast the opinions exchanged between African-Americans to those expressed on the corporate kabuki programs, or worse, white reactionary broadcasts. Which do you think is closer to what's actually going on?
And speaking of white reactionary programs, here’s Rush Limbaugh, who is apparently back on his meds:
Later in the day, Rush Limbaugh dwelled on Mr. Wright in his radio program, calling him “a race-baiter and a hatemonger.”
The Clinton campaign’s response to the Ferraro flap provides another indication that the macrocosm is reflected in the microcosm.
One who considers both remaining Democratic candidates classic examples of the DLC strategy for destroying the party may attempt to innoculate himself against ism charges by pointing to past votes for Presidential tickets headed by a black man, Ron Daniels, and seconded by a woman, Geraldine Ferraro.
We need a transformative vision, one advancing the notion that America can be more than it is today for average, ordinary people. The Democratic Party should advocate a program of basic rights, like the one enjoyed by many social democratic countries in Europe. Americans really feel that they have the best standard of living in the world. They don’t, but they don’t know they don’t. Virtually every nation in Western Europe has universal health care. In Sweden, Norway, and Holland, the social benefits are so generous that poverty has been practically eliminated. Wages in most European countries now outpace wages in the United States.
If I remember correctly, back in August 2004 the dollar was still worth more than the euro; so presumably he was talking about value, not exchange rates.
My vote for Ron Daniels was the first time I was really happy casting a ballot for President, and I was still pleased the next day. That experience molded my judgment: I felt better about myself for voting for the candidate I really thought was the best. Indeed, I’d vote for someone running on his platform again.
I wasn’t naïve enough to think that the American plutocracy would let such a program be implemented. But I still think it would work, in the sense of accomplishing all reasonable goals. It’s just a question of when we decide to move forward.
The reason we don’t do it, of course, is that “all reasonable goals” is an incomplete set: it doesn’t include the normal focus of American communal actions. The basis of our economic system, and thus of our political and social systems as well, is a particularly feral variation of the capitalist mythology. The skeleton seems to have been adopted in toto from Veblen. To help developing countries reach our exalted heights, we talk up free-market solutions we assiduously avoided, as William Greider documents.
Our economic methodology encourages the emergence of a very small number of very successful survivors. Whether they excel through honesty and business acumen (Buffett) or prefer to game the system (Gates, Ellison), they inhabit a rarified atmosphere reserved for those smart, lucky, and vicious enough to reach it. Social Darwinism, the philosophy was called, back in the days when it was considered gauche. Nowadays we know from gene-pool studies that variety is not merely the spice but the touchstone. Survival of the fittest in a vicious business world produces the most vicious businesspeople, who may not be ideal seed corn.
More importantly, we have arrived at the first moment in history in which life does not have to center around a struggle for insufficient resources. Sure, we're running out of oil, and private corporations are buying public water supplies; but that's because our economic system is geared toward concentration of wealth rather than distribution of capabilities.
If we chose, we could feed, clothe, house, and educate every American. Why don't we choose that?
Unfortunately the second half of this tale is neither so uplifting nor so edifying. The sad spectacle that surrounds the one-time nominee for Vice President, Geraldine Ferraro, for whom I voted proudly at the time, seems at this point devoid of moral beyond the simple one enforced on commuter trains in the Bay Area: don’t be a jerk, or at least don’t let others know you’re a jerk. It’s surprising how difficult some people find that task.
I’m surprised, too, by the reports that she said Jesse Jackson wouldn’t have been in the 1984 Presidential field if he weren’t black. Still, no one seems to be denying two things.
To me this is another example of my political theory of entitlements. The territory of the Democratic party has been occupated by disgruntled Republicans. After the MLK/LBJ civil-rights bills, the racists, sexists, homophobes, and xenophobes congregated around the Republican banner. Those Republicans who thought of blacks as “mentally inferior” as opposed to “hanging material” gradually found themselves at the left end of the party, and some became independents or Democrats. Personally I’m stunned to find Ferraro among such reprobates, but there it is.
Dwelling on the conspicuous concern for self over party and country exhibited by both Clintons in every imaginable type of situation is duplicative. My point here is the sense of entitlement.
Many Democrats, uncomfortable with their decision to support wooden and unconvincing candidates (not all of whom even pursue legitimate wins), seem to consider the votes of everyone in America to the left of Katherine Harris their rightful territory. Sure, you say you wouldn’t have voted for the Democrat even if we legally prevented you from voting for a Green or a Libertarian; but we know you’re lying. Your vote is ours, so hand it over.
Perhaps it’s a similar deal with Ferraro. As a woman who’s withstood the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, perhaps she figures it’s her turn. She, and her avatar Hillary, deserve their time with the scepter. Will she overcome the challenge, diminish, and go into the West? Or succumb to the lure of the Ring, the Dark Side, the power?
Hillary’s supporters, no more DLC than Obama’s at the party-hierarchy level, nevertheless have a greater sense of entitlement. [Update: (Sirota) “Why do the Clintons always treat the public like we are just drop-dead stupid?”] Is that what we mean by electability? How likely is that to work in the general?
The Clinton wing of the DLC seems to have announced its willingness to follow what Seymour Hersh called the Sampson Option: pull down the house rather than let anyone else win.
Good! Let the Republican party disappear, the DLC rename itself the Republicans, the Green party rename itself the Democrats, and the remaining Greens return to leading the way.
From the New York Times:
“Every time that campaign is upset about something, they call it racist,” she said. “I will not be discriminated against because I’m white. If they think they’re going to shut up Geraldine Ferraro with that kind of stuff, they don’t know me.”
Creating a movement’s not like it used to be.
It’s very hard in this modern day of ours to build mass movements. Look how hard it is just to get people to turn out for rallies and marches. We did better dozens and dozens of years ago on this score as a nation. But we’re calling our campaign an ’08/’09 campaign and by that we mean that we’d like to bring together in each Congressional district about 1,000 publicly conscious citizens who will form a watchdog lobby on Congress and put before Congress about ten major redirections of the country, like single-payer health insurance etc. … Every Congressional district has about 600,000 people in it. Just about every Congressional district has community colleges, colleges and other institutions that can be tapped into for these 1,000 people. I can’t overemphasize, as a person who’s worked on the Congress for over forty years and testified and exposed it, I can’t overemphasize the enormous turnaround value of a thousand people connected to one another holding accountability sessions, challenging the members of Congress putting pressure — you know, the good old-fashioned American way of lobbying, how it can change the Congress. And the Congress can pivot the entire federal government. It’s the most powerful branch of government if it chooses to use its constitutional powers, and that’s what we’re aiming for. The more people we get in this campaign the more we’ll say to them, Well, after November there’s going to be a real focused movement in each Congressional district. So we’re going to have the table out there for people to put their cards on in terms of mobilizing. Without that it’s not going to happen.
Muhammed Cohen expostulates wittily on on McCain's possible VP choices, considering Rice, Powell, Romney, Huckabee, and several others.
The Democrats are almost certain to field either a female or a black candidate; so the Republicans need to keep up with the Joneses (Veblen’s urge to emulation). Cohen considers the positives and negatives of the people John McCain is probably considering. For instance, the governor of Alaska, popular for anti-corruption stances, would be an excellent pick, but pregnancy means she’s unlikely to be interested in spending every waking hour on the campaign trail.
One of the most interesting possibilities is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, 36, a Roman Catholic son of Punjabi immigrants, who has apparently become a Limbaugh favorite. Cohen recommends him.
In the end, though, Muhammed Cohen figures there’s one choice who comes closest to being everything the Republican party wants.
Is there a black man out there who would firm up McCain’s right flank, get love from the Republican establishment, and, unlike Rice, at least potentially appeal to African-Americans? Yes, and he’s been hiding in plain sight since 1991.
At its heart, the vice presidential choice is a cynical, craven appeal to voters. On one hand, the vice presidential nominee is supposed to be ready for the presidency, and voters can even prefer the running mate to headliner. But the presidential nominee absolutely, positively doesn’t want the vice president to become president. The Clintons raised the cynical art form to a new low in recent days with their suggestions of Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama as Hillary Clinton’s running mate while questioning his fitness for the top job.
But when it comes to cynicism in politics featuring race, one name should leap to mind: Clarence Thomas. …
…the most cynical part of putting Thomas on the ticket is perhaps the most appealing to Republican grandees. As a sitting Supreme Court Justice, appointed for life and virtually untouchable, Thomas would have to be nuts to trade that job for the vice presidency. But that doesn’t mean he can’t run for the office while keeping his Supreme Court seat. It’s possible that he could serve as vice president and a Supreme Court justice at the same time, but the simpler solution would be to resign as vice president if he’s elected.
Trent Lott won re-election to a six-year term as Mississippi senator, but resigned a year later to become a lobbyist. Thomas would simply be setting the clock further ahead. Thomas’ resignation in November would let McCain pick from a large field of Republican worthies likely to be out of work after the November vote. A pitcher of spit that’s a heartbeat from the presidency looks pretty good if you’re unemployed.
Naw, they wouldn’t stoop to that…
Seems to me that these are the only poll numbers that Democratic voters, delegates and super-delegates ought to be paying serious attention to. And these match-up figures have held fairly steady throughout the ups and downs of the primary season.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain trails Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in hypothetical matchups, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Wednesday.
Illinois Sen. Obama leads McCain by 12 percentage points — 52 percent to 40 percent; New York Sen. Clinton leads McCain by 6 points — 50 percent to 44 percent, the poll found.
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.
The crisis call did not come at 3 a.m. It came much later in the morning and our leader's reaction was to continue reading to the children, then to go to ground instead of leading and calming the nation, and only then belatedly to deplore the attack that killed some 3,000 Americans on that clear September day.
Next he asked all Americans to support a counterattack by shopping, following which he invaded a country that had nothing to do with the attack on us.
It’s worth remembering what the GOP's president really did and did not do as the Republicans are set to run an Iraq War enabler to succeed him. Meanwhile the Democrats are wavering between two candidates, one of them another Iraq enabler who, like her rival (as well as Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Reagan, Carter, etc.) and like herself, has little foreign policy experience.
This just in from Judy in Canada:
Hello. all you friends south of the border. Paul and I were so disgusted at the news that our Rove-aping nasty prime minister, Harper, managed to give Obama problems at a critical moment in his campaign that Paul stayed awake most of the night stewing about it.
I was so shocked by the coverage it was getting that I wanted to write all the Sunday talk show types and tell them that Harper in no way represents the majority of Canadians. His is a minority government far to the right of 65% of the population.
He’s a roll-up of Bush, Cheney and Rove. Puts out awful attack ads, sets new foreign policy that makes most of us cringe, refuses to get serious about climate change. But worst of all, we’ll have a tough time getting rid of him because the Opposition is made up of four parties — and the Liberals, the largest and the most centrist, with a progressive leader, are still struggling among themselves after a long divisive leadership race 18 months ago.
So that’s the frustration we’re feeling here today as we as we realize that Harper is every bit the malicious bully we’ve thought and more. We’re ready for change we can believe in! And we share the concerns about NAFTA. How about co-operation on fair trade? That would be nice. Here are two stories that illustrate the way our PM operates.
Yesterday, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Ralph Nader announced that Matt Gonzalez, the former President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, will be his VP running mate. Check out the video of the press conference.
[UPDATE: I don’t mean to blame everything on some abstract statisical group. My RWA score was higher than I expected, only slightly below the overall average, so I obviously am not exactly as I think of myself.]
On April 6, 1993, speaking at the University of Texas on the 75th day of the Clinton presidency, Hillary Clinton invoked Lee Atwater. He was the Republican dirty tricks expert who tutored Karl Rove in gutter politics. Atwater had died of cancer two years earlier, an ordeal which led him to repentance for his repulsive life. From Clinton’s speech:
He said the following: “Long before I was struck with cancer, I felt something stirring in American society. It was a sense among the people of the counry, Republicans and Decmocrats alike, that something was missing from their lives — something crucial. I was trying to position the Republican Party to take advantage of it. But I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society was what missing in me. A little heart, a lot of brotherhood.
“The eighties were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye-to-eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up with its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime.
“I don’t know who will lead us through the nineties, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society — this tumor of the soul.”
Fifteeen years later Hillary hoped to speak to this vacuum, but Obama spoke better, and there you have it. As the Bible says, The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Americans enjoy thinking of themselves as the best and brightest. Unfortunately the data seem to contradict that belief.
Fewer than half of American teenagers who were asked basic history and literature questions in a phone survey knew when the Civil War was fought, and one in four said Columbus sailed to the New World some time after 1750, not in 1492.
About a quarter of the teenagers were unable to correctly identify Hitler as Germany’s chancellor in World War II, instead identifying him as a munitions maker, an Austrian premier and the German kaiser.
On literature, the teenagers fared even worse. Four in 10 could pick the name of Ralph Ellison’s novel about a young man’s growing up in the South and moving to Harlem, “Invisible Man,” from a list of titles. About half knew that in the Bible Job is known for his patience in suffering. About as many said he was known for his skill as a builder, his prowess in battle or his prophetic abilities.
The proportion of writers who don’t know when it’s okay to split an infinitive was apparently not calculated by this survey, but we can certainly point to at least one New York Times writer who falls into that category. What Strunk calls incorrect comma placement is apparently part of the Times style manual, so the writer cannot be blamed for that.
It’s particularly impressive that in a country so taken with the literal truth of a book produced by politicians three centuries after the fact (if there was one), half of those in school, and therefore closest to the moment of learning, are seriously confused about what that book says.
But even if the best and brightest (i.e., Americans who slavishly follow whatever the right wing of the Democratic party says), sometimes make egregious errors, I thank whatever gods may be that we’re not like the benighted and godless commies (subscription required).
Our liberal enemies say that Nashi is a Kremlin project designed to protect against an Orange Revolution. Naturally, liberals like Garry Kasparov are not fascists or terrorists. But their criticism is precisely what allows teams of Chechen terrorists to roam free all over Europe. Vladimir Putin has subdued the spread of fascist ideology. Liberals now defend fascism. Their hatred for Putin has obscured everything else.
All hail the Great Leader Putin! Or, in our case, whoever the DLC nominates.
The prodigal fubar beat me to the punch this morning commenting on the NaderTraitor and his GOoPer sugar daddies.
Strange how NaderTraitor seems to pop up at the most inconvenient moments for the Dems. I really have a hard time understanding his motivation.
Perhaps somewhere in the Rove blackmail files, there is a picture of Ralph doing something really embarrassing, like giving fellatio to a billy goat. In fact, it is probably a three-way that includes Tony Blair — I never could understand how that smart intelligent liberal could become Bush’s Bitch overnight.
Shame Ralph couldn’t be a man about it and commit seppuku.
The same could be said for others, whose lives have contributed far less to the common good than Nader’s.
Hillary Clinton, yesterday:
“We’ve seen the tragic result of having a president who had neither the experience nor the wisdom to manage our foreign policy and safeguard our national security,” Mrs. Clinton said in a speech on foreign policy at George Washington University. “We can’t let that happen again.”
We have also seen the tragic results of having senators who lacked the guts and/or the wisdom to vote against handing a loaded gun to that president. Since Mrs. Clinton clings stubbornly to her earlier belief that two and two do too make five, wouldn’t she just “let that happen again?”
I’m tempted to say the crybabies have escaped from the playpens, but such a severe cut might undermine my ability to convince them to grow up, so I’ll refrain.
Instead I’ll limit myself to this: silly season is back. It’s once again chic to portray yourself incorrectly as the aggrieved party in a situation of clear moral imperatives, to which the present is epilogue; and to reason from moronic and completely irrelevant bases.
I’ll offer an analogy to make this clear. Let’s suppose that a man, we’ll call him “George”, asks you for ammunition so that he can shoot people. If you give him one bullet, and he kills someone, you are an accomplis [sic], even if 100 other people also give him ammunition and weapons that he uses in his shooting spree. Moreover, to continue the analogy, you should ask yourself, what kind of man would express no remorse for lending that bullet and then would go so far as to give the guy another bullet four years later.
And after all, who can deny that opposing everything about a war involves more complicity than voting to start it and repeatedly funding every request? Simplicity itself: I think it, therefore it’s true, the facts be damned. But we’re different from Rush and Drudge and Hannity…
That’s good for a laugh but not for increasing understanding. As Bertrand Russell said, if you have a good logical argument, you make it. If not, you make emotional arguments. Or silly ones. You decide to vote for a war supporter even though you’re against the war, because the last time you prostituted your vote you didn’t get what you expected. Of course, you’ve never gotten what you expected. (This time, though, you just know it’ll be different.)
As with most areas of life, Americans are screwing up because they’re innocent of knowledge with respect to how their country works. And how other countries work. And what’s happened in the past. And, frankly, everything that isn’t on television. (Even then…)
Typical of the lot, Josh Marshall, from some blog called Talking Points Memo (probably a Frank Luntz associate), titles his post “Bush’s Chief Enabler Signs On”.
These folks are no doubt well intentioned; they might even hope to fulfill the role of citizens if provided with an education. But they start with the disadvantage of being Right-Wing Authoritarians.
I begin by noting the convergence of three qualities among Nader haters. First, they’re without exception conventional; they believe the Democratic Party is the fount of all goodness, and anyone who doesn’t succumb to the party’s blandishments is either a Republican or, worse, someone who sees how wonderful the party is and refuses to help it. “Who’s the candidate, what’s the platform, what policies can we expect?” Who are you to ask? We tell you who to vote for, and you do it, or you’re an enemy. Less human than the godly Democrats. The brave Democrats.
Bravely bold Sir Robin rode forth from Camelot
He was not afraid to die, O brave Sir Robin
He was not at all afraid to be killed in nasty ways
Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin
Second, they have an uncanny knack for surrendering their personal judgements to those of the DJ, er, I mean, DNC. Or is it DLC? The Pope? Authoritarian submission in vitro. Whoever the party — sorry, The Party — nominates is fine with me. At least it won’t be whoever The Other Party nominates.
Third, they unleash their violent demons, previously inhibited by the necessities of the life of wimpy liberals, when they perceive that Authoritah would approve. With the addition of authoritarian violence, we complete the proof. Quod erat demonstrandum.
So what do we know of the genesis of RWA personalities — what issues lead people in that direction? Well, Altemeyer’s work has shown that two factors account for the vast majority of observed behavior: fear and self-righteousness. Those who fear opposition, who are scared that they won’t be able to hold onto their world views if things change, who wonder why everyone doesn’t agree with them, who can’t stand batting their ideas around in a free forum, are likely to feel threatened every time someone disagrees. Coupled with a belief that they’re right, completely, and anyone who disagrees is handing bullets to a shooter, you have the fanatic, also known these days as the Obama supporter. (One thing you gotta say about Clinton supporters, they’re not True Believers, they’re just hoping for high-status jobs.)
As a result they’re slinging mud that would make Drudge proud, pretending a deep knowledge of politics, while acknowledging the opposite in the same sentence.
Ross Perot’s campaign also seem [sic] to accomplish little for his objectives, which I barely remember, other than to help Clinton win the Presidency.
What proof is stronger than the lack of memory? If you can’t remember Perot’s objectives, they must not have been accomplished. He must have been wrong about the Giant Sucking Sound. But then, you wouldn’t know what that was anyway; you can’t get it on an iPod. (Actually I’m sure you could, but you wouldn’t be able to pay attention long enough to follow the argument.)
How would these people argue their case against Howard Zinn?
Today, we can be sure that the Democratic Party, unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center. The two leading Presidential candidates have made it clear that if elected, they will not bring an immediate end to the Iraq War, or institute a system of free health care for all.
They offer no radical change from the status quo.
They do not propose what the present desperation of people cries out for: a government guarantee of jobs to everyone who needs one, a minimum income for every household, housing relief to everyone who faces eviction or foreclosure.
They do not suggest the deep cuts in the military budget or the radical changes in the tax system that would free billions, even trillions, for social programs to transform the way we live.
None of this should surprise us. The Democratic Party has broken with its historic conservatism, its pandering to the rich, its predilection for war, only when it has encountered rebellion from below, as in the Thirties and the Sixties. We should not expect that a victory at the ballot box in November will even begin to budge the nation from its twin fundamental illnesses: capitalist greed and militarism.
Americans do care about their country. They care about their environment, and what will be left for their kids. They demand to know which channel they should watch in order to wash their hands of the problem.
Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war. Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.
Unfortunately it appears that the sets of Democrats and concerned citizens have a decreasing intersection. Or perhaps it’s just the Will Rogers Democrat coming out: no matter who you’re for, unless they’re my choice too I’m against them. People who hate people, come together!
Or more accurately, people who believe they can only win by compelling others to act against their best judgement, against their will. Nader runs because the Democrats continue to offer Republican policies. He began exploring the minute Edwards dropped out. He offered to drop out in 2004 if the Democrats would adopt a few of his basic policies. But the Democrats were in hock to the same folks that own the Republicans.
Personally I feel a certain amount of negativity toward war enablers. That doesn’t mean people who act, speak, and vote against war. It means those who fund, vote, or speak for war. In other words, I’m no longer a Democrat, because I’m against war, while the Democrats continue to enable it. I favor peace, universal health care, controlling corporations, and trying to repair the environmental damage we’ve done; so I intend to vote for someone whose policies are in line with those goals. If you think the Democratic candidate will do that, I suggest you vote for that candidate. I don’t, so I expect I won’t.
This ran several days ago in Salon. com. To see it in its original home, go here. Not all of the commenters were won over by my arguments.
I know exactly how Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick felt on seeing his words from their author's womb unfairly ripped by Barack Obama.
I've been feeling the same way ever since the presidential campaign of 1984, when I wrote this for Walter Mondale:"In Reagan's America, a rising tide lifts all yachts." Mr. Mondale lost every state but Minnesota, but my line lived on. Through the years it has been stolen by the best — Molly Ivins, Ralph Nader, Joseph Stiglitz, Warren Buffett, Doonesbury — and always without credit.
Do I feel used? Cheated? No, I feel the same way I did in 1988 when the media went into snit mode on discovering that Joe Biden — the horror, the horror! — had failed to footnote a line or two he lifted from a British politician. I just feel indifferent.
The awful truth is that speechwriters have a secret, unwritten code. In obedience to it, the first thing we do on finding ourselves in the White House is to rummage through the papers of past presidents in search of things to pilfer.
Here's one such thing, from Warren G. Harding's keynote address at the 1916 Republican Convention: "We must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it, and more anxious about what it can do for the nation."
With the subtraction of a few syllables and the addition of a soupçon of affectation ("Ask not?"), Harding's piffle could be and was recycled for John F. Kennedy's inaugural address — just as Harding himself had swiped it from a speech Oliver Wendell Holmes gave in 1884. Nor was Holmes likely to have been the first to come up with the general idea, which after all basically reduces to nothing more than, "Don't expect me to do everything around this house, young lady."
And nor was I the first to come up with that business about rising yachts. I can't find any earlier evidence of it on the Internet, but that means nothing. All us monkeys pounding on all those typewriters for all those years? Somebody wrote it before.
Virtually all writing is plagiarism anyway, whether the writer knows it or not. Very few ideas, except out at the cutting edge of science, have not occurred to somebody before and been written down in one form or other. The only function remaining for the writer is to repeat in today's idiom what has already been written, somewhat differently, for readers in the past. This is particularly true in political prose, which tends to be light on facts and innocent of all but a few childish ideas.
To criticize a politician for plagiarizing, then, is no more sensible than to criticize a fish for swimming. It is what both animals are designed to do. The only sensible criticism would focus on how effectively political speech does the job for which it is intended. How skillfully does the politician mix and administer the small dose of simplistic placebos which the patient is considered able to handle?
For instance, this draft language for a speech was written in 1860 by the incoming secretary of state, William Henry Seward. Note that it is entirely free of meaning:
"The mystic chords which, proceeding from so many battlefields and so many patriotic graves, pass through all the hearts and all hearths in this broad continent of ours, will yet again harmonize in their ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angel of the nation."
Seward's boss repurposed this into:
"The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
This is equally free of meaning, but goes a considerable way toward explaining why Seward was the incoming secretary of state and Lincoln was the incoming president. It ain't what you say but how you say it.
And that is why the Clinton camp has found itself reduced to rolling out the pop gun of plagiarism at this difficult point in the campaign. They have no other artillery. But as somebody or other may have more or less said somewhere else, Obama probably has nothing to fear from smear itself.
In November I hope to vote for a candidate promoting the following policies.
Also sprach Vicente Navarro:
The class divide is larger than ever. Obama and (later) Clinton have called for ending this divide and healing this schism. One can understand the calls to end the race and gender divide. But, what is meant by ending class division? The call by Obama to “unite the rich and the poor” is intriguing to say the least. It seems to assume that rich and poor have a commonality of interests that simply needs to be mobilized for a better America. This certainly makes Obama nonthreatening to the media and to the political establishments (the rich), which may explain the very favorable coverage he is receiving from the establishments’ media.
Ted Rall is at it again.
“I want the Republicans to feel the way I did in 2004,” an Iowa Democrat told The New York Times. So do I. I want them to watch everything they care about disassembled. Take Reagan and Bush’s names off the airports, nationalize major corporations, demolish Gitmo, gay marriage — anything that pisses them off.
I want revenge. Obama preaches reconciliation. “I will create a working majority because I won’t demonize my opponents,” says Obama. The Illinois senator is an interesting politician and might make a good leader. But not yet. Give me eight years of Democratic rule as ruthless and extreme and uncompromising as the last eight years of Bush. Then we can have some bipartisanship.
Obama’s let’s-tiptoe-through-the-tulips-with-the-GOP shtick amounts to bargaining with yourself. If a vendor at a flea market offers to sell you a lamp for $10 and you’re willing to pay $8, you don’t offer $8. Demonize, Barack, demonize!
Oh, and Obama says he wouldn’t have voted for the Iraq War. I say he’ s lying. So do his votes for funding the war since he joined the Senate. His voting record on Iraq is the same as Hillary’s.
Hillary, no. Obama? Nobama. What to do?
I subscribe to the Evans-Novak Political Report and you don’t so here’s what the Prince of Darkness has to say this week:
Amid the exciting windup of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination and the mop-up of the Republican contest, the reality is that 2008 shapes up as a very bad year for the GOP. The fact that the Democratic turnout in yesterday’s Virginia primary was double the Republican reflects the larger, more boisterous Democratic rallies from Iowa to the Potomac primaries. The pessimism and gloom in the business community is particularly pronounced.
Adding to the dark mood among Republicans is the increasing prospect that they will not be able to bolster their morale by running against the detested Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). Her unification of Republicans has been one of the few GOP assets going into the campaign. It will take time and effort to work up a passion against the likable Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) no matter how leftist he really is.
While the Democratic delegate race looks like a dead heat, all the momentum is with Obama. He showed increasing ability to win white votes yesterday. The Clinton campaign is in disarray with the sacking of the campaign manager and the resignation of the deputy campaign manager, plus the migration of campaign contributors to Obama. Clinton’s reliance on the March 4 Ohio and Texas primaries, where her nominal lead is based on out-of-date polls, is risky in the extreme.
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!
This piece by Spencer Ackerman in The Washington Independent is the best analysis I’ve seen anywhere of the tangled web Hillary wove for herself by supporting Bush’s war. Its conclusion:
And there’s a final significance to Clinton’s turn against the war. In November, the Democratic nominee will probably face a Republican who believed deeply in the war, but who also repeatedly criticized the war’s execution—Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). McCain, a war hero, has national-security bona fides that few candidates possess. He will be able to inhabit the space Clinton has carved out for herself over the past two years: sober critic and skeptic of Bush. However, he’ll also be able to pounce on her inconsistency and vacillation, if Thursday’s debate is any indication, in a replay of the “flip-flopper” charge that doomed Kerry four years ago. Unlike Obama, Clinton will have no way of pivoting to a broader indictment of the militarism that McCain cheerfully espouses. It may be that, nearly six years after Clinton thought she had positioned herself to avoid all the pitfalls of the war, her calculation itself was what ultimately sealed the fate of her candidacy.
Just in from Reuters:
WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama surged to a big lead over Hillary Clinton in California hours before “Super Tuesday” voting began in 24 states, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Tuesday.
In the Republican race, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney held a 7-point advantage on Arizona Sen. John McCain in California, while McCain added to commanding double-digit leads in New York and New Jersey.
On a sprawling day of coast-to-coast voting, the biggest ever in a U.S. primary race, the U.S. presidential contenders in both parties were fighting to win a huge cache of delegates to this summer’s nominating conventions.
In California, which alone provides more than one-fifth of the Democratic delegates needed for the nomination, Obama led Clinton by 49 percent to 36 percent, the poll found. The margin of error was 3.3 percentage points.
Gary Hart is one of the many first-rate public men who have been denied a fair shot at the presidency by our trivial, ignorant and astonishingly gullible press.
Thanks to Don Heiny for calling my attention to the unanswerable arguments that Hart lays out in the essay from which this is taken:
Sorting through a great deal of obfuscation, Senator Clinton still seems to cling to the argument that Bush mismanaged the whole project, that it was worth doing but it was done badly. Thus, she seems to accept unilateral invasion as a first resort, even when intelligence, as it was in this case, is less than clear. She seems to be willing to follow policy makers, in this case neocons, who had a publicly announced imperial agenda in the Middle East. And she permits the impression to grow that "triangulation," in matters of war, requires placing protection of political career over protection of the national interest.
…at 8:32 a.m., EST, from CNN:
WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton is losing ground to Sen. Barack Obama in a national CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released on the eve of critical Super Tuesday presidential primaries and caucuses.
The two are virtually tied in Monday’s survey, which shows the New York senator has lost a comfortable national lead she’s held for months over Obama and other rivals.
The survey also shows Arizona Sen. John McCain as the clear Republican front-runner.
Obama, who trounced Clinton in January’s South Carolina primary, garnered 49 percent of registered Democrats in Monday’s poll, while Clinton trailed by just three points, a gap well within the survey’s 4.5 percentage point margin of error.
If I weren’t already committed to voting for Edwards, I’d seriously consider writing in Mr. Twain.
The rumor that I buried a dead aunt under my grapevine was correct. The vine needed fertilizing, my aunt had to be buried, and I dedicated her to this high purpose. Does that unfit me for the Presidency?
The Constitution of our country does not say so. No other citizen was ever considered unworthy of this office because he enriched his grapevines with his dead relatives. Why should I be selected as the first victim of an absurd prejudice?
And for those of us still harboring pretensions to writing, his advice remains as valuable as Strunk’s.
Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
What the hell is Obama doing imitating the widely and appropriately despised Harry and Louise ads, originally run by the insurance industry back in the days of the Clinton health-care fiasco in an attempt to head off any rational solution? Which, by definition, would omit them.
Dude, when you’re running to the right of Billary, are you expecting Democrats to fall for it? ’Course, they probably will…
One of the enjoyable aspects of the current election campaign is watching the antics of the wingnuts as they’re forced to choose between John McCain and a firing squad.
Over the past month a new Axis of Evil has emerged — not one based in Damascus, Tehran or Pyongyang — but instead in Cedar Rapids, Charleston, South Carolina, Derry, New Hampshire and Boca Raton, Florida. It is the liberal and “independent” voters in these 4 states that have nearly completed a deed that makes Kim Jong Il envious — the near crippling of the American Electoral System.
These four states have combined their native liberal populism with an imported liberal electorate and have forced the GOP to accept a nominee so distasteful that in more than one poll — the numbers of voters choosing not to vote and those choosing to vote third party actually exceed those who will hold their nose and vote for Maverick, War Hero, Amnesty Supporter, John McCain.
I admit, I’ve always known that South Carolina and Florida were secret hotbeds of liberalism. But I was hoping no one would notice.
I’m not interested in sending any more traffic to the wackos at Human Events Online, but if you really must read the article Steve Thomma, who’s been filing some excellent stuff for McClatchy, links to it.
Late to the party, as usual, I’ve become a major Sam Smith fan in a single visit.
If you’re one of those folks who think Edwards’s $400 haircut matters, but Clinton’s $1200 makeover doesn’t, you shouldn’t read this post.
One of the delusions of elite liberals is that that they lack prejudice. To be sure, they treat black[s], women and gays far better than once was the case. But if you are poor, uneducated, own a gun, weigh a lot, come from the South or mainly read the Bible it is another matter. Class and culture have replaced the genetic as acceptable targets.
For many years, as the Democratic establishment has become wealthier, the traditional Democratic base has been steadily pushed away as too dumb, too prejudiced, or otherwise too unworthy of the party. It wasn’t that abortion, gays and family values were intrinsically so important. But if your campaign contributors won’t let you talk or do anything about pensions, healthcare, outsourcing or usurious interest rates, the door opened wide for the rightwing hypocrites.
Which is how the Democrats lost the middle class, as Tom Edsall explains in Building Red America. Following the DLC model, the party has concentrated on issues that are mainly important to the party elite, who are generally well fed and educated, leaving behind the issues of concern to the vast majority of those on whom they depend for votes. Like the country-club Republicans who cozied up to the right-wing Christians every fourth November and ignored them the rest of the time, the Democratic power brokers talked a good game but did nothing to help the people who need jobs, health care, child care, and transportation in order to have a shot at the American dream. All of which we as the richest country in the history of the world could easily provide, except that doing so would produce more competitors for the top rungs of the ladder, which is exactly the opposite of the goal of both parties. Used to be different for the Democrats, back in the FDR days, which is why Democrats controlled Congress for decades. What the country wants hasn’t changed; but the Democratic party is now controlled by people who don’t give a damn what the country wants, as evidenced by the current wimp-ass Democratic Congress on too many issues to list here and now.
So along comes a wealthy southern white male lawyer and tries to change things back to the way Democrats used to do it. And what happens? Yes, those with power move to keep him in the background. Yes, from the start the establishment media gave him as little coverage as possible.
But more significant was the reaction of average members of the liberal — really post-liberal — establishment. Ridicule and disgust combined with a stunning disinterest in Edwards’ issues that told much about the Democratic Party today.
Not only was this elite bored with Edwards’ program, it made clear that the candidate didn’t look or talk right, was too wealthy to say such things, and, when you come right down to it, wasn’t one of us.
Edwards’ problem was that he made the smug set of American liberalism extremely uncomfortable. He showed them what they should really be thinking about and what they might do about it. And they didn’t like it. Far better to relax in the self-righteousness of choosing between a Harvard Law School black and a Yale Law School woman.
And so, once again, the Democratic Party drifts further away from what once made it worth bragging about.
And if you cherish the notion that the sainted Al Gore (who did nothing while in office to advance the cause he now champions so well) would have saved us all had Ralph Nader not been so egotistical, you also shouldn’t (and I dare say won’t) read this one.
We are left with corporatized, conservative compromisers who add mightily to the argument that the Democratic Party should be forced to change its name to end the consumer fraud it purveys.
So what do we do about it? Some will stay home on election day, others will support a Nader or a Green, likely Cynthia McKinney. The Democrats will be, as usual, furious that a certain number of voters still believe we live in a democracy and choose someone other than those assigned to them by the DNC. While Ralph Nader may make what seems to some the wrong political decision, it is a sign of the corrupt, cynical nature of our times to look into the face of moral integrity and dismiss it as an act of ego.
Even from a tactical standpoint, it is no worse than a Democratic Party that has known for eight years that it was unraveling and failed to do anything for progressives and Greens except to insult them. These folks deserve to be treated at least as well [as] soccer moms or hedge fund traders, but instead they are ridiculed and scolded and then the party wonders why they don’t get their vote.
Actually I think the party understands why it loses so many voters, but it has replaced caring about them with the brilliant strategy of doing and saying nothing, thus managing to appear slightly less repulsive than the opposition.
(Hat tip to Democracy Lover for the pointer to Sam.)
Just heard John Edwards ending his campaign where he started it, in the New Orleans that George W. Bush walked away from like so much road kill.
Or did Edwards really drop out? Here are his words: “Today I am suspending our campaign.” Hmm. Things suspended are “temporarily prevented from continuing,” according to my dictionary. Ted Williams’s head, for instance, is almost surely dead but may possibly, just possibly, be only in a state of suspended animation.
What does all this mean? Probably nothing, but still… The family hopes.
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.”
It continues to amaze me how many intelligent people are convinced that the media coverage of Hillary Clinton and the votes in South Carolina and Iowa prove that the country is ready for a black President but not a female one.
For example, one of the less hysterical and better written posts, from Jeff Dinelli at The Left Coaster, says:
At the same time, however, it’s abundantly evident that this same country is not necessarily ready to support the candidacy of a strong woman looking to lead from the Oval Office. The most discouraging aspect of this uncomfortable truth is the right wing hasn’t floated this theme; indeed, it hasn’t even had a chance to assign its formidable slime machine towards injecting some subtle sexism into the 2008 campaign. No, it’s the media, the lefty netroots and even members of the Democratic Party that have led the runaway train of shoddy treatment handed to Senator Hillary Clinton.
Huh? Hillary Clinton has treated the press like crap for years, and they’re supposed to ignore that? As Frank Rich says:
Since Mr. McCain doesn’t kick reporters like dogs, as the Clintons do, he will no doubt continue to enjoy an advantage, however unfair, with the press pack on the Straight Talk Express.
Hint: that’s not because McCain is male, it’s because he’s not a jerk. True, he’s a militaristic wacko; but that’s far less important to the press than access to the candidate, which Hillary has carefully avoided from the very beginning of the campaign. Jeff continues:
There is no contemporary phenomenon that better represents male sexual anxiety over a woman’s social power than the demonization of Hillary as First Lady.
Where’s all this angst coming from? Perhaps these folks are simply Clinton supporters, openly or otherwise; that at least would explain the aggrieved tone. Perhaps they’re unable to see politics as anything other than superficial identities. Perhaps they’re simply angry that others don’t realize how wonderful their choice really is, despite her votes, policies, and lies.
All these explanations have a hint of hypocrisy about them. If you’re for a candidate, complaining about accurate attacks on that candidate is unseemly; if you can point to inaccurate ones, post them. If you choose candidates based on their gender or race or religion, you deserve the crappy Presidents you get. If you can’t see the massive negatives in your chosen candidate’s baggage, you’re disconnected from reality.
It’s particularly rich for Clinton supporters to whine about attacks from other campaigns when the Clintons are among the dirtiest campaigners in my memory, as Bill’s recent forays have made abundantly clear.
Has it occurred to any of these people that the former Goldwater Girl is not and has never been a real Democrat? That you can’t trust her as far as you can throw her? That she was for the war from the beginning and has never renounced that vote? That her main surrogate, her husband, is a lying jerk who’s taking out his latent frustrations with his wife by sabotaging her candidacy? That the last Clinton administration was a disaster for true progressives?
Are we supposed to vote for The Woman, despite the fact that we disagree with all her policies and votes and actions and statements? This is the shallowest of identity politics. Personally I vote for the candidate whose stated policies and known actions are the best fit for what I think the country needs. From my point of view, the difference between Clinton and McCain is trivial.
It’s just such an attitude that has Clinton and Obama partisans claiming that Edwards owes it to the party to drop out of the race. If he doesn’t, they fear, their candidates will be exposed as right-wing shams, and will fail to draw enough Democratic voters to sneak into office. Apparently it’s everyone’s duty to get out of the way; otherwise their candidates will fail.
Hillary is not being treated shoddily; she’s a shoddy candidate. The Clinton lovers, in my opinion, form the base of our national political problem. There aren’t enough right-wing Christians to elect a President — they don’t even control the Republican nominating process these days — and other than a few long-serving Senators, the moderate Republican seems to be an artifact of a different age. The coalition of Christianists, warmongers, and multinational corporations is crumbling, and if the Democratic party had not been destroyed by the DLC, we’d be looking at a bright future in the near term.
[T]he so-called center has continued to shift to the right because conservative Republicans stay put while Democrats keep meeting them halfway.
Real Democrats don’t vote for Clintons. And they don’t blame their candidate’s weakness on the press.
You don’t have to love Robert Novak to respect his political smarts. Here he is on the fall election and on the South Carolina Democratic debate Monday night:
While both the Republican and Democratic presidential races are undecided going into the massive array of February 5 primaries (which amounts to nearly a national primary), a Hillary Clinton vs. John McCain contest in November looms as the most likely prospect.
That is the match-up that offers the highest likelihood of Republican success despite the continued sniping at McCain by certain right-wing activists…
Clinton and Obama both took good digs at one another, but the heightened negativity is in itself a boon to Clinton. By going negative, Hillary does not hurt her image, but Obama hurts his.
Clinton is already the knife-fighting candidate, and that is part of her appeal. Obama is supposed to represent a new era, hope, and a change in tone. However well-placed his jabs at Clinton, they tarnish his chief virtue. Also, voters still react negatively to attacks on a woman.
Below is the lede of William Kristol’s not too bad column in today’s New York Times.
In his victory speech after winning the South Carolina primary Saturday night, John McCain acknowledged the economic challenges we face, and then said: “But nothing is inevitable in our country. We are the captains of our fate.”
McCain comes from a generation that, in its youth, was made to memorize poetry. And when I was able to get in touch with him Sunday in Florida, he told me that one of the poems he had memorized in school was William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” (1875).
It sounds from this as if Kristol spotted “captains of our fate” as something a little more flowery than McCain’s standard oratory, perhaps even poetry of some sort. In any event, an obscure reference worth chasing down with the senator himself.
If Kristol couldn’t quite place “Invictus” I’m not surprised. Ten years or so after he was graduated from Harvard, I warned one of my classes there not to put off something or other, since "at my back I always hear time's wingèd chariot hurrying near."
They looked puzzled, as if I had broken into demotic Greek. Did what I just said sound like me? I asked. No. Did you think it might have been a quotation? Probably. Has anyone ever heard of a poem called "To His Coy Mistress?" Of Andrew Marvell? No and no.
The next day I handed out the easiest poetry quiz I had been able to put together. The students were to fill in the missing word or words from lines that I figured every high school over-achiever would surely know…
I figured wrong. None of the freshmen got, "The boy stood on the burning _____." None got, "Half a league, half a league, half a league _____." One got, "Beneath the spreading chestnut tree the village _____ _____." One got, "I met a traveler from an antique _____." Only one got, "You're a better man than I am, _____ _____." (Two others guessed, "Charlie Brown.") The highest score was 14 right out of 20 questions; the lowest was two right; the average was seven.
The only question everybody got right was a freebie I had thrown in: "This Bud's for _____." Actually I thought I had thrown in another freebie, "Winstons taste good, like a _____ _____," but only four students got it. Cigarette ads, I remembered too late, had disappeared from TV when they were barely out of diapers. Nor was my class an exception. When a colleague, the poet Felicia Lamport, gave the same quiz to her students, they did no better.
Stupidity can hardly have been the reason. Harvard undergraduates are by no means as brilliant as the world imagines, but most of them are above average and a few are very bright indeed.
Nor were my students likely to have neglected their poetry homework in high school. They didn’t make it to Harvard by neglecting homework. If they hadn't learned poetry, no one had given it to them to learn.
This turned out to be the case. One or two of the students said they had been made to memorize a passage from Shakespeare in high school, but that was all. Most had been required to read a handful of poems; none had ever been moved to memorize one on his or her own. When I told them I had done that very thing as a schoolboy, and more than once too, they couldn't see the sense in it.
There they were then, poetry aliterates but no more to be blamed for that than a glass is to blame for being empty. Nobody had bothered to fill them, as a wonderful high school teacher named Jack McGiffert had once tried to fill me.
To see whether Mr. McGiffert had been an exception, though, I gave my quiz to the other writing teachers in the department. The older they were, the better they did. The youngest teacher, who was working on his doctoral dissertation in English Literature and is now a tenured professor, scored as poorly as my class had.
Well, what does all this mean except that each generation has its own language, its own poetry? After Felicia Lamport gave my test to her students they made up a test for her, with questions like, "We all live in a yellow _____." She only got two right.
This misses the point, though. I might have expected my father to be ignorant of Doonesbury, for instance, and he was. He might have expected me to be ignorant of Krazy Kat, and I was. But neither of us was ignorant of Poe and Whitman, Keats and Shelley, as Harvard's freshmen were and no doubt still are.
Still, what's the difference? Poetry is just the latest thing to have dropped off our cultural radar, after all; it joins mythology, the classics and the King James Bible below the horizon. And who cares, anyway?
Margaret are you grieving over golden oldies leaving? Of course you’re not. Who needs artifacts from the primitive dawn of communications technology when there’s a reality show right up there on the plasma screen?
So, yo, Margaret — This crud's for you.
This evening, through another in a series of “no duh!” moments, I realized that the Democratic Presidential candidates are arguing over two separate types of discord.
The first began subtly but unmistakably creeping toward center stage after the Iowa caucuses, when Clinton supporters found themselves in a real race and began to say things to the press that caused them to be reassigned to duties out of the public eye. I do not imply that the Clinton machine is the only flinger of mud; but I do assert that, with regard to mud and the flinging of it, the Clintons’ assembly far outguns the combined strength of its Democratic opponents. They have the organization, the campaign experience, the government-related connections, and some knowledge of what it’s like to be in the public eye constantly. Plus memories of just how low politics can really go.
Many Americans find this disgusting. The Democrats haven’t yet begun accusing each other of experimenting on unborn kids. No sirree; Democratic barbs are less direct, more substantial, credible across a larger range of educational backgrounds. You know, things like aggravating racial divides with inept remarks about the sainted Dr. King. Or occasionally slipping in inadvertent drug references:
“To me, as an African American, I am frankly insulted the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues — when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood; I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in his book — when they have been involved,” he said.
Leaving aside the structural deficiencies of that sentence — what, in fact, is the Obama campaign supposed to have implied about the Clintons? — this seems to me a coach-class insult hurled by an operative of moderate skills and fiery temperament. The motivation such people bring to the table only partially compensates for the disarray their manic activity can generate.
In this case, the incident is unlikely to have lasting significance. Mr. BET, Bob Johnson — the only black American billionaire other than Oprah — has apologized for his remark, and the Obama campaign has accepted the apology. But there’ve been a number of these not-too-subtle low blows since Iowa; and my guess is that if Obama wins South Carolina, especially if he wins handily, he can expect a fuller taste of Rovian tactics from the crowd around his main competitor.
I further guess that absent something both real and serious — unlikely but not beyond imagining — throwing dirt at Obama will only make him stronger. This is precisely the kind of politics Obama is making his name in opposition to. Taking mudballs and holding his position, fuzzy though it be, he appears to stand tall, a man who can rise above the fray, climb the mountain, and bring back the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason.
Many Obama voters no doubt agree with his policies. Many more agree with what they believe his policies are, basing their beliefs on how they feel about him personally. And it’s undeniable that he’s a tremendously charismatic figure, the best set-piece speaker I’ve ever heard, and the sort of person we wish the American system tended to produce, though in fact he’s more of a fortunate anomaly.
Mike Huckabee benefits similarly by coming across as a likable person. Anyone who can hold his own with Colbert twice has proved himself quick-witted and comfortable in his own skin; he gives you the feeling that he’d be a good decision-maker in the sense that he’d make decisions based on what he really thought, felt, and believed was going on. Of course he’s totally bonkers in several areas with respect to what actually is going on, but that’s a separate issue.
But many Obamaniacs, it appears to me, support him because they think he’ll make politics friendlier, less critical and demanding and more harmonious. More like television and less like in-laws. It’s a beautiful dream and a worthwhile goal, though a reader of history might be forgiven for considering it something of a long-term prospect.
I’m all for aiming the society at the flag of coöperation. But at this point in the evolution and training of human consciousness; at this stage in the development of the nation-state; at this historical tipping point between a modern feudalism and a renewed commitment to the path of democracy, with all its surprises, Americans are neither psychologically prepared nor sufficiently informed to participate in creating global harmony. As Bertrand Russell put it, our ethic compels competition, but our situation requires coöperation. We’d better get our minds right or we’ll be spending more than one night in The Box.
To do that, we have to work on making society more just; and to do that we have to confront the powers in our own country. We cannot expect to achive measurable success toward our goals by compromising with those who are gorging themselves at the public trough. Unfortunately the very act of exploitation creates a zero-sum game, where Player One loses to the exact extent Player Two gains.
The corporations that are the current bane of democracy in America, particularly the weapons, insurance, and drug companies, can logically expect a reduction in profits as a result of increasing public control over public things. If the US stopped bombing other countries, spent half the money we send to Iraq on nationwide infrastructure and Japanese-level trains and the other half on developing new energy sources and saving the environment, and developed some sort of universal health-care plan like all the other so-called industrialized countries, we could free ourselves from the necessity to invade other countries for profit or resources. We could once again bid to lead the world in technologies of the future (and the future-tech niche tends to have unusually high profit margins). We could regain some of our international moral stature.
But this would damage the corporate profit sheets beyond the power of spin, reducing the value of stock options held by literally hundreds of board members across the country. They are likely to oppose any such plan, and to have significant resources available to invest in agreeable candidates and initiatives.
The battle to decide whether the early 21st-century United States will be a corporate or a popular state is underway. To the extent that popular sovereignty succeeds (or a populist monomaniac arises), powerful interests will suffer a decline in superlativeness. They will resist the individual depredations with every available tactic. It’s worth spending a hundred million in advertising and campaign contributions to preserve thirty billion a year in profits, eh what?
Like the vast majority of Americans, I would like to see the vicious, low-down, lying, dirty politics of the last few decades evolve into a mutual realization of mutual dependency. But that’s not on the horizon. Rove, and the Republican oppo research tanks now recycling classic baby-vivisection stories, will soon be aimed at the Democratic nominee, and no victory in November, no matter how convincing, will silence them. If the next President wants to return some control over the government to the people, that project will meet resistance, not only from the Republicans now hypocritically filibustering everything, but also from the Republican wing of the Democratic party, the DLC. Such a project is bound to fail without the exhibition of significant public interest. Therein, of course, lies the danger.
But I’m afraid there’s no escaping it: this is a fight we either take on or cower from. We cannot rise above it. We can succeed, but if we run, hide, or ignore it, we lose.
Jay Cost at RealClearPolitics has an interesting take on the generally overlooked Democratic portion of the Michigan primary:
As for the Democratic side — the big story is Hillary Clinton losing the African American vote to “uncommitted.” The exit poll pegged African Americans going against Clinton, 68% to 30%. It appears that opposition by African Americans induced a split in Wayne County (where Detroit is), 50% to Hillary, 45% to uncommitted. People in the media are going to connect these results to the racial kerfuffle of the last few days — and they are partially right to do so. But I think there is more to it than this.
Since his Iowa victory, Obama’s numbers among African American voters have been trending upward. Tonight’s results are another indication that African Americans are breaking his way. The Clinton campaign should be worried about this. It appears as if Obama might be able to take an important part of the traditional Democratic coalition. He is thus moving beyond the relatively narrow appeal of previous “insurgent” Democratic candidates like Bill Bradley and Gary Hart. This is bad news for Clinton.
First he shows a graph of press coverage, indicating that Mike Huckabee got about 50% more interest than Edwards in the days, Jan. 6-11, 2008, following Huckabee’s win and Edwards’s razor-thin second-place showing in the Iowa caucuses. Of course Huckabee’s unexpected win is the biggest story. But according to the best estimates my admittedly basic search found, nearly twice as many Iowans caucused for Democratic candidates as voted for Republicans. Thus Huckabee won with 40,841 votes, while Edwards finished second with an estimated 74,377 Iowans in his corner on caucus night. As it happens, this is 711 more than Clinton, but Edwards is projected to get one fewer delegate based on allocation parameters.
You can make a valid case, I suppose, that Edwards didn’t merit more media attention during those days. Even post-Iowa he looked to be a long-shot for the nomination; New Hampshire made things worse. What’s more, Hillary’s New Hampshire comeback was obviously going to get a ton of attention. So the above numbers are understandable.
But here’s the thing about this. For literally the past year we’ve been hearing justifications for the fact that Edwards, despite being competitive in Iowa polls, didn’t get the attention that his Dem rivals got — he didn’t raise as much money; his candidacy isn’t as historic as theirs; etc., etc. Indeed, the virtual media blackout of Edwards got so glaringly obvious that even New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt urged his paper to give Edwards more attention back in November. At a certain point we should just acknowledge that Edwards basically got screwed and that this shouldn’t have happened to the extent that it did.
Those of us who consider that Al Gore has long been screwed by traditional media might feel Edwards’s pain. How could it be that the corporations running the traditional media fail accurately to cover the campaign of an anti-corporate candidate? How could someone claim that the drug and insurance companies don’t get a seat at the table in the health-care debate, yet fail to get an honest hearing in the public square?
Can we recover from the corporatocracy, or will this experiment in popular rule succumb to greed and hubris like its predecessors?
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…
It was with a sickening sense of foreboding that I read this; now reminded by Kohut, I do remember the unpredicted close call Dinkins had during his first run against Giuliani: Kohut says all the polls had Dinkins up by 15 and stable on Monday before the election, yet in the event, Dinkins only eked Giuliani out by 2 percent.
We all probably hate to admit it – I do – but among our fellow citizens are people who tell their friends that they will vote for a black man, but won't actually do it when the curtain closes.
My contribution to the debate: Kohut's speculation that Hillary trailed Obama in the polls in New Hampshire, but beat him in the actual voting, because bigots are afraid to tell pollsters the truth fits well with our one other firm piece of presidential election evidence thus far: Obama beat Hillary in Iowa – a place where the caucus system requires voting to be done in public, by literally standing with the friends and relatives who love you and think they know you.
Bottom line: if Obama gets the nomination, we are going to have to work tirelessly, because he'll need to be up by 13 in the polls on Monday to even have a chance on Tuesday.
I agree with most of Ron Paul’s views on foreign policy and national offense (let’s call it what it is). If only the man weren’t, well, batshit crazy.
If you have any doubts of this, dispel them immediately by reading James Kirchick’s investigation of Paul’s dank past. It’s in the current New Republic. A teaser:
…Paul's newsletters didn't just contain bigotry. They also contained paranoia — specifically, the brand of anti-government paranoia that festered among right-wing militia groups during the 1980s and '90s. Indeed, the newsletters seemed to hint that armed revolution against the federal government would be justified.
In January 1995, three months before right-wing militants bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a newsletter listed "Ten Militia Commandments," describing "the 1,500 local militias now training to defend liberty" as "one of the most encouraging developments in America."
It warned militia members that they were "possibly under BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] or other totalitarian federal surveillance" and printed bits of advice from the Sons of Liberty, an anti-government militia based in Alabama — among them, "You can't kill a Hydra by cutting off its head," "Keep the group size down," "Keep quiet and you're harder to find," "Leave no clues," "Avoid the phone as much as possible," and "Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here…"
Okay, I realize everyone’s trying to get the story posted immediately. Perhaps these three (consecutive) paragraphs slipped out, and the WSJ will edit them later.
Today former President Bill Clinton critiqued Mr. Obama’s record while stumping for his wife throughout the state, calling Mr. Obama’s candidacy “the biggest fairy tale I have ever seen.”
Yo! Is the Big Dog taking out his latent frustrations with his wife on the campaign trail?
In the end, it was Mr. Obama’s lack of experience that made many voters opt for the more seasoned Mrs. Clinton. “I like him and I think he’ll be ready in eight years,” said Allison Mundry, a 49-year-old real estate agent in Salem. But for now, she says “We have to vote for someone who can get the Republicans out of office.”
Okay, you’re voting for the candidate who polls the worst of the top three Democrats against the Republicans because we gotta get rid of those damned Republicans? Well, I can pretty near guarantee you they’ll absent themselves from any discussion of a Clinton. They always have.
The Illinois Senator will go on to South Carolina where half of all registered Democrats are African-American and could choose Mr. Obama, the first serious candidate to have a chance at the White House.
“The first serious candidate”? They can’t even bring themselves to say it openly.
Read Gloria Steinem’s op-ed in today’s New York Times, excerpted below.
That’s why the Iowa primary was following our historical pattern of making change. Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women (with the possible exception of obedient family members in the latter).
I’ve known all that forever, of course. But it only hit me just now that black men born into slavery had been voting for 50 years before my mother was allowed to. Which makes me just another sublimely unconscious sexist pig, no doubt. Maybe that’s why I find this next bit from Ms. Steinem spectacularly wrong — not the whole excerpt, just the highlighted part.
I’m supporting Senator Clinton because like Senator Obama she has community organizing experience, but she also has more years in the Senate, an unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House, no masculinity to prove, the potential to tap a huge reservoir of this country’s talent by her example, and now even the courage to break the no-tears rule.
I have no more idea than Gloria Steinem what may be inside Senator Clinton’s head and heart, but only two things can explain her stubborn support of Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Either she supported Bush’s idiocy because she agreed with him and still does, or she pretended to support him because of a fatal miscalculation that to do otherwise would keep her out of the White House.
The first would make her a fool, which she plainly is not. The second can only have grown out of a desperately felt need to, yes, prove her masculinity. If she loses the nomination, it will be to the man who has most successfully proven his femininity.
The Beeb reports that per capita GDP in the UK is projected to surpass that of the US this year for the first time since the nineteenth century.
Signs of the US economy going into, or having already entered, recession are evident in areas like jobs, housing, and credit. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans will lose, or be on the verge of losing, their homes between now and the inauguration of the next President. Even more tragically, it’s likely that a thousand additional Americans will die in Iraq, and at least a hundred times that many Iraqis.
The next President and the next Congress face a host of problems, by no means all of them results of the Bush/Cheney disaster.
The American economy has been gutted as we’ve sent our industrial base to the third world. All we’ve got left is military power, and as Paul Kennedy demonstrated in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, military power not backed by an industrial infrastructure is hollow. So we fall back on the role of the world’s market of first and last resort. If we stop buying, we’re screwed, but we take everyone else down with us. This is not much of a threat; thus our influence wanes.
In many ways we’re more vulnerable than the rest of the world: we have a negative savings rate, a huge national debt, enormous trade imbalances; we use outrageous amounts of resources per capita, and generally leave no room for others to live as we do. Nor have we won many friends with our foreign policy recently, especially in the cauldron of the Middle East. Certainly Bush administration policies have aggravated these situations, but the situations and our skewed responses predated Bush and Cheney, and will survive them.
My question is, will Barack Obama change those things, or is he the New DLC, a modern, compassionate, inspiring, multi-cultural face for the very machine we need to replace? What I’m hoping now is that Obama will give some serious sign of progressive intentions. The best way, assuming he’s nominated, would be to ask Edwards or Kucinich to join him on the ticket. But I’m not holding my breath, because I don’t think that’s who Obama really is.
As the astute Gary Younge of the Guardian observes:
…Obama has himself created a new constituency that is expanding the Democratic base, just like [Jesse] Jackson did. Its roots are not in race, class or single issues but age and ideology. The bulk of his support comes from young and independent voters. In South Carolina, we will see if African Americans will follow. Politically, the connections are looser and far less radical; but electorally they may prove more effective.
In all of this, beyond some civil rights references, race is virtually absent from his message but central to his meaning. He doesn’t have to bring it up because not only does he espouse change, he looks like change. He has the role of an inadequate and ineffective balm on the long-running sore that is race in America. His victory would symbolise a great deal and change very little.
For those who believe that democracy is not just a beautiful idea, but one that might actually work in the right circumstances, it’s vastly encouraging to see the Obama phenomenon bringing a lot of young people into the political process. If that surge of interest morphs into something permanent, the country will benefit greatly. (If not, of course, the problems already on the table will define their lives.)
The problem is the gap between results achieved by symbolism on the one hand and struggle on the other. Young people, very solidly against the war, are ignoring Obama’s many go-along-get-along votes for war funding and projecting their agendas onto him. Many Republicans are comfortable with him because they don’t see him as an agent of change. He sounds progressive, but his policies — increasing the size of the military, continuing the GWOT, non-universal health care — don’t. Like Huckabee for the Republicans, he can appeal to opposing constituencies simultaneously.
What we need is to confront the dependence of our society on war, and assert the power of the people and their needs in a generations-long battle with the corporations. If Obama’s up for that, he can ease the transition to a post-imperial society, and leave the United States a happier and better place for his tenure in office. If he’s just a kinder, gentler manager of the existing machine, we’d be better off with a bumbler, who’d make our danger more obvious.
This is from Jim Fallows. who was once Jimmy Carter’s chief speechwriter. Now he’s in Beijing for The Atlantic.
Yeah, yeah, anecdotes aren’t proof. But they get your attention. Two that have gotten mine:
* The truly startling one was a conversation just now with a very close family friend who, through a lifetime of voting that began in the Harry Truman era, has always and only gone Republican and still refers to G.W. Bush strictly as “The President.” The friend said: “If Obama is the nominee, I’ll vote for him. I’d never vote for her” — meaning Hillary Clinton. This friend lives in a swing state.
Speaking of Hillary Clinton, just before the Iowa results I was struck by this fact: I had come across countless people in the previous two years who assumed that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. In fact, I can hardly think of anyone who didn’t assume that. But in all that time I have met only a handful of people who were actually for her. And in my experience, every one of these people had been part of the Greater Clinton team.
There had always been a way to explain away this paradox. Perhaps Hillary Clinton ’08 would be a version of Richard Nixon ’68 — beloved by few, but still grinding out a win. But the other possibility was that the tensions couldn’t forever be contained — if people don’t really like a candidate, in the end the candidate won’t win. The Nixon scenario isn’t looking so likely now.
And you might also be interested in Jim’s thoughts on The Essential Exchange of the New Hampshire Democrats’ Debate.
Well, I scored one trifecta outta two. Almost had the other one, but Ron Paul screwed me. I thought his momentum was a lot greater than it turned out to be. And Fred Thompson? I thought he’d gradually stopped caring enough to breathe, and been carted out the door. (Who is Thompson’s constituency, right-wing L&O fans?) McCain, of course, I kinda predicted.
The CW appears to be that Obama’s Mo will carry through into New Hampshire but Huckabee’s won’t. Having lived in New Hampshire, I can testify that it’s not nearly as heavily evangelical as Iowa, and from what I read it’s become even less so since I moved away. So Huck’s Southern charm might be wasted there. But then there’s South Carolina, Florida, Michigan, and the rest of the crumbling Republican coalition, where, as digby observed, Huckabee’s the only Republican whose constituency is excited about him.
Of course that wouldn’t matter to Mike Bloomberg, whose bank account is his base, and it always loves him.
But it seems increasingly that the Republican nomination process is going to be guided by Huckabee, somewhat in the same manner that the Democratic issues have been framed by Edwards. On nearly all the big issues for Democrats, the top candidates are farther left because of Edwards’s positions. In a similar fashion, the non-Baptist ministers among the Republican candidates may be forced to consider including some populist themes in their stump speeches. I’m looking forward to Mitt’s latest incarnation. Will he be a cowboy? A NASCAR driver? A farmer? How will Rudy manage to connect populist religion with 9/11? And will Thompson bring back his pickup-truck whistlestops? Where are the Ringling Brothers when we need them? (Shoutout to all those New College folks enjoying the use of the Ringling mansion; I sure did!)
Populism, of course, is a method, not an ideology. But tell that to the WSJ. David Sanders, opining that “no one has articulated the message of the religious left more effectively than Mr. Huckabee”, says:
In August, he told a group of Washington reporters that the application of his faith to politics must include concerns for the environment, poverty and hunger. “It can’t just be about abortions and same-sex marriage,” he said. “We can’t ignore that there are kids every day in this country that literally don’t have enough food and adequate drinking water in America.”
As governor, he championed the ARKids First, which extended free health insurance not only to children of the working poor but to some lower middle-class families. He pleased teachers unions with his consistent opposition to school choice and voucher programs. He satisfied labor by signing into law a minimum-wage hike of 21%. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” — Mr. Huckabee’s oft-cited scriptural justification for growing government — proved costly for Arkansans, who saw government spending double and their taxes rise about a half-billion dollars during his tenure.
It’s unlikely that Mr. Huckabee, as president, would be able to shepherd a federal marriage amendment through the House, the Senate and the state legislatures, but signing into law a cap-and-trade system ostensibly aimed at limiting global warming (something he has called a “moral issue”) would be much easier. If he wanted to push protectionist “fair trade” policies and a greater federal government role in health care, a Democratic Congress would be more than willing to let him live out his faith on the taxpayers’ dime.
Can you imagine anything worse than that?
BTW, my May prediction about Obama’s success looks pretty good so far.
[ UPDATE: And if a cap-and-trade system is only “ostensibly” about reducing global warming, what is the esoteric meaning? Is it basically a Communist plot to sap the precious fluids of our entreprenurial bodies? ]
The most interesting thing among many interesting things in Iowa last night was Mike Huckabee’s speech. He hit all the right notes, and never a false one.
While none of the Republican candidates stands a chance of winning the White House in November, Huckabee showed himself to be the only one who wouldn’t lose in a landslide of Goldwater or Mondale proportions.
This is because Huckabee appealed to the growing number of voters who have become nostalgic for that outmoded New Testament crap. Big mistake, Mike. The cold-eyed moneylenders who own the Republican Party want somebody who can be counted on to understand that them with the gold, rule.
But Huckabee keeps showing signs of believing in that other Golden Rule, that whole Sermon on the Mount thing. As governor of Arkansas he even tried to follow it now and then, by raising taxes to improve schools and other such heresies. Consequently the party bosses are now set to strangle their strongest candidate in the crib.
They will attack Huckabee mercilessly for being soft on crime, for ignorance of foreign affairs, for preferring peace to war, for lying about his theological credentials, for raising taxes, for graft and corruption as governor. And that’s only the charges for which there is some basis, however slender, in fact.
As we know from the sliming of John McCain in the South Carolina primary eight years ago, however, no relation to truth at all is necessary when the GOP grownups get down to the short strokes.
Huckabee could find himself attacked as a queer, an equal opportunity employer, a pothead, a lush, an immigrant lover, a card-carrying member of the ACLU, a sodomizer of Eagle Scouts or Shetland ponies, an atheist. Or worst of all, a raghead, a haji:
“Would it change your opinion of Governor Huckabee to learn that he worships a Moslem prophet?” the anonymous telephone poller whispers to undecided voters just before the primary. (Hey, you can’t blame the RNC if folks don’t know that Moslems consider Jesus a prophet.)
Count on it. Whatever vile measures may be necessary to destroy a Baptist preacher with suspiciously New Testament tendencies and to throw the nomination to an spectacularly unelectable Mormon billionaire, those measures the GOP leadership is prepared to take.
Grunts in Vietnam had a name for this kind of thing. It was called stepping on your own dick.
In about two hours, as I understand it, Iowans will initiate the rituals that begin the torturous Presidential election season.
Polls have shown a tight three-way race for the Democrats, with a two-man race for the Republicans plus the question of the day, who’s on third?
Not that I was asked, but I’m guessing Obama-Edwards-Clinton, and Huckabee-Romney-Paul or possibly McCain. It appears to me that the leading motifs are Change and Populism. If so, it’s gonna be a really fascinating election season, when we might actually begin to discuss important issues like war and corporations.
For instance, it’s rumored that the Edwards camp proposed to the Obama folks that the two combine forces if they pass Hillary and one of them gets a clear lead. I can’t imagine who the Republicans could nominate that would have a chance against an Edwards-Obama or Obama-Edwards ticket. Hell, the Gay Old Party’s main mission would be to hold onto 40 seats in the Senate so they could continue to filibuster everything.
H.L. Mencken in The American Mercury of October, 1925, on the occasion of William Jennings Bryan’s death:
Bryan came very near being elected President of the United States. In 1896, it is possible, he was actually elected. He lived long enough to make patriots thank the inscrutable gods for Harding, even for Coolidge. Dullness has got into the White House, and the smell of cabbage boiling, but there is at least nothing to compare to the intolerable buffoonery that went on in Tennessee.
The President of the United States doesn't believe that the earth is square, and that witches should be put to death, and that Jonah swallowed the whale. The Golden Text is not painted weekly on the White House wall, and there is no need to keep ambassadors waiting while Pastor Simpson, from Smithsville, prays for rain in the Blue Room. We have escaped something — by a narrow margin, but still safely.
That is, so far. The Fundamentalists continue at the wake, and sense gets a sort of reprieve… But it is too early, it seems to me, to send the firemen home; the fire is still burning on many a far-flung hill, and it may begin to roar again at any moment…
Heave an egg out of a Pullman window and you will hit a Fundamentalist almost anywhere in the United States today. They swarm in the country towns, inflamed by their pastors, and with a saint, now, to venerate. They are thick in the mean streets behind the gasworks. They are everywhere that learning is too heavy a burden for mortal minds, even the vague, pathetic learning on tap in little red schoolhouses.
They march with the Klan, with the Christian Endeavor Society, with the Junior Order of United American Mechanics, with the Epworth League, with all the rococo bands that poor and unhappy folk organize to bring some light of purpose into their lives. They have had a thrill, and they are ready for more.
Such is Bryan's legacy to his country. He couldn't be President, but he could at least help magnificently in the solemn business of shutting off the Presidency from every intelligent and self-respecting man.
At last a major Democratic candidate is calling Bush’s Folly what it is: not a war, but an occupation. I hope that the other Dems will take the hint, although it’s a slender hope indeed.
We just love wars here in America and if one is going on you’ll find the brave little soldiers of the Democratic establishment bringing up the middle of the parade every time.
To point out that no war is in fact occurring would spoil everybody’s fun. It might even make people think you were actually in favor of peace, and peace is for girly-men. The pros think peace is the third rail of American politics, no matter what virtually every opinion poll shows.
This explains why no mainstream Democrat has ever addressed any of our mass peace rallies since Bush invaded Iraq. Or mass end-the-occupation rallies, to choose words as precisely as John Edwards has begun to do.
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — John Edwards says that if elected president he would withdraw the American troops who are training the Iraqi army and police as part of a broader plan to remove virtually all American forces within 10 months.
Mr. Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina who is waging a populist campaign for the Democratic nomination, said that extending the American training effort in Iraq into the next presidency would require the deployment of tens of thousands of troops to provide logistical support and protect the advisers.
“To me, that is a continuation of the occupation of Iraq,” he said in a 40-minute interview on Sunday aboard his campaign bus as it rumbled through western Iowa.
At first I was puzzled by Kucinich’s semi-endorsement of Obama:
I hope Iowans will caucus for me as their first choice this Thursday, because of my singular positions on the war, on health care, and trade. This is an opportunity for people to stand up for themselves. But in those caucus locations where my support doesn’t reach the necessary threshold, I strongly encourage all of my supporters to make Barack Obama their second choice. Sen. Obama and I have one thing in common: Change.
This shoutout is good for the duration of the Iowa caucus, but it’s widely expected to lead to a later endorsement should Kucinich drop out in the spring.
I have a lot of respect for both Senator Obama and Representative Kucinich, but their positions on the listed issues are quite different.
I strongly agree with Kucinich on all three issues. But doesn’t Johnny Edwards have positions closer to those of Kucinich on all of them? And didn’t Kucinich throw his support to Edwards four years ago, helping Edwards make a surprise finish whose momentum led to the VP slot?
So what’s up with that? There’s a story that Kucinich got an agreement for Obama to push for him to be included in future debates; I haven’t yet seen it sourced, so it could be just a rumor. But it seems consistent with what happened last cycle. I voted for Dennis in the primary but was disappointed by what appeared to be a complete cave to the Democratic establishment. He didn’t even get a prime-time speech at the convention. But perhaps he got the right to speak: during the campaign he was often paired with Al Sharpton as commentators representing the left to television audiences. Now more people know about his arguments, though the program formats rarely let him speak for long.
Re-stipulating that the semi-endorsement is a fact, but the motivation is just speculation, does this mean Kucinich couldn’t get Edwards to agree to the same thing, or that he considered Obama’s push more effectual? Or could it be that Edwards has become too confrontational for Kucinch’s taste? Perhaps the old argument between evolutionary and revolutionary change is being re-enacted.
Everyone seems to agree that the idea of bipartisanship is less than attractive, and to ask where these bipartisans were in the face of the x-treme partisanship of the Bush/Cheney administration. The point is well made that any group David Broder loves can’t be all good.
In one way bipartisanship makes sense: blaming both parties for the effects of their concerted actions, many of them in direct opposition to what polls say people want. As Steve Clemons puts it:
…Republicans and Democrats were complicit in the Iraq War. Both parties have been complicit in the appropriations corruption that came with obscene Homeland Security spending around the nation. Both parties have been complicit in refusing to solidly challenge the most aggressive expansion of Executive Branch authority in more than a century. Both parties have been complicit in failing to shore up investment in the American economy and its workforce. Both parties have been complicit in allowing Americans to be spied on. Both parties have been complicit in allowing low level soldiers to take the hit for Abu Ghraib and allowing the decision-makers in the White House and Pentagon to get a complete pass. The situation we have today was produced by aggressive, high-fear tactics of minority political operations within both the Republican and Democratic parties — that then cowed a party membership that passively followed.
This complicity, including what any reasonable American must conclude are war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Americans in direct response to official policies, condemns many in both parties. But fortunately not all, in either party. Otherwise we’d be left with only the Libertarians and the Greens, and society would explode, like Richard Pryor’s milk and cookies.
Steve seems to see the issue in terms of ideology versus pragmatism, the zealots and the realists. To me some of those terms are a bit slippery. For example, is it realistic to assume that the US empire can hold on to unitary power in the current world climate of change? Is it realistic for elites from both parties to agree on and execute policies opposed by two-thirds of the population on a regular basis? I’d answer no to both, but I think many called realists make those assumptions and agreements all the time. (I’m not suggesting Steve thinks that way, only that some people he would call realists do.) And it’s undeniable that Congress regularly ignores public opinion in its actions. My view of realism would make it much more responsive to the popular will, and much less representative of Big Money.
To me what a billionaire media mogul running for chief executive recalls is Berlusconi. A case can be made that the ability to self-finance an entire campaign should be a disqualification. It’s been suggested that Bloomberg would be willing to spend a billion of his own money to get elected. That automatically makes him a credible candidate.
To combat the impression that he’s a modern Didius Julianus, who purchased the throne of Rome in an auction at the walls of the Prætorian Guard (but was unfortunately decapitated by his successor two months later), Bloomberg is assembling the Old-Boy Network, plus Christine Todd Whitman, already an honorary member in any case. Apparently Chuck Hagel and Sam Nunn have entered the VP primary, in which there’s only one vote. The ticket’s platform is still vague, and perhaps will remain so. But I think I can summarize it in the title of an old Chomsky book: deterring democracy.
It’s an old theory among power elites that the people are too dumb or too lazy or too ignorant of world affairs or economics to make reasonable decisions, and the delicate machinery of government must therefore be shielded from them. And, it must be admitted, the peoples’ record at making decisions that benefit the power elites is a poor one.
Yet a surprising percentage of the time, if the US government did what polls show people want it to do, the country as a whole would be far better off. As Krugman recently noted, the polls show a population whose positions are regularly to the left of the center of the Democratic party. But as Steve says both parties have been “taken over by a combination of ideological and utopian zealots as well as a policy-blind secretariat that passively follows the ideologues.” For the Republicans, it’s the anti-abortion folks crowding out the country clubbers. In the Democrats’ case, it’s the DLC and Wall Street overcoming labor.
I don’t see much to like in any of the scenarios outlined by Steve on Friday, or by the Times today. According to Steve’s (usually quite reliable) sources, Bloomberg’s more interested in running if the Republicans nominate Huckabee or Giuliani, and the Democrats nominate Clinton, while he’s less interested if it’s Obama. The Times claims he’s most interested in a large divide between candidates, like Obama or Edwards versus Huckabee, where he could claim a larger middle ground to plow. These seem like conflicting predictions, but perhaps I’m missing the point.
The point I think I see is that a Bloomberg candidacy would move the debate toward the elitist end of the political spectrum at a moment when Americans seem ready to move the other direction.
It would be wrong to read too deeply into a few empty seats at a few campaign events in the days leading up to Christmas. Oh, but let’s do it anyway.
You just know such an insightful intro will lead to enlightenment.
As a political consultant my brother spent some time in Iowa. Perhaps you’re aware that it’s something less than idyllic in the December-January timeframe. Starkly beautiful, but not a climate in which you’d want to be standing around. Even, apparently, inside.
With the approach of the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3 and the New Hampshire primary five days later, Mr. Edwards, touring the two states at breakneck speed, has been drawing crowds that are bigger, louder and more prone to the occasional standing ovation than ever before.
And while most people who come out to see him are willing to endure some delays, his habit of lateness has alienated others, some of whom say it is just plain rude.
No such thing as bad press, right? Oh, that’s Hollywood…
At this juncture, a week and a half before the Iowa caucuses, polls are notoriously variable. Most people this time around are aware that only a small percentage of voters actually show up on what’s generally a bitter-cold January night to stand around for a couple of hours and take a public position, possibly switching to their second choice if the first isn’t popular enough. Since choosing a reasonable sample is critical to having polls be accurate, this difficulty means that there’s really no telling what’ll happen.
Thus I make bold to post my evaluations, as likely as everyone else’s to prove wrong.
To me the big story right now is the rise of Huckabee. He’s got an interesting set of qualities: personable, quick and humorous on his feet, the whole losing-100-pounds thing, and a record that’s sufficiently diverse to allow him to court opposing constituencies simultaneously. Even people who are usually particularly sensitive to right-wing Christianity in politics find him likeable, and if you’ve seen him on the sorely-missed Colbert Report you can see why. True, he doesn’t believe in evolution, but on the other hand he wants to educate every child, even if the parents are illegal immigrants. He’s got a wide appeal, particularly given the quality of the Republican opposition. He’ll sew up the evangelical vote, which is deserting Bush-style Republicans in droves.
McCain is making his expected third-quarter run. I put him around third place now, though that’s based more on my guess about New Hampshire and the Big Day than Iowa, where he pulled out some time ago and is not likely to do well. Giuliani’s tanking nationally, thank God. There was no moment at which Thompson was a real candidate. Ron Paul can make valuable noise and afflict the comfortable to some extent, but his policies would clearly fail to comfort the afflicted. Taking out the government would remove the only shield, ineffective though it’s been, between individuals and the new Leviathan, the corporation. If all the policies Paul advocates were put into effect, how long would it take for the robber barons of the biotech age to arise?
It looks to me like it’s Governor Hair Varnish versus Governor Christian Leader, and in that contest Iowa evangelicals are likely to make the difference.
Given my Edwards bias, it’s harder for me to evaluate the Democratic race. Clearly the polls and the speculators are moving away from Clinton, with most of the benefit going to Obama. This seems a natural result of the public’s early lack of knowledge of candidates’ positions gradually being rectified as the election season actually takes hold. When polls showed the public ranking Clinton as the most liberal of the top-tier Democrats, she was way ahead. Now that people are seeing her in action, and the press is catching her husband dissembling, memories pop up of the bad parts of the good old days, and we’re reminded of the rose-colored glasses kindly provided by the Bush administration for looking rearward.
I’d say there are three main questions about the Democrats. Will the Republican wing of the Democratic party be represented by Clinton or Obama? Will any of the worthy occupants of the second tier break through and get more of a hearing? Will the populist Democratic wing gain some sort of momentum from extensive campaigning in Iowa’s famously personal political style, and gain on or surpass the DLC?
My guess is Obama, no, and some. Naturally I’m rooting for a yes on the second and third questions. But the war machine, in control of the Republicans, also exercises a huge influence on the Democrats, and my guess is that it will be able to live with uniting behind Obama rather than losing with Clinton. At all costs Edwards must not be allowed to continue his class-warfare advocacy.
The last thing today’s Democratic party wants is more FDR-style economics.
Factions in both parties are currently struggling over who gets to establish the central narrative. Right now it looks like the evangelicals are winning among Iowa Republicans, which means Huckabee. In New Hampshire there are far fewer evangelicals and things are likely to be different. For the Democrats it’s cloudier, in part because the actual differences in policies, and in backer and donor constituencies, haven’t been reported in nearly as much detail as the horserace aspect, a standard political reporter’s tool to get home or to the bar a little early; but largely because a popular desire for change is balanced by others for experience and trustworthiness, with the change vote splitting based on gut reactions and tribal politics as well as policy evaluations. Many Democrats, along with some independents, are in my view looking for the candidate who can win the general election but will change, you know, things, the way stuff is generally done in Washington.
Or perhaps I’m projecting. Now that I put it that way, it’s my reasoning for supporting Edwards over Kucinich, who in many ways is a better embodiment of my views than any other active candidate. For example, Kucinich is straightforward about his health plan: single payer, the one and only correct answer. Edwards seems to me to be playing a political game with his plan, which includes the insurance corporations but forces them to compete in an open market with the government, allowing people to buy insurance or to sign up for government-organized single-payer care. Given the companies’ long-held claims of superior efficiency, you might think they’d welcome such a challenge, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
In other words, the Edwards plan looks like an attempt to pass something that allows single-payer while invalidating the basic argument of the insurance companies. And given the vagaries of Congress, such a tricky approach is much more likely to succeed than a more honest head-on attempt to create single-payer; not guaranteed, by any means, but conceivable. To get reasonable health care, we’ll have to fight the insurance and drug companies and the HMOs, an industry with immense wealth and power. My guess is we’re most likely to beat them by being honest and being right. It’ll be a battle comparable to trying to end the war, except that more Americans will be directly victimized, physically and economically, by a future health-care failure than by the existing one in Iraq.
If I’m right about the Republicans in Iowa going for Huckabee, the next corollary is that he could be a particularly tough opponent for the Democrats to beat. He’ll grab the right-wing Christians, both the hardest-core Bush supporters and the disillusioned. If he manages somehow to bring the corporate/country-club wing of the Republican party on board his Christian Leader train, he could mobilize the old Rovian coalition, Ron Paul’s takedown notwithstanding. Obama-Huckabee could have some ugly undertones.
As to the Democrats, pro-changers seem to be moving away from Clinton toward Obama, at least those who can imagine Oprah as a revolutionary. Edwards is basing his hopes on having visited all 99 Iowa counties twice, and the rural counties have disproportionate influence on the outcome in these caucuses.
If Clinton is not either first or very close second, her campaign’s in trouble, and she’ll need a convincing victory in New Hampshire. At this point I think Obama’s momentum requires pretty much the same, but his campaign wouldn’t be dead in the water if he finished third, having never run on his inevitability to begin with. Edwards needs a first or close second to continue in the top tier. He might survive a close third if the votes are split nearly evenly among the top three; he’s got a bit of good press recently, in case he happens to win. But if Biden or Dodd beats him he may as well decamp to North Carolina. I’d love to see Kucinich make a run — I re-registered as a Democrat four years ago so I could vote for him — but I don’t know how clearly his message has reached the caucus-goers. Richardson continues to be a prime candidate for VP, or SecState.
Finally, to the wonderful Bad Attitudes community, and especially our friend Bill O’Reilly, I wish Happy Holidays!
Can we solve our health care problems by compromising with the root causes, or should we attempt to remove the source of the problems altogether? This, it seems to me, is a crucial issue on which Democratic candidates for President disagree.
Everyone knows that the US spends more on health care and gets less for it than any comparable industrialized society. And it’s obvious why that is: we’ve handed this critical social function to the whims of the market, which means the leisure class can manipulate it for profit. In other words, we allowed health care to become a business. Or two.
Most comparable societies have some form of government health care. We’re so far behind, we’ve reached the point where universal single-payer health care would actually be a boon to companies that do or make something in the US. Single payer would be cheaper per capita than insurance for everyone, as shown by existing federal programs, and businesses would be spared the added bookkeeping as well.
So why don’t we just go for single payer immediately? Polls show Americans prefer that plan, no matter how many times the Government is Evil boogeyman is raised. But it’s never even proposed in Congress. Have Senators and Members of Congress heard of it? Of course; if nothing else, they’ve heard it from Dennis Kucinich.
So where’s the pushback coming from? To me, it’s clear that the drug and insurance corporations are the core of the problem. Their profits and inefficiencies add significant overhead to our national health costs. Their stockholder-value orientation reduces the effectiveness of our medical folks, who are trying to provide excellent care but are often frustrated by the financial system and the limitations of choice it imposes. Ideology has hooked us on the concept of the All-Providing Market, despite the nonconcurrence of the data.
So what can we do about that? Can we form a Blue Ribbon Commission, comprising a pair of Senators, another of Members of Congress, a Special Assistant to the President and a deputy, and representatives of the drug and insurance industries, and expect to generate a solution that’s more or less acceptable to all?
Krugman doesn’t seem to think so.
…it’s actually Mr. Obama who’s being unrealistic here, believing that the insurance and drug industries — which are, in large part, the cause of our health care problems — will be willing to play a constructive role in health reform. The fact is that there’s no way to reduce the gross wastefulness of our health system without also reducing the profits of the industries that generate the waste.
As a result, drug and insurance companies — backed by the conservative movement as a whole — will be implacably opposed to any significant reforms. And what would Mr. Obama do then? “I’ll get on television and say Harry and Louise are lying,” he says. I’m sure the lobbyists are terrified.
As health care goes, so goes the rest of the progressive agenda. Anyone who thinks that the next president can achieve real change without bitter confrontation is living in a fantasy world.
We need a fighter, not a compromiser. Someone like Senator Dodd, who heroically stood up for the Constitution today on the Senate floor, preventing consideration of immunity for the telecoms’ illegal spying activities until Congress reconvenes in 2008. (Have you told your Senators how you feel about that?)
In the general election, I could probably vote for Obama if I saw something of that fighter persona in him. So far that’s only a hope.
It seems to me that 2008 provides those of us on the left with our best chance in a very long time to influence elections in the United States. The war in Iraq, the price of gasoline, and the bursting of the housing bubble are enough by themselves to cause a seismic shift in political power. We’re staring at a classic instance of the Teachable Moment. People are disillusioned, they feel they’ve been lied to, and they’re looking to a credible alternative. Will the Democrats nominate More of the Same, the Kinder, Gentler Same, or Something Completely Different?
As between Edwards and Obama my considered opinion is that they should swap wives and then flip for the nomination.
Meanwhile, this just in from Iowa:
In an interview, Mr. Obama responded that voters would ultimately be turned off by such attacks on him, particularly about his admission more than a decade ago that he used marijuana and cocaine in his youth.
“My past and my character seemed to be fine when I was 20 points down,” Mr. Obama said.
The Guardian’s Richard Adams reluctantly live-blogs the recent Republican convocation:
This was such a low-key debate that in parts only dogs could hear it.
This time they’ve thoughtfully included Alan Keyes, probably to prove that, yes, this party can get more extreme.
2.40 So far this is the worst debate of either party. Too many candidates, each with a small quiver of thoughts and a couple with single-issue fixations, have now nothing left to say but are insisting on saying it anyway. If anyone wants to see the intellectual bankruptcy of the modern Republican party, here it is. It’s like watching a drunk trying to pick a fight with a rotting corpse — and losing.
Even Huckabee and McCain, usually pretty sparky, seem as dull as dung here this afternoon. Huckabee is doing his reasonable man schtick.
2.46 Romney’s hair looks extra shiny tonight. Must be a new coat of varnish.
It seems to me that many Democrats, and voters who might convinced to join them, are significantly overestimating their chances of winning the White House in 2008.
Admittedly, it looks like the Republicans are in for a drubbing in Congress. My favorite target, for example: Mitch McConnell is polling under 50% in his home state, and the Democrats are trying to decide who might succeed him.
But it’s not impossible we could be stuck with another Republican President. The DLC, it seems to me, is fighting for its life; after being snubbed by all the candidates in favor of YearlyKos, the Republican wing of the Democratic party needs to prove its continuing influence.
CNN has an interesting new poll pitting the top three Democrats one-on-one against the top four Republicans.
Given the past two months, how will Mike “Don't Mormons Believe That Jesus And The Devil Are Brothers?” Huckabee fare in his first inclusion? He’s all the rage in Iowa. Well, not so great; apparently the rage hasn’t yet translated to a larger sphere. (Though it has hit Georgia, apparently.)
On the Democratic side, Edwards performs best against each of the leading Republicans. In addition to beating Huckabee by 25 percent and McCain by 8 percent, the North Carolina Democrat beats Romney by 22 percentage points (59 percent to 37 percent)and Giuliani by 9 percentage points (53 percent to 44 percent).
McCain beats Clinton 50-48 and ties Obama at 48, with a margin of error of plus or minus three points. So it does look good for the Democrats, but it’s not a lock by any means.
“Edwards is the only Democrat who beats all four Republicans, and McCain is the only Republican who beats any of the three Democrats,” [CNN’s polling director Keating] Holland said. “Some might argue this shows that they are the most electable candidates in their respective parties.
“But Edwards is in third place among Democrats, and McCain is in fourth place on the GOP side. Maybe electability is not as important as it was in 2004.”
If Inevitability is gone, Clinton’s left with Experience — a cloudy subject, rife with touchy issues, sharing an uncomfortable border with Judgement.
In case you’ve missed the buzz about the Obama-Krugman tiff, Taylor Marsh has an excellent summary at HuffPo. Basically Krugman has continued to point out that Obama’s health care plan doesn’t cover everyone, which puts him to the right of Edwards, naturally, but also Clinton. And Obama has been using Republican talking points, for example claiming that Social Security is in crisis, despite the facts. When Krugman called him on it, his campaign reacted angrily, and put out a fact sheet that isn’t factual. It intentionally misrepresents Krugman’s statements, and does nothing to get Obama out of the spot he’s put himself in by acting like a Republican.
In sum, Obama seems to be tacking right now that he’s beginning to think he might win. Apparently he’s once again following Hillary’s lead, as he did on so many Iraq votes, and looking for Republican support.
Despite my nearly all-encompassing cynicism about politicians (though not about politics, where I continue admire the example of Belisarius), I have to admit to a good deal of disappointment with Barack. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for a great speech, or perhaps I merely momentarily fell for his shtick. But he’s attacking progressives, weak though they be, and defending and promoting right-wing lies. What’s that about?
My opinion: Obama really believes in his image.
I think that I have the capacity to get people to recognize themselves in each other. I think that I have the ability to make people get beyond some of the divisions that plague our society and to focus on common sense and reason and that’s been in short supply over the last several years. I’m not an ideologue, never have been. Even during my younger days when I was tempted by, you know, sort of more radical or left wing politics, there was a part of me that always was a little bit conservative in that sense; that believes that you make progress by sitting down listening to people, recognizing everybody’s concerns, seeing other people’s points of views and then making decisions.
How dumb do you have to be to think this will work? Rising above the fight might be a beautiful idea, and something that would play out in desirable ways — in a fairy tale. In the real world, you try to rise above the fight with authoritarians, and you lose. They’re not going to give up the fight until they’re forced to have some experiences outside their tightly controlled circle of friends and thoughts. You either confront that, or you succumb.
What we need is someone to fight the corporations. And there’s only one candidate who’s beaten them over and over.
News from Saturday’s Democratic debate in Iowa:
For all of the good will, with the Iowa caucuses less than five weeks away, the candidates did take opportunities to draw distinctions between each other.
While the Democrats said they wanted to change drug sentencing laws for crack and powder cocaine to erase racial disparities in punishments — more blacks and Hispanics are convicted for crack possession and sales, which carry heavier penalties — Mrs. Clinton said she had problems with making any sentencing changes apply to people already convicted.
“On principle, I have problems with retroactivity,” she said.
Unfamiliar with that principle, I pulled out my well-thumbed copy of Principles for Idiots and there it was, right on page 2008: It is better to let a thousand prisoners rot in jail than to free one Willie Horton.
These snippets are from a Village Voice story by Wayne Barrett that ran last summer. And there’s lots, lots more where this came from.
In response to his critics' most damning sound bite, Giuliani is attempting to blame a once-valued aide for the decision to put his prized, $61 million emergency-command center in the World Trade Center, an obvious terrorist target. The 1997 decision had dire consequences on 9/11, when the city had to mobilize a response without any operational center.
“My director of emergency management recommended 7 WTC” as “the site that would make the most sense,” Giuliani told Chris Wallace’s Fox News Channel show in May, pinpointing Jerry Hauer as the culprit.
Wallace confronted Giuliani, however, with a 1996 Hauer memo recommending that the bunker be sited at MetroTech in Brooklyn, close to where the Bloomberg administration eventually built one …
Hauer says Denny Young, the mayor’s alter ego, who has worked at his side for nearly three decades, eventually “made it very clear” that Giuliani wanted “to be able to walk to this facility quickly.” …The formal city document approving the site said that it “was selected due to its proximity to City Hall,” a standard set by Giuliani and Giuliani alone …
Giuliani’s office had a humidor for cigars and mementos from City Hall, including a fire horn, police hats and fire hats, as well as monogrammed towels in his bathroom. His suite was bulletproofed and he visited it often, even on weekends, bringing his girlfriend Judi Nathan there long before the relationship surfaced. He had his own elevator.
Great concern was expressed in writing that the platform in the press room had to be high enough to make sure his head was above the cameras. It’s inconceivable that the hands-on mayor’s fantasy command center was shaped — or sited — by anyone other than him.
The folks at Citizens for Global Solutions have requested statements on a number of issues, from Darfur to the ICC to climate change to torture. You can pick as many as three candidates to compare side by side on an issue of your choice (from a drop-down list). Not all the candidates have stated positions on all issues, and there’s at least one candidate I’ve never heard of (John Cox), plus everyone you know, including people who’ve already dropped out of the race.
CGS has enough clout and enough supporters to get some answers and find clues in public statements. It’s really interesting to compare, for example, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards on the ICC. As you might expect, Clinton uses positive words to make a waffling statement, including some BS about how Europe has to recognize that the US plays a unique role, essentially the same position as Bush/Cheney on that score. Obama says good things but they’re either vague or very specific to a single issue. Edwards says flat out we need to join and lead the ICC. And so on.
I recommend the site, it helps to cut through some of the misimpressions left by certain candidates who are straining to avoid press interaction.
Before going down to Atlanta to join Jimmy Who’s press staff in the summer of 1976, I set out to learn as much as I could about Carter’s term as governor of Georgia. I was sure to be bombarded with questions about it, since the closest thing to the president’s job is a governor’s.
Nothing would have been more predictive of Carter’s eventual performance in the White House, and yet I was never asked a single question about his four years as governor. If you wanted to know about lust in his heart, though, I was there for you.
I’d like to report that things have improved since then, but unfortunately the childishness of the press, being structural in nature, is incurable. Consider the fuss over former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee currently being made by reporters astonished to find among the GOP candidates what appeared to be a human being. There has been nothing to match it since Maureen Dowd went all schoolgirl in the 1999 campaign over the charms of that aging scamp, George W. Bush.
Now consider this from Max Brantley, editor of an alternative weekly in Arkansas:
In the governor's office, his grasp never exceeded his reach. Furniture he'd received to doll up his office was carted out with him when he left, after he'd crushed computer hard drives so nobody could ever get a peek behind the curtain of the Huckabee administration.
Until my paper, the Arkansas Times, blew the whistle, he converted a governor's mansion operating account into a personal expense account, claiming public money for a doghouse, dry-cleaning bills, panty hose and meals at Taco Bell. He tried to claim $70,000 in furnishings provided by a wealthy cotton grower for the private part of the residence as his own, until he learned ethics rules prevented it …
He ran the State Police airplane into the ground, many of the miles in pursuit of political ends. Inauguration funds were used to buy clothing for his wife. He once took control of the state Republican Party's campaign account — then swore the account had been somebody else's responsibility when it ran afoul of federal election laws …
He thus avoided another punishment from an Ethics Commission, which had sanctioned him on five other occasions. He dodged nine other complaints (though none, despite his counter-complaints, was held to be frivolous). In one case, he was saved by the swing vote of a woman who left the chairmanship of the Ethics Commission days later to take a state job. She listed the governor as a reference on the job application.
Finally, unbelievably, Huckabee once sued to overturn the ban on gifts to him.
…or just another mean little coward like George W. Bush, who won’t run the political risk of pardoning a felon unless his name is Libby? You decide:
Privately, Romney also had decided to issue no pardons or commutations as governor. Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney didn't want to overturn the decision of juries.
One of those denied a pardon was Anthony Circosta, a decorated Iraq war veteran who pleaded guilty at 13 to shooting another boy in the arm with a BB gun. Circosta, who needs a gun license to become a police officer, was twice recommended for a pardon by the state Board of Pardons. He was twice denied one by Romney.
And here’s a longer look at Lieutenant Circona. As you read, remember that Mitt served his country during the Vietnam War as a Mormon missionary in Paris.
Circosta, at 13, shot another boy in the arm with a BB gun. He didn’t even break skin. For that, Circosta was convicted of assault. Since the conviction, Circosta has worked his way through college, then joined the Army National Guard and has become a decorated Iraq war veteran, leading a platoon of 20 through the Sunni triangle. Romney refused the request for Circosta’s pardon twice, even against the suggestion of the state’s Board of Pardons.
Circosta, now 29, dreams of becoming a police officer, a dream that cannot be realized without the pardon. Circosta says, “I’ve done everything I can to give back to my state and my community and my country and to get brushed aside is very frustrating...I’m not some shlub off the street.”
Chess is one of those games in which you are required to move when it’s your turn; you can’t pass. Mostly this is a good thing; still, there are situations where you’d be fine if you didn’t have to move, but you do.
This condition is known as zugzwang, a German word meaning the compulsion to move. There’s even an Immortal Zugzwang game, Sämish-Nimzovich, Copenhagen 1923, complementing Anderssen’s Immortal Game against Kieseritzky, London 1851 (which had nothing to do with positional play and was all about attack; that was Anderssen).
It appears to me that Senator Clinton is nearing a position of zugzwang in her attempt to gain the Democratic party nomination for President.
You’ve probably heard about Senator Obama’s response to a question about his perceived lack of experience: that having lived in Indonesia when he was young and having family in Kenya gives him a more complete idea of what the rest of the world is like than one might expect to gain from congressional or executive-branch junkets.
“You get picked up at the airport by this big convoy of security details,” Obama said in a campaign stop in Iowa, which holds its crucial leadoff caucuses nominating contests on January 3.
“They drive you over to the ambassador’s house. You get lunch. Then you go take a tour of some factory or some school. Children do a native dance,” he told an audience of about 300 people.
“If you don’t understand these cultures then it’s very hard for you to make good foreign policy decisions. Foreign policy is all about judgment,” said Obama.
A swipe at the frontrunner, no doubt, but an oblique one that questions her judgement rather than her integrity. So did Clinton respond with a measured statement about her strengths? Well, she thinks she did.
I believe I have the right kind of experience to be the next President. With a war and a tough economy, we need a President ready on Day One to bring our troops home from Iraq and to handle all of our other tough challenges.
Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next President will face. I think we need a President with more experience than that.
The problem is that as soon as she brings up the subject of her experience, she focuses attention on the fact that nearly all of it was very poorly executed. She voted for the war in Iraq, and never apologized, though she has worked hard to muddy the waters. She voted for Kyl-Lieberman, the attempt by the Most Hypocritical Person in the Senate to authorize a war against Iran, though she denies that was the intent. (I note in passing the utter hypocrisy of Obama criticizing her for that vote, since he didn’t even bother to show up for it.)
This left an opening for a spokesman from the Edwards campaign to offer to define the relevent term.
mudslinging … (also mud-slinging) noun informal
the use of insults and accusations, esp. unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent. As in: Hillary Clinton said about Barack Obama, “Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face.”
“Now we know what Senator Clinton meant when she talked about ‘throwing mud’ in the last debate. Like so many other things, when it comes to mud, Hillary Clinton says one thing and throws another”.
The problem for Clinton is that her policies are Republican and pro-war machine. So she can’t talk about what she actually plans to do, or who supports her; she has to attempt to finesse those issues for an entire year, all of which would, if she were nominated, be spent in the brightest spotlight on the planet, under attack from Republicans following the Rove playbook. Notice how she sidesteps the issue of the war, saying we need someone who’s ready to bring the troops home, though she has listed a dozen reasons why that might not be possible. This is not even triangulation; it’s dissumulation.
Her entire platform appears to be the inevitability of her nomination. No one need bother to oppose her, despite the general disagreement of the party with her policies, or the size of her negatives (more people say they’d never vote for her than for any other candidate in the race), because she’s got more money than anyone else. Sure, three-quarters of it comes from about 5,000 people; but her base makes up in wealth for what it lacks in breadth.
So now that she’s dropped from a small lead in Iowa to a small deficit, she’s imploding. If she doesn’t finish first in Iowa there’ll be a hell of a lot spinning going on, and only the true believers will buy it.
She can’t talk about her policies. Bringing up her experience is a net negative. She can get Bill to play the gender card for her, complaining that the boys are beating up on her, but that makes her look weak.
The thing is, as a candidate, she is so weak that she has no strengths to retreat to. Anything she does points to one or more weakness; but she can’t maintain her aura of inevitability without doing anything.
HuffPo has the latest from Anita Esterday, the waitress in Iowa who was not left a tip when Senator Clinton dropped by. (There was confusion about it at first; it is now clear that the Clinton campaign did not leave a tip but returned later and left $20.) This is a rational woman, and you gotta feel for her. Somebody started a rumor that she’d committed suicide, which she understands was probably a joke, but it was circulating in Cedar Rapids where she has friends, and her mother committed suicide, so it wasn’t very funny.
Plus, the place she works has suffered because the phone is busy all the time with reporters calling, and customers are sometimes unable to get through. So the whole controversy has cost her employers real money. In addition to her point that the media’s focusing on a trivial incident while there’s a war on, she points out that there are a lot of homeless people in the richest country in the world, and a lot of people like her, a single mother trying to raise two kids and barely making $20,000 a year. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
She reports that her mother was a Democrat and her father a Republican, and she remained mostly neutral. But no longer.
I’m not going to vote for Hillary. That is a definite. No one could pay me enough money. My opinion of her has changed drastically. The more I read and find out about her it changes more and more to the negative. I don’t believe she can help out the working women of this world because I don’t believe she gets it.
My take’s a bit different: I think she gets it, but she doesn’t care. Those aren’t her people; her people are on Wall Street.
If you’re suffering from nostalgia about the Clinton years, take a look at Vincente Navarro’s article. He’s a professor of health and public policy at Johns Hopkins, among other things, and he remembers what really happened.
It’ll cure you.
People in this nation die due to lack of health care. The estimates vary from 18,000 to 100,000 a year, depending on how you measure preventable deaths. But even based on the most conservative number of 18,000 (from the conservative Institute of Medicine), this is six times the number of people killed on September 11, 2001, by Al Qaeda. And these deaths continue year after year. The deaths on 9/11 are rightly seen as the result of enemy action. But why do the 18,000 deaths each year go unnoticed? Why aren’t they seen as the outcome of hostile forces, whose love for their country is clearly nil?
The Times reports that Edwards has refused to say whether he would endorse Hillary Clinton if she’s nominated.
Obama says that of course he’ll endorse the Democratic nominee, which he believes will be him. That is the standard line that all Democrats are expected to toe. So where does that leave Edwards? Is he creating strife in the party, or pointing out that Clinton is only nominally a Democrat?
Personally I’ve long considered the entire DLC to be more than the Republican wing of the Democratic party; I claim they’re Republican plants, designed to destroy the idea of a peoples’ party as opposed to a corporate one. The iconic DLC Democrat is Bill Clinton, who sold Democrats down the river by claiming to be one of them but spending his political capital on Republican issues. Triangulation is capitulation: the Clintons chose NAFTA over health care.
So I count myself among those who will not vote for Clinton under any circumstances. If the Democrats are out to hurt me, then right back at ’em. But I expect most people will vote for whoever the Democrats nominate, regardless of policies, assuming that the person who claims to be a Democrat must be better than the Republican. Which is why we’re in the mess we’re in now, but that’s another story.
The real story here seems to be that somebody at Maid-Rite is chiseling the help out of their tips. From an article in the New York Times:
Reached at her home in Iowa, the waitress, Anita Esterday, said that neither she nor a colleague who helped serve Mrs. Clinton recalled seeing any tip.
She said a local staff member of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign was in the restaurant on Thursday to tell them that the campaign had left a tip. She said that when she and her colleague said they had not seen a tip, the staff member gave each of them $20. Ms. Esterday said she did not understand what all the commotion was about.
“You people are really nuts,” she told a reporter during a phone interview. “There’s kids dying in the war, the price of oil right now — there’s better things in this world to be thinking about than who served Hillary Clinton at Maid-Rite and who got a tip and who didn’t get a tip.”
Which candidate for President hears a retired Iowa farmer say
If the American people understood what’s going on all over, there would be a revolution tomorrow morning.
and answers “I’m with you, brother!”?
It’s nearly always worthwhile to read Krugman, especially now that the Times has capitulated to the obvious and made him free. I guess they realized that if they hide the valuable part of their product behind a wall, they have to depend solely on their reporters to draw readers.
Krugman’s writing is pedestrian compared to Frank Rich, but in compensation he has a deep and detailed knowledge of his subject, and he’s not afraid to call ’em as he sees ’em.
Longer-term studies of public opinion suggest a substantial leftward shift. James Stimson, a political scientist who uses data from many polls to construct an index of the overall liberalism or conservatism of the electorate, finds that America is now more liberal than it has been since the early 1960s. And the tactics the right has historically used to distract voters from economic issues, above all the exploitation of racial tensions, have been losing their effectiveness.
But the Democracy Corps memo warns that “Democrats have not yet found their voice as agents of change.” Indeed. What the memo doesn’t say, but is all too obvious, is that one big reason the Democrats are having trouble finding their voice is the influence of big money.
Does anyone know where one can find some of Stimson’s indexes? Sounds fascinating, but a cursory Google search didn’t lead me anywhere.
Krugman’s case in point is the attempt in Congress to close a loophole that allows executives at private equity firms and hedge funds to pay a ridiculously low fifteen percent tax rate. These people take home — I don’t say earn — enormous amounts of money, and they do nothing useful. My opinion is that if they enjoy moving bits around and making deals, that’s fine, but they should have to pay us for the privilege. The tax rate, in other words, should surpass 100%.
Only a handful of very wealthy people benefit from this loophole, while closing the loophole would yield billions of dollars each year in revenue. Retrieving this revenue is a key ingredient in legislation approved by the House Ways and Means Committee to reform the alternative minimum tax, something that must be done to avoid a de facto tax increase for millions of middle-class Americans.
A handful of superwealthy hedge fund managers versus millions of middle-class Americans — it sounds like a no-brainer.
But as The Financial Times reports, “Key votes have been delayed and time bought after the investment industry hired some of Washington’s most prominent lobbyists to influence lawmakers and spread largesse through campaign donations.” It goes on to describe how Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, was “toasted by industry lobbyists” (and serenaded by Barry Manilow) at a money-raising party for his special fund to help Democrats get elected next year.
In case anyone’s planning such a fundraiser for me, here’s a hint: you let Barry Manilow in the door, and your bill’s dead, regardless of whether he “sings”.
This incident is entirely typical of the Democratic party these days. No one embodies this trend of selling out to Republican interests, and selling at dirt-cheap prices, more emphatically that Senator Clinton. Everyone knows that she’s far more dependant on large donations from a small number of interested parties, and much more closely connected to Wall Street and the war machine, two increasingly indistinguishable entities, than any other Democrat.
Of course compromise is inherent in the democratic process.
…even history’s greatest progressives had to make compromises to win their victories. F.D.R.’s New Deal depended on the support of Southern segregationists. Compared with that, Senator Clinton’s acceptance of lots of corporate donations doesn’t look so bad — though I’d be reassured if she made her views on tax reform clearer, and matched John Edwards’s focus on corporate reform.
Still, I am worried.
I wish I could say I’m worried. In fact it appears to me that the Democratic party is over. Hillary will be a disaster as a candidate. If the party nominates her, it will indicate the final victory of the DLC, i.e. the Republican wing of the Democratic party. We’ll be more of a one-party state than Russia, heading in the same autocratic direction, with the difference that we have a huge, well-fed, and well-armed military. Because the next President will be another Republican.
From a piece by Michael Tomasky, The Guardian’s man in Washington, on Rudy’s lie-filled smearing of socialized medicine:
Giuliani's hypocrisy with regard to this ad doesn't end with the fake statistics. As Joe Conason noted on www.Salon.com, Giuliani was at the time of his treatment the mayor of New York and enrolled in a nonprofit health maintenance organisation for government employees — that is, mini-socialised medicine. And as Ezra Klein noted on Comment is free, the treatment that saved Giuliani was developed in Denmark — which, as Klein drolly notes, "is both in Europe and has a universal healthcare system."
You begin at some point to wonder whether your fellow citizens are paying any goddamn attention.
John Nichols is, of course. But realistically, who at this point could expect Obama to do something bold? We can certainly hold out hope for him; I still do, perhaps foolishly but nonetheless… I think he has a good heart, and when he can take a position that doesn’t require standing up and saying Screw You to the corporations, he’s fine. Thing is, that and a dollar fifty will almost get you a cup of coffee.
Obama doesn’t seem to have the heart of a fighter. At a time when it’s clearly an open battle between us on one side and the zenophobic racist Christianists and the warmongering oil and money men who manipulate them on the other, the classic bleeding heart always compromising Democrat is just going to compromise away another half-million lives and settle for kinder, gentler torture and only occasional warrentless wiretaps while increasing the size of the military and leaving large numbers of Americans without health care.
Fortunately, we can choose the full-throated pro-corporate pro-war pro-torture Goldwater Girl if we’re in the market to kill another million Iraqis, or Iranians, or Syrians. Or Venezuelans, that’s the direction I expect the Eye to turn next.
Or we can vote for change. And I don’t mean Stephen Colbert.
Here’s a glimpse into the big, warm,mushy heart of America’s number one control freak (after Cheney, of course):
Asked at a community meeting here whether he considered waterboarding torture, Mr. Giuliani said: “It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.”
Well, of course it does. That’s just common sense. If we do it to somebody else it’s not torture. If somebody else does it to us, it is torture. If we do it to Giuliani? Gee, that’s a toughie.
Mike Huckabee, previously thought to be the closest thing to a humanoid among the GOP hopefuls, has stepped back into line with this:
”Sometimes we talk about why we’re importing so many people in our workforce,” the former Arkansas governor said. “It might be for the last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973.”
Or it might be that trillions of potential lettuce pickers and hotel maids have been washed out of the sheets of American teenage boys by their mothers before the little pre-born tykes could be implanted in high school girls.
Then again, it might be that more than a million additional proles would have been in our minimum-wage workforce if not for the holocaust of True Love Waits. My goodness, Pastor Huckabee’s Southern Baptist Convention alone has extracted virginity pledges from more than 2,500,000 hot-blooded teens.
Robert Novak on the Republican debate in Orlando, from this week’s Evans-Novak Political Report:
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani: Once again, he led the Republican pack. He looks like a President more than the others, and he has learned to avoid the pitfalls of his past liberalism.
John McKay, the former US attorney for western Washington who was fired along with eight colleagues, thinks the upcoming report from the Department of Justice’s Inspector General will recommend criminal prosecution of Alberto Gonzalez. Apparently Gonzalez does too: he’s hired a high-profile defense attorney and is refusing to answer questions from the Inspector General.
Speaking to a Federal Bar Association meeting, McKay said:
“There was a conspiracy to politicize the Justice Department, and they did not get away with it.”
We can hope. But it’s not yet clear that they failed to get away with it. Even if the IG report recommends criminal prosecution, what’s the chance it’ll happen? The Republicans will call it a political witch hunt and claim racism if their stooge is prosecuted (perhaps I should omit “will”). There was no underlying crime — no one was fired for unjust cause — or at least you can’t prove there was one, absent honest testimony from the former Attorney General; therefore his lying under oath in a Congressional hearing about his performance of his legal duties isn’t a problem. Hey, it’s not like he had sex, OMG!
The problem the leisure class has with the present administration is that its corruption is so overt that it’s roused the population. People are learning that they can act in groups, and that if they do so it sometimes makes a difference.
Immediately after his firing, McKay said he thought about “going quietly,” but then he began comparing notes with the seven other U.S. attorneys dumped at the same time in a historically unprecedented move by the White House.
“They led each one of us to believe we were the only one told to resign,” he said. “None of us particularly sought the spotlight.”
This is obviously not the kind of lesson the American oligarchy wants taught. It’s much happier with the message of American Idol: voting is meaningless fun, something that makes us feel involved but without responsibility, or lets us feel superior to those who aren’t hip to the news. From this viewpoint, Bush/Cheney has been a disaster.
In need of a new Soporifier in Chief, the leisure class is turning to Clinton. For example, she’s getting large contributions from the two industries that are at the base of our problems.
The US arms industry is backing Hillary Clinton for President and has all but abandoned its traditional allies in the Republican party. Mrs Clinton has also emerged as Wall Street’s favourite. Investment bankers have opened their wallets in unprecedented numbers for the New York senator over the past three months and, in the process, dumped their earlier favourite, Barack Obama.
Mrs Clinton’s wooing of the defence industry is all the more remarkable given the frosty relations between Bill Clinton and the military during his presidency. An analysis of campaign contributions shows senior defence industry employees are pouring money into her war chest in the belief that their generosity will be repaid many times over with future defence contracts.
Isn’t it clear that if we elect Clinton we can look forward to more war? I’d be willing to place a decent-sized wager against her having the troops out of Iraq by the end of her first term. That’s what she’s been saying she’ll do, but she’s also given about a dozen reasons that she might be forced to change plan. Her lifelong Republican bent, a political need to prove toughness, and financial ties to arms manufacturers and mercenaries all bode ill.
In Building Red America Tom Edsall shows how the demographics of the Democratic party have changed over the last few decades. Much of the middle class, which used to be largely Democratic, switched parties to vote for the Great Teleprompter Reader, and remained enthralled by the television-level PR, sets, and camera angles of Michael Deaver and his ilk.
But now they’re turning away from the Republican war, looking for another round of political comfort food. Weren’t the Clinton times good? Yes, if you like economic bubbles, but Clinton had nothing to do with that other than staying out of the way. Wouldn’t we have another round of Clintonism with Hillary, without having to worry about sex with interns? Yes, and if you love your country you’ll do what’s in your power to prevent that. If the DLC folks once again force the Democratic party to do what harms it, they will have succeeded in destroying the party that once represented working people. And these days, that means nearly everyone.
Clinton and Giuliani? Like kryptonite to Superman, or sex to a Republican.
Homer: America, take a good look at your beloved candidates. They’re nothing but hideous space reptiles. [unmasks them]
[audience gasps in terror]
Kodos: It’s true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It’s a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.
Man1: He’s right, this is a two-party system.
Man2: Well, I believe I’ll vote for a third-party candidate.
Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away.
[Kang and Kodos laugh out loud]
[Ross Perot smashes his “Perot 96” hat]
Ed Rollins, hard right GOP operative but reality-based when it comes to electoral politics, is somebody to listen to when he says:
I won't deal with who is going to be the Rep nominee. It is a race that is extremely close and a few capable candidates have real chances of being the nominee. But in view of the history Hillary Clinton is the strongest candidate in years and is not only going to be the democratic nominee; she can be elected President. I am not happy about that, but those are the facts…
Hillary is not just a contender, I rate her a favorite. But she can be beaten by the right candidate with a unified party.
It’s like a game of “Texas Hold Em.” Your pair of two’s don't look like much but it beats one of a kind in the other players hand. Today I would say Hillary’s got 3 of a kind with aces and we need to draw to an inside straight.
A lot of people I know think Hillary Clinton has a lock on the Democratic party nomination. As a neo-pagan slash atheist slash Zen Buddhist, I’m praying for salvation.
My impression is that the only way the Democrats can blow the 2008 Presidential election is by picking, for the third time in a row, a DLC puppet who’s so woodenly transparent that even a believable wacko like Giuliani could win. Uh, let’s see, who would that be…
Well, suppose one candidate combines high name recognition with high negatives.
Forty percent of voters view her unfavorably, more than for any of the other major candidates for president (although they are not as well known). Neither men nor women fully trust that she is saying what she really believes, the poll found.
Mrs. Clinton’s choices as a woman and a political figure have been intensely scrutinized during her 15 years on the national stage, and as she runs for president, the debate about her remains polarizing, politically and culturally.
Certainly a lot of the grief directed at Hillary is not her fault, and a good deal of it is not really about her at all. In fact I’d rank her third on the list of problem-causers in her life, with her husband second and the VRWC first.
Some of the grief comes from people who reject the concept of a woman in power, or employ some other equally rigid and poorly thought out strategy. Some of it is because she’s not a natural politician like her husband, which is an unfair but inevitable comparison given that he’s often on stage beside her. Some of it comes from people who check into her policy positions, and decide that if they wanted a Goldwater Girl they’d just vote for a Republican. (Oh right, they’re all Caucasian males…)
A lot of speculation has passed under the bridge on the question of why Senator Clinton, clearly the most conservative candidate among the top Democratic Presidential candidates, has such a huge lead in a party that is so strongly anti-war.
Consider another poll, conducted last week, from National Journal’s Hotline, which gauged whether Democratic voters know what the candidates’ positions are on Iraq. The results showed widespread misunderstanding.Chris Bowers notes that 59 percent of Democrats believe that John Edwards is proposing to withdraw all US forces from Iraq within nine months. 71 percent believe that Barack Obama is proposing to do this. And 76 (!) percent believe Hillary Clinton is proposing to do so. Needless to say, none of them are, in fact, proposing anything of the sort — though I wish they would.
For the record, Edwards does in fact propose to withdraw all US forces from Iraq in eight to nine months, excepting only those defending the embassy, which we always have, and allowing for a possible exception to defend aid workers, according to this interview with Josh Marshall:
My impression is that Obama’s current position is edging towards Edwards, reflecting the tremendous pull of the base. Richardson was already there. Biden couldn’t borrow enough to rent a clue. Dodd is right on this issue but owned by the insurance companies. Gravel is smart but too angry to handle the stresses.
And Clinton is basically a Republican.
Leaving Kucinich and Edwards.
I continue to promote Edwards. And to predict that the Democrats will make history by nominating an African-American for President, in an accommodation between the Democratic wing of the Democratic party and the DLC.
Of course this is not my preferred outcome. Of the announced candidates, I much prefer Edwards because I agree with more of his policies than anyone but Kucinich, and I think Edwards is more likely to win the general election, and thus to achieve something tangible in office, than Kucinich. In the 2004 election cycle I changed my registration to Democratic so I could vote for Kucinich. But I think running for President is an experience nothing prepares you for, and Edwards has done it and survived.
Personally my favorite post for Kucinich would be the first Secretary of the department he’s proposed, for Peace, though he’d also be great at HUD or HHS. To head the Department of Homeland Security I’d pick Gary Hart. I’d have Richardson as SecState — he’s inept in a public debate, but he’s done good work in difficult international negotations — and Zinni as SecDef, or maybe Shinseki, one of those officers who didn’t lie when the time came. I’d even be willing to consider Clark, if that made the Clinton wing happy. Then there are two Americans who are admired by at least three-quarters of the world, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Put those guys to work somehow, eh?
But economically, we’re going the FDR route, not the triangulation route. Otherwise we’re gonna need Republican votes to replace those who are outta here. Me, for instance.
The remaining question in my mind is whether Rove is attacking Clinton because he thinks the Republicans are most likely to beat her, or because he thinks she’s the Democrat who’s most like a Republican. Both seem true to me.
Is it a sign that Rove, who masterminded Bush’s two presidential victories, is worried about Clinton? Or a calculation that the GOP attacks will get Democrats to rally to her side because the GOP would prefer not to take on Democrats John Edwards or Barack Obama?
Rove might be revisiting his 2004 play book. Bush’s re-election team aimed its harshest comments at Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the eventual nominee, because it wanted Bush to take on Kerry rather than Edwards, then a senator from North Carolina.Rove mum on Obama
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday reported that Bush’s former pollster and strategist Matthew Dowd said at a 2004 Harvard University conference that Bush’s re-election team went after Kerry because they were more afraid of Edwards.
I think you can see from the current Edwards campaign that he’s dumped the Bob Shrum style and is following his instincts. For any human being still able to feel normal emotions, it would be a strange and compelling and humbling experience to have your dying spouse decide to devote waning years to your somewhat quixotic campaign. And in the end Elizabeth is what makes me think John is the real deal. He could have a trophy wife like Fred Thompson; instead he married a woman who inspires people.
And damn it, he built her a big house, so what. (I’m tempted to insert a Ministry reference here, but it’s completely irrelevant so I’ll abstain.)
I didn’t even have to do this one. Just wait around and the Post takes care of everything. (If only.)
Here’s the health-care plans of the top Presidential candidates.
One thing I’ve noticed in scanning the candidates’ websites is the vast difference in detail from one to another. Some candidates have two paragraphs about the war in Iraq, others have three pages.
Whether this means anything I don’t yet know; but this installment covers the positions on the Iraq war of Dodd, Richardson, Biden, Kucinich, and Gravel.
As before, all quotes are from the official websites.
Senator Dodd voted for the authorization for the war. He now says he made a mistake and regrets his vote.
His website has this to say about his position on Iraq:
Diplomacy, Not More Troops in Iraq. Chris Dodd is strongly opposed to the Bush-Cheney troop surge strategy. As President, he will advance a surge of diplomacy in the region, not a surge of more troops.
End the War in Iraq Decisively. Chris Dodd understands that ending the war in Iraq makes America safer. He strongly supports the Feingold-Reid proposal — the only responsible measure in Congress that sets a timetable to end the war in Iraq by March 31, — and he has urged all the candidates in the presidential race to join him. It is time to stand up to the President’s misguided Iraq policy.
Governor Richardson initially supported the war in Iraq, but has called that support a mistake and is now among the most outspoken opponents.
As might be expected from a candidate of his extensive diplomatic background, he has a detailed plan on how to end the conflict. The discussion on his website is extensive, centered on his seven-point plan:
Senator Biden departs from the Democratic pack in openly opposing a rapid withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
Senator Biden’s website discussion of Iraq is even more extensive than Governor Richardson’s. His basic strategy is to allow Iraq to devolve into three more or less homogenous regions based on ethnicity, with the Kurds, the Shiites, and the Sunnis each having their own territory. He cites Bosnia as an example of the possibility of success.
His plan for Iraq has five points:
He wants to make sure his plan is not called partition, but rather federalism.
The central government would be responsible for common interests, like border security and the distribution of oil revenues. The plan would bind the Sunnis — who have no oil — by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenues. It would convene an international conference to secure support for the power sharing arrangement and produce a regional nonaggression pact, overseen by a Contact Group of major powers. It would call on the U.S. military to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq by the summer of 2008, with a residual force to keep Iraqis and their neighbors honest. It would increase economic aid but tie it to the protection of minority rights and the creation of a jobs program and seek funding from the oil-rich Gulf Arab states.
Representative Kucinich voted against both the original authorization and the funding bill for the surge. He has perhaps the snappiest short slogan on the issue, Strength Through Peace.
On his website is a two-page plan for ending the war and bringing Americans home. He believes that
There is a compelling need for a new direction in Iraq, one that recognizes the plight of the people of Iraq, the false and illegal basis of the United States war against Iraq, the realities on the ground which make a military resolution of the conflict unrealistic and the urgent responsibility of the United States, which caused the chaos, to use the process of diplomacy and international law to achieve stability in Iraq, a process which will establish peace and stability in Iraq allow our troops to return home with dignity.
He also pushes the interconnectedness of issues including Iraq:
We need to understand the connection between peace and the environment. We know that life on our planet is threatened by the twin threats of global warring and global warming. They are linked, and we have to understand that as we cognize the world as being interconnected and interdependent, we know that resource wars are passe and that the focus on sustainability will create peace.
Former Senator Gravel opposed the war from the beginning. He has also publicly stated his opposition to a conflict with Iran, which he fears the Bush administration is moving toward.
His website states his position that US troops should be out of Iraq within 120 days, after which “aggressive diplomacy” would be undertaken to encourage neighboring countries and the international community to take a hand in reconstruction.
One of the leading opponents of the Vietnam War, Senator Gravel was one of the first current or former elected officials to publicly oppose the planned invasion of Iraq in 2002. He appeared on MSNBC prior to the invasion insisting that intelligence showed that there were indeed no weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq posed no threat to the United States and that invading Iraq was against America’s national interests and would result in a disaster of epic proportions for both the United States and the Iraqi people.
What are the most important issues we should be discussing, and asking the Presidential candidates about, at this point in the election cycle?
I nominate, in no particular order:
These are only the most pressing problems, not necessarily the most important. For example, society continues to suffer from the outsized inertia of the military-industrial complex in a dying empire, and the general dominance of corporations over individuals that serves as a screen for exploitative and feudalistic individual relationships. But first we need to stop killing Iraqis.
I propose, as an exercise, to examine the statements on some candidate websites regarding their positions on the items in the list. Here’s the first installment. This one checks the Clinton, Obama, and Edwards positions on ending the war in Iraq (a phrase all three agree on).
If you’re interested in adding candidates to this list, or surveying their answers on a different question, we’ll post the results. (We reserve the right to match our punctuation standards.)
All quotes are from the official websites.
Senator Clinton, as everyone knows, voted for the original authorization for the war in Iraq. She has been careful not to apologize for that vote, perhaps fearing the flip-flopper label. But she has said she would vote differently knowing what she knows now.
In any case, she was forthrightly against the surge, and has proposed legislation to end the President’s authority for the war and to cap troop levels at Jan. 1, 2007, levels. She believes such legislation, if followed, would end the war before the next inauguration, but pledges to end the war herself if necessary.
Hillary opposes permanent bases in Iraq. She believes we may need a vastly reduced residual force to train Iraqi troops, provide logistical support, and conduct counterterrorism operations. But that is not a permanent force, and she has been clear that she does not plan a permanent occupation.
Under the heading “Ready to Lead”, the site points out that the Senator’s proposed legislation would:
It’s equally widely known that Senator Obama, then an Illinois State Senator, openly opposed the war in Iraq before it started. He didn’t have the opportunity to vote against the authorization bill, but it’s hard to doubt that he would have voted against it.
The Obama web page “Plan to End the Iraq War” begins with a paragraph on his early opposition. The other two paragraphs are these.
At the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in November 2005, Senator Obama called for: (1) a reduction in the number of U.S. troops; (2) a time frame for a phased withdrawal; (3) the Iraqi government to make progress on forming a political solution; (4) improved reconstruction efforts to restore basic services in Iraq; and (5) engaging the international community, particularly key neighboring states and Arab nations, to become more involved in Iraq. In January 2006 he traveled to Iraq and met with senior U.S. military commanders, Iraqi officials and U.S. troops in Baghdad and Fallujah.
Senator Obama introduced legislation in January 2007 to offer a responsible alternative to President Bush’s failed escalation policy. The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008 — a date consistent with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group’s expectations. The plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces. If the Iraqis are successful in meeting the 13 benchmarks for progress laid out by the Bush Administration, this plan also allows for the temporary suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the benchmarks have been met.
Former Senator Edwards famously voted for the war authorization bill, and has since famously apologized ad nauseam. However, he has some advantages over the two current Senators currently leading the Democratic pack:
The second one is a mixed blessing; but for some people it can be liberating to lose.
At his website, the former Senator advocates direct discussions with countries like Iran and Syria, a position that fits with Senator Obama’s statements. He proposes to declare that President Bush has exceeded the authority granted him in the original authorization, remove 40,000 to 50,000 US troops from Iraq immediately, and bring the rest home within 12 to 18 months.
Assuming that Congressional declarations will have little effect on the Cheney administration, he calls for funding restrictions, the one indisputed power of Congress:
- Cap Funds: Cap funding for the troops in Iraq at 100,000 troops to stop the surge and implement an immediate drawdown of 40-50,000 combat troops. Any troops beyond that level should be redeployed immediately.
- Support the Troops: Prohibit funding to deploy any new troops to Iraq that do not meet real readiness standards and that have not been properly trained and equipped, so American tax dollars are used to train and equip our troops, instead of escalating the war.
You no doubt heard the reports, mostly but not entirely snarky, about Cindy Sheehan’s arrest in the office of John Conyers. I admire her commitment, but it seems to me that her view of the problem is the reverse of reality.
I certainly believe that the current situation calls for, indeed requires, that both the President and the Vice President be impeached. No one can honestly question whether they have committed impeachable offenses. The question is what to do about it, and in this regard the leading Democrats in Congress are proving to be as spineless a majority as they were a minority.
But Conyers is not the problem. It seems clear that he favors impeachment, but to overcome opposition from the Speaker, he needs an overwhelming number of colleagues to back him. Which, in my view, makes Nancy Pelosi the problem. Her office would be a better place to get arrested to make a political point.
As Nader says, what we need is not a third party, but a second one. The Democrats, following the Clinton pattern, talk progressive but act DLC. They need the progressive votes (usually, though in 2008 not so much), but they’re mostly corporatist. The wide-spread recognition of that fact might explain some of the high fives that Edwards got for his two best lines in the recent debate:
Do you believe that compromise, triangulation will bring about big change? I don’t. I think the people who are powerful in Washington — big insurance companies, big drug companies, big oil companies — they are not going to negotiate. They are not going to give away their power! The only way that they are going to give away their power is if we take it away from them!
We can’t trade our insiders for their insiders.
Which of course is why the media hates him: they’re insiders whose employers are owned by the big corporations that currently exercise the real power. It’ll be interesting to see if any changes come from the video his campaign released, showing clips of important stuff happening in the world while playing the song “Hair”. Will they get it? (Will they be allowed to?)
In the end, I think Ruth Conniff is on the money with her observations at The Progressive. She mentions Russ Feingold’s proposal to censure Bush and Cheney, the classic wimpy-liberal response to the difference between reality and what the wingnuts demand. This is why the right wing is powerful and the left wing gormless: the right fights and the left compromises.
Conniff talked with John Nichols of The Nation about Feingold’s comment at Kos: “The history books will show we were vocal in condemning the President’s abuses of power.” (That won’t keep the next President from doing the same things, though; do we care?)
While Democrats give voice to public discontent with the Bush administration, the leadership is still operating on the theory that as Bush and the Republicans head off the cliff, the best course of action is to get out of the way. Politically, Nichols concedes, they might be right: “They should just stand up and say if we abdicate our constitutional responsibilities and don’t do our job, we’ll reap the benefits. It will allow us to do good things. They might be right. Standing by and letting a crash occur might benefit you. That’s a credible case.”
Immoral, but credible. That’s the real problem the Democratic leadership faces: they know their strategy is immoral, so they can no more afford to state it than Bush can be honest about imperialism and oil.
Witness the recent Democratic meme that impeachment would keep them from getting useful work done.
“The idea that taking up impeachment will keep us from acting on health care, gay rights, etc., is ahistoric,” Nichols says. “The fact of the matter is that during the impeachment of Nixon back in the 70s, the reason Congress was so effective and got so much done was that Nixon was scared and, in a calculated move, started cooperating with Congress to avoid impeachment. So the right thing to do is move immediately — see what you can get out of Bush.”
For that theory to win the day, the pressure on Congress from voters has to continue to grow.
That means us. Have you contacted your Representative?
If you’re known by your friends and your enemies, Hillary’s making progress. She’s pulled down $40K from the ultimate enemy.
Like Obama, Clinton signed on when Jonathan Prince said, “We believe there’s just no reason for Democrats to give Fox a platform to advance the right-wing agenda while pretending they’re objective.” Me too, she said, while avoiding anything that Rupert might consider an attack.
At this point in the campaign, Hillary’s got $40K from Rupert, Barack’s a bit over $14K, and Edwards is slightly less than $1K.
Compare and contrast.
This is our text for today:
Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign moved quickly yesterday to blunt what it sees as a sensationalist Swift Boat-style attack by a firefighters’ union.
Seeking to avoid the mistake of delay that so hurt the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004, the former New York City mayor’s campaign went on the offensive before the attack was even formally released, dismissing the union as politically motivated …
Howard Safir, former New York City Fire Department commissioner, said firefighters across the country “are very supportive of Rudy and what he did.”
He added, “Firefighter unions are not firefighters. This is bogus stuff. This is not Swift Boat.”
In a reality-based world this would parse as follows: The union attack is bogus stuff; the union attack is not Swift Boat; Swift Boat was bogus. The union attack is true. Q.E.D.
But since Sapir is a Giuliani loyalist who was appointed commissioner by Mad Prince Rudolph, this can’t be what he means. We must therefore dig for subtext, and here it is: when Republicans lie about Democrats, it’s God’s truth; when Democrats tell the truth about Republicans, it’s a sensationalist lie. Speaking of which, the sensationalist picture below shows America’s draft-dodging hero in drag.
More reasons to think we’ll elect our first black President in 2008.
He’s among the leaders in the spin and chutzpah competition:
Presidential contender Barack Obama on Tuesday dismissed his Democratic rivals’ change of heart on the Iraq war as too little too late, while Hillary Rodham Clinton urged a quick end to U.S. involvement in the conflict.
There’s no question Obama opposed the war from the beginning. As far as I can tell — please correct me if you can — that was the last time he was right about Iraq. Perhaps it’s because he’s taking advice from Colin Powell:
According to Powell, the US cannot “blow a whistle one morning” and have all American forces just leave. The former secretary of state has twice met Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, to advise him on foreign policy. Despite his antiwar stance, Obama supports a phased withdrawal that could leave a “significantly reduced force” in Iraq for “an extended period”.
Obama has so far succeeded having it both ways. He takes credit for being the most anti-war candidate, and simultaneously woos the DLC and the Republicans with the promise of an extended deployment, obliquely expressing his agreement with the imperial viewpoint.
Chants of “Fred” and “Run, Fred, Run,” greeted the actor and former GOP senator from Tennessee from many among the 350 people at the Young Republicans National Convention. The crowd interrupted his nine-minute speech with wild applause and mobbed him when he left.
Kevin Fickert, a 22-year-old college student in Los Angeles who originally is from Massachusetts, said he liked Romney’s leadership as governor but thinks Thompson has more appeal. “Thompson has this star power about him that I really like,” Fickert said.
Hey, I’ve seen that guy on TV! Oh yeah, he’s, like, an actor, or President. Or something.
Why is it that only crappy actors make it in politics? Or perhaps I’m drawing an unwarranted line from Reagan through Schwarzenegger to Thompson. What kind of childhood generates this immense need for the overwhelming father figure? I thought it was about competition.
Thompson’s pro-abortion lobbying effort, directed at Bush I, appears to have caused barely a ripple among his supporters.
“Whatever choice do we have? Mitt Romney has been on both sides of the issue,” said Paul Boyd, 26, of Memphis, Tenn. “Rudy Giuliani is 100 percent pro-choice. John McCain, at least for the first four years of the Bush term, was against whatever the president was for. Everybody has their flaws.”
Good point (but who says, “Whatever choice…?”). Aim low, keep your expectations within reason, or failing that at least the realm of possibility. And you can see what he means when you read that
[Romney] said he would like to use the country’s leading marketing minds to help sell the idea of American values in the Middle East.
“People will give up half a day’s salary to get a Coca-Cola in some parts of the world. We market Coke well. We market McDonald’s well. We market our rap music, our movies, our jeans,” Romney said. “We market everything America sells brilliantly, but when it comes to marketing ourselves and what we stand for, we don’t do a very good job of it.”
Damn, marketing, of course! Why didn’t I think of that? That’s what we haven’t been doing enough of! If people will give up half a day’s salary for a bottle of sugar water, we can surely get away with torturing them and stealing their oil. We just have to market it appropriately, with a certain amount of local sensitivity and some happenin’ colors.
So you can see why Republicans are turning to the man Nixon called “dumb as hell“. (“But he’s friendly,” Nixon allowed.)
Thompson had his supporters. His mentor, for example, Howard Baker, defended him in no uncertain terms: “He’s tough. He’s six feet five inches, a big mean fella”. What he thought that would buy Thompson as re: his career remains uncertain at this point. A starring role, perhaps.
What does appear certain from the established record is that Thompson was keeping the Nixon White House informed of certain key events.
Publicly, Baker and Thompson presented themselves as dedicated to uncovering the truth. But Baker had secret meetings and conversations with Nixon and his top aides, while Thompson worked cooperatively with the White House and accepted coaching from Nixon’s lawyer, J. Fred Buzhardt, the tapes and transcripts show.
Thompson made his place in history on Monday, July 16, 1973, by asking former White House aide Alexander Butterfield, “…are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?” Butterfield said, yes, as a matter of fact I am, setting in motion the final act of the Nixon drama, as the tapes proved to be his downfall. Thus, no doubt, Cheney’s passion for secrecy.
But though this was news to the public, it was not to the committee. Thompson was allowed to ask the critical question because he was the lead counsel for the Republicans, whose leader was Baker, and the information had been obtained by a Republican interrogator (which probably didn’t mean the same thing in those days that it would now).
This was a, perhaps the, turning point in the Watergate investigation. Republicans had rallied around their wartime President, a simple, cloth-coated patriot with a dog, who would never stoop to burglarizing an opponent’s office. In fact Baker’s famous “What did the President know and when did he know it?” was, according to historian Stanley Kutler, originally an attempt to show that the evidence hinged on the word of a single person, John Dean, a disgruntled employee if there ever was one, against that of the President of the United States, Leader of the Free World and Political Ass-Kicker Extraordinaire. (I mean, dude, he was friends with J. Edgar; you don’t fuck with those people.)
Unfortunately for Baker et. al., it turned not to be the case. Butterfield revealed the existence of the tapes, and it reached the point where only a Nobel Prize-winning spinner could deal with today’s headlines alone, leaving aside last week’s. It became necessary to look like you supported basic justice, even for Nixon’s moles inside the Watergate committee.
Thompson called Buzhardt over the weekend [before the Monday question] to tip off the White House that the committee knew about the tapes.
“Legalisms aside, it was inconceivable to me that the White House could withhold the tapes once their existence was made known. I believed it would be in everyone’s interest if the White House realized, before making any public statements, the probable position of both the majority and the minority of the Watergate committee,” Thompson wrote in his book.
Scott Armstrong, a Democratic investigator for the committee who was part of the Butterfield questioning, said he was outraged by Thompson’s tip-off.
“When the prosecutor discovers the smoking gun, he’s going to be shocked to find that the deputy prosecutor called the defendant and said, ‘You’d better get rid of that gun,’” Armstrong said in an interview.
Law and Order, that’s what it’s all about. Or is it image, I can’t remember…
Robert L. Borosage and Katrina vanden Heuvel write in The Nation:
As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney led the effort to implement a universal state program that required companies and individuals to get healthcare. But he says very little about his plan now. “I don’t like calling it universal coverage. That smacks of Hillarycare,” Romney says. He adds, “The Democrats’ path is always government-mandated, government-run, government insurance...[which is] almost by definition going to be inefficient, ineffective and expensive.”
Definition depends on the definer, who in this instance is full of shit. When you say something is “going to be” something, you’re in Future Land, which means that it is, almost by definition, speculation. And in this case faith-based speculation at that, the faith being that of the Capitalist Church.
Unlike the future, however, the present and the past are almost by definition fact-based and the fact, shown by numerous studies and by the general experience of mankind, is that Medicare is is far more efficient, effective and cheaper than private medical insurance.
The further fact is, as Romney would know if he were not sheltered from reality by a huge fortune, that profit-mandated, profit-run, profit-making private insurance is a disaster for the consumer. It could hardly be otherwise. Out of whose hide do you suppose that profit comes?
To take an example close at hand, some years ago I was bitten by a raccoon which had gotten into the house and was later was found to be rabid. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Connecticut refused to pay the $2400 bill for the series of shots that saved my life, on grounds that I should have gone to my primary care physician for the shots rather than to the more expensive emergency room.
It did no good to explain that my primary care physician was the one who sent me to the emergeny room, because he, like every other doctor in the area, did not keep rabies vaccine on hand. It is very expensive and its shelf life is likely to expire before it is needed, which is almost never.
Let’s say my doctor had the vaccine, though. How much cheaper would my course of treatment have been? I asked him, and I asked the chief of the emergency room. The savings to my HMO would have been $16.
I watched the Fox Network’s dog and pony show for the GOP candidates in South Carolina last night, yes I did. Who could resist those big, clumsy, lovable elephants and of course I’m a total sucker for clowns, too.
Sure enough, right off the bat Pastor Mike Huckabee had us all in stitches:
And instead what we’ve done is what Senator McCain has suggested. We’ve had a Congress that’s spent money like Edwards at a beauty shop. (Laughter.)
Actually, “laughter” doesn’t begin to describe that merry moment. 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.
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 in public the question that Osama bin Laden once suggested that 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.
Now that Bush has vetoed Congress’s first attempt to end the war, what’s the next move?
Some Democrats will complain about the President’s actions, talk about his distance from reality, and ridicule his idiotic stubbornness. Then they’ll vote for a bill that gives him more or less exactly what he wants: all the money and none of the strings. They’ll justify this cowardly action, aimed solely at improving their own career paths, with two contradictory excuses.
The exoteric statement will imply that the Democrats support the troops as much as the White House, and will pledge to work through other channels to change the President’s mind. In other words, it will be largely an admission of surrender in the battle to stop the war, plus a pledge not to surrender next time. Or at least to find some future time at which surrender will not happen. Cheese, anyone?
The esoteric view, understood in (most of) the restaurants frequented by Senators, Members of Congress, and Presidential hopefuls, will in essence be a calculation that the danger of confronting the President on the war is too great; so the best thing to do is to wait him out. Withdrawing funding, which is clearly the only tactic that will make the administration pay attention, might cause some occupancy changes on the Hill, whereas a President committed to a vastly unpopular war will be an albatross for any Republican running in 2008 who can’t point to a lot of anti-Bush votes between now and then. In particular, the Republicans will need to nominate a serious gymnast for President, someone who can connect with party faithful, about half of whom still believe in the war, and yet will have some chance of attracting votes from the two-thirds of the population that thinks the war was a bad idea to begin with.
My guess is the Enabler Caucus will boast at least Clinton, Biden, and Obama from the current crop of Presidential hopefuls. Of course, events could certainly intervene to change facts and opinions. I’d love to move Barack out of this group; but his own statements clearly place him in this group for now.
The Dissenter Caucus certainly includes Kucinich, Gravel, and Edwards, and probably Dodd, at least in most circumstances.
As for me, despite the moral and legal transgression of invading a country that didn’t threaten us, I’d be willing to consider leaving troops there for a short period if it would help Iraqis get things together, but that ain’t gonna happen. War supporters posit a bloodbath if we leave, but that’s obviously already taking place; the fault for which lies with the United States, and in particular with the planners and executors of the war, who are guilty of war crimes and crimes against peace, and possibly crimes against humanity as well, according to the definitions we established for the trials at Nuremberg after the Second World War. But that was, I admit, pre-9/11.
So it seems to me that it’s our duty as citizens to tell Congress that we want the war ended, as this Edwards commercial, now running in a few states, advocates.
We should also let Democratic Presidential hopefuls know that vague generalities followed by capitulation on the actual vote will be punished in the primaries.
Of course this is easy for people like Edwards, not currently in office, to say. If you’re in Congress, you might be inclined to believe that your continuance in office is ipso facto good for the country, because what you want is good stuff, and you’ve learned something about how to work the system. Thus, political calculations to keep yourself in office also work to the benefit of the country. What’s good for you is what’s good for America.
But at some point morality must trump ambition. A commmitted citizen would, in my opinion, finally reach a point where calculations of personal gain would be swept aside by the national need. And what this nation needs is to be out of Iraq.
Have you seen the list at TPM Café of Iraq-related votes by Clinton and Obama?
It’s an interesting exercise. As of now they show 69 bills of varying degrees of importance that relate to the conflict in Iraq. On 68 of those, Senators Clinton and Obama voted together. They disagreed last month over whether to confirm Gen. Casey as Army Chief of Staff, Obama supporting the General and Clinton opposing.
The posters spend some effort assuring readers that they were not, repeat not, belittling Obama’s all-important stance against the war from the start. Obviously that will be critical for many voters. For example, me: I might be able to hold my nose and vote for Obama, but I wouldn’t vote for Clinton under any circumstances.
At this point I’m most interested in Edwards. In particular, he has a health-care plan, as opposed to generic unobjectionable goals. This makes me think he might actually be trying to get something done, while the other candidates seem, on this issue at least, to be keeping their options open.
Despite his vote for the war, he’s also got Clinton and Obama beat hands down on Iraq now, in my opinion. Clinton has triangulated until she’s dizzy, and Obama hasn’t freed his mind from the quagmire. Edwards, on the other hand, was asked for a one-sentence summary of his position, and replied, “Let’s start getting out now.” He argues for the symbolic withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 troops immediately, and the rest over the next 12 to 18 months.
The argument is often made that even if the war was wrong, we still have an obligation to help get Iraq back on its feet. I agree that we owe the Iraqis something for having destroyed their country, caused a civil war, and provoked ethnic cleansing. But what we owe them cannot be paid in military scrip.
An approach that seems clearly better was widely discussed after its publication last October in Harper’s. George McGovern, for whom I proudly cast my first vote, combined with William Polk to list the damages done to Iraq, and to consider what might be done to alleviate them. They begin by acknowledging the obvious.
As many retired American military officers now admit, Iraq has become, since the invasion, the primary recruiting and training ground for terrorists. The longer American troops remain in Iraq, the more recruits will flood the ranks of those who oppose America not only in Iraq but elsewhere.
So we have to leave. But won’t there be a bloodbath? Well, of course; there’s one now. There isn’t much reason to expect that will change.
Let us be clear: there will be some damage. This is inevitable no matter what we do. At the end of every insurgency we have studied, there was a certain amount of chaos as the participants sought to establish a new civic order. This predictable turmoil has given rise to the argument, still being put forward by die-hard hawks, that Americans must, in President Bush’s phrase, “stay the course.” The argument is false. When a driver is on the wrong road and headed for an abyss, it is a bad idea to “stay the course.”
Of course, we were never “stay the course”.
For those who are allergic to dramatic tension, here’s what the article proposes we do to fix things: give Iraq money. There are some excellent suggestions on how to distribute the money so that it benefits Iraqis rather than carpetbaggers, and to guide it toward intended ends. Sure, some graft will take place; but we’re not really in a position to preach on that issue. At least the beneficiaries would tend to reside in country.
The projects the article proposes to fund are clearly worthwhile; actually funding them would go a long way toward restoring the world’s view of the US as an honorable country. In addition, the plan would save us a lot of money.
Even if the estimated cost of building and equipping hospitals turned out to be five times too low, even if the American government had to cover the bulk of salaries and operating costs for the next four years, and even if additional hospitals had to be built to care for Iraqis wounded or made ill by the invasion and occupation, the total cost would still be under $5 billion. It is sobering to think that the maximum cost of rebuilding Iraq’s public-health system would amount to less than what we spend on the occupation every twenty days.
It seems to me that the top issues in 2008 are likely to be:
At least, that’s what I think the top issues should be. It’s only foolish optimism, but I like it.
Among the Democratic candidates, Edwards seems to be well to the left of everyone other than Kucinich. He might even be trying to reassemble something like a modern New Deal coalition, courting labor, environmentalists, seniors, minorities, anti-poverty campaigners, and Hubbert Peak worrywarts alike. Special interests? Yes. As Chomsky likes to say, special interests means senior citizens, minorities, women, gays, labor, the poor, in fact nearly everyone. The national interest means corporations and the super-rich.
Obama starts from the moral high ground on Iraq, no doubt. But his votes since, and his stance on what to do now, are hardly better than Clinton’s. As Jerry pointed out, Edwards is extremely well positioned on the health-care issue; he’s pledged a carbon-neutral campaign, a worthwhile slogan even if it fails; and this is the Two Americas guy, who’s got poverty like Gore has environment. “Poverty is the great moral issue of our century.” That’s assuming, of course, that we survive that long.
Edwards/Obama, Edwards/Richardson? Anyone?
Here’s the situation:
You’re John Edwards, the Democratic nominee for president in 2008. Your one and only wife is Elizabeth Edwards, battling on with cancer.
Your Republican opponent is Rudy Giuliani. His third wife, Judi, has a medical history, too. She used to cut open live dogs and staple their wounds shut to demonstrate the machine she was selling.
“A dead dog doesn’t bleed,” [her former boss] said in a 1988 issue of Time magazine. “You need to have real blood-flow conditions, or you get a false sense of security.”
In his Sunday column for the New York Times Frank Rich anticipated the fourth anniversary of Bush’s Folly by listing some of the caution signs available to all Americans in the weeks leading up to the war.
Rich’s point was that a reasonably curious newspaper reader had in hand by that time all the information needed to foretell exactly what disasters Bush was about to unleash on the world.
Among reasonably curious newspaper readers we can safely include most members of Congress. Certainly we can include John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. Being intelligent and experienced, both had to know perfectly well that Bush was running a transparent con on the Congress and the country.
That they voted for war anyway was for carefully calculated political reasons that had nothing to do with national security and everything to do with their own political futures. Their votes, like the votes of so many of their colleagues, were the votes of cowards perfectly willing to trade countless deaths for their own continuance in office.
That their cowardice has already cost one of them the presidency and will probably do the same for the other should cause nobody to mourn. Our mourning should be saved for the hundreds of thousands that Kerry and Clinton helped to kill and maim.
The two knew exactly what they were doing when they voted to give a proven killer like Bush — look at his record as governor — a free hand in the Middle East. In their hearts, I feel sure, both senators opposed the war. And I would guess that most of the other Democrats who voted to turn Bush loose felt the same way.
They could not possibly have been fooled by such clumsy liars as Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. Senators, by and large, are not even a little bit stupid. They knew — as we all knew, if we wanted to know and cared to look.
Sitting in front of a computer screen in West Cornwall, Connecticut, not a classified cable in sight, even I knew. And I know I knew because, following Rich’s example, I went through the archives last night. I came up with the following collection of links and excerpts from the weeks before the war. No doubt Senator Clinton knew all this, and a great deal more besides. For all the good it did …
(March 31, 2003) It takes a lot to get me into bed with Pat Buchanan. Clinton did it with NAFTA, a despicable treaty that has worked out just the way its worst critics said it would. And now Bush minor has done it with those big, sloppy freedom kisses he keeps planting on his Israeli dominatrix, Ariel Sharon.
In a long piece for The American Conservative Buchanan tells how President Bush wound up as the bottom man in this unhealthy and unnatural relationship.
(March 31, 2003) An extraordinary number of otherwise sensible citizens apparently believe that Mr. Bush has invaded Iraq to bring freedom to that country—never mind that it wasn’t remotely “free” even before Saddam Hussein.
And never mind that Iraq will not be free after him, either. There are words to describe what the country is likely to be, but "free" is not among them. The words are instead “military protectorate,” and “occupied territory,” and “dependency,” and “colony.”
(March 25, 2003, from the Philadelphia Inquirer) “Knowledgeable defense and administration officials say Rumsfeld and his civilian aides at first wanted to commit no more than 60,000 American troops to the war on the assumption that the Iraqis would capitulate in two days.
“Intelligence officials say Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and other Pentagon civilians ignored much of the advice of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency in favor of reports from the Iraqi opposition and from Israeli sources that predicted an immediate uprising against Saddam once the Americans attacked…”
(March 24, 2003, from the New York Times) “The recent disclosure that reports claiming Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger were based partly on forged documents has renewed complaints among analysts at the C.I.A. about the way intelligence related to Iraq has been handled, several intelligence officials said.
“Analysts at the agency said they had felt pressured to make their intelligence reports on Iraq conform to Bush administration policies.”
(March 20, 2003) In his war speech last night, President Bush used the term “weapons of mass murder” for what I believe was the first time …Last night’s change is unlikely to be just another slip of the president’s tongue. I suspect it means that the empire builders were feeling constrained by the old term, which limited them to invading only nations in possession of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The new term, however, justifies preventive war against countries with stockpiles of machetes, hoes, or Zippo lighters. All have been used for mass murder.
(March 13, 2003, from the New York Times) "Mr. Chirac offered Washington a way out, crediting the American military buildup in the Persian Gulf region and the threat of force for forcing the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, to disarm.
"'They have deployed 200,000 troops; they have already won,' Mr. Chirac exclaimed."
(March 11, 2003, from a February 11 speech by Bush’s father) If the United States had gone on on its own, had gone into Baghdad after Saddam and his forces had surrendered and agreed to disarm, the coalition would have instantly shattered. And the political capital that we had gained as a result of our principled restraint to jumpstart the peace process would have been lost. We would have lost all support from our coalition, with the possible exception of England. And we would have lost all support from the smaller nations in the United Nations as well."
(March 9, 2003) The New York Times has been doing a good job of covering the treatment of suspected terrorists in the various holding pens Mr. Bush has set up throughout the world. Much of what its reporters have found out over the last few weeks has been collected in today's paper.
The trick, it seems, is to cause extreme mental and physical pain by means that don't involve actually touching the prisoner and therefore don't really sound all that awful. Among these methods are semi-starvation, thirst, nakedness, extremes of cold and heat, sleep deprivation and being made to hold uncomfortable positions for exended periods.
This last method is particularly ingenious. No big deal, right? Just make a guy sit in an awkward position for a while. Except eventually the victim's muscles go into a spasm. Imagine a cramp in your leg that won't go away because you can't move to ease it. Now imagine a full-body cramp.
At the end of the story we learn something which should make each of us just a little bit prouder to be an American: "An Egyptian government spokesman, Nabil Osman… said many of Egypt's antiterrorism initiatives, like military tribunals, had been imitated by the United States. 'We set the model,' he said, 'for combatting terrorism.'"
(March 4, 2003) This is the last sentence in Newsweek's story about the capture of Al Qaeda operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed near Islamabad last week: "Mohammed will be sent to an undisclosed location and interrogated, very thoroughly."
This is from a story in today's New York Times headlined, "Questioning of Accused Expected to Be Humane, Legal and Aggressive":
"In the case of Abu Zubaydah, an important lieutenant to Mr. bin Laden who was shot in the chest, groin and thigh a year ago when he was apprehended in Pakistan, American questioners teased him with occasional painkillers to try to cull information, officials said."
What an extraordinary word to use in this context. The passage is awkwardly written but it seems to mean that the interrogators promised to relieve the agony of a wounded prisoner if he answered their questions.
(March 1, 2003) It has been widely reported that plenty of countries helped Saddam Hussein build up the vast arsenal of chemical and biological weapons he once possessed — and that the United States was prominent among those countries.
But even careful readers of the papers probably don't know that Saddam's nuclear program was financed during the Reagan/Bush administrations with billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia.
And that, in return, Saudi Arabia was supposed to get some of the bombs for itself. And that we have known about this petrodollars-for-A-bombs swap practically from its start in the 1980s.
Colin Powell's wife was said to be influential in his decision not to run for the presidency. Her fear was inspired by the flood of racist vitriol that greeted even speculation that her husband might run in 2000.
She was right to be apprehensive. This country is full of virulent racists who would like nothing more than to shoot a black running for president. And it is so much easier in the pre-nomination process.
You don't have to be paranoid to believe James Earl Ray was the instrument, not the planner, of Martin Luther King's assassination. You'd be blind to believe a group of well-heeled racists were not bankrolling him.
This a a hidden topic. People don't like to think there are people in our country who'd assassinate Obama. But there are, thousands. Remember too that despite guards four U.S. Presidents have been killed, others wounded, and candidates for president killed. Many more were targets of assassination attempts — Gerald Ford twice. This country has not changed as much as people hope.
After all their dirty deeds, from character assassination through theft of the common wealth to the killing of several hundred thousand people for money, the so-called conservatives are in trouble, and it’s hard not to gloat just a little.
The possibility of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as president was bad enough. Even worse is the absence of a Republican candidate to rally around.
The movement’s leaders “are all pretty much agreed that there is no clear conservative choice,” said the game’s host, David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union. “Or even an unclear conservative choice.”
I agree with them on the first point, but I don’t sympathize on the rest. They only gained power in the Reagan and post-Reagan eras by subterfuge, and they used that power for war profiteering. Was the war profiteering an end in itself, or was it merely a means of achieving Grover Norquist’s famous goal, destruction of the public sector (in other words, feudalism)?
It seems to me that if the so-called conservatives, who were long ago outed as closet radicals, clearly understood their position and actually expected to be seeing President Hillary in their living rooms, they would rejoice: she’s the best recruiting tool they’ve got right now.
After all the lying and murder and incompetence and attacks on civil liberties and windfall profits for oil companies, the Republicans in general don’t have much to offer a skeptical public. True, the public won’t remain skeptical for long, but the mood will last at least as long as the war. And I can’t see us being out of Iraq by 2008 unless there’s a Republican attempt to avert an impending electoral landslide by dumping the albatross and impeaching.
Of course Viguerie et. al. would probably object that it’s unfair to tar them as Republicans. They are conservatives, true Reaganites, harking back to the glory days of Morning Again in America. But that’s no excuse; only ignorance of its history or advocacy of its war crimes could lead to pride in that period of American history.
Still, these folks have proven quite adept at believing whole-heartedly in obvious bullshit. For instance, many of those who harp on fiscal restraint are proud to wear the Reaganite label. Do they recall the tripling of the federal deficit that happened during his Presidency? Many of them are hard put to define the meaning, not to mention the scope, of the problem; others smile quietly and pat their wallets.
But the smiles are harder to find nowadays.
Viguerie, the movement veteran, said that he is not optimistic about victory in 2008 and that he tells conservatives to focus on the long term. “I think it will be ‘012 or ‘016,” he said.
In the meantime, he suggested that conservative Republicans withhold support from McCain, Giuliani and Romney — at least for the time being. “I don’t think it’s worth the conservative energy right now,” Viguerie said.
Life is just high school all over again:
In the eyes of many on the Christian right, each of the Republicans seeking their support has a significant flaw. Senator Sam Brownback supports a guest worker program. Representative Duncan Hunter wants protectionist trade policies. Some feel that Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, was responsible for tax increases in his state. And skepticism of Mitt Romney’s social conservatism remains strong. But Grover Norquist, an anti-tax advocate, told The Times’s David D. Kirkpatrick “that with the right promises, any of the four could redeem themselves in the eyes of the conservative movement despite their past records, just as some high school students take abstinence pledges even after having had sex.
“It’s called secondary virginity,” Mr. Norquist said. “It is a big movement in high school and also available for politicians.”
And listen, folks, it works for Democrats too:
“That nasty Bush boy told me it was just a banana and he was only going to put it in a little ways or I never would have let him do it. Believe you me, I’m never going to let anybody trick me that way again. Cross my heart and hope to die.”
I’m hoping without much hope that the New York Times is wrong about this:
Mr. McCain, who served 22 years in the Navy, rises to his feet whenever he takes a call from Mr. Bush, even in the privacy of his office.
Thanks to a close reading by Sandy Levinson at Balkinization, we learn the significance of the following text, which Jeb Bush (AKA “The Smart One”) just signed into Florida law:
…the history of the United States, including the period of discovery, early colonies, the War for Independence, the Civil War, the expansion of the United States to its present boundaries, the world wars, and the civil rights movement to the present. The history of the United States shall be taught as genuine history and shall not follow the revisionist or postmodernist viewpoints of relative truth. American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable, and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.
Leave it to the Washington Post to try to write a feel-good article about Bill Frist, the doctor who told us, without even a visit, that Terry Schiavo was alive and well. Readers of this blog already know that Frist is a cat killer. Today, from the Washington Post, we learn from Mrs. Frist that Mr. Frist is also a dog killer. Mrs Frist fondly recalls how he held a dog’s beating heart in his hand to watch it die.
“Well, your first patient was a dog,” Karyn said. In medical school, Frist cut out a dog’s heart and held it in his palm. It continued to beat for a slippery minute.
“Watching it beat, the beauty of it,” Frist recalled. “I decided I would spend my life centered around the heart.”
“And you didn’t say ‘I’ll take some time off and be a politician’ while you were holding the dog heart,” Karyn said.
Even our sweet Mabel is appalled and Fala is rolling over in his grave.
Monday I promised that if I could find Eliot Spitzer’s speech that I described on Monday that I would post it. The page on C-Span that describes the event is here.
Here is the video.
Spitzer starts speaking about one hour and fourty-five minutes into the program, so skip through the other speakers to get to see one of our next Presidents speaking to ordinary people.
…and remember Spitzer’s famous words said about the Republicans:
No party has ever done so much for so few who need so little.
Perhaps someone a little more adept than me with video editing can cut out the rest and post a shortened version. I haven’t had time to view all the speakers, so there may be more good stuff from some of the others who spoke, particularly Russ Feingold.