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Archive for August, 2008

I got a P and an O and a W…

Now that I’m back from Denver and am finally all caught up with my Invesco posts, I may just have to take it easier during the GOP convention. In fact, perhaps I’ll procure some choice spirits and play everyone’s favorite RNC party game, McCain Bingo

In the immortal words of Larry David, “BINGOOOOO…” (As seen at Dangerous Meta & Blivet.)

A Government for Hire in a Combat Site.

Another choice link by way of Web Goddess. Until half an hour ago, I probably would’ve told you my favorite apocalyptic-pop Youtube video was this creepy-weird German mashup set to Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around”. But now it’s probably this ska-happy rendition of Dubya crooning “ITEOTWAWKI (AIFF).” Both are worth watching, if you can get around their innate “not lovely lovely Ludwig Van” eeriness.

It’s not easy being Bale.

Separated at birth? Someone brave soul at LiveJournal dares to investigate the strange confluence of Christian Bale and Kermit the Frog. Now we know why Nolan picked him for The Prestige…[Via Quiddity.]

Upon a Palin Horse.

“As one McCain aide put it: “We either get Hillary’s voters and we win, or we don’t. It’s not a mystery.” In a move that reeks of desperate Hail Mary strategizing (and, to my mind, grossly overestimates the potential PUMA vote in this country), John McCain chooses Alaska governor Sarah Palin, a woman he’d barely spoken to before yesterday, as his running mate. (I was flying back from Denver when the news hit, and it’s safe to say the selection of “Geraldine Quayle” was met with general jubilation throughout the plane.)

Basically, I think Sarah Palin is a wonderful pick…for the Democrats. Palin may have been an excellent governor over the past year — who knows? — but she’s an astoundingly poor choice for vice-president, worse even than Dan Quayle in the sheer tactical transparency of it. And I have every suspicion this gambit will backfire massively. To my mind, picking a running mate whose only obvious asset to the ticket is her second X-chromosome, and thinking that her sheer presence alone will somehow bring women to vote for McCain in droves, is not only a deeply sexist notion, it’s patently idiotic. (Just ask Walter Mondale how well the any-female-we-can-find strategy works.)

Her femininity aside — and, let’s be clear, that’s obviously why McCain picked her, unless (I say this as a short man myself) he just wanted a veep smaller than him — here’s a candidate who [a] mayored a town of 7000 people — college campus presidents have done more heavy lifting, [b] has been the GOP governor, for less than two years, of a state widely known to be a sinkhole of Republican corruption, [c] has her own ready-made scandal attached vis a vis this illegal firing of her ex-brother-in-law, [d] is a pro-life, creationist supporter of Pat Buchanan, and [e] has admitted earlier this month she didn’t even know what McCain’s stance on Iraq is. Now, that type of blatant ignorance may be what the GOP wants from their voters, but it’s damn sure not what voters want from their presidential tickets.

One has to wonder: If the McCain campaign was going to stake everything on such a pathetically obvious gambit for the PUMA vote, why didn’t they just pick Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who also has the advantage of actually being qualified for the job? Well, apparently Sen. Hutchison wasn’t sufficiently pro-life enough to fend off the fundies. So Team McCain had to venture all the way north of the border to find a pro-lifer up to snuff for the evangelical crazies…but don’t worry, he’s still a maverick independent and everything.

At any rate, because it’s so dead on, here’s the quality reaction of a MeFi’er, August Pollak, QFT. [Birddogged by WebGoddess.]

Oh my god, really?

Really?

Look, to be fair, I was halfway through a post last night on my own site about how ridiculous I though all the hard-right Freepers/Cornerites/etc. were harping about Palin. She was basically their new Fred Thompson. But I am seriously dumbfounded that they would have been this stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, on a PR level this is masterful for McCain. He’s killed all the momentum and press coverage about Obama’s amazing speech last night. So I really am amazed they think that one shot at gaining the press advantage was worth the most unbelievably inept VP pick I could have possibly imagined.

Forget even among fields of conservatives in general: is anyone from the McCain camp going to make a convincing case that Palin is remotely close to the most qualified woman in the GOP to be a heartbeat away from taking over a guy who turns 72 today and has a history of cancer? She has been governor- for 18 months- of a state with a population smaller than Obama’s state senate district in Illinois. Her previous office was the mayor of an Alaskan town with a population smaller than 3,000 people. At the very minimum, Obama has sat in on foreign policy sessions and dealt with national and international issues on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Palin has no foreign policy experience. This is literally one step above giving the slot to the winner of a game show.

So in what I can only perceive as a complete fit of insanity, McCain has decided to destroy with one pick the three talking points he had as an advantage over Obama:

Experience: She has none. Palin is utterly unqualified to be president of the U.S. Senate, let alone the country should anything befall McCain.

Celebrity: She’s a former beauty pageant winner who’s done multiple cover shoots for fashion and culture magazines and her claim to fame is being the subject of an article titled “America’s Hottest Governor.” There will be more talk about how she’s attractive than her actual policy credentials. Her gender, in light of her utter political weakness, will be seen blatantly- and rightly- as the novelty McCain picked it for. There is no clearer a celebrity pick for McCain than this one.

Moderate Female Voters: Putting aside for a moment that she’s outrageously anti-choice, if McCain truly believes that what really appeals to middle-age working-class white women is a younger, prettier, but amazingly less-qualified woman getting the promotion that Hillary Clinton didn’t, then I can’t really reflect any greater how utterly deaf to the interests of women the Republican Party is.

Jesus tap-dancing Christ. If McCain wanted a former beauty queen with no experience and a criminal investigation on her record I don’t know why he didn’t just pick his own wife.

Zing.

Update: Rasmussen has the first post-Palin poll, and it seems a gender gap has already emerged — Women aren’t really buying it. “These numbers pretty much speak for themselves, but men have a favorable impression of Palin by a 35-point margin, whereas women have a favorable impression of her by an 18-point margin. Conversely, by a 23-point margin, women do not think Palin is ready to be President, whereas Palin lost this question among men by a considerably smaller 6-point margin.” [Via Firedoglake.]

RIP, AP.

Well, 162 years is a good run…but, sadly, the lowest-common-denominator, hyper-partisan idiocy derailing so much of the media these days seems to have now infected one of our oldest and most venerable American media institutions, the Associated Press. The handwriting’s been on the wall ever since conservative ideologue and almost-McCain-employee Ron Fournier moved up the pecking order. But, in the past two days, AP has completely embarrassed itself no less than twice. First, the AP analysis (by some stone-hearted fellow — paging Sinclair Lewis — named Charles Babington) bashed Obama’s nomination speech in purely Republican terms. Then, check out Fournier’s headline on McCain’s grotesque Palin pick: “Analysis: Palin’s age, inexperience rival Obama’s .” Uh, yeah.

Update: “As many of you know, some political groups and left-leaning blogs have aligned to organize a newspaper letter-writing campaign against AP Washington Bureau Chief Ron Fournier…Below you will find some talking points to help guide you as this issue plays out.” The AP issues CYA talking points to its affiliates defending Fournier.

Obama: The Main Event.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us — that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it — because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time. America, this is one of those moments.

The end of the evening, of course, featured Senator Obama’s historic nomination speech and, as you all already know, he absolutely knocked it out of the park. [Transcript.] As I said in my first post, I thought it “powerful in its can-do faith in America and devastatingly effective in its evisceration of the GOP,” and I’ll stand by that. In fact, in a week of excellent speeches, I thought our nominee’s address was the one that came out on top.

Sen. Obama’s speech succeeded on several different levels at once: It worked as a lofty restatement of central American principles and a concise explanation of what differentiates Democrats from Republicans. It provided hard policy details for those ambivalent about the word “change,” and it threw red meat to the faithful — and food for thought to the undecideds — by going after John McCain on issues across the board. Speaking of which, Obama’s tone toward McCain was note-perfect: Polite enough to the man, Obama was utterly dismissive of his lousy ideas and his endless shilling for Dubya, and he fired a warning shot across his bow about any further attempt to wallow in the usual Republican “patriot games.” In fact, Obama’s speech preemptively made much of the GOP’s usual grab-bag of insinuation and slander, sure to be in full evidence next week in Minnesota, look patently ridiculous. When McCain announced his veep pick yesterday — more on that textbook case of bad judgment in short order — I noticed the podium read “Country First.” After Obama’s speech last night, that old dog’s looking a little lame.

Coming into Thursday night, I thought the best line uttered, in terms of the history books, had come from President Clinton’s Wednesday speech: “People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.” (The Ann Richards memorial runners-up: Bob Casey’s maverick-sidekick skewering of John McCain on Tuesday, and Al Gore’s recycling bit) But Obama’s speech was filled with great quotables. For example:

  • America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

  • [W]e are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: ‘Eight is enough.’

  • Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.”

  • Now, I don’t believe that Senator McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know…It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.

  • For over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy – give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is – you’re on your own.

  • Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them.

  • If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.

  • John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell – but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.

  • We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans — Democrats and Republicans – have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

  • I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

  • What the nay-sayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s been about you.

  • And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln’s Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream. The men and women who gathered there could’ve heard many things. They could’ve heard words of anger and discord. They could’ve been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred. But what the people heard instead — people of every creed and color, from every walk of life — is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one. ‘We cannot walk alone,’ the preacher cried. ‘And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.’ America, we cannot turn back.

    And so on. What’s more, Obama’s speech wasn’t only a address for progressives, but a progressive address. It didn’t just offer up a litany of policies and goodies aimed at buying off consumer-voters (tax cuts and free prescription drugs for all!), but called Americans to rally to their individual and collective responsibilities as citizens of the republic. It didn’t talk much of rights and choices, as contemporary liberalism so often does, but emphasized “the American promise” as a shared ideal that binds us all together. He didn’t get bogged down in the soul-deadening, technocratic rhetoric of policy proposals, but used American history and “the American spirit” as the unifying narrative and common tapestry of our entire national community. When it came to our most divisive and contentious issues — abortion, gay marriage, immigration — Obama’s speech didn’t just pick a side and lob grenades at the cultural opposition, but tried to engage and draw out principled conservatives onto neutral ground, without compromising on the positions themselves.

    I’ve made the case several times here that, for whatever reason (in part, I think, his background in community organizing — Jane Addams came to similar conclusions in her own time on the streets of Chicago; for another, I think the progressive ideals of the Social Gospel have survived better in the African-American church than they have in our secular democratic politics), Sen. Obama seems to understand and call back to real progressivism like no other presidential nominee we’ve had since RFK. This, thankfully, hasn’t been lost in the move toward the general election.

    So, in other words, I loved the speech. And, as I said the other day, actually being at Invesco Field for its delivery was an experience I’ll never forget. I know some people may just find this naive, but after listening to Obama on Thursday night, and after living through all the corruption and incompetence of the last eight years, I refuse to imagine an America that would in good conscience pick John McCain and everything he represents over Barack Obama in two months. That is not my country — We are better than that, and we cannot and will not turn back.

  • Profiles in Ordinary Courage.


    “America needs a president who will put Barney Smith ahead of Smith Barney.”/em> Before Obama came out — again, not sure if these were shown anywhere besides C-SPAN — we heard remarks from Susan Eisenhower (Ike’s granddaughter), witnessed a parade of Obama-supporting generals, and in a series of surprisingly good performances, listened as a handful of “regular Americans” like you and me explained why they’ll be voting Obama this November. Now, this latter set of speeches in particular could’ve screamed painful stunt. (I for one often get mightily annoyed by the practice, started by Reagan and honed by Clinton, of bringing in a grabbag of “Ordinary Americans” each year as props for the State of the Union — I think it’s lazy, opportunistic, and definitely serves to diminish the quality of contemporary speeches, making them less about universal ideas and resonant imagery and more about particular grievances and local color.)

    All that being said, every one of these “ordinary” speakers performed exceptionally well, particularly given a crowd of 80,000 here and millions around the world, and they really helped to bring a human face to the catastrophe that has been Dubyanomics. Probably performing best, in my humble opinion, were Pam Cash-Roper of NC and Janet Lynn Monaco of FL, both of whom found themselves on the wrong end of our health care “system.” But each and every speaker did a great job, and former Republican Barney Smith got in the best line (above.)

    Speaking of lines, If the speaker’s dais was noon on a clock, I was seated relatively low to the ground at around 1:30 pm. So, while my view of the speakers themselves was obstructed (I usually watched the big Jumbotron), I had a direct line of view to the large teleprompter across from the stage. So, more often than not — and, particularly during this section of the evening — I found myself reading along rather than watching the speakers, which definitely makes for a different experience. (It was also interesting to see what ensued when a given orator — the head general in his closing, for example — went off the reservation and tried to ad-lib…bad things, usually.)

    Gore: “I believe in recycling, but that’s ridiculous.”

    [T]he last eight years demonstrate that the special interests who have come to control the Republican Party are so powerful that serving them and serving the national well-being are now irreconcilable choices.

    So what can we do about it?

    We can carry Barack Obama’s message of hope and change to every family in America. And pledge that we will be there for him, not only in the heat of this election but in the aftermath as we put his agenda to work for our country.

    We can tell Republicans and independents, as well as Democrats, exactly why our nation so badly needs a change from the approach of Bush, Cheney and McCain.

    After they wrecked our economy, it is time for a change.

    After they abandoned the search for the terrorists who attacked us and redeployed the troops to invade a nation that did not attack us, it’s time for a change.

    After they abandoned the principle first laid down by Gen. George Washington, when he prohibited the torture of captives because it would bring, in his words, “shame, disgrace and ruin” to our nation, it’s time for a change.

    When as many as three Supreme Court justices could be appointed in the first term of the next president, and John McCain promises to appoint more Scalias and Thomases and end a woman’s right to choose, it is time for a change.

    I’m not sure if Tim Kaine (ok, a bit heavy on the God-talk for my taste) and Bill Richardson (looser and more likable than he ever seemed on the campaign trail) made it to TV. I’m sure Al Gore’s address got some coverage, though. [Transcript.] Now, longtime readers know I’m no fan of Gore’s, and when his speech began I had a reaalllly bad feeling about it. (“Today, we face essentially the same choice we faced in 2000“…Uh, hell no we don’t. Sen. Obama is at least thrice the candidate Gore ever was, and he has neither been running to the right all primary season, nor masking himself in the pungent odor of Republican-lite centrism all frickin’ election, like some Tennesseeans I could name. Two words, Al: Joe Lieberman.)

    That being said, I thought Gore’s speech picked up soon after its score-settling preamble, and, in the end — as with John Kerry — it was probably better-delivered, more honest, and more passionate than any address he delivered as the 2000 candidate. In effect, Gore gave the much-needed “Glenn Greenwald speech”: Of all the remarks I heard this week, it (and Richardson’s) drew most attention to the erosion of civil liberties and constitutional behavior by the executive that has marked the last eight years. There was a good bit of discussion of climate change in there as well, of course — that’s where Gore’s post-Nobel “controlling moral authority” lies. And, while it’s been going around for awhile, I enjoyed the many “Man from Springfield” comparisons of Lincoln and Obama. But it was as Defender of the Constitution that Gore’s speech most resonated with me, and, if I liked it with my exceedingly low tolerance for most things Gore-related, I have to think it played well out there to the undecideds as well. Good job, Mr. (Almost-)President.

    The Dream Continues.

    I was there that day when Dr. King delivered his historic speech before an audience of more than 250,000. I am the last remaining speaker from the March on Washington, and I was there when Dr. King urged this nation to lay down the burden of discrimination and segregation and move toward the creation of a more perfect union…

    [W]ith the nomination of Senator Barack Obama tonight, the man who will lead the Democratic Party in its march toward the White House, we are making a major down payment on the fulfillment of that dream. We prove that a dream still burns in the hearts of every American, that this dream was too right, too necessary, too noble to ever die.

    But this night is not an ending. It is not even a beginning. It is the continuation of a struggle that began centuries ago in Lexington and Concord, in Gettysburg and Appomattox, in Farmville, Virginia, and Topeka, Kansas, in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and Selma, Alabama.

    Democracy is not a state. It is an act. It is a series of actions we must take to build what Martin Luther King Jr. called the beloved community – a society based on simple justice that values the dignity and the worth of every human being.

    We’ve come a long way, but we still have a distance to go. We’ve come a long way, but we must march again. On November 4th, we must march in every state, in every city, in every village, in every hamlet; we must march to the ballot box. We must march like we have never marched before to elect the next President of the United States, Senator Barack Obama.

    For those of us who stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or who in the years that followed may have lost hope, this moment is a testament to the power and vision of Martin Luther King Jr. It is a testament to the ability of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. It is a testament to the promise of America.

    I’m not sure if it made it to the networks, but Rep. John Lewis’ introduction to the MLK tribute was easily the most spine-tingling and moving moment of the day outside of Obama’s nomination speech. When Lewis spoke, it was still a bright, sunny afternoon in Denver, and it was easy to imagine — and even almost feel the tangible presence of — that August day in Washington forty-five years ago.

    I’m fully aware that this is just an illusion, that the two events were quite different in feel and tone, and that the former will always remain unknowable to me, outside of book-learning. But, as Lewis spoke with such emotion and conviction Thursday afternoon, it was a very powerful feeling, as if the space-time of American history was folding around us to fashion bookends, forty-five years apart. I felt extraordinarily lucky to be there to witness and experience it. “‘We’ve had disappointments since then, but if someone told me I would be here’ Mr. Lewis said, shaking [his] head. ‘When people say nothing has changed, I feel like saying, “Come walk in my shoes.”‘

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