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Barack Obama (’04-’08)

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Brooks Was Here.

James Whitmore, 1921-2009. “Although not always politically active, in 2007, Whitmore generated some publicity with his endorsement of Barack Obama for U.S. President. In January 2008, Whitmore appeared in television commercials for the First Freedom First campaign, which advocates preserving ‘the separation of church and state’ and protecting religious liberty.

Morning in America.

Well, y’all, we made it. After eight long, damaging years, we’ve finally passed through the tunnel of Dubya. And in ten hours or so, we can finally begin the real work of restoring our nation and its place in the world.

It’s a good day for a change.

The Man of the Hour.

So, can you guess who TIME’s Person of the Year for 2008 turned out to be?

Not a huge surprise of course. Regardless, in honor of the occasion, and since now seems as good a time as any to fire up the 2008-in-retrospect train, below are some of the longer GitM essays on President-elect Obama over the past year and change. (And if you’re really a glutton for punishment, and want to relive all the debate coverage or somesuch, there’s always the election 2008 archives.)

  • Progressivism, a Born Loser?, “Progressivism Continued” — November 2007. Wherein the case is made that [a] Obama is more progressive than he is liberal and that [b], contra friend and colleague David Greenberg, that’s exactly what America needs right now.
  • IA-Day | GitM for Obama” — January 2008. An overview of the Democratic field as it stood the morning of the Iowa caucus, and an endorsement of Barack Obama.
  • The Future Begins Now,” “Iowa By the Numbers” — January 2008. On Senator Obama’s victory in the Iowa caucuses.
  • Barack Obama and the Generation Gap” — January 2008 — A plea to Baby Boom voters, borrowing heavily from my man Bob Dylan, to get behind Sen. Obama.
  • Greenberg: Missing the Thread” — January 2008. Arguing, again with friend David Greenberg, that there is much more to Obama’s candidacy than just the “Great White Hope.”
  • The Great Need of the Hour” — January 2008. An excerpt from then-Senator Obama’s MLK day speech.
  • Yes, We Can,” “Oh Carolina!” — January 2008. Excerpts from Sen. Obama’s speech, and parsing Obama’s victory, in my home state of South Carolina.
  • A President Like My Father,” It is Time Now for Barack Obama” — January 2008. Excerpts from Caroline and Ted Kennedy’s respective endorsements of the Senator.
  • “Empty Suit…with a Stovepipe Hat” — January 2008. The Tribune‘s Eric Zorn makes the Lincoln v. Seward comparison explicit.
  • Lakoff on the Dem Divide” — January 2008. Linguist and political theorist George Lakoff endorses Obama.
  • Showtime | Barack Obama for President” — February 2008. A round-up of Obama endorsements, and primary news thus far, on Super Tuesday.
  • We’re Going the Distance” — February 2008. Parsing the Super Tuesday results.
  • Obama Endorses La Follette” — February 2008. In Wisconsin, Obama rhetorically tips his hat to the progressives of yesteryear.
  • Dodd Comes Forward” — February 2008. Senator Chris Dodd becomes the first former primary opponent to endorse Obama.
  • We are Hope Despite the Times” — March 2008. Michael Stipe endorses Obama.
  • Stepping Back for the Big Picture” — March 2008. On the state of the race during the six-week Pennsylvania lull.
  • A More Perfect Union” — March 2008. On Senator Obama’s “Race in America” speech.
  • Our Five Year Mission” — May 2008. Barack Obama and others respond to the fifth anniversary of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.
  • So Happy Together… | It’s On.” — May 2008. The McCain-Obama general election unofficially begins.
  • The Lesson of the Ring” — June 2008. Some closing thoughts on the seemingly never-ending 2008 Democratic primary.
  • The Nominee” — June 2008. Excerpt from Sen. Obama’s nomination-clinching victory speech.
  • The Bygones are Bygones” — June 2008. Senators Obama and Clinton make peace.
  • Obama: Don’t Tread on Me” — June 2008. Thought on and excerpts from Sen. Obama’s “patriotism” speech in Independence, MO.
  • Wir sind alle Berliners” — July 2008. On Sen. Obama’s summer world tour and speech in Berlin.
  • That’s Me in the Corner…” — August 2008. On Sen. Obama’s visit to Chesapeake, VA, which I attended.
  • The Ticket” — August 2008. Sen. Obama chooses Joe Biden as his running mate.
  • Wow,” “Obama: The Main Event” — August 2008. Reflections on my visit to Denver, and Sen. Obama’s nomination speech.
  • Astride the Mad Elephant” — October 2008. On the sad turn taken by the McCain campaign.
  • Barack Obama for President” — November 2008. The closing argument for Sen Obama, on election day.
  • 44,” “Thoughts after the Quake” — November 2008. Early reflections on the election of Barack Obama.
    Phew, what a long, strange trip it’s been! Of course, in all the important ways, we’re only just getting started.

  • The Restoration?

    ‘You could have had an administration with a sprinkling of Clinton people, it would have been fine,’ said Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the American Prospect…’But when so many of the top people are holdovers, and he’s promoting change, you have to say, wait a minute.’” As the official Cabinet appointments file in, some left-minded folk cast a wary eye upon the Clintonian tinge of the Obama cabinet. (If you haven’t been keeping up, among those announced by the transition of late are Eric Holder at Justice, Tim Geithner at Treasury, and Larry Summers(!) as in-house economic guru, and word has leaked of Bill Richardson for Commerce and You-Know-Who for State.)

    To be honest, with a few exceptions — After his egregious stint at Harvard and his hand in forging the economic mess we’re in now, I’m not altogether sure Larry Summers deserved to “fail up” — I’m not only fine with so many experienced Clinton-era officials in the Obama cabinet, I expected it. This was the great fallacy of the McCain campaign — For all his talk of maverick independence, there was never any substantial trough of non-Dubya Republicans out there from which McCain could’ve picked a government. A few cosmetic changes in the Cabinet aside, a McCain Washington would by necessity have been run by the same jokers who brought us the last eight years. And, for better or worse, we Dems also don’t have a different farm team of any kind. As Robert Borosage well puts it in the article above, “It hasn’t surprised me that he’s chosen stars from the Clinton bench, because that’s the bench we have.

    All that being said, I’d be lying if I didn’t note that the probable choice of Sen. Clinton for Secretary of State gives me pause. Part of my qualm, I suppose, is just a temperamental defect in my grudge-carrying Irish character — I’d be the first to admit that I lean towards “the Chicago way” in these sorts of things. (If it were up to me, Joe Lieberman would be working the Senate cloakroom after his behavior this election cycle, and, imho, Sen Clinton still has quite a bit to answer for as well.) But even allowing for my own petty vindictiveness, I’m not feeling the pick. Notwithstanding her dubious qualifications for State — don’t we have any career diplomats who would fit the bill? — Sen. Clinton’s record in foreign policy matters thus far is not what you’d call stellar. (See also: the Iraq vote, the Iran vote.) And, to put it delicately, if we learned anything from the Clinton campaign this past cycle, it’s that management skills may not be her forte — Wouldn’t we all be better served with Sen. Clinton replacing Ted Kennedy as the new liberal lion of the Senate?

    Mind you, I can see the political merits of the pick, both in terms of its Lincolnian magnanimity (it enhances Obama’s “goodbye to all that” post-partisan prestige, and completes the Seward analogy) and its Johnsonian shrewdness. (As LBJ said of J. Edgar Hoover, ““I would rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.“) And, if the president-elect believes Sen. Clinton to be the woman for the job, despite everything that’s happened over the year, I’m inclined to trust his judgment on the matter. I just hope it works out better than I fear. (Pic via Sullivan.)

    Thoughts after the Quake.

    “‘I was born in 1941, the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. I’ve been living in darkness ever since,’ Dylan said to introduce the song, or as a goodbye, or, as he hadn’t spoken before, as a hello. ‘But it looks like things are going to change now.’ At the end of the stage he stepped out from behind his electric organ and did a jig.

    Thus was the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’s happy reaction to Obama’s election Tuesday night. (As you may remember, he publicly backed the senator in June.) For many others, including yours truly, the feeling of the evening might best be summed up by one of Dylan’s esteemed contemporaries, Leonard Cohen: “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Halleloooooojah!

    For the first time since 1994, we have a Democratic president and a safely Democratic Congress. For the first time since 1964, we have a Democratic president entering office with a commanding mandate from the people. For the first time since…well, ever, we’ve reaffirmed our founding principles by choosing an African-American to lead us into the future.

    I don’t want to overplay the “first black president” thing, because that’s not at all why we chose Sen. Obama. Still it must be said: With this election, we have shown the world — and ourselves — anew that the American ideal isn’t just a convenient myth, but a vision of the good that many of us still aspire to create every day. In the words of Cornel West, “To understand your country, you must love it. To love it, you must, in a sense, accept it. To accept it as how it is, however is to betray it. To accept your country without betraying it, you must love it for that in it which shows what it might become. America – this monument to the genius of ordinary men and women, this place where hope becomes capacity, this long, halting turn of the no into the yes, needs citizens who love it enough to reimagine and remake it.” And so we have, in a way the founders of our American experiment 221 years ago could barely have imagined.

    Meanwhile, even with crooks like Ted Stevens and Norm Coleman still floating for the moment, our old friends the Republicans are now not only in full rout, but appear to be set to tear each other’s throats out in assigning blame for their repudiation at the polls. (Expect several further symposia of conservative hand-wringing, and a lot more intraparty shivving, along the lines of “Palin thinks Africa is a country,” in the weeks to come.) This gang will regroup — they always do — but for now the GOP has enough problems of their own to keep them busy. And, whatever ever they manage to accomplish as the loyal(?) opposition, it seems a safe bet that the Conservative Era that began with the defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964 has now officially coughed up its last in 2008, with the defeat of fellow Arizonan John McCain.

    By the way, also joining the Republicans on the road to oblivion Tuesday night, alas, was my old laptop, a victim of post-return celebratory spillage. (Jamesons: Good for Jimmy McNulty and jubliant Dems, Bad for computer hardware in and around the television area.) Normally, inadvertently frying my growing-ancient-but-generally-reliable PC would’ve completely ruined my day. As it was, I took the news about like Baxter eating the whole wheel of cheese: “How’d you do that? Heck, I’m not even mad; that’s amazing.” (And, fortunately, the hard drive, and the dissertoral files therein, were salvageable regardless.)

    One much more depressing skeleton at the feast Tuesday night, about which Ted at Gideonse Bible, Chris at DYFL, and others have written eloquently: the passage of the idiotic Proposition 8 in California, which seemingly won with quite a bit of help from first-time Obama voters. It’s irredeemably sad not only that a day that saw so much progress was marred by Prop 8 and its like around the country, but that so many of the voters who helped strike a fatal blow against enduring racial prejudice at the national level seemingly had no qualms about encoding anti-gay bigotry into the California constitution.

    Perhaps I’m dense, but I fail to understand how the institution of marriage could somehow be threatened by the state recognizing the unions of same-sex couples, particularly in a day and age when so many straight folk (myself included) have already had marriages that failed. (As my old boss used to say of the thrice-married Bob Barr back when he supported the Defense of Marriage Act: “Which marriage is he defending?”) By the way, particularly galling on the Prop 8 front, I think, is the strong imposition of the Mormon church into the battle on the side of the anti-gay zealots. One would think, of all people, the Mormons might have some sense of the damage that can be wrought by the state involving itself in stringent definitions of marriage. But, no, apparently what was good for two ganders in the eyes of the Mormons isn’t good for the goose. For shame.

    Still, the Prop 8 debacle notwithstanding (I have every faith that within a decade, that law will seem as knee-jerk, narrow-minded, and embarrassing as it in fact is), Tuesday was otherwise a great night for America. What it now befalls us to remember is that, while we should savor them while we can, the path of progress before us will likely offer few such moments of jubilation in the months and years ahead. When it comes to change, it really is “uphill all the way.”

    Given the economic and diplomatic travails already before President-elect Obama, he’ll have his work cut out for him from jump street. And those out there old enough to remember President Clinton’s first days in office, and how quickly things seemed to go south then (the sanity-restoring ’93 budget bill notwithstanding) will know that a Dem president and Dem Congress is no guarantee of progressive legislation in the offing. We won’t see the change we want — and voted for — without maintaining steady and unyielding pressure on all the machinery of government in the months and years to come. Now is not the time to sit back and let our new president try to do all the heavy lifting, but to stay involved as citizens and keep the progressive ball moving forward. (And, hey, keeping one’s head in the game may help to mitigate those postpartum existential crises The Onion warned us about.)

    In an election held eighty years ago (i.e. in the living memory of one Ann Nixon Cooper), Herbert Hoover, the longstanding Secretary of Commerce widely revered as “the Great Engineer” and “the Great Humanitarian,” decisively defeated Al Smith, the Catholic Governor of New York. “Given a chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years,” Hoover had promised in his nomination speech, “we shall soon with the help of God be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation.” And, while he obviously had his detractors, many across the country viewed Hoover as a miracle-worker who could singlehandedly steer the country to these new great heights. “We were in a mood for magic,” journalist Anne O’Hare McCormick wrote of the Hoover inauguration. “We summoned a great engineer to solve our problems for us; now we sat back comfortably and confidently to watch the problems being solved.

    For his part, Hoover was less sanguine about his prospects. “They have a conviction that I am some sort of superman, he fretted. “If some unprecedented calamity should come upon the nation…I would be sacrificed to the unreasoning disappointment of a people who expected too much.

    Who among us think Hoover a superman now? History doesn’t stop with a war or an election or the collapse of a governing ideology, be it Communism or Conservatism. It grinds inexorably on, always uncertain, always equal parts danger and opportunity, and all too often deeply laced with irony — Time and time again in our American story, nothing succeeds like abject failure, and nothing fails like a great success. So let’s not rest on our laurels by any means: The election of 2008 was a campaign hard-fought and hard-won, but the battle continues, and in many ways the real work before us is only now just beginning.

    Let us look to navigate the turbulent waters ahead with a deep and abiding faith in our new captain, but also with our own eyes to the sea.

    (Presidents pic via Hal at Blivet and Patrick at Supercres.)


    Sen. Barack Obama (and family), the 44th President of these United States.

    More soon. For now, woot! Goodbye to all that, and welcome to the new. :)

    Barack Obama for President.

    So, here we are at last. After the interminable Democratic primary, the mile-high heights of Denver, the RNC’s sputtering lows, all the ignominious Palin follies, and the ugly throes of conservative crack-up we’ve witnessed over the past month or so, it’s at long last decision time.

    Not that it’s going to be any big surprise to you, but I myself will be voting for Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, for the reasons I listed back in January and for many others, and I strongly encourage you to do the same.

    Of course, voting for Obama tomorrow is a much easier call than choosing among the Democratic field a year ago. If any undecided voters actually swing by GitM (a proposition I highly doubt), well, all you really need to know right now is this:

  • We are where we are today, be it in Iraq, on Wall Street or anywhere else, as a consequence of eight years of Dubya’s leadership.

  • John McCain voted to support George W. Bush 90% of the time.
  • That’s it. End of story. If you think Dubya was right 90% of the time, that everything from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown to national embarrassments such as Gitmo and Abu Ghraib were handled smoothly — heck, even competently — by this administration, then John McCain is your man. If you don’t, then you should vote Obama.

    Similarly, if you think Congress should spend more time pursuing the interests of immensely wealthy corporations and K-street lobbyists rather than representing the American people, that criminals like Duke Cunningham, Boss DeLay, and “Casino Jack” Abramoff should be allowed to plunder the nation’s coffers for personal gain, and that the House and Senate should really be devoting their time to such all-consuming issues as flag burning and the fate of poor Terri Schiavo, then you should vote Republican. If, on the other hand, you want to finally move past all that, and help see real change enacted in this country under a President Obama, then you should vote for your Democratic House and Senate candidates, as I plan to.

    Now, of course, I myself would take it farther than that. Y’see, I personally don’t believe that conservatism works as a governing philosophy — it never has, and it never will. You wouldn’t ask a vegetarian to prepare you a steak, and you don’t hire someone who despises government and/or sees it only as his personal bankroll to run a country for you. Unlike the faith-based arguments of all too many Republicans out there, I’d submit that we’ve got almost two decades of data now to back this assertion up. But, you don’t have to take it that far, if you don’t want to — Just look at the record of the last eight years, and that should help clarify who to vote for tomorrow.

    As for McCain himself, well, I confess, I’m disappointed in the man. If we’d seen the candidate who ran in 2000, the one who deplored all the right-wing pettiness, racism, and wingnuttery he’s now wallowing in, we might’ve had the first win-win choice for president since…I dunno, Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evans Hughes in 1916? (Update: Upon more reflection, I’ll say since Ike and Adlai in ’56.) But, the Saruman analogy holds here too. In pursuit of power, McCain turned from that path a long time ago — he enabled the Dubya administration in its idiocies, he began to coddle the hardcore right-wing fundies rather than stand up to them, he sold out his own campaign finance reform stance, and he even started to traffick in the same lowest-common-denominator, Rovian filth that was used to bring him low in South Carolina eight years ago. His choice of Sarah Palin for veep, so pathetically craven in its attempt to appease the stark raving fundies and grab disgruntled Clinton voters, was merely the cherry on top.

    In short, when the worst impulses of right-wing gutter politics came a-knockin’ at his door, John McCain — for whatever reason — blinked, and completely caved to their onslaught. In this election campaign, he has put His Own Ambition First, and in so doing, he has sold his soul. For the choices he’s made during this election season alone, John McCain has lost any credibility he might’ve had to serve as our nation’s commander-in-chief.

    Fortunately, I firmly believe that, after tomorrow, John McCain and the sad, tired remnants of his cause will be old news. We have an exemplary, once-in-a-generation-type candidate in Barack Obama, and I refuse to believe I live in a country that would squander the amazing opportunity before us to elect him our president.

    But, you never know… So, yes, the polls look great, but they looked good in 2004 as well (even the exit polls did, in fact), and we all know how that story turned out. So, let’s handle our business tomorrow, get out to vote, and get to work on rebuilding this country. We have so much work to do.

    Vote Obama, 2008.

    The Listener. | The Caregiver.

    With optimism, you look upon the sunny side of things. People say, ‘Studs, you’re an optimist.’ I never said I was an optimist. I have hope because what’s the alternative to hope? Despair? If you have despair, you might as well put your head in the oven.

    Popular historian, talk show host, and chronicler of the American story Studs Terkel, 1912-2008. “I’ve always felt, in all my books, that there’s a deep decency in the American people and a native intelligence — providing they have the facts, providing they have the information.

    Update: “She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure.” This evening brings sad news of the passing of a lady with whom Terkel could’ve spent many joyous hours, I’m sure: Madelyn Dunham, grandmother to Barack Obama, 1922-2008.

    McCain the (Bull) Moose-Hunter?

    “When T.R. spoke of ‘swollen fortunes’ and ‘malefactors of great wealth,’ socialism was a genuine force in American politics, perceived by many to pose a serious threat to the social order. When T.R. first called for a ‘graduated income tax’ in his 1907 State of the Union, he was proposing a measure that the Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional. Indeed, the federal income tax struck down by the Court wasn’t even ‘graduated,’ or progressive; it was a flat-rate tax.” One from a few days ago that Ted at The Late Adopter just reminded me of: As Slate‘s Tim Noah aptly points out, John McCain can either continue to decry Obama’s purported “socialist” tendencies, or he can continue to claim Teddy Roosevelt is his hero, but he cannot plausibly continue to do both.

    At the very least, it would seem McCain, what with his coterie of lobbyist attendants, has either never read — or is flagrantly ignoring — TR’s “New Nationalism” speech: “There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done” (See also one of my favorites: “The prime problem of our nation is to get the right type of good citizenship, and, to get it, we must have progress, and our public men must be genuinely progressive.)”

    Time to Lawyer Up.

    “Briefcase-to-briefcase, wingtip-to-wingtip, the legal emissaries of both Barack Obama and John McCain seem to be taking their cues from the 2000 election, which — according to some accounts — was either decided in a Florida skirmish known as the ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’ that ended the manual recount in Miami-Dade County, or — according to more mainstream accounts — in the august halls of the U.S. Supreme Court along crassly partisan lines. Ready or not, here they come.”

    How can you tell when Election Day in America is right around the corner? Sadly, it’s when both the Dems and the GOP feel compelled to ready their respective battalions of lawyers. With that in mind, Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick surveys the massing legal armies. “One can’t help but wonder what it says about public confidence in our voting systems, then, that despite our almost complete lack of faith in them, we will rely almost exclusively on lawyers to protect the integrity of this election.

    The Empty Wagon is the Noisiest.

    Another Greenville, another Magic Mart, Jeffer, grab your fiddle… So, pop quiz: What do old-school R.E.M. and Sarah Palin have in common? They’ve both sung paeans to “Little America,” or as Governor Palin rather awkwardly put it recently, the “pro-America areas of this great nation.” In case you somehow missed what she was trying to get at, NC GOP candidate Robin Hayes said it even more plainly: “Liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God.” Or consider Minnesota freakshow Michele Bachmann, soon after deeming Senator and Michelle Obama enemies of the people: “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America.

    Now, I realize the once-powerful conservative movement is now entering the late, terminal stages of its malignancy, that these floundering insults and echoes of McCarthy are all just part of the right-wing death rattle, and that it’s probably best just to look away from their interminable gesticulating and shrieking while the right melts away into electoral oblivion. But, really, eff these people. I’m so utterly sick of these conservative assholes wrapping themselves in our flag every time their narrowness and stupidity is exposed before all the world. America is so much more than the pathetic litany of grievances and bigotries these jokers trot out every time their flank is exposed. And if they truly loved America as much as they claim to, they’d know this, and stop embarrassing us all by conflating their ignorant and unprincipled antipathies with what’s good and true in our national life.

    The consul a horse. Jefferson, I think they’re lost.

    Fleeing the Festering Corpse.

    “So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.” Old news by now, but just to get it on-the-record: Shown the door by the editors of his late father‘s magazine for his recent prObama apostasy, columnist and satirist Christopher Buckley bids farewell to the conservative “movement”. “While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of ‘conservative’ government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.

    Along the same lines, see also former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan’s most recent WSJ column. (Noonan, remember, is also on the outs with the stark-raving fundies because of her recent open-mic remarks regarding Palin on MSNBC.) Buried under the obligatory (if fanciful) McCain-won-the-debate lede is this telling passage: “In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It’s no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism. I gather this week from conservative publications that those whose thoughts lead them to criticism in this area are to be shunned, and accused of the lowest motives…In all this, the conservative intelligentsia are doing what they have done for five years. They bitterly attacked those who came to stand against the Bush administration. This was destructive. If they had stood for conservative principle and the full expression of views, instead of attempting to silence those who opposed mere party, their movement, and the party, would be in a better, and healthier, position. At any rate, come and get me, copper.”

    All McCain’s (Former) Base Are Belong to Us.

    “We thought this election would be a serious fight over the future of this country, but only one candidate showed up…Not even the presidency is worth what it’s made John McCain do to himself.” While it’s been quiet here, Ted of The Late Adopter has been keeping tabs on big newspaper and magazine endorsements. Announcing for Obama of late: The Denver Post, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Seattle Times, The New Yorker (shocking, I know), the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune (its first-ever Dem endorsement), and Esquire (its first-ever endorsement, period — the quote above is from them.)

    Keep in mind, though, that the mainstream media hate Republicans (except, of course, when they’re starting wars of choice.) And really, who in the hell do these bigheads think they are, trying to confuse us with their words?

    Reinforcements: The General…and an Army.

    “‘They’re trying to connect [Obama] to some kind of terrorist feelings, and I think that’s inappropriate,’ Powell said. ‘Now I understand what politics is all about — I know how you can go after one another. And that’s good. But I think this goes too far. And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It’s not what the American people are looking for. And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign, and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Gov. Palin has indicated a further rightward shift.’”

    The general is fed up, and he’s not alone. On a weekend when the Obama campaign announced a record-breaking $150 million September, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Dubya Secretary of State Colin Powell officially endorses Barack Obama, arguing the Senator he is a “transformational figure” who, unlike his opponent, “has displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge…not just jumping in and changing every day, but showing intellectual vigor.

    The GOP’s most famous drug-addled carnival grotesque, Rush Limbaugh, has taken to trotting out more sad McNabb-style race-baiting to try to deflect this unfortunate turn-of-events for the right, but other Republicans out there know — and will own up to — the score. “‘What that just did in one sound bite — and I assume that sound bite will end up in an ad — is it eliminated the experience factor,’ said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich…’How are you going to say the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the former national security adviser, former secretary of state was taken in?’…’This Powell endorsement is the nail in the coffin,’ said one Republican official, speaking anonymously to offer candid thoughts about the party’s nominee. ‘Not just because of him, but the indictment he laid out of the McCain campaign.’

    The Old Man and the Plumber. | Enough.

    “Mr. Osborne, may I be excused? My brain is full.” Have you ever seen that old Far Side cartoon? That basically sums up my overpowering sentiment during last week’s third and (mercifully) final presidential debate at Hofstra University. [Transcript.] Now, I think I usually enjoy following politics more than the next guy, but something about that debate gave me the urge to run screaming into the hills (or at least flip over to the NCLS.)…Hence, one of the reasons for the tardiness of this post. I didn’t switch over to baseball — My fellow prisoners, I sat through the whole durned thing — but the event still left a sour taste in my mouth.

    Why such an adverse reaction? I mean, McCain’s campaign has been making disturbingly stupid arguments aimed at the lowest common denominator for awhile now. What’s another 90 minutes of it? Well, for one, the endless paeans to that ostensibly most American of Americans, “Joe the Plumber” (nee “Sam the Not-a-Plumber“), got seriously old. Now, I know we’re all meant to enjoy wallowing in our appreciation for the “real” Americans — as opposed to us egg-headed surrender-monkey lefty types — but perhaps we can find a genuine, working-class Joe to discuss next time who isn’t yet another obvious McCain plant. (And bonus points if they’re not tied to the Keatings.) The McCain team has already force-fed us one one fake working class hero in Sarah Palin. Piling on another one at this point is really pushing it past my (admittedly low) threshold for right-leaning, poor-little-rich-folk. (That being said, I’ll concede that the McCain camp could probably really use a good plumber right now, backed up in swill as it is.)

    And, hey, speaking of seriously old, McCain’s “Crotchety Old Man” routine was jacked up to eleven the whole night, making his usual indefensible contentions that much more irritating. What with all the hemming and hawing and scroonchy faces McCain was making throughout, he made the sighing-Gore of 2000 seem a model of forbearance. (Conversely, I thought Obama’s slightly bemused smile, which seemed to suggest that he was getting as sick of all the sideshows as we were, spoke highly of his presidential temperament. In this day and age, a sense of irony about the idiocies of media-driven politics is not a bad thing.) In short, the mythical maverick was a complete mess last Wednesday. Endlessly spewing contrivances and inanities about William Ayers, socialism, and/or the dangers of eloquence, McCain got himself so bizarrely worked up and angry during the debate that I thought he might set off his Life Alert.

    If I sound a bit glib, well, I apologize. Just as I eventually grew tired of the inanities of the Clinton campaign, which lingered on for months after its fate was mathematically sealed, I’ve lost my patience with the sad remnants of the right-wing freak show attending John McCain at this point. This is not to say this election is in the bag, and we can now just sit back and play the Fill the Cabinet game — Far from it. (Unlike the primaries, there’re no points on the scoreboard just yet, and who really wants to wake up a few Wednesdays from now with a President-elect McCain?) But the GOP’s Hail Mary strategy has gotten so pungent and idiotic at this point that I’m hard-pressed to treat them with anything but contempt.

    Serving on a Republican-financed education committee with an old Weatherman does not make one a terrorist, and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy is not the solution to every economic problem. What’s more, repeating these two obviously stupid contentions over and over again, more and more loudly, does not make them any less false. End of story. If that’s all the McCain team has got, which would seem to be the case, then it’s time for them to get swept away into the dustbin of history like they deserve. Hey, news flash to the right: We tried governance along the lines of your idiotic talking points, and look where it got us? It’s time for a change.

    Astride the Mad Elephant.

    At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option…What makes them different, and what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin…By the time McCain asks the crowd “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it’s no surprise that someone cries out ‘Terrorist!’ The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete. ” — Frank Rich, QFT, October 12, 2008.

    It’d be funny, if it weren’t so frightening, to see this current version of the GOP end as it began. Forty years after the New Right that coalesced behind Goldwater and Reagan saw its first national victory with the election of Richard Nixon on a, ahem, “law and order” ticket (in no small part thanks to the assassination of RFK), the conservative movement that gave us Helms, Falwell, Reagan, Gingrich, and Dubya is collapsing back into its original base state: a seething, festering cauldron of paranoia, race-baiting, inarticulate rage, and eminently justifable, easily exploitable working-class grievance.

    And, with no other game-changer left in the Atwater playbook, McCain the mythical maverick, his “Sarracuda” running mate, and the sad coterie of (lily white) GOP deadenders about them have now taken to doing the very opposite of “Putting Country First” — Instead, they’re stirring this pot, hoping the vile, unstable, and extremely combustible concoction therein can somehow propel them into the White House. Call it the Joker strategy: With no other way to win at this point, the McCain campaign is banking on the American people getting so scared, confused, and enraged by their lies and name-calling that we’ll up and decide to blow each others’ ferries out of the water. (In fact, now that I think about it, I guess that might go a long way towards explaining McCain’s bizarre recent “my fellow prisoners” slip. But, sorry, Senator, the prisoners’ dilemma isn’t going to play any better in November than it did in Gotham a few months ago.)

    Frank Rich is right: Even as a Hail Mary play in anything-goes politics, this is beyond the pale. John McCain should — and, given his body language of late, does — know what so often results — and has resulted — from that foul brew he’s toying with. In short, this is a new low, and half-heartedly attempting to walk back the hate after fiddling with the lock on this Pandora’s Box is too little, too late.

    Of course, we all eventually expected this of the Republican party — Their hold on power is at long last dissipating, and their sick, desperate movement, four-and-a-half decades old, is seemingly now in its ugly death throes, so why not trot out the oldest, saddest one-trick pony in their tiny stable? But McCain, from everything we’ve heard about the man, was meant to be better than this. A straight-talker, a man of honor, yadda yadda yadda. Well, horsepuckey. John McCain has brought everlasting shame on himself, and if there’s any justice left in this country, — and woe to you, Senator, I’m sure there is — his repudiation at the polls in a few short weeks will be devastating.

    Second Verse, Same as the First.

    Well, you know, Sen. McCain, in the last debate and today, again, suggested that I don’t understand. It’s true. There are some things I don’t understand. I don’t understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, while Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us. That was Sen. McCain’s judgment and it was the wrong judgment.

    As you know, the second of three presidential debates is now in the books. [Transcript.] And, while it’s still way too early to put this election in the fridge — there’s a lot of crucial get-out-the-vote work to be done first, and we all saw how that turned out last time ’round — we nevertheless seem to be moving away from the closely divided America of 2000 and 2004 and fast approaching an contest similar to Bill Clinton’s relatively smooth re-election of 1996. That year, the nation ignored the continued haranguing of an aging war hero about cultural matters to back the candidate with a clearly better grasp on both the economy and the way Americans really live. By all reliable accounts, Sen. Obama, who won the evening handily last night, is the Clinton candidate this time around, and it seems to be helping him across the board.

    Sen. Obama not only seemed to have a clearer grasp on the causes, consequences of, and potential remedies for our current economic travails last night, he came across as more competent, more discerning, more likable, and more presidential throughout. Meanwhile, for all McCain-Palin’s wallowing in the tired old culture war over the past few days, the Senator from Arizona seemingly left all of his new favorite talking points in his other suit. And, while desperately needing some kind, any kind, of game-changer last night, McCain instead just puttered around the town hall muttering the same stale GOP platitudes — he’ll raise your taxes! he’s won’t keep you safe! — that didn’t get the job done the first time ’round. In short, let’s not count our chickens just yet — we’ve got one more of these next week, and three weeks thereafter to keep the pressure on. But, right now, it’s looking pretty good, folks.

    The Imaginaverick. | Dispatch War Rocket Keating.

    Well, that didn’t take long. As Garrett noted in the comments below, an increasingly desperate Sarah Palin is already namedropping Wright and Ayers whereever she can. But the good news is Team Obama isn’t going to take this sort of garbage lying down, particularly from a candidate as compromised on issues of character as John Sidney McCain III. Witness Keating Economics — It’s about time somebody brought that up.

    Here Come the Dirtmongers.

    “‘We’re going to get a little tougher,’ a senior Republican operative said, indicating that a fresh batch of television ads is coming. ‘We’ve got to question this guy’s associations. Very soon. There’s no question that we have to change the subject here,’ said the operative, who was not authorized to discuss strategy and spoke on the condition of anonymity.”

    In related news, why just lose when you can lose and forsake your dignity? Confronted by the fact that their guy just isn’t connecting these days, the McCain team gets set to take the low(er) road. (Indeed, their ad buys across the nation are already almost universally negative.) In other words, expect a lot of Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers from now until November.

    The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations.

    To be honest, I don’t have all that much to say about last night’s lone vice-presidential debate in St. Louis, as I think the event speaks for itself. The general consensus congealing today is that Joe Biden won the debate, which he obviously did, but that Sarah Palin performed better than expected. Well, I guess she did, given that everyone was pretty much expecting another embarrassing and hard-to-watch Couric-style meltdown. But, remove that exceedingly low bar, and we still find ourselves confronted with a fundamentally unqualified and frighteningly obtuse candidate for the vice-presidency, one who has no business getting anywhere near the Oval Office, let alone only the heartbeat of a 72-year-old cancer survivor away.

    Biden was Biden — a bit wonky and/or self-aggrandizing at times, but clearly knowledgable about the issues and cognizant of the struggles that working people in America face, both as a result of the daily vagaries of the Dubya economy and of awful, unforeseen circumstances that can loom at a moment’s notice. (Imho, his emotion-filled nod to the tragedy in his past was a far more authentic moment than any of the “Aw shucks, I’m just a Wasilla hockey mom” patter emanating from Gov. Palin over the course of the evening.) If anything, I think Biden might’ve erred slightly on the side of gallantry, since Palin seemingly held no qualms about regurgitating easily refutable lies (Obama raised taxes on the poor, Obama voted against funding the troops, Biden supports McCain’s Iraq position — all hooey) throughout the evening. But, all in all, BIden definitely did himself and the ticket credit last night, and I expect he helped to solidify further Obama’s lead in the polls among independents.

    Sarah Palin, on the other hand, had the immediately recognizable air of the student who fills the air with digressions, non-sequiturs, and the occasional remembered idea in order to deflect attention from the fact that he or she didn’t really do the reading and doesn’t really understand the concepts being discussed. Even with Biden and moderator Gwen Ifill letting Palin slide on all sorts of evasiveness, the Governor often seemed scarily out of her depth whenever anything but energy policy was being discussed. (Her discussion of the Constitution and the vice-presidency was particularly galling.) As Paul Begala noted on CNN during the postgame, we already tried the whole “elevating the average Joe” thing with eight years of Dubya, and it’s turned out to be a miserable failure. And, while excellence may sadly be a rare commodity among our elected officials, I don’t think we the people are asking for too much when we expect basic competence from our leaders. Take away the memories of the Couric implosion, and Gov. Palin still failed to hurdle even that depressingly low threshold last night. Simply put, she wouldn’t be qualified to lead this nation even in the best of times. At it is, she’s a risk we can’t afford to take.

    The Lay of the Land | A Moment of Zen.

    “‘Obama has many more paths to the nomination than McCain,’ the source said. ‘They think they can defend the Kerry states. Iowa is gone. That’s five votes. New Mexico is in the bag. Then Obama has four or five different ways of winning. He can go Nevada or Colorado, Virginia, any of those, even Indiana. McCain has got to run the board, the whole Bush table.’” According to London’s Telegraph, Team Obama is feeling confident about victory these days. “We’re much stronger on the ground in Virginia and North Carolina than people realise. If we get out the vote this may not be close at all.

    In related news, the McCain camp currently seems lost in the quagmire, particularly after Obama’s post-debate bounce and recent developments on the economic front. “‘What begins to happen is that the margin that’s been in place begins to solidify more and more,’ said Matthew Dowd, who was Bush’s chief strategist in 2004 and is now an independent analyst. ‘There’s only two ways this can go,’ he added. ‘It will either solidify with an Obama four- to five- point lead, or it will loosen and go back to close and go back and forth.’” In other words, another McCain campaign stunt incoming.

    Update: I know the EW cover below is apropos of nothing above, really. On the other hand, it is election-related, and I found it laugh-out-loud funny. Hat tips to The Oak and Peasants Under Glass.

    Round One: Obama by Decision.

    “John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. The war started in 2003…You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni. And you were wrong.”

    I doubt y’all missed it (even if the ratings were surprisingly low.) Nonetheless, Senators Obama and McCain held their first of three debates Friday night in Mississippi, ostensibly on foreign policy matters (although the economic situation on Wall Street took up the first half-hour.) [Transcript.] And the verdict? Well, to no one’s surprise, I’m going to go with Obama on this one. I’m just not going to pretend to be as fair and balanced as John King, David Gergen, and the other seemingly randomly selected poobahs of our Fourth Estate (who was the Aussie guy holding court next to Christine Amanpour?), who went out of their way on CNN to convince me that McCain seemed knowledgable, spry, and at ease during this event. Nope, I think I’ll side with the polls, which have a cool, level-headed, and magnanimous Sen. Obama winning the event handily.

    The thing is, even more than with Sen. Hillary Clinton, whom I agreed with most of the time on the issues even when I disagreed completely with her GOP-lite campaign tactics, I just can’t take John McCain at all seriously at this point, and particularly after both Palin and the non-suspension suspension. So, when McCain tries to tout a career ostensibly spent in the service of congressional ethics, my inelastic brain just keeps thinking “Uh…Keating 5?” Anybody watching the past few years knows that McCain was as AWOL in the fight against Boss DeLay as he has been in countering Dubya these past two terms. And, whatever happened to McCain since 2000, speaking-truth-to-power is not something that comes readily to him anymore, if it ever did. So most of his early “I’m a proven maverick” speel Friday night fell on deaf ears from jump street in this household, and thus I can’t speak to how it might’ve played to those still-undecideds out there willing to buy into his craven sham.

    That being said, I had a sense while watching — and the polls seem to bear this out — that McCain was making a critical error with his oft-repeated “Sen. Obama doesn’t understand” routine. That might’ve worked if Obama had seemed greener up there next to McCain, or if Obama was as inarticulate and incompetent as, say, Sarah Palin. But as it was, Sen. Obama came across as unruffled, competent, and conversant on all the issues the mythical maverick tried to paint him as naive on (and/or lie about.) And thus the strategy (or was it a tactic?), imho, backfired massively. Instead, McCain — missing the soft touch of Ronald Reagan, who turned age to his advantage against Mondale in 1984 with a joke and a smile — basically came across as a cantankerous old coot, dripping with undeserved contempt toward that damn whippersnapper in his yard.

    It’s mainly for this reason that I think, however much the debate is being painted as a draw by the punditariat, Obama came out the clear victor: Sen. Obama did not seem callow or inexperienced in the slightest, but lordy did McCain — squinting, smirking, and drowning in derision — come across as aged. And I may be wrong about this, but I just don’t think the Old Man Withers strategy plays with the undecides. I know that many lefties out there wanted to see a more forceful Obama on the attack Friday night, but I don’t think that was his mission: It was more important that he, like Kennedy in 1960, seemed presidential, level-headed, and the very opposite of the risky gamble that the McCain folks would try to make him seem. In that, I think, he succeeded, particularly in contrast to the snarky old man standing across from him. Advantage Obama.

    Suspension of Disbelief.

    “I am confident that before the markets open on Monday we can achieve consensus on legislation that will stabilize our financial markets, protect taxpayers and homeowners, and earn the confidence of the American people. All we must do to achieve this is temporarily set politics aside, and I am committed to doing so.” Uh, but I thought the fundamentals of our economy were strong! Apparently now cognizant of our recent economic travails, John McCain announces he’s temporarily suspending his campaign to focus on the Wall Street bailout, and has asked for Friday’s foreign policy debate to be delayed.

    If we learned anything from the Palin debacle, it’s that the mythical maverick isn’t above pulling a ridiculous and transparent stunt when he’s starting to sweat the polls. Well, here we go again. Update: Sez Obama, the debate is on. Damn right.

    Unfair, but Balanced!

    “Of all the shortcomings of the establishment press today, none is more central to the corruption of the profession than the decision to prioritize balance over accuracy. That corruption is visibly on display in the current coverage of the McCain campaign’s policy of deliberate lies…This is what gives liars a clear strategic advantage over non-liars. And it’s an open question whether McCain’s level of dishonesty turns out to be so great that it overwhelms reporters’ unwillingness to report accurately on it.” Over at TPM, Josh Marshall rails against media complicity in the McCain campaign’s recent embrace of blatant falsehood as a political strategy. (You know it’s bad when even the Post‘s Richard Cohen is renouncing his McCain-love.)

    The other night, I caught the tail end of Bob Schieffer, Jonathan Alter, and Paul Begala on Charlie Rose, and Alter, Schieffer et al were blaming the pathetic, pathetic job by the mainstream media in this election on, of course, the blogosphere (much as Schieffer did in the interview here.) “We can’t be responsible for all these bloggers. The Internet is the only vehicle to convey news…that has no editor. Even the worst newspaper has an editor.” (Schieffer, 44:30) Uh, Judith Miller wasn’t writing a blog, nor was the Gray Lady bereft of editors, when the NYT and the rest of the mainstream media basically inhaled the Dubya administration’s lies about the Iraq war without complaint. And the same goes for the MSM’s dancing around the obvious tripe emanating from the McCain campaign here in 2008.

    Look, blogs aren’t the problem right now. As Marshall and many others have noted, the problem is that all too much of the MSM, once again using “balance” as a cover for its cowardice, spends the majority of its time trying to ascertain — and then straddle — the exact middle point between the facts as they stand and McCain-Palin’s recent spate of ridiculous deceptions. To paraphrase Colbert: If, as it has in recent weeks, the truth has a definite Obama bias, then it befalls the Fourth Estate, as the self-appointed referees of the political ballgame, to set the record straight. And if televised poobahs like Candy Crowley refuse to do their jobs, and even talking heads who should know better, such as my old employer, roll over like puppies in the name of McCain’s presumed maverickness, then it’s definitely up to the blogs out there to fill the void. (See for example, Andrew Sullivan, who’s been compiling a sadly expansive list of the lies of Sarah Palin.)

    The depressing slide of our major media institutions into frightened, ratings-fueled irrelevance didn’t start with this election, or course. But the stakes are too high right now to sit back and let their abysmal erosion pay any more dividends for the McCain campaign. We need to fight back, and hard. (Ad below via Ted at the Late Adopter.)

    And here’s that bounce…

    “‘The Republicans had a very successful convention [sic] and, at least initially, the selection of Sarah Palin has made a big difference,’ says political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. ‘He’s in a far better position than his people imagined he would be in at this point.’” As I noted over the weekend, you just can’t stop the post-convention bounce…Sad to say, some folks just like buyin’ whatever’s being sold, I guess. In any case, today’s Gallup polling has either McCain/Palin up 10 (USA Today/Gallup) (up 4 with registered voters) or up 3 (Daily Tracker). And, though this could be taken as good news if he maintains his recent record, Zogby also has McCain/Palin up 4.

    Yikes. Still, I really wouldn’t worry about a little post-RNC turbulence just yet. Even before you factor in the huge problems with assessing “likely voters” this cycle, throw in the pollsters’ overreliance on landlines (and subsequent undercounting of Obama support), and look at the very favorable state-by-state breakdowns for us, these post-convention bumps are fickle creatures. Ask Presidents Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry. “[I]n an analysis of the impact of political conventions since 1960, Sabato concluded that post-convention polls signal the election’s outcome only about half the time. ‘You could flip a coin and be about as predictive,’ he says. ‘It is really surprising how quickly convention memories fade.’

    So, don’t fret. We’ll sail through these choppy waters yet, folks. Update: Put another way… (Via MLR.)

    Update 2: And, just like that, it’s gone.

    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.”‘

    Celeb-Spotting at Invesco.

    Hey y’all. After a crack-of-the-morning flight out of Denver (which included a spry Mickey Dolenz and a tired-looking Hayden Panettiere), I’m back in VA now, have rested up, and have put up the rest of my Invesco pics over at Flickr. In case anyone’s interested, here are a few more thoughts about the milieu surrounding Thursday event:

    Imagine the DC Nationals playing Game 7 of the World Series at home, and you may get somewhere close to the strangeness that was the stadium environment at Invesco Field. It was definitely a NFL or NBA stadium atmosphere, with all the usual concessions open. But, amid the pretzel vendors, lines for hot dogs, and Obama t-shirt stands, the place was also obviously teeming with DC-types — pols, journalists, celebrities, and of course their many, many handlers. So, if you walked around the concourse a few times (as I did during the Sheryl Crow set, for example), you were bound to see tons of notable people waiting anxiously in the condiment queue, and/or one of the gaggle of C-level talking heads “trying not to be seen,” hoping to be seen. It was all quite bizarre.

    In lieu of a list of all the random people I saw wandering around, I’ll just give a few general impressions:

  • For whatever reason, I saw members of the MSNBC crew (Howard Fineman, Chris Matthews, Floyd Abrams) floating around a lot more often than the CNN gang, who seemed to stay ensconced in their assigned news-ghetto. (Matthews in particular was ubiquitous. He and Ron Brownstein seemed to live at The Tattered Cover.)
  • Gov. Ted Strickland had the exact same awkward look on his face in front of the Denver Broncos store that he did while Clinton harangued Obama a few months ago. Must be his tic.
  • Richard Dreyfuss was holding court over at the Air America nook, and — since someone had passed out promo cards for Oliver Stone’s W while we waited in line the requisite hour to get in — I asked “Vice-President Cheney” to sign it. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising, but he hadn’t seen the teaser poster image at all. (I sometimes forget that for the people involved, movie making is just a job — They don’t feel inclined to follow all the ins and outs of the pre-release like we do.)
  • Y’know, I guess I owe Washington a bit of an apology. I was complaining the other day about the careerist myopia and general rudeness of DC politicos, but in the end it was a NYC-based historian who most exemplified District-style asshattery to my face. I went up to say hi to a (non-Columbia) academic who writes for several progressive publications, and with whom I’ve shared many a dinner over the past few years, as part of a 20th Century Politics & Society Workshop that I served as rapporteur for. (“Rapporteur” is basically the three-dollar way in graduate school to say “The One who Brings the Food.”) When I said hello and held out my hand, he looked me up and down, gave me the cut direct, and — in true DC form — just turned away to find somebody more important. I guess such behavior comes with the territory sometimes…still, I thought it was pretty goddamned rude.
  • Word on the street was a lot of A-lister celebrities were out and about: Charlize Theron, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Oprah Winfrey, Brad and Angelina, and the like. I didn’t see anybody of that sort, but then again I didn’t go anywhere near the skyboxes.
  • I did run into Jim Clyburn, my old representative, and got in a shout-out for Flotown. (Florence, SC — his beat, and the place where I grew up.) He seemed nice, as always.
  • I also ran into Bill Press, the democratic pundit with whom I’ve worked on four books over the years. We got to catch up for a bit, as it turned out our seats were really close to each other.
  • Nothing against Sheryl Crow, but her set was the time I spent walking around to soak up the ambience. That being said, seeing Stevie Wonder perform “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was great fun. And, if you’d had told me that one day I would willingly join a crowd of 80,000 to sing along with Michael McDonald, I’d never have believed you. Never say never, I guess. (I was very glad to hear we Dems roll with “America the Beautiful” rather than “God Bless America,” which we can expect in heavy rotation at the RNC next week, I’m sure.)
  • And, finally, the moment when I was probably the most starstruck at Invesco was when I was edging back to my seat and none other than Wendell Pierce, a.k.a. The Bunk, flew past me. Now, there’s a pic I’d like to have gotten (and I’d love to have picked his brain about David Simon’s forthcoming Treme, but ah well.) Denver ain’t Aruba either, I guess…but Thursday night, it sometimes felt pretty darned close.

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