Politics

Exhibit 1.4.7

Things

* You definitely need to check out the new The Literary Review which is really beautiful and full of great work and also a couple of [SPOILER ALERT]s. You can actually read those online, but then you’d be missing out on the rest of the fantastic stuff and that would make you, I hate to say it, some kind of idiot. Don’t be an idiot.

* There are also some [SPOILER ALERT]s in the new Copper Nickel which–and this isn’t just talk–is also beautiful. Seriously. I don’t get it. We feel very lucky to have the pieces in two very cool journals. Or at least I do. I don’t know how Laura Eve feels. Let’s go ask her.

* I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel good about my thoughts on Rick Perry so quickly proving themselves accurate. Or maybe that’s not what happened. I don’t know. The important thing is that everyone seems to have realized he’s an idiot (probably because he didn’t read all the way through his literary journals). Bush overcame it. Can Perry? Something tells me he can’t. Romney it is (which is actually maybe scary though the John Kerry parallels would be both eery and reassuring).

* “Hey, that final baseball day sure was crazy, wasn’t it?” – everyone.

* And yes, yes it was. Look for more Royals thoughts soon in the rare SPM-other blog crossover. And by rare I mean it’s never happened and I’m surprised anyone asked.

Comment / Posted in Baseball, Journals, Politics

Exhibit 1.4.1

Debate Thoughts

Because you didn’t ask.

* Perry was Perry. He’s strong on the economic stuff where he’s got his talking points down, but anyone watching through the end could see his obvious weaknesses on, well, everything else. He’s just not good at speaking off the cuff and his best bet in the general is to achieve something like a Kerry-Bush dynamic and cast the president as an out-of-touch blowhard. Man, that’s a steep hill as Obama isn’t Kerry and we’ve already had a Bush. So it remains: Perry is really, really bad when he leaves his comfort zone. His comfort zone, by the way, seems to exist between him and the coyote he’s currently hunting in his mind.

* He’s got a huge problem with Social Security, by the way. Rather than back down from the ideas in his stupid, stupid book, he doubled down. Someone needs to work up the spine to tell the governor that the only problem people have with Social Security is that it might not be there. “Fixing” it is one thing, saying it shouldn’t exist is another. And by another I mean insanely unpopular.

* Most telling moment of the night was one that most probably didn’t stick around for but will surely get a lot of play on the left: the crowd’s kneejerk cheering Perry’s execution total. I wouldn’t overreact to this–we could probably come up with some pretty terrible applause lines that would fly at a Democratic primary debate–but that there will be no rightwing repudiation of this is one of the things that has to have mainstream Republicans worried. I mean, where can you go from there? Unless the Republicans are willing to go full on The Running Man, you’ve got to think they’d rather this not be a party plank.

* And that’s really the underplayed narrative of their field (if it’s possible to have such a thing in this political climate). They aren’t just for killing 234 murderers—another terrible, out-of-date but not entirely unjustifiable position—they applaud it. Without prompting. In the middle of a sentence. Spoken by a journalist. We should recognize what they were really applauding was their support given what they suspected was going to be (something they would perceive as) a “gotcha” question. But that’s what makes this so problematic and the party’s prospects so dim as long as they pursue this path. Suspicion of the media. Suspicion of what are quickly becoming mainstream values. And, this is the problem, suspicion of anyone who would deviate from those values. Honestly, if they’d followed up that question by asking all the candidates, “Do any of you have a problem with governor Perry’s execution record?” would any have been brave enough to raise their hands? Of course not. But that’s not the bad part. The bad part would be if someone asked why the other governors hadn’t executed more.

Because here’s the thing: once you’re so paranoid that you can’t accept any deviation from a set of beliefs without it being a threat, you start to form a cult around those things you believe. Some tax cuts are good? Then all tax cuts are good. Government spending is bad? Then government shouldn’t spend on anything. Executions are good? Government should execute as many as possible.

And this, actually, isn’t that unusual of a position for the extremes of either party (though I think it’s a little more typical of rightwing thought whereas the left usually has some level of perceived [if not entirely real] nuance), it’s that this thought has somehow become the norm of the party in the last two cycles. It’s actually hard to overstate how impossible seeming this would be for modern Democrats. Imagine if Bernie Sanders suddenly got to dictate the terms of the debate the way Jim DeMint does? We’ be thrilled right up until we started losing every election. Then we’d be less thrilled, I imagine.

Anyway, it’s fascinating here because of what it will mean for the general election. Conventional wisdom says these ideas can’t possibly win a national election, electoral college or no, economy or no. Conventional wisdom says these are fringe candidate ideas. And yet here we are cheering them before they can even be spoken.

* I’m writing this while playing online chess in a coffee shop. It’s amazing nobody has looked at my computer and punched me in the face.

* So, quick summary: any Republicans concerned with actually winning an election have to be moving to the Romney camp about now. He looked good and, to be honest, I was a little afraid of how he might match up with Obama given the president’s considerable struggles. Which is not to say Republicans wouldn’t happily settle for Perry, just that those electability questions loom nearly as big for him as they once did for Bachmann.

Comment / Posted in Debate, Politics, Thoughts

Exhibit 1.3.23

Rick Perry

Politics. Why not.

So, as a current Texan–god, I hate that–I’ve got some thoughts on Rick Perry. They’re not particularly revolutionary, but I sense a lot of my non-Texan, liberal friends are suddenly scared of Mr. Perry which, frankly, they probably should be. He’s terrifying.

At first. And that’s sort of the genius of him, really. He cuts a swaggering and invulnerable figure in Texas and as a national candidate, he really seems uniquely suited to take on the president–religious, Tea Party-approved, perceived to be anomalously successful economically over the last few years, and, perhaps most importantly, folksy and headstrong in a way that contrasts wildly with the president. So why did major Republicans make a renewed push to lure a Chris Christie or a Paul Ryan into the race immediately after Perry entered? O, right, there’s the little matter of him being exactly like George W. Bush only, somehow, worse.

That might seem unfair. Perry is, after all, his own man, yet one can’t listen to him speak without immediately thinking of our 43rd president. It’s almost bizarre how identical Perry-the-candidate is to Bush-the-candidate. All the policies are the same—and, again, sometimes worse—only this time Perry doesn’t have to bother with wrapping himself in some moderating blanket like “Compassionate conservative.” That’s good because he probably wouldn’t be able to pull it off half as well and bad because, well, Perry’s still got to convince the rest of the non-Tea Party world to vote for him.

And this is where anyone concerned with Rick Perry should calm down. George W. Bush remains wildly unpopular and, as much as anything else, this should put a damper on his general election hopes. You might think it’s superficial, but it’s a real issue for Republicans and they know it. All the conservatives who now claim never to have liked the second Bush are obviously ready to move on in the cause of anyone-but-Obama, but for the rest of us, a serious Perry campaign would mean asking hard questions about the last administration and whether or not we’re willing to risk a return to it. And then there’s this: George W. could come off as a common man, Rick Perry–far more common in background and education–comes off as an arrogant bully and a substantially less intelligent one than our former president.

Watch:

This is not to say a Perry campaign is hopeless (anything but). The president has done more than enough to make himself vulnerable, and his best hope seems to be to convince the country that the Republicans had it out for him and were willing to sacrifice the country to take down his presidency (pretty much true). Will he be able to do it? Probably. Or maybe I just don’t think this country is yet willing to risk another dick swinging Texas Republican. O, sure, we might say we want it now, but once the general election rolls around, it’s hard to see how hardline positions about never raising taxes and social security being a Ponzi scheme are going to get one to 50% of the vote.

In this sense, Romney is still the Republicans’ best choice (though I’m starting to think his nomination over Perry might risk a Tea Party-backed 3rd party candidacy from someone like Bachman), but it seems increasingly unlikely that he’ll be the nominee when no Republican seems to actually want to vote for him. Establishment Republicans seem all too aware that Perry is going to be the candidate non-insiders rally around–and that’s why he’s different from late entries of bygone days like Fred Thompson and Wesley Clark–and they want another option. It’s not that Perry doesn’t have the best chance of winning out of the current field, it’s that they’re afraid the current field might top out at 46% of the electorate.

Looking at polls, a couple of things seem clear. No one likes Republicans and no one likes the economy. Weirdly, people still like Obama, at least personally (although they may be beginning to separate his performance from his personality), and it seems like the only candidate who could beat him would somehow have to make the case he or she can fix the economy and not be an ideologue. This, obviously, is where Perry fails, at least at the moment. Smart Republicans know that his gender is not going to make him immune from the Sarah Palin treatment and dumb ones think he can win with the Tea Party alone.

And who knows, maybe he can. Obama has to find a better reason to bring out his voters again than ‘I’m not an idiot and the other guys might be.’ But Perry might actually tip the scales too far. God knows there are plenty of liberals who are going to hear him talk and think of G.W. At the point, it becomes anyone but him, and then you might see a left as invigorated as the right.

This is why Ryan and Christie are such attractive candidates to Beltway Republicans. They have all Perry’s positives (perceived economic credentials, Tea Party-approved, vaguely presidential) and none of his negatives (neither seems like a Multiplicity-esque 5th generation George W. Bush clone). Ryan is obviously the lesser of the two but even still, he’d give mainstream Republicans cover to avoid a Bachman or Perry candidacy. Tim Pawlenty badly miscalculated when he decided to veer hard right (or maybe he just didn’t see Bachman coming from his own backyard) and Huntsman, God bless him, seems close to agreeing with everyone else that he should really be a Democrat (points to him, however, for being the only non-major contender to realize that courting the Tea Party is a fool’s errand with Bachman [and now Perry] around). So it’s only Perry that seems like a legit option, and a legit option he is.

In an open election, he might even justify some of the fear he’s been producing, but, then again, in an open election, he’d definitely have to beat Chris Christie and a slew of other more mainstream challengers. Without those more electable options, he’s running for the title of “least obviously retrograde” which, in this climate, might have a shot. After all, 30% of the people would probably rather die than vote for Obama which might mean a lot except that 40% will probably feel the same way about Perry once they get to know him.

Of course, Perry–like Bush before him–might find a way to moderate himself in time for the general election, but it’s important to note that Bush never had to swing nearly this hard to the right. More than that, of course, is that Perry doesn’t want to moderate himself (you’ve got to think his advisors hate the fact that Perry published a book full of radically hard right positions [flat tax!] back when he didn’t think he’d be a candidate and now has to carry those ideas into this election).

So maybe Obama does end up facing something like a Perry-Huntsman ticket (which, though I highly doubt it would happen, would be the smartest pick Perry could make. He’ll probably find some elder Republican with economic and foreign policy credentials). Is that the worst case scenario? Not really. Even a moderate VP pick isn’t going to soften Perry up enough for the general populace, and his economic ideas are a tough sell, no matter what he claims to have done in Texas. And this remains the most important point: even with this economy, George W. Bush wouldn’t be able to beat Obama in ’12. Why would a dumber, more radical imitation?

Comment / Posted in Politics, Presidents, Ricks

Exhibit 1.1.23

Umm…

I’m firmly on the side that believes violent political rhetoric is a problem because it lowers the discourse, is unworthy of the officeholders, and conflates valid philosophical disagreements with war, not because such rhetoric–no matter how reprehensible–is likely to be responsible for any particular action. Still, I think today’s Kansas City Star headline is maybe a little problematic:


I know we’re dealing with a headline written by some editor and not political speech but still–nobody saw a problem with this? And I don’t just mean because of what happened this weekend, I mean because of perhaps the biggest news story to come out of Kansas in the last decade:

Abortion Doctor Gunned Down at Kansas Church” — Fox News

Yep, that was less than two years ago, and the bill referenced in that headline is in direct response to this doctor’s practice (despite his, you know, terrible and cowardly murder by a zealot).

Shockingly, the headline has been changed to “Conservatives Push Plan to Restrict Abortion” for the online version of the article.

And so, yeah, I think some of the reaction to the Arizona shooting has been a little tasteless by some of the left (and doubly so by certain defensive voices on the right), but I don’t think we can fault anyone who says that maybe all of us–politicians, media, people who like to argue while drinking like myself–might want to step away from certain language and metaphors for a time with the hope we leave them behind altogether.

Comment / Posted in Bad Ideas, Editors, Politics

Exhibit 27.16

This Seems Relevant

Calculations by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and other independent fiscal experts show that the $1.1 trillion cost over the next 10 years of the Medicare prescription drug program, which the Republican-controlled Congress adopted in 2003, by itself would add more to the deficit than the combined costs of the bailout, the stimulus and the health care law.

From this New York Times article.

It’s a little bit of a cheat as the health care bill actually reduces the deficit (due to spending cuts and tax increases) and so much of the bailout got paid back–plus the stimulus and bailouts were both one-time expenditures, not things that ostensibly benefit us for 10 years–but it seems like the sort of thing your average Democrat might want to mention every so often.

I know it’s old hat by now, but it continues to be depressing how poorly the Democrats articulate their vision and successes. Like most us of, I don’t want politics to be a debate contest instead of an arena where legitimate disagreements are resolved, but damnit if the people I (mostly) agree with are going to play this game, I suppose I at least want them to play it well.

It’s unclear if the Democrats think they still live in a world where people trust the media to correct false narratives–not that I believe there ever was such a world–or if they really are so insecure in their own opinions that they feel it necessary to respond inarticulately to the 35 to 50 percent of people who will never vote for them anyway.

I mean, is it really so hard to defend the stimulus? Your opponent says spending, you say jobs. The end.

The rhetoric is on your side (jobs beats spending beats scissors). The facts are on your side (unemployment would be higher without it). History is on your side (1932). The world is on your side (most major economies did some kind of stimulus and, not surprisingly, the more they did the better they came out of the recession).

Now, I realize you’re not going to want to stand up in front of your opponent who calls the president a socialist and say we needed to do what China did, but would it really be so much worse than the equivocating and the apologizing?

Comment / Posted in Bad Ideas, Elections, Politics

Exhibit 27.7

Answers

Okay, so we can all agree that this is fake, right? If it’s not, I’d feel bad posting it, but the question “Should I get the abortion that my cat is recommending?” settles it for me.

(In case you’re curious, I stumbled upon this Yahoo Answers article while fact checking a moment in a student’s story. Yes, fiction workshop makes me want to clear my browser’s cache. Let’s move on).

Best lines from answers to this question:

* To begin with, don’t listen to your cat.

* Why would you murder your baby because your cat thinks it’s a good idea?

* I’m sorry to say, and not trying to be mean or anything, but don’t listen to an animals opinion.

* Lose the cat (or at least declaw it).

* But if you really love your fiance, as i think you do cause you said yes to marring him.

* My grandma’s father’s cat ate a bird my great-grandfather liked more.

* Cats generally know best…take the feline’s advice and terminate asap.

* I think your cats needs to be put in her place! HER POLITICAL VIEWS ARE IRRELEVANT!

* Just let your cat perform the abortion.

* Source: degree in human behaviour; animal behaviour; and personal experience.

O, and don’t worrying about answering this question yourself. It’s resolved.

1 Comment / Posted in Answered Questions, Cats, Politics

Exhibit 26.8

Barack Obama and LeBron James

(I had a very long drive and, given how the flipbook passing of corn rows can no longer hold my imagination, I had time to think about this sort of nonsense. I did not, apparently, have enough time to consider how silly it would be to actually share these thoughts. As always, I’m sorry).

Over the two weeks I spent in New York, the most passionate lamentation I heard concerned voting for Barack Obama. The speaker’s objection was to the president’s handling of the country’s various wars though it just as easily could have been the conceived watering down of the healthcare reform bill or the somewhat weaker than desired new financial regulations bill or the failure to extend unemployment benefits or the situation in the Gulf or… You get the idea. There seems to be a growing sentiment that the Obama presidency has been a disappointment if not an outright failure because a lot of people were casting their votes for an uncompromisingly liberal administration. That this White House has been so willing to extend many of George W. Bush’s foreign policy priorities, that they’ve repeatedly negotiated behind closed doors with big business to weaken their two major legislative accomplishments, that they did not immediately shut out BP from responding to the Gulf disaster, they they kowtow to conservative Democrats who are undercutting their goals…well, a lot of his supporters feel like he’s turned his back on them.

Which brings us, ridiculously, to LeBron James. The second most heartfelt regret I heard regarded James moving to the Miami Heat–effectively deciding to take a backseat to Dwyane Wade in order to form a super team–and how the speaker had, only the day before, loved LeBron James. James, instead of taking the Michael Jordan/Larry Bird/Magic Johnson root and trying to systematically destroy and humiliate one’s biggest competitors, decided he’d rather join forces, choosing, at the cost of removing himself from consideration as the greatest player of all time, to play with his friends. It’s a stunning decision, one that has basically turned James from the most popular player in basketball to maybe the most hated (at least outside of South Beach), and it feels like a betrayal.

And I guess what I thought about as I drove through, I don’t know, Iowa, is how the disappointment in both cases is all about how we project certain qualities on public figures they are telling us explicitly they don’t have. And we do this selfishly and childishly and, more than anything, historically. It’s just easier for us to compare one figure to another when there’s little else to go on. A great many of Obama voters thought they were voting for bizzarro-George W. Bush, a leftwing ideologue who not only reverse all the profoundly objectionable Bush-era policies but be as equally aggressive as the former president in checking off as many items from the party’s wishlist as possible. And we thought this not because of anything Obama said during the campaign (though he certainly didn’t mind anyone thinking that either) but because after the last eight years any Democratic candidate couldn’t help but be seen as Bush’s counterweight. Despite all the talk of bringing Washington together and moving beyond partisanship, we thought we were voting for exactly partisan politics only our partisan politics.

Similarly, James confuses us for having occupied a space in our consciousness that he never occupied in real life. All we heard about him since the time he was in high school was that he’s the next Michael Jordan. Everyone was excited by this–fans, the NBA, even LeBron James (he wore the number 23). Well, at some point, LeBron James realized he’s not Michael Jordan. In a vacuum, he may be a better basketball player, but he hasn’t got Jordan’s competitiveness (or at least his selfishness), and everything he’s done since he’s been in the league suggested as much (deferring too much, not taking over playoff series, seeming as interested in becoming a billionaire as in winning titles, etc.). And when he finally makes the decision to focus on winning, we’re furious because it doesn’t fit in with the role we’d given him. He’s supposed to be the next Jordan not the next…well, there we go again. Pippen? James Worthy? LeBron can’t just be LeBron, at least not yet, because we have no idea who LeBron is. We’ll decide that when he’s out of the public eye, right before we’ve defined him for good, facts be damned. We’ll do the same thing with Obama (look at the way Republicans talk about Reagan with little regard for his actual politics).

We are simply too removed to be able to form deep understandings of figures willing to complicate our drive to define them (I’m not at all interested in implicating contemporary culture for this, if anything these sort of projections were much worse before mass media). And so LeBron will win shared championships just like Obama passed a middle-of-the-road healthcare bill, but nobody will be completely happy because they don’t fit the narratives we’ve settled on. So we’ll come up with new narratives around their equivocation and compromises, at least until they give us reasons to change our mind. Meanwhile, there are the George W. Bushs and Kobe Bryants of the world who act so completely as we expect that there’s something shameful in the relief that, though we may not like them, we understand them.

3 Comments / Posted in Iowa, Politics, Sports

Exhibit 24.16

A Political Post

Ah, I remember when I used to do these back before this blog became 10 posts a month, most of which somehow include a manifestation of my hangups about my basketball deficiencies. Well, here we go.

Healthcare reform must pass. No, not because of the poxed masses or whatever heinous things insurance companies do. Those are good reasons I’m sure–hell, they’re great, important reasons–but things have moved beyond that. Specifically, things have moved somewhere lower, somewhere pettier. The rhetoric has moved to such ridiculous extremes that it’s trumped the content of the bill itself. The most important result of passing the bill at this point is not any tempered reform of our broken system but the deflation of millennialist rhetoric which somehow equates benign measures like outlawing the rejection of coverage based on pre-existing conditions to Stalinism. Two examples from the last week:

* Healthcare bill an affront to God
* Ramifications of healthcare reform will be like great war of Yankee aggression

So healthcare reform must pass because of Mondays.

If both the House and the Senate approve the bill this Sunday and Obama signs it on Monday, then a week will go by and it will be Monday again. Then another week, another Monday. And then months and months of Mondays will go by and most people’s coverage won’t change at all, the deficit will be (slightly) reduced, bearcats won’t be performing surgeries, the system will be flawed but better, and Monday Monday Monday.

I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate how silly so much of the talk from the right will look after each passing Monday. None of this is to suggest that the sentiment is going away–or that it isn’t, at least in some cases, heartfelt–but only that Democrats need to be aware of how damning their failure would be. It puts this sort of ridiculousness back on the table for every major issue facing the country. Immigration reform = Losing the “real” America. Reasonable federal education standards = Maoist indoctrination. Wall Street oversight = Collectivization. It’s going to be like the post-1993 Clinton years + crazy.

Whereas letting the continued existence of the world and America put such apocalyptic rhetoric in the proper context is reason enough to pass the bill no matter its content. O, the right is not going away and nor should they–and no matter what the Democrats will take some lumps in November–but this is the administration’s only chance to make them play in something resembling good faith. Rallying the troops with 3-corner hats and talk of revolution works great now, but 100 Mondays after the bill passes, Ma and Pa Whitey aren’t going to run into the streets to yell about insurance exchanges and medicare reimbursement rates.

Mr. Beck and the like can never be proven right–that’s the power of their position–but they can certainly be proven wrong.

Comment / Posted in Bearcats, Mondays, Politics

Exhibit 22.24

Afghanistan

It’s always fun when you get to hear a speech that you can say with a fair amount of certainty will be played for tragic irony in movies a generation from now (I imagine it playing on an iPhone as Forrest Gump III kisses a girl dressed like Miley Cyrus as he graduates from the University of Phoenix). Which is not to say it’s the wrong decision–I certainly wouldn’t know–just that it is so clearly the only tenable one that the best anyone can hope for is understanding of that fact. There’s no longer any real criteria for success and there may never have been–democracy! O!–but eight years later it seems silly to imagine we can just up and leave without consequences for ourselves let alone the men (and especially women) of Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it’s equally silly to imagine that bullets in the service of a corrupt government will make anything better.


Which is why we get to again have speeches about exiting that somehow announce major troop escalations. Afghanistan is not Vietnam but it is not Iraq either. The “success” of “the surge” there would seemingly be irrelevant in this discussion but there’s no denying it’s attractive to ignore those distinctions. On the one hand you have the possibility of some protracted withdrawal that would attempt, pointlessly, not to lead to the fall of the government and regional instability and on the other you have the dream of just a few more months with a few more troops and…

It’s easy to see the good that might be done. It’s easy to see how no one else is willing to take responsibility for the world and feel like you have to. It’s easy to see the odds of Islamabad’s collapse following Kabul’s and have your hand forced by terrifying hypotheticals.

Who knows. To paraphrase Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul, “In Afghanistan, the choices are frequently narrow.”

Comment / Posted in Politics, Waiting, Wars

Exhibit 20.3

From this interview with Jeb Bush:

Does the [Republican] party need to change or de-emphasize its positions on abortion or gay marriage?
No. No, I think those are important issues to not shy away from. And I don’t think that’s the reason why suburban voters have migrated to the Democrats. I think it’s the economic issues. We have not been able to explain why these timeless conservative principles matter in 2009.

So basically Jeb Bush was asked if he was ever going to be president and answered, “No.”

My issue is not with his specific policy positions–for what it’s worth, strategically I don’t think there’s much point in Republicans capitulating on abortion and forward thinking politicians on the right should take a libertarian position toward gay marriage–but with his statement that economic issues are why these voters have migrated to the left. If Jeb Bush actually believes that, he’s a moron. And since he and almost everyone else who claims to speak for the Republican party actually does seem to believe this, I think they may have finally reached the nadir. At this point, they’ve dug so far, for so long beneath the real world it’s likely that a generation’s eyes will never readjust to the light.

These suburban voters he thinks he knows have spent the last decade buying their furniture at Pottery Barn and being told they need to shop at Whole Foods. They’ve bought houses with granite countertops in subdivisions that have names and home owners association fees. They spent the affluent years that recently ended driven–whether naturally or as the result of good marketing–toward a kind of worldly sophistication. Now, it’s obviously a very shallow sophistication, but I think it’s important to realize that this isn’t 1970s Orange County we’re talking about anymore. These suburban dwellers who used to be the most reliable Republican voters because they were financially secure, white, and were afraid someone was going to take their swimming pools away are now people who worry about the environment, work and live among (or at least watch on the television) all sorts of minority families (including gay ones), and believe shopping at Bed, Bath, & Beyond instead of Wal-Mart somehow constitutes an acceptable value system.

They eat humus.

Whatever world Jeb Bush is imagining when he talks about middle-class voters does not account for humus. When these people voted for Republicans, they knew no gay people, drove Cadillacs, and cooked out of a Betty Crocker cookbook. They were capital-A Americans and this was their power. But the desire for isolation that drove them to the suburbs is A) no longer possible and B) out of style. Now, these voters are demographically diverse, live in cities, and have the benefit of cable television and the Internet. Their world is immeasurably bigger than what Mr. Bush remembers (or imagines).

They are not going to unlearn the knowledge they’ve gained. And it is both boomers and affluent Gen-Xers here. They want good design, they want good food, they want good lives. Their primary desire seems to be comfort and there’s nothing less comfortable than hate. Hate means wars, it means pro-ignorance, it means attacking people they share a cul de sac with. And here’s the part where the former governor should pay attention: the hatred section of the Republican party’s platform makes them more uncomfortable than the economic wing of the Democratic pary’s platform. It’s not even close. Hell, after the last administration, the Democrats were nearly the pro-wealth party for economic reasons alone last election (though that party is probably over).

So the idea that economics alone can bring these people back is insane. Many are already economically incentivized to favor the Republicans (or think they are). What else can you do? Sure, being a little bit competent and actually governing by the principles the party expounds would help, but what’s done is done.

These suburban voters are educated and successful and it would take some truly radical economic policies to get them to overlook the fact that it’s acceptable for Republican presidential candidates to raise their hands and say they don’t believe in evolution (I’ll do us all a favor and not even talk about Sarah Palin). And no, returning tax rates to where they were under Reagan does not count as radical or ‘socialism’ or whatever boogeyman they want to throw out there.

Jeb Bush and Michael Steele and Mike Huckabee need to learn something from the advantage they’ve enjoyed among rural voters who vote against their economic self-interest when they vote Republican but do because of God or guns or whatever. For exactly the same reasons–though with opposite value systems–suburban voters will willingly and gladly vote for the candidate that might tax them more if it means voting for the world they want to live in. They’re picking Bed, Bath, & Beyond over Wal-Mart again, and if you think rolling back prices alone is going to bring those voters back, you don’t have any business running a party let alone a country.

Through more diverse and nuanced media and society’s inevitable and consistent movement toward a more permissive culture, we’ve entered a period where–with the exception of abortion–social issues are going to be table stakes for a majority of these voters. If you can’t pass a certain threshold of tolerance, you aren’t going to get their votes. No matter how “timeless” these conservative “principles” are, being the anti-science, -gay, -people of color, -sex education, etc. party is going to take your name off the ballot for these voters. They aren’t single-issue voters as much as they are voters who demand a base-level of decency or, at the least, an understanding of and respect for contemporary values.

But, hey, things will change. Maybe the economy stays bad or terrorism becomes a more important issue again and old-school Republicans like Jeb Bush get lucky. Maybe they can sell deficits as an evil, people will forget who took us away from a balanced budget, and these voters will again worry about protecting their own wealth. Maybe immigration can find a foothold and casual racism drives people to the right. Despite the monolithic portrait I’m painting, these highly stereotypical voters are only going to slightly favor one party over the other anyway. There will certainly be Republican presidents and congresses again. But they’re not going to come soon or be led by people like Jeb Bush unless they take off the blinders and learn from the last election. For god’s sake, the Republicans just got done proving they can’t run a country, why do they think they can stop time?

It goes without saying, but among all voters the demographics only get much, much worse as time goes by. And as voters in the next 10-20 years don’t remember Ronald Reagan, hate George W. Bush, and aren’t inclined to vote for a 1950s value system that isn’t coming back organically, how exactly is an economic philosophy that hasn’t exactly been proven to work going to change their minds?

I’m no expert, but it seems to me the obvious direction for the right is becoming socially libertarian as opposed to socially liberal (but more or less ending up in the same place) and articulating that as a philosophical difference that traces itself to the earliest days of the country and informs every aspect of their platform (small government, isolationist, socially permissive, personal responsibility, religious freedoms [but for everyone] etc.) It certainly doesn’t mean listening to nutjobs like Ron Paul, but in the right hands I think the Republicans could have a strong and simple message that places them squarely in the 21st century. The left’s philosophy will be messy by definition, and the right should take advantage by offering something coherent and clean. They’d still have problems with health care and the environment and religious conservatives would complain, but those voters are the ones holding the party back anyway. Cut them loose and they’ll come back. What you don’t do is change nothing or follow reactionaries like Glenn Beck or root for the country to fail.

What you don’t do is think what won in 1980 can win in 2012.

And on a personal level, what you shouldn’t do is write about politics. Damn it. I just can’t quit you, self-righteousness.

Comment / Posted in Bad Ideas, High Horses, Politics

Exhibit 19.5

The Supremes


I love Supreme Court nomination hearings. I only barely remember watching some of Clarence Thomas’s, but that was all it took. Unfortunately, they’ve never been that explosive again–or involved a would-be justice allegedly describing pornographic films–but they’re still fun.

We’re a month or two away from Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings and unless something more shocking than her diabetes comes up, it’s looking like it will be a cakewalk. She’s clearly no Harriet Miers–or Clarence Thomas for that matter–and so far the arguments against her can basically be summarized thusly:

* She might not be smart – This is unrelated, but Clarence Thomas hasn’t asked a question during oral arguments since February 2006. Just saying.

* She too smart and therefore, as a woman, sort of a bitch – Something tells me this argument isn’t going to win anyone over.

* She’s racist – ?

What’s clear at this point–other than one political party apparently having decided to add Hispanics and women to the list of groups they don’t want votes from–is that Sotomayor is sharp and aggressive and proud of her heritage (as she should be). The same could be said of Justice Alito who spoke quite proudly about his roots as the son of Italian immigrants at his confirmation hearings.

(Also interesting is that Alito and Sotomayor share an identical educational trajectory – undergraduate degrees from Princeton and then law school at Yale where both were editors of the Yale Law Review [Alito graduate from law school in ’75, Sotomayor in ’79]. Remember how everyone said Alito was an unintelligent, affirmative action case? Oh, right, that never happened).

What’s so sad and predictable about the identity-based attacks on Sotomayor is that it was the last administration’s actions that forced this nomination. Somehow by floating Alberto Gonzalez’s name and briefly nominating the unconfirmable Miers, we all shrugged our shoulders as two more male whities were confirmed and the court grew even less representative of the country. Poor Ruth Bader Ginsberg has spent the last few years looking like she’s about to Pelican Brief a colleague or two herself if things didn’t change. Obama really had no choice but to nominate a woman and, with no guarantee of getting to select a second justice (though it’s likely), a minority woman was as inevitable as it was the right thing to do.

Which is not to say Sotomayor doesn’t deserve her spot–she’s done more to deserve it than just about anyone currently on the court from the looks of things–just that it’s unfortunate a nominee who will make the court look more like America gets criticized for those very qualities. Where the right is wrong is in assuming those are the qualities that make her weak when the truth is exactly the opposite.

Oh, and she saved baseball. So there’s that.

6 Comments / Posted in Courts, Justices, Politics

Exhibit 18.12

On Switching Parties

(I haven’t done any political posts since the election. Consider this a shameful, one-time revival. I apologize).

Obviously I’m happy with Senator Specter’s decision though it’s important to note that in practice it won’t mean nearly as much as we think as long as Franken isn’t seated and some moderate Democrats like, oh, let’s say Nebraska’s own Ben Nelson, insist on throwing their weight around. Not to mention that fact that the senator already votes blue on a number of key issues and the one issue you might expect him to now come out in favor of–the Employee Free Choice Act–he’s already said he will continue to oppose (we’ll see).

Which means we might not see Senator Specter sticking around past the election in 2010. There are a whole lot of Pennsylvania Democrats, many of them union members, who will need to vote for guy they’ve spent decades voting against without any incentive for changing their minds. In other words, the only person happier than Harry Reid today is Ed Rendell who basically came back from lunch to find a senate seat waiting for him. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has said they won’t support any primary challenges to Specter but if a popular Democrat like Rendell wants to enter the race, there’s nothing they can do about it.

(Rendell’s just an example. I doubt he runs now–he’s a party-line guy–but there was talk of him before Specter’s defection).

Honestly, unless Specter really does move to the left, it probably won’t even take that great of a candidate. I don’t know anything about Pennsylvania politics–here’s how much I don’t know: I initially misspelled Pennsylvania there–but it’s a pretty safe bet that 100% of people who voted in the last Democratic primary didn’t vote for Arlen Specter. Some surely came around in the general election, but against any credible opponent, Specter is going to have to cobble together a majority of voters starting near zero. One would think any well-funded yinzer who supports EFCA would be even money against an 81-year-old ex-Republican who stands on the wrong side of what will likely be the electorate’s key issue.

This is more or less always the rub with switching parties which is why it so rarely works, at least for anyone who expects to get reelected (even Jim Jeffords, who would have been a hero for switching control of the senate in 2001, decided against running for re-election as an Independent or a Democrat). It highlights the sad truth of our system of government: for as much as we might like politicians to vote their conscious and do the right thing regardless of party, the intricacies of governance are such that the letter next to a name really can be more important than the name itself. And if the people of Pennsylvania want a ‘D,’ presumably they’d prefer a capital D to a lowercase one.

Maybe Specter will move to the left. Maybe–and hopefully–the Democrats won’t be so quick to purify the party as their competition. Maybe Specter’s cancer comes back and none of this matters. But for the moment it looks like this is going to hurt Republicans more than this helps the Democrats. As of 2010, the holder of that seat was either going to be Arlen Specter or some random Democrat and that’s still the case today.

As for the Republicans, well, what can you say? This one has to hurt, but anyone dancing on their grave should remember the state of the Democratic party in 2004 and how quickly they bounced back. Still, the fact that a 30-year member of their caucus left because he was going to face yet another primary challenge from a right-wing operative who has no chance of winning the general election…well, it’s an issue. I’m no expert, but it seems like they should be taking what they can get at this point instead of shooting everyone in the foot until only Rush Limbaugh and Pat Toomey are left.

At a time when even a state like Iowa seems fairly blase about allowing gay marriage–as if it’s the most boring thing in the world when 10 years ago there would have been riots–their rush to force out moderates like Specter is inexplicable.

It comes from a play that what’s left of their party would rather ban than see, but it’s a lesson they need to learn: The world only spins forward.

2 Comments / Posted in Arlens, Changes, Politics

Exhibit 15.22

I once had a liberal professor try to convince me that George F. Will is one of the good guys, one of the conservative commentators that, though I might disagree with him, should be taken seriously as a political thinker. Like this professor, finding those on the other side of issues that are as sincere and honest about their political beliefs as I try to be about mine, is important to me. For the professor, George F. Will became his nemesis, sort of a Rommel to his Patton, someone he could test his ideas against, all the time respecting his “enemy” more than many of his allies.

I supposed I believed the professor–or just couldn’t find anyone better in the intellectual wasteland after the Limbaugh-ization of conservative thought during the Bush years–and so started treating Will as the best of the available conservative columnists. Not that I sought him out, mind you, but just about every newspaper I’ve ever subscribed to has run his column and my parents get me a subscription to Newsweek every year, so Will has just always sort of been there. I don’t usually agree, but most of the time I can tolerate him.

His final column on the Bush administration is something else though. Some choice moments:

*“Furthermore, some, and perhaps many, Americans probably are alive today because persons conspiring to commit mass murder were thwarted by the president’s ferocious focus after 9/11.”*

Fair enough. Probably not true, but I’m fine with having this be the up-beat tenor of the closing days of the administration. Still, this is hardly the redemption Will thinks it is considering Bush was president before 9/11 and this cuts both ways. He certainly doesn’t deserve all of the blame but nor does he reserve all of the credit for the lack of attacks since then.

*“The administration’s failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina were real but secondary to, and less shocking than, the manifold derelictions of duties by the governments of Louisiana and New Orleans.”*

Really? I mean, I know no one did great here, but, um, really? You don’t think FEMA’s failure–which, I should remind everyone, IS A FEDERAL AGENCY THAT EXISTS SOLELY TO HANDLE SUCH EVENTS–messed up at least as much as the city of New Orleans? It’s embarrassing to pretend that any major metropolitan area, let alone even a small town, should be expected to handle a mass evacuation and then be able to house all of its citizens who return to find their homes destroyed.

*“On the other hand, among Bush’s excellent legacies, gifts that might keep on giving for decades, are two justices—John Roberts and Sam Alito.”*

Now this is just being a jerk, George F. Will. Funny though.

*This one is the really killer: “Within the lifetimes of most Americans now living, today’s media-manufactured alarm about man-made global warming might be an embarrassing memory. The nation will then be better off because Bush—during whose administration the embarrassing planet warmed not at all—refused to be stampeded toward costly “solutions” to a supposed crisis that might be chimerical, and that, if real, could be adapted for considerably less cost than will be sunk in efforts at prevention.”*

Look, I understand that as a conservative he’s honor bound not to believe in global warming–fine–but this has to be one of the dumbest things committed to paper recently. That’s not even considering the clunky language (“embarrassing planet?” “crisis that…could be adapted?”). Mostly it’s stupid because Will’s argument here is that George W. Bush was right to spend no money in developing new energy technologies because, you know, that worked out so well for American automakers. Besides, even outside of global warming, there a dozens of good reasons for the American government to seek to advance technology that doesn’t leave us dependent upon a finite resource controlled by the very people Will thinks want to kill us.

There are real arguments to be made here, but Will refuses to make them. There are good reasons why the Kyoto treaty is stupid so long as it doesn’t include any restrictions for China and India–which is not to say I wouldn’t vote to ratify it myself–but at this point there’s very little about contemporary environmental policy that’s so objectionable you can write it off even if you don’t believe in global warming.

There’s a bit of a strawman argument here. Will seems to think that George W. Bush was fighting off hoards of tie-dye wearing hippies who wanted energy rationing and building freezes when the reality is that he was fighting off market-driven solutions in favor of adopting a ‘drill, baby, drill’ mentality. Why would George Will possibly be against a free market cap-and-trade system? American workers, politicians, and, most of all, businesses are now looking toward energy technology as the industry that is going to decide the fate of the country through the next century, yet were supposed to be happy that our president spent his years trying to destroy the arctic in order to fuel our SUVs? The problem here is not that George Will (and, so he thinks, George Bush) doesn’t believe in global warming, it’s that Will is praising the president for doing something we know for a fact was a disaster both environmentally and, more important to men like Will, economically.

And the worst part is that the former president was stampeded toward solutions. He was the key figure in creating an alternative to the Kyoto Treaty that included some of the “developing” nations left out of the older treaty. Now, we can debate whether or not the new partnership is effective or if its goals should be mandatory instead of voluntary, but it’s certainly an acknowledgment by Bush that there is such a thing as climate change. I mean, it’s in the title of the organization he started for Christ’s sake.

In fairness to Will, I should mention that the rest of the column is not nearly so flattering to Bush though mostly its another elegy to what “real” conservative believe and how it was conservative politicians who failed rather than conservative ideology. Enough has been said about our former president and there’s certainly no reason to relive his years in office here, but I just found Will’s tortured tribute important for anyone thinking we’re going to get a new day in politics. As the handwringing has already started up at Fox News–good god, he didn’t use a Bible during his second oath!–it’s only a matter of time before we’re reminded how much some have at stake in keeping these imaginary divisions in place.

Comment / Posted in Environment, Politics, Wills

Exhibit 14.15

Why Bobby Jindal is not Barack Obama

So I can’t let politics go, not yet, not like this. Bear with me for one more chance to play pundit before the news dries up and I have to get my presumption off by playing Civilization IV on the computer and writing 1,400-word posts about how that Kublai Khan is misallocating his resources by decreeing a stately pleasure dome.

There’s been a lot of talk about where the Republicans turn now that the old guard has failed and the new guard runs the gamut from crazy (Palin) to stupid (Palin). Anyone looking to gloat about this should remember identical conversations in 2000 and 2004 when it seemed like the Democrat’s Vietnam generation produced a series of boring, self-loathing leaders incapable of winning over enough “real” Americans to beat even the most incompetent of Republicans. Four year election cycles offer the parties a long time to rebuild themselves, and I think one of the most important lessons of 2008’s election is that the elongated campaign season opens up the presidency to younger, lesser known politicians by providing approximately 938 months of television coverage in which American can decide a candidate is good enough simply due to his or her continued existence.

Speaking of good enough due to his continued existence, it’s Bobby Jindal! He’s been in Iowa recently and the talk among the more hopeful conservatives is that he’s going to be the Republican’s very own Obama. They seem to think this because:

1) Bobby Jindal is brown. Not the same brown, but a brown. That will do, apparently.
2) Bobby Jindal is young. This is irrefutable.
3) Bobby Jindal has a funny name (yet isn’t a secret Muslim. Even if he was, the people who care about such things won’t care about such things as long as he’s their secret Muslim).
4) Bobby Jindal is smart. This is irrefutable.

Political parties kill themselves by playing these superficial games of guess the zeitgeist. It’s how 9/11 and the Iraq War led to the misguided choice of war hero John Kerry, completely ignoring how his patrician demeanor undercut his raison d’être and left him spending the campaign defending his service to a man who spent the war stateside. That Vietnam service, no matter how stellar, wasn’t a reason to elect a president was clear to everyone except the Democratic Party who could never quite figure out why their candidate who seemed to have all of the needed characteristics of the moment, couldn’t beat the clear incompetence of the incumbent.

Which brings us to Jindal. His trap is similar to Kerry’s though probably deeper. That he is another smart, young minority might lead the Republican Party to forget that the last two of those qualities are net negatives and the first is often times construed as one (though, admittedly, usually by the Republicans themselves). Even if his position was exactly like Obama’s, pretending that his election would somehow be as meaningful–even after Obama takes office–is silly. Most Americans know nothing about the Indian-American experience whereas Obama’s election was the culmination of a struggle that has existed since our nation’s founding. That is not to say it wouldn’t be another meaningful win–certainly the image of the two men debating alone would be powerful–but that seeing analogies where there aren’t any is a good way to lose.

Ultimately, Barack Obama won this past election not because of any of those characteristics he shares with Jindal but despite them. For the 40% of the country that saw him as a symbol of hope due partially to his atypical race, name, and history for a candidate, at least another 10% had to be talked into him based on policy and personality, and Jindal faces those voters with an argument that runs counter to the direction of the country. Outlawing abortion without any exceptions? Teaching creationism in schools? These two issues alone are going to make Jindal a tough sell in a number of conservative states let alone socially moderate swing states like Florida and Colorado.

And, as with Kerry, even those bullets on the resume that seemed like such a good idea are bound to fail Jindal when connected with the actual person. Unlike Obama, Jindal actually does have a religious background that will trouble his base. Converting from Hinduism to very strict Roman Catholicism is hardly a selling point to the megachurch set. So too he’s less by-the-bootstraps symbol of American opportunity than he is another scion of privilege and money, not exactly the promise-fulfillment narrative of Barack Obama. And, perhaps most obviously, he appears much less comfortable in his own skin than Obama. From his religious conversion to forgoing Piyush for Bobby to his inconsistent use of folksy mannerisms depending on his audience, he’s much more John Kerry/Mitt Romney than Barack Obama/George W. Bush/Bill Clinton (you might notice something the latter have in common).

Still, he’s got an impressive resume, seems to be a fairly competent governor so far, and is said to be quite impressive in person (of course, the same things could be said of Romney). Jindal’s struggle will be to moderate himself to match the electorate. Unfortunately, if the Republican Party’s ardor only goes skin-deep, no one will force Jindal to do that until he’s nominated and they realize that the public doesn’t want a less compelling “Obama” over the real thing, let alone a retrograde one. Jindal’s time may come and in a party bereft of better choices, he certainly looks pretty good four years out. But it’s a temptation built on a desire to compete with a moment that’s already happened. Jindal should look at this past year’s election as opening a door for him (and millions of others) that many thought permanently closed but think very carefully about whether or not he wants to run against the man who opened it. Making his party feel more relevant and less uni-raced is not a good enough reason.

2 Comments / Posted in 2012, Elections, Politics

Exhibit 14.2

In honor of the election, some political stock photography.

Congressman Wilson was having that dream again, the dream where the microphones were finally coming for him, the dream his psychiatrist said had phallic overtones, the dream he liked to tell the congressional pages about when he took them to get frappuccinos.

Who would have thought a person who ran on an authoritarian platform of creating a shadow army would be the first politician to actually live up to their promises. Still, Chancellor Paine does some good things, too.

“Sometimes, Bob, I don’t even know why they have us protecting these balloons armed with comically oversized walkee talkees.”

“It’s not our place to question it, Roger. We volunteered to supervise the prom, and supervise the prom we will.”

This photo could be used with any number of headlines, but I’m pretty sure all of them end in “Sex Scandal Exclusive!”

They laughed when Kwik Shop supervisor Ronald Vote announced his candidacy for mayor until he showed them the town ballot box on election day. What’s the worst that could happen, they said.

Well, who doesn’t want an army, they muttered anxiously, all too aware that Mayor Vote’s taxpayer-funded army consisted of 5 or 10 assault rifles he carried with him everywhere.

When he claimed a 12-year-old girl as his Secretary of War, everyone agreed this was going to a weird place.

Things didn’t get better.

Just creepier. Much, much creepier. Nobody liked Mayor Vote, but what could they do? All efforts to oust him from office ended in disaster when they urged the town to get out the Vote.

1 Comment / Posted in Politics, Stock Photography, Vote

Exhibit 14.1

Election Post-Mortem

Imagine my surprise when I went to watch Fox’s new hit drama Fringe and instead found myself looking at Shepard Smith. Hope for change: Fulfilled. Hope for answers about a series of mysterious events known only as “The Pattern”: Dashed.

I’ll have more to say about Obama later, but I wanted to go into some of the mechanics of this election a bit on the Republican side. My question at the moment: Did McCain ever have a chance? Certainly his surrogates had been playing up the ‘nobody expected us to even be competitive in this environment’ angle in the last week, but since they weren’t competitive at all, it does beg the question. My guess: No. At least not with the flawless campaign Obama ran. In the end, McCain probably would have needed a major gaffe to derail the electorate’s clear preference for a Dem, but I do think he could have taken steps to make such a gaffe more likely or at least put Obama on the defensive. Here’s what I would have suggested to McCain:

Spend every waking moment during the extended Democratic primary shoring up your conservative base in the quietest way possible. Do whatever it takes to convince the Colorado Springs crowd that you’re one of them even if you aren’t going to be talking about their issues. Get a Jesus tattoo if you have to. Make it count because…you’re never going to talk about their issues. Put on a turtleneck to cover up the Jesus tattoo and become the McCain of 2000 just as Obama is seizing the nomination. Immediately and publicly renounce Bush while announcing a radical reform agenda and make Obama respond, especially on issues like immigration and energy independence. Name Lieberman as your running mate a week or so before the Democratic Convention to make that the topic of conversation and give conservatives time to get over it before Minneapolis. Take the aggressive move of naming some people who would be in your cabinet and use those names to shore up the base (Palin as Secretary of Energy?). Continue to hammer the agenda and make it even more radical. Promise a fundamental rewriting of the tax code, stuff like that. Hope the Obama campaign takes the bait and attacks the agenda as impossible then wait until just before the debates to announce you’ll only serve one term and will govern by doing the right thing rather than the electable thing. Frame this as part of the overall anti-Obama argument based on experience and ambition. Leave all other negative attacks alone. Leave the press alone. Hope for a gaffe.

To me that seems like a strategy that, while perhaps no more likely to win, at least allows McCain to lose not only with his legacy intact but with a clear impact on the future of his party. In any case, there was a way for McCain to be a “maverick” not with his V.P. pick and not as a hollow label, but as a man leading sweeping, bipartisan reform of government. That’s an image that plays across demographics (which McCain’s campaign was far too obsessed with) and could have created excitement to match Obama’s if not in depth than at least in scope.

I really think that the Republicans could have learned a thing or two from Ron Paul in this election (as funny as it sounds) and tried to manufacture their own grassroots movement around reforming Washington, libertarian social policies, and populist economics. Finding a coherent narrative somewhere around the bi-partisan ticket, the one-term promise, and McCain’s experience as a reformer, shouldn’t have been too hard. But by taking the low road with the silly personal attacks, an irresponsible VP pick, endless fights with the press, and a “Joe the Plumber” economic plan, McCain not only doomed himself but also his party. Instead, the fundamental transformation that is going to have to take place in order for the Republican party to stay competitive in national elections gets put off another four years. This country isn’t getting any whiter, boys, maybe it’s time to start getting real on immigration. Or, you know, find a set of policies that in any way appeals to post-Vietnam generations. I think these issues go will beyond skin color, so if conservatives are hoping Bobby Jindal is going to be their Obama in 2012, I think they’re in for disappointment but I’ve been wrong before.

In any case, we should all remember that John McCain loves his country deeply and while he ran a bad campaign, he is a good man that many on the left, including myself, admired as a politician until recently and will continue to admire as an American hero. He was on the wrong side of history last night but that doesn’t do anything to diminish his sacrifice. Personally, I hope and expect that he will be a key player in righting this country now that he’s free from capitulating to his, and his party’s, worst instincts.

And the final nail in the Republican’s coffin came this morning. Here’s a very gracious Bush on Obama’s victory.

Except for when he oddly veers into talking about protecting America, I thought this was a compelling, genuine speech from a man who doesn’t seem to understand why people don’t like him anymore but who, if nothing else, knows history when he sees it.

Comment / Posted in Bad Ideas, Elections, Politics

Exhibit 13.27

President Barack Obama.

3 Comments / Posted in Fuck Yes, Politics, Presidents

Exhibit 13.26

Election Predictions

Electoral Vote Count: Obama 353-1851
Percentage of Popular Vote: Obama 53.2
Percentage of Winner over Loser: Obama +6.9%
Democratic Senate Seats: 58 (including Sanders and Lieberman)
Time of Concession Speech: 11:35 (Eastern Time)
Dolphins (-9) vs. Seahawks: Seahawks2
Olivo vs. Buck: Olivo (apparently)
Sign of This Blog’s Decline: Brett Photo
Percentage of Emails I’m Responding To: 30%
HTML I’ve Learned in the Last 10 Minutes: Superscripting
Time I’m Leaving Work to Go Watch Results: 4:403

Feel free to post your own predictions in the comments.

1 Obama wins Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, but loses Indiana and Missouri.
2 Don’t get me wrong, I think the Dolphins win that game, but should they really be giving nine points? Seems like they’re begging you to take the Seahawks but, well, I still would.
3 Joke!
4 I’m staying until five, boss, honest.

4 Totally not a joke.

Comment / Posted in Dolphins, Politics, Victories

Exhibit 13.21

Okay, so this is the last Lincoln Journal Star letter to the editor I’m posting (unless I want to give the state treasurer a piece of my mind), but it just so happens that good friend Aaron Hillyer chimed in on the UNL-William Ayers debacle on those hallowed pages and it should be brought to your attention. The unfamiliar can catch up on the details here.

So as long as the people I know cease to be so stubbornly civic-minded, I’m going back to the more important work of writing about celebrities that are ambiguously related/married.

Also, I should point out that they shamefully gave Aaron’s exceedingly well-written and considered letter the dumbest possible title.

  • Canceling makes it worse

    In the increasingly legalistic and regimented culture that pervades the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I would have welcomed the perspective of Professor William Ayers, whose civic and scholarly work has always been informed by an intense desire to combat the absolutism that characterizes dominant political and social trajectories in America.

    During my four years of teaching in the UNL English Department, I have often shown a documentary film, “The Weather Underground,” which tells the story of the revolutionary movement Ayers was once part of. The film develops a productive historical, political and social context for the avant-garde literature and theory we often read in my classes. It has provoked students to articulate rich narratives of the possibilities for dissent in their own lives, while also providing them with the opportunity to consider the political and social paradigms that are stifled by the increasingly monocultural media and pedagogical discourses of our times.

    For example, the film discusses the cold-blooded police assassination of Fred Hampton, a young African-American revolutionary leader whom not even one of my students had heard of before watching the film. I can see why such an event would become the object of suppression for those complicit with American absolutism, just as I can understand how the same people would threaten retaliation for the mere appearance of Ayers, who wasn’t even going to speak about his revolutionary past.

    But silencing words or, in this case, preventing the appearance of a person because that person’s mere presence may remind us of a past event only indicates the productive potential the oppressors anxiously attribute to such words or events in the first place. The task at hand, then, for us in the UNL community and for those everywhere around the country, is to finally harness this potential in order to rid ourselves of the systems that make our lives increasingly unlivable.

    Aaron Hillyer, Lincoln

Very nice work, Aaron. You know it was a good letter when it gets responses like this one:

Bob wrote on October 28, 2008 5:49 pm:
“Due to the ignorant Universary and the stupid LJS thats what you get. Its time to replace the newpaper that we have here.”

Well played, Bob. Your move, LJS.

Comment / Posted in Letters, Politics, Roberts

Exhibit 13.19

D.M.’s great letter to the editor has already been overshadowed by this beauty from reader/philosopher/literary scholar Richard Terrell:
  • Rand’s book brought to life
  • Fifty years ago, Ayn Rand wrote a scathing fictional exposure of the twisted psychology of compassion-mongers, do-gooders and their “looter” friends in governmental bureaucracies whose constant appeal is to people whose whole social vision amounts to whining about “fairness.” The novel is “Atlas Shrugged,” and today’s political scenarios are bringing to life Rand’s exposure of those who seek power in order to take from people who have created and earned something in order to give to those who haven’t.
  • The main villain in Rand’s story is a character named Wesley Mouch. Barack Obama is the real life incarnation of this character, who promises to punish successful small businesspeople by taking, through governmental force, the product of their labor to reward other people who he thinks should benefit from it.
  • In the novel, creative and intelligent people decide to withdraw from the system, in essence go on strike. Society, left to parasites, complainers and various “victims,” erodes into chaos.
  • Obama’s uncharacteristic candor in a recent discussion with an Ohio small businessman, in which he admitted that he would inhibit that man’s success in order to “help” others of his choosing, let Obama’s cat out of the bag. Already, small businesspeople across the United States are thinking seriously about shutting down their businesses, of deciding to no longer validate a system that would loot their creativity on behalf of undeserving, perhaps even corrupt people.
  • This is a novel that is much hated, especially by utopian totalitarians everywhere, for its power of exposure and clarification of the sick mentality that animates the likes of Obama and his hordes of followers.
  • Richard Terrell, Lincoln
Mr. Terrell and I need to get together so I can discuss with him my theories about how Fox’s new hit drama Fringe is perfectly analogous to an Obama presidency.

Capt. Daniels–>Obama (because of skin color/hot when shirtlessness)

Pacey–>Harry Reid (because of blandness)

Girl Cop–>Girl Speaker of the House (because of girl)

Science–>A Recalibration of the Progressive Income Tax (because of people saying you can’t do that and them saying oh yes we can watch wow)

Walter–>? (because not knowing is the scariest part of it all)

4 Comments / Posted in Books, Letters, Politics

Exhibit 13.15

Newsweek‘s Cover Story

America the Conservative
How Obama Might Govern a Center-Right Nation

Is this even true? Sure, it gets said on talk radio and Fox News as if it’s dogma, but frankly, I’d expect a real media outlet to at least explore the idea a bit rather than just assuming. Here’s Newsweek‘s editor Jon Meacham explaining it in bold with my comments in plain text.

But as we point out this week, that enthusiasm should be tempered by what I believe to be a stubborn fact about America: that, as a country, we tend to be center-right rather than center-left…Democrats have won only three of 10 presidential elections, and the three they won were with Southerners who emphasized how different their candidacies were from those of traditional national Democrats…

There are so many things wrong with this that I’ve lost my sense of humor about it. Seriously, there’s nothing funny coming up. It’s probably best if you go read something else.

Okay, on the fact that the Republicans have won 7 of the last 10 presidential elections, it’s pretty convenient how that time period begins right after Kennedy-Johnson. Adding them makes it 5 of 12 for the Democrats. Let’s assume an Obama win (as this editorial does) and we’ve got 6 of 13. Oh, yeah, and Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000. I’ll be fair and say that 2000 is unique and at best a wash while also leaving untouched the advantage that Bush had as an incumbent in 2004. Suddenly we’re looking at 6 wins a piece with 2000 excepted. Don’t even get me started on what a 1968 election would have looked like with Bobby Kennedy either.

Also, that those who won emphasized that they were different from “national” Democrats. Other than this being a profoundly subjective point that has nothing to do with how the men actually governed, I guess my only response would be that the younger Bush campaigned as being a mainstream “compassionate conservative” and a pragmatist rather than a Gingrich-esque zealot. Isn’t that a much better example of running against type than Clinton or Carter?

And what does being Southerners has to do with it is a little unclear. Nixon and Reagan were both from California. Does that mean their wins count less? I can redo that math if necessary.

Second, the fundamental human impulse to protect the familiar is often, in our vernacular, a conservative one, and the administrations of FDR, LBJ and Clinton provide case studies in the checking of radical reform by those on the right…the country’s conservative tinge will shape how Obama governs rather than usher in a McCain era.

Let me reiterate what he’s saying: The lesson of FDR and LBJ (and Clinton, which I’ll give him) is that conservatives check liberal agendas. Really? The New Deal? The Great Society? The Civil Rights Act of 1964? Yeah, what I take away from those years is that it was really the conservatives who shaped our agenda. Jesus.

Okay, well, that can’t be it, right? Surely there’s more. Polls and studies, maybe even some demographic information, which points us toward the conclusion which ended up on the cover of the magazine.

Oh, good, I see quotes coming up, this must explain how when compared to post-WWII Europe we’ve been slower to allow government a more active role in maintaining the welfare of our citizens which points to something fundamental about our character as a nation.

“America is still a right-of-center country, which is what McCain is,” McCain strategist Charlie Black told Holly Bailey. “Barack Obama is a conventional liberal. Ideologically, he’s out of touch.”

Aaaahhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

How liberal a President Obama would be is unknowable. There is no doubt that his Senate record supports Black’s view.

Okay, everybody got that? America is conservative because a Republican strategist says so and Obama’s Senate record–without a doubt–supports the view that, “Ideologically, he’s out of touch.” Without a doubt. No other interpretations. Only one way of seeing this. Black and white. As clear as John Edwards’s political calendar.

Meacham explains himself at length in his own article on the topic here, but it’s more of the same. Democrats are extremists because they aren’t able to enact their liberal agendas (?). Republicans are our natural inclination because we don’t trust government. Liberals will be disappointed because Obama won’t ban handguns or make gay marriage legal (you know, the opposite of how Bush banned abortion and abolished the Department of Education. Man, that was a crazy first 100 days).

In other words, America is a conservative country because Democrats don’t win as many presidential elections. Democrats don’t win as many presidential elections because America is a conservative country. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a logic class, but I’m pretty sure there’s a fallacy there somewhere. Wow, I forgot about logic. You guys hold on, I’m going to go do some syllogisms for fun….

…okay, I’m back.

The truth here is something that seems painfully obvious, and it’s up to Rick Perlstein to point it out, “As far as public opinion goes, the American public is generally not center-right…What we do have is a center-right political system…[America’s Founders] wrote a Constitution designed to make change a slow and deliberative process.”

I understand that doesn’t make for much a magazine cover, but it’s probably an insight that doesn’t deserve to be buried in the middle of an article that relies on quotes from McCain surrogates and Christopher Buckley as the primary evidence of its premise.

1 Comment / Posted in America, Magazines, Politics

Exhibit 13.9

Debate Thoughts

* Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber.

* As always, Obama was good. Calm, composed, and able to sit back and be the only real adult on stage. I had a moment where I worried that he might be laughing at McCain a bit too much, but McCain’s exaggerated gestures, strange faces, and repeated references to a certain plumbum in Ohio meant that Obama was really just playing along with the audience.

* It’s hard to say what’s going on with the McCain campaign at this point. On one hand, Republicans did win the last presidential election by going solely for their base on policy while publicly flogging the other guy’s patriotism and character. On the other hand, this obviously isn’t last election and it should have been clear since before the conventions that this strategy wasn’t going to work in an environment that is far more favorable to Democrats than any election since Watergate (not to mention the massive charisma disparity between Obama and Kerry [or Obama and McCain for that matter]). Why, in their last decent chance to win over the American people on Wednesday, they decided to fall back on Republican talking points for the Rush Limbaugh set is beyond me. Here, let’s see if I can break down why this is stupid: (all paraphrases)

Economy= “This guy wants to redistribute your wealth.” Um, John, on a day when the stock market dropped another 700+ points, people are far more concerned with maintaining modest wealth than worrying about the scary march of communism across the globe. For every “Joe the Plumber” who apparently thinks he’s going to be making more than $250,000 soon, there are a lot more Americans who simply want a firmer foothold in the middle-class. If your opponent keeps saying, “95% of people get a tax break,” and you keep playing to the 5%, you’re going to lose.

Abortion= “Health of the mother is code for the pro-abortion crowd.” Not according to a vast majority of Americans, the Supreme Court, and, in the last major attempt on an outright abortion ban, the state of South Dakota. Let me say that again: South Dakota voters rejected an abortion ban because it didn’t contain exceptions for health. If it doesn’t play in Yankton, it’s not playing anywhere else. If your opponent follows up your craziness with a compassionate, rational defense of Roe v. Wade that gives Americans a way to compromise and get past this issue, and you sound like you want to throw fake blood on a teenage girl, you’re going to…well, you know.

Education= “Vouchers, blah, blah, vouchers.” Because clearly a lot of non-religious families out there want the chance to pay for private school right at the moment. Even if you ignore the obvious reasons that have nothing to do with education why religious leaders want programs like these, there are so many ways a nationwide voucher program doesn’t make sense economically that it’s not even worth going into. Thankfully, that’s painfully obvious to anyone paying the least bit of attention to the candidate who also, bizarrely, claims he can have a “spending freeze.”

Healthcare= “If like Senator Obama’s plan, you’d love Canada and Great Britain.” Way to misread the mood of the country, Mr. McCain! Do you honestly think a majority of Americans wouldn’t take Canada’s healthcare system straight up if they could? Jesus. At this point, I think there are more people upset that Obama’s plan doesn’t mandate coverage than there are upset by the spectre of universal healthcare.

* All of those positions are very hard right which is strange because McCain presumably chose Palin to lock up those voters while he moved to center. Picking Palin, which undercut experience, possibly his only winning argument against Obama, should have allowed McCain to revert back to being the moderate senator he was pre-2000 while Palin winked–literally it seems–to the right. This, um, didn’t end up being the plan. Apparently his advisers accidentally opened the folder marked “GET 40 PERCENT OF THE VOTE” instead of the “WIN THE ELECTION” folder. Oops.

* It’s obviously not over, but it’s worth wondering at this point if McCain ever had a chance to seize the momentum in this election. To me, a winning strategy would have meant choosing a V.P. like Huckabee (personable, Christian, populist), immediately and publicly renouncing Bush (oddly, McCain has an ad out today that does just this, far too late), and making the maverick brand come alive with policy ideas rather than just repeating the word until it became an SNL joke while giving everyone the normal low-taxes, no abortion talking points.

* Going after women was clearly a mirage the Obama campaign was begging McCain to pursue. Within a month of making that demographic his biggest priority with the Palin pick, he had turn around and ambandon them completely because women seem to dislike Palin more than the average American and McCain himself has given up what was previously a moderate stance on abortion in order to please a base that no longer needs pleasing.

* It’s also likely that McCain himself just isn’t a very good politician on the national stage. He’s not proving to be one of those candidates who can say one thing to his base and another thing to the public (by which I mean he’s not a winning candidate). There’s a way to placate conservatives on topics like abortion without alienating the rest of the country–here’s a hint: don’t mock the health of mothers–but again and again McCain only makes argument in black-and-white and not grey which should be his strength as a “maverick” and “an outsider.” If McCain’s advisers aren’t dumb, and presumably they aren’t, it’s likely a lot of the blame falls on McCain himself for not knowing when to use which set of talking points.

* Mercifully, this is my last thought: I think McCain took the wrong message from 2000 when he decided he needed to tack right. There are a lot of reasons why candidates lose elections and to seize on the failure to placate the base as the cause was a misinterpretation of what really happened against Bush. Using the lessons of a primary election from 2000 in a general election in 2008 seems to have been where his campaign started to go wrong.

Comment / Posted in Changes, Elections, Politics

Exhibit 13.4

This is almost sad. I think you can actually see the moment when John McCain realizes that he’s going to go down in history as the guy who ran the race-baitin’ist campaign this side of George Wallace. Even after the unbridled and irrational anger of his last few campaign events, it’s almost like he didn’t realize that those wackos were the norm and not the exceptions.

Here’s the thing: the McCain campaign knew exactly what they were doing when they added the line “Who is the real Barack Obama?” to their stump speeches. The first time they did it, someone yelled, “Terrorist!” and the senator (who visibly winced when he heard it) didn’t bother sticking up for his opponent’s fundamental loyalty to his country. That McCain now has to convince his own crowds that Barack Obama is an American is nobody’s fault but McCain’s. These fringe elements were always present, of course, but McCain apparently decided to make the lies normally passed around in chain emails a central theme of his campaign. And so those who might have once believed in private that Obama is a “secret Muslim” (still my favorite meme of the campaign. I want to name a band Secret Muslim) now feel like they have a candidate who agrees and wants to spread the truth before it’s too late.

That McCain had to correct a woman who was a foot away from him when she called his opponent an “Arab” is very likely to be one of the indelible moments of this campaign cycle. And nobody is going to give a shit that McCain apparently felt bad when his supporters misinterpreted his covert swipes at Obama’s patriotism as overt swipes at Obama’s patriotism.

Comment / Posted in Bad Ideas, Ist, Politics

Exhibit 13.1

Debate Thoughts

* My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends, My Friends.

* I’ll admit it: for the first time since he started cozying up to the base of his party, I felt sorry for John McCain. As with Dole, his war injuries really make him awkward whenever he’s not behind a podium and the way he wandered around during Obama’s answers was less ‘dynamic maverick’ and a little more ‘grandpa’s gotten lost.’ Unlike with Dole, McCain is not going to come out of this as a venerable American doing Pepsi and Viagra commercials. We all liked Dole so much better after he lost (mostly because we didn’t have to worry about him being president), but a McCain loss is going to leave behind an isolated and angry old man who may not have the years left to cool down and regain everyone’s respect.

* It’s abundantly clear that the only way McCain knows how to compete is by forcing himself to hate his opponent which, I suppose, is an effective trait in a war but not so much in politics. Maybe South Carolina in 2000 changed him (though suddenly it seems a little more plausible that McCain himself played a hand in fermenting the bitterness which the Bush camp ultimately took to the next, deplorable level). Whatever the case, I don’t think there are many of us who wouldn’t have preferred a McCain presidency to a Bush one if those were our only two options. That at this point the two are more or less equally dishonorable in my mind is a little sad. From Palin to the negative ads to the way he treats Obama when they share a stage, McCain has likely cost himself a chance to be remembered as anything other than the candidate who ran a racially charged campaign against our country’s first black president. If Obama does win, and at this point it’s seeming very likely, that anger is not going to be remembered well once any context goes away.

* Obama was great, speaking clearly and with authority while not letting himself take the bait and get bogged down in a shouting match. I thought he could have been more forceful in defending his grossly mischaracterized health care and tax policies, but, as is often the case with his candidacy, he did a better job selling his vision and himself than the details. I’m fine with that, and at this point America is too. It’s clear that people just want someone they can believe in and Obama’s that guy. It was hard not to think of Obama every time McCain said that, “we need a cool/steady hand on the tiller.”

* Speaking of which, whoever let McCain say that tiller line should be fired. Not only does it recall Obama much more than McCain, it sounds archaic. My guess is they tried to beat it out of him with a different phrase but McCain couldn’t help himself (hence the first “cool hand on the tiller” oddity).

* It’s good for all of us that none of the personal attacks came up in this debate. Apparently the McCain camp is now going to drop any mention of Ayers and Wright, but it’s too late for them to take the high road. For Obama’s part, I thought one of his campaign’s few missteps in the last month was launching that Keating Five website on the same day they knew McCain was stepping up his attacks. Instead of two days of “McCain ramps up personal attacks” headlines they gave the media the opportunity to run more even-handed “Campaigns turn personal” stories. It’s the wrong year for pettiness.

* Tom Brokaw was pretty horrible. I don’t think he was biased or anything, but there definitely wasn’t a question asked of McCain as loaded as this one to Obama, “So are you saying, Senator Obama, that the world is going to end and that mothers will have to smother their children rather than watch them starve?”

* I should point out that I was paraphrasing there.

Comment / Posted in Bogged, Politics, Two

Exhibit 12.25

Reasons Not to Go to War with Spain

1. Goya

2. Paella

3. There is no third reason. But if you claim popular Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz for this spot, I wouldn’t object.

Reasons to Go to War with Spain

1. Armadas

2. That Ship We’re Still Pretending They Sank in 1898

3. Inquisitions

4. Spanish Actor Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh

5. Pickpocketing Our Friends

I’ll let you decide this one.

Comment / Posted in Art, Politics, Spain

Exhibit 12.22

My favorite running subplot of the presidential election is that after screwing up that Spanish radio interview and choosing not to admit that he got confused, McCain now has to pretend that he really doesn’t consider Spain an ally even though that’s only slightly less absurd than saying he doesn’t consider Great Britain an ally. Obama was almost gleeful when he got to mention it in the debate and McCain looked furious and started muttering to himself (note: I don’t really think he was saying ‘horseshit’).

To me, this is going to play out exactly like Three to Tango. And by exactly, I mean McCain is going to keep this up until it goes too far and he has to tearfully admit he’s not gay mad at Spain during a United Nations gala. Also, Oliver Platt is going to co-star.

And with that, I have now mentioned Paul Walker, Oliver Platt, and Leelee Sobieski in consecutive posts. My work here is done. And by done I mean I no longer want to be alive writing about such nonsense.

1 Comment / Posted in Movies, Politics, Shame

Exhibit 12.17

At this point it’s clear who has seized the momentum in the current economic environment. It’s not really even McCain’s fault, honestly. He just so happens to represent the party that has pushed deregulation and privatization for the past 30 years at a time when it’s abundantly clear that the former didn’t work and the latter would have meant disaster for those depending upon Social Security (e.g. most everyone). Oh, right, I guess that does mean it’s a little his fault.

No matter what you think of the collective memory of the American electorate, it’s not hard for people to look at the stock market and know what privatizing Social Security would have meant. Nor is it hard for them to see through the blatant hypocrisy of these bailouts being engineered by a Republican administration which couldn’t have shed the mantle of individual responsibility, privatization, and small government fast enough once it became clear a significant number of banks were going to fail. Thank god that, at least for the moment, the brakes are being put on the bailout plan so that it isn’t just a trillion dollar giveaway to incompetent (yet over compensated) CEOs who, rest assured, aren’t going to be giving that money back once they’re in the black. I don’t know, I guess I feel like since I’m going to be paying for AIG for the rest of my life, I might as well, you know, own some of it.

Anyway, I mention it only because a full week after the dominoes started falling John McCain just announced he’s suspending his campaign and is asking to delay this Friday’s debate in order for both parties to come together in order to solve the problem. On a purely political level, it’s an interesting move but no less risky than his choice of Palin for the ticket (how’s that working out, senator?). It’s clear that whatever bounce he had coming out of the convention wasn’t sustainable so again we have McCain throwing a Hail Mary and hoping that this will somehow make him seem like a decisive economic leader. It could work, I guess, though it’s hard to imagine enough people being convinced considering there’s no reason he couldn’t have done this a week ago and actually gotten something done. As is, McCain’s certainly going to piss off Bush who believes he has a solution (and is going on TV tonight in order to convince you he has one too) and has already pissed off the Obama camp who have an interesting choice to make themselves.

On the one hand, if Obama capitulates he plays into McCain’s hand. On the other, he doesn’t want to play the politician while McCain gets to be the bi-partisan hero for a plan that is more or less agreed to in principle.

(There were three things holding the plan up, none of them McCain’s absence from Washington:
1. House members didn’t want to do it now since taxpayers hate it and they’re all up for election.
2. Dems, rightly, wanted oversight and a restriction on CEO pay in addition to a chance for at least some money to come back the government’s way.
3. Even if the details could be agreed to, both parties seemed a little tentative in how their nominees would end up on the issue. Mostly, McCain didn’t want to tie himself further with Bush while Obama was afraid that if he came out in favor of a modified Bush plan that McCain would oppose it for political reasons and leave him holding the bag. By the way, this totally would have happened and still might.)

The most likely scenario at the moment is that Obama’s camp punts and says A) We haven’t been campaigning anyway due to the debate prep and B) Senator Obama has been working with leaders including the McCain camp on a solution and C) It’s not our decision to delay the debate and until we hear otherwise we intend to be in Mississippi on Friday. If they want to get really frisky they’ll call for the debate on Friday to be at least partially about economic issues and then say something like, “We agree with Senator McCain but, for obvious reasons, feel like the debate should go on in order for the American people to hear each candidate’s position on what should be done.”

If it were me, I’d say that last move would be their best gambit here. I think they’re comfortably enough ahead that they can take the high road while they let the media point out that there is no reason (other than sliding poll numbers) for McCain to call for this today as opposed to yesterday, last Friday, or last Tuesday. There’s also bound to be more talk of Palin’s experience level over this, especially after what’s been the disaster of her trip to New York. Plus, no one thinks McCain is the economic wizard who is single-handedly going to fly to Washington and solve this problem.

Another interesting, if ironic, wrinkle: this move by McCain actually delays any sort of bailout package and could potentially have an adverse affect on the stock market tomorrow. If he’d stayed out of it, something probably would have been figured out in the next few days. Now it’s anybody’s guess because he’s made it a partisan issue by pretending it’s not one (which, again very ironically, it actually really wasn’t before. Sure, the bailout didn’t sail through, but that’s mostly because it’s an awful plan without a clearly better option). If the markets open down tomorrow and the bailout breaks down along party lines in the coming days, this certainly isn’t going to look like McCain coming to the rescue.

1 Comment / Posted in Gambits, Politics, Senators Who Probably Haven't Dated Debra Winger

Exhibit 12.14

George Saunders has a hilarious take on Sarah Palin in the New Yorker. Read here.

And, in case you haven’t noticed (“and judging by the attendence, you haven’t”), the Royals have won 6 in a row, Soria has 40 saves, Meche has 12 wins, and I have begun to say things like, “If Ryan Shealy had been in the lineup all season this team would have been within 5 games of .500.”

Ah, autumn, it’s that magical time when I begin to talk myself into Kyle Davies and work out Brian Bannister for Jeff Francoeur trades in my head.

Then comes winter. A very long winter.

1 Comment / Posted in New, Politics, Sports

Exhibit 12.5

Okay, I said I was done with politics, but I can’t help it. I have thoughts. I’m doing my best to keep them to myself, but I can’t do that any more than I can stop writing the word ‘I’ in these three sentences I have written here on this blog I do.

I promise this is the last one for awhile.

I’ve read a lot of reaction to the Palin speech and this is the one that takes the most realistic, balanced view, in my, admittedly biased, opinion:

http://jamesfallows.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/09/sarah_palin.php

I think last night was bad for the Republicans and they just don’t know it yet. They already had support from something like 90% of Republicans. How much higher can they really go in the polls with speeches like that? Losing that video hurt–a lot. Giuliani’s speech ending up in prime time hurt–a lot. Sure, they’ll probably come out of this tied or close to it in the polls–which is normal for a convention–but why they continue to think this country wants bitterness and sarcasm is beyond me. Do they really think people don’t know who has been in charge during the last eight years? The culture of Washington that they are attacking is something they’ve never taken the time to distance themselves from. Having a bunch of cowboy hat waving whities chanting, “Drill, baby, drill,” on national television is a disaster no matter how well spoken the speaker is.

Suddenly, that quote from McCain’s campaign manager that “This race is not about issues.” is massively important. I’m no expert, but if McCain thinks they are going to win a personality contest with a modern, massively popular candidate they’re out of their minds. Let me help them out a little on this one:

Vaguely racially charged line mocking community organizing to (again) cowboy hat waving whities: Cheers, hat waving, hooting, hollering.

Vaguely racially charged line mocking community organizing to auto industry worker in Saginaw: Boredom, confusion, maybe resentment.

God help McCain if he busts out a line like that at a debate because Obama’s response is so easy and could be delivered with such blistering condescension that it would be palpable. Here, let me take a stab at it:

“John, community organizing is what people do to lift up their communities, to help their fellow Americans, when they lose their jobs during Republican administrations. You can mock the work I did helping auto plant workers who’d lost their jobs to factories overseas, but I think if you asked any of those people I helped, or any of the people who were fed by neighborhood churches instead of FEMA after Hurricane Katrina, they’d tell you what I’m going to tell you right now: making a difference isn’t about tearing people apart, it’s about bringing them together. It’s a lesson you and George W. Bush apparently haven’t learned yet, but the Americans I’ve met across this country have.”

That sentiment, if not the words, is a clear winner over McCain’s position which seems to be asking the country to hate Obama more than they hate McCain. Maybe that worked against Kerry, but this is a very different candidate in a very different year. At some point the hat wavers go back to their McMansions in Texas and they’re going to realize that actual voters looking for answers to their problems are the ones they’ve really been talking to and the only thing they’ve heard is, “He has no executive experience. He hates America. When is the elitist media going to treat us fairly? Am I right?”

Not this year.

2 Comments / Posted in High Horses, Not Popular, Politics

Exhibit 12.4


Tough news day for the Republicans yesterday. I mean, we all know where they stand on dog/furniture/gay marriage.

(Okay, I’m officially done writing about politics unless it’s revealed that Sarah Palin’s husband once killed a polar bear with his hands. Until then, I’m back to writing about books, fantasy sports, and, occasionally, candy bars. You may now resume pitying me).

Comment / Posted in Dog/Furniture/Gay, Hugs, Politics

Exhibit 12.2

This Palin pick is a bit of disaster for McCain, right? It really seems like the only logical reason to pick her would be to A) Appease social conservatives and B) Try to attract Hillary voters. Fair enough except:

-Nobody gives a damn about social conservatives this election (or, really, any election when the economy is bad).

-She’s adamantly pro-life, pro-guns, and pro-beauty pageants. Which of those things is supposed to appeal to these alleged armies of disaffected Hillary voters? Oh, right, she’s a woman. Well, that settles it then. If I know women–and I don’t–they love nothing more than being pandered to by old, white grandfather figures.

-It completely undercuts any arguments he wants to make about experience. She was mayor of a town of 8,000 people and has been governor for less than two years. Um, good luck with that. The worst part is, since he’s the one who opened this argument in the campaign, the Democrats are going to be able to bring it up without looking sexist.

-She has an ongoing corruption scandal that apparently involves her office going out of their way to fire her sister’s ex-husband. This is under investigation by an independent committee…um, like, right now.

-Her resume outside of politics is pretty laughable in the context of Obama, Biden, and even McCain himself. Not to be an elitist about it, but she makes Pawlenty look like a Nobel laureate. Being a journalism major at the University of Idaho is great and all–Go Vandals!–but having a varied career as a fisherwoman and a sportscaster before getting into small town Alaska politics isn’t going to play very well to the glass ceiling breaking Hillary supporters or, really, to anyone else.

-Mainland Americans don’t like Alaska. Or the film Mystery, Alaska.

-She’s going to look John McCain’s daughter standing next to him. Or worse. (For what it’s worth, McCain has a child five years older than she is).

That said, she does seem like a fun lady in that crazy Alaskan sort of way, and, though I’ve never heard her speak, one assumes she has some charisma and intelligence. Her debate with Biden is going to be a bloodbath and she has more than a little Dan Quayle potential, but it’s easy to see the media loving this pick and treating her with the kid gloves that they never gave, say, Hillary. For all the talk sure to come from the Republican side about how they want to finish the job the Democrats started, it’s likely that this pick is going to be more notable for how it subverts the smart, accomplished woman in politics for a non-careerist, outdoorsy version of femininity. Why anyone would think that would appeal to a large percentage of the female electorate is beyond me, but what do I know.

She seems like a character Aaron Sorkin would write only he’d have had her go to Harvard on the beauty pageant scholarship and then to have worked on a fishing boat while doing legal aid for indigenous peoples. Instead, she’s just got the beauty pageant and the fishing boat. Doesn’t seem like that’s enough.

UPDATE: I got a chance to catch some of her appearance and the reaction to her selection at lunch and nothing I saw changed my mind. She comes across as very, very unpresidential and small potatoes on camera and whether it’s fair or not that accent is going to get mercilessly mocked on SNL. Also, she’s been picked by exactly the wrong candidate to be going around talking about being in the PTA. Her “hockey mom” schtick is getting a lot of love from the talking heads who are bizarrely claiming this to be a history making choice–um, why exactly? We’ve had female VP candidates before–and Palin herself went directly after Hillary supporters. To me, that spells disaster, but I’m not an expert. The reaction from actual voters seems to be shock/apprehension but the media loves it. No surprises there.

That debate with Biden looms large, and it’s hard to imagine her not making a foreign policy mistake between now and the election. Even if she doesn’t, it’s going to be tough for her. The last time most people heard an accent like hers was in Fargo and nothing about her resume or willfully smalltown demeanor is going to contradict that sentiment.

1 Comment / Posted in Incorrect, Politics, Russell

Exhibit 11.26

I don’t know if you caught Michelle Obama’s speech last night, but wow. She was smart, genuine, and warm (also, pretty foxy). I know the conventions are pretty much the worst thing about politics outside of the corruption and money (which they represent, of course), but it was nice to see someone with a genuine story who has made legitimate sacrifices onstage. I wonder if the empty set of mascara-ed eyes that is Cindy McCain will get a chance to speak and, if so, what she’ll have to say about her privileged lifestyle that has led her to be passed from her father to her father-like husband as if she’s some kind of doll. I realize that’s incredibly unfair, etc.

Still, it was just nice to see the first lady speak and think She could be president someday if she wants it. I know it’s not the first time we’ve been able to say that, but it’s the first time we’ve been able to say it and not know the answer.

At one point while Brett–a dog, a girl–was chewing on a bone, I poked her and pointed at the television and said, Look, Brett, a strong female role model. She then started to hump a pillow. I’m not sure if this means she got the message or not.

1 Comment / Posted in Brett, Could, Politics

Exhibit 11.24

Vice Presidential Candidate Review

Outside of those hopelessly pining for Clinton or Bush ’04 voters who jumped to Obama but hoped he’d make his claims of bipartisanship explicit and nominate Hagel, it’s hard not to like Biden. His negatives all seem to be the stuff of Washington gossip that no one else really seems to care about because, you know, they’re making house payments and saving for college as opposed to worrying about what senators may be on the annoying side of loqacious. Even the punchline set can’t do much with that fact since A) There’s nothing funny to say about it and B) He’s a politician campaigning so he’s supposed to be talking a lot this time of year.

His only other negative–his long tenure in Washington–is, in this case, mostly a positive since it shores up any doubts about Obama’s experience and gives him someone both respected in the senate and internationally admired as a surrogate at home and abroad. If nothing else, it’s a pick that screams competency, a criminally overlooked quality in this election which, though it’s never going to show up in polls, is probably the number one reason why the democrats are so well positioned. When people say they trust the Dems more on the economy–a party they’ve been told for 30 years will raise their taxes and take their jobs–what they’re really saying is that they don’t trust the Republicans to do it (or anything else outside of protect the country. And even that…)

In addition to playing some of Biden’s anti-Obama rhetoric from the primary, which campaigns always do when a former competitor for the nomination gets the VP nod, expect the McCain camp to start saying how much they admire Biden and wish the positions on the ticket were reversed. In other words, they’re going to try to use this pick to highlight Obama’s inexperience, but it’s hard to see how this line of attack is going to have any teeth because…

…more than any other pick this puts a lot of pressure on McCain. Had Obama picked Hillary, the election would be more or less over and McCain would probably have chosen an outsider and hoped for the resentment vote or a major gaffe to send people back his way. Had Obama picked a relative unknown like Kaine, McCain would have picked the most seasoned (yet not old) person he could find and just hammered their inexperience to lead and we’d probably hear a lot more about terrorism. With Biden, however, Obama pretty much made the first gambit in the experience game which puts McCain in a very awkard position.

He can try to follow suit and go with Romney or a senate colleague we’re not hearing much about. This seems to have been McCain’s first instinct, especially when some of the smaller names were mentioned for Obama’s slot. That would have been a smart play, but now, with Biden getting a week to claim this role for himself, it wouldn’t exactly come across bold leadership. The entire narrative has been claimed by Obama who is undoubtedly going to continue to talk about having someone to challenge his ideas–again, competency in an administration being the unspoken idea there–which is exactly what McCain would have needed to say to make a pick like Romney palatable to anyone, including his base. Sure he can still do it–and my guess is he will–but no one is going to care since it’s clear that A) He hates Romney and B) America does too.

His other option is to go the opposite route and pick a young “Change” candidate to counter Obama and then claim that they arranged the ticket the right way (with experience on top). This isn’t a bad move except for the fact McCain’s entire campaign is now buoyed by his attacks on Obama’s alleged superficiality and celebrity status. Picking, say, Jindal, seems to make such attacks hypocritical, especially since Jindal couldn’t make them himself without looking like he has a total lack of self-awareness. The other issue here is that Biden is a great debater who, with his insanely long senate record, is likely going to make whomever McCain throws up there look silly, especially on foreign policy issues. Picking Pawlenty and his recently deceased mullet is not going to go over well once he has to admit that, outside of maybe Canada, he’s probably never had cause to go to a foreign country or meet a foreign leader.

McCain’s base pick would be Huckabee, but it’s almost impossible to see. Christian conservatives rally behind him or not, there Republicans just don’t have the numbers this year with their base. McCain simply has to keep showing up at whatever godawful forums and meetings and abstinence-only ice cream socials those people throw and hope they come out for him anyway. They will. Come out, I mean.

The only worrisome thing about Obama’s pick is that Biden is known more for his foreign policy credentials than his economic ones. Given the way this economy is performing, it wouldn’t be too much to ask for him to play up his experience here. People seem all but ready to forget Iraq and Afghanistan if gas prices stay high. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. This seems like the biggest reason why Romney should be McCain’s pick even if it pisses off everyone except Wall Street (including McCain himself). Romney–with his lack of conscious and ruthless ambition–will go after Obama just as hard as Biden is going to go after McCain (whereas someone like Pawlenty wouldn’t have the balls or the gravitas). Even if Obama-Biden has already seized on the Team of Rivals-style consensus narrative, McCain could at least hope that Romney would show people that he’s not the crazy, grudge-holding coot that they think he is (and he, um, is).

Of course, Romney’s weakness are obvious, not least of which is his religion. No one is going to think harder about how close he is to the White House than religious conservatives who might be tempted by the unstoppable force of Obama’s, and now Biden’s, personal story that confirm everything they believe about the world. The other obvious handicap is for every bad thing Biden ever said on tape about Obama, there are about five worse things Romney has said about McCain (and vice versa). There would be some ugly, ugly ads running in conjunction with a convention where the two men–who obviously hate each other–would be on stage obviously hating each other. It would make the palpable coldness of Kerry-Edwards ’04 seem like the hotness of Floozy-Edwards ’06-’08.

In any case, Obama’s made the right call. I personally wish Bill Richardson would have gotten more play, but with international issues taking a backseat to domestic issues and the need for a more LBJ-esque elder statesman on the ticket, it’s understandable that he didn’t. McCain’s pick is probably going to say a lot more about how he plans to run the rest of his campaign than this says about Obama’s plans. If nothing else, Obama should be praised for picking someone he thought was the best candidate rather than someone who helps his electoral map. It fits with his entire narrative about doing what’s right as opposed to what’s politically convenient and the contrast to McCain’s pick–which is going to be about math more than anything else–is going to be clear. People won’t vote for Obama because of Biden, but his choice only confirms what we already know about Obama. If McCain is lucky, his choice won’t do the same.

1 Comment / Posted in Bidens, Politics, Senators Who Probably Haven't Dated Debra Winger

Exhibit 10.25

Not content to play it cool like their benign, cookie-perfecting brethren, the New Yorker has decided to throw a grenade into the relative calm of the mid-early-mid election coverage with their most recent cover. Naturally, people are upset.
The problem isn’t that it’s unidentifiable as satire or that it’s a prima facie ploy for attention, but that it’s satire without an obvious referent. The necessity here is that we know the New Yorker is joking because they’re the New Yorker, not because there is one consistent, universally identifiable image they are mocking. At best it can be said that they satirizing a problematic conservative meme but their method of doing so confuses the issue by using imagery that, with the exception of the fistbump, is completely from the artist’s (rather than the public’s) consciousness.
It’s a perfectly reasonable response to see this image’s heresy (the flag burning) and its stereotyping (poor Michelle) as trumping whatever chuckles, if any, it gets. Mostly there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of what role the New Yorker plays in our culture. I think most of us would agree that this image is not so obviously satirical that if it were, say, on the cover of a conservative magazine like the National Review, we’d all recognize it as funny rather than horrific and offensive. If the same image could be used to make exactly the point it’s supposed to be satirizing, is it successful satire? And is that ‘THE NEW YORKER’ up top capable of turning the fear, hate, and racism of the image into a joke all by itself?
It is for me, but that’s probably not good enough.
When this image is plastered all over the news tonight–as Mr. Remnick et al. surely knew it would be–the country will be left to make a decision about this image without benefit of an enlightened dialogue on the subject. What discussion there is will be about the controversy, thus effectively removing any element of satire before most Americans get the opportunity to even see the image. Katie Couric isn’t going to turn to look at this image as it hovers over her tiny shoulder and laugh tonight. No, she’s going to talk about it in an even, grim voice and we’re all going to study this like a Jim Crow-era cartoon (except for me, I’ll probably be playing Civilization or baking cookies).
As someone from the plains, I’m never one for underestimating “the public” but I think it’s a legitimate issue here. Had this been the cover of Mad Magazine, we wouldn’t have an issue, but for a magazine that’s likely to have diverse and even contradictory connotations to those who don’t regularly read it, placing such a problematic image on the cover without only the magazine’s name as context risks quite a bit. We already know how this ends, of course, and now that familiar black THE NEW YORKER header is going to loom quite a bit darker for many.
The real question here is why they didn’t find a way to use this image–which I think is actually quite funny in the proper context–in a way that was actually, you know, satirizing something. If, say, this image had been on the television screen being watched by two scared looking farmer-types, suddenly the joke is on the media and the rubes.
It’s perfect. If we know anything about the New Yorker, it’s that they hate the rubes.
3 Comments / Posted in Magazines, New, Politics

Exhibit 9.15

Well, I guess now we know why Johanns stepped down as Secretary of Agriculture when he did. It’s not just that he wanted to run for the senate–though that was surely part of it–but also that he wanted to avoid having any association with a farm bill that would put him squarely between his constituents and his president.

Oddly, the president is mostly right on the farm bill though why he wants to fight subsidies and giveaways when it comes to farmers and not, say, the oil industry, erodes whatever high ground he might have on the issue. Everyone knows the farm bill is a bidecadal embarrassment but there doesn’t seem to be any logic in taking a stand on it and it alone unless you are a lame duck president desperately searching for one positive in a legacy of criminally reckless (and just criminal) government.

Johanns was savvy enough not to stick as Secretary of Agriculture long enough to have to fight the losing side of this battle–a side he almost certainly disagrees with–but ultimately it might be the only way he loses this election. Johanns’s greatest weakness is that he’s an empty suit who seems to purposefully camouflage himself in his own blandness in the hope that no one notices he’s slowly climbing the ladder. In his wake, he leaves a job unfinished and questions unanswered, but everyone forgets about it until his name pops up on the ballot for his next job. Quitting before the farm bill was passed calls attention to himself as just another political opportunist. Serving in the cabinet of a president who wanted to eviscerate a bill putting money in the pockets of Nebraskans calls attention to himself as a just another political opportunist. Forcing his competitors out of a primary by using his party connections calls…you get the idea.

It all leads to a pretty easy argument for a smart, principled candidate to make: It’s one thing to not finish the job, but it’s something else entirely to not finish the wrong job.

Comment / Posted in Agriculture, Nebraska, Politics

Exhibit 9.12

For Nebraskans

Don’t forget to vote in today’s primary. I’m not telling you who to vote for, but look for names that rhyme with ‘Taut Web.’

Comment / Posted in Don't., Elections, Politics

Exhibit 7.11

For Nebraskans

Scott Kleeb has decided to run for the U.S. Senate. He faces a tough primary against a guy who was a Republican until a month ago (Nebraska Democrats – Catch the Fever!) and then an even tougher election against former governor and current rubber stamp Mike Johanns.

You may remember Scott for almost beating Adrian Smith in Nebraska’s 3rd district (one of the most conservative in the country) last election, and he’s pretty much everything this state needs in a senator. With a master’s degree in International Relations and a Ph.D. in History with a focus in Agricultural Economics (all from Yale), Kleeb is the rare politician capable of understanding the problems facing Nebraskans and Americans on a level deeper than their party’s bullet points.

I don’t know, I could say more but this should be enough: He’s clearly the smartest, most principled candidate running. Nebraska can keep electing hacks and pretending our best aren’t leaving the state, or we can support one of the few who came back to build something better than what the Mike Johanns of the world have proven capable of. I think it’s worth supporting. So check out his website, volunteer, or write a check.

Hell, I’d vote for that chin alone.
1 Comment / Posted in Fevers, Kleebs, Politics

Exhibit 6.27

Nebraska Election Showdown

Thursday – Barack Obama at Omaha Civic Auditorium
Friday – Chelsea Clinton at UNL and The Coffee House (?)
Friday – Michelle Obama at undetermined location
Saturday – Mike Gravel at The Touchdown Club in North Platte

Okay, one of those is probably fake.

3 Comments / Posted in Elections, Fakes, Politics

Exhibit 6.26

Election Thoughts

*Clearly enough people aren’t talking about this.

*Sort of seems like people are understating how big of a win this was for Obama. 10 days ago he would have won half the states he won and gotten beat much worse in others. I know they more or less split the delegates, but isn’t that a win for the non-presumpitive nominee?

*You’ve got to think that Romney is smart enough to see that he can’t win a three person race and that Huckabee has nowhere else to go. It’s not like Huckabee is going to wake up tomorrow and start yearning for the days when he wasn’t hanging around Chuck Norris and was best known as the funniest unemployed guy in the church men’s group.

*Worst case scenario for the Democrats: Super delegates end up deciding the race for Clinton who then has to face McCain. The base would (rightfully) feel cheated and McCain will have spent months drumming up support. Clinton v. McCain = scary if all of this recent Democratic enthusiasm disappears without Obama.

*Worst case scenario for the Republicans: Pretty much what has happened. Honestly, they can only go up from here. As much as your average moderate or independent might respect McCain, Republicans can’t forgive him for speaking his mind on immigration and taxes.

*Can you imagine being Romney’s kids and watching him pump another $10 million into the race? I mean, that’s enough money for an invisible car or to have Prince play your 25th birthday party. Maybe they don’t care. I guess it’s not like I resent that when my dad buys a pair of shoes the money could have bought me space shoes in the future.

*The big winner last night: That’s right, the Drake University men’s basketball team. 21-1 and winners of 20 straight. Congratulations, boys.

*From here: Looks like Obama is pretty much going to clean up for the rest of February but it won’t matter. This will never end. Expect to see a lot more Tucker Carlson than usual.

2 Comments / Posted in Once Fat People, Politics, Shoes

Exhibit 6.21

For Nebraskans

Apparently the Nebraska Democratic Caucus allows absentee ballots which strikes me as strange for a caucus. There’s no chance to realign yourself to any other candidate should your guy or gal not get 15%, but at this late in the game that’s pretty much impossible unless you’re holding on to that Mike Gravel dream. In any case, I’m all for it.

You can go here and click on the link for the Absentee Preference Card to get started. Just be sure to get it in by February 6th. They list four options for missing the primary: Homebound, Out-of-State Student, Out-of-State Military, and Infirmed. Since they don’t list an option for missing the caucus to go see Cloverfield, I’m not really sure what to do.

I mean, I could be infirmed or enrolled in a horseshoeing college in Wyoming by then. Better not chance it.

Comment / Posted in Caucus, Horseshoeing, Politics

Exhibit 5.26

It’s caucus night tonight and so far this mostly meaningless yet horribly fun spotlight momentarily gracing Iowa is once again delivering exactly what it promises. I say mostly meaningless because what Iowa does–and it’s debatable if this is a good thing–is weed out candidates by sucking up their money and time before the real voting starts. In other words, see you, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd. This isn’t goodbye, Bill, it’s just so long until the V.P. talk starts.

The other thing Iowa does is provide another little, politely Midwestern land mine for less polished candidates. Who is going to undergo this election’s Howard Dean like flameout? It’s not my place to guess, but I’m taking a long look at you, Mike Huckabee. That guy has more than a few of Chekhov’s guns on the wall. It’s still the first act, but that guy says some really bizarre stuff without provocation. Once the attention really shifts to him, look out. I honestly think he is capable of constructing a sentence that somehow manages to offend, confuse, and frighten every single American.

Meaningless prediction: Obama and Huckabee win, a 2nd place showing for Hillary (which she’ll claim as a victory because many now expect her to take 3rd), and a slightly stronger than expected showing for Ron Paul and Joe Biden though nothing truly shocking. Realize, those are pretty much everyone’s predictions.

Comment / Posted in Dodds, Iowa, Politics

Exhibit 3.21

If you aren’t paying attention to Russia much these days, you should probably read David Remnick’s article about Garry Kasparov in the New Yorker.

Since that article was published, Putin essentially decided that he wanted to maintain his power by becoming prime minister. This is bad for a number of reasons, one of which is the brazen killing of journalists and re-rise of state owned media (not to mention oil and gas companies).

I’d like to make a joke about how this is all leading to a Red Dawn sequel, but that wouldn’t really be funny. What will be funny are the rocking Kenny Loggins songs that will surely be recorded to fire up our fighter pilots. You know, just in case.
Comment / Posted in Jedd Eckert, Kasparovs, Politics

Exhibit 3.4

Ouch, Jon Bruning.

If you’re Bruning, should you just drop out of the race and claim you were running against Hagel but feel Johanns represents your values? I’d certainly be tempted to rather than waste money and what little remaining goodwill I had for what is almost certain to be a losing effort. Bruning’s road to the Senate would mean beating Johanns (and Hal Daub) in a primary and possibly facing (and besting) Bob Kerrey. That’s just not happening. Bruning gambled that Hagel would run, and Bruning lost. It’s probably best that he just waits his turn for the governorship (sigh). Or just moves somewhere else. In fact, I vote for that option.

Johanns vs. Kerrey, anyone?

Welcome to the national stage, Nebraska.

2 Comments / Posted in Attorneys General, Bad Ideas, Politics

Exhibit 2.27

I’m really, really going to miss Ernie Chambers. I don’t agree with him on everything–Omaha’s racially-segregated public school plan is the most recent example–but it’s hard to imagine what will become of this state without him. As one man, he has through sheer force of will made a backward and donothing unicameral devoid of any leadership (or diversity) confront issues of poverty, minority and woman’s rights, and an unbalanced criminal justice system.

He’s not always right. He doesn’t always win. But it’s hard to imagine anyone filling his shoes when some dude from Alma who got $500 from the NRA proposes a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to hunt illegal immigrants or whatever. Anyone in Nebraska should start bracing themselves now for South Dakota-esque attempts to ban abortion. Oh, and forget about abolishing the death penalty (Chambers’s signature issue). Sigh.

He’s out of office after 2008 due to term limits (which, by the way, were passed solely to get him out of office). Here’s hoping he follows through on his threat to have a patsy win his seat and then step down so Ernie can run for it again.

Anyway, he’s going to be getting a lot of press due to this. Let’s see if we can guess some of The Tonight Show’s jokes hours before they hit the air! A Nebraska State Senator is suing God….

  • God is challenging the lawsuit on the grounds that he’s never been to Nebraska.
  • I guess he really wanted (American Idol contestant) to beat (American Idol contestant).
  • True story, true story. Unfortunately, there aren’t any lawyers in heaven. (exaggerated laugh)
  • When reached for comment, God said, Who’s Ernie Chambers? (ed note: this one I think is actually funny. Which is why it won’t air. I imagine. I can’t say I’ve actually seen The Tonight Show in seven or eight years).
  • Thankfully for God, George Bush has already pardoned him. (ed note: this is my favorite kind of hack comedy joke, one that bends reality or willfully misunderstands it for the sake of the punchline).
  • Seriously, folks, stay tuned for George Lopez.

Watch for it.

1 Comment / Posted in Grandfatherly, Politics, Senators Who Probably Haven't Dated Debra Winger

Exhibit 2.16

Well, good bye Senator Hagel. I was profoundly upset when he beat Ben Nelson, but all and all things worked out about as well as could be expected considering the party-line Republicans (ed note: Grassley, Brownback, Roberts, etc.) that get elected by our neighbors. To get an independent-minded, anti-war lightening rod who single-handidly started the serious debate on the future of the Iraq war in the Republican Party is a bit of a bonus. Based on our current represenatives to the House, we won’t get that lucky again.

In a lot of ways, this is the worst possible outcome for Jon Bruning as he had to be counting on being the only one with enough chutzpah (or the one with the least loyalty) to challenge a potentially vulnerable candidate like Hagel. Now that Hagel’s gone, Bruning basically is forced to run as an anti-immigration, pro-war zealot while someone with a much better resume and name recognition like Mike Johanns comes into the race. Basically, Bruning is either going to have to continue to take on a now straw-man argument about the war or find a way to stand out in a field where every candidate shares his positions only in much softer and less-defined ways. It’s one thing to have a war vs. no-war argument, but it’s quite another to have a lots-of-war vs. some-war argument.

I’ll probably write more about Bob Kerrey at some point, but let me just say he’s been my favorite politician since I was old enough to read Newsweek. I have a vivid memory of seeing a picture of him and Debra Winger at one point and feeling really proud to be a Nebraskan. We’ve got football national championships, William Jennings Bryan, and a senator who once dated Debra Winger. What do you have, Iowa?

I probably don’t even agree with him on everything–especially on the war, which he really needs to explain–but nothing would make me happier than to see him back in Nebraska. Sounds like it’ll happen.

Comment / Posted in Attorneys General, Politics, Senators Who Have Dated Debra Winger

Exhibit 2.7

Not to pile on or engage in partisan political hackery or anything, but it’s been another banner week for Republicans complete with ineptitude, hypocrisy, and, of course, the rearming of a terrorist organization.

A few thoughts here:

  • Nobody has worked this hard to figure out someone’s very obvious sexuality since George Michael left the world confused for the better part of the decade. (That article is a must read).
  • Like George Michael, it might be time for Senator Craig to just admit that when innuendo and rumors cross the line to creepy bathroom stall arrest, it’s probably best to just come out.
  • Because, I mean, there are plenty of excuses for a lot of those things taken individually, but when added up, just saying “I have a wide stance.” doesn’t really undo twenty years worth of gossip coming to a head. So to speak.
  • Obviously killing Shredder wasn’t enough.
  • I’m adding “Jiminy God” to my internal list of exclamations right between “Jesus Christ on a cracker” and “Khhhhhhhaaaaaan!”
  • The next time you scare me I’ll probably yell “Jiminy God!”
  • Or possibly “Jesus Christ on a cracker!” or maybe “Khhhhhhhaaaaaan!”
  • Shouldn’t we have all suspected this Sen. Craig thing after his last gay sex scandal ended with him marrying a woman six months later? I think her maiden name was Beardra Beardson.
  • Who would have thought the new TMNT movie would be legitimately good? Sure, they neutered Leonardo a little bit–just as they did with Cyclops in the X-Men movies, I have a theory about this–but my buddy Ryan and I couldn’t have been more surprised.
  • On second thought, maybe Senator Craig is just really bad at selecting men’s rooms. Could happen to anyone.

And I’ve got nothing to add about our former Attorney General who I’m sure is a lovely man who has never personally listened to a person’s phone call without a warrant and even if he had, cannot recollect it.

8 Comments / Posted in Attorneys General, Khhhhhhhaaaaaan, Politics

Exhibit 1.21

Presidential Candidate Review: Mike Huckabee


Maybe it’s just me, but I like the fat Mike Huckabee better. It’s a little disconcerting that a politician can lose 125 lbs. and go from a Pat Buchanan/Newt Gingrich/Dennis Hastert-esque Republican–gluttonous off the flesh of the common man and guzzling chalice after chalice of high cholesterol whale blood or whatever–to an actual contender for something other than first in line at the Heritage Foundation’s annual potluck (Ed note: Ann Coulter is the one who brings the store bought cupcakes). This new Mike Huckabee is positively normal looking. Hell, I’ll even call him dynamic. He’s basically doing what Al Gore is doing only the opposite (which is smart for the both of them. Gore looks much better with a wise, professorial bulge whereas Huckabee seemed miscast as a fat man. Both move much more comfortably in their new body types [and presumably pants]. Look no further than Al Gore dancing at the first inauguration).

Here’s the thing about Huckabee: He’s long scared the hell out of me.

He’s basically a Protestant, affable Sam Brownback and that’s a formidable thing in the Republican primaries and a potentially dangerous thing against certain Democratic candidates. He’s sort of the sleeping dragon of the election only after his surprising finish in the utterly meaningless Iowa Straw Poll, he’s started to get a lot of press as the candidate with momentum. He’s scared me before that for one simple reason: He’s the most obvious choice as the candidate to come out of the Republican primaries if you take away name recognition and money. Consider these anonymous candidates:

Man 1: Thrice divorced, big city east coast mayor who supports abortion rights, is somewhat gay-friendly, and who is positively hated by most of the people involved in his biggest “moment”. See Veterans, Swift Vote. Oh, and Catholic if that matters to Republican voters. And it might.

Man 2: Old, somewhat crazy once-maverick Senator who supports campaign finance reform, opposed tax cuts for awhile, and who has simultaneously managed to cozy up to president he hates (thus alienating his base) while continuing to support things people who like the president hate like immigration reform (which pretty much takes care of everyone else).

Man 3: Former 2+ term Southern governor who is very popular in his home state, is socially conservative but doesn’t seem dogmatic about it, has an inspiring story of weight loss and seems to be part presidential candidate and part self-help guru. Is a great campaigner and people seem to come away from meeting him somewhat in love. Is a Baptist minister though apparently more of the Rick Warren/life is good type than a fire and brimstone guy. Some have called him “dynamic.”

Man 4: Mormon.

Now, which one of those guys seems most likely to win the nomination? Of course, it’s stupid to take away external factors, but my point is that Mike Huckabee is an exceedingly dangerous candidate once he builds some momentum. Hell, we basically already elected a guy with his resume (though not his beliefs) once: Bill Clinton. The similarities between the two are spooky right down to their both having been born in Hope, Arkansas.

(Brief aside: What would the odds be if Hope, Arkansas ended up producing two presidents. Don’t get me wrong, I hope it doesn’t happen, but seriously? The city has 10,000 people in it, is in the middle of rural Arkansas, and has a median income of 25k with 27% of people below the poverty line. Take that, Exeter.)

Of course, with the primaries all moved forward Huckabee isn’t probably going to win the nomination. Whereas in the past he could have won/finished 2nd in Iowa and tried to parlay that into a victory in South Carolina, in this years election he’ll be hard pressed to make a dent now that the primaries are more Western/Eastern and less Midwest/Southern which is where he plays well. If enough Republicans can hold their noses (and their Bibles) to vote for Giuliani or Romney on Super Duper Tuesday, Huckabee’s done. And good, I say.

In a general election, Huckabee could be a problem. We’ve elected presidents for dumber reasons than that they seem like a good people. In fact, you can pretty much say our last two presidents were elected for this very reason. Plus, Huckabee’s reasonably well-insulated against this administration’s policies (even though he supports them) whereas the more prominent candidates will get some guilt by association for debacles like Iraq. In other words, Huckabee could walk into a matchup against, say, Clinton as never having to have made one vote on Iraq (or anything else of note) yet still has the experience of a long governorship to fall back on. He’s scares me because Americans love candidates like that. We elect governors president, not senators, which all the prominent Democrats just so happen to be this time around.

His best V.P. pick would be a strong foreign policy, pro-business guy from outside the South or Midwest. McCain is probably the obvious choice but there’s no way in hell. None of the other Republican candidates fit the bill (maybe Romney, but again, no way), but I’m sure there’s someone out there to play Cheney to Huckabee’s Bush. (God help us if it is somehow Colin Powell). With an older, well-liked V.P. candidate by his side, Huckabee would be a tough matchup for someone like Clinton, a brutal matchup for Edwards, and a fairly easy matchup for Obama. Against Clinton, Huckabee will have freshness on his side and a strong V.P. pick might negate some of the foreign policy inexperience. Hillary’s voting record and the general love/hate relationship with the public might just be enough for a charming, humorous man’s man like Huckabee to win over moderates and anti-Hillary women.

Edwards v. Huckabee would basically be a beauty pageant which each one trying to out Southern Charm us to death.

Obama v. Huckabee would be similar though ultimately Obama’s story is better than Huckabee’s plus he seems even fresher and more dynamic.

Huckabee is an ideal V.P. pick for Giuliani, and a slightly less ideal one for Romney (there would be a lot of religious-focus there that they wouldn’t probably want). Basically, he’s the Republican John Edwards only with a far superior resume for his particular base. Unfortunately, Republicans seem to be realizing this as we speak. He has other negatives I haven’t really gone into (the religious stuff would hurt him in the general election, a lot of fat pictures out there, his last name doesn’t sound presidential, etc.), but he’s the only Republican who doesn’t have that No fucking way are the Republicans nominating a _______ (Mormon, NYer, Crazy Person). That scares me.

3 Comments / Posted in Aquí viene el dolor, Once Fat People, Politics