Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A REVERSE SHOCK DOCTRINE

Between the plumber heralding an Obama victory as “the death of Israel,” and the twit of a talk show hostess prattling on about the evils of Socialism, the Straight Talk Express has morphed into some sort of GOP clown car, with one geek after another piling out of it. Yet, instead of doing a silly walk and dousing the audience with squirting lapel flowers, they’re striding up to the podium and addressing the multitudes on the problems plaguing our country.

And then there’s the running mate, whose voice now resembles that shrieking eagle during the titles of The Colbert Report, and who has, despite all efforts, proven herself to be little more than a political and intellectual arriviste, trying to shuck, wink, and jive her way to the second most powerful job in the world.

And who’s the ringmaster? Johnny Mac, my friends. A guy so lost he couldn’t find his ass if Pennsylvania’s 23 electoral votes were hiding in it. A guy so desperate for a message, he’s been reduced to sticking his finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. And try as he might to blame the liberal media, the fault lies with the man himself for getting bedazzled by Karl Rove, and for flailing about at a time of crisis, while Barack Obama remained cool, collected, and consistent. A leader. The leader McCain touts himself to be. But if his behavior during this campaign is any indication, John McCain, to borrow a phrase, couldn’t lead an army of ants to a melting Hershey Bar.

But the saddest thing of all is that, despite their erratic and incompetent campaign, if it were not for the economic crisis, McCain might still be riding his post-convention, Maverick bump, possibly on his way to victory. It took an economic meltdown, along with his incompetent response, to get it through the heads of the thick-minded public that perhaps these Republicans might not have their best interests at heart. It’s true that you can fool enough of them enough of the time. Wave a few flags, put the fear of God into them over Stalin and Lenin moving next door and setting up a gay household, and most often they’ll give you their vote.

But perhaps this one time we’ve seen a reverse shock doctrine, where a catastrophe caused people not to suspend reason, but to finally employ it. Eight years of disastrous Republican rule couldn’t do it. A miscreant of a war. Katrina. A litany of scandals. They still wouldn’t budge in large enough numbers. But pick their pockets, kick them out of their homes, and bankrupt their 401ks and then you’ve got trouble. Then you’ve got a public that might start to think enough to turn a few red states blue. It may just be a sad fact of American life that perhaps the only thing that can trump American stupidity and gullibility is good old American self-interest.  

Thursday, October 23, 2008

JOE THE PLUMBER AND JOE SIX PACK TO MARRY


In a revelation bound to send shock waves through the already battered, bruised, and flailing McCain campaign, Joe Six Pack and Joe the Plumber have confided to friends that they have fallen in love and intend to marry. The two Republican campaign symbols met at a recent rally and confessed that there were immediate sparks they simply couldn’t deny.

“The Joes,” as they’re now being called, stated that they plan to fly to San Francisco and officially tie the knot just as soon as Joe the Plumber settles his difficulties with the IRS and Joe Six Pack comes out of rehab and beats that bullshit, misdemeanor battery charge trumped up by his ex-wife, that vindictive bitch, as revenge for some pictures she found on his computer where she had no business looking.

When asked by reporters for a response, Republican VP contender Sarah Palin wished the Joes the best of luck and offered to give either groom away at the wedding. Then moments later, after consulting with campaign advisors, she issued a follow-up statement, saying: “The sanctity of marriage and our American way of life is at stake and I call on all Americans to condemn this unholy union as a ‘life to nowhere‘.”

Also reached for comment, Joe Lunchpail, who affirmed his belief that: “Marriage is between a man and a woman, not an average citizen and a fictional amalgam of working-class Americans concocted to create the illusion that the party of the rich and privileged is somehow on the side of working people.

With less than 2 weeks to go before the Nov. 4 election, and the polls lining up against them, McCain advisors are looking into developing a new symbol for their campaign. Among the leading contenders are Joe Camel, G.I. Joe, Joe Buck, Tailgunner Joe, Joe Biden, and in an effort to win over ethnic voters, Joe Mama.

Finally reached for his comment, Senator McCain issued a terse statement, simply saying: “Oh, for fuck sake, I’m out of bullshit. Somebody give me a beer.“

Monday, October 20, 2008

JOE THE INTELLECTUAL


I am a college educated, white collar worker. I live in a major American city and I love my country. Not that empty-headed, flag-waving, drop a tear during the national anthem love, but the more profound love that is based in the knowledge that, despite the abuses of power to which it often succumbs, Democracy is the one form of government that leads to the greatest good for the greatest number.

I also understand that democracy is a political system and capitalism is an economic system and while they tend to work well together, giving health care to all Americans, or lowering the taxes of less fortunate Americans, doesn’t turn us socialist. It turns us compassionate. It turns us American.

I know that John McCain is waging a dishonest, dishonorable campaign, and that his pet demigoguette is not fit to give eye tests at the Anchorage DMV, let alone inherit the Oval Office. She speaks in sound bites -- talking loud, saying nothing. I take as an intellectual affront the McCain campaign’s attempt to trick the public with faux outrage over one fake issue after another. His phony high dudgeon is painfully transparent. But I know that he has no cards left to play, no strategy left to employ other than to fire up the baser emotions of the idiot vote. The morons at his rallies holding Osama Bin Lyin’ signs, and shouting “traitor” at the mention of Obama’s name, not understanding that the volume of their voices is inversely proportional to the subtlety of their thinking.

But the McCain campaign knows that they only need to fool some of these people some of the time; in fact, just about the amount of time it takes to pull a voting lever. Because these are not people who think or analyze. They are people who demonize. Too stupid to appreciate the confluence of factors that contribute to a political, social, or economic problem, they can be lead by a lone maniac’s invective against a personified root cause. They are at home in a black and white world of good guys and bad guys. Angels and devils. Us and them.

But that is not my world. I am too smart to be fooled or frightened into giving you my vote. I will not be lead around by fear or negative emotions. I am liberal. I am smart. I am cultured. And you, Senator McCain are about to feel the righteous indignation of the thinking class.

So fuck you and the MILF.  

I am Joe the intellectual.

Monday, October 13, 2008

DAVID FRUM ON RACHEL MADDOW: RELEASING HIS INNER SCUMBAG

One of the rituals of politically oriented talk shows is the occasional appearance of someone from the other side, either to explore another dimension of an important issue, or to present the illusion of impartiality. One such appearance tonight was that of former Bush speechwriter David Frum  on Rachel Maddow’s show, ostensibly to talk about Republican reaction to the current state of the McCain campaign.

Yet, right out of the gate, Frum took off on the subject of the hate speech wafting off the campaign to attack Maddow for being part of the problem, alleging that there has been an “intensification of some of the ugliness that has been a feature of American politics in the last 8 years, and this show, itself, is unfortunately an example of that problem with its levity and sarcasm and seeming disregard for a lot of the substantive issues that really are important.”

While taken aback at the unexpected attack on her personally and on her show, Maddow handled herself with class, trying to get at the substance of Frum’s attack, asking if he somehow equated sarcasm and the occasional smile with the vitriol coming from recent GOP rallies. However, and this is one difference between the parties that even goes to way this election is shaping up, she didn’t tell him to “shut up.” She didn’t scream for a producer to “cut off his mike.” Both in style, and in substance, she negated his argument by her civil, substantive reaction. She did not name-call. She calmly stated her strong disagreement with his assertion while asking for clarification.

Going on to ask him about the Ayers attacks and the resulting fury from the crowd, Frum retorted: “If John McCain were making threats of violence that would be really bad” -- a statement that is either idiotic in its naivete or na├»ve in its idiocy. McCain and Palin have set the table for these outbursts with their attacks and then committed the sin of omission by not truly quelling them. Sort of like standing outside the Reichstag holding a gas can, and calmly suggesting that someone might want to call the fire department. And Maddow made this point, though without the Reichstag reference. She did it without lowering herself to name-calling, nor did she comment on his pissy, snide, and patronizing attitude.

Eventually, the discussion veered back to the election, with Frum admitting, not necessarily in these terms, that his party was about to get reamed, steamed, and dry cleaned. The problem, for Frum, was that because of the ineptitude of the McCain campaign, not only the party, but the country will pay the price with a Democratic president and Congress, which will lead to some “very destructive changes.” As opposed to what’s actually happened over the last 8 years? So he’s not really upset with the sorry state of the world. He’s upset that his party is losing and that the Democrats could gain control and really fuck things up because they don’t seem to understand the threats we face.

It was a contradiction apparently lost on Frum that taking a snide tone while calling out someone for not engaging in a more adult debate is a bit of a contradiction. As well, someone who worked as a Bush speechwriter has a small credibility problem when it comes to calling for more honesty and integrity in public debate. And, fyi to Frum: one of the reasons Maddow’s show has been such a success is that she does talk substance. She’s intelligent. She’s fair. And she’s gracious. And, as for the sarcasm, the reason it lands is that is an expression of the righteous indignation felt by most Americans because of the outrageous mendacity that has been SOP for the GOP over the last 8 years. At some point, it’s your only weapon. It’s either laugh or cry. And as for your fear that if Maddow’s type of lethal sarcasm were to proliferate the Republicans would have to take a reactive approach and return it in kind? Holy shit, man. Have you never seen Fox News? All they’re missing are armbands.

Much like your current, wounded President and Presidential nominee, even in defeat, you people just can’t show any class. You want to raise the level of the debate as you claim to be doing in your own small way? Then go on a show and call out your nominee and his laughingstock of a running mate for the Hail Mary hate bombs they’re throwing and do it more civilly, instead of being such a dick. It might go a long way toward making your case. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

McFAUST

Like many Democrats and other Educated-Americans, my soul has ached during the 8-year rule of the boy king. 8 years of an intellectually and morally challenged president and his cadres of misanthropes, underachievers, dirty tricksters, and other assorted villains, thieves and scoundrels. So perhaps the single aspect of the McCain/Palin ticket that is most repugnant, and it is repugnant  on so many levels, is the prospect of returning people of similar moral bankruptcy and bad intent to positions of power.

But that is the political process. After 8 years of nucular winter, we now have to endure more smugness and stupidity excreted from the mouth of Sarah Gump. But I guess Democracy is also like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. The same wave that carrries in an FDR also vomits up flotsam like Nixon, Agnew, or Palin. The same open process that gave us Eugene McCarthy, also gave us Joe McCarthy.

And while the polls and momentum have shifted toward Obama, the resulting behavior on the Republican side leads one to ask the same question of McCain that was once posed to Joe McCarthy: Have you no decency? And the answer, apparently, is no. Like a cornered, wounded animal, he will do anything to survive. He’s out of legitimate options. He can’t run on leadership, as his erratic behavior, grandstanding stunts, and regulation/deregulation flip-flops during the recent financial crisis made him look like Sybil trying to decide on a personality. Much like Richard Gere’s character at a dramatic moment in An Officer and a Gentleman, John McCain has “nowhere else to go.” All he’s got left is the race card. And he’s now shown his willingness to play it. To reach out and stoke that ember of fear and bigotry that still lingers in this country like an elusive cancer cell. Not that he’ll come right out and say it. That would be undignified. The low-standard bearer in this effort is his political trophy wife, Chatty Cathy. Just load in the phrases, pull the string, and she’ll say anything.

Witness the dishonorable discharge dripping out of the campaign. “He’s not one of us.” “He doesn’t see America like you and me.” “Barrack Hussein.” “He’s pallin’ around with terrorists.” “He’s different.” “He has a funny name.” (“Don’t trust the black guy. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.”) Look at the hatred it engenders from the crowds. And watch the candidates smirk as they do nothing to quell it. Because they want it. This is shameful. Yes, politics is a dirty business. But this should be beneath us.

It is sad, in a way, to witness someone’s descent into the abyss as he becomes his own agent of intolerance. Yet, to paraphrase the senator: the fundamentals of our democracy are strong. The system has weathered the storms of demagoguery from the Joe McCarthys and Nixons and been able to right itself. I suppose that’s why Churchill said that democracy was the worst form of government…except for all the rest. But democracy is only as stable as the hands in which its been entrusted at any given moment in history. Hopefully, it will be placed in Barack Obama’s hands. And whatever Faustian bargain McCain’s struck that’s lead him to eschew honor and decency to win at all costs will become a matter for him and his shrink, his bartender, or his croupier.

 

Friday, October 3, 2008

THE SCHLOCKY MOM

For Republicans to celebrate with the rallying cry: "She didn't fuck up!" is more than a little sad. Last night was the Senator from Delaware vs. the Governor from Stepford. She grinned like an idiot. Trotted out the folksy, aw shucks bullshit. It was all false and contrived. From her initital handshake, she was simply following orders. The only thing she was missing was a moonshine jug, a washboard, and some overalls.

She tried to land that same talking point about Obama voting to raise taxes on people making 42k. Every time she or McCain tries it the other side beats it back. But they don't stop. Repeat a lie enough times, it'll get legs.

She yanked out that "negotiating with our enemies without preconditions" as if it was tantamount to treason, though no one bothers to define what that means. In terms of negotiating with enemies, I'm surprised Biden didn't mention that Condi Rice recently sat down with Khadafi, the Saddam of his day, without the precondition of having him pay reparations to the families who lost loved ones in Locherbie.

Another snide comment that didn't even draw flack when she characterized Obama's tax plan as a "redistribution of wealth." Unless I'm wrong, wasn't that the first cut on the Greatest Hits of Karl Marx album? Was she giving a little shout out to the lunatic fringe, Michigan militia types?

And talking about pulling out of Iraq as "the white flag of surrender" is just jingoistic nonsense. I wish he'd called her on a naive interpretation of a complex issue. Somehow we have to get beyond the "winning and losing" mentality if we're going to have an intelligent, informed discussion. It's not WWII. But they must figure it's red meat for the base.

She followed her instructions not to answer a question she didn't want to answer. Just spit back talking points. Though noticeable by their absence, no "no thanks on the bridge to Nowhere." No "sold the plane on Ebay." Meet the new lies, same as the old lies. I was glad Biden tried to debunk that Maverick bullshit. Where do you get the balls to refer to yourself as a "maverick" unless you're James Garner and played one on TV?

I thought it was very telling that when she went to her party rally afterward, she inititated the "U.S.A! U.S.A! chant. When in doubt, wave the flag and get the group mentality going. It allows you to speak without saying anything.

In all, I didn't believe a word she said because she was just an actress off-book. She had no business being on the same stage with Biden, nor criticizing Obama. She's outclassed. And outgunned, intellectually. When Biden spoke, he spoke from experience. He had facts because he knows them and understands them. She regurgitated talking points and flashed that moronic grin because that's what she was programmed to do in the Republican lab where she was created. She is still the Miss Alaska contestant giving her "how I would make the world a better place" speech. She is Bush with lipstick and, so far, it seems the public isn't buying the bullshit.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

PALIN VS. BIDEN: GET...READY...TO...STUM-BLE!!!

There’s an old joke about a guy’s wife walking in on him in bed with another woman. When confronted, the guy denies it, saying: “who are you going to believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?” It’s with the same degree of reality-denying hubris that Sarah Palin strides into tonight’s debate, as if any snarky remarks or any degree of post-debate spin can undo all the babbling, the lies, and the childishly amateur evasion when she simply doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to answer a direct question.

 

They can piss and moan about gotcha journalism. Trick questions. Nobody busted her. Not Charlie Gibson. Not born-again journalist Katie Couric. Sarah the Moose Killer outed herself, not by choice, but simply because that’s who she is. A small timer who tried to inject her brand of  gooey charm and folksy nonsense into an arena where the future of the world hangs in the balance. A minor league ballplayer with dreams of the big show but none of the talent.

 

But still that doesn’t stop the news chatter. How will she do? How will it play? Will she trip up? Will she recapture that Klondike charm that so endeared her to the nitwit base? Will Biden get too tough and make it seem like he’s picking on her? Nothing like a little reverse sexism to start off the most important vice presidential debate in recent history.

 

They can and will analyze this all night long. But it doesn’t matter how she does tonight. It’s not a football game in the sense that, on any given Thursday, any candidate can outdebate any other candidate. We don’t have to wait for the results to see who she is. It’s absolutely clear who she is. A campaign gimmick. A petty bureaucrat with a voice so shrill it could shatter glass who’s been swept up in a wave of self-delusion to think she belongs where she is. Now, the McCain campaign is, I’m sure, already declaring victory so they can trot out the “she’s a maverick” line of bullshit they had at the convention and run with it again, as if it could whitewash the last few weeks and give them new legs. Or maybe they’ve just boxed themselves into a corner where dumping her would’ve proven too risky so they’re stuck, and just hope to get through this with as little bloodletting as possible so they can try to revive their faltering campaign as the Obama tidal wave rolls in against them.

 

Maybe she’ll get through it tonight without looking like a fool. Maybe she’ll get off a couple of over-rehearsed cutesy remarks and hold up a big foam finger, look to camera and shriek: “I’m going to Disneyland!” It doesn’t matter. It’s not the best four out of seven World Series. It’s the Super Bowl. It’s already been played. And she’s already lost. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A RESPONSE TO THE HILLARY SUPPORTER WHO COMMENTED ON MY PREVIOUS POST.

I am writing this off the top of my head so I don't have Obama's CV in front of me, nor am I going to look it up. I'm just going to go off of what I know, and off my impressions of the man. 

First off, what qualifies someone to be President? Years of government service? Governorship of a state? A stellar military record? Or is it just the individual? Not to be snarky, because if Hillary had won I would've happily supported her, but what were her unique qualifications? From the moment she carpetbagged her way to NY I knew she was running for the White House. But I figured that was fine, Bobby Kennedy did it. Has she spend that many more years in the senate than Obama? And how long was JFK in the senate before he ran? And before that? She was First Lady. Is that a qualification? It would certainly be a first. 35 years experience? C'mon, that was campaign hype, but it didn't matter to me because I knew she was smart. Ok, ambitious, but what politician isn't? And she's tough. Frankly, there are times I think Obama should've chosen her and made the ticket sexier, and more of a juggernaut. But then McCain would've chosen Mitt or someone like him and it would've been the two white guys against the chick and the black guy and they would've framed their attack differently. 

Now, I'm far from a presidential historian but let's go back to the question: what qualifies someone to be President? Years of government service? By that measure, Strom Thurmond would've been sensational. Also gave us Bush I. Governor of a state? Reagan, Carter, and Clinton. Military record? Eisenhower. Ulysses Grant. Whether you think those were successful presidencies probably depends on your political stripes. 

As for Obama himself. He's a lawyer. Editor of the Harvard Law Review and a professor of Constitutional Law. That makes him someone who has knowledge of and, in theory, respect for the law. (I think Nixon was a lawyer, so...) Obama also worked in the community when he could've cashed in that degree for Wall Street. Was he building his street cred or just doing good works? Years in the Illinois state senate, followed by his term in the U.S. senate. To me that makes him knowledgeable about how the system works which was eventually Lyndon Johnson's chief weapon as president, which helped him push through many JFK programs. But beyond that I think it's just the intelligence he demonstrates and compassion and basic human decency he exudes. It's beyond simple eloquence. I believe he is a person of his word. All of which, after the last 8 years is a refreshing change. 

Which takes me to one last point: maybe it's just the right person for the times. Eisenhower fit the 50s post-war boom. Though one might question his choice of VP. Some presidents unite, as Roosevelt did in his time. Others, like Nixon, stir flames of discontent and divide. Again, a piss poor VP choice. Ford. Right man to heal the wounds of Watergate. A decent guy, so it seemed. Carter, again a Nixon backlash, and someone who still doesn't get the credit he deserves, at least for the Camp David Accords and trying to heal the Middle East. It takes a statesman to look beyond present hostilities and try to do the unthinkable to solve a fundamental problem. Reagan? A joke or the man who ended the Cold War, depending on your pov. Clinton? No national experience but, other than the obvious, an intelligent, forceful leader. The last 8 years have sucked the blood out of the country. I think Obama is a healer.

In short, that's why I support him. I don't think there's a model resume for the job. It's a combination of background, education, intelligence, grasp of the issues, vision, ability to communicate, toughness, compassion, honesty, and basic human decency. To me, those are his qualifications that go beyond the number of years he's been in the senate or the specific bi-partisan bills he's drafted or supported. By that measure, I think he could be a great president. And by the same measure, McCain would be 8 more years of disaster. 

And, finally, a related afterthought: Could you imagine the campaign Rove and Company would have run if they were campaigning against an 8-year Democratic incumbent with the Bush record? It would've been like a school of Piranha devouring a pig... with lipstick.