The first candidate for whom I ever voted in a presidential primary was a member of the Church of Latter Days Saints of Jesus Christ (LDS, aka the Mormons); although he had but one eye, I’m not sure I’ve ever found anyone since whose vision so impressed me. His name was Morris Udall, he was a congressman from Arizona, and his impact on environmental legislation alone has changed for the better the lives of every American. As Doonesbury’s Jimmy Thudpucker said at the time “He might be obscure, this man with a cure, an other, but brother, he’s pure.”
There are many reasons to snicker at Mitt Romney, and I join with all those on the right, left and center who chose to cast an amused eye (or even two) on his empty suit (two sizes smaller than the one unoccupied by his rival, Fred Thompson); those clothes truly have no emperor. But, when asked to join my enemies on the religious right, or my friends on the secular left, in looking askance at him because of the religion with which he chooses to affiliate, I am somewhat less than comfortable.
The Constitution says that there shall be no religious test for public office, but, in all honesty, that prohibition applies solely to the matter of who shall be allowed to be seated once they are duly elected. How the voters actually choose who they support is going to be a personal decision, whether the Constitution likes it or not. That being said, the reality that a voter might make their decision for President by trying to encode the messages appearing in old “Ching Chow” cartoons does not make it any less unseemly for a candidate to indulge such behavior (although I suppose one could forgive long-shots like Dennis Kucinich for engaging in such; and, btw, has anyone ever seen him and “Ching Chow” in the same room?)
When it comes to irrational choices, nothing beats the unfathomable attraction so many otherwise sensible Democrats used to feel for John McCain (I call it "The Michael Lewis Syndrome", in honor of the McCain hagiographer who seems to have been suckered by the good Senator, without even realizing it, into a game of "Liar's Poker"). The one good thing about the War is that it has taken the sheen off the senior Senator from Arizona. No longer will otherwise liberal voters consider voting for him because they are impressed with his honesty. As has been stated far too many times for the point to still require argument, when such voters were confronted with the facts of the beliefs McCain really professes to embrace, they usually dismissed their qualms by saying; “he doesn’t really believe that stuff”. McCain’s then, is the sort of honesty which, when practiced by Romney, makes the prospect of Mitt’s nomination so much fun.
Luckily, liberal voters need no longer concern themselves with McCain’s reactionary social positions, and whether or not he actually believes in them, because on the one issue in which there is no doubt of his sincerity, he wholeheartedly supports the President, in the prosecution of a war without either foreseeable end, or good reason. And on those rare instances where McCain dissents from our Chief Executive on the matter of Iraq, it is to castigate the President for only getting us waist deep in the big sandy, when McCain prefers we be up to our necks in the quicksand.
Moreover, since McCain has rapidly evolved from frontrunner to also-ran, he’s been worthy of a lot less room cluttering the portions of the attics of one’s mind a sensible human dedicates to evaluating the overload of data available for consumption at the political smorgasbord.
So it is with mostly academic interest that I plumb what McCain meant when he said "I admire the Islam. There's a lot of good principles in it,…But I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles, personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith." McCain added he wouldn't "rule out under any circumstance" someone who wasn't Christian, but said, "I just feel that that's an important part of our qualifications to lead."
He also added the "Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation", proving that, like the man he hopes to succeed, he has not actually read the document in question.
(I should probably note, at this point, that I’ve previously covered much of this ground in far more detail and far better prose here. But, apparently some people still need the same old lessons drilled into their empty heads.)
On the other hand, it’s truly refreshing that, unlike some of the Christian Right he so obviously seeks to woo with such blithering ignorance, McCain feels no need to hide behind the use of the term “Judeo-Christian” when articulating their true agenda. Since McCain probably sees the agenda for what it is, but embraces it only out of expedience, he feels no compunction about calling it by its true name.
Yes, of course, America is “a Christian nation”, in the sense that most of its inhabitants call themselves Christians. Naturally, a government in a democratic republic which does not reflect in some sense the majority values, such as they exist, of the culture of the society it seeks to regulate, is doomed to suffer a great deal of social tension. That’s a fact of life. But the enlightenment values reflected in the G-dless document called our Constitution have been engaged in creative tension with the nation’s commonly, but not universally, held religious values since the creation of our Republic. And pols have been simultaneously pledging fealty to both, to degrees greater and lesser, for nearly that entire time. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, but we expect our pols to pay tribute to these very different virtues simultaneously (even if they have but one bill in their wallets, and no change is available), by playing the role of polygamist, while pretending we are all one very happy family. To paraphrase Richard Nixon, “we are all Mormons now”. It’s really kind of complicated, if you give it much thought, and McCain has shown that he really hasn’t.
Naturally, as someone who may have to face voters again in Arizona, the former home of his regretfully departed friend (as lovingly and cloyingly documented by Michael Lewis) Mo Udall, and Udall’s extensive poligamistically enlarged extended family, as well as other families similarly situated, McCain’s made an exception for the Mormons. "The Mormon religion is a religion that I don't share, but I respect…More importantly, I've known so many people of the Mormon faith who have been so magnificent"
Ironically, as far as commonalities go, the Mormons McCain respects can be said, in many ways, to have less in common with Jews, a group politicians are loathe to criticize (although it is hard to see where an exception for G-d’s chosen people fits into the new McCain doctrine), than they do with Muslims. The Islamic and Mormon strictures against alcohol make no exceptions for either Slivovitz or Manischevitz. Muslims and Mormons both acknowledge the holiness of Jesus; Jews do not, even though Jesus, neither Muslim or Mormon, was of the Hebraic persuasion himself. Both LDS and Islam evolved as the next generation from Christianity, each with its own Brand New and Improved Testament, while G-d's Chosen People are still Rappin' Old School (forget "The New Thang", we're still playing ragtime, although in our Reform wing the pianist is sometimes Sun Ra, while the Reconstructionists prefer Cecil Taylor; I'm an Otis Spann man myself). Islam and the LDS can, in that sense, be said to be fraternal; why then does McCain feel about them so differently?
I’m not saying McCain is being hypocritical (well, maybe just a little) when he expresses his discomfort about a potential Islamic President (talk about a purely hypothetical concern!). He surely does feel that way. But not for the reasons he articulates. Rather, it is dead certain that he worries about whether a Muslim might not share his geo-political worldview. And surely, he has legitimate reason to feel that way.
There should be no religious test for public office, just an issues test. As I've stated in the past, I believe that all pacifists are morally unfit to hold a seat in Congress (the State Legislature or City Council would not bother me in the least) for their views on war and peace would prevent us from fighting in all wars, whether unjust or just. Surely extremism in the fight against genocide is no vice, and acquiesence to such evil is no virtue. And anyone who disagrees with me is welcome to step outside. It's not necessarily morally inconsistent to support certain military actions and oppose others. Pacifists can be consistent; for those of us who are not pacifists, nuance is the only alternative to moral reprehensibility. I supported Clinton's commitment of military force in Bosnia and Kosovo; I support Bush's commitment of force in Afghanistan. I oppose the war in Iraq. I would like to postpone to a later date making a decision concerning where I stand on Iran (preferably forever). One may disagree with all, none or several of my stances, but I am not fence straddling by making distinctions. Do I need to support all military actions to support any? I dare say, that would make me a monster.
But, not every pacifist is a Quaker, and not every Quaker is a pacifist; Richard Nixon was a Quaker, but no pacifist (although he was, for different reasons, morally unfit for public office). But, sad to say, if someone professes to embrace a religion which is pacifistic, it is legitimate to ask them if their political beliefs are affected by the doctrines of their religion. No one objects when Orthodox Jews are asked to clarify their opinions on sexual orientation anti-discrimination efforts, freedom of choice or tuition tax credits; I certainly make sure to ask them such questions. So, if John McCain feels Islamic presidential candidates need to be asked their views concerning the continued existence of Israel, holocaust denial, or the proper response to 9/11, I'm not going to offer any disagreement.
And yes, I know none of those things are religious doctrines per se, but, being a Reform Jew, I incline to the idea that a religion is, de facto, composed of those beliefs actually held by its professed adherents, rather than what's contained in some ancient text. Repugnant views on such matters quite clearly permeate the publicly held positions of much of the Islamic world's leadership and street, so that even in a society as western influenced as Egypt, a TV series based on "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" has proven more popular than the Sopranos. But, that’s not what McCain’s saying.
This all might be easier for a candidate who doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve. I’ve heard doubts expressed all over the political spectrum about whether Rudy Giuliani believes in a supreme being. Do not count me as such a skeptic. It is clear to me that America’s former Mayor does believe in a higher power worthy of worship and submission. It’s just that he also believes that such a power has been married three times, lives on the Upper East Side and doesn’t speak to his children (although he will telecommunicate with his wife on any occasion; just keep his family out of it!).
At some level, Giuliani’s selective lack of sanctimony is refreshing, even when compared to some of the Democrats. On social issues, give or take an occasional alarming outburst, he seems the most socially tolerant of his party’s field (Mitt’s left his tolerance in his other empty suit). Does anyone believe that Giuliani would bar a Muslim from being president? Well, yes, so let me re-phrase that; does anyone believe that philo-Semite Giuliani has any problem with America electing to its highest office someone who is a non-Christian? My guess is that, if one defines such a term by values, rather than bloodlines, Giuliani might qualify as such himself; otherwise his only caveat would be that we not do so in 2008.
Yet I’m not totally sure this should necessarily be considered an unequivocally good thing. In parsing the sorry Republican field, Giuliani may sometimes appear to be a beacon of reason, but ultimately, if I was forced to choose among them, he’d probably rank dead last among the plausible candidates, behind even "Matthew Harrison" Huckabee (although miles ahead of Tom Tancredo; the jury is still out on Duncan Hunter). Because, when it comes down to dust, the first disqualifying question in choosing a chief executive for our government is “would you lose sleep if this person had his finger on the button?”
On that scale, it might not be such a bad idea if a candidate’s first thought is to ask “What would Jesus do?” My biggest problem with Rudy is that he’d be more likely to be channeling Attila the Hun.
“And, from my vantage point as a pragmatic Clintonite/DLC, neo-lib, New Democrat, Hillary (now that Feingold has departed and Kerry self destructed) stands as the least pragmatic choice available for 2008. If propping her up is the real reason behind efforts for Dean’s removal, I’ll yell out a hog-call for Howard and the level playing field he ensures, as I prepare to support Bayh, Biden, Richardson, Obama or Gore” --Gatemouth 11/13/06
Now that I’m attending the Democratic National Convention as a credentialed blogger, it’s probably time I commented on the Presidential race; I haven’t done so since the high holidays, and then it was the Republicans (I basically concluded that if a madman held a gun against my testes and threatened to shoot if I didn’t state my preference among the GOP candidates, I would reluctantly name McCain).
I'm a Clinton Democrat, but originally was "anyone but Hillary" because I thought she wasn't electable. I was hoping Gore would run on grounds of both electability and policy.
Barring that, I preferred Edwards--but only on electability. On policy and gravitas, I liked Biden (Richardson almost qualified, but seemed too much a loose cannon--which is saying a lot when you are comparing someone to Biden), but both Clinton and Obama appealed to me more than Edwards on policy.
I fully acknowledged that, in general election, a white woman seemed more electable than a black man, but we're weren’t talking about a generic white woman and a generic black man, and I wasn’t sure who was more electable in a contest between this particular white woman and this particular black man. However, when it comes to electing a Democrat, I'll take a cracker everytime. Won for us in 64, 76, 92, 96 & 2000 (LOL!).
Once Edwards was out, I was stumped. Since electability was not the issue, I had to consider policy. Clinton and Obama seemed equally willing to deviate from the party received wisdom, which was good, but in each case, their deviations were equally likely as the other's to be wrong. Actually, Clinton impressed me more, but Obama seemed extremely willing to stand up to the teacher's unions, which earns a lot of points in the Gatemouth/Domestic Partner household (our youngest son, Dybbuk is about to start school, a process which in New York City requires intrigues which would have shamed the Borgias). I was really undecided.
That is, until LBJ became an issue in the race. I went off the deep end when Obama called Hillary's historically accurate remarks concerning the symbiotic roles of LBJ and MLK in passing the Civil Rights laws "unfortunate". And the more I watched the race, the more annoyed I got with him. Though I prefer single payer, on the neo-liberal grounds that employer based health insurance is hurting American competitiveness, I thought Obama's health care plan was especially lacking, and while I could hardly blame him for copping out on mandatory coverage, I could and did blame him for attacking Clinton on it. Frankly, after the LBJ thing, I just found Obama more and more annoying every time I watched a debate. To me "Hope" ain't nuthin but a little town in Arkansas, and it's just as likely to produce a Mike Huckabee as a Bill Clinton
Domestic Partner was unrelenting in trying to persuade me into voting for Obama, basically threatening me with a Lysistrata. One evening, in an effort not intended to persuade, but merely to get DP to leave me alone, I went through my list of reasons. Finally, I ended with "and what do you think Obama would do if there were another Bosnia or Kosovo?"
"I don't know"
"Exactly; neither do I. But I do know that the "just say no" (to any use of American force, ever, for any reason, even to stop genocide) crowd is backing him. And I do know what Hillary would do, because she already did it. It was she and Al Gore who persuaded Bill to get off his ass and do the right thing."
And Domestic Partner switched sides, genocide being the ultimate character issue, at least for the child of someone who spent three years living in an attic like Anne Frank. Later, during the Hillary is a “power hungry monster” incident, I learned of Obama advisor Samantha Power’s work in this very area, and I realized that Obama, who’d sought Power out because of her book on genocide, was also good to go on this issue (Outside of horny adolescent males, I may be the one voter in America who found Power a net plus for Obama). But, by then, Domestic Partner had acquired the fervor of the convert, and is still holding out for a Clinton victory as we speak.
But, as I’ve said, conversion wasn’t my intent. By then DP’s sister, Feygele, had converted our five year old into a rabid Obamaniac. Since Dybbuk was so excited about Obama, I was really hoping that one of us would be able to take him to vote and actually let him pull the lever for his guy.
There was no reasoning with Feygele, who talks about Clintonian evil in terms resembling those of Richard Mellon Scaife and other members of the “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy”. I'm still waiting for her to bring up the murder of Vincent Foster. At any rate, my son now hates Hillary. When I showed him the letter Bill Clinton sent him after he was born, he responded that he liked Bill Clinton but still hated Hillary. Still later, when he saw Chelsea on TV with Hillary and Bill, he asked who the girl was. When I told him, he asked me if she had a boyfriend.
Domestic Partner went with Dybbuk to Obama Headquarters in Lower Manhattan and got him a poster. But the poster had no picture. On the Sunday before the primary, I saw a sandwich poster with a picture of Obama at the local subway stop. I carefully peeled the tape to remove one poster, but leave the other hanging, and took it home. I realized that this was probably the first campaign that, when they hung signs, had more to worry about from supporters than opponents.
A couple of nights later, when I was reading him his bedtime story, Dybbuk told me his Obama poster was talking to his ET poster, which is sort of how I feel about the Obama campaign myself.
One night a couple of weeks later, Dybbuk told me that he was scared of ghosts. I told him that we were downstairs if he needed us, but he was still not placated. Then I said that Obama and ET were there to watch over him. He responded, "but they are not real".
On primary day, I let Dybbuk pull down the lever for Obama, then I put it back up so I could vote for Hillary. Since it had no impact on delegate allocation, I did allow him to vote for two Obama delegates, the better to block one guy I disliked. Dybbuk seemed OK with that.
In this era of Rev. Wright, those heady days seem like an eternity ago, even to a guy who remembers the 80s like yesterday. And speaking of the 80s, the Clinton campaign put me in mind of the Hollywood mega-disaster All-Star money-pit referred to in the title; I’m picturing our Senator and her spouse stranded in the desert with a blind camel (is it Terry McAuliffe?) yelling at the vultures that they’re not dead yet while singing "Telling the Truth is Dangerous Business". And what became of the hope engendered by the Obama crusade? Is he just Warren Beatty to Hillary’s Dustin Hoffman? Sadly, I fear we may be in for a McCain landslide of McGovernite proportions. But, that’s the good news; it won't be a Reagan/Carter type landslide.
In 1972, the Democratic Presidential nominee lost 49 states, but there were no significant loses in Congress, we might even have picked up a few seats. By contrast, Jimmy Carter’s 1980 loss was less daunting than McGovern’s, but his party lost control of the Senate, as well as enough House seats to allow Republicans to often achieve working control of that body as well.
What the recent special Congressional elections in Ole Miss and the Big Sleazy prove is that making Obama the issue won't work. Obama may lose, but it won’t save the Republicans down-ballot from their well-deserved and long-overdue thrashing.
By contrast, if Obama is denied the nomination after winning the majority of elected delegates, so many black voters will stay home, or even desert, that both houses will be lost. I think the party hacks understand where self interest lies, and will go with Obama--I know I would.
"Just the other day I heard a soldier falling off some Arizonan junk that's going round" (John McCain's Cheap Trick)
‘‘He really has no experience or knowledge or judgment about the issue of Iraq and he has wanted to surrender for a long time,’’
John McCain 5/26/08
“Candidate Clinton has called for surrender and waving the white flag,”
John McCain 1/23/08
Senator McCain: who is there to surrender to? The alternative to surrender would seem to be victory; over whom are we supposed to be victorious?
"Grandpa's Alright; he just gets a little weird."
“I always joke that my intellectual formation was through Jewish scholars and writers, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Whether it was theologians or Philip Roth who helped shape my sensibility, or some of the more popular writers like Leon Uris.” –Barack Obama
I’m trying not to picture Senator Obama in the throes of passion with a piece of raw liver moaning “Yes we can”. But I did not come here today to wax Roth, but rather to discuss the major cause precedent to the Senator’s literary Midrash excerpted above, Obama’s association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ, an association he has just terminated.
Of course, it is not only Jews who find that association troubling, but we do tend to be canaries in the coal mine on matters involving Gentile preachers who spew statements which might arguably be interpreted as being filled with hate. Of course, there are those who take a different view:
"As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say 'That's a terrible statement!' ... I grew up in a very segregated South. And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I'm gonna be probably the only conservative in America who's gonna say something like this, but I'm just tellin' you — we've gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names..." –Mike Huckabee
A Gay friend agreed:
“Huckabee's right. Meanwhile, I find myself amused, in very general terms, how straight white men are trying to say that the victims of oppression need to respond to said oppression only in ways they approve of. I find myself thinking of the ‘I hate straights’ Larry Kramer/ACT UP controversy, in fact.”
It looks like us white guys just can't win—except, possibly, by eliminating discrimination.
But, as right as Huckabee may be, and, I bet, as sincere (in his work he’s had the opportunity to befriend a lot black people of faith, and he’s also probably not unsympathetic to loose tongued ministers, regardless of their race), for most of us such an attitude comes not without its patronizing element; the soft bigotry of low expectations is also a slippery slope.
More importantly, one precious commodity that comes by virtue of being oppressed is the moral high ground, and it seems such a waste to forfeit it for empty and useless outrage, however understandable. Frankly, as a member of the tribe Felix Frankfurter referred to as “the most vilified and persecuted minority in history”, it offends my Jewish sensibilities for a commodity with a value higher than rubies to go to waste.
But let us, arguendo, give absolution to the Wright Reverend (if Mike Huckabee can understand where Wright’s coming from, I’m certainly going to try); for many voters, the question still remains—what was Obama doing in that church?
I think I may understand, which bring us back to the matter of Obama’s sensibilities being shaped by Jewish texts. In this instance, Roth does not seem particularly germane. Perhaps more pertinent are the portrayals of the clashes between the spiritual and the temporal in the lives of persons of faith documented by Obama’s Hawaiian schoolmate, Allegra Goodman, but it is the guilty pleasure of Uris which seems most relevant.
The most famous text by Uris is a novel about the founding of the modern Jewish state called “Exodus”. Clearly, a book about the return of a people from Diaspora to a homeland they’d never seen had great resonance for Obama, whose very name was a daily reminder during his childhood of a father he barely knew, who resided on a continent he’d never visited. Obama would certainly not be the first black man to have drawn sustenance from the Zionist dream; the works of Theodore Herzl were of great inspiration to black nationalist Marcus Garvey, who strongly supported the Zionist cause (at least until he was indicted by a Jewish prosecutor and sentenced by Jewish judge).
But it is not the text of the novel which most resonates, but the ancient scripture its title subliminally suggests.
To simplify, the biblical book of “Exodus” tells the story of a young member of the Hebrew tribes who lived in the time of their enslavement by the Egyptians. Although he bore at least one physical attribute which identified him as a member of a despised people, he had been raised as an Egyptian, and accepted as such. Later he would travel and live among other non-Hebrews. He could easily have lived a life of contentment and comfort as an Egyptian, without ever directly confronting the dichotomy between his life and those of other members of his race. Yet there burned within him an affinity with the ancestral people whose lives and culture he barely understood.
One day, it is said he bore witness to the toil and oppression suffered by his race. However, an early effort by him to incrementally improve the lives of some of his fellows was met with scorn, “who made you chief and ruler over us?” It was only after his personal connection with G-d that he was able to dedicate his life to organizing among his community. Today, that young man’s influence is pervasive far beyond the world of his co-religionists, and he is even recognized as a prophet among today’s Egyptians.
(Incidentally, the young man’s co-religionists begin most of their prayers, with the word “blessed”. Today’s Hebrews translate that word as “Baruch”; in the language of today’s Egyptians, it is “Barack”.)
By contrast, “Dreams from my Father” tells a different story. To simplify, it concerns a young African (literally)-American who was born at a time when people of his color were first legally acquiring the rights of full citizenship. Although he bore at least some physical attributes which identified him as a member of a despised people, he had been raised as a white person, and largely accepted as such. Later he would travel and live among other people of non-African ancestry. He could easily have lived a life of contentment and comfort as a de facto white person, without ever directly confronting the dichotomy between his life and those of other members of his race. Yet there burned within him an affinity with the ancestral people whose lives and culture he barely understood.
Over time, he sometimes got the opportunity to bear witness to the toil and oppression suffered by his race. However, early efforts by him to improve the lives of some of his fellows were sometimes met by scorn, "Listen ... what's your name again? Obamba?...Listen, Obamba, you may mean well. I'm sure you do. But the last thing we need is to join up with a bunch of white money and Catholic churches and Jewish organizers to solve our problems". It was only after he made his personal connection with the Church that he was able to achieve success organizing among his community. Today, that young man’s influence is pervasive far beyond the world of his fellow African-Americans, and he is especially recognized as a prophet among today’s young brie-eating white liberals.
Early in this campaign, the question arose if Barack Obama was black enough for the black community. My co-credentialed blogger, Rock Hackshaw, wrote several articles on the matter and attributed the controversy in great part to Obama not being descended from American slaves. As a Caribbean, he was not pleased. He asked my opinion, which hardly seemed relevant. I noted that it hardly seemed fair to compare the experience of Caribbeans, whose ancestors’ slave ships merely docked at a different ports of call from those of American slaves, to later arriving Africans immigrants. But, having said that, I noted that the difference in pedigree did not seem to convey any advantage to Amadou Diallo.
Rock enjoyed my observation, but I was clearly stacking the deck. Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. never worked as a street peddler or lived in an American ghetto, except an academic one. Barack, Jr., like Moses, could have lived his life among the Egyptians, instead he became a Hebrew by choice, "I saw the African-American community becoming more than just the place where you'd been born or the house where you'd been raised. Through organizing, through shared sacrifice, membership had been earned."
But the price could not be paid in currency, or even blood and sweat. As Ryan Lizza noted in “New Republic”, “Obama learned that part of his problem as an organizer was that he was trying to build a confederation of churches but wasn't showing up in the pews on Sunday.” One minister told him "It might help your mission if you had a church home."
So here’s Barack Obama, raised among white people, never having worn the badge of slavery, because his ancestors were never slaves, carrying the burden of an Ivy League education, and yearning for connection with a people whose resemblance to him was largely cosmetic. Who could blame him for opting to join the church which was "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian," the church with the "Black Value System", the church whose doctrines included a "Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness."
Barack Obama never needed to pursue “middleclassness”, he’d lived it; now he was pursuing something else. Maybe it was credibility, and maybe it was home. He called Trinity "a powerful program, this cultural community, one more pliant than simple nationalism, more sustaining than my own brand of organizing". Or, as Neil Young said, “a long and hurried flight from the white man, to the fields of green, and the homeland we’ve never seen”.
Barack Obama found connection to a caring community, even if that community turned out to consist largely of middleclass buppies suffering the black equivalent of white liberal guilt. For six days a week most of the Trinity congregation pursued "middleclassness" (and the members who did not were mostly those who had achieved "upperclassness"), on the seventh day they rested; as Big Joe Turner said “ain’t it a shame to shimmy on Sunday, when you got all day Monday”, but surely no one can deny their good works or begrudge a spiritual orphan for heeding the invitation to come in and take some shelter from the storm.
Did Obama buy the rap? I am reminded of the words Eugene McDaniels wrote for Les McCann in the song "Compared to What":
"Church on Sunday, sleep and nod
Tryin' to duck the wrath of God
Preacher's fillin' us with fright
They all tryin' to teach us what they think is right [Or maybe it's Wright]
They really got to be some kind of nut (I can't use it!)
Tryin' to make it real � compared to what?"
It would be hard to be more cynical than the singer, but one notices that he still came to church; obviously he had his reasons. Obama's recent remarks about bitter, working class whites indicate that perhaps he too doesn’t take the doctrinal parts of organized religion all that seriously. But, clearly that didn’t matter all that much. The rap really wasn’t what he was buying.
I have some experience in such matters. In the early 90’s, I joined a local Reform congregation to make connection; in my case, not so much spiritual as physical; I was more interested in exchanging fluids than ideas (it should be noted that the number one hook-up spot in NYC for Jewish singles is BJ's, AKA B’nai Jeshurin, a Conservative synagogue whose name is Hebrew for "House of SJF seeks handsome professional 30-45 for possible marriage and children"), but like Barack Obama, who also came looking for something different (street cred), I found home.
The Rabbi was a pleasant enough plodder (I once got into an argument with her during a discussion over the death penalty, even though we both opposed it----she had just cited a bunch of studies which stated capital punishment was not a deterrent---I said this was not an argument against the death penalty, only negations of an argument for it—she disagreed—I told her I could prove to her this argument had no meaning—she asked how—I said “if the studies proved conclusively that capital punishment was a deterrent, would it change your position?”, and she just barely audibly muttered “no” and hung her head), but it was not the Rabbi which provided the attraction—it rarely is. It was the congregation.
The prior Rabbi had been a charismatic figure who evolved his own brand of “Hasidic Reform Judaism”; services were about joy, exultation and achieving spiritual connection, and people achieved it.
In my religious life, I've never been able to make the leap of faith to a spiritual connection. I always considered the spiritual stuff something you used to entice the suckers to take their medicine. But, even though I identified more with the Misnagdim than the Hasids, I soon came to respect those who could make the leap of faith, and more importantly, I respected and became part of what they built: a caring community. People who say they believe in G-d, but not organized religion, have it exactly backwards.
They sucked me in like a Linda Lovelace (sometimes literally): work at the congregations’ shelter, community-organizing training with an inter-church coalition not unlike the one where Obama worked after college, after service dinners at local Chinese or Arab restaurants (on those Fridays where there was no vegetarian community dinner) sometimes followed by karaoke, the Israel bond drive and a stormy affair with a ranked amateur ice skater with a fondness for the erotic potential of carrots and taramosalata.
They stretched me in sixteen different ways (not counting the variations favored by the carrot-lady), till I was suffering from both physical and spiritual exhaustion. The Rabbi rarely, if ever entered the picture, and her sermons were memorable only for being so forgettable.
These days, our current Rabbi is a brilliant speaker, but time has taken its toll on the spiritual and communal aspects of the congregation, and people are no longer levitating during services. The Rabbi has gotten far better, but the appeal of the congregation has seen better days. And now, my life has changed in oh some many ways, my independence seems to have vanished in the haze and, in the words of the late great Charlie Rich, I do my swinging at home.
Barack Obama's changed too, and any romance he once may have had with afrocentric ideas seems to be a distant memory. But he and I have one thing in common, or we did until yesterday ---our reasons for joining our religious congregations are ancient and anachronistic, but our connections have endured, because family is family and home is home. Add in a dozen or so life-cycle events, not to mention the bowling league (perhaps not the best example in Obama's case) and the connections are really hard to sever. As Pete Townshend once said, "the memory smoulders, but the soul always yearns, after the fire, the fire still burns".
If I belonged to a congregation which had a Rabbi who said things similar to Reverend Wright, perhaps I'd consider quitting; the changes in my congregation’s character would surely make it easier; but, on the other hand, the building fund is $5000, and I'm paid up. Even if I didn’t need the money, I’m sure there would be a more appropriate Jewish charity which surely could put it to better use than another congregation could.
At his best, Reverend Wright lays down a challenge to all Americans. Specifically, to black Americans he says, as Jews say every Passover, “Do not forget you were once slaves in the land of Egypt; don’t forget where you came from” (or in Obama’s case, “Forget where you came from”). To white Americans, who he addresses only by implication, Wright lays down a different challenge, and one which has elements it wouldn’t kill us to consider. Many commentators have stated this far more emphatically.
The problem is, I'm not interested in having a Democratic nominee challenge white America on the race question, at least not a black nominee. Mike Huckabee's words about Wright sounded great coming from Huckabee because they came from Huckabee (call it "The Audacity of Hope, Arkansas"), but I’m not sure voters would appreciate hearing them from Barack Obama. The real problem is that I don't want my nominee to challenge white America, because that's where the votes are, and it ain't a winning strategy.
No matter how white-friendly this candidate is, his existence is quite enough of a challenge for white America to handle, and so far, white America hasn't been doing too badly in rising to the challenge, but I'm not really sure white America is ready to handle both Obama and Rev. Wright—and between the two of them, I know which one I’m choosing. I’ll admit, I may be wrong in some moral sense (although, truthfully, I don’t really believe that), but isn't the idea to win?
To all those Democratic voters for whom this raises questions about voting for Barack Obama, I have to respond that you are missing the most important question: (to repeat myself) "Compared to what?"
Compared to Hillary, Obama may not seem palatable (although, I don’t find the comparison all that stark), but we are no longer comparing Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton. We are comparing Barack Obama to a guy who’s publicly expressed his willingness to spend 100 more years in the desert; even Moses knew enough to stop at 40.
Now Vee May Perhaps to Begin.
Insane/Fine Goal (AKA Tutti Fruiti)
Tue, 06/24/2008 - 8:35pm
“The excitement underpinning Senator Barack Obama’s campaign rests considerably on his evocative vows to depart from self-interested politics. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama has come up short of that standard with his decision to reject public spending limitations and opt instead for unlimited private financing in the general election.”
-New York Times Editorial 6/20/08
Michael Kinsley’s famous rule that “the scandal isn’t what’s illegal, it’s what’s legal“, now has “Gatemouth’s converse“: “the ideal imperfectly replicated in a reform may be preferable to the status quo (or status quo ante), but it is not to be mistaken for the ideal itself.”
Take public financing of presidential campaigns, a reform enacted in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. The idea was to eliminate many evils: the nefarious influence of special interest pay for play money; the nefarious influence of big donors with disproportionate influence; dirty tricks, often untraceable to their source; etc., etc.
The reality was a bit different. Primary season, even with matching donations, was still an orgy of special interest bundling, and the special interests found ways to contribute in-kind which alluded any violation of the rules. Most importantly, thank to the wonders of the First Amendment, both the rich and poor shared the same right to spend unlimited amounts of their own funds to propagate their own views, as long as they did so “independently” of the campaigns. 527s take such costly free speech to entirely new levels of disgust, as the public gets taken for a ride on a battalion of swift boats.
Nonetheless, efforts for reform take on a talismanic quality among good government types. “Reform” efforts like “McCain-Feingold” become mantras to be chanted by do-gooders until they fall into a trance under its mystical hypnotic spell, even conveying the magical illusion of integrity and independence upon its co-author, once know for his role in a major Senate scandal, and a man whose own campaign might better be renamed “The K Street Project”, as he rides freely upon the loamy loams of the friendly skies of campaign planes and campaign staff supplied by all of DC’s usual suspects.
Meanwhile, liberals who should know better go into apoplectic shock when they come out of the mantra induced trance to discover that printing a campaign palm card for candidates endorsed by their political club may result in the commission of a felony. Nonetheless, the Talisman remains unassailable, as if it actually embodies the ideals supposedly advanced by its enactment.
Let’s get back to the unattainable ideal for which public financing is supposed to substitute.
The idea would be a campaign financed almost entirely by small donations, none provided by any lobby or special interest. Moreover, in the ideal, not only the candidate, but the candidate’s party would forswear entirely contributions from such sources. Finally, the candidate would publicly discourage his supporters from contributing to 527s set up to work in the interest of his campaign.
Of course, this ideal was impossible to enact into law, not least because of problems with constitutionality; but we can dream, can’t we?
Well, the dream has come true. Barack Obama is raising money from small voluntary donations, rather than lobbyists or the taxpayers. He’s barred the DNC from accepting lobbyist money either; this may not be wise, but it is inspiring. Finally, he’s asked his contributors to give money to his campaign rather than those evil 527s.
The unlikely appearance of the ideal, rather than the pantomime horse made in its image, has so spooked some good government types that they are screaming for the Talisman instead. This is like asking for Pat Boone when you can have Little Richard.
The New York Times is too infatuated with white bucks (there's a pun in there somewhere); to this there is only one appropriate response:
WHOMP BOP A LOOMA BA BOP BAM BOOM!
The Aggressive Isolationists Versus Le Royale With Cheese
“I also want to say very directly for the British people why this matters so much directly to Britain.
First, let us not forget that the attacks of September 11 represented the worst terrorist outrage against British citizens in our history. The murder of British citizens, whether it happens overseas or not, is an attack upon Britain.
But even if no British citizen had died, it would it be right to act. This atrocity was an attack on us all--on people of all faiths and people of none.”
Tony Blair 10/7/01 explaining the military action in Afghanistan
In the aftermath of September 11, when the soundtrack most appropriate to New York was the Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone”, the inspiring words of Tony Blair reminded us that we were not alone. Though surely not born great, and having done little or nothing to achieve greatness, George W. Bush had had greatness thrust upon him, and, for about three minutes he rose to the occasion, as the world rallied behind America and America used the moment to rally the world into multilateral action against what could only be called evil; it was truly the right war in the right place at the right time.
And then he blew it.
Refusing to believe his brinksmanship with Saddam Hussein had actually worked, George Dubya Bush undertook an ill-advised lone gunman invasion of Iraq, a country whose role in September 11 could best be described as amusement after the fact. In doing so, he undercut the resources committed to Afghanistan, a grievous error he has yet to correct. And, in place of his earlier multilateralism, Bush substituted a Trojan Horse, with the once great Tony Blair squandering the greatness he’d worked so hard to earn by unwittingly playing Bush’s Trojan Whore.
And, having derided multilateralism in favor of unilateralism, Dubya ensured that unilateral international action was the only kind we were capable of undertaking. Whether it was Iraq, the Kyoto Accords or The Law of the Sea Treaty, George Dubya preferred a foreign policy of “Aggressive Isolationism“, and each of his actions built upon one another to ensure that American exerted diplomatic influence in inverse proportion to its military power (a lesson the Democrats might want to consider when promising to revisit previously ratified trade accords), wielding a big stick while speaking in tone-deaf laryngitic tones to a world audience tired of his soliloquies.
The ying of that yang was also felt at home, as the rare moment of opportunity for true national consensus in the aftermath of a national crisis was squandered for tawdry short-term political gain. In the run-up to the Second World War, Winston Churchill formed a grand coalition with Labour Party Leader Clemente Atlee as his Deputy. Franklin Roosevelt invited prominent Republicans Frank Knox (the most recent Republican Vice Presidential candidate) and Henry Stimson (a former Secretary of State) to run the Army and Navy. In both cases, this was done, even though their own parties had won the last election in landslide victories. Surely, this was the time for such a grand gesture by Bush.
By contrast, George Dubya had lost the popular vote less than a year before by half a million votes, and then won the electoral vote by having the Supreme Court put a gun to the Country’s head and demand either our signature or our brains on the contract. Wasn’t this the moment to ask Al Gore (or even Bill Clinton) to take over State or Defense? Instead, the policy of “Aggressive Isolationism” was implemented at home as well as abroad.
But “Aggressive Isolationism” and our involuntary quarantine by our former allies, was not always our destiny. To cop from the dust jacket of Beinart’s “The Good Fight: Why Liberals – and Only Liberals – Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again”, we once had leaders who believed that “America must lead the world by persuasion, not command”, George Bush believes the opposite, and American and the world are suffering as a result. Beinart posits an alternative “liberalism cannot merely define itself against the right, but must fervently oppose the totalitarianism that blighted Europe a half century ago, and which stalks the Islamic world today” and “an unyielding hostility to totalitarianism – and a recognition that defeating it requires bringing hope to the bleakest corners of the globe. And it means understanding that democracy begins at home, in a nation that does more than merely preach about justice, but become more just itself.”
In contrast to Dubya's Aggressive Isolationism, Beinart’s dust jacket argues that “American greatness cannot simply be asserted; it must be proved….That American leadership is not American Empire.” As Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. said in praise of Beinart, “The replacement of containment by the Bush Doctrine of preventive war...has screwed everything up with illegitimacy, tactical blunders, and utopian fantasy.”
But this week, we saw that the former allies who now disdain us may be saying “No, No No” to Uncle Sam, but still yearn for our powerful embrace. In the post-September 11 period, we briefly saw Western Europeans displaying American flags as an act of solidarity, rather than one of provocation; something rarely encountered since November of 1963. In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, I never thought I’d see it again.
Today in Berlin, 200,000 Germans gathered at a rally and waved American flags without an iota of irony. It was Camelot all over again; this time with a "Dark Knight", as they profoundly wished for an end to George Dubya‘s dark night. Their lips might have still have been mouthing “No”, but they looked at Barack Obama and their eyes said “Yes, Yes, Yes”. Or maybe, "Yes We Can."
The Republicans aren’t merely taking cheap potshots; they don’t even get it.
Today in the “New York Post”, Ralph Peters proved how obtuse they are.
“Am I the only one”, he whined, “who's noticed the silence? Mere months ago, left-wing bloggers and demonstrators were wailing Support our troops, bring them home! seven days a week. Now their presidential candidate has announced that he won't bring all those troops home, but will simply transfer combat forces from Iraq to Afghanistan - expanding that war. (He's discussed possibly invading Pakistan, too.)”
Except Barack Obama has never said otherwise. Yes, he opposed the war in Iraq from the start, but as he told a shocked anti-war rally in 2000:
“Let begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.
The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil.
I don’t oppose all wars.
My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.
I don’t oppose all wars.
After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administrations pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again.
I don’t oppose all wars.”
And clear as day, during the primaries, Obama made it known during nationally televised debates that he didn’t rule out military action in Pakistan or Iran. He also made clear that those things would not be his preference. By contrast, in Iran, the Republicans seem to be publicly salivating for war, although in McCain’s case, he may just be drooling involuntarily.
Barack Obama is a Peter Beinart Democrat; someone who can restore American Leadership because he believes in American Honor, someone who understands that the first step in leading any alliance is to listen to your allies if you want to keep them.
Peters is complaining about the lack of outrage from Michael Moore Democrats, although there's certainly been more than a little whining from those who finally got past Obama’s dulcet tones and pretty words and actually listened to what he’s been saying all along.
But Peters is partly correct; most of the left will swallow hard and vote for Obama. The insane Republican policy of fighting wars everywhere, on the cheap, but not cheaply, lest profit margins be endangered, has left them no other choice.
Of course, Peters has a different theory. “The left has nothing against foreign wars (as long as they don't have to fight in person). They just want to pick our wars themselves. The problem with Iraq wasn't that America toppled Saddam Hussein, but that George W. Bush did it. I've been saying it for years: Had Bill Clinton done the job, the left would've celebrated him as the greatest liberator since Abraham Lincoln.”
Of course, this is idiotic; the war in Afghanistan that Obama wants to surge was begun by George Bush and supported by every Democrat in Congress but one.
And, actually, this was what Michael Moore had to say about Clinton’s actions in Kosovo:
“We know Clinton is lying to us. We know there is no 'Holocaust' taking place”
“What a sad, pathetic man Bill Clinton is. Though many have criticized him for dodging the draft, I actually admired the fact that he refused to go and kill Vietnamese. Not all of us from the working class had that luxury, and tens of thousands of our brothers died for absolutely no damn reason. For this "anti-war" President to order such a misguided, ruthless -- and, yes, cowardly -- attack is a disappointment of massive proportions.”
"Now is the time for all of us to stop Clinton and his disgusting, hypocritical fellow democrats who support him in the war. It is amazing to watch all these "liberal" congress members line up behind the President. In a way, I'm glad it's happening; if only to show the American people there is little difference between the Democrats and the usually war-loving Republicans. aren't you getting a kick watching the Pat Buchanans and the Henry Hydes sounding like pacifists. These politicians can change stripes at the drop of a hat (or bomb) because, ultimately, they are the same animal, participants in a one-party system that tries to fool the people by going by two names ("Democrat" and "Republican")"
If anything, the answer to Peters’ comments about Democratic partisanship in selecting which wars we support is “J’accuse”.
When it came to stopping genocide in Kosovo and Serbia, it was the Republicans in Congress (McCain a proud exception) who overwhelmingly refused to lend Clinton their support; support which was gladly rendered in parliaments all across Europe to a President who understood how to build alliances abroad (if not at home).
In the 2000 election, it was George Dubya Bush who uttered semi-obscene sneers about “Nation Building” as if it were a communicable disease (perhaps because Clinton had left such things to the experts instead of the profiteers).
And it’s on the subject of genocide where the Republicans are surely at their worst.
The McCain campaign has stated that Obama has no right to call for the world to never forget the lessons of the Holocaust, because Obama would rather withdraw troops than stop genocide in Iraq.
Forget for a moment about Bosnia and Kosovo. Forget for a moment that Obama recruited former foreign policy advisor Samantha Powers to his campaign precisely because of her work in the area of genocide. Forget for a moment that Republican administrations previously ignored Saddam Hussein’s genocide against the Kurds when he was seen as a useful ally against Iran. Forget that George H.W. Bush encouraged sugar plums to dance in the heads of Kurdish leaders when he felt they would be handy in his own anti-Saddam efforts, only to pull the rug out from under them and leave them to Saddam’s tender ministrations. Forget that the current ethnic strife in Iraq only exists today because of our successful effort to turn the country into another Yugoslavia by removing its far less benign version of Tito. Forget that even during the primaries Obama specified that the timetable for troop withdrawals was subject to revision and/or suspension based on changing facts on the ground. Forget lack of Republican action to do anything about genocide in Darfur and the Congo.
Forget they must. It takes either amnesia or Alzheimer’s to be a Republican today; luckily they have a nominee who displays signs of both ("Yugoslavokia? I'm not making that mistake again; it's the Yugo Republic"), tut-tutting about Obama speaking in Germany when he’d done the same in Canada, while his minions get all hot and bothered over Obama calling himself a “Citizen of the World”, echoing the shameful communist-inspired words of that pinko Ronald Reagan.
Meanwhile in Berlin, I could swear I heard a crowd chanting “Ich bein ein Amerikaner”.
Does this mean, “I am a Hamburger”?
Probably not; that would be the wrong city.
Better Delaware than Unaware
“I said I liked Biden because I do. I think he'd be a great president because he can critique Bush on foreign policy while still outlining a vision that deals realistically with the issues we face in the world, and does not shy from unpleasant realities many on the left of center would prefer to ignore.”
Gatemouth on “Daily Politics” July 8, 2006
“I'm a Clinton Democrat, but originally was "anyone but Hillary" because I thought she wasn't electable. I was hoping Gore would run on grounds of both electability and policy. Barring that, I preferred Edwards--but only on electability. On policy and gravitas, I liked Biden (Richardson almost qualified, but seemed too much a loose cannon--which is saying a lot when you are comparing someone to Biden)”
Gatemouth on “Room 8” May 15, 2008
The selection of Delaware Senator Joe Biden, a personal favorite of mine, despite the occasional bit of slight social conservatism (and probably not despite the habit we share of sometimes shooting from the lip and asking questions later, as well our environmentally conscious lack of reluctance about recycling a good anecdote) cast a bright light on the question of perception versus reality.
The perception that Barack Obama lacks experience in foreign policy and national security has its element of truth, while the perception of some that Obama lacks gravitas on the world stage seems disproven by the response of both world leaders (some of whom took the occasion to make surprise endorsements of Obama‘s policies) and the world public to his trip to Europe and the Middle East.
Yet somehow, It is John McCain, struggling with his Wikipedia derived talking points as he dodderingly mangles the name and status of another Eastern European country or Central Asian leader, who is deemed to have the knowledge and steady hand to lead us into another century whose existence he can barely bring himself to recognize. How can this man respond to the ever changing realities of a dangerous world, when with every new challenge he looks as someone had just stuck a firehouse in his brain cavity and filled it to overflowing?
While I do find it refreshing to find a politician who’s certain of what he believes in (at least on world issues---on most domestic policy matters, McCain is virtually a fictional character, combining the apathy of Zonker Harris with the emptiness of Chauncey Gardner, while embracing Sam Rayburn’s famous dictate to get along by going along, usually with the far right), it would be nice if once in a while those beliefs were allowed to be impacted by the facts on the ground; but McCain’s ability to embrace new realities is at best a love pure and chaste from afar.
By contrast, Joe Biden has both a sense of the history he’s lived and learned and the ability to engage the world we actually live in. More importantly, that world is ready, willing and able to engage him. In November, when there was a crisis in Pakistan, the first call made by both opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf was not to Dubya, but to Biden (my guess is both knew that Biden, unlike Bush, would recognize their names). Biden advised Musharraf to increase Bhutto’s security, a request that, if complied with, might have ensured the continuance of two political careers which both have since come to an end.
Similarly, when the Russians invaded Georgia, It was Joe Biden who Georgian President Saakshvili called to come visit his ailing nation.
For world leaders across the globe, Joe Biden is the American foreign policy equivalent of Ghostbusters--he is who you gonna call.
In politics, Biden is a great gunslinger, he’s never reluctant to go to war, if war is what is called for. I can’t wait to hear his response to Rudy “a noun, a verb and 9/11“ Giuliani’s keynote address.
By contrast, in international affairs, Biden brings the ideal credentials: a willingness to fight, if necessary, and the ability to figure out and implement strategies to ensure that we won’t have to.
With any luck, in the next administration, he’ll play a sane version of Dick Cheney, to Obama’s smart version of Dubya.
To Hell It Doesn't!
“You can almost see the ads already: The Democrats should have reversed the ticket to put the experienced guy at the top. When there's an international crisis at 3 a.m., the phone doesn't ring at the vice president's house“---John Dickerson opining on Slate
Does Cheney have a mistress he stays with? Or is he in the hospital again?
Of course that's who they'd call; the other guy is too busy burning the midnight oil trying to finish "My Pet Goat".
To his credit, if they called McCain at 3:00 AM, he'd already be up (on his 36th trip to the bathroom).
Born to Run
Dateline: Denver, Colorado--8/28/08--11:20 AM Mountain Time
Dealing with Rock over credentials for Invesco resulted in my missing David Weprin’s breakfast, probably the only place in Denver I was going to find a free piece of lox this morning.
Rock got the good credential with the New York Delegation, while I got the Arena Credential, which is apparently a license to hunt.
Meanwhile, Rock is trying to Bogart a new friend he’s made into Invesco using a Perimeter Credential, a two day old Floor Credential and a New York Delegation Press Badge.
Apparently, the thought never occurred to him to call Ed Towns for help.
Well, as soon as they put out the free box lunches at the Microsoft Specialty Media Lounge, I’ll be off to see Bruce Springsteen and the other guy (I know I used to joke in my last piece, but once people realized it was about a debate in the 21 State Senate District, they probably tuned out).
Invesco is not wifi friendly, so until the festivities end and I find a Starbucks, Gatemouth will be maintaining Radio Silence.
Till then, I leave you with these words:
“ I don’t give a damn for the same old played out scenes
I don’t give a damn for just the in-betweens.
Honey I want the heart, I want the soul, I want control right now.
You better listen to me baby:
Talk about a dream; try to make it real.
You wake up in the night with a fear so real.
You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don’t come.
Well don’t waste your time waiting…
…Now I believe in the love that you gave me.
I believe in the faith that could save me.
I believe in the hope and I pray that some day it
Will raise me above these
YES WE CAN!
UPDATE AND CORRECTION:
Rumors of Springsteen's appearance (even on CNN's website), although taken as gospel all week by convention-goers, were greatly exaggerated, though "Born in the USA" was played several times.
However, when you come down to it, isn't Obama really Springsteen anyway?
Dateline: Engelwood, Colorado-8/28/08--9:12 AM Mountain Time
One of the paradoxes of political conventions is how much they tend to cut one off from political news. I haven't read a paper of watched TV in days, so perhaps I've missed something.
Why would McCain pick Sarah Palin? Even her name suggests something out of Monty Python? Does she make McCain look more like a lumberjack and less like a dead parrot? I think it confirms my suspicion that McCain is channeling Basil Fawlty.
Surely, the unique characteristic she brings to the ticket (shared by over half the population) could be found among someone more qualified in the 49 other states (and even in Alaska). Perhaps, he’s looking to create contrast with the Democrats by showing that, on his ticket, all the gravitas resides firmly with the Presidential candidate.
As I pointed out the other day, Alaska has only three electoral votes, and hasn’t gone Democratic for President since 1964, and since then, Democrats have sometimes managed to place third.
Perhaps McCain is betting that Palin’s coattails will help save his old Senate buddy, Ted “I can get it for you wholesale” Stevens.
Loyal to the end.
Scarlett O'Hara at the Smorgasbord
Dateline: Somewhere in the Air between Denver International Airport and LaGuardia--8/29/08 Early Afternoon
Did anyone expect a speech anything less than electrifying? The build up, the hype, the expectations should have made the actual bill of goods somewhat anticlimactic, but it was not.
Sat, as I was at Invesco, in the section reserved for the “written press” located in the better area of the bleachers (Rock was on the floor rocking the vote with the true believers and the party hacks), my cynical remarks about much of the proceedings were greeted with little ill will; for sure, my neighbors and I were erotically attracted to the Man from Honolulu, but we intended to go home with our panties on. Yet by evening’s end, not only was seduction achieved, but in the morning we still had no regrets. He even sent me a text message! God, there were fireworks, even before they set off the pyrotechnics.
Of course, he made the case, and made it well, but there was more; the bill of fare included a full menu from the Obama Family Smorgasbord, designed to satisfy every elements of the American pallet --raw meat for the faithful, roughage for the policy wonks, high fiber for the old folks, comfort food for the uncommitted, liquid schmaltz for the sentimental (I almost though I was at Sammy’s Roumanian), something sweet for the kids, a chill pill for social conservatives, and some communion wafers for the devout, all washed down with a beer and a shot for the working man and a nice dry Chablis for the intellectuals. At the end of the meal, I was totally full, but like Milton Berle, he still left me wanting more.
If this keeps up, I might change my blogging handle to Scarlet O’Hara, because with God as my witness, I’ll never go hungry again.
And not only did everyone find something to their liking in the grocery bag, with all their dietary concerns addressed (including a little kosher knibble for those concerned about Israel), but more remarkably, Obama took the laundry lists and made then sound poetic, as if Orson Welles were reading the phone book. I don’t know if it reads that way (and I’m not sure that it matters); the speech set out to accomplish various tasks, completed its work and then left its audience feeling as if they’d been delivered to a higher spiritual plain.
I don’t demand much from a Democrat Presidential Candidate beyond that he or she refrain from unnecessarily insulting my intelligence too frequently and that s/he have a fighting shot at beating the Republican. As Rabbi Hillel said, “all the rest is commentary.”
But, despite such slight expectations, my heart has been broken way too often. So, I suppose that when I say Obama exceeded my expectations, I am not saying all that much. But he did and I am.
Since Obama is also a rather cold blooded political player, whether he believes all that he says is open to question, but the fact that the pandering was minimal, the arguments rational and based in logic, and the poetry grounded in pragmatism, tend to make me believe that he was largely speaking from the heart and almost totally speaking from, and of, his mind.
One quibble: Obama seems to believe that we are a better people than the evidence would indicate we are. Of course, the only way he can be elected is if he is correct.
Partial List of Republican Women More Qualified to be President Than Sarah Palin
Senators: Lisa Murkowski, Alaska(?!?); Olympia Snowe, Maine; Susan Collins, Maine; Elizabeth Dole North Carolina; Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas
Governors: Oline Walker, Utah; Linda Lingle, Hawaii, M. Jodi Rell, Connecticut
Members of the House: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Florida; Deborah Pryce, Ohio; Barbara Cubin, Wyoming; Sue Myrick North Carolina; Jo Ann Emerson, Missouri; Kay Granger, Texas; Mary Bono, California; Heather Wilson , New Mexico; Judith Borg Biggert , Illinois; Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia; Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee; Ginny Brown-Waite, Florida; Candice Miller, Michigan; Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado; Thelma Drake, Virginia; Virginia Foxx, North Carolina; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, West Virginia; Jean Schmidt, Ohio
Cabinet: Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State; Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor; Margaret Spellings, Secretary of Education; Mary Peters, Secretary of Transportation; Susan Schwab, US Special Trade Representative
The Naughty Bits
Rushing Friday morning to catch a plane, I’m not sure that the article I churned out in five minutes adequately expressed my revulsion towards the momentous event of Sarah Palin’s selection as John McCain’s choice to be one heartbeat away from the most powerful position in the world, although perhaps that was because that, at that point, I knew so little about her (albeit, enough so I was well aware that there was a problem).
Anyway, my problem with Ms. Palin is not that McCain is playing the "gender card" (which would seem irresistible), but that's he's playing it with a deuce.
Somewhere in their bunker, McCain and his advisors are snickering about pulling a fast one, reigniting some of the gender fires that the Democrats had finally thought they had doused. Instead, they have insulted the intelligence of the American public and, particularly, American women.
The Hillary grievance, even if exaggerated by the media, has, at its roots, a real justification. Women have had to climb the ladder to the glass ceiling twice as well to go half as far, while wearing high heels and having some drunken gawker like Chris Matthews looking up their skirt while taking pictures with his cell phone.
In the past, sometimes historic appointments of women with somewhat thinner credential than their male competitors (think Sandra Day O’Connor) were justified by the fact that these women had not achieved the high positions their talents should have propelled them to, because of structural discrimination.
Yet, here came Hillary Clinton, powerhouse attorney, scholar, White House insider with experience in both domestic and foreign policy (at the center of significant achievements in both Ireland and the Balkans) and US Senator; a policy wonk with an intellectual grasp exceeded only by her reach. Was there a more qualified candidate in either party? (OK, maybe Joe Biden). Who needed affirmative action when one was the best?
Many of those who feel resentment that Ms. Clinton was passed over for what they saw as a less qualified male may have reconciled themselves to a vote for Barack Obama as a lesser evil, but were nonetheless still smarting from those wounds. The Palin choice was a way of trying to ensure that those wounds remained opened and well salted, as well as an effort to show that Republicans felt their pain.
Why do I call this an insult to American women?
Well for starters, there are issues. Ms. Palin is to be truly admired for the brave CHOICE she made to live by her principles and carry a Down’s Syndrome child to term. The problems is that she wants to deprive other women of that same CHOICE and impose her bravery and principles upon others who do not share them.
A Jewish Republican sitting on a panel at a recent symposium held by the National Jewish Democratic Council tried to assure his audience that a President McCain would have no passion for social conservatism and would appoint Kennedys and O’Connors to the Federal Bench. Even if we concede this somewhat dubious assertion (which is underpinned by a presumption that McCain is a liar), could he give us the same assurance of about a President Palin, who may soon sit one heartbeat away from a 72 year old President?
And let’s face facts, Ms. Palin is not a qualified women held back because of her gender. Everything about Ms. Palin’s history, right up to the moment of her being chosen by McCain, indicates that her gender has been nothing to her but an asset in her lightning rise from nowhere (almost literally).
Moreover, as I’ve pointed out, there are plenty of female Republicans whose views I'd undoubtedly find repugnant, but who could nonetheless fill the bill better than Ms. Palin.
How about Heather Wilson of New Mexico? Wilson is a serious member of Congress with a background in national security. While she comes from a neighboring state to her party's nominee, so did Al Gore; more to the point, New Mexico is a swing state this year. No one could question Ms. Wilson's credentials (as opposed to her positions).
While my original list of thirty-one Republican women more qualified to be President than Ms. Palin had a couple of ineligible names (Linda Chao and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are immigrants), leaving only(!!!) 29(!!!) who were both legally eligible (by their birthplace) and demonstrably more qualified (by their experience), that list left out former office holders, military personnel and other qualified dignitaries.
How about Linda Chavez? Chavez is a serious and pernicious neo-con intellectual with the further virtue of potential entrée with a previously Democratic voting bloc.
Did I mention Kay Bailey Hutchison? Elizabeth Dole? Condi Rice?
I could go on and on.
These are women of achievement, women who, whatever their views, would rub sandpaper into the open wounds of those who feel Hillary Clinton was cheated out of what she earned by her blood sweat and tears.
By contrast, the only qualities Ms. Palin appears to share with Senator Clinton are her (as they would say on Michael Palin’s old show, "Monty Python’s Flying Circus") “naughty bits”.
It is almost as if John McCain is saying that he fundamentally believes that Rich or Poor; Northern, Southern or Western; Jewish, Catholic or Protestant; Liberal or Conservative; Black, White, Brown, Red or Yellow; when it all comes down to dust, they are all Pink on the inside.
Republicans have tried to defend Ms. Palin from charges of inexperience in various ways.
First, they remind us that she is running for Vice President and not the White House. That’s correct, Vice President for a 72 year old man with visible memory lapses.
Next, they try comparing her to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The comparisons are ridiculous.
At the time of his election, Bill Clinton had been a Governor, on and off, for 14 years. During those years, he had also served as head of the Democratic Leadership Council, a group which, among other things, runs a think-tank concerned with both foreign and domestic policy. I won’t even bother mentioning Clinton’s academic background in International Affairs.
Barack Obama serves on the Senate Committees dealing with International Relations and Homeland Security. He displays a sophistication about international affairs and national security exceeding not only that of the White House’s current occupant, but also of far more thoughtful observers as well.
Obama’s policy prescriptions, once condemned by some on the campaign trail, are more and more being adopted by international leaders. In contrast to Ms. Palin's display of ignorance and incuriosity about international almost up to the moment of her selection, Obama’s intellect and expertise predates his attempts to surmount the national stage. Obama’s speech at a 2002 anti-war rally is notable not only for challenging an audience not necessarily prepared to hear a defense of just and necessary wars, but also for its nuance, sophistication and thoughtfulness.
Further, whatever experience Obama may lack in this area is more than made up for by a foreign policy team which includes such heavy hitters as Joe Biden and genocide expert Samantha Power (an example, if one were necessary, that eye candy can also contain the minimum daily adult requirements for expertise and intellectual firepower).
Finally, Obama has shown a quality more important for a President than even knowledge and experience: good judgment. Here the comparison is not between Obama and Palin, but Obama and McCain.
Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his running mate tells us everything we need to know about his judgment, and McCain’s selection of Ms. Palin tells us everything we need to know about his. If there is a candidate in this race who would rather, in Mr. McCain’s words, “lose a war than lose an election”, it ain’t Barack Obama.
This is a dangerous world we live in. By choosing Ms. Palin, Mr. McCain, has shown that it is not merely women he holds in contempt, but the American people as well.
It also indicates that Mr. McCain believes that he is blessed with eternal life; much as I do not want him in the White House, Mr. McCain’s victory would compel me everyday to pray for his health.
McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin may or may not be a brilliant political move; I don't think it is, but I'd not bet my house on it. But, brilliant move or not, it is an act of irresponsibility verging upon the morally reprehensible. Her selection may not be a political problem; but it is a national security problem.
At dinner tonight to celebrate my son’s 5½ birthday and his start of kindergarten in the morning (the Dybbuk asked to be taken for sushi), I came up with this title, but the onslaught of upcoming events, including the dreaded return to work, prevented me from posting the idea before someone else already had.
So, "Sarah Eagleton", the numbers:
299 google entries
generating 61, once similar entries are eliminated
Number related to the Governor’s current condition: 4
Today’s interesting stories: once having belonged to a group advocating Alaskan independence (apparently now disputed) and lawyering up for the Troopergate investigation (please no jokes about whether Client #9 is the daddy!).
Any bets on tomorrow’s numbers?
Who wants to start a pool predicting how many days she has left?
There’s a storm brewing, and its name ain’t Gustav.
UPDATE--9/3/08 9:56 PM
"Sarah Eagleton", 1680 google entries
generating 94, once similar entries are eliminated
Number related to the Governor’s current condition: 37
Good News for Palin: While there are 4,070 (up from 2,510 yesterday) google entries for "Sarah Palin Nude", most lead to a picture of Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (Despite my partisanship, I regard this as good news as well--and quite a bonus for my diligent research concerning that despicable rumor).
John "Janus" McCain
“My Democratic friends know all about John’s record of independence and accomplishment. Maybe that’s why some of them are spending so much time and so much money trying to convince voters that John McCain is someone else. I’m here, as a Democrat myself, to tell you: Don’t be fooled.
God only made one John McCain, and he is his own man.”--Joe Lieberman--9/2/08
JOHN MCCAIN'S MANHOOD:
1999: “in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade.”
2008: Favors a Constitutional Amendment banning abortion with exceptions--rape incest and saving the life of the mother. In a move exemplifying the Republican version of diversity, his running mate opposes even those exceptions.
Opposed Bush tax cut for the wealthy; now favors extending them.
Once favored the estate tax; now opposes it.
Opposed torture; now favors it (and proved it by featuring Dubya, Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman in one night).
Opposed subsidies for ethanol. Now favors them.
Opposed off-shore drilling; now favors it, while his party condemns Democrats for flip-flopping on the issue.
Once favored amnesty for immigrants; now opposes it. Maybe.
Once favored Social Security privatization; now opposes it (a rare improvement over the original)
Opposed anti-affirmative action measures; then endorsed them; then put Sarah Palin on his ticket.
To the degree that John McCain qualifies as a moderate, it is only to the extent that it defines how his position on any one issue has averaged out over the years. In this year, the only year that would seem to count, he is a decidedly conservative Republican. To assume otherwise would be to presume his complete and total insincerity.
I won’t even get into more symbolic flip-flops such as the 180 degree turns on the confederate flag, Jerry Falwell (alev ha-shalom) and Bob Jones University, because frankly, I think to John McCain, the entire list of backflips (except torture, which is a shameless and unprincipled cave-in), be it abortion, Social Security or state flags, is symbolic.
McCain is a man who built his career criticizing the influence of lobbyists while letting them run his campaign and sees no contradiction there, or anywhere else, because except on matters of national security, where he has a sincere worldview which fulfills the neat trick of being both oblivious to history and outdated at the same time (like looking at Russia in cold war terms when their behavior has been the same since the time of the Tsars), McCain believes in almost nothing (and has the expertise to back up his beliefs) aside from an amorphous idea of bi-partisanship as a goal, rather than a means of accomplishing worthy aims, because he has no idea (and no ideals), outside of national security, what his aims are.
It’s been said concerning many issues that we need to have a “great national conversation” (330 google entries). With McCain, we will get that.
The problem is, McCain will be able to hold it in a locked closet.
God made only one John McCain, and now Joe Lieberman is helping him put his best face forward.
HEZBOLLAH (The Party of God)
“And we need a president who doesn’t think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade.
The man who will be that president is John McCain.”--Fred Thompson--9/2/08
WARREN: Now, let’s deal with abortion; 40 million abortions since Roe v. Wade. As a pastor, I have to deal with this all of the time, all of the pain and all of the conflicts. I know this is a very complex issue. Forty million abortions, at what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.
So, there you have it. Asked an existential question, Barack Obama refused to play God, while the Republicans promise that John McCain will.
In my religion, the answer to the question of when life begins is certain (at the moment of graduation from law school), but our First Amendment allows each of us to have our own ideas or even none at all.
Ms. Palin and her daughter both chose "life" (and taste forbids speculation concerning whether her daughter really made her own choice) Those of us who feel that a 17 year old girl, or a woman carrying a Down’s Syndrome fetus, have a right to decide for themselves whether to carry a pregnancy to term are bound to respect their choices.
Why won’t they give others the same opportunity?
Apparently, the answer to that question is above their pay grade
The Decider II
“Then he ran for -- then he ran for the state legislature and he got elected. And nearly 130 times, he couldn't make a decision. He couldn't figure out whether to vote 'yes' or 'no.' It was too tough.
He voted -- he voted 'present.'
I didn't know about this vote 'present' when I was mayor of New York City. Sarah Palin didn't have this vote 'present' when she was mayor or governor. You don't get 'present.' It doesn't work in an executive job. For president of the United States, it's not good enough to be present.
You have to make a decision."---Rudy Giuliani 9/3/08
This is noteworthy as one of the few times in the evening when Rudy was merely being misleading, rather than engaged in outright falsehoods. Votes of "present" (which in Illinois have the same impact as voting no, but are usually used to send a more nuanced message as to why), have a long and honorable history in the Illinois legislature. When Hillary tried to use this against Obama in the primaries, she got an angry reprimand from her husband's former Counsel, Abner Mikva, who'd also served in the Illinois Legislature.
But, I gotta hand it to Rudy; he does make an interesting point.
In contrast to Obama, John McCain is “the decider” (where have we heard that before?).
On issue after issue, whether it’s offshore drilling, torture, abortion, taxes, or Social Security privatization, John McCain has made the tough decision, not just once, but twice, and sometimes three times. No matter where you stand, at one time or another, and sometimes back again, John McCain has held a position you can embrace.
As Groucho once said, “these are my principles; if you don’t like them, I have others.”
“The Democratic leader -- the Democratic leader of the Senate said, and I quote, ‘This war is lost.’
Well, well, if America lost, who won, Al Qaida, bin Laden?”-- Rudy Giuliani--9/3/08
Does this guy ever tire of being a douche bag?
No, Rudolph, bin Laden and Al Qaida did not win the war in Iraq.
Those bastards are winning the war in Afghanistan. The one your party abandoned to go hunting (to coin a metaphor) where the ducks ain’t.
Ms. Rocky Raccoon and Her Consiglieri
I apologize for tonight's focus on Rudy, but every time I ponder the thought of Mike Huckabee not taking a shower, or consider the intellectual labor of deconstructing Ms. Rocky Raccoon's impersonation of the Senior Class Chair trying to declare a cultural Jihad, I get a bit woozy.
It's nearly impossible to caricature a caricature.
Much more pleasurable to poke fun at the patent insincerity of the Cigar-bar hopping/former roommate of two gay men/Big Apple Mayor trying to look sincere making an issue of Godlessness and cultural elitism (he's much better at riling up the Jews, with a false accusation that Obama had drawn a moral equivalency between Israelis and Palestinians--betcha his party won't be repeating that one in Dearborn).
I especially enjoyed this line:
"One final point. And how -- how dare they question whether Sarah Palin has enough time to spend with her children and be vice president. How dare they do that."
OK Rudolph. Name me one Democratic office holder or party official who said anything like this.
Just One Name.
The only famous person I recall saying that is Dr. Laura--and she's on your side.
“On the other hand, you have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a community organizer. What? He worked -- I said -- I said, OK, OK, maybe this is the first problem on the resume.
He worked as a community organizer. He immersed himself in Chicago machine politics.”--Rudy Giuliani--9/3/08
“... I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involved.
I guess -- I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities“.--Sarah Palin--9/3/08
What is it Republicans don’t like about Community Organizers?
Community Organizers work to bring people together, USUALLY THOUGH THEIR CHURCHES, in an effort to assist them in taking control of and improving their lives, by helping them to empower themselves, with the goal of making the institutions of society, including, but not limited to government, more accountable to them.
It’s grassroots, local, bottom-up sort of stuff. Might even say it sounds a bit Republican (at least as they see themselves), no?
Like on most topics, we can probably excuse Ms. Palin’s ignorance--she just doesn’t know better.
But, as per usual, Rudy is flat-out lying. As was noted in City Limits in 2003, “East Brooklyn Congregations”, a church based coalition organized by the Industrial Areas Foundation, and quite like the one Obama organized in Chicago, had quite a special relationship with Rudolph Giuliani, both as Mayor and US Attorney.
Is there no expedient to which this man will not stoop?
From: Multiple Choice
The nomination by the Republicans of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for the Vice Presidency has thrust in America’s face the uncomfortable question of abortion. It is not a matter that we handle well.
As I’ve pointed out before, most Americans, including a substantial number of unyielding "pro-choicers", are basically ambivalent about abortion. While many "pro-choicers" openly question the sincerity of politicians who, in Bill Clinton’s words, say that they want to make abortion “Safe, Legal and Rare”, "SL&R" is clearly what most Americans desire.
Many Americans really don’t know what they would do when confronted with the question of carrying a child with Down’s Syndrome to term. What they do know is (1) it is a choice they never want to have to make, and paradoxically, (2) if they are ever in the situation, they want to be able to make a choice. They may even be willing to extend that choice to women not in an economic position to pay for an abortion themselves (some out of common decency, and some because they’ve calculated it would be cheaper in the long-run).
I’m not so sure that many Americans are that pro-choice on the question of a pregnant 17 year-old. And when I say that, I am speaking not only of "pro-lifers".
First of all, there are some parents who, whatever their position on abortion, have problems with anyone administering a medical procedure on their child without their knowledge.
But, I am going further than that. In the circles I travel in, I know many parents who feel that they would never permit their 17 year old to carry a child to term, no matter how the child felt about the matter.
I think calling such a position “pro-choice” verges upon the Orwellian.
The Palin family (presuming arguendo, the possibly erroneous proposition that Bristol Palin was the one who made the “choice” to carry her child to term) has shown an admirable moral clarity in living by their beliefs; unfortunately, this clarity burns so brightly that they are willing and eager to impose those belief upon others who do not share them, as well as upon those whose beliefs will not really be clarified until they themselves are put to the test.
Some may actually prefer having the government make these tough decisions for them, as it will absolve them of moral responsibility for resolution of the initial question.
What it will not do, however, is absolve them of the moral responsibility for all that follows this original decision, which is why we have terms like “abuse“, neglect”, “delinquency” and “child support.“
Given the lack of moral clarity and consensus, one would think that abortion would be an area where politicians would tread carefully, if at all. Would not it be better to leave such decisions to individuals? Groups who would like to change behavior could instead expend their efforts in the marketplace of ideas, and if successful, their efforts to legislate would be rendered unnecessary by their efforts to persuade.
Politicians generally share the public’s ambivalence. For all the hue and cry about the courts usurping of the legislative function, abortion is one of those areas where, for legislators, judicial preemption is the equivalent of blessed relief. And the more room left for politicians to actually act for themselves, the more they tend to make the matter into a pig’s breakfast.
In much of the heartland, legislative efforts in this area are a matter of creating test cases by legislating just beyond the edges of the latest court decision. The result is that, in many states, Roe v. Wade is already a matter of history, with little left of the actual right to choice but the box it came in. In South Dakota, doctors at the State‘s one and only abortion provider must read women a statement about the medical consequences of abortion that is largely fictitious.
Here in the northeast, matters are different, though abortion providers still face acts of harassment which serve to restrict their number, and local enforcement often varies with the culture of the area. Having a little experience in the matter, I can vouch that police in Brooklyn Heights and NOHO tend to be far more zealous in protecting the rights of patients not to be harassed, while the precinct in Sunset Park tends to be more interested in protecting the rights of intrusive demonstrators.
While there are pols who take principled positions on either side of the issue, many tend to have muddled stances owing to personal ambivalence, political expedience, or both.
The tendency is New York, especially in areas where there is not a consensus on the matter, is for pols to say they are “personally opposed” to abortion (usually unexplained is what being “personally opposed” actually means to a male politico), and then to either despair of Roe v. Wade as “the law of the land”, or reluctantly embrace it, and then go through what issues remain as if they were some sort of a Chinese menu, with little thought about intellectual consistency…
Mahat McCain Jeeves (read the credits of "The Bank Dick")
I missed watching McCain’s speech, but I’m told that not seeing it improved things immensely. Pretty good text though. But every once in a while I close my eyes and see WC Fields selling patent medicine.
“She knows where she comes from and she knows who she works for. She stands up for what’s right, and she doesn’t let anyone tell her to sit down. I’m very proud to have introduced our next Vice President to the country. But I can’t wait until I introduce her to Washington. And let me offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do nothing, me first, country second Washington crowd: change is coming.”
---Yep that good ole gal, Rocky Raccoon, standing up to those old big spending, do nothing, me first, country second types by cancelling that “Bridge to Nowhere” when she found out she might have to pay for part of it, and keeping the money, instead of sending the check back to help pay for the war and all that.
“I fight for Americans. I fight for you. I fight for Bill and Sue Nebe from Farmington Hills, Michigan, who lost their real estate investments in the bad housing market. Bill got a temporary job after he was out of work for seven months. Sue works three jobs to help pay the bills”
--- I could have lived without all the cameos from ordinary Americans; better they should make their appearance in the policies than in the anecdotes.
“My health care plan will make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health care insurance. His plan will force small businesses to cut jobs, reduce wages, and force families into a government run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.”
--Well, here we are with the resurrection of Harry and Louise, the one thing I thought beating Hillary circumvented. It is interesting to me that a man who’s spent his entire life living on health plans provided by the US Government thinks everyone else finds them so fearsome.
I was told by Mr. McCain’s party in 1993 that if I supported Hillary’s health plan, we would all be forced into HMOs. Well, I supported Hillary’s plan and damned if they weren’t right----we have all been forced into HMOs. Those Republicans sure are visionaries.
Wake up call to Mr. McCain: there is some bureaucrat already standing between me and my doctor, but he works for an HMO. Maybe if he worked for my government instead, I could call my Congressman and get something done about it.
"I fight to restore the pride and principles of our party. We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us. We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger. We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both parties and Senator Obama passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies. We lost their trust, when we valued our power over our principles.
We’re going to change that. We’re going to recover the people’s trust by standing up again for the values Americans admire. The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan is going to get back to basics.”
---My God, it’s the old trick, well documented by the late Murray Kempton, of running against your own record.
And let’s make no mistake--it is Mr. McCain’s own record. 95% support for President Bush doesn’t leave a lot of margin to restore the public trust.
McCain agrees with Bush on the War, and agrees with Bush on the economy; that doesn‘t leave much left. Reckless tax cuts and budget deficits? McCain has a proud record of opposing Bush’s fiscal irresponsibility. He has a right to be proud. Or, at least he did until he repudiated what was probably his finest hour since he left Hanoi.
And, on social issues, McCain’s managed the neat trick of moving to Bush’s right, while still faking to the left, but eventually (hopefully), those chickens will come home to roost.
“Senator Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without ….more nuclear power.”
---Actually Obama said: “As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.”---I’m not sure that more nuclear power makes me very happy, but it would seem to make McCain a liar.
“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s.”
---Michelle Obama should be pleased to learn that she’s not the only latecomer to love of country this year.
“The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems….”
---obviously Mr. McCain does not believe in leading by example. The convention his campaign stage managed featured ugly speeches by Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin that sometimes verged upon declarations of Culture War. Ms. Palin found every way, but the direct one, of calling Barack Obama an Uppity N----r, and in case we missed the message, a Congressman from Georgia later spelt it out more explicitly.
Though I suppose Palin’s right about us Democrats. I’m picturing her right now snuggling up in her igloo with Trig, Track, Truck Turner, Bristol Cream, Bashful, Doc and Sleepy (that would be McCain) eating blubber and Moose Oysters (and picking their teeth with the antlers), while her husband, Billy Bob, decides to warm things up by throwing another book on the fire.
“If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.”
---Hey, I got an idea, why not become a Community Organizer?
When Pigs Fly
“John McCain says he’s about change, too — except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics. That’s just calling the same thing something different.”
Laughs. “You can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change; it’s still going to stink after eight years.” ---Barack Obama
Please, can we retire this cliché about porcine cosmetics?
Barack Obama’s obviously has had it on the tip of his tongue for a long time. In fact, he’s previously used it to describe a supposed change in our Iraq strategy, long before he’d first heard of Governor Palin.
And John McCain is fond of it too, using it to describe policies put forth by Senator Clinton.
Was McCain being subliminally suggestive?
I think not; he has people for that (Governor Palin among them); anyway, if he was, he would have said “lipstick on a mutt.”
This doesn’t even qualify as a gaffe; it is pure misdirection.
Perhaps if Obama had said lipstick on a moose, or a dog (no, it was a Republicans who did that). [NOTE: Palin compared herself to a pitbull with lipstick]
Of course, Obama put it better than I ever could. Palin's not the pig, she’s the lipstick.
Still, I think the McCain campaign is correct. Someone has suggested the comparison between Ms. Palin and a pig for cheap political gain:
That someone is the McCain Campaign.
However, I’m going to break form here, and suggest they need not apologize.
In his acceptance speech, McCain made reference to “the old, big spending, do nothing, me first, country second Washington crowd“.
As someone who advocated the boondoggling “Bridge to Nowhere”, cancelled it when she found out she might have to pay for part of it, and then kept the money, instead of returning it, and who, in fact, had hired Gucci Gulch sleazebag lobbyists to obtain more of the same, Ms. Palin does bear some resemble to a hog slopping down at a trough, and her newly acquired pose as an enemy of waste does bear some resemblance to applying lipstick on a slab of bacon.
So, if Governor Palin is Ms. Piggy, is John McCain Kermit or Fozzie Bear?
I’m sticking with my earlier comparison of McCain with WC Fields; the way the press has swallowed this slime in the manner of Linda Lovelace proves they have no gag reflex.
Truly, there is a sucker born every minute.
…The world is still a dangerous place, probably more so than ever.
The point was driven home during Charlie Gibson’s interview last night with Future Vice President “Dipstick”.
Carefully coached, she managed to properly enunciate both Ahmadinejad and Saakashvili, both in a manner which indicated, by its emphasis, how proud she was of this accomplishment.
Too bad no one coached her on how to pronounce “Nuclear”.
The game was given away when she was asked about “The Bush Doctrine”.
It was clear that she thought it had something to do with waxing.
Good thing no one asked her about Brazil.
The Fundamentals of Our Democracy Are Strong
'The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should. I've got Greenspan's book." ---John McCain
Well thank goodness he hasn’t read it. As Dubya’s MBA has proven, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and McCain has not yet attained even that level.
Nonetheless, in a society where the public yearns to have a few aspects of their lives protected in some manner from the vicissitudes of the marketplace (things like their retirement and their healthcare), the McCain platform and the McCain record is one of advocating that market forces be unleashed in the manner of a mad and rabid dog to render their magic and transform our society in ways unimaginable to those not suffering from acid-induced nightmares.
After all, the fundamentals of our economy are strong (it's that damned bastard Chris Cox's fault; if only he'd done his job instead of running things the way we asked him too).
I too love the marketplace and its magic. I also love to drink fine Belgian ales, but I know when I’ve had enough.
And I don’t mind calling a cab to get the drunk home, and if necessary, I suppose we may have to pay for his cab ride, lest the drunk do greater damage by getting behind the wheel; but, I’ll be damned if I’m going to pick up his entire bar tab and clean up his vomit, without at least some hope of getting a return on my investment.
Everyone knows Congress will pass a bill; what choice do they have? Apparently, August Bebel was wrong when he said “anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools.” The "socialism of fools" clearly comes in other flavors.
Everyone knows the bill eventually passed can be more punitive than Wall Street would like, because it’s not like they can just pick up their ball and go home. Likewise, Congress can put in the bill whatever safeguards it can muster--what’s Dubya going to do? Veto it?
And the ideologues of the right and left are clearly correct in all their withering critiques; but, in the end, what of it? We will get a better bill, and we should get a better bill, one more accountable, more fiscally sound and more willing to replicate some of the indignities the marketplace from time to time visits upon the over-adventurous and under-cautious. Perhaps some token rachmonis on the victims of our economic rollercoaster ride might be in order as well. But, in the end, the whole process does bear some slight resemblance to putting lipstick upon a pig.
It is a crisis, and it is nice that Obama reached out to McCain in private for a little bipartisanship, although it was perhaps a bit less inspiring that McCain responded by making his counter-proposal for national cooperation by way of a public ultimatum, the purity of McCain's intentions thereby untainted by the sleazy and corrupt backroom tactic of private cooperation.
Ultimately though, both candidates will sign onto the deal, because the risk of not doing so will outweigh its benefits. And, ultimately, the bill which passes will look pretty much the same as it would have, with or without the candidates' active participation.
As such, it might be helpful to remember that, as much as this is a crisis, it is not the moral equivalent of war. The bill before Congress is a stopgap to dampen down the impact of an economic meltdown, but we have not suffered another September 11th. In fact, the imminent passage of the bill has already accomplished its goals, calming the markets.
Politics does not need to stop. Politics needs to start. We can work together to apply the ace bandage, but even more, we need to have a loud and contentious debate on where we go from here, and how the hell we got here in the first place.
We don’t need to have this debate right this second--Friday night will do nicely.
Unlike our economy, the fundamentals of our democracy are strong. But, like our once strong economy, the Republican Party appears intent on undermining those fundamentals as well.
In using a national crisis as a means of avoiding debate, McCain is almost channeling Rudy Giuliani's attempt to declare martial law and extend his term in office in the aftermath of September 11th (my guess is that Rudy was in on the strategy session where this abominable idea was concocted). The implicit subtext is that democracy is a nice indulgence when times are good, but when the going gets tough, it is a luxury real men can't afford.
After Sarah Palin was chosen, I truly believed that there was nothing John McCain could do that would more clearly prove his unfitness for the White House.
If he fails to show for the debate on Friday night, he will have proven me wrong.
The unnecessary ginning up of hysteria over whether Congress will enact a bill whose passage is near-inevitable is pure politics divorced from any concerns over content or principles.
In a national security emergency, a President must be able to manage the neat trick of remaining cool while acting decisively. In a sneak preview of his presidency, John McCain has shown himself but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage, his words full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
"High Noon" or "Horsefeathers"?
Perhaps I’d underestimated John McCain.
Yesterday, I made fun of McCain's “suspending” his campaign until Congress passed some sort of plan to address the meltdown of our markets. At the time McCain made his announcement, Congress seemed poise to pass a flawed plan which bore some resemblance to the even more flawed proposal put forward by the President.
As negotiations proceeded, leaders from both parties announced that a piece of the action was at hand. Robert Bennett, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee said “I now expect we will indeed have a plan that can pass the House, pass the Senate, be signed by the president." Calling it “one of the most productive sessions” he'd ever seen, Bennett said “we focused on solving the problem, rather than posturing politically.”
John McCain landed in Washington poised to be the rooster claiming credit for the sunrise. To bide his time, McCain put together some meetings, including one with the House Republican leadership. Exactly what occurred at this meeting remains the subject of great speculation.
All that remained was the White House summit and photo-op. But at the White House, House Republican Leader John Boehner made it clear his conference was not on board and would be putting out their own alternative. Questioned by Barack Obama, Boehner was mum on the details.
Throughout the meeting McCain stayed strong and silent, like Gary Cooper (or maybe I mean Harpo Marx).
This presented a problem. With support from Senate Republicans, there were enough votes to bring the bill for a vote in the Senate and pass it. But while the Democrats presumably had the votes in the House, they were unwilling to pass this bastard child of George Bush into law without Republican cover. Everyone would have to take credit or no one would. This was a bill that either needed a thousand fathers or would otherwise remain an orphan. Like in Peter Pan, everyone was required to believe in fairies (please, no Barney Frank jokes).
At first it looked like the House Republican move might have been kabuki. Speaking for the McCain campaign, a press aide, Kimmie Lipscomb said : "We're optimistic that Senator McCain will bring House Republican's on board without driving other parties away, resulting in a successful deal for the American taxpayer."
Was this all a plot to have John McCain claim credit for raising a political Lazarus from the dead?
But later, at a meeting of Congressional Leaders, the other shoe dropped. Alabama Republican Spencer Baucchus dropped off a piece of paper with an outline of an alternative “plan” by House Republicans.
The "plan" was clearly not a negotiating position, because Baucchus made clear he was not authorized to negotiate. It was not even a ransom note, given there was nothing in it to take with any seriousness.
Instead, it was a mantra. Wipe away some boilerplate about accountability and what it said was “More Deregulation and Less Taxes”.
They hadn’t even bothered to write something new; they just opened a book of "Reagan’s Familiar Quotations", ripped out a page and Xeroxed it.
Leave it to the Republicans; however one felt about the somewhat ugly compromise which had been on the table, they had found a way to make it look good by comparison.
Things had spun out of control. Asked by reporters if McCain could help win House Republican votes for the proposed package, Boehner now shrugged and said, "Who knows?"
Well, here’s the latest spin from the “suspended” campaign of Senator McCain.
“At today's cabinet meeting, John McCain did not attack any proposal or endorse any plan. John McCain simply urged that for any proposal to enjoy the confidence of the American people, stressing that all sides would have to cooperate and build a bipartisan consensus for a solution that protects taxpayers….Tomorrow, John McCain will return to Capitol Hill where he will work with all sides to build a bipartisan solution that protects taxpayers and keeps Americans in their homes.”
So John McCain neither supports nor opposes any of these radically different and irreconcilable concepts. He just supports everyone agreeing, and he won’t air his differences with his opponent on national television until everyone agrees.
This is apparently what is known as “leadership.”
So who killed the President’s plan? Colonel Mustard with a lead pipe in the parlor? Senator McCain with a shiv in the backroom? Or John Boehner in the abattoir with a meat ax? (Possibly accidentally, while serving raw red moose meat, fresh killed by Todd and Sarah, to his conference of ideological Neanderthals).
If McCain killed it, what does this say about his leadership? If Boehner and company killed it, what does it say about McCain's ability to lead his own party?
Those guys won’t pass this bill for Bush, and they like him. What makes anyone believe they will do for McCain, who they barely tolerate, what they won’t do for their President?
Or is that the idea?
Damned if I know, but as appealing as it is for me to believe this is a Republican plot, when it come to having answers, right now I’m feeling like Sarah Palin:
“I’ll try to find you some and I’ll being ‘em to ya.”
Hippocrates or Hypocrisy?
Many blame the Republicans for the failure of the distasteful, but necessary, Bush Bailout the other day in the House. And surely, those spineless weasels deserve whatever blame they got. “We would have stood tall like real men, but Nancy Pelosi made fun of our penis size and we just couldn’t get it up.”
OK fuckers, find just one Republican member of Congress who will admit that’s what caused his change of heart. Just one.
It would be easier to get Sarah Palin to admit to Katie that she wants to incarcerate doctors or ban the morning-after pill; or to get Palin to admit she doesn’t want to incarcerate doctors or ban the morning-after pill.
But me, I'd just as soon blame a few Democrats. The nation is suffering from a crisis of confidence, and while this bill won’t be a panacea, it will likely loosen up the credit market and save some jobs, thereby helping turn the truly horrible into the merely miserable.
As such, the only reason grownups had to vote against the original House bill was to ensure a better one, or to save their seats.
Those marginal Democrats who voted no certainly have my absolution. Why should they sacrifice their careers when Republicans with safe seats were unwilling to step up to the plate?
But plenty of the Democrats who voted no had no such worries. Many had very safe seats. While perhaps there was only one who deserves to be carried away in a straight jacket (New York’s Jose Serrano, whose poor constituents will be the first to suffer when the failure to pass the bailout on the first vote causes a precipitous drop in New York State and City revenues), all of them should have been concerned about the possibility that their actions would ultimately result in a law which was worse, from their point of view, than the one they rejected.
Yeah, ideological fanatics like Dennis Kucinich, Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee can perhaps be forgiven for putting principle above common sense, but what excuse does moderate-liberal Steve Rothman of Fair Lawn, New Jersey have?
The fact that the bill, if rejected, would only get worse should have been apparent to any yutz who could count to 100. To make up the deficit in the House, one needed 12 more votes; where to get them?
Go left and one begged the question, could the resulting bill pass the Senate?
It takes 60 votes to bring a Senate bill to the floor; Democrats have 51, and one of those was Joe Lieberman. I won’t even bring up Bernie Sanders, who was unlikely to vote for any bailout legislation. Any bill that could bring the votes of 12 more House Democrats, plus enough others to make up for the likely Republican attrition as the bill moved left, would almost surely have endangered Senate passage, not to mention that the wearing away of even more Republican support would have given Democrats an ownership of this bill they surely had no use for.
And sure nuff, when the Senate voted on its bill, it was certainly far worse than the one which failed in the House--unnecessary (and unpaid for) tax breaks and more pork than a banquet at Greenpoint’s Polonaise Terrace; talk about making sausages--this was cholesterol laden kielbasa of the highest order. Yes, some of the pork was Democrat-friendly, but overall, the dish being served up was far more unpalatable than the one we sent back to the kitchen.
The Hippocratic Oath begins “First Do No Harm.” From a liberal point of view, those Democrats who opposed the original House bill should be taken before the Board of Medical Examiners.
Why the format doesn't matter (AKA Vice Presidents Don't Wear Plaid)
A lot of hue and cry has been raised about the format of tonight’s Vice Presidential debate, specifically about the brevity of the answers and the lack of follow-up questions.
Pish-tosh says I.
Forcing concision on both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin cuts both ways, since hearing more of Palin generally subtracts, rather than adds, to the sum total of the world's knowledge, while cutting off Joe Biden’s amount of words is often somewhat analogous to limiting the supply of rope to someone who is chronically depressed.
Most importantly, follow-up questions serve no useful purpose in explicating the thoughts of Sarah Palin, who usually has run out of things to say on the first go-round and then just endlessly repeats her buzzwords without any form or substance until one cries uncle.
In fact, this phenomena applies not only in those instances (most of them) where Palin has little or no knowledge beyond what appeared in her briefing books (she’s read them all), but also in those extremely limited areas which are a matter of passion to her, like abortion.
No matter how many times you ask Palin the same question, she just won’t answer it. Eliminating follow-up questions seems the only reasonable way of preserving the sanity of her interrogators.
Recently, Domestic Partner and I had Sarah over for a glazeleh tay and some pastry, and had a little chat.
Domestic Partner: Sarah, please try the bobka, I got it from a wonderful place on Lee Avenue. And by the way, if a 15-year-old is raped by her father, do you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion, and why?
Palin: I am pro-life. And I'm unapologetic in my position that I am pro-life. And I understand there are good people on both sides of the abortion debate. In fact, good people in my own family have differing views on abortion, and when it should be allowed. Do I respect people's opinions on this. Now, I would counsel to choose life. I would also like to see a culture of life in this country. But I would also like to take it one step further. Not just saying I am pro-life and I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country, but I want them, those women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal, for them to be supported, and adoptions made easier.
Gatemouth: Easier adoptions? How exactly would you do that? Perhaps, less stringent screening of criminal backgrounds? Or, does it mean you would allow LGTB people to adopt in states where that’s now prohibited? Do you really just mean that by outlawing abortions, you'd be eliminating the shortage of unwanted babies?
Domestic Partner: But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?
Palin: Um, if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support.
Gatemouth: She didn’t ask, but let me follow up. No one should end up in jail for having an abortion, but can you tell me if anyone should end up in jail for performing abortions? Would you just incarcerate the doctor, or would the person who drove her have accomplice liability? And, what penalties do you envision?
Domestic Partner: But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?
Palin: I'm saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in.
Gatemouth: She asked you a question, girlfriend; why don’t you answer it? We all appreciate that you live by your principles and walk the walk; the question is whether you expect everyone else to live by your principles and walk your walk? I mean, what you would do personally is really none of our business, and what we do personally is really none of your business. We want to know what you would make us do personally.
Domestic Partner: Sarah, some people prefer rugelach to bobka, and some have credited the morning-after pill for decreasing the number of abortions. How do you feel about the morning-after pill?
Palin: Well, I am all for contraception. And I am all for preventative measures that are legal and save, and should be taken, but...again, I am one to believe that life starts at the moment of conception. And I would like to see …
Dybbuk (age five): Daddy, she’s evading the question again.
Domestic Partner: And so you don't believe in the morning-after pill?
Gatemouth: DP, we don’t care what she believes, she believes that evolution is just a theory, but witches are real. We care what she would do
Palin: ... I would like to see fewer and fewer abortions in this world. And again, I haven't spoken with anyone who disagrees with my position on that.
Domestic Partner: I'm sorry, I just want to ask you again. Do you not support or do you condone or condemn the morning-after pill.
Gatemouth: Don’t apologize DP, she’s the one being rude.
Palin: Personally, and this isn't McCain-Palin policy …
Domestic Partner: No, that's OK, I'm just asking you.
Palin: But personally, I would not choose to participate in that kind of contraception
Gatemouth: Bitch, we’re really not curious who you fuck or how you fuck ’em. Oh, all right, we are curious, but don’t feel obligated to answer. Just tell us, would you outlaw the morning-after pill or not?
Domestic Partner: And please, take some of the honey cake home to Todd and the kids.
(All Sarah dialogue is guaranteed verbatim and are actual responses to questions asked herein; apologies to Katie Couric; other than a moose, two polar bears and a cute little baby seal, no animals were harmed)
Betcha By Golly Wow (AKA The Annoy Hilton)
IFILL: Would you like to have an opportunity to answer that before we move on?
PALIN: I'm still on the tax thing because I want to correct you on that again. And I want to let you know what I did as a mayor and as a governor. And I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also.
They say a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind moose, but watching Future Vice President Dipstick's drag queen pantomime of the GOP version of populism last night made me wonder if the wrong Republican had been the POW.
Let’s face it, not even the North Vietnamese could conceive of a torture sufficiently barbarous to get Sarah Palin to answer a question.
Who is the Real John McCain?
“Even at this late hour in the campaign, there are essential things we don't know about Senator Obama or the record that he brings to this campaign…
…My opponent has invited serious questioning by announcing a few weeks ago that he would quote -- "take off the gloves." Since then, whenever I have questioned his policies or his record, he has called me a liar.
Rather than answer his critics, Senator Obama will try to distract you from noticing that he never answers the serious and legitimate questions he has been asked. But let me reply in the plainest terms I know. I don't need lessons about telling the truth to American people. And were I ever to need any improvement in that regard, I probably wouldn't seek advice from a Chicago politician.
My opponent's touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned. For a guy who's already authored two memoirs, he's not exactly an open book. It's as if somehow the usual rules don't apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that. Whatever the question, whatever the issue, there's always a back story with Senator Obama. All people want to know is: What has this man ever actually accomplished in government? What does he plan for America? In short: Who is the real Barack Obama? But ask such questions and all you get in response is another barrage of angry insults…
...I have made every single donor to my campaign publicly available, while Senator Obama has taken in over 200 million dollars from undisclosed sources. We have already seen the potential for fraud because of his refusal to disclose his donors. His campaign had to return $33,000 in illegal foreign funds from Palestinian donors, and this weekend, we found out about another $28,000 in illegal donations. Why has Senator Obama refused to disclose the people who are funding his campaign? Again, the American people deserve answers.” ---John McCain
"Our opponent though is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country. This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America. We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism." --Sarah Palin
"It's kind of telling regarding someone's judgment that they would working with, associated with a domestic terrorist who had campaigned to bomb the United States Senate and our Pentagon and this is an unrepentant domestic terrorist. That's the scary part about it!" --Sarah Palin
“I haven't got eleven kids
I weren't born in Baghdad
I'm not half-Chinese either
And I didn't kill my dad[chorus]
If you hear more rumors
You can just forget them too
Fools start the rumors
None of them are true”---“It ‘s Not True” by the Who
“Well, I don’t want him to be president, either. I wouldn’t be running if I did. But, you don’t have to be scared to have him be President of the United States.” --John McCain
No Ma'am. He's a decent family man and citizen whom I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that's what this campaign is all about." --John McCain
I’m mad at John McCain at so many levels, not least of which for screwing up my column in progress by throwing his latest change-up. It was probably my last opportunity to use this joke:
Q: Why has Obama been looking so skinny lately?
A: He’s been fasting for Ramadan.
Anyway, I’m wondering if it’s too late to offer McCain absolution. It’s clear that McCain’s spontaneous eruptions of decency at yesterday’s Nuremberg rallies (a reference to the crowds, not the candidate) were genuine, since McCain is too poor a performer to have faked the utter revulsion which showed upon his face and in his voice. This seemed too real to be just another desperate “Hail Mary Pass”.
But is that enough?
I do not blame McCain for creating the pure and naked hatred shown by those crowds and echoed elsewhere. I think it was there all the time, like some inert compound just waiting for the catalyst which would unleash it. Perhaps if that catalyst did not come from the McCain campaign it would have been emerged nonetheless.
And I certainly don’t blame Governor Palin, who clearly does not know any better. But Sarah Palin couldn’t ad lib a fart after a Hungarian banquet, and her talking points came directly from paid agents of Mr. McCain, who does know better, and therefore must be held accountable.
More importantly, outbursts of fundamental decency are something that John McCain has successfully managed to suppress through most of this campaign. We hear a lot about such moments when Senator McCain, or some of his more moderate supporters, talk about the Senator’s past, but we rarely have seen any examples since this campaign began. Mostly, we’ve seen examples of such decency repudiated. Not only has McCain dis-endorsed his own immigration reform legislation, but he’s lately based his entire campaign on the xenophobia he once fought with some measure of courage.
The fact that the moments of outrage looked so spontaneous is therefore not encouraging. While they may indicate what McCain feels in his soul, such moments of unrehearsed anger and slippery tongue are generally treated by campaigns as gaffes. The politician went off-message, without intent, so it doesn’t really count.
In the next few days and weeks, we will see whether McCain’s reconnection with his inner decency is really a turn for the better or an anomalous isolated incident.
Although my fundamental pessimism will prevent me from believing Barack Obama is going to win this race until the Electoral College actually casts its votes and Dick Cheney counts them, I’d like to believe that John McCain has decided enough is enough, and that if he’s going to lose an election, that is all he’s going to lose and he’d like to keep his honor, or at least as much of it as he’s already not squandered.
I’m on record as believing that John McCain was the best this year’s field of Republicans had to offer. While the prospect of a McCain victory is disturbing, given the Supreme Court’s current line-up, I began this campaign believing that, on a day to day basis, McCain in the White House would still be an improvement over a Bush administration.
Though too hawkish and adventurous on matters of war and peace, McCain would probably never fight a war on the cheap. While he certainly would allow defense contractors to make a good profit and probably a good bit more, one doubts he would countenance the piggish and unalloyed profiteering and privatization of military functions that have become the hallmark of George Dubya Bush. McCain’s record indicates an intolerance for genocide and a willingness to stand up to his own party on that matter. Moreover, McCain has never shown Bush’s smarmy disdain for “nation building”. Even with McCain’s recent disturbing flip-flops, it seems unlikely he would regard torture as just another tool in our arsenal of democracy. So, better than Bush.
On domestic issues, McCain has few fixed beliefs, beyond the idea that “Bi-partisanship is peachy”, and for this campaign had basically remade himself to embrace a far right agenda, but like any good soldier, a victorious McCain seemed likely to take a look at the facts on the ground, and, at least in his first two years, understand that any accomplishments meant working cooperatively with Congressional Democrats. So again, better than Bush again.
But, as the campaign proceeded, McCain gave us Sarah Palin and his disgraceful and disturbing performance during the negotiations over the Bush Bailout. Not to mention the not-so-covert stoking the fires of xenophobia to brand his opponent as something strange and un-American. Over time, it no longer seemed certain that McCain was in any way an improvement over Bush. Moreover, McCain’s erratic behavior kept intensifying as the election got closer.
Is this outbreak of decency just more of the same?
Even in the age of google, our national memory is a short one. As such, I think McCain can redeem his reputation in the next few weeks, possibly even enough to emerge victorious.
But, despite that seemingly small and quite unpleasant possibility, I welcome the New/Old McCain.
Take off your jacket and stay awhile.
A politically ambitious young man meets a well-connected (son of the former chair of the local electric company, with a wife who worked at a local white shoe law firm) local activist who lived in his neighborhood at a meeting about education.
Like any smart candidate, the pol wannabe follows up. Both men become heavily involved in an education project sponsored by a foundation headed by a former Reagan administration ambassador.
Later in the year, when the young man runs for office, the activist holds a small coffee for the young candidate at his home. The young candidate wins. Two years later, the City where both lived names the activist “Man of the Year.” Still later, the two men both serve on the Board of a local anti-poverty group and attend about a dozen meetings together over the years. During this time, the activist gives the pol a check for $200, which, given his resources, seems rather stingy. Even after the pol leaves the board, the two men find themselves appearing together in panel discussions at least twice, and say hello to each other when they run into each other.
In politics, one would not regard two such men as being asshole buddies. Most local State Senators, but not all, would personally return a call from such a guy the day they received it, unless it were a busy day. Most US Senators might put a junior aide on the matter, if they bothered at all.
Virtually everything one needs to know about the despicable nature of Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn appears in two Michael Kinsley articles (one linked and the other, “Dohrn Again”, appearing in Kinsley’s book “Curse of the Giant Muffins”).
At a time when the country’s youth was engaging in an nearly unprecedented outbreak of idealism and activism, Ayers and Dohrn did their best to channel such noble impulses into senseless violence. And by “senseless violence” I mean that it was unhinged even from a Malcolm X like rationale of “by any means necessary.” So unhinged, in fact, that it might meet the ancient definition of pornography as being something “utterly without redeeming social importance”. I myself wouldn’t use the word pornographic, despite the masturbatory element of the self indulgence involved; rather, I’d use the word obscene.
My favorite Ayers quote from the time concerns his expression of the need to “smash ideas…and combat liberalism in ourselves.”
With such rhetoric, perhaps Ayers would now be qualified to seek employment with the McCain campaign.
In his two articles, Kinsley documents not only the proud couple’s lack of regret (“They remain spectacularly unrepentant, self-indulgent, unreflective--still bloated with a sense of entitlement, still smug with certainty“), but also the Chicago’s establishment’s utter lack of concern with it (“Ayers the elder sat on every Establishment board in town--Northwestern, the Tribune Co., the Chicago Symphony. Ayers the younger and his wife were welcomed back into the fold…They set off bombs and talked about killing their parents, and the Chicago establishment didn't even care. The important thing is that he was Tom Ayers' boy.”)
In 1995, it was probably the rare campaign for State Senate that did web searches to check the bona fides of couples who wanted to sponsor a house party (even with the advent of Google, it might even be a rarity in 2008), but why the hell would Barack Obama (who was about eight years old and living in the tropics when the Dynamite Duo were in their heyday) even bother screening Billy Ayers, when Walter Annenberg and Richard Daley's(?!?) son had already done the job.
John McCain has said “whatever the question, whatever the issue, there's always a back story with Senator Obama,” and indeed, like John McCain’s friendship with Charles Keating, Barack Obama’s past life is not without some associations which require a more detailed explanation. However, it should be clear to anyone with a modicum of sense, that the “relationship” with Ayers and Dohrn is not one of them.
The Return of The Welfare Queen (revised)
As public policy, “Welfare Reform” has been a mixed bag, although it would surely be less so if the Democratic Congress elected in 1992 had not declared the nuanced and moderate proposals Bill Clinton had put forth in his first Presidential campaign as DOA. I am among those who believe that the Gingrich revolution of 1994, and its Contract on America, might have been forestalled, and some of the more draconian aspects of “ending welfare as we knew it” could have been avoided, if Democrats had endeavored to follow through on the effort to make welfare a “second chance” instead of a “way of life,” rather than leaving that effort to the Party which wanted it to be neither.
Perhaps the most salutary effect of “Welfare Reform” has been its impact in diminishing the politically-motivated bashing of the impoverished as a means of ginning up voter resentment. Prior to that time, Republicans could have a field day calling up the spectre of “Welfare Queens” buying filet mignon and champaign with food stamps before driving away in their Cadillacs (Of course, they were no more insinuating a subliminal message about race than I am insinuating a subliminal message about subliminal messages about race).
Sadly, even that small consolation has now come to an inglorious end. In the last few weeks of the campaign, as the economy has gone south, desperate Republicans have dredged up and dressed up that old reliable strawgirl “Welfare Queen” in new clothes to take her out for one last spin. The McCain campaign and the Right Wing Noise Machine’s blame the victim strategy has recently cast the underclass and working poor as the cause precedent for both our very real economic recession and the virtually non-existent problem of “voter fraud.”
Victim bashing is not a new phenomena, but blaming the poor schlub who's lost his home to foreclosure not only for his own problems, but for yours as well, is not merely cruel, it's absurd. It's repugnant enough to say Jodie Foster brought it upon herself by teasing the guys in the poolhall, but please don't say she's responsible for Bristol getting pregnant, especially when you're the one who's been riding bareback. Yet that is essentially what the Republicans have been doing.
In the new Republican politics, the blame for the meltdown of our markets has been laid entirely at efforts to help poor and working people, or things that have that flavor. “Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and WAMU? Never heard of ‘em. Why, it’s simple friends, the entire crisis in confidence bringing down our economy has its roots in Fanny Mae, Freddie Mac and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 (CRA).”
Let’s take the only leg of this wobbly chair of an argument that is solely concerned with helping poor and working people. CRA, a law which applies only to depository banks regulated by the Fed, does require that such institutions make efforts to expand homeownership to working people, but has no requirement that such banks check their common sense at the door. And, more to the point, the major culprits in the orgy of greed leading to our economic collapse have not been the heavily regulated depository banks, but those like Bear Stearns and Lehman, which operate outside such sunshine. And in fact, before the orgy commenced in earnest, many efforts to extend homeownership to the working poor, facilitated by CRA, had spectacularly successful repayment records.
But let’s not make unregulated banking institutions the total scapegoat here, when there is plenty of unregulated blame to go around. Is insurance too subject to regulation for one’s convenience when there’s a quick buck (or a billion) to be made? Why not call it a “credit default swap” instead and elude those pesky regulations?
As to our friends Fanny and Freddy, they weren’t exactly eunuchs at the orgy, but their role was hardly central; they didn‘t make subprime loans, but they did buy subprime loans made by others. In the riot which took place, they didn’t throw the brick through the window, but like many others not necessarily disposed to criminal activity they weren’t above entering the store and taking a television and a box of diapers.
But blaming this crisis on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the CRA is like blaming the Federal Budget deficit on earmarks. What idiot would do something like that? Part of the problem? Of course, but eliminate it from the mix and it won’t make much of a difference. One might as well blame the spread of AIDS on KY Jelly.
In point of fact, the effort to shift the focus to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the CRA is nothing but an attempt to obscure who’s to blame for the lion’s share for the mess we face, a mess stemming largely from too little regulation and too much greed.
Virtually the same J’accuse Strategy underlies the Republican effort to concoct a voter fraud scandal. Last week, the New York Post ran an op-ed on the matter authored by none other than Former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a man once caught trying to throw out thousands of valid voter registrations because they were taken on the wrong paper stock, and thus a bonafide expert on the topic of illegal and unethical ways to manipulate a vote count. Republican efforts to throw roadblocks in the way of efforts to increase voter participation by students, the poor and minorities, by any means possible, have been a hallmark of their campaigns at least since the early 1980s.
Mr. Blackwell was one of the key players in such efforts in 2004, but surely not the only one. In fact, perhaps the leading Bush administration scandal (a great honor, given the competition) stems from the battle to scare off efforts at increasing voter participation. As has been documented, the firing of US Attorneys across the country stems in great part from the administration’s obsession with facilitating prosecutions for election fraud, even if, as was nearly always the case, actual efforts to cast illegal votes had never taken place.
The “Welfare Queen” Republicans seek to demonize here is an organization called ACORN, largely involved in empowerment efforts among the working poor and underclass.
I think I can speak with some credibility here, as my writings make clear that I have a long history as a critic of both ACORN and the NY Working Families Party (WFP) in which ACORN plays a central role. I have, in the past, accused ACORN, the WFP, and Bertha Lewis, a leader in both groups, of, among other things, circumventing campaign finance laws, taking legal bribes from developers to support projects of perhaps questionable merit, trying to unduly influence elected officials, and being involved in sleazy campaign tactics. One of these articles was written in the last 30 days. It would be hard to brand me as an apologist for ACORN or anything affiliated with it. If I thought there was credible evidence that ACORN was involved in helping fraudulent votes be cast, I would surely have written about it.
What has been documented about ACORN is that their efforts have resulted in a lot of voter registration forms of dubious quality. This is unsurprising. ACORN pays people working in its voter registration drives $8 an hour. This sort of work attracts two types of people: idealistic young kinds and those who can find no other work. While ACORN does not pay by the form gathered, it is quite clear that those who do not regularly make their quotas are not allowed to continue in their employment. Since the very nature of door to door voter registration efforts involves people becoming separate from supervision, there is both motive and opportunity for workers to pad their numbers. It is unsurprising that some do.
The hilarious nature of some of the bogus registrations which have been uncovered goes a long way to disproving conspiracy theories. If one were making an effort to actually vote non-existent registrants, one would probably not give them the names of the Dallas Cowboys’ front four.
The problem is exacerbated by some of the laws enacted to prevent dubious practices. Because there is an awful temptation not to file forms filled out by potential voters who may be unsympathetic to one’s agenda (say, for example, those forms where a voter has chosen to enroll as a Republican), most states have laws which require submission of every form a group collects, and people have actually been prosecuted for not submitting such forms.
Most importantly, nationwide non-partisan studies, and the vigorous efforts of US Attorneys throughout the country, have uncovered almost no incidents where such bogus registrations have actually led to illegal votes being cast.
As such, I can safely report that this year the “Welfare Queen” is feasting not upon on Filet Mignon but rather Red Herrings.
Two Schmuels for Sister Sarah (now mitt a bisseleh correction)
The year was 2000; I was on line at JFK, about to check my baggage for a flight to Florida, answering questions from a young woman with a clipboard.
“Is this trip for business or for pleasure?”, she asked. I felt like Jack Benny asked to choose between his money or his life. A minute went by and then another. She tapped her pencil as folks behind me began to grumble.
“Neither”, I finally responded, “I’m going to visit my parents.”
This less than happy memory came back to me like acid reflux as I pondered the strategy behind “The Great Schlep”, an effort by young Jewish Obama supporters to impact the votes of their grandparents by trekking down to Florida.
Ever the dedicated partisan, the Dybbuk, my five year old ideologue, volunteered to travel not only to speak at panel discussions in the retirement communities of Boynton Beach, but also to hand out literature at Miami’s Parrot and Monkey Jungles.
Cooler heads prevailed and it was decided that phoning it in would be more cost effective.
Dybbuk bore down intently on his grandfather, who he’d renamed after the words his attentions to his zayde always prompted.
“Grandpa Ay-yi-yi”, he argued, “Obama wants to help little children, but McCain wants to potch their tuchises.” As usual, Dybbuk displayed an intuitive understanding of the truth.
My father was touched, I’m sure, almost certainly tearing up, as he did at every life cycle event, but this time probably mostly as he pondered the thought of another of his descendants wasting their best earning years pursuing a life in politics. He asked Dybbuk to give his daddy the phone.
“That son of yours,” he paused, stifling another tear, “ay-yi-yi”. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there, as he then proceeded to inform me that his nachis notwithstanding, there were some times when a potch in the tuchis was the best possible way to help a child.
I hung up and realized it was time for my annual piece on the Jewish vote; several weeks later, and lacking anything new to say, it still lied incomplete, and was now, thanks to intervening events, a good deal less relevant than when I began it.
Back in 2006, I’d already riffed about all the implications of the Jewish vote, not only in the fat years, but also in the far leaner ones this election seemed to portend (the reasons all foreshadowed therein). This year, I’d tackled the matter of whether Obama was good for Israel (and related issues), not once, but at least twice. I even went to great lengths trying to satisfactorily explain the seemingly unexplainable matter of the Rev. Wrong (a topic of such revulsion to many Jews that Obama might actually prefer that they think him a Muslim, rather than a member of that church).
Go. Read them. Now. Gey gesinteh heit. When you’re done, we can get a bobka and chat over a glass of tea. Covering this ground again seems unavoidable, so like Paul McCartney writing Silly Love Songs, here I go again.
It is a truism that politicians are like the French, always trying to re-fight the last war, but this year, the battle for the so-called “Jewish Vote” is strictly high-tech, fought mostly through anonymous email (usually containing rumors originated by a Jew-hater that Obama is a Manchurian Candidate by way of Indonesia) and videos on YouTube.
Moreover, it is a battle underlain by an understanding that, except for propaganda purposes, the overall results among this tiny sector of the population matters not one bit.
According to Ira M. Sheskin and Arnold Dashefsky in their study, “Jewish Population of the United States, 2006,” Jews account for 2.2% of the overall US population. In only two states and the District of Columbia do they account for over 5%. They manage to break the 2% mark in eight more states, and in eight others manage to crack 1%.
Were it not for America’s convoluted way of electing our President, Jews would not matter as a national voting bloc (as opposed to as a source for raising money). But, Presidential Electors are elected by states, and Presidential campaigns generally allocate funds only to where there’s a real contest. According to today’s map in “Real Clear Politics,” the number of states classified as either “too close to call” or “leaning” to either party is 13. And, for all intents and purposes, nothing else matters.
Two of the states “too close to call” are Nevada (where Jews are 2.9% of the population) and Florida (3.7%). Since Jews are known to vote in high number, it is possible that their actual portion of the votes cast in those states could be double those numbers. In five other battleground states (Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, Virginia and Ohio), Jews account for over one percent of the population, and could also play a crucial role.
To that, I’ll add one more, Minnesota (0.9%), headed for its third US Senate race involving two Jewish candidates competing for a seat held by Semites of both parties since the late 70s; one must assume that the Franken/Coleman contest has to elevate turnout among The Chosen in the Twin Cities suburb known locally as St. Jewish Park.
So, the recent poll conducted by the American Jewish Committee showing Barack Obama beating John McCain among Jewish voters by 57% to 30% (and losing 78% to 13% among the Orthodox) is of little significance, except for its demonstration of Obama’s softness in a community that’s not seen a Democratic Presidential performance that low since Jimmy Carter in 1980.
By contrast, in the 2006 races for the US House of Representatives, the percentage of Jews casting votes for the Democrats was somewhere between 74% (if you believe the Republicans) and 87% (if you believe the Democrats). Obviously, if Al Gore, who got around 80% of the Jewish vote, couldn’t carry Florida (yeah, I know, but for the sake of argument let‘s ignore the truth), it seemed doubtful that Obama could do so with 57%, unless you believe he’s going to make it up among working-class crackers living in the swamps just south of Alabama.
However, the numbers should be taken with more than a few grains of salt, because the poll was taken from September 8th through 21st , ending just as the American economy headed towards Antarctica and John McCain patriotically suspended his campaign for 15 minutes. One suspects that the overall Jewish vote for Obama has risen exponentially since that time.
But, for reasons I’ve outlined, very few folks beyond the editorial board of “The Forward” care about the overall Jewish vote. The efforts in earnest to actually influence the destination of ballots cast by Jews is probably confined to the eight states I’ve mentioned (supplemented by an aggressive effort to generate “Dear Neighbor” letters to members of Synagogues in North Carolina, West Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District).
Beyond that, few Jews will really see the parties' efforts to attract Jewish voters in earnest. Yes, some of efforts were initially undertaken in places like Michigan before the McCain campaign gave up on them and pulled up stakes, and some attention has been paid to using the Presidential race as a loss-leader in a few closely contested Senate and Congressional races where Jewish votes might have an impact (including the other battle of the Jews taking place in the Jersey Senate race), but aside from nationwide advertising in Jewish newspapers by the Republican Jewish Coalition, as a means of party building and fundraising, the Jewish campaign elsewhere is probably mostly a figment of the imagination.
In other words, the parties have given up on attracting Jewish votes, except where they can make a difference. Dybbuk has made several impassioned pleas to his grandfather in Boynton, but has yet to drop one dime to speak with his grandmother in Brooklyn.
Such targeting can result in significant dichotomies (not to mention smaller birthdays presents). In 2004, there was virtually no effort made by Republicans to attract black voters to George W. Bush, and as a result he got virtually none. The one exception was in Ohio, where helped by the presence on the ballot of an anti-gay marriage initiative, Republicans did undertake such efforts, and Bush managed an eye-popping 25%, which alone may have deprived John Kerry of the White House.
[CORRECTION: The ever watchful Jerry Skurnik says that according to David Bostis: "Probably the key state where Kerry’s black support ran behind Gore’s was Ohio. In 2000, Bush received only 9 percent of the state’s black votes; in 2004, Bush received 16 percent of them. If that seven-point shift had not occurred, between 40,000 and 45,000 votes for Bush cast by African Americans would have gone to Kerry, narrowing Bush’ margin of victory in Ohio by 80,000 to 90,000 votes; Bush won the state by approximately 113,000. If that shift had not occurred, Kerry might have re-thought his ultimate decision not to contest the results in Ohio, a state where more than 150,000 provisional ballots were cast."
So the numbers may be different, but the essential point remains: targeting a particular constituency in one, two or a few swing states, but not elsewhere, can create a significant divergence in those states, and those states alone, from that constituency's national performance, but it is the anomaly, and the anomaly alone, that is of any significance]
So, while confident that Obama will do quite respectably among most non-Orthodox Jewish voters, I am far less sanguine in places like Florida, where targeted Republican efforts have been underway for a long time, and where I’d previously documented evidence provided by local pols of Obama’s resulting weakness. Efforts to fight back have included flying Ed Koch to Miami (but did they have to bring him back?) and the previously mentioned “Great Schlep”, complete with this adorable video by comedian Sarah Silverman, whose sense of humor might best be explained as “Gatemouth with breasts” (and slightly more bathroom references). Republicans then responded with their own video from alleged “comedian” Jackie Mason, whose “Head Mocky In Charge” schtick brings to mind Silverman’s diss of a different elderly comic, “a nursing home in Florida just called. The last person who thinks you're funny just died”.
I am at a disadvantage in being objective here, because I’m still hiding the issue of Heeb Magazine where Silverman appears on the cover wearing nothing but a sheet with a hole in it in my sock drawer (have to keep Domestic Partner from getting jealous). As to Mason, when I heard he and Raoul Felder had written a book called "Schmucks," I assumed it was autobiographical. In this sorry excuse for literature, Mason viciously attacks Reform Jews (many of whom are included in his political persuasion target‘s catchment area) for crimes of assimilation having nothing to do with their doctrines, which is especially ironic given that Mason regularly commits the assimilative crime of being the official Jewish shill for the Christian Right.
In addition, Mason is a stone bigot, having once called David Dinkins “a fancy schvartze with a moustache.” Mason’s defenders, many of whom, if they could find an illegal Pole to do their cleaning, wouldn’t let a black person into their own homes, stated that, because “schvartze” literally translates as “black” it wasn‘t meant as a pejorative. So, using the Yiddish word for Jew, I will merely note, with the same level of sincerity and credibility, that Mason is a low class Yid with thick lips.
I suspect that there are more effective spokesmen for McCain among swing-state Jews; for instance, just this week, Obama’s “friend” Jesse Jackson, last seen offering to kosherize Barack by performing a circumcision on him slightly south of the usual place, demonstrated he’s no longer jealous of losing his status as President of Black America” to someone likely to be elected President of all America, by testifying to a writer from the American paper least friendly to Obama, that though "Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades" remain strong, they'll lose a great deal of their clout when Obama enters the White House. As a pro-McCain speaker among the Jews, Jackson has the added virtue over Mason of making no distinctions between the various Jewish denominations; whether it be Hymie or Yankie or Schmuley, Jesse loves us all the same.
Also helpful among the Jew is old Screwy Lewie Farrakhan, who recently crawled out from his gutter to helpfully compare Obama, for whom he’d previously shown something resembling mild disdain, with the Messiah, probably out of fear that his Hyde Park neighbor was otherwise in danger of getting less than 98% of the votes cast by Islamic African-Americans.
We can be sure that, even if Jackson and Farrakhan are merely passing stories in New York, the Republican Jewish Coalition and its allies are ensuring that Jews in Tamarac and Shaker Heights will hear them again and again until their kopfs runneth over.
Luckily, we have Sarah. Despite unrelenting efforts at persuasion from Chicago’s seamier side, last week my parents told me that watching Sarah again and again had finally persuaded them to vote for Obama.
Not Silverman. Palin.
When it come to old Jews, better the devil they know. My parents know from fancy schvartzes. Gun-toting, moose-eating, Bible-toting, witch-exorcising, sled-racing, book-burning, shooting furry creatures from a helicopter trailer trash, they don’t know from, and frankly, the thought of such folks scares the bejesus out of them.
Funny Face (AKA Pretty Woman)
MCCAIN: Well, in our nation's capital and New York City. I've seen it. I've lived there. I know the town. I know-- I know what a lot of these elitists are. The ones that she never went to a cocktail party with in Georgetown. I'll be very frank with you. Who think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves
“The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August. According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.…September payments were also made to Barney’s New York ($789.72) and Bloomingdale’s New York ($5,102.71).---Jeanne Cummings on Politico
When it come to voting at the ballot box, the Republican ticket has little use for New York or New Yorkers (and vice versa). But, sometimes people vote with their checkbooks or their feet, and on those measures the Republican Party has done just fine by New York City merchants, with large purchases for Sarah Palin’s wardrobe (including shoes for those feet) courtesy of the RNC. While the purchases on Fifth Avenue have yet to make up for the multi-millions Republican policies have cost us in lost wealth on Wall Street, it is comforting to know that while robbing us blind they are still kind enough to drop a few coins in our tin cup.
The whole effort to put lipstick on this pig by dressing it in a Chanel gown lacks cognizance of the fact that you can take the girl out of Wasilla, but not Wasilla out of the girl; it reeks of Henry Higgins without the speech lessons. In the end though, Sarah Palin may become Pret a Porter, but no matter how many times she visits NYC, she’ll always remain a Not Ready For Prime Time Player. Satire may be what closes on a Saturday Night, but Sarah Palin will hopefully close on a not too distant Tuesday.
In this case though, Sachs Fifth Avenue is actually a two way street, with New York not only grabbing the gelt, but supplying the idea, for the whole incident is a true product of a New York State of Mind.
Back in the waning days of the Pataki administration, the scandal of State Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s (a Democrat) using his payroll to give his ailing wife a fulltime $75,000 a year Chauffer/Personal Assistant led former NYC Councilman Ken (Bklynpol???) Fisher to compare Hevesi’s crime against the penal code to the NYS Republican’ State Committee’s allocating $50,000 a year of its funds to provide our Republican First Lady, Libby Pataki, with a Personal Assistant/Maid:
“Govenor Pataki, I am sure, can't help but feel compassion for Alan Hevesi. After all, if Hevesi had only followed the Pataki model and arranged to put Mrs. Hevesi's driver on the state party payroll...here's the URL for the Times story in which the Governor conceded that the Republican Party was paying $50,000 for his wife's personal assistant.
Note also that once again, a woman getting paid less than a man for similar assignments.”
Annoyed, I responded thusly:
“A Chief Fiscal Officer violating his fiduciary obligation (and a public trust) for the purposes of personal enrichment (or at least offsetting a potential threat to his fiscal health), to the detriment of those who funds are being absconded with, is quite different from the titular head of a private political organization misusing that organization's funds with the express permission of those who are legally charged with determining that organization's priorities. Both are unseemly, but the former is much, much more.
Former Councilman Ken…is a smart lawyer who clearly grasped this distinction before he chose to ignore it. His pithy post shows both his level of cleverness, and his clear belief that other people are not similarly equipped.”
This in turn provoked a response from Cranky Independent (Larry Littlefield???):
“I dunno Gate. Few people make campaign contributions for nothing. We know that Mrs. Hevesi's aide cost us the cost of one aide. What did Mrs. Pataki's aide cost us?
Of course, the same may be said of Hevesi's contributors.”
To which I replied:
“Cranky: Contributions to the Republican State Committee buy "access" no matter what the money is spent on. That evil remains the same regardless. And since most of the donors got what they bought, they were not cheated. But my taxes were not spent on what I thought I was buying, so I was robbed.
That Pataki misused these ill-gotten funds does not really concern me; in fact, to the extent the funds were wasted, they were not used to elect more Republicans. Therefore, I am very pleased. Let's get the woman a few more servants!”
I feel much the same way about Palin; better the money be spent on clothes than on "Get Out The Vote" operations (or do I mean "Suppress The Vote" operations?). Please guys, get the woman a few more threads!
The only real difference in between Pataki and Palin is that some of those who contributed to the RNC gave them money because they sincerely believed it would be used to advance a principled conservative agenda, while no sane conservative (perhaps an oxymoron) could possibly have given to the NYS Republican Party with the same expectations.
Nonetheless, I doubt one could find more than a half a dozen raving Neanderthals who gave money to the RNC because they thought it was committed to repealing the laws of evolution who are now angry that the Republicans instead used it to play Queer Eye to their heroine, Former Future Vice President Dipstick.
This may or may not be a felony violation of McCain (LOL!)-Feingold, but if this was a crime, please tell me, who was the victim?
The McCain-Todd Ticket
The responses to my unapologetically pro-Obama pieces on this election have come in two varieties; The first is where some Cro-Magnon, usually a pro-life lunatic or a Republican operative, vents their spleen:
“So let me get this.. about people of color....yes, because if this election has taught us nothing else it's that any comment made, no matter how true, must be motivated by racial hatred unless it equates to fawning over a candidate. Truly pathetic.”
Actually, that’s not what I’m saying. I don’t think the motive is racism, I think the motive is victory; I think racism is merely one of many tools in the Republican hardware store, and, as I said earlier today, probably not the most important one, because there’s no need for Republicans to remind voters that Obama is black. In fact, most times, the victims of straw men like the ever popular welfare queen are white candidates receiving a Republican makeover to render them into pigments of the voters’ imaginations.
The second type of hostile response is when some stupid leftist (is that redundant) whines that one of my insincere token efforts to convey an impression of fairness and balance, the better to ease the way for sticking the knife in, is actually some unhelpful deviation from the party line.
Yet, sometimes such deviations do seem tempting. More than once in the last couple of months, I’ve watched in mild disgust as Michael Bouldin reprinted a picture of some repulsive crap he found on the web published by some psychotic lunatic and declared we should hold each and every Republican responsible for it. Bouldin even demanded that some outraged Republican who protested such an assertion apologize for those nauseating expressions of hatred. Well, I don’t know about Michael, but I had nothing to do with the disgusting Sarah Palin effigy erected by an “artist” in West Hollywood, and therefore, I ain’t apologizing for it.
At some level, Bouldin is right. Not so much about the racist stuff, but about the atmosphere of hatred and fear generated by this year’s Republican campaign. The fires of lunacy are burning bright on the right because they’ve been stoked, and McCain’s campaign is the one which has stoked them.
It has gotten to the point where it now appears that the lunatics are running the Republican Asylum. If I had to pick one incident involving a nutcase which has become emblematic of this year’s entire Republican effort, it would be the Ashley Todd story.
For those who’ve forgotten, Ashley was the 20 year old woman from Texas who, while volunteering for the McCain campaign in Pittsburgh, claimed to have been mugged by a six foot four black man; further, she asserted in a police report that, when her assailant saw the McCain bumper sticker on her car, he concluded she was working in McCain’s campaign and flipped out, taking his knife and carving a “B” into her face.
Pictures of the victim immediately raised questions, as the “B” had apparently been carved by a dyslexic, backwards, and so lightly that it looked like lipstick which had been applied to a pig. The story kept unwinding under questioning by Police, and eventually Ms. Todd admitted that she had made the whole thing up. But by then, McCain’s local campaign’s press operation had aggressively ensured that it had become was a national story.
This had a familiar ring to it; like Sarah Palin and “Joe the Plumber,” the McCain campaign had failed to adequately vet Ms. Todd before deciding they were going to transform her into another national nightmare.
A visitor to Ms. Todd’s Facebook page would have found her favorite quote was "Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her cloths (sic) off, but its (sic) better if you do." Having seen Ms. Todd’s picture, I’m inclined to believe that this may have been wishful thinking on her part, a conclusion amplified by the fact that Ms. Todd’s police report included an interlude of psycho-sexual fantasy where her imaginary large black man copped a feel during the attack---like Janis Ian, she was “inventing lovers on the phone”, or in Ms. Todd’s case, her Twitter. In this way, Ms. Todd morphed the Willie Horton story into a 21st Century version of “My Secret Garden,” by means of Twitteral stimulation.
But for McCain’s campaign, the temptation to go with it without first doing a reality check, was just too strong because it was so “on-message.”
The Republican narrative has now devolved into an effort to create an imaginary and scary black man who is going to take away our money and hurt us, even if, in the process he does attempt to give us a thrill up our leg.
Barack Obama, a man whose domestic policy agenda is slightly to the right of that of Richard Nixon, is portrayed as being to the left of a socialist. The strongest evidence of such Marxist tendencies turned out to be an old analysis by Law Professor Obama of some Supreme Court jurisprudence, which would not have been uncomfortable emanating from the mouth of Robert Bork.
Obama is portrayed as trying to steal an election from a party whose own efforts have seemingly handed it to him on a silver platter.
Obama is portrayed as an associate of anti-Semites for having a cordial relationship with an Arab academic at the school where he once taught, whose views he claims not to share. This is notable for the fact that, since Obama taught at the conservative University of Chicago, virtually all of his contacts with his colleagues involve cordial relationships with those whose views he decidedly does not share. Moreover, the Arab academic unsurprisingly shares with Obama the trait of getting along with those he decidedly disagrees with, to the point where he maintains a cordial relationship with publisher Marty Peretz (a leading American Zionist not known to have particularly dovish tendencies), and received funding from the International Republican Institute, which required the personal approval of its Chair (as he was then), John McCain.
Obama is portrayed as palling around with terrorists on the basis of a minimal civic association with an educational policy expert of such academic reputation that a letter in the academic’s defense attracted the signatures of such non-leftist academics as Deborah Meier, who’s worked in partnership with the conservative Manhattan Institute.
[I note this in spite of finding the educational policy expert a moral imbecile, and believing that the letter written in his defense contains at least one indefensible distortion of history. It does not please me to note this, but to paraphrase the sparkling prose-poems of Professor Ayers, "Truth is a Motherfucker" (guess he's not a Professor of English). In fact, the letter's attractiveness to its signatories, in spite of its contents (couldn't they just have defended his academic record without equating his history as a violent radical with the noble efforts of those who made their protests without putting others in harm's way?) itself speaks volumes about the elevation of academic collegiality above academic honesty.]
As portrayed by McCain and his surrogates, Obama is the candidate of the parts of the country which are not “pro-America,” (Sarah Palin), of having “anti-American views” which require investigation (US Rep. Michelle Bachmann), and of being one the “liberals who hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.” (US Rep. Robin Hayes).
These slurs concern a man whose whole life almost embodies being an American who has worked and accomplished and achieved and believes in God.
I’m not sure each and every Republican owes Barack Obama an apology for what their party has done, but the Party itself owes an apology to Barack Obama and, more importantly, to each and every American for falsely and treasonously giving aid and comfort to our enemies by portraying Americans as imbecilic hicks susceptible to false and ignorant demagoguery.
The Son Also Rises
Sometime in January, we were driving Dybbuk, then just about to turn five, home from his Aunt Feygeleh’s when he blurted out, “What about Obama?”
Nonplussed, Domestic Partner and I reacted exactly as we had when my youngest brother’s daughter informed us she had just had her First Holy Communion---we fell silent, gave each other a quick glance, and simultaneously yelled “Congratulations!”
In this case, after the silence and the quick glance, we simultaneously said, “What about him?”
As I’d reported earlier, Dybbuk had been transformed by Feygeleh, who essentially acts as his third parent, into a raging, Hillary-hating Obamaniac.
Dybbuk had been a wiseass for as long as we could remember. One day during his second year, I found myself covered in regurgitated milk, I asked him whether he’d just spit on me, or if he’d actually thrown up. He answered, “I threw down.” Days later, I stopped him from pulling his mother’s hair and said “that hurts, how’d you like if I did that to you?” I gently gave his hair a yank. He responded by pulling it himself and laughing while repeating, “Daddy, ouch!” His latest forum for mischief was Hebrew school. The teacher had asked the class to improvise a play about the Sabbath, and Dybbuk asked why the topic had to be something Jewish.
Although there was no turning Dybbuk back before the nomination was settled, in the aftermath of his Obama endorsement, I immediately went to work on securing Dybbuk’s support for Clinton in the event she was the nominee.
“You see, we’re Democrats, and we’re all on the same team, and the other team is the Republicans, and right now we’re choosing our candidate, and we like both of them, but we can only chose one, but I promise you, if Obama is chosen, he will be our choice, and if Hillary wins, you’ll have to support her against the Republican.”
“But, I hate Hillary.”
As it does with many Democrats, it took exposure to a blood-red Republican to bring Dybbuk around to party unity. In this case, the Republican was Patrick, next-door neighbor to Feygeleh and alternate-weekend father to Dybbuk’s friend Erin, the results of Patrick being tricked out of his virginity at age 33 by a woman who had promised to marry him and reneged.
Patrick was nominally a Republican, but his family’s real affiliation was Phalangist, his father having served on the NYPD Red Squad. The prior summer Patrick had informed me that Dybbuk‘s day camp was founded by the Communist Party, which made me wonder about their market-rate prices.
In 2004, Patrick erected a religious shrine to Dubya in his front yard, complete with a top ten list of reasons to vote Republican, focused mostly on abortion and gay rights; offended more by his lack of political savvy than his reactionary views, I helpfully suggested that Patrick alter the sign to emphasize economic issues, as the average swing voter in Park Slope was a gay libertarian who works on Wall Street.
It is a measure of the state of the economy that this year, being anti-choice and homophobic are probably stronger selling point in Park Slope than supporting economic deregulation.
Dybbuk was wearing his Obama T-Shirt when he got into the argument with Patrick. “You and Erin are Republican, my family are Democrats, Feygie and I want Obama and my daddy wants Hillary.”
Like most wingnuts, the mention of a Clinton set Patrick off, “Obama is inexperienced, and Hillary is evil.”
Dybbuk’s anger was roused, he may have hated Hillary, but like Otter and Boomer, he was adamant that Patrick couldn’t do that to his pledges, only he could do that to his pledges; “That’s not true, my daddy met her and she’s nice person, but a crow stepped on the side of her face.”
Matter of factly, Dybbuk returned home to tell me that Hillary tried to kill Erin’s family. This assertion turned out to concern Hillary’s role in the Northern Irish Peace Accords, which probably helped save some of her family’s lives.
Dybbuk now hated something more than Hillary, and that was Republicans. Alarmed by this premature partisanship, I tried to explain to him that Republicans were not all bad people, they were just wrong. This was followed by a lecture on democracy and how great it was that we lived in a country where people were allowed to choose their own leaders. It was good we had Republicans, so we had a choice, and it was good we had so few, so we could beat them.
Dybbuk attempted to evolve a detente with Patrick, but was often stifled by having to deal with someone who had not reached his own level of emotional maturity. After the convention, I gave Dybbuk a state-shaped pin given to me by members of the Alaska delegation, which he passed on to Erin in the wake of the Palin nomination. “This is yours, it’s for Republicans, and I won’t wear it.”
But Patrick could not be bought off. Erin told Dybbuk that Obama wanted to take Patrick’s money away and give it to the poor. Dybbuk, who’d just been told I could not afford his shopping list of Maltese puppies, fish tanks, seahorses and retired Thomas trains, decided that he was poor, and despairing our shortage of what he called “Expensive Money,” became even more convinced of the necessity of Obama’s election so that he could acquire what he wanted for Chanukah, if not sooner. Told by Patrick that Obama liked Marx, Dybbuk decided that he did as well, and re-planned his Halloween to go out as Groucho.
As the election approached, obsession increased. “Daddy,” he asked, “Why does John McCain want to be President?”
“Because, he really believes he can do a better job.”
“But, he’s wrong.”
Later Dybbuk conveyed this conclusion to Patrick who told him that Obama's friends had tried to kill policemen.
"Oh yeah," screamed Dybbuk, turning red with fury, "If McCain wins I'm going to kill him!"
"No, no Dybbuk," said a horrified Faygeleh, "then Sarah Palin would be President."
After another lecture about democracy, the peaceful transition of power in a government based upon law, and the ability of the Secret Service to administer spankings with a hairbrush, a duly chastened Dybbuk jettisoned negative campaigning. Abandoning Thomas and prospective pets, Dybbuk put all his efforts into acquiring Obama memorabilia--buttons, t-shirts, action figures, jacks-in-the-box and chocolate brownies accumulated in piles around the house. The Obama action figure even acquired executive experience by taking over management of the Sodor Railway from Sir Topham Hatt.
Dybbuk even put in turnaround his plans for a film about a caterpillar named Aloysius, for which he had made me set up a pitch session with filmmaker Justin Sullivan (director of the Paul Newell documentary). It was more important that he split his time between trying to persuade his grandparents how to vote, and walking around in dark sunglasses and an Obama t-shirt showing people how cool his candidate was.
The Gatemouth/Domestic Partner clan was walking down Remsen having danced in the streets with two different congregations to celebrate Simchat Torah. Dybbuk, wearing an Obama button and a kippah. was in high spirits, having grabbed and downed part of a small cup of Slivovitz before spitting the balance in the direction of his father, ruining a Brooks Brothers tie Domestic Partner had purchased for him at the PS 321 flea market from the African Lady who was now claiming to be a 1/4 third cousin of Senator Obama.
“Shalom Aleichem” said the Cantor to Dybbuk, as she saw us depart.
“Bonjour mon ami,” he replied, “Spaciba; das vadanya.”
We were approaching the building which Domestic Partner referred to as the Bundestag. Not so many years ago, renovations had caused the cupola of Borough Hall to be sheathed in blue plastic resembling a condom, which caused some wags to make jokes about there being a schmuck inside.
Neither gentrification nor Markonizing had changed the dark night in Brownstone Brooklyn as much as the hype has reported, so once having crossed Cadman Plaza, our thoughts were not on the schmuck inside Borough Hall, but rather upon the schmuck outside it.
An apparently homeless man was walking across the plaza screaming. His hair was dirty, his clothes were tattered, his teeth were missing and he smelled bad. If he were not black, I would have thought it was Gary Tilzer. He lurched back and forth in a threatening manner, and I held back the Dybbuk from going any further.
“Fuck Obama”, the man shouted. “Don’t vote for the Democrats or the Republicans; there’s no difference between them; vote for Nader, or McKinney, or write in Kucinich!”
Dybbuk sighed in exasperation, “What an idiot.”