February 25, 2008

You Are All Morons

The Clinton campaign released this picture of Obama today. Not officially, of course, but the timing is suspect. It was floated out there along with a whole bunch of other nasty shit. By framing himself as a new kind of politician, Obama put Hillary Clinton into a box. Every time she goes negative, she confirms that she is part of the old guard. I would bet that their assumption is to make the next week as noxious as they can, in an attempt to disgust people and drive down the vote. However, I think that this ploy is like a mouse struggling to get out of a glue trap. If this is where the Clintons are at, they are fucked.

Check out the photo. It was taken in 2006 and is of Obama in traditional Sudanese dress. Realize that by circulating this photo, the Clintons think that you are all stupid enough to conculude that Obama is a terrorist. Really, these people think you all are fucking morons.

February 16, 2008

This Was the Week That Was - February 16, 2008

What a week, what a week! Plenty of entertainment in politics and even some consequences. Let’s start off with the week’s Democratic primaries and caucuses, otherwise known as the Obama. “The Obama what?” There is not a what, just the Obama. His campaign has been a study of consistency and a great example of timing. His message has been simple, inspirational, and positive. His offense doesn’t seem like one and when he attacks, it comes off as defensive. As a result, his tone is remarkably consistent. And, now that his message and tenor are established, he is adding policy to the inspiration, at least in his speeches. The policy has been there all along, in his books and on his web site, you just have to read it. Whether he wins or loses this contest, Obama’s campaign will be studied for years to come.

By contrast is Hillary Clinton’s “strategy,” which is as muddled as her presentation and her message. She’s been hard, she’s been soft. She is an outsider that is going to stir things up, she has been in Washington and politics all her life and has the experience to “get things done.” Bill Clinton is a big part of her past, Bill Clinton just happens to be her husband. Etc., etc. Some might accuse her of “flip flop,” but her problem isn’t changing positions on issues. Her one consistent identity is that of a woman ( and she should thank Science that genetics has fixed her gender, otherwise she’d muddle that up!). She’s become the Democrat’s version of Mitt Romney. Given that she came into the race with 100% backing of the Democratic establishment, more money than anyone imagined possible, and a fearful political machine, the nomination should be hers. That she’s squandered these advantages shows how shitty a campaigner she is (and, perhaps, how ineffective a president she would be).

While I am not going to bury Clinton, I’ll predict that you have seen the end of the Democratic Leadership Council-era Democratic Party. Even if Obama gets beat out of the nomination or gets the nomination and loses the general election, the party is his. He has brought too many people into it, inspired too many people who had given up, and has articulated a future, not only for the party but for the country. The DLC has delivered nothing new, nothing the voters want to hear, and if their standard barer was a man rather than a woman, Obama would be the Dems’ choice for November.

Likewise, the Republican Party that emerges from this race is going to be different. The two people remaining in the race are not party people. Huckabee might be a born again Christer and a social reactionary, but the free market crowd consider him to be a socialist. McCain is hated by many within his own party. He doesn’t buck to party pressure. While he has pandered to different conservative interest groups – he is a politician, ya know – his votes are his. That many Democrats could “live with” McCain as president, bugs the shit out of the Win at All Costs Repugs. But they are stuck with McCain as he is the only Republican out there that can win in November. And, with Obama bringing so many people into the voting booth, the Rove strategy of suppressing the vote and turning out the base is a loser. Consider this: McCain is a moderate, who is now being framed as a conservative. If people come to believe McCain is conservative, will the Republican Party be forced to shift to the center?

One thing that doesn’t help Republicans is the idiots they have in office. Did I just write “idiots”? Sorry, I meant “fucking idiots.” How else can you explain bozos like Indiana Congressman Dan Burton? I don’t know if you watched any of the Congressional Steroids Hearing. It was another one of those Congressional Grandstanding Sessions: An issue comes in front of a committee. TV crews are there. Congressmembers each choose a “hero” to praise and a “villain” to attack, the choice dictated by party affiliation. Guests are asked a few questions then lauded or ground down. And the grandstanding goes on until the cameras leave.

While the Democrats are as bad on the attack as Republicans, no one can suck cock like a conservative. It doesn’t matter if the adorned is a Supreme Court nominee, an Iraq War general, the Attorney General, or a ‘roided up asshole of a baseball player, once deemed “hero,” each and every conservative elected official takes hero’s cock in mouth, with smile on face. And I am not talking nips and nibbles; Repugs are total deep throaters. And like Linda Lovelace’s cinematic contribution, there is nothing subtle about it.

Most of the time, these obscenities are viewed only by the pervs who tune into C-SPAN. However, when an athlete or entertainer is before Congress, the spectacle might as well be Pam & Tommy or Paris Hilton. Even the most prudish wants a peek. And thus, millions of sports fans tuned to C-SPAN and watched the Roid Fiasco - and when they did, they caught cock suckers like Dan Burton in full throat. Tsk tsk. Not a good thing for the Republican Party, especially when the lead Democratic candidate is talking about ending partisanship and “bringing the country together.” It also doesn’t help that this same candidate is a self-professed sports freak and advertised during the Super Bowl. And when the Repugs’ cockmaster is the idiot brute Roger Clemens, HA! Clemens might be the only person in baseball who makes Barry Bonds look good! I think the Republican Era is over.

Also not of much help for the Republicans are the tornados that hit the upper South and Midwest. Disasters happen, but damn the Republicans when they occur on President Bush’s watch. Doesn’t matter how fast the government reacts, if they give each victim a check for a cool million, or if the President offers to put up the storm refugees in Crawford, any Act of God that occurs will happen in front of a backdrop of Katrina. That being the case, you’d think that Bush would push the state to act fast, cut a check for a million per, and open his ranch up to the people. Instead the Compassionate Conservative tells the victims that he is there to help but, more importantly, that the country is praying for the victims. Praying for the victims? Ha! What a fucking creep.

Yeah, despite what happens in November, I think this sad chapter in American history is about to close.

February 10, 2008

Spin Cycles

While the horse-race style reporting of the 2008 Presidential Primary Race is tedious and the pundits’ endless analyzing of the polls is a grind, I don’t grow tired of watching how the campaigns react to things. Much fun is looking at how they try to spin primary & caucus results and what they try to do to distract us when the spin doesn’t work. On the Republican side, Mitt Romney’s quit deprives us of the most consistently entertaining spinster. Watching Mitt spin is like witnessing a contortionist knotting himself up, forgetting how to unwind, and then trying to explain that that is what he planed all along. His debate performances were the verbal equivalent of trying to herd cockroaches. And his assessment of his campaigning was downright bizarre. Add that the man tossed off enough frantic energy to fuel a week’s worth of Silicon Valley research and his entertainment quotient was high.

That is not to say that the way John McCain and Mike Huckabee spin is not entertaining. McCain’s reaction to anything is difficult to predict, making him much fun to observe (at least at this point, when his finger isn’t near any buttons). The testy, impatient McCain can be good for a thrill. It is when irritated that his eyes bead and face narrows. Words spit out of his mouth in short machine-gun like bursts and the cords on his neck get red and throb. It is seat’s edge wondering if he will snap. Even better is when McCain uses dry, sarcastic wit to spin. The spin often seems like non-spin, blatant replies which boarder on obvious; but then he betrays himself with a half smile, people chuckle, and move on. Watch McCain work and you see cynical genius, one of the best diverters in the biz. The man also has a very dark sense of humor and, if elected, might prove to be one of the funniest presidents ever.

Huckabee also spins with humor. His “aw shucks I don’t know better” tact is leveled with a bit of absurdity and punctuated by a wink. It is a loveable smart-ass approach that is nearly as effective of a diversionary tool as McCain’s deadpan. Huckabee’s throwing a jolly party and he doesn’t care who comes along. In non-spin mode he trots out his smarts, a tactic which keeps him from coming of as a total hick. The missing candidate, Ron Paul, doesn’t spin. He doesn’t have to, as no one is giving him anything to spin.

No one in this race is as smooth as Barack Obama. True that Obama often stumbles when he has to spin short – in length and on notice. However, twenty words in and given time to formulate an answer, he has no peer. The man’s command of the language and oratory style are refined enough to convince one that his spin is not spin, but is sincerity. And that might be true. In today’s world of 24-hour spin, it is difficult to suss out what is one’s real opinion and what is play for the crowd, or how much reality and artifice one’s reaction possesses. Trying to figure out if the sincerity is really spin is even more challenging. If Obama’s sincerity is really spin, he just be the world’s best spinmaster. I have a pretty well-oiled bullshit detector and can be a champion cynic, and I have to admit that I often don’t know when the guy is spinning or not.

And then there are the Clintons. While the Clintons employ no single tactic, few are the times when spin isn’t happening. Even moments that seem to happen spontaneously - such as Hillary’s New Hampshire diner breakdown - are immediately spun and then packaged and reused. The Clintons have been spinning for so long that it is probably impossible for them to stand still. Of the Clintons, Hillary is the best spin artist…but only when she is at her best. At those times, her spin is subtle and so orchestrated that its traces are minute. It usually comes in a single line, slipped into a debate or a one-on-one interview. Her execution is so spot on that it is only when she flounders and the spin become brutish and crude that you can track back and see the subtly.

Bill Clinton also has a yin and yang to his spin. When he is on, his spin is not unlike that of fellow Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee—a charming, likable good ol’ boy who might not “play by the rules” but is there to help you. You know you are being bullshitted but it is both entertaining and done for the greater good. Bill’s bad spin is historic. It is the quibbling over the definition of “is.” It is pretty much any of his replies to the Monica Lewinski scandal. It is the “First Black President” pandering prior to the South Carolina primary.

The week following the “Super Tuesday” primaries saw the Clintons at their spinning worst. Hillary’s spins were oafish. First was the revelation of her $5 million loan to her campaign. “A good investment,” it was called. In reality, it was an act of desperation, an admission that she was not getting the bump in union money she expected by Edwards’ quit and that the Kennedy machine’s backing of Obama was a hit to her coffers. Whether the loan was a “good investment” is only true if the desired return is Obama, coming from 20 points down in the opinion polls to pretty much tying her for the popular vote. Senator Clinton’s reaction to MSNBC’s David Shuster’s remark that the Clintons were “pimping out” their daughter Chelsea by having her lobby Democratic “superdelegates” is further desperation. Sidestepping whether or not the Clintons were indeed “pimping Chelsea out” – and one could very well argue that they are – Hillary turned the “tasteless” observation to an attack on her mothering skills, her as a person, and the whole of Womankind. Clinton might be a great mom, but the moment any politician starts a sentence with “As a mother…” you know the spin is on. A day later, the subject o’ spin was once again fundraising. This time Hillary was trumpeting that her campaign had made $10 million in the week since Super Tuesday, information that could be considered just more data, if not for the meat-fisted way in which it was presented.

Consistent throughout the week was the insistence that everything in the Clinton campaign was going as planned, that the draw of Super Tuesday was expected and really no big deal, in fact, a great victory. While not quite Romneyesque, the Clinton delusion is pretty thick. How thick? Thick enough to send hubby Bill back on the campaign trail sans muzzle. Speaking in New Orleans, Bill claimed that Obama made "an explicit argument that the '90s weren't much better than this decade." Problem is that Obama said nothing of the sort. He has stated that whatever positive legacy the Clintons left behind was pretty much wiped out over the last 8 years - that is, unless one considers NAFTA, GATT, managed care, welfare reform, etc. some of the Clinton administration’s positive contributions of (my words, not Obama’s). So, unless the Clintons want to claim NAFTA and managed care, which I doubt, maintaining that everything positive the Clintons accomplished in the 90s is still in tact while arguing that Bush fucked up the country over his two terms doesn’t jibe. It is a spin is as crude as Bill framing Obama as a closet Reaganite because he (Obama) recognized that Ronald Reagan was a “transcendent political figure” who was able to change the country with the cooperation of Democrats. Both of Clinton’s spins are so far afield, so bereft of reality, that they qualify as outright lies.

As I’ve noted before, when they Clintons get crude in their spin, the assumption is that they are so much smarter than the rest of us that we won’t notice. We won’t fact check, we won’t analyze, we won’t be able to suss out lies. They treat us like the Bush administration treats the Washington press corps, and, like the corps, we are expected to suck it up. However, while the crude Clinton spin is insulting, from a life-long car wreck careener’s point of view, it is also very entertaining. And now that Clinton has sacked her campaign manager! The opportunities for spin are endless!

February 4, 2008

The Pragmatic & The Ideal

Take an introduction to political science course and one of the first things you are taught is that there are Idealists and Pragmatists. Idealists, we are told, are important because they come up with the vision of a better future; however, they can’t get anything done because they lack “a sense of reality.” Pragmatists, on the other hand, might not be the most forward-thinking people, but they are the ones “who get things done.” Because “getting things done” is all that we can wish for in this society, Pragmatists are good, they are what we "need." So, when the choice is between the Idealist and the Pragmatist, the Pragmatist is the wise choice. To support an Idealist is a nice idea, but it is "folly."

Of course, there is a big problem with the above “logic.” One hitch is that political realities shift so fast that what is an ideal today is the most pragmatic approach tomorrow. Giving African Americans rights equal to Whites was derided as idealism up until the time that it was very apparent that Civil Rights marches would evolve into to riots and insurrection if the Civil Rights Movement’s demands were not met. Very quickly, what was an ideal became the most sensible and pragmatic solution.

I would argue that civil rights for African Americans was always a pragmatic solution to racial injustice, that it was idealism that assumed that a nation with two castes based on race would be able to thrive, let alone survive. Fast forward to now and it is very apparent that “idealists” who opposed Bush/Cheney’s march into Iraq were the real pragmatists. The real idealists were the NeoCons who preached that the only way the US could remain “safe” from terrorism was to invade Iraq and install a democracy. It was the real idealists who thought that a lean, mean military machine could “get things done” in a few months. It was the real idealists who voted to give Bush war powers, trusting that he and his pals knew what the hell they were doing. Back then, those idealists told us their vote was pragmatic.

Idealist. Pragmatist. When you look at history those words really don’t mean much. When you realize that people such as Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine, Abe Lincoln, Frederick Douglas, Teddy Roosevelt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, and many others were called idealists by their critics, it is apparent the the term is an epithet, not a description. Nelson Mandela was slammed as an idealist. So was Gandhi. Hell, on his first run for president, Ronald Reagan was painted as an idealist by the pragmatists in the Republican Party. Pragmatist? Idealist? In politics, the words are worthless.

How about we look at things instead as “long-term” and “short-term”? Did Democrats who supported the Bush march to war do so because it was good for the long-term health of the country, or the short-term health of their political careers? That is the question you need to ask.

As long as I can remember, moderates and conservatives within the Democratic Party have insisted that the most pragmatic thing to do was to support their wing of the party. Anyone who envisioned a politic that did not suck up to the country’s right wing was painted as an idealist. Democrats of all ilks capitulated , giving the right wing more and more power. That power has lead to a lawless Bush administration, senseless wars, a bankrupt economy, and environmental catastrophe. Democrats are now being told that the most pragmatic thing they can do with their vote is to vote for the pragmatist that helped bring about the current situation with their pragmatic approach to politics. To vote for the idealist, we are told, is to vote for words, not someone who “can get things done.” I think it is pretty clear that given the choice between idealism and pragmatism, you have nothing to lose by choosing the idealist (who seems to also be the real pragmatist).

The choice is between keeping people in power who have been pushing their style of pragmatism for the last 25 years, and moving forward and trying something that doesn’t have the same record of failure – both politically and in policy terms. It is a fight between insider politics and the rest of us. Think about that before you vote for the “safe” choice. Live a little.

February 3, 2008

Sweatin' the Polls

One of this political season’s clichés is that “you can’t trust the polls,” something the pundits endlessly repeat…while they give us their newest spin on the poll numbers. While I am neither a fan nor foe of polling, I like to watch how the candidates and especially their supporters react to the numbers. It is much fun watching the “anointed ones” squirm.

In California, the squirming is done by Hillary Clinton and her supporters. Back in August of last year, the polls gave Clinton a 20 point lead over Barack Obama. According to the latest Field Poll, Clinton’s lead is now only 3 points. In television interviews, Clinton campaign workers fidget as they mouth the words, “We are not concerned.” But they are. They have to be. Their candidate has blown a 17-point lead and has made a “guaranteed” Clinton win in California a real democratic contest. And that is how it should be (well, shorn of money and media anointed candidates).

I am pleased not because I have any special loathing for Clinton, but because this is the first time in my memory that a primary in California means anything more than a rubber stamp of the decisions made elsewhere in the country. With all due respect to Iowa and New Hampshire, they represent just a fraction of America and should not be the nation’s political filter. The “importance of retail politics” aside, Iowa and New Hampshire setting the electoral table for the rest of the country just means that states like California wind up as credit cards used to pay for the meal. Even though the impact of the first primaries and caucuses have been blunted by Super Tuesday, Californians (and other participants in this “super” primary) do not get to vote for Joe Biden, Rudy Giuliani, Dennis Kucinich, Fred Thompson, John Edwards, Duncan Hunter, Chris Dodd, or Bill Richardson. Others have decided that none of these people are worthy of California’s vote.

Another of this season’s clichés is that Republicans really “don’t have a candidate their party can get behind.” Translated in simple English, that means that you Repugs actually get to chose your candidate this year and not have one selected for you by your party’s elite. Of course, like the Dems, many of you have the honor of other folks tossing “unacceptables” out of the race (though you do have Ron Paul – and the Dems, the entertainingly incoherent Mike Gravel). However, if the polls hold, John McCain, an anathema to the party’s elite, will be your candidate.

What is exciting isn’t that McCain is going into Tuesday with a 27 point lead over Mitt Romney, but who else will take a beating if/when Romney goes down. Conservative talk media has invested lots of airtime in pimping Mitt. Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly have all backed Romney…and they are about to get trashed. It is about fucking time. For the last two decades, Limbaugh and his ilk have not only set the tone of modern politics, but created and pushed the agenda. Their man, George W. Bush, has been a failure and now their chosen one is about to go down. If the Dems triumph in the Fall, the blow to conservative punditry will hopefully be significant enough to relegate them to heel snipping, rather than policy pushing. Regardless of who gets elected in the Fall, the collapse of Limbaugh, Inc. would be a boon to this country. Anything that lessens the centralization of American politics is good for the country.

Conservative media and centralized politics? Yes, of course. As much as they like to pass themselves off as “outsiders,” “rebels,” and “everyday people,” Limbaugh et al are just another pillar of a power structure designed to limit the people’s voice and participation. Their talk of liberty aside, they don’t like or want democracy. Their quest is power for power’s sake and little else (okay, money, too). To get that power, they have to do something to bring people to power or bolster them once they are in. Conservative pundits can’t keep Bush’s poll numbers up and it looks like they aren’t helping Romney’s “Quest for the White House.” If they can’t deliver, what good are they? In the best of all worlds, they will wind up as sideshow entertainment for the hardcore, perverted and spent like the has-been that is Pat Robertson. One can only hope.