Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday Quick Hits

Over the weekend in San Francisco, Elizabeth Edwards revealed that she is "comfortable" with gay marriage. The San Francisco Chronicle reported this position was "markedly" different than her husband's position, which is in support of civil unions, but not marriage. Question: how does such a distinction qualify as "marked"? (Which means "strikingly noticeable".)

Answer: It doesn't. The media has no clue how to objectively report on the legal realities underlying civil unions and gay marriage, without relying on hyper-emotional rhetoric and superficial differences. There are real legal distinctions between the two positions, but to label them "markedly" different is dishonest within the context of the 2008 campaign. GOP candidates like Romney, Huckabee, or most definitely Fred Thompson, who support no legal rights for gay couples at all, are holding positions markedly different from all Democrats. There's the "marked."

Meet the Press had lovely Gwen Ifill this weekend, who had me at "Hello" and then lost me the minute she said, "I bow to David Broder and his assessment." Yikes. Broder has become the Larry King of political journalism; he had just finished chastising the panel and Tim Russert for being "much too dismissive" of public sentiment and that in the current environment an independent could "absolutely" get elected President. The majority of the American public cannot even get our current President to listen to Congress, or get our Branchless Vice President to follow the rule of law. The high level of public discomfort with the political parties does not lead to the conclusion that an independent run would be automatically viable. We were all told in 2004 that the public wouldn't elect Kerry because we were afraid to switch leaders during the War on Terror but now we're to believe we'll switch to, say, Bloomberg? I would hope Ifill would reconsider her Broder love. Soon. The guy has been so wrong for so long, he should be running the Justice Department.

Fortune Magazine has Hillary on the cover and an article that includes a mind-boggling quote from the wife of Merrill Lynch CEO John Mack, "You have these preconceived ideas about people you see in the public eye. But we were extremely impressed with her ability to connect with every single person. She was an amazing listener, with tremendous warmth."

Aren't the "preconceived ideas" most of us hold purely based upon Hillary's actual public performance for the past 14 or so years? Do the Democrats really want to nominate another "personable and warm behind closed doors" candidate? Because voters never see that hidden side, then, well, doesn't that persona become irrelevant for election purposes?

Angelina Jolie's A Mighty Heart tanked at the box office this weekend. After all her preachy political condescension and way-too-public husband-stealing and baby-buying, this seems to be a reasonable public response. I hope she takes A Mighty Break from the movies.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's All Coming Back to Me Now

I have election fatigue! Help me.

This Clinton clip, using the Sopranos finale as inspiration, is honest-to-goodness clever. I am still reluctant to look her in the eye, though.

In any event one must admit, the cultural and social awareness on the Democratic side is solid this cycle (especially in contrast with Fred Thompson's throwback trip to visit Margaret Thatcher this week... or, um, with John McCain himself).

But, Hillary... a Celine Dion song? Really?

To Greg's chagrin I love the Canadian songbird, but man, I don't get the Clinton campaign's choice here... I still think Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" should have won. "To the left, to the left..."

More on the Fred Thompson sideshow shortly. Your patience is appreciated.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Grand Old Video Party

Oh please, please nominate this guy.

Or even one of these... that's fine with me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

America's Monger Ames Lower

Rudy! is skipping the Iowa GOP Straw Poll this August due to the poll being a "sideshow" from his effort to win the White House. I attended this event in August 1999 and there's no doubt these types of fundraising polls are admittedly a pony show and truly unscientific (the year I went Steve Forbes bused in so many voters from out-of-state his orange shirts seemed like the official uniform of the event--and still, flat tax or no, he lost the poll). Yet one has to ask, if this event is "a fundraiser" for the Iowa GOP and "a lot of fun" and "an exciting event" according to Giuliani campaign surrogate (and failed candidate for Governor) Jim Nussle, what's the harm in making an effort?

Rudy's folks say they want to keep their money to spend on the caucus, but even the state GOP head Craig Robinson doesn't buy it, telling reporters, “Obviously, he feels like he can’t compete at the straw poll, so he’s going to skip it... His staff is pretty green, and they’re not from Iowa and not ready for it. If he’s not doing any better, they might skip the caucus.”

Thus, the Giuliani campaign's explanation of their decision not-to-show at the "fun" Straw Poll seems so artless and tired, it's hard not to be amused at the fearmonger's fear of a place that's so "life changing" and was once called A Place to Grow.

With the two national Party "front-runners" Hillary and Rudy fairing so badly in little old Iowa (Hillary announced an Iowa campaign shake-up today), it is truly looking like America may find itself in Iowa's debt on caucus night.

That might just make up for the whole John Kerry thing.

Update: McCain is out of the poll now, as well. A "fun" event just got a lot less so. Ironically, this only hurts the Iowa Republican Party. Oh well! Enjoy your Straw Poll, Mitt!

Cut and Paste: What I'm Reading


Fareed Zakaria in the June 11 Newsweek:

More troubling than any of Bush's rhetoric is that of the Republicans who wish to succeed him. "They hate you!" says Rudy Giuliani in his new role as fearmonger in chief, relentlessly reminding audiences of all the nasty people out there. "They don't want you to be in this college!" he recently warned an audience at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. "Or you, or you, or you," he said, reportedly jabbing his finger at students. In the first Republican debate he warned, "We are facing an enemy that is planning all over this world, and it turns out planning inside our country, to come here and kill us." On the campaign trail, Giuliani plays a man exasperated by the inability of Americans to see the danger staring them in the face. "This is reality, ma'am," he told a startled woman at Oglethorpe. "You've got to clear your head."

The notion that the United States today is in grave danger of sitting back and going on the defensive is bizarre. In the last five and a half years, with bipartisan support, Washington has invaded two countries and sent troops around the world from Somalia to the Philippines to fight Islamic militants. It has ramped up defense spending by $187 billion—more than the combined military budgets of China, Russia, India and Britain. It has created a Department of Homeland Security that now spends more than $40 billion a year. It has set up secret prisons in Europe and a legal black hole in Guantánamo, to hold, interrogate and—by some definitions—torture prisoners. How would Giuliani really go on the offensive? Invade a couple of more countries?

The presidential campaign could have provided the opportunity for a national discussion of the new world we live in. So far, on the Republican side, it has turned into an exercise in chest-thumping. Whipping up hysteria requires magnifying the foe. The enemy is vast, global and relentless. Giuliani casually lumps together Iran and Al Qaeda. Mitt Romney goes further, banding together all the supposed bad guys. "This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hizbullah and Hamas and Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood," he recently declared.

But Iran is a Shiite power and actually helped the United States topple the Qaeda-backed Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Qaeda-affiliated radical Sunnis are currently slaughtering Shiites in Iraq, and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are responding by executing and displacing Iraq's Sunnis. We are repeating one of the central errors of the early cold war—putting together all our potential adversaries rather than dividing them. Mao and Stalin were both nasty. But they were nasties who disliked one another, a fact that could be exploited to the great benefit of the free world. To miss this is not strength. It's stupidity.


Joe Justice: Isn't that Bush's legacy to the GOP? "It's the stupidity, stupid."


Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta, Jr. in New York Times Magazine article, "Hillary's War":

Late in the afternoon of June 14, 2006, a group of Democratic senators and their aides headed to Room 224, a small sitting room in the Capitol belonging to the Democratic minority leader, Harry Reid. The room had held a series of private conferences over the previous days at which a small group of Democrats discussed Iraq policy. The secluded location meant that the senators could plot the party’s strategy and discuss their differences away from their Republican colleagues and the press.

That day, the usual attendees were surprised to discover a newcomer in attendance: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. She was one of the first to arrive and took a place on a love seat, one of the two couches in the room. Sitting next to her was Carl Levin. As the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Levin was the de facto leader of the session, since the meeting involved amendments to the pending defense authorization bill. Clinton draped one arm around the back of the couch and chewed gum, a participant recalled.

Reid began by recalling Senator John Kerry’s recent proposal to withdraw American troops by the end of the year. After making some dismissive remarks about Kerry’s amendment, Clinton largely remained quiet over the course of the next 20 to 30 minutes. Senator Reid, the meeting’s host, then turned to Clinton and asked to hear her thoughts. There was a long pause.

“It was odd to give her the stage on this,” said another participant in the meeting, noting that Clinton had not attended any of the previous strategy sessions. However, the participant added, Clinton was the “big enchilada,” so “all eyes turned to her to hear what she thinks.”

Clinton spoke for five or six minutes.

“I don’t support a fixed date for getting out, and I don’t support an open-ended commitment,” Clinton told her colleagues. Then she picked up on ideas put forth in an alternative amendment then being proposed by Senators Levin and Jack Reed. Their amendment, which had no force of law, called for the president to “begin the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq” before the end of the year.

Clinton caustically reminded her colleagues why she was supporting a less confrontational posture toward the White House than the Kerry measure.

“In case you haven’t noticed,” she said, “we don’t control anything.” Clinton went on to lecture her colleagues about the political acumen of administration officials. “Karl Rove and George Bush are no fools,” she warned.


Joe Justice: Are Democratic primary voters?


Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker, "Party Unfaithful":

When I asked Rove if the persistence of bad news, along with criticism from conservatives, has made the White House a moody place, he let loose an apparently authentic laugh. “This is a great place to work,” he said. “It’s inspiring to work here. It’s neat, particularly when you’ve got a boss whose attitude is ‘What can we do today to advance our goals? What are the big things we could be doing?’ ” Such statements fail to acknowledge that the President has been spending much of his time fighting congressional attempts to limit his mobility in Iraq and to force the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. For Rove, the future is still Republican. “I don’t think by any means it’s a sure thing, but I do think there are these big societal changes driving us, and I think that the conservative movement and the Party through which it operates are going to benefit,” he said. “That’s not to say that it’s going to be an ever-upward line. And it also doesn’t mean that smart Democrats can’t do something about it.”

Rove thinks that more voters now are being influenced by technology and religion. “There are two or three societal trends that are driving us in an increasingly deep center-right posture,” he said. “One of them is the power of the computer chip. Do you know how many people’s principal source of income is eBay? Seven hundred thousand.” He went on, “So the power of the computer has made it possible for people to gain greater control over their lives. It’s given people a greater chance to run their own business, become a sole proprietor or an entrepreneur. As a result, it has made us more market-oriented, and that equals making you more center-right in your politics.” As for spirituality, Rove said, “As baby boomers age and as they’re succeeded by the post-baby-boom generation, within both of those generations there’s something going on spiritually—people saying it’s not all about materialism, it’s not all about the pursuit of material things. If you look at the traditional mainstream denominations, they’re flat, but what’s growing inside those denominations, and what’s growing outside those denominations, is churches that are filling this spiritual need, that are replacing sterility with something vibrant, something that speaks to the heart of the individual, that gives a sense of purpose.” Rove believes what he has always believed: that the Christian right and, to a lesser extent, tax- and regulation-averse businessmen will continue to assure Republican victories.

Early G.O.P. Presidential polls, though, don’t seem to confirm this analysis. Rudolph Giuliani stands more firmly than any of his rivals for abortion rights and civil unions for gays, and at this point appears to be in the lead. Bush, polls suggest, has also lost the support of some self-described conservatives. (Thirty-three per cent of voters in 2004 identified themselves that way.) But Rove cautioned against reading too much into polls, or the results of the 2006 midterm elections. “It’s important to keep in perspective how close the election actually was,” he said. “Three thousand five hundred and sixty-two votes and we would have had a Republican Senate. That’s the gap in the Montana Senate race. And eighty-five thousand votes are the difference in the fifteen closest House races. There’s no doubt we’ve taken a short-term hit in the face of a very contentious war, but to have the Republicans suffer an average defeat for the midterm says something about the underlying strength of conservative attitudes in the country.” Rove’s arithmetic was correct, but he sounded like John Kerry, who, shortly after his defeat in the 2004 election, told me, “I received the second-highest number of votes in American history.”


Joe Justice: Enter, the vibrant, substance-free Fred Thompson.

Food for Thought

This morning on NPR, there was a report about a local California legislator going on food stamps. He was semi-complaining about only being able to eat soup and cereal. I have heard about several state and local legislators doing this as of late, and I find this completely ridiculous (Q: does this make a Republican?).

The legislators purportedly do this to prove to the general public how hard it is to feed yourself and a family using food stamps... but unlike John Edwards paying for his own super-expensive haircut while championing poverty policy (which we all know I don't consider dissonant), these food stamp folks seem awfully cynical. They try it for a week, complain, and then go back to their fancy restaurants with $30 entrees.

Wouldn't the best way to assist those in need of assistance be found through enacting actual legislation; minimum wage, job creation, etc.?

I expect in a few months we will have Congresspeople injecting themselves with illnesses to prove how bad the health care system is, or Assemblymen sending their children to inner-city schools for a week to demonstrate how bad the educational system has become... all that these stunts prove is that U.S. politicians like to waste time with symbolism, rather than action.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ron to You

The CNN crew talking-up the debate and not-there Fred Thompson seem to forget that Ronald Reagan was not just a conservative, but was an individual who tirelessly dedicated himself to a rigid set of "conservative" beliefs for many years--his entire governing philosophy was built upon a foundation of work, both for the advancement of his ideas and for his Party; public speeches and writings and actual executive decision-making as Governor of California fueled his drive for the White House. They (and many in the media) seem to think because Fred Thompson is an conservative actor, that he fits the Reagan bill. Forget that Fred's accidental candidacy is being fueled by GOP desperation (I'm talking to you Mary Matalin!) over a disgustingly cruddy field of candidates.

The Thompson reporting is so blatantly trite and, yes, stupid, that it should be immediately discounted, but it's being sold on channels all over America.

Welcome to 2008.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Talk to Her

In light of her recent debate performance (which Jon Stewart sharply lampooned as sending a message of "Everybody for President! Yay!") the National Journal has written that Hillary Clinton is "doing Kerry better than Kerry" as of late, and wonders aloud whether she could have beaten Bush in 2004. This is an interesting question, and I would suspect she almost definitely would have... but the issue now is whether 2008 offers such a changed landscape that a woman who claims to want to be anything but a conventional politician--but behaves exactly like one--can win the Democratic nomination.

Did you watch the debate? I watched what might be termed the Standing Hour but skipped the Sitting Hour (anytime any group sits down to debate, I lose interest since sitting down to debate makes people zombies, i.e. Edwards vs. Cheney in 2004). Overall, I was pretty impressed with the minor-step toward actual debating that occurred (and this ignores all "raise your hand" questions...).

The word "debate," according Merriam-Webster, is defined as, "a contention by words or arguments" which of course leads us to "contention," which is defined as "an act or instance of contending ," which exhaustingly leads us to "contending" which is defined as "to strive or vie in contest or rivalry."

Ideally, the contention-slash-contending would exist between the actual rivals themselves and not, say, grown men named after animals (or anchors from networks named after animals).

Obama got a good shot at Edwards, Edwards got some shots at Obama and Hillary, and Biden got some good shouting shots off into the air (some pundit said voters don't like politicians who shout, and I guess you have to agree with that one). Otherwise, the remaining candidates were dull and the topics were uneven and nothing new--the focus on all-things-Gay seemed odd and unnecessary (honestly... please leave us alone for an election cycle) and the ignoring of issues like education or spending seemed a glaring oversight.

It would be a great thing if the future debates kept moving towards letting the candidates interact more--being a President (under the Constitution, which W. obviously isn't) doesn't seem to be a unilateral undertaking, thus, shouldn't candidates for President in 2008 be required and prepared to confront opposing views and defend their own in the stress of real-time? Replace all those Gore sighs from 2000 with Gore directly questioning Bush and maybe the electoral college could have caught up to the popular vote.

Lockbox.

Obama seemed stronger than before, everyone appears to agree on this, but I still feel like he's more into the sound of his words than the force of his argument. There is a smooth sound but no biting finish.

Edwards needs to ignore Obama and go after Hillary. Obama's supporters, who I respect and understand, won't switch to John. But many of Hillary's would, I suspect, and it's time for Edwards to confront Hillary on her machinations. As a figure, Hillary may not be on trial, but her maneuvering is, and Edwards needs to make his case and contrast Hillary's wildly enthusiastic efforts to appear strong with her inability to just stand up and, well, be strong (maybe he can get some talking points by reading "Hillary's War" in the recent New York Times Magazine).

When it comes to Hillary, her face was fresh, her voice was harsh and her sentences were short. But I am thoroughly unconvinced, both as a primary and general election voter, as to why she should be elected President. Telling us we are more safe now than before 9/11, in light of, say, a little place called Iraq, seems lunatic-based. Trying to tell us that she lost the 1994 health care battle due to a lack of "political will" seems odd--if Hillary couldn't lead then, why now? Hasn't our national discourse on policy only coarsened since that time? My only thought watching her (besides wincing at that voice) was that perhaps Mrs. Clinton should quit trying so hard to win over aspects of the Right and work harder to win over the ideologically right.

Republicans are up next, tonight.

Friday, June 01, 2007

High Noonan

Peggy Noonan writes this painfully ironic and deluded line today in the Wall Street Journal about the Bush Administration's treatment of conservatives who oppose the President's immigration plan: "Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens?"

Welcome to the world, baby girl!

Hat tip to Ginny.

A Bird in the Hand is Worth Poo on the Bush

How much can a poor nation take?

Apparently, a lot.

Out of all of the amazingly awful government activities that have occurred since my last post (Ms. Goodling? Frodo? Democratic Iraq War Funding Back Down?) the most definite worst is the quiet announcement, via a smiling Tony Snow, that President Bush considers South Korea as a model for future American troop presence in Iraq.

If you needed further evidence that the President doesn't get "it" when it comes to battling international terrorism this revelation is your murder weapon. Like wild-eyed Phil Spector walking up to his Driver saying, "I think I just killed someone," President Bush seems comfortable facing the nation saying, "I think I just created more terrorists."

Remember my post about Ron Paul and how he dared to speak the plain truth--that American actions in the Middle East help to irritate latent terrorist sensitivities? Well, this South Korea talk is sort of like turning up the radio after a neighbor complains.

I'm not suggesting that fundamentalist terrorists should ultimately dictate our actions, or that their sick desire for American deaths equals a complaint, but what I would like to suggest is that our President's inability to admit that our behaviors in the Middle East region directly influence terrorist intensity--and motivation--deeply harms our national defense. Bring it on, indeed.

If the purpose of our going into Iraq was to bring democracy to the Iraqi people--what Frank Rich calls our "last-ditch rationalization"--then how can a long-term American military presence in Iraq foster anything but paternalism and lazy liberty?

The American military must leave Iraq and see what happens. Hasn't "Let's see what happens" been our military mantra for 4 years? To surge the numbers of our young men and women into Iraq under a "fight them there, not here" slogan is to allow Americans to die simply to prevent a different version of the chaos that is now in Iraq. That isn't national defense, it's nationally offensive. President Bush should put down his Teddy Roosevelt books and read some more recent history (and not Reagan bunk). Like Richard Nixon and his pathetic refusal to admit Vietnamization was a failure, the height of tragic superpower ignorance has been watching Bush deny that a civil war is the main source of violence meeting our troops each day. If the American "global war on terrorism" policy is as firm and tough as the Bush Administration claims, the terrorists would not follow us here because they would not be able to: we are supposedly on the offense around the globe.

But Bush doesn't care much about "the globe" and he never has--his war on terror is based in Iraq because Bush applies outdated foreign policy to the 9/11 world--fight within a messy nation, not a messy network of terror cells. He explicitly lives in the New World Order of his father's time, and not the one he has helped create. When it comes to foreign policy, W. is all pomp and no circumstances, and his isolationist approach to world diplomacy for the past 7 years has seriously eroded our nation's moral and practical powers. The assault has been on not only reason, but history.

Oh... but what of the Iraqi people? We liberated them into a civil war? Do we owe them anything?

Not according to our President, who has slowly begun to blame Iraq for being unable to heal a wound the U.S. quickly inflicted. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask how you would feel if America took over your country in order to fight terrorism somewhere expendable. We're fighting them "there," without regard to how the choice of the "there" creates more hatred of our existence. If you build those South-Korea-lite bases, Mr. President, you will have truly helped manufacture a permanent terrorist factory. What a shitty legacy.

Also: Check out Fred Kaplan at Slate for his more serious take on how ridiculous the Korea-Iraq analogy is in historical terms.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

So Sue Me?

Many apologies for the extended break from posting... regular posts should return shortly.

In other news, Joe Justice now has one more thing in common with Star Jones--I'm a lawyer.

I won't start charging for my posts though (JoeJusticeSelect?). Promise.

In the meantime read this Vanity Fair article about Crazy Rudy Giuliani and shake your head.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

St. Paul the Apostate

Ron Paul doesn't dare to play by the Culture of Countermand rules, and man it irritates Bush-mold Republicans.

Here are two of the aggressive questions Paul was asked in the last GOP debate, brought to you by two different anchors of the ever-balanced Fox News:

(1) Congressman Paul, you're one of six House Republicans who back in 2002 voted against authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq... Now you say we should pull our troops out. A recent poll found that 77 percent of Republicans disapprove of the idea of setting a timetable for withdrawal. Are you running for the nomination of the wrong party?

(2) Congressman Paul, I believe you are the only man on the stage who opposes the war in Iraq, who would bring the troops home as quickly as -- almost immediately, sir. Are you out of step with your party? Is your party out of step with the rest of the world? If either of those is the case, why are you seeking its nomination?

Where to begin?

Most of the GOP debate analysis has revolved around the deeply misguided display of 9/11 rage from "America's Masquerader" Rudy Giuliani in response to Paul's answer to question (2) above. Paul essentially said American interventionist policies in the Middle East, going back tens of years (and probably more) helped to create deep resentment in that region against the U.S., a grudge of pure hatred, that undeniably led to 9/11. Rudy basically replied, "How dare you! 9/11 was not our fault! I was there! Take that back!" Ron Paul bravely and correctly wouldn't take it back (and he subsequently pointed to portions of the 9/11 Commission Report that completely supported his debate statements). Now some GOP folks want Paul out of the debates entirely.

The Republicans, as Paul Krugman writes so succinctly in his column for Friday, are all living in the "Bush bubble," and the party's negative reaction to Ron Paul's factual realism (and even the media's general negative reaction to Paul) reflects this horrible isolationism from reality (have you noticed that in the mainstream media Democratic nutcase Mike Gravel is just a sweet old guy bringing hard truths to his party, but Ron Paul is deemed out-of-hand crazy and not a real Republican?).

Listening to Paul in the GOP debate, and watching his treatment at the hands of Fox and the GOP (a team which Jon Stewart correctly called "redundant") it's easy to be convinced that it's definitely mourning in America. A recent Vanity Fair article claimed that the United States is quickly headed the way of Rome, thanks to our broad, thoughtless privatization that mirrors rigid quid pro quo governing of the ancient times, but it also seems that the unverified factual spin of Rome has bled into our modern discourse as well. Why have media at all if it allows the fight over Paul's mention of "blowback" and Rudy's subsequent attack to overcome any talk of the truth in Paul's words? It's not about blame, it is about accepting the consequences of history, and fighting enemies with hard truths on your side.

Paul Krugman writes today:

What we need to realize is that the infamous "Bush bubble," the administration's no-reality zone, extends a long way beyond the White House. Millions of Americans believe that patriotic torturers are keeping us safe, that there's a vast Islamic axis of evil, that victory in Iraq is just around the corner, that Bush appointees are doing a heckuva job -- and that news reports contradicting these beliefs reflect liberal media bias. And the Republican nomination will go either to someone who shares these beliefs, and would therefore run the country the same way Mr. Bush has, or to a very, very good liar.

This is why I haven't written much on the blog this week--between NPR's sickening Iraq reporting during my morning commute every day, the Robert Dallek "Nixon and Kissinger" book I read at night, and the general state of how the 2008 campaign is being reported--all image and cash, my friends--it's hard to imagine hope is on the way.

We've been here before. How did we get here again?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Snappy Warriors

In case you missed it, the Meet the Press page at the re-designed MSNBC website now allows for a free stream of the most recent Sunday program, and also allows you to view past programs or transcripts featuring the 2008 presidential candidates. It's nice to know that if I'm away from TIVO, I can still catch Tim Russert & Company in a few lies on the fly.

This week's guest was Senator John McCain, who poured on the instant grump with irritable vigor, even before the questioning began.

Russert: Our issues this Sunday: Our Meet the Candidates 2008 series continues, an exclusive interview with Republican John McCain. He represented Arizona in the U.S. House for four years, for the past twenty years in the U.S. Senate where he now serves as the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for president in 2000. This morning John McCain joins us for the full hour on Meet the Press. Senator McCain, welcome back to Meet the Press.

McCain: You didn't have to say unsuccessful; everybody knows that.

That's right—Russert should definitely know that with the Bush Republican Party every failure is a Mission Accomplished, and every setback a sign of progress. McCain's curt comment was followed by a wan semi-grin, but phony smirks can't hide the shear exhausted nature of McCain's campaign this time around. His eerie smile was nearly identical to the one the Senator deployed after this statement about Osama Bin Laden in the recent Simi Valley debate, " We will do whatever is necessary. We will track him down. We will capture him. We will bring him to justice, and I will follow him to the gates of hell."

…Cheese!

While McCain's testy demeanor is what instantly sets him apart from all the other candidates running, his confusion between conviction and demagoguery is what really makes him stand out. The Senator enjoys implying that his one-track support for the Iraq War makes him courageous, not an oppressor. The exchange that follows is long, but it explicitly reveals what has happened to political leadership under the arrogant reign of Bush-Cheney & Co., an arrogance that McCain has now adopted in order to lead a nation he no longer understands (highlights mine):

Russert: But, senator, the Iraqi parliament, a majority of the Iraqi parliament, has signed a petition asking for a date certain for withdrawal of American troops. If the Iraqi parliament wants it, a majority in the Congress want it...

Senator McCain: Mm-hmm.

Russert: ...then why do you stand there and say, "No, you can't have it"?

Senator McCain: Because it's my job to give my best estimate to the American people, no matter what the political calculations may be, as to what's the best in our nation's national security interest. Young men and women are risking their lives as we speak in, in, in Iraq. And I know that they will be in greater harm's way if we withdraw from Iraq, as we keep debating over and over and over again. And I know what's best, in my mind, in my experience, in my knowledge, in my inspiration, as to what's best for this country. So political calculations such as polls, I understand that if the American people don't continue to support this effort that we will be forced to withdraw. But it's also my obligation to tell the American people and my constituents in Arizona that I represent, what the consequences of failure will be; and I believe they will be catastrophic.

Russert: But the duly elected people's bodies, the U.S. Congress and the Iraqi parliament, say they want a troop withdrawal. That's more than a poll. Isn't that the voice of the people?

Senator McCain: Well, the--as far as the Iraqi parliament is concerned, the Iraqi government obviously doesn't feel that way, their--the representatives in their government. Second of all, there is some, a certain amount of domestic political calculations involved there in what the Iraqi, quote, "parliament" said. The Iraqi parliament has their ability to, to voice their views, and I respect them. And I, as I say, I--I'll repeat again, I understand how democracies work. I saw it in Vietnam. I saw it in Vietnam. And I saw it in Vietnam, the predictions, that everything would be a worker's paradise in, in Vietnam if we left. And thousands were executed and millions went to re-education camps. So I, I believe that, that the consequences of failure, and particularly sitting on the large reserves of oil they have, particularly considering the influence of al-Qaeda is concerned, you will see enormous destabilization in the region, and that's my duty. That's my obligation. It's not my privilege. And political calculations should not enter into any information or position that I take on, on a, on an issue of national security.

Since 2000, Americans have increasingly been told, on issues big and small, that elected officials (or appointed cronies) know best, and no matter what subsequent elections or polls portend, these individuals are not required to utilize the people's desires when making policy or spending decisions. Terrorism is the worst enabler for a governing group that thinks it knows best, because this governing group controls a majority of the facts that the people need to make rational decisions, thus the governors can exercise random impositions of generalities or fear in order to achieve their we-know-best ends. What McCain misses in his democratic calculation above is that while it may be his obligation to advise the people as to what is best, in his mind, when the people take this advice and continue to voice an opposing conclusion, that conclusion should almost definitely be heeded. The obligation is to advise, not to command. Once that advice is processed by the entire population and responded to, then a democratic leader must adopt that response and temper his or her decision-making with that reality.

The Iraq War has given the GOP another empirical opportunity to demonstrate their 21st Century philosophy, what could be termed a Culture of Countermand. From conception to death, the Republican Party primarily concerns itself with over-ruling the decisions, both personal and communal, of others, all under the guise of "we know what's best" or worse, of those illusory "values." Unfortunately, that is not government in the sense of administration, which I suspect the Constitution envisions, but government-by-domination. Government-by-domination leads to significant mismanagement, because pronouncements do not produce results. Americans can be told repeatedly that progress is being made in Iraq, that our homeland is protected, that No Child Left Behind works, that the economy is booming, or that our values are under attack from the Left--but these declarations are as useless as they are dangerous when it comes to government. A government of the people should not constantly inform the people that all is well, but rather constantly ask the people if everything is functioning as it should.

Apparently Senator McCain wants to take the Bush-Cheney philosophy one step further, adding indignance to the imposition. Bothered with having to explain himself he believes that if he smiles at the end of his annoyed declarations, then what preceded the smile will thus be beyond reproach.

He's wrong, and has attached himself to a failed approach to modern governing that is suffocating our democracy.

Everybody knows that.

Friday, May 11, 2007

American Legion

A new job, a slow news week and a general ebb in my political frustration level has left me with so little to say on here, it's appalling (to me).

But I found one tiny thing! Courtesy of Time magazine, please note the photo to the left--it appears Mitt Romney will win the Iowa Caucuses based purely on the ground-force his own family can provide. (Superficial note to Romney campaign: is allowing a picture like this to circulate the best way to alleviate voter's concerns about Mormanism?).

Seriously, though, their family Christmas must be awful for Mitt's wallet, no? But great for the national economy? Strikes me funny, is all.

More to come...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Life Gets In the Way

To my few, dearly devoted... a fresh, long-ish post should appear sometime Thursday morning, PST.

Update: Friday... with apologies.

Until then, enjoy our President with the Queen.

Tea and cracker, indeed.

Monday, May 07, 2007

81 degrees by 9AM

It's getting hot out here... must be the residual heat left over from that blazing Republican debate in Simi Valley.

Or maybe it's just climate change.

This mini-heat wave is nothing compared to the hot seat John Edwards was placed in yesterday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Senator Edwards was asked about everything from Iraq to No Child Left Behind to off-shore tax havens. I briefly noticed some of the folks over at Daily Kos thought one of two things: 1) George Stephanopolous is a hack who attacked Edwards' relentlessly, and 2) the questions were fair and Edwards did a good job. I'd vote for camp 2.

The show got me thinking about presidential candidates who have personal histories filled with genuine professional risk, and the perils of having a president who never encountered a sustained period of life where complicated professional judgments needed to be made, judgments that implicated his or her bottom line and thus personal or familial security. Pundits from Politico.com and other Right-based outlets like to harp about Edwards' wealth, especially the fact that it was made from his being a trial lawyer. They lament how his wealth either makes him unable to relate to lower or middle class voters, or even worse how his wealth in and of itself somehow taints his character. I am always frustrated that neither Edwards nor his supporters make a forceful counter-argument using the facts available to them.

From my experience as an assistant in a small plaintiff's firm in Washington, D.C., I have seen that being a trial lawyer is a risky and extremely stressful career. Such an attorney makes daily decisions to dedicate hours and hours of work to a cause or case knowing the financial reward is not guaranteed and, if any, is always delayed. To be successful at this, listening to clients and determining who is a valuable risk, demands a sustained patience and assuredness. To be successful at this and to be on the side of a low-income, aggrieved plaintiff battling a large, cash-rich corporation involves insane optimism and self-confidence. That Senator Edwards has never, to my mind, made the case for what his career taught him, and what his success required of him, is a sad oversight.

In a similar vein, I would love to hear more from Barack Obama about his community organizing days and how it fuels his current ambition (not just in the pages of his books), or from Hillary Clinton about her years as an attorney. Presidential candidates point to their public offices as proof of their worthiness and experience, and I am never sure that the existence of these electoral victories reveal much about their leadership or motivation to enact certain policies. In "real" life, when a candidate is interviewed for a job, he or she is asked repeatedly to illuminate past positions and decisions even more than why they want the current job. It would be remarkable if the United States could move past questions like "Raise your hand if you've ever owned a gun" when choosing a president, and worry a little more about whether the candidates have ever owned their own circumstance.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Audacity of Water Polo

Sitting behind an SUV at a red light today, I noticed the US Water Polo sticker and for a moment was confused...

Grand Old Pity

Republican "revolution" poobah Newt Gingrich was on Fox News last evening quietly weeping over the way America picks a President. "I think that it is so absurd to have this much attention paid to an office that doesn't get filled until January of 2009, that I really think this is exactly the wrong model for this country," Newt complained. (Wait-- is he talking about America's Next Top Model? I was so pleased Britney got booted this week, what a whiner!). Newt also said this, "If anything would convince me to lean away from running, it was watching all of those guys with too little time, with too many Mickey Mouse questions from the reporters. It's exactly the wrong way to pick a president, and I think it doesn't help the country much."

Sort of like the 1994 GOP Revolution helped America?

The sad, listless state of the Republican Party is evidenced by the fact that men like Gingrich or Fred Thompson actually believe they can step in and save the day. Where Gingrich is all ambition, Thompson has none. While Gingrich desperately wants to be perceived as the policy wonk, Thompson is undeniably comfortable being viewed as a superficial hunk. If these two are the potential Party saviors, the elephant in the room is more than just an elephant.

Watching the GOP debate last evening, with the Reagan-hugging, Iran sword-rattling, the 3 who disbelieve evolution and Tommy Thompson's endorsement of firing someone solely for being gay, it was hard not to love Ron Paul:

MODERATOR: Congressman Paul, you voted against the war. Why are all your fellow Republicans up here wrong?

PAUL: That's a very good question. And you might ask the question, why are 70 percent of the American people now wanting us out of there, and why did the Republicans do so poorly last year? So I would suggest that we should look at foreign policy. I'm suggesting very strongly that we should have a foreign policy of non-intervention, the traditional American foreign policy and the Republican foreign policy. Throughout the 20th century, the Republican Party benefited from a non-interventionist foreign policy. Think of how Eisenhower came into stop the Korean War. Think of how Nixon was elected to stop them in Vietnam. How did we win the election in the year 2000? We talked about a humble foreign policy: No nation-building; don't police the world.That's conservative, it's Republican, it's pro-American -- it follows the founding fathers. And, besides, it follows the Constitution.

Take that, Senator McCain.

Newt Gingrich is half right--this is no way to pick a President. But not because we're having debates this far out from a vote. The real reason is that the Republican Party refuses to stand for anything but low taxes and War now-a-days. The media love to label the Democrats as issue-less, but that 2008 debate last week was filled with talk of health care, education, energy independence and removing the troops from Iraq. The GOP meandered around Ronald Reagan, abortion, morality, immigration, Iraq and Iran. One part optimism, the rest parts painfully aggressive absolutes. These candidates seem to forget there's an America inbetween the bedroom and the border that needs help.

Way back when, as Ron Paul reminded us, conservatives actually demanded a smaller government that stepped back from bedrooms, boardrooms and doctor's offices and let America function based on principles of privacy and true freedom. There was a lot to disagree with back then, don't get me wrong, but the old GOP wasn't spinning around a centrifuge of danger and fear. Last evening it was obvious the current crop of candidates share the core value of pandering to the Right, above all else (and no matter how silly-sounding--take it away, Mitt!). A party where Rudy Giuliani leads the pack (his abortion answer was intellectually insane and his 9/11 drum-beating louder than ever) is in trouble.

A refreshing moment came when Sam Brownback was asked if he would support a Party nominee who was pro-choice and the Senator said "Yes." This might have been a kiss-up to Rudy--funny how all these tough white guys are so afraid of Giuliani and Schwarzenegger--but the mere fact that one of the actors on stage revealed a side of modern-day realism made for a precious moment. The fact that Brownback is allegedly the most Christian Conservative of the bunch made it even more telling.

Perhaps Brownback can teach the rest how to proceed: nation-building starts at home.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Apples and Orange Alerts

How about some revisionist history for your Wednesday break... check out this exchange from Hardball with Chris Matthews.

Bill Maher on the GOP: The only thing the Republicans can run on now is the opposite--fear. It's the only card they have in their deck, it's a false card, but that's the only card they can play. They can't run on their record... they can't run on them being fiscally responsible people... they can't even really run on fighting terrorism anymore because the public doesn't think they're good at that now either. But they can run on the idea that there's a wolf at the door, and that we're the only people who know how to kill it, even though that's wrong.

Chris Matthews: The sad thing is, Bill, is you've got a lot of truth to that, but that's what Gore ran on against Bush--fear. Fear of what he would do to the economy, fear of everything that would go wrong, the lockbox and all that... and it didn't work. Didn't sell, did it?

Maher: Well... fear of the economy is one thing, fear of your life is a little something different.

My Second Veto

by George W. Bush

America, today I, the Decider, decided, and this decider said "No."

I simply cannot spread democracy throughout the world if I am constrained by democratic principles. The best way to spread the democracies is with the singular vision of an autocracy. There's no strategery here, just plain good thinkin'.

Some people say that we should retreat and sell off our children and our lands to the Canadians and possibly to Brazil. I strongly disagree. This veto will prevent the troops from having the funds they need to fight terra and thus terra-ism. The best offense is a good defense, and I always defend America.

The other day Laura said to me that I am like Russell Crowe in the "Gladiator" movie, standing up to the Democrat Congress and their horrible demands that I enter the coliseum of honest debate. Well, I ask you: are you entertained, America? Speaker Pelosi may force my veto, but she can never take our freedom.

This is my second veto, ever. My first was for the tiny stem cell babies, who deserve freedom in the same way innocent Iraqi stem cell babies do. But this veto means so much more than babies, it's about adults.

Adults that love freedom.

Four years ago I announced that America had accomplished the mission in Iraq. Thousands of dead Americans later, I think you can all see my conclusion was not only correct, but was true. The Iraqi government has made progress towards forming democratic institutions that Prime Minister al-Malaki can then ignore, just like I do here in this great nation.

One thing my opponents in the Congress say is that I am going against the will of America. But in the 2006 elections, the Americans resoundingly spoke and they said that it was time for America to win. And win we will. Victory is in the eye of the holder, and hold that victory we will. Our eyes are opened, and holding.

With my pen I veto this spending bill, full of pork and conditions and artificial timelines. Dates won't solve Iraq. We cannot tell the enemy we are leaving because they will only follow the troops home. And as you saw with Katrina, we are not ready to defend the homeland here. We defend it there so we can be offensive here, forever.

God Bless you America, and God Bless the troops I have now refused to fund.

Truly,

The President

May Day Cracker Watch

April Showers bring May flowers...

White lilies, that is!

As viewed on the FoxNews.com homepage at 945am PST, Tuesday, May 1:

White Guys: 16

White Ladies: 6

African-American Lady: 1 (next to a link "Politics of Race")

Courtney Love: 1

Monday, April 30, 2007

Tiny Tim Tiptoes Through the Truth

On Bill Moyers' PBS special report "Buying the War" last week, NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert was among many "journalists" placed under Moyers' microscope of skepticism when it came to their reporting just after September 11, 2001, and leading up to the Iraq war. Russert displayed a casually devastating deludedness concerning his role as enabler in the matter, especially in light of Moyers' tight revealing of Russert's failure to truly research dubious claims by Bush administration officials on his show, "Meet the Press." Even when it came to objective issues regarding weapons of mass destruction, or the non-existent Al Qaeda/Saddam connection, Russert was all too ready to accept the answers of his guests, especially Vice President Cheney, as cold fact.

BILL MOYERS: Was it just a coincidence in your mind that Cheney came on your show and others went on the other Sunday shows, the very morning that [a New York Times story reporting Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction] appeared?

TIM RUSSERT: I don't know. The New York Times is a better judge of that than I am.

BILL MOYERS: No one tipped you that it was going to happen?

TIM RUSSERT: No, no. I mean-

BILL MOYERS: The-- the Cheney-- office didn't make any-- didn't leak to you that there's gonna be a big story?

TIM RUSSERT: No. No. I mean, I don't-- I don't have the-- this is, you know, on Meet the Press, people come on and there are no ground rules. We can ask any question we want. I did not know about the aluminum-tube story until I read it in the New York Times.

BILL MOYERS: Critics point to September eight, 2002 and to your show in particular, as the classic case of how the press and the government became inseparable. Someone in the administration plants a dramatic story in the New York Times. And then the Vice President comes on your show and points to the New York Times. It's a circular, self-confirming leak.

TIM RUSSERT: I don't know how Judith Miller and Michael Gordon reported that story, who their sources were. It was a front-page story of the New York Times. When Secretary Rice and Vice President Cheney and others came up that Sunday morning on all the Sunday shows, they did exactly that. What my concern was, is that there were concerns expressed by other government officials. And to this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them.

As "Buying the War" proves, any reporter had access to them. Throughout the piece, Moyers' questions are concise and enable substantive answers from the interviewee. His follow-up questions actually take into account the response from the subject being interviewed, something Tim Russert has a horribly difficult time doing. This has always been one of my greatest problems with Meet the Press--Russert's MO is to play quote or word "gotcha," otherwise he simply plays stenographer, allowing the guests to bloviate punctuated with "whys."

Later in the Moyers' special, Russert tossed out a populist line in an attempt to align himself as an ordinary guy with no motive but the truth when it comes to the political discussions that occur on Meet the Press. Russert said, "I-- look, I'm a blue-collar guy from Buffalo. I know who my sources are. I work 'em very hard."

That is, if he has access to them.

Unlike John Edwards, who explicitly acknowledges his life situation has drastically changed since his days as a mill-worker's son, Russert does not use his roots to illuminate his ability to sustain a unique perspective on the impact of public policy. Rather, Russert seeks to exploit his distant roots in order to deflect attention from his current reality: old Timmy is a big elite tree now, and his blue-collar days are over. What concerns viewing Americans now is not how Tim can use his beginnings to relate to the masses, but whether Tim can use his present status (and alleged intellect) to force the truth from so-called political leaders, in service to the masses that employ the leaders. Clearly Russert cannot.

It seems that Tim Russert does work his sources hard, but only for facts that will help him create questions that focus purely on semantics, the greatest foundation for political theatre. Such superficial "gotcha" work was on full display this Sunday when an impressive and surprisingly clear Senator Joe Biden appeared on Meet the Press. The following exchange blew me away, in that it supports the notion that Russert carries a singular focus into each show, and sadly it is not the truth. It is Tim's outline for the show (i.e., his gotcha-agenda) built around the guest's past appearances on Meet the Press, or past quotes made elsewhere. In no way is his focus to aggressively finesse the actual positions of his guests.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Senator Feingold, the senator from Wisconsin, have joined together and introduced a bill, and here’s the operative language: “No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq after March” 31st, “2008.” Do you support that?

SEN. BIDEN: No.

MR. RUSSERT: Why?

SEN. BIDEN: For the reasons I just stated. I think it’s—may—we may end—look, Tim, here’s where we may end up. This president may so—make it so difficult to reach the objective, the only reasonable one I think’s available, which is to leave Iraq, leaving behind a country secure within its own borders, not a threat to its neighbors, that is a loosely federated republic. It may get so bad that we do not have that option, and all of the option we have available to us is to withdraw and try to contain the civil war inside Iraq. We are not there yet. And until we reach that point, I am not prepared to say there are no circumstances under which, after a date certain, we would not have a single troop inside of Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT: So you will not vote to cut off funding for the war, period.

SEN. BIDEN: No, that’s not what I said. I just got finished telling you what I said, which was if, in fact, this president changes the circumstances again, where there lose all prospect of being able to achieve the goal that I’ve just set out, which I think could be achieved if we decentralize power in Iraq, if we have a limited federal government in Iraq, where we train the army, where they have control of the borders and their currency, where we give control over the fabric of the daily lives of the various warring factions—including their local police forces—their laws relating to marriage, divorce, the things they’re killing each other over, if we get to the point where that is no longer an option and the place has totally disintegrated—which it may—that’s a different circumstance. You can’t—I don’t know anyone who can say—I speak for myself. I cannot say for—with absolute certainty what I will do on every potential contingency because I have no control over this president’s foreign policy and the direction he’s taking us in Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT: But as of today, you would not vote to cut off...

It is not difficult to see what kind of brush Russert is painting with when it comes to the troop-hating Democrats.

The larger point is that members of the elite media do not report or reveal anymore, they only relay. Keeping their reputations and power-connections intact have become more vital than shedding light on the political successes and failures of those who are elected to produce results. What the Moyers' report exhibits is a Washington press corps willing to accept whatever they are told from the Bush Administration as gospel, and to doubt anyone else as shrouded with ulterior motives.

Nothing is set to change when it comes to the 2008 presidential contest, where the horserace and image race are all in vogue, but discussing policy is not. With all of the threads of our society weighed thin with the strain of Bush's war and cronies and failures, we're in serious trouble if the some portion of the press cannot step up and behave like adults.

But don't look to me-- I'm just a blue-collar guy from Buffalo.

The entire Bill Moyers' PBS Special, "Buying the War," can be viewed here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Oafs of Office

NBC News anchor Brian Williams did everything in his power to make the Democratic 8 look like children last evening in South Carolina, throwing out blunt gotcha-type questions (haircuts, hedge funds and hypothetical terror attacks) and minimalist policy ones (raise your hand if you've ever owned a gun). After some of the candidates resisted and attempted substantive answers to airhead questions, Williams lamented, "You can't get a one-sentence answer out of this group."

Well of course you can't-- they're running for President of the United States, not Student Council at Rydell High. When one of the candidates commented, "this isn't American Idol," I couldn't help but thinking, "Oh, but it is." And Mike Gravel is Sanjaya.

Last night's debate made little news as each candidate filled their stereotypical shoes with ease. My rankings of the candidates:
  1. Hillary: This is hard for me to admit, in light of my past rants, but the Senator from New York was tough and practiced. So much so that I was able to get past her shrill voice (for the first time ever). While her answer to healthcare was lame (she wants a "second try") her answers on terrorism and the Virginia Tech shootings were Bubba-lite (in a good way). I sure as heck don't want to debate her.

  2. Edwards: He handled the haircut question well (waved it away), provided substantive answers for energy policy and healthcare questions, and no matter what the pundits might say refused to bait Hillary on the say-sorry-for-your-Iraq-vote question. It seems to me that Edwards is a tiny bit tired of talking about how sorry he is about that Iraq War vote, with good reason. When asked about his wealth, he relayed a story from his childhood when his father couldn't afford the prices on the menu at a restaurant in South Carolina and the family had to leave, and the personal moment had General Election written all over it. If "some say" he lacked energy, that's fair, but we're a long way out.

  3. Obama: Barry looked like John Edwards in 2000-- exciting, youthful and super nervous. As I watched, I couldn't help but wish that Obama had run against a more challenging opponent besides Alan Keyes in his Illinois senate race, because his general approach seemed unsure. However, he unarguably warmed up as the debate went along, and he hit back hard when Kucinich tried to make him look confused on terrorism, which bodes well for the future.

  4. Biden: I liked when he kissed up to Hillary. It was adorable. And I personally think his Iraq answers are the best from the group, hands down.

  5. Richardson: Like a first date, I was totally interested in him for the first few minutes, but then he got on my nerves. Bill gets points for being visably annoyed with the silly questions Williams asked (and for saying his favorite Supreme Court Justice was Wizzer White, that's actually interesting!) but if Richardson is already annoyed with the debates during the first debate, um, maybe he shouldn't be there. Actually, he can stay (so long as he pays for dinner).

  6. Dodd: So, uh, how can you talk so simply and honestly about why gays should be allowed to marry and then say you're against gay marriage? It reminded me of the movie "Mean Girls" when Tina Fay's teacher character says to Lindsay Lohan's student character, "You know, what's so weird about your exam is that all the work is correct, it's only the answer that is wrong." Yup. Weird.

  7. The Crazy Remains: Mike Gravel was like Ross Perot without a brain--snippy, insulting and annoying. Pundits may like him for his reality-show flavor but this is an election, not sideshow entertainment (or is it?). As for Kucinich... ah, nevermind. If you love him, good luck.

Overall, a mild affair, and I suspect things will stay that way for some time. Why would any of them try too hard at this point-- showing up is enough. Not even political nutcases like me take these first debates too seriously. They are like a read through after a play is cast. Each line is said aloud just so every actor can get a feeling for where it's all headed.

One thing's for sure though: I can't wait to see some McCain, Romney and Giuliani give it a spin.

Raise your hand if you've been married more than once.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Grumpy Old Man

Look for a post about this evening's Democratic debate in South Carolina on Friday.

Until then, enjoy two clips. There will be a quiz Monday.




Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Moe's Badder Blues

Having sadly skewered another Democratic presidential candidate for being too "effete" and superficially loose with his campaign funds, Maureen Dowd sets her April 25th column's sights on Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. You will recall that Dowd rendered a gloomy, negative take on Obama's announcement tour in February, when most pundits and opinion-makers were able to squeeze at least some sunshine from the history-making moment.

In that February 21st column, Dowd wrote that Obama was "'too emotionally detached and cerebral" and "'self-consciously pristine." Obama as the detached "dreamboy" is Moe’s new, thin theme for the Senator from Illinois. And now, more than two months since that February column, Dowd's red hair has become more bloody than ruddy when it comes to Barry. She writes, "the coolly detached candidate, striving to seem substantive, is good at turning down the heat himself. He manages to tamp down crowds dying to be electrified. He resists surfing his own wave of excitement."

So Barack is an adult among the weary? Really? It's too antiquated to comprehend or take seriously (so last century) and thus Maureen won't even try to. Instead, Dowd confusingly (and “some people” might say dishonestly) describes the candidate in opposing tones. On one hand we are to believe Obama is the cerebral loner, too self-aware to believe his own hype. But on the other hand Dowd tells us that Obama has no substance and is the superficial "dreamboy" to Hillary's "Queen" (to use Dowd's unimaginative Oscar reference).

Dowd desperately needs to describe Obama as detached because her typing fingers simply won't do inspiration and hope. Her opinion-making skill exists only where there is a bad man (or woman) operating boldly and with objectively evil aims. Where the GOP offers her "deceptive" and "bumbling" characters from Bush to Cheney to Wolfowitz, the Democrats only offer the potential for satiated emotions and, well, solutions. In a March 3rd column on Obama, Dowd interviewed the Senator in his office and her impression included this pretty sounding but pointless conclusion: "I'm just not certain, having watched the fresh-faced senator shy away from fighting with the feral Hillary over her Hollywood turf, that he understands that a campaign is inherently a conflict." (Note that Dowd’s lazy narrative would like to spin Barry as the Noxzema Girl to compliment Adam Nagourney’s John Edwards as Breck Girl theme).

I would suspect that what Obama actually doesn't understand (nor does John Edwards, it seems) is that folks like Maureen Dowd need either some candidate-created blood in the water or candidate-generated lies to spin their own stories. Both John and Barry probably don’t care either, since both of their campaigns are about progress and not pandering. I'm not sure that Maureen Dowd understands that Americans are fed up with the Republicans’ self-inflicted conflicts that yield no result beyond deeper division and wilder debt. So many months out before the race truly begins, Dowd has already tired of the lady-boys in the Democratic field because they don’t provide enough red-state-hate meat for her hungry liking.

In her recent breezy article about John Edwards’ locks, Dowd declared that "effete is never effective," a startlingly soothing sentence that means nothing, especially in light of the ineffective macho chest-pumping we have witnessed for the past 7 years. All Barry and John offer Dowd is a chance to recycle her sad masculine-feminine theories that you can buy for 49 cents at Amazon.com. Of course Moe has the blues. Her one-note act is all about alliteration in the name of sarcastic reveals. But it’s tough to keep finding ways to call someone fresh or removed (or subconsciously feminine, i.e. gay). Obama and Edwards have their stinking happy marriages, happy children and even happier supporters. All Maureen is left with are over-priced haircuts, teasing wives and big, adoring crowds. Boring.

As for this new April 25th article, Maureen pens that she watched Obama’s wife Michelle give a speech recently, a speech wherein the candidate’s wife poked fun at Barack’s dual life, one as political god and another as a regular, bumbling man. You would think Dowd would eat this up and surround it with “Are Men Necessary?”-type bromides. But no. Rather she writes, “Many people I talked to afterward found Michelle wondrous. But others worried that her chiding was emasculating, casting her husband — under fire for lacking experience — as an undisciplined child.” Ah those “others” rise up again.

For Dowd this entire election will be all about who is the tough Daddy and who is the emotional Mommy, regardless of whether Hillary is the Democratic nominee (or especially if she is not). Dowd enjoys the sexist and vaguely bigoted gender world she has designed in her mind and she will not be moved. I would suspect her waning TimesSelect talent in 2008 will be focused upon throwing antidotes into that gender world and making them stick, logic be damned.

Asked to be the “war czar” for Iraq and Afghanistan by the Bush Administration, Retired Marine Gen. John Sheehan told reporters he turned down White House offer because, "The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going."

Neither does Maureen Dowd.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I Wish I Wrote That, Pt. 1

"Its dense web of deceit is the deliberate product of its amoral culture, not a haphazard potpourri of individual blunders...Like the C.I.A. leak case, each new scandal is filling in a different piece of the elaborate White House scheme to cover up the lies that took us into Iraq and the failures that keep us mired there. As the cover-up unravels and Congress steps up its confrontation over the war’s endgame, our desperate president is reverting to his old fear-mongering habit of invoking 9/11 incessantly in every speech. The more we learn, the more it’s clear that he’s the one with reason to be afraid." -- Frank Rich, New York Times, Sunday, April 22, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Hair Up There

Did you hear? Presidential candidate John Edwards got two $400 haircuts in Beverly Hills. His campaign paid for the haircuts. Edwards announced he was reimbursing the campaign for the amount, which should not have been paid out of campaign funds. Reporter Adam Nagourney of the New York Times (or, perhaps, the word hack is more applicable) writes a news-less piece today (hey, he's good at it!) about this haircut scandal, getting an excuse to use words like "coiffure" and "stylist." Nagourney also got to use his trademark lazy-kitty purr, writing:

John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat, announced on Thursday that he was reimbursing his campaign $800 to cover what his aides said was the cost of two haircuts — yes, you read that correctly — by a Beverly Hills barber, though, perhaps, the word stylist is more applicable.

Oh... snap! You go, girl! Perhaps, indeed!

Well I have one vital and profound question for all of you out there (and for Mr. Nagourney): have you ever tried to get a decent haircut in the greater Los Angeles area? Have you?

I have, my friends. I have. And it is not easy, nor is it pretty.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2004, my first haircut attempts were in Silverlake, most likely at a joint named, um, let's call it "Judy's," where the "stylists" had bad attitudes and the conversation was minimal. You could buy over-priced magazines, shirts or even shoes while you waited. You could not help but enjoy the polished concrete and the high ceilings. However, every time I left, my hair always looked, well, violated. But the place was cheap-- around 20 bucks-- and you do get what you pay for, no?

My next ventures were in the Beverly Hills area, at a "salon" a friend chose for me because of a friendship he had with the "stylist" there (long story) and here the trim results were grim. The haircut was, with tip, around $90 and I was so fearful of offending the "stylist" (and by implication, our mutual friend) that I never complained. Here, the conversation was plentiful and the water purified. But the hair cutting was troubling. It seemed you did not get what you paid for (plus parking was a nightmare).

As of late I have been trying out spots in Venice, light and airy places where they offer you a beer or wine and everyone is too cool to be in a hurry. But again, the result up above has been dismal. My bangs never look right, my line in the back is never quite straight, and my sides, well, let's not go there.

The point is this: when you find a good "stylist" in Los Angeles, pay them anything they want. I am running on three years in this locale and no haircut can match my former Iowa stylings (those folks can cut hair). And heck, I am not even running for President, nor am I monied like John, but I tell you, no price is too high. While pundits can question whether Edwards is a true man of the people because his hair is too perfect, I am left to sigh at one more thing John Edwards and I have in common--we'd both give anything for a good haircut.

Update: Check out a very un-clever missive from Maureen Dowd on the subject (oh, she uses the term "blowout"! Dowd is as clever as Nagourney!). If people truly believe this haircut incident is reflective of something about Edwards' character, then by all means vote for someone else. The state of our political discourse has become so lame and tired that well-kept journalists, made-up with expensive hairdos and outfits, feel the freedom to raise up some false outrage and find this sideline activity offensive (check out Dowd's photo next to the article--um, speaking of blowouts...). Forget any facts or issues, and definitely forget any sense of humor--this proves Edwards is a faggot, right? Isn't that what all of these stories really want to say? Democrats are fags? From nappy-headed to too well-coiffed. What a hairy month in America.

The entire storyline is a distraction from any progress on any significant issue. Wake up. I want to see Hillary's salon bill, pronto. Or Mitt Romney's. Actually, no I don't--I don't care about their hair. I care about their vision and their voice. Silly me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

One More Time, With Feeling

Disappointed with its one-note President and his darkside understudy, the Republican Party appears to be inching closer towards all-out clamoring for a presidential run by former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. It seems that since W. and his star-spangled backdrops have failed to get the job done, this time around the conservatives want a professional actor to soothe their aesthetic aches. But perhaps the title of a 1990 film Thompson starred in could provide the GOP with a subtle warning even the Bush Twins could read into--"Die Hard 2: Die Harder."

Oh, yes, my GOP friends, the state of your party could get much worse. With your trail of 2008 candidates reading like a reality show cast list for "The Bad Girl's Club," risking it all on an untested and uninspiring short-term Senator simply because he makes you feel good seems so...well...Democrat-like. You probably believe that there's no where to go but up, right? With John McCain fading into a chaotic soft focus twilight, Mitt Romney proving his Massachusetts mettle with flip-flops and missteps, and Rudy Giuliani hanging around like eccentric Auntie Mame, it's hard out there for a conservative. George W. Bush has weaved the politics of 9-11 into a suffocating Afghan that has squeezed old-time Republican principle of any fresh oxygen and left the Party in a bind where the puffed-up Daddy rhetoric leads to kiddie results.

Is Fred Thompson the answer? Yesterday after a visit to Capitol Hill, several Republican lawmakers hinted at Fred's ability to bring the nation together, citing no evidence of his past leadership skills, but only the funny feeling they had inside. It is as if Bush's persistent ripping at our national seams for 7 years had nothing to do with their Party. The new GOP mantra seems to be, "We made you awfully sick, but now we'll make you feel much better."

We have all read the various "Where's the Beef?" articles about Barack Obama, articles that dismiss Obama's genuine attempt to create a unifying movement of Americans in the last few months and complain at his lack of policy papers. That's fine and good, but be on the lookout for the same articles about Fred Thompson, should he run, because in Fred's instance they are well-deserved. Spinning one's wheels on a soundstage is not remotely comparable to the collective grassroots efforts each Democratic candidate have made on the national stage as of late. And while it doesn't seem likely that any Republicans are asking this Beef question of Thompson right now, before their proverbial chickens hatch, this is to be expected. When the false hope of a Hollywood storyline is all you've got, you have to make it work.

It will be more than interesting to see the Republicans rally out of an emotion other than fear, after they have cynically used their past three presidencies to teach Americans that a common enemy is the only way we'll get along. Just be warned, GOP, that without a true prescription (beyond image) for any of our country's ills-- your Party may die harder than before.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Senseless

With all of the talk of the remarkable college women of the Rutgers basketball team, who were casually injured days ago by the ignorant words of the I-man, America now has a too-long roster of remarkable college students from Virgina Tech who suffered the ultimate injury by losing their lives at the cowardly hand of a fellow student.

Media talk will inevitably turn to asking "How did this happen?", as if we really do not know the not-so-mysterious causes of gun violence. Our dumb wonder quickly rises in these moments, and I fear that like the not-so-mysterious causes of incompetence, or distrust, or bigotry, no one truly wants an answer.

Like modern American tragedies, blame will need to be passed somewhere, never to ourselves, but to some aspect of the system, in this tragedy's case to the police and administrators in Blacksburg, Virgina. We are so good at placing anger and frustration upon individuals and groups that failed only because we failed to ask serious questions or demand thorough preparation.

I hope that as we grieve for the lost young men and women of Virgina Tech we can admit this event is one more recent example of how our notions of public safety are false. Rhetoric from our leaders may soothe our feelings, or provide us with common enemies, but our vulnerabilities as communities remain unguarded and unaddressed.

We don't exclusively need to fight evil-doers over in Iraq to prevent them from coming here. We have plenty of other evils at home already. The greatest one might be our relentless focus on our feelings, and never on results.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Too Sunny

Forgetting Don Imus, I will enjoy the SoCal sun today...

You'll note Meet the Press has General Zinni this Sunday, and also a conservative-dreamy panel, including David "Crybaby" Brooks, John Harwood, Gwen Ifill, and Eugene Robinson (ok, so Eugene and Gwen aren't so bad)... so we all have that to look forward to.

In the meantime, check out "Children of Men" on DVD this weekend and try to pretend it doesn't seem plausible. And I can't believe I'd ever write this... but check out this worthwhile column today, "Our Prejudices, Ourselves" by Harvey Fierstein in the New York Times.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Easy Being Green

Go to the library or supermarket checkout and read, "The Rise of Big Water," by Charles Mann, found inside of Vanity Fair's 2nd Annual Green Issue for May. It is full-on devastating (and not available online-- that clever, clever Graydon).

Another great article in this issue, detailing Rush Limbaugh's pathetic and persistent contribution to anti-Environmentalism, "Rush to Judgment" by James Wolcott, is available online, found here. A superb teaser paragraph for you from the Limbaugh article:

From Teddy Roosevelt, who made wilderness protection a priority and created national parks, bird sanctuaries, big-game refuges, and national forests, to Richard Nixon, under whose bad-moon presidency the Environmental Protection Agency was formed and the Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed, the Republican Party carried a tradition of conservation that crumbled under Ronald Reagan, for whom nature was mostly a scenic backdrop whose resources could be exploited out of camera frame. Reagan's selections of James Watt for the Department of the Interior and Anne Gorsuch for the E.P.A. put bureaucratic vandals in positions of stewardship, and in 1987 he vetoed re-authorization of the Clean Water Act, a veto that fortunately was overridden. It is a measure of how awful the George W. Bush administration has been on the environment that some activists miss the old, upfront hostility of the Reagan era, when at least the political and corporate machinations took place in open daylight. "Unfortunately, now," lamented Daniel Weiss, an environmental activist (quoted by Amanda Griscom in her article for online's Grist), "our leaders are much more savvy—and far more insidious. They undo laws in the dead of night." Under Bush II, environmentalists no longer need to be engaged, because they've been so stridently marginalized and stigmatized as a pantheistic kook cult practicing socialism under the guise of Gaia worship. This was largely Limbaugh's doing, and now every right-wing pundit from Cal Thomas to Michael Savage croaks the same tune.

Kudos to Vanity Fair for two solid issues in a row--last month's issue featuring an article on The Sopranos creator David Chase was near-perfect and 100% readable, cover-to-cover.

And speaking of Easy Being Green, in case you missed it, here's the permalink to my column on Al Gore and his "An Inconvenient Truth."

The Lowbrow Fire List

In light of Imus-related happenings, please welcome a new permanent feature on the site, a "lowbrow fire list," a naming of those American media and political personalities that are hellbent on coarsening our culture and ruining any shot at political balance, however imperfect, across the nation. All of us know that Don Imus is not the worst or first offender, and thus, it's time to call the rest out of the hypocritical closet. I'll be writing colmuns about those on the list from time-to-time, keeping tabs on their efforts to dumb down our discourse. I welcome your suggestions at browbeating@gmail.com

the lowbrow fire list (so far):

Don Imus: Rutgers' women's basketball team are "nappy-headed hos"
Ann Coulter: John Edwards is a"faggot"
Glenn Beck: Hillary Clinton is a "stereotypical bitch"
Rush Limbaugh: Obama is a "Halfrican American"
Newt Gingrich: Spanish is "the language of living in the ghetto"