Friday, March 30, 2007

Roll In, Roll Out

Well played, Hillary.

BUT a big way-to-go to both Obama and Edwards.

This puppy ain't over yet.

In the interim check out Frank Rich from Sunday, and look for a new post early Monday afternoon.

Who's On First?

This was the visual at a few days ago.

Does this bother anyone except me?

Will the same 2 families rule this nation for years to come?

Update: Ok, I mean, I get it. But I don't get it.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Audacity of Flip-Flops

With John Kerry out of the '08 race (remember those giant sandals?) the flips and flops are all happening on the GOP side this round. A short opinion article in today's Indianapolis Star provides a mini-summary (but I don't think my Governor is a flip-flopper, just an actor). The GOP cannot decide whether they want to be "principled" and go with, say, a proud reality-hater like Sam Brownback, or go with a new conservative convert like, say, the rest of the field (even Huckabee breaks the far-Right mold with his hippie love of art and music).

Anyway, here are some of the front-runner highlights so far...

Executive Flip-Flopper: Over the weekend there was an excellent Los Angeles Times article evaluating the formation of flip-flopping Willard Romney has danced in the past several months. Abortion, gays, trees and air--old Mitt is ready to change his mind. But for all the "Right" reasons, of course.

Straight Talk Flipper: McCain is the real pro this season, and this video on YouTube shows how it's done.

Mayoral Flipping: Now, Rudy! Giuliani feels left out and employs a turnaround on the flat tax issue (which worked very well for Steve Forbes).

Bonus Media Flopping: This isn't exactly a flip-flop but it is definitely intellectual flailing, and it has been driving me crazy this week-- Chris Matthews seems to believe there's a big metaphorical monster waiting to take down Hillary (with nothing but his own flip-from-Democrat-to-Republican past as a framework to guide him).

I've heard Matthews push this weirdo monster idea on Hardball and Imus (he most likely just enjoys saying "horny"). Here's how he puts down the concept:

Is there out in the country, or out in the Atlantic Ocean, some gigantic monster, big, green, horny-headed—all kinds of horns coming out, big aggressive monster of anti-Hillaryism that hasn‘t shown itself; it‘s based upon gender, the fact that she is a liberal, that she is Bill—and that hasn‘t shown itself, because people are being so nice in the polling, they are saying all the correct things? Is there an anti-Hillary monster waiting out there that could deliver this nomination, or this election, to someone else? [Chris Matthews on Hardball, 3/26/07]

Matthews also keeps pushing the line that America is not ready to elect a woman, or at least Hillary. His circumstantial proof is that because no one in the media wants to discuss that Hillary actually is a woman, then the nation is not ready. The last time I checked, Matthews had 2 of his own shows on the TV. Maybe he should stop complaining about the dearth of talk about Hillary's gender and step up to the plate to discuss the topic on those shows. Or even more importantly, why the Atlantic Ocean? The Pacific Ocean has better monsters.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Time Past, Time Past

Former Senator Bill Bradley was on Meet the Press this past Sunday pushing his new book, "The New American Story" (yes, I still watch the show, despite my rants). To be honest, throughout the entire mini-interview I was puzzled as to what Bradley was talking about or what exactly Bradley is bringing to the political debate these days.

Bradley mentioned the "ethic of connectedness" which demands individual and collective action to solve problems (um, ok, we can give him credit for that radical idea). But he also whined and hawed about the Democratic Party, hanging onto that runaway bus of stereotypes that calls Dems tax and spenders, anti-defense hippies, and haters of wealth. This kills me when another Democrat pulls out the cloak of the past and swings it onto his shoulders to complain about the current state of the party. Clearly, Bradley is not substantively listening to the 2008 Democratic candidates at all.

Two of Bradley's "democratic curses" he discussed were my favorites:

(1) Russert: You talk about closed-minded devotion to the secular. Do you think the Democrats have been reluctant to talk about faith? Bradley: I think that the Democrats—some people in the Democratic Party have been reluctant to talk about faith, and not so much just in a religious sense, but in terms of how it informs our public life.

"Some people," my friends! Add Bradley to the picture board!

This "liberals don't like church" line is a very dull Fox News kind of talking point that the media loves. Pastor Russert in particular loves to talk about this despite any empirical reality backing him up (look here, and here, and wow, especially here).

I am befuddled as to how Senator Bradley can seriously fail to acknowledge that Obama, Edwards, or even Clinton have begun to turn the page on this alleged "curse." Look here, and here, and even here as evidence that Bradley is stuck in his 2000 race for the nomination and that 2008 is doing just fine in that regard, thank you.

The other favorite of mine was this one:

(2) Bradley claims the Democrats are "hypnotized by charisma," and that "the party has, has tended to look for a knight on a shining—on a white horse to solve all our problems."

Does this explain nominee John Kerry in 2004? No way. Al Gore? Um... lockbox? I would suggest that Bradley is taking a pre-emptive shot at the Obama candidacy. When he was asked about Obama, Bradley made a fair point that Obama needs to be more specific about his goals for the nation, but also admitted it was early in the race. But while Bradley said he was impressed with Obama's crowds he noted: "I’m impressed with 20,000 people at a speech, I’d be more impressed with 5,000 meet-ups with 100 people at a meet-up." I'd be more impressed if Bradley would acknowledge Obama's singular contribution to the party in terms of energy and idealism. 5000 meet-ups does not a president make. Ask Howard Dean.

Senator Bradley's book might be marvelous. I have read all of his other books. But something tells me that Bradley has been muscled out of his own party by others with even bolder ideas, sharper idealism, and genuine charisma and he knows it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Super Quick Hits

The U.S. Attorney scandal is exhausting my outrage for so many reasons, but at least Keith Olbermann has been reporting on it with clarity and helping it all make sense.

Another "Go Hillary Go" article in the New York Times, now about her effort to master all things military. Is this in response to Bill Clinton's whining or is it evidence his prior complaint was bogus? Either way, a wet front-page kiss for the lady.

An original, solid article from Salon's Walter Shapiro about the reality that White House occupants actually do have personal lives, and that health or family issues are just additional burdens for a President, among many.

Light side from Olbermann: I don't know why, but this makes me laugh every time I watch it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Couples Counseling

Seems reporters like to go hard after the Democratic marrieds these days (or maybe this tradition goes back to the early 1990s? Look, left).

Exhibit A is Katie Couric Sunday night on 60 Minutes throwing flippy-cold and oddly aggressive questions at John and Elizabeth Edwards about Mrs. Edwards' cancer and the campaign (watch it here and be sure to check out a great Nora Ephron response from Huffington Post).

Regardless of your comfort level with Couric's approach, the Edwardses seemed poised and ready to talk. I don't hear them complaining about their treatment, but I am sure they would agree using strawmen communities (By gosh, it does take a village! I am totally on to something here...) as justifications for questions is an intellectually lazy endeavor. Maybe if Elizabeth had colon cancer Couric would have been more empathetic.

Update: I didn't take the time to listen to Couric's solo audio of the questions today, but thanks to Mickey Kaus at Slate pointing it out, I clicked and listened. Couric's repetitive rancor was as cowardly as it was pointless. What, exactly, was she after? When I wrote days ago that a "cynical march of snide doubt and division" would commence, I had far-right bloggers and say, Rush Limbaugh in mind as the drum majors. "Journalism" has fallen further than I thought.

Exhibit B is Chris Matthews today, going straight for the throats of Tom and Christie Vilsack on Hardball. Matthews skipped the "Some people say" approach Couric lathered up with and instead exposed the strategery behind the Vilsack endorsement with pointed, even impolite questions. It seemed to me that Matthews made the Vilsacks look unprepared and amateurish, but you watch and decide.

In contrast, Exhibit C is the transcript of not-so-tough questions from ABC News' George Stephanopoulos aimed at Willard and Ann Romney a few weeks ago. My favorite question was the first: "Okay, Mitt Romney, management consultant. Give us the PowerPoint presentation for your candidacy." Oh, those softballs are hard to swing at, I'm sure. Even for a guy nicknamed Mitt.

What I really want to see is Rudy and Judy Giuliani on 60 Minutes with Couric. Perhaps she can ask them if they are "in denial" thinking that their marriage will work (considering their respective track records). "Some people say," Couric might begin, "that you're both bad at keeping commitments. How can we trust you won't leave America halfway during your term?"

Maybe if President Bush started doing interviews with Laura we could get to the bottom of this whole Iraq War everyone's talking about...oh nevermind, he's in that Republic Party.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Weekend Eggs and Links

President Bush has a lovely, well-propped press conference in response to the House passing an Iraq spending bill, remembers he can veto bills.

Federalism stinks, doesn't it Mr. President?

Vilsack expected to endorse Hillary Clinton on Monday. So expected it hurts. Too bad all Vilsack's voters have already wandered to the Edwards camp. But classy timing, Tom, if anything.

Rudy re-designs his webpage. Clean look and new logo, but seems under construction. So does the forming biography of his present wife. I think Rudy should use an exclamation point after his name--it just seems to be a Republican thing to do.

Congressman Tancredo hints he will join the field for the GOP nomination. So many awful choices, so little time. Come on Hagel, run!

For presidential campaign junkies, this site provides some great reminders of when the candidate fields were plentiful, like 2008 will be (especially 1988 and 1992).

Howard Fineman of Newsweek had a good take on the Edwards press conference. Saturday's New York Times will have a balanced, thoughtful look at possible voter emotions surrounding the Edwardses decision to carry on.

As of Friday afternoon, Obama had a classy front and center link to his message of best wishes for Elizabeth Edwards (including photo) on his homepage. Well done, Senator. Update: The link was gone as of 530pm PST Friday.

Final question on the Elizabeth Edwards announcement--do you think that if Edwards was the clear frontrunner, like Hillary, he would be second guessed for continuing the campaign?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Stay the Course

Modern presidential politics is overly personal, and has been for some time. This modern politics tends to focus on the actions of a candidate and how they can be manipulated to match superficial stereotypes that have been affixed to that image by the media.

Watching John and Elizabeth Edwards this morning, a new kind of personalization was introduced to the campaign. As a couple, the candidate and his wife spoke in a plain, grassy space with the sun at their backs and they told America of an intimate development in their personal lives. Elizabeth's cancer has returned, and is not curable. The moment was too real, in some respects, because it made every viewer a witness to the vulnerability of those who seek political power. I am not sure what Americans truly expect from their political leaders anymore, but the kind of vulnerability John and Elizabeth exhibited is rare and awkward and human.

Pundits and bloggers have already begun their cynical march of snide doubt and division on the matter, and this reaction can be expected, for it seems it is how one survives in America these days. But I couldn't help but wish, as I watched the Edwardses speak, that America would embrace the idea they were offering us: that honest public service is about sacrifice and hope in the name of ideas, in the name of some form of a cause that includes each and all. It is called public service because you are supposed to be a servant to the community, not just to your convictions or ambitions, but to a vision of building a community that includes every citizen, functioning in a system of order that balances both practical and impossible goals.

We are all so cynical, and so afraid to believe what leaders tell us anymore. The vision of community that has persisted from our political leaders for the past several years does not include everyone, it is a vision founded on group victory, on a selfish, singular faith without reason, and on delusions of success without planning that are always mightily crafted on the backs of others.

I have met John and Elizabeth and have worked for their past campaigns, and so my response to their press conference this morning was an instant, familial type of empathy. I am fully aware some will not respond that way. Some individuals will treat this situation as an opportunistic moment, a nasty reflex born out of the trail of deceits that liter our national landscape: the WMDs, the Mission Accomplisheds, the Patriot Acts, the Katrinas, the Walter Reeds.

We have been systematically trained to disbelieve all sentiment. We have been aggressively trained to view compassion as weakness. I don't know how to make that stop for everyone else, but I can make it stop with me.

The media has never questioned the substance of the family values of that stubborn 30% of America that adores George W. Bush and his divisive messianic visions. I am sure, however, that they will question the substance of the Edwardses family values in their decision to go forward with the campaign. Only Republicans are allowed to be resolute and principled, it seems. The significant difference is that George W. Bush is resolute in believing in his cronies and his God, but John Edwards is resolute in believing in a different America where all are included and lifted.

The shared faith of John and Elizabeth was evident today, and as they constantly "look for the silver lining" within the months to come that faith will sustain them. It was a living, implied faith and not sold as a slogan. How remarkable.

Senator Edwards likes to say that "It's time to ask the American people to be patriotic about something other than war," and I agree. Today the Senator and his wife asked all of us to be patriotic about that vision of an American community where public servants and the polity trade sacrifices with confident faith in one another's honest efforts to make the nation work as one.

It's time to put our faith in something other than a President's certainty. I'll put my faith in John Edwards' humanity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Grace Personified

Various news outlets are reporting that Senator Edwards will make some kind of announcement with his wife at noon on Thursday.

I personally met with Elizabeth two times during the campaign in 2004 (one time was a joyful, thoughtful breakfast at the Hamburg Inn in Iowa City). Elizabeth is an amazingly intelligent, humble and graceful woman.

My thoughts and prayers are with John and Elizabeth Edwards and their children. I hope yours are, too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It Sure Takes a Village

George W. Bush has forcefully stuffed seven years of non-existent straw men down our throats, namely variations of the "Some people say..." rhetorical device (when no people say), and now Hillary Clinton (ever the ambitious one) has gone and done the President one better.

Hillary has begun to create an entire community of straw folk that will make the hard (or even simple) choices while Hillary focuses instead on focus group results.

Here's Hillary on whether the pro-Obama "1984" ad rushing through the internet tubes should be pulled: "You know, that’s for somebody else to decide."

Sound familiar?

Lee Iacocca would be proud--this Senator is "getting out of the way."

I guess we'll have to stay tuned to see how often Clinton employs this new village of deciders throughout the campaign.

Straight Xenophobia-Talk Express

John McCain desperately wants to be popular.

While in Iowa this weekend, McCain said that “Immigration is probably a more powerful issue here than almost anyplace that I’ve been.”

However, he actually meant to say, "Republicans in Iowa are more willing to publicly immigrant-bash than anyplace I've been."

Or maybe he meant to say, "Because I really want to win the Iowa caucuses, I'm going to pretend that angry white people saying things like 'They're stealing from us' or 'We need to build a fencce' moves my soul and prompts me to consider a total flip-flop on my immigration stance."

In related news, McCain visited New Hampshire Monday and noted, "Immigration is probably a more powerful issue here than almost anyplace that I’ve been."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Not Without My Daughter, Not Without My Wives

If this is for real, I may consider moving abroad... or at the very least to Alaska. Oh, that's right. Hillary actually has to win the nomination first. Breathe.

Catch the pro-Obama "1984" ad while it lasts. Man, it is effective, no matter who made it.

Over at re-designed TIME, Joe Klein writes another blog that gets two notions so wrong they hurt: 1) Klein tries to make Governor Huckabee and Senator Brownback look like lovable "grace" Christians with only the best intentions. Huckabee, we are told, is a "destroyer of stereotypes," and impliedly so is Brownback, apparently because they love music and health care, what rogues they are. Klein posits each could win the GOP nomination only by becoming wing-nuts that preach fire and brimstone, like say they hate gays and oppose a woman's right to choose. The odd reality, though, is that both guys already do hate gays and reproductive choice! (What Klein calls "requisite" GOP positions, which begs the question: besides obfuscatory rhetoric, how are these guys truly different from the others again?) Huckabee may be a softer side evangelical, but embrace diversity he does not.

Where's the grace in judgment and hatred?

2) Klein goes on to write that Rudy Giuliani and Willard Romney are "moderate candidates that live like liberals," a dazzlingly airhead-esque statement that ignores the objective fact that the serious players in the Democratic field have less total divorces as a group [low-tier hopeful Chris Dodd (1)] than Rudy does on his own. Man, those liberals and their silly commitments for life. Hippie values!

And finally, on the 4th anniversary of the commencement of the Iraq War, President Bush hurriedly reads a script we've all heard before, this time with less conviction. Even a used car salesman can have an off day (very naughty word alert).

Far from the Madding Crowd

Recently, Greg and I attended an event for John Edwards at the UCLA campus. Both of us noted the complete lack of security for the event. Several hundred college students and members of the public filled and surrounded a courtyard as Edwards spoke. Sure, you may say, it's John Edwards--who'd want to harm him, besides Ann Coulter? And in fairness, I never witnessed any security at an Iowa caucus event for Edwards or his wife or for any of the other candidates in 2004. But something tells me 2008 is different. The intensity at any public gathering seems greater than ever, and the thin line of American politeness appears to have thinned.

Today's Washington Post ruminates on the potential of earlier security for presidential candidates as the selection process is underway. I suppose if we are seriously in a war against terrorism and if we value our democracy (the last element there is the catch) you would think that protecting the process itself warrants value, regardless of party. According to the editorial, the budget is there to start protecting the candidates--do we have the will?

Update:U.S. News & World Report impliedly offers evidentiary support that Homeland Security should start protecting all the candidates soon--with the potentially sped-up schedule for choosing the nominee of each party this cycle, money will be left over... why not protect all of them them now?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lifestyles of the Maverick

Senator McCain had what some might call a Black Friday (or a Not Good Friday).

First, when responding to a questioner at an Iowa forum, McCain said he did not want to get involved with judging the merits of court decisions as President (admirable) because such an area was a "tar baby" for a politician (yikes). I don't believe I know or have heard anyone throughout my entire life use the term "tar baby." (Admittedly, I do not know many 70-year-olds, but surprisingly I do know several 80-year-olds. So figure that one out.)

The point is that McCain apologized for using the term. This apology is OK, if we have to accept it (and we do) but again, why do certain politicians speak in tongues completely separate from modern reality? Who uses this term anymore? Anyone?

Second, when asked a question by a reporter in Iowa (Is this why you skipped the state in 2000, Senator?) McCain traveled down an odd path that left everyone with what might be described as a not-so-fresh feeling. Courtesy of the New York Times, here's the exchange with some color commentary:

Reporter: “Should U.S. taxpayer money go to places like Africa to fund contraception to prevent AIDS?”

Mr. McCain: “Well I think it’s a combination. The guy I really respect on this is Dr. Coburn. He believes – and I was just reading the thing he wrote– that you should do what you can to encourage abstinence where there is going to be sexual activity. Where that doesn’t succeed, than he thinks that we should employ contraceptives as well. But I agree with him that the first priority is on abstinence. I look to people like Dr. Coburn. I’m not very wise on it.”
(Mr. McCain turns to take a question on Iraq, but a moment later looks back to the reporter who asked him about AIDS.)

Mr. McCain: “I haven’t thought about it. Before I give you an answer, let me think about. Let me think about it a little bit because I never got a question about it before. I don’t know if I would use taxpayers’ money for it.”

Reporter: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”
Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

Reporter: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Reporter: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

Reporter: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”

Let's be clear--there's nothing wrong with not knowing an answer to a question. After almost 7 years of Bush, any attempt to actually answer the question that is posed to you is refreshing. It's also not that incredibly horrible that McCain cannot instantly recall his votes on specific proposals, or that he reflexively told the reporter a sensible position that was one he has actually never held. What seems so troubling is the ease with which McCain was knocked off guard by a logical question involving a topic that has been in the public consciousness for over 25 years now. Even with the reporter's leading follow-ups, McCain was "stumped." I'm afraid one doesn't have to be an employee of the Centers for Disease Control to know that condoms definitely reduce the risk of STDs and also reduce the risk of transmission of HIV.

This sort of dissonance between our political leaders' reality-the highbrow-and the meek underclass' reality-that lowbrow-is one of the main reasons the United States continues to have ill-performing schools, outmoded healthcare bureaucracies, and an intractable four-year War. The lifelong politicians seem to want to solve problems that have evolved into different animals.

It is simple to blame this awkward moment on McCain's age, but obviously it is much more thematic and systemic than that.

The other problematic issue here is that McCain trusts Tom Coburn to provide him with helpful advice on these aspects of healthcare issues. Senator Coburn is a self-aggrandizing "values" wielder, a former Baptist deacon and obstetrician who desires the death penalty for abortionists and blames homosexuals for abortion rates. Coburn was among those who loudly complained when NBC wanted to air an unedited version of the oscar-winning Schindler's List during primetime in 1997, due to nudity (at a holocaust camp) and violence (a War). Coburn must not know about MTV.

What's worse and directly on point is that during the same year, Coburn "proposed a bill that would have ended anonymous testing for HIV/AIDS and required reporting the names of those who tested positive to public health authorities." This is who McCain looks to on healthcare issues?

When Senator McCain says he has "never gotten into these issues before" it isn't too hard to believe. Tom Coburn's healthcare realism is more like straight talk for 1907 and not 2007. I wouldn't be surprised if the HIV policy papers he supplies McCain even fail to mention lambskin.

It's 2008, and we need leaders who have a general awareness of what the present offers citizens on-the-ground, and who offer solutions fit for our times. Preaching abstinence is important, but in the face of America's sexual-activity in 2008, preaching abstinence alone is comparable to sending soldiers to battle without proper armor.

Here's a proposal for McCain's position on contraception: have one.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Meet the Snooze Bar

Tim Russert has an exciting, fast-paced show planned this Sunday, one filled with vivid political narrative and straightforward debate.

Fiction or fact? I report, I decide. Fiction.

This Sunday, Russert is "moderating" a show dedicated to the four year anniversary of the Iraq War (I think the proper gift is Paper). Here's the guest list: Chuck Schumer, Tom Andrews, Tom DeLay, Richard Perle, Joe Sestak. If that were the guest list for a dinner party I was attending, I would be sure to bring my flask.

Since it's only Russert's Sunday show, I'll just hit snooze.

Question for the group: What has happened to Meet the Press lately? The show used to be an excellent way to begin a Sunday, providing informative and up-close views of leaders and opinion-makers. With all of the significant issues facing the nation, one would think there would be plenty of grist for Russert's mill. Sadly, the shows have been a bore.

Thank goodness for Frank Rich, at least. Enjoy the weekend.

A Little Less Conversation

This is rich (not Marc). Former President Clinton is apparently complaining about the New York Times' recent treatment of his wife, in comparison to the way it is treating Senator Barack Obama. Did Bill miss this oddly substance-free front page article the Times ran on Obama's past investments earlier this month (the one with the negative tone that allowed other news outlets to spread innuendo like this)? Or perhaps the awful Maureen Dowd column shortly after Obama's presidential announcement where, among other things, Dowd described Obama as "testy," "irritated," and "conflicted"? I'm sure Bubba caught this objectively kind Times article about the Mrs. from the 15th of March framing Hillary's flailing statements on Iraq as "nuance." (If you click on the link, doesn't that picture look like a halo? Are you scared yet?)

Thus, far, Hillary's campaign and it's "conversation" with America has offered a lot of whining and hesitation and not many policy proposals or steps toward transformational change. What gives?

I like it better when the Dems go after Fox News.

Methinks Bill should save his energy for enemies that, well, actually exist.

Quick Hits

According to ABC News, Karl Rove is more directly tied to the Bush Administration's plan to fire all of the US Attorneys for purely political reasons, er, I mean in the fight against Terror. Yet the national media ignores the story. Too bad Anna Nicole wasn't a US Attorney. Or for that matter David Geffen. This clip of Josh Marshall's appearance on Countdown with Keith Olbermann explains the significance of the attempted and actual firings perfectly.

Adam Nagourney--a reporter who does not handle Democrats with much fairness or maturity (especially John Edwards)--writes a front-page article about John McCain's 2008 troubles for today's New York Times. Overall it's a bland affair, but this mini-paragraph is great:

“This is the way I campaign best: Get on the bus, get off the bus,” Mr. McCain said as the Straight Talk drove circles through downtown Des Moines to permit three networks to get five minutes with him. “I love it.”

Ironic imagery anyone? As Wonkette summarized recently, "John McCain tries to get his campaign to only suck at the level it sucked in 2000."

Could California's earlier primary be a bad thing for the far right? Here's hoping. But wait, if California helps select a more moderate GOP candidate, will that be bad for the Dems? Nevermind: the California GOP are fighting to keep the primary closed to independents. Bad news for Giuliani, good news for, say, Brownback? Regardless, I think Washington state has the best idea of all.

As for the impact of California's primary on Iowa, Tim Russert noted, "no doubt about it, Iowa will become more important now." So much can change in two months, right Mickey Kaus? I'll send you a Vilsack for President bumper sticker. There's a pile of them under my Harkin for President ones.

Finally, another great Wonkette snark you may have missed (bad word alert).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Profiles in Caution

I'm not a fan of litmus tests, or of having single issues rule your decision-making process when it comes to political figures. But sometimes there are topics that speak to a broader capacity for both leadership and sensibility.

Recently, Democratic presidential candidates have been asked to refute or accept comments made by General Peter Pace regarding whether homosexuality is immoral (Pace personally thinks it is, and said that homosexuality was comparable to adultery, suggesting homosexuals should be prosecuted under military law the same way those who commit adultery are).

When pressed to confront Pace's assertions, Hillary Clinton said that she was "going to leave that to others to conclude." Sadly, Senator Barack Obama punted on the topic as well, first providing a too-clever-by-half answer--"I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has restricted his public comments to military matters. That's probably a good tradition to follow."--and then with a Bushian muddled one--"I think the question here is whether somebody is willing to sacrifice for their country, should they be able to if they're doing all the things that should be done." Senator John Edwards is the only candidate, thus far, who has been willing to dismiss the notion flat-out. When Tim Russert asked Edwards in February whether homosexuality was a sin, Edwards replied, "No."

After Hillary's and Obama's initial avoidance of the issue, they then issued statements via spokespeople stating that both of them do not, in fact, consider homosexuality immoral.

What worries me about this tiny episode is not the fire in General Pace's pants over the matter--honestly, to compare homosexuality to adultery is a horribly incoherent way to prove your moral mettle--but how the opportunity it provided politicians like Hillary to display some courage was ignored.

Perhaps the adultery concept hit too close to home for Hillary, and she was in no mood to point out that a broken promise made during marriage is simply not morally comparable to one's sexual orientation.

Regardless of whether General Pace was referring to homosexual acts or homosexuality in general, his notion itself is immoral. It's not Christian by any stretch of the imagination. The religious right likes to fashion itself as a moral savior, hiding behind an unethical, lying President and Republican Party, while calling out groups it deems "immoral." It is safe to say General Pace has at one point or another violated some teaching in the Bible (working on Sunday, perhaps) but that is not of our concern. We live in an age where those who use "morals" to attack consider themselves victims of those they assail. These folks never offer proof beyond a bible passage of any harm done to them, aside from their interrupted peace of mind.

What makes Hillary Clinton's response so troubling is that she aggressively seeks money, time and support from gay voters. If she believes those gay supporters of hers are immoral, she should say so and return their money. That is her prerogative. But Hilary's spokesman now says she does not believe homosexuality is immoral. If true, then for her to sit still and allow individuals like Pace to offensively attack a group of citizens in the name of "values" is shameful and immoral. It's almost like having a pregnant, gay daughter and refusing to defend her rights while simultaneously using her to show your unique brand of "tolerance."

Hillary spoke these words in Selma, Alabama on March 4th, using a drawl only the most manipulative of maneuverers could muster: "You know, Dr. King told us -- Dr. King told us our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

I would say defending the rights of a homosexual couple who adopts a child and provides a loving home of character for that child, matters. I would say standing up to words that create an atmosphere where slander and violence against a homosexual teenager is acceptable and warranted by God, matters. Or, I would say simply stating that divisive hatred and outmoded "moral judgment" are not a proper basis for government or military policy, matters.

But I guess that's for others to conclude.

Update: Clinton tries again. I wonder why Senator Warner was able to be so clear, so quickly? Or Senator Edwards?

Update 2: Clinton had this to say on Bloomberg Television

"Well I've heard from a number of my friends and I've certainly clarified with them any misunderstanding that anyone had, because I disagree with General Pace completely. I do not think homosexuality is immoral. But the point I was trying to make is that this policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not working. I have been against it for many years because I think it does a grave injustice to patriotic Americans who want to serve their country. And so I have called for its repeal and I'd like to follow the lead of our allies like, Great Britain and Israel and let people who wish to serve their country be able to join and do so. And then let the uniform code of military justice determine if conduct is inappropriate or unbecoming. That's fine. That's what we do with everybody. But let's not be eliminating people because of who they are or who they love."

It's always like this with triangulating pols like the Clintons, they save their eloquence and passion after it's too late and only after being cornered. This kind of reactionary politics is a core reason why the Democrats lost in 2004. I sure hope we're smart enough to avoid it in 2008.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Body Electric

Oh the thoughts I've had these past few weeks (and no, they didn't all involve how awful Hillary is as a candidate...)

Let's start small.

I spent most of this past week living in a hotel in Ontario, CA while taking the bar examination there. The conservative foothill of the Inland Empire offered me clear views of the snowy San Bernardino Mountains and the chill of constant winds. It also had a prominent spot for FOXNEWS on the cable dial. And I must say, every time I passed the channel, Sean Hannity or some other "balanced" figure was rattling on about Al Gore's electric bill, always ending their thought with a screeching of the word, "Hypocrite."

Apparently Ozone Man isn't supposed to turn on the lights.

Does anyone think it's a tiny bit more hypocritical to send thousands of sons and daughters into a war you claim is the battle of our generation but then not force your own daughters to contribute to the cause in any substantive way?

Or how about the hypocrisy of supporting a ban on gay marriage and a general anti-homosexual agenda while trotting out your own pregnant lesbian daughter as implied proof of your decency?

Or, even, how about calling yourself "fair and balanced" and then spending a whole week on Al Gore's electric bill?

Love it.