The Dream Is A Bit Stronger

The speech itself is always worth watching; it is a wonderful bit of oratory, and maybe it is somehow fitting (although I would never try to draw too much into it) that Barack Obama will be sworn in tomorrow, and hopefully, we will begin to get past, but never forget, the awful things done in our name by the second Bush Administration.

It’s disingenuous to claim that America is even remotely post-racial because of the man’s election, but we cannot kid ourselves by saying it isn’t significant and important. This may be the most attention lavished on a presidential inauguration that I’ve witnessed personally — maybe because this is the first one where the Internet was truly at its full force — but it has so much to do with the image of President Obama.

Consider this: currently playing on my TV screen, in HD, is a TNT montage of NBA players, talking about how personal the election of Obama is for them and their families, to see someone who looks like them, who looks like America and its changing face, leading it, for even four years.

Of course, the question is what President Obama will do to live up to the promises he made, to drag us out of the state of affairs the country finds itself in. Whether he will be successful is left to us to judge.  For right now, we can enjoy the symbolism, and the hope.\


Yes, We Did

“If your grandfather could have been alive to see this, he would have heard that speech, fallen over, and died a happy man.” – my mother, late last night

After an 11-hour shift constructing an election show, after all those hours watching MSNBC as the results came in, as President-Elect Barack Obama won Pennsylvania, then Ohio, then Virginia, and then was taken over the top by my home state of California, after seeing those thousands gathered in Grant Park in Chicago, and watching this leader, this good man, give an absolutely moving speech upon his election, all I can do is think of what my grandfather would have said if he could have seen this day. After decades of living in Harlem after coming over from Barbados in 1918, if he could have lived to see the day when a black man would ascend to the highest office in the land, I know he would have told me this, the same thing he would tell me as a child when he would fly out from New York to visit my mother and me in Los Angeles:

“You see? I told you that you can be anything you want. Anything at all, even president.”

There is still so much to do, to fight for the end of racism, stupidity, and willful igrorance in America, but we cannot pretend that this is not a giant step forward in that fight.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I want to cry, it feels so good to have some form of hope again. I do not profess to believe that Obama is capable of solving every problem; that he can deliver on everything we hope and see in him. I will criticize him if he takes policy stands I think are wrong. However, after eight years of a country where logic, reason, and intelligence were seen as dirty words by our leadership, it is nothing short of wonderful to see a man, an intellectually curious and intelligent man, to lead our country again.

Yes, we can. Yes, we did. And yes, we can do so much more on our own, and with him as someone to look up to. We cannot be complacent, but we have the audacity of hope.

If Only To Halt The Tide Towards The Idiocracy

Obama 2008

I rarely vote for a presidential candidate based on his or her own merits. Inevitably, I’ve learned that they will always disappoint once in office, like most other politicians, and all I can hope for is someone who will at least stem the tide of overwhelming stupidity and acceptance of ignorance in political culture and our dealings with the world, if only for a few years. This has largely meant voting a straight Democratic Party ticket, and will again tomorrow, for reasons I will elaborate on — but regardless of whether you agree with me or not, please go out and vote tomorrow. It’s the least you can do as a citizen.

That Democratic Party ticket has not come without some head-hanging, usually at the lack of spine present in its politicians, particularly those selected to run for the Oval Office. This has been the case since I first became eligible to vote: Al Gore, John Kerry, even back to Michael Dukakis before him and my time as a voter — all Democrats, all withotut that much of a political fighting bone in their bodies.  Bill Clinton, despite the things I didn’t like about him economically, at least fought for the basic ideals behind the domestic goals.

Now, at least Barack Obama is a fighter, and I’ll be able to vote with a clear head and for someone as opposed to a vote completely against John McCain. But tomorrow is a chance to repudiate the noxious mess of the past eight years, where George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and a cadre of cads basically decided post-9/11 that a perversion of the Constitution in favor of extreme power of the executive branch was necessary and what they desired.  What died on their watch: habeus corpus, our refusal as a nation to torture, the respect of other countries, and the concept of sound policy — all thrown into the fire as a sacrifice to Karl Rove’s eternal campaign. Essentially, that eternal campaign left us with one unnecessary war that distracted from the real fight, the denial of science and logic in favor of pure ideological ignorance, and, in the complete denouement of more than two decades of voodoo economics, the current economic meltdown, in which we should be thrilled if it manages to only be a recession.

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The Past As Reflection Of The Present

By now we’re all pretty much aware that Barack Obama’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, is fairly ill, and Obama has headed back to Hawai’i to be with her. The funny thing is that I’d never seen a picture of his grandparents, or one that I really remembered seeing, until I was scanning through both Andrew Sullivan’s and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blogs at the Atlantic yesterday, and found the pictures of Dunham with her husband Stanley, and Stanley with Barack as a young boy. If you haven’t, please read Coates’ observations about the photo and come back before I give my own.

It is striking when faced with the severe resemblance that Obama has to his grandfather — that facial structure, that jawline, that I am faced with the amazing task that they simply decided upon when their daughter Ann, in the early 60s, met and married Barack Obama, Sr. at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, married, and had a son: they simply decided to love their daughter and theri grandson, despite opposing the marriage (as did Obama’s paternal grandparents).  In the America of the 1960s, the right, and what seems to us, normal choice was not always the popular one regarding interracial marriages. Loving v. Virginia is not all that long ago. To embrace raising one’s half-black, half-white grandson in the 1970s, even in Hawai’i, is one small profile in courage.

I suppose it strikes me, like many other bi-racial children, that this picture is sort of a negative of my history.  My skin is light. I’ve got blonde hair. If I’d been born 30 or 40 years earlier, I’d likely have faced a moral decision about whether to “pass” or not.  When I speak, both my mother and aunt tell me it is my grandfather’s voice, and my smile comes from that side of the family.  My mother and I are still used to jaws dropping or people being slightly stunned if we say we are parent and child in public. We still get laughs out of it, too.

This is probably part of why Obama has appealed to so many people: the back story is unique but common to what we see in certain areas of family stucture right now: this is the face of a changing America. It doesn’t mean we’ve solved the problems (not even close) that continue to divide; this campaign alone and some of the rhetoric reeking of racism has proven that. But there is a new American story to tell as times change, whether Obama wins on November 4th or not, and to see him on the main stage at this point is to see that change that is a part of every child who grows up in a world where we are increasingly, as I will crudely put it, “fuck until we’re all brown” without a bit of consideration outside of love, for whatever comes afterward.

So-Called “Accidental” Racism

How would you translate this graphic below, which apparently is good enough to be made into flyers by Republicans in the Inland Empire?

I would have gone with “Obama is a nigger,” but that’s just me.

From the Press-Enterprise:

The October newsletter by the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated says if Obama is elected his image will appear on food stamps — instead of dollar bills like other presidents. The statement is followed by an illustration of “Obama Bucks” — a phony $10 bill featuring Obama’s face on a donkey’s body, labeled “United States Food Stamps.”

The GOP newsletter, which was sent to about 200 members and associates of the group by e-mail and regular mail last week, is drawing harsh criticism from members of the political group, elected leaders, party officials and others as racist.

Good, that’s a start. But this is the mentality of way too many people overall (I don’t mean Republicans or Democrats), and it still exists in this country, sadly.  And the group’s president, Diane Fedele, is not exactly helping herself with her defense. She says she’s going to issue an apology, which is still insufficient, considering her obvious inability to identify stereotypes (that’s probably being too kind.)

She said she simply wanted to deride a comment Obama made over the summer about how as an African-American he “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

“It was strictly an attempt to point out the outrageousness of his statement. I really don’t want to go into it any further,” Fedele said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I absolutely apologize to anyone who was offended. That clearly wasn’t my attempt.”

Fedele said she got the illustration in a number of chain e-mails and decided to reprint it for her members in the Trumpeter newsletter because she was offended that Obama would draw attention to his own race. She declined to say who sent her the e-mails with the illustration.

She said she doesn’t think in racist terms, pointing out she once supported Republican Alan Keyes, an African-American who previously ran for president.

Dear Lord.  “I voted for a black person before, so I don’t think in racist terms.”  That excuses you from re-printing the worst stereotypes in a graphic image? Please.

Tactics Rather Than Strategy Mean A Loss

This is essentially what happened to John McCain last night: he hit a few notes early, going on the offensive (the “I am not President Bush” line was a good zinger, but Barack Obama had a good response to it), but seemed to flag as the debate wnet on, after he’d used that, the ACORN and Bill Ayers bits, and pleading such crocodile tears at offense to Rep. John Lewis‘ remarks over the tenor of the audience at his rallies. But, save a few good smiles in response from Obama (nice teeth, Barry, I’d like to meet your dentist), he didn’t really dent or faze him, and he needed to make Obama lose his cool to be effective.

But, if you thought the culture wars were dead or at least took a backseat in this election, you can thank or curse moderator Bob Schieffer for bringing them back up, by starting with a question about the Roe v. Wade “litmus test” bit about judicial nominees.  Eventually, it got to partial-birth abortion, and McCain’s attitude is the kind of attitude that keeps me voting Democratic every four years.

Apparently now the health of a woman during a pregnancy is now only a code word so pro-abortion advocates can get women in the clinic. It’s not a serious matter of whether the woman could die because of her child. From this attitude, we may also presume that it’s not much of a stretch to say that McCain doesn’t think it’s a big deal if a woman has to bring the baby left her by her rapist to term, etiher — Sarah Palin wears that opinion proudly. In short, the slogan ought to be: “All Your Uterus Are Belong To Us.” Think of that for your sisters, girlfriends, wives, or daughters.

(I’m really not going to go into the dissonance required to be so actively pro-life, yet be hard-core, law-and-order folk that are okay with the death penalty — or the inconsistency of seeing that a baby is carried to term, yet barely concerned with what happens to it afterwards.)

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Rope-A-Dope, Revisited

What debate #2 essentially boiled down to was a collection of attempted jabs, no haymakers, no whipping out any of the stuff referenced in the campaign ads recently. (Which is a shame, because there were a couple of opportunities Barack Obama ceded to whack John McCain on the Keating Five and its connection to current economics.)  However, Obama’s jabs were better, and more adept — such as the one in the video above on foreign policy and “not understanding.”  McCain’s rhetoric didn’t change dramatically from debate #1 — in fact, neither candidate varied too much from that script save the zingers — and he was the one who needed to up the ante, bring something new to the table.

Unfortunately, barring massive errata on Obama’s part between now and a week from today, we’ll be talking about how Obama is simply “that one” to him.

The funny thing going in is the town hall format is supposed to McCain’s best — and he did seem more at ease, willing to pal and joke around, although I put the “my friend/s” count at 30, and if you play a drinking game to that, you’d be dead halfway through, and the majority of McCain’s references, seem, well, a bit out of touch.  But, he looked stilted (and we can chalk some of this up to age and injuries suffered in his POW days) and stuck to the same rhetorical themes, so much so on economic policy that you wonder if his campaign hands him and Sarah Palin the exact same script with a few different tweaks.

Obama gets the benefit of any ties — essentially, this is a rather dull affair overall — because he sat back and let the punches come towards him before countering on foreign policy, and the particularly effective jab on McCain’s health care proposals. I am never confident enough to say “this one is over,” but I don’t know where McCain made up any ground, because whenever he tried to instill doubt in Obama, he did so in himself as well. Referring to yourself as a “cool hand” when you have a record of impulsive behavior (including your VP pick) and savaging Obama for the “speaking loudly” on Pakistan when you do so on Iraq and Russian actions towards Georgia shows a complete lack of cognitive dissonance.

Things I am rather tired of coming out of the mouths of these two:

  • Good old American exceptionalism. Sadly, this will not fucking die: we must be the beacon on the hill, we have the impetus to go after and invade countries. McCain is the bigger talker when it comes to this stuff, but Obama, being an American politician, is not immune.
  • Will no one press either of them on the War on Drugs?
  • Neither candidate, thanks to Walter Mondale’s 1984 tank job, will ever admit to Americans what they have to give up or may have to pay more in taxes to get the government back on track.  In bad economic times, we deserve a bit more honesty, but politicians know better than that.

Also, we’d like to tell Tom Brokaw to suck it. I know the candidates agreed to the format, but it was awfully confining.  Jim Lehrer, Gwen Ifill, and now Brokaw — all underwhelming moderators, with some stinker questions and/or an inability or unwilligness to ask good follow-ups.  Hell, I know local reps from the League of Women Voters who could do better jobs moderating than this. Get a general host to introduce, then turn it over to th LWV moderator. Anything for better questions.

God, We Have A Month Left Of This

Finally, the campaign decided to bring back the Keating Five. About time.

I tire of this shit now, because it’s all gone so fucking last minute surreal by this point — John McCain going open season on the character attacks because he’s behind and in bad straits on the economic issue and we have — shock, surprise — race-baiting and terrorist remarks against Barack Obama at rallies involving both McCain and Sarah Palin, who ginned it up with mentions of Bill Ayres and inciting the usual virulence at the press that they’ve been working so well for the past few months of the campaign.

All this informs the second of three debates, which will probably make for no better theater than the first one, and will make us more and more likely to wish for the next month to pass even more quickly, so we can be done with the drawn-out spectacle. Yes, there is a serious choice to be made here, and I’ve made mine, as many of you probably know, but now we are seeing the final descent into the usual stupid stunts that come around late September and October of every presidential election year.

I don’t know where McCain goes from here; I don’t see where he gets the votes he’s supposedly losing back. These are last-ditch, round-up-the-base gambits he’s playing with, not the sort of thing that gets people who don’t pay attention until the last two months before the election. And still, I’m crossing my fingers until the vote is over and we actually have a President-Elect declared.

The Last-Ditch Gambit

John McCain’s impulsiveness is not the characteristic I want in a president; it’s one of the many reasons I’m not voting for him. But I’ll be damned if it’s not making the campaign interesting in the last few months.

As you likely have heard, McCain is calling off his campaign and looking to delay the first debate on Friday in order to go back to Washington and get hands on with the economic plan and the miserable failure that the Bush Administration’s $700 billion dollar bailout proposal is on the floor of Congress.  “Dead on arrival” is almost too kind to describe it.  It is rare that you can get both Republicans and Democrats outraged at the pique of a proposal that would centralize the funds in the hands of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson without any sort of oversight, but that is where we stand — and rightfully so. Giving out $700 billion to a trillion dollars to essentially socialize the failure of the market without regulation is utterly ludicrous.

(Personally, if Congress must do this, then get some severe regulation in line and only pony up a portion of that money — call it the Chuck Schumer Plan, as I think he was the first to bring up that idea.)

And I can’t state enough just how much people hate the idea of a bailout at this point. In my little corner of the world, we’ve done MOS (man on street) interviews and, of course, completely unscientific polls, and it has been hard to find a person who will utter a word of support of handing over $700 billion to the rich failures right now.

But McCain is up against a wall. The economy is not his strength, and his rollout of his economic plan last week looks to have backfired on him in the sense that the facts on the ground and with regard to the bailout proposal have rendered it outdated in the news cycle — never mind his “the economy is fundamentally strong” gaffe.  Since he is behind Barack Obama on these economic issues, is now reeling from his campaign manager still being on Freddie Mac’s lobbying payroll, and Sarah Palin saying there has to be a bailout plan, he’s boxed in.  Never mind that the longer this economic talk and policy goes on, someone might bring up McCain’s relationship with Charles Keating again.

I would like to ask Obama, “What the fuck are you doing?” when it comes to reaching out to formulate a statement with McCain. Be a leader. Make your own damn statement, say what you would do as president, and hammer that shit home.  When sincere policy differences matter in how economic bills are handled, DO NOT hide behind post-partisan claptrap.  Hillary Clinton would have laughed at such an idea, and this is the time when for the good of smart policy, distinctions in politics are what matter. Push your middle-class tax cuts; keep talking about bringing back the regulation and oversight that was missing, hammer home the need for ordinary Americans to get something out of this.

McCain is essentially politicizing the bailout negotiations now after a week of hardball when both candidates were far away from the morass in Washington.  This is the last-ditch effort to catch up on the economy: McCain has been a post-partisan “maverick” when it suits him and is advantageous; to suspend a campaign two days before a debate reeks of pulling out while you are behind and masking it in post-partisan rhetoric (which I loathe when it comes from Democrats and Republicans; more often than not, it is used to muddy the waters and pretend sharp policy differences do not matter when we all know they do.)  Obama was severely mistaken by saying it was no longer a “Democratic or Republican” problem — more than two decades of Republican-led deregulation policies got us down this path — but he was right in saying this is not the time when a debate should be canceled.

If anything, a debate right now is essential — change the focus to economic and domestic policy rather than foreign, but right now, we need to hear what both McCain and Obama would do, and draw differences between each other. If you want to go back to Washington, let’s go back to D.C., and hold that debate in an unused Capitol office, without fanfare.  Now is not the time to hide.

The Speech And The Fallout

After listening to Barack Obama outline what he would do as president last night in Denver combined with his oratory skills, I’m convinced the man could sell me anything and I’d buy it happily:

Republicans were not expecting that speech. It was a laundry list in the style of Bill Clinton’s State of the Union speeches, but a necessary one — for someone blasted by his opponent as short on substance and high on style, that was a speech for wonks, encased in well-written rhetoric. It pounded nearly all the important points down the line and knocked each one of them, itching for a fight.

The one thing I was disappointed in? Not much mention the whole convention on the blatant Constitutional violations of the past eight years. I mean, the man is an attorney and Constitutional law scholar. This is bad: either the party has decided that Constitutional issues are too heady for big speeches or that they’d rather not mention the violations, so that their politicians can violate it when they’re in power. Not good.

Regardless, this is the first case where the nominee took it to John McCain — and there has been an overreaction on the part of the Republican’s campaign, reaching for a Republican governor who hasn’t finished even a term as an executive for his running mate.  Sarah Palin just finished speaking with McCain at an Ohio rally, and after introducing her family, kissing up to the top of the ticket, and talking about her reformer credentials — as if a politician connected to British Petroleum by marriage can be “free” of special interests — she laid out the real reason why McCain made this pick: a socially conservative woman to try and pick off women that voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary.

The people who voted in primaries for Clinton can’t be that stupid.  Thus, this is the GOP conceding the experience argument against Obama, because they picked someone who’s very green in terms of the national stage, and it’s not going to look good against Joe Biden in vice presidential debates.  The McCain campaign has stolen a bit of the thunder back with the press attention — but people are referencing the pick in contrast to what happened at the Democratic convention.

I’m not buying the supposed “change” that McCain’s selling — in his reformer credentials comes the memory that everyone forgot; he was knee-deep in the S&L scandal of the 80s, he just escaped more trouble because he was the first to squeal in the Keating Five mess.

Regardless, it’s going to be very close come November — and we’ll all be taken for a ride for the next couple of months. I’m willing to bet Obama will be asking a certain former rival of his to take to the trail and the TV shows over the next couple of months.