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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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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Leaving The Sinking Ship In Style

There are few things as satisfying as watching a fucktard like David Frum get his ass handed to him by Rachel Maddow when he accuses her show of fomenting hate similar to the crap being spewed by the audience members at recent rallies for John McCain and Sarah Palin. After you’ve watched the clip, consider the hackery necessary to make such accusations:

Frum, you’ll recall, is the one who penned the phrase “axis of evil”  for President George W. Bush a few years backfor his State of the Union address. After departing the cozy confines of 1600 Pennsylvania, he then funded smear campaigns against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when she visited Syria and decided to play amateur psychiatrist with former VP Al Gore when he criticized Bush’s foreign policy.

So you’ll have to pardon me if I find it laughable that this member of the GOP intelligentsia is joining the very slim ranks of those who aren’t pleased with the choice of Palin and saying it doesn’t look good for McCain because of it. This group includes columnist Kathleen Parker, NYT op-ed writer David Brooks, and author Christopher Buckley, who appears to have been booted/resigned from the column at the magazine his father founded for his trouble in saying he would vote for Barack Obama.

I’ve noticed something after reading for the past week or so, these admissions of concern — a lot of it revolves around Palin’s lack of intelligence or intellectual curiosity, perfectly valid points and worth questioning.  However, I have a question for Frum, Parker, Brooks and their ilk*: where the fuck were you the past eight years with the current occupant of the White House, if this was such a problem?

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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.

A Double Dose Of Video

John McCain, if you’ve lost David Letterman by lying to him, who won’t you lie to?

The best part is when he has Keith Olbermann on and cuts to McCain getting ready for a live interview in the CBS Evening News studio. K.O. looks like he’s about to shit himself.

And secondly, a bizarre little pastiche ad completely unrelated to anything called “SFW Porn,” which, considering the nature, is probably still not advisable to view if you’re at the office. (Hat tip: Holly.)

Clearly, the harmonica and bass players hit all the right notes.

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.