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Two Faces and No Brains

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I wonder if the Village Gasbags will be able to figure out who is demeaning whose service?

“I can't speak for them, but we all know that General Clark, as high-ranking as he is, his record in his last command I think was somewhat less than stellar."
-- Orson Swindle, John McCain Campaign

Just in case there’s still some question what actually demeaning a war veteran’s service looks like:

Louis Letson: "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury."

Van O'Dell: "John Kerry lied to get his bronze star...I know, I was there, I saw what happened."

Jack Chenoweth: "His account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day."

Admiral Roy Hoffman: "John Kerry has not been honest."

Adrian Lonsdale: "And he lacks the capacity to lead."

Larry Thurlow: "When he chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry."

Bob Elder: "John Kerry is no war hero."

Grant Hibbard: "He betrayed all his shipmates...he lied before the Senate."

Joe Ponder: "He dishonored his country...he most certainly did."

Bob Hildreth: "I served with John Kerry...John Kerry cannot be trusted."

The plain fact is, the Gasbags have no moral or rational authority to judge the matter, they relinquished their credibility and responsibility to do so four years ago.

[Cross-posted at Dispassionate Liberal]

Playing by the Rules

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I’ve always thought that one of the main reasons the Village Press hated the Clintons and Al Gore was because it was so obvious that Bill, Hillary and Al were much smarter people than them all. With egos at least as ginormous as any politician, that cleverness gap had to stick in their craws in a way that it never would, for obvious reasons, concerning any Republican. But, smart as they may have been, the Clintons and Vice President Gore never understood the new rules that were being invented just for them. They were playing a fool’s game – and the Clintons still managed to beat the Village at it – because they were playing as though there were still liberals in the corporate press and that reason and truth would prevail.

Which brings us to today’s campaign. Am I the only one who thinks that the Obama campaign is winning big here and that the media is being played badly? The conversation has begun – “it’s out there” as they say – does McCain’s record as a (not-very-good) fighter jock and POW more than thirty years ago in some way qualify him to be Commander-in-Chief? At the same time, Obama “rejects the statement” and “honors and respects Senator McCain’s service.” How is Obama hurt by this? How is McCain?

And now we can let the bloviators compare this honest question to what was done to John Kerry. Remember how Kerry’s record was fair game because he brought it up and Bush and Rove pretended like they had nothing to do with the SBVT? Democrats didn’t make them up but Obama seems to have learned the new rules. As Ara likes to say, if I were having any more fun, I’d have to be twins.

[Cross-posted at Dispassionate Liberal]

Swing Vote

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OK, I admit it: this one could be really bad. But then again it could be really good too. Anyway, it's about politics so I sat up and paid attention. Watch the trailer and tell me what you think:

The on-screen talent is pretty good, but I think it's a first-time director so there's that. And then there's all the cameos from people playing themselves: Bill Maher, Larry King, Willie Nelson, Campbell Brown, Chris Matthews, Mary Hart Arianna Huffington, Richard Petty, Lawrence O'Donnell, Tucker Carlson, Aaron Brown, Tony Blankley, and god-knows-who-else.

Like I said, it could be really good ... or really bad.

Ain’t Nothin’ But a…

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Last week on NBC or MSNBC (or possibly even CNN – they’re practically indistinguishable at this point) someone marked the moment where – one week prior, “we learned of the death of Tim Russert”.

It struck me odd. Who receives that sort of recognition in our culture? In the past, I could remember only people of immense importance and accomplishment and often only if they had died in some tragic circumstances such as a plane crash or assassination. An FDR, a JFK, a Buddy Holly or an Elvis (though we don’t know for sure he’s actually dead).

Apparently, Gene Lyons had a similar reaction [H/T Bob Somerby]:

Few events so reveal society’s unacknowledged values as a royal funeral. So it was following the untimely death of NBC newsman and “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert. We have no formal aristocracy in the United States, but Washington has a selfappointed media peerage. Russert was a political celebrity / courtier of exalted rank. [snip] On “Hardball,” they held an Irish wake for several days. All that was missing was a bottle of Jameson’s, and that may have been under the table.
Of course, Russert was of very modest importance or accomplishment:
To his grieving colleagues and many viewers, Russert embodied the best of TV journalism. Others think very differently about his legacy.
Lyons explains why Russert’s colleagues liked him, because of his apparently genuine warmness. My son met Russert by chance one day and confirmed that widely shared impression of him. But being a nice guy is a dubious asset when your job is to reveal the truth about the politics and the powerful that surround you.
Back to Russert and Washington journalism: In the sport of beagling, two bad faults can get a hound disqualified. One is “cold-trailing.” I had a beagle named Leon who’d hoot down scent trails so old the rabbits that left them were probably being digested by coyotes. Leon made so much noise about nothing that my pals dubbed him “The Journalist.” Then there’s “ghost-trailing.” Unable to keep up, a hound will sometimes invent a fictitious rabbit and make a great show of running it. Other dogs learn to ignore him. Washington courtier-journalists have done plenty of both recently. Russert was among the worst. Like most, he obsessed over Bill Clinton’s sexual sins, but handled the Bush administration’s Iraq war propaganda like the Baltimore Catechism: Memorize, regurgitate. Linda Hirshman nails it in The Nation: “The political leaders who did the best answering Tim Russert’s questions in the last seven years—Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell—are the authors of the most disastrous American foreign policy since the Vietnam War, and maybe since 1776. The Russert Test was a disaster because it rewarded people willing to lie unabashedly on TV.”

Russert’s colleagues are of course free to mourn the death of their friend - I’d bet Russert is about as good as it gets in their world – let’s just not get carried away about his “journalism”. Tim Russert was no Elvis.

[Cross-posted at Dispassionate liberal]

"Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by."

--- Karl Rove, describing Barack Obama

When I first read about this comment, my immediate reaction was that I couldn't think of a single country club that would admit a black man named Barack Hussein Obama. Then I thought Rove was doing his usual shtick, i.e., take his greatest weakness and ascribe it to his opponent. In other words, I felt that he was describing George W. Bush at the club, not Obama. Makes much more sense that way, given Bush's history with alcohol -- and his smart mouth. It was much the same technique Rove used to destroy John Kerry's Vietnam war record in 2004, all but accusing the nominee of being a liar and a coward. All this while Bush was hiding his "war record" in plain sight.

But a commenter at Talking Points Memo unpacked Rove's comments differently than me and I think he nails it:

The key to the statement is that (in the image) he is with "a beautiful date." Not Michelle Obama or, in the abstract, his wife, i.e. a wife like Michelle Obama. When you think of a "beautiful date" specifically at a country club, do you picture an African-American woman? Would Rove's target audience?

Or do you picture him there, a black man, smoking a cigarette indoors at a country club, with a white woman on his arm?

When I thought of this, I got a chill. When you think of Obama's vulnerability, I think the primaries showed that race remains a real and very serious obstacle, particularly with white Americans over 50. When you think of where we are with racism in this country, I think its a pretty safe bet that the final freak-out factor to overcome may be black men dating white women, in particular, one's daughter.

If I were a completely amoral Republican operative, I'd try to find some white women that Obama dated before Michelle and get them into the public's stream of consciousness anyway I could. Its a tactic so vile I don't even like speculating about it, but if you want to be ready for the worst, I think Rove just tipped his hand at where they plan to go.

In all fairness, I have to ask if there is (or isn't) the analogous scenario that an "amoral Democratic operative" could spring on McCain? Remember, in order for it to work, it has to resonate at the emotional level and be absolutely radioactive in the extreme. It has to address a fundamental fear that the electorate has about McCain.

It takes a wingnut to take someone else’s words, say they mean something completely different from what they are saying and then castigate the person for that twisted, unstated meaning. John McCain, having nothing to offer in public policy (he's a Republican) – other than perpetual war in the Middle East (and who knows where else) and short term, ineffective gimmicks – has been running his campaign on just those sort of distortions about what Barack Obama “is saying” when he is saying nothing of the kind.

But it takes a special kind of evangelical whackjob of a wingnut to attack someone by saying essentially the same thing they are.

Evangelical whackjob James Dobson says that, “[Barack] Obama should not be referencing antiquated dietary codes and passages from the Old Testament that are no longer relevant to the teachings of the New Testament,” in response to Obama saying exactly that:

"Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy?" Obama asked in the speech. "Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount?"

Dobson’s Focus on the Family spokesman, Tom Minnery, gets it exactly backward when he claims, "Many people have called [Sharpton] a black racist, and [Obama] is somehow equating [Dobson] with that and racial bigotry." Actually, Obama had contrasted not equated Sharpton and Dobson:

"Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's or Al Sharpton's?"

Dobson himself claimed that it is "lowest common denominator of morality," and that it is a "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution," for Obama to say:

"Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values. It requires their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason."

Dobson can claim that reason, argument and universal values are immoral and pretend that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution doesn’t exist but that makes it pretty hard to argue that the other guy is the one who is nuts.

[Cross-posted at Dispassionate Liberal]

I'm not sure I agree with Neil the "Werewolf" on this one, but it's nice that he's trying to console us. I do feel a bit better, but I'm not buying into this statement:

This bill is basically the same kind of garden-variety corruption one expects from Congress -- protecting wealthy interests at the expense of ordinary folk. That's why it's a bad piece of legislation. But Congress passes junk like that all the time (the farm bill, lots of defense appropriations, not bargaining hard with Big Pharma, etc) and it's not the end of the world. And that's why I'm writing this post -- I don't want people to lose perspective and think that this is too much more than just another garden-variety bit of corporate corruption. It's a lot closer to the tax breaks for ceiling fan importers that it is to torture.

It's a bit more troubling than all that Neil, a few more basic principles and American freedoms are at stake here, don't you think?

And the problem is broader than Neil paints with his singular focus on the imperative that we must replace George Bush and his entire criminal enterprise from the executive branch -- and of course than requires that anyone with an "R" after their name is no longer welcome at any White House Bar-B-Q's. (No, seriously. Forget about the post-partisan crap about retaining someone like Gates at DoD or any similar "enlightened" nonsense. They ALL have to go.)

Neil begins with the simple premis that , "This is a legislative precedent that emerged because Steny Hoyer decided that it would be good business to sell the telcos the immunity they wanted in exchange for campaign contributions." But that doesn't reveal the whole picture. Hoyer would never have been placed in such an untenable position, knowing he would be labeled as a bought and paid for hack by even well-meaning analysts like Neil if the Democrats in the House weren't hamstrung by the turncoat Blue-Dogs who vote with the GOP on damn near everything that matters, and thus as loyal to Bush as John McCain.

Now I don't know if these DINO's will have an epiphany when Barack Obama takes the oath of office, or will have some enlightenment shoved down their throats. But I do know that haveing the equivalent of 40 or so Joe Liebermans filling space in the Democratic Caucus and marching in lock-step with the remnants of Tom DeLay's outfit is THE principle reason Congress as an institution is despised more than anything, ever.

So thanks Neil, I do feel a bit better, but I'm looking for more than merely an inauguration ushering a new era. I'm looking for a purge.

Sadly, I'll probably be disappointed on both counts. But in the true spirit of a Cleveland sports fan and apostle of St. Wiley E. Coyote and the Church of Never Say Die, that certainly doesn't mean I'll accept the notion that the Perfect is the enemy of the Good.

At least the 105 128 of you (thanks Larry), including my representative Marcy Kaptur, who stood firm against the lawless imperialism of the Bush administration and voted no on giving the Telecoms immunity in the FISA bill. (The yeas and nays are here, HT Hilzoy.)

Thanks as well to the sole republican brave enough to buck his party and vote against this travesty as well, Timothy V. Johnson (R-Illinios-15).

This vote effectively split the Democrats in half, 105 128 patriots who stood up for the rule of law against 128 105 capitulators, including the leadership, Pelosi, Hoyer, Emannuel. Those 105 128 are going to need all the help they can get. I'm not sure the Act Blue idea of punishing those who followed the leadership's cue is as important as supporting those who did the right thing -- cuz they're going to need it.

Or maybe they're just in safe enough seats they can afford to hold the liberal line. I know that the core Northern Ohio progressives, (Kaptur, Kucinich, Tubbs-Jones) are in no real danger of losing their seats, and Blue Dogs like Zack Space, a Democrat in a very conservative district, was never going to go along with anything that even hinted he was "soft" on terrists. None of this should be a surprise.

The reason is simple. other than the bumper-sticker mentality that has been mastered by the fear-mongering GOP, this issue simply doesn't resonate with the public at large. They don't know, like you should, why FISA matters so much.

Since all signs still point towards another wave election, and possibly a '32 type realignment, funding the liberal wing of the party may not be all that productive right now, but it's advance thinking (as the blogosphere always seems to do), putting in place a new framework to push for new leadership, or at least a new direction for 2010, and remaking the very sole of this nation by 2012.

Maybe that's even too short-sighted. The GOP spent 40 years institutionalizing the politics of fear and loathing.

I probably am conditioned by the loathing to loath sending up challengers against every Democrat who won't toe our progressive line as Glenzilla and the Kossacks advocate. My reflexes are even more attuned against dis'ing the party's nominee for his silence -- since just six months ago my rallying cry was Silence Is Betrayal.

John Edwards, recalling MLK's message of resistance to war:

As he put it then, there comes a time when silence is a betrayal -- not only of one's personal convictions, or even of one's country alone, but also of our deeper obligations to one another and to the brotherhood of man.

That's the thing I find the most important about the sermon Dr. King delivered here that day. He did not direct his demands to the government of the United States, which was escalating the war. He issued a direct appeal to the people of the United States, calling on us to break our own silence, and to take responsibility for bringing about what he called a revolution of values.

A revolution whose starting point is personal responsibility, of course, but whose animating force is the belief that we cannot stand idly by and wait for others to right the wrongs of the world.

And this, in my view, is at the heart of what we should remember and celebrate on this day. This is the dream we must commit ourselves to realizing.

To quote words even more familiar, while the Democrats struggle to gain a true majority, one both filibuster and veto proof, before they can solidify their gains, while they are still vulnerable enough not to take the progressives for granted . . .
If not us, who? If not now, when? ~RFK

Support the 105 128, and fight the capitulators. You want to send a message? This is how.

Obama as Sensei

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I was worried that he wasn't the warrior I thought we needed, the warrior that I knew John Edwards to be and that Hillary could be if and when she thought it was politically expedient and wasn't hamstrung by her dedicated enemies, her husband and her team.

Well, if there was a "fighter" in this campaign cycle, it was Hillary. No question about it: kicking, scratching, gouging, sucker-punching, fighting Hillary.

Make no mistake: I mean this in the best sense. At the most fundamental level it's what you want in your candidate: the overwhelming desire to win. Had she prevailed I would have been thrilled to have her represent the Democrats. There would have been blood in the scuppers -- Republican blood.

But there's fighting and then there's fighting.

Aikido (合気道, aikidō?) is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as "the Way of unifying (with) life energy" or as "the Way of harmonious spirit."

...or as Obama likes to say, there's no blue states, no red states. Just the United States.

Ueshiba's goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.

You heard right: win without destroying your enemy.

Listen, I am hardly the first person to make this analogy. Google "aikido Obama" and you get at least 80 thousand citations. And/But more to the point -- just because you make the analogy doesn't mean's it's true. Can Obama pull it off? Is he an Aikido sensei? Time will tell. But I like that he's showing a different way.

Like I said, grasshopper: there's fighting and then there's fighting.

Thanks to Mark for recommending Mustang Bobby's moving piece on Bobby Kennedy. If you haven't already read it, do so now. I did and was inspired to recall how I felt that morning after Kennedy was shot.

I, too, was 15 that year. And for me, the election of 1968 was the first presidential campaign that I had an emotional attachment to. Back then, I backed McCarthy because I felt Kennedy was too opportunistic -- you know, he was the "ruthless" Kennedy. Bobby even joked about it in his speeches.

I remember watching the last Kennedy-McCarthy debate which happened on the weekend before the California primary. I watched that debate with my dad. During that telecast, one of the moderators asked each candidate about their support for Israel. Kennedy stated that it would be his policy to continue the sale of arms to the Jewish state. I remember my father saying, that night, that it was a position that would not be popular with Arabs. That all came back to me when I heard Bobby had been shot by Sirhan Sirhan

I went to bed on the night of the California primary without knowing what the final tally was. So when I woke up in the night at 3am (something I still often do) I remember switching on the radio and hearing a report -- in mid-sentence -- that doctors were attending to Sen. Kennedy who had been shot and was in critical condition. Even today, I can't find the words to express how bleak I felt on hearing that news.

Later that morning, as I rode the city bus to school, I remember standing next to a woman, seated quietly, her head hung down, hands folded in her lap. I watched her tears falling, drop by drop, from behind her sunglasses.

I also remember, several days later, watching Ted Kennedy's moving eulogy of his brother, his voice quavering, on the verge of breaking down, then gathering strength and continuing on despite his heartbreak:

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be rememberd simply as a good decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Many years later, on a trip to DC, I visited Arlington Cemetery. I visited the familiar and dramatic set-piece that is the JFK family grave site. If you have only seen pictures of it, you are missing the grandest part of all -- the view out over the Potomac River and across the mall. You can literally see for miles. It is a breathtaking view of Washington.

But around the corner, a short walk away, is the grave site of Bobby Kennedy. It is a totally different experience. Robert Kennedy's grave sits by itself, marked with a single white cross and a small, gravestone lying flat on the ground. It is surrounded by green grass. On the other side of the walk is a low fountain, more of a basin than anything else.

Carved into the walls surrounding the fountain are words from a speech that Kennedy gave in Indianopolis on the evening that Martin Luther King was shot and he had to tell the crowd that Rev. King was dead. Among those words were these from his favorite poet, Aeschylus:

In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

Only in the decades since Kennedy's passing have I come to realize how unique and special he really was.



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