Monday, September 29, 2008

Pointing a Wizened Finger.

I didn’t think my distaste for the new incarnation of John McCain could get any more intense, but hey, guess what; it has. First, let me congratulate him on the success of his little trip back to Washington – boy, did he do a bang up job rallying those Republicans to pass the bailout bill. Great job. Even better, though, is how he now blames the failure of the plan to pass on Democrats: one of McCain’s limp campaign advisers said today that “This bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country.”

Honestly, how do these people sleep at night? Every slimy, underhanded thing they say is either a lie or a childish tactic that some people still seem to buy: “I know you are, but what am I?” Because who really put politics ahead of “country” in this scenario? As I see it, it was the candidate who pretended to suspend his campaign to make a grandiose political gesture of flying back to Washington, only to completely fail to bring his party to any consensus. It sure looks to me like more Democrats than Republicans supported the compromise bill, even though it was the shoddy Republican insistence on deregulation, firmly supported by John McCain, that squarely placed America into this mess in the first place. So to say that Democrats are putting politics first when they are voting to pass a bill to solve a problem created by Republicans, well – it’s just another example of how ridiculous McCain has become.

On another note, rumor has it that CBS has tape of two more answers from Katie Couric’s interview with Sarah Palin that show Ms. Palin in an even more embarrassing light. If that were even possible!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Grumpy Old Man.

So who “won” the debate? As a matter of substance, I’d say it was fairly even, and if you went into the debate supporting McCain you would continue to do so, and if your bumper stickers read “Obama ‘08” you won’t be peeling them off any time soon. It took a while for McCain to find a stride, and in fact I found many of his answers during the first half hour difficult to follow, and sometimes almost incomprehensible. He careened all over the place in single answers, and occasionally didn’t seem to answer Jim Lehrer’s questions (speaking of which, am I the only one who thought that both candidates answered Lehrer’s question about which programs they might have to cut or give less priority to because of the enormous bailout plan? He asked the question 3 times, yet I thought both had been pretty clear after no more than twice. I guess McCain wasn’t the only one having a senior moment).

But for all the relative even-handedness of the candidates’ command of their positions, their styles could not have been more different, and that is what will have swayed an undecided voter. John McCain was petty and condescending; he spoke to Obama as if he was a naïve child, uneducated in the ways of the world. He didn’t look at Obama once, even though the format was designed to be a discussion during the second half of each answer session. In contrast, Obama frequently addressed himself to McCain, looked over at him, and attempted several times to strike a bipartisan and conciliatory tone by agreeing with points about McCain’s answers before launching into how his position differed. In sum, Obama had the demeanor of someone I would want at the helm of my country, and McCain looked as if he belonged teaching a classroom of unruly, teenaged prep-schoolers, preferably not my own.

CNN and CBS polls that tracked viewers’ reactions during the debate showed a clear, positive response to Obama, which tells me I was not the only one put off by McCain’s acid style. I know I am tired of being condescended to; patronized as people I don’t agree with make decisions for my life and country that I find despicable. At least if very conservative Republicans have to endure what they see as taking their medicine for a few years, it will be handed to them by someone who actually thought about it before he made his decision, and gives it to them with a smile instead of the back of his hand. As McCain said himself, he’s not known as Miss Congeniality in the Senate. Unfortunately for him, one of his own campaign managers said that this race is essentially a popularity contest. If that’s the case, McCain will have earned the Grumpy Old Men vote, but that’s about it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Double Down.

When David Letterman won’t let it go, you know it’s bad. John McCain canceled his appearance on the Late Show because he had to get back to “Warshington to save the economy.” And while he was at it, he announced he would suspend his campaign and postpone Friday night’s debate until bailout legislation was passed. David Letterman, who in an attempt to soften his criticism repeated again and again that McCain is a real live hero, stated that he was disappointed in McCain’s decision and wondered why he couldn’t do what a good quarterback should do – put in his second string quarterback to fill in for him. The he noted it was Sarah Palin, and that was why.

John McCain has become quite the gambler lately, and his odds aren’t looking good. This latest shenanigan is particularly ridiculous: an attempt to seem “presidential” by stating that he is going to sail back to Washington to help save the day, handily asserting as well that he doesn’t think it’s a good time for the scheduled debate. You know, the debate he doesn’t want to have because his scrappy, angry style might not play so well these days against the cool, measured demeanor of his opponent. Even better, he suggested that the postponed debate be rescheduled for the date of the vice presidential debate – and that that debate be postponed until… oh, sometime. Congress, particularly the head of the Banking Committee, Chris Dodd, doesn’t even want him there because they know it’s just a rank political ploy.

This is so poor on so many levels.

1. Isn’t this actually the perfect time for a debate? Why don’t the candidates agree to change the topic back to the economy and discuss their plans to deal with the mess at hand? America needs to hear from the people who aim to be its next president, and not allow the one who is sinking in the polls to avoid a debate.

2. McCain thinks he can scupper the vice presidential debate. I’d say this one is a no-brainer. McCain and his minions think they have found the perfect way to keep his clueless running mate away from the limelight until after the election. If this Friday’s presidential debate is postponed, look for constant excuses going forward about being unable to reschedule the vice presidential debate. Presumably they will just continue to limit her to planned interviews (that she still flubs) and meetings with foreign leaders who talk to her like she’s a juicy piece of meat.

3. Shouldn’t a president be able to handle more than one task at a time? I mean, really. The old man can’t shake it off and meet up to discuss the future of the free world for his desired constituents? Does he plan to pick and choose his duties as president, as well?

John McCain needs to stop this nonsense and either campaign like a normal person, preferably in the “civilized” manner he claimed that he would at the outset, or just admit he’s not the man for the job. Right now, he is in no way acting like someone who wants to run the country – and hey, maybe he has decided that he doesn’t. At this point, it’s not looking particularly desirable. Maybe he could do us all a favor and simply let that suspension of his campaign go on indefinitely, and head back to Arizona for a long winter’s nap.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where Do We Live?

The more I read about Hank Paulson’s proposed bailout, the more I’m outraged by its audacity. I’m not denying that something needs to be done quickly to shore up our financial institutions: by most accounts it sounds like many are hanging on by a thread, now inadequately capitalized to sustain the losses caused by the greed and poor judgment of their management and investors. However, the call to ram through without question a bill that would vest sole authority in the Treasury Department to take and apply hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, with no oversight and no accountability, is shameless.

If Congress permits this administration to pass this latest excuse for an emergency measure without some major revisions, then to an extent we get what we deserve: an executive branch that, despite the clear separation of powers enumerated in our Constitution, will have amassed all power under its own roof. How would the Founding Fathers have felt about that? I’d like to think that even that serpentine proponent of originalism, Justice Scalia, would see a problem here. Where are the checks and balances? Why does Congress keep rolling over for this president, when almost all the citizens of this country are in agreement that he is stupid, feckless, rash, and ill equipped to make good decisions for this country? His track record is abysmal. Why would we let him change the entire face of American capitalism, and of American government, before he shambles out of office? The prospect is ridiculous.

Apparently Congress is at least grilling the money boys on their plan. However, they’ve asked questions of this administration before, only to capitulate, mewling pathetically, in the end. The stakes are too high, and the timing is too suspect, for Congress to let this happen again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

And Behind Door Number Three...

What parting gift does George Bush have for us now? Lest his successor not have enough destruction to clean up, now our president has given the American public the present of a $700 billion bailout to fund; thus ensuring the mortgaging of its children’s futures well into the foreseeable future. Today he urges Congress not to dilly-dally and fiddle with his Treasury Secretary’s plan that might undermine its “effectiveness”; instead it should presumably forge ahead without question, much as it was asked to do with regard to the invasion of Iraq and anything else the administration wanted, NOW. And of course, America has suffered the effects of his gun-slinging mentality.

Please let this be the last of this president’s helpfulness before he heads back into obscurity in Crawford. This nation cannot afford any more of his capricious actions. This latest proposal, authored and squired around town by his former Wall Street denizen Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, is decidedly free of stipulations that would require additional oversight of either the Treasury Department or of any of the financial institutions that these funds would bail out. Isn’t that how we found ourselves in this position in the first place? Is it really appropriate to reward the C.E.O.’s of these organizations with multi-million dollar payouts to walk away from their mismanagement of people’s life savings? And all this coming from the Republicans – using what they would label bad (read: lefty) economic policy if they were not doing it themselves.

Why should Congress allow this to happen on Bush’s terms, with no opportunity for discussion? As usual, the administration is preying on Americans’ fears to support rash action without taking the time to understand the consequences. First it threatened "Muslims who want to kill us" to justify unprecedented, Constitution-defying expansion of executive power, now the alarm is sounded that Wall Street will collapse, taking with it your home, your job and your savings – but not if you sign this blank check over to our Treasury Secretary! But this financial crisis didn’t turn up yesterday – weren’t there measures to have been taken months ago? Is the economy really going to collapse if Congress doesn’t pass this legislation immediately, without change?

It is criminal for George Bush to take such an enormous, partisan decision only 44 days before his successor is elected, when that action will have long-term, serious ramifications for Americans and across the globe. Americans should require their elected representatives in Congress to force a serious debate on and inquiry into the origins of this bill instead of just capitulating, once again, to the steamroller that is this wretched administration. Otherwise, it’s just one more thing our next President will have to waste precious time trying to untangle once he takes office.

Friday, September 19, 2008

More of the Same, and Then Some More.

It’s hardly a new argument that electing John McCain and Sarah Palin is electing “more of the same.” And to some extent, that would be true – with Sarah Palin playing the parts of both George Bush and Dick Cheney. I’m inclined to believe, however, that the overall effect of a McCain-Palin administration (or Palin-McCain, as Palin has now referred to it on the stump), will be much worse. Their brand of “maverick” will build nicely on the groundwork Bush and Cheney have laid over the last eight years; fleshing out the bones of the poisonous infrastructure the current administration has set about to construct.

As George Bush, Governor Palin babbles responses to questions, sometimes answering, sometimes not. When she does, her grasp of the subject matter is obviously weak. She doesn’t mangle words and phrases quite as badly as George Bush, but close. It’s clear she possesses neither a great intellect nor an inclination toward thoughtfulness: her words indicate she would be likely to act first, and not think about it later. Like George, she operates like a somewhat clueless medieval king surrounded by his sniveling, sneaky advisors. They may tell her what to do, but sometimes she has to remind them who’s boss by mishandling a matter or two on her own.

As Dick Cheney, Palin favors closed doors and secrecy, and doing whatever the hell she wants regardless of the “rules.” In that respect, she will take over Cheney’s Fourth Branch quite nicely. She may lack Cheney’s brainpower, but she appears to match up to his cunning steely eye for steely eye.

Where does McCain fit into this Palin-McCain administration? These days, if he isn’t standing uselessly off to the side of his protégé while she clubs slack-jawed crowds over the head with her repeated lies and contradictions, he is doddering around the stage like a senile old grandpa, muttering incoherently about the fish that swim around oil rigs and punctuating his rambles with cartoon-like “heh-heh-hehs.” As the British say, he appears to have lost the plot.

If McCain is elected, and manages to stave off the coup of a power-hungry Palin for a little while, it’s hard to predict now what that will mean for the country. Who can tell what he truly believes about anything anymore other than that he wants to be president at any cost? If he’s against government regulation, it’s Tuesday. If it’s Wednesday and it seems politically expedient, he’s for it. He would rather lie or adopt an absurd position anytime than admit a mistake (see, e.g., whether he would meet with prime minister Zapatero). He doesn’t seem to be his own man anymore, assuming he ever was.

But from watching Palin’s power-maneuvering, I don’t think it would be long before she would find a way to stick McCain in a closet somewhere and insert herself in the top spot. Cindy might have something to say about it, but I imagine VP Palin could make short work of her. It’s this scenario, with Palin at the top, that many of us really fear – as well we should. Look at who she is, everything we have learned about how she has operated in Alaska, her un-nuanced approach to foreign policy, her religious beliefs, her “mission-driven” approach to her role in Washington and how she talks about all of it. It’s a combination that to me spells “End Times.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sarah Palin Talks to Sean Hannity.

Somebody please send Sarah Palin back to Alaska for good. I mean YOU, American voters. If you haven’t decided on that course yet, in spite of her having lied repeatedly to your face about everything in the world for the last three weeks, then how about taking a look at her “interview” tonight with Sean Hannity? She’s got lots more lies and inanities to share with you, fellow Americans, so tune in. If you can’t face turning your teevee to Fox news, let me walk you through some highlights:

Governor Palin: On gridlock and getting their novel “reforms” through Congress:

“But John McCain has that streak of independence in him that I think is very, very important in America today in our leadership. I have that within me also. And that’s why John McCain tapped me to be a team of mavericks, of independents coming in there without the allegiances to that cronyism, to that good ole’ boy system. I’m certainly a Washington outsider and I’m proud of that because I think that that is what we need also.”

Me: NOT mavericks. Opportunists and good ol’ fashioned Republicans. And how can she continue to say with a straight face that she has no allegiances to cronyism, to that “good ole boy system”? Her mayoral and gubernatorial administrations have been documented as completely rife with favors, pressure and taking ludicrously large earmarks for her state.

GP: On if the political “attacks” by the Democrats will be effective:
“You can’t underestimate the wisdom of the people of America. They’re seeing through the rhetoric, and they’re seeing through a lot of the political cheap shots, also. And they’re getting down to the facts and the voting records that are going to show that stark contrast.”

Me: Let’s hope you’re right, lady, because that’s what’s going to have you riding the Straight Talk Express across some bridge you co-opted hundreds of millions of dollars to build, right on back to your delightful home in scenic Wasilla.

GP: On their solutions for the economy:

“Through reform, absolutely. Look at the oversight that has been lack, I believe, here at the 1930s type of regulatory regime overseeing some of these corporations. And we’ve got to get a more coordinated and a much more stringent oversight regime…government can play a very, very appropriate role in the oversight as people are trusting these companies with their life savings, with their investments, with their insurance policies, and construction bonds, and everything else.”

Me: Who ARE you? I think I hear the hinges of your jaw creaking. You’re parroting John McCain’s muddled, contradictory message about government oversight in this arena, and it sounds false and ridiculous. Yours is the party of deregulation, John McCain was a champion of the same until 2 days ago, and now you’re reaping what you’ve sown. This immediate flip-flop is absurd.

GP: On reaction to Obama’s attack on McCain for saying that the “fundamentals” of the economy are strong:

“Well, it was an unfair attack on the verbiage that Senator McCain chose to use because the fundamentals, as he was having to explain afterwards, he means our workforce, he means the ingenuity of the American people. And of course, that is strong and that is the foundation of our economy.”

Me: Did my head just explode? The hypocrisy of this pair is absolutely mind-bending.

It goes on, and it doesn’t get any better.

I genuinely do not understand how voters can overlook the shortcomings of these two and vote for them. They feed us a pack of lies or whatever they think we want to hear, daily, then each smile in their respective creepy styles and feed us some more. Why is anyone obstinate enough to think that people who campaign like this are going to govern in a more acceptable fashion?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Crisis on Main Street.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the economy has some issues. With the latest developments, thousands of white collar workers, some with the kind of salaries I have long scorned and envied because of the seeming lack of relation between their size and the amount of education/effort required to receive them, will lose their jobs. The government is stepping in again for an $85 billion bailout of AIG (where is that money supposed to come from? Maybe Iraq will lend it back to us), after saving the day for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac only a couple of weeks ago. The Republican love of deregulation is coming back to bite us.

The good news is, according to John McCain, that the fundamentals of the American economy are “strong.” Or, no, that’s not what he meant, he meant that the American workers are “strong.” Unlike Senator Obama, who McCain accused on “The View” of choosing his words carefully in respect to the “lipstick on a pig” distraction, McCain apparently does not give any thought to the meaning of the words he uses. But even if he really meant that American workers are “strong,” so what? What good is it to be “strong” when you’re losing a job that you won’t easily replace? Is strength going to save the day when Americans can’t afford to buy food for their children? When the bank forecloses on their homes? There’s been plenty of exaltation of the strength of the blue-collar American worker for the last seventy years, but for the last thirty of those it hasn’t meant much more than a way to pay lip service to the requirement that they adapt to the decline of the manufacturing era in the U.S.

If the typical blue-collar American worker has been labeled “strong,” it is not a word that applies readily to white-collar workers. Indeed, “weak” seems more fitting. Let’s face it, just like many blue-collar workers, many white-collar workers are ill-prepared without additional schooling or training to make a switch into a different industry, to apply a different skill set. And also like most other Americans, white-collar workers frequently do not have any kind of financial cushion to fall back on. That is a potentially devastating combination for anyone. The bottom can fall out quickly, and the latte crowd is arguably ill-equipped to deal with it, both financially and emotionally.

Today’s white-collared workers are a pampered bunch, rarely having known the experience of a job loss in an economy so weak that they could not quickly rebound. Many identify with their careers very strongly, and will struggle to redefine themselves as they are forced to adapt in order to continue to provide for their families. There is a pervasive attitude among many that their choice of careers elevates them above the people with the jobs they may find themselves doing in order to survive, and that elitist attitude will take a battering. The injection of such angst into the equation may seem pathetic to your average American, and to an extent it is. Nonetheless, it’s a reality, and an impediment to finding the “strength” of which John McCain speaks.

We’ll have to hope that what Senator McCain first said, what he didn’t really mean, is true after all: that the fundamentals of our economy are strong. If they are not, the relative strength or weakness of the American worker will mean nothing in the face of a downward slide that seems to be gathering momentum.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Another Day, Another Planet.

Every day brings a new round of mind-blowing episodes from the Twilight Zone that is now Republican America, usually touched off by one of McCain’s main mouthpieces, “Tucker” Bounds. Today, in response to a new Obama ad that challenges McCain’s gutter-trolling campaign tactics, the New York Times reports that Mr. Bounds said the advertisement was inappropriate “as Americans face economic uncertainty.”

Let’s see, does he mean inappropriate like McCain’s ad that shows Obama’s cadre of wolves racing through the woods looking for that innocent lamb Sarah Palin, presumably to rip her throat out before she shoots them from her airplane? Or the one that implies Obama advocates teaching a full sex ed course to 5 year olds? Was the economy so much more certain 5 days ago that disgusting ads like the ones McCain put out were acceptable then? Please let me out of this alternate universe, where Republican operatives talk out of both sides of their mouths, but do it with such fake, righteous indignation pasted across their faces that somehow an apparently large group of people somewhere in this country swallows it hook, line and sinker.

I can’t understand it. Article after article describes how Palin has created the most stereotypically dirty of small-time administrations, both as mayor of her little town and as governor of her state. She has fired people who disagree with her, and hired high school friends for positions only minimally related to their experience. She’s taken enormous earmarks for her state, as well as a nice little chunk of money from the taxpayers through the use of per diems for sleeping away from the governor’s mansion in Juneau at her own home back in Wasilla. She has sniffed around her local library inquiring about banning books. She and her staff have special email accounts that they use because they believe those records would be harder to subpoena. Still, she stands up in front of enormous groups of cheering people who don’t seem to find any disconnect between her claims of sweeping reform and her own actions that belie it.

How can it be? Do people not read the papers? Do they only watch Fox News? Or do they simply choose not to face the ever-increasing number of damaging facts simply because they want yet another “someone like them” in the White House? When is America going to learn what that gets us? Or, as is looking more likely, when is MY half of America going to learn that the majority sees that what we think of as a failing America as a success?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin is a Naive Reactionary.

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. You tried pretty hard, didn’t you, our plucky little frontierswoman ice queen princess hockey mom extraordinaire, but … no. I know you were nervous, forced to answer questions about issues you’ve never considered or perhaps even heard of before three days ago, and I’m sure some folks out there found that endearing: the same folks who are already planning to vote for you because you’re just so darned spunky, and if you faltered at all, it’s only because the big, bad sexists were picking on you!

But I’m not sexist; I just don’t like your views (or your hair, or your voice, or the way some people tell me I look like you). Let’s take something as basic as your response to the question of whether you believe you are experienced enough to be president of the United States:

“I answered him yes, because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can’t blink. You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we’re on, reform of this country and victory in the war.”

What kind of answer is that? First of all, do you or do you not have the necessary experience? Your answer tells me that you don’t think so, because you didn’t bother to address it, and that you don’t care. Governing this country isn’t a matter of “not blinking,” Governor Palin, and it’s not just a “mission.” Not all of your soon-to-be subjects in the Alaskan States think in terms of the constant militarism of the nation. But for the sake of discussion, we’ll take your indication that you don’t believe experience has anything to do with running the country. As you said:

“We’ve got to remember what the desire is in this nation at this time. It is for no more politics as usual and somebody’s big fat résumé that maybe shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment, where, yes, they’ve had opportunities to meet heads of state.”

While I’m sure you were intending to reference Joe Biden with those eloquent comments, you must realize you’ve also included that stiff old man who lurks behind you at your campaign rallies. Not only that, but you’ve undermined your party’s tired assertion that Obama is too inexperienced to assume the role of president. I suppose now we’ll start to hear that Obama isn’t “wired for the mission” the way you are.

Your naiveté isn’t refreshing, it’s frightening. You’re not campaigning for the head of the Wasilla Hockey Moms, you’re angling for a position that affects the lives of 300 million people. Show a little humility, would you? Frankly, I’d prefer to hear you admit that there are holes in your knowledge (how could there not be?) but that you’re working as hard as you can to understand the issues of the day so you can approach them with the even-minded analysis befitting their serious nature. Instead, you take an overly proud, defensive stance and hope that you can just skate through this. But Ms. Palin, glib assertions that show you have no understanding of the network of ramifications of your positions aren’t going to cut it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Moment for Reflection.

It’s September 11th and it’s a day of unveiling memorials and of speeches and moments of silence. It’s also a day that either party can use to twist to its own political benefit, and each does even while pretending it doesn’t. The sole extent to which the events of September 11th, 2001 should be used for politics is to show the difference in the policy choices each presidential candidate would make to protect the citizens of this country, and hopefully of other countries, from further harm from terrorists. As a Democrat, I also think it is fair game to point out what we see as the deficiencies in the way the current administration has conducted its 7-year response to terrorism. What I don’t think is fair is to use what happened to thousands of innocent Americans as an instrument of terror in itself to frighten Americans into voting for the Republican presidential candidate.

In that, I’m clearly in agreement with Keith Olbermann, who on MSNBC last night gave the most blistering attack on the Republican Party’s co-opting of September 11th, with John McCain and Rudy Giuliani as its spokesmen, that I have ever seen. It was almost shocking to see someone voice so heatedly what many of us never have the chance to say in a public forum – and even if we had the chance might be too intimidated to do so - that the Republican Party wields the terror of September 11th like a bludgeon over Americans’ heads. Without notice, at their convention they trotted out horrifying footage of the burning World Trade Center towers that has long been accepted as inappropriate for television. The message was clear: vote for those weak, unpatriotic Democrats, and you’re voting for your own, fiery demise. Vote for us, and we’ll protect you from this ever happening again.

There is, of course, a logic lacking in that argument. We had a Republican president on September 11, 2001, and the attacks happened on his watch. I don’t blame Bush for the actions of terrorists, but I do find fault with his response insofar as it included taking us on a merry jaunt through Iraq. McCain is committed to “victory” in Iraq, whatever the hell that means, but I do know it comprises more American money, time, and dead soldiers than have already been spent making this world a more dangerous place. I haven’t seen much to make me feel safer from the threat of further terrorist attacks. If anything, it’s the opposite.

The Republican Party espouses a politics and a manner of rule that has repeated itself over and over again throughout history. An educated, power-hungry elite uses religion and fear to control the less critically-minded masses for which it has the utmost contempt. It was the hallmark of the Catholic Church for centuries, flowing through to the monarchies of Europe for their own expedient use. The founders of this country organized this nation in direct opposition to such principles, but there will always be those who see the efficacy of that mode of assembling power and will find ways to modernize it for their own gain.

Still, we live in a time and place where there ought to be enough of us regular folk with an education sufficient to have taught us how to think critically – to examine the statements and actions of those who would seek to have the utmost power over our lives, and understand their motives. It’s not enough to stare like sheep at giant images of death and horror and believe that there is only one problem, and only one solution. When we do that, not only do we do ourselves a great disservice, but we chip away at the bedrock principles on which America was founded - the freedoms that we supposedly hold so dear.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick on a Pig.

The Republicans aren’t going to give up their extremely effective method of securing presidential elections for themselves until the Democrats stand up to it, so it was a relief to hear Barack Obama finally call the McCain campaign’s “outrage” over Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” remark for what it is – phony. In case you hadn’t heard, yesterday at a rally Obama compared McCain’s policies to those of President Bush, and said, “You can put lipstick on a pig… it’s still a pig.” The McCain camp twisted Obama’s use of the well-known expression to its perceived advantage once again, putting out an ad accusing Obama of “smearing” Sarah Palin.

HEY! McCain! It’s not all about your VP pick, OK? There is still the very large issue out there about how you’re tied a little too closely to the policies of the widely-loathed George Bush. Even though your party wants to make everything about gender right now to avoid talking about your crummy policies that are no good for America, the Democrats don’t have to do that because they have a slightly less storied history of being such raging, sexist pigs (at least on the surface). So cut the crap that your party has suddenly found Jesus with respect to sexism and now sees it around every corner. Last I checked your party despised all the women who supposedly had that little habit themselves.

It’s particularly ludicrous to hear all this coming from John McCain’s camp – when John McCain himself is not exactly known for his strides in the advancement of women’s rights. Aside from his own abysmal record with respect to issues of concern to women, this is a charmer who allegedly called his own wife a “c___” in front of his campaign aide and a consultant when she dared to joke that his hair was thinning. And that’s just his current wife – don’t even get me started on his treatment of his first wife. Now that’s a guy I want having anything whatsoever to do with my life. Please, let him make some decisions about my future - I can tell he has my best interests at heart.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hypocrisy and Lies.

John McCain looks so uncomfortable next to his running mate. At campaign events, while she speaks he stands off to the side and squints and half-smiles and shrugs, and generally looks as stiff and out of touch as he is. His vice presidential candidate has completely upstaged him, and I bet that’s OK with him. After all, as long as he continues to ride his crazy bump in the polls, supplied by the rallying masses of “you’re not better than me,” disaffected Americans who see the tantalizing possibility of someone as poorly qualified as themselves reaching higher office, who cares if he’s upstaged for now? After all, it’s going to make him President, at least until he keels over from general oldness and fatigue from keeping up all this incessant hypocrisy and lying.

You have noticed the hypocrisy and the lies, right? It would be hard to miss them when the McCain camp is meting them out hand over fist. There’s the “celebrity” argument, an advertisement for which has shown on local TV here in Denver at least twice tonight. In the ad, a voice asks what you have when you take away Obama’s “celebrity,” then answers that it’s nothing but “more of the same.” Couldn’t we just insert Sarah Palin’s name in place of Obama’s? And what about the “experience” argument? Same thing. Then there’s the newest ad in which McCain and Palin are presented one after the other in rapid succession, newspaper headlines across their proud countenances trumpeting all the big, fat lies of their “accomplishments” as a pair of pioneering mavericks who have bucked the system left and right. Hey - there’s Palin’s famed “thanks but no thanks” position again, which has been debunked as an untruth for several days now – yet the McCain crew has the audacity to stick it in an ad knowing that makes it as good as true as far as the American public is concerned.

Obama continues to refuse to get down into the mud with the Republican strategists and instead maintains that Americans want to discuss the issues. He won’t say anything negative about Sarah Palin, and while I applaud him for his restraint, I’ll admit that when something as important as the future of our country is at stake, it would be nice if for once the Democrats could just play the game as nastily as the Republicans and wipe the floor with them.

I’d love to think that the high road wins, but if you take a look at our society it doesn’t seem to be the case. America is made up of people who are generally more interested in watching their fellow citizens implode on reality TV than in the finer points of foreign affairs, and they seem to attribute an interest in such lofty concepts as the Constitution solely to the effete intellectual elite. The Republican strategists, who by and large are a part of the effete intellectual elite themselves, are banking on that as they fire the cannonball of Sarah Palin into our collective consciousness. They’re gambling, and it’s not really much of a gamble at all, that today’s unqualified Americans will fall all over themselves to see themselves reflected in the White House.

Monday, September 8, 2008

She Speaks (Not That I Can Stand Her Voice).

Apparently the McCain camp has let its little lady pit bull off her leash for a brief moment on Thursday and Friday of this week to chat with Charles Gibson of ABC. Until then, she will continue to campaign together with Old Man Irrelevance, so his campaign can keep a tight rein on her having to actually answer any questions about her experience that can’t be answered by listening to her re-spew her convention speech over and over (“I said thanks but no thanks!”). I can’t say I hold out a lot of hope for this being the interview that’s really going to give America an idea of what the hell Sarah Palin knows about, if anything. First, it’s back on her home turf of Alaska, which to me smacks of the kind of fluff piece where we hear even more from the back water citizens of Alaska about how great she is, even while she threatens to have their husbands or wives fired if they don’t say it with a smile. Second, the fact that it’s over two days makes me think she’s going to have plenty of time between questions to step into a back room with the 750 advisers McCain’s campaign will have had to assemble to tell her what to say. Not that I don’t think she could answer the questions herself, but they might not want America to hear her actual opinions:

Charles Gibson: “Governor Palin, John McCain is old – like, REALLY old. So there’s a real possibility that you’ll be asked to step into the role of president sooner rather than later. Can you describe why you think you are prepared to take over that role?”

Governor Palin: “Well, Charles, if you ask anyone on the street here in Alaska, you’ll know that I like things done my way. Alaska, I mean, America, is the strongest, most powerful country in the world, and we’re going to keep it that way. If some foreign leader thinks he can mess with me, he can think again.”

CG: “That doesn’t really tell Americans how you are prepared to deal with all the nuances of being a world leader.”

GP: “Nuance! That’s for sissies, Chuck. Listen. I’ve had Russia staring at me across the Bering Strait for 18 months now, and have they tried anything? No. Why? Because they know what’s good for them. It won’t be different when I’m president. None of this negotiating, “diplomacy” nonsense. Who has time for that?”

CG: “Okay. Governor Palin, arguably because of our involvement in Iraq, we have rapidly declining enrollment in our armed forces. The troops we do have are stretched thin as they complete their third, fourth, even fifth tours of duty. Do you believe we have the ability to maintain the military might for which America has traditionally been known?

GP: “No problem, Chuck. For one thing, when I get the Supreme Court where I really want it – get those doddering old liberals off the bench and replace them with more people who think like me – then there are going to me a lot more babies in this world. I’m thinking we just start an army filled with the little fellas; soon there will be plenty to send wherever we need to protect our oil interests! Certainly while I’m still president!”

CG: “You can only be president for eight years, Governor Palin.”

GP: “Oh, Chuck. Don't make the mistake of underestimating me.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin Cows the Media, but Not Me.

I don’t even know where to begin. Sarah Palin’s speech was divisive, belligerent, smug, and at the same time totally lightweight. So why is the media fawning all over it like it was the best thing since sliced bread? I can see how it was effective for all the people who are already inclined to vote Republican, but I found her completely repellent. After everything I had read about how engaging she is, how personable, how charming, I was expecting to be greeted by someone that I might have a tough time resisting on a personal level, disagreeable though I might find her views. Instead, she seemed dead set on whipping up a nasty partisan frenzy; punctuated repeatedly by her pursed schoolmarm smirk. By the end of her tirade, I loathed her and her “I represent the little people” B.S. with every last boiling blood cell in my veins.

Let’s review:

1. She came out and spent a good 10 minutes introducing her hillbilly family, as if we haven’t read enough about their sluttish and/or unethical escapades (oh, sorry, that’s the escapades of “real families, just like yours”) in the news the last few days. I thought it was particularly charming that the pregnant teenaged daughter’s boyfriend was trotted out on the stage in his Sunday best after the speech, chewing gum like the child that he is. What a nice touch to validate the pre-marital sex that she deplores in order to show what a loving mother she is.

2. Her first “political” statement was to tell America she would be there as a voice for special needs parents in government. While that is certainly a laudable sentiment, positioning it at the top of her speech seemed designed to show what an understanding, sensitive mother she is. Again – fabulous – but perhaps not the most important issue on the country’s agenda this year. And arguably not on hers, either, as the entire Republican Party seemed to take a pass at babysitting poor little Trig during her speech. He was trotted out on the stage at the end, too – couldn’t one of her precious family members have stayed in the hotel room and made sure he was safely tucked into bed, where he should have been at that hour, instead of surrounded by the bright lights and screaming crowd in the arena?

3. Finally, Sarah started the mud-slinging. She compared her own experience to Obama’s, belittling his work as a community organizer and championing her own extensive qualifications as the mayor of a small town as the sine qua non of executive experience. She followed that up with a contemptuous dose of “I don’t trust the liberal elite,” and there you have the substance of her speech.

4. Oh, wait, she did talk a lot about drilling in Alaska as her way to address our energy crisis, so that was pretty useful.

5. Oh, yeah, and then told some lies: namely, that she didn’t support taking federal money to build the “Bridge to Nowhere,” and that Barack Obama never authored a law in Congress.

Ugh, that’s enough. She was nasty, and her speech (along with everything else I’ve heard coming out of the Republican Convention) sought to perpetuate the partisan divide in this country. Contrast that with Obama’s convention speech, in which he enumerated several issues on which the parties traditionally disagree, but on which he believes we can surely find common ground. He spoke about rebuilding a nation that is sorely divided; Sarah Palin sought to drive that stake even further into the ground. The Republican Party seeks to wrap that up even tighter in a soft blanket of sexism – simultaneously sporting their buttons that say “Hottest VP from the Coolest State” while accusing the Demorcats of sexism at every turn for daring to challenge Palin’s qualifications.

And speaking once again of qualifications, if I ever thought there wasn’t a danger she would actually find herself in the highest office in the land, seeing the tiny, waxen figure of John McCain come shuffling out at the end of the speech disabused me of that notion. I think he might already be dead. So watch out, lucky world.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fun 'n Games in Minneapolis.

For the most part I can leave the charming Sarah Palin alone for the day, since there will surely be plenty to say tomorrow after she makes what amounts to her debut to the American public tonight. It’s only a debut because even though her candidacy was announced several days ago, the McCain campaign thinks it is appropriate to keep her from having to actually sit for an interview where she would have to answer a few questions about herself. Why? Because the “hostile media” clearly has it in for her, so they will bring her out “when the time is right.” I’m sorry, what? John McCain thinks this woman is capable of running our country, yet she can’t handle a few pointed questions from journalists? Of all the paternalistic crap I can imagine from the Barefoot-and-Pregnant Party, this takes the cake. Not to mention, for all the disagreements I have with Sarah Palin on the issues, she strikes me as a woman who could more than handle herself in an interview. So cut the nonsense and require her to give one. Jesus.

While I’m throwing a bone to the ladies here, rather than at their heads, I’ll toss another one to Cindy McCain. I feel kind of bad for her. She is clearly a perfectly lovely woman, as long as I don’t get into any kind of political discussion with her, and she never looks like she wants to be anywhere near this mess of national politics. She hangs in the background, looking reasonably chic in her throwback sort of way, and smiles when she needs to. I don’t know if it’s shyness or sadness, though, but there is something about her that seems pretty self-protective and closed in on herself. So, I might say some not-so-nice things here that I extrapolate from her Republicanism, but the truth is I don’t have much of a bone to pick with her other than I don’t want her anywhere near the White House.

Speaking of which, guess who will never be anywhere near the White House, or even Capitol Hill ever again, unless McCain picks him for a Cabinet post? That’s right; Joe “Stick a Fork in Me” Lieberman. Wow – that man is going to be the biggest pariah in town when he gets back to D.C. I can’t believe he had the nerve to stand up there and exhort Democrats to “think” about the choice they have to make here. Sorry, buddy, some of us have already thought about this in pretty great depth, and we decided that this wasn’t much of a decision at all. We aspire for a little bit more than the world your candidate promises to leave us with. And Lieberman’s poor wife, Hadassah, sitting out there in the audience next to Cindy McCain: you can’t tell me she wasn’t sitting there wondering what planet she was on. Did she really sign up for this, too? Maybe she could have taken a page from the Todd Palin book of political spouse behavior and kept her membership in her previous party. Of course, in his case that would be the Alaskan Independence Party, of which he was apparently a member until 2002.

This should be quite an administration.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sarah Palin: Not the Pick of a Maverick.

I read over and over that John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate highlights once again his “maverick” status, but I can’t see how that is so. How is it “maverick” to choose a running mate straight out of the conservative base of his party? How is it “maverick” to choose a woman as your running mate then sit back and watch as the world is distracted by the soap-opera of her family drama and the continuously evolving list of her potential drawbacks?

Maybe it’s maverick to choose someone who would be singularly unprepared to take the reins when you die in office, but other than that this is all just classic, old-school Republican tactics to me. John McCain didn’t have the strength of his own convictions to pick one of the two pro-choice people he supposedly wanted most as his running mate until it became glaringly clear that the fire-and-brimstone crowd would hang him out to dry if he did so. Instead, without properly vetting his last-minute decision, he offered the iron-fisted evangelicals Sarah Palin on a silver platter, hoping he’d be killing two birds with one stone by choosing a woman for whom lots of independent-minded women surely would leap on board the Straight to Oblivion Express.

Nothing about all this is maverick other than to show just how badly a hastily made decision, one that shows a distinct lack of good judgment, can turn out. Shouldn’t we already know that from 8 years of watching George Bush shoot from the hip, using his own “maverick” style to take us into a needless conflict in Iraq? Don’t we need someone to make decisions for our country that result from genuine, thoughtful reflection, maybe a little consultation with someone other than the Dark Lord of Observatory Circle, rather than someone who keeps us on our inexorable march down this dangerous path?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Oh, the Delicious and Fortifying Juice!

I am deeply offended by the McCain campaign’s assertion that “liberal” blogs were mud-slinging by perpetuating the rumor that Sarah Palin is actually her son Trig’s grandmother and that her daughter, Bristol, is actually his mother. You will note I refrained from mentioning it here, even though you know I was salivating over it here in my living room. I could hardly wait for the national media to get on board. But of course, it was too delightfully salacious and they weren’t going to go there. Apparently fearing, however, that their baser instincts would get to them, much like Bristol’s got to her, the Palins announced today that there’s NO WAY Bristol could be Trig’s mother, because she is 5 months on her way to becoming the mom of some other lucky little devil! See? There’s no way she could have given birth to Trig because he’s only 4 months old, and Bristol’s been knocked up longer, get it? So we’ll take that story for now, but I can’t say that I am fully convinced there isn’t something even fishier going on here.

Either way, it’s hilarious, even if it is “private pain” and all that for the family. A McCain aide says McCain knew about this before he chose Palin as his running mate, and didn’t think it had any bearing on whether she was right for the job. While I agree that the fact that her daughter is a randy idiot teenager has little to do with her qualifications to step into the job of the most powerful person in the world if called upon to do so, which, of course, are nil, I’m still going to go out on a limb and say that there’s no way McCain knew about this in advance. There is no way in your God’s sweet heaven that had McCain known about this total embarrassment that he would have shoved this whole mess into the limelight. The Republicans can sling all the bullshit they want about how wonderful it is that Bristol “chose” to have the baby, and she’s so lucky to have a supportive family, but the bottom line is that this is nothing but an embarrassment and having to pretend it’s lemonade doesn’t change the reality.

As for Bristol’s “choice,” who knows if she actually had one? With Mommy being a pro-life zealot and in the public eye, I can’t imagine she did actually have a choice. Let’s hope she’s happy with having the child and marrying its father, because she’s going to have to live with it for at least 2 years until she can get divorced and take her baby with her to college in New York City, where she can become a liberal feminist author or something to seriously embarrass her parents. Ah, I jest: you can kind of tell from her vacant teenaged expression that she drinks the evangelical kool-aid. You know, except for not having sex before marriage. But at least she made sure that if she was going to do it, she wouldn’t do it without that forbidden contraception!!

One last comment: am I wrong, or does the Republican Convention so far seem like a complete and total mess? It’s like the waiting room of a funeral parlor. At least they got Laura Bush and Cindy McCain out for their joint speech on charity hurricane relief: awful. Sure, it’s a good message and all, but with the shy Cindy belted tightly into her welcome-home-honey frock coat and the frighteningly Joker-like Laura up there delivering the type of speech acceptable for a good 1960’s political wife, all I could see was “this is how the Republican Party truly likes its women.” Of course, the maverick McCain wants to prove us wrong by showing us strong women can run the White House with a rifle in one hand and an unborn child or two in the other, but … I’m not buying it. Maybe he wants her to totally screw up so she will have to pull out, he can take credit for having chosen a woman an an evangelical, then move forward with some other, more mainstream pick?