Saturday, February 02, 2008

Saturday Cat Blogging

Dammit! Ess Friday Kittnen Blogging, Dadby! You gettin lasee! Deses mah Peeps!

And So It Goes

While we all struggle to come to grips with the twin news stories of the economy and the election, it's easy to lose track of stories that will affect our news in years to come:
N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - Chadian rebels seeking to overthrow President Idriss Deby battled their way into the capital N'Djamena on Saturday and fought government troops around the presidential palace, diplomats and residents said.

The sound of machine gun and heavy weapons fire could be heard in the capital as foreign embassies advised their citizens to stay in doors and take cover. Fighting was reported to be taking place around the presidential palace and the parliament.

"I can confirm they (the rebels) are in the city," a foreign diplomat told Reuters. The situation was confused and mobile phone networks were not working.

"Rebels are headed for the palace and are about two blocks from here. The rebels are winning," one foreign resident said in an email sent from the compound of a western embassy in N'Djamena, adding she could hear tank and mortar fire.
OK, it's, you know, Chad! What's that got to do with the price of eggs?

Well, nothing today, but...
Chad says the rebels, who advanced rapidly this week across the country from the eastern border with Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, are armed and backed by the Sudanese government. Khartoum routinely denies such accusations.
Now, scroll back, say, twelve years and substitute Afghanistan for Chad.

That's the kind of trouble this could conceivably foment for us. The Darfur region of the Sudan is beset by Arab Islamist fundamentalists (the Janjaweed) who are attempting to drive out the ethnic Africans.

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see what happens next: Al Qaeda and its wealthy patricians ask for and are granted asylum in Darfur, Chad and neighboring regions as the Janjaweed press their "influence" outward, backed by the Sudanese government, possibly cutting a deal with Qaddaffi as well.

This would give Al Qaeda a base of operations within striking distance of Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, and yes, Israel. Iran and Syria on one side. Al Qaeda supported by Sudan on the other, and then the fist closes on the Middle East.

Where's the uproar from the rabidly anti-Islamist right in this country? Where are the more Zionist neo-cons like Pamela "Atl-ass" Geller, always screeching about Israel's security, yet never saying word one about how we have squandered our military and financial resources fighting a war against people who once looked to us as an example of what it means to be free? Where's the "you're either with us or with the terrorists" bravado of 2002?

We on the left have been screaming about the tragedy of Darfur, yet here's a strategic as well as humanitarian crisis, and all this administration can do is embarrassedly clear their throats and mutter vague words of support for some nebulous United Nations attempt at putting a band-aid on a fracture.

Truly, "and so it goes.." until it is gone and too late.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Edward's Effect

Here's the always Great Paul Krugman's column today.

The Edwards Effect

So John Edwards has dropped out of the race for the presidency. By normal political standards, his campaign fell short.

But Mr. Edwards, far more than is usual in modern politics, ran a campaign based on ideas. And even as his personal quest for the White House faltered, his ideas triumphed: both candidates left standing are, to a large extent, running on the platform Mr. Edwards built.

To understand the extent of the Edwards effect, you have to think about what might have been.

At the beginning of 2007, it seemed likely that the Democratic nominee would run a cautious campaign, without strong, distinctive policy ideas. That, after all, is what John Kerry did in 2004.

If 2008 is different, it will be largely thanks to Mr. Edwards. He made a habit of introducing bold policy proposals — and they were met with such enthusiasm among Democrats that his rivals were more or less forced to follow suit.

It’s hard, in particular, to overstate the importance of the Edwards health care plan, introduced in February.

Before the Edwards plan was unveiled, advocates of universal health care had difficulty getting traction, in part because they were divided over how to get there. Some advocated a single-payer system — a k a Medicare for all — but this was dismissed as politically infeasible. Some advocated reform based on private insurers, but single-payer advocates, aware of the vast inefficiency of the private insurance system, recoiled at the prospect.

With no consensus about how to pursue health reform, and vivid memories of the failure of 1993-1994, Democratic politicians avoided the subject, treating universal care as a vague dream for the distant future.

But the Edwards plan squared the circle, giving people the choice of staying with private insurers, while also giving everyone the option of buying into government-offered, Medicare-type plans — a form of public-private competition that Mr. Edwards made clear might lead to a single-payer system over time. And he also broke the taboo against calling for tax increases to pay for reform.

Suddenly, universal health care became a possible dream for the next administration. In the months that followed, the rival campaigns moved to assure the party’s base that it was a dream they shared, by emulating the Edwards plan. And there’s little question that if the next president really does achieve major health reform, it will transform the political landscape.

Similar if less dramatic examples of leadership followed on other key issues. For example, Mr. Edwards led the way last March by proposing a serious plan for responding to climate change, and at this point both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are offering far stronger measures to limit emissions of greenhouse gases than anyone would have expected to see on the table not long ago.

Unfortunately for Mr. Edwards, the willingness of his rivals to emulate his policy proposals made it hard for him to differentiate himself as a candidate; meanwhile, those rivals had far larger financial resources and received vastly more media attention. Even The Times’s own public editor chided the paper for giving Mr. Edwards so little coverage.

And so Mr. Edwards won the arguments but not the political war.

Where will Edwards supporters go now? The truth is that nobody knows.

Yes, Mr. Obama is also running as a “change” candidate. But he isn’t offering the same kind of change: Mr. Edwards ran an unabashedly populist campaign, while Mr. Obama portrays himself as a candidate who can transcend partisanship — and given the economic elitism of the modern Republican Party, populism is unavoidably partisan.

It’s true that Mr. Obama has tried to work some populist themes into his campaign, but he apparently isn’t all that convincing: the working-class voters Mr. Edwards attracted have tended to favor Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Obama.

Furthermore, to the extent that this remains a campaign of ideas, it remains true that on the key issue of health care, the Clinton plan is more or less identical to the Edwards plan. The Obama plan, which doesn’t actually achieve universal coverage, is considerably weaker.

One thing is clear, however: whichever candidate does get the nomination, his or her chance of victory will rest largely on the ideas Mr. Edwards brought to the campaign.

Personal appeal won’t do the job: history shows that Republicans are very good at demonizing their opponents as individuals. Mrs. Clinton has already received the full treatment, while Mr. Obama hasn’t — yet. But if he gets the nod, watch how quickly conservative pundits who have praised him discover that he has deep character flaws.

If Democrats manage to get the focus on their substantive differences with the Republicans, however, polls on the issues suggest that they’ll have a big advantage. And they’ll have Mr. Edwards to thank.

Friday Music Blogging

Rolling Stones - Sweet Neo Con

Nobody Asked Me, But

This car can be yours!

1) Look at how desperate Rudy is to pay back his contributors!

2) I'm curious, and perhaps someone can clue me in about Hillary-Hating, cuz I don't: Can someone, anyone, give me one good reason not to vote for Hillary over Barack Obama? Or John McCain (or Mitt Romney), for that matter?

3) Speaking of Hillary and Barack, does this look like a ticket?

4) The correct answer is, no. While Obama would be smart to accept a spot on a Clinton ticket, I'm not sure she'd offer it to him. If she does, he ought to snap it up, because when he's fifty-four, he'd still be young enough to run, but with 8 years of Veepitude under his belt, he'd deflect criticism of his youth and would avoid being called to account for any Senate votes in the interim. And I think this is win-or-go-home for Clinton. I doubt her ego would allow her to accept the Veep nod. Besides, Obama's smart play would be to ask Bill Richardson to gather a bigger Latino vote.

5) Which raises another interesting note: this could be the first election in American history to feature two sitting Senators, Clinton/Obama and McCain (unless Romney wins). At least we won't be subject to the "John McCain voted against breast cancer research" ads of the 2000 campaign, because he could always swing back harder.

6) Well, this sucks! I try to avoid all things Microsoft, and I assume that Yahoo video will have to pull all the free hard core porn...

7) Question: How many "Number Twos" are there in Al Qaida?

8) He's doing this mostly because he has to. The Kennedy endorsements seem to have been a dead cat bounce.

9) No, really? Imagine that! Didn't Kansas Gov. Sebelius warn us about this years ago?

10) When did she leave? More important, why?

11) I want to quash a rumour right now. There is no truth to the story that George Clooney asked me to skip work yesterday so he'd be the handsomest man in the Grand Central district. That story is absolutely false! He asked me to see my cardiologist, true, but he did it out of natural concern for my health.

12) What could this be?

13) Local NYC story: It's about effin' time.

14) UPDATE: Today, the American Heart Association is asking you to wear red, to raise awareness of women's heart disease and heart health in general. Some old codgers on the right think this is a bad thing, believe it or not! I have my red tie on. I won't mention my thong underwear.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Politics Of Unity

"If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened, he'd [Clinton] be gone. This guy's a scumbag. That's why I'm after him."- Congressman Dan Burton (R: Indiana)

It's nice to see that the bitch doesn't fall far from the tree. I'll bet her mother is very, very proud of her. - Support Your Local Gunfighter (Moron: Blogosphere)

I draw your attention to the above quotations of two of the more, um, OK, less polite Republicans on this planet, and ask you to consider the politics of unity that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both espouse.


After all, much sport has been had with Obama's middle name already and he hasn't even won the nomination. And of course, Hillary herself has such groups as CLIT and CUNT on her trail.

How long would it take for the Monica Crowleys and Roger Stones of the world to create National Investigative Group: Get Erudite Race-baiters or some other rejiggering (FReeper alert!) of the word?

These kind of attacks will continue and it's still early. I suspect there will be many more and many worse slights to come. Which raises the issue: should the lamb lie with the lion (or in this case, the jackals)?

I think it depends. And this is where Hillary has an huge advantage over Barack Obama.

Obama has revealed a very thin skin. Remember Clinton's "fairy tale" comment?

Obama surrogates unloaded their guns at Clinton, drawing the race card, and in the process, making Barack Obama look foolish AND spilling blood into the water for the sharks of the right wing to smell. Dumb. DUMB move. Obama didn't do much to dissuade them, nor did he do much to mend fences until days later.

This is one of a couple of slights to Obama that he's gone "drama queen" on. The Clintons have kept the gloves on, yet they've managed to take Obama off message and into the gutter. That has dampened his message of hope and unity.

The right wing, particularly Karl Rove, is paying attention. Yes, the cocaine story was a nothing deal, but it came out in the Democratic primaries before three-fourths of the country was even paying attention. Imagine nominee Obama being asked by moderator Chris Wallace in an October debate, "Sir, how many times did you do cocaine and did you ever sell it?"

We'll all be sitting for a McCain inauguration, to be sure, if Obama's answer to that lacks candor and forthrightness. After all, he put it in his book that he used, as opposed to Dubya, who ducked, weaved, and denied.

Hillary has shown she is more than tough enough to take the right wing hate-mongers on, and beat them. It concerns me that we might select a man who's going to get thrown off course for the lack of a backbone and stiff upper lip.

Too, Hillary's "sins" for what they are, are out there for all to see. There's no real October surprise (hell, they even found a boyfriend for her assistant!) here. We can't say the same about Barack Obama, particularly when his truth can be so easily twisted (madrassah in Pakistan, Muslim father, can work that one out on your own).

This is not to suggest that "thick skin" is the only criterion on which to base the selection of a nominee, and as I've said before, despite my endorsement of Senator Clinton, I would be as fervent in my support of Senator Obama as nominee as I would her selection.

But the two are so much like in so many policy arenas despite their reported differences and the notion that Obama is running neck and neck with her (Dan Abrams on MSNBC had a great piece last night on this) seems pretty silly. People who are reading the papers, looking at issues, are seeing no difference and thinking about the 90s and seeing the early attacks, and I think they're thinking like I am: we need someone who can shrug off the attacks, and put forth a case to elect Democrats in 2008.

Today's Forecast

Today will have partly medical testing, with intervals of light blogging.

High: Not at all, I have blood tests

Low: You betcha!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Firesign Theatre - Last Hand Gun On Earth

An Interesting Strategy

I happened across this article, and I wondered what to make of it. I have a couple of theories in mind, which I'll expound on (don't I always?) after the break:
More than just a trip to his Kansas roots, Sen. Barack Obama's visit to his grandfather's home town Tuesday is part of a broad and unorthodox strategy to build support in Republican-dominated states.

In Kansas and Idaho, Utah and Alaska, Obama's goal is to win delegates on Feb. 5 and to convince voters that he can compete where Democrats normally cannot.
OK, fair enough strategy: show voters in states after Feb. 5, states like Texas and Ohio, that Obama has support in red states that normally would skew Republican.

Too bad that's not what he's doing. Think about it, get past the bull, and ask yourself: why does a guy go to states that he wouldn't likely win in the general election, and push to win them in the primary? Kansas hasn't supported a Democrat for president since Johnson won his sympathy election in 1964 and the only Democrats to win Kansas were Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Bush won 62% of the vote there in 2004, and had a 25 point plurality over Kerry, who barely carried two congressional district statewide. Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1932.

That said, in 2006 Kansas re-elected a Democratic Governor, Kathleen Sebelius (who is widely expected to endorse Obama) with 58% of the vote. Democrats also picked up six seats in the Kansas House of Representatives, and Democrat Nancy Boyda defeated conservative Republican Congressman Jim Ryun in the 2nd Congressional District.

Still this is a staunchly conservative, staunchly and proudly Republican state. Obama will not win a majority in a general election.

Sounds like a fool's errand, particularly in a red state that's, well, mostly white. You'd think he'd be pushing his case in Alabama and Mississippi. Unless...

A few possible explanations pop out:
1) Obama has, in the back of his mind, all but conceded the race to Hillary Clinton, who is dominating him in states with sizable delegate counts, like New York, California, Texas, Missouri, and New Jersey, while Obama has tied her in Connecticut and the Kennedy endorsements likely will give him Massachussetts (and not much more, possibly Rhode Island). The bounce Obama expected from South Carolina and the Kennedy endorsements simply hasn't showed itself, neither has the Oprah endorsement. Therefore, he's running to show he is more than an Illinois/black candidate, and running for Veep.

Not likely, true. The bad blood and animosity between the two camps (particularly with respect to the Big Dog himself) has all but made a Clinton/Obama ticket impossible. Still, politics makes strange bedfellows.

2) The strategy of campaigning in Kansas for delegates might be a stalling tactic, a slash-and-burn to keep Hillary from reaching the necessary 2,025 delegates before the convention, thus forcing a brokered convention. This would make more sense if Kansas was a "winner take all" state, but it's proportional. It's possible that Obama's camp has done the math and realized a minimum number of delegates they need to win to force the brokering, and that in Kansas, they come up a little short.

3) Obama could be positioning himself for a run in either 2012 or 2016, depending on if Clinton wins. By making a strong showing on the momentum of the Democratic victories in 2006, he could be shoring up a machine, similar to what the Clinton's established in New Hampshire in 1992, which will pay dividends for decades. An Obama endorsement, regardless of whether he is the nominee this year, could pay broad and deep dividends in the next twenty years for Democrats.

4) Which brings me to my last point: kingmaker. Obama's expressed admiration for Ronald Reagan...I know what you Obamites will say, so let me qualify that statement...his expressed admiration for Reagan as a political animal is probably in his mind. Reagan was the go-to guy for Republicans from the end of his election in 1980. Anytime a Republican was in trouble, they wheeled out the Gipper. He won more than he lost, to be sure, but the country was turning more conservative anyway.

Obama might sense what I sense: the country is tired of hackneyed, "look behind you" thinking, and is ready to move forward. By leading the party in that direction, Obama can ensure himself a lush retirement after he (eventually) wins the Presidency.
I want to stress that all these alternative explanations should NOT be interpreted to mean that Obama has completely given up hopes of beating Hillary. It is, however, a monumental undertaking he's set out on, and a smart politician always keeps the options open that can gracefully let him back away from a losing battle (which is one way we know Bush is not a smart politician).

It's true, for example, that Kansas' delegates could make or break the nomination, if the battle gets that close. Think of how Karl Rove fixed the Florida vote in 2000 or the Ohio vote in 2004, and you'll see a textbook example of anticipating an outcome and planning ahead.

Obama and Clinton both have the funds to fight this right down to the wire, to be sure, so every vote might count. Still, by the end of next week, Hillary Clinton will be about halfway to the nomination and Barack Obama will still be pulling off his warm-ups, even if he sweeps all the red states. That kind of momentum, as Rudy Giuliani's idiotic strategy shows, can backfire big time.

So why IS Barack Obama campaigning in Kansas so hard?

UPDATE Not to toot my own horn too much, but just remember, you heard this here first.

Next time, Senator Edwards, e-mail me. I'll be happy to run your winning campaign for you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stimulate Me, Baby!


After something on the order of 30 years of tax cuts having proved precisely one thing, you'd think politicians could come up with a better idea in the face of a recession:
In the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth. But in the short run, we can all see that that growth is slowing. So last week my administration reached agreement with Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader Boehner on a robust growth package that includes tax relief for individuals and families, and incentives for business investment.
Apparently not. Now even the Democrats are bleating the same tired bull, albeit in a different key:
We heard last week and again tonight that Congress and the president are acting quickly on a temporary, targeted stimulus package. That’s encouraging, but you and I know that a temporary fix is only the first step toward meeting our challenges and solving our problems.
Can we talk honestly for a moment?

In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected on a platform that included tax cuts across the board for Americans, but tax cuts the primarily focused on the well-to-do. When he entered office, the annual national deficit was $80 billion dollars. When he left, he had accumulated deficits of $2 trillion with a final deficit of $ 155billion.

His tax cuts did increase tax receipts, but if you adjust for inflation, by less than twenty percent over his eight years (roughly 0.21 per working person per year). Meanwhile, Clinton's tax hikes increased tax receipts in the country by 3.1% per working person per annum.

Under his watch, unemployment skyrocketed to over 10%, finally falling back to a still-uncomfortable 5.5%. Inflation remained steady throughout his administration between 4 and 6%, something that today would have the Fed tightening interest rates to nearly-unheard of levels.

In 2001, Bush proposed the first of three tax cuts, which didn't even begin to stimulate the kind of growth that Reagan's first tax cut did, yet still hyperinflated the budget deficit AND national debt in one fell swoop. The national debt the day Bush took office was $5.7 trillion and falling.

It now stands at $9.2 trillion and skyrocketing.

OK, given all this evidence...what part of "tax cuts are bad" do we not get?

Maybe...maybe...highly targeted tax cuts that are directed at the middle and working classes in the form of immediate rebate checks would work. Maybe. But as Gov. Sebelius points out, those are really one-off, temporary hits to the family budget, and besides, an awful lot of people will use this check to pay down some of their credit cards and other indebtedness, which does nothing for the economy: that's already spent money.

Here's how I would fight this recession, already in progress, if I was NotPresident:

1) I would immediately end the invasion of Iraq, and bring half the troops home today. I would leave about half for a short time in order to ensure an orderly transition to the people of Iraq and to quell any violence that the Iraqi forces themselves cannot handle. I can't stress this next part strongly enough: ALL TROOPS WOULD BE CONFINED TO BASES (except for routine patrols around the base) UNLESS REQUESTED BY THE IRAQ COUNCILS.

2) That would free up, gee, just about $150 billion each year. I would take that money-- screw the tax cuts except maybe the rebate checks-- and plow it into infrastructure repair: fixing bridges, improving port security, paving freeways, installing better public transportation systems.

Also, I would initiate a "Greening of America" in both senses of the word. We need not only to become more energy efficient, dropping the need to get involved for national security sake in places like the hellhole that is Iraq, but also to improve and beautify America's public works and places. Each square foot of concrete is a square foot of real estate that could be used to fight climate change. I would offer tax credits for greening your roof, for example, planting grasses and wildflowers that don't require high maintenance, or, if you have a pitched roof, tax credits for installing solar panels, but tax credits that mean something when compared to the costs of installation.

We'd be creating jobs immediately. We'd be encouraging investment in America's future and research into new technologies that we could sell to the world, thus recapturing our amazing economic growth based on innovation and not obsolescence.

Energy production in this country provides roughly $35,000 per person to the US economy each year. That's an awful lot of money. And an awful lot of jobs. (For comparison, per capita, the national debt, at $9.2 trillion, is about $25,000).

Even John Edwards isn't talking about this issue in quite this way.

Yes, we need immediate relief from mortgage debt and the inability of people to keep up with their bills, and a security net for those who will lose their jobs. That's a no-brainer and here's one arena where conventional wisdom is good wisdom: extend unemployment, assist those who need the assistance to avoid default, even if it means declaring a moratorium on interest rate adjustments and mandatory renegotiation of any mortgage either in or technically in default, and so on.

But long term, we have an opportunity to do something positive not only for the nation, but for the citizens of that nation, the ones who really count.

The ones this recession is going to hurt, bad.

UPDATE: I realize I could write a book in one sitting on this one topic alone, but I don't want to bore you more than you already are.

The simple truths of recessions are these:

- Governments are the consumer of last resort, having the deepest pockets and therefore the ability to splurge.

- Governments SHOULD be creating opportunities during good times, so that recessions don't hurt as much. These opportunities SHOULD swell the tax coffers, allowing governments more of a cushion for the lean times, but also so that governments can invest more in creating more opportunities for its citizenry.

- Tax cuts, justified as "giving you your money back, because you know how best to spend it" (ed note: it's always about spending it, for these assholes), have their limits, and I think we reached ours in 1989. Guess what? The 90s and 00s show that maybe, just maybe, we don't know how best to spend our money.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Athletic Support

h/t Karyn Mannix for graphic

The post I wrote yesterday, pleading with John Edwards to get out of the Democratic primary and force voters to truly choose between the likely nominee in November between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, ruffled some feathers. That was not my intent, altho I should have seen it coming.

I make no apologies for my stance, nor do I retract it. I firmly believe what I said.


A curious dynamic occured in the comment thread, and it's interesting to take note of it. There was a visceral reaction to what I posted, almost as if people took my anger, directed at Edwards, personally. That raised a question in my head: do we take elections a bit too seriously for the wrong reasons and not seriously enough for the right ones?

Let me give you an example: I, for one, could give a rat's ass if Hillary wins, or Barack wins, or even if John wins. I'll support them in the general election, just like I supported Kerry, Gore, Clinton, and so on, all the way back to Humphrey in 1968. I guess this allows me to not be influenced by passion: knowing that the candidate that wins the nomination will get my support anyway, I can sit back and dispassionately look at their positions, the current political climate, and whatever exogenous factors might crop up in any individual campaign, and choose whom I believe is the best candidate to lead us not just in the election cycle, but in the position, should that candidate win.

In this instance, I chose Hillary. When someone takes a shot at her, I will respond, but try to stay on point and make my response short and factual.

Now, I contrast that with the passions I feel about the issues: I can write tomes about Africa (I meant to today, but this Edwards thing sidetracked my thinking), or baseball and steroids, or poverty.

It just seems to me on those items there IS just one right and many wrong answers. Those will stir up the blood for me.

I get that Edwards speaks to these issues. So do Obama and Clinton, altho you'd never know it to hear Blogtopia (© Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) speak about them.

And I get that a lot of people have pinned hopes on Edwards, viewing him as the only anti-corporatist candidate left, now that Kucinich is gone. Personally, I think that's a mistake, but I won't defend that position here.

It's this emotional connection. That's intriguing to me.

Passionate politicians are a rarity. Nowadays, because of the function of the money needed to campaign, a candidate shows his or her passion at her peril. Think about it: when a candidate expresses himself in admiration of something, take Obama's comments about Reagan, then he's immediately smacked down by his opposition.

Clinton emoted her exhaustion and frustration, and the Edwards camp immediately jumped ugly about "strength to lead".

In short, the political process is one that emotion has to, by necessity, take a backseat to the mechanics of campaigning and policy. The rare politician who can inspire AND manage a campaign is a treasure.

Bill Clinton had this ability to balance. He called it "compartmentalizing." He could "feel your pain," and address a detailed comprehensive policy in the next breath.

Clinton's balance was slightly skewed to the wonk.

Obama too has this ability, albeit in a slightly different balance: his inspirations are stronger than his wonk fu. The problem I have with Obama is I can look past the inspirations to the exhalations, and find him about equal with Clinton in terms of stances, and she is miles ahead of him in terms of policy.

Edwards lacks a balance, completely. He is, in my view, all sizzle, no steak. To extend this metaphor, people hear the sizzle, smell the aroma and are attracted to it because they hunger for that steak. People talk about how his stimulus package was first to be unwrapped, before Clinton and Obama had theirs wrapped up, but even Edwards package was smaller than Bush's, as Joe Klein, of all people, points out.

So I'm having trouble wrapping my cynical, old brain about this whole emotional context that people bring to the defense of their candidate of choice.

Maybe I've seen too many wars. Maybe I'm just an easy target for venting frustration that Edwards ideas didn't take root and bear fruit with the electorate. Maybe I'm wrong for not feeling passion about any of the candidates running. Maybe my old friend Caroline Kennedy is right to point out that people need to be inspired in order to get involved.

And maybe I'm right. I don't know that I am, but it feels like it. In my view, any candidate who ends up the nominee is going to face a firestorm that makes the (Bill) Clinton elections look like a walk in the park, and any Democratic President is going to find it extremely hard, if not impossible, to enact any effective reform in the first term (barring a major shift in Senate seats, something that's not as likely as a Democratic presidency).

So any emotional attachments we make to a candidate are going to be, and this is the mildest scenario, sorely tested. I suspect we're going to be thoroughly disillusioned and people who are "inspired" by this candidate or that one are going to have a rude awakening. This is why I think it's important that, this time in particular, we get it right and not get sidetracked by a sideshow put on by someone for their ego's sake.

Monday Morning Political Humour

There's a show on C-SPAN about presidential libraries. Here're what the draft plans for the George W. Bush Library now call for:

The Alberto Gonzales Room - Where you can't remember any of the exhibits.

The Hurricane Katrina Room - It's still under construction.

The Texas Air National Guard Room - Where you don't have to even show up.

The Walter Reed Hospital Room - Where they don't let you in.

The Guantanamo Bay Room - Where they don't let you out.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Room - Nobody has been able to find it.

The War in Iraq Room - After you complete your first tour, they can force you to go back for your second and third and fourth and fifth tours.

The K-Street Project Gift Shop - Where you can buy an election, or, if no one cares, steal one.

The Men's Room - Where you could meet a Republican Senator (or two).

To be fair, the President has done some good things, and so the museum will have an electron microscope to help you locate them.

When asked, President Bush said that he didn't care so much about the individual exhibits as long as his museum was better than his father's.

Don't forget to celebrate the passing of a kidney stone era of American politics and get your "Bush's Last Day" band today!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Gee...Bet No One Saw THIS Coming!

"Clean" video renter arrested...for having sex with a teen!

What is it about Utah and shirt-rending morality that causes a man to freak out and behave even worse than the behaviors he rails against?

The Politics of Obstruction

It's in my mind that we've been seeing, for the past 16 years, a new theme in American Presidential politics: The politics of obstruction.

I say this after viewing the detailed results of the South Carolina Democratic primary yesterday. Barack Obama swamped the Clinton campaign, 54% to 27%, with John Edwards running an even more distant third in his home state (18%).

The details are in the Devil, to twist a phrase: Clinton didn't even capture a plurality of the white vote, Edwards edging her out by four percent there, and yet Clinton stomped the yard with him.

Normally, you'd think, well, Edwards just sang his swan song and is being tugged off the stage. I mean, 18% in your own backyard is a little like, I don't know, a President pulling approval ratings in the 30s. Ballgame over, time to pack the bags.

But not John Edwards!

And that got me to thinking about insurgent campaigns, like Ross Perot's, or Ralph Nader's. We can now add John Edwards to the list of people whose ego has written checks their bankbooks can't cash. And you have to ask yourself, why?

Is it vanity? Ego? An overinflated sense of self-worth?

John, let's look at this calculatedly: you had a two year head start on Hillary and Barack. You practically moved to Iowa.

And you placed second. A distant second. You haven't placed closer ever since.

Your message of Two Americas, as noble as it is, is not resonating with people who are deathly afraid of the Depression that is coming.

And why should it? You offer no hope to those who "have," who own a house and have a car and maybe even a decent health insurance from work, even tho in reality those are the people who are most in danger of becoming citizens of the Second America.

As best as I can figure, your entire campaign now rests on this statistic: the last three elected Democratic presidents all came from the South. But that dynamic, one of moderate centrist white men winning in the South by forging a coalition of Blue Dog Democrats, is in danger of being overwhelmed by the envigorated black vote and the carpetbagger Northeasterners who moved to follow their jobs.

And you're too liberal to sway the former Reagan Democrats.

I get this picture in my head that there's this big chalkboard at Edwards' campaign headquarters, with this long complex equation on it. It starts out "White House=..." and the last term in the equation is "+and then the miracle happens!"

Get over it, John. The last true miracle in this country happened in Lake Placid in 1980. You're not the solution the country wants and right now, you're running as the candidate who believed he was entitled to the nomination because it was "my turn," having failed so miserably in 2004 as VP.

Which basically means, you're part of the problem. Get out.