Posts Tagged ‘mccain’

The national nightmare ends

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

As for Bush and Cheney, history will bury them. (The latter probably quite soon, I’m guessing.)

It was interesting to watch McCain last night: he looked like a burden had been lifted from his shoulders, and I found myself wondering once more what kind of campaign he could have run had he tacked toward the center. But the truth of the matter is that his running on the base was virtually inevitable when you consider that the GOP no longer has any senior political operatives who weren’t trained in the Atwater-Rove school—i.e., the Republicans at this point literally have no idea how to run a presidential campaign that isn’t based on crude “othering” techniques.  It’s significant that a lot of them thought that McCain’s central failing was that he wasn’t extreme enough and didn’t attack Obama to the extent he could have.  Watching that party struggle to find a coherent message for 2010/2012 is going to be very interesting.

And as for the president-elect, he faces historic difficulties, but it’s going to be incredibly refreshing to have a president who (a) doesn’t seem to be rife with insecurities, (b) doesn’t seem to have an anger management problem, (c) seems to have some insight into his own psyche, and (d) is actually smart and intellectually curious. Also, until this year I never thought I’d see a black president in my lifetime (save perhaps through the elevation of a VP selection), and I’m glad to be proven totally and completely wrong.

And to all readers of my blog who have been wishing I would shut up about the #$# election and write some more about Vin Diesel, thanks for bearing with me.  Now that the country’s taken a step back from what looked like an inexorable slide toward a police state, I plan on resuming normal programming….stay tuned…

Election Eve

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Make no bones about it, an American presidential campaign is the greatest show on Earth. Wednesday is going to have us all feeling like the circus has left town (and it had better, otherwise we’ll be facing the nightmare of a disputed election). It seems amazing that an African-American is now within a hairsbreath of the presidency; it seems all the more amazing that he’s managed to do so while decisively defeating the Clintons and battling the Right Wing Attack Machine to a standstill.

It might also seem incredible that the GOP is even remotely competitive in such a year as this, though (as I’ve noted before) a lot of that is due to the underlying electoral map.  But credit also goes to John McCain. The pundits are falling over themselves to declare what a shitty race he’s run; personally, I think it’s little short of a political miracle that he’s managed to convince so many voters that it’s neither constructive nor even possible to hold the party that’s governed America for eight years accountable for what it’s done. Had those eight years not made themselves all too apparent in the form of the economy cratering, it’s entirely conceivable that McCain’s early September lead would never have evaporated. Even if tomorrow’s returns realign everything on a seismic scale, it’s worth considering (in the words of the Duke of Wellington) what a “damn near run thing” this whole thing has been.

Esquire: “Bushism must be ripped out, root and branch”

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Esquire‘s endorsement of Obama is probably the most devastating piece of writing I’ve seen on the election. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but here are some of the best bits.

More than any other recent election, we are voting this year not merely for a president but to overthrow two governments. The one we can see is the one in which constitutional order has been defaced, the national spirit degraded, and the country unrecognizable because so much of the best of itself has been sold off or frittered away. The other one is the far more insidious one, a doppelgänger nation of black prisons, shredded memos, and secret justifications for even more secret crimes. Moreover, the current administration has worked hard not only to immunize itself from the political and legal consequences of the government we can see, but it has also worked within the one we cannot see in order to perpetuate itself. . .

There is no evidence at all that anything will change under a President John McCain, who has already identified Roberts and Alito as his beau ideals of Supreme Court justices. He has made brave noises about torture and the extraconstitutional prerogatives of the executive, but President Bush and his men went on and did what they wanted anyway, and McCain walked away, begging for votes from fundamentalists who hate him, meeping his displeasure in ways that were barely audible. The virus will gestate and spread on his watch, all throughout the federal government. Bushism must be ripped out, root and branch, everywhere it has been established, or else the presidential election of 2008 is a worthless exercise in futility. Barack Obama may not be the man to do it, but John McCain, for all his laudable qualities, clearly is neither willing nor able to do so.

To continue to govern ourselves this way is unthinkable. It is unsustainable as a democracy to continue to mock so egregiously in secret what we continue to profess in public. That is the task for the next president. That is the main reason to vote for Barack Obama of Illinois. We strongly encourage you to do so.

President Who???

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

I talked yesterday about the extent to which the electoral math continues to be stacked in the direction of the GOP. Today I want to talk about another dynamic that also advantages the GOP: the question of what constitutes legitimate presidential power. This has become perhaps the most glaring double-standard in American politics today, allowing Republican presidents to get away with shit that Democratic presidents can only dream of. When Bush attacked Iraq, we were told by right-wing ideologues that we had to support the president or be declared unpatriotic.  Of course, I can’t help but remember that back in the 1990s Rush Limbaugh and his ilk showed no such forbearance to Clinton in his Bosnian adventures, and I distinctly recollect how mercilessly they attacked him any time he went after Bin Laden.  (Though now they castigate him for allowing him to get away.)

But that’s the nature of a double-standard.  The real question is what’s driving it, and I think part of the answer lies in the fact that the GOP is far more adroit than the Democrats are at manipulating cultural symbols like the flag (and the Bible, for that matter).  Keep in mind, too, that the core of the GOP is far more comfortable with autocratic ideation than the Democrats ever will be (partially because so much of the GOP base would clearly prefer a theocracy to a republic, so it comes naturally to them).  Indeed, foreign wars are often the vehicle via which democracies slide toward dictatorships:  this is a dynamic which we see clear hints of in the GOP’s calling Obama a terrorist, etc.  (And check out the latest campaign incident in which a McCain crowd turned ugly and was ready to start kicking some peacenik ass.)

So the GOP reserves for itself a view of executive power that borders on the monarchial . . . as long as the sitting president is Republican.  But if the president isn’t—and this is the really dangerous part—then the very legitimacy of his holding office is immediately called into question.  Clinton was the first to feel the brunt of this attack, but that’s likely to be a drop in the bucket compared to what a President Obama would face (already the more vitriolic of McCain’s supporters are declaring that he “wouldn’t be my president.”).  This is one more reason why Obama has to hope he doesn’t just win, but that he wins big, lest a close victory be a Pyrrhic one.  When Republicans win the Oval Office with a 50.00000000001% majority (or even when they fail to attain a majority) they can declare a mandate, whereas a Democrat can only declare the same when he has a landslide big enough to bury the Himalayas. Confused?  You’re clearly just not patriotic enough, you #$# traitor.


Friday, October 24th, 2008

Saw Oliver Stone’s latest last night; it’s actually surprisingly well done. I was expecting a mega-hatchet job, and it doesn’t come off that way at all. This may be the weirdest comparison you see out there, but . . . to me it almost felt like Henry V gone horribly awry: Bush overcomes his Prince Hal days to attain maturity and ultimately become a wartime leader, but unfortunately ends up fucking everything up once he does so. As a biopic it works, though the best scenes in the movie involve planning to invade Iraq, and the bit where Powell mutters “fuck you” to Cheney is particularly priceless.

Stone makes it quite clear that in his opinion the key to Bush’s character is the Bush Sr./Bush Jr. relationship; W’s rejection by his dad is what causes him to seek the presidency and, ultimately, to overstep himself in Iraq by finishing what his father “failed” to do.  Stone elects to stop the narrative prior to Bush’s re-election, which is an interesting choice given that that’s the central way in which Bush ended up “surpassing” his dad.  Yet given how many chickens came home to roost in his second term, it’s a victory that looks pretty #$# Pyrrhic in retrospect.  No need to worry about the 22nd Amendment this time around.

The finish-line in sight

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

In the end, the debate wasn’t even close. David Gergen said on CNN that McCain looked like he “had an anger management problem”; that was part of a broader policing-the-emotions issue. Hours of world-class debate prep failed to make inroads on McCain’s fundamental body language issue, nor was it able to wipe the frustration from his voice. And meanwhile Obama remained almost preternaturally calm: in its desperation, the right is now starting to use that as a weapon as well, the same way it tried to turn the “celebrity” issue on its head. Isn’t this guy human? Does he ever break a sweat?

Not in debates, apparently. Nor if there’s a camera within line-of-sight. But this race isn’t over yet.  Yesterday’s polls showed that McCain seemed to have arrested the slide in his numbers, if only temporarily; this debate may send them to new lows, but I suspect that what the next few days will actually show is that Obama has peaked too early—and his supporters may have peaked psychologically as well, given the overconfidence that their candidate is now chastening them on.  They would be advised to listen to him, as this race could easily tighten across the last two and a half weeks; keep in mind that the media wants a horserace, and would vastly prefer a “McCain as comeback kid who’s clawing his way back” narrative to one of Obama cruising to a massive, easy victory.

It’s also worth noting that there’s still a lot of time on the clock for an October Surprise, especially one that involves foreign policy. Bin Laden may yet make an appearance, if only on video.  But also, Bush/Cheney have more than a few cards to play as well, and both men are acutely conscious that their unprecedented attempt to expand presidential power beyond the limits of the Constitution will come under intense (and possible legal) scrutiny should Obama win. (I doubt that Obama himself wants to take this step, but an awful lot of shit is going to come out even if the top players burn/destroy all their files.)  So it’s no surprise that the administration has been anxious to catch Bin Laden in the waning days of the election.  And anyone who thinks this is just a matter of Bush’s legacy is #$# kidding themselves.

McCain’s last chance?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Viewed as an exercise in game theory, John McCain’s situation going into tonight’s debate is a fascinating one. He’s trailing badly in the polls, and it looks like his deficit is growing. Even North Dakota looks ready to abandon him (and if THAT’S not interpreted by Jesusland’s fanatics as a sure sign of the end-times, I don’t know what would be). And the economy aka “the issues” have apparently totally stacked the deck against negative attacks, as all of McCain’s have fallen short, both in and out of the debates.

Nonetheless, McCain is almost certain to attack:  he’s said as much, promising to “kick [Obama’s] you know what” and assuring his supporters he’ll raise the Ayers issue.  Obama has been egging him on, of course, giving an interview earlier in the week where he essentially dared McCain to confront him with Ayers face-to-face.  And we all know that McCain is helpless to resist any mano-a-mano challenge (something that I’m sure many foreign leaders will use to play him like a fiddle should he actually become president).

So Obama will get what he wants:  McCain will come out swinging tonight, and Obama will be ready for him.  Or will he?  In truth McCain has no choice but to gamble:  he’s like a boxer that has to have a knockout.  Winning on points isn’t enough, and he has to hope that either Obama will stumble in defense or prove too emotive in a counterattack. He faces heavy odds; his only chance, really, is some kind of surprise.  We’ll find out what that is soon enough.

What’s going on with ACORN, etc.

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

We sure are headed for some shit on Election Day. “Chaos at the polls” is how CNN puts it after studying the latest reports on insufficient poll workers, malfunctioning electronic machines, lack of enough paper ballots, etc. And it doesn’t look like we’re going to do anything about it either: we could airlift whole teams of monitors and logistics assistance into a third world election next weekend if we wanted, but closer at home a strange paralysis seems to grip us.

All the stranger since an awful lot of battleground state voters are going to be showing up to the polls only to find that they’ve been stricken from the rosters.  It’s within this context that we need to examine the ACORN controversy, in which thousands of false voter registrations have been submitted to local election boards (many with names like “Bugs Bunny” or “Mickey Mouse”).  Fox News et. al. are working 24.7 to convince their viewers that this is all part of the Democrats’ plan to steal the election:  “is it a coincidence that Obama is ahead in the same battleground states rife with voter fraud allegations?”  This is one of the big GOP talking points right now; keep in mind that the same fuckwits whom you see on TV at Palin’s rallies frothing at the mouth about traitors and death are also being assured that Osama, sorry I meant Obama is hell bent on stealing what isn’t his (not that there’s a racial subtext here or anything).

But when you compare it to an issue like the basic integrity of a Diebold machine, ACORN is actually a pretty minor matter in the scheme of things.  The media said that what they were doing could have been the “first step” toward voter fraud.  So what the hell was the next one?  Bugs fucking Bunny shows up and tries to vote? I’d pay to see that one. No, ACORN’s missteps are either the result of lots of local stoners/slackers trying to make a couple bucks, or they involved at least some GOP sabotage—I can’t rule out the latter, given how quickly/deftly the right-wing media has exploited the issue and constructed a false narrative of evil Democratic voter fraud.

And that brings us to the major issue here.  Because the overall pattern is unmistakable.  A key technique used by Karl Rove and his acolytes is to do something, and then—when the opposition calls you on it—accuse the opposition of doing the same damn thing (look how this has worked across the last few days with the crossing-the-line-rhetoric issue).  And it’s impossible to study the evidence of the last two elections with an open mind (particularly the 2004 one) and not conclude that the inner core of the Rovian strategy centered on contaminating the voting process.  This was, I suspect, the secret heart of the attempt to create a permanent Republican majority (an attempt that may yet succeed), and it’s almost certainly the reason why Bush rather than Kerry is president right now (personally, I think Kerry would have made a crap prez, but that’s not the point—and the fact that I have to even point that out is a problem).

Yet now we’re headed for a real train-wreck, because election-rigging is something that only works when the vote is close, and right now it’s anything but.  Even the most supine of medias would wake up if it were confronted with a double-digit discrepancy between polls and votes.  But fucking with the vote is like campaigning:  once you start it, you can’t turn it off. An Obama landslide may yet overwhelm all the schemes.  But on November 4th, we’ll have a chance to see how deep the rot goes.

McCain stands up (for a moment)

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

John McCain turned on his most vitriolic supporters yesterday, correcting a woman who thought Obama was an Arab terrorist, and telling the crowds they don’t have to be scared in the event of a Democratic victory. He deserves full credit for this, though of course it was his campaign who gave these ignorant fuckwits the idea in the first place, and they’re going to keep giving those ignorant fuckwits the same ideas for the next three weeks (and the four years beyond that too).

Still, one can’t help but wonder how McCain would be doing in the polls if he had never called up the forces of darkness to begin with.  Probably even worse than he is now, but still it’s fun to think about:  what if McCain had run the kind of campaign I suspect he wanted to run?  You think he likes any of this shit?  You think he enjoys pandering to the racist morons who were totally convinced eight years ago that he’d fathered a black child?   You think he relishes saying that Joel Osteen’s book is the best thing he’s ever read?  McCain’s essential tragedy is that the math of the Republican Party as it’s now configured forces its candidates to pander to a voter base that (let’s face it) probably would be a lot happier in a theocracy than a republic.

And that’s why his “stand of honor” yesterday ultimately means little.  Even as the Senator cringes in the face of the venom he’s presiding over, his paid operatives keep on pumping out the Jesusland bullshit, portraying Obama as a man whose first move as president will either be to blow up the White House or paint the whole thing black.  These are the same people who McCain once promised would burn in a “special place in hell” for smearing him so badly back in 2000.  He may end up in one of his own for joining forces with them.  Looking at his anguished face in yesterday’s rally, he may be there already.

Last night’s debate

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

The Romans understood that politics is a particularly weird/brutal kind of sport (check out Tom Holland’s brilliant Rubicon for specific analogies vis-a-vis chariot racing), and they wouldn’t have been surprised in the slightest by our presidential debates, where a single false move could cost a candidate the election. Neither candidate made such a move last night; indeed, Jim Lehrer’s decision to open things up at the start paradoxically seemed to make both Obama and McCain more careful in navigating their way forward. Which made for a somewhat boring first 15 minutes as the two men gingerly maneuvered around each other, neither wanting to start debating the specifics of a bailout bill that changes with every passing day . . .

But hey.  I just read John Scalzi’s latest post, and he’s got all sorts of advice for those who would comment on the debate, in particular the injunction to STAY AWAY FROM VIOLENT SPORTS ANALOGIES.  (Yawn.)  Though I do think he raises a good point in wondering why the “real people” scored the debate so differently from the pundits.  John thinks that’s because the voters are concerned with “steak not sizzle”; I gotta admit that’s news to me.  Because I didn’t hear a whole lot of substance last night.  What we got was the standard thing we get in every debate:  two candidates eager to allow the American people to continue in their delusion that fiscal questions can be addressed without hard decisions vis-a-vis military spending and entitlements.

No, I think the gap between the pundits (who rated the debate as even) and the independent voter/focus groups (most of whom scored it for Obama) has nothing to do with what was said and everything to do with what was seen.  Obama simply looked more presidential; he looked McCain in the eye, he didn’t cringe when the other guy was talking, and his posture was confident throughout.  McCain couldn’t even make eye contact in the initial handshake, and that says volumes to the voters.  Palin said she watched Tina Fey impersonate her with the sound down; anyone who did that to this debate knows exactly who won, and why.