Archive for September, 2008

Palin shmalin — it’s about McCain

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Here’s my (admittedly evidence free) take on the current media obsession with Sarah “rock star” Palin: it’s hogwash. I don’t buy for a second that Palin was primarily responsible for McCain’s post-convention surge in the polls. McCain himself was. Sure, Palin has helped McCain in important ways, especially in revving up the far right that makes up, not just the base, but the corrupt heart and soul of the Republican Party.

But I’d bet a year’s supply of moose burgers that McCain’s poll bounce isn’t primarily her doing.

More than 40 million people watched McCain’s acceptance speech. My guess is that at least 80 percent of them had never before heard the details of his captivity in Vietnam. Yeah, they knew he’d been a prisoner of war and had been tortured — but to most people the details were new. And this goes in particular for the story of how, when offered the chance to go home early, he refused, following, instead, the unwritten rule among the POW’s that no one would voluntarily go home before his turn.

Heroic stuff, no doubt about it.  And it makes a hell of an impact on you when you first hear the story.

My guess is that hundreds of thousands — perhaps even millions — of undecided voters, the sort of people who are not particularly committed to any political viewpoint, declared right then and there: “This guy deserves my vote.”

The good news for Obama supporters, of course, is that this long ago history of heroism, while certainly compelling, appears to be about the only thing McCain has to offer the voters this year — other, that is, than offering them one of the slimiest campaigns in memory.

And now McCain has played the hero card — played it for all it’s worth. And all it got him was a statistically tied race, or perhaps a lead of a point or two.

You see, the problem with running on a heroic résumé is that, at the end of the day, most undecided voters vote based upon their own self-interest (even if they can at times be tricked into misjudging where that self-interest lies). Winston Churchill is widely credited with saving England during the World War II (talk about heroic). Yet, when the war was over, the English people, wanting the social and economic reforms offered by the Labour Party, promptly sent Churchill and his party packing.

The list of American war heroes who have crashed and burned (sometimes unfairly) in elections goes on and on: John Kerry, Bob Dole, Max Cleland, and Douglas MacArthur and Wesley Clark represent just a few examples.

None of this means McCain won’t win, of course. But what it does mean is that when all is said and done, the vast majority of Americans are going to cast their ballots based, not upon who they think is most deserving, but upon who they think can most improve their lives (and this year that will primarily involve economic issues).

What this means for Democrats, of course, is that our job over the next 60 days is to show more effectively than we have to this point why that person is Barack Obama.

(By the way, right now is when the campaign needs support the most. I’ve sent him some money today: you should too.)

Absolute dynamite

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

The Washington Post’s dynamite disclosure this morning that Sarah Palin repeatedly charged the State of Alaska a travel per diem for nights she spent in her own home seems to be producing a fairly, shall we say, ho-hum response so far in the liberal blogs.

Here, for example, is Steve Benen’s take at the Washington Monthly:

When lining up the various Palin-related scandals, the questionable per-diem charges still fall well short of the ongoing abuse of power investigation, in terms of seriousness. She’ll probably face some questions about “paying herself to live at home,” but for my money, it’s still a bigger deal that she lied about the circumstances surrounding her dubious dismissal of the state’s public safety commissioner.

Some of the most popular liberal blogs haven’t even discussed the story yet.

With all due respect, this is simply nuts. The potential for this scandal is huge. It doesn’t matter that Palin’s actions may well have been legal under Alaska law: Democrats in Congress were acting within the law in bouncing all those checks on the Congressional bank back in the early 90s: but it struck the public as both corrupt and arrogant and the party paid a huge price. Palin’s action’s will strike the public in just the same way.

If liberals don’t take this story and run with it we’re as stupid and hopeless as the McCain campaign obviously thinks we are (as reflected in their continuing to push lies about the bridge to nowhere).

Face it: rocket scientists won’t be deciding this thing

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Lately, I’ve been feeling somewhat in a daze: the way Cotton Mather might have felt had he been suddenly teleported from a 17th century witch burning in Salem to modern day Las Vegas.

Things wouldn’t have made much sense. They don’t for me either.

I dutifully watched the Republican convention: not all of it, I’ll confess, but enough to entitle me, I should think, to at least a minor medal for gallantry in the face of inane banter. There I sat under withering fire from the likes of Rudi Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Joe Lieberman and, of course, John McCain himself, with a beer in my right hand and the remote in my left: yet bravely I stayed at my post.

My God, what a brain dead bunch the Republicans have become. If anyone in the Republican Party (or for that matter the Connecticut for Lieberman Party) has had an original thought in the last 30 years, that person wasn’t invited to this convention.

Here we are, in a time of extraordinary national crisis, with our troops overextended, our nation widely hated abroad and our economy in frightening decline: and what has the GOP to offer? 1980s style liberal bashing. An energy policy, if you want to dignify it with the term “policy,” based upon nothing more than a wish, a prayer and an oil rig. More wars for more profit. More tax cuts for the already overly-pampered.

And snideness, of course — oodles and gobs of snideness. I mean, how better to defeat the challenges of the 21st century than to snide them to death.

Which brings us to the new queen of snide herself, Sarah Palin: utterly unqualified for the office she now seeks and a right wing nut to boot. But, hey, she’s sort of cute and shoots moose! She has all of the womanhood of Hillary Clinton, with none of the annoying policy knowledge! Now, that’s my kind of vice president!  

And the really depressing thing is that much of the public seems to have loved it, giving McCain a solid bounce in the polls.

I can’t help but think that somewhere out there Thomas Jefferson is shaking his head sadly: apparently founding the University of Virginia wasn’t good enough to give us the informed and wise electorate he craved.          

Yes, there are wise and thoughtful voters in America — tens of millions of them, in fact. They just don’t happen to be the folks who will get to decide the election. Instead, presidential elections in today’s United States — divided, as we are, almost in half politically — are effectively decided by a handful of so-called undecided voters.

And as much as the David Broders of the world love this flip-flopping center of our electoral universe, their reality is less appealing.

Sure, there was a time, decades ago, when the parties weren’t all that far apart in terms of either ideology or competence. But to believe that’s the case today is nothing short of idiotic.

One party wants to continue Bush’s failed policy of endless war and international bullying, while the other wants to return to thoughtful diplomacy; one will further enrich the superrich, while the other will fight for greater economic equality; one wants fill an already radically conservative Supreme Court with even more right wing hacks, while the other will work to return some balance to the Court; one wants to fight global warming, perhaps the greatest threat ever to face humankind, while the other wants to pretend it doesn’t exist.

And on and on and on and on.

The truth is that there is no political middle today — just a choice between two radically divergent and irreconcilable views of what America should be.

Trying to be politically “independent” today is like trying to find the middle ground between a football and a bowl of potato salad. It just doesn’t compute.

What that means, of course, is that this election (in addition to the battle to get out the vote) will ultimately be decided by a war for the souls of the most disinterested and uninformed of American voters. A battle to excite those who really couldn’t care less.

We don’t have to like it. But we better fight like hell to get them on our side: because, at the end of the day, our children will have to live in the future they choose.