Saturday, May 03, 2008

The GOP's Advice For Obama: Follow It At Your Own Peril

Here's another good catch by Glenn Greenwald. Last December, in a 'Memo To Obama', Karl Rove wrote oh so sincerely and helpfully that the Senator must-
"First, stop acting like a vitamin-deficient Adlai Stevenson. Striking a pose of being high-minded and too pure will not work. Americans want to see you scrapping and fighting for the job, not in a mean or ugly way but in a forceful and straightforward way.

Hillary may come over as calculating and shifty but she looks in control. You, on the other hand, often come over as weak and ineffectual. In some debates, you do not even look at her when disagreeing with her, making it look as if you are afraid of her. She offers you openings time and again but you do not take advantage of them. Sharpen your attacks and make them more precise."

In the newest issue of Newsweek-- the lettuce vs. beer one-- Rove writes in his column-
"Stop the attacks. They undermine your claim to a post-partisan new politics. You soared when you seemed above politics, lost altitude when you did what you criticize. Attacks are momentarily satisfying but ultimately corrode your appeal."

Gosh, it's almost as if he's not giving the most honest advice here!

I've blogged about this before, but this is the cold, hard fact about Democrats and the media in general (whether Rove or any idiot pundit)... damned if you do, and damned if you don't. For instance, the media in 2000 ripped Al Gore apart for running a campaign that was too stuffy and wonky. They found his command of the issues, and his focus on detail and policy, to be boring and lame. They demanded he appear more down-to-earth and human, like that delightfully folksy governor from Texas. This resulted in the Gore campaign putting him in ridiculous situations, like when Gore kissed and pawed his wife at the Democratic Convention that summer. And now, when they have the inspiring, charismatic candidate they demanded of the Democrats eight years ago, they started complaining that... he needs to be more stuffy and wonky.

Another example. In 2006, Vice President Cheney, of all people, decided to give 'advice' to the Democrats insisting they not criticize the awesome war in Iraq-- funny since President Bush has since admitted they were lying about the war at that time-- if they wanted to take back Congress. The Democrats shockingly told him to piss off, and lo and behold, the Speaker of the House is no longer a fat crook named Dennis Hastert.

Lesson learned? Just ignore the media's mumblings, and focus on your strengths. It's when they allow themselves to be caught off-guard and flustered by this purposely contradictory advice that Democrats lose. I hope that Sen. Obama remembers this, especially as the campaign hits this rough patch.

For Withdrawal Before He Was Against It

Republicans sunk the candidacy of John Kerry in 2004 partly by painting him as a flip-flopper. And yet they have nominated a man who hasn't had a consistent or honest position on any issue in about half a decade now. But then that was true of 80% of their primary candidates-- save for Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee, whom they hated anyway-- so I guess this was the inevitable outcome for them. Still, if Democrats can't figure out how to make this an issue, they have real problems.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Weekend Odds and Ends

I hadn't planned to do one of these today, but just found too much good stuff to post...

Via Slate magazine, a look back at what a fun adventure we've been having-

In depressing news, it does appear that all the attacks against Sen. Obama (which appear to be originating from the top levels of the Clinton camp) are having an impact. Polls show that Obama's previous leads in Indiana and North Carolina are now on shaky ground. Just a reminder to all Americans that fear and division trumps hope and change any day. Now where's my flag pin, I'm so proud.

Sen. Obama, meanwhile, gave a press conference today on the economy. OMG issues!

And Sen. Clinton continues sounding more and more like a Republican in her joining the gas tax holiday pander. Echoing President Bush's war on terror soundbyte-- and also completing misrepresenting the facts on what her proposal would do-- she said today to her colleagues in Congress, "I want to know where people stand and I want them to tell us, are they with us or against us when it comes to taking on the oil companies?" And her aide Howard Wolfson says "We believe the presidency requires leadership... There are times that a president will take a position that a broad support of quote-unquote experts agree with. And there are times they will take a position that quote-unquote experts do not agree with." Agreed, experts schmexperts!

Fear not, though, supporters of sane policies! Speaker Pelosi has made clear that she opposes this proposal.

Meanwhile, Michael Moore discussed the election with Larry King. Watch it on YouTube (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6).

In legislative news, Sens. Feingold and Klobuchar, and Rep. Ellison, are responding to the Supreme Court's voter ID decision by proposing a bill "to help more Americans register to vote by allowing Election Day registration at polling places for all federal elections."

Let's hope that congressional Republicans don't run away from it like they are with Sen. Webb's GI Bill.

Finally, our Vice President really is a Bond villain: "Efforts to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale from being killed by ships are being blocked by Vice President Dick Cheney according to leaked documents."

Finally, a good read from The Washington Independent: 'How Fraud Fueled Mortgage Crisis'

The Liberal Media Is At Again!

In case you haven't seen it, here is the cover of current issue of Newsweek-


If you can't read it, the cover shows a piece of lettuce (arugula, specifically) one side, a beer on the other side, and the headline-- "Obama's Bubba Gap"-- in between. Yes, that's what this election comes down to... lettuce vs. beer.

To be fair, the actual story inside the magazine is much fairer to Obama than the cover would indicate, though only in comparison. But how many people actually read these articles? Not too many, I bet. Now how many people will see this cover on a newsstand and make judgments from that alone? A lot.

This Newsweek cover story is the culmination of the narrative that's been building for a month now in the campaign, and is in turn a rerun of the narrative that our friends in the liberal media have perpetuated for many elections now... namely that the Democratic front-runner is an elitist pussy who hates America and apple pie. Funny how that always happens. Ignore that Obama's two opponents in this race make him look like a damn pauper and have been pandering to the America people left and right at the most base and insulting levels. Sen. Obama bought lettuce at Whole Foods once and doesn't think we can bomb all our problems away, so it's clear that he is a big loser who should not be President. Maybe he needs to buy a cowboy hat and start clearing some brush, and then the White House will be handed to him on a silver platter.

It's funny that this magazine came out the same week that I picked up Glenn Greenwald's new book, 'Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics'. In the preface, Greenwald sums up this cut-and-paste narrative better than most-
"For the past three decades, American politics has been driven by a bizarre anomaly. Polls continuously show that on almost every issue, Americans vastly prefer the policies of the Democratic Party to those of the Republican Party. Yet during that time, the Republicans have won the majority of elections... The most important factor, by far, is that the Republican Party employs the same set of personality smears and mythical, psychological, and cultural images to win elections...

...Time and time again, Americans vote Republican due to their perceptions that right-wing leaders exude such admirable personality traits as courage, convinction, strength, wholesome family morality, identification with the 'regular guy', an affection for the military, fiscal restraint, and a belief in the supremacy of the individual over the government. Ronald Reagan, the wholesome 'Everyman' rancher, and George W. Bush, the swaggering, conquering cowboy, rode to victory on the basis of the cartoon imagery and marketing themes that defined them.

Liberals and Democrats generally are relentlessly depicted as the opposite. Liberals are weak, irresolute, anti-military, elitist, effete, amoral, sexually deviant, profligate, and antagonistic to the values of 'Real Americans'...

...But these GOP marketing packages are complete fabrications. They bear no relationship to reality...

...Discussions of political candidates in the establishment press are driven primarily by these personality caricatures. These vapid depictions completely drown out any examination of substantive issues, the candidates' positions, or even the truth of their claims."

To quote 'Battlestar Galactica', all of this has happened before. All of this will happen again.

In an article for The Atlantic last December, Andrew Sullivan explained his support for Obama by acknowledging his disagreements with the Senator on some things, but stated that "our divisions and recent history have combined to make the American polity and constitutional order increasingly vulnerable" and that Obama was the "candidate [who] could transcend them." A pretty large onus to put on one man. And that same poisoned debate Sullivan lamented is now working overtime to prevent that from happening. Ultimately, it's up to us-- not Obama-- to decide this November whether we want to (finally) move past all this crap or not.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

More Odds and Ends

This is a lot of important stuff that I'm too busy to tackle today, so here's a big roundup...

Today is the fifth anniversary of the 'Mission Accomplished' ceremony on that battleship out at sea in the San Diego bay. "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended," said the President. Have they ever! And the surge is working! This week, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino came up with a new retroactive explanation for the ceremony (they were just trying to salute the sailors!), stating "we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner." You know who else paid a price? All the people killed because of this war! But yea, I imagine this is real rough for George too.

Meanwhile, way unrelated, the U.S. deploys a second carrier to the Gulf region, near Iran.

Fair and balanced trials coming soon to Gitmo: "The former chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals testified on Monday that the tribunals were tainted by political influence and evidence obtained through prisoner abuse... He said the pressure ramped up after 'high-value' prisoners with alleged ties to the September 11 plot were moved to Guantanamo from secret CIA custody shortly before the 2006 U.S. congressional elections and amid the ongoing U.S. presidential campaigns."

And the right's favorite Supreme Court Justice-- Mr. Scalia-- loves him some torture.

In semi-related news, Sen. Feingold held a hearing on government secrecy this week that our friends in the liberal media apparently kept secret in turn. Good times.

Headline of the week: ''Free Tibet' flags made in China'

Judiciary Branch to Executive Branch... do something for a change, please: "A federal judge has ordered the Interior Department to decide within 16 days whether polar bears should be listed as a threatened species because of global warming."

In campaign news, Sen. Clinton joined Obama in doing the Fox News thing this week by sitting down to chat with everyone's favorite buffoon, Bill O'Reilly. Sounds like the two really hit if off.

And in North Carolina, a series of robocalls aimed at suppressing voter turnout was traced back to a group called Women's Voices Women Vote. Does that group have Clinton ties? Who cares, the media won't investigate!

The Daily Show had a series of hilarious segments last night on the Rev. Wright story.

Finally, speaking of religious wackos, Ben Stein truly is an asshole.

John McCain: Economic Genius

Steve Benen has written some great posts on McCain's economic policies, from his fiscal irresponsibility to his unconvincing faux-concern for the poor to his 'plan' to fix health care. Good stuff, which needs to be nailed home over and over as November approaches.

And when questioned on this nonsense, the campaign's continued response is... we'll get back to you later.

Says former McCain defender Andrew Sullivan, "My biggest disappointment with McCain, so far, has been the moronic gas tax holiday and his support for a massive new increase in the debt in order to suck up to Larry Kudlow's crew. Sigh." Don't get the Kudlow reference? Check out some of the man's greatest hits. Sigh indeed.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

President Bush Discovers Cure To Economic Ills... Yell At Congress

It's hardly a new phenomenon-- since the 2006 election anyway (gee, what happened there?)-- that when President Bush gives a press conference these days, that it's about 30% cheery talk/bullshit, 10% sophomoric wisecracking with the press corps usuals, and 60% ranting about how America would totally be doing super-awesome if it wasn't for that meddlin' Congress.

Yes, the same week that the rationale for the stimulus money we are receiving went from being "splurge on consumer crap, go nuts!" to "maybe you can afford some groceries now", the President decided to address yesterday our many economic problems-- weak dollar, housing bust, health-care, energy crisis and food shortages, globalization and job loss, etc-- and quickly identify solutions and ideas-
Bush said people are looking to leaders in Congress to take action, but "all they are getting is delay." Speaking from the Rose Garden, Bush blasted Congress for not doing enough to address Americans' financial fears.

"I repeatedly submitted proposals to help address the problems. Time after time, Congress chose to block them," he said.

Aside from being a childish temper-tantrum, it's also nonsensical. What proposals is he talking about exactly?

I follow the goings-on in Congress closer than many, and I can't figure out what the hell he's referring to here. His demands that Congress make permanent his misguided tax cuts before his term ends? His latest Iraq war spending bill/blank check that's coming up? His cliche insistence that drilling the Artic National Wildlife Refuge will solve all our energy problems? Or some other nonsense that I am missing? Our always honest and intelligent President didn't really expand on this rant in his speech, so we are left to wonder.

One thing that has been amusing about this President is the way he talks as if he is some innocent bystander in this story of America. Yes, when things go bad (as they often have in the last eight years), The Decider-in-Chief often seems forget to that he is the leader of this country. If only we had the same luxury of forgetting.

Say It Once, Say It Again...

Some reports on what is-- the past two weeks, anyway-- the most insulting pander of the presidential campaign...

Reuters: Clinton-McCain gas tax holiday slammed as bad idea / CNBC: Gas-Tax Holiday Wouldn't Lower Prices at the Pump / PR Newswire: 'Gas Tax Holiday' Simply Putting Off Until Tomorrow What Should Be Done Today

[UPDATE: Sen. Obama's running an ad in NC explaining his opposition to this nonsense.]

Democrats vs. McCain: It's The 100 Years in Iraq, Stupid

Following up on the economy-based video, the DNC unveils their Iraq-based ad on McCain-

Regarding conservative whining that the '100 years' has been presented out of context, Matthew Yglesias snarks-
"In context, McCain offered his Magical Death-Free Proviso in which our troops are going to be immune to enemy fire for the duration of his proposed 100 year presence. Or something. Basically, we'll have an open-ended war in Iraq followed by 100 years of peacefully kind of hanging around. That, obviously, makes his views much more reasonable."

Let me elaborate on that. The big hedge seems to be a McCain clarification, in one instance, that we can stay for 100 years "as long as our soldiers are not being wounded or maimed or killed." But the fact of the matter is that, as long as the U.S. military is in Iraq, our soldiers will be getting wounded, maimed, and killed. And that is why the way that his quote has been presented is accurate. 100 years in Iraq is 100 years of war. Period.

The Middle East isn't like Korea or Japan... as long as we are occupying that country, we will be fighting that war. Osama bin Laden has said that the reason he attacked us on 9/11 was because he was way jealous of our freedoms we put permanent bases in the 'holy land' of Saudi Arabia. And now we are cheerily throwing billion$ into the shredder to prepare to do a larger version of the same thing in war-torn Iraq. And John McCain is happy to continue this forever, because he is under the delusion that we can just stay there and tell the Iraqis to continue killing each other, but please leave us alone.

After all, this is the man who once told a private gathering of GOP donors that "One of the things I would do if I were president would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, 'Stop the bullshit,'" so he's clearly got some brilliant plans.

John McCain's dangerous position on Iraq has been fairly represented. If the GOP wants to debate it, bring it on.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sen. Obama Rejects and Denounces

As the quote I posted before shows, Fox News has been messing themselves with glee at having turned the Rev. Wright story into a full-blown media scandal, because lord knows things are going so great in America these days, that there's simply nothing else for the media to obsess over. I mean, the ABC News debate taught us that since the economy is going so great for all Americans that we can have a nice little debate about the capital gains tax and all those 'middle class' folk who make over $200,000 a year. Seriously, there's just nothing else happening in the world but this.

Well now the media has gotten their pound of flesh from Barack Obama.

This was, of course, inevitable. Rev. Wright's decision to go to the media and attempt to get past the caricatures of him was understandable and justified, but when he started ranting about how Obama was acting like just another politician-- when Obama had done the politically incorrect move of refusing to throw his old pastor under the bus-- he showed that he was not willing to treat Obama as decently as he himself had been treated. Even trying to portray the Senator as some sort of Uncle Tom I think might have gone ignored by the campaign, until Wright decided to go the full bombastic on us. I think that's when I picture Obama sitting in an Indiana hotel room with his wife, shaking his head, and deciding no more Mr. Nice Barack.

And so today we got this press conference-

Said Obama, "I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday... The person that I saw yesterday was not the person that I had come to know over 20 years... His comments gave comfort to those who prey on hate... I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church. But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the U.S. wartime efforts with terrorism – then there are no exuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced, and that’s what I’m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today."

(Sen. Obama also held a Q&A session with reporters in which he elaborated on all of this.)

And that's the end of that story. Ha! Just kidding! We'll be discussing this bullshit all year.

[UPDATE: What Jane Smiley said here, on the ridiculous role of religion in politics.]

Dealing With Climate Change One Non-Sacrifice At A Time

Stephen Colbert is very concerned about climate change...

[Related reading: Obama: "Let's Talk Better Mileage...." (Attytood)]

Quote of the Day

"Isn't it a relief, by the way, for the MSM to have a presidential campaign in which no issues are actually discussed? This Wright-stuff is amazing to me. It's all the MSM seems to care about. Even coverage of McCain is now about his attitude toward an unhinged black pastor from Chicago. Hey: it beats discussing war, debt, the economy, torture, and terrorism. Because it enables America to return to the classic boomer racial-cultural wars that are all the MSM truly knows how to cover. There's nothing to be done right now but to duck and cover. And emerge when actual questions of actual salience emerge."
--Andrew Sullivan, lamenting the sad but predictable turn the campaign coverage has taken.

Eek! A Gay!

ABC News conducts a little experiment to test peoples tolerance toward public displays of affection... when it's a straight couple, and then a gay one. While the latter does prompt a 911 call (and the cops actually show up!), the report does seem to conclude that most people just went about their business. The nice lady at the end put a smile on my face, so all things considered, not a depressing report.

Pentagon: 'We Totally Promise To Look Into Our Propaganda Racket'

Last week, I blogged about a NY Times investigation revealing "a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those [military] analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance" and further reporting that "Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air. Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves."

The media that allowed itself to be used by this "trojan horse" of course decided not to bother investigating this further, except for one lone PBS report and probably a rant by Keith Olbermann.

Yet the story garnered enough outrage on its own for the military to start sweeping this back under the rug-
The Pentagon has suspended a public affairs program that has come under fire for using retired military "media analysts" as surrogates to get out its messages on the Iraq war, a spokesman confirmed Monday.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the program was undergoing an internal review following criticism that the retired officers offered Pentagon talking points as their own during the run-up to the Iraq invasion and thereafter.

"It's temporarily suspended so we can take at look at some of the concerns," said Whitman.

Yes, the Pentagon was shocked, shocked to find that anything inappropriate was going on.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Misplaced Voter ID Laws

This may have been the most under-reported story of the day-
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights, validating Republican-inspired voter ID laws...

...It was the most important voting rights case since the Bush v. Gore dispute that sealed the 2000 election for George W. Bush. But the voter ID ruling lacked the conservative-liberal split that marked the 2000 case.

Now, any proper cynic will tell you that these voter ID rules that the GOP has pushed in recent years-- because you know how concerned the party of Don Segretti, Katherine Harris, and the U.S. Attorney scandal is about election integrity-- are a giant scam, but the Republicans have worked hard to create a narrative of "fraud" that doesn't exist.

Yes, voters and politicians should be concerned about actual electoral fraud... that is, actual rigging of elections, hacked machines, that type of thing. But that is vote counting fraud-- ie. the type of fraud that occurs after the fact. And yet all Republicans are proposing is a solution to fraud that occurs before the fact, a completely different issue. And that is the tell.

This is the scam. The Republicans have used legitimate concerns about voter fraud in recent years to create a system in which they commit a fraud of their own. Voter ID laws put the burden on poor and elderly voters, the two groups most likely not to have a driver's license or modern government ID. And also-- gosh!-- the two groups that most reliably vote for the donkey party. They insist that these laws place no burdens on these groups. From the above article, a followup-
Indiana provides IDs free of charge to the poor and allows voters who lack photo ID to cast a provisional ballot and then show up within 10 days at their county courthouse to produce identification or otherwise attest to their identity.

Nope, nothing burdesome there.

If the GOP was really concerned about voter fraud and electoral integrity, they'd be loudly supporting tamper-proof voting machines or fighting against campaign trickery that wrongly influences voters. But they don't. Their focus has always, and solely, been on one issue... voter ID laws. And that's very revealing.


...In Iraq-
Millions of dollars of lucrative Iraq reconstruction contracts were never finished because of excessive delays, poor performance or other factors, including failed projects that are being falsely described by the U.S. government as complete, federal investigators say.

...and in Afghanistan-
Afghan President Hamid Karzai escaped unhurt on Sunday from an assassination attempt by Taliban fighters who fired guns and rockets at an official celebration near the presidential palace in Kabul.

Odds and Ends

OMG Miley Cyrus showed her shoulder in a magazine, America's going to hell! Ahh! Here's real news...

The first recipients of the stimulus $$ have begun receiving it. Do yourself a favor, pay some bills instead.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean continues to insist that he can get all the superdelegates to make their decision known by the end of June. "None of the so-called party elders that I've talked to thought that this should go to the convention and I agree with that," he said. Yea, good luck with that, Howard.

And here's a flashback 1992 NY Times article on Bill Clinton and superdelegates that's worth reading.

And The Slog's Annie Wagner has a great post on the game that the Clintons are playing with Michigan.

Andrew Sullivan looks at an anti-Obama ad the Republicans are running, and it's something else.

Finally, the last White House Correspondents Dinner of the Bush years (hosted by Craig Ferguson) was held this weekend, and it was as mind-boggling as ever.

Sen. Obama in the Lion's Den

Sen. Obama sat down for an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News this weekend. It would seem both parties decided ahead of time to avoid conflict... that way, Fox can claim they were fair and balanced (tomorrow Hannity and Gibson and O'Reilly and the others will be back to calling him a Marxist terrorist), and Obama can defend himself with the voters who've been trained to hate him the most. All things considered, it was a decent interview, by today's standards at least.

This is the first part (the other three parts- here, here, and here).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekend Video Theatre: The Sweet-Talk Express

Jon Stewart looks at how the liberal media grills their favorite maverick candidate...

Recommended Reading

Mother Jones: The Seven Myths of Energy Independence