Friday, February 29, 2008


You probably know about the new Hillary Clinton ad that's airing in Texas:

"It's 3:00am and your children are asleep," a voice over says in the ad. "There's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something is happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call."

"Whether someone knows the world's leaders, knows the military, someone tested and ready to lead. It's 3am and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?" the ad concludes.

It's being slammed several different ways -- as fearmongering, as a warmed-over Mondale ad, as a warmed-over LBJ "daisy" ad -- but here's the strangest critique, from Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb:

Hillary's New Ad: I Will Micromanage!

... Hillary seems to be just the kind of person who would want to micromanage a military situation. That's how she's run her campaign, and there's little doubt that's how she'd run the White House....

Look, I'm not wild about the fearmongering here, but we know the kind of crisis she's talking about -- a horrific 9/11-style attack on the America. Does Goldfarb not believe the president of the United States should wake up in such circumstances and begin to deal with the situation at hand?

Oh, wait, maybe he doesn't -- after all, he's a member of the party of George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, so presumably he wants a president who'll ignore signs of an impending crisis, be allowed to sleep through a nighttime crisis, and respond to a daytime crisis by fleeing in fear.

Nagourney, on the front page of today's New York Times:

...if Mr. Obama becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, he is sure to face an onslaught from Republicans and their allies that will be very different in tone and intensity from what he has faced so far.

...For much of this year, Mr. Obama has been handled with relative care by Mrs. Clinton....

"Relative care"? Hillary Clinton suggesting that Al-Qaeda was more likely to attack if Obama is president? Bill Clinton describing Obama's assertion that he's consistently opposed the Iraq War as a "fairytale" and comparing Obama to Jesse Jackson? Surrogates attacking Obama's youthful drug use? Campaign staffers circulating madrassa e-mails? A speaker at a Clinton campaign appearance calling Obama supporters "latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies"?

You can say the Clinton campaign got nasty or you can say that politics ain't beanbag and Obama can't complain if the going got rough. But Nagourney is actually arguing that the going didn't get rough -- that Obama has been treated with kid gloves. That's absurd.

Of course, Nagourney would argue that. The message of virtually every story Adam Nagourney has ever written is "Democrats are doomed." He predicts doom for Democrats and then uses his front-page column inches in the Times to make that into self-fulfilling prophesy. So pay no attention to Obama's success in the polls, against both Clinton and McCain, Nagourney says -- Obama's really never been attacked, and he probably won't be able to handle it when he is.


There's one more pro-Republican meme Nagourney wants to spread in this story: that whatever happens between now and November, John McCain is innocent.

Watch how Nagourney pre-acquits McCain:

But Mr. McCain clearly will not control all of the voices that could oppose Mr. Obama, from bloggers and talk radio hosts to other elected officials. Even parts of the Republican Party apparatus can transmit messages that the presidential nominee cannot or will not.

That's a sneaky, deceitful elision. The first sentence alludes to people McCain genuinely can't be expected to control. But the second sentence refers to the national party of which McCain will be the nominee. Is Nagourney saying that McCain is helpless to influence the big kahunas in his party when he's the party's presidential candidate? Well, no, Nagourney's not exactly saying that -- but by putting that sentence after a sentence about people McCain "clearly will not control," Nagourney is trying to lull you into thinking that nothing, even if it comes from RNC headquarters, will be McCain's fault.

That is what we're going to hear, of course, for the next eight months -- that no weapon wielded by any Republican, in however appalling a way, has McCain's fingerprints on it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


You may already know about this:

Senator John McCain got support on Wednesday from an important corner of evangelical Texas when the pastor of a San Antonio mega-church, Rev. John C. Hagee, endorsed Mr. McCain for president. Mr. Hagee, who argues that the United States must join Israel in a preemptive, biblically prophesized military strike against Iran that will lead to the second coming of Christ, praised Mr. McCain....

Mr. McCain ... said he was "very honored" by Mr. Hagee's endorsement. Asked about Mr. Hagee’s extensive writings on Armageddon and about what one questioner said was Mr. Hagee's belief that the anti-Christ will be the head of the European Union, Mr. McCain responded that "all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee’s support."...

As Glenn Greenwald notes, Hagee has said some rather harsh things about Muslims ("those who live by the Koran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews"), Katrina victims ("I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that"), and, er, the Harry Potter books ("The whole purpose of the Potter books is to desensitize readers and introduce them to the occult") -- and Bill Donohue of the not-exactly-liberal Catholic League has noted that Hagee doesn't seem to like Catholics much, either:

... for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it 'The Great Whore,' an 'apostate church,' the 'anti-Christ,' and a 'false cult system.'

Will McCain face the same scrutiny that Barack Obama has faced after being endorsed by Louis Farrakhan (an endorsement he's rejected)? Naaah. Of course not.

I just want to add that at least four people who've been mentioned as possible McCain running mates have also spoken well of Hagee:

Mike Huckabee:

... Mike Huckabee risked his standing with Catholic voters on Sunday by courting his evangelical base at the church of a controversial preacher accused of disparaging Catholics.

... Huckabee delivered a Christmas season sermon at Cornerstone about Christ's birth and embraced Hagee, calling him "one of the great Christian leaders of our nation." ...

Joe Lieberman:

...Last month, Lieberman warmly greeted Pastor John Hagee, a founder of Christians United for Israel and a man who agrees with Lieberman's view that a pre-emptive U.S. strike may one day be necessary to neutralize Iran.

"I would describe Pastor Hagee with the words the Torah uses to describe Moses," Lieberman told Hagee and his followers at a recent conference the group held in Washington, at which Lieberman was invited to speak. "He is an 'Eesh Elo Kim,' a man of God, because those words fit him; and like Moses, he has become the leader of a mighty multitude in pursuit of defense of Israel." ...

Governor Rick Perry of Texas:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has drawn criticism from rival candidates for saying he agrees non-Christians are condemned to spend eternity in hell.

Perry was among some 60 mostly Republican candidates for Tuesday's midterm election attending a Sunday service at San Antonio's Cornerstone Church, where pastor John Hagee said in his sermon non-Christians were "going straight to hell with a non-stop ticket," The Dallas Morning News reported.

Afterward, Perry told reporters there was nothing in the sermon he could disagree with....

Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina:

Greenville celebrated "A Night to Honor Israel" last Tuesday evening....

It was the initial rally in the State of South Carolina of the new organization, Christians United For Israel (CUFI), which was founded last year by Dr. John Hagee...

Governor Mark Sanford sent a special letter of greeting and support. Sanford wrote: 'This special event in support of Israel brings hope for the future. It demonstrates a commitment to work together on common ground to address the concerns and issues that affect us all." ...

Would any of them have to answer questions about their kind words for this bigoted lunatic? Naaah. Of course not.


UPDATE: Did I say "lunatic"? Read about Hagee's book Jerusalem Countdown:

...He argues that a strike against Iran will cause Arab nations to unite under Russia's leadership, as outlined in chapters 38 and 39 of the Book of Ezekiel, leading to an "inferno [that] will explode across the Middle East, plunging the world toward Armageddon." ... The strike will provoke Russia -- which wants Persian Gulf oil -- to lead an army of Arab nations against Israel. Then God will wipe out all but one-sixth of the Russian-led army...

To fill the power vacuum left by God's decimation of the Russian army, the Antichrist -- the head of the EU -- will rule "a one-world government, a one-world currency and a one-world religion" for three and a half years.... The "demonic world leader" will then be confronted by a false prophet, identified by Hagee as China, at Armageddon, the Mount of Megiddo in Israel. As they prepare for the final battle, Jesus will return on a white horse and cast both villains -- and presumably any nonbelievers -- into a "lake of fire burning with brimstone," thus marking the beginning of his millennial reign....

So hey, don't worry about your adjustable-rate mortgages, people.

So I didn't realize that Rush Limbaugh's call screener, James Golden, a black man who's referred to on the air as "Bo Snerdley," has been labeled Rush's "Official Obama Criticizer."

Nor did I realize that he's happy to do this criticizing in someone's crude, fourth-hand idea of black English.

First we get the standard English. Then we get the minstrelsy:

...RUSH: We turn now to the Official EIB Obama Criticizer, Bo Snerdley.

SNERDLEY: This is Bo Snerdley, Official EIB Barack Criticizer, African-American, certified black guy, black enough to criticize. I have a statement: "Senator Obama, your reaction to the release of the picture showing you in native garb with your extended family in Africa was...regretful. While the motives of the Clinton camp in disseminating the image are clear, your response was baffling. Instead of acting wounded, whining, and like you're ashamed of the photo in the first place; it would have been wiser for you to take pride in the photo. Explain that world leaders, such as yourself, often wear the traditional garb when you visit foreign lands -- especially if you're visiting your family! You could have also dug up the pictures of both Bill and Hillary Clinton attired in similar African garb while they were pretending to be the black president and first lady. Bad form, Mr. Obama. You need to develop a much thicker skin, and not fall for Clinton tricks."

(Let me interrupt here to note that a link at the bottom of the transcript on Limbaugh's site goes to an ABC story that essentially contradicts everything "Snerdley" says here -- it points out that Obama and members of his campaign pushed back in precisely these ways. Does anyone in Limbaugh Land even check these things?)

Then comes "Snerdley's" minstrelsy:

Now, the translation for EIB brothers and sisters in the hood. "Yo, oh! What's up with you acting dissed when they only rolled out a shot of you with your African garb. Yo! You were in the mother land with the peeps. That was lame, yo! These are your peeps. You were stylin'. Instead of acting dissed, you shoulda rolled out large and told Clinton and everybody else what was up. This is what the big dogs do, yo, not like Bill faking it, putting on some kente cloth when he goes to Africa, then forgetting all about the home boys when he comes back home. Like that. You shoulda also told Hillary: 'Yo, baby, maybe if you dress up in some costumes and get out of that bumblebee outfit, you might keep your man at home for a change.' Okay? You feel me? Don't fall for Clinton 'trickinology,' bro." That concludes this statement.


Digby, posting about John McCain's apology for "Hussein"-baiter Bill Cunningham, who warmed up that Tennessee crowd for him:

From the comments comes an apt analogy, which I missed. Cunningham is this season's Sistah Soljah.

But that's not quite accurate. The truth is, the press is treating McCain's entire campaign as a Sister Souljah moment. As a candidate, he is being portrayed as a living, breathing 24/7 refutation of the likes of Bill Cunningham (despite the fact that, as Digby notes, the McCain campaign told Cunningham to give the crowd "red meat"), George W. Bush (despite the fact that McCain will Xerox Bush's policies on the war and the economy), and Rush Limbaugh (despite the fact that Limbaugh has made it clear he wants Republicans to win this election).

The political establishment praised a Clinton moment. The same establishment discusses the McCain campaign as if every moment is praiseworthy -- as if it's an act of bravery on McCain's part just to get up in the morning and campaign. And it's only going to get worse.

Bill Hobbs, communications director for the Tennessee Republican Party:

...Apparently, using Barack Hussein Obama's middle name is a no-no....

Silly, of course. Run a Lexis-Nexis search for the number of times the media has used Hillary Rodham Clinton's middle name, often to underscore her feminist leanings and independence from her husband....

Er, Bill?

Rodham is Hillary Clinton's maiden name. Her middle name is Diane.

Eagerly awaiting your next press release on behalf of John Sidney McCain.


(Hobbs link via TBogg.)

Last night's ABC News broadcast included a tribute to William F. Buckley (video here). At about 1:09 in, there's a clip from a debate Buckley had on ABC in 1968 at the time of the unrest surrounding the Chicago Democratic convention.

Here's how it came out in the tribute last night:

ABC ANCHOR CHARLIE GIBSON: ... He charmed and exasperated and never backed down from a fight, like this one with Gore Vidal in 1968:

VIDAL (on film): ...the only crypto Nazi I can think of is yourself.

BUCKLEY (on film): Stop calling me a crypto Nazi, or I'll sock you in your goddamn face...

As Ann Coulter delightedly notes (in a riff she's stolen a couple of times herself), this is how the exchange actually went (emphasis mine):

In a famous exchange with Gore Vidal in 1968, Vidal said to Buckley: "As far as I am concerned, the only crypto Nazi I can think of is yourself."

Buckley replied: "Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto Nazi, or I'll sock you in your goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."

Why leave "you queer" out? Buckley wasn't ashamed of it. (Coulter gleefully adds: "Years later, in 1985, Buckley said of the incident: 'We both acted irresponsibly. I'm not a Nazi, but he is, I suppose, a fag.'")

Not only did he suggest tattooing the HIV-positive in the 1980s, he proudly repeated the suggestion three years ago (declining to identify himself in a way I'm sure he thought was arch):

Someone, 20 years ago, suggested a discreet tattoo the site of which would alert the prospective partner to the danger of proceeding as had been planned. But the author of the idea was treated as though he had been schooled in Buchenwald, and the idea was not widely considered, but maybe it is up now for reconsideration.

Hey, ABC -- show the man for what he was.


A much more honest tribute to Buckley shows up at the message board of the Stormfront White Nationalist Community -- a link to an article on Buckley and National Review from the neo-Nazi American Renaissance. Although it expresses regret for dangerous backsliding toward racial decency on Buckley's part in recent years, it commends him for his early racialism:

...passages from some back issues could have been lifted right out of American Renaissance.

...Mr. Buckley's magazine stood firm. A book review from the July 13th issue of ... 1957 ... by Richard Weaver was called, "Integration is Communization." Mr. Weaver found Carl Rowan's
Go South to Sorrow "a sorry specimen of Negro intellectual leadership," and went on to express deep suspicion about the whole integrationist enterprise:

"'Integration' and 'Communization' are, after all, pretty closely synonymous. In light of what is happening today, the first may be little more than a euphemism for the second. It does not take many steps to get from the 'integrating' of facilities to the 'communizing' of facilities, if the impulse is there."

...In a column written five months before the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and called "The Issue at Selma," [Buckley] ... sympathized with the Southern position writing, "In much of the South, what is so greatly feared is irresponsible, mobocratic rule, and it is a fear not easily dissipated, because it is well-grounded that if the entire Negro population in the South were suddenly given the vote, and were to use it as a bloc, and pursuant to directives handed down by some of the more demagogic leaders, chaos would ensue." He also warned of "a suddenly enfranchised, violently embittered Negro population which will take the vote and wield it as an instrument of vengeance, shaking down the walls of Jericho even to their foundations, and reawakening the terrible genocidal antagonisms that scarred the Southern psyche during the days of Reconstruction." ...

In an April 8, 1969 column called "On Negro Inferiority" Mr. Buckley wrote about the furor caused by Arthur Jensen's research about race and IQ, calling it "massive, apparently authoritative." Mr. Buckley even bragged that "Professor Ernest van den Haag, writing in
National Review (Dec. 1, 1964) ... brilliantly anticipated the findings of Dr. Jensen and brilliantly coped with their implications."

The late Revilo Oliver, classicist and outspoken racialist, made regular appearances in the early NR. Mr. Buckley thought so highly of him he put his name on the masthead and invited him to his wedding....

That's only a tiny sample of the riches the American Renaissance article has on display.

Ann Coulter, in her tribute, says, "there was a lot more to him than a bow tie and a sailboat." I'll say.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Digby last night, summing up the mood of the entire left blogosphere:

How Do We Defeat Tim Russert?

But if there were no Tim Russert, Russertism would still be with us. We know this because there were Tim Russerts well before Tim Russert rose to prominence.

Remember Bernie Shaw? Remember the question he asked Michael Dukakis in that 1988 debate?

Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for her killer?

That's the quintessence of Russertism. Here's how Paul Waldman put it at Tapped last spring:

...Shaw wasn't trying to tease out the reasons Dukakis opposed the death penalty. His question was the worst kind of "gotcha," something with no policy content whatsoever. Its goal, and what it achieved so spectacularly, was to provide the "decisive moment" that would cast into sharp relief the character flaw that reporters had already decided was Dukakis' Achilles heel.

Sound familiar?

...There's an unbroken line between Shaw, and Kit Seelye and Ceci Connolly making up lies Al Gore never told, and Jodi Wilgoren musing on John Kerry's windsurfing, and Maureen Dowd writing about John Edwards' haircut, and on and on and on into this campaign and the next and the next. It's not about substance, and it isn't even about "character." It's about finding what reporters think is the worst thing about a candidate, and picking and picking at it until their evident belief that it should disqualify him from the presidency becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy....

That's Russertism for the past twenty years. I'm sorry to say there'll be Russertism forever -- unless there is a massive change to the way business is routinely done by the Beltway pess corps.

Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism just hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Idiocracy? You're soaking in it.

(The new list just went out by e-mail. It'll be on the Times site this weekend.)

Marc Ambinder, blogging for The Atlantic at 8:40 this morning:

Rove: Don't "Hussein" Obama

No less an authority figure than Karl Rove has warned Republican operatives from demagoguing Barack Obama's middle name.

At a closed door meeting of GOP state executive directors in late January, Rove said the safest way to refer to Obama would be to use his honorific, "Sen. Obama."

"The context was, you're not going to stimatize this guy. You shouldn't underestimate him," one of the executive directors said. Rove said that the use of "Barack Hussein Obama" would perpetuate the notion that Republicans were bigoted and would hurt the party....

Marc Ambinder, five hours later:

Tennessee Republican Party Slams Barack "Hussein" Obama

On Monday, the Tennessee Republican Party dropped the H-bomb, adorning a press release with Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein, and associated him the Muslim religion by running the 2006 photograph of the candidate wearing Somali tribal clothing.

Here's the first paragraph of the release:

The Tennessee Republican Party today joins a growing chorus of Americans concerned about the future of the nation of Israel, the only stable democracy in the Middle East, if Sen. Barack Hussein Obama is elected president of the United States.

Ostensibly, the press release was written to react to Louis Farrakhan's Sunday endorsement of Obama....

Is the Tennessee state party off message? Oh, give me a break. The state party isn't off message and Bill Cunningham, who similarly baited Obama while warming up a McCain crowd in Cincinnati yesterday, wasn't off message either.

Ambinder's Rove story is meant to gull us into believing that the GOP's best minds think race-baiting Obama is both offensive and bad politics. We were also meant to be gulled by the Politico story from Sunday that said, "Top Republican strategists are working on plans to protect the GOP from charges of racism or sexism in the general election ... commission[ing] polling and focus groups to determine the boundaries of attacking a minority or female candidate"; we were really supposed to be bamboozled by the assertion that this mega-super-secret "RNC project is viewed as so sensitive that those involved in the work were reluctant to discuss the findings in detail."

It's a crock. The plan is that the nominee and marquee party names will act high-minded while expendable enforcers from the deep GOP/VRWC bench come in to throw the elbows. The big names will piously express shock and remorse, while congratulating the thugs on a job well done.


UPDATE: I'm surprised that Kos thinks Rove is sincere and the Tennessee party "refuses to play ball." It seems pretty obvious to me that these guys are running a scam.


Seattle drivers, what do you make of this?

The billboard, which faces south from the corner of Western Avenue and Denny Way, states that it was funded by something called "Concerned Citizens for a Better America."

You won't find the group's name on Google, except in a wayward comment thread or two. The group is not registered as a Political Action Committee or with the Washington Secretary of State's corporation division. Nor does it have to be -- based on this billboard, anyway -- because its message neither mentions a candidate by name nor appears too close to election time....

"Whoever did it chose the location carefully -- 'cause it was next to you," [Democratic consultant Frank Greer] said, referring to the P-I [
Seattle Post-Intelligencer]....


Gee, what would you do if you were in a crowded field of 10 candidates for Congress, and you are not one of the more well known politicians? Here's an idea, put a really scary billboard up, and get the voters to notice you! That's the plan for Brian Klock, one of the ten people running for the Republican nomination of Congressional District 22. With more well known names like Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, and John Manlove running, Klock is trying to stand out from the pack. A campaign staffer called me this morning, gleefully telling me that the billboard will refocus the voters' attention on terrorism. In addition, he told me the billboard unveiling news conference will include Bob Perry, one of the most prominent Republican donors. I was also reminded on the phone that Perry is the driving force behind the "Swift Boat" campaigns, and thus making this a very important endorsement....

Both apparently up the same week. Make of that what you will.

Klock, by the way, is trying to stand out in the crowded primary field by vowing last month to eat nothing but MREs until primary election day. I am not making this up.

I got a few details wrong, but I'll quote something I posted last May:

...People often say that the Iraq War will absolutely be the #1 issue in the '08 presidential election -- but they're dead wrong....

It can't be -- because if it is, the Democrat will win handily, and the Beltway Establishment doesn't want that to happen. So when the Republicans try to change the subject -- try to make the election about John Edwards's money and alleged vanity, or about Barack Obama's foreign roots or his pastor's political beliefs, or about all the things in the Gerth/Van Natta and Bernstein books [about Hillary Clinton] -- the Beltway press will do everything in its power to aid and abet them....

So nothing you or I would consider an
issue will dominate the discussion in '08. That seems insane, given the war (which will absolutely still be going strong all through next year), and given other pressing concerns (such as health care), but that's the way it's going to be. The election will be a referendum on one of the items the GOP floats as the '08 version of Willie Horton or Kerry's time on the Swift Boat. It's going to be about trivia....

So we have Traditional-Garb-Gate. We have Denounce-Vs.-Reject-Gate, with Tim Russert demanding that Barack Obama denounce anti-Semitism he'd already denounced, and now we're being told that "denounce" is inadequate, even modified to "denounce and reject" -- a line of argument we'll surely hear from the McCain campaign. And, warming up in the bullpen, we have Incidental-Contact-With-Sixties-Radicals-Gate -- see Jonah Goldberg in today's New York Post, not quite hanging radicals-turned-Chicago-political-operatives William Ayres and Bernardine Dorhn around Obama's neck, but certainly hinting at ways his insignificant links to them can be exploited politically.

Get used to waking up every day and seeing your political culture -- candidates, the press, even (perhaps especially) the blogs -- discussing this crap rather than the issues. Get used to it because we're going to have nine more months of it. By fall, one of these non-issues is effectively going to be the central issue of the campaign -- or more than one is. And that would have been true no matter who the Democratic nominee turned out to be.

I love this Goldberg quote:

In the weeks to come, maybe reporters can resist the temptation to repeat health-care questions for the billionth time and instead ask America's foremost liberal representatives why being a radical means never having to say you're sorry.

Oh you and your stupid "issues." We don't care! We want a witch-hunt, dammit! We want irrelevant distractions!

Well, relax, Jonah. Tim Russert still has a job. We'll all be neck-deep in the irrelevant very, very soon.


And yes, obviously a lot of this stuff isn't originating with the GOP. That's something I got wrong in May -- forgetting about the press's ability to originate, rather than merely parrot, anti-Democratic talking points, and forgetting about the Democrats' fondness for fragging.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


No matter who's responsible, you and I are blamed for things like this:

Film's casting call wants that 'inbred' look

A movie about to be filmed in Pittsburgh is casting Gothic characters -- including an albino-like girl and deformed people -- to depict West Virginia mountain people.

"'Regular-looking" children need not apply.

That's the gist of an open casting call for paid extras for "Shelter," a horror film starring Julianne Moore that will begin shooting in Pittsburgh in March....

"It's the way it was described in the script," Belajac said Monday. "Some of these 'holler' people -- because they are insular and clannish, and they don't leave their area -- there is literally inbreeding, and the people there often have a different kind of look. That's what we're trying to get." ...

Asked if she felt the characterization might be offensive to West Virginians, Belajac said: "We tried to word it in a way that's not offensive. I hope it's not an offensive thing. It's not meant to be a generalization about everyone in West Virginia. That's why we put that it's in a 'holler' in the mountains." ...

Oh, so you only want to stereotype thousands of West Virginians, not all West Virginians. That makes it so much less offensive, doesn't it?

The notion that the Appalachians produce inbred, misshapen people is an artifact of the eugenics era. Go read this for a bit of background. The notion is actually more myth than fact.

Look, for all I know, the screenwriter and casting director of Shelter are Republicans. It doesn't matter -- stereotyping of "dumb hicks," and flyover-country dwellers in general, is blamed on the party associated with cultural sophistication, the Democratic Party. And, well, some of us do say stupid things like this.

And I really think it shows up at the ballot box -- I think a lot of red-state non-urbane people care more about respect for the way they live their lives than they do about, say, Laffer-curve tax policy.

Yeah, I'm not perfect on this score. I generalize once in a while -- I do rag on the South, for instance. But I try to limit my criticism to political opinions Southerners themselves would acknowledge as widespread in their region. I'll criticize you if you reject evolution or if you think closing the gun-show loophole is an act of fascism. On the other hand, if you like hunting or NASCAR, it's just not my idea of fun; I don't think enjoying these things makes you a shoeless cousin-humper with no teeth.

The problem, of course, is that issue debates become lifestyle debates. If I want the gun-show loophole closed, I'm said to have contempt for rural hunters. If I want evolution taught, I'm said to hate devout rural Christians. We're going to be banging heads over these issues for a long time to come -- but, on our side, I wish we'd just keep it political; gratuitous cultural stereotyping on our side, I'd say, just leads the other side to get more dug in.

By the way, the big problem in Appalachia isn't inbreeding; the real problem is plain old poverty. Being yuppie scum myself, I'll recommend some yuppie cultural product -- Frontline's Country Boys and Rory Kennedy's American Hollow. Meanwhile, lose the Deliverance jokes. They're not helping.

Andrea Marcotte is right:

...The entire point of calling McCain a "maverick" is to insinuate -- wrongly -- that he's barely a Republican at all. Just a formality, really. Goodness, he's practically in the party so that he can go undercover with his maverick so-not-Bush ways. *swoon*

This is going to be the major problem of the entire election season, that the media will tell the story that McCain needs to win, about how he's practically a Democrat, except that they don't let grumpy white war veterans into the party. It's a lie, but repeat it enough -- say, 100 times a day from now until November -- and it will have the glow of truth to it. That he's not any different from any other Republican in any way that counts will not be the story that gets told....

If you needed any evidence of this, check out the current "Write Your Own Caption" political cartoon contest from McClatchy Newspapers. Here's the wordless version:

And here's the winning caption from a reader (yeah, it's not really a caption):



Amanda's post is inspired by this blog post from The Nation's Katha Pollitt, which is probably the best analysis of the problem:

...He may look like a grumpy old man ... or the nutty old uncle who rags on everyone at Thanksgiving before passing out in front of the football game. But that's another way of saying McCain is a familiar, indeed family, character. It does not require an imaginative stretch to get John McCain. How many voters know someone like Barack Obama?

... So what if he's old? In politics old can be good ( for men), especially to the older voters -- older white voters -- who dominate the polls. Besides, McCain's not so old that he couldn't get himself a much younger trophy wife, and even if Cindy McCain looks brittle and unhappy and like she hasn't eaten in a decade, she is always there by his side, a visual reminder of his manly prowess. McCain is brash and sly and seemingly unguarded, unlike the famously self-protective Hillary Clinton, and he loves to schmooze with reporters, who adore him and like most of the rest of America, refuse to see how conservative he is. It's like they're saying, Oh go on, Uncle John! you're just saying you love Sam Alito to get me riled up! ...

So the task at hand is to prevent the narrative from being: The Democrat is way off to one side; the Republican is right in the middle. Can it be done?

Chris Cillizza, blogging for The Washington Post:

Rendell: 'The Media Does Not Like the Clintons'

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said Monday that the media's pro-Obama (or anti-Clinton) bias explains in part why Barack Obama is portrayed as running away with the Democratic presidential nomination (instead of being locked in a close fight with Hillary Rodham Clinton).

"The media does not like the Clintons for whatever reason," Rendell, a Clinton supporter, said in an interview with The Fix. "Maybe some of it's [the Clintons'] fault, but the media does not like the Clintons."

Rendell insisted that the "media has relished this fall with glee that I have never seen in any other candidate in the thirty years I have been in the business." As a result, "Right now the senator can do no wrong," Rendell said of Obama....

Is there anything to this? Sure -- there's definitely anti-Clinton animosity in the media. It's been around for a long time and is unconnected to Barack Obama.

But so what? If the press doesn't love you and you want to run for president, tough. It's just a fact of life -- it's a given, and your job as a candidate is to find a way to neutralize it. Hillary Clinton pulled that off when she was running for Senate in 2000, by improving her own image. She simply didn't do that in this campaign, at least not from Iowa on.

If you can't raise your own positives, you have to raise your opponent's negatives. That's obviously what the Clinton campaign has been trying to do -- but either what you do works or it doesn't, and what the Clinton campaign is doing isn't working. Poppy Bush faced this problem in his race against Michael Dukakis. Dukakis may not have been charismatic, but the press liked his life story and he was way up in the polls. The campaign Bush ran was reprehensible, but it got the job done. The Clinton campaign just can't pull that off.

Nobody on the Republican side complained that the press has long worshipped John McCain. All the candidates just went out and tried to beat him. And maybe they lost because of that press favoritism -- the GOP electorate's good feelings about McCain were largely the result of years of favorable press. But you play the hand you're dealt. Unfairness is a given, and you just have to make the best of it.


One more point: The Clinton campaign has suggested that its attacks on Obama are just a taste of what he'd be likely to face in a general-election campaign -- the implication being that the Clintonites are toughening him up for that contest, testing him the way the Republicans would.

But couldn't the same argument be made with regard to Clinton? If she were to become the nominee, she'd be the one the press wanted to lose.

I'd say Obama is the one who's subjecting Clinton to a taste of what the rest of the campaign would be like -- she'd have to run against someone who regularly gets great press, while she gets a lot of lousy press. This primary campaign suggests that she doesn't have a strategy to overcome that disadvantage. If she can't beat Obamamania, how was she planning to beat the Straight Talking Maverick Man, whose press coverage would surely have turned overwhelmingly positive again as soon as she clinched the nomination?

Monday, February 25, 2008


Kinda silly, but actually fairly tolerable, which is more than you can say for "Hillary4UandMe," which sounds like the theme song of a late-seventies sitcom that was canceled after half a season. Or maybe it's just the Up with People dancing in the video for the latter song that gets on my nerves.

I grew up in a Democratic state (Massachusetts) that often elected Republican governors. I now live in a Democratic city and state (New York) where Republican mayors and governors are often elected, and where, God help us, Al D'Amato won three terms in the Senate.

And now I'm watching Muslim Garb-Gate, and anger embodied in (and embodied in some of the reaction to) that Saturday Night Live "bitch is the new black" sketch, and I'm seeing the future in the past.

New York Times, November 7, 2001:

...The lifelong Democrat [Mark Green]'s mayoral hopes ended sourly yesterday with his narrow defeat to Michael R. Bloomberg, the wealthy [Republican] businessman....

Some of Mr. Green's narrow failure reflects ... his tendency to irritate many party faithful who should have been in his corner.

... Democratic infighting no doubt hurt Mr. Green with black and Latino voters. He did not do as well with them as a classic Democrat usually does -- in part because of the animosity of the Rev. Al Sharpton and Fernando Ferrer. They were furious over harsh tactics that Mr. Green insisted were not his doing....

New York Times, October 3, 1993:

It was, some say, a nasty case of political poisoning. Last year, the Democratic Party saw three of its most seasoned, well-known politicians, Robert Abrams, Geraldine A. Ferraro and Elizabeth Holtzman, climb into the race for their party's nomination for a seat in the United States Senate. The Democrats had Bill Clinton's coattails to cling to. The Republican incumbent, Alfonse M. D'Amato, was believed to be vulnerable. Party leaders could taste victory.

Then the ugly realities of New York politics turned up like the cancerous underbelly of a dead fish. The campaigning turned muddy and the candidates turned on each other. In time, three ambitions were dashed and, it has become clear, three careers derailed. Instead of another Democrat in the Senate, the party lost three of its best hopes to vicious infighting, residual bitterness and combat fatigue....

Once Ms. Holtzman began broadcasting advertisements directly attacking Ms. Ferraro for ethical lapses, and even implying possible links to organized crime, it changed not only the nature of the primary race but even the mood of the general election that followed.

So angered were many voters over the nature of the ads and the ugliness of the charges that when Mr. Abrams traveled upstate in his race against Mr. D'Amato he was accosted by his own supporters as having cynically played along with a destructive smear campaign.

Ms. Ferraro tried to strike back at the time by charging that Ms. Holtzman's ads and the more general attacks constituted a slur against all Italian-Americans.

In another race, those charges might not have seemed so shocking, but the unusual presence of of two well-respected women on the ballot gave the primary an unusual and delicate dynamic. Some voters believed that only one woman should run to capitalize on pro-female sentiment in a season touted as the "Year of the Woman." Many of those voters backed Ms. Ferraro because of her name recognition won during her run for the vice presidency with Walter Mondale....

Remind you of anything?

At this moment I can't see any way that many of the most energized supporters of the losing Democratic candidate won't sit out the general election in a huff. In that case, John McCain may as well ask his pal George W. to let him come in and start measuring the White House drapes.

Stop it. Just stop it.

Please wake me when it's over. Or just shoot me now.

William Kristol in today's New York Times:

....Obama chose to present his flag-pin removal as a principled gesture. "You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest."

... It's fitting that the alternative to Obama will be John McCain ... his patriotism has consisted of deeds more challenging than "speaking out on issues."

William Kristol turned 18 on December 23, 1970. That year there were more than 300,000 U.S. servicemembers in Vietnam and nearly 10,000 were killed. A total of 162,746 Americans were drafted in 1970, and 94,092 the following year.

Needless to say, William Kristol, who now uses John McCain's military service as a stick with which to beat Barack Obama, avoided service in Vietnam.

And it's hard to think of anything William Kristol has done in his adult life that doesn't fall under the rubric "speaking out on issues." Pot, meet kettle.

Saigon fell on April 30, 1975. Barack Obama was 13 years old at the time.

I think I just heard Cokie Roberts say on NPR, regarding Barack Obama:

Even his stand on the war could can be a problem in the general election.

Good grief. Here are some poll numbers for you, Cokie. (Yes, the "progress" numbers are up, but the "disapprove," "mistake," and "not worth it" numbers haven't dropped a bit.)

UPDATE: Yup, that's what she said.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I know the Politico consciously skews its coverage to draw those all-important Drudge links, but this is preposterous:

Nader enters in boon to GOP

Ralph Nader announced on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he'll run as a third-party, anti-corporate candidate for president this fall, which would be likely to drain votes from the Democratic nominee and provide a huge boon to Republicans....

"Huge boon"? Give me a break. Yes, Nader had a tremendous impact in 2000. He got quite a few votes. But do you know how much his vote total dropped from 2000 to 2004?

It dropped eighty-four percent.

In 2000, he won 2,883,105 votes -- 2.7% of all votes cast. In 2004? His total was only 465,650 votes -- 0.38% of all votes cast. He barely finished third, for heaven's sake. (Libertarian Michael Badnarik won 397,265, or 0.32% of the total.)

Which is why I hope this doesn't pan out:

Democrats say they will work behind the scenes -- and use court challenges, if necessary -- to try to thwart his access to ballots.

Don't. Please don't. For the love of God, please deprive him of his only legitimate grievances. Just let him have his fun.

And if he gets on enough ballots, welcome him to a debate -- but with a catch: say that everyone who gets on, say, 45 state ballots should be invited to the debate. That would probably mean the candidates of the Libertarian Party and maybe the right-wing Constitution Party should also be invited. Then let McCain be the one to say no to that. It's what Gore should've done in 2000.

Taylor Marsh and Jeralyn Merritt were delighted by Tina Fey's pro-Hillary Clinton "bitch is the new black" monologue on last night's Saturday Night Live. And, y'know, arguing that a tough dame like Hillary can get things done is valid -- I'm ready to back Hillary if she's the nominee.

But Tina Fey wasn't just being pro-Hillary. She was being pro-Hillary and anti-Barack Obama. And if you think she might vote Republican in November if Obama is the nominee, well, you're probably right.

In fact, it's possible she might vote Republican even with Hillary in the race. Consider this, from a September '07 New York Times profile of Fey:

... In another episode, in which [Fey's 30 Rock character] Liz reflects on things about herself that others wouldn't know, she says, "There is an 80 percent chance" that she will "tell all my friends I'm voting for Barack Obama, but I will secretly vote for John McCain."

Ms. Fey, who wrote that line, said it was semi-autobiographical, a way of "admitting I have a lot of liberal feelings, but I also live in New York, and I want to feel safe, and I secretly kind of want Giuliani."

Sorry, folks -- if that's how Tina Fey feels, we are not on the same political wavelength at all, and I'll get my voting advice elsewhere, thank you.

Let's see: One is a nutjob and a menace to society whose moneymaking scam is calling Barack Obama a big faggot, and the other is, er....

First, Sinclair:

Larry Sinclair filed suit in Minnesota District Court on Monday [February 11] against Barack Obama, along with Obama's campaign strategist David Axelrod and others, regarding issues stemming from Sinclair's allegations that he used cocaine and performed a sexual act with Obama in 1999....

This story has been picked up by the Globe, the supermarket tabloid (so you know it's true!), to the delight of the Free Republic crowd. Sinclair, one assumes, is a loser who's desperate for money (the Globe says he's dying) and who may well have been put up to this by Republican operatives. But what's Maureen Dowd's excuse? Here's her lite version of the same Obama's-not-a-real-man slander, minus the drugs:

... The first serious female candidate for president was rejected by voters drawn to the more feminine management style of her male rival.

...Hillary was so busy trying to prove she could be one of the boys ... that she only belatedly realized that many Democratic and independent voters, especially women, were eager to move from hard-power locker-room tactics to a soft-power sewing circle approach.

Less towel-snapping and more towel color coordinating, less steroids and more sensitivity.

...[Clinton] tried once more to cast Obama as a weak sister on his willingness to talk to Raul Castro.

Obama tapped into his inner chick and turned the other cheek....

Like a prudent housekeeper, Obama spent the cash he raised ... far more shrewdly, on ads rather than on himself....

I don't care if Dowd would say she means this as praise ("Business schools have begun teaching the value of a less autocratic leadership style, with an emphasis on behavior women excel at," she writes elsewhere in the column). I don't buy that. All of her female words for Obama ("sewing circle," "chick," "housekeeper") suggest female insubstantiality and powerlessness. You half wish she'd just come out and call him a big homo -- which you know her doppelganger, Ann Coulter, will do any day now.

Here, according to Dowd, is some "evidence" that Obama's not a macho man:

...At the University of Texas on Thursday morning, Obama proved that he was not a cowboy in overdrive like W. when he demurred at throwing a spiral because his pass might not be as good as the Longhorn stars'.

Er, he actually went to the football facility at the university -- isn't that kind of a guy thing to do? And he seems not have thrown the football for the cameras (at least not in this clip), but he did catch one -- and Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy seems to have seen him throw at some point:

Obama then went to the field to see the stadium's construction and catch a pass or two from McCoy.

"He's got a good arm," McCoy said. "I told him I didn't want to throw it too hard because he's got a big game himself tonight."

Well, when the facts don't fit her preposterous thesis, Dowd sticks with the thesis.


Meanwhile, there's Larry Sinclair. It's hard to tell if he's just a freelance nut or a cog in the right's character-assassination machine. If he's the latter, I don't think it's because his handlers believe a lot of people will fall for this crap -- I think they just want the ideas (Obama as an adult powdered-drug user, Obama as gay) floating out there, as items that will work their way into backyard-barbecue conversations and online chats (a lot of Obama slanders, by the way, shows up on Craigslist).

Sinclair's YouTube "confession" is here. Two comments, Larry: (1) Your narrative would be a lot more plausible if it didn't seem like inept, cliche-ridden fiction ("I met Obama at an upscale lounge..."). (2) I just love this detail:

Mr. Obama obtained powdered cocaine for my use, crack cocaine for his use.

Can't you just picture it? "Larry, you're a white guy -- you like that nose candy. Not me. I'm black -- I like the pipe!"

Because that's what you'd do, isn't it, if you were buying drugs from the backseat of a limousine? (Yup, poor scruffy Larry implausibly claims they were in his limousine.) Rather than buying powdered coke or crack, you'd carefully order a small dose of each from your waitperson? Like a couple in a restaurant ordering wine by the glass because one wants pinot noir and the other wants chardonnay? Oh, yeah, that's plausible.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Barack Obama is simultaneously an Islamic fundamentalist Manchurian candidate and a godless Communist Manchurian candidate. Discuss.

Well, it's obvious that the decision at The New York Times to lead with hints of adultery in the story about John McCain's coziness with lobbyists was a huge gift to McCain. But would a sex-free story really have damaged his image?

Obviously, a story with the sex left out wouldn't have had this set of unintended consequences:

Conservative radio talk show hosts who had long reviled Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential candidate from Arizona, had rallied to his defense. Bloggers on the right said that this could be the start of a new relationship. Most telling, Mr. McCain's campaign announced Friday afternoon that it had just recorded its single-best 24 hours in online fund-raising, although it declined to provide numbers....

But does it really hurt McCain in any case to say he's not the ethically clean guy he wants you to think he is (as we're also being told in other, sex-free media accounts)? I wonder. I'm just not convinced that that's why McCain is winning primaries or running more or less even with Democratic challengers in polls. I know hardcore Limbaughnista Republicans hate his campaign finance crusade and regard the unlimited access of lobbyists as, God help us, a free speech issue. And as for the general public, I know cleaning up Washington is very low on the list when voters are asked to name the biggest problem facing the country.

Isn't all this a central element of McCain's image? That he's a "straight talker" and "straight shooter"? Again this is a hunch, but I think, for voters, McCain's image is as a guy who sometimes says impolitic things -- and that's what "straight talk" means to them. They think he challenges orthodoxies, even those of his own party. They think of him as a guy who'll sometimes anger his party-mates and reach across the aisle. (Obama's image is somewhat similar, and it's clearly helping him with independents.) An alleged willingness to reject the party line is what's "straight" about McCain's "shooting," at least according to the myth that's been built up.


So far, what we're talking about when we talk about the inclusion of a sex angle in the Times story is the journalistic propriety of doing so. For the most part, we're not talking about the alleged sex itself.

That's a good thing for Democrats, I think -- I know a lot of you find the notion repulsive, but I think more talk about the sex would make at least some voters think of McCain as human and vigorous. That might actually help him.

By the way, Lucianne Goldberg, of all people, is already playing up this angle:

(Click to enlarge, if you're so inclined.)

I get a lot of disagreement when I say this, but I think McCain is already seen as a relaxed regular guy, "comfortable in his own skin" as the pundit gasbags like to say. Obama, too -- but I worry that seeming to have moral flaws would actually give McCain a leg up in that contest, at least as it'll play out in the media narrative between now and November.

Eventually, I fear the GOP is going to try to portray Obama the way it portrayed Gore -- as prissy, goody-goody, sanctimonious, effete. Maureen Dowd and Chris Matthews would eat that meme up. The contrast could be John McCain, tough old rumpled horndog.

Friday, February 22, 2008


You probably know that Barack Obama got applause at a campaign rally for blowing his nose. Fox News took the high road as usual:

Responding to a video clip of Sen. Barack Obama saying, "I'm going to blow my nose here for a second," followed by the audience cheering, Fox News Washington correspondent James Rosen then said, "That kind of spontaneous affection Chairman Mao only dreamed of."

But you really need to savor a tiny detail lovingly worked into the setup (emphasis mine):

ROSEN: The adoration, the immense crowd, the chanting -- it's all part of what lazy headline writers call "Obama-mania." But if Barack Obama's frenzied fans and fundraising success, his elevation in the delegate count and in the hearts of intellectuals don't convince you the phenomenon is real, look no farther than supporters' reaction in Dallas on Wednesday, when the candidate famous for his soaring oratory performed the most mundane of human bodily functions.

OBAMA: Going to blow my nose here for a second.

ROSEN: That kind of spontaneous affection Chairman Mao only dreamed of....

Yup -- this isn't just a commie personality cult, it's a personality cult made up of commie intellectuals. That's the most dangerous kind!

And no, I don't think the applause is all that weird. Hell, at Woodstock they cheered the guy whose land they were on when he came out and said, "I'm a farmer...." There was never a totalitarian personality cult surrounding Max Yasgur.


OH, AND: I'm surprised no one's accused Obama of plagiarizing DJ Kool.

When the middle-aged right-wing establishment apparatchik Peggy Noonan and the youngish creator of the inept wingnut comic strip "Day by Day" sing exactly the same tune from the same hymnal on the same day, you start looking around wondering who's picking the hymns for the choir.

Chris Muir's "Day by Day" today (click to enlarge):

Noonan today:

His problem was, is, his wife's words, not his, the speech in which she said that for the first time in her adult life she is proud of her country, because Obama is winning....

Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? ...

Have they been, throughout their adulthood, so pampered and praised--so raised in the liberal cocoon--that they are essentially unaware of what and how normal Americans think? And are they, in this, like those cosseted yuppies, the Clintons?

That's right -- Michelle Obama, daughter of a secretary and a city pump operator, is a snooty child of privilege. In fact, being born black at a time when some blacks in this country didn't have the right to vote actually gave her an unfair advantage:

... I have wondered if it is hard for young African-Americans of her generation, having been drilled in America's sad racial history, having been told about it every day of their lives, to fully apprehend the struggles of others. I wonder if she knows that some people look at her and think "Man, she got it all." Intelligent, strong, tall, beautiful, Princeton, Harvard, black at a time when America was trying to make up for its sins and be helpful...

Noonan, of course, supported both Bushes. She wrote the 1988 convention speech in which the elder Bush described his move to Texas as "taking a chance and pushing into unknown territory with kids and a dog and a car." Taking a chance? When has any Bush ever truly had anything at risk?


For right-wingers and those who take their rhetoric seriously, all this dovetails quite nicely with the other meme that's been spread about the Obamas this week: that they're big commies. And gosh, what a coincidence -- the smears came in a wave all at once this week: the article by Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media that suggests Obama is a commie because a family friend who advised him thirty years ago, before he went to college, was a communist; former Dan Quayle speechwriter Lisa Schiffren's absurd but McCarthyite response to the Kincaid piece, in which she implied that Obama's parents must have been commies because all the interracial couples she knew growing up in Manhattan, several time zones away, were commies; and now the Politico story "Obama Once Visited '60s Radicals" (the radicals in question are people who, for better or worse, had become part of Chicago's political establishment when Obama was trying to make his political way).

Go back to the beginning of the Noonan excerpt above ("His problem was, is, his wife's words, not his, the speech in which she said that for the first time in her adult life she is proud of her country"). Now remember how this right-wing meme goes: commie = dangerous subversive, but commie also = overeducated = elitist = out of touch with Joe Sixpack.

This is how they're going to try to get Obama, from now until the end.


OOPS. Almost missed "Obama: Is America Ready for This Dangerous Leftwinger?," published today by Rupert Murdoch's Times of London. It begins:

For most ordinary Americans, those not encumbered with an expensive education or infected by prolonged exposure to cosmopolitan heterodoxy, patriotism is a consequence of birth.

And it goes on to say:

There is a caste of left-wing Americans who wish essentially and in all honesty that their country was much more like France. They wish it had much higher levels of taxation and government intervention, that it had much higher levels of welfare, that it did not have such a "militaristic" approach to foreign policy. Above all, that its national goals were dictated, not by the dreadful halfwits who inhabit godforsaken places like Kansas and Mississippi, but by the counsels of the United Nations.

There it is -- everything I talked about above, packed into two paragraphs. Funny how everyone on the right had the same thoughts at the same time.

By the way, don't believe for a minute that Rupe likes Obama just because his New York Post endorsed him -- or at least consider the possibility that the Post endorsed Obama precisely in order to keep Obama off balance and unsure of Murdoch's intentions, a perfect setup for attacks like today's (I'd add that Murdoch seems to have set up Hillary Clinton the same way). From this piece it's clear that Murdoch got the memo and knows precisely how Obama is supposed to be attacked.

Maybe others have said this already, but let me say it anyway: Suggestions of adultery are to the New York Times story about John McCain's relationships with lobbyists what those documents were to the CBS story about George W. Bush's National Guard service -- non-essential elements that wound up poisoning a good story, after being included even though it was clear that they'd inspire outrage and would therefore need to be absolutely bulletproof (which they weren't).

I wonder if the consequences are going to be the same -- that now the media will avoid the story of McCain's relationships with lobbyists altogether because the Times piece made the story radioactive, and that The New York Times, in particular, will back away from other stories that challenge McCain and take pains to mollify him, just as CBS backed away from tough reporting about Bush in the aftermath of the National Guard fiasco. We'll see.


UPDATE: This appears to be my third stupid prediction of the week -- the press doesn't seem to be backing down.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I made a dumb prediction last night. I predicted that the McCain-bashers in the wingnut media might actually take the side of The New York Times against John McCain after its story on his interactions with Vicki Iseman and other lobbyists. Bay Buchanan, Pat's sister and a Romney backer, is angry at McCain, but everyone else on the right seems to be circling the wagons and lashing out at the Times on McCain's behalf. Why didn't I see that coming?

The anger directed at McCain has always been greater than what's been directed at the other GOP candidates in this presidential race -- the wingnuts hate McCain more than the still socially moderate Rudy Giuliani, more than the shamelessly flip-flopping ex-centrist Mitt Romney, more, even, than Ron Paul. Why?

Because Romney (now) hates liberals, Giuliani (even though he's perceived as socially liberal) has genuinely hated liberals for a long time, and Ron Paul is clearly no fan of liberals -- but McCain, that bastard, reaches out to liberals. And hatred of liberals is really the one and only thing that matters to the right. It's the single leg of modern conservatism's one-legged stool.

Inadequate hatred of liberals is the reason McCain has been despised -- who cares if he has a solid conservative voting record and is the most fervent supporter of the Iraq war, which the right has told us for years is the great crusade of this century? But now McCain's enemy is the embodiment of the "liberal media," The New York Times. So of course they right is backing him.

McCain's support on the far right isn't going to last. Unless he stay linked to that hate, he'll be the right's whipping boy again soon. But for now, he's lucky to have run afoul of the right enemy.


(Bay Buchanan link via Kathy in the comments to another thread.)

From the Politico:

... Laura Ingraham, another influential conservative radio host, asserted that the Times waited until McCain was on the brink of the Republican presidential nomination and now is seeking to "contaminate" him with an article that she calls "absurd" and "ridiculous."

... Ingraham began her show this morning with a brief dig at McCain's years of cozying up to the mainstream media, but then declared: "You wait until it's pretty much beyond a doubt that he's going to be the Republican nominee, and then you let it drop -- drop some acid in the pool, contaminate the whole pool. That's what The New York Times thinks." ...

You're right, Laura -- "it's pretty much beyond a doubt that he's going to be the Republican nominee." But it's not completely beyond a doubt -- he's still 273 delegates short of a guaranteed first-ballot victory.

Isn't this the huge break you've been dreaming of, Laura? Come on -- what are you and Rush and Sean and all the other conservatively correct McCain-haters waiting for? Isn't this your chance to rally your troops and deny Maverick Man a first-ballot victory? Why aren't you telling them to vote Huckabee in the upcoming contests -- or Romney, or whoever the hell's on the ballot who's not McCain?

Brokered convention, baby! And then you guys take over the joint! Hey, Laura, maybe Rush will get the nomination and make you his running mate! How can you pass up a golden opportunity like this?


From the same Politico article:

...Greg Mueller, a veteran Republican strategist, said conservatives would side with McCain against the paper they love to hate.

“The New York Times is trying to swift-boat McCain,” Mueller said....

That's a curious thing for Mueller to say, in light of this:

Greg Mueller is President of CRC Public Relations, and former senior aide to Republican Presidential Candidates Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes. Mueller also spearheaded communications for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

So let's see: Mueller worked for the Swift Boat guys, which means he presumably thinks they were telling the truth. Now he says the Times "is trying to swift-boat McCain." Is that his cryptic way of confirming the truthfulness of the Times story?


UPDATE: Link fixed.

From ABC:

Romney Camp Laments

The remnants of the Romney campaign are shaking their heads this morning.

For months they were whispering about a New York Times investigation into John McCain's ties to a certain lobbyist.

They would poke and prod reporters to see if they had heard anything new about when and if the New York Times would publish the story.

On Thursday, while no one would allow their name to be published, several former advisers lamented the timing of the story, one suggesting, "If this piece had run before New Hampshire, McCain would have lost. If it had run before Florida, he would have lost." ....

Hey, maybe that's why the story didn't run until now -- what rational person would want to do anything that would help Mitt Romney?

Gail Collins managed to get through an entire column about the plan to shoot down that satellite without once making a snarky metaphoric reference to the Clintons or Barack Obama. In fact, they're not mentioned at all. I don't think Maureen Dowd could pull that off if her life depended on it.

You can imagine how Dowd would write about this:

...Just like the satellite, the notion of the First Black President was launched some time ago, with great fanfare. Now that notion is headed back to earth -- and Bill and Hill fear it's aimed straight at them. They're panicking -- who knew it could do so much damage? They've tried using Bill to shoot it out of the sky, but that's not what his payload was designed for....

Or something like that.

The Collins column is actually rather amusing. It's a nice break from Dowdism, and from 24/7 campaign talk in general.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Poor John McCain. I just heard NBC's Chuck Todd on TV saying that the New York Times story hinting at a 2000 affair between McCain and a much younger lobbyist could actually help him by inspiring anger at the Times among his supporters.

The problem is, McCain doesn't have supporters like that. He's won a lot of votes, but he just doesn't have the usual Republican base of support -- people who hate the "liberal media" and who'll see this article as a sign of media bias against Republicans. The talk-show hosts won't defend him. The rank-and-file GOP base won't see him as a guy who's been dealt a low blow by their mutual enemies.

If anything, Limbaugh et al. might even express approval of the story, the real thrust of which is that, on ethics, McCain's deeds don't match his words. Limbaugh and his pals finds those words really sanctimonious. For that reason, they might help keep this story alive for a while.


UPDATE: D. and Donna in comments say this probably won't hurt McCain -- it'll come off as old news and, well, he's a Republican. I agree. I think voters are blase about sex scandals and corruption scandals in general. But I think, as I say above, that he could have actually turned this back around on the media if he had the usual wingnut gang backing him up, and I do think the wingnut media might actually back the Times up for a while.


UPDATE: Another mistaken hunch on my part:

Conservative media outlets rushed with surprising vehemence to defend Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday against a critical article in The New York Times, embracing a maverick they have often attacked.

Rush Limbaugh calls it "the drive-by media ... trying to take him out."

Laura Ingraham, another influential conservative radio host, said the Times waited until McCain was on the brink of the Republican presidential nomination and now is seeking to "contaminate" him with an article that she calls "absurd" and "ridiculous.", the website of the Christian Broadcasting Network, says an attack by the Times is "a conservative badge of honor." ...

What I've been told is an old Islamic adage is also, apparently, a wingnut adage: Me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin, me and my brother and my cousin against a stranger. And everyone against the Times.


UPDATE: But as Kathy points out in the comments to another thread, Bay Buchanan is not rushing to McCain's defense:

...She was frothing at mouth last night on CNN's [Anderson Cooper] 360, stoking the fundie fires. She obviously thinks her man Mitt would have walked away with the nomination had this story dropped back before Florida.

...BUCHANAN: ...We -- we -- you know, conservatives are -- we believe that we are the family value party. We believe it seriously. We expect our candidates to live up to those values, not just to talk about them and expect us to vote for them, and not be there really when it counts.

And our -- we have a basic belief. If can you lie to your wife and your children, then the voter doesn't have a prayer....

Tom Hilton is right:

McCain Is the Enemy

...In the absence of any official DNC effort, the answer to "who takes on John McCain?" has to be
us. This is what the blogosphere is for, folks. If we're a laboratory for memes, the memes we really need to be testing are the ones that could keep McCain out of the White House.

So far, we--well, a lot of us--have been falling down on the job.

Many of the bigger, more politically obsessive blogs and blog communities have been focused almost exclusively on the primaries.... All over the lefty blogosphere, people seem to be more concerned about the minor difference between Obama and Clinton than about the vast catastrophe it'll be if we let McCain win....

What does matter is keeping Captain McQueeg from taking us all for a ride on the Straitjacket Express. How about we focus on that for the next 8 months or so? ...

There are some good links at his post.

I'd add this: If we're a "laboratory for memes," we also need to be working on undoing memes. For instance, why isn't the entire left blogosphere howling mad at the fact that "maverick" and "straight talk" appear in every single news story about McCain, as if these are neutral descriptions rather than de facto campaign slogans? It's no more appropriate to use these descriptors in straight news stories than it would have been to assert as a statement of fact that "Nixon will bring us together" in 1968, or "It's morning in America" in 1984. And that's only one of several message wars we need to start fighting.

In case you wondering whether You know about the crazies who believe that the Clintons have their enemies killed. In case you were wondering whether these people now think the Clintons might extend this alleged practice to Barack Obama, the answer is yes.

From Free Republic:

Should Barak and Michelle Obama be worried?

... I remember the ruthless politics of the Clinton White House. I remember the personal destruction of Katherine Willey, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers and Monica. These women paid a price for being a political obstacle….. and there were many other women who paid a similar price.

Now I also remember others who paid a price for standing in the path of the Clinton Political Borg. Vincent Foster knows what I am thinking. The Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas got in the Clinton's way. Michelle and Barak Obama are now standing squarely in defiance to the ambitions of Bill and Hillary. I wonder if what I am thinking has ever crossed the minds of either Bill or Hillary? Maybe Hillary could try to blame the "Haters of the Right", like Bill tried to do with the Oklahoma City bombing… but I suspect the Clinton fingerprints would be far too evident.

For wingnuts, this is what's called a "double fantasy."

I've always loved the "Clinton Body Count" list. It consists of dozens and dozens of people -- most of whom you've never heard of. Meanwhile, here are a few people who are conspicuously absent from the list: Ken Starr, Matt Drudge, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Richard Mellon Scaife, Ann Coulter, anyone connected to the "Harry and Louise" ads, not to mention Monica and Gennifer and Paula and Kathleen. All of these people are still alive and well. Why on earth can't the Clintons target the correct people for brutal unsolved political assassinations?

Of course, the only real difference between the Cheeto-chomping losers at Free Republic and much of the elite press corps is that the Freepers think Bill and Hillary are going to turn into the Corleones, while Maureen Dowd, Chris Matthews, Mickey Kaus, et al. are expecting something more along the lines of the last scene in Fatal Attraction.

From the Yeas and Nays blog at soon as [President Bush] started speaking at the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda, he was spitting out one-liners like Henny Youngman at a Catskills resort.

"Please be seated -- unless, of course, you don't have a chair," he opened.

"I had a speech -- I'm not going to give it," he continued.

And later: "Any other Texans that are here? Yes, there you go. You know what it's like."

According to the official transcript, the president's quips elicited polite (we'd guess) laughter at every turn.

Even White House flack Dana Perino got into the act. When asked about the unfavorable election results in Pakistan, she replied that since Republicans lost control of Congress in the 2006 elections, "we've continued to work as a strong, functioning government -- well, 'functioning' might be a little strong. (Laughter.) But all kidding aside, we continue to function as a government." ...

Oh, and, according to the transcript, Bush also joked about a plan to name a street near the embassy after Martin Luther King:

I do want to recognize our great Secretary of State. I thought, for a minute, you were going to name that road after Secretary Condoleezza Rice. (Laughter.) When they're talking about great Americans, and they're going on and on and on, I was certain it was going to say, "Rice Boulevard." (Laughter and applause.)

Rice, not King -- oh, tee-hee!

All this levity came about four hours after Bush's visit to the Kigali Memorial Centre, Rwanda's genocide museum.

More from the Examiner:

Perino also supplied some serious news: "American Idol" winner and Super Bowl national anthem performer Jordin Sparks will join the president and Mrs. Bush on their next stop, in Ghana.

"Melinda Doolittle, who was a previous 'Idol' winner, joined Mrs. Bush in Zambia last June," Perino said.

"Melinda didn't win," a member of the press pool reminded her.

"Well, she was close, a finalist," Perino came back.

OK, so we lied about the "serious" part.

When I read that, I just can't tell you how proud it makes me to be an American, on so many levels.

Headline of a post at Down with Tyranny:


Oh, they could have another ten or twenty years in the public eye; my guess is that they think Hill can be senator for life (probably true) and Bill's celebrity will endure, and so the brand will take care of itself.

Hillary's not going to drop out until it's inevitable that she won't win. I just don't know what happens then. It's easy to imagine the Obama camp thinking it's strategically better not to be associated with the Clintons, while the Clintons are happy not to lift a finger for the guy beyond pro forma shows of support.

What I wonder about is an Obama presidency, if it happens. Would Senator Clinton be President Obama's ally in Congress? Or would she decide to be to him what Pat Moynihan and Bob Kerrey were to her husband -- would she be, in other words, a frequent critic, someone the press can always count on for a quotably nasty intraparty verbal attack?

Obama may win the election and enter the White House on a wave of goodwill, but he's still a Democrat and the press is still the press -- it will constantly be on the lookout for people who can cut him off at the knees, just as it was the last time a Democrat became president, with a special eagerness to find party mates abandoning him on this or that issue. The irony, of course, is that sniping at President Obama would give the Clintons the respect within the chattering classes that they've never had. I hope Hillary resists the temptation, but if he wins, it'll be there.


Headline at BuzzFlash:

... Hillary, Don't Destroy the Democratic Party, Please. Take a Seat on the Supreme Court in an Obama Presidency (How Does Chief Justice Sound?) Or Become the Majority Leader of the Senate, And Let's Move On. We Need to Get the Republicans Out of the White House.

Hillary Clinton as a Supreme Court nominee? For the love of God, no. What could possibly be more of a rallying point for the GOP? Making an appointment like this would be like deliberately cutting yourself in shark-infested waters. Hey, BuzzFlash, I don't think there's the slightest chance of this -- and a good thing, too.

(BuzzFlash editor Mark Karlin's unconvincing argument for a Hillary Clinton Supreme Court appointment is here.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


If I were Hillary Clinton, I'm not so sure I would have put this into my concession speech tonight:

Now, you may have heard that I actually loaned my campaign some money. And I was honored and humbled by the support that I have received since, from people like the young mom who sent me $10 and wrote that, "My two daughters are 2 and 4, and I want them to know anything is possible"...


... or the gentleman who described himself as an independent voter, a veteran, and a "generally cranky conservative" who decided to support me.

Hillary? Did that "gentleman" actually decide to support you? Or did he send you ten bucks because he thinks you'd be easier to beat?

(UPDATE, WEDNESDAY MORNING: I went out on a limb. I look like an idiot now for posting this. But screw it, I'll leave it up.)

First, Gallup was reporting this earlier today:

Obama Gaining Among Middle-Aged, Women, Hispanics

The momentum in the Democratic nomination race has clearly swung toward Barack Obama....

Obama's standing has improved among most Democratic subgroups over the past several days. But one of the more substantial shifts has been the changing preferences of middle-aged Democratic voters, who have moved away from Clinton and toward Obama in the past week. Obama has also made gains among three other groups that have favored Clinton throughout much of the campaign -- women, Hispanics, and self-identified Democrats....

However, Gallup went on to give us this:

Hillary Clinton has rebounded among Democrats in the Gallup Poll Daily tracking average for Feb. 16-18. She is now at 45% to Barack Obama's 46%.

Clinton was seven percentage points behind Obama in the Feb. 15-17 average....

The smart folks think it's a response to the Obama/Deval Patrick plagiarism-from-a-pal kerfuffle.

I don't. I suspect a lot of clever-clever overeducated cultural sophisticates -- i.e., my peers -- are starting to feel that Obama is an indie band they don't like anymore; there's just too much tackily earnest irony-free mass adulation going on all around him. An increasing number of ordinary Joes and Janes are starting to respond to Obama's appeal as a candidate by switching to him, but we frou-frou types are responding to his appeal as a candidate by switching from him.

Or something like that.

Meanwhile, Hillary was never out of it -- I think a lot of us just thought so because we simply don't know any, say, older Catholic women who didn't go to college, or other members of the Clinton base. (As it turns out, I'm the son of an older Catholic woman who didn't go to college, and, yup, she likes Hillary.) Hillary's polling quite well in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Why have so many people acted as if her persistence in the race has been somehow unseemly?

I say this as someone who voted for Obama and thinks he'd be the stronger candidate -- that is, when I don't find myself thinking that no Democrat will win this or any other presidential election in in my lifetime, given the way our political narrative always returns to "President equals Daddy, which means solid Republican rather than freaky Democrat." But my preference doesn't change my sense that Obama has never been as inevitable as he's seemed recently, and he's less so now, mostly because all the talk of Obamamania has made him seem less cool. Well, we'll see.