Sunday, November 30, 2008

[Tom Hilton, speaking for me only]

This week's installment in the ongoing Why I Loathe the Blogosphere and Despise Progressives series comes to us courtesy of Avedon Carol, who posts this astonishingly silly bit:
Top-down isn't really democracy, but that works fine for Obama, I guess. And his minions agree - it's not the business of the people to make our will known; it's our duty to do what we're told. Chumps.
Click through the link and you'll see an even sillier post juxtaposing two excerpts: the first from Obama's press conference the other day, when he said that the vision in the administration would be his; the second from some random commenter somewhere, saying we should trust Obama. Somehow, this adds up to the spectre of an authoritarian President Obama manipulating the mindless hordes, although I think you have to have the über-progressive secret decoder ring to understand the conclusion.

One might reasonably wonder how an unexceptionable statement by Obama that he won't be a figurehead, that his administration will be more than the sum of his appointees, could possibly be spun as negative. (One might also reasonably ask: has the last Republican died in captivity? did the right-wing meme industry suddenly shutter all of its factories? have women and LGBT people and African-Americans and every other group that experiences discrimination magically attained full equality? and is there no more suitable target to attack than the very people on whose success any progress in this country depends? But I digress.) The answer is that it makes sense only from the perspective of reflexive opposition to Obama. There is no carefully considered critique here; only the habit of complaint.

And roughly 98.35% of the post-election kvetching from progressives has been like this. When progressive bloggers attack Obama or congressional Democrats, it isn't because after careful, calm, dispassionate consideration they conclude that there are in fact reaonable grounds for criticism and that airing it will have a net positive practical impact. Progressive bloggers attack Democrats because bloggers are conflict junkies and progressives are desperately in love with failure. Bloggers habitually parlay the most trivial incidents into overblown hysterical outrage; progressives cannot bring themselves to lend their support to anyone who has actually won an election.

The liberal blogosphere was born in opposition to Bush, and is habituated to misrule by corrupt and incompetent right-wing ideologues. The attitudes that were appropriate and necessary under those circumstances are dysfunctional and self-defeating when we have a president who isn't corrupt, isn't incompetent, and is (for any but the narrowest, most dogmatic lefties) on our side. We had some value in opposing Bush; we were more or less useless during the election (Obama won with a network he built himself, not the 'netroots', and some people will never forgive him for it); and now, it seems, a sizable faction (majority? large minority? I don't know) is determined to be worse than useless. I have good reason to be optimistic about Obama's presidency, and no reason at all to be optimistic about the blogosphere--which is determined to doom itself to irrelevance and self-parody.
In today's Los Angeles Times, Neal Gabler makes a convincing argument that the real father of modern Republicanism is Sen. Joe McCarthy:
The creation myth of modern conservatism usually begins with Barry Goldwater...who, even though he lost in one of the biggest landslides in American electoral history, nevertheless wrested the party from its Eastern establishment wing...Richard Nixon co-opted conservatism, talking like a conservative while governing like a moderate...But Ronald Reagan embraced it wholeheartedly, becoming the patron saint of conservatism and making it the dominant ideology in the country. George W. Bush picked up Reagan's fallen standard and "conservatized" government even more thoroughly than Reagan had...That's how the story goes.

But there is another rendition of the story of modern conservatism....a less heroic story, and one that may go a much longer way toward really explaining the Republican Party's past electoral fortunes and its future. In this tale, the real father of modern Republicanism is Sen. Joe McCarthy, and the line...runs from McCarthy to Nixon to Bush and possibly now to Sarah Palin. It centralizes what one might call the McCarthy gene, something deep in the DNA of the Republican Party that determines how Republicans run for office, and because it is genetic, it isn't likely to be expunged any time soon....

When he burst on the national scene in 1950 waving his list of alleged communists who had supposedly infiltrated Harry Truman's State Department, conservatism was as bland, temperate and feckless as its primary congressional proponent, Ohio Sen. Robert Taft, known fondly as "Mister Conservative"....

McCarthy was another thing entirely. What he lacked in ideology -- and he was no ideologue at all -- he made up for in aggression. Establishment Republicans...were disdainful of his tactics, but when those same conservatives saw the support he elicited from the grass-roots and the press attention he got, many of them were impressed. Taft...decided to encourage McCarthy, secretly, sealing a Faustian bargain that would change conservatism and the Republican Party. Henceforth, conservatism would be as much about electoral slash-and-burn as it would be about a policy agenda....

As historian Richard Hofstadter described it in his famous essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," McCarthyism is a way to build support by playing on the anxieties of Americans, actively convincing them of danger and conspiracy even where these don't exist.
Gabler is right: the Republican Party is held together not by any real ideological coherence (it is a collection of incompatible constituencies with radically different interests) but by a shared devotion to aggression. Or, as innumerable bloggers have put it, to Pissing Off the Liberals.

In (rightly) putting McCarthy ahead of Goldwater, though, Gabler neglects the malignant role Goldwaterite ideology did play in this story: its inherent unsuitability to governing led directly to the nihilism of modern conservatism.

As I said back in 1994, when you put government in the hands of people who believe it has no useful function, they don't make the state wither away; they simply use it to benefit themselves and their campaign contributors. People who don't think the government's power should be used for the common good will instead seek power for its own sake. People who seek power for its own sake will do so by any means necessary.

As long as there was a tension between electoral strategy and practical behavior--between the desire to win and the desire to govern, between (for example) the Southern Strategy and Nixon's more benign domestic policy, or between Willie Horton and Bush Sr.'s multi-lateral foreign policy--the Republican Party remained tethered, however tenuously, to reality. What removed any ideological counterweight to McCarthyist aggression, what allowed it to go spinning off on its own, was the abject failure of Goldwaterite ideology.

[Cross-posted at If I Ran the Zoo]

Saturday, November 29, 2008

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford thinks one of the big problems for the GOP is that it was trying to be too inclusive:

First, let’s go back to the principle of saying what you mean and meaning what you say. A political party is much like a brand, and brands thrive or wither based on how consistently they deliver on what they promise. Along those same lines, it’s important for brands to stick to their knitting. If John Deere’s tractor sales are declining, they don’t say, “Tell you what, let’s make cars and airplanes, too.” Instead, they focus on producing better tractors.

I make that point because there’s a real temptation in Republican circles right now to try and be all things to all people. We tried that already — it was called “compassionate conservatism,” and it got us nowhere.

Less big tent, more pup tent. Less compassion, more indifference. I like it. Sounds like a recipe for success. Watching these disempowered dimwits thrash around in the coming months and years and (hopefully) decades looking for "the answer" as their base dwindles away will be a great source of entertainment for me. [via TPM]

[cross posted at Rumproast]

Friday, November 28, 2008

What I Meant To Say:

Fred at Slactivist makes the argument, in detail, that I tried to make in frothing fury the other night at my dinner with the old journalists. Wish I had been able to google and time travel at the same time I could have had my dinner in peace while letting the internet work for me. Plus, I love the utter convergence of the virtual and the real since Fred (who I don't know) jumps off from Brad DeLong's blog (and I do know Brad IRL). And the point of departure for Fred's essay is my favorite feature at Brad's blog, his version of "wanker of the day" which is "why oh why can't we have a better press corps" also known as "NYT/WaPo Death Spiral." All of these conversions reflect the underlying reality that what is doing in Newspapers, as Fred argues, is an unrealistic assesment of their profit margins, the cutting of professional staff and researchers to feed stockholder appetites for money, and the downward spiral of incompetence and contempt for the readers. Meanwhile, on the blogging side, special focus bloggers like Brad, or (formerly) Nathan Newman or Glenn Greenwald or Juan Cole, have the time, pixels, and confidence in their readers to lengthy disquisitions on difficult topics, to refer the reader back and forth in time to past and future columns, to link widely to subject matter experts, original documents, and or other accounts of complex subjects from other viewpoints. Meanwhile, as Fred demonstrates, the reporter and his or her editor are left with an ethic of "get it into print first and fast" with no real time, inclination, or back up for serious thought and reflection on complex topics. No science editor with science background means to backstop to an AP story that the reporter himself doesn't understand. No long term perspective, like Glenn Greenwald's interest in Civil Rights and Torture or Brad in Economics means no long running features that cover the same ground in more detail every day, or every week. Instead we get, in Atrios' brilliant neologism "journamalism." Nothing new or surprising here except for the refusal of some pretty high up practitioners to admit what is happening. On the other hand, as Ahab points out today, who cares? We've got a lot of great stuff to be reading, even if it doesn't happen to come via "the Dean's" imprimatur.


cross posted at If I Ran the Zoo

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I'm going to be away from the blog until late Sunday or Monday, doing the usual turkey/family things. I believe some guest bloggers will manage to rouse themselves from a turkey-induced state of semi-consciousness to post, so stop by. So Happy Thanksgiving. Be back soon.

Page Six in the New York Post reports today the rather bizarre news that Ann Coulter has had her jaw wired shut:


THAT although we didn't think it would be pos sible to silence Ann Coulter, the leggy reactionary broke her jaw and the mouth that roared has been wired shut...

AOL's Political Machine blog adds that this needed to take place "Because of a nasty fall last month" -- but not to fear, the timing is perfect:

She'll be back in a few weeks to record the audio for her latest book....

How convenient that this is revealed on the same day that Matt Drudge tells us what Coulter's new book is about:

"When it comes to bullying, no one outdoes the Left. Citing case after case, ranging from the hilariously absurd to the shockingly vicious, Coulter dissects so-called victims who are invariably the oppressors. For instance: While B. Hussein Obama piously condemned attacks on candidates' families, his media and campaign surrogates ripped open the court-sealed divorce records of his two principal opponents in his Senate race in Illinois." ...

The book is titled Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and Their Assault on America.

Shall we take this remarkable coincidence -- the first big burst of book publicity and the simultaneous announcement of the jaw wiring -- at face value? Gosh, I certainly hope it's a coincidence. I wouldn't want to think that Coulter is faking a serious injury, or even exploiting a real one, in order to inject herself into the story she plans to tell when she's hawking her book. After all, what better way to prove that liberals are nasty, vicious bullies than to tell a sob story about how they said mean, nasty things about you when you were injured and in pain (just before your book tour)?

Oh, that's an evil, horrible thing I just said. I guess I am a sadistic bully. I'm sure all the adulation and wolf whistles and requests for autographed copies she'll get on her tour and in her many appearances on TV networks she undoubtedly accuses of treason in the book can't possibly make up for the pain caused by the horrible thing I just wrote.

(Drudge story via Huffington Post.)

A lot of people are amused right now by this Politico storu:

GOP senator: We haven't learned

The Republican U.S. senator sits glumly across the restaurant table.

"I don't think we have learned much from the election in terms of what people want to see," he says. "We have the same gridlock."

By the "same gridlock," he means that party hard-liners, both Democrats and Republicans, will remain in control of the machinery of Congress. And that means more of the same. It means more politics as usual -- especially in his party.

"We need someone who speaks from the center," he says. "Sarah Palin is not the voice of our party." ...

The anonymous senator talks about Republicans losing Hispanics, after having lost African-Americans. The senator thinks the current GOP message is dated and unappealing ("What did Republicans want? Tax cuts for the rich! And small government").

But, er, with regard to Sarah Palin, this senator really doesn't get it:

"Sarah Palin seems to have been anointed by the media...."

The hell she has. Her anointment has, to some extent, been ratified by the media, but her anointment was by your party's base, Senator. Your hardcore voters think she's the bee's knees. They send death threats to columnists, even card-carrying conservatives (especially card-carrying conservatives), who question Palin's brilliance and status as not only a rising Republican star, but the one person in America most suited to be the next president of the United States.

If the Republican Party is controlled by "hard-liners," it's because that's what the GOP base wants. The worshipful reaction to Palin throughout the fall is just proof of that. The GOP's problems aren't just in leadership -- they run all the way to the grassroots.

Monday, November 24, 2008


An article in The New York Times today looks at Michelle Obama's future as an well-educated, successful career woman who's about to become First Lady. We're told that there is a

passionate debate stirring among working mothers here and abroad as they watch Mrs. Obama finalize her transition from hospital executive to self-proclaimed mom-in-chief in the White House.

In addition, we're told,

While Mrs. Obama has publicly embraced her soon-to-be assumed role as first lady, many women remain deeply divided over whether she will become a pioneer or a dispiriting symbol of the limitations of modern working motherhood.

Here's the thing: the First Lady is not like other women. The First Lady should not be a "symbol of the limitations of modern working motherhood" because we expect things of her that we don't expect of, say, a female hospital executive in Chicago.

Where many other countries have a president and a prime minister, or a prime minister and a king or queen, or all three, America has just a president. Moreover, because we lack royalty, and are in great denial about our class system, we expect the White House to make up for that deficit by seeming rather regal. But the president has a big job. So we dump the responsibility for keeping the White House regal on the First Lady.

Maybe that would have changed if we'd elected Hillary Clinton; plugging Bill into the slot in which we've always imagined a grande dame managing a stately home might have reminded us that our expectations are somewhat silly.

Of course, there are other issues involved here, but at least one person quoted in the Times article gets the situation wrong:

Leslie Morgan Steiner, editor of "Mommy Wars," an anthology of essays (Random House, 2006), argued on the NPR program "Tell Me More" that Mrs. Obama had been "put in a box" and was only celebrated in the news media after she decided "to put her family first."

I'd say she was celebrated only after she decided she'd never again say anything angry or controversial -- but that has less to do with being put in a mommy "box" than with some white people's fear of scary angry black people!!!

As the article notes, Cherie Blair kept practicing law. Carla Bruni keeps making records. Someday we're going to have a new-model First Lady (or First Gentleman or, gulp, First Dude). I don't think it'll happen until the genders flip, because we'll stop looking to the White House and thinking about fairy tales -- or maybe it'll happen when we finally have a family in the White House that doesn't resemble a '50s sitcom family in any way. Until then, we'll probably keep demanding illusion -- almost certainly, I suspect, through the Obama years.

Which Obama is infuriating you? The bare-knuckle partisan described by Politico's Jonathan Martin? Or the bend-over-backwards excessive bipartisan described by Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times?


...As the top tier of his Cabinet begins to come into focus, ... it looks increasingly unlikely that Obama will break new ground when it comes to fashioning a bipartisan government.

Instead, he appears to be taking a check-the-box approach that would differ little from the pattern set by predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

They both made a nod to the opposition party in their Cabinet selections but in the main did not depart from Washington's to-the-victor-goes-the-spoils tradition in their personnel choices or the policies that flowed from them....


In the third week of his transition to power, President-elect Barack Obama is working to build a cordial relationship with Republicans by seeking guidance on policy proposals, asking for advice on appointments and hoping to avoid perceptions of political arrogance given the wide margins of his victory.

Mr. Obama has made calls to Republican leaders, and he dispatched Rahm Emanuel, his new chief of staff, to meet with them on Capitol Hill....

The bipartisan concessions have infuriated many liberal Democrats....

Politico tells us that reappointing Robert Gates as defense secretary "would hardly signal a dramatically new style of partisan bridge-building" (because he's not a frothing right-winger). The Times says actual Republicans think it would be seen as a sign of bipartisan outreach.

If the journos see can't agree on whether he's trying very hard or not trying nearly hard enough, then maybe he's just about where he needs to be to neutralize the question altogether.

(Politico story via Steve Benen.)

Obama's selling us out again! ... Or maybe he isn't. In the dead-tree New York Times today, this article about Barack Obama's economic inner circle carries the following subhead:

Obama Aides Reflect Clinton Centrism of the '90s

Except that what the article says is that, if by "centrism of the '90s" you mean belief in deregulation and balanced budgets, these guys don't really reflect the centrism of the '90s: Washington, [Robert Rubin] and his acolytes are calling for a new formulation to address the global economic crisis that Mr. Obama will inherit -- and rejecting or setting aside, for now, some of their old orthodoxies.

Instead of deregulation, Mr. Obama has sworn to usher in a period of re-regulation, to avoid the freewheeling risks that Citigroup and the rest of the financial industry undertook after Mr. Rubin, with [Lawrence] Summers, helped tear down the regulatory walls between banks, brokerages and insurance companies, and freed them to trade in unregulated and little-understood derivatives worth trillions of dollars....

Instead of balancing budgets, the Obama team will be going deeper into debt for at least two years by spending hundreds of billions of dollars more to stimulate the economy, without concern for deficits, for aid to the jobless, states and cities; tax cuts for workers; and job-creating construction of roads, schools and other public works....

So it's the Robert Rubin crowd, but it's not the old Robert Rubin approach. But the article suggests that the move to the center is striking, and is making some liberals despair -- even as some of those liberals explain that there's a limit to their despair:

... Liberals like [Jared] Bernstein [of the Economic Policy Institute] had long had an aversion to the kind of centrist economic policies of the Clinton years....

But Mr. Bernstein's past differences with Mr. Rubin have so softened that the two men recently wrote a column together about their new common ground on spending, regulation and trade protections for workers.

As for Mr. Summers, he has "truly evolved," Mr. Bernstein said, based on his reading of Mr. Summers's columns in the Financial Times this year. Both men have been advisers to Mr. Obama, and at a recent meeting, Mr. Bernstein recalled: "I told him, 'Boy, Larry, your views on trade, on income inequality, on stimulus spending, they're approaching ours at E.P.I.' And he sort of huffed and puffed, and said, 'Oh well, changing circumstances.'"

This is quite similar to what a New York Times Magazine article last summer (before the current meltdown) told us about the '90s battle between Rubin and Robert Reich, and about Obama's perspective on that battle:

...To understand where Obama stands, you first have to know that, for 15 years, Democratic Party economics have been defined by a struggle that took place during the start of the Clinton administration. It was the battle of the Bobs. On one side was Clinton's labor secretary and longtime friend, Bob Reich, who argued that the government should invest in roads, bridges, worker training and the like to stimulate the economy and help the middle class. On the other side was Bob Rubin, a former Goldman Sachs executive turned White House aide, who favored reducing the deficit to soothe the bond market, bring down interest rates and get the economy moving again. Clinton cast his lot with Rubin, and to this day the first question about any Democrat's economic outlook is often where his heart lies, with Reich or Rubin, the left or the center, the government or the market.

Obama has obviously studied this debate, and early on during the flight to Chicago, he told me a story about Reich and Rubin. The previous week, Obama convened a discussion with a high-powered group of economists and chief executives. He was sitting at a conference table, with Rubin two seats to his left and Reich across from him. "One of the points I raised," Obama told me, "is if you just use you, Bob, and you, Bob, as caricatures, the truth is, both of you acknowledge the world is more complicated." By this, Obama didn't simply mean that their views were more nuanced than many outsiders understood. He meant that both have come to acknowledge that the other man is, in part, correct. The two now occupy more similar ideological places than they did in 1993. The battle of the Bobs may not be completely over, but it has certainly been suspended.

Among the policy experts and economists who make up the Democratic government-in-waiting, there is now something of a consensus. They agree that deficit reduction did an enormous amount of good. It helped usher in the 1990s boom and the only period of strong, broad-based income growth in a generation. But that boom also depended on a technology bubble and historically low oil prices. In the current decade, the economy has continued to grow at a decent pace, yet most families have seen little benefit. Instead, the benefits have flowed mostly to a small slice of workers at the very top of the income distribution. As Rubin told me, comparing the current moment with 1993, "The distributional issues are obviously more serious now." From today's vantage point, inequality looks likes a bigger problem than economic growth; fiscal discipline seems necessary but not sufficient....

So these are centrists who aren't as centrist as they used to be. These are centrists who don't think the centrism of the '90s applies today. These are centrists who now find common ground with the liberals who've often butted heads with them.

I can live with that.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


This is a bit disturbing, if it's true:

Before Hillary Clinton has been formally offered the job as Secretary of State, a purge of Barack Obama's top foreign policy team has begun.

The advisers who helped trash the former First Lady's foreign policy credentials on the campaign trail are being brutally shunted aside, as the price of her accepting the job of being the public face of America to the world. In negotiations with Mr Obama this week before agreeing to take the job, she demanded and received assurances that she alone should appoint staff to the State Department. She also got assurances that she will have direct access to the President and will not have to go through his foreign policy advisers on the National Security Council, which is where many of her critics in the Obama team are expected to end up.

... "It would be dreadful if only Clinton loyalists worked at State and Obama loyalists at the N.S.C.," ... a Clinton adviser told the New York Times.

The story is from The Independent. The British press often gets Washington stories wrong, and likes to play up emotion, even in the upmarket papers. So I'm not leaping to assume this is 100% accurate.

But, damn, this Hillary thing has been a long-drawn-out process. And what if this is true, and is just the tip of the iceberg? The Clintons have a lot of entertainment-biz friends -- I hope, just to prove her clout, she's not taking a page from the many celebs who've put elaborate demands in backstage riders:

Take for example Marilyn Manson. The shock rocker demands every room he enters to be chilled to a deathly freeze with air-conditioning on full, a never-ending supply of Coca Cola and a bottomless bucket of ice. Add to that Haribo gummi bears, mini chocolates, Doritos, soy milk, assorted Kool Aid-sweetened, Hanson's cherry vanilla and microwave popcorn....

But the true diva award certainly must go to Mariah "doesn't do stairs" Carey. Some of her demands have included bunny rabbits, puppies, and kittens to keep her company backstage, Cristal champagne, a box of bendy straws to sip it with, and the requirement of a special attendant to take care of all her needs. Once she even asked an attendant to dispose of her used chewing gum! ...

What would be on Clinton's rider? No movies produced by David Geffen on any plane she takes for an overseas trip? A case of Estonian vodka and a case of Crown Royal in case John McCain or some working-class whites stop by for a shot-drinking contest?

Via Flopping Aces, I see that John Rosenthal at Pajamas Media has discovered Barack Obama's secret Nazi connection -- he's actually a brainwashed tool of the (German) company that publishes his books, and will do anything he's told by his publishers/masters!

The publicly funded Franco-German "cultural" channel Arte did not waste any time celebrating the dawn of a new era in transatlantic relations.... the channel broadcast a 70-minute-long special, live from Washington, with the highly imaginative title "A Black Man in the White House" [Un Noir à la maison blanche].... Host Daniel Leconte revealed that the [Bertelsmann F]oundation had even helpfully prepared "a little aide, a little white book" for the incoming president on how to conduct his relations with Europe. He was careful to interject that the "white book" had been prepared for both candidates.

In any case, Bertelsmann can be sure that Mr. Obama will read its "little aide, its little white book" very carefully. For ... the Bertelsmann Corporation happens to be the president-elect's principal source of income. It was Bertelsmann, namely, that agreed to pay Obama a reported $1.9 million in advances for a three-book deal that the then-senator-elect signed with its fully owned American subsidiary, the Random House publishing group, in December 2004.

...even as president, he will be paid far more by Bertelsmann than by the American taxpayers. For him to be taking advice from the Bertelsmann Foundation suggests conflict of interest on a magnitude that has perhaps never before been seen in the history of the American presidency....

It might be considered irrelevant today that Bertelsmann massively collaborated with the Nazi regime during World War II....

Barack Obama's books have made a lot of money. So who's the powerful in that relationship? The author, not the publisher. He made the convention speech in 2004 that brought him fame. That's what made him a hot literary commodity.

And while I know it's hard for anyone who writes for Pajamas Media to understand this, big media conglomerates don't demand total intellectual loyalty, sworn in blood in a secret subterranean bunker. It's unlikely that Obama even knows about this "white book."

And guess who else has written for Bertelsmann? John McCain. His best-known books were Random House books. Would he have been beholden to the sinister Teutons? (His most recent book, however, was published by a division of the media giant Hachette, which is -- gasp! -- French.)

As for Bertelsmann, yes, there are some skeletons in the closet, including, as Rosenthal notes, collaboration with the Nazis during World War II (a fact the company acknowledged a number of years ago). This took place decades before Bertelsmann owned Random House.

Prior to that acknowledgment, the family that runs Bertelsmann did (as Rosenthal also notes) hire a World War II revisionist to write histories of the company and the family. But the independent commission that ultimately acknowledged the Nazi collaboration was purged of this historian.

(Ah, but, as Rosenthal says, that historian thought FDR had advance knowledge of Pearl Harbor. And Jeremiah Wright thinks FDR had advance knowledge of Pearl Harbor! And this belief is contagious via casual contact!)

Look, none of this is relevant to Barack Obama. Big media conglomerates don't have intellectual litmus tests. Obama's books are published by the company's Crown division -- which also publishes Ann Coulter, Michael Medved, and other right-wing authors. Various divisions of Random House publish the likes of Katha Pollitt, the late Molly Ivins, and Matt Taibbi -- and also Jonah Goldberg and Bill O'Reilly. Random House imprints have published both Jesse Helms and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Oh, and with regard to World War II, Random House continues to publish the works of Elie Wiesel, as well as the late Irene Nemirovsky and Victor Klemperer.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


David Sirota points out that there's been a huge spike in the use of the term "center-right nation" since the election, based on appearances in news stories tracked by Google:

(Click to enlarge.)

Now, you and I (and David) think that this is decidedly not a center-right nation at this time. But what if the many journalists and pundits who've used this term are right -- by their definition of "center-right"?

The New York Times ran a story today titled "Obama Tilts to Center, Inviting a Clash of Ideas." And apparently that headline was a distortion of what the story's author, David Sanger, really thinks -- Sanger wrote of Obama:

Now, his reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as secretary of the Treasury -- suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.

So Obama is "center-right" -- if you believe "center-right" means "pragmatic" and "moderate-to-liberal while attempting to find some common ground with conservatives."

Here's Geithner, according to Robert Kuttner:

Perhaps most importantly, Kuttner noted a speech Geithner delivered to the Economic Club of New York last June, calling for a far-tougher regulatory policy to alter "the level and concentration of risk-taking across the financial system." He got quite specific, saying regulators "need to make it much more difficult for institutions with little capital and little supervision to underwrite mortgages." Reassuringly, Kuttner described the remarks as "a blueprint for fundamental overhaul," which is what's necessary given the need for a new financial architecture.

And yes, Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War, and has saber-rattled toward Iran But a little perspective: She ran for president as an opponent of the war. She believes in at least some engagement with rogue regimes. And she did ultimately renounce torture. If all that is "center-right," I can live with it.

And meanwhile, Obama is rumored to want a torture opponent as national security adviser, and has chosen an opponent of Bush-era excesses for attorney general. Obama is reportedly considered a sort of truth commission on Bush-era torture (though, admittedly, without the intent to prosecute anyone) and at least some degree of public-works pump-priming.

How does all this add up to "center-right"?

Well, if, when you define "left" or even "liberal," you imagine a headbanded hippie calling for unilateral disarmament and communism, then, yeah, Obama's going center-right. But he's not going to the center-right of American politics as we know it.

So he may not be a big ol' lefty. But he's not a righty, even of the center- variety. Please, give him a bit of credit.

I'm no Sarah Palin fan, but my reaction to the local TV interview she gave with turkey slaughtering taking place in the background is more or less like John Cole's:

While I can think of better photo ops, this is kind of a silly uproar. How exactly do folks think their food gets to them? Your t-bone is not born in shrink wrap.

This isn't killing wolves from airplanes, a so-called sport that seems to appeal to out-of-state macho-man wannabes. This, for a lot of us, is dinner.

And Tim Blair has a point: what's taking place is death, but there's no visible blood.

As an adult, you have to think about this as part of the process of deciding whether it's morally OK to eat meat. You can't pretend it doesn't exist. (I eat meat, so I've made my decision; I certainly understand coming to the other conclusion.)


It almost seemed possible at first that this was a calculated act on Palin's part -- and if so, it would be the one moment in which she actually almost lived up to her acolytes' hype: She lives in Alaska and you don't. She can field-dress a moose and you can't. You understand things that can be learned by sitting a desk, you citified pantywaist, while she understands things that are elemental.

Except that she's goofy and seemingly oblivious through the whole thing. The Sarah Palin we've seen for the past three months never got on her moral high horse without telling us, in no uncertain terms, that she was on it. If this is a subtle dig at her opponents, it's really subtle. And her spokesperson says she's "unhappy about it."

If she were smart, she'd use this -- turn it back around on her critics -- as a way of firing up her base once again. But she's not that smart. She knows how to vent wingnut talking points, but she still doesn't know how to deploy them strategically. She had a chance here, and she blew it.

Conclusion: she's still not ready for prime time; someone who was ready for prime time either wouldn't have done this interview in this setting at all or would have turned it to her advantage.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Nate Silver talks about right-wing talk radio in a post titled "Did Talk Radio Kill Conservatism?" I think he's on to something, but I'm not sure I agree that stimulation is the key concept here -- not exactly:

...There are a certain segment of conservatives who literally cannot believe that anybody would see the world differently than the way they do. They have not just forgotten how to persuade; they have forgotten about the necessity of persuasion.

... the distinguishing feature of radio is that it exists in a sort of perpetual amnesiac state. In a book, you can go back and read the previous page; on the internet, you can press the 'back' button on the browser. In radio, there is no rewind: everything exists in that moment and that moment only. This is, theoretically, a problem with teleivsion too, but in teleivison you at least have context clues -- graphics and what not....

Moreover, almost uniquely to radio, most of the audience is not even paying attention to you, because most people listen to radio when they're in the process of doing something else. (If they weren't doing something else, they'd be watching TV). They are driving, mowing the lawn, washing the dishes -- and you have to work
really hard to sustain their attention. Hence ... the importance of "stimulating" the listener....

Stimulation, however, is somewhat the opposite of persuasion....

I'd say, in response to Nate, that talk radio and cable news-talk and political blogs all try to stimulate, across the political spectrum. The real difference is something Nate mentions almost in passing -- "graphics and what not."

Liberals haven't done well in talk radio but have succeeded in the blogosphere, and now, finally, on cable (though they've done well there for a while if you count The Daily Show and The Colbert Report), because those media favor the clever and persuasive marshaling of evidence -- "gotcha!" quotes, video clips, old documents. Yes, plenty of what liberals put out is in the form of monologues (a lot of blog posts, Olbermann's commentaries) -- but in so much of the liberal opinionsphere, the smoking guns are well-placed YouTube clips and unearthed five-year-old newspaper columns.

Right-wingers deploy these too -- but on radio they're less a part of the mix. Radio is mostly about monologists holding forth.

And so is the channel that's the TV equivalent of talk radio, as Nate points out:

FOX News is unusual television, really, in that almost all the stimulation is verbal, and almost all of it occurs at the same staccato pacing as radio. You could take tonight's broadcast of Hannity & Colmes or the [O'Reilly] Factor and put it directly on radio and you'd lose almost nothing (not coincidentally, Hannity and O'Reilly also have highly-rated radio programs). That wouldn't really work for Countdown, which has higher production values, and where the pacing is more irregular. It certainly wouldn't work for the Situation Room -- or moving in a different direction, the Daily Show....

The difference isn't about "pacing" or "production values" -- it's about documentation. Link the source. Embed the video clip. It isn't important to do these things in radio -- and radio hasn't worked out for liberals. It is important on TV and in the blogosphere -- and those, for liberals, have worked out just fine.

Well, we should have known there'd be a righty-wing hissyfit about this, followed by right-wingers lying about it in order to gull the public:

President-elect Barack Obama's transition team is asking potential appointees detailed questions about gun ownership, and firearms advocates aren’t happy about it.

...Obama's transition team declined to go into detail on why they included the question, suggesting only that it was done to ensure potential appointees were in line with gun laws.

"The intent of the gun question is to determine legal permitting," said one transition aide.

Tucked in at the end of the questionnaire and listed under "Miscellaneous," it reads: "Do you or any members of your immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please also describe how and by whom it is used and whether it has been the cause of any personal injuries or property damage." ...

Captain Ed Morrissey of the A-list righty blog Hot Air titles his response to this news "Owning a gun a disqualification in Obama administration."

That's a lie.

HHS Secretary-designate Tom Daschle is a gun owner, according to a spokesman quoted in this article, and according to an e-mail reproduced at the sight (RTF file).

Correction pending, Ed?

This Hugh Hewitt blog post includes a crazy part and a really crazy part. The crazy part is of interest because some form of what it describes could actually happen, which would mean that the Republican Party is even more insular and self-sabotaging than we thought. As for the really crazy part, well read on.

Here's the part that I think could really happen, more or less. Don't struggle to understand this in detail -- just let it wash over you:

The last thing you want to think about right now is the 2012 GOP primary calendar, but I am afraid you have to, if you want the RNC chairmanship contest to have meaning and the GOP to have a good chance of recapturing the White House four years down the road....

The RNC must begin now to consider overhauling the presidential nominating process three years hence....

To do so, it needs to mandate that Iowa will caucus on the same day that New Hampshire votes, that New Hampshire will close its primary so that only Republicans so registered by the close of 2011 can cast a ballot, and that two other states will vote on the same day --the state in which John McCain won by the narrowest margin and the state in which he lost by the narrowest count, which would mean Missouri and North Carolina would be invited to vote on the same day as New Hampshire....

The point (or one point, at least) is that Hewitt, like a lot of other Republicans, believes the GOP lost in 2008 because it wasn't Republican enough, and it wasn't Republican enough because the presidential nominee was chosen by the forces of pure evil -- independents and Democrats. Therefore, for 2012, he wants to make the Republican primary process as insular and password-protected as possible.

To any sane person, this seems like a formula to guarantee a Goldwater-level blowout in 2012. But if my recent reads of the online right are correct, this is a widely shared belief. And we know a lot of big players who may shape the future of the GOP think the party has suffered because of a loss of purity.

So, while I think it would take martial law to get New Hampshire to close its primaries, or even to sacrifice its unique date on the primary calendar, I think the Republicans might try to do something to make sure the 2012 calendar has as many closed primaries as possible, and is front-loaded with contests that minimize the importance of evil Easterners, otherwise known as Satanists.



Now for the really crazy part: Why does Hewitt think this is going to be necessary? Because, otherwise, a sinister cabal of Obama/netroots secret operatives is going to hijack the GOP nominating process. No, really -- we can do that. Gather round and open your mind to the sinister possibilities:

... the process as it stands now is extremely vulnerable to manipulation by hard-left activists of the Democrats who, when 2012 rolls around (or late 2011 given the acceleration in primary season we witnessed in this cycle) will want to advantage President Obama by forcing the nomination of the weakest GOP candidate....

Rush Limbaugh demonstrated the ease with which relatively small numbers of hyper-activists can invade and distort the other party's nomination process when he ran the very successful and very entertaining "Operation Chaos" in the spring of 2008. America's Anchorman urged conservatives to register as Democrats and vote for Hillary in the Ohio and Pennsylvania Democratic primaries and elsewhere, and they did, in large numbers, adding considerably to Obama's political woes at the time. Rush started up Operation Chaos late, but had he begun early and wanted to nominate Hillary, he could have....

Flash forward to the summer of 2011.... activists meet with David Plouffe and Harold Ickes and decide it is time to pick the GOP nominee, and instructions go out to the Obama and Clinton networks in Iowa: "Reregister as Republicans. Instructions to follow."

[I'm imagining the evil O-bot network of wired youths all receiving the go code through messages texted to their brand-new brain-implant iPhone 8G's. But I digress.]

The same message goes to New Hampshire lefties. The left doesn't even bother to hide their design. It is legal, and it is politics. The example of Rush is everywhere pointed to when Republicans object to the hijacking of their process. No matter, the law is the law. The left will decisively impact the GOP nominee.

Unless the GOP moves now to change that....

Wow. This is paint-the-windows-black-and-barricade-the-compound crazy talk. And Hugh? If we really could do something like this, and wanted to bother, we sure as hell wouldn't pick a RINO for you guys -- our sinister operatives would go for something like a Keyes-Santorum ticket.

And you'd almost certainly applaud that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


A number of people have already commented on this Daniel Henninger op-ed from The Wall Street Journal, which argues, in all seriousness, that we're in economic trouble because we've taken Christ out of Christmas -- but I want to say a few words about it.

If you haven't read it, no, I'm not exaggerating:

...And so it will come to pass once again that many people will spend four weeks biting on tongues lest they say "Merry Christmas" and perchance, give offense. Christmas, the holiday that dare not speak its name.

This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin -- fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.

Yes, Henninger says there's a cause-and-effect relationship; the explanation is below.

But first, Henninger explains what didn't get us into this mess: inadequate regulation of buccaneer capitalism. His evidence? He doesn't have any. He simply declares that it just can't possibly be so:

... What happened?

The answer echoing through the marble hallways of Congress and Europe's ministries is: regulation failed. In short, throw plaster at cracked walls. Trusting the public sector to protect us from financial catastrophe is a bad idea. When the Social Security and Medicare meltdowns arrive, as precisely foretold by their trustees, will we ask again: What were they thinking?

Then he tells us what did go wrong:

What really went missing through the subprime mortgage years were the three Rs: responsibility, restraint and remorse. They are the ballast that stabilizes two better-known Rs from the world of free markets: risk and reward.

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of "Merry Christmas."

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions....

There are a hundred things wrong with this nonsense, starting with the fact that in this burst-bubble period (as I've noted before) bankruptcies have actually correlated with high church attendance -- states with the most regular churchgoers have tended to be states with lots of bankruptcies, and less religious states have had less bankruptcy.

Now, Henninger's not a stupid man. Read his bio -- Pulitzer, American Society of Newspaper Editors Award, several other awards, sheepskin from Georgetown, editorship at the Journal ... the guy isn't a dumb rube.

But the intellectual center of the conservative movement right now consists of dumb rubes -- dumb rube bloviators, dumb rube audiences, even a much-admired dumb rube vice presidential candidate. (I'm not using "rube" geographically; rube-ism is a state of mind, so Sean Hannity, from Long Island, counts.)

Henninger's been part of a movement centered on dumb-rube ideas for so long that it appears he's actually started to believe some of the dumbest of those ideas. He genuinely believes that people in America are afraid to say "Merry Christmas." He genuinely believes that greed and financial foolhardiness simply didn't exist in America until the past couple of years, at which time they began to be spread across the nation by a Christmas-related "dereligioning."

This kind of nonsense was supposed to be peddled by pundits to keep the rubes voting for the plutocrat party. The pundits weren't supposed to believe it. But Henninger does.

Dealers of highly addictive drugs aren't supposed to get hooked on their own product -- at least not if they're smart. But Henninger has fallen prey to his own supply of mind-numbing junk. Every well-educated pundit who treats Sarah Palin as a plainspoken savant, or who parrots the sophistries of the McCain campaign ("Obama's a socialist" and the like) is similarly dipping into the stash.

Via Robert Stacy McCain at The American Spectator's blog, I see that the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute has published a new calendar, which suggests (a) a let-them-eat-cake attitude toward our current economic woes, (b) a belief that PETA is the epicenter of the American left, and (c) a way of looking at women that is, um, rather different from mine.

Pretty in Mink! 2009 Calendar

...We took some of your favorite leaders of today's conservative movement on a journey back in time, and made them up into glamorous movie stars of classic Hollywood. Back when the big screen was a little more glamorous, women were a little more feminine, the men a little more charming -- and the world a little less politically correct....

The Players

Miss January - Kellyanne Conway
Miss February - Star Parker
Miss March - Susan Phalen
Miss April - Nonie Darwish
Miss May - Mary Katharine Ham
Miss June - Michelle Malkin
Miss July - Amanda Carpenter
Miss August - Sandy Liddy Bourne
Miss September - Ann Coulter
Miss October – Kate Obenshain
Miss November - Miriam Grossman, M.D.
Miss December - Clare Boothe Luce

My adolescence started in the hippie-chick early seventies. In the mid-seventies I made my way to New York, where you occasionally saw this kind of in-italics glamour -- but rarely on a biological woman.

So this is a bit odd to me. But right-wingers are an odd lot.

I'd say yes:

California Rep. Henry A. Waxman on Thursday officially dethroned longtime Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell....

In a secret ballot vote in the Cannon Caucus Room, House Democrats ratified an earlier decision by the Steering and Policy Committee to replace the 82-year-old Dingell with his 69-year-old rival. The vote was 137-122 in favor of Waxman.

The ascension of Waxman, a wily environmentalist, recasts a committee that Dingell has chaired since 1981 with an eye toward protecting the domestic auto industry in his native Michigan. The Energy and Commerce Committee has principal jurisdiction over many of President-elect Barack Obama's top legislative priorities, including energy, the environment and health care....

And, yes, the president-elect may have wanted Lieberman to be given amnesty, but, as Greg Sargent points out, he's also signaled that Waxman is someone he wants to do business with:

...Congressional insiders point out that Barack Obama, in a little-noticed move a few days ago, appointed as the top White House liason to Congress one Philip Schiliro, who has spent many of his past 25 years on the Hill working for (you guessed it) Waxman.

In the wake of Waxman's victory, this is significant. It means Waxman will be closer to the center of the action and will have a direct line into the White House....

Also, The Washington Post's Harold Meyerson has a long list of Waxman's accomplishments. This is a good day.

Gallup reports today that only 34% of Americans now have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, compared with 61% who don't.

And gee, apart from the incompetence, the criminality, and the McCarthyism, why would that be? Hmmm ... perhaps the utter contempt for anyone who disagrees with them, and the obsession with demonstrating their own moral and intellectual superiority, even if they have to cheat to do so?

Case in point: the GOP's favorite online guy, Matt Drudge, has had this up on his site for nearly 24 hours:

Message: Democratic politicians are evil cheating poopyheads! (Drudge's source is this post from a Minneapolis Star Tribune blog.)

But now Minnesota Public Radio has let us see a few more challenged ballots -- including these being challenged by Norm Coleman:

WHAT?! You mean both sides are challenging some ballots that seem unchallengeable? You mean Democrats aren't uniquely evil?

(If you go to the post, you can also see Franken-challenged ballots that don't seem challengeable, as well as some genuine posers.)

I trust the good and fair-minded people of Minnesota to straighten all this out, and I'm crossing my fingers in the hope that Drudge no longer rules our world and the MPR post will make clear to the media that neither side has a monopoly on questionable challenges.

But whatever happens, the GOP base will go to their graves believing FRANKEN CHEATED!!!!! And Republicans hate us all because we don't see this their way.

The #1 fiction bestseller in America, according to the just-released list that will be published in the November 30 New York Times, is not Stephen King's new novel Just After Sunset (it's #2) or A Mercy, the new book by Toni Morrison (it's #5), but ... The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck.

It's intended to be warm and fuzzy....

...When Eddie was twelve years old, all he wanted for Christmas was a bike. Although his life had gotten harder -- and money tighter -- since his father died and the family bakery closed...Eddie dreamed that somehow his mother would find a way to have his dream bike gleaming beside their modest Christmas tree that magical morning.

What he got from her instead was a sweater. "A stupid, handmade, ugly sweater" that young Eddie left in a crumpled ball in the corner of his room.

Scarred deeply by the realization that kids don't always get what they want, and too young to understand that he already owned life's most valuable treasures, that Christmas morning was the beginning of Eddie's dark and painful journey on the road to manhood. It will take wrestling with himself, his faith, and his family -- and the guidance of a mysterious neighbor named Russell -- to help Eddie find his path through the storm clouds of life and finally see the real significance of that simple gift his mother had crafted by hand with love in her heart....

... certainly warmer and fuzzier than Beck is on television, where (as many of you know) he's fantasized about killing Michael Moore and about the Clintons being "whacked," wondered aloud on separate occasions whether Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could be the Antichrist, called Hillary Clinton "the stereotypical bitch" and mimicked her shaving her face, compared Al Gore to Hitler, asked a Muslim congressman to "prove to me that you are not working with our enemies," and suggested that Dennis Kucinich's wife married him under the influence of a date-rape drug.

This is the Palin Nation mix: ugly, angry rhetoric and cutesy-wootsy "traditionalist" sentimental glop. There may not be enough people in this nation to elect a president now, but they can get a book to top the charts.

Beck is also presenting The Christmas Sweater as a play and a movie. I think the numbers for the latter will be somewhat lower than those for, say, Twilight.

Beck's publisher, by the way, is Mary Matalin's Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster. I'm guessing Threshold is a good bet to get Palin's book -- or maybe Zondervan, the Christian imprint of Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins, which has a new book on the paperback trade nonfiction list:

EVERY NOW AND THEN by Karen Kingsbury (Zondervan, $14.99.) A young man haunted by the death of his father on 9/11 is determined to infiltrate an environmental terrorist group to stop its evil deeds.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Tina Brown's Daily Beast, which a few weeks ago gave us Elaine Lafferty's article "Sarah Palin's a Brainiac," now brings on Daphne Merkin to tell us that a political process that led us to give 18 million primary votes to a female presidential candidate and 58 million general-election votes to a ticket with a female VP candidate actually made us more sexist:

The Sexism Revival

Now that the election is over and racism is ostensibly down for the count, has sexism gotten a new dispensation? Has the "unlikability" (not to mention "unfuckability") of Hillary not only cost her the presidential nomination but brought out the streak of misogyny that runs deep in American culture, affecting the way men think about women and the way women think about themselves?

And what about Sarah Palin, the breeding babe who has emerged as a comely figure of fun with seemingly not a mote of self-doubt in her constitution? Has she furthered men's natural instinct to write off women as light entertainment, chattering nitwits with a shaky hold on the hard facts, and also triggered the self-hatred mechanism in the women who refused to go along with her as a "you can have it all" representation of how far feminism had come? (Legs! Clothes! Family! Career!)

Once again, it seems to be OK to talk about women as risible in their aspirations to leadership....

Is that what we're doing? "Talk[ing] about women as risible in their aspirations to leadership"? Is that why we're waiting with bated breath to learn whether Hillary Clinton is going to be the next secretary of state?

But see, that's not a good thing for women -- as Merkin explains, "Hillary Clinton had recently been demoted from presidential contender to possible secretary of state -- a move that once again positions her as ready and willing to serve rather than to command." The SoS job isn't a plum -- it's an insult! Obama may as well have asked her to iron his shirt!

As for Palin, Merkin goes on to say that "it seems to be OK ... for men openly to dismiss women as social and intellectual equals, the better to focus on how they rate in the all-important looks department." What's wrong with this assessment? Just the fact that the people who were obsessed with Palin's looks, who went on and on and on about her "hotness," are the people who voted for her. The rest of us just thought she was a nasty, ill-informed, unqualified McCarthyite -- Joe the Plumber without a penis. (I've never met anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton is unqualified to be president.)

The ire directed at Hillary Clinton is a complex stew, of which sexism is a significant part. Much of the rest of it, though, is aimed at her as a Clinton. People take pleasure in spotting and mocking the easily mockable attributes of celebrities, in identifying their vulnerabilities, and the Clintons are nothing if not celebrities. Right now, for instance, we're talking about "the drama," and about the Clintons -- both Clintons -- as exasperating prolongers of drama. The issue is not, as Merkin would have it, Hillary's "cankles" or "the reductionist male gaze."

Merkin alludes to a poll conducted for the Daily Beast by ... um, Penn, Schoen and Berland (yes, Mark Penn's firm), which seems to suggest that sexism decided the election (and not, oh, say, blunders by certain key figures in a certain Democratic candidate's campaign):

The poll ... clearly documents what most casual observers identified as relatively favorable press treatment for male candidates like Obama and Biden versus an "anything goes" approach against the women running for office. In fact, the poll ... shows sweeping skepticism about how women are viewed culturally, politically and in the workplace. Though women did not vote in large enough numbers for Sarah Palin's side to prevail, they remain convinced she was not treated fairly by the media, and judged her treatment far harsher than even what Hillary Clinton received.

Here's the thing: women did vote in large enough numbers -- they just didn't vote for Palin and her running mate. Merkin's essay suggests that this is self-hate -- "the Stockholm Syndrome rather than Steadfast Sisterhood" -- as if there's no possible reason (er, abortion?) that a woman might choose not to vote for Sarah Palin, and as if a Clinton vote was mandatory for women.

Hillary was mocked in many ways, some of them sexist. I suppose there was sexism in the characterization of Palin, although she was a sex object primarily to her voter base. But how widespread is the sexism in the public discussion of Condi Rice, say, or Madeleine Albright? Are they figures of fun? Is it all mockery out there for women?

Look, Clinton nearly won the whole thing. And 1988 tells us that, in a different kind of year, Palin might have been on a winning ticket -- I'm sorry, but a man happens to be the nearest analogue to Palin, except that Dan Quayle didn't inspire a rabid cult in the process of inspiring mockery in the rest of the country. The existence of widespread sexism, like the existence of the widespread belief that Barack Obama is a Muslim and a socialist and an America-hater, is a barrier to victory, but a surmountable one. These women didn't make it this year. They might another time, and if they don't, others will.

The economy? Health care? The war? The wingnuttoshere knows Americans don't really care about any of those issues; the wingnuttosphere knows that what's really on Americans' minds is radical violence that occurred two generation ago. And if the MSM won't prioritize that subject, well, there's your liberal bias!

Here's wingnuttosphere star blogger JammieWearingFool responding to news that the Triborough Bridge in New York was renamed after Robert Kennedy today. First, the obligatory joke:

Is Naming a Bridge After a Kennedy a Good Idea?

Then this about RFK:

Ironically enough, he was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan, who just happens to be back in the news, courtesy of Barack Obama's pal Bill Ayers.

If you don't recall hearing anything about Sirhan "in the news," let me explain: the right blogosphere is currently fascinated by the revelation that a 1974 Weather Underground manifesto with Bill Ayers's name on it was dedicated to a long list of freedom fighters, radicals, and troublemakers, from Harriet Tubman to, er, Sirhan Sirhan. The list fills a page in the manifesto, in rather tiny type.

JammieWearingFool's final words on the subject are these:

Curious how nobody in the media has any interest in asking any Kennedys about that story.

OK, I'll bite: how would the MSM ask this question of a member of the Kennedy family, if it weren't fatally corrupted by liberalism?

"It has been discovered that William Ayers, a man who's had perhaps a dozen or fifteen conversations with President-elect Obama, co-authored a book thirty-four years ago that was dedicated to approximately two hundred people, one of whom was Sirhan Sirhan, Robert Kennedy's assassin. What does this thirty-four-year-old fractional dedication in tiny type say about President-elect Obama radical Marxo-terrorist agenda and plan to eliminate marriage in America and turn control of the entire U.S. economy over to the government, while providing amnesty to all illegal aliens and abandoning the War on Terror, and has the decades-old, nearly unreadable fractional dedication made Senator Teddy "the Swimmer" Kennedy cause to regret his endorsement of President-elect B. Hussein Osama during the primaries?"

But no one will dare ask this! They're all in the tank!


Oh well -- at least there's one reporter brave enough to stand up at the White House and ask about this:

..."Does the White House believe there is no question at all about the birthplace, and thus the required U.S. citizenship of the president-elect?" Les Kinsolving, WND's correspondent at the White House, asked at a news briefing today.

"I think we're in good shape on that," responded Dana Perino, the spokeswoman for the president.....

Thank God for World Net Daily! I bet B. Hussein doesn't have the courage to face WND's hard-hitting questions in his press conferences!

Via Steve Benen, I see that Kathleen Parker has declared (in a Washington Post column) that an excess of religious fervor is hurting the Republican Party:

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D....

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party....

Which is to say, the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.

... preaching to the choir produces no converts. And shifting demographics suggest that the Republican Party -- and conservatism with it -- eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one's heart where it belongs....

Welcome to the pluralism club, Kathleen.

But I see you were singing a somewhat different tune shortly after 9/11:

One can't help notice the silence of atheists these days. Suddenly "God" is everywhere, as ubiquitous as American flags....

War has that effect. There are no atheists in foxholes, we've always known. There were none in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, we can guess. And now there are none anywhere to be found. America today is about God and country, but then it always has been. We just lost track.

... We've been so overzealously protective of newcomers to and renegades from our traditional heritage -- and fearful of offending anyone hungry for attention -- that we've failed to pass on the very values that made us who and what we are.

...A friend told me she was trying to figure out what recent events meant to her. After some deliberation, she hit on a simple answer. "I figured it out, and it's really very succinct," she said. "I believe in God and I believe in my country."

From the beginning of American time, the two have been entwined and inseparable....

What happened between now and then?

Simple: Republicans lost -- and exit polls and demographic research suggest that Republicans will continue to lose if they continue saying precisely what Parker was saying in the fall of 2001.

That's the reason Parker is bailing on God -- the only reason.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I nearly lost it today. I nearly said my farewells to the entire left blogosphere -- writing for it, reading it, taking it seriously in any way. For a second I just didn't think I could get past a comment to this post about the Lieberman situation, and Barack Obama's involvement in the decision to spare Lieberman real punishment:

Its not as if Obama didn't tell America what he was going to do and this is the first of many steps down a path which may not be as steep as the one Bush led the country down, is headed in the same direction.

Bloody hell.

Then I read Spencer Ackerman's post about Eric Holder, Obama's apparent choice for attorney general, and I felt pretty damn good about the pick:

...Googling around, I see he's sounded many progressive notes about terrorism-related issues. Check out this speech to the American Constitution Society, the liberal answer to the Federalist Society, in June, back when he was helping helm Obama's vice-presidential search committee. Mark Halperin put up an ACS press release giving the highlights:

"Our needlessly abusive and unlawful practices in the 'War on Terror' have diminished our standing in the world community and made us less, rather than more, safe," Holder told a packed room at the ACS 2008 Convention on Friday evening. "For the sake of our safety and security, and because it is the right thing to do, the next president must move immediately to reclaim America's standing in the world as a nation that cherishes and protects individual freedom and basic human rights....

"... I firmly believe that there is evil in the world, and that we still face grave dangers to our security. But our ability to lead the world in combatting these dangers depends not only on the strength of our military leadership but our moral leadership as well.... To recapture it, we can no longer allow ourselves to be ruled by fear. We must evaluate our policies and our practices in the harsh light of day and steel ourselves to face the world’s dangers in accord with the rule of law."

Sounds like a progressive!

Yes! This is not the Bush "path," dammit!

But then Ackerman adds:

But does that evaluate-our-policies-in-the-harsh-light-of-day stuff mean an investigation into the Bush administration's still-secret abuses? That would be an early progressive test for Holder should he become attorney general.

But what if that's a "test" Holder doesn't pass -- even as the Obama administration dramatically reverses the Bush administration's abuses of the rule of law? What if the policies of the future are admirable, but there's no real attempt to punish anyone for the past?

Do we have to regard that as an utter failure?

I won't. What I want is for the policies to change. If that's what we get, I reserve the right to be pleased.

And I think that is what we're going to get. The Lieberman situation -- along with everything else I've seen of Obama -- tells me that that's the way Obama prefers to approach matters. He wants to avoid the appearance of vengeance, even if what's construed as vengeance by some would seem to others (us) like simple justice -- and yet his desire to give past offenses a pass is in no way related to his desire to reverse the policies connected to those offenses.

Can the commenter I quoted above, and all who agree with him, at least try to conceive of the possibility that Obama separates past and future, so that what we see as a progressive approach to the past is not what we get from him, while his approach to the future is much more to our liking? Can you all possibly grasp that he doesn't see punishment and progress as inextricably linked? And that his failure to see them as linked doesn't in any way mean he's going to betray us in everything?

So I'm over at Chris Cillizza's Washington Post blog, and I'm reading the post that was just quoted in Firedoglake -- you know, the one that's sending every lefty's blood pressure into the danger zone -- but I find myself distracted not by the paragraph quoted at FDL, but by what Cillizza says two paragraphs later (emphasis mine):

...Asked what it would mean if Lieberman kept his chairmanship, one Senate Democratic aide said bluntly: "The left has been foiled again. They can rant and rage but they still do not put the fear into folks to actually change their votes. Their influence would be in question."

That's one way to look at it. The other is that the left would be up in arms and far less willing to go along and get along with President-elect Barack Obama's agenda -- particularly if it doesn't contain the appropriate progressive tilt.

These are the problems of power, the same problems that Republican experienced following the 2000 election. The GOP's inability to make peace between its warring ideological factions led to its decline in 2006 and fall in 2008. Can Democrats avoid the same fate?

Is that really why insider journos think the GOP had trouble at the polls in the last two elections? Because the GOP and the right weren't in lockstep enough?

Was I smoking crack for the last eight years? Did I imagine the near-total absence of GOP/right-wing dissent on the war, torture, surveillance, the tax cuts, deregulation, social programs, and dozens of other issues? Yeah, there was friction on immigration, and briefly on Harriet Miers and Dubai Ports World, but that was pretty much the extent of it. (And even then there was a restored sense of unanimity as soon as the purists blocked each Bushie deviation from Correct Thinking.)

The unanimity was remarkable until, of course, the second electoral thumpin', in 2008, when suddenly Republicans and rightists started fighting among themselves. (After the first thumpin' they merely blamed themselves, near-unanimously, for not living up to their near-unanimously shared principles of endless war and utter contempt for have-nots. Some fighting, to be sure, started before the '08 election, when it appeared that all the top-tier party candidates for president were occasional deviants from the True Path, but ranks closed as soon as it was universally acknowledged that the alternative to the party's choice was rule by Satan, and ranks remained closed until a loss became inevitable.)

Is it really impossible for people like Cillizza to acknowledge that Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008 because voters hated what they were doing?

William Ayers at Georgetown Law School yesterday:

... He said most of his opposition was comprised "mostly of middle-aged men who are ventilating on their computer in their mother's basements who are sweating profusely" ...

"I am a little bit stunned that the grown-up media didn't put an end to [it] and that was the guilt by association," he said....

Sarah Palin on Fox News last week:

PALIN: Well, unfortunately, early on, there are a tremendous number of examples that we can give regarding my record and things that could have, should have been so easily corrected if -- if the media would have taken one step further and -- and investigated a little bit, not just gone on some blogger probably sitting there in their parents' basement, wearing their pajamas, blogging some kind of gossip or -- or a lie....

CNN on today's likely Lieberman reprieve:

Senate Democrats appear willing to let Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, keep his powerful Homeland Security Committee chairmanship, even though he campaigned vigorously for Sen. John McCain's White House bid, two sources told CNN Monday....

Several lawmakers involved in the discussions over Lieberman's fate credited President-elect Barack Obama's desire to keep Lieberman in the Democratic caucus and let bygones be bygones as being a key reason Democratic leaders have agreed to support allowing Lieberman to keep his committee chair....

Is he really the reason for this, or did he just give them an excuse to do what they would have done anyway? In either case, I keep thinking of this Obama moment from primary season -- his response to attacks from another adversary whom he's now (obviously) willing to forgive. The moment was an odd combination of hip-hop swagger and "Forgive them, they know not what they do" charity:

I understand that because that's the textbook Washington game. That's how our politics has been taught to be played. That's the lesson that [Hillary Clinton] learned when the Republicans were doing the same thing to her back in the 1990s. So I understand it and when you are running for the presidency than you've got to expect it and then you've got to kind of [makes a "brush off shoulder" motion]. That's what you got to do. That's what you got to do [brushes off his shoulder again].

He's against attack politics, and his response to Hillary Clinton's attacks was to attack her for being someone who naturally resorts to attack politics ... even as he suggested that it wasn't really her fault because she rose to prominence in an attack-happy D.C. The brushoff was one of Obama's harsher attacks, even as it was a rejection of attacks.

Somewhere in there, I think, is Obama's attitude toward Lieberman -- and Obama's intended approach to Lieberman. He seems to see himself as a guy who can take a punch, and make a point by not going down (and by making sure you notice that he's taking a punch).

As I said on this subject a few days ago, I think he thinks he can fend off, neutralize, and/or withstand any future assaults by Lieberman (or the Clintons, for that matter). He may naively think Joe won't attack him now that he's made a great show of lack of vindictiveness, but I'm hoping he somewhat more realistically believes that Lieberman is just somewhat less likely to attack him, but that's good enough because he can handle the rest.

Oh, and in the subject area on which Joe is most annoying, don't forget the obvious point that Obama is going to be commander in chief, folks -- Lieberman can't go whining to The Man because Obama's going to be The Man.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I'm not quite sure what National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez is proposing in this article about Time's 2008 Person of the Year. She begins by harrumphing that Time has probably already settled on Barack Obama (can you imagine?); she seems to want to suggest that, really, Sarah Palin would be a much better choice, but even she apparently recognizes how silly that is, so she merely wags her finger and informs Time (and Obama!) that Attention Must Be Paid:

...Time shouldn't diss the not insignificant portion of the country that voted for Republican John McCain. And, specifically, they shouldn't ignore the people who were energized by the addition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to his ticket....

It's still a free country. Media outlets still can do as they please (save for those who choose to hand over their editorial direction to one party or another). But
Time would make a mistake if it ignored the Palin phenom this year just because the ticket didn't win in the end.

Obama would be wise to agree.

What's K-Lo proposing? That Time change Person of the Year to a sort of Everybody Gets a Prize Day for prominent public figures who generate a lot of enthusiasm? I can't figure it out?

K-Lo also tells us that it's unclear how Palin would have done in a head-to-head contest with Obama; informs us that Thomas Jefforson Jefferson would have admired Palin; and notes that a "foreign-policy expert" who's on the current National Review cruise "showed up for a panel in a towel (but fully clothed underneath) in an act of solidarity with Palin (referencing the now debunked post-election story that she once appeared to top campaign officials in a towel)." Are other people going to imitate this now in solidarity, sort of like when Manson Family members started sporting swastikas between the eyebrows?

As for Time, its Web site, in fact, presents 25 candidates for Person of the Year, starting with Palin; there's an online vote under way, and Palin currently has the highest point total (possibly because the folksat Free Republic are trying to stuff the ballot box), although Obama is in first place because voters get to vote on a 1-to-10 scale and his vote numbers are higher on average. But this will probably change soon, and Palin will be the clear leader in the online poll. And then her cultists will cry foul when the magazine picks Obama.

Maybe they should just cut to the chase and hold a counter-inaugural at which they declare her their president, or queen, or God's Emissary, or whatever. They could all show up in towels.


UPDATE, TUESDAY MORNING: In comments, Donna notes that Obama is now far ahead in the Time poll, with Tina Fey(!) #2 based on average vote (though Palin's #2 in total vote). So maybe I've overestimated the size of the Palin Liberation Front.