Monday, November 30, 2009


Sam Tanenhaus reviews Sarah Palin's book in the current New Yorker, and he tells you everything you need to know to confirm the fact that she is, in fact, going to run for president in three years -- or at least that she sees no impediment whatsoever to a run:

To an extent unmatched by any recent major political figure, she offers the erasure of any distinction -- in skill, experience, intellect -- between the governing and the governed. As one supporter told Conroy and Walshe [authors of the book Sarah from Alaska, "If she can run a home, she can run the government." Palin agrees: "There's no better training ground for politics than motherhood." Describing the responsibilities of managing Alaska's budget, she makes the same argument in fancier language: "Lessons learned on the micro level still apply to the macro. Just as my family couldn't fund every item on our wish list, and had to live within our means as well as save for the future, I felt we needed to do that for the state." Her insistent ordinariness is an expression not of humility but of egotism, the certitude that simply being herself, in whatever unfinished condition, will always be good enough.

(Emphasis added.)

That's exactly it. Everyone expecting her to prepare for a presidential run by learning and studying, or to forgo a run because she doesn't want to learn and study, is missing the point -- she doesn't think she needs to prepare for the presidency any more than she's already prepared, by just living.

And her fans agree. Did you see Joe Verran being interviewed on NBC at Palin's book signing in Grand Rapids on the subject of Palin's qualifications for the presidency, in the first half of the clip below?

JOE VERRAN, PALIN SUPPORTER: ...considering the three we had running last time along with Sarah Palin, she was by far the most qualified to hold that office today.

NORAH O'DONNELL (incredulous): More qualified than John McCain, her running mate?

VERRAN: More qualified -- John McCain, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama, all they've ever done is hold a seat in the Senate for a debate committee.

Nope -- not even McCain's military service cuts it with these folks anymore. He's no Palin -- as Verran tells us, she's "a very real person." And that's what she thinks, too. She thinks that's all the qualification she needs.

All the focus seems to be on Mike Huckabee, who as governor of Arkansas gave clemency to Maurice Clemmons after Clemmons received a 60-year sentence for burglaries committed before he turned 18, but I think those who are wondering why Clemmons was free to (allegedly) shoot four cops in Washington State yesterday ought to take a look at how the authorities have dealt with him since then:

Clemmons had been in jail in Pierce County [Washington] for the past several months on a pending charge of second-degree rape of a child. He was released from custody just six days ago, even though was staring at seven additional felony charges in Washington state.

Clemmons posted $15,000 with a Chehalis company called Jail Sucks Bail Bonds. The bondsman, in turn, put up $150,000, securing Clemmons' release on the pending child-rape charge....

He was married, but the relationship was tumultuous, with accounts of his unpredictable behavior leading to at least two confrontations with police earlier this year.

During the confrontation in May, Clemmons punched a sheriff's deputy in the face, according to court records....

In another instance, Clemmons was accused of gathering his wife and young relatives around at 3 or 4 in the morning and having them all undress. He told them that families need to "be naked for at least 5 minutes on Sunday," a Pierce County sheriff's report says.

"The whole time Clemmons kept saying things like trust him, the world is going to end soon, and that he was Jesus," the report says.

As part of the child-rape investigation, the sheriff's office interviewed Clemmons' sister in May. She told them that "Maurice is not in his right mind and did not know how he could react when contacted by Law Enforcement," a sheriff's report says.

"She stated that he was saying that the secret service was coming to get him because he had written a letter to the President. She stated his behavior has become unpredictable and erratic. She suspects he is having a mental breakdown," the report says.

Deputies also interviewed other family members. They reported that Clemmons had been saying he could fly and that he expected President Obama to visit to "confirm that he is Messiah in the flesh."

Prosecutors in Pierce County were sufficiently concerned about Clemmons' mental health that they asked to have him evaluated at Western State Hospital. Earlier this month, on Nov. 6, a psychologist concluded that Clemmons was competent to stand trial on the child-rape and other felony charges, according to court records....

Yeah, here's a guy who's as sane as you or me -- oh, except for the forced nakedness, the messiah complex, and the belief in his own superhuman powers. That and the apparent multiple felonies up to and including child rape.

Obviously this guy was a toxic mix of dangerous and crazy, and yet he could be back on the streets after posting a $15K bond.

Regarding insanity, as I understand it,* Washington State judges competence to stand trial by the M'Naughten Rule, which regards you as sane if you know right from wrong, whether or not you have sufficient impulse control to avoid doing wrong.

Other states in the union have different insanity tests -- but why does this one persist in even a single state, when even moderate powers of observation would tell you that some people's brains have pockets of proper moral processing but aren't at all capable of preventing those people from committing dangerous, harmful acts? Is it because we think it's weak and wussy to find certain people insane instead of locking 'em all up and throwing away the key?

Of course, then we don't lock 'em up and throw away the key -- when the system does declare Clemmons a common (alleged) criminal, it assesses a very low bail for child rape, for heaven's sake. (Well, the man is black, after all. It's quite possible his alleged victim wasn't a photogenic blond girl over whom Nancy Grace could bill and coo. So no big whoop, right?)

What a mess -- and yet, although a head or two may roll in Washington State, after this the system will treat guys like guys like Clemmons the same way all over the country. The only national impact this will have is on Mike Huckabee's 2012 presidential bid, which has taken a serious hit. Will this hurt his chances of being the Palin-stopper? Who'll step up if so? (I care because I think there's an excellent chance that Barack Obama will be a one-term president -- especially if, as Paul Krugman says, unemployment is still likely to be above 8% in 2012. Theocrat Huckabee scares me almost as much as Palin, so I'm actually pleased if he's taken a hit, deserved or otherwise.)


*UPDATE: See the comments, where I'm told I garbled this.

The Obama campaign was notable for many different things but the biggest, to my mind, was its ability to create and harness a huge amount of creative energy, idealism, and excitement among voters. Anyone remember the article that came out about the Obama "O" graphic and how it was refigured and appropriated by so many different groups? Anyone remember how easy it was to set up a web site, a fundraiser, a day of action, using the Obama campaign as a springboard? I held a fundraiser for Obama based on the theme "a new thing for an old thing" and had everyone bring something they wanted to get rid of and some money. Everyone who came donated their nice but unwanted article and their money and took home someone else's donation. We raised 1,500 dollars, IIRC. At Halloween we downloaded Obama's image and carved it on our pumpkin.

What happened to that enthusiasm and that creativity? If I fault the Obama administration for anything it is that they allowed all that sense of voter investment to die off. I don't have the sense that people watched the inauguration--the high point of my life, certainly--and thought "ok, now I can chill." People were hungry to be called to service, and to be trusted with stuff do to, but the Obama campaign put them out to pasture and only weakly appealed to them late in the Health Care Debate. I know because I stopped getting useful organizational materials and started getting annoying vague appeals to "support the president" by "calling my representatives" or donating money. Previously I could have discovered online groups pushing specific policy proposals, or asking me to go door to door with some kind of locally responsive action agenda.

As everyone in the bloggosphere knows a recent poll shows a huge drop in Democratic voter enthusiasm and a drop in people's intention to vote at all during the 2010 election. There are lots of reasons for this drop--I'm experiencing it myself though I will, of course, vote. But the main reason is that the Obama people decided that they could put the voters out to pasture between 2008 and 2010. Did it look like a really long time to Rahm and Axelrod? Too long to keep up the enthusiasm down ticket? Because it looks like a really short time, to me. In effect Obama and his team had one year to get stuff done to make people happy, and one year to let the Democratic Incumbents and Challengers try to reap the benefits at the local level. And that was just to stay even or get a slightly bigger majority to get more stuff done. In other words, as far as I can see, letting the Obama voter lose contact with, and ownership of, Obama's presidency was a really short sighted move.

Perhaps they did it because the cacophony of local, small time, democratic (small d) voices were too difficult for Obama to respond to in terms of policy, whether in detail or speed. Or perhaps they dropped their connection because the first few months Obama and Rahm were committed to demonstrating that they cared more about being beautifully conciliatory and bipartisan than ugly and partisan.

I hate to go for the sentiment but "in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make" goes double for political action. People are hungry to work with and for their own lives--the teabaggers are proof positive that people will heave themselves up out of their easy chairs, stand in the rain, wear silly clothing--if they feel that their political leaders are asking this sacrifice of them, and if they feel that they will be listened to if they do it. The Obama Administration, unlike the Obama campaign, has forgotten this simple fact and true: the more your trust and empower your supporters the more they are invested in you and your goals. Its a virtuous circle. Rather than assuming that the "grownups" were back in charge and that the agitators and voters and small fry should go into cryostorage until 2010 the Obama people should have allowed the original Obama supporters to continue to field organizers, actions, and ideas. If they'd done that we wouldn't be looking at this immense enthusiasm gap going in to the next election cycle.

While Politico waits for the news cycle to start up again in earnest, it's giving us this as its lead story: the main anti-Obama narratives the right and anti-Obama centrists want to advance, all conveniently collected in one place under the heading "7 Stories Obama Doesn't Want Told."

I'm struck by what's not on the list, which includes many of the old favorites: "He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money"; "Too much Leonard Nimoy"; "That’s the Chicago Way"; "He’s a pushover"; "He sees America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe"; "President Pelosi"; and "He’s in love with the man in the mirror." Most of these are old right and centrist chestnuts -- he's too free-spending, his people are thugs ("Chicago Way"), he's a wimp ("pushover") -- and yes, Harris does note that the latter two seem a tad contradictory, but liberal and Democrats are always accused of being both supervillains capable of destroying Western civilization with a few lawyerly subterfuges and wussy girly-men who should leave politics and stick to flower-arranging and poodle-walking. ("President Pelosi" is probably the only puzzler, but it's a variant on "pushover" -- i.e., that Nurse Ratched Nancy wears the pants in the Obama-era Democratic Party, and is accomplishing more than Obama himself).

So what's missing here? What anti-Obama narrative does Harris skip? Well, it's the one that says Obama cares more about Wall Street than Main Street. It's the one that says he's utterly dropped the ball on the economic recovery with regard to the needs of ordinary citizens.

Now, see, I'd put that one under "Too much Leonard Nimoy," but Harris doesn't. Here's what he writes:

People used to make fun of Bill Clinton's misty-eyed, raspy-voiced claims that, "I feel your pain."

The reality, however, is that Clinton’s dozen years as governor before becoming president really did leave him with a vivid sense of the concrete human dimensions of policy. He did not view programs as abstractions -- he viewed them in terms of actual people he knew by name.

With that as a lead-in, you'd think Harris was going in a Paul Krugman/Bob Herbert direction. Heavens, no:

Obama, a legislator and law professor, is fluent in describing the nuances of problems. But his intellectuality has contributed to a growing critique that decisions are detached from rock-bottom principles.

Both Maureen Dowd in The New York Times and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post have likened him to Star Trek's Mr. Spock.

The Spock imagery has been especially strong during the extended review Obama has undertaken of Afghanistan policy. He'll announce the results on Tuesday. The speech's success will be judged not only on the logic of the presentation but on whether Obama communicates in a more visceral way what progress looks like and why it is worth achieving. No soldier wants to take a bullet in the name of nuance.

I suppose Harris could also be thinking of the suffering of the unemployed and the underwater -- but the fact that he can't even get himself to mention those people tells you that this is a pure right and right-centrist critique. No populism, please -- we're the Village! The real worry with regard to Obama's deliberateness is Afghanistan, dammit -- he's not a steely-eyed rocket man! That's what we need! That's what America wants!

Actually, America wants us to get the hell out of Afghanistan, but never mind. What America wants is a steely-eyed scourge of the rich and friend to the afflicted. But that's not a narrative Obama has to fear because it's coming only from members of the Great Unwashed -- and not the ones reading from scripts written by Dick Armey. Who cares about those people?

Harris's article is Dowd-like, and he invokes Dowd herself, but even she got closer to the real problem with Obama as the general public sees it when (in her November 21 column) she talked about his reluctance to embrace the visceral:

...Obama so values pragmatism, and is so immersed in the thorny details of legislative compromises, that he may be undervaluing the connective bonds of simpler truths.

Americans who are hurting get angry when they learn that Timothy Geithner, as head of the New York Fed before becoming Treasury secretary, caved to the insistence of Goldman Sachs and other A.I.G. trading partners that they get 100 cents on the dollar when he could have struck a far better bargain for taxpayers....

Dowd then goes on to talk about Afghanistan in this context -- and that's what Harris picked up on. Not the bread-and-butter stuff. Because, in his world, that doesn't matter.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our Stupid Discourse:

Look, there's something wrong with this thoughtful analysis, can you spot it?

To begin with, a public option would attract only a few million people, the Congressional Budget Office predicts. Those people would probably be sicker than the general population. For that reason, and because their numbers would be relatively small, their premiums would be higher than for private insurance.

A) The Public Option wouldn't "only attract a few million people" it would, as currently drafted, only *permit* a few million people to be eligible.

B) Those people wouldn't "probably be sicker than the general population"--they would definitely be sicker because the Option, at the moment, is limited to people who have essentially been uninsurable for quite some time, or are uninsurable because they have pre-existing conditions, or are poor and have the risk factors of poverty and low status employment.

C) "For that reason..." their premiums would be higher than for private insurance *which they can't get, and won't get, under any circumstances.* There is no "private insurance" system that is taking these people. They have been priced out, or forced out by reason of pre-existing conditions--from the private insurance market. There is no comparison between those premiums and Public Option premiums because the two markets don't simultaneously exist.

People need Health Care, Health Insurance is simply the means we use to deliver the most health care, the most efficiently, to the largest number of people when they need it. If it doesn't deliver health care, if it doesn't do it efficiently, if it leaves a large number of people uncovered or uncared for, if it doesn't offer health care when they need it--the system is a failure. You can create an insurance system that does all these things but it is never going to be successfully "for profit" if it does. You can create an insurance system that does all these things but as long as it can cherry pick its clients, or force the sickest onto someone else's books, it is never going to do all these things efficiently, or humanely, or cost effectively.

Why at this late date are the reformers allowing this fundamental fact of reality to be obscured? Why do we continue having incoherent surface discussions of "what the Public thinks" when there is no clear or honest information being offered about what the various plans do, for various kinds of families, over the course of the lifetime of those families? In addition, why are pundits and pollsters insisting on talking about a generic "Public Option" when no such Option really exists or, indeed, of "Private Insurance" when no such option realistically is offered, or works, for Americans. I'm sick and tired of having pundits explain to me that the "Public Option" ain't all its cracked up to be when they refuse to admit that the Private Option is nothing like its supposed to be.

The simple fact is that even Americans with Employer Based Health Insurance are only temporarily insured. Medicare and Medicaid are already serving as a way that private insurance (and Employers) dump the sickest among us onto the Public Rolls. But the public doesn't know that, because the Administration doesn't know how to talk clearly about the hidden costs of our Health Care crisis. If the Government, at least, would talk honestly about our Health Care needs from cradle to nursing home the public would have a better idea of just how bad the system is, and where reform will make the most sense. The public would also have a better idea of who to thank when the problems were solved. As it is, the goodies in the bill for the average person are not well understood now and never will be. Most people only grasped how bad private insurance was when they got forced out of the system, or tried to buy in. To the extent that the Obama bill will ameliorate some of those things the citizenry will simply never know--anymore than they think about the regulations that give them pure tap water.



Saturday, November 28, 2009

Well, At Least She Didn't Say "He Seemed So Nice..."


CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio – Following a pipe bomb explosion Monday night, police and federal law enforcement officials are trying to figure why a Center Avenue man turned his apartment into a bomb factory.


"He was always trying to get me and another neighbor to listen to anti-government tapes and watch anti-government videos," said Vachon. "I would never watch them. He was some kind of radical, and he didn't believe in the government."

She said there were other warnings.

"There were a few times I heard minor explosions from outside the apartment building, and he would scream that he had hurt himself," she said. "I never knew what he was up to."

I don't know whether to laugh at this image, or cry. "I heard minor explosions...and he would scream that he hurt himself?" What, was he some kind of cartoon character?


From Dave Niewert at Crooks and Liars.

A lot of people right now are talking about the new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll that shows much greater voter motivation among independents and (especially) Republicans than among Democrats, an obvious warning sign for 2010:

...But a bigger indicator of peril comes from a new survey question added the DK tracking poll for the first time this week. The poll now includes a rather simple indicator of baseline voter enthusiasm for the year 2010. The question offered to respondents is a simple question about their intentions for 2010:

QUESTION: In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, probably vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?

The results were, to put it mildly, shocking:

Voter Intensity: Definitely + Probably Voting/Not Likely + Not Voting

Republican Voters: 81/14
Independent Voters: 65/23

Two in five Democratic voters either consider themselves unlikely to vote at this point in time, or have already made the firm decision to remove themselves from the 2010 electorate pool. Indeed, Democrats were three times more likely to say that they will "definitely not vote" in 2010 than are Republicans.

I'm thinking back to last spring, when I would read lefty blogs and watch Rachel Maddow and a common question was "Why are these silly tea parties even taking place? What exactly do these absurd people want?" Teabaggers' taxes weren't going up, yet they were foolishly complaining about being "taxed enough already." The intervention in the auto industry was obviously temporary, and Wall Street was obviously being treated with kid gloves, but they were absurdly warning of the death of capitalism. Gun laws and broadcasting regulations that no one in the administration was proposing were being hysterically denounced. And on and on.

What was the point? I realize I'm stating the obvious, but this was the point -- this moment of intense GOP voter motivation. It was essentially the only point. It was what Rupert Murdoch had in mind when he hired Glenn Beck just before Inauguration Day; it was what Dick Armey had in mind when copies of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals began circulating around his organization FreedomWorks. The point was to get as many people as possible angry about anything whatsoever in order to throw sand in the gears of Obamaism, and then ride that anger to big electoral victories as quickly as possible, using now-motivated anti-Obama voters and counting on the disappointment of the '08 Obama electorate. Those guys got it right: there was no point in even waiting for Obama and the congressional Democrats to actually do anything that threatened the status quo; just describe everything and anything as an outrage, whether real, exaggerated, or utterly fake (Obama's birth certificate! death panels!) and create an insurgency out of the anger, one that, even if it can't seize the reins of power, can make the nation ungovernable for those who hold those reins, until the reins can finally be seized.

This wasn't supposed to work -- the people doing it couldn't get anything to work in 2008. But you actually need a majority in an election; in an insurgency, you don't. (You don't need a majority in the Senate, either, obviously.)

By the way, this poll is yet another nail in the coffin of the ridiculous theory that Beck/Palin/teabaggism is "post-partisan," i.e., just as opposed to the GOP as to the Democratic Party. If that were the message the rubes were taking away from Beck/Palin/teabag rhetoric, Republican voters in this poll would be just as demoralized as Democrats; they'd be saying, "Oh, what's the use of voting? There's no viable third-party movement, and both major parties suck." But that's just the opposite of what this poll shows. And of course that's the case. Beck and Palin and the leaders of the 'baggers whisper their contempt for the GOP and shout their anti-Democrat anger at the top of their lungs. And their contempt for the GOP is couple with praise for what they say the GOP should be.

As you know if you're a regular reader, I don't buy the notion that the way to turn this around is to pass health-care reform, because I don't think it's what voters really want first. I think the answer would be a real focus on the economy as it's experienced by ordinary Americans, along with an effort to give Wall Street the caning it deserves. I find myself thinking that the financial meltdown was Obama's 9/11, and health care was the Iraq he decided to focus on while all the Osama bin Fat Cats were still at large. Unfortunately, I don't think he's going to reverse course any more than Bush did.

Hi, I'm back, at least for now. (More company's coming tomorrow, so I may not be posting again till Monday.) I see from her latest column that Peggy Noonan is very taken with the notion of a failed Obama presidency -- but when you get to the end of what she's written on the subject, it's as if she's deliberately included glaringly obvious flaws in her argument; in other words, it's as if she wanted to turn the column into the verbal equivalent of one of those can-you-spot-the-seven-mistakes-in-this-drawing? puzzlers in the Sunday comics.

Here's what she writes:

When the previous White House came under mounting criticism from 2005 through '08, they comforted themselves by thinking, They criticized Lincoln, too. You could see their minds whirring: Lincoln was criticized, Lincoln was great, ergo we are great. But of course just because they say you're stupid doesn't mean you're Lincoln.

One senses the Obama people are doing the Lincoln too, and adding to it the consoling thought that this is only the first year, we've got three years to go, we can change perceptions, don't worry.

But they should worry. You can get tagged, typed and pegged your first year. Gerald Ford did, and Ronald Reagan too, more happily. The first year is when indelible impressions are made and iconic photos emerge.

What's wrong with this picture? Well, just the fact that if you're going to argue that impressions of a president become set in concrete within the first year of a term, you really don't want to talk about George W. Bush, do you? His approval ratings were stratospherically high after 9/11; people like Peggy Noonan thought he was the bee's knees, and about 80% of the country agreed. Indelible impressions? Iconic photos? Yeah that pose on the rubble with the bullhorn sure seemed pretty freaking indelible, didn't it? How'd that work out, Peg?

Oh, and Reagan in his first year was "tagged, typed and pegged ... happily" in his first year in office? Really, Peg? Your thoughts, Mr. Gallup?

Ronald Reagan, like Obama, also dropped below 50% in his 10th month in office, though Reagan's drop occurred a few days sooner in that month (Nov. 13-16, 1981) than did Obama's (Nov. 17-19, 2009).

People were really quite unhappy with the Gipper back in the near-depression days of '81 and '82. I suppose Noonan didn't notice this at the time because she was too busy sitting around in her bobby socks, moonily singing "You Made Me Love You, I Didn't Want to Do It" to movie-magazine photos of the big lug.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Runner Up Pardoned Turkey?

Oversized Breasts, Runner Up, Not Able to Fulfill Duties? Carrie Prejean?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Roasted Turkey Stock
Spicy Indian Cranberry Chutney
Vegetarian No Garlic Entree (Fillo Stuffed with mushrooms, cheese, onions, shallots and acorn squash.
Bulk Peeled all other background stuff.

Now the Turkey Wrassling begins. This is not going to be pretty. Also left: Carrot salad, Pumpkin pie, Apple Croustade, Vegetarian and non Vegetarian stuffing, Fennel Salad, Grapefruit Sorbet, Dinner-rolls-I-don't-know-how-to-make, Brussel sprouts without benefit of garlic or bacon (pointless!), creamed spinach.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Skip the diary but don't miss the video. This Kos diary has an absolutely jaw droppingly powerful set of interviews with the people waiting online to get their copy of Palin's book signed. Its nothing you don't know already, in a sense, but the interviewer is so skillful and so non-judgmental that he really gets people to delve deeply into what they think they are buying when they are buying what Palin is selling. The whole video is worth watching, even if (like me!) you don't have time for this kind of viewing while also trying to get Thanksgiving ready. The takeaway point of the video is that people regard Sarah Palin as an iconic representation of a lost American world: a world of whiteness, of safety, of maternity, of strength, of low spending, of autonomy, of greatness ("America first, everyone else last"). When pushed to say if they think she should be President many say yes, but its clearly more aspirational than expected. Many say it as though they would like it, but don't think she can be elected (after all, you can't win representing a lost America since that America that wants you is, by definition, no longer existent.) One man explains helpfully that because Obama is going to legalize all the illegals there won't enough white votes for Palin. Others target the Republican Party itself as standing in her way.

What struck me most is the rediscovery that for many people in America-if that line is representative of Americans generally--the very idea of an "issue" or a "policy question" is foreign. That's not what politics is. Its not the search to implement any particular policy. Its a question of vision, of mythology, of tribal, totemic identification with (or rejection of) an idea of the country and of one's self. All that other stuff--what Palin would do about health care, or cap and trade, or immigration, or China--eventually produces only "In what respect...Charlie?" or in the words of Palin's response to Couric "I'll go out and I'll get 'em for ya."

I'm not trying to make fun of these people. I thought the interviewer did an incredibly sympathetic job of letting people work towards talking about things they thought were important and giving them all the time they needed. And I don't think its easy to give an interview at all--and these people weren't professionals. But what struck me was that they moved, like Palin, from a very smug moment of self satisfaction at the start of the interview to an almost painful puzzlement as the interviewer kept trying to let them express themselves. If you watch the video lots of people were prepared with a first sound bite "she stands for America!" "She makes me proud to be a woman!" That was like the moment in Palin's interviews when she knew she'd handled the softball questions well. But as the interviewer didn't end the interview but instead asked for more detail the interviewee begins to get nervous. They have to explain some things that they had taken for granted. The very question seems to challenge them. As they start to talk more, and find themselves giving an impromptu lecture to this helpful student they find that they don't have the faintest idea what to offer to back up their gut feeling. Some of them become puzzled, others apologetic, others excitable. That's because the interviewer is forcing them to think rationally, programmaticaly, and coherently about something that was really totally amorphous and emotional. Its like asking someone just before they get engaged "no, but really, have you ever thought about your fiancee's views on the moon landing? What does she know about astro-physics, anyway?" The questions just seem beside the point, and then frightening.

I Don't Know That I Agree With This:

What the people who are flipping out about the treatment of Palin should be asking themselves is what it means when it’s not just jerks like us but everybody piling on against Palin. For those of you who can’t connect the dots, I’ll tell you what it means. It means she’s been cut loose. It means that all five of the families have given the okay to this hit job, including even the mainstream Republican leaders. You teabaggers are in the process of being marginalized by your own ostensible party leaders in exactly the same way the anti-war crowd was abandoned by the Democratic party elders in the earlier part of this decade. Like the antiwar left, you have been deemed a threat to your own party’s “winnability.”

And do you know what that means? That means that just as the antiwar crowd spent years being painted by the national press as weepy, unpatriotic pussies whose enthusiastic support is toxic to any serious presidential aspirant, so too will all of you afternoon-radio ignoramuses who seem bent on spending the next three years kicking and screaming your way up the eternal asshole of white resentment now find yourself and your political champions painted as knee-jerk loonies whose rabid irrationality is undeserving of the political center. And yes, that’s me saying that, but I’ve always been saying that, not just about Palin but about George Bush and all your other moron-heroes.

What’s different now is who else is saying it. You had these people eating out of the palms of your hands (remember what it was like in the Dixie Chicks days?). Now they’re all drawing horns and Groucho mustaches on your heroes, and rapidly transitioning you from your previous political kingmaking role in the real world to a new role as a giant captive entertainment demographic that exists solely to be manipulated for ratings and ad revenue. What you should be asking yourself is why this is happening to you. Even I don’t know the answer to that question, but honestly, I don’t really care. All I know is that I find it extremely funny.

Its the great Matt Taibbi, and I agree that, in a sense Palin has been "cut loose" and the hit is on. But I don't agree that the "Five Families" aka the Republican elites are going to be able to marginalize the Palinites and the teabaggers for whom she has become a symbol. One problem is the confusion in the three paragraphs, which may be due to my misreading, between the political leadership and the media moguls. It is the media guys who are "drawing horns and Groucho mustaches..." and who are "transitioning" the rebels into a "new role as a giant captive entertainment demographic..." But of course none of the viewing audience has ever been anything other than such an entertainment graphic--have they?

Just look at Digby's clip from Hardball in which all the political crises facing the country are reduced to the notion that there's a "30-40 year old demographic" that "wants to make a buck..." and a real, serious, senior voter "55 and older" who want to decrease the deficit. Matthews et al not only assume a certain demographic in their viewers, but project totally bizarre notions of these limited demographics onto voters. Oddly enough lots of people are still "interested in making a buck" (also known as surviving) from age 20 right up until retirement, and increasingly no one is retiring. But demo speak only knows little bitty ten year slices apparently. Because the entertainment/news industry explicitly models its political coverage on the idea of the voter as consumer, buying some cheap, knock off policies that politicians are selling. Also, demo speak only addresses individuals qua individuals--they are never in family units, or experiencing the demands of family and friends. So grandparents never worry about the economic realities faced by their children and grandchildren. And none of those "30-40 year olds" are trying to pay for both their children and their parents when they "make a buck."

At any rate I agree with Taibbi that, for a lot of reasons, Palin is going to rapidly descend from "America's next potential leader" to "America's next public pratfaller." That's the celebrity cycle in a nutshell generally speaking. It is all the more the celebrity cycle for a mass, pop cultural phenomenon. And that is what Palin is--because that is who she has chosen to be. Palin marketed herself aggressively to McCain's base as an outsider for outsiders, as a holy roller for religious fringe types, as a working mom for the disaffected. In the heat of the campaign the Republican party and the mass media were happy to accept that this was authentic and meaningful and delightful and that such people (being authentic americans with real votes to spend) should have their icons stamped and sent directly to the White House. When McCain's populist gambit failed to put him over the top during the last election cycle Palin was supposed to go back into her box, or prepare to be used again in four years by some other kingmaker who needed some populist cred. But she refused to go back and went out on the hustings again marketing herself--mistaking the populist base of the GOP for a real, potential national power base.

Palin is selling herself to the fringiest, most unhappy, most aggressive, most detached segment of America's right wing. She is demanding that they see her as one of them, and they do. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction, doesn't it? And the equal and opposite reaction that Palin is having with the mass media is that the more she aligns herself with our crazy aunt in the national attic the more she loses the kind of class status and social distance that enabled them to swallow her in the first place because John McCain gave her his imprimatur. This is the same phenomenon you see in any caste society, btw, when a lower caste tries to come to power, or when an upper caste person associates with a lower caste person. Look at Howard Dean, who Taibbi discusses elsewhere in the post, he was assigned the class status (and by class status I mean really a kind of political status) of the anti-war movement and therefore seen as impossible as a legitimate candidate. For purposes of democratic mythology the press are willing to pretend, every four years, that everyone in the country is entitled to dream of getting representation in the White House. But as Taibbi argues in the post they inevitably determine which candidates will be taken seriously and which won't.

Palin, like her voters, may have been determined to be beyond the pale right now (and she and they may not). But this minor, aesthetic repudiation will only continue until the Republican party has need of them again and then a new figurehead will be put forward to take the torch from Palin's faltering hands. This has to happen because although the Press doesn't need one Palin, or another, to fill the 24 hour maw the Republican party does just as soon as it needs votes. Which is by way of saying that I don't think for one minute that the Republican party is going to be able to dethrone its own new heroes, or assuage the grassroots anger of the teabaggers. However much they may want to "draw mustaches" on anyone's picture they are going to do it quietly, in the back of the bus. Because the lunatics are driving and they want to go where Palin, or someone like her, is taking them.
So will the first new Castellanos/Steele ad campaign feature Michael Steele's black hands crumpling up the Washington Times? Voice over "I did the work...but they had to give the credit to a white guy?"
Another Friedman Unit Down the Drain:

A U.S. military official used the term "decisional" to describe Monday evening's meeting among Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Gates, Clinton, National Security Adviser Jim Jones, Eikenberry and senior U.S. military commanders.

The administration's plan contains "off-ramps," points starting next June at which Obama could decide to continue the flow of troops, halt the deployments and adopt a more limited strategy or "begin looking very quickly at exiting" the country, depending on political and military progress, one defense official said.

"We have to start showing progress within six months on the political side or military side or that's it," the U.S. defense official said.

That's it? Well, all righty then!

Ah, well. I hoped Obama would be courageous enough to take the bull by the horns rather than "letting us down easy" by throwing another 34,000 troops x 1 million dollars down the drain. I take it that this is part of the long projected "declare something and get out" strategy that never really pans out. It reminds me of the old joke: A Drill Sargent must inform a recruit that his mother has died. He lets the kid down easy "son, your mother is very sick but she's going to get better..." Next week "son, your mother is very sick, its not looking good..." Week after "son, your mother is very sick, she may not make it..." and so on and on and on until the kid has been so thoroughly broken to the news that it doesn't come as any surprise. Well, its funnier when someone else tells it. Not the President.


Monday, November 23, 2009


Last week a Washington Post poll on healthcare reform included the question: "Do you think Obama's views on most issues are too (liberal) for you, too (conservative) for you, or just about right?" The results:
Too liberal: 40%.
Just about right: 52%.
Too conservative: 7%.
Seven percent. A number that would have to increase by 42% to break into double digits. Just over 1/6 of the 'too liberal' number. A number that can only be described as pathetic.

Progressives aren't marginalized; progressives are marginal. If you want better outcomes, make your ideas more popular.

Here endeth the lesson.
Not Good:

Steve Benen lays out what appears to be the major form of Democratic Strategery with the recalcitrant "centrist" Dems on Health Care. That is, that negotiations take place between the centrists, who don't want reform at all, and the progressives, who really want a bill.

This necessarily affects negotiations. One contingent wants to avoid failure; the other contingent considers failure a satisfactory outcome. Both sides know what the other side is thinking.

Yes, progressive Democrats can force the issue, keep the bill intact, and force Nelson, Landrieu, Lieberman, and Lincoln to kill the legislation, in the process making clear exactly who was responsible for the debacle. But that's cold comfort -- the goal isn't to position center-right Dems to take the blame for failure; the goal ostensibly is to pass a bill that will do a lot of good for a lot of people.

The push for more "compromise" isn't going to be pretty.

Steve has put his finger on it: if that's the strategy it is a crashingly stupid one. Any negotiator could tell you that right off. But that isn't the only strategy. Its just the most unrewarding.

Now, its true enough that the Democratic leadership has so badly bungled the pre-bill negotiations that they have allowed themselves to arrive at a crucial series of bottlenecks without properly controlling the bill, or the caucus. First of all, in order to buy the crucial first vote to start debate Reid needlessly watered down the Public Option to make it an Opt Out. That makes the "compromise position" no Public Option at all. A stronger starting point would have been, as everyone knows, either Medicare for All, or Medicare Plus Five, or anything else that could be cut in half and still deliver the goods at the end of the day. No doubt Reid "had" to do it because of the free range chickens in the caucus--but that only shoves the responsibility for buying or bludgeoning their votes farther down the historical timeline. Since we were always going to reach this point, one way or another, there's no excuse for leaving the heavy lifting until the last possible moment and then shoving it off on the progressives in the caucus since the power between "I don't care" and "I really want this" doesn't lie with the progressives. That's because the Democrats seem to be conceiving of the situation as one in which the centrist dems and the republicans are on one side of a see/saw and the progressives are on the other. Reid and the White House are some kind of fulcrum in between. But that's wrong--or if its the right analogy they need to realize that they have the power to change the terms of the debate by moving the fulcrum.

The moving of the fulcrum can be understood in a couple of ways: changing the partners to the debate, changing the terrain of the debate, changing the focus of the negotiations. The White House has tried changing the partners to the debate--by getting to Snowe and Collins. This would have shifted the leverage dramatically from the Dems to Snowe and Collins so it wasn't a very good strategy from the point of view of the actual Bill. Changing the focus of the negotiations would have been accomplished by a better/harder bargaining strategy from the get go so that instead of struggling with the lesser public option we were struggling to keep a stronger one.

Changing the terrain of the debate is my preferred option. What does that mean? It means recognizing something that the Democrats appear not to grasp: the power in any inter-bill negotiations lie with the parties to that negotiation, but the power as a whole lies with the White House, Reid, and the Caucus as a whole if they choose to use that power. This is the power to continue to act, successfully, as a Senator for the rest of your Senatorial career. What is at issue is not just this bill but all future bills and Senatorial comity itself.

A narrow focus on this bill, and bargaining for advantage within this bill, means that all compromises are cut from the body of Health Care Reform. The hand of the recalcitrant Senators is strengthened as long as the progressives and Reid are simply trying to gain their votes within the context of Health Care--bribing them with Health Care goodies, or offering to cut Health Care goodies. But if the Administration and the Caucus expands their focus to everything else the Senate does, or will do, the terrain shifts dramatically. As long as bitter, ugly, and fruitless negotiations over health care are permitted to go on alongside business as usual there is no incentive for the centrist Dems to act like Democrats and put party loyalty ahead of private gain. So link up--link up these votes (for both clotures) to future standing in the caucus, future goodies, future assistance from the rest of the caucus. If you do that the hand of the progressives *as colleagues* is strengthened immeasurably. Suddenly they have something to trade for those votes--not to trade away. This boils down to: Strip them of their Chairmanships. Strip them of coatroom priviliges. Strip them of any DSCC funding or assistance. Strip them of any offers to put forward legislation with them, or to work with them on legislation. Total Ban. Total Shunning.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I have family coming in for the holidays and I have to do a lot of preparation (psychological as well as practical), so I'm going to be off the Intertubes this week. Aimai will be here, as well as the old gang of guest bloggers. Happy Thanksgiving -- I'll see you (I think) next Sunday.

From a New York Times article about PR efforts by the big movie studios:

To promote the DVD release of "Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure," Disney publicists went so far as to get the United Nations to name the character an "honorary ambassador of green" to help promote environmental awareness among children.

OK, Beck and Palin fans -- explain that. I'm sure you all believe that the United Nations is even more of a commie, one-world, anti-capitalist operation than even the hated Obama White House. And yet here it is, happily agreeing to promote a bit of low-rent direct-to-DVD product for one of the biggest entertainment megacorporations on the planet.

You're right about globalism, except for one thing: it's all about money, not "socialism." It really is a small world after all -- and we just buy stuff in it.

From today's New York Times:

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- When tickets to see Sarah Palin in Michigan ran out, people drove to her appearance here, three hours away.

Thousands had lined up overnight, starting nearly 24 hours before she was to begin signing books, camping out in 39-degree weather for a moment with the woman many see as the great conservative hope, a role model, "one of us."

They brought their sleeping bags, their children, homemade chocolate Cheerios bars, and balloons to twist into animal shapes and hats for the crowd....

Remind you of anything? Especially the spontaneous hours-long car ride across state lines, just for the opportunity to be in the crowd?

Maybe we need a new name for these people: Palinheads. To be sure, the drugs are different (make all the crystal meth jokes you want, but I bet white sugar and hugh-fructose corn syrup were the pricipal substances of abuse; I bet the "homemade chocolate Cheerios bars" weren't the most caloric items being abused in the queues, and weren't the only ones cooked up from a recipe on the back of a box). But maybe Palin really is the Grateful Dead of the 21st century -- not just someone to whom certain people want to devote a few hours of their time every so often, but a way of life, a central organizing principle of their existence.

Maybe Palin will just travel around the country making appearances (beats going back to Alaska), and fans will go on months-long pilgrimages to follow her. Maybe they'll avidly trade cellphone videos of her, endlessly debating which were her best shows. Maybe, a few years from now, they'll sneer at the newbies who weren't at Fort Wayne in '09, maaaan.

It could be a long, stra-- no, I'm not going to say it.
Sadly, No! Hates Amy Alkon

But come on, guys! For this:

I feel best going after telemarketers. I'm not mean to the people on the phone – they have bad jobs. I find the company they are selling for, the top honcho and his home number. I call him at home. Then I invoice them for the use of my time and my phone line.

One company that wouldn't pay I sued in small claims court. I beat them. I got $50.

You almost have to love her. Well, almost.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I know I should be blogging about health care, but this morning I learned from Politico that Glenn Beck has been teasing fans with the promised announcement of something he's called "the Plan," and today he explained what it is:

Glenn Beck reveals the Plan


... Today, I have stopped looking for a leader to show us the way out because I have come to realize that the only one who can truly save our us.

... While I will be explaining the entire Plan over the coming weeks and months, I did want to give you a preview of some of the highlights:

- ... we will be conducting a series of conventions. These will be full-day experiences where you will be immersed in learning about topics ranging from self-reliance, community organizing, the economy and how to be a political force in your own neighborhood and country. The first one will be in Orlando at UCF Arena on March 27th....

- I have begun meeting with some of the best minds in the country that believe in limited government, maximum freedom and the values of our Founders. I am developing a 100 year plan.... It will require unconventional thinking and a radical plan to restore our nation to the maximum freedoms we were supposed to have been protecting, using only the battlefield of ideas.

- All of the above will culminate in The Plan, a book that will provide specific policies, principles and, most importantly, action steps that each of us can take to play a role in this Refounding....

So now we see what Glenn Beck really is: He's basically a televangelist. A huckster. A late-night pitchman selling seminars and book/DVD/audio combo packages that will allegedly help you get rich through flipping real estate. A human-potential-movement cult leader who promises life breakthroughs in exchange for participation in costly "religious" or "therapy" programs.

He wants you to attend one (or, surely, many) of his "conventions." Will they be free? I strongly doubt it -- oh, maybe the first taste will be free, but after that, I'd guess no. And he wants you to buy the next book (and, surely several after that). And there's a "100 year plan" in the works -- you can't ever get off the mailing list because the good work he's involving you in is never done!

Politico's story on the announcement of this describes it as Beck's foray into direct political action:

Glenn Beck, the popular conservative Fox News television host whose broadsides against President Obama have drawn his network into a feud with the White House, on Saturday signaled he intended to branch off more directly into political activism.

... Beck wrote that he has been meeting with "some of the best minds in the country that believe in limited government, maximum freedom and the values of our Founders" to develop "a 100 year plan" to defeat "the bipartisan corruption in Washington." The activities will culminate in an August rally in Washington timed to coincide with the release of a planned Beck book....

Additionally, POLITICO has learned that Beck’s 9.12 Project is co-sponsoring a march on Washington on Sept. 11, 2010 to voice unhappiness with the agenda of President Obama and the Democratic congress, and that the group will also become involved in voter registration drives....

Yes, it has a lot to do with the midterms. But really, I think it's about having a large number of opportunities to build loyalty to the Beck brand and separate the rubes from their money.

You look at, say, Rush Limbaugh, and he may sell products on his Web site, but he's really all about the broadcasting and the dissemination of ideology. He makes a pretty penny from his main job. He's written a grand total of two books in his twenty-year career as a right-wing talker; Beck's published three books this year alone.

A while back, David Frum asked whether the righty blowhards would switch political sides if it would increase their wealth and fame. I said then that they'd regard it as an absurd question -- how could you possibly make more money on the left than on the right? I still think that -- it's like asking a televangelist based in the Deep South if he'd convert to Islam to double his revenue. He'd just look at you in disbelief and say (if he were being perfectly honest), "Why the hell would I ever do that? I do this and the money just pours in." I think that's how Beck sees matters right now -- he has four books on various bestseller lists right now, and he wants to sell even more product -- and 9.12ism is going to be his meal ticket.
So True.

Athenae on why Chris Matthews is Chris Matthews:

HE'S A COMPLETE AND TOTAL MORON. Oh, my God, he's just such a kitchen appliance. He's a blender. Maybe a whisk. He has the wide world experience of your average two-year-old. He's just a fucking idiot. If you make it any more complicated than that you will once and forever lose the fucking thread.

Everything these people know about life outside their bubble, they have learned from TV and the movies. EVERYTHING. Tweety is picturing something he saw in a movie once, maybe, where a defendant gets up and makes an impassioned speech and the judge starts crying and everyone agrees that this man should go free to murder and terrorize no more.

He saw Inherit the Wind, maybe, and he thinks it's like that. All the time. For everything. From traffic tickets on up...
Time Is What Prevents Everything From Happening At Once.

The big question for me is "what is the shelf life of Palin and of Palinism? I think that Palin's shelf life is actually going to be rather short--longer perhaps than any other failed VP candidate in American history but short in political life terms. Palinism is another story. That will be with us as long as there is a Republican Party and a retro/angry white base for it to lean on.

The important thing to remember about Palin as a candidate for any national office is that it takes way more than for "Barkis to be willing." The Candidate proposes but the national party, the money men, and the talented managerial staff (in the end) dispose. McCain essentially failed into the nomination during the last round of Republican Primaries. That is, his other competition, each with their varying bases, finances, friends, connections and staffs canceled each other out and he was the last man standing. But at that point all the money and staff came to him. They ran a lousy campaign but his campaign managers were far from inexperienced. The first hurdle for Palin is going to be putting together an actual crack team next time around. She may be able to get the best people, or she may not.

McCain had OK people running his campaign, but they were, of course, hampered by the fact that McCain's logical voters were unexcited by him. That's why they brought Palin on. They explicitly wanted to get the well organized Evangelical Church turnout going. That's a base that's really sturdy. But is that really Sarah's base now? I'm not so sure. There seems to be a big overlap between the Tea Baggers/Dick Armey's tools and Palin's public fan base. But these are all different things. For one thing, despite Dick's best efforts, the Tea Baggers are proving to be difficult to herd and are currently suing each other left right and right of center. This, needless to say, is going to be a serious energy suck and if they can't get the problem under control the Tea Baggers as an authentic populist movement are going to be really hamstrung. Worse (from their point of view) they will become unable to organize anything at the grassroots, let alone voter registration and turn out.

Which brings us back to the actual Evangelical Churches/Mega Churches/Christian right. Are they really going to be Sarah's base? I can't tell. I've got no particular insight into this. To my mind Sarah has a problem with (some) portion of the truly right wing religious in this country. I know some women chose to vote "third party" because they did not approve of her working outside the home although they did approve, of course, of the five kids, the religiosity, and the unaborted baby. But those women tend to be extremely anti government--Sarah actually blotted her copybook further with them by claiming that she would encourage some kind of government action on behalf of special needs children once she was in the White House. Every attempt to reach out to Independents/people who don't hate and fear government was seen as a betrayal by this faction.

Perhaps that is neither here nor there. What matters for this group as a whole is the hierarchy and what they think. But are they going to throw their weight behind Palin early enough, as well as late enough, to push her to the top of the candidate field? That is going to depend on who else is running. All things being equal if they can get a respectable, responsible, handsome, male in that role they are going to prefer that. Not least because after following the last campaign they must be as aware as McCain and his team are that Sarah can't be controlled and channeled. On this blog we've been talking a lot about what Sarah's fans think, or see, but the truth of the matter is that the big money people, and the big mega church people, are as important in this mix. They, too, are watching Sarah on this unofficial campaign tour. Every misstep, every public lie, every little bit of ugliness and every piece of information is being watched. And when those guys watch Sarah at work they are going to be balancing her undeniable crowd appeal/fundraising success against the fact that they won't be able to reach any real agreement with Sarah about how the next campaign is going to be run, or how the country is going to be run. The principle fact of Palin's life is that she is extremely stupid, self interested, and unteachable. I don't say that because I don't like her. I say that because of what she says about herself and how she describes the campaign. People worked for McCain because they loved him and people are extremely forgiving of men, especially (sniff) war heroes when they are cranky assholes. They are incredibly unforgiving of women. And they are scared of them--scared of their uncontrollable angers, whims, and confusions. We need to factor that inherent sexist imbalance into the picture before we can begin to think realistically about how Dobson et al are going to approach the early funding and backing of Palin.

Which is a long winded way of saying that a few years is a long time in political life. And its a longer time in a woman's life. Palin has the unenviable task of keeping herself in the public eye, and respectably so, for two years before she even starts officially running. Of course she can do it. She is at least as well equipped as previous right wing darlings like Coulter to show up at important events, punditing, etc... And, of course, not holding any kind of public office or job means that she can freely pontificate on any topic without fear of having to put any of her theories into practice. That's all good. Its the same route Huckabee has chosen, though less successfully, to keep his name in the public's eye. But the longer she's in the public eye the more chances she and her entourage have to descend into farce, or disaster, a la Jon and Kate plus Eight--or even a la Princess Diana. Live as a Celebrity mother/sex object and die the same way. McCain bet the farm that she would serve her purpose before he ran out of electoral time. And he was wrong. Essentially she's running the same gambit--can she run out the clock on her own flaws and imperfections as a role model, political actor, and campaigner?

If she can't make it over the hump and gain the nomination for her party in 2011 what's next for Palin? Can she can continue on as a cult figure, like Ron Paul or Nader or Perot? I think she can, but not in a very meaningful way. But every year we move away from her original burst onto the stage the voting population that supports her will get older and whiter and less relevant. Will their kids be as excited by her? Because if not, appealing to Palin's popularity will, in a few years, become as mythic and strange as the recent appeals back to Reagan. The old geezers keep talking about him but most of the younger voters simply have no idea what they are talking about. She's been compared to Nixon, but she's no Nixon. She is not now, and never will be, the successful architect and manager of her own career on the national stage. She either has the backing, or she will fail. She's been compared to Buchanan and to Gingerich. There, I think, the comparison holds a bit more water. As I said before in the post "Imitation of Life" there's plenty of money to be made punditing around on the basis of having been an also ran, at least for Republicans. I can well imagine Palin having a niche market in sound bites and pundit interviews for a very long while to come. But other than bitching and sniping and lying (and I mean that perfectly analytically) she doesn't actually have much to say so if that's her goal she will end up some kind of Fox News figure with relatively little significance--she'll always say the same thing. The same people will listen to her, and the same people will ignore her. She will cease to be an important figure because she will cease to surprise or to lead.

But what of Palinism? That, I think, will be around for a long time since its just the latest avatar of anti-government, white ressentiment, christianist hand-wringing, apocalyptic, faux small town nostalgia. Because its all those things at once, and they are neither mutually inclusive nor mutually exclusive, expect to see Palinism (once it is freed of Palin herself) fragmenting and re-arranging itself around various hysterias--sometimes anti-tax, sometimes anti-gay sometimes hyper-patriotic sometimes extremely anti-government (and these are of course, sometimes the same thing). But without a polar figure around whom to dance it will not succeed so as soon as Palin is no longer sucking up the oxygen the various segments of her following will be looking for a new icon to worship.

In response to the previous post, ploeg says this, which is about Sarah Palin and her fans buts gets me thinking about the GOP and America:

Disillusionment takes time. Bush's poll numbers dropped steadily over the first six years of his presidency (with brief blips at 9/11, the Iraq invasion, and the capture of Saddam). Unfortunately, it took those six years for Bush to hit rock bottom, and he had a small but hard core of support even then. I wouldn't count on Sarah [Palin] following suit anytime soon, particularly since she has no responsible position at this time and can throw daggers as she pleases without having her fans call her to account.

Well, yeah -- and this is the danger of the magical thinking right-wingers (all of them, not just Palin) are encouraging right now: There's no reality test. None of the absurd proposals they make can be falsified for the next three years. And everything bad that happens in that time will be deemed the fault of Obama and the Democrats, even if (e.g., the financial crash, the wars) it's rooted in profound Republican failure, and it'll be treated as the Democrats' fault even if Republicans win back the House in 2010 (hell, even if they somehow manage to win back the Senate, though I don't see how that's possible).

Palin will never completely lose her core base of support, any more than Bush has -- 20- or 30-odd percent of the country will remain diehards. She has trouble with voters in the center largely, I think, because Tina Fey's imitation of her is so indelible; there's a negative baseline image of Palin now that's thoroughly negative, and everything she does that suggests the Fey version of Palin reinforces that negative image.

Unfortunately, there's no negative baseline image of conservatism as it's practiced these days. The crazy things right-wingers are saying don't seem inherently crazy to much of the center, and that's true because no negative idea of conservatism has taken root in the heartland, even now. (Yeah, I know that the GOP gets lousy ratings in polls, but a lot of that has to do with Bush's incompetence, which I fear isn't seen as ideological by much of the country, and with right-wingers thinking the GOP isn't wingnutty enough.)

There is a negative baseline image of liberalism, of course -- it's carefully cultivated by the right-wing noise machine on a 24/7/365 basis. Liberals, we're told unceasingly, are crazy and evil and pathetic and dangerous and scary and bent on the destruction of America. So as soon as a Democrat starts sounding too scarily, evil-ly liberal, a cloud of suspicion forms. No similar cloud forms over the crazies on the right, Palin excepted -- and she's excepted because Tina Fey made her look like the dolt she is, not because what she's saying is nuts.

I think, politically, she's toast, except among her fan base (which will largely forgive her any glitches on her book tour). But what she's saying, and what her fellow crazies are saying, isn't toast, because no noise machine discredits it.

Friday, November 20, 2009


The anger at Sarah Palin for leaving fans in the lurch at an Indiana book signing sure seems genuine, but I'll repeat what I said to Aimai in comments:

Don't forget the nature of deep fandom. How many big fans of Michael Jackson truly believe he molested children? Only the ones who were actually molested and their immediate friends and families, as far as I can tell. Everyone else just explained away the sleepovers and the cuddling in bed and the bedroom with the special lock system on the door. That's what the Palinites who weren't at this signing will do -- explain it away in their own heads. It must be someone else's fault! Not Sarah's! (And they'll say that even if fellow Palinites are saying just the opposite.)
Notes Jotted Down On Seeing Sarah Palin Attacked By Her Fans

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it...

That is one hell of an If...
Can This Ever Happen to Palin?

h/t LGM From the Colorado Independent:

Carrie Prejean, the decrowned Miss California USA and darling of the Christian right, appears to have been scrubbed from the National Organization for Marriage website. The move comes in the wake of a TMZ interview with the man whom Prejean reportedly met through MySpace and had a four-day hotel fling with in 2007. He alleges Prejean sent a series of sex tapes to him over the next couple of years. It’s the latest chapter in the story of Prejean’s partygirl past, which keeps leaking into the public sphere, ruining what had been her budding career as a Christian-values conservative politics spokesperson.

“She’s just using religion to get to where she’s at right now,” Prejean’s former lover told TMZ. “Really, I mean if she was just herself and she’d just take the route of ‘Hey I just like to party and I like to have a great time and I’m hot,’ hey, that sells too. She’s just trying to sell to a different crowd right now, and I’m not buying it, and a lot of people that know her, I mean, they don’t buy it either.”

Prejean became a darling of the values-voter bloc when she told gay blogger Perez Hilton during this year’s Miss USA pageant that marriage should be restricted to straight couples.

Now, Carrie Prejean is a straight up fake, and Palin is (presumably) a true believer (after a confused fashion) in the cult of Sarah the conservative icon, but the belief of the believer doesn't matter. In a cult of personality, its what the cult believes that is important. Another way of looking at it is that if you want to be a spokesmodel for soap, you've got to keep your image clean or people don't want to buy your brand.

The problem for us is-do we want Palin to keep succeeding, on the theory that she can never pull more than a fraction of the GOP base and will split the party and render it electorally null. Or do we fear that she can somehow get over on a large enough portion of the country's newly minted "independents" and even delusional democrats and somehow rise to power? In the first case, I don't want to see her discredited because she does more harm than good to the GOP brand while out on the trail. In the second case, I want to see her discredited fast before Palinism becomes a successful brand of populism and she ends up in the White House. But either way, I'm not sure if there is anything--short of Doug J's brilliant "second shooter" theory (that is that Levi was simultaneously having an affair with Bristol and with Palin herself)--which could discourage all of her fan base.

Palin is a very protean figure--she's loved and admired because she is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. She represents herself as a small time, small town, girl--but these things are themselves represented as, well, representative. She represents herself as distant from a corrupted America because she's Alaskan. But Alaska is then represented as a new, authentic, heartland, identical with the real America of our dreams. Personally, she's represented as a MILF. A PTA mom. A Hockey Mom. A successful politician. A Christian. A rogue. A conventional member of the majority. Sexy/Wife. Pure/Mother. Fighter and Winner. Fighter and Loser/Victim. Most of all she represents herself as loving her fans and, through them, America. As long as her fans feel that love, they will rally to her and give it back.

I've said this elsewhere--neediness is the watchword of this decade. People feel tremendous fear, and a need to be loved, mothered and taken care of. Palin gives people a chance to feel that there are easy, obvious, solutions--common sense!, anyone can see!, you don't need no book larnin' to see that... The lure of this approach to America's various crises is obvious--people loved Bush for the very same reason. He seemed to promise them that any idiot could step into power and fix things. McCain tried the same thing--remember he offered to solve our problems in Iraq by sitting the Shi'a and the Sunni down and telling them to "cut the bullshit?" But underlying the assertion that our solutions are right there, obvious and easy to find, is a deeper assertion--mommy is going to fix things for you. People are hungry for that. Maybe they like it packaged with sexy kitten heels, or starbursts and winks. Maybe they like it packaged with Holy Virgin Mother of Trig. Or Joan of Arc. Or Kali the Destroyer. But they like it.

So will anything break the bond between Palin and her followers--or so destroy her image that new followers can't coalesce around her? I hope so. I think a Prejean style sex tape would do it. I think irrefutable proof from Levi that he or someone else had had sex with her would do it. But Sarah has already survived other forms of public humiliation--forms that usually drive women (and even some men) from the spotlight, at least temporarily. She already lost a major election. She already had her poor mothering skills put on show with Bristol's pregnancy. She already had her leadership abilities undermined by Bristol and Levi refusing to get married. She should have lost points among Evangelical and retro-Christians for her obvious marketing of her sexuality and her failure to "submit" to her husband. None of these things made a dent in her popularity. In fact all of her flaws as a mother, a woman, a leader, a governor, a candidate have only caused her fans to cling more tightly to her as authentically one of them--a screw up who, miraculously, if she makes it to the White House, will never screw up again.

It beats me what will break the tie between Palin and her fans. Perhaps, like Thatcher, even age and loss of sexual power won't do it.

Edited to add:

Spoke too soon. If these reports are correct Palin's inability to deliver on the emotional demands of her fans will bring about her downfall. The second link takes you to Rumproast and an astonishing list of angry facebook comments from devastated Palin fans. This is a new variant on the old PTA standby "if momma ain't happy, nobody's happy." If Palin isn't showering her loyal fans with love they will turn on her in a heartbeat.


I don't put much stock in the wingnut-skewed Rasmussen polls, but there's one out now that says John McCain might be at risk of a teabag purge -- according to the poll, McCain is barely ahead of talk-radio host and ex-congressman J.D. Hayworth, 45%-43%, in a potential primary matchup. (Hayworth isn't a declared candidate.)

In response to this, Bill Kristol writes:

Still, who could help McCain beat back a populist conservative challenger? Sarah Palin. I predict that Palin will come to Arizona next summer to campaign for McCain, will make an impassioned case for him, and will help him win. She will thereby repay McCain for his confidence in picking her last year, help keep McCain as a crucial voice in the Senate for a strong foreign policy, and get credit for being a different kind of populist conservative -- a Reaganite, not a Buchananite, populist -- than the immigration-obsessed, voter-alienating (he was ousted in 2006 in a Republican district) Hayworth.

Really? And risk damaging Brand Palin, which stands for the rescue of America from both Marxist Kenyan fascism and the RINOism of which all teabaggers believe John McCain to be the living embodiment?

Nahhh -- there's no way she's going to endorse someone against a candidate who is (or might be) identified with the teabag Cause. And as we can tell from her memoir, she's certainly not going to do anything for McCain out of gratitude for his decision to make her a star. So no, Bill -- you're wrong again.
(and other thoughts on wingnut dissent)

Do Obama-era wingnuts owe a big stylistic debt to Bush? Greg T. thinks so. Here's what he says in comments:

George W. Bush was the worst president ever -- eat his dust, James Buchanan! -- but he may have inadvertently done one good thing for the Republic: make the majority of his stupid supporters (including La Palin) so full of themselves, that they aren't able to function properly in a political system where some form of compromise is required. Even if your name is Bush.

Hmmm -- maybe that's right.

Though Greg adds:

At least this would be a good thing, as long as Teabag Nation can't get away with the next step in its descent to madness: violence.

I tend to think that's the direction this is heading in, but what seems to be holding the teabaggers back is that the president and congressional Democrats haven't really done anything. (Imagine the late '60s and early '70s if we had cautious, conciliatory presidents who kept thinking about sending half a million troops to Vietnam, but never actually did it.) And it's not at all clear that the Dems are going to get anything on their agenda passed -- and I mean anything -- thanks to the obstreperousness of teabag-inclined politicians (i.e., every Republican plus Lieberman and the Blue Dogs). Even the crazies seem willing to hold their fire when none of the Signs of the Last Days, i.e., Obama agenda items, ever get to a signing ceremony.

And if anything passes, the next step will probably just be nonviolent -- a simple muleheaded refusal to comply. Hell, there are plenty of towns in this country where they just pray in the public schools and don't care who knows it. We know the Tenth Amendment crowd thinks it can nullify health-care reform (hello, Rick Perry and Tim Pawlenty). I assume that would be the reaction to just about any big Democratic agenda item. That might keep the violence at bay for a while.

And speaking of nonviolent resistance, there's this in The New York Times today:

Citing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s call to civil disobedience, 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.

"{We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence," it says.

... The document was written by [Charles] Colson; Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, who is Catholic; and the Rev. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, an evangelical interdenominational school on the campus of Samford University, in Birmingham, Ala....

Yeah, I know -- it's hard to imagine these pink-skinned old bastards, who usually don't do anything more vigorous than deliver a sermon at a megachurch or do VIP-box duty at the St. Patrick's Day parade, leading sit-ins and going to whatever might be the 21st-century liberal-fascist equivalent of Birmingham Jail. But I think the right will have some sort of nonviolent-civil-disobedience phase if there's ever anything to nonviolently resist, if only because of the right's deep envy of the '60s left.

I can easily imagine the right making a hero of some brave refusenik who won't participate in "ObamaCare" even though he's dying of cancer -- just as, a few years down the line, I can imagine wingnuts choosing to die rather than avail themselves of embryonic stem cell treatments. And these people will be the great heroes of the right.

What the religious leaders will do about, say, gay rights is another story. If Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed, are we going to see aging cardinals lying down in front of troop trains? And pouring blood on (computerized) military personnel records? I'm kinda looking forward to that, just for the absurdity of it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


You've probably seen this report:

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani has decided against running for governor, but is strongly considering running for U.S. Senate instead, sources told the Daily News.

Politico says Giuliani associates are denying the report. But here's the disturbing aspect of this:

Giuliani Would Beat Gillibrand

A new Marist Poll in New York shows that Rudy Giuliani (D)* would a formidable challenger to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and now holds a 14 point lead, 54% to 40%.

Key finding: "Even one-third of Democrats report they would back the Republican challenger, and Giuliani runs competitively against Gillibrand in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City."

To some extent, that's name recognition -- Gillibrand is still relatively unknown. But still -- a guy who's as far to the right as anyone in America on foreign policy and just about domestic issue except guns, gays, and abortion (i.e., spending, taxes, health care, supply side economics) is beating the Democrat in a deep-blue state?

Here's the thing: If 9/11 had happened in a big city in, say, Alabama or Mississippi, and the hero mayor who inspired both local residents and the nation to maintain heart and courage was a Democrat, and that Democrat subsequently ran for statewide office after spending the ensuing years publicly supporting a series of very traditional Democratic policies ... that mayor couldn't win. Not even if that mayor was "America's Mayor."

Hell, if a Democrat from Alabama or Mississippi had actually found and personally killed Osama bin Laden, and then subsequently gone around the country advocating traditional Democratic policy positions, the state still wouldn't elect the hugely popular hero.

That's the difference between right-wingers and non-right-wingers. Right-wingers vote their ideology. Too many non-right-wingers don't. All too often, non-right-wingers vote for politicians with whom they disagree on huge numbers of issues. And I'm not talking about pols who promise what non-right-wingers want and then fail to deliver -- I'm talking about pols who promise what these voters don't want, and then are elected anyway.

That's why Republicans can win in New York and New Jersey and California, but Democrats can't win statewide in the Deep South. Being anywhere near our side is a dealbreaker for them; being on or near their side isn't a dealbreaker for us.


An unsurprising detail in that Politico story:

In other Giuliani news, blogger Rick Klau twitters that Giuliani was spotted today on the Acela, reading Going Rogue.

It's curious how often the names Palin and Giuliani are linked. Before Palin left the governorship, Giuliani was one of the people she called. A month earlier, she went to a Yankee game with him. He's defended her "death panels" remark -- but, then again, he defended her in '08, saying she was more qualified than Obama to be president. And as I've noted a few times, there's the curious fact that a hoity-toity magazine called Monocle mentioned her in 2007 as a possible Giuliani running mate for '08 -- why did their names get linked back then? Even leaving that out, they're pals. And they're two of a kind -- both believe themselves to be utterly lacking in flaws and both have absolutely no respect for anyone who disagrees with them. So I'm actually surprised he didn't get the book from her weeks ago.


*UPDATE: Needless to say, "Rudy Giuliani (D)" is not correct. Oddly, I didn't notice that until Phil pointed it out in comments.

And Kathy points out that Alabama has a Democratic lieutenant governor. My apologies.

We all know that right-wingers think Guantanamo terrorists are terrifying supervillains who'll put every American's life in danger if they're allowed to set foot on U.S. soil, even manacled and under extraordinarily heavy security. As it turns out, they're not the only people to whom right-wing bedwetters ascribe superhuman powers:

The new national poll from Public Policy Polling (D) has an astonishing number about paranoia among the GOP base: Republicans do not think President Obama actually won the 2008 election -- instead, ACORN stole it.

... The poll asked this question: "Do you think that Barack Obama legitimately won the Presidential election last year, or do you think that ACORN stole it for him?"

... Among Republicans, ... only 27% say Obama actually won the race, with 52% -- an outright majority -- saying that ACORN stole it, and 21% are undecided. Among McCain voters, the breakdown is 31%-49%-20%. By comparison, independents weigh in at 72%-18%-10%, and Democrats are 86%-9%-4%.

... In order to believe that Obama wasn't the true winner of the 2008 election, one would have to think that ACORN (and perhaps other groups) stuffed ballots to the tune of over 9.5 million votes, Obama's national margin....

Of course, right-wingers routinely ascribe superpowers to people they don't like. Bill Clinton -- who couldn't get a health-care bill passed, couldn't get gays in the military approved, couldn't retain congressional majorities, and couldn't have illicit sex without getting impeached -- was somehow powerful enough to have dozens of people killed and get away with it; Barack Obama is believed to have similar powers.

And now we have SuperACORN. (As you may also know, Doug Hoffman is raising funds with a letter claiming that ACORN stole the recent election in New York's 23rd congressional district, even though, as the local Watertown Daily Times points out, he has "provided no evidence to support his claims." I supposed he'd argue that ACORN is so powerful that empirical evidence of the deceit may not even exist.)

If there are any responsible journalists out there and they'd like to perform a public service, they should go up to NY-23 and just report on the vote-counting process -- specifically addressing the question of whether ACORN is even a significant factor in local elections, much less whether it can pump thousands of fake votes into the system while all electoral participants just twiddle their thumbs. (I don't care what Erick Erickson or Glenn Beck thinks, I just don't believe all the locals, across the political spectrum, would simply look the other way and overlook the fact that the fix was in.) Such a report wouldn't change anyone's mind on the right, but the more wingnuts whine, the more likely it is that swing voters will start to believe what they say about SuperACORN. This nonsense shouldn't be ignored. It should be debunked.