Monday, September 29, 2008

Victory, For Now!

Ninety-five Democrats, mostly acting for the right reasons, had enough backbone to join one hundred thirty-three Republicans, mostly acting for the wrong reasons, to defeat the dreadful Wall Street bail out promoted by the Bush administration, the Republican leadership in Congress, and the Pelosiite leadership of the Democratic Party! It’s a rare victory, and probably a temporary one. But it is a victory to savor. For the roll call vote, look here. Democrats who voted the right way for the right reasons deserve all the praise we can lavish upon them.

Sarah Palin's Blog

In case you’re unaware, check this out. It isn’t just “Saturday Night Live” anymore; in fact, it never was.

I am coming around to the view that Palin will be off the ticket before the Thursday debate. I’d venture that the odds are one in three, now that there are calls coming even from Republicans. [From the Republican point of view, if it were done, then t’were well done quickly – before she has a chance to expand upon her Katie Courick performance with the whole world watching.] As per the blog just mentioned, it will be a great loss – for McCain but, more important than that, for comedy.

Caving In

It is looking finally like the Democrats, Obama included, will cave in – albeit with “misgivings.” They’ve already agreed, in effect, to give near carte blanche to Henry Paulson to transfer wealth from taxpayers to bondholders and to executives in the financial “industry.” Paulson, George Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury, is, of course, the former Nixon aid who “rose” to the leadership of Goldman Sachs. Thus a financial industry mole will watch over the financial industry at “we the people’s” expense.

No doubt, the financial system really is in trouble – in a way that could affect the real (productive) economy profoundly. With even mildly “radical” remedies “off the table” (along with anything else that might rock Nancy Pelosi’s boat), something ameliorative has to be done, of which the vaunted “markets” will approve. But that inevitable exercise in lesser evilism can be done more or less evilly. Even given the woeful constraints the financial sector has imposed upon us, there is no reason to be precipitous or to acquiesce in a proposal that gives so much to the malefactors and so little to their victims.

Nevertheless, the Democrats will go along, and Obama, being ever “cautious” and “responsible,” will too. It’s the Iraq War resolution and the Patriot Act all over again. The pattern is all too familiar: Democrats let their ostensible rivals concoct a Great Fear, and then, knowing better, they accommodate to it opportunistically. As I’ve been writing recently, for several days running, the Democrats have been showing signs of growing a backbone. Now that’s over; they’ve fallen back into their old ways -- collaborating in good “bipartisan” fashion in yet another blind leap into a dangerous abyss.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

No Thanks to Obama

There’s good news! It looks now like there will be no war with Iran until the next administration (if the next President is John McCain). It will be some time before we know exactly how the march to war was stopped. I suspect that the professional military deserves the lion’s share of the praise. But, whatever the reason, it seems that, when it comes to giving the green light to Israeli bellicosity, there is, to borrow a phrase from the resistance movement within the Israeli military of several years back (at the outbreak of the Lebanon War), a “limit” (yesh gavul).

It is clear that the Democratic leadership had little, if anything, to do with keeping that potential tragedy from happening. It’s only in the past few days that they’ve shown any inkling of a backbone on anything. Now, though, they have enough of one to back down from cheering the next war – or the next proxy war – on. But unless the standard-bearer, Barack Obama, takes up the cause, count on the old pusillanimity to resume, especially after the economy is “fixed.” So far there’s no sign Obama has changed for the better; certainly nothing happened at debate #1 to indicate anything of the sort.

The Lesser and the Greater Evil

The morning after the first debate, it seems that Barack Obama “won.” I confess, however, that I’m reporting mainly on MSNBC’s and NPR’s reaction. There’s no telling how the Republican spinmeisters will spin what happened or how effective they will be. I don’t trust my own judgment at all; I’ve never been able to tell who won in a Presidential debate. That became especially clear back in 1984 when Ronald Reagan, already exuding signs of senility – remember that McCain moment when he blathered on about driving down the Pacific Coast Highway! -- purportedly “won.” I was sure he was a gonner. Obama was more articulate and his command of the facts was stronger than McCain’s. At least he didn’t call Pakistan a “failed state” or get the name of its new President wrong. He was also better at pronouncing “Ahmadinejad.” But what’s that got to do with it?

Maybe Obama won, if he did, not because he came off as smarter or more articulate, but because he is nicer. John McCain combines arrogance and condescension with raging stupidity. And, unlike the equally arrogant and stupid George Bush, he seems utterly unaware of his own limitations. He’s not a goofus like Bush is; just a slightly pathetic and outrageously repellent character. If, as pundits tell us, voters vote for the candidate they’d rather hang out with, it seems to me that Obama should win hands down. But, then again, that may be giving too much credit to those “independent” voters who somehow just can’t make up their minds about Palin-McCain.

In any case, were it not for McCain -- and, worse still, the stupendously unqualified Sarah Palin – last night’s dose of Obamaite (essentially Clintonite) politics would have made it even harder than it already is to pull the lever for the lesser evil. [I’m still hoping that, living in a “safe” state, I won’t be scared into doing so.] It was a debate among co-thinkers. Both of them want to indemnify Wall Street speculators; they differ, if at all, only on how many crumbs to throw their victims. Both of them want what Nixon would have called “peace with honor” in Iraq. They differ only on whether the best way to achieve that goal is by prolonging the murder and mayhem (“responsibly”) for another year and a half at least, or by staying on for as long as need be for total and complete “victory.” Both want to expand the military – and to ratchet up the Bush War in Afghanistan. Both will do whatever it takes to “contain” Iran. Both will “pay any price, bear any burden” to assure that Israel can do whatever it wants. Both will stand by the flunkies the U.S. has installed on Russia’s borders in Georgia and Ukraine. And so on and on. It was a truly sickening spectacle.

Obama couldn’t even bring himself to state the obvious: that the U.S. lost the Iraq War a long time ago, and that the “surge” has hardly been the “strategic” success McCain claims it is. No surprise, then, that he steadfastly refused to strech the envelope, even just a little. There was not a word about nuclear disarmament in the Middle East (or anywhere elsewhere); not a word about bringing Bush and Cheney et. al. to justice or, in any other way, investigating their war crimes, crimes against the peace, and crimes against humanity; not a word about promoting any social program that hasn’t been on the mainstream agenda for decades; not a word about new ways to ward off global ecological catastrophes; and, worst of all, no inkling of a new New Deal – just the same old, same old with a tad better regulatory apparatus in place. It was Kerry and (the pre-born again) Gore and Bill Clinton all over again.

Obama wins on style, competence and (the new buzzword) “temperament.” Better that he run the empire while attending to our rulers interests than McCain. But that’s about it – that, and some minor kindnesses, like not invoking the name of that hapless, groveling General Petreus at every opportunity. I wish, though, that he and Biden would stop praising McCain’s “heroism” -- for being a prisoner, as if he had a choice, when he was shot down while dropping napalm and bombs for the wrong side in the Vietnam War.

My reasons are not just aesthetic. Like McCain, Obama wants to avoid the perception of abject defeat in the Bush wars, the better to fight again another day. That’s not a way to guide the United States to a soft, humane landing, as its imperial reach – and perhaps also its economic might -- declines. But it is a way to keep the likes of John McCain in our politics for another generation or more. Imagine the consternation if a proud member of the Waffen SS had run for office in Germany! That’s part of the reason why Germany today is a bastion of decency and civil liberties compared to the erstwhile Land of the Free. Must we be pummeled to arrive at that point? Couldn’t we have the functional equivalent of a devastating war to bring us to our senses – but without the attendant pain and horror? I think it’s still not too late, but not with the (Clintonized) Democratic Party at the helm. Neither Obama nor his fellow Pelosiites are preparing for a soft landing; quite the contrary. They want to build up the juggernaut, making a hard fall all but inevitable.

If only, as in something more like a real democracy, Ralph Nader had been permitted to debate along with Cynthia McKinney and Bob Barr. Then last night would have been an educative, not an emetic, event for the more than one hundred million people who tuned in.

Still, if Obama did indeed win, then we must be grateful for small favors. A McCain-Palin administration is about the only thing imaginable that could make Cheney and Bush look good. But the fact remains: in a conjuncture that presented historical opportunities unknown for decades, where genuinely progressive “change” really was possible, last night’s mind numbing, intra-imperialist, intra-corporate capitalist debate was another opportunity lost.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chicken

Remember the guy in the chicken suit who shamed Poppa Doc Bush into debating? Where is he now that we need him?

Suddenly, John McCain, the most AWOL Senator in Washington, discovered that the economic crisis, of which he knew nothing less than two weeks ago, is so grave that he must suspend his campaign -- and, of course, miss the first debate (where his doddering, off-the-wall performance would likely convince anyone with eyes and ears, not just George Will, that the man is manifestly unfit for much of anything) – to return to the Senate to help steer the ship of state to a “bipartisan” consensus. Last night, McCain got “help” from the man he’s been desperately trying to distance himself from, the despised and despicable Bush boy, the lamest of all possible ducks. Bush appeared on television, reading a speech designed to boost Treasury Secretary (and Goldman-Sachs mole) Paulson’s sales position by encouraging panic. Thus, in capping off the worst presidency ever, Bush will go down as the anti-FDR. It’s the “War on Terror,” on Afghanistan, on Iraq all over again – but ratcheted up. “Nothing to fear, but fear itself” – No way! Instead, get really scared! Has there ever been a more unpresidential, more unseemly address to the nation? But not to worry since the time is long past that anyone, including Republican legislators, take much notice of what the Bush boy says.

The Democrats, including Obama, still show signs of developing a backbone; at least they haven’t yet given in to the extortionists. Of course, later today or tomorrow they may well capitulate (“compromise”). But they do have a golden opportunity, if they seize it. Whether or not the Maverick shows up for the debate tomorrow night in Oxford, Mississippi, the event is bound to work for the Democrats’ good. Moreover, if Obama remains cool and resolute, if he rises to the occasion, it should strengthen the Democrats’ resolve not to cave entirely. That’s a big “if,” of course, but maybe the sheer symbolism of the event’s location will force him to be resolute. In 1962, a year after Obama was born, Oxford was the site of deadly riots when James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at Ole’ Miss. Now, forty-six years later, an African American will be welcomed there to deliver what could be a decisive blow in the race for President of the United States!

* *

How bizarre this race has become, especially since the stupendously unqualified Sarah Palin exploded upon the scene! On the eve of debate #1, we ought to be deriding the organizers for shutting out dissenting voices – Ralph Nader’s, Cynthia McKinney’s, even Bob Barr’s. With the debate scheduled to be about foreign policy, we ought to be criticizing Obama and, especially, Joe Biden for their god awful, quasi-neocon views on the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. Of course, it’s typical that, as election days draw near, the temptation to circle the wagons around Democrats becomes overwhelming. This time, it’s happening with a vengeance – because it’s looking more and more like a McCain-Palin presidency would be even worse than a third Bush-Cheney term; worse, in other words, than the worst of the worst. McCain is more bellicose even than Cheney, and Palin is more theocratic (and whacky and ignorant) than anyone in public life. The two of them are at least as disdainful of civil liberties and Constitutional restraints as the miscreants they would succeed. It puts (small-d) democrats in a bind.


Of course, the debates should be opened up; of course, the Democrats are reprehensible. But the first order of business, it is increasingly seeming, is to smash the very prospect that that out of control non-maverick Maverick might park himself in the Oval Office, while a nothing from nowhere waits in the wings. Chicken suit man, find McCain and start clucking! But don’t look for him in Washington just yet. He and la Sarah will be visiting with his pal Bill Clinton this afternoon. Evidently, it’s only around debate time tomorrow night that his presence in Washington becomes indispensable.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Birth of a Backbone?

Remarkably, with only two days to go before disaster strikes (according to dictator wannabe Henry Paulson), the Democrats have yet to capitulate on the $700 billion blank check the Bush government -- or is it now the Paulson government? – is asking for. Capitulation is not out of the Democrats’ system; only yesterday they capitulated on offshore oil drilling. But, in that case, to do the right thing they would have had to buck (ill conceived but nevertheless determined) public opinion. In this case, public opinion is hostile to Wall Street’s malefactors of great wealth, and adamantly opposed to taking on their gambling debts. Wall Street gambled with the economic future of the people they now want to bail them out. Shamelessly, they and their moles in the government, from Paulson on down, want their victims to bear the cost of keeping their riches intact. But the victims will have none of it. Even Republicans can see which way the wind is blowing. Sensing that the Bush boy can’t hurt them any more than he already has, some of them are standing up to Paulson and the Grandees, including Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, on his side. Even John McCain got the message – a week ago Monday, several hours after not getting it. Can Sarah Palin be far behind? Perhaps we’ll know when she finally speaks out or, failing that, when her handlers change the stump speech she reads. But in our joy at seeing Bush and Co. lying dead in the cesspool of GOP politics, we must not overlook what is truly remarkable. For the first time in living memory, the POP, the Party of Pusillanimity, the Party of Pelosi and of the perpetually triangulating Clintons, is showing signs of growing a backbone. It has been forced upon them. But it is nevertheless happening; something no one would have imagined as recently as two weeks ago. Will this genuine “change” keep on happening? Will the Democratic Party’s backbone keep on growing – or is it all just posturing and blather? With the administration’s extortionists in such a hurry, we’ll find out soon enough.

Palin's Progress

Evidently Sarah Palin’s handlers are worried that some “independents” might have concerns about her foreign policy qualifications -- notwithstanding her minor in political science and her BA in broadcast journalism, earned over six years at (was it?) five colleges. So she got a crash course yesterday, posing for photo ops with Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, two reliable stooges who just can’t get enough U.S. military intervention and, oh yes, “aid.” With “bipartisan” support, Karzai is likely to be the beneficiary of the next American “surge.” Uribe is one of the last holdouts in the transformation of South America into an Axis of Hope. [As many have noted, the Cheney/Bush government’s predilection for spreading murder and mayhem in the Middle East has diminished the intensity of American domination over our “good neighbors” to the south, opening a space for popular movements to flourish.]

The big news, though, was that the McCain-Palin campaign excluded the press entirely – except for a photographer. Photo ops yes, embarrassing gaffes no way! But even our media revolted at that prospect, threatening to scuttle the photos. So the campaign relented, ever so slightly. When la Sarah was taken over to Park Avenue to see the old war criminal, Henry Kissinger, somebody got to ask her out it went. “Great,” she replied.

I found the video of that meeting of minds more newsworthy than the flap over her not taking questions. After all, it’s hardly news that a Cone of Silence has fallen over the “straight talk express,” or that the McCain/Palin campaign thinks it wise to keep Palin mum. But it is news, at least it was to me, that, in his dotage, Herr Kissinger, the shmartest man in da virld, has come to resemble the Graaf Zeppelin. Can he be long for this world? I hope he doesn’t eat himself to death. I’d like to see that miscreant hang on long enough to be brought to justice, like his friend Augusto Pinochet. He has a good chance; at least it’s clear from the photo op that he still has life in him. If nothing else, he certainly has that leer in his eye, worse even than John McCain. Lets hope that while he imparted wisdom upon her, the eager pupil didn’t pile an extra dollop of Schlag in his coffee!

It’s a wonder that Kissinger and fellow criminal Dick Cheney are not more pissed at John McCain. Having made the Vice Presidency the most powerful office in the “Free” World, McCain’s “from the gut” selection of a running mate threatens to undo all Cheney’s efforts, and to diss them thoroughly. As for Kissinger, after all, he did know Spiro Agnew and, for that matter, Jill St. John. Sarah is no Spiro Agnew and certainly no Jill St. John. Does he not have it in him to bemoan how far we have fallen?

It is heartening, though, that some pundits of the Right are finally getting around to pointing out how spectacularly unqualified Palin is. David Brooks has been on that page, more or less, for a while; now he’s joined by George Will! However, don’t expect the chorus to spread beyond the handful of right-wingers with intellectual pretensions. The useful idiots of the Christian Taliban have taken over the Republican helm and they’re just fine with a dim-witted ignoramus in way over her head; look how well they’ve done over the past eight years.

Then there’s Bill Clinton! As per his appearance on “The View” and also on the Letterman show, he’s back at evincing ambivalence about Obama. He’s for him, of course – how else to “remain viable within the system.” And he says he thinks Obama will win. But he’s eager too to say nice things about his doddering, war mongering, hundred eighty degree flip-flopping “friend” McCain and, yes, about Sarah Palin. No doubt, he’d like to date her, even if she isn’t quite trashy enough to be his type. Of course, he knows he could never get past the “first dude.” [How I would love to see them come to blows, as it were, in prison – where they both surely belong!] But you can’t blame the rascal for trying. Clinton is due to meet with the fantasy girl on Thursday in New York at his Global Initiative digs. Count on a mutual charm offensive – leading nowhere (from whence she came).

Sure, at one level, Clinton is only back to plotting for 2012. But one thing the Slickster seems to remember from the days when he wasn’t inhaling is that the personal is the political. Who can blame him if he wants it the other way round!

Monday, September 22, 2008

They're Doing It Again

A specter haunts the Democratic Party – the fear that because they are fairly reasonable and because they sometimes have decent instincts, a gullible, uninformed and disinformed electorate will think them too soft to govern the Home of the Brave. Thus, with barely a squawk of protest, they signed on to both Bush wars and, repeatedly went along with Cheney/Bush assaults on such quaint, out-dated relics as privacy, habeus corpus, and the right to engage, without harassment or undue personal cost, in peaceful protest. From time to time, the bolder among them would voice obvious concerns. But, on the whole, the lesser evil party has capitulated abjectly. Trying in vain to be second to none in “national security,” they have collaborated shamelessly in Cheney’s and Bush’s efforts to terrorize an already frightened public into letting the neo-cons and their friends in Big Oil and on Wall Street have their way.

It’s happening again – not for “national security” this time around but, allegedly, to maintain the world economic system. The danger is indeed grave and a Depression is scarier than Al Qaeda. Not to worry, though. As in the “War on Terror,” a “bipartisan” consensus will come together. Perhaps it will mitigate some of the grief that would otherwise come our way. But at whose expense? Even more plainly than before, what will be done will benefit “the bad guys” the most – their gambling debts will be made good by the rest of us. But, like before, count on the media to make it to look like they’re doing it all for us.

It is remarkable how out of the picture the Bush boy is this time around; even Cheney is lying low. Thus it has fallen to that tireless representative of Goldman Sachs, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, to make the world safe for capitalism – by indemnifying the miscreants who have run the “financial sector,” as it is euphemistically called, into the ground. So far, the Democrats, Obama included, have acknowledged the necessity. The gamblers, it seems, have the rest of us over the proverbial barrel, so we must pay them off quickly. It would be nice, first, to gather a little information before embarking on a major sea change. But time is of the essence. Bail out first; ask questions later. It’s the Republican way; it’s the McCain way (as, for example, in his selection of Sarah Palin); and it’s probably going to be the Democrats’ way.

Of course, there are Democratic voices, including Obama’s (so far), trying to get just a little something out of what Paulson and the Grandees on the Federal Exchange Commission are concocting. Chris Dodd, the man whom Obama ought to have picked for a running mate, is at least raising pertinent questions. But don’t count on the POP, the Party of Pusillanimity (and Pelosiites!), to stand their feeble ground; not if the future is like the past. Don’t count on Obama either. He’s three times the “maverick” John McCain pretends to be, and ten times more maverick than the surrealistically unqualified Sarah Palin, but he’s not nearly maverick enough to buck the executive committee of the entire ruling class.

[This is a good time to note and recommend the reissue (in paperback) of Matt Welch’s McCain: The Myth of a Maverick (Palgrave MacMillan). Welch, the editor of Reason magazine, proves beyond doubt that even libertarians sometimes get it right.]

For background on the current crisis, this piece by Steve Fraser in salon.com is helpful. But Fraser’s account, like so many others, is fixed on surface phenomena. Among the many untoward consequences of the near total eclipse in which the Left seems stuck, is an absence in the mainstream press of discussions of the underlying causes for the financialization of modern capitalism and the vicissitudes of an economy that stumbles along from bubble to bubble. There is lots out there, however, for example, in the pages of Monthly Review. Should the economy tank big time, and the class nature of the “bipartisan” bailout become too obvious to ignore, perhaps these and similar matters will again find a place in the ambient political culture. Needless to say, it wouldn’t exactly compensate for the miseries that lie ahead. But it would prove, yet again, that even the darkest clouds come with silver linings.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Liar, Liar, Pipeline on Fire

I’ve written several times now that Sarah Palin peaked with her acceptance speech. Now the polls are starting to show it. Even Karl Rove thinks her “celebrity” will subside. It’s interesting, though, that what seems to be doing her in is not her inexperience or her ignorance or her views. It’s that she seems constitutionally unable to tell the truth. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow have turned themselves into nightly truth squads. Others are joining in.

Could she be a pathological liar? It sure seems so because she lies indiscriminately, on matters great and small – about standing up to Big Oil, about bridges to nowhere, about not abusing her office in a family squabble, but also about accepting McCain’s invitation to be his running mate “without blinking” (and then saying her family voted), and about her teleprompter malfunctioning during her acceptance speech (when dozens of reporters saw it working just fine). The list goes on and on. The word is getting out.

As I’ve also written before, I’ll be surprised if she makes it through to election day; if she doesn’t “decide to spend more time with [her] family.” Whether she does or not, the non-maverick Maverick didn’t help himself by choosing her. Count on that becoming increasingly clear in the next days and weeks.

Kudos for Hillary

Since he secured the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama has been surging to the right more or less continuously, though the pace did pick up slightly just before the Denver convention. [His vote on telecom immunity was something of a milestone, along with his increased enthusiasm for ratcheting up the Bush war in Afghanistan.] Between him and Hillary, it’s now a wash.

This is especially disconcerting as the economy tanks. So far, Obama has yet to say anything to indicate that he’s not on the same page as the Bush administration (and John McCain), when it comes down to a struggle between the speculators and the people whose debts – and lives – they used for fodder. If things get worse, if Obama inherits a depression, will he side with the victims at least to the extent that FDR sometimes reluctantly did? So far, there’s no sign of it; no reason to be hopeful.

It wouldn’t be any better with Hillary, of course, but I do have to say, reluctantly, that, since the convention, she’s shown some class. Supporting Obama in Denver and afterwards and getting her husband to go along is not that big a deal; the Clintons don’t have much choice if they want to remain “viable within the system.” But turning down an invitation to attend and speak at an anti-Iran rally at the United Nations on Monday does warrant kudos. That’s the day Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the General Assembly. It’s the day that the most repellent shills of the Israeli Right have organized a protest. The ringleader is none other than that “first among equals,” Malcolm Hoenlein, President (for Life?) of the modestly named Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. That, by the way, is a very influential interest group which, along with others, advocates positions many, perhaps most, American Jews, not just me, adamantly reject. Among those positions: that the U.S. should go to war against Iran or at least, as Sarah Palin’s script reads, let Israel do whatever it wants in that (and all other) regard(s).

Clinton turned down the offer from the Israel lobby because Palin, the nothing from nowhere, is going to be there; not because she suddenly developed a backbone. But whatever the reason, she’s doing the right thing. That Hoenlein would invite Palin is no surprise; Right is Right. But that any mainstream Democrat would cross him is extraordinary. Hurray for Hillary! Would that Joe Biden or Obama had such cajones.

Who knows? An unintended consequence of Maverick McCain’s “from the gut” decision to choose an inexperienced, ignorant, Christian Taliban hockey mom for a running (and “soul”!!) mate just might be that other pusillanimous souls, not just Hillary, will see that they don’t have to tow the Israel lobby’s line – that the Emperor has no clothes. Hillary didn’t quite crash through the glass ceiling but, wittingly or not, she just might have made a crack, a structural one, in the Apartheid wall.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Can Obama Lose?

Not long ago, for the first time in decades, it seemed that anything (consistent with capitalism and with an imperialism in decline) was possible. There was even a candidate, John Edwards, who was poised to lead the charge. Even before Super Tuesday, however, it became clear that it wouldn’t work out that way – that one or another Clintonite, Hillary or Barack Obama, would restore Clintonism. To the relief of we lesser evilists, it soon became apparent that it would be Obama, not Hillary, who would be the one. The Clintons nevertheless fought back against the inevitable. It was a damaging fight, but apparently not a fatal one. By the time the Democrats assembled for their Denver infomercial, it was clear that Obama would recover from the wound. Then came Sarah Barracuda. It caught the POP, the Party of Pusillanimity (and Pelosiites), off guard. Thus there is now a fear in Democratic circles even more disabling than the fear that subsided after the Clintons and Obama made peace. Unlike that earlier fear, this one is not baseless. Despite the “fundamentals” (opinion surveys favoring Democratic over Republican positions, the Democratic lead in voter registrations, the unpopularity of George Bush and his minions), the nation and the world could well be on the threshold of yet another catastrophic chapter in the Bush-Cheney era.

The conventional wisdom is that Sarah Palin was a game changer. I doubt it; in fact, I’d not be too surprised if, after a few more weeks under withering scrutiny, she decides “to spend more time” with her soon to be expanded family. The idea that she might soon be just “a heart beat away”continues to fascinate; it is such an absurd prospect that it is hard not to fixate on it. But, so long as her husband and teenage daughters stay in line and out of the limelight, Palin’s celebrityhood will pass. As I argued after her acceptance speech at the Saint Paul convention, she has already peaked. Sooner than we think, attention will refocus on what a doddering neo-con John McCain is. Perhaps there will even be a backlash as it becomes clear to all but the most obtuse and willfully blind that his is the dirtiest, most unprincipled campaign in memory. But Obama could still falter because, despite Palin’s “qualifications,” “faith,” and Bush-like arrogance, and despite McCain’s vile, “from the gut” cluelessness, the Republicans just might be able, yet again, to launch a “culture war” that the Democrats could lose. Nowadays, the Republicans can’t win a culture war on the “merits”; there just aren’t enough end-time theocrats, plutocratic tax cutters, born again gun owners, bear, moose and wolf haters, and outright fans of ignorance and mediocrity out there. But if you can’t win honestly, you can always cheat. That, not Palin’s inexplicable popularity, is the thing to fear.

In recent years, Republicans have become adept at voter suppression. In 2004, there probably were enough shenanigans in Ohio to tip the vote; Kerry might have won had all the votes cast been counted correctly. But, in modern America, an election has to be fairly close to be stolen “fair and square.” Florida in 2000 was a more egregious case, and not only because Bush family fixers and their friends on the Supreme Court stole the election outright. Ralph Nader did get enough votes in Florida to permit the theft to occur, but, liberal whining aside, he wasn’t “the problem.” The problem was that many people who ought to have been able to vote, most of them African-American, were purged from the voter rolls. Then, of course, there was the additional problem that Republicans in the state government made sure that casting ballots in traditionally Democratic districts was inordinately difficult. Their counterparts four years later in Ohio did that too. It happens everywhere to some extent.

Republican voter suppression campaigns are the reason why, no matter who their candidate is, it is not enough for Democrats to be preferred by a bare majority of eligible voters; they need the support of large majorities, not just fifty percent plus one. The problem is especially acute in Obama’s case because, face it, there are people out there who just won’t vote for a black guy. In the culture war the Palin-McCain campaign is waging, is there any doubt which side those folks are on?

For Obama to win, he has to bring in new voters -- African Americans especially but also young voters and all the others who found Obama appealing while the primaries were still going on, before he embarked on his rightward surge – in numbers sufficient to swamp voters on the wrong side. Obama has to do better in this department than Kerry or Gore did, not just because they didn’t do well enough, but because his race adds fuel to the Republicans’ voter suppression efforts.

The Republican “base” is not big enough to push the Palin-McCain ticket over the top. But McCain and his handlers can “level the playing field” by going after the right to vote of those not likely to vote their way. It’s a tricky business and nobody really knows how the numbers pan out. A piece by Andrew Hacker in The New York Review of Books, aptly called “Obama: The Price of Being Black,” lays out the nature of the problem. The picture Hacker presents gives cause for alarm. Are the Democrats up to averting yet another defeat? It’s hard to believe, given the facts on the ground, that they won’t find a way to seize the moment. But if history has proven anything it’s that, if there’s a way to lose, the Democrats will find it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

9/11

The “high mindedness” (as Chris Matthews called it) of the McCain/Obama interchanges yesterday, at “ground zero” and then at a forum on “service” at Columbia University was a bit much – especially since it was often hard to distinguish between the two at a policy level. Obama even said he’d be happy if Columbia and other universities would welcome ROTC back. ROTC got kicked off many campuses back in the days when McCain, putting “country first,” was dropping napalm on the Vietnamese. But with Obama touting “patriotism” and “supporting the troops,” the time for a principled anti-militarist, anti-imperialist position has evidently passed. It was revolting to watch. But then, in the nick of time, came the Sarah Palin interview on ABC -- to remind everyone how important lesser evilism still is.

ABC is playing it for all the ratings it’s worth, dragging it out over twenty-eight hours. Meanwhile, the big question seems to be whether Charlie Gibson hit the right, non-bullying tone. Palin had obviously been briefed. But, face it, she’s not exactly a quick study. In addition to showing that she didn’t have a clue what the “Bush doctrine” (on preemptive war) was, she had answers for everything except the questions she was asked. She trumpeted the Scheunemann-Cheney-McCain (and, oh yes, Bush) line on poor little democratic Georgia invaded by big bad Russia for no reason – except the one Schuenemann, Cheney, McCain and Bush handed them by encouraging America’s Georgian flunkies to invade South Osetia. Palin was on message, but she was a little more bellicose than a more seasoned politician would be. Maybe she harbors a special animosity towards Russia since, as McCain’s sugar mommy Cindy has several times pointed out, she can actually see it from Alaska. Palin also said that if Israel wants to start a war with Iran, she’d be all for helping out. But at least she gave no indication that she is eager to hasten Armageddon. No doubt, she was briefed on that too.

Poor Sarah, so out of her depth and so oblivious! The woman just can’t talk about anything except pipelines and oil revenues – and killing polar bears, wolves and, for the fun of it, moose. Did I leave anything out? Oh yes, “energy independence” – corporate (not conservation!) style. More of Sarah’s wisdom will dribble out today. Expect her to demonstrate that just about anybody picked at random understands world politics as well as she does. Expect her to demonstrate too that in the mindless self-confidence department, she has no rival – except perhaps George W. Bush. Then expect the “liberal” media from NPR on down (or is it up?) to give her a pass – as they did on “Morning Report” today.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Combat Theocracy!

John McCain plucked Sarah Palin out of the ether – a woman barely up to the task of running a tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere, let alone a state with a population smaller than many medium-sized American cities. She is no more “qualified” to run a declining superpower facing unprecedented problems than any of tens of millions of citizens selected at random. That ought always to have been clear to everyone. McCain’s “from the gut” choice should have been laughed out of Dayton, the moment it was announced. She should never even have gotten to Saint Paul.

It hasn’t happened that way. Instead, Sarah Palin has become a Republican “celebrity” (remember when that was a bad word in the Republican lexicon!), and the doddering war-monger McCain’s savior. This is all the more remarkable because all she’s done in the campaign so far has been to read speeches written by others -- from teleprompters (an area in which she does indeed complement McCain, since that seems beyond his capabilities). It’s always the same speech, more or less, and it’s a tissue of lies about her past – the bridge to nowhere, selling the airplane on ebay, etc., etc. It’s so egregious that even the mainstream media are on to it; in the past few days, they’ve exposed the lie behind just about everything Palin says. Then there is Trooper Gate and who knows what other little scandals she’s managed to accumulate in her brief tenure as Alaska’s governor. At first, media luminaries dismissed these “diversions”; now, it’s looking like they have legs. There have been no major gaffes so far. But why hasn’t her candidacy died from a thousand small cuts?

Perhaps it will soon -- when the campaign is no longer able to insulate Sarah Palin from the press. That could begin to happen in just a few hours, if she is indeed interviewed by Charlie Gibson on ABC. But it is looking increasingly like, whatever she says, her bubble won’t suddenly burst. She may be the reincarnation of J. Danforth Quayle or worse, but for the Republican “base” she is, more or less literally, a godsend. How is this possible?

Of course, part of the explanation is the Big Lie; something Republicans are good at. In fact, they’re so good at it that there are still people out there who think Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. The handful of genuine liberals in the so-called liberal press explain the phenomenon this way: people are too busy to pay close attention; they therefore have only a vague idea, fed by a torrent of subliminal messages, of what’s going on. This is a nice (liberal) way of saying that people are lazy or stupid or both. They sure are! Thus the fact remains: in politics, if you repeat something often enough, it’s taken as true, even if it’s clearly not. The Nazis discovered this phenomenon; the Republicans have taken it to heart.

But this is only part of the story. The real explanation is scarier. As the Clintonite turned Obamaite James Carville might say: it’s Sarah’s “faith,” stupid. It isn’t just that her Pentecostal, end time theology is creepier (more plainly psychotic) than most. It’s that she and the people who love her madly are theocrats: she and they want to put the Divinity in charge – through her leadership – so that the Land of the Free will finally become a truly Christian nation, notwithstanding that annoying Constitutional insistence on the separation of Church and State. The founding fathers be (literally) damned! They were right about guns, but they sure were wrong on religion.

I think this is worse than what we now have. No one really knows where George Bush’s head is at when it comes to the end time. No doubt, his faith is sincere. But he is not exactly a thoughtful fellow. He’s probably no more informed or even curious about theology than anything else. Moreover, despite his Buddy Ebsen accent [apologies to Buddy, an outstanding actor!] and his ‘aw shucks swagger, he’s still, under the skin, a Connecticut blueblood, the grandson of a Senator and the son of a President. [Why have Democrats never made an issue of the fact that little George is the only one in his family who talks the talk and walks the walk -- of a yokel?] With help from the (godless) Karl Rove, he became the evangelicals’ champion. But did they ever really trust him? Sarah, however, is the genuine article.

That’s why the Republican “base” loves her, notwithstanding the abuses of power, the lying, the not very abstinent daughter, and so on. It’s not the moose killing that wins their hearts and minds; it’s that she didn’t abort a baby with Downs Syndrome. It’s that, since she was a little girl, she’s attended the kinds of churches respectable Protestants look down upon and even loathe. It’s because, like many of them, she believes in her heart of hearts that the end is near.

It’s looking now like the Democrats finally will go after her and the geezer she’s working for on their claims to be “mavericks” and “reformers” and agents of “change.” Truth is on the Democrats’ side, and they have enough money in their coffers to get through to those busy, distracted people who are otherwise susceptible to the Big Lie. If they do their job well, they can turn the Republicans’ Big Lie strategy on its head. But, to close the deal, they really ought to go after the theocrats too.

Don’t expect our Democrats to do anything of the sort, however. Especially since Karl Rove mobilized the Christian Taliban to defeat John Kerry in 2004, the Democrats have been falling over each other professing faith. Before Sarah Palin exploded onto the scene, they were reportedly making inroads among the faithful. Since John McCain, to his credit, was known for holding the Christian Right in contempt, the conventional wisdom, as late as two weeks ago, was that finally the days when evangelicals could help set the world on course for a real Armageddon were over. No longer.

If only the Democrats, ever eager to put pandering over principle, had remained more true to the idea that religion and politics must not mix! Instead, they helped legitimate the views Sarah Palin champions. In this respect, as in so many others, the “solution” to the problem of “de-Bushification” -- the only one available to us, given our not very democratic institutions -- shows itself, yet again, to be part of the problem.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Of Pigs and Lipstick

From the time the Maverick conjured up a non-entity from nowhere to spruce up his increasingly decrepit campaign, goody goody liberals and loathsome (Rush) Limbaughites have found their positions reversed. The erstwhile Kinder, K├╝che, Kirche crowd now thinks it’s just fine that Sarah Palin be VP (once she finds out what VPs do), and that it doesn’t matter that her duties in that office are bound take time away from the husband she must love, honor and obey, and the five children that have popped out of her – one with Downs Syndrome and another with a bun in the oven, thanks to the wonders of abstinence only sex education. Meanwhile, some of those liberal ladies who think the sun rises and sets with Hillary are not so sure. That’s not all: Limbaugh and his ilk used to rant and rave about “political correctness,” and to deride the sensitivities of self-declared “victims.” Now they can’t do enough to assure that no one, absolutely no one, says anything that anyone could construe as a slight to their girl Sarah. But since she’s so eminently slight-worthy, there are liberal ladies, some of them with media access, who can’t resist.

Don’t forget either that, for the GOP, “celebrity” and “rock star” used to be terms of derision. They no longer are, now that a certain Northern Light has descended upon us. [Since their Saint Paul infomercial, “community organizer” has become the new, even more improbable, term of derision.]

Thus it is that, as this increasingly surreal world turns, we awoke this morning to find Maverick McCain’s handlers taking Barack Obama to task for saying, in reference to McCain’s blather about “reform,” that if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. No matter that, as even NPR pointed out, he’d used the expression before anyone in the lower forty-eight (or exotic, outlying Hawaii) had even heard of Wasilla’s former Miss Congeniality or, for that matter, of Wasilla itself. No matter that John McCain had used the same well-worn expression in connection with one or another proposal of Hillary Clinton’s. It’s all a veiled slight to Sarah, you see, and it must not go unavenged!

What’s this about? What it’s about is that one of the zingers written for McCain’s rock star to read during her acceptance speech in Saint Paul has legs. It’s the “joke” about hockey moms and pit bulls with lipstick. Give me a break! But, since it was McCain or his handlers who raised the issue, shouldn’t Obama take time out from his continuing “surge” to the right to point out that this well-delivered quip is a recycled version of an old sexist joke about women with PMS, not to mention an undeserved slight on a worthy breed of dog? Or is he too eager for the media to focus on yet another instance of GOP absurdity, on a day when his own POP, the Party of Pusillanimity (or Pelosiism – there’s no difference!) is about to cave in on off-shore drilling?

It would be increasingly difficult for anyone who pays the least attention to what Obama and his fellow Clintonites are up to to remain on board but for the fact that the other side keeps demonstrating conclusively that they are much greater evils. Lets hope that Obama and Company don’t remain too much the gentlemen and ladies to point this out. In the election ahead, nice guys and gals won’t automatically finish last – not when there are Bushes and Cheyneys and McCains and now Palins handing them victory on a platter. But neocons and Christian Taliban can only do so much. If Obama doesn’t start fighting back with a nastiness equal to theirs, he could well turn out to be the third Dukakis (after Kerry and Gore) of the twenty-first century.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Never "(Mis)underestimate the Stupidity of the American Electorate

That’s the first rule of American politics, and so far it is born out. Sarah Palin is no more a “maverick” than John McCain is Mick Jagger, and her religious beliefs are so weird as to be off the charts, even in this One Nation Under God. She is snarky and vindictive and a liar; much like George W. Bush. For years, Republican elites have pandered to their useful idiots, the religious Right. Should Sarah emerge a heartbeat away, they’ll have all but turned their Grand Old Party over to them. And did I mention: she’s in way over her head? By now, all this and more is well documented; even the mainstream media can’t ignore it. Yet, the fact remains: Palin has “energized” the doddering neo-con’s faltering campaign, and even won over a majority of white, women voters.

This Thursday, nearly two weeks after the Maverick (who is no more a “maverick” than she is) picked her out of the ether, she’ll give her first non-scripted interview – with Charlie Gibson at ABC. Will that burst the bubble? If Gibson has an ounce of integrity, it would be a sure thing – assuming the old dictum about the electorate has its limits. But those are two big assumptions. Worry!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Talk Sarah Talk

We know that Sarah knows how to read – a teleprompter anyway. She must have learned in the many colleges she attended majoring in broadcast journalism (and, lets not forget, minoring in political science). But can she talk ad lib? So far, reporters haven’t had a chance to find out. Frankly, I can’t wait. Somebody who took so long to graduate and who, like the current occupant of the Oval Office, reads only good books -- or is it just the Good Book? – is unlikely to get up even to John McCain’s level after just a few weeks of remedial tutoring by Republican operatives.

Once the scripts are gone, count on Sarah Barracuda to tell us much that will lead even the most gullible “undecided” voter to question John McCain’s judgment and his “decider” aptitude. And if she lets drop anything that confirms blogospheric rumors about the weirdness of her religious beliefs – about how her “faith” is weirder even than the ordinary variety – that will be icing on the cake. Then, maybe, the mainstream media will look into what the bloggers are saying – as they did, finally, with the rumors circulated by The Daily Kos and others about young Bristol, graduate of the Palin School of Abstinence and Condom Non-Use.

Meanwhile, these are glory days for comedians, and for the perpetually catty Maureen Dowd. Say what you will about her, she hates the right people.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Boring Is Back

Even before Saint Paul turns back into whatever it was before the RNC turned it into a police state, the boring came back. The good people of the Twin Cities are relieved. But will the Xcell center ever be purged of the foul and hellish vapors it contained?

Boring as McCain’s acceptance speech was, it didn’t quite rise to the level of torture. But for those who couldn’t face it to the end, I can tell you what it said -- or rather what it said about how the Maverick’s handlers view the campaign. They think that thanks to the non-entity from nowhere, the useful idiots are on board, and that it’s now time to reach out to the “independents” – people dumb enough or uninterested enough or both to still be “undecided” about John McCain.

[Note: I too am “undecided,” but not between the lesser and the much greater evil. I still can’t decide whether to vote for Cynthia McKinney (for the sake of party building, though the Greens are going nowhere) or Ralph Nader.]

Tuesday and Wednesday were surreal – as the most odious Know Nothings in the Land of the Free were introduced to Dick Cheney’s and George Bush’s comrade from the North. Thus there was a certain buzz after Sarah Palin’s Wednesday speech, and not just because she’s a borderline hottie, as if those geezers in the funny hats would even know. For the benefit of a TV audience almost as large as Obama’s, she was made to keep her weirdest views under wraps, as she read the speech Bush’s speech writers gave her. She did it with pep and zing; no wonder she rose to the top of her PTA.

If the Democrats play it right, they would emphasize not only the obvious, that she’s a fly weight who is in way over her head, but also her weirdness. What kind of moose killer names children Track and Willow and the like? Check out her pastor, Ed Kalnis, too. The Republicans cast Obama as too “exotic” for people making under fifty grand a year, as if they care about people like that. But they do care about how they vote -- and promoting Obama’s “weirdness” is their way of getting them to vote wrongly for barely disguised racist reasons or, what comes to the same thing, for reviving the Willy Horton strategy of Papa Doc Bush. Of course, in the real world, the true outlier was ensconced up there in “Northern Exposure” land until Maverick McCain made a celebrity of her.

[Would that young Bristol and her dropout, hockey playing stud sell their stories to the tabloids. They plainly have it in them. And, if not them, Wassila, Alaska must be full of biddies eager for their fifteen minutes.]

McCain broke the mood. He gave a lackluster, “bipartisan” speech, tapped off by yet another account of his “character building” POW days. If only the Democrats would stop their prattle about what a hero he is (or was). The man volunteered to bomb and drop napalm on Vietnamese women and children; he fought on the wrong side. The U.S. has never quite came to terms with what it did to Vietnam, which is why the likes of John McCain are able to afflict our political culture to this day. In this respect, having been defeated more soundly, Germany and Japan were more fortunate.

This is why we must not let Democrats forget about the crimes of the past eight years when they take over. It’s the Democratic way to make peace with criminal miscreants “across the aisle.” Jimmy Carter did it in the glory days of the Vietnam Syndrome, and so did Bill Clinton after Iran-Contra. Were we to recognize that we have been defeated abjectly in Bush’s wars, it would help enormously in the years to come. But Obama et. al. will never quite admit defeat; they’re imperialist doves, not principled anti-imperialists, and it is not in the empire’s interest to appear defeated. Yesterday, Obama went so far as to concede to Bill O’Reilly (yes, him!) on Fox News (yes, there!) that the “surge” had worked, sort of. Of course, the surge hasn’t worked, and Obama knows it. This is a portent of things to come after the specter of McCain-Palin is defeated. It bodes ill.

There is however another tack, and it should be at the forefront of efforts to prevent the Obama administration from “surging” even further to the right. We must insist to those who went so far as to take impeachment “off the table,” that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and the rest of them, including the top brass at the so-called Justice Department, be brought to justice. A few days ago, in Florida, Joe Biden indicated that, at least for those in Justice, this is not out of the question. I never thought I’d say it, but – Bravo Joe! I’m afraid, however, that this is the last we’ll here of such matters unless we force the Pelosiites to deal with the issue.

If prosecutions are impossible here, then the malefactors should be turned over to competent international tribunals. But there is only one reason why that would be necessary – the pusillanimity, disguised as “niceness,” for which Democrats are famous. Now that the boring is back on the other side, it’s time to stop making nice and to ratchet up the pressure instead. Last night’s speech notwithstanding, McCain-Palin will be playing dirty for the next two months. Obama and Biden should hit them back twice as hard. More important, though, is what those of us on their left do. At the same time that we join in the struggle against a third Bush term (or worse), we should go after Carterian-Clintonian-Pelosiite niceness with equal or greater diligence and force. The Democrats will always be lesser evils, but they can be much less evil than they would otherwise be – if, but only if, we make them.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sarah's Peak

To no one’s surprise, Sarah Palin read her lines well, but of that more later. I must say, in praise, that the prime time Republicans have been less churchy, on the whole, than their Democratic counterparts. But, after two weeks of this, if I hear one more “God Bless America,” I just might run amok – like the universally maligned Reverend Wright. However, the Republicans have not been shy about invoking notions of “evil,” an essentially theological concept that has passed into ordinary, secular discourse – as in the expression “lesser evil.” In that sense of the term, the Republicans’ infomercial wreaks of evil – not just in the police repression around the Xcell Center, but in the hall itself. It would be hard to imagine a more odious collection of human beings; just look at the remarks that set them off! Would that the God who spared John McCain from a convention visited by Dick Cheney and George Bush would rapture those folks far away. He deserves them and they’d surely not be missed.

Prime time was preceded by some “business like” speeches by the female CEOs (or rather deposed CEOs) in the Maverick’s arsenal. Surely, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina were pissed off mightily that a non-entity from nowhere got the nod, and is getting all the attention. But, with an eye to their respective futures, they were good troopers. Maryland’s hapless Michael Steele did his part too as the token black guy. “Drill Baby Drill.”

Pissing the right people off is the one good thing about the Republican convention. George Bush is pissed off for being royally dissed. And Dick Cheney, even as he bank roles his pet neo-Cold War project in (formerly Soviet) Georgia must be even more pissed off – not only for being dissed, but for the idea that the Maverick would replace him with someone much better looking who is also a better shot.

Prime time was dominated by two of the most repellent creatures in our political universe, Mitt Romney and Rudy the G. The formerly “moderate” governor of Massachusetts came off like the borderline fascist he is in his pious, family lovin’ heart: xenophobic, racist, and anti-progressive (railing against “liberals” with a zeal unknown since Ronnie the Actor Reagan was in his prime). I confess I couldn’t bring myself to watch much of Rudy. There was a George Carlin concert on at the same time on HBO. Carlin was railing against coercive friendliness – the “have a nice day” stuff. He was, as always, intelligent and on point. Switching back and forth from Rudy, with the sudden drop in brain pressure, I felt in danger of coming down with the bends. In between, was the ever likeable Mike Huckabee, mouthing much the same crap. If the Maverick’s idea was to choose a running mate with whom Americans can “relate,” Big Mike would have done as well as Sarah Barracuda. Obesity is on the rise within the Republican base, and Huckabee could have gotten the votes of those Christian Taliban who struggle with diets.

Then came the main event. The two times I’ve heard Sarah Palin talk, I couldn’t help but think of a perky High Schooler running for Student Council. Evidently, that tone resonates with odious audiences. What her handlers had her say was conventional McCain gibberish, but it was interesting as a portent of things to come. There was nary a word about abortion or stem cell research or creationism or (pointedly) abstinence only sex education or any other so-called wedge issue that would alienate “independents.” She didn’t even rail against Muslims, the way Mitt Romney did. After “introducing” her large and stupidly named family (too bad that Bristol’s impregnator, though present, didn’t get a nod), recounting her “experience” (Karl Rove style, making a virtue of an absence and a vice of the real thing – as in Bush v. Kerry on military service), and then heaping praise on John McCain, we got to the interesting part: casting aspersion on the Obamas, and praising her own maverick nature and her efforts at “reform.” Already the morning after, even on NPR, investigative reporters are tearing into the myth of Sarah the Reformer. Her “experience” is so slight that she didn’t have much opportunity to do much of what she now claims she’s against -- lobbying for earmarks, being for the so-called bridge to nowhere (before she was against it), making nice with the Alaskan Republican establishment, and so on. But nearly everything she has done reveals the lie behind her self-representations. Lets hope the press doesn’t let up, because it’s a sure thing that the Democrats will. They just can’t seem to learn that nice guys (and “gals”) finish last. Neither did they learn the lesson of George Bush: never to “misunderestimate” a successful politician just because he or she is a nitwit. If they paid attention last night, they’d realize that there are people, lots of them maybe, for whom nitwits rock.

The more worrisome thing is that the Maverick’s handlers are dredging up all the anti-Obama nonsense the Clintons brought to the fore. There isn’t much – Michelle’s remark about finally being able to be proud of her country, the speech in San Francisco about how desperate people cling to their guns and their religion. But Republicans are good at making the Big Lie stick. Thus I fear we may be on the brink of a “culture war” of the kind Republicans conjure up periodically. This time, though, with Obama as the target, it’s sure to have a more than usually racist undercurrent. Why else would the Pat Buchanans of the world fall head over heels in love with the bland, troubled Palin family? What is that about except nostalgia for a great White Nation of self-reliant men (and a few token women), who know how to dress a moose?

Will Obama and Biden get nasty enough to fight back? If they don’t come forward with real policy alternatives and real opposition to the empire’s perpetual wars – which, of course, they won’t -- getting nasty is their best, maybe their only, chance of fighting back a presidency likely to be even worse than Bush’s.

Since they won’t go after McCain for the crimes he committed against the Vietnamese, and since, unlike genuine anti-imperialists, Democratic “doves” are not all that different from Republican “hawks,” there isn’t much for them to get nasty about – except Sarah Palin. From now on, she should be an easy target. According to Republican spinmeisters, her speech showed she had the qualifications for the job. Well, sure, since being able to read a teleprompter is a qualification. She was a broadcast journalism major, after all; with a minor in political science. But how well will she do when she doesn’t have a script? I’d wager all the moose meat in Wassila that she’ll be so clueless that only a Republican – indeed, only one of their godly, useful idiots -- could still love her.

For a while, it looked like Sarah peaked playing high school basketball. Then fortune (or was it the Intelligent Designer?) smiled and, as if by a miracle, she became governor of Alaska. She might have peaked there, had not the Maverick, upset that he couldn’t get his buddy Joe Lieberman on the ticket and hating Mitt Romney’s (and also Karl Rove’s) guts, picked her out of nowhere. Now she’s so out of her depth that I almost feel sorry for her. Once she starts to crumble, not all the Maverick’s men will be able to put her back together. Count on it – Sarah Barracuda peaked for the last time in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in prime time last night.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Big Night

It’s reported that Matt Scully, the writer of many of the words the Bush boy has sounded out over the years, is hard at work on Sarah Palin’s speech. The nation awaits with bated breath. Relish the irony! Having banished Cheney and Bush, with Gustav’s help, the Maverick now finds that it is still not his convention or his party – they both belong to the hockey mom from nowhere.

Could anything be more surreal? On the current state of things, the latest by Mike Madden in salon.com is informative. It’s a sorry state. Listening last night to Joe Lieberman, the running mate McCain wanted, I couldn’t help but reflect on how much better it would have been had he gotten his wish. Then we could have had an edifying debate – Lieberman v. Biden – on who would be better for the Apartheid state. Although Lieberman davins (prays) regularly and lobbies reliably for the Israeli Right, I’d wager on the other Joe. He may only be a good Catholic boy, but among defenders of (Jewish) ethnic purity in the (allegedly) Holy Land, he is and always has been more popish than the pope.

According to the inside tipsters, the party’s useful idiots squelched that – and Tom Ridge (of color coding fame) too -- because they’d only settle for a candidate who is “pro-life.” According to the same tipsters, Karl Rove and Company wanted Mitt Romney, and so did Bush. The Maverick wouldn’t hear of it. So he played the gynecology card. Evidently, after Bush, being Presidential means not having to make sense.

What should be clear from all this is that Obama and Company are wrong: a McCain presidency would not be tantamount to a third Bush term. It’s been clear all along that, on matters of war and peace, McCain is even worse than Dick Cheney. It’s now clear that when it comes to making stupid decision from the “gut,” to being a “decider,” McCain is worse than Bush as well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

As the Repression Mounts

Free speech? Civil Liberties? Not in Saint Paul. The forces of (Republican) order even arrested Amy Goodman – on felony riot charges. Meanwhile, the corporate media, and corporate friendly NPR, remain mum.

They’re not even interested in exposing how transparently the Maverick’s propaganda apparatus turned what could have been a major disaster into a campaign prop. And, as of this morning, they had only kind words to say about the appearances yesterday, at their scaled down infomercial, of the terminally yucky Laura Bush and then of McCain’s sugar mommy (and her over the top yellow outfit).

Meanwhile, the Christian Taliban seem to be rallying around Guv Sarah Barracuda. You’d think they’d think she should stay home to obey her husband and care for her Downs Syndrome newborn, and that she should devote her full energies to the spiritual rehabilitation of her wayward teenage daughter. [Killing a few moose might help.] You’d think they’d hold an advocate of “abstinence only” sex education to account. But apparently, a determination not to abort trumps all. Could it be that for these benighted, godly folk, teenage pregnancies are so familiar that they escape condemnation? Or is it just that, since they can believe any crap whatsoever, they can believe that Sarah Palin is, more or less literally, God’s gift to the Republican Party and the antidote to the moral backsliding of we who don’t “put country first.”

Monday, September 1, 2008

I Love It

Don't you just love it when bad things happen to young Republicans! No one outdoes the Christian Right when it comes to leading lives of rank hypocrisy. Read all about it. Will Maverick McCain now be obliged to dump his Beauty Queen, like George McGovern was obliged to dump the infinitely more qualified Thomas Eagleton (for no good reason at all, unless seeking psychiatric help for depression counts as a reason)? Or will the anti-abortionist (anti-feminist) Right make lemonade out of this lemon? Most likely, the latter; after all, young Bristol will have the baby. But even if they do, what does this say about the Maverick's vaunted judgment! Lets hope Obama is not too much the gentleman to raise the point. It could get interesting; stay tuned.

Raining on McCain's Parade

Just two days after Maverick McCain succeeded in turning media attention away from Barack Obama by selecting a former high school basketball star and beauty pageant contestant, Sarah “Barracuda” Palin, to be his running mate. Gustav is raining on his parade. Over the weekend, the talk shows were full of how disgruntled Hillary supporters would go for the pretty Missy hockey mom,and how McCain’s choice would “energize” the anti-abortion, anti-environmentalist, pro-gun toting, evangelical Republican “base.” They were full of how much executive experience this mayor of a remote Alaska hamlet and governor for less than two years of a remote, barely populated state, has. They repeatedly invoked her fitness to be commander in chief thanks to the experience she, like all governors, has gained as the nominal head of her state’s National Guard. It was remarkable that they could keep a straight face – especially the snootier among them, like the pompous and (evidently) brainless George Will, denizen of the George Clintonopoulos Show.

On the plus side for McCain, he got to disinvite Cheney and Bush. But it’s now looking like his four day infomercial in Saint Paul will only barely happen. Pity the poor corporations who have thrown so much money at it! A diminished convention has got to hurt the doddering former napalmist and continuing war monger, even with his “base.” More importantly, Gustav is bound to stir up memories of Katrina, the final straw that led even the most obtuse to realize how incompetent the Bush government has been. If the Democrats succeed in identifying Maverick McCain with Cheney and Bush – and it would require some effort on their part to fail in this – Gustav won’t just rain on McCain’s parade; it will wash it away.