Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A glass half empty

When this campaign began in earnest, I was so excited. I felt amazed, and stunned, that America might elect not a black man, but a smart man - a man who was capable of nuanced thought, and inspirational speeches, who saw the world in shades of gray, who was capable of disagreeing with his opponents without vilifying them... I had a feeling of such tremendous pride, and it was unknown to me as an American. (Yes, Michelle, me and you both.)

I looked at the other Democrats in the race, and I was proud to be kind of a member of the party. I liked Richardson, and Biden is smart, and Dodd looks, well, boring but capable, and Hillary was tough but smart, and Edwards was his usual slippery passionate but totally brilliant self -- and I thought, what a great field! (Sorry, Dennis.)

Then the voting started - and in Iowa, when Obama stunned everyone, I had a feeling of such elation -- could it be possible that we were actually going to do it? Is this what it feels like, I wondered, to be living through something genuinely momentous in American politics?

But now... now....

Now I see this woman's face on a video -- spewing, fighting, desperate, selfish, lying (or sorry, misspeaking), disingenous to the core if such a thing is possible...

And I don't feel optimistic about this country any more. I don't feel hopeful.

The odds of an Obama Presidency are probably no worse today than they were back in Iowa, but I'm having a hard time rooting for him anymore.

All I'm doing now, and I am not proud of it, is rooting against her.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A cornered animal is a dangerous animal

The Clintons really show their true colors when the going gets tough -- you don't even need to look to the 90s ('right wing conspiracy' when everyone and their daughter knew Bill was a hound-dog?) to see that their sense of entitlement and faux outrage will lead them to generate more and more enormous whoppers as their dream of Restoration fades.

It happened before New Hampshire ('the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen,' the narcisissistic tears), in South Carolina (the Jesse Jackson comment, among others, but really too numerous to mention), Ohio and Texas (the 3 AM ad, the 'just words' nonsense - the clang from that 'change you can xerox' line is still thudding around in cyberspace), and now, as Obama gives not just a great political speech, but a truly Presidential address, in its complexity, intelligence, and inspirational calling on all of us to be the best we can be -- how do they respond? By clumsily invoking Obama's lack of patriotism.

Was it McCarthyism? No, I don't think so. (First of all, McCarthy wasn't running for anything.) I don't think President Clinton or Senator Clinton is nearly as Machiavellian as McCarthy was - I think they just can't help themselves. And at a time when of course the Democrats should be coming together -- the math makes it all but impossible for her to win, the country is in a mood for change, the economy is tanking, the Republican nominee admits he knows nothing about the economy, the war is unpopular and a huge drain on said economy, the war-backing Republican is confused about the issues even there -- "Shia? Shiite? Let's call the whole thing off!" -- you have the Clintons desperately, reflexively, instinctively making every argument they can make against Obama, throwing the kitchen sink and every other appliance within reach at the guy.

Part of me thinks, "You know what? Obama just keeps getting stronger and stronger, this is fine, this will all work out...." But another part of me, the part I suppose who actually lived through Bill Clinton's enormously entertaining and, pathologically speaking, fascinating Presidency, wonders, "How, exactly, do we imagine Hillary Clinton conceding?" Is it possible, even in the mind's eye, to conjure a moment where she steps aside gracefully, preserving her party's chances this Fall, her own potential future as an elected official, and her own integrity? I certainly hope so...

But the polls in Pennsylvania, and that state's apparent resistance to newness in its politics (you need to run a few times before the state will elect you, apparently), make the nightmare scenario pretty darn imaginable.... She wins big there. She follows with slight wins in Indiana and North Carolina on May 6, and suddenly, his May looks a lot like her February - dismal - and with this new "momentum," people start caring less and less about total delegate counts or even total popular vote counts -- and now he's the one on the defensive, and she has that cocky, appealing swagger she showed on Saturday Night Live -- she's got nothing left to lose now...

And somehow, between the end of the primaries and Denver, nearly three months later, she has recaptured, despite all the missteps of her faulty campaign, despite the nonsense and exaggeration and lies ('dodging sniper fire in Bosnia'?! really?) despite the fact that the Republicans still make no secret of the fact that they would still much rather run against her than him, despite all of it, she has recaptured the pre-voting sense of inevitability that surrounded her campaign, and so she sails into Denver like a champion, engineers a gentle, if brutal, coup, allows Barack Obama one more grand, glorious moment in the sun (he gives a Wednesday night concession speech that brings tears to the eyes, a sense of 'what might have been' that is physically painful), and then accepts the nomination - her crowning moment - whereupon she drives the Democratic Party into a grand, glorious defeat against the eminently beatable John McCain.

So watch out. These next few weeks will be ugly.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Ides of March

Ides is only a word in the plural, first of all. Go ahead, just try playing 'ide' in Scrabulous....

We get on a plane tomorrow - what could be better, a vacation with the family? I'll tell you what -- the vacation having already started, that's what could be better. There is simply no getting around the fact that at this point in my life, I hate to fly. I can no longer pretend it's exciting, or fun, to get inside an aluminum tube and hurtle down the runway at speeds four or five times what I'd be comfortable driving, and then, through some combination of physics and faith that I have no way of understanding, somehow, miraculously, lift into the air and fly -- all under the leadership of a man I have never met, who I imagine is not unlike the Bill Daly neighbor in Bob Newhart's show -- this is the man we put our faith in? This is the man we entrust our lives to? This, this clown? This sidekick?

No sir. Not a fan at all.

I had planned to write about this epidemic of quitting in the campaign - if you say something bad, even remotely bad, my campaign will force you to quit, and vice versa... Geez. Once again I cite the words of the great Deval Patrick -- they are just words...

But the Ides have conquered me. Beware 'em.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A masterstroke

David Plouffe (which is a really great last name -- I am assuming it rhymes with doof as opposed to soufflé, though either would be just fine) pulled a really brilliant move today, as we head into six weeks of unprecedented non-electing. He basically drew the Clinton camp into a fight over the meaning of Pennsylvania. He said, being I think only marginally disingenuous, that Pennsylvania isn't that important, that there are ten contests left, that they are each important in their own way, etc... The Clinton camp took the bait and said something to the effect of, "If Barack Obama can't win Pennsylvania, how can he win in November?" The Clinton camp basically went on record as saying the winner of Pennsylvania should get the nomination. Well guess what? Obama is down about 20 points in the polls, but he has spent virtually no time in the state yet. He's got six weeks. He was down twenty in Texas, and closed the gap in about three weeks.

I think he spends the next six weeks like this: Hit Pennsylvania hard in week one. Then travel to some of the others that follow in week Two (North Carolina, Indiana, Oregon, etc...). Week Three: a trip to Europe to meet with leaders of the other countries of the world and show he knows what their names are. Weeks 4, 5, and 6 back in the USA, campaigning hard, picking up endorsements from superdelegates, and a final week endorsement from John Edwards. He wakes up on Wednesday, April 23, and we all celebrate Shakespeare's birthday, and an Obama victory in the Keystone state.

Game, set, match.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Waiting Game

It happens every time.

My company pitches an idea to a network, the network likes the idea enough to fund what's known as a 'pitch reel,' we get the money and produce the reel (excellently, if I do say so myself, with a lot of supervision from our contact at said network), and we hand in the reel and are told by our contact that we have a good chance of 'going to series.' ('Going to series' means 'Nick and his family get to eat.')

Then - nothing. A total and utter mystery what they are doing over there. Has our contact even shown it to 'The Group'? Sometimes, we are told something like 'I'm showing it to The Group on Wednesday morning.' Wednesday morning, Wednesday afternoon rolls around... It's Wednesday at 5:47 PM.... No word from the contact. Did they love it? Hate it? Still arguing about it? That could be good, there's passion in the room, a good sign!

It is enough, needless to say, to drive yourself crazy.

Because nine times out of ten, you will find out, usually in a casual phone call from the contact on Friday (if you have yourself managed to avoid calling him - you don't want to look too desperate!) that, oh, The Group got bogged down in other stuff, it wasn't the right time, I'm gonna show it in two weeks...

So you try not to think about it.

That's what's happening. Right now.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

McCain vs. Hillary

From the (private) responses I got to my first post, it seems clear I left open the door for my voting for McCain over Mrs. Clinton in the general election. At least three of you (all women, all Hillary supporters - I mention this only because I find it interesting that no one else either noticed or cared) found it upsetting enough to write me about it, and one of you made mention of the fact that in the 'olden days' (ie, pre-1992?) it was considered impolite to ask anyone whom they voted for. I also consider it impolite to ask - and vaguely offensive, frankly, to discuss my own choices so openly here in cyber-space -- but nonetheless, since I opened this can of worms, and to clarify:

Like my candidate, I think it highly premature to speculate on such an eventuality, and I certainly hope it doesn't come to pass...

But. BUT.

It is almost impossible for me to envision voting for McCain over Hillary in November. I realize that I focused almost exclusively on the war in my first post, and in that area and that area alone I do think he actually might be better able to get to a satisfactory conclusion than she would (it took a Nixon to visit China and all that), but on nearly all other issues, I feel more closely alligned with her policies than his, and in the crucial area of the Supreme Court, it terrifies me to think of what he might do, while I would look forward to her appointments almost as much as I look forward to the possibility that a President Obama might select Hillary Clinton herself to serve on the Court -- now THAT is change I can believe in.

So let's get that comments section going!

Silent no more

For a long time, I have lurked in the shadows - I read blogs, I sent in my comments occasionally, but for the most part my innermost thoughts on the key issues of the day were confined to my brain --

But enough is enough.

I don't want to live in a country where Hillary Clinton is President. I don't want to live in a country where John McCain is President.

I DO want to live in a country where Barack Obama is President.

It's that simple.

The first election I ever kind of cared about as an adult was 1992. I voted for Bill Clinton, excited but troubled by his already clearly slippery relationship with the truth. Like many, I watched with a kind of shaking-of-the-head sadness as his Presidency frittered away its chances for greatness and, as the country grew fatter and richer, I found my own engagement with the political process wane... so much so that by the time of the 2000 election, I pulled for Al Gore but really couldn't get all that worked up about it when he lost -- (except that how he lost seemed egregious and ghastly and downright illegal) --

Then came 9/11 - we all rallied around George Bush and the flag -- and for a few months, until Tora Bora, we were a United country as never before in my lifetime...

The 'axis of evil' speech changed all that, and as the drumbeats of war grew louder throughout that year, I felt my own engagement wane again -- something felt wrong, but I wasn't really sure what it was -- I knew Iraq had played no part in 9/11, but Saddam was a terror, so maybe I was wrong to think we shouldn't go after him? The Republicans engineered the authorization vote before the midterm elections, and I was disappointed but not surprised that so many Democrats (including my Senator, Hillary Clinton) supported it -- how could anyone really stand up to that kind of pressure in the post 9/11 era? Who could have the courage and wisdom to stand up and say, 'Um - this is stupid'? Who could possibly say 'we've taken our eye off the ball, this is a distraction'?

Well, a lot of people. Not me, to my shame. Not John Edwards, to his. Not Hillary Clinton. But thousands did -- millions, really -- across the globe, people marched and chanted and made sure their voices were heard on this vital issue -- even low level state senators and legislators made speeches against the war --

In February and March, 2003 -- with war all but inevitable -- the marchers and chanters and anti-war protesters were loud and vigilant...

I was silent.

Now, it's five years later. We've lost thousands of lives, and billions of dollars, and it's hard to believe that Iraq is any better off now than it was then. I'm no Middle East expert, but has the region ever been more unstable? Al Qaeda is now in Iraq. And how we get out of this mess will require a greater sense of intelligence and wisdom and flexibility than any American President has shown in decades.

There is no doubt in my mind that Hillary Clinton will not be able to pull it off. Even if so many Americans didn't revile her, her experience - in The White House, in the Senate -- has shown no indication of that kind of mind. In fact, when confronted with intractable problems (like health care), she tends to dig in her heels and become more and more adamant that she knows all the answers.

McCain - I don't think he could pull it off, though to be honest I'm not sure. I am pretty confident this '1000 year' thing is a campaign exaggeration, and I believe him when he says he wants the war to end quickly but successfully. All the same, I don't want to risk it -- he could easily be persuaded that what we really need to do is send MORE troops, spend more time, more lives, more billions of dollars.

Even if I knew nothing about the third remaining candidate in this race, I would be willing to take a risk on him.

But I do know something about Barack Obama.

I have read his first book, which was written before he got into politics. It's an amazing and sensitive memoir, the work of a supple and flexible mind, a mind that can hold several different seemingly contradictory thoughts in at the same time. It's almost impossible to read today without being grateful that an American politician is being so honest and revelatory.

His second book, while much less extraordinary, continues to give the impression that Obama is a man of maturity and wisdom, someone curious and willing to learn, willing to admit mistakes, willing, most important of all, to grow.

Take that -- and throw in his clear ability to inspire people with his speeches, his remarkable touch with young people, the obvious change he will present as America's face to the world -- and you have, at long last, a clear choice.

Obama 2008.

And I am happy at last to be out here in the open. Pretty liberating, these blogs... see you soon.