Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bull Moose, party of two

Has anyone done any polls where all three run?

I think Andrew Sullivan is right: it's going all the way to Denver. It doesn't matter what happens in Indiana - even if Senator Obama manages to squeak by with a win, Senator Clinton has the money now to compete for a lot longer... and more than that, she has, after these wins in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the legitimate claim on the all-important blue collar white man (ie, the 'no way I ever vote for a black guy') vote.

So she is able, somehow, to convince the superdelegates NOT to go for Obama in June, to wait to decide until the convention -- and then we all gird for a showdown in the Rockies...

And then what? Do we really think she loses that fight gracefully, hops up on stage with Senator Obama, and the two grin at each other as the band plays 'Happy Days Are Here Again' and the balloons cascade down and the Democrats are happy and united again? Really? After the way she's run her campaign up to now, does it all just spin on a dime like that at the end?

No, it's a lot easier to imagine her deciding to bolt the party and go for a third party than conceding defeat... Think of it. "The Democratic Party is abandoning its base; it is disenfranchising two great states it needs for victory in November; and it is deliberately choosing an untested, untried newcomer who will polarize the electorate and keep the White House in Republican hands. Therefore, Bill and I are starting The New Democratic party.... Join us as we campaign to take America back to greatness...!" And they rent a hall in Philadelphia - where the nation began! - and begin the most audacious third-party campaign since another disgruntled ex-President started a third party to reclaim his hold on the White House...

The question is, could she win the Presidency this way?

I can't deny, it'd make for great theater. But we're well past the point where the country could afford it. Still, it's about the only endgame I can realistically envision at this point.

God help us all.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Charm

We've been here before. Twice. Once, in those heady few days after Iowa, when it seemed like maybe, just maybe, the lightning that had struck the cornfields might ignite a fire that would sweep across the country and consume the hinterlands of New Hampshire -- and then again, before Texas and Ohio, when all it would have taken, or so it seemed, was a split of the two states for her to decide, at last, to gracefully step aside.

But there hasn't been anything quite like this --

If he wins Pennsylvania, it's over. Period.

The only problem, of course, is that he probably won't. The recent polls have him anywhere from 8 to 12 points down, and it seems to be getting worse.

Now, the pre-game spinning is such that it seems like his camp will claim that anything less than a double digit win for her is a win for him, and her camp will take any win they can get, short of maybe 1 or 2 points, which even they concede will probably be too close.

My own feeling is that she will win big, probably 12 or more - and I am not just saying that to cushion the blow tomorrow night. (I mean, that's part of the reason, sure, but....)

What it comes down to is this:

Change is hard.

It's hard in politics, it's hard in life.

The therapists tell us there are two components to psychotherapy. The first is identifying the patterns that have trapped us in their grooves; it can take years.... But even harder -- once we've identified those patterns, once we see, for instance, that everything we do is based on a desire for the approval of the others rather than our own instincts as to what would be best for our lives -- even when we see that pattern, it can be nearly impossible for us to change it.

[So it is that when we go into that meeting with the network executive, for instance, even though we know we should just pitch the idea in such a way as to ensure maximum chance of success, we may, simply by reflex, be sending out signs of 'love me, love me, oh please laugh at my jokes, love me...' (Just as a for instance....)]

So it is with the country at large --

We know we need to change the country; we know we need to change our politics; we know we need to change our foreign policy; we know we need to fix our economy.

But when we get in that voting booth, and we see one name that is weird and vaguely foreign and we've heard he might be a Muslim or an anti-Semite and he doesn't wear the flag pin and his pastor was a kook and his wife hates the country -- and the other name is the name of a former President of the United States, and I've been seeing her on TV for almost two decades...

It's hard, but it's worth it.

My thoughts and prayers are with you, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Points for Restraint?

Another Presidential Debate is in the books in Pennsylvania, and the spinning is already enough to rotate a small planet. But a consensus seems to be emerging that it was a strikingly odd debate, with over half of it devoted to the so-called character issues like Reverend Wright, Senator Clinton's Bosnia tale, and Obama's "ties" to 60s radicals. No one would suggest, I don't think, that these issues are even within shouting distance of the economy or Iraq as issues that actually affect people's lives. But they sure are fun!

Except, last night, to one man.

Barack Obama didn't look particularly happy when the talk was on these issues. And some will say - and are saying - "Oh, look, Obama was on the defensive the whole night! He's got to learn to toughen up, the Republicans are going to be 100 times worse!" And it's true: they will be.

But that's not why he was unhappy. He was just as unhappy with the Bosnia question to Senator Clinton as he was with the questions he's answered, again and again and again, about his "ties" to his former Pastor.

He wants politics to be different, and unlike any other politician in my lifetime, he actually tries to practice what he preaches. It is, at times, incredible and inspiring to watch. Last night he was like a man on a tightrope in the circus, with dozens of people from the crowd below throwing fruit and vegetables up at him to try to knock him off his balance. A banana flies by his head; he ducks. An old head of cabbage whaps him in the knee; he shakes his leg and proceeds.

But there is something about this acrobat we in the crowd don't notice as we hoot and holler and jeer and throw our rotten fruit and hope to get him to fall off and land in a splat in the middle of the auditorium. It's the fact that in his pocket, he has a hand grenade. And no matter much abuse he takes, he refuses to use it. He refuses to take it out and pull the pin and drop it on the crowd -- even though he knows that if he does he will win. He knows that if he uses it, he will win, but the rest of us will lose.

Last night must have been awfully tempting. He even allowed himself, if only for the briefest moment, to place his hand on the grenade when he so elegantly and artfully brought up Senator Clinton's 'cookie' comment. He did it to prove his point: he remembered that manufactured 'controversy' from the 1992 election, and he thought it was silly, as silly as this 'bitter' controversy is today.

But it was also a very subtle reminder of the grenade itself, touching as it did on the explosive relationship that is the very foundation for Senator Clinton's candidacy, her relationship with her husband. And how tempting must it have been when she claimed, again, that she's been vetted, that we knew her baggage, rummaged through it for years, and she could take the heat...! How tempting it must have been for Obama to go further than he did, to say something like, "Really? How many questions have there been during this campaign about The Dress, or The Cigar, or blow jobs from 19 year-old interns? Do you really think the Republicans and their friends are going to leave that stuff out of their ads? If you succeed in somehow knocking me off this tightrope and you become the nominee, do you think the Republicans will wail and gnash their teeth because you've been vetted, or will they celebrate with glee because it will allow them to reintroduce a veritable parade of scandals from your husband's Presidency of failed promise: Vince Foster, Whitewater, travelgate, the Rich pardon, and oh yes that whole impeachment business?"

But he said not a word. Just fingered his grenade that once, and carried on, through the tomatoes and the rotten kiwis, and he somehow managed to get to the other end of the rope, where he hopped off as good as new.

We'll be lucky to have him.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Something definitely happened to my enthusiasm for this campaign. Happened about a month ago. It's like a switch went off. It's not that I don't believe any more, or that I have more doubts about Obama than I did. I don't. In fact, I think his speech on race, and his general behavior over the last month has been pretty solid. But I no longer believe that the American people will elect him President, and part of me is happy about that. I think the process is going to destroy his chances, I think we're seeing it already, and I think the Main Stream Media, or the Pop Cultural Elite, or the Media, or whatever we want to call it -- I don't think it is ready for Barack Obama. And it's not because of his race. It's because of his intelligence.

The fact is, this guy refuses to pander. Oh sure he goes for votes, he tells people what they want to hear - I happen not to think he does it as often as the others, but that's not my point. My point is, Obama tells people what is genuinely on his mind, he speaks the truth, and then we all get to sit back and wait for people to twist his words, deliberately misconstruing what he intended. Does anyone really think Obama thought Reagan was a better President than Clinton? For that matter, is there anyone who really thinks Clinton was in fact more transformational than Ronnie, which is all, and we all know this, that Barack meant by those remarks? And is there anyone out there who thinks people in America, small towns as well as large, are NOT bitter?

I mean, maybe I am as out of touch and as elitist as Mr. Obama, but I really think we are ALL overplaying this story -- what is the big friggin deal? I really don't get it.... Surely we all agree that many Americans are upset about the direction this country is headed in, and surely we can call those people bitter, and surely a lot of those people vote based not on economic issues but on religious ones, and things like guns and gay marriage, etc,....

This one is really pissing me off, and I don't think I'm alone.

If the media hands this nomination to Hillary Clinton on crap like this, I guarantee you, the speed with which we all go to Hell in a handbasket will only increase.

But of course that's why people like me have avoided getting too involved in politics, because as soon as someone actually speaks to the people with intelligence and a lack of condescension, he or she is portrayed as elitist and out of touch....

I know everyone seems to think the media is for Obama, but I don't see it that way. The status quo will be a lot less rocked if it's Hillary vs. McCain, and also, we'll all get to wallow in her "comeback story"... as if somehow being a Governor's wife for ten years, First Lady for eight, and Senator for seven more, not to mention earning $50 million over the last few years, makes her an underdog to someone no one had ever heard of four years ago and who basically just paid off his student loans...

I am officially disgusted, in case anyone gives a shit....

But then again, this is why I've pulled back the last few weeks, because I am afraid, very afraid, of getting my heart broken...

I post this from France, by the way -- and if it all keeps up this way, maybe I'll stay here...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Why he didn't go to Memphis

There was a terrifying video making its way around the Internets this week. It showed candidate Obama making his way through a Philadelphia street market, hopping into one store after another, doing the usual meet and greets with passersby, customers, and shopkeepers. But there was one man, persistent and just a little off, who kept pestering the Senator for a photograph.

Obama and his people seemed to think the guy was an 'Ebay guy,' there just to get a quick picture and put it on eBay to make money. Not that there's really anything wrong with that - kind of the American dream, to make a quick buck like that -- but the man's persistence was, well, it was more than persistent. Obama said, "You're wearing me down, brother," and when he finally did agree to pose for the guy, he said, "I won't be smiling, because you've been rude...."

The scariest part of the video, to me, was the man afterwards -- standing alone amid a crowd of press, telling anyone who would listen, "I just wanted a photograph, that's all I wanted..." And there was something about his whine, his insistence, his victimy determination that he'd done nothing wrong, that made it virtually impossible not to think of some other "wronged" Americans-- guys with names like Oswald and Chapman and Bremer.

The entire video was really terrifying, because at the back of Obama's campaign, always, lies the unspoken terror -- the threat -- the horrible thought that maybe we haven't come as far as we'd like to think we have. This is not a reason to vote for the guy, of course -- there are plenty of those -- and in fact it sometimes makes it a little more scary to think that he might win.

Could he really survive two full terms?

And would some of his admirers even want him to?

They are ghastly questions, and sometimes I kinda hope he doesn't get there -- and then I stop myself and remember that what makes his campaign great (when it is great -- don't get me started on the bowling) is that it's a campaign that summons forth our hopes, not our fears. He asks us, explicitly, to dream of what's best in all of us, not what's worst.

But I can't shake the nagging feeling...

And I know, as ugly and as awful as the past few months have been, that there's a very good chance we haven't even scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg yet...