Wednesday, September 24, 2008

About Last Night

This blog has been tricky for me. For one, as I indicated in the beginning, I think I am constitutionally averse to talking in public about private matters like politics and sports fandom. But even beyond that, there is the matter of my professional life. I am, for lack of a better term, a small businessman. As such, I have clients. These clients need to be pleased. They need to feel like they are in good hands. They do not need to be confronted with half-baked political ideas from the people they hire, or ideas they themselves might disagree with.

The other day, a friend of mine, one of many who had been kept in the dark about the existence of this blog until recently, pointed out the very real possibility that some client might come upon this blog and decide not to hire me because he or she was, you know, voting for someone else. I made a joke about the entertainment industry being essentially Democratic, but she had a point. There really isn't any reason to rub my political beliefs in the faces of people who might hire me.

So my company did the film for a non-profit organization, and the function was last night, and I was talking to a very nice man there -- he's the uncle of a good friend -- and as I fielded his generous compliments about our little film, I was struck by the realization that he was a Republican planning on voting for McCain. One minute we're having a perfectly nice conversation, and the next I realize: hey, I like this guy, and he's really gonna vote for McCain! What can I do?

Well, I did what any self-respecting propaganda filmmaker would do; I got his email address and sent him, last night, the link to 'ENOUGH!'

And then -- the panic set in. Oh my God, how much do I really know about this guy? He may be the brother-in-law to the man who makes all hiring decisions for the Discovery Network! He may be sitting on top of some huge Documentary film fund.... He may be, I don't know, Dr. Powerful!!!

It became rather global, in the middle of the night: I have chosen a needless self-expression over my children's financial future; what kind of man am I!?

This morning, I received a very nice email:

Thank you for forwarding your film. I think it is very well done and compelling, but, obviously, selective in what is presented. Good luck with your documentary endeavors. You might try a similar film favoring McCain.

And you know what? I think I will. Look for it in a couple of weeks...

In the meantime, I'll continue to sit on the fence as to whether any of this is a good idea or not...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Final Game of Yankee Stadium

.... happened in 1973.

This stadium that is closing tonight -- it was opened, with great fanfare, on Opening Day, 1976. It stood on the same spot as the "old" Yankee Stadium, but the field had been moved, the three tiers had been reduced to two, and in every important way, it was merely an echo of the original Yankee Stadium. We called it, at the time, the New Yankee Stadium. People who had never been to the original never felt that coming to this new ballpark and seeing Munson and Jackson meant that had been to the real Yankee Stadium where Mantle and DiMaggio played any more than people who went to the new Madison Square Garden felt they had seen a fight in the same hall where Dempsey knocked out Tunney or Firpo, or Lewis chased Schmelling or whoever back to Nazi Germany.

In fact, the "new" Yankee Stadium that will open next April, 300 yards away, will be as close to the "original" Yankee Stadium as this last one, built over 1974 and 1975, ever was.

Can we please, PLEASE gimme some truth on this? Or have we become so used to mistruths and lies and bullshit in all aspects of our lives that we just kind of accept this kind of crap now?

It's simply NOT TRUE.

Would everyone SHUT UP about it?

Reason #473 I Could Never be a Professional Athlete

If I were a member of the New York Mets right now, I would be thinking "Hey, we don't deserve to get into the playoffs with a bullpen like this...."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Desperate Ambition; or, I Know You Are But What Am I?

I don't know whether it's kindergarten teachers or psychiatrists, or maybe both, who say this -- but a pretty good rule of thumb when dealing with people is: when you are really bothered by a trait in someone else, dollars to donuts it's what you're really bothered by in yourself. (ie, "She's so braggy, I can't stand it!" probably means the child is actually a little troubled by her own bragging....)

From all accounts -- hell, even by looking at the guy -- it's pretty clear that John McCain has nothing but contempt for his opponent. He can't stand Obama, hates him even. "Thinly disguised" is the phrase the press likes to use. (In fact, if Obama took McCain up on his offer of holding town halls, I bet Obama could provoke McCain into saying something really, truly, unpleasant and possibly not just Game-Changing, but Game-Ending. You know, something like "Oh what the fuck do you know, you goddamn uppity --" Although maybe now we're allowing 'Uppity' a seat at the table....)

And what does McCain so obviously hate most about Obama, what trait does he return to again and again, in his obnoxious mocking of his opponent's life story and record? His ambition.

The noble McCain hath told you that Obama is ambitious; and McCain is an honorable man...


So I've finished McCain's book now - the first one, written for the 2000 campaign. To me, it was always pretty clear that George W was gonna win that thing, so I never really took McCain all that seriously. Nor do I share the incredible nostalgia for his 2000 campaign. I gather he was treated badly in South Carolina, and that whatever lessons he learned from that sorry experience he has now been trying to put to use against Obama.

Okay, so you want some dollar book Freud?

What comes off from the book is: he has a simplistic worldview, he is essentially at war with himself, he has never come close to resolving his issues with his father or his grandfather (both of whom were huge war heroes and World Class A-Holes), he has enormous ambition but hates himself for it, he doesn't have any real respect for women, he apologizes frequently for his mistakes, knows quite well that he has a problem with authority, knows full well he has a temper that makes him do things he probably shouldn't...

From what I can remember, after Bush attacked him in South Carolina in 2000, he became enraged and after an initial, brief 'we're not gonna stoop so low' phase, began attacking back, equally viciously. After he lost, he said that had been a mistake, that that wasn't the real McCain. But from reading his book, and following this election, I think it's pretty clear: there is no real McCain. (And I'm not talking about just the issues: he poses as a maverick but is of course the ultimate Washington insider. He wants to bring reform to DC, but was wrapped up in the gruesomely obvious Keating Five scandal...)

I mean as a person, as a guy. He doesn't really stand for anything -- and in a way that could be a good thing -- that is a good thing, when we're talking about the members of the Armed Services. We don't want our Army standing for anything other than the interests of the United States. And I do believe that somewhere down deep, McCain does stand for the interests of the United States. Or thinks he does.

But what he really stands for is himself. Again and again in his book, the word 'ambition' comes up - the phrase 'glory for myself', even in a negative way (the McCain meme, for those of you who don't know: before he was a POW, all he cared about was himself; afterwards, he was all about service to country). But it rings hollow if you read the book -- the man is permeated with the idea of glory and ambition, and why else would he be so incensed by Obama if he didn't think the guy was cut from the same cloth?

(I am not saying Obama is NOT ambitious, of course; Obama regularly admits that no politician can be without some vanity... but Obama's faults have a lot more to do with, oh, I don't know, arrogance and thinking he knows all the answers, and maybe an tendency to over-think problems -- his problem is NOT that he is just trying to glorify himself.)

So pay attention: watch how much McCain talks about Obama's ambition, and realize: this is a man who wants more than anything else in the world to be President -- only then will he surpass his Dad and Granddad (my God! do we really want another Oedipal drama at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?) -- and as he sees it slip away, and fall into the hand of this, this, this _____, he is going to become increasingly desperate, making more and more outrageous statements, scattering his impotent rage into the atmosphere in a ravenous lunge for Power.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

He Didn't Ask Her What the Bush Doctrine Was

It wasn't a 'gotcha' question. It wasn't 'what's the capital of Upper Volta?' or 'Who won Wimbledon in 1974?' or even 'Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?'

The question was: 'Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?'

He wasn't testing her knowledge. He was asking for an opinion. He had no idea she wouldn't even recognize the premise of the question. 'Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?' is not a trick question. (It should be; anyone who agrees with it should be automatically barred from public office, but that's another discussion...) It's a question that is asked of all candidates for national public office these days -- nothing tricky about it. In fact, just an easy way for her to present her Republican bona fides: 'Yes, yes, I do! We need to bomb the hell out of anyone who even looks at us funny...!'

But Charlie - as we now know we should call him -- Charlie, a grateful nation salutes you.

The tide has turned. Mark my words: 'In what respect, Charlie?' was the moment the wheels started to come off the McCain campaign. Let's see where the polls are next Friday. If Obama doesn't have a nice 2-3 point edge back, I'd be very surprised indeed....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Keep Hope Alive

A headline on Drudge just now said, "Palin, McCain to spend more time together than apart...." And when I read it, an almost inexplicable shiver of joy ran through my body...

Wouldn't it be wonderful in a kind of loosely ironic Allanis Morisette way if McCain's utterly shameless pick of Sarah Palin because of her gender and her extreme right wing views, rather than helping him win the election and ascend to the office he has dreamt about for probably longer than most of us have been alive, instead caused his final last chance of attaining that dream go up in smoke?

It's one thing to inject 'energy' into the race, to admire her 'amazeen' qualities and ability to connect with certain voters. But by tying his fortunes so dramatically to this uneducated reactionary, deciding to campaign more with her than without, he is now on the verge of embarrassing himself.

He's like the high school senior panting after the comely Freshman transfer student.

It ain't pretty.

But I'll take it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ten Things to Keep You Up At Night

I've tried, Lord how I've tried, to be optimistic in the face of these new polls - certainly there is much to take hope in, not the least of which are these two basic truths: 1) Obama himself doesn't seem overly concerned; and 2) we still have the debates ahead of us, which could change the game all over again...


Without even breaking a sweat, here are ten things to be truly worried about, in no particular order:

1. Reverend Wright. The Republicans haven't used him yet. Not once. Think that will last, especially if they can keep it close into mid-October? And making matters worse, the good Reverend seems to be loosening his lips again....

2. Palin. She's not going away. The more we find out about her, the more certain of us will dislike her, intensely, and the more certain others of us will flock to her. There's no doubt, she's involved in quite a few scandals, she's very possibly a pathological liar (how many times is she gonna say she told Congress thanks but no thanks on the bridge after we all know she's lying about it?), and she's farther right than most people even know. To me, she's a lot like Nixon in 1952, and we all know what happened after the Checkers speech. (It only took 22 years after that embarrassment for Nixon to finally get off the stage....) Palin's no Eagleton, she's not going away - she's a star, and we all better get used to that, no matter what happens on November 4.

3. Hillary. Not entirely getting with the program. Her reluctance to take Sarah Palin on head-on is not a good sign. The news on the white women in the latest polls is discouraging in the extreme -- Hillary was supposed to be their savior. If Palin has stolen that from her, she better do a lot better than 'No way, no how, no McCain, no Palin.' She better attack, head-on, the Republicans' utter cynicism in placing this under-qualified woman on the ticket, and Palin's own record, such as it is, which is so counter to everything HRC claims to stand for.

4. The Bradley Effect. We still don't really know -- we've never had a Black candidate before -- exactly how American voters will respond when they get in that voting booth and have to pull the lever for a Black man. Let's not act like the polls are reliable on that point.

5. The newness factor. Obama is no longer new. Palin is. Those who just want change for change's sake, from a very superficial point of view, have a different way to feel about the election now. Leaving issues aside, it feels a helluva lot fresher and more fun to vote for Palin than Biden.

6. The Republicans will do anything to win. John McCain is a man of supreme ambition. (I am nearly finished with his autobiography, and will be reviewing it soon in full on this site -- but I have never read anyone who thinks and talks more about the nature of ambition than John McCain. As the son and grandson of two supremely successful military men, he felt himself under extreme pressure his entire life to measure up, and writes freely about these pressures.) It is not a stretch, at all, to say that John McCain (unlike, say, Bob Dole) will do anything to win this election. Those of us who think the Palin pick is the lowest blow, that a man of alleged honor and respect for the office he seeks could go no further in demonstrating his absence of moral scruples, are well advised to remember the Jolson Rule: you ain't seen nothin' yet.

7. Fear of Real Change. As ghastly as the last eight years have been, most voters are healthy; most voters have families who love them; most voters know, or think they know, that they live in the best nation on Earth. We've had 219 years of White Men as Presidents. Maybe a crazy, unnecessary war, its resulting free fall in our national reputation, and an economy in complete disarray are really not enough to get us the Change We Need, especially when it comes from a Black guy.

8. Joe Biden. Mr. Open-Mouth-Insert-Foot hasn't really been pressed yet, but he came close when he called Sarah Palin 'good looking' the other day. The man's just slightly unhinged, and it seems likely that before November 4, he will say at least one thing that will have pundits scrambling and falling all over themselves with glee.

9. The Press. For one thing, they are not doing the investigating of Sarah Palin that they should be. For another, they love a good story, and it's an awfully good story if McCain - the POW, counted out last summer, the old maverick - and Palin - the woman, ex-sportscaster, five kids blah blah. -- win. Not better than Obama, necessarily, but darn good. And also, and most damningly, the Press has this 'the Republicans say this, the Democrats say this' mentality, so that even those among them who who strive for "objectivity" will usually present a story that presents some kind of false "balance," even when the Republicans are distorting the truth ('bridge to Nowhere') and the Democrats aren't. What's more, a lot of them will bend over backwards to prove that they are NOT members of the "liberal elite" and so pretend that all distortions are equal, when in fact they are not. Basically, they're chickenshit.

10. An International Incident. It shouldn't be this way, but it is -- at times of crisis, we will rally around the flag, and that usually means Republicans. And this guy was a war hero. Do you really think when fighting breaks out in Somewhereistan that Americans won't turn to John McCain?

If all of that is not keeping you up at night, what are you taking?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Rolling in his Grave

We have 58 days now till the actual Election. 58 Days in which the American people, buffeted by the storms of political electioneering and ads and nonsense and absolute partisan bloggery (this included, I guess), will try to make sense of what it all means, and what the next four years could be.

You know what would help? It would help if the press -- and I don't mean the bloggers, because from what I can gather, there are a LOT of good bloggers out there (Sullivan, Nate Silver at 538, TPM, and the Jed Report, for starters), but there are always a lot of good, smart commentators who no one listens to, in coffee houses and on campuses and in dorm rooms and by water coolers nationwide -- but if the press -- the mainstream press, what's left of it -- the three networks (yes, three, not four, Mr. Murdoch) -- the ones who 'set the agenda,' who determine what we talk about -- the Times and the Post -- you know, The Press! the Fourth Estate! I think it would be fun to run a newspaper!... those guys....

It would help if The Press would accelerate the process of getting to know Sarah Palin. We don't have, as we had with Barack Obama, a 19 month campaign to get to know her, her background, her family, her policies, her religious views.... We have 58 days. We also don't have, as we had with Obama, a willing subject, someone who wants us to get to know who he is and what he stands for; instead we have someone who was chosen hastily and for strictly demographic and political reasons and who will be sequestered as much as possible, to keep us guessing at who she is and what she believes. (I also think it's quite clear that she's smart as a whip and probably a quick study and will actually do quite well in her appearances, but by keeping her in hiding, so long as she doesn't dribble all over herself and can manage to smile and speak relatively articulately and, more important, confidently, she will be judged a success. She is being sequestered, in short, to continue to lower expectations for her.)

So, Press! Get to it! I want front page articles every day, Gray Lady! I want 'Palin's Rise a Model of Political Inconsistency' or 'Palin's Husband Loaned Money to Himself, Never Paid it Back.' I want Nightline to keep running hard-hitting pieces on 'Troopergate,' I want Katie Couric to sit down with Palin's doctors (especially the one who delivered Trig), I want the Washington Post to rise to the occasion! I want Ben Bradlee storming in and yelling for Woodstein! I want Cronkite to choke back his tears and take off his glasses. I want Murrow blowing smoke and getting in McCarthy's big sweaty face!

Now is not the time for the Fourth Estate to get all timid. This is a golden opportunity for them to take back the reins, and let us all be thankful once more for their existence.

In truth, the one guy I wish were here -- and I'm surprised by this thought, and somewhat mortified, given what I wrote about him in June -- is Tim Russert. For all his flaws, Russert wasn't timid. He probably would have effused, as they all have, my God, over Palin's 'performance' the other night, her high-wattage star-power, but when het got finished with the effusing, he would have relished the thought at going after Sarah Palin on her record.

It was announced today that Palin will finally give her first in-depth interview to a network correspondent - Charles Gibson of ABC. I'm not a fan of Gibson, not at all.... He seems like a classic poseur to me, with his reading glasses perched so ostentatiously down there on his nose, almost like they should be wearing suspenders too, the old newshound.

Prove me wrong, Charlie. I beg of you, prove me wrong. One of you poor ink-stained wretches has a really good chance to win a Pulitzer, and it may as well be you.

Go for it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Drill, Baby, Drill!

I just realized something fascinating about myself. (Okay, I think there are about three places in the world you can get away with saying something like that... For ten points, name them!)

Here's what it is: I like to make predictions - especially about things I care about, like this election. I like to say things like 'Palin will give McCain a nice bump this week, and by the middle of next week, the race will have stabilized - basically, we're looking at a tie by Tuesday.' Part of why I do this, of course, is because it's fun; part of why I do this is because I like to think I'm good at it -- but I think the biggest reason I make predictions can be boiled down into one word:


When you predict something, you are trying to take control -- you are saying, in essence, that you know what is going to happen -- and more than that, you are inoculating yourself against the pain of what you don't want to happen actually happening. (For instance, I think the Palin pick quite clearly represents the most odious kind of political electioneering; it's not, as so many have pointed out, a serious choice; it's about winning the election, not governing -- and I think that she, as a political animal, is a dangerous, horrible phenomenon, quite capable of turning the election McCain's way. She taps into a deep-seated fear of Obama-as-Other, and she will quite demonstrably galvanize the Republicans' Christianist base, and yada yada yada and the bottom line is, I am terrified that McCain has, with this disgusting, cynical act, won the freaking Election and set us down a really horrible path for the country.)

But so, given that, I make predictions to guard myself against the pain of McCain's actually winning the election. This way, when he does, I will be able to console myself with the fact that I saw it coming - I knew this would happen and I even blogged about it - and 'by the way, I am so glad,' I will tell myself, 'that I didn't get my hopes up.'

But this kind of self-protection, of course, is the antithesis of the Obama campaign - a campaign that has reveled in placing hope over cynicism, in promoting honesty over the typical political gamesmanship and disingenuousness.

Which makes me and my need for control, when you think about it, fairly McCain-like.

And when you look at the Republican convention this week, as I forced myself to do, you see the same thing throughout -- the safety of cynicism, the easy comfort of 'control', of thinking clearly and uni-directionally about the world and its problems, a simplistic worldview that values the quick answer over the right response, the mean and snarky one liner over the complicated, inclusive reality that Obama, almost always, exudes and embraces. In other words, the same old thing.

So what to do? Stop predicting things?

I predict not.

Thank you very much, I'm here all weekend....!

The answer, I think, is to resist, no matter how hard it can be, the urge to fight cynicism with cynicism. What I continue to find remarkable about Barack Obama is that he does this: on The odious O'Reilly factor last night, when confronted with cynical, mean-spirited, supposedly knowing questions from Senor Loofah, he not only maintained his composure, he spoke forthrightly and with dignity; I clicked on a video this morning and saw him campaigning in Pennsylvania and in talking about the Republican convention, about his only 'polticial' action was adapting a mildly 'country' accent. He didn't fight fire with fire; he didn't snark back at the Governor for her crude twisting of his record, or lash out (as God I would have been tempted to) at the allegedly Honorable Rudolph Guiliani for his outrageously disgusting suggestion that Obama thought Palin's hometown wasn't 'cosmopolitan' enough. He spoke calmly, decently, honestly, with a genuine half-smile at the Republican's willfully ignoring both their own record and the sorry state of the Economy.

And I think that, more than anything, is the lesson of his campaign. It really is all about Hope. I have no idea if it will work, either in the election on November 4, or, more important, if he does somehow win. I am not sure how the country would respond to such an actual Presidency. I make no predictions, but I sure as Hell hope we get to find out.

Burn the Witch

No, that's not what I mean. Please. Give me a little credit....

Apparently, 'burn the witch' is a political phrase. I never heard it till this morning when my friend Mark, a really great television producer and partisan Democrat (in other words, a brie-eating, white wine-swilling member of the angry left Media elite), in talking about the election, pointed out that when times are bad, Democrats try to instill hope in the electorate, but Republicans turn cynical and decide to 'burn the witch.' They start blaming people and getting divisive... "Unemployment up? Burn the witch!... Gas prices high? Burn the witch! ... Problems in Iraq? Burn the witch!"

It's a great phrase. I just hope it doesn't work this time... For what it's worth, Mark has lost hope and thinks it will...

(Okay, I tried to avoid her in this post, but when you think about it, it's actually fairly easy to imagine Sarah Palin in Salem in 1692, leading a fire-wielding mob to the door of some young innocent woman, smirking madly and shouting at the top of her lungs, "Burn the Witch!")

Monday, September 1, 2008

"She was 18 when she had me..."

Barack Obama forcefully admonished his listeners this afternoon that we should all back off young Bristol Palin by reminding them that he himself was the offspring of a very young mother. Which made me think again about the young man growing up in Hawaii in the early 1960s....

Imagine that you are that young boy. Your father is black. Your mother is white. The state, Hawaii, is new. You are two years old and from all accounts a happy baby. Your parents received some kind of grant from the US government and you hear about that from time to time... You know that the President is John F. Kennedy, and your parents both talk about him a lot. You know that if it hadn't been for him, or the Peace Corps, or whatever it was that brought your father to Hawaii in the first place, Mommy and Daddy wouldn't have met. There wouldn't be any you. Such thoughts fade in your mind -- you mostly focus on swimming and playing and getting ready for birthday parties, which when you have one, turning two, in August 1963, is but one more great diversion and pleasure in a life that seems a non-stop joy.

Then, suddenly, a few weeks later, in the fall of 1963, your father goes away on a trip. It may not be clear to you immediately, but from your mother's response, it's pretty obvious: she's not happy, and Daddy isn't coming home any time soon. In fact, you will see him only one more time in your entire life, but that will be eight years from now. For now, and for ever, you will really have no Father.

And while this is dawning on you.... One afternoon, the entire state is suddenly mourning. You are whisked from home to home and from TV to TV. Grown-ups are crying, and the joy seems to have left your life for good. Your mother, who probably bottled up her emotions (at least in front of you) over her own dawning awareness that your father has abandoned her, now lets loose with torrents of despair and tears: The President is dead.

Is it any great surprise that an ambition is forged in this young boy to become President? That he should determine that the one way to reclaim that early, pre- Autumn 1963 joy is, in one step, to reclaim his Father and the President who made his very being possible?

We've heard a lot about the candidate's mother, and a lot about his father of course (even from the Candidate himself, who didn't go quite as deep as he could have), but I am not sure we've heard enough about how the forging of his young creation has led us all to this particular doorstep of History....