She’s Not Going To Be VP (This Is Not A Hillary Rant)

 Civilizer

So Hillary has finally conceded, and now the talk turns more pointedly than ever to the “dream ticket” scenario with the Junior Carpetbagger from New York accepting a nomination for Vice-President.  Will not happen, and this is where I get pretty damn annoyed with the mainstream media, and the mainstream bloggers, who keep trying to pump life into this story.  I think it really drives home the point that the media these days is populated by a lot of incredibly ordinary people, of average intelligence at best, who are trying desperately to fill time.  Because if you pay any sort of attention to politics beyond the headlines, and you know what a “search” or “vetting” committee does, then you know that Hillary as VP is a non-starter.  Not because of her well-chronicled baggage, not because Barack Obama must hate her the way Michael Scott hates Toby by now, but because of her husband.  Bill Clinton.  The guy who helped cost her the presidential nomination also takes her entirely out of consideration for the vice presidency.

You can read for yourself the myriad reports of Clinton’s shady business dealings that would give the Democratic National Committee some serious indigestion here, here, and here, but I’ll just leave you with this.  If Hillary were to become the vice-presidential pick, it would be completely appropriate for a reporter to ask her the following question:

“Senator Clinton, are you aware of a number of free trips your husband has taken on a private plane referred to by staffers of this plane’s owner as ‘Air Fuck One’?”

Working-class voters who somehow became Hillary’s base just love rallying behind a candidate whose spouse jets all over the globe on a private plane with an appellation like that!

A Big Night For ATITP On Monday Night RAW

 Miiisterrrrr Civilizer…Civilizer

I must say, I never thought I’d be dictating the rhetorical direction of the Democratic primary back on February 27th of this year, when I suggested that Barack Obama take The Rock out on the campaign trail with him to close the Senator’s stump speeches with a little “If ya smell what Barack is cookin'”.  And yet there it was, Monday on the special 3 hour RAW on USA, Barack Obama himself closing his pre-taped message to the rasslin’ fan voters with “Do you smell what Barack is cookin'”!

I would have to say, in all humility, that tonight was a validation of my long-running position that politicians and their aides would do well to incorporate one of the primary tenets of professional wrestling if they want to rejuvenate American politics – cut promos.  And yet, at the same time, these three particular politicians perhaps discredited this position, because these three promos were freaking terrible.  (You can watch excerpts, including “Do you smell” here)  Stiff delivery was a big problem, for one.  Seriously, you could almost physically see the following thought floating across Obama’s face:  “Who in the aw-shucks heck is Randy Orton and why did I just bring him up?” (Points to Orton, though, for being mentioned twice, by both Democrats)  And Hillary, good Lord.  A for effort because she really did seem to be good-humored about doing this, but she had even more tortured wrestling allusions than her opponent did.  “Hill-rod?”  I don’t even know what that meant. 

Also, both of the Democrats were smiling!  You do NOT smile when you’re cutting a promo unless you are the cocky heel, and you don’t play the cocky heel if you’re trying to win an election!  And not only did Barack smile, he broke kayfabe at the end, but I think I’ll blame his video editor. This is basic stuff, people.  Lincoln never would have pulled a hayseed move like that. 

McCain had his own problems but, amusingly, his cadence, facial expressions, and tone of voice indicated that he was definitely trying the hardest to sound like a real wrestler.  I think he also had the best catch-phrase drops, referencing Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Triple H, and Stone Cold Steve Austin all within about 20 seconds.  Memo to McCain though – when you’re the establishment white guy Republican going up the first black Democratic candidate for President, or the first woman, I wouldn’t call yourself “The Man.”  He did have the line of the night, however, when he aped the Hulkster’s famous “Whatcha gonna do when Hulk Hogan and all the Hulkamaniacs run wild on you?” and turned it into a hilariously codgerish “And whatcha gonna do when John McCain and all his McCainiancs run wild on yeh.”

While the promos might not have been the strongest, I can ultimately take deep satisfaction from the fact that in a historic national election, all three major candidates felt compelled to assume the pulpit of American professional wrestling and reference the following men in an attempt to win the nation’s highest office: 

   

 

For the record, Senator McCain also promised to introduce the terrorists to this man:

Best foreign policy idea I’ve heard yet.

Obama Makes A Good Point, Everyone Jumps All Over Him

 Civilizer

I think one of Slate’s most astute observations about the Democratic primary has been to track the way the Obama and Clinton campaigns take calculated umbrage at things said by the opposition campaign about their candidate, hoping to score some political gain.  And up to this point, that’s been the exclusive way that umbrage has been employed – one campaign gets huffy about something the other did, said, or implied.  Examples abound – there was the Obama campaign groping for the fainting couch after Geraldine Ferraro opened her idiot yap (her ticket lost by one of the widest margins in history, why would she be tapped as a surrogate, again?), Clinton wanting to meet Obama in Ohio at high noon after he distributed a critical flyer, Obama’s campaign getting all righteously indignant when Mark Penn referred to Obama’s youthful dalliance with cocaine, the Clinton campaign going Force 10 crazy after Samantha Power called her a “monster,” etc.

And now the Clinton campaign has decided that getting offended on its own behalf is so three months ago, and it’s time to shine ass by getting offended on behalf of the voters.  At a fund-raiser in Pennsylvania, site of Hillary Clinton’s latest “last stand” (sidebar:  anybody else agree with me that Hillary Clinton is like that furniture store that has like 3 “Going Out Of Business” sales every year?), Obama was addressing the raw feelings among working class voters in Rust Belt states, and made the following statement, the horrifically offensive, Mussolini-esque part highlighted in bold:

“Our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

As class-related statements go, I wouldn’t really rate that one near Ronald Reagan’s “poor by choice” comment on the Incendiary Meter – as I read it, Obama basically said “Go into states that have historically been supported by blue-collar economies like manufacturing, and you’ll find that economic decisions made by previous administrations have left the citizenry behind through outsourcing and trade deals that didn’t look out for the American worker.  And this has been happening for a full generation now, and these people are upset about it, feel like their government treats them as disposable in the face of foreign trade and interests, and so they get pretty pissed about it and start looking for fulfillment, community, and meaning elsewhere.”  I’m kind of surprised the remark kicked up the shitstorm that it did.

But boy, did it.  Hillary Clinton didn’t wait long, and despite the fact that she didn’t take a lot of time to prepare, her comments are nevertheless hilarious, well-crafted self-parody that matches Stephen Colbert with ease.  “Senator Obama’s remarks were elitist and out of touch,” she said, campaigning about an hour away in Indianapolis. “They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans.”  

Only Hillary Clinton, just a week out from releasing tax records that showed she and Slick made $109 million since 2000 – the top one hundreth of 1 percent -, would attack Barack Obama for being “elitist.”  (sidebar No. 2  – Hillary actually said, by way of comment on the embarassment of riches “my husband, much to my surprise and his, has made a lot of money since he left the White House, by doing what he loves doing most — talking to people.”)  And I don’t know about you, but when I think of the elitist comments, Hillary’s assertion that she’s “not the kind of woman who stays at home baking cookies” leaps to mind pretty quick.  Yes, it’s quite a common touch she’s got.

Clinton also points out “I was raised with Midwestern values and an unshakable faith in America and its policies.”  I also was raised with Midwestern values…still live in the Midwest, in fact.  And somehow I missed the part of Midwestern values education where it recommends marrying and covering for a serial philanderer so that you can climb a political ladder.  But maybe there’s an advanced class in Midwestern values taught somewhere in Clinton’s carpetbagged adopted home of New York that a rube like me hasn’t been privy to.  And the fact she didn’t invite me to sit in leaves me feeling kind of…offended.

Obama’s Race Speech: Critically Acclaimed Flop, Or Ballot Box Office Gold?

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

I don’t want to spend any time here rehashing, commenting, or otherwise opining on Barack Obama’s reallybigspeech on race he gave this week.  Everybody in the American PoliticoDrome with a microphone or a blog or a ham radio has already graded the Illinois Senator and have largely settled on the same conclusion: “Nailed It!”

After Obama ended the speech, a brief content analysis ensued, and since then we’ve been hearing the media say, essentially, the the address was the single greatest collection of words in English since The Beatles White Album, only more lyrical.  Nicholas Kristof, for example, proclaimed it “the best political speech since John Kennedy talked about his Catholicism…It was not a sound bite, but a symphony.”  The Los Angeles Times, comparing Obama to Lincoln and his speech to the 16th president’s “House Divided” speech, said “Sen. Barack Obama, another lanky lawyer from Illinois, planted one of those rhetorical markers in the political landscape Tuesday.” 

So it’s unanimous, Obama’s speech was an oratorical masterstroke.  But here’s what I’m more interested in:  did it work?

A feature of America’s politics is an odd bifurcation:  the proliferation of 24-hour news networks has created a small chattering class – people who either have their own TV shows or people whose job it is to make 5 minute soundbite-laden appearances on those shows – and the rest of the public.  The news networks have to fill all that air time somehow, so they bring in all these pundits, and panels of pundits, and they spend literally hours dissecting an event like Obama’s speech or the New Hampshire primary.  The news channels seem to have modeled themselves on the Sunday afternoon NFL pre-game shows, or ESPN…lots of analysis and banter about a single topic that will play out on its own, in reality, entirely independent of what was said on TV.  Dan Marino can talk all he wants about the importance of containing L.T., and how the 3-4 defense plays into that goal, but it’s quite likely that Philip Rivers is going to be the guy driving the offense and stopping the run will never come into play.  The 24-hour news complex is a lot like that.  Stuff happens, they talk about it, and stuff continues to happen.

This dynamic is interesting to me because these talking heads are the only people who have any kind of a mass-audience reach, which naturally lends their position to that of national political arbiters.  They are the experts, we’re meant to understand, they are the ones who spend their day studying this politics thing, this for gosh sakes is their job.  But coming home from work and turning on Hardball, or Countdown, or The Situation Room(just kidding on that one), you can’t help but get the feeling as the campaign drags on that these people truly are talking in a vaccum.  They get an event like this latest speech on race in America, they make very certain and declarative remarks like “Obama said exactly what he needed to say, and this is going to turn out to be a turning point in this campaign for the Democrats,” and then they praise the whole thing from every angle.  If you watch these shows, you’d think Obama positioned himself as a politician with supernatural talents who has triumphantly opened a productive dialogue on one of America’s seediest and buried-but-just-under-the-surface issues.  Surely such an acheivement leaves the petty, sniping Hillary Clinton behind as a relic, just another pol trying to win an office.  Obama is America, the Upgraded Version.

And then I poke my head out of the punditry cloud, and come across some data that raises an eyebrow:  a few days before the speech, Obama had a statistically significant lead over Clinton nationally among Democrats.  And then, a couple days after Obama’s Best Speech Ever, Obama’s lead evaporates and Clinton takes the lead.  She jumped ahead in the crucial upcoming state of Pennsylvania.  Huh?  I thought Obama faced the toughest test of his campaign, stepped into the full glare of the gaffe-hungry media spotlight, and delivered like Eli Manning facing a furious New England rush…if he did so beautifully, why is he losing so soon afterward?

It’s been a real blogosphere education…I never, ever, really thought that the political opinion mill had much of an effect on public opinion – it’s the news media with their reporting on issues and scandals that moves the needle for the average voter.  But this Obama speech crystallized something for me.  The news channel pundits really are, like this post title suggests, movie critics – people well-versed in commenting on a highly subjective topic, and whose opinions are very likely to be outright ignored by the only people who matter – the ones who buy movie tickets.  And Pat Buchanan, Joe Scarborough, Rachel Maddow, Dee Dee Myers, Dana Milbank, Tom Brokaw and their like can talk about how well the respective candidates are doing and how effectively they are campaigning, but those opinions are quite likely to have all the influence of the Village Voice’s endorsement of a subtitled Hungarian romance movie…say what they want, no one’s seeing it.

Barack Obama has been the critics favorite for many months now, but as the road gets rocky, it looks like we’re going to find out if the man’s act has, as they say in the movie business, legs.  The media has certainly set their narrative, but they keep forgetting to include one thing – regular people are actually going to vote on this stuff.

Hope You’re Happy

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

To all of you out there in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island who gave Hillary Clinton’s candidacy new life on Tuesday, to all of you who think she’s such an admirable person, an estimable person, an intelligent woman gifted with the skill to ascend to the presidency on her own merits in the face of a challenge from an inspirational, equally gifted challenger, I just want to remind you how she responded on 60 Minutes this past Sunday when asked about the Muslim rumors which have perniciously dogged that challenger for several months now:

Steve Kroft:You said you’d take Senator Obama at his word that he’s not a Muslim.  You don’t believe that he’s…

Clinton: No.  No, there’s nothing to base that on.  As far as I know.

hillary-clinton-1984.jpg

Taking him at his word he’s not a Muslim?  “As far as I know”?  All of you who flog the Bush presidency as being full of Machiavellian, cynical, dishonest, political drones who will do and say anything, appeal to any prejudice, to advance their agenda, I hope you at least understand that you reinvigorated a candidate who shares all of those toxic qualities in at least equal measure, someone who, when Barack Obama says “I am not a Muslim, I am a Christian and have always been a Christian,” replies:

“Hey, sure, if you say so.”  Wink, wink.

And decided to bundle this despicable yet politically expedient bigotry with an ad that blatantly asserts, as Slate’s John Dickerson says, “If you vote for Barack Obama, your children will die in their beds.” 

McCain in 2008.  Hell, Kevin Federline in 2008, anybody but this pantsuited snake.

Super Tuesday: Please, Please Don’t Give Us McCain-Huckabee ’08

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

superman-poster.jpg

Ok, a few points. 

1.  The story on the Republican side tonight and for most of this post-Iowa campaign has been Huckabee essentially running interference for McCain and luring away a lot of conservative voters that would otherwise go for Romney.  Huckabee, at least as of 11:15 PM EST (early, I know), is helping McCain especially by grabbing up the Southern votes that Romney would otherwise get, preventing Romney from banking the conservative delegates there, and keeping McCain’s overall lead comfortable.  All well and good.  Except.  Anybody else in the GOP think it’s an issue that their nominee will NOT be the guy that won the Southern states?  Huckabee has thus far won Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and West Virginia.  He stands a good chance of winning Tennessee.  Don’t think about it as Huckabee winning those states, think about it as McCain failing to win those states.  Bush won them all in 2004, and easily.  That’s a problem.  A Republican going into the general without firm Southern ground underneath him is riding to war without his cavalry behind him.

2.  It’s especially a problem if Obama gets the Democratic nomination, which he very well might.  He is doing quite well in Dixie, and black voters are with him in droves.  In the states he has shown electoral weakness, primarily the Northeast in states like Massachussetts and New Hampshire, he’s shored up by the fact that Republican candidates are historically even weaker.  If McCain gets the nod and goes head to head with Obama, it’s of course ludicrous that the Southern GOP conservatives defect and cast protest votes for the Democrat, but it’s quite likely they just stay home, and the South goes blue.  Anybody want to put odds on a Republican, with the national mood soured on the Republican incumbent and the economy in trouble, winning the general election without blowing the doors off in the South?

3.  Which leads one to the question: if McCain can’t win the South outright, why not get the guy who did to be your running mate?  That would put a guy who only three weeks ago said the following, in public and with microphones in his face, one heartbeat away from the presidency:

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution.  But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

I’ll say this: between the Democrats letting Bill race-bait the electorate after his wife got waxed by Obama in South Carolina and now the GOP facing the prospect of a nominee who alienates the base needing to pick a running mate who alienates the rest of the country, I can’t remember an election in which both parties seemed determined to blow it.

Mr. Clinton Goes To Kazakhstan

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

It’s been really great, having Hillary Clinton right in the thick of a close, disputatious race for President.  It puts her husband back in the papers, and that guy is always up to something wild!  By way of example, let’s follow the 2005 path of the peripatetic former POTUS as he took a quick little pleasure jaunt over to exotic Kazakhstan.  The New York Times broke this story today, and I have divided it up into easy-to-read, mostly chronologically numbered chunks for your reading pleasure:

1.  On September 6, 2005, a private plane carrying ultra-wealthy Canadian businessman Frank Giustra (a profile can be read here) landed in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  Here’s where Almaty is:

kazakh-map.jpg…and here’s Frank Giustra: f-giustra.jpg

Giustra was there to bid on the exclusive rights to large deposits of uranium, which he would then use to fuel nuclear power plants he planned to build around the world.  On the private jet was Bill Clinton, a good friend of Giustra ever since Giustra started throwing millions of dollars at Clinton and his charitable foundation, the William J. Clinton Foundation.

nursultan-nazarbayev.jpg 

2.  Upon landing, the two had a fancy dinner with Kazakh president Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, who has ruled, rather iron-fistedly, for 19 years in that country.  As outlined in this Washington Post article, Nazarbayev “has banned opposition parties, intimidated the press and profited from his post” and “has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of pocketing the bulk of $78 million in bribes from an American businessman.”  In 2007, Transparency International ranked Kazakhstan 150th out of 179 countries on its Corruption Perceptions Index, scoring it a 2.1 out of a possible 10. 

3.  Within 2 days of this dinner, Bill Clinton was enthusiastically supporting Nazarbayev’s government’s bid to head the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy, according to the Times story.

4.  Also within 2 days, Giustra’s nascent uranium mining company, UrAsia, was awarded the rights to 3 big uranium projects controlled by the state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom.  This despite the fact that the company had no time to develop contacts and relationships with Kazakh officials.  According to the Times,

“A spokesman for Mr. Clinton said the former president knew that Mr. Giustra had mining interests in Kazakhstan but was unaware of “any particular efforts” and did nothing to help. Mr. Giustra said he was there as an “observer only” and there was “no discussion” of the deal with Mr. Nazarbayev or Mr. Clinton.  But Moukhtar Dzhakishev, president of Kazatomprom, said in an interview that Mr. Giustra did discuss it, directly with the Kazakh president, and that his friendship with Mr. Clinton ‘of course made an impression.'”

5.  A few months after the Kazakh deals were finalized, Clinton’s charitable foundation received a $31.3 million gift from Giustra.  (The relationship was further cemented in 2007 with the creation of the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative.)

6.  Later in 2005, in December, Nazarbayev won re-election with a dictatorial 91% of the vote in an atmosphere described by the very OSCE that Nazarbayev meant to lead as tained by “an atmosphere of intimidation” and “ballot-box stuffing.”  Bill Clinton sent Nazarbayev a congratulatory letter stating, sickeningly, “Recognizing that your work has received an excellent grade is one of the most important rewards in life.”  More on the repressive power consolidation from the Wall Street Journal here.

7.  Eleven months previous to Clinton’s atta-boy to a Soviet bloc dictator, a Congressional commission sent a letter to the U.S. State Department opposing Kazakhstan’s bid to head the OSCE, saying it “would not be acceptable” and cited “serious corruption.”

8.  The letter was signed by Hillary Clinton.  That’s all, folks!