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.

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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.

Just A Thought, Jabroni

 walter-2.jpg Civilizer

I was thinking today that Barack Obama can’t keep relying on his own oratory; it can only take him so far.  It’s been great for the primary, serving to perfectly contrast himself with his dour, nasty, petty shrew of an opponent.  But once we get to the general, it’s going to be same old, same old, we’ve heard this song before after a while.  He must keep his core of positivity, of course, but he’s going to need to freshen up his act.

So I’m watching Monday Night RAW the other night, and they announce the next two inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame: “High Chief” Peter Maivia and Rocky Johnson.  They’re a father and son-in-law duo, Rocky being married to Peter’s daughter.  And Rocky’s son just so happens to be…The Rock himself.  The Great One.  The People’s Champ.  The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment.  And it occurs to me that there is Obama’s answer.

“Change You Can Believe In” is a fine catchphrase, but how awesome would it be if, at each one of Senator Obama’s campaign appearances, he finished up his speech and then The Rock took the mic and dropped the greatest catchphrase in all of wrestling, slightly modified, on a nation hungry for excitement:

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IF YA SMELL…what BARACK…is…cookin’

Now there’s a message you can approve, Senator.

Middle Finger Of The Apocalpyse: Ralph Nader

I think Ralph Nader enjoys crapping all over his heretofore proud legacy as a consumer advocate.  That, and he’s really a big fan of himself.  As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, the Green Party’s cranky old man is launching his third straight “bid” for the presidency.  I put “bid” in quotations marks because I don’t see Nader’s campaigns as actual pursuits of the White House so much as high-profile bitch sessions for a guy who has transformed himself into the political equivalent of the old guy at the pancake house who wears a lot of plaid and won’t shut up about how the coffee’s too cold.

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Rage Against The Machine sucks, and always has sucked, and always will suck.

Keep in mind that Nader presents himself as the sworn enemy of corporate interests.  He says stuff like “This (George W. Bush’s) administration is not sympathetic to corporations, it is indentured to corporations.”  Corporate interests this, corporate interests that, Republicans are evil, Democrats are cowardly sell-outs, blah blah blah.  The most unseasoned of political neophytes could tell you that Nader’s criticisms strike most deeply at the GOP, the party generally being perceived as the most beholden to big bad Corporate America.  And yet, Nader has three times now inserted himself into a presidential race in which his presence helps the Republican candidate by siphoning votes from the Democratic challenger.  This might not matter in landslide situations, but elections have been damn close lately.

So he enters the race, late, with little money, the idealism vote locked up by Barack Obama, basically all dressed up in an off-the-rack suit with no place to go.  Even he can’t actually believe he can win, so there’s really no explanation for his candidacy other than that he has lost all perspective regarding what a guy like him can do within the process.  So for once again launching a pointless, hopeless presidential campaign built on nothing but recycled complaints that no one in their right mind believes he is the guy to solve, Ralph Nader takes home the coveted Middle Finger Of The Apocalypse award.

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The Republicans’ Conservative Test Will Do More Harm Than Good

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

The GOP is a perplexing party this election.  Say what you will about their legislative record during the past several years, or the family values Congressmen that like to have sex with dudes, but the GOP’s behavior as a party has been nothing if not unified and consistent.  Very rarely do you see internal policy squabbling spill into the press, and if one of their members screws up and makes the party look bad, he’s promptly devoured within the next news cycle.  Just look at how quickly Mitt Romney let go of pal Larry Craig’s hand and let him plummet down the cliff face. Again, you might not like how they govern, but policy discipline has nevertheless been a strength.  Which makes the conservative gauntlet that presumptive presidential nominee John McCain has been forced to run a real head-scratcher.  Watching the “conservative base” throw votes at the quixotic Mike Huckabee the way they have been, one gets the feeling that if John McCain doesn’t punch a Mexican immigrant in the face on camera pretty soon, then the base is willing to just stay home in the general.   

Of course, McCain has bigger headaches at the moment, namely that unbelievably weak New York Times article that turned a paragraph’s worth of uncorroborated insinuation about an affair with a lobbyist into a pointed rehash of McCain’s ethics record.  However, the article was so poorly sourced, and the substantive criticisms of McCain’s seeming ethical missteps will of course be drowned out by the infidelity accusations which will go nowhere, so this storm is probably going to blow over pretty soon.  Heck, it’s more likely that McCain’s crew will get this spun into a referendum on responsible reporting during a presidential election and take the heat off their candidate.  Which will be good, because there’s going to be plenty of hot air blown in the senator’s direction by the conservatives.

If conservatives get their way and put McCain through a very public litmus test-style examination of his conservative bona fides and force him to kiss the ring, they will have won a decidedly phyrric victory.  I think that after 8 years of Bush and the rout the Republicans suffered in the last Congressional elections, voting patterns in the ’08 presidential election will turn out to be a repudiation of the conservative policies of the past 8 years.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the country is suddenly going to veer left by any means, but moderates are going to have their say, and the candidate that can pull most of them along is probably going to win.  Popularity with moderates is McCain’s great strength, and forcing him to kowtow to the conservative wing of the party is going to sap that strength.

This part of the GOP seems unable to understand how their priorities fit into the greater context of our national condition.  The economy is weak, we are fighting two expensive hot wars as well as ramping up spending on the War on Terror in general, entitlement spending is set to expand dramatically as baby boomers retire, and yet they want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. When McCain comes out against the cuts becoming permanent, the Club for Growth loses its shit.  I’m a Republican, and I like low taxes too, but depriving the government of tax revenue at this juncture strikes me as stupid, and I’m willing to bet it strikes a lot of people as stupid.  The problem with the GOP on taxes is emblematic of their problems nationwide – they are holding steadfastly to principles that are fine when confined to philosophy, but must be flexible when faced with reality.  Fiscal conservatism is a good philosophy.  But the conservative wing of the GOP has diluted the meaning of fiscal conservatism – no longer a prudent balancing of budgetary priorities with an eye towards keeping taxes and government spending low, but rather low taxes no matter what macroeconomic conditions dictate.  McCain should be applauded for expressing skepticism about cutting taxes when there’s so much to pay for.  He is, instead, vilified.

He also catches a fair amount of hell for his environmental policies.  He’s opposed to drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve, for example.  Never mind that it’s an ecologically responsible and moral position to take, drilling for oil in Alaska would have precious little effect on fuel prices.  But forget all that, the conservatives pipe up that it “makes us more dependent on foreign oil.”  Driving big cars and failing to adopt energy efficient technologies is what makes us more dependent on foreign oil…yet conservatives and their oil company donors continue to make themselves look both environmentally destructive and avaricious in the extreme as the rest of the nation looks on and public opinion in favor of protecting the environment mounts.  It’s because these elements of the GOP don’t realize how far off the reservation, nationally, they are that McCain loses points for such a reasonable position…they don’t get that when McCain wins points with them, he loses votes.

The story right now is the prospect that a drawn-out Obama-Clinton fight for the nomination will lead to months of internecine fighting within the Democratic party and cleave it in two.  I don’t think that’s an issue facing the Republicans – they have to worry instead about the possibility that a conservative pounding will leave them with a weakened John McCain for the general election and will cause long-term alienation among undecided voters.  After a wide-open primary for both parties and no incumbent VP in the running, this is a branding election.  If the GOP lets a pill-popping fat man and his ilk brand them, they’re going to find themselves losing often and badly.

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

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

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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.

The Democratic Process: A History In Pictures

We’ve gone from this:

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To this:

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So Happy Super Tuesday, America!  Now you can quit wondering how we get people like Tom DeLay!

Now Entering The Ring, Accompanied By Her Manager, Slick Willie…

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

You may recall that on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, I suggested that the only way Hillary Clinton could revive her flagging campaign was to hire a new manager – not your typical campaign manager, mind you, but a professional wrestling manager – somebody who could be her aggressive, offensive, aggrandizing mouthpiece, grabbing headlines by challenging Barack Obama without regard for decorum or propriety.  I knew it was an outrageous suggestion of course – the post was really just an excuse for me to inject my love of pro wrestling into my love for politics.  I never thought for a minute she’d actually do it!

Of course, she chose not to go with my suggestion, “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, despite the fact that Hart’s management resume includes Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, King King Bundy, the Hart Foundation, Earthquake, and of course, the Immortal Hulk Hogan, and the fact that Hart is a two-time Pro Wrestling Illustrated Manager of the Year.  Imagine my surprise when she chose, instead…her husband, former President and the world’s most famous fellatee (that’s not a real word, don’t bother looking it up), Bill Clinton!

The guy is a natural at this!  The minute he’s set loose on Obama, he comes up with gems like calling Obama’s Iraq statements “a fairy tale” and referring to Obama as a “kid”!  That kind of vituperation stands up to Jimmy Hart’s best stuff!  And not only is Bill hitting all the rhetorical marks, but he’s nailed one of the most important elements of the pro wrestling manager:

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The garish orange tie!