Saturday, September 08, 2012

Joe Walsh is a misogynistic asshole

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You know Joe Walsh, right? No, not the guitarist. Not that one.

I'm talking about the right-wing Republican congressman from Illinois who in July said his challenger, Tammy Duckworth, a double amputee Iraq War vet, wasn't a "true hero," and who in August said the political winds were going to "pick this president up and pat him on the head and say, son, son, son, Mr. President, you were never ready to be president, now go home and work for somebody and find out how the real world works," disrespectful and racially inflammatory rhetoric, to be sure.

And those are just two examples.

Well, he's at it again, as ugly as ever, this time going after Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student whom Dear Leader Rush called a "slut," among other horrible things, simply because she argued that contraception (that she needs for health reasons) should be covered by insurance: 

At a campaign stop Saturday in Addison, IL, Walsh, who faces a tough reelection battle, went on a self-described rant about Fluke, attacking her support for contraception coverage and telling the law student to "get a job."

"So at the Democratic Convention Wednesday night their first prime time speaker was Sandra Fluke, whatever her name is," Walsh said. "Think about this, a 31-32 year old law student who has been a student for life, who gets up there in front of a national audience and tells the American people, 'I want America to pay for my contraceptives.' You're kidding me. Go get a job. Go get a job Sandra Fluke."

"This a woman who feels entitled that we all should pay for her contraceptives," he said. "This is what we are teaching Americans? That was embarrassing. That was embarrassing."

Um, no. Fluke is a law student at a prestigious school. She's getting an education. She doesn't need to get a job right now. 

Furthermore, it's not like Fluke, along with so many others, wants the government to subsidize some sort of depraved lifestyle (if you think that sort of thing is depraved). Many women need contraception (the pill, specifically) for serious health reasons. More than that, though, women want to be in control of their own bodies, to be able to make choices about their health, not to have a bunch of misogynistic men tell them what they can and cannot do. And what's more, if you want to reduce the number of abortions that are performed in the U.S., which is what almost all of us who are pro-choice want, the best way to do that is to make contraception widely available and accessible, and specifically to those who lack the resources to purchase it.

What Fluke said wasn't meant to be solely about Sandra Fluke. It was meant to be about all women -- and that's exactly the case Fluke made at the Democratic convention a few days ago. Maybe Fluke can afford contraception, maybe she can't. But what about the millions of women who can't?

Not that Walsh cares. This is a guy who didn't pay child support -- to the tune of more than $100,000. He disrespects education and obviously disrespects women. Actually, that's an understatment. It would seem he's a vindictive misogynist who thinks women should just shut the fuck up and do what they're told, much like what he thinks America's black president should do.

We all know Republicans are waging a war on women. With Walsh, it's personal.

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2004 and 2012

By Comrade Misfit

To set the stage, recall that in 2000, Bill Clinton was finishing up eight years as president. The Democrats nominated Al Gore, who lost the election.[1]

In 2004, Bill Clinton spoke at the Democrats' convention.

In 2008, George W. Bush was finishing up eight years as president. The GOP's nominee lost heavily.[2]

In 2012, at the Republican convention, George W. Bush was nowhere to be found.[3] In point of fact, the man who was the last Republican president barely rated a mention. Apparently, only his brother Jeb felt obliged to mention his name, let alone defend his atrocious record.

Hard to see why, for Bush did what Republicans like: Cut taxes for the rich, pour shitloads of money into defense, and rack up large deficits.

But to listen to the GOP nowadays, it's as though they haven't held the White House since Reagan left office.

Curious, that they need to run away from the last two Republicans who were elected president.
[1] By a 5-4 vote to George W. Bush.
[2] Well beyond the Republicans' ability to steal.
[3] Presumably, he was too busy inspecting coal mines in Ulan Bator.

(Cross-posted at Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I.)

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Mitt Romney: Amateur

How much do you want to bet the Obama campaign will focus massive attention on Romney's response as to why he didn't mention Afghanistan or praise the U.S. troops in his convention speech last week?

This is the answer Romney gave to the question in an interview with Fox News.

"I only regret you're repeating it day in and day out. When you give a speech you don't go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important and I described in my speech, my commitment to a strong military unlike the president's decision to cut our military."

The words that stick out are, of course, "you talk about the things that you think are important." One might say that if you just use that phrase, say, in a political ad, you're taking his comments out of context. I don't know, the entire statement looks pretty bad.

One thing I have been saying for a long time is that Mitt Romney doesn't do politics very well. An experienced politician would never say anything like this. Some people think being a well-trained and experienced politician is a bad thing. I am not among them.

The presidency of the United States is a serious job, requiring a high degree of skill and self-awareness. Ideology and policy aside, Mitt Romney is just not up to the job.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Honey Boo Boo, Snooki and Sarah Palin

By Richard K. Barry

There is something in politics called a Kinsley gaffe, which is defined as this:

The term comes from journalist Michael Kinsley, who said, "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth - some obvious truth he isn't supposed to say."

Now, this isn't exactly the same thing, but there are similarities.

I'm talking about the way crazy, poorly informed, right-media darling Sarah Palin responded to a shot at Mitt Romney by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) during his DNC speech, which invoked her.

"I think he diminished himself by even mentioning my name," Palin said in an interview on Fox Business Network. "How does he even know my name? I mean aren’t these guys supposed to be these big wig elites who don’t waste their time on the little people like me -- me representing the average American who, yeah I did say in Alaska you can see Russia from our land base and I was making the point that we are strategically located on the globe and when it comes to transportation corridors and resources that are shared and fought over [in] Alaska and I as the governor had known what I was doing in dealing with some international issues that had to do with our resources that could help secure the nation."

Well, Sarah, John Kerry knows your name for the same reason I know who Snooki and Honey Boo Boo are. In our celebrity-obssessed culture, we are forced to pay absurd amounts of attention to people who deserve no such thing.

Of course, you didn't actually mean to suggest John Kerry diminished himself by mentioning your name, because we all know you think you're pretty damn special, but I'd like to take you at your word.

From now on, let us all admit that anyone mentioning Sarah Palin in anything like a serious discussion of politics or public policy is in fact diminishing himself or herself.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Friday, September 07, 2012

Steven Wilson: "Harmony Korine," "Index," and Get All You Deserve

I can't get enough Porcupine Tree these days. They've vaulted up to third on my list of all-time favorite bands, after Pink Floyd and The Beatles.

Really, though, I can't get enough Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree's founder, lead singer, lead guitarist, and songwriter, who is also, among other things, one half of the wonderful Blackfield (with Israeli star Aviv Geffen), one half of No-Man (with singer Tim Bowness), and, more recently, a solo artist (with a great backing band that includes Porcupine Tree's drummer, Gavin Harrison, also of King Crimson).

Wilson spreads himself around, to be sure, and yet each project reveals different sides of his musical inclinations. Porcupine Tree is neo-prog (for lack of a better term to describe the brilliantly indescribable) at its finest. Blackfield is more pop-oriented, with shorter, catchier tunes. And No-Man is diverse art-pop, mixing such styles as rock, jazz, and ambient.

And his solo work? His first solo album, Insurgentes (2008), is very much like Porcupine Tree, and it's exceptional, if lacking in the broader texture of the best Porcupine Tree (e.g., The Incident, released a year later).

His second, Grace for Drowning (2011), is more personal, more experimental. A fascinating double-album, it is, as he has said, "a kind of homage to that spirit [of the late sixties and early seventies, when the album became the primary means of artistic expression, when musicians liberated themselves from the three-minute pop song format, and started to draw on jazz and classical music especially, combining it with the spirit of psychedelia to create 'journeys in sound']. There's everything from [Ennio] Morricone-esque film themes to choral music to piano ballads to a 23-minute progressive jazz-inspired piece."

Look, the guy's amazing. It's as simple as that. And I really want to get back to the music. So here are:

-- the surrealist video for "Harmony Korine" (named after the independent filmmaker, though it's rather unclear what the song is about -- perhaps artistic inconoclasm in a crass commercial culture), the first track off Insurgentes, directed by Lasse Hoile (with all sorts of references to classic European cinema, including Luis Bunuel's bizarre Un chien andalou);

-- a live version of "Harmony Korine" off Wilson's upcoming Get All You Deserve DVD/Blu-ray (directed by Hoile and set to be released on September 24), performed in Mexico City on the Grace for Drowning tour; and

-- the video for "Index," off Grace for Drowning (also surrealist and also by Hoile); and

-- the trailer for Get All You Deserve (yes, I'm really, really excited for it).

Watch them in full screen. Enjoy!

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Behind the Ad: President Obama's promises kept

By Richard K. Barry

(Another installment in our extensive "Behind the Ad" series.)

Who: The Obama-Biden campaign.

Where: A video.

What's going on: In advance of President Obama's speech last night at the Democratic National Convention, the Obama campaign released a new video called "Promises Kept." The premise is to present promises made four years ago along with proof of his follow-through. Simple enough.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Bankers campaign for reduced regulations -- oh, goody!

To be filed under the category of "things that make me weary," the American Bankers Association, a group representing the largest banks in the U.S., is likely to launch a new Super PAC "to back candidates who favor rolling back provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law."

This is according to a piece by ThinkProgress, which also says this:

The group plans to focus on Senate races, as "attempts in the Republican-controlled House to roll back regulation of the financial industry, particularly the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, have so far run aground in the Democratic-controlled Senate." Having a Super PAC would allow the ABA to funnel money anonymously to these races; so far, the ABA has donated $1.7 million to 2012 candidates, the majority of which went to Republicans.

Doesn't that make you feel optimistic about the future of financial regulation in America?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Jingoism in politics

An observation about the Democratic convention, and about U.S. politics in general:

As the commentariat stressed, the Democrats were incredibly "muscular" yesterday. Romney didn't bother to thank America's men and women serving in the military in his speech in Tampa last week, but both Biden and Obama did, both committing to support the troops, not least when they come home, but also to ensure that the U.S. retains its military dominance. There was a lot of tough talk. Yes, the Iraq War is over; yes, the Afghan War is coming to an end; but the U.S. under Obama and Biden will not shy away from wielding its military might.

I understand this, and the need for it, if only to overcome the ridiculous stereotype that Republicans are tough and Democrats are soft. And of course you need to do this sort of thing when you have all that Republican propaganda about how Democrats, and Obama in particular, are un-American. But I tend to recoil from militarism, and particularly from the sort of jingoistic militarism that is so much a part of U.S. politics and that was on display last night in Charlotte.

And it's not just the militarism. The usual "America is the greatest country in the world" rhetoric was flying all over the place yesterday, just as it did all week, just as it did last week with the Republicans in Tampa. It's the flag-waving jingoism that is de rigueur if you want to make it in American politics, if you want to avoid the un-American label. This is unfortunate, stunting debate and blinding Americans to the reality both of their own country and of the world beyond, blocking the sort of meaningful change that is needed in a constantly changing world. No one doubts America's power, but is it really the greatest country in the world? Is no other country even close? Can America just decide to lead the 21st century and have the rest of the world cower in the shadow of its awesomeness? I'm not so sure.

I love America a great deal. I'm not American in the sense that I'm a citizen (though everyone else who writes here is), but I'm an American in spirit, an American in almost every way (though I am mostly, I must stress, Canadian). My grandfather was in the U.S. Army and fought on the beaches in France, receiving a purple heart and becoming a radio broadcaster in occupied Germany and then back home doing baseball. I can trace my American heritage back, by marriage, to Davy Crockett. I have a lot of family, family I don't see nearly enough of, down in Alabama. I went to high school in New Jersey and college in Massachusetts. I have this blog dedicated to U.S. politics and culture. Yes, I love America, whatever mixed feelings I may have, and when I am critical it is only because I expect more, because I demand more, from a country that, yes, I do think can and should be great.

But so great as to reduce everything else, every other country, every other people, to relative oblivion, as if Americans are just better people than everyone else? That may play well on the stump, but it's the sort of mindless rhetoric that makes the rest of the world recoil in disgust.

For me, particularly when it comes from Democrats, it's just a huge disappointment (again, even if I understand why they're doing it and occasionally encourage it myself). I expect better of them, just as I expect better of America.

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Bill Clinton is taking to the campaign trail

I've still got it.

If you are wondering what Bill Clinton's role in President Obama's campaign will be from here on out, BuzzFeed Politics reports that he will be a frequent presence on the campaign trail, focusing much of his effort in the Midwest.

This is according to Sen. Chuck Schumer. I'm not exactly sure why Schumer is the go-to guy for Bill's schedule, but apparently he has some inside knowledge.

If you were asleep last night, or maybe had some need to watch the New York Giants get embarrassed by the Dallas Cowboys, you might not know that, according to nearly everyone, Bill Clinton gave one of the most impressive political speeches ever heard as he nominated Barack Obama for a second term (unless you're Charles Krauthammer or Jennifer Rubin, in which case it was one of the worst political speeches ever heard).

As BuzzFeed reports:

Clinton's well-received speech Thursday night transformed him from an uneasy presidential ally into the central defender of Obama's record and promoter of his right to a second term. He is particularly effective for two reasons: His appeal to white working class Democrats who are this year's key swing voters; and the fact that many of the season's Republican attacks are based on allegations that Obama has broken with a more centrist Clinton legacy.

Schumer assures us that the message Clinton provided at the DNC, "he's gonna repeat across the country."

Thanks, Chuck.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday at the Democratic National Convention

I commented Tuesday and Wednesday nights, two fantastic nights for the Democrats in Charlotte, but it was all pointing to tonight, to Vice President Biden and then, just now, to President Obama. Here are my thoughts:

It was another strong day -- meaning that the convention proved to be an outstanding event, with three days showcasing the party at its finest. (And let's not forget how moving it was when Gabby Giffords appeared on stage to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.)

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was excellent, as usual. She's presidential in her own right, though of course, having been born in Canada, she can't be president.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer was typically pugnacious, if not terribly compelling. Honestly, I think I've already forgotten most of what he said.

Former Florida Gov. (and Republican) Charlie Crist was given a prominent speaking slot on the final day of the convention just before the big three (Kerry, Biden, Obama) -- and perhaps it had to be that way given that he's a former Republican who is deeply critical of the Republican Party (saying that he didn't leave the GOP, the GOP left him, just as Reagan once explained his break from the Democratic Party) and is from key-swing-state Florida -- but I found his speech flat. He hit all the right points, but I'm not sure he did much to give Obama any sort of boost among independents and/or in Florida.

But then the evening really took off.

I've always liked John Kerry. A lot. To me, he's an incredibly decent, intelligent, and honorable man. I still harbor immense frustration and disappointment from the 2004 election.

But give him credit. It was a tough defeat to a terrible incumbent, with the shadow of 9/11 still hanging over the country and the Iraq War not yet quite the unmitigated disaster it became, but he want back to the Senate and established himself as the Democrats' elder statesman on foreign and military policy. So much so that he was in serious contention for the secretary of state post that eventually went to Hillary and could very well get the job when Hillary steps down, likely not long after the upcoming election. In my view, he deserves it and would do an outstanding job.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are incredibly weak on foreign and military policy, as well as on national security generally. Romney's disastrous foreign trip to England, Poland, and Israel this summer, along with the many embarrassing and ridiculous comments he has made during the campaign (e.g., Russia is America's #1 enemy), showed what a dangerous combination of arrogance and ignorance he would bring to the White House.

And so there was perhaps no better figure (given that Hillary as secretary of state shouldn't really get involved in partisan politics) to raise foreign and military policy at the convention and to draw the clear distinctions between President Obama and his opponent, and between the two parties generally: "We have a president who has made America lead like America again," he said. "What is there on the other side? An extreme and expedient candidate, who lacks the judgment and the vision so vital in the Oval Office." There's the contrast. There's the choice.

And then there was one of his best lines, and one of the best lines of the convention, a direct response to the Republican "are you better off than you were four years ago?" nonsense: "Ask Osama bin Laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago."

To that, Mitt Romney has no response.

Joe Biden is always a concern. I think his propensity for making gaffes is way overblown, but there always seems to be the rist that he'll say something embarrassing. Tonight, he didn't. The only "gaffe" of sorts I caught was when he said Michelle Obama gave her speech last night (Wednesday) and then immediately corrected himself by saying it was on Monday. (It was Tuesday.)

Otherwise, it was a very strong speech. He's always gets a bit breathless when he lays on the gravitas, but he effectively combined his usual quirky folksiness (saying "folks" a lot) with some powerful and compelling personal stories about himself and others, a Biden strength. But actually I think he was at his best when he was talking about President Obama, about Obama's courage, about his unflinching leadership in the face of crisis, about his ability to make the tough decisions, like the one to order the raid that killed bin Laden, in a calm and determined manner. If Michelle Obama talked about Barack's character in personal terms, Biden talked about it in professional terms: This is what it's like to be at his side in the White House. This is how he leads. And it was very powerful.

And then there was Barack Obama.

Expectations were enormously high, as they usually are for his major speeches. They were certainly higher than they were last week for Romney, who just had to present himself as something other than a robotic asshole to exceed them. For the president, he was following some outstanding speeches by some towering figures, notably Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton, and the up-and-coming Julian Castro. They all made the case for him, all extremely well, but with the economy still struggling, and with the polls showing a tight race and an approval rating that isn't great, he had to make the case himself, for himself, without seeming arrogant, without taking credit for too much, without promising too much, and by straddling that fine line between president and presidential candidate.

And he did that. Maybe not gloriously, maybe not with the soaring rhetoric of four years ago, maybe not by inspiring us and even moving us to tears the way he has done before, but by being presidential. Yes, David Gergen said it best: it was a mature speech, a presidential speech, and in that way it struck the right balance.

Sure, it was, to me, a bit SOTU-y at times. It started off a bit flat, picked up a bit, then fell back into a SOTU-style checklist without much in the way of detailed pledges, and perhaps it was all a bit off here and there. Richard and I were e-mailing throughout and that's the point he was making almost until the end. It just seemed... off. Just slightly, but somehow off. I agree, but I think it was because of the line he was trying to walk between being presidential and being the sort of uplifting candidate he was four years ago. But you could see he was almost there, almost there, almost there, and then he was, back to his usual form, with some truly stirring moments and a fantastic conclusion, uplifting and inspirational but tempered by the gravitas of being president.

Looking back, giving some grades to the major speakers, I'd say Deval Patrick got an A, Julian Castro got an A-, Michelle Obama got an A+, Sandra Fluke got an A (not least as a non-politico new to the national stage), Elizabeth Warren got a B, Bill Clinton got an A+ (with the highlight of the convention, just ahead of Michelle's speech), John Kerry got an A, Jill Biden got a B+, and Joe Biden got an A-.

And the president? Richard says B+. I'm going to be a bit more generous and say A-, mainly because he faced an enormous degree of difficulty and succeeded at an extraordinarily tough task.

President Obama did what he needed to do tonight. The party exceeded expecations this week, while he just met them. And perhaps there won't be much of a bounce in the polls (maybe we shouldn't even expect such things anymore). But with this speech tonight the president announced that he is ready to go hard the next two months defending his record and reaching out to voters with a message of hope bolstered by an understanding that the challenges America faces are not easy ones to ovecome, that it will take time to fix the enormous problems that persist.

America is on the right track because of what he has done as president, because of the leadership he has brought to the White House. As Biden said, Obama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive and well. There is more to be done, but a lot of good has been doing already. 

With the convention drawing to a close tonight, three incredible days, it is now time to move forward. Barack Obama and Joe Biden need our undivided support. There must be no turning back.

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Thursday, September 06, 2012

Fact-checking Bill Clinton

I am sure the Orcosphere was lying in wait for the fact-checkers to go over Bill Clinton's speech last night, waiting to pounce on the slightest misstatement. Well, I hate to pee on their Wheaties, but couldn't find much to pounce on:

Former President Bill Clinton's stem-winding nomination speech was a fact-checker's nightmare: lots of effort required to run down his many statistics and factual claims, producing little for us to write about.

Republicans will find plenty of Clinton's scorching opinions objectionable. But with few exceptions, we found his stats checked out.

But hey, the Romney campaign said they wouldn't be dictated by fact-checkers, anyway. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords leads the Pledge of Allegiance at the DNC

If you missed it, here's a clip of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords leading the Pledge of Allegiance at the Democratic National Convention earlier today.

Giffords has clearly made wonderful progress since having been shot on January 8, 2011, outside a Safeway grocery store northwest of Tuscon.

She did great.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Photo of the Day: Hillary watches Bill's DNC speech

According to Politico, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was able to watch a taped version of Bill Clinton’s speech Thursday morning in Timor-Leste, 9,930 miles from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

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Mitt Romney, according to Mitt Romney

By Richard K. Barry

Not that I want to be fair or feel the need, but in the interest of posting things people might want to see, I'll put up the ten minute infomercial shown at the Republican National Convention to "introduce" Mitt Romney to America. The goal of the piece, the goal of the entire convention, was to humanize Mitt Romney. Strange thought, that.

Republican pundits kept saying last week that American voters didn't yet know Mitt Romney. And, in truth, I suppose many people don't pay attention until very late. But mostly GOP talking heads were trying to suggest Americans didn't yet know Mitt Romney because the Romney Americans had been introduced to so well by the Obama campaign was not an attractive Mitt Romney.

These little set pieces are required for all campaigns and given the professional help they get producing them, ought to do some good. Still, with these kinds of production values, anyone could be made to look good, almost.

If you haven't seen it, see if it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. For me, not so much.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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GOP exists in alternate universe at bizarre, lie-filled convention

Recently, I had a political discussion with a right-wing acquaintance. Sometimes I wonder why I bother. During the argument, my acquaintance called Obama an "idiot." When I asked for some proof of this, he replied, "Well, Obama said 'Internets' in an interview. He thinks it's called 'Internets.' That's really stupid."

Having grown weary of the discussion, I didn't even bother to challenge my acquaintance's contention. I did, though, think it was a bit odd. After all, the use of the term "Internets" was a well-known Bush blunder. Bush made the blunder during a debate with Al Gore in 2000. Amazingly, Bush made the mistake again in 2004, during a debate with John Kerry. It was the second screw-up that was widely ridiculed in the media.

"Was Rush now trying to somehow make the claim to his audience that this was in fact Obama's mistake?" I wondered.

Doing a little research on the Internet revealed that Obama once indeed did say "Internets." However, there was a big, big difference between the screwups made by Obama and Bush.

After all, when Obama said "Internets," he quickly corrected himself a few words later in the same sentence.

Obama is one of the most eloquent and intelligent speakers I've ever heard. But the fact is, like all modern U.S. presidents, he has an array of video cameras recording his words for hours every day. Given the grueling demands of his job and the stress that comes with it, it really shouldn't be surprising that he (or any president) might have an occasional verbal stumble. I mean, the only reason we don't have evidence of verbal stumbles by the likes of Washington and Jefferson is that there were no video cameras around in the 18th century.

Anyway, this whole episode got me to thinking. The right wing in this country has built up such a formidable propaganda network that wingnuts can happily dwell within it and never be exposed to the real world of actual facts, science, logic, reason, and truth. It's clear that my right-wing acquaintance got his "Obama said 'Internets'" quote from the likes of Drudge and that he has never even heard about Bush's far more famous (and uncorrected) blunder.

So Obama must be stupid, right? After all, Rush says so.

Such is the mind of the right-winger these days.

Which brings me to my main point. Politicians in America have historically never been the most honest class of people in the nation. But today's Republicans have set a new record for outrageous and blatant lies. It's gotten so bad that even the drowsy mainstream media has awoken from its usual slumber and started pointing out these outrageous lies.

For example, at the GOP convention, Paul Ryan trotted out his outrageous lie that Obama had supposedly promised to save a Wisconsin GM plant that later closed. Ryan no doubt thought that this latest lie wouldn't be scrutinized by a media establishment that has allowed so many other GOP lies to pass unchallenged.

No doubt, Ryan was stunned when numerous mainstream media outlets across the nation picked apart his GM fable and exposed it for the lie that it was. (As it turns out, the Wisconsin GM plant closed before Obama even took office).

Other GOP convention lies were similarly exposed by the media: "Obama has slashed Medicare!" "Obama is responsible for the U.S. credit downgrade!"

I'm sure that the GOP is stunned by the recent fact-checking by a newly-vigilant media. (And frankly, I'm as stunned as the GOP is, after watching the media let Republicans lie through their teeth for many years).

I guess the question now is this: why, in this election cycle, does the GOP have such contempt for the truth (especially when it can no longer get away with it)?

The answer to that question is simple. Because the GOP knows that, in fact, it can get away with it. This post's opening anecdote is proof positive of that. As that anecdote demonstrated, there are still many, many right-wingers out who get all of their news and info from the Fox/Drudge/Rush GOP Propaganda Network.

My right-wing acquaintance has never even heard that it was in fact Bush who made a fool of himself with his infamous "Internets" remarks. And my right-wing acquaintance will never even hear the mainstream media's debunking of Ryan's claims about the Wisconsin GM plant's closure. After all, he sure as hell isn't going to ever hear about it on Rush's show.

Such is the power of today's Great Right-Wing Propaganda Network. It is all-powerful, it is massive, it is everywhere, and it is 24 hours a day. If you are a wingnut getting your "news" from it, you'll never even feel the need to venture out in the real world and expose yourself to any other news outlet. And you'll happily continue to live in an alternate universe, where Obama will always be a Socialist Muslim Kenyan whose birth certificate is a fraud. 

(Cross-posted at BeggarsCanBeChoosers.)

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Well, are you?

Whoever came up with the Reagan line "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" probably got an extra handful of jellybeans for coming up with it, so naturally the Republicans cling to it and recycle it whenever they run against a Democratic incumbent. Well, to quote the Gipper, there they go again.

I think it's a bullshit question no matter who asks it. Who's the "you"? Me personally? My community? My state? The nation? You can answer it in terms of economic and social issues, or you can answer it philosophically as a reflection of your natural state of optimism or pessimism.

There's also the implication that somehow the government or a president can make you better off as compared to four years ago... or last week, for that matter. That is an odd proposition to hear from the "smaller government/more freedom" party, and if a Democrat asked it of a Republican nowadays, their response would be something along the lines of "It's not the government's job to make you better off."

For every reason I can think of how I'm not better off, I can come up with more reasons why I am. And few of them have anything to do with whom I voted for. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Tribute to Ted Kennedy

By Richard K. Barry

The Democratic National Convention featured a tribute video for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy on Tuesday night. As Mark Landler of The New York Times writes, the piece featured a section on Mitt Romney's unsuccessful bid to defeat Kennedy in a 1994 U.S. Senate race:

Mr. Kennedy was shown debating Mr. Romney over abortion rights during that campaign. Mr. Romney insisted he supported Roe vs. Wade, a position he later disavowed.

"I'm pro-choice," Mr. Kennedy declared, with a gibe that has been thrown at Mr. Romney many times in his political career. "My opponent is multiple choice."

The video portrayed President Obama as the steward of Mr. Kennedy's legislative legacy, with his passage of longtime Kennedy causes like the health care overhaul and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mr. Kennedy's endorsement of Mr. Obama in 2008 was a crucial imprimatur for the young senator in his battle with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

It seems that the tribute annoyed Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, who criticized the video as inappropriate, saying, "Classless Dems use tribute video of deceased Ted Kennedy to attack Mitt Romney."

Only in the world of today's GOP could it possibly be considered classless to draw attention to a position Mitt Romney actually once held with words he actually once said.

I can also only imagine Ted Kennedy would enjoy the fact that he is still, in some small way, in the game.

Here's the tribute:

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Worth repeating: Michelle Obama rocks

John Heilemann wrote about First Lady Michelle Obama's speech on Tuesday night in New York Magazine, calling it "one of the most extraordinary convention turns I have witnessed in more than two decades in this racket."

He continued:

Her own high-stakes debut came four years ago at the Democratic convention in Denver, in a speech that sought to dispel the negative impressions of her -- as a haughty, aggrieved, and even angry black woman -- that had been propagated in some quarters. And so it did, and then some. Since then, MRO's public image has been pure gold; with an approval rating of 66 percent, she is more popular than her husband (and any other Democrat save the Clintons) by a mile.

And yet, for all that, what no one could have fully appreciated was how much she has grown and the heights she has attained as a political performer -- until last night, that is. Purely at the level of stage presence and oratorical execution, Michelle was close to flawless: warm and natural, charming and convincing, passionate and pitch-perfect, giving off such a natural and comfortable affect that it was almost possible to forget that she was, you know, performing.

Well said, John.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Game over

By Carl

The Big Dog -- The Greatest. President. Ever. -- has spoken:

We Democrats think the country works better with a strong middle class, real opportunities for poor people to work their way into it and a relentless focus on the future, with business and government working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. We think "we're all in this together" is a better philosophy than "you're on your own."

Who's right? Well, since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What's the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million.

It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.

Clinton was too modest to admit that he was in office when 23 million of those jobs were created-- nearly matching the entire Republican army of presidents -- and as such is overseer of the single biggest economic engine since World War II. And if you exclude jobs created due to World War II, he is by far the president who oversaw the creation of the most jobs in American history.

Period. Eight years of relative peace and undeniable prosperity for all. And he did it by raising taxes on the wealthy.

Ronald Reagan was called the Great Communicator, but never once did he ever have to seriously defend his abysmal economic record for the middle class. Indeed, very quietly in his second term, Reagan instituted the greatest tax hike on the American people since the income tax was instituted, and still barely created jobs. Unemployment under Reagan's tax schemes still averaged 7.5%, not much lower than Barack Obama's rate, and Reagan almost single-handedly created the homeless population of America. This, despite sending American troops overseas nearly continuously.

Epic. Fail.

Back to Clinton's speech: it had nearly everything you'd wish Barack Obama could say, and indeed may have been written with an eye towards the freedom an ex-president -- one who has established his bona fides as someone who has disagreements with the current Oval Office -- has to comment on the "loyal" opposition. This paragraph in particular stands out:

Though I often disagree with Republicans, I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats.

Coming from a man who was disgraced by the same party that now terrorizes the American people, forced to defend his personal life time and time again from the idiocracy inherent on the right wing, to say that even he can empathize and love his enemies is a powerful statement that will resonate with the American people.

After all, it was only 15 years ago. We ain't that dumb. It was a noble and gracious sentiment and yet still stabbed at the heart of the Teabaggers in ways no other Democrat could.

Clinton dismantled the economic "policy" that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have both signed onto, and countered that cronies were more important to Romney and Republicans than jobs.

But this, this I think was Clinton's strongest argument of the night:

No president -- not me or any of my predecessors could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you'll renew the President's contract you will feel it.

President Obama inherited an economy teetering on the precipice of another Great Depression. We, as a people, won't credit him with saving it from disaster because the only way we could is if the disaster actually happened, the tape rewound, and the President steps in to save us in re-runs.

But Clinton laid out the case magnificently, using arithmetic and logic, and laid it out in language that the average person watching in his living room could understand.

It's a talent he has. It's a talent I can only aspire to as I write these pitiful little blogposts to you, my readers.

And now for a couple of side notes:

1) Tonight, President Obama will accept the party nomination for president. Last night, the last Democratic president was trotted out for a barnburner of a speech, but where was his wife?

She was in East Timor. Under the guise of "the secretary of state should not attend political conventions," because, you know, politics stop at our shores. Right?

It would not surprise me, however, if Madam Secretary has an August surprise up her sleeve to bring home tonight, just ahead of the evening news cycle.

2) I would be remiss if I didn't mention the speech given by Elizabeth Warren, Senate candidate from Massachussetts. Between her and the Big Dog, it was a wonky night, but a wonky night that was easily digestible by anyone who sat in front of a television and paid attention. She's a gifted explainer and I am sure that Massachussetts recognizes "smaht" when they see it.

3) Michelle Obama Tuesday night. Bill Clinton Wednesday night. They have stirred the convention, the national media and the electorate into a rhetorical frenzy. Either this convention has been one of the best choreographed conventions to re-introduce a president to his people, and Barack Obama has the greatest speech of his life in him (not an easy task, given how many great ones he has given), or the convention fizzles tonight. Either way, it will make for great television.

The people in the arena in Charlotte stood and cheered. For the Dems, the people at home have stood and cheered right along with the delegates.

Game over.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention


(For my comments about Tuesday, see here.)

There were some great moments today, along with a bit of overblown controversy over "God" and Jerusalem, and some great speeches. Let's focus briefly on the most prominent ones of the evening:

-- Sandra Fluke. She's hardly a political pro, but that made her speech all the more remarkable. She spoke with confidence and conviction as one of the most prominent targets of the Republican war on women. Ann Romney says women should "wake up." Really? It seems to me that women are already awake to the Taliban Republicans who seek to control them. Just look what happened to Fluke, whom Dear Leader Rush called a slut simply for wanting to be able to make her own choices. The convention is dominated by politicians, of course, but sometimes you need to hear from the non-politicians to get a sense of the human implications of the ugliness and brutality of Republican ideology. And Fluke did an impressive job, to say the least.

-- Elizabeth Warren may not be the most dynamic figure ever to grace the national stage, but she's a powerful voice for liberalism, particularly when it comes to financial regulation. Her speech doesn't stand out the way Julian Castro's did last night, but it was nonetheless effective at drawing the clear distinctions between the two parties and the two presidential candidates. And hopefully it will give her a boost back home in Massachusetts, where she's in a tough race with incumbent Scott Brown, who alternately presents himself as a moderate or a right-wing hardliner depending on the audience to which he's sucking up. In stark contast, Warren is a woman of genuine principle, and that came through in abundance tonight.

-- How awesome is Bill Clinton? Seriously, what an amazing speech. It was long, and it meandered at times, occasionally feeling like one of his own State of the Union addresses, occasionally going into a bit too much detail perhaps, but he was as commanding as ever -- folksy and authoritative, persuasive and inspiring, funny and enlightening. If Michelle Obama spoke about Barack the man, the personality and character, Bill Clinton spoke about Barack the leader, the policies and politics, and he was just as much a champion of the president. (He's just wrapping up as I write this.) He held the room and those present, and those watching on TV, in his hand, speaking with compassion and respect, understanding and conviction, drawing the contrasts just like other speakers have done but also compellingly making the case for coming together -- because, as he said, we're all in this together, this historical quest for a more perfect union. A formidable man. A brilliant speech. 

Wolf Blitzer says it just might have been the best speech he's ever heard Clinton give. That's high praise.

And there he is, President Obama coming out on stage to greet President Clinton and to give a wave to the crowd. You knew it was coming, but it was stirring nonetheless, a prelude to tomorrow, when he will accept the nomination. The energy in the arena is palpable. I can feel it here, a long way away. (If only I was there. Alas.)

Paul Begala on Clinton's speech: substantive and riveting. Yes, that's it. He knows his stuff, for sure, and can speak so intelligently on so much, but he's also so engaging, so compelling, and, yes, he does it without talking down to anyone, and quite the reverse by lifting everyone up along with him (which of course is so unlike the Republicans, including Romney and Ryan, who are arrogant and dismissive and utterly contemptuous of anyone other than themselves and those just like them).

For all the tension that may have been there during the '08 Democratic primaries, there is a close and it would seem completely genuine connection between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. That was on full display tonight, and it was just what was needed as we head into the final day of the convention, and then into the last two months of the campaign.

Another great day for the Democrats.


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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The smallness and pettiness of Ann Romney

I realize this isn't a race for First Lady, that it's not Ann Romney challenging Michelle Obama, but the fact is, the first lady and the would-be first lady are prominent surrogates for their husbands, not least at the conventions, and are very much a part of the race. We may not like it, how spouses have more and more become political actors, and have more and more been treated as such, and how they're put in the difficult position of being both submissively supportive and willfully assertive as individuals, but it's just the way it is, and that means, alas, that they're fair game, that they're deserving of the sort of praise and criticism usually reserved for the candidates themselves and for their partisan surrogates.

And the fact is, compared to Michelle Obama, who last night gave a magnificent speech, the best I've ever seen or heard by a first lady or would-be first lady, Ann Romney, while seemingly quite pleasant, has appeared small and petty in contrast, and utterly phony when she's tried to connect.

Of course, it's a tough job trying to humanize Mitt Romney, and to persuade people that you and your husband aren't just an out-of-touch rich douchebag couple living a life of extreme privilege -- perhaps an impossible one. But hasn't just been Ann's attempted humanizing of Mitt. She'd waded into politics as well, and when she has, she's proven to be as out-of-touch, as arrogant, and as condescending as her husband.

Like when she referred to "you people" when defending Mitt's decision to release any more of his tax returns.

Like when she told Latino voters to get over their "biases" and spoke to them as if they're just a bunch of selfish small-business owners.

And like when, today, she told women to "wake up" and trust in Mitt:

"Women, you need to wake up," she told the largely female audience at a "Women For Mitt" rally in Findlay, Ohio. "Women have to ask themselves who is going to... be there for you. I can promise you, I know that Mitt will be there for you, he will stand up for you, he will hear your voices, he knows how to fix an economy, he's a can do kind of guy, he's a turnaround guy."

She can try, but this isn't going to work. Mitt is leading a party that is aggressively waging war on women -- I write this while listening to Sandra Fluke speak at the Democratic convention; how very fitting -- a party that has embraced an extemist anti-choice platform, that desires to disempower and humiliate women, that seeks to obliterate a women's right to be in control of her own body, indeed, to be in control of anything, a party that wants to silence women and suffocate their concerns altogether.

Romney and the Republicans won't be there for women. They won't stand up for them. They won't listen to them in any meaningful way. They've already proven, time and time again, that they won't.

No, I'm not saying that Mitt Romney hates women. I'm not saying he doesn't care at all. He's much more sensitive to women's issues, I think, than most in his party. But as he's moved further and ever further to the right, as he's embraced the right-wing mainstream of the Republican Party, and as he's run an ugly campaign based on a far-right agenda, selecting the anti-choice extremist Paul Ryan as his running mate and otherwise joining the Republican war on women, even if he usually prefers to remain silent and let others do the dirty work, refusing to condemn what his party is doing and what it stands for and therefore appearing to support and enable it, he has shown what he is really all about, or at least what he is willing to be about in his shameless quest for power.

Elizabeth Warren has just taken the stage in Charlotte. Now there's a strong, powerful woman.

Women don't need to "wake up." How fucking condescending. It's abundantly clear which candidate embraces them and stands up for them and which candidate pays lip service to women's issues while embracing an anti-woman agenda.

Ann may love her husband and think he's a great guy, and maybe even that he cares about women, politically and otherwise, but it's Barack Obama who is the one fighting for them against the forces that would keep them down.


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Marathon Man: The fraudulence of Paul Ryan

Paul Krugman on Paul Ryan's marathon run and how he's giving America the run-around.

Remember Rosie Ruiz? In 1980 she was the first woman to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon — except it turned out that she hadn't actually run most of the race, that she sneaked onto the course around a mile from the end. Ever since, she has symbolized a particular kind of fraud, in which people claim credit for achieving things they have not, in fact, achieved.

And these days Paul Ryan is the Rosie Ruiz of American politics.


Obviously nobody cares how fast Mr. Ryan can run, and even his strange marathon misstatement wouldn't be worth talking about in isolation. What makes this incident so striking is, instead, the way it resonates with the essential Rosie-Ruizness of Mr. Ryan's whole political persona, which is built around big boasts about accomplishments he hasn't accomplished.


So what is this election about? To be sure, it's about different visions of society — about Medicare versus Vouchercare, about preserving the safety net versus destroying it. But it's also a test of how far politicians can bend the truth. This is surely the first time one of our major parties has run a campaign so completely fraudulent, making claims so at odds with the reality of its policy proposals. But if the Romney/Ryan ticket wins, it won't be the last.

The irony is that the Republicans are always the ones to shed crocodile tears -- and impeach a president -- over lapses in morality unless it's one of their own, and run an ad campaign on a "misstatement" by an opponent but laugh off or ignore a demonstrable lie as just one of those things. The news media craps out on this with their hands-off reasonable-people-can-disagree line, which explains why it took the out-and-out lies of Mr. Ryan in Tampa to finally get them to lift their heads off the pillow and pay attention. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Behind the Ad: Unintentionally hilarious "American Values"

(Another installment in our extensive "Behind the Ad" series.)

Where: North Carolina.

What's going on: Every now and then a political ad comes along that looks like it must be the beginning of one of those Saturday Night Live send-up commercials. But no, this one is real. Failed Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer has a group called "American Values" and this ad, called "New Morning," is not, apparently, intended as a joke.

As you will see, the punchline comes from an anguished woman who says, "Obama is trying to force gay marriage on this country. That's not the change I voted for." The man with her then says, "That's not the change I voted for either."

Yes, President Obama is going to force that woman to marry another woman and that man to marry another man. He's going to force everyone to be gay. Damn him!

Seriously though, tell me you're not half thinking Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg should be saying these lines until you realize this is not a joke, at least not intentionally.

Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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