If Tina Fey isn’t one, who is? What a performance. Leave this site now and watch the clip here. Don’t have anything in your mouth as you’re watching.


Debate: Brilliant young crusader Obama crushes leathery “maverick”

No, not really. That’s the headline I was hoping to write. But now that you’re looking….

I only saw a small portion of the debate live, and that was via my PC, followed by lots of pre-recorded bits and piece later in the day. Based on that, I would have to join the consensus and call it basically a draw, with Obama “winning” because he seems to have won over more undecideds than McCain.

Both did well (or well enough) and both achieved their most necessary goals:

McCain showed he is basically in control of his faculties and bodily functions (the Palin selection made a lot of us wonder), and that he has a decent grasp of the issues.

Obama showed he can speak articulately without a teleprompter, and succeeded in coming off as an erudite, likable and trustworthy centrist. Personally, I don’t think this is the right time for a centrist, but here we are.

No matter what we thought about the debates, one inescapable conclusion all of us can agree on is that McCain’s behavior prior to the debates was unsettling, to say the least. Maybe “deranged” would be more like it. Canceling the debate on the grounds he’s needed for the economic emergency (he wasn’t) – such a dire emergency for an economy he just said was fundamentally sound?? Flip-flopping and doing the debate?? Canceling his appearance with Letterman at the last minute?? (I presume all of you have seen the hilarious Letterman responses. Talk about backfiring.)

There’s a reason why McCain seems to be losing his mind: The day of the debate and the day prior brought to the foreground the most galling and unforgivable of McCain’s excesses, namely the selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Thanks to the interviews she held on TV, I no longer need to tell anyone why I feel she is unacceptable and even dangerous. She can tell you that in her very own words:

COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? Allow them to spend more, and put more money into the economy, instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we’re ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it’s got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade — we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation.

I want everyone to go over this sentence and savor each syllable:

But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it’s got to be about job creation, too.

She has a list of talking points, and she is frantically trying to pluck the right one, but she jut can’t do it. She simply doesn’t have the breadth of knowledge or depth of understanding to play global politics. This is not a one-time fluke. If you check around, some of the most outspoken (and irritating) female conservative bloggers are saying Palin was and is an out-and-out disaster, and unfit for command.

But as always, I want to put the blame where it squarely lies – on McCain, not Palin. Like his temperamental on-again/off-again decision on the debates, his selection of this profoundly unqualified amateur underscores a dangerous predilection for shooting from the hip and thinking through the consequences later, if at all.

No complaints. Poison pill Palin is now McCain’s kiss of death, a very heavy albatross tied tight around his neck. As conservative Kathleen Parker says:

It was fun while it lasted.

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there’s not much content there. Here’s but one example of many from her interview with Hannity: “Well, there is a danger in allowing some obsessive partisanship to get into the issue that we’re talking about today. And that’s something that John McCain, too, his track record, proving that he can work both sides of the aisle, he can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this.”

When Couric pointed to polls showing that the financial crisis had boosted Obama’s numbers, Palin blustered wordily: “I’m not looking at poll numbers. What I think Americans at the end of the day are going to be able to go back and look at track records and see who’s more apt to be talking about solutions and wishing for and hoping for solutions for some opportunity to change, and who’s actually done it?”

If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.

If Palin were a man, we’d all be guffawing, just as we do every time Joe Biden tickles the back of his throat with his toes. But because she’s a woman — and the first ever on a Republican presidential ticket — we are reluctant to say what is painfully true.

…Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

I said within a day of her being named that she would self-destruct and take McCain down with her. One needn’t be a seer to predict the obvious, but I remain baffled as to why so many people actually saw her as an asset, as a great choice to possibly be president of the United States. Aside from the announcement’s surprise effect, it was clear from the first that this was going to be a catastrophe. Still, I’m sure it was purely coincidence that McCain’s first suggestion was to cancel the vice-presidential segment and replace it with one of the postponed presidential debates.

Read the Catie Kouric interview again. Better yet, watch the whole thing. Imagine what’s going on in McCain’s head as he visualizes her standing up in front of a hundred million people and matching wits with Biden. As he looks at the Couric interview, does he think he made the best possible decision? Do any of you?

Update: As The Duck presciently noted back almost a month ago in this comment, this was sooo predictable:

Meanwhile, the big story here, as stated earlier, is about McCain, not Palin. Watching them scramble now to vet her is kind of amusing and definitely pathetic. They fucked up with their first major decision, and now much of the election going forward will be about defending Palin. Will this make her a sympathetic figure? To some. But in the light of America’s economic catastrophe, two wars, lack of health insurance, rising unemployment and in general a country deep in the shitter, it’s just a distracting sideshow that will further keep McCain from articulating why he would make the better president.

Truer words were never spoken.


First time in years

MoDo has written a splendid column. As it starts, you groan because she seems to be using her usual cheeky tricks. And then it picks up speed and gravitas. I know, Maureen set the bar kind of low, but this is her magnum opus. First time in years I’ve read one her columns and ended up angry – and not at her.

Have to add the money quote – a long one.

OBAMA: What would you do?

BARTLET: GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

“Heh. Read the whole thing.”


Charles Johnson does Auschwitz — and gets it all wrong

My favorite wingnut racist blogger Charles Johnson yesterday wrote a piece commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a place the very name of which has become synonymous with evil. Johnson’s piece is well intended; it offers a sketchy, History 101-type description of the death camp, the kind of thing you can find on any number of Web sites. And that would have been fine, but he ruins it by coming to an appallingly wrong conclusion of what the lesson of Auschwitz should be:

If remembering Auschwitz should teach us anything, it is that we must all support Israel and the Jewish people against the vilification and the complicity we are witnessing, knowing where it inevitably leads.

Now wait a minute. I am a Jew and I support Israel (though not unconditionally). But this is absolutely NOT the key lesson of the Holocaust, not at all. Far more important is the lesson that men, even the most civilized and cultured, are capable of doing the most atrocious of things when barbarism is permitted to flourish and when the basic tenets of human decency are discarded and replaced by notions of superiority. Another key lesson is that racial stereotyping of ANY group, be it gypsies, Jews, gays or Slavs, can have dire consequences. And another key lesson is how urgent it is that we have stringent laws, check and balances to reign in those who would abuse their power, and those who would see fit to torture and kill.

Yes, the plight of the Jews is a central part of this mosaic, but the lessons of Nazism aren’t simply about making sure we all protect Jews. It’s about making sure no group — Jewish or otherwise — ever again falls victim to the kinds of horrors the Jews faced in Auschwitz. It’s about preventing man’s basest instincts from overcoming his critical thinking.

How odd, that Johnson doesn’t see the extreme irony here — that his own site is the kind of breeding ground for hatred and racism that made Auschwitz possible. His embrace of torture, religious hatred and the notion that we can do whatever we want to those who belong to a specific religious group — the road to Auschwitz got started from precisely this deviant mentality.


Some deep wisdom from Digby

What a great analysis.

I’m too weary and dispirited right now to get into the inevitable fight that’s gearing up within the party, but suffice to say I don’t agree that we lost because we weren’t liberal enough. But, neither was it because we weren’t culturally conservative enough or populist enough.

I believe it was simply because we weren’t entertaining enough and that’s the sad truth. I think that Democrats are serious, earnest and substantive people. We are the reality-based community. And I think we top out at about forty eight percent of the population.

For everybody else politics is show business, whether in religious, political or media terms. Image trumps substance,charisma and personality trump everything. I don’t find George W. Bush appealing in any way because my vision of an attractive politician is that he be smart, competent and rhetorically talented. But, to many people, politics is interesting because of the spectacle and the tribal competition and they just aren’t interested in any other aspects of it. (See the PEW poll.) Oh, they mouth all the right platitudes about values and all, but this is not about governing for them because they have been taught that government is only relevant to their lives in that it houses their enemies — liberals who want to take things from them and force things on them. This is a reality TV show and they want to vote someone off the island.

It’s clear that a small majority of the country buy Junior’s “Top-Gun” act. His youthful failures are seen as acts of anti-hero rebelliousness. His smart ass attitude is the sign of a macho rogue. He isn’t the smartest guy in the class and he’s often in trouble, but he’s a fearless warrior when it counts. His image is of a fun loving rascal who found himself in an extraordinary position and rose to the occasion. I know it’s bullshit, but that’s the archetype that his handlers have laid upon him and it’s a role he plays with relish.

We have always chosen leaders for superficial as well as substantive reasons. It’s not fair to say that Democrats aren’t seduced by their own archetypal dreamboats. But, Bush is a new paradigm and we need to study him and recognize its power. He is a character created out of whole cloth by marketing and political people for the single purpose of appealing to a specific portion of the population that can guarantee a small political majority without having to compromise in any way with the opposition to enact an agenda. He’s the first gerrymandered president.

(Emphasis mine; this is a huge post and you should read it all.)

The first gerrymandered president. A marketing creation. It is such an eerie phenomenon, one so out of the sphere of traditional American politics, I can only look at it with a sense of wonder and dread. Aspects of Reagan were also the products of marketing, but the core was real — no matter what we think of him, he had his ideals and principles, and he certainly had outstanding and time-proven leadership abilities. With shrub, we have a…shrub. Pondscum repackaged for the far-right as a great leader.

And to those who say I am a bush-hater and I am out of touch, and that most Americans see him as a great leader so they must be right…. All I can say in response is that 1.) bush earned my hate one step at a time, and I went out of my way to give him every benefit of every doubt; 2.) nearly 50 percent of the country voted against him and 3.) most of the people of the world seem to be more in my camp than that of the bushies. So I’m sure not alone here.

As we know, second-term presidents, for whatever reasons, are often plagued with crises. I can’t back it up with any evidence, but I’m going to guess shrub will be engulfed in crisis and scandal sooner than any of us imagine. And don’t worry, I’ll be right here ready to report on them as they occur.


Who Kerry won and who bush won

Andrew has some good insights.

Not only did Kerry win by an 86-13 margin among self-described liberals, he also won by a 55-45 margin among self-described moderates. So how’d Bush pull it off? He won 84-15 among self-described conservatives, and, more importantly, he made sure conservatives comprised a much bigger chunk of the electorate than they did in 2000. (Conservatives comprised about 34 percent of the electorate yesterday, versus 29 percent in 2000 — a huge shift, raw numbers-wise.) Anyone anticipating a conciliatory second Bush term should stop and consider how much Bush owes his base.

There you have the Rove strategy in a nutshell. If the ideological demographics had stayed the same as they had been in 2000, Kerry might have won. Two other small points: all those predictions of gay marriage moving African-Americans toward the Republicans didn’t pan out. All those predictions of the youth vote going for Kerry did pan out – but they were trounced by seniors shifting to Bush (I think the gay issue mattered there as well). The GOP’s weak spot is that they aren’t winning over the young; and that they won’t have gays to kick around for ever. I notice that in California and Massachusetts, marriage equality candidates all won big. The polarization continues. Let federalism work.

Could any Democrat have done better than Kerry? He won the liberals and the moderates. He won the youth vote. Was there a way he could have won those who believe abortion is murder and that gay marriage threatens civilized society? How do you win these people over when the sensitive wedge issues — guns, abortion, gay marriage — dominate their thinking, and the believe bush is on the side of God? I don’t know, and I don’t know what the Dems can do about this come 2008. These emotional triggers, used to such brilliant effect by Republicans, are so insidious, so divisive, I wonder if they might not leave us permanently polarized….


Vintage Karl Rove

He should be hung by his heels in the public square. His absolute favorite tactic, every time, is to pull on people’s emotional attitude toward gays. Today’s example is so sickening that I want to believe people will immediately recognize it for the evil it is.

And of course, he’s using the same tactics in Florida:


Republican agitators disguise themselves as “Kerry supporters from San Francisco.” Will anyone fall for this crap?


Florida Fascists

I rarely use the “F” word, but Florda deserves it for passing a law prohibiting journalists from speaking with or photographing people as they wait in line to vote. The new law was apparently passed in secret and was not announced. When an unwitting reporter went to interview people on line for early voting, he was punched and arrested. Incredible. Could this be a reaction to Michael Moore’s promise to videotape Florida polling places? It’s a grotesque story, and doesn’t bode well for tomorrow.


Florida’s voter supression scandal

For some reason, this incredible story is not getting much pick-up in the US media, and I know about it only because a reader mailed it to me.

Greg Palast, the investigative reporter who helped uncover many of the sordid details of the repression of black voters in Florida in 2000, has created a terribly disturbing video (RealPlayer) showing that the GOP has created lists of voters in black neighborhoods whom they intend to challenge at the polls, thereby stalling the voting process, scaring people away, and forcing those challenged to vote by provisional ballot, which are often tossed away.

According to a related BBC article, this is being choreographed and sanctioned by top bush campaign officials.

Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign’s national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called “caging list”.

It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida.

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list, told Newsnight: “The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day.”

Ion Sancho, a Democrat, noted that Florida law allows political party operatives inside polling stations to stop voters from obtaining a ballot.

They may then only vote “provisionally” after signing an affidavit attesting to their legal voting status. Mass challenges have never occurred in Florida. Indeed, says Mr Sancho, not one challenge has been made to a voter “in the 16 years I’ve been supervisor of elections.”

“Quite frankly, this process can be used to slow down the voting process and cause chaos on election day; and discourage voters from voting.”

You have to watch the video to see how insidious this is. They are actively and shamelessly taking away people’s right to vote, especially poor people who are less likely to have the resources to fight back. Welcome back to 2000.

Update: If there’s a problem with the news story link, you can read about it here.


Personality cult

Who says it can’t happen here?

.—”I want you to stand, raise your right hands,” and recite “the Bush Pledge,” said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: “I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States.”

The entire audience stands and pledges its allegiance to bush’s re-election. They swear an oath. Is anyone watching? This is truly symptomatic of the personality cult, and I’ve never heard of such a thing in America before.

This disturbing article comes to me via a disturbing post from Billmon, who has resurrected himself, at least for the day. He ends the post on a particularly ominous note.

And now we have local GOP Gauleiters in Florida soliciting oaths of allegiance not to the flag, not to the country, not to the constitution, but to the person of the leader — albeit still an elected one, at least for now.

One people, one country, one leader …

One step following another.

The truly sinister thing — and the reason why that Slate story made the hair stand up on the back of my neck — is that even as these people move, like sleepwalkers, towards a distinctly American version of the cult of the leader, most of them honestly appear to have no idea what they’re doing, or creating. I’m not even sure the Rovians themselves entirely understand the atavistic instincts they’ve awakened in Bush’s most loyal followers. But the current is running now, fast and strong. And we’re all heading for the rapids.

Time to change boats before the bushists force us liberals to attend struggle sessions and re-education camps.