That's the ballgame.
A story in the Indy Star concurs, adding that of the most reliable bellwhether counties in the country, Vego "has voted closest to the national margin."
Right now, in Vigo County, Obama is up 57%-42%, with 80% reporting.
More numbers coming.
Dear reader, I had hoped to have The New Republicans III in time and posted for this time, but alas it seems that that is not going to happen. So it will have to be posted now - post - election, and we'll see how that works out.
But for now, enjoy the day.
To start it off this story certainly got to me:
I was talking with a coworker earlier today about how sad it was for Barack Obama’s grandmother to have died on the day before the election. My coworker took the sadness one step further, wondering if Madelyn Dunham’s vote (she voted by early absentee ballot) would now not be counted.
Not knowing the answer, I called the Office of Elections in Hawaii. Kevin Cronin, chief election officer for the state, just got back to me. Here’s what he said:
Ms. Dunham’s absentee mail ballot was received and reviewed under the Hawaii standards for processing absentee mail ballots… She was alive at that time. Her ballot will be opened tomorrow, and it will be counted in the same way that all absentee voters would be treated under our law.
The key point appears to be that Ms. Dunham was alive at the time her absentee ballot was received and reviewed, and that it met the standards for review at that time.
Madelyn Dunham’s vote will count, even if she is not here to learn the final tally.
(h/t Andrew Sullivan)
And maybe for good measure I'll leave this wonderfully partisan, election rally video from The Boss, as an inspiration and a reminder of some of the best that America has to offer:
"The Nick Berg beheading and its Internet video compose what is known around KFI as a "Monster," meaning a story that has both high news value and tremendous emotional voltage. As is SOP in political talk radio, the emotions most readily accessed are anger, outrage, indignation, fear, despair, disgust, contempt, and a certain kind of apocalyptic glee, all of which the Nick Berg thing's got in spades. Mr. Ziegler, whose program is in only its fourth month at KFI, has been fortunate in that 2004 has already been chock-full of Monsters—Saddam's detention, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the Scott Peterson murder trial, the Greg Haidl gang-rape trial, and preliminary hearings in the rape trial of Kobe Bryant. But tonight is the most angry, indignant, disgusted, and impassioned that Mr. Z.'s gotten on-air so far, and the consensus in Airmix is that it's resulting in some absolutely first-rate talk radio.".
So obviously I didn't finish The New Republicans I in that coffee shop in those fateful, dwindling hours before the Vice-Presidential debate much less in the two or three weeks following. But here we are with about eight (...seven, six ...) days to go before the actual election itself and if I want complete this entire series before the voting itself renders all my autumn contemplation on this subject irrelevant, if isn't already, so I best get a move on.
And so, dear reader, to begin this post - journey with me once again, back in time to that special week at the beginning of September - the first week of September, just after Labour Day when The Republican Party convened their convention, for it is in that convention can we begin to discern the kernel of their present spectacular flameout. For as someone much wiser than me (forget who) once wrote: "What is the present then, but basically a movie of the past" - something like that. I know it seems like a long, long time ago now, and if amidst our present cacophony of sound, fury and crisis you are experiencing some difficulty in this task let me assist you with the lame, frustrated poet's oldest trick in the book. Oh dear sweet reader, lets just summon the muse:
So there I was, watching The Republican National Convention, two days in and several days after John McCain had announced his decision to anoint The Governor of Alaska to be his running mate. But I don't want to get ahead of myself.
Now go ahead and call me an elitist but after spending far too many hours already watching this goon show I was sincerely coming to the conclusion that one needed to have had a lobotomy in order to be a functioning Republican delegate these days. (Full disclosure: I am usually of this opinion, but at this time it was much worse than usual, I was literally gobsmacked) As if it was some kind of prerequisite. Maybe they even get a package deal from one of those insurance companies who count amongst their largest donors. I was even growing sentimental for the day that may yet come when I will truly miss the intellectual George Bush, or the nuanced world view of Dick Cheney.
And I don't think I was alone.
It was already Wednesday night, in the hours before Sarah Palin was to speak and the present delegates of the Grand Old Party, this Party that has held the executive office of the POTUS for twenty-six of the last forty years had already been treated to Mitt Romney - former Governor of Massachusetts and present big time Boston based investment banker - rally as passionately and with as as much painfully fake conviction as he could muster against the diabolical workings of the dreaded "Eastern elites" - before Mitt then gave up the stage to our personal favourite here at GHN - Rudy Giuliani - the twice divorced, opera loving, abortion and gay rights supporting two term mayor of New York City - who really fired up the crowd when he suggested that Barack Obama may not fully appreciate the town of Wasilla, Alaska - the hometown of Sarah Pallin - because perhaps it wasn't "cosmopolitan enough" for him. In an arena adorned with the slogan "Country First" a night after previous evening's theme of "Service" everybody was having a good laugh at all the sneering jokes about "Community Activists" - Obama's one time post-undergrad profession on the South Side of Chicago, back in the day.
It was a bizzare and surreal disconnect captured perfectly by the following night's episode of The Daily Show (oh thank-you Jesus) and a strategy concisely explained in a subsequent op-ed by Paul Krugman appropriately titled The Resentment Strategy :
What the G.O.P. is selling, in other words, is the pure politics of resentment; you’re supposed to vote Republican to stick it to an elite that thinks it’s better than you. Or to put it another way, the G.O.P. is still the party of Nixon.
One of the key insights in “Nixonland,” the new book by the historian Rick Perlstein, is that Nixon’s political strategy throughout his career was inspired by his college experience, in which he got himself elected student body president by exploiting his classmates’ resentment against the Franklins, the school’s elite social club. There’s a direct line from that student election to Spiro Agnew’s attacks on the “nattering nabobs of negativism” as “an effete corps of impudent snobs,” and from there to the peculiar cult of personality that not long ago surrounded George W. Bush — a cult that celebrated his anti-intellectualism and made much of the supposed fact that the “misunderestimated” C-average student had proved himself smarter than all the fancy-pants experts.
And when Mr. Bush turned out not to be that smart after all, and his presidency crashed and burned, the angry right — the raging rajas of resentment? — became, if anything, even angrier. Humiliation will do that.
Can Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin really ride Nixonian resentment into an upset election victory in what should be an overwhelmingly Democratic year? The answer is a definite maybe.
In short, in our time, in this time, with everything that is going on, in both the United States and all over the world, in the waning days of the Bush Administration and the early years of 21st century and next Millennium - The Republican Party were setting the stage to once again run against The Sixties. Because - as I believe Rick Perlstein points out (though I haven't read it) in the above Krugman-referenced book Nixonland the Republicans essentially won the Sixties. Despite all their protestations to the contrary the Sixties were good for them - politically:
America's enemies, he (Nixon) had learned to think of them. He grew yet more determined to destroy them, because of what he was convinced was their determination to destroy him.
Millions of Americans recognized the balance of forces in the exact same way — that America was engulfed in a pitched battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. The only thing was: Americans disagreed radically over which side was which. By 1972, defining that order of battle as one between "people who identified with what Richard Nixon stood for" and "people who despised what Richard Nixon stood for" was as good a description as any other.
This is an election strategy that they have engaged in my entire life, for as long as I can remember and I'm not really that young anymore. And they do it because its a strategy that wins. Or more to the point - it is a strategy that used to win. And what's that hoary old military chestnut about 'generals always fighting the last war'?
In a prescient, now classic article from way back in May - The Fall of Conservatism : Have Conservatives run out of ideas? - George Packer wrote all about this:
Yet the polarization of America, which we now call the “culture wars,” has been dissipating for a long time. Because we can’t anticipate what ideas and language will dominate the next cycle of American politics, the previous era’s key words—“élite,” “mainstream,” “real,” “values,” “patriotic,” “snob,” “liberal”—seem as potent as ever. Indeed, they have shown up in the current campaign: North Carolina and Mississippi Republicans have produced ads linking local Democrats to Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s controversial former pastor. The right-wing group Citizens United has said that it will run ads portraying Obama as yet another “limousine liberal.” But these are the spasms of nerve endings in an organism that’s brain-dead. Among Republicans, there is no energy, no fresh thinking, no ability to capture the concerns and feelings of millions of people.
"(T)he spasms of nerve endings in an organism that's brain dead.".
Let's all remember that exquisite phrase.
The "strategy" - sometimes referred to as The Southern Strategy - is easily discerned and definable and comes complete and correct with the requisite strong 'emotional voltage' because it touches and plays upon, and some would even say exploits and manipulates, people's fears. It creates wedge issues and seeks to divide. And its chief and most successful practitioners of the last forty years have been people like Pat Buchanan, Lee Atwater, and of course Karl "MC" Rove:
Because, dear reader, if I may get simplistic for a moment, in this perennial struggle of The Freaks vs. The Squares, which takes place not only in our politics but in our very psyches it will always be advantage Square, I think; always easier for The Square to crush The Freak than the Freak to rule triumphant over the Square. I do believe it was Flaubert who once wrote that "in the heart of every barrister, lurks the tragedy of a failed poet." (something like that).
But these distinctions, however still deeply felt - but more to the point - identified with, are now, as I have been trying to emphasize, now completely spent and exhausted. And as cynical as I can be, I will cop to kind of belief that perhaps what we are witnessing really is some kind of transformation of a sorts in the United States, or paradigm shift. Because when this opera is played upon deeply at is here in this Election '08 what is becoming more clear all the time is -just how square the so called freaks, and just how so very freakish have become the squares. And how irrational. And how lost.
And in this psycho- melodrama, stakes as high as they are, Mitt and Rudy were just the warm up act for the really big show, the one everyone was waiting for - the headliner: the big prime time coming out speech of far right America's newest sweetheart - Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Pallin.
So. What to make of Sarah Palin. Oh sweet Jesus, please give me the words.
Well, for starters, in those early days I think she did her job and did it well - well enough that it was actually reflected in an early poll jump/bump for the Republicans. And that job - her job - was from the moment she was introduced to make it all about her, a task for which she seemed perfectly and without question - shamelessly up to the challenge. To flip the script, to change the national and international conversation from the Democrats, their convention and especially Obama's absolutely staggering speech of the night before - and to even change it, if she actually could, from the record of the last eight years of Bush/Cheney Administration. I do recall that I was actually joking with a friend of mine the previous night after Obama's speech about how lame the coming moment was going to be when John McCain walked on stage the next day with say ... Mitt Romney, or even Joe Lieberman as his running mate, hoping, praying for some of that action, some of that 'Joe-mentum'.
But how wrong I was. The Republicans needed a "Monster". And so they went for it.
Everybody in the end zone. Because we're gonna jack it.
And so as is so obvious by now, Sarah Palin is just such a "Monster". She is a "Monster" in the above quoted David Foster Wallace sense of the word: "high news value and tremendous emotional voltage" - accessing emotions of "anger, outrage, indignation, fear, despair, disgust, contempt, and a certain kind of apocalyptic glee", not to mention, and most importantly, amongst some - i.e. The blessed Republican Base - blind love, and total devotion. Its almost as if they had concocted her in a petrie dish some where in some secret right wing laboratory, or were raising her from a pup in a special Republican boot camp, deep in the wilds of Alaska, waiting ... and waiting for just the right moment when they were really desperate, and really, really needed her. And it was time to throw the Hail Mary. The Hail Sarah.
Yeah yeah, I know. Perhaps Of course I am taking it too far. But she has that effect on people. And thats the point.
(Note: Read all the past of Sarah Palin's witch doctor/preacher featured in the above video - Thomas Muthee - here and > here and then ask yourself, dear reader, as Bill Maher does, what would have happened if such a video of Barack Obama had turned up anywhere at anytime during this election and what the implications of such an event would have been for his electability, and what does that tell you about race and politics in America. Or you can just let Keith Olberman break it down for you: )
And the sense of desperation, panic and vertigo around the pick of Sarah Palin only seemed to increase when it was revealed just how the choice had been made:
Mr. McCain was getting advice that if he did not do something to shake up the race, his campaign would be stuck on a potentially losing trajectory.
With time running out — and as Mr. McCain discarded two safer choices, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, as too predictable — he turned to Ms. Palin. He had his first face-to-face interview with her on Thursday and offered her the job moments later. Advisers to Mr. Pawlenty and another of the finalists on Mr. McCain’s list described an intensive vetting process for those candidates that lasted one to two months.
“They didn’t seriously consider her until four or five days from the time she was picked, before she was asked, maybe the Thursday or Friday before,” said a Republican close to the campaign. “This was really kind of rushed at the end, because John didn’t get what he wanted. He wanted to do Joe or Ridge.”
In the final stages, two Republicans familiar with the process said, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, emerged as a key advocate for Ms. Palin.
John McCain is a well known impulsive gambler/craps player after all, whose ties to the gambling industry are legendary. Russell Baker recently recently compared him to an "amateur chess player" with "a weakness for making an impulsive move just to see what would happen".
And all this was just too much from my prospective. Sitting there on the couch, with my laptop open, parked in front of the teevee dumbstruck like some frozen, outraged gargoyle, and yet unable to turn away.
From the moment the nomination was announced the blogosphere basically erupted in a firestorm of revelations and reinvigorated investigations into the past and the ideology of this previously relatively unknown Alaska Governor which was surely something to behold in its passionate intensity. And as I sat there often watching TV and surfing the Internet at the same time (!) I dearly succumbed to it all and kept waiting for the moments when the activity of the one (internet - Ideology) would ultimately overflow into the news and commentary of the other (TV - Myth). And as the internet facts continued to pile up I became convinced that there was no way Sarah Palin was going to last the week. I just assumed she was done for. That in obviously not "vetting" her in the way they should have, the Republicans had made a grievous and fatal error. I figured she would be forced to bow out, blaming the "liberal media" for their insidious contempt and callous disrespect for her and the unfair pressure they were placing on her family. I figured her subsequent martyrdom in this regard would be enough to animate the base for the remainder of the election as John McCain then went to on to nominate Mitt Romney or even Joe Lieberman, like he apparently wanted to in the first place. I honestly figured this was the plan. I thought there was some angle the campaign was working. This - angle. Something else going on. This can't be happening, literally, like this, something else is up.
But here we are about two months later and Sarah Palin is still around, so obviously I was wrong again, I guess - which apparently happens all the time. But that isn't going to stop me from luxuriating in sweet nector of nostalgia about some of my favourite Palin hits that I came to cherish during that oh so special time:
*Last year, Palin requested more earmarks per person than any other state -- including some that were criticized by McCain himself.
*Even as mayor of Wasilla, Palin's pursuit of earmarks was aggressive. She oversaw the hiring of a Washington lobbyist -- who, as we reported yesterday, had ties to Jack Abramoff -- to go after federal pork.
*And though Palin touted her opposition to the "Bridge to Nowhere" just last week in her debut speech, she initially supported the project during her run for governor. It was only after the bridge became notorious as an example of pork barrel spending that she changed her position.
*In her run for governor, Palin was endorsed by then-indicted, now-convicted Sen. Ted Stevens. Video of the endorsement has been removed from her government website, but the two appeared together just two months ago at a press conference on energy. The friendly relationship between the embattled senator, who is accused of lying about gifts he recieved from an oil contractor, and the supposedly maverick governor is at odds with Palin's claim to dismantling the "old boys club" of Alaska government.
*As Wasilla mayor, Palin reportedly fired the police chief and attempted to fire the librarian, because she did not feel that she had their "full support in [her] efforts to govern the city of Wasilla." Former city officials allege that the attempts to remove the librarian were a result of her her refusal to censor books at Palin's request.
*Palin has been at the center of the Trooper-Gate scandal that alleges misuse of her gubernatorial power. The affair erupted in July when Palin fired the Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Monegan later claimed his firing was a result of his refusal to fire Palin's former brother-in-law and trooper Mike Wooten. Palin denied that she, her husband or her staff ever pressured Monegan, a statement she later had to retract when recorded phone calls revealed one of her aides, Frank Bailey, had called a troopers office pushing for Wooten's removal.
*The Washington Post published emails from Palin to Monegan in which she appeared to complain that Wooten was still employed, apparently undercutting her claim that she discussed Wooten with Monegan only in the context of the security of her family.
*As a result of the Trooper-Gate allegations, an independent investigator has been appointed by the state legislature. In recent days, Palin has appeared to stonewall the probe. Her lawyer argued in a complaint filed last night that she wold not be made available for her deposition unless the probe were handed over to the state personnel board, whose members are appointed by the governor. Bailey, who had been suspended by Palin with pay for his actions, today backed out of his deposition.
To be fair TPM does point out that Palin "went after the state GOP chair, Randy Ruedrich, for doing work for the party on public time and working closely with a company he was supposed to be regulating. She also filed a formal complaint against Attorney General Gregg Renkes for having investments in an energy company that stood to benefit from a state trade deal. Both Ruedrich and Renkes ultimately resigned their posts, and Ruedrich paid a $12,000 fine." - and these two actions apparently account for her reputation as someone who was willing to "shake up the old boys network" in Alaska. But as Anne "the bravest housewife in Wasilla Alaska" Kilkenny points out in her much circulated e-mail there was a lot more to it:
When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the "old boys' club" when she dramatically quit, exposing this man's ethics violations (for which he was fined).
So while Palin did expose ethics violations in the Alaskan 'old boys network' it was an action performed in the context of a major advancement in her own profile and career, the kind of thing very ambitious politicians do all the time. They see openings and they leap. No risk, no reward. But I think the Republicans really over-represent this episode as evidence of her dedication to reform and its certainly pretty thin gruel upon which to then in turn trumpet her record as some kind of maverick.
Kilkenny's e-mail is quite amazing and includes other gems like:
During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.
Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a "fiscal conservative". During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.
The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren't enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn't even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later--to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.
While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once.
These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.
She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn't like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.
Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.
She is savvy. She doesn't take positions; she just "puts things out there" and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.
Then there was also the no small matter of Palin's connection(s) to the Alaskan Independence Party - a party whose motto is "Alaska First - Alaska Always" and have as their "primary goal - a vote on Alaskan succession". The AIP first stated that Palin and her husband Todd were members in 1994 and even attended the '94 statewide convention held Wasilla before being forced to recant after it was shown that Palin has been a registered Republican since '82. (See the Jake Tapper post - here.) Either way, according to the director of Division of Elections in Alaska Palin's husband Todd was certainly a registered member from October 1995 until July 2002 except for a few months in 2000. And it was in 2000 that Palin recorded the following video for the opening of the party's convention:
This is certainly profoundly ironic, as the Republicans are only the party of Lincoln and all. I figured this last one especially was the piece de resistance - the body blow for which she had no answer and could never possibly recover, but again, here it is almost two months later and I don't recall her ever being asked; not that there's been many opportunities.
And then there was the religious stuff - all that freakish square religious stuff. Not only the above witchdoctor Thomas Muthee video but stuff like this now famous video of Palin giving a speech to her home church - the Wasilla Bible Church - where she says things like how the war Iraq is 'a task from God - part of God's plan' before her pastor returns during part two and talks about how Alaska is one of the 'last refuge' states where people will go when the time comes for the end of days (not to be confused with the old Scwarzeneger movie) and 'the church has to be ready to minister to them.'. Its the same church that Palin attended on August 17th, two weeks before she was nominated when her Pastor introduced a man named David Brickner executive director of Jews for Jesus who gave a sermon where he talked about the price Jews were paying for their "unbelief":
"But what we see in Israel, the conflict that is spilled out throughout the Middle East, really which is all about Jerusalem, is an ongoing reflection of the fact that there is judgment. There is judgment that is going on in the land, and that's the other part of this Jerusalem Dilemma. When Jesus was standing in that temple, He spoke that that judgment was coming, that there's a reality to the judgment of unbelief. He said "I long to gather you, but..." what? "You were unwilling."
... when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people. Judgment--you can't miss it.".
There was collection afterwards, and no word if Palin actually contributed but we do know that the Tuesday before her speech she was meeting with members of AIPAC as well as Sen. Joseph Lieberman - so maybe that helped clear things up.
And then there is her absolutley atrocious record with regards to Alaska's blessed wildlife. As John Dolan wrote in Sarah Palin's Big, Sleazy Safari:
Most people had never heard of Sarah Palin when she was named the Republican VP nominee. But I'd been hearing her name all too often, because I belong to a group called Defenders of Wildlife -- and in her time as governor of Alaska, Palin has used her position as governor of Alaska to ruin the Alaskan wilderness in every way she could.
Her most recent "victory" came on Aug. 26, when Alaska's voters defeated Measure 2, an initiative that would have banned hunting wolves from airplanes for sport.
Palin organized a campaign against Measure 2 and funded it with $400,000 of state money. For most of us, the idea of zooming around in a private airplane over snowbound wilderness just for the chance to spot a terrified wild dog and blow it apart with a high-powered rifle is insane. But there's a whole culture out there in love with the idea. Palin did her part by playing the tired old Alaskan pioneer card, saying that lower-48 naysayers who dared to object to the idea of dive-bombing wildlife didn't "understand rural Alaska."
Alaska isn't really very hard to understand. It consists of a minority that loves the wilderness and an overwhelmingly Republican majority that wants to squeeze all the cash it can get out of the state before the oil dries up, the fish die out and the wildlife disappears. Nowhere else does the Republican formula of manipulating the suckers by playing on their silly hatreds and even sillier vanities play out more clearly than in Alaska.
(I'm sorry, but as everyone knows we're big fans of wolves here at GHN, so this last one really pissed us off.)
But remember this was just at the time of the Convention, before she had even given her speech. We've now had Sarah Palin on the campaign trail for two months, which has produced, amongst man things, such TV gems as these beauties nicely collected in the following TPMtv video:
And then there was this absolutely atrocious, extremely serious revelation that Sarah Palin while mayor of Wasilla actually billed rape victims for the costs of their tests. A position beyond despicable to which she has yet to respond - which prompted this editorial from the NYT:
Even in tough budget times, there are lines that cannot be crossed. So I was startled by this tidbit reported recently by The Associated Press: When Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the small town began billing sexual-assault victims for the cost of rape kits and forensic exams.
Ms. Palin owes voters an explanation. What was the thinking behind cutting the measly few thousand dollars needed to cover the yearly cost of swabs, specimen containers and medical tests? Whose dumb idea was it to make assault victims and their insurance companies pay instead? Unfortunately, her campaign is shielding the candidate from the press, so Americans may still be waiting for answers on Election Day.
The rape-kit controversy is a troubling matter. The insult to rape victims is obvious. So is the sexism inherent in singling them out to foot the bill for investigating their own case. And the main result of billing rape victims is to protect their attackers by discouraging women from reporting sexual assaults.
But as Dick Cheney likes to say - at the end of the day - the question with all of these Sarah Palin fun facts still remains - do they really matter at all?
As I mentioned earlier at the time I was reading up on them I think I was labouring under the notion that one or several of these stories would be enough to force her from the race. Considering that her Vice Presidential opponent once had to drop out of his own initial Presidential run in 1988 because of accusations of speech plagiarism it was a notion that was not all that far-fetched I don't think.
I could say that the fact that Sarah Palin is still in the race is evidence once again that Republicans are graded on a curve. And everybody knows it. For despite all their howlings of "liberal bias" in the media, or about how the "Eastern media elites" have it in for them, the fact of the matter is that such accusations are just part of a larger public relations strategy on the part of the Republicans to essentially game the system and fix the field of battle, and it is part and parcel of this same election strategy that they have been employing for the last forty years. A system of "pre-emption" really. By constantly harping on "liberal bias" in the media they effectively neuter the established media to a very profound extent, causing them to constantly second guess themselves at the best of times, and out right self censor themselves at the worst. I have read it in many sources from journalists who work at these levels about how they spend half their time actually doing their job and the other half fretting over whether or not to run such and such a story would open themselves up to the charge of "liberal bias".
We all know its true dear reader. What if Joe Biden had at some point in his career had actually brought forth legislation that charged rape victims for their rape kits? And that is just the most minor example. What if the Democrats had run a vice-Presidential candidate as obviously slight and ignorant and in over her head as Sarah Palin? What would the Republicans be saying about her?
And really - dear reader. I implore you. Has not the reign of the Bush/Cheney Administration really been the apotheosis of this whole phenomenon? I mean just go ahead and play the game - "Imagine if a Democrat?" In just these few examples:
- Imagine if a Democrat had launched a full scale invasion into a major country in one of the most dangerous parts of the world under false pretenses and without a plan for what was going to come next?
- Imagine if a Democrat had gone from running a budget surplus to running the largest debt since the Second World War?
- Imagine if a Democratic President had requested a 750 billion dollar financial bailout package that essentially 'nationalizes' a good chunk of the American banking sector? Especially in the original form as requested by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson?
- What if a Democratic President had legalized warrantless domestic surveillance?
- Or perhaps my personal favourite, what if a Democratic President upon hearing the news that "America was under attack" continued to sit for seven minutes in front of a classroom of public school kids, even partaking in their reading lesson, clearly existentially paralyzed with no clear idea as to how to proceed?
I know it seems so long ago now, but go ahead and watch the whole thing unedited if you want, its pretty surreal and its only ten minutes long:
The examples are endless and you can take your pick - but I ask you dear reader what do you suppose the Republicans would be saying about any of these counterfactual hyptheticals if they had actually taken place? And how about their minion stooges in the media? If any of this had actually taken place under a Democratic Administration there wouldn't be enough buckets in the land to contain the oceans of vitriolic saliva that would still be pouring forth from all the ditto head right wing yakkers in the United States. So please, tell me more about "liberal bias". Explain it to me. Please. With a straight face.
"Heck of a job Brownie.". And the day that George W. Bush actually steps on to that airplane and then turns and waves good-bye to President and Mrs. Obama for good will be a glorious one indeed, even though at that point the Special Forces may still have to be called in order to dislodge Cheney from his bunker. I don't believe that motherfucker is going quietly until I actually see it happen.
So yes, the fact the Sarah Palin is still around may be due to the typical established media fear of right wing belligerence, agenda defining and name calling. But as we've all witnessed Sarah Palin hasn't really had all that easy a go of it and at this point she is obviously positively terrified of the media. Has any Vice Presidential candidate ever run for the second highest office in the land and never held a press conference?
No - I think the reason that Sarah Palin is still around is two-fold.
Firstly, its not that I've changed my mind about the political efficacy of what I originally thought about her being bounced from the ticket - its just that I do believe that the people who are running the campaign have come to believe that it would be a disaster to give her the boot. An 'insurmountable show of weakness' and all that. Once they made the choice, rolled the dice, threw the pass, they were pretty much stuck with her. In for a penny, in for a pound. All in.
And secondly, but most primarily, its just that all these above facts, this evidence of actual practice - the Roelofsian Ideology of the situation - don't matter a lick in the face of the hard core, far-right Republican Party supporters who not only want to believe in Sarah Palin, but need to believe in Sarah Palin. The Myth, in this case, is just too strong and outweighs any and all evidence to the contrary.
We are in the depths of a quadrennial phase that I am going to call the time of democratic fear and loathing. The fear is that the election will bring to power people who are saying things about the issues that are demonstrably untrue, and the loathing very often is directed at the rest of the country when one asks the question how can people be fooled by this. I think we live at a time when there is amongst other things a disagreement about facts and politics. Facts, politics, symbols and politics. And I want to begin by reading a quotation that I think is the best quotation of the Bush Era. It comes from Karl Rove and it was in a piece a few years ago by Ron Suskind, a wonderful piece that ran in the NYT magazine during the run up to the 2004 election. It was about religion and Bush and the Bush Administration. The quote reads as follows:
The aide, this is Rove, the aide said that guys like me - Suskind the reporter - were in what we called the reality-based community, which he defined as people who, and I'm quoting, "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That's the reality based community". I nodded and murmured something about Enlightenment Principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world works anymore. We're an Empire now. And when we act we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality, judiciously, as you will, we'll act again creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out, we're history's actors and you, all of you, will be left to study what we do.".
He was talking about among other things Iraq and and foreign policy and I would submit to you that Iraq is a demonstration that this division doesn't always work. That is, at the end of the day, that it may take a while reality will - out.
But when it comes to politics we are living again, it seems to me, in this stage of the reality based community where there are those who believe that there are facts, that there are demonstrable things, like whether or not Sarah Palin was against the Bridge to Nowhere or was against entitlements, are set on a side against people who actually believe that they can use these issues as in effect - symbols. As ways of signaling certain attitudes And that the facts at the end of the day don't really matter because although reporters start tearing their hair out and start going crazy most of the people whom these issues are directed at are not readers of the New York Times and are not in facts members of the reality based community. And one of the remarkable things about the Republican Party is its ability to ignore those it doesn't care about and focus on the voters that it wants to grab.
So wedge issues we are going to see them played on more and more. They are about nostalgia. They are about resentment. You heard in Sarah Palin's Convention speech, her introductory speech, as well as the stump speech she's making around the country - an appeal to small-town America: "the people who raise our food" which is I always think a fascinating point because the people who raise our food are Archer-Daniels Midland. Small town America no longer raises our food. Its an appeal to an America that no longer exists but the Republican Party has used it repeatedly and extremely effectively. So you will see ads about Sex, about Honour and Patriotism, and about small-towns. And again, these things are wrong on the facts very often and it does not matter.
Nostalgia, resentment, appeals to small-town America, sex - or more accurately the fear of sex, honour, patriotism. And even in our present age when we have finger tip access to all the information we could ever possibly want - the facts do not matter. Myth. Myth stronger than facts. The need to believe stronger than verifiable truth, often right before your eyes. The kind of yearning for myth whereby Sarah Palin can constantly campaign on the message that she is coming to clean up all the wasteful spending in Washington, and yet, in reality, Alaska receives more earmarks per person than any other state, and Alaska receives more overall federal spending per capita than any other state. Yes, they are #1, even though they have no state income tax and are bleeding rich right now in oil revenues. Yet how many people of that state - like those who are members of the Alaskan Independence Party - see themselves as rugged individualists, whose biggest hinderance, most frustrating annoyance in life is at once and always an overly bureaucratic, intrusive American government. Sarah Palin keeps saying that what Washington D.C. needs is a little more "Wasilla Main Street", and yet Wasilla is the crystal meth capital of the state, with 42 labs discovered last year alone according to local police. And those are just the ones they found. I think that Washington D.C. might have enough problems of its own in this regard. She still insists that abstinence-only sex education is the only way to teach the subject, even though her own seventeen year old daughter became pregnant practically right in front of her.
The conservative columnist David Brooks wrote the other day about the coming of Behavioural Economics in a column titled - The Behavioral Revolution:
Roughly speaking, there are four steps to every decision. First, you perceive a situation. Then you think of possible courses of action. Then you calculate which course is in your best interest. Then you take the action.
Over the past few centuries, public policy analysts have assumed that step three is the most important. Economic models and entire social science disciplines are premised on the assumption that people are mostly engaged in rationally calculating and maximizing their self-interest.
But during this financial crisis, that way of thinking has failed spectacularly. As Alan Greenspan noted in his Congressional testimony last week, he was “shocked” that markets did not work as anticipated. “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.”
So perhaps this will be the moment when we alter our view of decision-making. Perhaps this will be the moment when we shift our focus from step three, rational calculation, to step one, perception.
Perceiving a situation seems, at first glimpse, like a remarkably simple operation. You just look and see what’s around. But the operation that seems most simple is actually the most complex, it’s just that most of the action takes place below the level of awareness. Looking at and perceiving the world is an active process of meaning-making that shapes and biases the rest of the decision-making chain.
Taleb (behavioural economist) believes that our brains evolved to suit a world much simpler than the one we now face. His writing is idiosyncratic, but he does touch on many of the perceptual biases that distort our thinking: our tendency to see data that confirm our prejudices more vividly than data that contradict them; our tendency to overvalue recent events when anticipating future possibilities; our tendency to spin concurring facts into a single causal narrative; our tendency to applaud our own supposed skill in circumstances when we’ve actually benefited from dumb luck.
This meltdown is not just a financial event, but also a cultural one. It’s a big, whopping reminder that the human mind is continually trying to perceive things that aren’t true, and not perceiving them takes enormous effort.
(Note: I plan to hopefully blog a lot more about what I am learning about "the financial crisis" in the near future. And just FYI one of the most noted 'behavioural economists' is the University of Chicago Professor Austan Goolsbee and he is an advisor to Barack Obama.)
Bu there is another word for all this. There is another word for playing upon people's fear and ignorance and in turn devising an entire election strategy around it. Another word for deliberately not telling them what they need to hear, but what you think they want to hear. Another word for deliberately, to their face, not telling people the truth - for in fact, out right, lying to them, and not only do you know you're lying to them but they know you're lying to them. And dear reader, that blessed word is - condescension.
People know it when they feel it and they really don't like it.
Actually, maybe the word is - contempt.
Essentially doesn't this strategy represent an attitude of contempt - precisely the attitude of which they accuse the so-called 'eastern (liberal) media elites'? Maybe this is just a grand episode of projection?
Are you not just outright talking down to people? Not only capitalizing but encouraging their ignorance. I have often felt that these Republicans run but also govern on strategies that are intentionally predicated upon people's ignorance and apathy. And maybe this really is just wishful thinking on my part, and a "desire for change" that requires a leap of faith (the triumph of hope over experience) but maybe, just maybe the United States has reached a tipping point with regards to these Republican tactics and they have peaked and just cannot work this time. Not this time - as the man himself keeps saying in one of his most impeccable lines. The tragic irony is that it has taken all the corruption, incompetence and the accompanying exhaustion from the Bush/Cheney years to finally achieve this moment and swing enough of the people in another direction. It is an exhaustion that I think is perfectly captured in the following video from those lovable "Wassup" guys:
(for those of you who don't know - this a play on a famous beer commercial from eight years ago and I guess the reference isn't as effective if you're not familiar with the original)
Its all pretty sentimental I know but what can I tell you - I've been feeling sentimental lately, and I don't think I'm alone. I can be as much a sucker for this shit as the next person. And the Democrats with all their own problems, failures and shortcomings say it all the time of course, but maybe this time it really is time to "put Barney Smith, before Smith Barney."
Here's hoping. Let's bring on some new Myths, and move beyond these tired old culture wars.
I guess that's maybe one of the elements of hope - when you really run out of options and don't really have much choice in the matter. What choice does America have right now - really? Its pretty obvious. And the selection of Sarah Palin just certified it.
As Frank Rich wrote in his last op-ed - In Defense of White Americans:
The dirty little secret of such divisive politicians has always been that their rage toward the Others is exceeded only by their cynical conviction that Real Americans are a benighted bunch of easily manipulated bigots. This seems to be the election year when voters in most of our myriad Americas are figuring that out.
This - this was the moment when John McCain lost the election. The more the American electorate saw of Sara Palin the worse it became for the Republican ticket. That's the truth about gambling: you usually lose. And the Hail Mary hardly ever works.
Anyways, dear reader, this what was going through my head by the time I had finished watching Sarah Palin give her speech at the Republican Convention almost two months ago. That and the one question that lodged in my brain like some kind of cerebral tape worm:
Just who the hell does this woman think she is?
But meanwhile, outside the Convention hall:
(Read Glenn Greenwald on the FBI treatment of the protestors at the Republican Convention)
Though it has seemed like forever, its almost over now. Perhaps this post is basically obituary before the very end. I hope I'm not jinxing Obama. I doubt it.
But whatever, I began writing this thing, this post on the Republican National Convention weeks ago, immediately after the Convention ended, actually - back in those halcyon days before people were scandalously attempting to put lipstick on pigs and back before this "greatest American financial crisis since The Great Depression" (as they keep saying) took hold and managed in the process to somehow make even the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seem like secondary issues, practically forgotton.
Oh what innocent days those were. And how innocent was I.
I ultimately abandoned it because I couldn't really come up with anything original to say that wasn't being said and written much better elsewhere, and because that's just often what I do with pieces I write. But I've decided to return to it - now, pretty much a month later, here in this coffee shop, on this rainy afternoon before the Vice Presidential debate - in light of two recent developments that have occurred since I first began, and because this abandonment thing was bugging me and I would like to do what I can to make the feeling go away. So I'll humour myself that I am going to finish this before I leave this coffee shop in an say, an hour and a half, and before the debate tonight, but that's probably not going to happen. But either way I am determined to write this idea through to the end to see what becomes of it. Then hopefully it won't bother me anymore.
The two developments? Well, they were deaths actually.
H. Mark Roelofs, a professor of political philosophy and grandson of the founder of the Roycroft Community, died Sunday in the Center for Hospice & Palliative Care, Cheektowaga. He was 84.
Mr. Roelofs was a 1940 graduate of East Aurora High School, then interrupted his college studies in 1943 to enlist in the Navy, where he was an instructor in Midshipman’s School at Columbia University.
Mr. Roelof’s military career ended with his participation in the Paris Peace Conference in 1946, when he negotiated the disbanding of the Italian navy.
Following World War II, he graduated from Amherst College and attended graduate school at Balliol College of Oxford University, where he focused on political philosophy and economics.
Like his father and brother, Mr. Roelofs went into teaching, joining the faculty at Colgate University, Cornell University and finally New York University, where students voted him best teacher on three occasions. He was longtime director of undergraduate studies at NYU, and founded and was director of the school’s Metropolitan Leadership Program until 1972. He retired from NYU in 2003.
Mr. Roelofs published five books— one of which won a prize from the American Political Science Association — and dozens of articles on American politics and political theory. An activist, he was the principal organizer and first president of the Caucus for a New Political Science.
He purchased his family’s East Aurora farm in 1989. It originally was part of the Roycroft Community founded by his grandparents, Elbert and Alice Hubbard, who died in the sinking of the Lusitania after it was hit by a German torpedo off the coast of Ireland.
Mr. Roelofs was a member of South Wales Presbyterian Church.
Professor Roelofs was and is important to me. I feel I owe him a very large debt because his great book Ideology and Myth in American Politics made a grand impression on me when I was young(er). It was absolutely central to the arguments I was attempting to make as I awkwardly tried to flesh out my undergraduate honours thesis way back some time in the waning years of the last century.
I only happened to find out about his death when I randomly googled his name a couple of weeks ago. I hadn't heard about it anywhere. I suppose it wasn't big news, but I feel like it should have been.
So I want to acknowledge him in some way. I figure its the least I can do.
The book is long out of print and if you look around for it it is usually 'out of stock' but I have thankfully managed to track down a copy. And without going to far into it maybe I'll just offer a few quotes from the introduction for your consideration:
In this book, the argument is ultimately that Americans are trapped inside their historically given political mind, that they cannot escape from it, and that they are bound to go on repeating patterns of political behaviour which are essentially unproductive if not worse.
The American political mind offers few alternatives and the tendency of its political processes is always, after exhaustion, to go back to the beginning.
As stipulated in what follows, myth denotes the nationally shared framework of political consciousness by which a people become aware of itself as a people, as having an identity in history, and by which it is also prepared to recognize some governing regime within its community as legitimate. Myth is a people's legend and its hope. Ideology, in contrast, is a narrower and more practical term. As stipulated in what follows, it is the framework of political consciousness, the set of ideas, by which a people, or at least its dominant, governing element, organizes itself for political action. Myth gives meaning to national existence and endeavor. Ideology give patterns for political action.
Because myth is so oriented toward national identification and aspiration, and ideology toward patterns of operative behaviour, it is probable that in almost all organized societies there are discrepancies between ideologies and myths. Both are fundamentally concerned with human memory, human action, and human aspiration. Both, in the jargon of scholars, are and norm and values laden. But ideology is the the thought pattern of persons whose work must be done day by day. Myth is the ancient memory and the generational hope of the whole people, its 'civil religion'.
The thesis of this book is that in America the discrepancy, the tension, between myth and ideology is extreme, so extreme as to be self crippling.
Now I know it doesn't correspond perfectly with Roelofs' stated theoretical framework here, but for some reason, over time, this little bit of political calculus has simplified itself in my mind into representing the belief(s), even faith, that people have about their politics, and their politicians (myth), in contrast to the actual way that that politics is actually practiced (ideology). And I think, conceptually, I ultimately took it even further and so that eventually for me the theory became one thing - the proverbial difference between theory and practice. The distance, or disconnect between ideology and myth. Or even - the "difference between the way things are, from the way we would have them be." - which, interestingly enough, is almost exactly Northrop Frye's classic definition of irony (see Fools of Time). And this framework, this paradigm for viewing the world, has always stayed with me. I give it, and him, a lot of credit. And through it I often analyze everything. Sometimes even myself. Perhaps too much, and too often.
So R.I.P H. Mark Roelofs.
From the NYT Obit:
David Foster Wallace, whose prodigiously observant, exuberantly plotted, grammatically and etymologically challenging, philosophically probing and culturally hyper-contemporary novels, stories and essays made him an heir to modern virtuosos like Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, an experimental contemporary of William T. Vollmann, Mark Leyner and Nicholson Baker and a clear influence on younger tour-de-force stylists like Dave Eggers and Jonathan Safran Foer, died on Friday at his home in Claremont, Calif. He was 46.
A spokeswoman for the Claremont police said Mr. Wallace’s wife, Karen Green, returned home to find that her husband had hanged himself. Mr. Wallace’s father, James Donald Wallace, said in an interview on Sunday that his son had been severely depressed for a number of months.
A versatile writer of seemingly bottomless energy, Mr. Wallace was a maximalist, exhibiting in his work a huge, even manic curiosity — about the physical world, about the much larger universe of human feelings and about the complexity of living in America at the end of the 20th century. He wrote long books, complete with reflective and often hilariously self-conscious footnotes, and he wrote long sentences, with the playfulness of a master punctuater and the inventiveness of a genius grammarian. Critics often noted that he was not only an experimenter and a showoff, but also a God-fearing moralist with a fierce honesty in confronting the existence of contradiction.
“David Foster Wallace can do practically anything if he puts his mind to it,” Michiko Kakutani, chief book critic of The New York Times, who was not a consistent praiser of Mr. Wallace’s work, wrote in 2006. “He can do sad, funny, silly, heartbreaking and absurd with equal ease; he can even do them all at once.”
This is just brutally sad. I'm sure I haven't read as widely as others but as far as I'm concerned David Foster Wallace was the most talented American writer of his generation (he was 46), a prodigious, wholly original talent who came at his subjects with a deep, compassionate and penetrating insight that I suppose must have been devastating when applied to himself. His notorious footnotes kind of reminded me of the web actually, a sort of constant on-going linkage, with one insight inviting a tangent into something else. And though he wrote long masterfully constructed sentences that annoyed some, I thoroughly enjoyed them and would find myself blown away. His writing, his voice was spoken and written in an intelligent, authentic American vernacular and was often complimented with all kinds of high brow/low brow references that marked him as someone who had also been force fed a steady diet of television and pop culture like so many of the rest of us, as well as all the classic books, the big American books by the big American writers from the seventies like Don Delillo and Thomas Pynchon. But curious and inquisitive - the constant questioning of someone who had studied philosophy as indeed, his father had been a Professor of philosophy.
He is relevant here not just for his deathly timing, but because he had dared to take to writing about American politics and political culture in his essays - with spectacular results, I think. Most obviously I am thinking of his now famous essay for Rolling Stone magazine he wrote in 2000 - The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and The Shrub - (later extended into a short book) - about the now infamous South Carolina leg of John McCain's legendarily doomed 2000 campaign for the Presidency - where John McCain ultimately lost his first bid for the Presidency. An essay appropriately subtitled: "Seven Days in the Life of the Late, Great John McCain".
I had read an interview with Wallace some where (I forget where exactly, could have been Harpers) where he talked about how he craved sincerity, about his efforts to seek out and achieve legitimate sincerity in his work but how difficult he was finding it amidst the so-called "cynicism" of our time when everyone seemed to be constantly working some angle for market and the only values left over are money, power and self-promotion. Its an old complaint I know, almost a cliche really, but it took on a special, authentic resonance I felt, coming from him. I suppose I bought the whole DFW thing. As I bought him. I believed in him. He seemed real to me. Like the real thing. In interviews (like this one with Charlie Rose) he seemed to be really struggling with the force of his brain, and honestly attempting to tell the truth, as he saw it.
And it was a yearning, a set of concerns and a worldview that he obviously brought with him on that 2000 campaign, where he seemed to fall a little in love with the candidate, much like the rest of the press corps at the time. As indeed this was the theme of the piece - attempting to locate truth and authenticity amidst all the lies and cynicism. Just read the opening:
Prologue: Since You're Reading "Rolling Stone," the chances are you're an American between say 18 and 35, which demographically makes you a Young Voter. And no generation of Young Voters has ever cared less about politics and politicians than yours. There's hard demographic and voter-pattern data backing this up ... assuming you give a shit about data. In fact, even if you're reading other stuff in RS, it's doubtful you're going to read much of this article — such is the enormous shuddering yawn that the Political Process evokes in us now, in this post-Watergate-post-Iran-Contra-post-Whitewater-post-Lewinsky era, an era when politicians' statements of principle or vision are understood as self-serving ad copy and judged not for their sincerity or ability to inspire but for their tactical shrewdness, their marketability. And no generation has been marketed and Spun and pitched to as ingeniously and relentlessly as today's demographic Young. So when Senator John McCain says, in Michigan or South Carolina (which is where Rolling Stone sent the least professional pencil it could find to spend the standard media Week on the Bus with a candidate who'd never ride higher than he is right now), when McCain says "I run for president not to Be Somebody, but to Do Something," it's hard to hear it as anything more than a marketing angle, especially when he says it as he's going around surrounded by cameras and reporters and cheering crowds ... in other words, Being Somebody.
And when Senator John McCain also says — constantly, thumping it at the start and end of every speech and THM — that his goal as president will be "to inspire young Americans to devote themselves to causes greater than their own self-interest," it's hard not to hear it as just one more piece of the carefully scripted bullshit that presidential candidates hand us as they go about the self-interested business of trying to become the most powerful, important and talked-about human being on earth, which is of course their real "cause," to which they appear to be so deeply devoted that they can swallow and spew whole mountains of noble-sounding bullshit and convince even themselves that they mean it. Cynical as that may sound, polls show it's how most of us feel. And it's beyond not believing the bullshit; mostly we don't even hear it, dismiss it at the same deep level where we also block out billboards and Muzak.
But there's something underneath politics in the way you have to hear McCain, something riveting and unSpinnable and true. It has to do with McCain's military background and Vietnam combat and the five-plus years he spent in a North Vietnamese prison, mostly in solitary, in a box, getting tortured and starved.
Who Even Cares Who Cares?
It's hard to get good answers to why Young Voters are so uninterested in politics. This is probably because it's next to impossible to get someone to think hard about why he's not interested in something. The boredom itself preempts inquiry; the fact of the feeling's enough. Surely one reason, though, is that politics is not cool. Or say rather that cool, interesting, alive people do not seem to be the ones who are drawn to the Political Process. Think back to the sort of kids in high school or college who were into running for student office: dweeby, overgroomed, obsequious to authority, ambitious in a sad way. Eager to play the Game. The kind of kids other kids would want to beat up if it didn't seem so pointless and dull. And now consider some of 2000's adult versions of these very same kids: Al Gore, best described by CNN sound tech Mark A. as "amazingly lifelike"; Steve Forbes, with his wet forehead and loony giggle; G.W. Bush's patrician smirk and mangled cant; even Clinton himself with his big red fake-friendly face and "I feel your pain." Men who aren't enough like human beings even to dislike — what one feels when they loom into view is just an overwhelming lack of interest, the sort of deep disengagement that is so often a defense against pain. Against sadness. In fact the likeliest reason why so many of us care so little about politics is that modern politicians make us sad, hurt us in ways that are hard even to name, much less to talk about. It's way easier to roll your eyes and not give a shit. You probably don't want to hear about all this, even.
Or finally - this:
There's another thing John McCain always says. He makes sure he concludes every speech and THM with it, so the buses' press hear it about too times this week. He always pauses a second for effect and then says: "I'm going to tell you something. I may have said some things here today that maybe you don't agree with, and I might have said some things you hopefully do agree with. But I will always. Tell you. The truth." This is McCain's closer, his last big reverb on the six-string as it were. And the frenzied standing-O it always gets from his audience is something to see. But you have to wonder: why do these crowds from Detroit to Charleston cheer so wildly at a simple promise not to lie?
Well it's obvious why. When McCain says it, the people are cheering not for him so much as for how good it feels to believe him. They're cheering the loosening of a weird sort of knot in the electoral tummy. McCain's resume and candor, in other words, promise not empathy with voters' pain, but relief from it. Because we've been lied to and lied to, and it hurts to be lied to. It's ultimately just about that complicated: it hurts. It denies you respect for yourself, for the liar, for the world. Especially if the lies are chronic, systemic, if hard experience seems to teach that everything you're supposed to believe in's really a game based on lies. Young Voters have been taught well and thoroughly.
Read here now, today, juxtaposed with our present John McCain campaign of 2008 - the tragic irony of theses above quotations is not only that they reinforce just how far the candidate has fallen and strayed from his more idealistic, more authentic, younger self of the 2000 campaign - just how much he has and is selling his soul in this seeming neverending reach for the brass ring of the big job - but it brings home the dawning realization that whatever undeniable cold hard fact of faith and endurance John McCain's five years and a half years as a P.O.W in North Vietnam once represented for some has now withered in the bright sun of his own preening, insatiable political ambition, coupled alongside the last eight years of Republican/Bush/Cheney corruption, mendacity and incompetence to which McCain is inescapably shackled. Oh so ... ironically. As if Bush fucked him once on the way in, and then again on the way out.
Such Truth, the P.O.W. myth, such as it is, when exploited enough for political gain, and appropriated again and again as a method of media redirection and distraction, engaged to pull heartstrings that are now barely threads, inevitably becomes a punchline. And these days, even though it seems everything in politics eventually becomes some kind of punchline (everything except results) - its almost impossible to come back from being a punchline. Because once they start laughing at you ....
But nonetheless, if nothing else, the P.O.W pedigree of John McCain, the myth, ( what Tim Dickinson calls the "first myth" of John McCain) stopped being enough to mask the fact this year's version of the Republican Presidential campaign - the McCain/Palin campaign - the first post-W, is one big, hollow, lumbering, reactionary, terrified, defensive beast based almost entirely on lies, a long time ago. I suppose perhaps, before the thing even ever got started. Maybe they had no choice. I guess they had no choice. Running on empty, driven by fear and animated by denial, held in relief by debt and war.
I have now read and watched enough of John McCain and his career to know that his P.O.W. experience has always been his ace-in-the-hole. His American military/political street cred that trumps everybody else's. Its what silences the crowd, and turns grown men into total supplicants. And how could it not really? Imagine what it must have been like - admonishes David Foster Wallace in the above essay. Its what allowed McCain to finally escape the cold shadow of his Admiral father and what gave him his first hint of national and international celebrity. And as such he flashes it just enough whenever he needs it, and especially when he is cornered. But it has expired now. It has stopped working. In this campaign we have watched him pull it out on chat shows when confronted with mildly probing questions from comedians about his ownership of twelve houses. Its all so empty and sad.
And its probably why David Foster Wallace hung himself.
No. I know. I'm kidding. Sort of.
As I've already stated I loved David Foster Wallace. He seemed like a really nice guy and I'm sure the reasons for his suicide were deeply personal and as complex as anybody's. But now his passing and this monster American political season and the downfall of John McCain are going to seem forever linked for me and I just can't help but attach this kind of symbolism to it.
Its as if David Foster Wallace's country just gave him to much to imagine and think about. And it overwhelmed him, and he couldn't contain it.
So R.I.P David Foster Wallace. You were a great writer, a massive talent, and by all accounts I have read a really sweet guy and you will be truly missed.
But now, in II and III we will journey back to the Convention and the launch of John McCain's Election Strategy:
Okay. Its the next day now, and obviously that became pretty ridiculous last night and if any of you are asking yourselves - hey, you know, what exactly was the point? - well you would certainly have a second in me.
And I'm not sure which was the most stupid: The relentless youtube rhino videos. That whole thing about Soldedad O'Brien. Or the picture.
Probably the picture.
But nonetheless, having started it all I do feel obliged to now try and wrap up our special Super Tuesday coverage some how. So I might as well go ahead and do that by linking to other people a lot more insightful about this kind of thing than me.
But first things first:
What are the post Super Tuesday delegate counts? Well, they vary apparently. And the difference lies with those who are counting "projected delegates" and those who are not.
Over at Politico they have -
For the Republicans:
McCain - 613
Romney - 269
Huckabee - 190
Paul - 14
With 1,191 needed to win.
Clinton - 845
Obama - 765
With 2,025 needed to win.
But hold on. This Slate article - Delegate Count Chaos! - goes into the issue deeper while dropping the wildy varying delegate count numbers from various news organizations.
On the Democratic race:
What seems interesting is, that despite what I said last night, Obama seemed to win a lot of heartland red States while not doing as well as he had hoped in either the Northeast (other than Connecticut) or the the two big prizes of New York and California.
This is certainly what initially impressed Karl Rove.
So what is at the heart of this Clinton - Obama divide?
David Frum of all people wonders if there is a class divide amongst the Democrats.
And yet considering where he was months, even weeks ago the fact that Obama was able to basically pull even in delegate counts, with some counts actually having him leading - is that evidence of a Obama surge?
Marc Ambinder points out that he is basically really well organized in some States, as he was in Iowa.
Andrew Sullivan is all for him.
While James Wolcott is not buying it. He's a Hillary man. And its a legitimate question: Obama talks so much about bi-partisanship, but what happens when the Republicans come after him guns blazing, or have no interest co-operating with him on anything.
Here's an interestingly analogy getting much play:
George Packer demonstrates definitively why the Obama - JFK comparison is just lame, inaccurate, actually quite limiting and just a bad all around idea for Obama. And he's right. JFK is one of the most overrated Presidents ever.
Meanwhile over at the Republican tent, I'll keep this short:
One of the big questions for the moment is now that Mitt Romney has now spent 1.16 million dollars per delegate earned - which at that rate will cost him 1.33 Billion dollars (!) to win the nomination - will he now give up the ghost and finally drop out of the race?
And would Huckabee ever accept being McCain's VP? And would that be enough to placate all the GOP's right wing dittoheads?
But after all of this - the other obvious big question of the day is:
That's it for me. For today. Elect whoever you want.
The California numbers are coming in and they look very bad for Obama.
We begin discussing the journalistic talents of perky CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien.
We have decided to look for the most compromising Soledad O'Brien photos we can find, and I'm afraid there are just not that many. This is the best we can find right now. So just use your imagination.
Matthew would like a word. Matthew?
Um, no. Actually, we're sorry, it seems he has declined.
They have just given Georgia to Huckabee. It was incredibly close. They are all around 30. Politico is giving him the state with 33.97%, McCain at 32.25 and Romney at 29.64.
McCain is now about to speak and I am about to run out of power again. We had turned up the TV but the people at the other table became uncomfortable and so once more we have turned it down and now I can't hear it again.
Cindy McCain is wearing a stunning red jacket. It is incredibly striking. Matthew thinks it has more to do with the monitor we are watching. He feels the saturation is far too high. John McCain's 95 year old mother is also wearing red.
It is beginning to dawn on Jim that Obama might actually lose, and I'm worried that he is not properly prepared for this. And in Jim's potential anger and disillusionment which may come with an Obama loss I feel lays a larger universal symbol for potentially disenchanted youth everywhere.
McCain was speaking and then Obama came up to speak on the other side of the split screen.
Then CNN decides to go with Obama - so what does that tell you?
Obama is speaking and we are the only ones here at the Rhino who seem to care. Once more I am almost out of power so I am going to have to post this post now and go plug in again.
We have now moved to the back room and I managed to plug in for a little while and grab about 13% more power, so like - I'm back.
My cousin Matt has shown up. He says hey.
The polls in California have just closed so its about to get really exciting.
Hillary just gave a speech to her supporters in New York City and we were trying to figure out why which was tricky because we could barely hear what she was saying. We decided to take a photo of all of us just to add a little texture to the evening. I almost always take a bad photo. I never know how to smile and so I often over-compensate. So that's why I look like that.
We just got the waitress to turn up the TV so now for the first time tonight we actually have sound and can hear the actual wise words of the CNN punidts.
Wolfe has just shown the first numbers out of California and it appears Obama is losing quite badly.
It's 10:11 now and I am really losing power. We have no sound from the TV here in The Rhino, just the bad eighties music from the juke box, so we don't know what anyone is saying. Mike Huckabee is speaking right now and we have no idea what he is saying. Obama is doubling Hillary in Minnesota but Hillary is doing very well in the North-east apparently what with her winning in Jersey, Massachusetts and of course New York.
Just saw the title of the book that the guy in the black toque is reading. And its called:
WORLD OF MONSTERS!
How super Tuesday appropriate is that.
Down to 19% power now. Apparently there's an outlet in the back but there are people watching sports highlights back there.
The guy's black toque is a Steamwhistle toque. AND he's actually drinking Steamwhistle. AND he just ordered some wings. My cousin Matt just called me on my new cell phone and he's coming down to meet us. But we might be out of power by then.
This just in: I talked to the guys in the back and they say its okay if we change the TV in the back to CNN so we are going to go ahead and do that. I'll have to get back to you from another part of the bar.