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Saturday, November 15, 2008

here comes conventional warfare

Well it's been a while! I've been finishing up school and moving and trying to find a job and fixing my computer and traveling the world and solving crimes and discovering cures for diseases and helping a little orphan boy come to terms with his abandonment issues (etc, etc, etc)

but hot damn, Obama is back from Hawaii (not to mention his Europe '08 tour, in which he played all his old shit and even previewed some new material!), McCain just had his weekly blood transfusion, and we are ready to rumble! The Dems converge in Denver in exactly one week, which means that's how much time B has to pick a wingman (or wingwoman). Here's hoping it's not Evan Bayh or Tim Kaine. (blech!) Today the roullette wheel of buzz seems to have landed on Biden, who I think would be pretty good... but nobody knows what they're talking about anyway. My pick was Mark Warner (who pipes great harmonies and shreds on lead) of Virginia, but apparently he wouldn't even submit his information for vetting (focusing on solo project apparently). He will, however, be the keynote speaker at the Dem convention, not that anybody gives a shit about the keynote... does anybody even remember who gave it last time? (some loser)

So it's good to be back, and as always you are all encouraged to reply to the list with your own insights, observations, outbursts, etc. Now without further ado here are your links and snippets and such:

Baracky is back!: Baracky II (vid)

If you missed the original or the Empire Strikes Barack be sure to look em up on youtube.

The NYT examines McCain's record on foreign policy.

BarbinMD from Dkos summarizes the article:

2,800+ words about John McCain advocating taking out Saddam Hussein on September 12, 2001, praising the performance of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, his support for Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress, tying Iraq to 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, praise for Bill Kristol and David Brook's vision, and of course, WMD, WMD, WMD. In other words, the McCain Doctrine is to be rash, a poor judge of character, hyperbolic, and of course, wrong, wrong, wrong.

This Arizona reporter has covered our favorite Maverick for some time now and offers some useful insights and anecdotes on "PoMo McCain."

McCain's age is a legitimate concern:

In just the past six weeks, McCain has referred repeatedly to Czechoslovakia as though it still existed and to Vladimir Putin as though he were still president of Russia. More significantly, he has claimed that Iraq borders Pakistan, that the Anbar Awakening occurred after the surge, that the Iraq war was America's first major armed conflict since 9/11, and that, unlike Obama, he would prefer to speak outside the country only after being elected president.

In May, McCain incorrectly said the U.S. had drawn down its forces in Iraq to pre-surge levels. In March, he wrongly claimed that Iran was training Al Qaeda operatives. Last April, he mistakenly said General David Petraeus regularly drove around Baghdad in an unarmored Humvee. In each of these "McCain moments," political life would have been easier for the candidate if his statements were true. But none were.

What might be happening in McCain's head? Gerontologists and retirement planners have learned that aging brains compensate for cognitive decline by relying on templates of familiar knowledge more than problem solving. That's usually a good thing, but neuroscientists have also found that memory loss can lead people to substitute incorrect information. This phenomenon, called confabulation, rather than being random, often takes the form of untrue "facts" that make them feel better — giving them what scientists have called "the pleasantness of false beliefs." So are McCain's stumbles simply misstatements, or evidence of a mind filling in blanks with wish fulfillment? Well, we really have no idea. But neither does McCain: His aides told reporters in May that he has had no mental evaluations in the past eight years.

I think "the Confabulist" would be a great title for a biography, hehe

Sally Quinn:

When I was little, I had a recurrent dream that there was a terrible earthquake. My father, his body a horse with wings, swooped down from the sky, kneeled so I could jump on his back and flew away just as the earth cracked open beneath me. It was my most comforting dream. I want to live in that world again. I want to live in John McCain's world. My father was a military man. My parents were friends of McCain's parents and lived in the same apartment building. My father's closest friend was Barry Goldwater, McCain's mentor. Those were the days when men were men, when the differences between good and evil were clear, when they knew where they stood on every issue, when life was less complicated, when there was an air of insouciance, no matter how difficult the issues.

I want to live in a world where Gen. David Petraeus and Meg Whitman, former chief executive of eBay, are the wisest people I know, where offshore drilling will help ease our energy crisis, where a guy stays in a Vietnamese prison camp even when told he could get out, and has great stories to tell. I want to live in a world where I was absolutely certain that life begins at conception, where a man is a maverick and stands up against his Senate colleagues when he disagrees with them, where the only thing to do with evil is defeat it, where a guy will follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell to capture him.

I want to believe that our biggest enemy is radical Islamist terrorists. I want to be part of a world that doesn't have to raise taxes; where America is a beacon, a shining city on a hill; where our values are simply Judeo-Christian values; and where a man always puts his country first. I want to be one of "my friends."

By the time McCain finished his interview with pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, Saturday night, part of a forum that also featured Barack Obama, I was curled up in a fetal position in my chair, wrapped in a mohair throw, practically sucking my thumb.

McCain did a great job of making me feel confident. He was clearly in his element at Saddleback, among supportive evangelical Christians, and he went a long way toward alleviating their fears about his inability to communicate with them in their own language.

Obama came first, and he handled himself well in front of an audience that clearly disagrees with him on many issues. He also managed to put to rest the notion that he is a Muslim, which 12 percent of Americans still believe he is. He talked directly to Rick Warren as though they were having a real conversation, whereas McCain played to the audience, rarely looking at Warren. He was low-key, thoughtful and nuanced.

That kind of nuance is hard to understand sometimes -- it's unclear, complicated. Obama's world can be scarier. It's multicultural. It's realistic (yes, there is evil on the streets of this country as well as in other places, and a lot of evil has been perpetrated in the name of good). It's honest. When does life begin? Only the antiabortionists are clear on that. For the majority of Americans (who are pro-choice), it is "above my pay grade," in Obama's words, where there is no hard and fast line to draw on what's worth dying for, and where people of all faiths have to be respected.

I would rather live in McCain's world than Obama's. But I believe that we live in Obama's world.

We've had enough bedtime stories. It's time to grow up.

Fareed Zakaria:

Obama rarely speaks in the moralistic tones of the current Bush administration. He doesn't divide the world into good and evil even when speaking about terrorism. He sees countries and even extremist groups as complex, motivated by power, greed and fear as much as by pure ideology. His interest in diplomacy seems motivated by the sense that one can probe, learn and possibly divide and influence countries and movements precisely because they are not monoliths. When speaking to me about Islamic extremism, for example, he repeatedly emphasized the diversity within the Islamic world, speaking of Arabs, Persians, Africans, Southeast Asians, Shiites and Sunnis, all of whom have their own interests and agendas.

Obama never uses the soaring language of Bush's freedom agenda, preferring instead to talk about enhancing people's economic prospects, civil society and—his key word—"dignity." He rejects Bush's obsession with elections and political rights, and argues that people's aspirations are broader and more basic—including food, shelter, jobs. "Once these aspirations are met," he told The New York Times's James Traub, "it opens up space for the kind of democratic regimes we want." This is a view of democratic development that is slow, organic and incremental, usually held by conservatives.

Obama talks admiringly of men like Dean Acheson, George Kennan and Reinhold Niebuhr, all of whom were imbued with a sense of the limits of idealism and American power to transform the world. "In his view of history, in his respect for tradition, in his skepticism that the world can be changed any way but very, very slowly, Obama is deeply conservative," wrote Larissa MacFarquhar in her profile of him for The New Yorker.

Ironically, the Republicans now seem to be the foreign-policy idealists, labeling countries as either good or evil, refusing to deal with nasty regimes, fixating on spreading democracy throughout the world and refusing to think in more historical and complex ways. "I don't do nuance," George W. Bush told many visitors to the White House in the years after 9/11. John McCain has had his differences with Bush, but not on this broad thrust of policy.

In the end, the difference between Obama and McCain might come down to something beyond ideology—temperament. McCain is a pessimist about the world, seeing it as a dark, dangerous place where, without the constant and vigorous application of American force, evil will triumph. Obama sees a world that is in many ways going our way. As nations develop, they become more modern and enmeshed in the international economic and political system. To him, countries like Iran and North Korea are holdouts against the tide of history. America's job is to push these progressive forces forward, using soft power more than hard, and to try to get the world's major powers to solve the world's major problems. Call him an Optimistic Realist, or a Realistic Optimist. But don't call him naive.

Josh Marshall and others have suggested that the Paris/Britney ad played on latent racism by putting Obama (black!) alongside two young, highly sexual, white women. But for my money I think this article on Obama's "racial catch-22" finds the real subtext of the ad: He's a celebrity who doesn't deserve his fame... and why is he so famous? fill in the blank:

The rapturous coverage of the Obama campaign during the primary was less about Obama himself than it was America congratulating itself for being willing to consider a black man for president, with the subtext being that the United States had finally liberated itself from its racist past. It established an unspoken contract that Obama's success was proof that racism is no longer a serious problem, thus preempting any further discussion on the subject. But even as the mainstream media all but trumpeted his nomination as the end of racism in the United States, Obama continues to face a series of arbitrary and shifting public tests merely because he is black. His dilemma remains that the only way to succeed is to pretend that this double standard does not exist. He has to extricate himself from an ongoing racial competition between blacks and whites, where the prosperity of one is seen as detrimental to the other. The paradox is that by succeeding, Obama has raised the white anxiety about his presence to a level at which it can be exploited as resentment.

The Britney ad is a result of the ongoing meme in this election that Obama's success, like that of "overpaid black athletes," is an affront to hardworking white people everywhere. The ad never mentions Obama's race as the source of his celebrity, but it doesn't have to -- it's been part of the campaign long enough for the point to be implicit. In short, this ad is Geraldine Ferraro's attack done "right," in the sense that it does not directly implicate the McCain campaign as exploiting racial tensions.

In a dispute about race, the McCain campaign knows it will end up with the larger half. For the most part, most white people's experience with race isn't one of racial discrimination. They can only relate to racial discrimination in the abstract. What white people can relate to is the fear of being unjustly accused of racism. This is the larger half. This is why allegations of racism often provoke more outrage than actual racism, because most of the country can relate to one (the accusation of racism) easier than the other (actual racism). For this reason, in a political conflict over race, the McCain campaign has the advantage, because saying the race card has been played is actually the ultimate race card.

The brother needs to keep it together. There's simply no way he can win this one. It's in the Obama campaign's interest to keep the conversation on matters of policy, where it has an advantage not yet reflected in the polls, rather than parse the racism of the Britney ad. On McCain's signature issue, he's been forced to concede major points to Obama -- a timetable for withdrawal and an escalation of troop presence in Afghanistan. But instead of discussing McCain's policy shortcomings, the campaign finds itself fending off accusations of "playing the race card," which could be disastrous for it, precisely because Obama is seen as the beneficiary of America's racial enlightenment.

Presumably, Obama knew that this was a part of the game when he signed up. He had to, because black folks live with it every day. It's probably best for the members of Obama's campaign to do what most people do when confronted with this kind of casual racism -- shake their heads and move on. Anything more is playing into a game they can't possibly win.

And, yes, the author of the article is black, which is why he gets to say super-cool things like "the brother needs to keep it together."

David Broder visits Obama HQ:

The Obama people believe that McCain has squandered an opportunity to make a positive case for his own election in the many months since he secured the votes for the Republican nomination. David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, argues that McCain is already feeling a backlash to his "negative attacks" and that the resulting skepticism may undercut any potential benefit he derives from the debates this fall.

But the Obama folks are not leaving it to chance. Plouffe said that "turnout is the big variable," and the campaign is devoting an unusually large budget to register scads of new voters and bring them to the polls. "That's how we win the Floridas and Ohios," he said, mentioning two states that went narrowly for George W. Bush. "And that's how we get competitive in the Indianas and Virginias," two of six or seven states that long have been Republican -- but are targets this year.

"That's why I pay more attention to the registration figures than to the polls I see at this time of year," Plouffe said. "The polls will change, but we know we need 200,000 new voters to be competitive in Georgia, and now is when we have to get them."

That mind-set -- take care of business and don't worry about irrelevancies -- is what struck me in talking to Obama's team in the primary states. Here, as in the states, they seem singularly devoid of turf battles or personal feuds.

Joe Rospars, who coordinates the computer files for organization, fundraising and communications, tested my limited knowledge of that world with a half-hour seminar on how these things work together. Rospars, who had a similar job in Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, said that "the big difference this year is not the technology, it's the coordination."

Can we expect Obama to start hitting McCain soon? I think he's been holding off, waiting for people to really tune in before going on offense, but we're getting to that stage... time to throw some punches Baracky!

Josh Green has the inside dirt on the internal workings of the Clinton campaign (R.I.P.) I enjoyed this anecdote from after the failed Super Tuesday knock-out blow:

Clinton finally fired Solis Doyle and moved Williams in—but did not heed calls to fire Penn, enraging Solis Doyle's many loyalists. At this crucial point, long-simmering feuds burst into the open. On February 11, Williams's first day on the job, Phil Singer, Wolfson's deputy and a man notorious for his tirades at reporters, blew up in Wolfson's office and screamed obscenities at his boss before throwing open the door to direct his ire at the campaign's policy director, Neera Tanden, an ally of Solis Doyle. "Fuck you and the whole fucking cabal!" he shouted, according to several Clinton staffers. In the end, he climbed onto a chair and screamed at the entire staff before storming out.

The same day, Philip Bennett, the managing editor of The Washington Post, sent Williams a letter formally complaining that Singer had maligned one of his reporters by spreading unfounded rumors about her (apparently in retaliation for an accurate—and prescient—story that had noted, long before anyone else, Clinton's tendency to burn through money). Fearing for his deputy's job, Wolfson intercepted the letter, though Bennett eventually got a copy to Williams. Singer disappeared and was presumed fired. But a week later, he made amends and rejoined the campaign. "When the house is on fire, it's better to have a psychotic fireman than no fireman at all," Wolfson explained to a colleague.

how sage.

James Fallows, who is living in China and was unable to watch the Primary debates, recently watched all 47 (!) back to back. He shares his perspective on that series of spectacles here.

"Edwards!" (the musical)

The NYT profiles Jon Stewart and TDS:

at a time when Fox, MSNBC and CNN routinely mix news and entertainment, larding their 24-hour schedules with bloviation fests and marathon coverage of sexual predators and dead celebrities, it's been "The Daily Show" that has tenaciously tracked big, "super depressing" issues like the cherry-picking of prewar intelligence, the politicization of the Department of Justice and the efforts of the Bush White House to augment its executive power.

For that matter, the Comedy Central program — which is not above using silly sight gags and sophomoric sex jokes to get a laugh — has earned a devoted following that regards the broadcast as both the smartest, funniest show on television and a provocative and substantive source of news. "The Daily Show" resonates not only because it is wickedly funny but also because its keen sense of the absurd is perfectly attuned to an era in which cognitive dissonance has become a national epidemic. Indeed, Mr. Stewart's frequent exclamation "Are you insane?!" seems a fitting refrain for a post-M*A*S*H, post-"Catch-22" reality, where the surreal and outrageous have become commonplace — an era kicked off by the wacko 2000 election standoff in Florida, rocked by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and haunted by the fallout of a costly war waged on the premise of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist.

Following 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, the show focused more closely not just on politics, but also on the machinery of policy making and the White House's efforts to manage the news media. Mr. Stewart's comedic gifts — his high-frequency radar for hypocrisy, his talent for excavating ur-narratives from mountains of information, his ability, in Ms. Corn's words, "to name things that don't seem to have a name" — proved to be perfect tools for explicating and parsing the foibles of an administration known for its secrecy, ideological certainty and impatience with dissenting viewpoints.

Over time, the show's deconstructions grew increasingly sophisticated. Its fascination with language, for instance, evolved from chuckles over the president's verbal gaffes ("Is our children learning?" "Subliminable") to ferocious exposés of the administration's Orwellian manipulations: from its efforts to redefine the meaning of the word "torture" to its talk about troop withdrawals from Iraq based on "time horizons" (a strategy, Mr. Stewart noted, "named after something that no matter how long you head towards it, you never quite reach it").

Unlike many comics today, Mr. Stewart does not trade in trendy hipsterism or high-decibel narcissism. While he possesses Johnny Carson's talent for listening and George Carlin's gift for observation, his comedy remains rooted in his informed reactions to what Tom Wolfe once called "the irresistibly lurid carnival of American life," the weird happenings in "this wild, bizarre, unpredictable, hog-stomping Baroque" country.

"Jon's ability to consume and process information is invaluable," said Mr. Colbert. He added that Mr. Stewart is "such a clear thinker" that he's able to take "all these data points of spin and transparent falsehoods dished out in the form of political discourse" and "fish from that what is the true meaning, what are red herrings, false leads," even as he performs the ambidextrous feat of "making jokes about it" at the same time.

and I love this quote:

Mr. Stewart has said he is looking forward to the end of the Bush administration "as a comedian, as a person, as a citizen, as a mammal."

Finally, here's an interesting factoid: John McCain's favorite song is "Dancing Queen" by ABBA. (wtf??)

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