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Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Well my opinion of the librarian I'm working with fell quite a bit today. She had mentioned that her opinions are "conservative," and she does drive a Hummer, but I generally just chose to live and let live and just avoided talking politics. Well today someone mentioned that Ted Kennedy was being operated on over in Durham and she responded, "Oh right because of his brain cancer. I just have one thing to say about that: Karma's a bitch!" And then cackled, utterly satisfied with her 'wit.' The guy was literally under the knife when she said this, and she was definitely in mixed company. Man, fuck that.

Will it soon be over? (creepy pic here)

Al Giordano thinks so, and advises his fellow Obama supporters:
If this is the first time you've won, don't doubt it, and by all means don't be so pathetic as to feel guilty about it.

I love this: Obama aims to drive McCain batty. Let's see one of those famous temper tantrums, hehe.

The Bush Admin Responds to McClellan (vid- the daily show can't be far behind.) (and for more "revelations" and commentary Froomkin provides a run-down)

Getting lost in the media furor over McClellan's memoir is the new autobiography of retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the onetime commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, who is scathing in his assessment that the Bush administration "led America into a strategic blunder of historic proportions."

Among the anecdotes in "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story" is an arresting portrait of Bush after four contractors were killed in Fallujah in 2004, triggering a fierce U.S. response that was reportedly egged on by the president.

During a videoconference with his national security team and generals, Sanchez writes, Bush launched into what he described as a "confused" pep talk:

"Kick ass!" he quotes the president as saying. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal."

"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"

This Todd Purdum article about Bill Clinton is pretty brutal. Almost suspiciously so.
As Matthew Yglesias notes:
It's hard for me to tell how much of the sleazy behavior that Purdum hints at here is actually true. Based on the record, it wouldn't at all be unlike Clinton for some of it to be true. And based on the record, it wouldn't at all be unlike the press to run with some of it even if it isn't true. But either way, the point is that if there really is such a thing as the candidate with no new skeletons to be chewed over by the right-wing (and I'm skeptical there is) Hillary Clinton isn't it, any more than Barack Obama is.


To know Clinton is, sooner or later, to be exasperated by his indiscipline and disappointed by his shortcomings. But through it all, it has been easy enough to retain an enduring admiration—even affection—for a president whose sins against decorum and the dignity of his office seemed venial in contrast to the systemic indifference, incompetence, corruption, and constitutional predations of his successor's administration. That is, easy enough until now.

This winter, as Clinton moved with seeming abandon to stain his wife's presidential campaign in the name of saving it, as disclosures about his dubious associates piled up, as his refusal to disclose the names of donors to his presidential library and foundation and his and his wife's reluctance to release their income-tax returns created crippling and completely avoidable distractions for Hillary Clinton's own long-suffering ambition, I found myself asking again and again, What's the matter with him?

Whatever the explanation, much of Clinton's behavior on the campaign trail this year has been so maladroit as to constitute malpractice: his blowups at television reporters, his derisive dismissal of Obama's unwavering anti-war stance as a "fairy tale," and most of all his denigrating comparison of Obama's performance in the South Carolina primary to Jesse Jackson's victories there two decades ago (which even one of his closest former aides described to me as insensitive at best). Perhaps no figure in modern American politics has less standing to say "Shame on you!" than Bill Clinton, but he said just that—twice—to a hapless reporter who asked him in January about comments by a former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman comparing Clinton's tactics to those of the late Lee Atwater, the take-no-prisoners Republican strategist known for racially charged campaigns.

As the days wore on, the former Senate Democratic majority leader Tom Daschle said Clinton's behavior was "not keeping with the image of a former president." His former labor secretary and onetime friend turned critic, Robert Reich, called Clinton's attacks on Obama "ill-tempered and ill-founded." No less a loquacious commentator than the Reverend Al Sharpton said that it was time for Clinton to just "shut up." His old flame Gennifer Flowers, who has endorsed Hillary, referred to him as an "idiot husband." Congressman James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking black member of the House of Representatives, who pointedly had remained neutral in the primary, finally called Clinton's behavior "bizarre." And on more than one occasion, in one way or another, Senator Clinton herself had to tell him—as she did after he revived controversy over her imagined landing in Bosnia under sniper fire by unleashing a string of new inaccuracies to defend her—"Let me handle this." There is little doubt that Clinton's own intensity has fueled his wife's. One senior aide told me bluntly that Bill's anger "has not served her well. That side of him feeds the worst side of Hillary. He does stoke her up."

The way Clinton handled the courtship of Senator Ted Kennedy in the run-up to Kennedy's eventual endorsement of Obama is instructive. "Barack pursued Kennedy with a soft touch," a person close to Kennedy told me. "He checked in every once in a while Counter that with the way the Clintons were handling him. There was nothing soft about the Clintons' requests. Hillary would call and make a formal request. Clinton, as he felt Kennedy slipping away, would get more and more insistent, and he would make the whole conversation about how bad Obama was, not how good his wife was."

Clinton's temper has continued to get the better of him. By the eve of the Pennsylvania primary, he was reduced, in a Philadelphia radio phone interview, to denying that his comments in South Carolina had been in any way racially charged, and instead insisted that the Obama camp "played the race card on me." He sputtered, "I mean, this is just, you know … You really gotta go something to play the race card with me—my office is in Harlem." At the end of the interview, apparently unaware that he was still on the air, Clinton was heard to say, "I don't think I should take any shit from anybody on that, do you?" Asked the next day by another reporter what he had meant by saying the Obama campaign "was playing the race card," Clinton would have none of it. "No, no, no, that's not what I said," he erupted, as if he did not know that his earlier comments had been recorded and were all over the Internet. He added, "You always follow me around and play these little games, and I'm not going to play your games today." It's a nice question, just who was playing the games. When I asked a Clinton campaign official how the former president could have issued such a flat denial, the aide immediately responded, with no trace of irony, that the offending reporter had used the word "playing," while in the radio interview Clinton had used the word "played." I'm not sure whether that makes Clinton's outburst better or worse, but it's of a piece with the parser the public knows so well.

Throughout his career, Bill Clinton has justified acts of extraordinary selfishness in the name of idealism—he's always in it for the people, the plain folks who tell pollsters they trust him to look out for their interests, even if they don't trust him. He has been forgiven colossal egotism, even cruelty, by those closest to him because of his superlative political talents, and because of the overreaching of his enemies. As president, Clinton often could not show grace in the smallest ways. He dithered about where and when to go on vacation, so that aides and Secret Service agents could not plan their own. He declined to release aides and reporters who had waited around all through a pointless Saturday of duty while he made up his mind whether to play golf (a game at which he has been known to cheat). He was never, ever, on time. In Joe Klein's roman à clef about the Clintons, Primary Colors, the Betsey Wright character accuses the Bill Clinton character of always skating by on charm and talent and need. "You have never paid the bill," she tells him. "Never. And no one ever calls you on it. Because you're so completely fucking special. Everyone was always so proud of you. And me, too. Me the worst."

In the end, this is Clinton's most grievous sin, his steady refusal to take grown-up responsibility for the consequences of his own actions. In the White House, on the day of his last sexual encounter with Monica Lewinsky, Clinton told her that he was worried that a foreign embassy might be listening in on their calls, and that if she were ever questioned, she should say they were just friends. Then he looked into her eyes and sang, "Try a Little Tenderness," a song that goes: "She may be weary, women do get weary, wearing the same shabby dress." On the day this winter that he accused Barack Obama of spinning a "fairy tale" about Obama's anti-war stance, Clinton went on to whine about an Obama campaign research sheet criticizing his business dealings and insisting, "Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn't take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon." So, yes, let us stipulate: Ken Starr was a prurient, partisan zealot. Yes, other ex-presidents have made a lot of money and it is hard to begrudge Clinton his earnings (even if he did take six million nickels for a speech to the Australian Council for the Peaceful Reunification of China). Yes, Obama is a daring opponent who thinks he is hot shit and has benefited from the same enthusiasm, energy, and fresh-faced appeal that a fella named Bill Clinton once elicited (but he has suffered from some of the same skepticism, too). It is Clinton's invariable insistence that his problems are someone else's fault, and that questions or criticisms of him, his methods, motives, or means are invariably unfair, that is his unforgivable flaw.

(sorry, I didn't include the more skeezy stuff. I don't particularly want to go down that road, but feel free to click through!)

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