I’m watching “Game Change” on HBO, about the McCain Palin campaign, and it’s a hoot. If you’re missing it try to catch it when you can.
Update: Taylor Marsh writes a review with which I entirely agree. The movie was extremely kind to John McCain (played by Ed Harris), but it nailed Moosewoman (played by Julianne Moore, who will almost certainly be nominated for an Emmy for this).
It was priceless to watch Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) as the truth about Palin’s ignorance of the world dawns on him. He has to explain to Moosewoman what the Federal Reserve is and that the head of state in Britain is the prime minister, not the queen. There’s a great scene in which some foreign policy experts show up to prep Palin for some event, and they end up showing her a map of Europe and saying “See? This is Germany.”
More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin’s extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disordersâ€””a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy”â€”and thought it fit her perfectly.
When Trig was born, Palin wrote an e-mail letter to friends and relatives, describing the belated news of her pregnancy and detailing Trig’s condition; she wrote the e-mail not in her own name but in God’s, and signed it “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.”
However nastily and treacherously Palin’s media handlers may have behaved after the election, their only error during the election was to offer too much access to Palin, not too little. Those handlers faced a daunting problem: Their party’s nominee for vice president could not respond to questions without embarrassing herself. The handlers who kept Pain under wraps knew what they were doing. Had Palin refused all interviews during the campaign, there would have been some criticism, but it would have been forgotten by now – and the Gibson and Couric interviews would not be filling YouTube, ready to be rebroadcast in 2012.
Frum was criticizing Palin’s media handlers, not the McCain campaign itself, but what does it say when the veep candidate has to be kept out of sight because she’s too much of a dolt to be let out in public? And, frankly, I don’t think the McCain campaign would have done any better if they’d kept Moosewoman in a closet.
She tells us she was a victim of sexism. She tells us she was a victim of class prejudice. She complains about her media treatment – then insists she never watched any of it. She deplores the unpleasant personal comments directed against herself, while offering up some equally unpleasant personal comments of her own. She repeatedly shades the truth in order to escape blame for her own mistakes. (She won’t for example let go of our claim that there was some insult to Alaska embedded in Katie Couric’s simple question: “What do you read?”)
Frum says Palin needs to learn to let go of her grievances if she’s going to be a viable presidential candidate in the future. But Frum misunderstands his own people. Righties love her because she embodies grievance, because she gives voice to their Inner Victim. If she ever started to sound unselfish and mature, her fans would lose interest.
Good thing the election is tomorrow, or in a few more days they’d be claiming Obama wants to eat your baby. With fava beans and a nice chianti.
Michael Tomasky theorizes why the smears aren’t working the way they used to:
That coalition of affinity that Reagan created between right and middle, Bush has put asunder. His failures have made the average, apolitical American as distrustful of conservatism as he or she once was of liberalism – indeed somewhat more so, since the memory of conservative failure is fresher in the mind. This is a new context. Many experts have yet to grasp it. Certain elements within the mainstream media haven’t quite got it yet. And clearly some liberals just can’t believe that it might be the case.
This is not to say that negative campaigning will disappear as of tomorrow. But it is to observe that political contexts change, and eras end. I’m still suspicious enough to use the conditional tense, but by Wednesday morning even the most paranoid liberals may be forced to accept that fact.
I believe we are looking at an enormous political re-aliagnment, bigger than 1980. More like 1933. But these things don’t begin and end neatly. The re-alignment has been going on for a while — at least since Katrina — and I don’t expect it to end tomorrow. I’ll have more thoughts on that later.
Like many of you, I suspect, I am skeptical that Barack Obama will be able to accomplish many of his proposals before 2010, or even in his first term. Money is too tight; emotions are too raw. Yes, we can, but it ain’t gonna be easy.
However, I want voters to vote Dem on Tuesday if for no other reason than to send a loud and clear message that the days of Atwater-Rove hate, fear and smear campaigns are over. I want conservatives to understand that if they want to win elections, they’ve got to have something more to offer than the demonization of their opponents. Of course, that would put hacks like Ed Rogers out of work. And what’s not to like about that?
Last night, after the half-hour infomercial, the McCain campaign ran a standard hate ad. Ominous music, unflattering photo of Obama, whispery voice telling us we can’t trust him. How many times have we all seen that same ad? The identities of the candidates change, but it’s the same damnfool ad. I suspect that ad worked against McCain more than for him.
I think the best thing about the infomercial was that it gave voters another look at Obama, so they can see for themselves he’s not frightening or radical. McCain called it a “gauzy feel-good commercial.” Yeah, it was. So what has McCain given us except murky, feel-bad commercials?
Seems to me that every time I see McCain or Palin they’re wiggling their fingers in the air and saying boogaboogaboogabooga. Not exactly a plan for governance. Of course, that was all the plan Bush ever had, either.
Even when he stops smearing Obama and addresses issues, McCain offers little else but slogans. For example, if you go to McCain’s economy section and scroll to the bottom of the page, there’s a video called “The McCain Economic Plan.” It is comically insubstantial, consisting mostly of McCain decisively telling us how decisive he is. The only specific offered is the promise to build nuclear power plants.
McCain-Palin supporters are scarier than McCain. This is not to say there aren’t jerks on the Dem side, also, like the asshole in San Francisco who hung Sarah Palin in effigy recently. Keith Olbermann made the guy the Worst Person in the World, and he richly deserved it. I hope the Secret Service let him know that threats to candidates are taken seriously.
But seems to me that all we hear from McCain-Palin people is hate. Well, that and ignorance. This was in the New York Times today:
People at McCain and Palin rallies often accuse Democrats of just wanting handouts. â€œA lot of people on the other side just want free money,â€ said Susan Emrich, at a McCain-Palin rally in Hershey on Tuesday. A real-estate agent, she wears a T-shirt that says, â€œIâ€™m voting for Sarah Palin and that White Haired Dude.â€ Ms. Emrich would like to attend another rally later that day in nearby Shippensburg, but canâ€™t. â€œI have to work,â€ she explains. â€œIâ€™m a Republican.â€
WTF does that mean? Does Ms. Emrich assume all Democrats are welfare recipients? And then there’s this:
When you ask Republicans what they think of Mr. Obama, the word â€œsocialistâ€ comes up more often than not. They mention that he is a smooth talker, and not in a good way. A lot of them seem to have real problems with Michelle Obama, too, though they cannot pinpoint why.
Of course not.
And they do not much care for that Joe Biden, either, or whatever his name is â€” many cannot immediately summon it.
Last night on “Hardball,” Tweety interviewed Tom DeLay. Why? I flipped the channel; there are more entertaining ways to pollute one’s mind than watching DeLay. But now I’m sorry I did. Joan Walsh wrote,
DeLay, of course, was one of the most corrupt, hypocritical and divisive pillars of the 1990s GOP revolution, and he’s hugely to blame for his party’s sad fortunes today. But he still gets around the cable shows, and to see him on “Hardball,” just a half hour before I was on, spewing hate about Obama, was kind of unsettling. Obama’s a radical and a Marxist, he insisted, more radical than Al Gore, John Kerry or Barney Frank. He threw out Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. Ultimately I lost track of the times he called Obama a “Marxist.” But appearing right after DeLay, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz mopped the floor with him, to Matthews’ apparent surprise and enjoyment. Obama should send her flowers. I should send her flowers.
Walsh on the informercial:
So that experience shaped the way I watched Obama’s 30-minute infomercial, and it was a perfect tonic. Maybe it was a dull for a moment or two, but Obama can stand to be a little dull, when he has the likes of DeLay and other vicious hit men tarring him as a dark and dangerous Marxist socialist “redistributionist.” He’s fighting for the right to be one of us: normal, sometimes dull and yet presidential, and his ad did it all tonight.
Can we turn American politics into something other than a freak show? Yes we can!
Last weekend I outlined a maybe-future post called “advice to conservatives.” I was thinking about how conservatism could adjust to reality after a Democratic victory and, basically, not drive over a cliff.
However, this morning I think they’re unstoppable. The kindest thing we can do for them is locate the cliff they’re speeding toward and wait at the bottom with the body bags.
I saw the Republican Party today, standing in line to see Palin at Shippensburg University. The line stretched for more than half a mile — people waiting outside for hours on a windy 40-degree day — and though the doors opened more than two hours before the event, security still wasn’t able to get everyone through the metal detectors by the time the rally began. Let’s see Buckley or Kathleen Parker or Ken Adelman draw a crowd like that.
The McCain campaign should purchase a half hour on the same networks, or at least ONE of the networks, and let it be known in advance what it will be, because it will be VERY news-worthy and cause people to want to tune in. They should announce that for half an hour, Sarah Palin will take questions from Dan Rather, live, unedited, no area off limits. … a strong performance by Governor Palin with America watching should pretty much guarantee McCain the election.
The Right is wrestling with two competing theories at the moment. Theory One is that McCain actually is winning (see “lock to win” article linked above), and the polls are misrepresenting reality because either the pollsters or the media reporting on the polls are in the tank for Obama. The other theory is that the only reason Palin-McCain are losing is that the media is [sic] in the tank for Obama. That a majority of the American people might actually prefer Obama is, of course, unthinkable.
(I personally think that whatever breaks Obama is getting from media come from media recognition of Obama’s popularity — being nice to him gets better ratings, especially among the younger demographic — recognition that he’s probably going to win, so no one wants to piss off his communications and PR people; and guilt over the role some of them must realize they played in getting The Creature “selected” in 2000 and 2004.)
The problem, of course, is that for years the educated elites of the GOP — George Will, Peggy Noonan, et al. — have provided a facade of something resembling rationality that somehow obscured the demagoguery, fear-mongering, resentment-stoking and bias-baiting that the GOP relies on to keep its base together. But the keepers of the facade are in the lifeboats, so to speak, and the seething core of ignorance, fear, resentment and hate is exposed for all to see.
No doubt the elites already are planning ways to chip away at the Obama administration, reassemble the facade, and whistle the base home to the kennel. The danger to them is that Sarah Palin may not follow the script. Right now the plebeians are in love with her, and the patricians may find that Palin’s whistle is louder than theirs.
I’m not saying Palin has a serious chance of being the GOP nominee in 2012. There’s talk she’ll have a hard time being re-elected governor of Alaska; we’ll see. I’m saying that when the election is over the GOP will have to deal with her, somehow, whether the elites like it or not, because a chunk of the base will feel more loyalty to her than to the GOP establishment.
At TPM, Linda Shapiro talks about the part of the base that is running away from Palin: “Of the 70 odd conservative politicians, pundits and newspapers that have turned from McCain to endorse Obama this fall, 38 of them have cited Palin as a significant contributor to the decision.”
You see the problem. Is “the base” the “70 odd conservative politicians, pundits and newspapers”? Or the people who flock to Palin rallies? The GOP needs the former for legitimacy and the latter to win elections. Palin already is a wedge driving these two constituencies apart. What will the GOP do?
One of the topics of discussion will be how to fashion a “national grassroots political and policy coalition similar to the out Reagan years,” said the attendee, a reference to the development of the so-called New Right apparatus following Jimmy Carter’s 1976 victory and Reagan’s election four years later.
“There’s a sense that the Republican Party is broken, but the conservative movement is not,” said this source, suggesting that it was the betrayal of some conservative principles by Bush and congressional leaders that led to the party’s decline
I think “the conservative movement” is kidding itself, but let’s go on.
But, this source emphasized, the meeting will be held regardless of the outcome of the presidential race. “This is going on if McCain wins, loses or has a recount — we’re not planning for the loss of John McCain.”
Either way, Sarah Palin will be a central part of discussion.
If the Arizona senator wins, the discussion will feature much talk of, “How do we work with this administration?” said the attendee, an acknowledgement that conservatives won’t always have a reliable ally in the Oval Office.
Under this scenario, Palin would be seen as their conduit to power. â€œShe would be the conservative in the White House,â€ is how the source put it.
What makes Palin more of a “conservative” than McCain, especially if they’re talking about the Reagan model of conservative?
Should McCain lose next Tuesday, the conversation will include who to groom as the next generation of conservative leaders â€“ a list that will feature Palin at or near the top.
I would love to know who has been invited to this meeting, and who hasn’t. Here’s a clue:
Few believe that the Republican party will respond to another brutal election by following a path of moderation, but conservatives are deeply dispirited and anxious to reassert the core values they believe have not always been followed by Bush, congressional leaders and their partyâ€™s presidential nominee . Many on the right, both elites and the rank-and-file, see a rudderless party that is in dire need of new blood and old principles: small government, a robust national security and unapologetic social conservatism.
Rush Limbaugh, a powerful figure in the party whose influence has spanned years of the GOP in and out of power, gave voice to this frustration Tuesday, saying candidly that “there is no elected or political leadership in Washington or in the Republican Party that people can rally around,”
This is a guess, but I’m thinking that this meeting is for people, like Limbaugh, who made their bones in the party by being the spearheads of the Lee Atwater-Karl Rove political attack machine. If so, this is less about “movement conservatism” than it is about how the Republican Party will choose to market itself in the future.
As if you didn’t already know that they’re living on a different planet — see Bill Whittle’s post at NRO — Barack Obama is quoted from a radio interview he gave in 2001 on the subject of funding schools equally after the Brown vs Board of Ed. decision. — keep that context in mind —
You know, if you look at the victories and failures of the civil-rights movement, and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples. So that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it, Iâ€™d be okay, but the Supreme Court never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.
And uh, to that extent, as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasnâ€™t that radical. It didnâ€™t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution â€” at least as itâ€™s been interpreted, and Warren Court interpreted it in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties: [It] says what the states canâ€™t do to you, says what the federal government canâ€™t do to you, but it doesnâ€™t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.
And that hasnâ€™t shifted, and one of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil-rights movement was because the civil-rights movement became so court-focused, uh, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. And in some ways we still suffer from that.
A caller asks, â€œThe gentleman made the point that the Warren Court wasnâ€™t terribly radical. My question is (with economic changes)â€¦ my question is, is it too late for that kind of reparative work, economically, and is that the appropriate place for reparative economic work to change place?â€
You know, Iâ€™m not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. The institution just isnâ€™t structured that way. [snip] You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues, you know, in terms of the court monitoring or engaging in a process that essentially is administrative and takes a lot of time. You know, the court is just not very good at it, and politically, itâ€™s just very hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard.
So I think that, although you can craft theoretical justifications for it, legally, you know, I think any three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts.â€
Whittle and the entire Right Blogosphere believe they’ve found the smoking-gun proof that Obama is a socialist. I’m serious. That’s how insane they are. Righties are absolutely bouncing off the walls convinced they’ve found “the bombshell” that will sink Obama’s campaign. Just read Whittle’s “interpretation” of Obama’s remarks. They are pathological.
As Prometheus 6 says, “What they are doing is standing strong against equal rights for all Americans with this attack. And The National Review is right in the mix. And all of them disgust me.”
The McCain campaign is putting out the lie that Obama called it a “tragedy” that the courts didn’t order “redistributive change.” As Greg Sargent notes,
As you can see, Obama simply didn’t say that the court’s faiulre to take up redistribution was a tragedy. Rather, he was arguing that it was a “tragedy” that the Civil Rights movement expected the courts to do too much in this regard, which led the movement away from other ways of accomplishing redistributive goals, such as organizing and legislative politicking.
And taking such matters out of courts and instead working through the legislative process is something righties have said they favor, or so I thought.
The problems is, of course, that if the entire noise-making apparatus of the Right jumps on this lie and pounds on it together, they could peel some votes away from Obama. So even though it’s absolute nonsense, it could do some damage. Stay tuned.
“Those clothes, they are not my property. Just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the RNC purchased, I’m not taking them with me. I am back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska. You’d think â€” not that I would even have to address the issue because, as Elisabeth is suggesting, the double standard here it’s â€” gosh, we don’t even want to waste our time.”
Palin, however, forged on.
“I am glad, though, that she brought up accessories also. Let me tell you a little bit about a couple of accessories, didn’t think that we would be talking about it, but my earrings â€” I see a Native Americans for Palin poster,” she said. “These are beaded earrings from Todd’s mom who is a Yupik Eskimo up in Alaska, Native American, Native Alaskan.
“And my wedding ring, it’s in Todd’s pocket, ’cause it hurts sometimes when I shake hands and it gets squished,” she continued. “A $35 wedding ring from Hawaii that I bought myself and ’cause I always thought with my ring it’s not what it’s made of, it’s what it represents, and 20 years later, happy to wear it. And then finally the other accessory, you bet I’m a gold â€” I’m a blue star mom. I’m wearing this in honor of my son who is fighting over in Iraq right now defending all of you.”
Asking How Sharpton Pays for Those Suits; Case Offers Glimpse of His Finances
By ALAN FEUER
Published: December 21, 2000 [New York Times]
He says he owns no suits, but has ”access” to a dozen or so. He says he owns no television set because the one he watches in his home was purchased by a company he runs. He says he has no checking accounts, no savings accounts, no credit cards, no debit cards, no mutual funds, no stocks, no bonds, no paintings, no antiques. The only thing he admits to owning is a $300 wristwatch and a 20-year-old wedding ring.
The finances of the Rev. Al Sharpton have a somewhat troubled history. He was indicted on charges of income tax fraud and stealing from charitable donors in 1989, but was eventually acquitted at a trial. In 1993, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to file a tax return for 1986. His eponymous promotional company has no official documents on record with the state. As recently as two years ago, he drew no salary, but he still manages to send his daughters to an expensive and respected private school.
Mr. Sharpton has always been studiously circumspect when talking about his pocketbook in public, yet this month he suddenly announced that he could not afford to pay a judgment entered against him in the Tawana Brawley defamation case. As a result, he gave a lengthy deposition to lawyers for the man that he was found to have defamed, Steven A. Pagones, a former prosecutor whom Mr. Sharpton claimed had raped Ms. Brawley 13 years ago.
The deposition was never made public, though excerpts from it were given to The New York Times by a supporter of Mr. Pagones. It offers a privileged peek into the byzantine world of Mr. Sharpton’s personal finances as he considers running for mayor. In its combative back-and-forth and unintended humor, it sketches a portrait of the fiscal Al Sharpton, a man who claims to own virtually nothing but has almost everything he needs.
Yes, the old “this is not my designer suit even though I’m wearing it” dodge.
There are two major political parties in America, but there are at least three major political tendencies. The first is orthodox liberalism, a belief in using government to maximize equality. The second is free-market conservatism, the belief in limiting government to maximize freedom.
So, Brooks says, orthodox liberalism is “a belief in using government to maximize equality.” What does he mean by “equality”? If he means “equal treatment under the law,” then I agree. If he means equal opportunity, I agree. But I infer that’s not what he means, based on what he writes later. But first let’s deal with the next sentence.
“Free-market conservatism,” Brooks says, is “the belief in limiting government to maximize freedom.” But “maximizing freedom” is not at all what “free-market conservatism” does. In effect, “free-market conservatism” is about turning most of the population into a cheap labor resource, to be exploited for the benefit of the wealthy few. In truth, there is little “freedom” in the lives of most workers under a “free market” system, especially during times when jobs are scarce and quitting one means cutting yourself off from health care, not to mention losing your home.
But there is a third tendency, which floats between. It is for using limited but energetic government to enhance social mobility. This tendency began with Alexander Hamilton, who created a vibrant national economy so more people could rise and succeed. It matured with Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War Republicans, who created the Land Grant College Act and the Homestead Act to give people the tools to pursue their ambitions. It continued with Theodore Roosevelt, who busted the trusts to give more Americans a square deal.
The “Civil War” Republicans, more often called “Radical Republicans” in the history books, were the flaming liberals of their day. They not only drafted civil rights legislation that would have been considered radically liberal a century later, they also created what I believe was the first large-scale social welfare federal bureaucracy, the Freedmen’s Bureau. The purpose of the Freedmen’s Bureau was to assist newly freed African Americans in their transition from being slaves to being productive members of an industrial, capitalist society. Unfortunately, the work of the Freedmen’s Bureau was effectively kneecapped by President Andrew Johnson, so that most of the freed people were little better off “free” than they had been before.
Brooks mentions Theodore Roosevelt’s “Square Deal.” The Square Deal was, IMO, the real foundation of American “orthodox liberalism.” And TR was no “small government” guy. He believed strongly in using the federal government in a pro-active, progressive way to balance the interests of the “little guy” against the “big guy.” TR was not against the accumulation of wealth, but he was very much against even a whiff of plutocracy.
But Brooks cannot have anything called “liberalism” be the hero of the story. So he re-invents liberalism as something in favor of a sloppily defined “equality.” What does he mean by “equality”? And how is “equality” different from “freedom”? I think most of us liberals would argue that there is no freedom without equality (meaning, equal protection under the law, equal opportunity, equal access to justice). But I think Brooks is using “liberalism” to mean something closer to “socialism,” and liberal orthodoxy in America was never socialistic. There have been and are moderate socialists among us, yes, but they were never a majority. I’m not saying whether that’s good or bad, just that that’s how it is.
Anyway, after re-defining American liberal orthodoxy into something it never was, Brooks then takes genuine American liberal orthodoxy, waters it down a lot, and re-names its proponents “Americanized Burkeans, or to put it another way, progressive conservatives.” See, anything virtuous has to be called “conservative.” It’s a rule.
McCain shares the progressive conservative instinct. He has shown his sympathy with the striving immigrant and his disgust with the colluding corporatist. He has an untiring reform impulse and a devotion to national service and American exceptionalism.
Translation: McCain is a standard “free market conservative” whose soft bleatings about immigration are more about cheap labor than altruism. He has also paid lip service to ending corruption but hasn’t accomplished much in that direction. His economic policy ideas are still all about favoring the rich and powerful at the expense of workers. And “national service and American exceptionalism” is code for “he’ll start more stupid wars.”
“McCain would be an outstanding president,” Brooks says, without offering much in the way of evidence. It’s possible the McCain that lives in Brooks’s head would make a decent president, but the flesh-and-blood McCain who is actually campaigning would be a disaster.