Saturday, August 30, 2008

Running Mate? Alaska!

Mr. Rich at the Times today, as usual, gets it right.

Indeed, the disconnect between the reality of this campaign and how it is perceived and presented by the mainstream media is now a major part of the year’s story. The press dysfunction is itself a window into the unstable dynamics of Election 2008.

At the Democratic convention, as during primary season, almost every oversold plotline was wrong. Those Hillary dead-enders — played on TV by a fringe posse of women roaming Denver in search of camera time — would re-enact Chicago 1968. With Hillary’s tacit approval, the roll call would devolve into a classic Democratic civil war. Sulky Bill would wreak havoc once center stage.

On TV, each of these hot-air balloons was inflated nonstop right up to the moment they were punctured by reality, at which point the assembled bloviators once more expressed shock, shock at the unexpected denouement.

He is wise enough to see that the pitiful condition of the fourth estate is due to anxiety over changing technology:

We, too, are made anxious and fearful by hard economic times and the prospect of wrenching change. YouTube, the medium that has transformed our culture and politics, didn’t exist four years ago. Four years from now, it’s entirely possible that some, even many, of the newspapers and magazines covering this campaign won’t exist in their current form, if they exist at all. The Big Three network evening newscasts, and network news divisions as we now know them, may also be extinct by then.

Like I've been saying.

What Frank misses is that the inanity and pettyness of the coverage, by TV, papers, even his own employer, is their way of insisting on relevance. It was in this vein that McCain choose Palin, a startling, flashy bit of political theater that gives chins something to wag about, which in newsland now is the only gauge of importance.

And, indeed, under the media rules that prevailed twenty years ago, someone like Palin might have been a brilliant choice. A surprise!, a photogenic western character, the VP job not so important as ticket balance, the press would have dwelt on her obvious strengths. She'd have been Annie Oakley to John's Buffalo Bill. Even today, every crowd the two have appeared before over the last couple days has been, in the view of the Associated Press, a raucous one, though the size of it is left to the imagination.

But though the MSM, and maybe the Democrats, were caught flatfooted by the Palin pick, us idiots here in blogoland lit up like a Mulberry St. fair. At Josh Marshall's place, for example, Sarah was known very well. Anianna's joint was all over her too. The appall of the rather more distinguished conservative bloggers was also quickly heard, and I submit, these first reactors are the framers of this particular fairy tale.

In practical terms, unconsidered in the commentariot scrum is how the Palin pick will play in Minnesota, where the citizens were getting pretty ready to have their own goofy Tim Pawlenty on the ticket. Not only does this stiff the locals just in time for the St. Paul convention, it also upends a certain calculus for the senate race there. Norm "The Oliagenous Boob" Coleman has been keeping a short lead over Fightin' Al Frankin that is now only that much harder to defend. I can almost hear Al's talking points now. (The hint coming from the McCain camp that Gustav just might cause some kind of reevaluation of the time, and therefore place, of the convention is more harsh news for the Minnesotans.) For a party struggling to keep every senate seat it can in the face of an avalanche, this is a pretty big deal.

It would have been one thing for Ol' John to pick, say, Hutchison over Pawlenty, senate gravity, serious times, time for a woman sort of thing. But Mrs. Alaska has to gall the whole prairie GOP machine, and you have to wonder how many in the wider party are more than a bit tired of the god shouters' grip on their shabby brand. Look for cannier individuals to start planning for '12 right after the convention, whenever that may be.

Palin Around

The instant reaction to the Palin appointment among the liberal blogosenti was so consistent, and so consistent with my own, that it comes frighteningly close to something like conventional wisdom. I have nothing to add outside of the sharper observation that Palin has a good shot of being the worst pick since gloomy Tom Eagleton killed the McGovern campaign way back in '72.

Recall then that the choice of the Missouri senator for VP was pressed on the outsiders' camp by party regulars who needed very much one of their own on the ticket. (You see where this is going, I hope.) Whether Palin will flame out in as spectacular a fashion is not for us to decide here. I, for one, think she'll be a gift that keeps on giving. Deciding whether it will be items from her small-town past, her stumble through the national spotlight (and to be fair, her life went from mainly in-control to screaming insane in the space of a morning), or some fresh cuttings from the Alaska hot house of GOP sleeze is mainly academic.

Whatever advantage McCain's hasty choice gained among, I don't know, survivalist homemakers, could well be dwarfed by that percentage of the undecided among the 38 million-plus people who watched Obama Thursday night who liked what they heard, and who are now left to consider a GOP ticket that together qualifies for nothing much grander than a touching trip to Vegas.

While we wait for the advent of revealing college party pix, or other evidence of midnight-sun craziness, we also need to consider how long it will take for McCain, who if the stories are to be believed is mostly hated by former staffers, to run onto those karmic shoals of payback which always lay in wait for powerful jerks.


Sully makes a crucial point.

For me, the more I think about it, the more this pick is about McCain's contempt for Obama. He really seems to think that Palin is as qualified as Obama to be president. If he does, it seems to me he has fatally misjudged the abilities of his opponent. As Clinton did.

John McCain doesn't get it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"It's Not Because John McCain Doesn't Care. . .

It's because John McCain doesn't get it."

With that clear, simple phrase, in an address full of such things, Barack Obama effectively knocked his silly old opponent on his frantic ass, a place where he will remain through election day.

Clear, forceful, full of fight, optimism and understanding, it seems to me Obama unlimbered every policy difference he has with the Republican McCain machine and smacked them with gusto in plain sight, and promised more for later.

While I did not pay close attention to the commentary streaming from Denver, neither did I hear mentioned the most broadly obvious feature of the convention, namely how Obama managed to get all of his party marching in the same direction. Credit Hil and Bill, of course (and the Big Dog still brings it, doesn't he?), but I doubt they would have signed on unless they were pretty damn impressed with the program. Credit Joe Biden, who appears to genuinely admire his younger running mate, and who gave a wonderful speech of his own. What impressed me most about it were the quiet parts, where you might have heard someone in the balcony sneeze. This strikes me as characteristic of someone with something to say. I can't imagine anyone McCain picking as a running mate (and I am rooting for Loserman) with the same empathetic gravity.

The news going in to Denver was of Democratic rivalry and worry, small and easy targets for a mainstream media fighting for relevance, and losing, every waking hour. The news coming out of Denver was that the news going in was all wrong. Don't look for anyone in the MSM to admit that, however, as they hurry to the Cities to help the GOP kick itself to pieces.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Okay, Mets Fans

When last we met the impressive Ryan Church had yet to catch a knee to the head, Dr. Randolph was manager, and the team, though looking pretty good, overall was missing several pistons.

Well, Church returned last night, with an early running catch at the right field wall, a hit and run scored. The latter came after Schneider, batting eighth, drove him in with a home run.

The Metsies are a lot of fun now, moulting in the last two months from a mediocre Yankees knockoff of moody headliners, to a big-city version of the Twins, a fast, tight-fielding group of role players very tough to beat at home. We had no right to expect this, but the appearance of Reyes, A at second and Tatis to fill in the outfield corners, not to mention a pretty good job by Schneider behind the plate, have made the team genuinely fun to follow, and the last four games have been enjoyable indeed.

That the relief pitching is dicey, well, we knew that going in. The starters have been pretty damn fine however. Pelfrey has been pitching so well, and with such little advance notice that it's been hard to grasp just how good he is. I don't want to jinx anything, but maybe Koosman good, maybe better.

The superstars are at last playing with something like confidence, no one more than Reyes, J, who maybe decided to grow up some. Beltran and Delgado, the last an underrated fielder (especially handing Wright's less-than-perfect throws), have been getting better at bats lately and might be poised for some genuinely productive hitting.

I like Willie Randolph (I also like Bobby Valentine) but the job clearly had worn him down. It was maybe Manuel's eighth game as manager, when he argues a Beltran strikeout, gets bumped by the umpire and tossed. Up in the radio booth Howie Rose said that fighting for his players like that was something Willie never did. Whatever the reason, the winning seemed to start then.

While happy with the ten-game streak, I was not especially convinced. This last stretch, where they have gone 10-1, have finally made a believer out of me. Last night's shutout against Oswalt and the 'Stros was strong in all departments.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Grant's Tome

That what appears to be the recent surge in McCain's support coincides with the manifest failures of foreign policy of the current pack of fools should surprise no one. However, a certain kind of thinker is appalled at this, and sputters that the old man is a dangerous hothead now more than ever unfit for the job.

All true enough, but I submit that that is exactly what the great undecided find so appealing: someone to talk tough for those not allowed to talk tough at all. While I doubt that this Republican administration intentionally screwed the dials on stability in the Ukraine and Pakistan, now that foreign chaos has proved such a winner for their standard bearer, look for more flinty lectures and empty threats.

Right now I give McCain a one-in-four chance for pulling this one off, an astonishing admission from someone who gave him no chance at all a month ago.

In his magnificent and fascinating Personal Memoirs General Grant characterized southern society during the rebellion as having all the attributes of an armed camp, with an intolerance for dissent and, the more fascinating for us moderns, a loyal press which until nearly the end told the citizens the war was being won-- that Hood would soon rout Sherman from the road to Atlanta, that Lee was scattering the Army of the Potomac near Richmond.

One would be forgiven for seeing the parallels today, spread large across a sunbelt society which has mainly absorbed traditional southern notions of piety, obedience, and righteous belligerence. That these instincts are in their reflexive states defective makes them no easier to disperse, in fact gives them a sturdiness for their sad, overwhelmed believers that conflict only makes more appealing.

The ground has shifted and the election now has little to do with the economy and less with race. Change indeed has to come but the battle is now over America's rightful role in the world. Obama's very tall order is now to convince the country just how precarious our security situation is, which is not a message easily delivered by a young former law professor.

I bring this up only to point out that the so-called Confederacy (one of Grant's favorite tropes) was not reasoned out of its rebellion, but routed, humiliated and smashed. Either Obama does it to McCain, or armies eager to take us down will shortly have every incentive, and a currently undreamed of capacity, to do so.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Age Of Idiots

I write from vacation on a sandy shore with limited internet access, and so shall be brief. Apologies also if the following has been said broadly and in detail elsewhere, but I have not read anything online in over ten days.

Focused on national politics as many of us are, we might be pardoned for thinking that the final unwinding of our squalid little president’s rule would come domestically. Instead what we see unfolding in Georgia is a real-world go fuck yourself banner directed to the collapsed long-term interests and power of the United States.

Russia has moved with stunning ease and foresight to deliver this message. In a single bolt, it has effectively removed one of this administration’s best friends--indeed an ally initially led by our moronic chief to trust in our complete support of its sovereignty--on its border, while also immediately draining the third-largest supply of troops, some 2,000, to the Iraq Project (figure quoted from the Boston Globe.)

Our over-stretched and broken down Army has made the tough neocon postures of the vice president and Republican candidate now visibly laughable, and the Russian hand on the natural gas tap to northern Europe, a valve it successfully practiced closing last winter, guarantees a quick end to the insane illusion of U.S. hegemony. There is nothing we can do, short of bombing the Kremlin (and there must be a class of apes somewhere advocating this), and everyone from London to Tokyo knows it.

That the tactless and empty dress now haunting the office of Secretary of State was first sold to the foreign policy big leagues as a hard line Russia hand only gives this pathetic situation a much-needed lift of glowering farce. We can now say, without any sense of that uncertainty usually predicated on the unknowable reaches of history, that these people are utterly incompetent idiots, revealed at last by their own empty actions and on their own stated terms.

UPDATE: After the above was written came news of our military delivering aid to Georgia, and the advent of Condi to reassure the captives. Add one more country to our unsteady overseas empire, and expect the worst.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


The dumb dog daze of summer is upon us now, and before I slip away for a fortnight at the shore (during which I'll be checking in as regularly as trips to the town library allow) I thought I'd leave a few free observations regarding the pathetic McCain campaign.

Josh Marshall calls the notorious Bitney ad racist, and declares it may work. Matty, otoh, does not see the racism in it at all. They can't both be right, right?

My own feeling is that ads like this one, which certainly treads a very silly line in playing to people's prejudices and fears, generally ARE effective, but the effect here may not be the one intended.

First off I'd say that for anyone over the age of 60, the ad very much hits the old black man/white woman gee-whiz spot. That Matty, who is somewhere in his mid-20s, does not see it as such tells me that this line of attack is completely useless in swaying those under-30 voters ol' John most needs to reach. The young folk nowadays, even the conservative ones, just do not form racial animosities in the forms and passions of the past. Worse for McCain, the true weight of prejudice in the ad seems to fall mainly on attractive young people. This might be effective among those who are neither, which includes all of the TV chatterers, but is not the way to frame a candidate's broad appeal.

It may be that the only demographic moved in a significant way by the spot, which the septuagenarian's campaign clearly thinks is a winner are those centrist and exasperated GOP voters whom to this point have been willing to regard the Straight Talk Express with the respect generally due one's feisty elders. They can only see the whole business as something worthy of dismay, and we should not be surprised if those battleground states now drift a little further away from the nutty old guy.

And kudos to the Democrat for calling the nitwits early on this one. Barry has come too far to start second-guessing him now, and I do believe the best way to stop the shit is to hit it early. Evidently the McCain camp thinks they're in a card game, but I think the bell has just rung for round one, first of a scheduled 12, and the only cards in sight are in the ring girl's hands.

UPDATE: The Times weighs in with its usual pure-hearted obtuseness With Genie Out of Bottle, Obama Is Careful on Race; to which one might sensibly ask, exactly what fucking bottle? The notion that a black man will become president of this country, especially in running against a party which devotedly sucked up every racist Yayhoo who left the old Democratic coalition, the party of the southern strategy, conceived by Pat Buchanan and held sacred by each of its standard bearers since Dick Nixon, those experts of the wink and dog whistle, is, to put it mildly, bracing in its corporate silliness.

That Genie is instead a fog we have lived in all our lives.

And just to show the reporter has no clear idea what he is talking about, fairness obligates him to write in the first and second grafs:

When Senator John McCain’s camp replied by accusing him of playing the race card from the bottom of the deck, the Obama campaign seemed at least momentarily off balance.

The instinctive urge to punch back was tempered by the fact that race is a fire that could singe both candidates. So on Friday the Obama campaign, a carefully controlled lot on the best of days, reacted most cautiously as it sought to tamp down any sense that it was at war with Mr. McCain

Hint: the words seemed and should have no place in a Page One hard news story. All that follows logically upon is the moonshine of yesterday's daydreams, nothing more or less than something somebody thought they saw.

And if race is a fire, then I can think of only one candidate accustomed to sitting in the furnace.