Panamanian strongman John McCain has this idea that, by halting most RNC convention activities and sending Bush and Cheney home, he will be seen as a noble warrior fighting the hurricane all by himself and restoring the Grand Old Party's good name. And that may be true - certainly McCain was aching for a way to keep Bush at arm's length, he would have sent him off if there was the chance of hail somewhere in the country - but if the levees fail again three years after billions of dollars was appropriated to fix them, the conservative failure of government will look hauntingly familiar.
On the eve of Hurricane Gustav's expected arrival, many in New Orleans, from residents of the Ninth Ward to the city's mayor to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, have their doubts about whether the levees will hold.
"There is a real likelihood of getting some overtopping. Additionally, rain is a big factor here," said DHS chief Michael Chertoff about water pouring over the tops of the levees.
Three years since Katrina and $3 billion later, the levees still leak and much of the repair work remains incomplete.
"Huge areas of Louisiana are going to be devastated. We're going in essence to see what Katrina didn't destroy, what Rita didn't destroy in 2005 being destroyed now in 2008," said Ivor Van Heerden, a professor at Louisiana State University who wrote a book about why the levees broke during Katrina.
At best the levees are estimated to be able to withstand water levels rising at the rate of an inch and hour. The coming storm, however, promises much more. In some places storm surge could reach 18 feet.
The Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with repairing the levees, says work was being accelerated.
Despite Congress authorizing $12.8 billion to rebuild the levees, only $3 billion has been spent. The engineers blame red tape, saying the studies, approvals and environmental committees have all slowed down the work.
The Army Corps is already trying to blame it on the environmentalists, but considering that the press recently found engineers filling the levees with newspaper, their protestations aren't really credible. In fact, they failed to use the money and are scrambling to finish in 48 hours what they haven't done in 3 years.
NEW ORLEANS — It was the largest housing aid program in American history, billed as the essential government tool that would make New Orleans whole after Hurricane Katrina.
Yet even though about $3.3 billion of federal taxpayer money has been spent here on the cash grant program known as the Road Home, New Orleans on the third anniversary of the hurricane remains almost as much of a patchwork as it did last year, before most of the money was spent.
The program has had no effect on most of the houses in New Orleans, and has played only a limited role in bringing back the neighborhoods most flooded in the storm. And as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the city, many residents are worried that the work already accomplished could be set back.
I sincerely hope that the storm makes a hard left and New Orleans is spared, but if it heads in its current direction, the levees are going to fail and the city will again fill with water. And no amount of efforts to care from St. Paul will be able to counteract that shot of a flooded city as a cause of levee failure, again. The evacuation appears to have gone well, and Bush and his team have at least looked attentive, but they don't necessarily get credit for doing their job the second time around, and they certainly get no credit for building substandard levees. Republicans will be forced to own their own failure, both in their inability to build workable infrastructure and their resistance to combat climate change and the stronger, more frequent storms that are a side effect.
1836 Americans Started To Die While These Assholes Partied
Here is what John McCain and George Bush were doing on August 29, 2005, when 1836 Americans started to drown in their own sewage:
It is an obscenity that these incompetent cynical shitheads are playing at being at charge. It is an outrage that the media is playing along. And it is utterly disgraceful that the Democrats were completely unprepared for Operation Hype the Hurricane.
I just hope that everyone down in Gustav's path gets out of town before either Gustav hits or Bush's trigger-happy goons - Blackwater - move in.
UPDATE: And just how clueless are top Democrats about how to win an election? This is how clueless. Unbelievable. Truly unbelievable.
Do you think John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin reflects favorably or unfavorably on McCain’s ability to make important presidential decisions?
No opinion: 2%
“John McCain chose Sarah Palin because he thought having a woman on the ticket would help him get elected?”
One can only conclude that a lot of people think that naming an unqualified person for VP speaks well of McCain's decision making. Should we call this the "Cheney effect" --- a desire to put the Vice President back in a ceremonial role after eight years of having a puppeteer behind the scenes pulling the president's strings? Or are they just Republican fools?
If you're not following the story of these raids in Minneapolis, you should be. Of course, you can be forgiven since the news media feel it's necessary to give Bobby Jindal hours of airtime and don't have any to spare once they are through analyzing the impact of the hurricane on John McCain's heroic POW experience in North Vietnam, but still ...
Here's a list of links gathered by John Emerson at Seeing the Forest. This really is unamerican. but then, it's nothing new for the authorities to be unamerican, is it? In fact, considering our history and ongoing willingness to put up with this stuff, one has to conclude that it's actually quite American after all:
It's great seeing President McCain on CNN speaking directly to the country, directing the convention and the hurricane efforts and all, but I would think even the media sycophants could find time to talk to a Democrat or two in this weird HurriConvention coverage.
It's reminding me of McCain stepping up to the podium during the Georgia crisis a couple of weeks back. The shit comes down and he's there, pretending to be president and Bush lets him. (Junior is playing the unlikely role of paper pushing bureaucrat down in the hurricane situation room, while Maverick makes the big pronouncements.) The media have no compunction about showing McCain doing his little star turn, which on this holiday week-end is likely all that people will see until the storm hits.
I saw Rove on Fox this morning going on and on about how much better everything was going to be this time for Louisiana because they had Bobby Jindal in office. Apparently, Rick Perry and Haley Barbour proved that the problem was the Democratic Governor and Republicans are much better in a crisis. And the good news for Democrats is that the entire news media is gathered with the entire Republican establishment to bring us this story for the next week.
I realize that this will likely remind people of Katrina and that should be bad for Republicans. But McCain is going to put on a show to demonstrate that he's a "differnt kinda Republican" than Bush. He's going to be all over our television sets with his own Brownie troop, Lindsay, Sarah and Joe, trailing behind him. The picture will say "McCain is in charge." If the response is as bad as Katrina, he'll suffer for it. If it isn't, I'm afraid these next few days are going to help him a lot more than a standard convention would have.
The Democrats have to get on the radar screen here and it isn't going to be easy to do it without looking like opportunists. I don't have a lot of bright ideas. Perhaps Al Gore could be persuaded to make himself available?
Update: ferchristsake. I was half joking, but they are really going for it:
GOP, citing Gustav, makes case for McCain
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL - Republicans are already citing Hurricane Gustav as a major reason why voters should pick Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) this fall.
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) made the case Sunday that McCain is best equipped to lead the country -- whether it's acts of terrorism or acts of God.
Appearing on Fox News, Coleman repeatedly cited the campaign theme of "country first" when describing efforts to prepare the Gulf Coast for Hurricane Gustav.
He also pointed out that new leaders will be responding to the hurricane, noting there is a "different governor" and "a different FEMA."
KERRY: [...] And now, now, George, you have a choice, where John McCain has proven that he's not a maverick, he's erratic. He's crossed the line from maverickism to -- I mean, it's unbelievable what's happened, because he himself said...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me -- let me stop you right there. What do you mean -- let me stop you right there, Senator Kerry. You said he's erratic. What are you talking about there? Is that referring to the choice...
KERRY: Well, I'll tell you exactly...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... of Governor Palin?
KERRY: I will tell you -- absolutely, because what has happened is John McCain -- you know, we've been warning against the third term of George Bush. With the choice of Governor Palin, it's now the third term of Bush-Cheney, because what he's done is he's chosen somebody who actually doesn't believe that climate change is manmade. He's chosen somebody who has zero -- zero -- experience in foreign policy.
The first threshold test of a president of a nominee in choosing a vice president is to prove to the American people that the person that you've chosen can fill in tomorrow, that they come with the requisite experience to lead the nation in foreign policy and in national security.
You know, she may be -- I mean, I'm sure she's a terrific person. I'm not attacking her. I think John McCain 's judgment is once again put at issue, because he's chosen somebody who clearly does not meet the national security threshold, who is not ready to be president tomorrow.
And there's just no way to...
STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Senator Graham, though. He said that she has more experience than Senator Obama.
KERRY: That's just ridiculous on its face. I mean, John -- you know, Barack Obama has been in the United States Senate. He has not been absent more than he's been there. She's been a governor for, what, the two years now, Barack Obama and the four years?
But, moreover, Barack Obama has traveled abroad. Look at the trip Barack Obama took. I mean, it is remarkable to me that the Republicans would try to denigrate a trip that a candidate for president takes where he attracts more -- more attention, more support, if you will, than a sitting president of the United States of America.
That's what you need in leadership for a president. You need somebody who can go to Europe and say to them, "We need more help in Afghanistan." He actually called the Europeans to account on their -- on their need to be, frankly, more front-and-center in the effort to deal with Afghanistan than President Bush has.
I think that's leadership, and I think the United States of America is well-served if we have a president who's able to do that.
But coming back to this choice for a moment...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kerry...
KERRY: ... let me just say...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you another question right now...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... because, Senator, Howard Wolfson -- excuse me. Let me just ask you another question. Howard Wolfson, Senator Clinton's former communications director, said that this pick might just work to draw women to the Republican ticket. Are you worried about that?
KERRY: Well, with all due respect to Howard, you know, I have much more respect for the Clinton supporters than that sort of quick- blush take with -- I mean, how stupid do they think the Clinton supporters are, for Heaven sakes?
Do they think Clinton supporters supported Hillary only because she was a woman. For Heaven sakes, they supported Hillary because of all the things she's fought for, because she fights for health care, which John McCain doesn't support; she fights for children and children's health care, which John McCain voted against; she fights for a windfall profits tax on the oil company, which John McCain opposes.
I mean, for Heaven sakes, the people who supported Hillary Clinton are not going to be seduced just because John McCain has picked a woman. They're going to look at what she supports.
The fact that she doesn't even support the notion that climate change is manmade -- she's back there with the Flat Earth Caucus. And I don't see how those women are going to be fooled into believing -- I think it's almost insulting to the Hillary supporters that they believe they would support somebody who is against almost everything that they believe in.
KERRY: What John McCain has proven with this choice -- this is very important, George. John McCain wanted to choose Tom Ridge. He wanted to choose Joe Lieberman. He wanted to choose another candidate, but you know what? Rush Limbaugh and the right wing vetoed it.
And John McCain was forced to come back and pick a sort of Cheney-esque social conservative who's going to satisfy the base.
What John McCain has proven with this choice is that John McCain is the prisoner of the right wing, not a maverick.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kerry, I'm afraid that's all we have time for today. Thank you very much for your time.
KERRY: Thank you.
I like it.
Once her introduction is over this week, I think Palin should probably be as ignored as all VP picks are. McCain would love to stage a "chivalrous" hissy fit over his "soul mate" and there's no reason to give him an excuse to have one.
Elsewhere I read that McCain may address the convention from somewhere near the hurricane. What that means is, in reality, that McCain will be in the way, and will clog the response. But nothing will stand in St. John's way of creating the impression he cares about this country's little people, the kind that don't travel by private plane around their state. And let's face it, creating the impression of caring is a lot more fun than actually caring. All y'gotta do is look concerned.
The main reason McCain knuckled under to the religious right by picking Palin is that he actually believes there’s a large army of embittered Hillary loyalists who will vote for a hard-line conservative simply because she’s a woman. That’s what happens when you listen to the TV news echo chamber. Not only is the whole premise ludicrous, but it is every bit as sexist as the crude joke McCain notoriously told about Janet Reno, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.
I’m up on the tightwire flanked by life and the funeral pyre putting on a show for you to see
-from “Tightrope”, by Leon Russell
On the surface, Man on Wire may appear to be a straightforward documentary about an eccentric high wire artist who is either incredibly brave, or incredibly stupid. But if you look closer, you might discover one of the best suspense thrillers/heist movies of 2008, although no guns are drawn and nothing gets stolen. It is also one of the most romantic films I’ve seen this year, although it is not a traditional love story. Existential and even a tad surreal at times, it is ultimately a deeply profound treatise on following your bliss.
Late in the summer of 1974, a diminutive Frenchman named Philippe Petit made a splash (of the figurative kind, luckily) by treating unsuspecting NYC morning commuters to the sight of a lifetime: a man taking a casual morning stroll across a ¾” steel cable, stretched from rooftop to rooftop between the two towers of the then-unfinished World Trade Center, 1350 feet skyward. After traversing the 200 foot wide chasm with supernatural ease, he decided to turn around and have another go. And another. And another. All told, Petit made 8 round trips, with only one brief but memorable rest stop. He took a breather to lie on his back (mid-wire) and enjoy what had to have been the ultimate Moment of Zen ever experienced in the history of humankind, contemplating the sky and enjoying a little chit-chat with a seagull (Jonathan Livingston, I presume?) He even ventured a few Fred Astaire moves as he giggled like a 4-year-old splashing around in a backyard kiddy pool. By the time he delivered himself into the less-than-welcoming arms of the NYPD, Petit had spent an astonishing 45 minutes frolicking in the clouds. The only injuries incurred were provided courtesy of the cops, who decided to test this uppity foreigner’s gravity-defying powers by handcuffing him and “helping” him down a flight of stairs.
Now, a stunt like this doesn’t just happen on a whim. There are a few logistical hurdles to consider beforehand. Like how do you transport 450 lbs of steel cable to the roof of one tower of the World Trade Center, and then safely tether it across to its twin? And perhaps most importantly, considering the fact that the top floors of the complex were still under construction and therefore “off limits” to visitors, how do you even case the joint without anyone noticing? Then there’s the whole pesky issue of possibly ending up in stir on a reckless endangerment beef; at the very least, a charge of criminal trespass. Considering all of that, the actual act of traipsing the wire starts to look like the easiest part of the gig. A clandestine operation of this magnitude requires meticulous planning, and at least a couple trustworthy co-conspirators. Sounds like the makings of a classic heist film, no?
All of this potential for a cracking good true-life tale was not lost on director James Marsh, who enlisted the still spry and charmingly elfin Petit, along with a few members of his “crew” to give a first-hand account of events leading up to what can perhaps best be described as a “performance art heist”. Taking an obvious stylistic cue from docu-master Errol Morris, Marsh lets these intimate and engagingly spun first person recollections drive the compelling narrative for his artfully rendered mélange of archival footage and faux-cinema verite reenactments. Marsh also deserves kudos for his excellent choice of music. Excerpts from Michael Nyman’s lovely “La traversee de Paris” are used to great effect, and the accompaniment of Peter Green’s sublime, haunting guitar instrumental “Albatross” to one of Petit’s more balletic high wire walks is an unexpected treat, making for a truly transcendent cinematic moment.
Of course, the foremost question on anyone’s mind would be “Why did he do it?” It certainly wasn’t for money (first clue: no corporate sponsors, at least up to and including his 1974 feat). It did not appear to be an act of willful self promotion, which is where he decidedly parts ways with say, an Evel Knievel. He didn’t appear to be making any kind of political or social statement. So what gives? At the time, he enigmatically offered “When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk.” Petit himself remains a bit elusive on the motivations for his stunts. The director doesn’t really push the issue, which I think is a wise choice. When you watch the mesmerizing footage of Petit floating on the air between the towers of Notre Dame, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and then ultimately the World Trade Center, you realize that it is simply an act of pure aesthetic grace, like a beautiful painting or an inspired melody. And you also suspect that he does it…because he can. That’s impressive enough for me, because I can barely balance a checkbook, and when it comes to heights, I get a nosebleed from thick socks.
Despite attending the DNC convention, the presence of protesters wasn't all that prominent unless you knew where to look. The security presence was palpable, and there definitely were lots of anti-abortion activists in the streets, but overall you had to look for and find the more wide-scale protests that were expected. And the cops actually facilitated the Tent State march on the Pepsi Center on Wednesday by leading the parade.
The RNC is far different, at least so far. Before one activist has hit the streets, before the delegates have even assembled, there is a coordinated effort by law enforcement to raid suspected protesters and imprison them.
Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with sub-machine guns drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.
Jane Hamsher and I were at two of those homes this morning -- one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided. Each of the raided houses is known by neighbors as a "hippie house," where 5-10 college-aged individuals live in a communal setting, and everyone we spoke with said that there had never been any problems of any kind in those houses, that they were filled with "peaceful kids" who are politically active but entirely unthreatening and friendly. Posted below is the video of the scene, including various interviews, which convey a very clear sense of what is actually going on here.
Here's some streaming video of an ongoing raid as well. Lindsay Beyerstein has further info on another raid. There are reports of law enforcement snatching people off the streets as well. The National Lawyers Guild is dispatching attorneys to these sites and then THEY are being detained. This is a full-on police state in the Twin Cities so the authoritarians can hold their party without being burdened with dissent.
This is the 21st century reality of a growing surveillance state and how the feds handle big events - with brute force and ruthlessness. The STASI would be impressed.
Update: From digby --- has anyone seen even one news story on this? I haven't.
Officials with the McCain campaign and the Republican National convention are considering changing the event's agenda as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf Coast...
A senior McCain source said Saturday that officials are considering turning the convention into a service event, a massive telethon to raise money for the Red Cross and other agencies to help with the hurricane.
"He wants to do something service-oriented if and when the storm hits and it's as bad as its expected to be now," the McCain source said.
They are also hoping to get McCain himself to a storm-affected area as soon as possible.
And Bush is planning probably to skip the convention in order to look presidential during a crisis - I'm sorry, I meant to type "closely monitor the effectiveness of the emergency response forces."
It is genuinely revolting to think of a Cat 4 or 5 hurricane as a marketing op, but this is, after all, a country run by a man who let himself be photographed carrying a fake turkey to feed soldiers in Iraq. So I wonder if the Obama team has given any thought to what a spectacular PR coup this will be. And the bar for Republicans to "succeed" is particularly low. All Bush needs to do is to ensure that less than 1836 Americans end up drowning in their own waste, as they did the last time a hurricane struck during a Republican presidency to declare Operation Hype The Hurricane a triumph.
(By the way, the entire CNN article stinks to heaven. It sounds like a trial balloon, to test how the idea of a telethon might play.)
Barack Obama made it across the tightrope of the Democratic National Convention, gaining solid endorsements from Bill and Hillary Clinton and giving a rousing speech before some 80,000 supporters at Invesco Field in Denver. But now comes the time when the Republicans win elections.
Over the past four decades, Republicans have dominated the outcomes of presidential races by mixing negative campaigning in public with illicit dirty tricks behind the scenes, as I've recounted in my last two books, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep.
To those of you who are criticizing me for being "pessimistic" and negative, please keep in mind that I've been saying the Democrats will win this election for months and months. I still think so. But I'm not enough of a Pollyanna about it that I don't think the Democrats should ever take anything for granted.
I have written a short wrap-up of "the progressive moment" at the Denver convention over at The Big Con:
In casual conversation and formal addresses, from health care to foreign policy to media reform and beyond, the progressive agenda dominated the discourse far more than I expected. I knew there would be solidarity in opposition to conservative rule, but it no longer stems from that alone. There is a sense of opportunity and engagement with issues that I haven't seen in progressive circles for some time.
I was quite surprised at how ... well, progressive everyone was. The Democratic party is beginning to unapologetically identify itself as ideological again, tempered with a new pragmatism about Obama and what we can expect him to accomplish on his own. There wasn't much disagreement at all on issues or the fact that the party establishment is not going to do what needs to be done without strong outside pressure.
The task before us, as a progressive movement, is to figure out how to make them do it. It's not going to be easy, but there are a lot of ideas out there and we'd be well advised to start thinking about the next steps if we find ourselves in the incredible position of having a government that isn't run by Karl Rove and Dick Cheney (or their clones.)
It is vitally important that we continue to note the extraordinary speech Obama gave, so here is a transcript and a short quote:
America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.
It is also vitally important that we never forget how profoundly significant a date August 28 has become in American history. Most of us who lived through the Sixties could never come close to imagining the opportunity to vote for an African-American as president on a major party platform. History was made this Thursday and nothing in the hullabaloo of the latest news can possibly overshadow that.
I hope sometime next week to look at his speech in detail.
With NORTHCOM taking the lead on briefing the public, it’s clear the Bush Administration wants to send the message that everything is under control. Instead, to those that do this for a living, the message is clear that everything is absolutely and completely broken.
Perhaps the state governments need help. Perhaps FEMA is not up to the job. Perhaps the Bush Administration simply wants a uniform on camera, and this way of doing things is preferable to things happening the way that they should (a process, by the way, that WORKED before Bush screwed it up).
NORTHCOM taking the lead in public relations is a clear indication that nothing has been fixed in DHS and FEMA since Katrina. As a result, there is no confidence in FEMA’s ability to respond to this hurricane. With NORTHCOM at the helm, the Bush Administration either doesn’t care if, or doesn’t want, the systems to work. This Administration has issued a lot of reports since Katrina (none of which suggest the military should take control, incidentially), but no one has been held accountable and the lessons have not been learned. The priority is still on preventing embarrassment, not keeping people safe.
Why would they? Republicans believe that the only purpose of government is to take taxpayers money to enrich the already wealthy. All else is superfluous. Naturally, they haven't fixed anything. They don't know how to make government perform for the people because they don't want to. A big disaster is a big opportunity.
Blue America is having one, and you can participate. Here's Howie:
Today’s the first day of a week-long Blue America contest, I’d like to invite you to participate in. Some of our candidates have been endorsed by the DCCC’s Red to Blue program, which makes it easier for them to access institutional Democratic money– big donors, labor unions, single-issue groups, incumbents, etc. And some haven’t. Blue America wants to spotlight nine of our House endorsees this week who may eventually wind up in the program but who need campaign cash to compete effectively now. These are the nine:
Sam Bennett (PA-15)- Lehigh Valley Debbie Cook (CA-46)- Orange County Larry Joe Doherty (TX-10)- northern Austin to Brenham and Katy Alan Grayson (FL-08)- Orlando Jared Polis (CO-02)- Boulder and Westminster out to Eagle County Dennis Shulman (NJ-05)- northern New Jersey from Bergen and Passaic around to Warren County Annette Taddeo (FL-18)- Miami-Dade from Miami Beach and Coral Gables down to Key West Russ Warner (CA-26)- northeast L.A. suburbans from Rancho Cucamonga to Arcadia Barry Welsh- (IN-06) east central Indiana centered on Muncie
We’re counting votes at a just launched new ActBlue contest page. Whether you donate a dollar or $20 or $2,000 to the candidate, of your choice, it counts as one vote– although you can certainly vote for as many candidates as you’d like. The candidate who gets the most votes gets a $5,000 Blue America check. The winner will be announced on Saturday, September 6th.
The presidential race is fun and interesting, but this is where the real action is for progressives. We need more of them in congress, no matter who wins the presidency or the Blue Dogs will continue to have veto power. Vote, and vote often!
I'm back now (luggage is lost, naturally) and I've had some time to talk to my friends in Alaska and review what's being said about Sarah Palin. Here's the most interesting thing: my brother in law and his girlfriend, both teachers, card carrying NPR listening, Riverdance loving, Jim Lehrer watching diehard liberals .... quite like the woman. They don't like her social conservatism, but it's so prevalent in Alaska that they hardly notice it. What they like is that she took out Frank Murkowski, cancelled his secret backroom deals, sold the Governor's private jet and told the oil companies to wait in line. They like that she is giving checks from the surplus to every Alaskan to help pay for the astronomically rising costs of heating oil up there. They see her as a down-to-earth, post-partisan problem solver. Others may as well.
And obviously, she's a huge hit with the religious right. They know a genuflection when they see one and are very pleased that McCain showed them the proper respect by picking not just a social conservative, but a full blown creationist fundamentalist. They will enthusiastically vote for her and feel good about being "feminists" when they do it. (The media will likely have "learned their lesson" from the trashing they gave Hillary Clinton and will be much more careful this time. Nice how that works for the Republicans.)
So, I wouldn't be too smug about Palin. She's got something about her that the people who know her really like. She has an 85% approval rating up there, which includes quite a few liberals. Her western state appeal is an amalgam of right wing populism and libertarianism, something that shouldn't be discounted among swing voters who might also find her to be an attractive working mom who manages to run the state while taking care of her snowmobile champion husband (Arctic NASCAR) and their five kids. (A politically incorrect friend of mine in Alaska called the ticket "The Maverick and the MILF" and it may work better than we think.)
Palin is so unknown that something even more significant than "troopergate" may yet emerge. Alaskan politicians are all just one degree of separation from each other and the big money oil interests that fuel the state. Who knows what could come out? But I would not assume that her inexperience or her small state background will work against the ticket. It could play well in the western states, a couple of which are necessary for the Democrats to win in the fall.
She's obviously a disaster from my perspective -- her extreme social conservatism is an immediate disqualifier for any office, much less the vice presidency. But I really hope the Obama campaign does not take to heart some of the "advice" it's getting about going after Palin with snappy slogans over her picture that say "this is what McCain thinks is ready to lead?" After all the talk in this election about feminism, I think the Obama campaign is sensitive enough to know that that reads like a sexist dogwhistle loud enough to shatter the sound barrier. This is not a good approach.
I don't think that many Hillary followers will vote for an anti-choice zealot, but there is no point in unnecessarily suppressing the female Obama vote by thoughtlessly pushing buttons that don't need to be pushed. McCain chose Palin partially because they wanted to keep open the wounds of feminist discontent and there's no reason to help them by picking at the scabs. There are many things on which to attack her --- her social conservatism, her anti-environmental extremism, her bad policies, even her potential corruption, but her inexperience has to be handled very deftly. (To me the single best way to discredit Sarah Palin among female voters, is to attack her as a heartless extremist who would let the polar bears drown rather than admit that global warming exists.)
In truth, she doesn't really have enough experience, but a lot of the criticism I'm seeing could easily be read as both sexist and elitist. Barack doesn't have a ton of experience either, but his qualifications are made manifest by his ivy league education, cosmopolitan background, urban connections and endorsements from other powerful people. I can easily see certain rural, working class voters not being impressed with big city Dems' disdain for her "big state with no people" and her "beauty queen" background. This is the kind of thing that makes the elitist tag stick.
Luckily, I think McCain's miscalculation may have been in not recognizing that the Obama campaign just won a primary where a lot of these issues were raised and they have very recent experience dealing with it. His brain trust will know better than to fall for the easy trap. The rest of us should too.
There's quite a lot to say about Sarah Palin. There's actually quite more to say about Barack Obama's magnificent speech, but John McCain kicked the soccer ball and the media herd is chasing it. So we'll go with Palin for now and come back to Obama's speech on the weekend.
What's striking to me is what has happened in Alaska since Palin was swept into office as a reformer. In 2006, sitting governor Frank Murkowski finished third out of four in the primary due to corruption scandals. A good chunk of the Republicans in the state legislature are either under indictment or under suspicion. Ted Stevens will go to court in September. Palin offered a new direction from that culture of corruption.
And then she came into office and did the same thing as every other Republican in Alaska. The most prominent scandal, for which she is currently under an ethics review, concerns her trying to get her sister's ex-husband fired as a state trooper.
Gov. Sarah Palin, a rising young GOP star mentioned as a possible running mate for John McCain, could see her clean-hands reputation damaged by a growing furor over whether she tried to get her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper.
A legislative panel has launched a $100,000 investigation to determine if Palin dismissed Alaska's public safety commissioner because he would not fire the trooper, Mike Wooten. Wooten went through a messy divorce from Palin's sister.
Palin has denied the commissioner's dismissal had anything to do with her former brother-in-law. And she denied orchestrating the dozens of telephone calls made by her husband and members of her administration to Wooten's bosses.
There's actually tape of a Palin aide pressuring the Public Safety Department to fire Wooten. And when the Public Safety Commissioner wouldn't, she fired him and replaced him with someone who would. Someone who had a history of sexual harrassment and is now the PUBLIC SAFETY commissioner.
That's shades of Archibald Cox and Elliot Richardson and William Ruckleshaus. I understand that the state trooper and her sister had a messy divorce, and he's been alleged to have done all sorts of terrible things to the sister and the kids, but firing people who refuse to carry out your wishes - well, that's good for Woodward and Bernstein's career, but not for the country.
And there's more.
Siun reports that Palin broke the law to ensure that Alaskan water would stay dirty:
It is against the law for the governor to officially advocate for or against a ballot measure; however, Palin took what she calls "personal privilege" to discuss one of this year's most contentious initiatives, which voters will decide Tuesday.
Along with taking a position on the big mine's side, Palin's administration apparently used state Department of Natural Resources resources to lobby for defeat of the Clean Water Initiative under the pretense of creating a state run website to "educate" citizens. The citizen group Alaskans for Clean Water responded by filing “a complaint against DNR for a recently-launched state website meant to clarify the issue for voters. “
The complaint alleges that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) improperly attempted to influence the outcome of an election by publishing information against the initiative on its website. It also alleges that DNR failed to report to APOC the expenditures, including employee time, related to creation of the information.
“It has become clear to us that the Department of Natural Resources is working hand-in-hand with the industry, and that the state is inappropriately making efforts to influence voters on this ballot initiative,” said Art Hackney, a co-sponsor of Ballot Measure #4.
Now, this reflects Nixon as much as it reflects our current White House resident. When the laws constrain you, use a "personal privilege" or make a signing statement. The point of similarity is contempt for the rule of law and a belief in the expansion of executive power.
The Poorman points out the obvious: Alaska seems very foreign.In fact, it is --- and I know this because I graduated from high school in Fairbanks and lived there for years. It is actually, in many ways, like a foreign planet. A very cold and icy foreign planet. Don't tell Cokie.
There is much to be said about Sarah Palin, but I think the thing I like the most about this choice is the fact that McCain chose someone from the state which is simultaneously the most oil drenched and the one that is suffering the most dramatically from global warming. Not that the governor cares. She's far more concerned about saving blastocysts in petrie dishes than saving drowning polar bears.
Obama's speech was the greatest I have ever heard live by a major politician, both in terms of content and delivery. No wonder McCain wanted to, and did, step on it immediately. Let's not forget to mention it. Again, and again.
After Gore gave a very good speech, albeit with the delivery oddly rushed, not a single bloviator on CNN - not a single one - deigned to discuss it for about 10 minutes, until Gergen said that Gore said something appreciative. Susan Eisenhower's speech received more attention. I found that incredibly disrespectful of a man who counts the Vice-Presidency of the United States as just one spectacular achievement out of a lifetime of service to his country (and world) and a clear sign that the msm still hates his guts.
Speaking of bias, was it just me or was the coverage on CNN negative for the most part? I wonder if we'll see all the bloviators frowning so deeply just before McCain accepts.
Obama chose Biden partly because of his reputation in foreign policy, which directly addresses an important component of the actual job of being president. McCain chose Palin merely because she was useful in shoring up a demographic needed to win an election. She has, as far as anyone knows, no other qualifications or experience that is directly relevant to running an entire country. It is like Bush nominating Miers for the Supreme Court because she's a good person.
The decision to choose Palin demonstrates McCain's impulsiveness, his erratic character, and his lack of seriousness about the actual job of being president.
Palin is, apparently, a radical Christianist, in the mold of Dobson, Robertson and others. Therefore it is only fair to ask her these questions, among many others:
Like most of America, I can't say I know much about Sarah Palin. But here's a few instant (yes, you could say knee-jerk) reactions to today's news that she's on the ticket with John McCain.
McCain has definitely concluded that he wasn't going to win without doing something dramatic. Just like his surge in Iraq, McCain has decided to "Go long."
McCain got what he wanted and needed the most: Nobody is talking about the magnificent speech Barack Obama gave last night.
John "never surrender" McCain just gave up on trying to attack Obama's experience. It was a calculation he was willing to make. Interesting.
Palin is already benefiting from extremely low expectations. Really can't get much lower than a complete unknown. Biden will have to realize that winning a debate against her is pointless. He will need to share a stage with her, but win a debate against McCain.
Now, no one expects us to agree on everything, whether in Juneau or in Washington. But we are expected to govern with integrity, and goodwill, and clear convictions, and a servant's heart.
She said Nook-yoo-ler.
Whether this pick is just another gimmick in a long line of McCain's gimmicks, it is striking to me that a man who told America that Obama is a big risk in an uncertain world has chosen a running mate who said this in her introduction:
If our state wanted a bridge, I said we'd build it ourselves. Well, it's always, though, safer in politics to avoid risk, to just kind of go along with the status quo. But I didn't get into government to do the safe and easy things. A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not why the ship is built.
It's been noted that McCain likes to roll the dice. He is now asking America not just to gamble on an unknown, but to gamble on a pair of gamblers.
Palin has an interesting personal story and in our superficial national discourse, that will be a plus for her. As much of a dull blade as Rep. Eric Cantor can be, I was actually worried that he would be the surprise pick. I'm less worried about Palin, but going with somebody other than Mitt or Lieberman was a good move.
I think we're going to see a lot more of Hillary Clinton over the next two months than I thought yesterday.
The fact that there are only a couple months before the election might help Palin quite a bit. Everybody knew Arnold Schwarzenegger already, but his initial victory in California was facilitated by the extremely short campaign allowed by the special election. There's less time for something really embarrassing to happen.
The vice presidential selection is not as important as everybody will make it out to be today. (UPDATE: As was pointed out in comments, in the case of McCain's age, it is a big deal. Good point. Damn, knee-jerk reactions.)
Even though Palin comes with a scandal in progress, I wonder if the Obama camp will get drawn into making a big deal about it. I think it will help blunt her claims to be a big reformer, but as I wrote above, the person they really need to defeat is John McCain.
I am traveling today, so I won't have the time to really delve into the speech, the convention etc until tomorrow probably.
Barack Obama said a lot of great things last night. But there was one thing he said that I've been waiting for, desperate for, and I couldn't be happier that he said it:
For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy - give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.
Well it's time for them to own their failure.
I think this is the key to the case and when I heard it, I stood up and cheered.
I know that point is not very hopeful or very uplifting and it won't be the biggest selling point among swing voters. But there were plenty of those things in the speech. This is the case against conservatism that people need to hear in this country if we hope to move ahead. (Remind me to relate my convention story of trying to convince the 19 year old "independent" that his tax burden wasn't the reason he couldn't afford college. People have been brainwashed.)
My mind was greatly relieved last night. I think we are heading into the fall campaign with a standard bearer who is prepared now to take the fight to the Republicans. He's not going to lie back and take the character assassination now that McCain has shown that he's willing to roll around in the mud with the filthiest of GOP pigs. And he's not going to pretend that conservatism isn't responsible for the mess he's asking to be allowed to clean up. That bodes well for the long term.
For the first time, I'm feeling not just optimistic about the Dems chances of winning (I've always felt that) but that they might just win on their own terms.
(King Louis XVI and courtiers at Versailles in Ridicule, 1996.)
Has anyone heard yet whether Cokie Roberts approves of the stadium venue for Obama's acceptance speech? Has Colorado been deemed sufficiently "American"? Has she "summered" there? Inquiring minds want to know!
Cokie does have her moments, I suppose. But she deserved all the criticism she received and more over her Hawaii comments. Meanwhile, if you've missed them, you may want to check out Eric Alterman's 2002 piece on Cokie Roberts (via TBogg), and Bob Somerby on Cokie's speaking fees and the television pundit gravy train. (And boy, has Howard Kurtz changed!)
Cokie's world, the Beltway Village, Versailles on the Potomac, can't be fully understood in "reality-based" terms, or notions of what constitutes good journalism. Those are valid forms of criticism, but they don't get to the heart of what ails these supposedly smart and often highly-educated people. Wisdom sadly doesn't always accompany knowledge, but the problem is more one of social customs. It's sometimes really amazing to see, but for many Village pundits, what's right, and sometimes truth itself, is entirely socially determined. They're a pretty anti-empirical, unreflective lot. They often possess a blithe authoritarianism, or at least an obsession with prestige. Social norms can be very good– but the Beltway conventional "wisdom" can be awfully dumb.
Richard Cohen may be too easy an example, but he really is the Village attitude and approach laid bare. He's provided plenty of fodder for the liberal blogosphere (and maybe high school debate classes) with column after column featuring some glaring disconnect or shoddy argument. Before the McCain campaign's POW rollout this month, Cohen may have invoked McCain's POW status even more than McCain himself. Cohen's POW defense of McCain earlier this year was widelyridiculed, and for goodreason. He's written several columns where he's basically stated, 'I prefer John McCain because I know him and like him.' That's fine, I guess, but it'd be nice if he came out and said just that, admitting his criteria were fundamentally social in nature, rather than trying to justify his personal preferences with other arguments, and consistently ignoring obvious relevant facts in the process. Cohen doesn't really analyze anything substantially, doesn't learn from his core mistakes, and rarely seems to think things through. Instead, he represents a set of attitudes, and is mostly obsessed with propriety over morality.
Similarly, "centrist" David Broder always seems to come up with novel reasons why you shouldn't vote for a Democrat, such as pushing executive experience as the most meaningful standard. Executive experience is a valid concern, of course, but Broder never seems very concerned about significant policy differences between candidates, has a funny sense of bipartisanship, and somehow seems to believe, despite the past eight years, that policies have no important consequences. Probably, Broder's view of the political game ossified years ago, and he's just never bothered to update his diagnosis nor his prescription to accommodate any pesky new facts (similar to Reagan and Bush the younger, come to think of it). Taken as a whole, the Village makes for one hell of a study in cognitive dissonance. "Surely the Vice President would never lie to us about a matter of such importance!" "Surely the administration must have the nation's best interests at heart!" "Surely having an enjoyable beer with someone is a more important gauge than competency for one of the hardest jobs in the world!" Despite warnings before each and every disaster, the Bush administration has proceeded undeterred, often taking extremely radical steps in secret, and at times lying to their own allies. These are people of neither good faith nor good judgment, and it would be hard to overstate their arrogance. Yet in the world of the Village, George W. Bush has made bad decisions because he simply wasn't counseled, or wasn't counseled politely enough – or he hasn't made bad decisions at all. The commercial angle of Beltway "wisdom" shouldn't be overlooked either – these people all gotta make copy, or fill air time. And a system that rewards bad reporting and disastrous punditry tends to keep reproducing exactly that. Consider what Jonathan Schwarz oftensays: "Reporters don't have a choice. Repeating stupid right-wing claims is their job."
Years ago in an anthropology class, I read a fascinating essay about kinship ties in Washington, D.C. written by Professor Jack Weatherford of Macalester College. It was a class favorite. Here's an excerpt from what looks like a slightly earlier version, "Tribal Politics in Washington," 1993:
In 1990 when the editors of Spy magazine decided to make a diagram of the American political universe, they did not place the President of the United States at the center, nor the leaders of Congress, nor the richest person in the country, nor the strongest lobbyists. They selected radio and television reporter Cokie Roberts who serves as a political reporter for ABC News as well as for National Public Radio. As a reporter, Cokie Roberts certainly is not the best known personality in the country, but her selection by Spy reveal an inside look of how Washington works. To understand why they named her as the focal point, we need to examine where she fits into the system.
Cokie Roberts is the daughter of Congresswoman Lindy Boggs of Louisiana's second district from 1972 until 1990. Cokie Roberts' father Hale Boggs represented the same New Orleans district until his death in an Alaska plane crash in 1972, and he had served as the House Majority leader. Cokie Roberts' brother is Tom Boggs, a major Washington lobbyist who once ran but lost an election for representative from Maryland. Cokie Roberts' sister is Barbara Boggs Sigmund who ran for the Senate from New Jersey and later became mayor of Princeton, New Jersey.
On her mother's side Cokie Roberts is related to Rhode Island's Senator Claiborne Pell; Cokie's full name is Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Clairborne Boggs Roberts. Senator Pell is the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the senator for whom the Pell Grants were named. His father, Representative Herbert Pell, served in the House, representing New York. Other political members of Cokie's family through the Clairborne and Pell connections include former Senators William Clairborne and George Dallas. The ties even stretch back well before the founding of the country to John Pell, who served as a minister in the British Court of Oliver Cromwell in the seventeenth century and whom history credits with introducing the mathematical notation for the division sign to the English-speaking world.
Growing up as a member of the congressional kids club on Capitol Hill, Cokie Roberts knew the other kids in the club such as young Al Gore, Jr., the son of Senator Al Gore, Senior of Tennessee and young Chris Dodd Jr., son of Christopher Dodd, senior of Connecticut. While Cokie Roberts pursued career in broadcasting, these other kids grew up to follow their fathers into political careers.
Cokie Roberts is married to Steven V. Roberts, senior editor of U.S. News & World Report. While Cokie Roberts serves as a commentator on ABC's This Week With David Brinkley, her husband appears on NPR's Washington Week in Review. In her capacity as a reporter for public television, Cokie Roberts worked under Sharon Percy Rockefeller, who chaired the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Sharon Rockefeller, the daughter of former Senator Charles Percy of Illinois, was married to Senator and former West Virginia Governor Jay Rockefeller.
With all of her connections through kinship, marriage and other intimate networks, Cokie Roberts is truly the center of the political universe of Washington, D.C.
Daughter Rebecca Roberts is now a reporter as well. Now granted, the essay is from 1993, but it still gives a useful glimpse into Beltway culture. The Democrats have the Kennedys, of course. Certainly George W. Bush benefited from his kinship ties, and is probably the ultimate example of promoting pedigree over merit. Among the conservative punditry, there's quite the wingnut welfaresystem, and sometimes it even creeps into more legitimate publications. I guess Gore's ties didn't help him much back in 1999-2000, but perhaps that was because the press was "going to make him jump through the hoops" until he condemned Bill Clinton over Lewinsky, and they didn't see "anything wrong with that." Remember, protocol must be observed, lest you be ridiculed. Trashing the Constitution is fine, especially if you hide most of the violence behind closed doors; just don't try to come in and trash the Village if it's not your place.
I imagine some enterprising anthropologist or student would have a wealth of material for further studying Village mores. But in any case, even if Cokie is no longer the reigning queen, surely she's still a duchess or something. So I say: Move over, Matt Drudge! It's not your world after all! It's Cokie's world, it's her America, and the rest of us just live in it!
Another day, another McCain advisor thrown under the bus for accidentally telling the truth about his candidate's indifference to the struggles of ordinary Americans. John Goodman "said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance."
"So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime," Mr. Goodman said. "The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American -- even illegal aliens -- as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care.
Michael quotes my post from last night and adds this:
Clinton's eagerness and electricity radiates right through the battery of secret service. Shots 3, 4 and 5, however, really reveals the full spectrum of Clinton's political personality. In the third shot, we see his characteristic finger. But it's instructive rather than admonishing. In the next frame, we see a side of Clinton that has been painfully absent (and almost forgotten) since Lewinsky -- that gregariousness and playfulness.
In the last shot, though, Bill's expression is one that can't really be acted. And, it's is the image the Democrats and Obama really needed from Clinton last night: simply the look of joy.
FWIW, John Judis has a comprehensive take of the state of the campaign that I think is worth reading. It doesn't take the good TV moments at this convention into account (or his speech tonight) but his overview of the campaign thus far and his observation that the ground game must be targeted to be effective is worth considering.
Finally, if anyone is seriously telling Obama to change his speaking style, I certainly hope nobody in the campaign listens. As Judis says, at this point, if there is a problem it's message not style. Obama is a gifted orator and he should not try to change that. It would be like telling Bush to stop being a dumbass in 2004--- it's the thing that people love the most about him. Let Obama be Obama -- it got him this far and it will take him all the way.
Meanwhile, if McNasty picks him for VP, I'm looking forward to seeing Lieberman give his big conversion to the pro-life cause speech. I would expect hair shirts and self flagellation. And I don't honestly see why it wouldn't work on the Christian Right. Holy Joe didn't get his nickname because of his undarned socks. He's a longtime social conservative. (And hey, if CW favorite Flip Flop Romney can get away with it, why not Joe?)
I think this could be the slam dunk post-partisan issue we've been looking for:
more information on the grassroots political campaign that's already threatening to eclipse both Ron Paul and Ralph Nader. What we got back was a manifesto that could easily be folded into the Democratic Party platform, and probably should, because honestly the convention is already so HARSH, what with all the talk of war and economic depression and sexism and so forth. Also, this Crystal Pepsi thing, along with (OK OK) the other street protests, is probably the closest the convention comes to actual political dialog. Escape the pageantry for the moment and think about important issues, after the jump.
The time for change is now, and the choice is clear, crystal clear. CRYSTAL PEPSI! It's like drinking hope. For us, Crystal Pepsi is freedom in a can. Our platform is based on peace, love, and Crystal Pespi. Down with war, up with Crystal Pepsi. For us it's not about politics, it's only about Crystal Pepsi. This is a movement that we can all get behind, it unifies us to our very core, Crystal Pepsi. The foundation of America is Crystal Pespi.
In all honesty, for me, it's kind of nice to lighten the mood a little bit. Everybody is down there, protesting, screaming about a cause, yelling at one another about how the other person is wrong. It can be kind of a tense situation. It's nice to walk away putting a smile on someone's face, getting a high five, and hearing someone say we represent a movement we can all get on board with. People initially hear the "protest" coming, you can see the look on their face, "Great, what are these people marching and carrying on about?" When they discover our cause is Crystal Pepsi, there is an overwhelming feeling of relief, followed by immediate support.
I was running down the street carrying about 50 pounds of laptop and extraneous accessories in 90 degree heat when these guys came toward me chanting "Crystal Pepsi stands for Hope!" I have to say, it made me stop and laugh out loud, even in my misery.
I think the street protests and demonstrations are great (although the anti-abortion people are some scary zombies.) But there is a bit of "earnest" overload sometimes at a thing like this and these guys, with their message of "freedom in a can" was pretty perfect. It's not mean, but it's ... right.