Saturday, November 1, 2008
Monday 27 October 2008
by: Gore Vidal, Truthdig.com
John McCain. (Photo: coxandforkum.com)
October proved to be the cruelest month, for that was the time that Senator McCain, he of the round, blank, Little Orphan Annie eyes, chose to try out a number of weird lies about Barack Obama ostensibly in the interest of a Republican Party long overdue for burial.
It is a wonder that any viewer survived his furious October onslaught whose craziest lie was that Obama wished to become president in order to tax the poor in the interest of a Democratic Party in place, as he put it in his best 1936 voice, to spend and spend because that's what Democrats always do. This was pretty feeble lying, even in such an age as ours. But it was the only thing that had stuck with him from those halcyon years when Gov. Alfred M. Landon was the candidate of the Grand Old Party, which in those days was dedicated to erasing every policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose electoral success was due to, they thought, Harry Hopkins' chilling mantra, "we shall ... spend and spend and elect and elect." Arguably, the ignorant McCains of this world have no idea what any of this actually signifies; Hopkins' comment is a serious one, and serious matters seldom break through to cliché-ridden minds.
Although I am no fan of the television of my native land, I thought that an election featuring two historic novelties - the first credible female candidate for president and the first black nominee - would be great historic television, yet I should have been suspicious whenever I looked at McCain's malicious little face, plainly bent on great mischief. Whenever Obama made a sensible point, McCain was ready to trump it with a gorgeous lie.
When Obama said that only a small percentage of the middle class would suffer from income tax during his administration, McCain would start gabbling the 1936 Republican mantra that this actually meant that he would spend and spend and spend in order to spread the money around, a mild joke he has told for the benefit of a plumber who is looking forward to fiscal good fortune and so feared the tax man, using language very like that of long-dead socialists to reveal Obama's sinister games.
Advice to Obama: No civilized asides are permitted in McCain Land, where every half-understood word comes from the shadowy bosses of a diabolic Democratic Party, eager to steal the money of the poor in order to benefit, perversely, the even poorer.
So October (my natal month) was no joy for me, as the degradation of our democratic process was being McCainized. McCain is a prisoner of the past. Later, in due course he gave us the old address book treatment: names from Obama's past, each belonging to a potential terrorist. Even from the corpse of the Republican Party, which Abraham Lincoln left somewhat hastily in the 19th century, this was an unusually sickening display.
Happily, physicists assure us that there is no action without reaction.
There were still a few bright glimmers of something larger than a mere candidate of the Republican Party, but Mr. McCain seems to be in the terminal throes of a self-love that causes him to regard himself as a great American hero. From time to time, he likes to shout at us, "I have fought in many, many wars," and, "I have won many of them," but he has, so far, never told us which were the ones that he has actually won, since every war that he has graced with his samurai presence seems to have been thoroughly lost by the United States. Consistency is all-important to the born loser as well as to the committed liar.
So what little fame he has rests on the fact that he was taken a prisoner of war by the Vietnamese - hardly a recommendation for the leadership of the "free world" - and thus aware of the meagerness of his own curriculum vitae, for his vice presidential choice he then turned radically, in the age of the awakening to power of women, to an Alaskan politician; a giggly Piltdown princess out of pre-history.
Her qualification? She has once been mayor (or was it "mare"?) of an Alaskan village and later governor of what had been known as "Seward's Icebox," named for Lincoln's secretary of state, William Seward, who had over the misgivings of many bought all that ice from Russia.
One does get the impression that the senator from Arizona is living in a sort of echo chamber of nonsensical phrases, notions and unreality.
To further add insult to injury, as it were, he describes himself as a "maverick," which one critic in the audience assures him he is not, anyway, like the great Maury Maverick, a New Deal congressman from Texas who was so dedicated to freedom that he allowed his cattle to roam unbranded, freely on the range - a tribute to a time when Texans were freer than now in the post-Bush era.
The critic in the audience said that he was no maverick in the usual sense on the ground that he was simply a sidekick. That just about sums it up: Sidekick to the only president we have ever had who lacked any interest in governance.
As we are going through a religious phase in this greatest of all great nations, I am reminded of Chancellor Bismarck's remark about us Americans in the 19th century when he said: "God looks after drunks, little children and the United States of America."
The response to this might be that if Obama loses OH PA and FL then something has gone terribly wrong in the home stretch and he can't expect to win those other states. Perhaps, but remember that McCain has targeted quite a lot of time and money on PA specifically, making it reasonable that it would break from the national norm.
Another response: That scenario would be an incredible letdown for Democrats looking for a mandate and to remake the electoral map.
Regardless, the fact remains that Pennsylvania is just not a make-or-break state. Which may explain why Obama has no plans to return there.
From his prepared remarks in Pueblo, Colorado:
President Bush is sitting out the last few days before the election. But earlier today, Dick Cheney came out of his undisclosed location and hit the campaign trail. He said that he is, and I quote, “delighted to support John McCain.”
I’d like to congratulate Senator McCain on this endorsement because he really earned it. That endorsement didn’t come easy. Senator McCain had to vote 90 percent of the time with George Bush and Dick Cheney to get it. He served as Washington’s biggest cheerleader for going to war in Iraq, and supports economic policies that are no different from the last eight years. So Senator McCain worked hard to get Dick Cheney’s support.
But here’s my question for you, Colorado: do you think Dick Cheney is delighted to support John McCain because he thinks John McCain’s going to bring change? Do you think John McCain and Dick Cheney have been talking about how to shake things up, and get rid of the lobbyists and the old boys club in Washington?
Colorado, we know better. After all, it was just a few days ago that Senator McCain said that he and President Bush share a “common philosophy.” And we know that when it comes to foreign policy, John McCain and Dick Cheney share a common philosophy that thinks that empty bluster from Washington will fix all of our problems, and a war without end in Iraq is the way to defeat Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorists who are in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
So George Bush may be in an undisclosed location, but Dick Cheney’s out there on the campaign trail because he’d be delighted to pass the baton to John McCain. He knows that with John McCain you get a twofer: George Bush’s economic policy and Dick Cheney’s foreign policy – but that’s a risk we cannot afford to take.
...it just seems to me that McCain needed some noise to make in the last couple of weeks so he chose to scare us with the idea that he might take Pennsylvania. It'll never happen. Mark
Suppose that Barack Obama were to concede Pennsylvania's electoral votes. Literally, concede them. Throw 'em back, like a Chase Utley home run at a Cubs' game. How often would he still win the election?
...89.0% of the time, according to our most recent run of simulations, along with another 2.4% of outcomes that ended in ties. This is because in the vast majority of our simulations, Obama either:
a) was winning at least 291 electoral votes, meaning that he could drop Pennsylvania's 21 and still be over 270, and/or
b) was winning at least 270 electoral votes, while already being projected to lose Pennsylvania in the first place.
(a) was much, much more common than (b), obviously.
Worst case: 273
More Likely: 291
Very Possible: 318
Could Happen: 338
Best Case! 364
Miracles do Happen: 400
by: William Grimes, The New York Times
Studs Terkel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose searching interviews with ordinary Americans helped establish oral history as a serious genre, and who for decades was the voluble host of a popular radio show in Chicago, died Friday at his home there. He was 96. His death was confirmed by Lois Baum, a friend and longtime colleague at the radio station WFMT. read post here»
Republican Senate Candidates Abandon McCain
Republican candidates for the Senate in Oregon, Louisiana, North Carolina and elsewhere have de facto given up on John McCain and are urging voters to support them as a counterweight to President Obama. They say that one-party rule is bad for the country. Interestingly enough, in 2004, when Republican control of Congress was assured, few Republicans were advocating a vote for John Kerry in order to prevent the dreaded one-party rule. In 2000, 85% of the people voted for the same party for the Senate as for President, so in practice, people do not really split their tickets just to give each party some power. In fact, when Congress and the White House are controlled by different parties, everyone bemoans "the gridlock in Washington." (2004 data weren't available).
North Carolina Senate Race Heats Up
In what appears to be a desperation move, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) has been running an ad suggesting her opponent, state senator Kay Hagan (D) is an atheist. Hagan denies this but it brings to mind Colin Powell's remarks when he endorsed Barack Obama. He said that there are rumors that Obama is a Muslim and they are not true. Then he added: "What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" Kay Hagan is not an atheist, but what if she were? Is there something wrong with being an atheist in this country? Seems like the same rules ought to apply.
Ronald Reagan's Son Endorses Obama
While endorsements generally don't swing a lot of votes, it is certainly embarrassing for Republicans who worship Ronald Reagan to have Reagan's son now formally endorse Barack Obama.
Obama Still Leading Nationally
Obama's national lead is currently at 6.1%, about the same as it has been all week. If he wins the popular vote by 6%, he will most likely carry nearly all the swing states. Here are today's numbers.- Battleground (Obama +4)
- Diageo (Obama +7)
- Gallup expanded (Obama +9)
- IBD (Obama +4)
- Marist (Obama +7)
- Rasmussen (Obama +4)
- Research 2000 (Obama +6)
- Washington Post/ABC (Obama +9)
- Zogby (Obama +5)
by: Joseph E. Stiglitz, Vanity Fair
Describing how ideology, special-interest pressure, populist politics, and sheer incompetence have left the US economy on life support, the author puts forth a clear, commonsense plan to reverse the Bush-era follies and regain America's economic sanity. When the American economy enters a downturn, you often hear the experts debating whether it is likely to be V-shaped (short and sharp) or U-shaped (longer but milder). Today, the American economy may be entering a downturn that is best described as L-shaped. read post here»
By Peggy Noonan, From today's Wall Street Journal
The case for Barack Obama, in broad strokes:
He has within him the possibility to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy, which need changing; his rise will serve as a practical rebuke to the past five years, which need rebuking; his victory would provide a fresh start in a nation in which a fresh start would come as a national relief. He climbed steep stairs, born off the continent with no father to guide, a dreamy, abandoning mother, mixed race, no connections. He rose with guts and gifts. He is steady, calm, and, in terms of the execution of his political ascent, still the primary and almost only area in which his executive abilities can be discerned, he shows good judgment in terms of whom to hire and consult, what steps to take and moves to make. We witnessed from him this year something unique in American politics: He took down a political machine without raising his voice.
A great moment: When the press was hitting hard on the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter, he did not respond with a politically shrewd "I have no comment," or "We shouldn't judge." Instead he said, "My mother had me when she was 18," which shamed the press and others into silence. He showed grace when he didn't have to.
There is something else. On Feb. 5, Super Tuesday, Mr. Obama won the Alabama primary with 56% to Hillary Clinton's 42%. That evening, a friend watched the victory speech on TV in his suburban den. His 10-year-old daughter walked in, saw on the screen "Obama Wins" and "Alabama." She said, "Daddy, we saw a documentary on Martin Luther King Day in school." She said, "That's where they used the hoses." Suddenly my friend saw it new. Birmingham, 1963, and the water hoses used against the civil rights demonstrators. And now look, the black man thanking Alabama for his victory.
This means nothing? This means a great deal.
John McCain's story is not of rise so much as endurance, not only in Vietnam, which was spectacular enough, but throughout a rough and rugged political career of 26 years. He is passionate, obstreperous, independent, sees existential fables within history. His self-confessed role model for many years was Robert Jordan in Ernest Hemingway's novel of the Spanish Civil War, "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Mr. McCain, in his last memoir: "He was and remains to my mind a hero for the twentieth century . . . an idealistic freedom fighter" who had "a beautiful fatalism" and who sacrificed "for something else, something greater." Actually Jordan fought on the side of the communists and died pointlessly, but never mind. He joined his personality to a great purpose and found meaning in his maverickness. In his campaign, Mr. McCain rarely got down to the meaning of things; he mostly stated stands. But separate and seemingly unconnected stands do not coherence make.
However: It was a night during the Republican Convention in September, and two former U.S. senators, who had served with Mr. McCain for a combined 16 years, were having drinks in a hotel dining room. I told them I collected stories of senators who'd been cursed out by John McCain, and they laughed and told me of times they'd been the target of his wrath on the Senate floor.
The talk turned to presidents they had known, and why they had wanted the job. This one wanted it as the last item on his résumé, that one wanted it out of an inflated sense of personal destiny. Is that why Mr. McCain wants it? "No," said one, reflectively. "He wants to help the country." The other added, with almost an air of wonder, "He wants to make America stronger, he really does." And then they spoke, these two men who'd been bruised by him, of John McCain's honest patriotism.
Those who have historically been sympathetic to the Republican Party or conservatism, and who support Barack Obama -- Colin Powell, William Weld and Charles Fried, among others -- and whose arguments have not passed muster with some muster-passers, go undamned here. Their objections include: The McCain campaign has been inadequate, and some of his major decisions embarrassing. All too true. But conservatives must honor prudence, and ask if the circumstances accompanying an Obama victory will encourage the helpful moderation and nonpartisan spirit these supporters attempt, in their endorsements, to demonstrate.
There is for instance, in the words of Minnesota's Gov. Tim Pawlenty, "the runaway train." The size and dimension of the likely Democratic victory seem clear. A Democratic House with a bigger, more fervent Democratic majority; a Democratic Senate with the same, and possibly with a filibuster-breaking 60 seats; a new and popular Democratic president, elected by a few points or more; a Democratic base whose anger and hunger have built for eight years; Democratic activists and operatives hungry for business and action. What will this mix produce? A runaway train with no one to put on the brakes, to claim a mandate for slowing, no one to cry "Crossing ahead"? Democrats in Congress will move for innovation when much of the country hopes only for stability. Who will tell Congress of that rest of the nation? Mr. Obama will be overwhelmed trying to placate the innovators.
America enjoyed divided government most successfully recently from 1994 to 2000, with Bill Clinton in the White House and Newt Gingrich in effect running Congress. It wasn't so bad. In fact, it yielded a great deal, including sweeping reform of the welfare system, and balanced budgets.
Whoever is elected Tuesday, his freedom in office will be limited. Mr. Obama is out of money and Mr. McCain is out of army, so what might be assumed to be the worst impulses of each -- big spender, big scrapper -- will be circumscribed by reality. In Mr. Obama's case, energy will likely be diverted to other issues. He will raise taxes, of course, but he may also feel forced to bow to a clamorous base with the nonspending items they favor: the rewriting of union law to force greater unionization of smaller shops, for instance, and a return to a "fairness doctrine" that would limit free speech on the air.
And there is this. The past few months as the campaign unfolded, I listened for Mr. Obama to speak thoughtfully about the life issues, including abortion. Our last Democratic president knew what that issue was, and knew by nature how to speak of it. Bill Clinton famously said, over and over, that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare." The "rare" mattered. It set a tone, as presidents do, and made an important concession: You only want a medical practice to be rare when it isn't good. For Mr. Obama, whose mind tends, as intellectuals' minds do, toward the abstract, it all seems so . . . abstract. And cold. And rather suggestive of radical departures. "That's above my pay grade." Friend, that is your pay grade, that's where the presidency lives, in issues like that.
But let's be frank. Something new is happening in America. It is the imminent arrival of a new liberal moment. History happens, it makes its turns, you hold on for dear life. Life moves.
A fitting end for a harem-scarem, rock-'em-sock-'em shakeup of a year -- one of tumbling inevitabilities, torn coalitions, striking new personalities.
Eras end, and begin. "God is in charge of history." And so my beautiful election ends.