Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is This the Campaign We Deserve?

If you were following the news on Tuesday, September 10, you might be forgiven if you thought the two biggest issues facing the nation were use of a phrase involving a pig and lipstick and Barack Obama’s alleged support for “comprehensive” sex education for kindergarteners (false). Why? Because these were the two main prongs of the McCain campaign’s Swiftboat style attacks on Obama the day before the seventh anniversary of 9/11.

While these trivial issues were being vigorously inserted into the public debate by the McCain campaign and dissected by the media, far less attention was being paid to two other stories that broke on September 10, stories we might want to spend a little more time discussing before we resume the lipstick debates and choose a president.

First, the bi-partisan, congressionally appointed Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction heard chilling testimony from a range of national security experts that the U.S. is more vulnerable to a catastrophic terrorist attack than it was on 9/11. What? We’ve been moving backwards for seven years? We haven’t made any progress? That’s exactly what former Senator Sam Nunn, widely respected chairman of the non-profit Nuclear Threat Initiative, told the Commission. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, a city that knows a thing or two about terror attacks, testified that the federal program to install radiation detection equipment around major U.S. cities is under-funded by $10 million. We are spending 1,000 times that amount every month in Iraq, yet Americans give Republicans an edge on national security issues. Go figure.

The second story that largely got lost in the McCain campaign’s efforts to talk about anything except the worst economy since the Great Depression, was testimony to the House Armed Services Committee by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen. He told Congress, “I am not convinced that we are winning it in Afghanistan,” and “we are running out of time.” Our Afghan strategy, he said, was failing.

John McCain would like any discussion about Iraq to start with the surge and ignore the faulty decision to go to war and the disastrous first five years of that war. But it is now painfully clear, if it wasn’t already, that the Bush Administration and its war champions, such as McCain, grossly underestimated the challenge in Afghanistan, where the people who attacked us on 9/11 were based, when they bit off another major war against a country that did not. With the military vastly overstretched, and nearly 150,000 troops and $10 billion a month committed to Iraq, it’s no wonder the slog in Afghanistan continues and victory remains elusive.

If we keep talking about lipstick and pigs and sex education while ominous threats continue to build around us, we will continue to court serious trouble. But what ought to appall every American is a presidential campaign that seems determined to shift our focus to trivialities, and which won’t even let one of its candidates, a person who may called upon to defend us from the very threats we have dangerously ignored for seven years, speak to the press.

After the one-day campaign hiatus to mark the worst attack ever on U.S. soil, we will be right back to lipstick and pigs from the campaign whose motto is “Country First.” But if we are attacked again, we will look back and wonder how in the world we could have cared about lipstick on pigs, and how ill-served we were by a campaign that demeaned both the American people and the once-honorable war hero who ran such a dishonorable campaign.

Lipstick and Pigs

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” Barack Obama, September 2008, referring to President Bush’s policies.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” John McCain, October 2007, referring to Hillary Clinton’s health care policy.

Memo to the Presidential Campaigns from the Committee on the Use of Politically Correct Language in the Presidential Campaigns.

Since candidate Palin mentioned that she wears lipstick (after unflatteringly comparing herself to a vicious breed of dog), any use of the word “lipstick” by the Obama campaign is hereby decreed to be a sexist attack against the candidate, regardless of context and regardless of the exact same use of said unmentionable word by John McCain referring to policies of Hillary Clinton.

Similarly, the Obama campaign is hereby warned against using the word “bitch” to refer to (a) female dogs or (b) as a substitute for the word “complain,” as in “stop bitching about the food.” Any use of this word will be now be taken to be a direct attack against candidate Palin.

Also now off-limits is the use of the word “cosmetics” since said word could be used to suggest lipstick. Even in other contexts this word is forbidden. For example, the Obama campaign may not say, “the differences between McCain’s policies and Bush’s are purely cosmetic” because the clear implication is that Sarah Palin is a pig.

It is further ordered that the Obama campaign refrain from use of the words “lip” and “stick” since either could be interpreted as code for a secret attack on candidate Palin. For example, the Obama campaign may not say to candidate Palin, “bite your lip,” or “we should stick to discussing issues that really matter to the American people such as the $10 billion we are spending a month in Iraq while the economy goes down the tubes.” Nor should the Obama campaign suggest that when it comes to the $400 billion budget deficit rung up by the Bush administration that we are “going to stick future generations with the bill.” Clearly, such statements are way outside the bounds of proper political discourse.

Now, as for the McCain campaign, we would like to point out that Barack Obama is African-American. To be more precise, he is half African-American and half Caucasian. Therefore, we are making the following rules for the McCain campaign.

The word “shade” is hereby forbidden since it can be used in a derogatory way to describe an African-American. Thus, the McCain campaign cannot accuse anyone of “shading the truth” since that would be a direct reference to candidate Obama’s heritage. We also suggest that candidates McCain and Palin refrain, while traveling on their airplanes, for example, from saying “will you shut the shades so I can sleep.” That would be racist.

And any reference to the popular dairy product known as “Half and Half” is similarly off-limits for reasons so obvious we don’t need to explain it here.

All references to primates of any kind are forbidden because there was a time when African-Americans were compared by some racists to some of those primates. Accordingly, candidates McCain and Palin may not say, “I was just monkeying around when I said that I have foreign policy experience because Russia is near Alaska.” Also to be avoided are phrases such as “I have to get that monkey off my back” (even if in reference to said $400 billion Bush budget deficit) or “Trooper Wooten went ape-shit when I tried to get him fired.” Those will be seen as direct insults to candidate Obama.

The McCain campaign also may not use the word “black” in any way, shape or form. Thus, they may not refer to their own senior campaign advisor and one-time lobbyist for some of the world’s most repressive dictators as “Charlie Black,” or “Mr. Black,” even though that is his name. To avoid confusion he must always be referred to as “Mr. Senior Campaign Advisor and One-time Lobbyist for Some of the World’s Most Repressive Dictators.” To avoid any possible insult to candidate Obama, no one in the McCain campaign may use phrases such as “dark night,” “black cat,” or “in the black,” even if referring to a moonless evening, a household pet, or a budget surplus (try finding one of those these days!) It is also recommended that no one in the McCain campaign listen to the rock classic “Whiter Shade of Pale.”

Thank you and may the best “man” win.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The World According to the GOP

John McCain, said Sarah Palin in her acceptance speech at the RNC, is the only man in the race who has actually fought for his country, implying that the only way to ‘fight” for your country is with a gun. But, in 2004 the only man in the race to see combat was John Kerry. “W” was AWOL from the Texas National Guard and Cheney had “other priorities.” So, in 2004 the GOP smeared Kerry with outright lies about his service.

Mega-millionaire Mitt Romney, he of vast inherited wealth, railed against “elites.” McCain, of course, owns seven houses and wears $500 shoes and married into great wealth. Nevertheless, Barack Obama, son of a single mother who was once on food stamps works his way through college and Harvard Law School, thereby making him an elitist. In what other country in the world would attending Harvard be a bad thing? His story sounds like the American Dream to me.

Ask millions of ordinary folks and they will tell you that they have a “community organizer” to thank for heating oil in winter, a roof over their heads, and access to health care and job training. But to the GOP the very term “community organizer” is an epithet. Real experience is raising taxes in Wasilla, Alaska to build a new hockey rink.

Mitt Romney, again, he of the 180 flip flop on abortion, guns and about everything else you can think of since he was governor of Massachusetts (another epithet – “Governor of Massachusetts” – once used against Michael Dukakis as if Massachusetts were a Soviet republic) rails against “liberal Washington,” apparently forgetting that for the last eight years his party has controlled the White House and, for six of those years, Congress, too.

The Democrats are the party of “tax and spend.” (How many times can they repeat that?) The GOP of course is simply the party of spend and spend. Clinton left office with a massive budget surplus. In eight short years Bush turned it into a half trillion-dollar deficit. The GOP: the party of fiscal responsibility.

Now, I for one do not think Bristol Palin’s pregnancy says anything about her mother’s fitness as a parent or a politician. Bad things happen in good families. But Sarah Palin opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. She rails against government intrusion into our lives, but would have government force on every pregnant teen the same “choice” her daughter made. Now, Bristol and her boyfriend are celebrated by the GOP as paragons of “family values” for “deciding” to marry and have the child. Imagine for a minute what would have happened if Barack Obama had a pregnant teenage daughter. OH MY GOD! It would be vicious.

George Bush praised John McCain in his convention “speech”(he’s so toxic he stayed away and Cheney’s name hasn’t even been mentioned) by saying McCain was tough enough to stand up to North Vietnamese torture, so he certainly wouldn’t cave in to the “angry left.” No, after the evangelicals threatened a convention floor fight over his first two veep choices, Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge, McCain caved in to the extreme right. The left is angry? Though the GOP has been in control for the last eight years, that was one angry crowd of Republicans at the convention. What are they so angry about? Eight years after Bush promised to “change the tone in Washington,” the GOP unleashed a barrage of ugly attacks at “liberals.” And one night after the caustic, sarcastic blistering attacks, John McCain called for an end to partisan rancor. Did he watch the previous night's proceedings?

For nearly two years, Barack Obama was been “vetted” by the public and the press in a series of grueling primaries and countless debates. Joe Biden has a thirty-plus year record of public service that has also been vetted in numerous campaigns. Along comes Sarah Palin on a Friday, and by the following Wednesday the McCain campaign is accusing everyone in sight of sexism and trying to destroy her for trying to find out who she is, what she’s done, and, importantly, how carefully the McCain campaign vetted her, given some early surprise disclosures. Excuse us for trying to learn something about the PTA president, small town mayor and first term governor of Alaska who could soon be in command of our nuclear arsenal. Video showing her saying that the war in Iraq is essentially a mission from God wasn’t very reassuring.

And now we learn from the McCain campaign, that Sarah Palin, who most Americans had never heard of ten days ago, won't be doing any unscripted press interview (she will, I predict, show up on FOX with Hannity or O'Reilly and answer questions she's been fed in advance). The press was too mean the first go 'round, they say, so they won't get another chance. Ha! Please. If she can't face the press, is she ready to be president of the United States? They are buying time so they can stuff her head with briefing book material as if the presidency is a job you can prepare for in eight weeks.

Finally, today's Anchorage Daily News accuses Palin of "stonewalling" the Troopergate investigation. And Republicans in the Alaska legislature are trying to replace the head of the legislative panel doing the investigation. Guess what? The person they are trying to replace is a Democrat. Yup. This is the ticket for "change."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Palin again

You can see comments on the net already blaming Barack Obama for the Trig Palin rumor. These people obviously haven't seen the hatchet jobs from the right that accuse Obama of being a Muslim, for example. The new book by Swift Boater Jim Corsi is nothing but a pack of vicious innuendo and outright lies. Has John McCain disavowed it? There are nuts at every end of the political spectrum.

More striking is watching GOP members of Congress and other GOP talking heads duck questions about whether Sarah Palin is the most qualified person McCain could have selected for the vice presidency. They simply will not say "yes." They hem, they haw, they attack Obama's experience and tout her "executive" experience. Hey, the manager of my local McDonald's has "executive" experience, too. So does every mayor of every tiny town in America. It doesn't make them qualified to be president. And while I am sure being governor of Alaska is tougher than running a McDonald's, it's nothing compared to running a decent sized American city.

You can already see the "resignation" letter to come. "Rather than be a distraction to the campaign, I am today announcing my withdrawal from the 2008 presidential race."

One other quick point: if the Palins knew of their daughter's pregnancy, and knew, as they surely did, the merciless scrutiny they were about to undergo, why would anyone put a young girl through this? And they said the news was released today to put the Trig Palin rumors to rest. If these rumors hadn't surfaced, when exactly were they planning to share this news?

The Palin Drama

The McCain campaign put a quick stop to the speculation about Sarah Palin's fifth pregnancy today with another stunner: that Trig Palin cannot be be the child of Palin's 17-year old daughter, Bristol, because Bristol, who had supposedly missed several months of school with a case of mono, is now five months pregnant.

The McCain campaign immediately rushed to assure us McCain knew this when he selected Palin (a dubious claim to me), as if that excuses his selection of a patently unqualified running mate. Cindy McCain assures us Sarah Palin knows a lot about Russia because of its proximity to Alaska. I have personally been to Russia ten times and have read widely about Russia for 20 years and I wouldn't pretend to have the knowledge needed to deal with Russia as a potential president.

The McCain campaign, and right wing zealots also quickly denounced liberal bloggers for what they see as unseemly rumor mongering. And the Palin's believe the subject of their daughter's pregnancy is more of private than public matter. But just imagine if Barack Obama had a 17 year old daughter who was pregnant. What would those same zealots be saying now? It would be merciless.