As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, September 03, 2004

CNN lets their slip show... big-time

Throughout today's Inside Politics, Judy Woodruff and company trumpeted the just-released Time Magazine poll showing Bush with an 11-point lead over Kerry.  She asked Mary Beth Cahill about it, sternly asking "Are you upset about this development, obviously Bush has a big bounce out of their convention," and she probably mentioned the poll about 6 times within the hour.

Well, right before the sign-off, they cut back to Woodruff, who obviously thought she was off camera.  And she's talking to someone (unseen), and she says this:

"She said it was an outlier, there's another poll out today that shows them tied."

Then the Cryptkeeper came to her senses, realized she was on camera, and froze, looking into the lens like a President reading a children's book about a goat.

That's just another postcard from the SCLM, from their perch far far away from responsible journalism.  They never mentioned the "other poll" once on the show, but managed to slip in the 11-point lead meme about 6 times.  Disgusting.


The Midnight Gambit

Kerry waited all of 41 minutes to respond to President Bush's disingenuous, wrap-me-in-the-flag speech last night. So much for his failure to respond. And it was strong stuff, too, with lines like "I will not have my commitment to defending this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they had a chance and who misled this nation into war in Iraq," and questioning Dick Cheney's 5 deferments during Vietnam.

And today's speech was maybe even stronger:

NEWARK, Ohio (Reuters) - Democrat John Kerry on Friday dismissed the Republican convention as "bitter and insulting" and promised to be a president who would tell Americans the truth.

"Every time they open their mouths they can't tell the truth," Kerry said at a rally. "It's time for us to have a president of the United States who can look you in the eye and when he does, you know you're being told the truth."


"There seems to be such a great gap, it's as big as the Grand Canyon, bigger, between the kind of things they talk about and the problems that are represented in people's lives," he said.

Kerry ridiculed the Bush administration's "celebration" of the August job numbers released on Friday that showed the unemployment rate had dropped from 5.5 percent to 5.4 percent with the creation of 144,000 new jobs.

"At the rate that this administration is creating jobs, you're not going to have a net plus-one job in the state of Ohio until the year 2011," he said. "I don't think this is something to celebrate. I think it's something to get to work on."

Say what you will about the Kerry campaign, but his midnight in Ohio gambit was fucking brilliant, and it has Joe Lockhart written all over it. Instead of having surrogates do his rapid response, he did it himself. Also, by releasing excerpts of the response before Bush's speech, it ended up being part of the story of last night. You couldn't write a story about Bush's speech without also mentioning Kerry's midnight gambit. Despite an outlier Timepoll (trumpeted hard by CNN today) showing Bush with an 11-point lead, I think Kerry's fight will bounce this RNC bounce right back.

There's no letup until November. It behooves every single one of us to do whatever we can to help the effort. I've given money to Kerry and plan to give more to the DNC. Despite being in a safe blue state, I'll be volunteering somewhere to help out. I'm part of MoveOn's "Leave No Voter Behind" project, which you can find at their website.

No time to rest, we've got 60 days to get this thing done.


Clinton to have bypass surgery

I have plenty to say about the RNC, Bush's speech, and Kerry's forceful response. But real quickly, Bill Clinton was admitted into a hospital in New York, and will have bypass surgery tomorrow. The mortality rate for this surgery is very low. Our thoughts are with him.

As a side note, Wolf Blitzer just admitted one Big Lie often told about the Big Dog. He said that (paraphrasing) "we (the media) often characterized him as always going to eating, because he would jog to a McDonald's in Little Rock while on the campaign trail. But that wasn't true, he would go in and maybe get some decaf coffee."

Thanks for that mea culpa, Wolfie. It's about 12 years too late, but thanks.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

Another Couple Hammers

Salon has this amazing story by Linda Allison, widow to former Bush family political operative Jimmy Allison. Jimmy brought W. along to Alabama in 1972, ostensibly to work on a Senate campaign, but, in the words of Linda, "to keep an eye on him." It blows the lid off of the entire Alabama National Guard controversy, and corroborates suspicions that he never showed up for duty.

The charges are unsurprising, and yet extremely credible coming from this old widow, a former friend of the Bush family who was cast aside once she could do nothing for them. It paints a portrait of an irresponsible, spoiled little brat (and I'm not talking about the twin daughters, but the President) who was clueless, smug, petty, and cruel. My favorite passages include this...

Asked if she'd ever seen Bush in a uniform, Allison said: "Good lord, no. I had no idea that the National Guard was involved in his life in any way." Allison also confirmed previously published accounts that Bush often showed up in the Blount campaign offices around noon, boasting about how much alcohol he had consumed the night before. (Bush has admitted that he was a heavy drinker in those years, but he has refused to say whether he also used drugs).

"After about a month I asked Jimmy what was Georgie's job, because I couldn't figure it out. I never saw him do anything. He told me it basically consisted of him contacting people who were impressed by his name and asking for contributions and support," Allison said.

...and this...

Bush... neglected his other duty: the mundane but important task of mailing out campaign materials to the county campaign chairs. Archibald took up the slack, at Allison's request. "Jimmy didn't say anything about George. He just said, 'These materials are not getting out. It's causing the candidate problems. Will you take it over?'"

(which, parenthetically, is SO damning, and just shows you the character of this man, who can't be bothered to do the dirty work)

...and this...

The Blount Senate campaign he (Jimmy Allison) ran against the Democrat, Sparkman, in 1972 was notable for a dirty racial trick: The Blount side edited a transcript of a radio interview Sparkman had given to make it appear he supported busing, a poison position at that time in the South. When Sparkman found an unedited script and exposed the trick, the Blount campaign was finished. But it was an early introduction for Bush to the kinds of tricks that later Republican strategists associated with the Bush political machine, from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove, would use against Democrats, often to victorious effect.

...and of course, because what story about the President would be complete without a good "taking a wiz on the sidewalk" story, this...

Leaving the election-night "celebration," Allison remembers encountering George W. Bush in the parking lot, urinating on a car, and hearing later about how he'd yelled obscenities at police officers that night. Bush left a house he'd rented in Montgomery trashed -- the furniture broken, walls damaged and a chandelier destroyed, the Birmingham News reported in February. "He was just a rich kid who had no respect for other people's possessions," Mary Smith, a member of the family who rented the house, told the newspaper, adding that a bill sent to Bush for repairs was never paid. And a month later, in December, during a visit to his parents' home in Washington, Bush drunkenly challenged his father to go "mano a mano," as has often been reported.

All class. But this final passage is even more telling about the two true mean pillars of the Bush family, W. and his mother. This is Tennessee Williams-like in its dramatics:

Around the same time, for the 1972 Christmas holiday, the Allisons met up with the Bushes on vacation in Hobe Sound, Fla. Tension was still evident between Bush and his parents. Linda was a passenger in a car driven by Barbara Bush as they headed to lunch at the local beach club. Bush, who was 26 years old, got on a bicycle and rode in front of the car in a slow, serpentine manner, forcing his mother to crawl along. "He rode so slowly that he kept having to put his foot down to get his balance, and he kept in a weaving pattern so we couldn't get past," Allison recalled. "He was obviously furious with his mother about something, and she was furious at him, too."

Yeah, there's your strong, steady leader. What an angry, bitter, vindictive nutjob. In other words, the head of the Republican Party.

These charges must be repeated over and over. Everything is on the table. I'm particularly looking forward to next Wednesday night, when former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes, who has claimed that he is "ashamed" for pulling strings to get George W. in the National Guard during the Vietnam War, goes public on CBS' 60 Minutes. Time to keep hammering. We have to take him down the same way the Republicans are trying to take down Kerry.


Escape Artists

The August 23rd issue of New York magazine covered a uniquely modern dilemma for hipster / activists: whether to protest in Manhattan at the GOP convention or head to the Nevada desert for the annual loaf-fest that is Burning Man. On the one hand was the obligation of fulfilling social responsibilities, and on the other the promise of hedonism and entertainment for days on end. Entertainment in all its forms is the quintessance of American obsession- whether it be experienced in surround sound at home on a plasma screen or in its various guises as flash mobs or at the multiple stages at Coachella. So it is no surprise that entertainment has become the most important venue for Americans to become informed politically, hence the explosion of docs like "The Hunting of the President," "Outfoxed," "The Corporation," "Hijacking Catastrophy," "Uncovered" and of course, "Fahrenheit 9/11." A quote from one of those conflicted lefties in the New York magazine summed it up: "In some ways, going to Burning Man is just as much of a political statement."

The mixture of entertainment with the political doesn't sit well with many, usually the conservative audiences who believe that forking over hard-earned dollars should guarantee several hours of uninterrupted escapism. Linda Rondstat learned this lesson, like the Dixie Chicks before her, when she had the gall to praise Michael Moore's documentary to an audience at the Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas. And on chat rooms across the web, fans searching for kindred souls to share their enthusiasm find themselves dragged into arguments over the merits of Bush and Kerry, when all they really wanted to do was discuss how cool "Batman Begins" is going to be. At Ain't It Cool News, the responses to a review of iRobot quickly devolved into an online witch hunt about just how left site-founder Harry Knowles is, since, you know, he praised "Fahrenheit 9/11."

And now Warner Bros. is taking action by refusing to include David O. Russell's "anti-war" documentary with the re-release of his 1999 film "Three Kings" on DVD. In today's New York Times art section, Sharon Waxman quotes WB's spokesperson Barbara Brogliatti as saying "This came out to be a documentary that condemns, basically, war. This is supposed to be a special edition of 'Three Kings,' not a polemic about war." The statement is strange considering that most viewers felt that Russell's film, essentially a reinvention of the hippie / WW II flick "Kelly's Heroes," used the first Gulf War as a setting to explore America's motivations and responsibilities in wartime. In one scene, the American soldiers strap a bomb to a football, the villains go deep, and the pass is good- or bad, depending on how you look at it.

Warner Bros. of course, joins its distinguished competition in the concern over mixing politics with entertainment. Sony ultimately decided not to distribute the DVD of "Control Room," and as we mentioned here on D-Day, "Fahrenheit 9/11" was dumped by Walt Disney before being picked up by Lion's Gate (who will also save "Control Room" from DVD limbo). As Waxman reports in the article, Warner Brothers has fallen back on the tried and true defense, used variously against Move-On and others that the doc is too political, specifically that releasing it with "Three Kings" is "totally inappropriate" during a countown to a November election. It is interesting that Warner Bros. sees no overt political message in the film "Three Kings" itself. "Smuggling" is a tried and true method to get the word out to the converted by allegorical means while slipping by censors of all kinds. It has made possible numerous "escapist" outings that deal with McCarthyism ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers"), Conservative brainwashing ("They Live"), and consumer culture ("Day of the Dead").

If there is a medium that comes the closest to personifying the term "escapist" it must be video gaming, which prides itself on garnering review bites like "immersive." But even here, politics are muddying the waters. As mentioned in the October issue of "Computer Gaming World," the decision to set the game "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2" in North Korea drew outrage from no less than... North Korea. "This may be a game to them [Americans] now, but... in war, they will only face miserable defeat and gruesome deaths," was the response in Tongil, a government state-run paper as quoted in Stars and Stripes. One of the game's designers seemed baffled, saying "games, especially those set in fictional conflicts, are simply entertainment."

That a game designer setting campaigns in modern day, real-world settings should be surprised when the "enemy" takes offense seems naive in the extreme. It may be no wonder that Warner Bros. sees "Three Kings" as merely an action romp using a declared enemy of the U.S. as a backdrop. Perhaps there is no more room to "escape," no place to go but "here" anymore. And if entertainment takes on a political edge, it might be that the world is not simply made up of places, but politicized environments where context is as important as content. A Linda Rondstat concert might not seem like a political battleground, but it took mere seconds for it to become one- and the hopes of consumers to separate the artist from the work will undoubtedly work to the advantage of those building bigger and better home entertainment systems or faster processors for home computers to run all the top of the line games. At home, you can listen to a CD in peace without the preamble, and throw away (if indeed, it ever got released) the documentary that came bundled with your DVD. "Escape" may mean no longer a communal experience at the movie, where you must suffer your neighbor yelling "don't open the door!" during a horror film, but headphones and VR goggles- anything to block out the political landscape that exists outside your front door.

So attending Burning Man might indeed be a political statement after all- you've got nowhere to go to escape nudity, crassness, stupidity, manic inventiveness, vulgarity, drugs, sex and people saying whatever the hell they want. Back online, at the (now defunct) Church of Fools, where visitors could take on online avatars and attend a virtual church service, the forum recently got shrill, as the appearance of a speaker with a few choice political words to say was met with a cold response by some. Tony Campolo, U.S. Baptist and professor presented a sermon, "Why many people in the world hate America." Again, the question of where and when politics are a welcome topic was used to defend the response to the sermon. "What I meant is there is a time and place for politics, and to me, church is not it. I come to church because I like to share my faith with other Christians, because it is what unites us. I don't come to talk about what divides us," said one poster, who was met by the response "The church is exactly the place to discuss these things. If we regard the church as somewhere we can do fluffy bunny God things while we ignore the outside world that is not the church." Indeed if not in church (virtual or no), then where? And if not, then is it appropriate in the cinema, at a concert, indeed, ANYWHERE in public? Can the most public of events ever become divorced from everyday life, the forum that it seeks to address?


Zig Zag Zell... Flipped His Wig Zag Zell

Anyone see MSNBC's Hardball after the convention? Zell Miller challenged Chris Matthews to a DUEL. No shit. He channeled Aaron Burr. Here's a portion of the transcript, courtesy AmericaBlog.

This is the best thing that's ever happened to the Dems. It almost seems like they planted Zell Miller as a mole inside the Republican Convention. It's worse than Buchanan in Houston in '92.

Never mind that the guy started by invoking the name of Wendell Wilkie (whoulda thunk that Wilkie and Nixon would be prominently named in this Convention?), screaming (everything was screamed) "where is the bipartisanship" and "we should never politicize national security." He then spent the rest of his speech politicizing national security, all the while deftly not mentioning Osama bin Laden, whose name has STILL yet to be invoked in New York.

Also, not only has Dick Cheney (while Secretary of Defense) called for the cutting of all the weapons systems Miller accused Kerry of wanting to cut, not only has CIA Director nominee Porter Goss asked for a 30% reduction of the intelligence budget (while a Congressman), but Zell Miller HIMSELF has voted no on defense budget appropriations bills. Why does Zell Miller hate America?

It just shows you where both parties are headed, when you consider that the Democratic Keynote Address was given by Barack Obama, a rising star, a future Senator from Illinois, and the Republican Keynote Address was given by a RETIRING senator from Georgia. Future versus past.

By the way, Zell Miller is a Dixie-crat, a legacy from the pro-segregationist wing of the Democratic Party in the 50s and 60s. He thought LBJ "sold out" the party by signing the Civil Rights Act. If the Rethugs want to go ahead and rally 'round the racist, by all means, do so.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

We have to be as sneaky as they are

CNN grabbed a pair and ran Kerry's whole American Legion speech today. Watching it, I noticed that Kerry forcefully used a lot of Bush's words against him. Particularly, the "miscalculation," "catastrophic success," and "I don't think you can win" the war on terror flubs of the past few days.

Now, I got into an argument (again) with a hard-core Republican yesterday, and I brought up the fact that it seemed Bush was the man who was most off message this week. He responded to the "you can't win the war on terror" thing by saying "Well, he meant blah blah blah, you know what he means, you won't have an ending date, blah blah blah."

And you know what? He's kind of right. I've been saying for years that a war on terror is ridiculous, it's a war on a concept, it's like, as David Cross has put it, "saying you're going to fight a war on jealousy."

But that doesn't mean it becomes unusable as a sledgehammer for our side. Here's why:

1) A man who's built his entire campaign on strength and resolve suddenly says something completely contrary to his entire plan on terrorism for 3-plus years. In other words, call him what you want, but he's NOT a flip-flopper. "I say what I mean, and I mean what I say" is Bush's mantra. This runs totally counter to it.

2) Republicans are making an issue out of John Kerry's flip-flops, we cannot allow a classic one to fly by.

And most important...

3) THIS IS WHAT THEY DO. They take a quote out of context, and use it against you. The time of principled resistance ended the moment those Swift Boat Vets came crawling out of the slop. Anytime a Rethug tries to rationally explain the "I don't think you can win the War on Terror" line, all you have to do is say "OK, give me the exact same amount of time to explain Kerry's $87B vote." Of course they won't.

Through inaction and the invocation of the moral high ground, we have allowed American politics to basically become a race to the gutter. It's a great game of who can get their soundbites out on cable, who can out-talking point the other, who can slam the other the fastest. Maybe once the Kerry White House gets its footing that can change. But right now it'd take a sea change to bring politics back the other way.

So we have to be as stupid as they are. "First he said you can't win it, then he said you can!" In a way, we are helped by the GOoPers own paranoia with their own base, because they'll end up making the problem worse (like going on Limbaugh and changing your tune). But it's just a matter of saying the same damn thing over and over and over. That's how we won in '92. That's how we'll win in '04.

Kerry and Edwards have used this model in recent days. But to win, the words "miscalculation," "catastrophic success," and "I don't think you can win" must become as ubiquitous as "flip-flopper," "most liberal member of the Senate" and "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth."

It can happen. Just keep talking.


I nailed it

Just want to mention that Arnold INDEED used 4 movie lines in last night's speech. I mean, if you count "girlie-men," which he's pretty much appropriated as his own line (even though it was originally intended to make fun of him). By the way, if you think that a net loss of jobs, the largest deficit in history, and the loss of a manufacturing base is not good enough, you're a girlie-man. Unbelievable.


Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Arnold's Big Day Out

Today, I plan to slink around and hide my face as my governor speaks at the Republican National Convention. I'm sure this will be the first time a convention speaker will make the case that he is a strong leader because he was a strong bodybuilder. But I'm willing to put down money that he'll say the following:

1) He'll use the "Thank you for changing the US Constitution, and I accept your nomination for President... oops, wrong speech" line that he's used many times before. This is classic "kidding on the square," a joke that really says "Seriously, change the Constitution so I can be President."

2) He'll do a variation on Lloyd Bentsen's critique of Dan Quayle that'll go something like this: "John Kerry wants you to think he's the second coming of John Kennedy. I have heard of John Kennedy. I married a Kennedy. You, sir, are no John Kennedy." I have heard this line ringing in my head for weeks.

3) He'll talk about how he's reformed California and got our economy back on track, despite using the same voodoo economics of borrowing and raising the debt that will put the burden on the backs of children.

4) At least 4 movie lines, lines of parodies of himself (girlie-men), or lines from the movies of other action stars ("Kaliforneea is the disease, I'm the cure!")

You won't hear:

1) "As a serial sexual offender, I proudly support this President for re-election!"

2) "We should get rid of all special interests, like the man who was making bobblehead dolls with my image."

3) "If I'm not me, then who the hell am I?"


Monday, August 30, 2004

Quick RNC thoughts

-Just saw Dan Bartlett trying lamely to defend Bush's "We can't win the war on terror" line. Short version: "Don't listen to what the President said TODAY! Listen to what's he's said before."

-How sad is it that George H.W. Bush, the President's own father, will not even SPEAK at this convention? They just gave him about a 30-second introduction, allowing him to wave like Miss America before cutting away to the serious policy analyst that is Ron Silver. He has been cast away by his own party. You wouldn't hear the name George Bush at this convention if it wasn't, you know, the President's name.

-I'm a little chastened by the fact that this Convention is being covered as crappily as the DNC was. An FCC commissioner today took the networks to task for covering the conventions so briefly. Maybe this changes in '08. CNN just gave this teaser, honestly: "Coming up, we'll tell you why some RNC delegates are putting on Band Aids!" Yeah, that's great. (By the way, the Band-Aids represent the "scratch wounds" received by John Kerry in Vietnam. Classy. See, that's the REAL face of the GOP.)

-Edwards got quite a bit of pub today for jumping on Bush's flubs. Although, I haven't seen a single Dem inside Madison Square Garden, despite the fact that "truth squadders" were swarming in Boston.


Insert Mouth, Open Foot

First Resident Bush called Iraq a "miscalculation," then he described our victory as a "catastrophic success." Now there's this:

When asked "Can we win?" the war on terror, Bush said, "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool are — less acceptable in parts of the world."

Is it just me, or does Bush seem to be the Manchurian Candidate, and the Kerry campaign just turned on his switch?

Now, I think the very term "war on terror" is patently ridiculous. (in the words of David Cross, "It's like saying you can have a war on jealousy.") Terror is a tactic, and waging war on a tactic used in war doesn't make any sense. But for a man who's built his entire campaign on being strong, resolute, and never wavering, to change this tactic after 3 years of saying "We will win the war on terror" is absurd.

This is such an obvious misstep, it has to be acknowledged by our side.

UPDATE: I think one of the main reasons you won't hear a ton about this on many networks is because (1) The RNC just started, (2) Our Democratic surrogates stink, and (3) it came out of an interview on a TV network (NBC's Today show), and other networks simply don't want to give the credit for a story to them.