What is happening to us? What explains the boorishness, hate and even violence that increasingly mark our politics?No, this isn’t another prissy commentary on “negative” ads — another high-sounding homily on how we ought to focus on “the issues,” by which the writer means “the issues that I think voters should focus on.” Nor is this a screed against demonstrations, however boisterous, or some young fools’ lawn-sign stealing. There’s no interest here in trampling on free-speech rights or spitting into the wind of what must be a rite of passage.
Forget “Joe the Plumber.” That Joe, after all, isn’t running for office, and his only claim to fame is managing, when approached by Barack Obama, to get the Democrat to reveal his philosophy of taxation (”spread the wealth around”). For having the audacity to actually elicit information that told us something about Obama, poor Joe was promptly vetted by a media claque that hasn’t been keen on vetting the first-term senator from Illinois.No, it’s “Joe the Senator” who should concern us. Our text today is what the ever-voluble vice presidential candidate said about Obama at a Seattle fundraiser last weekend. I quote at length to do Biden full justice:
Troopergate: Here’s a pet theory of mine: “Ethics” probes are more often than not weapons deployed against the out-of-favor by their political and professional enemies; their outcomes have less to do with the particular violations than who’s under fire and who — the target’s friends or foes — controls the investigatory firepower.Exhibit du jour: The recent ethics violation in the Sarah Palin “Troopergate” probe. The one found by a lawyer hired by an Alaska senator who’s a Barack Obama backer and promised an “October surprise.”
OK, you want to talk issues. You’re tired of talking personalities, character, experience and Sarah Palin’s eyewear. You’ve had it contemplating whether Barack Obama’s or John McCain’s campaign ads are more full of lies and distortions. You’re above all this bunkum. You want to talk about some substantive difference between the two presidential candidates that could shape the way we live — that could alter some basic American value — in the decades to come.So here’s the issue. It’s a big one that’s below the surface and not getting a lot of attention, and it’s not the racial issue. It’s called card check.
I don’t mind rough-and-tumble political ads, but I mind them when they (a) come from someone who tells one and all that he — his elevated self — rejects the old politics and (b) his old-style politics campaign ads traffic in flat-out lies and distortions. Enter Barack Obama and his new Spanish language ad “Dos Caras” (”Two Faces”).You can see the ad here and read The Washington Post’s story on the ad here. Here’s The Post’s run-down and translation of the ad:
How lame is the energy bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had her House Democrats pass through the House on Tuesday? Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu said before the vote that Pelosi’s handiwork would be “dead on arrival” in the Senate. This from a Democrat who’s up for re-election in an oil-and-gas state that would seem to gain from the bill’s much-ballyhooed expansion of offshore drilling?What gives? For starters, Landrieu knows that the limited drilling the House leadership allows in principle — it opens up waters 50 miles from shore with state approval — is made next to impossible in practice. How? By not allowing states to share in the revenues. Why would they agree to oil rigs off their shores when there’s nothing in it for them?
Remember back way back in the pre-Sarah Palin age when first-term U.S. Sen Barack Obama was running against Hillary Clinton and a host of more experienced Democratic presidential candidates? I do. What I recall is how many Obama supporters would say that, well, there’s really no experience that prepares one for the White House so why not “The Chosen One.”In the most recent Weekly Standard, Ronald Reagan biographer and Winston Churchill scholar — and altogether snappy guy — Steven Hayward has an article on Palin and the experience issue that manages to rise above the current political back-and-forth and explore serious questions about the nature of self-government and elitism in the United States.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden made me do this: I wasn’t going to write about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin today. My last three columns focused on John McCain’s running mate, and I was getting tired of writing about Palin. I mean, she’s a vice presidential candidate.
My pet theory these days is that, as swiftly as the news cycle now moves, it’s hard to fathom the real impact of an event until days, weeks or months later. The instant analysis of a speech, debate or convention so often looks wrong, even silly, a short while later.
Amid the cascade of words pouring out of Denver this week, none may have more long-term punch than the bubbly Mile High musings of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” Tom Brokaw had asked about Barack Obama saying that deciding when life begins was “above my pay grade.” Pelosi showcased the Peter Principle in action. It says that people rise to the level of their incompetence. Her answer showed that the principle has nothing to do with Saint Peter.
A few weeks back I spoke with U.S. Rep. John Peterson, and the Pennsylvania Republican told me about one House Democrat he almost persuaded to vote to expand oil and natural gas drilling in the nation’s outer continental shelf.
Here’s the only question for me in Gordon Smith’s latest campaign ad with the Barack Obama cameo: Does my pleasure in watching partisan Democrats tear their hair out over the appropriation of their hope ‘n’ change presidential nominee in the Smith ad outweigh my pain in watching Oregon’s Republican senator sidle up to Obama as he runs for re-election?
Sen. Gordon Smith said something at a recent gay-rights forum that was so opaque even opponent Jeff Merkley’s campaign couldn’t take a direct shot at him. Marshaling the semantic precision he reserves for his Iraq war talks, the GOP incumbent said something that was either a defense of polygamy, an equating of gay marriage and polygamy or (the most likely explanation) a somewhat undisciplined free-association on the senator’s part. Merkley’s camp could only ask for a clarification.
“Meet the Excess”: NBC News Washington bureau chief and “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert died Friday at the too-young age of 58. I knew him only as the master of the chat-show interview — tough, knowledgeable, evenhanded — and a joyful analyst of American politics. What we’ve all learned since is that there was so much more to Tim Russert than Tim Russert, public man. His life as a father, son, husband and man of faith. His acts of goodness and grace over a lifetime. His kindness to friends and strangers.
A week later it’s still baffling. In fact, it’s one of the more baffling lines ever uttered by a candidate laying claim to his party’s presidential nomination. It came last week on the night Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination over Hillary Clinton.
Here’s the good news: Last week Mercy Corps put out a press release that announced the following: One, a barge had departed for the devastated town of Laputta in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta; it’s the first of many boats that will bring emergency supplies to an area accessible only by water. Two, the second of three air shipments of supplies, including 9 tons originating in Portland, would land in the capital city of Yangon.
W–ell, I was wondering when I was going to hear from you two. I can’t say a conference call is the best way to do relationship counseling, and calling in from two different locations tells me we’ve got some work to do here at Happy Days Are Here Again Counseling.
Divorce and the breakup of a family are still seen as their own social tragedies, and unwed childbearing and cohabitation can still provoke religious and/or moral objections. For the most part, however, our nonjudgmental age leaves it at that. The citizens of “Whatever” America either say nothing about the broken American family, lest somebody’s feelings get hurt, or take the view that it ain’t nobody’s business but my own or their own. It’s all so very civilized or so very tolerant. And so very wrongheaded.
I’m not sure when it happened but, for me at least, presidential politics has managed to turn an old adage, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention,” upside down. If you’re paying attention, it’s well-nigh impossible to be angry.
I’ve never been a big basher of members of Congress as a class. Capitol Hill lawmakers do important work in a democratic republic, and many of them put in long days of high purpose. Also, as tempting as it is to roast Congress, it’s always helpful to recall that Congress in our Great Republic represents . . . us.
Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker trooped up to Capitol Hill this week to deliver their second Iraq progress report. It was all fascinating — encouraging, really, if you’re not invested intellectually or politically in American defeat there — but you have to wonder why certain lawmakers bothered showing up. “Iraq progress report,” for them, appears to be a contradiction in terms. There can be no progress there because (a) we’ve already lost or (b) they’re convinced we can never succeed.
Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic leader can’t say they haven’t been warned. In fact, you even might say they warned themselves of the dark consequences of allowing the Protect America Act to expire.
Barack Obama sure can talk. No, I’m not going to weigh in on the plagiarism charges now hurled at the orator/senator. Our first topic today is transparency in government. He’s all for it. Indeed, he says he has the ability to work across party lines “on opening up and creating more transparency in government” so government spending is “posted on a searchable database” for all to see.
There’s only one thing worse than Republicans and Democrats locked in partisan gridlock up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. It is Republicans and Democrats rushing to come together for the good of the country and congratulating themselves for their bipartisanship.
He’s a war hero. He has just captured the Republican presidential nomination, and the GOP base is riled up. “There is more than a personal battle that is going on here,” a New York Times writer observes. “The conservative wing of the party is fighting for its life.”
OK, we’re now down to a two-man race for the Republican presidential nomination. It’s John McCain and Mitt Romney. Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson are gone. Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul are going nowhere. McCain vs. Romney — the Soiree on Super Tuesday.
News item: Prominent Democrats are upset with the aggressive role that Bill Clinton is playing in the 2008 campaign, a role they believe is inappropriate for a former president and the titular head of the Democratic Party — Newsweek, Jan. 28, 2008.
Scenario: The United States has captured a high-level al-Qaida operative. U.S. intelligence believes al-Qaida will attack an American city with a nuclear device in 24 hours. The man in custody is the mastermind of what Osama bin Laden has promised will be “9/11 with radiation.”
OK, liberals and Democrats care about “the children.” I get it. It’s not that I believe conservatives and Republicans don’t care about children and gobble them up with their three-martini lunches, but I get that liberals and Democrats care.