Tag Archives: bush

The Candidate Formerly Known as “Maverick”

Four years ago, the Republican hatchet squad took a nuanced remark by John Kerry about his voting record on the Iraq war and labeled him “flip-flopper.” Thus was born a nasty, schoolyard name-calling attack against Kerry that was used in advertisements, Republican talking points, and by right-wing (and even mainstream) hacks throughout the fall of 2004. It was used by John McCain himself, in attacking Kerry.

Last night, Kerry delivered a speech last night at the Democratic National Convention — one that had to have felt a little like payback for those 2004 attacks. The subject was: the flip flops of the candidate formerly known as “Maverick.”

Here we are four years later, and as much as the wishful thinking of the Republican machine hopes that the Democrats (and the American public) might not have noticed, Senator McCain has become quite the adept flip-flopper. And I’m not referring to nuanced and reasoned policy shifts or voting. I mean ham-handed, in your face, wholesale change of political personality. And John Kerry was the perfect person to make that perfectly and explicitly clear.

Kerry gave us the whole laundry list of the flip-flops, big-time flip flops of the candidate John McCain. Maverick? McCain? No way! No more! No how!

“To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say, let’s compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain,” began Senator Kerry, just warming up.

  • “Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral.
  • “Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain’s own climate change bill.
  • “Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Sen. McCain wrote.

“Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you’re against it.” Zing! You’ve gotta love it, Kerry using the Republican’s own words against him. That had to feel like the sweetest moment of the evening for Kerry. And a line he’s probably been aching to use for months, if not years.

“Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself,” continued Kerry, firing with particular precision. Just where does candidate McCain stand on the policies of Senator “Maverick” McCain, hmmm?

“And what’s more, Senator McCain, who once railed against the smears of Karl Rove when he was the target, has morphed into candidate McCain who is using the same Rove tactics and the same Rove staff to repeat the same old politics of fear and smear.”

And don’t tell me that both McCain and Obama are using dirty tactics. That’s simply a moral relativism that doesn’t wash. McCain and his team strike fear by insinuation, using Obama’s unique background to suggest he may not be quite as American, not as patriotic, as McCain.

Obama’s commercial about McCain’s houses (called by some an attack) is relevant, because it shows him to be out of touch economically with middle class America. Anyone who can’t remember how many houses they own (even if they’re owned by a spouse) may not feel the pain of many Americans (no matter how many years he may have spent in the Hanoi Hilton).

But Kerry went on to remind us all that it’s not necessarily how many years experience you have (after all, Cheney-Rumsfeld is about as experienced as you get in a foreign policy team). It’s all about judgment; keeping cool in a crisis and surrounding yourself with people who will disagree and debate; argue, and keep you from the arrogance that the presidency can bring to bear. Ideologues make bad foreign policy, as we have seen.

And that’s not all. Kerry also made the point that all along the way, from September 11, 2001, to today’s foreign policy decisions, Obama has been right. McCain has been wrong. “Time and again,” Kerry said, “Barack Obama has seen farther, thought harder, and listened better. And time and again, Barack Obama has been proven right.”

The Rove-Bush-McCain machine will try to tap in to fear; the Obama campaign will give us a vision for the future. Voters will have to decide for themselves to whose voice they will listen.

White House Endorses Obama’s Iraq Plan!!!

First published at Blogcritics.org

Barack Obama advocates engaging the Iranians diplomatically as a more useful strategy than saber-rattling and refusing to talk to them.  Obama is called an appeaser and (much) worse with great disdain by both the administration and the McCain camp for daring to even suggest it. This week, the US sent a diplomatic envoy to the Iran-Europe talks as “an observer” for the very first time.  Hmmm.  You say coincidence?

Barack Obama insists that our troops in Iraq may be better utilized in Afghanistan, where the gains we made in 2002 have very nearly been erased while thousands of our troops have died in a war we never should have started.  Americans are now beginning to die in greater numbers as Afghanistan falls apart, beating a hasty retreat to its pre-2002 political landscape.  The Taliban are growing ever more powerful; al Qaeda is steadily regrouping there.  Obama is labeled as inexperienced and naïve.  But this week, the Bush administration said much the same thing (except not the part about the wasted American deaths for an unnecessary war.)

Barack Obama has suggested a 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.  Bush and McCain labeled timetables as irresponsible, and labeled Obama as inexperienced and naïve (and much worse).  This week, the Bush Administration announced agreement with the Iraqi government for setting a “withdrawal horizon.”  So, tell me.  Who’s leading this dance?

So enamored is the Bush administration of Obama’s great leadership, vision and calm wisdom about the Middle East that, this morning, the White House Press office emailed  a story in which Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki calls Obama’s 16-month strategy “the right time frame for a withdrawal” to its entire distribution list.  The Reuters news report details an interview in the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Full disclosure:  OK, so actually only part of this is true.  Yes, believe it or not, the White House did send an email to its press distribution list, but it wasn’t intentional!  Just when you thought the White House could not get more incompetent, it shoots itself in the foot.  “Iraq PM backs Obama troop exit plan,” read the title on an email sent out to thousands of subscribers to the clipping service, including major media outlets and anyone else who would listen. The White House often sends out emails to this distribution list, with titles like: “News You Can Use,” “In Case You Missed It,” and “Setting the Record Straight.”  Clearly, the intention is usually to bolster administration talking points, not promote endorsements (well, al-Maliki backed away from calling it an endorsement) given to the opposition.

The White House SNAFU has been attributed to someone pushing the wrong button.  (Given the predilection of the White House rewarding stupidity and incompetence, he or she might be up for a big promotion.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next White House press secretary!)

Of course the story has become rampantly virulent on the internet, spreading like a California wildfire.  And how could such a mistake happen?  Some have speculated that the email was intended for an internal group, sent to assemble talking points that might counter it.

Instead, an article that might have received scant attention has gotten wide distribution in the mainstream media,  having been reported in the New York Times, on ABC News and other outlets, as well as in the Blogosphere.  Doubtless that, on the Sunday morning talk shows tomorrow, McCain and Bush spokespeople might be asked not only about al-Maliki’s statements, but about the SNAFU  and its potential impact on the two presidential candidates’ campaigns, as well.  Stay tuned!

Digg it here!

On Patriotism and lapel pins

There have been two time periods in my life during which I wore an American flag pin on my clothing. The first was back when I was in high school.  In protest of the Vietnam War, I wore an American flag pin upside down, a symbol of distress.  I wore it along with other buttons, badges and pins, including my home-made “I am an effete intellectual, nattering nabob, snob for peace.” (It repeated the unforgettable adjectives for war protesters uttered by that paragon of virtue, Vice President Spiro Agnew).   My wearing of the upside down flag pin got me kicked out of typing class during a mid-term exam, which resulted in my only “D” during my high school years (not that there were so many “A’s” either.)


The second time I wore an American flag lapel pin was in the days after 9/11.  Bound together as a nation, facing a national tragedy, we were united across political, social and generational lines in our collective grief, not just that 3,000 innocent people had been intentionally and brutally murdered, but that our country could be attacked like that, so easily, on a cloudless September morning.  Powerless to do anything individually except watch “breaking news” coverage and talk about it among our friends, we banded together under the flag, wearing it proudly, as sign that, despite our differences, we were all Americans, and, in this at least, we were unified.


Everyone was wearing them: liberal, conservative, independent, rural Americans, big city Americans.  We needed to show the world that we stood together, and wearing a flag pin—a sign of unity under the principles that have bound us since our founding—was a very visual way to do that.  I stopped wearing the pin when the flag began to stand, not for the principles that make our country great, not the least of which is freedom of speech, but for a view of patriotism that has more to do with the flag and allegiance than to the ideals behind it.


People seem to use those little flag pins to express their patriotism.  Fine.  No problem with that. But does not wearing one mean that you’re not patriotic?  And by whose definition?  Is it the unwavering support of an administration regardless of what it doing in our name?    When patriotism comes to mean silent acquiescence and not thoughtful consideration, we have gone astray of the ideals of our nation.  When questioning the validity of a policy is labeled unpatriotic; when exposing the lies told by an executive branch run amok with delusions of absolute power is deemed subversive under someone’s ideas of “national security;” when questioning the continuation of a dubious and ill considered war is deemed to somehow being unsupportive of the soldiers on the front (when in fact the opposite may be true), we are weakened as a nation for the suppression of necessary debate.   


The flag does not stand for blind allegiance, and it does not replace (by a long shot) the urgent need of everyone to understand (to the best of their knowledge) the issues, all sides, and judge—and question.  Our flag stands for the healthy skepticism for government power and wisdom, and certainly not for the notion that our nation is run by an all-powerful executive branch with the other branches in existence to support and cheer lead.  It stands for the Constitution—that body of laws  and principles that govern  and define us.


Patriotism is certainly not defined by the wearing of a lapel badge (more than likely manufactured in China) American flag.  And to ask, (as one questioner asked during last week’s ABC democratic debate) whether Barack Obama “believes in the flag” does nothing but show the ignorance (yeah, call me an elitist) the of the questioner.  Believing in the “flag” doesn’t mean believing in a piece of metal affixed to a blazer.  Was she really questioning whether Obama believed in our country?  Questioning his patriotism?  She said she was not; what, then was she calling into question because Senator Obama does not happen to wear a flag lapel pin?  The flag is merely a symbol, meaningless except for what it represents—“liberty and justice for all.”  The Bill of Rights: free speech, right to assemble, due process, habeas corpus.  That’s what the flag stands for.  Believing in the flag means supporting the government when it is right, and having the courage to criticize and otherwise speak out when it is not.  It sometimes means being a cheerleader, but so often means being a opponent, although the former is a far easier variety than the latter.


Upon reflection, I wonder if I shouldn’t re-pin the flag pin on my lapel. Affix it with the appropriate dash of righteous indignation, refusing to allow the far right to hijack very notion of patriotism, and its most visible symbol.   Or maybe design a new lapel pin—a miniature of the US Constitution, with its oversized “We the People…”  To me, that’s really what we’re protecting…and what we stand for:  for ourselves and as a symbol for the rest of the world. 

Gotcha Politics and Sound-Bite Journalism

“Gotcha” politics has got to go.  And I think that time is here and now.  I want to thank George Stephanopoulos (who has, in my humble opinion, lost all credibility as an intelligent political voice), Charlie Gibson (who never really had it) and ABC for making it possible. 

Finally, we are having a debate about debate; about political discourse and about the media’s coverage of politics via soundbite, innuendo and a series of “gotchas.”  Last night was, perhaps, the tipping point; the straw that broke the camel’s back.  A ninety minute debate and for the first 45 minutes, not one bit of policy was discussed.  Not one merest suggestion of an issue was raised. 

Call me an elitist, but to question Barack Obama as to whether he “believes in the flag,” (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean) would be insulting, if it weren’t so ridiculous.  That Obama chose to actually answer showed him to be a man a lot more tolerant than I would have been.  (Beside the fact that I’m not a man.) 

This country is in an endless and fruitless war.  This country is in a recession; threatening to veer into the sort of stagflation I remember when I was just getting out of college in the late seventies.  Global warming is breaking off big chunks of ice fields (and George Bush’s plan is to begin to cut emissions in 12-15 years-that is, after they’re allowed to peak in 10 years.)  Our cities’ infrastructures are crumbling and our military is stretched too thin; Iran continues its nuclear program and in Afghanistan, the Taliban grow more powerful (hey, I thought we won that war) with each passing week.  And the media want to talk about David Ayers, a 60s radical.  Hey, Congressman Bobby Rush was a 60s radical too.  And former Tom Hayden.  Even Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (he, the son of Richard J– who helped all hell break loose in 1968 at the democratic convention) thinks its ridiculous to bring up William Ayers, who is a professor at the University of Illinois.

But yesterday, Obama countered.  He called this for what it is; and for what it is not.  The time has come, he said to talk about substance.  The post-debate coverage has been less about who said what, or who did what, than the substance of the questions themselves.  And I say it’s about damn time.  Criticism of Stephanopoulos, Gibson by people like Tom Shales, <i>Editor and Publisher </i> and others in the media and public life have dominated the discussion.

Last night Obama made a surprise appearance on the <i>The Colbert Report,</i> placing the word “distractions” on Colbert’s “on notice” board.  Distractions like the trivial questions coming from the real issues, when the issues are as serious as they are in this election, are not useful and are examples of lazy journalism. I’m not saying ONLY policy issues should be discussed; and character is an important thing to examine.  But when “journalists” insist on spending 75 percent of their coverage on distractions, and not at taking a hard look at the differences between the candidates (including the differences between the two democrats and John McCain) they are doing us all a disservice. 

So, maybe, finally, in the aftermath of the ABC debate, the main stream media are put on notice to discuss issues; real substance.  Not whether a candidate “believes” in the flag.  The stakes are too high to do otherwise. 

Stormy weather usually brings colder weather.  Yesterday’s brought practically balmy breezes towards Chicago, and I awoke to 60 degrees (never mind that it’s supposed to snow tomorrow.)  I’m ready for spring.  Really.  My irises and lilies of the valley are ready for spring.  Time to put the old car window scraper back in the garage for the season.

What’s with American Airlines?  All those cancellations and service problems.  I’m told that it’s the inspecting agency who’s been lax all these years.  Imagine that!  A regulatory agency of these United States lax during the Bush Administration?  Hard to believe, I know.  Glad my daughter is coming home for Passover on United next Thursday.  That’s all I can say.

And speaking of Bush.  New poll numbers put him in Nixon territory. ‘Bout time, dontcha think?  What amazes me is that 28 percent of Americans actually think Bushie’s doing a good job.    approve (better word?) of Bush’s performance.  On WHAT???!!!!!  On lying? On dismantling the Bill of Rights? On emasculating the House and Senate? On declaring himself king? (oops, sorry–head of a “unitary” executive branch).  I guess you can fool some of the people all of the time.

And speaking of Passover.  So this will be the first time, ever, that we’re doing a (mostly) vegetarian seder.  I say “mostly” because for the carinvores and traditionalists in our family, I do want to have something familiar for them to eat.  After all, they’ve always accomodated our need to only have kosher (and now meat-free altogether) food in their homes, so it’s only fair.

The menu: (always subject to change)

  • Mock chopped liver
  • Pareve chicken soup (I have a recipe that the writer swears is indistinguishable from the real stuff)
  • Home-made gefilte fish (just like grandma made–my mom never has had a clue about how to make it)
  • Magic roasted veggies (magic, because there just too easy to make)
  • Gingered orange sweet potato casserole
  • Matzo farfel with mushroom kugel
  • Veggie terrine
  • Turkey breast (for the meatatarians)

 Any other ideas?????  We’re new at this vegetarian thing. Our teenager spent a high school semester in Israel last year and came home a vegetarian in June…we decided his reasoning made sense, so we followed him, albeit a bit lest strictly (we eat fish, he doesn’t).    I’m really hoping to get a knockout passover main course that will knock everyone’s socks off, so I’m open to suggestions, as I begin to prepare for the holiday.