Tag Archives: democrats

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.

Advertisements

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!

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. 

Of Firing Squads and Democrats

A circular firing squad. It’s an apt metaphor for the democratic presidential campaign these days. I never, ever thought we’d be in this position. Although I’ve never been known as a political pessimist (hey, I was rooting for John Kerry way into the night in 2004), I have become one. Only the democrats could manage to turn this year’s presidential sure thing into a possible rout. OK, maybe it’s a bit hyperbolic to say so this early. But I’m beginning to dread the fall.

And who’d have thunk it? A long and costly (and unpopular) war; the unitary executive; the emasculation of Congress; the Supreme Court; an economy that everyone but George in Wonderland perceives as tanking; a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan that promises to erase any gains we may have made prior to Iraq; Blackwater; Halliburton; an army stretched to the brink, with stop-loss orders threatening the lives, livelihoods and well-being of our veterans; a health care system that is an embarrassment equal only to our loss of our credibility on the international stage. The list goes on. And on. And yet…let me get this right: Clinton and Obama are sniping at each other? Circular firing squad indeed.

The stakes are way too high this year to allow the Republicans to keep the castle…er…White House. Nearly eight years of damage cannot be piled atop another (even) four years of an imperialized Republican executive.

So, here’s my two cents worth (and in this economy, it’s not worth very much). Everyone just take a breath. Then readjust the circular formation and re-aim. But this time, instead of aiming at each other and assorted feet, this time take aim at the real enemy: John McCain and every up-for-election Republican who sits in the House and Senate. They’re the enemy. They’re the guys who’ve let our country fall apart and fall away from the values (yes, values) and ideals that make our country great.

But, you wisely ask, aren’t Obama and Clinton running against each other? How else can we figure out who should have the nomination if they don’t attack each other’s Achilles heels and other weaknesses? How, indeed. And thanks for asking.

Fight the enemy. Fight McCain. What better a target for practice? What better a test of wills? Of skills? Of merit? Who has the better claim against McCain? Show us. In real time. Because that’s what it’s all about, baby. Because that’s what’s going to matter in the final analysis.

You wanna see who should have the nomination? Fight McCain. Let us see you set the agenda against his, and theirs. Don’t give the guy a pass. Don’t let him embrace racists like Rod Parsley; demagogues like John Hagee. Don’t let him embrace eight years of a disastrous presidency and revise it to suit his (and the Republican agenda). Because, believe me, he will. And they will. You think Karl Rove has been vacationing in Aruba? You think those 527s have laid down their arms? No way. And while Hillary and Barack are taking pot shots firing at each other, they’re taking their eyes off the prize and watching it disintegrate into sand right in front of their (and our) eyes. They’re distracted from the real war; from the real fight.

Like I said, my advice isn’t worth a lot. So, I do think we’ll continue to see more of the same. Democrats shooting at each other and themselves in the foot as the Republicans plan the autumn offensive. And they’ll be ready. But the real question is: will the Democrats? This campaign sorely needs John Edwards back in the fray. I miss his role as “the adult candidate.”

So I will end with a plea to the adults in the upper echelons of the Democratic Party. Will someone: Howard Dean? Al Gore? Teddy Kennedy? Just someone (or all of you)—put a stop to this. For the sake of the party, for the sake of the race, for the sake of the country—and the sake of the planet.