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Posts Tagged ‘McCain’

The day after the evening of the DAY, I woke up feeling a little surreal. I knew something momentous had happened that had captured everyone’s attention, something neither horrific, like 9/11, terrible, like the financial meltdown (admittedly an ongoing discussion) nor strange and superficial, like Susan Lucci’s weird goodbye speech on “Dancing with the Stars”. Apparently, we’d elected a young, thin, African-American person with a young, attractive family to be President of the United States. Equally apparent, this occasioned even more professional/amateur, thoughtful/inane, heartfelt/petty commentary than usual. With so many people writing and talking so much through so many outlets and all of us gobbling it up, I thought it might be interesting to single out for special notice some of the more interesting incidents, as well as various sample comments, reactions and analysis I spotted during my slog through the blanket coverage.

 

Most moving election-night visual: the shots of the crowd in Chicago’s Grant Park

Most over-exposed visual: the shots of the crowd in Grant Park

Shot of the crying face that got to me: Jesse Jackson

Shot of the crying face that didn’t do it for me: Oprah

Weirdest TV moment: CNN’s use of holograms, which was like watching a sputtering Starship Transporter (“Beam me up, Scotty.” “I’m trying!”). Bring back split screen.

Most over-the-top commentator:Chris Matthews on MSNBC

Most restrained commentator: Andersen Cooper on CNN. Didn’t he want to poke his hand through those holograms?

Most gracious speech: McCain’s concession speech; where was that guy during the campaign?

Near-miss moment: Sarah Palin apparently showed up ready to deliver one of two versions of her speech before McCain’s. Aides nixed the idea.

Oddest international snapshot: the Japanese crowds yelling for Obama

Most moving international snapshot: the young Palestinian shown drawing a picture of Obama along with a dove holding an olive branch. Lots of expectations reflected in that sketch.

Most hysterical blog post: Andy Borowitz, with the post title, “Failure to Blow Election Stuns Democrats”

Most interesting offer: Sarah Palin offering to help Obama craft his energy policies. Um, thanks a lot.

Most tepid congratulatory comment imaginable: Jim Manzi in the National Review, who said: “I continue to believe that Barack Obama is likely to be a poor President who will attempt to implement policies that will be detrimental to the national interest…. But I’m spending today proud abut what my country has overcome.” Um, thanks a lot.

Coolest comment: In an article about what kind of social life Washington can expect, Christopher Buckley, lately of National Review until he endorsed Obama (welcome to the dark side, Chris) wrote in the NY Times, “He’s a cool cat and I think he’s going to bring cool catness back…” 

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My father, who was a fan of recitation, frequently used the phrase from an ancient Persian proverb, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet” to remind us about gratitude and, I think to keep us aware of perspective. Perspective – the ability to step back, take the long view, see the big picture – is, to my way of thinking, one of life’s great coping tools. I’m amazed at how difficult a concept it is for most of us to grasp.

 

Perspective: I have pain in my hip and lower back caused by disappearing disc material at the bottom of my spine, not to mention my neck. The condition, I guess you’d call it, is irreversible, but it is manageable as long as I keep exercising and stay abreast of various low-level pain medications. I could feel sorry for myself and I do, on occasion. Then I think about Patrick Swayze, who’s working 12-hour days on the set of his new show despite a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, almost always fatal.

 

Perspective: My friend is absolutely terrified about her post-graduate kids’ job prospects in this economy. She can’t imagine it being worse, although it seemed pretty bad back in the seventies and eighties when I was hopelessly job-hunting and living in cities whose drug-infested neighborhoods were a lot less safe to live in. Not only that; the clothes were worse. If you don’t remember or weren’t around, check out the new ABC show Life On Mars.

 

Perspective: This is the most frightening world we’ve ever lived in, says my cousin, forgetting perhaps, the time she spent as a schoolgirl cowering in a fall-out shelter in the early sixties under near-constant threat of nuclear annihilation.

 

Perspective: I’m slaving over this blog in near total anonymity while Samuel Werzelbacher, AKA Joe the Plumber contemplates a record deal. Okay, I admit I have NO perspective in this instance; it just seems wrong.

 

Perspective: A blogger on Huffington Post recently suggested that fully half the voters will, if their candidate loses, sink into a state of despair so severe they may never recover. I guess that’s the downside of having an election everyone is so passionate about but I seem to remember friends threatening to leave the country in 2000…and 1980…and 1972. Somehow, we stayed in place and even survived.

 

It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times but it always seems what’s happening in the moment is the most consequential thing happening ever. It’s understandable, given how imperfect our memories are. Not only that, this really has been the longest, most expensive, most expansive, most analyzed, covered, dissected and ubiquitous campaign ever. It will certainly make history and it certainly deserves our attention and our participation. Oh yeah, I really, really want my candidates to win. But win or lose, I’m going to get up Wednesday, stretch my back and get to work.

 

VOTE, Y’ALL

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After watching last night’s debate, I tried to come up with a word to describe it and remembered one my sister used as a little kid whenever she was frustrated: stoopy. Stoopy means stupid and that’s the best description I have right now.

What was so stupid about the debate last night? Let’s begin with the restrictions, which went a long way towards making it as boring as can be imagined. It’s one thing to tell the audience not to make any overt noises or gestures but I’ll tell you what: if you get a small crowd and admonish them to behave and subject them to harsh lighting, roaming cameras, close proximity to candidates and national exposure, what you’re going to get is an audience of automatons. Which is what we had.

What about the format? The town hall-style was supposed to favor McCain but with an unresponsive audience asking, well, mostly stoopy questions, no one was much served. I’m not familiar with all the restrictions agreed upon by the candidates but if you believe the frustrated and all-too-willing- to-show-it Brokow, the candidates were happy to dispense whatever rules were supposed to apply.  I looked up the word “debate” and it’s supposed to be “…a formal method of interactive…argument” Given how resolutely McCain refused to interact with Obama, I wouldn’t describe it as a debate. As for whether it was truly a town hall meeting, I can only say it wasn’t a tenth as interesting or fun as the ones I’ve attended. Dumb decision and/or dumb execution.

Then there were the questions: Call me naive, but I think the American public is smarter than the questions seemed to indicate. How’s a candidate supposed to answer three variations of “Why should we trust you with our money?” except to say something almost as inane? What kind of format doesn’t allow for follow-up questions from the audience? Why did Brokow ask the candidates who they’d pick as Treasury Secretary when he must have known they couldn’t or wouldn’t answer  except in time-wasting generalities? Although we didn’t spend forty minutes talking about whether a flag pin symbolizes patriotism (remember the ABC debates last April?), there was little to compel the candidates to get substantive, except, I will admit, when it came to health care issues.

Speaking of time-wasting, I stayed up to watch a little post-debate analysis. I even switched between Fox, NBC and CNN. Apparently McCain didn’t do what he needed to do, although it’s completely unclear what it was the talking heads wanted from him. I may surprise some people here but his use of the phrase “that one” to describe Obama  was way over-analysed. McCain is thinking on his feet, he’s clearly ticked off to be sharing the stage with a man he views as a young upstart (as was Hillary) and both candidates have shown flashes of real disdain for each other, although McCain’s gotten worse at hiding his and Obama’s gotten better. Give it a rest!

I was disappointed with some of the candidates’ answers. McCain is going to buy up bad mortgages but how, what with his proposed tax cuts and his “win at all costs” war? Obama is going to end the war in Iraq responsibly and promptly move troops over to Afghanistan and how does that help stretched-to-the-limit servicemen and women? I was also disappointed in Brokow, who wasn’t able to keep it together or add any spark to the proceedings. And let’s not get started on the questions asked by we, the people.

The debate was certainly not what you’d call terrific entertainment. Maybe the candidates are tired; I’ve read somewhere Brokow is. I know I am. This entire campaign has gone on too long and, as much as the outcome matters to me, I’m ready to have it over with so we can end all the stoopiness.

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I was all set to write about my impressions of the Democratic Convention, then hesitated. After all, everyone and their grandmothers seem to be writing, blogging, reporting or otherwise bloviating (can you tell that’s my favorite word of late?) about the emotional, unpredictable, competitive, insecure and ardently committed spectacle that is the Democratic Party these days. 

Conventional wisdom has it that these partisan get-togethers rouse the faithful, mildly interest the curious , make no difference to the decided and may or may not affect the decisions of those who claim not to have made up their minds. I’d like to think that a speech that delineates clear differences (like the one VP nominee Joe Biden gave last night) or presents definitive approaches (as we hope Obama and McCain will do. Note I don’t necessarily expect either candidate to propose solutions; I just want to hear them identify the problems and tell us how they’d deal with them) – anyway, I’d like to think that such a speech will steer all of us towards thinking about, talking about and making our decisions based on a working understanding of the differences between the two candidates on policy, not personality. Talk about wishful thinking!

Well, I’ve got tonight and all of next week to listen and learn. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I believe you can find out more from a speech than from an attack ad.  Meanwhile, once the two conventions are over and the requisite spikes and bounces for the candidates are duly noted, we’ve got a horserace on our hands. That’s serious business but for now, Democrats and Republicans, party on!

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When it appeared that there were now two presumptive nominees for President, I went trolling the Internet for reaction. I sought not the reputable sites or or quasi-reputable bloggers, but instead the chat rooms on places like MSN, Yahoo and AOL. I wanted to read what “regular” people were thinking. I mean, these are voters, right, so how are they engaging their thought processes?

Disappointing news from that front, I’d have to report. There do seem to be an awful lot of people with axes to grind and time on their hands. I guess the crap that passes for dialogue in some of these so-called political forums represents democracy’s ugly underbelly. I tripped upon lots of stale theories about Obama’s “Muslim” agenda, naturally. There are some wacko things being written about McCain as well, by the way; the paranoia that drives these respondents isn’t left or right, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican.

It would be laughable if it weren’t so disturbing to imagine that many people may place value on this kind of “information” or that they might use it as a basis for making decisions. The beauty of Internet news and Internet reporting and Internet information is supposed to be that it uncovers anything and everything. There has been no whispered aside, no private conversation, no intemperate moment possible in the Presidential race thus far, nor will there be. It’s all up for discussion, dissection and subsequent distribution. Great, no more secrets. But no filter either. It’s all so IMPORTANT (caps deliberate).

The filter is supposed to be ours. It’s our job to sort through what’s important and what’s not, where we have to focus and what we have to dismiss when evaluating the candidates. We’re supposed to know that what the candidates think about or plan to do about issues such as health care, the economy or our country’s foreign policy conduct is more pressing than what their spouses might have said privately. Maybe it’s fun to catch people in unguarded moments or to read personal letters they wrote twenty years ago and then obsess endlessly about them. It’s the ultimate Facebook-type gossip session, at least until the obsession or the rumor or the half-truth becomes cruel or dangerous or much more relevant than it deserves to be.

More of us than ever seem to know that this upcoming election is an important one, which means that perhaps more of us than ever will vote. That’s a big plus. We have more access to information on which to base our decision than ever before and that’s an even bigger plus. But not all information is equal, not to mention true.

Okay, so here’s your assignment in terms of preparing yourself to vote. There are no excuses (“They’re all the same”) and no passes (“I’ve already chosen a candidate”). This is what you do: Listen, read, think, ask, listen, read and do some more thinking. Access your own experience, your own common sense, your own conscience and your own moral compass. Weed out the excess, focus on the big picture, keep yourself informed, keep the gossip to a minimum and keep the rumors off the table. Feel free to yell, scream or flood your local stations with e-mails if you see any nasty, negative, fear-based or generally bottom-feeding commericals directed against any candidate, including local or Congressional representatives we’ll also be voting for. Be prepared, if you so choose, to discuss your choice with others. You don’t have to, of course; I just happen to be a big fan of dialogue, as long as it’s reasoned and reasonable and we need more of it to counteract the nastiness around us.

No slacking off now. The information (and misinfomration and disinformation) is coming at you fast and furious Get ready, get set and…FILTER!

 

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I suppose primaries have always been about interpreting numbers, at least as long as polling has taken place and pollsters and pundits have made predictions. But whereas the candidates usually confined themselves to making large, generalized predictions (“I will be your nominee”), those on the Democratic side seem to have let themselves be swayed by a sort of numbers shell game.

According to this new math, you measure something called “the popular vote” even though that’s not the way the primary process (especially the Democratic Party’s version of it) works. Don’t misunderstand me; the primary process is a confusing mess but it works the way it works. The one with the necessary number of delegates wins, whether these delegates are chosen by “the people” or by their representatives in caucuses or they are free-floating super-delegates who make up their minds along the way. Further, if you’re trying to make this “fair” (insofar as possible), you don’t count the votes in states where your opponent stayed off the ballot per instructions from the party leaders. Nor do you insinuate the race is over because you have a majority of delegates.

Anyway, the primary season isn’t necessarily a reflection of the way people will vote in a general election. For one thing, at the beginning of the season, the voters are split among a larger numbers of candidates. They aren’t usually asked who their second choice would be or where those votes might go after their favorite quits the race. They don’t get a do-over because the crowd has shrunk. Further, some voters may cross party lines in states where it’s permitted, to try and shake things up.

I say, if you want to make a case for counting the popular vote, change the process. Same with the general election. Meanwhile, let the games continue. More people are watching – and voting – than ever before. I may be a cockeyed optimist but I’m hoping that, even if the primaries leave some of them feeling bruised and battered, they’ll come around in the fall.

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I crawled out of bed after being hit by a spring version of the flu, I suppose, to learn that Priscilla Presley had been kicked off “Dancing With the Stars,” the Yankees had trounced the Red Sox and [your candidate here] had won the Democratic debate on Wednesday. I watched a little of it but the acrimonious tone and the constant hammering nearly sent me back to bed. While Obama’s use of the word “bitter” in describing small-town America is getting all the attention (temporarily sweeping aside Clinton’s claims of being under threat of sniper fire in Bosnia), did anyone catch the revelation that Cindy McCain’s homey little website featured a couple of recipes poached from the Food Network? That bit of “news” rated a six column article in the New York Times, which can ill afford the space in its print addition. Are we all going crazy here or am I still suffering the after-effects of the flu?

All three of the candidates are wealthy and privileged, all of them are educated and very smart and all of them are pandering, though Obama far less skillfully. I suspect he doesn’t understand why he has to and there are some days when I wonder the same thing. Why are we focusing on whether a guy wears a pin in his lapel? I don’t wear a pin nor do I have a flag decal in the rear window of my gas-guzzling car. You can love your country and recognize that symbolism can also mask laziness or hypocrisy. Don’t forget, there are politicians and CEOs wearing flag pins and it doesn’t mean they’re looking out for the best interests of the ordinary citizen. On the other hand, I can’t for the life of me figure out why Barry had to act so squeamish about the calories encased in a free sample he was offered at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania. Just eat the damn thing!

This campaign feels like a train wreck waiting to happen. For historical perspective, I took myself out of bed and down to the living room couch to watch a repeat of part six of “John Adams,” HBO’s fantastic rendering of David McCullough’s Pulitzer prize-winning book about our second President. Adams was truly unpopular, despite his success at avoiding war with France. He signed the roundly despised Alien and Sedition Acts , was villified constantly in the press and he had to take up residence in a White House still under construction. Imagine contemplating important bills in a drafty building by the light of a single candle while roof scaffolding threatens overhead. Oh and his son Charles, an alcoholic, died.

Adams had it tough, no doubt. He also seems to have been a prickly, arrogant sort. He didn’t pander and he was punished for it. I’m not certain his stubbornness was a virtue; his successor, Thomas Jefferson seems to have been a man of conviction, intelligence and vision but with a much lighter touch. It’s all very well to think about shattering precedents with the election of a female or an African-American (or even somewhat older) president. But what I really want is a superior president.

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