presidential campaign

On Not Getting Fooled Again

(Update: apparently I forgot to linkify things that were supposed to be links!  I was sure I had done.  That’s what I get for posting on only one cup of coffee.  Fixed now.)

As most people probably know by now, on Friday President Obama accepted an invitation to speak to and answer questions from the Republican caucus at their annual retreat — on the condition that the news media be allowed and the speech and Q&A session be broadcast live.

And as most people probably know by now, the Republicans are almost certainly thinking to themselves, “how could we have been so stupid?”  (The answer, I think, is that they got so used to the lies they use to keep the rubes voting for them that they kind of forgot they were lies, and they honestly believed their sad little talking-points recital would leave Obama transfixed and tongue-tied, and he’d eventually have to break down and admit they were right about everything.)

If you haven’t seen the video, you should try to find time to do so — it’s a bit over an hour, but it’s pretty remarkable.  Each time someone asks a question, it’s clear they think they’re scoring a major point, and that there’s just no way the President can refute their argument.  And each time, he calmly, reasonably, cuts their head off.  You can see the whole thing at Shakesville (with links to more discussion), and TNC provides the soundtrack, but I’ve provided some highlights below the fold.

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Four Decades of Mourning

Forty years ago last Friday, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, capping off five awful years of murdered political and civil rights leaders.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live through those years — but I don’t need to imagine the long years of cynicism and hopelessness that followed, because I’ve lived three-quarters of them.  To have the promise of real, positive change so violently cut down so many times must have felt as though some malign force beyond mortal ken were deliberately crushing all hope for a better future.  It’s no wonder conspiracy theories sprung up; but the explanation I find both more plausible and more terrifying than some notion of a shadowy cabal manipulating the levers of power is this: that American society up to and in the 1960s was (and, to a greater extent than many of us would like to think, still is) so hidebound, so racist, so terrified of change, and that certain strains of conservative thought, capitalist/anti-communist ideology, violent nativism, heroic mythology and valorization of vigilantism, and anti-intellectual populism are so deeply woven into American culture, that in the face of attempts to bring about radical change in the social system — even in ways that in the short run will hurt only those who enjoy unearned privileges at others’ expense, and in the long run work to everyone’s benefit — individuals willing to commit acts of violence, murder and terrorism in the name of preserving an oppressive status quo will arise organically, and communities will be willing to tolerate or turn a blind eye to them.

(It’s true that this is not really a good explanation for RFK’s assassination, as Sirhan Sirhan is a Palestinian Christian who was angry over Kennedy’s support for Israel in the Six-Day War, or mentally disturbed, or both.  He had lived in the US since the age of 12, so he very likely absorbed something of these cultural traits, but a twelve-year-old, though impressionable, is also already pretty strongly enculturated.  But even if the motivations of the assassin himself do not fit the pattern of the previous five years, the assassination, and its cultural repercussions, fit all too well.)

The title of this post, then, is meant to suggest not that we have been in mourning specifically for RFK for forty years — but for the radical hope of the ’60s, to which the final deathblow seemed to have been delivered on June 5th, 1968. (more…)

Something Other Than Beer

Darcy Burner is running for Dave Reichert’s congressional seat.  That seat is in Washington State, so it’s a bit out of my normal purview, but Burner has been one of the leading figures in promoting the Responsible Plan — I learned about her via Orcinus a while back.  She put up a very good post at OpenLeft last week, on the genuine threat to American democracy posed by mercenary armies like Blackwater, DynCorp, Triple Canopy, etc., which are paid (and paid very well) by our government, ostensibly, to perform supporting duties for American troops.  In actual fact, these “contractors” are carrying out combat operations, and are frequently committing crimes — up to and including rape, murder, and torture — both against Iraqis and against other Americans, including their own coworkers.  On our dime, and in our names.  And because they’re not military personnel, and the US demanded, and the Iraqis had little choice but to accept, that “contractors” not be considered under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law, they operate in a legal vacuum.  They can’t be held to account for crimes they commit.

I’ve called the offices of my Representative and Senators, and asked them to cosponsor (respectively) H.R. 4102 and S. 2398, the House and Senate versions of the Stop Outsourcing Security Act, which would prevent further funding of mercenary armies.  I respectfully ask that the readers I optimistically imagine I might have read the OpenLeft post and the bills, and call or write your Congresspeople, and ask that they consider signing on as cosponsors.

2007-08 Presidential Campaign

It might have seemed from my earlier post “The Problem of ‘Hillary'” that I was a supporter of Senator Clinton for the Democratic nomination. In fact, she was probably my least preferred of the broader field before candidates started dropping out, but I see no contradiction in disagreeing with her policy positions yet finding it repulsive that she’s the target of such egregious misogyny in the media.

I was a strong Edwards supporter until he announced his withdrawal from the race. Now that the Democratic field has narrowed to two, I’ve been struggling with the decision in front of me. There are good reasons to support Clinton, and good reasons as well to support Obama; conversely, there are good reasons to be wary of each of them, especially for a moderate liberal like me.

Many other blogs have been all over the problems with each candidate, so for the moment I’m not going to discuss them at length.  A week ago, in the Massachusetts primary, after a great deal of thought, I voted for Obama, but I’ll be happy to contribute to, vote for, and perhaps volunteer for either Obama or Clinton in the general election.  I think despite their respective failings, either one would be a good president, and each represents important progress toward dismantling some of the biases which are significant problems in our society.

I also think that either Clinton or Obama can win pretty handily in the general election, though they’ll have a tougher time against John McCain, who now seems the likely Republican nominee, either than I think Edwards would have, or than I think they would have against (for example) Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani.