Saturday, March 01, 2008

 

Open Thread

March of the threads.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

 

The Bush Rejection Election

Andrew Sullivan takes note of why the incumbent president decides to go after the Democratic frontrunner:
It can only help Obama. In fact, it's campaign gold. You can tell that Bush is really feeling the heat from this guy already. He senses that this movement is a massive indictment of him, his clumsiness in foreign affairs, and his rigidity. He's right. And the more Bush makes a vote for Obama a vote against Bush the more traction Obama will get.
It's more than that. Even beyond Obama, this entire election is a "massive indictment" against almost everything Bush. Obviously, the entire Democratic Party is "fired up" and demonstrating it by coming out in hordes to vote in their primaries, while giving record amounts of money to both of the last two contenders, But, the anti-Bush sentiment is there on the Republican side as well.

John McCain has emerged as the de facto GOP nominee because he was the most vocal in-house critic of how the administration was executing the war. Meanwhile, the reason why Mike Huckabee is the second-to-last man standing among Republicans may also have something to do with broader "Bush fatigue."

As Tony Blankley tips his hat to Obama's main strength:
[After] seven years of Bush's verbal infelicity, there is a hunger for eloquence. Moreover, eloquence is good. Consider Lincoln, FDR, Churchill, Reagan -- even Bill Clinton in a cheesy, insincere way.) Obama must have been tempted to use that old Humphrey Bogart line, when Bogart asked of someone who couldn't keep up with him: "What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?"
Huckabee has a similar mix of high rhetoric and easiness with popular culture language that Obama possesses. They may come from different oral traditions, but Obama and Huckabee connect with people because they communicate with them. They talk to them, entertain them (intentionally) and make them feel like they live in something of the real world.

George W. Bush may have been the easy-going, "guy you'd wanna grab a beer with" candidate seven years ago. But, now, the electorate has tied his malapropisms and, as Tony says, "verbal infelicity" with an administration whose policies are either failures or haven't lived up to their billing. And this administration literally cannot explain itself.

No wonder significant numbers of people in both parties like hearing a candidate who can actually "talk the talk" -- in English.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

 

RAG @ The Black Comedy Experiment

If you happen to be in New York tonight (February 28) through Saturday (March 1), you might want to check out The Black Comedy Experiment festival. It's a group of talented, predominantly African-American performers doing 15 shows of alternative comedy. By alternative, I mean, you won't think you stumbled into an outtake of HBO's Def Comedy Jam.

(Know what I'm sayin', m****f***s?)

All shows are at The Tank, 279 Church Street in Tribeca.

I will be providing my alternative take on the
Laughing Liberally show Saturday night at 8:30. Tickets, for individual shows and the whole festival, can be purchased here or through SmartTix at 212-868-4444.

Drop by if you can!

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Dance Number One Ends...

...as Michael Bloomberg officially takes himself out of the presidential pool -- really, really this time!

But, of course, he wants to be noticed -- and courted:

In the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to work to steer the national conversation away from partisanship and toward unity; away from ideology and toward common sense; away from sound bites and toward substance. And while I have always said I am not running for president, the race is too important to sit on the sidelines, and so I have changed my mind in one area. If a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach — and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy — I’ll join others in helping that candidate win the White House.

"Helping" can mean many things -- an endorsement, perhaps? But does Bloomberg really have a constituency that could sway votes to the Democratic or Republican nominee?

Or, how about being someone's vice-presidential choice?

Well, Obama certainly doesn't need Bloomberg's billions on the ticket. Would he lend Obama some "gravitas" (that's what Dick Cheney brought to George W. Bush way back when)? Perhaps, but he doesn't give Obama any foreign-policy experience. And Obama doesn't need him to win New York.

On the other hand, Bloomberg came to McCain's defense over the New York Times story. Could McCain select him? But would he have to promise not to use any of Bloomberg's money for the run? And what would conservatives do if McCain selected a liberal Republican independent as his running mate?

Dance Number Two begins...

UPDATE: For those wondering to what I was referring when I said "dance," let me reiterate and expand on what I wrote in the Comments section: The "dance" to which I refer was Bloomberg's "No, I'm not running" official stance contrasted with the other signals that he was sending -- having his right hand man say the exact opposite off the record, hiring pollsters to test his chances, meeting with the Perot people, having his top strategist conveniently release a book about "independent" politicians, etc. My Post colleague Dave Seifman addresses Bloomberg's less-than-above-board game-playing. In short, this speculation wasn't just pundit-driven (and I'm not saying that because I was one of the first to bring up the point).

Furthermore, had the major-party nominees been say, Hillary and Mitt Romney, I'm pretty sure that he would have been even more tempted to get in.

Dance Number Two refers to Bloomberg's attempt to make himself relevant in the fall campaign.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

 

A Giant Passes

William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008)

R.I.P.


UPDATE: NYT obituary. NR Editor's Note.

A brief testimonial that includes a link to a great hour-long Charlie Rose interview.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

 

Hillarly Won, But...

He got the line of the night with the "driving the bus into the ditch" quote.

On basic points, however, she scored very well. He agreed with her on several foreign policy issues. She forced him into a very rare public flub -- that he hadn't held one congressional hearing on Afghanistan in the year that he had been running a sub-committee. Don't be surprised if the Hillary people hammer him on that point in the next few days. That's a concret example she can point to on the "words vs. actions" line.

She sounded knowledgeable on a whole host of issues and very forceful and aggressive defending her signature issue, health care. She pushed him successfully on the Farrakhan question. He didn't seem too comfortable dealing with that issue and was willing to quickly get out of it.

She, however, sounded incredibly petty with the "Why do I get all the first questions?...Saturday Night Live..." And she still sounded cagey on the tax returns question.

Based on this debate, I wouldn't be surprised if she stopped her slide in Ohio and ended up winning the state. I'm not sure though whether this gets her the Texas win she needs just as much.

UPDATE: Full transcript is here. Gluttons for punishment can view the whole thing here.

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Cleveland Rocks

It's the big MSNBC debate -- Obama vs. Clinton one more (final?) time!

Feel free to comment here as I do my best to live-blog!

9:03 -- Very first question is on HRC's switch from being "honored" to be with Obama to her "shame on you" line on campaign trail. HRC says that she is "standing up" for her views in the face of Obama "distortion" of her health-care plan.

9:06 -- Asked to "unequivocally" say that the Obama photo didn't come from her campaign, she says "so far as I know."

9:06 -- Obama skips the "shame" stuff and just responds to HRC on policy. Very good. BO is also very good on hammering HRC on the "mandate" issue. Makes him sound semi-free market.

9:09 -- BO pivots back to the negative campaign material that he's received from Clinton -- "but we haven't white about it, because we know that's how the game is played."

9:10 -- HRC knows that health care is her issue and she won't let him get away from it. She takes this personal. HRC says that BO mailer is "almost as if Republicans and insurance companies wrote it."

9:12 -- BO plugs all four states that are voting next week. Good move. Also slams Massachusetts plan that "fines" people who don't purchase health care (take that, HRC and Mitt Romney!).

9:13 -- HRC is preaching on health care, but is she too preachy (even cut off Brian Willaiams -- "This is too important..").

Who are the "many experts" that say HRC's health plan is better? Who are the "many experts" that say BO's is better? BO is the only one who names anyone -- Ex-Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

9:15 -- Good reminder from BO that Medicare Part D is "voluntary" (responding to Clinton charge that LBJ didn't make Medicare "voluntary")

9:18 -- Dumb move by HRC to complain that she "always gets the first question." No one cares!! Look, if you get the first question, you can parse things on your terms. Like you forced the "first 16 minutes" of this debate on health care. And referencing Saturday Night Live's skit? Pathetic. We know find out that she was "always" against NAFTA. Hmmm...did she tell Bill?

9:22 -- Obama reminds viewers that HRC said NAFTA "on balance" was good for New York and the US when she ran for Senate.

9:23 -- Russert comes back with multiple quotes emphasizing HRC's past support of NAFTA. "Your words are very different, Senator." HRC: I have plan on telling Mexico and Canada that we will "opt out" if there aren't changes. I've worked to "ameliorate" impact of NAFTA.

9:27 -- I'll do the same as HRC (hmmm...plagiarizing her answer? Heh heh.).

9:29 -- BO: "Trade can't be the only part of our economic agenda." Not a bad line. What does he address. We have to "invest" in infrastructure, "invest" in energy. But that sounds like spending is his economic agenda.

9:31 -- Is HRC "too exuberant" in pledging 5 million new jobs in 10 years. Blames inability to bring jobs to upstate New York (she promised 200,000 in 2000, while region has lost jobs in last eight years) on George W. Bush.

9:33 -- "HRC equates experience with longevity in Washington." Explains why he thought Iraq War was bad idea from beginning. This is most powerful argument against the "experience" question -- and one HRC has yet been able to answer it.

9:36 -- HRC's response this time is to give a laundry list -- Northern Ireland? Beijing? Refugees? These are examples of her "foreign policy" experience. On Iraq, "We have voted exactly the same. When we both had responsibility...when it is about not just a speech, but actions."

9:39 -- BO response on his 2002 speech: "It is not to say I told you so, but to show how I make a decision." On similarity of votes while both were in Senate: "Once we drive a bus into the ditch, there are only so many ways to get out." Obama is now saying that Bush administration is now following his Pakistan policy! Good dig at HRC on being for Iraq policy -- "until you started running for president."

9:42 -- The way Russert sets up "withdrawal" question is pretty dumb. "If Iraq says 'get out', will you do that?" Obviously, if Iraq is a sovereign nation, we would be obligated to listen to them. Pretty easy answer for both of them. HRC gets in good dig about BO not having one oversight hearing on NATO/Afghanistan. BO saying that "I only became chairman of subcommittee at beginning of this campaign -- 2007," is very weak. This is 2008! You mean, one full year has gone by and you couldn't do one hearing? Bad stumble for Obama.

9:47 -- commercial break.

9:53 -- Oops! MSNBC runs wrong clip -- uses Hillary's speech this week mocking Obama ("celestial angels will sing") to set up question to Obama. HRC must really think media is in tank for essentially giving him a fastball in responding to the "words, not actions" charge.

9:56 -- HRC: "It takes a fighter, someone who will go toe-to-toe with the special interests." HRC cites her votes against the energy bill and the bankruptcy bill -- that Obama voted for. Not bad in a Democratic primary.

9:58 -- Obama notes that HRC's "fighting" mode back in '94 meant fighting members of her own party on health plan. Zings HRC on "taking millions from those special interests" and hoping they will go away.

10:02 -- Obama's body language shows his wavering on the public finance question, but he recovers quickly and notes how many small dollar donors he has.

10:05 -- Russert uses OH Gov. Strickland's 2006 campaign on "openess" agains HRC's refusal to release tax returns. "I have been as open as I can be." Now there's a great statement. "I will work toward releasing..." Geez, why can't she give a straight answer on this?

10:09 -- Russert brings up Farrakhan question. Obama repeats denunciations of Farrakhan anti-Semitic remarks. Obama brings up Obama pastor Wright and his support of Farrakhan. Good response by Obama that he wants to restore black-Jewish relationship. Reminds viewers of role of Jews in civil rights movement.

10:12 -- HRC inserts herself into question to remind viewers of her strong rejection of New York Independence Party line because of its anti-Semitic leader Lenora Fulani. She makes distinction between her blatant rejection of Fulani and Obama's "denunciation" of Farrakhan. Obama says that if there is difference between "rejection" and "denunciation," he will "concede the point." Audience chuckles and Williams and Russert go along. HRC may have scored a good point though on the Farrakhan-Fulani distinction. Getting your opponent to concede is a "win" in formal debate.

10:18 -- Obama makes good explanation on the National Journal "most liberal senator" ranking. However, it's hard to make that explanation work against a 30-second ad that will note that NJ is a "non-partisan" periodical.

10:22 -- HRC gets question of Russia's presidential election and makes good criticism of how Bush administration has handled Putin. Obama reminds viewers of Bush's looking-into-Putin's-eyes-and-seeing-his-soul, but then remaining silent while Vlad clamped down civil liberties. Obama thinks recognition of Kosovo is a good idea.

10:25 -- HRC gets as close as she'll ever get to apologizing for her Iraq vote. Her follow-up statement allows her to touch on the many trouble-spots in the world, reminding voters that she is the best-prepared, knowledgeable candidate. BO says he would take back his "unanimous consent" on the Terri Schiavo vote. HRC gets better of that exchange. However, he gets the "conciliatory" moment this time. Says, HRC would be better president than John McCain.

10:31 -- BO says that he can bring country together in "unique" ways, including race and "religion" (will that make people think he is a Muslim)? BO once again name-checks all four states voting. HRC says, "We both bring energy and commitment." She drops the woman card -- a "sea change" -- and the "35 years of experience" (though she mentions private and public sector question).

In essence, both of ignore Brian Willams' dumb question about what the other person needs to say to voters in the coming months.

10:36 -- And that's it.

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Pre-Debate Sh*ts & Giggles

Before the likely final primary debate (our long national nightmare is almost over), here's some light stuff.

This is a good synopsis of Saturday Night Live's return episode -- and includes a clip of the SNL send-up of last week's Clinton-Obama debate (including "Campbell Brown's" admission that media was "in the tank" for Obama) and Tina Fey's de facto endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

And here's Jimmy Kimmel's post-Oscar's
rejoinder to girlfriend Sarah Silverman's video of the fun she likes to have with Matt Damon.

Yeah, both YouTube clips contain easily-identifiable bleeped language.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

 

Weekend Diversions

1) Prepping for the Academy Awards tonight? Check back with a tongue-in-cheek Oscar cheat-sheet, The Felixes.

2) Yes, many of the jokes are juvenile, and yes, if a similar site about black people was created, it would probably be condemned as racist. Double standards suck. Still, there are some very funny entries to be found at Stuff White People Like.

3) My Post colleague, Eric Fettmann is something of a newspaper historian. He brings some of the highlights of his collection on his new blog.

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