Watching Bill Maher. Andrew Breitbart is a guest. Yeah.
After Bill endorsed the health care legislation, Breitbart accused him of no longer being a real libertarian, and that he was a closet supporter of "European Socialism" to boot. Bill responded that he didn't have a problem with "European Socialism", because it works. Andrew said "what about Greece?! Germany's bailing them out!".
That's right, folks. Because one poor European country—poor since the Rise of the F*cking Roman Empire—needs a bailout from another European country—one of the wealthiest on the planet—AMERICANS SHOULDN'T HAVE GUARANTEED HEALTH CARE!
Several weeks ago, my mother and father—residents of the great state of Kentucky, and proud progressives each—came up with a brilliant idea: My father should start going around the state dressed like a caveman.
(Yeah, I had a fun childhood)
Specifically, my parents decided to place my father in the role of "NeanderPAUL Man!", a crazy, cranky, right-wing caveman who shows up at Rand Paul events, shouting how he wants to abolish Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Acts, the EPA, and pretty much every other regulatory cornerstone of American civilization. You know, the same agenda Rand Paul has for our country.
They debuted NeanderPAUL Man at Kentucky's legendary Fancy Farm political picnic, where Paul and his Democratic opponent Jack Conway were set to face off in dueling speeches, armed with feisty supporters on both sides. NeanderPAUL Man was a big hit, covered not only by local media, but even picked up on the front page of one of the biggest national political sites out there: Talking Points Memo.
After Fancy Farm, sightings of NeanderPAUL Man slipped off the radar. Although he was spotted picking a certain someone up from the airport:
(if you were being tazed by Homeland Security for accompanying a club-wielding caveman on airport property, your pictures would come out a tad blurry too)
My father has informed me, however, that NeanderPAUL man has come out of his cave again. He put in a big appearance at the latest Rand Paul event last week, where none other than former half-term governor Sarah Palin was helping the primitive candidate shake down some Tea Partiers for campaign cash.
Mainstream media covered the event, but the most exciting visitor was Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi. Longtime readers of Today's Lies know what a fan I am of Mr. Taibbi's writing (if you have ever been put off by the nauseating columns of the New York Times' Thomas Friedman, stop whatever you are doing right now and read Taibbi's review of Friedman's awful book, "The World Is Flat".) Not only did he take notice of NeanderPAUL Man, Taibbi gave my dad a lengthy interview, and was very impressed by the whole spectacle. If you've ever seen Matt Taibbi interviewed on television, you'll know he's rarely much impressed by anything.
Far-right Tea Partier Christine O'Donnell's thumping of Republican stalwart Mike Castle in Tuesday night's GOP primary for Delaware's open U.S. Senate seat unveiled the real political story of the season. It is a story that offers the Democrats perhaps their only shot at preventing widespread losses in November.
The real story of the season is not the Congressional Democrats' weak November midterm outlook (though no one can deny that). It is not the collapse of Barack Obama's popularity (not nearly as collapsed as the MSM would have us believe). And, contrary to the prevailing narrative of the past 48 hours, it is not of a "grassroots" Tea Party campaign taking down the "Republican establishment". Tea Partiers, right-wing media and the mainstream punditocracy have clutched especially close to this last one, pointing to the "insurgent", "outsider" victories of Rand Paul, Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and O'Donnell, but they are deliberately missing the point.
No, the real political story of the season is of a national Tea Party movement walking into local primaries, shoving aside local issues and local politicians, and running telegenic, far-right extremists on a nationalized platform that has little to nothing to do with the regional concerns of the state. It is far-right "Tea Party" ideology at the expense of local needs. This phenomenon has shown itself in each of the four candidacies I mentioned above.
In Kentucky's U.S. Senate race between "libertarian" Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway, we have seen Paul walk into poverty-stricken Eastern Kentucky and explain to coal miners there that federal mining regulations were unnecessary, because if "good rules" aren't in place, "no one will apply for those jobs ". This followed the deaths of two miners in western Kentucky, his response to which was "Maybe sometimes accidents happen". Rand Paul has described rural Kentucky's drug epidemic as "not a pressing issue", and has attacked anti-drug programs like Operation UNITE—programs funded by the federal earmarks Paul so openly loathes on his purely ideological grounds.
Rand Paul earned the GOP nomination for the KY U.S. Senate seat by defeating Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a protege of the current U.S. Senate Minority Leader (and Kentucky senior Senator) Mitch McConnell. Grayson spent the primary attacking Paul over his blatant disinterest in local KY issues. In his victory speech after defeating Grayson, Paul praised the Tea Party movement nine times . He did not mention the state of Kentucky one single time . Paul would never have come even close to knocking off Grayson had it not been for the support of the national Tea Party movement, and the specific endorsement of Tea Party leader and former half-term governor Sarah Palin.
In Alaska—a state even more dependent than Kentucky on congressional earmarks—GOP Senate nominee (and Tea Party darling) Joe Miller is running against congressional earmarks. He's running on behalf of a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment. He wants to place a moratorium on any new government entitlement. He wants to tie the growth of government spending to the rate of inflation. He wants to kill the Department of Education. To kill the NEA. To privatize Social Security. To repeal the recent universal health care legislation. Whether or not anyone agrees with these positions, what is striking about them is how little they have to do with the particular needs of the state of Alaska, a state that relies more on federal spending than any other state in the union.
Miller was a Tea Party, Sarah Palin-endorsed "insurgent" who defeated sitting Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary, 51-49%. Murkowski, unlike Miller, was an enthusiastic supporter of federal earmarks for Alaska, and in many other ways a political moderate. She was also a member of an Alaskan political dynasty. Miller would never have come even close to toppling Murkowski had it not been for the support of the national Tea Party movement, and the specific endorsement of Tea Party leader and former half-term governor Sarah Palin.
Sharron Angle. Jesus Christ, where does one even begin with Sharron Angle? I think Harry Reid's opponent may be the most insane candidate I have ever seen in my lifetime. The gaffes of the Nevada GOP Senate nominee have become legendary. As a cure for a potential loss at the ballot box come this November, she has recommended "2nd Amendment remedies ". She counseled 15 year-old victims of rape to turn "a lemon situation into lemonade " by bringing their resulting pregnancy to term. She has described the unemployed as "spoiled ".
With Angle, I could go on like this all day. But that would be missing the real problem with her candidacy. It is not just that she is batshit crazy. It is that she appears to have zero interest in what kind of policies would help her fellow Nevadans. Angle wants to privatize Medicare. She wants to abolish Social Security. She believes a household should have only one parent working. She wants to eliminate the IRS. To prohibit alcohol consumption. To prohibit fluoridated drinking water. That's great. What does any of this have to do with the local concerns of the state of Nevada?
And last but not least, we have Christine O'Donnell. Besides her surprising victory over Congressman Mike Castle in Tuesday's GOP primary for Delaware's open Senate seat, O'Donnell is best known for despising the practice of masturbation. As Rachel Maddow put it in last night's show, O'Donnell's job for the past 4 years has been to run for the U.S. Senate. As in, she ran for the Senate in 2006, 2008, and 2010. During that period, she relied upon campaign donations to pay her rent. This individual literally makes her living running for the Senate. She has never run for or held another political office in her life.
Christine O'Donnell won her U.S. Senate nomination by defeating Congressman Mike Castle, a somewhat moderate Republican who has represented Delaware's single Congressional district for 9 consecutive terms. Prior to that, he served as Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Senator, State Representative, and Deputy Attorney General of the state of Delaware. He has held some form of elected office in the state since 1965. Until his defeat at the hands of O'Donnell, he had never lost a single election in his lifetime.
So how did she pull it off? O'Donnell began a whispering campaign that her opponent was secretly gay. Her campaign repeatedly lied about his voting record, painting it as more moderate than it actually was. The national Tea Party movement took notice, decided they wanted to direct from above who Delaware's Republicans should be nominating, and got behind her. Tea Party leader and former half-term governor Sarah Palin came in and gave her a huge endorsement. Right-wing and mainstream media have attempted to color this and the other Tea Party victories listed here as a case of the "grassroots" defeating the "establishment". Kay at Balloon Juice nails exactly why that frame is a crock:
When national media are dissing “the establishment” in Delaware, they’re talking not just about the national Republican Party, but about state Party delegates, who are not “Party bosses” but instead are long-term GOP activists and loyal partisans who attend State conventions, show up to volunteer locally year after year, and know their state’s electorate and issues really well.
Those people supported Castle.
While Castle also had the support of the national GOP, grouping the individual activists who make up state delegations and the national Republican Party together and calling them “the establishment” while depicting the Tea Party as “grass roots” is not accurate. State Party activists are as grass as it gets.
Republicans are going to have problems if national Tea Party groups continue to helicopter in and insist they are the “activist base” and long-term State party activists are not needed or wanted.
Democrats have been rejoicing that since O'Donnell has taken the nomination, her general election numbers show her with a double-digit deficit against Democrat Chris Coons in every poll taken since the primary election, as opposed to the reverse numbers in the alternative universe where Mike Castle won the nomination, and would have easily defeated Coons. What should really concern them is that in the other three races I have discussed—Paul, Miller, & Angle—the far, far-right candidates are either trouncing their Democratic opponent, or, in Angle's case, holding them to a tie.
It has been emotionally satisfying to focus on the whackjobery of each of these very, very conservative Republican nominees. But in this horrible economic climate, I don't believe voters are much interested in hearing the incumbent party dwell on all of their opponents foibles and weird statements. That comes off like the incumbent has nothing to offer of their own. If the Democrats could instead, in each of these contests, focus like a laser on how their opponents' priorities—God, gays, guns, "fascism", Glenn Beck, non-flouridated water—are not the priorities of the state's citizens, they could begin to turn things around. If they can remind the citizens of their communities what their priorities are, and pin the Tea Party down for their total ignorance and lack of interest in these priorities, the Democrats can win.
These far-right Tea Party candidates are not interested in representing the people of the states they are running in. They are fixated on representing a cruel, primitive ideology that is repulsed by the concept of good, effective government. They do not take governing seriously, and the Democrats simply need to call them out on it.
Can that be right? Can my last post really be a Tony Bennett tribute from all the way back in April, 2009?
Yeah, I guess so.
One of the things I have realized during my off-periods of political blogging is how much easier it is to do this during Election Season, and even more so when your side is winning. When this blog first began back in late 2006, the Bush Administration was flailing under the weight of the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, a shitty economy, torture scandals, and Dick Cheney shooting his friends in the face. The Democrats were poised to possibly take control of Congress for the first time in over a decade and stop the neoconservative agenda in its tracks. Though I had been itching to blog politically for years, it was only this crescendo of progressive possibility that finally inspired me to create Today's Lies.
Once up and running, I was able to blog consistently all the way through those wonderful November '06 midterms, and for several months beyond. After awhile, though, the high of the elections wore off. Democrats in Congress, while able to slow a good bit of the Bush program down, could not stop everything, and often behaved fecklessly. As important as it is for folks to understand the politics of stalling, it is not a very inspiring subject to write about. I got annoyed by people who seemed to think that with the Dems controlling Congress, that meant they could dictate their own agenda to a sitting president, when in reality that's not at all how that relationship works. However, it certainly wasn't an inspiring dynamic to write about, either.
Neither was it compelling to dutifully note how Hillary Clinton appeared to be walking away with the upcoming 2008 presidential nomination and, in my mind, endangering the Democrat's chances for what should be a lock-year.
Then came along a guy by the name of Barack Obama, who jump-started a sluggish primary challenge for the presidential nomination with a truly amazing speech at the 2007 Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines, IA. A couple months after that, he shocked the world and won the Iowa Caucuses, a crushing blow to the Clinton juggernaut that she never recovered from. That night, I kicked off the blog again in the grip of genuine, idealistic synergy with the Obama campaign. Over the next year, I hardly paused, covering the most exciting and infuriating primary season of my lifetime: Clinton vs. Obama. It got so treacherous at points that even after Obama had locked up enough delegates and the nomination, I really didn't know if the future president could hold the party together to win the general election.
Needless to say, 3 shutout debates, Sarah Palin and an economic collapse later, the phrase "President Barack Obama" became part of our national lexicon. And I rejoiced.
Then, governing happened. The president's numbers sank, along with the Democratic-controlled Congress. And I stopped blogging.
I'll have a lot more to say going forward about how I believe this president has been wildly successful on several fronts, and obviously less so on others. But for right now, my attempt here is to kickstart this blog during a period of severe political adversity for our side—a first for Today's Lies. Let's get it started.
I am as against torture, and for the rule of law, as anyone. I am extremely supportive of the president's decision to release the horrifying memos detailing how the last administration crafted a policy of illegal torture. I believe, on the merits alone, that prosecutions are warranted.
However, I think an important piece is missing from the general back-and-forth of this ongoing debate.
I don't believe the American people voted for torture prosecutions in November. I don't think Obama was given a mandate by the voters to prosecute Bush administration officials. I do believe he was given a mandate to end the torture regime—which he has done.
I also believe, more importantly, that he was given a mandate to focus on other things besides torture: namely, healthcare, global warming, ending the Iraq War, and rescuing the economy. If you asked the average voter how they rank the issues of the day as to their concerns, I think you would see "torture prosecutions" near the bottom of the list.
I say all of that because so many of the civil libertarian pundits over the last couple of weeks have behaved as though there is nothing more important for Obama to do as president than prosecute torturers. More important than universal health care. More important than the two wars we are currently fighting. More important than combating global warming. More important than saving our banking system. And I think that is a woefully naive attitude to take.
I understand that a president can and should be able to juggle more than one problem at a time. But not all problems are equal, as anyone honestly facing the political realities of torture prosecutions should understand.
Already, we are seeing Obama spending precious political capital on this issue. And he should spend some of it on this issue. But how much should he spend on an issue that most Americans don't consider extraordinarily pressing, compared to the economic suffering they are currently living through? Compared to their lack of jobs, their lack of health care, their lack of retirement savings, their lack of quality education, their crushing levels of personal debt?
I also think there has been a lot of naivete about how divisive and politically draining prosecutions of the last administration would be. On Friday, political savant Paul Krugman stated the following:
For example, would investigating the crimes of the Bush era really divert time and energy needed elsewhere? Let’s be concrete: whose time and energy are we talking about?
Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, wouldn’t be called away from his efforts to rescue the economy. Peter Orszag, the budget director, wouldn’t be called away from his efforts to reform health care. Steven Chu, the energy secretary, wouldn’t be called away from his efforts to limit climate change. Even the president needn’t, and indeed shouldn’t, be involved. All he would have to do is let the Justice Department do its job — which he’s supposed to do in any case — and not get in the way of any Congressional investigations.
Anyone who has a shred of political instinct knows that to be complete nonsense. But that's not surprising at all coming from the Professor.
Does Krugman actually think that Tim Geithner is really in charge of "rescuing the economy"? That Peter Orszag will be the one to "reform health care"? That Steven Chu will personally "limit climate change". Those are big, political initiatives, ordered up by the president, and then pushed through by the salesperson-in-chief who spends his time and energy convincing a public and a wayward Congress that they should be implemented. Yes, the "salesperson-in-chief" is also the president.
The actors Krugman listed—Geithner, Orszag, and Chu—are not politicians. They are bureaucrats tasked with implementing legislative achievements that the president has developed a sufficient amount of political will behind. If those big initiatives do not have sufficient political will behind them, they do not become legislation, they do not get passed, and they do not get implemented.
And how does Obama generate political will? By advocating popular policies, by educating the public, and by cajoling Congress. Oh, and also by avoiding gigantic land mines like the prosecution of the political opposition.
I also love Krugman's bald assertion that "Even the president needn’t, and indeed shouldn’t, be involved." Right, Paul. I am sure that it won't be remotely distracting for Obama when Dick Cheney is brought up on war crimes.
Today's Washington Post poll had much good news for Obama (a 69% job approval rating!). A stark exception to that good news were his numbers regarding the torture debate:
Overall, the public is about evenly divided on the questions of whether torture is justifiable in terrorism cases and whether there should be official inquiries into any past illegality involving the treatment of terrorism suspects. About half of all Americans, and 52 percent of independents, said there are circumstances in which the United States should consider employing torture against such suspects.
Barely more than half of all poll respondents back Obama's April 16 decision to release the memos specifying how and when to employ specific interrogation techniques. A third "strongly oppose" that decision, about as many as are solidly behind it. Three-quarters of Democrats said they approve of the action, while 74 percent of Republicans are opposed; independents split 50 to 46 percent in favor of the decision.
That's half of all respondents supporting torture. That's half of all respondents opposed to the release of the torture memos. Whatever else you want to say about this debate, you certainly can't say there is a consensus in American life regarding the use of torture. While you and I and Obama might oppose it, you and I can rant and rave all day about how evil it is, and how someone must be punished. Obama doesn't have that luxury. Obama has to remain popular enough to get the many, many other necessary initiatives passed that the majority of voters expected of him back in November. If that means he doesn't prosecute some Bush-era war criminals, I believe that's a loss he'll probably end up taking. I would tend to agree with him.
The firestorm that would erupt over seeing a prior administration prosecuted as war criminals could be more explosive than Watergate. I think if people are going to be intellectually honest about their advocacy for these prosecutions, they have to admit that they will likely come with a large political cost for the president. And they have to ask themselves and their fellow Democrats if they would rather trade major legislation like univeral health care for torture prosecutions.
Democratic presidencies like this one very rarely come along. This one has already ended the torture regime. Yet so many are conflating Obama's hesitancy over prosecution with the actual torture regime under Bush. That's wrongheaded, and even worse: morally vain.
Maybe the president's decision not to hang him high wasn't such a bad move after all:
With Obama’s economic stimulus plan on life support in the Senate last week, Lieberman (I-Conn.) joined a group led by wavering moderate Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and helped bring Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) on board to save the bill, which passed Tuesday with just enough votes in the Senate.
By instead keeping him in the Democratic Caucus with just a slap on the wrist, Lieberman has proved to be a loyal vote, supporting all of Obama’s Cabinet nominees, voting for passage on the first two major bills Obama has signed into law and working as an ally on the stimulus bill. Indeed, Lieberman has broken from his party on just seven of the first 61 votes of the 111th Congress, as the opening weeks of 2009 have been dominated by domestic issues where Lieberman’s views are in line with many Democrats, unlike his hawkish positions on foreign policy.
For now, this appears to be yet another moment where what appears to have once been a tactical mistake by Obama turns out to be a strategic masterstroke. As usual, the president is playing the long game, an activity the Beltway cannot understand.
The real test for Lieberman, however, will be on the war-funding votes to come. One would hope polls this like this would encourage him to reconsider those hawkish positions.
The new poll tests Lieberman as an independent against Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. The numbers: Blumenthal 58%, Lieberman 30%. Yikes.
Lieberman's active campaigning against the Democratic Party last year hasn't won him too many friends back home. Democrats go for Blumenthal by 83%-9%, and independents are for Blumenthal 55%-29%. Lieberman is the de facto Republican nominee in this match, and with GOP voters he scores 67%-23% over Blumenthal.
Lieberman's job approval is also at only 45%, with 48% disapproving. Among Democrats that's a 21%-70% rating, Republicans 75%-20%, while independents give him a narrow approval of 48%-46%.
It's less than four years away, but with numbers like those, I seriously wonder if Joe will even bother to run for re-election again.
A Missouri State Representative yesterday compared the proposed pro-choice Freedom Of Choice Act to the "War of Northern Aggression":
“What we are dealing with today is the greatest power grab by the federal government since the war of northern aggression,”Stevenson said, R-Webb City, referring what Southern states called the North’s attempt to end slavery in the 1860s.
The remark caused a sudden gasp heard throughout the House’s chamber.
Stevenson later apologized on the floor for any “offense” his comments caused. He was urged to do so by African-American Rep. Don Calloway (D), who pointed out that the Civil War helped abolish slavery and it was “inappropriate to refer to that war as the war of northern aggression.”
An enterprising Alaskan blogger—one Shannyn Moore—has revealed the following strange voting results in Alaska. Her information raises many important questions about the bizarre lead convicted felon Ted Stevens holds in his current Senate race against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich:
In Alaska, more people voted for George W. Bush in 2004 than for Sarah Palin on Tuesday despite an identical 61-36 margin of victory. Yes. Only four years ago 54,304 Alaskans got off their sofas and voted for Bush, but decided to sit home and not vote for Palin in 2008. In turn, I have to ignore the 30,520 Alaskans who felt progressive enough in 2004 to vote for John Kerry, but weren’t inspired to vote for Barack Obama. I would have to glance past the 1,700% increase in the Democratic caucus in February, the 20,991 newly registered voters, and the three largest political rallies in Alaska’s history. I would also have to forget the people I stood in a long line with to early vote. It would be helpful not to know every other presidential election since Alaska began keeping records has had a larger turn out than the one we just had with our own Governor on the ticket. Try not to remember 12.4% more Alaskans showed up for the August primary as compared to four years ago, before the Palin nomination. Don’t think about the Lower 49’s record voter turn out this year either. Try to delete the memory file, though difficult, that 80% of us approved of Sarah Palin just two months ago.
Four years ago, 313,592 out of 474,740 registered voters in Alaska participated in the election-a 66% turnout. Taking into account 49,000 outstanding ballots, on Tuesday 272,633 out of 495,731 registered Alaskans showed up at the polls; a turnout of 54.9%. That’s a decrease of more than 11% in voter turnout even though passions ran high for and against Barack Obama, as well as for and against Sarah Palin! This year, early voters set a new record. As of last Thursday, with 4 days left to vote early, 15,000 Alaskans showed up-shattering the old record set in 2004 by 28%! Consider the most popular governor in history-and now the most polarizing-was on the Republican ticket. Consider the historic nature of this race; the first African American presidential candidate EVER! The second woman to ever make a presidential ticket; and she’s one of our own. Despite that, we’re supposed to believe that overall participation DECREASED by 11%. Not only that, but this historic election both nationally and for Alaska HAD THE LOWEST ALASKA TURNOUT FOR A PRESIDENTIAL RACE EVER!!! That makes sense. REALLY??? Something stinks.
11:10pm I've just experienced one of the single greatest moments of my life. Barack Obama officially is projected the next President Of The United States. There is nothing else to add...right now.
10:14pm The Democrats have pulled off a Congressional shutout: the last Republican House Representative from New England—Chris Shays—has been taken out.
9:24pm Never mind that, because NBC just called OHIO FOR OBAMA!!!!!
9:20pm Mitch McConnell keeps his Senate seat in my home state of Kentucky, CNN projects. That just sucks. Democrats' chances of getting to 60 just became almost impossible. And Kentucky is stuck with Mitch McConnell.
9:19pm Obama is closing hard in Virginia, now only 2 points behind: 51-49%.
7:38pm Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo points out that Obama is dominating the greatest bellwether county in the nation:
Democrats are cheered by early numbers showing that Obama holds a healthy lead in Vigo County, a place that one Dem described to us as "the most reliable bellwether county in the country."
"Vigo has only been wrong on president twice since 1892," this Dem enthuses.
A story in the Indy Star concurs, adding that of the most reliable bellwhether counties in the country, Vego "has voted closest to the national margin."
Right now, in Vigo County, Obama is up 57%-42%, with 80% reporting.
With 3% reporting in Virginia, McCain leads Obama 55-44%. But ace reporter Marc Ambinder says "Obama is ahead" there. What does he know that the networks don't, or aren't reporting? Is he comparing exit poll data—which show Obama outperforming Kerry and Gore among whites, and blowing them away among African-Americans?
Even though my polling location is only about 5 minutes from my house walking, on the way to my job which doesn't start till 10am, paranoia and a wish to avoid lines got my ass up at 6 in the morning to vote for Barack Obama. Holy, shit—I just voted for BARACK OBAMA!!!
I came heavily armed with my driver's license, passport, a recent bill with my name on it, and a handy Voter ID card the New Jersey Board of Elections mailed me when I originally registered. Turns out, all they cared to see was the Voter ID card, although I'm sure if I hadn't brought that, any of the other items would have worked just as well. I showed up on their rolls (whew), and headed into the voting booth.
Although this was an electronic voting machine, and it did not give me a receipt of my own, there was a paper receipt generated proving how I voted. Before I went into the booth, the poll workers had me sign a card with my name on it, and fill out my address. That card was then inserted into the machine before I voted, and removed and filed away afterwards. So in the event of a recount, or electronic machine failure, the card will prove what happened—or intended to happen—in the booth.
As for the voting device, it was a colorful juxtaposition of a huge old-fashioned punch card with a list of names, sitting above a glowing electronic display with neon arrows and numbers. In other words, totally confusing. I sheepishly had to ask for help, like, twice. But after I settled into it, I successfully voted for Barack Obama for President, Joe Biden for Vice President, Frank Lautenberg for U.S. Senate, and whoever the Democrat was for that other thing we were voting on. And then it was done.
After two solid, excruciating, mesmerizing years of this epic campaign of hills and valleys, we're here. Get out there and vote! I'm napping for an hour! If I can calm my nerves!
This past weekend, I flew home to visit with my Grandma, who is not in the best of health. Sitting in the gate, delayed, I found myself watching CNN a few seats down from a couple Republican businessmen, and one unaffliated lady trapped into conversing with them. I ignored their pratter about how Obama will raise their taxes, Obama will hurt their business, Obama will hurt the economy, etc.—this is the kind of chat I have come to hear in many an airport from the middle manager set, and it does not really bother me.
After about an hour of this, a video of Barack Obama and his wife came onscreen. One of the gentlemen said in response, "These two have a problem with this country. Both of them. Both of them have a problem with America."
That was the moment I snapped.
Me: "How can you say they have a problem with America? How can you say that with a straight face? He's running for president. How can you honestly believe he hates the country he's running to lead? That just doesn't make any sense, I'm sorry."
Republican Guy 1: "Then why's he got to be friends with criminals?"
Woman: (staring ahead silently in wide-eyed awe at the disruption)
Me: "G. Gordon Liddy is an archcriminal. G. Gordon Liddy went to jail for subverting our country's constitution. G. Gordon Liddy is one of John McCain's best friends. G. Gordon Liddy has offered advice on his radio program on the best way to murder an ATF agent. And if you want to talk about friends, Walter Annenberg was one of Ronald Reagan's best friends. And he hired Bill Ayers to sit on the same board as Obama."
Republican Guy 2: "Oh, I don't know about 'best friends'.
Me: "They vacationed together. That pretty much sums it up for me."
Me: "What, is Barack Obama a criminal?"
Republican Guy 2: "You never know."
Me: "You never know? You never know?!! You know, because he's never been charged with anything, never been convicted by a jury of anything, never sentenced by a judge for anything. That's how you know."
Woman: (gigantic smile has appeared on her face)
Republican Guy 2: "Well, is William Ayers a criminal?"
Me: "Of course. Of course he is."
Republican Guy 2: "Well, he wasn't convicted of anything, either."
Me: "Well...uh...you have a point."
We sat in uncomfortable silence for a couple of minutes, after which I mumbled something cheerfully about being too much of a political junkie, and sorry for interrupting. They said it was no big deal, and went back to their own conversation. I started to feel kind of like a douchebag. I mean, who was I to just interrupt people who aren't bothering me, and challenge them on their ridiculous opinions, however odious?
Obama won the debate by being the adult in the room: again. McCain had more passion, and that passion makes this debate closer than the other two, but the passion quickly mutated into plain anger. He simply could not control himself, and he lost the debate because of it.
10:26pm Final remarks:
McCain: "We have to do better than the last 8 years." Thanks, Sen. McCain, for fighting this administration and the havoc they have wrought the last 8 years. Oh, wait...
Obama: "The biggest risk we could take is continue the same policies of the past 8 years for another 4."
10:19pm Sorry, I've just fallen asleep during the education section. Waking up...
10:13pm Obama seamlessly explains his opposition to the Born Alive act, explaining that there was already a law on the books protecting infants surviving abortion, and that the Illinois AMA also opposed the bill. He then speaks of "common ground" on abortion, and that no one is pro-abortion. McCain almost jumps out of his seat. McCain can't talk about "common ground" sitting next to his opponent, because he clearly hates him.
10:09pm Obama reminds us about Lili Ledbetter, the equal pay case that the USSC ruled against, and that McCain opposed.
10:05pm Schieffer asks if either of them would nominate a Supreme Court justice who differs with their position on Roe v. Wade. McCain goofs saying that "Obama voted against Justice Breyer". I believe he was just out of Harvard at that point.
10:04pm Free Joe The Plumber!
10:02pm Obama nails McCain's $5,000 credit with "the average policy is $12,000 annually".
9:58pm McCain turns to the camera for the first time tonight, to address his "friend, Joe the plumber." Can someone please remind McCain that the only man who has even met "Joe the plumber" is Sen. Obama?
9:57pm I think I've heard McCain snort, harrumph, cough, wheeze, or sigh about 300 times tonight during Obama's answers.
9:56pm Obama, directly to the camera: "If you've got health insurance, you don't have to do anything. All we're going to do is lower costs. And if you don't have health insurance, we're going to allow you to buy into the same health insurance plan that Sen. McCain and I enjoy." Awesome.
9:55pm John McCain just compared Barack Obama to Herbert Hoover. I repeat: John McCain just compared Barack Obama to Herbert Hoover.
9:52pm McCain: "Sen. Obama has never traveled south of our border." Sen. McCain, if you want to make the case that Obama is some American-bound, isolationist who isn't exotic or foreign enough for you, please: GO AHEAD.
9:50pm Yep, McCain is still pissed. Which voters does he think this pissy attitude is winning over?
9:47pm Obama: "I believe that in the next 10 years, we can completely eliminate dependence on Middle Eastern foreign oil." He's talking to the camera, calmly, intelligently, thoroughly, speaking extemporaneously on energy issues for several minutes without talking down to his audience, or bothering to attack or even mention his grumpy rival across the table.
9:46pm I believe Sen. McCain has turned every single answer to every single question Schieffer has asked him tonight into an attack on his rival within the second sentence.
9:44pm Obama's twists the knife back on the special needs issue, saying that an "across-the-board spending freeze" would hurt studying the cause of autism.
9:42pm Obama describes Biden's attributes in broad, sweeping policy detail on both domestic and foreign policy issues, and personal story as well. All McCain seems to be able to get out is "she's a reformer", "special needs", and "her husband's a tough guy, too."
9:40pm Schieffer asks why each of their veep choices are better than their opponent's. This should be good.
9:38pm "All of the details need to be known about Sen. Obama's association with Ayers and ACORN. And my campaign is about getting the economy moving." All in the same breath, people. Unbelievable.
9:37pm Obama's answer on his "associations" is gold. "It says more about your campaign than me."
9:34pm Obama: "What we can't do is characterize each other as bad people." McCain immediately follows that with the introduction of William Ayers, and "possibly the greatest perpretation of fraud in our democracy." Wow.
9:32pm McCain "won't stand" for "veterans" being maligned who come to his rallies. No one has done that in the Obama campaign, Senator. "There's been some t-shirts..."??? T-SHIRTS, McCain?!
9:30pm McCain: "I did not hear a repudiation of Congressman Lewis". Obama brings up the shouts of "terrorist" and "kill him" and how Palin said nothing to condemn those remarks. McCain is pisssssed. Obama reminds McCain that his campaign did say the comparison btwn George Wallace and McCain was a wrong one. Obama is coming off like the adult, McCain is coming off like an angry toddler wiggling around in his chair.
9:27pm Obama: "The American people, the polls show, 2/3rds of them say that you're running a negative campaign, John. Studies show that 100% of your ads are negative. 100%."
9:26pm McCain responds by instead of making those charges to Obama's face, just listing all the shitty things Obama's campaign has said about McCain. I think that was a missed opportunity for McCain.
9:24pm Schieffer tees it up: "Will you say to each other's faces what your campaigns have said about each other." McCain kicks it off with his pathetic excuse that if they'd just done townhalls together, it didn't have to be that way.
9:23pm Gosh, McCain just sounds relentlessly pissed.
9:22pm Obama's answer on what he's gone against his party over—tort reform, charter schools, and clean-coal—was tight.
9:20pm McCain seems to include the phrase "energy independence" in almost every other sentence, whether we're discussing the mortgage crisis, taxes, or job creation. We haven't gotten to the energy section of the debate.
9:19pm McCain: "Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush. If you want to run against Pres. Bush, you should have run four years ago."
9:18pm Obama: "An across-the-board spending freeze is a hatchet, not a scalpel. And we need a scalpel."
9:18pm No planetariums!
9:16pm McCain should really avoid phrases like "during the Depression era, we had...". Oh, great, he just announced his "across-the-board spending freeze"! Music to the ears of the middle-class voter who depends on some form of government spending.
9:12pm Although I couldn't disagree more with McCain, he is showing some fire with the tax discussion.
9:10pm "Class warfare" makes it out of McCain's mouth! "Why would you want to raise anyone's taxes?" Why, Sen. McCain do you want to make me pay taxes on my health care benefits?
9:09pm "What I said to Joe the plumber, 5 years ago, you were in need of a tax cut then."
9:07pm Wow, McCain is already out of the gate attacking Bush over the "spread the wealth" comment Obama made in Ohio. He must have been reading the New York Post this morning like I was. It's not at all related to the mortgage crisis discussion, obviously a canned attack McCain wanted to dump out before he forgot it.
9:04pm McCain spoke to Bob Scheiffer in his first answer. Obama is speaking to the camera. "What we haven't yet seen is a rescue package for the middle class." Obama is good at rattling off the specifics in of his mortgage rescue proposal.
9:02pm "It's good to see you again, Sen. Obama."
9:01pm 9-minute time sections for each question? This should be good.
This past Sunday, while campaigning in Ohio, Sen. Barack Obama was told by a prospective voter that Obama was likely to "tax me more" on his budding small business. Obama's reply?
"It's not that I want to punish your success," Obama replied. "I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success, too . . . When you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
This mild remark has gotten some of the leading lights of conservative media all in a tizzy. The Murdoch-owned New York Post weighed in, claiming that the wealthy already pay too much in taxes:
Remember, Obama's tax hikes target folks who already bear the brunt of the burden: The top 20 percent of earners already pay 69 percent of all federal taxes - and 88 percent of income taxes.
(Contrast that with John McCain's call yesterday for real tax cuts - halving the capital-gains levy, scrapping taxes on unemployment benefits altogether - designed to prime the economic pump.)
Isn't it odd that the only taxes the Post thinks are "real tax cuts" are those provided for non-labor earnings like capital gains on investments, and unemployment benefits? I'm all for scrapping taxes on unemployment benefits—I've always thought they were punitive—but capital gains? CAPITAL GAINS? So working folk don't deserve tax cuts, but the wealthy and unemployed do?
Meanwhile, Tom Bevan of the right-leaning Real Clear Politics thinks this "gaffe" provides an opening for McCain in tonight's debate:
With the financial crisis dominating so much of the discussion, McCain has less freedom to make the traditional liberal vs. conservative critique on other issues like abortion or gun rights without appearing to go off topic. But Obama handed McCain a golden opportunity this week by being caught on tape telling a plumber in Ohio that his economic plan seeks to "spread the wealth around." That phrase that neatly captures for McCain the attack that Obama is a liberal income redistributionist who wants to take from the haves and give to the have nots.
It's always fascinating to watch ideologues fall so in love with their positions, they can't see how anyone else wouldn't either. Of course Republican activist Tom Bevan thinks McCain making some sort of "anti-class warfare", supply-side argument would be brilliant tonight. Doesn't everyone hate the idea of some of the most concentrated wealth in the world being lightly redistributed to unemployed Americans, lower-income Americans, and children, through social services, retirement benefits, educational needs, and infrastructural projects? Who the hell wants all that?
I sure think it would be great if McCain attacked Obama tonight for wanting to reverse decades of the widest income inequality our nation has ever known. In the midst of the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression, brought on by a Wall Street greed that would make Gordon Gekko blush, on a day when the stock market dropped yet another 733 points, I can think of nothing better than for McCain to shout at Obama "quit picking on the fat cats"!