Friday, August 29, 2008

"We are a better country than this..."

"We meet at one of those defining moments--a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more." 8-28-08

Watching Barack Obama is becoming more and more like watching the great athletes I have admired over the years, as once again he stepped up to the plate, with the burden of unrealistic expectations on his back, and proceeded to hit a grand slam. Like the Negro League great Josh Gibson, when Obama has two strikes he's not in the hole--the pitcher's in the hole, because he still has another swing. Speaking in front of 85,000 people on the anniversary of perhaps the most sacred political speech in U.S. history, Obama was able to transcend the hypocrisy of the GOP, who ridiculed his celebrity while scrambling to beg people to fill a high school gym for a McCain "rally" and deliver a speech that was not really about poetry but hard-nosed prose that rang with disdain for the Bush tragedy and their half-dead little lapdog who has sold his soul to whore himself to the same big oil interests and right wing evangelicals whose world is slipping away as this society changes in ways that were unimaginable even a generation ago.

We all remember three years ago today, as Katrina ravaged New Orleans, killing far too many brothers and sisters, it was McCain who literally ate birthday cake with his buddy George, oblivious to the suffering of poor men, women and children left to drown while the pathetic "heckuva job Brownie" did absolutely nothing to help rescue thousands of trapped Americans whose government failed them because of incompetent leaders who sent their "National Guard" to assist in an immoral, illegal, and hopelessly misguided occupation of a country that had nothing to do with 9-11 and indeed never attacked America. These idiots are asking the American people to let them finish destroying the country, with McCain pledging to continue the Bush "policies." And now, before the GOP can begin to recover from Hurricane Barack that submerged their ill will, the karma-infused Gustav approaches the Gulf Coast just in time for the GOP convention, a stark reminder of Bush-Brownie-McCain incompetence and evidence that maybe there really is a God, since it appears to be payback from an angry God for the right wing nut jobs who prayed for rain to ruin Obama's speech. God evidently doesn't like evangelical blowhards and GOP conventions anymore than She supposedly doesn't like those sinners in the Big Easy. In the final analysis, Obama's speech was a harbinger of change. It will come, even if Obama cannot overcome the worst instincts of this country in 2008. As Hamlet said, "If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come; it will be now; if it be not now; yet it will come. The readiness is all." (5.2.217-220)

Obama clearly conveyed his readiness to lead the country and, perhaps more importantly, articulated a cogent and detailed vision of what we need to do to begin to reclaim the American Dream that has been battered and bruised by eight years of an administration that is hopelessly ignorant and lacking in any type of vision. Quite frankly, I would take Kanye West's assertion after Katrina much farther: George Bush doesn't care about the average American, regardless of skin color. He has abused his office to enrich his Texas oil industry buddies and in doing so has literally murdered sons and daughters whose bodies litter the desert so that these criminals can continue doing business as usual, just on a much larger scale, with their no-bid contracts to "rebuild" a country we destroyed. In a just world--or even in many countries--Bush and Cheney would be deposed from power and executed for their war crimes, so they should slither back to the Texas and Wyoming rocks they crawled out from under and be ready to take their lumps from historians who will excoriate them for centuries to come for what they have done to this country. That is what led to Obama's frustrated "Enough!" that was a metaphor for the anger and rage of a generation of Americans who have helplessly endured the destruction of the ideals of this nation that we all love so much. As Obama said, "America, we are a better country than these last eight years. We are a better country than this." Obama's speech was the most profound wake-up call in this nation's history; however, it remains to be seen if America is up to answering the call, or will they simply pull the pillow over their heads and hit the symbolic snooze button embodied by a vote for McSame. That question is by no means certain, as Obama's brave, thoughtful, and tenacious speech cannot obscure the fact that he is the underdog in this race simply because of who he is.

In Shakespeare's Henry V the young King Henry was mocked by his opponents because he was young and inexperienced and spent his early days hanging out in the pubs with his drunkard buddy Falstaff, inviting apprehension among the people as his time to take the throne approached. Once the young king assumed the throne, the French mocked him by sending a gift of tennis balls, only be told that "we understand the [Dauphin] well / How he comes over us with our wilder days / Not measuring what use we made of them." Just as the French underestimated and mocked the young king, the hapless old GOP has done the same with Obama, unable to comprehend what the young Obama learned in his younger days as a student of the world and Chicago activist. They thought they were dealing with some weak, celebrity version of Jimmy Carter when all of the sudden Joe Louis showed up on that stage Thursday night and knocked down the entire GOP, leaving them so dazed and confused they were uncharacteristically silent after Obama's speech, symbolically throwing in the towel. It was an overwhelmingly audacious frontal assault that left the McCain camp mired in shock and awe, so out of it that they made an hurried and irresponsible decision to name an unqualified, unknown governor to the ticket, hoping to peel away some of the Hillary supporters who seemed to be coming home in droves on Thursday night. The problem with the Palin VP selection is that it is a stunning insult to almost all Democratic women, as she represents everything the feminists have fought against since the 1970s, besides having absolutely none of the experience that was Hillary's main argument, remember "ready from Day One..."? More on the VP later...

It was Henry V who led his outnumbered "band of brothers" to a stunning victory over the French, noting in his own powerful speech on the eve of the decisive battle and English victory:
" I am not covetous for gold / Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost; / It yearns me not if men my garments wear; such outward things dwell not in my desires. / But if it be a sin to covet honor, / I am the most offending soul alive...For he today that sheds his blood with me / shall be my brother." (Henry V 4.3.20-60)
Make no mistake about it, Obama's speech was as much about honor as it was policy. It was essentially a populist declaration of war on a GOP that has destroyed America's financial and economic structures and left the country reeling in the aftermath of an Olympics that featured the daunting reality of an ascendant China and an America so stretched by the human and financial costs of the Iraq fiasco that perhaps we have been reduced to a "country of whiners" because that's all we were able to do when Russia smacked down Georgia, after a McCain lobbyist most likely encouraged Georgia to attack South Ossetia so that he could create another Bhutto moment to highlight McCain's "experience." The opposite, of course, developed when the Georgian president appealed for "actions not words" while the helpless McCain blustered his usual tough guy talk and then let the story disappear. Of course, the mainstream media won't touch this angle, even while highlighting the connections between McCain's campaign and Georgia: "You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances."

Obama laid out his case to address the significant challenges that face this country in the 21st century with realistic and ambitious plans to end our addiction to oil in 10 years, provide more than lip service and prayers for public education, and begin to provide health care for poor and middle class people that transcends the GOP's preferred emergency room>financial ruin>bankruptcy medley the right wingers crow about, most recently proposing that no one is considered "uninsured" in America because all of us have access to emergency rooms. In terms of foreign policy, Obama finally took McCain head-on: "If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander in chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have. For while Se. McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats that we face...John McCain likes to say that he'll follow Bin Laden to the gates of hell--but he won't even follow him to the cave where he lives." Indeed, they are probably afraid to find that cave because it was decorated by Bush's oil buddies at Enron, who, if you recall, hosted the Taliban in Texas and showed them a good 'ol time, even as the Taliban freaks said publicly that they felt sorry for American men who could not "control" their women. This is all public knowledge, yet some people still wonder why Bush has dragged his feet in Afghanistan and provided those chartered jets for the wonderful Bin Laden family to flee America on 9-12, while relatives of dead WTC Americans were told to catch a bus to NY to identify their dead mothers, father, sons, daughters...These are the "leaders" who stole the election in 2000 and are now counting on there being enough ignorant and racist Americans to let them pass the baton to McCain, anchor leg in a GOP relay that makes the woeful, baton-dropping Olympic American 400 meter relay teams look prepared and focused: "If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice--but it is not the change that America needs."

Much has been written already about McCain's selection of Palin to be his VP, but I have a different take than many Democrats who are focusing too much on her "inexperience." In my mind, that is an issue but not the most disturbing one. Obviously, being the governor of a state with a population that is less than many cities in California and an economy that in no way resembles most of America, does not prepare one to be president of the United States. I am also fine with the fact that she was selected because she is a woman: her gender has nothing to do with the larger issues, and although there were many much more qualified Republican women who deserved the selection more than this anonymous person from Alaska, McCain chose to make a political decision to reclaim his "maverick" image, and to be honest, he did a great job of stepping on the afterglow of Obama's speech simply because the national media was so dumbfounded by his selection that it dominated the news cycle the day after Obama's speech.
The problem I have with Palin is that she is so out of her league that even McCain did not make the case that she is qualified to be president. In his introduction today, he never mentioned anything about her readiness to be the leader of the free world--and that is disturbing. If you recall, Bill Clinton chose Al Gore despite being warned that he brings nothing to the ticket as a fellow Southerner, the same age etc. Clinton famously told his advisors that he was picking Gore "because I might die" and he knew Gore would be a great president. Likewise, Obama made the same type of choice with Biden, someone who has run for president several times and has decades of experience.

John McCain for the first time showed himself to be someone who really does not love his country but only cares about his politcial calculations, as he is willing to roll the dice on an unknown governor from podunk Alaska to stare down the Russians if McCain dies. McCain is 72 and has a 1000 page medical report and this is the type of choice he makes? This is the first example of his judgment? THAT is the problem with this choice, not the fact that Palin is two pounds lighter than a straw hat, a truly laughable choice who doesn't believe in science and wants to outlaw all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest(surely that will win over the Hillary supporters...). McCain once again showed himself to have the judgment and intellectual capacity of a petulant child, not a potential president. The problem with Palin is that she is unknown and hasn't gone through the vetting process by the national press, nor has she endured 20+ debates against fellow presidential contenders. Obama has experienced the pressure of battling Biden, Dodd, Clinton, Edwards etc. in head-to-head, high pressure televised debates. That's how I got to know him. That is tangible experience, having your positions scrutinized and attacked and having to respond. That is precisely what is lacking in Palin. Who is she? What is her temperament? How does she think? What are her policy positions? This is what I expect to know about ANY person--from either party--who may be president. Is this asking too much, to expect my VP to be a national figure? What is happening to this country?

And isn't it amusing to watch the same blowhards who attacked Obama relentlessly for his lack of experience now extolling Palin's virtues and her profound experience leading a town of less than 10,000 and dealing with the pressure of the PTA and Miss Alaska competition. Cindy McCain's best argument for Palin was that "you know, Alaska is the closest state to Russia..." OK... I was afraid McCain was going to cave in and select someone as idiotic as Huckabee, but 'ol Huck now looks downright appealing. Perhaps McCain really is a genius however, because I know that I am seriously going to wish him well if he wins this election because I actually do care about this country's future and the safety of my family, so much so that I would never discard posterity simply because I'm an ambitious old man with one foot in the grave.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Tragedy of McCain III

"Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time
Unless to to see my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover...
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days." (R3 I.i.24-30)

Like Richard III, McCain is an odious individual, both in appearance and temperament, who, in the potential absence of war in a post-Iraq America, has no reason to live, nowhere to unleash his villainy. He is truly frightened of a world without war, one that he and his family have never known. McCain is the family failure, admitted to Annapolis solely because of his pedigree, only to sink to the bottom of his class and a well-known career as POW, directly related to his incompetence as a pilot. I respect the fact that he actually fought in Vietnam(even though he didn't seem to have many options as the son and grandson of admirals), unlike his chicken-hawk supporters and the current war criminal president, who ran for their lives when it was time to actually support America in a war instead of calling Drug Limbaugh, god of the draft dodgers. I mean, really, who can take any draft dodging baby boomer seriously? They are quite simply cowards, but they are all very willing to send other kids to Iraq.
These are the "people" who support the tragedy of McCain the third, a man who, according to a kid at Dairy Queen, would have no chance for a job serving ice cream cones (I asked a kid behind the counter if they would hire a 72 year-old man who cannot operate a computer and has never had a real job. He said McCain's application would be tossed in the garbage). Indeed, how many of McCain's supporters would hire someone with his background for any job?

"But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass,
I, that am rudely stamped..
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature...
So lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them." (R3 I.i.14-23)

Indeed, McCain--and not really anyone else-- seems obsessed with the fact that Obama is better looking, more popular, and much more interesting than McCain is. Personally, I don't think any of that will make Obama a better president, but McCain is now locked in the tiny prison that is his mind, pathetically fighting the war we lost in Vietnam, while whining and crying to his media "refs" about how Obama gets all the calls. Shame on Obama for speaking to 200,000 Germans while McCain rode around in a golf cart with another fossil, Bush I, and held court in front of the cheese rack at a supermarket. Does the guy have advisors to protect him from himself? A man or woman who has the self-confidence to be the leader of the free world is not content to simply mock his or her opponent but should be able to offer real ideas, a plan, yet there is McCain sadly content to call Obama a "celebrity," as if that's going to turn America against him. Most voters really do want to have a sense of the candidate's values and are not interested in a grumpy old man yelling at the young kid to get off his lawn, yet that is the picture McCain has produced--the angry old man, who, as Obama said, is "proud of his ignorance."

It is clear to anyone paying attention that this election will turn on America's comfort level with Obama. McCain is basically irrelevant, just as he was in the primaries. He is the default candidate, no more and no less. He was there to fill the void for voters who could not stomach the JV lineup the GOP trotted out there in January and now he is the rebound boy for voters who simply cannot vote for a black man. The debates will be critical, as the juxtaposition of the candidates will make it painfully clear that McCain is more suited to running for his retirement home's activities director than leader of the free world. One look at McCain standing next to Obama will be an epiphany for many Americans, the moment when they will ask themselves, "How can I vote for this guy?" Obama, like Kennedy, needs to convey a sense of maturity and make Americans comfortable with the notion of a 47 year-old man with limited national experience leading the country in a time of war and economic devastation. Americans are rightfully concerned about Obama's lack of experience, but he needs to accentuate the reality that McCain is older but much less wiser than he was even a decade ago, as it is clear the current McCain really has nothing in common with the moderate from a decade ago. McCain sold his soul to the the extremist GOP base and is simply another oil industry whore. It was well reported that shortly after he took $285K from big oil interests he suddenly reversed his opposition to offshore drilling, which he now touts as the cure for America's energy woes. The same oil men who pimped Bush for eight years now want to elect McCain so they can roll over and put their pants on. They don't like McCain, but as the old saying goes, you don't pay a whore to stay, you pay her to leave...

I, too, pity McCain, as he is a man with no salient life experiences that are not related to the military. I had my first private sector job at age 12(delivering the Mail Tribune), yet McCain has never gone out and actually earned a job, relying on his rich wife's daddy to hire him for a few weeks but even that was too much so he ran back to the "do nothing" Congress(as the Republicans say), and for three decades he was a master at doing nothing except extorting funds illegally--google "Keating Five"--and having his rich wife's family buy his way out of jail. As Frank Rich observed, "Given that McCain's sole private-sector job was a fleeting stint in public relations at his father-in-law's beer distributorship, he comes by his economic ignorance honestly. But there's no A team aboard the Straight Talk Express to fill him in." Indeed, he has surrounded himself with fellow bitter old men like Gramm and back benchers like Carly Fiorina, famous for running Hewlett-Packard into the ground before she was fired--and given $21 million in cash to stay gone. These are the people who are going to turn around the economy that Bush has destroyed? The only change and hope they represent is the answer to Democrats' prayers that '08 will be the most devastating Republican defeat in history. The Republicans are so hopelessly incompetent and out of touch that their only viable "message" is that they are not Obama and he is not one of "us." You know, the fat(Obama's too thin), ugly(look at McCain), uneducated(Obama went to Harvard) and bitter(GOP is losing in every state where people can read) "us" that the Republicans cling to.

This type of background--along with dumping one's disfigured wife for a young heiress and banishing her with hush money--is enough to damage one's self esteem and provides some insight into McCain's relentless attack on Obama's "celebrity," as fly boy McCain has been exposed for what he is: an empty flight suit with no moral foundation and certainly no intellectual standing, a "wrinkled old white dude" who doesn't know when he's being mocked by Paris Hilton, so clueless he offers his wife up for a pornographic biker "beauty contest." One can only imagine the response if Obama showed any signs of being the type of idiot McCain has shown himself to be. The New York Times rejected an Op-Ed essay he wrote not because the editor didn't agree with his views (they've published many of his essays) but because he couldn't even define victory in Iraq, let alone explain how to achieve it. This is a man who raves about the "surge" being a success but not enough of one to bring the troops home. It seems like a logical question to ask for a plan to bring American soldiers home and stop sending American tax money to a country Americans do not care about. America is in dire economic straits, yet here we are continually borrowing money to fight a war that was proven to be a fraud from the beginning. I guess that's the Vietnam syndrome, having no sense of when a war is over. Countries--at least ones with the catastrophe that defines America's economy--should not babysit countries for 100 years, especially when they are not wanted and even despised. And the war criminal Bush is so ignorant that he is paying to rebuild Iraq with Americans' tax dollars while allowing Iraq to have an $80 billion surplus while we are trillions in debt.

Moreover, McCain's idiotic comment that Obama somehow wanted to "lose" the Iraq war is laughable. How do we lose the war when Hussein is dead? The war criminal's stated purpose for invading Iraq was to overthrow Hussein and seize his huge supplies of WMDs; therefore, we should have declared victory and left on the day he was hanged, rather than installing an Iranian puppet government. McCain is simply a profound, bumbling embarrassment in a GOP year that has featured one after another, yet he remains viable as a potential president because it will probably never be easy for a black man named Obama to be elected in this country. McCain's in it because this is still a racist country in many ways, a fact that all but the most ignorant acknowledge. America has progressed in ways that most countries never will (where are the Obamas in "progressive" Europe?), but there are millions of uneducated bigots in this country, more than enough to swing this election.

There are obviously no easy solutions to extract our country from the Iraq fiasco, but it is quite clear that a man as shockingly ignorant as McCain is probably not the answer. He thinks Iraq shares a border with Pakistan and has to be tutored by Lieberman--a Democrat--in the difference between Shia and Sunni, something most 8th graders probably know after a war that has dragged on longer than our effort to help defeat Hitler. This man is going to be responsible for hundreds of thousands of American troops, young men and women who have repeatedly answered the war criminal's call, even while he told most draft age adults to go shopping and not to worry about the war? In his great article, "It's the Economic Stupidity, Stupid," (7-20-08)Frank Rich excoriated McCain's commander in chief qualities, noting that "you have to wonder if even General Custer's learning curve was faster than his" in response to McCain's hapless understanding of Afghanistan and the Taliban and the reality that we simply don't have the troops to engage an enemy that may indeed pose an actual threat to our country, unlike Iraq.

I doubt any candidate would do the right thing and reinstate the draft, with no exceptions for any reasons. How many wars would we fight if rich kids were going to die? My guess would be zero, unless we were attacked. What a notion, defending your own country...In the nuclear age, ground wars are a relic of the past, yet the war criminal and McCain are content to send more and more men and women to die for the most dishonest war in this nation's history, and Americans worry more about the cost of gas, too ignorant to connect the dots and make the connections. If Americans elect McCain, we will certainly all get what we deserve. This is a democracy, and democracy isn't pretty when one looks at it too closely. The man whose "brain"(Gramm) called the worst mortgage meltdown in the nation's history a "mental recession" and who has repeatedly stated that he really doesn't understand the economy, or "those issues" as he said, McRambo will be free of that pesky economy situation so that he can get back to his war games:

"But if the cause be not good, the King himself
hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads,
chopped off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all,
'We died at such a place'--some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the King that led them to it..." (HenryV.4.1.133-143)

Amen, brother Shakespeare.