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.

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