Barack Obama: The West Point Operator


President Barack Obama stood tonight before the seated West Point cadets and revealed himself to be a shallow political opportunist, a man who views mortal sacrifice with all the cold and uncomprehending analysis of a clinical dilettante who is in over his head. Obama stared hard into his twin prompters, as if expecting some illusory plane to crash and conflagrate. One detected the whiff of self-sabotage as this newly christened lame duck spoke without spontaneity, failing to hit any note that even approximated empathy. Yes, he had signed letters of condolence to the families of every American who has given up a life. But there was nothing in his dead eyes to suggest a solace that extended beyond bureaucratic acts or a leader who knew what he was doing. This was shallow and unconsummated political theater, and, for me, a profound feeling of nausea kicked in at the ten minute mark.

Obama preferred to regale the crowd with hollow tough talk, but, judging from the few cutaway shots, the West Point throngs didn’t seem terribly convinced. He reminded us all, including those brave progressives daring to huddle around high-def sets for some benefit of the doubt, that he was the Commander-in-Chief. In a line that will no doubt be fiercely argued by febrile teabaggers, he declared that he had seen “firsthand the terrible wages of war.” It was as if he still needed to prove something just less than a year into his Presidency. But in an age of economic disaster, unseen relief, and international terror, the time for needless reminders and phony platitudes has now passed. Actions that live up to the mandate have become beyond necessary, and Obama demonstrated again that he cannot deliver. This geeky, number-crunching adolescent, who painfully reminded us that he had once stood against the Iraq War, pretended once again to be an adult, and his speech was a firm betrayal of the alleged ethos that secured his November victory. When that dreadful noun “hope” came up thrice, applied to Afghanistan’s untenable wasteland, the linguistic political operator and almost certain one-term President came out of the closet. It was also an unpardonable insult for Obama to suggest that “we must come together to end this war successfully,” a sentiment at odds with the exigencies of healthy democracy and language uncomfortably close to the previous Oval Office hick now laughing his ass off in Dallas. One expects a failure to grasp the realities of human conflict from some desperate corporate leader making an awkward speech at a company retreat, but not the ostensible leader of the free world. Had a cadet yelled, “You lie!” tonight, I would have applauded him as a patriot.

This was a hard spectacle for anyone on the left to endure. The social networks were strangely silent. It was eerily symbolic that YouTube opted to live-stream an Alicia Keys concert over tonight’s cold hard truth. Obama, the man who had fueled his base through the Internet, had been abandoned by his most fervent online boosters. And this sizable cluster was really the canton who needed to hear this speech more than anyone else. Perhaps they will be braver in the morning, when they can stomach some predawn douse of icy and abrasive water. Obama’s speech was a tremendous slur against optimism and possibility, for it invited cynicism rather than respect. This was not a delivery that could galvanize the hardscrabble American heart, for it offered only fungible realities.

Obama failed to sell the brave recruits or the American people on the reasons behind the Afghanistan surge. Lives would be lost, but for what? These unspecified threats and specious connections were the reasons why so many of us opposed Bush. Obama said that he owed us “a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service,” but remained too general on the details. His objectives involved denying al-Qaeda a safe haven, reversing the Taliban’s momentum, and denying them the ability to overthrow the government. But these goals carried distressing echoes of the administrative arrogance depicted in David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest, and remained doubly troubling with the assumptive hubris. For Obama was there to tell us that those seeing another Vietnam were relying upon “a false reading of history” and offered no text in return. His inference rested on the principle that Vietnam was the natural parallel, rather than the failed ten-year campaign by Russia, much less the ongoing clusterfuck in Iraq, which, in Obama’s words, was “well-known and need not be repeated here.”

Obama claimed that “this is not just America’s war,” He preferred to mimic the language of our previous President, awkwardly jutting his chin in deference to the eight-year charlatan’s cowboy tic. But it did not seem to occur to him that such arrogance — conveyed through subdued and unconvincing burlesque and a stunning failure to be even remotely real — is not how any nation builds coalitions.

This was a Powerpoint presentation delivered without the slides. Obama sweated, looking like a boxer past his prime, and didn’t seem to comprehend that human lives were in the balance. When Obama stated that “the days of providing a blank check are over,” one was speedily reminded of the no-strings-attached check handled to the rapacious thugs at Goldman Sachs and the $787 billion stimulus package that has allegedly “created or saved” 640,000 jobs (or about $248,000 spent for each job). Obama offered a timeline, but for all of his talk about “addressing these costs openly and honestly,” he was reticent to drop specific pecuniary numbers for his escalation plan. He offered yet another hollow promise to close Guantanamo Bay, but the travesty that continues to sully alleged American virtues must end with a decisive action.

When speaking about Afghanistan, Obama looked directly into the camera, as if expecting a pockmarked population to watch, and said, “We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours.” But I did not believe him. And there is no reason to expect an Afghanistan civilian to believe him. Before the speech, two of his officials had used the word “surge” in relation to these developments. And Malalai Joya, writing bravely in The Guardian, intimated that an escalation of troops is a war crime against her country. (Both links found helpfully through Glenn Greenwald.)

None of these concerns were considered. There remained the cliched faith in “workers and businesses who will rebuild our economy,” but none of this could atone for the pressing reality that more than a tenth of us are without a livelihood and nearly one fifth of African-American males are far worse off. As Obama heads on to Oslo to collect his Nobel Peace Prize, one is reminded of the 1973 Swedish hypocrisy. One begins to hear Kissinger’s duplicities in Obama’s dulcet voice.

Which leads anyone living in the waking world to conclude justly that Obama’s idealism is gone. His rhetoric is hollow. This is a dead parrot.

Lifestyles I'm Sorry Take Two

The Follies of Emotional Expression

Lifestyles I'm Sorry Take Two

ITEM: September 1, 2009. A YouTube video surfaces. In the video, Van Jones calls Congressional Republicans “assholes.” The video is from an event in February 11, 2009. Jones was appointed by President Obama in March 2009. After considerable outcry from conservatives, Jones resigns from his White House position as Special Advisor for Green Jobs.

ITEM: September 8, 2009. President Obama delivers a speech before Congress. Rep. Joe Wilson (R – SC) shouts “You lie!” in the middle of the speech. Wilson apologizes, but the matter isn’t dropped. There are countless efforts to find ways to respond to Wilson’s words (is it racism as Jimmy Carter suggests a week later?). There is endless chatter by liberals and conservatives alike. More than a week later, Joe Wilson remains in the news.

ITEM: September 13, 2009. Serena Williams goes ballistic at the US Open. She is fined $10,000 for delivering a tirade at a judge. (She is also docked $500 for racket abuse. It was a tough racket.)

ITEM: September 13, 2009. Taylor Swift wins a Video Music Award. In the middle of her acceptance, Kanye West grabs the microphone out of Swift’s hands and shouts, “I’m sorry, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.”

ITEM: September 13, 2009. President Obama is asked about Kanye West and Obama calls West a “jackass.” Efforts to prevent the tweet, the audio clip, and the video clip from disseminating around the Internet fail. Most side with the President.

One could probably include many other visceral explosions in recent history. Sherman Alexie, Alain de Botton, Alice Hoffman, Michael Richards, Christian Bale, or Don Imus all come to mind. But the above items all went down this month. We still have about two weeks to go before September’s over. It appears very likely that more public figures will erupt (or interrupt) with a subtlety worthy of Vesuvius.

But what do these reactions mean? And what is the appeal? It would be superficial to blame it all on the media, although the media is going out of its way to perpetuate these stories. (Arguably, as a questionable media source, I am going out of my way to perpetuate these stories, although I am trying to ruminate on it all instead of getting away from it.) Could it be that the tendency to fixate on these incidents involves some desire to make sense of these reactions? Maybe. I doubt that any of us could have predicted that POTUS would have managed to mix himself up in a Kanye West tirade, particularly when more pressing concerns like unemployment and health care are burning up national peat. But politics is now just as vital to the celebrity-industrial complex as sports, movies, and music. (It could hardly have been an accident that the FOX Network timed its announcement of Ellen DeGeneres as new American Idol judge to coincide with the President’s speech.)

Instead of trying to understand these visceral impulses, it has become the duty of every cultural observer to perpetuate the shallow headlines rather than plunge deeper. Are two words or two sentences really enough to denounce someone? Is this not continuing the soundbite culture? (No accident that Twitter, itself a bedrock of textual soundbites, was one of the major conduits through which these stories spread.) Should we not judge these people on a more complete impression? What resides beneath the comments?

Van Jones’s “assholes” admonishment came when the assembled group was trying to understand how bipartisanship could be an option when the Republicans remained obdurate. That’s a fairly interesting question, but it’s too bad that sensitive ears and Penn Ave propriety weeded Jones out.

Joe Wilson, as inappropriate as his actions were, was trying to express his passion. And isn’t understanding that passion, as unsettling as the motivations may be, the more important concern here? If we calmly listened to people, as Al Franken patiently did, wouldn’t this cut down on conservatives showing up at town meetings packing heat? Why not ask questions? Or see where people are coming from? Why did Wilson think that Obama was lying? And why aren’t we discussing the more interesting facts?

The Nation‘s Dave Zern observed that Roger Federer had a tantrum two days after Serena Williams, but Federer wasn’t upbraided in the press as severely as Williams. Is there a double standard? Does Federer get a free pass because he isn’t African-American and he isn’t a woman? Maybe it has more to do with celebrity figures fulfilling our expectations. After all, Federer is known more for his calm demeanor on the court. Williams, on the other hand, is known for her temper. Shouldn’t Federer’s incongruous reaction (“I don’t give a shit what he said” uttered on national TV) be rejoined with greater severity? And shouldn’t we praise Serena Williams for handling a future game with calm professionalism? Are we not just as guilty with our predictable responses? Are we true to our nature?

Kanye West acted like a jackass (a subjective view), but he never called Taylor Swift a jackass (the objective quote). He told Swift that he was “very happy” for her before turning his back and denying her moment. And yet President Obama, who used an ad hominem remark to respond to the whole mess, has neither given an apology nor been asked for an apology. (Contrast this with the Cambridge Police Department demanding an apology from Obama in late July, after Obama declared that the police had “acted stupidly” in the Henry Louis Gates arrest. Obama didn’t apologize, but there was a beer summit.)

Since the President has become involved in these public disputes with greater frequency, and he reserves the right to tell people that they “acted stupidly” or call someone a “jackass,” then perhaps he should start setting a better example for rational bipartisan discourse. Or perhaps he should abandon his “civilized” remarks and call people “jackass” from time to time. (Nixon was hardly a President to be proud of, but it’s worth noting that he had no problem using the word “cocksucker.”)

Maybe there’s something else at work here pertaining to executive privilege. The New York Times reported that New York City’s unemployment rate hit 10.3% in August, a 16-year-old high. The national unemployment rate still holds at just under 10% — the highest unemployment rate since 1983. As of April, two million jobs were lost in 2009. In tough times, when those who are fortunate enough to remain employed have a strong desire to stay mum and keep their jobs, and when millions of unemployed people can’t take any chances, it makes intuitive sense to look vicariously towards those who have this executive privilege of emotional expression.

But if emotional expression is so atavistic, shouldn’t it be predicated on egalitarianism? Is it not a double standard for Van Jones to be dismissed while Obama keeps his job? Subjectively, I happen to think that Obama was correct in both instances. But why can’t somebody who isn’t the President make such statements and not have to go through the endless rigmarole of apologizing over the course of multiple interviews? Why can’t we just accept someone’s apology and move on? If we don’t, then the purpose of an apology is useless or the apology doesn’t fit the apparent punishment for the crime. And if we don’t accept other people, which includes listening to their heightened emotional expression, then this runs counterintuitive to eclectic discourse.

If emotional expression is reserved only for those at the top, then should we really be surprised by the people who show up at tea parties? Should we really be surprised that Glenn Beck’s popularity has risen dramatically during the Obama Administration?

Perhaps these people are expressing extraordinary emotions like this because society has established unspoken prohibitions in the manner by which they communicate. As I type this sentence, I happen to believe that Salman Rushdie is a cunt. I could tell you why if you asked me. And if Rushdie were to explain himself, I would be happy to listen. If he had a reasonable explanation for his cunt-like behavior, I might change my mind. But because I have stated that “Salman Rushdie is a cunt,” people will see this and possibly believe me to be an asshole. But should such a sentence discount all the thoughtful and positive sentences I have ever uttered? And is my opinion of Rushdie so inflexible? By our present emotional expressive standards, this would certainly be the case if I had, by some lark, achieved the fame of Serena Williams.

But let’s approach this issue from another sideways shuffle. It is very possible that you, dear reader, harbor a feeling, however permanent or temporary, that someone that you know is a cunt. If that sentiment is permanent, and if it is not subject to change, then you may not be a civilized person. (Or, in Joe Wilson’s words, you lie!) But if you accept the follies of your emotional expression and you remain flexible enough to change it or to embrace it, then it is very probable that you are a civilized person, assuming that you aren’t a sociopath.

And now that I’ve thought about it, I don’t think that I believe that Salman Rushdie is a cunt. I believed it just now, but after thinking about it, it seems ridiculous to place a writer who has written a novel as great as Midnight’s Children into the same milieu as Hitler, Nixon, and Genghis Khan (to name only a few rotten apples, but, to give Hitler that cliched benefit of the doubt, he treated his dogs well). I have not thought to strike the sentence from this essay. But if this were published somewhere, I’m certain that very few editors would print the phrase “Salman Rushdie is a cunt.”

Is it reasonable to prohibit ad hominem or emotional expression? Or to dwell on it, as it crops up from time to time, as if it something to be skimmed over and over like a four-second tape loop? Only if you believe that humans — or, with the second rhetorical question, a select civilized elite — are capable of nothing more than profound enlightenment. Humans certainly do great things, don’t they? But if you’re naive enough to believe that they contribute nothing but thoughtful contributions, then I urge you to acquaint yourself with the many psychopaths who have chewed up the scenery over the course of human history.)

But let’s say that we accept emotional expression and slow down with these knee-jerk responses. We therefore give those who practice this perfectly normal tendency an opportunity to explain or atone. The eccentric contributors come out of the closet. Innovators who have held their tongues are permitted to communicate wild ideas and become part of the process. And we expand the repertoire of human behavior. There will probably be ugliness, but ugliness can be rectified without forcing horses to drink the water. Asking people to constantly apologize — often before a camera — is the action of an autocratic enforcer who has no faith in humankind. But when two people listen to each other without instantaneous judgment, you can plant seeds instead of chopping down trees.


Episode XLIV: A New Hope

obamapresToday is the beginning of a new epoch. The slate is clean, the road ahead is paved with shrapnel, and the body language between the Obamas and the Bushes just before their preinaugural coffee is wonderfully comical. While I retain my hearty skepticism about politics, I can say, without reservation, that I am very proud to be an American right now. The last eight years nearly destroyed my faith in government, transformed me into something of a fiery curmudgeon in matters pertaining to politics, and made me wonder if we could ever set this country straight. But this morning, upon seeing Obama walk into the White House, there was one overwhelming and seemingly inconceivable thought: My god, this man will be our President.

Let us hope that he will not blow it. Let us also hope that the American people will live up to the tenets of the Constitution and consider every decision made by President Obama, who possesses every sign that he will be a first-class communicator. I believe that President Obama will be transparent about his actions and atone for the last guy, who was secretive and uncooperative and will almost certainly have a lonely existence for the rest of his days. It is a faith that I place today and that may be discarded tomorrow, for I will be watching the new guy like a hawk. Nevertheless, I can’t even begin to describe what the climate shift means. We have moved from an obdurate-minded autocrat to a man who may have ushered in a new political era of national concert and civil disagreement.

My nation has snapped out of an eight-year nightmare. Let us hope that this will translate into a new age of maturity and civilization. Let us learn from our mistakes and emerge stronger than we were before.


Obama, the Medicare “Doughnut Hole,” and the Working Poor

Last night, on Twitter, I got into a lively exchange relating to last night’s Obama infomercial. I had initially watched ten minutes of this broadcast, and I grew increasingly upset by the manner in which basic realities about health care and the working poor have been severely overlooked in this presidential race. Upon being pressed, I watched the whole thing from the beginning. “Those weren’t the working poor in that video? The 72 year old guy working at WalMart not poor enough?” argued Seth Harwood. While retired railroad man Larry Stewart putting on his Wal-Mart badge and taking out a loan on his house to help his ailing wife is indeed a crushing story (beginning at 7:30 in the Obama video), at least the Stuarts have a house to take a loan on. What of the doughnut hole created by a Republican-led Congress through the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003? What of those trapped in Medicare with chronic conditions who skip out on vital medications because they don’t have the money? The situation is this: Under the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, if a senior has more than $2,250, but less than $5,100 in annual drug costs, the senior is required to pay these costs out of pocket.

Now consider the case of 65-year-old Frances Acanfora. Thanks to the MMA, this retired school lunchroom aide saw her drug costs jump up from $58 to $1,294 courtesy of the doughnut hole. She even had to temporarily stop taking her drugs after talking with her doctor. Did Acanfora have a partner or a home to fall back on? We know that she had a credit card. But is she still alive? One wishes that the Washington Post would conduct a followup story. Meanwhile, other seniors have stopped taking their drugs altogether. They couldn’t afford it.

While it is true that Obama advocates the federal government negotiating with the drug companies to reduce prices under the Medicare Part D drug program (similar to what the Department of Veteran Affairs now gets), permitting citizens to purchase prescription drugs from outside of the United States, and closing the doughnut hole, let’s consider why this policy was effected in the first place. The MMA came into being because of rising costs in prescription drugs and the inability of the federal government to allocate enough funds to pay for it. What we have here is a scenario in which the pharmaceutical companies hold all the cards. The companies set the prices. The generic drugs that were supposed to save people money have proven to be more costly thanks to the MMA. The companies claim that the drug prices are high because the companies need to spend this money on R&D. And, of course, the drug companies have lobbyists.

And if the drug companies hold such power, how can there possibly be negotiation? I can see the conversation going something like this:

Government: We need you to lower the costs of drugs. Now we’ll be happy to take them all off your hands, guaranteeing X number of drugs over the next five years, if you’ll lower the prices.

Drug Companies: You’re already going to be getting X number of drugs over the next five years from us. With all due respect, what’s changing here? We’re your supplier. And wait a minute. I thought we agreed back in 2003 that we wouldn’t be negotiating.

Or as Robert Laszewski put it, “If you go to a car dealer and tell him you’re going to buy his car no matter what, and then try to negotiate, you’re not going to get a very good deal.”

Which puts the government in the awkward position of going overseas to import its drugs for Medicare. But if Medicare’s chief drug source comes from another country, how then can the FDA provide the essential oversight for the drugs? This leaves the government coming back to the pharmaceutical companies with its tail between its legs. I’ve looked around numerous places, but Obama has not specified how he can “negotiate” with these draconian realities in place. But to his credit, he did issue a press release last year condemning the Senate’s failure to consider legislation permitting Medicare negotiation.

Let’s return to the issue of Larry Stewart and Frances Acanfora. The rhetoric in this presidential race has involved speaking to Main Street and the middle-class, who we are told increasingly are having to “tighten their belts” to make ends meet. But what is not really being talked about by either camp are the 29.4 million Americans — up 4.7 million from 2002 to 2006 — living below the national poverty line. Tayari helpfully directed me to this Democracy Now! segment from a few days ago, which goes into this issue at some length. And indeed why should either candidate talk about low-wage workers when Obama leads 2 to 1 over McCain? (Incidentally, a majority of low-wage workers polled in this article indicated that their personal finances were unlikely to change — even with an Obama presidency.)

When you consider Medicare’s reliance upon pharmaceutical companies and this regrettable framing emphasis away from the working poor, what Obama essentially presented to us last night was comfort food for the middle-class. (So flexible is the term “middle-class” that one can make a six figure salary and still remain lodged within an income bracket that likewise includes someone making $20,000 a year.) But none of this takes away from the fact that nearly 30 million Americans are impoverished, and that 47 million Americans are without health care. What this nation needs more than “hope” is a concrete and realistic plan. We need something more than promises to “negotiate” in nonnegotiable situations. Something that returns us to the dialogue kickstarted by John Edwards last year. Something that ensures that the dread P word spelling out our poverty will return to our national dialogue with neither shame nor flash, but with the maturity and grace that Obama has built his campaign image upon.

“Hard” Questions

The above interview, which involved Campbell Brown questioning McCain campaign manager Tucker Bounds, caused McCain to cancel a planned interview with Larry King. The reason cited by McCain’s camp? “A relentless refusal by certain on-air reporters to come to terms with John McCain’s selection of Alaska’s sitting governor as our party’s nominee for vice president.” But the interview sees Brown simply trying to find out about Sarah Palin, while Bounds repeatedly declares that she has as much experience as the competition. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And here, questioned by Brown, Bounds cannot produce a single example to support his claim. And he’s their manager! The “relentless refusal” here doesn’t come from Bounds, but from McCain’s people. If they cannot be bothered to prove their argument, then they have no business presenting their impudent claims before the American people.

Barack Obama, by contrast, will be appearing this Thursday on FOX News’s The O’Reilly Factor.

So here we have one presidential candidate incapable of answering the most basic of questions and the other quite willing to appear on a talk show that is biased against him. While McCain certainly showed courage as a POW, it is quite evident that he is unwilling to evince one scintilla of this same valor in the present day. And if McCain truly believes that talking to Larry King, one of the most softball interviewers on television, represents a difficulty, then how can he be seriously expected to deal with the considerably greater challenges that may await him in the White House?

Let the Games Begin

If this interview represents how McCain responds to questions — real questions, not the Leno softball variety, not the questions that result in the old coot offering his trademark “I served as a POW” answer without a followup — I simply cannot wait for the presidential debates to begin. Pass the popcorn and pop open the beer. These debates will feature material more hilarious than Bush’s “Internets” gaffe or his entreaties for us to remember Poland. The man will be flayed alive — should be, if Obama truly wants to win — with almost little to no effort.

But with the presidential race now neck-to-neck, and Obama’s people offering an aesthetic disaster in response to the elitist charges, will the American people continue to believe in this man? The cynic inside me says yes. The optimist insides me says no. And the pragmatist remembering that dark November morning four years ago is somewhere on the fence, likely to trot over his legs upon enunciating the trusted mantra, “The Democrats will fuck this up.”


Joe Biden is Obama’s VP. From a graphic design standpoint, it will be much easier to get the words “Obama-Biden” on a bumper sticker than “Gore-Lieberman.” Obama wisely decided on a VP candidate with two syllables. And I suspect that the natural third B (“Oh-ba-ma-bi”) that comes with that phrase was also a marketing consideration. Of course, should Biden decide to plagiarize again, at least he’d be copying from Obama’s team.

What Obama Must Do

There are two fascinating developments that have arisen with Barack Obama’s move to the center. Newsweek reports that Obama is leading McCain by only three points: 44% to 41%. Compare this with last month’s poll in which Obama led McCain 51% to 36%. It would appear that Obama supporters not only flocked to McCain, but, more importantly, preferred not to support either candidate. The Washington Post also reports that Obama is now having difficulties not only courting former Clinton supporters with deep pockets, but raising money in general. The activist base that Obama built up in the first six months of 2008 appears to have stopped sending along money. And who can blame them really? When your shining knight becomes a garden-variety opportunist, it’s probably better to spend the money on liquor.

There was an animated discussion here a few days ago over whether Obama’s shift to the center represented political realities that were necessary to take in or this represented the ultimate betrayal. I still feel that Obama has betrayed his base of supporters with his unpardonable trifecta of FISA flip-flopping, faith-based initiative, and the capitulation of public financing. But the best thing that Obama can probably do at this point is to tell the American people that he may have made a bad political decision, stop playing the “consistency” card (Obama pledged to filibuster any FISA bill with telecom immunity, but of course caved this week), and demonstrate in a big way that he actually gives a damn about the Fourth Amendment. He was able to pull out of the Reverend Wright scandal with his “A More Perfect Union” speech, presenting a complex and unexpected statement on a major national problem. Of course, back in March, he also had dwindling poll numbers in Pennsylvania. Thus, I’m wondering what would happen if Obama ran his campaign with the same “come from behind” tactic that has led him to frequently awe his supporters. Unfortunately, Obama’s recent actions have demonstrated that he is uninterested in taking risks now that he has the Democratic nomination in the bag. That may very well be the stuff of presidential material. But after two terms of Bush, I believe the American people are tired of presidential candidates who have sunk to the lowest common denominator. If Obama wishes to preach “consistency,” he has a responsibility to live up to the message of hope that he began his campaign with. And if he continues to demonstrate a desire to piss on the Constitution and to insult the intelligence of those who have endorsed him, he deserves to be raked across the coals without mercy.

Barack Obama is Unamerican

You bastard. Let us be perfectly clear about what happened here. Obama pledged that he would support a filibuster of any bill involving telecom immunity. And what did he do this afternoon? He allowed Americans to be sodomized on this point. Even Hillary voted against this. If this centrist prevaricator keeps this up, I’m voting for some third party loon on principle. The Daily Kos, true to its hypocritical and opportunistic stance, remains silent about this disgrace. I guess Kos and the gang don’t like to advertise when they’ve been thoroughly betrayed by their ostensible savior. Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald is on the case.

[UPDATE: And if this flip-flop doesn’t piss you off, perhaps Obama’s astonishingly sexist remarks on abortion will. “Mental distress?” Why don’t you just say that these women are suffering from hysteria?]

Obama Begins the Sellout Phase of His Campaign

It started earlier this week when Barack Obama became the first presidential candidate to forgo public money. It continued yesterday when Barack Obama pledged support for the FISA “compromise” bill, which grants telecom companies immunity for past offenses of illegal wiretapping, and issued this appalling statement. With Senator Harry Reid flip-flopping over his “total opposition to immunity” to save Obama’s ass, it is becoming quite apparent that the Democrats are once again content to take on the instincts of frightened little animals. And it’s a pity that all this comes immediately after Dennis Kucinich’s efforts to move impeachment articles through the House Judiciary Committee. Obama’s Clintonian spin on the telecom bill represents the acts of a pusillanimous opportunist. The rest of us, pining for the integrity that led us to Obama in the first place, feel sick to our stomachs.

Meanwhile, Senator Russ Feingold, one of the few Democrats demonstrating some capacity for outrage, has called FISA “not a compromise. It is a capitulation.” One might say the same of Obama’s recent decisions.

[UPDATE: Some additional context from BLCKDGRD.]


Is Hillary Finished?

Liveblogging the elections.

12:18 AM: Listening to WIBC-FM feed. Indiana remains close, with Hillary ahead by only two percentage points. Gary, Indiana remains the big mystery. Hillary has just announced that she will not appear at any public event tomorrow. Does a public event entail a media appearance? Will Hillary concede?

12:22 AM: Gary, Indiana Mayor Rudy Clay’s prediction: “Barack is winning precincts 297 to eight and 153 to two and all that. Gary is going to be a big plurality for Barack Obama, a big plurality.”

12:25 AM: 92% Indiana precincts now reporting, still 51-49. Clinton 588,823 to Obama 568,156. Still waiting on the big bag from Lake County. From WIBC: “The national media is seeing a county that’s just starting to release numbers.” Some playful banter from these guys on the radio, who are marveling over how they’re now the center of attention and how the outside media doesn’t understand Indiana politics. It sure as hell doesn’t involve “hanky-panky.”

12:30 AM: Some additional numbers put Clinton in front. “Gary ain’t come in yet.”

12:33 AM: A report from the Terre Haute Tribune Star, where I am now looking out for a basement. Obama volunteer Casey Chatham began volunteering about a week and a half ago. He spent $57 to FedEx his absentee ballot from Nairobi.

12:35 AM: Also in the Tribune Star: considerable phone mobilization from the Clinton camp.

12:40 AM: Hillary had given a victory speech, but then the numbers began coming in from Lake County. Then there was the mysterious cancellation of public events. 95% of the vote now in, difference now 15,000 votes. Looking for corroboration of this.

12:42 AM: The Oregonian does the math.

12:44 AM: Marc Ambinder offers smart advice. (via Daily Kos)

12:45 AM: It appears that the clock on my computer is a few minutes off. Pardon any chronological confusions as these reports continue. I don’t think I can go to bed until Lake County comes in.

12:47 AM: More info on Hillary’s “declaration of victory.”

12:50 AM: Obama needs to win the remaining precincts by 69% in order to win. But the WIBC guys insist that because these precincts are based in Gary, Indiana, this could happen. Some specific info being blogged here.

12:51 AM: Lake County: 316 out of 561. Obama 46,759 to Clinton 25,100. Wow, this could happen!

12:52 AM: NWI: “We’re updating as fast as we get the results from inside the Lake County Government building.” Keep hitting F5, folks. Keep hitting F5. And thanks to the NWI’s dutiful reporting.

12:54 AM: NWI: Still 7,000 absentee ballots to count. All of Gary’s results in.

12:55 AM: Associated Press: “The northwest Indiana county is the state’s second-most populous with nearly 500,000 people. It had reported no results as of 11 p.m. Eastern Time. A large number of absentee ballots and a record turnout delayed the tallies, and polls there close an hour later than much of the state because Lake is in the Central time zone.”

12:57 AM: I highly recommend the WIBC feed if you’re a political information junkie. These guys are tracking all news updates in real time and providing specific sources. (And there’s some good radio from Indiana!)

12:59 AM: Globe and Mail: “The most unfortunate aspect of the much-maligned Lake County keeping Indiana interesting past midnight is that a completely befuddled Larry King has been forced to take the air while the results are still in question…..Update: After about eight minutes of airtime, Larry King appears to have been sent home in favour of more Anderson Cooper. Although it’s entirely possible Larry is still talking, and they just haven’t told him he’s off the air.”

1:02 AM: Video of Hillary’s “victory.”

1:08 AM: New Jersey Star-Ledger: “The divide feeds the Clinton argument that Obama can’t win in November unless he can convince white voters and those further down the income and education scale — the so-called ‘Reagan Democrats’ — that he understands their needs. It prompted Paul Begala, a longtime Clinton supporter, to complain on a television panel show last night that Democrats ‘can’t win with eggheads and African-Americans.'”

1:10 AM: Slideshow of Indiana voters.

1:12 AM: How Obama Beat the Line.

1:13 AM: WIBC on why we’re in a holding pattern. “We’re up to 98% in Lake County and yet we’re still at 95% in Indiana.” 99%, Clinton 51, Obama 49.

Looks like it’s over. Indiana for Clinton.

Final Thoughts:

Clinton was dealt a major blow tonight. The only way that Clinton was able to win Indiana — and this was a slim victory at best — was through a campaign that involved saying damn near anything and using any slimy tactic in the book to win a vote. These are the actions of a political scum. Nixon is now widely regarded as one of the great American scumbags of all time. But let’s not forget. Nixon’s scummery still nabbed 68.7% of the popular vote in 1972. You could argue that it was George McGovern. But let’s not underestimate the way the casual American voter relates to scums or elects a President based on whether he’s the right guy to have a beer with. I am not certain just what dipsomaniac cachet Clinton has, but let’s not entirely rule it out.

Obama demonstrated that his base is quite strong, that he can maintain momentum based on a more ethical campaign. But was it Hillary hatred or hope that did the trick in North Carolina? It remains to be seen whether Obama’s North Carolina victory will translate into a movement against McCain in November, should he succeed in securing his presidential nomination. The theory of whether Obama has the ability to “close the deal,” however, is beginning to lose credibility. Even with all the superdelegate vagaries, it appears mathematically probable that he will be the Democratic frontrunner.

But it still remains a horror franchise with an endless stream of sequels. Hillary is Jason from Friday the 13th. She’s a candidate who doesn’t understand that she’s dead, but who continues to hack away at any innocuous ideal resembling a few kids fornicating in the forest. Despite skillful attempts at killing her off, she cannot be murdered. Perhaps she’ll succeed in massacring the remaining Democratic ideals before being confined to a space station. Or maybe we’ll all lose interest in the franchise.

The big question mark over Clinton’s head is why she canceled her public appearances today. Whether for health reasons or general fatigue, this is a catastrophic decision on her part. This is no longer a campaign in which you take a day off.

It suggests, by and large, that Clinton herself is the one here who is unable to close the deal, or come anywhere close to offering a fair one. But she’s tried every trick in the book and it’s still not working. If she doesn’t win this, and it looks increasingly likely that she won’t, there will be long memories and many pissed off people remembering what she did to split the Democrats. She could be as much of a political pariah as George Bush is likely to be, come January 2009.