Tags: Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John McCain, Sarah Palin
That’s how Republican pundit Pat Buchanan describes John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin’s executive experience amounts to a year and a half as Governor of Alaska, which should render McCain’s ‘Obama is inexperienced’ jibe as rather useless. Her foreign policy experience is also non-existent, which will make for an interesting debate when she goes up against Joe Biden.
From the same Politico article linked to above, here are some of the supposed advantages of having Palin on the ticket:
In her short political career, Palin has become known – at least in Alaska — as a reformer. Long before the ethical problems of the Alaska GOP were front-page news in Washington, she was working to clean up the state’s government and her own party.
As a member of Alaska’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Palin pushed an investigation that ultimately led to the state’s GOP party chairman to resign from the commission. Earlier this month, she endorsed Sean Parnell, who is still waiting to hear whether he has defeated ethically challenged Rep. Don Young in Tuesday’s GOP primary.
So in picking Palin, McCain accepts the framing of this election as being about change, and picks a genuine outsider who – superficially, at least – appears to offer a tough approach on ethics reform.
Anyway, enough from me. Here are some media/blogosphere reactions:
Biggest political gamble I believe just about in American political history…that is not hyberbole. I can think of no choice of VP that approaches this.
Joe Scarborough (Republican host on MSNBC):
I can’t imagine a woman that’s been a governor for a year and a half, but to debate Joe Biden on Georgia, a remerging Russia, an emerging China and India, on the Middle East, my God, how does she do that?
Eric Martin at Obsidian Wings:
One thing it will offer the McCain campaign is a sense of historical importance – something they need in the face of Obama’s groundbreaking run. Further, it offers something “new” from a Republican Party that is rightly viewed as musty and bankrupt of fresh ideas. It will also serve as a bid to attract the dead ender clique of Hillary supporters (though I think entirely too much has been made of their clout in terms of actual numbers).
One major drawback: How can McCain’s main line of critique be Obama’s putative lack of experience, yet his pick for vice president is a 44 year old politician who has only been in the Alaska state house for little over a year. Before that, she was mayor of Wasilla, Alasksa: population 8,000. This is the person that will be one heartbeat away from the presidency – a consideration of particular importance considering that McCain, if elected, would be the oldest president ever to be sworn in for his first term.
This could, of course, turn out to be an enormous debacle if she isn’t ready for prime time. But for now, Sarah Palin looks like a perfect face for the sort of Republican Party I want to support: She’s a pro-life working mom; she’s tough on corruption and government waste without being a doctrinaire Norquistian on taxes; she’s more supportive of gay rights than the current GOP orthodoxy (while stopping short of backing same-sex marriage); she has a more conservationist record than your typical GOP pol, but supports drilling in ANWR; she’s an evangelical but she isn’t a southern evangelical … and if McCain loses, she can run at the top of a Palin-Jindal ticket in 2012!
It’s striking listening to the commentary about why this is a smart pick for John McCain that the arguments are all about how this will help him politically — attract women voters, get attention, disrupt Barack Obama’s “change” message, etc. What I haven’t seen is any conservatives making arguments about why Sarah Palin will help President McCain govern. He’ll call on her insights about . . . what?
It’s a daring pick but I think a very weak pick. I’m perfectly happy with it. Palin is in the midst of a reasonably serious scandal in her home state. Her brother-in-law is a state trooper who is in the midst of an ugly custody battle with her sister. And she’s accused of getting the state police to fire him. Recently she was forced to admit that one of her aides had done this, though she insists she didn’t know.
The first criterion for a veep – and I’m simply repeating a truism here – is that they are ready to take over at a moment’s notice. That’s especially true when you have a candidate as old as McCain. That’s more than especially true when we are at war, in an era of astonishingly difficult challenges, when the next president could be grappling with war in the Middle East or a catastrophic terror attack at home. Under those circumstances, we could have a former Miss Alaska with two terms under her belt as governor. Now compare McCain’s pick with Obama’s: a man with solid foreign policy experience, six terms in Washington and real relationships with leaders across the globe.
I really can’t decide yet whether this pick is genius or insanity, but it’s certainly very, very bold.
It’s a bit late now, but for what it’s worth, Virginia Senator Jim Webb was always my favoured running-mate for Barack Obama. Webb’s years of service in the US military, both as a marine and Secretary of the Navy, his early opposition to the Iraq war and his very genuine despair at growing income inequalities ticked most of my political criteria and his tough, dignified persona and proud Scots-Irish heritage would’ve been a rugged, robust counterbalance to the more urbane, cosmopolitan Obama. Stood side by side, they would’ve epitomised two very different stories of what it is to be an American and their partnership would’ve underlined Obama’s core message that he can bring people together to enact change.
This was all rendered a little mute after Webb withdrew his name from the Veepstakes, and I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for the alternatives. Of all the options being discussed, Evan Bayh, Tim Kaine and Kathleen Sebelius were all too centrist and unspectacular media performers, Hillary Clinton was a non-starter even before her spectacular implosion during the primaries and Bill Richardson may have had too much of a woman problem to have been considered seriously. I was equally indifferent to the prospect of Obama chosing Joe Biden, but after seeing his speech yesterday, I’m beginning to see the merits.
Let’s be clear: if Obama had been free to make his choice from a position of strength, he probably wouldn’t have picked Biden. Nothing says “I’m worried people don’t think I have enough experience” more than nominating someone who’s been in the Senate for over 30 years. Ever since he returned from his world tour, Obama’s been losing ground to a newly-confident, newly-effective McCain campaign that’s finally shaken off its lumbering veneer of nobility and reverted to the base Republican instincts of mendacity, mischaracterisation, and hairy-knuckled, neanderthal bullying. So without the comfort of the 10 point lead he was, at one point, threatening to build, Obama went ‘safety first’ and picked a foreign affairs expert who could defend his weak flank. With this in mind, it’s easy to have some sympathy for Markos Moulitsas’ complaint that Obama’s pick merely ‘plugged a hole’, rather than reinforcing his core message of change. I agreed with that right up until yesterday’s speech. When he left the podium some 25 minutes later, I realised that he could do something far more potent: he could reinforce Obama’s arguments.
In this multi-faceted, media-driven environment, an argument is an easy thing to distort. When spoken for the first time, its meaning can be mangled, its language mocked and its content turned into a weapon aimed to injure the person who made it. So when a Democratic candidate takes to the stage offering slightly more nuanced policies than “Bomb Here!” or “Drill There!”, he needs someone who can speak plainly & blunty about how his ideas are better than his opponent’s. And when the same candidate wraps those nuances in high-minded, poetic rhetoric, he needs a partner who can translate it into a prose that can appeal to independents. On the evidence of his performance last night, Biden is that partner.
His performance wasn’t perfect; he stumbled over some of his words, talked over a few easy rounds of applause, underemphasised some parts of the speech and overplayed others. But such was the depth of sincerity in the speech, those imperfections didn’t seem to matter. Biden speaks of the country’s problems as emotionally as he can speak of its opportunities; remarkably for someone who’s been in the Senate for as long as he has, he doesn’t have the air of jaded hackery that afflicts politicians both older and younger. And whilst he clearly respects John McCain as a friend, he has no respect for the Republican platform and let that show in a series of hard blows that underscored his dangerous flaws.
With a series of excellent speeches from Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton and even John Kerry, last night the Democrats put together one of their strongest line-ups and presented their best case for why Barack Obama should be the next President. For all their renewed optimism, the Republicans will really have to punch above their weight to beat it.
Photo from Flickr user bobster1985 (Creative Commons)
Titan prisons are still a really bad idea…
Prison and probation officers are the latest to join a protest against plans to build three “Titan” prisons holding 2,500 inmates each.
Their unions are among 34 criminal justice organisations – also including Nacro, the crime reduction charity, Rainer Crime Concern, Inquest, Justice, Liberty and Women in Prison – to sign an open letter to the justice secretary, Jack Straw, published today in the Guardian.
It says the Titan plan would cement the position of England and Wales as the prison capital of western Europe. “Instead of rushing headlong into an expensive prison building programme, the government must … focus on addressing the causes of the growing prison population.”
…and the government remains dangerously pig-headed
As the government’s consultation on Titan jails closes this week, the only voice of support seems to come from Lord Carter, whose review is responsible for them.
Much as I’d look forward to hearing from Jack Straw explain how Lord Carter knows better than 34 different criminal justice organisations, I suspect I wouldn’t be able to understand his answer.
Update: Since I seem to be suffering from outrage fatigue today, you’ll find more posts on prison reform here.
Tags: Democratic Convention, Denver, Liberal Democrats, Menzies Campbell
Since there’s nothing our MPs enjoy more than a fact-finding trip to some fancy foreign locale (better that than spend time in their dreary constituencies, eh?), representatives from the three major parties are currently prying into the Democratic Party’s Denver convention for ‘lessons in strategy’. From a progressive point of view, I doubt this amounts to anything more than gawping at the Hollywood razzle-dazzle, falling asleep during some of the dire keynote speakers (I can recommend Mark Warner, if you’re suffering from insomnia) and spending their spare time inhaling excess hope, but at least Menzies Campbell is trying to learn something, even if his first impressions are but a convenient fiction:
Campbell said: “This is my seventh convention and it seems to me that the influence of money is enormous.”
He was impressed by the way that Obama had used small donors to fund his campaign. “The lesson for Britain is get rid of the union support and (Lord) Ashcroft and get pounds 100 from each member of the public.”
Oh, really? The lesson from the Democratic Convention is that you need to get rid of wealthy donors and trade unions? The same Democratic Party that receives large donations from Hollywood moguls, trial lawyers & internet entrepreneurs, not to mention the odd corporation? The same party that relies heavily on organised labour for its GOTV operation? Has Sir Menzies been spending a little too much time by the hemp stall?
Now, I think it’s a good idea for the Liberal Democrats to think about funding solutions which come from sources other than wealthy donors and trade unions; they have little support from either group, and any strategy for party building would have to consider grassroots fundraising & organising. But for Campbell to walk around Denver and conclude that the Democrats have excluded or diminished unions from their movement and benefited as a result is such a strange mischaracterisation that you wonder whether he’s really been paying attention.
Let’s be clear: the labour movement in the United States is already diminished. Less than 10% of Americans in the private sector are members of unions, and the union-busting policy shared by the biggest corporations means this figure is unlikely to increase substantially. The netroots didn’t originate out of a desire to promote labour activism, but its rise to power has certainly facilitated it. As Henry Farrell notes in this essay, the union-based Change To Win coalition has adopted many of the more decentralised, open-source organising methods that are characteristic of the netroots, and you can increasingly see bloggers and union leaders working together on common goals, like this 2007 campaign to unionise school bus drivers.
The internet provides a space for issues very dear to trade unions to be aired, and by standing with sympathetic allies in the netroots on campaigns such as the Employee Free Choice Act, raising the minimum wage, safeguarding social security or achieving universal healthcare, they stand a much better chance of success than those days when they stood alone. The netroots has begun to strengthen the aims of the labour movement, not diminish them, and if Menzies Campbell thinks that progressive goals can or should be achieved by excluding trade unions, then his trip to Denver was a waste of time.
Image courtesy of the AFL-CIO (Creative Commons)
I pass this on without comment:
Image by robotclaw666 (Creative Commons)
Every nation is good at something, and if you’re no longer renowned for your industrial prowess, your technological advancements, your daunting military or your unmatched global influence, you can, at least, be known for breeding some of the most debauched drinkers the world has ever known.
Step forward Britannia, for in this sport we are true olympians. Even the New York Times has sought to pay tribute:
MALIA, Greece — Even in a sea of tourists, it is easy to spot the Britons here on the northeast coast of Crete, and not just from the telltale pallor of their sun-deprived northern skin.
They are the ones, the locals say, who are carousing, brawling and getting violently sick. They are the ones crowding into health clinics seeking morning-after pills and help for sexually transmitted diseases. They are the ones who seem to have one vacation plan: drinking themselves into oblivion.
Now, I can hardly pass myself off as a model of abstinence, but I do have one modest request of the globe-trotting shot-guzzlers on this fair isle: if all you want to do on your holiday is down bargain booze within staggering distance of a beach, why not try Bridlington or Cleethorpes? You save on the air fare, you cut down on the carbon and your gormless exploits are confined to your own country so you don’t become an embarrassment to the rest of us.
Let’s face it; by the time it gets to midnight, most of these kids will have forgotten what country they’re in anyway.
And yes, I realise that writing about someone being kicked in the head doesn’t reflect well on any blogger. For anyone keeping score, I was educated under three Tory governments – blame Thatcher.
Just to complete the ignomony, here’s a song about kicking a boy.
Well, it’s not like you come here for long essays about Descartes, is it?
Tags: Barack Obama, Michael Moore, Politics
With Bush on his way out, Democrats controlling both houses of Congress and soon (touch wood) the White House, Michael Moore struggles to remain relevant by producing a six point guide for Democrats who just can’t quit their losing habits. Overbearing narcissist that he is, point no. 6 is all about… Michael Moore:
Obama, at some point, might be asked this question: “Michael Moore has endorsed you. But he recently said (fill in the blank with some outrageously offensive line taken out of context). Will you still accept his endorsement, or do you denounce him?”
And he better denounce me, or they will tear him to shreds. He had better back away not only from me but from anyone and everyone who veers a bit too far to the left of where his advisers have told him is the sweet spot for all those red-state voters. I won’t take it personally. After all, I’m not the guy who married him or baptized his kids. I’m just the idiot who went to the same terrorist, Muslim school of flag-pin desecrators he went to.
I remember poor John Kerry not even being able to admit, when asked by Larry King, if he had seen Fahrenheit 9/11. “No,” he said, “I haven’t. . . . I don’t plan to, right now.” But he had indeed seen it. I sat there watching him say this, and I just felt sorry for him and for the election he was about to lose.
We can’t take four more years of this madness, Barack. We need you to be a candidate who will fight back every time they attack you. Actually, don’t even wait till you have to fight back. Fight first! Show some vision and courage and smoke them out. Keep asking why these lobbyists are McCain’s best friends. Let’s finally have a Democrat who’s got the balls to fire first.
So Barack, by denouncing me, you can help McCain get elected. Because when you denounce me, it’s not really me you’re distancing yourself from — it’s the millions upon millions of people who feel the same way about things as I do. And many of them are the kind of crazy voters who have no problem voting for a Nader just to prove a point.
Actually, I don’t think Moore goes far enough. If Barack Obama denounces Michael Moore, he’ll not just lose the election – he’ll have single-handedly destroyed FDR’s legacy, ensured the Yankees never win another world series, killed John Lennon and ended all human progress for a generation.
What an egocentric prat.
After a 16 year old in South Africa was killed by a disturbed, sword-wielding student in a Slipknot-style mask, the country’s press has, in true Daily Mail mimickry, taken to stoking panic & outrage at the band’s satanic music’ which turns kids into killers. So it’s nice that a senior policeman can appear and add a little rational thinking to the furore:
To Slipknot’s doubtless relief, the head of Krugersdorp police’s investigative psychology unit took a different tack. “Whenever there is a murder, people jump to conclusions, and always God or Satan told the killers to do it,” said senior superintendent Gerard Labuschagne. “These notions shouldn’t be taken seriously because it is straightforward: someone, of their own free will, can kill another person.” (emphasis mine)
As all the cool kids say: Superintendent, you rock.
The Sheffield-born journalist lost his battle with leukaemia yesterday at the age of 27. Having been told that his was condition was fatal, Adrian donated the last months of his life to raising the profile of bone marrow donation and during that time became a most persuasive, eloquent and likeable spokesman for that cause, whether he was communicating through his blog or going to Downing Street to petition the Prime Minister.
It’s not really my place to write a gushing eulogy – you’ll find plenty of touching tributes on his blog & over at this online book of rememberence – but considering his deeply impressive achievements in publicising the need for more bone marrow donors, the least I can do is leave this meagre link for anyone who wants to find out more about what is an easy & painless process.
Tags: Robert Mugabe, Zanu PF, Zimbabwe
A Zimbawean in exile remembers her privileged childhood in a peaceful, prosperous country and contrasts it with the current exprience of her parents, struggling to survive in suburban Harare:
They have only had municipal water once in two months, and that was only for 12 hours. During this time, they managed to top up the swimming pool – water from which they use for filling up the toilets and doing the laundry. Buckets of cold water are carried from the pool into the shower to wash. It is like a black comedy and I manage a small smile as my mother describes herself “bottoms up and bent over a bucket” in the shower, dousing herself with cold, chlorinated water in an effort to keep herself clean.
They have a quarter of a loaf of frozen bread which they’ve preserved in the freezer by running the generator for an hour each day. My mother is an artist, but she’s now been forced to supplement their income (to cover rent and the spiralling cost of living) by teaching. After work, she begins her search – scouting from shop to shop looking for grossly expensive commodities to ensure they have food for the week. Supermarket shelves are generally empty and street vendors haunt the pavements, selling anything from eggs to cooking oil at extortionate prices that increase daily. Most of their groceries are sourced from various “contacts” that have various “contacts”.
The power cuts are frequent, haphazard and unannounced, so they are unable to plan activities around them. They cannot run the generator for too long as there is still the ever present prospect of fuel shortages. Their rent has just gone up 6,250 per cent.
You know times are tough for a global superpower when someone devotes a large amount of time and money producing a blog in solidarity with you. America in the World is a new project from Conservative Home’s Tim Montgomerie which aims to act as a bulwark against anti-Americanism by dispelling myths, extolling the country’s virtues and arguing that a world without America as a dominant force is not a notion anyone should want to entertain. If done right, the site serves a decent enough purpose, and the content certainly seems well-researched and attractively designed. But the sticking point was always going to be how they define anti-Americanism, and in this respect they threaten to alienate a significant number of people.
Here’s what annoyed me the most: On their page profiling the ‘varieties of anti-Americanism’, they list ‘liberal idealists’, ‘social justice activists’ and environmentalists alongside jihadists and anti-Semites. Hardly the most pleasant company to keep, is it? Now, I’m not going to deny the existence of anti-Americanism on the left; no one who became politically active during the Bush era could’ve escaped the odd intemperate loon whose Bush-bashing was barely masking his/her contempt for the country he governs. But the key distinction between the anti-Americanism exhibited on the left and that which is most violently spewed by Jihadists and Jew-haters is that caring about human rights, social justice and the environment does not make you anti-American, and nor does criticising an administration for its failures in these areas. It’s only when your criticisms involve such desperate flailing that they turn into attacks on the American people that you become a certified anti-American, but by then most people have stopped listening to your argument anyway.
By contrast, being anti-American is pretty much intrinsic to the ideologies of both the Jihadist and the anti-Semite. You’re not going to meet an Islamist who wishes to destroy the ‘great Satan’ before qualifying it with ‘well, I’m really just speaking metaphorically; I’ve always wanted to visit Disneyland.’ Equally, you won’t find someone who rails against the Great! Jewish! Conspiracy! who’ll then talk for hours about the vibrant culture of New York. Those ideologies are based on a hatred of America, whilst the ideologies of the environmentalist or the social justice advocate are anything but, and throwing these wildly dissimilar groups together in one basket, as Montgomerie & co do here, is as clumsy as it is politically dubious.
Anti-Americanism is real, it’s ugly and it’s often used as a front for thoroughly illiberal and undemocratic ideologies, but grouping some fairly benign left-wing positions in the same sewer as a bunch of hateful fanatics just seems like a right-wing ploy to inoculate the country from criticism by casting all those critics as potential ‘haters’. In so doing, they risk shunning people who might otherwise have been allies.
Photo by Flickr user jarnott (Creative Commons)
For all the talk of Edwards’ phoniness and self-aggrandizement, his actual legacy is proving (unintentionally) selfless: He – and his wife — made the Democratic field more progressive, courageous, and humane. Edwards set the bar on health care, pushing his competitors to field better policies and offer more concrete commitments. He helped redefine the foreign policy discussion by arguing that, in supporting the Iraq War, Edwards – and other hawks — were not merely misled, but fundamentally mistaken. Since the close of the primary battle, Elizabeth Edwards has proven a far more relentless and effective critic of John McCain’s health care plan than Barack Obama.
Indeed, it was the one aspect of Edwards that most everyone agreed was authentic and admirable — his love and commitment to his dazzling wife Elizabeth — that has been tarnished. The money paid to Hunter and the lies Edwards told his staff should sicken decent people. But so far as his legacy goes, there’s something almost fitting in this denouement: The candidate the media accused of relentless self-promotion and hollow public policy commitments ends his career with his personal image wrecked but his political commitments ascendant. The media may say they told you so, but they didn’t.
Tags: Hillary Clinton
Of all the themes in Joshua Green’s excellent report on the demise of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President, the strongest for me is her shockingly bad taste in aides & advisors, as these two stories highlights all too well:
Mustering enthusiasm, Clinton declared that the campaign was mistaken not to have competed harder for the youth vote and that—overruling her New Hampshire staff—she would take questions at town-hall meetings designed to draw comparative,” but not negative, contrasts with Obama. Hearing little response, Clinton began to grow angry, according to a participant’s notes. She complained of being outmaneuvered in Iowa and being painted as the establishment candidate. The race, she insisted, now had “three front-runners.” More silence ensued. “This has been a very instructive call, talking to myself,” she snapped, and hung up.
On February 10, Clinton finally fired Solis Doyle and moved Williams in—but did not heed calls to fire Penn, enraging Solis Doyle’s many loyalists. At this crucial point, long-simmering feuds burst into the open. On February 11, Williams’s first day on the job, Phil Singer, Wolfson’s deputy and a man notorious for his tirades at reporters, blew up in Wolfson’s office and screamed obscenities at his boss before throwing open the door to direct his ire at the campaign’s policy director, Neera Tanden, an ally of Solis Doyle. “Fuck you and the whole fucking cabal!” he shouted, according to several Clinton staffers. In the end, he climbed onto a chair and screamed at the entire staff before storming out.
These are the people she would’ve had running the country had she been elected. Well, there’s nothing like surrounding yourself with the best and the brightest, is there?
Tags: Bill O'Reilly, East Coast Avengers, Hip Hop, Music
If you’re in a small-fry rap group with ambitions of becoming an overnight MySpace sensation, recording a song called ‘Kill Bill O’Reilly’ would be a pretty smart career move. Of course, this fact seems to have completely escaped the hounds of the hard-right who’re busy hyperventillating about ‘death threats from liberals’ and inadvertently generating even more hype and Google hits for their new found nemesis than they might otherwise have had. As a song, it ain’t all that bad; the beats are bit dull, but at least the string samples add the kind of melodrama you’re going to need if you’re threatening to kill someone. Lyrically, it’s an indictment of Billo’s bullying and hypocrisy which isn’t too far removed from the truth (juxtaposing his opposition to gay marriage for ‘undermining the family’ with the Andrea Mackris scandal was a nice touch), though I obviously wouldn’t endorse their rather bloody conclusion. But even the death threat’s a little tame by comparison; I suspect from some of the ‘shocked!’ and ‘appalled!’ reactions that none of these people have ever heard Notorious BIG (key quote: “I like to spread the blood like mustard”).
In the blogosphere, this is one of those ‘stories’ that generates an amount of interest, invective & flame-throwing that tends to be wildly disproportionate to its importance, and only serves to give further credence to the theory that political blogging is just another outlet from someone’s pent-up frustration. In that regard, the conservative blog commenter and the upstart hip hop act have more in common than they might think.