Archive for September, 2007

Ahmadinejad

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Some sample lyrics:

“[You’re like] a very hairy Jake Gyllenhaal to me…

You can deny the Holocaust all you want, but you can’t deny there’s something between us.

I know you say that there’s no gays in Iran, but you’re in New York baby.”

“Fired Up. Ready to Go.”

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Holy Cross Basement Rally

At my college towards the end of my senior year, someone began passing anonymous threatening and demeaning messages to a gay student who was a friend of mine. The messages read, “All fags will go to hell,” and “Fuck you fag,” etcetera. What was truly incredible was the person targeted by these messages. This student was one of the kindest people I have ever met. He volunteered in the community and on campus; he was generous; when I worked with him in the dining hall, he was always one of the hardest workers, even when he was running a shift; he is truly one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. This made the attacks on him–some of which seemed to directly threaten his physical safety–all the more difficult to understand.

Responding to these harassing and threatening comments became a priority of the student leadership, of which I was a part. And I helped plan the events–a rally, buttons–with the innocuous and trademarked phrase: “Where is the Love?”; a petition in the campus newspaper. The rally was supposed to be held outdoors, but it was drizzling that day and there were concerns about the equipment, so it was moved to the basement of the campus. We had wanted a location that students would be walking by rather than one that they would need to find, and one of the dining halls was at the other side of the basement.

What I remember most though is one of the speeches given by a student who lived across the hall from my earlier in my college days and was also a friend. Everyone else had made their comments–well-meaning and well-put. But this student–Alex Cunningham–walked up, kind of slouched, wearing tattered jeans. He curled into himself, clutching the microphone, as if summoning something. And then suddenly, he started speaking loudly, in a totally different manner than any of the other students. He gave instructions, telling everyone that he was going to say a phrase and the crowd would repeat it back. And he started his chant.

It was both mesmerizing and powerful. A moment that I have felt the power of ever since.

Rally @ Washington Square Park

Last night, I went to see Barack Obama at Washington Square Park. I got there early and had to wait almost an hour and a half to get in. The crowd has been estimated between 20,00Rally @ Washington Square Park0 and 24,000–probably the largest campaign event of the year. The crowd was younger, but it was also diverse–with a number of the elderly, a few middle aged people, and lots of college and post-grad folk. Ethnically, it was as diverse as the subway.

I couldn’t see the stage from where I was–partially because I was short. I was actually pretty close to it. This was basically my view. However, some people were holding up cameras to record Obama on stage, and I could see him in the cameras.

The Speech

From what I could tell, this was Obama’s stump speech with a few add-ons. News reports indicated that he was tougher on his Democratic opponents, saying for example that he was the only one willing to speak tough truths and citing examples.

It was an effective speech–it dealt with the issue of experience masterfully, and on reflection, his comments on experience are even more compelling. His litany of things to change was good, and his tone was right. He explained that many people were there because they were fed up with President Bush. But that they also needed to be for something–and that something should not be just a more competent person to manage things as they are. What was needed was change–to change the system, to change the game, to create a new politics. A politics in which leaders were honest about challenges; in which real progress was possible; in which entrenched interests were not the biggest players.

It was a good speech and an effective speech, and it was delivered with a self-conscious charm that was very appealing. He ended it with a story about how one woman’s voice changed him. It was the best moment in his speech. He led the crowd in the chant “Fired up, ready to go.”

But something was missing.

A Television Show

Martin Sheen as President Bartlett in Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing is one of the great television characters. His President Bartlett is the kind of president only seen on TV.

At the beginning of the third season of the show, there is a series of flashbacks to when then Governor Bartlett was first running for president. He is shown answering questions at a political dinner. One of the characters–Josh, a Washington insider currently working for the Democratic party’s presidential front-runner played by Bradley Whitford–has been forced to attend the event by an old friend of his father’s. Barely paying attention, he grumbles about being there. Then the moment of truth comes: a farmer asks the candidate Bartlett why he supported a particular tax hike that hurt him. Bartlett answers, “Yea, I screwed all of you on that one. That one hurt a lot of my constituents. But I’d do it again and here’s why…”

For Josh, a hardened political infighter, this is one of those “A-ha!” moments and he knows he has found his candidate. He can see through the dismal setting and uninspiring performance to the President that Bartlett could be. Jeb Bartlett however is not ready. It is not that he needs more experience or that he needs seasoning or any such thing. What he is missing is something that everyone around him can sense–his audiences, his aides, himself. Perhaps it is a certain resolve to take on the responsibility; perhaps it is a sense of certainty that he will be able to perform the job. What is missing is both obvious and amorphous.

This is what I felt about Barack Obama’s speech. He is missing just this thing. He is not yet ready. But come January, I believe and hope he will be. If he is ready by then–if he is able to step into himself and be the leader he is able to project–we will have a great president.

Otherwise, we will have to make do. And America will be the poorer for it.

That Biden Touch

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

This from Reuters about last night’s debate:

“I’m not suggesting it’s Hillary’s fault. I think it’s a reality that it’s more difficult, because there’s a lot of very good things that come with all the great things that President Clinton did, but there’s also a lot of the old stuff that comes back,” Biden said.

As Clinton fixed a chilly stare on him, Biden hurriedly added: “When I say old stuff, I’m referring to policy, policy.”

But how would this play in a partisan setting? And what if the candidate–and Guiliani, I’m looking at you–unabashedly brought up the ex-Presidents extracurricular activities in office?

Of course in Guiliani’s case especially it is a case of “he who is not without sin shouldn’t cast the first stone.”

Which brings up another factor. In a Clinton v. Guiliani matchup, do the personal dramas and “weird factor” cancel each other out because each has their own rather large and embarrassing amount of personal baggage?

Firefox v. Opera v. Internet Explorer

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

This gets it just about right.

“Senior White House Official” on Obama

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Matt Drudge has this to say in one of his trademark “flashes” excerpting some breaking news from a new book to be published in which many “senior White House officials” were interviewed including Cheny and Bush:

As for Obama, a senior White House official said the freshman senator from Illinois was “capable” of the intellectual rigor needed to win the presidency but instead relies too heavily on his easy charm.

“It’s sort of like, ‘that’s all I need to get by,’ which bespeaks sort of a condescending attitude towards the voters,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And a laziness, an intellectual laziness.”

In other news, Bush says that Hillary will win the nomination. But am I the only one to see the irony of a Bush official citing a candidate’s “intellectual laziness” as a reason the candidate cannot win office?

Obama Gets Iowa Dem’s Endorsement

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Former Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Fischer endorsed Obama today, citing among other factors a University of Iowa poll of Iowa Republicans showing Obama coming in third amidst the Republican field.

“It’s not a matter of trading the current White House resident for a new occupant,” Fischer said, “but replacing President Bush with someone who will change the way politics is done.”

Link is here.