Election 2008 National Security Obama Politics

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense

[digg-reddit-me]Andrew Sullivan is apparently a big fan of Obama keeping on Robert Gates at the Pentagon. Others have taken various sides. But I agree with Matt’s point: this would suggest that Obama was conceding national security to Republicans still. Matt says, “How about a Democrat?” but doesn’t suggest anyone.

I have a perfect suggestion for a Democrat who is:

  • tough enough;
  • liberal enough;
  • has the requisite stature and gravitas;
  • is very involved in defense issues;
  • who has prominently challenged the Bush administration over the management of the Pentagon;
  • who would be an all-star in any Cabinet;
  • who has shown a proficiency for getting things done in a closed environment;
  • and who would be a groundbreaking choice as Secretary of Defense.

[Image by Angela Radulescu.]

To balance out the Cabinet – and fulfill Obama’s pledge to place a Republican in a Cabinet position, and to help bring along the Republican party to Obama’s enhanced diplomacy – Obama can choose Chuck Hagel as Secretary of State.

Election 2008 McCain Obama Politics

Cindy McCain’s Country Club Patriotism

[digg-reddit-me]As a general rule, I don’t think a candidate’s spouse should be a large factor in choosing a president. Most candidates ask that the media not target their wives directly for ad hominem attacks. Of course, the Republican attack machine constantly attacked and vilified Hillary Clinton and Teresa Heinz-Kerry, and now is doing the same for Michelle Obama. (I’m not sure I can think of a similar example of a Republican First Lady or potential First Lady who was attacked with the same viciousness or by anyone in the mainstream liberal movement. ) But the obvious double standard is not the point of this piece; the point is that Cindy McCain keeps injecting herself into the campaign with ad hominem attacks on Michelle Obama.

The first instance of this from back in February, in my judgment, could be forgiven – understood as a kind of knee-jerk or emotional response to Michelle Obama’s remarks. Michelle Obama mis-spoke and Cindy McCain immediately painted her as lacking patriotism:

Cindy McCain told the crowd I “am proud of my country. I don’t know about you, if you heard those words earlier — I am very proud of my country.”

I think Ms. McCain’s remarks on that occasion should be condemned, but that she as an individual could be given a pass – as her remarks followed so quickly upon Ms. Obama’s.  They could be forgiven as a kind of mis-speaking similar to Michelle’s.

However, Ms. McCain’s remarks yesterday – many months after her earlier comments – repeat the same point again – which makes this attack on the Obamas’ patriotism seem to be part of some greater plan.  Cindy McCain again trumpets her own patriotism and muses about how:

Everyone has their own experience. I don’t know why she said what she said, all I know is that I have always been proud of my country.

Clearly, she is suggesting that Michelle Obama may not love or be proud of America; but she is doing so indirectly.  She is speaking in the way of those who self-consciously consider themselves to be “upper-class” – making her point by indirection and by omission.  I don’t think I’m someone who is overly conscious of class – at least conscious of class in the American setting in which I’ve been raised.  But this comment by Cindy McCain struck me as a perfect encapsulation of a common sort of “country club patriotism” – a mix of cattiness, entitlement, and a disdain for those “lesser”.  As an heiress to many millions, Ms. McCain (along with Mr.) is among the class of super-rich – and she has been her entire life.  Insulated from many of the challenges of the majority of Americans, she brags about loving the country in which she has always been one of the elite few.  I would think even the most ungenerous individual would have some appreciation for the country that had given them as much as America has given Cindy McCain.

Michelle Obama, on the other hand, a descendant of slaves, was born poor but worked hard and assisted by affirmative action programs and through her own skill and determination, achieved a large measure of independent success.  Yet she too has spoken eloquently about loving her country – a country that enabled her to achieve what she has despite the poverty in which she was born.  This love of country that is informed by an intimate understanding of the harsher aspects of America is harder to understand and harder to convey than the Country Club Patriotism of those of whom America has given a great deal and demanded very little.

There is an aphorism about the rich man who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.  This sense of both accomplishment and entitlement are exactly what sets apart Country Club Patriotism from the run-of-the-mill Fourth of July and Apple Pie Patriotism and the traditionally liberal Critical Patriotism.

Cindy McCain’s comments are unbefitting a potential First Lady (or a potential President for that matter.)  For her to have brought this up several times is outrageous.  If Mr. McCain wants his wife to be spared the mud that will be inevitably flung about as these battle over who will succeed Mr. Bush, he should counsel his wife to try to refrain from slinging mud herself.

Humor Politics

A Sign of the Times

[digg-reddit-me]Drink, Don't Drive!

Domestic issues The Web and Technology

Gay Google-ing

Is Google celebrating or is this a new effect?


Quote of the Day

It’s hard to know quite how to respond to politicians who are willing to make things up so brazenly. Except, I suppose, to point out that one should take anything they say with a grain of salt, given that they are bloodthirsty werewolves who defile virgins by the light of the full moon.

Christopher Orr over at The Plank.

Election 2008 Politics The Clintons

Don’t Hold the Democratic Party Hostage!

[digg-reddit-me]”Eventually, the hard feelings will die down,” the pundits say. And I think they are mainly right.

I don’t want to make a big deal of the still raw feelings on display by Clinton supporters – after all, we all should be on the same side come November. But the overheated rhetoric, the deliberate attempts to undermine the legitimacy of Obama’s nomination, and the incredible sense of entitlement on display among some of these Clinton supporters inspires some raw feelings in me as well. RiverDaughter writes of those “Democrats in Exile“:

Any day now, Obama supporters will be knocking at my door and ask me to get a membership in their exclusive club. I will be treated like a queen once they scan the voter’s rolls in NJ and see my name. It will be like, “Oooo, Riverdaughter is a “creative class” unaffiliated. Well, we must really ask her to do a round of golf with us or share a latte.” I will be pampered and courted and made to feel better than all of you losers who comment on this blog.

In another example, a Heidi Li (seconded by RiverDaughter) has written a very popular blogpost that asks her readers to “slap the face of the DNC” by donating to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, instead of the cash-strapped DNC, which – through some form of black magic – is supposed to lead to Hillary becoming the nominee or regaining control over the Democratic party:

My view is that if the D.N.C. wants one lick of help from any supporter of Senator Clinton the first thing it should do is boot Howard Dean and make it clear that the new chair is somebody who Senator Clinton wants in that position.

In the meantime, we can help Senator Clinton AND tick off the D.N.C. at the same time (smile a slightly naughty smile here). If we very quickly raise a ton ‘o money to rid Senator Clinton of her debt, believe me, the D.N.C. will understand where the true power lies. After we raise that money, we hold on to every penny we have unless and until Senator Clinton becomes the nominee for President or clearly takes control of the D.N.C.

It’s unclear if Ms. Li is expecting that The Angry Clinton Supporters Brigade will outraise the legions of Obama supporters who have consistently been more generous. And the idea that Clinton deserves to
control the DNC is ludicrous. Just because the Clintons controlled the DNC from 1992 until when Howard Dean was selected doesn’t mean that they should continue to control it. Especially given Dean’s role in paving the way for the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress and Obama’s 50-state plan for the general election.

The Democratic Party is not a Clinton family property. The Clintons have contributed and continue to contribute greatly to progressive causes and the Democratic party1 . But it is not healthy for them to have a stranglehold on the organization because they alone are not the Democratic Party. We are.

We Are the Democratic Party: We activists, we progressives, we liberals, we feminists, we wary libertarians, we blue-collar and white-collar workers, we blacks and Hispanics and whites and Asians and Native Americans, we students and professors, we union-workers and hedge fund managers, we who drink lattes and we who drink coffee (black, no-sugar), we who down Manhattans and we who drink beer, we who bowl and we who do not, but most of all…we unlucky few who saw our nation going down the wrong path for all these years, yet were unable to stop it and we who only gradually realized the incredible cynicism that has taken over the Republican Party as it exploited and fanned our basest fears to win elections while pursuing policies which made our nation less safe.

The Democratic National Committee is struggling – and we Democrats, we Obama supporters, we Clinton supporters – will need a strong majority in Congress, in the Senate, and throughout the country if we are to achieve what we set out to do.

We must win this election. And we can.

We need everyone to donate time – at your local DNC office, at the local Obama campaign office, with any get-out-the-vote operations. We need everyone to think about the issues and the course that needs to be taken. We need people to make sure the Democratic Party stays a party of ideas by voicing their individual opinions – on the web and elsewhere.

And we need money. If you can, donate today to the “We Are the Democratic Party” at the Democratic National Committee. And if you are a Hillary supporter who wants to show appreciation for her ground-breaking campaign, then certainly donate to help her retire her debt. Donating to Hillary won’t be sticking a finger in anyone’s eye or slapping anyone’s face.

We who know how important this coming election is – as a choice between a neo-empire and a true democracy, a choice between a government that benefits the few and a government that helps the many, a choice between an aggressively conservative Court and a more moderate one, a choice between a health care system that is broken and attempting to fix it, a choice between staying in Iraq for 100 years or leaving as soon as possible – we who know how important this election is are the Democratic Party.

And that’s why we all need to support the Democratic National Party as it prepares for this momentous election, perhaps the most important of our lifetime:

America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.

  1. Even if their overall legacy – both within the Democratic Party and outside it – is mixed. []
Election 2008 Foreign Policy McCain Obama Politics

A Neo-Empire in the Middle East

Andrew Sullivan gets it exactly right:

[T]he critical question in this campaign is: do Americans want a neo-empire in the Middle East?

This is what this election is about more than anything else.

New York City

The Sale of an American Landmark: The Chrysler Building

I just opened up the Drudge Report a few moments ago and was momentarily stunned to see a large picture of the building I am currently sitting in over a large, bold, red, and underlined headline. After a spasm of concern – there aren’t very many positive reasons for Drudge to feature a picture of a building as a breaking news headline – I noticed the headline was less urgent than it seemed:


Yet another American landmark being sold.  This time, it happens to be the one I work in each day.

Election 2008 McCain Politics

Contempt, high-minded, and glamorous

David D. Kirkpatrick of The New York Times profiled McCain’s introduction to the Senate – an introduction which seems to directly affect his politics and his policies today:

After five and a half years of listening to senators’ antiwar speeches over prison camp loudspeakers, Mr. McCain came home in 1973 contemptuous of America’s elected officials, convinced Congress had betrayed the country’s fighting men by hamstringing the war effort. But in the halls of the Senate, he discovered a new calling, at once high-minded and glamorous…

Under Mr. Tower’s1 tutelage, Mr. McCain turned his anger over the management of the Vietnam War into an all-or-nothing view of international conflict that became one of the few guiding principles in his otherwise unpredictable political career — from his opposition to sending Marine peacekeepers into Lebanon in 1983 to his current staunch support for the Iraq war. And when prominent conservative Christians later protested Mr. Tower’s nomination as defense secretary over accusations of drinking and womanizing, Mr. McCain’s furious counterattack opened the hostilities with that wing of his party that have persisted ever since.

And here we have the main elements of McCain’s politics today: an all-or-nothing policy of international conflicts; a contempt for anyone who would undermine one of these all-or-nothing bets; a taste for glamor; 2 and a noble sense of his self and his work.

  1. Senator John G. Tower, a hawkish Texas Republican. []
  2. Isn’t that tie Armani? []
Election 2008 Obama Politics

Hayden on Obama: I didn’t see him coming.

Tom Hayden wrote in the Huffington Post last week about his journey from Bobby Kennedy to Barack Obama, beginning with his rage and disappointment in electoral politics and the American system after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated:

On June 4, 1968, I watched from a New York townhouse the murder of a second Kennedy in five years. Martin Luther King already was gone, Vietnam and our cities were burning. I was in the midst of chaotic planning for anti-war demonstrations at the Democratic Convention coming in August.

I drifted off with friends to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where Kennedy staffers let us through the doors late at night. After sitting a while in silence, I found myself as a member of a makeshift honor guard standing next to his simple coffin. I was wearing a green Cuban hat and weeping. The last political hope of the Sixties vision – a movement-driven progressive government – was finished, whether by chance or plot, it mattered little. The violence I had resisted under white racism in the South was seeping into my veins. Like many who took their rage even farther, I was hardening, and never dared again to recover my young idealism.

Hayden seemed to have lost faith in the democratic system after Kennedy’s assassination, though he remained involved in California state government.  Nearly forty years later, he refused to see Obama as an authentic progressive leader, despite pleas from his son to take a look at the candidate.  Hayden was skeptical.  But, after the landmark wins in Iowa and South Carolina, Hayden endorsed “the movement Barack Obama leads”:

Barack Obama is giving voice and space to an awakening beyond his wildest expectations, a social force that may lead him far beyond his modest policy agend. Such movements in the past led the Kennedys and Franklin Roosevelt to achievements they never contemplated. [As Gandhi once said of India’s liberation movement, “There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.”]

We are in a precious moment where caution must yield to courage. It is better to fail at the quest for greatness than to accept our planet’s future as only a reliving of the past.

Hayden remains skeptical and demanding – as he was towards Bobby Kennedy while working with him in 1968 – but Obama’s candidacy has allowed him to hope again:

Those who denounce Obama – and the possibilities of all electoral politics – should ponder the effectiveness of sitting judgmentally on the sidelines while an Unexpected Future arrives through the sheer will of a new generation. They should consider whether politics and history can be reduced to a fixed determinism that is endlessly repeated, as if there are no surprises. We can have our differences with Obama’s specific policies, as I certainly do, but those should be measured against the prospect that a movement might transform him even as his very rise continues to transform the rest of us.