Last thursday

A few thoughts about the convention, way after the fact (computer issues):

1. Edwards was OK, but not as good as usual. I still think his message is gold for the Democrats, and, as Saletan says, it probably sounded a lot more interesting to people who haven't been hearing it night and day for the past 9 months. Besides, it has to be difficult to tack on lots of new material (foreign policy, Kerry praising) to a stump speech you've been reciting in your speech for a year, hence his pacing issues. It also made me realize in a way that I hadn't before that Edwards really has quite a stomach for the cheap heart string tug. Uh-duh, I know, but when he's really on, it sounds authentic and that's the beauty of it. But when he's not on, I realize, he says it anyway, because he knows someone out there has a lower threshhold for authenticity, and they'll just love it. I think that's a good political skill even though people with highly evolved bullshit radars will attack you for it. Clinton at times turned my stomach to the same extent that he made me want to stand up clapping at others. But he owned his bullshit like no other, and the country would have elected him for it again if they'd been allowed. Unfortunate that Edwards' national TV time had to be one of the lower-spectrum moments, however.

2. I won't say much about Kerry since that boat has sailed by now. But I was more than impressed with the speech. Before Thursday, I really tried to avoid listening to him talk--I found his presence at the primary debates just slightly more pleasant than Chinese water torture. But I think his convention performance was able to achieve an exciting middle ground between pompous Kerry and smart Kerry. More than anything, you felt that despite his flaws, he is a serious person and is dead serious about the ideas he is putting forward. There was a glimmer of the same "no-bullshit" effect President Bush achieves by pretending he spent his youth being home-schooled by barely literate cattle ranchers. That's good news.



Witness the awesome GOP oppo machine, cutting a swath of destruction across the pathetic dreams of the hapless (yet oh so omnipotent) liberal elite!  John Kerry is wearing a funny suit!  His oafiness shall be intolerable to the mainstream!  Look upon their foolish convention as it crumbles under the weight of said funny suit!  Sad.

Teresa Heinz Kerry went a bit too long, but I was quite taken with her otherwise.  God, what a relief to the smiling mannequin routine they foisted on Laura Bush. 


Let me be the billionth to say: Barack Obama sure delivers.  I mean, *chills*.  It's not that he blows your mind with any super new ideas, but his ability to oh so eloquently state the obvious is stunning.  And isn't this one of the great political talents?  His "rally around the American dream" tactic was extraordinarily affecting because it never pandered, it simply rang true.  It's exciting because he asks you to make a gamble you're capable of, namely believing in tolerance, shared values, and open-mindedness.  It seems obvious, but truly its not.


Kevin Drum sees Joe Trippi blog at MSNBC that he can't get into the convention.  Bizarro.  Let's hope someone sees that.  Jeez.


I was only ever tangentially involved in the Dean phenomenon, but often I've thought, when Dean has either given a one-on-one interview or a more 'sedate' speech, what might have been.  Had Dean just been a conventional candidate and not the repository of Democrats' anger or the figure-head of an innovation larger than himself, I think he could have done quite well.  He has an extremely likable politics, and an ability to articulate them with a remarkable lack of pretension.  I think his speech tonight fell along these lines, and belied the insipid smear that he's unacceptably 'angry'.  Let's hope he isn't seen completely as a vessel of the Internet revolution, and is allowed to talk more often without so many assumptions. 

The other side

If you haven't been to the Corner since the convention started, by all means treat yourself to the usual snark on warp speed.  Not that they still aren't dangerous, but some part of me can't help thinking they've really gone into a bitter defensive position.  I know this doesn't really mean anything as far as Bush's chances in the rest of the country, but at least among the conservallectuals, one starts to notice a wide gap between the real ideas on stage at the Fleet center and the imminent losers nipping at their heels.


I thought Teddy Kennedy was fine, although he is considered such a spawn of Satan by conervatives that his speech is basically moot.  New slogan for RNC protestors next month, with apologies to E. Kennedy: George W. = George III.  Now isn't that so much better than comparing people to Hitler?  I thought so.

Gephardt is on now.  Oh boy does he blow at seeming personable.  How difficult it is to be a public politician.  If Kerry is watching somewhere he is rueing any seconds he wasted considering him for VP. 



From the initial television commentary and news coverge, it looks like the story for this campaign is still very much up for grabs.  The talking heads, even the 'liberal' ones are running in circles around three non-questions: (1) are the Democrats being negative? (2) do people care about John Kerry or just about beating Bush? and (3) are the Democrats really unified?

These are neither legitimate horse race questions nor interesting political ideas.  They are the sound of journalists who don't feel they can discuss the message being presented without appearing biased, un-incisive, or boring.  It's not a very promising start.

Perhaps one of the biggest strikes against the Democrats from the outset is that the substantive debates seem to follow more easily from Bush's self aggrandizing than Kerry's.  Bush says something about smoking people out of their holes, and the mainstream media asks "What do we do about terror?"  Kerry talks about repairing alliances and wars of choice and the media asks "Is he a hypocrite for voting for the war resolution?" and "Did he really just call Bush a liar?"

It is the Al Gore (and Clinton before him) syndrome, and it appears ripe for resurrection.  Part of it is certainly the disciplined Republican mockery machine (Glenn Reynolds, for instance, appears to have spent the day looking for goofy pictures of Kerry) but part of it is those good ol' liberal journalists, who, unable to actually disagree with the premises of a candidates' policies they are sympathetic with, invent narratives about a candidates' failed personal psychology and the pitiful pathologies of his supporters instead.  Not to speak to soon, and I generally really like Saletan, but his convention blogging tonight seemed right on pitch for this sort of thing.



You would think if we are subjected to Brooks on the op-ed page, the universe's laws about freedom from miserably frustrating conservative shills would dictate we wouldn't have to watch him cover the DNC.  Not so. 


Clinton at the podium: "They need a divided country.  We don't."


Totally unnecessary

There is a rather heartbreaking article in the Times magazine today about a lesbian couple where one partner supplied eggs to be implanted in the second's womb.  Because they did it as a normal in vitro process, as if the partner who was carrying the child had simply found an egg donor and then gone to the sperm bank, the first partner waived "paternity" rights to the children, even though she and her partner intended to raise them together (although the carrying partner planned to become a single mother either way).  Six years later, the partner who carried the children (even though they were genetically the other partner's offspring) started getting paranoid about her claim to the children, which eventually ended the relationship.  She moved away with the children, and cut off all communication with partner #1, who has been unsuccessful in finding any legal recourse because A) the marriage laws don't apply (although they were domestic partners), and B) the courts are not applying the paternity standards they do in disputes of this sort involving heterosexual couples, but rather treating it as a case of pure strangers. 

It quite effectively raises one of the more unsung arguments in favor of gay marriage.  Simply that gay people are not going to stop having relationships, sharing property, and sometimes having children any time soon.  In fact, it is only going to become more common and more a part of the fabric of everyday society.  The only question is how long we are going to allow them to suffer in the hands of a legal code that has no definitions and no protections for those families.  How long we are going to stand back while judges contort themselves into endless legal knots trying to define who's a "father" and a "mother" while ultimately, it is the children who get screwed, as the Times story makes abundantly clear.  New slogan for the gay marriage folks: Won't anyone think of the children?

Viewed from that perspective, I think it is a nice distillation of how the conservative mind works vs. the liberal mind (and, to be fair, many of the better libertarians minds).  Liberals, regardless of their actual personal feelings about homosexuality, see a gap between the law and the lives of those people the law is supposed to serve, and want to rectify it, because it causes life to be messy and cruel.  Conservatives on the other hand, think if we just stick our heads in the sand, maybe the problem won't go away, but at least we'll have stuck it to someone good.  It is a remarkably callous attitude to have at the helm of a government and god help us all it goes away soon.  I mean, we're tryin to have a freakin' civilization here.

One more point.  Partner #2 who took the children declined to be interviewed for the piece, so its a bit hard to talk about her side of the story.  Nonetheless, I think its safe to speculate that the lack of reasonable family laws for gay people had a larger effect in this case.  Partner #2 was determined to be a single mother before Partner #1 came into her life and then actually bore the children.  Surely she thought about how priorities must change when you have kids, and that she couldn't continue to let her children believe their mother, her "girlfriend" was always going to be around.  She had to think of herself as a single mother and cut her losses.  Certainly a lot of gay families get over that insecurity just fine, but its no way to build an environment for stable families.  Then again, maybe the conservative types are deluded enough to think they'll pass that "no children for gays" law one of these days.


It's out

Quick impression from half a day glancing at the commission report, and ultimately a tangent...sort of.  As far as I can tell, the report makes almost no mention whatsoever of the war in Iraq.  Even though it delves fairly deeply into where U.S. foreign policy should go from here, our standing with allies and in the Muslim world, and the big ugly problems with the intelligence services.  But as far as I can tell, no actual discussion of the 800 pound gorilla in the living room of American international affairs.  

What can it mean?  That the most preeminent government sponsored opinion on what should be done about the transnational terrorist threat pretends like the all-consuming foreign policy centerpiece of the last 2 years didn't even happen?  It kind of gives me the chills.  And makes me wonder what kept it out.  Lord knows Bob Kerrey and Jamie Gorelick and some of the other Democrats must have been itching to talk about the "wrong turn" in Iraq.  But what of the Republicans?  Were they sitting in the meetings saying "Hey, what happened to Iraq?  That's breaking the back of Islamo-fascism in the Arab World! or What about Iraq in the nonproliferation section?  We sure destroyed that country's capacity to consider planning weapons of mass destruction related program activities! or What about Iraq in the no sanctuaries for terrorists section?  You can be damn sure no one there will ever receive a letter or telegram or instant messenger from an al-Qaeda member!"

Perhaps I answer my own question.  Except I think they are still into the islamo-fascism back breaking part.  Even harsher then that the whole grand neocon democratization by force theory is not even worthy of debunking in the report. 

We live in strange, strange times.



I swear I wrote the last post without seeing Jonah Goldberg make the same point.  I'm going to wash my fingertips now.

Lemons out of lemonade

Too bad for Sandy Berger.  He would have been a good secretary of state, and it seems like a pretty lame scandal to blow a career on.  One would hope every major career ending scandal involved a Faustian deal for ultimate power derailed by a misstep precipated by the tragic blurring of right and wrong.  Or at least some head.  This has neither in a major way.  Anyhow, until someone can come up with any mildly plausible nefarious motive, I will take the bizarro "how did those get there?" defense at his word.  Also, I like his daughter  lot.

That said, Kevin Drum suggested yesterday that the leak wasn't the work of Republican operatives (which the Kerry campaign has just formally suggested, BTW), but the work of Democratic operatives.  If Republicans knew about the Berger issue, and knew it wasn't going away, why wouldn't they wait until October?  At that point, Berger would have been in so deep with the campaign that his sudden departure could have been a major stumbling block.  But what if some thoughtful Kerry operative found out, knew the blow would only be worse later, and decided to leak now?  By doing it right before the 9/11 report, they get to blame it on the Republicans, and lambast them for being callow and playing politics with 9/11.  Berger takes a hit he would take anyway, it can't stick to Kerry for too long...bonus!

Unfortunately, this theory is becoming less enticing by the minute, as the Republican attacks reach a fevered level of pre-meditated ferocity.


Undraft Cheney?

The news regarding dropping Cheney for the Republican ticket has been flying fast and furious the last few weeks..Brad Delong has the wrap-up.  One part of me thinks this is Karl Rove's secret weapon, while another part thinks such a thing is categorically impossible.  A lot of the antagonism towards this administration is based in the idea that it is incapable of change.  And that vulnerability...the single image which they expect voters to pick again...is also their greatest strength.   The truth is, Bush so far is not actively campaigning with a fresh argument.  His campaign is almost entirely rooted in "Did you see the last four years?  That kicked ass." 
The power of any incumbent is his/her ability to combine recognition and position with the same newness the other guy is asking voters to take a chance on.  So far, Bush hasn't done the new part.  Witness the aborted "big-think" attempt earlier in the year, i.e., Mars.  Don't hear about those broad visions so much today.  This line is still up Rove's sleeve, and a vice presidential changeup would be a stunning way to do it.
On the other hand, that would go against every precedent we've seen from this administration, and, in power terms, it may not be fundamentally feasible.  Regarding the former: a vice president candidate change would essentially admit that the Bush administration has been wrong in some respects, that it understands the country's grievances, and that it will campaign in the interest of rectifying them.  So far, the administration strategy has been to avoid the 'wrong' ground at the cost of ABSOLUTELY any other considerataion.  The thought they would embrace a sneaky "I was wrong, let's compromise" stance now seems highly unlikely.  Regarding the latter: Cheney may simply be too powerful in this administration to get booted for political reasons.  Someone would have to convince G2 real good that his reelection hinged on the removal of Cheney, and the idea that a political advisor would be able to raise Cheney's presence to this kind of threat seems unlikely.


Not that its news, but...

Sometimes Jerry Falwell can still surprise with a new twist on rank offensiveness. This morning Falwell was a guest on Tavis Smiley with a liberal minister, talking about 'morality in the presidential election', or gay marriage as far as he was concerned. On Kerry's position of opposing the FMA but personally opposing gay marriage, Falwell said, "That's like 50 years ago saying, I'm opposed to slavery, but it's OK if my neighbor owns one".

A fine example of "in the same breath" offensiveness. The fact that Falwell can go on the Tavis Smiley show, the premier black radio newsmagazine, and toss around the fight against slavery as an analogy that deserves to be on the same planet as the fight against gay marriage is really something.


Still happy!

If the past week of GOP Edwards bashing has sobered you up, just mosey on back to Bob Kuttner on why the Edwards choice is super great! No sarcasm. It really is super great! I daresay the Democrats almost have a sheen of "somewhere you want to be" these days. That's right, not "somewhere you have to be because the other side is painful to your soul" and not "somewhere you are, because that's where you've always been" but truly an appealing, intriguing new idea about leadership.

Begin knocking on wood...now.

Signifying nothing?

The first piece of the Senate report on intelligence failures seems to have gone pretty much according to plan...basically, every conclusion the U.S. intelligence community came to about Iraq was dreadfully, logic-defyingly untrue, the CIA told Bush, and naturally enough he went ahead and invaded the place like anyone else would have done. Only that was never the reason Bush was really thinking about (that would be the remaking the middle east in our own image/ending the cycle of authoritarian dependency reason). And despite these findings, he really does have weapons* anyhow. And a relationship* with al Qaeda. Unless you really press the issue. Then it's the CIA's fault. How were we to know?

What a mess. I thought Rockefeller did a good job in the press conference, though I imagine he and the other Democrats had a tough choice laid out for them: endorse this report, and get the facts out about how truly absurd the WMD/al Qaeda linkage rationales for war were, albeit with some empty language exonerating the administration for the headlines, or we'll stop this thing up until after the election. I think that was probably an honest choice for him to make...we need some detailed consensus about exactly what was true and not true about Iraq, but we'll see how it plays as the media digest more of the report.

P.S. Apparently there is a harsh appraisal of the Feith Pentagon outfit. It's nice to see people are keeping this story alive. If someone decided to really focus on this, it could apparently mean jail time and big congressional inquiries--the military is not supposed to conduct intelligence functions relegated to the CIA.

* i.e., weapons-making/wanting capacity, weapons of mass destruction program-related activties, weapons of mass destruction appreciating, and potential for relevant scheming about weapons of mass destruction.

* in this instance, relationship is defined as any of the following: talking to, writing letters to, sharing evilness, not having a relationship.


Summer blogging is hard

Sorry for the disappearance (again). In lieu of something more extensive, I offer a list of titles for posts I thought about on the subway which never materialized:

1. What did I just say about no one calling anyone Hitler???

2. Greenpoint Rezoning Update

3. PLEASE pick Edwards

4. Joe Wilson is an annoying blowhard (I hate to say)

5. Joe Biden knows what he's talking about

In no specific order. Hopefully I'll come back to some of these things, although the Hitler thing is pretty played out at this point.