Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Charlie McCarthy Writes Tell-All

Look, you guys know me. You know I never met a Dubya Bashfest I didn't like. And I'm all for former members of his staff and cabinet writing all kinds of behind-the-scenes books confirming what we already knew -- that George W. Bush is pretty much the worst president we've ever had, and I'm including Hoover, Harding and Nixon.

However, early snippets of Scott McClellan's new book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, (and, no, I'm not linking to it -- find it yourself) which verify what most of us were screaming at our computer screens and televison sets during McClellan's own press briefings at the time, are just downright infuriating. In his book, McClellan divulges such earth-shattering revelations as the fact that George W. Bush is a deluded, insulated leader, totally caught up in the grandeur of his own spin, that the Administration was deceitful and cunning in it's dissemination of information leading up to the invasion of Iraq, that the press wasn't anywhere near hard enough on the White House, and that George Bush is "plenty smart enough to be President." (Okay. That last one is kind of a revelation.)

Now, granted, I haven't read the book. However, if I do decide to, I can assure you, I'll be checking it out of the library, so not one extra penny goes into McClellan's pocket. For all his "I was a mere pawn in their chessgame" talk now, McClellan has, in his advance press for the book, conveniently glossed over one important fact: he himself was instrumental in allowing that Administration to be deceitful, in permitting Karl Rove to run an endless campaign for the next term presidency, in obfuscating and muddying the waters with the White House press corp. Either he was so incredibly stupid that he was unable to see, as a White House insider, what was in plain sight for the rest of us -- the lies, the fearmongering, the manipulation, the blatant cronyism (from which McClellan himself benefitted) -- or he was as corrupt and deceitful as the rest of them. But he can't have it both ways. Whether he likes it or not, if there was a "Washington Culture of Deception," then he was one of that culture's biggest boosters.

This past nearly eight years hasn't just been George W. Bush, sitting in the Oval Office, masterminding total world domination. It has been a team effort. It wasn't just Bush and Cheney, Rove and Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and Tenet who lied to and misled the American public. It was the dozens of people, including McClellan, who worked directly with and for them, who supported them, who kept their secrets, who refused, when they saw evidence of malfeasance, to tender their resignations immediately and become whistleblowers. This White House has been smart by surrounding itself with people that it knew would take and take and take until the well ran dry. Then, when they came out and fulfilled their six-figure book deals, the White House could dismiss them as "disgruntled." Yeah. McClellan left disgruntled. But not before he enjoyed the sparkle of being in the "inside circle" for three years.

Much like former CIA director George Tenet, McClellan now realizes that, as Bush prepares to leave office with a near-record low approval rating (28%), anyone who has touched him becomes infected. I predict that the post-Bush tell-alls will be as numerous as those following Watergate and Nixon's resignation.

And they all be singing the same tune -- "I didn't know the gun was loaded."


Monday, May 26, 2008

When Every Day is Memorial Day

I've been turning over and over in my head the myriad of thoughts I have about this day that is supposed to be set aside for remembering those who died serving their country, and those who serve today and (hopefully) will come home so that we can honor them on Veterans Day.

I have no special post for today in memory of the troops -- the ones that are waiting to come home and the ones who never will. The reason is because I do that every day. Every day, I bring up the Chron and, half-wincing, check to see that the death tally is holding steady at the previous day's numbers. When it is, I say a little "thanks." When it hasn't, I say a little "ohjesusgod."

But more than any war I've ever lived through, the awareness of the troops and their trevails are more in the forefront than ever before. Maybe it's because we have treated them so shabbily. Perhaps it's because more people are becoming more vocal about their opposition to the war. It might even be because, these days, with 24-hour news coverage and internet death tallies, we know exactly where the numbers stand.

So, while it's nice that today has been set aside to remember our war dead, how about if we just enjoy the BBQ today, and spend every day remembering the troops.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Martyrdom of Saint Hillary of Our Lady of Perpetual Hyperbole

Everyone has their own reason for being unhappy with Senator Clinton's remark about the RFK Assassination, made while speaking in South Dakota to the editors of the Argus-Leader. In case you've been living under a rock for the past few days, here is her direct quote:
"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it."
Keith Olbermann was downright apoplectic (but then this is why we love him). The NY Times editorial board referred to the comment as an "inexcusable outburst," followed by "one of those tedious non-apology apologies in which it sounds like the person who is being offended is somehow at fault: 'I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation, and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive.'" (As in, "I'm sorry you're such a fucking mental midget that you couldn't suss out my oblique deeper philosophical meaning, you moron." Yeah. Like that.)

Chris Cilizza says in his editorial in the Washington Post that, while Clinton's explanation of the example may be historically correct, and that he can even see what she meant when she made the original remark, that the invocation of the assassination itself was "at best -- a poorly chosen example," particularly in light of the worry expressed by many black voters that Obama's risk of assassination is higher because of his race, and particularly in light of the recent diagnosis of Senator Ted Kennedy's malignant brain cancer.

Marc Arbinder, the blogger for, points out that, historically, Clinton's remark isn't especially accurate, merely because, in 1968, by the time the primaries were held in California, Robert F. Kennedy was pretty much the presumptive nominee. Arbinder does point out that there were plenty of other very good examples that might have made Senator Clinton's point better than RFK's 1968 California win. Gary Hart in '84. Ted Kennedy in 1980. Which leads me to wonder why Senator Clinton chooses that example.

And it isn't the first time. Olbermann's special comment points out that has Clinton determinedly used the RFK reference, both with and without direct mention of the assassination, at least four or five times in the past two months. What is it she is trying to tell us?

Bearing in mind that this is the same woman who, not a week ago, was comparing her efforts to include the Michigan and Florida delegations to freeing the slaves and giving blacks and women the vote -- a woman who has engaged of late in the most outrageous kind of hyperbole and verbal gymnastics to get ahead -- why do we think that Clinton insists on constantly conjuring the image of RFK at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5th, 1968?

I do not, for one minute, think (as Olbermann apparently does) that Hillary Clinton is implying that she's hanging on to her campaign simply to see if Obama will be shot by the end of the primaries. I do believe that Clinton is fully capable of doing with the RFK assassination what she has done in the past -- aligning herself with other great-but-tragic political and historical figures and allowing their tragedy and victimhood to douse her a little. It is the same reason why she manufactured the story about landing amidst gunfire in Bosnia. And this is the reason that I reject such references out of hand. By conjuring images of slaves, of oppressed turn-of-the-century womankind, of herself in a chopper, bravely landing while besieged by imaginary gunfire, and now, of the profoundly tragic image of RFK on the Ambassador's blood-covered kitchen floor, she lets us know that she is just another martyred, maltreated, misunderstood freedom fighter being crucified and assaulted for what she believes. "Everyone says I should quit," she tells us. And yet, I can find several well-known journalists and bloggers (Here, here, this one here, which quotes none other than Barack Obama, for example, and even this one, here, written by yours truly) who have maintained she should not quit, but should stay in until she's ready to concede. So, the "helpless victimized martyr for our cause" routine is wearing thin and tiresome, and, unfortunately, seems to be manifesting itself in every aspect of Clinton's campaign.

I think this factors into her inability to apologize for things she's done wrong -- even if they've been merely thoughtless slips of the tongue. Had she just said, the day after the assassination remark, "Ya know what? I was tired, I was on the spot, I was talking off the top of my head, and I said something I simply shouldn't have said. I'm sorry." Period. Full stop. No equivocation. No implication that those of us who thought the remark was at the very least, weird and uncouth, and, at the very worst, a bout of wishful thinking, were stupid for taking exception to it. We didn't bring up the assassination. She did. For historical reference, or so she said. And yet, as Arbinger points out, there are several other examples that didn't involve the bloody drama of a young man shot in the head and bleeding to death in his distraught wife's arms that would have better illustrated her point.

Clinton's desperation is starting to show, like an old lady's slip -- and not just a glimpse of a lacy edge at the bottom of the hem, but rather, the definite gleam of satin as the whole thing slides completely into view. As with old lady underwear, desperation is something one takes for granted in public figures. You just assume it's there, but you'd really prefer not to be confronted with it on its face. It makes us all want to turn our heads away in embarrassment and pity.

Oh, and, as for the "historical accuracy" of Clinton's claim that primaries extending into June are not unusual, another blogger, Andrew Sullivan, notes in his Daily Dish column (amusingly entitled, Paging Dr. Freud) that, though technically Clinton is correct, there's a big point she's neglecting to mention:
"But in no previous primary election did the voting start just after New Years' Day. The New Hampshire primary in 1968 was on March 12, two months later than this year. For June, therefore, read August. Yes, this season has gone on for ever. And for Senator Clinton, it has now obviously gone on too long."
So, while June looms near, and the DNC Convention in July is not much farther behind, let's try and keep our heads, even as those about us -- like Senator Clinton -- seems to be losing theirs.


(Note -- a thousand heeps of gratitude to the astounding editorial staff of The Huffington Post for gathering all of these references and links used in this story in one place, so that I could use the links to illustrate my points without having to track them down myself. I'm old and tired and I need my rest.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Quick Note to Hillary Clinton

Dear Senator:

Please don't listen to your advisors.

Nobody is ever "bouyed by Kentucky."


At least, not on purpose.

Just sayin'.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Euphemistically Speaking

"Hard-working, non-college, white voters."

I've been reading and hearing that phrase a lot since the West Virginia primary -- mostly from Hillary Clinton's own mouth -- and I know this puts me in the minuscule minority, but.... do we really think she meant "racist?" I'm not sure she did. I'm pretty sure she wasn't intending to imply that the people of West Virginia were racist. I wasn't really sure how to take it.

So, I turned to a friend of mine for a translation. Having been born and reared just outside of Wheeling, he actually speaks "hard-working, non-college, white" as his first language, so I knew I could count on him to help me. He asked not to be identified by name, since his family still lives there, and he has no wish to hurt their feelings, should they be Googling him one day and run across this blog post. And, believe it or not, I actually have more than one male acquaintance who was born and reared in West Virginia*, so even if you know me and you think you know who it is, you have a one in three chance of being utterly wrong.

Did she mean "racist"? I asked him. Probably not, was his response. It was probably, he speculated, an innocent slip on her part, as she tried to tie in with the lower-middle class working poor of "non-color". Then he added after a brief hesitation, "But just because she didn't mean to imply it doesn't mean they're not racist." As in, I suppose, the speculation that, just because you're suffering from paranoia, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Are they racist? I asked him. His answer came in two quick words.

"Hell, yeah." And he said it as if he knew, as if I should know, that it was just a universally accepted truth.

Here's my worst case scenario with the nomination of Barack Obama. That white guys will start telling tales of how oppressed they've been, what with all this freeing of the slaves and women's suffrage and civil rights and separation of Church and State crap, and "how come y'all don't believe what ah believe," and "from mah cold, dead fingers." I don't want to have the argument anymore that Christian white guys just can't get a steady break in this country, thanks to all the preferential treatment that affirmative action gives to "them coloreds and spics and gooks and such, and why can't we just line our borders with landmines and blow the wetbacks up when they try and get in, instead of letting them come over here and give birth and steal our services and our jobs scrubbing toilets and all?"

If this is in argument that media is trying to dust up, then I really don't think I'll survive until November, no matter who the ultimate winner is.


* More than a coincidence, the sheer number of ex-West Virginians in my acquaintance can be accounted for by what more than one of them has indicated was a deeply held and strongly embraced desire to leave there and go live somewhere else as soon as possible. Sorry, WVa, but it's what I'm told. My artist/musician/actor friends were kind of not particularly welcomed with open arms in WVa, and so they left to go live someplace they wouldn't have to get the snot kicked out of them by redneck bar patrons on a regular basis.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What He Said

I can't say any of it better than Keith Olbermann did last night. For nearly 12 minutes. At top volume. With spit.

In case you missed it, let me pass it on.

Yeah.... what he said....


(Printed transcript appears here.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

May You Live In Interesting Times.

Mildren Loving, the black woman whose marriage to her husband, Richard, a white man, led to a landmark Supreme Court decision that struck down laws banning interracial marriage, has died. She was 68 years old.

The details of the Lovings' struggles to have their marriage legally recognized can be read here. It was the late sixties, and enlightened Americans had pretty much decided to kick the crap out of Jim Crow.

The reason I make note of Mrs. Loving's passing is that it underscores why I think this is an amazing time we're living in. Just forty short years ago, people were fighting for the right to enter into interracial marriage without being guilty of a felony. Today, a black man has a legitimate shot at the Presidency.

Thirty years ago, a married woman couldn't apply for a credit card without her husband's written permission, though a married man could get as many credit cards as he wanted without the written consent of his wife. Today, a woman also has a legitimate shot at being President.

Isn't that just the coolest thing?


What's Next? Gordon Liddy's Radio Show?

Why are the Democratic nominees lining up to interview with Bill O'Reilly? This man is NUTS! It's okay. We can say that. It's a clinical term that's been long-accepted among mental health experts.

It's bad enough they're allowing themselves to be interviewed by any Fox news blathering heads, but Bill O'Reilly? Hey, Hillary. Hey, Barack. It doesn't matter what you say. The people who watch Bill O'Reilly are NOT voting for you -- no matter what.

So do us all a favor and stop giving this lunatic the street cred and attention he so desperately seeks on a daily basis.



Friday, May 02, 2008

Please, Suh... May I Have $70 billion More?

Bush sent his appropriations budget into Congress today, asking for $70 billion to continue to fund the war in Iraq and Afghanistan through the spring of '09. This is how the Associated Press began their article on the topic:

"President Bush sent lawmakers a $70 billion request Friday to fund U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan into next spring, which would give the next president breathing room to make his or her own war policy."

Two things struck me about this. The first, of course, is "his or her own war policy." Weird, man. Seriously weird. And yet, at the same time... not. It's just about time, that's all.

And the second is how much it sounds like an offer we can't refuse. If we approve his $70 billion budget, will he go away and quit talking until January 19, 2009? Because if so, we should think about it. It could be worth it, just to get him to shut the hell up.

Hmm... Let us take a bit of time to consider this.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Nelson Mandela, You Terrorist Bastard! We're On To You!

According to this USA Today article, Nobel Peace prize laureate Nelson Mandela, along with several other member of the African National Conference, the South African organization that put an end to apartheid, have been flagged on United States watch lists as being terrorists. This means that they can't fly into the United States without special permission from the State Department. Condoleezza Rice called this "embarrassing." I'll say, particularly since South Africa's foreign relations minister, Rice's South African counterpart, is a long-standing member of the ANC, can't get a visa to enter the United States without intensive questioning first.

Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) (who's on my Congressional shit list right now for an entirely unrelated reason) called it "an indignity," while Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) called it a "bureaucratic snafu."

But, was it? A snafu, I mean. The reason that ANC members, both past and present, are even on the list in the first place is that back in the 70s and 80s, when South Africans thought apartheid was just a fine and dandy thing, the ruling white minority labeled the ANC a "terrorist group." But the watch lists didn't start being used to cull out prospective terrorists until after 2001, long after apartheit had been abolished and well after Nelson Mandela's installation as the first post-apartheid, black president of South Africa. So why has the ANC been flagged at all? I'll tell you why. Because a bunch of fat, white guys called them terrorists. And this country loves nothing better than to listen to a bunch of fat, white guys in charge of stuff.

This isn't new. The former South African ambassador to the United States, Barbara Masekela, who began serving in her post in 2002, was denied an emergency visa to visit her dying her cousin, and couldn't get permission to fly until after the cousin's death. This was in 2002.

Considering that the United States of America was created by "terrorists" (at least if you look at it from King George III's perspective), I would think that the US would be a little more careful about just who does and doesn't get flagged. I think the thing that bothers me about Homeland Security isn't that HSD is hard-core. It's that they're hard-core, lazy and pretty damn stupid, too. And when you put that all together, it's a pretty potent cocktail for a grand cock-up.

But I am glad they finally nabbed that terrorist Nelson Mandela, though. He is one scary dude.