Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dignity

One of the reasons I was glad that the Republicans had no real choice but to nominate John McCain this year is because there seemed to be a real possibility that he and Barack Obama could combine to run a decent general-election campaign. You know, decent, as in the textbook definition, “conforming to the recognized standard of propriety, good taste, modesty, etc.” Or, if you prefer, the definition seventh from the top, “wearing enough clothing to appear in public.” Well, McCain is now running the streets stark naked.

It’s one thing to make impulsive decisions for political purposes, like nominating a good ol' hockey mom from Alaska for vice president when not an average American in the lower 48 has heard of her and then locking her away from the press for the month of September. If Republicans want to act like that’s cool, or like they wouldn’t be (rightfully) losing their last ounce of shit if the Democrats pulled something similar, that’s fine. ("Barack Obama today announced that he's chosen Vladimir Melnikov as his vice presidential nominee. Melnikov is a first-generation American who teaches European History at Princeton, and Obama believes he'll firm up the liberal base. Melnikov wil make his first unscripted public appearance on Nov. 5.")

It’s another thing to run an ad that says Barack Obama supported legislation to teach “comprehensive sex education to kindergarteners,” with an announcer intoning, “Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family.”

Of course, this is a gross lie, and the legislation allowed kindergarteners to be taught about the warning signs of sexual predators. Not that you needed me to tell you that. Is there a person who’s heard Obama speak for more than five seconds who would believe that he approves of teaching “explicit sex” to kindergarteners? It’s absurd to anyone with a functioning brain stem, but I don’t think those are the people the ad targets.

McCain knows better, and he certainly -- once upon a time -- promised better. And if you listen to James Carville in this clip, you hear someone who seems genuinely bewildered at the behavior of a guy he admires. I know the feeling. I argued much earlier this year that this election isn’t only about policy, given the level of political discourse in this country, which has steadily plummeted from silly to dumbed-down to gravel-brained. Time and again, with the Clintons and now with McCain, Obama has responded to personal attacks and the usual smears with dignity -- arguably too much dignity, since a little outrage isn’t exactly unwarranted here. He’s even defended his opponents. When the news of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy hit the airwaves, Obama quickly appeared and stressed that his mother had him when she was 18. Forget the Republican-Democrat divide; it’s hard to imagine another politician from either party doing something like that. Issues matter, obviously, and I think Obama can hammer McCain and Palin on several of them. But dignity matters, too, both in personal terms and as a broader example to our culture. Or doesn’t it anymore? You might not think Obama deserves the presidency for that dignity alone, and that’s fair, but I think he deserves to have it factored into your decision.

13 Comments:

Blogger Kraig said...

John,

But ALL politicans lie and distort. And if you want to talk about dignity, how about the disgraceful lipstick comment squarely aimed at Gov. Palin! Hardly dignified for a would-be-President to viciously attack a woman, don't you think? And I don't think you give voters enough credit. Most voters know campaign ads are propaganda and hardly sources of reliable facts. The outrage you express is exactly the sort of phony outrage Obama is accusing McCain of on his latest stump speeches. If you want to talk about dignity, just watch the recently unearthed video footage of McCain being released from his captors...walking with a pronounced limp, but still walking tall. That is the definition of dignity.

(sigh)

At least that's what "moderate" Republicans would say in response to your post.

I think a key point, however, is "degrees." Politics can be dirty, for sure. And no politician, Obama included, proffers facts with ALL the relevant context and detail necessary to evaluate its true significance. But there are degrees to these sorts of behaviors. Not every negative campaign ad is the same. Not every distortion is the same. Some are, quite simply, worse than others. You can't wash away certain things the McCain camp is doing by simply saying it's "part of the game" or "Obama does the same." It's not, and he doesn't. This is unacceptable and it says a lot about McCain. After being victimized by Rove in 2000, I guess you could say (at best) he's "wised up" and has learned how to play to win. And he just might. But let's not kid ourselves into thinking he's being a revolutionary here. This is not the same McCain from 2000, and he's not going to turn back into the old McCain at the strike of midnight on November 5th.

2:41 PM  
Blogger litelysalted said...

My mom gave me the explicit birds and bees rundown when I was in the first grade. But, my mom is and always has been batshit insane, so the functioning brain stem thing still applies.

Anyway, nicely done.

6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously, friend, you're killing me. You really need to start checking your facts, even when they support your worldview.

The bill in question a) actually suggests "comprehensive" (that's a quote from the bill) sex education for grades K through 12, and mandates that all classes must include education on STDs, contraception, and HIV. In all classes. K through 12.

Do I think Obama wants to teach 5 year olds about sex education, genital warts, and condoms? Of course not. But it was a bad bill, and he voted for it. Those criticisms are accurate. (However, it's inaccurate to say it was an accomplishment for Obama. The bill wasn't sponsored by Obama, and it never passed into law.)

Also, Palin has already been giving interviews. Excerpts from her interview with Charles Gibson are online now. No one ever said she wouldn't give interviews.

And isn't it interesting that you thought calling Obama a "celebrity" was vapid and insulting, but now you're criticising Palin because she wasn't famous enough? If you paid any attention to conservative talk radio, magazines, or websites, you'd see that she was a front-runner for months.

http://stubbornfacts.us/politics/2008_election/the_myth_that_sarah_palin_came_out_of_nowhere

Maybe the thing to do is ... I don't know ... read an article about her? Just one?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/09/09/do0904.xml

Nah, I'm sure if you need to know anything substantive about Palin, you'll hear it from Obama and Sullivan (but I repeat myself).

Seriously, man, is your credibility so cheap? Honestly, this stuff is killing me because I'm a big Obama fan, but this stuff pushes me toward McCain.

--MattM

10:16 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Matt, my friend, if you don't mind, I'll respond to this comment in a post. That ok?

In the meantime, could you send along a reference for the fact that kindergarten classes had to include mention of STD's and contraception? I haven't seen that anywhere and it surprises me.

I think you're arguing in bad faith when you say that I'm upset that Palin wasn't "famous enough." And my credibility isn't cheap. I've read about Palin. And in sources other than the Telegraph -- that article you sent was transparently biased. But I'll get to that....

jw

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It didn't say kindergarten classes had to mention STDs and contraception. It said all classes, K through 12, had to mention STDs and STD prevention.

Here's the link to the bill:

http://www2.nationalreview.com/dest/2008/09/11/09300sb0099lv.pdf

Here's what the bill said before it was revised:

"Each class or course in comprehensive sex education offered in any of grades 6 through 12 shall include instruction on the prevention, transmission, and spread of AIDS."

Here’s what the bill said after it came out of the committee on which Obama sat. This is the bill that Obama voted for. I’ve bolded the changes from the original text.

"Each class or course in comprehensive sex education offered in any of grades K through 12 shall include instruction on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including the prevention, transmission, and spread of HIV."

How exactly are they going to teach kindergartners about STD transmission without talking about the mechanics of sex?

Again, I don't think Obama intended to force kindergartners to learn about the mechanics of sex or STDs. And in later pages, the bill references “age appropriate” instruction at the same time it mandates STD and contraceptive education, which I think seems inconsistent, but that's based on my opinion of what 5 year olds are ready for.

The best defense I've heard is that the bill didn't mandate sex ed for anyone. It just authorized it. Which I actually think I'd be fine with. The local school districts can decide. I'd imagine another good defense would be that the bill was never finalized (although that would raise concerns as to why it emerged from his committee with his vote). Obama is certainly right to clear the record on what the bill was supposed to do, but to say that the charge is a “gross lie” is itself a distortion of the truth.

Feel free to respond in a post, an email, a handwritten letter, skywriting, carrier pigeon, or whatever. I apologize if the post above seemed overly strong. I dashed it off too quickly. My point is that I think it's one thing to be in favor of one candidate, but when you start saying that John McCain supports torture, or that John McCain hasn't stood up to his party in 8 years, then I've got to wonder whether you're actively thinking about what you're writing or just repeating what others have said and trusting that they've checked to make sure it's true.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and I didn't mean to argue in bad faith that you think it's bad that Palin isn't famous. But you did say this(emphasis added):

"It’s one thing to make impulsive decisions for political purposes, like nominating a good ol' hockey mom from Alaska for vice president when not an average American in the lower 48 has heard of her and then locking her away from the press for the month of September."

Do I misunderstand your argument, or were you denigrating the fact that the average American in the lower 48 had never heard of her?

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kraig,

The lipstick comment was not at all aimed at Palin. Even McCain acknowledges this...although his camp is still bashing Obama for it.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, when I was in Elementry school we learned about sex-ed. Sure, we learned about it in a very watered down kind of way...but how babies were made, and what happens when you get your period and why boys voices would start to change...
Then in Junior High we learned comprehensive sex-ed. High school followed with more of the same.
Out of myself and 4 of my closest friends who all went to the same school none of us got knocked up on accident. None of us got an STD. None of us were left with emotional scarring from 'loosing it'. 3 out of 4 of us our happily married and quite happy we didnt 'save it'. In fact, grateful that we didnt. The 4th one is with a longterm boyfriend and also not waiting for marraige.

This is what comprehensive sex education brings. Woman who are smart with their sexuality. That dont give it up to validate themselves in the eyes of men. It brought up 4 woman who took control of their own sexuality at an appropriate age (16 being the average) and took birth control pills, used condoms and acted safely.

And now we have abstinene only and having babies is the new black and STDs are on the rise. Nevermind no abstinence program has ever really been shown to have any effect on when kids decide to engage in sexual activities. (Or they just give BJ's and call it 'not sex')

I dont see how anybody could rationally argue that sex education is bad. Sex is healthy. Sex is natural. Sex is how we are all alive right now. And to act as though children cannot understand those basics without making it perverted is asinine.

Children are far more aware of sex and what it is then parents think. I knew at 5 what sex was. I didnt understand it. I didnt' know any of the mechanics. But I knew it was an action that took place between grownups.

The idea that our children will become raging sluts because of sex ed is halarious at it's very best and devestating to our children at it's worst.

I'm not sure why our country is so quick to celebritize Paris Hilton and various celebrity crotches but then acts as though sex shouldnt and ought not to exist in a 'real' sphere.
It's schizophrenic and only creating future wives and husbands that will be ashamed, degrated, and uneducated about their bodies and minds.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Kraig said...

Anonymous,

With all due respect, McCain himself does NOT acknowledge this. In fact, he was on The View today insisting that Obama "chooses his words carefully" and "should not have said it." He has ads running, which he's endorsed, that make the direct connection of the lipstick comment to Palin's speech. It's not his camp, it's McCain specifically who is both pushing this and allowing it to be pushed---and that's disappointing. For what it's worth, I allow for the possibility that Obama did intend the remark to have the secondary effect of taking a swipe at Palin, but a) It's impossible to know that. b) It's not very important. c) The extreme reaction is, in a way, sexist. One politican snarkily insulted another politician? Stop the presses! It's only an issue because she's a woman---and that's sexist.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Kraig,

I think you can really strengthen your first comment. Sometime before the (sigh), you should add:

But Obama won't show a veteran like McCain the dignity he deserves. Today Obama released an ad attacking McCain because he doesn't use email. Is this how Obama "honors" McCain's service? By mocking his inability to type on a keyboard due to his war time injuries.

Then transition to your last paragraph about Obama's classy campaign.

Also, see if you can work in the comments of Democratic Congressman Russ Carnahan introducing Joe Biden at a campaign event. Referring to Sarah Palin’s record, Carnahan commented: “There’s no way you can dress up that record, even with a lot of lipstick.”

Maybe also add the comments of South Carolina Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler who said John McCain had chosen a running mate "whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.”

Feel free to add ALL CAPS, exclamation points, and scare quotes as needed. I like the voice of your writing, so I'm sure you can spice up this material.

[I'm not defending McCain. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of the politics of victimization (the whole lipstick shtick--say it real fast ten times). Moreover, as I read on the web, the secret liberal racial/gender decoder rings seem to work only when it’s one of their guys in the hot seat.]

9:42 PM  
Blogger Kraig said...

Hi Jeff,

First, now that I know it's YOU (last name protected to spare the mostly innocent), hello! Remember that time we broke a lamp at a hotel in Amarillo during a debate trip causing the power to short out? Good times, good times. Sort of a metaphor really...

Anyway, I really wish I could make a living as a full-time blogger, because there's always too much to say and not enough time in the day for my feeble hunt-and-peck typing. I've had about a billion things I've wanted to write this week, so I'll just give an abbreviated response to your last post.

1) The Obama attack ad

I don't like it. As you can see from my previous comments, I hate it when it's used by Republicans, and I hate it even more when it's used by candidates I'm supporting. I hold my candidate to a higher standard, so any sort of sinking-to-a-low is particularly disappointing. That said, as negative ads go, I don't find this one especially repulsive. Maybe my tolerance for them has been raised somehow by the particular nastiness of the ones I've seen in the last week from McCain. Or maybe it's because there's a lot of truth in the ad. Your point about his war injuries is well taken, and I've read things which mention that as a possible reason he doesn't email, but as recent as this July, McCain himself doesn't mention that as a reason when talking about his computer illiteracy. He simply says "he's never particularly felt the need." He has admitted he's computer illiterate. He says he's learning, which I think is great, but the ad isn't lying. Now, is it relevant? Does it matter? Nah. Not much, if at all. I do think it's silly in this day and age that there are people who don't know how to navigate the internet, but I think it's somewhat specious to try and connect that to possible out-of-touchness. But it is true at least. And where there's truth, I'm happy to let people reach their own conclusions as to its relevance---mocking or otherwise.

2) Comments by Carnahan and Fowler

I'm not going to defend every boneheaded remark some pro-Obama person makes any more than I would expect you to do for a McCain supporter. The one by Fowler is downright offensive and I'm not seeing anyone rush to her defense, and rightfully so. If you think Obama was happy to see her make that comment, you're crazy. He's a smart guy and knows that's a) offensive, and b) not going to help. The lipstick comment by Carnaham is what it is. It's not offensive, it's just typical rah rah bullshit. Stupid--because it keeps this non-story alive for yet another day--but ultimately it says nothing about Obama.

My liberal credentials are strong, but trust me when I say I am not your standard party-line liberal. I was pro-surge. I was pro-Iraq invasion (though, even at the time, I felt it was hasty to do so). I am in favor of funding faith-based charitable initiatives, which was one of Bush's first acts as President. I immediately question all my liberal friends when they casually throw around such phrases as "Bush lied," or "the GOP hate machine." As I said, I hold myself and my candidate to a very high standard. Obama has, at times, let me down. I was not happy with his reversal on campaign financing. It is perfectly valid for Republicans to critique that point. In fact, I wish they would attack that MORE, as at least that's a valid issue! The point of this ambling paragraph is that I am not an insulated liberal---though they certainly do exist. I can see wrong in my candidate just as well as I can see wrong in the other candidate. You seem to imply otherwise in your last few words.

10:39 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I can't believe you didn't realize it's me. Something about the last comment clued you in?

I'm still in TX and haven't made it to the big city like you.

The Amarillo trip was fun. I think someone broke the lamp in a pillow fight. I don't remember who. I guess we can blame Michael. I remember the guy at the hotel front desk spitting his chew in a cup. Good times.

Go back and read my other comments. There are things I like and dislike about both candidates. Through the primaries, I was rooting for Obama and McCain. Right now, I'm mainly pissed at the media. It'll subside and hopefully won't affect my vote.

I am looking forward to the debates. Obama should have accepted McCain's town hall meetings idea. Wouldn't that have been great?

As individual candidates, I prefer Obama over McCain. I just worry about Obama unchecked by a Congress ruled by the opposing party.

The next big event in this election campaign is SNL tomorrow night.

Your last post is very reasonable. Lipstick, email, etc. is all rather ridiculous. Based on what I've read in the media (but, frankly, I don't trust the media), the sex education thing crossed the line.

For the last month, if I've ever needed a laugh, I look up your list of ten things I hate about you. That just kills me. Good stuff.

11:47 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

I'm glad we have a love-fest going on now. That's how it should be. I'm less glad that I wasn't a part of the broken lamp story. Can't be there for everything good, I guess.

Obama was supposed to be on SNL tonight, but supposedly canceled because of Hurricane Ike. Odd (kind of).

11:37 AM  

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