Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Make It (Mostly Rudy) Stop

I have to write about this now, while it's fresh, because I want to try not to think about it tomorrow.

John Podhoretz wrote that Guiliani’s speech tonight was "the sort of thing that makes one understand why people fall in love with politics."

I thought it was among the most disgusting speeches I've heard in my lifetime. If people fall in love with politics for reasons like that, it's no wonder our politics are so awful. To hear a mayor of New York snort at "cosmopolitanism" is as disheartening as it is disingenuous. What a fraud. And to hear him so crudely mock Ivy League education and community service was jaw-dropping, even by the culture war's shamelessly asinine standards. Republicans want proud underachievers and rednecks, that's who they're going to get. It won't be enough this time.

To hear Rudy and everyone else talk about the elite media and political correctness over and over again, like it’s 1993 and this stuff is even remotely interesting, was pathetic. To hear Palin attack Obama’s soaring rhetoric when hers is pitched at that PTA level she’s so proud of, was pathetic. To hear them rail against the establishment in Washington when the establishment in Washington has been led by a Republican for eight years, was maddening. To listen to ancient arguments about government intrusion when Obama goes out of his way to argue that government can't solve all our problems, was a sign of intellectual bankruptcy. To listen as John McCain's incredible and brave experience as a POW was trotted out as an argument in itself for giving him power, as if he were Jesus and had suffered for our sins, was creepy to say the least.

This humble blog has been around for almost three years now, and its archives are littered with bipartisan sentiment. Not tonight. Democrats might not have an irrefutable claim on righteousness, but John McCain has handed this campaign over to the most grotesque elements of his party. Given that 80% of voters aren't terribly pleased with those elements these days, I can't imagine this will do him any good. Maybe in a country that makes a hit of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, this stuff will play better than I think. But I believe even Bush's convention in 2004 wasn't this off-key and offensive. And it was the exceedingly dull John Kerry who ran in '04. With a charismatic candidate who at least attempts to appeal to our better natures, and to our aspirations, we'll certainly get what we deserve if the parade of disdain, defensiveness, and idiocy that occurred tonight leads to a McCain victory.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The RNC on TV is like watching one long commericial for cheesy politics.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

right on! well said.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Okay, the only thing i disagree with is that the DNC was any better. If you try to be objective you will have to admit that the DNC was just as much a silly showbiz pep rally with just as superficial speeches, silly rock stars, etc. It's politics, people and this is the high ratings venue that BOTH parties try to appeal to the lowest common denominator with dramatic sweeping generalizations that mean nothing, and facts simplified into falsehoods. Take it for what it is. Cheesy politics? Please. That's just now starting to bother you? I thought the exact same thing watching the DNC. Although, the DNC did lack country music and Texan delegates waving cowboy hats, so there's that.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, you said it.

1:22 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Johannes, you saved my life in 'Nam, but I have to disagree with you here. Was the DNC a big spectacle full of fluffiness? Of course. But it wasn't nearly as hateful. Maybe it was because the party had so much "healing" to do within its own ranks (a silly plot itself), but other than policy differences you heard a lot of respect for McCain and his service. The smearing of Obama was just gross. As someone who has criticized Gore and Kerry to friends who supported them, I feel that I am objective. But objectivity and an open mind don't guarantee equal judgments.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

Who picked these key-note speakers? All have seemed like odd choices to me - none more so than Giuliani. I mean, do Republicans even like this guy?

I watched the speeches last night with my old man. He's a Vietnam vet, an Alaskan (we both are, actually) and , until the Bush years, has always been a staunch Republican. In 32 years, I've heard him drop the f-bomb twice maybe.

But last night, after "America's Mayor" spoke. he got up and said,

"What a fucking asshole."

I almost died. If that doesn't just say it all . . .

2:21 PM  
Blogger megbon said...

Here's my prediction for tonight. John McCain takes the stage to thunderous applause, waits for it to die down and delivers this: "My friends, I spent five and a half years in the Hanoi Hilton and Barack Obama thinks he's better than you." More applause. End.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johannes: I have to disagree with you purely because the author said nothing about the DNC in this post. He was criticizing the RNC. Even bringing up the DNC is silly and out-of-order and isn't pertinent to the conversation.

Now, I understand where you are coming from, it'd just be better suited for a post that was actually about the DNC.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Don't call me silly. I've never been silly once in my life, and I'm not starting today. A good day to you.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Kraig Smith said...

I agree, to a point, that the DNC is a silly pep rally full of bombastic generalities and sycophantic kool-aid drinkers. I had a very hard time watching the DNC (to say the least), and the day after Obama's speech I was deemed a killjoy by some of my more fanatical friends simply because my reaction to Obama's speech was ONLY positive, NOT downright exultant. To me, the DNC was 4 days of mediocre foreplay that led to a satisfying but non-earth-shaking orgasm. I'd prefer to dispense with the dull titillation and get right down to it. So, Johannes, I'm with you that conventions are absurd by nature.

THAT SAID, John's point is, I feel, totally valid. Yes, the Democrats lobbed a bunch of sharp barbs at McCain...some fair (not knowing how many houses you own), some not (his definition of rich as $5 million is grossly out of context). But the one thing Obama, and to a lesser extent the other speakers did, was speak to the good in people. It was an overwhelmingly positive message on balance. It's impossible for anyone to watch the parade of Guiliani, Huckabee, Romney and Palin and come away with anything other than a hostile, negative, divisive feeling.

The entire evening was spent making the point that Obama, and by extension his supporters, are elitist, big city folks who "just aren't like you." It's not that his policy positions are a problem, it's that his supposed uppity attitude is. Note that I don't think this is on the same level as saying McCain is out of touch with every day Americans. Obama makes that argument with respect to economic issues, and I find it valid. The GOP's argument of Obama being out of step with small town America is, in contrast, about cultural identity. And last I checked, that's a pretty horrible reason to vote for or against someone.

I read somewhere that the evangelicals are thrilled with Palin because "she's one of us." Maybe this is the well-educated elitist in me, but I'm smart enough to know that I DON'T WANT someone like me as our leader. I want someone BETTER. Someone SMARTER. I don't think Obama is a snob, but even if he was...should that matter? I'd rather have a president who made Harvard Review than someone who can do a kegstand.

John is right. McCain ran to the far right and, as such, has solidified the Republican party as the party of go-it-alone (Europe is evil!), the party of short-term-answers to long-term problems (drill, baby, drill!), and the party of us v. them...with them being anyone who is NOT like themselves. It was a horrible, horrible night.

This morning, out of fear and anger (always great motivators), I finally stopped being so lazy and mailed in my NY voter registration card. I only hope last night's speeches motivate more people to realize just how significant this election is becoming.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...


You are misinterpreting at least some of Giulani's speech. For example, he was not putting down New York or other large cosmopolitan cities. He wasn't snorting at cosmopolitanism (whatever that means). He was attacking those who sneer at small towns. I don't see why a former mayor of New York can't love New York and still reject the elitist attitude that big city people are better than small town folks. I don't think you mean to imply that all New Yorkers (including former mayors) look down on small towns. Now, of course, people can debate whether Obama looks down on small town folks. But I don't think that was your point.

Also, what people identify as a "smear" is likely colored by their political leanings. As I recall, Obama went pretty hard after McCain, and I don't think his attacks were limited to policy differences ("temperament," that McCain wouldn't get OBL).

Moreover, our political discourse should not be limited to the issues or policy differences. Many of a President's most important decisions can't be foreseen on election day. How do you evaluate how a candidate will handle the unknown? Intelligence, judgment, values, and other character traits.

Disclosure: I have been and remain undecided in this election. I was leaning in favor of Obama, but in the last week, I have been outraged by the biased media coverage and the way in which Palin has been treated unfairly.

JB from TX

2:45 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Jeff, when you say "whatever that means" about snorting at cosmopolitanism, I refer you back to the video of Giuliani's speech, in which it is abundantly clear what it means. I agree with you that there's a debate to be had about whether or not city folk or country folk look down on each other, or vice versa, and the ramifications of those things. If you think that's the reasoned debate that Giuliani was representing in his performance, you and I have very different eyes and ears.

I am only firmly decided because I prefer Obama's intelligence, temparement, and judgment to McCain's, but not by a ton -- I like McCain. That said, I think to tailor your vote to reward or punish the media is silly. Plus, depending on what part of the media's treatment you're talking about, I don't necessarily agree. The media has a job to do, and if the Republicans aren't going to let Palin loose in the wild to speak for herself, and if McCain's not going to research her until 24 hours before picking her, then I say let the media at it -- they'll overstep, of course, but I'll make up my mind when they've overstepped. At least they're telling me things that aren't pre-scripted and balloon-littered.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Kraig Smith said...

Hi Jeff,

Since you're an on-the-fence undecided, a truly rare thing to encounter these days, I wanted to ask you in what ways you think the media has been biased against Palin? This has been a popular charge made by McCain and other GOP supporters, but I personally find it lacking. Since you're not affiliated with either party, I'm curious to hear your own reasoning.

For my part, I have found nothing wrong with the way the media has covered Palin. Of course, the left-wing bloggers like Daily Kos are as vicious as ever, but I don't think any reasonable person considers them the "media". They exist to rally the true believers and, at their best, to stir the pot and encourage more legitimate news-gathering organizations to ask questions. So, for my purposes, I exclude places like Daily Kos from "the media" as it pertains to Palin, just as I do their right-wing equivalents.

But as for the mainsteam media--what's the issue? Part of the absurdity of picking someone like Palin is that, aside from McCain's own inadequate vetting, it's the media's DUTY to publicly vet this person in a very short period of time. Whereas McCain, Obama and Biden have been in the national eye for a minimum of 5 years (Obama) to far longer in the cases of McCain and Biden, not even Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a leading member of the GOP knew who she was. It stands to reason, therefore, that the media is going to start digging, start asking questions, and start trying to figure out who this person is, what she believes, and is she an acceptable nominee. It's significant not only because she might be called upon to perform the duties of the most important job in the world, but also because it's the first major executive decision McCain made...and one that's easily compared to Obama's decision.

The perceived bias against her is, I feel, due to three factors. The first is the overwhelming intensity of the vetting. Again, this is normal. The only thing abnormal about it is the obscenely short time-frame in which it has to happen...and for that I blame McCain, not the media.

The second factor is that, let's face it, there's a lot of interesting stuff coming out of her vetting process...stuff that she needs to respond to in detail--which, to date, she has not. Troopergate? Her flip-flopping on support for The Bridge to Nowhere? Her history of pork-barrel lobbying in contrast to her stated position as a reformer? Her telling her congregation that the Iraq War is the will of God? And much more. The only thing she responded to was the rumor about having not actually given birth to her youngest child...a rumor that was pushed by Daily Kos and one that is easily used by the GOP to make the media at large look bad. That said, all that prodding and speculating DID uncover another story...the pregnancy of her teenage daughter...a story which, again, the mainstream media is mostly leaving alone. If the media seems hostile, it's because they're not getting answers---only empty talking points. Check out this clip for a sample of the nonsense:

The third fact, I think, is the gender issue. A lot of people think the media's treatment of her has been sexist. Sexist how? If they comment on her attractiveness, then how is that different from the comments I've heard about the handsomeness of Obama or Romney or Edwards. She also was a willing participant in a beauty pageant which, I find, inherently sexist. If they talk about whether she can be a good mom and run the country, then yes, they should ask that question of Obama. That said, I haven't heard the mainstream media discuss that...though there has been discussion about whether it SHOULD be discussed, admittedly a roundabout way of dealing with the issue. But really, I think the perception is "hey, this is a good mom, a good person, a good woman...stop badgering her!" And my response is...NO. KEEP BADGERING HER. That's what Obama has endured, what McCain has endured, and what Biden has endured. It's a vital part of the process and, for once, it's nice to see the media doing their job without being intimidated.

Anyway, I obviously have strong feelings about the GOP's attack on the media. It's so empty, so calculated, and such a red herring. Questions should be asked, and questions should be answered. Right now...only half of that is being done.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I'm at work so I don't have to respond to everything now.

I stand by my interpretation of Giuliani's speech: "I'm sorry that Barack Obama feels that her home town isn't cosmopolitan enough. I'm sorry, Barack, that it's not flashy enough. Maybe they cling to religion there." He is not knocking big cities; he is criticizing elitists that look down on small towns. I'm guessing you think Giuliani was being snarky in the way he said "cosmopolitan." Perhaps. That's open to a lot of interpretation. In any case, that was not the thrust of his point.

The pregnancy rumor was not limited to the Daily Kos. It was also peddled by Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic. (I have been reading Sullivan's blog since before he was with the Atlantic. He has gone completely cuckoo for Obama, not much unlike he went cuckoo FOR the Iraq war.) I consider the Atlantic, a magazine to which I subscribe, part of the mainstream media. I think the entire pregnancy matter is private and irrelevant.

Another example of bias is MSNBC's coverage of both conventions, including Keith Olbermann (the most unfair) and Chris Matthews. The only purported conservative voice is Pat Buchanan. That's like having a show full of conservatives with Dennis Kucinich as the lone liberal voice. MSNBC should acknowledge that it's a liberal news channel just like FOX should acknowledge it's a conservative news channel. PBS has the most fair and balanced coverage.

I was initially floored by the Palin pick. My main fear of McCain is that he's a gambler who enjoys taking big risks based on gut intuitions. I viewed the Palin pick as possible confirmation of this fear. That still may be proven true.

I think the media should investigate and question Palin and McCain's vetting of Palin. But I don't think any thorough investigation can be completed in a matter of hours. The questions and innuendo rained down on Palin almost immediately. I think the media should hold its fire until it has some actual facts to report.

The mainstream media is overrun with columnists, new analysis, and editorials. There is too little actual investigation and reporting of facts and too much passing on of rumors, innuendo, and loaded questions.

For example, I haven't seen any hard evidence that McCain did not start vetting Palin until 24 hours before he picked her (as John said). But we have had a ton of speculation on this topic.

Another example of bias is the handling of Palin's experience. Her experience is on par with Obama's experience (especially relative to McCain and Biden). I don't think experience is the end-all, be-all. But it's unfair for the media to attack Palin without in the same breath pointing out Obama's relative experience. Yes, the media has reported on Obama over the past 18 months or so, but to be fair, the media should still put its stories in context for the vast majority of the electorate that is only now starting to pay attention to this election.

And, yes, the mainstream media has questioned whether Palin can be VP and still be a good mom. John Roberts of CNN:

"There's also this issue that on April 18th, she gave birth to a baby with Down's Syndrome.... Children with Down's syndrome require an awful lot of attention. The role of Vice President, it seems to me, would take up an awful lot of her time, and it raises the issue of how much time will she have to dedicate to her newborn child?"

4:47 PM  
Blogger JMW said...


I agree that the "news" is mostly editorializing, and that MSNBC is liberally biased, and that PBS is the best. And trust me, I will hand in my citizenship before I back myself into a corner from which I defend Keith Olbermann. That guy should have stuck with SportsCenter.

What you say is reasonable. I'm not thrilled with rumors about pregnancies either, and I think that's the great hypocrisy of both parties currently -- slamming the other side for dirty digging when both do it so joyfully. My reservations about Palin (I hope) are more fact-based. But putting aside whatever mix of gossip and fact we know about her, I liked that Obama reacted to criticism of his inexperience by drafting Biden (who I'm not crazy about, overall), and I disliked that McCain reacted to concerns about his age by drafting someone like Palin. That's all. Perhaps you felt the same, since you said you were undecided. In any case, thanks for reading. I know you're working, so I'll leave you alone for now...

5:07 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I just looked at the video. I have no problem with Campbell Brown's hard-hitting questions, if you can show me a video of CNN's coverage of the DNC convention where Campbell Brown (or someone else at CNN) goes after Obama's lack of experience with the same vigor.

Also, contrary to your statement that the mainstream media is leaving alone the pregnant teenage daughter story, it was the headline at the bottom of the screen during the entire interview.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Kraig Smith said...

Hi Jeff,

We've quickly reached the point where this is best conducted over copious amounts of lager and good cheer, but since that's not an immediate option, I'll just make a few short comments.

Working backwards---

1) With respect to CNN having the pregnancy as their crawler during that video clip, to be fair, they were covering the PUBLIC announcement of that fact by the McCain/Palin campaign. Yes, the blogging rumors pushed Palin to make it a story, but once a campaign issues a statement announcing something like that, it's newsworthy. Not covering a statement from Palin, especially since she's not released any other statements that I'm aware of, would be bad journalism. In fact, in this very instance, CNN was arguably helping Palin by disseminating her message against nagging rumors. Now, if the coverage extended to question whether this made her a bad mother, or if they conjectured that this made her unqualified somehow, that gets into a dangerous territory. To my knowledge, this wasn't the content of CNN's coverage. Personally, I'm fine discussing those sort of things because I always prefer to err on the side of MORE discourse then LESS, even if more discourse sometimes leads to morally ambiguous areas. But again, your focus is on what the media is doing, not what I personally mind or don't mind.

2) As for wanting similar video clips of someone questioning Obama, I have a few comments. First, Obama has been questioned extensively about his experience in the numerous primary debates, in on-camera interviews, and in print. It has been, to this point, the single dominant issue raised by McCain and the media. Because he's been in this "process" for about two years, and because he himself has answered the questions, we have a pretty good idea at this point why he thinks he's qualified. You can disagree with his answers. You can charge that his experience is less relevant than Obama claims it is. But at this point, this far in, the question is sort of answered. People now have to decide for themselves how much experience matters, and how much Obama's experience (or lack thereof) matters. In the case of Palin, the question is not answered--because she only been publicly vetted for less than a week. Also, she has not herself answered the direct questions about her experience. And in the case of the video clip you saw, the insistent-nature of the questions was due to the insistent-dodginess of the answers. We've got less than two months to get a real sense of what her experience actually entails. Simply saying, as many have, that she's in part qualified because Alaska is geographically close to Russia isn't an answer to the experience issue unless you make a concrete connection. Simply saying she commanded the Alaska National Guard isn't a qualification unless you can answer the question of what that entails---which the talking head from McCain's camp couldn't answer. Obama has been scrutinized. I feel strongly that it only SEEMS like a double standard because nobody knows squat about Palin and the clock is ticking. If the McCain camp isn't going to answer basic questions about her experience with more than general talking points, then the media has no choice but to be dogged and insistent.

3) Regarding Andrew Sullivan, I, too, am a regular reader of his. I suppose it's fair to count him amongst the mainstream media, but I hesitate to do so if only because he's a (gasp) blogger, and because he is very up-front about his opinions. He's not trying to pass himself off as an authoritative news source. To my knowledge, he doesn't do much research himself. He simply culls together research from other blogs, other sources, makes some comments, editorializes, and that's it. He's not reporting, so much as he's summarizing what other people are reporting...including mainstream media outlets and more extreme "media" outlets. I'll be the first to admit that the definition of mainstream media is getting harder and harder to nail down. It's full of bloggers, pundits, and opinions...and too many "facts" are proffered without appropriate context. But I stand by my statement that that vast majority of respectable media outlets were not peddling the pregnancy rumor. But you know what? I think this system works pretty well. Let the bloggers and tabloids churn the muck and see if anything substantive can come out of it. I mean, the National Enquirer is the "news" source that broke the John Edwards scandal. Good for them. I think we're better off when people ask questions, as opposed to treading too lightly. And, for what it's worth, while the rumor of the faked pregnancy by Palin was false, there were some legitimate questions that the muckrakers were coming up with. It wasn't just a smear campaign based on obvious lies and falsehoods.

I lied. This isn't short at all. I'll just conclude by saying you make some excellent points (really), and I think we can both agree that the media, in general, needs to have less pundits trying to become media celebrities, fewer opinions and more facts, greater depth, and more balance. I also think we can agree that it's important the media pursue its job with zeal, being accountable only to the public which they and the politicians they cover purport to serve. A little decorum is always nice, of course, but I think it's fundamentally wrong to vilify the media when the result of good journalism is adverse to your interests. In the case of Palin, I think that's the case thus far.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Kraig Smith said...

Just ONE more thing. According to Marc Ambinder, another blogger at The Atlantic:

"A senior McCain campaign official advises that, despite the gaggle of requests and pressure from the media, Gov. Sarah Palin won't submit to a formal interview anytime soon. She may take some questions from local news entities in Alaska, but until she's ready -- and until she's comfortable -- which might not be for a long while -- the media will have to wait. The campaign believes it can effectively deal with the media's complaints, and their on-the-record response to all this will be: "Sarah Palin needs to spend time with the voters.""

If this proves to be accurate, then shame on McCain/Palin. It's really quite insulting that we're less than two months to the election and the person who could be a heartbeat from the Presidency isn't going to make herself available for an interview to deal with direct questions? So much for the straight-talk-express. I guess this is becoming the no-talk-local.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I think we all know what's going on here.

She is a governor (like four of the five last Presidents). As a result, she doesn't have much, if any, foreign policy experience. I'm sure they want time to brief her on foreign affairs. Personally, I think it would be unfair to push her in front of the national media so some a-hole can start quizzing her on foreign capitals or the names of foreign leaders. I think she should be given a reasonable amount of time to get up to speed, and then she should be made available to the national press.

Do you really believe that Obama's experience (state legislator and 2 years in the Senate when he started running for President) is substantially more than Palin's experience?

I don't think it's fair for the media to report on Palin's experience and not to report on Obama's experience at the same time. Most people are only just now beginning to pay attention to this campaign.

Similarly, MSNBC's Maddow reported that a guest speaker at Palin's church made some controversial remarks. No mention of Wright, with whom Obama had a much longer, closer relationship.

Here are some examples of coverage that I think cross the line:

10:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


While I understand everyone may not be as interested in politics as I am, I would disagree that "most people" are just now being introduced to Obama. He announced his candidacy in early 2007. He started debating in April 2007 and attended over 20 debates. He has been squeezed and prodded and measured extensively. Biden attended over a dozen of those debates as well, and he's still being questioned about gaffes he made years ago, so I don't think anyone can say that we don't know much bout him or say that the press has gone easy on him. Nobody's getting a royal treatment around here.

Palin's in the spotlight. She's got to deal with tough questions. Biden, McCain, and Obama have all gone through the gauntlet, with two more months to go. Palin's new, she's unknown, and people want to hear more than just her RNC bio. I think that's reasonable. Going into hiding for a quarter of your candidacy isn't going to help the matter. If she's not answering questions, people are just going to start digging and speculating and making up whatever they can to fill the gaps. That's not the media's fault; that's just human nature.

As for the unfair media treatment, a producer of a 2 minute news story is not going to spend half that time rehashing a long cold story on Obama's relationship with Reverend Wright when the new news story is Palin's relationship with her minister. If people don't know about Obama and Wright, they'll have to do some digging for themselves.

And the reason Palin's relationship with her minister is so interesting in the first place is because Obama's relationship with his minister was such an all-consuming, never ending topic. They could talk about Palin's minister from here to the election, and they wouldn't cover the verbage put out there on Wright.

10:49 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home