Archive for September, 2008

  • Rob Spectre
  • 29
  • Sep
  • 08

Leave it to someone from San Francisco to fuck up something this important at the last minute.

777 points off the Dow, over 9% off the Nasdaq and a metric shit-load of public confidence later, the US House of Representatives celebrates a day of historic ineptitude in the only way it knows how: round-the-clock finger-pointing.  Despite a late night reassuring press conference prominently displaying the Congressional leadership of the Democratic party as the heroes of the much needed $700 billion bailout of the United States financial system, when the vote came up, we all came up short.  As we suffered the greatest single day drop in net stock market value, the world would wait to suffer with us.  The nose count was supposed to be sewn up.  But, to our global embarrassment, the truth of the 21st America was made known.  In this republic during these times, the United States remains ungoverned.  Last week John McCain suspended his campaign for a month.  Today, we may have suspended our government for a month.

Photo: C-SPAN

Photo: C-SPAN

Many are to blame for ending up twenty-three shy on this issue.  But for all the scapegoating of the Republican party for sabotage and the Democratic party for lack of unity and for President Bush for his final clear indication of complete political irrelevance, the real fault comes close to home.  While Democrats called it ridiculous, the GOP House leadership came out of the vote with a valid point.  Those 23 votes might have been saved had Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco offered greater leadership.

Minutes before debate closed on the matter and the bill had a tenuous green light, Speaker Pelosi took the floor and, in so doing, killed the deal.  In an unsportsmanlike – to say nothing of colossally stupid – maneuver, Pelosi ran a ten minute condescending victory lap around the Bush administration.  The highly partisan speech was largely dwarfed by the import of the moment and the calamity of the time, but for a nose count that close the leader of the House of Representatives should have known better.  There would be plenty of time to castigate the Bush administration and the Republicans on the campaign trail.  No motive beyond hubris could possibly move that woman to say those things at that time.  Though for that tragic flaw, we and the world pay.

Maybe those twenty-three votes had made up their mind before Pelosi spoke.  Maybe she was just conveniently close to the curb when the conservatives needed someone to throw under the bus.  The Republicans didn’t do their part on this deal.  President Bush proved finally his coattails have been trampled by a thousand tank treads.  And John McCain, despite his emo rush to Washington, seemed unable to assuage the uncertainty of real fiscal conservatives of political suicide.

But, fairly, if we in the progressive community are going to levy criticism of leadership then we must do so wherever faulty service should be found.  Today, this afternoon, when it mattered most, the Democrats demonstrated they had no greater legislative clout than before they won the majority.  When the moment of truth came, we blew it because we popped the champagne cork twenty minutes too early.

It’ll be Thursday, they say, before we can try again.  Some one needs to lead this government and lead it now, because I fear the world will not wait until then.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • T-Dub
  • 28
  • Sep
  • 08

“It seemed like a lot when we first started pushing this, suddenly, it seems too small.” So sayeth the Democratic Senator from Michigan, Debbie Stabenow. This is in regards to an initiative put in place 18 months ago, when the U.S. auto industry came, cap in hand, asking for $6 billion originally, in order to save itself from extinction. The impetus to ask for the loan largely coming from the decision to focus on making crappy, disposable cars for the past decade, didn’t work out quite so well.

Who knew Japan and Korea’s decision to make well built, reliable, reasonably priced autos was the way to go?

In the face of the $700 billion dollar bailout on the table (because the growing ranks of the unemployed do indeed believe that raising our taxes so we can help fix something we didn’t break, is essential element to helping us to turn things around), this $6 billion dollar request apparently ballooned to $25 billion because at this point, hell. Drop in the bucket comparatively, after all.

Apparently next year, a second request for another $25 billion is also a part of this package, making the sum total $50 billion.

And both Obama and McCain support this.

I don’t. And sadly, it doesn’t matter.

It’s generally agreed that competition within any industry is a good thing, and why we seem to be so on the ball when it comes to attacking and breaking apart monopolies. Competition drives an industry, forcing companies to bring their A game to the table. The motivation to work hard and do right is drawn from the survival instinct. Those that don’t yield to Darwinism in action, and earn themselves a place on the Extinct list. I think this is a good thing. It creates and enforces accountability.

But that doesn’t, oddly enough, fly anymore in the U.S. We don’t seem to like accountability, be it in business, or in politics. Me? I believe that the U.S. auto industry failed because it got lazy and complacent. It thought it was above the need to compete. It grew arrogant and fat, and now it’s paying for it (or rather, it wants us to pay for it). Part of me wants to say, let it fail. It’s earned the right. Problem is, the folks most affected are those folks like me. People who are ill equipped to bear the brunt of the abject failure of those who stated they were looking out for their well being. We don’t have nest eggs. We don’t have safety nets. We don’t have colored parachutes.

Our federal government seems to be a horse of a similar color. There is no actual competition. Instead, we have two parties who currently enjoy a monopoly within our political system. Reigning unopposed and beholden (if we’re being honest, Constitution be damned) to no one. We have, largely, a feudal system for the modern era, encapsulated within the facade of a democratic republic. Complete with industries who wield as much influence in the governing of our country, as the guilds of the Middle Ages once did within theirs.

They all want to make me help give them $50 billion dollars, on top of the $700 billion, for bad decisions made by this 21st century ruling class. They want to hold me and my family accountable. I don’t want to. I can’t afford it. And sadly, it doesn’t matter.

This is why, though both Obama and McCain preach ‘change’, I’m not convinced that the word actually means, what they each seem to think it means.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 27
  • Sep
  • 08

John McCain has to be pleased that this week is finally over.  Following ten full days of neverending foulups and foolhardy gambles, for better or worse the pressure of the first faceoff was relieved.  The polling results over the next few days might not fall in his favor, but the margins would be recoverable.  Days before the final thirty day dead sprint to the White House, the weekend following the first debate afforded both sides a rare Sabbath.  For a maverick moved to bold indiscretion, Saturday morning must have been a welcome sight.

But after this brief calm passes, the snarky aside to his opponent during Friday’s debate will come to haunt John McCain.  In the height of McCain’s recurring condescension over the ninety minute debate, McCain alleged Barack Obama didn’t know the difference between tactics and strategy.  The comment seemed particularly hollow given the performance of McCain and his campaign in the week that passed.  For his entire political career, McCain’s strategy has been forever impaired by imprudent and unnecessary tactical gambles. Putting a premium on decisiveness comes with a cost that too often leaves John McCain in untenable situations, often with none to blame but himself.  This week was no exception.

Thursday night, pressing by Tom Brokaw on a decision on his debate attendance, John McCain replied to Brokaw’s common cliche by affirming, “Well Tom, I am a betting man.”  Within the context of the week that was, that statement was the most accurate he had made.  Erratic zigzags marred every political move made by his campaign since the meltdown proper began, leaving McCain on a defensive entirely of his own doing going into Oxford.  A host of tactical blunders had him painted into a corner.

1. Firing the SEC Chairman

Immediately following the AIG bailout announcement, McCain submitted a statement to the press suggesting that Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities Exchange Commission, should be fired.  His cries that Cox had fallen asleep on the switch ultimately fell on deaf ears.  Repeated for only a few days on the campaign trail, McCain’s scapegoating barely got any attention from anyone, let alone the Obama campaign.  The week passed without any action from the White House whose attention was focused on selling Paulson’s bailout, leaving McCain looking like a bananahead.

2. Cloistering Sarah Palin

After enduring a month of limited access, CNN finally told staffers to stick it when reporters were barred from Wednesday’s Palin / Karzai photo spray.  Sensing a serious press corps revolt on the horizon, the McCain campaign finally relented and sent Sarah Palin into the now infamous interview with Katie Couric.  Another tactical miscalculation in reaction to a strategic mistake, Palin’s crash and burn rendered her unable to participate in post-debate spin for fear of further exposing her incapability.

Source: Daily Kos

Source: Daily Kos

Further, options for loosening the access restrictions are limited before the debate with a Palin interview win/loss record that now stands 0-2.  The month spent cramming for to handle press questions has now left her in a precarious position.  With less than a week left to go, her unsteadiness in unscripted situations now virtually assure every waking hour spent in debate prep while the press corps has nothing to write about but the previous week’s fuckup.

Had a painful baptism of fire been endured by the campaign early on, Palin may have gotten a handle on the extemporaneous skills needed to survive a national campaign.   As it is, half her campaign calendar has been squandered keeping her from the press to avoid an impromptu meltdown, virtually assuring she will be unable evade either.   After the interview, right-wing writers are calling for her dismissal and her unfavorable internals are in freefall.  Now the stakes in her faceoff with Biden have elevated from must-not-fail to must-not-lose.

3. Threatening the No Show

A retard rodeo by every measure possible, McCain’s campaign “suspension” drew vigorous derision by the likes of David Letterman and Jon Stewart, questions of capability by his opponent, and even accusations of posturing by his Republican Congressional colleagues.  The delay was never a serious option for McCain and waiting until Friday morning to commit served only to cement the folly of the stunt.

Merely suggesting it implied impulsiveness.  Following through to the 11th hour only to reverse course broadcasted recklessness.

4. The White House Powwow

Source: Intrade Prediction Markets

Source: Intrade Prediction Markets

Looking to snatch the claim of closer for the bailout deal, McCain requested and received a meeting at the White House with the principals of the bailout, including President Bush, party leadership and a reluctant opponent.  What may have been a smart play on Tuesday had by Thursday afternoon corroded the negotiations into political protectionism.

Another tactical misread, McCain sought to be seen as the saviour of a bailout close and in so doing close his own claim to the White House.  Unwittingly falling into exactly the condition Obama described at the week’s beginning, by the time everyone made it to the table, friend and foe were so entrenched for fear of losing limelight the discussion descended into unproductive bedlam.

McCain walks out without a deal, leaving nothing to show for the substantial withdrawl in his Congressional capital account.

The chorus of Democrats calling for a more aggressive Barack Obama is one I’ve joined, singing a sympathetic tenor lamenting missed opportunities.  As McCain’s campaign strategy continues to get boxed in by tactical blunders, calls for Obama to capitalize have been frequent, but largely unheeded.  Last night’s debate was endemic of a Barack loathe to empty a broadside into the exposed side of his opponent’s ship.  We’re all worried his cool prudence may sacrifice our best shot at turning around this compassionate conservative nightmare that has proven to be neither compassionate nor conservative.

But, after the first debate’s clear, but not overwhelming, Obama victory, I’m beginning to come around to the conclusion that he might be wiser than us all.  In the longview, Barack Obama’s behavior may prove less to be overly prudent and more fully presidential.  An hour in, Obama’s smile was evidence that he knows something that all of us don’t.  That this campaign was playing exactly as he would like, giving John McCain and Sarah Palin just enough rope to hang themselves.

In so doing, he defeats his opponent, but not to such a humiliating degree that he is uncooperative in a future that will definitely need both John McCain and Barack Obama.  On Inauguration Day, I hope John McCain remembers the feverish Friday night where he failed to look his opponent in the eye.  And when Barack Obama returns a firm McCain handshake on that triumphant day, I hope McCain will be convinced that the man before him is perhaps more presidential than any this nation has seen.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Hala V. Furst
  • 27
  • Sep
  • 08

Now the young ones… begin their wandering/ through the desert of tv news, legal claims and taxes/ With one eye on the missiles, and one on the obituaries/ waiting for the Children of the Cold War to die. 

-Dan Bern, “Children of the Cold War”

You know what keeps me up at night? The fact that a statistical half of this country not only would be ok with, but desires, a president who cannot even PRONOUNCE the name of the president of our alleged largest security threat. If John McCain’s wheelhouse, as Rachel Maddow so adroitly said, is foreign policy, I would hate to see his weak policy points. What we saw last night was not the clock-cleaning that I desired, and was not the elevated discourse that many wished to see, but it was, at the very least, the political equivalent of Obama shouting “go to bed, old man!” And that was satisfactory in its own way. 

But the question remains: why would anyone vote for McCain? Not why would anyone vote Republican, not why would anyone not vote for Obama; these are questions that are valid, but are not crucial right now. What I really want to know is after the long hard summer of campaigning, after the insane choice of Sarah Palin for VP, after the anger and the mood swings and the constant repetition of the false Maverick iconography, why does anyone believe the Emperor still possesses his clothes? He wants to assert himself as a man that flies in the face of this White House, yet we know that he has voted in the President’s favor 90% of the time. And this is not a party thing, for I think it is clear that when we talk about Bush we are no longer talking about Republicanism in any understandable way. This is a new party, and for all his talk about Teddy Roosevelt being his role model, the party of John McCain would be unrecognizable to the Rough Rider. 

What we saw on the stage last night was not a slight policy difference, it was not the slightly off-center points of view of Democrat v. Republican. We need new terminology. We need more than just Liberal and Conservative, we need new words. McCain cannot speak the new American language, any more than he can envision a new America. He is an old candidate, and I don’t mean that as an insult. I mean, when you are young you have hope. When you are old you have fear. What we saw last night was a dialogue between hope and fear. It is easy to be afraid- we are at war, both externally and internally, over the very meaning of America. Our financial situation is untenable, and China, a dangerous adversarial ally, literally owns our government because of the despicable handling of our banks and our defense. But we are a young country. We have seen much and we have struggled mightily, but as nations go we are still oh so very young. And it is time to start a children’s crusade for the soul of this country. 

We cannot elect McCain. We cannot elect a man who is a child of the cold war, now a grandfather of an American architecture that is crumbling at every turn. It is time to thank him for his service and bid him a good day. For while the man is an American hero, he will not remain one for 30 seconds more if he takes office.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 26
  • Sep
  • 08

Round one of three begins now.  Refresh for new updates or follow directly on FriendFeed.

Here’s our FriendFeed following the debate currently in progress:

Update: So concludes our coverage of the first presidential debate.  Rough count of our readers and writers suggest Obama pulled ahead in this first contest, but not overwhelmingly so.  Find the archive of the live coverage in the first comment of this post.

The world is different than it was when we woke up.  Hold up an appreciative drink for that.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati