Archive: November, 2008
Have a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow. Sit yourself down, grab the serving fork, stab a few slices of turkey…but before you ingest, let’s first remember all that we have to be thankful for. Looking back at the long ’08 campaign, here’s my Top Ten:
Katie Couric. Her patient, persistent, low-key questioning of Sarah Palin convinced millions of Americans that John McCain’s understudy was an incoherent lightweight who had no business running for higher office. Thanks to Katie, we will forever treasure gems like this: “Our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of...As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.”
Skin color aside, Barack Obama is notably exotic simply because he will be one of the rare presidents with a big-city pedigree. Whereas so many of his predecessors hailed from suburbia or small towns - the Bushes lived in swanky suburbs of Houston and Dallas; Bill Clinton lived in various Arkansas hamlets; Jimmy Carter became synonymous with Plains, Georgia; LBJ had his ranch in a Texas river valley - Obama as a young adult planted his roots in the racially-diverse Hyde Park section of Chicago. Some historians are saying that the Democrats haven't fielded a president this citified since the early 1890s, when Grover Cleveland, a former mayor of Buffalo, served his second term. Indeed, pollster Peter Brown contended this week in the Wall Street Journal that Obama, a "city guy" by choice, "will be America's first urban president."
The irony, of course, is that Obama the candidate barely mentioned the C-word. I'm referring, of course, to cities. Listening to him, particularly during the early primary season, you'd have thought that the vast majority of Americans lived in a Norman Rockwell tableau, that they awoke before sunrise, hitched up their overalls, and headed off to the fields with their pitchforks. Back when Obama was vying for Democratic votes, his website listed rural issues under a separate heading; there was no such special category for urban issues.
I'm cross-posting my latest Sunday print column, and restoring some passages that I had to leave on the cutting room floor:
The political community is abuzz these days about the imminent launch of Barack Obama 2.0, a cutting-edge plan for effective governance in the Internet era. The heady expectation is that the new president will usher in a brave new world of communication, using the power of the web to conduct an unprecedented two-way conversation with citizens, all in the interests of providing the change they seek.
It's hard for me to precisely pinpoint the moment when I first heard about the latest phony conservative issue. To the best of my recollection, it happened late in the '08 campaign, around the time that all the other phony conservative issues - Ayres, ACORN, "socialist," unAmerican, Joe the Plumber, "spread the wealth," etcetera - were clearly on the fast track to history's trash can.
At that point, all of a sudden, my email box began to fill with fulminations about "the Fairness Doctrine," and about how, if Barack Obama was elected, he would bring it back from the dead and kill conservative talk radio. And it was also around this time that the conservative media outlets - the nexus that includes Fox/Limbaugh/National Review/American Spectator/New York Post/Michelle Malkin - went into overdrive about this purportedly imminent threat to our freedoms.
Barack Obama has a tough dilemma. If he staffs his administration with talented outsiders, he satisifies citizen demand for “change,” but the problem is that outsiders don’t have a clue about how to govern in Washington (case in point: Jimmy Carter’s 1977 Georgia team). Yet if Obama staffs his administration with insiders who do know how to govern (clearly, his chosen option), he undercuts his “change” mantra – mostly because so many of those insiders logged time with the Clintons, and, on occasion, became soiled by the association.
Case in point: Eric Holder, who reportedly has been tapped to become the nation’s first black attorney general.
On balance, Holder, the deputy attorney general under Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001, may well be a fine pick. A former judge (appointed by Ronald Reagan), and prosecutor, he is lauded by Republicans as well as Democrats. He’s a tough-on-crime guy who wins praise from prosecutors and police. He is naturally being assailed by both liberal commentators (one of whom says that Holder’s post-9/11 remarks sounded “as if he had just stepped out of the Bush camp”), and by conservative commentators (one of whom calls Holder “a conventional, check-the-boxes creature of the Left”) – and, frankly, I consider that kind of pan-ideological scorn to be a compliment.
A pilot script for a new TV network sitcom, That Darn Bill!
EXTERIOR. A RESIDENTIAL STREET IN A SMALL TOWN - DUSK
Cue theme music ("Wedding Bell Blues," as sung by the Fifth Dimension: "Bill / I love you so/ I always will...") A modest one-floor ranch house with attached carport. Camera dollies in slowly on the kitchen window.
INTERIOR. KITCHEN - DUSK
HILLARY, in apron, is washing. BILL, holding dish towel, is drying. Theme music fades, replaced by canned audience applause.
In my continuing quest to identify sane Republicans - as opposed to those who dwell in denial by insisting that the party lost in 2008 only because it was not conservative enough - I nominate Senator Mel Martinez of Florida. He hereby joins the circle of sanity that I created here last Friday, when I named pollster David Winston and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota as charter members. All three are suggesting that the GOP needs to reinvent itself as an inclusive party, a perspective that might sound wild and crazy to the conservative ideologues, but which nevertheless is the only realistic Republican path to recovery.
Here was Martinez, during a post-election appearance on Meet the Press: "(I)f Republicans don't figure it out and do the math, we're going to be relegated to minority status. I've been preaching this for a long time to my colleagues within my party. I think that the very divisive rhetoric of the immigration debate (in 2006 and 2007) set a very bad tone for our brand as Republicans...The fact of the matter is that Hispanics are going to be a more and more vibrant part of the electorate, and the Republican party had better figure out how to talk to them. We had a very dramatic shift between what President Bush was able to do with Hispanic voters (in 2004), where he won 44 percent of them, and what happened to Senator McCain (who won only 31 percent). Senator McCain did not deserve what he got. He was one of those that valiantly fought, fought for immigration reform, but there were voices within our party, frankly, which they continue with that kind of rhetoric, anti-Hispanic rhetoric, that so much of it was heard, we're going to be relegated to minority status."
Tweaking some famous rock lyrics by The Clash:
What I really want to know,
Should he stay or should he go?