Saturday, October 21

:: Bully Politics

The Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin shares more
highlights from Bill O’Reilly’s recent interview with the President.

O’Reilly never gets credit for his ongoing contribution to society, mainly through the rich fodder he provides for students of abnormal psychology. Occasionally, the big oaf’s clumsy attempts to fawn over a guest go so hopelessly wrong that the audience benefits not only from a good laugh but some unintended insight. Take this exchange, regarding the White House’s strategy to work with a Democratically-controlled Congress:

O'REILLY: But you have to plan for it, right? Worst case?
BUSH: No, not really.
BUSH: Because -- I mean, there will be times to adjust, but I don't intend -- I really believe we're going to hold both. I recognize it's a tough fight."
D’OH! That’s the trickiest kind of “gotcha” question – the one that comes disguised as a softball lobbed to you by a drooling lackey. You’ve got to be pretty special to mess up one of those. I can just imagine Bush lying awake the night before, imagining the scenario and struggling to come up with the worst possible response.

And the really sad thing is that somewhere in the White House there's probably some poor policy schmuck who has been working on the strategy, heard this and ground through the last of his molars.

There’s also this exchange on critics of the President. The big oaf tries on his best Dr. Phil, telling the President that he feels his pain and admires his stoicism:

O’REILLY: You're more philosophical. See, I'm sitting there going oh, if I had this guy's neck, you know.
BUSH: Well, I'm not as big as you are, so I can't -- you know -- I wouldn't be able to get away with that.
Of course! Its not a matter of respecting different opinions in a free and pluralistic society, or maybe the therapeutic value of brush-clearing - its just knowing you’re not strong enough to get away with crushing those with whom you disagree. In other words – its strategery.

Its a revealing snapshot of the President: a man who doesn’t think its necessary to prepare for challenging situations, because if you are powerful enough you can do whatever you want anyway.

Not even O’Reilly could dress that up.
Read more!

Thursday, October 19

:: Good (News) Friday

Its Good (News) Friday at the Washington Post. Dan Balz and Jim VandeHei report that Republican leaders are feeling “glum” about their prospects in the upcoming elections, which have taken on the characteristics of a Parliamentary (party-based) rather than candidate-specific contest. Glum and cranky, apparently, as the New York Times reports in "Republican Woes Lead to Feuding by Conservatives."

The best quote from the Post article comes from Dick Armey: The fact of the matter is, right now people are embarrassed by Republicans.”

In the Times, Armey calls the James Dobson crowd "thuggish."

But forget the discussion about economic conservatives’ horror at rampant government spending and the evangelical base’s disgust with the Foley encounters. Both factions have been happy together under the GOP big tent up until very recently, and both have gotten most, if not all, of what they wanted from this administration. Social services were slashed, privatization continued apace and enormous for-profit enterprises were treated with reverence. The White House advanced the anti women’s and gay rights agenda at home and around the world, bent foreign policy to fit a Christian fundamentalist agenda, and helped secure jobs for ideological hardliners in government agencies, the judicial system, and even the private sector.

Yes, there have been gaffes, scandals, shocking disregard for the Constitution and the flouting of our basic social contract – but these things have occurred since Day One of this administration.

So what makes things different now? One thing: the perception of weakness.

The war in Iraq, which at first served as an omnipresent symbol of Republican machismo, has now become a daily reminder of White House impotence. Bush’s chest-thumping challenge of Iran and North Korea (the axis of evil) rings (thumps?) hollow in the face of their open defiance. The inability to control the aftermath – or at least the press coverage – of Hurricane Katrina didn’t help either.

Republican voters loved America the Bully. It made them feel strong and secure. Suffering setbacks in Iraq, putting up with the taunts of Iran, North Korea and Venezuela and, worst of all, not being able to shut down criticism by so-called traitors and nerds is humiliating. Republican voters hate America the Chastened.

And lets face it – for many people, the problem with the Iraq war isn’t its illegality, it’s the fact that we aren’t “succeeding.” Likewise, the problem with the Foley scandal isn’t the cavalier attitude of lawmakers entrusted with the safety of Congressional Pages – its that Republicans were forced to respond to a "trumped up" October Surprise orchestrated by Democrats with the help of the Liberal Media.

Mr. Armey is right. Republican voters are embarrassed, but it is not because they have changed their minds about policy positions. They are embarrassed because they perceive the Republican party as weak, and being seen as weak makes them angry and resentful. For Bush supporters in particular, winning is everything and losing is pure hell. Read more!

Saturday, October 14

:: "Jackass" Voters

Jackass voter [definition]: a voter who allows himself to be kicked in the head over and over again by the leaders he has chosen, only to go back for more of the same. Provides an amusing political spectacle - until someone loses an eye.

For reasons I prefer to think of as obscure, I just read a news item called "Sara Evans: Sordid Divorce Details." It concerns a woman I’ve never met, who sings music I've never heard, dropping out of a television show I've never seen, and is really none of my business. But let's not dwell on my questionable time-management skills; rather, let's skip right to the interesting part.

[Warning: racy language in next paragraph. Ladies, cover your eyes!]

Ms. Evans claims her husband, Craig Schelske, "was keeping a stash of porn on his computer, including at least 100 pictures depicting him fully nude and several showing him engaged in sex with other women." Schelske also kept a record of his Craig's List personals ads, much of which "involve requests for three party and anal sex."

Here's the kicker: the article adds that Schelske is a former Republican candidate for Congress from Oregon.

Happily for those us with a burning desire to avoid being productive, there’s a goodly amount of material out there on the interweb regarding Citizen Schelske’s political career. For example,

[Warning: Republican “family values” language ahead. Ladies, grab your barf bags!]
  • As a candidate, Schelske claimed “Protecting Life” as one of his key issues: “Family is my highest priority. That’s why I’ll protect the rights of our unborn children.”
  • Schelske is the executive director of “American Destiny” “an educational organization that seeks to reeducate the American population and students in particular, as to the philosophical and religious origins of the American Civilization.” For a real treat, go to their website and read the bio sketches of “our team.” What a trio – straight out of a David Mamet scenario. (Glengarry Glenn Bible?)
  • Schelske compared himself favorably to the president: “Great leadership: character, integrity, vision and fortitude. Like him I will extol our values, provide vision, encourage unity, and strengthen our resolve to protect our nation and freedoms."
Now, my point here is not to draw a connection between Republicans and perviness, though it is tempting.

The real lesson here is two-fold: first, one of the defining characteristics of an authoritarian personality (and Republican "family values" voters are classic authoritarians) is gullibility. If you swath yourself in the trappings of authority ("successful businessman / homeowner/ husband/ father") these voters are more likely to swallow what you have to say without bothering to chew. Two, saying you will "extol" family values is almost impossible to verify. If an elected official says they support the environment, you can look at legislation on environmental issues and see how they voted. If they say they oppose higher taxes, you can do more than 'read their lips' - you can review their legislative actions. But when someone says they will exemplify "family values" you really have to go by surface impressions, the symbolism of what you think that term represents and, dare I say it, trust.

In other words, anyone can say they are "for" family values. This feeds into that magic equation: amoral hucksters seeking authority + chump voters looking for someone with authority. The question is, as these "Jackass" voters are kicked in the head over and over again by the hucksters they elect, will they smarten up, become even more submissive or bow out of political participation altogether? Read more!

Wednesday, October 11

:: Mars Photos Are Fake!

That's not a crater on Mars.... its the Republican electoral strategy, four weeks out!

Oh my, that felt good. Read more!