The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I've been relieved to see that actual violence has been pretty limited. There was the usual example of a young true-believer ginning up a phony attack, a few assaults on yard signs, the white supemacist "plot" that was apparently closer to being thunk up by the Three SStooges. And plenty of bullying, of course. Hopefully that's all we'll see.

Of course, one GOP trick that's still working entirely too well is purging state voter rolls. Why the press still doesn't seem to get worked up about this is beyond me-- particularly with all the attention they gave to bogus accusations against ACORN.

But what I'd like to mention today is that I think Obama and Biden are doing exactly what they should be in the face of the increasingly surreal attacks coming from all quarters. And I'd like to mention it in no small part because it's something I've been promoting for years now: using their hysterics against them with a little verbal aikido.

I thought Biden's example on the Florida news channel was brilliant. A local anchor asks him-- with all the psuedo-gravitas she can muster-- if Obama isn't actually a closet Bolshevik who wants to turn the country into a communist state. This being one of the most retarded questions he's probably ever been asked, Biden simply laughed and asked if she was joking. Awesome.

Now Obama is joining in:

"[B]ecause he knows his economic theories don't work, he's been spending these last few days calling me every name in the book," Obama said. "Lately, he's called me a 'socialist' for wanting to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class. I don't know what's next. By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

Brilliant. There will always be a (disappointingly large) number of Americans who'll swallow whatever baloney the right-wing serves up. DLC types have-- by treating these ideologues and their puppet masters seriously-- played into their hands by legitimizing their nonsense at the expense of the nation's health and wealth. But beyond the hopelessly-blinkered, there are always people who will believe the hype. Especially when the fringe is legitimized by sane people. But if the fringe is rightly perceived by them as the fringe, they won't want anything to do with it.

That's why I love to see moments like this: people have come to see Obama and Biden as the serious, thoughtful people in this campaign, and when they (rightly) dismiss this "red scare" goofiness with malice-free humor, it serves to highlight the lack of seriousness and thoughtfulness on the part of the accusers. This will, in turn, encourage sensible people to cringe when they hear these things. I'm really pretty impressed with most people's willingness to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I think this technique will help Democrats quite a bit in moving the country away from the disastrous economics of the post-Reagan GOP.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Grand Old [American] Psycho

Sarah Palin has been exposed as a complete fraud and inveterate liar since her selection by the reality-deficient kingmakers of the GOP. Why, the AP just released a report (the what-- fifth of its kind?) revealing that her political career is nothing so much as a ham-fisted attempt to craft the sort of personal narrative that has come to define the Republican party in recent decades. Family members as props? Gladly. Political power as a means of personal vindictiveness? Natch! Crowd-pleasing rhetoric in please of policy and principle? Yes, please. And of course, that ol' time religion that's become the right wing's stock in trade: an unthinking committment to a sense of personal entitlement.

As hopeful as things look for the coming election, I'm afraid that it could go horribly wrong. If the rage and racism McCain's campaign is now aggressively courting erupts into violence, or if their disturbing attempt to disenfranchise voters becomes the final, desperate front in the attempt to maintain their empire of greed... well, I fear for the nation. But principled conservatives have already rejected their party leader, even if they've been overly timid in their convictions. The press is clearly uncomfortable with Republican attempts to exhort the party faithful to blind rage. And America appears once again to be demonstrating the unity that has made it a great and powerful nation, as well as a beacon-- thought it may flicker in stormy times-- of the Enlightenment values that have been our greatest legacy.

Still, I am afraid. The noblest thing we can do now is to assist our fellow Americans in exercising their rights as citizens. Our fellow countrymen shall not disappoint us if we ensure that all may exercise their birthright.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Battle of the Sixties

A little optimism is kinda nice every once in a while, right? As reality has peeled support away from the GOP and caused the right's politicians to turn the Slime-O-Matic campaign machine up to eleven, we're seeing the inevitable result: the people still cheering loudly at GOP events are the scariest elements of the true-believing base. Racists, the desperately ignorant, religious fanatics, ideologues, and so on. In other words, the first people to join extremist movements and the last people to give up on a lost cause.

E.J. Dionne takes a look at it all and suggests that maybe this is it-- the last time we'll see the right campaign on the bitter legacy of the 1960s. The embarrassing idea that fighting in Vietnam was a brilliant plan somehow subverted by treasonous hippies. The lingering fears that a racially integrated/non-theocratic/equitable society will cause national collapse before you can say "bust up this chifforobe."

Ayers has been dragged into this campaign because there is a deep frustration on the right with Obama's enthusiasm for shutting down the culture wars of the 1960s.

Precisely because Obama is not a baby boomer, he carries none of that generation's scars. Most Americans (including most boomers) are weary of living in the past and reprising the 1960s every four years.

Yet culture war politics is relatively mild compared with the far right appeals that are emerging this year. It is as if McCain's loyalists overshot the '60s and went back to the '50s or even the '30s.

I disagree with his larger point that a new hard-right is rising phoenix-like from the ashes of McCain's presidential bid. After all, the "mainstreaming of the far right" is a process that began in the Reagan years and reached its zenith under the current administration. Sure, if you were to hang around with a group of College Republicans you'd hear them making the same tired remarks about Vietnam and the Black Panthers, but from footage of McCain and Palin's campaign appearances it looks like the faithful are more AARP than UCLA.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Too nutty even for ideologues

Christopher Buckley doesn't have the stones to print it in the National Review (of course, plenty of NRO contributors are very much caught up in the GOP's cavalcade of hate, so personal security could be a concern), but at least he's saying it. And I have to give him three bonus points for the title.

Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama

I have to say, I find his writing style to be too precious by half for my tastes, but it's worth a look.

Reaping the Whirlwind

I've been saying for quite a while that it would take a national emergency to finally wake the non-insane from their Republican-induced slumber. It was just a question of how serious the emergency would have to be. The disastrous Iraq war wasn't enough, the lawlessness of the current administration wasn't enough, Katrina wasn't enough, and so on. Hopefully the market turmoil won't continue to worsen, but the way things are looking it could be the wake-up call that was needed to alert the country to the complete moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the American right in the last few decades.

Sensing this, wingers are doing just what extremists throughout history have done when their diabolical plans start to unravel: undertaken serious introspection, put the welfare of mankind above personal ambition and greed, and rolled up their sleeves to get to work on the business of making things better.

I'M KIDDING!!! Like extremists throughout history, they're letting the facade slip away in their anger, exposing themselves as loathsome cowards and avaricious miscreants who are more than happy to spread hatred, fear, and misery because they think it might be to their advantage.

On CNN last night, David Gergen, a Republican advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, commented on the "anger" evident at McCain/Palin rallies of late. "There is this free floating sort of whipping around anger that could really lead to some violence," Gergen said. "I think we're not far from that."

When Anderson Cooper expressed skepticism about whether violence was likely, Gergen said he "really worries" given "the kind of rhetoric" coming from the Republican ticket.

When a mainstream, Republican presidential advisor goes on national television and expresses concern that Republican voters might literally become violent in response to the Republican presidential ticket's rhetoric, it's safe to say we've reached a rather dramatic point.

This week has been unusually incendiary. The McCain campaign has deliberately been whipping the angry, far-right Republican base into a frenzy. That includes increasing frequency of "Hussein" references, but it also includes looking the other way while campaign supporters exclaim "treason!," "terrorist!," and "kill him!" during official rallies.

On Wednesday, during a McCain harangue against Obama, one man could be heard yelling, "Off with his head!" On Thursday, Republicans erupted when an unhinged McCain supporter ranted about "socialists taking over our country." Instead of calming them down, McCain said the lunatic was "right."

The Republicans want an angry mob, they need hysterical supporters, and so they've stoked the fires of hate, fear, and ignorance. It's become a surprisingly toxic cocktail.

Both the Washington Post and the Politico have good items today on the explosive, enraged emotions at this week's Republican rallies. Slate's John Dickerson described the participants' "bloodthirsty" tone.

Lord forbid that we see any violence, but that's the next thing you'd expect from a group of people who've been deliberately whipped into a frenzy by opportunistic politicians and talking heads. If you hear anything about pitchforks and torches being handed out at Palin's rallies, you'll know...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The sound and the fury. And plenty of both

A week of good news for Obama seems to have the GOP doing the only thing they can-- fighting dirty, only harder. Only speak when the deck is stacked. Stoke racial fear. Lie your socks off. And all the while, do everything you can to keep people from voting.

The MSM has been showing signs of not playing along this time out. Seems like a good time to write letters to the editor to ensure that people are paying attention, getting angry, and trying not to let it happen again. After all, the wingers are doing all they can:

Groups looking to register new voters, and to get out the vote, took advantage of this window and killed two birds with one stone. One group in particular focused on a group of people who might not normally be expected to turn out. From the New York Post:

Volunteers supporting Barack Obama picked up hundreds of people at homeless shelters, soup kitchens and drug-rehab centers and drove them to a polling place yesterday on the last day that Ohioans could register and vote on the same day, almost no questions asked.

Some bloggers on the right, having read the Post’s article, are crying voter fraud. Obviously, there are some class issues in play here, and most bloggers who responded to the story focused on the homeless angle — not surprising, given the headline, “Homeless ‘Driven’ to Vote Obama.”

RedState’s Pejman Yousefzadeh, however, had a slightly different complaint — he noted that the Post’s report quotes a convicted felon who was driven to a polling place as part of the effort. In a post titled “Tell Me Again How Voter Fraud Doesn’t Exist …” Yousefzadeh wrote:

Because this story would beg to differ. Note that you are not supposed to be able to vote with a felony conviction.

Voter fraud regularly gets denied by our friends on the other side of the partisan divide. If they open their eyes, they will see that it is all around them … If there was any justice in the world, every media establishment would be flooding into Ohio asking just what kind of shoddy oversight was allowing convicted felons to register to vote.

(His emphasis.)

There’s just one problem with Yousefzadeh’s argument — the entire thing is based on a false assumption. In fact, if he had just paid closer attention to the Post article, he would have seen that felons who’ve served their time are now allowed to vote in Ohio.

UPDATE: Watch closely, because this is the face of insanity. "secret left-wing radical". . ."
wild-eyed radical". . . "Maoist". . . "What Obama is about is infiltrating (and training others to infiltrate) bourgeois institutions." All excellent examples of why progressive bloggers use the term reality-based community. The trick, you see, lies in being a functional adult even if you're not fighting battles that ended decades ago.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Lies, lies, all of it!

I watched the debate in a bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That was a first. Not that anyone's keeping track, but the last time I watched this level of debate in a bar was in my home town of Springfield, Missouri. See how I'm establishing my own 'folksiness' there?

Yesterday, in anticipation of the event at good ol' Washington University, I quoted Martin Lawrence by suggesting that her cutie-pie ignorance might not play too well in the debate because "shit just got real." Watching the debate, I was surprised to see that Biden defied the bloggers by hitting fast and hard. And he managed to completely avoid sounding condescending or bullying at the same time-- especially when she tried to use her scripted "laugh lines." In retrospect, it was amazing to see her visible discomfort when the "wait for big laffs" cue didn't result in actual laughter. (Trying to combine 'say it ain't so, Joe' with 'there you go again' and having it all fall like a gosh-darn souffle. You could almost see her thinking 'But that was supposed to be my big moment!')

Anyway, we'll see what happens when we all wake up. But between Biden's 'shit just got real' approach, Palin's continuation of the Big Lie strategy that hasn't been playing so well lately (unlike the last two presidential campaigns), and her clear inability to come across well without a stacked deck, I think-- and I think conservatively about these things these days-- it won't hurt the Obama-Biden ticket at all. And given the shift in public opinion this last week, that's nothing to galdurn sneeze at, don'cha know.

BONUS: On the question about the ding-dang veep being part of the executive branch, when Biden said that Cheney was 'most dangerous vice-president in history,' the bar erupted in applause. It was great.

Oh, and the link. Liveblogging from the WaMo. Just 'cuz you've got to have a link, right?

Special prize to anyone who can identify the source of my title.

Afterthought: How do you suppose it would've played if Biden had dealt with Palin's awkward phoniness--and the GOP ticket as a whole-- by saying "These aren't the droids we're looking for"?