McCain’s Eulogizers Remind Us Democratic Norms Are Living Ghosts

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“John McCain will be missed dearly. He was unpredictable. He was a man who loved his country and had enough character to shut down racist white voters pliant to Republican dog whistling. I was watching live in October 2008 as McCain appeared at a Town Hall event in Lakeville, Minnesota. I don’t remember much that was said, but I will never forget these words in defense of then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama, who has just been disparaged as an untrustworthy ‘Arab:’

‘No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that just I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].’

From the vantage point of September 2018, that kind of character seems lamentably noble and quaint.

And I suppose that sense underpinned the double consciousness experienced as I watched coverage of McCain’s State funeral this long weekend. The country and its leaders were not just coming together to mourn the loss of an American icon. As we listened to the passionate and powerful words of those who eulogized the deceased -Vice President Joe Biden, President Barack Obama, and hell, even Dubya – it was hard to escape the feeling that something more than the Arizona Senator had endured a slow and painful death.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

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What Lame Duck? President Obama Approaches The End With Renewed Popularity

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“Post-DNC 2016, which saw POTUS deliver an unbelievably inspiring testament to our country’s greatness while repudiating the authoritarian logic of fear, Obama is enjoying his highest approval rating since before his second inauguration. In contrast to recent electoral contests, which saw Al Gore and John McCain shoving Bill Clinton and W to the back like so many Babys in a corner, Barack Obama is a huge asset to Hillary’s campaign. As CNN’s Jennifer Agiesta argues, ‘Those who approve of Obama’s work as President are almost universally in Clinton’s [camp] in the upcoming Presidential race.’

As my partner Bob said after the third night of the DNC, ‘I’m with her. But also four more years!'”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Romney’s Latest Scandal: Twittergate? (July 24, 2012)

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During the 2008 Presidential race, then-candidate Obama showed his competitors how to leverage the Internet and a variety of social media platforms to reinvigorate the notion of a grassroots campaign for the 21st Century. It was largely upon the shoulders of individuals who reposted and retweeted his messages that the POTUS was carried to victory – by small donors who contributed their last $100, those who believed that the nation could ill-afford another four years of Republican top-down cynicism disguised as patriotism, morally and fiscally bankrupting the nation. Don’t like continued tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy during a time of war? Then the terrorists win!

It is a savvy marketing template that ensuing candidates from both parties have sought to emulate, with varying levels of success. Former Maverick John McCain captured the public imagination however momentarily with his selection of social media darling Sarah Palin as his running mate, unfortunately learning the hard way that stupidity is no more appealing in the digital age, but we can never take that moment of cultural zeitgeist away from the Republican ticket. All credit goes to the Obama team for forcing all walks of political dinosaur into accepting new media as part of the deal. It does not matter if one appreciates the value of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the like. They are modern campaign tools that one must utilize in order to compete. We can never turn back the clock.

And as social media strategy becomes synonymous with campaign activity, reports of potential misuse become a common feature of the news cycle. For example, this morning Yahoo News ran a story via Mashable: “Mitt Romney Sees Sudden Unexplained Spike in Twitter Followers.” At first glance this appears to be an unlikely tale of crashing bore Romney enjoying unexpected appeal in the Twitterverse. Could it be that dull messaging is somehow inverted when permitted only 140 characters?

Ah but no. To delve deeper into writer Alex Fitzpatrick’s story is to uncover a common feature of new Republicanism: if you can’t engender love the old-fashioned way through sound policy and dynamic personality, just go out and buy it. After Romney’s Twitter feed gained a plethora of new followers over the weekend – 23,926 on Friday, 93,054 on Saturday and 25,432 on Sunday – Zach Green of 140elect.com, a blog which monitors Twitter trends relative to the presidential election, couldn’t help but notice per the Mashable piece that, “analysis indicates that Romney hasn’t seen a noticeable uptick in other metrics, such as mentions, which would suggest Romney was getting these followers organically.”

In other words, there are no more people interacting with he of the slick hair on Twitter than before. Well then, what’s the dilly yo? Do we really believe that nearly 150,000 individuals suddenly couldn’t resist the bon mots of the Romneybot on a weekend when campaign activity was suspended? Sometimes the easiest answer is the right one. For whatever reason, the campaign bought the followers, in a wrongheaded, simplistic attempt to make Mittens appear beloved. As the Mashable piece highlights:

“Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign’s digital director, has denied buying Twitter followers. Moffatt has in the past stressed that his strategy revolves around targeted engagement and not simply accumulating massive numbers of new followers. Buying fake followers doesn’t mesh well with that approach (plus, follower totals mean very little for politicians if real voters aren’t interacting with the message being sent).”

So the Romney campaign has flip-flopped on a previously stated position? The hell you say! Now granted this is not the type of scandal for which a Congressional investigation must be called. It is merely another example of how very out of touch Team Romney is with reality. Did they think no one would notice this latest shell game? Hide your tax returns! Change your tune on health care reform! Buy some Twitter followers! But all the money in the world can’t make you a real, relatable homo sapiens Mittens. The human touch can’t be purchased.

Romney: GOP Indifference Toward the Middle Class Personified (March 13, 2012)

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Last week Republican primary co-front runner Mitt Romney demonstrated once again that neither he, nor his increasingly radical political party give a fig about the quality of life of America’s middle class. Multiple media outlets reported Romney’s compassionately conservative response to a struggling college student who queried him at a town hall meeting about the profoundly unaffordable costs of a college degree in the 21st Century

My favorite headline came courtesy of New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait: “Mitt: Pay for Your Own Damn College!” Chait distilled Romney’s heartless rejoinder rather well. What Mittens actually said was:

“It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that. Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And hopefully you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”

Charles Dickens first published his classic novel David Copperfield in 1850, featuring the villainous Uriah Heep, described in a Wikipedia entry as a character “notable for his cloying humility, obsequiousness, and insincerity, making frequent references to his own ‘humbleness.’ His name has become synonymous with being a yes man.”

It’s tempting to believe Dickens may have been clairvoyant in his creation of Heep, conjuring a future in which a quarter of a billionaire automaton can make like a living, breathing regular guy. I thought that the gold standard for radical right wing pandering had been provided by “Maverick” John McCain during the 2008 campaign, but McCain’s about faces on issues like immigration in order to secure his party’s trust simply don’t do Romney’s kowtowing justice. Is there anything this former moderate, somewhat socially liberal fraud won’t say to get the nomination?

In this case however, we have reason to suspect that Mittens said exactly what he means. After all, why should he care? He and every friend he has possess the cash and the Ivy League legacies to ensure that their offspring will go to the higher learning institutions of their choosing. It’s not they who will be saddled with debt after graduation. And if that “little lower price” degree from a state school that Romney so generously recommends for you should still run an average of $40,000 before factoring in room and board, well you’ve got two choices don’t you? A lifetime of debt or minimum wage. It’s your problem for not being born rich.

What’s perhaps more telling is Chait’s observation that Romney’s comments at the town hall were met with “sustained applause from the crowd at a high-tech metals assembly factory.” Now I am going to go out on a limb and hazard that attendees at a Romney gathering are going to lean mostly right, so ok, these folks were predisposed to drink in the bland Kool-Aid that is the Mitt brew. But factory workers cheering a candidate who unapologetically snubs his nose at the idea of affordable, universal education? How much longer can Republicans expect they are going to find willing accomplices within the hard working, low paid ranks of their base? Sooner or later the spell will be broken. It has to be.

Bold attacks on middle class infrastructure is nothing new to the GOP. You won’t hear them complaining about the stagnant wages of workers while CEO pay has skyrocketed. They have no qualms touting party planks that champion the withholding of rights from everyone from members of the gay community to females who wish to make decisions regarding their own bodies. But the blatant, sound-bite ready pride with which these candidates can look a student dead in the eye and tell them to toughen up, while boasting about the two Cadillacs in the driveway, is just sickening.

The Maverick Returns (July 28, 2011)

Had I been a Republican during the 2000 Presidential primaries, there is no doubt I would have voted McCain instead of Bush. At the time, the man came off as relatively uncompromised. As a decorated Vietnam veteran and a legislator who had a record (at the time) for rejecting pandering in order to reach across the aisle and get things done, he had my respect. Had he made it to the general election, I might have even considered casting a ballot in his favor instead of Al Gore.

By the time the 2008 campaign rolled around and McCain had morphed into a man who suddenly wanted nothing to do with immigration reform, labeled Barack Obama “that guy,” and selected Sarah Palin as a running mate, effectively putting an idiot one heartbeat away from the Oval Office, I was glad I was never faced with a real opportunity to punch a hanging chad in his favor. Turned out McCain was just like all the rest. He would say or do anything to get elected.

But all it once it appears that the removal of the Holy Grail chase, the end of his POTUS dreams, have freed John McCain to take a real stand where certain issues are concerned. Or it could be that at nearly 75 years of age, he just doesn’t give a shit anymore what anyone thinks.

And so yesterday, I read this report from Yahoo News’ The Ticket: “John McCain Unloads on the Tea Party,” and my stunned heart sang. Not so much because I care about McCain’s rediscovery of his backbone, but I was enthralled because finally SOMEBODY is pointing out the Tea Party Emperors are not wearing any clothes.

I could care less about his pity for John Boehner’s attempts to cobble together a last minute deficit reduction/debt ceiling compromise, but seriously, what’s not to love about quotes like this:

“The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . . Barack Obama,” McCain said, quoting a Wall Street Journal article. “The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.”

“This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees,” McCain added, still reading from the article.

Squee!!!! I know he’s basically regurgitating the work of another writer, but the fact that he does so on the Senate floor, with C-Span cameras rolling, provides a tacit blessing to the Journal’s indictment. Like it or not, McCain remains a standard bearer of the GOP and though it is unlikely, this should give pause to intolerant right extremists.

Allow me to quote another Open Salon blogger I greatly admire, a gentleman by the name of Cranky Cuss. I published a post this past Tuesday entitled, “The Party is Over,” where I detailed my general disgust with the current “work” and comprehensive ineptitude of both political factions. That said, Crank offered a fairly prescient indictment of the Republican caucus in particular:

“The Republicans would rather have the nation default, with all the devastation it would cause our already teetering economy not to mention the world economy, than allow Obama to be re-elected. I consider that treason.”

Thank you Mr. Cuss for calling a spade a spade, and grazi Senator McCain, however belatedly, for trying to lead your party by example.

Dancing with the Stars Gets Palined (November 18, 2010)

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I am simultaneously awed and repulsed by former Alaskan Governor and 2008 GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s sway on the voting public. The former emotion is influenced by the undeniable statistics that underpin Palin’s track record. Six of the 11 total Senate candidates that Palin backed in this month’s mid-term elections won their seats. And of the five that didn’t emerge victorious, two of them, former Nevada assemblywoman Sharron Angle and Alaskan attorney Joe Miller, were defeated by a hair despite being two of the most dangerous candidates on any ballot anywhere.

Those who dismiss the real power of Palin do so at their own peril, no matter how vile I find the woman. I was quite sure in late 2008, after Barack Obama handed John McCain a resounding defeat that crossed party lines, that Sarah Palin would retreat to the Alaskan wilderness she calls home, living out the rest of her life as a political afterthought, a wacky footnote in Presidential election history.

But while Palin may not be able to recall books or magazines that she reads, the woman is a publicity machine virtuoso. Somehow, by freeing herself of the shackles of her elected office, a move many of us never saw coming, she has grown only more politically powerful. She’s like a Gremlin that someone fed after midnight. The woman is everywhere: Fox News, reality TV, candidate meet and greets. She also seems to genuinely hold together a close knit family, raising a special needs child and servicing her backwoods hottie of a husband, Todd. She somehow appears to get more attractive with every public appearance, like a rifle-toting Dorian Gray. It’s challenging at times not to admire the lady. As something of a multi-tasking wunderkind myself, I must begrudgingly hand it to another.

However, that does not mean I like her personally. I absolutely abhor her politics and just about everything she stands for: pro-life, pro-guns, anti-regulation, and many times, anti-sense period. She is equal parts fascinating and nauseating. As a card carrying liberal who worships CNN and avoids Fox and other GOP media arms, it has up until recently, been fairly easy to limit face time with Sarah Palin.

But then ABC announced its cast for Dancing with the Stars Season 11 and I knew my luck was about to end. Bristol Palin, Sarah’s 19 year-old daughter and a successful “teen activist (cough)” was chosen as one of the “celebrity dancers (double cough).” What were the odds that Sarah Palin, a nearly unparalleled media whore, would pass up the opportunity to support her offspring on TV’s #1 show?

I must admit, at first I sort of clapped my hands together with glee. What a train wreck this would be! Bristol was going to suck! And initially, I was not disappointed. Witness the mid-October routine in which Bristol and her partner Mark Ballas donned gorilla suits to dance the jive accompanied byThe Monkees theme song. Horrifying. Deservedly so, the teenager found herself at the bottom of the leader board and on her way to elimination.

Not so fast…

I realized to my horror, and all too belatedly, that Sarah Palin’s continuous presence in the audience, and inside the packaged clips that precede each choreographed dance routine, might be something of a motivator for the show’s audience, which skews older and Republican. As a contestant’s final standings comprise an amalgam of judge’s scores and democratic viewer votes (dammit!), week after week, the teenager has escaped certain death.

As the show lurches toward next week’s finale, the bodies of far better dancers whom Bristol has knocked off lie in its wake: Audrina Patridge, the talented, if vacant former star of MTV’s The Hills, Rick Fox, the sexy and suave retired L.A. Laker, and just this past Tuesday, the most shocking defeat of all. R&B singer and actress Brandy was eliminated despite receiving a perfect score of 30 for her engaging Argentine Tango.

What the hell gives?

Although violence is never the answer, I find myself sympatico with viewer Steven Cowan from Vermont, Wisconsin, a man so incensed with Bristol’s triumph over Brandy that he shot his television. New York Times’ columnist Gail Collins writes this morning:

“According to a police report posted on The Smoking Gun Web site, Cowan became so upset by the political implications of Bristol Palin’s continuing victories on “Dancing With the Stars” that he shot the family television, precipitating a 15-hour standoff with local police. The complaint notes that Cowan did not think that Bristol ‘was a good dancer.'”

Although I did little more than launch my remote across the living room on Tuesday night, I sympathize with Cowan’s rage. We have come to begrudgingly accept Palin’s influence in the political arena, but please Tea Partiers, leave the integrity of Dancing with the Stars untouched.

Too late I guess. At this point, it seems inevitable that Bristol Palin will walk off with the coveted Mirrorball trophy next week. Our only hope of salvation is the mobilization of the Jennifer Grey/Dirty Dancing/ Ferris Bueller lobby. Get out the vote! The future of reality TV is at stake! Maybe the pending miscarriage of justice will spur Democrats more than minor issues like war, tax reform, health care and the economy were able to on November 2.

God bless America.

Senator John McCain Still Can’t Accept the Country’s Rejection of Him (March 18, 2014)

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My colleague and Senior Editor, Justin Baragona, did a marvelous job identifying and assessing Arizona Senator John McCain’s hypocritical, warmongering bologna on MSNBC earlier this weekin the aftermath of the laughably suspect Crimean referendum. However, I’d like to take a step slightly farther back in time if we could. I’d like to travel back to last weekend when the ersatz maverick sullied my favorite morning read, the Opinion page of the New York Times.

Though the piece was actually published on Friday, March 14th, it wasn’t until Saturday that I scrolled the headline, Obama Has Made America Look Weak, across the screen of my smartphone. Similar to what I imagine were the conscious streams of many an unprepared liberal, my first thought was: “I hope this is just an ironic hook, but something tells me I am about to read the words of Lindsay Graham or John McCain.”

There are times I hate being right and this was certainly one of those. But it was about to get much worse, with McCain opening his assault with a tried and true journalist trick of the right wing trade: the rhetorical question that actually affirms that which it proposes to query. McCain asks, “Should Russia’s invasion and looming annexation of Crimea be blamed on President Barack Obama?”

The fact that he immediately responds with “No” means absolutely nothing. As Billy Crystal’s titular character wonders aloud in 1980s romantic comedy classic, When Harry Met Sally,“Oh geeze…what are we supposed to do? Call the cops? It’s already out there.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to make a citizens’ arrest of Senator McCain, for a veritable truckload of irresponsible, reactionary 20th century battle rhetoric he’s vomited up on the voting public since President Obama was inaugurated. I said itlast week and I’ll say it again. The lack of public support that McCain and the bulk of his partymates have shown the POTUS in one delicate, dangerous international imbroglio after another, is nothing short of treasonous. Short of the divided loyalties of the Civil War, American history has seen nothing to rival it.

Of many instances in the Op-Ed where McCain claims not to impugn President Obama’s foreign policy as the root cause of the Crimean standoff (before doing exactly that), I think this was my favorite. McCain writes, “More broadly, we must rearm ourselves morally and intellectually to prevent the darkness of Mr. Putin’s world from befalling more of humanity.” Yes, pick up the weapons of “American exceptionalism,” which worked so well for us in the aughts. And it is just me or does the Republican party’s 21st century version of national superiority sound and feel an awful lot like the international bludgeon that many on the right would like us to wield in perpetuity? Violent wish fulfillment disguised as patriotism is a special kind of hypocrisy.

Earlier in the piece, McCain not so slyly makes the following observation about the general Obama military strategy: “In Afghanistan and Iraq, military decisions have appeared driven more by a desire to withdraw than to succeed.”

Um, yes, yes they have Senator McCain. And you want to know why? I know this is a trifling consideration for your party, but disengagements from money and life wasting Middle East quagmires have been more commonly referred to in the last decade as “the will of the people.” And I won’t even try to ask you to explain where it is that President Obama is supposed to “succeed” in Afghanistan and Iraq where his predecessor couldn’t. Should he continue looking for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction then?

I applaud the New York Times for its long-running and dedicated efforts to bring all voices to the proletariat. But as for Senator McCain, the people outside of Arizona have spoken again, and again and again. They don’t want war. They don’t want shoot first and ask questions later diplomacy. And sir, they don’t want you in charge. Please find a way to support your Commander-in-Chief. Barring that, silence is golden.