Friday, February 29, 2008

Vote For MRS. Barack Obama!

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars।
---Walt Whitman
I neglect God and his angels for the noise of a fly,
for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door।

---John Donne
And if the earth no longer knows your name,
Whisper to the silent earth: I'm flowing।
To the flashing water say: I am।
---Rainer Maria Rilke

This peculiar title doesn't mean I advocate for Michelle Obama in place of Barack। It just means Mrs। Obama came to our town yesterday afternoon and took the place by storm। It means if we can vote Barack Obama into the Presidency, we get a package that includes a lovely family and this remarkable woman for First Lady। I hadn't studied the matter, knew nothing about her except those couple of media things, and was unprepared totally for one of the greatest addresses of any kind I've ever heard.
I was pretty much resigned to Athens, Ohio, being the place the candidate spouses come to visit। Hillary Clinton was here stumping for her husband back in the day, and now the former president showed up earlier in the week to give an energetic speech for her। I'd wanted to see Barack Obama before our primary next week, but I learned all we would get was a look at his wife. Oh well, my daughter and I went to stand in line.
The Templeton-Blackburn Auditorium---or Mem Aud, as it used to be called---holds a couple thousand people, so I thought if we got there an hour early we might at least get inside out of the cold। No tickets required, a quick frisk, and we soon were in the 12th row। The place has a magnificent sound system and mostly soul tunes from the '60s were banging away. Well you can't beat that stuff, and so pretty soon everybody was groovin'. Smiles began to appear, and as I looked around I realized I hadn't been in an audience of such racial, age, and gender mix maybe ever.
On stage was a bunch of people, but no obvious dignitaries or union T-shirts। My daughter said she heard folks were chosen at random to go up there। The active volunteers were being afforded the front rows as usual. The auditorium filled up completely from what I could see, and I suppose I'll read reports as to whether any were turned away or a sound system set up outside. A barrage of TV cameras, reporters, anchors and photographers was in the usual cluster.
We waited---but the hits kept on coming, so who cares? The spirit of hope and expectation was in the air। People looked happy but serious. We're not gonna get fooled again! The black woman next to me kept checking her watch. I heard her say she had kids that needed to be picked up. As it got to be 5 minutes past the hour, she said out loud, "They oughta have SOMEbody come out." I didn't want my first words to her to be discouraging, having waited hours at things like this, so I asked, "Do you know where she's coming from?" She didn't. But 5 minutes after that, out came the first of 2 introductory speakers...and we were off!

Michelle Obama is a tall, powerful woman, with a surprising confidence and a completely engaging speaking style। Except to remind her of local names she wanted to thank, she spoke without notes...and gave us an hour of compelling personal history and Obama platform. She had us in the palm of her hand the whole time in a speech that was intricate in organization and almost completely positive. Mrs. Obama made it clear the situation her husband seeks to change---and that's the big word---has developed in the United States under both political parties. She did indicate the present administration has played upon fear and encouraged personal isolation...but everybody knows that and hardly could be labeled negative campaigning.

She spoke of growing up on Chicago's difficult South Side, where her father held a modest city blue collar job and her mother stayed home to be there for the 2 kids। Mom did finally go to work when the children finished public school to get them through college. We couldn't help but be moved when she mentioned again and again a barrier that has developed in America in so many areas of discouragement and you-can't-do-that and don't-even-try. But she did try anyway, and that meant Princeton and then Harvard Law.

Barack Obama's story is more commonly known---but apparently not well enough, given the ongoing stuff about his name and religion and national origin---so she told it again briefly। What she emphasized is that with Barack's Harvard Law degree, departmental honors, and as first black editor of the Harvard Law Journal, he could have gone anywhere on Wall Street and corporate America and made millions. But instead he went to Chicago to help neighborhood organizing efforts in a city where steel had shut down. He thought legislating could help and began to run for office. No millions at hand (she mentioned they both just have finished paying off their college loans) he wrote a couple books that have helped finance him.

When we were done, I had a sense of what has brought a million contributors like me to open our wallets and help this campaign keep rolling। When you're on your feet cheering with 2000 other people---mostly students!---you even get a feeling this could be a tidal wave. But the Obamas know better...and so there's plenty of encouragement to volunteer: to go vote early right now, and then get on down to the campaign office and sign up for the phone banks and the door-to-door and Primary Day work. There is no resting on any past success. This change they talk about is all work...and they aren't kidding.

Bush gave a press conference yesterday morning in which he said the economy is fine and there's no recession in sight। (More bad intelligence, George?) Barack Obama had a rebuttal 5 minutes later. John McCain the day before declared he'd never go down the Obama "road of defeat" in Iraq because Al Qaeda is there. Obama was on it immediately with the reminder Al Qaeda wasn't there until Bush and McCain misled the nation into war. This man is fast, brilliant and assertive. He doesn't wait to see what the media will do or if some attack just will go away. He answers them face to face. He's getting headlines arguing with Bush and McCain...while, I must say, Hillary Clinton seems to spend time trying to figure out who she should be next.

Michelle Obama seemed every bit the match for her remarkable husband. I'm trying not to imagine if they ever get in a fight at home. It was one of those things where my daughter and I had to get down to the stage and as close as possible to this potential First Lady. Imagine the statement to the country if these people are nominated. Imagine what America might look like to the world again with this First Family in the White House. As I walked up the aisle and out of the auditorium, I saw a man I know of my own generation lingering in the back watching continued greetings and hugs up on the stage. He was beaming, and when he saw me he smiled. I said, "I haven't felt like this in 40 years!" He said, "Me too."

8 comments:

jazzolog said...

When I was a kid there used to be a radio show every Sunday morning called The Comic Weekly Man. It was on dangerously close to going-to-church time, and I remember tense family moments when Dad had to leave early for some reason---like maybe the choir had to run over that Handel one more time. No car radios back then---before this Age of Convenience we all take for granted now...and hesitate to give up even if it means the planet will melt. But never mind: the Comic Weekly Man would read the Sunday funnies over the air, acting out all the parts. Back then, before TV, the comic page was a major entertainment in life...and on Sunday they all were extended and in color! If Dick Tracy was on the verge of getting shot or catching the bad guy---or in the unforgettable case of Newsuit Nan, the bad girl---the whole country stopped what it was doing when the newspaper hit the porch. I still remember the show's theme song. The guy would sing "O I'm the Comic Weekly Man, the funny Comic Weekly Man"...and so on. Why am I even thinking about this?

I guess I need comic relief after the 3 hour intensive I've just put in to catch up with computer email and news after spending the day yesterday involved in organizing our community more effectively around Global Warming issues. You may remember Global Warming from the days before the caucuses and primaries. Even though the candidates don't discuss or debate it, it used to be a concern.

OK, what are they talking about...and how are things stacking up on the Sunday morning before the big Primary Tuesday in Ohio, Texas and elsewhere? After being swept off my feet by Michelle Obama Thursday night, I've been digging around the Internet for what must be wrong with Barack. Obviously so are other people, and I think it's important we share this stuff. Maybe even Hillary's people will curb their panic and get busy as well.

Bob Whealey, who taught History at OU so many years---and also went to my alma mater---brought The Black Commentator site to my attention. Bill Fletcher, its Executive Editor, urges caution about Obama~~~

Yet what complicates all of this is the unevenness in Obama’s platform. What we confront is potential for change in a progressive direction rather than leadership in a progressive direction. In other words, Obama opens up possibilities, but as can be repeatedly demonstrated, there are inconsistencies in his views and approach, as well as times when he is just wrong...
There are tremendous dangers AND opportunities in this election season. Casting caution to the wind and uncritically supporting any candidate is a recipe for disaster. We must expect that there will be immense tugs to the Right on any elected official. If progressives are not prepared to push back and keep Obama’s feet to the fire then every reservation that many of us have about his candidacy will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
http://www.blackcommentator.com/266/266_african_world_cover_obama_movement.html

Feet-to-the-fire is just what Matt Gonzalez advocates too, and accomplishes in an article that's turning up all over the place this morning. Gonzalez is the former head of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and past candidate for Mayor on the Green Party ticket there. His article The Obama Craze: Count Me Out appeared Thursday http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=5413 , but I'll refer you to the version at a site called AgainstObama because you probably want to click around there a bit if, like me, you're a recent convert. Here's Matt~~~

Part of me shares the enthusiasm for Barack Obama. After all, how could someone calling themself a progressive not sense the importance of what it means to have an African-American so close to the presidency? But as his campaign has unfolded, and I heard that we are not red states or blue states for the 6th or 7th time, I realized I knew virtually nothing about him.
Like most, I know he gave a stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. I know he defeated Alan Keyes in the Illinois Senate race; although it wasn’t much of a contest (Keyes was living in Maryland when he announced). Recently, I started looking into Obama’s voting record, and I’m afraid to say I’m not just uninspired: I’m downright fearful. Here’s why:
This is a candidate who says he’s going to usher in change; that he is a different kind of politician who has the skills to get things done. He reminds us again and again that he had the foresight to oppose the war in Iraq. And he seems to have a genuine interest in lifting up the poor.
But his record suggests that he is incapable of ushering in any kind of change I’d like to see. It is one of accommodation and concession to the very political powers that we need to reign in and oppose if we are to make truly lasting advances.

He then proceeds to review Obama's record issue by issue. This article is going to give you pause---just in case you haven't voted early already or were planning a visit to the Board of Elections tomorrow. Maybe instead we should do more Monday morning research. http://againstobama.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/why-matt-is-against-obama/

Then I visited a very hesitant Paul Street out in Iowa---where it all began---writing way back in last April! It sez here Mr. Street is a "veteran radical historian"---hmmm---and a political commentator in the Midwest, and his essay is titled Sitting Out The Obama Dance In Iowa City~~~

Then there’s the matter of his actual policy and political record. If Obama is such (as many “progressives” seem to need to believe) an “antiwar” candidate, why has he offered so much substantive policy support to the criminal occupation and the broader imperial “war on [and of] terror” of which Bush says O.I.F. is a part? Here are some highlights from a summary of Obama’s U.S. Senate voting record recently sent to me by the Creative Youth News Team (CYNT 2007), a progressive African American advocacy organization:

“1/26/05: Obama voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice for Secretary of State. Rice was largely responsible…for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent victims in unnecessary wars...Roll call 2”

“2/01/05: Obama was part of a unanimous consent agreement not to filibuster the nomination of lawless torturer Alberto Gonzales as chief law enforcement officer of the United States (U.S. Attorney General).”

“2/15/05: Obama voted to confirm Michael Chertoff, a proponent of water-board torture...[and a] man behind the round-up of thousands of people of Middle-Eastern descent following 9/11. By Roll call 10.”

“4/21/05: Obama voted to make John ‘Death Squad’ Negroponte the National Intelligence Director. In Central America, John Negroponte was connected to death squads that murdered nuns and children in sizable quantities. He is suspected of instigating death squads while in Iraq, resulting in the current insurgency. Instead of calling for Negroponte's prosecution, Obama rewarded him by making him National Intelligence Director. Roll call 107”

“4/21/05: Obama voted for HR 1268, war appropriations in the amount of approximately $81 billion. Much of this funding went to Blackwater USA and Halliburton and disappeared. Roll call 109 [W FOR PRO-WAR VOTE]”

And it goes on, right up to now...or then, last April. Fifty sources meticulously documented at the end. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=12687 (I can't wait to get the inevitable reply from my sister-in-law Kirsten who lives near Iowa City and has been warning me to calm down about Obama.)

If you can find your way through all that and still are supporting The Phenom, I think you'll be interested in the Nation article my friend Paul Quintanilla recommended to me by Naomi Klein. This showed up Friday online and will be in the next issue. It's about the "native dress" picture that was all the talk early last week, and which they talked about during the Cleveland debate...although Hillary never did deny, reject and condemn the whole thing. Naomi urges us to remember that labeling someone with Islam is not actually "smearing" that person. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080317/klein

Along this same line, a dear friend here in Athens (but who is teaching elsewhere this year) found a blog she urges me to pass along. This entry is called Denouncing And Rejecting, and it wonders why Obama has to go through all that he does regarding the Farrakhan endorsement, but nobody demands that McCain do anything about various rightwing "Christian" nazi groups that give him support. Lots of comments too...and you'll want to check out many of Hilzoy's other postings. http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2008/03/denouncing-and.html#more

Online friend Zepp recommends Mother Jones' primer of comparing Obama and Clinton. There are the Top 10 Economic Policy Issues. Invaluable. http://www.motherjones.com/news/update/2008/02/obama-vs-clinton-economic-policy.html

The New York Times this morning gives its top story to the spending sprees both Democratic candidates are on, particularly here and in Texas. Governor Ted Strickland, who's been campaigning with Hillary, has to admit that if you can buy the nomination Barrack's got it. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/us/politics/02primary.html?_r=1&th=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&emc=th&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1204456192-MonyEYyoOPHcWleL8W0dGQ

Maureen Dowd goes after The Ad---you know...your kids are sleeping, 3 AM, and a phone is ringing in the White House. Hillary's Fear Bomb ad. Dowd wants to know if being in the same bed when Bill answered the phone counts as experience. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/opinion/02dowd.html?th&emc=th

Frank Rich tries to talk sense about McCain this morning. This is sorta helpful to your equanimity if that crazy old guy actually wins the election. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/opinion/02rich.html?th&emc=th

I love the Letter From Feminists On The Election that you can find at The Nation. You're sure to discover one of your favorites sharing a light breakfast last week and their opinions on how things are going for women. Race vs. gender ain't what they were hoping for. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080317/feminists

If you have anything left, The Times also brought in all the presidential candidates who have dropped out---or been knocked out---to tell us what they'd be saying if they still were in the race. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/opinion/02candidatesintro.html?th&emc=th

And by the way, you do know the Administration's usual Friday afternoon announcement this week was WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused Friday to refer the House's contempt citations against two of President Bush's top aides to a federal grand jury. Mukasey said White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former presidential counsel Harriet Miers committed no crime. http://apnews.myway.com/article/20080301/D8V4DE100.html

Whew. OK, I think I'll go find the Sunday funnies and take them with me...back to bed!

Anonymous said...

I saw a flash report on the news a couple of days ago showing some of Hillary Clinton's supporters waving a nutcracker, and since, it was not Christmas, I suppose, it was meant to stand as a symbol of what it takes for a woman to make it in a "Men's world" (and, well, at least, we now know what this campaign is all about for some of the "unconditional" supporters of Hillary.)

On another note: I am totally disgusted with the system, the media, the whole corruption and narrow-minded selfish logic of the whole thing.

Barack Obama, of course, is not God's gift to America - I don't think anyone ever claimed that he was - but for all his imperfections, he is still something new, and as close as we'll ever get to Mr. Smith going to Washington.

Obama's followers have been accused of being cult-like. I think that the opposite is true: people have been critical of Obama because in their opinion he is "not good enough," or "pure enough," or because they think he is "not the real-thing." In a nutshell: he doesn't "walk on water." Well, I don't know, it seems to me that the people who are cult-like, here, are the people who are waiting for the messiah. Methinks they are going to wait for a long, long time.

People in this country are either seriously dumb or they are liars: they claim they want Mr. Smith (and so they pretended George W. Bush was Mr. Smith) but when Mr. Smith shows up, they crucify him.

If the Democratic party, the voters in Ohio or Pennsylvania (and I understand that Pennsylvania is going to be twice as favorable to Hillary Clinton as Ohio was in terms of the population's lack of education, and age demographic) cannot recognize a unique opportunity when one is presented to them, what can one say or do, and why should I care at this point?

I am feed-up too with the media, and their fake "even and balanced" stance, as an excuse for not calling a foul when a foul is blatantly committed, for serving "spins" instead of "facts," and turning the whole thing into a "she says" "he says" circus, when so much factual info is easily accessible and when they actually know better - Heck, there are facts-check places on the Internet that are certainly doing a better job than they are at correcting missfactual statements. Why can't the media?

One of the nutcrackers on that news flash I mentioned earlier on this commnet called Obama a "dreamer," and well I think she was right, or rather Machiavelli was right: there is no room for dreamers in politics (which is why the world is such a mess.) I think Hillary Clinton has made her case and she has convinced me in the process. This is a Machiavellian world and she is better at this than Obama can ever expect to be, so she should be the Democrats nominee---and I think that she will - Jack Nicholson said it best, clearly she has more cojones than anyone, she is not afraid to get her hands bloody, and so "she is the best man" for this job.

That said, I don't have to like it. And I still prefer the politics of Hope over the politics of Machiavelli.

People like Machiavelli, Karl Rove and Hillary Clinton tell us over and over - and prove it - that there is no place for people like us in politics - and I guess people have been proving them right at every turn, and so, then, it should come as no big surprise to anyone as people become more and more cynical and there is a return to the previous trend of less and less people interested in voting in future elections (I know I am becoming one of them.) But then again, Machiavelli had a pretty low opinion of the masses, and this is what it's all about: I am sure they'll find a way to keep people involved by getting them sufficiently angry about superficially divisive issues that will keep them artificially pitted against one another.

I read somewhere recently that when asked what they would do if they did not win the nomination, Barak said he would spend more time with his two children, Hillary said she would continue serving the people of New York as their senator and in any way she could. I find myself hoping Barak's children get him back home safe and sound.

Anonymous said...

I am concentrating on seeing what a beautiful day it is today, and how fortunate I am in my little life... For now.

Isn't this how people behave when they've had their hearts broken? Intensely focused on the small project in front of their eyes, not daring to look up, look around and see the bigger picture? But, hey, what do I know. On the other hand, maybe Ms. Clinton is demonstrating she'll fit right in and has exactly what it takes to be a world leader in this nutso planet of ours. I mean, really. Take a look at some of the leaders of countries around the world right now. They are a bunch of loonies! Someone ought to do a comedy show about it -- maybe on Friday night television, or Saturday Night ...

jazzolog said...

Slowly, with the help of some emails from friends, I got what I hope was the objectivity I needed for my primary vote. Dr. Richard Strax practices Diagnostic Radiology and Vascular and Interventional Radiology in Houston, Texas, but more important to me, he's the brother-in-law of a very dear old friend. After an interchange I had elsewhere online Monday, he tried to talk some sense to me---and maybe his bedside manner will help others too~~~

Richard,

I've been reading your latest posts with a thin smile. For a guy who obviously reads alot, stays well informed and has been around the block a few times, you sound positively naive. I don't mean that in a disparaging way, because I'm also an optimist at heart and dream of a candidate who is honest, uncorrupted by the usual influences, even superhuman if you will.

But just who do you think you're looking at, here? Obama talks about "change", but I've never heard him call for removing corruption from Washington. He has taken small donations from large numbers of people, good, but I haven't heard that he has refused any large sums from the rich or corporate interests either. Are you really surprised that he sells access to rich folks?

Hope springs eternal, but let's try to remember where and when this election is taking place. No one gets far in presidential politics these days without money, corporate support, and a promise (either publicly or behind the curtain) to continue the status quo. Even someone calling for change has to get the OK from party leaders and media moguls or they will never be heard. After all, how far does Ralph Nader ever get? Did you hear much during this campaign from Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, the real advocates for change?

OK, so having said all that, Barbara and I are actually looking forward to the primary tomorrow. We did vote early. We waited in line about two hours here in Houston for early voting, so this election is certainly getting people involved and that can't be all bad. We have lived here for 30 years now and I never knew that Texas has caucuses in addition to the primary election. I was never interested enough. However, tomorrow night Barbara and I expect to caucus for the first time. I've only heard about this happening in other places, but it sounds so democratic it positively gives me goosebumps. I guess we're as bad as you - a young, well spoken and attractive candidate has energized us, made us hopeful and gotten us interested in politics again. We hope we won't be disappointed, but I'm honestly not expecting too much.

My feet may be on the ground but my head is way up in the clouds.

--Richard S.

The next item that helped was the quiet, sane endorsement of Obama Monday by the Toledo Blade, an Ohio newspaper I've come to depend on~~~

Obama, for change

Our unequivocal choice for the Democratic nomination for President is Barack Obama, the U.S. senator from Illinois, whose phenomenal candidacy and message of change is propelling this year's election buzz.

Senator Obama, we believe, would be the strongest candidate to take on the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, in the November general election.

As we said in our endorsement editorial last week, Senator Obama, 46, possesses a combination of keen intellect, quiet and unflappable confidence, knowledge of public policy, and expansive world view that has become rare in candidates for the White House.
http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080303/OPINION02/803030314/-1/OPINION

The New Yorker has become very generous online lately. Even the latest issue is available cover to cover on your computer. You feel like you need to buy a copy just in gratitude. Here's the delightful Profile of Michelle Obama~~~
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/03/10/080310fa_fact_collins

This just in from a London friend, now living in Scotland~~~

Query in the diary section of the Herald today:

If Barack Obama becomes US President, does that make America an Obamanation?

CDx

An abominable joke to be sure, but just what I needed at 5:30 Primary Day morning our time.

jazzolog said...

Quinty and I have noticed and remarked that Maureen Dowd's columns during this primary season have been particularly helpful in discerning what these candidates are really like and what their problems are. While she seems to favor the Democrats, she has been equally rough on each, and I would be hard put to declare which she favors. Today's column is a perfect example, and she leaps in at a time when both Clinton and Obama are in trouble. So why am I putting this in Michelle Obama's Log entry? Read to the end and you'll see~~~

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The New York Times
April 16, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Eggheads and Cheese Balls
By MAUREEN DOWD
PHILADELPHIA

I’m not bitter.

I’m not writing this just because I grew up in a house with a gun, a strong Catholic faith, an immigrant father, brothers with anti-illegal immigrant sentiments and a passion for bowling. (My bowling trophy was one of my most cherished possessions.)

My family morphed from Kennedy Democrats into Reagan Republicans not because they were angry, but because they felt more comfortable with conservative values. Members of my clan sometimes were overly cloistered. But they weren’t bitter; they were bonding.

They went to church every Sunday because it was part of their identity, not because they needed a security blanket.

Behind closed doors in San Francisco, elitism’s epicenter, Barack Obama showed his elitism, attributing the emotional, spiritual and cultural values of working-class, “lunch pail” Pennsylvanians to economic woes.

The last few weeks have not been kind to Hillary, but the endless endgame has not been kind to the Wonder Boy either. Obama comes across less like a candidate in Pennsylvania than an anthropologist in Borneo.

His mother got her Ph.D. in anthropology, studying the culture of Indonesia. And as Obama has courted white, blue-collar voters in “Deer Hunter” and “Rocky” country, he has often appeared to be observing the odd habits of the colorful locals, resisting as the natives try to fatten him up like a foie gras goose, sampling Pennsylvania beer in a sports bar with his tie tight, awkwardly accepting bowling shoes as a gift from Bob Casey, examining the cheese and salami at the Italian Market here as intriguing ethnic artifacts, purchasing Utz Cheese Balls at a ShopRite in East Norriton and quizzing the women working in a chocolate factory about whether they could possibly really like the sugary doodads.

He hasn’t pulled a John Kerry and asked for a Philly cheese steak with Swiss yet, but he has maintained a regal “What do the simple folk do to help them escape when they’re blue?” bearing, unable to even feign Main Street cred. But Hillary did when she belted down a shot of Crown Royal whiskey with gusto at Bronko’s in Crown Point, Ind.

Just as he couldn’t knock down the bowling pins, he can’t knock down Annie Oakley or “the girl in the race,” as her husband called her Tuesday — the self-styled blue-collar heroine who reluctantly revealed a $100 million fortune partially built on Bill’s shady connections.

Even when Hillary’s campaign collapsed around her and her husband managed to revive the bullets over Bosnia, Obama has still not been able to marshal a knockout blow — or even come up with a knockout economic speech that could expand his base of support.

Even as Hillary grows weaker, her reputation for ferocity grows stronger. A young woman in the audience at a taping of “The Colbert Report” at Penn Tuesday night asked Stephen Colbert during a warm-up: “Are you more afraid of bears or Hillary Clinton?”

Even though Democratic elders worry that the two candidates will terminally bloody each other, they each seem to be lighting their own autos-da-fé.

At match points, when Hillary fights like a cornered raccoon, Obama retreats into law professor mode. The elitism that Americans dislike is not about family money or connections — J.F.K. and W. never would have been elected without them. In the screwball movie genre that started during the last Depression, there was a great tradition of the millionaire who was cool enough to relate to the common man — like Cary Grant’s C.K. Dexter Haven in “The Philadelphia Story.”

What turns off voters is the detached egghead quality that they tend to equate with a wimpiness, wordiness and a lack of action — the same quality that got the professorial and superior Adlai Stevenson mocked by critics as Adelaide. The new attack line for Obama rivals is that he’s gone from J.F.K. to Dukakis. (Just as Dukakis chatted about Belgian endive, Obama chatted about Whole Foods arugula in Iowa.)

Obama did not grow up in cosseted circumstances. “Now when is the last time you’ve seen a president of the United States who just paid off his loan debt?” Michelle Obama asked Tuesday at Haverford College, referring to Barack’s student loans while speaking in the shadow of the mansions depicted in “The Philadelphia Story.”

But his exclusive Hawaiian prep school and years in the Ivy League made him a charter member of the elite, along with the academic experts he loves to have in the room. As Colbert pointed out, the other wonky Ivy League lawyer in the primary just knows how to condescend better.

Michelle did her best on “The Colbert Report” Tuesday to shoo away the aroma of elitism.

Growing up, she said: “We had four spoons. And then my father got a raise at the plant and we got five spoons.”

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/16/opinion/16dowd.html?ex=1209009600&en=1e001b5bbd9d8dc3&ei=5070&emc=eta1

Quinty said...

Maybe there’s some confusion.

And confusion is the way the Obamas want it. For, after all, it should be clear Barack really meant what he said in Marin. (Marin County is the place on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. And shouldn’t really be confused with San Francisco for it is quite a different place. Those of us who were there in the Summer of Love may have a particular fondness for Gate Five. A beautiful topless dancer I met one night on Broadway, in SF’s North Beach, lived there. For a guy choking on fifties conformity the lifestyle among these “live for life’s sake” types who had a boundless imagination and energy to match was quite liberating. Ie, I had a ball.)

But that’s a digression. We all know money is not what actually makes an “elite.” The moneyed elite is more a leftist conception than the right’s. And the critics of Obama’s words are thinking of something considerably different.

In their world an elite snob looks down on aw shucks plain folks who cling to the ordinary superstitions most Republicans advance and dwell in. The elite looks down upon the gun, god, and “core” American values of these simple folk. Those folks who believe the Islamo fascists hate us for who we are and that if we don’t fight them there we’ll have to fight them here. And that American culture will be polluted by the onslought of illegal aliens who don’t want to learn English. It’s all attitude, not the millions of bucks. An elite can be a starving student. Or someone who digs Mozart. Who isn’t impressed by this Republican or rightwing version of the American Dream.

What was really incendiary in Obama’s remarks has hardly been touched upon by the media. Where Obama says they display an “antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiments.” Now that is really elitist. And proves this had nothing to do with money, which no self respecting Republican resents anyway.

No wonder the Obama’s have stirred up the waters. And I don’t blame them. For if there is one thing in the world an asshole does not want to be told it is that he is an asshole. That the far right’s “cultural” values are idiotic.

As we have often seen in the past, getting incensed over gay marriage, stem cell research, the absence of God in public schools and courtrooms and trashing illegal migrants is more important to them than the war, global warming, or even the economy. Though Obama was referencing the economy. His “anthropology,” as some commentators have remarked, may be disputable. But we have known for a long time now that workingclass folk have not always been voting their own self-interest. And if the rest of us, who have to accompany them along the national ride, worry, we shouldn’t be faulted. For, after all, look at what such foolishness has brought us? The war in Iraq against a phantom enemy, a collapsing economy, neglected worsening environmental problems, increased government corruption, cronyism, and a loss of our Constitutional guarantees. As well as more which skips my mind now.

Meanwhile, if any of the rest of us ask why we are branded “elitist” snobs - oh, pardon me, but a good cappuccino in a fine restaurant - too bad we can’t also enjoy Cuban cigars - after dinner with a bit of cognac suits me just fine - for complaining about the ensuing mess.

I like Maureen Dowd. I think this incident, though, may have touched too close to home for her, affecting her reason. She undoubtedly loves her family, as I do, Reaganites and all. But as a bit of an “elitist” myself I can’t help but mourn and sometimes feel a great disgust with the stupidity, yes, I said it, of the American voter. Who puts his ignorant or silly and sometimes frighteningly neurotic fantasies above his - and ours - best self interests.

Exhibit A?

George Bush. And all those in his giddy crowd.

Quinty said...

To add another thing

No one in this is being entirely honest. Equating the elete with wealth is spurious. Shooting back shots of whiskey is reprehensible. And Obama really meant what he said. Though does that mean he doesn't really care for the problems of workingclass people? Among the three candidates I believe he's the one who most does.

Frankly, I think McCain is far more honest than Bush, who has the soul of a buccaneer. But Republican expressons of plain folks enthusiasm should be distrusted. If money is elitism then they are proud elitists. Isn't that the way of money and power? Ie, of corporations?

jazzolog said...

I Heart Michelle Obama
posted by Katha Pollitt on 08/28/2008 @ 09:49am

Michelle Obama's performance Monday night was spectacular. She was confident, warm, relaxed and eloquent, also smart, beautiful,radiant, gracious, stylish, humorous and tall. I want to be her when I grow up. She accomplished, seemingly effortlessly, what she had to do: she replaced the angry-black-Pantherish terrorist- fist-bumping Michelle of right-wing (and not only right-wing) fantasy with Michelle, the normal, everyday, working-class-rooted loving wife and (working) mother. She presented herself and her family -- her parents, her brother, her daughters, and her husband -- as part of an ongoing all-American story of devotion to faith, family, hard work,community, sports, and, yes, country.

When she talked about her childhood--her father and his slow deterioriation from multiple sclerosis, her parent's hopes and sacrifices for her and her brother--I cried. I know, I know, how hokey that is, but I'll bet all over America, people were wiping their eyes.

In her column about the speech, even Mona Charen paused momentarily in her Obama-bashing labors to declare herself moved and impressed. Then, of course, it was back to business: Michelle's 1985 Princeton senior thesis, the Rev. Wright, a quotation from a New Yorker profile suggesting that Michelle Obama thinks America has some problems--because that is just so, so not true.

About that thesis: How desperate must conservative pundits be that they are combing this ancient document for traces of black militance? How would Mona Charen like to be judged by a paper she wrote in college? Christopher Hitchens joined the hunt in a particularly unhinged and paranoid column in Slate back in May. Beginning with a lordly sneer at young Michelle's prose ("not written in any known language"), he seizes on a passing acknowledgment of Black Power, a book which Stokely Carmichael co-authored with Charles V. Hamilton in l967, to tie her to Carmichael's subsequent career as a black-nationalist Pan-African separatist, and thence to African dictators, antisemitism, Louis Farrakhan and the murder of Malcolm X.

I should have written about this column when it first appeared, but frankly, I didn't want to join the let's all-talk- about-Christopher-incessantly circus. I was remiss: It was a low, disgraceful smear, tantamount to accusing a writer who cites Marx of being a Soviet spy-- or, for that matter, a man who briefly attended a nominally Muslim school in childhood of being a secret Muslim and best friend of Osama bin Laden.

First Ladyhood is a retrograde job, sort of like being the national spokesmodel. Still it's a great thing that an accomplished black woman might soon be taking it on. It doesn't speak so well of the electorate, though, that Michelle Obama has to hide her light of career-womanhood and, yes, African-American experience under a great big bushel of bland middle-American family-values conformity. The whole speech was about reassuring white Americans that she was just like them, (as they imagine themselves to be): none of her relatives are on drugs or welfare or in prison.

For all her evident-but-never-specified professional success, she's basically a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother: black people have families! If you closed your eyes, the only way you'd know she was black was her emotional reference to Martin Luther King. According to her brother's video introduction, her favorite TV show as a child was The Brady Bunch. Whew! What if it had been Soul Train?

I would love to see Michelle Obama living in the White House and representing America abroad. But she must really love her husband-- and believe that business about being the change you want to see in the world -- -- to be willing to spend four, or even eight, years soothing white America's racial and gender anxieties.

http://www.thenation.com/blogs/anotherthing/349841
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