Thursday, November 8, 2007

Does This Endorsement Make Me Look Phat?

Winning is a Family Value, Part II

Isn't it just great when people who have nothing in common get along?

They didn't exactly bury the hatchet -- since they didn't exactly ever have a relationship -- but Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Guiliani looks to be about as crass a marriage of convenience as one could imagine (Nixon and Elvis is in its own category).

Why does Rudy want it known that crazy grandpa likes him for the White House a year before the election? (Hoping that voters will forget by then is not one of the acceptable answers)
This is the Pat Robertson who said 9/11 was was God's retribution for America's countenance of abortion (only one of a vast collection of incomprehensible positions by the televangelist).

This is the Rudy Giuliani who has been married three times, lived with a gay couple for while between marriages and doesn't have a problem with dressing up in drag.

It gets stranger: Giuliani, who rakes Ron Paul over the coals for 9/11 blasphemy was, of course, mayor of the Retribution City. And he more or less supports abortion rights.

Pure Christian Mischief

Isn't just wonderful that each is now acting like a true Christian forgiving and forgetting and everything?

Sadly, not everyone see this as Good News.

"Surprised," is how True Believer Mike Huckabee reacted (at least whining isn't a family value). This is the Mike Huckabee who has considerable Family Values street cred: A former Southn Baptist minister, he refused as Governor of Arkansas to authorize a Medicaid payment for an abortion for a 15-year-old girl whose stepfather has been charged with incest (so he has the whole southern States' Rights thing going on too).

Should Mike be surprised? Maybe not. True Believer Sam Brownback had to drop out of the race with only $95,000 in the kitty for lack of interest by any of his natural allies. This is the Sam Browback who has said that "It would be a glorious day of human liberty and freedom" if Roe v. Wade was overturned and who really, really doesn't believe in evolution.

Crazy Grandpas for Rudy

Who looks worse in this hookup? I'm thinking Robertson, who doesn't exactly need to endorse anyone, especially at this stage. But this one-time candidate for the Republican nomination is a shadow of his former self in the influence department. My guess is that these days people stop talking when Pat enters the room and try to conceal their titters when he leaves. And even endorsement by real players don't necessarily help much. Remember how much good Al Gore did for Howard Dean before the 2000 Iowa Caucus?

So, why does Rudy want it known that crazy grandpa likes him for the White House a year before the election? (Hoping that voters will forget by then is not one of the acceptable answers).

Maybe it's like this: Dan Quayle's 1982 jobs training bill was always trotted out whenever anyone asked what the 1992 Republican vice presidential candidate had ever done to be considered worthy. An endorsement from a religious conservative gives Rudy's campaign one thing anyway to point to in the values column whenever his social conservative credentials are questioned. Well, I'm good enough for Pat Robertson, he can now say.

A Pro-Choice Candidate with Pro-Life Proclivities

Giuliani, despite his studied ambivalence on abortion, has said his appointments to the US Supreme Court would be in the mould of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the Court's two most conservative justices. John Paul Stevens, the Court's oldest member at 88 next April, has consistently voted to uphold Roe v. Wade. While there is arguably already a 5-4 majority to overturn in the right case (Scalia/Thomas/Robert/Alito/Kennedy) there can't be much more tire on the Stevens tread and his replacement with a True Believer would seem seal the landmark 1974 case's undoing.

Rudy's pledge is a pretty big signal and tough to back away from, even if the Senate becomes a filibuster-proof Democratic domain should Giuliani be in position to nominate anybody.

So this may not be as extreme a case of strange bedfellows as it appears at first blush. But because of the timing it's impossible not to conclude that this is simply a case of Pat wanting to back a winner early and often and Rudy starting to look like one.

After all, when it comes to family values, what is more important than winning?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Six Months Heals All Wounds


Don Imus is back on the air. Has it been six months already? Did I miss the national conversation about race while I was out at Starbucks?

As a very smart friend told me during that frenzied week that saw Imus outed, ousted and banished, this was "Bonfires of the Vanities II." Sadly, sequels are almost never better than the original. But if George Steinbrenner got back to running the Yankees a couple of years after being banned for life, I guess Imus doing morning drive time before Spring's leaves even change color is nothing.
Imus picks up where he left off on Dec 3 and, thanks to CBS's blink, he got an unscheduled paid vacation at a rate of perhaps more than $2 million a month. So what was this all about? As Emily Litella used to say: "Never Mind."

Imus's trajectory is immaterial to me. I wasn't a fan so I wasn't sad to see him go. But I did hope that this time, at least, something would somehow justify yet another pagan dance around the bonfire. Instead, Imus looks wronged and he's been paid off for his trouble.

What a Difference 150 Days Make

"Imus in the Morning" and the MSNBC simulcast was canceled in April after Imus referred to the mostly black Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos" during a discussion of the team's playoff triumphs. It didn't take long for the shit to hit the fan. Members of Imus' A-list guest roster of best-selling authors and politicos squirmed when each was inevitably asked whether he would appear on his program ever again.

After announcing that Imus would be suspended for two weeks -- a suspension that was foolishly delayed for a few days to continue an on-air fund-raising radiothon, which only let Imus remain a lightning rod -- the story caught fire: advertisers got cold feet, the enormously sympathetic Rutger's players looked enormously pained on TV, and coach Vivian Stringer wouldn't let go of the mic.

Imus threatened to sue CBS for breach -- alleging that his on-air behavior was not only contractually protected but contractually encouraged -- and got a settlement said to be between $10 million and $20 million.

Nothing is Forever

But evidently nobody actually thought Imus would or should stay off the air. Major detractors Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are MIA on Imus' return. Joe Scarborough, who hosts "Morning Joe" in the old Imus 6-8 am time slot, was this morning shaking his head at the treatment his predecessor had endured and high fiving Imus's windfall.

Imus picks up where he left off on Dec 3 and, thanks to CBS's blink, he got an unscheduled paid vacation at a rate of perhaps more than $2 million a month. So what was this all about? As Emily Litella used to say: "Never Mind."

A Pew Research study conducted at the time of the Imus firing found that 54% thought the punishment fit the crime (61% of whites and 53% of blacks). Another 32% overall thought it was too tough.

The study found that the percent of news coverage devoted to the saga was 26% while only 20% said they followed that story most closely. The war in Iraq filled 10% of the news hole but was identified by 26% as being the story they were most interested in. Only 6% thought the Imus story got too little coverage, while 57% thought it got too much.

Disconnect? Sure, and no real surprise there.

Coach stringer might have summed this up better than anyone:
"I figured that he probably would be going back at some point, and as we said all along, we never said he should never work again," Stringer said in a recent interview with ESPN's Doris Burke.

"But at the end of the day, what can we do? We could have fallen into the same ditch that we all do and call him all these names and demand that he be fired and all these other things. But I think that if he's sincere about his apologies and his remarks to our players, then we'll see a much-changed Imus."
Or not.

Any bets on whether this gets cued up all over again? Anyone struggling to figure out lessons learned here is not alone.

Cold Water for Colbert

It looks like Stephen Colbert's dream ended a bit early.

Pundits and bloviators will be dissecting this campaign for years, the better to establish bragging rights to the claim s/he was the first to see the cracks that would eventually cause the damn to break. Or maybe even had cast the first stone at the glass house. Or some other hackneyed cliche.

The line forms here.

Colbert can still apparently get on the South Carolina ballot by gathering enough signatures. The funny thing about this oddly unfunny "campaign" is that Colbert's fan base is nearly as large and at least as rabid as the right-wing blowhard he mocks, so you never know.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

From the Desk of Donald Rumsfeld . . .


For those of us only just recovering from the Halloween scariness of belligerent children demanding tributes and threatening to create havoc if denied, here is today's shocking news: Don Rumsfeld didn't like the media and wrote as many as 60 memos a day to uparmor his E-Ring bulwarks against assaults emanating from fronts at home and abroad.

They call the flurry of these memos "snowflakes," but they are more like acid rain.
Neither Europe nor the United Nations understands the threat or the bigger picture, Rumsfeld complains. In other words, the people who, prior to 9/11, had suffered close to 100% of all the world's worst terrorism just don't get it.

It's probably just a media plot to deny Rumsfeld's heirs the chance to cash in on a "Write It When I'm Gone" windfall. But since the post-resignation release of his classified memo arguing for "a major adjustment" in Iraq because the war wasn't going well didn't do much to spark a reappraisal of his tenure, it is doubtful these -- marked just "for official use only" -- will help much either with the legacy thing.

But it's not for trying: The Post reveals that Rumsfeld privately shrugged off a deteriorating situation in Iraq a year after invasion as much has he did publicly; that fear-mongering was key to job-security strategy; that Muslims don't like hard work and that's why they get into trouble and have to be treated differently.

About that last one: ask your parents and grand-parents if they ever heard something like that in the good old days, except the proper noun in sentences then was "Blacks" (I guarantee another word was used), or Irish or Italians or Mexicans ...."

War Is Hell. You Didn't Know That. Really.

In a 2004 memo on the deteriorating situation in Iraq, the man who told us that you "go to war with the army you have" concluded that the challenges there are "not unusual," the Post reports.

Attacked by a platoon of retired generals calling for him to step down in 2006, Rummy smoothly played the fear card from the bottom of the deck: "Make the American people realize they are surrounded in the world by violent extremists." Leave out the part that I am one of them.

Neither Europe nor the United Nations understands the threat or the bigger picture, Rumsfeld complains in another memo. In other words, the people who, prior to 9/11, had suffered close to 100% of all the world's worst terrorism just don't get it.
He also lamented that oil wealth has at times detached Muslims "from the reality of the work, effort and investment that leads to wealth for the rest of the world. Too often Muslims are against physical labor, so they bring in Koreans and Pakistanis while their young people remain unemployed," he wrote. "An unemployed population is easy to recruit to radicalism."
Right. So the Saudi Royal family is radicalized because they don't work, and Muslims who toil in the oil fields -- didn't he see Syriana? -- are the long tail of our effort to infuse Democracy in the region.

This is Captain Queeg stuff. No mention of a conspiracy to deny him his strawberries, but very much they fought me at every turn. As Holly Hunter replied when a sarcastic boss asserted that It must be nice to always think you're the smartest person in the room: No, it's awful.

The twice former and never again defense chief is understandably miffed. Rumsfeld aide Keith Urbahn tells the paper this is all very unfair. Gross mischaracterizations. Only "carefully selected" examples of some 20,000 memos his boss wrote in office excerpted. Misunderstood as the planner, helmsman and co-chief evangelist of the the Iraq war, Rumsfeld is now misunderstood emeritus.

I thought Halloween was yesterday. I am still scared.

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