Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Barack vs. Bill

While I'm not crazy about the ongoing Barack Obama-Bill Clinton smackdown, I get why it works for both campaigns.

As we saw in the quick "truce" over Hillary's comments on Martin Luther King, Obama and Hillary Clinton realize that direct attacks on each other (especially on volatile issues like race) are tricky. If she attacks him head-on, she risks looking mean-spirited and petty (and at worst racist); if he attacks her head on, he risks looking nasty in a way that drags down his positive campaign (and at worst, he looks sexist--cf. "you're likable enough").

But Barack vs. Bill is a lot more comfortable--the press and public seem to rather enjoy watching two men whaling on each other. And Bill's enormous popularity among African Americans ("first black president," etc.) seems to insulate him from any suspicion of racism, in a way that doesn't seem to apply to Hillary.

Still, I can't help thinking that continuing down this road is not good for anyone. The risk for the Clinton campaign is that it reveals--and tests--the extent to which Hillary's campaign rests on nostalgia for Bill's presidency (an appeal to which I am not totally immune); if "the man from Hope" begins to look like a meanie who's trying to bring down Obama, I don't think it bodes well for Hillary the rest of the way. On the other hand, it could also significantly weaken Obama by forcing him to more aggressively attack Hillary, which I think is a losing proposition for him. (This is where I think maybe the Reagan comments were pretty smart: it allows Obama to (rhetorically, at least) distinguish himself from "Clintonism" without having to attack either Clinton head-on.)

You could make the argument (as I think some Democratic activists are) that these fisticuffs are a good thing--they get everyone sharper for the general election. This is especially true for Obama, whose ability to go negative and/or respond to vicious personal attacks has not been as obviously tested (although my theory, as I've suggested, is that such personal attacks do not seem to work very well against Obama, which I think is one of his major strengths for the general election). The worst-case scenario for me would be that a long series of attacks back and forth turns Democrats off of both candidates and dampens enthusiasm for November. I don't think that's likely, but it is already taking some of the fun out of all of this.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Obama Wins at Caesars!

This is totally awesome. The Nevada Democratic Party site has caucus-by-caucus results, which means you can see exactly how each candidate did at the casino caucuses.

The theory was that these at-large caucuses would help Obama, since the culinary workers' union (which represents many casino workers) had endorsed him. It doesn't seem to have worked out that way--Clinton edged him out in most of the casinos. However, Obama did win the caucuses at Caesars Palace and the Luxor. Right on!

Also, I now think Obama has material for a good attack ad. Which casino gave Clinton her biggest margin of victory? Paris. I can see the commercial now: "Hillary Clinton...they love her in Paris!"

P.S. So...the more I think about it, the more I can't see in what way Obama didn't win. This is a caucus, so there is no "popular vote." All the caucuses did was to choose delegates to the county conventions, whose sole job (at least as far as presidential politics is concerned) is to choose delegates to the national convention. And it seems that according to the way Nevada apportions its delegates, even though Clinton numerically has more county delegates, Obama will end up with 13 national delegates to Clinton's 12--it's a little like losing the popular vote but winning the Electoral College.

So it's a win, right? At least that's how the Obama camp is seeing it.

P.P.S. The Nation breaks it down, though they seem to be the only ones running with this "maybe Obama really won" story.

Obama and Clinton...Tie?

While everyone is reporting that Hillary Clinton has won the Nevada caucuses, it appears that Obama will be awarded more delegates in the end. Quoth DailyKos: "Obama wins Nevada."

So...shall we call it a tie and move on?

Friday, January 18, 2008

No One Is Safe

for Steve Halle

Dear Mongolian Death Worm,

No one is safe from my bureaucracy of cheese. We may as well pretend that this high-salt Easter is a peanut of plenty. But digging deeper we find overt Elizabeth, filthy with time. Yes of course this is straight from the heart.

Now I am in my spidersuit and running for Wolf Catcher of the World. Don't think you'll tell me how much you "like" me: I know.

Hurry up and turn that tumor over while I got my mind set on it. No parents are home to give us gumdrop drips, so just call every woman man and child to sharpen the blades of this straight-talk lawnmower. You know the way. It's just a little tickle, nothing serious like what's seeping through the wall.

Friday nights I stay home and watch Queen of Sheba reruns on my gunmetal eyes. Click this, click that, bushy-tailed and karaoke-red.

Begin interview with hard right, then throw over and stabilize somewhere two miles below center. Then query each node crushed underfoot before dicing and eating. Don't get all, you know, accusatory on me. In this new order we'll take it one spay at a time.

Sleep well,

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Al Gore for...VP?

Came across this wacky post from the Times (UK) Online suggesting that Al Gore would be a great candidate...for vice president, with Obama at the top of the ticket.

Now I think Al Gore is great and all, but this seems like a profoundly dumb idea. (Okay, you can't blame this guy for coming up with the idea: see also here, here, here, and here, for starters.)

Here are the columnist's 10 reasons for the idea, along with my responses:

1. He brings experience to the ticket. Inexperience is Obama's greatest weak point.
Inexperience is, in fact, Obama's greatest strength. His advantage is that he is a fresh face, with no record to bog him down, and that he represents change. Gore's long record of accomplishment would in fact be an albatross; the entire campaign would become about attacking Gore.

2. He represented a southern state, so he would broaden the geographical base of Obama's campaign.
Gore won exactly one state south of the Mason-Dixon line: Maryland. (Well, he also won Florida, and hence the election, but that's another matter.) There's no Southern advantage here.

3. He would rouse the Democratic base, stoking their desire for revenge for 2000 and increasing the turnout on the Dem side. This would allow Obama to concentrate on swing voters.
You misunderstand the psychology of the Democratic base, which prefers to shunt its previous "losers" into oblivion. Remembering the 2000 election makes the average die-hard Democrat ill and discouraged rather than angry. Bush makes them angry.

4. He would bring lustre to the ticket, which could be important if facing John McCain. The Republican will not be able to boast a VP candidate who has won both an Oscar and a Nobel prize.
The ticket does not need "lustre." Obama is riding high precisely because he is a media darling, a superstar with far more charisma than Gore. And if Gore does bring lustre, that's a bad thing; the VP should never outshine the top of the ticket. (The idea that Americans will vote for an Oscar and a Nobel winner is laughable. Jimmy Carter won a Nobel and I don't see anyone proposing him as a candidate.)

5. He is a good debater with an excellent track record in the VP debates.
No one watches VP debates.

6. He would push climate change up the agenda during the election, exposing Republican weaknesses.
Climate change is a winner if it is *an* issue (one that shows the ignorance and intransigence of the Bush administration), but not if it is *the* issue (showing that the Democrats are really tree-huggers bent on destroying the economy). And it doesn't work if McCain is the nominee.

7. He would bring the Democratic establishment behind Obama without him having to select Hillary.
The less Obama is associated with the "Democratic establishment," the better.

8. He served in Vietnam, volunteering even though he opposed the war. This remains an issue and would certainly be one if McCain was the Republican candidate.
Obama is too young for Vietnam service to become an issue. Gore has never seemed comfortable making an issue of his own service anyway.

9. His record on terror and Iraq inside the Clinton White House was a good one. He would be able to deploy this to help Obama when foreign policy comes to the forefront.
The last thing the Democrats need is a round of finger-pointing about whether Clinton/Gore or Bush/Cheney are to blame for making the country more vulnerable to terrorism. Right now the responsibility is solely on Bush's shoulders; leave it there.

10. His re-election would be exciting for the media and another first, helping the Obama bandwagon roll. No VP has run for a third term. But there is no law against it.
Um...I don't know. Isn't electing the first black president of the United States enough for the media to chew on?

Moral of the story: British (and also, I'm afraid, Canadian) punditry on U.S. politics should be used for amusement purposes only.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Let's Face It...

It should also tell you something about where my current energies lie that I'm assuming the only way anyone will even know I'm making posts here is when they see it in the feed on my Facebook profile.


I am weirdly realizing that this blog has been inactive far longer than it was ever active. Looking back at my archives, it seems like my most active posting period lasted only from about March 2003 (!) to August 2004--just under a year and a half--which was followed by a 6-month gap. So that makes over three years of mostly sporadic posting.

Maybe it's not surprising that the urge to blog coincides with those periods where I am, or should be, working most intensely. It started when I was making the first real push to write my dissertation; I'm feeling like resuming now that I'm trying to finish up the last revisions on that dissertation--now a book project--by the end of the month.

Looking back through the archives does have its pleasures, though. I am particularly pleased with the prescience of this particular post from May 2004:
There's also an awestruck profile of Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama that should strike terror into the hearts of the right; this guy is good. At one point, an Illinois congresswoman goes into a meeting with George W. Bush sporting a campaign button:

On her way out, she said, President Bush noticed her "OBAMA" button. "He jumped back, almost literally...And I knew what he was thinking. So I reassured him it was Obama, with a 'b'. And I explained who he was. The President said, 'Well, I don't know him.' So I just said, 'You will.'"

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

MLA Marathon Reading

Dodie Bellamy, Garin Cycholl, Kevin Killian
Okay, so it's been, oh, 6 months or so since my last entry. But I'm popping back up to share the slew of photos I took at the MLA marathon reading in Chicago. I tried to get a shot of every reader, but I think I missed a couple at the beginning and maybe in the second half when I got up to stretch my legs and raid the snack table. Aldon Nielsen's pics put mine to shame (he got that darn flag-through-the-window shot I was trying to get all night). Organizer Bob Archambeau and participant Philip Metres offer their takes as well.

Relive the whole thing at PennSound.

Also, I nominate Dodie and Kevin for most photogenic.