Category Archives: 2020 Presidential

OK, now I’m numb. And I don’t mean comfortably…

Melania

Today, Jennifer Rubin said it’s OK not to watch the RNC. After all, most people aren’t:

And do not worry that you are missing out on what others are absorbing. “The first night of the Republican National Convention averaged 17 million viewers on Monday, a sharp drop of 26% from 2016,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “The audience figure from Nielsen was also below the opening night of last week’s Democratic National Convention, which averaged 19.7 million viewers” over the three major English language broadcast networks and three leading cable news channels.

Relatively few people, it turns out, want to subject themselves to monotonous speeches delivered at high decibels….

Nevertheless, not having read that, I tried again last night. And… I ended up with nothing to say. The only thing that really occurred to me would be to express distress at the way they keep repeating the same absurd lies, over and over: They’re socialists! They want to defund the police! They hate America! Yadda-yadda! (And I’m still puzzling over that one the McCloskeys — Mr. and Mrs. 2020 Republican — trotted out Monday night, that the Democrats would do away with suburbs…)

They just keep shouting those idiotic falsehoods, over and over.

But there was nothing new about that. I experienced the same all Monday night, as well. I think on Tuesday night I just reached the point of being numb. And not comfortably so.

Is that the point? Is that the strategy? Make everyone so numb they can’t think any more?

If so, it’s working. By the time Melania spoke, I was no longer forming impressions. I have nothing to say about anything she said. I did wonder briefly about what she was wearing — was it a dress? a coat? is there a message on the back of this one? — so apparently, the brain still retains the potential to be distracted by trivialities.

Don’t know if I’ll even try tonight. Or if so, I’ll just keep it on with the sound off and then turn it up to listen to Pence. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the man deliver a speech in the last four years, and he is (shudder) vice president, so I should probably check it out, right? (Please tell me I don’t have to.)

Those who were there for a night of weirdness, and those who were not

Yikes.

Yikes.

I just thought I’d throw out a few scattered thoughts, which is probably an appropriate way to deal with the odd time I spent watching weirdness on the Boob Tube last night.

I’ll divide this into two chapters: People who were there, and people who were not.

We’ll start with the weirdness — people who were there.

The McCloskeys. I would see these people as a parody, an SNL skit — except there was nothing about them that was in the slightest way funny. You’d think there would be, after having seen photos of them on the day that brought them celebrity. I mentioned a couple of days ago that after I rewatched “Spaceballs” during a workout, it hit me “that the tubby guy with the pink shirt, too-long khakis, bare feet and ‘Look at me; I’m a soldier!’ rifle reminds me a lot of Rick Moranis spoofing Darth Vader. The McCloskeys looked so absurd holding their weapons, like they’d never held such objects before, and had no idea what they were for. Like Trump holding that Bible. But then, they came on television unarmed, and all the humor of the situation disappeared. Sitting there, they were like some disorienting twist on “American Gothic.” And then I heard them speak, and their words seemed to have been written by some BLM wokester trying to show us what modern racist white people sound like. All I could say on Twitter was, “Wow, they actually did it! They actually trotted out that sad, strange couple from St. Louis! Now that I’ve heard them speak, I feel MORE embarrassed for them…”

Kimberly Guilfoyle. Wow, OMG, etc. I had recently heard of this person in a context that caused me to Google her. But I had never seen her “live.” It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen on a convention stage, real or virtual, and I’m including Clint Eastwood talking to the empty chair. All I said was, “So THAT’S Kimberly Guilfoyle, huh? All righty, then. What’s she on?” Initially. Later, I added, “My, my. She got MORE worked up at the end…” Someone explain to me the thought process that led whoever was screening speakers to put this person on the program. Or her strange boyfriend, for that matter — although we know why he was on the agenda, don’t we? I later heard that the word “cocaine” was trending during his performance. I’m glad I missed it.

The rest of the Trump family. I’m sort of looking ahead here, since I see several others of his familial entourage are going to be on tonight. Everyone except, perhaps, his sister. Because, of course, this is not a Republican Party convention. It’s a Trump personality cult convention. As I’ll mention below, you don’t have the usual dignitaries who would place the event within a historical GOP context. You have the kinds of whackadoodles who will pledge everlasting loyalty to the Trump brand. Which includes the family, and a family member’s girlfriend. Which I guess answers my question above as to how Kimberly “I Want to Bite the World with My Big Teeth” Guilfoyle got onto the podium.

Nikki Haley. I missed this. I’m going to go back and find and watch it. But my understanding is that she was sort of the calming influence to set up fellow South Carolinian Tim Scott. Part of the process of transitioning from the loudly crazy. I’ll bet she was good at that. Disappointing that she was there, though. For some time, she’s distanced herself from the Trump circus. It’s rather awful, and something that will always attach to her name to her discredit, that she showed up now to pledge her fealty.

Tim Scott. This was the highlight of the evening. It was a stunning contrast to everything that had gone before, a speech that would not have been out of place at a real Republican convention 30 or 40 years ago. Which is the moment Sen. Scott seems to think he’s living in, speaking of a GOP that’s all about personal responsibility, fiscal restraint, and loving America. I don’t know Tim Scott, by the way. He emerged beyond local Charleston politics after my time dealing professionally with state leaders. I’ve never even met him. But I have the impression that he’s a nice man, a sincere man. A good man, although a terribly deluded man to let himself be used this way. And he brought that to the screen last night. A person who saw nothing but his speech might convince himself, “It’s OK to vote Republican this year! It really is!” But that person would have to do what Tim Scott has done: Ignore everything we’ve seen over the last four years. It was a stroke of towering manipulation to put this nice, decent thoughtful black man on in the slot of honor on the first night, after a couple of hours of manic racist rants. Surely no one’s buying it. Right?

Then, there were the people who were not there:

Any former president or nominee. OK, so only one former president is alive. But this is pretty jarring — the complete lack of anyone whose presence puts a stamp on the legitimacy of the gathering, who says Yes, this is the convention of a party that is both Grand and Old. We’ve never seen this before, and surely no one has missed the point — that all this is about is Donald J. Trump and those who will remake themselves in his image.

Lindsey Graham or Henry McMaster. Not that I missed them at all. But it’s interesting. Before becoming Trump’s mindslaves, these guys pretty much represented what Republicanism was about, in South Carolina anyway. Remember, Henry was Ronald Reagan’s appointee as U.S. attorney, and that sort of affiliation was what defined him for decades. But these South Carolinians were set aside for two who represented a momentary, shockingly bold attempt to pretend that the rest of the evening hadn’t been about white people being terrified by dark people (I mentioned the McCloskeys, right?). So it’s worth noting.

Bob Inglis. God Bless Bob. Bob, of course, was one of the original religious-right conservatives who took over the party in the first half of the 1990s. He was the prototype of the sort of Republican Tim Scott sees himself as. He was a man of principles then, and he’s a man of principles now. Which we saw yesterday.

That’s enough to start a discussion. Have at it…

I shot this in 2004, on actual film -- which I had to take to a Duane Reade and have digitized so I could send it back to Columbia. As you see, a typical GOP convention of the past -- with Bush 41, and Rudy before he became Trump's boy.

I shot this in 2004, on actual film — which I had to take to a Duane Reade and have digitized so I could send it back to Columbia. As you see, a typical GOP convention of the past — with Bush 41, and Rudy before he became Trump’s boy.

Good job, Joe! Now, let’s get on with saving the country

"The choice could not be more clear..."

“The choice could not be more clear…”

I was really puzzled at first by the Kathleen Parker column The State ran this morning, panning the Democratic Convention. She seemed to get it all wrong. She griped about how “the only thing I dislike more than a circus ringmaster running my country is manipulative, emotion-mining propaganda,” and said she could barely watch it.

Which is how I feel about MOST conventions, regardless of party; I have to turn them off or walk out of the room periodically to keep my head from exploding — all that throwing of red meat to snarling partisan mobs.

But as I said on the second night, this convention wasn’t like that — which I finally decided was because the mobs weren’t there! They weren’t feeding off each other in ways calculated to turn off anyone who isn’t one of them. As I said that night, “The thing I hate about conventions is missing!”

Then I saw that this was Kathleen’s impression of the first night — this is what you sometimes get these days from print outlets that go to bed in the early evening. What you read is often days past the sell-by date. (The rather belated post I put up about the second night ran two days ago.) I didn’t watch that first night, so I guess I can’t argue with the column.

Anyway… now that it’s over, I can say this was the best convention I’ve seen in many cycles, maybe the best since the days when the gatherings actually had a purpose, and did work and made decisions.

It had a big finish, with Joe doing a great job in his acceptance speech. I loved it from the start:

And I loved it at the end:

But there was so much more. Like that amazingly brave kid talking about his and Joe’s stutters. This did so much, including shaming the idiots who try to attribute Joe’s occasional flubs to cognitive weakness. I honor that kid. The boy’s story of his interaction with Joe also caused one pundit to say something like (I can’t find the link right now; I read so much this morning), can you imagine Donald Trump making the effort to help a child? (See this update.)

Before that, there was the neat thing with all those former contenders simply talking about what a great guy Joe is. That was really nice. And what they said came across as more sincere, and certainly more relaxed, than the things they had said on the stump. I say that not to denigrate their candidacies, but to emphasize how real they seemed in talking about how and why people love Joe.

That got taken down a notch by Michael Bloomberg’s solo shtick. He didn’t say anything wrong; he’s just so awkward as a speaker.

The previous night had been a little flat, except for Barack Obama’s masterful speech. No, I wasn’t impressed by Kamala’s. Nothing wrong with it; there was just nothing great about it, either. Hillary Clinton was forgettable (which may be a good thing). But Obama lit up that dull night.

The ending, though, was great. There’s no way any rational, fair-minded person in America saw and heard the convention and came away from it wanting to do anything but get out and vote, immediately, for Joe Biden.

It’s a shame we have to wait so long. And endure such wretched stuff between now and then. I expect to be nauseated by this time next week.

Anyway, here’s Joe’s speech if you missed it:

I’m really digging this sort of convention

Hawaii

Well, Bud already kind of said what I wanted to say — or part of what I wanted to say. But dang it, I said it on Twitter last night!

Anyway, I mentioned before that I sort of didn’t get around to watching the first night of the DNC. But I did watch last night — although I missed maybe the first hour — and almost immediately loved it. My first, rather tentative, impression:

Normally, I tend to stew a lot during these things, whichever party is doing its thing. I might be watching the convention of the party whose candidate I wholeheartedly support, but dang — so many of those other people, throwing out all their partisan talking points, get on my nerves. There are high points, such as Bill Clinton’s magnificent speech in 2012, but then low points, such as Elizabeth Warren’s speech that very same night. And then there are all these speeches from people I never heard of, whose distinguishing characteristic is that they are enthusiastic partisans, and they’re standing there tossing out trite red meat to the crowd.

But I didn’t feel that way at all last night — even during the odd few seconds when AOC was on. She’s on, and suddenly you realize she’s… nominating Bernie Sanders? Did no one tell her what’s going on? Oops, she’s gone…

But hey, there was nothing partisan about it. Just AOC interrupting the party shindig to nominate somebody who isn’t actually a Democrat. Someone Democrats had decided rather firmly to pass on. It was just… odd.

What followed that, though, was wonderful:

Those vignettes from across the crunchy were both goofy, and wonderful. Celebrating what America is about, a snapshot at a time. These delegates didn’t just represent their states, they brought their states with them! And it was fun.

Quite a few people reacted by saying there seemed little reason why this would ever be done the old way, after this. And at least one I saw pointed out that this far better way was also quicker. Yup.

Finally, I realized why I liked ALL of this. Sally Yates, Bill Clinton, Colin Powell — all of it:

Far as I’m concerned, this is the way it should always be done in the future.

Indiana

Aw, is The Nation getting all surly? Things must be going well.

I didn’t actually watch the first night of the DNC last night. It seems to me appropriate to watch the first night of the first virtual convention in the modern fashion. I didn’t watch it while it was “on,” to use a 20th century term.

Instead I’ve been streaming bits of it, as I have felt like it, today.

I like what I’ve seen, but I don’t really have any general observations to offer about the whole thing. But apparently The Nation does, based on this email I got:

surly

Looks like the first night made The Nation kinda surly. Check out such nonsense as “Democrats err by amplifying Kasich’s claptrap over AOC’s progressive vision.” Wow. I thought Kasich’s clip was great. It was essentially, “Here’s why everybody should vote for Joe — especially those in the overwhelming majority of the country that doesn’t drink AOC Kool-Aid for breakfast.”

This is good news. It underlines that the convention is appealing less to the “woke” crowd, and more to the rest of us — the aforementioned overwhelming majority.

This is excellent. I like this. This is exactly what we need to end the Trump nightmare…

Your reactions to Kamala Harris announcement?

Joe and Kamala

I’ve been too busy to write another full post this afternoon, and will be for awhile.

But I thought I’d give you a place to discuss Joe Biden’s decision to name Kamala Harris as his running mate.

A couple of you have mentioned it already on other posts. For instance, Randle said:

Biden chose wisely. Not my first choice, but it gives us another window into his character. No grudges, a willingness to accept criticism and no fear of an “ambitious “ woman. Onward.

That says it well. It’s so much a part of who Joe is that he dismissed my biggest objection to her — her particularly egregious attempt to sabotage him in that first debate. Joe doesn’t care. Maybe I shouldn’t, either.

But now that I’m faced with it, I realize that was more or less my only objection. By contrast, I had many profound objections to Elizabeth Warren, and we all dodged a number of bullets when he didn’t name Susan Rice. I was worrying again about her just this morning. In a piece that was pretty much a roadmap to the problems the GOP could have thrown at her, Bret Stephens reminded me why she was my least-favorite member of Obama’s national security team.

So, welcome, Kamala. Let’s get this done now.

If y’all start discussing it, I’ll join in later….

 

Hey, Joe: ‘People like me’ like Karen Bass…

Joe poll

All year, various Democrats — I think I’ve told you how many lists I got on as a result of working on James and Mandy’s campaign in 2018 — have sent me “polls” that are, as you’d expect, intended to involve me in a task that ends with giving money.

But I occasionally pause in my mass extermination of emails and fill one out — mainly to see what sort of questions are being asked. I then I click away when I get to the donation part.

Today, I stopped on a particularly superfluous one that asked for “confirmation” on the question, “DO YOU APPROVE OF JOE BIDEN?” But I decided to click on it because it mentioned that the Democratic National Convention, such as it is this year, is two weeks off. So I thought it might ask me about the Veep decision.

And the last few days, I’ve been grabbing any choice that presents itself to share the idea that Joe needs to pick Karen Bass — and that he needs to, without any doubt:

  • Say no to Kamala Harris.
  • Say no to Elizabeth Warren.
  • Say no to Susan Rice.

Because all three of those are highly problematic. I’ve been particularly alarmed by the frequent mentions of Susan Rice — my least-favorite member of the Obama team — in recent days.

And it’s not that Karen Bass is the only possible person to choose. But she’d be excellent– something I’ve become even more persuaded of as I see the rather silly efforts to bring her down (not being on board with anti-Castroism when she was in high school? having said polite things to Scientologists in 2010? really? are those the best you’ve got?) — and I want her to get mentioned a lot as a way of countering the never-ending wave of buzz over the three really bad choices.

There are others out there — for instance, I was impressed by this piece headlined “The Case for Competence” that praised both Rep. Bass and Gina Raimondo. But Rep. Bass keeps making the short lists, and Gov. Raimondo does not, so I’m pushing the one with a chance.

It’s been encouraging to see her mentioned so frequently in recent days, even as I’ve cringed to see one or more of the The Problematic Three mentioned as well. I don’t want to jinx this, but… it sort of reminds me of the way voters finally coalesced around Biden himself after all those months of nonsensical pushing of other candidates (such as Harris, and Warren, and of course Bernie). I’m seeing something happen I’ve been waiting and hoping for.

I’ve got this feeling that Rep. Bass is the one Joe himself would pick if he just went with his own judgment. So any tiny thing I can do to increase buzz for her, I’m trying to do. Maybe it will make somebody else mention her positively, too. And then someone else. And maybe somewhere on that chain of reactions, Joe himself will see it and be encouraged, see that he’s not alone on this. If it can just slip through, amid all the nonsense pushing Harris, Warren and Rice.

It’s a long shot, but this year — especially after seeing Joe shut down the competition once South Carolina had its say — I’m being optimistic. Why can’t we have two candidates who inspire confidence? Why not?

Anyway, so I clicked on the “poll,” and started answering the questions. But I almost quit and walked away when I saw the second one, “Do you think Joe Biden cares about people like you?”

ARRRGGGHHH! Think about this: Look at me, and tell me — what is a person like me? What does he look like, or sound like, or act like?

And who cares? What does this similarity to me have to do with anything? What kind of a jerk would I be if I only liked candidates who I thought would be good for “people like me?” Would that mean I was by implication saying, “The hell with everybody else?” And isn’t that the essence of being a Trump voter?

But I calmed myself down, knowing that Joe himself did not write this (and that I firmly believe that Joe cares about people like everybody), and that this offensive nonsense question is standard fare in these kinds of things, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Besides, maybe I’m looking at it wrong. Maybe “people like you” just means people who are like me in good ways, ways that matter. You know, people who have backed Joe from the start, because he is the kind of person who cares about everybody. People who see that he needs to pick somebody who’s a good fit, like Karen Bass.

People who want what’s best for Joe, and best for the whole country. Thoughtful, concerned people

Yeah, that’s the ticket…

I almost quit when I got to the second question,

I almost quit when I got to the second question,

Finally, it’s over: Bernie quits

Joe at 701

It’s taken a year, and we’ve finally gotten here. The place where we had to end up, if we’re serious about replacing the guy who’s so excited at the fantastic ratings his coronavirus briefings are getting.

It always had to be Joe. So we had to endure all those months of interminable “debates,” with this or that person being the hot new thing for a week or two, reminding me of the games the Republicans played back in 2012. (Seriously, remember when Herman Cain was the “front-runner?”)

Finally, on the last day of February, South Carolina gave the national Democratic electorate a good slap in the face, and it said “Thanks, I needed that,” and from then on has been giving Joe Biden overwhelming support. The other candidates started dropping out and giving their support to the one guy, out of the couple of dozen, who came into this thing with the qualifications for the job. (As I said last April, I was for any candidate who could be found in this picture.)

It was almost like they were all coming out of a trance and looking around them and saying, What were we thinking? It had to be Joe all along, from the moment he announced. Duh…

Except, of course, for Bernie Sanders.

Because Bernie was about Bernie. His campaign wasn’t about coming up with the most qualified nominee, or the one most likely to beat Trump. It was about Bernie, and Bernieism.

And so for a month we’ve had this Phony Campaign, sort of like the Phoney War of 1939-40, during which we pretended there was still a contested nomination. Or we would have, if we hadn’t been too busy staying alive.

But now that’s over, too. About time. Long past time, really.

So let’s all hunker down and stay safe and let this virus thing pass, and then get back on with the campaign to elect a normal, sane, qualified, decent human being as president of the United States….

Could COVID-19 give an advantage back to Bernie, contrary to most Democrats’ wishes?

biden debate

For a number of reasons, this would be a perfect time to declare a hiatus from campaigning, just as we’re putting off all sorts of aspects of our regular lives.

This would begin with Bernie Sanders dropping out. Then, it won’t even be necessary to hold the remaining primaries (which of course have no constitutional role in the selection of a president). The election can pick back up with Joe Biden being nominated at the convention.

We need to pause, and concentrate on staying alive between now and the summer.

Here are some of the reasons:

Last night’s debate illustrated the point that we’re just going through the motions now. The various things Bernie Sanders brings to the non-contest look increasingly irrelevant in light of what the nation is facing now. Here’s how Frank Bruni described the debate:

…Biden was able to portray Sanders’s grander plans for transforming the American economy as luxuries unaffordable in the face of a scourge, as distractions from the emergency upon us. “People are looking for results, not a revolution,” Biden said….

But there was something strained and strange about Sanders’s repeated pivots from the pandemic to income inequality, from the pandemic to corrupt pharmaceutical executives, from the pandemic to how many millionaires and billionaires have contributed to Biden’s campaign. The world has been transformed; the script remains the same….

This is an illustration of why I don’t believe in campaign promises. You’ve all heard the saying, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Bernie is all about his plans, as Elizabeth Warren was. But the job of president is about dealing with things that arise once you’re in office, things you can’t anticipate during the election. That’s why I always choose based on the candidate’s character and experience, not “read my lips” promises.

I think the coronavirus has made a lot of other people think more about this. Citing that same Bruni column, he also said of Sanders:

And he couldn’t claim the kind of experience that Biden repeatedly did, the intimate knowledge of what it’s like to be at the center of crucial national decisions.

Biden smartly understood that his eight years beside the last Democratic president and his foreign-policy seasoning are probably more reassuring to voters now than they were a month or even a week ago. So he marinated in them….

Odd metaphor (marinated?), but yes. That’s what I’m on about. Biden has the relevant experience.

Bernie thinks always in terms of his worldview and his plans. Talk about coronavirus, and he keeps trying to change the subject to his allegations that the system is fixed and billionayuhs are exploiting us all. Which really doesn’t help us deal with the pandemic upon us.

Nevertheless, COVID-19 could skew upcoming primaries in Bernie’s favor, contrary to the actual will of the electorate.

How’s that? Well, as we know, Bernie’s army of young voters have thus far failed to appear, which is why he’s getting pounded by Biden. But think about this: Who is more likely to show up at polling places during the coronavirus crisis? Younger voters, for two reasons:

  1. They think they’re going to live forever. Their lack of fear of consequences lead to all sorts of reckless behavior, from extreme sports to voting for Bernie Sanders. They’re constitutionally less likely to fear COVID-19, because they’re less likely to fear anything.
  2. They actually are at less risk from the virus. Younger people are less likely to die of it.
  3. The Biden majority thinks their guy is inevitable now, so they need not risk their lives turning out to vote for him.

While the numbers of young people coming out to vote still won’t match Bernie’s grandiose visions, a large enough percentage of older voters may stay home and hand Bernie a victory — even though most of the usual electorate, sitting at home, prefers Biden.

Doubt it? Think about the confusion of the last few days. I don’t know you, but I keep swinging back and forth in my mind about whether this or that activity is still OK to engage in. Of course, if it were just me, I’d turn out, because I’m that much of an obsessive about having my say. But not everyone is.

I suspect if Bernie won any of the new few primaries, the narrative would change. It could reverse, at least to some extent, the perception of Biden’s inevitability. I still don’t think Bernie could win, but he could drag the process out in a way that is destructive to the cause of beating Trump in the fall.

And of course, that’s what’s important.

I can hear some of you snorting, “Brad’s trying to rig things for his guy!” But what I’m actually doing is worrying that the coronavirus could rig the process for Bernie, contrary to the will of the great majority of Democratic voters — the majority that has turned out in such force in the last few contests before the nation started shutting down over the pandemic.

One day — tomorrow — could be enormously destructive to the cause of beating Trump, if the factors I’ve just described come into play in Illinois, Florida, Ohio and Arizona.

Maybe I’m wrong to worry. Maybe Biden will roll to easy victory in those contests tomorrow, and then it will become obvious even to Sanders that he should drop out. (And I think this is what most observers expect to happen. So would I, were I not a born worrier.) And maybe he even will, at that point..

But I confess that at this point, I’m a little concerned about what could happen tomorrow. And how it could fail to reflect the will of Democratic voters as a body, and continue to tear at party unity in a way that benefits Trump…

both Joe and Bernie

The Bernie Bros aren’t gonna let go of this thing, are they?

Note: Of course, Bernie being Bernie, he did not do what every actual Democrat has done, which is end his campaign and get behind Biden. That is reflected in updates below. We did not yet know when I wrote this post what he would do with the free media he conned everyone into giving him this afternoon. Now we know…

You probably know that Bernie will be making a live appearance in a few minutes:

The timing and choice of venue would suggest a candidate who’s about to drop out. At least, that would be the case with a conventional political candidate. With Bernie, who knows? Well, we will in a few minutes.

Meanwhile, I wanted to point to the way his fans are reacting. There’s this congressional candidate, who I suppose is eager to join The Squad:

Really? Have you met Joe Biden, or heard him talk? Are you familiar at all with the Democratic Party, of which he is a born standard-bearer? Or have you spoken to any of the actual working-class people who have been voting for him and not your guy, because they know Joe’s heart and they know he’s for them?

Sheesh.

Then there’s this:

Yeah. Right. That’s exactly what we need. Because otherwise Biden might beat Trump in the fall, and we don’t want that, do we?

If Bernie does drop out, and commit to the Democratic ticket, he’s going to have to move heaven and earth to get these people to go along with him…

bernie live

Finally, Michelle Goldberg gets it! For a moment…

argument

For close to a year, I’ve been listening regularly to the NYT’s podcast “The Argument,” starring three of the paper’s op-ed writers.

There are two people on the left — David Leonhardt and Michelle Goldberg — and one on the right, Ross Douthat.

That may sound a bit lopsided, and for me it is, but not in the way you think. Week after week, I agree to varying degrees with liberal Leonhardt and conservative Douthat, and get really frustrated and turned off by the views of Michelle Goldberg.

One reason for that is that she’s always dissing my man Joe. It started before he got into the race last year, with her strongly expressing her wish that he NOT get in the race. After that, she continued to be a prominent voice among the nattering nabobs of the left competing to see who could be more dismissive of the former VP.

It’s not that she hated him. It’s just that she, you know… dismissed him. She was all like, Oh, good old Uncle Joe; he’s a sweet guy and I can put up with him at the family gatherings, but we all know he’s past it, and he has no business getting back in the game — the poor guy’s going to break a hip or something. And he just doesn’t get the world of today…

And as I walk about downtown listening to these podcasts, I’m like, No, YOU don’t get it…

But today, I finally got around to listening to yesterday’s podcast, which was about Joe’s triumphs of the last few days, and finally, she got it! She was awesome in the degree to which she got it, and how well she expressed it. I had to go back and listen again to write down some of the great things she was saying, starting with…

Michelle Goldberg

Michelle Goldberg

So much of what we’ve been talking about the last few months, especially in the debates, has been irrelevant.

People… care less about the details of, you know, how we’re going to pay for universal healthcare, or Medicare for all vs. Medicare for all who want it.

There are people who really care about that stuff. But what most people care about is, you know, the house is on fire; how are you going to put it out, not how are you going to rebuild afterwards….

Yes! Absolutely! I’ve been so impatient with all the idiots out there talking about this process in terms of who got off the greatest zingers in last night’s debate, or how Elizabeth “I’ve got a plan for that” Warren was going to pay for those plans, or whatever…

Who cared? I didn’t. Because the house is on fire! Stop talking about rearranging the furniture!

Also, too many people fail to get that the problem isn’t this plan or that plan of Bernie Sanders. The problem is Bernie Sanders, and the way he and too many of his followers conduct themselves. And a moment later, Ms. Goldberg said some awesome things about that:

I don’t think the Sanders movement understands how alienating it is to people who aren’t already on board with it, or maybe to people who are on board with maybe 85 percent or 90 percent of what they believe.

There’s a sort of paranoid style in that movement…

I’ve been around the left long enough to know that the left has always attracted a certain number of people who, um… you know, who are sort of just in it for the reeducation camps, right?…

Left-wing movements kind of succeed or fail to the degree that they can, you know, marginalize or quarantine those figures…

Yes! Absolutely! You get it! Paranoid style!

When she made that crack about the re-education camps, I laughed out loud, right there in the middle of the household goods department in Belk. (On rainy days, I tend to go do my afternoon walk in the nearly empty Richland Mall, rather than walking across the USC campus and around the Statehouse.)

And one of the guys on the show — I think it was Leonhardt — laughed, too. It was so perfect, so dead-on.

You go, Michelle!

But then, later in the show, she said she was going to vote for Bernie instead of Joe.

And suddenly the member of the trio I love to boo was back. I’m just briskly walking into Barnes and Noble shaking my head. I can’t believe it…

It’s alright, I guess. Most of the world came around and backed Joe this past week. Some people just take a little longer. No way to speed it up without, you know, re-education camps…

Elizabeth Warren has to THINK about it? Really?

Warren before quitting, in an image from her Twitter feed.

Warren before quitting, in an image from her Twitter feed.

So Elizabeth Warren has dropped out.

But she has not endorsed anyone.

She says,

Not today. I need some space around this and want to take a little time to think a little more.

REALLY? You have to think about whether you want to back Joe Biden… or a guy who would lead to four more years of Trump, loss of the House, and zero chance of dumping the Senate majority that refused even to consider evidence in the impeachment “trial”?

What is this about? Angling for an offer from one camp or the other?

Speaking of which: There are people out there saying Warren should be Joe’s running mate. The old “balance the ticket” nonsense.

Absolutely not, Joe. Go with Amy Klobuchar.

In case you haven’t noticed, Democrats are rejecting the left wing of the party. Pick a representative of that faction, and you’ll lose large chunks of the coalition that’s assembled behind you these last few days, the coalition that will take you to victory over Trump. They’ll want someone else like you, and that’s Amy Klobuchar. Or some other moderate who didn’t run.

For that matter, the fact that she had to think about whom to support should disqualify her as a running mate, without considering anything else. Amy Klobuchar didn’t have to ponder it.

Anyway, I thought I’d better say that now…

Turns out American voters aren’t crazy after all (except in, you know, California…)

Joe at 701

Just kidding (kinda) with the California thing. Think about it: If Bloomberg had just dropped out and endorsed Joe 24 hours sooner, Sanders wouldn’t be winning in La-La Land, either.

This is just a day for celebrating the good, common sense of the American people.

After the insanity of 2016, after a year in which voters kept insisting on attaching themselves to anyone, anyone at all, except the obvious, sensible choice… after a year of “oh, but my ideology!” nonsense… everybody got together and realized that they’d always loved Joe, so, you know, let’s go with Joe.

And not a second too soon. The nation was babbling hysterically. We South Carolinians gave it a good, tough-love slap in the face. And on Super Tuesday, the nation said, “Thanks. We needed that…”

I don’t know about you, but for me, it feels great to see things taking their proper shape around me. Finally. It’s kind of like waking up from a nightmare, realizing it was a dream, and thinking: “Oh, it’s alright then…”

Suddenly, people remember what was obvious — no one else who was running had the ability to connect in a positive way not only with most Democrats, but with independents. And not only them…

Some of you will rain on my parade by saying, “Yeah, but Trump voters… they’re still crazy…”

Maybe. But maybe that won’t matter in November. Haven’t you seen those analyses that say Joe is winning on the strength of support from, not only African-Americans (whom the pundits ignored and dissed until South Carolina), but also white suburbanites? That means he’s winning the people who gave Democrats their 2018 wins in the House — people who are key to beating Trump.

Still, as I’ve said before, there is still a problem in the country, and it won’t be gone just because Trump loses the election. The fact that so many voted for him in 2016 — something the American electorate would NEVER have done before that — points to something being profoundly wrong out there. The Bernie Bros, who crave revolution, are another indicator of the same thing. The nation has to find a way to heal that disaffection.

But there’s no better way to do that than by lining up behind a decent guy most Americans can find it in themselves to actually like. That’s a good first step.

I hope those of my friends who supported other candidates in this process can forgive my enjoying this moment. I’m not enjoying your candidates’ losing. I’m celebrating their getting behind Joe. I already liked Amy and Pete. Now I like them more. I even like Bloomberg today — in spite of that if-he’d-dropped-out-before-Joe-would-have-won-California thing.

Today, I am hopeful — more so than I’ve been in awhile. We still have a long road ahead of us. Bernie, who as we all know doesn’t play well with others, is not going to quit. But now, there’s a clear path for the candidate who far better reflects what most of the country wants. And I feel good about that…

Top Five Coolest Airplanes Ever

F-4

I’m trying to keep my mind off of Super Tuesday today. The last three days have been wonderful, from Joe’s stunning win here, through the endorsements of Amy, Pete and Beto. But while Joe was concentrating on South Carolina, Bernie was getting a huge head start everywhere else, especially California. And Bloomberg was spending half a billion dollars to try to win the very voters Joe needs to stop Bernie.

Burl with one of his early models.

Burl with one of his early models.

So… how about a Top Five List? I’m feeling kind of basic today (I’m in a “Top Five Side One, Track Ones” mood), so let’s make this the sort of list we could have made when we were 11 years old and building model airplanes. Back when we weren’t cool (yet), but we had a keen sense of what we thought was cool. We can make it a sort of tribute list to our friend Burl Burlingame, who along with many other accomplishments was the best modeler any one of us ever knew.

And just to head off the “war-monger” cries from some of my friends, I’m sorry, but warplanes have always been cooler than civilian aircraft. Not because they’re warplanes, but, well, just look at them. Built for speed and performance, they’ll always be cooler than, say, a 707. The way a 1964½ Ford Mustang or a 1962 Jaguar XK-E is way cooler than a minivan.

This was inspired by a video YouTube suggested to me this morning. I had called up Cream’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” and YouTube suggested something called “Best Rock Songs Vietnam War Music.” And again, it’s not “War” that makes it cool. Think about the Vietnam War movies you’ve seen. Don’t they tend to have awesome soundtracks?

So, intending to just leave it playing while I worked, I called it up. And the first image on the screen was the above one, of an F-4 Phantom taking off. (No, wait — the flaps are down, so I think it’s landing. But I don’t know. Bob Amundson, can you give us a ruling?) It showed while CCR’s “Fortunate Son” was playing.

So I got to thinking, and here’s the list. And not in order of coolness — more chronological:

  1. Fokker DR.I Triplane. The Red Baron‘s plane, it was both wicked and ungainly looking — but all planes looked awkward back then, right? The SPAD was all right, and the Sopwith Camel had a great name, but the Fokker was cooler. Also, 11-year-olds who build airplane models like to say “Fokker.” Almost as good as saying the full name of the Fw 190.
  2. P-51 Mustang. Maybe the nicest-looking, solid-but-sleek design in aviation history. And quite a formidable fighter. Also, it looked so modern. (Weirdly, the P-47 Thurderbolt came later, but looked 20 years older — at least to my eye.) I had trouble on this one. I was torn between this and the Spitfire, which won the Battle of Britain (OK, the Hurricanes helped) — the ultimate emblem of British pluck. But as big an Anglophile as I am, I went with the American plane.
  3. C-47 Skytrain. Or Dakota. Or Gooney-Bird. OK, it’s not fast, and it’s not sleek. Definitely the Plain Jane of the bunch. But it was so awesome in its plainness. One of the main instruments that won the war for us. The Band of Brothers jumped out of them, they saved Berlin in the Cold War, and… It was the first plane I ever flew in, hopping over the Andes, up and down the Pacific coast of South America. An unbelievable amount of noise and vibration, but a real thrill for a kid. So I’m playing favorites here.
  4. F-4 Phantom. My generation’s version of the P-51. It had a solid look to it, like nothing could knock it out of the sky (a handy attribute when flying Wild Weasel missions), but also looked like it could fly like a bat out of hell. And it sorta could. These also loom large in my legend, from the ones that flew out of MacDill AFB when I lived there in high school to the ones the Kansas Air Guard flew over our house (we were under the takeoff pattern) when I worked in Wichita.
  5. X-15. The world’s first operational spaceplane, the futuristic great-grandchild of Yeager’s X-1. This was another one I had to think about a bit. It was competing with the SR-71, another sci-fi sort of aircraft. But the X-15 was the one I thought was cool when I was a kid, and it wins on sheer speed. The Blackbird could cruise at Mach 3.2, but in 1967, the X-15 set the speed record that still stands: Mach 6.70.

I almost put the Navy’s ultimate WWII plane, the F4U Corsair, on the list (foldable gull wings! Pappy Boyington!). But the P-51 beat that out as well as the Spitfire.

The North American X-15 rocket plane, made to fly to the edge of space.

The North American X-15 rocket plane, made to fly to the edge of space.

How did your precinct vote? NYT has a cool interactive map

big map

I find that the most convenient place to find that hyperlocal information, right down to my neighborhood level, is…

The New York Times. I tried finding it at thestate.com, and maybe it’s there (in fact, I feel like it MUST be), but I couldn’t find it.

Anyway, they have an awesome interactive map. And I see that in my neighborhood, my man Joe cleaned up, with a higher percentage of the vote than he got overall in Lexington County.

Here are the numbers for my precinct:

Quail Hollow

 

To get your precinct, just go to the link, zoom in on your county, and roll the cursor around until you see your own polling station.

Why’s Pete dropping out now? Because he was always the smart one

With Pete Buttigieg dropping out, one my favorite NYT features now looks like this:

no pete

So, Pete’s out, but sooner than I expected it.

This seems precipitous. Why didn’t he wait until after Tuesday?

Still, as Michael Corleone said about Tessio, Pete was always the smart one. He gets out now, making room for the eventual nominee, and the party will be grateful to him, which helps when he runs again.

He’s got all the time in the world. If he waits 20 years, he’d still be a young candidate — prime presidential age. For that matter, he could wait 40 years, and he’d still be no older than some of the top contenders today. And life expectancy will be so much longer then.

It’s such a smart move, so lacking in emotion or ego, that it makes Pete a little scary — kind of like Michael Corleone himself. Such perspective and self-control is remarkable in the young.

You know, Pete is the first candidate who I think I’m actually going to miss. Most of the rest, I was glad to see go. He was my third favorite — a distant third, just as Amy Klobuchar was a distant second. But still, one of my top three.

Speaking of Amy… ahem. Pete was doing better than you were. You got 3 percent in South Carolina. When my man Joe Lieberman got 3 percent in South Carolina, he dropped out. Better get while the getting’s good, if you want to be Joe’s running mate. He’ll be grateful, because with Pete also out, his only rival for the role of The Man Who Stopped Liberty Valance (I mean, Bernie) will be Bloomberg.

And I don’t even know what Tulsi Gabbard thinks she’s doing…

Did ‘Operation Chaos’ actually deploy on Saturday?

NBC

Yes, I think it did. It just wasn’t enough to stop Joe Biden’s huge victory.

Of course, I can’t be sure.

There are some indications that Operation Chaos DID turn out a few Republicans who tried to sabotage the Democrats by voting for Bernie Sanders.

(At this point, I would normally launch into an indignant sermon about how evil such an effort is — a deliberate attempt to undermine our democracy, and even worse, an attempt to make sure Americans have NO good choice in November. That’s something I can get pretty worked up about. But it failed pretty spectacularly, so never mind. Turns out most people aren’t jerks.)

Take a look at the results for our two neighboring counties:

  • In Richland, a strongly Democratic county, Joe got 51.9 percent of the vote, and Sanders got 17.7 percent.
  • In Lexington, one of the most Republican counties anywhere, Joe only got 39.9 percent of the vote — still a big win, but 12 points lower than in Richland. And Bernie got 23.6 — 6 points higher than in Richland.

Bernie did even better in Greenville, while still getting pummeled — 24.7 percent to Joe’s 38.2.

Makes you wonder how big Joe’s victory margin would have been without Republican interference… Or, for that matter, without Steyer spending $23 million on media alone in our state trying to steal Joe’s black support.

I would love to think that some Republicans turned out because they were Never Trumpers, trying to help the Democrats come up with someone who might beat Trump by voting for Joe. I think that’s possible. But there’s no way to be sure of that, either.

By the way, I’m very proud to point out that in my home county, Marlboro, Joe got 61.3 percent of the vote, and Bernie didn’t even come in second! Steyer did, with 20.2 percent. Which is an indicator that Steyer did make slight inroads into Joe’s African-American base. (Marlboro is a black-majority county.)

But it’s not that simple, either. Joe did even better in neighboring Chesterfield County, with 64.1 percent. But less than a third of that county is black. Which could explain why Sanders beat Steyer there.

Fun with numbers. (Mine came from The New York Times.)

The best of all possible primary results!

Post Joe

I was really hopeful, but I never would have guessed that, once South Carolina FINALLY got to have its say, things would have gone as wonderfully as this.

JOE WINS

The best shot I could get from where I was standing.

Joe CRUSHED it.

South Carolina DELIVERED.

Now, finally, you can see national media — who have seized every opportunity to be as dismissive of Joe as possible — saying that he has emerged as the man to stop Bernie Sanders.

Joe was always the candidate for real Democrats wanting to save their party, and beat Trump. (And he was the candidate for a lot of us independents, too.) People — especially African-American voters — in South Carolina knew that. Today, they told the rest of the country.

And the rest of the country is taking note.

Will it be easy? No. This helps on Super Tuesday, but it’s impossible to predict anything with so many variables. But right now, at this moment, the race has taken on its proper shape, and I am hopeful.

Just a few thoughts before I sign off for the night:

  • Now, the only person who might be able to contest for the role of moderate savior of the party is Mike Bloomberg, who has been spending like crazy trying to win Super Tuesday while everyone else was campaigning. After Tuesday, we’ll know whether he’ll still be a factor or not. But even though he wasn’t on our ballot, South Carolina has passed judgment on him — only about a fourth of voters viewed him favorably in exit polls. Biden was favored by about three-fourths of respondents.
  • Tom Steyer, the guy who spent $23 million just on media trying to be a spoiler in South Carolina, has dropped out. I don’t know why he was disappointed at the result. He got third place. But he won’t be terribly missed as we go forward.
  • Will one of the other moderates — say Amy Klobuchar — drop out and throw her support to Joe? Or just drop out, in which case Joe is the most likely beneficiary anyway.
  • Pete Buttigieg will probably wait and see if he does better on Tuesday. If he doesn’t, he will likely quit. And when he does, he should leave the race feeling pretty good about how well he did. He made a tremendous, positive impression on the country, and has laid a good foundation for a stronger run when he has more life experience under his belt.
  • Thank you, Jim Clyburn. The country owes you one. I think Joe would have won without your endorsement, but he wouldn’t have won like THIS.
  • Joe got more votes than Sanders, Steyer, Buttigieg and Warren combined. Just in case you didn’t notice…
  • Also, notice the map of South Carolina in the screenshot below. You can take a closer look here. Joe won every single county in the state.

That’s all for now.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited to see what happens next…

NYT SC

If you live 100 years, you may never again have a chance like this to influence the course of the nation

JRB-about-11

The last few days, I’ve been increasingly conscious of just how momentous this primary is today. I’ve felt the weight of it more and more.

I can’t think of a time when South Carolina played such a dramatic role in the selection of a president. Which is a big deal in and of itself. But the possible effects go far, far beyond that, sending ripples through our national politics that could be felt for a generation and more.

In the short term, one of two things will happen, depending completely on what my fellow South Carolinians do:

  1. Joe Biden will emerge as THE moderate that mainstream Democrats can get behind and stop Bernie Sanders from capturing the nomination. He’d still have a long road to travel to get there, even if his momentum from South Carolina leads to significant rewards nationally on Tuesday. But at least someone — and you know I believe he’s the best someone for this purpose — will be a position to deny the nomination to Sanders.
  2. Sanders will cement his standing as the front-runner, the majority of the Democratic electorate will remain fatally divided still among too many candidates, and Sanders will cruise to nomination on the strength of his passionate support among a minority of the party.

The second option, of course, will almost certainly lead to the re-election of Donald Trump, possibly with the kind of historic win that he lied about having in 2016.

Oh, it would be possible that enough Americans could die of coronavirus, and enough fortunes be wiped out on Wall Street as a result, for anybody, even Bernie, to beat Trump. But I certainly don’t want to see such a disaster. I don’t know about you.

And if something along those lines did happen, it’s extremely unlikely that Bernie will have a Democratic majority in either the House or the Senate. While voters might reject Trump personally over a pandemic, those moderate-to-conservative voters who elected moderate Democrats in 2018, giving that party its majority, will be sufficiently horrified at the prospect of President Sanders that they’ll vote to switch those districts back into the red.

Even if — and this is impossible — Democrats could keep the House while electing Bernie, and miraculously win the Senate, Bernie won’t be able to get his agenda through Congress. With both chambers being Republican, and the Republican base up in arms (in some cases possibly even literally) because of the defeat of Trump, he’ll get nothing but the back of the legislative branch’s hand. He’ll sit there in the Oval Office with his face getting redder and his arms flailing about, fulminating at how the system is rigged against him.

And he will keep his base as stirred up and angry as Trump keeps his. Because he promised them things, and they actually believed he could deliver. Nothing left to do but hate the billionayuhs even more, because obviously, obviously it will be their fault — in the Bernieverse.

But that wouldn’t be the worst news for the Democratic Party. The worst news is that it would be as dead as the GOP, and from basically the same kind of cause — its capture by someone who is not actually a Democrat, and who has crushed real Democrats on his way to nomination.

And in a way, the situation would be more overt than outsider Trump’s capture of the other party. Trump had always been kind of all over the place about his affiliation until just before the 2016 campaign. Bernie Sanders has made no bones about the fact that he is not a Democrat, and has refused to called one. And since calling himself a Social Democrat would be too tame, too mainstream, he has gone with the label “Democratic Socialist.” More in-your-face. More I-dare-you-to-vote-for-me. That’s Bernie.

You might think that after making such a strong run at the nomination in 2016, and obviously intending to try again, he might have softened a bit on his insistence that he was not a Democrat. But he didn’t; quite the contrary. It’s either Bernie’s way or the highway; he doesn’t bend even to appear to be a team player.

After Trump’s election, decent people who care about the country could at least place some hope in the Democratic Party, which had not yet gone off the rails. Surely the Democrats could find a way to beat this guy, and return our nation to the standards of decency and sanity that we were able to expect with our first 44 presidents.

Knowing the stakes, Joe Biden — a guy who had done his duty for his country for longer, and gone higher in public service, than any other member of the party — stepped forward to offer himself as the vehicle for that national return to sanity. He did so when almost anyone else would have sat back and enjoyed his grandchildren full time.

And if South Carolina comes through for him today, he’ll have a shot at accomplishing the mission. Just a shot, mind you. Nothing is guaranteed, but the alternative is to be resisted with all our might.

The stakes just couldn’t be higher. And it’s all in our hands. We will decide the course of the nation.