Category Archives: Parties

A story that sheds light on why I’m for Joe Biden

Biden stump 1

Tonight Joe Biden (and others) will be at the Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking. I had thought seriously about going, but decided I had too much to do to take the trip — almost two hours each way. (If you’re closer, I urge you to go. The Stump is always interesting, and this special-edition gathering promises to be particularly so.)

So I’ll give you a picture or two from the last time I saw and interviewed Joe at the Stump, and give you a link to my column about it. It was in 2006. (Special bonus feature: The column quotes former blog regular Paul DeMarco, who happened to be at the Stump — as I noted in a separate post at the time.)

And to add a measure of substance, here’s something else I meant to post last week. I don’t expect it to change any minds among those of you who don’t like Joe for whatever reason, but I offer it as another window into why I’m for him, and really don’t have a second choice among the others running.

It’s a story from the NYT about the way he handled the process that ended in a vote against Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee, Robert Bork. An excerpt:

Joseph R. Biden Jr. was on the brink of victory, but he was unsatisfied.

Mr. Biden, the 44-year-old chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was poised to watch his colleagues reject President Ronald Reagan’s formidable nominee to the Supreme Court, Robert H. Bork. The vote was unlikely to be close. Yet Mr. Biden was hovering in the Senate chamber, plying Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, a Republican of modestly conservative politics and regal bearing, with arguments about Bork’s record.

Rejecting a Supreme Court nominee was an extraordinary act of defiance, and Mr. Biden did not want a narrow vote that could look like an act of raw partisan politics….

Mr. Biden’s entreaties prevailed: Mr. Warner became one of 58 senators to vote against Bork, and one of six Republicans.

That’s Joe. As the piece says, it was a moment when “Mr. Biden’s political ethos found its most vivid and successful expression.” At a moment when most partisans would be satisfied simply to win, Joe wanted to go the extra mile to win in a way less likely to tear the country apart. One more excerpt:

The strategy Chairman Biden deployed then is the same one he is now proposing to bring to the White House as President Biden.

In the 1980s, as today, he saw bipartisan compromise not as a version of surrender, but as a vital tool for achieving Democratic goals….

And in both defining moments — his leadership of the Bork hearings and his third presidential campaign — Mr. Biden made persuading moderates, rather than exciting liberals, his guiding objective….

Yep, that sets him part from the people in his own party and the other who tend to think it terms of getting 50 percent plus one and cramming their policy goals down the opposition’s throat.

I have little patience with such people. And that’s another reason why Joe is my guy. He’s the one candidate who is the polar opposite of what’s wrong with our national politics…

Biden stump 2

Thoughts on the marathon ‘debate’ last night?

NYT debate graphic

Or perhaps I should say, further thoughts, since some of y’all have started the discussion on the previous thread. Which is cool.

As a conversation starter, I thought I’d post an image of the graphic the NYT ran this morning to go with a piece they had about winners and losers, featuring some of their opinion writers.

I read that this morning, and several other accounts of the night, and the consensus of what I’ve read — and I don’t strongly disagree with any of it — goes kind of like this:

  • Warren had the best night. That’s the consensus. I thought she started strong — I liked her Mayberry approach, with talking about her Aunt Bee instead of her usual intense ranting — but wasn’t as great the rest of the time.
  • Bernie seemed more and more to observers what he has always seemed to me — the cranky uncle who puts people off.
  • Yang embarrassed himself right out of the running with his money-giveaway gimmick. Too bad. I liked him.
  • Castro was second-worst, they say. Personally, I’d put him dead last and move up Yang. Basically what he did was the equivalent of blowing himself up with a grenade, in the hope that he could also wound Joe Biden in the process. Most thought it was bad; I think it was worse. He hasn’t learned what Kamala Harris learned belatedly: In the end, Democrats won’t like you for attacking Biden — and, by extension, Obama.
  • Kamala Harris was too scripted and rehearsed. Pretty much everyone thought she came across as phony.
  • Klobuchar did fine, but it wasn’t enough. And as one writer said, she remains irrelevant as the moderate alternative, unless Joe blows up. I still think she did better than the graphic above indicates.
  • I liked what Gail Collins said about Cory Booker: “So intense he kind of runs you over.” He’s like a younger, slightly (but only slightly) cooler, version of Bernie.
  • Buttigieg did OK, I thought. But others seemed to think he had an off night.
  • Beto was Beto. Most seemed to think he had a strong night. He continues to seem the callow (but earnest) youth to me. In that age bracket, Buttigieg still outshines him.
  • Consensus seems to be that Joe did all right — not great, not badly. He’s still the front-runner — with Warren breathing down his neck.

That’s about it. What did y’all think.

 

 

Yeah, Bernie, you’d BETTER be paying $15 an hour…

bernie15

This kind of cracked me up.

I still get emails from some job-posting services from way back when I got laid off, all those years ago. They are occasionally interesting, even entertaining.

But I don’t recall ever hearing from this one before. And weirdly, it came in on my ADCO email address rather than my personal one.

And as I said, it drew a smile. Yeah, Bernie, you’d better be paying that intern $15 an hour!

In case you’re interested, here’s the job description:

Senator Sanders is seeking a full-time legislative intern for the fall and spring semesters in his Washington, D.C. office, starting immediately. Interns serve a valuable role in the office assisting in legislative and administrative tasks while gaining insight into the inner workings of the Senate. Responsibilities include assisting staff with constituent phone calls and requests, processing messages, attending briefings and committee hearings, conducting research and drafting memos, leading U.S. Capitol tours and providing responses to constituent letters and inquiries. Interns are paid $15/hr. Those with Vermont ties or a demonstrated interest in progressive politics are a plus. The office is seeking a diverse pool of applicants. As such, all prospective applicants are encouraged to apply.

I suppose it could be educational, and look good on a resume (especially if your prospective future employer is a socialist), but really, don’t count on getting much face time with the boss — he’s planning on being out of the office a lot over the next couple of semesters…

Oh, no! Is that three-hour ‘debate’ ordeal TONIGHT?

debate

On the radio this morning, a passing reference sort of ruined my day: It was mentioned that the three-hour Democratic “debate” is tonight.

And I don’t feel like I can’t watch it, and I probably won’t be able to avoid commenting on it, at least on social media, and there goes another perfectly good evening.

So you’ll probably find me on Twitter tonight. Unless ennui overtakes me, and I sit it out.

Top Five things I’d rather be doing tonight:

  1. Sleeping.
  2. Watching an episode of “Shetland” on Britbox.
  3. Reading a book I’ve read before.
  4. Reorganizing my sock drawer.
  5. Getting a root canal.

I’m not kidding. As I’ve said before, sometime back, I’m SO ready for this to be over. I’m only asking one thing of the Democratic Party: Nominate Joe Biden, and don’t damage him along the way (there are a number of ways they might do this, chief among them pressuring him to overcommit himself to the left wing). As I said in July:

I just want to fast-forward through this time in our history. I want to skim ahead to a time when Joe Biden has secured the Democratic nomination (and if the future holds something else, let me skim past the next four years of politics as well). No more enduring absurd “debates” with Joe on stage with a score of people, each of whom knows his or her way to victory lies through tearing Joe down, and not one of whom holds out much hope of doing what I think Joe can do — beat Trump.

But I guess I have to watch this thing. I guess…

Biden should promise to make Obama secretary of state

The once and future team?

The once and future team?

I’ve had this idea kicking around in my head for weeks now, and I’ve been waiting to have time to present it thoughtfully, with extensive, carefully constructed arguments that will be perfectly unassailable, and I finally decided I’m not going to have time for all that stuff.

So here goes.

Joe Biden should promise to name Barack Obama as his secretary of state. Assuming he can talk his old boss into it. And assuming his old boss can talk Michelle into it, which could prove to be a bridge too far. But it’s worth trying (assuming it’s constitutional, which I think it is), for a number of reasons.

Joe’s campaign is all about restoring sanity in the White House — or saving the nation’s soul, as the former veep likes to put it. Just today, I was listening to an interview with him on NPR. Don’t be put off by the headline, which is “‘Details Are Irrelevant’: Biden Says Verbal Slip-Ups Don’t Undermine His Judgment.” It actually contains substance, rather than just more pointless yammering about trivial mistakes made now and then by a guy who talks all day. (I’m convinced that if the media adopted the same attitude toward other candidates — We’ve gotta watch him like a hawk to catch him sounding senile — they’d succeed in coming up with similar “proof” of the hypothesis.)

And one of the points of substance is about the heavy lifting that the next president will have to do to repair our relations with the rest of the world, restoring America’s status as a country that other countries — friends and foes — can respect.

“The next president is going to have to pull the world back together,” Biden asserts in the interview. And he’s right.

It’s hard to imagine a gesture that could more convincingly persuade foreign leaders of his seriousness and good faith on that point than to make the last president the world could respect his point man in dealing with the rest of the globe.

I find it hard to think of another living human being who could restore our nation’s dignity on the world stage as well as Barack Obama. And Obama could, by accepting the post, perform a more direct and dramatic service to the country in his post-presidential life than any president since John Quincy Adams served in the U.S. House after 1828. He would make a real difference in the world.

Not to mention how such a promise would make Biden more likely to be in a position to keep it. Some of his Democratic rivals have dared to quibble with the Obama-Biden legacy. But it would be really hard for them to make a winning case against an actual reunion of the party’s last winning team.

And no, it’s not the same as asking Obama to be his running mate. It’s far more substantial than that. I see it as being like the relationship between Lincoln and Seward. Seward was such a respected figure that when he was named secretary of state, many people mistakenly assumed he’d be the real president and country-bumpkin Lincoln would be a figurehead.

Obviously that didn’t happen, but nevertheless Seward was Lincoln’s right-hand man, a partner with real political juice of his own, helping our greatest president guide the country through its greatest crisis.

I think the prospect of Obama being secretary of state would change the whole tenor of the campaign from here on out.

And it would prove to be a very, very good thing not only for the country, but for the whole world…

But I could get excited about voting for THIS woman…

B01Y2058

All of that said, I’ve learned this week about one Democratic woman in particular whom I would be excited to have a chance to vote for. Not because she’s a woman, but because she’s a rational human being. And in today’s political environment, that really stands out.

I urge you to go listen to this episode of The Daily from earlier this week.

Here’s the text intro that accompanies it:

The Freshmen: Mikie Sherrill

An outspoken progressive wing in the House has seized the country’s attention. But the path to power for Democrats may depend on moderates, who have a very different vision for the party. Meet one of them.

I don’t know where they get that “may” in “may depend on moderates.” It does depend on moderates, period. What’s more, the fate of the country depends on them, not the members of the “look at me” crowd who get all the coverage normally.My Approved Portraits

From the Democratic perspective, the moderates are the reason, and the only reason, that the party currently holds power in the House. AOC replaced a Democrat. AOC’s district will continue to be Democratic, but Mikie Sherrill replaced a Republican, and she will only continue to hold her seat if she serves the way both Democrats and Republicans in her district want her to do. And if she and others like her don’t hold onto their seats, not only will the Dems lose their majority, but the country will spin ever faster out into partisan extremes.

Rep. Sherrill may only be a freshman, but she was already an accomplished person before she was elected — unlike some other people who get more attention. She’s a former United States Navy helicopter pilot, and a former federal prosecutor. She’s been places and done things, worthwhile things, things to serve her country.

On the day that Barr was releasing the Mueller report and other Dems were in Washington polishing their reactions, Rep. Sherrill was in her New Jersey district meeting about something her constituents all care about: traffic. A lot of them commute into New York, you see, and the trains are in bad enough shape that a lot of them are forced to drive.

She is almost completely focused on issues that all her constituents care about, regardless of their political affiliation. She concentrates on what unites us rather than dividing us. Which, you know, is what all officeholders should do.

I’m not going to recite all the sensible things she has to say — I want you to go listen to the podcast yourself. And what I want you to listen for is what I heard throughout the episode: The voice of a grownup. Of a grownup saying rational things.

It’s refreshing. I wish I could vote for her. In any case, everyone should hear this voice, and what it says, and realize that there are people like this out there serving their country, and that you don’t have to choose between Trumpism and “democratic socialism.”

Nor can I IMAGINE being ‘excited’ about it…

women1

Maybe it’s because of my involvement with the campaign last year — a great experience that I wouldn’t trade for almost anything — that I keep getting these emails.

There are lots of them.

And they all make assumptions: First, that I am a Democrat. Well, I’m not. James and Mandy knew that. So do the subset of Democrats who are still ticked that they hired me. But the people who send these emails seem to be in the dark.

I try to be frank with them, occasionally filling out one of the “polls” that they invite to participate in. (I enjoy all the opportunities they offer to tell them that I do have a preference in the primaries, that’s it’s Joe Biden, and that no, I don’t have a second choice.)

Nothing I say, however, dims their enthusiasm for sending me emails that assume I’m a yellow dog.

Some of them assume I’m a feminist. Well, I don’t think I am, although as I’ve noted before, a friend once said I was a “difference feminist,” and there could be traces of truth in that, here and there.

But there’s one kind I am definitely not — I’m not someone who is going to be “excited” about voting for a woman. If I vote for a woman, something I’ve done plenty of times before, it’s not going to be some kind of cheap thrill. If I decide that a woman happens to be the better candidate, then I’m not going to feel any emotion about it that’s different from voting for a man if he happens to be the better candidate. (And isn’t that kind of the way you’d want it to be, if you’re a feminist?)

It’s hard for me to imagine it being otherwise. And it seems odd to me that it would be otherwise, for anyone. (And yes, it’s been explained to me that perhaps I lack the necessary personal plumbing to get it. But that still seems to me an odd basis for a political philosophy.)

I felt no emotion when I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. It was cold calculation. First, she satisfied the qualification of not being Donald Trump, and had the added attraction of being the only person on the planet in position to prevent him from becoming president.

She had some other positives. She represented in some ways the Third Way form of politics that I had liked so much back in the ’90s. And I thought she was the closest thing in the party to a Joe Lieberman on national security.

But excited? No. I was pretty cool about it…

Bolt? No way! And if we did, where on Earth would we GO?

See? The DOG gets it...

See? The DOG gets it…

Our good friend Bryan may be taking a hiatus from the blog, but does that mean we can’t comment on what he posts on social media?

Of course not!

So let’s consider this:

Oh, come on, Bryan! Joe’s had some slip-ups here and there, but that one’s not even worth mentioning.

Seriously, did you have the date of the Parkland shooting memorized? I didn’t. If you had asked me out of the blue to say when it was, without looking it up, I’d have said maybe 2017 (and I’d have been two months off). And if you corrected me and said no, it was 2016 — when Obama and Biden were still in office — I’d have accepted it without question or surprise. It would still seem about right.

As it was, Joe was less than 13 months off. NOT “two years.” It happened in February 2018. Obama and Joe were still in office for most of January 2017. Learn to read a frickin’ calendar, people.

Now, real quick, when was the Sandy Hook massacre? When did that guy shoot up the theater where they were showing a Batman movie? If you can tell me within a year, good for you. But I won’t think less of you if you can’t.

So no, there’s nothing in this incident that makes me or (I hope) anyone else want to “bolt” from supporting Biden.

But let’s go to a bigger question: What if we DID want to “bolt” — where would we go?

It would be nice to have a backup plan, because humans are fallible, and for that matter Joe could get sick or something.

But I don’t have one. Oh sure, some of you will say there are plenty of good options, and in fact better ones than Joe, yadda-yadda. Well, yeah — for you. But not for me, speaking as a quintessential Biden supporter. Which is the kind of person that Bryan’s tweet was about.

I have my reasons for supporting Joe, which we’ve discussed here, and I don’t see anyone else measuring up according to the standards that matter to me — such as experience, understanding of the job, character and ability to win. I don’t see anyone even coming close, among the three or four other Democrats who might be seen as viable at this point. (Viable for the nomination, I mean — I don’t see any of those three or four as promising for the general. There are others who might do well in the general, but I don’t see them getting the nomination.)

And we — Americans I mean, not Democrats — have to get rid of Trump, as an essential first step in marginalizing Trumpism, and restoring our country to what it was from 1790-2016.

Only Joe is in a position to do that.

So stop trying to seize on every little human mistake, and let’s focus on the big things.

Because we need to get this thing done…

Thoughts on the Democratic debate(s)?

July 31 debate

Last night I got a text from a friend and colleague in Columbia, asking “Are you watching the debate? I was looking for your twitter commentary.”

(Yes, some real people actually LIKE it when I riff on social media during these events, and miss it when I don’t do it. So there.)

But I wasn’t on the Twitters because a) I’m on vacation, and any time I spend on a keyboard is dedicated to something I just have to do for work or whatever (this post being a notable exception); b) it was my wife’s birthday, and we were having a family celebration; and c) having watched most of the debate the previous night (and Tweeted a bit), I was thoroughly fed up with this reality-TV mockery of our politics, and had no appetite for any more of it.

I had started Tuesday night willing to have fun with it…

…and ended up just disgusted:

So, even if I hadn’t been busy with more important things, I would not have watched Wednesday night with any, shall we say, gusto.

Anyway, today I’ve read a number of accounts of it, and I don’t think I missed much.

Here’s a summary: Joe did all right. That’s all that matters. He didn’t set the world on fire, but the consensus was that he wasn’t damaged and is unlikely to lose his dominant position in the polls — despite the increasingly desperate efforts of the wannabes to pull him down, extending to some really strategically stupid stuff like tearing down President Obama and his legacy.

For me, the only point in watching other than to make sure Joe’s OK would be to see if anyone emerges as a good backup option if he doesn’t make it. And that has not even come close to happening (based on my watching and reading). And not because my mind is closed. I’d like to have a backup plan. I don’t like not having a backup plan. I makes me uneasy. But I’m not going to lie to myself. I’m not going to pretend that someone else looks good just to ease my own mind.

Y’all know what I want. I look forward to the day that all this slapstick nonsense is over and Joe is the nominee and we can get on with the real business.

Anyway, what did y’all think?

I’m almost as tired of the Mueller saga as Mueller is

The first screen of The Post's homepage was all Mueller...

The first screen of The Post’s homepage was all Mueller…

At one point this morning, I Tweeted this:

But I wasn’t done with the Mueller hearing, or perhaps I should say it wasn’t done with me. There it was, wherever I turned — on social media, on the radio in my truck, even when I tried listening to NPR.org while I was getting some steps in in the middle of the day. (Fortunately, there were podcasts on other subjects.)

All of it was awful — the bits I heard, anyway:

  • I found it tiresome to listen to the Democratic questioners, because they were so eager to establish… what? OK, so they want to make sure that the public, which isn’t going to read a 400-page report, knows all the ways that it shows Donald Trump to be an ethical nightmare. But then what? Are you really convinced that this is going to change things so that impeachment proceedings are a good idea, one that leads to electoral success in 2020? I’m not sure how you could be.
  • It was far, far worse to listen to the Republican questioners. At my age, I’m more than tired of waking up each day and discovering that human beings can sink to depths I previously did not suspect. But hearing these guys adamantly, furiously, relentlessly trying to twist things so that Trump doesn’t come across as a slimeball is just so disheartening, so depressing….
  • Finally, it was pretty awful hearing Mueller himself, who sounded just as weary of it all as he looked when I saw him on that screen with the sound off this morning. The man’s done enough for his country. Let him go to his rest…

I just want to fast-forward through this time in our history. I want to skim ahead to a time when Joe Biden has secured the Democratic nomination (and if the future holds something else, let me skim past the next four years of politics as well). No more enduring absurd “debates” with Joe on stage with a score of people, each of whom knows his or her way to victory lies through tearing Joe down, and not one of whom holds out much hope of doing what I think Joe can do — beat Trump.

Let’s just get on with it. Because the country’s one real chance of putting Trump behind us awaits us in November 2020.

Oh, and if you doubt that Joe is the guy to beat Trump, let me tell you about this one podcast I listened to while walking.

It was brought to my attention by this Tweet from Third Way, which seems to be published by Democrats who have not lost their freaking minds:

So I went and listened to The Daily, and I heard some home truths laid out, including the mathematically obvious one mentioned in the Tweet. None of it was mysterious or anything. It was stuff like this:

  • The persuadable people Democrats have to reach, and flip, to beat Trump are white working-class (and to a lesser extent middle-class) voters in the Midwest, people who voted for Obama in 2008 but for Trump in 2016.
  • Right now Trump is positioned to possibly do slightly better in those areas — places such as the environs of Milwaukee — than he did in 2016.
  • Of course, he remains unpopular as ever, and may lose the national popular vote by even more than he lost to Hillary, but…
  • There’s this thing called the Electoral College (and rail about it all you want, Dems, but the rules of the game are not changing between now and Election Day next year), so all Trump needs to do is squeak by in those places that are neither entirely red nor blue.
  • Democrats are doing better in the Sun Belt than in the past, but not so much better that the Democrat will win there, and most states are Winner Take All in the Electoral College. So… back to the swing states…
  • So… what are you gonna do to reach those persuadable white voters in Flyover Land?

And the whole time I’m listening, I’m thinking the only thing you can possibly do if you have a lick of sense is nominate plain ol’ Joe from Scranton, PA.

And in fact, Michael Barbaro, the host of The Daily, finally has to just ask Nate Cohn — the guy running through the math — outright, So… you mean the Dems need to nominate Biden, right?

Cohn, if I recall correctly, was kind of noncommittal in his answer, but there really is no honest answer but this one: Right….

 

Supreme Court pulls a Pontius Pilate on gerrymandering

court

By which I mean, of course, that they have washed their hands of any responsibility for the single problem doing the most to divide our country and destroy our constitutional system:

I’ve got to go get some work done, but I thought I’d establish a place for talking about this shocking development.

As Kagan said in her dissent, “The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections.”

Sending it to the states — that is to say, the legislatures who created the problem and are highly motivated to perpetuate it — is indeed, as Harry Harris said, the fox guarding the henhouse.

What are we going to do as a country?

Regarding last night’s prelim debate

prelim debate

Sorry, folks. Aside from being tired last night, my jaw thing was throbbing, and I just had to hit the hay with a pain pill.

Some of y’all already posted commentary back on this post. I’ll try to catch up.

I say “prelim,” of course, because there was only one contender on the stage, Elizabeth Warren, and her team had to be kind of frustrated that she didn’t make the cut for the real bout tonight. That put her in the position last night that Joe Biden will be in tonight — although Joe will have stiffer opposition. Interestingly, most of the commentary I’ve seen in the NYT and WashPost (such as Frank Bruni, and Aaron Blake) seems to be to the effect that she did great. I wasn’t that impressed. To me, she was just being Elizabeth Warren, and that has never worn particularly well with me.

Beyond that… a couple of you — Bud and Scout — have already ranked last night’s performances, and Doug has gone into what he liked and disliked in some detail (loves Tulsi, can’t stand Elizabeth). So I’ll take a stab at it myself:

  1. Amy Klobuchar
  2. Jay Inslee
  3. John Delaney
  4. Tim Ryan
  5. Cory Booker
  6. Elizabeth Warren
  7. Tulsi Gabbard
  8. Beto O’Rourke
  9. Julian Castro
  10. Bill de Blasio

Mind you, I wasn’t crazy about any of them, and there’s a big drop-off after Klobuchar, but that’s how I rank them without thinking too hard about it. You’ll note that Warren, whom so many think this debate was about, falls in the middle.

Briefly last night, Doug and I were in agreement about the ones we liked least…

… but I decided overnight I didn’t dislike Warren quite as much as some others.

That done, the real debate is tonight, with Joe facing Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg. Too bad we didn’t see how Warren would do against those four.

Here are my Tweets, so you can see how I was reacting in real time:

(And yes, that was an allusion to this skit…)

 

A fun SNL skit to look back at as debates loom

First, this is just plain hilarious, so enjoy.

Second, it’s relevant. As brilliant as Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin was, it’s easy to forget how good a job Jason Sudeikis did with Joe Biden. And the Joe Biden that he was making fun of in 2008 is the same Joe Biden we see today.

It seems particularly relevant in light of Joe’s statements last week about working with everyone who will agree to help (even segregationists). What he was trying to say (which I understood perfectly, as did John Lewis and Jim Clyburn, although some people claim to be confused) last week was a lot like what Sudeikis’ Biden is saying about John McCain. I mean that in the sense of Joe’s ability to happily and cheerfully “hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

Or in the sense of his willingness to disagree vehemently with someone, but still regard him as a fellow human.

It’s a message that’s counterintuitive for people who believe that left is left and right is right and never the twain shall (or should) meet. And that’s where the humor comes from in these lines:

Well, I would do what I have done my whole career, whether it’s been dealing with violence against women or putting 100,000 police officers in the streets. I would reach across the aisle. Like I’ve done with so many members of the other party. Members like John McCain. Because, look, I LOVE John McCain. He is one of my dearest friends. But, at the same time, he’s also dangerously unbalanced. I mean, let’s be frank, John McCain — and again, this is a man I would take a bullet for — is bad at his job and is mentally unstable. As my mother would say, “God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…” and a dear, dear friend….

In order to be hilarious, it’s exaggerated. But it also expresses something about who Joe Biden is. And America knows Joe Biden is this way, which is one of the reasons he’s been leading in the polls.

But whether you love or hate the way he is, whether you think it makes him a better candidate or disqualifies him, I thought you might get a laugh out of this look back.

So enjoy…

"As my mother would say, 'God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…' and a dear, dear friend."

“As my mother would say, ‘God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…’ and a dear, dear friend.”

The most presidential candidates EVER in one place?

signs

I mean, it’s gotta be, right?

I don’t remember a time when there were this many people running for a major-party presidential nomination before, and almost all of them (21!) were right there today in the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

Of course, MY candidate went last, as I had a feeling he would. And after waiting through a bunch of the prelims I finally went home to get a late (about 3) lunch and watch the rest on my iPad via MSNBC.

Joe did not disappoint. Personally, I didn’t need him to rattle off all those policy proposals he recited — I guess Elizabeth Warren has made him think he needs to do that — but he did great. I got a little irritated when someone off-screen tried to hurry him right when he got to the podium, saying standing there receiving applause was using up his time (he’d only been standing there a few seconds), but hey, he didn’t get rattled and he did fine.

The next two best among the ones I heard (I missed some of the early ones, including Warren, Harris and Buttigieg) were probably Andrew Yang and Jay Inslee. Interestingly, Yang was a smoother speaker than veteran pol Inslee, but I could still see why Bud likes him.

Anyway, I’ll just post my Tweets here as a conversation-starter, and then I want to know what y’all thought if you were watching. And if you weren’t, here’s some coverage by The State and the Post and Courier:

And then, finally, Joe. Which was a great note to end on…

Joe Wilson’s potential Democratic opponent

This came out a couple of months ago, but I just ran across it.

I knew former Justice Department attorney Adair Ford Boroughs had announced she was going to go after Joe Wilson next year, but hadn’t seen the video until now. It caused me to check out her website as well.

Random observations, in no particular order:

  • First, while I need to know more, she’s probably got my vote. Not because of this or that thing Joe has said or done, but because — as she correctly points out — Joe has done nothing in his almost 18 years in Congress. Joe loves being a congressman — he gets all breathless when he expresses how much he loves it — but he doesn’t seem interested in doing anything in the position.
  • Second, the odds are way, way against her. The district is drawn for a Republican, big-time. And once the Lexington County votes come in, it tends to be over for the Democrat.
  • This is neither here nor there, but I got a little confused, thinking “Adair” was her last name. Everywhere you look, it’s “Adair for Congress,” and since I’ve always seen it as a surname, well…. Interestingly, I can’t even find “Boroughs” on the home page of her website. It doesn’t mean anything; I just don’t remember seeing this before.
  • The video is OK, and probably the best part about it is the way it drives home the point I mentioned above — that Joe has gotten only one bill passed in all these years, and it was to change the name of a local post office. There are some things I’m not that crazy about, such as the populist cliches about “career politicians” and “good ol’ boy politicians.” Those are such tired expressions. If you’re going to go there, and least come up with a fresh way to say it.
  • Speaking of populism, I’m also not thrilled by the “going after corporations and millionaires who cheated on their taxes” stuff either. I’m all for getting people to pay the taxes they owe, but that smacks a bit of the class conflict stuff that’s so popular on the left now, which leaves me kind of cold. (By that I mean it seems to suggest she went after them because they were “corporations and millionaires” as much as because they were tax cheats. Maybe that’s unintentional, but the vibe is there.
  • I see she clerked for District Judge Richard M. Gergel, and I have a lot of respect for Richard, and if he chose to hire her, she must have something going for her.
  • Of course, I’d rather see someone who has done more in the public sphere — someone who has been a judge rather than a judge’s clerk, or someone who has held some lower office before shooting for Congress. Y’all know me. But when you’re going up against someone who has done as little as Joe has with the office, that’s not as important as it might be under other circumstances.

Anyway, it’s early, and I’m going to watch this with interest…

Adair

How would YOU answer these 18 questions from the NYT?

18 questions

The New York Times put 21 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination “on the spot” by putting them in front of video cameras and asking them 18 questions.

My man Joe Biden declined to participate. Make of that what you will. (I could write a separate post on why it doesn’t bother me, I suppose, but I probably wouldn’t persuade anyone who is bothered.) On the other end of the cooperation spectrum, Elizabeth Warren was the first to be interviewed and even came in a second time, because the NYT added some questions after her initial session.

I haven’t watched all the videos, or even most of them, because I have a life — and as y’all know, I don’t make electoral decisions based on this or that specific issue — and if I did, it wouldn’t be on many of these issues. But I’ve skimmed the accompanying story, which you might wish to do to save time.

How the non-Biden candidates answered the questions doesn’t interest me as much as how y’all would answer the questions. So here they are, each with a brief answer from me. The links take you to the video answers:

  1. In an ideal world, would anyone own handguns? Of course not. I see that most of the candidates tried to dance around this, trying to reassure people that they aren’t against the 2nd Amendment. Pete Buttigieg seems to be about the only one who actually heard the question. The operative word is “ideal,” as in “perfect.” Which I take to mean, like the Garden of Eden. Handguns have one purpose — killing people, whether in acts of aggression or self-defense. In a perfect world, people wouldn’t be killing people, so no need for handguns. Now if you’d wanted a real-world answer, you should have asked the question differently.
  2. Would your focus be improving the Affordable Care Act or replacing it with single payer? I prefer single-payer, the one truly sensible way to go, but improving the ACA is probably more politically feasible. And even that is only likely to happen if Democrats keep the House and win the Senate. As we’ve seen, Republicans just talk about repealing it, but don’t repeal it, preferring to cripple it and watch it die a slow death.
  3. Do you think it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change? No. What is possible is for the next president to take significant, positive steps in that direction. For a change. And that is what should happen.
  4. Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights? Generally speaking, yes. But what are international standards, in a world that contains Russia, China, Syria, the Philippines and Venezuela? Let’s use the higher, Western, liberal-democracy standard. I think that on the whole, Israel strives to meet that higher standard while dealing with a host of people around them and in the country itself who wish Israel to cease to exist. And that means it’s not going to be perfect all the time.
  5. Who is your hero, and why? I’ve never known how to answer questions like this one. I could say “Jesus,” and leave it at that, or maybe throw in St. Peter, Thomas More, Pope John Paul II, and then move to the secular realm and add Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, FDR and Martin Luther King. John McCain was a hero to me. If it has to be living people, I might name Tony Blair, and both Rileys in South Carolina — Joe and Dick. You’ll notice none of them currently hold office….
  6. Would there be American troops in Afghanistan at the end of your first term? Probably, just because I haven’t heard anyone explain how we prevent the Taliban from taking over once we leave, and once again making the country a safe haven for Al Qaeda or ISIL. I’d love to have a plan for doing that, I just don’t know where to find it.
  7. How many hours of sleep do you get a night? Depends. If we’re pretending I’m a candidate, I’d be saying “not as many as I like,” but then campaigns change your metabolism. You adapt. I functioned on less sleep last year, and James and Mandy on much less than I did. All that said, may I say how much I hate wasting time on a personal lifestyle question?
  8. Do you think illegal immigration is a major problem in the United States? I think it’s a major political problem, especially if you’re a Republican. As for a real problem… I think it’s a disorderly process right now, and most of that is caused by the political problem. The anti-immigration folks have killed every effort at comprehensive reform since the start of this century. If you ask me what I want us to have, I’ll say we need more immigration, not less, for the sake of our economy, but even more because of what America is to people everywhere seeking freedom and opportunity. And that additional immigration needs to be administered in a far more rational and orderly process than we have now.
  9. Where would you go on your first international trip as president? Wherever I could meet with our key allies — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and others — to repair damage done to our relationships, and reassure them as to our ongoing commitment to multilateral arrangements for everything from collective security to trade to climate change. Then, I’d try to revive T.P.P., if that’s possible — which is to say, if it’s not too late to undo the huge diplomatic and economic advantage we handed China when Trump abandoned it.
  10. Describe the last time you were embarrassed. Why? Just a second ago, when I read this question. But yeah, I get why you ask it, given the embarrassment that currently occupies the White House — a man who either doesn’t get embarrassed or won’t ever admit it. Anyway, I’m embarrassed so frequently, so routinely, that I can’t tell you the most recent incident. If I remember, I’ll come back to this.
  11. Do you think President Trump has committed crimes in office? Oh, I don’t know. And given the obstacles to prosecuting a sitting president, I’m not sure it’s a relevant question. What IS relevant is that he is grossly, pathologically unfit for the office — for pretty much any office involving the public trust, but especially this one — and we need to get him out of office as soon as possible. Unfortunately, given GOP control of the Senate, the first practical opportunity is the election next year. Americans who care about our country should focus on coming up with the very best candidate to defeat him.
  12. Do you support or oppose the death penalty? I oppose it. And I oppose this being a federal issue. That the federal government has muscled its way into something that was once almost completely a state issue is a problem.
  13. Should tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google be broken up? I don’t know. There probably needs to be more regulation, but I’m not smart enough to tell you what form that should take. We find ourselves in a situation like what we faced in the Progressive Era, when railroads and oil companies and such exerted an unexpectedly excessive influence on our society. Major tech companies have had an even more dramatic effect, for good and ill, even to the point of rewiring human cognition. As a country, we need to come to terms with this somehow. I can’t tell you I know what the specific remedies might be.
  14. Are you open to expanding the size of the Supreme Court? Absolutely not. Hear me: What Mitch McConnell did to prevent even the consideration of Merrick Garland was unconscionable. A Democratic effort to do the same thing — tilt the court for partisan purposes — would be equally unconscionable.
  15. When did your family first arrive in the United States, and how? You’d think I’d know the answer to this, given my genealogy obsession, but I don’t. In fact, it’s because of my genealogy obsession that I know that I don’t know. The short answer is that I don’t have any recent immigrants on my tree. If I did — say, if all four of my grandparents were immigrants, I could answer the question. But I can’t. On every branch of my tree that I’ve been able to trace back that far, everyone was here by the mid-1700s. That’s about nine generations back. When you go back that far, each of us has more than 500 direct ancestors, with about 500 different surnames. (I’d be precise and say “512,” but even that recently, I have some people from whom I’m descended more than one way, and you probably do, too. That lowers the number slightly.) When you’re talking about being descended from 500 families just a couple of centuries back, it raises the question of which one is “your family.” Obviously, all of them are.
  16. What is your comfort food on the campaign trail? Oh, come on. Really? From my own limited experiences on the campaign trail — as a campaign staffer last year, and covering campaigns long ago — food is food, and lacks emotional meaning, beyond the fact that eating is more comfortable than not eating. I ate anything I could get my hands on, when I had the time, that wouldn’t kill me, given my allergies. Oh, and before you ask, on a related question of equal value: I used to wear briefs, but have worn boxers for about 30 years now. OK? Can we move on?
  17. What do you do to relax? Give me a break. If I’m a presidential candidate, I don’t. Since I’m not, I spend time with my family, I read, I watch TV, I exercise, I work on my family tree. I make time for this by not answering questionnaires such as this. Maybe that’s how Joe Biden maintains his equanimity. Sorry, but this particular question is a peeve for me. I once had a publisher who invariably asked this very question of candidates during editorial board meetings, because he wanted to say something and he didn’t know anything about politics or policy. Each time, I would have to stop myself from rolling my eyes. (Actually, it’s just now occurring to me, I should have thanked him for staying neutral and not delving into topics that would have a bearing on our editorial decisions.)
  18. Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars? I’ll quote Clint Eastwood from “Unforgiven” on this point: Deserve’s got nothing to do with it. If you’re asking whether, when a person has amassed such a fortune without doing anything illegal or morally reprehensible, the government should take it away from him, I’ll say no. And unlike maybe Bernie or Sen. Warren, I think it’s a rather dumb question.

What’s missing: any serious questions about the chief part of the job of being president, which is dealing with the rest of the world. The one question about Israel is just a gut-check thing to test how you stand with the pro-Palestinian wing of the Democratic Party — and with a lot of this paper’s readers. And the “first international trip” question is somewhat vague, in terms of direct bearing on policy.

Nothing about China, or Russia, or Iran, or Venezuela? Or climate change? Or international organizations such as NATO or the U.N., or the defunct TPP? Or general philosophy on national or collective security? Really? Are you kidding me? What office do you think these people are running for?

That such questions are left out while time is spent on how the candidates “relax,” or their fave “comfort food,” just floors me. This is The New York Times, not Tiger Beat….

OK, I have now heard the word ‘progressive’ used too many times. You can stop saying it now. Please…

argument

For many years, the word was “conservative.” It was said so often — generally by a politician seeking to ingratiate himself with people who don’t think much about words but for some reason love clinging to that one — that it was like fingernails on a blackboard for me.

It still is. It’s still hugely popular here in S.C., waved as a proud banner by people who have no business associating with the word — people who identify with Donald Trump or the Tea Party or the Freedom Caucus or some other phenomenon that bears no relationship to the sobriety of actual conservatism.

It gets used as a password. It is brandished to say, “I am an acceptable person, like you.” It performs a function like that of the word “Christian” in the early 19th century — referring not to a set of religious beliefs, but to a state of being a normal, acceptable person of reasonable breeding and education, someone who knows the ropes of life in Western civilization. Patrick O’Brian used it to mild comic effect in his Aubrey/Maturin novels. The sailors in that world would lament the fact that the perpetual landlubber Stephen Maturin never could learn to board a ship “like a Christian,” which was to say, like a normal person of basic good sense. He was always contriving to fall into the water instead.

Anyway, “conservative” gets used kind of like that, only it’s more obnoxious.

I’ve tried dealing with it with humor, but sometimes it’s just not funny. Sometimes it’s downright nasty, used to try to separate the world into people who are acceptable and those who are not. In any case, it continues to occupy a lofty position on my list of peeves.

And now, another word is laboring mightily to catch up to it: “progressive.”

Again, it’s a slippery word. It’s meant many things, sometimes apparently contradictory things. It’s been attached to muckraking authors in the early 1900s, and Teddy Roosevelt. I also associate it with a sort of early- to mid-20th century form of pro-business boosterism, connecting capitalism with human “progress.” Then, 30 years or so ago (did it predate Reagan, or follow him?), it became something liberals called themselves because the rise of “conservative” came with a denigration of the otherwise innocent word “liberal.”

At that point, it seemed to be trying to suggest a particularly mild, moderate, nonthreatening form of liberalism, as in, “Don’t be scared! We’re not liberals; we’re just progressive!”

Now, it’s gone in another direction. Now, it’s used to refer to people for whom liberalism — certainly the beleaguered postwar liberal consensus — is not enough. It attaches to socialists, and socialist wannabes. It suggests a fierce, uncompromising leftward march. (And ominously, it suggests the element in the Democratic Party that seems determined to blow the nation’s chance of turning Donald Trump out of office in 2020.)

And it’s reached its saturation point with me.

This happened suddenly, while I was listening to a podcast while on a walk yesterday.

I was listening to an episode of “The Argument,” the NYT podcast featuring opinion writers David Leonhardt, Ross Douthat and Michelle Goldberg. It was one that I’d missed a couple of weeks ago, featuring an extensive conversation with Pete Buttigieg.Buttigieg

I recommend you go listen to it. I learned some things about Buttigieg and formed a fuller opinion of him. In short, here’s what I’ve decided thus far: I like the guy, but when he talks specifics about policy, I disagree with him on one thing after another. (Which is bad from his point of view, since he likes to project himself as a substance-over-style guy.) And not just the wacky stuff, like expanding the Supreme Court, or (the horror!) the size of the U.S. House of Representatives. (Did I hear that last one right? I’m finding proposals to do that on Google, but not associated with Mayor Pete…)

Also — and I’d heard this before about him — while he talks a good game on getting past the Culture War, time and again it sounds like he believes the way to end the conflict is for everyone to accept that his side has won the arguments. He does this on a number of issues, but one that sticks in my mind is his bland assertion that the nation, and even folks in Alabama, are closer to his doctrinaire pro-choice position on abortion than they are to the recent anti-abortion measure passed there.

That one sticks in my mind because just that morning before hearing this, I had conincidentally read something by one of the hosts of The Argument, David Leonhardt. It was about the fact that polls show we are as divided as ever on abortion, that “Public opinion isn’t where either side wants it to be.” Look at the numbers. Clearly, no one — neither Buttigieg nor someone with a diametrically opposed position on the issue — should be congratulating himself or herself on having won that national argument.

But let’s get back to my point. Time and again, whenever the mayor wanted to speak of ideas or proposals or attitudes or people that were agreeable to him, he used that word: “progressive.” It seemed to sum up rightness and goodness for him, very neatly.

And at some point — I don’t know know exactly how many times he’d said it when this happened — I reached my saturation point. I’d heard the word too many times.

So, everyone do me a favor: If you want to propose an idea, argue the idea on its merits. Tell me why it’s a good idea. Telling me it’s “progressive” or “conservative” gets you nowhere with me, and in fact will dig you down into a hole you’ll have to work to climb out of.

Words should encourage people to think. But these two are used too often now as a substitute for thought, as a signal to members of a tribe that they shouldn’t bother straining their brains, because this idea has the official seal of approval.

I just thought I’d let y’all know where I am on this now…

How many of these candidates do you recognize?

candidates

The above image was included in an email I received today, showing most (but not quite all) of the Democrats running for president.

I gave myself a test: How many could I name, without thinking about it, just from these mug shots?

I didn’t do too great. I got 12, I think. I might even be wrong on one or two. Of course, I’m at a disadvantage because I follow the campaign through the written word, and to a lesser extent by radio and podcasts. So I’ve read or heard a good deal about people I’ve seldom if ever seen pictured.

At the same time, if I don’t recognize you, you might have a bit of an uphill climb.

Here are the ones I could name, with question marks next to ones I wasn’t 100 percent sure of:

  1. Bernie Sanders (or maybe Larry David; it’s hard to tell)
  2. Kamala Harris
  3. Elizabeth Warren
  4. Cory Booker
  5. Amy Klobuchar?
  6. Kirsten Gillibrand
  7. Beto O’Rourke
  8. Tulsi Gabbard?
  9. Seth Moulton
  10. Pete Buttigieg
  11. Andrew Yang?
  12. Joe Biden

On Gary Cooper, Tony Soprano and Alfred E. Neuman

The other day I wrote something for a client that said in part, “Think Gary Cooper: Be the strong, silent type – but polite.”

Never mind what it was about, except that it was in the context of an analogy about making movies. So it made sense.

But then one of my colleagues asked whether young people would know who Gary Cooper was, and what he was known for. So I polled a millennial or two with disappointing results. At one point, I tried explaining his character in “High Noon,” and my respondent said, “Sounds kind of like my grandpa.”

Exactly. So we just cut out the reference. It was impossible to insert a later pop culture figure, because it wouldn’t mean the same thing. We don’t have “strong, silent types” any more; men are a bunch of whiny babies. Which is essentially what Tony Soprano was on about in the clip above: He was expressing his contempt for modern men like himself, whining to therapists — although you’ll notice the therapist is careful not to tell him that that’s what he’s doing, because she’s afraid of him. You can be a scary guy and still a whiny baby.

And now we’ve got the kid with the funny name dismissing the fact that Trump compared him to Alfred E. Neuman by saying, “I’ll be honest; I had to Google that… I guess it’s a generational thing. I didn’t get the reference….”Neuman

No, Pete. It’s not a “generational thing. ” It’s a basic American popular culture thing. Saying you didn’t know who that was doesn’t make you hipper than the old guy in the White House. It means maybe you missed something, something the average idiot knows, when you were learning how to speak Norwegian just so you could read a novel in the original language.

Knowing who the “What, me worry?” kid is is simply a matter of pop cultural literacy.

The Post reported on the exchange by saying Trump was “comparing him to a caricature created decades before Pete Buttigieg was even born.” Really? Well, where does that leave such characters as Huck Finn, or Romeo and Juliet, or Jay Gatsby?

OK, maybe that’s unfair; those being such major cultural touchstones. How about this: Buttigieg knowing who Alfred E. Neuman is would be… like me knowing who Will Rogers was. Or Al Jolson. Or George M. Cohan. They were all dead before I was born, but I’m familiar with the roles they played in the popular imagination. By contrast, I believe MAD is still being published, although admittedly I haven’t read one in decades.

In Buttigieg’s place, I would have said, “I’m shocked at the suggestion that Trump has actually read something, even  if it’s only MAD magazine…” That would have been more to the point.

These kids today and their temporal chauvinism…

Where have you gone, Gary Cooper? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you...

Where have you gone, Gary Cooper? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you…