Monday, October 20, 2008

My next, next, last, last commentary - Jimi Hendrix "The Star Spangled Banner"

The other morning I was listening to some of my favorite music and came across a couple of patriotic pieces I love: "America the Beautiful" by Ray Charles, and Jimi Hendrix' "The Star Spangled Banner." I also listened to several pretty moving versions of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Jim Nabors, Elvis Presley, Lee Greenwood, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Mannheim Steamroller, and even the Leningrad Cowboys! The Leningrad Cowboys sang it with the most gusto of any. Joan Baez and Judy Collins' versions were plaintive and contemplative. Jim Nabors, remember Gomer Pyle on Mayberry RFD?, sang it with clarity and respect.

With all the mud flying Barack's way, I thought a reminder might be in order of what this country is all about - "Liberty and Justice for All." I saw later in the day that McCain/Palin are stepping up their smear campaign with "robo-calls" exploiting Senator Obama's tangential relationship years ago with Bill Ayers. Last Night, Fox News added their pseudo "journalism" regarding the radical politics of the Black Panthers and the Weathermen during the 1960's trying to tie that history to the smear campaign against Obama. Let's not forget that Obama was eight years old at the time. More and more Republican leaders are asking McCain/Palin to stop these calls and stop the mud slinging; many traditionally Republican newspapers are now endorsing Barack Obama. John McCain says he can "reach across the aisle"; but first, he apparently needs to mudsling, smear, character assassinate, and stoop to the tactics of the lowest common denominator. Even Gen. Colin Powell has had enough.

Why McCain/Palin think picking at all the wounds of the Vietnam War era is helpful is hard to figure. It's sad to see McCain sink to the mudslinging level of Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh and the pseudo journalism of Sean Hannity. The enormous price our troops paid then for another misguided war begun with lies and phony pretexts only reminds me of the terrible price our soldiers are paying for our elected leaders' lies, mistakes, and bungling of virtually everything they've done in Iraq.

I still believe America, for all its flaws, can be that City on the Hill, and a beacon of hope, and a better place; but the McCain/Palin politics of personal smearing won't get us there. Their divisive tactics smack of small minded tawdry desperation.

Two weeks after John McCain voted to give $700 Billion dollars to banks to keep them from failing, he's attacking Obama for his "socialist" tax credits to poor people. I think it was Richard Nixon who came up with the idea, in fact. If ever there was a crystallized example of "trickle down" versus "bottom up" economics, this is it. $700 Billion to banks is okay, but tax credits for lower wage income earners is "socialist"? Give me a break.

What's not to admire about John McCain's military service to America? He followed his orders, was captured, imprisoned, tortured and refused to be released until those captured before him were released. But what about his orders? I believe that history has shown there was no victory to be had in Vietnam. We keep hearing that Victory in Iraq is just around the corner. I believe, now, that there is no victory to be had in Iraq, either. We won the war in Iraq in a month; we subsequently unleashed tribal and religious animosities which led to a civil war lasting years and claiming hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. Over 4,000 American soldiers have died there trying to insert themselves heroically between the warring factions. But enough is enough. We've done enough. It's up to Iraqis now. America is strong enough to correct her mistakes; America is resilient.

So back to Jimi Hendrix -- as I listen to his Woodstock performance, I can hear the depth of his personal despair and the genuine emotional attachment he has to America's dream. To me it is a profoundly perceptive and patriotic rendition - there's a complexity and depth and resonance and heartfelt sincerity and respect for America. That Woodstock idealism was not a weakness. Idealism is one of the strengths of America. Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and many others, including for me, Barack Obama. were and are able to tap the idealism beneath the commercial facades of America.

Barack Obama keeps trying to elevate the conversation and be inclusive; McCain and Palin continue to sink deeper and deeper into their divisive rhetoric, mudslinging, smear tactics, and character assassination.

So God help us through the next couple of weeks.


Monday, October 13, 2008

My next "Last" Commentary on the 2008 Elections

In my last "last" commentary, I was remarking about us entering the major "mudslinging" portion of the election contest - "palling around with terrorists" comes to mind, among other things. And I suspect we are about to relive the Jeremiah Wright nonsense again, over and over and over and over and over, again.

And much of this criticism coming the the VP candidate who has been cozy with the "Alaskan secessionists" and their creepy connections. I'd like to see some credible reporting on the ties between the various secessionist movements in the states and the far too many white racist movements out there.

The hate speech from McCain supporters has been pretty revealing, I think - "kill him," "terrorist," "assassinate him," he's an "Arab," a double-whammy of racism in today's America, not only is Barack Black but he's got an Arab middle name, Barack "Hussein" Obama, etc., etc.; so much so that even John McCain himself has finally stepped up a bit and tried to temper some of the rhetoric. Afterwards, McCain spokesman Paul Lindsey said, “We do not condone this inappropriate rhetoric which distracts from the real questions...." But McCain has to shoulder the responsibility for the inflammatory rhetoric of his VP running mate that has led to this sorry state. And he certainly lost an opportunity to address racism against Arab Americans....

I have an idea for an Obama ad: show John McCain asking the question over and over again - Who is Obama really? and the same line repeated by Palin over and over again --- and then cut to John McCain's answer:

"I have to tell you he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States," McCain said. "He's a decent family man...." "I respect Sen. Obama and his accomplishments." Hmmmm. Could work.

I wonder which McCain will show up this week on the campaign trail?

And finally, I want to pass along a commentary by David Brooks of the NYT - hey, even Sarah Palin quotes it, that hits a nail on the head. The gist of it is that the Republicans have painted themselves into a bit of a corner with its culture wars over the last many years. It's something like a "growing share of a shrinking market":


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Mudslinging in America

Campaign note - Sarah Palin's charge that Barack Obama is "palling around with terrorists" indicates that we are re-entering the mudslinging portion of the political contest - who knows/has associated with/met/served on boards with/been endorsed by/lived in the same neighborhood/took money from --- etc.--- the sleaziest people, the most anti-American, the crookedest, the slimiest, the most dishonest, etc., etc. FOX NEWS is gearing up, too, I bet. Faux News, Fox Noise, etc., etc.
Sean Hannity must be licking his chops!

I was talking with a political science faculty acquaintance about why the conservatives get more of a free pass when it comes to their associations with dishonest sleazy corrupt anti-democratic criminal right wing elements of our country. And why the revelations of those relationships don't get liberals much traction in the politics of the day.

And his answer was disarmingly simple: too many of the far left wing lunatics out there tend to hate America, while the right wing lunatics have American flags displayed everywhere, tatooed all over themselves, pasted on briefcases, bumpers, baby strollers, and everywhere else possible to paste an American flag, and invoke God and America and Patriotism at every opportunity. They may not agree with equal rights for all, or free and fair elections, or basic democratic principles, or inalienable rights, or a level playing field, may be racist, xenophobic, and stupid, but dammit, they are for "America." And get a free pass more or less.

So in the who knows more sleazy characters who corrupt American ideals and democracy, I'm giving the nod to John McCain because he's been around longer; but John McCain will get more cynical and destructive and effective political gain from his mudslinging during these next few weeks than Barack Obama can ever hope to.

Ideologic Republican partisan strategists in the Atwater/Rove tradition have a great deal of experience in tearing down opponents. And Barack Obama will give them plenty of opportunities with the Democratic tendency to forgive the far left for their anti-American nuttiness. Republicans are also tolerant of their own right wing nut balls, but for the above mentioned reasons don't suffer the same political consequences.

Republicans are therefore able to mudsling very effectively. Democrats just aren't very good at it.

Bud C