Archive for November, 2012

Quote of the Day

Posted on November 30th, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

“Robert E. Lee was offered easier terms at Appomattox, and he lost the Civil War.”

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer commenting on President Obama’s proposed “fiscal cliff” solution. Freudian slip much?

How Much Would You Pay to See This Band?

Posted on November 29th, 2012 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Tickets for the Rolling Stones at the Barclay Center are selling in the thousands of dollars. But this video of the band, playing in London on Sunday night, is just…depressing.

They Just Don’t Get It, Do They? Part 2 Or So

Posted on November 27th, 2012 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

John McCain, Lyndsey Graham, and a Republican no one’s ever heard of have met with Susan Rice, their bête noire—and emerged crankier than before.

“We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got, and some that we didn’t get,” Senator John McCain of Arizona said to reporters. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, “Bottom line: I’m more concerned than I was before” — a sentiment echoed by Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire [the Republican no one’s ever heard of, who is likely just saying what McCain and Graham tell her what to say, because that’s what Republican female politicians do].

Basically, they’ve now accepted Rice’s explanation that she spoke incorrect information that she thought was true, and are now saying that she should have pushed the intelligence agencies harder. Which is to say, they’re just looking for excuses now to keep making an issue of something that nobody in the country except for the ring-wing bubble-nuts thinks is an issue.

I repeat my earlier proposition: The president should nominate Susan Rice to be secretary of state in as high-profile a way as possible, sending her out to all the talk shows, and dare Republicans to torpedo the historic nomination of a black woman to the post of the nation’s top diplomat. Whatever the outcome, it’s win-win for the president.

Of Lincoln and Secession

Posted on November 26th, 2012 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

I went to see the Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln, last night, and found it both impressive and deeply moving. Was there any other president who bore as many burdens as Lincoln did? I don’t think so. FDR probably comes closest, but at least in World War II he was fighting a war that everyone (well, except for Joe Kennedy, the recent biography of whom I just reviewed for Boston mag) agreed was an imperative. Not so the Civil War. And the deaths! Imagine feeling the responsibility of such bloodshed for a war that much of the country didn’t want, and whose Union aims provoked massive division. Lincoln does something quite remarkable: It both shows the greatness of the man and also his humanity, the terrible toll that the conduct of the war exacted on him. Lincoln’s humanity, his soul, are what made him such a great leader for his time; they are also what made him feel the pain of slavery and the terrible destruction of war so deeply. We think often of the great sacrifice Lincoln made, though not voluntarily, that night at Ford’s Theater; what it hinders us from considering is how the burden of leadership was draining the life from Lincoln even before he was shot.

A striking thing about this film is how incredibly relevant it feels—how many of the debates that divided the country then divide us still.

Think that’s an exaggeration? I don’t. What are the Republican accusations that our president is actually from Africa but a strange continuity of the idea, held by some slavery opponents from the colonial era to the 1860s, that we should send African slaves back to their original continent. (Even if they weren’t born there.)

What is Mitt Romney’s accusation that 47% of Americans just want to be taken care of by the government but a bastard descendant of the question—voiced in the movie—What will the slaves do with freedom?

And what is the current movement on the part of tens of thousands of white people in several southern states to secede from the United States but…well, basically the same movement to secede from the union that led to Fort Sumter?

This recent phenomenon was written up in the Times a couple days ago in an article that struck me as deeply depressing and somewhat bizarre.

Here’s the depressing part:

In Texas, talk of secession in recent years has steadily shifted to the center from the fringe right. It has emerged as an echo of the state Republican leadership’s anti-Washington, pro-Texas-sovereignty mantra on a variety of issues, including health care and environmental regulations. For some Texans, the renewed interest in the subject serves simply as comic relief after a crushing election defeat.

But for other proponents of secession and its sister ideology, Texas nationalism — a focus of the Texas Nationalist Movement and other groups that want the state to become an independent nation, as it was in the 1830s and 1840s — it is a far more serious matter.

Texas governor Rick Perry, who not too long ago wanted to lead this country, says he is opposed to secession, but not too long ago, he was actually promoting it.

Other states with secessionist movements include Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Sound familiar?

The Times piece first linked to above goes into all this without one mention of race or the quite-plausible possibility that this is a desperate reaction to the reelection of a black president. That’s either a smart recognition of the fact that once you start discussing this, it’s hard to stop, or a bizarre omission.

But it is impossible not to think of these things while watching Lincoln, and it makes me think that one consequence of the Obama presidency is this: It is flushing the racists out into the open.

I was delighted to see that my Brooklyn theater was sold out at the 5:45 showing of Lincoln, as it had been at the 2:30 one. I don’t mean to sound like Peter Travers, but, really—every American should see this movie.

They Just Don’t Get It

Posted on November 16th, 2012 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

I see how some Republicans are spinning the election thusly: Voters didn’t support what Obama believes in more than what Romney believes [sic] in. The only reason Obama won is because he won a better campaign. Ergo, Obama doesn’t have a mandate to do anything.

Like Texas senator John Cornyn, rejecting Obama’s call for higher taxes on the rich:

“The president is over-reading his mandate. He ran a better campaign than Mitt Romney. That’s the only mandate,” Cornyn said.

Or conservative columnist John Podhoretz, writing that…

Romney didn’t say… that the election had come out as it did because Obama’s team had outplayed and outfoxed his. He should have, because that’s the truth.

Have these people learned nothing from the election?

Yes, Obama was a better candidate, though I don’t think he ran a great campaign, except perhaps from a get-out-the-vote perspective. But he won because people like him more, trust him more, and agree with him more. And Obama said again and again during the campaign, “I will raise taxes on people making more than $250, 000.” When you do that and you win, your political opponents can’t just pretend that it didn’t happen. Or, rather, they can—because that’s exactly what they’re doing—but a) you’re defying the will of the people, b) contributing to the logjam in Washington, c) hurting the country, and d) dooming your party to increasing irrelevance. Take your medicine, boys—it won’t taste good, but the sooner you get it out of the way, the faster you can leave that taste behind.

I watch their criticism of Susan Rice over the Bengazi matter and two things strike me. One: Nobody gives a damn about the Bengazi thing except for Republican politicians and the conservative media bubble. Real Americans do not sense a conspiracy, nor do they particularly care. They want Washington to fix the economy and deal with the fiscal cliff–and frankly, it’s probably generous to say that more than 5% of Americans even know what the fiscal cliff involves. (Just like it’d be generous to say that more than 5% of the anti-Obamacare types had the slightest clue what Obamacare is.)

And two: In an election where—let’s set aside Hispanics and gays for the moment—you lost virtually every African-American voter and a solid majority of female voters, is the first thing you want to do afterward start beating up a black woman? I mean, think about this, Lynsey Graham, senator from South Carolina.

Which brings me to another election spin you hear from the Republicans: That, yes, maybe they should consider reconsidering their positions on immigration in order to appeal to Latino voters. It’s Latino, Latino, Latino all the way.

And, yes, to a lesser degree you hear Republicans talking about how they should stop talking about rape. I don’t think that suggests a fundamental reconsideration of attitudes toward’s women’s rights so much as a STFU-before-you-hurt-us-again kind of attitude, but, well, maybe that’s a start.

But what you don’t hear is anyone saying, hey, we really need to reach out to more African-American voters. I challenge you to find one Republican saying, We need to reach out to blacks to win more of their votes.

Why not?

Perhaps because Republicans feel that blacks are simply too allied with the Democratic party…but I doubt it. All votes are up for grabs if a political party addresses a constituency’s concerns.

Perhaps it’s because Republicans don’t see the black vote as as important as the Latino vote, thinking that it’s a static population. But…I doubt that too. Because the black vote is really important. The number of black voters increased substantially from 2008-2012—despite GOP efforts to keep blacks from voting (or maybe because of)—and their votes made a huge difference. In Ohio, the African-American percentage of the vote went from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012—a four point difference which, given that that’s about the margin by which Obama won Ohio, means that blacks basically won him the state. So wouldn’t you think that Republicans would care about courting African-American voters?

But they don’t, and they won’t. Why not? I think the reason is that the anti-Obama extremism of the GOP has become fused with racism. My hunch is that, at the end of the day–as they say in Washington—Republicans don’t really want blacks in their party, because they just don’t like ’em very much. This is why they’d rather try to disenfranchise black voters than try to win their support. And this is why you hear talk of secession, of voter fraud, and a continued refusal to acknowledge the fact that, for the second time in four years, a black man kicked their butts and won a mandate.

As a guy who grew up with moderate Republicans like Lowell Weicker and Stewart McKinney, I hate to see this. It’s not just bad for the Republican Party; it’s bad for the country.

Quote of the Day, Friday

Posted on November 16th, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

“Just because Obama was reelected does not mean he’s above the Constitution.”

Wisconsin Republican Chris Kapenga, on why he’s proposing a law that would allow Wisconsin police to arrest any federal official who tries to implement Obamacare—which the Supreme Court has, of course, ruled constitutional—in that state.

Quote of the Day, III

Posted on November 15th, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

“Like the remainder of Lee’s army after Gettysburg, it is our duty to keep fighting to the bitter end, in hopes that Providence might shine upon our cause before it is too late.”

—Peter Morrison, treasurer of the Hardin County [Texas] Republicans, on GOP strategy after the election.

(Thanks, Gawker.)

Quote of the Day, II

Posted on November 15th, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

“In some parts of the state…there were dozens of black people who came in to vote on Election Day.”

—Charlie Webster, chair of the Maine Republican Party, on why he thinks that there was voter fraud on November 6th.

Quote of the Day

Posted on November 15th, 2012 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

“Ours is a free society compromised of a wide range of viewpoints.”

Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, defending his company’s support of Donald Trump.

Trump Not Yet Dumped

Posted on November 15th, 2012 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The anti-Trump petition organizer emailed me (and about 600, 000 people) this morning to let us know that Macy’s is sticking by its gun and will not yet dump Trump.

Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren emailed me this morning. He acknowledged our efforts, which means we got Macy’s attention. But, his response was disappointing. Macy’s and Mr. Lundgren dismissed the efforts so far. They seem to be under the false impression that this is all about their latest TV commercial.

In the ad, Trump apparently asks Santa Claus if he can prove that he’s Santa Claus. Funny.

(Lundgren, by the way, is a Republican who contributed money to Mitt Romney.)

Meanwhile, Alexandra Petri writes cleverly in the Washington Post on the issue:

I take issue with [the petition organizer’s] assertion that “Donald Trump does not represent the magic of Macy’s.”

When we think of Macy’s, most of us think of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, when dozens of giant balloons, inflated to cartoonish proportions, dangle over the streets of New York City to the alarm of small children.

And I defy you to find any phrase that more perfectly describes Donald Trump than “a giant balloon, inflated to cartoonish proportions, who dangles over the streets of New York City to the alarm of small children.”

Pretty smart.

I think we’re seeing something quite interesting here, from a cultural perspective: the moment where a demagogue goes too far and loses popular support permanently. You might call it the “have you no decency” moment. It’s Joe McCarthy waving a “list”; it’s Rush Limbaugh calling a woman a slut because she believes that birth control should be covered by insurance; it’s Father Coughlin, Joseph Kennedy…and Donald Trump.

The petition may or may not succeed at causing Macy’s to disassociate itself from Trump. But it’s already won. Trump will fizzle and spark for the rest of his life. But he is slowly dying of self-inflicted wounds.