I’ve made no secret that I’m a big fan of libertarian Jonathan Rauch. His book “The Kindly Inquisitors” is one of the best defenses of free speech and free inquiry in the modern era. And he made what is probably the best conservative case for gay marriage in his 2004 book, “Gay Marriage: Why it is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America.” Most recently, he had an essay published in the Wall Street Journal, recounting that latter argument in brief: “Gay Marriage is Good for America”
From the “What, Seriously?!” file comes this incredible story of Congressional hubris: ten Republican Senators are co-sponsoring the usual federal “marriage protection” balderdash. That, and the complete lack of explanation of how banning some marriages would in any way help preserve or enhance other marriages, is nothing surprising.
What is surprising is who the Republicans tapped to headline this doomed bill: habitual prostitute client David Vitter (R-LA) and suspected old-school gay cruiser Larry Craig (R-ID).
If this isn’t all just an elaborate joke… then it’s a wonderfully, wonderfully amusing world we live in.
The Obama campaign has rather wisely dropped the use of their latest logo, after much mockery.
Me, I’m left saddened and embarrassed for the media commentators who couldn’t resist piling on this story, and the many many people who took this non-issue seriously.
Political commentator Larry Sabato gets it right on the first try:
“The press corps adopts a subtext for each candidate,” Sabato told The Examiner. “Daddy Bush was ‘a nice guy but out of touch.’ Bill Clinton was ‘smart but randy.’ Bob Dole was ‘heroic but too old.’ Gore was ‘brilliant but a fibber and a bore.’ Dubya was ‘pleasant but dumb.’”
He added: “Obama’s subtext is rapidly becoming ‘charismatic but arrogant.’”
None of these characterizations of any of these politicians was built on honest, accurate, or comprehensive appraisal of any of these men. Few of the claimed traits (except maybe for Clinton being “randy” and Dole being “old”) actually seem more characteristic of the men in question than they are for the others. Instead, they’re built out of an accretion of heavily interpreted, and often factually challenged, fluff pieces. Of which this seal case was the perfect, almost paradigmatic, example.
This is one more reason I’m far more cynical about voters (more in the aggregate than any individual) than I am about politicians, or even the media. It’s ultimately voter behavior that drives how politicians act, react, and how they present themselves. It’s voter demand that favors schoolyard psychoanalyzing for their election coverage instead of actual policy debates.
Voters get legitimately frustrated and cynical about our political system. But the political system has just as much cause to be frustrated with voters right back.
As a follow up on my post about bitter Hillaryites, I wanted to highlight something FiveThirtyEight has noted about McCain’s recent strategy. He stands to win over millions of disgruntled Hillary Clinton former supporters. But if he’s really looking to woo the bulk of them, then he’s talking to all the wrong ones. The crazy ones. And worse, the crazy ones who are already rather obviously in the bag for him. When someone’s spent the time to found a group called “Party Unity My Ass” in response to Hillary’s primary loss, you can pretty much count on them not voting for Obama.
Instead of rubbing shoulders with fringe groups, McCain might do better by just focusing on his image as a experienced, middle of the road, policymaker: the sort of thing that drew many conservative Democrats towards Hillary in the first place. As xpostfactoid observes, McCain wasn’t just right on the Iraq surge by accident or because of inevitable party loyalty, as were many Republicans. He was right about it for all the right reasons.
The science-blogosphere has been following the story of John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon public school teacher, for some time. The man is clearly off his rocker. He burned a cross into the arms of one his students. In class. And in addition to a host of definitive religious assertions to students during class time, Bibles and other religious materials featured prominently in the classroom, Ed Brayton also notes that:
He kept creationist books and videos in his classroom, including at least one video and one book by Kent Hovind. He also kept the book Refuting Evolution there. Parents showed the investigators handouts from religious groups slamming evolution and claiming that dinosaurs and humans lived together, among other things.
He even used, as a class example of how “science can be wrong” (a perfectly legitimate and even important thing to teach) the idea that science may have found a genetic basis for homosexuality, which of course meant that ‘In that case science is wrong because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin’ (which is not even close to a legitimate thing to teach in public school).
Mr. Freshwater gave an extra credit assignment for students to view the movie “Expelled” which does involve intelligent design.
Interestingly, this is one of the few cases in which I’ve heard about Expelled successfully penetrating into a school classroom, which was supposedly one of its primary goals. And, surprise surprise, it comes from a young earth creationist using a public school classroom as his bully pulpit.
One who feels at liberty to brand his religious beliefs directly into the skin of his students. Teach Burn the controversy!
Update: Freshwater fired. Countdown watch until the DI claims him as another martyr for intellectual freedom…
Michelle Obama has been under attack for some time for a comment she made: “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” She’s since explained that what she meant was her country’s politics, and that it is, of course, comparative hyperbole, not really a literal absolute. Seems reasonable enough to me to be a non-issue.
But conservatives, seeing blood, pounced. They attacked her patriotism. They worked this comment into their overall narrative of the Obama’s being elite, self-centered ‘too-fancy and enamored of themselves’ folks. It was an easy sell for them.
Myself? I’m embarrassed for anyone that styles themselves an honest, straight shooter that bought into this faux-controversy: who see cable talking-head narratives as reality instead of theater. I’m disgusted at the quiet glee that otherwise interesting and thoughtful conservative bloggers take in peppering their posts with the quote, and the pride they take in seeing media accounts of ordinary citizens hating on the Obamas for it. I have little patience for the two-faced pretense of supposedly analyzing it with the quiet motive of simply repeating it over and over.
No less than the always charming Laura Bush has come out defending Mrs. Obama and her defense is dead on.
“I think she probably meant I’m ‘more proud,’ you know, is what she really meant,” Bush told ABC News. “You have to be very careful in what you say. I mean, I know that, and that’s one of the things you learn and that’s one of the really difficult parts both of running for president and for being the spouse of the president, and that is, everything you say is looked at and in many cases misconstrued.”
And now, the ridiculousness of it all has come to a head, because MSNBC has caught Presidential candidate John McCain saying something quite similar, repeatedly, with no outcry from anyone. Quoth John McCain: “I really didn’t love America until I was deprived of her company…”
Ooooo, didn’t appreciate America until locked in a cage and tortured? What a selfish twit, right?
No. Wrong. Sigh.
In real life, people say things all the time that are silly, overwrought. They get worked up about something, and then, in a moment of clarity, come down off it. And because in real life they have to deal with other human beings face to face, day in and day out, they often realize how foolish they were being, and they apologize for them. Not because of equally phony formulaic political demands for public apologies. Because they actually, though simple self-awareness, come to feel foolish about their behavior.
Just once, I’d like to see campaign cable spin-miesters or their bloggy enablers suddenly look sheepish and self-aware, just like ordinary humans do all the time. Say “wait a minute, what the heck am I going on about?”
The fact that virtually no one ever does that, when they do it all the time in real life, is as sure a sign as any that political blogging is still fairly far removed from both humanity and reality. People play against partisan type from time to time, sure. They have their opinions. But somehow they virtually never get upset about something and then later, after whipping up a frenzy, reconsider. I’m not claiming that I’m innocent of it either. I just wish we could all commiserate a little more about the collective problem.
Even if you’re inclined to defend your outrage at Mrs. Obama, deny that this one, super important and telling quote, is part of that unreality game… can you at least admit to the general vice, and that you may well indulge in it?
…could it be destiny?
Anyway, it’s often dizzying for me to flit between two different political universes.
Now, I can’t help but have some sympathy for these folks. Political campaigns are an addictive, disorienting rush: it’s like falling down the Alice in Wonderand’s rabbit hole and staying there for months. These bloggers bought lock stock and barrel into every negative thing ever said or thought about Obama. They posted novels worth of breathless declarations and outrage, retyping daily campaign emails and talking points, pouring on lifetimes worth of analysis, all of which self-confirmed, a little more each day, the conclusion that Hillary was the one true Democrat, and Obama the champion of everything phony and vile.
I’m not playing favorites here: in this sort of delusion, they are, of course, the precise mirror image of Obama’s own #1 fans. It’s just that for Obama’s boosters, there’s simple continuity, and the rush now continues apace without any wakeup call. For Hillary’s hacks, however, it means they have to let go of the drama and the obsession. To cool off, and realize that maybe, just maybe, campaign rhetoric is a teensy bit overblown for dramatic effect. But it’s not an easy thing to admit.
Still, I can’t remember quite this sort of viciousness when Howard Dean lost, and back in the 2004 primaries, I thought I’d never met people more fired up for someone than they were for Dean. Even so, all those folks seemed to get over it pretty darn fast.
On the other hand, over on the actual conservative side, we find that many folks aren’t too happy with what McCain’s been whispering into the ears of disgruntled Hillary devotees.
McCain, apparently, favors liberal judges and has the same position on gay marriage as John Kerry. Who knew? (I’ve just gotten over finding out that Tim Russert was somehow both a dogged liberal apologist and a Big Media Bush-lover who rolled over for the Iraq War, so maybe I’m just not ready for this new oxymoronic shocker.) Of course, I have a feeling that the “PUMA’s” (Party Unity My Ass) in question here might be taking wishful thinking a bit too far.
Amongst McCain’s former Hillary-supporting visitors, however, there was a rather uncomfortable note sounded when it came to light that a certain Paula Abeles was involved in organizing them.
As Ben Smith explains it:
… Abeles first made the news in 2003, when she and her husband, then-Monticello Association President Nat Abeles, led the fight to keep members of the Hemmings family — descendants of Jefferson slave and, some historians believe, mistress Sally Hemmings — out of a gathering of the Monticello Association, which is made up of lineal descendants of the third president.
She even went as far as to pose as a 67-year old African American woman named Cassandra Mays-Lewis in chat rooms to help in her husband’s efforts to lobby against the inclusion of Jefferson’s “blacker” descendants at “family” reunion gatherings.
For a group whose chief complaint against Obama was how dirty he was for supposedly “race-baiting” the Clintons, they probably could have chosen their own company a little more wisely.