Thursday, September 25, 2008

Judging Presidential Greatness

Everything about this campaign seems to be built on what people already believe. You're going to believe Bill Clinton is the devil based on preconceived notions of his personal politics, and those of the Democratic Party in general. It would be the rare person indeed who set aside those preconceived notions to actually look at what Clinton did as president, and how well the country fared under his stewardship. And, yes, the same goes for the "other side": if you already think that so-called trickle-down economics is a flawed policy, you're going to think Ronald Reagan was just about the worst president in history, probably without acknowledging any positive impact he may have had.

However, as we delve back into history, it seems that presidents are actually judged according to their record of accomplishment. The distance of time makes it possible to say "Yes, this was a good president," or "No, this guy was completely useless." I tried to take a look at some of those men.

1) George Washington (1789-1797) - Our first president, the Father of our country, belonged to no political party. It's kinda hard to find any fault with this guy, since no one had held the job before.
2) Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) - Tommy belonged to the Democratic-Republican Party (confusing, ain't it?), which was the dominant party in the new U.S.A. until the mid-1800s. Their chief "enemy" was the Federalist Party. Eventually, the D-R Party split into factions...the only one of which to survive was the modern Democratic Party. I guess that means, historically, Jefferson was a Democrat. As well as being the author of the Declaration of Independence...and having no head for finance whatsoever.
3) James Madison (1809-1817) - A Democratic-Republican, Madison was the principal author of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the "Father" of the Bill of Rights. He was the last of the Founding Fathers to die.
4) Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) - Honest Abe is a tough call. After several decades of forgettable men - and the rise to prominence of the Whig Party - Lincoln is often referred to as the founder of the modern Republican Party. And so Republicans LOVE to claim him as one of their own. The problem is, he was only ELECTED as a Republican once! For his second election he ran as the candidate from the National Union Party, a direct outgrowth of the Civil War: Lincoln backers PLUS "Northern Democrats" who wanted to abolish slavery and keep the Union intact. (Republicanism itself was founded on anti-slavery as a platform...making civil rights the centerpiece of party belief.) Lincoln was a lawyer who served 4 successive terms in the Illinois State Legislature (as a Whig) and a single term as U.S. Congressman (also as a Whig) before he was elected president. (Which rather invalidates complaints that Barack Obama doesn't have the "experience" necessary to be president!) As congressman, he spoke out against the Mexican-American war, deeming it a charade to serve President Polk's desire for "military glory." Pretty progressive! And, pretty much out of step with a party who likes to claim itself as "the party of Lincoln!"
5) U.S. Grant (1869-1877) - A Republican, now regarded as being "okay" because of his strong support for civil rights for blacks. However, history has long ridiculed his tolerance of inter-party corruption, and he's generally regarded as being on the low end of presidential strength.
6) Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) - A Democrat strong on national defense: namely, he defended our country during WWI. He also placed great confidence in his second wife, Edith Galt. History has long sought to find out just how much she actually did following Wilson's stroke...there are several documents that bear HER signature, as if she was "acting" in his stead!
7) Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) - A Republican who is often looked down upon as being one of our worst presidents. While he was very popular while in office, his administration was rocked by bribery and scandal that Harding himself was "unable to stop."
8) Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) - A Republican who isn't necessarily viewed as "evil." Yet, he was utterly unable to do anything worthwhile economically with the Depression. Perhaps indicative of Republican policy failure? Or, simply a sad case of being the wrong guy at the right time.
9) Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) - A Democrat who is generally lauded as the chief villain of "Big Government" by Republicans. YET: the policies he instituted dug the country out of the Depression. And, oh yeah, he defended our country during WWII.
10) Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) - Wanna talk about being strong on national defense? Here's a simple Democrat who saw the end of WWII...up to and including the use of nuclear war on Japan.
11) Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) - Say what you will about the social "regressiveness" of 50s-era America (where men wanted to come home to work, and they wanted their women pregnant and cooking), this Republican is one of the more successful presidents of the 20th Century. His policies were responsible for building the interstate highway system. As a social progressive, Ike kept ALL the New Deal programs (including a massive enlargement of Social Security), and after agreeing with the Brown vs. Board of Ed desegregation decision made Washington D.C. a model for the country by demanding the integration of black & white students in the city. He also proposed and signed the Civil Rights Act. HERE'S a Republican I'd be happy to vote for these days!
12) John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) - A complicated Democrat, at once practicing a rather reprehensible personal life, while at the same time providing a forward-looking hope to the new generation who elected him. I think his presidency will always be shaded by the rose-colored lenses through which we view his assassination, but at the very least he prevented nuclear war with Russia.
13) Richard Nixon (1969-1974) - We're getting recent enough for the events by which we judge presidential "goodness" to be too close to home. For instance: Nixon is, by most honest political accounts, the last "true" Republican president, at least according to their long-held party platform of social advancement and fiscal conservatism. Nixon got us INTO China and (eventually) OUT of Vietnam, but as a person he seemed power-hungry and loathsome. Of course, all we remember now is the disgrace of his forced resignation due to the Watergate scandal.
14) Ronald Reagan (1980-1989) - And finally we come to Regan. He is seen by the Right as a saviour, and by the Left as the Antichrist. Ron had superb humor and a genuine ability to come across as likeable. (Hey, he's an actor, right?) But, consider: he successfully married the GOP to Christian conservatives, flaunting all that the Founding Fathers sought to evade in the creation of our very country. He was consistent in his desire to castrate organized labor. He instigated a system of "trickle-down" economics, whereby keeping the rich RICH was supposed to allow money to trickle down to lower-class people...a failed policy that we're still reeling from today.

Voting for president isn't about finding a "connection" with the candidate. Who gives a shit about a "connection??" That's phenomenally shallow when considering the next leader of the country. Look at the policies that the candidate espouses, and try to figure out which of those policies would better advance your version of The American Dream.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All Show, No Substance

Just a few quotes to remind you why, at least in part, the world is the way it is:

• From Sarah Palin, re: whether or not she watched the hilarious SNL sendup of a joint press conference with Hilary Clinton: I watched " — but only with the volume turned off. I thought it was hilarious. I thought she was spot on. Didn't hear a word she said, but the visual, spot on." Isn't that just so Republican? Don't listen to what you don't want to hear, and only comment on half the story. Further proof that how a thing looks is far more important than any actual substance.

• From Matthey Glazier, a co-owner of a pricey steak house that sits above Planet Hollywood's casino in Las Vegas, re: the expectations of his business now that it has been open a year: "People know when they come to Vegas they are going to spend a little more than they can afford." Gee...I wonder why we're in such a financial shitstorm with attitudes like this roaming around? It doesn't take much extrapolation - and certainly not of the slippery-slope variety - to see this put into practice with all sorts of buying sprees: houses that are more than you can afford, sputes that are more than you can afford, big-screen plasma TVs that are more than you can afford...

• from McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers, re: hitting below the political belt: "Barack Obama has brought the sleazy gutter politics of Chicago to our national stage, exposing his call for a 'new politics' as a lie and embarrassing even his own running mate with the low road campaign he's running." This, when Obama is accused by his own backers (and most so-called "independent" political wonks) of not hitting back hard enough? Again: we say we want one thing - a civil tone in the campaign - but when it comes right down to it, we'd really rather slow down and watch a horrible crash happen right in front of our eyes.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Putting Women First

Oooohhh, it's all too much. First, the silly Republicans were pissed that Sen. Obama was getting so much media attention. Then, they nominated Gov. Sarah Palin to be their Vice-Presidential candidate, surprising even those close to Sen. McCain and virtually guaranteeing a media shitstorm. Which they got! Now, though, reporters are supposed to "back off," and for heaven's sake stop picking on our (female) candidate! Why, the disrespect! The NOIVE! Don't you all know that she's the first female Republican candidate for the #2 slot?!?

(Ya like all of those conditions? It gets silly after awhile; sort of like calling myself "the first Kiss fan composer to live on my block." At some level of pre-conditions, EVERYONE is a "first" at something!)

Anyway. According to campaign manager Rick Davis, "Certainly, her record deserves scrutiny, but I think we ought to look at her record." Davis condemned "the salacious nature" of some news stories designed to "throw dirt at our candidate," urging the media to "dial it back." Apparently, it was okay to “throw dirt” at John Kerry (which even spawned a new verb: Swiftboating), or to ignore the TRUE across-the-aisles working government of Bill Clinton (who got a lot accomplished even while hamstrung by a vindictive Republican congress) and instead focus on “the salacious nature” of his Resolute blowjobs. Funny how nobody wanted to just look at HIS record, not as long as merciless head-hunter Ken Starr was calling the shots! As far as “dialing it back” is concerned…well, Republicans were already shitting themselves that Obama was getting all the media attention; now that Palin is getting it…they don’t WANT it? I’m confused…

Or, perhaps I'm NOT confused. The media admittedly treated Obama rather like a darling, whereas Palin is getting lots of really tough questions. Problem is: her record (once you take a look at it, per Davis' request!) rather makes at least some of those tough questions DESERVED! Things like:

• The announcement that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter, Bristol Palin, was pregnant. (See previous blog post for my thoughts on whether or not that's fair campaign fodder.)

• She has hired a private attorney (who is authorized to spend $95,000 of state money) to defend her against accusations of abuse of power. (I don't personally know anything about this other than the hire, but where there's smoke...)

• Palin sought pork-barrel projects for her city and state, contrary to her reformist image. (She claimed to have fought the "Bridge to Nowhere" in her speech last night, but - conveniently! - left out her desire to rake in federal bucks for OTHER "special needs." As mayor of Wasilla (the 4th-largest city in roughly 7,000 residents), Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million. In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million - three-quarters of a billion dollars, for the 47th-largest state in the Union! - in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation.)

• Her husband once belonged to a "fringe political group" in Alaska, with some members supporting secession from the United States. (This strikes even me as spurious. When did he belong? Like, when he was 19 or 20? I was obsessed with the occult when I was a teenager, but that doesn't make me a "Satanist." This is a situation where names need to be named, as well as a timeline.)

• Palin has acknowledged smoking marijuana in the past. (Geez, are we still on about this? Enough, already! Let's just admit that anyone under the age of, I dunno, 50, has probably tried pot. As long as she doesn't have a dime bag in her bra, let's let it drop!)

So, she's getting some attention finally, and even after her sarcastic, Lipstick Pit Bull speech last night (nearly every word designed to hide the fact that her ticket has nothing to offer the average American), folks in the McCain campaign are calling on journalists to back off. She's a woman! And a Republican! Take it EASY on her, man! (*rolls eyes*)

When it comes to putting women first, of course, the Republicans would really prefer to forget all about Geraldine Ferraro, the DEMOCRATIC candidate for Vice-President nearly 25 years ago. That's right, folks: a quarter of a century ago, Democrats already had their shit together enough to put a woman in the #2 slot. (Naturally, their shit eventually hit the fan, with Mondale/Ferraro only getting electorates from a single state, but still...) Here are some other notable women, and some surprising numbers:

• The first female governors in the U.S were elected in 1925, and they were both Democrats: Nellie Tayloe Ross to Wyoming and Miriam A. Fergesun to Texas. The first femal Republican governor was Vesta M. Roy of New 1982!! She only served one week, and was never officially sworn in. The first elected female Republican governor was Kay A. Orr of Nebraska, and that not until 1987. As of this writing, there have been 19 female Democratic governors, but only 11 Republicans.

• In the Congress, the first elected female senator (one previously had been appointed to fill her husband's vacancy-by-death) was a Democrat from Arkansas, in 1931: Hattie Wyatt Caraway. 22 Democratic women have been senators...13 were Republican. Republicans DID elect the first female to the U.S. House of Representatives, from Montana, in 1917. Since then, though, their dedication to feminine equality has been nearly as low as their President's approval ratings: of 246 elected Congresswomen, only 88 were Republican. That's 36%...not much to brag about.

So the overwhelmingly white attendees at the RNC can feel pretty good about their scrappy MILF of a V-P candidate. But they have a LOT of catching up to do, and that pretty much sums up modern Republicanism: way, WAY behind the times, and way out of touch with the needs and concerns of ordinary Americans...the MAJORITY of Americans.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Wabbit Season

As Supreme Emperor and Exquisite High Chancellor of the site Cranial Flatulence, I hearby declare hunting season on Republicans...OPEN!

So. Where to begin, where to begin? There's so much GOOD STUFF. (*rubs hands together wickedly*) Okay, let's take Sen. McCain's choice of soon-to-be failed candidate for the Vice-Presidency: Sarah Palin. She's set to deliver a make-or-break speech tonight in St. Paul, one presumably meant to throw off the yoke of ridiculous hypocrisy and two-facedness that has been forced upon her ever since the national media started asking more pointed questions than either her "maverick" home state newspapers OR, apparently, McCain himself. Just like all good Republicans these days, she's a firm believer in the "say-one-thing, do-sumpin'-diff'rent" school of governance.

For instance: let's look at sexual education. Palin insists that she's a firm believer in abstinence-only sex spite of the fact that simply saying "Don't!" is about the most worthless form of education that has ever been tried. She opposed proposals to spend federal money on teen-pregnancy prevention programs and voted to require poor teen mothers to stay in school or lose their benefits, writing in a 2006 questionnaire distributed among gubernatorial candidates: "The explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support." Which is now head-shakingly funny...I wonder how that's working out for her daughter these days?? Don't misunderstand me: I am not saying that the illegitimate pregnancy of her teenaged daughter is fair game for either the national media OR late-night monologues! It is - and should REMAIN - private family business. But, as an example of leadership style, it does rather demonstrate what I've said all along: when faced with the obvious failure of Decision A, a thinking person (like a liberal) would try to enact an optional Decision B. But, not those pesky conservatives! Like a bee thinking the glass will be gone "This time! This time! This time!" they just keep slamming ineffectively into the same old window. Even the quaint-but-sinister Mike Huckabee joined the throngs of Palin defenders, claiming that "I haven't seen anything that comes out about her that in any way troubles me or shakes my confidence in her." Okay, maybe not HER, Mike, but you're pretty much set against premarital sex doesn't bother you that a member of her own family has gotten...well, has gotten in the family way? Are there ANY values you won't sacrifice to the God of GOP??

Ah well. At least she has an opinion, ill-educated though it may be, and she knows what it is. Compare that with Sen. McCain, who was apparently having a "senior moment" when he was asked whether he supported grants for sex education in the United States, whether such programs should include directions for using contraceptives and whether he supports President Bush's policy of promoting abstinence. His reply?

"Ahhh, I think I support the president's policy."

You THINK you support the president's policy? You THINK?!? Do you even know what that policy IS?? Who the PRESIDENT IS?!?

I suspect these moments of "fuzzy head" aren't likely to go away any time soon. To a follow-up question about whether the government should provide contraceptives or counseling on contraceptives, he replied, "You've stumped me." McCain seems to be trying to cover up his Reagan-esque "I don't remember" lapses by feigning an irritation with the question itself. In an Aug. 27 interview with Time reporters James Carney and Michael Scherer, the Senator refused to answer a question about his definition of honor.

"Read it in my books,'' McCain said. "I'm not going to define it.''

Not going to? Or CAN'T? Maybe HE should keep a few copies of that book on hand for reference during those pesky memory blackouts; having to looking up his own opinion might be embarrassing, but at least it's more believable than the thought of a decorated war hero who WON'T FUCKING DEFINE THE WORD 'HONOR'!!

Oh, I could go on and on...and, frankly, yeah, I'm going to. Because I've got my dander up now, and I'm pretty fuckin' tired of a bunch of fat-cat, corporate-controlled Republicans trying to make the argument about abortion, or gay marriage, or taxes, simply because they know, in their heart of hearts, that there IS no way to win by talking about the genuine issues in this country. They're scared, and they're shitting themselves, and I'm gonna scoop it up and rub it all around their faces. Starting now.