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27 July 2008


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Obama's rhetoric? It is; delightful, amazing, deeply satisfying, ....

Dubya's was even better, but it was marred by his delivery. Obama's disturbingly Orwellian campaign is a reprise of Bush 2000 - from on-the-ground mobilization, to rhetoric, to staging, to symbols, to style [neo? retro? social(ist) realism].

COMING UP NEXT in this mass debauch of political pornography.

Two generations have grown up in a peaceful prosperous environment and a lax permissive culture. Ease and security are ambient- like air or gravity; liberty and tyranny are abstractions. Barnyard fowl, oppressed only by tedium, forget the need to be vigilant.

Of the two applicants for the job, I prefer the frail, nasty, sic-transit-gloria-mundi old coot behind Door Number Two. He doesn't have a little guy behind him holding a laurel wreath, nor does he likely need to be reminded he is merely a mortal.

robt willmann

I guess I will be one to fill a bucket with cold water and throw it.

When I first saw Barack Obama on television last year, after he had gotten started and was having some success, I said two things to my mother: 1) I thought his speaking was not great but was bland, and 2) he looked like a media creation. I have not changed those observations.

I admit to being spoiled by listening to some of the old-time Texas courthouse lawyers, such as Warren Burnett, whose speaking was extemporaneous, eloquent, detailed and substantive, flawlessly clear, and musical in the sense that it was easy to listen to.

I think that Obama's wife gives a much better speech than he does.

He is wasting valuable time with these foreign travels. The election is here, not over there. The great black jazz trumpeter Miles Davis was welcomed in Europe with adoration, but was beaten up by the New York City police while taking a break outside a jazz club during a performance.

Obama has got to get a lot of a certain type of voter. An example will explain.
A friend of mine went to work for Texas Governor Ann Richards and after a while became a member of her inner circle. Ann surprisingly beat a horseback-riding Republican in the 1990 election. You don't become governor unless you can get the "redneck" vote in East (the "Piney Woods") and West Texas, and enough of the urban areas wherein many people describe themselves as "conservative". She became even more popular locally and received fabulous national press. She was the classic southern matriarch with the white hair and the strong voice with a slight but pleasing drawl. She was a true liberal, but the rednecks loved her: she was their Mama and Grandma rolled up into one.

Then, despite her political experience as a county commissioner, State Treasurer, and Governor, she made a fatal mistake. The legislature passed a law that would let you carry a concealed handgun if you took a little gun safety course and got a permit from the Texas Department of Public Safety (the umbrella agency for the highway patrol, state police, Texas Rangers, and drivers licenses). To the shock of many, she vetoed the bill.

So in 1994, someone named George W. Bush showed up, announced his candidacy for governor, and said that if the legislature would pass the concealed carry handgun bill again, he would sign it. After the votes were counted, Ann Richards lost her bid for re-election, Bush won, and unfortunately the rest is not yet history.

I had come to believe that Ann Richards, before her collossal blunder ended her political career, could have run against Bill Clinton for the 1996 Democratic presidential nomination, as Clinton was damaged goods at the time, and beaten him. She was more popular in the South, and the northern and west coast liberals liked her. She would have steamrolled over Bob Dole or anyone the Republicans ran. But it was not to be.

Ann Richards was "tough as a boot", as we say down here. But I'm starting to think that Obama might have a glass jaw. He can certainly keep his cool in discussions and debate, but backtracks and apologizes at insignificant criticism.

After Ann's defeat for re-election, my friend told me, "We lost the white men over 40".

Are you listening, Barack Obama?


Col. Lang:

Obama's rhetoric about "changing how things are done in Washington" is pretty much word for word what Jimmy Carter said in 1976. Nothing new that I can see. There's no need to read more into it than campaign hype.

dilbert dogbert

I am afraid that Obama's first administration will be a repeat of Bill Clinton's. The Democratic Party lead congress will run off in 100s of directions as they have no party discipline.
I really don't care. I just want Bush and his party to remove themselves from the levers of power so that we can get out of Iraq. Anything we want to argue about after that is just fine with me.

Sidney O. Smith III


Just like you, I researched the words of Jimmy Carter, but it was the title from the book he wrote in 2006. It has the title, “Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid”.

Did Obama recite those words on his latest trip to the Middle East? I mean if he is some super duper revolutionary, then don’t sell out, right?

If he is believes in the title of Carter’s book but is refusing to say so in order “to win”, then isn’t he playing the Washington Beltway game that Americans are so sick and tired of, not to mention the rest of the world.

I guess you know the day after Obama left the Middle East, the GOI announced further settlement expansion in East Jerusalem. So much for the peace process.

According to Glen Greenwald, 70 per cent of Americans want an even handed approach to the Middle East. Looks like a winning approach to me, at least for those who dare.

Once again, I am probably voting for him. But I sometimes think Woodstock generation has managed to checkmate itself, all the while sending its youth to fight in imperial wars and leaving them bankrupt. Reminds me of the title of that play of existential despair, “No Exit”.


It would be difficult for me to describe with sufficient detail why my taste buds reject sausages. So it is with Obama. Though he may be short on detail and promise, there is something about his presence and carriage that is appealing. But words are not action. In that light my “hope” is nothing more than a belief that he will change the tenor of discourse. The world’s problems are far too complicated and interconnected for any single person (or nation) to correct.

That he knows how to use the English language appeals to ordinary people and it is refreshing compared to the pap and trash talk that characterizes the utterances of Bush and McCain.

It is my opinion that his appeal to Europeans owes to his politeness. Yes, there are far too many ugly Americans (no tourists are louder and insulting than Americans) and who knows this better than Germans and French. Who can forget the insults hurled at the Europeans by Bush, Rumsfeld and the news media at the beginning of the Iraq war?

Without saying so, Obama seems to place the Iraq war in the “unjust war” category. It would be nice to hear “John’s” explanation as to why Iraq is a just war. What about his stance on torture and eavesdropping since we have not seen his media pals ask him tough questions about it? Helen Thomas would destroy him on these questions alone.

Obama will never get the attention of the diehard Republican camp (40% of the electorate) but he may well lose the election because of the inordinate number of white Democrats who will not – no matter what – vote for a black guy to the White House.

Green Zone Cafe

It's really going to hurt when I vote against McCain. I gave money to his 2000 campaign and volunteered. I believe the USA would have been a lot better off had his campaign not been derailed by the scurrilous tactics of the Bush campaign in South Carolina.

But McCain is a tragic figure - a good man who had to hitch his wagon to what the once-proud GOP has become. He'll end up choosing some "movement" or "establishment" figure like the loathsome Romney as his heir/running mate.

Obama is a once-in-a-generation figure. I am always pleased and moved by both his deftness as a politician and his (relative) directness. Electing him is changing the paradigm with our relations with the rest of the world.


Just $0.02 worth from a reluctant Obamaphile about this topic...

I wince when I see comparisons written between Bush in 2000 and Obama in 2008. The notion that because neither candidate was particularly specific about their political programs is not germane to their character: it simply reflects the reality in American politics that citizens will disagree mightily over minor details of anything presented to them, so successful politicians have learned to keep their speeches free of such practical matters -- no more, no less.

But it's not difficult to discern a good idea of what a given candidate will be like by studying their past record of decision-making, and anyone who thinks George W. was some kind of cipher in 2000 hasn't done their homework. Virtually every awful trademark of the current administration can easily be found in Bush's tenure as governor of Texas, including ignoring international treaties and relevant laws, demonstrating a dubious penchant for torture (confined then primarily to death row), and a reliance of mob lawyering through shysters like Gonzalez instead of an adherence to the rule of law.

We can also see clearly what kind of man John McCain is, if we're willing to look past the barbeques he hosts for media pundits and the hype that corporate America would like us to believe. McCain abandoned his family to marry a rich heiress and that tells us all we need to know about his deus-ex-machina economic beliefs and his warped sense of values. In his old age, he's become a doddering idiot with no serious track record of real accomplishment, and Wesley Clark was 100% correct when he pointed out that getting shot down was not appropriate experience for service as commander-in-chief. Clark might be considered impolite, but he clearly showed the candor that leaders are supposed to demonstrate, if we can summon up the guts to hear it.

Obama, like all other candidates, is part candidate but also part projection of our own fears and hopes. But the skeletons in his closet don't involve Alberto Gonzales writing first drafts of torture memos for a sitting governor or brave airmen being incinerated on the deck of the USS Forrestal: they involve the usual big-city slimy pursuits of slumlords with ready campaign cash, and that's not exactly a rare vulnerability in current America politics. Scratch the surface of any campaign's financial team and you'll find similar ilk, so this vulnerability is not an Obama-specific problem, regardless of what the GOP wants you to believe. In politics, if we let he who is without sin cast the first stone, we won't see a lot of rocks thrown anytime soon.

And if we want to know what kind of decisions Obama would make as president, we merely need to look at the choices he's made in his own life to date. He married a strong and intelligent woman that he adores, he dotes on his children, and he eschewed high-paying and high-prestige professional opportunities upon graduation from Harvard Law, so that he could work to help poor people in Chicago. That's his track record, if we care to look at it, instead of letting our attention span be hijacked by guilt-by-association stories about Tony Rezko.

Compared to Bush and McCain, Obama is a saint, and the evidence is there to see for anyone who cares to pay attention. We don't need to be confounded by his gift for rhetoric, we just need to examine honestly what kind of man he has been so far, and that's the path that eventually led me to support him. He's not perfect, but who is?


"Obama's rhetoric? It is; delightful, amazing, deeply satisfying, but what does it signify?" Maybe, that he's not George Bush?

David W.

Sidney, I have to admit that I find your promotion of Shelby Steele interesting--unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. Any appeal that his message carries is not, in my opinion, shared by any appreciable percentage of African-Americans. Personally, I would lump him in with Clarence Thomas, Alan Keyes, and Grover Norquist as political entities who are savvy enough to figure out who is paying the tab, and figuring out what message appeals to those fellows.

Speaking of paying the tab, Steele is a fellow at the Hoover Institute, just south of me, down the 101. The Hoover Institute is also the landing spot of Don Rumsfeld, and sufficiently out of step with the community enough that Stanford students and faculty have been demanding that the Hoover be severed from its remora-like attachment to the University. So, as much as Steele's message may resonate with you personally, he has very little 'street cred', and lives in the Republican 'Log Cabin', along with his fellow travelers who have cut themselves off from their own kind, in search of greener pastures. At any rate, given his exotic provenance, I'm sure we'll see plenty of him during the Potemkin parade at the Republican Convention. (And, just for the record, 'blush wine' is the cheap stuff, and I do have some regard for Sam Nunn;>

Finally, PL, I'll take a shot at answering your leading question in this thread; 'the market' has determined that the two-party system is the most cost-efficient to co-opt.


Unfortunately, it's working"


I have observed several elections in Europe, makes out political process look amateurish and childish.


I think Obama's rhetoric signifies a redistribution of wealth and power from the top 0.1% of (or fewer) to the top 20%. BO thinks that meritocracy means that everyone gets a chance to go to the Ivy League (how about making state universities better than the Ivies instead?). He thinks that his 'story' is only possible in America (what about India, where an Untouchable became PM?). He even proposed to promote community empowerment by starting a 'community organizing fellowship' (apparently missing the basic point that true empowerment is antithetical to the inevitable resume checklists that 'fellowships' entail)!

This guy is about consolidating wealth and power around people like him, just like Bush. It's just that educated, image-oriented, consumers-not-creators happen to currently represent around 20% of the current US population, where as the anti-liberal, anti-constitutional plutocrats that Bush represented represented fewer than 0.01%.

i.e. BO is a reflection of and candidate for our contemporary upper middle class culture and those that aspire to it.


Here is a link to an interview that Obama did with the Jerusalem Post:

That is a skeptical audience. I believe you will find relatively little oratory and high flying rhetoric. Instead it seems to be clear, informed and thoughtful responses to the questions posed relating to Israel, Palestinians, Iran and Syria.

For those willing to do a modest amount of work, it is not difficult to supplement the pneumatically delivered, polished sound bites which have so concerned many. Seek and ye shall find.

Sidney O. Smith III

DAvid W.

Since I am a Southerner, odds are great we will have divergent views of MLK, Jr. So tell me where I am wrong.

In my opinion, if MLK Jr. had just gone to the Middle East, he would have gone into the Palestinian territories and given his “I have a dream” speech and it would have rocked the world. It is the ultimate act of moral courage.

Justice is truth in action, right?

And if we want to know what kind of decisions a candidate would make as president, we merely need to look at the choices he's made in his own life to date. He married a strong and intelligent woman that he adores, he dotes on his children, and he eschewed high-paying and high-prestige professional opportunities upon graduation from Harvard ...

for boardroom work - corporate versus charitable foundation.

Contrary to their myths, neither spent much time toiling in the vineyards. Dubya spent more time in oil fields than Obama did on the streets.

Five years from graduation to elected office suggests more chancing than eschewing.

[/wince-making][/chain yank]

Is there much correlation between the aptitude for domestic life quotient (ADLQ) and professional ability, performance, or leadership style (PAPLS)?

Compared to Bush and McCain, Obama is a saint, and the evidence is there to see for anyone who cares to pay attention.

I am paying attention, Don't see it. My Obamascope (Ebay, reconditioned, no warranty) needs a calibration check.


A man with a black father and a white mother is considered "black." So we know that 50% "black" means that you're an African American. Got it.

I'm rather desperately trying to determine my status with respect to a certain population group that generates considerable revenue from a casino operation - can anyone help me to figure out the percentile cut-off point after which one is no longer considered "red?"



I am reminded of the old Monthy Python song, wich goes:

"henry kissinger
I am missing ya
At least youre not insane."

Well, now that Henry K. and his cronies has been proven to be insane, I would strongly support anyone wich means that his influence will finally wanr and recede like a echo from the torture cells of Chile and El Salvador. In many ways, the current administration has been the last of the Cold War admins, frantically trying to realign their politics of hate and fear towards a new enemy, islamofascism so as to keep the machine rolling. Obama to me marks an end to the politics of fear, and thats worth dragging your arses out of the chair and voting for. Come on, you yanks!

Sydney O. Smith: In principle I agree with you, but in the sorry state that reality is in at the moment, I would say that Obama and the machine wich he will build is bound to be better than letting McCain run the repub machine for four more years. Its basically been a kleptocracy these last eight years, and to believe that McCain using the exact same people will not cover up the crimes of his predecessor is foolish. So while Obama sure aint my ideal social democrat, at least he seems sane and halfway decent. Thats the best offer you get, if ya see what I mean. Nelson Mandela aint running.



Thanks for the insights... here's a couple back at ya!

Dubya spent more time in oil fields than Obama did on the streets.

Not so, actually, or at least not as worded.

Dubya didn't spend time in any oil fields. His dad sure did, but the closest Junior came to actually working in an oil field was his experience making bad speculative oil investments... and those are much closer to gambling inside an air-conditioned office than they are to actually working out in the oppressive west Texas heat.

Or more simply, Junior's living in Midland-Odessa constitutes hanging out in the oil patch, not working in an oil field. Quite a difference, especially on a day like today.

I am paying attention, Don't see it. My Obamascope (Ebay, reconditioned, no warranty) needs a calibration check.

Consider that the sentence that is breaking your scope is a relative measure, not an absolute one (it begins with "compared to...").

Hopefully that will clear up your metrological calibration woes.

And if not, try looking up the term "damned with faint praise" to get the general idea.


Col. Lang:

A perhaps final follow up to my earlier comments about what Obama’s rhetoric might mean:

June 23, 2008, the Politico published a review of Obama’s work as president of the Harvard Law Review. The article, titled “Obama kept Law Review balanced” by Jeffrey Ressner and Ben Smith can be found at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0608/11257.html and has been abstracted below. I encourage you to read the 1300 word article in its entirety.


The eight dense volumes produced during his time in charge there — 2,083 pages in all — show the Review to have been a decidedly liberal institution. . . Under his tenure, the Review published calls to expand the powers of women, African-Americans and the elderly to sue for discrimination.

(Obama) published a searing attack on affirmative action, written by a former Reagan administration official (and) selected a young woman [Robin West, now a professor and associate dean at Georgetown Law Center] from a non-Ivy League law school to fill one of the Review’s most prestigious slots, (who) produced an essay focused as much on individual responsibilities as on liberties, criticizing both conservative judges and feminist scholars.

West's article challenged the then-prevailing wisdom . . . taking as its touchstone the work of Czech freedom fighter Vaclav Havel and the anti-Communist revolutions in Eastern Europe that were then still under way. Havel had written that the citizen’s sense of responsibility — not just of individual rights — was essential to political liberty, and West applied that critique to contemporary liberalism to argue that goals such as tolerance and diversity might in fact be "weakened, not strengthened, by taking rights so 'super-seriously' that we come to stop examining our sense of responsibility."

Obama "clearly agreed with me at the time that a shift in constitutional thinking from a rights-based discourse to one that centered [on] responsibility and duties ... would be a good thing," West told Politico.

Federal Judge Michael W. McConnell, who was nominated by President Bush and has frequently been mentioned as one of Bush’s potential Supreme Court nominees, recalls receiving (a letter from editor Obama regarding) his article “The Origins and Historical Understanding of Free Exercise of Religion.”

McConnell told Politico, “A frequent problem with student editors is that they try to turn an article into something they want it to be. It was striking that Obama didn’t do that. He tried to make it better from my point of view.” McConnell was impressed enough to urge the University of Chicago Law School to seek Obama out as an academic prospect.

(In summary, Politico writes) Even in the staunchly liberal milieus in which he has spent his entire adult life; Obama has managed to lead without leaving a clear ideological stamp, and to respect — and even, at times, to embrace — opposing views. To his critics, that's a sign of a lack of core beliefs. To his admirers, it's the root of his appeal.

"To understand what someone else is trying to say isn't just an editorial skill," said McConnell. "It's a life skill.”


Question - along with Bush, we got the PNAC (Project for the New American Century) folks for free. What is the baggage that comes along with Obama?

David W.

Very Delphic, Sidney. Regarding MLK, I was involved with the Mixed Blood Theater which was affirmative action in the best sense, founded on Dr. King's vision.

Regarding your scenario, it would be monumental, but if I gather your analogy correctly, I'd say the difference is that Obama is a politician, not the Second Coming.

Third, Hitler and Lincoln were racists, to one degree or another.
Oh, puuh-lease.

arbogast, you may as well accuse them both of being "human beings". This statement is as empty of useful content as the equation "1=1".

It was not possible to grow to adulthood as a white in America much prior to the present day without practically absorbing racism through one's skin. It absolutely permeated every aspect of popular culture. You could no more avoid it than you could avoid exposure to chicken pox. But the racism was a hell of a lot more destructive.

This may not have occurred to you, but it has to me. I was born in 1950, into a liberal Democratic family, and I'll probably still be cleaning the rubbish out of my head the day before they shovel dirt on me.

Truly pervasive ideas have that effect.

Sidney O. Smith III

David W.

Congratulations. A magnum opus. Or, if you prefer, a magnum of LaFite Rothschild.

If justice is truth in action, then perhaps art is truth in action as well.

If true, then maybe art and justice do indeed have something in common. Never really thought about it before. But your work may suggest such.

Ironically (perhaps) the quote, “Justice is Truth in Action” originates with Benjamin Disraeli.

When it comes to race relations in the US, the show, Frank’s Place, always fascinated me. The creator and talent behind Frank’s Place was Hugh Wilson (a white Southerner, for those who note such). When he was on top of his game, he, in my opinion, was the best. Preston Sturgis and then some.

Kindly note to your theater world. Not sure “To Kill A Mockingbird” is still apropos, although such a rehashed storyline can always sell in LA and NY markets. Perhaps it helps people forget the historical racism that gave us Harlem and Compton? I merely suggest such. Who knows…

In my opinion, the greatest threat to race relations, at least right now, is not a group of uneducated and idiotic kids in Louisiana, who are really no different than uneducated and idiotic kids anywhere else. It’s blowback from conditions in the Gaza Strip and maybe its sequel -- a pre-emptive strike on Iran that exposes US troops to greater risks.

Seems to me that a foreign policy that, according to an increasing number of people, promotes militant ethnic nationalism abroad increases the probability of creating ethnic divisions in the United States. Therein looms one great danger to the US. Our founding fathers warned us of a blowback that ultimately splits and divides.

Obviously, there are some at the Pentagon who would not agree. Many in the film, theater, and literary world would not either. But that makes me wonder if those of that persuasion are all one and the same. You know what I mean…action adventure.

Again, congrats.

David W.

Sidney--your kind praise exceeds my contribution, but I thank you nevertheless. The most valuable communications are those among people of vastly different backgrounds, so I appreciate where you are coming from, and the opportunity this forum provides us. I sense this topic will become a thread in the future, so I look forward to more discourse.


Sidney O. Smith III

Hi David W.

My apologies for not responding soon. You are very welcome and I too look forward to other discussions.

I am drifting a bit off topic, but from what I can tell, you probably know Samm Art. No greater person on earth. The absolute best. (Same for his cousin, Jimmy, former career Air Force and now career prosecutor).

I betcha’ Samm Art will vouch for Hugh Wilson’s greatness as a screenwriter and a person too. Frank’s Place was groundbreaking and, at least in my opinion, qualifies as “truth in action”.

Art and justice wrapped in one as “truth in action“. Never thought about that before. I like it. Thanks!

I’ll end this discussion with a question. Does the life of Rachael Corrie qualify for the spirit of MLK Jr. and Mixed Blood? I really don’t know the answer, as I am not part of the theater world and truth be told, do not know all the circumstances surrounding her life and death. But I do know there was a play about her life that was making the rounds and then disappeared. Philip Weiss -- one of (if not) the most courageous journalists in America -- has written about her life and the play at his blog as well as in an article at Nation titled, “Too Hot for New York” (One day, Weiss should receive what he richly deserves -- a Pulitzer for his work).


Corrie as truth in action? I just wanted to toss the question out there.

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