January 16, 2008

Dare to dream

Could it be? Could it be possible that at least one party is able to conduct a vigorous campaign without resorting to lies, cheap shots, and distortions?

It appeared so during the Democratic Debate held last night in Vegas.

I don't know how long I can dare hope it will hold, but for one brief shining moment, the country got a glimpse of how politics could be, should be, and must be.

Though Dennis Kucinich was barred from the event, which depending on your view, is or isn't a good thing, the remaining three candidates displayed a remarkable degree of mutual respect and discipline in avoiding going for the cheap shot at every opportunity, something which has become a "thou shalt" commandment in modern political campaigns.

I don't know who did it, if someone from on high issued an edict, or if the candidates simply realized that they were both going to sink together if they engaged in rancorous sniping, or if they simply sincerely wanted to elevate the tone, but somehow, it happened.

Despite Tim Russert and Brian Williams incessantly trying to dangle the most eggregious and antagonistic spin in front of them in attempts to provoke an angry response, they steadfastly refused to take the bait. It was enormously refreshing, like a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.

As I wrote in a comment to a previous post, the attempt to portray Clinton as somehow "denigrating" MLK Jr. was disgusting, ludicrous, and willfully dishonest, and it was shameful of the Obama campaign to even put it out there. Of course the press pounced on it like hyennas and got themselves into a lather at the prospect of some huge racial conflict, since this is what they dream of. They absolutely HATE calm rational discourse, and will go to incredible lengths to try to read into things some sort of machiavellian or sinister motive or meaning into even the most benign utterance or action by a candidate, particularly if said candidate appears to be the front-runner, and even moreso if it's Hillary Clinton. (Chris Matthews is positively mentally ill about her and Bill.)

So Russert and Williams dutifully served up all the nastiness, all the lies, all the spin, all the demeaning and false accusations, and one by one, Clinton and Obama refused to take the bait.

They both graciously dismissed it as the pack of lies that it was, said they both agreed that the campaign should avoid personality politics and that they wished to avoid the injection of race or gender into the debate.

The public wants to avoid this as well. So why is it always thrust into our faces?

You got it. The press wants it to be an issue so bad they can taste it. That's why they essentially created it, ran with it, kept jabbering about it for days, and, as Russert explained prior to the debate, he'd have to bring it up tonight because it had been in the press so much and discussed by pundits widely.

This happens often. The press says they have to give a subject a lot of attention. Why? Because the press has given it alot of attention. See? We (the press) decide the issues and what you should think about.

None of the three took the bait. They gently and respectfully drew distinctions based on honest differences on issues, and willingly and gracefully acknowledged points on which they agreed with each other.

To their credit, Williams and Russert established a relaxed atmoshere, which was aided by the fact the candidates were seated, rather than standing stiffly behind podiums. It was refreshing to hear, rather than trying to perpetuate obviously false spin and trying to get candidates to say provocative things in response, Brian Williams actually performing a positive service.

He noted that they'd been getting e-mails which accused Obama of being a Muslim, of swearing his oath of office on the Koran, and of refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance, noting that they'd gotten that sort of thing many times. Without giving them the creedence of asking if it were true, Williams simply asked how the Obama campaign dealt with that sort of dishonest and ignorant sludge.

I was hoping Obama would simply answer that question, but for some reason, he felt the need to actually stop and explain that, yes, he was a Christian, swore his oath on a Bible, and often leads the recitation of the pledge when he's presiding over the Senate. I only would have hoped that he didn't need to do that, but I guess since polls show an amazingly large number of straight out morons out there do believe this tripe, he felt he better simply put it straight.

Kudos for Williams for taking a moment to acknowledge that such ugliness exists in wisper and e-mail campaigns, and allowing Obama to knock down such disgusting ignorance. (Although those who tend to believe stuff like that don't have any use for facts when forming their opinions.)

On one occasion, I believe it was Russert who asked Edwards and then Clinton about their votes on the horrible financial industry sponsored bankrupcy bill they had both voted for.

If this were a Republican debate or a prior Dem debate, the viewer would have to brace for a long-winded weaseley response trying to slither out of a direct answer and change the subject. This is what we've all been forced to accept in the past.

Instead, when asked if they still stood by their votes, both candidates instantly said no, that they considered it a mistake. Clinton tried to wiggle a bit by pointing out that the bill was never passed, but that's immaterial if she voted for it.

But here we had two presidential candidates violating the Rove rule that you NEVER, EVER EVER EVER admit a mistake. They were simply honest, and I have no doubt that voters will honor that and instantly forgive them their error, where if they had instead tried the usual weaseley contortions to avoid admitting a mistake, they would have held it against them. (as they rightly did when Clinton tried to have it both ways with her votes to give Bush blanket authorization on Iraq and the measure naming factions of the Iranian army as a terrorist organization.)

It was a great night to be a Democrat, and it truly showed that politics can, and may actually be, changing for the better. All three candidates came across as knowledgable, sincere, dedicated, capable, and above all, honest. It was clear to all that any one of them would make a capable and inspirational president. To say any of them would be an improvement over Bush would be to damn them with faint praise. All but a few bitter dead-enders realize that anything would be an improvement, Democrat, Republican, and independent.

It was a proud moment when it became clear that they were all going to reject the largely press manufactured conflicts and get back to the things they all agreed on, the need for immediate actions to try to address the many serious and pressing problems facing our country. (as opposed to divisive and distracting wedge issues like gay marriage, etc.) As Hillary noted, Democrats are all family. (though I know a few I wouldn't claim.)

It was truly a night for unity and common purpose, and it was hopeful, helpful, and heartening for the future of our country after suffering the abuse by the current Republican regime and the effort of the right wing to make truth and reality relative things.

And in the meantime, Wink Martindale won the Michigan primary on the Republican side, and Mike Huckabee came straight out and said he wants to ammend the constitution to reflect "God's law", presumably as he sees it.

These days, it's truly good to be a Democrat.


At 1/16/2008 11:34 AM, Blogger UMRBlog said...

You give Russert a little more credit than I do. He was desperately trying to "prove" that all three candidates were saying something different now about Iraq withdrawal than they said before. The premise was a "Fairy Tale" and they all answered beautifully.

Edwards is DOA but this format gave him a chance to show off what is obviously a superior ability to marshall facts in support of a policy argument. Funny, the smarter lawyer is the one educated at a State School.

Continued Success

At 1/16/2008 2:26 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

UMR... always glad to hear from you. And as usual, you're right on this.

While Russert seems to be given icon status and lavish praise by his peers, I think he truly is a major reason politics are broken.

It's because he feels his sole duty is to regurgitate the often false and willfully idiotic spin that's published by others in the media (constantly citing unserious people like Maureen Dowd, etc.) or politicians opposed to someone and pretending he's a serious journalist probing for the truth.

This is non-sense. Simply making a politician uncomfortable and trying to force them to address the often carefully constructed distortions against them, and expecting them to be able to do so in about 10 seconds of air time is stupid, in my estimation, and does exactly nothing to futher the discussion of issues or to serve to inform the electorate.

And being able to dig up old quotes and video clips and then trying to manufacture "gotcha" moments is really childish at times, especially when most of the time he's clearly grasping at straws.

He treats all sources as if they're legit, even when they clearly are extremely partisan and biased. He'll go to any lengths to dredge up SOMEthing that infers conflict.

This is then held up as Russert being a "tough" interviewer and the top of the heap.

Add this to his utterly phony attempt to portray himself as an average working stiff when he rakes in millions by being careful to not stray too far from his corporate bosses sensibilities, and the guy is a hack.

He's amiable, and gives the IMPRESSION that he's really being a good journalist, but in actuality he does more to trivialize and distract from important issues than anything else.

He'll spend a full ten minutes trying to play stupid games with someone to get them to deny that they're going to run for office. This is one of his trademarks.
He seems to pride himself in his ability to "pin" someone down. But when you step back and look at it, he's pinning people down on absolutely trivial matters.

He also is, in general, much less charitable to Dems than Republicans. For instance, when he had his chance with Bush, he did nothing but lob softballs and never followed up even when Bush's evasive answers fairly begged for it.

In short, Russert is a hugely over-rated journalist who seems content to stay firmly mired in the gossip and inuendo of politics.

He spent the first half hour of the debate trying to stir up the race debate and pit Obama against Clinton. Thankfully, they didn't give in to this.

At 1/16/2008 5:31 PM, Blogger UMRBlog said...

He was a staffer for MCuomo. He's been making it up to the Repubs ever since.

The most dangerous snake is the guy who loves sports, loves kids, "The guy you'd like to have a beer with." Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich have no pretense of fairness. Chris Wallace sold out and he knows we know. Russert creeps in under cover of "good guy, good faith journalist". Hell, he can't be all bad--He took his kid to see the Pope and he's friends with Marv Levy. But he is, not because he's evil but because he sees no distinction between some old pork earmark and someone's policy on keeping India and Pakistan from flicking the world's bic.

Last night was just a mild display.

But, as you note, three grownups made it a good night to be a democrat.

At 1/17/2008 7:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Huckabee stated that he wanted to pursue a Constitutional Amendment to protect life - and state that marriage is a man-woman issue.

Shocking! What next, are we going to protect the lives of blacks and end slavery? Oh yes, we already did that.

Well, of course, what is that Bible-thumper thinking - protect babies, is he crazy?

At 1/17/2008 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They have one debate where they play nice-nice and youthink that this means something?

They spent the week prior at each others throats over race and subverting each other blindly.

I hope that this does start a trend, but funny how this pleasant act started only after Hillary won a primary...

At 1/18/2008 4:07 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Here we go again. The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and you want to stop everything and argue that a clump of cells is a baby.

There's plenty to debate on this issue. But it's just not going to be debated endlessly here, despite your desperate attempts to do so.

And Huckabee did not phrase his call to tinker with the consitution as you dishonestly characterize it, and you know it. He flatly stated that he would change it to conform to God's will, or something to that effect, rather than allowing people to conform to the constitution.

If you want to debate something, let's hear your case against stem cell research, if that indeed is your position. I love to hear people argue that a clump of cells in a petri dish is somehow a human life.

At 1/18/2008 4:11 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 11:17.

I was hopeful that it signaled a change. I also specifically said that I didn't know how long it would last.

The answer was... about 24 hours.

That's the time elapsed before Clinton said she was "taken aback" by Obama saying he wasn't much on running bureaucracies. A pretty cheap shot which really wasn't necessary.

But I suppose since it went to the issue of experience, they couldn't pass it up.

It's also a bit disturbing in that it's reminiscent of Bush's "who cares about the details" attitude, in which he simply said he'd put "good people" and "grown ups" in charge of everything and it would all be just peachy.

If this is what we get when "grown ups" run things, bring on the adolescents!

At 1/18/2008 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dope, you have to get beyond the 'clump of cells' argument - I'd suggest it shows your blind stupidity on the issue.


A clump of cells that has a heartbeat.

A clump of cells that has a brain that is functioning.

A clump of cells that is growing.
A clump of cells that is feeding.
A clump of cells that has feeling.

How is this different from you and I (other than size)?

Dope, eductae yourself.

At 1/19/2008 4:32 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

First of all, it's NOT a matter of "eductating" anyone.

A clump of cells is a damn clump of cells. It's NOT a person. You can believe it is, and be my guest. But don't claim to hold the franchise on cosmic truth.

Don't even try to go there.

And a clump of cells is no more a human being than a acorn is an oak tree.

If you showed even a FRACTION of the passion and blind faith in trying to prevent the needless deaths of ACTUAL human beings, humans that live and talk and think and feel and breath on their own, you know, all that stuff you think isn't necessary to be a human, as you do trying to shove your personal moral beliefs down other's throats in order to force women to have unwanted children, then the world would be a much better place.

Seriously, go argue with someone who you might be able to browbeat or shame into believing the unproven and unknowable.

If you want to live in a theocracy, there's plenty to choose from.

At 1/20/2008 12:14 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

LOL, "Wink Martindale".. that is funny. :)

At 1/20/2008 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand - I make specific statement of unarguable FACT -


...and all you can say is,
"Dah, it's a clump of cells."

Well, toche, you've got me. You win with your superior knowledge of truth and facts.

Atta boy! What was I thinking?

(Again, you'll censor, because you've been shown to be lacking).

At 1/21/2008 8:12 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Doesn't he kinda remind you of a cheesy game show host? Or maybe a male model in a J.C. Penney's catalog?

He's the Stepford candidate.

At 1/21/2008 8:20 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Dingo 6:37

There you go again. You throw out your assertions even though they have nothing to do with what is being discussed, and then in lieu of addressing any argument, you instead continue to bellow your little "facts". That's not argument or debate.

What you're willfully ignoring is that I'm not arguing with the fact that at some point, an embryo starts growing. Duh!

This is why I "censor" you when you insist on hi-jacking the blog for your anti-abortion campaign.

You believe what you do, and that's A-OK with me. I just don't agree with your jihad to try to insist everyone share your beliefs. And it's a fool's errand to expect that you'll be able to convince everyone to agree with what is after all, a personal, spiritual, and emotional view.

Again, it's a tragedy that so much effort and energy is wasted in the cause of trying to convince you of your own self-rightousness and some sort of mis-guided heroic quest to save fetuses, when in the meantime, you not only do nothing to stop the wholesale slaughter of actual living human beings, but even support doing so.

I have said all I care to say on this issue. So yep, you'll get "censored" if you continue to beat this dead horse.

We know where you stand. You've made your point.

See ya.


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