Friday, October 31, 2008

Reagan Endorses Obama

Yep, Ron Reagan has come out officially and emphatically for Barack Obama over John McCain. He is, of course, the son of President Ronald Reagan.

However, his father's own Chief of Staff, Ken Duberstein, has officially endorsed Obama this week as well:

Duberstein said he was influenced by another prominent Reagan official - Colin Powell - in his decision.

"Well let's put it this way - I think Colin Powell's decision is in fact the good housekeeping seal of approval on Barack Obama."

One of George H.W. Bush's Secretaries of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, came out saying Palin is not qualified to be potential President earlier this week...but I guess he got sent into GOP re-education camp and is now acting like a frightened turtle in recanting...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plumb and Plumber

The young socialist, Barack Obama, spent serious capital on an infomercial on Wednesday night:

His half-hour program was seen by at least 33,600,000 Americans, which doesn't count any Internet viewing, never once mentioned his opponent, told four resonant stories of, uh, "real" Americans, and offered bold, clear solutions which he would implement if we choose him as our next President.

John McCain, on the other hand, has to bus school kids into his anemic events to fabricate a crowd and can't even deliver Joe the (rightwing nutbag) Plumber on cue:

Y'know, McCain likes saying we're all Joe the Plumber, but I'm not. If I can pick based on my own empathy, I'm Larry Stewart from Sardinia, Ohio, from the Obama infomercial, a great-grandfather who's wife's arthritis condition (and their lack of health coverage) has him out of retirement at a Wal-Mart and taking loans against their home. Except even if I were all those things, I wouldn't be as good a blues guitar player as Larry (my favorite reveal of the infomercial).

So McCain can't count on Joe showing up. Even a member of his New Hampshire Leadership Committee has come out endorsing Obama. And he's got his most moronic back-benchers going out to get humiliated in the media with their lies and scumbag innuendo:

And the bookend to today's competence chronicles:

The decision to finance a final advertising push is forcing McCain to curtail spending on Election Day ground forces to help usher his supporters to the polls, according to Republican consultants familiar with McCain's strategy.

The vaunted, 72-hour plan that President Bush used to mobilize voters in 2000 and 2004 has been scaled back for McCain. He has spent half as much as Obama on staffing and has opened far fewer field offices. This week, a number of veteran GOP operatives who orchestrate door-to-door efforts to get voters to the polls were told they should not expect to receive plane tickets, rental cars or hotel rooms from the campaign.

"The desire for parity on television comes at the expense of investment in paid boots on the ground," said one top Republican strategist who has been privy to McCain's plans. "The folks who will oversee the volunteer operation have been told to get out into the field on their own nickel."

Back on May 25th I wrote that by the time November 4th rolled around, casting a vote for Sen. John McCain "will seem like voting assisted suicide for America."

Choose life, America.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Three Campaigns

It kinda broke open today. There's the John McCain for President 2008 campaign, with it's premature eject-ulation:
Lara Elborno, a student at the University of Iowa, said she was approached by a police officer and a McCain staffer and was told she had to leave or she would be arrested for trespassing...

...She said McCain staffers wouldn’t tell her why she was being asked to leave and when she got outside, she saw “a group of about 20 people” who had all been asked to leave.

Elborno said after seeing the people who were asked to leave, she was concerned that McCain’s staffers were profiling people on appearance to determine who might be a potential protester.

“When I started talking to them, it kind of became clear that they were kind of just telling people to leave that they thought maybe would be disruptive, but based on what? Based on how they looked,” Elborno said. “It was pretty much all young people, the college demographic...”

“...I saw a couple that had been escorted out and they were confused as well, and the girl was crying, so I said ‘Why are you crying? and she said ‘I already voted for McCain, I’m a Republican, and they said we had to leave because we didn’t look right,’” Elborno said. “They were handpicking these people and they had nothing to go off of, besides the way the people looked.”
This campaign appears to be in trouble, with early voting going against it (not that it couldn't all flip upside down on with turnout on the actual Election Day) and finding it necessary to run those awful robocalls in his very own home state of Arizona.

There's the campaign of Barack Obama for President 2008, where the candidate is pretty darned entertaining, even amusing himself as he bats down ugly smears:

He's got the Ronald Reagan shoe hole iconography going for him as well.

Then there's the third campaign -- Palin 2012:

If McCain didn't know it before, he sure knows it now.

In essence, when he picked her, he stabbed himself in the back.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

He's Melting

Hell is in the process of freezing over with Fox News blog headline: "As McCain Cancels, Obama Rallies":

CHESTER, PA - Dressed in blue jeans and a black jacket, Barack Obama braved the cold rain falling in Pennsylvania, and held his scheduled rally - outdoors. “A little bit of rain never hurt anybody,” he quipped to the 9,000 who showed up in ponchos and futilely holding umbrellas.

Just an hour away in Quakertown, the rival ticket cancelled their own outdoor rally due to inclement weather. Unfazed, Obama incorporated the conditions into his speech.

“I just want all of you to know if we see this kind of dedication on election day – there is no way that we’re not going to bring change to America,” he said as the soggy crowd cheered.

And the temperature in hell continues to plummet, as Shepard Smith debunks Joe the Plumbers lying smear about Obama's relationship to Israel.

Then there's chillmaster Florida Governor Charlie Crist, one of the Republicans on the McCain VP list who got passed over for poll-sinkin' Palin, and had the additional humiliation of McCain's team cutting his seven-minute video meant to play before the nomination acceptance speech. So he has ample reason to be pissed off at McCain and no reason to support his losing cause.

But that said, when was the last time a Republican Florida Governor made it easier for people to vote?:

Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday extended early voting hours across Florida to 12 hours a day.

The executive order comes after record early voting turnout has contributed to long lines at polling sites.

Current Florida law allows for early voting to be conducted eight hours a day each weekday and for a total of eight hours during the weekends.

With Crist's order, early voting sites will be open the rest of this week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. They will be open a total of 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday, the last day of early voting.

''It's not a political decision,'' Crist said moments after signing the order, which declares a state of emergency in Florida. "It's a people decision.''

And if that isn't a palette cleanser after Jeb Bush/Katherine Harris controlled elections, how about this Dem vote booster:

Crist issued an executive order Wednesday that requires officials to include voter registration applications when they send out rights restoration certificates to convicts who have completed their sentences.

The order also provides convicts who have completed their sentences with better access to information about restoring their civil rights by posting more of it on the Internet.

The rights of Florida's nonviolent felons are automatically restored some time after release. Violent felons have to go through an application process. Thousands of ex-convicts have had their rights restored but don't know it, or don't realize they are eligible to register as voters. The state has been unable to notify them because it has lost track of them.

Who knows, maybe Crist's gunning for an Team of Rivals cabinet post. Or maybe he rising to the dignification Obama offers everyone in this election. Or maybe he's got the makings of a real statesman; there were once Republicans like that.

The Obama love has spread to Obama, Japan. A 109-year-old daughter of a slave just cast her mail-in vote for Obama, just imagine. And this video had me reaching for the Visine:

This one had me reaching for my bourbon:

I guess you just have to admire all the Obama supporters who showed up to make themselves heard, and withstood the violent language and threats (both implicit and explicit) of this crowd John McCain and Sarah Palin appear to be deliberately ginning up.

There's never been a clearer difference between how two campaigns have conducted themselves. There's a lot of talk that McCain has run the ugliest Presidential campaign in anyone's memory, but Nixon was dirty filthy tricks, Bush 41 was racist Willie Horton shit perpetrated by Lee Atwater, and the GOP swiftboating of military hero John Kerry was vile. But it's how on the up-and-up Obama's run his campaign that makes McCain's look so bad.

And what is he doing with the Red Smears like he's studied at the feet of Joe McCarthy? What kind of man is he to cry fire in a crowded building, or allow his running mate to pour gasoline?

Per the ironclad screenwriting rule: true character is revealed under pressure.

Especially a downward spiral.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Close It Down

Do you want this man to be our next President?:

If you want Obama, take it up a notch. Close this election strong, not complacent. Visit your local Obama/Dem headquarters. Make a few calls. Convince one more friend. Put the sticker on your car.

He's not letting up -- he's still getting on the phone himself:

The opening of his closing argument:

One week.

After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from George Bush, and twenty-one months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are one week away from change in America.

In one week, you can turn the page on policies that have put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street.

In one week, you can choose policies that invest in our middle-class, create new jobs, and grow this economy from the bottom-up so that everyone has a chance to succeed; from the CEO to the secretary and the janitor; from the factory owner to the men and women who work on its floor.

In one week, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope.

In one week, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need.

Here's the close of his closing argument:

Does anyone doubt what Joe Biden says about Barack in this ad any more?:

The GOP is falling apart, with Palin political godfather Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) now no longer legal to vote, even for his own re-election -- Guilty x 7. Telemarkers are going all Norma Brockovich, refusing to robocall filthy, lying GOP smears about Obama. And lowlifes who even fantasize about killing Obama are getting nailed by the law.

The time to strike is now.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Big and Little

It seems that the Obama campaign can do big -- as in 100,000+ crowds at Denver's Civic Center Park today. The link takes you to photos that actually impress, even after all the crowds he's drawn so far, reminiscent of his Berlin speech.

And it also inspired the little guys out there to do their best work:

Somehow the idea of an Obama win in nine days makes the notion of this young reporter's prospects (and his cameraman sidekick) all that more imaginable, and that this will be the "look at him back then" clip that accompanies him to the top.

A Face in the Crowd

Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Governor Sarah Palin has reportedly gone "rogue" on Senator John McCain's Presidential campaign:

"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.

"Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."

This amidst another report of tension between the McCain and Palin wings of McCain's own campaign:
"She's lost confidence in most of the people on the plane," said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to "go rogue" in some of her public pronouncements and decisions.

"I think she'd like to go more rogue," he said.

The emergence of a Palin faction comes as Republicans gird for a battle over the future of their party: Some see her as a charismatic, hawkish conservative leader with the potential, still unrealized, to cross over to attract moderate voters. Anger among Republicans who see Palin as a star and as a potential future leader has boiled over because, they say, they see other senior McCain aides preparing to blame her in the event he is defeated.
Rogue sounds so appealing, doesn't it? And in her wardrobe, so fetching. It's Sarah Palin out-Mavericking the freefalling grandpappy "Maverick."

She's the fresh new face of American fascism:

This is smart on her part, since it plays the fear card big as Cheney and tells the plutocratic class that she'll red-bait rubes to keep their tax rates low and protect their disaster capitalist interests. At this time in history, for some extremist from the farthest, most rural corner of America to suddenly suck up so much of the oxygen, it's much like a movie.

Well, here's the only known antidote, especially starting @ 6:50:

Especially love the nearby crowd commentary. Have mercy!

And just to make sure that we don't tar all of Alaska with Gov. Palin's hateful brush, the Anchorage Daily News just endorsed Barack Obama for President.

Friday, October 24, 2008

End-of-Week Videosplurge

10 days, baby. Anyone feeling tremors yet?

There's so much now, every day:
  • Barack Obama visiting his ailing grandmother, who raised him, one last time before he sets sail. He told his aides that the visit was "non-negotiable."

  • John McCain having (this is a great story) blown his early lead in Florida by ignoring it, letting Obama come in and set up shop starting as late as June and multiplied new Dem registrations over 2004, and alienating Governor Charlie Crist who did everything possible for McCain, only to get dissed both by the Palin choice and having his seven minute video piece axed at the Republican Convention.

  • McCain advisor and Reagan's appointee to Solicitor General, Charles Fried, sending what is essentially a letter of resignation to the campaign due to his having voted for Obama/Biden.

  • McCain's communications director jumping on the bogus B-carve story for cheap, fast gain, trying to gin it up with reporters and ultimately embarrassing the campaign.

  • Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) telling Chris Matthews that Obama "has good teeth," which hearkens uncomfortably to how slaves were inspected on the trading block. Will Keith Olbermann pick up on this one?
So here's some end-of-week video to euphoriate out on, staring with the return of the "wassup" gang, blistering, funny, with a twist:

Hillary Clinton endorsing Al Franken, looking and sounding as great and professional as she has lately:

(My theory is that she really likes and clicks with Obama, and while he beat her in the race, in some sense he's treated her with more respect than her husband.)

Regular peoples endorsement videos coming from the Obama campaign, two of my favorites being a pharmacist in Missouri:

And a veteran in Ohio:

Then there's this young couple in their apartment again, this time talking about gambling:

Olbermann and Eugene Robinson on the racist blood libel by the psychotic McCain supporter, replete with perp walk:

I mistakenly predicted that Obama would choose his final statement in the final debate to close the loop with a huge callback to his 2004 DNC "One America" speech that introduced him to the country. He didn't do it at the debate, but this week the Palin/McCain campaign gave him that opportunity and (once again) walked right into his trap:

Now that we know he can deliver the wonk, it's nice to see the inspirational oratory returning to the fold.

Finally, if you ever needed one surefire way to know that voting for McCain would be a colossal mistake, just take a look at who decidered for him on Friday.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

John McFreefall

There's this:
At his Northern Virginia headquarters, some McCain aides are already speaking of the campaign in the past tense. Morale, even among some of the heartiest and most loyal staffers, has plummeted. And many past and current McCain advisors are warring with each other over who led the candidate astray.

One well-connected Republican in the private sector was shocked to get calls and resumes in the past few days from what he said were senior McCain aides – a breach of custom for even the worst-off campaigns.
And there's this:
A big batch of battleground polls came out early Thursday and brought almost universally bad news for John McCain. The Republican nominee's path to the presidency is now extremely precarious and may depend on something unexpected taking control of a campaign that appears to have swung hard toward Barack Obama since the end of the debates.
And then there's this:
Republican John McCain is not going to make his election night remarks in the traditional style _ at a podium standing in front of a sea of campaign workers jammed into a hotel ballroom. Oh, the throng of supporters will hold the usual election night party at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix on the evening of Nov. 4.

But the Republican presidential nominee plans to address another group of supporters and a small group of reporters on the hotel lawn; his remarks will be simultaneously piped electronically to the party inside and other reporters in a media filing center, aides said.

Bonus video:

How is it possible...but delivering a campaign ad in Spanish makes Obama appear even more suave than usual.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mad and Not-So Mad Women

Since every episode of Mad Men is so crammed with plot nuance and character information, and this week's penultimate Season 2 episode "The Mountain King" more than usual, and since I'm crunched for time I just want to touch on the striking (SPOILERS AHEAD) pre-feminism female characters.

Peggy's the easiest this time out -- she's learned her lessons from Don Draper well and has ascended to the office next to his, thanks to her hard work, grasp of creative advertising values, and increasing sense of self-worth. What a change from Season 1.

While Peggy is sitting in her darkened late-afternoon office with drink in hand contemplating her next moves, Joan is suffering from her pre-consciousness choice of fiance, a handsome but horrific doctor who handles his gripping feelings of sexual inadequacy by raping Joan in Don's office, violating everything she's all about in that workspace. Joan deals with it the same way she deals with him rejecting her mounting him (can't handle not having the dominant position, fearful that she wasn't a 31-year-old virgin when they met) the night before, by staring off and focusing on something else. In the bedroom it's the late night movie on TV, and in the office it's the end of Don's coffee table. Out of mind = out of sight.

One hopes that Joan will realize her consciousness long before the 1960's are over, and her respectful showing towards Peggy's ascension (while the guys in the office are furiously jealous) bodes well for their potential future partnership. Maybe Peggy will give back to Joan, as Joan helped her understand Cooper Sterling when she first joined.

Betty is a whole other case, learning consciousness by necessity, endorsing Don's paycheck and trying to raise her kids without him. She softens towards her daughter, doing the classic divorced parents move of buying her off while delivering bad marital news. Betty is a witch to the friend she set up for an affair, but maybe the verbal slap she received for it has awakened her a tad. What to make of her sudden bleeding -- miscarriage? Sudden illness? Breakthrough bleeding? The latter two would, with Don absent, put her in the jackpot situation, either threatening to leave her kids as orphans or forcing her into a backalley abortion. That would be quite the feminist capper on the season.

And then there's Anna Draper, wife/widow of the real Don Draper, seen in the present and flashback as Don/Dick returns to San Pedro for rebooting. Anna is the platonic ideal for Dick, the one with whom he can be himself, sharer of his secret and enabler of his better self. She tells him that the only thinking standing between himself and his happiness is the belief that he is alone. He says "People don't change," but as is the rule with characters talking about themselves, I don't believe it true of him. He just needs a partner (an underlying theme of the episode).

Am I the only viewer who found a certain parallel between Anna and Barack Obama's mother? Both are/were women ahead of their times, living with their own strong sense of morality, making their own bold choices at a time when (per the rest of the episode) women weren't encouraged to do so. I'm sure I'm mythologizing Obama's Kansan mom, but she was a contemporary of the fictional Anna, clearly an intellectual (who doesn't wear it on her sleeve) with an open mind and strong sense of self. Even through the pain.

My prediction for next week is that Don makes it home by the time the season tails out, prompted by the Cuban Missile Crisis, his heart open to Betty in a way it wasn't before (and her to him due to the bleeding), maybe helping to scuttle the Sterling Cooper buy-out in alliance with a relieved Bert, screwing Roger financially thanks to his impending divorce. Somewhere along the way he'll be the guy who popularizes hot-rodding to the masses, maybe going to a race or picking up a wrench before the international crisis sends him home, the conquering hero, the artist reborn.


And then: The long, hellish wait for Season Three to begin.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Celebrity

My, what an unexpected and nasty piece of work is Governor Sarah Palin. In her oratory and interviews, equal parts smugness, red-baiting and hypocrisy:

Decrying "socialism" in her snakey, dishonest, "I'm not the one saying", innuendo dripping, Wormtongue-ish way:
Grima used his skill with words and persuasion to influence the enfeebled King's decisions and policies.
Hmm, enfeebled king. Sound familiar?

The fact is that Palin is from the most socialist of states, Alaska, where every non-felon resident gets some redistribution of the oil wealth, for $5,522 between her and her husband in 2007. You know, the "pro-America" form of socialism.

But while the McCain campaign ran ads prior to Gov. Palin's selection that accused Sen. Barack Obama of being a "celebrity" the like of Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton, now it's his running mate who's dressin' like a star:
The Republican National Committee appears to have spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.
Hey, remember when John Edwards got a $400 haircut? Inflation.

And, as a conservative mavformrick she's also always been keen to help you decide what to do with your money:
Gov. Sarah Palin charged the state for her children to travel with her, including to events where they were not invited, and later amended expense reports to specify that they were on official business.

The charges included costs for hotel and commercial flights for three daughters to join Palin to watch their father in a snowmobile race, and a trip to New York, where the governor attended a five-hour conference and stayed with 17-year-old Bristol for five days and four nights in a luxury hotel.

In all, Palin has charged the state $21,012 for her three daughters' 64 one-way and 12 round-trip commercial flights since she took office in December 2006. In some other cases, she has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls.

Ah, well, what she lacks in honesty she can at least make up with knowledge:

Q: Brandon Garcia wants to know, “What does the Vice President do?”

PALIN: That’s something that Piper would ask me! … [T]hey’re in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom.

Actually, no one is in charge of the U.S. Senate, and agenda is now by established tradition run by the Majority Leader, working with whatever degree of collaboration with the Minority Leader. The Vice President is also "President of the Senate" but rarely shows up since it's basically a gavel job, except to break a tie vote -- which has happened only 242 times since 1789 for an exact average of once a year.

It turns out that Palin's qualifications are actually the top reason (does there have to be just one?) why John McCain's poll numbers are plopping into the toilet:

Fifty-five percent of respondents now say Palin is not qualified to serve as president, a five-point jump from the previous NBC/WSJ survey.

In addition, for the first time, more voters have a negative opinion of her than a positive one. In the survey, 47 percent view her negatively, versus 38 percent who see her in a positive light.

That's a striking shift since McCain chose Palin as his running mate in early September, when she held a 47 to 27 percent positive rating.

According to another poll by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, opinions of Palin have flipped in the last month, especially among the female voters she was expected to attract to the McCain ticket.

Nearly half -- 49% -- of voters have an unfavorable opinion of her while 44% have a favorable view. A month ago, "favorable opinions of Palin outnumbered negative ones by 54% to 32%."

We've begun talking about how Sarah Palin is setting herself up for 2012 while shemping her King Lear-like running mate to wander confusedly and alone, but maybe she'll be poison even to her party by then. While Palin is meteoric celebrity in the world of the religious right who's working hard to get the anti-Union vote as well, she's actually an anvil not only on the topline GOP ticket but, by that very nature, on all the down-ticket races as well.

And now in a major humiliation, the kind of campaign expose that supposed to come out after a Presidential election is actually coming out in next Sunday's New York Times Magazine, and includes how Sarah Palin was vetted, I mean, chosen:
Having interviewed several of the Senator's chief aides, Draper details the process by which McCain ultimately chose his running mate (New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg was surprisingly high on the list). And the decision may have been even more impulsive than initially thought. Gov. Sarah Palin, who had never been on the VP shortlist, was advanced at the last minute by Schmidt and Rick Davis, and was picked after a less-than-hour-long chat in with McCain at his ranch in Arizona.
In the end, if McCain does indeed lose this election, it won't be because of Gov. Palin or even, in a direct sense, Sen. Obama. McCain will have lost it for himself. They say that Presidential campaigns can build character -- we want to watch a new candidate grow, become, promise more for the future -- but they also reveal character. Obama is smart in many ways, from book-smart to game-smart to people-smart. He's sober in temperment and generous of spirit, without being anybody's fool.

What this campaign has revealed about John McCain's character, as set as it is for him at his particular flavor of age 72, might be read in a number of different ways, but heroic is not one of them.

Cold, political and calculating, perhaps?

If so, how much farther off could his calculations be?

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Ugly Train Express

First off, credit where credit is due. Kudos to some of the very reasonable, respectable McCain supporters (the kind he might have had more of, were it not for his catastrophic -- to his campaign -- choice of Sarah Palin as VP running mate) who take on (and drive off) the racist rightwingers who showed up with their printed hate:

If we all make it through this campaign and Obama is elected, there's a place at the table for these non-hating McCain voters. However, the candidacy of Barack Obama is bringing to light the ugly side of America, the side most Americans hope is behind us. Maybe it's hate that's not just tied to race but to political belief, but what grown up really believes that. Racism gives it the vicious, lethal kick.

How long until an anti-Obama instigated fatality? There are already death threats to average citizens for supporting him:
A 74-year-old woman and a 46-year-old man with Obama signs in their front yards near the 600 block of South Villa Avenue received similar letters that had a Villa Park Village Hall return address. "Get the Obama signs off your property—now," the letter reads. "Failure to obey this order will result in the immediate death of all family members." Both residents said they will not remove their signs, though the man, who had voted Republican for 25 years before switching parties this year, said his wife is worried about letting their 7-year-old son play alone outside.
There's auto vandalism to Obama supporters in North Carolina:
Authorities say someone slashed tires on at least 30 parked vehicles while their owners were attending a Barack Obama rally in a North Carolina coliseum.

The tires were cut Sunday outside Fayetteville's Crown Coliseum, The Fayetteville Observer reported Monday.

And Texas:
My "Obama 08" bumper sticker was torn off the right rear bumper, a 20-lb rock was dropped through the back window, 2 stolen Obama yard signs were shoved through the gaping hole in the window, and a cryptic almost "OBAHA" (or something...) was scrawled in orange spray-paint on the drivers side front and back doors and windows.
Campaign sign replacement with the flag of slavery:
On Friday night, a large Obama sign was stolen on Bailey Bridge Road. It was replaced with something that has shocked the community.

In the sign's place was a confederate flag.

"I was kind of upset and shook up," said Reverend Leroy McLaughlin, the signs owner.

Some McCainiacs are openly trying to intimidate likely Obama voters:

Photographer Joe Eddins and I headed over to the closest one and found a steady line of voters hoping to cast ballots early. Most seemed to be Obama supporters and several had come from the rally. Nearly all the voters were black.

Also at the polling site was a group of loud and angry protesters who shouted and mocked the voters as they walked in. Nearly all were white.

As you can see from these videos, no one held anything back. People were shouting about Obama's acknowledged cocaine use as a young man, abortion and one man used the word "terrorist." They also were complaining that Sundays are for church, not voting.

And some McCainiacs are getting physical:
In an exclusive interview with 12 News, 58 year-old Nancy Takehara of Chicago says she was going door-to-door when she came across a disgruntled homeowner.

“The next thing I know he’s telling us we’re not his people, we’re probably with ACORN, and he started screaming and raving,” Takehara said. “He grabbed me by the back of the neck. I thought he was going to rip my hair out of my head. He was pounding on my head and screaming. The man terrified me.”
As far as political murder goes, do bears count?:

Maintenance workers reported about 7:45 a.m. finding a 75-pound bear cub dumped at the roundabout near the Catamount statute at the entrance to campus, said Tom Johnson, chief of university police.

“It looked like it had been shot in the head as best we can tell. A couple of Obama campaign signs had been stapled together and stuck over its head,” Johnson said.

And thanks to McCain/Palin anti-ACORN smear rhetoric:

Earlier Friday, ACORN told McClatchy that one of its senior staffers in Cleveland had received a death threat and that its Boston and Seattle offices had been vandalized sometime Thursday, reflecting the mounting tensions over the group's role in registering 1.3 million mostly poor and minority Americans to vote...

...Kettenring said that a senior ACORN staffer in Cleveland, after appearing on television this week, got an e-mail that said she "is going to have her life ended." A female staffer in Providence, R.I., got a threatening call from someone who said words to the effect of "We know you get off work at 9," then uttered racial epithets, he said...

...Separately, vandals broke into the group's Boston and Seattle offices and stole computers, Kettenring said.

The incidents came the day after McCain charged in the final presidential debate that ACORN's voter-registration drive "may be perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history" and may be "destroying the fabric of democracy."

Here's the scoop: it may be too late for McCain to save his reputation, and no matter what she says to try and cover her ass, Palin doesn't care -- this is her base. It's already on them. It's already on John McCain. Barack Obama -- and Joe Biden -- is running a campaign of inclusion. McCain is betting on division and his rhetoric for the past several weeks, as if taking a lead from his running mate, has centered on this in lieu of actual vision or statesmanship.

This appeal to division and, yes, racism, is going to be his last Hail Mary drive to squeak an Electoral College victory by focusing on (Western) Pennsylvania.

And, at this point, should a single Obama supporter lose their life to a McCain supporter, it will damn him -- and Governor Palin -- for eternity.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sixteen Days

That's all that's left until November 4th, and today a few good things happened for the Obama campaign. He received Colin Powell's endorsement, he announced raising an earth-shattering $150,000,000 in September at an $86/contribution average and including over 600,000 new donors, and he had my eldest son on the phone here in Santa Monica calling Obama voters in North Carolina to urge their early voting and provide an 888 number for them to find out the One Stop Early Vote polling place nearest to them.

The Powell endorsement is incredibly sober, truly what Prof. Juan Cole (who's criticized Powell for his role, however neutered, in the Iraq War build-up) calls "Powell's Finest Moment." If you want to see it and haven't yet, here you go:

Powell undermines every argument for a McCain Presidency, including all the contradictory Ayers posturing. He was even harsher talking with reporters outside after the on-air, especially on the vile McCarthyite Congresswoman, Michelle Bachmann. (More on her shortly.) But one of the earmarks of this election is that the racists are making themselves known, specifically today Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan who both insult the hell out of Former General, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, and Secretary of State Powell by saying he only endorsed Obama because of their shared skin color.

Disgusting. Like McCain's new red-baiting strategy, drinking from the same filthy trough as Palin and Bachmann. And his level of rhetorical self-delusion is profound -- compare this two-faced defense of smear-fest robocalls, having hired the same firm that the Bush campaign used in 2000 to ruin McCain with targeted lies:

What an incredible slime McCain has become, a kind of political Dorian Gray where in return for a hoped-for point or two poll bounce his reputation becomes uglier and uglier. And his camp is now acting in tell-tale loserish ways, banking on division to eke out a tiny victory, easy to target stuff, as Joe Biden slams home like a rock star:

You know you're losing when even your latest drummed up diversion ditches you for Mike Huckabee -- who isn't even running anymore. You know you're losing when a company doing fake voter registration and affiliation switches for your Party gets arrested for trying to subvert democracy. When yet another dyed-in-the-wool conservative newspaper endorses your opponent, in large part due to your disastrous VP choice. You know your losing when attacks on patriotism by surrogates like this:

...leads to her opponent suddenly raising $450,000 from 9,000 donors in the ensuing 24 hours. And with a name like Elwyn Tinklenberg (yes, really), that's got to be an otherwise unattainable campaign warchest.

Complacency is a killer, but Andrew Sullivan has it right that at least Obama has built a machine -- and a message -- with the shot at a rare landslide victory. There is nothing wishy-washy about Obama at all -- he's in it to win it.

As for his opponent, maybe not so much?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Le Deluge?

The debate period of the past several weeks seems to have been a pause in the campaign in a way, with candidates disappearing for a day here and there to prepare for the debates, where a certain vetting went on.

That's all changing, as we've emerged into the final Act, less than three weeks to go, three Tuesdays from now. And while there's plenty of healthy fear of complacency, sudden GOP activation or hidden anti-Obama voting out there, we may also begin to witness the long-planned for flood. Starting with endorsements, maybe or maybe not including Colin Powell on Sunday, but with newspapers already weighing in, including some surprises.

For one, The Los Angeles Times rarely endorses a Presidential candidate in the General Election:
The Times without hesitation endorses Barack Obama for president.

Our nation has never before had a candidate like Obama, a man born in the 1960s, of black African and white heritage, raised and educated abroad as well as in the United States, and bringing with him a personal narrative that encompasses much of the American story but that, until now, has been reflected in little of its elected leadership. The excitement of Obama's early campaign was amplified by that newness. But as the presidential race draws to its conclusion, it is Obama's character and temperament that come to the fore. It is his steadiness. His maturity.
Without hesitation. They go on to how the McCain they once admired is no longer recognizable, and give large consideration to how his VP choice undermines any claim of superior judgment. And their closing paragraph is moving in a patriotic way:
We may one day look back on this presidential campaign in wonder. We may marvel that Obama's critics called him an elitist, as if an Ivy League education were a source of embarrassment, and belittled his eloquence, as if a gift with words were suddenly a defect. In fact, Obama is educated and eloquent, sober and exciting, steady and mature. He represents the nation as it is, and as it aspires to be.
More stunningly, the Chicago Tribune gives their first-ever endorsement of a Democratic Presidential candidate:
On Nov. 4 we're going to elect a president to lead us through a perilous time and restore in us a common sense of national purpose.

The strongest candidate to do that is Sen. Barack Obama. The Tribune is proud to endorse him today for president of the United States...

...Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them.

We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.
They go on to recall how the newspaper's first great leader was a Republican Party founder (anti-slavery), how the current GOP has completely lost its way, how McCain is no longer comprehensible and, again, there's that Palin:
McCain failed in his most important executive decision. Give him credit for choosing a female running mate--but he passed up any number of supremely qualified Republican women who could have served. Having called Obama not ready to lead, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin's exposure to the public. But it's clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment's notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country.

Obama chose a more experienced and more thoughtful running mate--he put governing before politicking. Sen. Joe Biden doesn't bring many votes to Obama, but he would help him from day one to lead the country.
Country first, baby. Could be Obama's new slogan.

They go into more detail on Obama's reassuring past successes in Illinois legislature, and then close with this rather tear-provoking passage:
Obama is deeply grounded in the best aspirations of this country, and we need to return to those aspirations. He has had the character and the will to achieve great things despite the obstacles that he faced as an unprivileged black man in the U.S.

He has risen with his honor, grace and civility intact. He has the intelligence to understand the grave economic and national security risks that face us, to listen to good advice and make careful decisions.

When Obama said at the 2004 Democratic Convention that we weren't a nation of red states and blue states, he spoke of union the way Abraham Lincoln did.

It may have seemed audacious for Obama to start his campaign in Springfield, invoking Lincoln. We think, given the opportunity to hold this nation's most powerful office, he will prove it wasn't so audacious after all. We are proud to add Barack Obama's name to Lincoln's in the list of people the Tribune has endorsed for president of the United States.
Again, no chickens before hatching time, but should a tall dark gentleman from Illinois fulfill the promise of an earlier under-experience, eloquent, tall thin President from Illinois...well, what an epic story that would be.

The next several weeks are crucial for America renewal, for making good on everything we like to say about ourselves, our good will, our strong backs and elbow grease, the miracle of a nation of many peoples united as in no other country in history.

If these editorials keep coming, if the early voting continues to look so strong for Obama, if a sense of a winner actually encourages more voting rather than complacency (after all, would you want your state to be left out when the new President looks to help those who helped elect him?), then we could see the deluge some dare not even imagine.

If you believe, then the time is now -- not November 5th or 6th or 7th -- to join the party.

Now is the time to come pitch in.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


McCain goes hat-in-hand to Letterman. It's nice to see him admit a mistake. Twice. But he is so freaked out, you just can't imagine Obama acting like that, let alone getting himself into the situation in the first place. Note that the admission of screwing up is a bid for absolution, not a real admission that he screwed up by lying to Letterman. One doubts Obama would lie, at least so brazenly, or wouldn't have been on Katie Couric to run interference with a running mate he can't trust alone with a network news anchor.

Obama was right today, anyone who thinks it's okay to get complacent doesn't remember New Hampshire. However, I'm still thinking of last night's third and final Presidential debate, and how much it felt like we were watching the climax of John McCain's nervous breakdown. Pictures like these (oh especially that now-famous last one with his tongue hanging out in reptilian pose) don't help. But it's more like George Packer nails it in The New Yorker:
It made me sad, watching the tight-necked, pop-eyed, clenched-jawed, eyebrows-twitching, shoulders-heaving, ghoulish-smiling, rapid-blinking John McCain go from pale to translucent as he flailed away on TV last night, to remember the man I saw at a town-hall meeting in Salem, New Hampshire, last January—years ago. Back then he was witty, he was relaxed, he was appealingly combative, he was generous. For sheer talent at engaging with voters he had it all over both Obama and Clinton. The contrast now is so severe that it makes running for President seem like a personal disaster on the scale of a prolonged nervous breakdown leading to physical and psychological ruin. This campaign has done something terrible to McCain. And it’s entirely his own fault. Character is fate.
While Obama understood what he needed to do in the debates and delivered with profoundly together coolness, per Mark Kleiman (per David Gergen):

David Gergen made the most important point of the evening, one that related to all three debates and one that, I thought, Obama grasped and McCain didn't. These were only formally and secondarily clashes between Obama and McCain. The voters weren't really measuring them against each other. These debates were the final step in Barack Obama's job interview for the Presidency.

The voters (like those in 1980, as Ed Rollins pointed out yesterday) had already decided they'd had about enough of the ruling party. But they needed to be reassured that the opposition candidate wasn't a fool, a lightweight, or a kook. What mattered was whether the challenger could get above the bar, put himself in the voters' comfort zone. Once that happened, there was sure to be a landslide.

Obama's super-controlled performances were all aimed at that end. Unlike his opponent, he knows deep in his bones the difference between tactics and strategy.
Tonight Obama and McCain met again at the traditional Al Smith formal dinner in NYC, a big Catholic establishment event, as Al Smith was a failed 1920's Democratic Presidential candidate, smeared due to his then-unaccepted Catholicism. It's a foundation dinner as well, and the candidates are supposed to let down their hair with written comedic monologues that singe but don't burn, usually climaxing with a tribute to the other candidate, who's sitting right there at the dais table. This is the dinner where Al Gore was specifically not gracious about his opponent while then-Gov. Bush spoke kindly of Al as a family man, feeding into the Gore cold elitism disdain meme. So it's weird to watch McCain and then Obama speak in such a collegial setting, getting digs in but also honoring each other. I have to say that if McCain wins he'll be the most surprised guy in America, because you can see the acceptance, the this-side-of-tears resignation written all over his face.

It feels like he wants Obama to be his President. And it would certainly spare him the humiliation of his own first term. By the time this is over, he's going to be grateful to his opponent for winning, or maybe for winning in the honorable way he's on track to do.

But until then, you'll find John's navigating the gutter.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Did anyone watch this final debate? I guess I'll find out when the ratings are released. I almost didn't and I have TiVo. I'm not getting the customary flurry of emails and voicemails tonight. Nobody cares like they did on the first three (including Joe Biden's trip to the Sarah Palin freakshow). But I've got it on now.

Why does McCain (like Palin) come in and write down a bunch of notes as soon as he arrives? Makes him seem disengaged when Bob welcomes them. Gotta hit this, gotta make sure to hit that. Real spontaneous.

What's the deal with McCain's eyebrows? They required more grooming. They are distracting me from what begins as his most sober opening so far. I take issue with his "our beloved Nancy Reagan" although I think it appropriate to note her accident and send best wishes, as an ex-First Lady. But he's looking strangely like an amped up version of Bob Novak, and when asked if he has a question for Sen. Obama after Barack's first answer, on the economy, he says, "Uh, no," and launches into something while Barack kinda laughs like, "That's John." Yet another one of his twists on "angry."

Is McCain on some kind of uppers? He whirlpools into "Joe the Plumber" and the CNN audience meter flatlines for a longer stretch than I remember even from the last debate. I swear, he's taking some sort of age or cancer or pain-related drug, or maybe something like the Dr. Feelgood shot Don Draper turned down on Mad Men this week. I mean, this is the clip of the debate, and he doesn't even say anything:

McCain saying "Okay? Okay?" like he's Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar. Here, too:

And even better:

Barring catastrophe, it's over. This debate can be studied as a McCain freakout under a microscope, and it's his best performance yet.

He just scares the shit out of everybody now. He didn't in the primaries, even with the revealing "Bomb-bomb-bomb Iran" type jokes, but when he picked Sarah Palin he revealed his true character, and it's one unsuited to the Office of U.S. President. McCain may have grown up thinking he was cool because he was a poor-little-rich-military kid rebel, but self-centered the same way that George W. Bush was and is, maybe not to the same degree.

The last undecideds who can be persuaded are overwhelmingly falling to Barack Obama. It's brutal:

CBS poll of undecided voters:

Who won the debate?

McCain (R) 22
Obama (D) 53

Shares your values

Obama, Before the debate: 54
Obama, After the debate: 63

McCain, Before the debate: 53
McCain, After the debate: 56

Update: CNN poll of voters who watched debate:

Who won the debate?

McCain (R) 31
Obama (D) 58


Obama, before debate: 63/35
Obama, after debate: 66/33

McCain, before debate: 51/45
McCain, after debate: 49/49

McCain is actually less popular now than he was at 9:00pm ET. His favorables have sunk to exact parity with his unfavorables. While Obama grew to am all-time high favorable score exactly double that of his unfavorable.

Is it possible that McCain only gets, like, @ 57 electoral votes (to an Obama 481), i.e. eleven states and not Texas?

Is it?

Bonus Post: Debate Prediction

Here you go -- if I'm wrong, there's always post deletion:

I don't really care what McCain does tonight, except in that scientific interest sort of way. Or maybe circus sideshow/auto accident way. And maybe he'll acquit himself well, but I'd be surprised if there's a gamechanger here, as even playing nice will be seen as more evidence of erraticism now.

I'm much more interested in the Obama strategy and execution. My guess is that he'll skillfully "close the deal" by closing the loop. And I predict he will do that by tying together the recent themes that have grown tall in his campaign -- economic rescue via jobs, shared responsibility and revived American spirit -- with his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote speech, the one that catapaulted him to the national stage, "The Audacity of Hope" speech, albeit tempered with the stark realities of this moment.

Back then a friend (who actually ended up a Hillary supporter) told me it was the most impressive convention speech she had ever seen, and to watch this guy as a potential Presidential candidate. I thought it was a pretty rousing speech, but my thoughts ended there. Whoops.

However, I believe we will hear a reprise in Obama's unity message tonight, which had this key passage:
The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an "awesome God" in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
Listen for echoes of this. If he does do such a callback (in comedian parlance) it will be an epic four-year callback, with the same storytelling power of the climax to a brilliantly written movie, as well as proving he's the candidate with the most cohesive and compelling vision in years.

If I'm wrong, I'm voting for McCain.

Just kidding!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


O.k., maybe it isn't yet time to stop McNaming John. Kind of like McDonalds. Does that make Sarah Palin the Hamburgler?

While the 4+/- margin of error may make this CBS/NY Times poll more like Obama 49% and McCain 41%, but the fact that the morning of the final Presidential debate has the candidates at 53%-39% must be troubling for the McCain camp. It's a threshold you don't want to cross, even in an outlier. It's something you don't want bolstered with most post-debate polls. Crossing below the 40% mark, that's Bush Country.

But what if the dam really is bursting.

While the 100% negative as spend this past week polls as one reason for the drop in McCain support, clearly the biggest political mistake of this political cycle was his selection of running mate. Sarah Palin has single-handedly flipped Florida for Obama. She scares old people, especially elderly Jews.

Per Adam Nagourney, Obama eased voter doubt past the tipping point in the two debates. McCain isn't going to beat him by being nice or feisty or aggressive tonight. The die is cast. Even if he comes in jovial it'll read as erratic.

But we're also seeing the beginning of the organizational tsunami. Obama has an amazing early voting effort, which has him ahead in the pre-election day vote in New Mexico by 23 points and in Ohio by 18 points -- votes already cast.

My own experience: I volunteered for phone banking yesterday at the well-situated Democratic HQ here on Wilshire and 9th in Santa Monica. So well-organized, with some key people (mainly young women) making things work, while volunteers of all ages put in time.

The 13-year-old girl next to me got called a "dumbass" on one call, and I got one 80-year-old McCain supporter but he was respectful, and a few enthused Obama supporters. One guy told me he's voting for Obama because "McCain's too old and Palin's a dipshit!" Right on.

Mostly it was marking down "NH" for not home, but they have these call sheets with UPC's for each of the 18 targets on the list, along with age and registration. When you finish the sheets they go right to the data entry team. I used a landline, but there was one guy just trafficking cellphones (leave your driver's license) and swapping batteries. The core focus of these calls to Nevada is early voting, I'm assuming for the next few weeks. I'm guessing there's a horizon (maybe not this election) where a campaign wins before Election Day even begins. I'm betting the momentum of cast votes will almost always help whoever is ahead -- winners are magnetic, not so much perceived losers.

I got one mom on the phone who was happy to get the early voting info for her and her husband -- that's a phone number that reaches the Nevada campaign to tell you early voting places and even provides a ride(!) -- as well as absentee ballot info for her son in college back in Boston. The old (like, 78) woman next to me (and her 80+ year-old husband) was hilarious. She was a Hillary supporter who thought she'd vote Obama but not volunteer -- she and her husband both phonebanked for Kerry and were unhappy with the result -- until Sarah Palin came along! She started going to websites debunking the anti-Obama emails her friends were sending her and has grown to really like the guy.

At the other end of the age spectrum, the organizers told me that one of their very best callers is just 10-years-old.

There's a buzz going on coast-to-coast now, and Zack Exley lays it all out on HuffPo:
The "New Organizers" have succeeded in building what many netroots-oriented campaigners have been dreaming about for a decade. Other recent attempts have failed because they were either so "top-down" and/or poorly-managed that they choked volunteer leadership and enthusiasm; or because they were so dogmatically fixated on pure peer-to-peer or "bottom-up" organizing that they rejected basic management, accountability and planning. The architects and builders of the Obama field campaign, on the other hand, have undogmatically mixed timeless traditions and discipline of good organizing with new technologies of decentralization and self-organization.

Win or lose, "The New Organizers" have already transformed thousands of communities—and revolutionized the way organizing itself will be understood and practiced for at least the next generation...This article focuses on the field program's innovative "neighborhood team" structure and the philosophy of volunteer management underlying it that is best summarized by the field campaign's ubiquitous motto: "Respect. Empower. Include."
I expect the Obama 2008 Campaign, from the first strategic plan Barack presented to Michelle in order to get her approval to run two years ago through the groundbreaking GOTV effort on Election Day, will be taught not only in political science classes but also business schools for the next 25-50 years.

And I recommend participating -- less than three weeks left to volunteer to be a part of making history.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dick Whitman

The core question of Mad Men seems to be not so much who the hell is Don Draper -- we know he died in the Korean War, that his identity was presumed by Depression baby Dick Whitman, and that he was, per the few moments we have of him in the show, a very decent guy.

No, the core question is how Dick Whitman went from taking Don Draper's name to becoming the much admired and envied Creative Director of Sterling Cooper ad agency -- and whether that Madison Avenue man is a character that Dick Whitman can continue playing for much longer.


As with the 13-episode arcs of most classic HBO dramas, the final three episodes comprise the last act of the season, and Act 3 of Season 2 of Mad Men kicked in on Sunday night with "The Jet Set". Don Draper's marriage looks to be over and between the business compromises and personal scandals infecting his office life, he grabs an opportunity for a business junket to Los Angeles. Although he's there to seduce the aerospace (jet set) industry, he's clearly disturbed by an atomic missile annihilation presentation, hearkening back to the moment when Don Draper was killed by airstrikes at their remote two-man outpost, and he swapped his dogtags for those of his superior officer. Combined with a fleeting vision of his estranged wife, Betty, and the seeming replacement of her by a young, wealthy free-spirit named Joy, Don takes up her offer of "Why would you deny yourself something you want?" and jumps in her convertible going AWOL to Palm Springs -- to be adopted into the jetset world of the idle rich.

Stripped of his own clothes, his ties to family and Sterling Cooper, floating with the topless Joy in a pool while another couple makes love downcurrent, Don has a momentary identification with an unhappy young boy dragged along by his divorcee father, muses on a crack in a glass, gives up even his bed in this house and awakens virtually naked on the couch the next morning, taking the moment when Joy goes off to pull close the rotary phone, dial a number out of his address book and intone the first tease of the big backstory payoff we've been waiting for all season:
"Hello, it's Dick Whitman."
The person on the other end gives him an address to scribble down, the camera switches to behind Don in a mirror image of the opening title silhouette image (also echoed by the first shot of Don in this episode standing overdressed staring out at his Los Angeles hotel pool), and we cut to his missing baggage being delivered to his Westchester doorstep.

Don's cut loose. Now Dick can return.

There have been two references this season to the person I believe Dick will visit in the next episode, along with a throwaway mention of his father's name after punching out obnoxious comedian Jimmy in a secret NYC gambling club several episodes back. The first was a mysterious addressee to whom Don sent his copy of Frank O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency at the end of this season's first episode. The second was in "The Gold Violin" episode, where his consideration of a new car purchase triggered a memory in Don/Dick, of when he was selling used cars and a blond woman arrived (more Kim Novak than Grace Kelly, but a Hitchcock blonde nonetheless), who then called him out for not being Don Draper -- not being the man as advertised.

My best guess, and judging by some of the passionate online posts Monday morning I'm not alone, is that this woman is exactly who he called and is going to see. Maybe she was the real Don Draper's wife, maybe a sister. Maybe Dick Whitman got close to her; maybe she acted as a benefactor, helping him get to New York City and get his first job writing ad copy for the furrier mentioned in his brilliant Kodak Carousel pitch in the first season's final episode.

Based on the brevity of the call and Don/Dick's side of it, the person on the other end wasn't shocked to hear from him, nor did that person require much explanation. One wonders what Don may have learned from this person, what he may owe, what he may have left behind and if, for some reason to be revealed, that was o.k.

According to the "Inside Mad Men" online video for this week, this episode is all about being your true self, i.e. letting your true self come out, as reflected in Peggy's makeover, her haircutter's coming out, and Duck Dunn's renewed drinking triggering the type of bold business move he was previously known for executing:

If the theory I offered a couple months ago that this season is all about Don Draper as repressed artist, then the next two weeks could give us his opening up, a period of renewal and growth, maybe a new or newly invigorated Don Draper emerging.

After all, he is the "hero" of the show, or at least it's central protagonist. One thing we know about him is that he's a master of reinventing himself. (Not incidentally, a grand tradition of California adoptees.) We know that beneath his cool, relatively silent exterior is an intellect keenly sussing out human situations for what they really are. We know that he has the power to act decisively, for good or ill, in his Don Draper persona.

According to the chronology of U.S. history at the time of these final two episodes, there's about to be a Cuban Missile Crisis, as foreshadowed by the MIRV conference presentation that seemed to trigger something in Don. And the final episode has the same title as the Frank O'Hara book.

It's 1962 and when the series returns, if it holds to the time-scheme set up so far, it'll be 1964 with America still raw from the President John F. Kennedy assassination and Beatlemania about to sweep the world. The 1960's as most people characterize it didn't really begin until then, just as it didn't really end until maybe 1972 (Nixon's re-election) or maybe 1974 (Nixon's resignation).

So what's the "Emergency" going to refer to? Soviet missiles in Cuba? Sterling Cooper under corporate siege? Don's marriage in final crack-up?

Or the 1960's finally taking off.

Like a jet.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


With the election now 23 days away (and Bush entered into his final 100 days, if that's even imaginable), the power of the Barack Obama candidacy and campaign, combined with the collapse of the Republican brand and unsuitability of its candidate for the job, has led to a flowering of disarray within the Republican Party and the John McCain campaign itself.

There's growing criticism of the campaign from within the GOP, mainly complaints about the lack of a specific campaign message and a call (even from the always-wrong William Kristol) to drop the attack ads since they're only driving more voters to the Obama ranks. This while the Democrats coalesce, with a strong appearance by both Clintons with Joe Biden in Scranton, PA on Sunday, including a pleasing retooling of Hillary's "It takes a Clinton to clean up after a Bush" message to fit the Democratic Party as a whole.

Prominent Conservatives all over are breaking ranks for Obama, or choosing to sit out rather than vote for McCain, who leaks hints about a new economic plan on Saturday and then hauls that message back in on Sunday. This is a candidate who's still receiving debating tips through the media, I guess in hopes that he'll really nail that third one on Wednesday. With a campaign getting taking its negative tone from a grandiose paranoid anti-Semitic fraud, Tim Martin, exposed in The New York Times today. Is it any wonder that the mobs are being incited to such behavior when such a man is behind it?

Then there's the rumors of discord between McCain and Sarah Palin herself, i.e. with Palin doing whatever she wants, treating McCain with less respect than Obama does. (And did she get her house built as a kickback as Mayor?)

History tells us that it is unlikely that McCain can come from behind over the next three weeks and win. Obama is likely to announce September fundraising numbers this week, and with Palin driving his supporters to give, give, give, it is likely to break his August $66 million record. As Andrew Sullivan puts it, Obama is the Road Runner to McCain's Wily E. Coyote:

McCain never seemed to learn from the Clintons’ misjudgment of their rival. A key element of Obama’s strategy is classic rope-a-dope. He gets his opponents to splutter with irritation as “that one”, as McCain contemptuously described Obama in last Tuesday’s debate, glides towards them in the polls. He does his thing, raises masses of money, keeps his staff in perfect order and focuses on issues and themes. He can segue from the inspirational agent of change of the spring to the reassuring conventional pol of the autumn without anyone really noticing the seams. That takes political skill. You’ve either got it or you haven’t...

...And that’s exactly how Obama has handled McCain. Instead of attacking him frontally, he got in his head and provoked him into error. It’s easier with McCain than with the Clintons, because McCain is more volatile and more easily provoked. And so Obama cruised through August, picking a conventional running mate and punching his foreign-policy-credentials card with trips to Iraq and Europe. McCain’s response? He put out an ad equating the son of a poor single mother who made it to become president of the Harvard Law Review, a University of Chicago professor and the first black nominee for president with . . . Paris Hilton, whose only accomplishments are being born into immense wealth and making an internet porn tape.

When that didn’t work, and an unfazed Obama ran a flawless convention, calmed the Clintons and delivered one of the best acceptance speeches in modern times, McCain blew himself up with the Palin pick. His one sure-fire advantage – experience – was thrown away. His real base – independent voters and the media – was first wowed and then woke up. And as Palin became a national and international joke, as her ratings plummeted and as she lost her debate to Joe Biden (quite hard to do, given Biden’s capacity for verbal diarrhoea), McCain got even crankier and more unstable.

So, as Barack Obama hits Monday polling better than ever, one might wonder...which John McCain will we see this week?

Saturday, October 11, 2008


A night to look back, as we prepare for really big changes -- no matter how Nov. 4th turns out.

On January 4th of this year I wrote "Wow." This was the night that Barack Obama won his first official voting contest of this entire Presidential cycle, the night that the Obama campaign won the Iowa Democratic Caucus and I watched his extraordinary speech, and when he opened with, "Y'know, they said this day would never come," switched my allegiance from John Edwards:

That post includes this vision of Obama vs. McCain:
Back two years ago, in February 2006, Obama reached out to fellow Senator John McCain on ethics and lobbyist reform, and got slapped down in in letter form, by what could be read as a pique of that famed McCain temper or maybe brutal political posturing with an eye to 2008, or maybe just putting the young'un in his place.

McCain calls Obama a liar more than once in the letter for wanting to do the legislation a different way. Obama's response, however, is profoundly consistent with the tone of his campaign:
For this reason, I am puzzled by your response to my recent letter. Last Wednesday morning, you called to invite me to your meeting that afternoon. I changed my schedule so I could attend the meeting. Afterwards, you thanked me several times for attending the meeting, and we left pledging to work together.

As you will recall, I told everyone present at the meeting that my caucus insisted that the consideration of any ethics reform proposal go through the regular committee process. You didn't indicate any opposition to this position at the time, and I wrote the letter to reiterate this point, as well as the fact that I thought S. 2180 should be the basis for a bipartisan solution.

I confess that I have no idea what has prompted your response. But let me assure you that I am not interested in typical partisan rhetoric or posturing. The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you nor my willingness to find a bipartisan solution to this problem.
I've heard it described as Obama taking conservatives at their word, and then hanging them by it if they play a trick. It's very above board, very good lawyerly style, and may work better than an Edwards-type us vs. them approach. Hopefully more effective, if Obama wins the big job.

But imagine this letter exchange in the context of a potential November victory for Obama head-to-head against McCain.


The difference between January 4th and October 11th is that as of this week, everyone believes that Barack Obama can be President. It's not just hope anymore. Not a lock, but no longer inconceivable in these United States.

I've written about how if Obama wins it will be because he's actually our Second black President. Dennis Haysbert -- President David Palmer -- is the model. Obama's close enough.

Most of all, I've called John McCain a litany of nasty names. Deadly John. A McCainiac who makes McStakes. McBush. McSame. McCatastrophe, McConfused, McChaos. McIncoming, McCrazy, McLurch, McAngry, McOver. McToast.

The McNasties. McDesperate. McVile. McSinner, McPussy.

Maybe it's time to stop the McNamecalling. Frank Rich lays it out -- America is getting it's pass/fail test on racism Nov 4th, but John McCain, Sarah Palin and the Republican leadership have failed theirs, and any blood will be on their hands. Gov. Palin's being booed at the Flyers game in Philadelphia. A McCain supporter shows up to his rally with an Obama monkey doll. Lamely tries to conceal it when he realizes he's making YouTube.

So look back at how far we've come from the turn of the year. How far down, yep, in the economy, but with big hope slowly morphing into cautious belief, all the more with Joe Biden right there with him on your ballot.

As Obama activates what promises to be the largest and best run ground game in U.S. electoral history.