So in case it isn’t obvious by the two-month hiatus, Train Wreck Politics has pulled into the station. Watching the inauguration yesterday (from the comfort of my couch) was surreal. If a single day could speak to how great a country America really is, there’s June 6, 1944, there’s September 11, 2001, and now we have January 20, 2009– a celebration of and testament to the power of democracy, and a crystal clear, shining validation of the decades-long Civil Rights movement.
But before I completely hang up my hat, let’s take a look back at my year of blogging the most exciting election in history. A trip down memory lane for the one or two of you who care:
I came up with the tagline for this blog– “Rubbernecking the disaster of the 2008 election”– shortly after the New Hampshire Democratic primary. At that point, I was convinced of two things: 1) Barack Obama was far and away America’s best choice for the next President of the United States; and 2) Somehow, someway, something would happen to stop him.
Obviously, and thankfully, the latter half of that scenario didn’t come true. But that doesn’t mean 2008 was any less of a train wreck. The Clintons proved themselves willing to do whatever it takes to win– even actively and openly courting the racist vote. John McCain sold his soul to the far right, became everything he ever hated, and still lost. And Sarah Palin. Dear God, Sarah Palin.
But all that’s over and done with now, and politics is back to being boring. Which is exactly what I voted for: a competent, boring government. Obama’s two most talked about post-presidential moves– pardoning Joe Lieberman and nominating Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State– already show a president who has no interest in settling scores or pandering to interest groups, liberal or conservative, only in getting things done. And though Obama won’t have a filibuster-proof Senate majority, he’s still going to get a lot of things done. In the next four years, I fully expect to see universal health care in America, an end to the Iraq War (probably followed by an escalation of operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan), a near-unanimous political embrace of a ten-year energy plan to get us off foreign oil, and an aggressive and practical attack on the economic crisis.
Speaking of getting things done, I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished with this blog over the past year. It was an enormous amount of work and an enormous commitment of time– which is why I’m opting for early retirement. Often, I would come home after a long day of work and spend three or four hours writing. Or I’d wake up a few hours early to get some thoughts down. But seeing the reality of President Obama makes me feel like whatever small effort I made toward that end was worth it.
Granted, I made some mistakes. Of the hundreds of posts I wrote, I’m sure there are one or two (or three or four) showcasing the absolute worst of my writing skills. And I did take that four-month unannounced hiatus around May. And another one in November. But, hey, that’s blogging. On the other hand, there’s a lot of great stuff here, if I do say so myself. Stuff I’m really proud of.
So just for the fun of it, here’s the best of the best– my favorite posts of the 2008 election:
Why Mitt Romney will never be president (Super Bowl edition) (2/4/2008) – A week after launching Train Wreck Politics, one of my first non-spam comments came from an American soldier in Iraq (I checked the IP address, it was legit). Which was pretty exciting. As for the post itself, I doubt many people caught Mitt Romney’s subtle but egregious Super Bowl wardrobe pandering, so I was happy to point it out.
Democrats Super Tuesday prediction: Obama will edge Clinton (2/4/2008) – This is the post where I correctly predicted the results in 21 of 22 Super Tuesday states, back at a time when it seemed that everything about the Democratic race was up in the air. In retrospect, putting together comprehensive endorsement lists for each state was probably more work than it was worth.
It’s time for Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race (2/20/2008) – After ten straight Obama wins, I figured it was well past time for Hillary to drop out and endorse Obama (and a short four months later, she did). It was clear at this point that barring a cataclysmic party-wrecking disaster, that Clinton couldn’t win the delegate race. And I was convinced, like a lot of people, that the long Democratic primary would expose and weaken Obama in the general election, and make it nearly impossible for him to unite the party in November. But the truth is, the long primary actually ended up making him a better candidate. So thanks for making all those underhanded race-baiting smears old news early, Hillary. Or something like that.
Barack Hussein Obama: the new dirty word (2/27/2008) – For a few months in late 2007/early 2008, it seemed like every day that someone was being pressured to apologize for using Barack Obama’s middle name “Hussein.” This post reflected my belief that everyone needed to stop treating Obama’s middle name like a dirty word, especially Obama supporters. By making a big controversy every time some right-wing nut got on a stage and said Obama’s full name, they were unwittingly giving a negative power to the name that it didn’t deserve. I’m still a little surprised that Obama never did anything to embrace his middle name, never defended it once, as if there was in fact something about it to be ashamed of (I was happy to see him use it during the oath of office, though). During the campaign, the closest he came to even addressing the discussion around his middle name was at the Al Smith Dinner in October when he said something like, “I got my middle name from someone who obviously never thought I’d run for president.” Funny, but disappointing.
Ku Klux Klan DOES NOT endorse Barack Obama for President (2/28/2008) – Of everything I’ve written, this is by far the post that has generated the most discussion– over 100 comments and still, as of today, counting. Seeing as how we just elected the first black president in a nation where 150 years ago he would likely have been a slave and 50 years ago he wouldn’t have been able to vote, of course race and racism was a major topic of discussion in 2008. And for some reason, “Barack Obama + KKK” is an enormously popular search combination. I guess people really want to know how the one-time most notorious group of racists and American terrorists are dealing with the unthinkable scenario of a black president. (The answer, surprisingly, is that they’re kind of okay with it.) This post is one of my favorites, due to some outstanding Photoshopping and condescension on my part. Moderating the comments is a beast though; for some reason, this post is like catnip to crazies.
An early prediction: Pennsylvania too racist for Obama to win (3/6/2008) – As someone who grew up in Western Pennsylvania, it was clear to me by early March that the state was out of reach for Obama, at least in the primaries. And I gathered quite a bit of research to back up my gut feeling. I was surprised Obama won Pennsylvania in the general election by such a wide margin, but maybe I shouldn’t have been. In the Democratic primary, race and gender were two of the biggest distinguishing factors between two candidates– Clinton and Obama– who essentially agreed on all the major issues. In the general, with Pennsylvanians losing their homes and their jobs, they simply didn’t have the luxury of voting their prejudices.
For Barack Obama, the good and bad of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy (3/15/2008) – I still clearly remember the Friday night the Jeremiah Wright clips hit the Internet and the controversy blew wide open. I saw the video first on Ben Smith’s blog, and I knew it was catastrophic– hoping way in the back of my mind that the early weekend timing would bury the story by Monday, but knowing there was no chance of that. This was clearly, from the first moment on, a turning point in the race– the point where Barack Obama’s long, historic run at the presidency would either sink or swim. A day later, this post was my thoughts on the situation, laying out the good and bad of it. To give you an idea of how bad things obviously were, one of the positives I came up with was essentially, “Now that America has rock-solid proof that Obama is a radical church-going black nationalist, it’ll put to rest the rumors that he’s a radical mosque-going black Muslim.” I didn’t say it like that, but that was the gist of it. Another “positive” was that it pushed the Rezko story to the backburner. But in retrospect, that’s like saying, “These new murder charges will make the speeding ticket I got last year seem like nothing.” Yeah, it was bad.
Morning after the race speech: Obama’s broken pact with white voters (3/19/2008) – In my opinion, this post is quietly one of the best things I wrote all year. I started out dissecting the politics of Obama’s epic race speech in Philadelphia and ended up taking a long detour into the Civil Rights movement and the history of racism in America.
Hillary caught lying about her “experience” in Bosnia (3/21/2008) – The sniper fire story didn’t end Hillary’s candidacy, nor was it a fatal wound. She was already well on her way to losing the nomination. But this was the point when the media stopped taking her candidacy seriously. It was also the point where the late night talk show jokes about Hillary really hit their stride. In this post, I turned the sarcasm meter up and– thanks to the magic of photography and video– took a few shots of my own.
The value of The View (3/30/2008) – After Barack Obama’s guest appearance, I had a little venting to do about the ladies of The View. The money quote:
[I]nstead of getting different women with different views, we’ve gotten four women, all with careers in entertainment and all with one common view: uninformed. Four women whose only real credentials for discussing issues on television is that they are on television.
As for what the value of The View actually is, the short version is that there are a lot of uninformed Americans out there– many of whom are eligible to vote. We need to know what’s on their minds.
Two hundred-millionaires attack Obama for being out of touch (4/12/2008) – I wrote this post on a Saturday evening in response to the raging Bittergate controversy– and the glaring hypocrisy of Clinton and McCain’s attacks on Obama– and logged off for the day. I came back 24 hours later, and it had received over 20,000 hits and was on the front page of Digg. It is still, by far, the most widely read thing I’ve ever written. To the extent that I was successful in capturing the absurdity of the whole story, it was this sentence that did it:
I’ll go out on a limb and guess that neither Hillary Clinton nor John McCain have driven a vehicle for themselves, folded their own laundry, or gone into a grocery store and purchased a carton of milk in decades.
ABC News debate/Clinton campaign infomercial analysis: What don’t we know about Obama? (4/16/2008) – If you remember, this was the debate moderated by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos– the one where they decided to spend the first hour smearing Obama on Jeremiah Wright and flag pins, while lobbing softballs to Hillary. Of the 20+ Democratic primary debates, this was easily the most biased and least substantive. I, like a lot of people, was pretty annoyed.
The Empire Strikes Barack (5/4/2008) – I had nothing to do with creating it, but this was my favorite YouTube video of the entire campaign.
I’m not dead (9/10/2008) – After a four-month unannounced, unexplained blogging hiatus, this was the post where I let everyone know that I had not in fact died. Not that anyone asked.
Defeating McCain/Palin for Dummies: What Obama needs to do (9/10/2008) - At this point in the general election– right after the Republican convention, but right before Sarah Palin’s interviews and the financial crisis buried the Republican ticket– McCain and Palin were surging in the polls and it looked as if they might actually win. I, like everyone except Barack Obama, panicked, and this post was the result. Not that there’s any bad advice there; I still stand behind everything I wrote. And some of it is hilarious (step #8: “Insult Alaska”). It’s just that almost none of it turned out to be necessary. Five days later, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch collapsed, and the McCain/Palin ticket essentially defeated itself. And all Obama needed to do to convince America to switch parties in the White House was not drool on himself.
A media guide: How to tell if your question to Sarah Palin is sexist (9/14/2008) - It was the day before the financial crisis hit, and the Republicans had succeeded in turning the election into a complete farce. The war and the economy had both taken a backseat and a national discussion was raging about farm animals and makeup products. And no matter what was said to or about Sarah Palin, rest assured a spokeswoman for the Republican Party (they called themselves the Palin Truth Squad) would be on TV within the hour accusing someone of sexism. And then instead of discussing whatever the actual issue was, everyone would get into a heated debate about whether or not that question to Palin about an exit strategy in Iraq was sexist. So in order to help the media avoid these accusations, I came up with a handy guide to help determine if your question to Sarah Palin is sexist. My advice basically boiled down to this: “Any question that makes Sarah Palin look bad is sexist. Any question that makes Sarah Palin look good is okay.” In other words, all questions are equal, but some questions are more equal than others.
Barack Dukakis? (9/15/2008) – Round about the middle of September, the polls still hadn’t recovered from the Republican convention bounce, and it looked like we were in for another uncomfortably close election. And instead of responding to some of the more ridiculous McCain attacks forcefully, Obama was falling into the Dukakis complain-and-explain strategy– where, rather than hitting your opponent back after an unfair attack, you complain about the attack and then kindly explain to everyone why it is false. This post was my extended analysis of the (in)effectiveness of Obama campaign ads and advice on how to properly respond to accusations that you want to teach sex education to kindergartners. Little did I realize that September 15, 2008 was the day that John McCain’s campaign would be permanently sunk by his declaration that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong,” rendering this entire post completely moot. Still an entertaining read.
Media desperate to spark racial controversy [+ Part 2] (9/21/2008) – Ever since the Jeremiah Wright fiasco broke out in March, the media had been hyping the general election as a potential all-out race war. But McCain promised early to leave Obama’s church out of the national conversation, and by the middle of September, with his poll numbers beginning to slip, it looked like he would stick to that promise. On September 21, the Associated Press, fed up with all the boring debate about the collapsing worldwide economy, realized that if you want something done, you gotta do it yourself. So they did what any respectable news organization would do: they took a poll asking black and white people why they hate each other so much. And when the numbers came back showing, hey, we actually do all get along, they still spun the story as best they could. Time and Politico quickly followed with high-profile overblown articles about the impact of racism on the election. My two-sentence summary of the AP’s story pretty much summed up the mood of a visibly bored and antsy national media:
Since the beginning of time, black people and white people have never gotten along. Now, in a year when this threatens to change, a new poll we did shows just how different we all really are and why we should all get back to the pointless racial squabbling that defines us as Americans.
Why McCain suspended his campaign and what Obama should do (9/24/2008) – By late September, a week or so after the big financial collapse hit, the polls had really started turning in Obama’s favor. It was at this point that John McCain, with his country and his campaign both in crisis, decided to climb into bed and wet himself. If you want to know the behind-the-scenes of why he decided to suspend his campaign, the New York Times– a month later– wrote a fantastic (and long) article focusing on September 24, 2008 in the McCain camp. But on the day of, I watched the news in somewhat stunned disbelief, and realized immediately that this would be the turning point in the election. It just so happened that Obama– obviously an avid reader of this blog– actually ended up following the advice I gave that day exactly. Which is why I can, in good conscience, take full credit for his win in November.
GOP: A party of whiners (9/30/2008) – With the ship clearly sinking, the McCain campaign cracked open a big bottle of whine and a case of pointy fingers. In true Homer Simpson-esque fashion, their new message to the American people was simply: “This is everybody’s fault but mine!” In case you’re wondering, the video at the end was a No More Tears baby shampoo commercial.
Sarah Palin is a global warming denier (or worse, an agnostic) (10/1/2008) – Even as late as October, there wasn’t a lot we knew about Sarah Palin, thanks to her refusal to hold a press conference or speak to anyone without the aid of a script. So imagine my surprise to hear her talking to Katie Couric about “cyclical” weather patterns and her belief that it “doesn’t matter” what causes global warming. I realized two things: One, the Republican candidate for vice president was a global warming denier; and two, almost nobody had documented this fact. The media was so focused on the spectacular gaffes she was making about the Supreme Court and other facets of government that pretty much everyone missed the part of the interview where she put on a tin foil hat and basically said she didn’t believe in science.
VP debate wrap: Palin wins special participation award (10/3/2008) – By the time the VP debate rolled around in October, expectations for Palin were so incredibly low that all she had to do (and all she really did) in her performance against Joe Biden was not run off the stage crying. That was enough for certain non-partisan journalists to declare that she “ended up dominating” the debate– never mind her strategy of not answering half the questions, talking like a Beverly hillbilly (she’s so folksy and charming!), and frequently winking to distract attention away from whatever was coming out of her mouth. After Politico’s Roger Simon praised her for dropping her g’s, I had had enough:
Here I thought America’s problems in Iraq and on Wall Street were complex and needed someone who could, you know, at least be able to point either out on a map. But the answer is so simple: we’re not dropping our g’s!
We shouldn’t be stabilizing Iraq, we should be stabilizin’ it! And why are we regulating Wall Street, when we clearly need to be regulatin’ it? If only we had a folksy, average Joe president who was in way over his head, avoided dealing with issues he didn’t understand, and dropped his g’s. Oh, wait.
John McCain’s tone deaf campaign (10/6/2008) – With the economy in a death spiral and millions of Americans losing their homes and jobs, John McCain took to the campaign trail to talk about the real issue on people’s minds: why you shouldn’t trust Barack Obama. McCain’s new stump speech was pretty much one big oppo dump, thick with innuendo and accusations. As I watched it unfold live on C-SPAN, I noticed it was working wonders on the small, monochromatic crowd in New Mexico– they had their torches lit and their pitchforks polished– but I doubted heavily that it was a good national strategy:
McCain’s solution isn’t to tap into some bubbling spring of national anti-Obama fury (which, let’s face it, is often just thinly-veiled racism). Even the most skeptical voters, whether they realize it or not, aren’t nearly as afraid of Barack Obama as they are of our tanking economy. McCain’s solution is to build up his own credibility on the current financial crisis.
The planetarium to nowhere (10/8/2008) – Despite McCain’s best efforts, the second presidential debate went ahead as scheduled. My wrap-up:
Last night’s debate was one of the final opportunities John McCain will have to convince America to change its mind about President Barack Obama. And in front of 60 million people, he once again chose to talk about that planetarium in Chicago. Apparently, Barack Obama once authored a $3 million earmark to replace a planetarium projector, and that’s why we’re so dependent on foreign oil, why we’re stuck in Iraq, why the stock market has lost a third of its value in the last two weeks, and why 40 million Americans don’t have health insurance.
It won’t be remembered as the point John McCain lost the presidency. … But the moment last night when John McCain started talking about that planetarium in Chicago will be remembered by me as the moment I knew the race was over.
McCain’s new Ayers attack is putting Obama’s life at risk (10/9/2008) – As McCain’s crowds grew more and more angry, it was becoming obvious that his strategy of linking Obama with “unrepentant terrorist” William Ayers was bearing some ugly fruit (despite not moving the polls at all). And a lot of people, myself included, were getting increasingly worried about Barack Obama’s safety:
There’s nothing wrong with attacking your opponent’s character in a closely contested and heated election. But McCain’s message isn’t that Barack Obama will be a bad president, it’s that Barack Obama harbors a secret resentment against his country, associates with terrorists, and will deliberately harm America.
McCain pokes hornet’s nest, condemns swarm (10/13/2008) – After weeks of McCain and Palin pounding home the message that America should be afraid of Barack Obama, John McCain began reprimanding his supporters for being afraid of Barack Obama. The media mostly applauded McCain’s new convictions, but I saw it for what it was: a political course correction. The fearmongering wasn’t working.
Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright or not, the race is over (10/15/2008) – With McCain’s poll numbers really tanking, many Republicans were urging him to pull out what they thought could be the magic bullet to take down Obama: Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But three things were abundantly clear to me:
1) 90% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track;
2) By a margin of 20-30%, Americans trust Barack Obama more than John McCain to handle the economy; and
3) John McCain is doing absolutely nothing to change perceptions about #1 and #2, instead focusing on Bill Ayers and (perhaps later) Jeremiah Wright.
There are 21 days left before this election, and every day that Republicans spend focused on anything other than changing #1 and #2 is a day wasted. Nothing they do or say outside of those two points will have any real effect on anything.
Muslims: Pro-American Americans, real Americans (10/20/2008) – During Colin Powell’s surprise endorsement of Obama on Meet the Press, he spoke out strongly against those who were insinuating (and often outright saying) that Obama’s Muslim heritage somehow made him less American. He referenced a photo from the New Yorker of a mother hugging the gravestone of her son who had died as a soldier in Iraq. On the stone was an Islamic crescent and star. I thought it was one of the most poignant things I’ve ever seen.
McCain campaign attacks similar to those that killed JFK (10/22/2008) – Although McCain and Palin had dialed down the rhetoric, their behind the scenes efforts to smear Barack Obama– through the mail and over the phone– was as dirty as ever. One McCain campaign mailer that was being sent to families all across America– prominently featuring Obama’s image underneath the word “terrorists”– bore a striking resemblance to the propaganda leaflets that were being passed around Dallas on the day President Kennedy was killed. My take:
For many Americans, the things McCain is saying cannot be unsaid, the damage he is doing cannot be undone. We’ve seen what happens when an American president is accused by his political enemies of being on the other side, and we’ve seen what happens when one unbalanced loner gets the message.
Palin spent more on hair and makeup than a college education (10/26/2008) – When the story broke that Sarah Palin spent $150,000 in less than two months of campaigning on clothes and accessories, I tried to think of a way to put the ridiculousness of that number into full context. What I discovered was that her bill for hair and makeup alone was $32,000, a few thousand more than the cost of her six-year college education, even adjusted for two decades of inflation.
A Christian perspective on gay marriage: Why I’m voting No on 8 (11/2/2008) – Perhaps there was no ballot initiative more hotly debated around the nation than Proposition 8 in California, a measure designed to insert a ban on same sex marriage into the California state constitution. As a resident of California and a regular church-goer, I decided to offer my two cents as to why I would be voting against the ban– a position directly opposite that of my pastor. Part of my argument:
Proposition 8 is not a referendum on how you feel about gay marriage, although I suspect a lot of people will– and are entitled to– vote that way. It’s about whether one religious group’s beliefs should be imposed on everyone else. Would Christians stand by happily while Scientologists wrote their definition of marriage into California’s constitution? No. So why should everyone else defer to our beliefs?
TWP’s final electoral map prediction (11/2/2008) – Two days before the election, I gave my best guess at what we would see on election day. I missed the actual outcome by one state– Missouri– which was only slightly better than my Super Tuesday primary predictions, where I correctly called 21 out of 22 states. Did I already mention that? Yeah. Take that, Five Thirty Eight.
November 4, 2008 (11/6/2008) – A few scattered but entertaining thoughts on the day when Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. After blogging most of the year-long sprint to the White House, you can tell how burned out I was. Burned out but ecstatic.
Andrew Sullivan stirs anti-black sentiment among gays, then condemns it (11/9/2008) – In the aftermath of the Proposition 8 vote (it passed), emotions were running high and fingers were searching desperately for somewhere, anywhere to point. And no one poured more fuel on the fire than exhibitionist blogger Andrew Sullivan (the guy who still swears by the Trig Palin conspiracy theories and thinks posting graphic war images from the comfort of his nearest Starbucks equals journalism), who for months had repeatedly blamed the black community for somehow singlehandedly holding back gay rights. This is despite the fact that blacks only made up 7% of the California electorate. After black people– the ones who were marching for gay rights– began getting openly harassed and verbally assaulted by the gay community, Sullivan did a little backtracking. But just a little. Here’s my brief summary of his laughably contradictory argument:
[F]or those of you who are confused, here’s Sullivan’s argument in a nutshell: African-Americans are the single most homophobic group of people in America, they are the reason the Prop 8 vote was even close, and their attitudes on this subject have literally killed countless gays. But, you know, we shouldn’t demonize or blame them.
Recently, a British newspaper posted an article titled “Barack Obama: The 50 facts you might not know.” (It’s really 51 facts, but– counting, brushing their teeth regularly, standing up to American imperialism– you can’t ask too much of the British.) I knew 22 of them. What I didn’t know is that if Barack and I ever met, we would instantly be BFFs– best friends forever. Observe:
1.) He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics
I’ve seen the first two Spider-Man movies, and my favorite late night talk show host is Conan O’Brien. We’re off to a good start.
2.) He was known as “O’Bomber” at high school for his skill at basketball
Even given the fact that he’s got an inch or two on me and played high school ball, I’m 99% sure I could take him one-on-one. After all, he is 47 years old. At that age, guys usually have a repertoire of five or six moves that are all technically traveling. I don’t care if he is the president, I’d call him on it every time. I’d also help him come up with a better nickname. O’Bomber sounds like an Irish terrorist. How about Ted ”The Unobama” Kaczynski? Nah, that’s not much better.
3.) His name means “one who is blessed” in Swahili
I just looked it up, and “Griffin” means “hooked nose” in Latin. Which sounds disappointing until you consider this: “In Greek mythology and medieval legend, the Gryphon was a fierce creature with the foreparts of an eagle (hence the hooked nose) and the hindquarters of a lion.” I’m pretty sure Griffins ate a lot of people who thought they were blessed for dinner, which puts my name higher up on the food chain than “Barack,” which officially makes it better.
4.) His favourite meal is wife Michelle’s shrimp linguini
I bet his favorite meal is actually something his mom used to cook, but he’s way too smart to ever say that.
5.) He won a Grammy in 2006 for the audio version of his memoir, Dreams From My Father
6.) He is left-handed – the sixth post-war president to be left-handed
What’s even more impressive is that he’s the very first African-American president to be left-handed. Just a little obscure presidential trivia for you.
7.) He has read every Harry Potter book
I got halfway through the first Lord of the Rings book and quit. More out of just not wanting to be the guy who reads Lord of the Rings books than anything else.
8.) He owns a set of red boxing gloves autographed by Muhammad Ali
I watched the first season of The Contender religiously. Then they moved it to ESPN, got rid of Sly Stallone, and basically ruined it.
9.) He worked in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop as a teenager and now can’t stand ice cream
I worked at a mall as a teenager and now can’t stand shopping. True story.
10.) His favourite snacks are chocolate-peanut protein bars
150+ years ago, peanuts were a dominant American industry, fueled by the labor of black slaves. Now peanuts are just the crunchy filler in a black president’s post-workout snack routine. Take that, peanuts.
11.) He ate dog meat, snake meat, and roasted grasshopper while living in Indonesia
Probably just one of those weird coincidences, but every single one of those things makes me want to throw up.
12.) He can speak Spanish
I know how to ask where the library is.
13.) While on the campaign trail he refused to watch CNN and had sports channels on instead
CNN is like a 24-hour-a-day Entertainment Tonight. They somehow manage to stretch an hour of daily news into a full day by spending 90% of the airtime previewing the news they’re going to show you after the commercial break.
14.) His favourite drink is black forest berry iced tea
My favorite drink– via Jamba Juice– also sounds really, really gay.
15.) He promised Michelle he would quit smoking before running for president – he didn’t
I think John McCain would’ve gotten a lot of traction with this line of attack: ”Senator Obama’s campaign is fueled by nicotine and broken marital promises.”
16.) He kept a pet ape called Tata while in Indonesia
I kept a pet goldfish I named after my favorite Ninja Turtle. Sadly, Michelangelo passed after a short two-week bout with living in a child’s fishbowl.
18.) He was known as Barry until university when he asked to be addressed by his full name
I was known as Griffy until university when I earned a ph.D. in Awesomology, converted briefly to Islam, was knighted by the Queen of England for some reason, and asked to be addressed by my full name: Sir Dr. Griffin Hussein Ohyeah!
19.) His favourite book is Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
This is where Barack and I part ways. I don’t like Moby, Dick, or Moby Dick. Dick Cheney, I mean. What were you thinking?
20.) He visited Wokingham, Berks, in 1996 for the stag party of his half-sister’s fiancé, but left when a stripper arrived
I don’t have any good stripper stories either.
21.) His desk in his Senate office once belonged to Robert Kennedy
My desk at work has a coffee stain on it that looks like Scooter Libby.
22.) He and Michelle made $4.2 million (£2.7 million) last year, with much coming from sales of his books
I plan to make $4.2 million next year, with much of it coming from sales of my face on billboards.
23.) His favourite films are Casablanca and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
If Obama had that Facebook app that compares your movie interests to your friends, our compatibility would be at least 50% right now.
24.) He carries a tiny Madonna and child statue and a bracelet belonging to a soldier in Iraq for good luck
Won’t win him too many votes among the New York Yankee wives crowd. Or the pretentious British filmmaker crowd.
25.) He applied to appear in a black pin-up calendar while at Harvard but was rejected by the all-female committee.
This is hands down the funniest fun fact ever about Barack Obama. I can’t decide whether it’s because he applied to appear in a pin-up calendar or because he was rejected. Trying is funny, but so is failing.
26.) His favourite music includes Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Bach and The Fugees
I’d totally ask to borrow his iPod and then never give it back.
27.) He took Michelle to see the Spike Lee film Do The Right Thing on their first date
On Election Day, I painted Obama’s hope logo on a bunch of trash cans in my neighborhood, just in case. They weren’t needed.
28.) He enjoys playing Scrabble and poker
He only enjoys those games because he’s never played me.
29.) He doesn’t drink coffee and rarely drinks alcohol
Guess he’s too busy drinking black forest berry iced teas.
30.) He would have liked to have been an architect if he were not a politician
I would have liked to have been an alien robot that turns into a Toyota Prius if I were not a blogger. My name would be Douchebagimus Prime.
31.) As a teenager he took drugs including marijuana and cocaine
As a teenager, I once tried to eat three Big Macs in a row to impress my friends. I failed, and my friends weren’t impressed. That’s the downside of teenage peer pressure no one ever talks about.
32.) His daughters’ ambitions are to go to Yale before becoming an actress (Malia, 10) and to sing and dance (Sasha, 7)
Why would Malia want to go to a second-rate school like Yale when both her parents are Harvard alum? She’s young, she’ll learn.
33.) He hates the youth trend for trousers which sag beneath the backside
I hate the word “trousers.” And the word “backside.” Really, the only word that’s saving that sentence is “sag.” Sag, sag, sag. Good word.
34.) He repaid his student loan only four years ago after signing his book deal
I really, really hope this will be a fun fact about me four years from now.
35.) His house in Chicago has four fire places
I’d settle for one. House, I mean.
36.) Daughter Malia’s godmother is Jesse Jackson’s daughter Santita
I’m distantly related to Michael Jackson through marriage. Sort of. True story. Sort of.
37.) He says his worst habit is constantly checking his BlackBerry
My worst habit is never checking my e-mail. Go ahead, e-mail me and see if I’m lying.
38.) He uses an Apple Mac laptop
39.) He drives a Ford Escape Hybrid, having ditched his gas-guzzling Chrysler 300
That’s some outstanding automobile pandering right there.
40.) He wears $1,500 (£952) Hart Schaffner Marx suits
41.) He owns four identical pairs of black size 11 shoes
Why can’t Obama close the deal with white shoes?
42.) He has his hair cut once a week by his Chicago barber, Zariff, who charges $21 (£13)
I think it’s time for Zariff to ask for a raise. Or a reality show.
43.) His favourite fictional television programmes are Mash and The Wire
I hate the way British people spell. Love The Wire though.
44.) He was given the code name “Renegade” by his Secret Service handlers
As up as Barack is on hip-hop, there’s no doubt in my mind he got this name from the Jay-Z and Eminem song from a few years back. Also, last year, he kind of let it slip to a supporter on a rope line that he listens to Eminem, before catching himself mid-sentence (“…although he curses sometimes.”). And seeing as how Barack is a writer, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t have a few verses of his own tucked away in a drawer somewhere. Coolest. President. Ever.
45.) He was nicknamed “Bar” by his late grandmother
That reminds me of an old joke. Okay, so two presidential candidates– a former first lady and a former POW– walk into a Bar. They lose.
46.) He plans to install a basketball court in the White House grounds
To be torn down immediately in 2016 by President Jindal.
47.) His favourite artist is Pablo Picasso
48.) His speciality as a cook is chilli
Remember that episode of The Simpsons when Homer entered a chili cook-off and ate that super hot Guatemalan chilli pepper and then went on a hallucinogenic journey to find his soul mate? That was a great episode.
49.) He has said many of his friends in Indonesia were “street urchins”
I went through a phase as a kid where I watched Aladdin every day for, like, a month.
50.) He keeps on his desk a carving of a wooden hand holding an egg, a Kenyan symbol of the fragility of life
I keep on my desk a bottle of water, an American symbol of putting capitalism and convenience before environmental concerns. I also drink from it when I’m thirsty. It’s really convenient.
51.) His late father was a senior economist for the Kenyan government
How’d his father get an important government job like that with a name like Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.?
But the question has to be asked: what exactly is Al-Qaeda trying to accomplish here? Are they trying to erode Obama’s support in Africa by playing the “He’s not black enough” card? (That’s so 2007.) Are they trying to rally hard-working Iraqis, white Iraqis against the new Obama administration? (The media likes to refer to them as “blue-collar” Iraqis, but we know who they’re talking about.) Are they trying to provoke some kind of racial response-in-kind from Obama himself? (Something his political opponents have collectively failed to do for a decade.) Or are they just trying to secure a guest spot on the Sean Hannity Show? (Take a number and get in line behind the rest of the anti-Semites.)
Whatever the reason, if Al-Qaeda wants to keep its spot as public enemy number one, they’re really going to have to stop embarrassing themselves like this. Stick to the Great Satan stuff. It was working for you. Leave the race-baiting to the Clintons.
Just as I’m really beginning to sour on the idea of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State– and feeling hopeful that no news organization has yet corroborated HuffPo’s initial report last week that she had been offered the job– The Guardian is reporting today that Clinton plans to accept the job offer. I doubt they’d be reporting this without solid sources, but again, no other organization has confirmed this, so perhaps this storyline will come crashing down in a few days when Bill Richardson is formally announced as Obama’s new Secretary of State.
But like I said, thinking about this over the past couple days, I’ve really started to hate the idea of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. First of all, a lot of Obama’s primary campaign support came from Democrats who wanted to keep the Clintons as far away from the White House as possible. But now he’s voluntarily bringing both of them, along with their unbridled ambition, their penchant for backbiting, and all of Bill’s undisclosed foreign donors into the heart of his administration. If there is a major scandal that brings down Obama in 2012, I can easily see it coming from Clinton’s State Department.
As for the Team of Rivals concept Obama keeps talking about, according to political science professor Stephen Teles, that may be a misreading of history:
I am not at all sure that I understand Obama’s reasoning in considering HRC for Secretary of State, but my gut tells me that we may be seeing an instance where politicians get in trouble through the misplaced use of historical analogy, in this case the “team of rivals.” Abraham Lincoln really had to have a highly inclusive cabinet because: a) the Republican party was still not a completely institutionalized entity, and to keep it together in its first shot at power Lincoln needed all the major figures in the party to be represented and; b) the country was at war–a real war–and that almost always calls for inclusivity, even to the point of having governments of national unity. Neither of these factors apply in this case. Obama has massively more control over the Democratic party than Lincoln did, and while we are in an economic crisis, it’s not nearly as bad as the Civil War or WWII. So the conditions that necessitated a “team of rivals” don’t apply. I’m increasingly wondering if this will turn out to be a “circular firing squad of rivals.”
Not to mention the fact that Americans overwhelmingly voted for undivided government. Butting heads is fine up to a point, as long as all those heads are pointed in the same general direction. With Clinton, nobody knows where her head is at, as it tends to change frequently, dramatically, and without warning, depending on the circumstances. Teles goes on to voice more of my concerns about a potential Secretary of State Clinton:
[F]rankly, I just don’t trust Hillary. There is no evidence based on the historical record that she is a competent manager (and plenty of evidence to the contrary–her campaign and the Clinton health care process are only two examples), or has the best interest of our chief executive at heart. So given that the structural conditions that necessitate a “team of rivals” approach don’t apply, I find the argument for this idea extremely weak.
And that’s really what this all comes down to: Does Obama trust Hillary Clinton? Does he trust her to be the competent manager that she has yet– in 35 years of public service– to show herself to be? Does he trust her not to say one thing to his face and then do her own thing behind the scenes?
Again, the politics of this are brilliant. The move singlehandedly caucus blocks Hillary’s presidential ambitions for the next eight years and moves her and her camp– who might otherwise take it upon themselves to lead the criticism against the White House– firmly into the Obama tent. And it puts the Clinton brand– still beloved around the world– back on American foreign policy. But in practice, it could turn into an unmitigated disaster. I have a feeling that this decision will be seen as the first real turning point of Obama’s first term. Clinton will either be a spectacular success or a spectacular failure. There’s likely no middle ground here.
There are a lot of reasons why this could work. But for my money, the best reason for President-elect Obama is that it avoids the following nightmare scenario, as predicted by a group of hedge fund managers watching last week’s election returns in New York:
The host predicted that President Obama would have a miserable term and face a challenge from within his own party in 2012, likely from Hillary Clinton. “You watch,” he said. “In a year, the Clintons will orchestrate a campaign to declare this a failed Presidency.”
Another guest, a trader and market strategist who had voted for Ralph Nader, agreed about 2012, but according to a different logic. He expounded on a belief he held regarding the cycles of history and the markets. … According to pi-cycle theory, after a failed attempt at a rally between now and next spring, the market will not hit bottom until June, 2011, so Obama may be doomed to muddle through a deepening recession and the unpopularity that comes with it, and whoever succeeds him in 2012, should he lose, will then have the chance to ride the recovery—to be, in the public’s untrained eye, the transformative F.D.R. or Ronald Reagan that people dearly want Obama to be now.
I tend to agree that things are going to get worse before they get better. It’ll take Obama at least past the midterms in 2010 to start seeing some tangible economic results from everything he’ll be doing to dig us out of Bush’s hole.
What better way to defuse a potential threat from the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party than by making Hillary Clinton your main international spokesperson? As Secretary of State, neither she nor Bill Clinton would be able to even hint at discontent within the party. Much as Colin Powell didn’t go public with his concerns about the Iraq War until well after Bush broke everything in Pottery Barn, Hillary Clinton would also not deviate from her role as the good soldier. And for a sitting Secretary of State to mount a run against the incumbent president would be logistically impossible (she would have to resign first, and do it within the first two years to begin building the necessary support). Obama would essentially be neutralizing the greatest threat from within his own party until 2016.
Who else is going to challenge him in 2012? John Edwards? Dennis Kucinich? Mike Gravel?
UPDATE: Nico Pitney at HuffPo is reporting that Obama offered Clinton the Secretary of State position in Chicago yesterday. I had a feeling the fact that Obama’s interest in her was leaked at all meant the story was real. Politically, it’s a brilliant move, whether she accepts the offer or not. On the merits though, I’d rather have John Kerry or Bill Richardson running the State Department. All the arguments I made in the primary season against Clinton’s foreign policy credentials and managerial skills– or lack thereof– still stand.
But she’ll be at least adequate in the position, if not surprisingly better, and the value of so explicitly putting the Clinton brand back on American foreign policy can’t be overstated. There’s really no clearer way to say to the world, “The America you once knew and loved is indeed back in business.”
The most entertaining take on today’s news comes from Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics, who earlier today– before news of the offer was reported by HuffPo– strongly criticized what he called “an obsessive political press corps” for jumping on the Clinton rumors in a post titled “The Silly Season Continues.” Again, this was written today:
Just how desperate for news is an obsessive political press corps now trying to find its way after one of the biggest elections in history? Exhibit A is the mindless speculation that Hillary Clinton is being considered for Secretary of State, a story that’s now been picked up by just about everybody.
We don’t know where this nugget of information came from or whether it’s legitimate, but in today’s media environment – especially on matters such as cabinet appointments and the like – things like accuracy and solid sourcing are irrelevant. All we know for sure is that Hillary Clinton is in Chicago today.
Keith Olbermann on Countdown yesterday was in near tears, as he gave an impassioned, typically melodramatic, and highly entertaining defense of gay marriage. Take a look:
First of all, I have to say this. It’s going to be a long, long time before I can watch another one of Olbermann’s special comments without repeatedly breaking into laughter. Ben Affleck and Miss Precious Perfect completely ruined it for me. Anytime Olbermann switches cameras, I lose it.
Okay, with that said, I’m kind of in the same boat as Olbermann here. I don’t really have a vested interest in this fight. I just happen to be stunned and slightly angered that the rights of any citizens in the United States of America would be subject to a popular vote. It’s one thing to vote on whether chicken cages should be bigger or whether we should use our tax dollars to build a high-speed train. It’s another thing to vote on taking away people’s legal rights– people who happen to be a small minority of the population. And if this really is the process we’re using, if we’re really going to put gay marriage up for popular vote every four years, does this mean gay couples have to hold their breath every election day to see if their marriage is still valid? How ridiculous is that?
To be honest, I’m not even 100% sure gay marriage is right or good for society or any of the other moral debates taking place right now in churches and communities across California. I’m neither a sociologist nor a theologian. I do know that denying people rights that everyone else has is un-American. It’s just not what this country is about. I also know that allowing religious groups to write their beliefs into the state constitution is a slippery, dangerous slope– even if the religion happens to be mine.
I’m actually not that interested in hearing what other religions have to say about my relationship with my wife. I also happen to be just as uninterested in what the majority of Californians think. I’m an American; it’s my God-given right to not have to care. And I’m sure gay couples are every bit as uninterested in what either my Bible or the Book of Mormon or a small majority of Californians have to say about their relationship with their partners– except for the fact that it’s all now written into our state constitution. But the fact is, gay Americans are every bit as American as I am; they should have the exact same right I do to not have to care.
California voters age 65 and older outnumbered African-Americans by 50% and contribued 39% more Yes on Prop 8 votes. If voters age 65 and older had opposed Prop 8 by a slight majority of 52%, it would have failed.
So why isn’t Sullivan emphasizing the rampant homophobia in the elderly community? Why is he singling out African-Americans as the foremost obstacle to gay rights when voters over 65 actually had 39% more influence in the passing of Prop 8? Will Sullivan ever condemn nursing homes and Bingo tournaments the way he has repeatedly condemned black churches? …
[I]t is in no way clear that the color of one’s skin is a primary indicator of one’s social attitudes towards gays. I’m guessing that your frequency of church attendance, your age, and where you live are all much stronger indicators than race.
Certainly, the No on 8 folks might have done a better job of outreach to California’s black and Latino communities. But the notion that Prop 8 passed because of the Obama turnout surge is silly. Exit polls suggest that first-time voters — the vast majority of whom were driven to turn out by Obama (he won 83 percent [!] of their votes) — voted against Prop 8 by a 62-38 margin. More experienced voters voted for the measure 56-44, however, providing for its passage.
Now, it’s true that if new voters had voted against Prop 8 at the same rates that they voted for Obama, the measure probably would have failed. But that does not mean that the new voters were harmful on balance — they were helpful on balance. If California’s electorate had been the same as it was in 2004, Prop 8 would have passed by a wider margin.Furthermore, it would be premature to say that new Latino and black voters were responsible for Prop 8′s passage. Latinos aged 18-29 (not strictly the same as ‘new’ voters, but the closest available proxy) voted against Prop 8 by a 59-41 margin. These figures are not available for young black voters, but it would surprise me if their votes weren’t fairly close to the 50-50 mark.
Again– and this can’t be stressed enough– without the surge of new black and Latino voters, “Prop 8 would have passed by a wider margin.” Silver then goes on to echo my point exactly about the stronger influence of older voters on the passage of Prop 8:
At the end of the day, Prop 8′s passage was more a generational matter than a racial one. If nobody over the age of 65 had voted, Prop 8 would have failed by a point or two.
My math contradicts his just a bit there. I think voters over 65 would have had to oppose Prop 8 by a very slight majority (52%) to stop it, but I trust Nate Silver’s calculator more than mine. He’s saying that older voters by themselves provided Prop 8′s winning margin, which is something you cannot say of any ethnic group– black, Latino, or otherwise. Silver points out that, as older voters get cycled out of the electorate through death and replaced by 18-29-year-olds (of all races), support for marriage equality will naturally increase.
Again, my point is not to start scapegoating and demonizing older voters, as I’m sure that wasn’t the point Silver was making either. The point is to debunk the myth that African-Americans are solely to blame for Prop 8, somehow moreso than the rest of the California electorate who also voted in favor of it.
Great piece on Sunday by 60 Minutes on the inner circle that propelled Barack Obama to the White House. Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod, David Plouffe, and Anita Dunn all sat down for a joint interview about 90 minutes after Obama’s victory speech in Chicago. It’s 1:00 in the morning, and they look like they haven’t slept in days. It’s so nice to have adults in charge of the country once again.
Patrick Gaspard, the campaign’s political director, said that when, in early 2007, he interviewed for a job with Obama and Plouffe, Obama said that he liked being surrounded by people who expressed strong opinions, but he also said, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” After Obama’s first debate with McCain, on September 26th, Gaspard sent him an e-mail. “You are more clutch than Michael Jordan,” he wrote. Obama replied, “Just give me the ball.”
Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s new White House chief of staff, finally gets the Chuck Norris treatment he has so long deserved. The only difference is that all these facts are true. Check out what happens to donors who offer Rahm Emanuel $5,000 checks. Or Rahm Emanuel’s advice to Tony Blair. Classic.
The conservative movement was destroyed today in a spectacular implosion of anti-matter particles and right-wing talking points, as former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers walked into an auditorium at Northwestern University at the exact same time that Reverend Jeremiah Wright was giving a keynote address to the university’s black student union:
The diverse crowd featured a large number of students, as well as a legion of members of Trinity United Church of Christ (the South Side church where Wright spoke) and a number of public figures, most notably another person whose ties to Sen. Obama got national attention: former Weather Underground member William Ayers.
The proximity of these two controversial national figures set off a chain reaction on the sub-atomic level that was felt from the Fox News studio in New York, where Sean Hannity’s head exploded then collapsed on itself live on the air, to Wasilla, Alaska, where Sarah Palin gave birth to and was immediately eaten by a silicon-based alien life form that has yet to be fully identified.
Elsewhere around the nation, observers witnessed fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!
Today, there are more reports of the fallout from recent gay and liberal efforts to blame African-Americans for Tuesday’s gay marriage ban in California, Proposition 8. At a No on 8 rally earlier this weekend, a number of black UCLA students who were marching to protest Prop 8 were subjected to racial slurs and harrassment by the very people they were marching alongside to support. One student reported:
It was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. YOU NIGGER, one man shouted at men. If your people want to call me a FAGGOT, I will call you a nigger. Someone else said same thing to me on the next block near the temple…me and my friend were walking, he is also gay but Korean, and a young WeHo clone said after last night the niggers better not come to West Hollywood if they knew what was BEST for them.
Another black student had this experience:
Three older men accosted my friend and shouted, “Black people did this, I hope you people are happy!” A young lesbian couple with mohawks and Obama buttons joined the shouting and said there were “very disappointed with black people” and “how could we” after the Obama victory.
I totally understand the anger, hurt and pain now roiling the gay community and our families, especially in California. But it’s important to keep our heads. … Calm down. We are not experiencing a massive, permanent backlash. … [W]e need patience and relentlessness in explaining our lives. And how human they are. It’s not fair; we should have it all already. But we don’t. And in a democracy, that means persuasion, not fiat.
There is a difference between blaming African Americans and recognizing that the black community needs to be engaged more energetically on this issue.
Of course, Sullivan deserves credit for recognizing how out of control the blame-blacks-first crowd has gotten, and for speaking out against it.
However, over the past two months– well before the results of the vote were known– Sullivan frequently cited “black evangelicals” and “homophobic” African-Americans as the reason why Prop 8 could pass and the main obstacle to gay rights.
Here is Sullivan in late September discussing a study that said ”A majority of younger white evangelicals support some form of legal recognition for civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples” (all emphasis mine):
Black evangelicals are another matter. There is, alas, no ethnic community as homophobic in America as African-Americans. Which is why the ballot initiative in California could be close.
There is a tsunami of data showing that African-Americans are more opposed to gay equality than any other ethnic group. … The younger generation is not much better. Young Latinos are much less homophobic than young African-Americans. … The rampant homophobia in urban black culture also cannot be denied, as well as the role of the black church in fomenting and entrenching homophobia, even as so many black men and women have died of HIV and AIDS.
[T]his community needs to be engaged not demonized, and we haven’t engaged enough. The black church is one of the most powerful forces fomenting homophobia in America, and has fostered attitudes that have literally killed countless gay black men. It’s time to Act Up against those elements that p.c. liberals have been too timid to confront.
So for those of you who are confused, here’s Sullivan’s argument in a nutshell: African-Americans are the single most homophobic group of people in America, they are the reason the Prop 8 vote was even close, and their attitudes on this subject have literally killed countless gays. But, you know, we shouldn’t demonize or blame them.
POST SCRIPT: One last point I’d like to make. Let’s go back to that CNN exit poll that everyone is so fond of citing to “prove” the “overwhelming” influence of black homophobia on California’s Prop 8 vote.
First, it should be noted that Sullivan’s favorite polling analyst (and mine) Nate Silver at 538 wrote, on election day no less, ten reasons why everyone should ignore exit polls. Reason number one is that exit polls have notoriously higher margins of error than regular polls, somewhere between 50% to 90% higher. Reason number nine is that “a high-turnout election may make demographic weighting difficult.” You mean, a high-turnout election like the record-breaking one we had Tuesday? And you mean demographic weighting like how African-Americans– who make up a miniscule 6% of California’s population– voted? Yeah.
But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend like that CNN exit poll is accurate and that blacks did in fact make up 10% of California’s electorate and did in fact vote in favor of Prop 8 at a rate of 70%. According to the same poll, voters age 65 and older made up 15% of the electorate and voted in favor of Prop 8 at a rate of 61%. For those of you who aren’t good at math, that means California voters age 65 and older outnumbered African-Americans by 50% and contribued 39% more Yes on Prop 8 votes. If voters age 65 and older had opposed Prop 8 by a slight majority of 52%, it would have failed.
So why isn’t Sullivan emphasizing the rampant homophobia in the elderly community? Why is he singling out African-Americans as the foremost obstacle to gay rights when voters over 65 actually had 39% more influence in the passing of Prop 8? Will Sullivan ever condemn nursing homes and Bingo tournaments the way he has repeatedly condemned black churches?
POST SCRIPT #3: The point of this post is not to excuse black homophobia or the contribution of African-Americans to the passage of Prop 8. It is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed, just like it needs be addressed among– again according to CNN’s exit poll– Latinos, Republicans (who made up 29% of the electorate and voted in favor of Prop 8 at a rate of 82%– which adds up to 339% more influence on passing Prop 8 than African-Americans), everyone over age 30, everyone who makes less… or more than $50,000, people who have attended college, people who have never attended college, women, and men. Did I miss anyone?
The point of this post is to question the wildly disproportional scrutiny of African-Americans, when it is in no way clear that the color of one’s skin is a primary indicator of one’s social attitudes towards gays. I’m guessing that your frequency of church attendance, your age, and where you live are all much stronger indicators than race.
Whoever is doing these Barack Obama movie parodies needs to get an Academy Award or something. These are just outrageously entertaining, especially for those of us who grew up on these flicks. First the Star Wars parody, The Empire Strikes Barack; then the Rocky parody, Baracky; and now it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Super Barack!
Yesterday, in what could be described as an otherwise sober and successful first press conference, Barack Obama made two offhanded remarks that are raising eyebrows around the blogosphere. The first:
Obama told reporters that he has turned for advice to all “living” former presidents. But he then joked, “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.” … Obama called Mrs. Reagan late Friday to apologize.
And then when discussing what kind of dog to get for his children:
“Obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me,” Obama said with a smile. “So whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household.” In his first postelection news conference, the man who will be president in just over two months described himself as a mutt as casually as he may have poked fun at his jump shot.
I have to be honest, even in jest, both these comments were a little disappointing to hear and came off as almost beneath the office– which isn’t easy after eight years of George Bush. I guarantee neither would have been said a week ago. After two years of ferociously protecting Michelle and arguing that wives should be off limits, Obama’s joke at the expense of Nancy Reagan, one of only six living first ladies, was inexplicable. Calling her to apologize was the right thing to do. And I’m all for Obama doing all he can to shed the stigma of race, but for the new president-elect to describe himself as a “mutt” strikes me as a bit careless. It’s only a matter of time before some foreign leader decides to jokingly quote Obama and finds him or herself in a world of hot water.
I realize that if Obama can’t joke around a little every now and then, it’s going to be a long, long four years. No one is expecting him to come out in a robe, smoking a pipe and quoting Shakespeare. But just because the election is over doesn’t mean he should lose the rhetorical cautiousness that got him this far and earned him the confidence of so many voters. At least not in the very first press conference.
I realize conservatives are in a bit of disarray right now, but throwing over half the American population under the bus strikes me as a poor strategy. Here’s Rush Limbaugh earlier today, reacting to the news that single women put Barack Obama over the top, and proving once again why he enjoys protected legal status as a functional moron:
Snerdley, do you remember we had a survey not long ago about unmarried women, women that are not in a relationship are stupider than women who are in a relationship? Remember that? It was not the word, but what was the word? I use the word stupid because it worked. Less informed, ignorant, whatever. Get this. “Unmarried Women Put Obama Over the Top.” Seventy percent of support for Obama came from unmarried women.
I touched on this briefly in the previous post, but I can’t stress enough how counterproductive it is for the gay and liberal community to scapegoat African-Americans for the passage of Prop 8. Today, I was in the car listening to Randi Rhodes, a white liberal talk radio host, and she said something like (and I’m paraphrasing here, but not by much): “Is it instinctive for blacks to be homophobic? … Don’t they know the Bible they’re using to oppose gay marriage was used to justify slavery?” Wow. I mean, where do you even start with something like that? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see anyone making any inroads whatsoever into the black community on the gay marriage issue if the strategy is to:
A) Single out African-Americans as the sole reason why gay marriage was repealed, ignoring all other factors, including the Mormon Church who created and funded Prop 8 and the other non-black 90% of the electorate who also voted in favor of it.
B) Launch racist attacks that harken back to a time when blacks were viewed as naturally inferior to, or at least intellectually different than, other races, using words like “instinctive.”
C) Attack the Christian faith of African-Americans by invoking slavery.
Like I said, maybe it’s just me, but that actually seems like the stupidest, most counterproductive way anyone could possibly react to Tuesday’s result. I understand a lot of people in the gay and liberal communities are angry right now, and rightfully so. But to react by throwing verbal trash cans through the windows of black churches and communities is not the answer at all.
– It isn’t even clear that the exit polls people are using to ”prove” overwhelming black support of Prop 8 (and by proxy, black homophobia) are accurate. African-Americans made up just 10% of California’s electorate on Tuesday– compared to 63% white, 18% Latino. With CNN’s tiny sample size of only 224 African-Americans throughout the entire state, the figure showing 70% of African-Americans supporting Prop 8 could easily be off by a very large percentage, depending on where in California those selected African-Americans lived. A swing of just 22 black voters in that statewide sample– easily possible if too much of your sample is coming from conservative inland communities– changes the support from 70% to 60%.
– Even if African-Americans had opposed Prop 8 at the same percentage as whites, it wouldn’t have made a difference. There was just too much support for it from the rest of the non-black electorate. For every one black voter who voted in favor of Prop 8, there were six white and Latino voters who did the same. So why– other than racism and frustration– single out the black voter for blame?
If gays and liberals want to find someone to blame for the passage of Proposition 8, there are a few much better options: the Mormon Church, as I mentioned; San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome, whose arrogant pro-gay-marriage rants starred in several Yes on 8 commercials, and who blew open the issue of gay marriage being taught in schools by foolishly officiating a gay wedding in front of a class of first-graders; Barack Obama, who opposed Prop 8, but made (probably wisely for his campaign) no real effort to make that fact known to the 61% of Californians who voted for him.
And of course, there’s the gay and liberal communities themselves, who refused to put a human face on the issue or an actual gay couple in any of their ads. In fact, most No on 8 ads didn’t even use the word “gay” or any variation of it. It was as if Prop 8 was a civil rights issue, a separation of church and state issue, a marriage issue, but definitely not a “gay” or ”homosexual” issue. But as long as gay marriage supporters continue operating in this mode of subconscious shame, I suspect gay marriage opponents will continue to feel vindicated in their belief that homosexuality is something to be ashamed of.
Lastly, the gay and liberal community needs to realize that the black community is operating at unprecedented levels of goodwill and open-mindedness right now. A lot of African-Americans got their minds changed dramatically on Tuesday night about whites, racism, and their place in America. So rather than using this time to attack that community, now is probably more like the perfect time to begin positive outreach and education efforts. On the other hand, if these attacks continue, they will almost certainly lead to a knee-jerk defensiveness throughout a black community that is accustomed to being disproportionately and unfairly blamed for so many other issues– a wound that could take years to heal. And the absolute last thing gay marriage supporters need to be doing right now is making more enemies.