Thursday, August 05, 2004

A ONE-WAY TICKET TO OATMEAL, NEBRASKA. NRO's Mark Goldblatt, having recently dismissed black people as "the most hypocritical, most paranoid, most pretentious group of people on the planet" (next to the French, of course), now dumps on my fellow citizens and I, declaring that "New Yorkers, who pride themselves on their sophistication, seem honestly to believe that calling the president names constitutes a compelling argument against his policies."

Goldblatt's defense of his slanderous proposition isn't worth addressing -- he doesn't understand the difference between a reason and an excuse, let alone the difference between righteous indignation and blind rage -- but I note with curiosity that Goldblatt lives in New York, himself, and this gets me to wondering about all these blue-state Republicans who bitch about the evil residents of the blue states. Can you imagine living in Bumfuck, Mississippi -- by choice, not because you had to -- and writing screeds for the Bumfuck Herald-Dispatch about what a bunch of villainous cretins the citizens of Bumfuck were? Forget about the ass-kicking that would surely ensue (Bumfuck has not the culture of toleration our own metroplis enjoys); what would motivate an individual to voluntarily remain in such a self-created hell?

Goldblatt, Brooks, Sullivan, (and on a bad day, Richard Brookhiser) et alia: there are many fine hamlets, villages, gulches, junctions, and corners in this great land of ours to which you may repair to write smack about the City. Why not go to them? Better still, why not go to Hell?

I do not think a lot of modern conservatives have taken on their philosophy because they were brought up in it, schooled in it, and swallowed it whole. And I don't think a lot of them became conservatives because they read a book by Hayek or Adam Smith and thought, "Ah ha, this seems sound!" I think a lot of people in our time who have become conservatives did it because they had a certain and particular kind of mind...
...the kind that goes Hey, this is E-Z! I just gots to remember 9-11 and the sancticity of marriage! Such folk will rejoice to know that Peggy Noonan is comin' to inspire them!
...a week ago, while watching the Democratic convention, I made a decision.

I am going to take three months' unpaid leave from The Wall Street Journal and attempt to support the Republican Party in the coming and crucial election... This will take a bite out of my finances but I can do it. Actually most of us, when we die, wind up with a few thousand dollars in the bank. We should have spent it! I am going to spend mine now.
Noonan has been a speechwriter for Reagan and Bush I, a CBS producer, an NYU professor, a Wall Street Journal columnist, an MSNBC and NBC commentator, and author of several books. She also got upwards of 50 grand for services to Enron before they went down in flames. If she only has a "few thousand dollars" in the bank, maybe she had a bad night rolling bones with Bill Bennett.

What the Crazy Jesus Lady will do for the GOP is at present a mystery. All she will reveal is, "I decided it's good to be on TV in whatever venue seems right when you feel you have something important you want to say." Maybe she will stand outside the Today Show studios early in the morning, waving a cardboard placard saying JESUS HATES DEMOCRATS. Maybe she'll replace Dennis Miller's chimp. Or maybe she will get a local public access TV show that features miraculous appearances by the Virgin Mary and denunciations of homosexuals.

I for one will miss her.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

During the GOP National Convention, which runs from August 30 to September 2, no cars or buses will be allowed on streets from Sixth to Ninth Avenue, between 31st and 33rd streets. In addition, people on foot will have to show identification to get anywhere from 33rd to 31st Street between Seventh and Ninth avenues, and police will escort them to their destination.

“That’s not going to be good,” said one woman who works in the restricted area.
Know what burns my ass most about this? While the neighborhood is in lockdown, Giuliani will be inside the Garden telling the Republicans how much real New Yorkers (i.e., rich, white, vicious, constipated ones) love them.

Gay Marriage Is Not the "New Abortion"... The comparison doesn't hold in one, very important respect: Abortions are sad. Weddings are happy. Having an abortion -- or having a friend or relative who has one -- may make you more supportive of abortion rights, but it won't make you celebrate the idea. Abortion won't make you smile.

People support abortion rights out of fear. They support gay marriage out of love. There are, of course, non-emotional arguments on both sides of both issues, but the fundamental feelings are different. That changes the politics, particularly with time and experience.
The same holds true with estate taxes, otherwise known as death taxes. Because death is so sad. So, you see, Republicans are against it. Because they're all dynamistic and shit.

You know what else is a downer: Hospitals. I was in a hospital once and it freaked me right the fuck out. So when I think about health care, I don't go to my happy place.

Dudette! That's some righteous dynamism!

A HERO FOR THE 21st CENTURY. Cathy Sieff goes to an anti-Bush book launch party, to see how the bluer half lives, and to write snide things about them for NRO. This "My Cuh-razy Liberal 'Friends'" scenario is ancient by now, but Sieff distinguishes her script with a fascinating new character, a Spicolli manque called Peter Stuart. Sieff describes Peter as if he were real, but he is really much too good to be true.

Peter used to make punk docs, and retains, his creator tells us, "a taste for the transgressive":
Peter, in fact, has long collected Feral House books, and often used to horrify his wife by hauling out the serial-killer volumes to share with dinner party guests.
Let us hope the soon-to-be-former Mrs. Stuart is not litigious.
But seeing the rise of Islamofascism up close in Europe moved [Peter] hard to the right, and now he always seems to be getting into it with someone.
I'll bet!
When a woman in the audience began reflexively laughing at the mention of "Christian fundamentalists," though, Peter turned to her and snapped, "What's funny about Christian fundamentalists? Are Islamic fundamentalists funny too?"
Pete's a caution. My favorite part is when the evening's author "suggested that military troops are underfunded 'so all the profits can go to Halliburton,' Peter raised his hand and pointed out mildly that 'actually, the $87 billion you're referring to was for rebuilding Iraq. So that's a little different, isn't it?'" I've been going over that sentence with an archaeologist's brush, and I still can't see what the hell Peter is talking about. But I suppose that's the joke, huh? Sort of a "Dude, Where's My Car?" thing.

I look forward to seeing a rough cut.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

GIVE UP HOPE -- VOTE BUSH! The New York Post's Nicole Gelinas acknowledged on Monday that selling the voters on his rancid economy was "W's challenge." Whereas Kerry offered a "fuzzy-headed promise to create 'millions of good-paying jobs,'" wrote Gelinas, Dubya can only offer them blood, sweat, and tears, and Gelinas is forced to admit that "after four years of tough times, voters can't be blamed for seeking out a shining economic vision" -- of eventual emergence from crippling debt, one supposes, or of someday sending a child to college.

Despite a weak effort to "blame the fact that Bush has never had a charismatic Treasury or Labor Secretary" -- yes, we all remember how Robert Reich and Lloyd Bentsen set our hearts aflame! -- the article ended on a note of despair.

That was Monday. Did Gelinas get a call from Karl Rove in the middle of the night? Because the next day, she had an answer to W's dilemma. Yes, you guessed it -- 9/11:
...whenever I hear the Democrats' exultant invocations to those years, I feel a retroactive, physical dread. Much of late-1990s growth — that not already purged by early September 2001 by the reality induced by the burst tech bubble — was built on a false bottom: World Peace...

But we can't go back — and the financial markets can't go back, either. After 9/11, institutional and individual investors were forced to re-price for a costly and permanent new peril: al Qaeda's physical and ideological threat to the miracle that is the Western economy.
Gelinas goes on to explain that, because corporations have had to invest in more insurance than before, and "have spent billions renting and outfitting permanent backup sites far from Manhattan to house employees and data in the event of another attack," it's unreasonable to expect the jobs picture to improve, despite what fuzzy-headed Kerry promised and even despite what the President himself says on the stump ("This economy is strong and it's getting stronger").

The old 9/11 "everything has changed" now seems to also mean, no more getting ahead by working hard. It's kind of a grim analysis -- if you take it seriously. But who's that stupid? Certainly not my readers!

The fact is, while you and I are suffering economically, the market -- even with all those poor, brave investors so overtaxed by terrorism-related outlays -- is not doing so bad. Despite today's oil-related jitters, the Dow remains well over 10,000. On September 10, 2001, it closed at 9,605.50 -- having dropped about 2000 points since Bush's inauguration.

If you can't get a job, or can't get one that pays what your last one did, it's not because Morgan Stanley had to build a safe house in Jersey.

It's because the economy responds to things other than terrorism -- like a decline in consumer spending. Greenspan blames this on high oil prices, but the simplest explanation is that people are running short of disposable income, and of faith that they can safely run up their debt till more money materializes.

Also, the rise in productivity that Republicans like to trumpet is not necessarily a good thing for you and me. In the short term at least, it means that businesses large enough to work it right can make more with less -- including less payroll and less personnel.

Greater heads than mine could submit this to further discussion, so let's just cut it short and say that pulling 9/11 out of one's ass to excuse this Administration's lousy economic performance is probably not going to fly. But that may just be my natural optimism and faith in my fellow man talking.

Monday, August 02, 2004

CITI UNDER SIEGE. I dropped quickly by the Citicorp Center at lunchtime. The Atrium is closed, so only the shops facing the streets seem to be in business; Barnes & Noble and Houston's had what appeared to be a normal amount of traffic.

There were a few cops on each corner and at each entrance -- not as large a force as you might expect, but even one New York City cop carries a lot of weight on the street, and who knows what less-observable presence NYPD has going on.

The surest sign of the change in status was the presence of media trucks parked along Lexington. Most of their crews seemed to be in downtime, lounging on canvas folding chairs when I came by, though one cameraman was patiently recording a cop who held the leash of a panting, happy-looking German Shepherd.

A lot of passers-by seemed, like me, to be gawking a little as they shuffled past, interested in how the City was playing this one. "I can't believe this has become a tourist thing," one guy said.

On the subway steps was a paper seller with a pile of the Daily News, each front page featuring a picture of the Citicorp Center and the word TARGETS.

Just another day.

MOSES SUPPOSES. "We have an Orange Alert in NYC," intones James Lileks. What you mean "we," farmer Jim? Republicans love us when we're terrorized; it's the smell of votes what does it. (By the way, hayseed, New York City has been on Orange Alert since Tom "Rock" Ridge first trotted out his little Playskool thermometer, as Mayor Richie Rich reminded us in his press conference.)

During Ridge and Bloomberg's addresses I must have heard the word "specificity" three hundred times. I imagine a roomful of Republicans running it through with a vocal coach: "Speh-si-FIH-si-ty, speh-si-FIH-si-ty... Mr. President, how about you just let Tom Ridge give this speech?"

I'll roll by the Citicorp Center during my lunch break and let you know how it's looking.

UPDATE. "Kind of like meeting Hunter S. Thompson, except really fucking boring." The comments on this post prove that my primary usefulness here is as a muse to brighter bloggers.

Friday, July 30, 2004

YET ANOTHER REASON TO VOTE FOR KERRY. Via The Nation, spotted by eagle-eye Margaret:
The Democratic party platform that will be adopted this week includes one particularly significant change from the platforms adopted by the party conventions of 1992, 1996 and 2000. During the platform-writing process, the drafting committee quietly removed the section of the document that endorsed capital punishment. Thus, for the first time since the 1980s, Democrats will not be campaigning on a pro-death penalty program.
It appears Kerry, who doesn't "wear his faith on his sleeve," has more in common with Jesus than the famously born-again Bush. Don't worry, George, you can always trumpet your strong personal relationship with Hammurabi!

SHORTER DIANA WEST: My kinfolk don't hate fags proudly, as I do. Damned liberal media!

Thursday, July 29, 2004

THE BIG STIFF IN PRIME TIME. I don’t mean to be rude, but much as I want it to work (and it could very well work), I cannot suspend a morbid consciousness of the political purpose of John Kerry’s DNC honor guard tonight.

Max Cleland is a very old-fashioned sort of politician, never mind the wheelchair. He looks proud and wounded all at the same time, and his face glistens in the hard light, as every Southern politician’s has since the days of Henry Clay, and like the most successful of them Cleland seems to enjoy rather than tolerate it. "My body was broken and my faith was shattered…. Although I had lost a lot, I still had a lot left. I resolved to make something of my life." This guy makes me ashamed, as he is supposed to. And you can get a lot of uplift out of that kind of shame in a situation like this.

"No Surrender." That’s a good choice – like all the songs on Born in the U.S.A., tinged with enough despair and regret to make it easier to really take to heart than Bon Jovi.

OK, this’ll be long. Better settle in. But I expect he’ll rush; they all have.

"I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty." Holy shit.

"…because we love our country… united in one purpose: to make America stronger at home and respected in the world. A great American novelist wrote, ‘You can’t go home again.’" Quick, conservatives – find Thomas Wolfe’s commie credentials!

"I was born in the West Wing." Good thing there’s a TV show. "Mother was the rock of our family…" Oh, here’s the personal touch Teresa didn’t put in. "Den mother when I was a Cub Scout… gave me her passion for the environment… march for full equality for all women…" Boy, she sounds like a handful.

"Father… first baseball mitt… Greatest Generation… in the State Department… " Another handful. "I rode my bike into Soviet East Berlin… he promptly grounded me." Ha ha. "Fear in the eyes of people who were not free." I see where this will get to. "I learned what it meant to be America at her best… determined to restore that pride to all that look to America." Do we see that in the Iraqi citizens’ eyes, or fear of the Abu Ghraib torturer? That’s a nut-cutter there, and explains all the toy drives at Instapundit.

"The great gift of service… a Junior, John Kennedy…" Got it. "We believed we could change to world, and you know what? We did… but tonight… we’re going to write the next great chapter… change the world, but only if we are true to our ideals and that starts by telling the truth to the American people… that is my first pledge to you… I will restore trust and credibility to the White House…" Craggy-face Kerry as the voice of youthful America.

"As a young prosecutor… balanced budget… 100,000 police on the streets of America… finally made peace in Vietnam." Nice, tight resume. "Commander-in-Chief who will never mislead us into war… a Secretary of Defense who will listen to the military, and an Attorney General who will uphold the Constitution of the United States." Yeah, not like those weirdos we have now.

"Here is our answer: there is nothing more pessimistic than saying that America can’t do better. We’re the optimists, we’re the can-do people… look at the 90s… we just need to believe in ourselves and we can do it again…" Oh, yeah, Clinton, don’t you miss him?

"I am proud that at my side…John Edwards… his life is the American dream…" Every little boy can grow up to be a rich lawyer. Well, it’s true! "Succeed Dick Cheney…" Oh, sorry I was mean to JE. "What can I say about Teresa?" You’ll be asked to, of course. I loved her dipping her head to JE’s shoulder. Maybe by her very weirdness she’s an asset. I don’t mind watching her do her loopy thing for four years.

"Our band of brothers… what we learned as soldiers… every day is extra." That’s ‘Nam talk, son. "We may be a little older… still know how to fight…" You gotta love it -- Uncommon Valor.

"September 11… strength that our firefighters… rescuers… Flight 93… flags were hanging from front porches… it was the worst day that we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us… we were only Americans, and how we wish it had stayed that way…"

It’s all one, you see, the Zen of liberalism. Every facet of public life – fighting terrorism and health care and tax policy -- feeds into the other.

"There are those that criticize me for seeing complexities…" Okay, I’m complex, you got my vote! "Proclaiming ‘Mission Accompished’ certainly doesn’t make it so." Snap. "I will bring back that time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because it wants to, it only goes to war because it has to… I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in battle… On my first day of office… never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace. I know what we have to do in Iraq… I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President." Who is this guy, George McClellan?

"I will never hesitate to respond… no veto over national security… add 40,000 military troops, not in Iraq…" At last, forward thinking. "And we will end the back door draft of the National Guard and Reservists." Hello, this really is news. What about the Coast Guard?

"Strength is more than tough words… I know the reach of our power… we need to make America a beacon… looked up to, not just feared… tell the terrorists… the future doesn’t belong to fear, it belongs to freedom." See citizen, Iraq.

"Right here on our shores… 9/11 commission… I will not evade or equivocate… 98% of our container ships… nuclear and chemical plants… not opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them down in the United States of America." His case on competence grounds.

"To those who would question the patriotism… wrapping themselves in the flag… what America is really about… when Americans stand up… that is not a challenge to patriotism, it is the heart and soul of patriotism. You see that flag up there? We call her Old Glory… I fought under that flag…" We know! "From the gun-turret…" We know! "Draped the casket…" We know!! "It belongs to all the American people!"

What are they going to remember? That John Kerry fought in Vietnam and no one better even hint he’s a traitor.

The crowd chants USA! USA! Kerry still wants to hurry through this. "My fellow citizens… Those who talk about family values should start valuing families… taking cops off the street so Enron can get another tax break… big drug companies… windfall profits… I will not privatize Social Security, I will not cut benefits… family, faith, hard work… that is the American Dream…" Kerry as Boston Irish politician, beating the same pulpit (not literally, of course) as a 19th-century Mick alderman pledging the workingman a better deal.

"Dave McKuen, a steelworker…" This is a good story – oh, it’s not a story? "Marianne Knowles, a woman with breast cancer…" Hey, this is a good – oh. "Deborah Kromins…" That’s – "25% of our children in Harlem… people sleeping in Lafayette Park… three million…" Well, that was a fast transition from the specific to the general. But narrative is a vanishing art.

"Middle class not being squeezed but doing better… new incentives… manufacturing… good-paying jobs… close the tax loopholes… reward companies that keep jobs in the good old U.S.A… never have to subsidize the loss of his own job… give the American worker a fair playing field, there’s no one in the world that he can’t compete against." Seamus O’Kerry will save your full dinner pail!

"We won’t raise taxes on the middle class, you’ve heard a lot of false charges… roll back the tax cuts on wealthier Americans… making over $200,000 a year…" Some gnome is now rushing to find a $200,000 a year family who can’t make ends meet under ee-vil Kerry.

"Stop being a nation content to spend $10,000 to send a young man to prison… Head Start, Smart Start… a real start…" The old playbook.

"Health care… 4 million people have lost their health care… your payments, your premiums… save families $1000 a year… under our health care plan… Medicare will negotiate lower drug prices… less expensive… a right for all Americans…" That’s the playbook again, and it sounds as good as ever. We will of course have to wait for the bill of particulars, emphasis on "bill."

"Independent of Mideast oil…" Another good page from the playbook. "…not the Saudi Royal family." Yeah, you know, those guys Bush is mobbed up with. Victor Davis Hanson will deliver another rant distancing The Movement from the Saudis, but no one on the hustings reads Victor Davis Fucking Hanson.

"Benjamin Franklin could never have said in his acceptance speech: go to" You mean we don’t have to listen to much more of this?

"Let me address these words directly to George W. Bush… let’s respect one another… never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in human history, the Constitution of the United States…" What can I say? When he’s right, he’s right.

"Big ideas, not small-minded attacks… divide group from group… maybe some just see us divided into those red states and blue states, but I see us united in one America, Red, White, and Blue… America is not ‘us’ and ‘them’… I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve, but faith has given me hope… Abraham Lincoln… I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side." Good, he stopped talking for a few seconds, at just the right time and in just the right way.

"They’re American values… if we believe in them, we can build… so much promise stretches before us… " Kitty Hawk. NASA. Microsoft. "WE did that… and now it’s our time to ask, ‘What if?’" Alzheimers, AIDS, stem cells. "A President who believes in science…" A choice, not a idjit. "Do what adults should do…" Oh yeah.

"Patrolling the Mekong…" We kn-- – oh, forget it. "Literally all in the same boat… that is the kind of America… all in the same boat…. Look to the next horizon.. our best days are still to come… Good night, God Bless You and God Bless The United States of America."

Cue "Beautiful Day." I hear a lot smack about the music here, but this is just perfect.

As oratory it was rushed, monochromatic, and lackluster. But. This guy is alright, and he’s running against Bush. Well, you know what I think. What do you think?

UPDATE. From The Corner: "Um, Mr. Kerry, 'that flag,' that 'Old Glory,' that 'Stars and Stripes Forever,' flew upside down on the cover of your book 'The New Soldier.' So why don't you explain that?"

Translation: they're scared shitless.

UPDATE II. Some of my comrades seem to think I've been too hard on the Big Stiff. Let me be clear. I think Kerry should do well based on tonight's performance, but I insist in judging it by Olympian standards. Why? Because, as the man said, there is nothing more pessimistic than saying that America can’t do better.

Don't worry that there is a chorus of idiots spinning the speech down. (I see Lileks, at the lunar end of one of his frequent mood swings, believes a Kerry Presidency will lead to "a smoking crater in New York." Count on it, Prairie Putz; New Yorkers will vote big for that smoking crater!) They're all in the blogosphere, which, as far as Mr. and Mrs. America know, is one long, contiguous series of mothers' basements where stained-shirted Comic Book Guys lurk and play at politics. Which means that they may have well have the wisdom to elect the right guy.

SHORTER JOHN PODHORETZ. John Edwards's expression of concern for ordinary Americans is an obvious rip-off of George W. Bush.

(There's also a lot in there about how the candidate made a lot of promises in hopes of being elected. I don't know why they didn't run this baby on page one.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

INCLUDING "AND" AND "THE." So far the Dems have kept their Convention pretty clean and un-mean. Fortunately for the rightwing "reporters" on the case, very few people are actually watching, so they can just plain make shit up.

The New York Post, for example, decries "the Democrats' timeless tactic of trying to split Americans by wealth and income, urging everyone to hate 'the rich.'" And I decry -- oh, who am I kidding? I am tickled by -- the Post's timeless tactic of using a quasi-quotation to imply linkage between a slur and its target. "The rich," which I heard in none of the speeches last night, could in a pinch be nailed to anyone on the Convention floor (perhaps a Michigan alternate saying "I love the rich taste of Folger's crystals" within earshot of a Post hack); having established that, the Post just adds "hate" and gets itself a perfect picture of a Socialist Worker rally brimming with bushy-bearded bohos and spherical black bombs.

Of course, why stop at tarring the Convention? Club for Growth President Stephen Moore paints a nightmarish portrait of Boston itself:
The panoramic shots of the convention give the impression that there's no one here in Beantown but middle-class, flag-waving, child-hugging bus drivers and construction workers and soccer moms and grandmothers...

Don't be fooled by the spinmeisters. These people are not middle America. When you go into the bakeries, you can actually purchase wedding cakes with two brides on the top. A baker tells me even straight couples are purchasing these ultra-chic wedding cakes, as a sign of solidarity. The best-selling t-shirt shows George Washington standing aside George W. Bush. Under Washington the caption reads: "Could not tell a lie." Under Bush the caption: "Could not tell the truth." Every third car has a bumper sticker screaming: "RE-DEFEAT BUSH IN 2004."
Boston -- Sodom on the Charles! Later, Moore adds, "two antiwar protesters with 'Make Love, Not War' shirts (I'm not making this up) strutted in front of my taxi and shouted expletives, daring us to run them over." I love the "I'm not making this up." He should have repeated it after every sentence. Maybe a few people would have believed him.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

OH, BTW: The other speakers tonight were fine. Gephardt: nice fella, no President, but bless him for running with the 90s-Congressional-Democrat football, even if only to his own 40-yard-line. Daschle: A little yapping dog, but our yapping dog. Obama: Superb. A comer. Mrs. Heinz-Kerry: Reminds me of a late Ingrid Bergman character, faint and unmodulated of speech but strong, nay, steely of conviction. Not very personable, which I consider a plus in the First Lady department. Most others probably don't, but who cares what they would think if they were listening (and they aren't)? (David Brooks thinks she was "a little bit offensive" and wanted a more "personal" angle. God, why does this drip exist, let alone appear on television?)

If you prefer to read lies about all this, go here. At alicublog, we speak truth to -- well, to a couple of smart people. From our point of view, that's enough.

ORATORIO. In last night's Convention roundup, I neglected to mention Rev. Alston, the black preacher who delivered a tribute to his old swift boat skipper, John Kerry. Alston began his address in the punchy cadences of an old-fashioned Baptist preacher ("where we FOUGHT. and BLED toGETHER. Serving our COUNtry"). But like everyone else that night, he was rushing over the logical pauses in his speech, and soon the regularity of it became numbing.

Then the crowd started cheering the preacher's Kerry references, and Alston swelled up like a bullfrog and turned from shouting to roaring his address. His cadence didn't alter, but his fire was lit, and it changed the whole effect for the better. It was as if they were the bellows and he were a pipe-organ with all the stops pulled and the bass pedals pushed to the floor.

It is hard to feel the interplay of speaker and audience through the tube, because background sounds are so convoluted by the audio feed (which is why it is so easy to scramble obscene crowd chants in TV broadcasts of ballgames). It's not until the thing starts to pick up and the speaker himself catches fire that you realize he's going over.

Something like that happened to Ted Kennedy tonight. At first, short of breath, he was just Mayor Quimby grinding out the rhetorical sausage for a buncha librul Demmycrats in the Commiewealth of Taxachusetts. I almost stopped watching. I figured I'd get my kicks reading about it the next day in the New York Post ("TRAITOR TED SLAMS HERO OF 9/11").

But the temperature did rise, and so did the quality of the speech -- maybe because of the quality of the speech. The old ham actually had a few ideas (or someone did -- the Kennedys always had a good rolodex for speechwriters). The best of them were about American history, which he conflated, naturally, with Democratic history (New Deal, New Frontier, etc.) -- never more boldly or effectively than when he reached back to before the Democratic Party, or the United States, even existed, to remind us of the Declaration's "decent respect for the opinion of mankind," and to say this:
Now it is our turn to take up the cause. Our struggle is not with some monarch named George who inherited the crown -- although it often seems that way.

Our struggle is with the politics of fear and favoritism in our own time, in our own country. Our struggle, like so many others before, is with those who put their own narrow interest ahead of the public interest.

We hear echoes of past battles in the quiet whisper of the sweetheart deal, in the hushed promise of a better break for the better connected. We hear them in the cries of the false patriots who bully dissenters into silence and submission. These are familiar fights. We've fought and won them before. And with John Kerry and John Edwards leading us, we will win them again and make America stronger at home and respected once more in the world.
That's pretty good. Tactically, it challenges the Republicans to show how their ideas fit in with American history. Sure, tell us about Lincoln -- and get some black people within camera range so it looks less risible. Tell us about Teddy Roosevelt, if you dare risk the old warrior's coming out of his grave to mount a Bull Moose challenge to your feeble "compassionate conservatism," or to agree too fulsomely and embarrassingly with your notion of Manifest Destiny. Then tell us about Reagan, whose cartoon version of the Spirit of '76 replaced the flagbearer, the drummer, and the fife player with the entrepreneur, the evangelist, and the easy-terms loanshark.

Tactics don't matter in this instance, of course. I understand very few people are watching this thing on TV. Probably even fewer have any real feeling about the American Revolution and the remarkable ideas that ignited it. Still, as a connoisseur of the game, I appreciated seeing the round played so well.

Monday, July 26, 2004

CONVENTION, ROUND ONE. I can’t devote myself to viewing all of this large, clumsy entertainment, and so missed Jimmy Carter, which I suppose is no great loss (I’ve seen him speak before).

In general, Night One seemed a little rushed. I guess the managers figured those few viewers who stumbled upon the show on their way to the Playboy Channel should sense vigor, or at least velocity, coming from the Fleet Center Though that deprived me of the great, rolling oratorical swells of yore, I understand that the modern ear is not attuned to them.

Thus Al Gore zipped through his speech, but that seemed generous of him under the circumstances – he was there to help, not to grab attention, so only his occasional shift to a low, rumbling tone indicated his old-fashioned speechifying gifts. He seemed relaxed and comfortable, especially by his usual standards. He was always better with the jokes when he wasn’t running for President. I didn’t see the embittered lunatic they talk about in the blogosphere, but that funhouse mirror is rarely reliable.

The 9/11 tribute was simple and even a little elegant, though I was strongly aware of its purpose as a touchstone for what would come later (as it did, with the Clintons using Kerry’s military record as resume lines for a Terror-era President). Cynicism or stagecraft? Depends on where you stand as you look at it.

Hillary was Hillary, and this was a good opportunity to think about what that is. I can see why some people hate her. There is always something a little hectoring in her tone, reminiscent of a grade-school teacher announcing the conditions under which next week’s field trip will be allowed. Of course this is more offensive when she is tired and grim, as she often seems to be when doing the people’s business. In this political context, though, cheerful and energized and surrounded by people who love her, she just seemed strong-willed and charismatic.

You could tell Bill Clinton’s speech was good because David Brooks on PBS did his best to piss on it ("No poetry," said Brooks; try to imagine David Brooks reading poetry for anything but quotes.) Clinton was never very good on the saxophone, but he plays audiences like no one else around, and he had a great theme: the campaign was not going to be about "who’s a good man and who’s a bad man," but about "choices." He kept stressing that the Republicans sincerely believe what they profess to believe, and that citizens who felt the same way (after Clinton had shown them how disastrously wrong they were) should go ahead and do so. So though his energy was high and his pace brisk, he seemed like sweet reason itself.

Whether any of this will work is for greater minds than mine to puzzle out.

CALL ME CRAZY. If we don't like Bush, suggests Virginia Postrel, it's just because we're mentally unbalanced:
When I was in New York a few weeks ago, a friend in the magazine business told me he thinks the ferocious Bush hating that he sees in New York is a way of calming the haters' fears of terrorism. It's not rational, but it's psychologically plausible -- blame the cause you can control, at least indirectly through elections, rather than the threats you have no control over.
Actually, Madame Dynamist, we expect to address, electorally, the cause we can control of a whole host of national ills. Thankfully -- and as a libertarian I'm sure you can appreciate this -- the franchise extends even to those of us who irrationally choose to live in New York, rather than (shudder) Dallas.


The delegates, politicians, consultants and hangers-on all know that there's such a thing as a free lunch--and breakfast and cocktails and dinners and late-night parties. They all stop milling around hotel lobbies every few hours to partake of all the free eats. While other hotel guests are in the restaurants talking with friends, I am the only one ordering food. Sure, GOP delegates will also enjoy lots of freebies, but at least they'll go back to working in the private sector when the convention ends. When the Democrats aren't feeding their delegates, the taxpayers are.

Posted at 02:26 PM

Nice to see the "truth squad" out there digging! Coming up: high volume of toilet flushes in Boston prove Democrats shit on America!

REDSTATE: NEW, KID-FRIENDLY FORMULA. When Redstate started out it was pretty wonkish, mostly featuring brain-busters such as this one by Paul J. Cella:
Modern Liberalism is our orthodoxy... the terrible conundrum for many on the Right is that the new orthodoxy is repugnant to them -- opposed, in fact, to the nature of man, which it is their orthodoxy to hold up to men as true, irrevocable. So Conservatives, under this new orthodoxy, cannot be conservative; indeed, the day may dawn when they will be revolutionaries. Yet some will remain mere conservatives, and turn with loathing on what they see in their former comrades as a new threat to the established order which it is their business to defend...
And if Hawkman teamed up with The Atom, they could totally take The Spectre and The Green Arrow.

But now it seems Tacitus and the guys have been through the focus groups and the blue-sky sessions, and are dumbing it down. Today at Redstate we find a Free Republic-style "W is My Kinda Heterosexual" photo essay, the text of which ("Yes, George Bush likes women. He's surrounded himself with one of the finest, Condoleezza Rice... she is one of the President's MVPs -- and the media and the left can't forgive her for that. But not me. I like Condi -- I like Condi a lot") suggests Peggy Noonan without the hallucinogens.

There is also what appears to be the transcript of a closing argument by an underfunded high-school debate team:
In this fight, no man or woman can be neutral.

I want a leader who, when he hears the words, Nine Eleven, feels them in his gut.
Oh, brother. What was that old line about putting the grown-ups back in charge?