"Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by." That, we're pretty sure you've heard already, is Karl Rove's gimlet eyed character assessment of Barack Obama. And we read some wild things in today's papers, like David Brooks' assertion that the steadfastness and strength of character of Bush and his so-"dubbed" "bad guys" is why we're winning in Iraq, or James Dobson on Barack Obama's secret plan to co-opt the Bible to peddle his fruitcake scheme to kill tiny babies or Don Imus on how he really isn't racist, he just can't stop making sarcastic racist jokes, but whatever; let's get back to the country club. I think we all know what Karl Rove is getting at here: he has the hots for Barack Obama's beautiful, radical, black separatist wife. I mean, duh. In other news, did you know Bill Clinton's speeches were actually more dumbed-down than Bush's? And a very brief history of presidential Dirt Off Shoulder moments since Man In The Arena, with me and Megan, if you jump.
MOE: So today Obama is a country club snob who sips a martini and alternately peddles a fruitcake version of the Constitution and makes snide comments about passersby while ignoring the beautiful date he brought for some new chick from out of town…ummmm is the whole campaign going to be this incomprehensible a tantrum? Why don't they go after the fact that his Christian outreach program consists of hosting things called "American Values House Parties"? That could at least make for some fun photoshop work.
MEGAN: Also, he wants to be President soooo bad, he's made up his own seal. But, to answer the question, yes, I think for the foreseeable future the campaign will just be one incomprehensible temper tantrum.
MOE: Do you think Karl Rove is trying to evoke a sort of Greg Germann image re Obama? Because Karl, I know you don't need me to tell you this, but it would be a lot easier to just play to the whole "latent racism" thing. But not nearly as fun!
MEGAN: People say they want clean campaigns, but they only pay attention and change their minds when it gets dirty, so it'll get dirty. Plus, you know, you've got pissed off PUMAs and the media is all sad that their golden boy refused to take public financing and so it's their disappointment that drives the coverage right now because they are literally 90% of the total population of people that understand what public financing is on a basic level and what it means that he didn't take it (and they're probably still mad that 99% of their viewers/readers didn't give a fuck about it).
MOE: oh my Goddd just when you thought David Brooks was sticking to his meds…
Every personal trait that led Bush to make a hash of the first years of the war led him to make a successful decision when it came to this crucial call [to have a surge]
I don't think that qualifies as "off his meds" as much as "on hard drugs this time."
Bush is a stubborn man. Well, without that stubbornness, that unwillingness to accept defeat on his watch, he never would have bucked the opposition to the surge.
Bush is an outrageously self-confident man. Well, without that self-confidence he never would have overruled his generals. Bush is also a secretive man who listens too much to Dick Cheney. Well, the uncomfortable fact is that Cheney played an essential role in promoting the surge. Many of the people who are dubbed bad guys actually got this one right.
Ha ha, yes, dubbed. Oh for the rest of the world to be so attuned to the selflessness and idealism at the core of all Dick Cheney's actions.
MEGAN: Dick Cheney's just a peach! He knows what he's doing!
MOE: Anyway, I must confess, I think of stability in Iraq right now and I think not necessarily "failed state" or "fragile state" but honor killings and virginity checkups and the like. In that vein I don't think of coal consumption and "a distinctly American problem, as opposed to that of oil" automatically but according to this guy, James Hansen, I should. Do you sometimes wish all these nebulous global warming based arguments for minimizing waste and reducing consumption would do like the ice caps and wash away to reveal to Americans the secret reason everyone's trying to get them to stop driving Hummers and living in exurbs and swilling bottled water and gorging on high fructose nuggets of deforestation and animal cruelty which is to say IT'S JUST BETTER FOR EVERYONE THAT WAY??
MEGAN: Oh, I meant to tell you, HuffPo went out and couldn't find a single economist — not even a right wing shill — that would say that McCain's drilling plan would lower oil prices in the short-medium term?
MOE: Oh but to get to a point I was trying to make earlier coal is burned widely in China and I wouldn't call it "counterintuitive" to want to put an end to that. And yeah if the fucking Fox News booker couldn't find one I don't know how they were supposed to.
MEGAN: Two-thirds of our energy in this country comes from burning coal, and although the coal we burn is of high quality (and thus less environmentally unfriendly in terms of SOx emissions, if I recall correctly) than the higher-sulfur coal which is burned in China, it still ain't good. Someone on MSNBC yesterday, I wasn't looking at the TV so I didn't see who, said that we should try to become the Saudi Arabia of coal. I thought it was a bad talking point.
MOE: Did you read all the latest on our boychik Efraim Diveroli and the ambassador and the coverrup etc.
The day after the November meeting, the embassy's regional security officer, Patrick Leonard, wrote an assistant an e-mail message obtained by the committee: "NY Times just arrived today and might be doing a story on this and it might get ugly. Ambassador is very concerned about the case."
When The Times published its article on March 27, it was quickly forwarded to embassy officials. In an e-mail message to several embassy officials, Mr. Leonard said that the article focused on the arms company's dealings. "No mention of Embassy involvement - thank God!"
MEGAN: HA! Wow, dude, way to remember that email is forever.
MEGAN: I guess Efraim wasn't the only dumb one in that conspiracy.
MOE: Also: I don't know dick about dick, but HOWWWW again does the expanding influence of an Iranian-backed Shiite cleric who, by the way, isn't opposed to exploding his fellow Shiites by the dozen for the sake of stirring up hostility towards Sunnis = the troop surge is a success? Seriously, Megan? You know me, I don't know much about this stuff, and I never really did trust that David Brooks since he made up all those facts about how you couldn't find a $20 dinner in Franklin County etc., but seriously…
MEGAN: OMG THAT IS THE SAME DAVID BROOKS?
MOE: Um, earth to Megan??
MEGAN: My friend gave me that book for Christmas like 7, 8 years ago and it was soooo annoying I never read it.
MEGAN: Ok, sorry. Wow, that guy's more of an idiot than I thought.
MOE: Yeah the only good thing Brooks ever did to my recollection was this Slate "Breakfast Table" with Thomas Frank that I will dredge up sometime for old time's sake. We could role-play it on Crappy Hour, in fact, but I get to be Tom.
MEGAN: Man, why do I have to be the stupid one?
MOE: David Brooks wasn't as stupid then, maybe he was taking Adderall who knows.
MEGAN: I don't know, that book sort of made me want to gouge my eyes out (sorry, Ed).
MOE: But no on second thought I'd rather be Brooks because I think his writing style would be easier and more fun to emulate. I just have a hardon for Frank.
MOE: Bobos in Paradise?
MEGAN: Yes, it's literally sitting on my bookshelf right now, staring at me.
MEGAN: Ok, the back cover quotes are like a rogue's gallery: Christopher Buckley declares "The self-loathing yuppie is dead," which, obviously not because Brooks kept writing after this.
MOE: Oh shit, so this girl: just about plain looking enough that…okay but seriously dude, what's up with the jacket? Also, who fucking holds hands? Ah the mystery of that particular specimen of humanity. Which reminds me did you read that New York Magazine piece on how Bill Clinton's speeches were actually written on a more elementary reading level than Bush's? Well that wasn't what it was about exactly obviously it was about Obama but you get what I'm saying.
MEGAN: Aw, I hold hands. I like holding hands sometimes. It's better than talking sometimes, and you know I love talking.
MEGAN: The thing that's amazing about Bill Clinton is his ability to take a speech, like, 10 minutes before he gets it, read it, and then give it with the right tone and everything that it sounds like he just wrote it, but perfectly. I guess it would make a kind of sense that it would be relatively easy language, etc, because most people don't like when you use big words.
MOE: Haha Reagan didn't know the names of many of his speechwriters.... Poor Peggy and her XXXes... did you ever read how she never really got to say goodbye to Reagan in Political Fictions?? It's heartwrenching really. And speaking of …speaking, you ever read this presidential speech? I read it after reading a particularly impressive TR introduction to this book on, of all things, the Mongols. Right now however I'm a little too hungover to parse.
MOE: Oh shit, segue but Charlie Crist: comes off rather well in this Deborah Solomon interview, but why does he look like he raided Tim Russert's closet before the photoshoot?
MOE: Wait, that
MEGAN: Hrm, it seems like we might have wanted to pay attention to this part a little more carefully:
The leaders of thought and of action grope their way forward to a new life, realizing, sometimes dimly, sometimes clear-sightedly, that the life of material gain, whether for a nation or an individual, is of value only as a foundation, only as there is added to it the uplift that comes from devotion to loftier ideals.
MOE: Ah the beautiful and the lofty. Gotta bring back the lofty.
MEGAN: Well, we could just start by having some ideals, that would be good too.
MOE: Anyway The Man in The Arena was quoted by Richard Nixon in his resignation speech. Nixon who ushered in the end of the Meaningful Speech when he formally separated his speechwriting department from his policy analysis department, which sort of begs the question which department wrote his resignation but that, folks, doesn't appear to be on Wikipedia. Oh and Barack Obama referenced Man in the Arena when he brushed that dirt off his shoulder…
MEGAN: Well, speeches aren't about policy, they're about PR. That everyone before Nixon didn't know that was just their loss.
MOE: Well the point of the story was that style and substance are distinguished from one another to an unproductive degree these days in the political arena, which I would argue is actually the opposite of true these days, it's more like style is differentiated from "substance-esque style", but anyway sometimes a speech is just about sticking it to the haters and this is pretty awesome.
Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary.
MOE: Of course this speech is just one long scathing critique of the critics so maybe not that much has changed except that I didn't know "voluptuary" was a word.
MEGAN: Dude, and now I know why voluptuous is sort of insulting: "a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit and enjoyment of luxury and sensual pleasure." is the definition of that! So, like, if I've got curves, then it's all about luxury and sensual pleasure? Dammit, where's my luxury? Where's my sensual pleasure?
MOE: I sense a POST coming on!!! Dude, here's a good paragraph from that New York Mag story
y relationship to Obama has been a complex cycle of enthusiasm canceled immediately by self-correcting cynical objections, canceled by self-correcting enthusiasm, canceled again by the cynicism, canceled by the enthusiasm. Is he really this good, I wonder constantly, or do we just need him to be? The speech that finally tipped my inner scale decisively toward belief was his least decorative: no refrain, little alliteration, no audience exploding at shouted catchphrases-just the man himself standing there solemnly, neutralizing the hysteria of a potentially career-killing scandal with the naked power of grown-up thought. With his race speech, Obama chose the riskiest path in American politics: to be conspicuously thoughtful. It would have been like Clinton, in 1998, giving a long contextualizing address to the nation about human sexuality, the international status of adultery, etc. It was one of the most encouraging political moments I've ever experienced.
MOE: OK now I really have to figure out what picture to use