You Can Put Lipstick On A Pig, But It’s Still A Lost Election. Or: My Second-To-Last Comment On This Debacle Called The 2008 Presidential Race

This has been the pivotal week.

This is “read my lips, no new taxes” and “it’s the economy stupid” and “I actually DID vote for etc, before I voted against it.”

It’s “The Moment”.  It happens in every election, and it seals the deal.  Sometimes it comes early, and slaps a label on a candidate they can’t shake (Kerry The Flip-Flopper), and sometimes it comes late and gets used as a weapon against a crucial voting block (Obama The Woman Hater).  Either way, The Moment is as inescapable and inevitable as its results.  Results which, over the last week, have become all too apparent.

Mind you, I was preparing a draft for this latest blog entry entitled “Calling The Election For John McCain” before this happened.  But events early this week have made what was going to be a simple assessment of solid red states and battleground poll numbers is instead going to turn into something perhaps a little more flashy here in the home stretch.

This has all been going downhill for Obama since the selection of Sarah Palin.  What at first seemed the baffling pick of a woefully under-experienced and unknown VP candidate quickly crystallized into a cohesive and effective strategy from the GOP side.  Steve Schmidt has apparently learned well from his dark master.

“WHAT IS THY BIDDING, MY MASTER?”

“GO FUCK YOURSELF.”

Much like Chase and Ackroyd in Spies Like Us, she’s a decoy.  They put Palin out there as a target with an Alaska-sized bear-trap sitting right next to her.  And the Democrats stepped right the fuck into it.

WOULD IT BE INAPPROPRIATE TO CALL HER A ‘TROJAN HORSE’ WITH LIPSTICK?

It started with the experience question.  As some rare souls in the media mainstream (if the Post can even be called that) have somehow miraculously noticed, Obama got sucked into an argument that he was preset to lose.  By attacking Palin on the experience question, they set themselves up for a counter-attack on Senator Obama’s own experience, his consistent weak spot.  This led to a “tale of the tape” style back-and-forth between the two campaigns over whether community organizers, small town mayors, or governors with states that have roughly the population of a large trailer park are better experienced to lead this entire nation.  The Democrats played into this nonsense by essentially pitting the HEAD of their ticket against the number two on the Republican side.  So even if the argument is won, it’s lost.  It will read that if Obama’s having trouble with Number One, how’s anyone to believe he’s going to beat Blofeld?

Then this shit happened:

Which is memorable apparently for being so memorable, to hear everyone tell it.  I’d almost erased this moment of retarded levity from my memory and now it may go down as the lamest joke to ever win an election.  Observe:

This is what an overworked candidate looks like, incidentally.  And likely campaign exhaustion is what led to this strategic level fuck-up.  See, a fully refreshed and prepped Barack Obama would have had every ounce of Sarah Palin intel ready to spring into action from the depths of his Vulcan-like mind to prevent uttering those exact words at THIS exact time.  And it would have recalled that atrocious bit of semi-humor and it’s apparent bumper sticker appeal among “working class whites” (racist people).  Or at least recalled before the audience did, and started laughing about it.  You can see him almost realizing what he’s saying halfway through it after their gleeful response, if you look closely.  If it had broken through fully he probably would have cracked a laugh, and with good reason: Because calling Sarah Palin a pig by accident is fucking funny.  Not good for your campaign, but funny.

So the Republicans respond by snapping that bear trap shut with an outraged, ‘OH NOES OBAMA CALLED SARA A PIG WTF!!!1!’  Oh, and a hastily thrown together advertisement I’d love to show you, but apparently CBS made YouTube take it down because it contained illicitly gained footage of Katie Couric, a statement that shouldn’t sound sexy but kinda does anyway.  This is the same CBS that ran a story with fake documents discrediting a sitting president during an election year and tarnishing the reputation of their finest anchor.  But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

In any case, that text-message outrage leaked it’s way into the sea and was snapped up for the journalistic gangbang called the 24-hour cable news cycle.  The Obama campaign was, to say the least, a bit rattled.  There was a poll slip, then a dead heat again.  If you don’t believe they were rattled, observe their response.  Witness Obama’s thunderous denunciation:

Heartfelt, emotional in places, played well in the room, and entirely too late.  Obama slammed the barn door pretty hard, but the horse was already contending for the Triple-Crown.  And if I’m calculating this correctly, Obama is mounting his primary defense on the assumption that everyone is smart enough to know the difference between an exhausted non-comment turning into a funny moment and an actual insult.  In other words, he’s hinging his bet on the political acumen and keen observational skills of the American public.  I’ve never seen a more effective way of losing than that.

For those of you all high on “hope” and “change” (or anything else) that makes you think that somehow this election will be different, I apologize for killing your buzz.  I know that sucks.  But now for the injection of some hard cold factual analysis.  Voters are essentially ignorant, as most serious studies on the matter have apparently concluded.  Social scientists are nicer guys about it and don’t use words like that, but there’s very little doubt you can call an electorate who believes the things they do in the numbers they do anything but that.  Ignorant.  And the answer is YES, this dirty little episode is going to make an impact, an impression, AND a difference.  The Republicans can even pretend some moral high ground my not mentioning it anymore (they’ve already stopped), because they’ve gotten what they wanted out of it.  Unified, overwhelming support for the ticket among their own base, something they’ve not really had up until this point.  And the results speak for themselves.

According to MSNBC, this “Palin bounce” over the “enthusiasm gap”, has not only erased Obama’s lead in national polls, which are mostly garbage anyway, but cut significantly into his electoral vote advantage.  That’s a number that actually makes blood-pressures rise on campaign buses when it jumps around like this.  And it’s coming from a network that doesn’t like to report bad news about Obama, so you know it’s got to be REALLY bad, if not worse than they’re making it sound.

Whatever the case, the raw numbers are as follows: Obama’s gone from being a 28 point favorite in the race for electors to having a 6 point lead, by their estimations.  Most of this is a result of traditional red states which had looked like possibilities for Obama now firmly slamming the door in his face, and the movement of Florida from a total toss-up to leaning McCain’s way.

But all of that is just the beginning.  The Republican juggernaut of church-going suburbanite voters that put the least likable President in US history in office twice is now amped-up behind McCain.  Well, behind Palin at least, but it got them off their asses and that’s pretty much all they need.  The sheer NUMBER of votes these people can generate has been the death-knell for every Democrat candidate since Carter’s re-election attempt.  And the Obama campaign has pulled out… basically nothing.  If ever there were time for a late-game rush on some “hope and change”, now would be it.  This week, with hurricane coverage obscuring politics they may have gotten a reprieve for a moment, but if Team Obama wants to field some crazy last minute move, they have forty-nine more days to make it work.

BASICALLY FUCKED

But don’t look so down!  My very LAST post on the election will be about who I’M actually voting for, and why it doesn’t matter in the end because American democracy is past salvation.  That’ll be sure to cheer  you up.

Out for now…

– Paris ‘Rev’ Battle

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A Few Victims Of That Bus Everyone’s Being Thrown Under (To Greater Or Lesser Degree)

Politics is a game of bullshit.  A nuanced, complex and sometimes surreal game of bullshit on a mass level that I enjoy thoroughly, but still bullshit.  A politician’s job is to spin whatever is done, said, or randomly occurred by ANY individual or group of individuals into a sound bite that plays well for their side.  When it’s done right, it works beautifully (“I feel your pain”).  And when it’s done poorly, it’s a campaign killer:

GOOD JOB, FRANKENSTEIN.

Occasionally, candidates have to bite the bullet and say something to appease and/or motivate their respective bases.  These are the moments they sound most like raving lunatics, because only the raving lunatics in this country are motivated enough to vote regularly.  For the Right, these are generally megachurch-going, minivan driving, shitty-musical-taste having suburbanites in the South and Midwest coupled with God-fearing but less church-going drunken rednecks found in rural areas the nation over (rebel flags optional).  For the Left, this base consists of every other fringe lunatic known to man, from whaling boat chasing hippies to Robert Mapplethorpe.  Republicans like numbers, Democrats like variety, I suppose.  Anyway these sorts of statements are along the lines of “the Constitution should be re-written to exclude those damn queers” and “maybe we should just try offering the Iranians cupcakes and love”.  I’m paraphrasing those last two, by the way, in case you’re a dipshit.

SEE?  HE JUST NEEDS A HUG.

In the process of this memetic warfare/cosmic douchebaggery, there are inevitably casualties.  Aside from our collective dignity, I mean.  I’m referring to people who get wounded (or taken out entirely) on the gladiatorial floor of American politics for doing nothing more basic, and heretical, as telling the truth AS THEY SAW IT.  So in the interest of illustration, I’m profiling just a few right here that have occurred recently.  In the interest of equity, I’m offering an equal portion from the Left and Right, just to prove that this sort of dickheadedness doesn’t discriminate.

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“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position.”

SAID BY: Geraldine Ferraro

THE FUSS: Sounds racist as fuck.

FIRST SIGN OF BULLSHIT: Anyone actually BELIEVE Ferraro is a racist?  And if so, why wasn’t that part of the national media debate?

AS SHE SAW IT: More than likely, Geraldine was simply ruminating that if Obama were a young, charismatic junior Democratic Senator with a populist/moderate appeal AND he were white, he’d look just like half a dozen other suit-and-tie Ken Dolls the Democrats have in the stable, one of whom was already in the primaries.

IF OBAMA LOOKED LIKE THIS, HE’D LOSE TWO PRIMARIES TOO.

BUS FACTOR: A total bus throw.  Hillary wasted no time in severing ties with Ferraro, probably in an effort to get this little comment out of the news cycle as fast as possible.

WAY I SEE IT: Ferraro was probably wrong in actuality.  Obama turned out to be able enough a politician by far to carve out his own identity and beat anyone on the field regardless of standing out ethnically.  He hadn’t yet beat Team Clinton when this quote caused all the fuss.  Or maybe her failure to give him the benefit of the doubt in that ability IS some latent racism on her part, who the fuck knows or cares?  The statement itself isn’t one of hate so much as poor politics from someone who was only ever on the shittiest presidential ticket in modern history.  Doddering old people should be ignored in every human endeavour, quite frankly.  Still, in America, it was enough to kill whatever she had left of a career (not much).  Unfair, but no big loss.

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“Certainly [another terrorist attack on US soil] would be a big advantage to [John McCain].”

SAID BY: Charlie Black, McCain’s chief strategist.

THE FUSS: 9-11 The Sequel, and this guy is contemplating a poll bump?

AWKWARD

FIRST SIGN OF BULLSHIT: Does anyone think John McCain ACTUALLY wants to see another 9-11?

AS HE SAW IT: Probably that from a purely rational standpoint, he was totally correct.  The current number one issue in the race is economics, and right now the only thing that’s likely to push that back far enough to seal the deal is a dirty bomb going off in Scranton or the like.

BUS FACTOR: Well you can’t call this a complete bus throw, since the man still has a job.  However, it wasn’t long after that McCain completely restructured his campaign (again) under one of Karl Rove’s former padawan learners.  One would assume part of this restructuring involves limiting Charlie Black’s press exposure, if that hasn’t been done already.  Also, McCain was damn quick to denounce this statement.

WAY I SEE IT: As even the Fortune magazine writer who reported this admits, these comments were made after he did the standard American journalist “press for a take on my wild and completely off-base speculation about something juicy” technique.  On top of that, he did it to a career political man so he knew any answer with candor was going to sound cold-blooded as hell.  At most, this quote illustrates that McCain employees the same sorts of single-minded reptiles in his campaign team that everyone else does; it’s not really news.

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“They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” [AKA: BITTERGATE]

SAID BY: Barack Obama

THE FUSS: Sounds classist as fuck.

FIRST SIGN OF BULLSHIT: First off, that’s the most soft-petaled classism I’ve ever heard in my life.  “Let them eat cake” it ain’t.  But the real bullshit here is that the people slamming him for this feel the same way about the same people, they’re just more adept at mining them for votes.  And THOSE yacht-club dickheads don’t have the street cred of having worked in a Chicago soup kitchen when they could have been making a few million a year suing the shit out doctors like the rest of the Harvard Law grads.

AS HE SAW IT: Obama would never have used those PARTICULAR words in a place he thought he’d be recorded at, because he knows how they’d play.  The room he was in, however, was being sent a clear message, proving the adage that politics isn’t what you say or how you say it, but WHY you’re saying it and to whom.  To translate, it was his way of communicating in intractable dickhead Democrat-speak that “small-town people aren’t stupid, they’re just scared, which is something you might understand if you didn’t have your heads up your asses”.  Maybe not the last part, but still.

BUS FACTOR: Never a true bus-throwing possibility, as the only people who could throw Obama under a bus would be the people voting for him.  Still, this little gaffe barrelled out of control enough to count for perhaps the bus running over the Senator’s foot.  Painful, but nothing a few weeks in crutches can’t fix.

WAY I SEE IT: Know the following:  I don’t go to church.  I don’t own a gun.  But I AM a working class small-town kid.  And I support and deeply empathize with the fears and indeed attitudes of people like me.  But the fact is that critical self-examination shows an element of truth to what Obama said.  SURE there are people in our communities who are finding Jesus or hating immigrants just a LITTLE bit more because they have nothing else to turn to (or think they don’t).  Doesn’t make it any less true when it’s observed by an Ivy League lawyer.  The man was in no way suggesting that we, or the fanatics among us, be marginalized in any systematic way.  It doesn’t even show a particular disdain, unless the reader chooses to read it that way, honestly.  And on a side note… Attaching the suffix “-gate” to the end of every minor flap in politics is fucking moronic.  Stop it.

CLINGING TO HIS RELIGION

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“We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline…You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession.”

SAID BY: Phil Gramm, economic adviser to John McCain

THE FUSS: After the tenth time in a month of being sodomized at the filling station and the fourth home foreclosure to hit your block, most people don’t want to be told they’re whiners.

FIRST SIGN OF BULLSHIT: The immediate and rabid activation of the spin machines on both sides, complete with lame humor.  McCain jumped right off the straight-talk express to deliver a “Phil Gramm does not speak for me” speech in the heart of Michigan, conveniently surrounded by people hoping against hope that auto manufacturing jobs are going to return to America.  Obama’s people fared even worse, prepping him with a speech that included the line “America already has one Dr. Phil. We don’t need another one when it comes to the economy.”  At least, I HOPE that line came from one of his team and not Obama himself, because it’s fucking stupid.  In all of this, not one bit of effort was taken on the part of either campaign OR the media to examine the actual FACTS of Gramm’s assertion.  Better by far to dance to the tune of economic fear-mongering, after all.

AS HE SAW IT: Gramm has never been one to mince words when reached for a statement.  Point in fact, he called CNN directly to clarify his position on the matter.  Relevant excerpts include: “The whiners are the leaders. Hell, the American people are victims, but it didn’t quite come out that way in the story… [Congressional leaders] blame speculators and oil companies for our problems…What we need is more leadership and less whining…I said we are in a mental recession. We keep getting the steady drumbeat of bad news … it’s become a mental recession.  We don’t have measured negative growth. That’s a fact, that’s not a commentary.”  He went on to say he understood the outrage over his remarks as part of the “game”, and that the media were a collection of irrelevancy-peddling shit-buzzards.  Okay, I made that last part up, but the subtext was there, I think.

BUS FACTOR: Well, McCain was once again DAMN quick to distance himself from the remarks.  It’s curious, since distancing yourself from economic remarks which were made by YOUR ECONOMIC ADVISER is a move that could only work out in American politics.  Still, when asked directly whether Gramm would be in the running for a job a Treasury Secretary in a McCain administration, the question was deflected with a joke about Belarus.  No, seriously.  So it seems Gramm has been saved from tire marks for now.

[UPDATE 7-18-08:  Looks like I spoke too soon, though to hear Gramm tell it, he threw HIMSELF under the bus.  Draw your own conclusions.]

WAY I SEE IT: Phil Gramm has a PhD in economics from the University of Georgia.  He taught on the subject for twelve years at Texas A&M and is currently a vice-chairman of UBS Investment Bank.  Now MAYBE (just maybe) when he speaks on the subject of America’s financial situation, it might be a good idea for us to listen and evaluate instead of worrying whether or not these statements jibe with the feelings of some impoverished SUV driver who’s having to downsize to (gasp!) a full-sized sedan.

READY FOR THE SOUP LINE

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Out for now…

– Paris ‘Rev’ Battle

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