Friday, January 25, 2008

The couple who follows the horse race together...

...well, let's just say it's a good thing we share the same political affiliation. (Though she is a bit more of an Edwards fan than I.)

Anyhow, we recently got some discursive mileage out of the following topical items:

First: Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post. How wonderful to see a progressively-oriented journalist who finally had the cajones to not only point out the aggressiveness of the Clinton campaign, but to contextualize Obama's controversial comments on the asshole-in-chief who helped make my adolescence so unpleasant (you know the one):

Obama's candidacy not only threatens to obliterate the dream of a Clinton Restoration. It also fundamentally calls into question Bill Clinton's legacy by making it seem . . . not really such a big deal.

That, I believe, is the unforgivable insult. The Clintons picked up on this slight well before Obama made it explicit with his observation that Ronald Reagan had "changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not."

Let's take a moment to consider that remark. Whether it was advisable for Obama to play the role of presidential historian in the midst of a no-holds-barred contest for the Democratic nomination, it's hard to argue with what he said. I think Bill Clinton was a good president, at times very good. And I wouldn't have voted for Reagan if you'd held a gun to my head. But even I have to recognize that Reagan -- like Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union -- was a transformational figure, for better or worse.

Bill Clinton's brilliance was in the way he surveyed the post-Reagan landscape and figured out how to redefine and reposition the Democratic Party so that it became viable again. All the Democratic candidates who are running this year, including Obama, owe him their gratitude.

But Obama has set his sights higher, and implicit in his campaign is a promise, or a threat, to eclipse Clinton's accomplishments. Obama doesn't just want to piece together a 50-plus-1 coalition; he wants to forge a new post-partisan consensus that includes "Obama Republicans" -- the equivalent of the Gipper's "Reagan Democrats." You can call that overly ambitious or even naive, but you can't call it timid. Or deferential.

I was completely in earnest with my above characterization of Reagan -- I found it very tedious (and often miserable) growing up amid the cookie-cutter dreariness of not only his political leadership, but also the cultural tone he set for the country. So I understand why even the mention of his name inspires wrath in the progressive community. But even my second-favorite living newcaster, Keith Olbermann -- my first favorite is Bill Moyers -- was basically unfair to Obama in the aftermath of the Reagan comments, framing the story with a downright scolding tone, and utterly failing to contextualize it (as Eric Zorn rightly points out, Obama never spoke approvingly of the actual content of Reagan's ideas). Up until that point, it seemed very much that there had been a kind of hunger building in the mainstream media, a sense of anticipation that could only be fulfilled when Obama finally tripped up somehow. And if he didn't trip up? Well, at the time it almost felt like somebody wanted to push him.

How interesting, incidentally, that this has become the close-reading, new critical election! (Thank heavens for transcripts, eh?) Silly me, thinking that a PhD in English Literature was worthless.

Item number two is this hilarious item from that paragon of quality journalism: C-N-fucking-N. Interestingly, it's a self-critique (I suppose when it comes down to it, CNN doesn't care whether you love or hate them, as long as you watch / read what they publish). The flap is essentially over the cable station's somewhat simplistic argument that black women will have a hard time choosing their candidate in this year's democratic primaries, because they will be conflicted over going with a racial choice (Obama) vs. a gender choice (Clinton).

Daphne's favorite part is also mine:

An e-mailer named Tiffany responded sarcastically [to the original CNN report]: "Duh, I'm a black woman and here I am at the voting booth. Duh, since I'm illiterate I'll pull down the lever for someone. Hm... Well, he black so I may vote for him... oh wait she a woman I may vote for her... What Ise gon' do? Oh lordy!"

* * * * *

And how 'bout them campaign theme songs?

Romney has used Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation" as his entrance music to convey his can-do style -- in other words, less talk, more action. But Romney's supporters might just want to ignore the part of the song where Elvis tells his paramour to "close your mouth and . . . satisfy me, baby."

Now that's going to give me nightmares for sure.

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