Friday, August 29, 2008

Christmas in August

Nothing more needs to be said about Barack Obama's performance last night, in front of a live audience of 80,000, and a TV audience that exceeded that of the opening Olympic ceremony. I mean, when Pat Buchanan and Bill Kristol are piling on the encomiums, you know that he had to have been nothing short of spectacular. I can't wait to see the full post-convention bounce (which has already started).

But the real gift going into the Labor Day weekend has to be McCain's vice presidential selection. Sarah Palin is an inexperienced, apparently ethically challenged, creationist and mother of five who McCain thinks will appeal to disaffected Clinton supporters. Honest to God, he (and those Knights of the Roveian Brotherhood who serve as his advisors) thinks that women candidates are so interchangeable that the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pantsuits will switch their allegiances forthwith. HUH?
I mean, I know these women. They are friends of mine. And this choice is going to be seen for what it is: an unbelievable insult to our intelligence.

If you are a Republican, until this morning, you probably thought the biggest impending disaster for the GOP was the terrible prospect of Hurricane Gustav hitting the coast of Louisiana (a prospect that no one hopes comes to pass), causing not only the postponement of your big party in St. Paul, but reminding people of the dazzling ineptitude Republicans displayed the last time a hurricane made landfall in New Orleans. It would now appear that there are two disasters to be managed.

The challenge for Democrats is to manage their behavior. I'm a bit concerned about Joe Biden coming across like a boor in his debate with Governor Palin a la Al Gore in 2000, during his first debate with President Bush. Beyond that, Obama's crack team of managers and strategists have to frame the narrative about Gov. Palin before McCain does (which is eminently doable, since she is such a blank slate to the electorate in the continental US).

But as a friend of mine said today, Michelle Obama should start measuring the windows in the residence quarters of the White House. History is beckoning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Yes, it distracts us from real issues, and yes a lot of it is silly. But today, finally, Barack Obama brought his A-game to the art of "drawing contrasts" with his opponent. Responding to the comment by John McCain that he was uncertain about the number of houses he had, Obama had a field day. "I guess if you think that being rich means you've got to make $5 million and if you don't know how many houses you have, then it's not surprising that you might think the economy was fundamentally strong. But if you're like me, and you've got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don't lose their home, you might have a different perspective." He then quickly got a killer ad with a great punchline on the air.

The McCain campaign hit back with the predictable laundry list (e.g. Obama's income last year, his own one million dollar home, his association with Tony Rezko), punctuated, of course with a reference to McCain's POW status during the Viet Nam war, all in what appears to be a futile attempt to turn the gaffe to their advantage.

Of course, what is just nuts about this is the fact that John McCain has proven himself to be the worst on substance-his national security ideas, his health care "policy" proposals, his ignorance about the economy, and his hypocrisy about social issues (that pander-thon that was McCain at Saddleback last week was sickening), and yet this is what is going to stick. Go figure.

It's Thursday, and I'm willing to go out on a pretty long limb and guess that Joe Biden is the guy we're all going to be looking at tomorrow or Saturday at Obama's side. Good thing, too. Even though his behavior as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee during the Anita Hill hearings was really creepy, my man has no problem going after the jugular, and he can do it on the issues.

Today it was Obama taking it to McCain. If, as I predict, Biden is elevated tomorrow, we can rest assured that the team will not only be able to deliver a good one-two punch, but they'll be able to go the whole ten rounds.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

...and don't let the door hit you on your way out!

I've been away for awhile, in our nation's capitol, but I'm back on the prairie now, and going over old newspapers. The big news 'round here this week is that the Johnson County District Attorney, Phill Kline, has lost the Republican primary, and will be leaving that office.

This is not mere parochial chit-chat. Phill Kline was the darling of the national anti-choice movement, so relentlessly monomaniacal in his pursuit of abortion providers that he even turned off the majority of Republicans in Kansas City. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The bare-bones backstory is as follows:

In 2002, Kline ran for (and won) election to office as the state's Attorney General. It was a very close race, and his opponent, a county district attorney who spent only $150,000, likely would have beaten him had he campaigned across the state (he was too busy prosecuting cases). It was another example of how wingnuts have perfected the art of winning by flying under the political radar while sending out dog whistles to the faithful. We all braced ourselves for what was to come.

It didn't take long. Almost immediately, he began pursuing Dr. George Tiller, one of the few abortion providers in the nation who performs late-term procedures.

Kline's focus on Tiller made Inspector Javert look like an adolescent with Attention Deficit Disorder. He began by charging the doctor with 30 misdemeanors for allegedly performing 15 illegal late-term abortions on women ages 10 to 22 without properly reporting the details to the state. The crimes in question would concern failing to report sexual abuse (which is defined, ipso facto as underage sex), as well as late-term abortions administered without following state-mandated procedures. To bolster his case, he demanded the records of 30 young women, ostensibly to determine if these particular abortions had been done illegally, but he was really on a fishing expedition to see what he could find.

He was stymied at almost every turn (ultimately a judge dismissed the charges against Tiller), and in 2006 lost his re-election bid by a wide margin. Undeterred, he got himself appointed to the post of Johnson County district attorney (his opponent in the state race had been the county DA, necessitating the appointment of a new one), home to a Planned Parenthood. He then began this new job by filing 107 charges against the organization, for (again) failing to report the sexual abuse of children, the performance of so-called "partial-birth" abortions, and the creation of false information in the medical records. Planned Parenthood adamantly denies all charges and believes them to be politically motivated. No kidding.

The person who beat Kline in the Republican primary, Steve Howe, is also anti-choice, but considered to be moderate. He was a prosecutor in the DA's office for eighteen years before being fired by Kline upon his appointment to the office in 2006. Although it remains to be seen, most political watchers think it's unlikely that, if Howe is elected, the case against Planned Parenthood would proceed. Howe made his bones in white-collar criminal prosecutions and consumer protection, and has said that public safety would be his priority, should he emerge victorious over his Democratic opponent in the general election (his opponent, Democrat Rick Guinn, was also a prosecutor in the DA's office before being fired by Kline).

However this election goes, let us give thanks that Mr. Kline, who so cavalierly made the lives and health of women his very own political football, has himself finally been kicked where it counts: out the door.