I definitely think that gender and race are important parts of the puzzle with respect to the increasingly-desperate search to find something to disqualify Susan Rice from being Secretary of State, and the media’s enabling of said witchhunt, but I think there’s another factor that hasn’t been considered that has, in recent history, made a big difference working against her: she’s not from Washington.
I was thinking about the last four Supreme Court Justices to be appointed to the bench: John Roberts, Sam Alito, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. A set of very different judges (though the differences between Alito and Roberts are slight indeed), but when you look at how their nominations were received by opposition politicians, media opinionmakers, et al, two very different trends emerge that aren’t tidily partisan. Both Roberts and Kagan received similar treatment upon getting their nominations–Roberts was effusively welcomed by almost everyone in the political scene, was praised for his vision and fairness, and won a big bipartisan confirmation. Kagan’s wasn’t quite as effusive–she did get some amount of grief from people on the left, such as Glenn Greenwald, but those arguably helped her win a speedy confirmation by providing moderate cred, and the Senate proceedings were also fairly laid-back and genteel. No significant opposition to speak of. Alito, on the other hand, was received with consternation and suspicion from the start, was the recipient of (in retrospect very silly) charges of racial prejudice, and won a party-line confirmation, and Sotomayor also kicked up quite a bit of silly controversy for her out-of-context “wise Latina” comments*. I think it’s very significant that Sotomayor and Alito were both plucked from the Tri-State Area for top judicial posts and were thus largely unknown to the journalists and senators they had to win over, while both Roberts and Kagan worked (and networked) extensively in D.C. before being picked, so both were well known to all groups. For some reason–and this happens again and again–Washington seems to have a great deal of inherent disdain for “outsiders.” The list is quite lengthy–Gore. Clinton. Huckabee. This is also part of why Gary Hart struggled in his run for president–as Richard Ben Cramer wrote in What It Takes, he came out of nowhere to become a major political figure, which irritated reporters who felt that they knew what they needed to know about all the big players, and whose desperation to find out everything they could about Hart led to numerous rumors and decontextualized junk that dogged him (Cramer referred to it as the bouillaibaise boiling over). To be fair, Hart handled this sort of thing extremely poorly, but it’s hard to figure how to handle a nonstop invasion of your private life for the crime of basically not satisfying journalists with what you have to say. So, when you think about it, it’s utterly absurd that The New Republic would write a mash note to John Roberts and then denounce Sam Alito–whose records, healthcare notwithstanding, are basically identical–unless the reason is something more fundamental than policy.
Point being, these same groups behave in a predictable way. So the Republicans’ cries for Kerry are probably more bouillaibaise-related than maybe-we-can-get-Scott-Brown-back-related. They know Kerry, he’s been in Washington for nearly thirty years, he’s one of them. Susan Rice works in Turtle Bay in New York City, and they don’t know her very well at all. You know how villages are notorious for not trusting outsiders…
*Ironically, Sotomayor won more votes than any of them except Roberts, though this was probably due to Republicans not wanting to irritate Hispanics too much without gaining anything in return.
Tom Perriello is considering entering the race for Virginia Governor. He served a single term during the only recent Congress where shit got done, voted mostly in the right way, and ran a doomed campaign defending those votes in a district that is not thought to be receptive to them. Still, he went down honorably, made it closer than expected, and a lot of people noticed. I've written about him before, and I admire the guy. Virginia could do worse (i.e. either of the other two guys running).
Still, a single House term is kind of a thin resume to run for governor with, though it doesn't look half bad compared to being Bill Clinton's Wall Street bundler or the guy who wasted tens of millions of dollars on a junk lawsuit against the ACA (admittedly, it did come close to succeeding, but that's the Supreme Court's fault). Perriello also identifies as pro-life, though I'm not sure that would matter that much. He wouldn't be able to move legislation on it without enraging the interests he represents and capsizing his own coalition. He'd probably just play it like Chris Christie, say he's pro-life and then do nothing to challenge the law, and considering how the discussion over women's issues has developed, I'd be surprised if he said anything at all on the topic.
Virginia has opted to vote for the candidate corresponding to the party out of power in the White House since the Nixon Administration, however, the Virginia GOP has cleared the field for the polarizing and not all that popular Ken Cuccinelli, so this might be doable. My guess is that if Perriello runs, he might very well become a liberal cause celebre like Warren, and raise prodigious small-dollar donations much like she did. Considering how much of the War on Women narrative was forged in Virginia, choosing Bob McDonnell's successor might just be the sort of hook for a Warren-like viral takeoff, and Perriello has the profile for it to happen. Certainly, he'd attract more of a passionate following than Terry McAuliffe, the aforementioned Wall Street bundler. And considering how low the turnout for off-year elections is, that could be decisive.
If nothing else, this election should make for an interesting test of whether Republicans' stupidity on women's issues will continue to dog them into the future.
The Times ponders the departure of Joe Lieberman from the Senate, and you have to love this quote:
“Our biggest contribution was giving the surge a chance and giving Bush political cover to change strategies,” Mr. Graham said. “Joe was the real hero because he denied the Democrats the 60th vote to set a timeline for withdrawal. If that had not happened, we would have never had the surge.”
That’s a hell of a legacy. I feel that Lieberman is going out far better than he deserves–getting dumped in 2006 would have been a pretty fair end for him, IMO, and though arguably his last term was his most irritating he did do some decent things like ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so his departure is more quiet afterthought than the fulfillment of a righteous crusade. The article notes that Lieberman gave the other two a bit of a bipartisan veneer for military adventurism, which is certainly true and showed in their attacks on Susan Rice. Had Lieberman joined in, it would likely have been covered as a serious controversy that could potentially derail Obama’s second term before it begins! Or some such ridiculous hyperbole. Instead, it just looked like two old white dudes harping on a black lady out of pique, and it didn’t get off the ground.
I sometimes wonder what future generations will make of political figures or major events decades after the fact. Lieberman seems very much like a figure destined to be forgotten, remembered if at all for being wrong so often. The Lieberman/McCain/Graham vision of American military hegemony is already quite dated, very much of the time these men came of age politically, and trying to fulfill it has involved the loss of numerous lives and incredible sums of money. Arguably their “leadership” is part of what’s keeping us from moving onto something more sustainable and sensible on foreign policy, so I personally am rooting for a successful primary challenge of the old Impeachment Manager in 2014, and a McCain loss/retirement in 2016.
Saw <i>Lincoln</i> yesterday, and I generally quite liked it. Some remarkably good acting in the movie. Daniel Day Lewis is someone whose work I usually find myself liking in spite of myself, someone who tends to draw attention to himself as an actor even when he shouldn’t. But his Lincoln is bound to be the definitive screen version of the character from here on, he’s laconic and detached but devilishly clever and capable. Laid-back, even. Day Lewis seems to have held his showboating instincts in check this time, leaving space for Tommy Lee Jones to damn near steal the thing with his irascible (and highly lovable) idealistic take on Thaddeus Stevens. The movie largely centers on the fight to pass the 13th Amendment to outlaw slavery–as my wife Elizabeth said, it’s sort of like The West Wing with wigs–and I liked the narrative cohesion of it, at least until the end, when the movie’s cohesion gives out as the film struggles to find a proper ending to the story. (Also, why was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s thread anything but a waste of time? I get that it is based off a book and life doesn’t always pay off so neatly, but who said life was anything like the movies?) With respect to the politics of the piece, I found myself liking the movie for its willingness to see backroom deals and favors as a legitimate and important part of the narrative, and that the movie clearly felt these tactics didn’t minimize the accomplishment of ending slavery. I can’t help but like a movie that doesn’t believe an impassioned speech is enough to get good men of conscience to stampede to the other side. This is the sort of political film I like to see. And yet…
For a film that is, essentially, a political movie, the movie doesn’t quite nail the details as well as it should. For one thing, I’m quite sure a motion to table has to actually be seconded and voted upon, not just announced by a Representative and then gaveled in by the Speaker. It’s narrative shorthand at best, and there’s quite a bit of it. To a large extent, the film dumbs down the politics in order to make it more comprehensible to the contemporary moviegoer. The amount of times we hear about the “right” and “conservative Republicans” in this film is quite large, even though the terms were not in popular use during the Civil War era and they refer to concepts alien to the time (though familiar to us). The notion of a movement to keep a strong standing military and low taxes makes little sense considering that Republicans of the era instituted the first progressive income tax, and would maintain a very small military after the Civil War ended. In order to have a “right”–a concept popularized during the Dreyfus Affair in France some decades later–you have to have a “left”, which also didn’t really exist at this time. Marx was at this point in time an obscure economist whose work was mostly ignored, Paris hadn’t even had its brief period under the Communards yet. These terms mean specific things to us, represent specific concepts. They would have meant nothing to people of the time. Nobody in either party supported universal health care in 1865, it hadn’t been implemented anywhere in the world. The only real political fault line in the North was over race, where you had one party that basically supported legal equality for all in addition to things like the Homestead Act, railroads and internal improvements, and another party that had become a single-issue anti-black party by 1865, and a losing one at that. There are some parallels between the two eras (and comparing the Democrats of the 1860s with the Republicans of today could have been potentially very interesting), but the film unfortunately takes the parallels so far it’s hard to get a sense of the motivations of all the characters. Such as Hal Holbrook’s Preston Blair, whose motivations are practically incoherent in the film because of this trying-to-be-relevant-to-today style of relating the politics of the time. The film seems to want to try to present the politics of the time in a way that the, ahem, low-information voters of today will be able to appreciate, with Lincoln as a sort of Obama figure trying desperately to obtain bipartisan support (a term Stevens uses that almost certainly wasn’t in use in the 19th century) from people who despise him, and who hold all manner of conspiratorial theories about his leadership. More trust in the viewers to pick up on the differences, and a sharper take on the utterly racialized on the politics of the time as compared to today, would have given this aspect of the film an important boost.
Still, I do recommend that high-information voters see the film too, it’s movingly well-acted and incredibly beautiful. Very strong in spite of these issues.
Since this is a beat that I usually follow, I’m posting a little something about the Blue Dogs. As we know, the 2010 elections severely depleted the numbers of conservative Democrats in Congress, and this cycle did so again. It’s looking like about fifteen Blue Dogs are going to be in Congress next year, maybe a few more if some of the incoming freshmen decide to join up, but probably not much more. The end is definitely drawing near. Still, it’s worth spending a moment reflecting on why this group used to be powerful. Aside from their numbers, the clout the Blue Dogs had came from a claim–not inherently implausible–that their group was the one group that was able to really hold onto bipartisan support. There was some basis for this–after all, the 2009-2010 session included quite a few Democrats from very Republican districts. Gene Taylor and Chet Edwards both represented R+20 districts. Arkansas had three of four Democrats in its House delegation, Tennessee five of nine. Democrats held House seats in solid-red states like Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Dakotas. This added up to a lot of Democrats accountable to Republican electorates, and many of these Democrats were of long seniority, seeming as if they weren’t mere flashes in the pan.
This was somewhat remarkable, but it turns out that it had little to do with political philosophy, and everything to do with inertia and incumbency. Pretty much all these guys got wiped out in 2010, and what remains are essentially conventional Democrats whose iconoclasm is held in check by the fact they represent districts that could send liberal Democrats to Congress. Mike Thompson identifies as a Blue Dog, but the district he currently represents could easily send a Nancy Pelosi-style liberal to Congress (he literally represents Humboldt County! i.e. Marijuana central), so Thompson has to avoid moving too far to the right lest he draw a tough challenger. This is true of virtually every current Blue Dog. The likelihood that Jim Cooper of Tennessee or Mike Michaud of Maine be replaced by someone to the right of them is astronomical, Cooper represents pretty much the last progressive seat in the state and Maine is a blue state. Sure, there are a few of the old-school Blue Dogs left, like Jim Matheson and John Barrow, but the former was most likely saved by having a last name that is golden with voters of his state (and both are exceptionally good campaigners). Rather than being a body whose electoral incentives pulled them to the right of the Democratic consensus–and who could throw down a “take it or leave it” challenge if they didn’t like how, say, health care reform was looking–the current Blue Dog configuration is a bunch of people whose electoral incentives are not to get too far to the right lest they lose primaries in more Democratic districts. It’s difficult to imagine, for example, David Scott of Georgia telling President Obama to shove his health care plan and then going back to his African-American district and that going really super-well for him. And for someone like Thompson or Jim Costa, going too far off the reservation means the fun wouldn’t end with a primary–because of the “top two” system that makes the top two vote-getters in the primary the general election candidates regardless of party, the fun wouldn’t end in June. Since Barrow is presumed likely to run either for Senate or Governor of Georgia in 2014, we’re looking less at an independent, center-rightish Democratic faction and more at a “Jim Matheson and a bunch of intramurally-vulnerable Democrats” faction. In any event, the influence of this group is pretty much done.
I hope everyone had a gloriously eventful Thanksgiving, and whatever kind of Black Friday you all hoped to have. I’ve been off work, busy and not in a terribly political frame of mind, a subject which was shockingly not all that popular among my right-wing family this particular Thanksgiving. Then again, losing has a way of making a person taciturn, even the louder of mouth. Which is fine by me.
As the smell of decaying leaves marks the beginning of the holiday season, here’s some peak Radiohead for you all, because that band practically defines “autumnal”:
See you all next week.
- FOX, Lies & Videotape: debunking an internet myth: 30;] Fox News Has a First Amendment”right to lie”-...
- Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives, Liberals, Third Parties, Left-Wing, Right-Wing, Congress, President - Page 5 - City-Data Forum: ...
- Amulya Malladi: Muslim bashing is back in fashion in Denmark
- Potential Hair Raiser!: The Blog Farm
- PcFr.net: Pay No Attention To The Man From The NSA Behind The Curtain
- Fox News Has a First Amendment Right to Lie – Updated
- Oregon Ducks Win First Rose Bowl Since 1917
- Quote of the Day: Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged
- Exploring How Identical Twins Can Have Different Sexual…
- Opposition to Gay Marriage Rooted in 1950s-Era Gender Roles
- Hannibal Lecter: The Most Overrated Villain Ever
- Primate Discovery of Higher Causality Created Religious…
- Obama Is Playing Three-Dimensional Chess
- Racism Isn’t Just Saying Obama Wants to "Nigger…
- My Debbie Downer Two Cents On Marriage (Equality)
- December 2013 (7)
- November 2013 (26)
- October 2013 (51)
- September 2013 (27)
- August 2013 (46)
- July 2013 (56)
- June 2013 (39)
- May 2013 (42)
- April 2013 (36)
- March 2013 (56)
- February 2013 (42)
- January 2013 (71)
- December 2012 (67)
- November 2012 (40)
- October 2012 (44)
- September 2012 (35)
- August 2012 (39)
- July 2012 (36)
- June 2012 (35)
- May 2012 (42)
- April 2012 (42)
- March 2012 (64)
- February 2012 (71)
- January 2012 (67)
- December 2011 (57)
- November 2011 (72)
- October 2011 (63)
- September 2011 (55)
- August 2011 (53)
- July 2011 (44)
- June 2011 (71)
- May 2011 (91)
- April 2011 (101)
- March 2011 (104)
- February 2011 (96)
- January 2011 (71)
- December 2010 (73)
- November 2010 (59)
- October 2010 (80)
- September 2010 (64)
- August 2010 (39)
- July 2010 (46)
- June 2010 (27)
- May 2010 (54)
- April 2010 (34)
- March 2010 (38)
- February 2010 (47)
- January 2010 (62)
- December 2009 (57)
- November 2009 (72)
- October 2009 (76)
- September 2009 (50)
- August 2009 (85)
- July 2009 (56)
- June 2009 (141)
- May 2009 (103)
- April 2009 (113)
- March 2009 (66)
- February 2009 (43)
- January 2009 (87)
- December 2008 (18)
Wine Labels2012 Election 2012 Elections Abortion Barack Obama Bullshit Bush Christianity Congress Conservatives Debt Ceiling Democrats Economy Fail Foreign Policy Fox News Gay Marriage Hatred Health Care Ignorance Insanity Iran Law LGBT Issues Lies Media Mitt Romney Music Paul Ryan Policy Polls Quotes Racism Rebuttals Recession Republicans Right Wing Sarah Palin Scandal Stupidity Teabaggers Torture Truth Video War Crimes War on Terror