Friday, December 19, 2008

Crazy Like a Fox? 

Like many people, I was put in a difficult position when I learned of Barack Obama's choice of Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration in January. The man was an Evangelical douchebag, a homophobic right wing asshole. And here he was, being welcomed onto the podium by a man I believed in and saw as the savior of America, the Abraham Lincoln of the 21st Century. It felt like a stab in the back, a betrayal, a big "Fuck you" to the GLBT community. I even fired off a strongly worded negative email to the Change website -- a place to which I'd previously sent missives of ass-kissing joy and sunshine. I was disapointed and disillusioned. Had President Obama failed before even taking office?

In the morning, cooler heads prevailed as a non-partisan political source I trust, Electoral Vote, analyzed Obama's choice of Warren and pointed out the shrewd politics behind it. A taste:
By picking Warren, he is giving Warren (and his expanded agenda) a huge amount of credibility in the evangelical community. If Obama can get the evangelical leadership to stop focusing entirely on abortion and gay marriage and start addressing AIDS and poverty as issues, he will ultimately benefit immensely from giving Warren valuable exposure.
In other words, far from giving an Evangelical douchebag, homophobic right wing asshole a bigger platform, he is taking a less homophobic right wing asshole and waving him at the rest of the Fundies as a signal. He is taking control of the conversation with the idea of changing it. Reverend Warren may have spoken his objections to same-sex marriage, but he has also been adamant about doing that Jesus bit of helping the sick and poor. A little reminder to keep him from talking about the gay thing, and suddenly the focus of Evangelical pastors across the nation will change, because they only know how to parrot the big names. Or, to put it bluntly: for the first time in eight years, a President is smarter than his constituents and is looking out for them.

What happens? Warren becomes the official media face of Evangelical Christianity. Obama, meanwhile, has promised Warren more exposure as America's Protestant Pope if he will focus on AIDS and poverty and shut up about same-sex marriage. The power being offered being catnip to any religious sort, Warren agrees. The focus on AIDS exposes charitable Evangelicals to gay people. The focus on poverty exposes them to non-white people, or those who must resort to prostiution, selling drugs or being addicted to them. In other words, it shoves everything that the Jesus they allege to preach did right in their faces. (In my experience, even the most born-again of Christians tends to be somewhat open-minded when they have gone on a charitable mission for their Church. I even know several born agains who not only tolerate gay people, but have them as their closest friends -- and both have been to third world nations to directly help the people.)

Meanwhile, while helping the poor and sick, they aren't being urged by their pastors to run out and vote against same-sex marriage. It's another example of Obama using the philosophy of "Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer." What better way to win them over? Put a previously not well-known Evangelical in your pocket, make him change his ways by showing him the error, control an entire block of people who were your mortal enemy before the election. Billy Graham is history. Obama is going to make the next Billy Graham in his image, then let him have influence over presidents for the next fifty years.

As a side effect, this could remove the last barrier to the last minority group being socially accepted as equals. The GLBT community cannot afford to be alienated from Blacks or the Left right now. All minorities must unite, with the understanding that each group will get its due in time. Blacks won with the election, women and Latinos are winning with the Cabinet selection, and Gays and Lesbians, traditionally the last group to get the same rights as others, are just around the corner. Turn the fundie churches into giant charitable organizations, turn their attention away from GLBT issues, and change might just start happening.

He might just be crazy -- crazy like a fox. But perhaps President Obama really will pull off the biggest change of all. Rather than being a divider, like W., maybe he really will be a uniter.


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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Well Played, Sir 

Despite my still thinking that Governor Rod Blagojevich was set up and his arrest only happened because he pissed off B of A, President-Elect Obama did the right thing in calling for his resignation immediately after the arrest. From the get-go, it shows that he is not a partisan hack, and he will not tolerate corruption from any elected official. His announcement also comes as the Voice from the Mountain. If Blagojevich does not resign, he will be removed. His political career is over.

Contrast this with the likely reaction of a Republican President -- indeed, the reaction we have seen in the past; to "stand by" the accused, deny any wrong-doing, then silently offer a pardon after the conviction, as long as the accused has an "R" after their name.

The one victim in this is Jesse Jackson, Jr., aka "Candidate Number 5". However, since he's been flogging his email list with "I should be the one" emails since Obama's resignation, I have little sympathy. Jackson was campaiging for his own interests out of a sense of entitlement based on his father's reputation, and it can only be a good thing if he is inadvertently taken out of the picture by this scandal.

The final upshot is this: President-Elect Obama has just proven that not only does he possess the best attributes of our best Democratic Presidents, he also possesses the most annoying trait of the Republican Saint Reagan -- he is another teflon President. The difference? Reagan's immunity to scandal came from his glib and shallow ability as the Great Communicator. Already, Barack Obama has proven that his comes from the rarer Jeffersonian ability of substance over style. Yes, he is probably the greatest communicator we have seen elected to this office. But he also acts -- and in cutting off a failed member of his own party at the knees at the merest hint of scandal, he has proven already that we're about to see the most ethical Administration since... well, the early days of the Republic.

Thirty-nine days until his full powers are unleashed. I can't help but think that we are going to see some absolutely amazing things happen come January 20, 2009.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Settle Down, People 

This has certainly been the strangest Presidential transition I have ever seen since... ever. It's almost as if this weird co-presidency thing is going on, close to the point it seems like we already had the inauguration. But, as President-Elect Obama (damn, I love typing that) has pointed out, America has one president.

It's just too bad that we have another 42 days to suffer through it, but like it or not, at this moment, the ineffectual drunk fake cowboy is still in the White House -- although whether he's trying to avoid all publicity while getting plastered or the media that have fed us his lies for so long have decided they're just tired of him is hard to say, but he's really been out of the picture since the election. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama can't break wind without the media going wild and the analysts parsing it fifteen ways from Friday. And maybe that's a good thing. We've been cursed with Conservative cheerleaders for so long that a flip to the Liberal version will be a refreshing... well, change.

Still, there have been some interesting changes going on -- those new, insanely lower gas prices for one. Did any one of you, during the summer, honestly think that you would ever see gas for under two dollars a gallon again in your lifetime? Well, the psychological barrier of Premium for under two was broken this past week, and there's no sign of the decline in prices slowing any time soon. In some areas, the price is flirting with the dollar mark. It defies all prior experience.

I have two theories on this. One, the plunge in gas prices is the Republican Party F-You to Sarah Palin for their perception that she's the one who lost McCain the Presidency. (She didn't -- eight years of W. did.) Cheap oil? Alaska's revenues go into the toilet. Come to think of it, they do the same in Texas, and perhaps W. was a co-recipient of this farewell finger.

Theory number Two: as part of his transition, President-Elect Obama had a little come to Jesus meeting with the heads of the major oil companies, and made them this offer: "Adjust your prices to make gas affordable and bring your profits down to reasonable levels, and I'll forget about taxing your windfall profits for a while. But, if you don't, then on my first day in office I am going to jack your capital gains taxes up so high that you'll never be able to turn a profit no matter how well you're doing without cutting your executive salaries and dividends to nothing, at which point you'll become a junk company that will be nationalized via a bail-out. Now get out of my office, mofos."

Incidentally, if this is exactly what he told them, I would agree 100% That's just to let any Conservatives reading know that one man's paranoia is another man's heaven.

Now, we come to some changes that inspire my headline -- already, there's bitching from the left about Obama's appointments, to which I can only say "Shut up." There was a snowball's chance in hell of Dennis Kucinich being appointed to any cabinet level position. Why? He's the one who pursued impeachment of W. in Congress, and hiring him would have created a lightning rod for Republican cries of "Partisanship!" At the same time, Hilary Clinton was the only logical choice for Secretary of State for many reasons. First of all, the NeoCons hate her, and she and President Clinton will steal their focus entirely. They'll be following every Clinton move while Obama gets down to business. Second, The world loves the Clintons, especially Bill, and making them the Diplomatic face of this country will kickstart our international rehabilitation like nothing else. The election of Barack Obama already gave a big infusion of good will in most nations (except one middle eastern one whose name I won't mention -- It starts with "I", but it's not "Iran"). The ecstatic joy that his supporters felt when his victory was announced was a worldwide phenomenon. Symbolically, America finally pulled its head out of its ass. And, symbolically, sending the beloved world leader who was succeeded by the most despised since Hitler in the post mortum days of that sad regime sends a gigantic signal. "Forgive us. We just got a little... funnny for a while."

Finally, I believe that President-Elect Obama subscribes to this invaluable bit of political advice: "Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer." I doubt that there's a politician who hasn't read Sun-Tzu and taken him to heart, and I don't doubt for a minute that Mr. Obama is smart enough to put certain key players in positions where they become his marionettes. You want to bitch about him appointing certain Federal Banking types? You won't be when he's basically rubbing their faces in their own mess like bad puppies, then forcing them to fix it by following his dictates, essentially also making them eat their own vomit. This applies to Hillary Clinton in several ways, most important of which is to keep her from having any Presidential aspirations in 2012. If President Obama has been successful and popular up to that point, if she had the temerity to try to run against him as his own Secretary of State, it would be the end of her political career.

Hey, there's nothing wrong with a dictatorship when the only ones dictated to are the President's Cabinet. That's kind of what the President is supposed to do, and this upcoming President gets that.

Politics is a game of chess, and the President-Elect seems to be a grand master. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he proceeds to call check and mate on all the forces that have been determined to drive this country into the toilet for the last eight years. (BTW, in Arabic, "the toilet" is al-Qaeda).

Another settle down message. That whole "Obama is not a natural citizen bullshit?" Stop it. Now. First, although he hasn't released his birth certificate publicly, he would have had to provide it or some other proof of citizenship status in order to even file to run for President, not to mention having provided the same information to his chosen party. Ask yourself this: could you go to any Post Office and get a Passport based on documents that do not prove your citizenship according to Federal Law? Of course not. Okay, so if you can't get such an important document (or even a job) without proving your status, do you think for one second that our electoral system would allow someone unqualified to run to even show up on the ballot? Hm. Passport. President. Which one do you think is more protected by process? Besides all of that, the Secretary of State of Hawaii has confirmed his place of birth, and an independent group located originals of two different birth announcements, published in Hawaiian papers in 1961. To the true Kool-Aid drinking foil hatters out there: if these announcements were some elaborate forgery to ensure the election of a mixed-race baby to the presidency 47 years later, then you have a lot more faith than black people of the time. If you had told any of them that a black man would be elected president in less than a hundred years, they would have just looked at you funny and walked away sadly.

One other question for the "Show the birth certificate!" crowd -- what were you yelling when John McCain and Sarah Palin refused to reveal their medical records? Not much, I'll bet. You flaming hypocrites.

And, a final settle down message -- the arrest of Illinois Governor Blagojevich is a gigantic non-story when it comes to Obama. First of all, the arrest comes one day after Blagojevich declared that Illinois would do no business with Bank of America until they extended credit to a factory taken over by laid off workers so that the company could stay in business and pay its workers -- in effect, telling BofA to spend their bailout on helping Main Street, instead of giving bonuses to its own executives. It feels like BofA -- founded by an Italian American, just a point of fact -- is pulling a few strings to stifle a critic. Second, what did Blagojevich do? Lobby for particular federal government positions for himself in exchange for appointing someone to Barack Obama's former Senate Seat. You know what? That's called politics. See the movie Milk for a good example of this kind of backroom deal in action. It's called quid pro quo, and it's as old as Athens. "So, Joe... I understand you want to be City Council President. That position is coming up, and I get to pick the replacement, but I need you to do something for me. See, the council has been considering a zoning ordinance that would force me to tear down half the improvements on my property. And your vote would be the tiebreaker in my favor..." Pause. "Well, gosh, Mike -- I'd really hate to see you lose half your house..." And so it goes and so it has gone, and the only reason Governor Blagojevich is being hauled into the court of public opinion for it now is that he pissed off the wrong interests. But -- he's not Obama's bestest buddy -- in fact probably got a severe dressing down for it -- and I'm sure that the Transition campaign will come up with a solution to the problem tomorrow that is so brilliant it will shut everyone up.

Oops. I'm falling prey to the same thing I warned about. Like it or not, we're still stuck with Captain Boozeypants until January. But we have been shown so much hope since the election that the resurrection of America seems imminent.


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