Breadsticks and Broadband

April 23, 2008

I love the Olive Garden.  I’m not sure why.  It isn’t really all that good.  There’s only one in the immediate area which is always crowded.  It’s also a little pricey for what is basically the Wal Mart of Italian cuisine.  As the product of a very Sicilian family who wouldn’t, as even the decidely non-Sicilian Roseanne Conner once remarked, “pay $12.95 for spaghetti if they had Mr. Chef Boyardee himself in the kitchen,” I should really run screaming from the Olive Garden. 

But no, there I was last Saturday, lunching alone (because the same friends who poke at my bourgie taste in clothes, cars and bottled water refuse to join me at the OG) but for the company of Garrett’s fine book, the thoughtful intellectualism of which lent a certain sophistication to a table that included a plastic basket of never-ending breadsticks. 

I remember our first class, when I finally figured out (I’m slow sometimes) that one of the required books was actually written by Garrett.  If I didn’t already feel unaccomplished, given that he’s just six days shy of being exactly a year older than me (Credit: Facebook) I surely did after some Googling revealed his book was reviewed in The New York Times.  Not just reviewed, but reviewed by the same woman who reviewed Carrie’s book on “Sex and the City!” 

I immeidately wondered if Garrett woke up earlier than he had for Princess Diana’s wedding on the day the review was printed, just like Carrie?  Then I thought two things: That Garrett was 18-days-old on Princess Diana’s wedding day (thanks, Windows calculator!) and that sometimes I am super gay.  Anyway, the reviewer must have also been intrigued by Garrett’s young age, since she declared our Mr. Graff “astonishingly young.”  To me, though, that sort of proves the book’s point.  

This time in which we live, with the technology available to us, allowed a kid fresh out of college to play an enormously important role in shaping the campaign of a major presidential candidate.  While Dean (likely) had his own Carvilles and Deavers playing important advisory roles, I was struck in the opening pages to learn how close Dean kept his communication staff to his own office.  Then I reflected on how risky it all was, putting one’s presumably long-held dreams in the hands of some kids and a foul-mouthed know-it-all who planned to take those dreams online, then much more a novelty venue than we currently know it to be. 

Web 2.0 has given the astonishingly young a huge amount of responsibility.  Really, it’s given anyone ready to take it a huge amount of responsibility.  Matt Drudge isn’t particuarly young (or particularly worthy of oxygen), but the portion of TFC that addresses his role in breaking the Lewinsky story shows just how easy it is for one person to plunge the nation into a story, for better or worse. 

I don’t think my generation will engage in the sort of endeavors that produce the iconic images of Normandie or Iwo Jima.  Frankly, I hope we won’t be called upon to make the sort of sacrifices our grandparents made.  But it will be our challenge to navigate a wired world increasingly few of their generation are here to see.  We may not produce a Murrow or a Cronkite in a mold our parents knew, but we will produce countless Ted Sorensons and Peggy Noonans, who will make their political views known not from behind the scenes of power, but openly, in a way that demands attention from the powers-that-be in the way the originators of this long-running experiment in representative democracy intended. 

I’ve enjoyed reading PFB’s blog since we all started this little adventure back in January.  Not that I don’t enjoy reading other people’s blogs (I do, really!), but I especially enjoy PFB’s wit – So a big buzz blog going around currently (oh daaaaaamnnnn, did you feel that alliteration? Awwww yeah) – and his ability to get a whole post out of topics such as Ballston –In a year, I’ve seen a lot from my 6th-floor window and my conclusion is that Ballston is weird.  I was not surprised to find a recent post equally enjoyable (and relateable).  In it, PFB talks about how the Pope was in town (I hope I don’t have to link to this) and how even though he’s not the best Catholic, he still would have liked to have seen him ride by.

The post reminded me of a recent conversation I had with my friend, also not the best or most practicing of Catholics.  My mom told me that I should go see the Pope.  I explained that it was pretty hard to actually see the Pope, unless you stood in the street and caught a drive-by, and she seemed concerned I hadn’t put more effort into chasing him down.  It was a little surprising, considering she’s more liberal than I am (and I pretty much called the POTUS a draft-dodging cokemonkey in an earlier post) and wasn’t particularly pleased in Benedict’s succession because she thought it would delay the Church’s much-needed modernizing.

Anyway, considering my friend was technically Catholic and was super excited to partake of the bizarre spectacles that are Congressional Baseball games, I thought that an equally bizarre chance to see an 80-year-old man in a big hat and red possibly-Prada loafers drive down the street in a modified Mercedes-Benz ML 350 would provide ample motivation for his accompaniment.

Yet, he had no interest in seeing the Pope, who he said was a propagator of dangerous ideas (using less elegant language…this isn’t “Dawson’s Creek”).  I pointed out that despite the Church’s completely misguided positions on condoms in HIV-ravaged Africa and gay-marriage, and its complete bungling of the U.S. sexual abuse scandal, the Church still stood against the Iraq war, capital punishment and was a general source of spiritual and material comfort for 1/6th of the World’s entire population.  His response was that while Hitler had some good ideas (Volkswagen, the Autobahn), he wouldn’t go to see him, either.

Seeing the world in black-and-white is the hobby of people like Dick Cheney, people who decide an entire segment of the World’s population hates America “for its freedoms” and from that conclusion refuse to take into account any other thoughts or ideas that might lead to a more intelligent, appropriate and developed response to that population.   I personally think George W. Bush is dumber than a box of rocks and is quite possibly the worst president in American history, but I still shudder when someone compares the draft-dodging cokemonkey (there, I said it) to Hitler, and I likewise shudder when I hear someone compare the Pope to a madman who slaughtered six-million people.

It is perfectly fine to disagree with some, most or all of a person’s positions.  It’s also perfectly fine to just plain dislike someone.  But in an information age such as this, it’s sort of dim to just dismiss someone with whom you disagree, someone who is likely, as most are, a mere combination of good and evil.

While my friend’s Hilter statement was mostly in jest, it still made me think.  First, about how great an idea Volkswagen really was (seriously, only Hitler could approve of charging $30,000 for a completely unreliable car with “leatherette” seats), but also about why in a world where modern technology makes so much information available to so many more people than at any other time in World history, we all, at some point, still come to black-and-white decisions about people or places or events that so beg to be seen through a Technicolor lens that’s now available to anyone who just cares to look through it.

Not Sorry For…2004…

April 21, 2008

By the time Howard Dean came to national prominence, I was entirely sick of George W. Bush’s “wartime leader” pretensions.  I found it hard to believe that the mainstream media barely scrutinized the almost comical absurdity of someone who’d spent the Vietnam era in Texas, the silver spoon he was born with firmly up his nose instead of in his mouth, heroically landing on an aircraft carrier to celebrate the resolution of a war that was clearly not over, and which he started himself.  I doubt the 19th century press would have credited Lincoln with saving the Union if he’d fired the first shot on Fort Sumter  But, I digress.

What I most admired about Howard Dean was his boldness.  His leadership on the gay-marriage issue was courageous, and at a time when mainstream politicians of both parties pussyfooted (emphasis mine) around Iraq, Dean’s opposition to the invasion was brave and much-needed.

If Barack Obama deserves applause for his alleged opposition to the war at a time he was a politician of no real consequence whose opinion no one yet cared about, then Dean deserves a standing ovation for opposing it as a presidential contender whose opinions a large segment of the population was still ready to Dixie Chick him over.

I don’t think it entirely off-base to suggest that Dean’s opposition opened the door to serious debate about the Administration’s lies and mistakes before, during and after major combat operations in Iraq, but I will admit that Howard Dean was the first candidate to really make me feel like I was a part of something.  I could be a little biased.  I was 18-years-old when I gave my very first presidential vote to Al Gore and was almost as disillusioned by the media’s ridiculous treatment of “the scream” as I had been with the Supreme Court after that first vote.

But I think there’s something to be said for the argument that Dean’s loss was everyone’s win, if in fact his legacy proves to be a lesson in how modern technology can again make the political process mean something to everyone.  If young people used to being treated as props by campaigns who want to “protect them” have a way to be a part of real political conversation online, it has much to do with the Dean revolution of 2004.  If union members used to being treated as props by campaigns who want to “protect them” have a way to “meetup” and find a candidate who knows traditional industry has a place in a global economy, it has much to do with the Dean revolution of 2004.

Most importantly, perhaps, if we ever have the opportunity to sit at home in our underwear, filling out our presidential ballots with a few tabs and a couple mouse clicks while telling Diebold to suck it, it will have much to do with the Dean revolution of 2004.

Twitter Revisited

April 19, 2008

With the help of Garrett’s very useful listing of all the things we must turn in so as to not be screwed, I realized I had yet to write any of the blogs responding to another person’s blog.  So, after my Internet came back to life (Comcast, I wish I could quit you and I would, were it not for my free year of digital cable) I started strolling through posts and came across Rosie and Gregg’s varying perspectives on Twitter.

I remember agreeing with Rosie in class when she asked why anyone would care about Twitter.  Well, not about Twitter, but why anyone would be that interested in following someone on Twitter.  Now, I’m all for e-stalking, especially when it comes to dating.  It’s just much easier to Google someone’s name and find out they voted for Bush (especially the second time) or hate puppies or had to alert local residents before moving into a new neighborhood or any number of other equally horrifying dealbreakers before you bother picking out a cologne.

 In researching the final project, I read about and then explored Clinton and Obama’s Twitter pages.  My explorations sort of confirmed my original thoughts about Twitter.  A lot of dull, one-sentence entries about the mundane ins-and-outs of a person’s daily life.  But in thinking about how Hillary, in particular, could better use Twitter, I also started to think about how, in general, Twitter could be interesting.  I thought to myself, “Waterlily, (shameless Golden Girls reference) Garrett seems to like Twitter.  Why don’t you explore HIS page?!”  

So, I did.  While I sort of thought I was more in-line with Gregg’s thoughts on Twitter (that it might be useful if I needed the calvary to come free me from unjust inprisonment, but fairly lame otherwise), I sort of came around to Rosie’s view after exploring Garrett’s entries.  Twitter helped me discover our fearless leader is an anglophile who enjoys horticulturepancakes and who might in fact be addicted to chocoloate milkshakes (which he treats as a beverage just like soda pop).

I have a feeling people would like Hillary much more if they knew she was a horticulturalist lover of breakfast foods with a possibly debilitating sweet-tooth (although a former first lady running for president probably shouldn’t talk about serving tea).  If people were to like a political candidate more for her sharing the random tidbits of information that make up her day and ultimately shine a light on who she is as a living, breathing, human being, then perhaps our own relationships can likewise be enhanced by taking a few seconds to drop (literally) a line about a funny argument we witnessed, an amazing cupcake we tasted or a beautiful flower that caught our eye.      

Call Me Monsieur Curie

April 10, 2008

In my very first post I wrote about my fondness for “This American Life” contributor Sarah Vowell.  Her informative and hilarious book, “Assassination Vacation,” made me feel much better about my desires to someday visit Dealey Plaza and drive the John Wilkes Booth escape route.  Unfortunately, Vowell has yet to write about any trips to nuclear wastelands, so I guess my desire to visit Chernobyl will leave me an embarrassed party of one.

For those who don’t spend their sleepless nights reading about Soviet-era disasters, this month will see the 22nd anniversary of the worst nuclear power plant accident in history.  On April 26, 1986, reactor four at the Ukranian Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded.  Six-million people were exposed to fallout levels 30 to 40 times higher than the victims of Hiroshima.  Although Soviet officials refused to list “radiation” as a cause of death, it’s estimated 56 people died as a direct result of the explosion, 4,000 “extra” deaths can be expected among the 600,000 most exposed and 5,000 deaths among the entire six million.  Credit Wikipedia for those facts, which should be generally reliable given the topic.

Two decades on, the area is still not habitable, but with proper monitoring, can be visited for short periods of time.  Perhaps I misspoke earlier about being an embarrased party of one.  There is actually a rather unabashed Chernobyl tourism industry.  I remember wondering, when reading Anderson Cooper’s great book, in which he described his travels to various war-torn, disaster stricken parts of the world, why anyone would choose to visit such desolate, harrowing places?

Cooper engaged in “extreme tourism” as a way to escape the pain of his own childhood.  Really, though, a visit to Chernobyl isn’t that extreme.  Tourists aren’t in the area long enough for radiation to build up within the body and cause any major health issues.  Especially dangerous areas are forbidden.  Food and water are brought in from other places.  As someone who once called a pharmacist to make sure his Benadryl wouldn’t adversely mix with his Claritin and kill him in his sleep, I can say that even if Chernobyl were as risky as, say, a late-night drive though NE DC, that wouldn’t really be a motivating force in my wanting to visit.

Chernobyl presents an amazing opportunity to peek past (literally) shattered windows onto a world off-limits to Americans though decades of Cold Warfare.  There is no propaganda, no rhetoric, no public relations productions designed to promote communism or attack democracy.  Those who visit Chernobyl, not just the plant but also the abandoned ghost town of Pripyat, bring back amazing pictures of a place frozen forever as a museum to Soviet life in the empire’s last years.

The museums’ exhibits surely aren’t on the walls of Pripyat’s stripped and looted apartment buildings, but rather are the rusted out playgrounds abandoned by children who are now hopefully young adults, or the crumbling pool, brand-new in 1986, where parents planned to teach their children to swim on lazy Saturday mornings.  Those relics, along with the ruined bumper cars of an amusement park that never had a chance to open, or the panes only a twisted doll has peered through for the past twenty years all show the human side of a culture Americans weren’t previously supposed to appreciate or acknowledge.

I really encourage everyone to use the links in this post to explore the writings and photo albums of people who have made the trek.  There are many, many more and all of them make for fascinating reading/viewing.  In a time of hot rather than cold war, it’s humbling to see that, when everything else falls away, what’s left are human beings, leading lives not that unlike those we experience and recognize ourselves.  It might be helpful to think of “enemies” of the past when contemplating those we’re engaged with in the present.

I’ve always thought it would have been really exciting to have lived in America during Vietnam.  Of course, I’d have likely been drafted, because my dad isn’t George H.W. Bush and couldn’t have found me a job keeping the Viet Cong out of Texas, but still, exciting times.  I suppose it’s a slightly selfish thought, given what a painful experience it was for so many American families, but the engagement of the public in such an important matter was something I’d never seen growing up but found completely fascinating.    

In high school, years before Iraq II and the comparions between it and Vietnam, we learned about Walter Cronkite’s role in shaping American opinion about the war in the late 1960s.  With the exception of veterans, the American homefront had no idea what war really was.  War was a series of battles fought by brave men defending noble causes in far away lands.  The horrors of the London blitz or the Nazi concentration camps weren’t beamed into American living rooms.  When the horrors of Vietnam were brought to American dinner tables, namely by Walter Cronkite, perceptions changed.  The public trusted Cronkite and his honest assessment of America’s engagement in Asia turned the tide against Lyndon Johnson. 

Perhaps the lack of a Cronkite-like figure is part of the reason public sentiment hasn’t been enough to bring America’s engagement in Iraq to an end.  No one is turning to Katie Couric for, well, anything, but certainly not for guidance on the war.  The first engagement of Web 2.0 is the first war in which the mainstream media hasn’t been the sole voice covering it.  While 60 Minutes II and The New Yorker broke the story of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, their reports were censored compared to what could be found on the web (warning, graphic).  Their coverage no-doubt depicted a horror show, but the sanitized images were not nearly as effective in changing public opinion as Cronkite’s frontline coverage during Vietnam. 

If the mainstream media had taken a cue from their own past and paid a bit more attention to the future, their coverage could have ended this war years ago, when things first started going really, really wrong and before we’d dug ourselves a hole so deep it is impossible to just crawl out of it and go home.  Now that more people are turning attention toward bloggers and other opinions from outside the mainstream, they want an end it’s much more difficult to reach than it would have been if they’d sought or discovered those opinions in 2003 or 2004.     

To me, it is hugely important that the American people are allowed access to the frontlines of wars they commit themselves to emotionally, physically and economically.  It is unbelievably easy for an angry hillbilly whose only exposure to war was “Saving Private Ryan” at the $1 theatre to put on an embarrasingly retarded Toby Keith song and support whatever the president says is necessary to protect America from legitimate danger.  It is far more difficult to support an effort with the horrific reality of that effort is forced in front of you in all its agony.     

…was Bill Maher’s take on political bloggers calling for the Democratic primary race to end.  I know he’s not a big fan of the Internet in general, but it made me chuckle…

J Stands for Jordan

April 1, 2008

When I saw this week’s assignment, to explore the blogging culture of a country that starts with the same letter as your name, I immediately thought of Japan.  I’ve always been interested in Japanese history and culture and Japan is certainly a place people around the world identify with modern technology.  When I went to Global Voices Online, I actually only had two other choices, anyway: Jamaica and Jordan.

Japan certainly had a lot of entries on a wide range of topics.  Some of the posts were political.  There was a post about the failure of “Second Life” in Japan.  Others focused on sports.  While there was a lot to read, nothing really stood out as being that different from what one would expect from Western bloggers. 

When I went back to the site today, a story on GVO’s home page caught my eye.  Jordan’s Queen Rania is using YouTube to create a dialogue on differences between the Middle East and the rest of the world.  Her Majesty, who is clearly contending with the late Princesses Grace and Diana for the Hottest Royal by Marriage title, wants web users, especially young web users, to submit not only their questions about the Middle East, but to also share stereotypes about the region in the form of vlogs. Between now and August 12, i.e., International Youth Day, the queen will address the submissions with, she hopes, input from others in the online community. 

This might seem insignificant to a nation who saw all of their 2008 presidential candidates grilled on national television by random YouTube users.  Another entry from Jordan, discussing the conflict in the region over Valentine’s Day, puts Queen Rania’s idea into more significant context.  What the Western world takes for granted as a simple, even silly way for one human being to express their love for another is officially shunned in several countries in the region.  Those who disagree have found a way to voice their dissent through blogging.  One such person, “Shopaholic Q8eya,” did so with the following blog entry:  “And they say this is the religion of ease!!  Where is the ease in this?  If this is your religion, I don’t want it!!”.

We tend to think of the Internet’s ability to bring people together in a very casual light.  We fool around on Facebook and Myspace and use blogging to laugh at a politician’s misstep or a celebrity’s horrible outfit or as a learning tool in a class we freely elected to take.  People in other parts of the world have adopted blogging as a way, perhaps the only way, to freely share their thoughts, feelings and opinions with compatriots and foreigners alike.  Queen Rania’s adoption of YouTube, vlogging and online communication in general is a brave attempt to break down, figuratively and literally, international barriers to communication and an important step in applying real meaning to the first two of the three “Ws” we type on a daily basis. 

Democrats look forward to making history by nominating the first female or first African American to head a major party presidential ticket.  Yet, whoever is nominated must win the general election to make good on oft-repeated promises of change.  Barack Obama has proved himself capable of success in November and is prepared to make good on those promises. 

 

It is easy to poke fun at the euphoric optimism of Senator Obama’s campaign.  With Oprah firing up crowds and Will.i.am leading celebrities in song, his huge rallies could be the bastard love child of a Tony Robbins motivational session and a U2 concert.  His supporters in the grassroots and on Capitol Hill are frequently flummoxed when questioned about his stands on specific policy issues. 

In a primary election such as this one, though, why can’t they be? 

Voters can sometimes make clear distinctions between primary candidates.  In the 1980 Republican contest, George H.W. Bush was pro-choice while Ronald Reagan was adamantly opposed to abortion.  Bush thought Reagan’s fiscal policy wasn’t centered as much around supply-side economics as it was “voodoo economics.”  Such policy differences were readily apparent, but by choosing either Reagan or Bush, Republican voters also had the opportunity to change their party’s course entirely.

No such opportunity is currently available to Democrats.  Neither Senator Clinton nor Obama will lead their party on a path wildly divergent from the others’.  Policy squabbles between the two have been over minor details that few voters have even taken the time to examine.  Will a health care plan cover everyone, or almost everyone?  Will troops be pulled from Iraq in the first six months, or within the first year of taking office?

When voters who might prefer to have more substantive issues upon which to cast their ballot simply don’t, other factors obviously and rightly come under consideration.  When the substantive differences that do exist are nuanced enough to satisfy Democrats of all shades of blue, how else might those voters make a choice?  Barack Obama gives Democratic voters reasons to cast their ballots in his favor that, if not substantive, are significant and more serious than his detractors will admit.

There was a time in American politics where hope and optimism were welcomed, not derided.  A country suffering through the Great Depression was comforted by Franklin Roosevelt.  A nation unsure of where to go after the relative bore of the 1950s became members of Kennedy’s New Frontier.  The button-downed schoolmarm tone of the Carter Administration ended with a Hollywood cowboy’s promise that it was morning in America. 

The voters who’ve come to support Barack Obama because he evokes similar feelings of comfort, exciting change and pride should feel no shame.  The Bush presidency was conceived in part through telling racist voters that his white primary opponent had a black daughter.  His Administration abused trust generated by legitimate fear in 2001 to support a disastrous foreign policy.  When it fell apart, he stayed in power by pretending he’d alter the Constitution to, for the first time, deny rather than bestow a right on the American people.    

The college students and other first time voters supporting Senator Obama should feel proud that after eight such years, their generation is the first to embrace rather than shun a candidate because his ancestry challenges rather than supports business as usual.  They should feel proud that their candidate saw the potential for disaster in Iraq from the start and distances himself from rather than relies on the biases and prejudices of fellow Christians for support.     

African American voters who delivered primaries in states where the Confederate flag is only a slightly less common sight today than it was during the Civil War should likewise feel proud that they added an uplifting new chapter to the complex narrative their people have written with the South. 

The “latte liberals” who round out Obama’s big three and who were battered for their support of the earth-toned Crimsonite in 2000 and the windsurfing Yalie of 2004 are joined in 2008 by a chorus of support from voters in the decidedly un-yuppie bastions of Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota, Iowa and Idaho.

The original assumption of Democrats, that they would be well served whether Senator Clinton or Obama was their candidate in 2008, is not untrue.  They should be pleased that one doesn’t have to belittle either senator to show support for the other. 

 

 

I’m not a big fan of Ralph Nader.  While I respect many of his ideas and the work he has done to protect consumers, I didn’t, and don’t, think his work is quite enough to qualify him to be POTUS.  Still, it was his right to run in 2000, bitter as I might be about his campaign’s role in Gore’s “loss,” and I respected that right.  This week, I respected his defense of Hillary Clinton against the arrogant, silly calls of Obama backers Patrick Leahy and Chris Dodd for her to leave the Democratic primary race.

   

What I find interesting about any elected official telling another elected official to pull out of a race is that they would never in a million years do so themselves.  They certainly wouldn’t if they ever found themselves in a situation like Hillary’s.  The first woman to be within reach of a major party nomination for president of the United States is 139 pledged delegates behind the first African American man to be within reach of a major party nomination for president of the United States.  She also leads Obama by 32 superdelegates, a profoundly retarded addition to the primary process which nonetheless exists.

  

Obama has won almost twice as many states as Hillary and his now legendary 11-state sweep was impressive, if only superficially.  One-half of the former superstar duo of the Democratic Party, Hillary has undoubtedly had a rough time of things.  Yet, despite his success, Obama has failed to close the deal each time he had a chance to clinch the nomination.  In “American Idol” parlance, each time he could have “made the song his own,” he “was a little pitchy, dawg.”  Coasting on the media euphoria from his big sweep, having almost erased HIllary’s sizable lead in the week before the contest, Obama lost Ohio by 10 points.  Having started that primary night winning Vermont, he closed it by losing the Texas primary.  Winning Ohio and/or Texas would have effectively sealed his nomination.

What should be more alarming to those Democrats looking ahead to November are Obama’s other losses.  Clinton beat him in California, New Mexico, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Michigan (sorta) and Florida (oh please, if Obama can claim he suffered in name recognition, I can claim to be the King of England).  She currently enjoys a double-digit lead in Pennsylvania, with Obama’s only significant endorsement there coming from Bob Casey, with his Bushesque grudge against the Clintons for slighting his daddy about a million years ago.

 

With the exception of Arizona (McCain territory) and Arkansas (although a Clinton could paint it blue once again) all of those states are important to a Democratic victory in November.  Much more important than all Obama’s Heartland caucus states highly unlikely to be any help to the Democrats in the general election.  No, Hillary Clinton cannot win the nomination by taking Pennsylvania.  She needs landslide victories in the remaining contests to overtake Obama in pledged delegates (provided Michigan and Florida remain unseated).  Yet, for all the victories, all the hype, all the “high profile” endorsements, Obama can’t win the nomination, either, without his still formindable competition giving up.  That should be of concern to voters who want a Democrat in the White House in 2009.

  

Why, then, the calls for Hillary to leave the race?  Such calls are entirely contrary to the democratic process.  Complaints that Democratic squabbling is helping the Republicans?  Hogwash.  Not knowing who he’ll face in November, McCain can’t do anything but flog the same tired war hero story he’s been peddling since 1999.  Arguments that it would be wrong for superdelegates to vote for Hillary if Obama has more pledged delegates?  Rubbish.  Those arguments weren’t advanced when superdelages jumped from Hillary’s ship in the wake of Obama’s 11-state sweep and they make no sense now.

 

Superdelegates are UNpledged.  If Hillary adds Pennsylvania to her collection of much needed, very-important-come-November blue states, she is not so far behind in any other regard for it to be deemed unfair for superdelegates to give her the nomination.  This is especially true when one considers the alternative.  Obama’s collection of African American voters, limousine liberals and college kids stuck in the red state hells of Idaho, Georgia, Utah, Wyoming, etc., is the general election equivalent of Bush’s Coalition of the Willing.  Obama has also failed to connect with Hispanic voters, “si se puede” aside, who went overwhelmingly for Clinton in Texas.  In California and Florida, Hispanic (as well as seemingly Obama-phobic Asian) voters could put their states solidly in the Democratic column in the fall.

Also alarming is that Obama’s loss in Ohio came after his campaign proved itself completely incapable of handling criticism from another candidate or the national media.  Forget Hillary’s commercials!  Republicans will be taking cues from LBJ or Bush I’s playbooks.  Eloquent speeches on important but general topics won’t be enough to satisfy a press hungry for details on comparatively more nuanced foreign policy issues or economic concerns.

 

It’s time for everyone involved, from the candidates and their campaigns to party leaders, uninvolved politicians, the media and the voters to take Bill Clinton’s advice and “chill out.”  No one, not Ralph Nader, Mike Huckabee and especially not someone who has achieved what Hillary Clinton has both superficially and substantively, should be forced from a political race in a democratic country.

 

It might be prudent for Democrats to remember what happened the last time a major party threw its support behind one candidate and prematurely thrust another out of competition.  Bush triumphed over McCain and went on to serve two of the most disastrous terms in American presidential history.  How ironic it would be if a Democratic rush to judgment gave McCain the White House eight years later.