McCain backpedaling: peace without justice

At some point this week, John McCain's presidential campaign realized that having mobs of supporters who appeared to be ignorant, blood-thirsty, and xenophobic might not be quite what they were looking for when it comes to momentum. And so, as several local bloggers have mentioned, he started trying to backpedal from some of the rhetoric that his campaign -- led by Sarah Palin -- has been putting out there in an attempt to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Barack Obama.

The problem is, McCain has done nothing to question the underlying thinking and assumptions that have fueled these fires. By passing them by he essentially reinforces the dangerous framing, and does little toward any truly just treatment of the issues that have come up.

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Making fun of Community Organizers

Enjoying the Fruits of Our LaborLike many people of diverse political affiliations, I bristled during the Republican National Convention when various speakers including VP candidate Sarah Palin made fun of "community organizer" as a worthwhile way of spending time.

It wasn't problematic for me because the attack was being used against candidate Barack Obama, although I didn't find it to be an effective or useful expression of concern about his qualifications. Instead, I think that it was just plain insulting to the many people in communities across the world who devote their time and energy to making their local communities better places to live. Further, I think it was a hypocritical and problematic assertion given some of the other selling points being used to present Palin and McCain to voters. Here's why: Continue reading "Making fun of Community Organizers"

False choices in selecting the American President

This is my inventory of the false or misleading choices presented to us in the mainstream narrative of how we select the President of the United States. They're presented by our culture, our media, our parents, our friends. They're presented as "the way things have always been" and "get on board with this or you'll be left behind" and "don't be an idealistic fool by believing anything else" They're presented with confidence and vigor, and they're spread far and wide: Continue reading "False choices in selecting the American President"

Negative ads, fatal errors from the McCain campaign

John McCain's presidential campaign is making a big mistake with its television ads that continue to portray Barack Obama as, essentially, too much of a good thing. They reinforce the framing that Obama is a rock star, a mega celebrity, a dignitary on the world stage, and then expect that simply by calling our attention to the contrast between that persona and the image of a stodgy and reserved President who sits in the Oval Office making important decisions all day, they can sway the voters toward McCain.

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Scott McClellan's What Happened

What Happened by Scott McClellanIt took a few different stops along my vacation road trip route to find Scott McClellan's new book, What Happened. One bookseller noted that the first printing had sold out and that they were waiting on the publisher for another round. I take this as a good thing for Mr. McClellan - if you're going to write an insider's account of life in the George W. Bush White House that puts you in extreme disfavor with your former colleagues, political party, and the President himself, you might as well make sure you get a chunk of money for it. But for those of us who always found Mr. McClellan's role in the U.S. Government to be distasteful at best and outrageous on most days -- especially his part in selling the importance of invading Iraq to the world -- it's somewhat disgusting to see that he's now making money by telling the story of that role, even if he is expressing significant regret along the way.

It's certainly too little too late for someone who was often the public face of a government that we now know was actively misleading its own citizens about Iraq, wielding its power to practice malicious (not to mention illegal) personal attacks and then covering them up. If you believe in the power of the press and public opinion to help shape U.S. policies (or to at least hold the government accountable for its actions), and if you know how much the press regurgitated White House statements without critical evaluation or follow up in the last seven years, then you might say that Mr. McClellan is fairly directly responsible for a lot of unnecessary death in the world.
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Bill Clinton Visits Richmond, Indiana

Shaking Hands with Bill Clinton - 2008I spend a lot of time on this blog and elsewhere encouraging people to avoid ceding too much power over their lives to the individuals who would claim it for the wrong reasons (or in many cases, claim it at all), or to institutions and organizations that may not truly have our best interests in mind. But despite my own wariness of those things and of participating in a superstar celebrity culture, it's still pretty hard to ignore the excitement and intrigue that follows around a former President of the United States. This is amplified when he appears in a place quite unexpected, like Richmond Indiana.
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Letters from friends in D.C.

I got two nice letters in the mail today, one from President Bush, another from John Kerry. Apparently, both of them are interested in having me be a more active part of their lives, and I was heartened by their efforts at reaching out. George invited me to have dinner with him in Washington, which I thought was a nice gesture. I did have some questions about where we might eat though, since he seemed to think it would cost around $2,500 per person. I haven't eaten out in D.C. in a while but my sense is that we could probably find a KFC or something that's a little cheaper. I guess George really wants a night on the town! John's letter was sort of weird too, he sort of rambled on about a bunch of current events and political issues, but didn't really give me an update on how he and Theresa are doing or when we might take that fishing trip we've been talking about. He did ask for money, and while I'm always happy to help John out of a rut, I wish he'd be more specific about how much he needs and what he needs it for, instead of all these checkboxes for "$50" all the way up to "$250". John's such a character.

It's always good to get letters in the mail from friends wanting to catch up...