Sunday, April 08, 2007

Obama takes the Initiative

by Bernie Quigley for The Free Market News Network, 4/8/07

History is in the details, and this week when the ’08 candidates presented the cash available for the upcoming primary season, history turned the corner. I knew it when I went to Canadian Broadcasting Company looking for a hockey game. An ad came up for CBC news with all those fast action photos they run by you – a Bush close up, war in Iraq, fires in California, bears slipping on ice floes in The Great White North.

This time there was a new face: Barack Obama’s and it popped up a few seconds even before Bush’s. Another famous face was conspicuously absent: Hillary Clinton’s.

Yahoo told the same story: Greeting you on the banner head yesterday morning with the campaign cash story were two faces, Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s. No Hillary. Even The New York Times, which has been Hillary’s Secret Santa for years now, had to yield: The centerpiece front-page story on Easter Sunday was Barack Obama.

It was reported that Obama raised 25 million in the first quarter, just a million under Clinton. Romney also raised 25 million, far ahead of any of his flagging competitors. But some of this cash is not available to spend on the upcoming primary.

The Daily Kos posted the new figures of available primary cash: Obama has 23.5 million, Clinton 20 million, John Edwards 13 million.

What is possibly more important is that Obama's cash comes from 100,000 donors, Clinton’s from only 50,000 and Edwards from 40,000. I’m betting that Clinton’s cash is coming all from much the same place – from the Northeast and from people of her own generation unable to let go. Hubbie Bill, that perennial Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love, has been holding event after event on her behalf all over New York City this past month where she wasn’t even present. But the Northeast likes Obama as well.

Clinton's cash is from a DESCENDING POLITICAL SCENARIO - an end game of Billaryism and Democratic Leadership Council influence which has been running now for some 14 years (and the descending end of a generational arc of influence which has been running for 40-plus years). Obama's cash will be applied to an ASCENDING SCENARIO and a political movement just beginning to rise (and the rising front and avant garde of a new generation’s political influence).

Gauging the blog community as an indicator of generational influence, Hillary has almost no youthful support from the critical fourth post-war generation. But the rising generation likes both Obama and Edwards.

It will be increasingly more difficult for Clinton to raise more money in the second and third quarters. It will be increasingly easier for Obama to raise money.

And the press is hungry for a new zeitgeist and a fresh and photogenic face like Obama’s. Hillary is old and stale news and so is McCain. Obama brings the new season. Mad Ave., where the true poets and prophets of America live, actually recognized this months ago. Whenever I pump gas I see a happy and prosperous Obama look-alike doing the same in the gas company’s new ad campaign.

’08 is perhaps one of the most important election cycles since post-war. Like the Kennedy race and the Reagan race, whichever candidate wins now could well determine the direction of the political scene for the next 20 years.

Both major parties have taken new initiatives and both are feeling their Old Guard falling be the wayside; Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council for the Democrats and the Christian Coalition for the Republicans.

With 25 million in hand Romney could well go the distance for the Republicans. He is a great manager and a decent human being. But his incoherent and ill-mastery of symbolism is bound to trip him up.

Recently, he described himself as a “life long hunter” and it was revealed later that he had only hunted as a child, then again last year for a political photo-op in Georgia. And in explaining it away to the press he carelessly described hunting rabbits with a semi-automatic rifle.

For people who are unfamiliar with firearms, a semi-automatic weapon sounds like a Uzi or an AK-47 or an M-16. The image of Elmer Fudd throwing dynamite down a hole to obliterate the source of his perennial wabbit twoubles caught the public imagination three days before Easter. The blog “Unconfirmed Sources” offered a satire of Romney going hunting over the weekend with Dick Cheney, and the Republican’s answer to Elmer Fudd and Syd Vicious shooting caged birds together and possibly each other on Easter Sunday.

But as the Democrats push aside their own Old Guard, they have also brought forth a whole new group of individuals in the last two years, some of them veterans of the Iraq war: Mark Warner, Wesley Clark, Jim Webb and Joe Sestak have all been key players in the ’06 race and in the current season. And there are more behind them, some of whom were elected to the new Congress and others who will run again or take other roles in the party like Patrick Murphy in Pennsylvania, Eric Massa of New York, Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, Andrew Horne of Tennessee and Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire.

This is the starting line-up of a new political generation. The Democrats have also established veteran credentials with new groups like the Fighting Dems and VoteVets. And consistently, in the blogosphere and in the rising generation, these new candidates have come forward while the DLC candidates are being left behind.

This week Obama has taken the initiative, and he has the opportunity now to put together an entirely new package for the Democrats that will have a long ride.

Obama was first presented to the public by Oprah. I have opposed the "democratization" of political discourse on such a vast and generic level as the Oprah TV show making the case that political discourse on such a low entertainment level will destroy the Republic. I have changed my position over the last years for this reason: Oprah, more than anyone advances the "participation mystique" of American culture and politics and this is perhaps the most important cultural driving force in America.

After his visit to America, Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung said that he found the “participation mystique” to be the pervasive cultural force in America and it was a cultural initiative that came from the African village. It featured a removal of walls and a blending of one culture to another. Historians John Hope Franklin and W.J. Cash also make the point that African-American influence has had an "environmental" or benign cultural influence on all the major institutions and cultural relationships in America, especially in the South. But since WW II that influence has come to the North as well and is pervasive today throughout the Republic.

The Obama candidacy represents a shared cultural identity; that is, there is no distinction between white and black “culture.” Perhaps, as the poet Walt Whitman claimed, this is one of the most essential transitions that people make when they come to America: They come to share culture and consciousness with other races. (And if they don’t intend to, they will anyway.)

Oprah, probably more than anyone today, represents this vast, subtle and pervasive influence and this shared racial destiny. And she is probably one of the five most important people in the world today in terms of cultural influence.

The Obama story is the story of the emancipation of all of the races and cultures in North America and the passing of the Protestant Ethic as the territorial determinant in American politics: It is a story that we have been moving to for 400 years on this continent and it is perhaps the most important story to be told to date about our American condition.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Elmer Fudd meets Syd Vicious: Obama Takes the Initiative

by Bernie Quigley Daily Kos diary, 4/7/07

“ . . . seest thou not God's purpose from the first?
The earth to be spann'd, connected by network,
The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage . . . .”

- Walt Whitman, Passage to India

History is in the details, and this week when the ’08 candidates presented the cash available for the upcoming primary season, history turned the corner. I knew it when I went to Canadian Broadcasting Company looking for a hockey game. An ad came up for CBC news with all those fast action photos they run by you – a Bush close up, war in Iraq, fires in California, bears slipping on ice floes in The Great White North.

This time there was a new face: Barack Obama’s and it popped up a few seconds even before Bush’s. Another famous face was conspicuously absent: Hillary Clinton’s.

Yahoo told the same story: Greeting you on the banner head yesterday morning with the campaign cash story were two faces, Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s. No Hillary.

It was reported that Obama raised 25 million in the first quarter, just a million under Clinton. Romney also raised 25 million, far ahead of any of his flagging competitors. But some of this cash is not available to spend on the upcoming primary.

The Daily Kos posted the new figures of available primary cash: Obama has 23.5 million, Clinton 20 million, John Edwards 13 million.

What is possibly more important is that Obama's cash comes from 100,000 donors, Clinton’s from only 50,000 and Edwards from 40,000. I’m betting that Clinton’s cash is coming all from much the same place – from the Northeast and from people of her own generation unable to let go. Hubbie Bill, that perennial Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love, has been holding event after event on her behalf all over New York City this past month where she wasn’t even present. But the Northeast likes Obama as well.

Clinton's cash is from a DESCENDING POLITICAL SCENARIO - an end game of Billaryism and Democratic Leadership Council influence which has been running now for some 14 years (and the descending end of a generational arc of influence which has been running for 40-plus years). Obama's cash will be applied to an ASCENDING SCENARIO and a political movement just beginning to rise (and the rising front and avant garde of a new generation’s political influence).

Gauging the blog community as an indicator of generational influence, Hillary has almost no youthful support from the critical fourth post-war generation. But the rising generation likes both Obama and Edwards.

It will be increasingly more difficult for Clinton to raise more money in the second and third quarters. It will be increasingly easier for Obama to raise money.

And the press is hungry for a new zeitgeist and a fresh and photogenic face like Obama’s. Hillary is old and stale news and so is McCain. Obama brings the new season. Mad Ave., where the true poets and prophets of America live, actually recognized this months ago. Whenever I pump gas I see a happy and prosperous Obama look-alike doing the same in the gas company’s new ad campaign.

’08 is perhaps one of the most important election cycles since post-war. Like the Kennedy race and the Reagan race, whichever candidate wins now could well determine the direction of the political scene for the next 20 years.

Both major parties have taken new initiatives and both are feeling their Old Guard falling be the wayside; Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council for the Democrats and the Christian Coalition for the Republicans.

With 25 million in hand Romney could well go the distance for the Republicans. He is a great manager and a decent human being. But his incoherent and ill-mastery of symbolism is bound to trip him up.

Recently, he described himself as a “life long hunter” and it was revealed later that he had only hunted as a child, then again last year for a political photo-op in Georgia. And in explaining it away to the press he carelessly described hunting rabbits with a semi-automatic rifle.

For people who are unfamiliar with firearms, a semi-automatic weapon sounds like a Uzi or an AK-47 or an M-16. The image of Elmer Fudd throwing dynamite down a hole to obliterate the source of his perennial wabbit twoubles caught the public imagination three days before Easter. The blog “Unconfirmed Sources” offered a satire of Romney going hunting over the weekend with Dick Cheney, and the Republican’s answer to Elmer Fudd and Syd Vicious shooting caged birds together and possibly each other on Easter Sunday.

But as the Democrats push aside their own Old Guard, they have also brought forth a whole new group of individuals in the last two years, some of them veterans of the Iraq war: Mark Warner, Wesley Clark, Jim Webb and Joe Sestak have all been key players in the ’06 race and in the current season. And there are more behind them, some of whom were elected to the new Congress and others who will run again or take other roles in the party like Patrick Murphy in Pennsylvania, Eric Massa of New York, Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, Andrew Horne of Tennessee and Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire.

This is the starting line-up of a new political generation. The Democrats have also established veteran credentials with new groups like the Fighting Dems and VoteVets. And consistently, in the blogosphere and in the rising generation, these new candidates have come forward while the DLC candidates are being left behind.

This week Obama has taken the initiative, and he has the opportunity now to put together an entirely new package for the Democrats that will have a long ride.

Obama was first presented to the public by Oprah. I have opposed the "democratization" of political discourse on such a vast and generic level as the Oprah TV show making the case that political discourse on such a low entertainment level will destroy the Republic. I have changed my position over the last years for this reason: Oprah, more than anyone advances the "participation mystique" of American culture and politics and this is perhaps the most important cultural driving force in America.

After his visit to America, Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung said that he found the “participation mystique” to be the pervasive cultural force in America and it was a cultural initiative that came from the African village. It featured a removal of walls and a blending of one culture to another. Historians John Hope Franklin and W.J. Cash also make the point that African-American influence has had an "environmental" or benign cultural influence on all the major institutions and cultural relationships in America, especially in the South. But since WW II that influence has come to the North as well and is pervasive today throughout the Republic.

The Obama candidacy represents a shared cultural identity; that is, there is no distinction between white and black “culture.” Perhaps, as the poet Walt Whitman claimed, this is one of the most essential transitions that people make when they come to America: They come to share culture and consciousness with other races. (And if they don’t intend to, they will anyway.)

Oprah, probably more than anyone today, represents this vast, subtle and pervasive influence and this shared racial destiny. And she is probably one of the five most important people in the world today in terms of cultural influence.

The Obama story is the story of the emancipation of all of the races and cultures in North America and the passing of the Protestant Ethic as the territorial determinant in American politics: It is a story that we have been moving to for 400 years on this continent and it is perhaps the most important story to be told to date about our American condition.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Rudy Giuliani and the Bada Bing School of Ethics

by Bernie Quigley for The Free Market News Network 4/4/07

The Republicans are turning to Fred Thompson increasingly since the Barbara Walters interview with Rudy Giuliani. I happen to know that Giuliani's favorite TV show is The Sopranos (it is mine too). And I thought his answers to Barbara Walters were kind of spooky. They were much like a session with Dr. Melfi.

To review: The premise of The Sopranos is that Tony was sent to a psychiatrist after he fainted in his yard watching some ducks fly away from his swimming pool. The psychiatrist is the wise and beautiful Dr. Jennifer Melfi. She, like Tony, is a second-generation New Jersey Italian and with Tony, struggles with a classic second-generation identity crisis. There is a sense of no longer really being Italian, but not yet feeling fully American. (Not feeling fully at home in “Elvisland,” says Paulie Walnuts, the vast panorama west of New Jersey.) Dr. Melfi becomes Tony’s muse. Her character appears to be based on Beatrice in Dante's Divine Comedy. Beatrice is a spirit form and is Dante’s guide to spiritual awakening. She is what psychiatrists call his anima – his female side, don't cha know.

Now Giuliani is suddenly all Bill and Hillary with his third wife and he says (holding hands with his newlywed) that he would like to have his wife in cabinet meetings. (Actually, I think psychiatrists call this "anima pollution" – meaning that the female side has come to dominate the masculine side – a chronic issue with Democrats these past generations, but until now an affliction fairly rare in Republicans. There is a much better street expression for this but it is unprintable even here in Live-Free-or-Die Land.)

I think Giuliani, his first wife having been from the old neighborhood like himself, is going through the same sociological changes that Tony and Dr. Melfi are – a journey from St. Gennaro’s Little Italy Festival to Elvisland. But he misunderstands Tony’s fate and journey in this greatest piece of ensemble acting ever, as Tony’s is a Buddhisty journey to transcendence while Giuliani’s is simply a ride to Ultimate Power in the Presidency.

Dr. Melfi warns about this second and third generation leap to inauthenticity: the closet desire to join the "mayonnaise faces" at Starbucks; to trade canoles for tofu; to send your kids to New England’s Bard rather than to Catholic Georgetown. In one of the episodes she has dinner with her own son who is a student at Bard. She asks him what he is studying and he replies, ” . . . the Deconstructionists” – referring to the trendy, French nihilist literary critics.

“A Deconstructivist,” she says scornfully. “And your grandfather a general contractor.”

And we always thought Giuliani was a tough guy. I notice that he drives the same kind of car that Tony drives – a Cadillac Excalibur. And didn’t he last get married at Graceland (“Elvisland?”)? Very mixed karma. Gives people the creeps. And gives "environmental exposition" to his aura that casts a darker light on his relationship with Bernie Kerik.

The Bernie Kerik episode - in which Giuliani colleague and appointee managed his life and professional career with all the élan of an MBA from the Bada Bing School of Ethics - could have possibly been gotten around Рbut now it looks like part of the whole package.

Maybe Giuliani missed the first episode of The Sopranos, in which Tony’s first concern is that if The Bosses find out that he is seeing a psychiatrist, it will make him look weak. Likewise, a Barbara Walters interview would make Tony look silly.

I think the Republicans will turn to former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson who is no less qualified to be President than anyone else who has announced so far except Mitt Romney. And he is so, so good at TV.

As Howard Baker's Watergate associate he came up with those great phrases like "What did the President know and when did he know it?" But he will fade too to Mitt Romney, who raised $21 million this last quarter and who is at least an honest man and a good manager.

I wonder what my wife would say if I asked her if she would like it if I sat in on one of her departmental meetings at the university she works at. Get a life?