Is the Honeymoon Over? Part 2

2009 July 2
by mpurple

Answer: I think so. It’d be one thing if Press Secretary Robert Gibbs kept getting hounded by Fox News’ Major Garrett and some blogger standing in the back representing, but the it’s the cream of the mainstream media crop who are now scoffing at Gibbs. When Helen Thomas burns you during a press conference and later calls your administration more contemptuous of the press than Richard Nixon’s, there may be a bumpy road ahead:

Some have said this episode demonstrates Gibbs as roughly on the same plane as Scott McClellan when it comes to White House public relations. But in Gibbs’ defense, what exactly was he supposed to say? A constant refrain from the left during the Bush administration was that Bush only spoke at town hall events where the questioners were pre-selected. Obama promised a new age of governmental transparency, yet won’t even break free from his own handlers. The press is finally catching up on the president’s barrage of broken campaign promises, starting with the middle-class tax cuts and continuing today with this. Also, color me impressed by Helen Thomas. I had previously assumed she was simply a crazy person, but now understand that she is an enormously principled crazy person. She’s a liberal true believer, not a Democratic hack.

MSNBC, the Huffington Post, Media Matters, Think Progress, etc. have been maintaining radio silence on this all day, by the way.

Is the Honeymoon Finally Over?

2009 June 30
by mpurple picked up this video from this morning’s White House press briefing. Remember how those nutty right-wingers kept claiming during the 2008 campaign that Obama would raise taxes…even though, as liberals wearily kept pointing out, Obama had promised tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans? Yeah…

What’s most astonishing here is not that Obama may break another campaign promise. With economists warning that America may lose its AAA credit status if we keep spending recklessly and China balking at the idea of gobbling up any more American debt, the revenue for Obama’s government bloating was going to have to come from somewhere. The real shocker is that the press finally seems to have had its fill. Reporters in the briefing room just openly laughed at Robert Gibbs! With cameras rolling! Who do they think he is, Scott McClellan?

So is the media honeymoon finally over? I mean, to be sure Democrats’ engaged in political kneecapping during the cap and trade debate. And there may be criminal investigations into to why Obama’s EPA covered up a major study demonstrating climate change wasn’t particularly dire. And the president is amping up taxing and spending to unprecedented levels, despite his campaign pledges. But look at how funny and affable he is! And he bought Brian Williams Five Guys! And how about his wife, huh? She’s so damn sheik and…

Ahem, sorry.

Follow up question: Obama’s favorite economist Paul Krugman has repeatedly blamed the prolonging of the Great Depression on President Roosevelt’s decision to bow to conservatives and raise taxes in order to reduce the deficit. How is this even remotely different?

Confessions of a Teenage Torturer

2009 June 30
by mpurple

PFC Lynndie England, the soldier seen mugging for the camera in the notorious Abu Ghraib abuse photos, is promoting a new book Tortured: Lynndie England, Abu Ghraib and the Photographs That Shocked the World. According to an interview with AOL, England’s life has been less-than-glamorous since her debut as a naked pyramid aficionado.

More than two years since leaving her prison cell, the woman who became the grinning face of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal spends most of her days confined to the four walls of her home.

Former Army reservist Lynndie England hasn’t landed a job in numerous tries: When one restaurant manager considered hiring her, other employees threatened to quit.
She doesn’t like to travel: Strangers point and whisper, “That’s her!”
In fact, she doesn’t leave the house much at all, limiting her outings mostly to grocery runs.
“I don’t have a social life,” she says. ” … I sit at home all day.”
She’s tried dyeing her dark brown hair, wearing sunglasses and ball caps. She even thought about changing her name.
But “it’s my face that’s always recognized,” she says, “and I can’t really change that.”
“They think that I was like this evil torturer. … I wasn’t,” she says. “People don’t realize I was just in a photo for a split second in time.”
It’s hard not to sympathize with a single mother who can barely leave her house, but England dug her own grave on this one. Contrary to her contentions (which were picked up by many anti-war polemicists), England was not an intelligence officer or interrogator who received orders from the nebulous “higher ups” to abuse prisoners. She was an Army specialist assigned to the prison kitchen. The men who she humiliated were not suicide bombers captured on the battlefield, but run-of-the-mill prisoners suspected of committing lesser crimes against other Iraqis. As long as we’re wrought with doubts about forgiving Mark Sanford for cheating on his wife, England, who essentially perpetrated an gangrape that humiliated the United States, deserves nothing less than what she’s gotten. Agreed, Quorumers?

Video Highlights: The Cap and Trade Circus

2009 June 30
by mpurple

As I’m sure you’ve already heard, the House of Representatives passed one of Obama’s pet initiatives on Friday: legislation which caps the total amount of emissions allowed for American corporations and then forces them to pay for whatever share of pollution they deem necessary to survive. What has gone virtually unreported was the contentious battle that erupted on the House floor. Nancy Pelosi allotted a whopping five hours of total floor debate for what is one of the most landmark economic bills in American history. That morning, a 300-page amendment was added to the bill with virtually no time for review by congressmen. Needless to say, Republicans were outraged. For those with some sort of social life who weren’t transfixed to C-SPAN Friday evening, here were some of the highlights.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) gave a passionate speech admitting Republicans couldn’t outvote Democrats and pleading with the American people to call their congressmen and speak out:

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) called the inevitable passage of the legislation a great achievement for “humankind”. Rangel evidently thinks polluting corporations don’t pay enough taxes, and he knows what it’s like to not pay enough taxes:

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louis.) questions how a bill containing 55 pages addressing job losses will not cause job losses.

 Things got pathetically hilarious towards the end of the debate as Republicans, led by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), realized that no official copy of the bill, complete with the 300-page amendment that had been added that morning, had been distributed. Barton asks and asks and asks, but denied the right even to check to see if the official document was anywhere in the House chamber. Democrats, alerted to Republicans’ sneaky tactic of reading bills before they vote for them, shut him down:

It was later determined that the copy of the bill in the chamber was not integrated with the amendment and thus incomplete. I’m thinking it’s time to retire the niceties of Congress and create an atmosphere more like the House of Commons where Barton could have pounded the podium and screamed, “For God’s sake, where’s the fucking bill???”

Minority leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) showed up at the end and engaged in the House equivalent of a filibuster, spending nearly 20 minutes mocking the 300-page amendment that Democrats inserted at the last minute.

The kicker comes here, when Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) objected to Boehner and was shot down, prompting applause from Republicans and an epic, awesome, kickass scolding from Boehner.

In watching these videos, please, please don’t let the shameless efforts of Democrats to ram this legislation through without even the most cursory consideration make you to lose your already rock-solid faith in our legislative process. Oh, and if you happen to work for an energy company, you may want to start checking the classifieds.

What the GOP Lost in Mark Sanford

2009 June 26
by mpurple

I was first introduced to Governor Mark Sanford at a panel discussion at the Cato Institute. The topic was national ID cards, which had the libertarians at Cato in high dudgeon over the looming specter of a federal police state. When discussing such issues, garden variety libertarians have an occasional tendency to jump the sanity rails, warning of shadowy conspiracies and federal stormtroopers and barcodes on every ankle. Not Sanford. For nearly half an hour he spoke with incredible articulateness, citing John Locke and the Federalist Papers on one hand while explaining the messy details of national ID cards and their potential for abuse on the other. He was calm, measured, optimistic, witty, and intensely bright. His co-panelist, Senator John Tester (D-Mont.), seemed muted by comparison.

I had gone with a friend who insisted that I had to see Sanford speak. “He should run for president,” I said after the event. “I told you,” my friend said.

If that sounds like a love note more appropriate for an infatuated middle school girl to give to her first boyfriend (or perhaps for Brian Williams to give to Barack Obama), then so be it. Sanford had floated the idea of running for president in 2012 and I would have supported him wholeheartedly without further consideration. When I heard his Appalachian trail hike excuse for his leave of absence questioned after he was spotted at the airport in Atlanta, I secretly hoped he was laying the groundwork for an exploratory committee or meeting with a wealthy donor. When I saw the MSNBC chryon blaring that Sanford had admitted to an affair on the television screen in a Piccadilly Pub, I immediately ordered another beer, hoping it might start to diffuse the knot in my stomach. The GOP’s brightest hope had just been dimmed.

Unlike any Republican presidential candidate of recent memory, Sanford was smart. His speeches are brimming with references to classical liberal philosophers from which his practical ideas consistently spring. When asked by the American Conservative why he supported term limits, Sanford gave the following incredibly dorky answer: “The ‘beta’ is the correlation between an individual stock and the market as a whole. Term limits change the beta of a political decision. Some politicians look at a single political decision and say, ‘Man, this could affect my career for the rest of my life.’ But with term limits, if it only affects you for the next two years, it’s not a life-changing event.” He couldn’t even admit to a sexual dalliance Wednesday without beginning his press conference with a reflection on how “God’s law is indeed there to protect you from yourself.”

There is a toxic wing of the Republican Party that seems to despise the intellectual. Filled with hatred of pointy-headed professor in ivory towers and moderate urbanites schmoozing at cocktail parties, these conservatives have lustily supported inarticulate, uninspiring, lightweight presidential candidates like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin because they “understand the common folks” and “don’t speak the language of Washington.” Sanford, simultaneously brilliant and folksy, had the power to shed the image created for the GOP by these populists while keeping the party base entertained and satisfied. He had the ability to calmly and illuminatingly explain true conservatism to an American public rapidly growing weary of Barack Obama’s statist economics. He had the potential to give the Republican Party leadership and direction at a time when its power structure was constantly in flux. Rush Limbaugh said Sanford could have been “our JFK” for a reason.

But more importantly, Sanford was the necessary corrective to years of big-government Dubya neoconservatism. Most libertarians who didn’t ditch the GOP years ago have watched Republicans for the past decade with gritted teeth, as they passed the largest prescription drug entitlement bill in history, as they collaborated with Ted Kennedy on No Child Left Behind which resulted in further federalization of education and the stripping of anything reminiscient of  a voucher from their signature legislation, as they rammed through a farm bill that increased subsidies, as they increased government spending and regulation at record rates, as they spent the United States into the largest deficit in American history, as they invaded Iraq without constitutionally-mandated congressional approval on flimsy pretenses, as they ardently defended the torture of prisoners, as they passed the Patriot Act, as they authorized warrantless wiretaps and imprisonments.

By contrast, Sanford was wedded to the Constitution. As a congressman, he often joined Ron Paul as one of two dissenting votes in the House against unconstitutional legislation. As a governor, he term-limited himself, opposed pork barrel projects of every stripe, and attempted to remodel South Carolina’s education system using competition and school vouchers. Even some of his less advisable iniatives, like his attempt to reject Barack Obama’s stimulus money, were rooted in libertarian principle. There is a small charter club of conservatives on the national scene who have consistently advocated constitutional, classically liberal ideals, even if it meant swimming against the tide of the Republican Party. The most extreme of these is Ron Paul, and others include Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Jim DeMint, Representative Thaddeus McCotter, and Representative Jeff Flake. Mark Sanford was their unofficial leader and first potential presidential candidate.

There is little doubt that this scandal will consume Sanford’s political career. Sanford’s wife could stand by him, his sons could forgive him, he could raise Farrah Fawcett from the dead, and he would still be damaged goods. According to a SurveyUSA poll (taken last night at 1 am apparently), 60 percent of South Carolinians think Sanford should resign as governor. FDR’s image recovered after he shipped every Japanese-American on the west coast to a detainment camp, but no politician can survive the stinging stigma that results from an exposed affair. The public will forever see you as genetically dirty, the political equivalent of a neighbor peeping through the fence to look at the swimming pool. One imagines the German people would have abandoned Hitler if his affair with Eva Braun had been blasted on the front of Der Spiegel, racist ideology or no racist ideology.

It’s a damn, heartwrenching shame. Sanford could have been the most promising Republican presidential contender since Ronald Reagan threw his cowboy hat into the ring in 1976. Instead, he’ll go down as a tawdry footnote in South Carolina history. Who will scoop up the GOP nomination now? Palin? Romney? Pawlenty? Who cares? Without Sanford, the race will be infinitely less interesting and promising.

Bimbo Eruptions in the Forecast

2009 June 19
by mpurple

It was Bill Clinton’s flamboyant former political consultant Betsey Wright who coined the term “bimbo eruption” to describe the constant surfacing of women who claimed sexual affairs with Clinton during the 1992 presidential campaign. The term became a mainstay in the American political lexicon as Clinton’s pants continued to fall during both terms of his presidency. Although it sounds more like a geological phenomenon in which women are blasted out of a volcano, “bimbo eruption” continues to summon forth memories of the 1990s for politicos everywhere.

The latest victim of a bimbo eruption is Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.). A powerful player in the Republican caucus, the most conservative senator according to the National Journal, and floater of trial balloons for a potential 2012 presidential run, Ensign’s admission of an affair with a campaign worker has rocked the GOP leadership. Rumors abound that Ensign was blackmailed by his mistress’ husband who threatened to go to Fox News with evidence of the affair, and that he cheated on his wife with another woman in the past. Ensign has called the affair “absolutely the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life” and has stepped down from his committee leadership positions in the Senate. His hairpiece has yet to comment on the brouhaha.

Marital infidelity is among the thorniest political issues. Its two poles of thought are the conservative line that elected leaders are supposed to be virtuous statesmen who set an example for their citizens, and the liberal tack that politicians are human like the rest of us and a thick wall of separation should be established between their private and public lives. Neither one seems adequately realistic. Politicians may be statesmen, but they’re subjected to human nature just the same as the rest of us. And yet the Clintonian defense that “everybody does it” is simply untrue: not everyone cheats and those who do face enormous consequences in their relationships. Ironically, politicians are often met with the opposite fate. Their spouses forgive them (as Ensign’s wife has said she does) but their careers are promptly ended.

Ensign is probably the least guilty political cheater of recent years. He did not solicit a hooker (as did Elliott Spitzer and David Vitter), his wife didn’t have cancer (as did John Edwards’), and he is not a serial philanderer (as was Bill Clinton). But Ensign will face additional scrutiny and ridicule from the media because he was a so-called family values Republican (Beltway code for: he disapproved of gay marriage). There is undoubtedly a specter of hypocrisy about a man who denies others the right to get a legal union while running about flagrantly violating his own marriage vows and Ensign will be publicly flogged for it. But does his career deserve to suffer irreversibly for what is ultimately a very human mistake? Conversely, can a republic function when its allegedly purehearted statesmen are often so personally corrupt? As Barack Obama might say, those questions are above my pay grade.

Did Democrats Nominate a Republican to Challenge Bob McDonnell?

2009 June 16
by mpurple

That’s probably overstating things a bit. Long-time Virginia politician Creigh Deeds is a Democrat. He supports abortion rights, stem cell research, government-funded preschool, and tougher regulation of commerce. He buys into liberal pipe dreams about a “green economy” and sponsored a bill that offered tax credits for land preservation, which he calls “one of the most progressive environmental protection laws in the country.”

Still, a cursory examination of Deeds’ website will bring a few smiles to the cigar smoke-wreathed, petroleum-stained face of any evil Republican. Here are a few highlights:

“Every day there are millions of transactions between individuals and businesses in Virginia, and the truth is the vast majority of them are good for everyone. Because of low taxes and regulation, Virginia is rated the best state in the country to do business. Senator Deeds believes we need to continue that approach.”

“For two decades Senator Deeds has been fighting in the legislature for tougher penalties for violent criminals and giving our law enforcement officers the training and tools they need to keep Virginians safe.”

“Deeds passed the legislation requiring that over-the-counter drugs used by illegal drug makers to manufacture meth be taken off the shelf and put behind the counter.”

“Earlier this year, Creigh supported legislation to provide tax relief for disabled veterans across Virginia.  As Governor, he will fight to ensure that this becomes law.”

Deeds is also opposed to most forms of gun control and even managed to scoop up the endorsement of the Virginia NRA during his 2005 candidacy for state Attorney General against none other than Bob McDonnell (who won by the slimmest of margins and now features a prominent section on his campaign website trumpeting his support of 2nd Amendment rights). Even more surprisingly, the rural Virginia Democrat proudly supports the death penalty and has stated repeatedly that he opposes any legal restrictions that prevent a jury from applying the ultimate sentence as they see fit. In 2005, he went so far as to denounce the Supreme Court for ruling that juveniles couldn’t be sentenced to death!

A pro-gun, pro-death penalty, anti-drug farm boy who is tough on crime and likes taxes low? Up north, we have a word for that: Republican.

Of course, if Democrats want to turn the South blue, they can’t nominate a Blackberry-wielding yuppie who grew up in Old Town Alexandria. Democrats win in Virginia by playing up their tough conservative credentials and running against Republican train wrecks, as with Tim Kaine in 2005 and Jim Webb in 2006. Despite the exodus of Washingtonians to its suburbs and exurbs, Virginia remains a culturally conservative, southern red state. Deeds, a talented and experienced pol who understands his state, will advertise his support for health care reform and green jobs in northern Virginia while making sure southern Virginia remembers his stances on guns and the death penalty. The equally skilled and likeable Bob McDonnell will have his work cut out for him over the next year.

That CUA alum Terry McAuliffe lost the Democratic primary is a colossal buzzkill for any McDonnell supporter. The loudmouthed McAuliffe — with his liberal positions, bloodshot eyes, New York roots, and Bidenesque tendency to generate staggeringly moronic soundbites — would have been up there with Chris Dodd as one of the greatest gifts for the beleaguered GOP this election season. Terry can add this recent loss to his proud wall of electoral accomplishments, which includes presiding over the DNC during the 2002 and 2004 national elections. But hey, there’s always hope. Bob Shrum is still kicking around, after all.

Letterman apologizes, Palin appalls

2009 June 16
by fbustamante

david letterman

It’s hard not to comment on such an absurd story, which extended another chapter between last night and sometime this morning. David Letterman, the high-profile comedian of some 30-odd years, took to his chair and apologized. It was a full-throated, thoughtful, soulful and unequivocal apology to the Palins, taking no road but the high one with clear regret in his eyes and voice. 

All right, here – I’ve been thinking about this situation with Governor Palin and her family now for about a week – it was a week ago tonight, and maybe you know about it, maybe you don’t know about it.  But there was a joke that I told, and I thought I was telling it about the older daughter being at Yankee Stadium. And it was kind of a coarse joke. There’s no getting around it, but I never thought it was anybody other than the older daughter, and before the show, I checked to make sure in fact that she is of legal age, 18. Yeah. But the joke really, in and of itself, can’t be defended. The next day, people are outraged. They’re angry at me because they said, ‘How could you make a lousy joke like that about the 14-year-old girl who was at the ball game?’  And I had, honestly, no idea that the 14-year-old girl, I had no idea that anybody was at the ball game except the governor and I was told at the time she was there with Rudy Giuliani … and I really should have made the joke about Rudy …” (audience applauds) “But I didn’t, and now people are getting angry and they’re saying, ‘Well, how can you say something like that about a 14-year-old girl, and does that make you feel good to make those horrible jokes about a kid who’s completely innocent, minding her own business,’ and, turns out, she was at the ball game. I had no idea she was there. So she’s now at the ball game, and people think that I made the joke about her. And, but still, I’m wondering, ‘Well, what can I do to help people understand that I would never make a joke like this?’ I’ve never made jokes like this as long as we’ve been on the air, 30 long years, and you can’t really be doing jokes like that. And I understand, of course, why people are upset. I would be upset myself.
“And then I was watching the Jim Lehrer ‘Newshour’ – this commentator, the columnist Mark Shields, was talking about how I had made this indefensible joke about the 14-year-old girl, and I thought, ‘Oh, boy, now I’m beginning to understand what the problem is here. It’s the perception rather than the intent.’ It doesn’t make any difference what my intent was, it’s the perception. And, as they say about jokes, if you have to explain the joke, it’s not a very good joke.  And I’m certainly – ” (audience applause) “– thank you. Well, my responsibility – I take full blame for that. I told a bad joke. I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception. And since it was a joke I told, I feel that I need to do the right thing here and apologize for having told that joke. It’s not your fault that it was misunderstood, it’s my fault. That it was misunderstood.” (audience applauds) “Thank you. So I would like to apologize, especially to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke. I’m sorry about it and I’ll try to do better in the future. Thank you very much.” (audience applause).

To be sure, many on the left will call Letterman weak and wavering while many on the right will protest he didn’t apologize enough,  but really the only significant players are Letterman and the Palins. And after the silly outrage the governor and her snowman manufactured, and after the political dance they did on behalf young girls who were somehow raped because of Letterman’s joke, this was their last chance to show some class, err, grace, err, decency. And did they?:

“Of course it’s accepted on behalf of young women, like my daughters, who hope men who ‘joke’ about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve. Letterman certainly has the right to ‘joke’ about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction. And this is all thanks to our U.S. Military women and men putting their lives on the line for us to secure America’s Right to Free Speech – in this case, may that right be used to promote equality and respect.”

Let’s play “Count the Hidden Agendas!”

1. “…like my daughters…” It wouldn’t be a Palin statement if her children weren’t dragged into it somehow. 

2. “…who hope men who ‘joke’ about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve.” She rehashed her whole spiel about how Letterman’s joke is directly relates to crimes or exploitation against young women.

3. And this is all thanks to our U.S. Military women and men…” The classic conservative line which apparently now can you get out of a debate on late night TV jokes! Of course, she fails to understand that saying “Thanks to our U.S. military women and men” actually ranks below doing anything about it, like crafting or enacting policy helping our military.

4. “…putting their lives on the line for us to secure America’s Right to Free Speech” This is less of uncovering a hidden agenda, and more about educating the governor: Stop using “freedom of speech” as a weapon to whine. Prohibiting Congress to abridge freedom of speech has nothing to do with Letterman telling a joke or your subsequent noise on the matter. 

Would it have killed her to be gracious or focused or even just concise to an apology she did not earn or even deserve? Sarah Palin seems to be about squandered opportunity. She was given a platform almost for free, and she just keeps on screwing it up, opting for politics over policy or even civility. She is officially not worth my time anymore. 

Letterman’s on-air apology

Meet the Palins

2009 June 15
by fbustamante

    the palins

I am in complete agreement with Sarah and notary in baton rouge Todd Palin that joking about raping a 14 year old is absolutely wrong, heinous, shameful, and inexcusable, and the person or people responsible for this evocation are deserving of an uprising against them. Those responsible are the Palins themselves. By twisting the premise, subjects, and meaning of a late night joke, Mrs. and Mr. Palin have shown tasteless and offensive ambition that knows no bounds, using their daughter Willow as mere waste to fuel their politically motivated smear campaign against – well, who ever is convenient at the time.

     By now, most are familiar with the controversy. But with all the spinning in the last week, let me transcribe David Letterman’s crime verbatim:

“One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.”

The joke was in poor taste and uncalled for and indeed almost anybody would have sided with the governor and her man-boy husband on the issue: imagine as parents if your child was the premise of a national joke regarding sex. And their response should have resembled something like:

While we understand David Letterman and other comedians like him earn a living making fun of celebrities and politicians, joking about our daughter having sex is vulgar, inappropriate, and in poor taste – Mr. Letterman, being a father, should have known better.

But something like that would have been too articulate and thoughtful for the arctic hillbillies. Instead, they said:

“Concerning Letterman’s comments about my young daughter (and I doubt he’d ever dare make such comments about anyone else’s daughter): ‘Laughter incited by sexually-perverted comments made by a 62-year-old male celebrity aimed at a 14-year-old girl is not only disgusting, but it reminds us some Hollywood/NY entertainers have a long way to go in understanding what the rest of America understands - that acceptance of inappropriate sexual comments about an underage girl, who could be anyone’s daughter, contributes to the atrociously high rate of sexual exploitation of minors by older men who use and abuse others.’” (Sarah Palin)

Todd was less verbose but naturally more charming:

“Any ‘jokes’ about raping my 14-year-old are despicable. Alaskans know it and I believe the rest of the world knows it, too”

 The Palins ‘response was incredibly provocative and disingenuous, purposefully using the word “rape” to manipulate the situation and mislead the public in a desperate effort to garner attention. Mission accomplished Sarah and Todd, but you overplayed your hand. David Letterman did not joke about their daughter being raped. Perhaps it was their signature ignorance, or as I suspect, their signature media-whoring, but rape is not interchangeable with statutory rape. A bishop is not an archbishop, tea is not iced tea, and rape is not statutory rape. In saying rape, they explicitly said that David Letterman joked about a man forcibly violating one of their daughters. Through statements and on public television, the Palins accused Letterman of conjuring an image of Alex Rodriguez raping their daughter. Even in the most outlandish interpretation of Letterman’s joke, the criminal act of rape does not emerge. Instead, the Palins consciously tailored their own interpretation and manufactured such a horrible image in an effort to victimize a comedian who at worst told an inappropriate joke. Many Americans families know the pain of enduring a rape, so for the Palins to jump to such a sensational and ignorant conclusion is filthy.

It is their prerogative to accept or reject Letterman’s explanation that he implied Bristol and not Willow: after all, any joke is equally hurtful. But in context of the debate, this point is important. In choosing to interpret Letterman’s joke as targeting Willow, the Palins made the controversy even more sordid by emphasizing Willow’s age over and over again. I am inclined to believe Letterman’s defense that he was referencing Bristol, who at 18 and with an infant son, made headlines during her mother’s campaign for vice president when it was known she was pregnant. Comedians are topical and relate jokes to true events. Therefore, a Palin daughter being knocked up, well, makes for a topical joke (made ironic by the governor’s staunch support for abstinence-only programs). This does not make the joke any less vulgar, but it certainly takes the target off of Willow’s back: after all, it’s Letterman’s joke and he said it was Bristol. But in refusing to believe Letterman on an ambiguous joke, the Palins reveal their classless motivation in insisting their 14 year old was targeted to augment support for team Palin.

Furthermore, joking about a pregnant Palin – the crux of Letterman’s joke- is made all the more topical because of Bristol’s abstinence and teen pregnancy reduction advocacy in the recent months – most notably her People Magazine cover story. As is the law of the media land, if you seek the spotlight, you will also get the heat. Thus, Letterman’s joke looks more and more like a lambasting on the Palin family and abstinence advocacy (as well as a womanizing Alex Rodriguez) and much less about the rape of a 14 year old (as the Palins would want us to believe).

And if we here to suspend all disbelief and take Sarah Palin’s side, accepting her feigned, or rather agenda-ed, outrage as real, then why would she joke about it in a follow-up statement declining an invitation on the Late Show, via a spokesperson.

            “Plus, it would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman”

If she were serious, and let’s pretend she was, she just called David Letterman a pedophile – which of course means she’s an idiot who completely missed the point of a simple joke, and has no business being a governor, much less a vice president or president. But chances are she was being cheeky, but there is nothing funny about rape or accusing someone of rape. And again, by invoking her daughter’s name in the way the statement did, she further advances the idea of rape, but now with a twist of pedophilia: That’s all you governor.

            Finally, Palin has taken this controversy to crusade against the, as she calls it, “Hollywood/NY entertainers.” So another agenda emerges, this one against the media: the Katie Courics, Tina Feys – and now the David Lettermans – of the world, who had a role in handicapping her candidacy. So we can see why she would want to call into question the morals and credibility of the media, at the detriment of her daughters of course.

One final point:

            “Gov. Palin announced over the weekend that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant. And you thought John Edwards was in trouble before! Now he has really done it.” – Jay Leno  9/2/08

Letterman wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last, to make such a joke, as evidence by his once-competitor Jay Leno and his joke, substituting A.Rod with the older and married John Edwards. Where was the outrage? Where was the insanity? Where were the calls for uprising? Becoming vice president I guess was more important than standing up for her daughter then – that and she already had all the media attention she could ever want.

The saddest part is that Palin was given the perfect opportunity to show this country she was more than the caricature the media portrays; that she could articulate a thoughtful response, act statesmanlike and engage with the media respectfully and intelligently – but in fact, she did the opposite, looking more like a reality TV diva than a poised and respectable politician. The Palins owe apologies all around, but most of all to their daughter, who was used as batting ram, instead of being protected. 

palin 2


A Sad “I Told You So”

2009 June 11
by fbustamante

     Political junkies will be quick to remember back in April when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was heavily criticized –urged to resign by some even- for a memo circulated by her department titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” As the title suggests, the memo outlined concerns of possible acts of violence by rightwing domestic terrorists – driven by issues such as immigration and gun control concerns, the troubling economy and the election of the first black president. Republicans and conservatives swiftly took exception, purporting to be victims of a partisan report and claiming that it targets your everyday conservatives as threats to our country -despite the word “Republican” or even “conservative” ever appearing in the report. Republican criticism was swift, unified, and across the board. Napolitano, who’s not one for controversy or media attention, apologized for the report, especially when Republicans sought to paint her – and President Obama by association – as opponents of our men and women in uniform, due to the report’s finding that disgruntled military veterans are at risk to carry out an act of terror. Recent events, like yesterday’s Holocaust museum shooting or the killing of abortion physician George Tiller, seem to prove Secretary Napolitano and the memo correct and more importantly, how shamefully mistaken the Republican Party is. The GOP lately has shown that they are not just the party of “No,” but the party of “NObama,” blindly and foolishly opposing anything the president supports. It is a knee-jerk reaction that resembles a twisted equation or some backwards syllogism: If Obama likes it, it must be bad. For them, the hate is so palpable and unjustifiably bitter, so little thought is put into their responses. This is what is poisoning the efforts and discourse of Washington. The politics has taken over the policy, at the expense of countless. The DHS report reads like a premonition of yesterday’s events: 

Rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on theeconomy, the perceived loss of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors,and home foreclosures. Anti-Semitic extremists attribute these losses to a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish “financial elites.” *The man charged with the Holocaust shooting, James von Bruhn, made his radical and prejudice opinions known on his website. 

“Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or  rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration. *von Bruhn is a known racist and anti-semite (and war veteran I might add), and the murder of Dr. Tiller was motivated by the abortion issue.

“DHS/I&A assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”

With all this information aimed at protecting Americans and keeping them vigilant, Napolitano was laughed off as a left wing nut. She can now take dubious solace in the fact that she told us so. And perhaps these atrocities where unstoppable, regardless of the reactions the memo elicited, but what is most disconcerting is that many in the Republican Party wrote this off – laughed it off- only to, one could imagine, desperately score some political points. They just wanted to make noise. This should serve as a lesson: LISTEN TO THE PRESIDENT AND THE OFFICIALS HE APPOINTED. Listen, then digest, then meditate, then form, then articulate. All this rush to stick it to Obama, to find some fault or some leeway to reasonably manipulate and attack just to make the evening news or circulate some statement attaching the president with some negative adjective – this is a disservice to their own party, to their constituents, and to their country. 

I assume this is why they GOP reacted the way they did. The alternative explanation is that they find the threat of domestic terrorism negligible, and  considering the Republican slippery claim on “protecting this nation” as their crowning (read: only) achievement, well, it makes even less sense to decimate a memo outlining a possible, real threat to the security of Americans.

Full DHS memo