Archive for the ‘Bobo’s Bloggy Thingy’ Category

Dowd and Brooks’ Bloggy-Thingy

January 30, 2008

MoDo is channeling Emily Post this morning.  She says, in a thing she typed called “Seeing Red Over Hillary,” that it would have been the natural thing for Barack Obama, only hours after his emotional embrace by the Kennedys, to greet the rebuffed Hillary Clinton at the State of the Union address.  Bobo does his bloggy-thingy about what Florida taught him.  Here’s MoDo:

Even newly armored by the spirit of Camelot, Barack Obama is still distressed by the sight of a certain damsel.

It’s already famous as The Snub, the moment before the State of the Union when Obama turned away to talk to Claire McCaskill instead of trying to join Teddy Kennedy in shaking hands with Hillary.

Nobody cared about W., whose presidency had crumpled into a belated concern about earmarks.

The only union that fascinated was Obama and Hillary, once more creeping around each other.

It would have been the natural thing for the Illinois senator, only hours after his emotional embrace by the Kennedys and an arena full of deliriously shrieking students, to follow the lead of Uncle Teddy and greet the rebuffed Hillary.

She was impossible to miss in the sea of dark suits and Supreme Court dark robes. Like Scarlett O’Hara after a public humiliation, Hillary showed up at the gathering wearing a defiant shade of red.

But the fact that he didn’t do so shows that Obama cannot hide how much the Clintons rattle him, and that he is still taking the race very personally.

On a flight to Kansas yesterday to collect another big endorsement, this one from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Obama said he was “surprised” by reports of The Snub.

“I was turning away because Claire asked me a question as Senator Kennedy was reaching forward,” he said. “Senator Clinton and I have had very cordial relations off the floor and on the floor. I waved at her as I was coming into the Senate chamber before we walked over last night. I think there is just a lot more tea leaf reading going on here than I think people are suggesting.”

But that answer is disingenuous. Their relations have been frosty and fraught ever since the young Chicago prince challenged Queen Hillary’s royal proclamation that it was her turn to rule.

Last winter, after news broke that he was thinking of running, he winked at her and took her elbow on the Senate floor to say hi, in his customary languid, friendly way, and she coldly brushed him off.

It bothered him, and he called a friend to say: You would not believe what just happened with Hillary.

Again and again at debates, he looked eager to greet her or be friendly during the evening and she iced him. She might have frozen him out once more Monday night had he actually tried to reach out.

But now Obama is like that cat Mark Twain wrote about who wouldn’t jump on the stove again for fear of being burned.

It was only after the distortions of the Clintons in South Carolina that he changed his tone and took on Hillary in a tough way in the debate there. Afterward, one of his advisers said that it was as though a dam had broken and Obama finally began using all the sharp lines against Hillary that strategists had been suggesting for months.

Why had it taken so long for Obama to push back against Hillary? “He respected her as a senator,” the adviser replied. “He even defended her privately when she cried, saying that no one knows how hard these campaigns are.”

But Obama’s outrage makes him seem a little jejune. He is surely the only person in the country who was surprised when the Clintons teamed up to dissemble and smear when confronted with an impediment to their ambitions.

Knowing that it helped her when Obama seemed to be surly with her during the New Hampshire debate, telling her without looking up from his notes that she was “likable enough” — another instance of Obama not being able to hide his bruised feelings — Hillary went on ABC News last night to insinuate that he was rude Monday.

“Well, I reached my hand out in friendship and unity and my hand is still reaching out,” she said, lapsing back into the dissed-woman mode. “And I look forward to shaking his hand sometime soon.”

Something’s being stretched here, but it’s not her hand. She wasn’t reaching out to him at all.

The New York State chapter of NOW issued an absurd statement on Monday calling Teddy Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama “the ultimate betrayal”: “He’s picked the new guy over us.”

But Obama is the more emotionally delicate candidate, and the one who has the more feminine consensus management style, and the not-blinded-by-testosterone ability to object to a phony war.

As first lady, Alpha Hillary’s abrasive and secretive management of health care doomed it. She voted to enable W. on Iraq so she could run as someone tough enough to command armies.

Given her brazen quote to ABC News, Obama is right to be scared of Hillary. He just needs to learn that Uncle Teddy can’t fight all his fights, and that a little chivalry goes a long way.

Here’s Bobo:

 Here are a few things I learned Tuesday night.

First, good candidates are never completely out of it. Several months ago I was covering a John McCain event in Keene, New Hampshire. It was at the low point of the McCain candidacy, after his staff explosion and when the campaign bank account was dry. There was no bus and he was staying in the cheapest motels in town.

After the event, he invited the press corps out to dinner. I was the entire press corps. We went to a cheap hamburger place and I was tempted to buy him and his three aides dinner, since his campaign had no money. (Being a cheap journalist, I resisted the temptation.) But do you want to know what his mood was like?

He was fine. Winning the nomination, let alone the presidency, seemed like the longest of long shots back then. But he was fine with that. He wanted to win, but he was content to merely go to small gatherings and have his say. There was no bitterness. Nor was there any desperate casting about for ways to turn things around.

He just plugged along. He stayed true to himself. Eventually good and honest candidates get rewarded no matter how badly outspent they are, no matter how few consultants they have.

Second, voters are human beings, not automatons. As always, there were perplexities in the exit polls. The economy was the top voter concern. McCain did well among economically minded voters even though Romney talks economics far more. As Tom Bevan of the invaluable RealClearPolitics site points out, Romney was the second choice of many Rudy Giuliani voters while McCain was the overwhelming second choice among the very conservative Mike Huckabee voters. These things happen because voters are not ideological robots. They vote in ways that defy ideological categorization, but make sense as character judgments.

Third, the big conservative issues did not bark, once again. Can we please stop pretending that immigration is a good issue for Republicans? The restrictionist side can’t even produce a victory for their man in a Republican primary. Rudy Giuliani promised gigantic tax cuts. Got him nowhere. Romney also promised big tax cuts. Nada. Romney hit McCain for being soft on social issues. Goose egg.

Fourth, elections without campaigns don’t count. Hillary Clinton won big on the Democratic side. I still think she is the Democratic front-runner (she’s got huge leads in the big states), but this win doesn’t mean much. In other states many more Democrats voted than Republicans. But not in Florida. Seniors turned out, which is good for Hillary. But younger people and minority groups didn’t so much. In short, Florida is not a test of where the Democratic race is.

Finally, here are two things I don’t know about yet:

First, how desperate is Romney? The Wednesday debate is his last shot at turning this around. If he is truly frantic, he will hit McCain hard on the temperament issue and hope McCain blows up on national TV. It will be an ugly assault, but the mark of a man who is willing to try anything. If Romney’s not willing to get that ugly, he’ll just use the same arguments he tried in Florida.

Second, what does delegate hunting look like? For decades, presidential primaries have been settled by momentum. That is unlikely to happen on the Democratic side. Super-Duper-Looper Tuesday will almost certainly not settle the Democratic race because each side will emerge with many delegates. But how do you campaign in this environment? Do you try to win states? Do you focus on Congressional Districts with high turnouts, which sometimes get rewarded? Do you care about the national aggregate numbers next Tuesday? Almost nobody now living has done this before. And the challenge for us journalists is that we will have no clue next Tuesday how to make sense of the hundreds of different sorts of results that will come in.

If you don’t find this prospect exciting then you don’t like politics. And if so, why have you read this deep into this post?

Dowd and Bobo’s Bloggy Thingy

January 16, 2008

MoDo says that President Bush’s 11th-hour bid to save his legacy from being a shattered Iraq recalled MTV’s “Cribs.”  I’ve never seen the show, but if W’s swanning around the Middle East makes her think of it I’m sure it sucked.  Bobo’s doing his bloggy thingy today, and apparently he’s all miffed that the Democratic candidates did not respond to the stupid race-baiting questions asked by the buffoons who moderated last night’s debate.  He says on Tuesday night, the Democrats enjoyed a love-fest, but the Republican campaign is in upheaval.  Oh, and in case you hadn’t heard yet, Rudy got his lunch eaten by Ron Paul and Sleepy Fred again.  [snort]  [giggle]  BWAHAHAHAHA…  Here’s MoDo:

As a Saudi soldier with a gold sword high-stepped in front of him, President Bush walked slowly beside King Abdullah through the shivery gray mist enveloping the kingdom, following the red carpet leading from Air Force One to the airport terminal.

When the two stepped onto the escalator, the president tenderly reached for the king’s hand, in case the older man needed help. He certainly does need help, but not the kind he is prepared to accept.

It took Mr. Bush almost his entire presidency to embrace diplomacy, but now that he’s in the thick of it, or perhaps the thin of it — given his speed-dating approach to statesmanship — he is kissing and holding hands with kings, princes, emirs, sheiks and presidents all over the Arab world and is trying to persuade them that he is not in a monogamous relationship with the Jews.

His message boiled down to: Iran bad, Israel good, Iraq doing better.

Blessed is the peacemaker who comes bearing a $30 billion package of military aid for Israel and a $20 billion package of Humvees and guided bombs for the Arabs.

Like the slick Hollywood guy in “Annie Hall” who has a notion that he wants to turn into a concept and then develop into an idea, W. has resumed his mantra of having a vision that turns into freedom that could develop into global democracy.

W.’s peace train quickly gave way to the warpath, however, with Mr. Bush devoting a good chunk of time to the unfinished war in Iraq and the possibility of a war with Iran.

In meetings with leaders, he privately pooh-poohed the National Intelligence Estimate asserting that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. On Fox News, he openly broke with intelligence analysts, telling Greta Van Susteren about Iran: “I believe they want a weapon, and I believe that they’re trying to gain the know-how as to how to make a weapon under the guise of a civilian nuclear program.”

Less than a week after the president arrived in the Middle East, three violent eruptions — an Israeli raid killing at least 18 Palestinians, 13 of whom were militants; an American Embassy car bombing in Beirut; and a luxury hotel suicide-bombing in Kabul — underscored how Sisyphean a task he has set for himself.

“This is one of the results of the Bush visit,” said Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, as he went to a Gaza hospital to see the body of his son, a militant killed in the battle. “He encouraged the Israelis to kill our people.”

Arab TV offered an uncomfortable juxtaposition: Al Arabiya running the wretched saga of Gaza children suffering from a lack of food and medicine during the Israeli blockade, blending into the wretched excess scenes of W. being festooned with rapper-level bling from royal hosts flush with gazillions from gouging us on oil.

W.’s 11th-hour bid to save his legacy from being a shattered Iraq — even as the Iraqi defense minister admitted that American troops would be needed to help with internal security until at least 2012 and border defense until at least 2018 — recalled MTV’s “Cribs.”

At a dinner last night in the king’s tentlike retreat, where the 8-foot flat-screen TV in the middle of the room flashed Arab news, the president and his advisers Elliott Abrams and Josh Bolten went native, lounging in floor-length, fur-lined robes, as if they were Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif.

In Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan gave the president — dubbed “the Wolf of the Desert” by a Kuwaiti poet — a gigantic necklace made of gold, diamonds, rubies and emeralds, so gaudy and cumbersome that even the Secret Service agent carrying it seemed nonplussed. Here in Saudi Arabia, the king draped W. with an emerald-and-ruby necklace that could have come from Ali Baba’s cave.

Time’s Massimo Calabresi described the Kuwaiti emir’s residence where W. dined Friday as “crass class”: “Loud paintings of harems and the ruling Sabah clan hang near Louis XVI enameled clocks and candlesticks in the long hallways.”

In Abu Dhabi, the president made a less-than-rousing speech about democracy while staying in the less-than-democratic Emirates Palace hotel’s basketball-court-size Ruler’s Suite — an honor reserved for royalty and W. and denied to Elton John, who is coming later this month to play the Palace.

The president’s grandiose room included a ballroom, in case Mr. Bush wanted to practice the tribal sword dancing he has been rather sheepishly doing with some of his hosts, something between Zorba and Zorro. The $3 billion, seven-star, 84,114-square-foot pink marble hotel — said to be the most expensive ever built — would make Trump blush. It glistens with 64,000 square feet of 22-carat gold leaf, 1,000 chandeliers, 20,000 roses changed every day, 200 fountains, a dome higher than St. Peter’s, an archway larger than the Arc de Triomphe, a beach with white sand shipped in from Algeria and a private heliport. The rooms, scattered with rose petals, range from $1,598 to $12,251.

Puddle jumping through Arabia, the president saw his share of falcons in little leather hoods — presumably not a Gitmo reference — and Arabian stallions, including one retired stud from Texas — presumably not a W. reference. But there was a distinct dearth of wives and dissidents.

It does not bode well for the president’s ability to push the Israelis and Palestinians that he has done so little to push Musharraf on catching Osama, despite our $10 billion endowment, or the Saudis on women’s rights and human rights, even with the $20 billion arms package.

At a press conference last night, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, was asked what the president and king had discussed about human rights.

“About what?” the prince repeated flatly.

“Human rights,” Condi prompted.

“Human rights?” the stately prince pondered, before shimmying out of the question.

Though W. has made the issue of the progress of women in the Middle East a central part of “the freedom agenda” — he had a roundtable over the weekend with Kuwaiti women on democracy and development — he doesn’t seem bothered that 17 years after his father protected the Saudis when Saddam invaded Kuwait, Saudi women still can’t drive or publicly display hair or skin and still get beheaded and lashed because of archaic laws. Neither does the female secretary of state of the United States.

“It’s not allowed for ladies to use the gym,” the Marriott desk clerk told me, an American woman in an American franchise traveling with an American president.

W. was strangely upbeat throughout the trip — “Dates put you in a good mood, right?” he joked to reporters yesterday, specifying that he meant the fruit — even though back home the Republican candidates were running from him and clinging to Reagan.

The Saudi big shots I talked to were intrigued that W. is now more in the sway of Condi than Bombs Away Cheney. They admire his intention about making peace, even though they’re skeptical that he has the time or competence to do it; and they’re sure that the Israelis need more of a shove than a nudge.

They are also dubious about his attempts to demonize and isolate Iran.

“We don’t need America to dictate our enemies to us, especially when it’s our neighbor,” said an insider at the Saudi royal court. The Saudis invited the Iranian president, I’m-a-Dinner-Jacket, to their hajj pilgrimage last month.

Saudis and Palestinians grumbled that they find it hard to listen to the president’s high-flown paeans to democracy when he only acknowledges his brand of democracy. When Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood won elections, W. sought to undermine them. The results of the elections were certainly troubling, but is democratization supposed to be about outcomes?

They also think W.’s plan cancels itself out. The Israelis don’t have to stop settlements if rockets are coming in from Gaza, and Abbas, the Palestinian president, can’t stop rockets from going out of an area he does not control.

The president who described himself at Galilee as “a pilgrim” makes peace sound as easy as three faiths sharing, when history has shown that the hardest thing on earth is three faiths sharing.

Asked by ABC’s Terry Moran what he was thinking when he stood on the site where Jesus performed miracles at the Sea of Galilee, W. replied: “I reflected on the story in the New Testament about the calm and the rough seas, because it was on those very seas that the Lord was in the boat with the disciples, and they were worried about the waves and the wind, and the sea calmed. That’s what I reflected on: the calm you can find in putting your faith in a higher power.”

Clearly, the man believes in miracles.

Here’s Bobo doing his bloggy thingy:

Here are a few things that happened Tuesday night.

First, it was a good night for the Democrats and a bad night for the Republicans. The Democratic debate has been a love fest. The candidates have all (for very good reasons) decided to pull back from the mutual kamikaze tone of the past few days. Their discussion constituted a repudiation of the old Boss Daley of Chicago, who famously said that politics ain’t beanbag. Apparently politics is beanbag, because that’s all the Democrats threw at each other tonight. I’ve seen more conflict at a pacifists’ stir-fry.

Meanwhile, the Republican prospects in the fall just got even dimmer. I say this not only because a weak general election candidate won a primary, but because Mitt Romney’s win pretty much guarantees a bitter fight for the nomination. If you doubt that, here is what Rush Limbaugh said about McCain and Huckabee on his program today: “I’m here to tell you, if either of these two guys get the nomination, it’s going to destroy the Republican Party, it’s going to change it forever, be the end of it.” This week, Rush and his radio mimics have been on the rampage on the party’s modernizers, from Newt Gingrich on over.

This thing will only get uglier.

Second, Mitt Romney found, as Hillary would say, his voice. I remember watching him campaign at a financial company about 6 months ago. He talked about business and was fantastic. The next event was at a senior citizen center. He was ideological and dreadful. In Michigan, the full corporate Mitt was on display.

His campaign was a reminder of how far corporate Republicans are from free market Republicans. He proposed $20 billion in new federal spending on research. He insisted that Washington had to get fully engaged in restoring the United States automotive industry. “Detroit can only thrive if Washington is an engaged partner,” he said, “not a disinterested observer.” He vowed, “If I’m president of this country, I will roll up my sleeves in the first 100 days I’m in office, and I will personally bring together industry, labor, Congressional and state leaders and together we will develop a plan to rebuild America’s automotive leadership.”

This is how the British Tory party used to speak in the 1970s.

The third thing that happened tonight is that Hillary Clinton and John Edwards disgraced themselves in the minds of debate-watchers everywhere. At some point in each campaign, candidates are asked to name their greatest weakness. Only the lamest political hacks answer that question this way: Goshdarn it, I just care too much. I am too impatient for good things to happen.

Giving that answer is an insult to the art of politics. And yet Edwards and Clinton both gave that answer. They didn’t even give artfully disguised versions of that answer. They gave the straight, unsubtle kindergarten version of that answer. Obama, honestly, admitted that he’s bad at organizing his paperwork. Truly, here is a man willing to stand for change.