If ABC ran the Lincoln-Douglas Debates

The Lincoln-Douglas debates, as conducted by ABC:
LINCOLN: In my opinion, slavery will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Excuse me, did an Elijah H. Johnson attend your church?

LINCOLN: When I was a boy in Illinois forty years ago, yes. I think he was a deacon.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you aware that he regularly called Kentucky “a land of swine and whores”?

LINCOLN: Sounds right -- his ex-wife was from Kentucky.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why did you remain in the church after hearing those statements?

LINCOLN: I was eight.

DOUGLAS: This is an important question George -- it's an issue that certainly will be raised in the fall.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you denounce him?

LINCOLN: I’d like to get back to the divided house if I may.

Link (via Making Light)

75

  1. Presumably, the spoof is attempting to hew to historical accuracy rather than trying to exactly map Obama’s history onto Lincoln’s. Surely the piece is more about ABC’s style of debates than a comment on Obama.

  2. i didn’t really find reverend wright’s comments offensive. i think holding america accountable for 9/11 (at least in part) isn’t really a stretch. also some of his racial critiques are true (as witnessed by this white male who lives in a poor black neighborhood).

    while i understand it for political reasons, obama’s distancing himself from wright is one of my only qualms with his candidacy. in general i think obama is more erudite, more ideal, and a great dancer.

  3. oh, and funny piece, cory… i was missing the politics on boing boing. i think they can be wonderful, especially with sufficient satire, wit and balance, which boing boing seems to show (even while having bias, which is the mark of true thinkers).

  4. #1 – I believe the ’40 years ago’ and ‘when I was 8’ portions were in reference to questions about Obama and William Ayers more than Obama and Wright.

  5. I wasn’t aware that Lincoln lied, gave evasive answers, and made transparently fake pledges not to raise taxes during his debates with Douglas.

  6. The Obama-ites are crying about mistreatment by the press??? Wow. That takes some real cojones.

    :P

  7. Obama supporters don’t mind tough questions about policy. Rip into him about how he’ll pay for health care, about details on getting out of Iraq, about his plans for China, about how he’ll fix the subprime crisis…but not about bullsh*t like Ayers.

    If you can’t tell the difference between a meaningless gotcha question and a tough policy question, you’re a fool.

    For the record, the Tuzla question to Hillary was unfair too.

  8. ABC actually did a fine job with the debate. Obama needs to answer these questions completely (Wright, Ayers) if he wants to connect with middle America at all. Yes, the wacky left just wish everyone would forget about these ties to ugly people – but that isn’t going to happen.

  9. Charlie Gibson is a useless tool.

    ABC/Disney is run by foaming at the mouth Dominionists. These are the people that blamed 9-11 on Clinton. The same cult that Mike Huckabee belongs to. These people make Jerry Falwell look sane and rational.

  10. I see.

    The planet stands at a crossroads; on one side, allow America the choice again – even though the last two “choices” were disaster for humanity and the physical world itself – or rise up as one, all nations of the Earth, and smite down the irresponsible presently holding the greatest leverage.

    what to do, what to do……..

  11. The reason the Wright controversy, the whole “bitter” brouhaha, and now Ayers gain so much traction is that Obama’s personal character is largely unknown. He is a blank slate.

    This has served him well in the primary, because many voters are projecting their personal preferences onto him. It was only a matter of time until his character became The Issue of both campaigns.

    Are ABC’s question’s probing his personal character
    really so bad. This man may be our next president.

  12. Oh come on, character is less well defined by the past than it is by the future. “It ain’t where you been, it’s where you’re going.”

  13. Debates should be about issues — jobs, the environment, healthcare, the economy, Iraq, civil rights. It’s a waste of time to detour. (“Someone else did this, but what do you think of it?!”)

    Someone argued that in order to inject these “gotcha” moments, the media invented the non-issue of “character” so they’d have an excuse for getting gossip-y. The other standard syntax is a meta question — if I ask you a really combative question, will you be able to deflect it well enough to prove you’re worthy to be President?”

    The first “gotcha” question I can remember was in 1988 — Bernard Shaw asked Michael Dukakis: “If your wife was raped, THEN would you support the death penalty?” But now every question is a gotcha question.

  14. There were no moderators at the original Lincoln/Douglas debates. Lincoln and Douglas spoke directly to each other, and for better or worse, they dared to state their real opinions on the most important social issue of the day.

    Lincoln actually lost the debates — or at least, failed to get elected at the end of the campaign.
    “I now sink out of view,” he told a friend, “and shall be forgotten.”

  15. Clinton and McCain are both relatively known quantities. Obama is still an unknown. Is he a center left candidate or a hard left candidate. Can you honestly tell me you know?
    I’m worried that he hasn’t received the scrutiny that is appropriate to the office he seeks. Even the
    “gotcha questions” are welcome at this point.

  16. “i didn’t really find reverend wright’s comments offensive. i think holding america accountable for 9/11 (at least in part) isn’t really a stretch”

    That’s like saying that Principal Jim was responsible for his tires getting slashed by Johnny because he suspended Johnny for doing something he wasn’t supposed to.

    While I am sure Principal Jim’s actions toward Johnny may have made Johnny feel that Principal Jim deserved it, we as adults know better. Well we should anyhow.

    “The Obama-ites are crying about mistreatment by the press???”

    Maybe not the press itself. But just those that are friends with Hillary that have dealings with the press. For example, that information that was leaked about Edwards by a magazine that was owned by one of Hillary’s main supporters. She has had the ability to make more “friends” in the past 16 years compared to Obama. She has also had time to make more enemies too. That’s why she is trailing behind.

    “Oh come on, character is less well defined by the past than it is by the future. “It ain’t where you been, it’s where you’re going.”

    Depends, especially when one shows a history of doing the same thing over and over again.

  17. Concerning Dr. Wright:

    Of course, if you watch the full sermon, you’ll see that Wright was quoting US Ambassador Edward Peck in a Fox interview when he spoke of “chickens coming home to roost”. It was not and is not an extreme position, but Wright had the bad grace to express it in an angry way, and the bad grace to do so while black.

    Dr. Wright is an amazing man. He holds some dumbass views, I agree, but he founded one of the first AIDS ministries in Chicago’s South Side, started a singles night for gays and lesbians in his congregation (against pressure from his more conservative members), welcomed German visitors to Trinity by giving a portion of his sermon in German (he speaks six languages), assisted in heart surgery on President Lyndon Johnson (and was commended twice by that President), earned a PhD and a stack of honorary doctorates, and has devoted thirty years of his life to doing God’s work in Chicago. Yes, he’s sometime angry and intemperate and blustrous, but this white boy holds him in high regard in spite of it.

    It is, frankly, intellectually dishonest to judge a thirty-year career based on thirty seconds of soundbites. I encourage everyone to watch a full sermon or two, and watch the testimonials from parishoners (white and black) who tell us how welcoming and accepting Trinity has been. Wright’s gotten railroaded by a press that doesn’t like looking fairly at unpopular opinions.

  18. “It is, frankly, intellectually dishonest to judge a thirty-year career based on thirty seconds of soundbites”

    This is the age of youtube and small attention spans. Clearly you jest.

    Esp when a President gives a speech and all one can talk about is how he pronounced a single word.

  19. While your post makes the idea of an ABC Lincoln/Douglas debate funny, there is nothing funny about ABC allowing George Stephanapolous to emcedd the debate when he has a possible bias in favor of his former employers — the Clintons!

  20. @ – kevink #18

    can you really, with a straight face, claim that the u.s. is in NO WAY culpable for 9/11?

    even with the u.s. training al qaeda, violently disrupting the middle east, colluding with corrupt governments, etc..?

    you’re even more close-minded than i am, then…

    @ takuan # 11

    i love you, but could you unpack that a bit for me, i’m feeling slow… do you support a candidate? (bear in mind that while i support obama, i am also an anarchist…)

    @ everyone else…

    the first three links in my bill ayers post contain information about falsehoods presented as fact in the debates by the moderators…

  21. George Stephanopoulos is a cautionary tale of what happens when the cute goes away. His highest and best use would be to provide self-portraits for catlols.

  22. Certainly:

    The apparent,immediate electoral contest is “American”. Only Americans get a vote, but the whole world is affected. American politics insofar as “Leader” is concerned are just the same as Japanese. To wit: the President is a hood ornament, it changes nothing about the engine etc.

    The world is serious trouble right now. Eight years of disastrous American foreign policy, conducted by the Cheney Presidency (please, leave the monkey aside for the moment and talk Real Politik)to profit a small criminal clique, has done real harm both in the USA and elsewhere. This was aided and abetted by and American electorate that failed utterly in its responsibilities. The non-American part of the planet blames them for that.

    Suppose you are one passenger in a carload of people being driven off a cliff by a laughing maniac. You know the other passengers are equally terrifed and sooner or later will start talking to each other about grabbing the wheel. The only problem is, you’re married to the driver.

  23. I absolutely love this line:

    “If your love for America were ice cream, what flavor would it be?”

    Obsidian Wings is one of the great blogs, next to Crooked Timber and Orcinus. These are one, two and three in my must read lefty blog list. There are zero newspapers on that list.

  24. Wow, you Obamites are sure worked up about the fact that your candidate doesn’t like answering difficult and personal questions. Which, uh, is part of politics. I wonder if you are concerned that he doesn’t seem to understand the capital gains tax.

    By the way, there have been 20+ debates at this point – ample opportunity to cover “substantive” issues, even though none of the candidates’ “plans” will emerge from the political process in anything close to resembling original form. I’d rather hear about why Obama gave $20k+ to a nutjob minister.

  25. “can you really, with a straight face, claim that the u.s. is in NO WAY culpable for 9/11?”

    I showed you exactly in what way I thought we were “culpable”

    “even with the u.s. training al qaeda”

    I guess we trained them in the way the US army trained Timothy McVay. While yes, he was in the army, and yes he received training from our government, they didn’t teach him to murder buildings full of innocent people because you think you are justified in doing so.

    ” violently disrupting the middle east, ”

    The middle east has been violently disrupted for centuries. Where have you been?

    “you’re even more close-minded than i am, then…”

    Close minded? No. Just being honest and realistic without the hyperbole.

    “Eight years of disastrous American foreign policy, conducted by the Cheney Presidency .”

    You mean the same foreign policy Clinton had?

    http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9802/17/iraq.clinton/

    I guess I am one of the few people here that remembers before 2001

  26. BTW I am not on Obama’s side. I am not on Hillary’s side. Nor am I on McCain’s side. I think we got a ourselves another handful of losers again. Like the past two decades. Not a big surprise.

    No one that would be good wants to do it. The job has no respect anymore.

    The media has turned the Presidency into a rock and roll concert. And the masses lap it up.

  27. @dbot
    I wonder if you are concerned that he doesn’t seem to understand the capital gains tax.

    I’m not sure that he fails to understand them. He simply doesn’t seem to care about the real impact of his policies beyond simply what sounds good from an ideological viewpoint. It’s pretty clear that he would raise capital gains taxes out of “fairness” even at the expense of lower revenues and a worse performing economy. That’s scary.

    @kevink
    I think we got a ourselves another handful of losers again.

    Amen, brother. The Republicans are untrustworthy and controlled my religion. The Democrats have a nonsensical platform.

  28. KevinK, I recommend a multi-part documentary the BBC produced a few years back called the power of nightmares, which investigates the history of Al Queda and extreme Islamic terrorism in general. I remember, for instance, a clip of Reagan dedicating the Challanger space shuttle launch to the mujahadeen [proto-Al Queada], which is one of those things that you just have to laugh at…until the ball drops, then you cry and cry and cry, then get drunk and repeat.

    Having just finished reading Wilhelm Reich’s ‘Listen Little Man’ [to summarise it in one sentence: ‘everyone is a stupid stupid fascist, except me, I am not a fascist] I am uniquely qualified to give a response replete with the amount of cynicism appropriate to a discussion of the media in the United States.

    Do you know, I’ve seen almost every episode of the West Wing, and I still have no idea what the president actually does on a day to day basis? It seems like he [or she, why not?] basically corresponds to the English Queen: makes speeches on important occasions, travels around meeting people, lots of waving, dinner parties, but no real work. And of course, there’s my pet thesis that George W. is the first reality tv president. I mean, he really is doing what any of us would do if we found ourselves president: abuse all the benefits of office, take as much time off as possible to catch up on all the universe wide comic book crossovers that came out in the last few years and let the experts handle the nitty gritty. If they made Congress into a reality tv show, I would watch the shit out of it.

    Still, I don’t know how the network news gets away with it. The news is neither informative nor entertaining [unless you have a sick sense of humour]. I can’t turn on a news channel without a sense of wide eyed, jaw dropping horror, that in the mind of a rational human being what I am watching could represent a fair and comprehensive survey of the world today.

    I loved especially that debate sponsored by YouTube a while back, where the audience opinion was scrolling across the screen in real time. First of all, you could tell the audience were not the brightest, since the rating never dropped below seven or so for any candidate. One rather wonders why the scale was one to ten, and not one to three, since clearly the public’s scale of opinion of politicians is limited to perfect, superlative, and very very good, if the scrolling opinions were anything to go by. Either that, or the audience was doped up before the debate began.

    Anyway, this is all a pussyfooted way of saying, it isn’t like the candidates themselves aren’t superficial. I mean, i follow many people on this thread in not having a strong opinion on any candidate, but Obama’s ‘change’ has to be the most superficial campaign in the history of politics. change from what to what? Politics ‘changed’ under Reagan and W. more than under any other administration, is that what he means? Or does he mean a change back to the status quo, the liberal consensus of Clinton? Change is a neutral term, without a context it means nothing. there’s all this talk of changing attitudes and hope, but really I don’t think people care about other people’s attitudes and hope, I think people want more and better stuff. Why don’t politicians use /that/ as a slogan? and why aren’t they asking that in the debates? will your nomination lead to more and better stuff? Obama came the closest I suppose, with his ‘vote for me and I’ll give you a thousand bucks’, but he really should have just promised a Wii in every home.

    Sorry, i’ve been doing manual labour all day, and needed some kind of vent. feel free to dismantle as appropriate ;p

  29. I disagree. These are 3 of the strongest candidates in years. With apologies to Al Gore. We have 2 lifelong Social Progressives and a Conservative who USED to have some integrity, I like to think he still has it, but I’m disheartened by some of his meetings with the like of Pat Robertson and other far right extremists.

    Any of the three would be great Presidents.

  30. and what can any one person do with this office? In the end, even the strongest and best intentioned are slaves of their machine.

  31. In the end, even the strongest and best intentioned are slaves of their machine.

    I used to think that, but if you compare Clinton’s eight years with Bush’s, it appears that the president can have quite a bit of impact.

  32. “Is he a center left candidate or a hard left candidate. Can you honestly tell me you know? ”

    Yes, I can honestly tell you I know; it’s not like Obama hasn’t written a couple of books, and he -does- have a voting record. “Hard left?” lolzers, indeed.

  33. it’s not like Obama hasn’t written a couple of books

    Playing the ‘ability to read’ card, eh?

  34. That is why it’s called the Cheney Presidency. The chimp doesn’t even merit a cuff, much less a footnote.

    As to the odd bit of dung floating around, a steady stream of pure posts soon washes that sort of thing away

  35. I know that this is the straight line for a thousand punchlines, but I really do wonder what goes on in Bush’s head. Does he know that he has the lowest approval rating since Caligula or that historians are already proclaiming him history’s worst president? Does it ruffle his wa?

  36. he was seriously mentally unbalanced a few years ago, based on White House leaks. Supposedly because everything was so HARD and nobody LIKED him. Who knows what meds they keep him on. With someone of such weak character and feeble mental powers, it’s probably easy to keep him going now because the end is near.

  37. If Obama is elected, I don’t care if he’s completely ineffective, or if he drags us one step closer to world socialism. I’ve given up on the premise that people have any effect in politics, anyway. But if he can simply act respectably for four or eight years, he’ll be raising the bar several notches. And it’s something that Clinton (who over the course of her campaign has eliminated all doubt that she’s a bitch) or McCain (who’s left his former honesty behind) could never do.

  38. When you say three of the strongest candidates in years, it is tempting to answer, well that isn’t saying much.

    One of the interesting things in the American political system is that while the Israeli system, with no party ever taking a majority and the necessity to form coalitions in order to govern seems odd in comparison, in actual fact, the two parties are coalitions in themselves, so Del Miller [is that his name? The wack job from Georgia?] or Joseph Lieberman are democrats and Jack Reed, the former senator from Rhode Island, is a Republican, despite tending not to toe party lines. But in belonging to either party, and indeed between either party, there is a narrow consensus, in my opinion, on what seem to me the most important issues, namely economic ones.

    The Roosevelt era dependency of Democrats on unions has not only withered, but the unions themselves are no longer asking for anything other than what industrial owners are willing to give them, so there is minimal surface level conflict between working class people and richer type people, or indeed, any demands of working class people are by and large deemed irrelevant to electoral politics. Economic concessions to working people are limited to the preservation of jobs, not improving the quality of jobs, as though the average job today reflects an adequate use of and reward for the average person’s actually quite surprising ability.

    Republicans, in my opinion, skirt economic issues entirely by appealing to social issues, which in actual fact are not as big of a deal as people tend to make of them. It isn’t to say that something like abortion or prayer in schools aren’t important [actually I don’t honestly give a toss about prayer in schools; if it will shut them up, give it to them], but that it is not in principle the proper role of government to dictate social behaviour. McCain, it appears, is a subscriber to the patriotic aspect of the Republican party, where America is an absolute good, regardless of its actions, to which I am not sure there is an effective response, while the government continues to facilitate the flow of money from the poor to the rich.

    And I don’t think any candidate has significantly deviated from this consensus. you don’t see anyone saying, for instance ‘we have to begin rewarding people for working, not for owning’ or that as long as government is subsidising industry anyway, it might as well be subsidising health care, rather than a ridiculously bureaucratic and ineffectual military.

    i don’t know. I’m not an expert on politics, and certainly haven’t paid attention to the us campaign. Basically, i feel like what tends to be called an ‘extremist’ position in the uS media or in conversation, I would call, from what, I flatter myself, is an objective perspective, ‘centre-right’, and that the position of every politician currently in office falls within a spectrum of far right to centre right. Who cares what i think? but i strongly suspect that the proper course of action for those who do feel as i do that the US is more or less exactly the opposite of the ideal is simply to begin organising on a local level, even if that means sitting in a pub with the one or two other people who think the same way once a week or month or whatever and discussing particularly a reasonable further course of action. or start publishing an independent paper of sufficient quality as to actually merit reading, which is easier with each passing year, given the advance of technology. Again, I don’t know, what sort of thing is appropriate. my political activity these days is limited to occasionally emailing my friends back home and yelling at them for not being more active in protesting the London Olympics, for which i have an irrational hatred on the basis of being evicted because of them, so anyone, do feel free to join me in that.

    I imagine I’ve fallen a bit behind the trend of the thread in the space of time it took to jot down the above…

  39. McCain used to be kinda liberal. Bush Sr. started out his political career as an anti-racist. Even Reagan fooled around with communism. As far as I can tell, Republican presidents are usually fairly liberal in their personal sentiments. By the time they get into the Whore House, they’re so beholden to the ultra-right, they do things that they don’t even believe in themselves. Or they really are under threat of assassination if they don’t behave.

  40. i remember reading somewhere that people typically enter Harvard law school with dreadlocks and dedicated to human rights law, then they get an internship on Wall st for some extra cash in the summer, and before you know it, they are the graduates of Harvard law we know and love today.

    I imagine a similar sort of thing happens in politics. One day, a big fat cigar smoking capitalist takes the idealist young politician aside and asks if he wouldn’t mind a round of golf, in which our hero sees no harm. Having accepted, the monocle wearing captain of industry proceeds to impress on the flannel shirt wearing man of the people how difficult it is to be a millionaire and wonders aloud whether it wouldn’t be possible for the politician to do this or that small favour. And before you know it…

  41. even the lowest political office takes substantial money to buy. Even with volunteers, the candidate must forego any private earnings to run and win.

    They get them on credit.

  42. This time around North Americans shouldn’t be allowed to vote all together – it’s just too high a risk globally. Do something else…go camping, Disneyland, sleep in…whatever. Give it a break this time.

    Let us Europeans do it for you…we’ve got it sussed – just trust us.

  43. (Disclosure: I’m an Obama supporter, but not an Obamaniac. What I say below is meant to make a more general point, but I don’t pretend I can hide my biases.)

    What will things be like when the MySpace generation starts running for president? They’ve all got at least one of the following online somewhere: 1) incriminating photos or videos of them drinking underage, flashing the camera, doing drugs, or some such; 2) blog posts/journal entries full of curse words, highly controversial opinions, accounts of morally questionable activities, etc.; 3) unflattering descriptions, unsavory rumors, etc., posted by friends; and so forth.

    Face it people: this focus on inanities is simply retarded. None of us are perfect and we all make decisions (do things, says things) that we later regret. If we continue to hew to the standards that the media would impose, only the most boring, preternaturally “wholesome” people would qualify for the presidency.

    Similarly, we should not judge people by what their relatives and friends say and do. That’s just guilt by association. Why should I have to end relationships or “distance” myself from other people whenever they do things I don’t agree with? Only in the most extreme cases would this even be relevant.

    (With respect to Rev. Wright, a lot of the problem here is a gap between white and black culture. The views he expresses are not nearly so shocking in the context of an urban African American community as they are in white suburbia. Asking Obama to sever his ties from his church is, as many have argued better than I, unreasonable.)

    What should matter when one runs for president or any other elected office are things like experience, judgment, policy positions, and the like. The problem with “character” is that, while it is important, it’s not something that we get an accurate sense of in the media frenzy surrounding an election. Judging by their actions in the last 8 years, Al Gore is a much more principled, decent human being than Dubya could ever be, but that was not how he was portrayed prior to November 2000.

    Presidential politics is far from my favorite aspect of American government. As the founders well knew, the executive is not the most democratic of the three branches–there’s a reason that Congress comes first in the Constitution. It’s a shame that Americans seem to get worked up about politics only once every four years. Democracy requires more of its citizens if it is to sustained…

  44. Now can you give us the FOX version?

    I’m pretty sure the FOX version is the exact same debate, but aired with that ticker tape thing underneath displaying things like “HATES FLAG, WOULD CHANGE DESIGN… HUSBAND TAUGHT HER HOW TO LIE…” etc.

  45. @ kevink 27

    “I showed you exactly in what way I thought we were “culpable”

    to use your metaphor, johnny wasn’t rebelling against getting punished for tsomething he wasn’t supposed to do, johnny was rebelling because he did what principal jim wanted and still got fucked over…

    “I guess we trained them in the way the US army trained Timothy McVay. While yes, he was in the army, and yes he received training from our government, they didn’t teach him to murder buildings full of innocent people because you think you are justified in doing so.”

    yes we did, in afghanistan against the russians. (we did the same in nicuragua and we do the same in colombia right now)

    “The middle east has been violently disrupted for centuries. Where have you been?”

    just because the middle east has had violence forever, that doesn’t make adding more (and more damaging) violence correct. that’s pissing in a black eye.

    “Just being honest and realistic without the hyperbole.”

    you may be being honest about your opinion, but the truth is luckily a collective hallucination, not just yours. and as far as the hyperbole, you’ve got plenty.

    “Eight years of disastrous American foreign policy, conducted by the Cheney Presidency…
    You mean the same foreign policy Clinton had?”
    I guess I am one of the few people here that remembers before 2001″

    while bill clinton was war-mongering and corrupt (see bombing sudanese pharmaceutical plants, nafta, etc…) he didn’t manage to utterly destroy global trust in america the way bush has. calling their policies “the same” is hyperbole.

    oh and i remember before 2001 too, that’s more hyperbole.

    @#34 posted by Takuan

    “and what can any one person do with this office? In the end, even the strongest and best intentioned are slaves of their machine.”

    i agree mostly here, with two major exceptions. one was basically covered by antinous (some differences in policy can be implemented), the other is similar to what andrew #43 said…

    while the election is in many ways symbolic and the power at the mercy of the ecocidal military-industrial-consumer-complex, just the narrative that obama chooses is a powerful symbol both internationally and at home… it could say to the world, “we have stopped choosing the monkey, and now will choose the nice man”. and the fact that there is some substance to his choice of narrative, and that he appears to have (and most likely does have) some conviction to at least attempt to perform his narrative makes the prospect even more alluring.

    for example, consider this quote from a recent post of mine about obama… it deals with the hip hop concept of “keeping it real” and why that is problematic when it relates to materialism, etc…

    “art can’t just be a rear-view mirror, it also has to have a headlight out there, pointing to where we need to go”

    maybe i’m just biased because i’m an artist/musician/etc, but that’s the ONLY quote i’ve ever heard a politican say about art, and it’s true and useful. a guy like this would be a GREAT hood ornament, to use your metaphor.

    anyway, i agree with your concern for america’s global impact. i also dig global socialism as an idea, especially in smaller affinity group or tribe models. the possibility of larger state socialism makes me weirded out, but so does our “democracy”. i’m an anarchist, so i’ll wait until there is a government that has as it’s first goal to destroy itself to be really excited about state politics, and in the meantime i’ll just vote (and encourage others to vote) for the most impressive hood ornament.

  46. @#49 Antinous

    “Berlusconi?”

    LOL! Yeah…Sarkozy is shaping up nicely, too.

    I’m not political, but since Australia has a new centre-left government the air is fresher, people stop for a chat and it’s even been raining to fill the dams.

  47. “Republicans, in my opinion, skirt economic issues entirely by appealing to social issues, which in actual fact are not as big of a deal as people tend to make of them.It isn’t to say that something like abortion or prayer in schools aren’t important [actually I don’t honestly give a toss about prayer in schools; if it will shut them up, give it to them], but that it is not in principle the proper role of government to dictate social behavior.”

    I think you have this mostly backward. This year it seems the democrats are banging the social issue drum with national health care and the rich poor “divide”.

    Abortion and school prayer are dead issues even for the republicans. Sure they pay lip service but its a non starter, much like gun control has become this year for the democrats.

    This year the republicans are mostly about the war .

  48. Ken:

    “8 years old” was not when Obama knew him; it’s how old Obama was when Ayers was engaging in criminal activity. Ayers was indeed a violent 60s radical (who never actually injured anyone, FYI) who has since become a respected figure in Chicago — friend of the mayor, Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, &c. And, yep, Obama is acquainted with him, as is everybody involved in the school systems of Chicago. (Bill Clinton pardoned two Weather Undergrounders, too, if that matters to you.)

  49. Ayers was engaging in criminal activity

    We prefer the term ‘revolutionary struggle’, thanks.

  50. “Regrets. I’m often quoted saying that I have “no regrets.” This is not true. For anyone paying attention-and I try to stay wide-awake to the world around me all/ways-life brings misgivings, doubts, uncertainty, loss, regret. I’m sometimes asked if I regret anything I did to oppose the war in Viet Nam, and I say “no, I don’t regret anything I did to try to stop the slaughter of millions of human beings by my own government.” Sometimes I add, “I don’t think I did enough.” This is then elided: he has no regrets for setting bombs and thinks there should be more bombings.”

  51. This wasn’t a debate. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real presidential race debate… I don’t think there has ever been one in my lifetime. What they show on TV are what Bill Moyers, of whom I’m a big fan, calls “well-orchestrated publicity events.” Or words to that effect.

    “Abortion and school prayer are dead issues even for the republicans.”

    You can’t really believe this, can you? How about Creationism (oops, sorry: Intelligent Design)? Is that a dead letter, too?

    “This year it seems the democrats are banging the social issue drum with national health care and the rich poor “divide”.”

    How did health care and the economy become social issues(?!) as if they’re just the hobbyhorses of the religiously intolerant, like abortion and school prayer? Is there someone in America who doesn’t have a body or is not part of the economy? And the rich-poor “divide” (I love those quotes!) is a matter of statistical fact, not ideology.

    Your bias is showing, Prodigious, and bias does not make for coherent thought.

    “Do you know, I’ve seen almost every episode of the West Wing, and I still have no idea what the president actually does on a day to day basis? It seems like he [or she, why not?] basically corresponds to the English Queen.”

    Wow. This sort of takes the wind out of the sails of your political analysis of the US political landscape, Scottfree.

    Imagine if I said, “I’m not really sure how a Queen gets elected… I imagine it’s something like our Electoral College… but here are my lengthy opinions on British politics…”

  52. “to use your metaphor, johnny wasn’t rebelling against getting punished for tsomething he wasn’t supposed to do, johnny was rebelling because he did what principal jim wanted and still got fucked over…”

    I guess our view of what happened is different. I mean yeah the army we trained to fight off the Russians (We were so evil to help those people!11) did what it was supposed to do. But that isn’t why they attacked us. They attacked us because of our presence in the Middle East. Why were we there? Because Iraq attacked Kuwait. Osama didn’t like the fact that there was US soldiers in his “holy land” that we were “desecrating” such land. That we should leave. That is what 9/11 was really about. That and our support of Israel. So if you are saying we deserved to get attacked because we had soldiers in the Middle East, then fine. If you think that’s something to kill a bunch of people over fine. I don’t agree. The only people responsible for that attack or those that carried it out, and planned it.

    “yes we did, in afghanistan against the russians. (we did the same in nicuragua and we do the same in colombia right now)”

    Please show me examples of how we trained them to kill innocent victims in terrorists attacks. You know, like the ones that has happened to us since the 70s.

    “just because the middle east has had violence forever, that doesn’t make adding more (and more damaging) violence correct. that’s pissing in a black eye.”

    Ok so you admit that it was a mess before we got there at least. I don’t think we are really making it worse. Before something gets better, it usually does get worse. I know it was that way with this country. Will be in the future as well.

    “you may be being honest about your opinion, but the truth is luckily a collective hallucination, not just yours. and as far as the hyperbole, you’ve got plenty.”

    I am not the one exaggerating claims or happenstances.

    “while bill clinton was war-mongering and corrupt (see bombing sudanese pharmaceutical plants, nafta, etc…) he didn’t manage to utterly destroy global trust in america the way bush has. calling their policies “the same” is hyperbole.”

    LOL! The “global” trust thing was PURE media spin and you know it. And yes, Clinton was the START of the embarrassment. I remember being on IRC back in the 90s and having people make fun of our country because of Billy Boy. Again, some people either don’t remember the 90s, or are history re-visioning. Yes Bill had his friends. Mostly corrupt people that supported terrorism like Arafat. (He visited Bill the most of any political leader) So yes, the terrorists liked Bill more. And yes, the terrorists hate Bush even more. So even more FUD is going to be spread. The two are equally dim. They BOTH said the SAME THINGS about Iraq. The only difference is, during the 2004 election the left decided to take an about face and act like they ever supported Iraq to win the election. And it backfired on them. Made them look like buffoons to anyone paying attention.

  53. OK, let’s put aside the headmaster metaphor completely. (Illustrative as the choice of the dominant position for the US therein may be.)

    The “real” reason the attacks on “9/11” were organised was to manipulate the US into a knee-jerk reaction in the Middle East, so as to shift public opinion in Islamic Middle Eastern countries (which is, for the most part, extremely moderate) towards radical Islamism.

    The Islamists succeeded admirably, in that you have invaded not one but two Middle Eastern nations, and are rattling sabres at a third, all of which has had the desired effect on public opinion in the Middle East.

    Anyway, to the point of how you share some blame for “9/11”: During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, you chose to support and train radical Islamist fundamentalists as a means of furthering your own political agenda. (And please don’t come with “we were just helping the poor Afghanis out against an evil invader” – if that invader had been anyone but a major Communist power, you wouldn’t have lifted a finger.)

    You manipulated them, but in the process gave them the tools and set the example for them to manipulate you back.

  54. And as for “the terrorists” hating Bush: Down in the rank-and-file of those organisations, I’m sure they do, and that the same (in reverse) is true of the rank-and-file of the US government/military/nation.

    But the Bush Administration and the upper echelons of Al Quaeda are each others’ best friends, and I’m pretty sure they realise this. They give each other fantastic excuses to pursue and further their own political agendas.

    Terrorist actions give excuses for invasions and vice versa, with the side benefit to the Neocons of asserting “America’s global preeminence”, and the side benefit to the Islamists of radicalising Middle Eastern politics and society.

  55. @kevink

    “They attacked us because of our presence in the Middle East. Why were we there? Because Iraq attacked Kuwait. Osama didn’t like the fact that there was US soldiers in his “holy land” that we were “desecrating” such land. That we should leave. That is what 9/11 was really about. That and our support of Israel. So if you are saying we deserved to get attacked because we had soldiers in the Middle East, then fine. If you think that’s something to kill a bunch of people over fine. I don’t agree. The only people responsible for that attack or those that carried it out, and planned it.”

    that was the U.S. fucking them over… we weren’t just “having soldiers there”, our soldiers killed anywhere between 20,000 and 200,000 depending on your source in the initial iraq war (that’s a lot more than september 11th.) that was a huge miltary operation, largely for resource control.

    and as far as kuwait and israel, they both owe their borders in part to european meddling, which is part of the reason they piss off the nearby nations. and while i have sympathy for the global plight of the jews, i don’t think all their policies deserve the unilateral support of the u.s. talk about the region being fucked up before we got there… it was, but also by white folks.

    “Please show me examples of how we trained them to kill innocent victims in terrorists attacks. You know, like the ones that has happened to us since the 70s.”

    fist off, the army kills innocent civilians in vast numbers. some might argue that it is an attack “in kind”. infact we’ve killed hundreds of times more civilians than al qaeda, but you aren’t ranting against us… but here are your examples…

    afghanistan – this paper sums it up nicely… “(the u.s.) is waging a domestic war against terrorism, operating in some respects independently of the CIA which has –since the Soviet-Afghan war– supported international terrorism through its covert operations.” the mujadeen also greatly increased heroin production, which i only bring up because i am soon going to talk about colombia.

    nicuragua – this wiki sums up nicely the “psychological operations in guerilla warfare” actions of the cia, which included for the murder of innocents. from that manual “to provoke riots or shootings, which lead to the killing of one or more persons, who will be seen as the martyrs; this situation should be taken advantage of immediately against the Government to create even bigger conflicts.”

    colombia – plan colombia. this wiki deals with it well. some quotes… “Colombian security forces, which receive aid and training from (the u.s. initiative), are involved in supporting or tolerating abuses by right-wing paramilitary forces against the population and left-wing organizations.” also, “aerial fumigation to eradicate coca. This activity has come under fire because it damages legal crops and has adverse health effects upon those exposed to the herbicides” this is doubly problematic because most of the farmers of coca are forced into it, either by the drug cartels or economic circumstances.

    “Ok so you admit that it was a mess before we got there at least. I don’t think we are really making it worse. Before something gets better, it usually does get worse. I know it was that way with this country. Will be in the future as well.”

    we’re not making it worse? basically forcing civil war through localized oil barons, over a million deaths from the current iraq war, taking a much greater percentage of oil revenues away nationally from the iraqis than they had under saddam. so i guess were making it better, if that means killing more people, giving them less money, and fucking up the environment and infrastructure. call that better to one of the children we “liberated” from their limbs.

    “They BOTH said the SAME THINGS about Iraq.” i’m not arguing that. but their policies are what is more important. clinton bombed iraq, but didn’t invade. that’s not the only difference.

    “I am not the one exaggerating claims or happenstances.”

    i still claim that saying no one remembers before 2001 is hyperbole, as is claiming clinton and bush have identical policies. i’d also still argue that while i am making large claims, they are backed up by history enough to not be hyperbole. that’s a minor point compared with your other, more misleading portrayals.

  56. @kevink

    “Please show me examples of how we trained them to kill innocent victims in terrorists attacks. You know, like the ones that has happened to us since the 70s.”

    jamesgyre mentioned Nicaragua, and that’s a pretty good example. Specifically the CIA’s “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare” manual for the Contras which details methods of how to provoke the killing of civilians and the best ways to assassinate various officials, judges and so on.

    Beyond the more obvious examples like that, is there really a meaningful difference between training, funding and arming groups who blatantly engage in terrorism, and actually directly training or instructing them to carry out specific acts of terrorism? That sounds pretty similar to the whole issue of supplying ‘dual-use’ chemicals/weapons to the likes of Saddam while being fully aware of what he’s doing with them.

    “They attacked us because of our presence in the Middle East. Why were we there? Because Iraq attacked Kuwait.”

    The ‘presence’ in that part of the world goes back a lot longer than the last 20 years. Our countries have been installing/propping up nasty dictatorships and regimes and overthrowing/subverting democratic governments and movements in the Mideast for a helluva long time. I suppose in terms of an example which is massively relevant to today’s situation, interference in Iran would be the obvious one. Decades of foreign policy have contributed to the ‘blowback’ being felt today.

  57. #60 Nick,

    But I see you don’t bother to enlighten me as to what the president actually does. What does that one [wo]man, the person every is so proud of voting for, do once [s]he gets elected? Ok, start wars is one, but in that case, what does a president do if he or she doesn’t want to start a war? What does the president do to earn his room and board, other than volunteer to be a source of amusement for the general public, again, like the English royal family? I’ll mention, of course, I am not one of those who thinks Europe is so superior, and also, as a point of interest, it might do to mention that the stock epithet for Blair and now Brown is ‘Yankee Poodle’.

    The sixties radical connexion is nothing new in Europe, however, particularly Germany, where everyone in the SPD seems to have been involved in someway or another in the Autonome movement. Gerhard Schroder, the former President, I seem to remember, defended the Baader Meinhof gang in court, which would’ve been something like Hilary Clinton defending Sadaam. And most of the English Labour party were involved in some sort of activism early on.

  58. Scott: The President does a great deal, including vetoing and signing legislation, suggesting laws and programs to congress, appointing justices and ambassadors, signing treaties, etc. The Executive branch is supposed to be coequal with the Judicial and the Legislative branches, though many think the Executive has been taking on excessive powers in the last decade or so. There’s really not much parallel with the royal family — very little gets done in Washington without his say-so.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President_of_the_United_States_of_America#Duties_and_powers

  59. Good answer, Scottfree. (And no, I’m not being sarcastic.) I have to give it to Jim H. for conciseness, though (“The President is the decider”).

    Besides trying to be funny, I was sort of hinting at the fact that I and many others are appalled by the imperial quality of the presidency, especially as Bush has interpreted its powers. So speculating that the Chief Executive appears at photo opps and acts as a sort of figurehead in a flowered hat like the Queen struck me as funny. Your other comments were very well-thought out, though, if I may say so.

    But per the President: the Chief Executive in this country is, after all, coequal with both the Legislative Branch and the Judicial Branch. He is the Commander-in-Chief. He appoints Supreme Court Justices. He is able to declare martial law, and to order many kinds of military actions on his say-so alone.

    The President has all sorts of discretionary powers that allow him to act without the approval of either of the other branches of government.

    An example is the Faith Based Initiative, wherein the Executive Branch gives taxpayers’ money to religious groups.

    This has been challenged in the Supreme Court, seperation of church and state being cited. The Court ruled that since the money (not his persoanl money, remember, but taxpayers’ money) is contained in a fund earmarked fo his use, that neither of the other branches of government can tell him how to spend it. At all. If he wanted to build $40 million dollar Baptist church with a creationist museum attached, in other words, there is no way to stop him under current law.

    See Guantanamo Bay for other examples of the imperial presidency.

  60. The President is sort of the anti-Queen. One isn’t allowed to voice any opinions; the other never stops political posturing. One is meant to make people feel good about their country; the other tries to stir up shit for immediate political gain. One of them saw wartime military service even though she’s a girl; the other one skedaddles at the first inkling of violence. One of them speaks in whole sentences….oh, it just goes on.

    Calling Bush imperial is an insult to most emperors.

  61. “”Abortion and school prayer are dead issues even for the republicans.””

    “You can’t really believe this, can you? How about Creationism (oops, sorry: Intelligent Design)? Is that a dead letter, too?”

    This is a straw man argument. Yes I really do believe this. School prayer and (the possibility of baning) abortion are decided issues. We’ve been hashing them out for decades. While there are finer points still undecided, at this point there is no chance either could come about.

    And no, as much as I disagree with ID its not a dead issue. But its largely a local issue. It has not entered the national election debate to any great extent.

    Its insulting to me, that you seem to assume all republicans only vote on religious issues.

    “”This year it seems the democrats are banging the social issue drum with national health care and the rich poor “divide”.””

    “How did health care and the economy become social issues(?!) as if they’re just the hobbyhorses of the religiously intolerant, like abortion and school prayer? Is there someone in America who doesn’t have a body or is not part of the economy? And the rich-poor “divide” (I love those quotes!) is a matter of statistical fact, not ideology.”

    Access to health insurance is obviously a social issue. Just because its not religious doesn’t make it not a social issue. religion is not a synonym for social issue. I use quotes for “divide” because its just a political flak word. Its used because it ignores the possibility of upwards mobility among the population. I’m not saying theres not a difference between rich and poor people but the term divide is misleading. On the whole the democratic approach seems to be more about social justice than consideration for the economy. Hence all the protectionist rumblings on free trade.

  62. Prodigious: I may have been a bit flippant in my comments. Allow me to respond in a more thoughtful way, as you have.

    You quoted someone who referred to abortion and prayer in school as “social issues.”

    You then responded by describing health care and the economy as social issues.

    If A is equal to B, and B is equal to C, then C is equal to A, no?

    In all fairness, does this not seem to equate abortion, prayer in school, health care, and the economy? Was it not reasonable for me, then, to object to putting health care and prayer in schools in the same “social issues” basket, as if there were no qualitative difference?

    In light of that, and of the fact that the first two issues your post mentioned are religious issues, as is Intelligent Design, don’t you think it’s somewhat unfair of you to say, “Its insulting to me, that you seem to assume all republicans only vote on religious issues”?

    In any case, I stand by my positions, which are:

    1) Health care and the economy are “hard” issues, not the sort of social issues mentioned in your comment, which are debated in terms of religion, philosophy, tradition, or custom.

    Yes, we all bring our beliefs and biases to bear on these issues, but as this is a universal aspect of human behavior and reasoning, I don’t see how it can in some cases render an issue “social,” and in other cases, not. Surely the demarcation line must lie in the issues themselves?

    2) There are legions of conservatives out there working every day to ban abortion and to introduce prayer in school, so these are hardly dead issues. Even Supreme Court decisions like Roe v Wade are reversible, after all, and there are people working hard to do just that.

    I hope that makes sense… I’ve been working at my computer for almost 24 hours straight now on a deadline, and writing the above almost made my freakin’ head explode!

  63. PS per “On the whole the democratic approach seems to be more about social justice than consideration for the economy.”

    We Democrats sincerely believe that social justice and prosperity can go hand in hand.

  64. “I used to think that, but if you compare Clinton’s eight years with Bush’s, it appears that the president can have quite a bit of impact.”

    When the WTC got bombed first, he really did nothing. And when USS cole was bombed.. again nothing.. Actually there has been more terrorist attacks having to do with US citizens in Clinton’s terms that in Bush’s. Not that I am saying that means anything. It doesn’t. But Clinton didn’t do shit to make any wavs.

    BTW Lincoln’s approval rating was more abysmal than Bush’s. And he’s on the 5 dollar bill.

  65. “I used to think that, but if you compare Clinton’s eight years with Bush’s, it appears that the president can have quite a bit of impact.”

    When the WTC got bombed first, he really did nothing. And when USS cole was bombed.. again nothing.. Actually there has been more terrorist attacks having to do with US citizens in Clinton’s terms that in Bush’s. Not that I am saying that means anything. It doesn’t. But Clinton didn’t do shit to make any wavs.

    BTW Lincoln’s approval rating was more abysmal than Bush’s. And he’s on the 5 dollar bill.

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