Month: September 2008

God, I miss Toby, Sam, CJ, and the gang

Found this bit written by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, printed in the NY Times. Given my blog’s subtitle, I can’t help but include it here.

Aaron Sorkin Conjures a Meeting of Obama and Bartlet

 Now that he’s finally fired up on the soup-line economy, Barack Obama knows he can’t fade out again. He was eager to talk privately to a Democratic ex-president who could offer more fatherly wisdom — not to mention a surreptitious smoke — and less fraternal rivalry. I called the “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin (yes, truly) to get a read-out of the meeting. This is what he wrote:

BARACK OBAMA knocks on the front door of a 300-year-old New Hampshire farmhouse while his Secret Service detail waits in the driveway. The door opens and OBAMA is standing face to face with former President JED BARTLET.

BARTLET Senator.

OBAMA Mr. President.

BARTLET You seem startled.

OBAMA I didn’t expect you to answer the door yourself.

BARTLET I didn’t expect you to be getting beat by John McCain and a Lancôme rep who thinks “The Flintstones” was based on a true story, so let’s call it even.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET Come on in.

BARTLET leads OBAMA into his study.

BARTLET That was a hell of a convention.

OBAMA Thank you, I was proud of it.

BARTLET I meant the Republicans. The Us versus Them-a-thon. As a Democrat I was surprised to learn that I don’t like small towns, God, people with jobs or America. I’ve been a little out of touch but is there a mandate that the vice president be skilled at field dressing a moose —

OBAMA Look —

BARTLET — and selling Air Force Two on eBay?

OBAMA Joke all you want, Mr. President, but it worked.

BARTLET Imagine my surprise. What can I do for you, kid?

OBAMA I’m interested in your advice.

BARTLET I can’t give it to you.

OBAMA Why not?

BARTLET I’m supporting McCain.

OBAMA Why?

BARTLET He’s promised to eradicate evil and that was always on my “to do” list.

OBAMA O.K. —

BARTLET And he’s surrounded himself, I think, with the best possible team to get us out of an economic crisis. Why, Sarah Palin just said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had “gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers.” Can you spot the error in that statement?

OBAMA Yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t funded by taxpayers.

BARTLET Well, at least they are now. Kind of reminds you of the time Bush said that Social Security wasn’t a government program. He was only off by a little — Social Security is the largest government program.

OBAMA I appreciate your sense of humor, sir, but I really could use your advice.

BARTLET Well, it seems to me your problem is a lot like the problem I had twice.

OBAMA Which was?

BARTLET A huge number of Americans thought I thought I was superior to them.

OBAMA And?

BARTLET I was.

OBAMA I mean, how did you overcome that?

BARTLET I won’t lie to you, being fictional was a big advantage.

OBAMA What do you mean?

BARTLET I’m a fictional president. You’re dreaming right now, Senator.

OBAMA I’m asleep?

BARTLET Yes, and you’re losing a ton of white women.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET I mean tons.

OBAMA I understand.

BARTLET I didn’t even think there were that many white women.

OBAMA I see the numbers, sir. What do they want from me?

BARTLET I’ve been married to a white woman for 40 years and I still don’t know what she wants from me.

OBAMA How did you do it?

BARTLET Well, I say I’m sorry a lot.

OBAMA I don’t mean your marriage, sir. I mean how did you get America on your side?

BARTLET There again, I didn’t have to be president of America, I just had to be president of the people who watched “The West Wing.”

OBAMA That would make it easier.

BARTLET You’d do very well on NBC. Thursday nights in the old “ER” time slot with “30 Rock” as your lead-in, you’d get seven, seven-five in the demo with a 20, 22 share — you’d be selling $450,000 minutes.

OBAMA What the hell does that mean?

BARTLET TV talk. I thought you’d be interested.

OBAMA I’m not. They pivoted off the argument that I was inexperienced to the criticism that I’m — wait for it — the Messiah, who, by the way, was a community organizer. When I speak I try to lead with inspiration and aptitude. How is that a liability?

BARTLET Because the idea of American exceptionalism doesn’t extend to Americans being exceptional. If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song. The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it.

OBAMA You’re saying race doesn’t have anything to do with it?

BARTLET I wouldn’t go that far. Brains made me look arrogant but they make you look uppity. Plus, if you had a black daughter —

OBAMA I have two.

BARTLET — who was 17 and pregnant and unmarried and the father was a teenager hoping to launch a rap career with “Thug Life” inked across his chest, you’d come in fifth behind Bob Barr, Ralph Nader and a ficus.

OBAMA You’re not cheering me up.

BARTLET Is that what you came here for?

OBAMA No, but it wouldn’t kill you.

BARTLET Have you tried doing a two-hour special or a really good Christmas show?

OBAMA Sir —

BARTLET Hang on. Home run. Right here. Is there any chance you could get Michelle pregnant before the fall sweeps?

OBAMA The problem is we can’t appear angry. Bush called us the angry left. Did you see anyone in Denver who was angry?

BARTLET Well … let me think. …We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family’s less safe than it was eight years ago, we’ve lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know … I’m a little angry.

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

OBAMA Good to get that off your chest?

BARTLET Am I keeping you from something?

OBAMA Well, it’s not as if I didn’t know all of that and it took you like 20 minutes to say.

BARTLET I know, I have a problem, but admitting it is the first step.

OBAMA What’s the second step?

BARTLET I don’t care.

OBAMA So what about hope? Chuck it for outrage and put-downs?

BARTLET No. You’re elite, you can do both. Four weeks ago you had the best week of your campaign, followed — granted, inexplicably — by the worst week of your campaign. And you’re still in a statistical dead heat. You’re a 47-year-old black man with a foreign-sounding name who went to Harvard and thinks devotion to your country and lapel pins aren’t the same thing and you’re in a statistical tie with a war hero and a Cinemax heroine. To these aged eyes, Senator, that’s what progress looks like. You guys got four debates. Get out of my house and go back to work.

OBAMA Wait, what is it you always used to say? When you hit a bump on the show and your people were down and frustrated? You’d give them a pep talk and then you’d always end it with something. What was it …?

BARTLET “Break’s over.”

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Debate, part one

Lots to think and talk about Friday’s debate, but because work over the next few days is going to be a bear I’ll probably be limited to this until Wednesday or so. Also, I’ve made a point not to watch or read any commentary on the debate until I can get some independent thoughts down, so forgive me if I’m repeating anything.

Although the idea that of one of the candidates wins a debate and one loses it has always seemed a bit weird to me, I think Senator Obamba came across as more prepared, knowledgeable, confident, etc. In a word, he seemed more “presidential.” If nothing else, he was able to actually engage Senator McCain face to face as Jim Lehrer requested. McCain just couldn’t seem to bring himself to look Obama in the eye and get into a dialogue. Not sure why. But everyone is going to see “presidential” through their own lens, so I’d love to get your feelings on the matter.

Let’s start with your input – did you come away from this knowing more than you did before? If so, what?

Debate, part 1

Will it happen? At the time of this post, Senator McCain intentions are still up for grabs, so it’s anyone’s guess. Why the McCain camp feels it’s okay to leave the country wondering is beyond me – but if the debate does happen be sure to tune in; it should be one hell of a good show. And, for anyone interested, you should also know that on today’s date in 1960 America saw the first Nixon-Kennedy debate. You can see a clip here.

photo by Todd Huffman

Stratfor articles, 2 and 3

Looking over the previous Statfor post I think including the entire article may have been an error. So, in lieu of that, you’ll find links for the next two in the series below. Each takes a look at one of the presidential candidates and analyzes how their party’s historical beliefs might impact their individual approach and decision-making process in regard to foreign policy. They’re both fairly long articles, but definitely worth the read.

Although Friday’s debate is now in question, keep in mind that if it does happen the candidates will be answering questions about this very topic. Having an idea where they’re coming from, how their answers line up or diverge from historical data, and whether or not they’re consistent with their answers is a good thing. Enjoy…   

Obama Article:

http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/238172/abcfe0d5fd/542001874/9ef6fbdf65/

McCain article:

http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/238172/98643f4faf/542001904/9ef6fbdf65/

The subtle art of turning a negative into a positive

Or, politics as usual…

It was reported today that Senator McCain did an unusual thing – he reached out to Senator Obama, suggested they suspend their campaigns, cancel the debate, and travel to Washington to lend their help getting this financial crisis under control.

Wow. Talk about a win-win for the McCain camp. If Senator Obama agrees, Senator McCain reinforces his image of the maverick who’ll walk across the aisle when he needs to, as well as looking like one heck of a great guy in general. A real leader – you know, country first. If Obama refuses, well, Senator McCain did all he could to get away from politics during our nation’s time of need and those liberal, left-wing, unpatriotic Democrats clearly care more about winning an election than they do taking care of our country.

Crap.

Remember – both Senators McCain and Obama have been shaking hands and chatting in diners during the bulk of meaningful discussion and debate over the 700 Billion pound gorilla one of their administrations is probably going to inherit. And, because of their absence, they’ve both lost the opportunity to be on any of the committees that will have a real impact on if, when, and how the bailout legislation is to be formed. One more thing – and I don’t mean this disrespectfully – but Senator McCain has been quoted that he has a less-than-stellar understanding of the nuances of our country’s economics. Just how much help is he going to be?

Today is Wednesday. President Bush, and his advisors, have asked Congress to have this legislation dialed-out by Friday. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, thankfully, but the point is this: if this crisis, the unprecedented legislation to end it, or that legislation’s potentially massive impact on the majority of American citizens were really a priority, I’m thinking they might have tried to make it down to Washington earlier in the week. I’m just sayin’.

The McCain camp can make whatever claims they want – this is still politics as usual. 

photo by Mike Johnston

Stratfor, part 1

Below you’ll find the first of four articles I’m going to post here from a company called Stratfor. Take a few minutes and check them out – they provide free newsletters covering topics worth thinking about. For the article below, it’s pretty lengthy, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in. You’ll be glad you did.

(Update – sorry about the layout issues – should be corrected now. Thanks for the heads-up, Lynn!)

Part 1 – The New President and the Global Landscape  – September 23

By George Friedman

It has often been said that presidential elections are all about the economy. That just isn’t true. Harry Truman’s second election was all about Korea. John Kennedy’s election focused on missiles, Cuba and Berlin. Lyndon Johnson’s and Richard Nixon’s elections were heavily about Vietnam. Ronald Reagan’s first election pivoted on Iran. George W. Bush’s second election was about Iraq. We won’t argue that presidential elections are all about foreign policy, but they are not all about the economy. The 2008 election will certainly contain a massive component of foreign policy.

We have no wish to advise you how to vote. That’s your decision. What we want to do is try to describe what the world will look like to the new president and consider how each candidate is likely to respond to the world. In trying to consider whether to vote for John McCain or Barack Obama, it is obviously necessary to consider their stands on foreign policy issues. But we have to be cautious about campaign assertions. Kennedy claimed that the Soviets had achieved superiority in missiles over the United States, knowing full well that there was no missile gap. Johnson attacked Barry Goldwater for wanting to escalate the war in Vietnam at the same time he was planning an escalation. Nixon won the 1968 presidential election by claiming that he had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. What a candidate says is not always an indicator of what the candidate is thinking.

To read the rest of this article, click here.