July 31st, 2006

Franken Update: Harold Ramis on Board

by Philip Baruth

A quick update to the breaking Franken/Coleman news we reported on Friday (Coleman´s 81-year-old father caught having public sex in a late-model sedan outside a Minnesota pizza joint — you know, the usual): turns out Franken’s political PAC has logged about half a million in contributions while we were watching the Rainville meltdown in Vermont’s US House race.

Very interesting, indeed.

According to the piece in the StarTribune, this cash can’t be used to fund Franken’s own run. But it can certainly till the ground. From the Trib:

“Some of the notable campaign contributions made by people in the entertainment industry to Al Franken’s political action committee.

Jimmy Smits, actor, $500

Aaron Sorkin, writer, $1,000

Barbra Streisand, entertainer, $500

Larry Hagman, actor, $555

Larry David, writer/actor/director, $5,000

Ronald Bass, screenwriter, $5,000

Nora Ephron, writer/director, $5,000

Christopher Guest, director, $500

Barry Levinson, director/writer/producer, $5,000

David Mandel, movie/TV writer/director, $5,000

Robert Nathan, “Law & Order” executive director, $5,000

Judy McGrath, MTV Networks chairman & CEO, $1,000

Lorne Michaels, writer/producer, $2,000

Harold Ramis, director, $4,700 in-kind contribution (hosted fundraiser

Source: Campaign finance reports”

Bestill VDB’s foolish heart: Lorne Michaels, Barry Levinson, and Harold Ramis, together, backing one longshot bid for Senate? The creators of Saturday Night Live, Diner and Ground Hog Day all back the same comedian, and somehow this isn’t going to be gut-bustingly funny?

Dream on, Norm Coleman. Here’s your future: You become the butt of every late night comic in America, then you lose your seat, then you fall into a spiral of self-loathing, and before long, you’re cruising chicks and downing 40’s with the old man, outside a run-down Caesar’s Pizza in St. Cloud.

July 28th, 2006

Franken´s 2008 Minnesota Senate Race Gets Pre-Emptively Funny

by Philip Baruth

If you have a fondness for Al Franken, and an obsession with the minute-to-minute dynamics of the balance of power in the US Senate, then you have one date already circled on your calendar for sometime late next year.

The day Al Franken announces for Senate, taking on the simultaneously pugnacious and ineffectual Norm Coleman.

Franken has talked freely about his desire to run; he´s moved both his Air America program and his personal residence to Minnesota from New York; and to VDB´s ear, he seems to have recalibrated his radio format to make it dovetail more neatly with a high-stakes Senate run.

The Al Franken Show has very slowly and methodically morphed into something more like a talk show, rather than the sort of hard-edged politics and broad humor (e.g. “The Oy Oy Oy Show”) that marked its debut.

And we are four-square behind the guy, make no mistake.

He´s smart and well-versed, and he has the ability to make people dribble soda out of their noses, at State dinners and stuff. A successful Franken run would rid America of Coleman, the worst sort of trash-the-UN demagogue, and it would provide enough crazy energy to power the blogosphere for a decade.

cheney has a gunForget Dick Cheney jokes. We´re talking full-scale comedy.

The catch? Franken´s a comedian. Worse, a comedian in the ironic mode. VDB worries that when he goes head to head in a debate, and stares into the camera to make his closing pitch, Franken´s lower lip will twitch, in that way that it does, and the Minnesota viewers will walk away with the impression that it was all a bit.

A funny bit, but a bit nonetheless.

But there´s another, deeper problem. As Minnesotans learned with Jesse Ventura, having a professional wrestler in the race is contagious — suddenly everyone looks like a cheesy pile-driving actor.

And Franken — at the very least a year away from announcing a formal run — has already begun to communicate absurdity into the Minnesota campaign, just by the very threat of his participation.

Think VDB is kidding around? Pipe this nugget from Raw Story: Norm Coleman´s 81-year-old father was caught yesterday having sex with a 38-year-old in a car parked outside a pizzeria. (We suspect “having public sex” is really a misnomer for something that was far less tandem in nature, but there it is.)

When questioned about his father´s arrest, Norm Coleman said he is “disturbed” by the news.


Disturbed it is, then.

But you see our point: without doing much more than mull a run, Franken has already transfused a dangerously slap-stick air into the Minnesota race.

And VDB is loving it.

July 28th, 2006

Saddam To Face Precisely Timed Justice

by Philip Baruth

Compulsive VDB-reader Rick has his eye on the Hussein trial, which has seemed to meander along for the last year as though there were no end in sight. That has changed apparently.


I see the Hussein verdict will be handed down in mid-October. Hmmm, I’m looking at the calendar. Anything going on around that time of year? Football? Leaf raking?

Wait, I see it now . . . they want Saddam’s fall to coincide with the apple harvest.


Three months to election day, my friends. The finale of Saddam´s show trial will be just one of a thousand and one spectacles produced by the GOP for the entertainment and distraction of the American public.

Also on the list: head fake toward Iran, and then a surprise attack on Havana, followed by conclusive evidence that Terry Schiavo was neurologically viable — until she was re-smothered by Al Gore and John Edwards, with the predictable complicity of the drive-by media.

Hang tough.

July 27th, 2006

Rainville Rejected by Democrats? Say It Ain´t So, Martha

by Philip Baruth

Shay busts the investigative move. Again.

Over at the Guardian, they´re running a delicious corrective to the Rainville camp´s “Colin Powell Story”: that Rainville was elaborately courted by envoys from both parties, but chose to become a Republican after going up on the mountain and sitting silently beneath the clouds and determining, finally, that the Democrats were worthless and weak and unprincipled.

The truth seems to have a few shades of gray.

Rather than choosing the Republicans as the party of principle, Rainville actually seems to have followed the main chance: the GOP in Vermont was weak enough that an unknown with cash or good name recognition (Rainville, Tarrant, McMullen) could simply step to the head of the line.

In short, Rainville wanted to run against Jeffords as late as 2005, but Democrats gave her the order to stand down.

Which smarts, when you´re nominally a general.

Check it out. VDB recommends reading it sometime in the late afternoon, when your work is starting to drag you down, and all you want is something light and intriguing.

A good yarn, that is. Better, at least, than the one Martha´s been pushing thus far.

July 26th, 2006

Bush, Malaki Unveil Newest New Security Plan, Which is Pretty Darn New

by Philip Baruth

From the Times this morning:

“Obviously, the violence in Baghdad is still terrible, and therefore there needs to be more troops,” Mr. Bush said at the news conference, held in the East Room after a morning meeting with Mr. Maliki in the Oval Office. “Our military commanders tell me that this deployment will better reflect the current conditions on the ground in Iraq.”

Old Plan: Push the meme that things are getting ever better in Iraq, in spite of a coordinated campaign by the left-wing media to bury all the good news there; maintain that we have precisely enough troops in-country to maintain order, and add that commanders on the ground can have more soldiers whenever they give a whistle; make it clear to commanders on the ground that their careers are effectively over the first time they give a whistle.

New Plan: Punt and pray.

July 26th, 2006

Odum Goes “Insurgent” on Uncle Jim

by Philip Baruth

Over at Green Mountain Daily, Odum has thrown himself into a long, very carefully reasoned post on the task facing the Parker for Governor campaign — “Defeating Jim Douglas.” Several things make it a must-read: 1) Odum draws on his own brass-tacks experience with the Dean and Clavelle campaigns; 2) the post is generating the sort of sharp, on-topic discussion that almost makes VDB rethink its email-only comment policy; and 3) it draws on fresh Survey USA numbers to show the current state of play.

Oh, and 4) there are more than a few mentions of Amway. Well worth a read today.

July 25th, 2006

White-Knuckle Notes on the Rainville Ad

by Philip Baruth

Working from a dial-up connection, and the kids are downstairs screaming that they want fried blood-pudding for lunch: welcome to life on the crags of the West Coast of Sweden.

So we will only have time for a few quick notes re: the new ad from the Rainville camp.

The sharpest effect is all but subliminal: bickering male voices give way to the deliberately calm, well-modulated voice of the female candidate.

But the spot goes precipitously downhill after that opening gambit. The worst move of all? The Rainville camp continues to deliberately echo words and phrases associated almost exclusively with George W. Bush.

Think about it. Under the strategic sway of Bill Noyes, Rainville began this campaign by talking endlessly about “finger-pointing.” Whenever Welch pointed out something genuinely troubling about her campaign financing or her campaign platform, Rainville dismissed the (valid) criticism as so much finger-pointing.

bush, in denialTrouble was that before Noyes purloined it, this odd little rhetorical bit was linked mostly with attempts by the Bush administration to distance itself from the Katrina debacle.

And now Rainville has picked up another deeply troubled phrase from the Decider: “Changing the tone.”

If you remember the Bush packaging circa 2000, it involved several related ideas. Bush was a uniter, not a divider. Bush had a history, so they said, of reaching across the aisle. And therefore, once he got to D.C., Bush would change the tone there, from loud and aggressive, to soft and harmonious.

How did that one work out for you?

Right. Bush proved himself a deeply duplicitous politician: he governed from the far-right from the get-go, and targeted senators who had compromised with him during his first year in office. Eventually he would use 9/11 to try to purge Democrats from Congress.

So as of today, July 25 2006, the phrase “change the tone” carries with it a powerful whiff of mendacity and political cynicism, no matter how sweet and reasonable the voice invoking it.

So if you run the Rainville camp, why do you deliberately structure your electoral end game around such a discredited scrap of language? Why not get your own sunny, empty bit?

The answer is right in front of you, and has been this entire cycle: the Rainville camp admires Bush, or at least his political skills.

They think his strategies are sound, and his poll-tested language will ultimately win the day. Who knows how conscious — sub-conscious, half-conscious? — this admiration runs. But it is an indisputable fact that the Rainvillians have directly echoed the man at every key juncture of the race thus far.

Now think about the sharp opening of the ad again: clueless male voices give way to the voice of a strong, independent woman. If that were really the case with Rainville, why would she so consistently and reliably speak in the voice of a President most Vermonters, and most Americans, have come to hold in mild contempt?

Why, in short, would she so stubbornly stand by her man?

July 25th, 2006

Coincidence? VDB Thinks Not

by Philip Baruth

Okay, this past Friday VDB had had just about enough out of John McCain — bush, tiny, insignificantenough of the handholding with Bush and Falwell, the nicknames and the public hugs, enough of the elaborate pre-positioning for the 2008 Southern primaries. Enough of the threadbare myth of McCain as straight-talker.

And we posted some pretty harsh words, concluding with the sort of challenge no real man ducks. The kind of challenge that makes it clear: we were ready to take this fight out to the parking lot.

“Bring it on, Johnny Mac,” we wrote.

And then the guy circles the Rutland airfield nervously for an hour and just splits, without having the guts to land?

Coincidence? Our ass it was a coincidence.

July 24th, 2006

Monday Must-Read: Specter Caves On Schedule

by Philip Baruth

Arlen Specter has developed a very cozy and familiar pattern with this White House.

After having been informed that the Administration is shredding the Constitution or existing legislation in a particularly egregious way, Specter first expresses dismay; then he blows his stack, very publicly; then he goes behind closed doors to whip the Executive Branch into line; and finally, with great fanfare, he gives the White House what it stole in the first place.

Specter begins his Op/Ed in the Post today by calling the Bush NSA wireless wiretapping program a “festering sore on our body politic,” and you would think that it would be hard to move rhetorically from festering sore to “a surveillance we can live with,” but never underestimate our man Arlen.

The logical key? Since Bush and Cheney have been adamant about acquiring power unilaterally, their willingness to submit any portion of the wiretapping to judicial review represents a major breakthrough.

It gets sillier. Check it out. And remember that Specter hails from a state trending increasingly Democratic and anti-Bush. Arlen has no intention of winding up another Santorum: out of touch, uniquely despised, and only months away from a new job oiling up cars at the local Jiffy Lube.

July 21st, 2006

A Double McCain Creature Feature

by Philip Baruth

VDB seems doomed to be out of town when all of the big-name Republicans come slouching toward Burlington. We missed Laura, and now we’ll miss John.

Which is a lot of rounds of Let’s Pretend We’re Moderates! to miss out on.

In Laura’s case, it was a true shame: we missed the opportunity to sum up the entire null-affect, ’50s-throwback, Stepford-Wifeish phenomenon that is the First Lady.

But not so in McCain’s case. No, we’ve been tracking McCain’s desperate sprint to the Right for some time now, and laying out the case for the McCain/Bush ticket in 2008. Truly the nightmare to end all nightmares.

And so with your permission, we now present two of our most frightening pieces on McCain, a chilling double-feature: “It’s McCain/Bush in ‘08; All Torture Wedgies Forgiven” and the more recent but equally scarifying “Johnny Mac — Lord Help Us All.”

And remember, while we’re busy examining the Social Democracy of Sweden, you’re our only link to hard-core Vermont politics, the facts on the ground. Any detailed diaries of the McCain event, or of any hissy fits by the Tarrant campaign, will be scrutinized with particular care and deep thanks.

Which is to say: bring it on, Johnny Mac.

Next Page »