February 28th, 2007

Now for the Counter-Counter Intuitive: Obama Running Strong with Black Voters

by Philip Baruth

Nothing makes as satisfying a pop as the conventional wisdom being punctured. Take Barack Obama. The mainstream press loves the idea that Obama is wildly popular across America — everywhere, that is, except the households of African-American voters.

obama II, 2/10/07

Why? Difficult to say, but here are a few scattered guesses. It allows quickly generated news shows to present truisms about race as sage wisdom (”one thing is certain: Obama cannot take black voters for granted”); it allows them to stage a generational spat, established black activists against the fresh face; to question Obama’s authenticity; and finally to “balance” their coverage, by pointing out in the mid-section of such stories that Hillary Clinton currently seems to enjoy more support in the African-American community (”And she’s a white candidate. That’s irony for you. Back to you in Situation Room, Wolf.”)

But what a difference two weeks makes.

Following Obama’s announcement on February 10, attitudes have apparently shifted dramatically. Here’s the key nugget from the Post poll, under the heading “Blacks Shift to Obama, Poll Finds”:

In December and January Post-ABC News polls, Clinton led Obama among African Americans by 60 percent to 20 percent. In the new poll, Obama held a narrow advantage among blacks, 44 percent to 33 percent. The shift came despite four in five blacks having a favorable impression of the New York senator.

Interesting. And you don’t have to do much math to figure out what these figures project over the next six months. You guessed it: an intensification of the Clinton campaign’s “Deploy Bubba” strategy.

God, how VDB loves this race. And it’s only February 2007.


Late Update, March 1, 8:26 am:

Hold the phone! Apparently the MSM isn’t going to let go of the “Blacks Suspicious of Obama” meme that easily. CNN puts these seemingly dramatic new numbers in a more comfortable light. Speaking of the Post poll, Candy Crowley writes:

obama, 2/10/07That change represents a stunning 24-point swing, but does it mean the black community has embraced the Illinois Democrat as its candidate?

Not exactly.

“Obama does have a plurality of black voters right now. He doesn’t have a majority yet,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “That means a majority of blacks still aren’t sure about him.”

Ah, now it all comes into focus. It isn’t enough to register a 24-point swing in the African-American vote; not enough to lead a woman with near-100% name recognition in that crucial Democratic demographic. No, only a majority of the black vote will count as significant.

And of course, when Obama’s support in the African-American community tops 50%, as it almost certainly will, analysts will pivot and point out that nearly half of black voters prefer a candidate other than Obama.

And so on.

If Obama eventually tallies 75% support in the African American community, and Hillary Clinton 25%, more than a few voices in the media will continue to figure this as a measure of Hillary’s solid strength among black Americans.

And they will be right. Both Clintons enjoy broad-based support in that demographic, and for good reason.

But that’s beside the point: the point is that the media seems extremely reluctant to give up the idea that the average black American views Obama with suspicion. They like dividing him, in their coverage, from “real” African-Americans.

And that’s not only a bit creepy, it’s a lot silly.

February 27th, 2007

Serial Dismemberment of the Blogosphere Continues Apace: Odum Says Goodbye

by Philip Baruth

Some losses you shrug off, and others disturb your sleep, like phantom pain in place of an amputated limb. If you haven’t checked in at Green Mountain Daily yet today, brace yourself for the latter: John Odum is announcing his indefinite retirement from the blogosphere.

Odum fights off dog

It’s becoming a very old song and dance: critics of GMD have targeted Odum’s job, and he’s been left with Hobson’s Choice, which Wikipedia defines as “An apparently free choice that is really no choice at all.”

Children have this thing about eating several times a day, see.

But whether John returns in a week or a year, several things bear stating today:

1) The Vermont blogosphere is still very much in its infancy, and it depends on a handful of sites for its signature feel. Green Mountain Daily has been, and will remain, one of those deep-anchor sites. And although others have contributed greatly, GMD is John Odum’s brain child, and his love child, and its success is in large part his success.

2) Working with John over the last two years has been a profound pleasure. Like all Southern political types, he blends a razor-sharp sense of tactics and issues with graciousness, and genuine manners. VDB co-sponsored last summer’s Political Barbeque with GMD, and it was a wonderful day partly because we happened to divide the work up properly: Neil Jensen guarded our tables, I flipped burgers, and John welcomed the folks.

Teamwork, in a word.

There are any number of scenarios in which Odum returns to the blogosphere, and soon. Until then, we’ll leave a light on here at VDB for you, John.


February 27th, 2007

Hard to Call This News, But Whatever

by Philip Baruth

Of course this cycle is off to a particularly early start, but shouldn’t we be at least a year out from the perennial break-in at Democratic Party HQ?

shades of watergate

WCAX scoops the nation:

CONCORD, N.H. Concord (New Hampshire) police say someone broke into the state Democratic Party headquarters over the weekend.

Party chairwoman Kathy Sullivan says some things were taken. She declined to be specific, but said there was no indication that any personal financial information was taken, nothing that would be a problem for any party activists or donors.

Rudy Giuliani, looking to destroy of himself in drag, being fondled by Donald Trump? Romney, looking to destroy that video of himself running to the Left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights back in the day?

Or something deeper, more nuanced. That’s right: Big Joe Lieberman, just looking to break every stick of furniture in the place.

More as details warrant.

February 27th, 2007

Barre Mayor Gets Death-Penalty Peanut Butter in Drug-Policy Chocolate; Creates Wildly Unpopular New Taste Treat

by Philip Baruth

So the mayor of Barre is calling for imposing the death penalty on drug dealers and — simultaneously, if you can wrap your mind around this — legalizing marijuana. That’s right: bong hits for sale at Cumberland Farms, but anyone caught selling crack cocaine would receive lethal injection.

you got peanut butter in my chocolate

Or possibly a public hanging, if we’re looking for the reality television buy-in.

Now the mind of Mayor Tom Lauzon may be many things, but ho-hum is not one of them.

This is a mind that could conceivably help us through other calcified policy issues, like abortion (on demand within the first trimester/guillotine in second and third); death with dignity (lethal prescription boluses available at any DMV/firing squads for anyone who counterfeits terminal illness in order to commit suicide); and of course gay marriage (ceremonies performed at McDonalds, Burger King, KFC/double-execution in the event of divorce).

Rave on, Mayor Lauzon. You inspire us here at VDB.

February 26th, 2007

Schwarzenegger Not Pissed He Can’t Run For President. Seriously. He’s Not. Seriously.

by Philip Baruth

Schwarzenegger has been an interesting political phenomenon to watch: initially tentative about running, then crushing Gray Davis, then governing from the Right, being crushed himself, banking hard Left, and now governing as, well, Gray Davis.


And of course, the Governator is term-limited. Which puts a little extra snap in his media interviews. Case in point: a recent sit-down with Politico.com.

The juicy bits? The guy’s got his eye on a Senate seat, the highest he can go in Washington, the Constitution being what it is currently. And his wife is not going anywhere politically, if Arnold has anything to say about it.

Oh, and he’s not pissed that he can’t run for President. So not pissed, in fact, that he offers the following unprompted nugget to close the interview, apropos of nothing but his own inner sound-track:

“Remember one thing: You will never hear me complain that I can’t run for president. I look at the things I was able to do rather than the things I am not able to do. I am very, very happy about how America has received me and the kind of things I was able to accomplish here.”

Illuminating word choice: You’ll never hear me complain that I can’t run for president.

Until he wriggles into the Senate, that is. Then VDB suspects we just might hear a complaint or two.

Oh yes. Bet that.

February 23rd, 2007

BREAKING: Alternative Media Types To Swarm Euro Cafe For Historic Live Broadcast of WKVT’s “Live and Local”

by Philip Baruth

Yes, Democrats took back the Congress, and are slowly in the process of reining in the insanity in Iraq. And yes, NASA broke up that creepy ring of catty, diaper-wearing astronauts.

radio, triumphantImagine VDB’s relief.

But in many ways the world is still rocketing headlong toward the Sun: two aircraft carrier groups in the Persian Gulf, a Supreme Court poised to place the nation under de facto corporate control, media consolidation run amok.

And of course the frighteningly distinct possibility that Jeb Bush will manage to slither onto a desperate McCain Presidential ticket in 2008.

In short, it’s still a good time to rally the faithful, the like-minded, the openly strange, and the American at heart. A good time to bring Brattleboro and Burlington — Vermont’s two most progressive cities — together in arms.

What: A live Burlington broadcast of WKVT’s “Live and Local,” devoted to media outside the mainstream

When: Saturday, March 3, 6 to 8 p.m.

Where: The Euro Cafe, 61 Main Street, Burlington

Who: WKVT Hosts Steve West and Gorty Baldwin; Special Guests include Alex Ball (Rip and Read), Haik Bedrosian (Burlingtonpol), Peter Freyne (Freyneland), Neil Jensen (What’s the Point?), Cathy Resmer (802 Online), Bill Simmon (Candleblog), Charity Tensel (She’s Right), Shay Totten (Vermont Guardian), and of course, VDB.

Who Else: You and yours

The format will be open and free-wheeling; the baklava and beer and spinach pie will be flowing.

VDB’s talented but reclusive photo-journalist Yusef will be photographer in residence, and the inevitable reams of incriminating evidence will be splashed across the pages of VDB the following Monday.

In short, not your typical Saturday: sensational, impassioned, occasionally sordid, and flecked with honey and phyllo dough. Hope to see you then.

February 22nd, 2007

Hillary and Barack Throw Down (At Recess)

by Philip Baruth

The latest in the Obama v. Hillary drama, schoolyard edition: David Geffen said something mean about Bill and Hill, and that got back to Hill, and so she said something mean about Barack, because he’s David’s new best friend, and so Barack was, like, totally pissed, so he said something mean about Hill and her new best friend . . .

Josh Marshall has the whole exchange, for good or for ill. [Hat tip to VDBista Liz for the kicky graphic.]

obama tee

February 21st, 2007

When Allies Go Desperately Wrong

by Philip Baruth

So let’s refresh our memories, shall we?

The United States has spent nearly half a trillion dollars installing a fundamentalist Shiite government in Iraq, contrary to decades of US policy bolstering secular Sunnis as a bulwark against the Iranians.

bush, as el diabloThat Shiite-dominated government has made a practice of using death squads, ethnic cleansing and torture to shore up its generally weak security position.

We’ve lost roughly 3,150 American lives in the fight, and President Bush says he’s willing to lose as many as it takes to keep this “young democracy” in power.

Of course, even an apple-cheeked young democracy can have a bad day. Like today: Shiite Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki fired one of the country’s top Sunni officials, one Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Ghafoor al-Samaraei.

Why? Apparently the Sheikh made the mistake of calling for an international investigation into claims that Shiite soldiers had raped a Sunni woman they suspected of insurgent ties.

Sounds bad, right? Not to worry: al-Maliki released a “medical report” from an “American-run medical facility” supposedly disproving the woman’s claims. A bit irregular perhaps, but the advantage here is that you avoid not only the expense of a trial, but the inevitable stealth-visits by a burka-wearing Greta Van Susteren.

Ah, the New Iraq: Americans and Shiite fundamentalists working together for the greater good. That’s what VDB calls total victory, and a bargain at any price.

February 20th, 2007

Yes, Joe Lieberman is Glenn Close; The Democrats Are Michael Douglas; And Fox News Is Entirely Without Shame

by Philip Baruth

There’s only one decent analogy for Joe Lieberman’s position with respect to the Democratic Party, circa 2007: he is, of course, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (1987), and we are Michael Douglas.

the real Joe LiebermanAfter a brief fling in 1992, Lieberman has taken recently to taunting and attacking us, seemingly at random, disturbing our sudden, tentative sense of domestic security.

If we ignore him, he will target and destroy everything we hold dear.

If we confront him, he will target and destroy everything we hold dear.

He prowls around our House at night. And our Senate. Peering in the windows, envying us our happiness and family ties. We can’t even speak about this nightmare in public.

If we do, he’ll boil our bunny.

And yet there’s no denying that the whole affair is partially our own fault. It’s a bargain born of weakness, and sealed in blood. But it wasn’t always this way.

No, back in early August, when Lieberman lost the Democratic nod to the anti-War upstart Lamont, Big Joe was in a world of hurt. His instincts told him to push hard behind Bush’s policies in Iraq, for that way lay the Grand Vision: the 2008 VP slot on a McCain/Lieberman pro-War Unity ticket.

But his political experience told him that he simply couldn’t win re-election without co-opting most of Lamont’s position on Iraq.

Big Joe’s solution, then? To declare himself against both an “open-ended commitment” of troops to the Iraq conflict and a “timetable for withdrawal.”

It was bold and breathtaking and impossible: by definition, actively opposing a schedule or timetable for redeployment makes one inarguably a supporter of an indefinite deployment.

In standard English usage, “Open-ended” means “lacking a fixed end point.”

Yet, Lieberman would stand in front of Connecticut voters ten or fifteen times a day and swear up and down that both of these mutually-exclusive principles were part of his unshakeable moral core.

And so was born a contradiction in reason so seminal that it has given its name to an entire branch of symbolic thought: Problems in Liebermaniacal Illogic (LI). And as with any new conceptual framework, once it’s used somewhere, it’s suddenly everywhere.

Case in point: the early 2008 Primary Season. And the horrible things they’re saying about Barack Obama, who announced his candidacy last week — a great speech, perfectly staged.

Except, of course, for the audible sound of knives being sharpened in the distance.

Problems in Liebermaniacal Illogic (LI):
The Obama Case Study

Not every news outlet has the potential for duplicating Lieberman’s complicated and obscure thought processes. But some immediately outpace the field: Fox News, for instance, has had stand-out success in hiring anchors and hosts with the extreme mental flexibility necessary to handle advanced LI scenarios.

Take Fox News coverage of Barack Obama, for instance. Their early Obama narrative — created through deliberately mislabeled images, damning discussion topics and outright lies — was that he was Too Black.

Too Black as in a Muslim, schooled in a radical Indonesian madrassa, and possessed (like Muhammad Ali) of a name that doubles as a dead ideological give-away: Barack Hussein Obama.

And to their credit, when all of the above was debunked, Fox kept on plugging.

Okay, fine, they argued, so Obama is not a Muslim; fine, Obama is a Christian. But isn’t his particular Southside Chicago church, the Trinity United Church of Christ, really a little bit — wait for it — Too Black? Here Fox argues that Trinity United’s “disavowal of the pursuit of middleclassness” smacks of separatism and early Black Panther rallies.

Granted, Fox shows some minor argumentative creativity here, but it wasn’t until the Too Black narrative had all but run its course that they entered the rarified realm of LI: Fox began to argue, even as it was flogging the Too Black story, that Obama was clearly Not Black Enough.

Predictably, it took mental gymnast Glenn Beck to stick the final illogical dismount here.

After asserting that Obama was in fact “very white in many ways,” Beck added, “Gee, can I even say that? Can I even say that without somebody else starting a campaign saying, ‘What does he mean, [Obama]’s very white?’ He is. He’s very white.”

Then, to make sure there was no lingering doubt as to Obama’s essential lack of pigmentation, Beck did a bit of follow-up after the segment with his producer, managing an astonishing three or four formulations of the same point: Obama is “colorless,” he maintained, adding that “as a white guy … [y]ou don’t notice that he’s black. So he might as well be white, you know what I mean?”

In a word, no.

In the Fox world, Barack Obama is both dangerously activist, and an abject sell-out to the Caucasian mainstream; a Black Power advocate with deep-cover terrorist training, and a contemptible Uncle Tom who will sell out his people in a heartbeat for the price of an Ipod Nano and a few gigabytes of Barry Manilow tunes.

So there you have it: Fox News has come tantalizingly near Lieberman’s own level of contradictory, mutually exclusive argumentation. They haven’t quite matched the work of the master, but that wasn’t to be expected.

Because Big Joe’s mind can bend like no other.

joe, annoying the Party

Officially a Senator from the “Connecticut for Lieberman” party, Lieberman recently announced that while he caucuses with the Democrats, their efforts on the Iraq War do undercut the troops and impede the War on Terror, and therefore he would certainly be open to voting for a Republican come 2008.

All of which has a way of making you long for someone a little more stable and a wee bit less schizophrenic. Like Glenn Close, to take just one example.

[This piece ran first in The Vermont Guardian.]

February 20th, 2007

VDB Savaged by High-Powered Questioners; Lapses into Shocking Analogy in Apparent Self-Defense; Later Issues “Abject” Apology

by Philip Baruth

Spent a brilliant hour and a half today at the Vermont Leadership Institute in Montpelier, surrounded by the Institute’s current crop of program Associates — the 26 men and women, that is to say, who will be running the state within a decade.

jaws still

Along with VPR’s Bob Kinzel and Sue Allen of the Times-Argus — two of Vermont’s most amiable and clear-headed journalists — VDB was there to field questions on traditional media, new media, and public policy.

Suffice it to say there were no softball questions, not from this crowd.

No, no: these folks know how to put a little pepper on the ball. Enough to make your glove hand sting by the time you limp back to the car through the cruel, unplowed sidewalks of Montpelier.

At one point, in sheer desperation, there seemed nowhere to go except into a long, convoluted analogy involving Stephen Spielberg’s 1975 classic, Jaws.

Our apologies to any VLI associate whose dreams may be disturbed by the shocking reference. But welcome to VDB, such as it is: that sort of thing can and does happen here.


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