August 29th, 2011

Obama 2012: The Content-Free Campaign

by Philip Baruth

It’s an understatement to say that VDB is “disappointed” with Barack Obama. “Disappointed” would be a word you’d use to describe a President who, through no real fault of his own, sort of narrowly missed bringing your political hopes to life. A President who accidentally dropped your dreams on the 5 yardline. In this case, though, there’s no denying the reality: Barack Obama, because he foresaw no challenger on the Left and because he (like Clinton) came to see a modus vivendi with the GOP as the defining accomplishment post-healthcare, has governed from the Center-Right since then by choice, by inclination. He is here, today, by design.

Yes, Obama seems highly reactive, and it would be easy to mistake this approach for one that has been thrust upon him. But make no doubt about it, there is a logic and a strategy and often an eagerness to it.

It is in part the work of an inherently conciliatory spirt, and in part hardball politics. By moving so far right so early, Obama has pushed the GOP to the outer fringes, and Perry for instance will have a very tough time making his way back to something like perceived moderation.

But that makes any significant concessions to the Left very unlikely over the next 14 months. To move Left is to allow his opponents to criticize, but then follow, moderating their own position even as they score points.

Obama extended the Bush tax cuts because he wanted to do so, not because he was held hostage. He put entitlements on the table, and kept them there, because he wants to cut them — or more precisely, he wants to be seen cutting them. He wants to run on it as a major achievement.

Why? It’s a Sister Souljah moment, but on a scale far grander than Clinton would ever have attempted. That’s what Obama’s running on. That’s all he’s running on.

If you believe otherwise, VDB would ask you this: why then set up the Super Committee to run through the Fall, and let the budget debate with the GOP dominate the Winter and Spring? Why let debate over budgets and deficits be the sum of the debate?

Because Obama really plans to offer nothing else. Nada.

No political agenda. No real content. Nothing but cutting where his enemies say he won’t cut, which is to say, all of the areas he once swore on the campaign trail to spare.

The 2012 message is short but sweet: I am Barack Obama, I’m a good man and I govern as a mildly Conservative President, rather than the extreme version otherwise available. Take it or leave it. That the bumper sticker has no slogan is no accident: his people don’t want to attach him to anything. Even “Winning the Future” had a tiny nugget of progressive policy imbedded within it — we were going to invest, even as we cut.

But we didn’t win the future. We lost it, within the space of about 5 months. And here we sit, prepared for an election we’ll be asked to regard as one of the most important in our lifetimes. So let VDB suggest the slogan, because it’s remarkably apt, from a pure marketing perspective:


August 26th, 2011

Romney’s Father Never Quite Made It Either

by Philip Baruth

Mitt Romney’s strength, such as it is this cycle, has consisted of avoidance and lack of competition. Now that Perry has provided the competition, forcing Romney to forego avoidance, there is no strength, no strategy, no stability. Which is to say that Mitt seems to be coming slightly unglued, in a very short period of time. Take a look at this video, of a very calm and controlled senior questioning Mitt about the former partner who created a shell company in order to pass a cool million to Romney — only to dissolve the company a few months thereafter. Listen carefully to Romney. Is it VDB, or does that last whack at an answer actually cross the line into desperate babbling? Makes you think of good old Dad, George Romney, who was supposed to run away with it in 1968, until Nixon zapped him like a June bug. A June bug with excellent hair, but still, a June bug.

August 26th, 2011

Ghaddafi Loved Him Some Condi

by Philip Baruth

Word out of Tripoli is that the search of Col. Gaddhafi’s compound has turned up the typical dictatorial detritus and fetish objects, with one strange exception: the inevitable pornography, the sort we now associate with the busted lairs of Noriega and Bin Laden, turned out in this case to be an album of Condoleeza Rice photos. Or maybe not so strange: Even the Kiss boys had a thing for Condi, back in the day. Which is interesting but gross, as it implies, indirectly, that there are probably dictators out there with Rumsfeld and Allbright albums as well. And that’s just Wrong. Morally Wrong.

August 24th, 2011

McKibben Beats The Rap, Freed From Jail; Vermont to Send Next Wave of Protesters to DC, But Your Help (And Dough) Needed

by Philip Baruth

So Bill McKibben, arrested with the first wave of XL Pipeline protesters in DC, has finally been cut loose. He was in for three days, was McKibben, and they fed him — wait for it — only bologna sandwiches, “one every twelve hours.” Oh, and the prisoners slept on stainless steel shelves “with no bedding.” Why go through this voluntarily? It has to do with a “1,500-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet,” and we covered it all here.

The big question is this: will you attend tomorrow night’s fundraiser at Mainstreet Landing in Burlington, to help fund the next wave of protesters? And to avenge the bolognying of Vermont’s most respected environmental activist?

Let’s do this thing.

August 22nd, 2011

BACK TO THE FUTURE: VDB Presents, For Your Enjoyment, Some Old But Marginally Revealing Footage of Rick Perry and Sarah Palin, In Which Perry Eats His Own Liver

by Philip Baruth

Admittedly, this is for campaign trail junkies only. But every so often an intuition you have in the past actually pans out in technicolor here and now, the present, about something tiny and seemingly inconsequential. Regardless, it satisfies your inner campaign nerd. Case in point: Back in 2008, just a few days after the McCain campaign’s collapse at the polls, Sarah Palin showed up at the National Governors’ Association, and Palinmania was still at such a pitch that the key question going in to the conference was whether or not Palin would formally address the press. For the record, she did.

But Palin and her fellow GOP governors also worked out a strategy to avoid 1) Palin looking like a diva, and 2) the utter eclipse of her senior GOP colleagues: they held a joint press conference.

Of course no one got asked any questions but Palin. And that’s fun and nostalgic and sick-making in its own way.

The really interesting thing, though, is the tell-tales on the guy standing directly to Palin’s right throughout: Texas Governor Rick Perry. Remember watching this at the time and thinking Perry was pretty overt at certain moments, not very shy about signaling that the reporters had the wrong heart-throb.

Take a look at 2:05 here, and 2:45. In both cases, you see Perry doing what Joseph Heller in Catch-22 called “eating his own liver.” In the first of those clips, he all but demands that a question go to someone else other than Palin (”Who do you want?”), and in the second, he simply boxes her out of the frame with a massive shoulder pad.

Which is choice. But ask it this way: What do you think it does to Perry to see Palin still floating this thin balloon?

August 17th, 2011

STOPPING THE XL PIPELINE: What Do You Do When The President No Longer Has Your Back? Go To Jail, Directly To Jail

by Philip Baruth

So you might be wondering: Given that President Obama seems to have jettisonned nearly every affirmative agenda item in the Democratic playbook, in favor of every affirmative agenda item in the GOP playbook, is there any remaining advantage to having a Democrat holding the White House? Turns out the answer is yes. Among other things, Obama has the executive branch ability either to conserve large swaths of land, or to open said swaths to rapacious oil and gas exploitation. So he’ll do the former, right? Actually, not so much.

Okay, so yes, there is no readily apparent remaining advantage to having a Democrat in the White House. What does that leave for the Left? Protest and jail. In a nutshell.

And on the issue of the Tar Sands/Keystone XL Pipeline, that’s precisely what a group of folks (including Vermont’s Bill McKibben) have in mind.

Why go to such lengths — a trip to DC, and mass civil disobedience, pressuring the President to do the right thing — to stop a single pipeline? For one thing, this is a pipeline that would stretch from Canada to Texas. In other words it would traverse the nation, and bring serious environmental risk to every state it touches. But for another, any responsible carbon-reduction policy begins with leaving “unconventional fossil fuels” (like tar sand) in the ground.

Long story short: a posse of Vermonters are headed to DC to be disobedient, and then — in all likelihood — get busted.

And VDB wants to help.

So we’ll be MCing an event to help fund this expedition, a week from today: Wednesday, August 24, 7:30 pm in the Film House at the beautiful Main Street Landing. The fundraiser is built around a screening of the documentary Petropolis, which is worth seeing even if it weren’t also helping to send Vermont’s best and brightest to the pokey.

Facebook event page is Close out the summer with us. Should be brilliant, and worthwhile.

August 11th, 2011

DEBACLE: GOP Frontrunner Mitt Romney Goes To Iowa, Defends Corporations To Surly Crowd All Hopped Up On Fried Butter

by Philip Baruth

So with Rick Perry’s imminent entry into the GOP field, the punditocracy immediately declared that Team Romney was in a new do-or-die phase of its front-runnership: Mitt would have to engage, or risk losing his media-conferred alpha dog status. So Mitt dutifully flew to Iowa, to speak with folks at the Fair. And was essentially handed his Docker-clad ass by the crowd. In all seriousness, listen to this video and answer this question: when was the last time you heard a Presidential candidate, let alone the frontrunner, openly jeered and mocked? Too long ago, however long it’s been.

August 11th, 2011

Rick Sets VDB Straight On Married Beer

by Philip Baruth

Plato developed the concept of the “philosopher king” to thread the needle, politically speaking: he wanted someone ruthless enough to rule, while brilliant enough to understand that there were rules to ruling. Smart enough actually to discover the truth, in other words, and domineering enough to then rigidly enforce the results of those philosophical speculations. Someone like, yes: Rick Santorum. This is a man who knows water from beer, and will fight to the death your right to say otherwise. And so VDB sayeth: Rule us, Rick. We await the thousand-year reign of your Clarity.

August 9th, 2011

Got An Issue With Bachmann Migraines? Tell That To The Guy Who Wrote The Best Book Ever On The Migraine, One Andy Levy

by Philip Baruth

A few weeks back, when Michelle Bachmann was the flavor of the week, and the vetting was fast and furious, America learned that the woman suffers from migraines. It seemed a weak reed even at the time, especially since there were other, far stronger issues out there — such as her documented predilection for every form of government assistance she elsewhere condemns. Or the gaybaiting. Whichever.

But at the time of the migraine flap, I couldn’t help but think of my old college roommate, Andy Levy, who wrote the : A Brain Wider Than The Sky. It just seemed like a perfect moment for him to step out and set folks straight. So I wrote him a note yesterday, kidding him about the missed opportunity.

Turns out I was the one who missed it: he published an extremely level-headed piece on the “phony” controversy with CNN back in July, weeks ago.

Best two paragraphs? The first: “First of all: Michele Bachmann will not be getting my vote for president.”

And the fifteenth: “Thomas Jefferson suffered from severe headaches for several weeks in April and May 1776. If the Continental Congress had recused him from duty, they would have missed what he did when the headaches stopped: write the Declaration of Independence.”

Said this a while back, but if you suffer from migraines, know someone who does, or have no compelling book with which to finish out the summer, got five words for you: Brain Wider Than The Sky.

August 5th, 2011

Shumlin Still Winning The Hard Way

by Philip Baruth

Good news for the Governor: a new Public Policy Polling result finds Shumlin beating Dubie (the strongest GOP candidate) in a re-match by a relatively hefty margin, 48%-40% — “relatively” because last time out, you’d have had a hard time sliding a playing card between the two candidates on Election Day. And make no mistake: Shumlin has created that margin through sheer sweat equity, showing up for every single event in every single County every single day of every single week. It’s work ethic, nothing more, nothing less — not only on the Governor’s part, but on the part of his staff. Kudos, people. And don’t stop moving.

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