October 21st, 2008

The Unsung Eloquence of the McCains

by Philip Baruth

According to unnamed McCain strategists, Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado are now privately considered unwinnable. Much has been said about the power of words, or lack thereof, in this election. But one of these anonymous strategists dropped the singlemost powerful word to date, in describing these formerly must-win Red states: “Gone.” Now that’s eloquence, my friends.

Late Update, 7:03 am:

Having privately conceded the three states mentioned above, in order to focus on more favorable territory, McCain must have been heartened to fly into Missouri yesterday and cast his eye on a fired-up crowd of 15 awaiting his arrival.

No typo: 15 people made it out to the Joplin Airport. But to their credit, they were 15 really, really angry people.

If the guy weren’t currently running an openly race-baiting campaign, based almost entirely now on the negative associations behind the words “terrorist” and “welfare,” you’d almost begin to feel sorry for him. And that, of course, is just where Johnny Mac wants you. They will be openly pitching for the pity vote within a matter of days, mark VDB’s words.

And if you think we’re jaded, remember that pity was the overt strategy when McCain’s campaign was declared DOA during the primary season: McCain made a comic video for Leno, in which he was shown being greeted by no one at the airport, schlepping his own bag, and finally being tossed into the trunk by the driver. Pathetic like a fox, this guy.

October 20th, 2008

Richmond Faces True Gut-Check Election

by Philip Baruth

Funny the things you run across in the Free Press. After spending much of the weekend emailing back and forth with readers pulling their hair out over the three-way race for Governor that looks likely to re-elect Uncle Jim, we pick up the paper this morning to find almost exactly the same situation, writ small, in the race for Richmond’s State House seat. Read on, because you’ll love this.

In a nutshell, a three-way race between a Democrat, a Left-leaning Independent, and a Republican could easily favor the GOP candidate. The deeper problem: that candidate, a former practical nurse named Mary Houle, was convicted of physically abusing a patient back in the day. Convicted, and the conviction then upheld on appeal.

Not precisely the resumé you’d think Richmondites would be seeking in their new House Rep.

But what the majority is seeking won’t really matter in the end, of course, if an eager Lefty Independent manages to split the vote with Anne O’Brien, the Democrat endorsed by the current holder of the seat.

It always comes back to the need for a functioning bridge, doesn’t it?

Without one, you’ve always got your community divided in half, standing on the banks of the river waving and shouting madly at one another, while the candidates with what amounts to minority support for their ideas glide down the river to Montpelier.


October 17th, 2008

New VPR Audio (BBC Spoof): Fundraisers, Robert Frost, And The Road Not Paid For

by Philip Baruth

When Vermont Public Radio asked me to write a bit of comic audio for the fundraising drive now underway, I thought immediately of Robert Frost. And what might happen if a BBC reporter went round the twist and decided to raise funds for public radio by any means necessary. Let’s just say the result is a take on Frost you’ve never heard before and will never hear again. Give it a listen. And if you decide you’d like to support the fine work VPR does, so much the better. They deserve all you can afford, and some of what you can’t.

October 17th, 2008

Peter Welch Fires Up the Magic Bus

by Philip Baruth

Maybe you’ve been an avid Obama supporter, but there’s just never been the right opportunity to hit the street for the man. Maybe you’ve had recurring nightmares that New Hampshire puts McCain and Sarah over the top. Maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe you’ve just always wanted to know what Steve Perry really means when he sings the signature Journey ballad “Faithfully.”

Your chance is here: early on the morning of October 25, Congressman Peter Welch will be firing up a bus and driving it straight into the heart of New Hampshire, and he’s hoping to bring a big posse along.

On the agenda: grassroots organizing and canvassing, whatever it takes to convince New Hampshirites that in addition to living free and not dying, they should be voting Obama.

Exactly what VDB has been looking for, because come election night we want to feel that we’ve earned our champagne. We want to tell our children, the VDBabies and Grandbabies, that we briefly got off our dead ass and went to work, one fine day in late October, to put the first African American President into the White House.

Which is to say that VDB loves the smell of History in the morning.

The Magic Bus leaves at 9:15 am from Burlington, and it returns by 6 pm, in time to regale your family with stories of Hope and Change and bad Quizno’s Subs. We’ll save you a seat in the back.

October 16th, 2008

Nothing Fails Like Failure: McCain Pursues Exact Same “Me Vesuvius” Strategy in Third Debate, Loses By Widest Margin Yet

by Philip Baruth

Every once in a while you’ll be watching Judge Judy, and you’ll see that one of the two parties involved in the case just doesn’t get it: the point of Judge Judy is that you listen to Judge Judy, defer to the televised Court, such as it is, and if you don’t, she’ll draw and quarter you before a couch-bound nationwide audience. But every so often a guy or girl will come along who insists on getting angry, mouthy, and who refuses to take a hint that they might best settle down.

Then it’s all over for them: Judge Judy makes them pay bigtime for the sofa they burned, or the car they keyed, and she calls them all kinds of ugly while she does so.

And as the credits roll, the angry defendant will still be huffing and puffing about the unfairness of it all.

In an odd way, that’s what this final debate brought to mind. John McCain has lost each of the last two debates by wide margins; each time the audience response has shown clearly that he’s too hot, too angry, too aggressive, not focused nearly enough on the problems of working people.

For all of his talk about reaching across the aisle, McCain has consistently projected contempt and disrespect. Swing voters have made it amply clear they don’t appreciate it.

And so here we come to the last debate, and if anything McCain is angrier, tetchier. Half the time he looked as though he was going to burst out during Obama’s responses.

Now, after the second debate, VDB faulted McCain’s advisors, for allowing the vast town hall format to be portrayed in the press as McCain’s home turf, when the man clearly has difficulty moving and standing and sitting without appearing slightly awkward. The format highlighted McCain’s age and condition in ways his camp might have turned to his advantage, but didn’t.

Hard to lay it at the feet of the hired men this time, however. Rove-trained or not, any political operative can read a set of polls as clear as those produced after the first two debates; any strategist would have tried to tone his guy down.

The unavoidable conclusion is that McCain cannot be effectively advised. The classic old dog who, like Bob Dole, cannot learn new tricks, and who is comfortable enough in his prerogatives as a Senior United States Senator to believe he shouldn’t have to.

That’s why you don’t run a guy older than dirt, to use McCain’s own phrase. It’s not just that he’s lost a half step since 2000, which he clearly has, but that he actively resents anyone pointing it out, and so he will pointedly ignore advice that suggests as much.

The man simply Does Not Get It, or Can Not Help It.

And CBS News has the snap poll, again, which by this time must sting a hell of a lot more than a tongue lashing from Judge Judy: Obama by 31% (53%/22%).

Sleep tight, Johnny Mac.

Late update, Thursday, 7:45 am:

As in the other two match-ups, CBS merely anticipates the general response via polling: CNN’s focus groups and polling show Obama the winner by a similarly wide margin. The only two categories McCain won:

“Eighty percent of debate watchers polled said McCain spent more time attacking his opponent, with seven percent saying Obama was more on the attack. Fifty-four percent said McCain seemed more like a typical politician during the debate, with 35 percent saying Obama acted more like a typical politician.”

Later Even Update, Thursday, 7:49 am:

ABC News is clearly in the tank for McCain, showing an Obama win by a mere 28%. Have you no shame, sirs?

Latest, Creepiest Update Ever, Thursday, 11:19 am:

Laura writes in that we’ve missed what was actually the most revealing screen capture of the night, and looking at it now, we have to agree. Two men, two potential Presidents, but only one with tongue of lizard, eye of Newt (Gingrich):

October 14th, 2008

Shocking Washington Post Chin-Puller: Apparently Barack Obama Needs to Turn Out the Young Voters He’s Registering

by Philip Baruth

The Washington Post had a long article yesterday, detailing the explosion in voter registration nationwide. While admitting that the boom heavily favors Obama, the greybeards at the Post weren’t going to let the issue go without a harumph or two. So they turned to one Thomas Baldino, who apparently has a degree in Political Science.

“Thomas Baldino, a political science professor at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA, said many of the registrants recruited by the Obama campaign are college students and other young people. He cautioned that such people are less likely to vote than older, established voters for whom heading out on Election Day is a habit.

“(Obama) needs to mobilize those people,” Baldino said. “He needs to turn those numbers into votes.”

Certainly glad we went to the expert for those insights.

Who’d have thought that, among other groups, Obama was registering “college students and other young people?” And, equally stunning, who’d have suspected that turning out those voters was the key to the whole deal?

The Obama campaign, of course.

That’s why ads for early voting are showing up, even as we speak, on virtual billboards in popular video games favored by the demographic in question.

And people wonder why they call him That One.

October 14th, 2008

Savvy Scots Report Trouble in Plooktown

by Philip Baruth

Yes, we’re obsessed with the Presidential election. No, that doesn’t mean we bring you every microscopic flap or imbroglio. One that we gave a miss was the manufactured Fox News flap over Sarah Palin’s second Newsweek cover, the photo that showed an unairbrushed Alaska Governor, sporting a small, makeup-mounded zit. Seemed more or less human to us, rather than proof that Newsweek was in the tank for The One. Or even in the tank for That One.

sarah, failin

But in Scotland, a zit is a plook, apparently, and with apologies to die-hard Palinites, a plook is newsworthy.

From the Sunday Mail:


A SQUABBLE has blown up in the US election campaign — over a plook on Sarah Palin’s face.

Her Republican team are furious that the embarrassing spot was shown in a close-up photo on the front of Newsweek magazine.

The picture also shows a chipped tooth, wrinkles — and even the beginnings of a wispy moustache.

Her team say the picture should have been airbrushed to block out the blemishes — just as Newsweek did to a previous cover picture of Barack Obama.

The right-wing Fox TV news station called the close-up “ridiculously unfair.”

But a source in the Democrat team said: “Sarah’s guys are making a mountain out of a molehill.”

Ouch. Those fun-loving Scots.

You’ve got to love a line like “even the beginnings of a wispy moustache.” Maybe it’s the accent, but everything those guys touch turns to comedy gold.

October 10th, 2008

Symington Campaign Really In For It Now, For George Kuusela Has Written A Letter

by Philip Baruth

Gaye Symington has soldiered on this campaign season, through some tough attacks and hard knocks. But in spite of all her pluck, Gaye’s days are clearly numbered now. For George Kuusela has written a darned feisty letter to the Rutland Herald, defending Jim Douglas’s latest negative ad.

And that’s ball-game, of course.

be afraid — be very afraidIf you don’t recall this guy’s name, VDB will bet you can’t forget his sweet carefree apple-cheeked face. Kuusela, of Bellows Falls, made his last appearance in the 2006 Rich Tarrant attack ads.

It was a series of ads now infamous not merely as outrageously expensive and ineffective, but for the parade of tight-lipped sourpusses they paraded in front of Vermont voters.

The pricey ads actually lowered Tarrant’s numbers, and that’s saying something. And you can bet your life we had our fun with Kuusela when he was trying so desperately to stick the knife into Bernie. A few phrases from our review of his 2006 work:

George Cuusella’s is a face that will haunt the dreams of a whole new generation of Vermonters, for the rest of their natural-born lives.

Every spokesperson in every Tarrant ad looks like your high school gym coach after a three-day bender; the old woman who lives in the deserted house at the end of the block who chases kids away with a tarnished Civil War saber; or the evil old fart who monitors your apartment from his dank porch in the shade of a diseased elm down the street.

And now, not content to have sent Rich Tarrant’s 2006 campaign careening down in flames, George Kuusela is back, back to help his good friend Jim Douglas secure another term in Montpelier.

Back in the negative ad business.

Beautiful. Help away, George. Not every day the Symington campaign gets a gimme like that.

October 9th, 2008

McCain’s Metaphorical Fall From the Stage

by Philip Baruth

If you’re anything like VDB, you’ve been asking yourself one simple question for months now: if John McCain truly is the New Bob Dole, when will he, you know, fall off the stage? That is, when will he provide the media with the metaphorical moment they’ll need to mark the point where it all slipped away from the old boy? Ask no longer.