Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rudy Giuliani, Ubermensch

One of the interesting things about the indictment of Rudy Giuliani crony Bernard Kerik is the way this Giuliani-Kerik hug picture is telling the story. This picture not only does its primary job of showing Giuliani and Kerik together, it also shows the nature of their relationship. Rudy Giuliani was "the man" and Bernard Kerik was "his guy." Giuliani was hugging Kerik as a gesture of patriarchal domination. It was a nod from Rudy Giuliani that had made Bernard Kerik a public figure in the first place and Giuliani was reminding Kerik with a little hug that he still very much had Giuliani's favor. He was also reminding Kerik that he was Giuliani's guy rather than his own guy. As the head of the Riker's Island prison and police commissioner, Kerik was a reflection of "the mayor" and it was part of his job description to be a great deal smaller than the outsized, ubermensch persona Giuliani was defining for himself.

How big does Rudy Giuliani think he is. Big enough to get away with appointing Bernard Kerik to the position of police commissioner despite knowing that Kerik had mob ties. Here's John McCain's campaign manager:
After being briefed on Kerik's ties to organized crime, Giuliani named him chief of the New York Police Department. Without any further vetting, Giuliani asked him to join his security consulting firm. Despite obvious ethical problems, Giuliani went so far as to personally recommend Kerik for the top job at the Department of Homeland Security.
This is one of the key elements in Rudy Giuliani's case for the Republican nomination as it should be understood. From Giuliani's point of view, he is the best person to protect the United States from terrorism because he is willing to do anything to protect the United States and he has the nerve and the ability to make it work. In ignoring Kerik's mob ties, Giuliani demonstrates that he doesn't have to care about what anybody things of does. Giuliani was as completely unconcerned with Kerik's mob ties as he's been with the niceties of Iowa campaigning, kowtowing to the religious right, or hiring blacks and women for his campaign staff. Embracing Bernard Kerik means that he would also be willing to stick it to the Soviet Union and China, attack Iran, ignore Congress and the Courts, and engage in wholesale torture. Republican voters want the torture as a substantive matter but they also want a presidential candidate who is just as willing as Dick Cheney to break all the rules of domestic politics and international law. And they want somebody who looks like he's smarter than George Bush when he's doing it.

In other words, Republican voters will want somebody with Dick Cheney's ideology and Bill Clinton's competence. And Rudy is portraying himself as that guy.

Friday, November 09, 2007

November: The Second Month of Christmas

Hey Fans! I forgot Nov. 1, the official beginning of the second month of Christmas.

"In the Second Month of Christmas, my true love sent to me . . . "

There's a tree with a red tinsel string sitting on the piano at the Walmart Church of God just outside town. No creche scenes though. No Jesus on crosses either. There's even more stuff at Walmart where the good Christmas-y folks there have a couple of Santas on sleighs on the roof as well as a whole display of lighted Santas where they usually have garden implements. Krogers has its Christmas cards out. Mail those Christmas cards by Thanksgiving folks.

There's even a Christmas movie--Fred Klaus--playing at the local one screen theater.

The only blight on Christmas is that well-known Grinch, Mrs. RSI. For some reason, she didn't want us to put up our Christmas decorations tonight.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Charlie Weis-ism Moves to Kentucky

There's a specter haunting Kentucky, the specter of Charlie Weis. Weis is the football coach that Notre Dame hired away from the NFL to replace the unpopular black coach Tyrone Willingham. Breaking traditions of giving its coaches 5 year windows of opportunity, Notre Dame fired Willingham after Willingham failed to sign enough five star recruits and muddled through a 6-5 season deemed intolerably mediocre. Weis was supposed to be the miracle worker who jump-started the return to no. 1 and he did well for a couple of years with Willingham's recruits. But Notre Dame is now no. 1 as in the being the single worst team in the NCAA Bowl Sub-Division. They're 1-8, they're offense is so bad it might be ranked 111, and Willingham's "mediocrity" looks like an unattainable goal right now.

Billie Gillespie, the men's basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, looks a lot like Charlie Weis this morning. Like Weiss, Gillespie was brought in to replace an unpopular black coach who wasn't satisfying fan demands to get to the Final Four every year. Like Weiss, Gillespie was heavily hyped as a "24-7" basketball coach who wasn't married, didn't date, and had the fastest texting thumbs in the recruiting universe. Armed with a couple of high-profile freshmen, Gillespie was supposed to get UK back to the promised land fast.

But UK lost to mid-major Gardner-Webb by 16 last night and they looked badly out of joint doing it. All of a sudden, they look closer to the bottom of the wilderness than the promised land. All of a sudden, the much hyped Gillespie looks a lot like he's in a very bad place--just as bad as Charlie Weiss.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rudy Climbs on the Scandal Machine, Updated

It looks like Rudy Giuliani crony Bernard Kerik is going to be indicted tomorrow "on a list of charges that include tax fraud, corruption and conspiracy." Having been a successful prosecutor, Giuliani doesn't understand how scandal works for people on the wrong side of the scandal machine.

Unfortunately for Giuliani, it's going to be almost as painful for his presidential campaign as it's going to be for Kerik himself.

When Kerik is indicted, "Giuliani Pal Bernie Kerik" images will be all over television for at least 2 or 3 days as the American nation gets to see Kerik walking too and from the court house, mug shots, and pictures of Kerik with a smiling Giuliani. After that, there will be periodic surges of news from the legal process. Detailed reports of the pre-trial manuevering, jury selection, and conflicts over evidence will make Kerik's lawyer a household name. Then there will be the trial, the verdict, and the sentencing if there's a guilty verdict.

And at every stage, the primary question being asked will be "what does the Kerik case say about Giuliani's judgment?" Old scandals concerning Albert Nouima will resurface and more recent scandals like the Abramoff case and the fired federal prosecutors will come back to mind.

Bernie Kerik's indictment could be a big problem for Rudy. At the very least, Giuliani is in for some difficult times as he steps into the Scandal Machine.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Potted Plant Wins in Kentucky

With 97% of the vote in, Steve Beshear was ahead 58.9% to 41.1% for incumbent Republican Ernie Fletcher. That 17% margin had been pretty steady since the first weeks after the gubernatorial primaries in the spring.

It's worth mentioning that Beshear has a lot of faults in common with the national democratic leadership. He's about as colorless as a politician can get (I met him this spring), relatively conservative, and basically risk averse. The same could be said about Pelosi and Reid after they caved into Bush over Iraq war funding. In many ways, the Democratic congressional leadership has been potted plants ever since. That's the case with Beshear as well. He was there during the campaign, he was working hard, he didn't look particularly good or bad, and he didn't do much on his own. Actually, that sounds like a lot of Democrats

Yet Beshear still won handily. I believe two things kept Beshear 17% ahead throughout the election campaign. There was the fact that the Republicans were somewhat divided as a result of Ann Northup's primary challenge to Fletcher. More important, opinion hardened against Fletcher early as evidenced by Fletcher's Bush-like approval ratings. Partisan Democrats grew more committed to replacing Fletcher, weak Democrats decided to vote their party, and swing voters swung to Beshear without thinking too much about Beshear himself. It was an election that a potted Democrat could win and Beshear was the right plant at the right time.

The question for the 2008 presidential election is whether a potted Democrat like Steve Beshear will be able to win the presidency. The lesson of Kentucky is that there is going to be a hard core anti-Republican vote among weak Democrats and Independents. A potted plant Democrat might not be able to win against somebody as tough and smart as Giuliani, but it might not take much more than a potted plant either.


Monday, November 05, 2007

McCain Takes Shot at Rudy's Cod

One of the hallmarks of Rudy Giuliani's primary campaign is that he's willing to say just about anything to puff up his image as an uber-manly tough guy. Where Mitt Romney panders on social conservatism, Giuliani panders on uber-masculinity.

This brings us to the issue of codpieces. If Renaissance codpieces are an ideal representation of symbolic manliness, Giuliani's daily put-downs of Hillary, advocating attacks on Iran and standing tall for torture can best be understood as efforts to pump up his political codpiece while also putting his ample "cod" on display.

Last Friday, Giuliani sought to "show a little cod" by claiming that he knew what was at stake in torturing al-Qaeda suspects because he himself had Mafia suspects tortured in New York while he was either a federal attorney or a Mayor.
Intensive questioning works. If I didn't use intensive questioning, there would be a lot of Mafia guys running around New York right now, and crime would be a lot higher in New York than it is.

But last night, John McCain deflated Rudy a little by calling him on the ridiculousness of the comparison between prosecuting Mafia guys in New York and global terrorists.

When someone says waterboarding is similar to harsh interrogation techniques used against the mafia in New York City, they do not have enough experience to lead our military.

Score one hit to Rudy's cod for McCain. Maybe he should do that more often.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Showing Some Cod, Revised

Hillary Rebounds Quickly--Although Hillary Clinton did not respond well to Tim Russert's wedge-sniffing question about drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants, she recovered quickly. In short order, Hillary's staff complained about "piling on" by male Democratic candidates and then Hillary herself gave a speech at Wellesley College (her alma mater) focusing on the pathbreaking nature of her status as the first female contender for the presidency. By the end of the week, the wobble had been forgotten in the deluge of commentary on Hillary "playing the gender card." Hillary needs to be stronger when challenged by people like Russert, but she proved effective at changing the terms of the post-debate debate. To the contrary, John Edwards is still suffering from his $400 haircut.

The Rally Around Hillary Effect. The most surprising post-debate development was that liberal bloggers like Matthew Yglesias, Digby, Melissa McEwan, and Matt Stoller all rallied around Hillary. This was a first for the liberal blogging crowd, all of whom are considerably to the left of Hillary Clinton and have been experimenting with giving their support to Obama (Bias alert: RSI endorsed Hillary in March). Defending Hillary's right to be proud of being a trailblazer, the liberal bloggers united to stress the fact that male candidates have been playing the gender card in every presidential election since Washington's 1792 campaign.

Digby's discussion of the politics of masculinity since Reagan is worth quoting at length for its stress on "metaphorical crotch measuring."
And now I will be eagerly looking forward to [Chris Matthews] and the rest of the commentators calling out the entire Republican field for also playing the "gender" card as they've been doing for the past few decades. Indeed, the entire Republican campaign strategy can be said to be one big gender card --- the only people they believe matter in this country are delicate, insecure creatures who are so sensitive that they have to be pampered and pandered to like a bunch of overfed princes who like to play cowboy and don't want to share their favorite binky. Every presidential candidate, and most other politicians, since 1980, have been bowing and scraping before this constituency. But for some reason, the hunting trips and codpieces and brush clearing and all that metaphorical crotch measuring isn't considered playing "the gender card." It's just considered the normal political pander to an aggrieved minority vote: the poor white males who've been treated terribly by all those powerful women and minorities and gays. What could be wrong with that?

Liberal bloggers are far from all-powerful (something which I deeply regret), but it's still a plus for Hillary that the left blogosphere is at least somewhat committing itself to defending her candidacy. There was some worry that people on the left would be unenthused about a Hillary candidacy. But the Hillary campaign may prove to be a flag that the left can rally around in the general election.

Showing Some Cod. It's worthwhile to go deeper into the the whole idea of "codpiece" politics proposed by Digby. It may turn out that the language of cod is most useful for discussing the politics of masculinity. Cod-pieces are not penises. A cod-piece is a clothing device that represents a man's penis and testicles (or "package") as being larger than they would be otherwise. It's basically "male enhancement." Macho politics functions in the same way. What Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, George Bush, Rudy Giuliani, and countless other politicians have done is advertise their attitudes, accomplishments, or life in general as a super-enhanced maleness, or fantastically large cod-piece. Instead of thinking of politics in terms of penis-size, it might be useful to think of politics in terms of inflatable codpieces or, to be more concise, "cods." The male candidate who can inflate his codpiece the most is the most manly man in the race which is why candidates work so hard to inflate their codpiece selves while deflating the cods of their opponents through negative advertising, rumor mongering, push polls, and other tactics. Because it's so oriented toward symbolic display, contemporary macho politics is mostly about "showing some cod."

The Hillary Effect. Given the "artificial" nature of cods, women are just capable of showing a little cod, or a lot of cod, as men. Hillary Clinton is a good example of this. There isn't much doubt that Hillary is at least just as tough, just as dominant, just as shrewd, and just as tenacious as the male Democratic candidates. In fact, she has a reputation for having more of these qualities than any of the men she's running against. In other words, Hillary displays even more cod than Obama, Edwards, Richardson, Dodd, and Biden. Even worse, Hillary can play "the gender card" of being a woman who is pioneering women's history in the United States. Even if Obama and the rest began to claim more for their codpieces, they still cannot claim that they could be the first female president in American history. In this sense, Hillary isn't just "playing the gender card" against her Democratic opponents. She's squeezing them in a gender vice in which she monopolizes the symbolism of both masculinity and femininity.

Opposing Hillary. Thinking of Hillary in terms of displaying cod also gives us some insight into the Rudy Giuliani approach for opposing Hillary if he wins the Republican nomination. In attacking Hillary on an almost daily basis, Giuliani is not only trying to distance himself from his Republican opponents, he's announcing that his general election campaign will be a non-stop, intimidating, even grotesque display of his cod. If nothing else, Giuliani will seek to convince voters that he can out-cod Hillary to such an enormous extent that she will be reduced to being "the female candidate" and Rudy will have a decent shot at winning.

How should Hillary respond. Obviously, Hillary's will need to "man-up" for the general election if she's going to beat Rudy Giuliani. That means dishing out as much as she's taking, answering his put-downs with put-downs of her own, and showing that she's just as much cod as Rudy has. However, Rudy's cronyism, corruption, refusal to countenance dissent, bizarre Mafia-like rituals, cross-dressing, and three marriages provide a lot of material for the cod deflation of negative advertising. Hillary's negative advertising will have a shot at deflating Giuliani to such an extent that all his furious pumping will not be able to reinflate his cod. In the final analysis, Giuliani's cod might turn to be just a fish.

Neither Work Horse Nor Show Horse

The basic distinction between U. S. Senators is between "work horses" and "show horses." The current archetypes of "showhorses" are guys like John McCain and Joe Lieberman who get themselves on television at every possible opportunity. Hillary Clinton was destined to be a "showhorse" because of her celebrity status, but was determined to earn a reputation as a "workhorse" as well.

What about Fred Thompson? According to Nancy Benac, he
was no Senate workhorse during his eight years there, but as a committee chairman he investigated fundraising abuses during the Clinton re-election campaign.
But he didn't work hard enough to be a "showhorse" either. Maybe Fred Thompson just isn't much of a horse.

Right-Wing Misogyny and Racism Made Clear

I found this very concise statement of the misogyny and racism of conservative writers in today's Kevin McCullough article for
Women - vote irrationally. Some women will be offended by the observation but most will agree, women do not vote according to what they know. They tend instead to vote based on intuition. They get "a feeling" about a candidate and that's what they trust. Hillary has understood this better than anyone else. Her consistent campaign "story" of "90 year old women 'remembering when they didn't have the right to vote' and 'determined to live until they see a woman president' has been thoroughly mocked by talk radio for its lack of believability. Which is true - no one believes Hillary is being swarmed by a bunch silver-haired Susan B. Anthonys. But talk radio is missing the point. Thirty year old women don't care if it's true, it makes them feel like they are part of history and for that reason alone "its time" for them to vote for a woman. Smart women understand this as well. Ann Coulter recently confided to me off air - that she would gladly give up her vote because she is tired of using her informed knowledge of candidate selection being overridden by four to five other women who could not even name all of the candidates running for President, much less identify what they stand for. The only group less rational in its voting patterns than women are African Americans who consistently elect people who keep them poor, keep them uneducated, and keep them killing their own. It should be noted - Hillary does exceptionally well with that demographic as well.

McCullough must have had an extremely difficult time deciding which group was more irrational-- women or African-Americans. I'm surprised he didn't find a way to work in gays.

But then again, McCullough is not a Republican candidate for governor of Kentucky.