Friday, March 21, 2008

Reminds Me of Hillary's Health Care Plan

It's 2:00am. I've finished a draft of my SWOT analysis for the University Audit and I've finally gotten to watch a little bit of Beowulf. Right now, it looks like Beowulf has cut off Grendel's hand.

Go Beowulf.

I've been thinking a lot about the Hillary/ Obama know today.

My impression is that Obama's campaign is permanently damaged by the Jeremiah Wright incident and that he won't be able to get beyond it. That doesn't mean that I don't think Obama can win. But he's now looking a lot more "controversial" and a lot less transcendent.

In other words, Obama looks more like Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Actually, Barack Obama's speech is beginning to look a lot like Hillary Clinton's health care plan. Weighing in at over 1,000 pages, Hillary Clinton's plan provided an enormous amount of fodder for conservative critics even though it was a great plan that would have made the American health care system a lot more rational. Obama has the same problem with his speech. Having spoken for more than 35 minutes Obama provided an enormous amount of material for the right-wing to chew on. And they've already started to do the nit-picking and micro-analysis. Charles Krauthammer, Patrick Buchanan, and Ann Coulter have already weighed in with articles like Buchanan's "A Brief for Whitey" which complains that it's white people who have really suffered as a result of race.

And that brings me back to Hillary Clinton.

The premise of Hillary's campaign is that any Democratic candidate or president would have to engage in a full-time battle with the right-wing. That's a premise that Obama has always rejected.

But I believe that the dispute over Obama's speech is going to prove Hillary right.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Jason Whitlock on March Mediocrity

Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports has an interesting article on the NCAA basketball tournament which boils down to the fact that college basketball isn't any good now that the best players are going to the NBA as soon as possible.

The Kevin Garnetts of the world can't go directly from high school to the pros anymore, but the "one and done" crowd of O. J. Mayo, Michael Beasley, and Kevin Durant only dominate because the best upperclassmen are already in the NBA.

NCAA basketball has declined in recent years because the talent level has fallen off. Sooner or later, fan interest is going to go the way of the talent.

I know mine has.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama's Knowledge/ McCain's Ignorance

Because I've been so immersed in my audit analysis for the GGH Government Program, I haven't been able to write the "post to end all posts" on Obama's speech that I wanted to write.

But I have a brief comment on Obama in relation to John McCain.

Much of what I liked about Obama's speech was that he pressed all his knowledge of the reality of race relations into the service of a larger, more generous humanity. Obama was able to sketch out the roots of racial resentments on both the black and white sides in a manner that carried the expectation that both sides would be able to gain an understanding of the other and be more generous in thinking about and judging the other group. Obama's knowledge made him a bigger person. To the extent that his speech had an impact on American thinking about race, it made us all bigger.

Then there's John McCain.

The liberal blogs have been abuzz about John McCain's mistaken claim that the Iranians were training al-Qaeda fighters to kill American soldiers in Iraq.

To bloggers like Glenn Greenwald and Josh Marshall, the main point is that McCain doesn't know that al-Qaeda members are militant Sunnis who view themselves as being just as much at war with Shiite Iran as they are with the U. S.

But I disagree.

The point for McCain and other neo-conservatives is that making claims that there are connections between al-Qaeda and Iran is a matter of moral principle instead of an issue of knowledge vs ignorance.

Foreign policy neo-cons have made all kinds of claims about the Middle East--about Iraq, Iran, Saddam Hussein, Hezbollah, and other parties.

But what comes first to neo-conservatives is their policy objectives of maintaining an indefinite occupation of Iraq, forcing a regime change in Iran, and supporting Israel against populist Arab opponents like Hamas and Hezbollah.

Instead of orienting their policy objectives around an empirical understanding of the Middle East, conservatives prefer to make provocative claims concerning American opponents as a political tactic to justify aggressive American policies. Dick Cheney was a master of this kind of provocation in the run-up to the Iraq War, mixing up assertions that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9-11 with claims about the threats from Iraq's WMD's and innuendoes about Hussein being another Hitler. None of these claims were true and Cheney could have cared less whether they were true or not. The point was that making such claims tended to tilt public opinion toward supporting the invasion Cheney wanted. Cheney and other neo-cons were sure to attack those who found contrary evidence as naive, unpatriotic, or treasonable. But the neo-cons did so because they believed in the political value of their claims and their own manhood and moxy in advancing these claims rather than their truth-value.

Contrary to Obama, neo-conservatives routinely advance their cause by making unwarranted, provocative claims and then acting as though such claims were true. In other words, the neo-cons use ignorance as one of their favorite tools for pursuing their agenda.

And that's what McCain was doing. He was advancing a provocative claim about al-Qaida and Iran as a way to make the war in Iraq seem necessary. In fact, he could care less whether Iran is training al-Qaeda fighters or not.

The point is to promote the war.

And Joe Lieberman wouldn't have corrected McCain if he didn't think that McCain's mistake wasn't going to make McCain and the war look bad.

The systematic deployment of this kind of dishonesty as a propoganda took in American politics is one of the many ways in which conservatives make themselves small in order to pursue their political aims. To the extent that they have an impact on American politics, they make the rest of us small as well.

Obama's principles knowledge enlarges himself and us while McCain's determined ignorance reduces himself and us.

If Obama is the Democratic nominee, that's going to be a lot of what's involved in choosing between them.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring Break--Auditing--SWOTING

Well, I've spent the last two days working on the SWOT --"Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats--analysis for the Government Program's audit submission. Here's an example of my sterling bureaucratic prose:
Offering a variety of empirical political science classes, public law, and political theory, Morehead State is the only political science program in the state that can claim to fully embrace the possibilities of political science education.
Maybe I did something in a past life to deserve this, but I can't imagine what.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sketching the Obama Crisis

I guess we're now going to find out how Barack Obama reacts when he gets calls at 3:00 in the morning. That's because he'll probably be getting some of those calls tonight. With the broadcasting of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons on YouTube, my tube, and everybody's tube, Obama has a crisis on his hands. Wright's sermons are inflammatory to the nth degree and wide open to accusations of reverse racism and America-hating. The YouTube videos of Wright's sermons not only tar Obama with guilt by association, they locate Obama in the cultural place of African-American resentment over white oppression and that's a place Obama has been trying his best to avoid.

There's also the problem of truth-telling. The videos also make it hard to believe that Obama never heard one of Wright's aggressive sermons or heard of him making one of these sermons. It was pretty clear from the crowd reaction that the congregation at Trinity United Church of Christ expected this kind of sermonizing from Wright and reveled in it. I'm pretty sympathetic to Obama for a Hillary supporter, but I can't see how the "Barack Didn't Know" story can stand up for long and it will be interesting to see Obama try to re-spin another cover story after this one falls apart. But "re-spinning" is associated with sleazy politicians like Hillary Clinton. Obama wasn't supposed to do these kinds of things.

That's why Obama has a bit of an Eliot Spitzer difficulty here as well. Much as Spitzer had been particularly sanctimonious in his moralizing while he was also patronizing prostitutes, Obama has been calling for racial unity while being an enthusiastic member of a church of racial division. That certainly raises the question of whether Obama is a hypocrite or a phony.

Whether the answer is "yes" is another issue.