Posted by: mutantpoodle | January 1, 2009

What I said

look-backThere may be a few original thoughts rattling around my head today – although they’d have been lonely as of late – but a mellow but late night last night renders me incapable of articulating them.

And then I saw this post by Litbrit,which pointed me to Jon Swift’s best blog posts of 2008, submitted by bloggers themselves. And I missed it.

Damn. However, nothing says I can’t go through and see if I made any sense earlier this year, or ever, and if so, what one post I’d pick as the best of the best.

It was hard, and I’d like to think that it’s due to the high quality of so many of my posts, as opposed to a general tendency to gravitate toward the mean. There were a few times, it turns out, where I appear to have been prescient.

But pick one? Didn’t happen. But here are my five finalists (grammar and punctuation errors uncorrected):

Mike Huckabee’s Mixed Martial Arts Metaphor (January 19):

I know better than to take Mike Huckabee too seriously – I mean, if he can’t be bothered to find out the contents of a fairly revealing NIE on Iran within, say, 48 hours, he’s not taking this whole presidency thing too seriously himself, right?

But I heard someone on NPR talk about Huckabee’s “Billy Jacktheory of military intervention, which he describes as going to war with overwhelming force. And I had say something, for three reasons.

First, it gives me an excuse to show the clip above – a seminal moment in martial arts movies – where the bad guy gets decked by a flawless inside circle kick, executed by the film’s fight choreographer and Tom Laughlin’s stunt double, Hapkido Grandmaster Bong Soo Han.

Second, it just goes to show that Huckabee either never saw Billy Jack or forgot what happens throughout most of the movie. In the scene above, Billy Jack is alone (underwhelming force) an the mob ends up getting the better of the fight and beating him to a bloody pulp. Perhaps not the model on which to pattern U.S. Military strategy, eh? (If Huckabee had any brains or wit, he’d refer to our current military/foreign policy as the Billy Jack strategy, where we largely go it alone and suffer the consequences.)

Third, Huckabee is riding the endorsement of martial arts expert and movie/TV star Chuck Norris – you’d think he could throw his guy a bone, although, I admit, that saying you’re military strategy will be based on “Lone Wolf McQuade” or “Missing in Action” might not be the best pitch.

Typing Without Thinking (February 22):

Why is it that people think that because one demographic (”waitress moms”) favors a particular candidate in the primaries that they will flip parties in the general election, particularly when the other candidate is barely distinguishable on policy grounds from the one they’ve chosen? Does anyone really think that waitress moms are going to see McCain as the second best candidate after Hillary Clinton? Is McCain still the straight-talking friend of Latinos who will be able to woo Latino Democrats away from Obama?

I remember seeing “Death Tax” Frank Luntz on Real Time with Bill Maher say that, while he, and the GOP know how to run against Hillary Clinton, he hasn’t a clue how you’d run a campaign against Obama. (Apparently, Luntz is, for real, an Obama fan, so go figure). But that’s not true – he knows, but isn’t willing to say it on national TV.

The way for McCain to win this election won’t be by stealing the voters who supported Hillary in the Democratic primary. It will be by scaring voters into thinking that Obama naively will offer free pilot training to al qaeda, a theme assisted by a whisper campaign by the Roger Stones of the world that Barack Hussein Obama was educated in madrasses his entire life (what, after all, is Harvard Law School?) and is, in fact, an al qaeda plant, trained since before its inception to take over the United States hand it over to Islamic extremists, and that he really wants to marry your white daughter.

Right Wing Ju-Jitsu (April 18):

Among the things that has me slack-jawed with wonder these days is how Barack Obama becomes an elitist and George Bush ever was just a regular guy.

The cynic in me might argue that the dumber a politician assumes most Americans are, the more likely the media is to say you’re a (wo)man of the people, because, after all, you fit the traditional media’s (elitist) image of what all us unwashed rubes concern ourselves with. (I must carve out the Charlie Gibson exception – Gibson seems convinced that unemployed steelworkers’ largest concern is how their portfolios will handle a proposed increase in the capital gains tax.)

Then there’s the possibility that Obama, having climbed into the elite on merit, is the elite version of nouveau-riche. That it’s ok to be elite, but only if it was thrust upon you by the unfortunate circumstances of birth – those who have just made it are just a bit too pushy and smug about their eliteness.

I just think it’s the genius of the right-wing attack machine. When confronted with an opponent’s strength, either destroy the strength, or turn it into a weakness. The first is Karl Rove’s famous technique, and nowhere did it succeed more than in 2004, when John Kerry – a decorated war hero, for crying out loud – was portrayed as a traitorous coward. (Kerry, of course, played right along by saying things like “I was for it before I was against it”, cementing his image as a wishy-washy wimp.) The second is the fallback – so if you have an opponent who is principled and uncompromising, they become rigid and stubborn. If they build consensus and acceptable compromise, they are unprincipled and weak.

Bright Shiny Objects (September 1):

John McCain accomplished one goal with his Palin pick – people stopped talking about Obama’s speech, and started talking about Palin. Problem is, now they’re starting to think about it. In the end, McCain’s winning coalition was a solid hold on the GOP base, keeping the non-movement Republicans in the fold, and attracting enough independents and Democrats – particularly Hillary fans – to come out ahead. Palin helps with the base, but, methinks, hurts everywhere else.

Assuming she’s still on the ticket come October 2nd, I expect an interesting evening.

I mentioned above that it seems that some Republicans really believe Palin’s experience rivals Obama’s.

Now, granted, being from landlocked Illinois, there’s no way to get the foreign policy chops one inherits from living across the Bering Strait from Russia, but still – if you think that Obama and Palin are equally equipped to handle the world stage, you’re hallucinating.

That said, Palin is the bright shiny object meant to distract us from who John McCain is. It’s clear the pick shocked the Obama folks, but since they’ve regained their equilibrium, they’ve done the right thing, and pretty much ignored her. The worst thing for Sarah Palin is if she is taken seriously as a VP candidate. That works for two reasons – one, you won’t win votes by appearing to pick on her, and two, plenty of people will make the “WTF” case for you. Be magnanimous and let her unravel – and she will.

On Competence and Hiring (October 1):

I don’t know if Sarah Palin realized how overmatched she was by the mere job of campaigning for Vice-President – much less performing that job if elected. Frankly, she doesn’t seem too self-aware to me. Maybe it’s just dawning on her now.

But John McCain knew. Because if we’ve learned anything in the past two weeks, it’s that 2 hours – or however long John McCain spent with Sarah Palin before he dropped this bomb on all of us – is plenty of time to figure out she doesn’t have a clue. If he didn’t, he’s far less of a man than I thought – and I didn’t think much of him before this all happened.

When people who worked for me screwed up, the calls from senior management came to me. If I was unable to fix whatever problems there were, they would start to doubt my judgment.

Had I hired someone so pathetically unqualified for a job as Sarah Palin is to hers, I’d have been in serious trouble. Quite possibly fired, and deservedly so.

People may question Sarah Palin’s competence – hell, I do – but the greater failure lies with Senator John McCain. People talk about dropping Palin – but really, it’s McCain who has demonstrated the worst type of incompetence. He hired someone while being fully aware that they were not up to the job. I would never have taken that risk. Besides reflecting poorly on me, friends of mine who depended on my department’s work would have been horribly inconvenienced by my poor judgment.

And my department wasn’t a nuclear power that’s $10 trillion in debt.

I lean toward Bright Shiny Objects, because, well, because it pretty much pegged it, with Mike Huckabee’s Mixed Martial Arts Metaphor not far behind. But I am open to lobbying, because I like each of these five for their own specific virtues.

It was actually fun going back, and looking at what I wrote, and recreating the time in which I wrote it. It might not be as much fun for you, but I didn’t force you, did I?

I started blogging because I wanted to say stuff, and having a blog allows you to do that with the potential of anyone in the world reading it. I’ve enjoyed the comments, when they came; but I’d probably do it no matter what, because getting the thoughts out – especially in the past year – keeps them from gnawing at me from the inside. Anyway, for as deep the hole that we’re in right now, I believe that my issues going forward (after January 20) will involve disagreements about decisions, not slack-jawed wonder at the inanity of what my government is, or isn’t, doing. And we’re done with national campaigns for a while, which will ratchet down the stupid at least a tiny bit.

But, looking back, it was a fruitful year for inanity. 2008 was simultaneously awful and inspiring. I am glad it’s over, but grateful for what it brought us: the thought that our future just might be an improvement over our present.

Here’s hoping. Happy New Year.

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