Sunday, February 24, 2008

Is the Swiftboating of Obama Just Around the Corner?

The campaign for President between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has focused on the narrative of experience versus vision, and has been echoed in the nascent campaign between John McCain and Obama. More ominous ominous political attacks, however, may be laying in the weeds. Will Obama be attacked for his lack of patriotism or worse? Will the American people allow such attacks to be successful as they were against John Kerry in 2004?

These may prove critical questions for the next election, should Obama, as now seems likely, become the Democratic nominee. What do you think? For an analysis of the future swifboating of Obama see "Obama May Face Grilling on Patriotism."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Conspiracy Theory? You Must Be An Enthusiast!

In today's New York Times article, "New Trove Opened in Kennedy Killing," Leslie Eaton refers to those who question the Warren Commission "lone gunman" theory as "conspiracy theorists" or "conspiracy enthusiasts." Not once in the article, about the release by the Dallas DA of items related to the assassination that have been sealed for more than forty years, is there mention of the findings of the 1970s Congressional investigation of the assassination that questioned the Warren Commission, nor other reputable inquiries and critiques.

The point here isn't to re-argue the Kennedy murder, but rather to note how easily discourse gets framed in ways prejudicial to one side in important debates. Undoubtedly, some people are enthusiasts of exciting conspiracies and others (sometimes the same people) find a conspiracy under every rock. Others like their history to be as unsettling and simple as possible--they want it not just to recede with time but to go away. Unfortunately, in life there are times when history is clear and others when it is quite murky. Conspiracies sometimes do exist, and you shouldn't have to be an enthusiast to know that.

To judge for yourself, go to New Trove Opened in Kennedy Killing.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Instead of Demonizing the Poor, End Poverty

In his column in the NY Times today, "Poverty is Poison," Paul Krugman takes on a number of myths that have been used to demonize the poor and those who argue for the moral correctness and the feasibility of eliminating poverty.

Krugman shows:

1. Poverty brings with it life circustances that can affect not just the quality of education but the actual neurological capacity to learn.

He writes: "neuroscientists have found that “many children growing up in very poor families with low social status experience unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which impair their neural development.” The effect is to impair language development and memory — and hence the ability to escape poverty — for the rest of the child’s life.

So now we have another, even more compelling reason to be ashamed about America’s record of failing to fight poverty."

2. The War on Poverty of the 1960s did alleviate poverty to a significant degree, contrary to often repeated myth. Poverty rates were 23% in 1963 and went down to 14% by 1969. He implies much of this was due to the War on Poverty although he is not clear on the contribution from other factors, such as economic growth, anti-discrimination policies, etc. The poverty rate has since climbed, however, after demonizing assaults on such programs, most famously Ronald Reagan's demonizing attacks on Cadillac driving "welfare queens." In 2006 it stood at 17.4%.

3. One reason for the lack of attention to poverty is the idea that America is a land of meritocracy, where all can succeed through proper discipline and effort.

Krugman writes, however:

"the fact of the matter is that Horatio Alger stories are rare, and stories of people trapped by their parents’ poverty are all too common. According to one recent estimate, American children born to parents in the bottom fourth of the income distribution have almost a 50 percent chance of staying there — and almost a two-thirds chance of remaining stuck if they’re black.
That’s not surprising. Growing up in poverty puts you at a disadvantage at every step. . .
in modern America parental status trumps ability: students who did very well on a standardized test but came from low-status families were slightly less likely to get through college than students who tested poorly but had well-off parents."

4. Targeted programs in Europe have had success in mitigating poverty. Government programs can work.

Conclusion: Rather than demonizing the poor or their advocates, it is time for the richest nation on earth to put the shame of poverty behind us. Poverty can be alleviated if not eliminated if we have the will to do so. In this presidential year, John Edwards deserves our thanks for putting this issue on the political agenda of candidates Clinton and Obama, and the rest of us.

To read his column in its entirety go to: Poverty is Poison.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

WRONG! Bush Mis-states Obama's Foreign Policy

George W. Bush told Fox News Sunday that Obama wants to "attack Pakistan and embrace (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad." According to Angie Drobnic Holan, writing on, Obama's real position is to "go after terrorists hiding in Pakistan if the authorities there don't, and he promised a diplomatic effort with Iran. We rated Bush's statement False."

This is taken from:
When presidents play politics
By Angie Drobnic HolanPublished on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 at 04:56 p.m.

To see the interview with President Bush click here.

WRONG! is a new feature of the Daily Demonizer. If you have suggestions for entries, please leave a comment.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Probing the Shuster Chelsea "being pimped out" Comment

It's been all over the airwaves by now. In a discussion with guests about Chelsea Clinton's role in her mother Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign, MSNBC correspondent David Shuster commented: "Doesn't it seem as if Chelsea is sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?" Shuster has since apologized, and been suspended.

It's worth taking a moment to not only criticize the insensitivity of the remark, but also think about the atmosphere which allows and encourages it.

The Clinton's have been fair game for some time on issues of moral propriety, and the ground for this comment was laid years ago by Clinton-haters. This is the large grain truth in the commentary by Paul Krugman in the next post, when he refers to as the "Clinton rules" by which commentators are willing to say or believe most things about the Clintons because of who they are. The Clintons may or may not be guilty of various moral improprieties--that's a separate debate--but they've never been accused of being bad parents. Yet, demonization creates the conditions in which all manner of attack becomes licensed.

But there is more. Our media is obsessed with speed, cleverness, and ratings, so the commentators who survive as talking heads speak with great deliberation at their peril. Throw into the churning mix of rapid response and blather prejudices from years of Clinton bashing and it's not surprising such personal nastiness sometimes surfaces.

The medium isn't the message, but the medium encourages the sharp, quick, cutting, denigrating comment--ask Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh--and is partly responsible for the demonization in politics we witness today.

For a link to David Shuster's comments on You Tube go to Shuster's comment. And who's that laughing in the background?

Who's Tricky Now? Krugman Says Obama Supporters Almost "Cult of Personality"

In his column today in the New York Times the usually prescient economist Paul Krugman stands on the border of the “Nixonland” he so despises: “a land of slander and scare; the land of sly innuendo. . . the land of smash and grab and anything to win.”

Calling his column “Hate Springs Eternal,” he warns that the Obama campaign is on the brink of becoming a “cult of personality.” Sandwiching this broadside between attacks on Nixon, on one side, and against the Bush political machine on the other, he leaves no doubt where the hate comes from: Republicans and the Obama wing of the Democratic Party.

“I won’t try for fake evenhandedness here,” Krugman writes, “most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody. I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality. . . What’s particularly saddening is the way many Obama supporters seem happy with the application of “Clinton rules” [by which]— pundits and some news organizations treat any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent.”

Krugman makes a good point. Too often in politics small flaws real or imagined are trumped up into major character defects, signs of deviance, or markers of outright evil. Sometimes this turns into outright demonization. As he claims, that was done to Al Gore and many others, including the Clintons. Is he now doing it to Obama and his supporters?

The key ingredients of unwarranted demonization are these: first, the leveling a very serious charge that someone is immoral, deviant or evil, and second, doing so without care for the consequences or providing the evidence.

"Cult of personality” is, indeed, a very serious charge. It's a claim of deviance, if not evil. Yet there's no evident consideration of the consequences for the people he is lumping together in his attack, really not just the Obama campaign, but its supporters as well. Nor is any evidence provided-- none.

Krugman seems content to use techniques that might make “Tricky Dick” Nixon smile. In saying Obama supporters are "dangerously close" to becoming a "cult of personality"--rather than saying they're already there-- Krugman can pose as issuing a warning rather than engaging in an attack--if only the misguided would come to their senses. Second, he suggests the charge must be true because others are also saying it--but he not only provides no evidence, he doesn't even tell us who said so.

Other assumptions also abound, such as Obama supporters are "happy with the Clinton rules." Or his implication that Obama supporters may not support Clinton if she's the nominee because they only care about "hero worship." Where is the evidence that has Krugman so worked up?

I would even go further to suggest that Krugman also stigmatizes Republicans as a group here, as if only Republicans are capable of demonizing Democrats through character assassination.

To read Krugman’s article in full and judge for yourself please go to: Hate Springs Eternal. To express your views to Mr. Krugman go to: E mail Paul Krugman.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Romney Demonizes Dems in Opening Bid for 2012 Nomination

Mitt Romney "suspended" his campaign for the nomination of his party for President on Thursday, saying, according to CNN, that continuing would "forestall the launch of a national campaign and be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win."

This exit this year should be understood for what it is, the beginning of his campaign for the Republican nomination for President in 2012, should John McCain fail to capture the White House in November.

Romney wasn't content to bow out gracefully, however, but did so in a way that demonized Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party in order to score future points with conservatives. Speaking before the Conservative Political Action Conference, he said:

"In this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror. This is not an easy decision. I hate to lose," the former Massachusetts governor said.
"If this were only about me, I'd go on. But it's never been only about me. I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, in this time of war I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country."
Romney made the announcement Thursday afternoon at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
With Romney out, Sen. John McCain is locked in as the front-runner in the GOP race.