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March 15, 2008

Political Linkage

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I was dreading a dull, dull election campaign. If politicians can't even deliver some entertainment value for our tax dollars, then what use are they? But the gloves are finally coming off, aren't they?

* Steve Sailer deserves lots of credit; he has been asking probing questions about Barack Obama, and about Jeremiah Wright -- Obama's zany black-nationalist preacher -- for months now. Here's Steve's latest Barack posting. Here's Wright in action. Funny to think that a few bad-taste remarks in long-ago newsletters got Ron Paul in such trouble that his campaign was effectively killed, isn't it?

* Camille Paglia returns to Salon with a lot of smart and vivid observations about Hillary and Obama, as well as some bitching and moaning on the theme of "why has sex in America become so pushy yet unerotic?" I've treated myself to some similar rants.

* The excellent Cristina Hoff Sommers reports the unnnerving, maybe even alarming news that institutionalized Boomer feminists are bringing Title IX-style pressures to bear on the worlds of math and science. Just what America needs: diversity officers running math departments and research centers.

* Prof emeritus Anne Barbour Gardner says that the biggest influence on academic literary studies in recent years hasn't been deconstruction, it has been feminist criticism. A laugh from The Onion may be a propos here ...

* Does anybody want dollars any longer?

* Secessionism buff Bill Kauffman tells the story of the people who would like to create a new state out of southern Oregon and Northern California. I'm looking forward to Bill's new book, which goes on sale soon.

* Good to see that someone has finally figured out how to make money on the web!

* Too keep the insanity in perspective, how about a little something that offers real pleasures and satisfactions? How about a little Sam Cooke?



posted by Michael at March 15, 2008


What do we know about David Paterson's pastor?

Posted by: Win Your Weight in Immigrants™ on March 16, 2008 4:05 AM

Interesting discussions at Auster's blog. The gist is that a segment of the white population is enamoured of Obama because they think we're getting a Sidney Poitier; but it's possible that we're in fact getting an OJ Simpson.

Posted by: PA on March 16, 2008 8:17 AM

Camille Paglia has made genuine contributions but there is a huge cognitive dissonance in her that's apparent to me: a conflict between her "edgy" and libertine philosophies and the conservative white-ethnic working class sensibilities that she's not quite sure how to handle.

Posted by: PA on March 16, 2008 8:20 AM

Funny to think that a few bad-taste remarks in long-ago newsletters got Ron Paul in such trouble that his campaign was effectively killed, isn't it?

Come on. Paul didn't lose any of his original support, which peaked at 10-15% of Republicans and maybe slightly more among independents. He just failed to gain any support among Democrats and liberals once they found out what his positions were on other issues than the Iraq War and drug prohibition. He was a Republican, but he never had a chance among Republicans.

And the obscure newsletters were published under Paul's name by anonymous spokesmen. Obama's minister has never been his spokesman.

Posted by: John Emerson on March 16, 2008 10:24 AM

I'm enjoying the "who's the bigger victim" angle of the Democratic primaries... you know the breast pounding of the racism/sexism screechers.

With the Hillary crowd screaming "sexism" at all opponents and the Obama crowd screaming "racism," I see a real opportunity to consign the whole victim phenomenon to the waste bin.

At least, I hope so. Now that every American has been condemned at least a million times as an evil racist, sexist, homophobic son-of-a-bitch, perhaps we can move on to something else.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 16, 2008 12:39 PM

ron paul's newsletters are a case of neglegence. noone can prove he wrote those things and noone can find any instance of him talking like the stuff that was written in those newsletters. on the other hand, obama's back peddling on his preacher is laughable. the guy married he and his wife, baptised his 2 kids and obama got the title of his book "audacity of hope" from him yet he had no idea he thought or spoke like that before? right....

paglia is a cool woman but she's a little too pro-democrat for me. she's like christopher hitchens in that they're both smart but you're never gonna agree with them on everything.

Posted by: t. j. on March 16, 2008 12:41 PM

Now that every American has been condemned at least a million times as an evil racist, sexist, homophobic son-of-a-bitch, perhaps we can move on to something else.

Alas, as long as victim-contests pay, we won't move on. "Racism/Sexism" contests aren't parlor games for historians; they're power plays for voting blocks.

Posted by: PA on March 16, 2008 1:10 PM

Is it just me, or does anybody else feel weirded out by the complete disconnect between the identity politics of this election and the actual, pressing issues that the country faces?

Presidential elections at this point feel like going to a witch doctor with a broken arm. I guess they are a distraction from the pain, but this process doesn't begin to get at the problem.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 16, 2008 3:07 PM

As to the election, Thoreau said it first and best: "All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions."

Posted by: Lester Hunt on March 16, 2008 8:30 PM

It's obvious that Obama hates whitey.

Now, on a much more interesting front: what is it with the completely unerotic female-jumps-on-top-and-starts-pummeling -male-like-an-auto-mechanic sex?

Posted by: ricpic on March 16, 2008 10:58 PM

Is it just me?

I find every sentence by Camille Paglia to be clumsy and overwrought. Much of it is automated word-mongering: an hour must be 'ungodly', a raven 'baleful', the battle 'epic'. Limp hyperboles abound: overstrain has to be 'brutal', ineptitude is 'amazing'.

My problem, however, is with the original-sounding stuff, for example: 'Current scuttlebutt -- a frail reed in this mercurial race - ...' And why say 'Washington bureaucracy' when you can stretch it to 'the labyrinthine flow chart of the Washington bureaucracy'.

I get the impression that there is a big cheer-squad for this kind of empty writing. A florid punchiness is the best description I can find for it. It's a knack, like those 'wicked stiletto thrusts' which is 'mastered in spades' by Camille Paglia.

On the other hand, wasn't Sam Cooke just the most uncluttered of artists? Bring him on home to me!

Posted by: Robert Townshend on March 17, 2008 6:37 AM

Love Sam Cooke.

Hate almost everything about the discussion of politics now.

And wonder, after reading this -- "they're both smart but you're never gonna agree with them on everything." -- why anyone would want someone who they'll agree with on everything.

Posted by: JMW on March 17, 2008 10:43 AM

The most interesting part of the political reporting surrounding Gov. Spitzer is the attempt to portray his wife as an angelic victim. Am I the only one not buying this crap?

Silda Spitzer is a Harvard trained lawyer. Anybody want to bet that she's not involved in the corruption, blackmailing and general free-for-all insanity of the Spitzer administration?

In my experience assholes marry assholes.

As if to verify my point of view, see Gawkers' reports today that ex New Jersey Gov., Jim McGreevey's wife engaged in threesomes with the gov. and their driver. Heretofore, Dina McGreevey has been protraying herself as the poor, innocent victim of a man who was concealing his sexual inclinations.

I'm not saying that the McGreevey's don't have the right to have some fun, so don't get hung up on that one. What I'm saying is that this attempt to whitewash the wives of very powerful, very wealthy men as poor, pitiful Paulines is a pile of crap.

My prediction: We'll discover in the future that Silda Spitzer is up to her tits in the corruption, blackmail and general wild insanity of the Spitzer administration. And, she was probably in on the sex, too.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 17, 2008 10:51 AM

Paglia can be a clumsy writer, especially when writing for Salon. But she can also be clear and graceful. Her pieces for Arion are some of her best.

Posted by: alias clio on March 17, 2008 11:16 AM

This uproar over Obama's minister is bizarre. My churchgoing parents had several ministers at their church over the years, including some real nutjobs. I don't recall anyone in the community holding them personally responsible for his more extreme beliefs. Their church-going was never about them buying the complete world view of their pastor.

I also don't see Sailor going on and on about McCain's Hagee endorsement or Leiberman's nutty rabbi. But then, there does seem to be a pretty glaring double-standard for black preachers and leaders versus white in this country.

Posted by: Steve on March 17, 2008 12:39 PM

"Presidential elections at this point feel like going to a witch doctor with a broken arm. I guess they are a distraction from the pain, but this process doesn't begin to get at the problem."

Depressingly eloquent.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on March 17, 2008 12:42 PM

Now, on a much more interesting front: what is it with the completely unerotic female-jumps-on-top-and-starts-pummeling -male-like-an-auto-mechanic sex?

ripic: I need to see many, many examples before I can offer an informed opinion. Links?

Posted by: at on March 17, 2008 1:39 PM

If a white candidate's preacher was talking about "white values" and "white communities" he would be done.

Posted by: Peter on March 17, 2008 1:59 PM

Peter sayz: "If a white candidate's preacher was talking about "white values" and "white communities" he would be done."

So you would think, yet Hagee and McCain seem to be blatantly and brazenly getting away with it.

Posted by: Steve on March 17, 2008 2:42 PM

I haven't drawn any conclusions from it yet, but there's nothing out of line or irrelevant about looking at O's beloved minister. He identifies him as his spiritual adviser and gives him a lot of money (and has done so very, very recently) -- he obviously likes a lot of what this guty says, or wants people to think he does. Maybe he's trying to convince certain people that he's just as black as the next guy. Don't know.

Posted by: Lester Hunt on March 17, 2008 5:59 PM


Just watch any, and I mean any TV sitcom about the young and the restless. The female always initiates the sex which is always utterly lacking in...tenderness. Maybe a peculiar word but without some degree of tenderness sex is mechanics.

Posted by: ricpic on March 17, 2008 7:10 PM

Given that decades of Republican presidents have happily embraced loathsome religious kooks like Robertson and Falwell with few ill political effects, I just don't see how this special outrage directed at Obama is warranted. Particularly since he's disavowed Wright's nuttier statements (something that Reagan, for example, never did with Falwell--hell, he even invited him to the White House).

So it's pretty clear to me that we're dealing with a racial/political double standard here.

Posted by: Steve on March 17, 2008 7:56 PM

It's obvious that a lot of people want to excuse Obama. For instance, the equation of Hagee and Wright. McCain accepted Hagee's political endorsement, but has no other connection to him. Obama attended Wright's church for almost 20 years, donated over $20,000 to it, and identifies Wright as his spiritual mentor and philosophical guide. Slight difference there.

Also, there is a difference between continuing to go to an existing church of some established denomination, even though it has an oddball minister for a while, and going to a mega-church that is essentially the personal creation of a particular oddball minister, for twenty years.

BTW, I don't think Obama actually buys into Wright's Black Liberation Theology shtick. I think it's pretty obvious that the half-white/half-foreign Ivy League kid from Hawaii wanted to run for office in Chicago, and needed some American Blackness credit. So he attached himself to the biggest and most successful black church in his area.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on March 17, 2008 10:39 PM

Steve why don't you address the anti-white statements? Is hating whitey just rhetorical flourish? Or is it if you put "rich" before white, then it becomes OK to make the attack?

Ferraro was right, and this incident came right along to prove she was right. If any other candidate had been linked to these statements he/she would be political dead meat. And any white person who can ignore these statements -- especially all the racially sensitive libs who can make a federal case over a Halloween noose or bathroom grafitti -- is really an amazing specimen, to put it kindly, a creature lacking in self preservation of the most basic sort.


Posted by: sN on March 17, 2008 10:48 PM

I don't excuse Wright's anti-white statements, but it's worth looking at them in the context of the whole sermon and Wright's other sermons (including his "Audacity of Hope" sermon), as well as of course the context of black experience in this country and the history of black rhetoric from Frederick Douglass on down. Wright's obviously a smart, complicated guy who's done a lot of good work in the community. He also has an ugly demagogue side--but he's not a complete huckster like Falwell. And I appreciate Obama's defense of the good that he's done while condemning his hateful statements. Frankly, I think that's a whole lot more upfront and honorable than McCain's cynical, expedient embrace of someone like Hagee or Reagan's embrace of the odious Falwell.

More importantly, I just don't see the boiling racial resentment in Obama himself that Sailer sees (and that I *do* see in Sailer). I've read Sailer's posts, and frankly the actual quotes from Obama that he intersperses seem a whole lot more complex and nuanced than Sailer's reading of them. They seem to me to undermine or refute Sailer's spin that Obama is a closet black nationalist. So does every speech and statement that I've seen/read from Obama, including his major speech from today. Sailer and others obviously believe that he's fraud--and hey, maybe they're right. But they haven't come close to proving that case in my book.

Also, I'll just add that I think Andrew Sullivan and Glen Greenwald have the right take on this whole thing.

Posted by: Steve on March 18, 2008 12:08 PM

Obama sat his own children in the pews of that church to absorb and drown in the vile flood vomited up by the bigot Wright. That says it all about Mr. Obama.

Posted by: ricpic on March 18, 2008 3:12 PM

I going to defend Steve Sailer. I don't know why.

As a regular reader of Sailer's writing, I note the obvious... which seems to evade many readers of this blog.

Sailer is a smart and bitter critic of just about every politician he writes about. He is no harder on Obama than he is on George Bush.

It seems that the commenters on this blog are making the cardinal error of assuming that because Sailer sharply criticizes Obama, he must be a partisan of the other side. I don't really see Sailer as a partisan of any side. He's out there all by himself, which is precisely why I find his writing pretty valuable. Sailer isn't endorsing anything. He an equal opportunity shredder of every politican's pretentions.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 18, 2008 3:34 PM

I read Sailer's words on Obama and others. He is an outspoken critic of a lot of things. But his investigation of Obama seems determined to find something in his person that is missing in his actions. He dissects his autobiographical writings, he questions his character by the worst of his minister, he links him to the Million Man March as a mark of his character. It is not simply that he disagrees with Obama on race, how he engaged his church and his pastor and his true motives, it is the fact that he uses this lens to examine and cross-examine everything that Obama says and/or does. Surely there are counter-examples to his points. No one can be all that he asserts. Surely Obama's church is not just the racial bits that populate youtube. We may disagree on whether these things matter and mitigate, but they do exist and for some of us are quite compelling facts that deserve some discussion.

The cynical and biting analysis of Obama's speech on race is not the speech that I heard. I heard a speech from Obama that tried to engage in a discussion that addresses substance and the complicated way that race is experienced in American life. A first for our nation from a political leader in our modern times. For Sailer there is no room for Obama's words - unless they are a rebuke along the lines of that he lays out.

As an African-American in corporate america and government, I have tried to engage in this race discussion whenever the topic presented itself. To ask questions and answer them when conflicts arise or a subtext of race can be intelligently discussed. I am not the angry guy but the guy that tries to find solid ground for us to explore our various world views that are seldom discussed across racial divides. I welcome discussion of substance and would even engage Sailer and those who think he gets it exactly right. But how do I do so when the substantive points are dismissed as mere political rhetoric? How do we start talking about our profound disagreements about race when according to Sailer, merely attending the million man march disqualifies me - a lawyer in the US government sworn to uphold the constitution - to lead our shared community in this discussion. I read Sailer's posts as one that leaves little room for citizens to disagree and find ground to close our distance. As a child I listened to Farrakhan and black nationalist preachers, I heard stupid condemnations of homosexuality and AIDS and conspiracy theories alike from pulpits in black churches. I have seen preachers lose congregations by preaching liberal liberation theology and self-help. I have been members of some of these churches. Is there room for my experience in Sailer's calculus of what matters in this political race in this particular candidate?

I understand how those who see Rev. Wright as a stain that Obama cannot overcome. I ask that they look at his deeds, read his words and parse them as you will. If they find him lacking in patriotism, common sense, plans or actions, then I am willing to discuss them. We have issues in the economy, foreign policy and domestic policy that truly rise above race or class or gender. If they would like to discuss race in American life, politics, the arts or sciences I am equally ready to discuss that topic. I am confident that my words do not speak for all black people but reflect some portion of the communities we share. Perhaps we can start a conversation and learn something about each other and ourselves and then move on to this economy, this war and our collective futures.

Posted by: Reason and Rationales on March 19, 2008 2:19 PM

If i can step outside the back and forth on this one for a sec ... What a classy discussion! Touchy (and important issues), but handled with brains and consideration by everyone. I'd love to see more of that kind of thing in the big-time press, not to mention in the political world itself. Much enjoyed, much appreciated.

OK, now back to the fisticuffs ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 19, 2008 3:07 PM

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