Rich on “Change”

Dmcaqsgjegcawxb7i1cauwj206caa5viapc "So while Obama can continue to try to reassure resistant Clinton loyalists in Appalachia that he’s not a bogeyman from Madrassaland, he must also move on to the bigger picture for everyone else. He must rekindle the “fierce urgency of now” — but not, as he did in the primaries, merely to evoke uplifting echoes of the civil-rights struggle or the need for withdrawal from Iraq.

Most Americans, unlike the press, are not obsessed by race. (Those whites who are obsessed by race will not vote for Obama no matter what he or anyone else has to say about it.) And most Americans have turned their backs on the Iraq war, no matter how much McCain keeps bellowing about “victory.” The Bush White House is now poised to alight with the Iraqi government on a withdrawal timetable far closer to Obama’s 16 months than McCain’s vague promise of a 2013 endgame. As Gen. David Petraeus returns home, McCain increasingly resembles those mad Japanese soldiers who remained at war on remote Pacific islands years after Hiroshima."  Frank Rich


Yes.  It was forty years ago that the central story of McCain’s life was told.  Our struggles in the 20th Century were noble in our minds (at least in some of our minds), but that was then and this is now.  The country needs to move on into a very different world, a world in which America no longer stands on solid economic ground, an America that exists in a world in which the Soviet Union was buried almost twenty years ago.  McCain says that when he looks into Putin’s eyes he sees the letters "KG and B?"  That is as simplistic and silly as Bush’s emotional blubbering about Putin’s soul.  The medieval gang of takfiri jihadis?  How many are they?  A few thousand?  McCain says that the problem with them is the "transcendant struggle of the 21st Century?"  Nonsense.  Kill them and move on in a world in which Islam and the rest of the world are free to develop a real modus vivendi free of the burden of their interference.

And then, there is Obama — As Rich writes, we need no more pitch-man memetics focused on American belief in the magic of the word "change."  There will be change?  OK.  What change?  What is it that Obama proposes to change in Washington?  Rich calls for a wide program of POLICY change with regard to the economy.  Fine.  What does Obama specifically intend to propose to Congress?  They will have to give him the authority and money to make whatever policy he intends to save the economy.  That thought reminds of Obama’s description of Washington as "the place where hope is wrung out of your heart."  He has suggested that he wants to change the "system?"  Really?  What system?  The Constitution?  No more lobbyists on "K Street?"  No more lobbyists for; the NEA, the NRA, the AARP, the NAM, the AFL-CIO,  AIPAC and its satellites, AFSME, the US Chamber of Commerce?  The list is endless.  If there are no lobbyists, then how will legislation be framed?  Will it be as the product of the divine inspiration of "the leader,"  of "big brother?"

Let us hear what Brother Barack actually proposes other than the novelty of himself and an end to Bush.  pl

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27 Responses to Rich on “Change”

  1. J says:

    obama couldn’t be talking about ‘change from his personally taking money from rezko/mob types’ could he? naw, i just can’t see such a ‘change’ occurring in obama.
    what ‘change’ is obama addressing? scratch, scratch. ???

  2. mlaw230 says:

    The issue has never been the useful provision of specific information by lobbyists or the framing of legislation. The issue is the transfer of money to candidates that, in any other profession in America, would be considered bribery and corruption. THAT is the system that needs to be changed.
    Frankly it would seem to be a fairly easy task, if there is the will.
    Nevertheless, if the only reason I had to vote for Obama was that he would not bring the Neocons back into the seat of power, that would be reason enough.

  3. JoseJose says:

    I agree with everything you said but would like to add that he needs to get dirty.
    Americans want a President that will not only fight for change of power but for himself.
    If a candidate can’t fight for himself, how will he fight for us?
    Catching a pig is not a pretty sight and neither is being elected President.

  4. David W. says:

    Having recently returned from a family reunion in the midwest (Minnesota), I gained some anecdotal perceptions: Republicans/right wingers are palpably glad that this is an election season, which means that such small issues as the Iraq war, torture and Constitution-shredding are all put on the back burner. McCain’s supporters tend to have their own internal reasons for supporting the man, few of which happen to be policy-related. I equate it to a sports mentality, where Rs are encouraged/required to support the team, no matter how badly it has screwed up in the past, or how deficient it looks moving forward, and pressing them on the issues only increases their steadfast fixation.
    There is a generational aspect to the media as well; in my experience, it is the older generations that now watch more tv, and are much more likely to put the ‘news’ (FOX or CNN) on in the background all day. This hasn’t changed since the aftermath of 9/11 and the runup to the Iraq War–simple lies and distortions pervade over the truth and nuance.
    On to the topic at hand, Rich also made some points that counterdict PL’s point here–specifically, Rich says ‘Nor will laundry lists of policy details work any better for Obama than they did for Al Gore or Hillary Clinton.’ and, ‘Obama’s real problem is not a lack of detail, but his inability to sell policy with ‘an effective story.”
    The crux of the problem is that there is a large segment of US population that prefers a simple narrative that jibes with their wordview over a more complex reading of the situation that is more gray and uncomfortable (another example of this is the resurgency of Biblical Creationism). The phony persona phenomenon is legion on the Right, from the phony cowboy Reagan, to the Texas oilman Bush Jr, to the ‘True Maverick’ McCain.
    In this Bizarro World, it’s all about image and pandering, which explains the facility of the RNC in bringing their McCain product to market–their constituency doesn’t want to hear the truth, they want a made for TV movie; McCain the tough-guy POW speaks to the desire of the right to be viewed as heroic martyrs, standing tall against all opposition, while allowing cognitive dissonance to whisk away the fact that McCain was a silver-spoon flunky, who graduated third from the bottom in his NA class, destroyed more US fighters than enemy planes, and had a major, murky role in the USS Forrestal fire, killing 134, injuring 161, destroying 21 aircraft and costing the Navy $72 million.
    In a non-partisan environment, I think it would be an easy case to make that John Kerry was much more of a war hero than McCain ever was, yet this differentiation is moot inside the ‘faith based’ RW narrative, which studiously avoids any other aspect of McCain’s military service than his time in the Hanoi Hilton. While the R partisans are immune themselves to being swiftboated, I think it would still be worthwhile to interview some of the Forrestal crew–i’m sure they have questions to ask of McCain as well, since he was the only non-injured personnel to be evacuated from the Forrestal that fateful day, some would say for his own protection, due to his culpability.
    I think it’s pretty obvious that the playing field was tilted many years ago, when candidates such as Dan Quayle and Bush Jr. were congratulated for making it through a debate without a major malapropism, while Gore’s substantial grasp of policy was eschewed by the media in favor of attending to his ‘charisma problem.’ Clearly, the media has devolved into a spectacle-seeking and tall tale telling entity of style over substance, which clearly favors the ‘know-nothing’ crowd.
    Regarding the last paragraph, I would dearly love to see ‘business as usual’ in Washington implode, yet, at this point, I am more than willing to settle for rolling back the lawless excesses and fiscal chicanery of the Bush administration. Politics is also defined as the ‘art of the possible,’ and the oligarchy of this country has made change of this nature impossible.

  5. arpa says:

    The choice of Biden signaled an end to the “Change” mantra, if there was any doubt that Obama wasn’t a creature of the establishment.
    President Obama riding to the rescue and putting us on the ‘right’ course was always only a pipe dream anyway. Only an individual with significant experience and a strategically placed network of allies could transform the leviathan that is our government. “Change you can believe in” should have been Cheney’s slogan.
    In any case, Obama is slightly better than the alternative, but that’s not saying much.

  6. Arun says:

    I was reading a comparison of China’s and India’s recent progress. Here is the conclusion:
    So, growth in India has come with a more entrepreneurial private sector but accompanied by deteriorating state capacity. China has a vastly superior state capacity but an indigenous private sector that is still finding its feet. Which combination augurs better for the future?
    There is a fundamental asymmetry between state and markets. It is easier to create markets than it is to create state capacity or to prevent its deterioration. Creating markets is a lot about letting go, establishing a reasonable policy framework, and allowing the natural hustling instinct to take over. In other words, hustling is the natural state. Building state capacity, on the other hand, is quite different. It involves overcoming collective action problems, mediating conflict, creating accountability mechanisms where outputs are multiple and fuzzy and links between inputs and outputs murky, and contending with the deep imprints of history. In Weber’s memorable words, building public institutions is like the “slow boring of hard boards”.
    In that light, China’s task of improving its private sector seems easier to accomplish than India’s task of arresting institutional decline.

    The last eight years has seen the “US state capacity” go into steep decline. I don’t think I need to spell it all out. There is no exceptionalism that permits the US to have a poorly functioning government and yet thrive long-term. If an Obama administration arrests the decline and reverses it, that will be a great change.

  7. Arun says:

    This is this from Glenn Greenwald on
    Ever since it became clear that Obama would be the likely nominee, the political establishment has been demanding of him more and more proof that his “change” rhetoric is just that — rhetoric, and not anything meant as a genuine threat to the prevailing order of things. Obama, arguably out of political necessity, has repeatedly obliged, eagerly trying to offer proof that he is no threat to them, and the Biden selection is but the latest step in that campaign of reassurance. In sum, Biden is a reliable supporter of virtually every prevailing bit of conventional wisdom within the American elite political consensus, which is why his selection has been widely praised by the establishment, whose principal concern is that their fiefdom not be disrupted and that their consensus not be challenged.

  8. Let’s attack the change priority list after indicating what definitely neither McCain or Obama can change. First on the latter list is Buckley v. Valero where a comatose SCOTUS said that corporations were entitled to free speech (meaning spending money) as individuals. This misread legal history where the corporate form was merely to stimulate exploration by limiting liability for the financing of the voyages to the New World. Second, demographics. Unless the border is fortified and we are willing to kill Mexicans by shooting as we are willing to drown Haitians the immigration issue will stay huge and unresolvable for either man as President. Note that immigration should be analyzed separately for Mexico and then the rest of the World. Third, a Russia feeling its oats. 4th, a Cafe-society known as the EU that won’t pull its load whether from aid to the lesser-developed world or military response to direct threats against it. 5th, a collapse of the US economy as the the 1971 floating exchange rates continue to allow international financial speculators to move against the dollar and scare large dollar holders into withdrawing from US support. 6th, the generally jaundiced eye of foreign countries to the US and its policies.
    What can be changed? First, the erosion of the social safety net in the US. Second, the beginning of the start to limit DOD to military operations and downsizing based on threats. This will take a long time since the economy is being driven by te military-industrial-academic complexes interest in hegemony for the US. Third, substantial accomodation to the growth of China and biting the bullet on Taiwan for now and forever. This is a flashpoint that should not be oversimplified but needs addressing to the relief of all concerned. 4th! Partioning of Iraq. 5th. Policing the non-profit sector (almost 10% of the economy of the US ) with limits on salaries and unrelated business income being tightened. 6th. Funding the higher education effort of those qualified and willing. And making sure that the profit making colleges and schools are not abusing their students with their finances. 7th. Creating a department for federal criminal law enforcement and getting the FBI out of the business of suffering as neither fish nor fowl. Investigation vis a vis intelligence. 8th Reducing the burden on DHS by getting non-terrorism programs, functions, and activities out of DHS. 9th. Enforcing the federal privacy and FOIA laws. 10th. Allowing federal employees in non-sensitive departments and agencies to speak to the press in their personal capacity when they disagree with their organizations policy.
    All of this just a start of course.

  9. JohnS says:

    Democrats always get too hung up with explaining all their policy proposals in great detail while the GOP is busy painting them as out-of-touch, elitist, “the Alien,” or what have you. This year is no different (actually for a number of reasons on the GOP side, it’ll be WORSE than usual). Personal attacks from Team McCain must be followed up in kind or the public will think Obama’s a wimp.
    At this point, I think Obama could do a few things to pull off a big win:
    1) Turn McCain’s resumé (including his POW experience) against him: Angry Vietnam vet with access to the “red button” who’s got an itchy trigger finger and is so elitist and old he doesn’t even know how many houses he has.
    2) Tie McCain to Bush
    3) Tie his own resumé and up-from-poverty-story and Biden’s working class roots to a narrative about why we have to make our economy work for everyone and then how we can, through specific policies. McCain will want to continue to talk foreign policy, but if Team Obama/Biden focus on the economy like Clinton did in ’92, they’re in. (Recalling the Democratic economic successes of the Clinton years would help too, in addition to going far towards reuniting the Party.)

  10. Richard Whitman says:

    Interesting the way we brand McCain a “Maverick”. The term originated with a Texas cattle owner, Samuel Maverick who refused to brand his cattle. His grandson, Maury Maverick was a Democratic congressman whose only claim to fame was the invention of the word “gobbledegook”. Is there some connection here??

  11. Arun says:

    Didn’t Maliki agreeing with Obama already erase the “no timelines in Iraq” narrative?
    Isn’t that already change you can believe in?

  12. Ambiguous “change” cannot win elections?

  13. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Hope I am wrong, but I see trouble ahead for the Democrats. Tragic. Absolutely tragic for the US and the world.
    Why so tragic? My guess is all that Norman Podhoretz has to do is whisper “Russia” or maybe even “Willam Ayers” into McCain’s ear and McCain, metaphorically speaking, will go nuclear.
    Obama is a very talented man. Just my opinion, but I sort of wished he had chosen Atlanta, aka the Black Mecca, instead of Chicago to get his start. Arthur Blank instead of Rezko. Sam Nunn and/or Jimmy Carter instead of whoever the hell is running his campaign.
    Plus, if he had worked his way up beginning in Atlanta, we’d see none of this absolute obsession (and, in my opinion, extraordinarily hypocritical and insulated bent) on the issue of race coming from what Rich courageously calls the media elite. It includes Democratic strategists as well.
    MLK Jr. stayed out of Chicago for a reason. I wish Obama had too.
    So increasingly it looks like to me that Democratic strategists and the media pushed the Obama story too fast. Wasn’t it Chris Matthews who said he got a tingle down his leg when thinking of Obama? Spare me. How embarrassing. Good grief.
    But trying to keep hope alive, so to speak, perhaps Obama can push McCain’s buttons during the debates.
    Biden doesn’t inspire me, although his temper may make things interesting. In Atlanta, Hillary was by far the preferred VP choice, according to Atl. Jrn. poll.
    Ah Hillary. A Hillary-Nunn ticket. Or Hillary-Obama. What could have been. Victory. Or at least a greater chance of no nuclear war.
    One other sad part about this campaign, at least to me, is that if Obama loses, his political career may be over. The final story may read like this: “How the Democratic Party and Media destroyed an extraordinarily talented Black man”.
    But maybe I am wrong. Hope so.

  14. rapier says:

    It was Romney, Thompson, Rudy and McCain that sent tingles through Matthews’ loins’, and let’s not forget Bush landing on the carrier, which produced the most effusive showing of man love ever on American TV from Chris.
    All hail Atrios for pointing out Hardball often resembles that great BBC show, Archeology Today.

  15. John Howley says:

    For me, systemic trends will dominate personalities in the coming years.
    Still, the election matters if only for the following. If McCain wins, then the current insiders will continue in place, covering up for the crimes of the past eight years.
    If Obama wins, there will be change at the DOJ. He may not make prosecution a priority, but at least his appointees will have priorities other than covering up for Bush crowd.
    As most readers of this blog will agree, serious crimes have been committed. If our nation cannot summon the will to at least make of show of prosecuting some of these folks, then we have taken a big step away from the rule of law under the Constitution.
    The whole world is watching.

  16. Maureen Lang says:

    Personally, I would have wished that the DNC choose the ruined NOLA for its convention this week. New Orleans area could use the PR & the $$$. But that’s just me.
    Go Team Go.
    The Repub alternative is too wretched to contemplate.

  17. Keith says:

    Based on the recent entry titled “McCain Speaks in Slogans”, about the Saddleback Forum I wonder whether ‘pitchman mimetics’ might be exactly what is required to win an election these days, even if you and many others abhor such vacuousness. It certainly worked well enough for Obama in the primaries.

  18. John Hammer says:

    “As Gen. David Petraeus returns home”- A VP slot for the General? In that event the die will have most certainly been cast.
    In other words, Obama loses.

  19. Marcus says:

    “He has suggested that he wants to change the “system?” Really? What system?”
    What Bill Cumming above said up to the fourth point second paragraph.
    I have no problem with lobbyists but the system politicians whoring for highest bidder should be fought at every angle. I know it is difficult issue but Speech should not be defined as commercial media control.

  20. J says:

    Colonel, All,
    why are the dnc and rnc both wasting time, money, and manpower with their ‘convention’ boondoggles, especially since the both of them have already decided who their candidates will be irrespective of what their party voters want.

  21. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"Let us hear what Brother Barack actually proposes..">
    Absolutely. Now is the time. The Obama-Biden campaign needs to offer a clear constructive vision and practical common-sense policy responses to the situation in which we find ourselves. The economy should be front and center as our defense policy and foreign policy rest on it.
    On the foreign policy side, the glib Biden should easily be able to make the case for an American foreign policy appropriate to the emerging multipolar world. Owing to his status as a well entrenched member of the foreign policy elite and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he has a certain credibility around the world for the moment. This is to America’s advantage.
    He needs to signal that the Obama-Biden team will indeed “change” our foreign policy, for example, in the direction of multilateralism rather than unilateralism. He needs to assure friends and potential adversaries that we are willing to talk, to dialogue, to engage. Obama has already done this so build on it. Bring in Republicans like Senator Chuck Hagel to attract bi-partisan support for a foreign policy in America’s interest. Reach out to Republicans disgusted with the Neocon takeover of their party.
    For me, the only way I know to register my opposition to the sordid and catastrophic 8 years of “Republican,” meaning Neocon, misrule under W is to vote Obama-Biden which I intend to do.
    On the matter of Hope, as Jefferson wrote to John Adams:
    ” . . . I steer my bark with Hope in the head, leaving Fear astern.”
    Hope, Faith, and Charity seem to me to be traditional core American values and Obama’s mother’s parents seem to have acted on them taking the young Obama under their charge. He has done well and he has the capability to do even better.

  22. jonst says:

    They are wasting America’s time and distracting themselves from America’s problems. So what else is new? But to many of the participants…it is far from being a waste of THEIR time. Think about it J…a lot of deals are getting cut here.

  23. zanzibar says:

    How would the Obamacrats respond when their favorite son goes up in smoke on election night?
    What is the lesson that the Democratic party elites and base draw from an election result where they win strongly in Congress but lose the presidency?

  24. J says:

    that’s what worries me — the ‘deals’ cut without the advice nor consent of the citizenry whose labors and toils that in the end pays for the ‘deals cut’.

  25. zanzibar says:

    Even Paul Krugman gets on the “memetics” bandwagon.

  26. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Well, can any SST reader provide some data per the following one way or the other?:
    “In 1976 a crusading Phoenix reporter, Don Bolles, was murdered by a car bomb after writing a series of stories exposing the organized crime connections of a wide-ranging number of well-known figures in Arizona, including one Jim Hensley. Five years later “Honest John” McCain arrived in Arizona as the new husband of Hensley’s daughter, Cindy. “From the moment McCain landed in Phoenix,” according to Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity, “the Hensleys were key sponsors of his political career.” But the people behind the Hensley fortune are even more controversial.
    McCain’s late father-in-law was the owner of the biggest Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship in Arizona—one of the largest beer distributors in the nation. But the mainstream media has had nothing to say about the origins of the Hensley fortune that financed McCain’s rise to power. The Hensley fortune is a regional offshoot of the big-time bootlegging and rackets empire of the Bronfman dynasty.
    McCain’s father-in-law got his start as a top henchman for Kemper Marley, who, for 40 years until his death in 1990 at age 84, was the undisputed behind-the-scenes political boss of Arizona. But Marley was much more than a machine politician. In fact, he was also the Lansky crime syndicate’s top man in Arizona, the protege of a Lansky lieutenant, Phoenix gambler Gus Greenbaum.
    In 1941 Greenbaum had set up the Transamerica Publishing and News Service, which operated a national wire for bookmakers. In 1946 Greenbaum turned over the day-to-day operations to Marley while Greenbaum focused on building up Lansky-run casinos in Las Vegas, commuting there from his home in Phoenix. Greenbaum, in fact, was so integral to the Lansky empire that he was the one who took command of Lansky’s Las Vegas interests in 1947 after Lansky ordered the execution of his own longtime friend, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, for skimming mob profits from the new Flamingo Casino.
    Greenbaum and his wife were murdered in a mob “hit” in 1948, their throats cut. The murder set off a series of gangland wars in Phoenix, but Marley survived and prospered.
    During this time Marley was building up a liquor distribution monopoly in Arizona. According to Marley’s longtime public relations man, Al Lizanitz, it was the Bronfman family that set Marley up in the liquor business. In 1948, 52 of Marley’s employees (including Jim Hensley) went to jail for federal liquor violations—but not Marley.
    The story in Arizona is that Hensley took the fall for Marley and, upon his release from prison, Marley paid back Hensley’s loyalty by setting him up in the beer distribution business. That beer company today, said to be worth $200 million, is what largely financed John McCain’s political career. The support from the Bronfman-Marley-Hensley network was integral to McCain’s rise to power….”

  27. Hawi Moore says:

    This is a very interesting discussion

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