Friday, March 7, 2008

Battle Tested versus Medium Cool

This amazing presidential campaign has shifted a little bit again. Although it appears that the breakneck momentum that Senator Obama displayed in February has been tempered a bit, the pundits are still pondering the math, and now no one is prepared to claim that they can see through their crystal balls to confidently predict the outcome of the Democratic nomination. Maybe Senator Obama with the combined hopes of his supporters will pull it all together before the Primary. Maybe not. But this is politics and stranger things have happened.

A few short months ago, who thought that Senator McCain would be the Last Man Standing in that crowded field of Republican White Guys.

It seems safe to assume that should Senator Obama receive the Democratic nomination, he and his so far invisible surrogates need to be prepared to fight tirelessly, endlessly, and fiercely in the regular campaign. Frankly, just like Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been willing to fight. Politics is a struggle. Senator Obama to the general public has not outlined a broad platform. He hasn't presented himeslf as a Man With A Plan. Rather, he is portrayed as a gentle visionary, zen cool, suggesting that we should all just love one another, work together for Change, hope and A Better America, and end the politics of personal destruction. This is not said to be facetious. He presents a very appealing image. However, and perhaps it is generational, but I can't yet see a shift away from traditional political campaigning, including hurling the negatives, or, its logical conclusion, the politics of personal destruction.

But should Senator Obama be the candidate and adopt this posture, there is no certainty that the Republicans will roll over and agree to play by the same game rules. (Think Ann Coulter.) When McCain passed the required delegate count, and claimed the G.O.P. mantle, his audience was ecstatic and you could sense that they were feeling empowered and now have the Fire in the Belly required to wage political war which is the American Way.

While Ms Rodham Clinton has seemed to assemble some concrete plans, especially in the health care realm, she too seems careful in not presenting too much information too soon. But what she has presented is her willingness and ability to be a strong candidate and a fighter. In traditional Democratic politics, that includes the willingness to fight the GOP to the end to secure victory.

If Senator Obama wins, perhaps his hallmark will be that coolness, that desire to end political rancor. The question is whether independents will respond to him rather than Senator McCain in sufficient numbers to put him over the top.

In order to ensure victory, we can't assume that the election will reflect anything other than traditional American politics.

Senator McCain projects a certain coolness as well, but it is the coolness of an elder statesman, who has seen, and suffered in, actual battle, and is now the standard bearer for his political party in a changing political climate. But I think we can safely assume that his surrogates will be brutal, both in direct challenge and in sub rosa investigations, leaks, etc., in an effort to breakthrough Senator Obama's cool image.

The major risk is that in electing Senator Obama the Democrats will be suggesting that yes, it will be a War of Ideas. I am sure that Senator Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton and all of their supporters would be out there fighting the GOP should Senator Obama be the candidate. At that point, however, will Senator Obama ask the only Democrats who have been successful in winning an election since Jimmy Carter to pull their punches ? Or will he take the Gandhian approach and say "I would rather lose this election and sacrifice my political party than defeat the Republicans by any means necessary? If through some unforeseen political manuevering, Senator Rodham Clinton gets the nomintion, will he and his supporters in fact not support her in hopes of waiting out the next election ?

Lots of interesting questions. The American political system is based on conflict, intense partisanship, personality, always has. It is no coincidence that there are so many "war" metaphors in the political argot. It seems that both parties would be required to buy into the change of the rules of the game. This has not yet happened.

The next months and the upcoming election promises to be as perplexing, difficult to foresee, and emotionally wrenching as ever.

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo