Today, I'm going down to Cambridge to clean dorms for all us incoming freshman, as well as, presumably, the returning upperclassmen. After that, it's a week of "orientation" (read: doing nothing, for better or worse), and then actual, you know, school. So here ends my claim to high-school bloggerdom. And as if it knows I'm leaving, Wikipedia's featured article today is on Dartmouth, complete with an image of buildings a block or two from my house smack dab in the middle of the page. Go figure. Anyway, so long token liberal town in New Hampshire, hello even-more liberal town in Massachusetts. Here goes nothing.
So I finally finished The Wire last night. Since I was watching the first four seasons when the fifth aired earlier this year, I had to wait until the DVD set came out on August 12th, and more specifically until Netflix stocked it. Suffice it to say, it was worth the wait. The newsroom was unrealistic, yes, particularly with my time at the Prospect at the back of my head. But I don't think anyone would doubt that budget cuts, paper consolidation, and the general economics of the industry make responsible newspaper journalism next to impossible, which is the overall point of that plot thread. And yes, the main McNulty/Freamon storyline (which I won't spoil for those who haven't watched the show yet) was wildly implausible, but it wasn't meant to be. Think of it as the sociological equivalent of isotopic labeling: just as sending a radioactive particle through an organism shows the inner workings of the organism better than the naked eye can, McNulty and Freamon's plan illuminated the workings and fundamental corruption of the system in Baltimore better than a more realistic plotline would have. It was a fitting, if entirely depressing, ending to what is (yes) the greatest achievement in television history.
Anyway, since I finished the series I thought I ought to read through the Prospect's four-part (one, two, three, four) discussion of the fifth season. In light of John McCain's recent VP selection, this section from Matt Yglesias stuck out:
Given everything we've seen portrayed about the state of Baltimore under Tommy Carcetti, why on earth would he be considered a viable gubernatorial candidate? Two years as mayor seems like a thin resume in general, and they've hardly been wildly successful, popularity-inducing years.
Kay Steiger follows up on this:
As for Tommy Carcetti, when I went to a David Simon event last week, he said Carcetti is based on Maryland's Martin O'Malley, a Baltimore mayor who fudged his crime stats all the way to Annapolis. (Simon, by the way, admits that he voted for the guy. He was the Democrat, after all.) But this isn't quite a fair comparison for Simon to make. O'Malley put in his time, serving two full terms as mayor of Baltimore before his gubernatorial run. There's no way if Carcetti were a real candidate he'd get away with running a city (poorly) for just two years and be considered qualified to run for the statehouse.
Note that Baltimore, Maryland has a population of about 640,000 people, slightly less than Alaska's 680,000. It was patently obvious to Matt and Kay that two years as the chief executive of an area that size isn't qualification enough to run Maryland, much less the United States. Food for thought.
Jamelle points me toward William K. Wolfrum's response to this post over at Shakesville. Normally, I'd leave it there, especially since Wolfrum doesn't call me out by name (which, considering what would have happened to my comment section if he did, was very classy, and I thank him as sincerely and unironically as I can). But Wolfrum really summarizes what's disconnected me from Shakesville, so I feel a few more words are in order.
A constant theme within Shakesville is that they haven't left the liberal blogosphere, the liberal blogosphere's left them. It's not that McEwan and the Gang were more sympathetic toward Clinton and critical of Obama than is reasonable for progressives, it's that Josh Marshall and John Aravosis are sexists who Just Don't Get It (TM).
Now, I'm always skeptical of these kinds of "the world's gone mad, I'm perfectly sane" theories, whether Zell Miller or Melissa McEwan is expressing them. Roy Erdoso's "Nelson Mandela Republican" formulation just about nails it. And Wolfrum's post really shows who's been doing the repositioning here.
The liberal blogosphere I know is one that has consistently fought against the mainstream media's critiques of us based not on our content, but on our tone. We reclaimed "shrill", we kept on swearing, and we mocked the establishment's hackish attempts to critique us. We not once stooped to their level, attacking the language arguments are formed in rather than the arguments themselves. We were better than that.
Not Wolfrum, I guess. Not once in his post does he respond to an argument I make, or an argument litbrit or Sir Charles make. Instead, he deems us our reaction "spiteful", and follows that with a long list of non sequiturs and banal truisms about his right to vote. That's the kind of tone-focus and incoherence I expect out of the Washington Post editorial page. It's disappointing coming from what used to be one of my favorite blogs.
If Wolfrum, or zuzu, or Melissa has a half-way coherent explanation for how voting for someone other than Barack Obama, or a third party, doesn't harm the progressive goals they claim to be devoted to protecting, I'd love to hear it. I mean that: the current literature, from them and others, is some combination of "but he's not as good as Barbara Boxer because that's a completely reasonable expectation from a major party nominee!" and "if you squint really, really hard he totally sounded sexist this one time!" Something more systematic and consequence-oriented would be welcomed.
But if all they can muster are attacks on my tone, then all I can say is that I'm sorry they've left us and I hope they have a safe trip to wherever they're going. Wherever it is, it sure ain't anywhere I'd want to be.
The freakish concentration on abortion in Republican VP vetting, as Ezra says, nixes a whole number of otherwise good choices, and is probably responsible for this catastrophic pick. After all, of the nation's three Republican female governors - Sarah Palin, Jodi Rell of Connecticut, and Linda Lingle of Hawaii - only Palin is anti-choice, and of the nation's five female Republican Senators - Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina - only Dole is against Roe v. Wade.
That said, why didn't McCain pick Dole instead of Palin? The only two things I can think of are her age - 72, the same as McCain - and the fact that picking her would probably hand her Senate seat over to Kay Hagan. But the Republicans were never going to gain seats in the Senate, and if age is an issue for Dole, why isn't it an issue for a man (who, remember, live shorter lives on average) who spent five and a half years in unsanitary captivity and has a history of cancer? Between her six years in the Senate and seven on Reagan and Bush I's cabinets, no one could call Dole a lightweight.
I suppose it would be "vile, Pat Buchanan-vile" for me to accuse Jeffrey Goldberg, American-born IDF veteran that he is, of dual loyalties. I mean, that's just disgusting Jew-baiting.
Look, in the post that Goldberg lambasts, Jim Wolcott is doing no more than pointing out that Eric Cantor votes for whatever AIPAC tells him to. Mentioning this doesn't make Wolcott anti-semitic in the slightest. Lincoln Diaz-Balart votes for whatever CNAF tells him to. He's essentially an unregistered lobbyist for the Cuban opposition. It doesn't make me racist or anti-Cuban or pro-Castro to say that. It makes me a half-way competent observer of interest group politics.
The Israeli lobby is a powerful force in American foreign policymaking. Goldberg can try to cloud that by tossing about careless accusations of bigotry, but that's just a fact. It's one conservatives on the Israel-Palestine conflict, like Goldberg, should celebrate. Instead, they try to have it both ways, simultaneously supporting the lobby and denying its existence or influence. Pick one, Jeff. Either AIPAC is a substantially righteous force or an irrelevant one. It can't be both.
Palin: More Experience Than Obama, Biden, and McCain.
In running something, that is. She's been in charge of a state (a large one, so I'm told) for two years. The three men in the race have run senate offices. So McCain, in other words, chooses experience.
In other news, I really hope this, especially from 2:50 onward, carpets the airwaves:
Yep, I suspect she will be surprised how big the veep job is. See Davenoon over at LG&M, an Alaska native, on just how unprepared she is.
For the broader implications, Amanda Marcotte really nails it: this is aimed at the low-information Hillary voters who gawk at a female pronoun without caring to look at the anti-choice record that lies beneath. This wasn't a pick intended to help McCain govern. The former mayor of a city smaller than my hometown can't help him run the country. It's a totally cynical, disgusting choice that, gives the likelihood of McCain dying in office, leaves me legitimately worried about what would happen were she to ascend to the presidency.
Well, I give McCain points for a total fake-out. I deduct massive points for setting up someone with a two-year record as governor of the 48th largest state in the union and previous experience in the government of a 8,000 person town for a VP debate against Joe Biden. I mean, really, he's going to skin her alive. I also deduct points for totally defusing the experience debate. Say what you will about Obama's record, but do you really want Sarah Palin as your president? Really?
Also, it's worth noting that Palin's currently under investigation by the Alaska legislature for abuse of office. That isn't too surprising, Alaska politics being what they are, but for someone who made her name as an ethics campaigner that's pretty damning stuff.
That said, no matter who wins this November there's going to be either the first black president or the first woman vice-president. That's progress. Good on McCain that way, just like it was good for Mondale to pick Geraldine Ferraro. Sure, it went down in the annals of horrid VP decisions, like Palin will, but hey, history's being made, and I give him credit for that.
The New York Times has published a set of remembrances from the likes of Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson on Democratic National Conventions past, and while I normally find this type of thing self-indulgent, George McGovern's rumination on his ill-fated VP search process is full of fascinating tidbits. The basic story is that he's turned down by everyone from Edmund Muskie to Hubert Humphrey to Ted Kennedy to Abraham Ribicoff to Gaylord Nelson, and the last three all suggest Tom Eagleton, who McGovern was skeptical about because he didn't know the man. It'd be funny if it weren't so tragic. Anyway, the most interesting part is this graf:
Frank Mankiewicz, my political director, said with a wry smile: “Walter Cronkite was just named the most admired man in America. How about him?” We let this intriguing possibility pass as too unrealistic. I later learned from Walter that he would have accepted. I wish we had chosen him.
Now, I suspect Cronkite told McGovern that to stroke his ego, but assuming he actually would have accepted, could McGovern-Cronkite have beaten Nixon-Agnew? I'm still not sure. Granted, the addition of Cronkite couldn't have hurt, but McGovern was still an easily caricatured candidate running a hapless campaign against the most ruthless and amoral political force in modern American history. I can only imagine the things John Mitchell and the plumbers would have done to sabotage that ticket. What's more, the loss wouldn't just ruin McGovern, it'd wreck any hope Cronkite had of resurrecting his news career. After all, how could CBS trust him to be objective in covering Nixon after he ran against him? Sure, a loss would have made him the frontrunner for 1976, especially after Watergate broke, but I don't know that Cronkite had the political instincts to see through a campaign of his own.
In any case, thanks to McGovern for bringing up one of the more interesting hypothetical tickets of years past. I don't think it's quite as good as the 1980 plan for a Ronald Reagan/Gerald Ford co-presidency, with Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State, Alan Greenspan as Secretary of the Treasury, and a complex system of mutual veto power, but that one's pretty hard to top.