Katrina survivors, three years later:
“That’s President Bush hugging me. See how tightly he’s hugging me?” It was the chilly end of 2006 in Baker, Louisiana, when Lena Beard asked me this, proudly waving a newspaper clipping my direction as we talked in her still-temporary home. The fading photo, taken the same day the mother of two took refuge on a mattress in a church after Hurricane Katrina, had served as proof after the levees burst that she was going to be okay. “I’m a veteran who has served my country and put my life on the line. I believed my country would take care of me and my family,” she said.
Read the rest here
And from Norman Solomon in Denver, some thoughts on the soundtrack that accompanied the Democratic National Convention, something that I thought about quite often myself since these conventions are, above all else, pieces of American entertainment:
Not to read too much into the soundtrack of this convention, but the music — presumably selected as carefully as the visual décor — is part of the political experience.
On Wednesday night, delegates swayed or even danced to “Love Train.” And when Bill Clinton appeared on stage, “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” accompanied him yet again. In this context, it was ironically enough a song that looked back to a long-gone yesterday — to when it instantly became his signature tune at the 1992 convention. Then, watching the controlled pandemonium inside Madison Square Garden, I couldn’t help thinking of another sweet and catchy Fleetwood Mac melody, the one that goes “Tell me lies, tell me lies, tell me sweet loving lies.”
We might prefer for such matters to mean next to nothing, but they’re big weaves in the media-wired tapestry of what we call American politics. And, all cerebral and analytical notions aside, mass-marketed American politics is largely fueled by — and aimed at — emotions. The morning after the night when Barack Obama formally won the party’s nomination for president (“by acclamation,” courtesy of Hillary Clinton), I’m left most of all with sensations of feelings that propelled the Democratic Party’s last night inside the unfortunately named Pepsi Center.
And the rest is here
Here’s another comment from Solomon about the way the Obamas had to reassure Americans that they’re just “regular” Americans themselve:
Michelle Obama’s speech went over very well inside the amphitheater. I liked it OK, but it saddened me that so much focus had to be poured into trying to convince viewers that an African-American family is fully part of the United States of America and fully part of the human family.
[UPDATE: I just found this comment on Michelle Obama’s speech at 3quarksdaily and it fits right here. So here it is:
If the practical entered the picture, as it must, at the level of planning and detail, it was only in the service of something grand. Michelle Obama delivered a powerful and deft speech, telling the story of her family and attempting earnestly to define herself for strangers. Except that she was also responding in a very precise way to criticism made of her in the past, and this open act, because it was being performed on such a big public stage, threatened each utterance by exposing its fragility.
I understood this more fully only when I came out of the Pepsi Center, and a friend of mine, who is black and a writer, sent me a text message from upstate New York saying that Michelle’s humanity had been diminished that evening: the white majority had imposed on her the view that she could be considered acceptable only if she said nothing critical of her own country.]
Kevin Drum on John McCain’s choice of running mate:
Well, Palin just managed to get a crowd of 10,000 Republican die-hards to throw up a huge cheer for Hillary Clinton. That’s a first.
This whole thing is crazy. Various conservatives and TV talking heads, now that they’ve gotten used to Palin, seem to be working hard to dig up reasons why she’s the most brilliant choice ever. She’s a reformer, her son is headed to Iraq, her husband is a union member, anybody with five kids knows how to handle pressure, she’s popular with Alaska voters, women are going to love her, etc. etc.
Look, call me a partisan hack. Whatever. But I’m just stunned by the cynicism of the whole thing. I’m sure Palin is a fine person, loving mother, devoted wife, learning her way as governor, and so forth. But a heartbeat away from the presidency? Someone with virtually no serious political experience, and no serious experience of any other kind to make up for it? She’s going to shake up Washington?
I don’t know how she’ll do on the stump or in the debates. Maybe she’ll be great. Who knows? But a potential leader of the free world? You gotta be kidding.
The choice of Palin is a cynical one. But I’m not sure what everyone expected. Obama’s choice of Biden was surely cynical as well. I think the choice of Palin was also a stupid one and that surprises me a bit, but it shouldn’t. Check out Werther’s view of such bad choices, posted last night here
Here’s what Stephanie Mencimer has to say about Palin:
John McCain may think that Alaska governor Sarah Palin will help him pick off the Hillary voters, but the fact that she went back to work in April three days after giving birth to a premature baby with Downs’ Syndrome has already got women buzzing on the web with questions about her judgment and priorities. Obviously 2008 is a lot different from 1992, when Hillary, who wasn’t even running for office, was heavily criticized for her decision to pursue a career after having a child. But even in these more enlightened times, women on both sides of the political spectrum may frown on Palin’s decision to hit the national campaign trail at this particular time of her life. (And of course, we’ll all be wondering: will she bring her breast pump?)
UPDATE: As I’m sure you know by now (Sept 1), the Palin “baby talk” has gone nutso. Check this post for some good links to a more mature conversation.
And that would represent my own Sarah Palin sexism watch, #1. I don’t know the circumstances of Palin’s life, the division of labour between herself and the father of her children or what other childcare provisions she’s made for her children, from within and outside her family. I’m not gonna judge her on that one. I know plenty of female lawyers who were back at work within days of giving birth. They all had good reasons, or reasons they thought were good, and none of their children were unprovided for. I thought men were supposed to be parents too. Though I don’t know for sure, it would really surprise me if Palin’s baby wasn’t very well cared for. My worry would be the toll this choice took on Palin. But that’s her responsibility and her choice too.
And this newspaper article, cited by Mencimer, validates my belief that she is a devoted Mom with good support from the father of her children.
Here’s John Nichols on the choice of Palin:
She’s a smart, edgy pol who is exceptionally popular in Alaska and has a story that the national media will enjoy telling almost as much as it does McCain’s.
The rest is here
Refer back to Normon Solomon’s sadness about how the Obamas have to prove they’re just regular Americans, with personal stories just like “everybody else’s”. That, for one thing, can’t be true. If America truly is the only country in the world where a story like Obama’s could occur, then surely “American stories” are diverse and complex. As is Palin’s. As is McCain’s. I don’t know if it’s true that American’s demand these homogeneous, patriotic stories. But I am sure that these are not the stories that we should really care about. And, WTF happens to the issues when it’s “the story” that takes precedence?
[UPDATE: I think Heather Gehlert’s post at AlterNet provides the best analysis I’ve read of how Palin’s “story”, and other things, could give the Dems more than one big pain – here]
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stimulated precious little comment during the Democratic convention and what comment there was fom Obama and Biden was very very far from reassuring. Tom Hayden writes about the suppression of freedom of speech in Denver and expressing concerns about the state of the “peace vote”, here:
The most significant question coming out of the convention is whether the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party will back away from their antiwar position to the traditional comfort level of domestic economic issues. This is written before Obama’s speech, but the pattern of the week was disappointing for those wanting to hear the antiwar message.
The whole thing is here
John Kerry spoke up. The moving Steven Spielberg film reminded us of the cost to veterans. There were frequent throwaway lines about “responsibly ending the war.” Joe Biden finally pointed out that Obama was right on the issue of setting a deadline, but then dampened that theme with a ringing call for war in Afghanistan.
There are only two reasons why the Democrats want to expand the war in Afghanistan, and it is unclear which is worse. If it is merely political, to avoid an “antiwar” image, it will disappoint millions of peace voters. If it is actually substantive, it represents a choice to bog down the United States in an expanding empire of wars and unwinnable quagmires.
The antiwar movement thus faces critical choices: on the one hand, to throw themselves into the campaign for Obama or risk electing McCain, while also opposing the expansion of the wars to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Obama didn’t say a thing in his acceptance speech that was reassuring, reiterating his bad-ass scarey views about Iran, Afghanistan and now, Russia and Georgia. He didn’t defend his vote on the FISA legislation, because he can’t. And I don’t know how American women feel about his comments on the abortion issue, but they did nothing for me, since he focussed on contraception instead of coming out as fiercely as he should in support of the right to abortion secured by Roe v. Wade.
I really like this one: Patricia J. Williams on “the sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits”:
So this is the kind of stuff rattling through my brain when Hillary Clinton spoke those fateful words. I looked at her well-constructed peach pantsuit and the pantsuits of the thousands of her well-heeled contributors on the floor, and thought: the night before, Michele Obama had worn a simple, single-layer sheath dress, appropriate for this weather, and a pair of low-heeled shoes. Elegant, confident and literally cooler. This thought, this contrast, made me stop my busy blogging about unity and the future and women as astronauts. I unbuttoned my jacket, kicked off my shoes underneath the press table. Whew, I said to myself. Hillary Clinton and I are trapped in the clothes of our generation.
I suppose there’s nothing like an election to turn the mind to fashion statements. And now that the party is at least nominally united, allow me this little digression upon the little-observed semiotics of what hell it has been for a woman of a certain age to dress for success. To some extent it’s not exclusively woman’s issue–the citizenry is often disposed to deciphering candidates’ positions on serious issues, ranging from the war to the economy, from the esoterica of what they wear. Cowboy-boot politics. Italian-twill twee. Plaid-shirt populism. Lapel-pin patriotism.
Read it here