An iconic figure in California politics, the Progressive Republican Governor almost a hundred years ago, Hiram Johnson, coined the phrase, “The first casualty of war is the truth.” Well, in reigniting the cultural wars of the 1960’s and taking a page from the disgraced Spiro Agnew who resigned from the Vice-Presidency in disgrace and indictment, the national Republican ticket is at it again.
Bring on the “effete corps of impudent snobs” frame that Agnew was so famous for, attack the press for doing their job in following up with legitimate questions we need answered, smear the other candidate in a very personal and below the belt way, and most importantly, shift the attention from the issues of this campaign—the economy, the war, and the need to clean up the wreckage from the last eight God awful years under George Bush.
The attack on Barack Obama’s work as a community organizer—helping displaced workers deal with shut down steel factories—basically living the social gospel, walking the walk—when he could have had any six figure job in a cushy law firm with having pulled himself up by his bootstraps Horatio Alger like and not only graduated from Harvard Law School but as Editor of the Harvard Law School—is nothing short of despicable. It does not appeal to the better nature of our souls. It is demeaning, snickering, and the kind of nattering nabobbing of negatisism that shows those running the Republican talking points show here are truly not putting love of country above winning the election at all costs.
They’d attack Mother Teresa for not having a real job to win. They care nothing about destroying the idealism and the return of many Americans to voting and civic engagement that Barack Obama has fostered.
And to Hell with the accuracy of what Palin and others have had to say. They want the headlines they got today where her speech is treated in the manner of coverage of a sporting game—she’s scored on points--the headlines “Palin comes out swinging…,” “Solid speech,” etc. read like some of the commentary at the Olympics about whether someone nailed a gymnastic move.
I’ll give you just one of many big examples that stuck in my craw. They try to assassinate Barack Obama’s character—his integrity with the meme that he is just like all the other politicians—and that he opposed the War in Iraq and the surge because it was the popular thing to do—the easy way out—as opposed to John McCain’s bravery in supporting it, even though unpopular, because he puts country first. Well, if truth be told, it is Barack Obama who has had the Profile in Courage moment here. Obama opposed the Iraq War at the beginning, when it was politically risky to do so—some at the time characterized opposition to the war at that time as committing political suicide. Disagree with his position if you will—go ahead and say that the war that Bush got us into was a great idea if you will. But the below the belt attack here is beneath the dignity of anyone who wants to lead this nation—in the number one or two spot
So, they are taking a strength—his willingness to take the other path—and even his work as a community organizer—social work—and turning them into points of attack, smear, and innuendo. The community organizer comments really rankled me—as I, too, have an Ivy League education and graduated from one of the best law schools in the country and for most of my legal career dedicated myself to helping poor working stiffs, many from the middle class, and their families deal with the devastating effects of work injuries, the disorienting loss of pride of no longer being a bread winner, and actually did a lot of social work. I, too, could have gone into any high paying law practice and sold my soul. I chose the path not usually taken. And I washed dishes in the family restaurant starting in my junior high school years to get there. And i am so happy I did so.
So, I commend a few articles to you to think about in the days to come: What this all means and what not only the headlines, but the probing, ought to be in articles and in our discussions around the water cooler.
First, Joe Garofoli in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Palin seizes the night, but questions remain.” Here are some key passages:
“Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin left many unanswered questions last night in accepting the Republican nomination for vice president. No speech, no matter how impressive - and hers was, delivered with both verve and vigor - can put to rest the serious questions that are being raised about the extent of her experience and the extremism of her views on myriad issues….
“Palin did not flinch in taking on the Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, in a forceful way. She chided his experience as "a community organizer" and his record in the U.S. Senate. She contrasted the experience of a "season as a gifted speaker" with the "lifetime of achievement" of her running mate. …
“Still, it must be noted that Obama has been subjected to the most intensive scrutiny on the planet since he announced for president in February 2007. The uncomfortable chapters of his background and depth of his knowledge on an array of issues have been plumbed, probed and pummeled. There are hours and hours of tape of Obama answering detailed questions from voters and journalists.
“Palin's speech was decidedly soft-focus, by design. She evoked her opposition to the "Bridge to Nowhere" without having to reconcile her reversal of position. She did not mention her views on creationism, abortion, gay rights or the censorship of library books.
“This was her night, and she seized it. It should, however, leave most Americans wanting to hear much more about a potential world leader.”
And from today’s LA Times, a lengthy and quite thoughtful article “Blurring of journalism lines in Palin story hurts public,” by James Rainey, that contains this telling passage, among others:
“We heard it for the second day running Wednesday. The Republicans devoted much of their energy to knocking down the mythical, monolithic "media." A group of Republican women led by Carly Fiorina faced down a room full of reporters at the convention center here and demanded that the Palin "smears" stop.
“Former Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift, in particular, railed about the unfairness of it all. I thought maybe I had missed something, so I followed Swift into the hallway.
“I asked her to name the legitimate news outlet that had smeared McCain's running mate. Swift looked crestfallen.
“"Well, the Daily Kos," she finally offered, citing the blog where political lefties go to post their rants.
“"How about one big mainstream news organization?" I prodded. "There must be one that has smeared Gov. Palin."
“Swift seemed confused. She looked toward an aide. Surrounded by a scrum of reporters, she lowered her head and moved away.
“That's because partisans don't feel one iota of guilt about damaging the press, one of our most important institutions, if it helps them rouse their core supporters. Why not slam all the media for smearing Sarah Palin, rather than single out the tabloids or blogs that have earned the derision?”
After they’ve had their fun hitting Obama like a piñata and getting what Orwell described in 1984 as their fifteen minutes of hate, I hope we can get back to the issues.
Late last night, I got an email from the Obama campaign—sent to millions--that hit the nail on the head. Here’s part of what it said:
“Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack's experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.
“Let's clarify something for them right now.
“Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.
“And it's no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.
“Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America's promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it's happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America.
“Meanwhile, we still haven't gotten a single idea during the entire Republican convention about the economy and how to lift a middle class so harmed by the Bush-McCain policies.
“It's now clear that John McCain's campaign has decided that desperate lies and personal attacks -- on Barack Obama and on you -- are the only way they can earn a third term for the Bush policies that McCain has supported more than 90 percent of the time.”
Turning the McCain-Palin-Giuliani talking points on their head, this is the best part: “But worst of all -- and this deserves to be noted -- they insulted the very idea that ordinary people have a role to play in our political process.”
Indeed they did. And yes, we can make a difference in this election.
By Frank Russo, Publisher, The California Progress Report
Originally published on The California Progress Report. Republished with permission.
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