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The Iowa Caucuses

How about them Iowa Caucuses, huh?


Obama

In victory speech, Barak Obama called last Thursday "a defining moment in history"--presumably because it marked the first occasion in which a political prediction of mine actually came to pass. Although I said he'd win by "a significant (if not sizable) margin in Iowa," and winning by eight percentage points strikes me as fairly sizable, so perhaps I'm still batting .000 after all.

After Obama's speech, the NPR pundits were predicting GOP fratricide in the wake of Huckabee's victory, and I had a lovely little daydream about all the Republican candidates turning on one another with such virulence that they somehow all lose, allowing Obama to waltz into the Oval office unchallenged. Sort of like a modern day "Millions Of Cats":

Millions of Cats

Hell, maybe he could just adopt that as his campaign slogan.


Edwards

Many assumed that my calling the election for Obama implied that I was rooting for him. Well, I am, kinda. But only because my first choice, Gore, has decided to spend this election home playing Blocksum on his three 30" monitors; my second choice, Dodd, has, after a year of campaigning, managed to become as widely known as the gaffer on Daddy Day Camp; and my third choice, Edwards, has as much chance of getting elected president as I do of opening a line of Southern California Taco Trucks called "defective yummy" ("We Put The Eat Into Burrito!").

Edwards was my man in 2004, and I still contend that he cwould have won, had he been nominated. But, to my mind, he's been a moderately terrible candidate this time around. For one thing, I can't help but wonder what he's been doing since 2004--and the only conclusion I can come to is: running for president. Which means, really, he's been running for President for five or six straight years, to the apparent exclusion of all other activities. And it doesn't help when he says that the presidency is "his calling." He's pursuing the White House with such zeal that, were it a girl, it would have long ago politely asked him to stop calling and sought a restraining order. And, as the "Draft Al Gore!" and "Draft Fred Thompson!" and "Draft Wesley Clark!" movements demonstrate, Americans like candidates who feign disinterest in the presidency. The coy suitor, if you will, rather than the guy standing on the White House's front lawn holding the boombox over his head blasting The Star Spangled Banner.

Still, of all the contenders (now that Dodd and Biden have dropped out), I think he'd make the best president. (Well, perhaps not as good as Hillary, but I have ruled her out for other reasons.) He has the experience Obama lacks, and the seriousness that just about everyone on everyone on the Republican side, save perhaps McCain and Paul, openly eschews. By "seriousness," I mean that he has clearly thought about what he would do as president, and not just about how to get to be president. Check out this recent New York Times Interview with Edwards, for instance, or the issues page on his website. I get the sense that Edwards views the presidency as a job, and not just a plum.

Sadly, the media has this completely backwards, dismissing him as the lightweight in the race. And Edwards has largely brought this onto himself, with his relentless smile and a "sunny optimism" shtick that's easily confused with blinkered shallowness. That kind of showmanship may have worked well in the courtroom, but here it has proven a total dud.

Anyway, I think Edwards may have served his purpose in this race: by edging Hillary out in Iowa by a fraction of a percent, he relegated her to "third" and made Obama seem much, much more the frontrunner than if she had come in second. That's of enormous significance to the dynamic of the race, but probably the only thing of consequence Fate has in store for the Edwards campaign. He's not going to be the protagonist of this story, alas, just a plot device.


Books

I'd be happy to see Obama in the White House, though perhaps as a vice president first. Much of my reservations came while reading his book, The Audacity Of Hope, which is mostly written in the "Cowardly Journalist," on-the-one-hand, on-the-other style of using a lot of words to say very little. His dissertation on the filibuster, for instance, is, like:

  • The filibuster is a hallowed and important senate tradition
  • But it was used to block very important reforms during the civil-rights era
  • But I don't think it should be abolished
  • But, when Democrats consider using it, they should contemplate the fact that they are subverting the very principle of majority rule
  • But then they should use it anyway
  • But etc, etc.
Which wouldn't bother me so much--"campaign books" are notorious for their meaninglessness--if it hadn't made me so acutely aware of when he uses this same technique on the campaign trail.

By the way, I tried to read Al Gore's most recent book, FATAL REASON ASSAULT IV: THE DUMBENING or whatever it's called, and gave up on page 30, when I hit the line, "It was the new technology itself that empowered Galileo to describe a reality that was impossible to perceive so clearly until the new technology of the telescope made it possible," one of many that was so bad that I could have written them. The guy has an Oscar and a Nobel Prize--you'd think we could rustle himself up an editor as well.


Huckabee

"It's really impossible to overstate Chuck Norris' impact on this race," one pundit opined after Huckabee's win in Iowa. And it's also impossible to overstate the impact of Chuck Norris jokes in re-elevating Chuck Norris to the public consciousness.

This is the most influence an Internet meme has ever had, at least until Obama names Leslie Hall as Secretary of the Treasury.


Giuliani

I don't know if you saw it, but before the Iowa Caucus Rudy Giuliani released the most fearmongering ad of the campaign.

After coming in fifth there, though, he decided to release this new ad, to really drive home the central theme of his campaign:

NO WAIT STOP DON'T WATCH THE ABOVE VIDEO!!!!

It's ... okay, I'll just tell you. It contains Screaming Zombie Lady. You know, that asinine clip where you watch something relaxing and then all the sudden it becomes a scene of a ghoul shrieking at volume 12 and you shit your pants and have to leave work early to go get a new pair of Dockers? Yeah, it's that one. If you insist on watching it, set the youtube volume to as low as it can go and still be audible. I wanted to spring it on you, but ... I couldn't bring myself to do it. Bah. I'm such a pussy.

Posted on January 07, 2008 to Politics





Comments

"Edwards, has as much chance of getting elected president as I do of opening a line of Southern California Taco Trucks called "defective yummy" ("We Put The Eat Into Burrito!")."

Now, just because I'm curious - were you planning on franchising this line of trucks. If so, I want to be the first in line for the first Minnesota franchise.

Heck, I'd buy a burrito from you.

Posted by: Eric on January 7, 2008 1:51 PM

I've seen it before, I knew what was coming, and that Screaming Zombie Lady made me jump out of my chair anyway! Why did I do that?

Posted by: srah on January 7, 2008 1:57 PM

I've lost the reference, but about 25 people voted in the Best Documentary category, giving Gore's Oscar the equivalent mandate of a hot dog.

Posted by: Max on January 7, 2008 2:49 PM

I'm with you on Edwards. By the way, after the '04 election (which he would have won easily had he been the candidate instead of Sen. Purple Hearts), Edwards was the director of a poverty center at UNC -- I'm not exactly sure what that means. I still wish he'd get the nom -- I think he'd be a great president.

Posted by: seamus on January 7, 2008 3:56 PM

Lloyd Dobbler for Halloween Costume!

Posted by: Rob Cockerham on January 7, 2008 4:05 PM

"Just a homely little cat" might be the best campaign slogan EVER.
Jules
House of Jules

Posted by: Jules on January 7, 2008 4:18 PM

Holy crap that zombie lady was hilarious. I recommend everyone watch it.

Posted by: Jack on January 7, 2008 5:08 PM

Eric, those taco trucks seem to be having issues with health codes, at least in the Seattle area. The particular violations range from "lack of food worker's permit" to more urgent ones like "lack of running water."

Also, Max, as much as I don't like Al Gore, I'd say that getting 25 people to agree on a Hot Dog is quite a consensus. Especially if some are from Chicago.

Posted by: LAN3 on January 7, 2008 5:26 PM

Mom?!

When did you start doing car commercials?

Posted by: Dan Quixote on January 7, 2008 5:28 PM

Anyone who voted for Huckabee is a certifiable fucktard who should be immediately enlisted and used as IED detectors.

An Islamic fundamentalist blowing up himself and Christian fundamentalists would be a great start. Perhaps tacos should be included.

Posted by: Dan Rather Not on January 7, 2008 5:44 PM

Dan, don't look, but Chuck Norris is on your doorstep. Right now.

Posted by: Louis on January 7, 2008 5:53 PM

A Say Anything reference! Wow. You are my hero. I am totally addicted to your blog. I wish I was half as clever and witty as you. You should be published. I would pay to read you.

Dori

Posted by: Dori on January 7, 2008 6:31 PM

To hell with the zombie lady -- that book scares the crap out of me! They go outside, find everybody EATEN TO DEATH, and their gut instinct is to invite inside the only one left standing.
"Just a very homely little cat" indeed.

Posted by: Judy on January 7, 2008 6:51 PM

I don't see why you say Edwards has experience. From his one term as a Senator? From his endless campaigning? From being a personal injury lawyer?

Unimpressive to me.

Not that it matters. Obama '08!

Posted by: Brendan on January 7, 2008 6:56 PM

I just laughed until I CRIED about that Zombie Lady. And then I watched it again.

Going to scrub mascara trails off face now.

Thank you.

Posted by: elizasmom on January 7, 2008 8:16 PM

Well... that's creepy. I saw Chuck Norris circled in that picture and he appeared at the same time on TV to sell me some home gym equipment. It's like he knew I was thinking about him...

Posted by: HeadlessCow on January 7, 2008 8:23 PM

American politics bemuses most of us in Britain, and that Zombie Lady (only an American would call that harridan a 'lady') clip just increases my bewilderment, not least for the slogan.

Posted by: z on January 7, 2008 11:27 PM

Welcome back! I've missed your blog the last couple of weeks.

Posted by: Kate on January 8, 2008 6:27 AM

I watched that second ad on mute (because I'm too lazy to unplug my ear buds from my iPod, plug them into the computer, and then open the volume control and un-mute...I'm so fucking lazy) and I cannot stop laughing at that thing. What the hell does it have to do with Giuliani? Maybe I'll have to re watch with volume...but seriously: too funny!

Posted by: Agent Scully on January 8, 2008 8:09 AM

And, as the "Draft Al Gore!" and "Draft Fred Thompson!" and "Draft Wesley Clark!" movements demonstrate, Americans like candidates who feign disinterest in the presidency.

Clark and Thompson are examples of candidates Americans like? Seems to me their support was/is tepid at best.

Posted by: hilker on January 8, 2008 8:29 AM

#1: Gallery of Glamore?!? Leslie makes an excellent sweater, and would, vis a vis, make an excellent Secretary of Treasury!

b) I live in Canada and read about the primaries from Canadian journalists who don't really understand, or know how to report on, the primaries properly. Their perspective relates to three campaingers: Osama for being the Black, Clinton for being the Woman, and Huckabee for being the Guy Who Would Equal Bush.

iii. Maybe I read defective yeti because I relate to your stance, but it is my hope that the majority of Americans will follow what you say (...would you then be better than Chuck Norris?!?) and think and vote in a proper President.

Not only do I not want another Republican in the White House because Bush is the puppet for shitty people with shitty ways of doing things, but because Canada follows your lead, USA! Vote The Right Person In!

(Did anyone see The Simpson's on Sunday? All about electing Ralph... Vote for Ralph if you can't find a candidate that you like.)

Posted by: Kelly on January 8, 2008 9:00 AM

Clark and Thompson are candidates that people get all hot and bothered about but once they became candidates, it turns out they weren't so great after all. Like that video of the kid that REALLY wants whatever it is Mommy is cooking with and when she finally gives it to him and he gulps it down, it turns out it was soy sauce and the kid doesn't like it. HAHA. That's the funniest. Fred Thompson is soy sauce.

Posted by: jisch on January 8, 2008 9:06 AM

[Let me say this up front: I'm an Obama supporter, a lifelong Democrat, and loyal Yeti-reader.]

Who is on the panel that decides which experience constitutes "Presidential Experience"? I'm just curious. I keep hearing that Barack Obama is inexperienced, and I'm just wondering what part of his experience counts and what doesn't. Do you need a lot of Washington experience to be qualified to run for POTUS? DO you have to have won a certain number of elections? Does Obama's education at Columbia and Harvard count as experience? His time spent as a community activist for civil rights in Chicago? What about his time in the Illinois State Senate? What about his time in the U.S. Senate?

John Edwards is a one-term senator who couldn't defeat Mr. Congeniality, John Kerry in 2004, and then, when teamed with supercandidate John Kerry, couldn't beat the Texas moron who is running our country into the ground and Dick Cheney, the Prince of Darkness. To the best of my knowledge, the bulk of his experience is as a trial lawyer; prior to his Senate term, he never held elected office. So he's won one campaign. Ever.

Senator Clinton likes to talk about her 35 years of experience and she is at the beginning of her second term in the Senate. Again, prior to 2000, to the best of my knowledge, she never held elected office, though she did log a number of miles as the First Lady of the State of Arkansas and of the US. That was most definitely experience. To be candid, neither of her Senatorial campaigns were exactly hotly contested, so this is, practically speaking, her first substantive campaign.

I'm not pointing this out to diminish HRC or John Edwards. I think they are both fine human beings and I think they would both make fine Presidents. I just don't think Barack Obama is the naive, madrassa-raised, babe in the wilderness that his competitors are making him out to be.

Posted by: Aaron on January 8, 2008 12:55 PM

I agree with you on the Bush/Clinton/Bush..please, no Clinton.
I think that is what has the turnout up so high in Iowa and it looks like NH today.
People just want anyone without the name Bush or Clinton running the place.
Obama, who I am supporting, is getting out the young vote and the ladies love him, so this could be done real quick.

Posted by: Kevin on January 8, 2008 1:28 PM

I prefer cheeseburgers to hot dogs, Fred Thompson isn't soy sauce so much as A1 steak sauce, and Aaron is awesome.

Posted by: Rebecca on January 8, 2008 1:46 PM

Thanks for your pussitude...I was reading next to the toddler's bedroomm and my girlish screams would've awoken her if the zombie lady's hadn't.

Speaking of which, I remember that old man from Millions of Cats and he was rather scary too.

Posted by: braine on January 8, 2008 6:33 PM

If that last kitten didn't fight, where was the last cat that won the fight and ate all the other cats?

Posted by: Anon on January 9, 2008 6:50 AM

I've pretty much decided that my vote will be cast for the candidate who will create the most comedy gold in the coming years.

Posted by: Keith on January 9, 2008 9:17 AM

I loved that book as a kid. I haven't read it in close to 20 years, though. Please tell me that's not what it really says! The cats don't really eat each other, do they?

Posted by: ALG on January 9, 2008 9:45 AM

Supporters of Mr. Obama should not be about the business of calling Mrs Clinton's senatorial campaigns unsubstantive.

But it's a good question about experience. Most of us engage in a little reaching beyond our current capabilities when we apply for new jobs.

Posted by: jisch on January 9, 2008 3:57 PM

A side note about Chuck Norris: NPR had a story on a campaign stop that he was speaking at. They interviewed a teenager who said he came out to see Chuck Norris, and then rattled off a few well-known C.N. lines. I was a little surprised, then ashamed at doubting Chuck's ability to bring out a crowd.

One of the lines the teenager said was "There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live." Huckabee might get my vote if he came out and said this was the reason he doesn't believe in evolution.

Posted by: Jason on January 9, 2008 8:57 PM

I like Kucinich, personally, even though he has a snowball's chance in hell. He has such great plans for universal health care, among other things... why did someone have to bring up the stupid UFO thing?

Breaks my heart.

Obama's #2, though.

Posted by: morgan on January 11, 2008 9:11 PM

Drat - the videos are both broken... Wah!

Posted by: Jim in Missoula on January 12, 2008 3:30 PM