Thinking Seems to Have Stopped

I think that I have been thinking. But I think that my thoughts have been either non-conclusive or circular.

Like the past week’s political ad that had the McCain campaign trotting out blonde bimbos and somehow linking them–or at least their celebrity–to Obama. And Paris Hilton’s mom didn’t appreciate it.

Then there was the coverage about Ludacris’s song and somehow that Obama has responsibility for the rapper’s lyrics. Hunh? (Nas has a much better joint, anyway.)

Then there was the senior pictures. How did it happen that my first-born posed for his senior pictures. And he looks like a frickin’ man.

He has been spending the summer at the pool, lifeguarding. The pool is about as far away from us as some of my friends in the ‘burbs can imagine. He is guarding at a pool in Anacostia. Right by here.

One friend said that he would never allow his kid to go to that pool. But he has never been there. And he has not driven past the neat single family homes on those quiet streets. The kids playing with their sweet, funny, goofy pit-bulls in the park next to the pool. He probably hasn’t had the chance to see the most beautiful sky in Washington, D.C. as you drive up South Capital Street along the Anacostia River. Crazy clouds lit from behind to your left and the lights from the stadium straight ahead. As you cross over the river, the stadium is on your right, and you look up ahead and there’s the Capitol.

Sometimes you have to look close to see what is really there. You might need to look with your own eyes. And sometimes when you look closely, when you dig past the surface, you can really see.

Wrong Headline, Wrong Story

In the ongoing effort to make the 2008 Presidential Election all about race and increase readership or ratings or something, today’s Washington Post has the inflammatory front page headline “3 In 10 Admit to Race Bias” and chronicles the trouble Barack Obama is having in getting the (play dramatic music) White Vote.

If you read on to paragraph 9 on the second page, you will discover what I found to be news. That is, Democrats running for president have been having trouble with the (play dramatic music) White Vote for the past few election cycles–and according to the article, this trend has been going on since Jimmy Carter ran in 1976.

This is hardly the first time a Democratic candidate has faced such a challenge — Al Gore lost white voters by 12 points in 2000, and John F. Kerry lost them by 17 points in 2004 — but it is a significantly larger shortfall than Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton encountered in their winning campaigns. — Wash Post

Somehow, though, the Post acts like Obama is having a problem with the (play dramatic music) White Vote because he is black. That’s not what I see in the data.

Hey Post, I think that if you actually read your data–to make it easy I made a graph with a trendline–you would agree that the story is either

  1. Dems have been in trouble with white voters for a while, OR
  2. Obama’s race doesn’t seem to be having much of an impact on the voters–so far.

The Post piece is NOT good thinking.

Sticks and Stones II

The man with no eyes a boss/guard from Cool Hand Luke.Hurry, hurry, hurry. You don’t want to be the last of the sappy, hopeful idealists who still believes in the Obama message of hope and unity. Why believe and work for change if cynicism is just around the corner?

Yes, I mean you David Brooks and others who were fawning all over Barack Obama just a few months ago. You were excited about the potential of a transformative leader. About the promise of a post-Bush future tackling issues of today’s and tomorrow’s America. About breaking from the old liberal/conservative debates from the 60’s 70’s, and figuring out new solutions and a new coalition of people from left and right for a new, and united, United States.

It’s like Cook Hand Luke. The other inmates idolize Luke’s bravery–that he challenges the status quo. They egg him on to take risks while sit back to enjoy–and exalt–his strength which gives them hope. When Luke shows that he is just flesh and blood like them, his former fawners show their disappointment with Luke–and with their own cowardice–by turning their backs on him. They won’t take the risk, but are excited that he does. And reject him rather than take up the mantle.

It’s easier to say that he isn’t who we thought he was, rather that to see that we aren’t who we wish we were.

No Foul

Hillary, Chelsea and Bill Clinton, a long time ago. (Photo, National Archives)During the never-ending “news” stream from the TV, a talking head said that Chelsea Clinton was asked about Monica Lewinsky at an Indiana campaign stop for her mom. Our talk around the TV went like this.

“Awww, that is just not necessary.”
“Well, they are pimping her out.”
“Yeah, but this is just out of bounds.”
“Good for her, she told them it wasn’t their business.”
“She’s a grown woman.”
“She was a kid at the time.”

It was the protective parent that made me jump to Chelsea’s defense. The campaign is not about her personal experiences at such a tough time.

Then, tonight (while watching an another awful American Idol, David Archuleta go home!) I read the coverage only to see that the question was not out of bounds–not a mean question about Chelsea’s personal esperience–but about whether Hillary Clinton’s credibility was damaged by her comments during the Lewinsky scandal. Not about how Chelsea felt. Not about how her mother and father coped with the scandal. Not about the chill around the White House breakfast table. Now that would be none of our business.

The kid at Butler State in Ind., asked a legitimate question. It was HRC who blamed a “vast right wing conspiracy” for yet another in a string of unfounded accusations against her husband. But turns out it wasn’t Clinton enemies, but a fact. The question asked was, what does that say about Hillary’s judgment? Now that is our business.

It is uncomfortable for Chelsea to be confronted about the Lewinsky scandal, but really, everyone knows about Bill’s thing with the intern, and Chelsea is publicly campaigning for her mom. Not out of bounds.

My Sib texted that my niece saw Chelsea today at one of the Clinton college stops in Ind. My niece reported that there were alot of Obama signs in the audience. That’s legitimate, too. But no being mean to Chelsea.

A Race to Race

Statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Memorial with a bunch of 50's tourists looking on.So, will Barack Obama’s speech on race–you know, the speech he really did not want to have to make –be noted in future histories as a turning point in U.S. race relations? And more importantly, if it is an historical “event,” will it be in the context of the election of our first black president or in the context of a failed candidacy that helped to bring an open discussion of race in America?

Too early to tell. Too early to know if this will have any long-term impact. Too early to tell if skittish white-folk will use Rev. Wright as a reason why they can’t support Obama. But for the skittish, they would need to find something anyway.

So when Obama offers nuance and context about race in America, does he inadvertently give an out to folks who like to have simple choices laid out in a menu of numbers on the wall? [I’ll take the #2 meal, Britney Spears burger, Bill Cosby fries, with a supersize of O.J.?] When there is no easy sound bite–precisely because this is a discussion and NOT a sound bite–can it be heard?

Only a tiny fraction of Americans will ever see the speech in full. Once it went through the media sausage grinder all you were left with was him failing to disown the pastor,” says Michael Munger, political scientist at Duke University and a libertarian. “It showed he is the kind of candidate we should want as president but not the kind we tend to elect.Financial Times

Okay. Maybe I am just a pseudo-intellectual snob. And maybe I just need to learn more about stuff white people like.

And maybe, just maybe, no matter what happens in this upcoming election, we can actually

“…continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. [B]ecause [we] believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.” —Barack Obama

Yeah, like that.

What Are People Looking For?

Amy Winehouse in London. I think this might be from AP.I was poking through Google’s toolset and stumbled on Google Trends. Google says that their Trends (in beta) can let you “see what the world is searching for.” Among the cool features, you can compare trends on different search terms over time and by region.

So, you can see that U.S. users had a spike in searches for Amy Winehouse, and that Amy tracks higher than Britney. Across the pond, Brits were generally less interested in learning about Amy, and more in Britney.

You can also track the relative popularity of Kanye West and 50 Cent. Fitty famously promised to retire from music if Kanye’s CD outsold his on the day they were both released. 50 had more searches than Kanye through most of 2007–until the release of the CDs. Kanye queries killed him on that day, and has been a bit ahead ever since.

So, what about the Democratic contenders?

Google search trend data shows Clinton queries ahead of Obama queries for much of 2007Well, Hillary Clinton (red line above) was ahead of Barack Obama (blue line) during the long pre-primary season. Interest in both candidates picked up at the end of December, going into the Iowa caucuses. Since then, people have been looking for information about Obama more than info about Clinton–and on some days by much more.

Even more interesting (at least to me) is the regional trending.

Line graphs showing Obama ahead in Iowa, Clinton up in N.H. and tie in S.C.By December 2007, Obama (blue) was ahead of Clinton in Iowa, which he won. Clinton (red) was more interesting to people in New Hampshire, and she won there. And South Carolina queries at the end of the year were pretty even for our intrepid candidates. [Obama ended up winning S.C. handily at the end of January.]

Anybody picking up a trend here? It looks like people might be looking for stuff that they are interested in. This can be troubling for the Clinton campaign if you take a look at what people are looking for now in Texas and Ohio.

It's crazy--Obama queries are way up from Clinton in both Texas and Ohio.The Google Trend for the past 30 days sees a large gap between searches for Obama (still the Blue Line) and Clinton (Red Line) in these two key upcoming primary states. Tuesday will tell, but as far as people looking for candidate information, it appears that they are more likely to be seeking information about Obama. Or maybe how to contribute to his campaign. Or how to volunteer. Or who knows. Maybe they already know enough about Clinton.

This Google Trends stuff is so cool. And despite the fact it skews to Internet users–more educated, more white, more wealthy– it’s now the Doc’s zeitgeist poll.

Spirit of the Law

You parents out there. You know how your kids can be barristers? You know how they can parse words when it suits them? Like:

Me: I said no online games.
Him: Well, actually you said that you hate online shooting games, and this isn’t a shooting game.

Me: Homework needs to be done before goofing around.
Him: Well, I did finish my homework. I just didn’t show my work, and I didn’t understand problems 3-18, and I didn’t bring home my social studies so how could I read it?

Her: I am having a fundraiser-not campaigning.

In our community (okay, in my house), I don’t accept parsing of words to get around the intent of the agreement. The boys know the right thing to do, and I am not going to have an esoteric argument because I didn’t cover every possible variation of circumstance. Especially the stretch of circumstance which would allow the child to do what he wanted to do DESPITE the fact that it had been disallowed.

The point is: You know better.

Rose Colored Endorsement?

I agree with Steve Clemons that JFK had a much more complex presidency and, following on that, a more complex legacy than is commonly recalled. But JFK’s daughter wasn’t making a complex argument when she endorsed Obama today.

The idea(l) of Kennedy is one of youth, hope, promise, and responsibility. Almost 50 years later, people still reference Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon and his call to national service with reverence.

JFK called us to be more than we are, to believe in ourselves, to take the gifts of our country and to do good. Ms. Kennedy is evoking the promise of promise in her endorsement of Mr. Obama. She believes he can guide the United States through this century’s challenges–terrorism, the disruption of a global economy, the imperative of global warming, and the needs of the least of us.

Frankly, Ms. Kennedy and I are too young to have personal knowledge of the JFK presidency, so we both have to go by what we have been told. But Ms. Kennedy and I are adults now, and through our own lenses we are both looking for inspiration and leadership–not just for ourselves, but also for our children.

By Any Means Necessary

Four of us were in a car headed for lunch: 0ne very conservative Republican, one Dem-leaning independent, and two pretty consistent Democrats–an Obama supporter and an undecided.

“I don’t want them back!”
“I’ll vote Republican before voting for HER.”
“How can I be friends with you if we fundamentally disagree on stuff like immigration.”
“Continually, and LOUDLY, distorting facts –even after the distortion is exposed– is swiftboating.”
“Who has executive experience?”
“Why is that important?”
“I’m voting in the Republican primary. I don’t want to make a decision on the Dems.”
“I don’t want them back!!!!”

I don’t get why some folks are so nostalgic for the “good ole days” of the Clinton administration. While in my opinion those eight years were better than Bush I or Bush II, I also think that having both legs amputated is better than dying. This doesn’t mean that I am excited by the “losing my legs” option.

Diana Ross sings on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during Call for Reunion Concert for the first Clinton InaguralI remember my exhilaration sitting on a blanket on the Mall; handing the then 16-month-old Cheerios on a pleasant January day; and oohing and ahhing when the F-16s flew over the Lincoln Memorial and Aretha and Diana sang on the steps for the First Clinton Inaugural Reunion. It was the first time I ever voted for a president who won. It was the first time since I had been in Washington that my side was in charge. It was a day of great hope. (oops, did I say “hope?”)

Monica and Bill in a grainy black and white photo taken in a White House office.I remember my disgust and discomfort when I had to tell the then 7-year-old that his President was in trouble for telling a big lie. I remember my anger with President Bill for dragging the country through his linguistic histrionics about “that woman” and his definition of the word “is.” And I felt, at that time, that no matter how much the opposition wrongly chased the Clintons, no matter how disgusting and irrelevant the never-ending Ken Starr investigation was, he and his wife made a fatal misstep with me by not taking any responsibility for their own actions. It was always someone else’s fault. They did what was right. It was a vast right-wing conspiracy causing the President to lie under oath. Or to quote Jake Blues, trying to talk his way out of being executed by a jilted lover, maybe it was “… an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD.”

Based on the past weeks of an increasingly uncontrollable attack-dog Bill, I am getting a bit spun up about who would be in charge and who would be leading the charge in (yet) another Clinton White House. And, I am saddened by the take no prisoners, by any means necessary approach of the Clinton campaign.

So Hillary, go ahead and get after your opponents on the issues–and experience is a legitimate issue. Make it clear how you stand for change and provide a contrast with the other candidates. Show that you care about what is important to “people like me”‘s all over the country.

But remember, when you take on the bad-guy tactics of swiftboating, when you distort facts, when you try and shift blame to the media or others, when your old man is out of control acting like an over-indulged child who feels entitled to his own Oompa Loompa, you may end up having softer support in the general election than you need– potentially grabbing a Democratic defeat from the Bush-43 engineered jaws of victory.

You’re likable enough, Hillary. But I am looking for a noble warrior. Fight fair and let the best candidate win.

Morality in Red White and Blue

It was November 3rd, 2004. My sister called. And she was pissed.

“I am NOT immoral!” She was emphatic.

“I have morals! I have values! I am not a bad person because I didn’t vote for Double-Yoo. What makes THEM think that I am BAD?” She was quite exercised.

She wasn’t surprised that her Red State went for Bush–her rustbelt politics were strong but without any foothold in America’s grain basket. But she was surprised with the numbing media-mantra about morals and values voters making the difference in 2004.

“Who gave THEM the market on morality?” she cried. She did not feel good about being a Democrat.

Frank Rich wrote in his NYTimes column on Sunday

After so many years of fear and loathing, we had almost forgotten what it’s like to feel good about our country. On Thursday night [after the Iowa caucuses], that long-dormant emotion came rushing back, like an old dream that pops out of the deepest recesses of memory, suddenly as clear as light.

What excites so many folks about Obama? He lets my sister feel good–dare I say proud?–to be an American. She can feel hope and a sense of possibility. She can stand up and say, “I am NOT a bad guy. I can love my country, too! And I do.”

No matter the eventual nominees, at least for now, many Democrats, Republicans and independents can remove the mantle of irony and cynicism and embrace the best in us all.