Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday Reading

Too Late? — Charlie Pierce thinks the Obama campaign is behind the curve on the re-election.

All the smart people in the room have declared this [past] Saturday to be the official, no-kidding, honest-to-god Opening Day of the president’s re-election campaign. He will speak in Virginia and in Ohio. (The new jobs report undoubtedly has at least partly harshed the mellow of the day.) Still, the president will tell us that things are looking up, that we should all stay the course, and that electing the Romneybot 2.0 will send us back to the policies that set the country to reeling in the first place. (He likely will not say that it’s “Morning In America” again, if only because the president and I have a firm agreement that he will not go out of his way to make me throw up.) There will be some more talk of the killing of Osama bin Laden, surely, and probably no little vainglory about our strategic partnership with the Afghanistan that exists only in the minds of the president and his advisors. He will point out that he inherited a mess, and that’s he’s done god’s own work cleaning it up. He will point out that the job would have been easier had the Republican party in Congress not given itself over to obstructionists and vandals, most of whom have the essential civic conscience of a 12-year old with a can of spray paint. The president will not necessarily be lying about any of this.

He also will be too late.

The time to talk honestly and ferociously about the abject failure of the Avignon Presidency was in 2009. The time to demonstrate that failure by investigating the incredible panoply of crimes and blunders that were committed by the previous administration on almost every possible issue was shortly after he took office, when he still had at least theoretically congressional majorities and, in any case, could have, by executive order, released documents detailing at least some of what went on. The time to talk about the sheer sociopathic disregard for political norms illustrated by the new Republican majority elected to the House in 2010 was in 2009, when that disregard was on display at rallies, and in the disruption of town hall meetings, and when the manic energy that has forced the Republican party to abandon reason was at its highest levels. The time to talk — nay, holler — about the disinclination of the opposition to do the business of the people was every damn time they refused to do it. The time to do all of this effectively, alas, has passed.

There was too much conciliation, too much presumed good faith, a continuation of the haughty disdain for what raw, bloody partisan politics can achieve that we saw in the last campaign. There was too much reaching out, too much pre-emptive compromise, too much thumb-sucking about the “shellacking” in 2010, and not enough of grasping the American people by the shoulders and shaking them, saying, “Do you see what you’ve done? Allen Fking West?” There has been a lot of argument over the past three years about the limitation of the “bully pulpit” given the nature of the way things work in our government, and most of it is valid. But there is an educational component to the presidency, too, and part of that component is to remind the people that extended tantrums are not self-government, that electing the unqualified and the half-bright simply because they say the things that you also hear on your radio for 12 hours a day is not a recipe for moving the country forward. The partnership in government didn’t “break down.” The Republicans broke it and then walked away from the splinters. Period. There was nowhere near enough of that kind of talk over the past three years.

Power Couple — Chris Hughes and Sean Eldridge are making waves in politics and publishing.

Since moving to New York in 2009, Mr. Hughes and his even younger fiancé, Sean Eldridge, 25, an investor and political activist, have emerged as a significant force in political circles, becoming enthusiastic fund-raisers for the progressive issues they support, which include gay civil rights.

They own a 4,000-square-foot sparsely furnished loft with 12-foot ceilings on Crosby Street in SoHo, where they have held several events in the last year for, among others, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the latter attended by Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader.

“In a short period of time, Sean and Chris have had a big impact on the political life of New York,” said Richard Socarides, a Democratic political strategist and former White House aide during the Clinton administration. “They are very generous with their money and time. They are young, rich, smart and good-looking. It’s a pretty powerful combination.”

Now, after buying The New Republic from its embattled longtime editor, Martin Peretz, Mr. Hughes has an opportunity not only to influence public attitudes and foster awareness of everything from education reform to economic inequality, but to become a player in old as well as new media. That is, if he wants to.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. — Killed by Stereotype.

I don’t care about George Zimmerman’s MySpace page.

Granted, it was gratifying to read recently in The Miami Herald about his crude animus toward Mexicans (“soft ass wanna be thugs”) and his reference to a former girlfriend as an “ex-hoe.” Given the way white supremacists and other Zimmerman supporters have exaggerated and manufactured evidence to paint Zimmerman’s unarmed 17-year-old victim, Trayvon Martin, as a thug who somehow deserved shooting, this unflattering portrait offers the same satisfaction one feels any time the goose is basted with sauce that was prepared for the gander.

But ultimately, Zimmerman’s online profile is as irrelevant as Trayvon’s to any real understanding of the social dynamics that were at play the night the boy was shot to death. Worse, our fixation on this ephemera, the need on the one hand to make Trayvon some dark gangsta straight from Central Casting and on the other to find a Klan hood in the back of Zimmerman’s closet, suggests a shallow, even naïve, understanding of the role race seems to have played in this tragedy.

Doonesbury — At the movies.