Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Reading

The New Bully Pulpit: How the internet is changing how we interact with our government and our leaders.

ROUGHLY 10 million of Barack Obama’s closest friends and supporters began opening their e-mail in-boxes last Tuesday to find a message from his campaign manager, David Plouffe, labeled “Where we go from here.” In it, Mr. Plouffe asked backers to “help shape the future of this movement” by clicking to an online survey, which in turn asked them to rank four priorities in order of importance.

First on the list: “Helping Barack’s administration pass legislation through grassroots efforts.”

After a campaign that Facebooked, Twittered, texted and YouTubed its way to victory, the message was no surprise. It is now fashionable in Washington to talk about how Mr. Obama will transfer his technological tricks from the campaign trail to the White House, and use his impressive social networking skills to rally support for an ambitious agenda.

Not since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats, the theory goes, will the presidential platform — the “bully pulpit,” as another Roosevelt, Theodore, called it — have such power.

“Since the days that Teddy Roosevelt created the bully pulpit, our most memorable presidents have been those who mastered these new forms of communication: Roosevelt himself with modern newspapers; Franklin Roosevelt with the radio; Kennedy and Reagan with television,” said David Gergen, a longtime communications strategist who has worked for several presidents, including Mr. Reagan. “Now Barack Obama has the potential of being the first Internet president, in all of its full glory.”

The question is whether that “full glory” is necessarily a better bully pulpit.

It is one thing to run a movement, filled with passion and an army of true believers set on a single goal, and another to run a country, where competing agendas are often fueled by deep divisions. And while the communications stars do seem to be aligned for Mr. Obama, historians, political scientists and strategists say that being the first Internet president poses its own challenges. The Internet, after all, is a two-way medium, and the bully pulpit is inherently one-way.

All In the Family: Candace Gingrich writes a letter to her brother Newt.

Dear Newt,

I recently had the displeasure of watching you bash the protestors of the Prop 8 marriage ban to Bill O’Reilly on FOX News. I must say, after years of watching you build your career by stirring up the fears and prejudices of the far right, I feel compelled to use the words of your idol, Ronald Reagan, “There you go, again.”

However, I realize that you may have been a little preoccupied lately with planning your resurrection as the savior of your party, so I thought I would fill you in on a few important developments you might have overlooked.

The truth is that you’re living in a world that no longer exists. I, along with millions of Americans, clearly see the world the way it as — and we embrace what it can be. You, on the other hand, seem incapable of looking for new ideas or moving beyond what worked in the past.

Welcome to the 21st century, big bro. I can understand why you’re so afraid of the energy that has been unleashed after gay and lesbian couples had their rights stripped away from them by a hateful campaign. I can see why you’re sounding the alarm against the activists who use all the latest tech tools to build these rallies from the ground up in cities across the country.

This unstoppable progress has at its core a group we at HRC call Generation Equality. They are the most supportive of full LGBT equality than any American generation ever — and when it comes to the politics of division, well, they don’t roll that way. 18-24 year olds voted overwhelmingly against Prop 8 and overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. And the numbers of young progressive voters will only continue to grow. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning, about 23 million 18-29 year olds voted on Nov. 4, 2008 — the most young voters ever to cast a ballot in a presidential election. That’s an increase of 3 million more voters compared to 2004.

These are the same people who helped elect Barack Obama and sent a decisive message to your party. These young people are the future and their energy will continue to drive our country forward. Even older Americans are turning their backs on the politics of fear and demagoguery that you and your cronies have perfected over the years.

This is a movement of the people that you most fear. It’s a movement of progress — and your words on FOX News only show how truly desperate you are to maintain control of a world that is changing before your very eyes.

Then again, we’ve seen these tactics before. We know how much the right likes to play political and cultural hardball, and then turn around and accuse us of lashing out first. You give a pass to a religious group — one that looks down upon minorities and women — when they use their money and membership roles to roll back the rights of others, and then you label us “fascists” when we fight back. You belittle the relationships of gay and lesbian couples, and yet somehow neglect to explain who anointed you the protector of “traditional” marriage. And, of course, you’ve also mastered taking the foolish actions of a few people and then indicting an entire population based on those mistakes. I fail to see how any of these patterns coincide with the values of “historic Christianity” you claim to champion.

Again, nothing new here. This is just more of the blatant hypocrisy we’re used to hearing.

What really worries me is that you are always willing to use LGBT Americans as political weapons to further your ambitions. That’s really so ’90s, Newt. In this day and age, it’s embarrassing to watch you talk like that. You should be more afraid of the new political climate in America, because, there is no place for you in it.

In other words, stop being a hater, big bro.

Dave Barry’s Holiday Shopping Guide.

Why do we give gifts during the holiday season?

We do it for a reason that is as timeless as humanity itself: women. Women have an overpowering biological need to mark pretty much every occasion, including sunset, by wrapping a gift and giving it to somebody, along with a card.

Why do women do this? We put that question to some leading psychologists, who responded: ”We think maybe they’re insane.”

We would not go as far as leading psychologists. But it is a fact that as the holiday season approaches, women are overpowered by the biological urge to buy bulk quantities of gifts, often without any clear idea whom a specific gift is for.

Men do not do this. A man buys a gift only when he sees a clear and present need, such as he remembers that his wedding anniversary was last week. Otherwise, when a man is in a store, he is looking for practical items. If he happens to pass by, say, a little ceramic statuette of two little smiley-face turtles with ”BEST” painted on one shell and ”FRIENDS” painted on the other, he is not going to give it a second glance, because he can’t imagine anybody having any use for such a thing except as an emergency substitute for a clay pigeon.

No, a man is going to keep right on walking past the friendship turtles. If he buys something for somebody — his wife, for example — it is going to be something he believes she actually needs, such as an extension cord. Maybe, if he is feeling especially romantic, he will get her the 20-footer.

Read on and be amazed, guys.

Viewers Guide: Who’s on the Sunday morning talk shows.

ABC’s ”This Week” — David Axelrod, senior adviser to President-elect Barack Obama; Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala.


CBS’ ”Face the Nation” — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Austan Goolsbee, economic adviser to Obama.


NBC’s ”Meet the Press” — Former Secretary of State James Baker; former Commerce Secretary William Daley; Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.


CNN’s ”Late Edition” — Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas; Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich.; former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass.; Forbes Inc. CEO Steve Forbes; former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.


”Fox News Sunday” — Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and John Boehner, R-Ohio; Axelrod.

Doonesbury: Advice from the master.