Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"What Do We Do Now?"

The last couple of days I’ve been conversing with the Delightful LA Actress, getting her thoughts on the forthcoming US Election. Neither a confirmed Republican nor Democrat, she is simply one of the many citizens who feel deeply concerned for her country, whether it was the failings in health care and the education system, the need to better the environment and find an alternative to relying so heavily on fossil fuels, and the strong desire to bring the troops home.

A strong believer in Capitalism, based on incentives and regulations and less government control not more, her main concern was that if the Democrats won and started raising taxes as their answer to getting America back on its feet, the economy wouldn’t suffer. When Martin Luther King stood in front the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 and said he dreamt of a nation where black people “will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”. With Obama relatively new to the political arena, she wasn’t sure yet if he was a man of character.

I echoed her sentiment. Obama’s campaign slogan was “Yes, we can”, but yes we can what? Vote a black man into the most powerful office in the world? Then what? Back when I was working on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, when it came to a serious crunch time we were all handed badges that said, “We can do it!” After knuckling down and getting the work completed on time, the next round of badges stated, “We did it!” In the end it’s just words.

There was an interesting article in yesterday’s Evening Standard by Roger Kimball, editor and publisher of The New Criterion magazine, in which he writes:

“Who is Barack Obama?” That is the biggest unanswered question of the 2008 Presidential campaign. Even now, on the day of the election, the electorate doesn’t know the answer.

Obama's original birth certificate has not been released. His records at Occidental College, where he started college, are not available. His records from Columbia University, where he was a student in the 1980s, are sealed. His Selective Service Registration? Not released.

If he wrote anything when head of the Harvard Law Review, it has yet to turn up. During his 12-year stint teaching law at the University of Chicago, he published no scholarly work. His list of law clients? Not released.

When he was a state senator in Illinois, he voted “present” 130 times instead of casting a vote. As a first-term US Senator, he has sponsored almost no legislation. The Los Angeles Times possesses, but refuses to release, a 2003 video tape of banquet at which Obama dilated on his friendship with Rashid Khalidi, a radical PLO sympathiser.

Is it surprising that some commentators have compared Obama to Jay Gatsby, the charismatic anti-hero of F Scott Fitzgerald’s novella?

The election of Obama should certainly help change the perception of America on the world stage after the catastrophic damage done by the Bush administration, but what issues will he make a stand on? I hate to rain on anyone’s parade right now, but here in the UK didn’t we all get caught up in the moment and vote for a young, relatively unknown party leader back in 1997? How did that turn out for us again?


At 3:23 am, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

The guy is an amazing performer. I watched the speech last night and was moved to tears.

I want to believe.

But, like your good self, I was left feeling uncomfortable with the emptiness of it all.

Sure, America has voted for 'change'. But what sort of change, precisely, beyond the slightly darker skin tone of the first family?

It's fun to get caught up in the mood of optimism and excitement for a few days.

But we've both been around long enough to know that, where politics is concerned, the gap between appearance and reality can be bigger than an oligarch's yacht.

At 2:16 pm, Blogger wcdixon said...


At 2:24 am, Blogger Good Dog said...


It certainly was a great speech, spoken with real passion. But... you know, with Obama and his campaign team being exceptionally media savy you wonder if they’d worn out their DVDs of The West Wing before they quite got there.

I was watching the two editions of Newsnight yesterday and the US seems to be fucked every which way after two terms of the W. administration. Politicians are judged on their campaign promises and Paxxo mentioned the only promise Obama may be able to keep is having a puppy in the White House. (At this point folk can of course say it’s better to take a shit on the White House carpet than the American public).

Sure, it’s great to get caught up in the mood of optimism and hope that it can keep on a roll and actually do something, if not immediately, than sometime in the future. Obama, after all, proves that. But the realists know that quick fixes simply don’t work. Shame, but there you go.


I don’t mean to be. But experience has shown it’s always best to keep an umbrella handy.

At 2:04 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

The thing is, long term, realistic fixes are mundane, don’t grab headlines and (possibly more importantly) people don't vote for them.

The septics have a system that demands (among other risible activities) the candidates argue with each other on live teevee to “prove” how much better they are than the other guy. Then, a rather arcane and byzantine system (necessitated by the amalgamation of the US from its disparate states) of Electoral College votes and such, in order to end up in charge.

A few of the commentators on the BBC during the night (notably NOT John Bolton...) raised the point that there is very little that can prepare any candidate for the office of President of the US. FDR being a corporate lawyer and Eisenhower a five-star general came in handy, but not in every area that a US Prez has influence on.

That said, a fully paid-up member of the KKK or a Scientologist/Seventh Day Adventist/Tree-hugger/insert mumbo-jumbo here type might be a little lower on the list... ;-)

As greater people than me have said, "You can always tell when a politician’s lying - his lips move”. Sadly, this has always been the case. I guess they can only really be judged on the balance of their efforts and not just on speechifying or whatever bill was passed this week. Churchill is viewed as a great Prime Minister not for his views on the potential uses of poison gas, eugenics or, shall we say his “early career”... ;-)

If the gargantuan sums of money required to mount a campaign like this are involved, there’s precious little hope of any candidate being remotely normal. Or their sources of money being squeaky clean. On any side of the fence. Just my 2c.

PS. Today’s verification word was “phyte” - nice.

At 1:58 pm, Blogger Robin Kelly said...

The "who is Barack Obama" thing was code for "he's black and not one of us".

One clever thing the Obama camp did was put up a website to answer all the lies. Tthe birth certificate is available to view online and has been verified authentic, The video tape can't be released because the original source said it can't be but, in any case, McCain himself gave Khalidi's group nearly half a million dollars. That smear was just sheer desperation.

Obama might end up being another Tony Blair but even that's better than another Bush.

McCain lobbied for the invasion of Iraq while Obama opposed the war from the beginning and predicted what would happen - just like he predicted the current financial crisis which McCain's main economics adviser was responsible for.

At 2:41 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...


Oh hell, the piece wasn’t meant to be pro-McCain. Maybe I should have been more judicious in pruning the quote. From the Kimball article, the piece that interested me was:

When he was a state senator in Illinois, he voted “present” 130 times instead of casting a vote. As a first-term US Senator, he has sponsored almost no legislation.

What does he stand for? That’s why the line of dialogue from Michael Ritchie’s The Candidate was used for the post title.

At 10:15 pm, Blogger Robin Kelly said...

I didn't see it as pro-McCain, GD, but even the edited quote bugs me, to be honest.

Obama voted present 129 times - out of 4,000 votes he made in 8 years. Most of the time it was a protest about rules and procedures or because he agreed with the issue but felt it wasn't worded properly legally or some political tactic to piss off Republicans.

However, I agree that with some of those present votes he did appear to bottle out, e.g. regarding abortion, but years later he has made his pro-choice position crystal clear.

Also rather than sponsoring almost no legislation, Obama has been the main sponsor of about 60 bills in congress including a current one about sanctions against Iran. Republicans have been blocking it because it would have made Obama look good on foreign policy in an election year - not because they disagree with it.

Kimball and his ilk know they are telling lies but they rely on people not knowing the truth and it is quite effective - I've believed some of the Republican whoppers myself during the campaign at first.


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