Pharyngula

The Obamamercial

erv has it.

Personally, I found the little vignettes about ordinary Americans a bit off-putting — political sentimentality makes me cynical. I was more interested in hearing Obama simply speak about his policies. I was most impressed with a superficial factor: wouldn’t it be cool to have a president who could open his mouth and say something and not sound like an illiterate hick?

Comments

  1. #1 (((Billy))) The Atheist
    October 30, 2008

    I am a natural cynic, yet I have grown a certain positive naivete when it comes to Obama. He is is the first Presidential candidate who seems to be challenging me to make America better rather than telling me what he will do to me. His infomercial (which I had not planned on watching) impressed me and reinforced a feeling which is, for me, very strange: hope.

    At the risk of a blatant blogomercial, I wrote about it in depth here: http://iambilly.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/naivete-and-the-election/

    (Feel free to remove that last part if it is innapropriate for this venue.)

  2. #2 MReap
    October 30, 2008

    “…wouldn’t it be cool to have a president who could open his mouth and say something and not sound like an illiterate hick?”

    Good Gawd Yes!

    Did anyone see him on The Daily Show? To paraphrase my fave bit …”next thing he (Sean Hannity) will call me a socialist because I shared my PB & J sandwich in kinderagrten.”

  3. #3 Walton
    October 30, 2008

    …wouldn’t it be cool to have a president who could open his mouth and say something and not sound like an illiterate hick?

    Yes, but in case you’ve forgotten, you consistently had presidents who could open their mouths and speak, without sounding like illiterate hicks, in between the death of Warren Harding (probably the worst president in history) in 1923 and the inauguration of George Bush in 2001. While this was undoubtedly an advantage, it did not mean that all of the presidents between 1923 and 2001 actually implemented good policies. So this factor is remarkably superficial.

    Plus, I don’t believe that Bush is anything close to an illiterate hick. He’s masqueraded as such for his entire political career in order to appeal to popular anti-intellectual and anti-“liberal elite” sentiments among the American public. In actual fact, he’s not even really Texan in any meaningful sense (having been born in Connecticut to a wealthy New England political dynasty), and is Ivy League-educated. He certainly isn’t the brightest or the best president in history; but he’s been so successful in playing up to the “uneducated Texan hick” stereotype that even his enemies believe it wholeheartedly.

  4. #4 tsig
    October 30, 2008

    The ability to speak in clear direct sentences is wonderful to hear after eight years of squirming in disgust whenever The Current Occupant opens his mouth.

  5. #5 Nick Gotts
    October 30, 2008

    Walton,
    Not being an illiterate hick is not sufficient for being a good political leader; it is necessary. So you’re statement that “this factor is remarkably superficial”, is remarkably superficial.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    October 30, 2008

    I see your point, but this is why Randy Olsen is essentially correct. No one has ever gotten very far with the talk-seriously-about-policy (which also means detail) approach. Consider, for instance, Hillary Clinton’s health care fiasco. The reason that was a fiasco (and caused all of us to live in a country with a crappy health care system for another couple of decades) was because she talked seriously and gave details.

    I’m not saying that I like marketing (and/or framing). and I am absolutely under no circumstances advocating bullshit. I’m just advocating for, and I believe in the possibility of, literate, engaging, well written abstracts. The fact that they occur almost never in the wild does not mean they can’t be done.

    I think the Obamamercial (which I live blogged if anyone is interested) was not necessarily a good example of a literate abstract … it was as you imply, PZ, mainly marketing (especially the vignette’s) but there was a bit of that. A couple of minutes worth.

    The vignette’s did include some very interesting detail about style. This will get analyzed again and again, of course. This is how Obama’s team recreated their own Joe the Plumber. The Kennedy imagery recast in a more pedestrian format; The POSITIVE reference to white flight was hysterical … although I may be the only person on the planet at the moment laughing at that particular joke (which was not incidental .. every detail of this production was intentional, guaranteed).

    Substantively, the linkages that were made between the fiscal crisis, the war in Iraq, and health care were brilliantly done (in abstract form).

    Personally, I think the war-healthcare-economy links were the main reason to do this. You can’t do this in a one minute or less ad; this sort of construct is the basis of every speech, but only a few people see the speeches, and the press does not report this level of detail. It is too much for them.

  7. #7 JackC
    October 30, 2008

    I TiVo’d it – and while I was at Cafe Scientifique, my wife cancelled my recording :-(

    But – the Cafe ROCKED! “Why People Believe Untrue Things” – absolutely spot on. I pointed the presenter here, in fact.

    It made missing the infomercial tolerable.

    JC

  8. #8 Paul
    October 30, 2008

    I just got into an argument with a coworker who said that she likes Bush and Palin for their folksy talk. She doesn’t like to feel stupid when “intellectuals talk down” to her. I forced myself not to scream at her or tear my own hair out, I just calmly asked if she thinks she could be the leader of our country…or even our state. She agreed that she couldn’t. I then asked her,”Don’t you think that the people who want to be president should be well educated, thoughtful and maybe even more clever than the rest of us?” After a few minutes of cogitation (I swear I could smell smoke) she reluctantly agreed. Then I said, “Maybe these ‘intellectuals’ aren’t talking down to you, it’s just your perception because they are smarter and better educated and that’s just how they speak.”
    By the way, I live in Texas by way of Michigan, and my coworker is what I would describe as an illiterate hick:when speaking of the Hispanic population she whispers the word, “Mexicans” and somehow fits an extra syllable in at the end.
    On the up side, North Texas has loads of disc golf courses!

  9. #9 Walton
    October 30, 2008

    Not being an illiterate hick is not sufficient for being a good political leader; it is necessary.

    True. But sounding like an illiterate hick != being an illiterate hick, as I highlighted in my discussion of Bush above. Sounding like an illiterate hick, while not actually being one, is undoubtedly a disadvantage in relations with foreign countries (though, as I’ve discussed, it seems sometimes to be an electoral advantage in the US itself); but it isn’t an absolute bar to being a competent leader.

    Even intellect, in the pure academic sense, is not essential for great leadership. Reagan, though far from an illiterate hick, was not a great intellectual; his academic record was decidedly average. But, while it was great intellectuals like Milton Friedman who came up with the ideas, it took a man of Reagan’s political savvy and rhetorical skills to put it into practice (albeit imperfectly).

    In contrast, Jimmy Carter was and is a very intelligent and highly educated man. Yet his presidency was dogged by astonishing errors of judgment.

    Bill Clinton is probably the most complex figure in this regard. He is intellectually brilliant; he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his academic achievement was remarkable. He also demonstrated an incredible level of political astuteness. And, being a pragmatist and a centrist, he did much good as well as some harm; the period when he was forced to work with a Republican Congress under Newt Gingrich was one of the most beneficial periods in recent American history, passing necessary welfare reform, among other things. Yet his one great flaw was his sheer lack of moral integrity; and while intellect is important in a leader, moral integrity is more so.

  10. #10 Elvish Pirate Monarch
    October 30, 2008

    On a purely substantive level I was disapointed. Yesterday was the 79th anniversay of Black Tuesday, and I would have liked him to make use of that historical event in reminding people of what economic crisis is like. However, as a political tool, I think it did what it needed to do, which is humanize and connect Obama with people who are wary of voting for him for any number of spurious reasons. In Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar the Bard made an apt observation, people think with their head but are moved by their hearts. Appealing to peoples hearts is what will move people to act this election, and Obama gets that.

  11. #11 elelias
    October 30, 2008

    I’d love to see what Obama is really capable of, what he really and truly thinks, the speeches he’d give if he didn’t have to win an election with huge numbers of uneducated people or christian fundamentalists. That’d show us the humanist, secularist and atheist Obama I’m sure is hiding behind the political figure.

  12. #12 Nick Gotts
    October 30, 2008

    Walton,
    Your distinction between being and sounding like an illiterate hick is a fair point – although I think the tactic of sounding like one if you’re not is dangerous pandering to anti-intellectualism. On Reagan – his reign was a disaster for the world: his policies of American global dominance and increasing economic inequality, continued ever since, have killed millions, and led directly to the current financial crisis. You couldn’t have chosen a worse example to make your point. When are you going to address the responsibility of your “free market” nostrums for the financial crisis? (Let alone the far more serious environmental one.)

  13. #13 Hypatia
    October 30, 2008

    It may be a superficial factor, but it’s an important one. A major part of the president’s job is diplomacy, and not having a belligerent incompetent in that role would be nice.

  14. #14 Walton
    October 30, 2008

    …although I think the tactic of sounding like one if you’re not is dangerous pandering to anti-intellectualism.

    I agree. I never said I liked Bush’s pretence of being an illiterate hick when he clearly isn’t. It’s something that I, like most British people, find mystifying. Yet it’s something that seems to be deeply ingrained in American culture; a distrust of “the elite” that goes beyond the bounds of political ideology. Not being a sociologist, I can’t even attempt to figure out why.

  15. #15 tacitus
    October 30, 2008

    elelias — actually, I am pretty sure that Obama’s faith is a lot stronger than McCain’s, whose religion is probably 90% pandering to the Republican base.

    Perhaps in a less religious society, Obama would be an atheist or agnostic by now, but I see no reason to believe that his religious beliefs are genuine. The key, here, though, is that he is much less likely than Bush to base his policy decisions on some amorphous religious sentiment — i.e. he will keep his religious beliefs on a personal level and not let them unduly affect his presidency (at least, that’s the hope).

  16. #16 sdrDusty
    October 30, 2008

    Reason I thought the profiles were compelling, is that I know people in similar circumstances. ~70yo’s who have had to go back to work to get benefits they need to stay afloat; Lay-offs from outsourcing, so on. It may seem manipulative, but these are realities for many people.

    On the other hand, the “not-plumber” shill is not compelling. THAT is cynical manipulation.

  17. #17 E.V.
    October 30, 2008

    Walton:
    It is irrelevant that Bush comes from a patrician New England family, he identifies with where he was raised -Midland Texas and where he spent most of his adult life -Dallas & Austin Texas. I have family and clients that grew up with him and/or did business with him. And say there is little difference between his public and private persona. Even the Prez has declared himself a Good Ol’ Boy from west Texas.

    His family connections got him into Yale and out of Viet Nam. He never traveled to a foreign country other than Mexico despite having the personal means to do so. By all accounts he’s a decent enough guy to pal around with and not an idiot but certainly not an intellectual or even a deep thinker. He is partial to the lowest of lowbrow humor -scatalogical jokes.
    Although he declares himself to be a more moderate Methodist, his religious ideology is more fundamental evangelical christian. He is a poorer public speaker than his father, which is tragic. His speech writers were forced to dumb down his speeches and simplify sentence context to allow him to sound like himself and to keep him from making major gaffes when using complex sentences. Bush wants to sound more colloquial and casual because Bush is more colloquial and casual which in turn makes him sound less educated and sometimes blatantly inappropriate in tone and content (Witness his interaction with the Pope).

    Read Molly Ivans’ book Shrub for a more detailed perspective of George W. Bush.

    With Dubya, WYSIWYG.

  18. #18 The Chemist
    October 30, 2008

    PZ, you remember Perot’s informercial with the charts and graphs? Yeah that didn’t work so well, the folksiness in the commercial is a plus because he’s trying to win over undecideds. That group is not generally the type to look over long policy proposals. Meanwhile he certainly isn’t going to lose vote.

    I call it savvy.

  19. #20 BigBob
    October 30, 2008

    PZM: “wouldn’t it be cool to have a president who could open his mouth and say something and not sound like an illiterate hick”?

    One that the rest of the world didn’t laugh at, yes it would. One that the rest of the world would listen to with interest instead of a sense of ‘oh shit, what’s he trying to do now’.

    B(B)

  20. #21 Walton
    October 30, 2008

    When are you going to address the responsibility of your “free market” nostrums for the financial crisis?

    I have done so in great detail. See my post at #134 on this thread:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/10/wheres_charlton_heston_when_yo.php

  21. #22 Walton
    October 30, 2008

    E.V. at #17: That’s interesting. I had assumed that, given his background, he was largely putting on an act. But maybe he is as shallow and intellectually lightweight as he appears.

    I’m certainly no fan of Bush. In 2000 I would probably have voted for a third-party candidate, or written in John McCain (who I would have strongly supported in the GOP primaries at that time). In 2004 I would have reluctantly voted Kerry, despite the fact that he was wrong on a number of issues.

  22. #23 Timcol
    October 30, 2008

    I also found it a little sentimental. But on the other hand, he is a Presidential Candidate who has a desire to speak intelligently and openly (and at length!), and in a way that is neither condescending or patronizing. Yes, the stories were a little folksy, but on the other hand these did illustrate quite accurately many of the issues facing so many of in this current economy. Even though I’m a toughened and often unmoved cynic, I did find it oddly inspiring and (gasp) a little moving. Obama, if I’m correct and I hope so, has the one attribute I most admire in leaders – the ability not only to listen, but to assemble those around him that he knows will disagree with him and get all points of view. So it isn’t what he knows, it’s what he doesn’t know and the process he is going to use to get himself informed.

  23. #24 Stephanie Z
    October 30, 2008

    The vignettes are more than just sentimentality. They’re there to make the point that all this policy stuff, which is abstract to an awful lot of voters, has real-world consequences.

    Obama’s done an impressive job of talking policy so far, but there are still (somehow) undecided voters out there. If policy could reach them, it would have. If Obama’s speeches could reach them, they would have. These voters require something very concrete to make all this real to them.

    I sympathize entirely over your annoyance at being sold an idea you already figured out on your own, but I have to disagree that the attempt to reach every last voter is cynical.

  24. #25 Stephanie Z
    October 30, 2008

    Or, you know, what The Chemist already said while I got distracted by something else.

  25. #26 Nick Gotts
    October 30, 2008

    Walton@21,
    Thanks, I’ll repond later on that thread.

  26. #27 HumanisticJones
    October 30, 2008

    Obama has, to me at least, come across as the kind of president that might actually listen to evidence and reason when it comes to issues of national policy. He presents that wonderful quality of being able to separate his religion from the rest of his daily decisions and would allow him to hear an argument for a renewed government backing of science and not immediately think, “Gee, I wonder if I should accept the evidence in front of me… what Leviticus would say about this.”

    I’m really hoping that by Tuesday we find that America has gotten over wanting presidents that would make good drinkin’ buddies and actually votes in one that would make a charismatic world leader.

  27. #28 Rob
    October 30, 2008

    PZ maybe you want a half hour of straight policy talk, but unfortunately the average idiot cares more about the superficial and emotion. If anything, I think it maybe showed many people who bought into the McCain slander that hey, he doesn’t sound like such a bad guy.

  28. #29 bric
    October 30, 2008

    To quote Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London (and a Conservative): “There are all sorts of reasons for hoping that Barack Hussein Obama will be the next president of the United States. He seems highly intelligent. He has an air of courtesy and sincerity. Unlike the current occupant of the White House, he has no difficulty in orally extemporising a series of grammatical English sentences, each containing a main verb.”

  29. #30 Matt Heath
    October 30, 2008

    bric@#29; What is it about BoJo? Even when he’s right, I feel the urge to punch him.

  30. #31 Elvish Pirate Monarch
    October 30, 2008

    @walton #14
    Why is anti-intelectualism so appealing? I think its because of this strange American excess of pride. We have been raised, especially in the more rural and southern states, to believe that America is the greatest country on earth and that we should be immensely proud of it. We don’t talk about how the British outlawed slavery 50 years before we did. We don’t talk about the fact that we used to do everything we could to keep out the Irish and the Germans (just like now its the Hispanics). Instead we are told how everyone wants to come here because its such a great and free place and that people in other countries would all want to be here. Now as soon as you start studying and learning, expanding your horizons, you realise how far this country has to go and how much of that is a myth. What this leads to is the “intellectual elite” looking around going “How can we make this better?” Well all those people who haven’t had that education see this as a threat to their way of life, to their American Exceptionalism, and they go against it because the alternative doesn’t fit their paradigm.

  31. #32 Al
    October 30, 2008

    @29

    Also rather unlike Boris himself, when he isn’t given half an hour to think about it ;-)

  32. #33 Keanus
    October 30, 2008

    I’ll let the rest of you debate Dubya’s folksy charm and bumbling rhetoric, but I’d like to comment on PZ’s finding “…the little vignettes about ordinary Americans a bit off-putting.” I agree but then the half hour piece wasn’t crafted with PZ, me or other like minded people in mind. It was aimed at fence sitters in middle America, voters who remained uncomfortable with Obama as president for every reason in one can imagine.

    Everything in the presentation was very, very deliberate from the suit and office (shades of the oval office) to the sentimental portraits of average American families with whom middle Americans could identify. I suspect it was powerful stuff with that audience and fully expect the tracking polls to reflect that in a couple of days.

  33. #34 Quiet Desperation
    October 30, 2008

    That was a politcial ad? I thought it was just a weird episode of Family Guy. I kept waiting for Stewie to show up and atomize something.

  34. #35 Frederik Rosenkjęr
    October 30, 2008

    Wow. I think that was really well made and perfect for the intended target and effect. Great stuff! Who can hate that guy? I’m looking forward to see what effect it’ll have in the polls… and what’s John McCain got? A volunteer faking a robbery and a brother who calls 911 out of selfish impatience…great!

  35. #36 ndt
    October 30, 2008

    I was most impressed with a superficial factor: wouldn’t it be cool to have a president who could open his mouth and say something and not sound like an illiterate hick?

    Elitist!

  36. #37 Bill Dauphin
    October 30, 2008

    PZ (@OP):

    I was most impressed with a superficial factor: wouldn’t it be cool to have a president who could open his mouth and say something and not sound like an illiterate hick?

    Aw, c’mon: You’re conceding the other side’s pernicious meme by using weak language to respond… oops… I think this is the wrong thread for that comment! [g]

    But seriously, folks… for most of this campaign, I’ve been fighting the “he sure talks purty, but…” arguments by pointing out that projecting a personal image of intelligence and competence (aka “not sound[ing] like an illiterate hick”) is not a superficial matter, but rather a key job requirement for being president. To the extent — and I think it’s a great extent — that it’s a matter of national security for foreign governments and U.S. citizens to have a certain minimal level of trust in, and respect for, the federal government, not sounding like an illiterate hick is anything but superficial.

    Walton (@3):

    Others have already chimed in, but I just can’t help myself.

    Plus, I don’t believe that Bush is anything close to an illiterate hick. … In actual fact, he’s not even really Texan in any meaningful sense (having been born in Connecticut to a wealthy New England political dynasty), and is Ivy League-educated.

    Bush’s old-money New England dynastic background only proves that he’s a hick by choice rather than by birth. Not a ringing endorsement, IMHO. FWIW, he attended Ivy League schools, but has subsequently given no evidence of having received (or of having retained, at any rate) an Ivy League education. And while he’s not technically illiterate, in that he’s apparently capable of reading, he has actually displayed unalloyed pride over how little he reads. Quibble about technicalities if you will, but I think the “illiterate hick” shoe fits, in this case.

    To your point about sounds like != is, you’re right, and Bill Clinton proves it (that is, he superficically sounded like a hick because of his Arkansas accent and idioms, but it was obvious to anyone paying attention that he was actually brilliant and well educated); W, OTOH, is not particularly good evidence for your point.

    Finally, you say (@later in the thread) “[Clinton’s] one great flaw was his sheer lack of moral integrity.” I’d love to hear an argument in favor of that assertion based on anything not related to his private sexual (mis)behavior. As long as we’re making assertions about inequalities, I’ll tell you that private sexual mores != publicly relevant “moral integrity”. I think you’d have a hard time making the case that Clinton’s policies and legitimately public behavior as president were any less moral than those of any elected Republican president since Eisenhower; I think I’d have a much easier time making the opposite case.

  37. #38 Hank Fox
    October 30, 2008

    As a Texan, someone actually born there (to someone actually born there), I will never accept Bush as the real thing. He’s a carpetbagger, pure and simple — a rich outsider who used family money to buy his way in.

    Also as a Texan, I’m still waiting to see a picture of Bush, the supposed “rancher,” on or even near a horse.

    All of you who think Bush is smart: His whole life is a history of personal screw-ups, followed by rescues by others. He has never succeeded at anything on his own. Even his presidency is due more to gullibility and complacency on the part of voters than any least shred of personal excellence on the part of Bush.

    If there hadn’t been a well-organized gang of dishonest cheerleaders and anti-intellectual thugs blanketing the media and cowing honest evaluation of him for the past 8 years, would any of us think he deserved two seconds of consideration? I doubt it. I’ve met panhandlers I’ve respected more.

    His every public appearance is testament to how stupid, weak and callous the man is.

    He’s not “playing” dumb. He IS. He couldn’t run a small town tire store without help.

    If you still doubt this, follow his career post-presidency. If the man accomplishes anything at all of note, or even shows an INTEREST in anything, I’ll be very surprised.

  38. #39 Darrell E
    October 30, 2008

    Walton,

    You seem to have some very efficient filters in place. I think anybody would agree that “moral integrity” is a very good trait for the leader of any nation to have. That you apparently believe that Bill Clinton has “a sheer lack of moral integrity,” and, even more ridiculous, that Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. have “moral integrity,” makes you appear ignorant. I mean ignorant in the sense of lacking information, not as a pejorative.

    Just pick one of your favorites, for example Bush Jr. Forget party affiliations and ideologies. Go searching the net for a few hours and look back at all the information you can find about Bush, Video clips, articles, official documents. Ignore any spin. Bush exhibits precious little “moral integrity” and he is shallow, juvenile, self centered to a fault, and not particularly bright. During his presidency Bush has lied, cheated and stolen on a regular basis. More telling, the people surrounding him have done the same. They have made a culture of it, so blatant and pervasive that it appears to have been done by design.

    Take a good look at the current campaign, which is similar to the past several campaigns. The McCain campaign consists almost entirely of personal attacks against Obama. From the debates to the commercials to the rallies to the chain e-mails, almost all personal attacks with the intent of trying to make people believe that Obama is a bad person. Very little about Obama’s policies, and what little there is is usually twisted into an insult of Obama on a personal level. What’s more is that almost every single one of these personal attacks are lies, and the people that come up with these attacks know that they are lying.

    Now look at Obama’s campaign. Almost no time spent on personal attacks. The few exceptions that I am aware of were direct responses to particularly egregious personal attacks by his opponents. And that has been pretty rare. The Obama campaign has stuck to issues and almost entirely avoided mud slinging, and lying.

    Which campaign would you say has more “moral integrity.”

  39. #40 bric
    October 30, 2008

    Punch Boris? How about throwing an egg at him?

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=WFct9z_xYGQ

  40. #41 Scott from Oregon
    October 30, 2008

    Once again, thirty minute wasted on “selling” a shallow laundry list to a populace used to voting for laundry lists.

    You would think that on a blog full of “smart people” somebody would notice that the “Constitution” is not a word Obama is comfortable with in his speeches, that mentioning the federal reserve as a major player in the economic disaster is not part of the “sell”, that the “change” we need is just more government and a mild adjustment to the tax code…

    Eight years of Bush and we Americans will buy just about anything that can string a sentence together, regardless of actual content.

    Obama is a pro-war, pro emperialism, pro big government candidate who will continue to collect power in Washington and fail to open up for transparency the institutions that matter most, the DOD and the Federal Reserve…

    Can anyone recall anything in his stump speeches about repealing FISA, The Patriot Act etc…?

    The Bill of Rights doesn’t seem to have much affect on his thinking, even though he claims to be a champion of “civil rights”…

    The mind truly boggles…

  41. #42 Walton
    October 30, 2008

    I’m really hoping that by Tuesday we find that America has gotten over wanting presidents that would make good drinkin’ buddies and actually votes in one that would make a charismatic world leader.

    I don’t really want either, and I think it’s a false dichotomy. I agree that “wanting presidents that would make good drinkin’ buddies” is a poor basis on which to evaluate a candidate (though it doesn’t explain the choice of Bush, since he’s been teetotal ever since spending a weekend with Billy Graham at the age of 40).

    But I also think charisma is a terrible basis on which to select a candidate. It demonstrates nothing whatsoever about the substantive correctness of his or her policy. Lenin was a “charismatic world leader”. So was Hitler. So is Hugo Chavez. Being “charismatic” does not preclude one from being a total madman. (Not that I’m suggesting that Obama is comparable to any of these; that would be insane. But I’m just pointing out that charisma doesn’t tell you anything, in itself, about a person’s character.)

    The best thing is to have a president who is bright, articulate, educated, realistic in his outlook, of decent moral character, and who either understands the core areas of policy or is willing to take good advice from people who do. So far so good; Obama appears to fulfil all of these criteria. But the other important criterion is substantive policy. Obama has flirted with tariff protectionism in his rhetoric, and has openly advocated redistribution of wealth. If not an open enemy of economic freedom, he’s certainly someone who does not fully understand, or sufficiently fear, the massive harm generally caused by any increase in government intervention. That is why I can’t support him, despite the fact that he is intellectually brilliant, articulate, and appears to be an ethical person. (Even so, if this race were Obama v Palin rather than Obama v McCain, I’d support Obama. Ideology isn’t everything, and there are limits.)

  42. #43 Scott from Oregon
    October 30, 2008

    “Finally, you say (@later in the thread) “[Clinton’s] one great flaw was his sheer lack of moral integrity.” I’d love to hear an argument in favor of that assertion based on anything not related to his private sexual (mis)behavior.”

    Go read Hitchen’s “No One Left To Lie To”.

  43. #44 Darrell E
    October 30, 2008

    Walton,

    Oops! I see from one of your later posts that my focus on Bush Jr. in my previous response to you is off target. Just change the focus to Reagan or Bush Sr. They may not have been up to Bush Jr.’s level, but pretty close.

  44. #45 Bill Dauphin
    October 30, 2008

    SfO (@41):

    Is there anything Obama (or McCain, for that matter) could’ve plausibly said or done in any TV spot, of any length, that would not have drawn a derisive reply from you? No? Didn’t think so.

    So since your default position on Obama’s infomercial is completely disconnected from what he actually said, why should any of us care what you say in response? No reason? Didn’t think so.

  45. #46 charlie^ wagner^
    October 30, 2008

    “political sentimentality makes me cynical.”

    ANY sentimentality makes you cynical.

    It’s your nature. You’re left-brain dominant and right-brain challenged.

  46. #47 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    October 30, 2008

    “political sentimentality makes me cynical.”

    ANY sentimentality makes you cynical.

    It’s your nature. You’re left-brain dominant and right-brain challenged.

    Well this thread has just jumped the shark.

  47. #48 gwangung
    October 30, 2008

    The vignettes are more than just sentimentality. They’re there to make the point that all this policy stuff, which is abstract to an awful lot of voters, has real-world consequences.

    In other words, show, not tell.

    Don’t they teach that in high school composition?

    And it’s not like Obama doesn’t have plenty of nuts and bolts, abstract details.

    It’s not a case of either/or—you MUST have both.

  48. #49 Jorg
    October 30, 2008

    #9: “But, while it was great intellectuals like Milton Friedman who came up with the ideas, it took a man of Reagan’s political savvy and rhetorical skills to put it into practice (albeit imperfectly).”

    With all due respect, this is standard right-libertarian tripe. While Reagan undoubtedly had his strong points, his adherence to the failed Chicago school concepts was not one of them. (I note that the Nobel committee is trying to make up for years of erroneous judgement in the field by finally noticing Paul Krugman this year. A change of weather? let us hope so).

  49. #50 mjfgates
    October 30, 2008

    Wouldn’t a thread here “jump the squid?”

  50. #51 charlie* wagner*
    October 30, 2008

    “Well this thread has just jumped the shark.”

    Which is you?

    Acronym Definition
    KoT King of Town (comic character)
    KoT King of Town (Homestar Runner)
    KOT Keep on Truckin’
    KOT Keep on Talking
    KOT Kitchen Order Ticket (hotel industry)
    KOT Keep on Tryin’
    KOT Keep on Track
    KOT Kotlik, Alaska (Airport Code)
    KOT Kappa Omega Tau
    KoT Kingdom of Trolls (internet forum)
    KOT Kings of Tomorrow
    KOT Kernel Open Type

    I’m guessing “Keep On Trying”

  51. #52 Natalie
    October 30, 2008

    Scott, are you going to be more annoying or less annoying on November 5th?

  52. #53 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    October 30, 2008

    Weak.

  53. #54 DrFrank
    October 30, 2008

    Yup, consider that shark well and truly jumped. I’m looking behind me on my motorcycle, and the shark is definitely there.

  54. #55 charlie* wagner*
    October 30, 2008

    “Weak”

    I like that.

    A man of few words.

    Reduces the chance of saying something stupid.

  55. #56 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    October 30, 2008

    A lesson you obviously ignore.

  56. #57 Bill Dauphin
    October 30, 2008

    SfO:

    Two quick points —

    1. My comment @45 was a response to yours @41; I had not yet seen yours @43 when I wrote it.

    2. Regarding your admonition (@43) that I should “Go read Hitchen’s ‘No One Left To Lie To’,” let me just say that neither reading Hitchens nor defending Clinton to you is very high on my (vastly overcrowded) list of priorities. I responded to Walton on that point only because he’s young and evidently smart, and occasionally actually listens. I have some hope with him (but not with you) that I might break through his dogmatism and encourage a more flexible, expansive worldview. Encouraging earnest young right-wingers like Walton to think differently is important to me, because it bears on the quality of the world my (as yet hypothetical) grandchildren will grow up in. Arguing with you about whether Clinton was a good guy is far less interesting or important to me.

  57. #58 Father Nature
    October 30, 2008

    I was disappointed that Obama did not mention the outrageous lies being spread by Republicans. In the past week I’ve received mailers, from the RNC, that suggest that he is a pal of terrorists, a secret Muslim, a socialist/communist, a supporter of rapists, and a baby-killer.

    Although these are easily refuted, I fear that many voters will believe such nonsense because it gives them a reason not to vote for “that one”.

  58. #59 TK
    October 30, 2008

    It’s been said that to be a great man, you need a great woman at your side. And that’s why I’m for Obama — ‘cuz of the Mrs. Any woman with the ability and good fortune to pull down 600k a year who tells college kids at commencements they shouldn’t pursue money, is A-OK.

  59. #60 charlie* wagner*
    October 30, 2008

    “A lesson you obviously ignore.”

    Touché!

  60. #61 Scott from Oregon
    October 30, 2008

    “Arguing with you about whether Clinton was a good guy is far less interesting or important to me.”

    Go read the book if you want an argument well argued, that’s all I’m saying.

    As for your political ideas… there is no powerful central state that “made a better world”.

    Just one apt to bomb and kill people, jail dissidents…

    It’s in the history books. Go look.

  61. #62 Walton
    October 30, 2008

    Finally, you say (@later in the thread) “[Clinton’s] one great flaw was his sheer lack of moral integrity.” I’d love to hear an argument in favor of that assertion based on anything not related to his private sexual (mis)behavior. As long as we’re making assertions about inequalities, I’ll tell you that private sexual mores != publicly relevant “moral integrity”.

    I take your point; I’ve responded to this issue in more detail on this thread at #160:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/10/wheres_charlton_heston_when_yo.php#c1181682

  62. #63 smartalek
    October 30, 2008

    @Elvish Pirate Monarch, #31:

    That was brilliant — answered a few questions I didn’t even know I had, that had been rattling around the back of my brain for quite a while now.
    This is why I loves me some internets.
    An awful lot of Dems would fare better both in getting elected, and in getting policies enacted, if they knew, accommodated, and exploited what you’ve just defined and explained so well.
    On a side note, this will also help make me a better teacher, so you’ve got my personal gratitude too.

  63. #64 TurboFool
    October 30, 2008

    The vignettes actually meant something to me. Granted, he was preaching to the choir when I watched it, but those were the moments that showed me, and hopefully others, that he’s even AWARE of real Americans with real day-to-day financial hardships. I’ve fought tooth and nail to drag myself out of the type of life those people lead. I just managed to give up my second job a couple of weeks ago, and I’m still digging myself out of massive debt. My family’s been through those times of rationing food and working so much our family never sees us. And I’m not naive enough to think I couldn’t end up there again. And that’s how most Americans are living these days. Showing them that they’re not alone, this is a national epidemic, and this candidate acknowledges their existence meant something.

    But yes, in the end the most refreshing part was being able to understand every word he said, and better yet, that all of those words when put together formed entire, coherent sentences! How refreshing.

  64. #65 I am so wise
    October 30, 2008

    I wonder if Bush, Palin, and the other political figures you all mock suffer from learning disabilities that make it hard to express themselves.

    I also wonder if anybody here would cut them slack if they did.

  65. #66 Bill Dauphin
    October 30, 2008

    I was disappointed that Obama did not mention the outrageous lies being spread by Republicans.

    Same reason Kay Hagan didn’t launch into a defense of atheists: At this point, Obama can do much more good by keeping his eye on the ball and getting elected than by wrestling with the pigs on the other side.

    This is one of my continuing frustrations with my fellow liberals: We often seem focused on indulging (completely justifiable) righteous indignation over the flaws and misbehavior of our adversaries to an extent that damages our pursuit of our true long-term goals. See also, hair-on-fire proponents of impeaching Bush-Cheney, my fellow CT Dems hell-bent on punishing Joe LIEberman, etc.

  66. #67 E.V.
    October 30, 2008

    Hank Fox:
    As a real Texan, I can vouch that Bush (Dubya) isn’t a carpet bagger; his father was. He was a kid when Bush Sr. went to the Permian Basin to make money in the oil bidness. Both my parents graduated from Midland High (Go Bulldogs!) and the Midland of the 50’s and 60’s was an odd mix of the filthy rich and the broke rednecks living side by side and going to the same schools. And yes, he can ride a horse.

    Bush isn’t as “at home” in Kennebunkport as he is in Crawford by his own admission. His Texas Ranger Baseball cohorts will tell you stories about the hell-raising Dubya should you be a willing ear in their vicinity. He’s a good ol’ boy with tunnel vision, which is a nice way of saying he’s an average Joe with a propensity for being willfully ignorant. He wasn’t a terrible Governor, though if I had my ‘druthers, I’d ruther have kept Ann Richards in that seat. (Actually the Lieutenant Governor holds the power in the Lone Star State.) See: Rick Perry for an example of a truly pathetic Governor.

    It was assumed by many of us that Dubya would have been a screw up in DC, but who knew he’d be a chilling example of the Peter Principle at its worst. Actually, Bush is defined by his lifelong incompetence, but no one foresaw 911 or his compulsion to vindicate his father’s legacy, and few recognized the immensity of the political machine that propelled him into office. The Texas/Washington connection from Ken Starr ( the Javert to Clinton’s Valjean), DeLay, Army, Rove, Cheney (Carpetbagger and Haliburton hack) and even Scott McClellan (credulous tool) were some cagey MoFo’s and Dubya was the best puppet to parade in front of the nation. We didn’t just get Bush, but a cartel of Republican thugs so corrupt and wrongheaded that … sorry, I just realized I was preaching to the choir.

  67. #68 windy
    October 30, 2008

    But the other important criterion is substantive policy. Obama has flirted with tariff protectionism in his rhetoric, and has openly advocated redistribution of wealth.

    It kills me that you are still parroting this talking point. Who said this:

    “…frankly, the administration is not doing what I think they should do, and that’s go in and buy out these bad mortgages, give people mortgages they can afford, stabilize home values and start them back up again.”

    and promised $5000 in health insurance to every family? Can you honestly say that this is “not openly advocating redistribution of wealth”? Or is it all right to advocate it as long as you don’t use the scary name?

  68. #69 truth machine, OM
    October 30, 2008

    This is one of my continuing frustrations with my fellow liberals: We often seem focused on indulging (completely justifiable) righteous indignation over the flaws and misbehavior of our adversaries to an extent that damages our pursuit of our true long-term goals.

    Not just adversaries but allies … like Hagan and Obama.

    And the fact that PZ was put off by the vignettes says a lot about him and his (in)ability to relate to the lives of “ordinary” Americans — another problem with that sort of liberal.

  69. #70 Jorg
    October 30, 2008

    “Obama has flirted with tariff protectionism in his rhetoric, and has openly advocated redistribution of wealth.”

    All taxation is redistribution of wealth, and there is nothing wrong with it, in principle, at least from an utilitarian viewpoint. I know you would disagree with me on that, but so did Nozick and I still believe him to be incorrect.

  70. #71 PZ Myers
    October 30, 2008

    Truth Machine, go away. You clearly detest this site, and you’re really in the running for being the one person to have a Molly award in the dungeon.

    As I said, I was personally put off by the sentimentality. That does not mean that I do not appreciate its value for many voters, or cannot relate to it.

    Now fuck off.

  71. #72 Glen Davidson
    October 30, 2008

    You clearly detest this site, and you’re really in the running for being the one person to have a Molly award in the dungeon.

    Hm, would that mean that his comments are recommended reading, or not?

    Of course it probably only matters if there’s a theology of Mollys and Pharyngudungeons, while PZ presumably prefers to just say “fuck off” whenever it pleases him.

    Just an idle thought…

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  72. #73 Matt Heath
    October 30, 2008

    Lenin was a “charismatic world leader”. So was Hitler. So is Hugo Chavez. Being “charismatic” does not preclude one from being a total madman. (Not that I’m suggesting that Obama is comparable to any of these; that would be insane

    Whereas comparing Chavez (somewhat authoritarian, but repeatedly elected in a free and fair poll, and who accepted without complaint the loss of a referendum to grant him more powers) to Lenin and Hitler is?

  73. #74 Matt Heath
    October 30, 2008

    Or what I said at 73 but with grammar.
    Something like:
    “… Lenin and Hitler is what?”

  74. #75 Natalie
    October 30, 2008

    there is no powerful central state that “made a better world”.

    It doesn’t necessarily follow that lacking a powerful central state would make a better world either.

    For that matter, determining whether or not a particular state “made a better world” is a completely subjective excercise. Do the negatives of the Roman empire outweigh the positives, vice versa, or is it a wash? What’s the final tally on the US, Japan, or Canada?

    These are all rhetorical questions, as I’m sure your answer to them boils down to whatever you need to support your crackpot theories.

  75. #76 Father Nature
    October 30, 2008

    Bill Dauphin – “This is one of my continuing frustrations with my fellow liberals: We often seem focused on indulging (completely justifiable) righteous indignation over the flaws and misbehavior of our adversaries to an extent that damages our pursuit of our true long-term goals.”

    I understand your point … but sometimes smear campaigns do work. I’m just saying that Obama could have set the record straight for a lot of undecided voters.

  76. #77 Falyne
    October 30, 2008

    *gets popcorn*

    DAMN this is a good thread…

  77. #78 Rey Fox
    October 30, 2008

    “but sometimes smear campaigns do work.”

    “Smear” is such an ugly word. All Obama has to do is tell the truth about McCain. That’s not “smearing”, is it?

  78. #79 Randy
    October 30, 2008
  79. #80 Bill Dauphin
    October 30, 2008

    I’m just saying that Obama could have set the record straight for a lot of undecided voters.

    And I’m sure he would have, if the election promised to be very close or if he were losing out to those false claims. As it is, though, his real mission in this “closing argument” phase is to make the people who’ve already decided to support him feel good about their decision, so that [1] they won’t waver between now and election day and [2] they’ll feel positively motivated to act on their choice.

    Being combative carries the inherent risk that you’ll turn off your own supporters (particularly with Obama, where his cool, unruffled demeanor is a big part of his “brand identity”). The Obama campaign has been really smart so far; I’m sure they calculated that the number of additional votes (and, more importantly, electoral votes) to be won by aggressiveness in last night’s piece wasn’t worth the risk.

  80. #81 Father Nature
    October 30, 2008

    “Smear” is such an ugly word. All Obama has to do is tell the truth about McCain. That’s not “smearing”, is it?

    I wasn’t suggesting that Obama should smear McCain. The smear campaign I referred to was the RNC mailers.

  81. #82 E.V.
    October 30, 2008

    I found the little vignettes about ordinary Americans a bit off-putting — political sentimentality makes me cynical.

    As do I, since so many times it’s so ham-fisted or over-editorialized and sanitized; so many patently false moments rendered for the camera by filmmakers/videographers that can only speak in cliches.
    It’s not the stories and issues themselves, but how they are portrayed, with music and editing manipulating and dictating every emotion. Most commercial American cinema assumes the audience to be brainless and gullible, underscoring every moral and telegraphing the expected opinion, but television, especially sentimental television, is particularly egregious in this aspect. It is usually rendered with all the nuance and subtlety of a Reader’s Digest story and the pathos of a Hall Mark Hall of Fame production (which for me, usually becomes bathos).
    And yes, I’ve become jaded. Sue me.

  82. #83 Father Nature
    October 30, 2008

    Bill Dauphin – The Obama campaign has been really smart so far; I’m sure they calculated that the number of additional votes (and, more importantly, electoral votes) to be won by aggressiveness in last night’s piece wasn’t worth the risk.

    I hope you’re right. I guess I’ve been disappointed by so many presidential elections that it’s hard for me to be optimistic about this one. Fingers crossed.

  83. #84 casey
    October 30, 2008

    The vignettes are what I loved most. These are real peoples stories and they were quite moving. I had something very tragic happen to myself lately and it has made me more compassionate for others suffering.

  84. #85 Quiet_Desperation
    October 30, 2008

    Do the negatives of the Roman empire outweigh the positives, vice versa, or is it a wash?

    All right … all right … but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order … what HAVE the Romans done for us?

  85. #86 Bill Dauphin
    October 30, 2008

    QD @85 wins the internet!

  86. #87 G. Tingey
    October 30, 2008

    @ #3 I thought Buchanan was easily the worst US President (until the Shrub came along, perhaps)?

    AS for literate and intelligent: FDR anyone?

    @ #5 COMPLETELY WRONG Being an apparent illiterate hick is definiotely NOT a necessary condition.
    WInston Churchill – a professional WRITER? Harold MacMillan, FDR, “Teddy” Roosevelt, N. Sarkozy, to name but a few ….

    @ #61 Powerful central state that made a better world?
    England and the UK
    Defeated the world-totalitarian empires of Spain, Napoleon, the Kaiser, and bankrupted itself holding Hitler off until the US was forced into the war …
    Abolished slavery, effectively in 1807, and finally in 1832.
    Started the industrial revolution and thus improved EVERYONE’s living standards, as far back as 1712 (Newcomen) and 1776 (Watt), culminating in commercial Railways, 1825-30.

  87. #88 Matt Heath
    October 30, 2008

    England and the UK
    Defeated the world-totalitarian empires of Spain, Napoleon, the Kaiser, and bankrupted itself holding Hitler off until the US was forced into the war …
    Abolished slavery, effectively in 1807, and finally in 1832.
    Started the industrial revolution and thus improved EVERYONE’s living standards, as far back as 1712 (Newcomen) and 1776 (Watt), culminating in commercial Railways, 1825-30.

    This isn’t false, but it’s hardly complete. Lots of pseudo-scientific racism and massacres on the way. Also “abolishing slavery” isn’t really an achievement. It’s like stopping beating your wife. The Royal Navy forcing other countries slave ships out of business, after the abolition, was something of an achievement

  88. #89 Jeanette
    October 30, 2008

    Amen (irony intended), PZ!

    It’s politically incorrect to call a black person “well-spoken,” because it often implies that one would expect less of such a person. But after the years of George W. and compared to the McCain/Palin combo, my, isn’t that man well-spoken! “Presidential,” even. That would be a refreshing change in the White House.

  89. #90 Marty
    October 30, 2008

    He had me at the bit where he said that there are not liberal and conservative Americas, but a United States of America.

    What a difference from his opponents!

    This “Fake American” cannot wait to vote for him.

  90. #91 gazza
    October 30, 2008

    You may not be interested in the UK view but if there is one thing that shocks us about your politics its not the issues, the polarisation btween ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Americans, the influence of the religious right, etc but the sentimentality that so many of your politicians employ in their campaigns. It seemed to me that a big part of Reagan’s success was in that folksy sentimentality.

    It’s quite the reverse here – look at Reagan’s mate Maggie Thatcher – femdom personified. Current Prime Minister Gordon Brown is a a boring bank manager type. Boring or cold is essential here.

    So if Obama is just a touch less sentimental than the rest of your politicians he’ll go down well here!

  91. #92 Vidar
    October 30, 2008

    Obama speaks a lot better than most politicians I’ve heard over the past 8 years.
    He might not be perfect, but he’s sure to be better than most.

  92. #93 Nick Gotts
    October 30, 2008

    Matt Heath@73,
    Walton’s sneered at Chavez a number of times IIRC, linking him to various dictators. I haven’t bothered to defend him as I’m not a particular fan – the man clearly does have an oversize ego and dubious judgment, but you’re quite right to pull him upo on the ludicrous comparison. Thing is, Walton’s not really that keen on democracy – he believes private property is sacred, and has hinted he’d be quite prepared to use violence to prevent redistribution of wealth by a democratically elected government (other “libertarians” we’ve had here have been more brazen about it). So the fact that Chavez has attempted some serious redistribution is quite enough to make him demonically evil in Walton’s eyes.

  93. #94 clinteas
    October 30, 2008

    Australian love the personal stories a lot,cant have any infomercial show without them,or what goes for news over here.
    And if we love them,its probably because the US invented them,so it would seem natural for Obama to build this into his ad,cant say Im surprised about that.

    The guy is trying to win an election here PZ,so I personally do not blame him for employing what you call political sentimentality.
    And isnt politics the most cynical games of all anyway and inheritently?

  94. #95 rod
    October 30, 2008

    Frick. The guy has to address the general population. He is clearly an intelligent man. And I belive he is thoughtful and truly cares about the average, and less fortunate. He keeps bringing a messge of hope, and strives to maintain a level of class in his campaign that we haven’t seen in my time as an eligible voter (since ’76). Certainly, there is value to viewing all political advertising with a cynical eye, but that shouldn’t cause one to lose sight of the general message. In this election cycle the differences are SO polarized it is not hard to make a decision, IMO.

  95. #96 BobC
    October 30, 2008

    From the Obamamercial: I’ll also go thru the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that don’t work, and making the ones we do need work better and cost less.

    Finally America gets an intelligent president. I’m proud to say my Florida vote for Obama is already in the mail.

  96. #97 The Cheerful Nihilist
    October 31, 2008

    “This is the end, my friend . . . hhmm hmm” (I can’t remember the lyrics.)

  97. #98 Azkyroth
    October 31, 2008

    I’m really hoping that by Tuesday we find that America has gotten over wanting presidents that would make good drinkin’ buddies and actually votes in one that would make a charismatic world leader.

    On that note, I’d love to have a beer with Barack Obama.

  98. #99 Arnosium Upinarum
    October 31, 2008

    “I was most impressed with a superficial factor: wouldn’t it be cool to have a president who could open his mouth and say something and not sound like an illiterate hick?”

    Definitely. Agreed.

    But that’s just one superficial factor. There is another thing that impresses me, I think not so superficial, that doesn’t seem to get noticed by ultra-rational people like us. Or often. Or because it might be deemed counter-productive. Or because it’s a relatively minor point compared to what one considers important enough to merit the name of ‘issue’. Or whatever, however one may parse relevancy.

    It’s this: That guy sure knows how read the pulse of a polyglot nation composed of a diverse range of folks, doesn’t he? And he seems to have had the smarts not only to detect but how to build upon a resonant frequency with a majority WITHOUT treating them like idiots, WITHOUT playing to or actively energizing any nests of hatred, intolerance or bigotries stemming from dogmatic preconceptions within them, INCLUDING religious among them and, perhaps above all, WITHOUT placing any preposterous ultimatum on the electorate composed of swift-boating bullshit.

    Here’s the kicker: he does NOT attempt to hoodwink anybody. He’s ardently trying to get people to see that this isn’t about electing a friggin’ king or a role-model, but somebody who can manage the office of the presidency as delineated by the constitution.

    All I see is a fallible guy who KNOWS he’s fallible, who SAYS he’s fallible, but also knows he’s sharp and wants other people to understand he’s sharp enough to handle it, who is also sharp enough to understand that he’s going to need lots of help to solve some pretty nasty problems we all face when he’s president and under evereybody’s intense scrutiny while doing so.

    He’s a guy who is actually a pretty lousy politician (by current standards, I kid you not, you betcha), yet has accomplished all that he has thus far PRECISELY BECAUSE he’s a lousy politician.

    He’s NOT a product of a strategy. That’s the same guy I noticed years ago.

    Now THAT’S a fellow I can vote for without hesitation. I don’t need to vote AGAINST a complete lunatic package such as the potential catastrophe of McCain-Palin. I’m voting FOR somebody who might just turn the trick. He can potentially turn it better than that other guy BECAUSE he knows how to work WITH people and EXPERTS and he knows how to LISTEN to them.

    Just because this guy has shown he can run a campaign more efficiently and effectively than anyone in living memory (BINGO: Leadership skills in the friggin’ bag), and prevail even in the face of the most noxious atmosphere of racism – both overt and subtly repressed – to be found anywhere in the world.

    And ANOTHER thing. How in the FLAMING HELL can RIGHT-WING COWARDS who incessantly FEAR Obama’s background RATIONALLY entertain the notion that some nefarious foreign conspiracy is responsible for putting A MAN WITH THAT NAME on a presidential ticket? Are you guys fucking nuts? Don’t you think that foreign terrorists would have had enough sense NOT to groom a candidate whose name sounded like “one of them”? Do you guys (and I’m aiming this rant squarely between the eyes of the illustrious Limbaugh and his stinking ilk, fuck you very much) actually imagine that those boogeymen are as stunningly stupid as you are?

    Your constant ravings attest to your complete contempt for the intelligence of Americans. Your success is totally contingent on the gullibility of a dissaffected or reactionary few. Those are the people you’ve so brilliantly learned to “persuade”.

    Trouble is? The message of hatred and division and pride-in-ignorance didn’t spread as you thought it would, did it? You underestimated the intelligence of the majority of Americans. You FAILED to read them accurately.

    You assholes have been making stuff up out of thin air for years. I’m calling you bastards out: Let’s do a friggin’ thought experiment, okay? Just for the hell of it. Go right ahead and tell us how YOU would have properly strategized a successful conspiratorial campaign that employs a candidate whose name deviates from John Doe or Robert Johnson or even Stinky Smith by as much as Barack Hussein Obama’s does.

    I’ll just hang out for awhile and wait for a reply.

    Many apologies to those offended by the foul language. But don’t mistake me. I really DID mean it. When I last checked, it was still ok to be pissed and mean it. REAL monsters need to be faced and dealt with.

  99. #100 The Cheerful Nihilist
    October 31, 2008

    @ Arnosium Upinarum
    Wonderful rant and cogent argument. If I was sitting on the fence, I’d probably be suade by you. That said, I doubt if anyone here listens to Rush, so you’re wasting your time.

    You ought to cutnpasta this and go post it at all the major media blogs where it might open some eyes.

  100. #101 Sauceress
    October 31, 2008

    Aussies are Barracking :p) for Obama 4 to 1 against MaCain.

    “Australians surveyed for views on US election”
    http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2008/s2405606.htm

  101. #102 Nick Gotts
    October 31, 2008

    Arnosium Upinarum@99,
    Don’t think I can agree he’s a lousy politician – how could a lousy politician have got to where he is, beating the Clintons and on the point of beating the Rethuglican lie machine? However, your point about the craziness of claiming that evil commie/Muslim/terrorist conspirators would choose a “Barack Hussein Obama” as their tool is spot-on, and one I’ve not seen made before.

  102. #103 Hap
    October 31, 2008

    #99: Yes they can – I don’t think it’s possible for them to imagine someone smarter than themselves (which would be a rather potent statement of their blindness and stupidity). An alternative formulation would be that if enemies/opponents smarter than they were to come along, they are ill-equipped to defeat them (and are smart enough to know it), so their only way to maintain any credibility among their followers is pretend that only enemies dumb enough to be defeated by them exist.

    Ultimately, you can tie yourself into knots thinking about how someone with ill intentions could get his way. Looking at the Republicans, it’s easier to realize that some people with ill intentions already have, and based on the depth of their incompetence or evil, the chance of Obama actually being worse than they is small (perhaps vanishingly so).

  103. #104 windy
    October 31, 2008

    He’s NOT a product of a strategy. That’s the same guy I noticed years ago.

    I just read a letter from a reader in a Finnish newspaper, he was musing about the contrast between Obama and Medvedev. They are about the same age, both lawyers, but their political careers were completely different – Obama could have failed at multiple points, Medvedev was taken under Putin’s wing early on and he never had to face an election before 2008(!). The reader joked that Russia’s democracy clearly has a much more “certainty”.

  104. #105 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 1, 2008

    Emphasis added:

    Why is anti-intelectualism so appealing? I think its because of this strange American excess of pride. We have been raised, especially in the more rural and southern states, to believe that America is the greatest country on earth and that we should be immensely proud of it. We don’t talk about how the British outlawed slavery 50 years before we did. We don’t talk about the fact that we used to do everything we could to keep out the Irish and the Germans (just like now its the Hispanics). Instead we are told how everyone wants to come here because its such a great and free place and that people in other countries would all want to be here.

    And you are never once told to behold the fact that you aren’t your own great-grandfathers, nor is it implied, however subtly.

    Over here, this confusion (for which there’s a word: patriotism) is no longer taught, and it isn’t present in most minds anymore.

    Bush, since he’s been teetotal ever since spending a weekend with Billy Graham at the age of 40

    Ah, really.

    What makes you think so? Is there any evidence he ever stopped drinking, apart from the fact that he himself has said so?

    What about evidence to the contrary, like his birthday in 2006 or 2007 (I forgot… how time flies…) when he was visibly drunk on international TV?

    If not an open enemy of economic freedom, he’s certainly someone who does not fully understand, or sufficiently fear, the massive harm generally caused by any increase in government intervention.

    See, this is the kind of statement that makes you look like a blind ideologue. Any increase in government intervention generally causes massive harm? And that even though deregulation was so evidently the cause of the housing bubble?

    And what about McCain’s proposal to have the government buy all rotten mortgages with 300 of the 700 billion $ in the bailout? If that’s not an increase in government intervention, what is???

    if this race were Obama v Palin rather than Obama v McCain

    Maybe it is. What’s your take on McCain’s life expectancy…?

    As for your political ideas… there is no powerful central state that “made a better world”.

    Just one apt to bomb and kill people, jail dissidents…

    It’s in the history books. Go look.

    Interesting that you retreat to the extreme to attack the concept of having any large state at all. How much has Somalia done to make a better world…?

    I wonder if Bush, Palin, and the other political figures you all mock suffer from learning disabilities that make it hard to express themselves.

    I also wonder if anybody here would cut them slack if they did.

    If they had trouble learning, we’d mock less and instead insist just as hard that they are completely unfit for office. An ability to learn is absolutely necessary for a politician.

    @ #61 Powerful central state that made a better world?
    England and the UK
    […] Started the industrial revolution and thus improved EVERYONE’s living standards, as far back as 1712 (Newcomen) and 1776 (Watt), culminating in commercial Railways, 1825-30.

    At the risk of sounding libertarian, this isn’t something a country did. That’s something that Newcomen and Watt did. And of course the improvement in living standards came last and required legislation.

  105. #106 truth machine, OM
    November 3, 2008

    Truth Machine, go away. You clearly detest this site

    That comment is as deranged as any from your worst trolls. Certainly few of your regulars would agree with your assessment.

    and you’re really in the running for being the one person to have a Molly award in the dungeon.

    Do try to remember that you awarded it because your commenters wanted me to receive it, not because you did. They know something that you don’t.

    I have defended you many times in many threads, but you get all pissy when you’re the target of my barbs. I have no sacred cows, not even you.

  106. #107 truth machine, OM
    November 3, 2008

    Hm, would that mean that his comments are recommended reading, or not?

    He was never in favor of me getting the Molly, he simply tallied the vote.

    Of course it probably only matters if there’s a theology of Mollys and Pharyngudungeons

    He has a list of reasons for putting people in the dungeon that I don’t believe I’ve violated. Of course, he’s always free to add new ones, or just make me a special case. Personally I’d be embarrassed to do that but hey, that’s me.

  107. #108 truth machine, OM
    November 3, 2008

    P.S. I’ll accept that I misinterpreted your comment, and apologize. And you could have had that apology without threatening me.

    Anyway, I like your blog, and very much don’t despise it … a rather hasty generalization from my being critical of a handful of posts.

  108. #109 Sven DiMilo
    November 3, 2008

    The Machine, Ladies and Genlemen…The Machine.

  109. #110 hery
    January 26, 2010

    His speech writers were forced to dumb down his speeches and simplify sentence context to allow him to sound like himself

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.