Saturday, February 07, 2004

Fun while it lasted

Up until last week, the presidential nomination contest had been
nothing short of a blast to watch, full of vim, vigor and an air of
serendipity. But now as the outcome becomes more predictable, I've
begun to relapse into my native journalistic cynicism.

While Dean was alive, shocks of electricity were felt by anyone
within viewing range of the phenomenon, not only for the candidate's
obvious quirks, but for the fact that Dean's means of financing really
did hold the promise of minimizing the influence of the corporate
lobbies. I mean, this really was people power!

Conventional wisdom now holds that the Dean people mistook their
process for the message, but that was no mistake. They simply didn't
package their message well enough. Then Kerry and Edwards took that
message (without the substance yielded by real-people financing) and
tied it up much more neatly and handily than the Dean folks ever tried
to do, and the race became a bit boring with everybody shooting the
same breeze from slightly different angles.

The answer, my friend...

Speaking of wind, did anybody get a load of Sharpton last weekend in
South Carolina? The pundits tell us that Edwards is the best stump
speaker of the lot, but may I suggest that's only true in a particular
category. (That would be the white-guy category.)

Listening to Sharpton at a town hall meeting in Aiken, I swear I was
about ready to sign up for him myself. But, obviously, I'm a bit more
persuadable than the good people of South Carolina, who yielded
Sharpton far fewer votes than even the pundits expected.

Electable, Schmelectable!

Since the pundits have been so wrong about so many things, one can only
hope that their anointment of Kerry has the effect of bestowing the
nomination on another. The notion of 'electability' is overblown; a
candidate is electable when people vote for him. As I've said before,
once Rove runs oppo over Theresa Heinz Kerry, the senator's eccentric
wife (who only recently began tacking his name after that of her late
last husband), the electability mantle will likely be torn from Kerry's
stately form.

I've got my own ax to grind, I admit. When I interviewed him last
summer in Merrimack, New Hampshire, Kerry dismissed as not important
the gay issues that will become the Republicans' wedge in the general
election. And I'm big enough to admit, dear reader, that my problem has less to do with the fundamental idea behind his remarks than his haughty tone.

"If they want to try to sideline people into those issues that are not
fundamentally affecting people’s day-to-day lives in terms of jobs,
health care, education," Kerry told me, "we’ll have a good debate.”

Well, Senator, for some people, so-called gay issues do have the
potential to affect access to jobs, health care and education. In
24 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign, no protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is offered to
citizens. In other words, you can be fired in any of these states simply for being queer.

Don't get me wrong--I want to see the economy, the war and the role of
corporations in our government at the top of the agenda in this
presidential election season. I don't want this election to be about gay marriage, even if the judges on Massachusetts Supreme Court, God bless them, do. Right sentiment; bad timing. (See Eleanor Clift on this bonus for the Repubicans.)

In Kerry's favor, I must note that he was one of the few who managed to
vote against the bizarrely named "Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)", a
clearly unconstitutional measure advanced by the religious right during
the 1996 Iowa caucuses, and signed into law by President Clinton. But
when the pollsters finally call me (why do they never ask me?) to rank the candidates
in priority order as "cares about people like me" (this
season's favorite category among the pundits), my visceral response won't be to put Kerry at the top. Still, in the end, I'll be happy, I suppose, to settle for a president who wishes me no harm.

Meanwhile, thanks to the high court of his home state, it looks as if Kerry is going to have that good debate. Let's hope he's up to it.

The Nipple Shield: A Weapon of Mass Distraction

It's been nearly a week since the big game, and Janet Jackson is still
the talk of the nation. (You know, I knew there was a reason I
should've been watching that game!)

But really, I'm outraged--outraged, I say! Outraged over the outrage,
that is. Outraged that the FCC is launching an investigation of the
ta-ta seen 'round the world even as ClearChannel is given the all-clear
to virtually own the radio waves (which are supposed to be a public
trust); outraged that everyone's gone crazy over a little bare flesh
when so much programming on broadcast TV (never mind cable) is about
gruesome murder in one form or another; outraged that something simply
crass can marshal the attention of our elected officials while the
fairness doctrine lies in its grave.

The episode is not without its lessons, though. Now I know why my
singing career never quite took off. I don't have the right

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