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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:15 pm

Memo to Michael Gerson: WTF?

In today’s Washington Postdated, former Bush flack-hack and occasional thoughtful conservative Michael Gerson goes off the rails again, suggesting that Obama has made three mistakes during his campaign that just might prove to be fatal.

1.  Obama made the mistake of choosing in Joe Biden a thoughtful, experienced, and capable running mate instead of a crazy, inexperienced, and frequently vicious unknown.

He could have reinforced a message of change and moderation with a Democratic governor who wins in a Republican state, or reached for history by selecting Hillary Clinton. But his choice came soon after Russia invaded Georgia, and the conventional wisdom demanded an old hand who knew his way around Tbilisi. When the Georgia crisis faded, Obama was left with a partisan, undisciplined, congressional liberal at his side.

Apparently it is better to score easy points by creating a celebrity while sating your red (moose) meat base than it is to think about what is necessary to govern a large and complex nation.

2.  Obama made the mistake of turning his convention speech into a thoughtful discussion of the issues that matter to the American people instead of a rehash of his inspirational stumps:

In his Denver speech, it seemed that every American home was on the auction block, every car stalled for lack of gasoline, every credit card bill past due, every worker treated like a Russian serf. And John McCain? He was out of touch, with flawed “judgment.” His life devoted to serving oil companies and big corporations. And, by the way, he didn’t have the courage to follow Osama bin Laden “to the cave where he lives.”

Apparently it is better to speak blandishments than talk about the real problems facing this country.  The irony, of course, is that much of the commentariat before the speech — including Republicans — could not stop talking about how Obama needed to talk policy.  After the speech every commentator — even Pat Buchanan, for crying out loud — called the speech one of the finest of his career and an extraordinary challenge to McCain.  All that was forgotten by Gerson and other folks, largely because the next day, John McCain opened up that big ol’ can of crazy known as the Sarahnator.

3.  Obama is now making the mistake of getting tough on McCain for being such a lying liar who lies about his giant sack of lies.

Who is hurt most by this race to the bottom? McCain, by the evidence of his own convention, wants to be a viewed as a fighter — which a fight does little to undermine. Obama was introduced to America as a different and better kind of politician — an image now in tatters.

That’s right — it’s Obama’s fault for challenging the lies, because it makes him look like a typical politician.  Forget the fact that McCain has sullied his honor.  It’s far more relevant that Obama chose to fight back, thus hurting his reputation as a change agent.

If Michael Gerson wants to put on a pair of beer goggles when he looks at John McCain, that’s his prerogative.  But he shouldn’t expect the rest of us to believe him.

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10 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Morning Buzz: Because You Need A Break. . .

. . .from politics, and so do I.

If you only know Stevie Wonder from his performance at the Democratic National Convention, or from Jack Black’s snark attack on him in “High Fidelity,”  check this out:  Stevie on Sesame Street, circa 1973.

The man was an absolute rock god.  And his band is on fire.

Hat tip:  Kottke

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

Hey, Kids! Let’s Play Hide the WMD!

Back when I was in graduate school, Chernobyl happened.  Being graduate students, we responded to this tragedy in the only way we knew how:  we threw a party.  We covered the walls with aluminum foil, replaced all the light bulbs with flashing red lights, and renamed the keg the cooling tower.  We had so many people there, that the floor almost collapsed and the heat generated by the foiled-up walls caused the air conditioning unit for the entire building to fail.

That was the last time I remember connecting nuclear power to dancing.  Until now.  If you’ve been watching the conventions, you’ve seen this commercial:

You may not have noticed it, given the awesome animation and Lipps Inc.’s “Funkytown” playing in the background, but if you pause at 0:09, you’ll notice a couple of words down in the lower right hand corner:


So that’s where Saddam put it!  Canada!

And what is up with this ad?  Funkytown?  The happy shiny strip mining?  And the apparent argument that we should have nukes so that people can play Dance Dance Revolution in Shanghai?

So the ad is at least two years old.  The first version was in French.

{{PAGENAME}}You wouldn’t know it from the commercial, but after a check of The Googles, I found out that Areva is “a French public multinational industrial conglomerate that is mainly known for nuclear power.”


Did I mention that the company also manages those yellow cake mines in Niger?  More happy shiny strip mining!

That means Areva played a role, albeit indirectly, in the whole Valerie Plame scandal.  And the Iraq war.  And, of course, the lies of the Bush Administration to justify both the war and the Plame leak.

Now that’s some serious funk.

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29 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:45 am

Obama: Going Purple

Watching a rerun of the speech, I just realized that Obama was wearing a purple tie. Not a red tie or a blue tie, but the United States of tie.


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29 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Gustav Update: GOP Has Problems Either Way

The Washington Post-dated is reporting that the GOP is considering postpoining their convention next week, in light of the fact that Tropical Storm (and likely to become Hurricane) Gustav is barreling down on New Orleans:

The threat is serious enough that White House officials are also debating whether President Bush should cancel his scheduled convention appearance on Monday, the first day of the convention, according to administration officials and others familiar with the discussion.

For Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Gustav threatens to provide an untimely reminder of Hurricane Katrina. A new major storm along the Gulf Coast would renew memories of one of the low points of the Bush administration, while pulling public attention away from McCain’s formal coronation as the GOP presidential nominee.

Senior Republicans said images of political celebration in the Twin Cities while thousands of Americans flee a hurricane could be dubious.

You think?

The Republicans are pretty much screwed either way they go.  If the go forward, then they compete with Gustav.  If they postpone, people spend two days watching Gustav.

The Post goes on to say that some Republicans think this could be a win because a robust response could demonstrate that Bush et. al. learned from Katrina, and MCCain would benefit.  The problem with that argument is that it takes anywhere from 72 to 96 hours for the media — and thus the public — to know, much less understand, what actually has happened in a serious hurricane zone.  The first pictures are unlikely to be of rescues but rather of suffering.  And even if it turns out that the Bush Administration succeeds in avoiding another Katrina, having to respond in the first place is still going to remind everyone of Katrina.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is not just callously trying to take advantage of a natural disaster, they’re also fooling themselves.

Here’s the latest tracking from the National Hurricane Center on Gustav:

I wonder what Rain Man thinks of all of this?

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28 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:59 pm

Live Blogging Barack Obama

So here we are.  The. Moment. We. Have. Been. Waiting. For.

10:02  Okay the movie just started and I got choked up.  I’m bathing in Kool-Aid at this point.  Snorting it too. Mainlining.  You name it, and I’m doing it with the Kool-Aid.

10:06  Movie:  Joking about his name a nice touch.

10:08  Movie:  black and white photos evoke Kennedy.  Sure that was intentional.

10:10  Movie:  “It is a promise that we make to our children:  that they can do anything they want with their lives.”

10:12  Here we go.  How long will the ovation last?  Two minutes.

10:14  Michelle chanting “Yes we can.”  Clintons appear to be absent.

10:15  Obama accepts nomination.  Shout out to Hillary.  But she’s not there.

10:16  Will the Secret Service accompany Joe Biden on Amtrak?

10:18  We meet at one of those defining moments:  nation at war, economy in turmoil.

10:19  Broken politics in Washington, failed politics of Dubya.  We are a better country than this.  So it looks like the speech is going to be hard hitting.

10:20  Veterans sleeping on the streets is a recurring theme for Dems this year.  Katrina reference.

10:21  We love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight.” Now that’s a keeper.  Eight is enough line is a bit stale.

10:22  Wish the Dems could stick to one percentage on McCain’s votes.  90 or 95

10:22 “10 percent chance on change” Heh.

10:24  Using the “nation of whiners” line very effectively.

10:24  McCain doesn’t not care, he just doesn’t know about the lives of Average Americans.  But he’s going a little fast.  Slow down, Barack.

10:25  “It’s not that John McCain doesn’t care.  It’s that he doesn’t get it.”

10:26  This is a strongly populist speech, focusing on economic distress. It’s the same tack Gore took in ‘00, to mixed success.  Will it work this time for Obama?

10:28 “In the faces of our brave soldiers. . .I see my grandfather.”  Using story of American people to tell the story of his family and vice versa.

10:30  The sound you hear is the celebrity meme getting squished.  But a friend just said that he’s talking too much to people who have been following the race and not enough to people just tuning in.

10:32  With “I am my brother’s keeper,” he evokes Christian theology without sounding evangelical

10:32  He’s started talking about what he’s going to do.  Will it be too wonky?

10:33 “I will cut taxes for 95 percent of working families.”

10:33  Pledges to end dependence on Middle Eastern oil in 10 years.  Kennedy-esque “go to the moon by the end of the decade” moment.  Lots of detail on energy plan.

10:35  I wonder –  were people told to put down their “Change” signs and wave flags instead?

10:37  Republican reply will focus on how Obama will pay for all these new programs.

10:38  Republicans also will note that Biden was the author of the bankruptcy law that Obama says he wants to overturn.

10:39  I wonder whether this is too much “I will do this and I will do that” and not enough “We need to act.”

10:40  Just went all Bill Cosby on social issues.

10:41 If John McCain wants to have a debate about who is more suited tempermentally to be commander in chief, that’s a challenge I will take.

10:43  Is this too much of a laundry list?

10:44 Firebreathing.  About time.  The section on foreign policy is the strongest yet, but where are torture, Guantanamo, etc.  Ah, he just mentioned moral standing.

10:45  Says he’ll take the high road.  Not sure how I feel about that.

10:46  Nice use of his famous red America/blue America line to praise the soldiers.  Important to remember that almost everyone watching the speech tonight never saw his ‘04 speech.

10:50  “If you don’t have any fresh ideas, you use scale tactics to scare voters.”  He’s taking the bull by the horns, but how will it play beyond Democrats?

10:51  This election has never been about me — it’s about you.  Audience did not go bananas.

10:53  Now making the appeal to broader audience.  Talking about sacrifice that average Americans make to build a better America.  What makes us rich and strong and envied is the American spirit, the American promise that pushes forward no matter how uncertain things are.  We’ve hit the beginning of the rhetorically powerful part of the speech.

10:54  We come to MLK “I have a dream” reference.  Almost forgot about it.  Interesting he isn’t naming King, just calling him the preacher.  “America we cannot turn back.”  “We cannot walk alone.”  “We must pledge once more to march into the future.”

It was a strong speech, a workmanlike speech, but it didn’t match the rhetorical brilliance of his best past efforts.  The key question will be, does that matter?  Or were people looking for substance, and thus this speech was just the one he had to make.  The people I’m watching with seem to think there was a bit of a contradiction between the red meat and the post-partisanship.


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28 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:00 pm


Anyone seen the Clintons tonight?  I havent.

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28 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:26 pm

Bill Richardson

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Bill Richardson.  I admire his policies but have never been that big a fan of the man — too many stories from friends and a few personal experiences as well. His ego is one of the largest in American politics — and that’s saying something.

But I want to thank him for having the huevos to raise torture, Guantanamo, civil liberties, respect for the Constitution, and honoring the Bill of Rights.  About damn time.

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28 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:11 pm

Stat of the Day: Why I’m a Democrat

CNET is reporting that the number  of casual encounters/sex wanted ads on the Denver Craigslist has spiked by more than 80 percent during the convention:

On average, 425 posts on Craiglist’s “Casual Encounters” area appeared on the first three Sundays in August. But this Sunday, when tens of thousands of people had arrived for the convention, 763 posts appeared — an 80 percent increase.

The general content is what you might expect. Posts suggested “Here 4 DNC? Come get sexual with me”; “Does the DNC make you hot?”; and “Looking to service a young Democrat.” (Most are far more explicit, but unsuitable for our upstanding, discriminating readers. Use your imagination.)


I expect ot see a similar spike in the “uptight closeted masochist seeking repressed button-downed sadist” posts on the Twin Cities Craigslist during the RNC next week.

Hat tip:  Reason Hit & Run

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28 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:24 pm

Hot Rumor: Pawlenty

Marc Ambinder is reporting via Twitter that Tim Pawlenty has cleared his schedule for the next two days.

Oh please please please please please let it be true.  Pawlenty is so boring that he could have been a speaker at the Democratic National Convention.  He’s so milquetoast that he makes Dan Quayle look like Sid Vicious.

Biden won’t just crush him, he’ll puree him.  We’re talking bass-o-matic levels of destruction.

The other hot rumor is that McCain will do it in the middle of Obama’s speech.

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28 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:45 pm

Yesterday’s Best Speech

If you missed it — and if you were watching the twitworks or the cabletubes, you probably did — John Kerry gave the best speech last night.  Better than Bill Clinton and even better than Joe Biden.  And of course, because it was John Kerry, nonoe of the networks covered it — instead they switched to their usual gang of idiots so that we could learn just how wonderful Bill’s speech was.

Kudos to TPM for grabbing it off C-Span and putting it on YouTube.  As Josh Marshall says, “do yourself a favor and set aside 13:13 to watch it.”

It’s too bad that Kerry never gave this speech four years ago — it may have been a game-changer.

Well, maybe not.  But it’s pretty amazing nonetheless.

Hat tip:  Josh Marshall

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28 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Newsflash: Obama Is Actually Ming the Merciless

The front page of yesterday’s Washington Times:

I didn’t know that we were living during the Mughal Empire or the Han Dynasty.  Silly me.

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27 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:21 pm

Thought for the Moment (Biden)

He literally avoided saying literally in his speech.  And that literally was a good thing.

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27 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:01 pm

Live Blogging the Biden Acceptance Speech

10:33  Opening stuff on kids, wife, etc.  pretty great.  Liked the line on his wife leaving him speechless.

10:35  Great line about Cheney.  Too bad the audience treated it as a laugh line.

10:36  Section on his mom is great.  She must be a terrific broad.

10:40  His Freudian slip could be the seed of a great idea.  Call him George W. McCain

10:41  Biden’s comments on Obama are great.  This is the guy to tell Obama’s story.

10:41  150?  150 thousand?  Whoopsie.

10:43  Nice transition to McCain.  Great mention of Amtrak but most people won’t get it.

10:44  “That’s not change, that’s more of the same.”

10:46 “Times require more than a good soldier, they need a wise leader.”  Nice.  Crowd is attentive, enthusiastic even, but not on fire.

10:47  Time for foreign policy section.  Bush has dug us into a very deep hole with few friends to help us get out.

10:48  Oy vey.  What’s with the hard line on Russia? Did they focus group this and find out MCCain position is more popular?

10:49  Whose judgment do you trust?

10:50  “John McCain is wrong and Barack Obama is right.”  Nice contrasts.  Now mention torture, damnit.

10:52  Time to get back up together.  Like it

10:52  Emphasis on values, but what about all the things that Bush Administration has done to undermine those values?

Good speech.  Surprised that audience wasn’t more responsive.  Now will Barack show up?  He’s supposed to.  Ah there he is.

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27 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:29 pm

Semi-live blogging Bill Clinton

9:08:  Hits all the key Democratic foreign policy messages but nothing on torture

9:11  Now he’s doing what Hillary should have done last night:  introduce Barack and explain why he’s the right choice

9:12  Biden:  Barack hit it out of the park

9:12  Primary process strengthened BHO giving him the steel to do foreign policy

9:12  BHO is ready to lead America and restore American leadership in the world.

9:13 “preserve protect constitution.”  Honor the oath.  Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States

9:13  Rebuild frayed alliances, fix frayed international institutions, global warming, stop WMDs, AIDS and other diseases.

9:15 Diplomacy first, military action only if necessary.  Will stand up to bullies

9:16  America can’t be strong abroad if we’re not first strong at home

9:17 People more impressed by the power of our example than the example of our power.  Great line.

9:17  Thought he was going to segue to torture, but he went straight to economic issues.

9:18  Are these the family values Republicans are so proud of?

9:19  There we go.  But war on unions got bigger response than torture.

9:21  Red meat time.  McCain still embraces most extreme views of his party.

9:22 Again about the economy.

9:23  Despite the evidence, candidate is promising more of the same

9:23  Has he actually mentioned McCain by name?

9:24  All about Bill again.  Don’t stop thinkin’ about yesterday.

9:24  Back Obama bio and why he’s the right guy

9:24  “Right side of history”  Nice

9:25  Is it my imagination or has he mentioned Biden as much as Barack?

9:26  Shortest speech Clinton ever gave.  Made the point, but feel like it was a bit rote.  At least he fired up the crowd.  And only a cursory mention of torture.

What do you think?

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27 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:15 pm

Can We Shut up about the Columns Now, Please?

Both the wingnuts and the progosphere have been in a lather today because the set for Obama’s speech on Thursday features Greek columns.

Conservatives are insisting that they’re Doric, while progressives are arguing that they’re Ionic.  Andrew Sullivan, meanwhile, is waging a lonely battle on behalf of Corinthian.

Okay, no more architecture jokes.

Here’s why this whole debate is stupid.  Via Ben Smith, here’s Bush’s podium in 2004:

If you look closely, you can see a shotgun-totin’ Dick Cheney on the right, ready to shoot any unbelievers in the face.

Let me repeat what I said earlier:  Calm. The. Hell. Down.  And for a moment, try to remember why you’re supporting Obama (if you are):  not because of the optics, but because of the issues.

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27 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:00 pm

It’s Official

Thank you Hillary.  Barack is the Democratic nominee.

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27 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:44 pm

DNC: Stop Panicking, Please

So the progosphere, together with many Democrats, appears to be in complete meltdown mode at the moment, anxious that Hillary’s speech last night wasn’t enough, worried that most of the speakers at the DNC have sucked (well, that part is true), and dreading what the Republicans will “do to us” next week in St. Paul.

Four words:  Calm. The. Hell. Down.

Much of what you’re worrying about is the product of the mainstream media’s feeding frenzy over the supposed Hillary-Barack feud.  That was going to happen no matter what, even if Hillary had won the nomination.

In fact, let’s play pretend for a moment.  Let’s go to an alternate universe where Hillary did win the nomination of the Democratic Party of, oh, I don’t know, the country of PUMAstan, and Barack had to give the Tuesday night speech.  Here is an example of what you would see in the media:

Barack Obama delivered a ringing call for Democratic Party unity on Tuesday, promising to work for Hillary Clinton and challenging his supporters to bury their grudges and rally behind her White House bid.

“Whether you voted for me or voted for Hillary, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose,” said Obama in a speech Democrats hope will end a lingering party rift left over from their bitter nominating fight.

Obama an Illinois senator, praised Clinton and said Democrats could not sit on the sidelines and watch Republican presidential candidate John McCain take the White House and “squander the promise of our country.”

“No way, no how, no you can’t, John McCain. Hillary Clinton is my candidate and she must be our president,” Obama told a roaring crowd waving a sea of blue and red “Obama” signs.

Obama used his highly anticipated turn in the spotlight to say Democrats must unite to help the former first lady beat McCain in the Nov. 4 election. A Democrat is needed in the White House to turn around the struggling U.S. economy, he said.

“When Hillary Clinton is in the White House, she’ll revitalize our economy, defend the working people of America, and meet the global challenges of our time,” Obama said.

His wife, Michelle Obama, watched from the balcony, seated next to former President Bill Clinton.  At one point her eyes welled with tears and she mouthed the words “I love you.”

Clinton watched the speech on television in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as she makes her way to Denver to accept the nomination on Thursday night. “That was a strong speech,” she said. “I thought he was brilliant.”

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said Obama would not convince undecided voters that Clinton was ready to be commander in chief.  “Millions of Barack Obama supporters and millions of Americans remain concerned about whether Hillary Clinton is the right choice for America,” Bounds said.

So let the MSM do that thing that they do.  Calm down.  And remember, we got ground game.  And money.  And a candidate who can clean McCain’s clock.  Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry didn’t have any of those qualities.

And, for the record, neither does John McCain.

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27 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:20 am

What’s Missing at DNC: Torture, Guantanamo. . .and Cheney

So far we’ve seen dozens of speakers at the Democratic National Convention.  They’ve attacked Bush and McCain.  They’ve touted solutions to energy and climate change.  They’ve talked about Supreme Court justices and choice.  They’ve talked getting out of Iraq, and winning the war against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.  A few have even mentioned, in passing, that the United States needs to rebuild its relationship with allies, once agan leading rather than dictating to the rest of the world.

But there is one set of issues that we haven’t heard about yet — not once in two days of banal blathering.

Call it the destruction of American values.  It includes a number of things.

Like torture.


Abu Ghraib.

Indefinite detention of American citizens.

Denial of habeas corpus.



Black sites.

It’s as if the books by Jane Meyer, Jack Goldsmith, Philippe Sands, and so many others have gone right down the memory hole.

Where’s the anger at this desecration of everything America supposedly stands for?  Where’s the condemnation of the Bush Administration’s trashing of the Constitution?  Where are the demands that these things stop, and stop immediately?

And where are the attacks on the man who most needs to answer for his role in not just allowing, but promoting these abominations?  Where is the condemnation and vilification of Dick Cheney?

There isn’t a politician more unpopular in America today.  More importantly, there isn’t anyone more responsible for the trashing of America’s reputation in the world.

Yet after two days, we’ve heard nothing about him or his comprehensive attack on human rights and civil liberties.  Nothing about his single-minded shredding of the Bill of Rights, Geneva Conventions, and Convention against Torture.  Nothing about waterboarding, sleep deprivation, the use of dogs, or forced confinement.  Nothing about the fact that our allies now believe that this Administration has committed war crimes.

We’ve heard plenty about windmills and wages, but nothing about Cheney’s conscious destruction of American values.

In less than a week, Dick Cheney will take the Darth Vader world tour to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.  In his primetime speech, he will call Democrats weak, inept, and unwilling to face down “evil.”

If the Democrats fail to call him out on his own evil this week, he’ll be right.

Are Democrats afraid?  Are they unwilling to confront Bush, Cheney, and McCain on foreign policy?   Are they afraid of John McCain because he keeps reminding people on every possible occasion that he was a POW?

There’s a simple way to handle this.  All the Democrats have to say is that the Bush Administration believes that it doesn’t torture.  Then talk about all the things that they now do that the North Vietnamese did to John McCain.  And then point out that according to George Bush and Dick Cheney, John McCain wasn’t tortured. And then say how dare they implement polices once used against our brave servicemen and women.  And also make sure that people know that John McCain actually sanctions torture, as long as it’s committed by the CIA.

It’s the truth.  It reminds Americans of what we stand for without dragging them through the muck and horror of the past seven years.  It also has the advantage of putting both McCain and the Bushies on the defensive.

We’ve heard that Obama-Biden will be different, that they will no longer concede the high ground on foreign policy issues to the Republicans.  But if they never mention torture, Guantanamo, or any of the other terrors that Cheney, Addington, Yoo and company have inflicted on America and the world, then they are just as fearful and timorous as past candidates.

And next week, the Republicans will have free reign to make them look like apologists and traitors.

And in November, Barack Obama will lose.

| posted in foreign policy, politics, world at home | 1 Comment

26 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:12 pm

Hillary Rocks the House

She didn’t just take the high road, she owned it.  At least 10-12 explicit endorsements of Obama.  She did it at the beginning, in the middle, at the end.  And she never got lost in solipcism or narcisissm.

Ambinder on Twitter speculated that her speech will be to 08 as Obama was in 04.  I think that’s about right.

Have to say that Hillary having been away for three months has made the heart grow fonder. That said, I wish her foreign policy positions had gotten more than a total of about 1 minute (30 seconds each on two occasions).

How’s this for unfounded speculation:  the DNC intentionally lined up a bunch of duds to make Hillary look this good.

Wonderful speech.  As Olbermann just said.  “I don’t know how it could have been better.”

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