Friday, March 1, 2013

Evidently Bob Woodward's Been Sending Me His Lunch Money

It was a real mystery. Every week, someone had been mailing me an envelope stuffed with singles and quarters. The postmark was always from northern Virginia, but there was never a return address. Then last November I got a padded envelope that was soaked with juice - inside was a crushed Capri Sun and a scribbled note:

I forgot and accidentally bought this. Please please don't kill me.

Anyway, last night someone from Politico called me to ask me about it. They said the money was from Woodward.

"Why have you been extorting the lunch money from our nation's most famous investigative journalist?" the reporter demanded. I thought it was my buddy Dave pranking me at first. It took awhile to realize the guy on the other end was serious. And then I had more questions than answers.

"I never met Bob Woodward," I said. "Why is he giving me his money?"
"He's terrified of you. He claims you stalked him and threatened his life."
"That's just not true. Check your sources. I don't even know what you're talking about."

He hung up and then called back 10 minutes later.

"Would it be fair to say that Bob Woodward enrages you?"
"No, it wouldn't."

He hung up again. It was an hour before he called back this time. I should have never picked up.

"Do you remember a party in DC in 2006?"
"Not really."
"You were discussing State of Denial. You said it was extremely overrated."

It was beginning to come to me. But still, he got the story wrong.

"No, no. Dave said it was good. And then someone else said it was overrated, I think. But I hadn't read it yet. I just shrugged."
"You shrugged," he said ominously. "In what way?"
"I don't know."
"Aggressively? I mean, someone mentions a major work by a guy like Bob Woodward, and you...  you just shrug?"
"I had to get to the line for the bathroom."
"You've got to see how that was extremely disrespectful, at least. You have to at least admit that."
"No I don't."
"He took down Nixon! You just shrug? You could see how he'd assume the worst, couldn't you?"
"I'm going to go."
"One question," he said. "Who'd you vote for last election?"
I blurted it out as I got off the phone. Which was dumb, I know.

Democratic Operative Shrugs Off Woodward Death Threat - That's the headline that made the banner over at Fox. Drudge got an exclusive with someone at the party who claimed that I left in "the general direction" of Woodward's home. I didn't know where his home was, and I think I was going to the Metro. So I couldn't deny it, really. So then the Washington Times posted an article to say I didn't deny I'd been walking around near Bob Woodward's private residence after a night of drinking.

The envelopes kept coming though. Yesterday one had another note in it.

"I'm sorry our arrangement went public," it read. "It wasn't my fault. An assistant told someone. Don't do anything violent, okay?

"Also, do you know any high-level people who'd like to talk about secrets and stuff? Just asking. It's kind of a thing with me."

Photo by Jim Wallace (Smithsonian Institution). Used under Creative Commons license. Information here.

Barack Obama and John Boehner Just Shot A Kitten

I'm not going to pretend I fully understand what happened. I don't, okay?

All I know is I come home to find the President and the Speaker of the House standing around in my kitchen with dazed looks. Plus, there's a dead kitten on the floor and a handgun on the table.

"You didn't lock the front door, so we figured we'd just come in," Boehner says helpfully. But that obviously doesn't exactly answer my real question:

"Guys... Um, who exactly shot the kitten?"

And as you can guess, what follows is a long story. They're arguing and gesturing wildly at each other. It gets weird and complicated. And both of them repeatedly say that ending a kitten's life with a powerful firearm was the absolute last thing they wanted to do. They both agree it was egregiously stupid and cruel.

In fact it was so stupid and cruel that it was the perfect motivator, really - because who the hell just breaks into someone's home and puts a bullet into a cute, furry creature, and then waits for the owner to come back? Who does that? Wouldn't it be the thing we both agreed we'd never ever do, and therefore the thing that would force us to hammer out a deal? You get the idea.

Now, I voted for Obama. And we all remember that the Tea Partiers actually ran on a kitten-killing platform back in 2010. You had Republicans in Congress holding up giant posters of that 5 week-old Persian and telling everybody we needed to - and I'm directly quoting Rand Paul, here - "put that fluffy bastard down for America."

And Michele Bachmann really made a big deal about the fact that it was a Persian. She insinuated that Whiskers was not quite loyal.

I guess I'm saying that I ultimately believe the President was less at fault than the GOP. But that doesn't mean I don't blame him at all, right? We could recite the sordid details of the debt ceiling crisis, and the fiscal cliff, and all the times Republicans have just refused to raise taxes, even after they lost the last election, and it was clear Obama had a mandate. Yes, they gave in on taxes to some degree, but we have to argue about balance, and...

Look, I know the GOP is filled with knuckleheads. I know that. I've still got to be kind of shocked that I helped elect the most powerful man in the government, and he got involved in a deal to let my new parquet floor get a fresh coat of kitten. I think I'm allowed to be disappointed at the whole sorry mess. And especially their excuse:

"It's the only thing we could agree on."

Which is sad.

"Okay, gentlemen," I say, trying to put all this past me. "Can you two clean this up?"

And they will. They don't know which one of them, exactly - they haven't worked that out. But they have a plan. And in the next room I hear a little yip. They brought a puppy with them to make sure they get the job done.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Wanna See Me Eat Some Paste?" By Sen. Ted Cruz

I'm a paste eater. Been that way since I was a child. As the new kid in Kindergarten back at Oswald Elementary in eastern Texas, it was hard to make friends. People didn't seem to know I was even in the room. And then one day, I grabbed a spoon and tucked into a tub of Elmer's Kraft-Pal No. 23. Folks gathered round. Girls took notice. And I'm never going back, friends.

Look at me. Isn't it obvious?

So I just want to make it clear that, if it comes down to it - if I need to get your attention - I will eat some paste to do so. Right now I'm getting great coverage for saying Chuck Hagel might work for the North Koreans and that people in Harvard are Communists who want to overthrow the government. The liberals are freaking out and calling me Joe McCarthy.

See? I know what I'm doing.

It's a good time for people like me. The Tea Party and the extreme right have been smacked down at the polls, and the GOP is scrambling to reinvent itself and still get our votes. But my supporters don't care about that. They don't want a guy who's actually going to write laws or run the government. Bachmann, Santorum, Palin, Cain. When are you going to understand that policy is not the point with us? My people want spectacle. We know the world is changing around us, and we understand we can't really stop it. So what we are going to do is turn the institution of government into a bizarre carnival sideshow.

Sure, there will probably be a point when this stops working. But you know what? On that day, 'ol Ted will just open up his desk, pull out a carton of Funberry Red Sticky Time, and chow down right there on the Senate floor. Live coverage will hit every channel, and I will stay relevant. You don't eat paste for as long as I have without learning how to grab a spotlight.

Face it. You're stuck with me.

(Photo by Ted Cruz for Senate. Used under Creative Commons license. Information here.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

The National Review Tries To Be Nice To Gay People

Over the National Review, Daniel Foster makes the case that the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) should rethink its decision to exclude gay rights groups like GOProud. I encourage everyone to read this important piece. Foster is obviously trying his level best to increase tolerance among people on the right, and this is to be applauded. At the same time, it is a comically appalling essay. It is a wonderful example of how when Republicans attempt to sound respectful they're worse than ever.

He begins by praising GOProud's conservative credentials, which consist of not being all that, y'know, pushy on the equal rights thing:

They’re playing the long game of acclimating gays to conservatism and conservatism to gays, and a large piece of that, frankly, is just sitting around quietly and behaving themselves. This is why GOProud leads with its full-spectrum conservative bona fides and why its position on gay marriage (officially agnostic and federalist, but with implied underlying support) is intentionally circumspect and backgrounded.

"You can hardly tell!" he almost says. And honestly, you get the feeling he means it as a compliment.

Foster also digs into the political rationale. He thinks there might be a hidden opportunity for Republicans to pick up more support among gay people - maybe even a better chance than with the Latino community:

One reason to be hopeful about the latter is that, while it’s difficult to be secretly Latino, it’s fairly common to be secretly gay. (Living in New York City, I know both conservatives who are closeted gays and gays who are closeted conservatives — indeed, would anyone be surprised if Romney carried the closet vote?)

Hopeful. Closeted. Ugh. Aside from the actual argument, it's really the utter lack of sensitivity that shines here. "Their hidden, painfully compartmented life might be a real vote-getter for us!" he practically chortles. It's the language of the lawyer elbowing his way into the hospital room to announce that he's just horrified by what happened, but here's his business card. And it's a restatement of the idea that Republicans should seek the votes of gay people, but only those gay people who don't really mean it.

Foster makes some other points about how America itself is changing its attitudes toward homosexuality, and how younger conservatives will be turned off if the GOP continues along the Puritan path. He writes that excluding GOProud "gives the Left... a cudgel with which to beat the Right for its implied intolerance." And worse times are coming he warns, because "'Tolerance' has been more or less weaponized by cultural progressives..."

Well. Speaking as a cultural progressive myself, I say we figure out whatever he means by this tolerance weaponizing and do it double-time. Because in his conclusion, Foster himself makes clear something anyone over the age of six already knows about the Republican Party: They are determined to act decently when they have exhausted absolutely every other option.

But tolerance in its original, and best, meaning requires merely a respectful coexistence governed by a principle of charity, not a commandment to embrace or celebrate. CPAC could perfectly illustrate the difference by inviting GOProud back into the tent.

Foster lets us all know that the moderates in the GOP stand ready to offer exactly the minimal amount of respect toward those who are different than they are. Okay then. Everyone with any self-respect, gay and straight, ought to let them know that's not quite enough.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Will The GOP Broaden Its Appeal? A 30-Year History

"The Republican Party is attempting to broaden its appeal to the nation's union members through a newly formed labor advisory council." - Miami Herald, 6/18/82

"Republicans have found themselves on the short end of the 'gender gap,' as women have moved toward the Democratic party in recent years. But it is 'not irreversible,' says Representative Snowe." - Christian Science Monitor, 3/21/83

"As some Republicans at the Staunton meeting suggested, the party should try harder to broaden its appeal, especially to blacks." - Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/12/85

"More than any other potential Republican contender, Robertson hits the social issues that arouse and energize conservatives. Republican strategists are concerned that a Robertson candidacy could restrict the party's efforts to broaden its appeal by re-igniting an emotional debate on such issues as abortion, school prayer and homosexuality." - Daily News of Los Angeles, 3/23/86

"Specifically, Mr. Fahrenkopf called on the GOP to broaden its appeal to a wider constituency. Republicans urgently need to win adherents among blacks, Hispanics, Roman Catholics, and labor union members, he says. Fahrenkopf believes that this can be accomplished if the GOP becomes known as `the party of responsibility and compassion.' The chairman charges that too often Republicans have failed to adapt to the new ethnic politics that is so important in many regions of the nation. The GOP has given the impression that `we were closed to all except direct descendants of the Mayflower,' he points out." - Christian Science Monitor, 3/17/87

"In the days leading up to the Republican National Convention, Bush's campaign concentrated heavily on both the symbols and the issues in an anxious effort to solve 'the woman problem' - the nagging polls that show women favoring Bush's opponent, Michael S. Dukakis, by anywhere from 17 to 32 percentage points." - Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/15/88

"As Kemp told a Republican audience in Wisconsin in 1986, the party had to broaden its appeal." - State Journal-Register, 1/16/89

"If the Republican Party holds on to the White House in 1992 but gains no ground in the House or Senate, it will have lost a rare opportunity to broaden its appeal among voters." - State Journal-Register, 4/29/91

"It is also a blow to the Republican Party, which has sought to broaden its appeal to minority voters and does not want to enter the 1992 presidential as the party that put an ex-Klan member in a statehouse." - Dallas Morning News, 10/21/91

"Really, though, Clinton and his fellow Democrats should be ecstatic with Buchanan, who kicked off the Republican convention with one of the most outrageously vitriolic diatribes in recent political history - a speech that contained something to offend just about everyone who isn't white, aging, narrow-minded and male." - Chicago Sun-Times, 8/19/92

"Since the GOP ticket lost the 1992 presidential election, moderate party members like Mr.  Barbour have blamed religious activists for making the party look 'intolerant.'" - The Washington Times, 1/31/93

"'There are some aspects of the agenda of the Republican Party that I disagree with, and I have said so,' Mr. Powell said Wednesday. 'I will continue to speak out, and I hope the party can broaden its appeal, to appeal to the greatest number of Americans possible.'... And he said Republicans would be smart to show more compassion when reforming social programs and in welcoming ethnic minorities to the GOP fold." - Dallas Morning News, 11/12/95

"With this shift in emphasis, the GOP is moving to broaden its appeal to voters who say they care more about the education of their children than about any other issue. 'We are trying to say we are committed to improving public schools, and we need to be more forceful in how we say that,' said John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. 'People got the impression we are not for public schools.'" - Watertown Daily Times, 3/1/99

"Anderson said she still believes that blacks should be active in both parties, but that the Republicans have to do a better job of making blacks feel wanted beyond mere tokenism... 'You're talking about a party who talks about wanting to broaden its appeal, and yet it has alienated some of the people it already has.'" - USA Today, 3/27/00

"A new Republican organization will attempt to foster greater tolerance toward gays within the party, according to GOP leaders who urged the party to broaden its appeal and build on President Bush's pledge to be a uniter. Charles Francis, a gay Washington public-relations executive who helped arrange a meeting last year between Bush and several gay Republican activists, heads the organization, the Republican Unity Coalition. At a breakfast meeting Friday, Francis said the group's objectives were 'about making being gay or lesbian a nonissue in the Republican Party.'" - Sun-Sentinel, 1/22/01

"It's the Republican Party that has the explaining to do. The GOP has to understand that despite all its efforts to broaden its base to include more African Americans and Latinos, Lott's recent birthday 'tribute' to retiring Senator Strom Thurmond set the party's inclusion agenda back 10 years." - Hartford Courant, 12/14/02

"The announced departure of Watts, 44, was a setback to the Republican Party's drive to broaden its appeal to minorities." - Deseret News, 7/2/02

"Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele has received a featured speaking spot at next month's Republican National Convention, where he will deliver a message of racial equality and economic empowerment for a party looking to broaden its appeal among minorities, GOP leaders announced yesterday." - The Baltimore Sun, 7/21/04

"Curiously, however, Schwarzenegger did not lift a finger to help moderate Republicans in their duels with conservatives for party nominations... Maldonado and Richman lost in the primary to doctrinaire conservatives, and both were openly bitter about their party's blowing an historic opportunity to broaden its appeal." - Sacramento Bee, 8/1/06

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., is among those who believe Republicans need to move boldly... 'We have to be more inclusive; I feel very strongly about that. We have to reach out,' she said. 'After our losses this time, obviously you can be fiscally conservative, but you can also be tolerant. For some reason, I think our party has shifted to an intolerance that is not in keeping with our history.'" - Daily Press, 11/7/08

"'We are now a regional party' restricted to Texas and the South, said Mr. Boehlert, who said the party needs to broaden its appeal to become a national party again." - Watertown Daily Times 10/29/09

"And how much time must go by before African-Americans are willing to look past the GOP's unrelenting and deeply personal disrespect toward the nation's first African-American president? All that said, the biggest question here is not whether the GOP can transform itself, but whether it can even try. At this point, the Republicans are less a traditional political party than what disenchanted former GOP staffer Mike Lofgren has called an 'apocalyptic cult.'" - Observer-Dispatch, 11/13/12

"The developments come at a time the Republican Party nationally is involved in a well chronicled period of introspection after failing to win the White House last fall. President Obama's support reached 53 percent among women who cast ballots, 60 percent among voters under 30, some 71 percent among Hispanics and 93 percent among blacks. Numerous officials have said the party must find a way to broaden its appeal rather than continue to steer rightward." - Fox News, Yesterday
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