5 November 2012
Mitt Romney has a new campaign ad criticising Obama for saying that "voting is the best revenge" and telling citizens to vote instead for love of country. But hey, if it's a valid reason for becoming a big brother...
13 October 2012
Conor Friedersdorf think Paul Ryan's foreign policy comments last night disqualified him from the vice-presidency:
An intelligent discussion of Iran and nuclear weapons would acknowledge that the actions of the ayatollahs are not in fact entirely or even predominantly governed by presidential signalling — that lots of factors beyond our control, like the strategic value of having nukes, how impervious their program is to air strikes, actual damage done by sanctions, and their retaliatory ability, among many other substantive factors, shape the speed with which they seek a nuclear weapon.
One thing I think many Americans struggle to comprehend — and somewhat understandably — is what it is like to not be American. This is why American debates about foreign policy so often fall victim to what I will call the Poochie Delusion.
In the season eight episode of The Simpsons "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show," cartoon-within-a-cartoon Itchy & Scratchy responds to falling ratings by introducing a new character: a dog called Poochie, voiced by Homer. When Poochie is poorly received, Homer proposes a solution:
Whenever Poochie's not onscreen, all the other characters should be asking "Where's Poochie"?
Actors in American politics often speak as if America is Poochie, and, regardless of what is happening in any given situation, the first thought non-Americans have is "Where's Poochie?"
This is because the first thought Americans have in any given situation is "where's America"? As Friedersdorf points out though, that is not actually how the rest of the world works.
I could pursue further, and possibly to great profit, my Poochie=America thesis, but I suspect it could lead to unpleasant stereotyping. So I'll stop here.
OK, let's just say that many Americans, particularly those in the Republican Party, have a foreign policy that could be summed up by Homer's other suggestion for improving Poochie:
Poochie needs to be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine.
24 May 2012
Yesterday Jonathan and I were discussing the famous 1996 "Citizen Kang" Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode in which the aliens Kang and Kodos plot to take over America. Their plan: kidnap Bill Clinton and Bob Dole and then disguise themselves as the candidates. The satire of US politics and elections is so spot on. I can only imagine that many Australians feel the same way about the system as Kang and Kodos do.
Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemen, 73-year-old candidate, Bob Dole.
Kang: Abortions for all.
Very well, no abortions for anyone.
Hmm... Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others.
[crowd cheers and waves miniature flags]
Homer: America, take a good look at your beloved candidates. They're nothing but hideous space reptiles. [unmasks them]
[audience gasps in terror]
Kodos: It's true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It's a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.
Man 1: He's right, this is a two-party system.
Man 2: Well, I believe I'll vote for a third-party candidate.
Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away.
And then of course this.
13 April 2012
A couple days ago, the Internet went nuts about a Smithsonian Magazine interview with creator of The Simpsons Matt Groening, in which he apparently revealed the location of the show's fictional setting of Springfield. (He didn't.) More interesting, however, than the non-story that Groening took the name from a city in his home state of Oregon, is this:
How typical is the Simpsons’ home of an American home? How has it changed?
I think what’s different is that Marge doesn’t work. She’s a stay-at-home mother and housewife, and for the most parts these days both parents work. So I think that’s a little bit of a throwback.
The Simpsons was created as a satire of the American family, but 23 years into its life as a primetime sitcom, the institution it parodies has changed so much as to leave the show looking faintly archaic. The America of the first President George Bush was one in which the single-income, male-headed household was so commonplace as to be an archetype. Today, the Simpson family comes off as rather quaint.
It's a point that the good people at the fan/hate site Dead Homer Society have made well:
The Simpsons has been on for so long now that the world itself has changed around them and as a result the characters no longer epitomize what they’re supposed to be satirizing. Homer and Marge are exquisitely crafted late model Baby Boomers; they came of age in the seventies and became adults in the eighties. He’s a union guy; she’s a housewife; they have cranky World War II generation parents, they go to church out of a sense of duty and their kids lead unstructured, small town lives. They are run of the mill late 1980s Americans, that is when they were created and that is the context in which they best fit.
Homer and Marge are supposed to be in their mid to late thirties, but in 2009 real people who are in their mid to late thirties are Generation Xers. They grew up on MTV and video games and they don’t typically go to church; their kids go on play dates and it’s their parents who are the Baby Boomers. Yes, these are stereotypes and generalizations, but stereotypes and generalizations have always been The Simpsons stock in trade. Are there still people like Homer and Marge? Of course, but neither of them is the archetype they once were. The Simpsons may not have aged but America did, and it takes increasinly zany nonsense to shoehorn old characters into modern situations.
To see how America has changed over the past decade, just look at its longest running prime time scripted TV series.
1. Or, perhaps, a satire of the American sitcom family, depending on how recursive the episode in question was.
2. As in, they love the first ten seasons. They believe the show is currently so terrible that it should be cancelled. They are quite correct.
14 December 2011
If you're a regular reader of Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog — and you should be — you will have observed his recent explorations of the history of the Civil War. As such, his essay about African American perspectives on the war, published in the current issue of The Atlantic, feels like a culmination of his inquiries. I shouldn't have to tell you that it's an absolutely fantastic read. A taste:
Our alienation was neither achieved in independence, nor stumbled upon by accident, but produced by American design. The belief that the Civil War wasn’t for us was the result of the country’s long search for a narrative that could reconcile white people with each other, one that avoided what professional historians now know to be true: that one group of Americans attempted to raise a country wholly premised on property in Negroes, and that another group of Americans, including many Negroes, stopped them. In the popular mind, that demonstrable truth has been evaded in favor of a more comforting story of tragedy, failed compromise, and individual gallantry. For that more ennobling narrative, as for so much of American history, the fact of black people is a problem.
In April 1865, the United States was faced with a discomfiting reality: it had seen 2 percent of its population destroyed because a section of its citizenry would countenance anything to protect, and expand, the right to own other people. The mass bloodletting shocked the senses. At the war’s start, Senator James Chesnut Jr. of South Carolina, believing that casualties would be minimal, claimed he would drink all the blood shed in the coming disturbance. Five years later, 620,000 Americans were dead. But the fact that such carnage had been wreaked for a cause that Ulysses S. Grant called “one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse” invited the damnation of history. Honor is salvageable from a military defeat; much less so from an ideological defeat, and especially one so duly earned in defense of slavery in a country premised on liberty.
The "Lost Cause" interpretation of the war Coates discusses — the idea that the war was tragic and avoidable, that slavery was not its root cause, and that the South was a noble loser in the conflict — always brings to mind a short sequence from an episode of "The Simpsons." (Admittedly, this happens to me a lot.) In the 1996 episode Much Apu About Nothing, the city of Springfield is gripped by anti-immigrant panic. To avoid deportation, the Indian-born convenience store clerk Apu Nahasapeemapetilon takes out American citizenship. During the exam portion of his application, the soon to be new American demonstrates his intelligence:
Proctor: All right, here's your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?
Apu: Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter--
Proctor: Wait, wait... just say slavery.
Apu: Slavery it is, sir.
The joke is that an immigrant understands American history with greater depth than a presumably native born official, but I feel Apu's examiner's answer is ultimately the more accurate one. Yes, there were many political disputes between the north and south in the Antebellum period, but the reason the country went to war against itself was that the South considered it proper for one race of citizens to enslave another, and was prepared to secede to maintain a society built on that belief. This, I guess, is an example of the insidious way the Lost Cause has entered into American culture.
As I've learned more and more about the Civil War, I think that's a truth about studying this portion of American history. When you first start out, you think it's all about slavery. As you learn more, you find out that it was about much more than slavery. And, eventually, as your knowledge increases, you figure out that it was actually about slavery after all. If you're doing it right you will, anyway.
14 August 2011
It's been a busy weekend, at least for the Republican Party's presidential contenders. Texas Governor Rick Perry officially announced that he is running for the nomination, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, and after a disappointing third place finish, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has decided to drop out of the race. My pick for picture of the week, above, is not from the Ames Straw Poll, but a snap of a novelty contest at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, where political enthusiasts could indicate their support for each Republican candidate by voting with corn kernels.
- Kevin Drum lists ten reasons Rick Perry won't win:
I'd still advise everyone to take Perry with a few more grains of salt than they have been. It's easy for us urban liberals to just cynically assume that the tea party-ized GOP will nominate whoever's the dumbest, toughest, meanest, godliest sonofabitch in the field, but I'm not so sure. Perry may come out of the gate strong, but he might not wear well once the national spotlight is on him.
- Don't underestimate Rick Perry, warns Erica Grieder:
What does get Perry going is economic issues. His strongest ideological commitment is to small-government conservatism--although he's not pure on that either, because he will engage in some tacit industrial policy if it's a matter of boosting job creation. He is first and foremost a business conservative, and once you understand that about him, everything else makes more sense.
- The Republican Party could win the presidency next year, but lose the House, suggests Jonathan Chait:
The House Republicans seem to be pursuing a strategy that hurts Obama and themselves simultaneously. The wild behavior of the House GOP caucus has dragged down Obama, but dragged the House GOP caucus down much farther. It's almost a suicide mission to help elect a Republican president, though I doubt House Republicans actually see it in those terms.
After the jump: America sucks at building stadia, the stimulus was more effective than thought, and more Rick Perry...
- There's an interesting album about African American success in Jay-Z and Kanye West's new opus Watch the Throne, argues Nitsuh Abebe:
It’s a portrait of two black men thinking through the idea of success in America; what happens when your view of yourself as a suppressed, striving underdog has to give way to the admission that you’ve succeeded about as much as it’s worth bothering with; and how much your victory can really relate to (or feel like it’s on behalf of) your onetime peers who haven’t got a shred of what you’ve won.
- America has lost the will to build great stadiums, laments Peter Richmond:
How can the former architectural capital of the globe (the Chrysler Building; Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim; that black cube balancing on one of its corners down on Astor Place in the East Village, about which two generations of stoners are still wondering whether it really moved when they leaned on it or it was just the weed) erect three buildings so irrelevant in design that they were greeted by a collective, global yawn — when they were greeted at all?
- Highly informative video of the week: Abraham Simpson lectures on American history.
- A number of conservative states are lightening harsh prison sentences, reports the New York Times:
More than a dozen states in recent years have taken steps to reduce the costs to taxpayers of keeping so many criminals locked up. As crime rates have steadily declined to 40-year lows, draining the political potency from crime fears, the fiscal crunch has started to prompt a broad rethinking about alternatives to incarceration.
- Above: the Center for American Progress illustrates that because the recession was deeper than first thought, the stimulus was far more effective than supposed:
Using the most updated data, we can see that in 2009 there is actually about a $544 billion difference between what GDP would have been had it continued to contract as rapidly as it did during the fourth quarter of 2008 and what it actually was. As Holtz-Eakin points out, the total amount of fiscal stimulus during that year was $260 billion. This suggests the Recovery Act produced about $2.10 in economy activity for every $1.00 in spending or tax cuts. That’s a pretty good multiplier.
- Yoni Applebaum suggests progressives look to the early 20th Century for political inspiration:
At the beginning of the last century, the movement from which modern-day progressives take their name capitalized on a crisis of government legitimacy to increase dramatically the scope, scale and responsibilities of government. If progressives wish to recapture popular support, they might reflect on that earlier example.
- Rick Perry's confidence in the death penalty's infallibility is "downright pathological," writes Radley Balko:
In the Hank Skinner case, Perry has actively fought DNA testing that could confirm the innocence (or guilt) of another Texas man on death row. Skinner was at one point hours from execution before the Supreme Court intervened (the intervening justice was Antonin Scalia, believe it or not). In Skinner’s case, the prosecution actually began to conduct DNA testing on crime scene evidence, then stopped when the first tests confirmed Skinner’s version of events.
- Song of the week is New York singer Lana Del Rey's sublimely melodramatic "Video Games," a song far better than Del Rey's self-description of being the "gangsta Nancy Sinatra."
28 July 2011
Jack Balkin has a novel suggestion for what President Barack Obama can do if Congress doesn't pass a debt ceiling increase before the government runs out of funding. He presents it as a brief piece of fiction, complete (naturally) with Joe Biden jokes. Check it out.
"That left one other possibility. We could use coin seigniorage."
"Senior what?" Reid exclaimed.
"Seigniorage. Sovereign governments like the United States can print their own money. We have a system of fiat currency and we've been off the gold standard for many years now. With fiat currency, you issue coins and simply assert that they have a certain value, which may have little to do with the value of the raw materials you use to make them. But as long as people believe that your money is worth something, the system works.
"The difference between the face value of the coin and the cost of the materials it takes to produce it is called seigniorage. So if you create a hundred dollar coin made mostly of copper and nickel, the seignorage is likely to be close to a hundred dollars. That's new monetary value pumped into the system."
Geithner continued: "Now it turns out that under federal law, there's a limit to how much paper money we can have in circulation at any time.
"However, there's no limit to the amount of coinage we can make. There are rules that limit what we can do with gold, silver, copper, and other metals.
I'd been wondering if, absent inflation fears, whether the Treasury had the authority to simply print their way out of the debt ceiling bind. According to Balkin's suggestion, they may not be able to print their way out, but they can mint their way out. The idea is that Treasury would issue a couple of platinum coins worth a trillion dollars each, which would be added to the government coffers, replenishing its funding without requiring further borrowing. Since there's a lot of slack in the economy, it would not result in hyperinflation. Even so, it's a radical proposal that is only preferable to the so-called "Constitutional option" in that its legality is a bit less contentious. Hopefully it won't be necessary.
A word of caution to Obama administration, however. I saw an episode of "The Simpsons" where they did something similar, though in that case it the currency in question was a trillion dollar note. Wealthy industrialist C. Montgomery Burns swiped the note and fled with it to Cuba. So, y'know: be sure to keep it out of the hands of cold-hearted billionaires.
27 May 2011
I'll admit to being surprised that Sarah Palin appears to be laying the groundwork for a 2012 run. Those steps include commissioning a feature length film about her political career, which will open in the early-primary state of Iowa next month, and quietly buying a house in the suburbs of Pheonix, Arizona. (The latter is probably not an attempt to conjure a metaphor grounded in classical mythology.)
I had thought Palin would be acquainted enough with the huge obstacles standing in the way of her gaining the Republican nomination — her lack of credibility on policy issues, her unpopularity with independents, and her rapidly diminishing standing among Republicans — that she would have stuck with her current lucrative and influential career as a Fox News commenter. With her Political Action Committee and admiring base, she seemed to command a level of behind-the-scenes power that a failed Presidential campaign could only diminish.
These stories could just be the kind of idle speculation that occurs in every fallow period of a long-term race. If not, I'll reaffirm my belief that Sarah Palin is very unlikely to win the GOP nomination or the Presidency, for the basic reason that she fails what I call the Homer Simpson test: There's a whole system set up to prevent people like her from becoming President. Candidates like Palin attract a lot of attention, but when it comes down to it, there are enough sober minds to reinject sense into a race.
If, however, you don't share my confidence, calm your fears with Joshua Green's profile on the Sarah Palin that might have been:
As governor, Palin demonstrated many of the qualities we expect in our best leaders. She set aside private concerns for the greater good, forgoing a focus on social issues to confront the great problem plaguing Alaska, its corrupt oil-and-gas politics. She did this in a way that seems wildly out of character today — by cooperating with Democrats and moderate Republicans to raise taxes on Big Business. And she succeeded to a remarkable extent in settling, at least for a time, what had seemed insoluble problems, in the process putting Alaska on a trajectory to financial well-being. Since 2008, Sarah Palin has influenced her party, and the tenor of its politics, perhaps more than any other Republican, but in a way that is almost the antithesis of what she did in Alaska. Had she stayed true to her record, she might have pointed her party in a very different direction.
4 May 2011
America's killing of Osama Bin Laden has rather overshadowed the White House Correspondents' Dinner that was held Saturday night, which is how it should be. Obama's address was quite amusing, but it was a diversion; the stuff of D.C. gossip, not the actual business of the town. Even so, Mike Barthel has some smart analysis:
Obama's Trump zingers, the most-noticed remarks of the night, contained one example: In addition to comparing doubts about Obama's citizenship to doubts about the moon landing and Roswell, Obama also urged Trump to continue asking, "Where are Biggie and Tupac?" The former are what you might call "retro" conspiracy theories, while the latter is a modern-day example of the paranoid style, in line with not only birthers and truthers but "Courtney killed Kurt" true-believers. Younger audience members know about it, although their parents were probably confused by it. But there was also the Biden-centric parody of The King's Speech. "Wacky Uncle Joe" is already an Internet meme, and Saturday night's video used a clip from ODB's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" to emphasize Biden's rawness. I love my parents, but they are just not going to get why it's hilarious to think of Joe Biden as ODB ... all of these references serve to make young people previously disconnected from politics feel like they are part of the national identity.
This isn't something new from Obama — it dates back at least to his brushing his shoulders off moment — but it's an important part of his public identity. Making sly reference to popular rappers alone doesn't convince young people Obama is a good guy, but it does signal that he is a politician who occupies the same cultural territory as they do, in much the same way Sarah Palin's talk of lipstick, pitbulls and hockey moms does for a different constituency.
This approach to politics is often disdained as being a distraction from the issues, but that point of view has little understanding of the voter's task. Yes, a voter should know if a politician's policies work against that voter's interests, but judgements of politicians must frequently be more nuanced. People are busy and politics is complicated, and culture can be a useful heueristic to reduce the time-consuming work of understanding complex problems and the policies that might solve them. So too are other heueristics voters use, such as party identification, media endorsements, or elite signalling. Culture is a way for politicians to tell voters that they speak their language. This isn't a guarantee that a voter will reward that with a vote, but it's much easier for a voter to believe a politician is interested in representing her and her interests if that politician can demonstrate he shares a common outlook on the world with the voter. Often, that includes style as well; in the link above, Mike identifies a "kind of triumphant swagger" in Obama's style that resonates with younger voters — and that references to hip-hop help conjure that swagger.
So does partnering Joe Biden with a song about the pleasures of unprotected sex really make young voters think Obama is a good president? Of course not, but politicians have always sprinkled their speeches with reference to pop culture. It's just that usually, that pop culture belongs to an older, whiter audience, and as such doesn't seem so unusual. (What was notable about George H.W. Bush's quip that America needs more families like the Waltons and fewer like the Simpsons was that he was talking about something on TV at the time, not something from the '60s.) Obama's politics is one that welcomes people who are more likely to recognize an Ol' Dirty Bastard song than know what kind of family the Waltons were.
15 April 2011
Nate Silver makes a good point:
[Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney] are playing it by the book, hiring staff and developing campaign infrastructures. They get more attention in the mainstream media than in the blogosphere. They are perceived as being electable and holding some reasonable appeal to independent voters.
Those five contenders for the Republican presidential ticket are what Silver calls the "Fairfax Five." I've been to Fairfax, VA once. It's a long Metro ride outside of D.C., the houses are enormous, the streets are hostile to pedestrians, and you generally don't feel like you belong there if you're not earning at least six figures courtesy of a government contract or political party connection. Silver's Fairfax Five are well-connected insiders who know how to play the game.
Silver also mentions a handful of candidates whom he calls the "Factional Five." That's Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, and Donald Trump. They appeal to the base, but they don't get a lot of respect from the mainstream media. They don't get a lot of respect from me, either.
In previewing the Republican primary race, I haven't been paying much attention to the Factional Five. Perhaps this is me exhibiting an elite-perspective blind spot, and I've been trying to prevent myself from falling into that trap. If any of these candidates do something properly worthy of discussion, I'd like to think I'll discuss it, even if they might seem outside what I consider the political mainstream. However, I'm not going to get bogged down in the trivialities of candidates who are running to increase their influence or their notoriety rather than to genuinely secure the nomination. The prospect of a President Trump or President Palin is an alarming one, but it's not something I see as very likely.
There's an episode from season six of "The Simpsons" in which a young Homer sees Jack Kennedy on TV. Homer's mother suggests to her husband that their son might grow up to be President. Grampa, however, scoffs at the idea. "You, President?" he sneers. "This is the greatest country in the world. We've got a whole system set up to prevent people like you from becoming President."
I think Grampa Simpson had it right. As much as the American system is designed to give members of a party base the power to choose its nominees, there is so much vetting involved that if the party insiders in Fairfax genuinely don't want someone to be a nominee, they won't be.
Silver suggests looking at candidates like Mike Huckabee, who don't belong to either the Fairfax or Factional Fives. Huckabee still seems a long shot at the nomination, but it's folks like him that will win the nomination if it's not one of the party favourites. Donald Trump is there to make Democrats nervous, make the far right excited, and to gin up interest in Donald Trump. He won't get anywhere near political office though.
Now let's hope I don't have to eat those words.
21 December 2010
In my new quest to relate all events in America to Matt Groening cartoons, I'd like to commend the Senate for its actions this weekend. Thanks to the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the armed forces will soon cease discriminating against gay Americans, America will move just a bit closer to being a country where all men truly are created equal, and this joke from the Simpsons will no longer make any sense:
Skinner: Er, one question remains: how do I get out of the army?
Bart: No problemo. Just make a pass at your commanding officer!
Skinner: Done and done!
20 July 2010
In the words of Springfield Mayor Diamond Joe Quimby: "If that is the way the winds are blowing, let no one say I don't also blow."
Jonathan Chait says he has "a soft spot for bluntly transactional politicians," like Mitt Romney or Charlie Crist, who shamelessly reconfigure their political viewpoints to suit their ambitions. Crist, the Republican Governor of Florida, is running as an independent for the state's Senate seat this November, and since severing ties with his party, he has veered left on issues like abortion, health care reform, and education, and has admitted the shift is partly for reasons of political expedience. Chait explains his new-found affection for Crist's pragmatism:
I think it actually takes real guts to admit something like this. There's no such thing is a non-opportunistic politician. Even a genuine ideological fanatic like Rand Paul is feverishly trimming his sails. For a pol to just come out and admit the obvious is refreshing.
I have some sympathy for this view. Those of us who spend a lot of time thinking, writing, or reading about politics develop a good understanding of how much theatre is involved in lawmaking, and when a politician comes along, winks at us, and acknowledges the game-playing involved in the business of politics, we find it refreshing. "Finally!" we think. "Someone in government prepared to treat us like adults!" But voters tend not to have such a positive view of these wry cynics, and understandably so.
While campaigning, politicians make a lot of promises, and while these are often useful insights into the visions these candidates hold for the nation, promises and policies alone are not particularly helpful when it comes to working out how a politician will govern. First, whether president or mayor, senator or city council member, no one in government acts alone. A promise made on the hustings will always be modified as it makes its way into law. And secondly, as politicians govern they will be asked to confront problems that may not even have existed during their campaign for office. If Crist is elected to the Senate, he will be voting on legislation until January 3, 2017. Who knows what bills he'll be asked to give his yea or nay to six years from now?
Far more useful for voters are indications as to how a candidate thinks, and whether he or she can be trusted to keep thinking that way. If a Floridian awards a vote to Charlie Crist because of his stance on, say, education policy, that voter probably wants to know that Crist won't decide to completely reverse his opinions a few years later because the political winds have shifted.
That's why it was so damaging to John Kerry when he got pegged as a flip-flopper in the 2004 campaign, or why Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter found himself wanted by neither party after he switched affiliation from Republican to Democrat last year. It's why Mitt Romney failed to gain much traction in his Presidential bid in 2008, and why, ever since he began shifting rightward during the '08 campaign, John McCain has lost much of his lustre. Mercenary tactics are often necessary in politics, but a politician who seems to hold no firm beliefs will soon end up out of office.
That said, voters also understand that politics is a game. It's just that they don't like the game. This creates a cruel paradox, because the political process requires a lot of game-playing; it's how democracy works and how stuff gets done*. The most successful politicians are those who acknowledge the game, shake their head at the cravenness of it all, and then, rather than disavow it, get up to their elbows in it. A neat illustration of this? Try Barack Obama, as observed in Ryan Lizza's 2008 New Yorker profile of the then yet-to-be-elected President:
E. J. Dionne, Jr., of the Washington Post ... wrote about a young Barack Obama, who artfully explained how the new pinstripe patronage worked: a politician rewards the law firms, developers, and brokerage houses with contracts, and in return they pay for the new ad campaigns necessary for reëlection. “They do well, and you get a $5 million to $10 million war chest,” Obama told Dionne. It was a classic Obamaism: superficially critical of some unseemly aspect of the political process without necessarily forswearing the practice itself. Obama was learning that one of the greatest skills a politician can possess is candor about the dirty work it takes to get and stay elected.
That's not to say all Machiavellian political manoeuvres should be tolerated. But an effective politician is one who voters think they know inside and out, but is still able to shift when the winds tell them to.
*For an interesting, lengthy and somewhat whimsical exploration of this, I recommend Mike Barthel's Politics is a Unicorn series.
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- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Australian and American Perspectives
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Welcome
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Cocktail Reception
- Bob Hawke: Reflections on the Australia-United States Alliance
- Washington DC Internship Program
- American Grace: How religion divides and unites America
- John Howard: Reflections on the Australia-United States Alliance
- Soil Carbon Stakeholder Workshop
- Reception for US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
- City of the Future
- The Midterm Referendum on Obama
- Welcome reception for United States Consul General
- Jack Miles at the Centre for Independent Studies
- Waiting for the Preacher: Obama’s America in World Religious Context
- The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris
- Intelligence reform in the United States
- Book Launch: Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War, 1861-1865
- Ethical supply chains: An executive roundtable
- Jeffrey Schott: Trade policy in the Obama administration and the outlook for Asia- Pacific economic integration
- Race in America, race in Australia: A public forum featuring Glenn Loury, Waleed Aly and Bob Carr
- Workshop on Inequality
- China-US relations: Partners or rivals
- Mark Tushnet: Current issues and controversies in the US
- Gail Fosler: What the financial crisis tells us about ourselves - A US perspective on economic and governance challenges
- Jonathan Greenblatt delivers lecture to undergraduate students
- Peter Katzenstein: Why the clash of civilizations is wrong
- Henry Cisneros on housing and sustainability
- James Hansen: What Australia should do about climate change
- War correspondent Mark Danner in conversation with Geoffrey Garrett
- Launch of the Dow Sustainability Program
- Sustainable supply chains
- David Brady: The Obama Presidency and the outlook for the coming year
- US Ambassador meets students at the US Studies Centre
- US Business Leadership Forum with Rupert Murdoch
- Celebrating the launch of American Review
- One year of Obama: A discussion with James Fallows, Paul Kelly, Robert Hill and Geoffrey Garrett
- James Fallows: One year of Obama
- Obama: One year in the making
- Meeting of the US Studies Centre Council of Advisors
- Costello discusses post-GFC financial reform
- Jim Johnson: How is Obama responding to the financial crisis?
- Jim Johnson seminar with US Studies students
- US Politics in the Pub: The rebirth of the Republican right?
- Dennis Richardson discusses the state of Australia-US relations
- "US in the World" High school lecture
- 2009 National Summit: Dinner
- 2009 National Summit: John Micklethwait Keynote Speech
- 2009 National Summit: Human health and sustainability - What are the challenges for globalisation?
- 2009 National Summit: Expert Sessions 2
- 2009 National Summit: Business solves poverty - The new approach to corporate social responsibility
- 2009 National Summit: Corporate social responsibility - How should business behave in the GFC?
- 2009 National Summit: Climate change and energy security - Looking towards the Copenhagen Conference
- 2009 National Summit: Breakfast
- 2009 National Summit: Public Forum
- 2009 National Summit: Expert Sessions 1
- 2009 National Summit: Labour and human rights - Can we afford them in a global financial crisis?
- 2009 National Summit: Malcolm Turnbull Keynote Speech
- 2009 National Summit: Governing the global economy - Economic nationalism vs. Bretton Woods 2.0
- 2009 National Summit: Obama's America - Globalisation headaches and protectionist impulses
- 2009 National Summit: Peter Garrett Opening Address
- 2009 National Summit: Welcome Address
- 2009 National Summit: Welcome Reception
- 2009 National Summit: Masterclass
- Thomas Mann: The Obama Administration and its Outlook on the Asia Pacific
- Thomas Mann: The First 100 Days of the Obama Administration
- Robert Burgelman: Leading Strategically in a Turbulent Environment
- Robert Thomson: The Obama Administration and the Actions Shaping the Global Financial Crisis
- Barry Jackson: Evaluating the Obama Stimulus Package
- The Great American Recession: What Does It Mean For You?
- Edward Leamer: The Financial Crisis and the Outlook for the US
- Inauguration Watch: Manning Bar
- Inauguration Watch: Breakfast
- Harry Harding: China in the 21st Century and Policy Implications for Australia, the US and the World
- Christmas Function
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- The President-Elect: What Can We Expect?
- David Brady: The US Under the New President
- Election Day Spectacular
- Michael Parks and Simon Jackman: America at the Crossroads
- 'US in the World' High School Lecture
- Foreign Policy of Obama and McCain: Which is Australia's Gain?
- Mike Chinoy: Global Crisis Points - The War on Terror, Loose Nukes and American Foreign Policy
- James Gibbons: Replicating Silicon Valley - Lessons for Australia
- Vice Presidential Debate Screening
- Visit by the Australian Political Exchange Council’s 25th US Delegation
- Derek Shearer: Obama v McCain - Who Will Win, Does it Matter?
- John Howard Dinner
- McCain's Acceptance Speech: Republican National Convention
- New Horizons: Breaking into the US market
- Sydney Uni Live!
- Obama's Acceptance Speech: Democratic National Convention
- Hedley Bull Book Launch: Address by Bob Hawke
- Great White Fleet Centenary Ball
- Dick McCormack: Global Financial Risk and the Role of Central Banks and Regulators
- Jonathan Pollack: US-North Asia Relations
- Jeffrey Sachs Dinner
- ANZASA Conference
- Peter Scher: Will US Trade Policy Change After the 2008 Elections?
- Peter Scher: The Next President's Challenge - Global Trade and the 2008 Elections
- Matt Bai: US Political Journalism - The Next Generation
- Bob Pisano: Positioning Australian Screen Content in the US Marketplace
- Marvin Goodfriend: The Outlook for the US Economy and the State of the Financial Institutions
- American Foreign Policy After Bush: Frank Fukuyama in Conversation with Geoffrey Garrett
- Frank Fukuyama Meets US Studies Students
- Frank Fukuyama: Contemporary Issues Facing America
- Super Tuesday screening at the Manning Bar
- 2007 National Summit: Public Forum
- 2007 National Summit: Networking and Research Forum
- 2007 National Summit: America Then, America Now
- 2007 National Summit: Climate Change or Islamofascism
- 2007 National Summit: Dinner
- 2007 National Summit: How Countries Compete
- 2007 National Summit: Will the Next US Foreign Policy Look Surprisingly Like the Current One?
- 2007 National Opinion Survey: Australian Attitudes Towards the US (Part 2)
- 2007 National Summit: Opening
- 2007 National Summit: Welcome Reception
- Role of Arts and Humanities in Building International Understanding: Harriet Mayor Fulbright
- 2007 National Opinion Survey: Australian Attitudes Towards the US (Part 1)
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