Archive for October 22nd, 2008

My Obama Minute: Sending a Message

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Most of you have probably heard by now about the comments of GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is running for reelection to her House seat in Minnesota. After suggesting that Obama has “anti-American views” she said:

“I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America. I would love to see an exposé like that.”

Thing is, it’s not 1950 anymore. The House Un-American Activities Committee is in the dustbin of history, where it belongs. Americans, by and large, are sick and tired of Republican scare, divide, and conquer tactics. The folks I know back in Jersey don’t tend to respond well when Gov. Palin, the GOP’s pick for the future, says in North Carolina that she likes visiting the “real America,” praising the “pro-America areas of this great nation.”

(Palin apologized last night in a CNN interview, saying she didn’t intend to suggest other parts of the country were less patriotic or less American. “You know,” she said, “when I go to these rallies and we see the patriotism just shining through these people’s faces and the Vietnam veterans wearing their hats so proudly and they have tears in their eyes as we sing our national anthem and it is so inspiring and I say that this is true America, you get it.” She added: “I certainly don’t want that interpreted as one area being more patriotic or more American than another. If that’s the way it has come across, I apologize.” Honestly,  no, Gov. Palin — I don’t get it. At the rallies, you were clearly using patriotism as a wedge — between people, between voters, between red states and blue states — and I judge your apology last night to be further obfuscation and incomplete, at best.)

But I digress.

Bachmann had been on a glide-path to relection. As the Washington Post reports, after her McCarthy-esque comments, her little known opponent  Elwyn Tinklenberg raised $1 million:

The backlash from Bachmann’s remarks gave Tinklenberg enough donations to quadruple his television advertising, prompted the nonpartisan Cook Political Report to flip its take on the race from “likely Republican” to “tossup” and inspired a Republican who lost to Bachmann in the party’s primary to launch a write-in campaign.

My wife and I felt it was important to join this effort to kick Bachmann out of the halls of Congress. We gave a donation to Tinklenberg this morning. You can too, by clicking here.

And we didn’t stop there.

Because in North Carolina, Republican Robin Hayes riled up a crowd Saturday by channeling Bachmann, saying, “”liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.”

Ahhhh, he finally said it. Not only am I myself lazy, Godless, and treasonous, but I hate all those on the other side of that line.

Of course, moments later, he denied ever saying it. And when a reporter quoted him, he kept right on denying it. (Check out this incredible string of updates from Politico’s The Crypt.) In fact, he denied it right up until the point in time when an audiotape surfaced, confirming that he’d said exactly what he was quoted as saying. When that happened, he suddenly claimed that he was perplexed that it had come out of his mouth, because he’d actually been “trying to work to keep the crowd as respectful as possible.”

That climb-down is almost Palin-esqe.

What happens to these Republicans when they get in front of the mic that they say things apparently diametrically opposed to what they really believe? Are they not aware that people now have video recorders on their cell phones? Do they really have the hubris to spew division in one breath, and deny their very words in the next? Do they not recognize the damage they cause?

Words create worlds. It’s in the Torah. Once uttered, words can’t just be put magically put back in a bottle.

Which is why my wife and I this morning made a small donation to Larry Kissell, Hayes’ challenger. And as the Post reports:

Kissell is making his second run at Hayes after coming within 329 votes of unseating the veteran lawmaker in 2006. This time, Kissell is better funded, as the national Democratic Party is putting more than $1 million into his race.

You can help, too, by clicking here.

Inspired, I decided to go for a trifecta.

I’m sure you all remember what happened to Georgia Sen. Max Cleland. Here’s a refresher, from the NY Times:

Six years ago, Democratic Senator Max Cleland was defeated by Republican Saxby Chambliss, who ran ads accusing Mr. Cleland of not being patriotic enough and of being soft on Osama Bin Laden.

The thing is, Mr. Cleland is a decorated Vietnam veteran, who lost an arm and two legs fighting for his country …

It was dirty politics at its dirtiest. Mr. Cleland, who gets around with the help of a wheelchair, struggled mightily every day with his war wounds. When he was campaigning and making television appearances, it took him an hour and a half to get dressed. But his injuries did not stop the ads — or some of Mr. Chambliss’s supporters from saying even worse.

After his loss in 2002, Mr. Cleland said he underwent treatment for depression.

Well, Saxby’s back on the campaign trail in what used to be the solidly Republican Georgia, asking for people’s vote. He’s again running harsh attack ads. But his opponent Jim Martin, ala Obama, is fighting back. And this time, Georgia voters are telling Chambliss, Not so fast. As the Times reports:

Until recently, nobody thought State Representative Jim Martin, Senator Chambliss’s Democratic opponent, could raise much of a challenge. Mr. Martin is not a flashy guy. He has the demeanor of a deacon, a far cry from Georgia’s history of Talmadges and other flamboyant politicians.

But polls have started to show Georgians almost split on this race (some are even suggesting that Mr. Martin is ahead). And the national Democratic Party has moved money in over the last few weeks.

We gave a small donation to Martin this morning, to let him know we’re pulling for him in Akron, Ohio. (You can too, by clicking here.)

Something’s happening. It’s happening all across the country.  The kinds of jingoistic attacks that seem encoded in the GOP DNA — attacks that instilled fear in my heart four years ago — are backfiring, from Georgia, to North Carolina, to Minnesota, to the places in between.

Something’s happening, and it has to do with the fact that we are, at last, sick and tired of being told who is different from us and why we should hate and mistrust them.

Something’s happening. And I think it’s safe to say that whatever it is, exactly, it gathered steam four years ago, when Barack Obama stood up at the DNC, looked over the dais, straight into millions of living rooms across the nation, and said:

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too:

We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States.

We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?

Yes, we do.