Thursday, May 01, 2008


Simple Answers to Simple Questions

by Atrios

Regarding the resignation of Lurita Doan, Karen Tumulty asks:

What took so long?

Answer here.

This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Obama hits back on Gas Tax gimmick in New Ad


Clinton Supporters using Republican Tactics to keep blacks from voting in North Carolina. Seriously Hillary, just join the Republican Party already.

FACING SOUTH EXCLUSIVE: D.C. nonprofit aimed at women voters behind deceptive N.C. robo-calls Chris Kromm
Facing South

Who's behind the mysterious "robo-calls" that have spread misleading voter information and sown confusion and frustration among North Carolina residents over the last week?

Facing South has confirmed the source of the calls, and the mastermind is Women's Voices Women Vote, a D.C.-based nonprofit which aims to boost voting among "unmarried women voters."

What's more, Facing South has learned that the firestorm Women's Voices has ignited in North Carolina isn't the group's first brush with controversy. Women's Voices' questionable tactics have spawned thousands of voter complaints in at least 11 states and brought harsh condemnation from some election officials for their secrecy, misleading nature and likely violations of election law.

First, a quick recap: As we covered yesterday, N.C. residents have reported receiving peculiar automated calls from someone claiming to be "Lamont Williams." The caller says that a "voter registration packet" is coming in the mail, and the recipient can sign it and mail it back to be registered to vote. No other information is provided.

The call is deceptive because the deadline has already passed for mail-in registrations for North Carolina's May 6 primary. Also, many who have received the calls -- like Kevin Farmer in Durham, who made a tape of the call that is available here -- are already registered. The call's suggestion that they're not registered has caused widespread confusion and drawn hundreds of complaints, including many from African-American voters who received the calls.

The calls are also probably illegal. Farmer and others have told Facing South the calls use a blocked phone number and provided no contact information -- a violation of North Carolina rules regulating "robo-calls" (N.C. General Statute 163-104(b)(1)c). N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper further stated in a recent memo that the identifying information must be clear enough to allow the recipient to "complain or seek redress" -- something not included in the calls.

It is also a Class I felony in North Carolina "to misrepresent the law to the public through mass mailing or any other means of communication where the intent and the effect is to intimidate or discourage potential voters from exercising their lawful right to vote."

The calls have been denounced by the N.C. State Board of Elections, as well as by voter advocacy groups including Democracy North Carolina, which called them "another in a long line of deceptive practices used in North Carolina and elsewhere that particularly target African-American voters."

Yesterday, I placed a call to the Virginia State Police, which had investigated similar suspicious robo-calls before that Virginia's primaries last February. Their investigation concluded that the source of the calls was Women's Voices Women Vote.

Facing South then contacted Women's Voices, and staffer Sarah Johnson confirmed they were doing similar robo-calls in North Carolina; they later admitted that they were the ones behind the deceptive "Lamont Williams" calls.

So who is Women's Voices Women Vote, and why are they making shadowy and legally-questionable calls that are causing North Carolina voters so many headaches?

The D.C.-based nonprofit, led by well-connected Washington operatives, claims in a press release they sent to Facing South [PDF] that the North Carolina calls are part of a 24-state effort targeted at a list of 3 million voters, especially unmarried women. The robo-calls, which never mention Women's Voices, are followed by mailings that include information on how to register to vote. They plan to mail some 276,000 packets in North Carolina alone.

But since last November, in at least 11 states nationwide, Women's Voices -- sometimes working through its Voter Participation Center project -- has developed a checkered reputation, drawing rebukes from leading election officials and complaints from thousands of would-be voters as a result of their secretive tactics, deceptive mailings and calls, and penchant for skirting or violating the law. For example:

* In Arizona last November, election officials were "inundated with complaints" after Women's Voices sent a mailing erroneously claiming that recipients were "required" to mail back an enclosed voter registration form. Many who received the mailing were already registered; the mailing also gave the wrong registration date. Secretary of State Jan Brewer denounced the group's tactics as "misleading and deceptive." A similar mailing in Colorado that month "[drew] fire and caused confusion," according to a state press release.

* In Wisconsin, state officials singled out Women's Voices for misleading and possibly disenfranchising voters, stating in a press release [PDF]: "One group in particular -- Women's Voices. Women Vote, of Washington, D.C. -- apparently ignored or disregarded state deadlines in seeking to register voters," sending in registrations past the January 30 deadline and causing "hundreds of Wisconsin voters who think they registered in advance" to actually not be.

* Michigan officials ended up "fielding tons of calls from confused voters" after Women's Voices did a February mailing to "380,000 unmarried women" -- including numerous deceased voters and even more that were already registered. Sarah Johnson of Women's Voices "seemed confused by the confusion," the Lansing State Journal reported.

* A 1.5 million-piece Women's Voices mailing in Florida falsely stated: "To comply with state voting requirements, please return the enclosed application." Pasco County's elections supervisor called it "disingenuous"; another said it created "a lot of unnecessary panic on behalf of the voters," reported local newspapers. Sarah Johnson of Women's Voice said, "I'm sorry to hear that."

* By March, Women's Voices was backing off the erroneous "registration is required" language, but there were still problems. For example, a mailing in Arkansas allowed that "registering to vote is voluntary," but a clerk in Washington County reported that "the majority [of forms] sent back to the county come from registered voters, causing needless labor for office employees."

Problems with the group's tactics have also been documented in Louisiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

In each state, the Women's Voices campaigns have brought the same news and the same themes, again and again: Deceptive claims and misrepresentations of the law -- sometimes even breaking the law. Wildly inaccurate mailing lists, supposedly aimed at "unregistered single women," but in reality reaching many registered voters as well as families, deceased persons and pets. Tactics that confuse voters and potentially disenfranchise them.

For such a sophisticated and well-funded operation, which counts among its ranks some of the country's most seasoned political operatives, such missteps are peculiar, as is the surprise expressed by Women's Voices staff after each controversy.

In correspondence with North Carolina election officials, Women's Voices founder and President Page Gardner merely said that the disruptive timing was an "unfortunate coincidence" -- a strange alibi for a group with their level of resources and sophistication.

Some have also questioned the ties between Women's Voices operatives and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton. Gardner, for example, contributed $2,500 to Clinton's HILLPAC on May 4, 2006, and in March 2005 she donated a total of $4,200 to Clinton, according to The Center for Responsive Politics' She has not contributed to the Obama campaign, according to the database.

Women's Voices Executive Director Joe Goode worked for Bill Clinton's election campaign in 1992 as a pollster; the group's website says he was intimately involved in "development and implementation of all polling and focus groups done for the presidential primary and general election campaigns" for Clinton.

Women's Voices board member John Podesta, former Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton, donated $2,300 to Hillary Clinton on April 19, 2007, according to Podesta also donated $1,000 to Barack Obama in July 2004, but that was well before Obama announced his candidacy for president.

In at least two states, the timing of Women's Voices' activities have raised alarm that they are attempting to influence the outcome of a primary. As we reported earlier, in Virginia, news reports surfaced the first week in February that prospective voters were receiving anonymous robo-calls telling voters that they were about to receive a voter registration packet in the mail.

The timing of the calls was astoundingly off: As the Virginia State Police confirm, the calls were made Feb. 5 and 6 -- about 10 days before the then-critical Virginia primary, but more than two weeks after the deadline for registering in the state had passed (Jan. 14). The Virginia State Board of Elections was deluged with calls by confused voters -- many who were already registered. When they heard the calls from Women's Voices, they feared that they really weren't.

Because of the horrible timing and their secretive nature, state officials assumed the calls and mailings were part of an identity theft scheme. When the Virginia State Police investigated, they found Women's Voices was behind them. Women's Voices was unapologetic after the controversy, merely issuing a boilerplate press release trumpeting the success of the program.

Now Women's Voices is plunging North Carolina into the same confusion. State officials tell Facing South they are still receiving calls from frustrated and confused voters, wondering why "Lamont Williams" is offering to send them a "voter registration packet" after the deadline for mail-in registration for the primaries has passed.

There are other questions about Women's Voices' outreach efforts. Although the group purports to be targeting "unmarried women," their calls and mailings don't fit the profile. Kevin Farmer in Durham, who first recorded the call, is a white male. Many of the recipients are African-American; Rev. Nelson Johnson, who is a married, male and African-American, reported that his house was called four times by the mysterious "Lamont Williams."

And as Farmer asks, "Why are they using a guy for the calls if the target audience is single women?"

"The reports from other states are very disturbing, especially the pattern of mass confusion among targeted voters on the eve of a state's primary," Democracy North Carolina's Bob Hall tells Facing South. "These are highly skilled political operatives -- something doesn't add up. Maybe it's all well-intended and explainable. At this moment, our first priority is to stop the robo-calls and prevent the chaos and potential disenfranchisement caused by this group sending 276,000 packets of registration forms into North Carolina a few days before a heated primary election. We need their immediate cooperation."

While Hall says his group has "begged" the group to stop the mailings, Women's Voices has refused to do so -- even though the mail-in voter registration deadline for the primaries passed April 11.

State election officials say they are bracing for the deluge of confused phone calls and complaints that are sure to follow.

[UPDATE: Bob Hall tells us that Women's Voices is now cooperating and trying to stop the North Carolina mailing. The mailing has apparently left the mail house but there’s still a chance it can be stopped before it gets into the mail system.]


With Democrats like these... who needs enemies? Clinton supporters continue to play dirty politics.

Was Jeremiah Wright's speech set up by a Clinton supporter?

Well, here's a most interesting connection we just came across.

Everybody is talking today about how much the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's latest unrepentant militant remarks hurt his most prominent parishoner, Sen. Barack Obama, and his chances to win the Democratic presidential nomination and the general election. So much so that the Obama camp realized the latent danger overnight and the candidate was forced to speak out publicly a second time today, as The Ticket noted here earlier today.

There was little doubt left in today's remarks by Obama, who recently said he could no more disown Wright than he could the black community. He pretty much disowned Wright today. Obama described himself as "outraged" and "saddened" by "the spectacle of what we saw yesterday."

But now, it turns out, we should have been paying a little less attention to Wright's speech and the histrionics of his ensuing news conference and taken a peek at....

who was sitting next to him at the head table for the National Press Club event.

It was the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, a former editorial board member of USA Today who teaches at the Howard University School of Divinity. An ordained minister, as New York DailThe Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright at the head table of the National Press Club event Monday which Reynolds helped arrangey News writer Errol Louis points out in today's column, she was introduced at the press club event as the person "who organized" it.

But guess what? She's also an ardent longtime booster of Obama's sole remaining competitor for the Democratic nomination, none other than Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. It won't take very much at all for Obama supporters to see in Wright's carefully arranged Washington event that was so damaging to Obama the strategic, nefarious manipulation of the Clintons.

Their supporter, Reynolds, helps arrange a speech by the outspoken and egocentric Wright which receives blanket national coverage to the disadvantage of Clinton's opponent. As Louis writes: "The Rev. Jeremiah Wright couldn't have done more damage to Barack Obama's campaign if he had tried. And you have to wonder if that's just what one friend of Wright wanted."

Reynolds has not returned e-mails or phone calls seeking comment, but Louis notes the obvious conflict between her political allegiance and her press club arrangements. He quotes a February blog entry of Reynolds saying, "My vote for Hillary in the Maryland primary was my way of saying thank you" to Clinton and her husband for his administration's successes.

In another entry, Reynolds notes critically of Obama, "It is a sad testimony that to protect his credentials as a unifier above the fray, the senator is fueling the media characterization that Rev. Dr. Wright is some retiring old uncle in the church basement."

Louis notes himself about the Wright appearance: "It's hard to exaggerate how bad the actual news conference was. Wright, steeped in an honorable, fiery tradition of Bible-based social criticism, cheapened his arguments and his movement by mugging for the cameras, rolling his eyes, heaping scorn on his critics and acting as if nobody in the room was learned enough to ask him a question."

(UPDATE: Sylvia Smith, the press club president, confirmed today that Reynolds is on the club's speakers committee. She told Michael Calderone on that she still doesn't know whom Reynolds supports for president, adding, "Rev. Wright is newsworthy, period.")

--Andrew Malcolm


Why I don't watch the "liberal media." Brian Williams is a Putz.

Brian Williams nominates Peggy Noonan for a Pulitzer Prize

(Updated below - Update II - Update III - Update IV - Update V - Update VI)

One of the greatest benefits of the proliferation of blogging is that its unedited, less restrained format tends to unmask people. Unbenownst to most of the world, NBC News anchor Brian Williams maintains a blog, and his one entry from yesterday reveals more about him than all of the profiles and cover stories combined.

Williams -- in a rant that would make Rush Limbaugh proud -- devotes his first six paragraphs to bashing the New York Times (h/t ck). He begins by taking note of the superb Op-Ed by Elizabeth Edwards in this Sunday's NYT "bemoaning the lack of serious, in-depth coverage of the political race" (headline: "Bowling 1, Health Care 0") -- in which Edwards, to the apparent chagrin of Brian Williams, highlights how our establishment media's election coverage is obsessed with empty trivialities at the expense of substantive coverage. Williams snidely noted that "the New York Times Sunday (and weekday) circulation is down" and then spent multiple paragraphs mocking the Sunday edition's articles ("it's tough to figure out exactly what readers the paper is speaking to, or seeking").

But after that, the NBC anchor pronounced:

On the other hand, one sparkling piece of journalism (which touched on a lot of themes frequent readers of this space will recognize) was by Peggy Noonan in this weekend's Wall Street Journal. Curl up with this one and give it the quality time it deserves. I'll say it again: Peggy is doing the work of her career and must be considered an early favorite for next cycle's Pulitzer for commentary.
Let's take a look at the specific Noonan WSJ column that Williams -- a leading figure in America's Liberal Media -- singled out as an example of brilliant and inspiring commentary. Written before the latest media outbreak of Jeremiah-Wright-Fever, it features such insightful, innovative gems as this:
Main thought. Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama's problem. America is Mr. Obama's problem. He has been tagged as a snooty lefty, as the glamorous, ambivalent candidate from Men's Vogue, the candidate who loves America because of the great progress it has made in terms of racial fairness. Fine, good. But has he ever gotten misty-eyed over . . . the Wright Brothers and what kind of country allowed them to go off on their own and change everything? How about D-Day, or George Washington, or Henry Ford, or the losers and brigands who flocked to Sutter's Mill, who pushed their way west because there was gold in them thar hills? There's gold in that history.

John McCain carries it in his bones. Mr. McCain learned it in school, in the Naval Academy, and, literally, at grandpa's knee. Mrs. Clinton learned at least its importance in her long slog through Arkansas, circa 1977-92.

Mr. Obama? What does he think about all that history? Which is another way of saying: What does he think of America? That's why people talk about the flag pin absent from the lapel. They wonder if it means something. Not that the presence of the pin proves love of country -- any cynic can wear a pin, and many cynics do. But what about Obama and America? Who would have taught him to love it, and what did he learn was loveable, and what does he think about it all?

Another challenge. Snooty lefties get angry when you ask them to talk about these things. They get resentful. Who are you to question my patriotism? But no one is questioning his patriotism, they're questioning its content, its fullness. Gate 14 has a right to hear this. They'd lean forward to hear.

"Gate 14" refers to The People -- the Regular Folk -- Noonan studied like zoo animals the last time she was in an airport ("Gate 14 is small-town America, a mix, a group of people of all classes and races brought together and living in close proximity until the plane is called"). Now she knows what they think. She speaks for them, of course. And what they want to know is whether Barack Obama loves America.

How trite, inane, and McCarthyite is this dreary right-wing pablum -- even for Peggy Noonan? One can barely begin to count the ways (to note just one, FDL's Blue Texan observed the oddity, to put it generously, of Noonan demanding to know whether Obama cries Patriotism Tears when he thinks of Henry Ford, of all people). But Brian Williams, leading news anchor in The Liberal Media, found that specific commentary and the insipid right-wing polemicist who spawned it to be "sparkling," worthy of a Pulitzer, something you should "curl up with" and "give it the quality time it deserves."

Elizabeth Edwards' Op-Ed critiquing our media's vapidity prompts multiple paragraphs of trite NYT bashing. Peggy Noonan's insistence that Barack Obama's love of America is in question among the Gate 14 crowd (in contrast to the Ultimate Patriot John McCain) -- a column that is dumb and disgusting in exactly equal measure -- prompts a Pulitzer nomination from our leading News Anchor and deep praise. That's because we have a Liberal Media.

UPDATE: As several commenters both here and at Williams' own blog have pointed out, it's hardly surprising that Williams would be bashing the Sunday NYT given that, just two weeks ago, it was that paper's edition which revealed that Williams' network continuously fed government propaganda to its viewers by repeatedly featuring the Pentagon's and defense industry's pre-programmed, controlled retired Generals and presenting them as "independent" military analysts.

Williams has been a central part of the media blackout of that story. Not only did NBC News refuses to comment on the story, but Williams himself has not even mentioned it once, nor has anyone on his entire network (including, with the exception of a brief reference from Keith Olbermann, MSNBC). So his viewers have absolutely no idea that a major expose revealed that the sources used by NBC News were anything other than what they were presented to be -- omissions so glaring that it even prompted angry condemnation yesterday from Howard Kurtz.

Yet Williams, while failing even to acknowledge that story which implicates the core integrity of his network, instead bashes the Sunday NYT which exposed it and touts Peggy Noonan for a Pulitzer for her banal, malicious meanderings over Barack Obama's lapel pin. It's ironic how Williams began by subtly dismissing Elizabeth Edwards' critique of our sorry political media only to then proceed to exemplify her core critique perfectly.

UPDATE II: It's particularly odd that Williams would snidely employ the right-wing weapon of "circulation decline" to bash the NYT in light of this:

Network evening newscasts collectively lose about a million viewers a year. (This year they've lost 1.2 million, helped along by the writers strike.) Revenue is going down in lockstep: the three network evening newscasts reap about $100 million in ad revenue apiece, but are declining at about 2% a year.
And this:
The combined average audience for the big-three evening newscasts in 1980 was about 53 million viewers. By the fall of 2006, when Couric was getting ready to make the jump from NBC's "Today" show, the three national evening newscasts had a combined audience of about 27 million viewers.

How's that for a trend line? The evening newscasts lost about half of their audience over 26 years. They lost viewers at a rate of 1 million a year, and they're still losing them. Last week, according to numbers Nielsen released Tuesday, the combined audience was 21.5 million.

Few institutions have lost as much popularity and credibility over the years as network news programs. Those don't really seem to be metrics that Brian Williams ought to be touting to bash media outlets which expose the corruption of his network.

UPDATE III: I just can't pass up taking note of Williams' last paragraph, in which he boasts that, after 26 years of attending, he did not go this year to the White House Correspondents' Dinner (though he watched on TV and " thought the President was very good") because he chose instead to stay home and watched "the first 50 laps of Talladega [] from the comfort of my kitchen." That's why Brian Williams, like Peggy Noonan, understands what the Gate 14 crowd wants. He's just like them -- staying at home, listening to Rush Limbaugh and watching NASCAR on his kitchen TV.

Barack Obama, of course, is an out-of-touch, effete elitist, part of the "Men's Vogue" set, just like Peggy Noonan said in her Pulitzer-worthy column. But not Brian Williams. He's Regular Folk, and he thus speaks for the heartland, despite the fact that he mocked John Edwards' expensive haircuts (and asked Edwards about them during an NBC debate he moderated) while simultaneously using his $10 million/year salary to "live[] in a restored farmhouse in Connecticut where he parks his 477-horsepower black Porsche GT2 (that is, when he's not decamping on the Upper East Side)" and says things like this about why the ratings of network news shows are collapsing:

You're going to be up against people who have an opinion, a modem, and a bathrobe. All of my life, developing credentials to cover my field of work, and now I'm up against a guy named Vinny in an efficiency apartment in the Bronx who hasn't left the efficiency apartment in two years.
Just like Peggy Noonan, David Broder, David Brooks, Tim Russert, Maureen Dowd and the rest of our coddled media stars, Brian Williams just adores the Gate 14 people -- those adorable little Vinnys in their bathrobes and efficiency apartments -- and he knows how they think and what they want and he speaks for them. And they want to know why Barack Obama can't bowl and doesn't wear a flag on his lapel. When they think about their adorable little lives, that's what they're interested in hearing about, and Brian Williams knows this because he's just like them.

UPDATE IV: At Kos, Meteor Blades aptly describes the network news blackout of the NYT story as "Nine Days of Silence from the Willing Accomplices." Perhaps someone can design a clock along the lines the one Fox News used to taunt Obama into appearing on their GOP network, or which the Heritage Foundation hilariously used during the debate over the Protect America Act to count down the time we had left before the Terrorists could use the PAA's expiration to slaughter us all, in order to keep track of the running time total that has elapsed during which the three network news anchors -- including Brian Williams -- have said absolutely nothing to their viewers about major revelations by the NYT that their networks news divisions continuously fed deceitful government war propaganda to their audience.

I'll be happy to post it prominently here. The fact that they're literally ignoring this story, refusing in unison to comment on it, answer questions about it, or tell their viewers about it, speaks volumes about what they are and what they do.

UPDATE V: Two readers have created time-clocks. First:

10 Days of Silence and counting
on the Pentagon Propaganda scandal.

And then there is this one. Some type of campaign should be created around this concept to pressure and shame them.

UPDATE VI: Finally, due to pressure from commenters, Brian Williams "responds" to the military analyst story -- on his blog. The summary: he did nothing wrong. Neither did the military analysts they used. Neither did his news network. They're all super honest and patriotic and above such things. If you think I'm exaggerating, go read what he wrote. Here's how it ends:
At no time did our analysts, on my watch or to my knowledge, attempt to push a rosy Pentagon agenda before our viewers. I think they are better men than that, and I believe our news division is better than that.
I'll have more to say on this within the next day or two.

On a related note, Media Bloodhound -- one of the Vinnys with the audacity to speak ill of Brian Williams -- documents that on the very same day that Williams wrote the blog item mocking the NYT for its coverage of sex-related frivolous stories, Williams himself -- on the NBC News broadcast -- "spent over two minutes on the concern caused by photos of teen star Miley Cyrus in Vanity Fair." At least the NYT put their frivolous pieces in the food and culture sections of their largest edition. By contrast, the Very Serious Newsman, Williams, devoted roughly 10% of the 22 minutes he's allotted for delivering the "news" to skimpy photographs of an adolescent star from Hannah Montana -- on the very same day he pompously pranced around as a Man of Substance.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Does Obama Love George Washington? Doesn't America Deserve To Know?

by Hunter

I feel bad for the High Opinionators of the press. One of the few perks of blogging is the ability to shut up when you have nothing to say; Opinionators have no such luxury. The need for column inches far outweighs the need for substance, and your editor will have your head if you cannot squeeze out some words onto the page like pressurized, canisterized cheese onto a cracker. Peggy Noonan, in this state, writes her column as if in a dream...

America is in line at the airport. America has its shoes off, is carrying a rubberized bin, is going through a magnetometer. America is worried there is fungus on the floor after a million stockinged feet have walked on it. But America knows not to ask. America is guilty until proved innocent, and no one wants to draw undue attention. [...]

Now America needs to go to the bathroom. Sweet Jesus, why did America drink an entire Starbucks latte on the way here? What was America thinking? America crosses its legs, hoping to hell the line speeds up. Crap, thinks America, did I leave the toaster plugged in? For some reason, America has always harbored the secret fear that somehow, of all the electrical appliances in the entire house, the toaster is the one that will spontaneously erupt into flames while America is away for a few days. So America always unplugs the toaster before leaving on a long trip, even while leaving all the other appliances and electronics that are, truth be known, probably much more likely to burst into flames for no apparent reason. What can America say? America learned it from its mother.

But we must short-circuit our personification of America as channelled by Peggy Noonan, who like all Opinionaters can channel all of America at the drop of a hat, whenever needed, because after a while Noonan has finally arrived at her destination, belt intact, premise disheveled:

Main thought. Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama's problem. America is Mr. Obama's problem. He has been tagged as a snooty lefty, as the glamorous, ambivalent candidate from Men's Vogue, the candidate who loves America because of the great progress it has made in terms of racial fairness. Fine, good. But has he ever gotten misty-eyed over . . . the Wright Brothers and what kind of country allowed them to go off on their own and change everything? How about D-Day, or George Washington, or Henry Ford, or the losers and brigands who flocked to Sutter's Mill, who pushed their way west because there was gold in them thar hills? There's gold in that history.

I must confess, not even in a deadline-inspired fever dream have I set myself down and wondered, really wondered, whether or not Barack Obama loved George Washington. I have watched Obama make speeches about race and class in America, but I have never considered whether Barack Obama has ever teared up at the late, great Henry Ford, messiah of the automobile and perfecter of the assembly-line anti-Semitic public screed. And what of the California prospectors? Does Obama sufficiently love them, or is he an anti-American asshole? All the while Obama has been speaking of America, in his speeches across the country, speaking of its history and future, its failures and successes, it never occurred to me that perhaps he did not really love George Washington, the Wright Brothers and Sutter's Mill, because he perhaps did not have the genetic pedigree to properly love those things? How can he compare to the patriotic lineage of the other two candidates?

John McCain carries it in his bones. Mr. McCain learned it in school, in the Naval Academy, and, literally, at grandpa's knee. Mrs. Clinton learned at least its importance in her long slog through Arkansas, circa 1977-92.

Mr. Obama? What does he think about all that history? Which is another way of saying: What does he think of America? That's why people talk about the flag pin absent from the lapel. They wonder if it means something. Not that the presence of the pin proves love of country – any cynic can wear a pin, and many cynics do. But what about Obama and America? Who would have taught him to love it, and what did he learn was loveable, and what does he think about it all?

McCain knows of patriotism, you see, because he has the lineage to know it. Clinton knows patriotism secondhand, through her exposure to it in the wilds of Arkansas. But what of Obama, indeed?

McCain learned patriotism in school, Noonan says, and this is an important point. What could Obama have learned of patriotism in his Hawaii high school class during the bicentennial year of 1976? The eventual Senator could not possibly have learned of patriotism there, in a state so ethnic that it could hardly be called a state! How could his Kansas-born American mother have taught him to love it, a woman with the suspiciously ethnic name of Dunham? How could his American grandparents, or his teachers? Could he have learned it from his fellow students, students like "America Online founder Steve Case, actress Kelly Preston and former Dallas Cowboys lineman Mark Tuinei?" Did their patriotism rub off on him, Ms. Noonan, or -- let us be honest, here -- was he too ethnic for it to stick?

Is that not what we are speaking of here, in the most circuitous possible of ways: the pedigree of the man, the suspicious ethnicity, the unnerving multiculturalism? Are we not speaking of the eugenics of patriotism, patriotism as inherited, bred trait? Because if we are not, by what metric are we taking the measure of such things, and is getting teary-eyed at the mention of gold prospectors truly the test to be administered?

I have never thought about these things, and yet I could have. Barack Obama wrote a book about America, after all, and one would presume that Noonan, as the very embodiment of the airplane-flying, shoe-removing nation would have at least been vain enough to read it, to see just how she came off. What does Obama love about America, indeed? Does he think America looks fat? Does he think America is witty? Clever? Obama is in a world of hurt, because America is apparently in a terribly insecure mood, and is not just asking Obama the safe question -- do you love me? -- but the followup question that any suitor knows to have swirling undercurrents of potential treachery: what do you love most about me?

Another challenge. Snooty lefties get angry when you ask them to talk about these things. They get resentful. Who are you to question my patriotism? But no one is questioning his patriotism, they're questioning its content, its fullness. Gate 14 has a right to hear this. They'd lean forward to hear.

There is an intriguing sentence, that. No one is questioning his patriotism, they're questioning its content, its fullness. It quite literally means No one is questioning his patriotism, only how much of it he has. So it is unambiguously questioning his patriotism, by virtue of questioning its volume: there is no way around it. Imagine, though, the snootiness, the profound intellectualism required for some lefty to point out the meaning of the very sentence. Peggy Noonan is a professional wordsmith, and if she can embrace the entirety of America in her own head, she can certainly declare that a truism is false, and get away with it. If she declares that she can question the measure of patriotism within a man without questioning the patriotism of a man, would not it be the height of arrogance to object -- the sign of a word-based elitist cult that has attacked the professional Republican speechwriters of this world for far, far too long?

Because Gate 14, the well-guarded portal into Noonan's own hypothesis of America, demands to know the answers to Noonan's questions. It is possible for a man named Barack Obama to love George Washington, or know about the pioneers, or admire the Wright Brothers? No matter how many books he writes, no matter whether he dedicates himself to becoming a state senator, or a United States senator, is it possible for him to love America as much as a man whose grandfather was an Admiral -- and how do we make him prove it? What things should he write that will prove it, if we are not interested to read what he has already written? What things shall he say, rather than the things he has already said but which we were not actually listening to? If a tree falls in the forest, but all the pundits block their ears, does the tree make a sound? Or does it only make a sound if a Republican declares it has?

Obama cannot prove his patriotism any more than Peggy Noonan can; if we presume patriotism to be love of country, we can look at written words, and spoken words, and concrete actions to offer evidence, but if we are intent on ignoring all of it then yes, there is no way Obama can satisfy the entirely nonpartisan, America-channelling skepticism of Peggy Noonan.

Noonan offers not a single element of evidence to support her hypothesis that the patriotism of one candidate needs evaluation, but that of the other two does not. It is a hypothesis not simply devoid of fact, but devoid even of blind assertion: there is no anecdote given to support the theory. There is no past event to be pointed at, or suspicious phrasing to be parsed, or even hushed conspiracy theory. Noonan at no point, during her channelling of the American psyche, offers even one thin word towards explaining why Obama's patriotism needs questioning: she merely asserts that it does, in comparison with the candidate that "carries it in his bones," and "learned it in school, in the Naval Academy, and, literally, at grandpa's knee."

All we can glean from this is that we should presume presidential candidate Barack Obama did not learn it in school. Why? We are given the implication that he did not learn it from his family -- why? We are presented with the assumption that the Naval Academy is the granter of patriotism -- what, then, of the hundreds of millions of the rest of us, who did not attend? Are none of us patriotic, not a single damn one? Can it be as easily parsed as all that?

We are left only with the same empty whispers carried by every other far-right critique of the man: Noonan provides a momentary pseudoliteracy for the same premise, more crudely uttered, that pervades the right. Obama as very young child spent four brief years overseas: is he a Manchurian candidate, or a secret Muslim? Though religious, like all good patriots should be, Obama attends a Chicago church whose black pastor has said controversial things: is he secretly more black and angry than he lets on?

Does Barack Obama, in other words, as a black man who grew up exposed to different cultures, from Hawaii to Jakarta to Harvard to Chicago, have the genes for true patriotism?

We know this is the question. We can fathom from Noonan's complete unwillingness to define even the barest of arguments for her not-sufficiently-patriotic premise that the argument is something either to crude or too embarrassing to be expressed. Surely, Noonan cannot possibly believe that spending a mere four years, from ages six through ten, outside of the United States is enough to permanently desiccate the patriotism of an American -- many, many American children suffer the same fate, being shuffled from country to country as their military or diplomatic or career-driven parents require. (Obama was born in Hawaii; McCain was born in Panama.) Surely, Noonan cannot argue that his Kansas-born, Seattle-raised mother did not sufficiently raise him in the ways of America, since she had not attended the Naval Academy -- Obama's grandfather was a World War II soldier. And surely, Noonan is not such a dunderheaded fool as to presume that the high schools of Hawaii could not properly teach their charges of American history, of George Washington or the Wright Brothers or why they should cry at mention of nineteenth century prospectors. All the other attendees of his rightly famous and much-heralded Honolulu private school seemed to have had those lessons.

So what, then, is the excuse for the premise? What is it about Obama's face or demeanor that alarms Noonan so, that she and America must carefully study the true patriotism of the man? What is it about him that sends the fear of secret betrayal through her spine, something not shared either by the genetically superior McCain or even the loathed but still-faintly-praised Clinton?

Noonan will not tell us, though she is quite certain all of good-hearted, conservative America instinctively should feel those same fears, for the same unspecified reasons. We are left to presume her intentions are the same as all others who have broached the subject.

Glenn Greenwald chimes in here


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