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Evil weed, an errant word, an old memory

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010



A few tidbits, while we await the midterm tallies:

It’ll be interesting to see whether California voters actually opt to make history tonight by validating Muddy Waters’ blues lyrics (“Well, you know there should be no law/ On people that want to smoke a little dope”). Legalization of marijuana is on the ballot; a majority of Californians seemed poise to vote Yes, and thus make history by taxing the plant. But the polls have shifted at the eleventh hour, with No in ascendance.

The pro-legalization camp insists that a lot of declared No voters are really Yes voters who are afraid to share their true feelings with the pollsters. We’ll see about that. It seems more likely that a huge California swing-voting cohort – fortysomething suburban women with teenage kids – has decided that such a reform would make the purportedly evil weed even more ubiquitous. And illegal California growers, and those who benefit from their product, seem inclined to vote No because (a) they don’t want to see it commercialized, and (b) they’re happy with the new state law that reduces simple possession to a civil fine that’s lower than a speeding ticket.

Nevertheless, Democratic strategists will be paying close attention to the size of the under-30 vote. The polls have shown that young Californians are far more motivated to vote this year than their age counterparts elsewhere – precisely because they’re eager to endorse legal reefers. If they turn out tonight in heavier than normal numbers, Democrats might well be tempted to put similar proposals on other state ballots in 2012 (such as Colorado and Nevada, both swing states in a presidential race), as a way to stoke enthusiasm among the under-30s. Sort of the Democratic version of what the GOP did in 2004, when it stoked enthusiasm among social conservative voters in key states by staging anti-gay marriage referenda.

Some Democratic strategists have indeed discussed this marijuana scenario, but the potential downside seems obvious. It might not be smart politics for the Democrats to tag themselves as the pro-dope party, or expose themselves to jokes about how they hope to win in bad economic times by ensuring that the voters are obliviously stoned.

——-

The Republicans are shocked, shocked by something that President Obama said last week during an interview on Univision. Here’s Obama: “If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, ‘We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,’ if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it’s going to be harder and that’s why I think it’s so important that people focus on voting on November 2.”

Notice that Obama used the word enemies to describe political opponents. Oh, the temerity! In a speech the other night, House Republican leader John Boehner huffed and puffed thusly: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a president in the White House who referred to Americans who disagree with him as ‘our enemies.’ Think about that. He actually used that word.”

OK, I’m thinking about that. And here’s what I concluded:

Under the Republican rules of engagement, it’s clearly an outrage that the president would ever stoop to use the word enemy…whereas it’s apparently acceptable, and indeed downright patriotic, to spend two years rhetorically tagging the president as an enemy.

Sarah Palin, in October 2008, assailed Obama for supposedly “palling around with terrorists,” which by definition paints him as enemy. Senator Jim DeMint and Georgia congressman Paul Broun have likened Obama to Hitler, and we all know that Hitler was an enemy. Arizona congressman Trent Franks has called Obama “an enemy of humanity,” and since Americans are members of humanity, that certainly implies that Obama is our enemy. Former GOP congressman Tom Tancredo, who has a shot at winning the Colorado gubernatorial race tonight on a right-wing ticket, recently called Obama “a more serious threat to America than al Qaeda,” and that certainly makes the president sound like an enemy. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman, has suggested that the president harbors “anti-American views,” and that certainly connotes the word enemy.

Has Boehner made any concerted effort to condemn these characterizations? Nope.  (Nor would he dare try. His likely tenure as House speaker would be imperiled if he sought to tone down the cartoon rhetoric on his ascendant right flank.)

But, sure enough, Obama backed down yesterday and said that he should’ve used the word opponents instead of enemies – thereby confirming those skewed Republican rules of engagement. No wonder so many Democratic base voters seem poised to stay home today.

——-

Political observers of a certain age, and younger observers with a sense of history, undoubtedly noted the weekend death of Theodore Sorensen, the JFK aide and speechwriter who helped craft so much of the resonant Kennedy rhetoric. But what I remember most about Sorensen was the embarrassing incident that occurred in early 1977, when we got our first inkling of Jimmy Carter’s political ineptitude.

Carter, prior to being sworn in, came up with the idea of tapping Sorensen for the job of CIA director. Sorensen had no intelligence experience, but lifelong experience as a liberal intellectual who favored a curtailment of CIA covert operations. In terms of the Senate confirmation process, his pedigree was problematical enough. But then came the clincher:

It turned out that Sorensen, right after World War II, had registered for the draft as a conscientious objector. Once that fact was revealed, even Democratic senators  began to question whether Sorensen was capable of approving agency operations that might result in death. And the thing is, Sorensen had never told the Carter team about his CO status; more importantly, the Carter team never sussed it out during the vetting process. In fact, when an angry Carter aide asked Sorensen why he had stayed mum about it, he reportedly replied, “I didn’t know that the CIA director was supposed to kill anybody.” Then he withdrew his own nomination.

In today’s 24/7 smash-mouth culture, one shudders to imagine how Sorensen would have fared. But even in the context of 1977, some of us wondered: What was Jimmy Carter thinking, by nominating this guy? And by failing to tell the Carter team about his CO status, what could Sorensen have possibly been smoking? Muddy Waters, come on back, that’s your cue: “Y’know I’m gonna get so high this morning/ It’s gonna be a cryin’ shame.”


26 Comments

  • Tom - wilmington, de says:

    The regional pary of old white guys did pretty well tonight. Whatever happened to that realignment so many wrote about after the 2008 election?

  • Tom - wilmington, de says:

    Just a question to all you libs/Obama supporters. Does spending $200 million per day on the trip to India, complete with 40 aircraft, 3,000 people and taking over the entier Taj Mahal hotel seem just a little over the top to you?

    • Alvenada says:

      I does to me, but what the heck do I know? I’ve been off writing baseball Haiku’s the past 6 months.

    • portly says:

      you’re getting your trolling schedule mixed up, Tom…this was supposed to be posted over at RedState.com or was it at Nicedoggie.net? Can’t figure it out can we, what with all the rants you have scheduled today? Besides, everybody around here knows that elitist Republicans arethe ones that spend obscene amounts on frills…it’s the DeLay Way!

    • mw56 says:

      After the election today he may be planning a government in exile. If so it would well be worth the cost.

    • Still Independent says:

      tom: if true, it’s a lot of money. But that figure reportedly came from comeone in the Indian government, so who has any idea if it’s true?

  • Tom - wilmington, de says:

    Polman misses the irony of Obama calling opponents “enemies”. The president who send New Year’s greetings to Iran, who rules out the use of words like “Islamic Extremists”, “Muslim Radicals”, and calls strikes against terrorists “overseas contingency operations”; the president who has held an extended hand to Iran for almost two years while they continue to enrich uranium, who wants to try captured terrorists in civilian courts, calls Americans who oppose his agenda “enemies”. Come to think of it, using Polman’s rationale, him referring to those against his agenda as “opponents”, and an opponent is someone who strives to see you fail, well then “opponent” classifies as an enemy. Same thing, right?

    • Steve says:

      Obama campaigned as someone above the partisan fray. He has been the exact opposite. He crammed through legislation the majority of citizens disagreed with and no one on the opposite side voted for. He lectures people who disagree with him. And he calls his political opponents “enemies”. And Polman acts like a little kid when he justifies this behavior by pointing to members of Congress and Sarah Palin (who doesn’t even hold political office) and says, “well THEY do it too!” The bottom-line is he’s the freakin’ President. He should act Presidential. Instead, he takes everything personally and comes off as a detached and somewhat bitter man. Many Independents thought they were voting for someone in 2008 that could truly cross the political divide and get some things done that had broad agreement across the populous. Nope. He remained the liberal Senator he was beforehand and betrayed the confidence of independents that thought he was going to move to the middle. Now his party will pay a dear price.

  • NigeltheMastiff says:

    Hi all. I’m slammed with work. (My graphic designer came to my office two Mondays ago to tell me he had had chest pains over the weekend but did nothing about them because the symptoms went away! Long story short, when I pressured him to call the doctor, he did, and left for an EKG. He hasn’t come back. Had quintuple bypass surgery with a lot of complications.) So I probably won’t be on the boards for a while. But I’m curious. How is turnout up your way? I voted on the way to work — about 7:30 this morning. Not too many there, but that’s not the prime time, I think.

    • Tom - wilmington, de says:

      Here in O”Donnell land, we are all under a spell to vote, so I expect turnout to be high (but not as high as it could be in California…where those who turnout could also be high).

  • Tom - wilmington, de says:

    Just curious. Isn’t marijuana illegal according to federal law? Doesn’t federal law trump state law (see Arizona immigration argument)? So isn’t California voting to make marijuana illegal a moot point?

    • frankg962 says:

      Tom – You’re correct. Federal law would trump state law and the AG has said as much. This, like so many ballot initiatives is an exercise in navel gazing by the sponsors. When I lived there it was the same, there were a number of initiatives on the ballot in the 10 years I resided in California that directly contradicted federal law and were shot down by the courts. I believe this is also a prod by the pro reefer people to try and start a national discussion that isn’t going to happen. Everyone is going to look at Prop 19 and say yet again, California, land of fruits and nuts.

      • landscape says:

        It’s going to take off when the distillers start backing it and the feds/states realize how much money can be made from it (think gambling). Why should we waste enourous sums of money to arrest, try and jail drug users and gardeners when we could handle it like whiskey (think Prohibition)?

    • Rich says:

      Marijuana is effectively legal in California already. Prop 19 is just verbiage to change the law to agree with reality. If it doesn’t pass, reality will remain.

  • jmc says:

    RELEASE THE CRACKEN!!!!

  • schnail says:

    I heard that yesterday Obama referred to what was clearly an armoire as a credenza. A CREDENZA – the nerve! I’ll grant you, to be fair, it was a short armoire, but definitely above the waist! A credenza, indeed! No wonder this country is going to hell! I hope this story gets the 24/7 coverage it deserves!! OMG, next thing you know Miley Cyrus will drop her Twitter account!

    • Tom - wilmington, de says:

      What’s a credenza, and why is it different than an armoire? What’s an armoire? Where’s Waldo?

  • NE Philly says:

    I can’t wait until tomorrow’s column. I am off to vote! Time to rhetorically rise from our foxholes and attack the enemy at the voting both! It sure doesn’t sound right to call fellow Americans the enemy, but since the President did it, I guess it is okay, NOT!

  • Nalaka says:

    I have wondered why there isn’t more of a backlash against Prop 19–just as younger voters may be more inclined to come vote for it, wouldn’t conservative voters be more inclined to come vote so that they could vote against it? Perhaps it is viewed as a way of reducing the enthusiasm gap–the conservative voters would come anyway, after all, as they are perceived as being more motivated in general to vote.

    On a different note, as you have probably gathered from my posts, I tend to support a progressive agenda. In that regard, I’ve tried to volunteer for the Sestak campaign several times in the past few days using their website, but it has been useless. Clearly I hope that Sestak wins, but if he does, it will be despite his dysfunctional website. Too many circular choices, cluttered interface, events are sorted oldest to newest (who cares about an event held in early October?), multiple websites, no one responds to e-mails, etc. It’s almost as if Pat Toomey’s team was hired to design Sestak’s website. The Obama website is much, much easier to navigate, and identified dozens of events in the area with just a few clicks.

    • jmc says:

      Let’s see, Dems will lose because they focused on policy and not politics, they don’t communicate their agenda well enough, people are too stupid to understand how great they are, Karl Rove has some kind of secret money scheme for buying ad time, and of course racism. now we can add disorganized websites to their list of excuses. Maybe the answer to the impending Dem defeat can be found in the mirror. Ever think of that?

  • Alvenada says:

    What a ” weak ” column. Perhaps some introspection tommorow?

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