I know, I know...I haven’t blogged for a while. But I meant to. I really did.
For instance, I was going to write something about the high-pitched whining emanating from every corner of the cheddar rightersphere about the compromises necessary to achieve a state budget in Wisconsin.
It wasn’t enough that the wing-nuts used their large, obnoxious megaphones to save their pliant puppet Republican Assembly the petty and significant indignities of having to answer for their obstructionist program that delayed what was basically the same budget for an embarrassing – not to mention expensive – three months. Any other (i.e.: Democratic) legislature that pulled such a vacant stunt would have been impaled on the spear of public opinion at the first hint of higher property taxes because of last year’s numbers on anything.
Nope, helping their lackeys escape unscathed after showboating over the budget wasn’t enough – then they had to screech for weeks after the fact because the compromise did not meet their exacting standards. The self-appointed pure get to squawk on the sidelines while half of their confused followers do the impure thing by moving on with Wisconsin government. November 2008 can’t come soon enough, both locally and nationally. The only question is how many of the Republicans in the Assembly will quit before they are fired by the electorate.
Last week, I tried to cure my blogger-block by watching the Democratic presidential debate. As expected, John Edwards and Tim Russert did their best to take Hillary Clinton down a few notches, and might have managed to do so, with the still-lofty Barack Obama picking up the spare change.
For the most part, the debate featured more of the same tedious stagecraft that has dominated joint appearances like this since Reagan avoided sure defeat by "quipping" about not taking advantage of Mondale’s youth when Mondale had him on the ropes after their first debate in 1984. The whole circus makes one yearn for the days when they woke up Nixon just in time for his debate with JFK. Kennedy was also just getting out of bed, but that’s a different story.
Still, when watching the Dems debate, you might actually learn something – which is never a danger with the Republicans. Where Republicans dig deeper holes for themselves in the general election by naked base-pandering, the Democrats are more thinking beings with their own intact, personal and more legitimate world views, if they are not always best able or prepared to make it all evident to the general public. Clinton’s strength is that she is almost as much of a policy geek as her husband (I said almost). Hillary and Bill have spent their entire adult lives – together – trying to figure out how to make people’s lives better through government and it shows.
The command of the issues that has vaulted and kept her in the lead is complete, even if her expression of them is often over-consulted and reserved. Clinton walks the earth with the front-runner’s curse; damned if she is careful, measured and option-preserving and damned if she would cast aside those damn consultants and let it fly. She’ll be able to draw stark enough contracts with the GOP candidate in the general and with all of those clowns pretty much just promising to stay the disastrous Bush course in Iraq and elsewhere, that should be more than enough.
Any of the other contending Democrats would be fine, but their limitations are magnified in these appearances. For all of his "baby boomers, get over yourselves" new-generation rhetoric, Obama is too Kumbaya to play with the big boys – at least this year. His heart and his head definitely and permanently in the right place, he has yet to find his true voice as a leader. John Edwards pulled out his best trial lawyer shtick in this debate, hitting Clinton’s easiest targets without adding much for himself. Edwards is so effective at this kind of stuff, he may end up helping the Republicans – a whole bunch of the lesser wing-nut bloggers have linked to his YouTube ad picking apart Clinton’s hemming-and-hawing. As much as I can appreciate a good lawyer kicking ass, that kind of skill only goes so far.
As for "the others" (as they used to call them on Gilligan’s Island), I have always liked Joe Biden, who has played the Angry Establishment Man as well as anybody over the last several years. His performances on Sunday talk shows and in these debates are always entertaining; his biting analysis of Bush’s legendary shortcomings – especially in foreign policy – are tinged with delightful sarcasm and a dark sense of humor.
At the Dem debate last Tuesday, Biden proved to be the most prescient of the candidates on one of the most vital issues. While Clinton walks in unfortunate stride on the outer fringes of the Iran War caucus, Biden got it more right than he could have imagined: "What is the greatest threat to the United States of America: 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium in Tehran or an out of control Pakistan? It's not close." With martial law coming to Islamabad this weekend, it puts much of the real Middle East in perspective – who our "friends" are, or should be.
Finally, speaking of lesser wing-nut bloggers, I also missed the opportunity to comment on the minor flare-up caused by an anonymous lefty blogger calling Jessica McBride a bad name. In doing so, that guy broke a couple of common sense rules: 1) it is decidedly sexist and un-feminist to call anyone gender-specific derogatory names, and 2) never, ever put McBride in the position of being a martyr – she wears it too well. However, conservatives shouldn’t get too huffy about using gender-specific derogatory terms – you won’t have to look too deep on FreeRepublic and other nut-right sites to find all kinds of nasty, sexist names thrown at a certain future president.