Saturday, February 02, 2008

Obama's Outrageous Fortune

I didn’t know Harry Smith was still on TV, much less raising the scary specter of assassination with Ted Kennedy when discussing Barack Obama on Tuesday morning. The rejuvenated Kennedy kept his cool at the clumsy historical reference, while Smith tried twice to get him to admit that "agents of change" are bound to get whacked sooner or later.

If it was given to Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy’s endorsement would have been treated like an irrelevant handout from a liberal has-been. But, because he endorsed the MSM’s favorite anti-Hillary, Kennedy was the subject of misty-eyed, passing-the-torch tributes from old-school Washington types like Chris Matthews. After taking a week off from its vehement anti-Clinton story lines after Hillary surprised in New Hampshire, the cable chatters were back on the Obama bandwagon before and after South Carolina, focusing most of their heavy-breathing on things Bill Clinton did and didn’t say. They apparently do not appreciate Bill’s fairly astute media analysis, such as when he accurately accused them of giving Obama a free ride on the "fairy tale" of his Iraq war record or when he got in the face of a CNN reporter for trying to stir up non-existent racial issues in the campaign for their own entertainment and ratings. As usual with Bill, the truth is not a defense.

Even wing-nuts like Sean Hannity managed to get through the 24-hour Kennedy endorsement news cycle without the usual snarky references to Chappaquiddick that informs so much of nut-right "discussion" of all things Teddy when he dares to try to do something that they disagree with. You wonder if the mainstream radio squawkers reveling in the Kennedy endorsement as a Hillary slap-down found themselves rolling their eyes in the studio as they bit their usually harsh Teddy-tongues. But that would be giving them too much credit for self-reflection, so, never mind.

Back to Smith’s assassination allusions...

I was in third grade when the nuns came in tears to tell us that JFK had been killed. Ever since I saw the Zapruder film played clandestinely in the UW Memorial Union in 1973, when Time-Life still had it under seal, I knew there was no way Oswald acted alone, if he acted at all. The killing shot that spread JFK’s brains all over the trunk of the limo – the pieces of which Jackie tried to crawl out to retrieve – was so obviously from the front of the car, any suggestion that the shot came from behind is ridiculous. I was in Dallas several years ago and visited the museum that now sits on the 6th floor of the Book Depository. It was an interesting tribute to the official version of history, but not nearly as interesting as walking around the Killing Field itself. Driving out of the parking lot, I was, by accident, driving the same path as the motorcade. I drove the convenient curves of the road slowly (but not as slowly as Kennedy’s driver) and, at one point, found myself facing the fence behind the grassy knoll, right at the point when JFK caught the head shot. As with the Zapruder film, what do you expect me to believe: the Warren Commission or my lying eyes?

"Back, and to the right. Back, and to the right." HBO has been running Oliver Stone’s JFK on one of its side-channels recently and I caught myself watching it again last weekend. Donald Sutherland’s "composite" spook and his "ask yourself who benefitted" speculation notwithstanding (although I wouldn’t put anything past LBJ), I thought the movie got the scattered facts of the conspiracy theorists mostly right, although the seriousness of the subject matter deserved a little more care, even for Hollywood. For his sins, Stone ended up as a subject of scorn for daring to violate the ultimate historical taboo – one of the first victims of a new kind of assassination, that being the politics of personal destruction through ridicule (see below). It is a vehicle that the right-wing echo-chamber has used effectively for subjects dangerous to their agenda, and it has proven much more useful to them than a head-shot in a plaza somewhere.

I’ve always thought that whoever did whatever in the 1960s got the "right" people. Would the world have been better, more peaceful, less Vietnam-ish had Kennedy served for eight years instead of three? Imagine Martin Luther King as elder statesman during our multi-cultural revolution – at least he would have been around to knock down the absurd appropriation of his words by wing-nuts who claim that he would be against affirmative action, etc. Imagine Bobby riding the crest of the anti-war wave and his own magnetism (which, sorry, Obama does not get close to) in 1968 into the White House. Some of those who could see that possibility quite clearly put an end to that. It is hard to believe that the history that was changed – for the worse, in every way – by coincidental events driven by random nut-jobs.

For all the buzz-killing security that surrounds political events, shooting at a candidate or president is sooo 20th century. I mean, who was the last one to take a bullet, Reagan? Nut-cases, as part of an organization or otherwise, have other ways to "do" people who threaten their grand designs. People with a message or a cause – from Stone to Michael Moore to Cindy Sheehan – or successful politicians – from Al Gore to John Kerry to Howard Dean – are subject to ridicule by the right-wing echo-machine and that attitude is incorporated by self-appointed MSM know-it-alls. They end up as good as dead politically, without the added benefit of martyrdom. The only thing those subject to the politics of personal destruction get pointed at them is fingers, as people point and laugh.

A talking-point for the wing-nuts this week was that the Clintons were following one of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals in their campaign against Obama. They cited this one: "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage." It was a lie about the Clintons (one of the quotes supposedly indicating ridicule of Obama was that Bill called him a "highly intelligent symbol of transformation" – rough stuff, that) but it is another example of the right accusing Democrats of doing something they do every day as a matter of strategy and design. Harry Smith’s hysterical concerns notwithstanding, Obama doesn’t have to worry so much about a bullet as he does about the stink bombs that are sure to come flying from his temporary wing-nut friends after (if) he wraps up the nomination.

On this point, Paul Krugman got it just right this week:
  • Those who don’t want to nominate Hillary Clinton because they don’t want to return to the nastiness of the 1990s — a sizable group, at least in the punditocracy — are deluding themselves. Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false (at least not on Page 1). The point is that while there are valid reasons one might support Mr. Obama over Mrs. Clinton, the desire to avoid unpleasantness isn’t one of them.

As I’ve said before, you won’t even recognize Barack Obama by November if he is the nominee. Even if the GOP goes ahead with the congenial John McCain, their surrogates will try to destroy Obama by defining him in bizarre ways and ridiculing him with whatever they can find to blow out of proportion. No metal detector will protect him from the slings and arrows of his own outrageous fortune.


Anonymous said...

Good as ever, Mike. Spot on.

Btw, when you were in third grade with the nuns, was that at St. Bernard's? I knew a Donna Plaisted there. . . .

elrond hubbard said...

A conspiracy so vast...

Mike Plaisted said...


I went to St. Bernards for one quarter of 1st grade before we moved to New Holstein -- my favorite nuns were there, at Holy Rosary.

My beautiful sister Donna is seven years older than me. You are dating yourself, my man.

John said...

Regarding the JFK "conspiracy": I'm a recovered grassy knoll believer myself. After spending most of my life CERTAIN that there was another gunman involved, I'm now satisfied that Oswald acted alone. Revisiting the many conspiracy books still in my library, I find the authors' arguments and "evidence" full of holes. Also, Bugliosi's RECLAIMING HISTORY does an excellent job of tying up so-called loose ends.

That's not to mention the way 9-11 has changed my perception of what is possible. As the plot of a book or movie, I'd never buy for a moment that box cutters could bring down planes and that both WTC towers could evaporate leaving behind not even enough solid debris to account for the sheer number of DESK CHAIRS in both structures. But it happened right before my eyes.

Makes it easier to see how a guy in a sniper's nest could get off two good shots out of three or four.

Gary W. said...

Barak Obama's outrageous fortune is that the American people seem to have very short memorys. As I recall, we are under the jurisdiction of Home Land Security due to the World Trade Center being brought down by what has been verified to be Muslim believers. We then as a nation cried out for justice and, if you will, "retaliation", for what happened. We then went to war and are still in a war with Muslim terrorists called AlQuida.

I think it is ironic that this country is even thinking about putting a Muslim in the White House. Is that not putting the very enemy we are fighting and have shed American blood over in authority over us? We were at war with the Muslims when this country was founded and for the first three Presidencys paid extortion money to keep the Muslims from capturing our sailors and enslaving them. That time was called the Barbary Coast War. Thomas Jefferson had a Koran to "know his enemy" and stated he had it for that reason.

Barak Obama has said that if he is elected he will be sworn into office with his hand on the Koran.

Our forefathers were able to stand up and say who the enemy really was. Why have we become so Polically Correct that we are not able to do that today?

Something to consider!

iT said...

"Obama has said that if he is elected he will be sworn into office with his hand on the Koran."

lol sure he did.

Mike Plaisted said...


A loooong time ago -- at least 25 years ago, when I was an undergrad -- Bugliosi played the prosecutor and the excellent Gerry Spense played the defense attorney in a mock-trial of Oswald on Showtime. It was facinating television, with real witnesses fromt he essential events. Most interesting was the testimony of Ruth Paine, who just happened to have the Oswalds living in her house and who just happened to get Oswald his job at the book depository. Spence trying to get her to admit working for the CIA -- she looked guilty as all get-out -- was scary. Some truths only get revealed through cross-examination.

I saw some of Bugliosi's TV book tour and was not any more impressed now than I was then. I understand his argument about how many people would have to be involved to pull off this kind of a cover-up -- it's the best argument against the conspiracy. But then there is the film of Kennedy getting his head blown off from the front. Much less than speculation, I think.

Gary W.:

The sort of hysterics and lies you indulge in might work for the kook-right, but few others. I think people mostly take Obama at his word about who and what he is. The GOP echo-chamber will have to be more creative than that, and I think they will be.

John said...

At the risk of sinking into some serious assassination nerd territory, I must add that I was also affected by the relatively new knowledge that JFK was wearing a rigid back-torso brace while riding in the car that kept him in an upright position AND help to create the slightly backward reaction to the shot from behind. The beveling on the wound also supports back-to-front (see how nerdy this is getting?)

I also remember thinking the "magic bullet" was a bunch of garbage until I learned of the simple error that the conspiracy enthusiasts all made - including Garrison (who had some problems of his own): the jump-seat that Connally sat in was slightly inboard from Kennedy's seat, which made the bullet's trajectory not only possible, but a certainty.

Now, when it comes to how Oswald - a pretty complex character for someone constantly referred to as a "two-bit gunman" - got his job and got in and out of the depository so cleanly; well, that's still an open question as far as I'm concerned.

Matt said...

At the risk of sounding like some McCarthyite censorship idiot, do you really have to let people place blatant lies on your site?

Barack Obama is not a Muslim. Never has been. He also was sworn in on the Bible. Always has been.

I appreciate your compassion for the mentally damaged Mike, but that doesn't mean you should allow them to propogate falsehoods. For all we know Gary might not be mentally disabled. He might just be a McCain supporter.

Rick Esenberg said...

It's "back and to the left," isn't it ?

Two questions - asked from curiousity and not challenge.

1. I assume that you are aware that there is ample physiological explanation supported by a bevy of experts for that reaction to a shot from the back?

2. Have you read Gerald Posner's book? My general sense from that and other books is that JFK, while it is entertaining, is shamelessly inaccurate.

Finally, if you are interested in the assasination, you really ought to go to John McAdams website on the assasination. I know you don't like him and all, but he's got a treasure trove of links. I found the audio of one of the Dallas police radio channels following the assasination to be absorbing. Not really because it proves anything, but because it is real world and real time reaction to an historic horror.

Anonymous said...

Gary W YOU NAILED IT ON THE HEAD FOR ME. WELL SAID! I am not racist by any means but as far as the Presidency is concerned, why put in the White House what "WE THE PEOPLE" are fighting against.
Since 911 my views have changed as well. In closing i have enjoyed listening to Mitt Romney and what he stands for but i think McCain is beginning to snowball. In the end, I hope this country makes a very CAUSIOUS DECISION on our next President for IT WILL EFFECT EVERYONE!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...


You all should go to:

I will not vote for Hillary because she wants to FINE and MANDATE us who do not have health insurance. I can't even afford health insurance!!!

I'm going with OBAMA at least he will NOT fine or mandate us and he will make it affordable!


Jeff said...

Mike wrote: "As I’ve said before, you won’t even recognize Barack Obama by November if he is the nominee. Even if the GOP goes ahead with the congenial John McCain, their surrogates will try to destroy Obama by defining him in bizarre ways and ridiculing him with whatever they can find to blow out of proportion. No metal detector will protect him from the slings and arrows of his own outrageous fortune."

Indeed, the Repubs will deploy every smear tactic in their arsenal and try to swift-boat Obama (who will be the nominee, IMO) during the lead up to the election. I simply don't agree that "you won’t even recognize Barack Obama by November." He knows what's coming. The big difference this time is his oppenent (McCain) will have zero leverage on any issue, be it Iraq, terrorism, fiscal policy, social issues, etc. Obama needs to stay with his visionary message, gradually being more specific as the summer progresses.

Colin Powell (still a Republican by definition) could even be an ally to Obama; his interview on CNN today made him sound like he may is seriously considering endorsing Barack. A Powell endorsement would be huge.