Thursday, January 31, 2008

Music Snobbery New Year's Resolutions

If January 31 isn't too late -

Stop: pretending I know an obscure band's name when it comes up in conversation. Just admit I don't, and move on.

Start: making up band names in the middle of conversation, and bust people who pretend to know them.

We're kind of into Obama right now, but The Pickle will feature other stuff too. Like me telling you what it's like to be a winner.

While in conversation with Luvh, I launched headlong into an open-hearted, full-throated peroration about Tom Brady, my New England Patriots, and the unrelenting demi-divine glory of being a Boston sports fan right now, and about how I can’t imagine a time when it will not be thus.

Luvh called me Ann Coulter.

Dead on. Absolutely nailed it.

Some people just love to be hated. They thrive on the hate of others. Ann Coulter is one of those people, and now, so am I. For some reason, winning seems to make people hate you. So if they really hate you, you must really be winning. And we’re really winning. I mean REALLY WINNING. What’s that? Hatred is the sincerest form of flattery? Couldn’t agree more. Nice point. Were you once always winning also? ‘Cause you have that kind of perspective on this.

You should have seen the dismay on his face when I picked up his banner and ran with it, though, to be fair, he should have seen it coming.

That was some vote...

Question that occurs to me while watching this debate, and when thousands of people log on to The Pickle when we send out our announcement email, shortly, I'm hoping that one or two will weigh in with an answer:

The Iraq War authorization got much more attention than any other vote in 2004. So it is this year. When was the last time a single vote was at the center of more than one presidential campaign?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Do you know where your superdelegates are?

Though it is not my impression that you will usually be rewarded for stopping by The Pickle by being asked to do something and then feeling guilty if you don't, I thought I'd start by sharing a letter I wrote to my former Congressman, Barney Frank. Last night, while scrounging for details on the Feb 5 primary here in MA, I discovered that Barney pledged to Hillary in November. Instantly, the potentially historically undemocratic weight of the whole superdelegete rigamarole came down on me like a ton of bricks, and along with it the urge to democratize. And thus, the following communique, and my suggestion that we all send this kind of letter over the coming months, if it does end up looking like the Superdelegates will play Superman to our regular man in the big D Democratic nominating contest.

Dear Congressman Frank:

I recently learned that you have pledged your support in the presidential nominating contest to Hillary Clinton, and that you are an advisor to her campaign. As a once and perhaps future constituent, I wanted to take a moment to urge you to reconsider Barack Obama’s candidacy. Your support for Senator Clinton is meaningful to me – probably more meaningful than any other single endorsement – and it adds to my confidence that she would make an excellent President. But for two reasons, I feel strongly that Senator Obama is the better choice.

First and foremost, though your understanding of what it takes to make things happen in Washington is ten-thousand times richer than mine, I think Senator Obama gives us a far better shot at the kind of transformational change (I cringe to use the word!) that we need. To me, the differences in their stated positions on energy, health care, Iraq, and other issues are essentially insignificant when compared to the question “who can move the ball?” I just don’t think we’re going to show the kind of bold progress that we need – real action on climate change, a firm commitment to health care for all, a serious redefinition of our global leadership – if we can’t at least partially break out of the winning and losing political paradigm. Barack gives us that chance; I don’t think Hillary does.

Second, I haven’t given the general election a lot of consideration so far – I’ve felt all along that either would make a formidable general election candidate, and the tide is on our side – but I’ve begun to weigh it more heavily. We need to win in November, and I am far more optimistic about Senator Obama’s chances against John McCain.

Many times over the three months since I decided that Obama is my man – since I decided to volunteer my time and talk with whomever will talk with me about why I feel so strongly that he is the best choice – I have asked myself if I am sure there is enough meat on the bones. I am as sure as I can be, acknowledging that this choice involves some faith. I suspect he has excellent judgment, and I know he can build the kind of governing coalition that will allow progress. He talks about hope and change, as opposed to carbon credits and health insurance mandates, because that is his comparative advantage. Through him, I understand that hope is not wishing; it is real, concrete, and influential. It is a strategy, I think it is the right one, and he is the right vessel for it.

As it becomes more and more possible that the super-delegates will hold enough votes to swing the nomination, I urge you to be persuaded by Barack’s up-side. If your vote at the convention has real meaning, I fervently hope that you will be with Senator Obama.

Thanks for your time.


Dan Berwick

Bill Post Script

The controversy over Bill Clinton’s over-vocal over-campaigning for his wife has dissipated, now that, in response to a chorus of public outcry, Hillary’s people have benched him (for the time being). But so long as Paul Krugman chalks this up to a violation of “unwritten rules" of the presidency "which seem to have been newly created for the occasion," it’s worth revisiting.

In 1796, George Washington turned down a third term of the presidency. Taking nothing from the brilliance of the Constitution as a document, it was this moment that breathed life into it. Washington walked away from power, adding a vital cultural dimension to the Constitution; the power of the presidency indeed would lie with the institution and not the person. This has to be one of the all-time greatest upset victories for the good guys, right? A peaceful giving up of power, unprecedented in history (relatively, and certainly on that scale). It was our luck that our first president, a war hero who in many other ages (present company included) could have gone on to megalomania, instead turns out to be a humility enthusiast. And really what he resisted wasn’t megalomania at all, but rather the temptation to think, perhaps even rightly, that he could have done the country more good. This is a big part of what sets us on our course, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s what Bill Clinton was bumping up against.

Bill Clinton was exerting a power he got by virtue of being president. And not for building houses or doing tsunami relief – for politics. And putting the best face on it - overstepping the bounds because he thinks he’s doing the country good - isn’t just arrogant, it’s disquieting. It’s why FDR was stopped from court packing and why we have the 22nd Amendment. It’s why Gerald Ford opines on the Iraq war from the grave and not before.

If it's really over now, I'm glad, although we were *this* close to taking the anti-dynasticism argument seriously.


I christen thee The Pickle.