Mets to Santana: You've got to change your evil ways ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've been rather light on election coverage per se on this site, in large measure because I hate horse-racism and I think predictions are a waste of time. We will know the answer to who will win the nomination soon enough, so why not wait and try to frame the issues that actually matter?

But today is a pretty big day, so let's take a moment to see what we might learn.

1) On John Edwards: The Edwards campaign was a surreal experience that should inspire a doctoral dissertation or two. He was both the most progressive candidate on issues and the most electable on paper, and yet he did not get the support of most progressives or most professionals. This despite the fact that he actually ran a terrific campaign and, more than Obama and Hillary, defined it in a positive direction. That he forced the other candidates to respond did not end up mattering as much as the media's fascination with all things Clintonian, Obamian, and the egregiously awful coverage of Edwards. The Washington Post deserves special mention for its idiotic 1,300-word piece on his haircut and an even longer one on his house. Richard Cohen and Michael Dobbs both called him a liar and presented no evidence. The editorial board attacked him constantly. The New York Times also went in for the "How can you care about poor people when you're so rich?" line of questioning, which implies that poor people are unentitled to representation in the American political system, since it allows for only wealthy people to run. And Maureen Dowd was her usual awful, substanceless self, helping to set the tone for the rest, to the shame of all of us.

2) Rudy G. is gone. This proves the old adage that it is actually possible to underestimate the wisdom of the American people, even Republican primary voters. We New Yorkers kept telling you people that this entire idea is insane, but the media kept taking it seriously. We knew that to know Rudy is to hate Rudy and to be fearful of him getting anywhere near nuclear codes. Now everybody knows. I'll admit, it was a little scary.

3) McCain as the nominee is scary, too, because the media remain more in love with him than ever. Remember that picture of him hugging Bush? Put McCain in Bush's place and the punditocracy in McCain's place, and that's what we can prepare ourselves for. What's more, because the media love McCain and treat elections entirely as high school popularity contests, Republicans will not be held responsible for the last horrific eight years. Hillary Clinton is no match for McCain in this respect; they hate her, they love him. Obama is a match, but his anti-war position will be held against him, since most of the media were just as wrong as McCain about Iraq and feel themselves indicted by those of us, like Obama, who were right, and their natural defensiveness manifests itself in the form of petty vengeance. So-called liberal hawks, which is most liberals with a mainstream platform, will do McCain's bidding for the price of only being called by their first names on the bus. It's going to really suck.

4) Should Democrats run against McCain as too old to be president? I think so. It's dangerous, but so what? He may not be too old today, but what about four years from now? Ronald Reagan was already losing his mind by the time he left office. And he was younger than McCain will be. This is a high-risk strategy vis-à-vis the older part of the electorate, but I'd risk it. It will actually affect lots of people's votes.

5) So who does Edwards' departure help, Clinton or Obama? Depends on whether you think the fulcrum of the race is race or Clintonism and all it represents. The "I will only vote for a white person" vote is no longer split, but neither is the "I will never vote for that woman" vote. (Interestingly, there is not much of an "I will only vote for a man" dynamic on the Democratic side, as there certainly would be on the Republican side and will be in the general election.)

6) In any case, the Republicans have picked their only "safe" general election candidate, and the Democrats have rejected theirs. The assumption of many is that it's a Democratic year, so the party can afford to take risks. Let's see ...

Read here why Fox News is in for a very rough 2008. Oh, and Mr. Attytood is dead right here. Newspapers should stop this silly practice of endorsing people in elections anyway. Nobody cares, and it just gives the impression of bias to people who don't understand separation of church and state, which is most people. Plus, as he notes, it's intellectually vacuous.

From TomDispatch:

Recently, the U.S. Air Force loosed 100,000 pounds of explosives in about 10 days on Arab Jabour, a small Sunni farming region just south of Baghdad. In The New York Times, this figure was buried in a single sentence deep inside a piece that led with an account of an IED explosion in the same region that killed an American soldier; in the Los Angeles Times, it made it into the last paragraphs of a piece that led off with a suicide bombing in al-Anbar Province. As Tom Engelhardt points out, "When it comes to the mainstream media, bombing is generally only significant if it's of the roadside or suicide variety; if, that is, the 'bombs' can be produced at approximately the cost of a pizza (as IEDs sometimes are), or if the vehicles delivering them are cars or simply fiendishly well-rigged human bodies. From the air, even 100,000 pounds of bombs just doesn't have the ring of something that matters."

As it happens, according to some accounts, in April 1937, the German Condor Legion dropped 100,000 pounds of explosives on the Spanish town of Guernica, destroying the place, causing many civilian casualties, and sparking international outrage over the self-evident barbarism of the event. From international headlines to the last two paragraphs of a piece in 71 years -- that, in a way, is the modern tale of the normalization of our attitudes toward air power.

It's in this context that Engelhardt discusses the 130,000 or more total pounds of explosives dropped in Iraq recently (according to Air Force spokesmen), reviews the ABCs of American air power in the region, considers the intensifying air campaign of the last year -- the much ignored "air surge" -- and finally gives some thought as to why reporters in Iraq have largely refused to look up.

Nowhere else will you find a piece that brings this set of information together. Thinking about Picasso's Guernica, perhaps the most famous painting of the last century, Engelhardt concludes this way:

"Maybe, sooner or later, American mainstream journalists in Iraq (and editors back in the U.S.) will actually look up, notice those contrails in the skies, register those 'precision' bombs and missiles landing, and consider whether it really is a ho-hum, no-news period when the U.S. Air Force looses 100,000 pounds of explosives on a farming district on the edge of Baghdad. Maybe artists will once again begin pouring their outrage over the very nature of air war into works of art, at least one of which will become iconic, and travel the world reminding us just what, almost five years later, the 'liberation' of Iraq has really meant for Iraqis.

"In the meantime, brace yourself. Air war is on the way."

Correspondence Corner

Name: Martin
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Hi Eric,

Did you notice Bill Kristol saying yesterday that "this could be the week Obama upsets the Clintons?"

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/28/opinion/28kristol.html

The same Bill Kristol that was ruminating about a "President Mike Huckabee" a few weeks ago.

The same Bill Kristol that ... well, er, ... is wrong about nearly everything.

I was kind of wishfully thinking Obama could hop on top of this thing. But polls suggest otherwise. And with the Kristol Ball "discerning" it, well, it appears that's all it is -- wishful thinking.

Name: Chuck
Hometown: Kansas City

Dr. A,

One week away from Feb. 5th, when many of us will have our first chance in recent memory to influence the primary elections. To better inform the electorate, our local paper, the Kansas City Star, is running a series of profiles of the candidates. Today, it was John Edwards. The page one synopsis begins -- "Former Sen. Edwards often talks about his mill town roots and his days fighting corporations in the courtroom, but he rarely mentions the so-called three H's: hedge funds, houses and haircuts of the $400 variety".

Basically the problem is that Edwards is worth around $30 million, the same ballpark most of the other remaining candidates are in, with the exception of Obama and Huckabee (both lower), and Romney (much higher), and he has the nerve to talk about poor people! And how they aren't represented by high-paid lobbyists, which may be why they can't afford health care or stop companies from outsourcing their jobs, etc.

What Liberal Media, indeed.

Name: kirsten
Hometown: sacramento, ca

Dr. A,

In all the talk of the economy and how much worse it is than it appears, I note one other aspect of this that doesn't seem to get discussed enough. Every time I see reports that worker productivity is up (great news for business!) I groan. My work days and dreams at night are filled with the stress of having more to do than I can ever get done in my 9-10 hour workday. Yes, quite short compared to many. My team at work should really be at least 1/2 again its current size. Corporations are fooling themselves if they think the work is getting done that much more efficiently by fewer of us. What's really happening is that a lot of stuff just doesn't get done, or doesn't get done properly. We are much less efficient and organized and productive than we could be because we have no time to plan, focus or follow up. I go to a meeting, I get 3 new tasks, I go immediately to the next meeting, I get 3 more new tasks. I never even have time to put them on a to-do list or delegate, much less get them done. I apologize for the rambling, stressed-out note, but I have no time to make it more concise!

Name: Robert Earle
Hometown: Torrance, California

Siva writes:

"I have enjoyed Rudy's downfall as much as I enjoyed watching the Miami Dolphins suffer, sputter, fade, and lose their historic monopoly on undefeated seasons."

The record of the 1929 Green Bay Packers was 12 wins, ZERO losses, and one tie.

Yes, it was a long time ago. Yes, it was only thirteen games. Yes, there were no playoffs back then. Yes, they had a tie.

But undefeated is undefeated!

Siva (and just about everyone else -- except Chris Berman, who gets it right just about every time) needs to either say "perfect season" or "undefeated, untied" or start giving the '29 Packers their due.

Name: Tim Francis-Wright
Hometown: kmarx.com

Alas, Pat O'Neill is mistaken. The Oscar rules specifically allow for an animated film to compete for both Best Animated Feature Film and Best Picture.

Perhaps Disney submitted Ratatouille for both categories, but there was speculation in at least the New York Times that it would not try for both categories, lest voters split their ballots.

Frankly, I wonder just how strategic Oscar voters are -- remember that they are the intellectual descendants of the voters who chose Rocky for Best Picture in the 1976 Oscars over Taxi Driver, All the President's Men, *and* Network.

Name: Roger H. Werner
Hometown: Stockton, California

It's hard to believe that 22 years have passed since Challenger. I recall that morning as vividly as if it were last week. Anyway, it isn't often that someone posting a note here writes something that I find personally moving, but Donohue managed it. I love classical music and regret having never watched Serkin in a concert (I have plenty of his CDs). I agree with Brian: Classical music is far more then the past. I confess a love for most musical forms, in fact, most artistic forms, but there is something about certain pieces of classical music that affect me in an emotional way. I once heard a marvelous Russian pianist play Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, music I've heard a thousand times. The people sitting next to me must have though I was crazy because the music was so beautiful it made me cry. And I recall the first time I heard the 1812 Overture live more than 20 years ago, and it's something I shall never forget. I've been to a hundred rock concerts, and while most were enjoyable, they mostly blend together and all I can recall are the awful concerts.

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