So the White House finally did it. The Donald is strutting around like a gamecock, taking credit for forcing the administration to do something no one else had been able to. Effortlessly shifting gears, the pompous pompadour has moved on to questioning the president’s academic qualifications for getting into Columbia and Harvard, two institutions of higher learning that remained unattainable to Mr. Trump despite his financial advantages.
Meanwhile, the “legitimate” birthers are left scrabbling for a rationale, the way millenialists do after they’ve predicted the world will end and the sun stubbornly rises the next morning. Not to worry. They won’t believe this birth certificate any more than the last one.
The fact remains that this is the first president in history who has had to present documents to prove his origins. Some say it’s because his doubters believe he’s a closet communist. They said that about FDR, too, but nobody asked if he was born in the United States. John McCain has a much more tenuous hold on the “natural born” label than Mr. Obama, yet no birther movement coalesced to doubt his background, either.
Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Obama reveals birth certificate" »
Will they never learn?
We’ve had troops mired for years in two theaters, and they’re spread so thin that the stress of repeated tours of duty is breaking them. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Secretary of Defense said that anybody who considers getting involved in another Middle East conflict ought to have his head examined.
Yet, the armchair hawks in congress are ready to go to war all over again in Libya, and they have the gall to chastise the president for moving too slowly. Sure, it plays well back home, where people are screaming about gas prices. But it’s President Obama who, if he gets us involved militarily, will be lying awake nights with those lives on his conscience.
Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Send in the Marines?" »
When Rolling Stone broke the story about a U.S. Army general in Afghanistan deploying his psychological warfare specialists to brainwash visiting members of congress, there was a good deal of reference made on TV news shows to The Manchurian Candidate.
Anyone old enough to remember when the Chinese were our sworn enemies rather than our bankers recalls the general creepiness we all felt about the secretive Middle Kingdom. When the novel and movie came out that suggested the Chinese practiced mind control, it struck a paranoid nerve.
Whether or not the Army really tried to persuade pols like Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain to send in more troops (as if the latter needed persuading), any revulsion and outrage we feel is due to the fact that they may have been subjected to nefarious head games as part of the process.
Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Army psy-ops mind games" »
Back in the glory days of the British Empire, the mother country was frequently accused of playing fast and loose with troops from the dominions. In WWI, for example, there was a perception Down Under that the cream of Aussie youth had been thrown into the meat grinder against the Turks at Gallipoli while tea-sipping British officers and regulars remained in the rear, thus avoiding the carnage. In the British mind, a British soldier’s life was somehow worth more, and should be conserved at the expense of others. At least, that was the perception.
It’s like that with the U. S. and the regimes we have historically propped up in the Middle East. Democracy is a beautiful thing. It begets prosperity and the freedom to pursue life’s enriching pleasures. But what’s good enough for our exceptional Shining City On The Hill isn’t good enough for the inhabitants of the oil-rich states of the Middle East.
Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Arab revolt" »
Since we’re in full confession mode this week, and I’ve already revealed that I’m harboring strangely positive thoughts about Hillary Clinton, I might as well go all the way and declare that I am deeply disappointed by John McCain.
Yes, ten years ago, when he was running in the Republican primary against W., I thought (as did many Americans), “Here is an honorable man. I might not agree with his politics, but he appears to have the integrity I find lacking in so many pols today.”
Somewhere between then and now, Big John sold his soul to the forces of darkness. We won’t even talk about his rank opportunism in plucking Sarah Palin out of obscurity—an act for which the nation still suffers.
Formerly a moderate on immigration reform, he demonized aliens in a craven⎯albeit successful⎯attempt to beat a rabid conservative in his recent reelection bid.
Now he plays the spoiler as ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, using one dilatory tactic after another to block the open integration of gays into the military. He called for a study. It was completed, but the results did not comport with his wishes. He wants another study.
Two-thirds of service members surveyed say they don’t care about the sexual orientation of their comrades. The Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs want DADT repealed. They attest such an action won’t harm the military in the long run. An overwhelming majority of Americans favors repeal. What dwindling group of troglodytes is McCain fronting for at this point?
Yes, John McCain served honorably in war, fighting to protect the sacred rights of Americans. Since that time, he seems to have forgotten that meant the rights of all Americans, not just the ones who vote in Arizona’s Republican primary.
If the idea of a high-tech “invisible” border fence was to keep furriners off the property on the cheap and to do so without prompting embarrassing comparisons to the Berlin Wall, it appears to have failed on both counts.
The fifty-three-mile-long boondoggle did, however, manage to funnel practically a billion dollars into the hands of contractors like the Boeing Corporation, so not everybody went away unhappy.
It seems the electronic surveillance equipment is unable to differentiate between trespassing aliens and ordinary ground clutter.
It makes one pine for an old-fashioned, inexpensive, low-tech solution—like the heart-stirring vision of Black Jack Pershing and George Patton galloping across the border at the head of a column of YOO-nited States Cavalry. You can bet your government-issue horse blanket they were able to differentiate between Pancho Villa’s band of desperadoes and ordinary ground clutter.
The romance of the American West aside, many of us would prefer a “real” fence along the entire border. The problem is that, while providing the visceral satisfaction of catching would-be border-violators in the act of scaling it like cockroaches trying to get out of a bathtub, it’s a budget-buster and doesn’t work all that much better than the “virtual” one, anyway.
Maybe the better solution would be to put into effect an incorruptible guest-worker ID program, and to place heavy penalties on businesses that employ illegals under the table.
In other words, eliminate the incentive.
Nah… “Fix the danged fence!” makes for a much better sound bite in campaign ads… right, Sen. McCain?
On this historic day, when the U.S. Senate is poised to further the process to repeal the infamous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning gays from openly serving in the military, it seemed appropriate to re-post a cartoon that first ran in this space in April of 2009.
By the end of today, we will know if Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to muster the sixty votes necessary to override a filibuster and pass the measure, which comes in the form of an amendment to a Pentagon appropriations bill that has already passed through the House, into full debate.
If not, the failure will largely be due to the efforts of Sen. John McCain, who once pledged that he would support the measure if it had the backing of military leaders. It now does, and he has not only reneged, but he is planning to lead the filibuster against it himself.
What happened to poor old John? I once respected him. Is reelection that important?
Since this cartoon was published, it has won some awards, was proudly worn on t-shirts by a contingent from Atlanta at a gay-rights march in Washington, D.C., and appeared on The Daily Show.
Here are my accompanying comments at the time of original publication. In my humble opinion, they are just as accurate today.
Tuesday Afternoon Update: The attempt has failed, 56-43. Thanks to the arcane rules of the Senate, a majority is not enough to prevent a filibuster. There is a slim chance something could be worked out during the lame duck session in December.
Ah...just when we thought all the excitement of the campaign was over, and it was time to settle down and eat our lima beans while President-elect Obama dragged us through the fleshing-out of his cabinet...
Now comes the glass of fine liqueur at the end of a rich, multi-course meal for us political junkies. The Republicans unsheathe the long knives and begin the much-anticipated scapegoating of their own. She doesn't know Africa is a continent? Can't name the countries in NAFTA? He refused her pleas to play the Rev. Wright card? His henchpeople mishandled her?
One can only hope it lasts through the Transition, which the economic news is making drearier by the day.
On Election Day, I had to be ready with several alternative cartoons, just in case. The deadline for the Opinion Pages was 1 a.m. Wednesday, and there were three contingencies.
No.1: Obama wins. No.2: McCain wins. No.3: They're still counting, and we don't know by deadline.
What you see here is the sketch I had ready for an eleventh-hour McCain upset. Obviously, I never had to bother to ink it because they called the election for Obama relatively early on, so we ran that cartoon instead.
My colleagues on the Editorial Board and I remember clearly last spring, when John McCain sat before us in a small room and declared, with a straight face, that he would run a clean and honorable campaign, one worthy of the American people.
This must have been before the Rovian pod people took posession of his brain, although one could argue that his campaign has, in fact, been worthy of the American people. We'll see after Tuesday.
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that he loses, he'll have to go back to the Senate. His own party will shun him for blowing the race with his craven choice of Palin--plus they always detested him, anyway. The Democrats will despise him for the name-calling, the robocalls, the whisper campaigns, and the gutter politics. That leaves only Joe Lieberman to eat Senate bean soup with, which is like sharing lunch with that droning U.S. History teacher in high school who taught by staying one textbook chapter ahead of the class.
Technical note: Normally, I draw using brushes, old-fashioned steel pen points and India ink. Today, I thought I'd try doing the whole thing with a ball-point pen, because of the detail. Plus, the adolescent in me thought it would be cool to draw a trebuchet.
If you're like most Floridians, your opinion of Gov. Charlie runs somewhere between vanilla and French vanilla. He's a reasonably inoffensive, likable gent. Not exactly a barn-burner, but as a person, he's quite charming.
Compared to Sarah Palin, however, he looks positively Lincolnesque. Just try to put yourself in his shoes after he used his considerable prestige in our contentious state to pull John McCain's chestnuts out of the fire during the primary, when everyone had given his candidacy up for dead. This is the thanks he gets? Princess Needless Markup who played hooky during junior high civics class?
You can bet that if Charlie had been the VP pick, he'd have been able to tell Katie Couric what the Vice-President's statutory role is, and he wouldn't be dragging down the public discourse by calling his opponent a socialist, terrorist, Marxist teacher of sex ed to kindergartners.
That's probably why McCain didn't give him the job. Buck up, Governor. You're too good for it.
Normally, I don't like to rely on so many words in cartoons, but I couldn't think of a more effective way to make the point about negative campaigning... without resorting to cliches (like avalanches of mud pouring out of the TV set).
Why not list, in simplistic terms, the way each side has tried to frame its opponent in our minds? When you lay it out this way, we really see how absurd this type of campaigning is when we're staring a possible depression in the face.
Have you ever finished a project, and been so proud of it that you can't wait to show it to your friends, because you know it'll confirm to them, unequivocally, that you really are the genius your mother told you you were when you presented her with that first crayon drawing of a flower?
That was the case with this cartoon. It's also the curse of the cartoonist, who always gets the cartoon because he's the one who dreamed it up in the first place.
Imagine my dismay when I ran it past my distinguished colleagues, Antonio Fins and Nicole Brochu, and the sketch was greeted with no more than a yawn and a scratch of the head. Tony told me to go ahead and run it if I wanted to; it was my call. Maybe I wasn't as brilliant as I thought, after all.
Conversely, there are times when, pushing deadline, I pull an idea out of a dark place that, to me, is the most moronic, simplistic excuse for a cartoon--and for some reason, it hits everybody's funny bone.
If any of the readers of this blog care to weigh in on the topic, I'd be interested in hearing what you think. SPOILER ALERT!!! DON'T READ PAST THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE THE EXPLANATION OF THIS CARTOON!!! I feel I owe it to you, though.
The point is that it is as absurd to question Barack Obama's patriotism because his middle name is Hussein, as to believe that John McCain is a closet Australian because his middle name is Sydney. Neither man had his choice of names. Sydney, by the way, is a large city in Australia. Which is a foreign country.
Okay, it's a stretch.
Meet America's newest celebrity. I'm sure you'll be seeing him on Larry King and Katie Couric. Maybe the ladies of The View can get him to unclog the john in the dressing room. Never did Andy Warhol's dictum about fifteen minutes of fame ring more true.
I think Obama and McCain fully entered a bizarre parallel universe when they began addressing Joe directly, as a stand-in for the American people. Pick up the phone, I say. Don't waste my time with Joe's tax woes. He makes a lot more money than most of us do. Of course, Joe--being a plumber--would have started the meter running from the moment he answered the phone, so maybe McCain was just trying to save his campaign money by talking to him through the TV networks.
For those of us old enough to remember, I envision a sitcom involving Joe, his mother, Josephine the Lady Plumber, and his grandmother, Rosie the Riveter, who all share the same huge mcmansion. They sit around the proverbial kitchen table, scheming a way to hornswoggle the government into bailing out their toxic mortgage by rescheduling it at the house's new, depressed value.
With special guest appearances by U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as Mr. Clean and Sarah Palin as Betty Crocker. It's a green-light project for sure.
Crisis over. With the Dow surging an unprecedented 938 points today, we can, with our characteristically short national attention span, move on to the next topic.
That means, our candidates can once again spar over ephemera like lipstick on pigs or who went to a cocktail party at whose house or who flew on whose private plane way back when.
I propose (considering how stilted and boring the debates have been so far), that rather than listening to those two stiffs yak at each other about their past associations, we draft the actual principals to get up on stage and do battle as surrogates. Ayres can even wear a Che Guevara t-shirt if he wants to.
If this idea grabs high ratings, we could schedule as a bonus for the American people--who have had to endure so much for so long--a debate between the Rev. Wright and Sarah Palin's witch-hunting pastor from Wasilla. They could sell it on Pay-Per-View, foreign objects from outside the ring allowed.
You don't have to be in the tank for one candidate or the other to be repulsed by what John McCain's vice-presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, has been doing on the stump lately.
According to news reports, she has incited her adoring crowds into yelling terms like "traitor," "terrorist," and "kill him" when she utters the name of her opponent at the top of the ticket, Barack Obama.
Nobody is against tough campaigning, but I think many would agree that this kind of rabble-rousing is beyond the pale. It is an attempt to awaken the ugliest side of the American character, and once one gets over the spine chills at the idea of what this kind of rhetoric could unleash in the body politic, one is overcome with sadness that a man as honorable as John McCain, who has given so much to his country, has stooped this low in his single-minded quest for the brass ring.
For, surely, it is John McCain who allows Sarah Palin to continue in this vein. His advisers may have seduced him with the siren song, "You can either be principled, or you can win," but had he not chosen to look the other way while she did his dirty work for him, it would surely not happen. He probably figures there is plenty of time to regain his integrity after he's elected, but we've now seen what he's capable of.
I liked the John McCain of 2000, along with many of my compatriots. I heard one wag on TV say, "Back in 2000, John McCain said there was a special place in hell for those Bush campaign operatives who smeared him. It seems that place is now in the McCain campaign, because they're all working for him."
Yes, it's all very sad.
This cartoon is a smorgasbord of images: a little something for everyone.
In searching for a vehicle to make my point, I intentionally harked back to those heroic equestrian statues of George Washington, because the Washingtonian resoluteness in the face of adversity is what John McCain is trying to evoke by suspending his campaign and returning to the capital. Here is the great leader marshaling his troops, rousing their morale when things seem at their most hopeless. He did, curiously, use the word, "patriotic," when he made the announcement that he was temporarily folding his tent for the greater good of the nation.
Of course, the image of the mounted leader is also reminiscent of Napoleon, and we all know what happened to him.
In keeping with McCain's militaristic persona, I dressed him in a 19th Century U.S. Cavalry uniform, and Baby Boomers will recognize Cpl. Agarn's buffoonish head cover stylization from the television series F Troop.
Finally, for you art historians, I wasn't consciously channeling Picasso here (God forbid!), but when I finished the drawing, I realized that the horse definitely has the same facial expression as the rearing steed in Guernica, which brings an element of chaos to the picture.
After all that, what the hell does the cartoon mean?
Up until about forty-eight hours ago, John McCain had a reputation for being Mr. Laissez-Faire. He fought government regulation tooth and nail. But, like his previous stance on offshore drilling, the scales have suddenly fallen from his eyes.
Funny thing how nobody's using the term "flip-flopper" this year. Remember 2004, when people dressed as huge sandals followed John Kerry around on the campaign trail? Remember the windsurfing ad? Oh-- wait a minute--he was a DEMOCRAT! When it's the Republican candidate, we call it a "strategic reassessment of the situation on the ground."
OK, politics had the day off yesterday. I'm back to bashing your favorite political icon.
Actually, this was a rare opportunity to hit both sides at once: first, Hillary for being so disloyal to her own party as to indicate she thought the Republican was more qualified than her Democratic opponent to be President. There's nothing wrong with ambition, but I think this was unprecedented in a primary campaign.
Second, John McCain for concentrating on the insults Hillary hurled months ago in the heat of a primary battle, when what the country desperately needs to know is how he plans to get us out of our mess.
For those of you old enough to remember, this could turn out to be the $600 toilet seat of the 2008 election. Or not. Back in the 1980's, when waste and bloat were problems with military procurement (as if those problems ever went away), the American people had a hard time getting their arms around billions and trillions of dollars being spent on defense. Too abstract to compute.
Then a $600 contractor's invoice came to light for a bomber toilet seat, an everyday item that cost less than ten bucks at the time down at the local hardware store. Finally, Joe Taxpayer could visualize the waste. All hell broke loose in Congress as constituents began bombarding their representatives with phone calls and mail. John McCain's not being able to remember how many houses he owns could be another toilet seat moment, the tipping point when Americans grasp how out of touch he is with the rest of us. Or not. After all, it's probably a common problem for fat cat Republicans. Why single McCain out for ridicule? Shame on me.
You don't have to be a big Obama supporter to agree that McCain's current line casting doubt upon his opponent's patriotism is beneath the integrity of a war hero who served his country with distinction, and contrary to the "campaign of issues" he pledged to conduct what seems like eons ago.
There are two possible conclusions to draw here: the charitable one, which is that McCain is truly a man of honor and principle who listens to his advisers too much, which means he's a patsy. Or, that he's a charlatan who's sold his soul to fulfill his dream of becoming President.
So, this is what they call "experience."
To paraphrase the Roman poet Juvenal (I think): an anxious populace, having long ago abdicated its duty to govern itself, awaits only bread and circuses.
Why Juvenal? Because I'd rather paraphrase him than Paris Hilton or Britney Spears.
Actually, he's proof that societies have been practicing avoidance techniques for thousands of years. Let's face it-- McCain and Obama are a couple of downers who spend all their time telling us what a mess we're in, and how the other guy will make things even worse. Who wants to listen to that day in and day out?
Light the torch, nuke the popcorn, and let the games begin! There's plenty of time for self-government later.
Who would have thought Governor Charlie would want to be Vice-President so badly that he'd pull this kind of craven flip-flop on coastal oil drilling? Personally, I never gave him credit for having that much ambition.
If McCain chooses him in hopes he'll deliver Florida for the Republicans in November, he might find the Governor to be damaged goods in his home state after this news gets around.
As any consultant will tell you, it's perceptions, not facts, that matter in politics. Too much snow on the rooftop to win an election, telegenic as Gov. Charlie might be. To make matters worse, as one of my colleagues remarked, "Crist's healthy tan makes McCain look sallow and frail by comparison."
When it comes to affecting economic cycles, there is very little a President can realistically do. Candidates for President can do even less, so they bloviate like whales spouting on a distant horizon.
The debate between McCain and Obama on this topic has an abstruse, how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin quality about it. We should move on to topics that matter to the American People, like whether Cindy McCain looks like a Stepford Wife, or whether Michelle Obama is too radical and edgy to be a First Lady.
Seventy-two percent of Americans are sick of President Bush. Among the remaining twenty-eight percent are the ones with all the money. One of the more amusing diversions of this campaign will be to watch John McCain's contortions as he tries to embrace the fundraising pig without getting the smell all over him.
I would almost feel sorry for W. (stands for "Who?" in McCain's vocabulary) if his bumblings had not been so destructive. Even his own former flack is stabbing him in the back to sell books ("Et tu, McClellan?"). So much for the vaunted Bush team loyalty.
I guess we're in for a long campaign. You'd think McCain would let independently funded groups do his Swiftboating for him so he can hang onto his fig leaf, but he just can't seem to wait. Let's play on the Muslim rumor to get that Straight Talk General Election Express rolling. If he's a Muslim, he MUST be a closet terrorist, right? After all, he's Hamas' poster boy.
I would imagine there are more than a few Klan members who plan to vote for McCain. That doesn't mean I'm going to be drawing him wearing a hood and burning crosses any time soon.
Asking a politician not to pander is like asking a shark not to bite into your thigh. I just wish they wouldn't so brazenly insult our intelligence. They assume we're all idiots...now THAT'S elitism.
So let's just assume, for the sake of the argument, that I'm way off-base in thinking that John McCain wants to have it both ways. He tells the North Carolina Republican Party not to run a particularly damaging anti-Obama ad featuring the rantings of Rev. Wright, so that he can take a bow for being a stand-up guy, while knowing they'll run it anyway.
If, in fact, he told them in all sincerity that he doesn't want them to run the ad, yet they ignore their so-called standard-bearer, then what kind of a leader is he? If he can't handle some two-bit state GOP organization, how is he going to handle Congress, or for that matter, a stubborn, unpredictable world?
Take your pick: Mr. Straight Talk is either disingenuous or ineffectual.
This race is driving the Democratic Party bigwigs bonkers. The only Democrat who might have had the clout to step in and stop the carnage happens to be married to one of the candidates, and his stature is diminishing by the day, anyway.
Behind it all runs a leitmotif of Machiavellian psychobabble:
1: "She knows she'll lose, and she wants to make sure to destroy Obama on the way out. That way, McCain wins the general, and she comes back in four years as St. Hillary, the patron saint of I Told You So."
2: "Spite. If she's going to lose, she wants to take him and the party down with her as punishment for not picking her in the first place. How dare the vermin stand in her way?"
3: "She'll do anything to win, and worry about dealing with the hurt feelings later. The Clintons defined winning dirty. Her base, the shoulder-pad feminists of a certain age, see this as simply being tough in a tough world."
4: "The longer she manages to stay in, the higher the price she can exact for agreeing to get out. Governor of New York? Senate Majority Leader? Chief Justice Clinton?"
I believe all of it.
The risk with running a cartoon like this is that there are some younger readers who won't make the historical connection and therefore miss the point. I have to strike a delicate balance between losing some people and beating others with a sledgehammer. If you don't let the reader perform the final connection in his own head, you make him a passive observer rather than a participant in the cartoon. Obviousness is the enemy of wit.
No, I didn't draw this in response to angry Hillarylovers who ask why I'm always beating up on their warrior woman. I just call 'em as I see 'em, and right now I'm not seeing anything new or refreshing from anybody.