Annie Leibovitz in Fantasyland

What do you do after a film shoot of current super-star Barack Obama? You go to Disney World. Annie Leibovitz, whose pictures of Barack Obama have been posted here previously, has been hired to do a series of pictures to for Disney’s Year of a Million Dreams promotion in which she photographs stars as Disney characters. Above is Scarlett Johansson as Cinderella and Beyoncé as Alice in Wonderland. (Hat tip to The Disney Blog). Further information in USA Today and from Reuters. has video of the event where the first three pictures were revealed.

Obamamania From Coast to Coast

Obamamania continues in the news, from coast to coast. The Los Angeles Times and New York Times both look at Obama’s college days. The Los Angeles Times describes his years on the Harvard Law Review as good preparation for being President:

Barack Obama’s entry into politics came on a winter morning at the white-columned Harvard Law Review building when, about 2 a.m., a deeply divided editorial staff chose him as the first African American to lead the prestigious publication.

It was no small accomplishment. Obama, who at nearly 30 was older and more world-wise than most of his classmates, had to navigate among sharply drawn factions of conservatives and liberals to beat 18 other candidates for the job.

Today, Obama’s weighing of a bid for the White House has provoked questions about whether he has the experience to build a winning coalition of voters. But at Harvard Law Review he showed that — on a much smaller scale — he had the savvy to maneuver through turbulent political waters.”The Harvard Law Review was a place of petty and vicious internal politics,” said Brad Berenson, an editorial board member with Obama and, more recently, an associate counsel to President Bush.

“Compared to Washington and the White House and the Supreme Court, the Harvard Law Review was much more politically vicious,” Berenson said. “The conservatives threw their support to Obama because he could bridge the gap between both camps and retain the trust and confidence of both.”

The New York Times also notes elements of his college life which trouble some people about him today, and largely sums up how I felt after reading The Audacity of Hope:

But mainly, Mr. Obama stayed away from the extremes of campus debate, often choosing safe topics for his speeches. At the black law students’ annual conference, he exhorted students to remember the obligations that came with their privileged education. His speeches, delivered in the oratorical manner of a Baptist minister, were more memorable for style than substance, Mr. Mack said.

“It’s the inspiration of the speech rather than the specific content,” he said.

While some see his years on the law review as evidence of his skills, others question if these are the right skills to make one a great President: (more…)

Misapplication of Military Thought To Domestic Politics

A major difference between liberals and the authoritarian right is the response to criticism of the President. The right wing, having little respect for freedom of speech or of the press, and being out of touch with reality by trusting conservative spin as legitimate news, regularly raises charges of treason against liberals (such as John Kerry today) who convey the truth when it is critical of their leader. This attitude is enhanced by considering the President to be Commander in Chief during a period of Orwellian perpetual warfare from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Garry Wills is bothered by the overuse of the Commander in Chief title, noting that the President is Commander in Chief of the armed services, not each individual citizen. As with so many problems related to the imperial Presidency, the problem was seen during the Nixon years:

I first cringed at the misuse in 1973, during the “Saturday Night Massacre” (as it was called). President Richard Nixon, angered at the Watergate inquiry being conducted by the special prosecutor Archibald Cox, dispatched his chief of staff, Al Haig, to arrange for Mr. Cox’s firing. Mr. Haig told the attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to dismiss Mr. Cox. Mr. Richardson refused, and resigned. Then Mr. Haig told the second in line at the Justice Department, William Ruckelshaus, to fire Cox. Mr. Ruckelshaus refused, and accepted his dismissal. The third in line, Robert Bork, finally did the deed.

What struck me was what Mr. Haig told Mr. Ruckelshaus, “You know what it means when an order comes down from the commander in chief and a member of his team cannot execute it.” This was as great a constitutional faux pas as Mr. Haig’s later claim, when President Reagan was wounded, that “Constitutionally … I’m in control.”

President Nixon was not Mr. Ruckelshaus’s commander in chief. The president is not the commander in chief of civilians. He is not even commander in chief of National Guard troops unless and until they are federalized. The Constitution is clear on this: “The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

Reagan added to the problem, and has grown to new levels during the Bush administration: (more…)

Bush Family Can Dish It Out But Can’t Take It

Nixon spoke to the pictures in the White House. He isn’t the only former Republican President to talk to inanmate objects:

President George W. Bush’s father accused the news media of “personal animosity” toward his son and said he found the criticism so unrelenting he sometimes talked back to his television set.

Ignoring the fact that Bush had a free ride from the press for well over four years despite how disasterous his policies were, Bush Sr. and his fellow Republicans are largely responsible for the current atmosphere. It was Bush Sr. who campaigned against “card carrying members of the ACLU” as if supporting civil liberties was a bad thing. (I quickly joined after this.) He also campaigned in flag factories fuel the absurd right wing claims that they are the more patriotic party, and resorted to the Willie Horton ads against Michael Dukakis. His son’s criticism is trivial compared to the hatred expressed towards Bill Clinton, even though Dubya’s sins are far more serious than an extramarital affair. Worst of all, it is the Bush administration which regularly accuses those who criticize it of being unpatriotic or of helping the terrorists. All in all, George W. Bush has received far less criticism than he deserves.

Kerry Unleashed: US a Pariah Nation Under Bush; Authoritarian Right Upset


Kerry has always been at his best when concentrating on fighting for American against the reactionary forces who threaten to do so much harm to this country. When free of the constraints of political handlers Kerry can speak truth to power and say what so many realize but few dare to say out loud. Speaking in Davos, Kerry spoke out against a major problem of the Bush foreign policy, that the United States has become “a sort of international pariah.”

Kerry was asked about whether the U.S. government had failed to adequately engage Iran’s government before the election of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.

Kerry said the Bush administration has failed in addressing a number of foreign policy issues.

“When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don’t advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy,” Kerry said.

“So we have a crisis of confidence in the Middle East — in the world, really. I’ve never seen our country as isolated, as much as a sort of international pariah for a number of reasons as it is today.”

Kerry said the government needs to use diplomacy to improve national security.

“We need to do a better job of protecting our interests, because after all, that’s what diplomacy is about,” he said. “But you have to do it in a context of the reality, not your lens but the reality of those other cultures and histories.”

Kerry criticized what he called the “unfortunate habit” of Americans to see the world “exclusively through an American lens.”

He also criticized President Bush’s plan to send an additional 21,000 U.S. troops to Baghdad to help secure Baghdad from rampaging sectarian violence.

“I don’t care how many troops are put in — Iraq is not going to be pacified,” Kerry said. “Now, we are partly responsible. The absence of legitimate significant diplomacy is a disgrace. Quick flights in by a secretary of state are not diplomacy.”

“There should be a special envoy, maybe a joint bipartisan special envoy. Why not a President Clinton together with a Republican of high ability, and bring them together and really work the process?”

Webcast and podcast are available here

Needless to say, the authoritarian right, who would lead this country to disaster before admitting that their leader is in error, is outraged. Little Green Fascists Footballs calls this “appalling blast at his own country,” having no understanding of the difference between one’s country and its leaders when wrong–a common trait among authoritarians.

The right wingers resort to their usual tactic of both distorting what Kerry is saying and presented a warped view of Bush’s record. After all, their views cannot hold up to reality, with its well known liberal bias (to paraphrase Colbert). Several conservative blogs try to refute Kerry with exaggerated claims about Bush’s efforts to fight AIDs in Africa. They ignore inconvient facts such as that Bush has regularly been criticized by international organizations, including the UN secretary general’s special envoy for HIV/AIDs in Africa, for his actions such as pandering to the religious right causing a shortage of condoms which would assist with reduction of transmission of the HIV virus.

Conason on Republican Dirty Tricks

Joe Conason wrote about the recent false claims that Barack Obama went to a madrassa as a child, noting the long tradition of such Republican slime:

Yet on the far right, poisonous propaganda can be concocted from the most innocent ingredients. That is precisely what the Unification Church’s Insight magazine proceeded to do on Jan. 19, with the eager assistance of Fox News Channel and right-wing Web sites such as Insight portrayed the Indonesian school as a “madrassa,” suggesting the Saudi-financed institutions that allegedly train Wahhabi terrorists in Pakistan and elsewhere, indicated, to incite religious prejudice, that Obama had been “raised Muslim” — and then attributed these fabrications to political operatives in the Clinton camp.

These false claims lacked any sourcing, but that didn’t prevent the usual media miscreants from broadcasting them, from John Gibson on Fox’s “The Big Story” and Rush Limbaugh down to Melanie Morgan and her sidekick at San Francisco’s KSFO radio station. Just the usual modus operandi of the noise machine — except for that telltale twist of smearing Clinton with responsibility for the attack.

Where could they have gotten that brilliant idea?

Performing a dirty trick on one Democratic presidential candidate in a way that would reflect blame on another Democrat was the specialty of the Watergate crew led by Hunt, which back in the early ’70s included G. Gordon Liddy and Donald Segretti, as well as a host of lesser goons and spies such as the ingénue Lucianne Goldberg.

According to “Nightmare: Underside of Nixon Years,” the definitive book on the Watergate scandal, by the late, great journalist J. Anthony Lukas, Goldberg filed gossipy espionage reports from George McGovern’s press plane on “who was sleeping with whom, what the Secret Service men were doing with the stewardesses, who was smoking pot on the plane — that sort of thing.” Or so she told him.

Meanwhile, Segretti and company had been putting out nasty smear stories about certain Democratic candidates and attributing the smears to other Democrats, in order to divide the opposition and destroy Nixon’s potential competitors.

Conason ties in the dirty tricks of the Nixon era to those who do the same today:

It is worth pointing out that Goldberg is not the only contemporary propagandist whose sordid roots trace back to Tricky Dick. Fox News is the creature of Roger Ailes, the jolly face of the Nixon gang, and Gibson and all of the other spewing heads on that network are his minions and nothing more. The Rev. Sun Myung Moon was among the last and most bitter defenders of Nixon, whose brainwashed “Moonies,” just as obedient as any Fox anchor, stepped lively whenever they were ordered to demonstrate against impeachment on the steps of the Capitol.

Despite the right-wing regression to such ugly tactics against Clinton and Obama, there was a moment of hope as well. Rather than simply repeat the charges and rebuttals as if each bore equal weight, CNN sent an actual reporter to Obama’s old school, who demolished the tale — and at the same time, the news network emphasized that there was no evidence whatsoever linking Clinton to the attack. If such old-fashioned journalism is the template for campaign coverage this year and next, the dirty tricksters could soon face the unforgiving scrutiny they have always deserved.

If only the media had done their job better to immediately investigate the false claims of the Swift Boat Liars.

The Media vs. Obama

By now virtually anyone who follows the blogs is aware of how Fox News both lied about Obama being educated in a madrasa and lied in their claims that the charge originated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It turns out that Fox News isn’t the only ones at fault. Media Matters has a long list of attacks on Obama, including ones from CNN and MSNBC, along with claims that the attacks originated with unidentified “opponents.”

Kos Laughs At GOP Prospects of Beating Kerry in Massachusetts

Daily Kos hasn’t always been friendly towards John Kerry, but now that he’s out of the Presidential race many no longer see reason to bash him. Kos himself laughs at the prospect that Republicans can beat him in his reelection bid:

Republicans would likely run the Senate if, in their infinite arrogance and hubris, they hadn’t spent millions trying to win unattainable seats in New Jersey, Michigan, and Maryland at the expense of endangered incumbents in Montana and Virginia.

Lucky for us, they appear willing — heck, eager — to make the same mistake again

“Trashed image”? In their dreams. The GOP’s biggest problem is that they believe their own hype. One botched joke and they think they can win in Massachusetts? Ha ha ha.

There have been a number of favorable posts about Kerry around the blogosphere since he announced his decision not to run, such as here, here, and here.

Maureen Dowd: Delusional Too Mild a Word to Describe Dick Cheney

Dick Durbin called Dick Cheney delusional. Maureed Dowd thinks this is too mild:

Dick Durbin went to the floor of the Senate on Thursday night to denounce the vice president as “delusional.”

It was shocking, and Senator Durbin should be ashamed of himself.

Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man.

Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.

Only someone with an inspired alienation from reality could, under the guise of exorcising the trauma of Vietnam, replicate the trauma of Vietnam.

You must have a real talent for derangement to stay wrong every step of the way, to remain in complete denial about Iraq’s civil war, to have a total misunderstanding of Arab culture, to be completely oblivious to the American mood and to be absolutely blind to how democracy works.

In a democracy, when you run a campaign that panders to homophobia by attacking gay marriage and then your lesbian daughter writes a book about politics and decides to have a baby with her partner, you cannot tell Wolf Blitzer he’s “out of line” when he gingerly raises the hypocrisy of your position.