Monday, July 27, 2009

Erin Andrews in the NUDE!

Just about everybody has weighed in on the plight of Erin Andrews. Fox Sport’s Jason Whitlock fired of an ill-advised racially charged column questioning why there’s a pity party for Andrews when ESPN’s Stuart Scott was caught up in a scandal involving his own privacy being violated when he sent a text message to a possible girlfriend, but mostly people are just beside themselves that some pervert pressed a camera up against the peephole in Erin’s door while she was in her room.

After a lot of searching I finally found the video and I watched it. It was disappointing. The quality of the video was just awful. It’s grainy, fuzzy and blurred. It’s like watching a Playboy video through a slice of ham. You can tell that there’s a tall, skinny blond and it looks like she’s naked but unless you’re 13 it’s not something that’s going to send you scrambling for a box of Kleenex.

The thing that I noticed in the video is that Andrews seemed to spend a lot of time naked. She was apparently getting ready to leave her room and was doing all the things that people do when they get ready. She ironed her clothes, brushed her hair and walked back and forth slowly. It seemed that she also spent a lot of time in front of this camera.

Now I’m not familiar with her room but I can only venture to guess that ESPN’s favorite tasty sideline treat doesn’t shack up at the Motel 6. My money’s on a four or five star place and I have to believe the girl had a pretty nice sized suite. So it stands to reason that most of her room would not be visible from the peephole. Somehow Erin did almost everything she needed to do right in front of the camera. She was in the middle of the frame almost the entire time!

Am I insinuating that she participated in this production? Well, consider that she supposedly thought she was alone and nobody was watching. Did she do any of the embarrassing things most of us would do in those same circumstances? No. She never picked her nose or popped a pimple. She didn’t go foraging in her butt crack or scratch her vagina. Not once did she strike an unflattering pose. Every move she made was graceful if not sensual. So what’s the real story here?

The New York Post invoked the wrath of ESPN by publishing still photos from the video. The New York Post was also quick to point out that the video had been available online for weeks but that nobody took interest until Erin Andrews and ESPN started crying foul. When Andrews took legal action she proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the video was the real thing and it sparked a frenzy. Now she’s an internet sensation.

So why would she do it? Publicity. Look, Erin Andrews is no stranger to the flesh trade. That’s why she’s working at ESPN. There are women who know more about sports, but none of them are going to make Maxim’s Hot 100. ESPN hired Erin Andrews because she looks good and Erin Andrews pursued a career covering sports for that very reason. She started off as a college cheerleader and took the next step. You don’t need to be smart to ask coaches and players how they feel about blowing a 17 point lead. You just have to be somewhat articulate and still look hot when that camera adds ten pounds.

Even though people who worship ESPN think Erin Andrews was already famous, she wasn’t universally recognized. I wouldn’t have been able to pick her out of a line up and most people would accuse me of being a sports fan. I just don’t watch that many games on ESPN. In fact, I cheat anymore. I usually skip watching sports in favor of picking up some highlights later in the evening. So sue me.

Erin Andrews probably doesn’t want the highlight of her career being a stint as eye candy on ESPN. She’s got bigger aspirations than that but perhaps not quite enough talent. At 31, she doesn’t have a lot of time to broker her good looks so she’s got to act quickly. Unfortunately she didn’t have Paris Hilton’s ovaries and she stopped short of the requisite sex tape.

So what will Erin get out of this? If she plays her cards right she can hit the harpy talk show circuit and whine about how women aren’t taken seriously because men, evil men with penises, are always objectifying them. Joy Behar will commiserate with her as if she understands.

Erin might be able to lean on ESPN and get a more prominent role. Perhaps hosting a show or at least getting a few meaty sport-oriented assignments. Maybe she’ll go right to the top and have Disney pull strings at ABC and get her a daytime talk show like Ellen, Rachel and Oprah. Unlike Paris, who went all the way to go from a prominent B-list hanger-on to top shelf celebrity tail, Erin’s got the credibility of innocence on her side. She’s not some hussy who got hamstrung by a sleazy ex-beau, Erin’s just a pretty girl who was brushing her hair.

Even if she had no knowledge of this video, I’m going to have to call BS on her being portrayed as a victim. You couldn’t tell who it was in the video. Nobody knew there was any smoke until Andrews yelled “fire”. As for her professional integrity, please. There are too many women who actually open doors with their brains to hold Andrews up as the poster girl for sexism. Andrews willfully participated in the sexism that exists in sports. When you live by the sword you’d better be ready to die by it.

Andrews knows this better than anybody and this is just her latest attempt to get more mileage out of her looks. Sorry, but real people, even good-looking people, don’t look good naked. We do ugly things and if Erin Andrews had really been the victim of a peeping tom she would have been caught doing something a lot more embarrassing than meticulously stroking her long golden locks. Give me a break.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sarah's Solo Act

Are the Republicans really going to hitch their wagon to Sarah Palin in 2012? The same Sarah Palin who ran John McCain’s campaign aground with her neoconservative platform and her vitriolic personality? Democrats must be holding out hope that they are.

It’s more likely that the Republican Party will stay its current course, which is to drift aimlessly in the doldrums until they figure out which way the wind is blowing. Will the Americans people reject Barack Obama forcefully enough to swing back to the far right, or is the moderate stance the best way to go? It’s too early to tell and while Sarah Palin’s grabbing a lot of attention right now, it’s interesting to see that she is on her own. Nobody from the GOP is eager to back her, not yet.

If the economy heats up and the Democrats are able to maintain control of the House and Senate in 2010 the Republicans might have to embrace Palin and her tired old family values act. It’s all Palin has, but it was also all Bush had. It’s all a matter of selling it. The GOP just has to figure out if that’s how they want to be defined.

The problem with Palin is that she quit the only job she ever had that mattered. Being the mayor of Watchamacallit, Alaska doesn’t even look good on a resume if you’re applying for an assistant manager position at Applebee’s and the knock on Palin’s political experience during the 2008 campaign was valid because she hadn’t been governor long enough to demonstrate an ability to see an administration through its first term. Now she’s quitting before she can stick that feather in her cap.

It’s interesting because Sarah Palin really blew her own horn with regard to her political experience. She seemed genuinely convinced that her short stint at the helm of the least populous state in the US qualified her for the top job in the country. She proudly boasted that her experience was more significant than Barack Obama’s but since she bailed on that job in order to cash in on her popularity you have to wonder what her priorities are.

Sarah Palin will probably be much more formidable this time around but they don’t make a smart pill. If they did, the GOP would have been sneaking them into W’s applesauce for the last 10 years. Palin might actually have the coaching to avoid making a fool out of herself with Katie Couric but she’ll always be one unscripted question away from talking out of her ass. It’s also important to note that she’ll be facing a lot more scrutiny if she has the audacity to take a run at the presidency.

As a VP candidate pulled straight out of left, or perhaps more accurately, right field, Palin didn’t have to endure the slings and arrows of her own party. McCain had already earned the nomination and Palin was little more than window dressing. She just had to look good, exude a little vitality and quietly pander to the religious zealots on the far right.

The problem is that Sarah Palin didn’t want to take a back seat. She dressed in expensive suits, wore jackboots and became an unrepentant media whore. Sarah Palin resented John McCain and opposed his platform. McCain’s advisors publicly expressed outrage and disgust over the way Palin conducted herself. She was a shrill conservative harpy who frightened a lot of McCain’s longtime supporters.

There are a lot of people in the GOP who don’t want to see a return to the Rovian agenda and McCain’s failure on 2008 seemed to make it clear that the time was at hand to step away from religiosity and focus on important issues like taxes, spending and a reasonable approach to security; things McCain stood for back in 2000 when he lost his party’s nomination to George W. Bush. Had the McCain of 2000 campaigned in 2008 he might have won, but the older McCain compromised his personal values by embracing the Christian zealots he once vilified. He thought he had to pander in order to win.

The problem the GOP had in the past election is that the loyal Republican base lost faith. A lot of people felt like the Republican Party had lost its way and they voted for Obama. McCain, who had once been a fierce critic of George W. Bush, rebuilt himself in Bush’s image and Sarah Palin reinforced the message. Her only attribute, aside from her relative youth and camera friendly looks, was her appeal to the far right and with McCain resorting to the fear-mongering Bush, Cheney and Rove artfully employed to silence critics it was too much for reasonable people to bear.

Palin overreacted to David Letterman’s joke about her daughter’s unplanned and unexpected pregnancy. It was a poor joke, not by way of tastefulness but simply in execution. Sarah Palin turned a typical late note groaner into a crime against her family. She milked it for publicity and as the limelight started to fade she bellied up to the podium to announce that she was going to quit her job. Palin might even be convinced that it’s for Alaska’s benefit, and given her intellectual acumen she might have a point, but the fact remains that she was elected to serve a four year term. It was the only term to which she had been elected and couldn’t even follow through on that.

She spun it to sound as though her popularity has put Alaska in a tight spot, but she isn’t the first governor to return to her post after a failed VP bid. Senators and Congressman do it all the time. It’s an accepted part of the process. The problem with Palin is that she’s not content to ride off into the Alaskan sunset and bide her time. She doesn’t want to do her job. She’s too damned important.

If she does manage to become president it’s unlikely a more prestigious gig will reveal itself but vanity plays a big enough role in politics. This country doesn’t need somebody whose only motivation is vanity. The GOP doesn’t need to waste what little credibility it has by supporting her.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Oh the humanity!

The Palin family is raising holy hell over a crack David Letterman made about A-Rod knocking up their daughter. It was a quip Letterman made over a picture of the Palin clan at a Yankees game recently. The Palins made much ado over the fact that the daughter in attendance was 14 year-old Willow Palin and not her 18 year-old slutty sister Bristol.

The joke doesn’t seem exceptionally funny but with Letterman it’s often not the joke but his delivery. In fact, most jokes don’t seem funny when they’re in print. Letterman would be the first person to tell you that most of his jokes are duds. How he handles a dud is what makes him funny.

The Palins have gone on the offensive. Todd (Sarah Palin’s boy toy who doesn’t have a real job) is getting all macho about it and Sarah is hitting up all the usual suspects in the media to drum up sympathy. They’re accusing Letterman of promoting the raping of a 14 year-old girl.

Letterman made the mistake of trying to explain the joke and apologized but the Palins aren’t having any of it. Letterman even suggested that the Palins could come on his show but they won’t have that either. The Palins don’t want to help Letterman improve his ratings and, as a Palin spokesminion put it, they don’t think it’s a good idea to have Willow around Letterman.

That’s just ridiculous. I’m not saying that the Palins don’t have any reason to be upset. Even if the joke’s about Bristol, they don’t have to like it. Bristol is a valid subject when discussing Sarah Palin’s brand of morality and her stance on birth control and sexual education. She an abstinence-only advocate and Bristol drives home just how ignorant and futile that position is. If a controlling bitch like Sarah Palin can’t keep penises out of her daughter, who can?

Sarah Palin could have scored more points with me if she would have just responded to Letterman’s joke by suggesting that it was a shame that a guy who’s been in the comedy business so long can’t find a better subject. Then make fun of him for not having the sense to verify that the girl he clearly intended to make fun of wasn’t at the game. Let other people feign disgust over Willow’s age, but take the high road.

This is just another example of Sarah Palin insulating herself with her children. During the campaign she made a big deal about the media violating Bristol’s privacy when they started asking about her baby bump but it was Sarah Palin who eagerly presented herself as a devoted mother. Palin put her children on center stage because her political career lacked anything resembling substance. So when people asked her what adversity she faced she could always play the “working mom” card.

The best thing for David Letterman to do is let it slide. His fans aren’t going to buy the accusations being hurled at him by the Palins. They’ve already become so shrill that most of the right wing whack-jobs who support them are probably getting tired of the whining.

Some people are asking why Letterman isn’t making fun of Obama’s daughters, as if there’s some sort of conspiracy but the fact of the matter is Obama’s daughters aren’t being used as props. They’re far too young to be getting knocked up and while Obama has spoken of his family, he hasn’t used them as a qualification. Michelle Obama might be the smartest and most educated first lady we’ve ever had and she’s been surprisingly quiet. You’d almost think that she was a Republican first lady.

It’s also not fair to lump Letterman in with the media and fuel those “liberal media” conspiracies. Letterman is a comedian who hosts a late night talk show. He owns the production company that handles the writing and personnel for that show. CBS basically leases the show from Worldwide Pants. Letterman does not represent the CBS network and he is not a news reporter or even a pundit.

It’s really not for the Palins to say whether Letterman crossed the line. That decision is made by the public, which is an entity Palin removed herself from when she got into politics. She is now a public figure and by extension (and her conscientious decision) her family is as well. The means the entire Palin clan is fair game. They will be lampooned, critiqued and made mockeries of until the general public decides they’ve had enough.

Palin’s outrage over the Letterman joke will prove to be counterproductive. Reasonable people know that Letterman didn’t mean to insinuate anything untoward about Willow Palin and nobody believes the he endorses statutory rape, sexual abuse or pedophilia. By making a mountain out of a molehill Palin will only encourage more people to make fun of her family, not because it’s funny but because Palin’s reaction is.

What’s big deal; the age of consent in Alaska’s got to be 13 anyway.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Obama goes old school, confuses conservatives.

I do my best to avoid network news. It’s garbage. I don’t blame the networks, they’re only giving the public what it wants. That’s why the focus is on the personalities that read the news rather than the news itself. Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Brian Williams, these people are not news reporters at all. They are quasi-celebrities who read teleprompters that feature hard work done by real reporters who get paid much less and rarely get due credit for their work. If you watch closely you might see some names flash by the screen at the end of these so-called news shows. The real reporters and the producers who put it all together are listed there.

MSNBC has positioned itself as a liberal counterpoint to Fox News. Unfortunately MSNBC comes off as a poorly executed clone of the Daily Show. Keith Olberman’s vendetta against Bill O’Reilly notwithstanding, I find MSNBC offensive. As a self-described liberal I can honestly say that I don’t want to be associated with the nonsense that goes on there. I don’t necessarily disagree with their views but I think they lack professionalism. Don’t pawn yourself off as a serious commentator and then act like a less refined version of Jon Stewart.

Fox News is just ridiculous. They don’t even pretend to be informed or intelligent. They cater to middleclass conservatives and people who don’t want their point of views challenged. Everything is a commentary and there is a clear bias to their commentary. Even though Fox and conservative pundits insist that the rest of the media harbor a liberal bias, it’s quite clear that Fox has positioned itself as a propaganda machine for the right wing.

Case in point? Obama’s recent speech in Cairo. Obama reached out to the Muslim world in hopes of establishing a dialogue that might allow the US to resolve differences without dropping bombs and casting aspersions. Fox News and the pundits they employ jumped on the speech and accused Obama of turning his back on Israel, weakening our nation and apologizing for our actions after 9-11. Obama talked about nuclear weapons and told his audience that his ambition was to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Fox scoffed at this notion, stating that nuclear weapons are here to stay.

They’re right, of course. That genie is out of the bottle. We’re also not going to get rid of chemical and biological weapons. But Obama, by virtue of being an intelligent man, knows this. The reason he’s telling the Muslim world that he wants to eliminate all nuclear weapons is so Muslim people don’t feel like they’re being picked on when they’re told their countries can’t develop nukes. It’s a platitude, not a promise. And while it might be insincere, the gesture is more effective at building cooperation. Bush’s policy was to tell other countries they couldn’t have nukes and then wave his around singing na-nee-na-nee-boo-boo.

Obama also expressed some regret at the way the previous administration handled the aftermath of 9-11. It wasn’t an outright apology but Obama did offer that both the United States and the Muslim world shared blame for the state of the world today. That’s called diplomacy. Rather than pointing his finger at all of Islam, as George W. Bush was prone to do, Obama extended his hand and offered Muslims the opportunity to meet him halfway. President Obama simply realizes that we can’t bomb people into our way of thinking. Compromises must be made. By taking the first step, Obama has put the US in a position of power. We can dictate the nature of those compromises.

One fact Fox pointed out was a poll that reveals a very low favorability rating in the Islamic world. “These people don’t like us; why is Obama trying to woo them,” one bleach-blond bimbo asked. Of course Jon Stewart quickly countered on The Daily Show that you’re supposed to woo people who don’t like you.

You’d think that Fox and the conservative pundits are in favor of waging all out war on Islam. While there are certainly whackos on the right who see this as a holy war, most of the people criticizing Obama are simply grasping at straws. They have to object to everything he does, even if it’s the right thing to do. Obama could turn the Middle East into a utopia where people of every culture and creed embrace one another as brothers and Fox would find something to take issue with. “God wanted the Middle East to be violent,” they’d complain.

It’s too early to tell if Obama’s right. I don’t know if he’s doing a good job or not. He’s clearly not perfect but it certainly seems like he’s on the right track. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney demolished our nation’s good will around the world and that was after the entire world was in our corner after the 9-11 attacks. In all of six months Bush and Cheney managed to alienate everybody except Tony Blair and his loyalty to Bush destroyed his reputation. Before we commemorated the first anniversary of the 9-11 attacks the rest of the world was pretty much thinking that we had it coming and when we turned our attention to Iraq, we were, in the eyes of the world, the evil empire.

It seems as though Obama has mended a few fences. By simply respecting the rest of the world he is earning the respect of people around the world. The US has a chance to be a great country again and that’s because Barack Obama isn’t running around pointing fingers at other countries and using terms like “evil”, “rogue,” and “terror.” He hasn’t claimed to be on a mission from God, like some inbred version of Elwood Blues. Most importantly, he speaks clearly, forms complete sentences and uses words that are actually in the dictionary.

Perhaps 8 years of George W. Bush has conditioned the people at Fox and the idiots who watch them to expect our president to act like a professional wrestler, but back before “the man of god” overtook the White House, this is how Presidents behaved. It's old school diplomacy. Communicating with class, respect and intelligence. It takes some getting used to but it works.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Poor Little Beauty Queen

For Carrie Prejean losing the Miss America Pageant could prove to be a brilliant career move. Most people can only name Vanessa Williams when they try to think of previous pageant winners and she was best know for having her title stripped when nude photos of the aspiring entertainer surfaced. While the ordeal must have been terribly humiliating at the time, Vanessa ended up getting more publicity than other winners and she parlayed that into a successful recording and acting career.

Vanessa Williams was OK as a singer cranking out a few pedestrian pop hits and she was a fairly decent actress once she stopped milking the cameo circuit and focused on the craft but her she’s best known for the Miss America debacle. Long after people have forgotten about most winners, Vanessa Williams was the center of attention.

Miss California, Carrie Prejean, didn’t win but she managed to grab all the attention by stirring up a controversy when guest celebrity judge and shameless media whore Perez Hilton asked her for an opinion on the legalization of gay marriage. Her response:

"I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be between a man and a woman.”

Besides the fact that she sounded inherently bimbish, as most beauty contest participants do—come on, they’re making a living on their looks—the statement wasn’t exactly something to call the ACLU over. The problem is that the Miss America Pageant is all about politics. Neutral politics. Fluff is the key.

Prejean has been making the rounds on all the talk shows insisting that she lost the contest because she had the courage to speak from the heart. She’s also been thumping the bible angle pretty consistently which means she’ll soon have a talk show on FOX probably bridging the time slot between Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

People like Perez Hilton say she’s just a dumb bitch with a bad dye job as if that distinguishes her from the rest of the pageant circuit. Those leaping to her defense talk about liberal bias and freedom of speech.

For me it’s not about liberal bias. I’m a liberal and I couldn’t care less about marriage. I suppose if two people really want to get married they should be able to, but I don’t know why they want to ruin a perfectly good relationship by wrapping it up in red tape. I also think that people who are opposed to gay marriage are, without exception, idiots. If you think gay marriage is wrong you just aren't thinking enough. That includes Carrie, but I really don't have a problem with what she said because I've accepted the fact that I have to share this country with a lot of idiots. I tolerate it because it's illegal to run around punching people in the neck just because they're ignorant.

The problem I have with Carrie’s pity party is that she has nobody to blame but herself. She has a right to speak her mind. She has a right to form an opinion. But if you opt to put those two rights together and people don’t like the result you are subject to reprisals. Freedom of speech is not free of consequences. You and your opinion are not entitled to respect. That's something you earn by being informed and expressing yourself thoughtfully.

Prejudice is wrong. It’s not fair to look at somebody and judge them based on things that are beyond their control but the manner in which you express yourself, be it through word or deed, is something that you can control. When you speak, that provides the people around with an opportunity to judge you. That's the way it's supposed to be. Martin Luther King dreamed of a world where a person would be judged, not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. When you open your mouth you reveal the content of your character.

The trick to beauty pageants is to remember that it’s all superficial. Miss America should really be labeled Miss Future Trophy Wife. We want her to look good, demonstrate a mildly interesting talent and possess just enough intelligence to not embarrass her powerful husband when she is forced to open her mouth in social situations. When you’re asked a question at the Miss America Pageant you’re supposed to form a coherent sentence that glosses over the issue, and then bat your eyes so people remember that your real purpose in life is to be pretty.

Truly intelligent women don’t enter these pageants. Could you imagine somebody with Tina Fey’s wit being asked a question about gay marriage? I’m opposed to gay marriage because I think it’s unfair that the man of my dreams—conscientious of his looks, impeccable style, neat, polite, able to help me pick out a dress or even do my hair in a pinch—is gay. Totally not fair. Why am I stuck choosing between the chronically flatulent frat boy and the guy who wears throwback jerseys?

We’d all laugh, but she wouldn’t win because deep down beauty pageants are chauvinistic. When women are beautiful, talented and smart it threatens us. Not just men, but also other women. Nobody should have it all. That's why even the talent portion is repleat with a number of usless superficial talents. Has a Miss America contestant ever rebuilt a transmission or belched the alphabet during the talent portion? Nope. It's always sub-collegiate gymnatics, baton twirling or some average musical skill. Nothing meaningful or funny.

The ironic thing is that Miss California didn’t pull off looking smart, she just didn’t have the sense to keep her politics neutral. She didn’t pander to the crowd that controlled her destiny as a Miss America contestant, but she still pandered. Her audience was just too busy watching NASCAR at the time.

Some people are really happy with what Miss California had to say. They agree with her and she will soon become an iconic figure in their circles. She will become a conservative media darling and easily have a better career than the Barbie doll wannabe who edged her out. So it’s probably not a good idea to feel sorry for her. If she planned this, I have to give her credit for recognizing an opportunity but I suspect she’s just another dingbat regurgitating the same neo-conservative bile her dad spews at the dinner table everyday. Either way, she’s set for life.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Conservative Politics

I really didn’t like George W. Bush. Not only did he make me feel shame over being an American, I honestly was disgusted that I had to share being the same species with the guy. He was awful. Without a doubt he was our worst president and his ascension to power illustrates that the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about is alive, well and capable to stripping this country of all its rights whenever it wants.

I cringed every time he opened his mouth because I knew that the rest of the world would not give me and the other half of the country who voted against Bush credit for trying to stop him. I knew that the rest of the world wasn’t going to fuss over niggling details like lost ballots and defective voting machines in battleground states like Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. I’m convinced that fraud played a major role in both elections and I’m sure that both sides cheat on Election Day. It’s just that in 2000 and 2004 the race was so close that the fix actually worked. I can’t attest to Florida, I only know what was reported, but I live in Ohio and I know that there was something fishy going on. Globally, however, Bush was the United States. Think about that for a minute.

Through it all, I hated Bush but I opted to bide my time. I took comfort in the jokes offered by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They got me through some pretty tough times and reminded me that this country has managed to endure lousy leadership in the past. Perhaps they weren’t as incompetent and destructive as Bush, but we were going to survive.

I enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama because he represented change. I know that was his mantra but as a candidate he was really a departure from the norm. He stuck by his words, even when they were twisted and used against him. Rather than back-tracking and pretending he didn’t say something, like his comments about embittered people in Western Pennsylvania, Obama took ownership of his statements and explained his position. He seemed to keep his head out of the muck and stayed on point. That was refreshing. McCain was a grouchy old man who was desperately trying to play everybody under the GOP’s big tent. Unfortunately at speaking engagements and rallies the ugly side of his campaign reared its ugly head. The Republican party tried to stir up a lot of fear with regard to Obama and it resulted in the real people McCain pretended to care about saying some pretty awful things. Obama didn’t waste time obsessing with it. He did a great job of staying away from the negative tactics that had stirred up such a divide in this country.

That being said I know that he’s just a man and I realize that his political experience is limited. So the political games people play in Washington DC are going to catch him off guard. I believe he really wants to bridge the gap between the parties but loyalists on either side are going to stand in his way. People like Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy have axes to grind over the way Republicans ran amuck for most of the last 10 years so Republicans are naturally going to circle their wagons and try to ride out the first two years of the Obama Administration. If Obama manages to maintain a how approval rating and Democrats hold sway, then the GOP will retool its message. They don’t want to reach across party lines just yet, not when the jury is still out on Obama the President.

And that’s OK. Nobody is going to change the game of politics overnight and the task Obama faces is monumental. He’s going to be forced to shelve a number of his ideas and make a lot of compromises. By the time the midterm elections come around, the Democrats are probably going to lose a lot of ground because 2 years isn’t enough time to plug the holes in our economy. Let alone address issues like energy independence, and upgrading our infrastructure to support alternative fuels and an efficient power grid.

The problem I have isn’t with the politics, it’s with the pundits. I don’t put much stock in what pundits from either side of the aisle have to say, but a lot of people do and it demeans the discussion. I’ve had people tell me that Jon Stewart is a liberal pundit but I don’t see it. He’s certainly liberal in his personal political beliefs but his show is all about satire. He pokes fun at Democrats and Republicans equally. During the Bush Administration most of the jokes centered on Republicans because Democrats were successfully marginalized but Stewart and his staff took shots at Democrats for being so disorganized and impotent. It was all fair. Every comic in the country confirmed that the Bush Administration wrote its own material.

Now, Stewart has found comedy gold in conservative pundits. It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to skewer Rush Limbaugh for stating that he wants Obama to fail or to overlook Glen Beck tearfully lamenting the direction this country is heading. I doubt that Limbaugh or Beck actually believe most of what they say. They have cornered an inherently stupid audience that wants to indulge prejudice and fear. So Beck and Limbaugh make lots of money selling ignorance and hatred. They do it well.

You can throw guys like Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Vanity into that discussion too, although Ann’s so crazy that most conservatives try to distance themselves from her…officially anyway. I think she’s actually lampooning the conservative point of view but Conservatives are too stupid to realize that the joke is on them. It’s like Larry the Cable Guy’s fan base. Larry went from being the punch line to a joke about rednecks to chicken-fried cult hero. Now Dan Whitney, the disc jockey who created Larry, never appears out of character. He’s become a mascot for people who lose their virginity to a sibling.

O’Reilly and Hannity seem to enjoy humiliating people who disagree with them, not by presenting an intelligent counterpoint backed up with facts but by screaming at them like spoiled children and having the technicians turn off their microphones. It’s good drama and their core audience seems to think they’re good at debating.

Conservative pundits are bullies. They deal in petty insults and when they find themselves intellectually outmatched (which is often) they resort to violent physical posturing. I’ve seen Bill O’Reilly pound his fist on the desk and scream “DON’T CALL ME A LIAR!” when a guest noted that O’Reilly presented an argument that wasn’t accurate. Glenn Beck is also a big fan of bluster and Sean Hannity does more than his share of yelling and pointing.

These guys get away with it because their behavior is so far out of line that people simply can’t respond to it. Their fans eat it up because their fans enjoy that same aspect of professional wrestling. Glenn Beck would never act the way he does to guests on his show to a stranger in a bar because he knows that he’d end up eating his meals through a straw for the next six to ten weeks. It’s easy to be a tough guy when you’re screaming at somebody who is civil and mature enough to believe that debates aren’t supposed to disintegrate into tantrums, but Limbaugh, O’Reilly and Beck aren’t tough guys. They’re soft old white guys who live in gated communities and scurry across the street when approached by somebody who hasn’t shaved in the past four hours.

That’s one thing all of these blustery conservative pundits have in common: they’re all talk. With the exception of Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter, who are haggard old men, these are pudgy little white men who haven’t done an honest day’s work in decades. Hannity and Beck might huff and puff on a treadmill three times a week to stay out of size 48 underpants and Limbaugh probably sweats when he eats but non of these jerks is tough enough to back up all that bravado. Sadly, none of them are smart enough to gain the upper hand in a conversation without stooping Randy “Macho Man” Savage tactics.

What I find extremely funny is that Jon Stewart, who gets ridiculed by these clowns because he’s a late night funnyman, can roll up his sleeves and debate the best of them. After a week of bellyaching on national TV over being the subject of Daily Show jokes, Financial Analyst Jim Cramer sat down with Jon Stewart and got bitch-slapped. Stewart clearly did his homework, on both Cramer and the financial markets, and proceeded to spend an entire show taking Cramer to task.

Stewart usually mixes a few good points in with a number of solid questions, clever jokes and comical facial expressions but when he feels so inclined he can shred an opponent in a debate. A few years ago Stewart excoriated Bill Bennett for his statements on homosexuality and he hit Mike Huckabee with a couple of sharp blows on the same subject. Stewart jokingly takes credit for Tucker Carlson’s demise on the pundit circuit when Stewart went on Tucker’s show and called him out for being a polemicist. Fortunately Tucker Carlson has enough class to avoid balling up his fists and screaming threats at people, but Carlson didn’t demonstrate a lot of brainpower either.

And maybe that’s because a lot of the pundits are playing to the crowd. Perhaps they don’t buy a word of what they say. They’re like huckster evangelists selling salvation in six easy credit card installments. It doesn’t matter whether or not they think it’s right; it’s all about what keeps the money coming in. Limbaugh and Beck are college drop outs who struggled with regular employment. Limbaugh spent plenty of time on the public dime collecting unemployment and Beck blames a tough family life for his drug and alcohol dependence early on. They’re also total hypocrites. Beck routinely contradicts himself and Limbaugh famously ducked into rehab when news of his drug addiction became public.

What’s funny to me is that conservatives will justify the likes of Beck, Limbaugh and Coulter by comparing them to people like Chris Matthews and Keith Olberman. Bill O’Reilly so loathes Olberman that he has ordered Fox security staffers to confront callers who have mentioned Olberman on his show, but I don’t get much out of guys like Olberman or Matthews. In fact, I really don’t care for their posturing either. I suppose I find them a little less offensive because they aren’t pandering to inbred bigots and theological bullies who want to impose a specific puritanical version of morality on the entire country, but I have little use for pundits on either side.

Even if my theory is correct and the pundits really are just hamming it up for a paycheck, the fact that guys like Limbaugh and Beck have no problem with their appeal to the KKK set is disturbing, and when you pull the curtain back and take a look at the inner machinations of the Republican Party you see a very unnerving relationship with the kind of people who thought the assassinations of the King, X and the Kennedys made sense at the time.

The 2008 election was a departure from lunacy. Sensible people had an alternative to partisan affiliations. Most Republicans think that their party would be better served if it would drop the abortion issue and forget about gay marriage, but the party leaders are terrified of facing a world where they can’t count on coots, hicks and rednecks. When the Democratic Party decided to turn its back on the pro-segregation Dixie-crats back in the 60s, the Republican Party was more than happy to welcome them in. Officially the party distances itself from offending people who aren’t sexist, racist and homophobic by hiding behind the issue of “States’ Rights” but everybody knows that that’s code for endorsing those very things. Reagan championed State’s Rights with a gleam in his eye as he winked at KKK Grand Wizards on his tour of the Deep South in 1980. Republicans even skirt the abortion issue by claiming that Roe vs. Wade should be overturned so the states can legislate abortion laws, but yet the Republican politicians choose where to stand on the issue based on where they need more votes.

The problem is that the handful of Republicans who try to distance themselves from the conservative pundits find themselves in hot water within their own party. Michael Steele, taking a cue from the 2008 election tried to distance the base of the party from Rush Limbaugh by marginalizing the irascible radio blabbermouth as an entertainer. Within a few days Steele was on his hands and knees trying to figure out which of Rush’s ample butt cheeks would put him back in good graces with the angry white people who steer the GOP. Newt Gingrich, who was once Rush Limbaugh’s wet dream when he was raging against Bill Clinton, picked up that baton and ran with it but Gingrich is drawing criticism from his party for dividing the base.

The people accused of being liberal pundits don’t pander to the wild-eyed extremists. The lines that have been drawn were carefully created by Conservatives who characterize anything remotely liberal as a socialist plot. Ironically it’s the liberals who want government to be less invasive. Conservatives pundits rage against issues like national healthcare and the federal government’s involvement in education but the goal isn’t to have the government dictate how people are educated or cared for, it’s to make sure that people have the same opportunities. It’s not socialist to expect that a poor kid growing up in Parkersburg, West Virginia will get the same opportunities to succeed as the rich in Orange County. Obviously, wealth is going to provide the rich kid with certain advantages but there should be a massive disparity in the basic education provided by the public school system.

It’s also ridiculous that simple medical care is becoming a luxury in this country. Finding a way to leverage the wealth and power of the people, who are represented by the federal government, against the corporate greed that fuels exorbitant costs is reasonable. Nobody wants to eliminate private medical practice. Nobody wants a truly socialized system. What we want is to make the basic procedure affordable to everybody. But there’s no middle ground with conservative pundits. There never is. It’s black and white; yes or no; with us or against us.

The problem is that it’s advantageous. Simplicity is easy to argue, and easy to defend. Most of the issues are complicated. People see the federal government investing trillions of dollars back into the economy and they wonder why the banks are getting a windfall when the average Joe is living in his car. Divy that money up for the working stiff, they cry, we’ll stimulate the economy. Then of course, conservatives will line up and rally for corporate tax cuts and more breaks for the wealthy. Trickle down economics. It’s simple.

The problem is that the economy isn’t simple. It’s complex. Most of the problems we face are. They require complex solutions, not pithy sound bites. The conservative pundits don’t care. They found an audience that doesn’t like to think. They’re the same people who think Jeff Foxworthy’s “you might be a redneck” act qualifies as intellectual humor. They find the nuances of NASCAR to be fascinating and they love professional Rasslin’. It’s because those things are simple. So it makes sense to reduce the business of government and politics to the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t even matter if it’s right or wrong, because at the end of the day it’s all about the money.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A dude writing about a dude complaining about a dude disguised as a dude playing another dude

I have to admit that I was surprised when I read that Robert Downey Jr. had received an Oscar nomination for his role in Tropic Thunder. Then I thought about his turn as a “dude playing a dude disguised as another dude.” It was brilliant. The movie wasn’t, but like most of Ben Stiller’s work there were moments of crisp satire and the entire cast brought solid acting chops to the table. Part of Ben Stiller’s appeal is the manner in which he merges impressive acting skills with the totally absurd.

Tropic Thunder is a send up of popular culture. It wasn’t a spoof of action movies or 80s era Vietnam retrospectives. It was a commentary on our consumption of entertainment, disguised as a parody. And Robert Downey Jr. stole the show. His portrayal of Australian method actor Nick Lazarus not only lampooned how seriously some actors take themselves, but it took a shot at the audience for indulging these guys. It was brilliant and not the least bit insensitive to racial issues.

I’m not surprised that there was controversy. There are always people out there looking for a reason to be offended and, speaking as somebody who often finds ways to oblige them, I have to admit that it can be a lot of fun. I think that’s why Ben Stiller peppered his production with a number of jabs at the mentally challenged by using the term “retard” and he also used Jack Black as a vehicle to crack jokes at the expense of drug addicts. And perhaps the obese. Of course most of the jokes about “retards” centered around how the mentally challenged are portrayed in film and one of Ben Stiller’s closest friends is still trying to overcome a substance abuse problem so I trust that his humor wasn’t based in cruelty.

Tropic Thunder wasn’t a great movie but it made me laugh and that’s about all I expected. I didn’t even stop to think about how offended some people would be at some of the jokes. I guess that just goes to show you how stupid people can be. Satire requires a little effort on the part of the audience. You have to be smart enough to get it. I don’t think Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. have to apologize because there are so many people who are too dense to get the whole joke.

Mel Gibson, Guy Pearce and Hugh Jackman have more business getting offended since they hail from down under…one of them might be offended if they’re actually from New Zealand and I lumped him in with all those kangaroo punchers…but Why did Stiller and Downey opt to skewer Australian actors? Clearly that’s an intentional shot at somebody. Still, there hasn’t been any word about the Aussies organizing a ban. Not that those Aussies are a particularly organized lot.

The worst aspect of the outrage is that it brings out the real racists. If you bother reading comments after articles or message board posts you’ll see plenty of crackers saying that black people now have more rights than white people and slavery was over 200 years ago. Neither of those comments is true, but that’s what they say and it validates why some black people are offended by what has been called a “blackface” performance.

Racism isn’t over and in spite of what some white people say it is not a two way street. Whites still have the power. That doesn’t make it OK for black people to indulge racial prejudice but the fact remains that white racism is far worse because white racism has a measurable impact. I don't get offended when I hear black people use terms like cracker or honky because my grandparents weren't lynched and I've never been beaten down by the cops.

Hollywood has made tremendous strides in recent years and I can’t abide the playing of the race card when it comes to movies. We all know that The Color Purple got screwed by the academy and Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Malcolm X was so spot on I don’t know how anybody could have picked Al Pacino over him, but I personally thought Clint Eastwood was the best actor that year. I also thought Denzel deserved the Oscar over Kevin Spacey in 2000, but I often don’t agree with the Academy…Just like I didn’t agree with them when he won an Oscar for his overwrought performance in Training Day.

But Denzel is one of the most respected actors in Hollywood and he deserves that esteem. He’s a brilliant performer and his charisma is even more impressive when you realize that he has transcended race. You might not have noticed it, but black actors are becoming headline stars. They’re earning roles that aren’t necessarily written with race in mind which was unheard of 20 years ago. When Denzel broke into the business, black actors played black characters. Period. Opportunities were limited and sometimes the roles were just offensive, sterotypical garbage. Like Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch. Now Will Smith is the most bankable star in Hollywood and he's getting good parts. He’s the Bruce Willis of the new millennium; a believable everyman with a trademark sense of humor. That’s huge.

The character of Nick Lazarus is an interesting commentary on the state of affairs in Hollywood. In a comedic way, Tropic Thunder demonstrated how things have changed. 20 years ago black actors were just happy to get parts, now they are playing characters so compelling that white actors are jealous. Nick Lazarus is a fictional character who went to an extreme no real actor would consider but the fact remains that we’re living in a moment where, at least in Hollywood, equality is within reach.

It’s too bad that people didn’t get it. It’s a shame that I had to find a deep meaning in a movie as inane as Tropic Thunder. It’s terrible that there are white people who think that a handful of black scholarships and a few affirmative action quotas have solved the problem of racism. But at least we’re getting somewhere.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rush Limbaugh: "I'm back, baby! I'm back"

Rush Limbaugh is an idiot. That’s not an opinion, mind you, it is an irrefutable fact. Water is wet, the sky is blue and Rush Limbaugh is a morbidly obese hypocrite who happens to be a complete and total idiot.

More importantly people who agree with him are idiots too. I make no apologies for saying that. Intelligent people can disagree on a number of issues but when it comes to Rush Limbaugh there is no room for discussion. You either believe that he is an idiot or you are an idiot yourself.

I’ve known this for quite sometime. I’ve actually listened to him and I was stunned by how misinformed he is. I was also taken aback by how crude and hateful his rhetoric can be. Even though I’m smart enough to realize the Rush is simply pandering to a surprisingly large segment of stupid people I still believe that Rush is an idiot because he doesn’t seem to understand where to draw the line. We all need to make a living but that doesn’t mean you should trade intelligence and decency for a paycheck.

Just when I thought my opinion of the guy couldn’t be any lower, Rush upped the ante with another gem. Now that Barack Obama is our president, Rush has conveyed his sincere desire to see Obama fail. Not only does Rush want Obama to fail, he insists that Republicans who want Obama to succeed are “drinking the Kool-Aide” and rolling over for Barack Obama. Rush goes on to lament the fact that people are supportive of the new President and feels that people want him to succeed because he is black.

Rush has proven time and time again that he is a racist. His apologists will sometimes insist that much of what he says is sarcastic and should be taken with a grain of salt but when it comes to racial issues Rush has made it very clear that he is a bigot. He’s careful not to throw around gratuitous epithets but suggesting that Obama is being given special consideration because he’s black is offensive at best. It’s not much of a stretch to characterize Limbaugh’s comments as treacherous.

This isn’t the first time Rush has forced race into a conversation in order to discuss his belief that “blacks” get treated with kid gloves. Rush famously got the boot from ESPN for insinuating that Donovan McNabb got a free pass from “The Media” because certain liberals were “desirous” of a black quarterback being successful. Never mind the fact that McNabb’s numbers indicate that he’s successful regardless of what people want. Rush is one of those cowardly racists. He finds clever ways to express his bigotry and poses obtuse questions that underscore his beliefs but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Rush doesn’t like black people.

Rush doesn’t have to like Barack Obama and he certainly doesn’t have to give Obama a free pass if Obama screws up. I’m sure there will be no shortage of venom coming from all of the conservative pundits over the next four years and since the Republican Party is definitely trending toward a more centrist platform, idiots like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter will be even more popular in their niche. In fact, they probably want Obama to be successful so they can go back to selling lies and innuendoes to the NASCAR set.

Think about it. When was Rush Limbaugh at the pinnacle of his career? During the Clinton Administration. Rush Limbaugh was on the cover of every magazine and was a special guest on every news show. He was the king of talk radio and his format spawned a number of similar acts that managed to find an audience. Rush lost a lot of ground during the Bush Administration. When it comes to his career, which is the only thing Rush really cares about, Bush was the worst thing that could have happened to him. Conversely, Obama might be the worst thing that could have happened to The Daily Show.

The sad thing is that there are some conservatives who really do want Obama to fail. Rush doesn’t mean what he says but his audience takes him at his word and believes he’s right. It’s fine if they don’t like Obama and they should feel free to criticize him at every turn, but hoping that he fails is pretty rash. If Obama fails we all go down.

Bush was a failure and I can honestly say that I hated him and everything he stood for during his campaigns as well as his presidency. After 8 years of watching him crap on the entire world I can’t begin describe how much I dislike him. It makes me sick to think that he’s going to be drawing a fat presidential pension when it’s pretty obvious he should be doing time in federal prison. He’s the worst president we’ve ever had but additionally and more importantly, he is a sorry excuse for a human being. I loathe him.

Strong words indeed, but in spite of that I never wished that he would fail. In 2000 I knew that his campaign tactics were despicable, I was concerned with his religiosity and I was unimpressed with his intelligence but I held out hope that he would rise above all of that and be successful. I wanted him to exceed my expectations and do right by this country. While I can’t say that I was surprised by his failures, I certainly didn’t want them to happen.

By 2004 I understood exactly how bad Bush could be and I knew another four years of his antics would put this country in exactly the same hole it’s in right now. The problem with Bush is that he’s not only stupid but he’s arrogant as well. I can respect stupid people when they’re smart enough to know that they aren’t smart enough, but Bush is one of those rare clods who thinks that he’s a really smart guy. Combine that with his spoiled rich boy sense of entitlement and the chip on his shoulder because Daddy didn’t love him enough and you have a tyrant on your hands. If he’d been molested by an uncle or slightly less lazy, Bush would have been a serial killer.

Even though I despised Bush in 2004 I still wanted him to do the right thing and do it well. I wanted him to see the bitter division in the country and work hard to bridge the gap. Instead of viewing his narrow reelection as a warning sign that something was amiss, he pressed on as though the American people unanimously supported him in every endeavor.

At no point did I want him to fail. Even when I knew he was embarking on another hopeless journey I held out hope that he’d prove me wrong and everything would work out in the end. I’m really sorry that it didn’t.

You see the difference between liberals like me and the sort of idiotic conservatives who worship chunky opiate addicts is that liberals would love it if conservative policies worked. The world would be a wonderful place if we could just ignore the environment, burn up our nonrenewable resources with reckless abandon and impose rigid morality on the masses without infringing upon their rights. Unfortunately the world is far too complex for simplistic conservatism. I don’t want it to fail, it just does.

I voted for Barack Obama because I believe in him. He seems to grasp the complexity of the problems this country is currently facing. I don’t want him to be successful because he’s black. I don’t want him to be successful because he’s a Democrat. I want—I need Barack Obama to succeed because it’s in the best interest of this country. Failure, while possible, is not an option.

Rush doesn’t care about this country. He cares about his ratings and, in spite of Bush’s tax cuts working in his favor, his revenue has been down over the past few years. That’s about to change and he knows it. To Rush it doesn’t matter that he has had his way for the past 8 years. It’s not important that conservatism as prescribed by the rightwing pundits was a colossal failure. Rush is right back to where he was in 1992 and he’s not going to let this dash for cash slip by without a fight. Rush might be an idiot, but when it comes to lining his pockets he’s definitely not stupid.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Times, They are a-Changin'

Barack Obama will soon be inaugurated and I’m giddy at the prospect. I know that he’s not going to solve all the world’s problems with a magical pump of his fist but for the first time since I can remember I actually respect the man who is about to take office.

I was born in 1970 and while I can’t remember anything about Richard Nixon I firmly believe that he played a major role in shaping my cynicism toward elected officials. The guy was a crook, a liar and an egomaniac. Looking back I realize that Jimmy Carter was a nice guy who made the grave mistake of being honest with the American people but the fact remains that he was not an effective president. It didn’t help his cause that Teddy Kennedy treated him with nothing but contempt. If you can’t command the respect of your own party you have no hope.

Notice how I forgot to mention Gerald Ford? Exactly.

I do remember Ronald Reagan. Growing up in Northeastern Ohio I witnessed the effects of Reagan’s economic policies. To this day the Midwest is a shell of what it once was before Reagan declared war on unions and used blue collar workers as fodder for the cannons. A lot of people hold Reagan in high esteem. I don’t know why. Rumor has it that his face will soon make its way to the dime. Fitting considering that’s about how much he valued the American worker.

The first Bush was similar to Carter in the sense that he projected weakness. Unlike Carter he was a sniveling liar who got saddled with the fallout of his predecessor’s illegal and unethical activities. Bush presided over a grim recession and demonstrated a complete inability to understand how it affected the average American. Not surprising considering he comes from a family that doesn’t ever have to worry about its finances.

Clinton was a pig. He enjoyed living the life of a celebrity and indulged in all the perks that come with it. 30 years earlier nobody would have cared about his penchant for cheap women but in the 1990s people forgot that there’s a difference between personal life and public life. Besides Bill didn’t exactly go out of his way to be discreet. Even so, Clinton managed to ramp up the economy and got a lot accomplished in spite of the fact that a Republican Congress suspended doing its job in order to undermine Clinton at every turn.

The second Bush is proof that a combination of inbreeding and money yields disturbing results. I’ve read about all of our presidents and watched documentaries on most of them. George W. Bush will be viewed as the worst and that’s just based on what we know right now. Over the next 20 years a lot of secrets are going to come out and the level of corruption that occurred over the past 8 years will be mind boggling.

Worse than that are the clods who ran against Bush. Al Gore and John Kerry are very similar in the sense that they lacked any semblance of a personality. Gore is clearly the smarter of the two and probably would have been an excellent president but he was not able to project his positive qualities publicly. Kerry simply lacked the guts to stand behind his convictions. They were cut from the same cloth as Mondale and Dukakis, two other notable failures the Democrats foisted upon us and if it had been up to the brilliant minds that favored those four, Bill Clinton wouldn’t have been his party’s nominee.

Republicans haven’t fared much better in the campaign process. Reagan was highly charismatic. Even though he lacked substance, he projected a paternal quality that made people feel like they could trust him. After Reagan the pool gets really shallow. You have to go all the way back to Ike before you find a guy who is the least bit appealing. In addition to charm, Ike had a functioning brain which is not always a prerequisite for the job. Aside from Clinton, the Democrats have to go back to JFK to find somebody worthy of respect.

The point I’m making is that in my lifetime there hasn’t been a President or a Presidential Candidate I really believed in. Granted, I think Clinton did a great job and believe he was a good president but the guy was a creep and at the time I wasn’t so sure about him. I had to step back and put his administration into context. I realize that there are some conservatives who like to say that Clinton is to blame for the current state of our economy and the instability we see around the world, but I’m far too smart to buy it. I know how the system works. I've been paying attention.

You could say that I’m jaded. I’ve seen the best and the brightest both parties have to offer and I’m unimpressed. That’s been a fairly accurate assessment of how I've felt year after year.

Until now.

Barack Obama is a very smart man. That alone makes him immensely more qualified than two thirds of anybody who has run for political office in the past 40 years. I stopped and thought about the fact that I might be judging Obama by the standard that has been set by our current President but that’ not it. Bush might very well be the dumbest man to sit in the Oval Office, but that doesn’t diminish what Obama is bringing to the table.

More than being smart, Obama is appealing. He is every bit as charismatic as Ronald Reagan which is impressive seeing as how Obama is so young. The fact that a black man with that name was able to get elected is a testament to his personality but then this guy, who was born after 1960, exudes a sense of strength and wisdom that puts everybody at ease. Most importantly, Obama seems to have enough humility to admit what he doesn’t know and surround himself with people who do. Most Americans realize that the President can't do it all, so it's nice to see a guy who is comfortable in addressing his weaknesses.

This country is facing its darkest era since the great depression and the fact that the deep recession we’re in has global influences makes the challenges ahead that much harder. How can we reinvigorate the American economy if the rest of the world is struggling? Obama and his people have been analyzing that very question and they seem to have a couple of promising ideas. Additionally, Obama has to salvage diplomatic relationships that have all but ended. We can't extricate ourselves from turmoil if our allies aren't willing to lend a hand.

It’s a tough job, but the guy has already made progress. I’ve never seen a President-elect step up and demonstrate the level of leadership Obama has shown us...and we haven’t even heard his inaugural address. I’m actually excited to see what happens after he is sworn in. I know that he’s going to make mistakes but at least he seems like the kind of guy who will make an effort to correct them. We’ve spent the last 8 years letting a spoiled rich boy ignore his messes so having a President who is willing to accept responsibility for his decisions will be refreshing.