Archive for January, 2010

re-scheduling KPOJ

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

So this is how KPOJ reshuffles their line-up after the final death knell of Air America.  They now air “Norman Goldman” from 6 to 9, and Alan Colmes from 12 to 3.  I called that last one, I suppose.

Scheduling Norman Goldman does a good service.  I now no longer have any need to ever have the radio turned to this station for a good solid nine hour block between the hours of 12 pm and 9 pm.  Actually, there is a way that Ron Reagan’s disappearance has an outsized effect on my likely listening to KPOJ — I’m suddenly a bit less likely to listen to Mike Malloy.  Probably then affects any listening in the 6 am to 12 pm block of casual listening.  I’m just saying…

Alan Colmes is a curious selection, and has the basic problem of having no credibility amongst your liberal.  I like him all right, though — have him available and check to see if he has on, say, some Holy Man from an insane Dixie church offering Intercessory prayers for Obama’s death.  Actually he belongs on after Phil Hendrie.

As per the shifted weekend schedule… does the syndicate for Stephanie Miller offer one “Best Of” for the weekend, and thus they can’t stick that program in on Sunday?  And what is this…

10a-1p              JacNorman Goldman

A typo, obviously.  Left in the first three letters for “Jack Rice”.  It is Ameture hour at KPOJ / Clear Channel Portland.
So, this is a … I don’t know what this is.

Don’t read this spam.

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Spam can be interesting.  I don’t quite know what this is.  Lousville, Kentucky?

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Louisville Kentucky city is controlled close both the Metro mayor and a legislative confederation called Metro Council. The Metro Directors comprises of 26 seats which get ahead in the world from the 26 Districts constituting the Louisville Kentucky metropolitan area. The cabinet is directed close the council president with 13 seats being reelected after each two years of state office.

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A different tact in spamming comes with this message.

Could the Katrina Disaster be a Portent of the Last Day Foretold by our Prophet (saas)?

… It [the Last Hour] will not come until you see ten signs… landslides [with a sinking down, caving in, or displacement of the earth] in three places, one in the East, one in the West and one in Arabia… (Sahih Muslim)It is revealed in the verses of the Qur’an that all animate and inanimate entities, the entire universe, will inevitably come to an end.

[…] On the Day the sky is like molten brass and the mountains like tufts of colored wool. No good friend will ask about his friend even though they can see each other. An evildoer will wish he could ransom himself from the punishment of that Day, by means of his sons, or his wife or his brother or his family who sheltered him or everyone else on Earth, if that only meant that he could save himself. But no! It is a Raging Blaze. (Qur’an, 70:8-15)

It is a day when all people will comprehend the great might of God and will be a day of panic, fear and suffering for unbelievers. Our Lord reveals in the Qur’an that “the Hour is coming” (Qur’an, 20:15) and that it will take place suddenly, when people are least expecting it (Qur’an, 16:77 and 7:187). In another verse, our Lord has told us that certain signs will appear before the Hour:

[…] Indeed, solar and lunar eclipses followed one another in the month of Ramadan in the years 1981 and 1982. It is beyond question that solar and lunar eclipses are very natural and frequent phenomena. The important thing, however, is that these should take place at 15-day intervals during the month of Ramadan, and for this to be repeated in two consecutive years. In addition, the fact that these eclipses took place at the same time as other signs stated above strengthens the likelihood that these eclipses are those being referred to in the hadith. Another extraordinary thing is the way that our Prophet (saas) informed us that a comet will appear immediately after these eclipses of the Sun and Moon:

[…] Another important element that must be borne in mind when examining the signs of the End Times is the size of the sign in question, its force and effect. For example, our Prophet (saas) has cited the rise in earthquakes as a sign of the Last Day. There is no doubt that earthquakes of various magnitudes have taken place at all periods in history. However, in the End Times, through which we are living, there has been a huge rise in the number and intensity of earthquakes worldwide. According to US Geological Survey (USGS) reports, the number of earthquakes registering greater than 5.0 in the 400 or so years between 1556 and 1975 is only 110. According to that same body, 1685 earthquakes registering more than 6.5 have taken place in the 23 years between 1980 and 2003 alone. This information confirms the account given by our Prophet (saas) and shows that the signs of the End Times have characteristics far more extraordinary than those of any comparable events that have taken place in other periods. Our Prophet (saas) has also given news of many other signs of the Last Day as well as just these. Islamic scholars refer to some of these as minor signs, and to others as major signs. One hadith in which our Prophet (saas) imparts the tidings of the ten major signs of the Last Day is as follows:


[…] Most people in the world are to a greater or lesser extent aware of the horror of the Last Day. Nonetheless, some people are unwilling to think or talk about such a vital matter. They make great efforts never to bring the fear that will be experienced when the Hour comes to mind. They are even unable to bear it when news of a catastrophe they read in the paper or a film depicting a disaster reminds them of the Last Day. They refuse to reflect on the fact that this day will inevitably arrive.

[…] As we have already stated, the fact that the signs of the Last Day were fully described 1,400 years ago and are coming to pass one after the other is a matter of the greatest importance. This is definitive proof so that we might understand that in describing in detail 1,400 years ago the picture that would emerge our Prophet (saas) was referring to the present day and age. The reports of the End Times paint a most accurate picture of our own time. This, of course, is a miraculous phenomenon calling for deep reflection.

Under the pen name of Harun Yahya, Adnan Oktar has written some 250 works. His books contain a total of 46,000 pages and 31,500 illustrations. Of these books, 7,000 pages and 6,000 illustrations deal with the collapse of the Theory of Evolution. You can read, free of charge, all the books Adnan Oktar has written under the pen name Harun Yahya

Wait.  You read all that through to the end?  Even after I edited the bulk of it, that’s too much to have read.  What were you thinking?

The history of the “Late Night Wars”

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

The ratings for Jay Leno’s 10:00 show were catastrophically bad; the ratings for Conan O’brien’s were merely bad.  I can say this because the 10:00 slot, “when all is said and done”, is more important to the affiliates.  The affiliates were in revolt about the 10:00 lead into 11:00, not the trailing off of the day into the wee hours of the night.  So, the first thing NBC had to do was get rid of the problem at 10:00.  Easily done by taking Jay Leno off that slot.  But once that’s done, there is still the problem of bad ratings at 11:30.  That’s easily solved by placing Jay Leno back there.

In 2004, NBC faced contract renewals with Jay and Conan.  It was easy to see Jay Leno as the Present, but also easy to see Conan as the Future.  But to hold onto Jay Leno as long as they could would entail the risk of Conan bolting to make his leap to an earlier time slot as soon as he could — who knows what offers might come up; David Letterman had triple by-pass surgery just a few years’ ago, after all.

NBC reached for “the future”.  That video everyone pounced on from Jay Leno in 2004?  He was, as he should, “giving the comapny line”.  After all, he still has to work this show for five more years.  I remember seeing that in 2004, and not believing him then.  For another example of a person in a similar situation, with a less amiably company-towing reputation, watch David Letterman on Johnny Carson in 1991.  And after he gives that spiel, a giant lie, he undercuts it by going on a riff about GE.  (Ah, back when Letterman was funny.)

The problematic thing NBC had with Conan’s ratings was that “The Future” wasn’t apparent.  The target age group, 18-35, was weaker than imagined.  Until that last week, when everyone who had grown up sneaking some viewing of Conan at 12:30 and who had been watching sparodic and occasional clips of Conan at 11:30 at youtube and hulu came around to watching the show.  And here is the next problem: what is the future of television, and do the network providers have it in themselves to adjust to the coming (and emerging) storm?

To defend Jay’s Oprah appearance, mocked here by Jimmy Kimmel — well, this is goddamned Oprah — that’s how everyone appears on Oprah, even for something as rather superficial as late night television contract negotiations.  Apparently there is 40 minute session with Oprah and the audience discussing this Jay Leno appearane available online, — a regular web added feature.  The mind boggles.

As for the “Late Night Wars” at Johnny’s retirement — Jay Leno is easily defended.  Curious to note, that all kicked off in 1990 when CBS made an offer for Jay Leno, which tells you what you need to know — there were two obvious choices for that 11:30 time slot, and NBC chose one of them.  Correctly, as it turned out, “post Hugh Grant”, though it’s hard to see it as turning out terribly for them even if Leno remained behind Letterman in the ratings — “lost revenue” being merely the opportunity costs of having not retained Letterman.

With Conan’s history, things get interesting.  I looked back into the news archives for some refreshals of things that may or may not have marginally impressed me at the time.  As we all know, Lorne Michaels — in charge of producing the replacement show for Letterman at NBC — picked Conan out of his writing staff at Saturday Night Live, a surprising selection of a complete unknown that came out of nowhere.  In hindsight, I see what was this thinking.  Clearly thinking ahead to possibilities –( if, perhaps, not probabilities) — and the possibilites of what is a “late night fringe” slot.  Eschewing the more seasoned performers being floated about and considered at the time — Dana Carvey, Dennis Miller, and Gary Shandling — who were, after all, about that age group as Leno.  Initially things looked horrible for Conan.  Reportedly the absolute low point for Conan’s morale came when he lined up a batch of radio call ins for show promotion, on a day that ended up with a Washington Post review that was blistering and scathing in the extreme.  One by one, each radio host had as the main focus of the interview the Washington Post review.  Conan grinned and beared it.  After the final interview, Conan then curled up into a ball under his desk for a spell.  Looking through the Washington Post articles, I’m positive this refers to something written by Tom Shales.  Perhaps his review entitled “GO GENTLY INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT, ALREADY ” — which, to be honest is a subpar title to the opening sentence “Hey, you, Conan O’Brien! Get the heck off TV.” .  “CONAN O’BRIEN NOT WORTH A HOOT TO THE NIGHT OWL” came too early in the run for it to be the one.  And a year-in television round up which lists Conan as a “FAILURES ABOUT WHICH THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING NOBLE” is too short a snippet.

Three years later, Tom Shales comes around with “And Conan O’Brien, 33-year-old host of NBC’s “Late Night,” has gone through one of the most amazing transformations in television history.”  And “O’Brien survived a merciless drubbing when his show premiered in September 1993. Some critics, present company included, were excessively mean […]

At this point, Conan’s ratings matched Dave’s old ratings, though NBC’s contracts for him remained a tad hesitant.  During this early period, some names popped up as possible replacement for Conan.  NBC’s replacement of Bob Costas with Greg Kinnear (from E’s “Talk Soup) was seen as a possible avenue toward replacement.  Another name in discussion was this host of a new program on MTV who was receiving a bit of buzz, name of Jon Stewart.  No one pulled the trigger.  Curiously, Letterman’s selection of Tom Snyder for the 12:30 follow show seemed to give Conan some breathing space in not directly and in style challenging Conan.  I hesitate to wonder if this played a role in that choice, with some affection to a young struggling host he saw talent in.

It appears Jon Stewart was thought of as the obvious choice for replacing Tom Snyder.  In that light, Letterman’s appearance on the final show of Jon Stewart’s Paramount syndicated show, makes a bit of sense.  But they went with Craig Kilbourne instead.  Craig Kilbourne, who was the host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central.  Comedy Central then hired Jon Stewart, and you know the rest.

Things became really interesting when ABC nearly signed Letterman in 2002.   It happened in large part because CBS thought they had more leverage in their Letterman contract than they did, and so were lax in the timings of the negotiations for re-signing.  Dave eventually re-signed, probably not wanting his career to be seen as one of frequent network hopping, but also always very adament about not wanting to be viewed as driving Ted Koppell out.  During this contract spell, CBS started pursuing possible back up plans.  And it is here that the first thought ever came up that Conan might host a show at 11:30 and on another network, as per advice and preminitions offered here.  (Always keep a step or two ahead, I suppose.)  Conan hunched that he was being used as contract bargaining leverage, and disspelled the possibility quickly and re-signed a hefty contract with NBC, perhaps the first contract of full throttled support from NBC.

And… you know the rest.

JD Salinger

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Well, here’s some lyrics to a song of note right about now.

i’m afraid of people who like
yeah, i like it too, but someone tell me why
people he’d despise say i feel like that guy
i don’t wanna grow up ’cause i don’t wanna die

[…]he called me
william holden caulfield
it was no compliment
what’s wrong with
william holden caulfield
all that stuff that bummed me out ten years ago
still bugs me today, and boy i wanna know
who died and made you my mom and me some stupid kid
how can you forget all those things we did

weekly dose of ladouche

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Dennis King, in his postings on the developments in the inquest into Jeremiah Duggan’s death, criticizes the nature of google’s news aggregator, largely spelled out here, but also at the top of his update page is this.

Jan. 29: A LaRouche press release now ranks on Google News as the number one news source re the U.K. Attorney General’s Duggan inquest decision. The AG’s “fiat” for a new inquest is an important news story being covered by numerous newspapers and other media outlets in Britain. Responsible newspapers with substantial circulations. But what comes first on Google News as of 10:30 PM, Jan. 28–if you type in “Jeremiah Duggan”–is a scurrilous rant signed by LaRouche.

Other news sources aggregated by google…
The John Birch Society.  As well their magazine “New American”.
I’m a bit hazy on some of the other “news” sources of similar questionable repute that google aggregates. 
Then there are any number of opinionated bloggers, and I would say any number of them don’t really fit the category “news”.  (For instance, to his credit the dailykos blogger asked for his site’s removal.)  I could go either way with most of them, they may be worth a read for different perspectives on this or that news topic, but surely they can be aggregated by something else.

I guess if EIR had the blessing of Morton Downey, Jr in the 1980s, it gets to be thrown into google news.  As for the piece on Duggan, I could swear I’ve read that LPAC / EIR piece on the Jeremiah Duggan case several times before.  It’s all a head scratcher.
Is not my appearance twice on the BBC broadcasts in the matter of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lying pretext for launching war against Iraq, as this fact of the matter was emphasized by Dr. Kelly, the primary area of fact bearing on Erica Duggan’s launching what has been a largely fraudulent campaign against me, launched by important associates of Blair in the setting of the death of Dr. Kelly, of the highest relevance in the behavior of certain British circles in the strange role of Erica Duggan?
I can answer that for you.  No.
But at least the Herschel Krustofsky branch of sock puppets have been kept at bay at wikipedia.

As for actual news items, Dennis King seems to have pulled the bulk of the UK’s offerings.  The BBC.  United Kingdom Press Agency.  Their attorneys at Leigh Day.

Ask the deployed members at card table shrines on about Duggan, and they’ll respond round about like this.  Meanwhile, the EIR item will shortly be dumped onto that weird sort of weblog — this sort, for perhaps further commenting by Howie G.

Things I’ve been wondering about Howie G.  About a third of the posts at his sites are paid sponsor posts.  Buy this.  Curiously enough, this doesn’t have the “Visit Sponsors’ Site” button, but it’s evidentally a paid message, as per the disclosure:
The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content.
Well, I’m sure Howie G is raking in big bucks with this.  But maybe there just are no better ways of making of a living — tough economy and all that — this way is falling a bit a way.

I remember giving two Larouche people $10 at a Chicago airport for some subscription, I never got a thing, lol, this is my way of getting back at the Larouche crowd, by posting this tidbit here.
investur – January 25th, 2010 at 6:51 pm
I agree, when I had asked a Larouche youtuber he gave me his Hawaii phone number and said he’d only communicate that way, no emails, no text messages online–so I dumped him.
splintercell99 – January 25th, 2010 at 9:49 pm
yeah those guys mean well, but they wont tolerate people not following their ideas all the way down the line. If you dont agree with them you are automatically against freedom/life/ etc

But we just need enough to get by to the end here.

LaRouche continued: “You have got to understand emotionally, as well as intellectually acknowledging things, that you are talking about the extinction of civilization as we have known it. And this is coming up now.” […]

Hold on!  Now I see why google news aggregates this.

As far as I could tell, LPAC’s site was the only one reporting this story. It will be interesting to see if any other significant sources report it.
They get to news sources… not reported elsewhere.  Like how it’s been decided by a cabal out in London for everyone to destroy themselves.
Have you ever asked yourself, why are eyeglasses so expensive?
… Are you interested in Long Distance Savings?  And we can get you a real good deal on this car!
Who will Obama want to fire, or even murder, as his Seneca. After all, if Obama is Nero, someone is a Seneca. Even Hitler had his Rudolf Hess. Perhaps, Hillary Clinton will be axed as someone reminding Obama of reality too much. Or perhaps Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, with his half-baked no good proposal to regulate the banks, has outlived his usefulness to Obama. Harlem dudes know the score, Obama is about to lash out.
Barack Obama is staring to remind me of a combination of William Howard Taft, Mauno Koivisto, and Charles the Bald.  His administration is heading into exactly their courses.
tap tap tap…

A silly thing about keeping up reguarly on a blog is that I find myself with this mental list of names and a curious question of “How will I tackle a blog post at their death?”  It’s a weird distortion of thinking about this hobby.
Howard Zinn was on that list.  He is that guy — that caricature everyone’s talking about when they refer to the left wing academic activist “Blame America First” figure.  And somebody has to be.
Zinn, by the nature of his fame, lends himself pecularly to a wading of blog posts in a blog aggregator and by and large by-passing the obituaries in major news sources, because  he is a man who registers for basically political activists on the left or right, and not in a vast mainstream center.  The most interesting thing is to read the caveats toward some otherwise complimentary items from detractors — “Sure, he’s a pinko Marxist Revolutionary… BUT –“.  It is by way of acknowledging that outside the current wash of his death, the only times they’d be referencing Zinn is a sort of pejorative short-hand of marginilia, hyphenated with “Chomsky”*.

Or perhaps
Although one suspects that within another generation or two he’ll be as curious and obscure a figure as Lyndon LaRouche or Pat Buchanan: once interesting to a few, but utterly irrelevant to the future.

I reference Howard Zinn here by way of bringing myslelf back to Lyndon Larouche.  When he dies, and one looks into blog aggregators, there won’t be any relatively positive pieces from anyone who’s referenced him as a pejorative slight, caveats or otherwise.   The small number that there will be will read like this.  Or maybe this.
I see little reason not to get this out of the way, and post my quick salvo upon Lyndon Larouche’s death.
He accomplished astouding feats, in the same way a man who dediccated his life to the creation of elaborate and intricate castle sculptures out of his own feces might.  I stand at the sighting of these sculptures, a foot or two steps back to avoid the worst of the pugnant ordor, and while I admit to gaping a bit in wonder, mostly I am just scratching my head and asking “What the Hell was the point of that?”

One last note, this is worth a look — this collection of essays on hnn’s website.

Michael Ledeen Responds to Liberal Fascism Michael Ledeen

Matthew Feldman and Chip Berlet reference the Larouchies’ current campaign, sticking Hitler mustaches on politicians’ faces.  Feldman includes that image.  I note that the other image used in this set of articles is that in the Roger Griffen piece with of the tween (they’re teenagers now, right?) neo-nazi pop sensation Prussian Blue.  There’s… something there.

Howard Zinn is dead

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Question.  What does this comment even mean?

Describing Howard Zinn as “a man of the left” hardly begins to do it justice. He was a dedicated Marxist revolutionary who would have been quite happy to see our constitution overthrown.

“Dedicated Marxist Revolutionary”.

I should not say too much about the man.  Do a little web surfing and see what you find, beyond the major obituaries where you’ll learn the old chestnuts that he was friends with Ben Affleck.  So, I guess Schlesinger was more or less right when calling Zinn “not a historian, but a polemicist.”    But punt past that, and go to the ordinary people — or, I guess, his audience comprised of a good deal of Grad Student radicals.  This is good, for instance.  As is this.   To get off that stereotype, maybe.  Furthering along.

A week or so ago, I saw that a poster at the “Daily Paul” (as in Ron) post a recommendation for Zinn on American foreign policy.  A curious item, but here he is eulogized in the same way at the lewrockwell blog with the caveat…  (ahem) While he was a bit of a pinko on labor issues.
It is a world where in mainline media discourse “left” is defined by the doings of the Democratic Party and “right” is defined by the doings of the Republican Party, so this is what we get.  But I guess things could get worse there.

One thing.  I’ve always seen these reports that Zinn’s famous polemic “A People’s History”, is used as an alternative textbook in “many high schools”.  I’d be uncomfortable with anything other than used as a supplementary item to draw upon.  But just for laughs, I suggest one of the members float the text before the Texas textbook adoption committee.  Just for the laughs the reaction from the right-wingers on the panel.

Mark Kraschel throws a little acid

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

See today’s Oregonian?  There’s a strange item of vitrol in the letters column.  It has my head spinning, and is worth a whirl.  It is Mark Kraschel, who a quick google search shows is not new to tossing acid about.  It appears he hates it here and hates the people who populate the city.  Go figure.

The letter.  And some footnoted thoughts from me.

Your article on Obama’s first year shows there will always be a lunatic fringe that thinks with their heart and not their head. [“Oba-Meh,” WW, Jan. 20, 2010].(1)

Even though he is now more unpopular than Richard Nixon in his first year (2), I have no doubt that there will always be a teeny bopperlike group that carries a crush for Obama. Let’s face it, liberals are too emotionally immature to lead, and electing Obama proves it.

You had a chance to elect the first woman president, and getting eight more years of Clinton—a proven brand(3) and something conservatives could have stomached. (4)But the misogynists(5) in the party squashed that idea at the convention(6), instead going for a Harvard-tongued(7) Soros-backed(8) neophyte in a misguided quest to turn America into France(9).  […]


(1)  If I recall right, there was one respondent who was up on Obama, one was down, and the others were apprehensively in the middle somewhere.  But, you know, anything more than complete and utter rejection to the point of making “Obama Opposer” a part of your identity is worshipping the quicksand he walks on.

(2) Wow.  Really?  More unpopular than Nixon in his first year?  Honestly, I would not be able to come up with a more meaningless political marker if I tried.  In other news, Zogby polls show that Obama has a lower approval rating at this point in his presidency than anyone since Eisenhower.  Think about that one for a second.

(3) It may be that the reaction to the recent Supreme Court ruling on Campaign Finance is overblown, and that the corporates have already basically won control of everything in politics.  See the ease with which people discuss candidates as “brands”.  In the old days, detractors blasted the John Kennedy campaign as a lot of style over substance.  Joe McGinnis wrote a book called The Selling of the President charging that Nixon was being sold like soap.  Today we don’t even think twice about it, and speak to each other in corporate marketing terms, and accept it as what we want.

(4)  See the logjam of now remaindered Clinton books put out by Regancy and other publishers between 2004 and 2008.   For instance.  OR.  They only then shifted to a boatload of Obama books.  For instance.  Today’s favorable opinions of Hillary Clinton come from not having any real political stake in her fortunes.

(5) Crack the nut of the racism versus misogyny race.

(6) Or, you know, the primary campaign.  Hell, even in PUMA world, the decision was made before the onvention.

(7) Yes We Can!

(8)  According to David Horowitz, Soros had dibs on Hillary.  But maybe he’s turning to Larouche for the lowdown on the inter-party battle on where the Soros takeover of the Democratic Party is happening.  In the real world, he ended up giving donations to both candidates (“Retire Hillary’s debt!”).

(9) Oui nous pouvons !

(10) Honestly, I got bored and will let the rest fall into the ether.
Oh.  Okay.  I’ve come back to it for the final paragraph.

Cap-and-trade was a swing and a miss (11), socialist health care was strike two (12), Obama is not going to hit the home run you hoped for(13), and the best you can hope for is a walk, resembling something pathetic like a reenactment of the Carter years(14).

Your article is right on one point: The president is only one person. We asked for change, and instead what we got was Pelosi unhinged.(15) Come November, the voters will rectify the mistake of one-party government(16) and our economy can get back on its feet.(17) Mass. proved the system works(18), it’s morning in America again.(19)

(12) There has been no socialized health care proposed.  But what the hell — something is about to get through this legislative process.

(14) Carter was a walk?  I don’t know.  I suspect the worse that we may suffer is a reenactment of the William Howard Taft administration or something.  If asked to elaborate, I’ll conjure something out of thin air.

(15) “Pelosi Unhinged”.  I thought the real wrangling in the Health Care Policy Process that has dominated this past year happened in the Senate.  Reid Unhinged, I suppose?  Though, there’s not too much to unhinge.

(16) The Democratic Party is incapable of dominating a peanut.

(17) Interestingly, this bodes well for that second Obama Administration.

(18) I suppose it would have had Coaxley won.  Failing the Brown victory, was “The Right” going to fall back on these bubbling just under the surface tropes?

(19)  Our Long National Nightmare … is… over.

Lessons from the One Term Presidents

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Cue Obama comment.

“I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president,” President Barack Obama told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer during an interview that the network is airing in pieces on World News and Good Morning America.

I just kind of have to hate the query that prompted this answer.  This is the only politick answer Obama could provide; to say otherwise would be to suggest you’re a political creature.  It is rote, but he stayed on the script that he has to stay on with that one — and you know, no need for the self-parody that came with the Teleprompter set in that sixth grade classroom, for this is a more general self-parody of generic presidential answers.

He is a president, you have to understand, who only now and only this week has lost me to an extent.  I say that with the suggestion that he only marginally “had me” to begin with — and a comment that I always hold to this sneaking suspicion that in the end, an administration’s influence on one’s life lies merely at the margins.  I expect better than this last week or two, a sour note has chimed in to what’s otherwise been a tolerable decent imperfect middling good mixture.  He appears to guilty of responding too much to his own press, and by that I mean Andrew Sullivan.  Well, it’s a long term or two; I guess I expect troughs and periods where things just kind of go off course.

But, to Obama, on his one term comment, I’d have to say: — hokay, Wise Guy.  I recently compiled this Rating of the Presidents.  It corrals the disparate contradictory and competing impulses, and through the four categories warrants asterisks aplenty of acknowledgements of what’s wrong with this picture, and which would only serve to muddle.  It is also — how do I say — idosyncratic.  BUT… Mr. “I’ll take a Good One Term over a mediocre two termer”… who do you want to follow in the footsteps of and how do you intend on following his footsteps?

 John Quincy Adams.  Yes, I admit, this is a lifetime achievement slot.  Remove his stellar post presidential congressional career needling the Slave Power, remove his pre-presidential “Monroe Doctrine”, and he’d fall to — probably the next category.  How can Obama be a one termer of the stature of John Quincy Adams?  I suppose he can return to the Senate, and put up a legacy there.  Also, Adams made a decent contribution to American Arts and Letters, and so flag the “Dreams of My Father” book good and well.

Chester Arthur.  Okay, this one appears to be a joke.  No, no I’m quite serious.  Chester Arthur matched up against unusual circumstances.  Garfield was killed by a man wanting to thwart reform to the civil service spoils system — that cancer on our political system that was making our election system a joke.  Arthur, chastined by the situation, and also aware that he would be dead in a few years, instituted the necessary reforms.  And he went after the corruption of his former backers.  History then very quickly forgot he existed.  Lesson for Obama?  I don’t know.  Give us a good, concrete result that makes the democratic process a lot cleaner.

Gerald Ford.  Actually, he’s Chester Arthur’s doppelganger — fell into office through a sideways means.  In his case, he was forced to a level of few real ambitions for the presidency.  But he provides one particular area for Obama, somewhere in the vision of the Vietnam War:  let some disasterous policies of previous administrations expire.

John F Kennedy.  Probably better to leave him out of this.  But, if I must suggest to Obama something out of Kennedy: even if you fail to advance in the legislative buzzsaws, leave behind the rhetorical framework with which your successors can work to leave a lasting legacy.

In the next round of ten, things get a bit odder.  I stuck up the name John Tyler — who could easily be slotted in the bottom ten, and generally is in the Historians’ listings.  I’m a little mischievous here, but you have to understand the circumstances of what Tyler dealt with, and the one historical legacy he absolutely had to leave behind — he was President, with all the responsibilities and privileges that position holds — and nothing less than that, even as your Henry Clays in the Senate wanted to take that away from him.  If you can impart a lesson for Obama from such a thing as what John Tyler endured, it is the mere act of survival and keeping your head about you, fighting against fierce partisan headwinds.

James K Polk is the usual suspect the Historians’ lists stick up there as “Top One Termer”.  You can leave them to explain him — round up a small list of things you wish to do, and then doggedly get them done.  There’s a bit more, having to do with the virtues of knowing future political careers reside outside the ebb and flow of this presidential administration — the virtues of a prolonged Lame Duckdom — but I suspect that such a thing has passed away and can’t really work in this day and age.

It’s probably not worth going down any further.  We have in this second category that mostly just didn’t disgrace themselves — Zachary Taylor offers a Kennedy-lite problem in that you can imagine he might have played the future a bit better, so with Taylor he might have amoelirated Slavery and had a firmer path toward its destruction inherent in the Compromises to come — smothering rabid pro-slavery Southern sentiment by mere fact of being himself a Southerner (positioned as moderate).  But he offers nothing besides that one.  Carter offers a clear suggestion of things not to do — don’t make a speech outlining the problems the nation faces with an offering of a plan to combat the problem, and then in rather incoherently fire your entire cabinet.   

You also don’t want to be Harding and have your Interior Department sell off public lands, or Coolidge and swerve the nation into illusionary economic bubbles… but that last disaster (and he was the truest disaster of the three twenties presidents) served a good five years — so I guess he counts as a two termer.

Actually, I want to break up Hayes and Harrison, but I don’t know who in the third category to slide down and which one of these two most warrants a slide up.  A lesson from the Gilded Age one term presidents: keep your presidential preogatives.  He might have screwed the pooch on that one already by not keeping a firmer guiding on Health Care.

Now to the mediocre two termers…