Abe v. George.

I missed the State of the Union last night. [Pause.] Confession: I always miss the State of the Union address, and probably haven’t sat through one start to finish since the Reagan administration. The papers always run a transcript and exhaustive analysis. The late-night comics will mine it for jokes. If it actually produces news, that’ll be on the web within minutes. What do they need me for?

So instead, I opted to spend the evening at Border’s, watching Gerry Prokopowicz promote his new book (see right rail; it’s now officially On the Nightstand, although technically it’s in the kitchen at the moment). As our one-man advance team Brian Stouder reported last week, “Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln” a great, breezy read of a book that treads a careful line between egghead scholarship and popular appeal, suitable for long winter afternoons on the couch or short hits while making dinner. I first met Gerry when he was scholar-in-residence at the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, an institution every local journalist got a chance to write about sooner or later.

My interest in Lincoln has always been casual, but the more I learn about him, the more interesting he becomes, particularly his oratory. For one of my Lincoln Museum stories I got to interview David Donald, whose Lincoln biography was new at the time, and we got off on one of those wonderful conversational tangents about the Second Inaugural speech, and how radical and brutally honest it was. Imagine a politician of today standing before the nation and saying:

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

It doesn’t quite sound like, “As they stand up, we’ll stand down,” does it? An unfair comparison, perhaps, but again, imagine any contemporary politician telling the nation, “We may be at war forever, and if so, we deserve it, so deal.”

It’s hard to get enthused about a modern State of the Union after that.

The bulk of the presentation was Q-and-A, as that’s the framework of the book. Some of the questions were good, others less so, but fittingly, the show-stopper came at the very end, when Gerry took one last question and a child’s piping voice rose from the back and queried, “Was Lincoln gay?”

“You’ll have to buy the book,” he said, and with that, it was on to the signing.

Bonus: I got to meet Del Szura, who comments here from time to time and is, in fact, a Pointer. Little by little, our influence spreads!

So, bloggage:

Everybody has probably seen this, the Hitler-is-a-Cowboys-fan YouTube thing, but I hadn’t until yesterday, so maybe there are a few who might still be surprised by it. If only they’d hired me to fix all the errors in the subtitles, though.

Hell hath no fury like the well-heeled given the high hat: An Oakland County real estate company is suing ticket brokers, alleging it spent nearly $100,000 on VIP tickets and celebrity party invitations at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas but a company official and his clients were given the brush-off when they showed up at the pricey events. And here I thought the real-estate market was in the toilet. Not if they have that kind of cash to throw around, I guess.

The TV Club over at Slate found fault with a short exchange in Sunday’s episode of “The Wire,” in which an editor subtly upbraids another over his use of profanity in the newsroom. Which prompted Romenesko to ask for personal anecdotes of such encounters. The letters are starting to come in.

OK, folks. Have a good day, all of you, and I’ll try to do the same.

Posted at 9:23 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

31 responses to “Abe v. George.”

  1. Vince said on January 29, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Ah @!%#&ing in the newsroom. My first 3 newsrooms were full of profanity.
    Imagine my shock when I arrived in Dallas and found a newsroom free of profanity. Seriously. The News Director’s administrative assistant made it clear profanity offended her. She single handedly altered the culture of the entire newsroom for years to come even after management changed and she had gone.

    8 years later it was still a relatively profanity free place – until the first new News Director not promoted from within arrived. He dropped f-bombs constantly.

    It only lasted a week.

    A couple of people quietly went to him and said, ‘This isn’t how we do things here.”
    Surprisingly, he made a conscious effort to clean up his mouth.

    F—ing admirable, I’d say!

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  2. Sue said on January 29, 2008 at 10:53 am

    I don’t watch SOTU addresses because they’re usually useless lovefests or some variation on a dysfunctional family reunion theme. Here’s why my husband doesn’t watch them: when my son was a wee little boy, he would often “help” me with the dishes, splashing along and having a good time. One evening, as he was helping me, he began to talk to himself. What he said was “F*****g A**hole, F*****g A**hole, F*****g A**hole” in a sweet little singsong voice. My husband was in the kitchen, and I just turned and looked at him. “Sorry,” he said. “Reagan was giving his State of the Union last night.”

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  3. 4dbirds said on January 29, 2008 at 10:59 am

    LOL Sue, the same words were being repeated in our household whenever Reagan showed up on TV.

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  4. Julie Robinson said on January 29, 2008 at 11:01 am

    I’m not allowed to watch Bush either, something about my blood pressure becoming elevated. Same for Reagan. George I was amusing, though, since I could only see Dana Carvey, not the actual man. “Wouldn’t be prudent!” How I miss that, and the Church Lady.

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  5. del said on January 29, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Isn’t that special?

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  6. Peter said on January 29, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Julie, I fully agree.

    Slightly off topic, but I can’t listen to any Blue Oyster Cult song without thinking about Will Ferrell banging on the cowbell.

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  7. Jen said on January 29, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Our newsroom is almost completely profanity-free; the editor is extremely calm and in the year I’ve been here I think I’ve heard him swear, mildly, once or twice. When he’s not in the room, we’ll swear a little bit more, but nothing major. I usually end up swearing under my breath sometimes, though. It’s completely different from the TV station where I interned, where everybody swore all the time.

    Peter, I cannot hear “Don’t Fear the Reaper” without thinking of Will Ferrell. Will Ferrell is a little bit hit and miss for me (mostly hit, with the occasional miss), but that sketch is really funny.

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  8. Jeff said on January 29, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Speaking of possible future deliver-ers of the State of the Onion addresses, any reactions to this set of notes from Gene Weingarten’s Tuesday WaPo chat? (Apologies for the length, but it didn’t show any seams that lent themselves to cutting!)

    Gene Weingarten: Many women have written in to explain their feelings about Hillary, often a faint or extreme dislike. The best of these just came in from my friend Caitlin Gibson. Here it is, in response to the original poster’s question —

    Dislike of Hillary: My husband asked me a few days ago why, as a liberal woman, I dislike Hillary and would not vote for her. After thinking for a few minutes I answered that it had to do with how she dealt with Bill after the whole infidelity issue, but not for the normal reasons of being mad he cheated. I understand getting over an infidelity. What I do not understand is how she could stay with him after he lied to her and let her go on national television to talk about the Republican conspiracy against Bill, how the whole thing was a lie. He made such a fool out of her on a national stage, and was so incredibly disrespectful to her. This to me is a much larger betrayal, and the fact that she stayed with him after that is ridiculous to me. He deserves no respect from her.

    Gene Weingarten: Indeed. I think this is closer to the visceral reaction.

    … you know, this touches on it, but I’d take it one step further. It’s not just that she stayed with him, but the fact that there is no doubt but that she stayed with him because it was beneficial to her career; I don’t think anyone believes for a minute that she would ever really “forgive” him or give him another chance after what happened. I think the reality is that most women see Hillary’s marriage for exactly what it is — a political alliance, a strategic move she made to further herself, with likely little or no emotional or romantic involvement whatsoever. I think that the very concept of that, and the concept of a woman who would look past the depth of the betrayal and sacrifice her own happiness and fulfillment in a marriage simply to gain political power, is unsettling, threatening, or just generally very disturbing to women. Women would want a woman they could relate to. Her personal life, or at least her marriage, is basically a carefully plotted, stone-cold production, and I think that costs her dearly among women voters. Look how many people seemed moved only when she had that moment of wistfulness. It’s because in that instant, she seemed human, soft, real; otherwise, I think she’s become scary, especially to women. In my opinion.

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  9. nancy said on January 29, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I’d like to know how staying with her husband was “beneficial to her career,” Jeff. Are you saying that if she’d divorced him and moved to New York on her own, she never would have been elected senator?

    Also, I don’t see how the “vast right-wing conspiracy” statement made her look like a fool. In fact, the VRWC was gunning for Clinton from Day One, and never stopped trying to prove both the president and his wife were, oh, let’s see if I can recall them all:

    1) Involved in the Arkansas drug trade;
    2) Guilty of murdering Vince Foster;
    3) Guilty of murdering a bunch of other people;
    4) Mean to some state trooper, and made him go buy sanitary napkins or something;
    5) A big ol’ dyke who didn’t care who her husband stuck his dick into, as long as she could be free to enjoy hot lesbian love with Donna Shalala or whoever;
    6) etc.

    I don’t understand why Hillary Clinton is guilty of trading on family connections to get ahead in the world, and George Bush isn’t. Or Mitt Romney. Or any number of other well-born Republicans, who woke up on third base and saw the outfielders asleep and the rest of the team beckoning them to home plate. Off the top of my head: Christopher Buckley (although, being largely non-political, he gets a pass, even though HE sired a child with a lover out of wedlock and was forgiven for it by HIS wife), Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, etc.

    Finally, here’s a lesson I learned a while back. I have to relearn it every so often, and sometimes I forget it, but it’s still true: The only people qualified to judge the quality of a marriage are the people in it. Doesn’t anyone think it’s possible that their marriage, whether it’s a sham or a lie or a rat’s nest of two ambition-monsters, suits them? Maybe they sleep in separate bedrooms; so do a lot of people. Not my part to judge.

    You know, I’m not a big fan of Hillary. She rubs me the wrong way, too, but not for any of the reasons you mention. (Frankly, she just reminds me of any number of tightass women bosses I’ve had over the years.) But I will vote for her if she’s the nominee, and I will be pleased if she’s elected the first woman president. And I would look forward to seeing Bill back in the White House, if only because I think it would be responsible for any number of burst blood vessels in conservative craniums on November 5.

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  10. Jeff said on January 29, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Actually, i think i agree with about 92% of what you said; especially the “beneficial to her career” thing — she wouldn’t have been able to move her political life forward without Bill? But i work with pretty much entirely more liberal folk than i am, and they all are much more bothered by Hillary than moi, and my spouse sez the same (and she works in Higher Ed).

    So when i saw this come up over at Gene’s, i had to throw it out — but it ain’t my POV a’tall. I’m just trying to figure out why i run into it so often. (Now, arguing that John Kerry married strategically, that would be a humdinger of an argument.) Yes, i’m still officially a McCain supporter, but we’ll see what happens when we’re down to two. I could easily imagine voting D for president this go-round; Romney may be a great guy, but if he wasn’t rich, and rich off of dad’s contacts more than even Bush was, he would be utterly out of this race by now. He’s run 10x the tv ads of McCain in Flordia, and started six months back, and still is within the MOE in all surveys.

    I just hope if Romney loses to McCain tonight he drops out on his own, but he and Edwards have enough of their own scratch to keep the bleeding going on right to the summer. Which is part of why i like McCain, who is about the only candidate likely to take a mjor whack at campaign finance reform. But his veep choice could sour me even on him.

    Anyhow, wanted to clarify that my post wasn’t my opinion, but one i wanted to hear D-side reax to. Thanx.

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  11. nancy said on January 29, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks for the clarification. Now that I can see the source material, I’m-a gonna edit your comment so it’s clear who’s speaking.

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  12. sue said on January 29, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: All you need to know about Hillary is that she was a lifelong Cubs fan who turned Yankee. Why can’t the rest of the country understand how really, really, really bad this is?

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  13. Cosmo Panzini said on January 29, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Amen to that shit, Nancy. Does anyone in this benighted country recognize the similarities between today’s right-wing assaults on Hillary and those directed against Eleanor Roosevelt about 70 or so years ago from the same types of reactionary bozos? I’m not a huge Hillary supporter either, but after Bush II, I would vote Democratic if all they did was pick a name at random from the phone book. And what the fuck is all this bullshit about not swearing at work? Has the whole goddam country turned into Ned Flanders?

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  14. Jeff said on January 29, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Nance, at least you didn’t call me Danny . . .

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  15. brian stouder said on January 29, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Y’all can call me Dorothy, anytime!

    Leaving aside the VRWC (which was no vaster than the VLWC that believes that George Bush attacked the WTC/in order to have the Iraq war/which he and he alone is responsible for/and that if his lips are moving he’s lying), when Nance says (about Lincoln)

    the more I learn about him, the more interesting he becomes, particularly his oratory

    I absolutely agree. Lincoln is a genuine rarity – a famous figure that becomes more and more admirable (instead of less and less), the more you learn about him. Lerone Bennett wrote an interesting, iconoclastic book about Lincoln called Forced Into Glory, in which he argues that Lincoln was an opportunistic political ‘trimmer’, and only reluctantly became an emancipator. Dr P seems to have enjoyed the challenge that that book posed as much as I did – he expresses respect for Bennett’s research and his argument – if not his conclusions. Indeed – Bennett’s argument is as much with the generations of white male credentialed historians who (seemingly) orchestrated Lincoln’s apotheosis, as it is with whatever sort of man Lincoln ‘really’ was. In all, his critical book is very like looking at the Statue of Liberty from 5 feet away – close enough to see the corrosion and imperfections, while still remaining impressed with the towering figure before you.

    And when Nance says The only people qualified to judge the quality of a marriage are the people in it I cannot agree more! If you read only one book about Mary Lincoln, snap up Jean Baker’s biography of her. She has no patience with the sort of white male credentialed elite (including Billy Herndon, way back in the day – if you forget about “elite”!) that spent the past few generations savaging her. As Dr P says in his book, one tends to view the Lincoln marriage through the prism of their own. It is worth remembering that Mary chose Abe way early on – when he was one notch up from nobody at all, and when she could have had the already successful Stephen Douglas (aka The Little Giant). She saw something in him then, and he saw in her an intelligent, witty, politically astute, and beautiful woman – a woman who was a large step up for him in the world.

    Anway – one last thing – all y’all writers ought to read Douglas Wilson’s fascinating book – Lincoln’s Sword, about how Lincoln wrote and revised and molded and shaped….and utilized language and writing. The author looked at notes and (literally) pasted-over revisions, and finished copies, and gives one the sense of looking over Lincoln’s shoulder as he creates some of the greatest prose – let alone political communication – ever. And not for nothing, Lincoln’s second Message to Congress – the 1860’s version of the SOTU – is quite often overlooked, although it has some of the most powerfully beautiful examples of Lincoln’s writing.


    Check out the closing paragraph, as he wraps up his argument to Congress that they should pay slave holders for their slaves, if it will end the fighting and bloodshed –

    Is it doubted, then, that the plan I propose, if adopted, would shorten the war, and thus lessen its expenditure of money and of blood? Is it doubted that it would restore the national authority and national prosperity and perpetuate both indefinitely? Is it doubted that we here–Congress and Executive can secure its adoption? Will not the good people respond to a united and earnest appeal from us? Can we, can they, by any other means so certainly or so speedily assure these vital objects? We can succeed only by concert. It is not “Can any of us imagine better?” but “Can we all do better?” Object whatsoever is possible, still the question recurs, “Can we do better?” The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
    Fellow-citizens, we can not escape history. We of this Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free–honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just–a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.

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  16. del said on January 29, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Nice thread. Hillary isn’t warm and engaging. But my, the slings and arrows she’s endured. Remember Hillary Rodham? Had to quit her name. And her hair bracket (help me out here, what do they call those things)? Had to quit that — made her look like a sorority girl. And when she told 60 Minutes during the Gennifer Flowers controversy that she was no Tammy Wynette stand by your man kind of woman, the Right railed against her, railed against her. Feminazi they called her. And now, after she did stand by her man, she is attacked for being ambitious and self serving. I don’t know about her marriage — that’s their business, but that woman is as tough as they come. But hey, I’m a Yankees fan.

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  17. Kirk said on January 29, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    The Clinton-haters club is far huger than the cadre that thinks Bush hit the World Trade Center.

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  18. john c said on January 29, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    So you really think that if Hillary threw Bill under the bus she could have moved to New York and become a senator? Maybe. But I think you are underestimating the Bill Clinton political machine. A large part of her success comes from her association with his administration, which would be sort of hard for her to trumpet on the campaign trail if she’d dumped the lying SOB.
    That being said, Nancy, you couldn’t be more right about judging peoples’ marriages. But that doesn’t make it easy.

    Here’s what I don’t want to see but know that we will see if she loses the nomination: The country is not ready for a woman president.

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  19. nancy said on January 29, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    I think if she’d quietly jettisoned Bill after the second term — and there’s simply no way she would have done it while he was in office, because she knows as well as everyone else that this attack was aimed at her as much as her husband — I think she could have pulled it out. I think she had a high enough profile at that point, and was a hard enough campaigner, to get elected on her own. Against Rick Lazio? Hell, yes. That was Rudi’s chance to get to Washington, and fate wasn’t in his favor.

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  20. Danny said on January 29, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    OK. I’ve been away all day on impo’tant bidness and you all have had way too much fun for me to read it all right now. Something about you’re all liberal and either love Hillary or don’t. Oh, and Bush is Hitler not well liked. I think that’s the cliff notes version, right?

    And why is Jeff happy because he did not get mistaken for me? I thought everyone loved me.

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  21. nancy said on January 29, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Wha-? Hitler? No, we said Hitler was a Cowboys fan. Although if GWB is, too, I guess that’s a coincidence just a little too convenient for comfort, eh?

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  22. del said on January 29, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    John c, you say the country’s not ready for a woman president; that’s a variation of the hottest political debate of the season; can Hillary win? My next door neighbor bet her son that Hillary would lose if nominated. Others I know swear the same. We may soon find out. How about another question; can Barack Obama win the general election? This seems to be the elephant in the room that no pundit or candidate will touch. (I don’t see any 47 year old African American Democrat winning any such nationwide contest given the current red-state blue-state divide.) Any thoughts?

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  23. brian stouder said on January 29, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    This seems to be the elephant in the room that no pundit or candidate will touch

    President Clinton sure as hell has been ‘touching’ it (so to speak!). The most obscene thing ever said about Bill Clinton was that he was America’s “first black president”. (if any white man has any such claim – and none do – it sure as hell ain’t WJC) After Iowa, when WJC decided enough was enough, he said that he (WJC) was the best politician in the country in 1988, but it wasn’t his turn yet, and so he waited; and Obama was being impatient and (in essence) jumping in line and going out of turn.

    Now to me, that sounded like he was calling him “uppity” – which is ridiculous on its face, and especially coming from a white southerner from Arkansas…and then referring to the Obama “fairy tale”, and then the Jessie Jackson remark – all point to the vaunted Clinton Attack Machine being set to full “personal destruction” mode.

    But whatever. I agree with Obama that it will be lots easier for him to win over a much larger share of former supporters of HRC (if he wins the nomination), than it will be for HRC to win over (or keep energized) a large share of former Obama supporters.

    Barack Obama’s campaign message reaches right out and touches old Republicans like me, and young folks (who traditionally tend not to show up on election day), and women (he frequently bests or blunts any edge HRC has with women voters in the primaries), and now establishment Democrats like the Kennedys (will this mean some help from Ahnold Schwarzenegger – the Kennedy in-law – out in California next week?) and Senator Kerry.

    Honestly, I think whoever the Democrats nominate will win the presidency in November. I think if Obama (or HRC) picks a white-bread running mate like Senator Bayh…or Senator Kerry….or Senator Edwards….they win.

    I think McCain might pick someone mildly exciting, like SecState Rice….but he looks like Bob Dole 1996 – aka too old; especially versus such an energetic, can-do, all-inclusive sunny optimist like Obama.

    The only possible joker in the deck, in my opinion, is Sammy bin Laden (et al), and his lunatic minions of for-the-hell-of-it anarchists. If they – for example – destroy two or three NYC subway trains in October (ala Spain and the UK) – that might propel an old warrior – who has “seen the elephant” like McCain into the White House. More would be the pity

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  24. alex said on January 29, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Here’s some anecdotal evidence in favor of Obama. Not scientific, mind you.

    I hear old Republicans saying they could support him and it’s about fucking time and maybe he’ll heal the nation.

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  25. Danny said on January 29, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    John c, you say the country’s not ready for a woman president

    Del, John did not say what you think he said. He said he did not want to see what is sure to be one ways in which the story of Hillary’s loss would be covered. I agree. It would be a total misread of the situation to ascribe a Hillary loss of the nomination to the nation not being ready for a woman president.

    Hey, I’m a conservative and I’ve always been ready for a woman president and a black president. I’d like to nominate Condelezza Rice.

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  26. Danny said on January 29, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I hear old Republicans saying they could support him and it’s about fucking time and maybe he’ll heal the nation.

    You know, I’m not an old Republican, but I’ve thought the same. I like Obama. I just wish he was conservative.

    Edit: The one thought that scares me about an Obama presidency is the chance that some crazy SOB would try to assassinate him. That could tear this nation apart.

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  27. del said on January 29, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Danny, you’re right. I misread misread John c.
    Brian, very much agreed about a terrorist attack changing everything. I don’t think that the Obama race thing has been publicly vetted during the primary campaign and the WJC “fairy tale” remark had to do with Obama’s Iraq war stance.

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  28. john c said on January 30, 2008 at 6:38 am

    For the record, I did not say the country is not ready for a woman president. I said others will say it. I think the country is very ready, just not for Hillary.

    And Nancy, you may be correct about Hillary’s chances if she’d “quietly dumped him in the second term.” But by putting the discussion in terms of her reacting to “the attacks” you are missing the point, as are most Hillary supporters. I agree with you that the attacks against Bill were nutty and shameless and aimed at her. That has nothing to do with Bill and what he did.

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  29. John said on January 30, 2008 at 7:50 am

    re:First black president

    The reason why Obama can be elected if nominated (which is dicey at best), is that we have already had a black president and it wasn’t that pasty-assed white boy from Hope! It was President David Palmer!

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  30. Danny said on January 30, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Good point, John! David Palmer was our favorite president too.

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  31. Peris said on February 2, 2008 at 12:00 am

    Gee, I feel so lonely here being a moderate/independent. Does that make me a pussy, or just a pariah? I don’t care, since this year it appears I may have TWO good options, rather than the usual zero.

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