SYNDICATED COLUMN: “90 Days” of BS, “90 Days” to Sell Out


Politicians get called to account for their broken promises. So too should their celebrity supporters. When boldface names convince the hoi polloi to punch the chads that put their favorite candidates into positions of power, they must assume responsibility when their pitches and talking points turn out to be low-grade bullshit.

One of the most notable pairings of electoral politics and celebrity of the 2012 presidential campaign was the website/happening “90 Days, 90 Reasons.” Each day during the last three months running up to Election Day, one liberal Democratic actor, writer or musician recruited by Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s literary empire supplied an essay urging us to reelect Obama along with a reason to do so.

Disclosure: Eggers and I were friends during the 1990s, when I was a contributing editor to his Might magazine.

From New York Times esoterica compiler/”Bored to Death” actor John Hodgman to children’s author Lemony Snicket to “Mr. Show” comedian David Cross, the contributors to “90 Days” reads like a who’s-who of Gen X-meets-Millennial NPR-safe middlin’ liberalism. Which is fine — them’s Obama’s people.

What’s a little not fine is that so many of the arguments given in favor of The One are redundant: gay marriage, jobs for veterans, and abortion rights come up over and over. What’s a lot not OK is that so many of these pro-Obama talking points turn out, with a little hindsight (and in many cases none whatsoever), to be lies.

Lies lies. Not in-my-opinion lies.

Reason 24 to give Obama a second term in 2012, according to “The Kite Runner” author Khaled Hosseini, was that “Obama demonstrated prudent and effective leadership in helping bring about the fall of Muammar Gadhafi.” I…wow.

It’s not much in the news these days (gee, I wonder why?), but Libya is pretty much universally regarded as a failed state in the mold of Somalia or Afghanistan during the 1990s. Libya’s government is so weak as to be useless, there’s a civil war going on, and it has basically stopped producing oil. What Bush did to Afghanistan, replacing an oppressive regime with anarchy and lawlessness that was even worse, Obama did to Libya.

Obama doesn’t brag about Libya, and with good reasons that don’t include Benghazi.

Yet here you have Hosseini claiming “President Obama proceeded wisely, in allowing the U.S. to be a key player in a multi-national effort to support the rebels without committing to American air strikes.” Wisely. How does that include U.S. backing of radical Islamists? No airstrikes? Except for the most important one, ordering the airstrike that killed the Libyan leader, who might have met a different fate had he not been stupid enough to dismantle his nuclear weapons program.

Anything Hosseini says about politics should henceforth be regarded as fiction.

Then there’s Win Butler, singer for the band Arcade Fire. “Barack Obama is perhaps the greatest president of modern times at communicating directly with foreign populations,” Butler writes in Reason 86. I love that phrase “foreign populations.” File it next to that British imperialist classic “the natives” and the more contemporary “the locals.”

The thing is, even when Butler wrote that, it was the exact opposite of true. “Global approval of President Barack Obama’s policies has declined significantly since he first took office, while overall confidence in him and attitudes toward the U.S. have slipped modestly as a consequence,” Pew Research’s widely respected Global Attitudes Project, which measures global public opinion, reported in (cough) June 2012, about four months before Butler’s essay appeared. Approval of Obama’s foreign policies plunged between 2009 and 2012: down 15% in Europe, down 19% in Muslim countries, down 30% in China, down 17% in Mexico. No increase anywhere on the planet. Sorry, “foreign populations.”

The fact that the world hates us more under Obama than it did under Bush is not hard-to-come-by info. It was widely and repeatedly reported. If Butler didn’t know, he was a Google search away — as were his editors at McSweeney’s.

Many of the “90 Reasons” are so vague as to be hilarious. “President Obama is steady at the helm,” said ex-comedian/silent senator Al Franken. So was Edward Smith, captain of the Titanic. Shepard Fairey, the plagiarizing poster artist responsible for the 2008 Hope and Change posters, said he was “voting for Barack Obama because I believe evolution is real and possible. I want to see this country move forward, not backward.” “Forward, not backward” was Obama’s infamous soundbyte announcing his amnesty for CIA torturers. We are paying attention to these vacuous celebs, um, why?

Most unforgiveable are those who count on their readers’ ignorance to con them. Democrats worried in 2012 that the Democrats’ progressive base wouldn’t turn up at the polls. Lefties were pissed off that Obama hadn’t fought for traditional Democratic values. So Obama and his supporters tried to recast him as a fighter, a kicker of GOP ass, to counter the wuss prez problem.

Toward this end, several of the celebrity Obama bootlickers posted brazenly misleading essays to “90 Reasons.”

Novelist Mona Simpson claimed that “Barack Obama would reinstate the 1994 assault weapons ban.” Would, could, should…but not really. As of July 2012, it was clear that the ban was dead. Hindsight: Obama never pushed for it after he won again. Another writer, Karen Fowler, urged you to support Obama because he “opposes the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision.” Alas, Fowler’s implication — that he’d actually try to reverse it by proposing legislation — was based on exactly nothing.

It would be nice if Simpson, Fowler and the actress Molly Shannon, who wrote the words “President Obama’s actions remind me of the words of the great Roman philosopher, Cicero,” were to keep their political word-farts to themselves forevermore.

John Sayles’ contribution pains me most. I love that man’s movies. But he wrote this sentence, and it means he is politically dead to me: “Obama still has some respect for the truth.” Ahem: “If you like your current healthcare plan, you can keep it.”

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10 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: “90 Days” of BS, “90 Days” to Sell Out

  1. “Lies lies. Not in-my-opinion lies.”

    Sadly, the lies are only in your opinion. Yes, the facts are that the US destroyed the Taliban, handed Saddam over to the people who hanged him, and saw that Qadhafi was killed, maybe by a CIA agent, maybe by a French intelligence agent, but in any case, Qadhafi was killed and Hillary crowed about it, “We got him!”

    The mainstream reporters say they were in Afghanistan when the Taliban were in power; they were in Iraq when Saddam was in power; and they were in Libya when Qadhafi was in power. Then they returned after the US government liberated the citizens of Afghanistan from the Taliban, the citizens of Iraq from Saddam, and the citizens of Libya from Qadhafi. And all three countries are much better off, and all the citizens who have any sense know that things are much better. (The fact that almost all of their citizens have no sense and think things were better before is absolutely irrelevant–like the witnesses who didn’t see the gorilla, citizens know much less than the well-informed officer in the US information office who writes the report that all the embedded reporters will be given and will submit to their media as first-hand reporting.)

    So who are you going to believe? Rall, Afghans, Iraqis, and Libyans, or the mainstream US press?

    With the choice between a four star hotel and his stories and cartoons written and drawn for him by a US government information service employee or a dangerous tour and actually seeing Afghanistan, it’s hard to see how Mr Rall could have been so foolish.

    And almost all Americans will believe the main stream media who all parrot the line they were given by the US information office, a line that clearly shows American exceptionalism, that America is the greatest force for good the world has ever seen.

  2. I haven’t voted “For” anyone in years, but I really felt that if Romney were elected, Israel would have attacked Iran the moment the election results were in.

  3. Ted,

    The reason these people succeed at this bullshit is the same reason mentioned by Carole Ann Ford (the actress who portrayed Susan Foreman in the William Hartnell-era Doctor Who). In an interview, she was talking about how the Daleks were analogs to the Nazis and she mentioned that even the Dalek sucker-arm looks like a Nazi salute and she stops and says something to the effect of “I just realized why the actual Nazi salute was so successful. ANYONE could do it. All you had to do was extend your arm. There was no effort, but you were part of the group.”

    And that’s how these people you mention are: part of the group with no effort. It takes a LOT of effort to keep track of a politician. It takes a lot of effort to contradict your prior self and conclude you were an idiot to have voted for Obama the first time. It takes an enormous effort to turn someone down when they want you to write something that you have very little actual real knowledge about.

    What else takes effort? Can you imagine the amount of effort it would require to track down EVEN ONE of those 90 people and try to engage them in a dialogue asking for a defense (beyond the knee-jerk, “Um, like, I um, have an um, right to my uninformed opinion”) of what they wrote?

    There used to be editors who would, at the least, attempt to delete the more egregious examples of this sort of thing. But now, anyone with an Internet connection can have a wildly popular blog.

    • > It takes a lot of effort…

      Bingo, I’ve got poly-ticks to vote against on the city, county, state, and national levels. Trying to track down each of their police records would be a full time job. Fortunately, the GOPranoes made it easier during the Clinton era: I’ve been voting against the bastids ever since.

      Oops, I feel a Heinlein quote coming on…

      “If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for, but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong. If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.”

      • That’s why I am pledged to vote for non-D non-R guaranteed-to-lose candidates.

        Americans deserve to get what they want good and hard.

  4. “Obama demonstrated prudent and effective leadership in helping bring about the fall of Muammar Gadhafi.”

    Kinda like Reagan brought about the fall of the USSR. (“Hey, Gorby! I bet I can bankrupt my country faster than you can bankrupt yours”)

  5. Excellent! I love when you take these phonies to task.

    “Obama still has some respect for the truth.” Does a reason get any weaker anyway? “Some?” I think I could argue that nearly anyone has “some respect for the truth.”

    “So was Edward Smith, captain of the Titanic.” Perfect!

    The “foreign populations” one really does play on American ignorance. Certainly absurd to anyone dimly aware of world opinion.

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