Tag Archives: Joe Biden

The Joe Biden 2016 Scenario: Sorta Run, Joe, Sorta Run

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

There is a scenario in which Joe Biden gets elected president, one that doesn’t involve anything untoward happening to President Obama.

Here’s the short version: Hillary the Inevitable implodes.

(Why not? It happened in 2008.)

Democrats, by which I mean the Democratic party bosses, take a look at her primary challengers — backbenchers and fringies — and opt to pass them all up in favor of the most ready, willing and able establishment candidate. Which, at this point — and likely will continue to be at every point between now and spring 2016 — is Vice President Biden.

Take my hand, won’t you? Accompany me down the not-so-twisty path of the Joe Biden 2016 Scenario …

Now, Biden has often said he was interested. And he is already sort of running. Biden “may be running the most under-the-radar White House campaign of any sitting vice president in modern times,” The Atlantic‘s Russell Berman writes. “Biden made stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina last month. The appearances were all ostensibly aimed at promoting President Obama’s agenda, but as the old axiom goes, no politician visits any of these states by accident, and certainly not in the calendar year before primary voters head to the polls.”

He’s popular enough, as Obama memorably remarked about Hillary.

Biden’s poll numbers track at a steady 41 percent-ish. Not stellar, to be sure. But in polls of Democratic primary voters he’s trounces Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, even though Sanders is the third-most popular senator, which is like being the third-most popular STD. But still.

See how I had to explain who Sanders and O’Malley were just now? That’s because nobody has heard of them. Name recognition is really, really important.

Hillary has problems. Emailgate probably won’t mark the end of Secretary Clinton’s run for the White House by itself, but it fed into a preexisting, and not unjustified, narrative that she and her husband are sleazy, arrogant, entitled and untrustworthy. Fifty-four percent of Americans tell the Quinnipiac poll that Hillary is untrustworthy; only thirty-eight percent of people have confidence in her to tell the truth.

Hillary has been ordered to testify about Emailgate and Benghazi to a hostile Congressional committee — getting interrogated like a criminal on national TV is not an awesome gig for a presidential candidate.

At this point, you have to wonder: what else might break? The primary process won’t end for over a year, an eternity during a campaign. You don’t need a fevered imagination to see Hillary flaming out in some new, or preexisting scandal. Not to mention, she has a tendency to say really stupid, really clueless things (e.g., Bill and she were “dead broke” despite being worth millions, she ducked sniper fire in Bosnia, she only wanted to use one phone for email but was photographed with two, etc.). As Mitt “47%” Romney can attest, one gaffe can kill you.

She could die. She’s 67. Not a young 67, either.

Hillary doesn’t look good, not even for her late 60s — which has prompted some nasty speculation about her health, mostly sparked by her 2012 fainting episode, supposedly brought on by dehydration. Hey, I’ve been there, but I don’t have handlers ready to grab an Evian wherever I go …

They’ll never allow Bernie Sanders to be the nominee.

The senator, scheduled to announce his symbolic candidacy April 30th, isn’t even officially a Democrat — he’s a socialist who caucuses with the Democrats and usually votes with them. And he’s old. He’d be 75 if elected in 2016 — even older than Reagan in 1980, and Reagan had Alzheimer’s while in office. Not. Gonna. Happen.

The Baltimore Riots just drove a stake through Martin O’Malley. Before this week’s race riots following the police murder by suffocation and back-breaking of Freddy Gray, the ex-Maryland governor was a long shot — to say the least. Now he’s being roundly criticized for the shitty job he did, especially related to race relations and policing, during his two terms as mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007. His post-riot tour of Baltimore was greeted with boos and heckling.

Which leaves, by process of elimination, Joe Biden. Here’s the DNC thinking: Biden has no scandal. He has name recognition. He’s likeable. He’s not a socialist or hated by black people.

Sorta run, Joe, sorta run!

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Presidential Campaign 2016: Who’s In, Who’s Out, Who’s a Joke

Originally published by Breaking Modern:

Predicting the outcome of presidential primaries and general elections is a fool’s errand one month before the first Tuesday in November in a leap year. This far out, nearly two years ahead of time, it’s beyond impossible.

Then again, we already know enough about the current likely crop of Democratic and Republican contenders to see the way that the race is likely to shake out. Here’s my US Presidential campaign preview below, beginning with the Dems.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (D): Hers to lose

presidential-election-preview-

On the Democratic side, the nomination is Hillary Clinton’s to lose. She has already amassed a formidable campaign war chest, assembled experienced staffers from within the party establishment, and successfully created a sense of inevitability that has kept other potential rivals at bay. At this stage, only two occurrences could stymie her “rumbling tank” of a campaign: a scandal, or a seismic shift in the political landscape created by an earth-shattering news event, like 9/11 or a huge stock market crash.

I wouldn’t bet on a scandal. Everything the media can find out about Clinton it has already learned over the course of a quarter-century in the national political spotlight. Even if the big news story threatens to change everything, who could take advantage of it at this late date?

VP Joe Biden (D) is a long, long, looong shot.

And what about Joe Biden? He keeps making noise about maybe possibly running, but the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar makes the case why that won’t happen. So I’ll just quote him here. “The veep,” he writes, “has done absolutely nothing to staff up for a prospective campaign—a necessity against a well-prepared, well-funded Clinton operation. At 72, he’d be the oldest future president in history. As vice president, he brings all the baggage that comes with serving under a polarizing president but carries none of the same excitement from the base. His approval numbers are weaker than Obama’s, and in his two past runs for president, he’s fallen far short of expectations. He trails Clinton by nearly 60 points—66 percent to 8 percent—in the latest CNN/ORC survey, conducted last month. A Biden campaign would be a bigger long shot than even Mitt Romney running a third time.”

Don’t bet on this this horse.

Liberal Elizabeth Warren (D): Lacking supporters with cash

Liberal Democrats who believepresidential-campaign-preview-ted-rall-Elizabeth-Warren Clinton is too far to the right and have never forgiven her for her positions on free trade agreements and voting in favor of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 keeps saying they want Massachusetts senator and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. Pictured at left, she would be challenging the former first lady from the Left. But Warren has repeatedly said she isn’t running, her fans don’t have much money, and her actions – well, more like her inaction in not showing up in key primary states like Iowa – support her repeated denials. Count her out. Way out.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D): The other great liberal hope

presidential-campaign-preview-2016-ted-rall-Joe-BidenThe other great liberal hope is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-identified “socialist” (though not a member of an organized socialist American party, and who caucuses with the Democrats and usually votes with them). Unlike Warren, he actually is spending a lot of time in Iowa and has said that he is seriously considering a 2016 primary run. Money is a serious problem for the “class-based campaign” Sanders says he’s interested in pursuing: he only has $7 million in the bank, and the price for running for President of the United States these days can easily exceed $1 billion.

If Sanders runs, it will be in the tradition of the hopeless liberal challenger to the establishment candidate: less Ted Kennedy, who actually gave incumbent resident Jimmy Carter a run for his money in the 1980 Democratic primaries, more George McGovern’s principled 1984 challenge to former vice president Walter Mondale. Sanders wouldn’t be running to win, but in order to articulate the traditional liberalism largely abandoned by the Democratic Party during the 1990s Clinton years of  “triangulation,” micro issues focus grouped by the toe-sucking Machiavellian pollster Dick Morris

Nice symbolism, but Hillary still gets to give the big speech in New York, Philadelphia or Columbus, Ohio.

Now, the Republican side of things is a far more wide-open affair.

jeb-bush-presidential-campaign-preview-ted-rall

Jeb Bush (R): His last name will haunt him

With the decision of 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney to bow out of the 2016 sweepstakes, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is the Republican Party establishment’s top choice. But he is far from a shoo-in.

Both party insiders and mainstream political pundits think Bush’s relatively lax views on illegal immigration, though appealing to the Latinos that Republicans need to win in the future and more likely to succeed in the general election in November, would make it difficult for him to get enough votes from the right wing conservatives who dominate the primary process to secure the nomination. Also, he’s a bit late to the races. Although he is already conducting major fundraisers, and is connected to wealthy political patrons through his father and brother, both former presidents, it’s hard to put together that billion bucks in the allotted time.

Bush’s biggest impediment, of course, is also his greatest asset: his surname. Do Americans want to elect a third President Bush in 30 years — especially when neither the first or the second one are held in particularly high regard? From John Quincy Adams to Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Robert F. Kennedy, we know Americans are not allergic to political dynasties – and Hillary Clinton is about to prove that again – but Bush is a toxic name for both his aggressive post-9/11 foreign policy and his dismal handling of the banking crisis that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown.

Many Americans still blame Dubya for problems that are occurring today, such as the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Rand Paul (R): The Republican hopeful to watch

rand-paul-ted-rall-presidential-campaign-previewI think Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is the Republican hopeful to watch. Although Paul had less than a stellar week – I would say unfairly, since members of the media radically and intentionally spun his nuanced remarks about whether parents ought to have the right to choose to vaccinate their children against diseases like measles, but hey, that’s politics, he’d better get used to it – he has a lot going for him at this particular point in time.

For one thing, he’s a lot less scary to Democrats than many of his fellow Republicans. Particularly on civil liberties and foreign policy, his anti-interventionist views, opposition to unfettered spying on Americans by the NSA, skepticism about the Obama administration’s drone wars in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, and his critiques of torture and indefinite detention at Guantánamo, Paul comes off as more liberal than many so-called mainstream Democrats, like Hillary Clinton. Were Paul to face off against Clinton in a general election, many liberals might not be able to stomach voting for him, but enough of them might sit home on election day to hand him the presidency.

Within the Republican Party there is also a sense that it’s time to let the libertarian wing takeover from the current dominant corporate and neoconservative strains within the party. Dating at least back to Barry Goldwater, the Republican Party has always relied on its libertarians, but hasn’t rewarded them with a presidential nomination in half a century. Given the disastrous George W. Bush administration, which many conservatives criticized for having run up the deficit and started wars that didn’t put America first, and the growing class divide that even Jeb Bush alluded to, many Republicans may decide to turn to Paul by default – simply for not being a Mitt Romney-type corporatist viewed as out of touch with the country, or another crazy Dick Cheney trying to take over the Muslim world.

One thing’s for sure: with Rand Paul as the nominee, there would be no shortage of impassioned young volunteers counting the pavement in 2016.

Chris Christie (R): Just too much working against him

chris-christie-ted-rall-presidential-campaign-previewI’m going to go out on a limb and say that the idea of Chris Christie, the outspoken New Jersey governor who made a splash for hugging President Obama, as a serious candidate is a joke.

Christie has so many things working against him – ongoing ethics investigations; the lingering hangover of Bridgegate, in which his officials were charged with shutting down the George Washington Bridge to get even with a local politician who didn’t kowtow to him; his – to be charitable – less than telegenic physicality; the fact that he is from New Jersey, which isn’t an important state electorally – that people really shouldn’t be spending a lot of time talking about him.

Moreover, this week’s New York Times story pretty much drives a stake through the governor’s core narrative – that he’s a plainspoken, average Joe just like you and me. Turns out that he routinely stays at five-star hotels and flies in private jets with a huge entourage, like a gangster rapper, and lets the taxpayers or, even worse, politically connected lobbyists with matters pending before his office, pick up the tab.

Maybe people shouldn’t care about these things, but I think they do and they will. In politics, you don’t have to be genuine, but if you’re a hypocrite, you can’t let people find out.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R): Probably really running for vice-president

marco-rubio-ted-rall-presidential-campaign-preview-2016Conservative intellectuals – yes, there is such a thing – argue that Florida Senator Marco Rubio is the next big candidate of big ideas, not to mention a natural for attracting Hispanic votes. But Rubio has an unfortunate tendency to try to weasel out of answering direct questions, even when they aren’t really dangerous.

I suspect that is because Rubio, as you might expect based on his age, is really running for vice president. Sure, maybe you’d like to be president someday, but he knows that 2016 isn’t that year. It’s pretty easy to imagine him paired up with pretty much any other top Republican, with the exception of fellow Floridian Jeb Bush.

Former Arkansas governor and FoxNews personality Mike Huckabee is another much talked about candidate whom I don’t take too seriously. He’s just beginning to test the water now. Really? In early 2015? For a campaign that begins late this summer? I say he’s not really running.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R): Not gunning for the top spot

kasich-walker-presidential-campaign-preview-ted-rallFinally, there’s two other governors, both from the Midwest: John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

My gut tells me that both men are serious about running, but are really in it for the vice presidency. Ohio in particular is a key battleground state, but Wisconsin is important too, and either governor would serve as a nice counterbalance to a presidential standard bearer who is a senator, like Rand Paul. Furthermore, both of them have reputations as political attack dogs, traditionally the role of a running mate.

Walker has antagonized public-sector workers and trade unions in general, and has just proposed a budget that would gut the state’s education system. Kasich, on the other hand, did exactly the opposite, seeking to increase funding for his state’s school systems. Advantage: Kasich. Whether he runs or not, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him wind up as the 2016 vice presidential nominee.

So what happens in the general election?

If I had to put my money on it now, and I’m really happy that I don’t have to, I‘d bet that the Republican nominee will be Rand Paul or Jeb Bush.

In a Paul versus Clinton campaign, I see it as Paul’s to lose. If he doesn’t screw up with some kind of Romney style boneheaded 47 percent remark, and manages to overcome his greatest weakness – the perception that he doesn’t believe that government has a role in helping people – and doesn’t get embroiled in some sort of scandal, he will attract or neutralize enough left-of-center Democrats to beat Clinton, who at this point isn’t exciting to anyone other than older women hoping to see one of their own finally get into the White House.

A Bush versus Clinton match would be much harder to call. Both are highly professional, self-disciplined and somewhat likable on the campaign trail. But it’s hard to imagine anyone getting excited about either one. The prediction I would make about that campaign is that the biggest winner of all would be apathy.

That’s it for now. Excited yet?

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Presidential Tokenism, Part 2

Hillary Clinton’s One-Woman Affirmative Action Program

The last few weeks have seen a full-court press by MSNBC and other Democratic media organs to either — one can’t be sure which, but it’s definitely one or the other – promote Hillary Clinton as the Party’s 2016 standard bearer or run her up the flagpole to see if anybody salutes.

Another Clinton? Sounds pretty boring to me. But no, proto-pro-Hillary forces assure us that promoting Madame Secretary to First-Ever Female President is an inherently exciting prospect, a history-making thrillapalooza that would smash glass ceilings, change everything in Washington, and remove waxy buildup.

“The enthusiasm and hunger for a Hillary Clinton presidency is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” enthuses strategist/pundit James Carville, who just slapped together a Hillary PAC to raise cash for 2016.

I don’t know about you, but the fact that the female One owes her political career entirely to having been married – and not particularly well married – to a president doesn’t exactly strike me as a glorious victory for feminism. Again, Carville and the gang, most irritatingly and recently centered around Tina Brown (another supposedly successful woman who married her way into prosperity), are sure sure sure that installing a commander-in-chief with XX chromosomes represents a magic game changer.

Or that we’ll think that it does.

“Even more than her husband, Hillary has become a symbol of something larger than herself,” one of Brown’s Daily Beast house web “reporters” swooned in a bit of puff that Kim Jong-un would deem too over-the-top. “[Hillary Clinton] is an embodiment of baby-boom second-wave feminists who see her elevation to the pinnacle of world affairs as their own story writ large. Now, they want to see her in the White House so they can die happy.”

Maybe we should let them die alone and in pain.

We have four-plus years of this guy from Chicago with a big shit-eating grin to prove that demographic novelty hardly guarantees ideological progress. (Sorry, long-term unemployed. You’re welcome, Wall Street.) And the passing of former Margaret “1,000,000 fired miners” Thatcher reminds us that estrogen isn’t enough if you’re a liberal, much less a progressive, hoping to reform capitalism into something slightly less heartless.

We’ve traveled down Clinton Inevitability Road before.

Democrats took a long, hard look at her in 2008 and in the words of one of the most tasteless T-shirts I have ever seen, consciously and decisively chose “bros before hos.” Voters asked to reconsider the current Secretary of State are being asked to forget that they rejected her.

They’re also being asked to forget her awful record: botching healthcare reform in 1993 by ginning up a convoluted system designed to line the pockets of the big insurance companies in Hartford, voting not just for the disastrous lost war against Afghanistan but the Iraq fiasco, and the minor detail that when it comes to affirmative, actual accomplishment as a US Senator and now Secretary of State, there isn’t a lot to look at.

Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard the MSNBC talking point. Hillary has done an amazing job as Secretary of State, she’s so competent, she’s worked so hard. “She traveled tirelessly, visiting more countries than any of her predecessors did and cementing her reputation as a serious and inspirational figure in her own right,” says Tina’s Beast. But really, so what? So she logged a bunch of frequent flyer miles. And?

Where’s her signature achievement as a diplomat, the big peace agreement, the disarmament success, the new detente? Why isn’t she taking up Iran on its offers to reestablish diplomatic relations? Why has she made no progress on the Israel-Palestinian conflict? Henry Kissinger had the Paris peace talks, SALT and opening ties with communist China, yet he was still a monstrous war criminal who deserves to be retroactively executed – and yeah, he’s a giant next to Hillary.

The Hillary for President bandwagon looks and feels an awful lot like the Obama campaign while it was revving up in 2006. Once again, we’re seeing an attempt to seduce voters with politically-correct tokenism.

We were supposed to overlook Obama’s inexperience (oh the irony, Hillary warned us about that during the 2008 primaries, and on that she was so so right) and brazen hypocrisy (his entire candidacy was predicated on his “opposition” to the Iraq war, which he repeatedly voted to fund, never voting no once) because he was, you know, black. That, and youngish. I had the same argument with so many of my liberal friends back in 2008, and they all told me the same thing: Obama looks different, so he feels different, thus he will be different.

My liberal friends are sad now. And many, many Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Pakistanis – there are so many of them – are as dead as the American economy.

This time Democrats are being asked to overlook Hillary’s – not inexperience, she’s definitely been around Washington –lack of accomplishment. They want us to forget that, far from undermining patriarchy, a vote for Hillary Clinton would reinforce it by passing over millions of brilliant women who really did make it on their own. Once again, not being an old white Ivy-educated Protestant male is supposed to masquerade as inherently imminent change, a radically safe affirmative-action program for the benefit of a single individual substituting for actual policies.

Haven’t we learned anything from Condi Rice or Colin Powell? Let’s stop judging politicians by the color of their skin — or the curve of their breasts — but by their lack of character.

This ridiculous system, presided over by out-of-touch hacks, keeps trotting out the transparently absurd argument that being a white Ivy-educated Protestant female guarantees something awesome. What and how, no one can say. Just vote for her. Hope for the best. Shut up.

What’s disturbing about the Rise of Hillary Part 2 is that it’s all personality, no politics. Economy? No comment. Environment? Nothing to say. Secretary is a celebrity, all image, no vision for where she wants to lead us. And the media thinks it’s peachy.

The days when politicians broke promises are long gone; betrayal of principles seems quaint now that there are no principles on offer to sell out. Now there are no promises during campaign season, only platitudes. There are no policies, only avatars.

Look! She’s a woman!

The pre-race for the 2016 Democratic nomination is being promoted not as a clash between visions, as we saw in 1980 between Jimmy Carter’s Southern centrism and Ted Kennedy’s classic New England liberalism, but as a friendly rivalry.

The nomination is Hillary’s if she wants it, so much so that Joe Biden won’t run if she does. How would a second President Clinton be different from a first President Biden? Does either one have a jobs program? No one’s asking.

The race for Leader of the Free World has been reduced to jostling between two suits in the executive suite, girls against boys, angling for a CEO slot scheduled to open up. Which is fine. What I don’t get is: why are we supposed to pay attention?

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Leading From the Back

Obama Accepts 21st Century View of Gay Marriage

In the BDSM world the phrase “topping from the bottom” means conditional submission: when the sub questions or disobeys the instructions of his or her dom. Subverting the submissive role defeats the whole purpose of a BDSM relationship; it is thus frowned upon.

President Obama frequently engages in the political equivalent: leading from the back.

True leaders lead. They declare what society needs and tells it what it should want. Leaders anticipate what is possible. They open the space where long-held dreams intersect with current reality, allowing progress. “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,” Emerson advised.

The role of a leader has been clearly defined since the first time a member of a clan convinced his tribe they should follow him if they wanted to find more food. So why has it been so long since we Americans had real one?

In recent decades we have had two kinds of political leaders, bullies and followers. Beginning with Nixon but more so with Reagan and George W. Bush, Republican presidents have been bullies. Unwilling or unable to achieve the consensus of the majority for their radical agendas, they got what they wanted by any means necessary—corrupting the electoral process, lying, smearing opponents, and fear-mongering.

The Democrats—Carter, Clinton, and Obama—have been followers, and thus far less effectual. Leaders from the back.

Carter was the proto-triangulator, tacking right as a hawk on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran hostage crisis, while ignoring his liberal supporters. Clinton famously relied on toe-sucking Machiavellian pollster Dick Morris to develop stances and market memes that synced up exactly with public opinion on micro mini wedge issues. Both men left office without any major accomplishments—unless you count their sellouts to the Right (beginning “Reagan”‘s defense build-up, NAFTA, welfare reform).

Obama’s decision to come out in favor of gay marriage is classic Morris-style “leading from the back.”

“Public support for same-sex marriage is growing at a pace that surprises even professional pollsters as older generations of voters who tend to be strongly opposed are supplanted by younger ones who are just as strongly in favor,” notes The New York Times. “Same-sex couples are featured in some of the most popular shows on television, without controversy.”

No wonder: the latest Pew Research poll shows that 47 percent of voters support gay marriage, versus 43 percent against. (Among swing voters—of more interest to the Obama campaign—support is 47-to-39 percent in favor.)

“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage,” Obama said days before the 2008 election. At that time, Americans were running 40-to-56 percent against allowing same-sex couples to wed.

I can’t read his mind, but I bet Obama was OK with gay marriage in 2008. Like most other educated people. Cynically and wrongly, he sided with anti-gay bigots because he thought it would help him win.

The president’s change of ideological heart was painfully awkward. “I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” he told ABC. “I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word ‘marriage’ was something that invokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.”

But now that’s changed, he said. “It is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

If Obama was a real leader, he wouldn’t care about offending “a lot of people”—i.e., right-wing homophobes. He would have gotten out front of the issue four years ago, when it mattered. The truth is, Vice President Joe Biden’s unscripted remarks a few days ago forced the issue.

Maybe Biden has the makings of a leader.

Six states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay weddings. True, the president’s statement may hasten the demise of the vile Defense of Marriage Act, which blocks federal recognition of gay marriage (and which Obama’s Justice Department defended in June 2009). But it comes too late to be meaningful.

Gay marriage was a historical inevitability before Obama spoke.

That hasn’t changed.

“For thousands of supporters who donated, canvassed and phone-banked to help elect Barack Obama, this is a powerful reminder of why we felt so passionately about this president in the first place,” said Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, a pro-Democratic Party interest group.

Maybe so. I don’t see it that way. I see a nation that led itself on this issue. The public debated and thought and finally, at long last, concluded that gays and lesbians deserve equal treatment before the law.

Obama didn’t lead us. We led him.

So tell me—what good is he, exactly?

(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 22. His website is tedrall.com.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: How To Talk To An Obama Voter (If You Must)

In 2012 Politics Is In The Streets—Not the Voting Booth

The Occupy movement is lying low. The Tea Party has been completely absorbed into the Republican Party—just another interest group. The only politics anyone talks about is the presidential horserace.

Don’t be fooled. This is temporary.

Spring will come. Robins will sing. The Occupations will return, bigger, energized and more militant. Don’t be surprised if movements more militant, further to the Left than Occupy, begin to emerge.

What passes for politics—Democrats, Republicans, vacuous debates over mini-issues (flag burning, taxes, deficits, gays) as the big issues go ignored (jobs, income inequality, militarism)—will be finally, totally and irreversibly exposed as the irrelevant, distracting farce they are.

Politics is about to move into the streets. Where they belong. Where they live in countries whose citizens are engaged in the fight over their destinies.

There will be primaries and party conventions and debates. All part of a ridiculous sideshow.

Get ready. 2012 is set to become our year of revolution.

No more will we outsource our lives to 435 oily white men in Washington and 50 random idiots in the state capitals. We will demand what is ours: freedom, dignity, equality, justice, fairness, decency. We will vote with the signs we hold. We will debate our neighbors in parks, cafes and bars. Our elections will be held in clouds of pepper spray, amid swinging batons and flying rocks.

It’s on.

Can you feel it?

Not everyone can. Maybe their instincts have been dulled. That’s OK. People are different.

People who don’t understand that everything has changed are gearing up for a presidential election. Obama versus Probably Romney. Should they vote? If so, for whom? Should they canvass/work the phones/donate to the corporate candidate of “their” choice?

We who feel it need those who don’t feel it at our sides. We who are ready to emancipate humankind, we who are challenging the monstrous hegemony of a corporate state with bottomless pockets and an endless capacity for violence can’t afford to have millions of intelligent, otherwise like-minded allies distracted, sucked into the vortex of electoral BS. We need everyone—including the Obamabots.

They’ve been programmed with talking points. Here’s how you counter them.

Obamabot Talking Point: If I don’t vote for Obama, the Even Worse Republicans win.

Answer: So vote for Obama. Or don’t vote. It makes no difference either way. Voting is like praying to God. It doesn’t hurt. Nor does it do any good. As with religion, the harm comes from the self-delusion of thinking you’re actually doing something. You’re not. Wanna save the world? Or just yourself? That, you’ll have to do outside, in the street.

In a second term, a reelected Obama who doesn’t have to worry about running again will be free to do cool liberal stuff.

Lame duck, anyone? Second-termers are weak. Look at previous presidents’ second terms: Bush 2005-2009, Clinton 1997-2001, Reagan 1985-1989, Nixon 1973-1974. Not much got done. Lots of scandals. Second-termers do worry about the next election; they want a successor from their party (typically their veep). Anyway, there is no evidence—none—that Obama ever wanted to do cool liberal stuff. He never promised any. Dude was a conservative Democrat all along. In a second term he’ll be a weak conservative Democrat so preoccupied trying to hand off the baton to Biden that he won’t float anything risky.

Lesser-evilism, yo. Gotta do whatever it takes so that Romney/Gingrich/Ron Paul doesn’t get in. Gimme those Obama totebags!

In the short run, this is a valid argument. If we were only considering this one election, it would make sense to get Obama in again. Anything to keep those crazy Republicans out.

Over the long term, however, lesser-evilism falls apart.

When the argument for every Democrat is that he’s not a Republican, when every Democrat who wins proves a disappointing imitation of the Republicans his supporters were supposedly voting against, when the net result is a string of alternating Democrats and Republicans who basically do the same thing, especially on the major issues, this election isn’t some special “let’s hold our nose this one time” but merely part of a rancid continuum that we should be opposing with all of our strength and energy—something we can’t do if we’re out pounding the pavement on behalf of a man who is oppressing us just as surely as his so-called “enemies.”

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Conning the Taliban

Confessions of a Phony American Peace Negotiator

For much of the year now drawing to a close, U.S. and NATO bigwigs conducted secret peace talks with Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the #2 Taliban official. They paid him tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of dollars to show good will. NATO planes delivered him to the presidential palace in Kabul, where he met with Hamid Karzai.

“But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all,” reports The New York Times. The phony Mansour, Afghan intelligence agents say, was actually “a shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta” who looked nothing like the real guy.

You can’t sugarcoat this debacle. L’affair Mansour instantly transformed the United States, previously reviled as the world’s most brutish bully, into an intergalactic laughingstock.

Yes, our government and military are headed by dumb-as-rocks hillbillies. But the Taliban can be fooled too—as I learned during my own top secret mission deep in the deepest valleys between the highest mountains of the Hindu Kush.

I found myself short of cash while traveling in Afghanistan in August. So I devised an ingenious scheme. Call it Operation Turnabout: Why not present myself to the Taliban as a high-ranking American official eager to end the war? It could be fun. It could be lucrative. And who knows? If they fell for it, I’d be up for the Nobel Peace Prize!

Finding Talibs didn’t take long. I walked up to two guys planting an IED. Or they were stoning some chick. I don’t remember. Anyway, it isn’t important.

“Salaam,” I greeted them. “I am American Vice President Joe Biden. Take me forthwith to your leader, Mullah Omar, he of one eye, and see that you are quick about it.”

The rogues chucked me into the back of their Toyota Landcruiser, wrapped in duct tape. Off we went. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear they hit every pothole on purpose.

Eventually, we stopped. They ripped the tape off my face. “American dog!” they cried in unison. “Time for dinner!” A kebab vendor glared at me from the side of the road. As did the goat head on the grill.

My animal cunning was too much for the two undereducated brutes. “Alas, my good fellows,” I replied, “my White House Amex card is not accepted by yon locals. Might I ‘borrow’ some money? You know—as good faith?”

Soon I was 17 afghanis richer. My plan was working!

A day or two later, my bound form was carried into an empty poured-concrete room in a complex somewhere in The Remote Tribal Areas Along the Border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and dumped on the floor. A bearded man with an eye patch walked in.

“I am Mullah Mohammed Omar, Head of the Supreme Council and Commander of the Faithful of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” he said.

“Hi there,” I said. “I am American Vice President Joe Biden of America.”

He grimaced.

“How do I know you are who you say you are?” he asked.

“Ask me anything,” I challenged. “The combination to the safe where the Oval Office porn collection is kept. Vladimir Putin’s cell number. I can even identify most of the American states.”

He smiled.

“Of course you can,” he said. “But you could say anything. We have no way to check it out. The United States is a distant, remote country. Its leaders have never been seen in public, certainly not by Afghans. We don’t even know if there is a ‘Joe Biden.'”

“We must trust one another,” I purred, “if there is to be peace.”

I had him there. He chuckled. “Yes,” he said.

“Of course, travel between my country and yours is very expensive,” I pointed out. “As you may have heard, we Americans have spent all our money on bonuses for bank CEOs and hedge fund managers. So, if our quest for peace is to have a future, you must front me some cash.”

Sated with watery tea and partly-cooked goat parts, I headed for the Peshawar bus terminal. Where I reserved two full seats in coach. So I could ride, legs spread. American style.

Before long the media reported that the Taliban was conducting secret peace negotiations with “a high-ranking U.S. official.” Naturally, the Americans denied the leaks. President Obama spat: “The cunning enemy is trying to expand its military operations on the basis of its double-standard policy and wants to throw dust into the eyes of the people by spreading the rumors of negotiation.”

No one believed him. No one ever believes Americans.

Ha!

My brilliant ruse continued throughout the month. Sometimes the two cartoonists with whom I was traveling asked me where I was spending nights. “With Mullah Omar!” I wanted to shout. “Eating his nan and blowing through dozens of his afghanis!” But I couldn’t. “I was in the bathroom,” I lied.

Yes, we are a dumber-than-dumb people led by a stupider-than-stupid government. But the Taliban aren’t much smarter.

So there.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL

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