Saturday, May 20, 2006

Bush's Base

I heard David Brooks on PBS Newshour tonight say (in paraphrase) it was commendable that Bush stuck with his principles on immigration, rather than throwing his conservative base red meat by being tougher on enforcement.

That's one way to look at it. But I think what's actually going on is much more obvious: Bush stuck with the his primary constituency: big business and the very rich. They want cheap labor howeve they can get it, and illegal immigrants certainly work cheap.

Any other element of the Republican coalition regularly gets the shaft, but not the wealthy.

  • I'm dubious if there are any real Libertarians who are Bush fans: he's consolidated power in the executive and greatly increased the police power of the government over citizens, not to mention ballooning government's size. They'd have to be masocho-libertarians (or more likely, faux libertarian Republicans like Glenn Reynolds) to stick with him.

  • The hardcore fundie Republicans regularly get bones tossed their way, but he has no fear of sending them packing when the chips are down. Typical of Republican presidents, he won't go to the large DC anti-choice rally, but will make a statement over the phone.

  • The paleocons get dissed regularly too (Foreign entanglements, government size, deficit among his abuse of the Reagan conservative).

I can't really think of a time when he's really stuck it to the very wealthy and business, especially big business, however. And, of course they are his true people:
Bush gazed around the diamond-studded $800-a-plate crowd and commented on the wealth on display.

"This is an impressive crowd - the haves and the have-mores," quipped the GOP standard-bearer. "Some people call you the elites; I call you my base."
I suppose you could call his stance on immigration standing by his principles. I call it dancing with the one who brung him.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Funny UK Politics

Beginning tonight, BBC America is airing The Thick of It, a political satire -- and a satire about the workings of politics -- that hits the mark.

Narrative political satire hardly exists on American television nowadays. There is a good satirical fake news program (The Daily Show) and a fine fake talk show (The Colbert Report), and some abysmally toothless skits performed on the likes of Saturday Night Live. None of those are really narrative programs about the workings of politics. In 2001 Comedy Central turned Stone and Parker (of South Park) loose to create That's My Bush which featured a dimwitted Texan as President. That show wasn't really about politics -- it was a satire based on the tropes of sitcoms, and nearly incidentally set in the White House. It was fairly dumb and very rarely funny about politics, though occasionally it was worth a laugh for other reasons. You'd have to reach back farther in time to come up with an American TV political satire that is about politics itself and not primarily focused on the media, as was Franken's LateLine.

As for politician satire in movies -- we Americans don't seem to do it very well anymore, either. Bulworth? I couldn't sit through it. Dave? A very bland romantic comedy with some soporific "politics" grafted on. There are many good movies with political themes (here's but one: Citizen Ruth), but few in recent times that poke fun at the general run of politics in D.C.

The Thick of It really is about politics and the people who do politics. It doesn't get laughs with jokey one-liners about how fat this minister is or how stupid that aide is (though plenty of stupidity is displayed). Shot mockumentary style, it follows the workings of a fictional government department in constant hot water with the Prime Minister, his vicious Scottish enforcer, the press, and even members of the public. .

It's the creation of Armando Iannucci, who has had a hand in quite a few funny things (Alan Partridge in various incarnations, On The Hour, and The Day Today, for instance). The cast is a treat, led by the wonderfully befuddled Chris Langham recently of the peculiarly funny series Help! and the magnficient creation that is People Like Us, in both its television and (marginally superior, to me) radio incarnations.

As might be expected, a lot of people compare The Thick of It with the 1980's classic Yes, Minister, another stellar UK political satire. They both are top-notch examples of the sitcom styles of the time applied to politics. They both have more going on than just being laugh-machines. And they develop themes in ways that US sitcoms (even the best ones) don't even attempt to. (Iannucci himself has described Thick as a cross between Yes, Minister and The Larry Sanders Show--which is not a bad description.)

So, Americans with access to BBC America, tune in tonight for the following five Friday nights at 9 pm ET, 10 pm PT for a little something you can't get at home.

I'm praying that BBC America doesn't do it's usual schedule-juggling, which can make watching a series a true headache. But, in this case, it'll be worth it. On the positive side, however, BBC America has a page with links to a slang guide and a glossary. Though each is paltry, they should help us Yanks understand the lingo a little bit better.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

For Thee, Not for Me

President Bush: "'Deadlines are important,' he said. 'Deadlines help people understand there's finality, and people need to get after it, you know?'"

Deadlines: for the little people.

Not for Bush when serving up troops for slaughter in Iraq.

Weighing In

Atrios came up with a list of policies that most Democratic bloggers could support. Uggabugga
does some analysis on it from the (likely) point of view of various breeds of Republicans. Worth a look.

For my part, I find nothing objectionable in Atrios' list. I'd say "yes" to everything, and "Hell yes" to nearly everything. That's from a purely policy perspective. From a political perspective I'm sure I'd have varying opinions about what Democrats should emphasize and de-emphasize, depending on which week you ask.

Finally, Uggabugga closes with a comment I'd like to emphasize:
Setting foreign policy aside, it seems clear from the matrix above that Atrios' List is not radical. That the epithets "far left" and "fanatics" are totally inappropriate for those inclined towards progressive policy positions. That 40% of the nation would support or accept such policies. And that to be even having this discussion shows how much the "center" has moved to the right by commentators, pundits, and hacks
Precisely. That's why bloggers who aren't Republicans get so sick of the conventional wisdom that pundits puke up with such regularity.

No wonder we're pissed off.

Friday, May 05, 2006

There's one thing the Goss resignation confirms

For one of the most important jobs in what he calls the "War on Terror," Bush made a bad apointment. The guy couldn't even last out two years.

There are many other reasons I thought and thing Goss was a bad choice. But a hurried resigation in under two years is one that'd be hard for anyone to argue with.

Goss-titutes, Presstitutes: Same Diff?

Josh Marshall complains about CNN not mentioning important information regarding Porter Goss' resignation.

MSNBC, after interviewing several folks such as Wayne Allard, Dana Priest, and John Harwood (a better lineup than the vacuous TV-newsreader types CNN had ping-ponging vacuities), finally had Norah O'Donnell on.

She first noted that it was hightly unusual for no reason to be given-- not even "to spend time with family" or "health issues." It may come, but usually it's right out front in these announcments. Also, there's no replacement named, which is odd, especially such an important slot in the "War on Terror." Finally, she mentions that it's typical for bad news to be mentioned on Friday afternoon .

Then she gave a discourse on Dusty Foggo and his relationship with Goss.

Way to go Norah. I don't always think she does a great job, but in this case she mentioned the elephant in room. It's sad that this is commendable, but compared to the other dolts bloviating about nothing, it's something.

UPDATE: Now Timmy Russert is on, saying he spoke with a high-level White House source, telling their line. Here's the White House story, according to Russert: Goss has put in important changes, now they think it'd be better to have another person in charge who can "heal" things. Discussions between Goss and Negroponte have been taking place for weeks and the new DCI will be suggested by Negroponte.

Cover story, or the "inside story?" This is precisely the kind of story I wouldn't trust Timmy with. But, he could possibly be right. Hookers could be the explanation, too.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Line-Crossing tells us that
"Colbert crossed the line," said one top Bush aide, who rushed out of the hotel as soon as Colbert finished. Another said that the president was visibly angered by the sharp lines that kept coming.

"I've been there before, and I can see that he is [angry]," said a former top aide. "He's got that look that he's ready to blow."

I'd be interested in hearing what exactly was over the line in Colbert's routine.

I'd bet the real answer is that, for Bush and his gang, any substantive criticism of the President in his presence is over the line.

Making fun of Bush's lamentable vefbal skills is fine--Bush does that himself. Making fun of his policies that actually, you know, kill people and bankrupt the US--horrors!

The bubble wasn't quite intact for 20 minutes or so. Thankfully, Bush went right back to his castle, where his sycophants can tell him how great he is.

One again: bravo, Colbert.

Monday, May 01, 2006

More Colbert

A few more miscellaneous things about the Colbert act.

1) Someone put the C-Span video on, in three parts. It's gone viral, and part one is currently the most viewed video on, with 342,591 views in the day it's been up. [Update: I just checked back after around three hours and now it's been viewed 400,989 times. So that's about sixty thousand views in three hours or less.]

2) In ilne with the above, as James Wolcott notes, it's likely his routine played better on television than in the room. I have a few ideas why that may be the case:

  • The DC politico-tainment nexus is really parochial. For instance, take this bit from Lloyd Grove's column today:
    As for the after-dinner entertainment, the conventional wisdom was that Bush killed with his self-mocking routine — "The President was fantastic," gushed staunch Dem Patricia Duff — while the hired talent, Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert, bombed badly. "It was an insider crowd, as insider a crowd as you'll ever have, and he didn't do the insider jokes," said BET founder Bob Johnson.

    Colbert should have made jokes about how Laura smokes cigarettes, maybe? That's "inside."

    No, they wanted tame jokes about, say, someone's renowned eating habits. They wanted the lame kinds of pabulum jokes that Leno pumps out, or that Bush makes about himself. Faux "insider" stuff that makes them feel part of the club, but which isn't really funny even you are inside-- you laugh at getting the reference that the hoi polloi won't grasp.

    Which is a good example of the cocktail weenie thinking of these dolts, and why we're in such a state today. There are somethings that the public shouldn't really care to know. Unless Patrick Fitzgerald calls them to testify, we'll never know the backchannel bullshit that goes on which keeps reporters plugged in to their sources.

    So Colbert, by not playing to that fake insider bullshit, talked to the folks at home more than the tuxedoed masses in the room. And the ones who haven't drunk the Bush Koolaid by and large find Colbert funny.

  • At the end of Hardball today, Mike Allen of Time magazine said that the rule for comedy at these things is they're meant to "singe, not burn." And Matthews said (on the first airing -- it was excised on the 7 p.m. repeat) that the president is more than a politician -- he's the head of state, indicating that Bush deserved more respect.

    But Colbert didn't make fun of Bush's pecadillos (Bush does that, after all). He lacerated his governing style, his failures and the assistance given to these failures by the attendant media. Of course they're not going to like that.

3) The reaction to Colbert points to the overall tameness of what passes for political comedy these days. The line that Leno, Letterman and Conan take on Bush is that he's not o bright and he can't speak. 90 percent of the jokes are about that, and that's not political humor. It's the equivalent of making fat jokes about Pavarotti: a punch line is supposed to be funny merely because it makes the point that Pavarotti is fat, or Bush isn't bright. That vein of comedy was thoroughly mined even before Bush's first year in office.

Get it? Bush doesn't speak fluently! Bwahahahahahahahah! Hilarious.

But that's the kind of toothless "humor" that passes for political satire nowadays. Anything that actually gets into politics, rather than personal traits, is somehow out of bounds to these people.

It's so toothless that Bush uses it about himself. And the crowd laps it up.
Web Analytics