Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Scenes From "The West Wing"

Meghan McCain: "I Believe in Gay Marriage"

With the retirement of Chuck Hagel and the long-ago deaths of Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, Meghan McCain (yes, daughter of John) is quickly becoming my favorite Republican.

Here's a little snippet of Ms. McCain's interview with Larry King last night:

McCain: I consider myself a progressive Republican. I am liberal on social issues. And I think that the party is at a place where social issues shouldn't be the issues that define the party. And I have taken heat, but in fairness to me, I am a different generation than the people that are giving me heat. I'm 24 years old. I'm not in my 40s, I'm not in my 50s and older.

King: Therefore, you must, based on what you said, disagree with your father? ... Do you discuss it?

McCain: We have a very big generation gap between me and my father. Yes, we discuss them. He's very open-minded. I was raised in an open-minded home. I was raised a Christian, but I was raised open-minded Christian -- one to accept people, love people, not pass judgment. ...

I believe in gay marriage. ... I personally am pro-life, but I'm not going to judge someone that's pro-choice. It is not my place to judge other people and what they do with their body.

I couldn't have said it any better myself. See, one thing about the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that no reasonable person could ever seriously accuse the Democrats of stifling dissent; the Party is infamous for being historically disjointed and disagreeable. One recalls Will Rogers' famous quote "I'm not a member of an organized political party; I'm a Democrat."

The Republicans, on the other hand, have - at least in modern times - become a party of Yes Men that stifles any kind of dissent amongst its minority ranks. The result is that the party's standard-bearers have to adhere by very strict, sometimes ridiculous guidelines and positions (all in the name of "pleasing the base"). Just a few weeks ago, Michael Steele learned this the hard way when he went against Rush Limbaugh; not only did Steele had to retract his (sane) comments, but all the other GOP big shots then totally backed off of anything that could be perceived as remotely critical of what Limbaugh thought.

Anyway, to hear Meghan McCain promote a debate within the GOP - and to hear her declare her support for gay marriage (!) - is a breath of beautifully fresh air. She is correct in her assessment that the Republicans are not going to get anywhere by not changing anything. She should also be commended for her position that, while she personally is pro-life, she's not going to tell other women what they can or cannot do with their bodies. I believe Meghan's position on abortion to be very near the median position in the country: a personal pro-lifer comfortable living in a pro-choice nation. In other words, "I certainly won't be getting an abortion, but there's no need to ban it from everyone."

As I've said before, the GOP would do itself a lot of good to get off its "moral" high horse, start seriously looking inward at themselves and eventually figure out a way to join the healthy debate of reasonable people. We're all waiting for them. They can start by listening to Meghan McCain.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I'm watching the first batch of games of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and I already have a queasy feeling.

Not a good sign.

For the record, I have North Carolina, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Memphis in the Final Four, with North Carolina beating Louisville in the championship game. Who else has this exact scenario? Why, President Barack Obama, of course.

Unlike the President, however, I will not be attending the NATO Summit the evening of the championship. I guess the comparisons only run so far.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

WTF is Jindal Talking About?

"Don't let anyone tell you we can't" overcome our challenges, is the jist of what Bobby Jindal is now saying his "rebuttal" to Obama's speech.

Um, hello? He does know that he's responding to the Hope President, right? Since when has Obama ever even remotely hinted that America "can't" overcome this crisis?!?

God, the Republicans are so out of touch it's insane.

UPDATE: "If it sounds like Jindal is targeting his speech to a room full of fourth graders, that's because he is. They might be the next people to actually vote for Republicans again." -Nate Silver.

Jindal's Rebuttal

Bobby Jindal strikes me as weirdly over-the-top.

Does he know how ridiculous he sounds? Is he drunk?

Thoughts on the Non-State of the Union State of the Union

What has always struck me about President Obama is that, regardless of the circumstances, he seems like he is the adult in the room. Whereas Bush was the drunk uncle at your cousin's wedding who was hogging the microphone for far too long, Obama is an almost grandfatherly figure - the elder statesman, the bridge-builder, the wise man (not a wise guy, like Bush). He is a leader capable of both sobriety and inspiration.

Tonight's address was classic Obama: a mix of cautious conservatism and some pretty lofty (liberal) goals. He is right in that, as we find ourselves in the midst of this great economic crisis, NOW is the time to tackle the problems that have dogged us for too long: health care and energy being chief among them. Our health care "system" - if you can call it that - and our importation of foreign oil is short-shrifting our citizens, poisoning our planet and putting a burden on our economy. Now is the time to tackle these problems, not shy away from them.

At 9:00 tonight, before the President's address, I found myself in my customarily pessimistic position as I reflected on the sorry state of our national economy and conscience. But as he has so many times, Obama somehow has managed to turn my frown upside down, and reframe this moment as a possibility for rebuilding and renewal, as opposed to a complete meltdown of the world as we know it. The job before him - and us - is extraordinarily difficult, if not mostly impossible, and none of what the President outlined tonight will be easy. But I have been reminded once again of the importance of having faith that we will get there. We will get there. And we will be better off when we do.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Daschle Withdraws His Nomination

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) will not be the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, as he has withdrawn his candidacy.

I haven't written anything on this saga - the saga being that Daschle failed to pay over $130,000 in taxes and was paid more than $200,000 by the health care industry he had been nominated to regulate - but I think Daschle did the right thing by withdrawing. Yes, he was an early ally of President Obama, the two are very close and Daschle has a lot of experience on Capitol Hill and with the behemoth of an issue that is health care. But it's queasy to expect that someone - anyone, even something with the reported integrity of Tom Daschle - could receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from someone and then be expected to regulate that very same someone. It just didn't smell right.

For the record, the tipping point for Daschle seemed to be this morning's New York Times editorial (which urged him to withdraw his nomination), which you can read here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Predictions (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

I'll come up with a list fo' real closer to the actual ceremony, but here's how it looks to me so far:

Picture - Slumdog Millionaire
Director - Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
These two strike me as "in the bag," or as "in the bag" as a part-English/part-Hindi indie Bollywood film with no movie stars can be.

Actor - Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Benjamin Button has the most nominations, but Brad Pitt is not going to win. Richard Jenkins wins by beating out Clint to get nominated. Frank Langella could steal it, I suppose, but I don't think so. So it's between Mickey and Sean Penn. I don't buy the talk that "the Academy doesn't like Mickey Rourke, so they'll give it to Sean Penn." The Academy doesn't like Sean Penn, either. What they do like is a comeback.

Actress - Kate Winslet, Rev... excuse me, The Reader
Well, up until this morning, everyone thought Kate Winslet would win for Revolutionary Road. She didn't get nominated for that; instead, it's The Reader... which seems to have an awful lot of support from the Academy, so I would bet that Kate finally wins her long-overdue Oscar this year.

Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
I suppose Heath is still the front-runner here, but the lack of support for TDK in general strikes me as somewhat ominous. Also, there could be a backlash (maybe there already IS a backlash against TDK amongst the Academy) against giving it to him, for reasons I need not elaborate.

Supporting Actress - I Doubt that I have any idea what will happen here
Two Doubt chicks, the lovely Taraji P. Henson, a former nominee in Penelope Cruz and a former winner (in this category) in Marisa Tomei. My guess? A toss-up between Penelope Cruz and Amy Adams.

Rebellion Over "The Reader"

And, to be fair, some of the other nominees and non-nominees as well.

There seems to be a surprising amount of disagreement among the Aint-It-Cool community as to whether or not TDK was worthy of a Best Picture nomination (for the record, I believe it was), but there seems to be a general consensus that this year's nominees flat-out stink ("uninteresting," "boring," etc.).

Just Remembered...

In response to a commenter (Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous), as well as my own mistake, The Dark Knight was produced by Warner Bros., not The Weinstein Co.

So, I return again to my theory that The Reader's multiple nominations may have been due to the annual big ad blitz by The Weinstein Co... which is a shame, because a nomination for TDK would have been awesome and well-deserved - and would have (for once) lifted the Oscar ratings out of the cellar in which they currently dwell.

Open Question

How much of The Reader's success today was due to the fact that it was a relatively typical Oscar movie (aka Holocaust), and how much was due to the fact that it had the wizardly Weinsteins behind its marketing operation?

For The Ages

In the vein of How Green Was My Valley beating out Citizen Kane for Best Picture in 1941, the 81st Annual Academy Awards will always be remembered as the time The Reader pooped on The Dark Knight's chances to make history.

THE LIST (Finally)

Thanks to Danlly, the complete list of Oscar nominees can be found here.

Benjamin Button - 13 nominations
Slumdog - 10 nominations
The Dark Knight - 8 nominations, but only one big one (Heath)

A Better List

Can be found here. Courtesy of The Envelope. Still not complete though.

Oscar Noms: (The Beginnings of) A List

Here's an incomplete list from Variety. The full list - with all the "other" awards outside of the big ones - should be up SOMEWHERE soon.

Benjamin Button leads the way with 13 nominations - though I'd actually be surprised if it WINS Best Picture.

Oscar Nominations (Update)

All Things Fangirl tells me (since I was apparently too tired to notice) that Kate Winslet's nomination in the Best Actress category was for The Reader, and NOT for Revolutionary Road.

If you'll recall, Winslet was being pushed - hard - for The Reader, only in the Supporting category.

So, this morning, the Academy has unexpectedly taken everything we thought we knew about the Oscar nominations and shoved it back into our face with a note that says "If you do nothing else, watch The Reader."

Somewhere, Sid Ganis is cackling.

Oscar Nominations: Wha Happened???

Well, this is probably the first time since 2003 (when Fernando Meirelles was nominated for City of God and Keisha Castle-Hughes got a nod for Whale Rider) that I can remember being this shocked at the Oscar nominations.

Quick thoughts:
  1. Where the hell did The Reader come from? It got a lot of (relative) love from the Globes, but the HFPA has like 100 people in it. That it was nominated for Best Picture - over films like Doubt and The Dark Knight - is shocking.
  2. Very disappointing - though not entirely surprising - that The Dark Knight got snubbed for Best Picture. In the end, the buzz faded away, and the Academy couldn't bring itself to nominate an action movie.
  3. Lots of acting surprises - Melissa Leo for Best Actress, Michael Shannon in the Supporting category and, in what was the biggest surprise BY FAR, Richard Jenkins nabbing a Best Actor nomination for The Visitor.
  4. How weird is it that The Reader got nominated for Picture and Director but not for Kate Winslet's performance?
  5. The Academy apparently loved the performances in Doubt (all four of them got nominated). Can any of them win?
  6. Milk made quite a comeback after being almost completely snubbed at the Globes - it got nods for Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor (Sean Penn) and Supporting Actor (Josh Brolin).
  7. Big disappointment for Sally Hawkins, who did not get a nomination for her Globe-winning performance in Happy-Go-Lucky. Melissa Leo grabbed the spot that conceivably would have been hers.
  8. Taraji P. Henson was amazing in Benjamin Button and I'm glad she was nominated.
  9. With the severe lack of love for The Dark Knight, is Heath still the front-runner to win Supporting Actor?
  10. This looks like this is shaping up to be another Oscars in which most of the general public hasn't seen - and, in some cases, hasn't even heard of - the major nominees.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

He Was Sworn In Again

President Obama was sworn in again by Chief Justice Roberts - this time in the Map Room of the White House, as well as error-free - after the mutual flubbing during the inauguration yesterday.

Excellent decision, in my view. White House Counsel Greg Craig says they redid the oath out of an "abundance of caution," which is exactly right. Obama won the election, was certified by the electoral college, and noon on January 20th has passed. But the Constitution is very exact in the wording of the presidential oath, and Obama did not speak those exact words yesterday. So they did it again, and conspiracy theorists and nutjobs will have one less thing on which to harp.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Line To Remember

If anything from Obama's inaugural speech is preserved by history, I would be willing to bet that it was this remarkable line directed toward Muslim extremists:
Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.
I'd never heard it phrased quite so eloquently before, and it sums it up perfectly. Just perfectly.

Swear Him In Again!

In case you just so happened to be watching the inauguration of President Obama this afternoon, you heard the dual oath-flubbing by the President and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Considering the President did not actually end up uttering the precise words needed for the swearing-in (as prescribed by the Constitution), there are bound to be some kooks who will claim that he is not actually president (a nutty proposition, of course, but a potentially annoying one - like those "he was born in Kenya/Indonesia/Mars rumors). My prescription to the problem? Swear him in again. It's actually happened before:
People will argue about what the failure to utter the words in the precise order required by the Constitution means. But it will be an academic argument. It is not clear who would have standing to raise the argument that Mr. Obama had not become president as a consequence, and it is hard to believe that any court – or other body – would want to adjudicate the question.

There is, in any event, no rule against a do-over. When questions were raised about whether Calvin Coolidge should have been sworn in by his father, a notary public, he took the oath again, this time from a Supreme Court justice.
For the record, this is the only part of the Obama presidency that I'd be comfortable modeling after Calvin Coolidge.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We Made It!

Today feels like high school graduation day, only it's graduation from a high school in hell. After eight dark and terrible years, tonight is the last night of the George W. Bush administration. What never should have even happened to begin with somehow, someway turned into the absolute worst presidency in the history of this country - along the way, we've gotten bogged down by two wars, a crumbling economy, a collapse of the Constitution and diminishing (to almost non-existent) respect in the world.

BUT (and there's always a but) tomorrow marks the end, the long-awaited end, of our (inter)national nightmare. President Obama will take office at noon, and we'll finally be treated to the three most beautiful words in the English language: "former President Bush."

The campaign, election and impending inauguration of Barack Obama has been an incredibly exciting experience, and there is a lot of work to be done now. But for one final time, on this final night of the Bush presidency, let us GIVE THANKS that we have survived the Dubya Debacle, and perhaps even learned a thing or two along the way.

Thanks for the memories, George. And now, let us begin anew.

Scenes From "The West Wing"

I found this to be particularly appropriate for today. From "Tomorrow," the final episode of The West Wing:

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Speech for the Ages

Even Obama's daughters are expecting a great inauguration speech. Count me in with them.

It's become customary, obviously, for the President-elect to give great speeches. If I'm not mistaken, even before the election the campaign was selling a DVD of Barack Obama's most renowned pieces of oratory. So I am expecting something very grand on January 20.

I'd bet that it will be a combination of Kennedy's call to service ("Ask not what your country can do for you...") and the humility and dignity exemplified by Lincoln ("With malice toward none, with charity for all;" "we are not enemies, but friends"). Obama will soberly remind us of the challenges of our time, and call on each of us to do our part to meet those challenges, but will reassure once again that we will persevere (I'm sure there will be at least some kind of "yes we can" moment, even if he doesn't say it outright). And, in typical Obama fashion, he'll remind us that we are "one people, all pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes" ... or something like that.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bush's Farewell

Bush said goodbye to the nation tonight, after eight turbulent (to say the least) years as president. In watching the address, I was struck by how it seems like George W. Bush and I have lived, and continue to live, in totally opposite worlds. For years now, I've always felt like, "I can't believe he's the President," because in my world, he wouldn't be the President.

What we've heard from the White House these past eight years seems to stand in stunningly sharp contrast to what has actually been happening here in America and abroad. Bush says we're safer, and while it's true there hasn't been a terrorist attack here since 9/11, should that really be the barometer for safety? To me, it seems like there is more international turmoil than ever before. That's the world I live in - where everything seems to be falling apart, not the "time to pat myself on the back" land in which George W. Bush seems to reside.

If there's one thing I've learned from President Bush, it's the importance of having a leader who will talk straight with people, who can deliver bad news, who can admit mistakes. In my world, any normal person would be capable of these things. Bush came into office claiming that he, too, was a normal guy, someone you could have a beer with. As he leaves office eight years later, there's nothing normal about anything in which we find ourselves in. For all of our sakes, I hope Obama can level with us and talk to us like adults, maybe even show some regret or acknowledgment that things don't go always go as smoothly as planned. For me, that would be a true mission accomplished.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thoughts on the Globes

I know I haven't been writing very much lately, but here are some reactions to last night's Golden Globe Awards:
  1. Kate Winslet has to be the front-runner for... something, right? She'll probably be nominated for both Revolutionary Road (Best Actress) and The Reader (Best Supporting Actress), though it's highly unlikely she'll WIN for both (no one has ever done that). But which one is she more likely to win come Oscar time? My bet would be on Revolutionary Road, but who knows?
  2. Somehow, someway, Heath Ledger has to now be the favorite to win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. I think the only thing that could derail him at this point would be some kind of backlash if it's seen like he's only the front-runner because he died. This is, of course, ludicrous, because he's amazing - and that's not strong enough of a word - in the film, but there are definitely people who will think that.
  3. I've gotta feel like Mickey Rourke is the favorite for Best Actor at the Oscars. Oscar loves a comeback, Frank Langella just doesn't seem to have the support and Sean Penn already won not too long ago.
  4. I get the feeling that Benjamin Button (0-for-5) has lost some momentum.
  5. I get the feeling that Slumdog Millionaire (4-for-4) has gained some momentum.
  6. Having Blake Lively present Best Television Series (Drama) was really weird. I actually like Blake Lively (and Gossip Girl) a lot, but the 10:45 PM awards slot should be given to someone considerably more seasoned. Tom Cruise presenting Best Picture (Drama) was an excellent move; he was probably the biggest star in the room. Tom Hanks would have fit well in that vein. But Blake Lively on at 10:45? Doesn't gel.
  7. I love Kate Winslet.
  8. I looooooove Kate Winslet.
  9. Since The Dark Knight and Wall-E weren't nominated, I'm glad Slumdog won Best Picture. I would have been happy with Benjamin Button too.
  10. How much did NBC pay Tom Brokaw to make him shlep out there?

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Truth About Norm Coleman

"Let's be frank: Norm Coleman doesn't have much of a future in electoral politics. Defeated Presidential candidates sometimes have nine lives, but defeated Senatorial candidates rarely do, and in his career running for statewide office, Coleman has lost to a professional wrestler, beaten a dead guy, and then tied a comedian." -Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight.