Friday, May 23, 2008

Tucker Carlson for President....

Well, he does need something to do these days. Reason Magazine has the rumor.

Frat Boys every where need a candidate, as do the bow-tie constituency.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's Fun When You Discover Something; or, the Virtuosities of Assy McGee

In the first two installments, Readers were acquainted with Assy McGee's engagement with themes related to Rhetorics of Masculinity, State-Sponsored Brutality, and of course Dennis Leary's Lyrical Interrogation of the White Male Suburbanite.

Herein we see another thematic side of Assy McGee--the Sexy Side.

J'adore Ellen

Okay, I've reached an impasse in my dissertating, and I'm acting out on the Situation. Sue me.

John McCain appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show, and, according to, politely blasted his opposition to gay marriage. He told her that they "respectfully disagree" on this issue. She told him that he was a homophobic, war-mongering bigot who only has respect for money.'s not right. What she actually said was, "It just feels like there is this old way of thinking that we are not all the same. We are all the same people, all of us. You're no different than I am. Our love is the same." Our love is the same, Ellen. Fortunately, though, many of us are different than McCain and his cronies.

Kelly Ripa has farty pants

I detest those Kelly Ripa Electrolux ads. You know, the ones in which she is superwoman, running from the Regis set to her house where she bakes cupcakes and pork chops in her fancy oven, hosts cocktail parties and slumber parties simultaneously, and exudes general perkiness? These ads make me angry. Irrationally so. Combine these ads with those stupid Tide-to-go ads, and she's really just a faux domestic goddess. I'll take Roseanne over Ripa any day.

Unfortunately, I can't find the ad to upload it, and I can't embed the ad that I did find on youtube. The ad begins with Ripa as Carrie Bradshaw (blasphemy!!), pondering the role of the Electrolux oven in the dating life of the "cupcake queen." This baking diva has hot men coming to her house, drawn by the sweet flavors of her (baked) goods. The cupcake queen has a kitchen full of cupcakes, which she hands out like Halloween treats to her Chippendale-esque neighbors. Both CQ and Ripa are in a twitter over the men, and, apparently, CQ is satisfied simply sharing her sweet treats. But neither woman gets any play from these guys. Both, it seems, get all the pleasure they need from using their fabulous ovens. Doubtful.

I want South Park to rip Ripa. And I want her to NEVER "ripa" off SATC again (obligatory pun).

The Texas 3rd Court of Appeals agrees with you, Megs

The judges declared, "The existence of the FLDS belief system as described by the department's witnesses, by itself, does not put children of FLDS parents in physical danger."

Michigan, Florida, and Zimbabwe?

Senator Clinton amped up her attacks on Michigan and Florida by comparing the states to Zimbabwe.According to CBS:
“We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe," Clinton explained. "Tragically, an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people,” Clinton told the crowd of senior citizens at a retirement community in south Florida.

“So we can never take for granted our precious right to vote. It is the single most important, privilege and right any of us have, because in that ballot box we are all equal. You’re equal to a billionaire. You’re equal to the president, every single one of us.”

For Clinton, the move to seat these delegates is similar to the movements of the abolitionists, the suffragists, the 2000 election, and now the citizens of Zimbabwe. When she provides a reason why the elections and not the results should be considered legitimate, I will listen as her characterization of the votes was much different in October of 2007 when she stated, in regards to Michigan that, "it is clear this election they are having is not going to count for anything."So, we can conclude that these elections were exactly like Zimbabwe.

Al Gore needs to address this issue. If people claim he is the elder statesman of the party, he needs to break his silence.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On Resolving Michigan and Florida: HRC's Argument

While campaigning today in Florida, Senator Clinton delivered a speech that focused on the Florida and Michigan primaries. I am not aware as to whether or not any of the candidates previously delivered a speech focused on the subject, which makes the speech incredibly important, especially as the DNC will decide the fate of these two states on May 31st.

Throughout the speech, She grounds her appeals in the fundamental principles of our country, such as our shared civic faith, equal justice under the law, government cannot abridge our fundamental rights, government is derived from the consent of the people, and citizens need an equal voice in determining the the destiny of our nation. While the nation did not begin with full rights for everyone, overtime, movements fought for the expansion of rights. Clinton concludes this section of the speech by stating that Senator Obama and herself, "have an obligation as potential Democratic nominees - in fact, we all have an obligation as Democrats - to carry on this legacy and ensure that in our nominating process every voice is heard and every single vote is counted." A core mission of the Democrats is to expand the right to vote, e.g. Civil Rights, Voting Rights Act, fighting redistricting efforts that dilute vote of minorities, and voter identification laws. By analogy, seating these audiences would be an expansion of those movements.

Her overall argument is that since the voters in Michigan and Florida voted in Florida, it is the responsibility of the Democratic Party to respect that vote. Further, it does not matter whether or not Senator Obama's name was on the ballot. Connecting this vote to the Election of 2000, she argues:
Now, I’ve heard some say that counting Florida and Michigan would be changing the rules. I say that not counting Florida and Michigan is changing a central governing rule of this country - that whenever we can understand the clear intent of the voters, their votes should be counted.

There are a few problems with her argument. First, while I'm not surprised she presently concerns herself with democracy, I wonder why she was not concerned with democracy in August and September of 2007, especially since members of the DNC, some of whom play a prominent role in Clinton's campaign-- Harold Ickes--, allowed this to go through. This just presents a conflict of interests. Like the other candidates and the DNC, she is just as responsible for not allowing the original votes to be excluded from the contest. This is also the problem of allowing the political parties too much control of the electoral process.

Second, if there is concern over Democracy, why is there no concern over the democratic process. The original votes developed through illegitimate elections as the candidates could not campaign or develop a get out to vote effort, and the ballots were not honest. Further, the re-votes proposed by the Clinton campaign would have disenfranchised voters in the two states. Yet, while pushing for revotes, she showed no concern over those aspects of disenfranchisement. Asking for votes to counts from elections that were illegitimate is not the best way to advance the cause of democracy or Civil Rights. Asking for revotes that would exclude the voices of citizens would not advance the cause of democracy or Civil Rights. This bothers me, and it would bother me no matter which candidate made the argument.

Third, Senator Clinton attempts to alter the rules of the game, again, asking the Super Delegates to focus on the popular vote and not the delegate count.
We believe the popular vote is the truest expression of your will. We believe it today, just as we believed it back in 2000 when right here in Florida, you learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren’t counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner. The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal clear. If any votes aren’t counted, the will of the people is not realized and our democracy is diminished. That is what I have always believed.

The problem with the popular vote is threefold. First, when preparing for the nomination contests, the candidates target areas in which they can win delegates. If they did not, no one would campaign in the small states, diminishing the interests of the citizens in those states. Second, the states employ different methods (primaries/ caucuses) and have different standards for who can vote (open/ closed primaries). The result of an election in the primary may be those who voted at a particular moment in time, but it is not the will of the people. If these elections were the will of the people, then New York State disenfranchised a good number of people in the Democratic Primary since it is a closed primary. Additionally, because the primary does not possess the same voting requirement as a primary, the results are not comparable to a general election. Third, when making the will of the people argument, Senator Clinton does not include those who voted in caucuses and those that voted uncommitted in Michigan. Her argument should be the will of some people.

Both candidates have handled this poorly but this speech does not advance voting rights. It only advances the interest of one candidate. While this is no surprise, it does not advance the cause of democracy. If the residents of Florida believe that the Democrats disenfranchised the voters in January, counting the votes now after the elections were not legitimate will not help the process. If the Democrats disrespected the voters in Florida, seating them now is not a sign of respect.

Postscript: According to MSNBC, in an interview with a Cleveland Radio station, Senator Clinton stated:
“We’ve got to change the way we nominate presidents for a lot of reasons,” she said. “I personally believe these caucuses are terribly unrepresentative. … [And] I think that what’s happened with Florida and Michigan raises serious questions about the principles of our party.”

In another irony, this quote subverts democracy as it challenges the caucus system. While the caucus system may not be the best method, that does not mean it is undemocratic. It is a form of deliberative democracy. And while people argue that these form of elections prevent people form voting, all elections prevent people from voting (closed primaries, teenagers, voter registration). Yet, states chose the caucus system democratically through their state legislatures.

Three Interesting Reads for Wednesday...

In The New York Times, MoDo's column "The Last Debate" features a fictitious conversation between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. Like her other columns, it's sad and funny.

In The Village Voice, Alison Benedikt writes "My Lady Parts Do Not Hurt For Hillary Clinton," discussing the role of sexism in the campaign and providing a backlash against the charges of sexism. While the agrees that sexism exists in the US, the author's concern is that the use of sexism is a cover for other tactical mistakes in the campaign.

And, finally, a May 2007 internal memo from the Clinton Campaign that argues that the campaign should avoid participating in the Iowa Caucuses in 2008 and focus on New Hampshire. The consequence may have been an Edwards win in Iowa and, more importantly, an Obama loss, diminishing the Obama's chances in later primaries.

Assy McGee Reprised

Here is another video, movingly entitled "A Salute to Assy (asshole)"

The song, "I'm An Asshole," written and performed by the great Dennis Leary, is truly ingenious. A lyrical snippet:

I use public toilets and I piss on the seat
I walk around in the summer time saying "how about this heat?"

Im an asshole (hes an asshole,what an asshole)
Im an asshole (hes the worlds biggest asshole)

Sometimes I park in handicapped spaces
While handicapped people make handicapped faces

Many excellent comments follow this video on the You Tube Page, by the way. The first one sums up Harrogate's very feelings on the subject:

Assy McGee. I didn't believe it when I first saw the ads, and perhaps I still don't believe. But a cop drama about a talking ass that shoots people is, without a doubt, the pinnacle of human artistic creation in my opinion. Genius. Hilarious. Love this show.
(Harrogate's emphasis, borne out of love for the wording)

A Word on Assy McGee

Sigh. Why the hell didn't someone tell Harrogate about this cartoon? Apparently it has been a'happening since 2006.

There is no way to overstate the significance. Things need to be rethought, once we become cognizant of such a thing. Indeed, one might go so far as to say that Assy McGee changes everything.

Another Trial Balloon... Supreme Court Justice

Besides Senate Majority Leader and Governor of New York, an Op-Ed in The Washington Post offers another suggestion on Senator Clinton's future: when the race is over, Senator Obama ought to declare that he will nominate Hillary Clinton to the Supreme Court if he wins the presidency. Since she is from the Senate, she would be confirmed without a problem.

This would end the discussion of her as VP, give her supporters a reason to support Senate Obama, and end the speculation about 2012. She could also continue her populist personae on the Court, which would balance out the corporate interests.

Of course, while she is very intelligent it seems that she would be better in the Senate because of her knowledge and love of policy, which may not translate to the Court or may further divide the Court (legislating from the bench). But she may desire this as she may have a difficult time in the Senate because of the campaign and, let's face it, a Supreme Court Justice is more prestigious and has more power over domestic policy than the Presidency.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Obama's Speech in Iowa

To address the nation, Obama returned to Iowa to thank the people that launched him and to continue his general election campaign since Senator Obama can win Iowa in the fall.

After acknowledging his wife and praising Ted Kennedy, Obama turned to the people of Iowa. In a powerful rhetorical move, Obama delivered his speech in terms of the audience... "You spoke," emphasizing the role of the people in Iowa, and then the other states, culminating in Obama receiving "the majority of delegates elected by the American people and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for President of the United States of America." This is Senator Obama's argument to the Super Delegates.

Obama talks about the journey, praising Clinton for "shattered myths and broken barriers and changed America in which my daughters and your daughters will come to age." Later in the speech, Obama delivers a very good line: "change is coming to Washington just as it did to Seneca Falls."

Through most of the speech, Senator Obama grounds "change" in his calls for health care, etc., and attacks McCain and the Republicans. It is a good section but not too much is new.

While Clinton speaks of the promise of progress, Senator Obama discusses the spirit that moves Americans to act in the Revolution, Civil Rights, etc. It invokes mysticism to Clinton's pragmatism. Yet, while the means are different, the purpose is the same: to ground the identity of America in a transcendent essence. The differences will need further discussion.

Megs raised an interesting point about audiences: why does Senator Obama's rhetoric of empowerment fail with "worker class" voters? With the WVC audience, Senator Clinton is a "fighter" working on behalf of these voters. Yet, as Megs asked, is this because these people do not believe that they have a voice in the process or that they believe they need someone to speak and fight for them because their voice will not be heard?

Postscript: The New York Times (via AP) reports that Senator Obama is "quietly planning to take over the Democratic National Committee and assemble a multistate team for the general election." This seems to be another sign that the race we see on television is not the race behind the closed doors of the Democratic Party.

Clinton's speech in Kentucky

Senator Clinton spoke early tonight, around 8:15pm. it is one of her best speeches. If you get a chance, watch it. Here's the transcript from The New York Times.

She began with a discussion not of a primary victory or an electoral victory but the promise of American progress, or, in her words, "the struggle to reach American's promise.... Where we fulfill the ideals our Founders pledged their lives to defend and our nation was born to uphold." This is a good start as she taps into the history of American pragmatism in the James, Dewey, and Whitman tradition, as well as the virtues of taking care of children (the future) and appealing to fairness for all men and women (present). She connects the entire vision of an being an American in a few sentences.

She then speaks of Ted Kennedy and his legacy. (So far, this is her best speech.)

After praising Kennedy, she turns her attention to her important victory, attacks the media, praises the people for voting for her, and tells the crowd she will never give up for them. She states she is winning the popular vote and is more determined than ever to make sure every voted is counted.

She turns to Senator Obama and states they will work toward unity. She pulls out Hillary, and the electability argument. She talks about the issues for the fall, the failures of the GOP, and the people she meets on the campaign trail. (This will be a short speech if she is at this point.)

She draws thunderous cheers as she states she will stay in the race until the people choose a nominee, whomever "she may be." She praises Kentucky for picking the president in the past (Clinton) and states "As goes Kentucky, so goes the Nation." She continues back as to how close the race is and her electability argument to the Super Delegates: Who is ready for the economy? Who will win the swing states? Who is ready on day one? Who will win the swing states?

She begins her conclusion with a lot of thank yous followed with an appeal to her campaign workers to keep worker, keep fighting because that is what she will do. She then addresses a few special campaign workers that helped her.

Her last theme is about working to elect a Democratic president in the fall, citing the Kentucky state motto, "Together we stand, divided we fall." She returns to her intro to discuss unity during the Founding era and the struggles they faced to create a new nation. "The democrats will come together, united on common values and common cause; united in service in the hopes and dreams that know no boundaries of race or creed, gender or geography. When we do, there will be no stopping us. We won't just unite our party; we will unite our country and make sure America's best years are still ahead of us."

There are two ways to interpret this speech: The first is that she will continue until the Super Delegates select someone in June and she expects that to be that nominee. but to do this would destroy the unity of which she speaks. The second is that this is her concession speech. Even though she will win Puerto Rico, this may be her last night in the limelight as Senator Obama will cross the delegate threshold before June 1st and she will not gain the Super Delegates to catch him.

This is not her usual stump speech though and I would argue that this second interpretation is the correct one. And if it is, it is a very gracious concession speech.

If you can find this speech on You Tube, take the twenty minutes to watch the address. Even though the middle is flat (she does not have the passion during the stump speech), her introduction and conclusion are very strong. This is one of her best speeches during the campaign.

Sexism in the Campaign, Part III

Geraldine Ferraro spoke to Shepard Smith about sexism in the campaign. She provides further evidence to support her claims. Halfway through Ferraro and Smith attempt to discuss standards to determine what is and what is not sexism, which would have been incredibly helpful, though they do not finish this aspect of the conversation.

Again, the purpose of these posts is to try to determine how to interpret sexism, especially in relation to context, and to find corrective frames for this problem. There are three problems to Ferraro's argument: she equates almost all media to Obama supporters, her examples do not prove her argument as she states that little political comments lead to a larger conclusion of sexism, and she does not account for other factors as at one point it seems that attacks on Clinton based on sexism. However, this is a much better discussion of the problem than previous examples.

Texas Custody Hearings... a Brief Point

Sweet Baby J is currently in the process of fighting a nap in her crib, so my time is limited, but I've had a post brewing since yesterday and I need to put it out there, even if it is brief.

MSNBC reported yesterday that the Texas legal system gave reasoning for taking all 400+ children from their homes and families in the polygamist compound. The reasoning strikes me as troubling, despite my strong belief that the girls in the camp were, indeed, being sexually abused.

The children--even toddlers and young children who, of course, had not been abused in any way--were removed from their homes, according to the legal department, preemptively. (I'm not sure that word was used in the statement.) That is, the girls were removed because they eventually would have been victims of sexual abuse and the boys were removed because they eventually would have been "perpetrators" (that specific word was used in MSNBC's report, although possibly not in the statement) of sexual abuse. The argument about the girls doesn't seem a huge stretch, but the boys concern me. Currently, they are children and, as such, their agency is shaky, but wouldn't some of these boys (and girls), perhaps, grow into young adults who disagree with the lifestyles of their parents and leave the compound?

Couldn't we, by the same reasoning, argue that the children of poor single mothers in the projects could be removed by their state of residence because they are more likely to become thieves or drug dealers in order to survive and help feed their families? Do we no longer have to wait until a crime is committed in order to have a perpetrator of that crime?

I realize that I'm using a slippery slope argument, here, and that I'm coming dangerously close to a logical fallacy. But still, I find this case disconcerting.

The Clinton Campaign and Sexism

According to an article in The Washington Post, Senator Clinton discussed the the sexist treatment she received in the campaign:
"It's been deeply offensive to millions of women," Clinton said. "I believe this campaign has been a groundbreaker in a lot of ways. But it certainly has been challenging given some of the attitudes in the press, and I regret that, because I think it's been really not worthy of the seriousness of the campaign and the historical nature of the two candidacies we have here."

Later, when asked if she thinks this campaign has been racist, she says she does not. And she circles back to the sexism. "The manifestation of some of the sexism that has gone on in this campaign is somehow more respectable, or at least more accepted, and . . . there should be equal rejection of the sexism and the racism when it raises its ugly head," she said. "It does seem as though the press at least is not as bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been engendered by the comments by people who are nothing but misogynists."

The end of the article discusses how Clinton improved on her campaigning skills as she became more comfortable and confident about her message. The article states, "early in her campaign, she was self-conscious about becoming the women's candidate, intent instead on suiting up as commander in chief."

I am not sure if this means that she did better when she embraced being the women's candidate or when she moved beyond the CIC image. Her campaign would have been much different had she reconciled her Iraq vote before the campaign rather then during. Had she done this, the discussion of sexism may not have mattered.

Tuesday's Primaries...

It's Tuesday, which means it is primary day in the US. Only two more weeks left....

Senator Clinton will win Kentucky today, most likely by a margin of over 20%. If she desires to catch up on the popular vote, she will hope that the number will be closer to 30%. In her speech tonight, look for her to discuss the electability, her primary lead in the popular vote, her lead in the electoral college, and the vote in Michigan and Florida. She will also make a plea for her audience to donate at Hillary (and she will say it like that). Her speech will be mainly directed at the remainder of Super Delegates who have not committed publicly.

Senator Obama will win Oregon. According to one poll, PPP, he has already won. Remember, Oregon is a mail-in election. With 74% of the vote counted, Obama has a lead of 60 - 39%. You can read the survey if you wish. If Senator Clinton were to win, she would need almost all of the remaining 26%, which is not going to happen. Look for a win between 16% - 20% for Senator Obama.

Senator Obama will speak in Iowa tonight, where he will claim a majority of the pledged delegates tonight, which is a symbolic victory since there are a number of Super Delegates who stated they would support the winner of the pledged delegates. If Obama picks up 50 - 60 delegates today, then he will have a majority even with counting Michigan and Florida at their full vote. Now, whether or not the DNC allows Michigan and Florida to have a full vote is another story. In his speech, he will most likely focus on the general election and ought to call the DNC to ask for a resolution on Michigan and Florida.

Tomorrow, both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton will campaign in Florida.

Finally, campaign fundraising totals are due today. According to Terry McAuliffe, Senator Clinton raised between $14 and $20 million. No word from the Obama camp.

This will all be over soon.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sexism in the Campaign

As we draw near the end of the Democratic Primary, one of the most prominent discussions over the past few days has been the role of sexism in the campaign. In Today's New York Times, Josi Kantor discusses the issue of sexism and whether or not it played a role in the campaign. In the article, the author quotes a Clinton supporter that suggested it was though the author also quotes Doris Kearns Goodwin, a prominent historian, who suggests that Senator Clinton's errors were tactical and were in no relation to her being a woman. In fact, according to Kearns, being a woman may have helped her raise money for her campaign.

While there have been some remarks that the consensus interpretation would be that they were sexist, to reach the conclusion that those comments hurt or thwarted Senator Clinton's campaign may not be conclusive because a few comments may not be able to lead to the general conclusion; it neglects other factors such as policy differences, race, ideology, and campaign tactics; and, it neglects the personality differences of voters and candidates.

Further complicating discussion of sexism is the projection of sexism that women faced in their own experiences and with some sexist comments that Senator Clinton received during the campaign. I say complicating because any comment that may seem dismissive (e.g. "You're likable enough") is open to interpretation as sexist but somehow "becomes" sexist without context or other available interpretations because some people have had those experience. Or since Senator Obama has less "experience," and there is no discussion of experience of other necessary qualifications, the woman must stand behind and wait for the less qualified male to lead. This is not to diminish the experiences that some women face. But from an interpretation standpoint, the meaning of one act leads to a fixed interpretation of sexism regardless of other cultural factors, political contests, or immediate context. (The pedagogical component of this post is at the end. Please continue to that point.)

While The New York Times articles discusses competing views of sexism in the campaign, a columnist from The Chicago Tribune writes about the worst aspect of sexism in the campaign, the repeated use of the "monster" metaphor, as well as allusions to pop cultural "monsters", to describe Senator Clinton. The explaining paragraphs:
When the doctor checks to see if the patient is still breathing, it's disgust, not compassion, that leaks out between his syllables: "You couldn't kill her with an ax," he sneers.

That patient—the wide-hipped, unwieldy woman at the heart of Dorothy Parker's 1929 short story "Big Blonde"—is a familiar image in books, films, songs, comic books, TV series, video games and, now, politics: The woman as monster. The over-large, over-ambitious, overbearing creature who irritates everybody, the death-defying witch who just won't go away—and who therefore must be destroyed....

In their landmark book of literary criticism "The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination" (1979), Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar were among the first to spotlight this noxious theme, this isolation and ridicule of powerful women by labeling them crazy, hysterical, perverse, monstrous. To challenge male domination—of the world, or just of oneself—was to be risk being marginalized, ostracized, locked away like Rochester's wife in "Jane Eyre" (1847), the fate that gave the book its title. In real life, behavior that strayed from the polite, demure norm expected of women in the 19th Century was rewarded with psychiatric evaluations and often, imprisonment and death.
The argument is that this is a pervasive cultural theme to demean women and, the assumption is that in this campaign this theme has been used against Senator Clinton to derail her campaign. It is a direct shot against MSNBC and an implied shot at Senator Obama: "that he would publicly condemn the trend of evoking death and destruction when it comes to Clinton. Perhaps, someday, he will." There is no mention of the actions of Senator Clinton as an individual or the tactics of her campaign; just the use of the "woman as monster" in the universal sense and Clinton in that universal.

The article represents the limitations of using popular culture references to discuss political campaigns, especially in regards of arguing across argumentation fields (specified types of argumentation, such as academic disciplines or political contexts). There is an odd interpretive move where, first, the columnist uses literary references that have no bearing on political campaigns to provide context and a major premise, such as the use of a Sylvia Plath poem or Dorothy Parker short story; the use of Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; or the use of D.H. Lawrences Sons and Daughters. Second, she provides a minor premise by referencing the media's use of pop culture to perpetuate the theme "woman as monster." The reader is to conclude that the media types in question tapped in to these references to discuss Senator Clinton and to perpetuate the sexism.

A similar approach is that these references by the media employ "archetypal metaphors," which rely on universal experiences (such as metaphors that discuss light/dark), or metaphors which are so dominant that they control the interpretation of any speech act. Of course, if these are "archetypal metaphors" then you move into the territory where language controls our actions and there may be little agency to break these forms of interpretation.

Further, there is no discussion of intention, elevating the interpreter to conclude sexism without regard of whether or not the rhetor desired the use of sexism. There is also no discussion of how a speaker attempts to connect with the audience by speaking the language of the audience (using popular culture). Only that the audience has the power to decide and must reach a similar conclusion because of the dominance of the metaphor.

I think that the author makes a mistake in two regards. First, she states, "But is it really necessary to order a hit? Isn't it enough just to vote for somebody else?" Throughout her piece, she takes figurative analogies and turns then into literal analogies as no one is calling for an actual "hit." This means she elevates certain metaphors (those that appeal to the "monster" theme) to ground them an in interpretation but rejects the ability to render another interpretation of the comments. Her entire argument reflects nothing more than a straw argument. This leads to a second mistake.

The author's second mistake is to promote her major premise (woman as monster) as an archetypal metaphor or dominant metaphor, removing that view from the context of a political campaign. By arguing across argumentation fields, there is a loss in clarity. For example, the author's use of Andrew Sullivan's zombie quote (28 Days Later, "It's alive") to describe a campaign that "look dead" but was able to "overcome defeats" and come close though not be able to win in the end, as the zombie can never be human again (win the primary). For the Columnist, this is sexism because it applies to her major premise, "woman as monster." When discussed in another context of political campaigns, it loses the interpretive dominance of sexism. While the original metaphor from Sullivan is not very helpful to discuss the Democratic primary, neither is the criticism in the Column.

Finally, and most importantly, if we were to grant the columnist's argument that these are dominant metaphors and that they hinder female candidates, what the is transformative strategy necessary to move beyond these interpretations of "woman as monster?" Is this a case whereby female candidates have become "trapped in language," meaning that there is no way to proceed?

Or is this a case where the Columnist relies on literary works, such as Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, D.H. Lawrence, that speak to a historical context? In this case, we have moved beyond those works and referencing them deflects away from the progress. (See Megs' comments here). By just acknowledging the remarks as being "sexist," then there is no push to transform the remarks or move beyond them.

I would be interested in how some of the bloggers here discuss interpretation and corrective readings with their students, especially in the context of this article and the political campaign.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Characteristics of the First Woman President

The New York Times published an article on the characteristics of the first woman president and, yes, the assumption is that Senator Clinton will not win the nomination or be president. (You can also view women legislatures and potential candidates). Here are the characteristics of what the first woman president will need:
That woman will come from the South, or west of the Mississippi. She will be a Democrat who has won in a red state, or a Republican who has emerged from the private sector to run for governor. She will have executive experience, and have served in a job like attorney general, where she will have proven herself to be “a fighter” (a caring one, of course).

She will be young enough to qualify as postfeminist (in the way Senator Barack Obama has come off as postracial), unencumbered by the battles of the past. She will be married with children, but not young children. She will be emphasizing her experience, and wearing, yes, pantsuits....the first woman to be president probably will not come from the established names in Washington.

According to the article, this profile develops from political strategists and talents scouts.

Beyond those essential characteristics, there are two extremely controversial sections in the article. The first develops from a quote by Dee Dee Myers, the (first female) press secretary for William Clinton. She stated, “No woman with Obama’s résumé could run....No woman could have gotten out of the gate.” The assumption is that women need to prove that they are capable of being elected to office where as men avoid this scrutiny.

Yet, I disagree with this statement as it deflects away from the other important qualifications such as political judgment, political style, political charisma, and rhetorical kairos that enhance the potential candidate. While I may agree that there is a smaller pool, a mix of self-selection and some attitudinal barriers, I think that focusing on experiences perpetuates the problem just like acknowledging the "essential characteristics" is a problem. In this election, Senator Obama exceeds in judgment, style, charisma and kairos, and, with a message of change, the lack of "political experience," [also known as longevity in office and in the spotlight] is a benefit. Ann Richards would have been a similar candidate to Senator Obama, unfortunately, she did not attempt to seek higher office and lost her election while a Democratic President was in office.

The second controversial passage is from Karen O’Connor, the director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, who stated, “Who would dare to run? The media is set up against you, and if you have the money problem to begin with, why would anyone put their families through this, why would anyone put themselves through this?” For this reason, she said, she doesn’t expect a serious contender anytime soon. “I think it’s going to be generations."

The basis for this section is on how the media treated Senator Clinton, which may not be the best analogy to use as it is not clear. While some could argue that there have been an enormous amount of sexist claims made during the presidential election (this would depend on frames of reference and characterizations of the political process), making Senator Clinton the example for this piece is not the best idea. First, the public's perception of Clinton's negatives, from the Clinton legacy, her failures on Health Care, dishonesty, her political personae, etc., are much too high to render this a fair discussion on the topic. Just because she has progressed further than any other woman does not help. Second, as I have argued before, she cultivated a relationship with the media that would cast her as a victim at times because it was politically advantageous for her (New Hampshire, "Boys Club," using SNL in the debate, recent ad in Oregon about the media pundits) to rally some sections of her base. Finally, with the worst incident, the Schuster Comments, she attacked MSNBC and wanted the networks to suspend and fire its reporters (Matthews and Schuster). After this incident, Matthews, Schuster, Olbermann, and Carlson really started their attacks on Senator Clinton. I would argue that while Schuster's comments were bad, it was a tactical error by the Clinton campaign to go after MSNBC because it ensured worse treatment in the future on the opinion shows and not the news segments. To use the media treatment of Senator Clinton as a reason why a woman candidate should not run treats all women the same and overlooks some of the tactical faults of Senator Clinton's campaign.

This second controversial point may not extend to other presidential candidates though we, hopefully, will not know until 2016.

McCain on SNL: What's the rush Seth?

The Senator from Arizona made a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live last night. The clips are very funny. Here is the first, which features McCain discussing the Democratic Primary race.

Here is the other post. Like the first, it is very funny.