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August 30, 2008
On GapsBy Greyhawk
Much comment on McCain's Veep choice centers on the fact that she's a she. I noticed her gender myself, I must say. But Mrs G did also, as did my daughters, so I think it's okay that I did, too. My first response was that the balance on age/experience between the two Party's teams would facilitate a much welcomed issues-based examination of the candidates. Unfortunately, the Obama campaign's first response ("Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency") proved me wrong, in a manner that still has me shaking my head. (And not just because only voters can actually put her there.) The idea that his Party faithful are going to advance that attack (and indications are that they will indeed - even as Obama tacks in a different direction) just baffles me - I thought Obama gained from taking "experience" off the table.
Another early Democratic response to McCain's choice seems more sensible at first - but on further review might also prove problematic - insofar as it misses the point. From the Democrats perspective, dismissing his pick as a naive attempt to pick up more disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters makes sense if one believes - as I do - that most people choose their candidates based on their political Party affiliation, and most others based on their position on issues. Any Hillary supporters in either group should naturally gravitate to Obama - not McCain.
Here (via The Volokh Conspiracy) is some evidence for that claim. There may be specific issues where one can find some separation between the two Democratic Senators (and in many cases those differences offer individuals valid - albeit personal - reasons to pick one or the other), but from any neutral "big picture" point of view there's not a whisker of difference between them. That may rankle staunch supporters of either Obama or Clinton, but perhaps they'll find this more reasonable: any difference between the two is dwarfed by the relative size of the gap between them and McCain. (Folks viewing from a position to the right of McCain might argue that point - likewise those on the left insist they see no difference between McCain and Bush - but it's all a matter of perspective, and mine is from elsewhere.)
Now let's go another step: given the above, once the Democratic Primary campaign was down to two candidates (and setting aside the "experience" argument for a moment) with all else being equal, from an achieving political ends point of view there was nothing inherently wrong with an individual choosing a candidate based on their race or gender - other than that you were going to be accused by the other side of doing just that. But to whatever degree that holds true for the Democratic primaries (and I acknowledge that solid arguments can be made against "100%") it certainly doesn't carry over to the general election - where the ideological gap trumps race and gender. While there are those who are already arguing that "racism" is the only thing that might keep Barack Obama from the Oval Office, whatever truth there may be in that claim stems from the fear of losing votes from racists who would otherwise support Obama (let's not pretend they don't exist) - not from racists who would support John McCain anyway. White male leftists have a hard time winning national elections in America - if the DNC didn't think Obama could offset the loss of the racist wing with new voters he wouldn't have gotten the nod. (One could argue these "new voters" are also racists who would never vote for a white candidate and have heretofore sat out Presidential elections, or one could explain them otherwise.) But even as we acknowledge that small numbers have made a significant difference in recent elections, let's all join together in hoping the numbers of folks I describe above - whichever side of the aisle they find themselves on and whatever the color of their skin - are too small to matter.
But here's the point that was first brought to my attention by my daughter (who is old enough to vote) about McCain's VP choice. Should McCain/Palin win in November, this sets up a potential Palin vs Clinton election in 2012. Obviously many things will have to happen just so in order to make that possible, but none of those things are improbable - and in fact, I think all of those things are actually likely, certainly more likely than a future Clinton presidency if Obama wins in November. That thought can't escape the attention of those Hillary supporters who would otherwise vote Obama on issues. In spite of what many may think of them, they aren't stupid - and four years of a compromising (as much as anyone can be in these times) Republican President and a Democratic controlled House and Senate might not be as repulsive to them as their Party leaders might hope.
Speaking of Hope - in every analysis I heard or read regarding either of the Clinton's speeches at the Democratic Convention the common theme seemed to be did they deliver their voters to Barack Obama? It seems like a fair question, but what annoyed me about it - though apparently I'm alone in my annoyance - was an unvoiced assumption that voters for a given candidate will actually vote for whoever that candidate tells them to vote for. It's a subtle thing - highlighting the difference between choosing someone to lead you or choosing someone to represent you. I like a balance, but in this instance there seemed to be an assumption on the part of the analysts that Hillary's voters were needing some leading. Again, this was unspoken, but I got the feeling it was something that went without saying. Maybe they're comfortable with that, but I'm not, maybe that makes me a male chauvinist pig in our brave new world. Or maybe just a racist.
Oh, memo to Joe (he'll know who I mean): Don't overuse the term "Sweetie" during the debate. Once or twice should get the job done.
Posted by Greyhawk / August 30, 2008 7:18 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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