Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Maiden Moonstruck Voyage

I gave my wife a telescope for her birthday last month and we broke it in tonight watching the eclipse. It was the perfect maiden voyage. Earlier in the afternoon it snowed in D.C. and just before the eclipse began, large clouds were roiling across the sky. But as the earth's shadow fell across the the lunar surface, the clouds scattered, giving us a gorgeous view as the moon turned blood red and went dark.


Last night, Barack Obama pummeled his Democratic rival, winning his ninth state in a row over the increasingly flaccid campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Recently, people have been asking me — even some here on this blog — exactly why it is that I so admire and am attracted to Barack Obama. Moreover, they’ve commented that they don’t even know what Obama stands for, further driving the earlier query as to my personal interest. The questions, in my mind, are inexorably intertwined.

The lack of knowing what Obama stands for strikes me as a bit disingenuous and/or silly. A five-minute search online will yield dozens of virtual storehouses, from his official campaign’s website to all the major newspapers to countless political action pages of all stripes that have comprehensive breakdowns of his political beliefs, some even spelled out in his own words. All one needs do is be proactive. It is true that this complaint about style over substance and rhetoric over reality has been coming to the fore lately. And you have seen Obama compensating the past week or so, filling his victory speeches with more specific policy details than one is used to hearing.

The problem, in my opinion, is those very victory speeches. The public, wondering what Obama stands for, tunes in only to those speeches. But that is not what a victory speech is for. A victory speech is a time to exult in the heady brew of success and inspire the watching crowds to turn a singular triumph into sustainable momentum. Policy details, while certainly not out of place in a victory speech, are primarily for campaign speeches and national debates and Obama has laid out a clear agenda in all of them.

Those who feel Obama never says anything of substance in his speeches are simply watching the wrong speeches.

Now on to the earlier and admittedly more personal question — why I like Barack Obama. Obviously, this is not the sort of question I can answer without revealing much of my own political ideology. And I don’t want to make this about what I believe. Originally I composed a rough draft of this post that was several pages long. I’d been working on it for weeks. It was a comprehensive examination of Obama’s stances and why I sided with him on them.

However, in addition to simply being a long, unwieldy, wordy glutton, I realized that, instead of inspiring dialogue about Obama, it would have focused all eyes on my own ideology and that was hardly my intent. So I tossed it in the proverbial trash bin.

This is not an attempt to sidestep the original question, even though I understand if some see it as such. I encourage those who asked the question in the first place to visit here, here, here, here, here, here, or here for starters and see what Obama stands for. Chances are the stances listed there are exactly why he already has my vote. We don’t agree on everything, to be certain. But we agree on enough.

Let me say something about the brouhaha over Obama’s empty eloquence, because that is ground sturdy enough to hold even my feigning weight. Yes, Obama inspires me. Yes, he makes me feel proud to be an American. And while I may not agree with Michelle Obama and claim that her husband has made me feel pride in my country for the first time in my life, it is certainly the first time I’ve felt anything more than raging contempt and disenchantment in the past seven years. And I'd be lying if I didn't say that no statesman in my lifetime has inspired me more. Obama breeds hope, appealing to the better angels of our nature. He makes me strive to be better and hope my country can be better — something I’ve despaired of for a long time.

Yes, those are just words, but they are good words and words are where we must begin. Words are the fuel that power the engines of change. No, words are not actions and I am certainly not a fan of empty, unsubstantive bluster. But you cannot have actions without words. So long as the resolve is there to transform the words into reality, then the words are indispensable. And if words are the vanguards of our actions, then let them be words of hope and motivation and nobility.

From Lincoln's second inaugural address to JFK's first, from RFK's pleas for unity to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of a better tomorrow, from Ronald Reagan’s aural assault on communism to Barack Obama’s vision of change, great and powerful history begins with short and soft syllables. Words crystallize. Words galvanize. Words arouse the unconscious, the ignorant and even the apathetic.

This isn’t a debate about pollyanna vs. pragmatism. It is about cynicism vs. transcendence.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stephen Colbert, Astrophysicist

Colbert dropped by to pay our friend, Neil deGrasse Tyson, a visit.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My Take on Super Tuesday

Nine hours. That's how long I sat in front of MSNBC last night. From 5pm to 2am. And I loved every minute of it.


The fact that Obama and Clinton are virtually tied after Super Tuesday is extraordinary. Sure, she held him off, especially in the big states like New York and California, but you have to give the momentum to him. She seems to have plateaued, while he seems to truly be surging. He continues to pick up voters while she seems barely able to hold on to the ones she already has. While a tie for all intents and purposes, Clinton's victories last night may be among her last. People are falling in love with the Obama narrative and showing up at his rallies in the tens of thousands.

Clinton gets more delegates and Obama more states. But Clinton's delegate lead is overwhelmingly with her super-delegates and if last night is any indication, the caucuses at the end of this week will go to Obama and the majority of the primaries next Tuesday may as well. That means that in just a week, Obama may not only turn his statistical dead heat into a numerical tie, he may inch ahead on all fronts. To say nothing of a week of press that reports on Obama win after Obama win. The calendar favors Obama.

Obama certainly seems poised to win the war of financial attrition as well. He is poised to win as much money this month as he did last month, something on the order of 30 million dollars, outspending Clinton's political machine 3 to 1.

The exit polling data was fascinating. While women still favor Clinton, it’s not by much any more. Even more fascinating, younger women skew to Obama while older women skew to Clinton—and this is shaping up to be a wildly energized youth vote. White men, especially younger men, are sliding Obama’s way, and African Americans dominated for Obama by a margin of 8 to 2. Clinton surely held off Obama in several western states, especially California, thanks to the Latino vote, but the Latino heavy states, excluding Texas, have concluded their primaries and that firewall may have had its day. Interestingly, Colorado is Latino rich and it went to Obama. As the time of this writing, New Mexico is too close to call, with a slight Obama edge. So Clinton’s Latino mandate is hardly overwhelming. A final interesting exit poll tidbit: Democrats in almost every state polled reported a college education or better. It used to be that Democrats were primarily blue collar. Now that seems to be flipping toward a Republican mantle. The Democrats, who are coming out in record numbers, have the intelligencia numbers on their side. Take it for what you will.

This could go all the way to the convention floor in Denver. Extraordinary.


McCain pulled ahead. That I expected. And I assumed Huckabee would do well in the South, but not as well as he did. He didn't siphon votes away from Romney, so much as trounce Romney at his own game. Romney spent all his energy battling McCain when it was Huckabee he should have been worried about. It was nearly a two person race last night and Romney was almost nowhere to be seen until the end. He will certainly stick around for a while, but I feel he is already done. It is just a matter of time now. The math is not going his way.

McCain's problem is that he won the East Coast corridor, which looked good last night, but is ultimately a hollow victory. Those states, in a general election, will almost certainly go to a Democrat. I am not saying that Huckabee can beat either Obama or Clinton, but at least he solidly won states last night that he has a real shot of keeping come the general election.

The very thing that has made McCain appealing to so many over the years, his maverick status, is now coming back to bite him with ultra-conservative voters. From Rush Limbaugh to James Dobson, each is outspoken in their distaste for McCain. Odd especially because McCain has one of the more conservative records, by the books, in the Senate: Pro Life, Pro Gun, Pro War. If the Republicans continue like this, stubborn to the end in their unwavering desire for a more conservative ideologue, they will simply be handing the vote to the Democrats come November.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My SuperBowl

My Super Bowl is tonight.

Super Duper Tuesday. Tsunami Tuesday. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve been looking forward to today for weeks. Never in U.S. history have so many states held so many primaries or caucuses in a single day. The debates have been pulling in ridiculously large ratings. The populace is energized from within this political season. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Change is in the air. Can you feel it?

I had forgotten how intoxicating the political process is and how much I loved its hurly burly nature until I returned to the place where my love of statecraft took root in the first place. It is thrilling to be in Washington D.C. for such a time as this.

On any average Tuesday night, I’d be screening a film. Not tonight. Football fans can have Sunday. Tonight’s the night that I will be glued to my television. (During the first night of the contested 2000 election, I stayed up for more than 30 hours, glued to the newscasts).

Change is in the air. Can you feel it?

But my appetite is for more than just the process. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for this Tuesday to be lit with the same magical incandescence that has been setting fire to so many across America of late.

I have never hidden my contempt for this inept President or this corrupt administration. I have never been shy about my loathing of the state of this union over the past seven years. And yet, as vibrant as that wrathful fire still burns, each day I find that energy seeping toward a different engine.

Less anger. More optimism. Less hate. More hope.

It was just over a year ago that I first wrote about Barack Obama. My JFK. My RFK. A statesman hero unparallel in my lifetime. More than a politician. A harbinger of hope. Of change. Never in my entire life have I been inspired like this. Never have I found my dreams and hopes for this nation crystallized in the vision of one man.

Change is in the air. Can you feel it?

Please vote today. Let's heal this nation.

Enjoy the video below. I’ve watched it a dozen times now, each time with eyes full of tears.


Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus