Al Franken, Come On Down.

And now it’s Al Franken’s turn. While he has, first and foremost apologized, then asked for an investigation of himself and promised to cooperate, the chips are still going to have to fall where they may, regardless of his advocacy for issues vital to women and liberals. It’s the new normal. It’s a fact of life we’re all going to have to get accustomed to. If you’ve behaved like a pig, (although in this case not criminally so), chances are good you’re going to get outed.

Having met and interviewed Franken a number of times I can’t say that I, like Claude Rains in “Casablanca” (which I saw again last night at the Icon Theaters in St. Louis Park) am “shocked, shocked” to hear that Al the celebrity behaved badly.

This situation strikes me as very similar to the actor Richard Dreyfuss, who after being accused last week issued a statement saying:

“I want to try to tell you the complicated truth. At the height of my fame in the late 1970s I became an asshole–the kind of performative masculine man my father had modeled for me to be. I lived by the motto, ‘If you don’t flirt, you die’. And flirt I did. I flirted with all women, be they actresses, producers, or 80-year-old grandmothers. I even flirted with those who were out of bounds, like the wives of some of my best friends, which especially revolts me. I disrespected myself, and I disrespected them, and ignored my own ethics, which I regret more deeply than I can express. During those years I was swept up in a world of celebrity and drugs – which are not excuses, just truths. Since then I have had to redefine what it means to be a man, and an ethical man. I think every man on Earth has or will have to grapple with this question. But I am not an assaulter.”

Franken may not have had the same cachet with “all women” as an Oscar-winning actor, but the “asshole” part may well apply. A constant with a lot of the characters outed to date is a sense of being drunk on fame and power, of being transported by manic ego to a realm of impunity for behavior unconditionally unacceptable to others. (Although, lord knows, millions of common guys have pulled the same stunts).

Comparisons are already being made to liberal women’s regard for Bill Clinton, who was without question a reckless womanizer. At Vox, Matt Yglesias goes on at length about why Clinton should have resigned following disclosure of the Monica Lewinsky affair. But he didn’t and he wasn’t forced to because a majority of Americans, not just liberals, made a value judgment that he was doing more good for them than bad, and that the Lewinsky thing was the sordid culmination of a decade-long witch hunt by opponents who had no better option to offer.

Clinton’s um, “interaction”, with Lewinsky was wrong by every measure, and despite leaving office with a higher approval rating than (St.) Ronnie Reagan, Clinton and Hillary have paid quite a high reputational price for it. But … unlike Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump … even Lewinsky describes their fling as “consensual” and in no way (that we know) did Clinton require sex as a ticket to employment or advancement. So it is with most of the other ladies he is known to have cavorted with in his drunk-on-fame binge.

The episode with Juanita Broaddrick, which she describes as rape, has always been clouded by her way-too tight association/exploitation by the same semi-deranged Clinton-haters who tried to convince us a money-losing Arkansas land deal was a Constitutional crisis. But that isn’t to say it didn’t happen. (This one is an example of a “consider the source” accuser.)

The point, with reference to Al Franken and liberals, is that we are now in an era when what was once secret is being laid out on the table for all to see and judge. I’ve voted for Franken twice, because he votes my interests, which I’ve always thought is the best reason to vote for anyone, not because I liked him personally. And if a full investigation concludes that this supposedly semi-comic groping kissing business was the full extent of this incident I’m inclined to vote for him again.

More to the point, the revelation about Franken, (and we already know about his coke-snorting days), comes in the early moments this “cultural moment.” There’s a lot more to come. You can feel it. And we’re seeing quite a range of skeezy behavior. Some far … far … more ugly than others.

I’ve been trying to imagine the frantic contacts and the amount of hush money that must be changing hands right this moment in every industry from Hollywood to Silicon Valley to to Detroit to Capitol Hill as famous men with a whole lot to lose, (think Bill O’Reilly’s $32 million), buy off the victims of their years of being an asshole.

 

Bad Boys, Dumb Boys, Roy Moore and our “Cultural Moment”

Is there a male alive today who doesn’t cringe at every new revelation of sexual misbehavior? God we look bad. Whether blatantly criminal, like Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore, or farcically oafish, like GOP Rep. Tony Cornish here in Minnesota, the male “brand” is taking a brutal beating in this “cultural moment.”

And for the (very) most part that’s a good thing. We’re witnessing an astonishing outing of perverts, boors and dorks. It’s a comeuppance that is generations-to-centuries overdue. As I’ve said before, since we live under the minority rule of gun fetishists, we’re not going to do anything about our weekly assault rifle slaughters, so maybe all this attention being paid to male sexual/ego dysfunction will accomplish something positive.  (Clearly, the gun slaughter thing has been reduced to: A week of news coverage, “thoughts and prayers” and “let’s move on”.)

Having become a fan of Yuval Harari’s books on human evolution, I’ve been wondering how much of this predatory sexual behavior is a modern invention? And by “modern” I mean post-agricultural revolution?

Did adult males in our hunter-gatherer days lurk malevolently around adolescent girls — like a pervy Fred Flintstone at the Bedrock Mall — and force themselves on them against their will? Was violent rape a common occurrence?  Did sexual fantasies of power and domination control male behavior? Sexual interaction between males and females of “breeding age” was common. We know that. But what about the violence part? The literature I’ve seen recently is mixed, but trending to the belief that this twisted, contorted notion of male dominance is yet another example of a large percentage of the human population — most notably the males — failing to adapt to the exponential increase in population, competition and discordant cultural messages.

Pretty much every culture war issue can be broken down to a diminishment of the archetypal male role. Our big muscle skill set began to be less important to species survival when we stopped having to spear and wrestle mastodons to the ground. Likewise the need for us males to spread our seed to as many females as possible has been making less and less sense species survival-wise since we settled down to farming and began producing more off-spring than we could feed.

A friend the other day mentioned he was called into a faculty meeting at the college where he teaches. The topic? You guessed it. Sexual harassment in the work place, (and by extension everywhere else.) He correctly saw his role at that meeting as, “Shut up and listen.” The women had plenty of venting to do, and this is their time to do it. No mansplaining required or allowed. (It’s fascinating to see the level of passion coming from media women on political chat shows. They are truly seizing the moment to clue — men — into all the crap they’ve been putting up with since junior high but until now have quarantined to lunches with their girlfriends.)

There’s a worry among the usual retrograde types — Sean Hannity, Alabama Republicans, etc. — that not only are fine Suth’n gentlemen like Roy Moore being tarred without a trial — but every male is now going to be treated like a criminal pervert.

That of course is part and parcel of the usual hysteria from the perpetually aggrieved, a description the Trumpist right wears round their necks like a medieval scapular. With male attention — sought an unsought — playing as large a role in women’s lives as it does (the reverse being at least as true for men), I’m not too concerned “the gals” will have a hard time making out the qualitative difference between getting raped (Harvey Weinsten), preyed upon and groped (Roy Moore and Donald Trump), being shocked and disgusted (Louis CK), inappropriately seduced and abandoned (Bill Clinton), aggravated and annoyed (Tony Cornish) or semi-amused and filled with pity at the average guy’s generally clueless and clumsy come ons.

Women have made a science of male behavior. Think of us as simple, one-cell/one track paramecium being observed under a microscope. The Harveys and Roys and Louis of the world are no surprise to them. All that’s going on now is that evolution has ticked up a notch to where (western) women can say out loud and with less fear of male repercussion what they’ve been saying to each other for, mm, several thousand years.

 

 

Hillary Will Be a Better President Than Bill.

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 2For the record, and for the gamblers among you, I’m sticking by my belief that Hillary Clinton will win the election in November by a minimum of 40 electoral votes more than Barack Obama in 2012. I think I first heard that number in an interview with Howard Wolfson, Mike Bloomberg’s deputy Mayor of New York. It sounded right six weeks ago and it still does today, Donald Trump’s post-convention “bump” withstanding.
Full disclosure here means saying I’ve never had a problem, certainly not a righteous, disqualifying problem with Hillary Clinton. I don’t have to hold my nose to vote for her. In fact, I have a kind of fondness for competent, wonky managers. When I was 25 I thought the most important quality in a candidate was the ability to, you know, “inspire”, to send a tingle of hero-worship up and down my spine. Years later I’ve grown to realize that it’s a lot easier to fake that than it is to actually get [stuff] done.
Hubby Bill was pretty good last night making the case for Hillary as “the best darn change maker” he’s ever known. Our boy gives a great folksy speech, no fancy $10 words. And he knows how to hold a room with pause, inflection and gesture. A natural, as the cognoscenti have always said. The Mrs?  Not so much. But I just don’t give a damn about that. That’s not what I’m buying.
In fact, as I’ve said before, I truly believe Hillary could be a better president than Bubba, who was, if you recall, was pretty good, at least when he wasn’t setting his feet on fire playing rock star with starry-eyed interns. She’s the disciplined one of the two, and she’ll arrive at the job with 25 years more experience in the mechanics of national administration, foreign policy and — perhaps as important — the tactics of neutralizing the infantile nihilism of today’s “movement conservatives” than he did.
That last point is not inconsequential. In fact it was central to my problem with Bernie Sanders. The way the game is going down these days, nothing moves until you hit the Republicans with a kind of stun gun and shake and bake your way around their obstruction. Obstruction being the only thing they’ve got. Impeachment withstanding, Bubba routinely outfoxed Newt Gingrich’s conservatives and Obama for the most part has managed to blunt the worst of their excesses, although with things like the government shut down and the failure of gun control post-Sandy Hook and a dozen other items, the consequences of nihilism are evident to everyone.
I never saw Bernie, god bless him, being up to that game.
But here again, Hillary, who is a better schmoozer than the cerebral Obama, and has much longer standing relationships with the few Republicans worthy of the term “adult”, may be better suited to the combination of one-on-one deal-cutting and hardball political tactics than Obama.
Not being a player on the DC social circuit, I am in no position to say for certain what the reality of the “real Hillary” is. But from what I read, and there’s plenty to read about her, the cartoonish picture of a shrieking, duplicitous harridan just doesn’t compute. Perpetually wary? Yeah, I see that. But story after story portrays her as more genuinely gracious than Bill, who, you know, being Bill kind of likes every moment to be about him.
Bubba’s long recitation last night of all the projects she’s launched and reports she’s written and negotiations she’s concluded should be taken with a full shaker of salt. He’s a master at gilding the lily. But the fact remains she has in fact devoted enormous amounts of time to all sorts of wonky, bona fide, not-so sexy but vital issues and, more to the point here, arrives at the White House with a far better-than-average understanding of how to get that stuff done than any incoming president in my lifetime. (Lyndon Johnson knew how to get stuff done. But Hillary’s got him beat hands down in terms of ground level social issues, certainly for women and children, and foreign policy. Plus, she isn’t a crude old bastard.)
Campaign-wise, I don’t know what she can do to damp down the perception of “crooked Hillary”. The GOP base is entrenched in their total war opposition to any Democrat, and the sense of her as “untrustworthy” has been marketed very effectively for a very long time by Bill and her career-long adversaries. The sad fact of a public life lived on the grand stage as long as the Clintons is that perception is as powerful as the bona fides of your resume.
But she isn’t naive to that either. Someone who has taken as many shots as she has and kept on truckin’ fully understands the game. She may not like it. Who does? But she inspires confidence that in a genuinely unique way, she understands how to blunt it and be productive.

Hillary Survives Another Nothingburger “Scandal”

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3It’s a tough day to be Republican. But then most of them are this year, aren’t they? This thing with the FBI letting “crooked Hillary” off on that colossal e-mail scam … well, until someone starts shouting for a special prosecutor to investigate the FBI, that notorious den of lefties, men and women of conscience (and with nothing better to do with their time and our money) are going to have find another dead horse to flog.

Not that “e-mailgate” didn’t succeed almost as well as other ginned-up Clinton scandals. I mean it began with Benghazi and after throwing years and taxpayer millions at that mirage it begat e-mail servers. It was just like how Whitewater begat Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky and impeachment, which as you remember was such a winning strategy for Republicans Bill Clinton left office more popular than St. Ronald the Daft.

The fact is that like Whitewater and Travelgate and Benghazi before it, the Republican attack machine never had a coherent theory of the crime with e-mailgate. Which is why it bored people and never caught on like, well, like hanky panky in the Oval Office. (Now if among Hillary’s e-mails had been some hot mash notes to Anthony Weiner/Carlos Danger we might have had some fun.)

I mean, she used her own servers … to do what, exactly? Send military secrets to Al Qaeda? Sell off Texas to the North Koreans? What? Please tell me. Because I was never grasping the Constitution-tearing gravity of the situation.

“Well,” came the usual response, “we’ll never know. Because she won’t disclose everything. That’s the way the Clintons are. Clearly corrupt. Every time we accuse them of something they refuse to turn over all the evidence we need to make our case! Bastards! It’s like they don’t trust us! We have to Make America Great Again!”

This perpetual cycle of molehill non-scandals that … we the people have paid to prosecute … only to watch “the case” evaporate under the harsh light of actual evidence is of course central to the widespread perception that Hillary and Bill “can’t be trusted”. Never mind that if you ask “why can’t they be trusted?” the most frequent response is something along the lines of, “Well, because I hear they’re always in trouble over something.”

Somehow, maybe by adding a little video to this argument, from Kevin Drum Team Hillary has to turn the guns back on the firing squad.

For the record: Whitewater was a nothingburger. Travelgate was a nothingburger. Troopergate was a nothingburger. Filegate was a nothingburger. The Vince Foster murder conspiracy theories were a nothingburger. Monica Lewinsky was Bill’s problem, not Hillary’s. Benghazi was a tragedy, but entirely nonscandalous. The Goldman Sachs speeches were probably a bad idea, but otherwise a nothingburger. Emailgate revealed some poor judgment, but we’ve now seen all the emails and it’s pretty obviously a nothingburger. Humagate is a nothingburger. Foundationgate is a nothingburger.

Bottom line: Don’t let Donald Trump or the press or anyone else convince you that Hillary Clinton is “dogged by scandal” or “works under a constant cloud of controversy” or whatever the nonsense of the day is. That constant cloud is the very deliberate invention of lowlifes in Arkansas; well-heeled conservative cranks; the Republican Party; and far too often a gullible and compliant press. Like anybody who’s been in politics for 40 years, Hillary has some things she should have handled better, but that’s about it. The plain fact is that there’s no serious scandal on her record. There’s no evidence that she’s ever sold out to Wall Street. There’s no corruption, intrigue, or deceit. And if anything, she’s too honest on a policy level. She could stand to promise people a bit of free stuff now and then.”

I make no apologies. I have no great problem with Hillary. She’s pulling the gears on a huge, sophisticated, well-heeled and well-oiled political machine. Live with it. That’s the game in 2016 USA. It’s how you get elected. You want to change it? Me too. But it ain’t happening this year.

Moreover though, I tell anyone who cares to listen that I believe she’ll be a better president than Bill, who if you remember anything other than the stained blue dress, did a pretty good job of keeping the economy on the rails and US troops out of unwinnable foreign wars.

She arrives in the Oval Office with more experience on every imaginable level than anyone since maybe LBJ (problematic comparison), plus the full support of officers and staff from two successful Democratic presidencies and a whole lot less of Bill’s, shall we say, “impulse control” issues. She has also demonstrated masterful control over the Republican wing nut fringe, an enormous time, energy and money suck in D.C. these days, that must be persistently neutralized.

So there are plenty of rational reasons to trust her to competently manage matters here and abroad.

Not that the usual suspects will be screaming “scandal” and “special prosecutor” before she takes the oath of office.

Franken-McFadden Ad Wars: Credibility v. Likeability

Al_Franken__Rigged_Ad_The tone of the TV ads of Senator Al Franken and challenger Mike McFadden could hardly be more different.

CEO McFadden has crafted his ads to remake his public image from Millionaire Mike into a jocular, lovable common man, a sort of Clark Griswold Goes To Washington.

Meanwhile, recovering comedian Franken has crafted his ads to remake his public image from shock jock Al into a earnest, wonky, propeller-headed legislator, a sort of congressional Mr. Fixit.

All of this raises an old political messaging argument:  How important is likeability in politics?  Is it more important for a candidate to be liked or respected?

Mike_McFadden_football_adIn his quest for likeability, McFadden’s ads stray into the absurd.  The millionaire explains the difficulty of living on a budget, with his polished McMansion on display over his shoulder.  He scripts grade school football players to ape his critique of the complex federal health care policy.  He goes for groin-shot guffaws and shallow symbolism in lieu of serious policy debate.

After all, who wouldn’t want to “have a beer with” the good time Charlie who goes soprano after pretending to get hit in the privates?

There is obviously a method to McFadden’s sophomoric madness.  He is trying to make his public self likeable in order to win over swing voters — moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats and independents — who McFadden apparently believes are not interested in the more detailed policy discussions Franken is featuring in his ads.

Who knows, McFadden might be onto something.  According to conventional political wisdom, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton particularly drew a lot of swing voter support due to their supposed want-to-have-a-beer-withism, while Mike Dukakis and Al Gore particularly suffered from appearing distant, dour and dorky.  Just because Millionaire Mitt made a mess of his 2012 likeability tour doesn’t mean that Millionaire Mike shouldn’t try to connect with voters on a non-millionaire level.

Meanwhile, Franken seems content to sit out the likeability contest.  In Franken’s rush to prove to Minnesotans that he is no longer a cartoonish comedian or pugnacious pundit, he is going all Mike Dukakis on us.

Mo Fiorina, a professor of political science at Stanford University, has researched the connection between likeability and winning at the presidential level, going back to 1952.   Professor Fiorina has good news for Franken.  He told National Public Radio (NPR) in 2010 that likeability is only a “minor factor” in voting:

“There’s very little historical evidence for it.  The fact is we decide who is likeable after they win, not before they win. If I had been advising Mitt Romney, I would have said in the end the American people are not going to decide who they are going to have a beer with, because the American people know that they are not going to have a beer with any of these people.  They are going to decide on the base of who they know is going to do the job.”

Still as a Franken supporter, I would be more comfortable if Franken wouldn’t completely cede the likeability ground to McFadden.  Right now Franken’s TV ad persona is grim and flat, and even a “minor factor” ought to matter to a guy who only won by 312 votes in 2008, a much better year for Democrats than 2014 is likely to be.

If only Franken knew a good comedic writer with political instincts who could write a TV ad to lighten him up.  Know anyone like that, Al?

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured in the MinnPost Blog Cabin Roundup.

Never Forget How You Made Them Feel

 “People will forget what you said.

People will forget what you did.

But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

angelou_inauguralAt the first Clinton inauguration where Maya Angelou read, I somehow found myself on the Capitol lawn.

But I made a bad rookie parent mistake, and brought my two-year old toddler daughter along to the solemn (and freezing) event.  So unfortunately I was more focused on keeping my restless daughter quiet than on Angelou’s words.

I truly don’t remember a single word Angelou read.

But I distinctly remember how uplifted and hopeful it felt when she walked away from the podium. I remember that more vividly than I do about any other part of that day.  I know it sounds contrived, particularly from a cynical guy like me, but we all seemed to be feeling the “pulse of morning,” with new leadership and new optimism.

That was a hell of a long time ago.  That restless two-year old daughter is now out of college.  But “people will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Loveland

Norm Coleman To Return To His DFL Roots?

Former St. Paul Mayor and U.S. Senator Norm Coleman is nothing if not flexible.

  • When  leftist radicals were de rigueur in the 1960s, Norm 1.0 was a leftist radical.
  • When Skip Humphrey and Bill Clinton were on top of the political world, Norm 2.0 clung to them and the rest of the Democratic establishment.
  • When the easier path to higher office appeared to be through the GOP, Coleman retrofitted into GOP Norm 3.0.
  • When the Tea Partiers became power brokers, Norm 3.0 dutifully donned a tri-corner hat, formed a Super PAC to fund Tea Party-backed candidates, and endorsed Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann for, I kid you not, Vice President.

Then in 2012,  the going got tough for Senator Coleman and Tea Partiers, so the tough got a poll. In a St. Paul Pioneer Press commentary this week, Coleman advises Minnesotans  that he is in possession of scientific evidence indicating that “Minnesotans are not anti-government.” Continue reading

Two Decades Of GOP Domination of the Minnesota Judicial Branch Finally Ends

The last time a Minnesota DFL Governor was able to appoint a State Supreme Court Justice, the Cold War was still officially underway.  Bill Clinton was an obscure Governor of a small state, a quixotic wannabe instead of an accomplished elder statesman.  Arnold Schwartzenegger was a cartoon character in The Terminator 2, instead of a disgraced former Governor. In fact, 1991 was so long ago that the Twins actually won a World Series that year, and something called the “Minnesota North Stars” was in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Twenty-one years is too long for any state to go with one party thoroughly controlling it’s State Supreme Court.  So, let’s celebrate Governor Dayton’s historic appointment of Minnesota’s first female African American Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, Wilhelmina Wright.  But let’s also celebrate the long overdue movement towards a return to balance in Minnesota’s judicial branch.