Archive for the ‘Debates’ Category

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This is What a Chauvinist Looks Like

September 30, 2016

Donald Trump’s ugly sexism has always been inescapable, but since the public humiliation of losing that first debate it has blown up exponentially. His wounded ego has been obsessed with two things: punishing Hillary for beating him by bringing up Bill’s infidelity, and punishing Alicia Machado for damaging his reputation by any means necessary.

On Monday night, Trump “held back” from attacking Hillary Clinton with her husband’s affairs (while making sure we all knew he might). When she mentioned Alicia Machado, Trump immediately threatened “I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.'” In the days since, his surrogates have openly pushed for him to smear her this way, and he teases the possibility at all his public appearances. The breathtaking sexism inherent in attacking Hillary for Bill’s infidelity seems to escape all of them. How, exactly, is that attack supposed to work? Leaving aside that WE ALL ALREADY KNOW THIS, what would he be alleging about Hillary? That she failed in her duty to satisfy Bill? That she is less of a woman because Bill cheated on her? That since women are the gatekeepers of virtue, either leading men astray, or keeping them on the narrow path of monogamy, Hillary wasn’t a strong enough virtuous influence and is responsible for Bill’s fall into sin? No, seriously, explain to me how the fact that Bill Clinton is lech and a philanderer makes Hillary look bad. Is it because she stayed with him, forgave him, stood by him – does that make her weak? Is it that she is human and wasn’t “supportive” of the women Bill cheated with – is this some crazy attempt to suggest her feminism is lacking because she isn’t perfect? There is literally no way to tar her with her husband’s past that isn’t inherently, inescapably sexist, but Trump cannot stop talking about how much he wants to do it.

Still, his threats to discredit his actual opponent pale beside his unhinged attacks on Alicia Machado. Machado’s allegations of sexism and racism were the strongest blow HRC landed in that debate; Trump wants to destroy her for hurting him. He has gone after her even more than he went after the Khan family for daring to criticize him. He first “defended” himself on Fox & Friends by noting that she had actually gained weight after winning the crown, completely missing the point that dehumanizing her, belittling her, and mocking her are not ever acceptable. Somehow, his entitlement and sexism let him think he had a right to humiliate her for not being hot enough for him. He honestly believes she deserved to be dehumanized because she gained weight.

And then, at 5 a.m. last night, Trump let lose the following flurry of tweets:

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What stands out, of course, is the obvious slut-shaming of Machado (as far as anyone can tell, there is no sex tape, but that is beside the point). Alicia Machado is a sexual woman, and therefore “disgusting.” Trump’s pathological sexism goes even further: being a disgusting sexual woman means she deserved to be treated like dirt. Somehow, he thinks he can justify being abusive to her when she was 19 by implying that many many years later she maybe made a sex tape.* Of course, disgusting sexual women not only deserve to be demeaned and mocked (preemptively!), they are also not to be trusted – she conned Hillary into presenting her as an “angel,” and “a paragon of virtue.” And this is where we see just how deep his chauvinism goes. Hillary, of course, never said a WORD about Machado’s “virtue.” She never painted her as a saint. She only said that Trump treated Machado terribly. Trump imagined that Machado was being held up as the vestal virgin, because to Trump, no other type of woman could possibly be credible, could possibly deserve to be treated as human being, could possibly cast aspersions upon HIM.

This week really has been a master class on Old School Sexism. All the classics are here, ancient hoary principles that uphold the patriarchy – Women are to blame if men sin! Women are to blame if their marriages fail! But women who stay are weak! Women who weigh more than 117 pounds are pigs! Women who enjoy sex are disgusting! Women are liars! Women are either Angels or Whores! Women deserve to be treated like dirt! And above all, any woman who challenges a man – especially a woman who bests him – needs to be torn down. Trump shall (apparently literally) NEVER REST until she’s destroyed.

* I am NOT mentioning Melania’s past, other than to say that not seeing the hypocrisy there really does suggest he’s mentally ill.

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Hillary’s One Weird Trick for Dealing with Interruptions!

September 28, 2016
Ever since the debate, the ThinkPiece Industrial Complex* has been in overdrive, pointing out that what seems so galling here – that he spoke 2/3 of the time while she patiently, politely, humored him, that he interrupted her no less than 51 times when she finally had a chance to speak – is a reality American women negotiate every day. And it’s true – study after study establishes that men dominate conversation time, in real life and in media. Again and again there’s proof that both men AND women interrupt women much more frequently than they interrupt men. To say nothing of the reality that qualified women are so often competing to be heard over men who have no idea WTF they are talking about. Heck, just a couple of weeks ago, the internet was ablaze with the One Weird Trick Women Used to be Heard in the Obama Administration, proving that even when women ARE invited into the Room Where It Happens by men who overtly value their insights, they still have to develop strategies to make sure these men HEAR THEM and give them credit for their own ideas over the deafening din of assumptions and expectations and implicit bias.
What fascinates me, though, is that we noticed at all, and why. Why, if this is so much a part of our culture, are we all suddenly talking about it? Why did so many men note what an amazing accomplishment it is that Hillary did not explode in anger and frustration, if it is true that we are conditioned to expect women to be polite, to not even notice that men always dominate the conversations?
Part of it was the stage, of course. We have the first woman who is seriously contending for the presidency of the United States, running against not just a man, but a man who embodies the sick misogynist false ideal of hyper-masculinity. The “strongman” bully who derides opponents as losers, who equates strength with aggression, who promises order through physical intimidation and violence. But I think the answer goes beyond that. We didn’t just notice how unacceptable his behavior was because of the stark contrast.
We noticed because she didn’t cave. When it was officially his turn to speak, she let him speak, with admirable grace (grace modifying her patience, NOT his speech!). A patience that yes, many women practice all the time. But we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all if that were her whole reaction. No, we *noticed,* we’re *talking* about this, because she did something else far more novel. Men everywhere interrupt women – but until last night, very few of us had seen what it looks like when the interrupted woman just *goes right on speaking.*
We noticed his interrupting because she didn’t cede the floor. If she had, all of our cultural assumptions would have come rushing in to fill the void, and we would have seen him as strong, would have accepted the interruption as his taking control of the conversation. But she didn’t do that. She didn’t lash out, she didn’t get angry, but she almost never acknowledged his outbursts in any way – she just kept talking, with the result that his interruptions didn’t look like a confident man controlling the conversation, they looked petulant and  childish and rude. On a few occasions, she replied directly to what he’d said – but then she held on to the floor, returning seamlessly to her original point. She didn’t let him derail her, she didn’t let him dominate her. She had a fearlessness that comes from having dealt with so much more crap in her career than any of us can imagine, and the poise that comes from truly trusting herself in that moment. She made us see him as a buffoon. The debate highlighted, finally, how unacceptable our cultural norm is. And Hillary showed us what it looks like when we have the clout, and the moxie, to hold our own.
The women of the Obama administration showed us how to be heard – have each other’s backs, amplify each other’s ideas, keep repeating and giving credit where it’s due until the men finally hear you. And last night, Hillary taught us the secret to dealing with interruptions: just keep talking. Own your right to that microphone, shake it off, and say what you came to say: don’t let anyone derail you when it’s YOUR TIME. Easier said than done – but oh, it can be done.

* I wish I remember who came up with this phrase, in response to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” but I can sadly only say it isn’t mine.

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10 Things I Love Post-Debate

October 17, 2012

1. I love my President. I especially love him when he’s confident and on his game:

Read the rest of this entry ?

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In Which I <3 Joe Biden

October 16, 2012

Again under the wire, and again my two cents are that everything you’ve heard about the most recent debate is missing the point. In this case, ever since the Veep debate ended, the dueling narratives have been Joe Biden Spanked Paul Ryan Like a Red-Headed Stepchild versus Joe Biden was Incredibly Rude, Disrespectful, and Possibly Insane. The first is much closer to the truth, but it’s not an analysis so much as it’s a gut reaction. Did I cheer Biden during the debate? YES. Did I do goofy fist-pumps when Biden explained that Afghan troops would be defending the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan? INDUBITABLY. Did I clap like Brendan Fraser at the Golden Globes when Biden looked straight in the camera to address senior citizens about Medicare?

HELL YES

But that was my initial reaction, as a Democrat and a Biden fangirl – and it probably wasn’t the way undecided voters saw things. No, what’s been missing from the analysis is analysis. No one is talking about what was actually said, and that’s a damn shame. The Vice President is well-regarded for his ability to speak the language of the middle class, of the average American – but what he says in that language shows that his brain is anything but average.

Joe Biden has been in politics almost my entire life, but it’s only been in the past few years that I recognized what an amazing gift he is to this country. Way back in December 2007, when I was already heavily involved in the Obama campaign despite being weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, I gathered with the other Obama faithful to watch one of the endless pre-season debates. One question asked about toxic paint found on children’s toys manufactured in China. One by one, the candidates – including my candidate – spoke powerfully about the need to amend our trade policy and our laws to ensure that this Never Happened Again. But when it was Biden’s turn, he exasperatedly pointed out that those provisions were already part of our trade agreements with China, and had been for decades. The laws were on the books; we just weren’t willing to fully fund the agencies that would inspect those goods and enforce those laws. I fell a little in love with him. Question after question, he knew everything about everything. He knew exactly what the applicable laws were. He knew exactly where the problems lay. He understood every foreign conflict they threw his way. And he was passionate and articulate and profoundly knowledgeable in precisely that way that doesn’t necessarily give the soundbites our news and our brains expect. I could easily imagine a news story about that debate which would frame his answer on the Chinese toys question as simply, “Obama, Clinton advocate tougher sanctions for Chinese Poison Toys; Biden says current laws are enough.” And you know what? Biden would still answer exactly the same.

I was thrilled when Obama chose him as his running mate, because what better counter to Obama’s cool detachment than Biden’s infectious warmth? And what better counterweight to Obama’s then-slim resume, than the man who knows everything about everything?

And yet, the man who knows everything about everything is strangely pilloried for gaffes, as if he were too dumb to know better. Biden’s “gaffes” are almost always full of unvarnished truth, profound understanding of the realities on the ground, and a whole, emotional engagement with the fate of this country. They  reflect just how passionate he is about making this country a better place. We aren’t used to our politicians emoting quite that much, because we aren’t used to our politicians genuinely caring that much. Earlier in the president’s term, Biden famously congratulated Obama on signing the Affordable Care Act by saying, “This is a big fucking deal!” You know what? IT WAS A BIG FUCKING DEAL. In a town of phonies and hyper-cautious calculators, Biden stands out simply because he still has human reactions.

Joe Biden was apparently rude and “disrespectful” to Eddie Haskell Paul Ryan because he actually, y’know, reacted to the words coming out of Ryan’s mouth. He smiled. He did double-takes. He shook his head. And he laughed when he heard the ridiculous lies that fall so easily from Ryan’s lips. Apparently, THIS look, this frozen smirk that shows the wearer has completely checked out mentally, is the “polite” way to listen in Washington:

But Biden can’t do that. Won’t do that. Shouldn’t do that. It’s a stupid thing to do, first of all, this “I know I’m on tv so I will betray no emotion other than polite (dis)interest.” But beyond that, what’s wrong with laughing at laughable lies?

We’re so bad at history in this country that no one seems to remember that Biden ran for President decades ago, and had a very good chance of winning the nomination. In 1987, he was raising money hand-over-fist. His speeches were fiery and well-received. And then, at the Iowa State Fair, he gave a speech, parts of which were modeled on a speech by an Irish leader. He’d given the speech many times, always citing Kinnock as his inspiration – but in the Iowa State Fair speech, he forgot to give Kinnock credit… and his campaign was effectively over. He had plaguerized, they said, he could not be trusted. It seems quaint, now, the idea that not citing your sources might besmirch your reputation for honesty, that this might be enough to make you unelectable. The GOP ticket has been running a post-truth campaign for months, lying again and again about the President’s record, about Obamacare and Medicare, and even about their own positions. And yet they are within reach of the White House. No one is suggesting Paul Ryan is unfit to serve because he lies, or that Romney, once caught in a falsehood, should’ve left the race. It hardly seems fair that Biden was once forced out of a race for a simple mistake that undermined his credibility, while Romney/Ryan may coast to the White House on wave of bullshit and the audacity of hype. Of course Biden laughed. This is ridiculous.

The Veep came out blazing on Thursday. His beautiful, nuanced answers put Paul Ryan’s facile platitudes to shame. Biden was asked why we don’t intervene in Syria’s revolution as we did in Libya’s. We don’t, he said, because they are very different countries – and then Biden told us exactly how they differ, and how that impacts our course. Ryan only spoke vaguely of not appearing “weak,” and tossed in the word “Iran” a couple of times. On Afghanistan, Ryan tried to argue that we were pulling troops out of the most dangerous regions – and Biden pounded home the reality that those troops are being replaced by Afghan troops, and point-blank demanded to know whether Ryan was saying we should place American troops in greater danger than their Afghan replacements. He explained and championed the Democratic policies on Medicare and Social Security, and held Ryan’s feet to the fire on the way his budget would effect the middle class and the poor. Every answer Biden gave was nuanced and detailed, while Ryan’s were nothing but empty platitudes. And that’s what analysts should have been talking about this week… but they weren’t.

Since the debate, Fox and the right have been going hard after Biden for his lack of “respect.” Fox News even showcased an “expert” to suggest that Biden’s behavior – which was exactly like all of Biden’s public behavior for the past 40 years – indicates that he either suffers from dementia or was drunk. It’s not just the guests, either – Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity also claimed that Biden was an “obnoxious drunk” during the debate. Because of a family history with alcoholism, Joe Biden is a well-known teetotaler, but that is how sick these people are. They will defame a good man, a faithful public servant, and a brilliant mind, just to deflect attention from the truth of what he said. He beat them, and so they are trying to destroy his reputation. It shouldn’t be surprising – these are the same asshats who have slandered the President as an illegitimate, communist, socialist, fascist dictator out to destroy America, a radical Muslim extremist collaborating with our most violent enemies to destroy our country. If they can pin all of that on the POTUS, surely they can comfortably smear the elected Vice President of the United States as a demented old drunk.

But it does beg the question: how can they keep a straight face as they suggest that Biden’s the one who’s being “disrespectful”?

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A Word on the Debate – Not this One. The Last One.

October 11, 2012

I never got around to talking about last week’s Presidential debate, and here we are, moments from the VP showdown. Life is conspiring against blogging right now, but I feel the need to get in my two cents before the conversation shifts away, even if it is right under the wire.

It seems that ever since the final words were said last Wednesday, we’ve had two very different, equally useless conversations. The first is How Romney Beat Obama, also known as How Obama Lost the Debate. The second, and more bitter argument, is Why is the Media Saying Obama Lost When Romney Lied Again and Again?!?!? Here’s the thing, though. Obama DID lose. It’s not just because the media is spinning it so. He lost. He was listless and uninspiring, he let Romney say – over and over and over – that he had cut Medicare by 716 billion, and that Medicare recipients would be hurt by that cut. It’s a lie that’s been so thoroughly debunked I was surprised Romney had the balls to say it again – but not nearly as surprised as I was that Obama let him get away with it TEN TIMES. Yes, really. That’s how many times Mitt Romney mention “$716 billion in cuts to Medicare” during that debate – and the President never  challenged him. As for the assertion that the real story is that Mitt Romney lied, over and over – that’s not news. He repeated many of the same lies he’s told before. Now he says he’s going to use the next debate to “fact-check” the president. Outrageous, yes. Surprising? NO. The President had every reason to expect Romney to lie, every reason to be prepared, and he didn’t seem to be. So yes, cue wailing and gnashing of teeth….

Except for this… Romney had a bounce, but it’s almost gone. During the 2008 campaign, there were so many times when I – and everyone working that campaign with me – were frustrated that he wasn’t fighting harder when he was attacked, wasn’t getting angry. We wanted him to defend himself, we hated that he was letting himself get walked on. But every time, we were wrong. He didn’t need to get angry. He was smarter than that. (The sad truth is that this country may be ready for a black president, but it probably isn’t ready for an angry black president, and one flash of real anger could undo so much good.) Besides, it just isn’t who he is. When he was growing up in Indonesia, he learned to endure teasing and taunting without showing any reaction, and that surely has helped to endure the slander and garbage the GOP has attacked him with for years.

So next week, don’t expect Obama to come out angry. Do expect him to come out more focused, more in the moment, more ready to call Mitt on his lies. But even if he doesn’t – trust him. He knows what he’s doing. Pundits may shriek, and we may all weep and wail, but he’s the smartest man in that office in decades (and Bill was no mental slouch), and he’s not getting caught flat-footed again. Obama has a rebounding economy on his side. He has demographics on his side. He has the truth on his side. Americans like him more, and trust him more, for very good reasons. And whether he had the flu, or was just worn out from running the country AND a campaign, he’s not going to have another performance like that.

Of course tonight, I’m hoping to see Biden take Ryan to school.

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“Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three.”

November 10, 2011

GOV. PERRY: … And I will tell you, it’s three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the — what’s the third one there — let’s see. (Laughter.)

REP. PAUL: You need five.

GOV. PERRY: Oh, five. OK.

REP. PAUL: Make it five.

GOV. PERRY: OK. So Commerce, Education and — the — (pause) —

MR. ROMNEY: EPA?

GOV. PERRY: EPA. There you go. (Laughter.) (Applause.)

MS. BARTIROMO: Let’s go —

MR: HARWOOD: Seriously? Is EPA the one you were talking about?

GOV. PERRY: No, sir. No, sir. We were talking about the agencies of government — EPA needs to be rebuilt. There’s no doubt about that.

MR. HARWOOD: But you can’t — but you can’t name the third one?

GOV. PERRY: The third agency of government.

MR. HARWOOD: Yes.

GOV. PERRY: I would do away with the Education, the Commerce and — let’s see — I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.

Debate transcript per The New York Times.

By now, you’ve seen the clip of Governor Rick Perry hitting a mental brick wall in last night’s debate. It’s painful to watch. This morning’s papers are full of the suggestion that this effectively ended his candidacy. Why?  Why would anyone believe that? We elected George W. Bush, twice. (Okay, maybe just the once in 2004, but it’s time to let that go.) This is the party that elevated Sarah Palin to nominee for Vice President of the United States, and has since practically canonized her for her folksy inability to speak in complete sentences. Republican voters don’t want intellect, they want someone like them to be in charge. Republican power brokers want someone they can control. Rick Perry is doing a brilliant job in both regards. The best part about that clip isn’t actually his brain freeze, which could happen to anyone. No, the real genius of Perry is that he makes absolutely sure that we know he isn’t an otherwise competent man drawing a blank. He looks to Ron Paul – clearly the brains of this group – to give him the name of the third agency he’d cut. When Paul says he needs to cut five (Paul’s own plan), Perry agrees with him. “Oh, five, OK.” WHAT?!?! Then Romney suggests it’s the EPA, and again Perry agrees, until the moderator questions him directly about whether cutting the EPA is actually Perry’s plan. If Romney had been thinking more quickly, he could have gotten Perry to say he’d eliminate the Defense Department. Folksy, incompetent, and transparently manipulable? He’s the Republican Party’s dream.

When asked if he would stay in the race, Perry replied, “This ain’t a day for quittin’ nothin’.” Shoot, y’all. I think this guy has a chance to be President.