Tag Archives: Politics

Mitt Romney. Worst. Candidate. Ever.

GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s premature knee-jerk response to yesterday’s attacks on American embassies in Libya and Egypt reveal the low character of the man – and make it clear he is not fit for the Presidency.

Before Romney could possibly know the facts, before the State Department had identified our dead, before President Obama could publically address this national tragedy, Mitt sought the television cameras to score cheap political points with an unfounded, uneducated and vastly unhelpful attack on the President and, by extension, the heroic members of our foreign service stationed in harm’s way. Romney’s behavior in this moment of crisis was entirely selfish and profoundly un-American. (He even smirked as he walked away from the podium after launching his patently unserious salvo.)

American Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other embassy workers killed in the rocket attack in Benghazi, Libya deserved far better than to serve as props for Mitt Romney’s cheap political stunt.

There was a time when partisanship in American politics stopped at the water’s edge.

Romney’s ham-handed diplomatic buffoonery and lack of foreign policy wisdom should disqualify him as a candidate for President of the United States. The fact that Mitt’s rash, false and incendiary accusations against President Obama have been met with approval by right wing tools like disgraced former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Senator Jim DeMint (Tea Party-SC) and Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) only add to the argument against Romney’s judgment, his character, and his candidacy.

Sorry, my Republican friends, this is your guy for 2012: perhaps the worst Presidential candidate in the modern era. One wonders how — with that huge silver spoon in his mouth — he still manages to find room to stick his foot in it, too.

Shame on you, Mitt Romney.

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Mid-Term Madness: The Top Ten

With the continuing misadventures of the Tea Party candidates, Election Season 2010 has, despite the efforts of Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, entered the realm of Beyond Satire.

Radical policy positions that would have seemed extreme in any other election year – such as abolishing the Department of Education, ending Social Security, and requiring victims of rape and incest to give birth to their attackers’ progeny – are no longer confined to the far right wing of GOP politics. Given the Tea Party’s success in GOP primaries, it appears that anti-government dogma, anti-immigrant hysteria and Taliban-like anti-female and anti-gay social conservatism may become central planks in the mainstream Republican Party platform in 2012.

Of course, there’s also an undercurrent of creeping fascism — which is really creepy — but let’s stick with the outright crazy stuff for the moment. After all, even the more sane, sophisticated and relatively humorless right wing ideologues and corporate robber barons have to be stunned by the pageant of unskilled, unfettered, uneducated and unhinged campaigning on display in the run up to November 2, 2010.

In many states across the country, political aspirants with scant experience in public service who would have been considered fringe candidates in the past (if not the lunatic fringe) are now making national headlines on the campaign trail, in debates, and on the Sunday talk shows.

You’ve got to laugh to keep from crying.

Here, then, are some of the biggest jokes of the 2010 election. There have been so many wacky (actually quite scary) moments involving today’s kooky crop of candidates that it’s time to round up Mid-Term Madness: The Top Ten.

1. Aqua Buddha

Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul, a Republican darling of the Tea Party movement, had already raised eyebrows with many of his extreme anti-government positions, borne of his passion for novelist Ayn Rand’s everybody-for-themselves Objectivist philosophy. But if wanting to do away with public schools and Social Security didn’t brand Rand Paul a fringe candidate, what would Kentuckians make of accusations that, when he was in college, Rand Paul tied a woman up and forced her to bow down before the “Aqua Buddha”? (Which sounds, to me, a lot like some sort of exotic bong.)

The candidate’s still-anonymous accuser said he “took me out to this creek and made me worship Aqua Buddha.”

She added that the whole thing was so “weird” that she ended relations with Paul and his friends. But will Kentucky voters end their weird relationship with Rand Paul? In 2010, who can say?

2. “I’m Not A Witch”

Christine O’Donnell, Delaware’s Republican nominee and Sarah Palin’s endorsed Tea Party candidate for Joe Biden’s Senate seat, spent a lot of the 1990’s as a chirpy, sexy, conservative talking head on TV shows like Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect. As a result, Mr. Maher had a lot of video clips with which to torture O’Donnell’s candidacy, including her prudish crusade against masturbation and her startling admission that she “dabbled in witchcraft” while in high school.

The facts that O’Donnell has no real qualifications for high office, has lied about her education bona fides (no, she didn’t attend Cambridge) and can’t recall a single Supreme Court decision haven’t dampened her Tea Party support – but the witchcraft thing pricked the deaf ears of even the lowest-information Delaware voters.

As a result, O’Donnell had to spend good money on a statewide television ad to declare, “I’m not a witch.” (President Nixon must have been chuckling in his grave.) But the craziest part of the ad is when O’Donnell says, “I am you.”  Oh really, Christine? I don’t think so.

3. The SS Candidate

How to win friends and influence people?

Well, for one thing, don’t go around proudly dressed as in a Nazi uniform.

That’s what Republican Congressional nominee Rich Iott, whose district lies in my home state of Ohio, should have known. But, then again, parading around as a Nazi is such a good time, right?

Mr. Iott is a military history and reenactment buff who likes to parade around in a German Waffen SS uniform. (That’s Rich Iott dressed in Nazi drag in the picture at left. He’s the guy second from right. Far right, that is.) Candidate Iott also likes to participate in Nazi re-enactments. So, what’s wrong with that?

After all, Iott says his interest in Nazi Germany is historical and he doesn’t subscribe to Nazism – and some on the right wing have defended him, arguing that Iott also attends Civil War re-enactments in a Union army uniform.

The problem is that the Waffen SS were a particularly evil bunch of murderous rat bastards.

Unlike the conscripted citizen soldiers of the regular German Army (or Wehrmacht), the Waffen SS were a volunteer arm of the Nazi Party that enthusiastically committed countless war crimes and atrocities, including their prominent role in the slaughter of Jews and other “undesirables.” That should make Rich Iott undesirable as a Congressman from my home state. But will it?

Above is a photo of Rich in his jaunty Nazi cap, third from the right (wing).

4. Mr. Green (Does Not) Go To Washington

No state can outdo South Carolina for crazy. But what happened in the 2010 Democratic primary was absolutely nuts. Somehow, an unemployed 32-year-old Army veteran named Alvin Greene with no campaign funds, no posters and no website defeated a well-funded former judge and state legislator, Vic Rawl, for the right to oppose the incumbent GOP Senator Jim DeMint, another Tea Party darling. The mainstream media ignored the possibility of electronic vote tampering and dirty tricks leading to Greene’s election – but they couldn’t ignore how spectacularly unsuited and unprepared Greene was to campaign for, much less hold, a high office.

And if it wasn’t strange enough that a guy with no political experience, unemployed for nine months, somehow paid a $10,400 filing fee and all his other campaign expenses from his own personal funds – the sad, self-defeating saga of Alvin Greene got more bizarre when a Richland County grand jury indicted him for disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity (a felony) as well as a misdemeanor charge of communicating obscene materials to a person without consent.

According to prosecutors, Greene approached a female student in a University of South Carolina computer lab, showed her some obscene photos online, then talked about going to her dorm room. When a reporter from a local TV station pressed Greene to elaborate on the indictment, the accidental candidate told the reporter to “leave [his] property” and “go away.” Unlike Jim DeMint, I wish this whole sorry example of political dysfunction (and dog whistle race baiting) would go away.

5. Headless Bodies in the Arizona Desert

Batty, blustering Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s erratic reelection campaign has earned her two spots on this list. Brewer’s relentless demagoguery on the immigration issue and her support for Arizona Senate Bill 1070 (the “show me your papers” law) have made her a darling of the right in that troubled border state, despite the fact that she’s several bricks shy of a load. In fact, in her zeal to portray the threat from illegal immigration in as dire a light as possible, Brewer finally lost her head.

As Dana Milbank wrote in the July 11th edition of The Washington Post, “The Arizona governor, seemingly determined to repel every last tourist dollar from her pariah state, has sounded a new alarm about border violence. ‘Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded.’” She also mentioned “beheadings” on Fox News. (One can only imagine the cutting, incisive follow up questions from her Fox interlocutor.)  Two months later, with no evidence of any headless bodies littering the Arizona desert, and no law enforcement officials willing to back her claims, Governor Brewer conceded she “misspoke” when she claimed that headless bodies were found in her state’s desert. But her half-hearted semi-apologia came only after her Democratic opponent decapitated Brewer over her headless nonsense in their gubernatorial debate. And how did she handle the issue with the press immediately after the debate? You gotta see it to believe it.

6. Jan Brewer’s (Very) Long Pause

Jan Brewers absolutely stunning (actually, stunned) opening statement in the Arizona Gubernatorial Debate on September 1st must also be seen to be believed.

Only in wacky, way-out Elections Season 2010 could a politician possibly survive turning in a performance like this on a televised debate.

7. Carl Paladino

The New York Republican Party had planned to run former U.S. Representative Rick Lazio to become the Republican candidate for New York governor in the race against Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the son of the revered former Governor Mario Cuomo. Instead, thanks to the Tea Party’s clout in the NY primary, they got little-known businessman Carl Paladino.  According to Dick Brennan in The Queens Courier, “Paladino has been dubbed by some as ‘Crazy Carl,’ but the reality is that Paladino is crazy like a fox. Nobody can figure out his strategy, so why not just call him a nut? In fact, the multimillionaire from Buffalo is following a plan, and sticking to it with great discipline.It’s easy to see the first part of his program: hit and run politics, guerilla war, throw your bombs and run for cover. By bombs we mean politically incorrect statements, the more outrageous the better.”

Among the rhetorical bombs tossed by Paladino are his claims that students are being “brainwashed” into believing that the gay lifestyle is a valid option. (This from a guy whose son is the landlord for two gay bars.) Out of the blue, Paladino criticized the media for not asking completely unfounded questions about Cuomo’s marital fidelity. (Crazy Carl claimed to have evidence, but revealed none.) And then there’s Paladino’s penchant for off-color e-mails, like the video he sent to friends of Africans dancing in traditional dress that was titled “Obama Inauguration Rehearsal” – and the video he forwarded of a woman having sex with a horse. The Tea Party doesn’t seem to have the most vigorous vetting process, does it?

8. Sharron Angle

Did I mention that The Tea Party doesn’t seem to have the most vigorous vetting process?

Of all the Senate Democrats in trouble this election season, Harry Reid of Nevada looked like a soft target for the GOP this fall. Nevada’s economy has been devastated by the housing crisis and Harry Reid is, well, Harry Reid. A decent, stalwart, western Democrat – but not the most charismatic or inspirational politician one could hope for. (As a Californian, I see Harry as the Gray Davis of Nevada.) But, once again, The Tea Party insurgents blew up the GOP’s hope for an easy victory by nominating the most spectacularly unqualified, un-muzzled, and unbelievably obtuse candidate to contend against Reid: Sharron Angle, an ultra-right former member of the Nevada state legislature.

Daniel Kurtzman has listed “The 10 Most Ridiculous Sharron Angle Quotes (So Far)” at About.com (and you should check them all out.) They don’t even include her recent suggestion that many of the Hispanic high school kids she was speaking to looked Asian to her. But here’s just a few…

“People ask me, ‘What are you going to do to develop jobs in your state?’ Well, that’s not my job as a U.S. senator.”

“The Federal Department of Education should be eliminated. The Department of Education is unconstitutional and should not be involved in education, at any level.”

And she said this to explain why she opposes abortion — even in cases of rape or incest. “I think that two wrongs don’t make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade.” Only amid the madness of Mid-Terms 2010 could such a fringe nutcase become Nevada’s junior Senator.

9. Joe Miller or Joe Stalin?

Ah, Alaska! The state the just keeps giving to satirists, cynics and those awaiting signs that the end of the world is upon us. Now the Tea Party voters of Alaska, with the endorsement of no less an authority on wacko, vacuous, right wing politics than Sarah Palin, have given us Joe Miller: he of the permanent five o’clock shadow – and shadowy ideas about how to govern our country. But you’d think that a candidate representing the party of St. Ronald Reagan, who famously stood before the Berlin Wall and uttered the words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” would be loathe to show admiration for Joe Stalin’s infamous Cold War barrier to freedom. Alas, in 2010, any strange thing is possible.

In fact, at a town hall meeting, GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller praised East Germany as a model for how the U.S. might defend its borders. According to Joe (that’s Miller, not Stalin, though I can understand the confusion), “East Germany was very, very able to reduce the flow,” of cross-border traffic. “Now, obviously, other things there were involved,” Miller conceded, but… “We have the capacity, as a great nation, obviously, to secure our border. If East Germany could, we could.”

Of course, awful visions of barbed wire, machine guns and Checkpoint Charlie aside, Joe Miller fails to understand that the Berlin Wall was built to keep East Germans in – not to keep illegal immigrants out.

Can being such a wacko keep Joe Miller out of the Senate?

Let’s hope so.

A guy like Miller almost makes me want to write in M..u..r..k..o..w..s..k..i. Then again, now that this is a three-way race, the Democrat, former Sitka mayor Scott McAdams, just might sneak in. Provided Joe doesn’t build that wall to keep him out.

10. Sarah Palin as Tea Party Kingmaker

That’s all you need to know about the lunacy of Election 2010. A know-nothing former pageant princess, ex-mayor of a tiny town, failed Governor, failed Vice Presidential candidate and a woman who quit her job working for the people of Alaska to line her pockets at Fox News, TLC and anywhere they’ll pay her big bucks to speak – is somehow a Tea Party kingmaker, capable up upsetting the mainstream GOP applecart. It’s actually fun to watch. Just imagine how the relationship between Mitch McConnell and John McCain is going lately.

Thanks, Senator McCain. If you hadn’t chosen Sarah Palin as your running mate, the GOP might have had a good chance of taking the Senate in 2010. So you could say all this mid-term madness started with McCain.

No nutty deed goes unpunished. Especially in this election season.

And now, the dream GOP/Teas Party ticket for 2012…

Now, that would be truly beyond satire. (Oh, but we’d have to try, wouldn’t we?)

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More Thrills & Glory…

THRILLS & GLORY: THE BRIEF, BLESSED HISTORY OF THE PRACTICAL THEATRE CO.

Part Three: A Tale of Two Spaces

To read the latest chapter in my personal history of The Practical Theatre Company, click here.

After you’ve read our ancient history, you can check out video clips of far more recent PTC-style comedy if you click here.

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A Healthy Change

Congratulations to President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats on passage of a landmark Health Care Reform bill.

It was worth a long, long day watching C-Span to see history (much like sausage) being made on Sunday night, March 21, 2010, as a major Health Care Reform bill passed the House of Representatives. While it’s true that this bill doesn’t go as far as I’d like in reforming the health care system in America – I’m a single-payer guy myself – it’s a giant step in the right direction. At the very least, it stops the most egregiously greedy, hard-hearted practices of the insurance industry.

But seriously – why do we need these health insurance companies anyway? All they are is a money-grubbing middleman between patients and health care providers. The entire industry is a money-skimming scheme writ large. Their business is making billions of dollars in profit – which they make by not providing health care. Someday, I’d like to see them out of the game altogether.

Of course, Republicans, in lock step, opposed this historic legislation — despite the fact that over 200 Republican amendments had been incorporated into the bill. Clearly, the GOP has no interest in true bipartisanship. At least Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) was completely honest when he said that defeating President Obama’s health care reform initiative would prove Obama’s “Waterloo”. Senator DeMint and his colleagues’ only agenda was to damage Obama, not to help Americans in need of a break from fast-rising insurance premiums, or who lost their coverage because they were sick, or were denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Sorry, Senator DeMint, if this was Waterloo, it looks like you’re Napoleon. (Hope you enjoy your stay on Saint Helena.)

After all the lies, fear-mongering and demagoguery – it’s nice to see the dark side licking their political wounds.  And now, with health care reform soon to be the law of the land, they can get their wounds treated in an improved health care system.

Next up: financial regulatory reform.  It’s time to give the Wall Street Banksters a taste of progressive change, too.

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A Congressional Flush

Five Jokers make a flush right?

Let me begin by setting the record straight. The mainstream media would have you believe that President Obama is in desperate straits and his support among the American people has plummeted. However, in the 2008 Presidential election, Obama won with 52.9 percent of the vote – and the same pundits and Washington wise men proclaimed this a sweeping victory. This week, the latest Associated Press-GfK poll put public approval of President Obama’s job performance at 53 percent. Virtually unchanged since his “sweeping” win on Election Day.

So, while President Obama experienced a nearly unprecedented spike is his approval rating right after his inauguration, and while he’s endured a bruising first year in office confronting the disastrous condition of American economic and foreign policy in the wake of the long Bush-Cheney nightmare, and even though he’s disappointed a lot of progressives like me in various ways – Obama’s managed to retain essentially the same level of public support he had on the day he was elevated to the Presidency.

But Americans don’t feel the same way about Congress. According to the same AP-GfK poll, fewer people approve of Congress now than at any point in Obama’s presidency. In fact, the job approval rating for Congress is an anemic 22 percent. That’s pretty much what George Bush’s ratings were when Obama was elected.

Congressional Republicans get lower ratings than their Democratic colleagues – but not by a very comfortable margin. And that’s as it should be, because Congressional Democrats, especially in the Senate, have managed to squander their majority. GOP filibuster threats become de facto filibusters. Somehow, Republican Senator Olympia Snowe and Independent turncoat-gasbag Joe Lieberman are allowed to become power players. And small state “Conservadem” Senators like Max Baucus of Montana are allowed to write critical Health Reform legislation with the help of insurance industry lobbyists and GOP obstructionists like Iowa’s Chuck Grassley who were never going to allow Obama a legislative victory on anything – let alone an epochal Health Care reform bill.

Weren’t Congressional Democrats listening when Republican Senator Jim DeMint said a defeat on health care would be Obama’s “Waterloo”? Jeez! If an NFL quarterback telegraphs his intentions that obviously he usually gets intercepted.

So, there are plenty of valid reasons to be fed up with Congress. And after shuffling my deck of Congressional playing cards, I dealt myself five Jokers right of the top. Alas, I know there are a lot more in the deck…

Note: All italicized language in quotes is taken from the official websites of the legislators in question.

Joker #1: Senator James Inhofe (R, Oklahoma)

Oklahoma’s senior U.S. Senator, Inhofe is one of the biggest tools in Washington. “Simply put, no one consistently represents common sense, conservative Oklahoma values more than Jim.” Of course, that means the guy loves oil, oil, guns, oil, homophobia, and oil.

“Jim has been a strong advocate for the principles of limited government, individual liberty, and personal responsibility.” Senator Inhofe may be into personal responsibility – but corporate responsibility not so much. He’s the leading climate change denier on Capitol Hill, and a sure vote against financial regulatory reform.

Here’s all you really need to know about Inhofe. He won the “Lifetime Service Award” from the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Spirit of Enterprise” Award, and an “A+” rating from the National Rifle Association.

Joker #2: Senator Mitch McConnell (R, Kentucky)

First elected to the Senate in 1984, Mitch McConnell is the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Kentucky history. He’s also made entirely of wax. For many years, Senator McConnell was on exhibit at Madame Tussaud’s in Hollywood, but the election of Barak Obama inspired him to return to Washington and do whatever he could to block the new President’s agenda.

McConnell is the Senate Minority Leader, which means he gets up every morning ready to say “no” to everything Obama and the Democrats propose. In McConnell’s caucus, such unrelenting negativity is called “bipartisanship”.

When McConnell was reelected to the Senate in 2008, he won nearly a million votes, the most ever received by a Kentuckian in a statewide race. Gee whiz, nearly a million votes statewide? Big deal. There are 1,596,165 registered voters in the city of Los Angeles alone. Barbara Boxer needed nearly 7 million votes to win her California Senate seat. Hell, her opponent, Bill Jones, lost with more than 4.5 million votes! And this wax puppet McConnell gets to sit high and mighty in the Senate, working to deny the Public Health Insurance Option that millions of California voters are demanding?

Joker #3: Representative John Boehner (R, OH-8)

House Minority Leader and tanning bed addict, John Boehner was elected to a 10th term in November 2008. And this is a guy who likes to talk about term limits! He’s “a national leader in the fight for a smaller, more accountable government.” Unless, of course, there’s a Republican in the White House – in which case Congressman Boehner is just fine with turning a Democratic administration’s budget surplus into a multi-trillion dollar deficit.

“Throughout his time as a small businessman, state legislator, and Member of Congress, John has been a straight-shooting and relentless advocate for freedom and security.” Unless, of course, a lying, obfuscating Republican Presidential Administration wants to hype false charges of Iraqi WMD to justify a war in Iraq that took our eye off Bin Laden in Afghanistan, handed Iran a potential satellite state in Iraq, and inflamed anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East. Feeling more free and secure now? Thanks, John. Your tan is fading almost as fast as your credibility.

“John is fighting to eliminate wasteful spending, create jobs, and balance the federal budget without raising taxes. He has challenged Republicans in the 111th Congress to be not just the party of “opposition,” but the party of better solutions to the challenges facing the American people.” Oh man, where to start? My head hurts. Oh, wait, I get it now. His website must be written for laughs – you can’t say Boehner has challenged his caucus “to be not just the party of opposition” unless you’re kidding. See? I told you Boehner was a Joker.

And now in the true spirit of bipartisanship…

Joker #4: Senator Blanche Lincoln (D, Arkansas)

Blanche Lincoln made history in 1998 when she became the youngest woman ever elected to the United States Senate at the age of 38. Good for you, Blanche. But what have you done for us lately?

Lately, Blanche Lincoln has proven herself to be aptly named – because so many things she’s done have made me blanch. If she wasn’t so deep in the pocket of corporate interests, and the health insurance industry in particular, she might be a useful player in the Senate Democratic caucus, but instead, she’s been a thorn in the side of progressive reform efforts since Obama’s election. And she’s been a total drag on Health Reform. Conservative Democrats like Blanche Lincoln are the best argument for legislating by reconciliation. She makes a mere 51 votes look real, real good.

“Senator Lincoln is at the forefront of efforts in Congress to end partisan bickering and get results for the American people. She helped form the Moderate Dems Working Group, a new coalition of moderate Senate Democrats who work with Senate leadership and the new administration to craft common-sense solutions to our nation’s most-pressing priorities. In addition, she co-founded and currently co-chairs “The Third Way,” an organization dedicated to crafting practical and creative solutions to old problems.” In other words, she’s an obstacle to progress: the queen of watering down truly progressive initiatives to mollify conservative voters in her home state. She’s not a Democratic party leader, she’s a timid, frightened, ambitious, bought-and-paid-for small state pol. If she’s not, she’ll have plenty of chances to prove otherwise. I won’t be holding my breath.

Joker #5: Representative Bart Stupak (D, MI-1)

Bart Stupak was first elected in 1992 – but nobody outside of his Michigan district ever heard of the guy until he hijacked Health Reform legislation this year, holding it hostage to his self-serving, caucus-splitting, hot potato abortion amendment. It didn’t matter to Congressman Stupak that the Health Reform bill the House was ready to pass did NOT provide federal funds for abortion – it was too good an opportunity to grandstand for his pro-life constituents and grab his share of the headlines at the expense of reforms that could save the lives of the nearly 45,000 people who have already been born – that die every year for lack of health insurance. What’s pro-life about that?

Ironically, Stupak was named the 2007 National Rural Health Association’s “Rural Health Champion” His website says that, “In his 14 years serving the 1st District of Michigan, Representative Bart Stupak has been a tireless advocate for his rural constituents, rural health care providers and the patients they serve.” Unless, of course, Bart has the chance to scuttle better health care for his rural constituents – and everyone else – as he gins up the culture wars by exploiting one of the most divisive issues in America.

If Bart is truly interested in promoting rural health, what’s he done with his infamous Stupak Amendment is, well, stupid. Or maybe just Stupak.

So there you go, 5 Congressional Jokers. It’s a flush worthy of flushing.

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“I have not yet begun to fight!”

Among all the depressing, defeatist, hand-wringing, and otherwise pathetic punditry on television and in print this morning in the wake of Martha Coakley’s upset loss in the Massachusetts election for Teddy Kennedy’s former seat in the U.S. Senate, The Christian Science Monitor had this headline (see above) in their online edition. I agree that there are lessons to be drawn from Coakley’s collapse, but not the lessons I’m hearing from all the usual talking heads.

It’s been nearly impossible to watch TV yesterday and today and listen to triumphant right-wingers crowing about the message that this election sends President Obama and the Democrats. Of course the GOP’s take on Coakley’s defeat is easy to dismiss. Today’s Republicans are a bunch of lock-step, talking-point spouting hacks whose analysis of everything in the last decade has been dead wrong. There are just two things the GOP knows how to do: keep their message focused and fight.

On the other hand, too many Democrats are already drawing the wrong conclusions from this debacle. And their messaging is all over the place. Conservative Democrats like Evan Bayh are using this moment as a call to centrism – which is code for a lack of political courage. And I shudder to think what a triangulating corporatist like Rahm Emmanuel is advising President Obama at this moment. I worry that Rahm, who was asleep at the switch in this critical Senate election (he’s supposed to be the White House inside politics genius), will also draw the wrong lessons from the loss of what should have been a safe Democratic seat in a very blue state.

Let me, then, suggest to my fellow Democrats four lessons in courage, and some bold messaging, courtesy of – no! not a group of politicians and pundits – but a quartet of American Naval heroes.

1. John Paul Jones: “I have not yet begun to fight.”

John Paul Jones is revered as the Father of the U.S. Navy, and his exploits in the War of Independence are legendary. But his greatest moment came when he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on September 23, 1779.  In what has been called one of the bloodiest engagements in U.S. naval history. Jones, in command of the Bonhomme Richard, slugged it out with the 44-gun English frigate Serapis. The gun crews of the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis traded thundering broadsides until Jones’ ship was burning and in danger of sinking.

Yet, when the Englishmen requested Jones strike his flag and surrender, he replied in defiance, “I have not yet begun to fight.” The battle raged on for more than three hours, ending when the tide of battle turned, the Serapis surrendered — and Jones took command of the defeated English ship.

Sure, the loss of a Senate seat is a terrible blow – but it would be great to hear Harry Reid say something very much like, “I have not yet begun to fight.”

2. Captain James Lawrence: “Don’t Give Up the Ship”

Sometimes a courageous example can turn a cruel defeat into an inspirational moment that transcends that loss – and helps to fuel an ultimate victory — as it did in a dramatic naval engagement early in the War of 1812.

In 1813, Captain James Lawrence was in command of the frigate Chesapeake when he dueled the English ship Shannon at the mouth of Boston Harbor, barely a cannon shot beyond the shore upon which, two centuries later, Martha Coakley’s Senatorial hopes were sunk.

In a brief and brutal exchange of volleys at close range, the Shannon outgunned Chesapeake – and the two ships became so entangled in each other’s fallen rigging that Chesapeake could no longer fire at the English ship. Captain Lawrence gave orders to board the Shannon, but he was hit by an enemy musket ball and had to be carried belowdecks, mortally wounded. Before he was taken below, Lawrence’s last words to his officers were: “Tell the men to fire faster and not give up the ship. Fight her till she sinks!”

Although Chesapeake was forced to surrender, Lawrence’s valiant words served as a rallying cry for generations of officers and men in the U.S. Navy: “Don’t give up the ship!”

3. Oliver Hazard Perry: “We have met the enemy and they are ours…”

The immortal words of Captain Lawrence inspired his fellow officers. In fact, just months after the loss of the Chesapeake, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry honored his late friend Lawrence by having the motto “Don’t give up the ship!” sewn onto his private battle flag – which he flew during the Battle of Lake Erie.

During the battle on September 10, 1813, Perry’s fleet engaged a fleet of British warships determined to put the Great Lakes in English control as a prelude to a possible invasion from the north. Perry’s flagship, the USS Lawrence (named in honor of the martyred Captain James Lawrence) was destroyed in the battle – but did Oliver Hazard Perry simply throw in the towel and seek compromise with his enemies? No, by god! He had himself rowed a half-mile through shot and shell to transfer his command to the USS Niagara – carrying his battle flag with his buddy’s final words of defiance emblazoned upon it: “Don’t give up the ship!”

Parry's personal battle flag at the Battle of Lake Erie.

Perry won the Battle of Lake Erie, ending the threat of English invasion via the Great Lakes, and sent his after-action report to General William Henry Harrison. Perry’s message contained few words and, like the words of his fallen friend, they became legendary: “We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”

I’d love to hear President Obama call out the obstructionist GOP Congress with a statement as blunt and bold as “We have met the enemy and they are ours…” The right wing may defeat us in Massachusetts, but like Commodore Perry in his rowboat, we must transfer our efforts to the next stage of the fight and press on until we win the battle.

4. Admiral David Glasgow Farragut: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

Stop worrying about the Coakley catastrophe, sagging poll numbers, what the GOP and right-wing pundits might say, or foot-dragging fears about your own re-election – just press on with a progressive agenda, keep trying to fix the stuff that Bush broke, fix the health care bill in reconciliation – and forget about bipartisanship. In other words,“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

Just about every American my age has heard – and used — this famous phrase many times, but few realize that it has nothing to do with torpedoes as we know them, and that it was actually coined during the Civil War. Of course, the phrase speaks of boldness, courage, and defiant resolution in the face of grave danger – and this time the words were uttered by Admiral David Glasgow Farragut.

Farragut was the highest-ranking U.S. naval officer when he fought the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864. Farragut was hanging from the rigging of his flagship Hartford, as his invasion fleet approached the entrance to Mobile Bay, Alabama, intent on sailing past the Confederate defenses and conquering the forts that guarded the Bay.

As the guns of the Confederate forts came to bear on the ships in Farragut’s fleet, the leading ship, the ironclad monitor Tecumseh, was destroyed by a submerged mine. (BTW — we call it a “mine” now, but in Civil War parlance, a tethered underwater explosive device was called a “torpedo”.) With Tecumseh knocked out of action, Farragut’s fleet began to drift in confusion under the guns of the Confederate forts. With disaster in the offing, as Farragut hung from the shrouds aboard the Hartford, he gave the orders, “Damn the torpedoes! Four bells! Captain Crayton, go ahead! Joucett, full speed!”

Farragut sailed his own ship Hartford into the lead — and across the mines, which failed to detonate. The rest of his fleet followed the Commodore’s bold example, ran past the guns of the Confederate forts, and hammered them into submission from a safe anchorage.

Farragut’s fearlessness and resolve — when all might have been lost — saved the day and immortalized his words. If I was President Obama, in command of our mighty Ship of State, that’s the order I would give to Reid, Pelosi, and all my officers. “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

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