Cinema Of The Infantile: Welcome To The New Millenium

HollywoodpeachesI’ve been hard on America lately, it’s true. But with people like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney and Lou Dobbs and Joe The Plumber and… Well, the list goes on. With these folks popping up every few minutes to force some other piece of dimensionless drivel down the throats of Americans, many of whom are waiting patiently with mouths open like hungry fledgelings, one has to wonder if this country is made up of nothing more than infants intent on not developing their god-given brains.

But maybe that’s not really the case. I mean, Obama won the election, not McCain/Palin. And though there are a lot of crazies out there spouting lies to an audience eager to carry on those deceptions to their friends and neighbors, there are also massive groups of individuals who speak out in protest, call these liars out in public, and demand more responsible, adult behavior. Come to think of it, maybe it’s really just the people yelling and screaming and spreading these lies who think their audience is far stupider than they actually are.

While there certainly are a lot of people out there who either don’t want to think or have been trained not to, there are perhaps far more who are eager to think. Some may even be doing it as we speak. Which brings us to the point of this little essay. Cinema has always been a reflection of our society. Despite previous political administrations who showed their disdain for the arts with outrageous funding cuts, film is nonetheless of social, communal, moral, and evolutionary importance.

So why has the film industry been in steady decline since the early eighties? Well, part of the reason is probably due to the odd circumstances that lead to a revitalization of film culture that coincided with both political and social upheavals in the sixties and seventies. For a while there, the “inmates” were running the asylum. And it was wonderful. A little out of control and, at times, misguided, but wonderful. But what should have been a springboard has now become a sad basis for comparison. No growth happens without risk and mistakes. None. And we’ve been growing less and less ever since.

Film critic A.O Scott in his recent article OPEN WIDE: SPOON-FED CINEMA in the New York Times commented on all the excuses used for the making and promoting of thoughtless films over thoughtful ones:

…those reliable axioms about the taste and expectations of the mass movie audience are not so much laws of nature as artifacts of corporate strategy. And the lessons derived from them conveniently serve to strengthen a status quo that increasingly marginalizes risk, originality and intelligence.

I grew up dreaming of making films at the studios. And why not? As a kid, the studios were still making films. Sure, they also had strong commercial interests, that’s always been a huge piece of the puzzle, but it seemed for a while there, smart sold. People were open to and seeking adult fare. But now it seems the studios are being run by folks who altogether missed that era and, none too bright themselves, believe their audience is even dumber.

I’ve watched some of the best films of our current generation, films that would have garnered awards and inspired lines around the block years ago, fade into obscurity and be publicly proclaimed, not just as financial failures, but artistic failures as well. Ang Lee’s masterful film LUST, CAUTION was all but ignored by legions of American critics and fans alike. Even after the commercial and critical success of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, this cinematic haven for smart, subtle, nuanced, adult filmmaking was pushed aside. Or Stanley Kubrick’s swan song EYES WIDE SHUT, a true cinematic undertaking tackling adult subject matter with more artistry than most of the films of its year put together, was battered senseless by film-ignorant critics and studio execs who declared it a failure  despite the fact that  it was Kubrick’s greatest financial success… So what happened? Have audiences just gotten dumber? Or does it just appear that way?

Well, in my experience working in this town called Hollywood, where people travel from far and wide to glimpse that magical sign on the hill, I’ve come to believe that many of the folks working in Hollywood at the studio level are among the most childish and spoiled I’ve ever had the displeasure of working beside. Not all, mind you, but certainly most. And they, like most children, think they know it all. They certainly think their audience is far dumber than they are. The studios are to film what Sarah Palin is to politics.

While directing my first feature THE PLAGUE, I had the unfortunate opportunity to work with a series of folks whose knowledge of film was pre-adolescent at best. They would throw around the occasional classic or foreign film title, usually something extremely obvious, like a movie version of a hit song, only in this case it was CASABLANCA or 8 1/2 or THE SEVENTH SEAL. Jorge Saralegui was one of these guys. Once an exec at Fox, this guy’s knowledge of film could be contained comfortably on the head of a pin. And yet he wielded the kind of power that would ultimately decide the fate of any film he oversaw. And this was a man who spoke few words of kindness about anyone he’d ever known and moved about with an open disdain for those around him. I’ve written previously about his nasty and endlessly negative comments about directors like John Woo and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, both of whom he’d worked with. And his list of credits is like a who’s who of artistic (and quite often commercial) failures. My film included. In working closely with this man, I got an insider’s view of how a film intended for adult audiences can be reduced to strained peaches on the end of a small spoon. And who is he trying to feed? Us. And there are those, like Saralegui, who will gladly eat from that spoon themselves. Just like there are those who will drink from the Sarah Palin well and proclaim “Yummy” afterwards.

But Saralegui is just one of thousands of men and women projecting their ignorance into the mouths of babes eager to consume whatever mindless drivel they are handed. Even if the original intent of the creative filmmakers behind those films were grander and more daring than the final products ultimately revealed. Just look at the glut of quality studio films out there now. Sure, it’s summer, the time of “escapist” cinema, but even before summer hit, the best films were already being coined failures while the most mindless of the batch were being lauded as successes. And if you repeat the mantra that any film that isn’t a total financial blockbuster opening weekend is a “failure” while the artistically devoid TRANSFORMERS is a success, many people will listen. Just like when we tell people that Obama isn’t really an American.

A.O. Scott again:

Commercial success may represent the public’s embrace of a piece of creative work, or it may just represent the vindication of a marketing strategy. In bottom-line terms, this is a distinction without a difference. A movie that people will go and see, almost as if they had no choice, is a safer business proposition than one they may have to bother thinking about. In this respect “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is exemplary. It brilliantly stymies reflection, thwarts argument, arrests intelligent response. The most interesting thing about the movie — apart from Megan Fox’s outfits, I suppose — is that it has made nearly $400 million domestically.

…The studios, housed in large and beleaguered media conglomerates, have grown more cautious as the economy has faltered, releasing fewer movies and concentrating resources on dependable formulas. Nearly every big hit so far has been part of a franchise built on an established cultural brand.

…What kind of person constantly demands something new and yet always wants the same thing? A child of course. From toddlerhood we are fluent in the pop-cultural consumerist idiom: Again! More! Another one! …Children are ceaselessly demanding, it’s true; but they are also easily satisfied, and this combination of appetite and docility makes the child an ideal moviegoer. But since there are a finite number of literal children out there, with limited disposable income and short attention spans, Hollywood has to make or find new ones. And so the studios have, with increasing vigor and intensity, carried out a program of mass infantilization.

So when people ask me why I’m still fighting four years later for the release of my cut of THE PLAGUE, it’s not because I think it’s god’s gift to cinema or the holy grail of intelligent movies, but because it was meant for an adult audience and, at every step of the way, was chipped away at by its producers and ultimately the studio that distributed it until it was indistinguishable from all the other pablum out there. It’s a film that never reached its audience because its audience was never given a chance to see it. And this is just a $3.5 million thriller, mind you. Not a big-budget studio flick. I know what the film is and I know what it isn’t. But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sit back and have any film of mine turned into drivel without fighting tooth and nail for its life. Part of it is that I abhor the thought of my name being listed as the creative entity behind something as mindless and offensive as the producers cut of that film. The other part is that if people don’t start demanding something better now, then we should just accept Sarah Palin and stop looking any further. Let’s just put on our bibs and ask for more, please.

The conventional wisdom within the industry is to accept what has happened and to move on. We’ve been doing that for almost 30 years and I’m yearning for film and filmmakers to take back the art form, to allow the audience to have both its escapist fun AND its intelligence, its creativity, its originality, and its ability to ask some hard questions, to challenge, to assume its audience is smart with a hunger to grow. If I can’t fight for that within my own world, with my own film, then I have no right to ask more from anyone else. Not even the studios.

Cinema Of The Infantile: Welcome To The New Millenium

Has Olive Garden Joined The Ranks Of Anti-Letterman Loonies?

Palin DishEarlier today, Politico reported that middle-America’s favorite Italian restaurant, Olive Garden, was pulling its ads from The Late Show With David Letterman. However, recent reports from Olive Garden spokesman Rich Jeffers state:

“Information reported today by Andy Barr of Politico regarding Olive Garden’s advertising on the Late Show with David Letterman was erroneous. No authorized spokesperson for the company confirmed the information in his report… The Olive Garden media schedule is planned months in advance. The schedule for the Late Show with David Letterman was completed earlier this month. We take all guest concerns seriously. And, as always, we will factor those concerns in as we plan our advertising schedule in the future.”

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what’s what. Could it be that Olive Garden intended to pull the ads, but then saw what kind of lunatics they were appeasing by doing so?

If they DO pull their ads, I would love to say that I’ll no longer eat at the Olive Garden, but that would be the equivalent of saying absolutely nothing will change in my life. However, I’m sure the 15 crazies rallying outside David Letterman’s studio will be first in line to order the next helping of something that resembles fettucini alfredo while the rest of us will probably choose to go to a less politically challenged establishment and order something that not only looks like Italian food, but tastes like it as well.

The original statement first reported by Politico as coming from Sherri Bruen, the Olive Garden’s guest relations manager, was:

“there will be no more Olive Garden ads scheduled for ‘The Late Show’ with David Letterman in this year’s broadcast schedule… We apologize that Mr. Letterman’s mistake, which was not consistent with our standards and values, left you with a bad impression of Olive Garden.” 

Apparently John McCain, Sen Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and the Republican-parading-around-as-an-Independent/Democrat Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) ate at their beloved Olive Garden during the campaign. Much to the delight of staff and owners.

Perhaps Olive Garden is to Italian Food what McCain/Palin is to American Politics. Draw your own conclusions.

Has Olive Garden Joined The Ranks Of Anti-Letterman Loonies?

Conservative Thoughts: Uncovering The Soul Of America

It’s so easy to forget that not all people who ascribe to any particular political party, ideal or belief all think alike. During these past 8 years of Bush/Cheney, it’s been hard to keep that in mind as so much of what I personally value about this country was threatened. Some would say Bush’s intentions were good, but his decisions were bad. Others would say he had a personal agenda and simply lied to get what he wanted. I have no way of knowing where the truth lies, but I do know that I felt increasingly like I had found myself in a country I no longer recognized. Sure, most of the people around me shared my beliefs and fears, but I live in Los Angeles, a liberal city, and work in the entertainment industry–as an artist, not a businessman. So my experience of what people think and what they believe based on my personal experience does not very likely reflect the majority of this country.

When President Bush got reelected in 2004, my heart sank and a tangible layer of hope and optimism was stripped away; I no longer had faith that Americans as a whole could recognize what was happening to them; that our ability as a nation to be self-aware, to learn from past mistakes, had eroded. Or never existed at all.

But this election has given me a renewed sense of hope. And not just because I believe Barack Obama might move this nation toward a vision of America I personally share. I’ve seen too many politicians come and go, too many promises forgotten or pushed aside. I know that, even though Obama is unquestionably the most exciting candidate to come along in my politically aware lifetime, he could prove to be “just another politician.”

No, what’s renewed my hope and optimism is the McCain/Palin campaign. That’s right. McCain/Palin. To my mind, Sarah Palin was a supremely irresponsible choice for running mate on the part of John McCain. Though I understood the initial attraction so far as changing the political game by tossing in the unexpected and stealing some of your opponent’s thunder, I felt it would be a disaster for the country if she were to get elected. Initially, upon watching the Republican base embrace this woman, a familiar dread began to stir inside me.

As I continued to watch John McCain toss aside many of his own beliefs throughout this campaign, as I watched his desire to be president take him down paths I thought quite disturbing, I feared I would once again be in the minority and that I would end up in that Twilight Zone where no one seems to see what’s going on. But as John McCain’s campaign became uglier, nastier… as he himself showed us a man straining and failing not to come across arrogant, condescending and angry… As Sarah Palin proved over and over again that she was nowhere near ready to represent the best America had to offer, people started speaking up. And not just people like me, not just liberal Democrats who knew without question which way they were voting early in this campaign, but conservatives, Republicans, military personnel, political advisors, on and on… They too saw what was happening and began speaking out, voicing their concerns, sharing their thoughts. And so they started coming out against the candidate who represented the party that most closely epitomized their ideals and vision of America. Not because they had lost faith in the party, but because they realized that the man and woman heading the call of that party no longer represented them; they had gone to a place that was so clearly damaging, so obviously rooted in something other than the best interests of this nation, that to deny that would be to allow this country to slip deeper down the dark chasm it has been sliding down for eight long years. Only this time, the world was in an even more dangerous, even more vulnerable place. And so was America.

On October 20th, conservative diplomat, political writer, and policy analyst, Ken Adelman, came out for Barack Obama. Or, more precisely, against John McCain. Adelman was once an advisor to President Reagan and the Assistant to United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He was initially a big supporter of the Iraq War. In the most recent edition of THE NEW YORKER, Adelman discusses his reasons for not supporting John McCain:

Ken Adelman
Ken Adelman

“When the economic crisis broke, I found John McCain bouncing all over the place. In those first few crisis days, he was impetuous, inconsistent, and imprudent; ending up just plain weird. Having worked with Ronald Reagan for seven years, and been with him in his critical three summits with Gorbachev, I’ve concluded that that’s no way a president can act under pressure. Second is judgment. The most important decision John McCain made in his long campaign was deciding on a running mate. That decision showed appalling lack of judgment. Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office—I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency. But that selection contradicted McCain’s main two, and best two, themes for his campaign—Country First, and experience counts. Neither can he credibly claim, post-Palin pick.”

In his article today in the Huffington Post, Adelman stated:











“I’ve considered myself less of a partisan than an ideologue. I cared about conservative principles, and still do, instead of caring about the GOP.

“Granted, McCain’s views are closer to mine than Obama’s. But I’ve learned over this Bush era to value competence along with ideology. Otherwise, our ideology gets discredited, as it has so disastrously over the past eight years.

“McCain’s temperament — leading him to bizarre behavior during the week the economic crisis broke — and his judgment — leading him to Wasilla — depressed me into thinking that “our guy” would be a(nother) lousy conservative president. Been there, done that.

“I’d rather a competent moderate president. Even at a risk, since Obama lacks lots of executive experience displaying competence (though his presidential campaign has been spot-on). And since his Senate voting record is not moderate, but depressingly liberal. Looming in the background, Pelosi and Reid really scare me.

“Nonetheless, I concluded that McCain would not — could not — be a good president. Obama just might be.

“That’s become good enough for me — however much of a triumph (as Dr. Johnson said about second marriages) of hope over experience.”

In yesterday’s online edition of NEWSWEEK, ex-Bush official Nicholas Burns also came out against McCain and Palin. It should be noted that Mr. Burns, now retired, was the United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs within the Department of State, the highest-ranking American career diplomat. He was appointed to the U.S. Senate by President George W. Bush in 2005. Here is what he had to say:
























Nicholas Burns
Nicholas Burns

“Are McCain and Palin correct that America should stonewall its foes? I lived this issue for 27 years as a career diplomat, serving both Republican and Democratic administrations. Maybe that’s why I’ve been struggling to find the real wisdom and logic in this Republican assault against Obama. I’ll bet that a poll of senior diplomats who have served presidents from Carter to Bush would reveal an overwhelming majority who agree with the following position: of course we should talk to difficult adversaries—when it is in our interest and at a time of our choosing.

“The more challenging and pertinent question, especially for the McCain-Palin ticket, is the reverse: Is it really smart to declare we will never talk to such leaders? Is it really in our long-term national interest to shut ourselves off from one of the most important and powerful states in the Middle East—Iran—or one of our major suppliers of oil, Venezuela?…

“The real truth Americans need to embrace is that nearly all of the most urgent global challenges—the quaking financial markets, climate change, terrorism—cannot be resolved by America’s acting alone in the world. Rather than retreat into isolationism, as we have often done in our history, or go it alone as the unilateralists advocated disastrously in the past decade, we need to commit ourselves to a national strategy of smart engagement with the rest of the world. Simply put, we need all the friends we can get. And we need to think more creatively about how to blunt the power of opponents through smart diplomacy, not just the force of arms.

“Talking to our adversaries is no one’s idea of fun, and it is not a sure prescription for success in every crisis. But it is crude, simplistic and wrong to charge that negotiations reflect weakness or appeasement. More often than not, they are evidence of a strong and self-confident country. One of America’s greatest but often neglected strengths is, in fact, our diplomatic power. Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Libya in September—the first by a U.S. secretary of state in five decades—was the culmination of years of careful, deliberate diplomacy to maneuver the Libyan leadership to give up its weapons of mass destruction and renounce terrorism. She would not have achieved that victory had she refused to talk to the Libyans…

“Rather than default to the idea of using U.S. military force against Iran, wouldn’t it make more sense for the next American president to offer to negotiate with the Iranian leadership?…

“The next U.S. president will have little chance of securing peace in the Middle East if he doesn’t determine Iran’s bottom line on the nuclear issue through talks. Similarly, there will be no peace treaty between Syria and Israel if we don’t support the talks underway between those countries…

“The next president needs to act more creatively and boldly to defend our interests by revalidating diplomacy as a key weapon in our national arsenal and rebuilding our understaffed and underfunded diplomatic corps. Of course he will need to reserve the right to use force against the most vicious and implacable of our foes. More often than not, however, he will find that dialogue and discussion, talking and listening, are the smarter ways to defend our country, end crises and sometimes even sow the seeds of an ultimate peace.”

We are still a young country. We are still trying to understand and define the soul of America. Who are we? As a nation? As a people? Are we destined for greatness, or are we to be yet another example of greatness gone awry, misled? Are these just growing pains, or is it a death rattle?

The process of that discovery is fraught with hardship and loss, with changes and growth both exciting and terrifying. It is a painful path, an uncertain path, a demanding path. But a path that if taken with eyes and hearts wide open, with a desire for self-awareness, self-criticism and self-respect, then America may just find its soul and learn to nurture it. And I believe the whole world would be a better place for it.

Someone once told me the closer you get to achieving your life’s goals, to becoming the things that you are most compelled to be, the more monsters and demons will rise up to stop you. And many of those monsters and demons will be of your own making. I have found this to be true. Both in my personal growth and in watching the growth of this country, both historically and presently. I hope we can face those monsters together and find ourselves, one day, on the other side.

Conservative Thoughts: Uncovering The Soul Of America

New RNC “Terrorist” Flyer & The Goldwaters Endorse Barack

With less than 2 weeks before election day, McCain’s campaign continues to slip deeper and deeper into the muck. Now understand, McCain and his advisors are hyper-aware that Republicans are leaving him en masse and endorsing Barack Obama instead. And two of the top reasons are 1). The belief that Sarah Palin is not qualified to be Vice President or President and is a worrisome reflection on Mr. McCain’s decision-making abilities and 2). McCain’s vile smear campaign against Barack Obama, especially those that suggest he’s a terrorist. But even in the face of this, McCain and the RNC continue to self-destruct and prove that they are truly incapable of listening to the public or learning from their mistakes. Not meaning to sound like a campaign ad myself, but are these the qualities we want from a President and his advisors?

The Republican National Committee is distributing a mail piece that says “Terrorists” on the front and opens to a big picture of Barack saying “Not Who You Think He Is.”

CBS’ Early Show anchor Harry Smith interviewed Barack Obama yesterday and asked him about McCain’s negative ad campaign:

Harry Smith: The rancorous tone of this campaign – I was with John McCain on Monday, and I said, ‘Our poll data shows that it’s actually hurting you.’ He says, ‘I wouldn’t be doing it if he weren’t doing it.’

Barack Obama (laughing): Well, look. I – I mean – politics is tough. … But I will say this: I don’t think there’s any equivalence between what we’ve been doing and what John McCain’s been doing. … Witness some of the comments that have been made just over the last several months, his last several weeks, ‘Socialistic.’ You know, ‘Pals around with terrorists.’ I mean, just – the kinds of stuff that – that I can’t imagine saying about an opponent of mine. 

So let me get this straight… Sen. McCain suggested that, even though he’s aware these ads are hurting him and his campaign, his excuse for continuing them is basically “He started it”? And this is a man running for President of the United States? It seems to me the more Sen. McCain tries to separate himself from President Bush, the more he seems to embrace Mr. Bush’s fear-based approach to getting what he wants, despite the fact that it seems clearer with each passing day that the majority of Americans are fed up and even downright resentful of this hateful strategy. Mr. McCain has dug himself a hole. And the only solution he’s come up with so far is to continue digging. What’s worse, he seems to believe Americans will follow. But it seems to me they’re scrambling to get out.

Today Barry “Mr. Conservative” Goldwater’s granddaughter, CC Goldwater, added her name to the long list of Republicans coming out publicly against John McCain:

Being Barry Goldwater’s granddaughter and living in Arizona, one would assume that I would be voting for our state’s senator, John McCain. I am still struck by certain ‘dyed in the wool’ Republicans who are on the fence this election, as it seems like a no-brainer to me.

Myself, along with my siblings and a few cousins, will not be supporting the Republican presidential candidates this year. We believe strongly in what our grandfather stood for: honesty, integrity, and personal freedom, free from political maneuvering and fear tactics…

…the Republican brand has been tarnished in a shameless effort to gain votes and appeal to the lowest emotion, fear. Nothing about McCain, except for maybe a uniform, compares to the same ideology of what Goldwater stood for as a politician. The McCain/Palin plan is to appear diverse and inclusive, using women and minorities to push an agenda that makes us all financially vulnerable, fearful, and less safe.

When you see the candidate’s in political ads, you can’t help but be reminded of the 1964 presidential campaign of Johnson/Goldwater, the ‘origin of spin’, that twists the truth and obscures what really matters. Nothing about the Republican ticket offers the hope America needs to regain it’s standing in the world, that’s why we’re going to support Barack Obama. I think that Obama has shown his ability and integrity.

After the last eight years, there’s a lot of clean up do. Roll up your sleeves, Senators Obama and Biden, and we Goldwaters will roll ours up with you.

‘Nuff said.

New RNC “Terrorist” Flyer & The Goldwaters Endorse Barack

McCain, Palin Let Fans’ Hatred Swell To Disturbing Proportions

I commented on this just several days ago in an earlier post, but it seems even ordinary Republicans are commenting on the very real dangers inherent in this sort of irresponsible campaigning. While the “lynch mobs” are getting their anger and hatred fueled by both McCain and Palin, the “real” Republicans are starting to insist that this has nothing to do with what they signed on for and some are actively beginning to revoke their support for McCain/Palin.

At a McCain rally just last Wednesday in Pennsylvania, a woman yelled out about Obama, “He’s a damn liar! Get him. He’s bad for our country.”  Activists are openly calling Obama a terrorist. At another rally on Thursday, the crowd busted out with name calling with one woman ranting, “Obama Osama!” , while local officials at other McCain/Palin rallies have warmed up the crowds by railing against Barack Hussein Obama.” In the meantime, John McCain and Sarah Palin have done nothing to temper this behavior, but have, in fact, continued to incite it!

Even John Weaver, McCain’s former top strategist, has openly commented that it is McCain and Palin’s responsibility to temper this behavior:

“People need to understand, for moral reasons and the protection of our civil society, the differences with Sen. Obama are ideological, based on clear differences on policy and a lack of experience compared to Sen. McCain. And from a purely practical political vantage point, please find me a swing voter, an undecided independent, or a torn female voter that finds an angry mob mentality attractive.

“Sen. Obama is a classic liberal with an outdated economic agenda. We should take that agenda on in a robust manner. As a party we should not and must not stand by as the small amount of haters in our society question whether he is as American as the rest of us. Shame on them and shame on us if we allow this to take hold.” 

Today, former Republican Gov. William Milliken reported that he will no longer be supporting John McCain:

“He is not the McCain I endorsed. He keeps saying, ‘Who is Barack Obama?’ I would ask the question, ‘Who is John McCain?’ because his campaign has become rather disappointing to me.

“I’m disappointed in the tenor and the personal attacks on the part of the McCain campaign, when he ought to be talking about the issues.” 

Milken, who is 86, went on to comment about the McCain/Palin ticket:

“I know John McCain is 72. In my book, that’s quite young. [But] what if [Palin] were to become president of the United States? The idea, to me, is quite disturbing, if not appalling.

“Increasingly, the party is moving toward rigidity, and I don’t like that. I think Gerald Ford would hold generally the same view I’m holding on the direction of the Republican Party.”

Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican U.S. senator from Rhode Island, said he’s voting for Obama and urging others to do likewise:

“That’s not my kind of Republicanism. I saw what Bush and Cheney did. They came in with a (budget) surplus and a stable world, and look what’s happened now. In eight short years they’ve taken one peaceful and prosperous world, and they’ve torn it into tatters… there are a whole lot of us deserting.”

Bob Eleveld,  a former Kent County Republican chairman who led McCain’s West Michigan campaign in 2000, had this to say:

“I think the straight talk is gone. I think he’s pandering to the Christian right. That’s some straight talk from me.”

Here’s a video from a McCain rally in which Senator McCain lets a supporter rant about “socialists taking over our country” and refer to Barack Obama and other Democrats as “hooligans.”:

John J. Pitney Jr., a political science professor at California’s Claremont McKenna College and former Republican operative, had this to say about Republicans acting out their longstanding frustrations:

“McCain has always frustrated the Republican base. In this campaign, he has alternated between partisan attacks and calls for bipartisan cooperation. It’s nice that he thinks he can round up congressional votes the way a border collie rounds up sheep. But you can’t be a border collie and a pit bull at the same time. The crowds want a pit bull.” 

I said it earlier and I’ll repeat it because it bears repeating. This is dangerous. This is not a battle of ideologies, but a lynch mob. There is very real violence that can erupt out of this and people may be killed as a result. McCain and Palin are losing this election and they are desperate. Desperate enough to incite the most dangerous and long-brewing characteristics of their worst followers. And this is the team running for highest office in our land? Is this what we’ve been reduced to? A country built on angry mob mentality? This country has been split in ways not seen since the Civil War and only nearly matched by the protest movements of the Vietnam era. Do not underestimate the power of people when they become frightened and feel cornered and their hatred, fear, and anger is given fuel.

McCain, Palin Let Fans’ Hatred Swell To Disturbing Proportions

Say It Aint So, Sarah… McCain / Palin Create Dangerous Prologue

“Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again.”

Ahhh, who can forget this recent folksy remark made just days ago by the lovely Sarah Palin to Joe Biden during their debate. But within what seems mere minutes (but was, in fact, about 24 hours), Gov. Palin attacked Barack Obama and suggested he was palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.” As I wrote about in an earlier post, she was referring to Bill Ayers whom Barack Obama has called “somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.” 

But what are other sources saying about this? The New York Times states:

“the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers.”

CNN Political Ticker:

“False. There is no indication that Ayers and Obama are now palling around, or that they have had an ongoing relationship in the past three years. Also, there is nothing to suggest that Ayers is now involved in terrorist activity or that other Obama associates are….CNN’s review of project records found nothing to suggest anything inappropriate in the volunteer projects in which the two men were involved.”

The Washington Post called the Obama-Ayers link “a tenuous one.” 

The list goes on. But Palin is smear-happy, even going against her own running-mate’s wishes.  While talking to neoconservative columnist Bill Kristol, Palin said about Barack Obama’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

“To tell you the truth, Bill, I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up.”

Sen. McCain had said not all that long ago:

“I think that when people support you, it doesn’t mean you support everything they say. Obviously, those statements are things none of us would associate ourselves with.”

In fact, here he is elaborating on that very topic:

Well, doggone it, Sarah, what were you thinking?

Patrick Ruffini, a Republican operative who worked on Bush’s reelection campaign, said today about McCain’s choice of bringing up the Obama-Ayers connection:

“…he should have been doing it back in July. Starting now appears desperate.”

Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, posted this today:

McCain and his campaign now are acting out of frustration and a touch of desperation. With four short weeks to go, and a campaign where McCain is losing nationally, losing in the majority of the battleground states, with a diminishing number of hotly competitive blue state targets and an expanded number of red state ones, and with a campaign terrain dominated by economic turmoil, McCain needs to change the conversation.

Now, of course, the Obama campaign is hitting back by bringing up the Keating Five economic scandal I referred to in yesterday’s post. Here’s a 13 minute documentary put out today by the Obama campaign:

Now it needs to be said: In February 1991, the Senate Ethics Committee found McCain guilty of nothing more than “poor judgment” and declared his actions were not “improper nor attended with gross negligence.” In other words, McCain attended the meetings but did nothing else to influence the regulators. But it is this “poor judgment” that is in question here as the very same judgement cost taxpayers $2.6 billion, making it the biggest of the S&L scandals. In addition, 17,000 Lincoln investors lost $190 million. adds:

The failure of the Lincoln Savings and Loan and other S&L’s pushed the country into a recession, costing the U.S. government $126 billion dollars in FDIC insurance payouts to investors. All of this came to a crescendo during the first year of the presidency of George H.W. Bush, who pushed through the S&L bailout plan to keep the economy afloat.

Sound familiar?

So what exactly WAS McCain’s relationship with Keating? continues:

After McCain’s election to the House in 1982, he and his family made at least nine trips at Keating’s expense, three of which were to Keating’s Bahamas retreat. McCain did not disclose the trips (as he was required to under House rules) until the scandal broke in 1989. At that point, he paid Keating $13,433 for the flights.

And in April 1986, one year before the meeting with the regulators, McCain’s wife, Cindy, and her father invested $359,100 in a Keating strip mall.

And what was McCain’s response to all this? says this:

John McCain

And what of Cindy McCain’s investment? After Keating was later convicted on 73 counts of fraud, conspiracy, and other crimes, Cindy McCain sold her investment for $15,000,000.

As Joe Biden stated, the past is prologue. Unfortunately for John McCain, unlike his accusations against Barack Obama, none of Mr. McCain’s past associations or history here is in the least bit tenuous or speculative but, in fact, well documented.

Say It Aint So, Sarah… McCain / Palin Create Dangerous Prologue

Resurrecting The Keating Five

With all the Swift-Boat-like attacks pouring out of the McCain/Palin camp aimed at Barack Obama, people may want to brush up on their Keating Five history and Mr. McCain’s involvement as one of those five. It seems it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to resurrect this piece of history and remind voters of one of the MANY skeletons in Mr. McCain’s closet. Remember the old saying about throwing stones in glass houses?

Here’s a brief summary as outlined by

Charles Keating owned a savings and loan in California. He was illegally using the money of his bank’s customers to give loans to himself and friends that they didn’t have to repay, and to speculate on risky real estate investments, which was strictly forbidden by U.S. law (and was one cause of the Great Depression).

When the feds found out what was going on and launched an investigation into Keating and his company, Keating called five U.S. Senators whom he had wined, dined, and lavished with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations and personal gifts.

Keating asked the five Senators to tell the feds to bug off, and the five Senators, later known as the Keating Five, obliged, meeting with federal investigators twice and pressuring them to stop investigating Keating’s crimes. They bought Keating some time, but the feds didn’t give up and eventually Keating was nailed. The reason the feds were so persistent was because Keating wasn’t playing with mere chump change. Keating blew $3.4 billion through illegal personal loans and bad investments, and the FDIC had to reimburse Keating’s customers who had been ripped off.

(Background Info – Keating wasn’t the only Savings and Loan owner who was committing fraud, 20% of the S&L’s that failed during that three year period were found to have been caused by fraud and/or insider trading. The failure of the Lincoln Savings and Loan and other S&L’s pushed the country into a recession, costing the U.S. government $126 billion dollars in FDIC insurance payouts to investors. All of this came to a crescendo during the first year of the presidency of George H.W. Bush, who pushed through the S&L bailout plan to keep the economy afloat.)

When the involvement of the Keating Five was made public, a scandal erupted and the Senate Ethics Committee launched their own investigation into whether the Keating Five had violated Senate ethics rules. The other four Senators left office either immediately or within one term. John McCain was formally rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for exercising “poor judgment” for intervening with the federal regulators on behalf of Keating, but because McCain accepted Keating’s gifts of travel and vacations to Bahama while McCain was a member of the House of Representatives (he served one term there before moving to the Senate), the Senate claimed they had no jurisdiction to censure McCain. (However the meetings to pressure federal regulators occurred during the first few months of McCain serving in the Senate in 1987, so that excuse doesn’t hold up)

John McCain then went back to the drawing board and re-invented himself as “the Straight-Talk Express” and the media gobbled it up. “Tax-Evading-Criminal” doesn’t sound as catchy as “Straight-Shooting-War-Hero”.

And if you don’t like that particular piece of history, you can purchase this John McCain doll at Entertainment Earth for only $12.99 and re-enact your own version of events.

Resurrecting The Keating Five