173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008

So. Farewell then
barack-obama-the-audacity-of-hope-random-house.jpg Barack Hussein Obama
The Audacity of Hope

For five January days
We believed
The world could change

And then New Hampshire
Told you
They’d changed their minds
Instead.

With apologies to EJ Thribb (17 ½)

* * * * *

Coming soon:
To mark the start of USA 2008 new-hampshire-snow-by-atonal-at-flickrdotcom.jpgthis column is taking temporary residence deep in the snows of New Hampshire.

Please see From Scratch for a specially syndicated Roads of Stone, reporting on the US primaries.

173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008 : : 173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008 : : 173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008 : : 173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008 : : 173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008 : : 173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008

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110. The hands that built America – Houston skylines
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4. GO British ! Chicago Marathon 2002
17. It’s puzzling – a letter on Iraq, to Tony Blair
71. How the West Was Won – Iraq implodes

36 responses to “173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008

  1. I am so looking forward to having your contribution on From Scratch Sunday morning. I know readers everywhere will find it as fascinating as I do. Thank you for writing it.

    I am still upset about Obama’s loss (although I console myself by translating Hillary’s 39% win into 61% did not want her) and I’m eager to see how he does in South Carolina. As a NH resident, I’ve met him a couple times and my gut reaction is that he is quite genuine. A politician, yes, but a genuine man.

  2. Thanks very much, Ella. Who knows how it’ll all turn out now?

    But it’s going to be fascinating to watch. I love elections, and you somehow manage to call fifty of them, before you’ve even started …

  3. My views match up with Obama’s public record 80%-90%, according to a couple of online candidate selection sites. I’m hoping all NH meant is that he’s in for a bit of a fight. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with making a real fight out of it, if it gets people engaged again and thinking about the issues.

    But if the media and the ‘merican public turn the election campaign into a sort of glorified version of “American Idol” (as Hillary’s tears seem to have accomplished), then I’m afraid nothing will have really changed at all.

  4. Ah, yes – Hillary’s tears. I wondered what you might make of those. We only saw a short segment on the BBC, without the background or context.

    The view put forward was that they stemmed from sheer exhaustion rather than a desire to manipulate.

    Whatever the truth, those waterworks seemed to provide the pendulum shift her campaign so badly needed, and at the same time it felt rather rich for us to criticise Hillary for being cool and unemotional, and then to castigate her for turning on the melodrama.

    I agree with you that the all-pervading media spin of modern politics has a lot to answer for. In this country it brought us a decade of Tony Blair, who at his best proved a sublime and inspiringly passionate communicator, but on the flip side was often accused in more recent years as relentlessly favouring style over substance.

    We’ve gone full circle now, since in Gordon Brown we have the antithesis of Blair – a man so doggedly dull and poorly advised on his policy presentation and electoral strategy that he looks old-fashioned and cumbersome by modern standards, despite his generally sound convictions.

    I’ve wondered in recent days about the feasibility of a Clinton dream ticket, with Obama as Hillary’s Vice Presidential running mate.

    That would seem to make compelling electoral sense, but I’m unsure of the protocol and precedents for such a choice. I guess it would have to came late in the primary campaign, to enable both candidates to develop a separate but complementary following. It would also have to assume they hadn’t destroyed each other along the way.

    I just can’t see it working the other way around, though – Hillary would surely find it impossible to stand in the White House shadows now.

  5. Here’s Gary Varvel’s take on Hillary’s tears

  6. Change. The key theme to the Democratic nomination, or so it seems. Yet we have two candidates from very different backgrounds with apparently similar agendas both reverting to type in recent days.

    Hillary’s Tears were beautifully stage-managed but I’m certain will prove to be as ill-thought out as Obama’s shameless and repeated production of that horribly crumpled Race Card. If the best Obama can do when criticised or put under pressure is cry ‘Is it because I is black?’ the closest he’ll get to a white house is if he visits deepest Arkansas on the wrong night. For sure he tried to make ammends with his recent address, acknowledging that Hill n Bill have ‘always been on the right side of civil rights issues’, but he stopped short of dismissing any suggestion that they had sought to use his being a person of color (sic) in a derogatory way.

    I’ve read what the Clintons said in the last 48 hours and I’m darned if I can find a single thing taht could possibly be considered to be a derogatory reference based on race. Obama’s sensitivities are showing like an ill-fitted petticoat and that will not do when one has to face the issues of the modern international world.

    Both have displayed poor judgement and the one trait the American electorate will not tolerate when angry push comes to rude shove is weakness or the suggestion of weakness.

    Grow up, the pair of you. Stand or fall on your convictions and don’t resport to transluscent party tricks or tired cliché. Look what happened the last time the Democrats left the door a-jar;
    Please God, not again.

    Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes . . .
    Not much change around here.

  7. Well put, Sweder, albeit from the same distance away from the campaign as where I sit now.

    The delicacies of so-called Civil Rights issues in the US have always remained something of a mystery to me.

    ‘The land of the free’ – and yet in some ways there is still a more effectively brutal race- and economic segregation in some American cities than in many other parts of the world.

    Such is life (nowhere is perfect, especially not Britain) and yet it is a symptom of America’s paranoia in the post 9/11 age that even a false (and obliquely implied) suggestion that Obama might be a closet Muslim could be seen as potentially devastatingly damaging to his electoral campaign.

    It also puzzles me (and call me a cynic if you like) that a self-confessed agnostic candidate should somehow and suddenly feel the need to adopt a church and pastor of his own.

    Both of these notions are laughable and lamentable in their own way, and seem to underline the observation that religion and politics should always be kept entirely separate.

    And that is despite my own rather contrarian view that Jesus was certainly a cultural and political Marxist and not in the least in tune with anything approaching a conservative ideology.

    But what do I know? Not much.

    Perhaps the most interesting part of the campaign is about to begin. Will the good folks of the deep American south really be ready to vote for a black Presidential candidate?

    I so hope they are.

    But South Carolina will give us a much clearer answer on that question than the midwest or New England ever could.

    And we’ll find out soon enough.

  8. So, give me some good reasons to vote for this guy. Because I’ll be honest, right now I’m on the fence and as far as I can see there’s very little difference between them. Looking at this site: http://www.2decide.com/table.htm they seem nearly identical in their policies, the only notable difference being an ‘unknown’ for Obama’s stand on Kyoto. Hillary is certainly annoying but is that reason enough to choose the other guy? At the moment I’m ready to flip a coin.

  9. ” … they seem nearly identical in their policies, the only notable difference being an ‘unknown’ for Obama’s stand on Kyoto. Hillary is certainly annoying but is that reason enough to choose the other guy? At the moment I’m ready to flip a coin.”

    That’s an excellent summary, Elayne. I haven’t seen enough of this campaign, which is why it’s great that there’s still some good way to run within this race.

    Hillary’s stance on Iraq worried me. There was that week in 2003 when the key decisions were made.

    I can remember our discussions before the Iraq war so well, and sometimes it’s hard to believe that five years of almost non-stop horror and appalling bloodshed have gone by since then. But they have.

    The easily and exemplarily ‘patriotic’ thing to do, at that time, was to say, ‘I support this, and I stand by our troops in their hour of action.’ As I understand it, that’s what Hillary did.

    It would have been hard for her to do otherwise, since she’s a consummate politician and she had a lot to lose. It was a calculated choice, which she has been unable to back away from ever since.

    There was another response available, though. Along the lines of, ‘This is an illegal invasion carried out without international support and in the total absence of any compelling evidence for WMD.’

    ‘In those conditions, these actions will only serve to undermine and endanger America’s position and standing in the world, and will incite further violence, massive loss of life and a deep and lasting hatred of America amongst more of the Middle East than already is the case.’ (Correct prediction on all counts).

    ‘Under those circumstances, I don’t want to see a single American life lost in what may prove to be a decades-long war which we can never win, and which we may well lose in places far beyond Iraq.’ (Correct prediction, at least so far and for the first half of the first decade).

    And as I understand it, that is almost exactly what the other guy said.

    You’re right, of course, that there may be few substantial policy differences to choose between these candidates – they’re both Democrats, after all.

    This reality of common ground appears to be something which they have both realised whilst pulling the daggers from each others’ backs this week.

    But beyond that, I suppose for me it comes down to whether or not I have any vestigial hope that the world can really change. Whether or not we’re simply doomed to a future of pragmatically-made political decisions carried out through a cool calculation of electoral and personal gain.

    Or whether there might be just some tiny scope left in this world for a modern US President to think a little more laterally and less selfishly, and to stand up for good sense and what is right.

    I’m sure that Ella can provide you with lots more reasons. As you know, I’m not a US voter, but those might be my questions to the candidates, if perhaps I were.

    Many thanks again, Elayne. It’s great to hear from you.

  10. Like many, I was taught as a child never to discuss religion or politics. So with one fell swoop….

    I might be the only person in this discussion who has already been able to vote for Obama for president, in the NH primary. I’d never presume to try to persuade another to my POV but I will say three reasons he got my vote are Iraq, Hillary as a person — I think her character is flawed as is her husband’s, but in a different way. I don’t trust her, I don’t like her and I don’t always believe her. Obama might not be perfect but reason #2 brings me to #3: in this case I do not accept the adage, “Better the devil you know…” I’ll take my chances on the potential devil I don’t know. I don’t want the circus back in town.

    Obama’s church-going goes back at least 20 years and his book, The Audacity of Hope, takes its title from a long-ago sermon by a now-controversial minister. I recommend this, by the a Washington correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, a well-respected newspaper:

    http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/politics/blog/2008/01/obamas_spiritual_mentor.html

    Was Obama thinking of politics all those years ago? Maybe, even possibly or probably. William Jefferson Clinton had the White House in mind when he was photographed with JFK all those years ago. Still, better the potential devil I don’t know.

    As for Hillary’s “tears” I seem to be the only person in the blogosphere who did not see crying. For those who only saw a snippet, the full clip is on a specialized blog of mine:

    http://politicalvideos.wordpress.com/2008/01/08/hillary-gets-emotional/

    If you visit that blog, do take a moment to watch the Daisy Ad, the most famous and infamous political ad in US history. It ran only once.

    I’ve blabbered enough here, but before I shut my trap I’d like to thank roads again for the wonderful Letter from London.

    OK, I’ll also plug my candidate – Barry!

  11. That’s great, Ella – thank you. Wright sounds like an inspiring and thought-provoking speaker.

    Now I’m just left wondering why Obama spent all those years going to church if he wasn’t sure he really believed in it. But to labour that point would be to condemn so many people, including somewhat occasionally the person typing now. And so I won’t.

  12. And thank you. The political video blog is a (selfish) labor of love. While it’s open to the public I have not opened it to search engines and probably never will. I rather enjoy not even thinking about things such as page views and rankings.

    As for church going, I can’t cast the first stone either. I have no business even picking one up.

  13. Picking up stones is a lifetime’s work for me…🙂

  14. Howdy Ella, nice blog BTW.
    Agreed, no tears, just a little catch in the voice and an extra blink which, when seen against the backdrop of recent debate here looks even more manufactured than I’d first feared.

    Remember that wonderful movie Broadcast News (with the adorable Holly Hunter and and excellent William Hurt)? The undignified scramble to make anchor bears an uncanny resemblance to the Democratic primaries, complete with Hurt’s crocodile tears for the cutaway. Hurt’s clumsy effort was ultimately exposed, resulting in the loss of Hunter (surely more devastating than losing the nomination?). Hillary was smart enough not to peel a strong onion under the desk and was, as you suggest, simply tired and emotional. Lest we forget the pollsters had forecast she would be beaten like a red-headed stepchild by Obama in a matter of hours, so the weariness may well have been heartfelt. I hear this morning she’s pipped Obama in Navada (sounds like the ingredients of a limmerick); this one’s going to the wire.

    It’s times like these I miss my mentor, that political junkie and reknowned drug fiend Doctor Hunter S Thompson. HST covered Mr Bill’s march to the Whitehouse in his collection of notes and missives Better Than Sex; I recommend it highly, especially now. The Night of the Whorehoppers could be making a comeback.

    I couldn’t find the Daisy Ad on the page or your site. I’ll search YouTube, though it may, like the Tom Cruise Scientologists Ad, have gone the way of all flesh.

    Like Roads I feel like an interloper here, except that it matters to all of us who grabs the reigns in the White House. As soon as Dumb George gets the ink on that defining Middle East Peace Treaty we’ll be left with Environmental Impact as our primary global concern. So it doesn’t really matter to me what colour the winning candidate is, provided his or her fingers are genuinely green.

  15. Excellent writing as usual, Sweder. Thanks for adding your prose to this column.

    The daisy ad. It’s filed under ‘classics’ and there are plenty of them there.

    Interesting to think that it caused a furore at the time. The closest UK controversy-creating analogue I could think of was that notorious late 1980s gravestone advert reminding people of the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

    And then there was the famous ‘Jennifer’s Ear’ video about the NHS. As I recall, it provided Radio 4 discussion fodder for several weeks.

    But we’ve never really done the US thing with political adverts mixed up with our corn flakes.

    By placing our political adverts within clearly identified slots inside the schedule and labelling them as ‘Party Political Broadcasts’, we allow everyone to do the sensible thing and switch them off.

  16. Quote of the Week.

    Yesterday’s Guardian spotted this gem of a description of Barack Obama, in the Las Vegas Review Journal.

    As I recall, the technique is called ‘damning with faint praise’…

    “A relatively young man with relatively little of the kind of real-world experience that prepares a candidate to stand firm against urgent advice to say, bomb some remote population of defenceless civilians to ‘send’ a message … But Barack Obama is, at least, likeable.”

  17. Well, thank you all for your info. and points of view. The reality is that I will probably vote for Obama in the end, I just wish I could feel better about it. Yeah, sure, he spoke up against the war back then but will he show the same backbone when he has so much more to lose? There was a program on Democracy Now about how all the candidates take money from the corporations (yeah, I know, duh). Obama didn’t even need the money but he took it anyway because he had to go along and play nice with them.

    Here’s another interesting interview from Democracy Now about the candidates top advisors: http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/3/vote_for_change_atrocity_linked_us

    Anybody remember the old Bloom County cartoon where Opus the penguin is in the voting booth debating over 2 equally unappealing candidates. He finally makes a choice, pulls the lever and gets hit in the face with a pie. That’s pretty much how I feel about it.

  18. I can’t say I’ve seen that cartoon, Elayne – it sounds like perfect material for Ella’s political video blog.

    That feeling is a regular one in British politics, too. It’s an improvement on the Kenya situation, of course, where you vote and then someone burns you to death in church or slashes your family to pieces with a machete.

    I suppose the situation we do have to avoid in future, realistically, is where we make a choice and then a million or so Middle Eastern citizens end up dead as a direct result.

    *Gulp*. And to think I voted for Tony, too.

  19. I agree with Roads; it’s just as bad here.
    We ”appear’ to have more choice, though I think Springsteen said it all when we lampooned cable tv with ’57 channels and nothin’ on’. Not much point having a broad menu if they all taste the same in the end.

    I voted Lib Dem last time around, mostly because they’re effective in my local area and proved they can keep the Tories out – no bad reason! Sadly it also meant I voted for a national party with a drunk at the helm, a rudder rotted away all to hell and a dithering windbag set to follow on.

    I wake up some nights in a cold sweat.

    In 1930’s Germany they had a stockpile of economic and migrant-related issues that were not getting addressed. Up stepped a bright young thing and the rest, sadly, is history. In Iran some decades ago a priest stood up and made the people dance, overthrowing the apparent tyranny of the Shah – Shah-Shah A Go-Go as the mighty Stranglers put it. Talk to locals (as I have) who remember the country under the Shah and they speak, misty-eyed, of good times lost.

    UK politics is ripe for a charismatic figure to rise from the dross and offer to lead us to the promised land. I have no faith in my fellow British voter – sheep-like devotion to celebrity driven media is rife here. Get the right (wrong) guy with excellent media connections and we’re in the soup and no mistake.

    I don’t see this potential for harm in the current US ding-dong, though that may be because I’m out of the loop. Obama and Clinton are both race-sensitive, though I suspect the winner, should they go on the win the Big Prize, may have their principles fiercly tested in the years to come, not least on the issue of Hispanic workers.

    Immigration is a massive issue here, not just in the popular press but amongst the working and chattering classes. Whether it’s the exponential expansion of Asian communities, the perceived (and real) degradation of urban areas by minority groups or the influx of incompetant yet affordable Eastern European workers. It’s the most combustable political fuel there is and I truly fear for the future if, as I suspect, someone out there manages to jump into our political vacuum armed with a burning torch. Or cross.

    As ever there are more questions than answers. If we fail to engage future generations in genuine political debate away from the tabloids and the phone-ins the future is bleak indeed.

  20. Yes, Sweder – I simplified. In fact, I voted LibDem last time as well (in my constituency that is the tactical non-Tory choice – who said we have a great political system in this country, ‘cos we don’t) but that was only so so that Labour could get in across the country.

    Immigration. Well, now there’s a thorny issue. The whole American nation is made up of ‘immigrants’, and in a historical sense so are we, of course. Everywhere I’ve ever lived or worked, people get wound up about immigration. Unnecessarily.

    For my part, I’m relaxed about it. No foreigner has ever taken my job, but I have worked abroad for several years myself.

    The simple truth is that mobility of labour is basic economics, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it. If the jobs are there, the people will come, and if the jobs are there, you need them to. No amount of barriers or immigration controls really works, in the long term at least.

    That’s just how it is. And any other view tends to a worrying overlap with veiled xenophobia.

  21. This might be of interest – Obama sets the record straight re: his religion:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22767392/

  22. Thanks very much, Ella. How very fascinating that report is.

    The articles I read in national newspapers here last week indicating that Obama was a confirmed agnostic were (apparently) entirely incorrect.

    That is more than a little puzzling. But the implicit acknowledgment in that report (and apparent acceptance without further comment) that if Obama were a Muslim then he would be wholly unelectable is something which is profoundly shocking.

    It seems to suggest that a large section of the American electorate is acknowledged as fundamentally racist, at least presumably in the sense that it equates Islam either as a term interchangeable with terrorism or as a religion which automatically disqualifies its believers from high office.

    We all have to be realists, and of course we must accept that popular opinion is what it is.

    But I can’t help feeling, after reading that report, that if Martin Luther King had himself been a Muslim, then the course of modern history might well be turning out quite differently, right now.

    The schism in the modern world between fundamental Islam and fundamental Christianity is apparently much more deep-rooted within our world than we should tolerate, if it really is so deeply ingrained within the electoral thinking of our leading democracy.

    I find that such a depressing thought. This is a state of mind which we in the West have all too easily walked ourselves in to over these past few years since 9/11.

    Links between extreme Islam and terrorism have done nothing for the public relations of many Middle Eastern countries, and that is undeniable.

    But to suggest that an American lawyer and Senator might be some kind of national security threat just because he might (but does not actually) coincidentally share the same religion is almost like equating Mother Theresa with Jack the Ripper.

    I’m not pretending that things run all that differently within some small pockets of the UK. There are a few isolated inner city districts where the Nazis of the British National Party have gained a tiny foothold in local government.

    On an arguably more national level, for some unclear reason Tony Blair thought it wise to put off his conversion to Roman Catholicism until after he had left office. But his intentions were never in doubt through all his years in Downing Street, and most people couldn’t give a hoot about it, either way.

    We aren’t yet a secular state quite in the formal way that France is, but on an individual and collective level, that is more or less exactly what we are becoming. Religion is increasingly seen as a purely personal matter.

    But the blunt presentation of that story about Obama seems to place the issue of a candidate’s religion on an entirely different and more culturally-embedded kind of level.

    And that’s surely such a damning indictment of our appallingly failed education about our fellow citizens in this world which we all must share together.

  23. Agreed Roads – my point being the irresponsible, sensationalist media uses that xenophobia (and the suspicions and fears of many of Her Majesty’s subjects) to whip up the pub-talk and factory-floor fear. Unpalatable as this may be it creates ideal conditions for political opportunists, though mercifully none has yet proved effective here. By the way, the xenophobia is not all that veiled. Many of the blue-collar men I work with – Sun readers mostly – see all foreigners as potential terrorists, spongers or criminals.

    Speaking of Her Maj, she is of course our most celebrated immigrant descendant, an example of successful integration benefiting the host economy. I’d be a fool to share such a view with my ironically staunch Royalist workforce.

    Like you, Roads, I travel for/ with work and am grateful for the opportunity. Happily there are still many countries in the world where visitors are welcomed, not treated like creatures from another planet. Since the advent of modern terrorism Britain and the USA have lost whatever innocent view of foreigners they may have once had.

    It’s a rum do and no mistake.

    At least the American people have a chance to vote, via their own somewhat flawed process where money talks and, based on the Floridian stitch-up last time around, you have to wonder at the validity of the process. As you say, as yet those who choose to vote with their conscience don’t have to fear for their lives, just pray that the outcome is a true and fair reflection of what the people want.

    A wise old man once said our politicians should be dragged to their posts kicking and screaming.

  24. It seems to suggest that a large section of the American electorate is acknowledged as fundamentally racist, at least presumably in the sense that it equates Islam either as a term interchangeable with terrorism or as a religion which automatically disqualifies its believers from high office.

    It’s quite true, Roads, unfortunately. Racism and anti-semitism is rampant in certain parts of the country and within certain socio-economic groups. I’ll tell you, it’s been an eye opener living in New England — and I am close enough to Boston and venerable Harvard that there are commuter buses from my area.

    However, after living most of my life in and around Washington, DC and in Manhattan, I often feel as if I am in a time warp. Slurs that fall so easily from people’s lips, attitudes so far out of synch with mine — yes, even in Boston — make me wonder what the hell is life like in Arkansas or Mississippi?

    But I truly believe a Muslim could be elected president before an atheist. I can just hear all the fundies saying, Well, as least s/he has SOME religion.

    Blair’s timing did not escape my notice. Even though I am a very relaxed Catholic, I am still Catholic. And I have been cursed in London as a bloody Papist. I was spat upon as I left the Brompton Oratory. And I was called a f***ing Mick by a newsagent, who saw my Claddagh ring as he took my money (happily) but didn’t hear me speak.

    And I don’t think Dr. King would be surprised by any of this in either of our countries.

  25. Sweder – you’re a treasure, and no mistake. The lazily complacent old hacks of the British press must be quaking with fear for the moment when you finally inherit the Editor’s chair of a newly-strident red-top.

    And it won’t surprise me, when you do. Even if Her Maj may find it rather rum.

    Ella – I’m sorry for the behaviour of my countrymen. As an East End boy, I know a visitor worth welcoming to our islands when I see one.

    Interesting what you should say about the realities of ‘liberal and independent’ New Hampshire. Where I live in rurally commutable Surray (sic), it often appears that the most pressing sociological concern amongst my fellow townsfolk is whether or not Gordon will put another penny on petrol for the Range Rover.

    It’s so darned expensive to fill up, you know, that we’ll have to look closely at a smaller horse box soon. Or something.

    To be sure, we will an’ tha’ (Oops, there I go again).

  26. I suspect Blair’s decision to convert after leaving office had more to do with maintaining the still-tender peace in Northern Ireland than general public opinion. I’ve not seen any comments attributed to the Rev. Ian Paisley but you can’t help but wonder what he says behind closed doors.

    It’s funny how distance can provide distortion. One man’s terrorist can be another man’s freedom fighter. I enjoyed two interesting and diverse conversations during visits to the USA separated by ten years or so.

    The first was in a Houston bar where a Bostonian fellow, short of friends in that Texas town, was arguing the case for NORAID. We discussed guns and bombs and innocent lives, oppression and inequalities. I don’t think either budged much.

    The second was in the Irish bar of the Chicago Hilton. It might even be called Molly Malone’s, a name Roads and I know too well. The place was full of young black men impeccably dressed, in town for a conference. I sat across the corner of the bar from an older black gent. He seemed to hold some form of rank – the other people showed him due deference. I can’t remember how we got started but we spoke for over an hour, again on the inequities of life, oppression and the struggle for equal standing. I remember his incredulity at my optimism based on tales of integration in parts of Britain. Sure we had our trouble spots but generally – generally – we were all getting along in our overcrowded, relatively tiny island.

    The smart folk turned out to be from the Nation of Islam. I never did find out who the older gentleman was, but we parted with smiles and warm handshakes, which is all that really matters.

    All this was of course pre-9/11.

  27. Hey Ella, I too apologise for the ignorance of my countrymen. I’ve visited Fayetteville, a place where the college football team is named after a rampaging wild pig and the alumni enjoy a 72,000 capacity stadium – that’s by some way more people than inhabit the town. Check that number out Roads; on a par with the Devilbowl!

    As you have alluded already, Ella, the backwoodsmen of Arkansas are no less bigoted, though I found them considerably more polite about it.

    ‘You’re a n*****r-lover huh? We don’t like your kind around here – Sir.’

    That’s the trouble with democracy; it means everyone gets the opportunity to vote. It’s a bit like letting everyone own a gun – ah.

    Despite the lateness of the hour I was moved to revisit The Doc last night. He covered Mr Bill’s New Hampshire primary back in the day. It was just after the Jennifer Flowers scandal broke, an ugly scene that Republicans felt certain would sink the big-haired crooner without trace. The good people of New Hampshire saw through the smokescreen (and showed their ambivalence towards adultery) by giving Mr Bill a nine point lift. Ominous? Hmm . . .

    Too kind Roads, but I’m not reactionary enough for the redtops. Perhaps I need to take blogging a little more seriously (as opposed to hijacking other people’s!!!), though I feel my true path lies in reaction to and coverage of sport.

    I dip in and out of politics all too infrequently. Any sustained questioning will soon expose a lack of real passion; that’s why I couldn’t follow The Doc, much though I’d like to have done. The world needs people like him. They should be sealed in vaults deep below the Earth’s crust, wired up to a thousand news feeds, blogging like billy-o and raging against the machine.

  28. Excellent point about Northern Ireland and Dr Paisley influencing the timing of Tony Blair’s conversion, Sweder. I’d missed that angle, and it’s true that peace in Northern Ireland is certainly one of (if not the) most important, remarkable and, let’s hope, lasting achievements to spring from the Spinmeister’s reign.

    I stand by my earlier assessment, Sweder. You’re more than ready for the Daily Mirror. Or the Daily Mail.

    Or wherever that Richard Littlejohn is, these days (BBC Radio 5Live?) He started in sport as well. And look where he got us…

    The Sweder Show. Yes, digital radios would sell like hotcakes, and no mistake, your ‘ighness.

  29. One last observation (for now) on the Obama campaign. I hear tell of an internet/ e-mail campaign by female fans of Oprah that led to Ms Winfrey taking a low (invisible?) profile on the campaign trail. She certainly featured heavily early on but no longer.

    I find this interesting. Apparently the complainants, ‘several hundred’ women, claimed that Oprah ‘has chosen to support race over sex’ (sounds like a ‘no-win’ for a woman of colour to me). Well, several hundred women sounds a lot, until you understand that Oprah! enjoys regular viewing figures in the multiple millions.

    Some wag suggested that a good many of these so-called ‘complaints’ may have originated at Clinton HQ. Say it ain’t so, Joe?

    It’s a powerful medium, this here internet.

    Littlejohn, Roads? Littlejohn!!?? Forsooth!
    If I truly remind you of that big-headed prattler I’ll jack it in now. Mail? Mirror? No, my place lies in independent cyberspace where views on the world bend like reeds in the wind.

  30. That’s an interesting insight about Oprah. She has one of the most important constituencies in America. Whilst she can use that influence for good, that position of potential opinion-forming power makes her increasingly accountable as well.

    Whilst it would have seemed wise to support Obama initially, she clearly has cross-race appeal and surely can’t appear too closely linked with either candidate, especially if they lose. Call it wishy-washy if you like, but advertisers on her shows (I’m assuming she has these) and endorsement contracts might easily prefer a certain level of safer impartiality.

    It would be a shame if she put pragmatic commercialism before convictions, but I’m suspecting that real pressure will have been applied, and not just from the internet.

    Littlejohn came to mind only because you said that you had a passion for writing about sport, combined with your clear ability to write about politics and international affairs, too. I’m not suggesting for a moment that you’re remotely in that rabidly rancid style at all.

    It’s interesting how these columnists appear, though. We now have Russell Brand, bohemian Shagtrüpper that he is, waxing lyrical in the Guardian about his forays into the Directors’ Box at West Ham, and commenting on politics and world events as he does so.

  31. roads and sweder – Thank you for the (unnecessary) apologies on behalf of ignorant Brits. I was so tempted to let the newsagent hear my 100% American accent but then he would have experienced an emotion other than hatred, which I decided he could fester in for a while.

    Ah..the Nation of Islam. Some of the best-dressed thugs in America.

    Yes, bigotry’s rife everywhere. Some people are better are concealing it, that’s all. And the South and Sunbelt — Republican strongholds — are most bigoted of all, in my experience. Under-educated people abound and I could lay an easy stereotype on them, but won’t.

    I will say though, for all the time I spent in NH before moving here, it was only upon living here and getting to know a wide range of people that I discovered there really is such a thing as a New Hampshire bubba.

    Oy.

  32. Aye, and a London Bubba (we call ’em CHAVs).
    I agree that you have to live amongst a people for a while to see true colours emerge. I spent eighteen months in Houston in the eighties. Most Americans I met (and meet now) on my travels respond to this news with ‘My God, what did you do to deserve that?’

    Yet I enjoyed my time there, met many fine people and came to appreciate, along with the entrenched myopia and delusions of grandeur (most do still wish to secede from the Union) a rich vein of common sense, loyalty and deep-rooted fun. It was the unabashed affair with automatic and semi-automatic weapons that was and remains my biggest problem with the region. Factor in that most Aggies are licensed to carry shotguns in their pick-ups and your chances of getting shot in any given month in Texas are pretty good.

    I heard that about the Nation of Islam. And, whilst I was always taught you should speak as you find, I’m sure that Jimmy Hoffa was a jolly interesting bar-fly in his day.

  33. Chav = Bubba?

    Well, who said you didn’t learn something, here on Roads of Stone.
    Thank you, both.

  34. I think the equation bears only the most cursory of glances. I was trying to think of a social group here that you might associate with ‘Bubbas’. As far as levels of ignorance go I think Chavs are as close as we get. They do at least tend to wear baseball caps at a jaunty angle, albethey Burberry baseball caps.

  35. Update March 5th, 2008, after Hillary’s victories in Texas and Ohio.

    It’s interesting to hear about this campaign through such a long distance filter.

    The BBC is reporting this as a huge and significant comeback for Hillary (the word ‘Lazarus’ was used).

    And then just now I saw this message from the Barack Obama campaign. The maths looks very different.

    “Friend –Our projections show the most likely outcome of yesterday’s elections will be that Hillary Clinton gained 187 delegates, and we gained 183.

    That’s a net gain of 4 delegates out of more than 370 delegates available from all the states that voted.

    For comparison, that’s less than half our net gain of 9 delegates from the District of Columbia alone. It’s also less than our net gain of 8 from Nebraska, or 12 from Washington State.

    And it’s considerably less than our net gain of 33 delegates from Georgia.

    The task for the Clinton campaign yesterday was clear. In order to have a plausible path to the nomination, they needed to score huge delegate victories and cut into our lead.

    They failed.”

    This analysis looks completely different from how it was reported on the 10 o’clock news, just an hour ago.

    How fascinating this contest really is.

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