Another tidbit from the interview that struck me was Schur?s saying?prompted by a question from Ryan?that the show would love to be a kind of comedy version of The Wire. I don?t want to overplay that quote; he doesn?t seem to be inflating the show so much as saying that The Wire is a standard to aspire to, and maybe that Parks would like to create the same kind of broad civic world, within the context of a less realistic network comedy. And Parks, as Ryan says, has a much more optimistic outlook than The Wire.
But it?s interesting to see that in the light of our discussion yesterday of David Simon?s disappointment about The Wire?s reception since it?s gone off the air: that it seems to be remembered more as an entertainment than for its specific view of social institutions and the drug war. It?s pretty plain that The Wire did not change American drug and policing policy, but this is also a little reminder that there?s more than one way for a show to be influential. If a show like The Wire has made a little NBC sitcom slightly more thoughtful about how institutions and communities work?that?s not exactly changing the world, but it?s something to be happy about, anyway.
I agree that would be a legacy that’s both entertaining and constructive, especially if it means that more shows look for the realistic drama in existing institutions. Parks & Recreation is different from most shows in that it draws its comedy from lowering stakes rather than artificially jacking them up. The first major conflict the show dealt with was trying to fill in a hole. One of the biggest collective tragedies the characters have experienced was the death of a mini horse. The show doesn’t make fun of the characters for investing so much in relatively small things. Instead, it respects them, and the show’s signature mix of comedy and kindness comes from that framing. If part of Schur’s goal is to use the show to explore more of Pawnee’s bureaucracy and institutions, that’s also a good argument for Leslie winning the City Council race so we can see more of city government.
It’ll be an interesting question whether other shows start drawing the same realistic drama from existing institutional imperatives. That’s probably an easier thing for comedies to do than dramas, if only because the networks have conditioned us to expect such big stakes in the latter. If the President’s mistress isn’t knocked up a la Scandal, a small child isn’t in horrible danger, or the world isn’t at risk, shows seem to feel they’re not doing their duty. I’ll be curious to see what comes of the show that The Wire’s Ed Burns and Amber Tamblyn are supposed to be working on about a school: it’s not in the pilot cycle this year, so we’ll have to see what happens. But one of the consequences of The Wire having a lot of journalists and novelists writing episodes (in additional to the different perspective they brought) is that it’s not like the show spun off a huge number of TV writers who are now selling shows of their own. Its creative influence might be less clear to trace, but Schur can’t be the only one who’s looking to The Wire as an influence, and interpreting that influence in clever and surprising ways.
Here's the bracket so far. I'm very fond of both of today's contestants, so without further ado...
1. HERMAN CAIN LAWYERS UP AT PRESS CONFERENCE
Herman Cain was the GOP's "it" guy, having taken the frontrunner mantle away from a fading Rick Perry. It was a mutually beneficial relationship?Cain could pretend to put together a cabinet and ruminate about possible vice-presidential possibilities, while Republicans could pretend to like African Americans (i.e., "Some of my favorite politicians are black!") Everyone knew that when push came to shove, there was no way those Republicans would ever vote for the black guy, but for a while, they could pretend.
That charade came crashing down when legions of women came forth alleging sexual harassment by Cain. A part of this saga has already made it to the second round?Cain's assertion that thousands of women hadn't accused him of sexual harassment?but that wasn't enough to stem the bleeding. He needed to confront it head-on, thus he called a press conference.
Four years prior, rocked by accusations of racism by his church and pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, then-Sen. Barack Obama called his own press conference to regain control of the media narrative. He opened with:
"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."Not only did his "race speech" help him overcome the Jeremiah Wright firestorm, but it also gave partisan Democrats confidence that Obama could withstand whatever crap Republicans would throw at him, and it gave confidence to Americans that Obama could effectively deal with adversity. It made him look, in short, presidential.
Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.
The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.
And then there's Herman Cain. You can see the opening of his press conference above. He didn't just lawyer up, he led his press conference with him.
LIN WOOD, CAIN'S ATTORNEY: Good afternoon. My name is Lin Wood, and I'm one of the attorneys for Herman Cain. I've been practicing law in Georgia for a little over 34 years, and I have had the opportunity in my practice of law to represent female victims of sexual harassment. Serious, legitimate claims of sexual harassment are not settled for nuisance value...I don't have to go out on a limb to suggest that Republican voters weren't interested in seeing Herman Cain's lawyer, or seeing Herman Cain hide behind his lawyer, or being reminded that Herman Cain needed a lawyer because he couldn't keep his hands to himself. And Wood didn't help Cain's case by mentioning that he was just "one" of Cain's many lawyers.
When Cain finally spoke, he was so unconvincing, even his boosters in the wingnut media were unable to defend him. Conservatives wanted a candidate who would be able to handle the adversities and attacks of a presidential campaign. But unlike Obama, who proved his mettle under fire, Cain proved the exact opposite. As one conservative columnist wrote:
At this point, the bigger concern isn?t so much the accusations themselves, which are somewhat shady, but Cain?s response.2. RICK PERRY'S 'OOPS' MOMENT
Time to relive the glory:
Rick Perry: But the fact of the matter is, we better have a plan in place that Americans can get their hands around and that?s the reason my flat tax is the only one of all the folks, these good folks on the stage, it balances the budget in 2020, it does the things in a regulatory climate that has to happen and I will tell you, it?s three agencies the government when I get there, that are gone. Commerce, Education and ahh, what?s the third one there, let?s see.He was only able to list one of the agencies the second time through, which means we got to see him get dumber in real time.
Ron Paul: You mean/need 5.
Perry: Oh Five. Ok
Perry: Commerce, Education, and ah, the, ummm
Rick Santorum: EPA
Perry: EPA ? there you go ? no ?
Panel: Seriously, is EPA, the one you were talking about sir?
Perry: No, sir. No, sir. We were talking about the umm, the agencies of government, EPA needs to be rebuilt. There?s no doubt ? there?s no doubt about that.
Panel: But you can?t name the third one.
Perry: The third agency of government I would do away with Education, ahhhh, the ahhhh,
Perry: Commerce ? lets see
Herman Cain: Oh my
Perry: I can?t ? the third one I can?t sorry. Oops.
To a man?”Sandra Fluke Announces Engagement”
— Monica Crowley (@MonicaCrowley) April 26, 2012
Crowley’s fake surprise that Fluke is not in fact a lesbian is especially ironic given the attacks that her network leveled against Fluke in February. For weeks, she was criticized ceaselessly by the conservative media for demanding that health insurance providers cover contraception, ridiculed by Fox News hosts like Bill O’Reilly for not simply buying her birth control at Target for $9, and mocked endlessly by Limbaugh for having too much sex.
The vitriol that accompanied Fluke for weeks even rubbed off onto her new fiancÚ. Adam Mutterperl, a comedy writer and producer, was criticized by conservative websites like the Daily Caller for his family’s ties to Democratic politics. Crowley’s comments are just the latest controversy the Fox News host has found herself in. Back in 2008, she was caught plagiarizing (again) someone else’s parody of progressive advocacy group MoveOn, and last year she called DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz “she of the angry perm.”
Vice President Joe Biden hit back at the Romney campaign’s foreign policy positions today in remarks delivered at New York University. In a wide ranging speech reviewing the Obama administration’s foreign policy, Biden criticized Romney’s “Cold War mindset” on national defense and slammed the presumptive Republican nominee for his “go it alone” foreign policy positions.
But Biden’s harshest reprimand of Romney was saved for the former Massachusetts governor’s critique of President Obama’s Iran policy. Romney has swung between essentially endorsing the Obama administration’s policy of diplomacy plus pressure — via sanctions — to calling for outright military action against Iran. Biden said:
Here’s what he says. He says we need “crippling sanctions,” apparently unaware that through President Obama’s leadership we produced just that, crippling sanctions. He emphasizes the need for “a credible military option” and “a regular presence of aircraft carrier groups” in the region, apparently ignorant of the fact that’s exactly what our policy is and what we’re doing.
Biden singled out Romney’s criticisms of the White House’s Iran-policy as “counterproductive” and promoting “loose talk of war” that could ultimately hurt the international sanctions regime engineered by the administration:
I think it’s fair to say the only step we could take that we aren’t already taking is to launch a war against Iran. If that’s what governor Romney means by a “very different policy” then he should tell the American people. He should say so. Otherwise the governor’s tough talk about military action is just that, talk. And I would add, counterproductive talk. Folks, loose talk about a war has incredible negative consequences in our efforts to end Iran’s nuclear quest. And let me tell you why, because it unsettles world oil markets. It drives up oil prices. When oil prices go up, Iran’s coffers fill up, undermining the effect of the sanctions that are already in place. This type of Romney Talk is just not smart.
Romney’s foreign policy advisers — in a press call before Biden’s speech — seemed to inadvertently validate Biden’s charge of the Romney campaign’s “Cold War mindset.” Romney foreign policy adviser Pierre Prosper claimed that, under the Obama administration, “The United States abandoned its missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia” — of which the latter dissolved nearly 20 years ago after the fall of the U.S.S.R. And on the same call, another adviser, former Reagan Navy Secretary John Lehman, warned of a the threat from “the Soviets” in the Arctic region.
In recent years, few Republican talking points have been regurgitated as often as the myth that almost half of Americans pay no taxes. Just last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor complained "we have to question whether that's fair," insisting "you've got to discuss that issue."
And that could be a real problem for some on the right. After all, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush respectively expanded the bipartisan Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit which has helped reduce or eliminate the income tax bill for many low income working families. (It was President Reagan who called the EITC "the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.") And now, some leaders on the religious right are fretting that the GOP's draconian Romney-Ryan budget plan will do away with the vital protections for the "least of these."
Mitt Romney: The Missing Years, 2003-7.There was something missing from Mitt Romney's nomination-clinching speech on Tuesday night: any reference whatsoever to his track record as governor of Massachusetts. In fact, he didn't even mention that he had been governor.
Not even once.
During the most important speech Romney's given so far, he didn't say a single word about the one time in his life that he's ever been elected to anything. That's rather extraordinary admission by omission that he doesn't see his record as something that he can run on.
It's not hard to see why Romney feels that way. Massachusetts ranked 47th in the nation in job creation under his leadership and he left the state with a massive debt. If he'd run for a second term, he would have been defeated, with good reason.
Romney's biggest legitimate accomplishment was Romneycare, which President Obama took national. But now Romney is against Obamacare, so he can't talk about Romneycare.
Romney's failure to mention his gubernatorial experience really was a telling moment in his campaign, a vivid illustration of the fact that he believes his campaign depends entirely on convincing voters that President Obama has been a failure. As Greg Sargent has been arguing, Romney's approach to that task has been to blame Obama for the failures of the Bush years?to make the public forget that President Obama inherited an economy in freefall.
As depressing as it would be if Romney were able to pull off such an argument, I don't see it happening. His argument is transparently false, and neither the Obama campaign nor grassroots progressives are going to let him get away with making it. As tiring and annoying as it can be to constantly battle back Romney's lies, it's not particularly difficult?because the truth is not on his side.
I suspect that deep down, Mitt Romney knows just how tenuous his position really is. If he were really confident in his own claim to the presidency, he wouldn't be trying to blame Obama for Bush. He'd be out there selling his own achievements. The fact that he's not tells us everything.
Americans prioritize finding solutions for our economy andájob creation, and it is clear that we need an economy that works for all of us. This means building the jobs and the infrastructure that will create equal opportunities for success for all[...]
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Sen. Marco RubioIf Sen. Marco Rubio's immigration plan did make it into legislation this year, it would be dead on arrival, according House Speaker John Boehner.
The Florida Republican has proposed an alternative the DREAM Act. Not a good alternative, mind you. The DREAM Act would give U.S. citizenship to children of immigrants willing to meet certain requirements. Rubio's proposal, on the other hand, amounts to a new version of the terrible Bracero program that brought guest workers to the United States decades ago. He would offer legal status for some children of immigrants?allowing them to stay in the country instead of deporting them?but provide no path to citizenship.
His plan isn't as bad as the Arizona immigration policy in SB 1070 that Mitt Romney has called a "model." But Rubio hasn't put anything on paper yet, so it's unclear exactly what he has in mind. Perhaps he's waiting on putting together the details in order to improve his chances for being Romney's running mate, a job he seems to be trying out for.
For now, it hardly matters. Boehner told a reporter that he has spoken to Rubio about his plan:
"I found it of interest, but the problem with this issue is that we?re operating in a very hostile political environment. To deal with a very difficult issue like this, I think it would be difficult at best." [...]More upsidedownism. After shooting down the DREAM Act, which amounts to simple justice, Boehner dares speak of a hostile political environment as if he and his party were innocent bystanders. One more example of just how out-of-touch the GOP is. Faced with the possibility that Latinos will give President Obama a 4-1 margin in November, with all that means for down-ticket races, the Republican leadership isn't even willing to try to mend fences with a demographic that it must have to win future elections.
?Where?s the president?s immigration plan? Where does the president stand on this issue? Instead of campaigning all the time, maybe he ought to come back to Washington and go back to work,? Boehner said.
They've proved time and again they don't care about the most vulnerable among us. But you would think they would care about how vulnerable they are making themselves.
This hasn?t received enough attention:
As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington. [?]
According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) ? who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.
For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama?s legislative platform.
In other words, there was nothing President Obama could have done to build common ground with Republicans. From the beginning, the plan was to relentlessly obstruct Obama, regardless of whether that was good for the country The GOP?s high-minded rhetoric of compromise and bipartisanship was bunk; cover for a plan to keep Democrats from accomplishing anything. It?s truly remarkable, and in an ideal world, would color any attempts from the GOP to portray itself as the victim of Democratic partisanship.
Did you think that if you cheered on the destruction of these institutions of which you write so eloquently, nothing would go wrong?[...]
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