Obama and the Legitimacy of Grievance

Pat Ryan

In light of the last ditch Kardon/McGuire effort on behalf of the Oregon DLC contingent and their candidate and co-founder Clinton, I thought it might be a good time to highlight one of Obama's central messages in this campaign, which is that the universe of The Oppressed needs to be expanded.

I first noticed this when the Clinton campaign (with a little help from Hannity, Limbaugh, and George Stephanopopopopolis, and my favorite, Richard Mellon Scaife) decided to play the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game using Reverend Wright, flag lapel pins, ancient '60s radicals, and Osama Bin Laden to highlight Obama as The Other, and hence never to be trusted. From their front row seats in the slimiest of Rovian gutters, they then wait for Obama to defend himself so they can play the victim card. An old and tired tactic, that has also been seen here in a couple of Oregon races in this cycle.

Meanwhile, back at Blue Oregon, improbably named commenters that we've never heard from before, (and will never hear from again after May 20th) are crying out in anguish at the (I kid you not!) "rape and torture" of their girl by the evil Obamaniacs. There're also the totally undocumented assertions of Obama thugs roaming the entire country from the wilds of my own House District 52 in Oregon to the mean streets of Philidaelphia screaming invective at cowering Little Old Ladies and "intimidating" gentle Clinton supporters at every turn. Why?

Because we all wanna be victims and if we can classify ouselves as victims, we can exclude and marginalize everyone else as The Oppressors without having to actually justify the slur. We can just know, that if They are not Us then We are good and They are bad. If you're in a victim category of your choice, you automatically give little or no weight to any opponent, since you can just classify them as not you and hence anything that they say is not worth hearing. This is how we lost the blue collar middle class back in the late '70s. Now speaking for myself, I'd argue that people should pull their damned pants up and quit whining, and maybe broaden their horizons a little, but Obama has a whole different outlook and it is the way for him to win in November.

We can look first to Obama's "gaffe" in San Francisco which has run in a continuous loop on every cable show in America for the last two weeks and figured prominently in the most recent......er....debate:

It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Obama explained himself this way on the following day:

There has been a small political flare-up because I said something that everybody knows is true, which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my hometown in Illinois, who are bitter. They are angry. They feel like they have been left behind. They feel like nobody is paying attention to what they're going through.

So I said, well you know, when you're bitter you turn to what you can count on. So people, they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants who are coming over to this country.

He then mentioned that  he should have used better phrasing in California and then added:

The truth is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important. That's what sustains us. But what is absolutely true is that people don't feel like they are being listened to.

Wha-a-a-a-aat TF? Is he saying that lower middle class white guys have a legitimate beef? Yes he is. Their jobs went away 30 years ago, to be replaced with jobs paying about half the wages. Every four years, a bunch of politicians from both parties parachute in and promise Money in the Bank,Cattle on the Range,and a Chicken in every Pot, and then disappear for another four years. WE can follow this Obama thread backward to his speech directly following the first surfacing of the Rev. Wright thingy:

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings........the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races...........

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.....Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

Obama has hit on The Key to the whole puzzle and he needs to beat this like a drum, from Indiana right through the end of the primaries. We little guys could use a good dose of this too. Instead of framing our discourse around who is the most legitimate victim, we should be looking at the Big Picture and finding out which groups and which policies foster oppression greed and divisiveness and for what reason.

Comments

  • backbeat (unverified)
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    Those mean Obama delegates tried to tickle the Clinton delegates to death.

    MEANIES!!!

  • Judith (unverified)
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    Pat, you have "hit the nail on the head" in your post.

    Obama's comments are the very evidence that he has truly listened to the individual Americans he has met during his grassroots campaign work.

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    nice use of your anger, Pat. and you are right about the need to focus (like the ol' laser beam) on issues regarding justice, especially political justice for those left outside the decision-making process. i especially appreciate your use of the phrase "the other" which has signficant meaning in post-modern (dare i use that phrase?) political theory.

    what is so vital about "the other," and why it's good you've brought that term forward, is that those defined as "other" are not merely someone else. they are wrong. they are bad. they are sick. "we" are morally, politically and ethically right in what we do, think & say. the "others," by definition, are bad, sick, evil, wrong -- you name it, that's what "they" are.

    (go read anything by William Connolly to get the full picture, especially "Identity|Difference".)

    the difficulty is differentiating between "other" and "victim" and they ain't the same thing. the people who were unable to flee New Orleans were viewed by too many as poor victims (and victims of their own failures) rather than being institutionally and culturally marganilized -- defined as "other." and there should be no question that otherness includes religion, skin color, economic status, sexual orientation, gender -- you name it, there's an other-ness to it.

    and Hillary is, as you say, playing it both ways. she (rightfully) responds to the sexist attacks on her and then she turns around and uses Rev Wright as a stand-in for the N-word. she'll throw cheap shot after dishonest cheap shot and then cry how mean her opponent is.

    what encourages me about Obama is that he doesn't back down. he didn't run from his bitter comments: he built on them. he did not turn his back on Rev Wright: he embraced the man while repudiating the specific words. Obama knows what he stands for, and he's got the guts to keep talking about it. few people get the chance to hear much of it because the MSM is too busy replaying the nonsense, but those who pay attention hear him repeating his message of hope, of grassroots activism, and of a new political inclusiveness that begins by refusing to accept the existence of otherness: we're all "us" in Obama's America.

    and that's why he'll be the next president.

  • Deward Bowles (unverified)
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    Right on the money. The politics of fear and hate are dead. Some just don't know it yet.

    I am angry, bitter and frustrated, mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore. It is time for the average American to stand up and take the country back.

    Senator Obama is not perfect but he is a sight better than the other choices.

    Deward Bowles White, 48, Male, Married, Professional, Business owner.

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    Now this is the Blue Oregon we old timers here have grown to love..thoughtful discourse..welcome back Pat Ryan. You hit this one out of the park...again.

  • tl (unverified)
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    Thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Pat. Having seen and been in numerous discussions where some individual/group has stated "you can't understand what it's like...", I've seen how invariably the result is that the victim feels superior yet more isolated, and those attempting to understand and support feel excluded and frustrated. Whether it be race, sex, orientation, religion, or whatever, I argue that there is much more commonality between people and peoples than what separates us. Our separation/difference muscles, however, are so overly developed that this is the automatic focus of any interaction: what separates us.

    I have tried a few times to bridge differences and pose questions which attempt to avoid or ignore the emotions, attacks, and back-and-forth we often see. I try to focus on the bottom line, pragmatic, what-if scenarios. More often than not, my posts fall flat.

    I don't blame anyone. I guess I've just not articulated a compelling enough message. -tl

  • Dave (unverified)
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    [Racist comment removed. -editor.]

  • Dave (unverified)
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    [Racist comment removed. -editor.]

  • Christines (unverified)
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    The Washington Post says Obama is in trouble!

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/23/AR2008042302978.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

    When Pennsylvania exit polls came out late Tuesday afternoon showing a lead of 3.6 points for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama, Democratic leaders who desperately wanted her to end her candidacy were not cheered. They were sure that this puny lead overstated Obama's strength, as exit polls nearly always have in diverse states with large urban populations. How is it possible, then, that Clinton, given up for dead by her party's establishment, won Pennsylvania in a 10-point landslide? The answer is the dreaded "Bradley effect."

  • (Show?)

    Go peddle your false claims of racism elsewhere. Damn concern trolls...

    Man, you really have an ax to grind, don't you?

    ...dead by her party's establishment...

    You can write that with a straight face?

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)
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    Christines: We all know the WaPo is never wrong. Never right is closer to it. A nine point four percent victory in a state Clinton was leading in by twenty percent is NOT a landslide. It is a win however than unfortunately brings her no closer to the nomination than the day before the primary.

    Half the country hates Senator Clinton and she's trying hard to convert everybody. Time for a change. No Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton thank you very much.

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    Pat -

    Most of the millions of people who support Hillary are not DLC Democrats. Not me, not Paddy, and not your wife.

    I have had three bosses in Congress, all of whom are considered by every objective standard to be among the most progressive in their respective bodies in Congress - Barbara Boxer, John Conyers, and Ron Wyden. Why the insults? I wish some of this audacity of hope stuff would rub off on you.

    You support a great candidate. So do I.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    Exactly right,

    Exactly, exactly, exactly.

    Good job Pat!

    We could get into the Ivory Tower discussion of game theory (Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer), and the entire psychological framework that underlies all of the Clinton strategy, but you cut across that very well.

    Once you understand that this is in fact a "game" and not about real issues, behavior becomes predictable.

    For every Obama, "Why don't we as Americans ...."

    Clinton will answer, "Yes, but..."

    For every assertive comment of belief or opinion Obama will be framed as a persecutor and, Clinton will be framed to be the victim requiring rescue.

    And on and on. It will require the "grown-ups" to defeat these tactics.

    I'm hoping Oregon's automatic delegates and elected delegates help straighten this out. If we continue to be the Party that burns itself up playing these types of games, then we will cease to exist as a Party.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    The right stuff/Wright stuff, latest installment--excerpt:

    In early partial transcripts of the interview, Wright defended that sermon as well as others in which he accuses the US government of deliberately spreading HIV.

    "I felt it was unfair," Wright told PBS. "I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue. I felt for those who were doing that, were doing it for some very devious reasons."

    Obama denounced Wright's controversial sermons in a much-praised speech about race last month. But his 20-year attendance at Wright's church in Chicago has continued to be an issue.

    In the PBS interview, which is the first of a number of public engagements by the pastor in the coming days, Wright argues that there was an organised attempt to smear him as "some sort of fanatic" as well as pull down Obama.

    "I think they wanted to communicate that I am unpatriotic, that I am un-American, that I am filled with hate speech, that I have a cult at Trinity United Church of Christ. And by the way, guess who goes to his church, hint, hint, hint? That's what they wanted to communicate."

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    Most of the millions of people who support Hillary are not DLC Democrats. Not me, not Paddy, and not your wife.

    Josh, I'm tickled that you're choosing to distance yourself from the DLC. I do notice that you don't attempt to refute the fact that your candidate is one of the principle architects of that Republican Lite POV and as she is also an avowed foe of the hated Party Activists, I can't agree that we're both working for great candidates.

    Unlike what passes for media and political discourse these days, I think making judgements about character and policy is my duty as a voter, and fair play will sometimes result in concluding that candidate "A" is in fact morally bankrupt while candidate "B" is demonstrably on a higher ethical plane.

    As for your thoughts regarding McGuire and my wife, I think I'll just let them speak for themselves on this thread if they so choose. If/when that occurs, I will respond in kind.

    In our house we go with the mutual respect thing, but neither of us imagines that our personal relationship has anything to do with the candidate that we back.

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    Nope, I didn't engage on your post, Pat. It started with a slur aimed at me, so maybe next time.

    By the way, the only person I know in Oregon who was officially leading the actual DLC in our state is Bill Bradbury. Bill is a great progressive, just like Hillary and Obama.

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    c'mon josh, Hillary progressive? In north Korea, maybe. The people you've worked for are progressives, but Clinton is the DLC turd in the punchbowl. If she behaved like she talked, maybe--but she doesn't. The sooner she is finished debasing herself and dragging the party down, the sooner we can move past her toxic persona and quit pretending she was anything but an anal cancer on the American politic.

  • Katy (unverified)
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    Alright, this is getting a little silly. "the DLC turd in the punchbowl?" I get that the Obama folks are very angry right now - because Clinton won Penn? - I suppose so. But come on already. So many people I've talked to outside of this little Blueoregon world are voting for Senator Clinton because they agree w/her on all the issues, like the fact that she'll bring healthcare to every American, etc. To say she's "the DLC turn in the punchbowl" is an insult to my Grandmother, my sister, my niece (if she could vote, ha!) and women all over the country who are excited about this candidacy. I think you're letting your emotions get the better of yourself and you're not your side a bit of good when you make comments like that.

  • Walmart, anyone? (unverified)
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    To say she's "the DLC turn in the punchbowl" is an insult to my Grandmother, my sister, my niece (if she could vote, ha!) and women all over the country who are excited about this candidacy.

    Is this an attempt to play the 'victim' card?

  • Katy (unverified)
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    Walmart person: Huh? Um, he called her "anal cancer."

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    Katy,

    Consider the source. TJ's Novick's bulldog and Novick has very clearly praised Hillary on a wide variety of policy issues. In fact, Novick's sole reason for not endorsing her was that he wonders "whether Hillary Clinton is willing to take the political risks she’d need to take to act on what she knows."

    Personally, I disagree with Novick (and with you) about Hillary. But I'm adult enough to not shoot myself in the foot while gratuitously using childish potty-mouth analogies to do it.

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    Josh, there is no way Wyden is one of the most progressive Dems in Congress. he's gotten better over the years — much better than when he was in the House and voted to support the frikkin' Trident submarine. he's been right-on on some very important issues, but to call him progressive is stretch the term quite a bit. his approach is not to engage the grassroots, not to build a local network. he does his DC work, his staff works the state (to varying extents) and he pushes his very good legislation forward.

    but compare Obama's message (which was an is Dean's message): i can only get elected president. you people in the country have the real power. both Obama and Dean have movements behind them. they both have transformed American politics, permanently and for the better.

    yet neither was renowned for progressive policies. good policies, yes, but nothing from the Wellstone policy manual, so to speak. Ron's legislation in the past few years has gone more in that direction than many other Dems in the Senate, and it's become exciting to see what he's promoting. but he's not even come close to building a movement, a progressive, grassroots movement. John Kitzhaber is working towards that end with the Archimedes Project; Ron would do well to recognize that progressivism is not just about the policy — the ends — but the people, the movement — the means. for now, he remains a terrific liberal, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

    and that you can support a candidate who has attacked activists and grassroots democrats across this country, from her disdain of people outside the "Big 10" to her latest slurs on Move-On, the people who stepped forward to cover her husband's rather expansive heinie, demonstrates to me that you really don't understand progressive politics, either. the only thing i would call progressive about the Clinton campaign is how it's gone negative with her continuing electoral failures.

  • SDG (unverified)
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    All - do not talk logic to Katy or any other Hillary supporter. They simply refuse to accept it or are not capable of understanding. Lost cause.

  • Katy (unverified)
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    SDG, When you say logic, do you mean anal cancer?

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    Josh, there is no way Wyden is one of the most progressive Dems in Congress. he's gotten better over the years — much better than when he was in the House and voted to support the frikkin' Trident submarine. he's been right-on on some very important issues, but to call him progressive is stretch the term quite a bit. his approach is not to engage the grassroots, not to build a local network. he does his DC work, his staff works the state (to varying extents) and he pushes his very good legislation forward.

    but compare Obama's message (which was an is Dean's message): i can only get elected president. you people in the country have the real power. both Obama and Dean have movements behind them. they both have transformed American politics, permanently and for the better.

    yet neither was renowned for progressive policies. good policies, yes, but nothing from the Wellstone policy manual, so to speak. Ron's legislation in the past few years has gone more in that direction than many other Dems in the Senate, and it's become exciting to see what he's promoting. but he's not even come close to building a movement, a progressive, grassroots movement. John Kitzhaber is working towards that end with the Archimedes Project; Ron would do well to recognize that progressivism is not just about the policy — the ends — but the people, the movement — the means. for now, he remains a terrific liberal, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

    and that you can support a candidate who has attacked activists and grassroots democrats across this country, from her disdain of people outside the "Big 10" to her latest slurs on Move-On, the people who stepped forward to cover her husband's rather expansive heinie, demonstrates to me that you really don't understand progressive politics, either. the only thing i would call progressive about the Clinton campaign is how it's gone negative with her continuing electoral failures.

  • SDG (unverified)
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    Does Josh approve of Hillary's smear of MoveOn?

    I won't hold my breath waiting for an answer.

  • SDG (unverified)
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    Katy, we see through your smear tactics.

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    Kevin,

    Your argument actually makes no sense. TJ here is, according to your read of Steve Novick, taking an extremely different position from Steve. According to your read, Novick believes Hillary believes in what she says, but doubts her fighting character. TJ, on the other hand, in effect says that Hillary is lying in her teeth with progressive rhetoric that she means not at all.

    Of course there's a somewhat different way to read what Steve wrote, which is that Obama in substance is actually not all that different from Clinton. Which I think is true. On a number of things he's a bit better than her, on a few worse, but they are more remarkable for their similarities than their differences.

    TJ I think may disagree with that & have a more strongly positive view of Obama than Steve (or my reading of him). I.e. agree with you, much as you may hate to admit that, and much as you wouldn't use his language about Clinton.

    Hillary Clinton is prominent in the leadership of today's DLC. Barack Obama, once he started positioning himself to run, became much more engaged in the DLC milieu (The Black Commentator before its editorial shift and the old version's successor Black Agenda Report, which are highly critical of Obama, have documented his DLC footsy games). Of course, the DLC today is somewhat less of the lockstep ideological operation is was ca. 1990, as to its elected official members, though the staff may still have some of the old New Democrat attack-the-activist-base fire in the belly, if the publications are any indication, and Hillary's attack on MoveOn.org was ripped straight from that playbook.

    Anyway, whatever DLC character the Clinton campaign has, it comes from the top. But Obama's policy positions mostly won't upset the DLC very much. His virtues lie elsewhere. Pat has put one of them well.

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    Hillary has forfeited any claim to superiority as a potential commander-in-chief with her expressed willingness to commit genocide by nuclear annihilation on a country of 60 million people (Iran). A few weeks ago she posed us the question of who we would want to be answering the red phone at 3 a.m. Now she's given me my definitive answer.

    It's f***ing outrageous, actually. If she somehow gets the nomination, a race between her and McCain looks like shaping up as a competition for the General Jack D. Ripper memorial award for best militarist nutjob.

  • sandra longley (unverified)
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    You know that blue collar middle class you lost in the 70's well hillary is winning them back not obama and winning only 7 out of 67 counties in penn.-not such a good thing...

  • anonymous (unverified)
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    See Jenni's responses over in Kristin's post.

  • Larry McD (unverified)
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    Thanks, Pat.

    Sorry the quality of the responses has degenerated but your post is a reminder that strong statements of political belief can also be civil, rational, and effective.

    I'm sorry to admit that I need to be reminded of that but I appreciate that you did.

    It helps, of course, that your post is articulate and spot on.

  • Alberto Borges (unverified)
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    Hillary is the best candidate and she will be our next president.

    No se dejen lavar el cerebro por aquellos que utilizando los medios de comunicacion tratan de empañar la imagen de Hillary Clinton. La Senadora Hillary es no solo la candidata mas inteligente, sino la que tiene planes concretos y estrategias bien diseñadas para de inmediato solucionar los problemas mas serios que tiene nuestro pais ahora.

    Hillary es una mujer que piensa siempre en los mas necesitados y como siempre esta dispuesta durante su gobierno a mejorar el nivel de vida de las familias pobres y de clase media.

    Dios esta con Hillary y por eso sera nuestra proxima presidente.

    Creo que todavia hay comentaristas politicos que piensan que estan hablando para personas ignorantes.

    ALberto Borges

  • anonymous (unverified)
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    Si se puede.

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    Yeah Larry, it did descend to the level of anal cancer pretty fast, thanks principally to an assist from my .......er.......ally, TJ. Thanks for the various attaboys upthread, and it's a pity that the rest of the happy warriors on both sides by and large didn't actually.......you know......read the post, but that's life in front of the big keyboard I guess.

    Most seem to be the very ones that I mentioned in the post that we'll never hear from again after the 20th, and to tell the truth, I can't wait.

  • trishka (unverified)
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    pat, i don't always agree with you here on blueoregon but i have to say that this post was awfully terrific. thanks for taking the time!

  • (Show?)

    Dios esta con Hillary y por eso sera nuestra proxima presidente.

    De vera? Creo que Dios teine pensamientos y asuntos mas importante de la Senadora sagrado, pero pede ser que ni usted ni yo sabemos que piensa.

    Somos todos coreligonarios aqui.

    Excuse the spelling and poor grammar.....

  • Christines (unverified)
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    Obama tied to Chicago corruption and will never be president!

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0804/S00295.htm

    The investigation dubbed “Operation Board Games,” into the influence peddling within the cesspool of corruption that encompasses Illinois politicians from both major parties, has developed into multiple subplots, many of which feature Barack Obama.

    SEARCH NZ JOBS Search Businesses FindA Check Your SALARY Level MORTGAGE Calculators NZ TAX RATES & CODES List of NZ SCHOLARSHIPS

    Therefore, Obama should start bidding for the starring role in the movie that is sure to follow the criminal trials involved in this case because he has absolutely no chance of winning the White House, even if the leaders of the Democratic party allow this sorry charade to carry on and his name appears on the ballot.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Dios esta con Hillary y por eso sera nuestra proxima presidente.

    No, no, Dios esta como siempre con los Republicanos.

  • hmmmmm (unverified)
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    From Terry's McCauliffe's book:

    "I'm going outside the primary window," [Michigan Sen. Carl Levin] told me definitively. "If I allow you to do that, the whole system collapses," I said. "We will have chaos. I let you make your case to the DNC, and we voted unanimously and you lost." He kept insisting that they were going to move up Michigan on their own, even though if they did that, they would lose half their delegates. By that point Carl and I were leaning toward each other over a table in the middle of the room, shouting and dropping the occasional expletive. "You won't deny us seats at the convention," he said. "Carl, take it to the bank," I said. "They will not get a credential. The closest they'll get to Boston will be watching it on television. I will not let you break this entire nominating process for one state. The rules are the rules. If you want to call my bluff, Carl, you go ahead and do it." We glared at each other some more, but there was nothing much left to say. I was holding all the cards and Levin knew it. [Source: McAuliffe, Terry. What A Party!, p. 325.]
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