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Posted in: Feminism, Culture Wars & Censorship

Published on Aug 29, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Barack and Joe vs. John and Sarah: Whatta Fight!


Marshall McLuhan was right when he said "The medium is the message." Obama's masterfully choreographed extravaganza, a combination rock festival/revival meeting/political anointing was, what can I say, both underwhelming and overwhelming. The fireworks and confetti were a bit much (not to mention the Greek Temple motif), and I ultimately missed the balloons which I used to think were pretty silly.

Hurtling into the future makes me feel a bit nostalgic. Yes, I miss the whistle-stop tours of old and the spontaneity of some of the candidates' speeches, before everything was so carefully scripted and rehearsed. And when I was so much younger…

Obama's speech was good, not great, but his oratorical skills are clearly as good as Bill Clinton's, maybe even better. One can't help "liking" him as he speaks. His charm is overwhelming. He moves like Denzel Washington, slowly but athletically, enjoying that fact that his every move is being followed by adoring admirers.

I honestly don't understand how he will find enough money to pay for every single social justice program he mentioned (and he mentioned them all) simply by seriously taxing the rich. Years ago, Gertrude Stein famously said, (and here I am paraphrasing), that if you get rid of the rich and re-distribute their wealth among the masses that you will then end up with even more poor people than you had before.

Obama's determination to penalize corporate entities for outsourcing jobs that Americans need is a good idea. Let's hope that they don't relocate offshore entirely. Going through the federal budget line by line–well, why not? But I'm not sure that Obama will be able to find enough there to preserve social security, guarantee health insurance and quality health care, send every American child to college, pay women equally to men, get America back on its feet economically, educate girls and women so that they do not have unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortion–and on and on.

Ending America's addiction to Middle Eastern oil within a decade–I'm absolutely with him on this. Funding the search for alternative sources of energy–I'm with him too. Equipping our soldiers adequately when we send them "in harm's way"–he is right about this. Defeating al-Qaeda, but not in Iraq, (why not? they are there in droves), but rather, only in the "80 countries" where they have terror cells and in Afghanistan–of course. Yes. But does Obama have any idea how much this will cost? And keep on costing? Because the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists are not going to go away anytime soon.

What frightened me about the evening was this: Each of the average American citizens who spoke, including two former Republicans who are now voting for Obama, had clearly been rehearsed in the Saul Alinsky-style of Method Acting. They spoke as if they were at a left political rally on a soapbox or in the street, gesturing largely, speaking loudly, grandstanding, repeating slogans and gestures over and over again. "Yes we Can." None spoke "naturally," or from the heart.

This canned performance coupled with one other reported fact troubled me. Several newscasters said that people openly wept when Obama began to speak. And kept on weeping. I myself saw some weeping faces: Young girls, older African-American men, middle aged white women, the Hollywood celebrities. Even Oprah was quoted as saying that "Nothing compares" (to this evening). The tears, plus the largeness of the choreographed event (85,000 people were in Invesco Field) brought to mind other large political rallies where leaders have held their people spellbound, often for hours.

No, I am not going to compare Obama to Hitler, Castro or Khomeini; that would simply not be true or fair. And yet, these are very dangerous times. People need to keep their heads about them, not lose them in a swoon. A Cult of Personality will not save America.

McCain's paid advertisement congratulating Obama on the fact that his acceptance speech took place 45 years later and on the very same date that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I've Got a Dream" speech was pretty classy. But McCain's decision to announce his Vice-Presidential running mate the day after Obama's speech was politically canny because it is pre-empting Obama's next day air-time.

McCain's record on women's reproductive rights and on equal pay for equal work is beyond worrisome. Thus, his choice of a woman who is a self-identified feminist, Governor Sarah Palin, as his Vice Presidential running mate is very smart. I am not yet sure what this will mean other than that a woman will be one heart-beat away from the Presidency and the first in line to run for the Presidency. McCain's campaign understood that they would have to reach out for the votes of women, progressives, feminists, and to all those feminists who are furious with the Democratic Party's treatment of Hillary.

Palin is reportedly a feminist for "Life" and not for "Choice." Yes, I think one can be both and yet and yet…oy vey! Abortion is too key an issue for women's rights to sacrifice just in order to have a woman living in Number One Observatory Circle. But the fight against jihad and Islamic gender and religious apartheid are too important to sacrifice to ideals about diplomacy.

Well, Palin is reportedly for "gay rights." (But, I have just been told, only because a decision about gay domestic partnerships benefitted the state of Alaska financially.) And, I have just received information that the disaffected Hillary supporters are starting a "new" Democratic Party; planning to press Obama's feet to the fire on women's rights; planning to write in Hillary's name–or to vote outright for McCain.

Folks: As Bette Davis famously said: "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night."


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