James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Dukakis’

Cain for GOP? Nein, nein, nein

Posted by James McPherson on December 2, 2011

First, let me say that I don’t particularly care whether Herman Cain cheated on his wife. I might care, for her sake, but since she seems to be a “Cain en-able-er” (go ahead, say it out loud and groan), I’m certainly not going to lose sleep over what goes on in their 43-year marriage. Apparently something works.

The same generally goes for serial adulterers Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump. If they can govern, that’s mostly what I care about. Still, when Republicans keep preaching about family values, it seems a bit more hypocritical (and perhaps more politically relevant because of that hypocrisy) when the cheater is a Republican such as those three, Mark Foley, Arnold Schwarzenegger,  Larry Craig, Mark Sanford and John Ensign, rather than a Democrat such as Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Jim McGreevey, Anthony Wiener or Eliot Spitzer.

I grant you that all of the guys named above with the possible exception of Cain are sleazeballs that I don’t want to hang out with. But if I thought one of them could get the country on track, he’d get my vote. And the fact is, Cain would be a lousy president. Most conservatives would agree, if they actually know anything about him. Cain just happened to fill the “anybody but Mitt” slot that Gingrich now occupies, probably also temporarily because he’s also a loser, for the GOP faithful.

I would remind the Cain supporters not to be too hasty in their arguments that Cain is being maligned. Usually the women who make these kinds of claims are ridiculed and disbelieved at first–and usually they turn out to be telling the truth. But one of those Cain supporters made me laugh out loud today.

Floyd Brown, the creator of the infamous “Willie Horton” ad used against Michael Dukakis posted on his own blog a piece titled–and I promise, I’m not making this up–“Video: Herman Cain, Man of Character, Destroyed By An Evil Media.” In his post, Brown unbelievably writes the following: “I consider the attacks on Cain to be the most reprehensible series of unjustified media allegations I have seen in my 50 years of life.” Really, Floyd? Remember, you’re the guy who takes pride in introducing most of us to Willie Horton through the ad that–in case you need a reminder–you can find at the bottom of this post.

Brown also states that “the relentless assault planned by the Obama White House … is abhorrent.” Now that’s just goofy, and Brown–or any regular watcher of “The West Wing” or “The Good Wife”–should know it. If Democrats were behind this, don’t you think they’d wait to unleash it until after Cain had the nomination? If the supposed “attacks” are political in nature, my guess on who is behind it would be Gingrich–the guy who is supposedly staying above it all.

And while I thought Brown’s showing of support was funny, I found another to be simply sad. A new website, titled “Women for Herman Cain,” includes words of support from women around the country professing their belief in Cain. Most include photos of themselves, many of the self-shot variety that too many girls and young women commonly post on Facebook. But many of these women aren’t young, and shouldn’t be naive. And because I find them mostly pitiful, I won’t include their names below.

“Dear Mr. Cain, I am a 66 year old female architect in the State of Texas, and want to simply say… as a REAL woman I do not believe for one second any of these ‘women’ that have crawled out from under a rock somewhere to defame you and bring pain to you and your family. They are pitiful creatures at the very least, and evil at the most. Isn’t it convenient that they have suddenly become offended by supposed advances by you now after all these years, my goodness, poor babies, how have they been able to bare up under the pain for all these oh so many years… LIARS, LIARS, LIARS…”

Even as we wonder about the ironic misspelling of bear/bare, one wonders how this “real woman” knows that others are liars. Here’s another, with the original spelling and grammar intact:

” Hello, Herman Cain, you need to focus about this America” and don’t even listen to all this women ,that they don’t have nothing good to say about you… they they are money hungry… and women like this, Don’t care or don’t have no “SHAME to go on TV…to use lies, for money…somebody has been paying this women. They make me sick to my stomach…..they need to start digging a hole on the ground n till they rich china”

And another, from a woman who apparently missed the fact that Cain blames unemployment on the jobless: “”Mr. Cain, I support you very much. I am currently unemployed. I haven’t been able to find a full time job since I graduated college in 2009. … I do not believe a single one of the ‘women’ who have accused you.” What is it about Cain’s female followers and their use of quotation marks while disparaging possible “women” victims?

One writes to Cain’s wife, who is heading up the website: “Mrs. Cain, I’m so very sorry for the pain you’ve had to suffer at the hands of these seriously troubled women and those behind them. Such an elegant lady as you should never have to deal with such scum.”

I agree that Gloria Cain shouldn’t have to deal with scum. But apparently she chooses to do so. And I do wonder how often her husband checks out the photos on her new website, looking for new women to “help.” God knows that some there seem to need it.

Next-day follow-up: Cain admits that his campaign is toast, as he is “suspending” his campaign. He’s make an endorsement soon, as he continues his run for vice president–I’m betting it’s for Gingrich, since the two men obviously have much in common.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Burn a flag for the Fourth

Posted by James McPherson on July 3, 2008

The Fourth of July weekend is an appropriate time to discuss patriotism and its ultimate icon, the American Flag. Barack Obama and liberals draw considerable criticism for failing to honor the flag in ways deemed appropriate by conservatives, while some self-defined patriots apparently can’t wait to find new ways to use the flag to break the law.

As fearful as some conservatives and weak-willed legislators are about flag-burning liberals, I’d be willing to bet that more conservatives than liberals will engage in unlawful flag-related behavior this weekend–in many cases an unfortunate byproduct of combining patriotism with ignorance. And that would be true even if flag burning were made illegal, rather than just being the legally proper way to dispose of a worn flag.

Part of the problem comes because many people seem to consider the flag a religious symbol. Most don’t go as far as the Ku Klux Klan, which may offer the most extreme version of conflating patriotism and Christianity (its two “guiding principles) with its three primary symbols, “the Flag, the Constitution and the Holy Bible”–though for some modern variations of the Klan (others here and here), the Stars and Bars flag seems to be more important than the Stars and Stripes. But while most conservatives have little in common with the Klan, the various apparel versions of “these colors don’t run” T-shirts also fetishize the flag. I’m no Jehovah’s Witness, but I do appreciate the Witness’ Supreme Court-approved stance that saluting the flag (which I do, incidentally, though I don’t own a flag pin) might be deemed idolatry.

George H.W. Bush campaigned in front of a flag factory and won points by berating Michael Dukakis for vetoing a bill (which would have been unconstitutional), requiring public teachers to lead the Pledge of Allegiance (which Bush himself had never recited as a student, though Dukakis had). Bush’s actions prompted cartoonist Garry Trudeau to drape his invisible Bush characterization with a U.S. flag.

Conservative wingnuts, helped by the mainstream media, now are using flag pins and the National Anthem to try to portray Obama as non-patriotic (Time offers a short history of the relatively brief life of the flag pin). Yet many of those same conservatives regularly violate the U.S. Flag Code, adopted during the hyper-patriotism of World War II.

Here are some relevant sections of the flag code, along with examples of the law being violated–including by the current president Bush:

“The flag should form a distinctive feature of the ceremony of unveiling a statue or monument, but it should never be used as the covering for the statue or monument.”

 

“The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.”

“The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”

“The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.”

 

“The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.”

 George Bush desecrates a flag:

“The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”

  

“No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.”

 

“The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

The fact is, how best to express one’s patriotism can be complicated. For example, my three favorite versions of the National Anthem, all of which in the right circumstances can still bring tears to my eyes, all feature performers who would not even have been fully recognized as people when this nation was founded. The first, by Jimi Hedrix, is an anti-war version performed during Woodstock. The second might be viewed as a pro-war version, performed by Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl during the first Persian Gulf War. And in the third basketball coach Mo Cheeks rescued a young girl who under pressure forgot the words to the song. I’ve posted YouTube versions of all three below.

The complications of patriotism are discussed further in an excellent essay by Time‘s Peter Beinart, who points out that common liberal and conservative versions of patriotism both are flawed:

When it comes to patriotism, conservatives and liberals need each other, because love of country requires both affirmation and criticism. It’s a good thing that Americans fly the flag on July 4. In a country as diverse as ours, patriotic symbols are a powerful balm. And if people stopped flying the flag every time the government did something they didn’t like, it would become an emblem not of national unity but of political division. On the other hand, waving a flag, like holding a Bible, is supposed to be a spur to action. When it becomes an end in itself, America needs people willing to follow in the footsteps of the prophets and remind us that complacent ritual can be the enemy of true devotion.

Patriotism should be proud but not blind, critical yet loving. And liberals and conservatives should agree that if patriotism entails no sacrifice, if it is all faith and no works, then something has gone wrong. The American who volunteers to fight in Iraq and the American who protests the war both express a truer patriotism than the American who treats it as a distant spectacle with no claim on his talents or conscience.

So honor your country this Fourth of July by burning a U.S. flag, if your own flag is worn out. Then replace it with a clean new one, symbolic of America’s promise as well as its past.

Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock

Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl

Mo Cheeks and Natalie Gilbert

Posted in History, Legal issues, Music, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments »