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Post-Boomer Politicians:

I've been mulling over in my head a couple of insightful comments that readers posted to one of my posts last week. I think these readers are onto something quite striking about the Presidential election.

Commenter Blue wrote:

"Palin likes men." That is a very concise way of putting something I have been mulling over.

I think there is a reason for that, as well--Palin isn't a Boomer. She is in one of the first cohorts of Gen-X. She didn't suffer through a lot of the same travails that the Boomer women politicians did that marked all of them with a seriousness and general lack of humor that just turns a lot of men off.

Palin didn't have to fight for a woman's basketball team--it was already in her high school. She didn't have to fight to study something but nursing or teaching--others had already gone into journalism. She didn't have to fight to be the first female newscaster in her market--others had gone before. The list goes on.

So she never experienced--at least not to the same level--the gnawing self-doubt that afflicted so many Second Wave feminists. I think that is the source of her confidence and her appeal.

And David Warner generalized the point:

"Palin isn't a Boomer"

We have a winner!

I think this is why she's the first one to treat Obama like the grown man he is. She was 4(!) in 1968. She acted like a post-sexist, and she treated Barack like a post-racist.

These comments strike me as being right on target. Obama comes across (and I suspect thinks of himself) as a serious, accomplished person who just happens to be black. His race is part of who he is but he isn't defined by his race. He's sort of a Tiger Woods-Michael Jordan kind of guy, not a Jesse Jackson sort of guy. Also, iterestingly he doesn't shy away from engaging in activities that are often thought of as stereotypically "black," such as hip hop music, fist bumps, playing basketball, and Bernie Mac-style humor. It is just what he happens to like, and there is no symbolism that he is trying to send one way or the other with it. Palin is a serious, accomplished woman who just happens to be a woman (I'm not sure who the popular culture comparison might be to her). She is a stylish, feminine dresser who sees nothing inconsistent with being a tough, competent, chief executive and also a fun, loving mother. She simply isn't Hillary Clinton, she's a different generation. Palin and Obama just don't define themselves by these external characteristics. And they aren't the type to sit around and complain about how the world is stacked against them or engage in a bunch of symbolic posturing.

To which it can be added that although McCain is technically a Boomer, he comes across as pre-Boomer (as was widely observed by the media at the convention).

Which leaves Joe Biden, who is many ways strikes me as a very Boomer sort of person (which one of my colleagues at lunch today summed up as "Me, Me, Me" in echoing agreement with this observation).

I've heard Michael Barone observe that this is part of the defining experience of our past two Baby Boomer Presidents (Clinton and Bush) who embody the two different sides of the Baby Boom generation and all the baggage that goes with it. I suspect that Baby Boomer fatigue may have had something to do with the inability of Hillary, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney to get over the hump in the primaries (all of whom seem quite Boomerish to me). And whichever side you are on, the other side doesn't just have bad ideas but must be a bad person.

And in thinking about the comments by Blue and David Warner that we're talking about post-Boomers here, this is the characteristic of Obama and Palin that the mass media--dominated by Baby Boomers in senior positions--simply doesn't seem to understand. So we keep seeing these efforts by the media to engraft this Baby Boom intellectual baggage onto Obama and Palin. While one might question Obama's judgment on his associations with William Ayres and Jeremiah Wright, I don't think any sensible person seriously thinks that Obama approves of the things those guys say and do. And has become comical to watch Baby Boom media commentators try to fit Sarah Palin into their mental models. It is just weird to me to see old-style folks on both sides try to gin up dislike of these two very appealing people.

Perhaps I'm wrong as this is based on my personal observations, but I think that most post-Boomers see this whole game as sort of ridiculous. And to my mind, at least, simply more evidence of the self-absorption of the Boomer media folks in trying to fit these new people into their crabbed, pre-existing mental constructs than to actually open their eyes and recognize that something new and important is going on. Or to put it more bluntly, most of what these Boomer media-types are obsessed with is BS. And you can tell that Obama and Palin both think it is BS too, although they respond to it differently. But interestingly enough, both of them try to approach it by focusing on points that unite people and which gain consensus. Obama's approach is to try to trascend it with big themes and trying to find ground of agreement. Palin's approach is to try to cut through it by focusing on efficiency, competence, accountability, and pragmatism in governance--by all accounts the focus of her term as governor has been on getting things done, accountability, and problem-solving, rather than pushing divisive ideological themes.

This is also why I wasn't surprised when Obama reacted the way he did to the intrusive media coverage of Palin's daughter's pregnancy--I think he probably just isn't interested in trying to destroy anyone over something like a political election. And as a parallel, this is why Palin's humor is so effective--there is no mean edge to it, but a sort of joshing, "let's have fun and not take ourselves and all of this too seriously" aspect to it (compare that to the way Rudy Giuliani delivered the same sort of jokes). Both are very non-Boomer, I'd say.

If our commenters are right, this is sort of a neat point--and an optimistic one, I think, for the future of the country.

P.S.: On Obama, this gives me an opportunity to direct readers to a neat piece by Harvey Silverglate a little while back on the death of parody. As Harvey notes, I think correctly, the outrage over the New Yorker cover cartoon a few weeks back simply missed the point--the parody there was not in suggesting that Barack and Michelle Obama were domestic terrorists. The parody was in making fun of those who would try to paint Michelle and Barack Obama as domestic terrorists (as Harvey observed, "the joke was on his enemies").

EIDE_Interface (mail):
It's all true. Palin comes off as a real person, and the left can't stand it.
9.9.2008 3:25pm
Mad Max:
While one might question Obama's judgment on his associations with William Ayres and Jeremiah Wright, I don't think any sensible person seriously thinks that Obama approves of the things those guys say and do.

Um, if he doesn't approve of what they say and do, why does he associate with them? Sensible people don't associate with people of whose words and deeds they don't approve.
9.9.2008 3:28pm
rbj:
Gov. Palin was born the same year as I was (which is kind of frightening in itself, but that makes me not a boomer!), and Sen. Obama is the same age as my sister. It's good to see fresh, young talent emerging as political leaders. This might become a quick trend with a lot of the old guard and even middle guard retiring. And given the dysfunction in Washington it would probably be for the best.
9.9.2008 3:29pm
Not Alan Keyes:
His race is part of who he is but he isn't defined by his race.
I think Alan Keyes said that's because he wasn't decended from slaves.
9.9.2008 3:31pm
Deoxy (mail):
While one might question Obama's judgment on his associations with William Ayres and Jeremiah Wright, I don't think any sensible person seriously thinks that Obama approves of the things those guys say and do.


Ayers, perhaps not (an unwise choice of stepping stone? completely possible), but Wright? His "spiritual mentor"? The pastor of his 20-year church home? I find that much harder to believe, and I am not remotely alone.

It's either that he DOES agree with large portions of what Wright says and does, or his entire "Christian faith" is a sham, just another political stepping stone, and one involving (approvingly!) exposing his small children to very nasty, racism beliefs.

I'm not sure which of those is worse, actually.
9.9.2008 3:33pm
Deoxy (mail):
Otherwise, I think this was a very good post, on the whole. Obama has made a lot more usage of his being black than Palin has of her being a woman, but she's just started, and there's plenty of time for that to change.
9.9.2008 3:35pm
Nunzio:
Baby Boomers are technically defined as those born between 1946 and 1964. So McCain and Biden aren't boomers, but Obama and Palin are. Your point seems right on, though.

I like Obama, Palin, and McCain.

Don't care much for Clinton, W., Cheney, and Biden. Draft dodgers all.
9.9.2008 3:35pm
Big E:
Sadly, policy wise I see post boomers basically repeating the mistakes of earlier generations. When I was in high school I complained mightily about Reagan's fiscal mismanagement, and swore that when my generation came to power there would be no way we would leave the bill for the next generation. Sadly it appears I was wrong. America's gotten used to the idea of getting something for nothing, and so my generation is saddling our kids with a mess that we didn't have the courage to handle.
9.9.2008 3:37pm
Kent Scheidegger (mail) (www):
Nunzio beat me to it. McCain was 9 years old on VJ Day. He is of the generation old enough to remember WWII but too young to have fought in it. His formative years were entirely different from those of the Baby Boom generation.
9.9.2008 3:41pm
Daniel San:
Post-racial seems a bit strong for Obama. 'Dreams for My Father' is a book that is very much aware of race and racial issues. That said, it deals with race in a way that seems rich with insight and the level of racial grievance is not high.

Likewise, Palin's speeches, full of references to 'the glass ceiling' are not truly post-gender.

But it is unmistakably true that these are not condidates of (race or gender) grievance. For them, race is important and gender is important, but there are other things that are far more important.

In considering the tone of the campaign, it is also worth noticing that McCain and Biden are not really boomers either. It may be that all four agree that politics is not everything and that an ugly divisive campaign can be worse for the country that a loss by their side.
9.9.2008 3:44pm
Daniel San:
Nunzio,
Obama was born in 1961; not a boomer, but one of us who have lived right behind the boomers, attracted by the power and influence of that cohort, but disgusted or frightened by some of its excesses. (Sort of like an older sibling multiplied by a few million).
9.9.2008 3:49pm
Al Maviva (mail):
Those are good observations. As a Gen-X'er I like Obama and Palin on a personal level, and liked Obama more before the political handlers, most of whom are boomers, got hold of him. His political positions seem to come straight from Boomer liberalism and I really don't like them but wouldn't mind shooting hoops or watching the game with him. Palin is a different kettle of fish, in a lot of ways she reminds me of the Joey &Josephine lunchboxes I grew up with and served in the Army with. If McCain is smart he'll work to get her up to speed on the issues but won't let the consultants give her a big makeover they way the other guys have done with Obama. She will lose a lot of her appeal if that happens. Discussing Palin with a number of friends who are definitely in the cognitive elite (docs, lawyers) but with working and middle-class red state roots, I've found she's changed their outlook on the election, and a number of them who are moderately liberal will be changing their vote for a basically emotive reason, she speaks to them and they identify with her. Couldn't happen with a perfectly consulted, Naomi-Kleined Boomer; the Boomer's Search for Authenticity has produced a viscerally revulsive artificiality that even a lot of Boomers decry as soundbite politics.

Silverglate is right about the death of parody stemming from the brain death of the elites. I suspect that most people under 40 today viewing Blazing Saddles, and the more outspoken students on most of the elite campuses, would see it as an incredibly racist movie rather than the blistering, funny indictment of racism that it was. So too Brooks' Jewish jokes, which use Jews as the brunt of the joke to skewer anti-Semites. Cf. Seinfeld's treatment of anti-Dentites.
9.9.2008 3:53pm
Paul Milligan (mail):
"While one might question Obama's judgment on his associations with William Ayres and Jeremiah Wright, I don't think any sensible person seriously thinks that Obama approves of the things those guys say and do"

And yet, Gene, he chooses life-long associations with them, he chooses to do it very publicly ( dedicating his book to Wright, having Wright preside at his wedding and baptise his children, calling him 'role model', etc ).

Surely he can not merely disavow 'the bad stuff' when it's convenient to him ?

Surely this calls into question his judgement, at least in so far as who he chooses to surround himself with and take advice from ( a very important attribute in a President ) ?

Surely no one can buy the lie 'I modelled myself afer Rev. WRight for 20 years, he's me hero, but I never knew what he actually said or thought, even on issues he thought important enough to 'preach' about, and put out on his own DVD that he published ?

Can Obama expect anyone to believe 'I didn't know what Rev. Wright said on his DVD's, I never watched my her'os DVD's' ? Or 'I never knew he said those things from the pulpit ( although apparently he does so with great regularity and is well known for it ), even though I've faithfully attended his church for 20 years ' ???
9.9.2008 3:53pm
The Ace (mail):
Obama's approach is to try to trascend it with big themes and trying to find ground of agreement. Palin's approach is to try to cut through it by focusing on efficiency, competence, accountability, and pragmatism in governance--by all accounts the focus of her term as governor has been on getting things done, accountability, and problem-solving, rather than pushing divisive ideological themes.

In other words:
Obama is a talker and Palin is a doer.
9.9.2008 3:54pm
The Ace (mail):
While one might question Obama's judgment on his associations with William Ayres and Jeremiah Wright, I don't think any sensible person seriously thinks that Obama approves of the things those guys say and do

Given there is a common theme - America is to be despised and radically reformed - I would say Obama explicitly endorses what they say and do.
9.9.2008 3:57pm
JK:
Yeah, another Sarah Palin thread! At least VC has droped to about 50% Palin threads raher than the 75% or so of the last few days. Still there has to be some other people who are getting a bit sick of it, she's not THAT interesting...
9.9.2008 3:57pm
hawkins:

While one might question Obama's judgment on his associations with William Ayres and Jeremiah Wright, I don't think any sensible person seriously thinks that Obama approves of the things those guys say and do

Given there is a common theme - America is to be despised and radically reformed - I would say Obama explicitly endorses what they say and do.


Ace - you must have missed Zywicki's use of the word "sensible."
9.9.2008 4:04pm
Bad English:
JK--

You are in grave danger. Dial 9-1-1 right now and notify law enforcement authorities that someone is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to read Sarah Palin threads and post responses to them. In the name of God, your life hangs in the balance.
9.9.2008 4:10pm
akiva (mail):
Well, Palin may be an Xer, but just about everything I've read about her indicates to me that her ideological viewpoint comes straight from the right-wing side of the Boomer instigated culture war. Sorry, but I don't see her as the pragmatist that some are claiming her to be.
9.9.2008 4:11pm
*rolls eyes*:

Obama is a talker and Palin is a doer.

Wait, let me correct that for you: Obama is a talker and Palin is a liar.

Sold a plane on ebay? Lie. Rejected a bridge to nowhere? Lie. Against earmarks? Lie.

I'm sorry, but if you want to seriously see her as a "doer," you have to know what she's doing.
9.9.2008 4:11pm
The Ace (mail):
Ace - you must have missed Zywicki's use of the word "sensible

Are you denying Bill Ayers despises America?
9.9.2008 4:15pm
The Ace (mail):
Rejected a bridge to nowhere? Lie

You simply can't read:


Though Gov. Palin originally supported the earmark spending on the Ketchikan bridge ("to nowhere), she eventually killed the project, chosing to spend Federal money on other infrasturcture programs.

However, Sen. Biden and Sen. Obama voted for funding the Bridge, even when given a second chance by Sen. Tom Coburn, who proposed shifting earmark funds to Katrina relief.


That is a fact.

Wait, let me correct that for you: Obama is a talker liar and Palin is a doer

Isn't this fun?
9.9.2008 4:18pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
I just checked Wikipedia for the boundaries of various generations, and found an interesting note -- no member of the Silent Generation (those born between 1925 and '45) has been elected President -- McCain would be the first.
9.9.2008 4:19pm
The Ace (mail):
Ace - you must have missed Zywicki's use of the word "sensible."

Are you denying Obama went to Reverend Wright's church for 20 years?

Or are you denying that Obama hung out will Bill Ayers for almost 7 years?
9.9.2008 4:19pm
boomboom:
Neat. But the post-post-boomer generation has been schooled by the boomers in the old pieties, so your optimism is a little misplaced.
9.9.2008 4:24pm
The Ace (mail):
Rejected a bridge to nowhere? Lie.

Funny:

Gov. Sarah Palin ordered state transportation officials to abandon the ''bridge to nowhere'' project that became a nationwide symbol of federal pork-barrel spending. The $398 million bridge would have connected Ketchikan, on one island in southeastern Alaska, to its airport on another nearby island. ''Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport,'' Ms. Palin, a Republican, said in a news release, ''but the $398 million bridge is not the answer.'' She directed the State Transportation Department to find the most ''fiscally responsible'' alternative for access to the airport.


Speaking of lies, here is a whopper:

when the association between Obama and Ayers was raised, Obama said: "This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood. . . . He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis."


I love that one!
9.9.2008 4:25pm
Mad Max:
no member of the Silent Generation (those born between 1925 and '45) has been elected President -- McCain would be the first.

The original definition of this generation would have included Jimmy Carter and Bush Sr. (both born 1924).
9.9.2008 4:25pm
Dave N (mail):
JK,

Actually, I did not see this as a "Palin Thread." I saw it as a Baby Boomer type thread.

I also find it fascinating because regardless of which ticket wins, there will be either a President or Vice President younger than I am (though I am only a few months older than Obama).

And the point of the post is correct. The 1968 riots happened when I was 7. That means I was oblivious to them--and I suspect Obama was as well. I was 13 the year Nixon resigned (meaning I cared more about the A's winning the Series than Ford entering the White House) and 19 when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter.

In 1980, I actively campaigned for a black running for the state legislature. He didn't win but his race was an irrelevancy for me. I just thought he could do a good job.

I hoped that Colin Powell would run for President in 2000--not because he is black, but because I thought he seemed superbly qualified for the job.

In high school, I had a black friend. Our common interest was chess. We played in the back of the classroom durnig American History because we were both smart enough to read the text and ace the exams.

Years later, the teacher said she turned a blind eye to the games because she thought it was good to foster friendships across races. Me? I didn't care a whit about the color of his skin but rather I cared about the quality of his chessplay.

I first voted in 1979 (my community had municipal elections in odd numbered years then). I voted for a female for Mayor, both in the primary and the general (different women). It was no big deal to me--I voted for who I thought would do the best job. It was a big deal to my mother--and she commended me for being willing to vote for a woman.

In 1978, when Nancy Kassebaum was elected to the Senate, it was a HUGE national story, and not because she was Alf Landon's daughter. But I remember even then shrugging and thinking to myself, "why not her and why is it such a big deal?"

Females were top achievers at my high school and I didn't think it unusual. Females did the same in college--and by the time I entered law school in the late 80's, almost half my class was female.

I have had female elected officials as my boss for 2/3 of my legal career. In other words, I have grown up with the mindset that blacks and women being in position of authority is no big deal. So has Obama. So has Palin.

Obama gets it. So does Palin. So do I.
9.9.2008 4:26pm
PaulD (mail):
I think you post is quite interesting. I would add that another thing that is refreshing about Palin is that she gives off the sense that being a politician is her job, not her life.
9.9.2008 4:30pm
LN (mail):
Though Gov. Palin originally supported the earmark spending on the Ketchikan bridge ("to nowhere), she eventually killed the project, chosing to spend Federal money on other infrasturcture programs.


Ace, can you explain to me what is to be bragged about here?
It was the McCain/Palin camp that brought up the Bridge to Nowhere, they must think it's something to be proud of.

1) When Palin was campaigning, she supported the bridge.
2) Congress eventually took away the earmark designation but gave Alaska the money anyway.
3) The Palin administration started building a road to where the bridge would be.
4) It wasn't until September 2007 that Alaska abandoned the project. See

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/09/22/alaska.bridge.ap/

5) Palin cited lack of funding as the reason for abandoning the bridge, and claimed that the bridge projects had been inaccurately portrayed.

Yay! That's some story! Thanks but no thanks!

Of course this is all kinda complicated, like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae being overbloated government enterprises that need to be made more efficient. It's true!
9.9.2008 4:33pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Sold a plane on eBay?

McCain used the word "sold". Sarah was always careful to use the word "listed".
9.9.2008 4:36pm
LN (mail):
Ace, do you really think Palin deserves credit for abandoning the Bridge to Nowhere, but only 8 months into her term, and only after spending money on the project, and after campaigning on its behalf? Fascinating.

Thanks but no thanks.
9.9.2008 4:37pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dave N.
Lots of us get it, and not necessarily the younger set.
Problem is, the left side of the boomers wanted to make a Very Big Deal of it, mostly so as to make themselves feel good about being morally superior to some old guys they'd heard about.
And they wouldn't leave the rest of us alone. Always looking for gotcha code words in normal conversation. Always loading any conceivable situation with their issues.
I like the fact that more people get it, because that just makes it easier to go through life getting it.
But, don't think getting it makes you some kind of superior moral minority.
9.9.2008 4:39pm
Hoosier:
I also posted comments on this, but no one put them up on grandma's refrigerator. And I'm hurt. Not very. But still.

I do think there is something to this generational analysis. But there is a gateway issue of definitions. Someone about said that Boomers are those born from '46 to '64. That works demographically. But culturally? Harder to say.

There's no way to say what "really" are the birth years of a generation. But there's no way to say what really are the years for the Middle Ages either. What's important is not to have the right answer, but to have a credible, reasonable answer. Mine: If you have any cogent memory of the Vietnam War, you are too old to be Gen-X. If you used a the web to do research in high school or college, you are too young.

So Palin is probably on the generational cusp. Obama is really a 'late-Boomer.' (If I can put it in a semi-pun.) Perhaps this helps explain why he comes across as (overly?) earnest. Perhaps what grates on some about Palin's speech is the use of irony, that can be taken as sarcasm by people not steeped in the culture of the 1990s.

I was born in the same year as Kurt Cobain. So I brook no contradiction when I assert that I AM GEN-X!

And you know what? We were right about things back in the early '90s. Stuff does kinda suck. And we don't like stuff that sucks.

Oh well. Whatever. Nevermind(sic, if you are Gen-X).
9.9.2008 4:41pm
Dave N (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

I do not think I am in any way morally superior to anyone else. I apologize if I gave that impression. I was using myself as something of a proxy as to why Obama and Palin "get it." I realize that many others also "get it" while many others don't (including some from my generation).

I agree with your overall point--just as I agree with Todd Zywicki's.
9.9.2008 4:45pm
Dave N (mail):
Hoosier,

You were born in 1967? Somehow I had mentally pictured you as older.
9.9.2008 4:47pm
CJColucci:
When I was your age, I thought I had some special insight into the nature of things owing to when I had been born, and that my elders were full of shit -- of course they were, because we all are -- owing to when they had been born. They couldn't possibly understand how the world now was, because they just didn't get the new-fangled reality. Of course, I was an immature, self-righteous twit then, but I outgrew it.
9.9.2008 4:48pm
fullerene:

Gov. Sarah Palin ordered state transportation officials to abandon the ''bridge to nowhere'' project that became a nationwide symbol of federal pork-barrel spending.

Ah, but Ace, you seem to have forgotten the heroic version of the story that Palin told. To quote her, "I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress -- I told Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, I said we'd build it ourselves."

Now tell me, how is telling state transportation officials not to build a bridge after an earmark specifically for that bridge was cancelled any of the following:

- Telling Congress No Thanks on the bridge
- Championing reform to end earmark abuses
- Evidence that Alaska would build any one of its bridges without federal money

To say that she has been honest is just ridiculous. To hear her tell it, she pushed hard against the bridge and the entire earmark process. Right? The real story was that she wasn't even governor when the earmark was considered or cancelled. And when she got the same amount of money with no strings attached, did she give it back? Nope, she spent it. Undoubtedly Alaska, with no income tax or sales tax needed that money. It couldn't ask anything of its citizens.
9.9.2008 4:49pm
The Ace (mail):
Ace, can you explain to me what is to be bragged about here?
It was the McCain/Palin camp that brought up the Bridge to Nowhere, they must think it's something to be proud of.


Well, unlike Obama, she has gone against people in her own party on issues and that is one example.

Palin cited lack of funding as the reason for abandoning the bridge, and claimed that the bridge projects had been inaccurately portrayed

Um, no:

''Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport,'' Ms. Palin, a Republican, said in a news release, ''but the $398 million bridge is not the answer


Your assertions, despite how badly you wish them true, are not.
9.9.2008 4:50pm
wooga:

Of course this is all kinda complicated, like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae being overbloated government enterprises that need to be made more efficient. It's true!

LN,
Just because something "costs the taxpayers too much" does not mean it is necessarily a "government enterprise." If you hadn't noticed, the federal government is bailing out these 'private companies' with the taxpayers' money. Jeez, you guys are really stretching to find gaffes.

(BTW, that's not getting into the whole "wink and a nod" about Fannie/Fred "not" being backed by federal security. It's a de facto de jure distiniction)
9.9.2008 4:52pm
The Ace (mail):
Now tell me, how is telling state transportation officials not to build a bridge after an earmark specifically for that bridge was cancelled

Um, she could have told them to build the bridge anyway.

Good grief.


The Republican-controlled Congress still gave Alaska the $452 million it had requested for the two bridges, merely removing the earmark directing where the state should spend the money. Gov. Frank H. Murkowski (R), who was once Stevens's junior colleague in the Senate, intends to spend that money on the bridges.


You can grasp this, right?
9.9.2008 4:55pm
fullerene:

Um, no.

Um, let me get you that full quotation:

Palin: Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport, but the $398 million bridge is not the answer. Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about $329 million short of full funding for the bridge project, and it's clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island. Much of the public's attitude toward Alaska bridges is based on inaccurate portrayals of the projects here. But we need to focus on what we can do, rather than fight over what has happened.


Inaccurate portrayals of the projects here? Short of funding? Despite the work of our congressional delegation?

Yeah, I would say that she was totally against the federal funding of the this project. I mean, her words are just dripping with contempt for it. Furthermore, this press release really highlights her many efforts at earmark reform. All goods things, we would agree.
9.9.2008 4:56pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Obama comes across (and I suspect thinks of himself) as a serious, accomplished person who just happens to be black.

You're half right. I think Obama thinks of himself as a "serious, accomplished person".

The problem is, he isn't. He's a wannabe baby-boomer. He saw all the cool things the big kids got to do, and wanted to be like them. So he attached himself to the Bill Ayers, unrepentant terrorist, and to Rev. Wright, the Black Liberation Theology nutcase, because that's how he could be part of the big kids excitement.

Going to Columbia and Harvard also helped screw him up.

Palin, OTOH, was far enough past the "glory days" that she had no desire to be part of them. And she didn't go to boomer-worshiping left-wing temples (I mean Ivy League schools), so she wasn't corrupted that way, either.

Obama is a cool, hip guy who might someday have been qualified to be President. But first he'd have to stop just being cool and hip, and actually buckle down and do something more than run for office.

Palin is a serious individual (5 kids can do that to you), who's had to be serious about life for the last 20 years, who's had to hold real jobs, and fight real battles. And she's a better person for having done so.

A serious, thoughtful individual wouldn't have spent 20 years as a member of Rev. "God Damn America" Wright's church, no matter how many political advantages came from being there. Obama chose to do so.

That's all you really need to know about him.
9.9.2008 4:56pm
The Ace (mail):
Of course this is all kinda complicated, like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae being overbloated government enterprises

I love this.

Um, she did not say that.
But in order to cure your lack of knowledge on the topic, you may want to read this, then this, and this. All of which spell out Fannie &Freddy were "instrumentalities of the federal government, rather than as fully private entities."
9.9.2008 5:00pm
fullerene:

Um, she could have told them to build the bridge anyway.


But why didn't she? Was it because she opposed the bridge project? Was it because she was against using federal money for Alaskan bridges? Was it because she was against the earmark process?

That is what she told us a few days ago. But her press release mentions none of these reasons. Funny that.
9.9.2008 5:00pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
fullerene

Did Alaska spend the money on the Bridge?

No.

Who made the decision not to spend the money on the Bridge?

Gov. Palin.

Did the Senate have a chance to kill the Bridge?

Yes. Sen Coburn introduced a bill to redirect the money to Katrina relief.

Did the Senate kill the Bridge?

No.

How did Senators Obama and Biden vote?

Both of them voted to spend the money on the Bridge to Nowhere, not on Katrina relief.

Is any of the above factually incorrect?

Did you need anything else explained to you?

(Hint: Like most people, I care far more about what someone does, than about what they say. This is one of the reasons why I have no respect for the Democrat ticket: it's full of talkers, not doers. The other major reason why I have no respect for the Democrat ticket is because, when they do act, it's pretty much always to do the wrong thing.)
9.9.2008 5:03pm
LN (mail):
I wrote:
Palin cited lack of funding as the reason for abandoning the bridge, and claimed that the bridge projects had been inaccurately portrayed

Ace replied
Um, no:

''Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport,'' Ms. Palin, a Republican, said in a news release, ''but the $398 million bridge is not the answer


How on earth does this quote contradict what I said? Since Palin explicitly mentions money in the press release, "lack of funding" couldn't possibly explain why she abandoned the bridge?

Read the AP article I linked from Sept 2007 (which contains the line you just threw at me, btw). It contains a quote from Palin about "inaccurate portrayals" of the bridge.

This is ridiculous. Once again, Palin campaigned for the bridge to nowhere, spent money on building a road to the bridge to nowhere, and only abandoned the bridge 8 months into her term.

Thanks, but no thanks.
9.9.2008 5:05pm
fullerene:

Like most people, I care far more about what someone does, than about what they say.


I couldn't agree more. According to Palin's words, she has been a champion for earmark reform from the pulpit of Alaska's Governor. In reality, howeve, she pushes for as much federal money for Alaska and Wasilla as she can get her hands on. And she has been very successful at that.
9.9.2008 5:09pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I do find it interesting that the Boomers really only marginally had two presidents, Clinton and Bush(43), despite our oversized portion of the population, and even those two are very early Boomers, and so didn't get the full brunt of that generation. Obama doesn't seem to think like a Boomer, Palin isn't, and McCain was born before, not after WWII. He is a tweener, between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers.

The classic definition of a Baby Boomer is someone who is part of the Pig in a Python demographic that started when the soldiers got back from WWII, and ended sometime in the mid 1960s. The reason that I don't fully accept either Clinton nor Bush is that they were born before the pig was really eaten, and never really had to deal with the competition that the rest of us Boomers did.

Also, I have had several girlfriends over the years born right after WWII, and they still seemed indoctrinated with the 1950s culture, versus the later 1960s and into the 1970s. So, instead of Drugs, Sex, and Rock n Roll, anti-war protests, they were into fraternities and Mrs degrees (one born in 1947 was indeed married before graduation, which by the time I went to college was almost unheard of). They tended to go to college when the guys were still wearing ties and the girls were wearing skirts. There seemed to be a major disconnect right around Tet, the 1968 DNC, etc., when ties went out and tie dyed came in, along with pot, etc. So, I see the undergraduate college experiences of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as closer to those of the 1950s, than of the 1970s (though it appears that the Clintons made up for this in law school).

So, why haven't the real Baby Boomers put anyone in the White House, despite being such a dominant demographic (I am not counting Clinton, Bush, nor Obama, as all are barely Boomers)?
9.9.2008 5:11pm
Daniel San:
Obama has an interesting discussion of "Black rage" (his term) in 'Dreams'. As he sees it, the over-the-top rants about white oppression are something that a lot of Blacks find entertaining. He sees it as counter-productive but really doesn't seem to take it very seriously.

I suspect that he sat through Wright's rants and alternated between cheering and rolling his eyes. (As in, we probably shouldn't be doing this but its pretty fun and probably doesn't hurt anyone very much.) Keep in mind that rage is not all that Wright or Ayers was about. At least with Wright, for Obama it was a very small part of what Wright was about. I don't believe Obama when he says he was unaware of it, but it was not the reason for his admiration of Wright.
9.9.2008 5:12pm
Sarcastro (www):
Bruce Hayden I blame Reagan!
9.9.2008 5:13pm
Hoosier:
So, why haven't the real Baby Boomers put anyone in the White House,

Bad acid(?).
9.9.2008 5:20pm
Dave N (mail):
Bruce Hayden,

George W. Bush was born in 1946 (after his father came home from war, married Barb, and started his family).

Bill Clinton was born in 1946 (when his came home from the war, fathered a child, and shortly thereafter died in an accident).

You state that Barack Obama is not a Baby Boomer. I think that you give a rather cramped view of the term "Baby Boomer."

While George W. Bush and Bill Clinton may not fit your stereotype of a Baby Boomer, that doesn't mean they weren't.
9.9.2008 5:20pm
Hoosier:
Dave N :
Hoosier,

You were born in 1967? Somehow I had mentally pictured you as older.


Thanks?
9.9.2008 5:22pm
Kent Scheidegger (mail) (www):
"...probably doesn't hurt anyone very much..." Exacerbating alienation by telling people lies that the government created AIDS to wipe them out and otherwise preaching as if Jim Crow were still the status quo hurts race relations in this country a great deal.

"I don't believe Obama when he says he was unaware of it...."

Then you believe he is a liar? Then you believe he chose to remain a member of church knowing that the preacher thundered "God damn America" from the pulpit? Are not those good enough reasons not to vote for him?
9.9.2008 5:23pm
fullerene:

Did the Senate kill the Bridge?

No.

Is any of the above factually incorrect?



Yes, it is factually incorrect. Quoting a November 17, 2005 story in the New York Times:

Congressional Republicans decided Wednesday to take a legislative wrecking ball to two Alaskan bridge projects that had demolished the party's reputation for fiscal austerity.

Straining to show new dedication to lower spending, House and Senate negotiators took the rare step of eliminating a requirement that $442 million be spent to build the two bridges, spans that became cemented in the national consciousness as "bridges to nowhere" because of the remote territory and small populations involved.

The change will not save the federal government any money. Instead, the $442 million will be turned over to the state with no strings attached, allowing lawmakers and the governor there to parcel it out for transportation projects as they see fit, including the bridges should they so choose.
9.9.2008 5:24pm
matt b (mail):
professor,
i;m afraid you may be falling prey to your own identity biases--that of a non-boomer. this may be obscuring your senses.
9.9.2008 5:24pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Hoosier is correct that Palin, and also Obama, are on a generational cusp. I prefer the term 'tweener -- Between the true Baby Boomers, but not Gen-X. Our parents might have been part of that Silent Generation that knew the Depression and WWII, but were awfully young, rather than fighting in it (though they had older cousins who did) and the men might have been drafted for Korea. (One of my grandfathers was just a little too young for WWI.)

We knew cousins who'd dealt with the draft, or Woodstock, but we were just a little too young. We didn't see Howdy Doody on TV, but we were just a little too old for Sesame Street, and we were in high school or college for Smurfs and Transformers. (We do remember when Saturday Night was not only funny, but innovative.)

On the downside of the bump, we heard plenty about "Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n Roll" but just about when we were starting college, Nancy Reagan was telling us to "Just Say No."

See tweeners.org (although it hasn't been updated in a while -- we're getting older.) We're tech savvy, but we remember a world before the 'net.

McCain is old, and he might always have been old. Maybe it's that military background.

When I was in my teens, I thought it was a rite of passage when there was finally a Playboy bunny born after I was. Now we've got a vice-presidential candidate who was.
9.9.2008 5:25pm
Hoosier:
Bruce N:

I have to agree that Obama, if elected, will have to count as the third "Boomer President." It's hard to think of someone who finished high school before the Reagan years as an early X-er. The cultural references would be different. Molly Ringwald. Ordinary People. MTV (Trivia: MTV used to show music videos!) Duran Duran (Not the Barbarella one). Challenger Disaster.

Generations are constructs, of course. But there are shaded boundaries, and area that are outside those boundaries. 1961 sounds like the latter.
9.9.2008 5:28pm
Hoosier:
David Chesler

On the downside of the bump, we heard plenty about "Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n Roll" but just about when we were starting college, Nancy Reagan was telling us to "Just Say No."

One of the standard "X-er Detectors" may be which trio was of more concern to you in your teens:

Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll

OR

AIDS, Crack, and Gangsta Rap


I'm not much for generational conflict. ("Some of my best friends are Boomers.") But just speaking for what I've observed, there is something of a sense among a fair percentage of X-ers that Boomers gave themselves over to having a good time, and we grew up with the consequences. Again, I'm not saying that this is what actually happened. Just that you can see this perception reflected in some of the culture of Gen-X.
9.9.2008 5:35pm
A.C.:
I'm the same age as Palin, which technically puts me in the last year of the Baby Boom. But I think the "real" last year was the class that graduated high school when I was a freshman. The drop-off in class size from them to us was about a third, which is not as drastic as the drop of 50% between us and the class ten years later (born in 1974). But the thing is, once that one-third drop occurred, things started changing culturally. The rules tightened up, and the requirements got stricter. People seemed to want to clean up a lot of messes. Reagan won the election. Preppy became fashionable. Those who were there remember the shift.

For my money, it's fair to call Obama the last of the Boomers. He's leaning towards that kind of affiliation anyway (I'm not sure it's just his handlers), and voluntary identification counts a lot for people who are between categories. But Palin, and Bobby Jindal even more so, seem to be coming from somewhere else.

And what was the problem with the bridge in Ketchikan anyway, other than that it seems to have been too fancy for the location? I was in Ketchikan recently, and it struck me that a bridge to the airport would be fairly useful. It wouldn't have to carry a lot of traffic, of course, but it would have to be strong enough to stand up to the weather. That should be doable.
9.9.2008 5:38pm
A.C.:
Another thought about people on the Boomer/Gen X cusp -- I think a lot depends on whether they were the oldest children in the family or the youngest. I'm an oldest, my siblings are unambiguously Gen X, and I identify that way. Someone with five older siblings who were definitely Boomers might be inclined to call it the other way.

Age of parents might also be an issue. Mine were actually born during World War II, although before the US got into it. That's another cusp, and there were some interesting discussions of the relative merits of 50s music (my mother's taste) and 60s music (my father's) at dinner.
9.9.2008 5:44pm
The Ace (mail):
Yes, it is factually incorrect. Quoting a November 17, 2005 story in the New York Times

Except for the fact that:

A: Congress gave Alaska the money
and
B: The then governor said the money would be spent on the bridges.
9.9.2008 5:48pm
Suzy (mail):
A few questions for the author: Why is it difficult to come up with the "popular culture comparison" for a "serious, accomplished woman who just happens to be a woman", in the same way that you came up with Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan as examples of iconic black men who just happen to be black?

Also, maybe I'm not understand the original post correctly, but are you suggesting that Hillary Clinton is not a "stylish, feminine dresser who sees nothing inconsistent with being a tough, competent, chief executive and also a fun, loving mother"? That's the impression given when the claim that Palin is all of these things is followed immediately by the statement: "She simply isn't Hillary Clinton, she's a different generation." Are women of Hillary's generation not capable of being stylish, feminine, tough, competent, fun, and loving all at once? What about women older than Hillary? Can they be these things? What are you trying to say about these different generations, exactly? I'm not following it.

What I am following is that this blog should be re-titled the Palin Conspiracy. The completely uncritical lovefest is laughable at this point. It's good to know that if I ever want to be showered with free passes and breathless compliments by the folks here, all I have to do is show up on the doorstep in a wonderbra and an NRA t-shirt.
9.9.2008 5:52pm
wooga:
So, David Chesler, it's you "tweeners" that are responsible for unleashing the scourge of disco on the world! (this follows standard music industry norms where teenagers drive music sales).
9.9.2008 6:07pm
Carolina:
Suzy:


Also, maybe I'm not understand the original post correctly, but are you suggesting that Hillary Clinton is not a "stylish, feminine dresser who sees nothing inconsistent with being a tough, competent, chief executive and also a fun, loving mother"?


I don't know about Prof. Zywicki, but I will definitely "suggest" that. Now, I have never even seen Hillary give a speech in person -- much less know her socially. So maybe in private she is a barrel of laughs. But her public persona is most definitely not that of a "fun loving mother." Rather, it's that of a moderately condescending policy wonk.
9.9.2008 6:07pm
J Richardson:
Actually, both Obama and Palin are in the late or trailing edge Baby Boomer cohort (1958-1964). I think the fact that they are at the end of the demographic cohort and are almost Gen-X'ers may explain why they differ from early Boomer politicians like Bush 43 and the Clintons.

Likewise, McCain and Biden both qualify for the Silent Generation though an argument could be made that there is nothing silent about Joe Biden!
9.9.2008 6:09pm
fullerene:

Except for the fact that:

A: Congress gave Alaska the money
and
B: The then governor said the money would be spent on the bridges.



Congress gave Alaska the money as a compromise. There would be no politically damaging bridge to nowhere and wounded bull Ted Stevens would still get his lucre. Palin, who is not stupid, could have built the bridge, but she would have done so at great cost to Alaskans, who could use the money elsewhere, and the Republican Party, who would have been ridiculed for allowing the project to go forward. So in her good sense, Palin spent the money elsewhere. I don't see this picture as close to the one she has portrayed. She did after all go to the site of the bridge to nowhere, where a Nowhere Alaska t-shirt, and say to the folks there that she supported their bridge.
9.9.2008 6:17pm
REL (mail):
Suzy,
I hate to be the one to tell you this but, "Hillary Clinton is not a 'stylish, feminine dresser who sees nothing inconsistent with being a tough, competent, chief executive and also a fun, loving mother.' Other than being women, Hillary and Palin are nothing alike. It has nothing to do with her age or generation and everything to do with the fact that Hillary comes across as more masculine than feminine.

By your comments, I'm guessing you would need more than a wonderbra and NRA t-shirt to be showered by free passes and breathless compliments.
9.9.2008 6:18pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
fullerene writes:
(In response to: Did the Senate kill the Bridge? No.)

Yes, it is factually incorrect. Quoting a November 17, 2005 story in the New York Times:

Congressional Republicans decided Wednesday to take a legislative wrecking ball to two Alaskan bridge projects that had demolished the party's reputation for fiscal austerity.

Straining to show new dedication to lower spending, House and Senate negotiators took the rare step of eliminating a requirement that $442 million be spent to build the two bridges, spans that became cemented in the national consciousness as "bridges to nowhere" because of the remote territory and small populations involved.


So, Congress, having decided (with the concurrence of Obama and Biden) that the money should go to the Bridge to Nowhere, and not to Katrina relief, then changed direction (at, apparently, the direction of Republicans, and not Senators Obama and Biden) that Alaska could keep the money, but wasn't going to be forced to spend it on the Bridge.

Alaska Gov. Palin, whose duties were to Alaska, and not the whole country, said "thanks for the money, we're going to spend it on someone useful", and killed the Bridge to Nowhere.

Would Mukowski have killed the Bridge to Nowhere? Highly unlikely?

Would Obama or Biden have killed to Bridge to Nowhere? Well, they were given two chances to do so, including one after it was public, and controversial. And both times they voted in favor of it (they wanted their pork, and therefore weren't willing to upset anyone else's applecarts).

Did Gov. Palin, in fact, kill the Bridge to Nowhere?

Why yes, she did.

Being a partisan Democrat, you will, of course, focus on talk rather than action. But, for the rest of us, what matters is action. And when Congress gave Gov. Palin options, she acted to kill the Bridge.
9.9.2008 6:20pm
hawkins:

Other than being women, Hillary and Palin are nothing alike.


Indeed, Palin's voice is much more shrill and grating than Hillary's
9.9.2008 6:27pm
Hoosier:
J Richardson

Good call on McCain and Biden. I think the Silent Generation is not on many people's radar screen. The people that came of age after WWII but before JFK/Vietnam don't factor into national discussion much as a generation.
9.9.2008 6:32pm
Hoosier:
And it turns into another debate about Palin . . .

(I wonder why it is that my generation is detached and cynical.)
9.9.2008 6:33pm
KeithK (mail):

McCain is old, and he might always have been old. Maybe it's that military background.


According to accounts (including his own) he was very much the young hothead until his years as a POW.
9.9.2008 6:36pm
JonC:
Prof. Zywicki writes: "Obama comes across (and I suspect thinks of himself) as a serious, accomplished person who just happens to be black. His race is part of who he is but he isn't defined by his race."

This may be how Obama "comes across," but it's sharply at odds with Obama's own view of himself as articulated in his first autobiography, Dream from My Father. That book is replete with examples of Obama agonizing over his racial identity, and describes how Obama ultimately made an affirmative decision to adopt a black racial identity at least partly in response to what he perceived as the evils of European-Anglo-American civilization. Perhaps Obama feels differently now than he did when he wrote that book in 1995, before he ever held elective office, but as far as I know he's never said anything to that effect.
9.9.2008 6:38pm
Suzy (mail):
Carolina and REL, would it be fair to say that you think Hillary is a competent executive and loving mother, and that you are simply doubting that she's stylish, feminine, and fun?

So explain to me how this is relevant to Hillary's age or generation, because that's the argument being presented. Is it that older women have a harder time keeping up with the trends, or is it that women of a certain generation don't care as much about fashion? Are older women less likely, in your experience, to be feminine or to care about being feminine than women of a younger generation are? Are they less fun? Are we to believe that women born in the years post WWII are simply less fun, fashionable, and feminine than women born after 1965?

All of this seems rather contradictory to my everyday experience of women from these generations. However, a total lack of evidence for bizarre assertions shouldn't stop anyone who wants to defend Princess Palin, here on this blog normally populated by people who care about evidence.
9.9.2008 6:39pm
LM (mail):

Perhaps I'm wrong as this is based on my personal observations, but I think that most post-Boomers see this whole game as sort of ridiculous.

Yeah, it is. It's just as ridiculous as:

To which it can be added that although McCain is technically a Boomer, he comes across as pre-Boomer (as was widely observed by the media at the convention).

Which leaves Joe Biden, who is many ways strikes me as a very Boomer sort of person (which one of my colleagues at lunch today summed up as "Me, Me, Me" in echoing agreement with this observation).

If we're going to mix context with cartoons, why not say Biden's perspective was formed by the sixties, and McCain is getting up to speed on the lessons of the Maginot Line?
9.9.2008 6:46pm
TyWebb:
Professor Zywicki:

Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you for this very sensible post. As someone of post-boomer vintage myself, I've been trying to put into words my disgust with the grafting of the Vietnam-era "hippies vs. meatheads" culture war onto both sides of the 21st century debate. You did so with a much clearer head and with a great deal of intellectual honesty, especially when reaching out to the transformative post-boomer figures on both sides. It is indeed hilarious to read the comments in this very thread that prove your point.

I don't know whether it was the fact that the Stillers were so convincing in their win on Sunday that it provided you with a moment of exceptional clarity or what, but whatever it was, keep it coming.
9.9.2008 6:47pm
paul lukasiak (mail):
Who Palin and Obama are has nothing to do with when they were born, but to whom (and where) they were born.

Obama's mother seems to have been the classic "hippy chick"-- and Obama himself comes off as someone who figured out very early in life how to 'get over' on his mother. And Obama isn't 'post-racial', rather he's someone who grew up 'non-racial' i.e. without any awareness of what it means to be an African-American -- and when he finally came to the mainland he became 'racial' by seeking his identity as an African American. Obama's experiences are not those of the 'post-racial' generation coming of age now --- for him, 'post-racial' is just a white-friendly stance he's adopted now that he's no longer representing a majority black State Senate district.

Palin, on the other hand, comes from an entirely different kind of background -- that of the 'pioneers' in which the role of women was not based on the idealized concept of 'femininity' and strict separation of the roles of men and women in society. Palin is genuinely "post-femininist", because she grew up in an environment where women were allowed, if not expected, to do just about everything ----including that most "masculine" of activities, hunting for food in a non-ritualized setting (women were 'permitted' to hunt in ritualized setting like 'fox hunts', of course.)

Palin comes off as far more genuine than Obama because she is far more genuine. Obama is simply a construct -- a deliberate image designed for political appeal.
9.9.2008 6:53pm
Carolina:

Carolina and REL, would it be fair to say that you think Hillary is a competent executive and loving mother, and that you are simply doubting that she's stylish, feminine, and fun?


I know very little about women's fashion and have no idea whether Clinton (or Palin) is "stylish."

The point I was agreeing with the Professor on was, in my humble opinion, there is a generation of feminists, in roughly Hillary's age bracket, who seem (publicly) to just not have much of a sense of humor. They come across as strident, schoolmarmish killjoys who are the opposite of "fun." Every single issue is absolutely critical and cannot be the subject of humor.
9.9.2008 7:02pm
paul lukasiak (mail):

They come across as strident, schoolmarmish killjoys who are the opposite of "fun." Every single issue is absolutely critical and cannot be the subject of humor.


gosh, sexist much?

believe it or not, politicians are supposed to be serious people who think that issues are important. It requires a sexist perspective to see that seriousness, when it comes from a woman, as "strident" and "schoolmarmish".

In fact, Hillary Clinton has a wicked sense of humor (watch her O'Reilly interview), but there is an appropriate time and place for humor in politics.
9.9.2008 7:30pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I'd say neither Palin nor Obama is fighting battles which have already been won. Palin and Obama prove women and blacks can achieve the highest positions in the nation. Too many angry boomers refuse to recognize victory when they see it.
9.9.2008 7:36pm
Carolina:

believe it or not, politicians are supposed to be serious people who think that issues are important. It requires a sexist perspective to see that seriousness, when it comes from a woman, as "strident" and "schoolmarmish".


Uh, no. Margaret Thatcher was as tough and serious as they come but never came across as strident. Ditto Angela Merkel, the current Chancellor of Germany.

I'm glad to hear Hillary has a since of humor, though she must keep it in Al Gore's social security lockbox because I've never seen it.
9.9.2008 9:19pm
Hoosier:
LM

//If we're going to mix context with cartoons, why not say Biden's perspective was formed by the sixties, and McCain is getting up to speed on the lessons of the Maginot Line?//

Because he was an aviator. Pilots knew right away that the problem with the Maginot Line is that you can go *over* it. And thus drop your airborne *behind* it.

Biden as Product of the Sixties? Hmm. I don't recall Dover or Syracuse as being on the front lines of, like, the Revolution, man. But if anyone can produce a photo of him at an Iron Butterfly concert in Utica, I'll be willing to rethink this whole thing.

I'm nothing if not open-minded.
9.9.2008 10:32pm
BillB (mail):
While one might question Obama's judgment on his associations with William Ayres and Jeremiah Wright, I don't think any sensible person seriously thinks that Obama approves of the things those guys say and do.


Todd, this is the second time I've run across this sentiment (Ann Althouse said it similarly, in an earlier post), and it intrigues me. What is it, exactly, that causes you to doubt the likelihood that Obama might approve of "these guys" even though, as other commenters here have said, he has willingly had lengthy associations with them?
9.9.2008 10:47pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Wooga writes: So, David Chesler, it's you "tweeners" that are responsible for unleashing the scourge of disco on the world!

You say that as if it were a bad thing. (Amazing, or is it, that one can get nostalgic for music one didn't like the first time around.)
9.9.2008 11:00pm
Bill McGonigle (www):
Until this article I didn't actually know where the 'Bridge to Nowhere' was slated to be built. I've been to Ketchican, I've stood on the dock next to the fish cannery watching the balk eagles act like seagulls and looked over the water to the other side where the airport is. $400M to cross a thousand feet of water is completely insane. Yeah, I suppose you would need to build it high enough and long enough so that the cruise ships could get under it. But that just proves it's the wrong technology. $40M could buy a small auto ferry boat and endow the maintenance and operation of it forever. And that's probably an overestimate - heck, buy two so nobody needs to wait more than 10 minutes. And that kind of money can be handled locally.
9.9.2008 11:38pm
Fuz (mail) (www):
"no member of the Silent Generation (those born between 1925 and '45) has been elected President -- McCain would be the first."
Strauss and Howe predicted that Generation X would not wield a large enough voting demographic to propel anyone to the White House, Boomer or Silent, even one of their own. One mark of Xers is that they suspect the whole political process as something of a sham that they can never win, so must never play.
I've also seen the last birth year for Boomer shift between 1960 and 1964, depending on the source. How old are Palin's parents?
9.10.2008 12:07am
Pauldom:
Suzy--you ask some very interesting questions. re: this one

Why is it difficult to come up with the "popular culture comparison" for a "serious, accomplished woman who just happens to be a woman", in the same way that you came up with Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan as examples of iconic black men who just happen to be black?

I was going to suggest Condi Rice or Eileen Collins (space shuttle commander) or Sherry Lansing (head of Paramount) but none of them are pop culture figures.

Ellen Degeneres, perhaps? Jodie Foster? Billie Jean King? (My spouse suggests Leni Riefenstahl--she is dated but surely was not chosen for her gender.) All of these women have somewhat ambiguous sexuality . . . but Tiger Woods and Obama are mixed race, so maybe this helps preserve their "just happens to be" status.

I don't consider Michael Jordon to be a "just happens to be black" figure to the same extent as Tiger Woods because it isn't unusual to see a successful black basketball player. But perhaps the "Y succeeding in an X world" quality doesn't need to be part of the metric.
9.10.2008 12:32am
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Todd,

May I second BillB's question.

What is it, exactly, that causes you to doubt the likelihood that Obama might approve of "these guys" even though, as other commenters here have said, he has willingly had lengthy associations with them?

I say this in all seriousness because Obama said in his famous Philadelphia speech on race (the one that caused a thrill to run up Matthews leg) that he could no more disown Wright than he could disown his own grandmother. He did, of course disown Wright later, after Wright called him a politician but that is another matter.

Allow me to quote from that speech; not just the part about not being able to disown Wright, but also identifying himself and his church with "the black experience."


The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother --



If this is a man who -- in your words -- is a man who "happens to be black like a Tiger Woods … " I don't think the words mean what you think they mean. I am also amazed that Obama would maintain that he never heard Wright talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms when we were treated to video of Wright and Pfleger doing exactly that.

However, I think that you wish to believe that he represents the image he wished to show to the rest of America, the non-threatening Black man, or, in the words of Joe Biden, "clean and articulate." Forgive me for being unready to accept him at his word on this score when the books he has written and the words that he says say exactly the opposite.
9.10.2008 12:40am
Hoosier:
Typical.


Gen-X can't even get one, single, solitary, lone f***ing thread.

Oh, well. 'It's fun to lose.' I think I'll go get baked and lie on the couch for a few . . . mmm . . . days I guess.
9.10.2008 12:50am
Bandon:
I like many of the themes of Prof. Z's original post, although I'm not sure that these artificial distinctions between generations are quite as clear and well-defined as some commenters have argued.

What stands out for me (and is generally consistent with the original post) is that neither Obama nor Palin are "angry victim" candidates. This elevates both beyond the politics of racism and feminism, although each is touched in some ways by these issues. In contrast, pre-POW McCain was a self-confessed angry victimizer, while post-POW McCain has been more of an angry victim who still lashes out at enemies, both real and perceived, at times.

What concerns me most about the current GOP ticket (beyond McCain's reckless belligerence) is the pride in anti-intellectualism that was also a part of Bush's (incomprehensible to me) appeal to American voters in 2 presidential elections. It is not that either Palin or McCain are unintelligent, it's just that they don't seem to be excited by the act of thinking through problems to explore new ideas and elegant solutions. They start with accepted "truth" and then have to worry only about implementation. Thinking seems to bore them, just as it apparently bores many of their fellow Americans.

Palin's appeal as someone who is "genuine" (as one commenter described her) is really another way of saying that she isn't particularly "intellectual." This is at the core of the whole "doer" vs. "thinker" (or "talker") argument being thrown around. From what I've seen, Obama actually has more genuine concern for the welfare of all Americans than does Palin. In contrast, Palin has demonstrated concern more for pushing her own beliefs on others, while showing a ruthless intolerance of disagreement. If you like Palin's politics, this could be seen as praiseworthy; however, if you disagree with her, you may not have much chance of being heard.

For some reason, Americans don't seem to want to elect people who are smarter or better educated than they are. So that's a disadvantage that Obama starts with. They are also extremely sensitive to being "talked down to," which Gore and Kerry did much to often. For Americans who want to have a beer with their elected officials, the GOP has a clear advantage. I'm afraid, though, that "beer voting" this time around will only produce the same kind of disaster as the last 2 times. With all the law professors on this blog who support McCain, they must just be tired of thinking all the time and ready to head out for a beer after class.
9.10.2008 1:10am
sassr:
"who just happens to be black"

lolz!
9.10.2008 2:09am
Hoosier:
Bandon:

If you re-read your post carefully, can you detect any reason why so very many people might not vote for the same candidates as you do?

The post fisks itself. So instead I'll point out the contradiction in your thinking about this topic, which is that you profess an interest in intellectual openness and the opportunity for different views to "be heard." Yet your very analysis presupposes that you possess a priviledged epistemology which allows you access to understanding denied to those of us who, unlike you, are "bored" by "thinking."

What sort of fair hearing might a conservative expect to get from *you*? How does one go further in "pushing one's ideas upon others" than to assert that the other side doesn't even *possess ideas* in the first place, but only received truth? What does that say about *your* intellectual openness and tolerance?

You presume to know quite a bit about how Palin's mind works, and how tolerant she is of others. Who is it really, then, who "starts with the accepted truth," and works out from there--with no need for empirical verification of that 'truth'?

As to beer, Bush is a tee-totaler. You cannot have a beer with him, since he cannot have a beer with you.
9.10.2008 2:25am
David Warner:
Ahhh, love me the smell of some facts in the morning.

You want that graph on an ad? Keep pushing earmarks. She's gotten with the program faster than any other state pol I'm aware of (against interest), and faster than her two opponents, despite their supposed responsibility to the national interest, not state.
9.10.2008 4:38am
David Warner:
Daniel San,

"Post-racial"

Not post-racial, post-racist. Referring to Palin not Obama. As in she went after Obama like the grown man he is, not like a (mere) black man whom others might consider it racist to attack.
9.10.2008 4:42am
David Warner:
In all this talk of generations, I think we need to give a nod to this remarkably prescient book:

Generations
9.10.2008 4:45am
Sk (mail):
"While one might question Obama's judgment on his associations with William Ayres and Jeremiah Wright, I don't think any sensible person seriously thinks that Obama approves of the things those guys say and do."

this statement, with regards to Reverend Wright, is one of the most preposterous sentences ever written on this site.

Sk
9.10.2008 10:59am
Bandon:
Hoosier:

It's ironic that this kind of discussion on the VC would be unlikely to be something that would interest the GOP candidates. I never suggested that there were not many intellectually honest conservatives who were stimulated by the free expression of ideas. I just don't see them in the White House or on the current GOP ticket. And I definitely don't see any of that openness to alternative ideas in your posts on this blog. So what does that say about your thinking? Perhaps you should examine your own posts a little more carefully before you complain about supposedly close-minded comments by others.

My comments about Palin's "thinking" --or lack of it-- come both from her own public statements and the statements of Alaskans who know her well. Palin is smart, just not particularly open to alternative ideas.

Regarding the reformed alcoholic currently in the White House, it was indeed irrational to vote for him because he would be fun to have a beer with. However, the fact that Bush is no longer a drinker is only one of the many reasons why a vote for him did not make sense.
9.10.2008 11:42am
Deoxy (mail):
Palin and "the Bridge to Nowhere"

The only thing I would like to point out that hasn't been said on this thread:

Palin was given the credit/blame for killing the bridge (she had control of where the funds would go, and her predecessor had put them towards the bridge) by both sides of the debate (the Alaska Democrats website, for instance)right up until she was named VP, THEN it became something she really had little or nothing to do with.

Make of that what you will.

OK, one other thing: as I understood it, the road leading to where the bridge would be was either still earmarked or already spent on that road when she killed the bridge. Could be wrong about that, though.
9.10.2008 12:05pm
GW (mail):
I agree with the demographic insight here, but if we're going to use generational demographics as a window into this election, we need to be accurate about it.

McCain (1936) isn't a Baby Boomer. He's a member of the Silent Generation, which encompasses birthdates from the 1920s to 1942. The Baby Boom was from 1942 to 1961-1965 (depending on who you read). That makes Obama (1961) a late Baby Boomer and Biden (1942) and early Boomer. Palin (1964) is arguably the only Gen-X candidate in this race. As examples, even if we stretch the definitions and include Obama as a Gen-X candidate because of his post-Boomer campaigning style, the Gen-X candidates we've seen so far have all been much more impressive than their Boomer forebears. I think that bodes well for the country.
9.10.2008 12:29pm
David Warner:
Bandon:

"I never suggested that there were not many intellectually honest conservatives who were stimulated by the free expression of ideas. I just don't see them in the White House or on the current GOP ticket."

Open your eyes. They might not be your ideas. It does not therefore follow that they are not ideas at all. If fact, some have argued that the GOP is too ideological. You can't have it both ways.
9.10.2008 12:31pm
Blue:
Cool! My post made it up!

A few points: First, as noted McCain is clearly a Silent generation type. While popular culture runs the Boomer generation through 1964, I think Strauss and Howe in Generations placed the dividing line accurately at 1961 since the cohorts after that year were simply too young to particpate in the Conciousness Revolution of the 1960s.

To me Palin, from her background, to her husband, to her attitude of pragamatism is an absolutely definitive Gen-Xer. Obama is a more interesting case...he's right on the cusp and I think he has a sense of Boomer mission about him (which Palin clearly does not share). But his life...broken family...growing up in Jakarta...bi-racial background...has strong Gen-X tropes within it.

I read this election as a repudiation of Boomer leadership, both from the left (Clinton) and the right (Bush). The Republicans have offered a "steady hand" from the Silent Generation while the Democrats have put someone forward that at least has a foot in both generations. Palin knocks this on its head by being a true step to a post-Boomer era.

Oh, and the only true Boomer, Biden? A complete non-entity in the race. Might as well be a cardboard cutout.
9.10.2008 3:13pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Just to throw it out, year-of-birth is only one dimension. A.C. mentions generation-of-siblings; I've alluded to generation-of-cousins. I suppose generation-of-parents also matters: growing up in the [what do we call this decade?] being brought up by old late-boomers is different than same time, being brought up by solid Gen-Xers.

Place is of course its own dimension, and it's been well discussed with the candidates; so has race.

I'd like to suggest that generational cutover happens at different times in different places. My wife was 3 years older than I, but that was only part of why she was more a Boomer than I am: change came to suburban Boston later than it came to New York.
9.10.2008 3:14pm
Hoosier:
To me Palin, from her background, to her husband, to her attitude of pragamatism is an absolutely definitive Gen-Xer.

But she has a good job. And seems happy. How do you reconcile your assessment with this data?
9.10.2008 3:34pm
David Warner:
Hoosier,

"But she has a good job. And seems happy. How do you reconcile your assessment with this data?"

We did grow up. Eventually. Yes, I'm an X-er (an Apollo child), and yes I've been politically active since 1980 (my family were Anderson voters). Sort of an EV thing.
9.10.2008 3:47pm
LM (mail):
Hoosier,

Biden as Product of the Sixties? Hmm. I don't recall Dover or Syracuse as being on the front lines of, like, the Revolution, man. But if anyone can produce a photo of him at an Iron Butterfly concert in Utica, I'll be willing to rethink this whole thing.

I didn't mean it to be complimentary. I was just trying to be fair, and I figured for this post "product of the sixties" would serve the same purpose as "plagiarizing big mouth."
9.10.2008 3:52pm
Bandon:
David Warner,

If you're arguing that George Bush is a big thinker who enjoys the exploration of new ideas, you're going to have to come up with a lot better evidence to convince any rational person.
9.10.2008 7:08pm
David Warner:
Bandon,

You think that Gaddis wouldn't know better than either of us?

"If you're arguing that George Bush is a big thinker who enjoys the exploration of new ideas, you're going to have to come up with a lot better evidence to convince any rational person."

Who said anything about a rational person? I was attempting to question you.

Big thinker? Did you skip the Second Inaugural? Most of his critics would say too big. That said, I'd think the onus probandi should be borne by the accuser. I'm all ears.
9.10.2008 11:17pm
Hoosier:
David Warner and Bandon


One thing that is very important to understand is that what John Gaddis says is true. By definition.

Or perhaps it's not quite syllogistic. But in practice it's been pretty close.
9.10.2008 11:28pm
Bandon:
David Warner and Hoosier,

Thanks to both of you for annoying me to the point where I looked at the Gaddis essay more carefully. (I had only skimmed it initially.) The Gaddis piece is actually very interesting and well-written, although not particularly convincing about Bush's intellectualism. Bush's so-called "big ideas" seem to be more like mindless beliefs expressed in the form of vague ideals like "freedom," "democracy," or "ending tyranny." These ideas appear to be generated by neocon advisers and speechwriters and then mostly forgotten until they are dragged back into the public eye to try to defend failed policies. It's important to remember that just because Bush said something in a speech doesn't mean he thought about it much.

Noting the fact that Bush reads some history, Gaddis makes an appropriate observation. "Well, so Bush reads history", one might reasonably observe at this point. "Isn't it more important to find out how he uses it?" Gaddis thus points us squarely in the direction to look to discover the reasons for the great mistakes of the Bush foreign policy: (1) misinterpreting the lessons of history and (2) lacking a thoughtful and pragmatic vision of where to go in the future. Or as Gaddis so clearly puts it, we need to figure out "Here's where we've been as a nation, and in the light of that, here's where we need to go."

Instead of a clearly reasoned vision for the future, Bush's speechwriters simply weave together vague, but patriotic, themes -- even when they may conflict with each other. As Gaddis comments, "This may have been a triumph for succinct speech writing, but it was not one for philosophical coherence. Promoting democracy, for the reasons I've mentioned, offers no guarantee of ending tyranny, just as ending tyranny offers no guarantee that the newly liberated will choose democracy. Telling people simultaneously that we know best and that they know best is likely to confuse them as well as us." I agree! And please don't try to pretend that Bush spent any time thinking through these contradictions.

Of course, there's not a lot of evidence that the ideas that Gaddis tries to mine out of the statements of Bush and his advisors are really meant to convey any rational arguments to direct a well-reasoned foreign policy. As Gaddis says, "sometimes a speech is just a speech. If Bush meant to shift the direction of American foreign policy, he and his advisers have since been remarkably quiet about it."

But my favorite quote from Gaddis is in the final sentence of essay. He reminds us that we must resist "the illusion that our strength has in all respects made us wise." It's too late for Bush and his neocons to learn this crucial lesson, but I hope that the next administration does.

I will concede one point, though, after reading the Gaddis piece. I have now been convinced that Bush does indeed read a few books, that the G.W. Bush Presidential Library may eventually contain more than the expected 3 volumes, and that not every one of the books in the library will come with its own set of crayons.
9.12.2008 1:48am
Hoosier:
"Bandon:
David Warner and Hoosier,

Thanks to both of you for annoying me "

We're like the Terminator: "It's what we do. It's ALL we do. YOU CAN'T STOP US!"
9.12.2008 9:23pm
Hoosier:
"I agree! And please don't try to pretend that Bush spent any time thinking through these contradictions. "


You won't hear me making a case for Bush. But Gaddis does not follow the crowd. If he thinks that there's something positive to say about a demonized figure, he will explain why. And he'll do so more lucidly that just about any other scholar in our subfield.


"Strategies of Containment" is one of the best books on policy-making and -implementation that I have ever read. (My poor, overworked undergrads are reading it right now.)
9.12.2008 9:29pm
David Warner:
Bandon,

I think we can all agree that Bush's drafts from the Pierian Spring have not met with the actions we might have wished, but that is, I would argue, the problem with the ideal of philosopher kings.

What is not clear, to me at least, is whether Bush erred too far to the king side, or to the philosopher. I have little doubt regarding your estimation.
9.13.2008 12:11am
Chris D. (mail):
As a post-Boomer Democrat I find it funny how people react to Palin. I don't agree with her politics, but I couldn't care less about the rest of her resume. Heaven forbid we should have a major national candidate with a background in state and local government and who didn't attend an Ivy League school or a military academy. However, even though I might be more comfortable with Obama's or Palin's political "style" I still see them as more derivative of the Boomer political establishment. How could candidates so young rise so quickly if they hadn't essentially painted a post-Boomer whitewash over their Boomer-appeasing essences? Neo-conservatism (W.) and neo-liberalism (B. Clinton) are the primary political constructs of the Boomers. Palin and Obama are fully in line with these dogmas. I think they are merely transitional candidates toward a true post-Boomer politics that won't fully emerge for another 10-15 years.
9.16.2008 12:29pm