Thursday, December 18, 2008

Favreau Watch

Two weeks. Still no word. Our President-Elect has held press conferences almost daily. This topic didn’t warrant a mention. Jon Date-Rape-Jester Favreau is still, as far as we know, writing the speeches for those daily press conferences. Hillary Clinton, whose breast he fantasy-groped (in public, to share with his fellow party-going Obamaphiles how funny it would be to humiliate her sexually - and then even more publicly by posting that witty jape on the World Wide Web, for the Web-wide world to see and enjoy), is still, as far as we know, slated to represent the United States of America to the other leaders and nations of the world. Americans still, as far as we know, hope that their prospective Secretary of State and the government she represents will be seen by those leaders and nations as an embodiment of her own and our collective dignity, integrity, intelligence, experience, seriousness, respect, wisdom and aspirations.

However, our President-Elect has found time to announce that Rick Warren, who opposes a woman’s right to choose and promoted California’s Prop 8 – denying gay humans the right to express their love in marriage – will deliver an invocation at his Inaugural.


Derek said...

Re: Favreau. Yeah, I'd agree: this topic didn't warrant a mention. Perhaps the president-elect is already taking his cues from his Sec'y of State-designee, whose own spokesperson laughed it off with a joke.

Re: Warren. Certainly wouldn't have been my choice -- not just for the obvious differences on sexuality issues, but for the fact that I think the man bastardizes my religion -- but I'm finding all the outrage invoked over Warren's invocation a little too outrageous. I can understand Obama's need to make this inauguration about something larger than the issues, even if one of those issues is as profound as the civil rights for a group (mine) that has yet to have them. (Same goes for Warren's anti-choice stance, even if his position doesn't represent the current legal status of abortion in that regard.) So I'm thinking the brewing protest is missing the forest for some of the (albeit important) trees. Let's have our fights over legislation and policy, not over who gets to say the invocation at an inauguration. Focusing on the latter only makes the former seem petty by association. And ignores the fact that we are probably at a similar point in the national conversation over gay rights, at least, as we were in 1964 over civil rights, when LBJ decided to seat the southern segregationist delegations over the objections of the alternate "civil rights" delegations at the Democratic convention. You don't always make progress by locking people out; you can often make more progress, if more slowly, if you keep them part of the conversation.

And, regardless of Warren's positions on some big issues, I think he, Obama and I are all in agreement on one thing at least: that people who pray should pray for the country and the next administration.

Falstaff said...

So... in your view, you're President, and a member of your team exhibiting misogynistic glee and joking about date rape about your own cabinet pick doesn't warrant mention?

You don't think the Fratboy Shakespeare should be fired, to show the world that misogyny has no place in this Administration? He's just too important and too valuable to America's future to lose, on a matter of pretty fundamental human values?

You think it's helpful for the world to listen to Obama's future speeches with that picture in their minds? You think the misogyny that was unleashed in the primaries doesn't call for a little extra awareness of and maturity on women's issues, and how women are depicted?

You don't think the women in this Administration deserve to be reassured that this kind of sexual harassment won't be tolerated? Can you think of a modern workplace where this would not be dealt with in a serious way -- much less one that symbolizes America to the world?

You think Obama has no responsibility for leadership here because Hillary has chosen not to comment on it publicly herself? You don't think it's patently obvious that this is something she herself COULD NOT comment on without sparking a media and shrillosphere shitstorm of Hillary-vs-Obama stories before she's even confirmed?

Okay, let's play this out. What if Young Goodman Favreau had posed with a cut-out of Obama, held up a watermelon to his mouth, and put a noose around his neck? What if he had posed with a cut-out of Harvey Milk, and held up a tutu to his waist while his pal mock-swung a baseball bat at his head? What if he had made fun of an amputee, or a deaf person, or a blind NYS Governor?

Oh, wait, that one's taken...

Falstaff said...

And on Warren: As far as I can tell, the bottom line of your view is: Don't criticize Obama, no matter what -- just pray for him.

Well, obviously, this choice was not a bill before Congress. It was a symbolic gesture. A symbolic gesture that is profoundly offensive to many people. If one cannot react in commentary to such symbolic gestures, one is puzzled about what commentary can legitimately comment on.

If this doesn't portend anything about how he's gonna act -- great. If it does -- well, then, NOT having raised a cry now will come to seem a bit too passive, no?

But what if it's a move in some complex chessgame, a brilliant misdirection play, the forest you seem to see surrounding these rotten trees? I'll suppress the urge to call this a stunning bit of pretzle-making equivocation and rationalization... and simply ask whether you think Obama is planning a switcheroo on the order of the what LBJ did to his segregationist former conferes with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts -- only this time on gay rights and women's rights? You think that? I've got a life-sized cut-out of a bridge I'd like to sell you...

Falstaff said...

For some additional context about the man who will be invoking on Jan. 21, I think this from Michelle Goldberg's piece in The Guardian is worth noting:

"Warren is sometimes credited with broadening evangelical activism to transcend religious right preoccupations, but that's a bit deceptive. Much has been made of his work on HIV/Aids in Africa. In fact, though, Warren has taken the standard Christian conservative approach to the epidemic, which favours abstinence and prayer over condoms and sex education. I once attended Sunday services at the church of Martin Ssempa, one of Warren's protégés in Uganda and a major force in that country's devastating move away from safe-sex campaigns. It is a heartbreaking thing to watch a tongue-speaking faith-healer promise a room full of sobbing people – many of them poor, many infected with HIV – that Jesus can cure them, if only they believe in him unconditionally (belief demonstrated, of course, in part by tithing generously).

"Meanwhile, while Warren says he opposes torture, he doesn't treat the subject with anything like the zeal he accords gay marriage and abortion. As he recently told, he never even brought up the subject with the Bush administration, where he had considerable access. Just before the 2004 election, he sent out an e-mail to his congregation outlining the five issues that he considered "non-negotiable". "In order to live a purpose-driven life – to affirm what God has clearly stated about his purpose for every person he creates – we must take a stand by finding out what the candidates believe about these five issues, and then vote accordingly," he wrote. The issues were abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, cloning and euthanasia. Torture, apparently, is something that decent Christians can disagree on.:

Derek said...

Ah, far too many questions to answer them all. But in order:

- The picture is not a joke about date rape, and using that hyperbole minimizes the seriousness of date rape. It's a picture about sexual harassment and aggression -- assuming he's groping and not just holding the cutout -- which is serious enough, but he wasn't humping the cutout or sticking his junk in its mouth. If he'd done this groping to an actual Hillary Clinton instead of a cutout of Hillary Clinton, he might have been charged with all sorts of offenses, but date rape wouldn't be one of them.

- Unless Hillary Clinton thinks he should be fired, I don't think he should be fired, provided he apologizes to the senator directly. Which, apparently, he's done. He's not important at all, in the scheme of things. Which is probably what she decided, too.

- The world doesn't have this picture in its mind. The world (I'd say, oh, somewhere north of 99% of the world) couldn't name Favreau and hasn't seen this picture. I DO think Obama needs to exhibit some awareness and maturity on women's issues, but I find it more likely that his Sec'y of State will have more pressing issues related to women for him to dedicate himself to than whether some guy got drunk at a party during or after the primaries and posed with a cutout of her with a hand on the cutout's breast.

- I think that women in the administration of course want to be reassured that sexual harassment won't be tolerated. And if he'd actually groped the actual senator, he'd be fired. But this was a joke in extremely bad taste, not an actual grope, and therefore I think an apology is in order and an assurance something that thoughtless won't happen again. I don't know the substance of his apology to Sen. Clinton, but I doubt that this would be a firing offense in most modern workplaces -- again, groping a cardboard cutout, while offensive, is not the same as attempting to grope the actual senator. It requires some serious apology and contrition, possibly some other act of penitence. I'm not sure firing and eliminating any chance to redeem oneself from a childish, stupid act is the answer, however.

- I'm not suggesting Hillary comment on it publicly. But when her own spokesperson jokes about it, rather than leaves it with no comment, that suggests to me that she also does not find this a firing offense. And if she wanted him fired, she could say that to Obama I'm sure and also explain the reasons why it shouldn't look as if she's picking a fight on this. The fact that Obama hasn't fired Favreau tells me that Hillary doesn't find this as big a problem as you do, even if she was bothered by it. (Not that there's been any indication of that, but for the sake of the argument... .)

- The other scenarios vary in degrees. The Obama comparison would only work if he'd been far more violent with the cutout than he was (a grope is not the same as a noose). Same with the Milk comparison. Making fun of an amputee, or a deaf person, or a blind NYS govenor -- while offensive -- depends on the degree of offensiveness and violence attached to the action. Gov. Paterson also hasn't demanded Fred Armisen's firing or even suggested it, I'd point out. Nor would he. A teachable moment doesn't always have to be underlined with the offender losing his or her job.

And I wasn't going to go here, but since you started the comparisons: Bill Clinton demonstrated that he didn't care whether women in his administration felt reassured that sexual harassment wouldn't be tolerated, and I didn't think he should be fired for that either. And neither did his wife. It doesn't make it right, but just because it isn't right doesn't automatically make it a firing offense, no matter what "message" such a firing might send.

- My bottom line isn't "don't criticize Obama, no matter what" -- I think the criticism of him on his FISA flip-flop, for example, is well-placed criticism. And I'm far more troubled by his choice for USDA Sec than by his choice of invocation invoker. I'm also not real thrilled that he's keeping Gates on at Defense; I'd have preferred he asked Hillary to serve in that position even more than for State, to be honest, both for her sake and for the military's. But I also don't think it's worth criticizing him just because the views of some people -- on only some issues no less -- that he is willing to have speak at his inauguration may not accord with my, and I hope his, complete agenda. I think an inauguration is a crappy time to demand ideological purity. I'm not sure there is a good time to demand ideological purity. I have extended family members who feel no differently than Rick Warren on gay marriage and abortion, but I still love them and pray for them and communicate regularly with them, as they do with me.

I think, instead, what I'm tired of is the level 11 volume across the blogosphere of every perceived or potential misstep by Obama, real or imagined. He's already (as did Hillary) pissed me off by not supporting gay marriage. His, her and Rick Warren's policy differences on that issue are minuscule -- Warren supports what he calls "civil rights" and is fine with partnership benefits like insurance benefits and hospital visitation, and doesn't voice much objection to existing domestic partnership laws in California. (This also from the BeliefNet interview.) It's just the "marriage" question that bugs him so much -- which, again, is basically Obama's and Clinton's positions. But their shades of meaning on those issues didn't factor that heavily into my vote, or even later between Obama and McCain, who's even more retrograde in his views.

Do I HOPE he pulls a switcheroo akin to LBJ? (Although it should be noted that Johnson signed the CRA before the 1964 convention, not after.) Yes, I do hope Obama (eventually) signs legislation to remove Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act from the books. (No need to mention when those both became law.) I don't expect him to stand up for gay marriage, given what he's already said, but maybe he can be persuaded there as well. I don't know. But I don't think labeling Rick Warren a bigot right off the start is going to garner him much influence to get very far on any of those issues if he's inclined to do so.

I also wonder if Obama would be receiving this criticism (in general, I mean, not from you) if he'd invited a Roman Catholic archbishop or cardinal to deliver his invocation. Such a man would undoubtedly (at least officially, and probably actually) be just as or more homophobic and sexist as Rick Warren, and in all likelihood would have preached on it even more. But because we're used to seeing Roman Catholic cardinals perform such "state religion" functions
, I suspect it wouldn't have garnered near the reaction.

(In my dreams, Obama would have picked Bishop Gene Robinson for the benediction; that would have been an actual, and bold, message, in spite of or especially with Pastor Rick giving the invocation. Ah, well -- didn't happen.)

In the end, no, I don't think Obama is beyond criticism, and obviously I'm engaging on this issue, whether I think it's a warranted criticism aside. But I do think the "volume 11" politics is a thing of the past, a boomer phenomenon. (Gail Sheehy in Vanity Fair: "Hillary’s campaign had failed to understand that America was in the midst of a national passage from the old-style confrontational politics of the boomer generation--a divisiveness perfected by both the Clinton and Bush administrations--into a new style of Netroots politics, open-sourced and inclusive, multi-racial and multicultural.") At least I hope it's passing. But like you, I'm still waiting for Obama to demonstrate his commitment to the women and the gays. I don't expect him to be perfect, but I also don't think the perceived slights so far are evidence that his commitment is less than what I hope it to be. I'm willing to be pragmatic and patient for political openings for some of the things I hope he does, But I'd rather he prove himself in some ways on actual issues and policy than start off assuming he already has a deficit he has to prove himself out of every step of the way. In that regard, I'm sure, you and I disagree.

Derek said...

A footnote: set your calendar! Inauguration Day is January 20, not January 21. By January 21, the president Rick Warren most likely voted for twice will be, literally, history.

Falstaff said...

Well, even this prototypical Boomer-not-a-Uniter likes how discussion can help work things out. (But Gail Sheehy? I mean...)

A few continuing points of disagreement:

It wasn't just a grope. His pal was holding "her" hair, and pouring a beer in "her" mouth. Sorry, to me that's violent and aggressive. "Fantasy date rape" is, I think, pretty accurate shorthand for it.

Obama's primary campaign benefited mightily from misogyny, and in some instances, at least, he abetted it. He DOES have something to prove here. He has a responsibility to grow on this issue -- and to convey to the world that he regards it as a matter of importance. I do think the guy should be fired. But at the least, I think Obama should show some leadership. He should defend the dignity -- to use Anglachel's terms -- of the office of Secretary of State, and of this particular occupant of it.

I think it's clear from your own description of Hillary's reaction that we can't have the first idea what she thinks. "The fact that Obama hasn't fired Favreau tells me that Hillary doesn't find this as big a problem as you do." That's a real stretch. We have no reason to believe -- and plenty of reason to doubt -- that (a) Hillary's and Obama's relationship is such that she could or would demand that of him or (b) that he would agree, even if she did. You're simply reading this in a way favorable to him, because that's how you want to feel.

And speaking of that, of your desire simply not to feel otherwise... You don't want to "start off assuming he already has a deficit he has to prove himself out of every step of the way." Fine, except he DOES have a deficit here, and these two incidents exacerbate rather than ameliorate it. And besides, it's not exactly "every step of the way." Neither I nor any chorus of critics jumped on him for most of his Cabinet picks. He's been getting a hell of an easy ride -- as befits his standing as a media darling. The two things I chose to link in this post are very specific, and the criticism of them -- here and elsewhere -- has been pretty much equally so. He has said nothing about a very public demonstration of sexist behavior by a very close associate. And he has invited a poster-child homophobe and sexist to be an important part of his Inauguration. Of course, he doesn't have to denounce Rick Warren. But he didn't have to elevate him, either.

As I said, if he goes on to be God's gift to women and gays, then may She bless him. But there's plenty of predicate for "volume 11" reactions to things like this. And to attribute that to putative Boomer divisiveness is an easy -- indeed, cliched -- cop-out.

Not to mention, the Kool-Aid-drinking Obama cultists who took over blogs and caucuses in the last year have turned the volume up way past 11... and most of them ain't Boomers. Their levels of rage, rapture and hyper-sensitivity make the Weather Underground look like Zen masters.

Barack Obama is treated by his acolytes like an American Dalai Lama, a precious child who must be protected from all harshness. As I've said often here, I hope an actual leader emerges from this dedicated but opaque (even to himself), hidden-in-plain-sight careerist. I hope that circumstances as extreme as we find ourselves in today will force him to make actual, strong (and wise) decisions, rather than continue his remarkable lifelong pattern of voting "present." I hope so -- but the odds are long.

Falstaff said...

Oh, and one more point. The Clinton Administration practiced this alleged Boomer divisiveness? How, exactly? The country longs for post-partisanship? Apart from periodic bromide-recitals... evidence? In, say, voting patterns, or polling data?

Interestingly, there WAS a period -- during the '90s, when we Boomers were running the show -- when some allowed themselves to believe we'd escaped from history, from partisanship, from politics and conflict, thanks to technology and the triumph of liberal democracy. It was the dying afterglow of that fond wish that allowed Karl Rove to stage W as a "compassionate conservative," disguising their genuinely vicious extrapolation of the GOP's genuinely vicious culture war battles (both Southern Strategy and evangelical yahooism). But 9/11 and Katrina and plenty more re-assertions of reality have disabused even its fantasists, like Fukuyama, of that fond dream.

I'm sorry, but to my mind, this generational argument is a load of Gail Sheehy, pop-sociology horseshit. In fact, it's remarkably similar in its premises to that very "compassionate conservative" dodge.

Aeryl said...

Yes, Falstaff, Favreau is still employed, and is busy writing the inaguration speech

july4cat said...

The 'progressives' are busy reminding us why we 'have to' get behind Obama no matter what. I know, I know, we all have a stake in the success of his presidency. But haven't we learned our lessons from the past eight years? As I recall, giving the president a free pass on every occasion isn't the best way to build peace and prosperity.

David Berger said...

And a Hopey Changemas to all, and to all, a good night!

1950 Democrat said...

Yes, I do hope Obama (eventually) signs legislation to remove Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act from the books. (No need to mention when those both became law.)

BZZT! DADT was an improvement over the rules in GOP administrations. Bill Clinton had campaigned on an intention to stop ALL discrimination against gays in the military. However he met so much resistance from Congress and military brass that he was forced into the DADT as the best compromise he could get.

DOMA Hillary has explained was also the best that could be done with a bad situation: without this, the RR who had the power were planning something worse.

Pls don't snark at the Clintons for doing the best they could against a GOP congress.