Thursday, February 07, 2008

Barack Obama Stars in Super Bowl!

I understand the classic event attracted the largest U.S. television audience in history for a sporting event, and the second-largest audience in U.S. television history. 97.5 million viewers watched all or part of it, and most saw the commercials which cost $2.7 million per each 30-second pop.

Rosa Brooks writes in today’s Los Angeles Times, that Barack Obama’s 30-second appearance in the Super Bowl represents a national mood swing . Amounting to more than political sloganeering , it is an emerging national yearning that puts the Democrats back on the offensive:

We can end a war . . .
We can save the planet . . .
We can change the world. . .

A few years ago, if you'd suggested that a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination consider airing these sentiments in ads broadcast during the Super Bowl, most political pundits would have said you were insane. The Super Bowl, watched by nearly a third of the U.S. population, is about football, beer and machismo. It's not about the antiwar movement, the environmental movement, the antipoverty movement or peace, love and understanding.

But on Sunday, Barack Obama aired a 30-second Super Bowl ad that drew unabashedly on the iconography of the American left -- and no one batted an eyelash. The ad . . . Broadcast . . . to a cross-section of football fans, the message was unashamedly nostalgic and idealistic.

The Obama ad highlights a recent sea change in Democratic politics, one that's impossible to understate.

. . . . All of a sudden, Democrats are on the offensive. "Change" isn't just this year's most ubiquitous campaign slogan, it seems to be something that's already happening out there in the real world, in small towns, on college campuses and yes, even at Super Bowl parties.

Who knows just what caused the shift in mood? Iraq? Katrina? Global warming? Rising income inequality? Disgust with Bush and Cheney? Whatever the causes, Americans seem eager to reclaim a spirit of idealism that many thought ended with the 1960s ….

Obama's Super Bowl ad represented a gamble: a bet that the symbolism of past social movements is now more likely to give Americans a thrill than a chill. And the matter-of-factness with which his ad was greeted -- and Obama's electoral success so far -- suggest that his campaign correctly read the national mood.

. . . .Today, the arguments between the two candidates are over who is best placed to bring about the seismic change that both candidates assume voters want. Is it Obama, with his multiracial background, his youth, his broad appeal and his lack of baggage? Or is it Clinton, a woman who can claim to have learned some painful lessons about when to compromise and when to stick to her guns?

. . . . Whether the idealistic yearning for change endures probably has little to do with who wins and who loses the Democratic nomination (or even the White House). Losses can galvanize social movements just as much as victories, and whoever wins the White House will be president of an America different from the one that greeted Bush's inaugurations in 2001 and 2005. It will be a more hopeful, less partisan nation, one united in its rueful awareness of the ways the Bush presidency went wrong, a nation more ready to pull its socks up and get to work to put things right.
I'm a fan! I'm rooting for the right team and I'm all fired up and ready to go!

Konfusion in Kabul?

General Petreaus has left me confused about Iraq, and now Secretary Gates has me stumped about Afghanistan...

In a congressional hearing yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates implied that the U.S. military had routed the Taliban from Afghanistan. Gates blathered out a rosy assessment that the Taliban has “lost” in Afghanistan and that they had been “thrown out” of the country:
The Taliban no longer occupy any territory in Afghanistan. They were thrown out of Musa Qala a few weeks ago before over Christmas. And the Taliban have had some real setbacks. Probably 50 of their leaders have been killed or captured over the past year, and we know that that’s had an impact on their capability and also on their morale.
I may be in need of some assistance here, in squaring what Rumsfeld Gates's testimony with what I read in the world press and media:
  • Bloomberg: Gates called on Germany to move troops from the comparatively placid north of Afghanistan to the Taliban-infested south -- and was rebuffed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.

  • AFP: Rice, Miliband travel to heart of Taliban insurgency in Kandahar province address soldiers who are on the frontline of efforts to tackle the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgent movement.

  • The Times: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband went to Kandahar the heart of the Taliban insurgency ...

  • BBC: The Taleban now control swathes of land across south-west Afghanistan and mounted about 140 suicide attacks last year, including some in the capital Kabul.

  • Mirror: More than six years after U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban, the Islamist militia's resurgence and spiralling violence has led Washington to call on its allies to send more troops to Afghanistan, a country bigger in size and population than Iraq, but with only a third the number of foreign soldiers.

  • Turkish Weekly: NATO forces in Afghanistan are in a “strategic stalemate,” as Taliban insurgents expand their control of sparsely populated areas and as the central government fails to carry out vital reforms and reconstruction, according to an independent assessment released on January 30 by NATO’s former commander.

  • NPR: More than six years after they were toppled in Afghanistan, Taliban forces are resurgent. An average of 400 attacks occurred each month in 2006. ...
I might Google-on, if I had time.

I could not believe my bloodshot, reading eyes, so I had to hear it with my ears as well. The cacophony leaves me completely stunned.