Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Colbert is BACK! (Huckabee transcript)

Even without his writing staff, Stephen Colbert is unto himself a formidable political force. On Wednesday's show, he interviewed former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R–AR), who played along with the host better than just about any politician who's been on either The Colbert Réport or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Don't get me wrong — I will f-word-ing tear my hair out if Huckabee actually becomes President. However, I provide here the transcript of the interview, because I believe it to be of some importance to have a written record of an event of considerable bearing on the political process. For those of you visiting "The Third Path" for the first time, I do actually have a number of things to say of my own accord, but I have also provided transcripts of many interviews that would otherwise be only Comedy Central and/or YouTube clips, including quite a few from sources other than Comedy Central, most notably Al Jazeera English. It is my hope that the political discourse will benefit from the outside perspective — not anti-American, but also not only-American — of a network that sets the standard for journalistic courage in the 21st century, but also that the people will see that America should be embrace Al Jazeera English, not fear it. Al Jazeera English quite simply is what CNN was 25 years ago: serious journalism, with no punches pulled on anybody. But I promise I'm not trying to hijack Stephen Colbert to promote another network, so, without further ado, here are the embedded video clip and the transcript, below the fold.

Stephen Colbert interviewing Gov. Mike Huckabee (R–AR) on Comedy Central's The Colbert Réport, Copyright ©2008 Comedy Central. Original airdate: 2008-01-09.

[Colbert chastises the audience for showing up the Pundits who predicted McCain in '08 (two years ago), Clinton and Giuliani in '08 (four months ago), and Obama and Huckabee in '08 (four days ago), by voting for Clinton.]

Stephen Colbert: I mean, if you [the American people] keep voting the way you want, rather than the way we tell you you want, well then, pundits are just gonna stop tellin' you how to think. [audience cheers] No, no, no. I'm mad! You know what? I'm gonna give you a little taste of your own medicine, right now. The next big contest is South Carolina; I happen to be from South Carolina, I happen to know how you'd like to vote there, but I'm not gonna tell you what you want. I'm not gonna tell you who. the winner. of. South Carolina. should be. [pause] Joining me now — live from South Carolina — is the Republican front-runner, and the man who will win, Mike Huckabee!

Gov. Mike Huckabee (R–AR): Hello, Stephen, I hope you're doing well, and I hope you're ready to take it all the way to the White House, 'cause you know, you promised me you would be my running mate.

Colbert: Sir, I am so glad to hear you honor that promise. I was afraid that maybe I was gonna have to let you out of that.

Huckabee: I will keep that promise because, after all, the only reason that I'm the front-runner now is because of the "Colbert bump." If it were not for that, I would not be sitting in this chair, I would be probably somewhere serving hamburgers at a drive-in restaurant.

Colbert: Hamburgers, or Huckaburgers?

Huckabee: They would be Huckaburgers: whole-wheat bun, lean beef, and very carefully selected organic vegetables to go in the Huckaburger.

Colbert: Let me talk about one something for a second here, sir: when you asked me to be your running mate, I jumped on board when you were less than 1%. Obviously, I was thrilled to see you take the whole shootin' match in Iowa, but I gotta say, I'm underwhelmed about New Hampshire: third place? You might have to re-sell me.

Huckabee: Just two weeks ago, we were like in sixth place, so we saw dramatic move and momentum, just in a very short period of time.

Colbert: Umm, McCain: he's got "big mo,"if you pardon the expression. How are you gonna stop him? You're a man of the Faith; he said he will hunt Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell — will you hunt Osama bin Laden all the way into Hell?

Huckabee: And beyond. I will charge Hell with a water pistol, if necessary.

Colbert: Okay, let's go over some policy things; I want to make sure we're on the same page here. Do we both still feel that Evolution is a farce?

Huckabee: Huckabee: It's all a farce.

Colbert: Good to hear it. Are we the candidates who think that the Devil and Jesus were brothers?

Huckabee: Uh, no. That's not us. But I'll send you a memo on that, and I'll underline the parts in red that we need to believe.

Colbert: You knew that. Where do you stand on global warming?

Huckabee: I do think we've gotta be better stewards of the environment, and, frankly, we need to take better care of this planet.

Colbert: You know what I say? I say we hit the Environment hard, before it hits us. It's payback for earthquakes and hurricanes. [pause] How 'bout outsourcing jobs?

Huckabee: As long as it isn't mine.

Colbert: Ditto! Now, there's criticism of you, that you do not have foreign policy experience. That's how I can balance the ticket for you, because I've been overseas — I've been to Sandals Resort in Jamaica, I've been to Sandals Resort in the Bahamas, I've been to Sandals Resort in Barbados, I've been to Epcot.

Huckabee: That oughta take care of it.

Colbert: Can I take you to task for something that, I gotta say, alarms me. You are being attacked, and I think in this case rightfully so, for not being harsh enough on illegal immigrants. Is it true that you do not support building a pneumatic tube to fire Mexicans back to Guadalajara?

Huckabee: [laughs vigorously]

Colbert: 'Cause I heard that you're not supporting that.

Huckabee: No, I don't support that; I'm not quite that harsh.

Colbert: Let's talk money problems. Do you have the cash to go all the distance here? I mean, Romney's got all kinds of money. If you're trying to raise a little scratch, South Carolina gun laws are so loose, you can go into any gun shop and buy as many handguns as you want, and just ship 'em up here to New York and sell 'em on the streets illegally and raise some serious scratch.

Huckabee: How do you think I financed my campaign for the past 11 months?

Colbert: Smart man! Pick me up a couple?

Huckabee: [nods] On their way. What kind would you like?

Colbert: Something with the serial number scratched off!

Huckabee: Consider it done.

Colbert: I know you're a man of your word — you would never rescind your offer of making me your Vice President, no matter how well you do in the campaign, but I want to let you know, I believe in you, I believe in what you're doing, I'm gonna give you this opportunity to get out of it with honor. Just ask me, one more time, I'll say no, and then, you know, then you can pick somebody else. Go ahead.

Huckabee: Stephen, please, be my running mate.

Colbert: YES! Yes, a thousand times, yes! [audience laughs] I've got my hooks in you, mister! I will see you at the altar.

Huckabee: Uh, we're not taking it that far.

Colbert: Huckabee, good luck down there, stay strong, be brave, and remember, stay a Hucka-be, not a Hucka-was.

Huckabee: Thank you, Stephen.

Colbert: Thank you, sir. Mike Huckabee, everybody.
A few comments on Huckabee's responses:
  • I would very much like to know, and therefore I call upon Mike Huckabee to disclose, to what extent The Colbert Réport prepped him for the interview. If Huckabee knew the questions in advance, he still handled them well, but if he was doing improv on the spot, then it was especially impressive.

  • In the unlikely event that Huckabee is nominated as President, the selection of his running mate will have more immediate impact than usual, simply because the way Huckabee backs out of his repeated commitment to Stephen Colbert will say a lot about his character and fitness to be President. Sure, he can say, "It was all in a spirit of fun on a program of satire," but the details will matter. Anyone in politics who underestimates the power of Stephen Colbert will learn to regret it.

  • I think that Huckabee's comment that he would "charge Hell with a water pistol, if necessary," in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, speaks more to a fundamental understanding of the struggle against Al Qaeda than any of the façade of macho posturing from the likes of Romney and Giuliani about the extremes to which they would cheerfully go to defeat those extremists.

  • I agree with Gov. Huckabee and the character of Stephen Kohl-Behr that the [Mormon] belief that Jesus and the Devil are brothers is almost as absurd as the [Scientology®] belief that an interstellar overlord exiled prisoners' "thetans" on earth. However, I saw a quote today that pretty well sums up my attitude towards "mainline" Christianity, and especially fundamentalist Christianity:
    CHRISTIANITY: The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father, can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree... yeah, makes perfect sense. — found on the masthead of the Myth Understood channel on Justin.TV; original source unspecified
    It is absurd, and even blasphemous, to suggest that any human could ever have an infallible understanding of "the will of God," if any God worthy of the capital G exists.

  • It's about non-existent-deity-darned time that some Republican make the simple admission that the Republican leadership of the last 7 years has done a lousy job on environmental issues, and that it's important that we turn around right now. "Frankly, we need to take better care of this planet."

  • Even in jest, claiming to have financed his campaign through the illegal interstate sale of weapons, is tap-dancing in a political minefield. It's not a good first step in bridging the divide between the RKBA'ers and the people who are horrified at the rate of death from gun violence in the United States.

  • Huckabee's ability to grapple with Colbert clearly places him in an intellectual league far beyond President George Dumbya Bush. The pundits who have been saying for nine years, "Oh, George W. Bush isn't stupid!" are just as wide of the mark as the polls that said Obama would carry New Hampshire by double digits. Bush didn't for a moment consider how he would get the United States back out again after we invaded Iraq, which showed a shocking failure to think through the consequences of his decisions. Huckabee's inability or refusal to embrace the core concept of Evolution, though, likewise shows some limitations of his mind.
I hope you've found this transcript, and perhaps even some of my annotations and comments, helpful, and that you'll check out the rest of the blog, including the various transcripts I've done, and maybe some of my own original thoughts. And yes, for the love of America, demand that your cable system carry Al Jazeera English now!

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I'm Not Dead Yet!

I can't help thinking of the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with the man bringing his father out to be carted off with the corpses, despite his vigorous protests that he's not dead yet. Hillary Clinton is definitely not dead yet, having squeaked past Barack Obama in New Hampshire (although they actually tied in delegates). John McCain is definitely not dead yet, having convincingly defeated "favorite son" Mitt Romney. What's scary to me, actually, is that so many people take Romney seriously. The Union Leader and the Concord Monitor got it right in their anti-endorsements of Romney.

For purely partisan reasons, I would love to see the Republicans nominate Romney, because I think he could challenge the electoral college tally amassed by the last Massachusetts governor to run for President: Michael Dukakis. (Dukakis lost by 426 to 111, with one rogue elector voting for running mate Lloyd Bentsen.) America needs a landslide Presidential victory, and with Romney on the red side, even a Mike Gravel–Dennis Kucinich ticket could win 40 states. Hell — even Dukakis would have a tough time losing to Romney!

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Two very different views of Deliverance

[not a reference to the 1972 film Deliverance, starring Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds]

I'm watching MSNBC's coverage of the Iowa caucus, with Chris Matthews (whom I do not call "Tweety") giving a very good summation of the rut in which America finds itself, and comparing this rut to the beginning of the Great Depression.

[The choice of FDR over Hoover in 1932] wasn't an improvement, it wasn't finding somebody smarter than the guy we have in office, it was taking us out of the rut and taking us to a new place. The Biblical term for it, since we're in a Biblical era, is Deliverance. We're being picked up and moved to where we have to be. — Chris Matthews on MSNBC
As he also pointed out, there will be two prominent headlines on newspapers around the world tomorrow: "Obama Wins" and "Hillary Loses." I think Chris Matthews is right that Obama represents Deliverance on the Democratic side, and I think that Huckabee represents the Republican vision of Deliverance. Which vision can capture a clear and convincing majority of the American people?

The gridlock in Congress, with almost all Democratic efforts failing in the face of an unbreakable filibustering minority of Republicans, has resulted in inaction on issues of climate change, energy, Social Security and Medicare reform, the Iraq war, and foreign policy. In a meta-sense, the American people have to decide between picking one side decisively or continuing the near-50-50 paralysis. I'll take a look, with candid and obvious bias, at the two visions for breaking with the Bush legacy.

Mike Huckabee represents a return to the "Traditional American Values." In the stereotype of the 1950's, à la Pleasantville, those Values included second-class treatment for women, passive acceptance of racial inequity, homophobia, and a basically insular view of the U.S. role in the world. What happened in Kuala Lumpur or Nairobi or Caracas was of no particular interest, unless you worked in an industry with a particular connection to that region. Men were men, women were women, no one was ambiguously in between, boys were circumcised, pregnancy led to a shotgun wedding or a life of shame, marriage was an eternal bond shackling one submissive woman to one dominant male, and the rest of the world should do as we say, because clearly God has blessed America and therefore we must be doing everything exactly as He intended, and of course America was a Christian nation — it was silly even to ask. Mike Huckabee softens the edges quite a bit on several of those bullet points, but the core direction is the same.

Mike Huckabee aims to convince the solid majority of Americans who believe that a woman has a right to follow her own conscience in deciding whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term, that abortion should be banned in the U.S. Constitution. He couches it as an aspiration rather than a promise, but he says it's what he believes God holds in His Divine Will for the future of this country. He puts a "compassionate" smile on his face saying it, but he believes that two men or two women in a committed, loving relationship have no right whatsoever to any governmental recognition of the intertwining of their lives. He wants us out of Iraq, but he also believes that his years as a Baptist preacher have prepared him to take on the challenge of Islamic extremism. He believes that the same "aw shucks" folksiness that has swept him from Hope, Arkansas, to the national level, will work just as well on a global stage.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, represents a leap into the future. You could picture a President Barack Obama one day announcing the project to build a research station on the moon, if you know what I mean. Obama stands for the teaching of the science of evolution in science classes. He stands for a woman's right to choose whether to complete a pregnancy — and the right of two adults to choose to marry. He has lived a significant portion of his life outside the United States, seeing how it is perceived as a nation from the outside. Hillary Clinton scoffed at the notion that merely living abroad was in and of itself a qualification for being President, but I say it openly and directly. Christian extremism will no more protect us from Islamic extremism than vice-versa. The answer to extremism — Islamic, Christian, Republican, Communist, or White Supremacist — is embracing (not merely tolerating) diversity. In an era in which 19 men with half a million dollars were able to strike a stunning blow against the greatest military power in human history, military power is not the answer. The United States must dry up the reservoir of potential terrorist recruits by becoming popular, because only when the overwhelming majority of the people of the world see us as "the good guys" will we ever overcome a determined minority who despise us to the core of their being.

Around the world — even in Chris Matthews' favorite: Rangoon [Yangon], Burma [Myanmar] — the United States has taken a striking step by advancing the candidacy of an American who is a citizen of the world, not just of the United States. It is Barack Hussein Obama who represents the vision of Deliverance from the world of Al Qaeda, Taliban, Tamil, and I.R.A. It is Barack Obama who shines the beacon of Hope around the world. It is Barack Obama whom I want to see as the next President of the United States.

[This article also appeared in my DailyKos diary.]

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

That's So ... Canadian!

Last month, I flew up to Toronto for a few days, to attend and attest to the marriage of my good friend Howard. Aside from the heaviest one-day snowfall since World War II (the same storm that slammed New England and the Maritimes), it was an interesting peek into life north of the border. It had been ten years since my last visit to the Great White North — and that was in August, when it only barely went below freezing. Howard grew up in Los Angeles, and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area his entire adult life, but he despairs for the future of the United States, especially with George W. Bush resolutely marching us in the wrong direction on issue after issue. For him, moving to Canada is a breath of fresh air in many ways. First and foremost, he can legally get married and have that union fully recognized by all levels of the government, but that's not all. As Howard said about one marvel after another, "That's so ... Canadian!"

Coming right on the heels of a snowfall that was heavy by Canadian standards (BRRRR!), the wedding was lightly attended. Almost as many Yanks as Canucks showed up — the Americans had flown or driven up before the storm hit, whereas the locals were stranded until the snow plows came. The actual ceremony was performed by a "certified marriage practitioner," a recent Canadian innovation for people who don't want a church service but find courtrooms unromantic. A couple of days before the big day, we went shopping for a few last-minute items, and every person we told that Howard and Don were getting married, gave us heartfelt congratulations; not one expressed any consternation at the thought of two men marrying. Of course, when your primary concern is "How am I going to shift this mound of snow off my driveway so I can get to work?" it doesn't leave much time for worrying who your neighbor is sleeping with.

We even went into a Wal-Mart, the pinnacle of American retail culture, but even a Canadian Wal-Mart felt somehow different. Maybe it was the patient single-file queue for the express checkout lanes. In America, we demand a separate line for each lane, never mind that it can be proven mathematically that a single line is more efficient. Maybe we get lucky and get a line that moves quickly, or maybe we get stuck behind "Price check, Aisle 666" — but then we get to bitch about it. But beyond that, patience isn't something I see in abundance in places like Wal-Mart, less than two weeks before Christmas.

The pervasive sense of anxiety that has seeped into every facet of post-9/11 American life is shockingly absent in Canada, even though Canada has troops in Afghanistan and has even faced some terror threats at home. As Howard puts it, "Nobody hates Canada." That's not quite literally true, but the United States has the sad distinction of being quite possibly the most hated nation in the history of the world, because the people who are pissed at us number in the billions. Another key point: every time a single Canadian soldier is killed in Afghanistan, the entire country pauses to mourn the loss. Here in the United States, we feel eerily detached from the deaths of our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. We never see the coffins coming home. When Nightline devoted an episode to a simple list of the soldiers who have been killed, it was vilified by the neocons as being part of a defeatist conspiracy.

The other day, my TiVo recorded an episode of Degrassi: Next Generation, a Canadian soap opera drama set in a high school in Toronto. Degrassi is a very different place from my high school, and the kids are pretty different, too. There's an earnestness about them, a burning drive to change the world for the better, that kind of makes you think some of them might just grow up to be political bloggers. That's the characters in the script, at any rate, but what of the actors themselves? Well, on Christmas Day, the episode I caught was a travelogue of several of the actors on a trip to a remote village in Kenya, where they built a real school, not just a set on a soundstage. They spent about a week living in the village, hauling water back a couple of kilometers from the muddy river, moving rocks, pouring concrete, putting a roof on the building, and in general giving tangible expression to their concern for humanity. It was all very ... Canadian.

I love my country, and I'm not ready yet to give up the fight to take it back from the neocon cabal that has been in power the last 7 years, but I can't help thinking that I wish the United States of America could be just a little bit more Canadian — minus the record snowfall, of course.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

... and We're Back

Since putting the blog on hiatus in October for the sake of my poor, aching wrist, I've been putting in fewer hours on the computer, and I've also been on the road almost as much as I've been home. However, my travels are complete, with no more wandering at least until spring, and New Year's seems like a good day for a fresh restart.

The Iowa caucuses are only two days away, marking the official start of the Most Important Presidential Campaign of Our Lifetime™. Seriously, though, what is at stake in this election is nothing less than national security, economic prosperity, and our very national soul. Is America the kind of country that spies on its own citizens without judicial oversight? Is America the kind of country that detains people, including citizens, indefinitely, without access to lawyers, much less judges? Is America the kind of country that tortures prisoners, even knowing full well that torture does not produce reliable information? Is America the kind of country that stands idly by as millions of its citizens have no access to medical care? Is America the kind of country that launches unprovoked wars of aggression? Those questions are the backdrop of this campaign, and that's what I'll be talking about here.

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