Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dr. Strangelove Drops the Bomb on the 2008 General Election

It seems like three or four years ago now, but back in March, we took a look at the presidential primary race through the Dude’s sunglasses, reviewing all the quotes, incidents and worthwhile happenings. A couple months later, we compared the candidates to professional wrestlers. With the election set for Tuesday, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give this another go. And because so many moments have delved into the absurd, the movie that most aptly sums up the general election season is Stanely Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Two warnings: this is kinda long and my photoshopping incompetence persists. Anyway, without further ado, let’s see what happened. On with the quotes!
“Your Commie has no regard for human life, not even of his own. For this reason men, I want to impress upon you the need for extreme watchfulness. The enemy may come individually, or in strength. He may even appear in the form of our own troops. But however we must stop him. We must not allow him to gain entrance to this base. Now, I'm going to give you three simple rules: First, trust no one, whatever his uniform or rank, unless he is known to you personally; Second, anyone or anything that approaches within 200 yards of the perimeter is to be fired upon; Third, if in doubt, shoot first then ask questions later. I would sooner accept a few casualties through accidents rather losing the entire base and its personnel through carelessness. Any variation of these rules must come from me personally. Now, men, in conclusion, I would like to say that, in the two years it has been my privilege to be your commanding officer, I have always expected the best from you, and you have never given me anything less than that. Today, the nation is counting on us. We're not going to let them down. Good luck to you all.” – It didn’t take long once it was clear that Obama was going to sew up the Democratic nomination. The right wing immediately picked up the most extreme of Hillary Clinton’s attacks, trying to paint him as some nefarious outsider. Obama’s a Muslim. Obama’s not a real American. Obama’s a community organizer! And most recently, Obama’s a socialist. It looks like it’s not working out any better for McCain than it did for Hillary.

“I know how it is, baby. Tell you what you do: you just start your countdown, and old Bucky'll be back here before you can say ‘Blast off!’” – When Hillary Clinton began her speech at the Democratic convention, lip readers could easily note Bill’s “I love you, I love you, I love you,” presumably directed in her direction. Was it just for show like Buck Turdgidson’s efforts to placate his secretary? Only Bill knows for certain.

“He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.” – General Ripper’s ideological, paranoid ramble used to justify the attack that really sets things in motion is oddly comparable to Mitt Romney and Rudy Giulani’s aggressive speeches at the Republican Convention. Romney especially blamed all of society’s ills on Liberals who were hell-bent on the destruction of the United States as we know it. Coming from Rudy, the pro-choice, thrice-married former mayor of New York City, it was especially ironic.
“Well, I've been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that's the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones. You sure you got today's codes?” – Trying to steal some of Obama’s thunder from the his big speech at the Denver convention, the following day, John McCain announced his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin. From Republicans not named Bill Kristol, the response was generally, “Wha…?” From Democrats, “You’ve gotta be kidding me. High fives all around!”

“If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!” – Turdgidson’s excitement over the potential bomb run without perspective of where he was or whom he was talking to was matched by die-hard Republicans who immediately fawned over Sarah Palin after her convention speech. As time passed, they either rallied all the more or saw that the emperor had no clothes. Well, ‘cept for those clothes that cost 150 grand…

“I told you never to call me here, don't you know where I am?... Well look, baby, I c-, I can't talk to you now... my president needs me!... Of course Bucky'd rather be there with you!... Of course it isn't only physical!... I deeply respect you as a human being... Some day I'm gonna make you Mrs Buck Turgidson!... Oh, listen uh, you go back to sleep hon, and Bucky'll be back there just as soon as he can... All right... listen, sug, don't forget to say your prayers!” – Turdigson’s attempts to convince his secretary to take it easy and allay her fears are oddly reminiscent of the McCain campaign’s approach to the disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters. Suddenly Republicans were lauding Hillary as though they’d always been huge supporters, claiming she'd been jobbed out of the nomination and going as far as nominating a woman for Vice President with the main purpose being to pick up female votes.
“Well, boys, I reckon this is it - nuclear combat toe to toe with the Rooskies. Now look, boys, I ain't much of a hand at makin' speeches, but I got a pretty fair idea that something doggone important is goin' on back there. And I got a fair idea the kinda personal emotions that some of you fellas may be thinkin'. Heck, I reckon you wouldn't even be human bein's if you didn't have some pretty strong personal feelin's about nuclear combat. I want you to remember one thing, the folks back home is a-countin' on you and by golly, we ain't about to let 'em down. I tell you something else, if this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I'd say that you're all in line for some important promotions and personal citations when this thing's over with. That goes for ever' last one of you regardless of your race, color or your creed. Now let's get this thing on the hump - we got some flyin' to do.” – In efforts to pump up Sarah Palin’s foreign policy credentials, Cindy McCain went on ABC News and said, “Remember, Alaska’s the closest part of our continent to Russia.” It seemed somewhat ridiculous, but it somehow became a talking point, even coming directly from the Governor’s mouth when she spouted, “As Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska.” It also led to this wonderful image from “the mind of Sarah Palin”:
“Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.” – Trailing by only a bit, the McCain campaign not only decided they were going to start playing hardball, they announced to the press that they would “go nuclear” on Obama and start an all-out attack. Apparently they didn’t learn the lesson of the Democratic primary when Hillary Clinton announced the “kitchen sink” strategy. The negative campaign blitz harmed McCain even more than it did Senator Clinton.

“Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room.” – Originally, this quote was assigned to the infighting that was rampant in the Clinton campaign in the second half of the democratic primary, but now we’ve seen even worse incidents coming form the republicans. McCain staffers have referred to Palin as a “diva,” claiming that she has “gone rogue.” Later, staffer Nicole Wallace was thrown under the bus for clothesgate.

“Based on the findings of the report, my conclusion was that this idea was not a practical deterrent for reasons which at this moment must be all too obvious.” – For a reason still unkown, considering the ton of the rest of the campaign, McCain chose not to go after Obama’s pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Could it be because Sarah Palin has her own preacher problems? Or perhaps they felt it would be harder to play up the Muslim storyline at the same time? Still, for all of Obama’s “questionable relationships,” this one seemed like the most obvious to utilize. The man God-damned America, for Pete’s sake!

“Well, boys, we got three engines out, we got more holes in us than a horse trader's mule, the radio is gone and we're leaking fuel and if we was flying any lower why we'd need sleigh bells on this thing... but we got one little budge on them Rooskies. At this height why they might harpoon us but they dang sure ain't gonna spot us on no radar screen!” – Originally, Peter Sellers was to have four roles in the movie, but couldn’t manage to get the folksy voice down for Major T.J. “King” Kong. Instead, Slim Pickens stepped in and nailed the part. In her vice-presidential debate performance, Palin did her best Pickens impersonation. While some right wingers saw starbursts, most people wondered why she was talking like that.

“You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.” – The most absurd comment in the movie, outrage at the destruction of a vending machine’s changebox, goes to the most absurd outrage of the political campaign. When Obama talked about putting lipstick on a pig in reference to McCain’s economic plan, the Republicans stamped their feet and tried to imply that he was talking about Sarah Palin. For the most part, the public didn’t buy it.

“I think you're some kind of deviated prevert. I think General Ripper found out about your preversion, and that you were organizing some kind of mutiny of preverts. Now move!” – Colonel Bat Guano is certain that Ripper and Mandrake are up to some sexy shenanigans, when reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. Well, OK, if Ripper had his way, maybe not, but regardless, the McCain camp tried to claim that Obama wanted to teach small children “comprehensive sexual education,” even though that didn’t meet with reality. It was an overreach that harmed them greatly with voters.

“Stay on the bomb run, boys! I'm gonna get them doors open if it harelips ever'body on Bear Creek!” – The plan to attack Obama as voraciously as possible was put in place immediately, and most wingnuts, particularly the crew at Fox News stayed on script. But at times a few people went too far. Most notably, Liz Trotta who joked that it would be a pretty cool thing if the man was murdered.

“Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines.” – In the primaries, once Obama’s message of “change” caught on, Hillary tried to co-opt it for her campaign. It didn’t work. The McCain group went one step farther rebranding their team as “Change You Can Believe In,” directly lifting the words from Obama’s brand, and showing the same kind of envy for the enemy Turdgidson admits to under his breath.

“Mein Führer! I can walk!” – The biggest “ooops” comment of the movie was easily surpassed by Joe Biden who began (and ended) his own presidential campaign by calling Barack Obama “clean” and “articulate”. Recent blunders also include referencing a restaurant that doesn’t exist, stating that Obama will be tested immediately in office, and talking about President Roosevelt going on Television during the Great Depression.
“Hello?... Uh... Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Oh-ho, that's much better... yeah... huh... yes...” – The most hilarious and ridiculous phone call of the movie goes to Sarah Palin who earlier this week was pranked by a Montreal radio station. Just listen to it.

“Our source was the New York Times.” – In a portion of her disastrous Katie Couric interview, perhaps for fear of answering “incorrectly,” Sarah Palin couldn’t name a single newspaper she reads.

“Mr. President, it is not only possible, it is essential. That is the whole idea of this machine, you know. Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the fear to attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision-making process which rules out human meddling, the Doomsday machine is terrifying and simple to understand... and completely credible and convincing.” – William Ayers, the most oft-uttered talking point from the right wing, didn’t exactly instill the fear in the public that the Republicans had hoped. Perhaps we’ve become inured against such tactics after eight years of Bush/Cheney.

“Ah, oh, no... well, I don't think they wanted me to talk really. I don't think they wanted me to say anything. It was just their way of having a bit of fun, the swines. Strange thing is they make such bloody good cameras.” – John McCain was at his best when telling stories from the past, particularly when discussing his time in a Vietnamese prison camp. In fact, the biggest thing working against him and in favor of Obama in this campaign is that he is a storyteller. McCain loves to talk about things that have occurred already and does so with considerable charm. But at a time when most Americans are wanting to move forward, it doesn’t rally the electorate. And Obama was just better at talking about the future.

“Mandrake, have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?” – An odd question that seems to have no place in the debate, and the fact that it implicitly references how the water gets to us means that we now get to hear from “Joe the Plumber.” “Joe” suddenly became the attention of millions of Americans thanks to McCain dropping his name at the third debate. Of course, Joe was really a Republican and really had little to say when he went on TV. But at least he held a press conference. That’s more than we can say for Mrs. Palin. Just today, "Joe" has declared Barack Obama a traitor. His presence also reminds us of this fifteen year old Onion story.

“General Turgidson! When you instituted the human reliability tests, you assured me there was no possibility of such a thing ever occurring!”
“Well, I, uh, don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.”
– Quite surprisingly, there have been many Republicans coming out to endorse Obama. None more notable than Chris Buckley, son of William F. Buckley. For the endorsement, Buckley was fired from the National Review, the magazine founded by his father. After towing the party line for so long, jumping ship is the ultimate taboo and a slap in the face of the system that got us to this point in history.

“If you don't put that gun away and stop this stupid nonsense, the court of Inquiry on this'll give you such a pranging, you'll be lucky if you end up wearing the uniform of a bloody toilet attendant.” – After gun-control issues harmed the Democrats in 2000 and 2004, they have largely tried to avoid the issue this year, and have done a decent job of it. But Obama did make a rather large blunder by claiming that some voters choose against their own self-interest because they “cling to guns and religion.” This statement harmed him both in the primaries and in the general election. Without it, his lead would be larger.
“Mr. President, if I may speak freely, the Rooskie talks big, but frankly, we think he's short of know how. I mean, you just can't expect a bunch of ignorant peons to understand a machine like some of our boys. And that's not meant as an insult, Mr. Ambassador, I mean, you take your average Russkie, we all know how much guts he's got. Hell, lookit look at all them them Nazis killed off and they still wouldn't quit.” – The derisive comments in a moment of otherwise civil discourse with the Russian ambassador reflect the same tone and attitude that led McCain to avoid eye contact with Obama in the first debate and call him “that one” in the second.

“Well, he just went a little funny.” – Similar to Ripper’s brain, the economy went a little funny, impacting the election greatly. McCain was in trouble already, but when the stock market crashed, it was something he had as much control over as Dimitri.

“Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap!” – The panicked reaction of the McCain campaign during the financial collapse led to a “suspension” and threats to postpone the second debate. And it does a fair job summing up their approach the whole thing. Always following Obama’s moves, playing defense the whole time, and generally trying to counter Obama’s moves rather than making their own, the mineshaft gap has been the difference in the election. If the polls are right, we’ll see the election of a new party on Tuesday. It’s obviously incredibly important, but you have to admit that this has been the most fascinating election you can recall. From start to finish, it has been hilarious, outlandish, thought-provoking and above all, passionate on all sides. America’s ready to make amends with itself, regardless of who wins on Tuesday. But you can bet on this, your grandchildren will ask you where you were, what you thought, and how it all went down. See you at the polls!

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