UpFront

CAST INTO THE DARKNESS

In the annals of the conservative political action Conference, which has been convened annually since 1973, the 2008 meeting in Washington's Omni Shoreham Hotel will likely be remembered by participants as the one that, all things considered, probably should never have been convened at all. In past years, attendees reveled in their own power. They were the center of the Republican universe, and if anyone questioned that, a quick glance at the podium -- where such luminaries as Ronald Reagan (who'd addressed 12 conferences), Newt Gingrich, and, more recently, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had all held forth -- would dispel any doubt.

This year, though, it was more like conferees were attending, if not their own funeral, at least a rite of their displacement. Their own presidential standard bearer, Mitt Romney, came to tell them he was dropping out of the race. Their bĂȘte noir, John McCain, who'd had the temerity to blow them off altogether in 2007, came to claim the spoils of victory. Worse yet, he'd won that victory by mobilizing moderate Republicans and picking off just enough conservatives to win the nomination -- something no Republican had done since Gerald Ford in 1976, and he was the goddamn incumbent. The whole, if unplanned, point of this year's CPAC was to tell conferees: You do not dominate the Republican Party, not this year, thank you very much, and no, you cannot get your registration fee refunded.

Like going on a pilgrimage to Rome only to have the pope tell you God is dead, this is no way to build morale.

PRESIDENTIAL POETRY

Atop the list of a rudimentary Google search for "2008 presidential campaign slogans" are a slew of tongue-in-cheek suggestions from bloggers on both sides of the aisle. These proposals are often glib, sometimes rude, and frequently hilarious. A highlight, from Doug Ross' blog, for Hillary Clinton: "Clinton '08 ? This time with pants."

Combing these fake catchphrases is certainly more interesting than parsing the candidates' actual slogans. It's as if, at the outset of the 2008 race, each campaign received the same -- limited -- Magnetic Poetry kit of words from which they could create a slogan. Imagine low-level staffers desperately combing through tiny magnetic strips, hoping to arrive at the least-threatening combination of words like strength, change, and freedom. Thus, you get, "Change We Can Believe In" from Barack Obama and "Change Begins with Us" from Mitt Romney. Or maybe it's the other way around.

Rudy Giuliani carried the Magnetic Poetry trend to its logical conclusion when he unveiled, "Tested. Ready. Now." Apparently even conjunctions scare voters, not to mention parallel structure.

The new wrinkle in campaign slogans is Barack Obama's "We are the ones we've been waiting for," which sounds like the chant of a self-fulfillment cult, particularly if everyone's been showing up late.

CONVENTIONAL SEX

Will actual business, for the first time in decades, be conducted at this year's political conventions? With the economy in decline, America's prostitutes are counting on it.

Sex and adult entertainment workers in Denver and Minneapolis are gearing up for the conventions, which they say bring a boom in business as more than 35,000 out-of-towners descend on the cities. It's nothing new; conventions have long brought stimulus (of the economic sort) to the towns that host them. During the GOP convention in New York in 2004, some sex workers offered special discounts.

But Denver-area prostitutes are feeling a little down that they got stuck with the Democrats. "It would be a lot better for the sex workers if it was the Republican convention. We get a lot more business," Carol Leigh, a San Francisco prostitute who regularly heads off to convention destinations, told the Rocky Mountain News. "I don't know if they're just frustrated because of the family values agenda." Who says there's no difference between the two parties?

STATE AND SCHISM

A bitter fight has been raging between the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia (and, by extension, the national Episcopal Church) and 11 breakaway Virginia parishes, which have seceded from the national church to protest its acceptance of a gay bishop and its theological liberalism generally. A Fairfax County circuit court was considering the question of whether the secessionists had a right to claim ownership of the church properties when, lo and behold, Virginia's Republican Attorney General Robert McDonnell filed a petition to intervene on the secessionists' behalf, arguing that the case raised issues of property law solely. The Episcopal Diocese countered that his intervention would amount to the state taking sides in a clearly religious dispute. Virginians Thomas Jefferson and James Madison -- oh, hell, you know what Jefferson and Madison would say.

THE QUESTION:
What should Rudy Giuliani do now that he's dropped out of the presidential race?

"Take his $40 million delegate to a Yankees game." -- Michael Gehrke, research director, Democratic National Committee

"Spend more time not with his family." -- Chris Beam, political reporter, Slate.com

"Become a New York City squeegee man." -- Ezra Klein

PARODY by T.A. Frank

"Make it a hundred." -- John McCain on possible U.S. length of stay (in years) in Iraq should he be elected president

From: Rick Davis, campaign manager
To: John McCain

In response to some of the pushback you?ve received for your vision of a 100-year war in Iraq, we?ve compiled a list of reasons to back it up.

Your talking points:

  • The original Hundred Years' War between England and France left the population of France smaller by two-thirds. This made France roomier. Plus, France is now the most-visited country in Europe. If we stay in Iraq for 100 more years, we could produce another France.
  • Yes, it's true that England was left bankrupt. But that didn?t stop it from launching right into the Wars of the Roses, which lasted about 30 years more. And consider this: No Wars of the Roses, no Tudors. No Tudors, no Elizabeth I. And we all like Cate Blanchett.
  • Today, de-Baathification is a hot-button issue, and Iraqis cannot agree on what to do with former Baath officials. In 100 years, though, former Baath Party members will all be dead, meaning the issue will be fully resolved.
  • Within 50 years, Osama bin Laden will probably die. Think of the satisfaction of pointing out that Osama bin Laden is long-dead but we are still in Iraq.
  • Global warming could really change things. If we stay in Iraq for 100 years, we'll have a front-row seat to a very hot show.
  • Soldiers who return for their 10th or 11th tour of duty may decide they actually quite like it. Some will also become excellent Arabic speakers.
  • We?re getting along very well with the Kurds, and we are just getting to know one another. They?re really friendly.
  • In 2103, we'll be able to look back and say: Wow. One hundred years. Cool. Good job.

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