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The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check + Readers Responses

2012 Democratic National Convention
• James Campion
This is a crappy time to be president. GDP diving. Manufacturing is down. Unemployment hangs steadily over eight percent. Congress is in gridlock. A war still rages, which apparently no one beyond those fighting it or dying for it care about.

Clinton /Obama
Even the stuff that doesn't suck is created out of thin air by opponents. The Democrats are in control of the office and must defend it over the next sixty days and it more or less started this week in Charlotte. Unlike Republicans, whose job at their convention was to put a face to all this talk about Mitt Romney being the font of business acumen and shrug off allegations of his casual disingenuousness, and, if possible dent the overwhelming disadvantage in the gender and Latino gap, the Democrats need to ramp up damage control and then go about undertaking the thankless job of convincing those once beatific followers of Barack Obama this baby isn't a complete dud.

The Republicans may have missed an opportunity to go beyond "throw the bum out" and present a viable alternative to the six or seven percent of undecided and/or independent voters which will decide this election; thus giving the president and the Democrats a sliver of daylight to argue that Barack Obama, while being something less than a messiah, is not the harbinger of doom. The Republicans painted an ugly picture last week, perhaps overreaching. All the Democrats have to do with a likable candidate that the country not only knows but voted for in greater numbers than any Democratic presidential nominee in a generation, is prove that being less than stellar is far less dire a prospect than destroying the Western Hemisphere.

Failing that, the Democrats turn at The Show must at least rouse its base and try and rekindle the incredible enthusiasm that gripped the Hope & Change Obama Machine of 2008. This is nearly impossible, for what the Republicans deftly accomplished last week when not derailed by a seemingly half-soused octogenarian Hollywood icon mumbling incoherently at an empty chair, was to say that all the hoopla and energy and soaring rhetoric cannot be digested this time without first combing the record that is there for all to see.

Many Democrats pressed to answer the famously quoted Reagan query from the 1980 campaign; "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" fumbled it badly on nearly every Sunday morning news show prior to the convention, something the Republicans did not mess with in 2004 by quickly pointing out the positives of two unwinnable wars and an exploding debt. The Democrats argument cannot be won on the promises proffered by the 2008 Obama campaign, but to say the brink of economic collapse, a Dow Jones at 6,500, the loss of 750,000 jobs a month and two unfunded wars raging out of control in the late summer of '08 is not far worse than the slowly trudging economic recovery of '12 is hardly rocket science. One Democratic strategist remarked to me the other day, "If a Republican president killed Osama bin Laden and doubled the stock market in three years they'd have already erected a statue of him."

The Democrats have decided, if these evenings of processed drama be believed, is to embrace the idea of anti-government as anti-American, the way the Bush re-elect campaign used anti-war as being anti-American. This segues neatly into what this week has been the first real defense of what everyone, even chirping Democrats, now call Obamacare, which still polls terribly as a monolithic piece of legislation, but gets gangbusters ratings when stripped into vital segments.

Things did not begin well for the convention upon the discovery of the word "God" stricken from the Democratic platform giving the God-crazy Republicans, whose most fringe voices have vociferously depicted the president as either a Godless heathen who is hell-bent on stripping religious freedoms or an evil Muslim insider looking to enact Sharia law, a mighty hammer. But soon The Show was underway and the speeches, initially highlighted by First Lady Michelle Obama (the most political speech given by a First Lady since perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt in 1942) and the keynote, the 37 year-old Mexican-American mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro (a sugary attack dog act), which duly patronized the woman and Latino voter base.

And then it was time for the Minister of Fun.
"President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No president - not me or any of my predecessors could have fully repaired all the damage he found in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you'll renew the President's contract you will feel it. ... I believe that with all my heart." Bill Clinton Convention Speech
By the time former president and current lauded statesman, Bill Clinton had wrapped up his half-improvised 48 minute screed the entire pundit class was left genuflecting in awe. Nearly every conservative voice on the news networks heaped reverence on Big Bill with an embarrassing level of girlish glee, calling the entire race a wash and the point of whatever the current president could manage to utter the next evening would be backwash. Liberals wet themselves.

For the first time in this election cycle a representative of the political realm actually talked policy, numbers, economic strategy and the effect of ideological debate on the grand structure of governance. It was as if the Wizard of Oz had not only pulled back the curtain but driven a Panzer Tank through the heart of Munchkinland. And it was done with the causal pace of a passing stranger in a hotel bar. It was the finest piece of political theater this reporter has seen in some time and not only roused the base, but could also well have tipped some independent scales. What it may have unintentionally done was eclipse the entire idea for the charade of voting for candidates that might well be incapable of achieving its measure; most specifically the man he was there to defend, whose ability to explain these concepts over four years has been sadly non-existent.

The damn speech, far too long and dripping with Arkansas smarm, kicked ass, took names, and rang every bell available to ring within 10,000 miles of North Carolina, where Barack Obama and maybe the progressive set was making its final stand.

To that end, the president took the stage the next evening and offered up a less than stellar defense beyond "I need more time" and "Things are working" with the occasional swipe at the soaring rhetoric that made him a most compelling candidate four years ago and eventually an historic presidential choice. But it rung hallow in its shadow, like a fading rock band trying to recapture its relevance. Whether this performance and another week of The Show excited those whose enthusiasm has most assuredly waned remains the story of the next two months.

The president still has the mathematical advantage in the Electoral map and his opponent offers only answers to all this fancy economic stuff that are pretty much the same ideas that still helps keep this economy in a slog and the deficit rising (the Bush tax cuts remain), but make no mistake, Barack Obama's most looming foe in 2012 is the guy from 2008. Problem is no one can beat that guy.
© James Campion September 7th 2012

2012 Republican National Convention
James Campion

People in the business of politics recognize convention weeks as "a show for the uninitiated"; those voters, most of them outside the fisticuffs of the junky set, who choose presidents based on appearance, likability or the general self-interest of the moment.


This is a weirdly positive piece, almost devoid of sarcasm, and quite heartwarming. Frankly, it made me uncomfortable and confused me. (IN PRAISE OF "VEGAN IS LOVE" -- Issue: 8/1/12) So you've succeeded once again! Curse you, James Campion! You threw me for a loop.

Jonathan Young
Smithfield, RI

Sounds like Ruby Roth has a good head on her shoulders and am very glad she wrote this book. I was raised believing that the animals we eat are treated well and that we need them to survive. That eating animals is what people do and that there is just no way around it. When I found out the truth for myself many years later, I adopted a Vegan lifestyle and haven't looked back since.


Dear James,

Twice in one quote Ms. Roth refers to "the footage". Your article does not offer any explanation of what this is, exactly. I'd like to know, so that, whatever it is, I can avoid it with all my might.
"It's like a blind spot even when your attention is turned to it. I think if you haven't witnessed the footage it's impossible to imagine the depth of destruction and violence that occurs. It changes you as a person. I think my brain chemistry changed when I started witnessing the footage, because our habits allow us to associate meat with comfort food and that's normalized, but when you see what it really is your neural pathways actually change."

Jennifer Slicks

Roth summed it up when she said knowledge is power. I know I am making educated choices because I'm Vegan. Before, I just schlepped along with the rest of the omnivorous population following the food pyramid and thought myself healthy. Contrary to popular belief, Vegans don't act self righteous, we just know how good it feels to make educated choices. No one judges others for making a difference choice, we just hope it's an educated one, which will inevitably lead them to a more compassionate diet. It's like a college grad knowing that a kindergartner isn't as educated on the college admissions process, because he/she has never done it before.


Going Vegan may indeed be a worthy sentiment, but especially when it comes to inculcating children in that mindset, the health ramifications of a diet completely free of animal products should not be ignored. While an informed adult can make a legitimate choice that a shorter, less healthy individual life is worth it if it promotes a world free from intentional animal suffering, a child cannot.
Educating children to the dangers of processed foods and the lack of sustainability in our food supply makes far more sense and is much more likely to better more bodies and minds for ingraining such existential food choice considerations in the human psyche.


Dear Mr. Campion

Calling yourself a Vegan or anything else as such is to buy into our ego and think we are separate from everything else and anything more than one in total. Eating meat, or fruit for that matter, actually makes us closer to cannibals, not Vegans! Perhaps we should all become brethrens. ;) Seek Truth!

Bo Blaze

Veganism is a dietary choice. Being an omnivore is a matter of biology. Your body (unless you carry one of a few extremely rare genetic disorders) can process both vegetable and animal products by definition making you an omnivore. You continue to schlep along with the rest of us omnivores whether you choose to eat meat or not. Knowledge is power.



The best hope we have at some kind of sustainability in food production is with the inclusion of animals. Three good counter starting point questions in a conversation with a Vegan child are - How are your veggies fertilized? How can farmers continue to make a living without the use of animals? and, Can a grassland ecosystem exist without the management & use of animals on it?

I'll leave it to you to inform yourself on these important questions, from one father to another.


Actually, Vegans and vegetarians skew young, single, and female -- from stats I've seen on Vegan websites. And, in all seriousness, I have to wonder what kids would choose if they had to make a choice between mommy or daddy being able to survive some terminal illness because of knowledge gained from animal testing, or having mommy or daddy die so that bunnies can live?
I don't think animals should be tested for cosmetics safety. And, I am uncomfortable with testing for diseases and drugs. However, what is the answer? If you have a simple answer, like "ethical" Vegans have, then you aren't thinking for yourself too much. No offense, but that's like telling people to believe in Jesus and your problems will be solved or prayers answered or whatever...


Our national obsession with re-engineering our diets to align them with ever-changing nutritional, moral, ethical, environmental, and other standards has resulted in the loss of any sense of what we should eat. Teenaged girls in middle class families nowadays have little control over their highly regimented lives. Extreme pressure to be painfully thin comes on top of all these pressures. For many of them becoming "vegetarian" or "Vegan" (and I put that in quotes because often they make no effort to understand what it means to "eat Vegan") is simply a more socially acceptable manifestation of eating disorders, a way to act out that is considered above reproach because they can claim ethical superiority.

Angela Quattrano

Does anyone think it is possible to have a rational, reasoned discussion with children on any of the following complex, multi-faceted issues:. 1) The scientific and ethical pros and cons of using animals in biomedical research. 2) The role of managed hunting in a broad wildlife management and conservation strategy. 3) The complexities of food production including animal welfare and sustainably. These are complex issues that many adults who have good critical thinking skills can struggle with.


Sheltered, ill-informed children on any subject, whether using the words naïve, coddled or protected, have led to the de-evolution of thought and this perpetuation of anti-intellectualism that is rampart in many parts of this nation. All one need do is see a robotic religious zealot like Sarah Palin, who ran a state and had a chance to be vice president slaughtering moose from a helicopter with an automatic weapon to see the gory results of this.
Thank God for Ms. Roth and James Campion for helping to evolve thought and compassion among their children, so they don't grow up "digesting" the same tired propaganda that is aiding in the destruction of our planet.


What allowed us to evolve was the availability and consumption of calorically dense, nutrient-rich foods. We have more information regarding nutritional components of food than ever before. We can use that knowledge to enjoy a diet that considers health, ethical, and environmental issues. If we were meant to rely solely on ancient meat sources, we would have slowly died out beginning with the mammoth and ending with the auroch.


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