1.) I've written about David Simon's HBO show "The Wire" here on this blog before. The show's critical reception has been, as far as I know, universally positive. Today, however, Mark Bowden, writer of the excellent "Black Hawk Down", published a somewhat contrary take on the show on TheAtlantic.com. His essay's pretty interesting, but I'm not sure how persuasive his points are. His primary complaint with the show seems to be that Simon omits the good things that are happening in Baltimore's crime-ridden neighborhoods -- like good citizen residents standing up to the dealers for example -- and that Simon is too determined to paint Baltimore in the colors of bleakness to be truly committed to verisimilitude. I think the relative amount of bleak in "The Wire" is too fine a point to get Bowden so worked up. It could be argued that "The Wire" inspires indifference to the plight of the inner city because it skews more hopeless than hopeful, but when a show is making the effort to ask why inner cities have been so hopeless for so many decades, I think Simon can be forgiven for not focusing too long on the so-called bright spots. That idea smacks too much of what the right-wing was always (and stupidly) asking the press to do in the worst years of our Iraq debacle: go out and find the "good stories".
Bowden also thinks Simon is a petty kind of guy complete with a Nixon-style enemies list, grudges galore, and a driving urge to settle scores. I don't think Bowden's essay even chips the monument the television critics have built in honor of "The Wire", but it's interesting to get a contrarian take on something so lauded. The final season of the show begins this month. If you get HBO, check it out. This season the show focuses on (and takes to task) the media, specifically big-city newspapers.
2.) So, finally, after what feels like an eternity of campaigning, the 2008 primaries begin tomorrow in Iowa. Even now, no one, and I mean no one, knows what's going to happen there. On the Democratic side, Obama, Hillary or Edwards could all have a game-changing night. On the Republican side, if Romney takes it, he's going to be all but impossible to knock out and I just can't see my way towards a Romney Presidency, so that's good news for us. If Huckabee wins, then Romney may be so weakened as to allow McCain to come in and claim the nomination for himself, which could be bad news for us. And Ron Paul could surprise the punditocracy by taking more caucus-goers than he's currently expected to; though it wouldn't have any real impact on the race, it would be kinda fun to watch. A good showing in Iowa might make it harder for Fox Noise to keep Paul out of the debate.
As for me, I still like Obama, and expect to vote for him when the primaries come to politically-meaningless Georgia. He seems forthright and honest and electing him might take some of the wind from the Republican attack machine's sails. I admit I have all the same worries other Obama supporters have, like will the Republicans be able to successfully run a racist strategy against Obama, as they've done in prior elections? And even if the Repubs run a clean campaign (fat chance), would America really elect a guy named Barack Hussein Obama to be President? Seems crazy on the face of it, but that's part of the allure of an Obama Presidency: true change. And I think that after Bush what we most need is change, and I think Obama best represents that goal. And he was just as right as rain on the central foreign policy question of the moment, Iraq. No other Democrat can say that.
I have to say, though, that John Edwards has been growing on me lately. I like the idea behind his promise to fight for change against intractable corporate interests; in this corporate era, I think we may need someone with a Rooseveltian (the first one) distrust of corporations. I think he may be a little too unashamedly populist to be my first choice (I don't view the world in quite so stark a way as Edwards), but if he did well tomorrow night, I wouldn't be sad about it. And the fact that Nader supports him makes him all the more attractive as a candidate.
I have mixed feelings about Hillary Clinton, and if she has a good night tomorrow, I worry about our chances of retaking the White House. Conservatives seem to have a thing for Clinton, and not in a good way, and where they might be persuaded to stay at home on election day in the general if Obama or Edwards is the nominee, Clinton might motivate them to come out to the polls in big numbers, just like they did in '04. If she ends up being the nominee, I'll support her, but I do worry that she might be the least inclined of the top-tier Dem candidates to roll back the clock on eight years of Cheney's beefed-up Executive.
Anyway, should be the start of an exciting political year. Anyone have any predictions? I'll put in mine just so I can be proven wrong in less than 24 hours.
Repub: Huckabee takes first, Romney second, McCain third.
Dem: Obama takes first, Edwards second, Clinton third.
[Editor's note: in the original version of this post, I wrongly referred to David Simon, the creator of "The Wire", as David Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos." I have corrected the error.]