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Archive for January, 2008

I watched the development of a romance this evening. It wasn’t a story in a Hollywood movie, although it occurred in Hollywood.

This was the final debate between Hillary and Barack before Super Tuesday. Newsom reportedly attended the debate on behalf of Hillary but I didn’t see him in the audience.

Instead, I watched the two love birds on stage practically fall over one another in their desire to appear as reasonable and considerate candidates. At the end of the debate, they actually did embrace. I swear I could hear fade-out music as Humphrey observed in the closing scene of the movie Casablanca, “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Woof Blitzem asked the final question: would either one or both consider a Barack-Hillary or a Hillary-Barack ticket? Each hemmed and hawed and danced around the question when the entire debate suggested that the best answer would have been, “Anything’s possible.” Later, during the Spin Cycle, some talking heads suggested that the two would make an unbeatable Dream Pair.

As far as performance goes, both were excellent tonight. If anyone had the edge, it was Hillary. She spoke forcefully, demonstrated a command of the facts, and was obviously relaxed in her element.

Barack seemed hesitant at times, and his delivery was often halting, although he spoke eloquently and passionately when he finally completed a thought. He smiled less than Hillary and leaned away from her more than she leaned away from him. Some talking heads have suggested previously that he doesn’t perform well in debates. Perhaps tonight illustrated that point.

On the issues, the two agreed on almost everything in general terms but differed on the details a couple of times. Hillary’s toughest moment came when she had a difficult time explaining her stand on driver’s licenses for illegal aliens. And she was weak on the question of her support for the onset of the Iraq war, when she signed a resolution authorizing the president to use military force. When she explained that the Bushies had misled her, Barack quickly attacked and scored heavily by pointing out that the title of the resolution was “Authorization for the use of military force against Iraq,” or words to that effect.

The balance of the debate was filled with polite agreement for the most part. As I have mentioned on several occasions, either one of these can win against any Republican candidate. Change is in the air, and these two represent change. The question for California’s voters on February 5 is whether they prefer radical change or change within the bounds of the current establishment power structure.

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In its September/October issue, Foreign Policy (FP) magazine included a chart detailing 21 Rationales for War. Arrayed opposite the reasons is a list of the individuals who cited those reasons at one time or another.

Those cited were Bush, Cheney, Tom Daschle, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, Richard Perle, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz.

Here are some selected reasons.

  • To prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
  • For regime change.
  • Iraq’s violation of UN resolutions.
  • Saddam’s evil dictatorship and actions.
  • Liberate Iraq.
  • Iraq’s links to al Qaeda.
  • Iraq an imminent threat.
  • Hussein was a threat to the region.
  • For the safety of the world.
  • Preserve peace around the world.
  • Iraq is a unique threat.
  • Hussein hates the U.S.
  • History calls the U.S. to action

Of the 21 reasons in FP, Bush made the argument himself 15 times. The remaining were offered by his primary supporters. Each of these reasons would require a separate and lengthy comment to amplify and explain it. Suffice to say here, such an analysis would require more time and space than we have available. Instead, we will point out one glaring omission.

No one in the Bush administration argued or even mentioned that we invaded Iraq to protect a vital source of United States oil, yet the Middle East is a critical region in the supply of oil to the U.S, and in that region, Saudi Arabia and Iraq itself are prime suppliers.

Since this article was published, all of the 21 reasons have been shown to be highly questionable or outright false. And some seem to spring from pure fantasy multiplied by arrogance, as when Bush stated that history calls the U.S. to action, suggesting that we are God’s appointed savior.

The information in FP’s article is a few years old, but it may serve as a reminder to the American voters during this election season of this administration’s cynicism. The Democrats could use the information against the ultimate Republican candidate because every one of the remaining viable candidates believes strongly in the war and has consistently supported Bush on this matter. All of them are vulnerable to charges that they condone an ill-conceived and poorly executed war.

However, the issue of motives was clouded recently by statements from an FBI agent. In an interview with CBS, the FBI agent assigned to Interrogate Saddam after his capture reported that Saddam claimed to have planned a resurrection of his Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program. The agent’s remarks will undoubtedly ignite an “I told you so” series of responses from supporters of the war should the Democrats wave the 21 reasons before them.

Moreover, the CBS interviewed was aired early in the election season. If the timing was coincidental, it certainly was propitious, as it provides the Republicans with a ready-made defense against Democratic charges of a duplicitous Bush war policy.

This is pure speculation, but elections in America have become quite vicious. It’s likely that this scenario is already in the works by the Bush camp. With the FBI interview now in the public domain, the Republicans have nine months to hammer it home. Repetition is a powerful political tool.

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The Republican presidential candidates’ debate yesterday evening was another exercise in listening to Mitt Romney’s monotonic, .50-caliber machine gun delivery. If the number of chug-chug-chugs per second is any criteria for success as commander in chief, Mitt wins hands down.

There were four candidates invited to participate in the “debate,” but only one active participant. Mitt monopolized the spotlight from start to finish, aided by the moderators who fed questions to him and let him run on and on.

John MaCain, seated next to Mitt, spent a lot of time leaning back, doodling with a pencil, looking bemused, sneering, and failing to respond to Mitt’s onslaught.

Ron Paul was his usual wide-eyed, innocent, staring self who actually said a few intelligent things when he could get a word in between Mitt’s rapid fire bursts.

And poor ole Mike Huckabee. He pointed out on several occasions that there were four participants but to no avail. The moderators seemed enthralled with Mitt’s delivery. An onlooker might have concluded that Anderson Cooper wanted to bring Mitt to the forefront.

The debate was held in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The candidates were arrayed before a backdrop of Reagan’s presidential Air Force One. The sight was grand, and all of the candidates used the words “Ronald Reagan” a few hundred times. For a moment I had the impression that I was watching a speech by Ronnie until it dawned on me he couldn’t talk that fast.

On the issues, the candidates agree on two major ones facing America, Iraq and illegal immigration. But on the one issue of most concern nationwide at this moment, the economy, every candidate had a difficult time admitting that the economy is in worse shape than it was when Bush took office. Each did his best to skirt this one without placing the blame on Bush and the Republican Party.

Except for Ron Paul, all agreed that the U.S. must remain in Iraq for an eternity. One heated exchange occurred between John and Mitt regarding a time-table for withdrawing the troops from Iraq. McCain, correctly, pointed out that Mitt supported a timetable but Mitt went ballistic in denying it. Later one of the networks ran a clip of Mitt stating clearly that the U.S. needed a plan for the phased withdrawal of the troops.

When it came to immigration, the candidates found it difficult to get past the almost mutually exclusive positions of the economic wing of the Republican Party that supports the entry of illegal immigrants as an economic matter, and the cultural conservative who want the borders closed and illegals returned to their countries of origin immediately, principally to Mexico.

Overall, this was a dull affair in which nothing new emerged. Regardless of who ultimately becomes the Republican presidential candidate, change is in the air and the individuals I watched are universal symbols of ancient thought processes and the failures of the current administration to address domestic ills.

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Testing

This is a test.

My Word 2007 crashes so often, I’m having trouble working up a post without the damned program going haywire.

So right now, I’m typing this on Word’s regular word processor instead of Word’s blog feature. I want to see how this looks on my site and check for unnecessary html, which tends to distort the way it appears when opened by readers.

In the meantime, I’ll continue trying to figure out what’s happening.

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Probably a little redundant, but the two words combined seem to do a good job of summing up my present stage of interest in political happenings.

These moods strike unexpectedly and I look around for something to re-energize me.

Even Gavin’s road trip up and down the California countryside in support of Hillary is boring. Ordinarily I would rant about how dumb she is to permit his name to be associated with her in any contest after her debacle in Iowa. But if she wants to take a chance on losing California, that’s her problem. Ordinarily, I agitate on behalf of women, but a woman widely admired by George Bush and other Republicans? Well, now…

And do I care if Peskin has blocked (monetarily) Gavin’s grand scheme for his second term, thus setting Gavin on edge and motivating a livid Gavo rant to the press? No. What’s $749,242 among friends who don’t ride things like busses and street cars, anyway?

(By the way, I am absolutely, frigging livid, at Word 2007’s continuing crashes every time I write a blog post. I’ve just spent five minutes coping with a crash, a restart, and a confusing recovery. At this moment, I say screw 2007).

Where was I? Oh, yeah, ennui. Or do I care who will be the Republican candidate for president? No. Hillary or Barack will handily take McCain or Romney unless Florida generate some hanging chads, thereby leaving the matter in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court where one vote trumps an overwhelming popular vote any day.

Or is it important to me that Willie Brown believes Mitt Romney will be the easiest Republican to beat in the November election? No. I believe he’s wrong. McCain is so ancient even a toddler would give him a run for his money. But a disagreement between gentlemen is a minor matter. I respect Willie because he dresses right and stands in the presence of the ladies. In my book, any man who respects American womanhood is entitled to be wrong as often as he wants.

Nor do I worry too much about the Cindy Sheehan-Nancy Pelosi contest? Nancy will win by a mile. Although I love Cindy, the inevitable is somehow quite predictable.

So, for the moment anyway, other things occupy my mind.

Think I’ll relocate to the Mississippi Delta where the livin’s easy and the blues are great.

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The parties are moving closer to selecting their final candidates for the November presidential election, and as we observe the candidates and talking heads, we begin to get a sense of how the field is shaping up. Here is how it looks to us at the moment.

Democratic Party

A realistic assessment leads us to conclude that the only viable candidates remaining are Hillary and Obama. For all practical purposes, John Edwards is out of the running. His only value now is as an endorser: Hillary or Obama.

Republican Party

Barring an act of God, Mike Huckabee isn’t going to make a showing, and Rudy Giuliani is also an onlooker. Rudy might spot some daylight if he wins the Florida vote, but realistically speaking, Mitt Romney and John McCain are far ahead. We’ll have a firmer grasp on the final two (or three) once the Florida votes are tallied.

After the national conventions

Of course we don’t know who the final presidential candidate for each party will be. We can speculate, however, about possible opponents on the November ballot and the contrasts between them.

Obama versus McCain

This would be the most interesting matchup. The two offer a clear contrast between the old and the new, the younger generation versus the senior gentry. McCain’s main weakness may well turn on the accusation that he is a one-issue candidate who slavishly follows the failed war policies of George Bush. McCain’s strength would be the classic Republican charge that Obama isn’t supporting the troops. My prediction: Obama. The country seems in the mood for major changes.

Obama versus Romney

This will be another case of a younger versus an older generation. But the differences will not be about age but about old patterns of thinking. Romney is of the buttoned-down corporate-man class who has enough money to pay for his own election. Obama represents the middle class and those of more modest circumstances. As well, Romney is a supporter of Bush’s Iraq policies. My prediction: Obama, providing that he draws the class distinctions clearly enough. There are more modest income sufferers than rich ones.

Clinton (Hillary) versus McCain

This is another generational matchup of sorts. Clearly, Hillary represents the growing power of the female political presence. If elected, she will become the first woman president in the history of the United States. A win for her will be a powerful statement on behalf of female equality as well as a potent vote-getter for all women in future elections. McCain will seem as a throwback to days long gone. My prediction: Hillary. Women are going to vote in droves.

Clinton (Hillary) versus Romney

Here we have two individuals of roughly the same age (both born 1947, social class, and political standing. But Romney’s main weakness is his continuing support for Bush and his policies. One could argue that Romney is a liberal Republican and Hillary is a conservative Democrat. Both arguments have a grain of truth to them. Romney was the governor of one of the most liberal states in the U.S. and he could not have been elected without the support of the state’s liberal voters. Hillary is a part of the Democratic power establishment that has become increasingly clustered around the center of the political spectrum with spillovers to the right. Republicans such as Bush have indicated a preference for her as a president over Obama. My prediction: Hillary. Again, an overwhelming female turnout will carry her to the presidency.

Summing up

As matters stand at the moment, our belief is that the Democratic candidate will win whether it is Hillary or Obama. In either case, the race is going to come down to a generational contest, whether the generations are separated by age or outdated political beliefs. The Democrats are clearly in the catbird seat on change.

Admittedly, these are reflections without a great deal of specificity. But then, we’ve called it right when the experts were wrong. Sometimes gut feelings turn out to be on the mark, polls and the opinions of talking heads notwithstanding.

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Two days ago, I decided to join the chic crowd.

My motivation? The words of a cashier in a checkout line who asked, “Are you growing a beard?”

“No,” I responded, “I just haven’t shaved in about a week.”

“Well, it looks good on you,” she said.

Her words set me to thinking. Why not become chic? Hell, unshaven stubble is my natural state, anyway. But until the cashier’s words, I never looked at it as some kind of masculine sex signal with the power to draw women’s admiration. The damned thing just itches, that’s all.

Never dawned on me that women lusted over a few scraggly whiskers. Do they derive excitement from scratching an itchy beard? Well, maybe they do if the guy is Patrick Dempsey. But for the run-of-the-mill generics, I sincerely doubt it.

Sure, the thought dawned on me that she was merely being nice the way someone is nice just to fill their daily quota of good deeds. But then, I figured, why not look on the positive side.

Her kindness reminded me that I actually grew a full beard once. It was black, except the moustache part, which was a sort of pale pink. And it attracted a great deal of attention, especially in small towns like Hays, Kansas, where a gaggle of town folk in a restaurant gathered in the corner to giggle and point toward me.

Despite admiring glances everywhere, however, my beard was a pain in the neck, what with all of the maintenance necessary to keep it trimmed.

And the damned thing itched interminably. Many men will tell you that the itch disappears after a beard reaches a certain length, but in my case, no. I’m sure there are others who feel as I do, but they won’t admit it until someone asks, “Why do you constantly scratch your face?”

At any rate, with the cashier’s words in mind, I let my whiskers grow a couple of more days and then shaved them. I feel a hell of a lot better.

But the experience set me to thinking. Who might look better in a beard? Here are some names that came to mind in no particular order.

  • Bill Clinton
  • Gavin Newsom
  • George Bush
  • John McCain
  • Das Gubernator

Okay, make your own list and check it against mine.

p.s. This is what happens when I fall into a black hole of political disinterest and spend a lot of time trying to dig my way out.

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