Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Political update


At best, only a handful of persons will have any input into the questions asked to the potential presidential nominees during their debates. I have a few questions I would like to see answered by the wannabees far more than I want to hear the pat answers the candidates’ staffs have written out for them about social security or any of that rot:

1. “Once nominated, you will undoubtedly say something that can be interpreted in a way that is offensive to some person or group if you stretch it far enough. The offendee, your opponents and the media will demand, at the price of your not getting to talk about anything else, that you not only apologize, but that you not hedge your apology in any way (in other words, no saying “If I offended anyone, I am truly sorry . . .”). Every unbiased person will, of course, know that you didn’t mean anything offensive or intend to shoot your campaign in the foot. Will you pledge now not to apologize just because someone could possibly take offense, or would you prefer to abjectly and generically apologize in advance to everyone?”

2. “After the election, some uppity reporter will ask you if you meant the really nasty thing you said about your opponent during the campaign, at which time you will say something like “Well, campaigns get pretty heated, and you sometimes say things you don’t really mean”. Will you pledge now not to take back the rude things you said about your opponent, or would you rather just state in advance that you don’t really mean anything you say during the campaign and we should just pretty much ignore you?”

3. “During your campaign, one of your staff members will make some unfortunate statement, or something will turn up in their background that will make the media and your opponents demand you fire him or her. Will you promise not to fire staff just because they attended a free speech rally also attended by NAMBLA or because they had six DWIs, or would you rather just fire everyone now and avoid all trouble?”

4. “In order to get nominated, you are going to have to slide over to your (right/left) to satisfy your base. Once you are nominated, you have to sidle back to the middle to win the general election, all the while pretending that there is no difference in your behavior. Can you give us a score card in advance of all the positions you intend to take that will be red meat to your base, but which you will retract or soften once nominated?”

5. “If you win, you will undoubtedly vocally thank God for your victory right at the beginning of your acceptance speech. Do you concede now that if you lose, it means that God picked your opponent over you?”

6. “At some point during a debate a reporter will ask you to admit to a character flaw. We all know that, like all candidates, you are prepared to state a “weakness” that is more likely to be seen as a plus, “I’m a perfectionist” being the classic response. Can you pledge that when asked that question you will choose either admit to a humiliating failure (preferably in the bedroom) or some variant of “I’m a ____head”.”

7. “When you come into high office you will have to promote the integrity and ethics of
your administration. But, inevitably, we are going to find out what really goes on with
you and your cabinet. Do you have the courage to pledge now that you will not have the most ethical presidency of all time?”

8. “What type of scandal do think that you and your cabinet will most likely cover up, and why do you think you will feel compelled to do it despite all we know about their lack of success? As a follow up, how high in your cabinet or staff are you willing to go in choosing a scapegoat?”

9. “Do you have a personal statute of limitations on blaming the last administration when things go terribly wrong, and, if so, how long?”

10. I always get stuck on ten. You give me one.

Bill Richardson

Richardson hadn’t announced when I last covered the 2008 free for all. I have always liked this guy. If I could form an independent party and draft whoever I wanted, he would be on my short list of nominees. The pundit world is unified that he is the most experienced of all the Democratic candidates in terms of foreign affairs (being a former U.N. ambassador and a globe trotting troubleshooter under Clinton), executive functions (he’s New Mexico’s governor) and working in an administration (Clinton’s energy secretary).

Richardson has a couple of qualities that are very attractive to the American populous. He has an Anglo-Saxon name, and he has that ordinary guy thing about him. I suspect he’s a loveable dad, although I probably would have said that about Bing Crosby. Watch him talk. I’ve seen him make a speech with his left hand in his pocket. How casual is that? Everyone else is gesturing all about like they are doing Shakespeare. He does have some pat lines he likes to spout (“President Clinton used to say I send Richardson, because the bad guys like him” and “I can solve these problems in two words – vote Democrat”) but otherwise, he seems fairly unscripted. Of course, that may just be because he can’t afford writers.

Many pundits also agree that he is running for vice president. Like Tom Vilsack, the Iowa governor who was first in and first out, there just isn’t enough fund raising money available to him like there is for Hillary and Obama. Richardson came on stage at a recent presentation of the Democratic candidates and said he wanted everyone to pledge they would only campaign positively. Hah, hah, hah, hah, hah. Oh, that was rich. Good luck on that one. Not too long after the two leading prospects had knives their knives drawn.

Still, he is a guy who offends no one, who Republicans respect, and, although clearly in the Democratic/liberal camp, doesn’t come across as an ideologue (another reason he can’t win). He can almost certainly bring with him the highly sought after Hispanic vote, and, of course, his own State (New Mexico -- who cares) and possibly some neighboring states. He would add experience to anyone’s ticket, and gives the impression he could easily stand back and play second fiddle (unlike, for example, a Clinton or a McCain or Giuliani).

Despite the fact that I like him, I can’t make any great predictions for Richardson. He is rock bottom in the polls, and I don’t think he can last long without an influx of money. In fact, a recent Pew Research poll said that only 38 percent of Democrats or Democratic leaning persons had heard of him (compared to 98 percent for Hillary and 78 percent for Obama). He isn’t very telegenic (although he made sure he lost a lot of weight this year) and he doesn’t have a lot of charisma (as if Hillary does). Frankly, his neutral qualities are one of the things I like about him, but it will not get him very far.

Any outside chance? Despite his bad polling, just possibly. 12 percent of Democrats or Democratic leaning persons said there was a “good chance” they would vote for him (Pew again). That doesn’t sound so bad given that only 38 percent had heard of him at all. Realistically, his only chance would be if Obama had to drop out for some reason and their was a big desperate push for an Anti-Hillary candidate. Don’t count on it. More likely, we would see Richardson standing beside one of the front runners on the convention stand, nominated for what John Adams called “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived”.

Al Gore

There is a lot of squawking about when and if Al Gore will throw his hat in the ring.

Gore’s time has passed. He seems to have a good life, whatever you think of the global warming. Why ruin it by putting yourself in a place where half the people in the country hate you?

If he decides to, I have some advice for him: Drop 30-50 pounds. I just don’t believe Americans will vote for a fat guy. Fat guys are the bad guys in movies or the second banana (the exceptions, John Candy and Chris Farley all seem to drop dead, and besides, they are comedians – different thing). The presumption is, you may drop dead of a heart attack, and, for some people, that you don’t care about yourself.

The last really fat president we had was Taft, but he was out of office in 1913, way before television. Clinton was a little puffy, but not fat. A lot of women found him cute. I don’t think women find Gore cute.

I suppose the right fat guy with the right marketing at the right time, could get himself elected president (being a fat atheist, I really have no shot). But I would bet we will see the first black, Jewish or woman president way before a fat guy (and fat girl – forget it).

David Geffen

I love the fact that everyone ignores the first part of David Geffen’s statement that created such strife between the Obama and Clinton camps: “All politicians lie . . .”. Given his proximity to politicians, that is quite a powerful statement. Not that we all didn’t know it. I just enjoy the fact that we are all so inured to political Pinocchios, that no one pays it any attention. I wonder if you asked Geffen whether he was including Obama, he would find the courage to say “Well, yeah” instead of “By all I meant most”.

Why do we vote for someone?

Pew is my favorite of all of the pollsters. They seem like they have no axe to grind and have polls about many things other than politics.

A recent poll by Pew concentrates on voters impressions of the candidates and is filled with interesting statistics. My favorite part is the series of questions that asks what qualities about a candidate make the subjects more of less likely to vote for them.

The most important quality turns out to be military service (48% more likely), Next was being a Christian (38%) and the only other thing even close was the candidate’s experience in Washington D.C. (35%). These have to be things John McCain is happy to hear. That Christianity is so highly rated is not surprising. It’s nearly twice as important to voters as the candidate having gone to a top school (22%).

61% of Republican and only 32% of Democrats found Christianity a positive trait in assessing a candidate. It is probably even more important than military service, despite the finding. This country has elected many presidents without any service, starting with the second, third and fourth ones, but has never elected a non-Christian. There are no non-Christians running (unless you are among those who believe that Mormons are not Christians).

Atheism is still the leading disqualifier. Far more people are “less likely” to vote for someone because he/she is an atheist (63% less likely) than because they were a Muslim (46% less likely) despite the concerns about Islamic terrorism. Not surprisingly, 86% of Republicans found atheism to be a disqualifying trait. However. well over 50% of both Democrats and independents felt the same way.

Only 30% of the people polled said that Mormonism would be enough to make them less likely to vote for a candidate. Other things perceived not as bad as being an atheist include being black (only 4% less likely), smoking (18%), past drug use (45%), taking anti-depressants (36%), having an extra-marital affair (39%) and being a homosexual (46%).

There's nothing quite like a Pew Poll. Go to and have fun.

1 comment:

  1. Bill Richardson.... oh, that's rich! Hee-hee! Har-har,har! How about Ted Kennedy? Or, Robert Kennedy? Haaaa-haa! Oh lordy, Bill Richardson....heee.. I can't take it. I have to go lie down before I laugh myself to death...


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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .