Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Political Update for July, 2007

Did you ever type a blog post out and then not be able to find where you save it? Happened this week. Its to your benefit because this draft is a page shorter.


We all know why McCain had dropped down to nearly single digits in the polls. The right will not forgive him for past offenses, and their are other candidates who may not be as conservative as he is (Giuliani, Romney), but they have made it clear that they will play ball. Look at Giuliani's waffling (and, lets face it, flip flopping) over abortion. However, he is committed to sending more "strict constructionist" judges, which means, pro-prosecution and anti-abortion judges. The right hears and understands. There are no similar statements that McCain can make which will do the same for him. Even hugging Jerry Falwell didn't work (and that was, as he acknowledged humorously, pandering).

McCain’s mistake is the same as the mistake most Americans make. He has married himself to one of the two parties and feels trapped with his partner no matter how it changes or what it does. While his political spouse (no, not Cindy McCain – the Republicans) can no longer stand him to a large degree, he feels compelled to stick with him.

And yet, there is evidence that if McCain had given himself a political divorce without changing one opinion, he would have been the first successful independent candidate to run for president.

Of course, there is lots of evidence against it, including that no third party candidate has won (despite that Sam Waterston is running around saying that Abraham Lincoln did -- the Democratic Party split up for the 1960 election and the fairly new Republican Party, of which Lincoln was the candidate, was the other major party), or really come close. But, under the right circumstances, lots of candidates could have won as independents. Just as an example, TR angered Republicans back in the early 1900s. He was a real Republican but he was also a progressive and combated big corporations and trusts. Although he could not pull it off in 1916 when he was long retired, I believe he would have easily won in 1904 no matter how he ran.

Why do I think McCain could do it? One, I always thought he could of have won as an independent, even way back in 2000 when social conservatives destroyed his campaign to be the Republican nominee, not without a few dirty tricks.

But, also because, a recent poll, which asked not just who the subjects would likely vote for, but also who they might possibly vote for, catapulted McCain to the top position of all candidates, just above Giuliani, who is far above him in every other poll.

What does it mean? Practically speaking, nothing. He’s not going independent and his independent streak about core conservative issues (like immigration, campaign reform) is a one way ticket back to the Senate. But, theoretically, it means that if presidential elections were run like contested conventions, McCain would very likely be the candidate that most people would be satisfied with, even if the people running both parties would be disappointed.

I recognize I am biased because I like him and it colors my impressions during debates and in predictions. I do think he is more honest that most politicians (an incredibly low bar measured with a micrometer), although I am so cynical at this point, I don’t even know what to make of his stand on Iraq (is it a truly principled decision or was it to show the right that he will support Bush no matter what). He is more likely to at least listen to the other side and strike a compromise, than any other candidate (all 16 of the ones left who get in the debates).

Philosophically, I actually am more in tune with Giuliani than McCain, but I believe that he is temperamentally unsuited for president for reasons I have stated before, and, McCain is not.

Admittedly, my McCain pick has few legs, and he may be completely out of it soon, even before the first primaries, but I will stick with him for two reasons. One, who cares if I am wrong? Second, if I am right, I look like a genius and will be crowing about it until the day I stop writing this blog.

My other predictions don’t look so bad. I won’t bother with my brilliant pick of either Hillary or Obama for the Democratic nominee, because, you know – d’uh. But Richardson still looks poised for a VP spot. Although he is running a good race for someone with no money, no constituency and no name recognition, he has managed not to piss off the two front runners, which is harder. I do not see a Clinton-Obama ticket, as many others do. Obama will want to use the experience to bolster a 2012 or 2016 run, not crawl into oblivion at his young age as the VP,

My Republican VP picks, Mike Huckabee and Duncan Hunter, are still in the race but going nowhere. If they are smart, once someone looks like a sure winner after February 5th, or even earlier, they should throw their support to them and see if they can lock the second spot up. Personally, I like Michael Steele of Maryland for Republican VP, as he strikes me as a level headed guy. Besides that, he is black, and that might steal a march on the Democrats who are almost certainly going to nominate either a women or a black or both for the two spots.

Should she or shouldn’t she -- the Harriet Miers affair.

I have almost stopped paying attention to the Democrats political Gonzalez hunt concerning the U.S. Attorneys firing. Having watched the hearing tonight (after a first draft of this post was published) I can only say that I have never thought to see such a high ranking official testify so badly, and seem to have such a lack of credibility. Prior to this, I offered the opinion that this was a waste of time, and was designed only to harass the president, even though Gonzales' testimony on prior occasion already was abysmal. Even before, I stated that no one who testifies as badly as he does should be attorney general. We have gone beyond that.

My discontent has grown. The questioning and some of the answers show this to be a justice department in deep trouble and probably politically corrupt to an alarming degree. I may watch the hearing again (thank you, C-Span) and give a more detailed opinion. But it shook me. Gonzales made it clear that he is not the attorney general so much as the President's counsel. Shameful. His defense of his visit with Andrew Card to former AG Ashcroft's sick bed appeared so deceptive as to be beyond belief. If he is telling the truth, then others will confirm it. I doubt it. He would not, without even claiming whether Bush had sent him, merely say he went on his behalf. That an attorney general, without any privilege offered, and with duties independent of service to the president, should refuse to answer this question was stunning to me. It did not, but could have called for a oontempt motion itself.

Beyond that, the revelation to me at least, that Ashcroft had opened the doors to the White House staff and the VP's office and many others to learn information concerning criminal and civil prosecutions, violating a long history of keeping the matters to a small group of high officials in the past, seemed shocking even to Gonzales, who could only say that he was very concerned too, and that these were good questions.

The Republicans on the committee all but boycotted the hearing and the tough questioning was almost all by the left. That is difficult to swallow after the difficult time Republicans gave to Janet Reno and their calls that she resign for nothing that could be remotely placed in fair comparison to this steady flow of misstatements and governmental mismanagement on crucial issues. If Republican Senators didn't question him because they were embarrassed for their party I could almost understand. But at this point, they should act like Senator Goldwater when he went to the White House and told Nixon it was over. I'm not suggesting that anyone have this conversation with Bush, but with Gonzales. Arlen Specter, a fair man (and he has long earned my forgiveness for his admittedly deplorable comments during the Clarence Thomas hearings), pretty much said this to Gonzales at the end. Hearing it from a Republican was much more effective than hearing Senator Leahy tell him how disappointed he was in him.

Anyone who can defend Gonzales should -- although the Republican Senators didn't seem to feel they could -- but they should watch the hearing first. This is a product of the take no prisoners, politics is everything attitude most of us find revolting, and Gonzales will likely carry this shame to his grave. I am sorry for him because he really seems like a nice guy, someone I would like as a friend. But he is the president's man through and through, and that is not his job anymore.

Getting to the point, should Meirs have to testify, or, does the “executive privilege” exercised by the president trump congress' investigative powers? There is no decisive answer until we are told by the court what it might be.

In U.S. v. Nixon, Justice Burger, writing for the majority, determined that the constitutional underpinnings of Grand Juries and there mission in investigating crime, was so important that executive privilege, a concept which is not found in the constitution, but which has its own bona fides going back to G. Washington (albeit under a different name) had to be based on a real national security concern. Here, the court’s options are to determine that –

- congress’ constitutional right to investigate (also not in the constitution but as valid judicially as executive privilege) is as important as grand jury investigations and therefore, there must be a national security basis for the privilege (thus she testifies).

- congress’ right is not as important as the president’s right to get confidential advice (thus she does not testify).

- congress should win in the abstract, but find some exception for this case (a Supreme Court trick when they want a political decision, but don’t want to set bad precedent – a gambit goes back at least as far as Marbury v. Madison [1803]).

I am not a big fan of executive privilege and believe the Nixon case struck the right balance, which should be applied here to Congress' right, no matter how wacky and wasteful some of their investigations are.


If you could picture my opinion of whether we should stay or go over the years it would probably look something like a roller coaster.

Its one thing to predict the presidential candidates, which is just fun, but what happens in Iraq is so serious that we shouldn’t be flippant about it. I have little respect for all opinions from people who are certain they know what will happen in Iraq if we do one thing or another.

The main arguments that I give some credit to are --

On the staying side

If we leave, we give Osama and Al Qaeda a huge propaganda victory which will be exploited by our opponents and our erstwhile allies

If we leave, no one will have faith in us to show we mean business for a long, long time

On the leaving side

If we leave, we will stop digging the 100 Billion dollars a year hole (for little or no benefit) which we could use to fight in Afghanistan and against Iran or her allies and try to defeat Islamic Militarism.

If we leave, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq will be no worse than it will be if we leave 5 years from now

Between those arguments I admit I cannot choose well, although I have been leaning towards leaving, even if we call it a strategic retreat, in order to marshal our economy, the lessons we learned, and our soldiers to fight Iran, Al Qaeda and other terrorists elsewhere. There may be some truth to all of them. Apparently I am not that great decisive leader America has been looking for.

On the other hand, I for once (believe me, this is rare) seem to be almost in the mainstream of American thought. According to a recent poll a nearly a majority (trending up the last few months) of Americans now believe that going into Iraq was the right thing. Although the poll also shows rather volatile changes in that position I have believed that since day one. Get in, get Sadaam and get out. The large majority of Americans believe we should either have never got in or left by now; however, add in go in and stay and the three positions are actually split rather evenly.

If you can get rid of a dictator who is threatening you or your allies, and he will, even if not then, have the capability to carry out the threat, it is usually a good idea not to wait (as with the Nazis). I would apply that to Iran and outright demand certain behavior, including what they say, from them before destroying their ability to govern from the air, even though we would likely take casualties ourselves in the way of terrorism and retaliation. Better now, before they have the bomb.

The poll also shows that the large majority of Americans, thus also a significant amount of Republicans, also favor leaving sooner than later. As I have said, I have been leaning in this direction as well.

America to Atheists – you suck, you godless bastards

Just for fun I compared this February’s Pew Research Group’s polls’ findings that 63 % of Americans would be less likely to vote for an atheist with its findings four years ago (7/24/03) that 41 % of Americans had reasons not to vote for an atheist. Although the questions were framed slightly differently, it is reasonable to believe they would elicit fairly similar answers (can’t be sure, of course, unless it is done in a controlled way at the same time). Nevertheless, I was not cheered by the large increase in fear of a leader who did not share their faith in God, which can never be proved, particularly when groups Americans really seem to fear, like Muslims, homosexuals and drug user, faired substantially better.

Because I love it so much, I need to repeat a paragraph from Sam Harris’ The End of Faith (p. 39 of the paperback edition for those of you who are going to throw down Harry Potter and race out to get it). I don’t agree with all of the points in his book, but this was a home run:

“[W]e live in a country in which a person cannot get elected president if he openly doubts the existence of heaven and hell. This is truly remarkable, given that there is no other body of “knowledge” that we require our political leaders to master. Even a hairstylist must pass a licensing exam before plying his trade in the United States, and yet those given the power to make war and national policy – those whose decisions will inevitably affect human life for generations – are not expected to know anything in particular before setting to work. They do not have to be political scientists, economists, or even lawyers; they need not have studied international relations, military history, resource management, civil engineering, or any other field of knowledge that might be brought to bear in the governance of a modern superpower; they need only be expert fund-raisers, comport themselves well on television, and be indulgent of certain myths. In our next presidential election, an actor who reads his Bible would almost certainly defeat a rocket scientist who does not. Could there be any clearer indication that we are allowing unreason and otherworldliness to govern our affairs.”

Like I said, just for fun.


  1. Anonymous10:44 AM

    I like Steele for VP. Would again show that Republicans (still, and again) are more concerned with putting qualified people into positions of responsibility- instead of just talking (lamenting) about it. Plus, he's a good debater.
    I think McCain might have been forgiven for perceived "past sins". Unfortunately for him he remended everyone of them again in the most recent illegal immigration debate. He is an open borders/ amnesty guy. That, pretty much by itself (this time) has made the wheels fall off his campaign.
    I also don't see Clinton/Obama. In fact I think they will actually end up enemies by the end of the nominating process ( despite public smiley faces).
    Iraq is a mess but don't fall into that "the real war is in Afganistan nonsense" Sounmds too much like Kos style bloggers and the dumbest of dim bulb democrats. "what are we doing in North Africa having our soldiers killed in a quagmire by Rommel? The rael war is against Hitler in Berlin. We've taken our eye off the ball"
    BTW, do you think we should then invade Pakistan?
    Iran does need to be dealt with sooner than later.
    BTW You suck you godless bastard!!!

  2. Well, the real war is wherever we are located in an Islamic country which cannot control its borders(and here, if they can reach us). Al Qaeda and its followers will go wherever we go if the political climate permits it (they can in Iraq and they could not in Egypt). That doesn't mean we shouldn't decide where the battlefield should be or feel stuck in one where we are not gaining traction. Retreat is not a shame in itself, if that is what you want to call it. Not retreating is what Japan did against our marines.

    The real problem is not that we went into Iraq and destroyed the infrastructure. The problem is that too many young men in their society are bent on killing each other to resolve religious differences, even if we had picked off Sadaam with the first bullet. If the world was interested in fixing it, there would be French, German and Saudi troops, etc., in droves over there. As usual, we pick up the tab for everyone, and we should stop doing that for anyone who doesn't like us.

    As for Iran, I do not believe the country will become an Iranian satellite. The Shia in Iraq have their own agenda and power hungry thugs. They may be more united with Iran than with other countries but that's why there needs to be 3 Iraqs, either with the Biden federated system (don't see it at this time) or the Balkan, you go your way, I'll go mine way, which is likely all they are capable of doing. We should arm whichever side we like with just enough weapons to win, but not to effectively fight us. If the world doesn't like it, then they can participate in solving the problem.

    I don't think we should invade Pakistan. I have no idea what Musharraf or Bush are talking about when they are alone, but I do believe that Musharraf intends, when strong enough, to take care of it. Only if the Pashtuns are crippled in Pakistan or they are distracted by their own civil war, are we going to be able to go in. All that being said, if a situation arises that we have quieted Iran and gotten out of Iraq, I would possibly be for an invasion of Pakistan limited to destroying Al Qaeda. Hopefully Pakistan's government would be on our side.

    Afghanistan is important. I think it should be more important than Iraq where we are not liked by the population. Despite our killing scores of Afghan civilians, we seem relatively popular. We should help the people in country's we invade when they like us, or want to be on our team. Yes Afghanistan, no Iraq. Maybe Iran (that's what they say, but who knows) and possibly Pakistan.

    Of course, you should know that we will continue to do this in a completely wrongheaded way.

    This may have been a little long winded. And what is a Kos style blogger, anyway? I went to Kos once. Its a little Greek island off of Turkey. I fell off of a motor bike there and scraped myself up pretty bad. Are there a lot of bloggers that happened to?

  3. Anonymous12:03 PM

    As I recall you did more than scrape yourself up.
    Weren't you hobbling for several months?

  4. Anonymous11:23 AM

    As a native of Maryland, I can tell both of you there isn't a better example of complete mediocrity in politics than Michael Steele. He will take whatever side of an issue looks like the winning one in order to keep himself centrist. He is exactly what is wrong with politics. It is the ultimate haven for the rich and mediocre.


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About Me

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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 . . . .