Thursday, June 02, 2011

Political update for June, 2011

The Republican battle royale

It happened. I really don’t like to watch any of the cable news channels anymore (I have never been able to watch network news), pretty much stopping after the ’08 elections excepting for something like 10-20 minutes or so a week I sometimes give to Morning Joe. That's not including C-Span, which I sometimes have on all day – but the three channels are a national treasure and not really news channels. The bias and repetition just got to be too much. But, I knew someday I would be back watching when I started paying more attention to the ’12 election. I lasted until May 31st this year. That’s about 8 months longer than last time around when I started paying attention over 2 years before the election. What did I learn watching the last few days? Nothing. Rarely do. I’m just a bit of a junkie. I want to stop. I just can’t.

Let’s see how I’m doing on predictions on the Republican contenders. Last month, I made the following predictions. I’ll make the ones I was right about blue, where I was wrong red, and where you can’t tell yet or they were out before I started playing, purple.

Christie - He said no emphatically, and efforts to draft him will fail.
Barbour – He already said he was out, which shows he is smarter than some others.
Huntsman – Give me a break. I've never heard one regular person mention his name, and he is probably too liberal to win a single state in a Republican primary or caucus right now. He does not make it to Iowa.
Gary Johnson - Give me another break.
Roehmer – Same as Huntsman and Johnson. I’d love to see a poll of how many people have even heard of him.
Huckabee – No. His life is too good on Fox.
Trump – No. Although it really would make things so pro-wrestlingish and fun if he did.
Gingrich – No. Because he is smart.
Palin – No. The grown ups in the party realized it would be a mistake and I think she did too.
Daniels – Small possibility. He has given some indications he will not run, and I don’t think he will, but I would personally welcome it. He might be the only one who would run that I could feel good about, although, as I’ve learned, eventually everyone discourages me. There have been a few news stories about him lately suggesting that Barbour leaving the field has encouraged him, but these stories seemed based on speculation to me.
Cain – Possibility. Probably greater than 50%. He is my dark horse surprise.
Paul – Another possibility. I'd say 50-50. He also might do better than expected if he goes in it.
Santorum – Very small possibility. I’m leaning no as I think he will garner virtually no support and wrap it up before the primaries.
Pawlenty – A strong possibility but he would not last past Iowa, if he gets that far. Why do I feel a little sorry for this guy? Maybe it’s because he seems to want it so much.
Bachmann – Possible. I’m leaning no. She would not get past New Hampshire.
Romney – Yes. Of course he is going to run. He’s never really stopped. In fact, since my first draft, he has actually quietly announced. Despite sometimes getting outpolled, I believe he is the acknowledged front runner or guy to beat.

So, not bad. Just one wrong. And was Gingrich really my mistake? Isn't it his? Based on how poorly he is doing so far, even in conservative circles, he really should have listened to me.

I think I’ll give myself a little extra credit for my comment on Cain, who is starting to get more noticed by the press. I’m telling you – if everyone else would get out of the way, he would out charm, out smart and out talk Romney in an Atlanta, Georgia minute. Possibly Obama too. But, all that is well against the odds. Still, he is a real dark horse. Watch him.

Trump and Huckabee were easy picks, except for all the pundits out there who are paid to do this, but who sometimes know next to nothing. Trump is a glorified joke who made a fool out of himself and the birthers with independents and made Obama look better to everyone but conservatives. I have felt strongly that Palin wouldn’t run for a long time too but we will have to wait a little bit longer for her to announce that she isn’t going to. I’ll really be surprised if she does, more so than with Gingrich. Earlier this week when she was asked if she was getting in, she answered that she had to think about it because it is “all so consuming.” Those are not the words of someone who is going to run.

Daniels I said had a small possibility, but that I thought more likely would not run. I’m sorry I was right as I think he had a really good shot with independents, and therefore of winning a general election if he could win the harder constest of getting nominated. Romney was also easy because he has never really stopped running for ’12 since he dropped out of ‘08. Pawlenty I thought a strong possibility and he went in too. He wants to be president even more than Romney, I think, but has little chance. He is a Republican Mike Dukakis.  Still too early to say about Bachmann, Santorum and Paul, except that once in, they will not do well.  Johnson, Roehmer and Huntsman are not really important, but if they do run it won’t last long.

But - I have decided, now that Daniels is out and we know Christie isn’t going to run, that Gary Johnson, who has a slightly better chance of getting nominated than I do, gets my endorsement for the Republican nomination, subject to change at the drop of a hat. You never find a candidate who is perfect for you, but Johnson is basically a libertarian, which is the closest I can get to some recognizable description of myself (although I doubt many Libertarian parties would think so). He tends to have some Republican or conservative ideas I like and doesn’t have some of those I don’t. He is anti-spending, small government and pro-states’ rights. I’m good with that. If you care, he is pro-choice, but like most Americans, he is against late term abortions. Regardless, being pro-choice and his pro-immigration stance basically rules him out for most Republicans, if they even know who he is. I don’t generally vote on someone’s abortion position, given how nuanced my own is, but I differ with him on immigration, as far as I can tell so far.

I also like the fact that he may be the only one of the Republicans who actually understands that the whole Shariah scare is pure hysteria and not the least threat in America. It appears he is for gay marriage and gays serving in the military, and I’m good with that too. Some say he is an atheist, but it looks to me that all he has said is that he doesn’t go to church and that you would not likely hear him invoking God’s name. I don’t care how religious a president is (or not), but it is important to me that he/she doesn’t entangle it with government. But, most of these positions except the first three (small government stuff) damn him for the right wing. Some of Johnson’s really libertarian positions, like decriminalizing pot (which I agree with) also won’t sell well with the “base”.

If he runs as an independent, I would probably vote for him, provided that I don’t find out anything that really upsets me.


Does it seem like Israel has been in the news an awful lot lately? First, in case you don’t know my general position, I have it down to a science: I support Israel because it is pro-U.S. and enjoys enlightenment values far beyond any of its neighbors, stretching quite a ways in many directions. It is surrounded by enemies, particularly to its north in Syria and Lebanon, but also to its west in Hamas. Jordan is probably safe for now, but Egypt is a puzzle box at this time and we just can’t know where it will be even tomorrow (although I do not have a great feeling about it). Regardless of Israel’s overwhelming power compared to its neighbors, it is such a small country that it needs a political settlement sooner than later. Just Hizbollah alone may soon have enough dumb missiles that a even pyrrhic victory by Israel might be a fatal blow to it. If Hizbollah (which really controls Lebanon now) ever can make their dumb bombs smart, it might either be the end for Israel or provoke her to use nuclear weapons, which would be a disaster all around.

In my humble opinion, it would benefit Israel immensely in terms of the spirit of its citizen soldiers and international support (which is important whatever some think, or why would Israel care?) if it would voluntarily end its settlements in the West Bank and get ahead of the curve and recognize it as an independent country with some unsettled boundaries. Some see that as appeasement and others as giving up Israel’s lands. I say no to both of those ideas. Jerusalem, of course, presents a more difficult problem, but I think Israel has done just fine with Tel Aviv as its capital and Jerusalem may do best as some type of open city even if nominally under Israeli security or even U.N. control. I would have preferred a three state solution, something almost no one else thought a good idea, but, now that the PLO and Hamas have made amends, it is hard to criticize Israel for standing on its principles and rejecting negotiation with a government that includes Hamas (although many Israelis and Jews around the world want Israel to do just that. Me too. But, that’s one more reason Israel should act unilaterally.

Last week, President Obama definitely had a bad week when it comes to Israel. He went out on a limb and suggested that Israel return to its ’67 borders with land swaps. This actually doesn’t sound all that different than the agreement that almost was before Netanyahu came in to power – between Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli PM, Ehud Olmert. They had even resolved the right of return problem, with only a couple of thousand symbolic returnees, but, it appears did not dot the i’s and cross the t’s and even before elected, Netanyahu said he would not honor any agreement.

Although criticism by one’s ideological and political opponents is usually the loudest, it really is not of great moment. Whatever Barack Obama said or did, Rush Limbaugh would have criticized, just as George Bush could not buy a fair deal from the left, even when some typical liberal policies became his own. The same goes for one’s diehard supporters or ideological bunkmates. It really doesn’t matter so much what they think. Partisans, by having knee jerk negative reactions, marginalize themselves, just as they do when voting so predictably for president. The only criticism that really matters is that from one’s own side and from independents matters, because if any president loses his own side’s general support or a substantial majority of independents - he is finished. Israel is an interesting issue in terms of ideological support though, because it doesn’t follow the usual rules. Although the right is louder in its support for Israel, except for a fringe element, the left generally supports Israel too, except for its own fringe element.

Netanyahu was cheered by both sides more than anyone cheered for Obama when he made his speech. That must have rankled a bit. Ironically, Obama’s attitude with respect to Israel is basically Reaganesqe (please revive yourself, if stunned) and Reagan was considered a great friend of Israel (and, overall, he was). But, there is a great difference between the legendary Reagan and the real one.

In 1981, Israel targeted and destroyed an Iraqi nuclear plant. Nowadays, this is generally seen as a great and courageous achievement after Saddam became our sworn enemy.  But, it wasn’t always so. The U.N. security counsel voted to condemn Israel for its act and it passed, 15-0.

15-0? How’s that possible? The U.S. is on the security counsel and with Ronald Reagan president then . . . ? That’s right, sport’s fans, Ronald Reagan had us vote to condemn Israel. Condemn them. C-o-n-d-e-m-n. Reagan did. R-e-a-g-a-n.

Can you imagine what conservatives who worship Reagan would say today about President Obama if we voted to condemn Israel for doing something like bombing Iran? They’d say it is proof he was a Muslim, or at best a Muslim supporter at the expense of America. You doubt this?

But, maybe you’d say – okay, so one time Reagan condemned them, but otherwise he was lockstep with Israel. Like when Israel legalized its takeover of the Golan Heights and the U.N. vote on having Israel undo its act – Reagan stepped up to the plate and – oh, had us vote to declare Israel's actions null and void. Not to mention that he also temporarily suspended F-14s to Israel and our participation in an important agreement with them. Have you seen this in the media? I doubt it.

Of course, I said Reaganesqe, but I could have said Obama’s policy on Israel was Bush-light. Both Bushes. George H. W. Bush temporarily suspended loan guarantees to Israel over its settlement policies in 1991 and because then P.M., Shamir did not want to go to the Madrid Peace Conference. It seemed to work, because he went. George W. Bush actually said that he favored a Palestinian independence, going further than even Clinton and preceding Obama. Why did he Bush, certainly pro-Israel, say a thing like that? The reason is interesting. Because the Saudi ambassador, Bandar bin Sultan, a close friend of both President Bushes, pretty much told him that Saudi consideration of American needs was at an end because the U.S. was too one sided in support of Israel. So, to appease the Saudis, Bush sent a letter to them that he supported a Palestinian State. The Saudis insisted that he make this public. It was planned for the week of September 10, 2001, if that date sounds familiar. He kept his promise later on. Let me quote him from a 2008 speech:

“The point of departure for permanent status negotiations to realize this vision seems clear: There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people. These negotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized, and defensible borders. And they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent.”

Again, can you imagine what Republican/conservatives would say if Obama had been the first president to actively call for not just an independent Palestine, but a contiguous one (meaning some land heading through the middle of Israel) and based on its pre-67 borders?

Let me say for the billionth time, partisanship makes everyone a little crazy. Of all the things I don’t like about Obama, his Israeli policy is not included.

Low politics

I’m not going to pretend I am above Wienergate. I wish I was. I really do. Yes, it is very low humor, and yes, we have important issues to discuss, but, it is almost impossible not to be interested. And, it is funny. I mean, even the phrase Wiener’s Twitter account is funny, however juvenile. But, I do think we can get something a little bit serious out of it, can’t we?

I was actually a bit impressed by his ability to send a photo on Twitter. I tried to send one to my daughter last week on my cell phone - of a waterfall, relax - and couldn't figure it out, but Weiner is a few years younger than me and probably more digitally proficient.

The reason I’m so certain he sent this picture is because I immediately called my favorite liberal after I heard Wiener answer some questions. And my favorite liberal said – “Of course, he did it.” To quote Gary Trudeau from the 1960’s – “Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!”

Did he, in fact, send it? Well, I listened yesterday when he was being questioned by an persistant journalist yesterday who insisted on an answer to the question – “Did you send the picture?” Wiener wouldn’t answer the question, although later he said he hadn’t sent it. I could be wrong, but it would seem to me that in a situation like that, if you didn't do it, your answer would have been an emphatic “No,” or “Absolutely not.”

It also doesn’t look good that he waited so long to say, you know, it might actually be a picture of me that was manipulated (which, of course, to men, is also funny, because manipulated means . . . .) Show me a picture of a person in his underwear and I will tell you immediately if it is a picture of me (and that answer would be “no”). How many people have so many underwear pictures of themselves they can’t know instantly?

But, since we should be fair as we can, and people do get hacked (big news story this past week about Google accounts being hacked again, this time by someone in China) let’s give him a 5-10% possibility that he is being honest. Not enough to have reporters stop asking questions in this world.

I wish, for the sake of the science of psychology we could be there and interview him just at the time his brain was telling him to press the send key. Better, I wish we could have had an fmri machine attached to him to see what parts of his brain were firing their neurons and what parts were dormant.
Kids do stupid things. We all know that. Why do we resist believing that adults do too, particularly when they are politicians? As bad as he handled his campaign in general, John McCain (or maybe an advisor) handled a potential sex scandal really well and convinced us it was completely false. The New York Times ran an article suggesting he may have had an affair with an attractive lobbyist he knew. He was on the air the next morning with his wife denying it with so much conviction that most of us didn’t doubt it and were mad at the Times for shoddy journalism.

Here’s what politicians should take away from this:

1. Fairness has nothing to do with it.

2. We own you. When you even campaign for public office in America, anything about you is fair game, no matter how private it is. If you think that’s not fair, see no. 1, above.

3. Any sex scandal is an 800 pound gorilla in the room. No one cares one whit about anything else you have to say until they are satisfied about the sex issue. It doesn’t matter if you are telling the truth or not. The public and the media, and not you, gets to determine when it is over.

4. Whether you are telling the truth or lying, you can’t waffle on any questions or act like you are trying to avoid them. Think about it as if you are having surgery performed on you. You are stripped naked and lay powerless on a table. Resign yourself. If you can’t accept this, you probably shouldn’t be in politics.

5. If you are going to lie, you better first consider whether there is undeniable or very persuasive evidence against you. It might not be worth it, because then if you are shown to be guilty you make redemption impossible or at least so much harder. But, if you must, first watch a clip of Eddie Murphy (once, kids, not just the voice of a talking donkey but a very funny man) from his movie, Raw:

Because if you show any doubt or have any chinks in your armor, they are not going to believe you and then they will destroy you.

6. There is an honest way to handle it if you are guilty. If the sex involved was not too kinky and you can convince your spouse to stand by you, publicly indicate that there is some truth to it, that it is too personal to discuss and no one else’s business. It worked for the Clintons.
7. Whether guilty or not, hope upon hope for someone else to have their own sex scandal. Eventually, it will happen if you hang on long enough.


I suppose, because Anthony Wiener can’t, and I can, I should say something about the debt problem. This is it – “Oh, well. La di dah. Who cares?” Apparently, almost no one does. At least not enough. I get a laugh that some people make fun of Paul Ryan’s moderate plan by saying it doesn’t balance the budget for 40 years, as if that is too long for them. Somehow, except for Rand Paul (5 years) precious few others have a suggestion which balances it sooner, and the Paul plan has already been axed, as are most of the ideas he comes up with.

Probably the thing to do would have been for the Republicans to have come out with the Rand Paul plan first and then compromised down to the Ryan plan.

Paul Krugman's assertions that we actually need to spend much more money aside (because, apparently, winning the Nobel Prize just means you are really, really crazy), politicians who understand what we are facing economically have done a very poor job of explaining what the problem is. It seems like it is only this year, mostly thanks to the awe inspiring global reach of this blog (and maybe a little bit the tea party movement), that a few more politicians and economists even understand the problems. However, though they say the right things about it (usually involving the word, "unsustainable"), Democrats do not intend to do anything serious about it, and not enough Republicans are willing to risk their careers. It be funny if the climax to this movie wasn’t so brutal.

Here’s the lesson. We don’t learn lessons. We weren’t ready for the Great Depression, WWI or II or 9/11. But, after those events, we took care of business. And, let’s hope, that is what happens next time too. Because until we have to, I'm not that optimistic.


  1. Habibimus. It is my favorite latin word because it sounds so funny. It means "we have", I think. Or maybe "we live". I forget. Anyway, Rick Santorum's last name always makes me think of Latin, which got me thinking about habibimus. And then, "a baby moose", probably the onamatapiea thing kicking in, and that got me thinking about Sarah Palin, mooses being very Alaskan and all, and what a joke of mediocrity our modern politicians are, and there you have it.

  2. Veni, vidi, per Confundor elit.


Your comments are welcome.

About Me

My photo
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 . . . .