Sunday, March 04, 2012

Political Update for March, 2012

It was a good night this past Tuesday for those who want Mitt Romney to win the Republican nomination. I'm still torn. I find the Ron Paul message on liberty so much more appealing, and I think he is the only one of the four who would actually try to do something about the deficit on the spending end, but I don't think he can win because the general public will like the message, but too many will be too scared to try that approach. The problem is that freedom equals risk and we are now conditioned to avoid risk as much as possible.  I do think Romney can win and he is better than the other two. Just okay is all I can hope for in a president.

The four candidates are all getting better with practice.  I listened to all of them after the primary returns this week. These are basically stump speeches, well rehearsed by now, and they are trying to make them sound very natural, though Paul and Gingrich are better at it than Santorum and, especially, Romney.

From Paul, who was possibly most awkward of them when this campaign started, even though he has done this twice before and run for congress many times, we get the most genuine, plain spoken, humble speech of the bunch. In fact, he has become positively jolly during them. Unlike the others, the speeches are not about him, but about his "message of liberty." It is so easy to make that sound pollyannish and trivial, but no one else talks about it at all, save for religious references (okay, Gary Johnson does too, but no one who anyone is listening to is talking about it). Call me gullible, but I believe he means it and would live it when he says that he doesn't want to increase the power of the president. That would be refreshing.

And it is easier said than done, of course, but it is also refreshing to hear a candidate say - I didn't think up the stuff I'm talking about myself  - instead of someone like Gingrich talking about how he defeated the Soviets and was the reason for the boom times in the 80s and 90s, or Romney going on about his "severely conservative" governship in Massachusetts or Santorum talking about how he changed welfare and wrote No Child Left Behind (or as I call it, Every Child Left Behind). Paul doesn't claim credit for the economy during good years while he was a congressman. He says, there are business cycles and we have to learn to understand them better.  He says he will not declare wars on his own, because it is not constitutional for a president to do so. Of course, it is more complicated than that, as most people agree the president has a right and a duty to "defend" us, and what that quite means in a world where someone can fly from Cairo to D.C. in a matter of hours, or a virus can infect computers around the world in seconds, is hard to say. But, we know he means we won't be trying to teach Afghanis not to riot and murder when someone accidentally burns a Koran. We won't be there.

Foreign policy is, of course, the weakest link in his candidacy and what is least understood about him. He is not against defense; he is against militarism, policing the world and going in search of monsters. But the media doesn't really cover that part of it, nor even other conservatives. They are more concrete - he's not for Israel (they say). He doesn't want to stand up to Iran (they say). Neither of these are fair criticisms, in my opinion, but that is typical of what will be reported. Here are some of his other "ideas" from his standard speech:

- The entitlement system really helps the wealthy, not the poor.

- Wealth is fine if people make money honestly and don't get other people's from the government. It is not fair to dump the problems of those who make wasteful products on the American people by giving companies subsidies or bailing them out.

- We should defend the country but get out of business of policing the world and nation building. We can't tell people overseas how to live their lives. It doesn't work. We should have had no wars since WWII because they've all been undeclared.

- If the Patriot Act was called the Repeal the 4th Amendment Act it never would have been passed. They don't even need search warrants anymore.

- Obama thinks he can do anything that isn't prohibited by the Constitution. Not true. He can only do what is authorized by the Constitution.

- Liberty should bring us all together. It's not that liberty will be used the same way by everyone. But, if we all the government to decide what we can buy, what religion to practice, what to read, and so on, it is a disaster. Governments can't protect us from ourselves. We have to be responsible for ourselves. That includes taking the risks are behavior results in.

Do most people really disagree with these ideas? Most people do, but only in the abstract. The nanny state is actually quite popular.

Romney has a very polished speech now despite the fact that he will always remind people a little of a smiley-faced Gordon Gekko. I still feel like I did in 2008 when listening to him that he is trying to sell me a used car. But, I also believe he understands the main ideas about capitalism, and more, actually wants to apply them, but also that he has an understanding that people want some regulations so that there isn't lead paint on their walls. In other words, that used car he sells me may be the best we can do right now. He very gingerly curtseys to the right, knowing where his bread is buttered, but has not kowtowed to the religious right the way Gingrich, Cain, Perry, Bachmann and Santorum have. I have picked him to win for a long time now and stuck with that prediction despite strong runs from virtually every other campaigner except Paul and despite the media's insistence each time that it is over for him. Slow and steady has worked for him and it is impressive. People make a big deal that he sometimes says something which, if taken out of context, sounds like he is - rich. Well, he is rich. He has it right when he says - if you don't want someone successful, vote for someone else, and has it wrong when he is embarrassed by it.

I feel really petty about the next remark. I am not saying don't vote for Rick Santorum because he mixes metaphors or misuses words. I have my own problems with the language (in my case, I almost always pick the wrong homophone when writing quickly and fail to proofread and I go often go blank on simple words when speaking). And one thing I noticed of this year's crop. They don't make the really absurd factual slips that the '08 crew was making all over the place (e.g., Obama visited all 57 states). But, last night Santorum said that shale "leaches oil," in the same way you would say a bucket leaks water, when he should have said it is the oil that is leached from the shale. Sure, anyone could make the mistake, but if you are going to make a big point of the issue and are actually holding shale in your hands in a speech when you are running for president, try and get it right. Speaking of rocks, he also said that his wife was the rock that was beside him. Somehow that makes her sound like an obstacle, though that was the opposite of what he intended. We stand on supportive rocks or build on top of them. They don't stand beside us. Of course, we would say our spouse stands beside us and I think that's where he got confused.

I told you it was petty. I like Rick Santorum personally. I think a lot of people do. But, his religious emphasis has made many people "want to vomit," to use his own phrase concerning President Kennedy's speech on religion. Though he later said he wished he could take the line back, he hasn't really changed his approach. Of course, how someone running for president uses a phrase like "want to vomit" is a little surprising. But, he has said before, he tells it like it is. In 2008, he told it like it is thus, when asked about names he has found attached to religion and politics: "It comes down to sex. That’s what it’s all about. It comes down to freedom, and it comes down to sex. If you have anything to with any of the sexual issues, and if you are on the wrong side of being able to do all of the sexual freedoms you want, you are a bad guy. And you’re dangerous because you are going to limit my freedom in an area that’s the most central to me. And that’s the way it’s looked at." 

Well, yes, Senator, that is precisely how most people, and I'm including many conservatives, see it. Freedom means - stay out of people's bedrooms.

Gingrich's speech is also very polished and he can sound bright and fun when speaking. Don't let him fool you. I've gone off on him enough here that I can sum it up very briefly now - too arrogant, too narcissistic and too partisan - and that's for a politician. He's also full of it. His $2 to $2.50 a gallon gas is a perfect example. Who wouldn't like that? Okay, maybe many folks in the Obama administration, including the Energy Secretary, Tom Friedman, Al Gore, and, well, a lot of people, but I mean among those who actually realize that it would benefit the poor and middle class immensely to lower gas prices and harm them to raise them. But, whatever measures he wants to take to lower the cost of gasoline, I'm all for it, so long as it makes sense. But, how likely are the prices he is suggesting? Try - showing the price of oil yearly since 1979. It went down like Gingrich describes only once, in 2008. Remember what happened in 2008. The economy collapsed. There was a temporary deflation which the fed countered by printing huge supplies of money and the price quickly went back up. We do not want the bottom to fall out of everything in order to get temporarily low gas prices. Deflation causes its own problems. But, as you can see from the chart, that's the only time it happened since Jimmy Carter, and most people are too young to remember him at all.

So, whose winning the nomination process? There's three ways to look at it and realclearpolitics is the best way to get a snapshot of it:

Republican popular vote tallies:

Romney    Gingrich   Santorum   Paul
1,749,677  978,229    932,508     463,176

Romney +771,448

Republican delegate count:

Romney Santorum Gingrich Paul
153        69             33           26

Romney +84

Republican national polls:
RCP Average 2/16 - 2/29

Romney Santorum Gingrich Paul
35.3      29.3         14.8          11.3

Romney +6.0

Looks to me like Romney is still winning and right now he also has a little momentum coming out of Michigan and Arizona. But, it is still very early in the race and we know these things change in an instant. If Newt Gingrich fails badly on Super Tuesday this week and does - against his own ambition and ego - the right thing, and steps down, Rick Santorum will reap the rewards big time and the social conservative v. fiscal conservative issue will flower again. That will be Romney's biggest challenge. And, in a nutshell, it is the challenge for all future candidates for the Republican leadership in the near future. Finding a way to balance the two warring strands of their party without completely alienating the third - the libertarians - to the degree that someone like Paul goes off and runs third party. It is not easy to do. Bush managed, but McCain failed. Reagan managed, but Dole failed.

My debate

There isn't a snowball's chance in hell I will ever get to write the questions for debates, but I have my own for ideas for them. For one thing, the media which monitors these events are always asking questions the debaters are prepared for so that they can give pat answers or avoid answering them. My rules are a little more draconic. The length of answers to questions depends on the question, which I will give them at the beginning, plus ten seconds to actually think. There is a big clock so they can see how much time is left, but I have a button which cuts off their mike when their time is up. Too bad. Learn to organize your thoughts. They are not permitted to refer to any of their competitors in their answers at risk of losing the chance to answer the next question (or, if it is the last question - loss of a $250,000 stake their campaing puts up). They will all declare victory, of course, but I will have as non-partisan a panel as I can find rate them on three categories:

1) how many times they avoided answering a question; 2) how quickly they got to the point and avoided blather; and, 3) how often they said things that were simply factually untrue. Points are lost for trying to criticize me or the media or for trying to make jokes (I can't stand it when politicians try to be funny - even most of the most famous moments just aren't that funny and always leads to the others trying to be funny too). They don't get their rating until the next day, so the judges actually have time to think about it and fact check. This isn't American Idol.

Here are my questions, many of which concern the Constitution and are meant to be hard for conservatives, which is really what their contest has come to be about. Nos. 7-10 are each aimed at a particular candidate:

1) Conservatives and even some liberals have been very critical of President Obama over the U.S. involvement in Libya; many claiming it was an unconstitutional usurpation of power by him. Explain whether you feel it was unconstitutional, and, if you do, whether it was impeachable, and where you stand on the War Powers Act in as much detail as possible. Five minutes.

2) Consider the following possibility. The citizens of a state overwhelmingly determines to secede from the union in a referendum. Leaving aside the possibly unsolvable technical problems with accomplishing in the present day (do they keep the telephone system; who pays medical bills for seniors for the next year, etc.?), do you believe that a state has the right to do this? Explain your answer, with particular attention to the U.S. Constitution. If you believe that a state does not have the right to do this, please explain whether your position differs from the Declaration of Independence and where you think Thomas Jefferson would stand on the question. Eight minutes.

3) Almost all conservatives have criticized President Obama for trying to put into effect a Health and Human Services regulation which would require religious groups to offer insurance policies for employees which includes provisions anathema to church's positions, particularly on birth control, on the grounds it infringes upon religious liberty. With that in mind, please explain your position with respect to the law against polygamy for those whose religion find it acceptable. If you believe anti-polygamy laws are acceptable, explain how it legally or constitutionally differs from the recent HHS regulation. Three minutes.

4) Ronald Reagan had his U.N. ambassador vote to condemn Israel after it attacked Iraq's nuclear facility in 1981, the only president ever to do such a thing. He gave amnesty for illegal immigrants; he raised taxes a number of times, and greatly increased spending and the debt. He "saved" social security and protected welfare as it was. He increased corporate taxes. If he were alive and a politician today with those positions, would he not be considered a RINO? If not, why not? Three minutes.

5) Many commonly held conservative positions have changed over the years. Some things once completely unacceptable are now not only acceptable to many conservatives, not open for discussion. This includes voting for a presidential candidate who has been divorced; using contraceptives; pre-marital sex; belief that some rights in the constitution are fundamental and apply against the states (like the 2nd amendment); and others. With that in mind, can you explain why conservatives should adhere so forcefully to postions they are so adamant about now but might change their minds about in the future? Five minutes.

6)  Conservatives have been very critical of President Obama making executive orders which they claim usurp congressional power. However, when President Bush was in office, conservatives approved of signing statements which would declare what parts of legislation signed into law by the president were constitutional or not and we heard much about "the unitary executive," something we hear nothing about from them now. Will you be issuing signing statements that declare parts of legislation unconstitutional and what do you make of the idea of the unitary executive - how far does it go? Three minutes.

7) Congressman Paul: Many other conservatives consider your foreign affairs positions frightening. If you are the next president and learn that within one month of your inauguration Iran will have a fully functional nuclear weapon capable of delivering an attack on Israel, will you authorize an attack on that country to destroy their nuclear facilities. First answer yes or no, and why? Three minutes.

8) Governor Romney: You have differed the Massachusetts health care reforms from what is known among critics as Obamacare, being one was state law and the other federal. But, the central issue in both cases is whether people can be forced to pay for insurance policies they don't want. Is it constitutional for a state to require it's citizens to buy a service they do not want? Is there a limit to the state's power to tell people what they must do? Three minutes.

9) Senator Santorum: There is no doubt that at this time in history a large majority of Americans favor birth control and that a majority are for the legality of some abortion, although it is harder to define what exactly that would mean. There is no doubt that if you are nominated that this, and your positions on gays and even the devil will immediately come to the forefront. Even if you believe that principle trumps winning, should you be the nominee for your party? Three minutes.

10) Speaker Gingrich: According to's average for head to head contest with the president and the four Republican candidates, Mitt Romney comes in first, with the president winning by 4.4 points and Ron Paul comes in third, with the president winning by 6.6 points. You are last by almost double Congressman Paul's tally, 12.4 points behind the president. Simply put, why should your personal ambition or even deep belief you are the best one for the job, mean your party should go down in defeat? Isn't electability important and how do you claim you are more electable when you consistently do so bad in polls? Three minutes.

The truth is, I expect that not only will I prefer Ron Paul's answers to most or all of these questions, but so likely will the studio audience. But, that doesn't mean they aren't important questions, because they show what each candidate believes far more than the topical or supposedly newsworthy questions the media regularly asks them.

The Gift

What is the gift, you ask? I'll tell you. It's refighting the social battle of the sixties - which the liberals won so fully, some issues are virtually off the table - like the freedom to use contraceptives. In my last political update I wrote about the mistake some conservatives are making with respect to religious fulminating against those who don't have the money or fame to get young trophy wives (like Gingrich and Limbaugh, for example), but still want to participate in the sexual revolution. It hasn't stopped. In fact, some people seem to want to double down on it. One of them might be Rush Limbaugh. He's made more than one mistake in this campaign so far.

First, he immediately dismissed Romney as the nominee, which, obviously, has problems I don't need to explain.

Second, he continuously insists that independents don't matter, and they just do, probably more than any other ideological group.

Third, he engaged this week with a student over the issue of contraception, and, it doesn't matter what side you take in the argument (I would agree with Limbaugh - it is insane that anyone's tax dollars goes to pay for people's contraceptives). Limbaugh, who usually is the politest of the radio talk show personalities, in my opinion, called her a slut and a prostitute and said that we should all get to see the movies of her having sex. Slut? Prostitute? That's just not smart. And supposedly being smart is what he is proudest of. He should have said this is the typical socialist mentality that is going to drive us over the cliff financially.

Possibly stung by criticism over what even he now realizes was dumb, at first made it worse for himself by whining that there go the liberals again, attacking their critics. Really? This is, of course, the problem with Limbaugh, who I find very creative, and often fun to listen to for a little while, but as ridiculously partisan as they come. Perhaps my favorite Limbaugh moment was a couple of years ago when he said that conservatives criticize liberals out of love, and liberals criticize conservatives out of hate. It all comes down to the same tired partisan rhetoric from both sides - we can attack them with gusto and they must take it and like it. But when they attack us -- that's offensive.

Of course, today I read that he himself has come to his senses, even if the fact that some of his biggest advertisers have decided to dump him have helped him come to them, and apologized.

Even Santorum said Limbaugh's comments were absurd, but then he chickened out, probably afraid to criticize Limbaugh, and said that entertainers can be absurd. Of course, that wasn't his opinion about five months ago when he was the subject of a Saturday Night Live skit -

It's a free country and Limbaugh can say what he likes. I would support his right to say far worse. But, the question here is how will he affect the election, if at all. Maybe in itself, not much, but I'd say he is helping give the president a gift. This religious strategy is backfiring in all the polls and with people in general (although, I doubt where I live). If they want to lose the election, conservatives should vote for Santorum on Super Tuesday.

I like to keep things balanced, so next month I think I will turn my attention to the president and the liberals. Stay tuned. Same bat channel. Same bat time.


  1. Have you lost your mind? Did you start watching an episode of Meet the Press and never realized it ended? "Mr. Candidate a state wants to secede.. and the constitution...and what do you think Jefferson would say?"
    WHAT WOULD JEFFERSON SAY.... who gives a rat's ass? This is the 21st century! Put people to work, reduce the deficit, raise taxes... BUT NO, I'm gonna decide my vote on the basis of a theoretical about SECESSION?
    and then, you wonder how much something Limbaugh said is going to affect the election? ARE YOU KIDDING? Zero, that's the affect. Most voters can't spell Limbaugh never mind remember anything he said. Moron.
    Here's how people decide their vote... Boy that Romney fella has nice hair. I'm voting for Obama cause he' black. I'm not voting for Obama cause he's black. End of story.

  2. You have to learn to be more passionate in your opinions.

    I disagree with the gist of your argument. I would care much more about their answers to these hypothetical questions for which they will not be prepared, than canned answers to supposedly topical questions for which they are prepared and which will likely play little or no role in their actual presidency either. Questions about the Constitution, seccession, Jefferson, etc., tell me a lot about them. It will either tell me they are ignorant of the subjects that I think are important, about their views on spending, on states' rights, government entanglement with religion, and so on, or that they are on the "wrong" side of them in my book. To most people, even those who are politically conscience, such as yourself, these are not important issues. That's why we are on a path - which almost everyone acknowledges -- that will follow Greece. It is also why Ron Paul can not get elected. Until such time as a large plurality is interested or educated to these issues, nothing much is going to change no matter who gets in there, regardless of what they say in the election - although some will be moderately better than others (e.g., in my opinion, Romney will be moderately better than Obama - I hope a lot better, but realistically, moderately is what we have to settle for).

    As to your cynicism as to why people vote for a certain candidate - there are some people who vote that way. Maybe lots. But, I don't think they are anywhere near the majority. The majority votes on a party or ideological line b/c that is who they identify with.

    As to the question of whether I have lost my mind, it is too complex a topic for a comment section.



Your comments are welcome.

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 . . . .