Saturday, March 16, 2013

Political update for March, 2013

Francis I

It's nice to have a blog to record predictions.  You know, so you can say - hey, look -- I said that this is what would happen and it did.  So, a few nights ago, I was sitting with my evalovin' girlfriend (I'm not supposed to use "insignificant other" anymore although I still think it's funny), when I say to her, maybe I should do a very short blog post saying - The new Pope will be from South America. Doesn't matter who it is, so long as he is from South America.  This stems from my deep knowledge of Papal politics. Actually, I know nothing of Papal politics, but I had heard that Catholicism is growing in South America and shrinking in Europe. So, I figured the South Americans have some pull now. That may not be true, but it is what I had heard. So, then Wednesday, she-who-mixes-her-metaphors calls me up and says, "Did you hear the new Pope is from Argentina?"  I said, "I'm so excited. My prediction was right - South America." And, of course, she said, "No, not South America.  Argentina."  Sigh. Women and geography go together like peanut butter and tomatoes.
Paul II

I wrote last month, concerning potential Republican 2016 presidential candidates:

"Rand Paul, Ron's son, is also trying to craft a public identity different from his father. He has gone to Israel as if on a pilgrimage, but it was obvious what he was trying to do. If you are considered weak on Israel, you aren't going far in Republican circles. It was damage repair. The truth is, he is still a young man who is trying to figure out a way to remain true to libertarian principles while also figuring out how to appeal to conservatives that don't always see eye to eye with their uncomfortable partners. If you read conservative columnists, they are often extremely critical of libertarians, sometimes saying that they have no values. He has a couple of years to craft. I do not rule him out."
Since I wrote that, he's made a big splash with an old-fashioned 13 hour filibuster concerning drones and whether they can be used to kill Americans on American soil. At least, not having listened to his speech (I wonder if anyone other than himself and perhaps some poor clerks who couldn't get out after an 8 hour shift heard it all), I think that is what he spoke about. He probably could have summed it up in a few sentences.  We have a constitutional right to due process.  Whoever might have this right, there is no doubt that Americans on American soil have it, and no president or other authority can take anyone's life, liberty or property without it except because of some present national security emergency.

Some believe that his speech has rocketed him towards the top of the heap. Even some (few) Democrats have joined on this cause - and I applaud that. Some Republicans, notably John McCain and Lindsay Graham, have noisily attacked him on it.  I'm not going anywhere near that yet but stick with my "I do not rule him out." Not the bravest prediction, but he has in the past said some things that have really hurt him and there is a long way to go. Good start though. No one else has made a splash like this among the wannabees.

Paul is a bit of a puzzle in other ways, a libertarian and son of the most famous libertarian in the country, he is also a tea party member, which means very conservative in some senses. I have a feeling he is trying to bridge the gap between conservatives and libertarians that has always existed  since the late William F. Buckley, Jr. and friends tried to wire the two together a half century or so ago. The last year or two, more often than not, I read conservative writers criticizing libertarians for not having values, rather than the reverse, but I think that is because conservatives are ascendent in the party and libertarians have only a little more pull than the Log Cabin Republicans.
Now, there seems to be a split between the more moderate conservatives like McCain and his friend, Lindsay Graham, who are actually not particularly associated with either the fiscal Republicans or the tea partiers like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. In their case it is more like the old guard versus the new.  It has not helped McCain that he chose to engage in what he believes is polite name calling - "wacko birds," but others take more seriously. It enabled Paul to take the high ground - to say that he treats McCain with respect, but does not get it in turn. It will help him less if he runs again in four years when the tea partiers turn even more of their guns on him. It makes him a target.
Ideally, parties are unified, if not identical in their beliefs. You can get away with some members believing this or that, even on core issues, though it may make the association a little uncomfortable. Not every conservative must be pro-life or 100 percent against a path to citizenship, though it helps them in the party if they are.  The Nate Silver chart I referred to last month shows that. Not every Democrat must be pro-choice or pro-amnesty, though it helps them immensely, particularly in urban areas, if they are.  But a different view as to the general direction of the party leads to rents in a party.  Perhaps a big tent can also be less stable. We've seen that more than once, most notably in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Democrats dissolved into southern and northern parties, and eventually the southern left, and a hundred years earlier when slavery ruptured and eventually evaporated the Whigs and other parties. It is not the people, of course, who go away. They re-emerge almost immediately in another form. In the 1800s, the Republicans were formed from these other parties (and some disenchanted Democrats) and in the 1900s the solidly Democratic south became the solidly Republican south for some decades.

At this juncture in history though, the Democrats are simply more unified than Republicans. And it shows. It is not the only consideration since a restive un-group of moderates and independents has also formed, but until they find a popular leader, which seems necessary for them to get anywhere, they just can't compete in elections as a group.
It is interesting that Sen. Paul's filibuster - one can barely call it speech -- was so well received without anything in it that was memorable and it was also successful as Eric Holder took pains to write that he was correct -- Americans on American soil not engaged in combat cannot be targets.  I'd still feel better if we all got to see the policies. It should not be a secret.

Bush III
In re-reading last month's political review a few days ago, I saw that I also snubbed Jeb Bush. I don't know why.  You can't think of everyone, I guess. On the other hand, he just finished telling Meet the Press host David Gregory that the Washington media is on crack for being obsessed with politics for even asking him about it. Though that makes me look smarter, it is hardly fair if he doesn't want to say "no, no, no, a thousand times no." And even that doesn't mean much anymore. Chris Christie asked if he needed to threaten suicide last cycle to get people to recognize he wasn't in interested in VP, and then later considered it.

A few years ago, I watched him say on a television interview that he was going to concentrate on making money for a few years.  If you want to run for president, it would sure help.  I'm not saying he's going to run or not, but I'm not certainly not feeling it, even before his last statement.  He would be the second candidate from Florida and it would put him in opposition to golden boy Rubio. And, just as his older brother benefitted from his father's presidency, I think he might suffer the reverse from his brother's reputation, as GWB was not very popular in conservative circles either when his second term ended.
There was a time I thought a lot of Jeb Bush. It is just one issue, but I was very put off by his tone during the very sad Terry Schiavo matter.  If you don't remember it, the issue that occurred while he was governor was whether the ex-husband of a woman in a coma, Terri Schiavo, should be allowed to terminate her life according to what he said were her wishes--but with which her parents disagreed. I'm not going to go into detail on that sad affair. I recall thought that I tended, from the little I knew, to side with the ex-husband - she was in a permanent vegetative state. I'm raising the issue though not because JB was on the other side of it, but because I thought that he went too far in trying to use his power to have the ex-husband should be prosecuted for at least abuse, and I seem to recall him talking about murder, though I'd rather have something documented than just my memory.  It reminded me too much of Mayor Giuliani, who though I agree with on policy more than most politicians, I could not stomach his tyrannical disposition.  Giuliani did not have a "my way or the highway" attitude, but "my way or your life will be destroyed" if I can attitude. But, this is judging him on one issue and I will keep an open mind.

In order for Jeb to really throw his hat in the ring, several things need to happen. Rubio must not be a serious contention or take himself out of it. That seems unlikely. Or, the Republican Party must be as fractured this next time as it was last time, so that everyone whose friends tell them they are just wonderful, thinks they have a shot.
Republican 2014-16

The Republican Party continues to be the interesting story because with Obama elected for a second term, it is still too early for other Democrats to throw their hats into the ring to contest for 2016, and we've had four years already of quiet on that.  I can't wait until it starts, particularly if Biden and Clinton start throwing down, but, that is wishful thinking right now.
There's no doubt after the drubbing Romney took and the almost self-hypnotic lemming like way the base followed conservative commentators in believing he was winning, that the party had better cure its schizophrenia or it is difficult to see how it can hope to win the presidency in four years or Senate majority in two.  Usually the split is between so called fiscal conservatives and so called religious conservatives, but sometimes between libertarians and conservatives too.  Okay, cultural conservatives and everyone else.  Yet there is no sign yet that anyone has changed their mind very much. Instead, they simply become more strident. Erick Erickson wrote recently on his popular conservative website, Red State, that Republican "should really spend a week listening to Rush three hours a day and perhaps they would not be so stupid."  Given that Rush has led conservatives in 2008 to sneer at independents and in 2012 at moderates and was so wrong about the polls this last time that he didn't even try to explain his mistake - "stupid" does not seem to be appropriate to me for those who don't follow him blindly.  "Wise" seems more like it. I say this also because right now, though I remain a moderate-independent who, I  at least feel closer in some policies with some  Republicans who are libertarian, fiscal, RINO or socially liberal, than I do either Democrats (who are almost completely of the liberal mindset) or the Bible thumping right wing. But that "motley troop" (a phrase stolen from my favorite 1960s television show - F Troop) are not a group at all, but are more and more fractious. So all I can do is like this part of Senator McCain and that part of Senator Paul, etc., and continue to wait like Tevya in Anatevka for the coming of the Messiah (an imaginary non-partisan moderate independent candidate who leans libertarian and reads this blog).

McCain 567,000,000
I still like John McCain. I know he is not popular with many on the right and many on the left. His positions sometimes seem stodgily conservative and other times he appears to be the maverick he ran on in 2008. But, I'm a moderate and that means, among other things, that I like politicians I think tell the truth (well, of course not always, or they'd be saints, not pols) and who say it when it doesn't help them. So, in 2008 I admired the John McCain who campaigned in Iowa, but came out against ethanol subsidies or in Michigan and said, these auto jobs are not coming back. And, I admire the guy who has opposed Obama where he believes he deserves it (Obamacare) and supports him when he believes he deserves that (the drone program). In other words, though sometimes partisan too - he is a member of a party - he bucks his own party when he believes they are in the wrong. That is rare and admirable. He is far more eloquent than often given credit for (though, not so much when campaigning for president).

For many years he has been in the forefront of those who oppose the reckless spending of congress - including when the Republicans are in charge. Last week he got up and blew up the defense budget which was layered with unbelievable expenses in the defense budget which had just been cut by the sequestration. What gives?  You can watch his speech on C-Span where he reads some of the crazy defense expenditures of $567 million, but, the point is - too few others are saying what needs to be said - our spending is out of control and this sequestration isn't even real in any sense of the word. It is just a political tool that might help minimally, and I mean, minimally, slow the spread of government. The other Arizona senator, Jeff Flake, new to the Senate this year, has been even more voluble about our spending habits in the House in past years, and tougher on the political leadership, but doesn't have McCain's weight.
Conservatives can pick on McCain if they like. It seems to me he has broad shoulders and is simply a bigger, more honest, more charitable man than most of them, even if I frequently think he is wrong. If he ran for president tomorrow, I'd probably still vote for him, though he also seems like an economic illiterate to me.  I would not mind one, just so long as he opposes our insane spending.

North Korea, Iran, Egypt and Afghanistan and zero
Does anyone seriously think we have any real weight in the world when we don't actually attack a nation?  Certainly not just because we give them money.  Do you know we've given North Korea, who still (and I am ignoring treaties for the moment) acts like it is in a state of war with us well over a billion dollars in aid since 1995 (China gives far more and has little influence) and they threaten us with nuclear weapons.  Iran talks to us diplomatically, but sneers at us with every other breath . Egypt takes our money - We pledged over a billion after they overthrew our ally, Mubarak (someone often described as a tyrant - but our tyrant) and just gave them a quarter billion more in military aid this year.   Their government is clearly more opposed to us and our allies than ever in the last 30 years and is certainly no better for its people.  Would it not be cheaper and easier to say, go ahead and attack Israel, but we aren't stopping them this time and give half as much to their hated neighbor?  Afghanistan's leader, our supposed puppet, Karzai, sometimes sounds more like Hugo Chavez than David Cameron and is as almost open in being as corrupt as they come. We support him only so that we can pretend all of our efforts there were worth it in the end, when we have as much influence over that country as Ms.  Lanza had over Adam (do you forget already?)   I have a bad feeling about all these countries. You never know, but somehow I think we are going to have yet another presidential election, with nothing really happening good for us with any of them. I am a believer in negotiation with countries we are at open war with, but not support for countries that take significant money without also at least generally supporting us and not threatening us or allies. And even less so when our debt is so great it threatens our national security.

This president is going to continue the standard policies so long as he is in office.  Our next president needs to change this.  Sometimes when parents I know are dealing with unruly children I suggest they don't worry so much about punishment and simply stop being nice and giving them more than food and shelter until they are nice back - it works.  Zero should be the standard for foreign aid for every country and every penny given or loaned should come with strings - that they be our friends. But, I recognize a pipe dream when I write it.
Gay Rights 3, Gay antagonists 0

Those aren't real numbers, but reflects the recent defection of Rob Portman, a moderately important Republican figure, who joins Dick Cheney and Anita Bryant (I think she is alive; young folks can look her up) as prominent conservative figures who stopped their knee jerk resistance to gay marriage because their own child came out of the closet.  If our countries history has meant anything it has been a steady march towards giving the same opportunities to minority groups as it does the majority. I have felt for at least a couple of years that the tide has turned in America with respect to gay marriage or whatever you wish to call it. 
This is not like I saying - I suddenly feel more charitable to Jihadists because my son went to Pakistan. It is saying I recognize that my blind partisanship has driven a wedge into my family because of my dogmatic resistance to my child's natural desire for my support and sympathy.  It is sad to think that Cheney did not do come out as a gay rights supporter when he still needed political support and Portman did not do so when he was being considered for the vp slot by Romney.  But, let us take what we can. I am pleased to see that they did let their faith make them bad parents. But, how many others are caught in that web and reject their own children, who, whatever the rhetoric about gays is, can no more help their sexual attraction to the same gender than I can help mine to my evalovin' gf  (you thought I was going to say someone like Shakira, didn't you; I know who reads this thing to see if she is mentioned every week or so and it isn't Shakira).

My own so-called plans

I haven't veered from my Jefferson article and Movie Night III plans, but life sometimes dictates its own plans and one is being written s l o w l y and the other still in the planning stages. Even I don't know what is coming next day to day.  Every week is a war zone when it comes to competing time and interests and lately the must do's have won over the wanna do's.  But, there is always time for something - just not everything and I even have leisurely demands on my time that come before posting here.  If I didn't make studying a priority, and a discipline, it would never get done at all. There are many things I'd like to study I never will (math, probably, for one). But, there are many things I feel so fortunate to learn about that I'm very glad I made the time for them. I still get a lot of pleasure out of writing this blog, though it is of course a non-pecuniary interest (like, unfortunately, most of my interests). And, of course, I recognize that it would be much smarter for me not to say what my writing plans are, but I say them because it helps remind me as to what I want to write about.  Otherwise, I actually forget and find stuff I started a few years later.
In the meantime, a different topic has caught my attention and may get in the way yet again. We'll see. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

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 . . . .