Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Big Difference

I've come to a realization recently. I think my recent reading of post WWII presidential politics helped me to better understand the political landscape of today's two party system. The realization is something like this: today's Republicans care more about getting their way than they do about effectively governing and today's Democrats care more about effectively governing than they do about shoving their agenda down the opposition's throat. Now before I'm burned in effigy for my blatant partisanship, let me give a bit of background.

During the Roosevelt Administration (Franklin, that is) the main difference between Republicans and Democrats on foreign policy was that Democrats were more interventionists and Republicans were isolationist in nature. This only extended over the course of the Korean War, Vietnam, etc. The rift over domestic policy had a lot to do with Civil Rights, labor vs. business, farm support, social programs, etc. Republicans were mostly hands off here as well advocating less government intervention and free market capitalism rather than New Deal programs. Of course there were exceptions, and perhaps here is where the trend really began. McCarthy. When Republicans were screaming for government to get out of the economy, their wallets and other people's countries, one turned the whole philosophy on its head because it suited his interests. How could a young Senator from Wisconsin become so powerful? Create a spectre and then go on a witch-hunt. Suddenly the government needed to be everywhere because the government couldn't be trusted. It sounds paradoxical, but it was essentially the truth. Communists were out there and we needed government control to get them out of government. This may sound ridiculous (and it was) but the thing for Republican McCarthy was that government power was fine as long as he held the power. That seems to be the case today as well.

Now that I've given some background, let's look at some modern examples of this phenomenon. With the emergence of a real 20th Century Republican in Ron Paul, the stark change in the party can be clearly seen. What was once hands off has become mangled by a gigantic increase in government. Not only has the executive branch overstepped its authority, but the Republican controlled congress was more than happy to go along with it. Somewhere along the line Republicans forgot that they advocated laissez faire politics and started involving government everywhere.

Now this change in ideology is striking, but it is not the theme of this piece. When he was asked why the newly elected Democratic Congress had not begun to impeach President Bush, Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden gave a brilliant response. He basically said that if they succeeded they would be left with Cheney who is even worse, and even if they attempted to remove both from office, it would use up so much time, energy and political capital that the country would be even worse off than if they just let Bush stay in office until the end of his term. Not only is that very true, but it gets at something that underlies the whole basis for modern Republicanism: our way or the highway. Senator Mitch McConnell, minority leader in the 110th Congress has been called a major obstructionist, leading a massive number of filibusters to block Democratic legislation. People are fed up with the lack of progress in Congress and so they blame those who are in charge. While that is certainly an option, the rules of the Senate make things much more difficult. While Democrats do have a (very very slight) majority, to get anything done in the Senate, you need 60 votes. While some Republicans would undoubtedly vote with the majority some of the time, McConnell has obstructed legislation so many times that now it might come back to bight him. He's up for reelection this year and may face the same rejection by voters as Tom Daschle did years ago.

The point is that today's Democrats seem to have a need to look good in the public eye. They are poised to enter into a period of great abundance with the election of Barack Obama and perhaps even 60 Senators, but they still don't want to upset people. Democrats still see themselves as the Representatives of their constituents while Republicans see it as their goal to fire up their constituents with their political ideology. Everyone knows that Bush is a sub-standard president and many people believe that he is endangering the country with his political beliefs, but Democrats aren't going to strong-arm the country into taking him out of office. Why? It's easier just to pretend he's not there and wait your turn.

Now this may be laudable, but what if Democrats took a page from the Republican playbook? What if they found an issue (like gay marriage in 2004, off shore drilling in 2008 or abortion...well every year) and hammered away at their opponents year after year, so that even when people no longer cared, they still felt like it was their obligation to support that issue? It may seem deceptive to continue to push for a single issue while the rest of the country is worried about other things, but that hasn't stopped Republicans. I wish someone would do an overarching study of the American populace and ask, "Would you ever support a politician who was pro-choice?" I think the number that answered "No" would be a lot higher than most people would like to believe. Everyone asks why this election (2008) is so close when it is so clearly a Democratic year? I think the same answer applies to the question why are there so many more Republican landslide electoral college elections? Why can no Democrat win in Utah? There are simply too many one issue voters. Even if the economy tanked, McCain had a stroke and Sarah Palin admitted to being an alien, Barack Obama would not win in Oklahoma, Idaho, Mississippi, Alabama or Utah. Why? Because Republicans care more about getting their way than they do about effective governance.

Need another example? Bill Clinton. Yes people were perfectly right in voicing their disapproval with his actions. They were within their rights to censure him for perjury. Was it best for the country to try and remove a sitting President from office for a blow job? No, but Republicans grabbed their issue and ran with it. It isn't as if Democrats haven't had their opportunities. Put aside lying about the Iraq War, misleading the public, revoking Habeas Corpus, illegally spying on Americans and firing Justice department officials for political purposes, Democrats could still have made a fuss over voter suppression in Ohio in 2004 or even the stolen election of 2000. Instead? Al Gore concedes, John Kerry concedes. Perhaps they thought that it wasn't worth the effort to fight tooth and nail for their victory, but looking back on it, it wasn't just their victory, it would have been all of our victory.

So that is my rant for the day. We will see if Democrats take advantage of this coming term when the roadblocks will be substantially less severe. If they don't make some progress fast, I'm not going to be amused.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stop Copying Me!

I usually tend to shy away from “Breaking News” in this blog, tending instead to let thoughts percolate for a long time so as to fully grapple with the issue. Today I have to amend that to answer a pressing question from last week’s Presidential Debate. The constant refrain from Senator McCain during the first debate was “Senator Obama doesn’t understand…” and I can see why he would want to belabor that point seeing as though he thinks he has the upper hand on “experience”. Sadly it feels like I’m listening to a broken record.

The same repetition happened again last night, but it wasn’t the same refrain. Instead whenever Obama answered a question first, McCain would repeat the basic premise of Obama’s answer or at least use key phrases that Barack had used mere moments earlier. Why? Just because the audience liked Obama’s answers, you can’t just copy them and pretend like they’re your own!

This seems like a constant campaign strategy for McCain. “Whatever Hillary said, we’re going to say.” “Whatever Barack’s message is, we’re going to copy it.” “Whatever works, we’re going to pretend we came up with it.” Seriously, the first example is understandable. Who wouldn’t use an opponent’s opponent to justify your own criticisms? What baffles me is that it didn’t stop by pandering to Hillary supporters. Suddenly McCain seems to have understood that Hillary lost because her message didn’t resonate with the voters as much as Obama’s message of Change. Then almost overnight McCain became the “change” candidate simply because it was popular. He began talking about his ability to “shake up” Washington and the fact that he would “stop the special interests,” almost verbatim of Obama’s themes.

Last night there was one particular example of this phenomenon. When Obama began talking about fighting lobbyists, McCain stood up and used almost the exact same phrase to describe how he was about to “fight lobbyists” until Barack mentioned that the person who is running McCain’s campaign is in fact a lobbyist.

It seems as though everything Obama says, McCain repeats like a small child playing that irritating game, “Stop Copying Me!”

It appears to be a theme throughout the campaign. First he copied the message of change, then as soon as the campaign became ugly and many commentators (Karl Rove included) began to say that McCain was waging unfair attacks against Obama, Cindy McCain comes on the news and starts saying that Obama is waging the dirtiest campaign in history. Excuse me? I am the first one to admit that Obama has weaknesses, but you can’t just start criticizing your opponent for the same reasons everyone else is criticizing you!

Then during the economic crisis a steady stream of articles came out saying that while McCain was looking desperate and reactionary, Obama was looking steady and in control. Suddenly McCain makes this push about how he has a “steady hand at the till”. Does he just make this stuff up? I can’t believe that people would buy these arguments just because he starts making them.

You know, looking back, maybe it’s not so much irritating repetition as blatant hypocrisy. I always held disdain for politicians who would expect the populace to buy their stump speeches without making a coherent argument and McCain is no different in that regard.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Maybe There's Something to that 50 State Strategy

Recently Time magazine had an article discussing the Obama campaign's decision to move staff members and volunteers out of North Dakota and into Minnesota and Wisconsin. While this seems like a prudent move on his part, there are some strange questions percolating in the mind of this young Democrat.

#1) Why does the media seem to think that this is news-worthy? I mean, I'm not necessarily surprised that Barack would move workers away from North Dakota, but honestly, the fact that he is no longer implementing a "50 State Strategy" warrants its own article? The fact that he had staff workers in these blood-red states should have made more news at the outset. Some people may think that this is hubris on Obama's part, "He doesn't just want to win, he wants to win everywhere" etc. Having looked at the way he has run his campaign up till now, I tend to give him a little more credit. Instead of trying to win a state like North Dakota of Montana (where the polls were surprisingly close up until recently) he was (and still) is trying to set the groundwork for his grass-roots organization. Maybe he can't win ND or MT this year, but there is always midterm elections to think about as well as re-election. I tend to think of this as forward thinking rather than idiotic if it is a bit idealistic.

#2) There is a certain trend to Obama's campaign that is a tad disconcerting to me. I may have written about this earlier, but I think it is worth repeating. Barack had a tendency to appeal to everyone, everywhere when it isn't exactly practical. The first example of this that I noticed was in the Pennsylvania primary that he lost to Hillary in April. He was out in Scranton, driving through Amish country, criss-crossing the eastern half of the state and apparently staying away from Philly like the plague. I know he doesn't want to be seen as the "urban" candidate, but honestly, it pays to encourage your base. Now I don't think anyone will ever know how many votes he drummed up for himself in rural PA, but I do think he really could have spent the time and energy in and around Philly and made sure turnout was through the roof. Interestingly, however, he seems to be doing well in Pennsylvania these days despite losing to Hillary. Perhaps this has something to do with him introducing himself to the rest of the state while he was confident that the Philly area would come through both in the primary and in the general election. For those of us who are so terrified of a McCain/Palin administration (and more importantly to me a McCain appointed Supreme Court), we are a bit nervous that his strategy will backfire.

Part of me wants to believe that Barack knows what he's doing and will prevail while another practical part of me wants to share a little quote from the West Wing. "You only need one." Referring to that one vote that puts you over your rival. So while Time magazine and many others may think it was foolish to invest time and energy in traditionally red states, it may profit in the end. As tempting as it might be to move every volunteer from the country to Ohio and Florida, Obama won't run his campaign that way. For one thing, he will need to campaign with the Udalls in NM and CO if he wants to significantly increase his majority in the Senate, but he also has other things to think about. Red states aren't going to magically turn purple just because Bush is wildly unpopular. The thing is, you have to start campaigning there. Even if Obama is just planting the seeds that will be reaped by successive generations of Democrats, it's a start. You won't get anywhere by ignoring half the states in the Union when it comes to National office and I think Barack is genius for seeing that fact. Maybe all his talk about hope for the future isn't strictly rhetorical after all.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hillary's Next Step

For many Democrats, Hillary Clinton's loss to Barack Obama was devastating. As the party moves to heal itself and prepare to take on the McCain/Palin ultra-conservative agenda, many of Sen. Clinton's supporters are pushing for a new role for their favorite lady. Four main options were put forward and some remain viable despite long odds and some difficult obstacles. Primarily Clinton supporters pushed hard for her nomination as Vice President. Obviously with Sen. Obama's choice of Joe Biden, that option has been removed from the table. Now that the White House is unavailable the options are becoming more and more creative.

During the long Democratic Primary campaign there was sporadic talk of a President Hillary Clinton nominating her husband for a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Speculation never really took off because the media (and Hillary's campaign) were suddenly focusing on the practical need to win the nomination in the first place. Now Hillary supporters are pushing for Clinton (the Senator, not the President) to be named as the next Associate (or by some extremely unlikely fluke Chief) Justice of the Supreme Court. While Republicans would surely oppose a pro-choice Clinton on their precious court, there is some belief that she would be approved by the Senate. Because Democrats are most likely going to pick up 4+ seats and expand their majorities, it probably wouldn't be too hard to imagine her succeeding. Still, one thing remains unclear in my mind. Supreme Court Justices wield considerable power, but Hillary does not seem like a good fit for the last branch of government of which she has not been a part. Justices are typically reserved and stay out of the public spotlight. By definition they keep strange schedules and do not work often and are strictly (at least in theory) non-partisan. Hillary is strongly partisan and that is what we love about her. It's not that she can't work across the aisle, because she can, but her strong suit is simply that, her strength. She's a fighter (as she made abundantly clear during the primaries) and makes a compelling point which may be lost on much of the populace who do not routinely read Supreme Court rulings. While it would certainly make history to be named the first female Chief Justice of the United States, there is also the obstacle of John Roberts. He's not ancient and while he has had some health scares recently, there is no indication that he will be vacating his seat in the near future. That may be something that Hillary is unwilling to wait for. Lastly, all of this is contingent on Obama choosing Hillary for the role. Because she is in her 60s and because he may want someone who has a slightly longer staying power, he may be tempted to pick a younger wo/man. But Clinton supporters and curious bloggers will have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

Secondly and slightly more feasibly is a new PUMA craze. Hillary Rodham Clinton for Senate Majority Leader. While I think Hillary is much more suited for this role than as a Supreme Court Justice, it also has major hang-ups. First let me say that I think many Democrats agree that Harry Reid hasn't exactly done a bang up job as Majority Leader. His poll numbers in Nevada should prove that. While Hillary would be under criticism as the leading voice of Senate Democrats, I think that is a role at which she would be perfectly adept. She has the tenacity, the grit and determination to stand up to Republicans like Mitch McConnell and those are the fights that she is best at tackling. Rather than feign non-partisanship, embrace her partisan nature and attack those Republicans like only Hillary can do. She would do a fantastic job advocating for President Obama's policies and she is smart enough to make the political choices that would advance the party agenda without shrinking away from a confrontation. The obstacles are similar to those listed above, namely: No Vacancy. Perhaps is Harry Reid loses his bid for re-election in 2010 Hillary would have a better chance, but now it seems like a longshot. She certainly doesn't want to be seen as attacking other Democrats for her own political gain, and Harry Reid doesn't look like he's going anywhere anytime soon. The other difficulty is that while Hillary is certainly popular (and has the 18 million vote stat that she isn't shy about tossing around in conversation) she doesn't have the seniority of other Senators who would also like a chance at Reid's job. Chuck Schumer, her fellow New Yorker, for example, and Dick Durbin, who serves with Barack Obama, would both be in line in front of Hillary. Who knows whether or not she has the clout within the Senate to win the secret ballot for Majority Leader, but if she does, she would be the first woman to hold such a role and she would certainly do it justice.

The last and certainly most viable option would be a place in Barack Obama's cabinet. As Attorney General or Secretary of Health and Human Services or even (although it is a stretch) as Secretary of State. Each of these would give greater heft (as if she needed it) for another run for the White House in 2016. Like Majority Leader, I think Hillary would be ideally suited for any number of cabinet positions, but the question remains, Does she even want one? There's no telling whether or not she's interested in leaving the Senate at all and may simply continue there, becoming the next Ted Kennedy. If she did choose to take part in the Obama Administration, it would certainly give her the opportunity to craft policy, which is something she is skilled at doing. Again, only time will tell.

The last option is possible, but contingent on a big decision. If David Paterson decides to run for re-election Hillary would certainly not run against another African American for Governor of New York, but should he decide not to, Hillary could battle Cuomo for the Democratic nomination and move to Albany. Again, all of these questions are fun to ponder, but really mean nothing for today. Only Hillary knows what she's angling for in the months and years to come, but I for one am interested to see where she goes from here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

VP Choices Have Been Made

Well I guess you can't be right all the time. Or ever as the case may be. I was almost certain that Barack Obama would choose an "outside the beltway" candidate who was certainly not a long serving Senator. Oops. Likewise I was almost certain that John McCain would pick someone with whom he had a rapport like...well I guess he doesn't have a good rapport with that many people...but someone like Huckabee or Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. It seems like loyalty is important to him and therefore paying back the man who essentially handed him the nomination would be likely. Not so.

Needless to say, neither of my assertions were at all close to the mark. In fact, they were essentially opposite. Obama chose Joe Biden (D-Del) who has been serving in the Senate since Barack was a young man. Sure he bolsters foreign policy credentials, but he doesn't place any state in play that wasn't already there. McCain shocked everyone (not the least of which is Mitt Romney who I'm sure thought he was a shoe-in, and Pawlenty who really thought he had a chance) by picking Sarah Palin, Gov. of Alaska. If that's not outside the beltway, I don't know what is.

The thing that makes me suddenly respect Obama's choice more than anything is the fact that he was looking not towards Nov, but towards actually governing the nation. Biden doesn't really help electorally and isn't all that dynamic of the stump, but he certainly will help Obama when it comes to the affairs of state. Obama has shown remarkable forethought and intelligence. Imagine this scenario: Barack Obama chooses Hillary Clinton as his running mate and breezes to victory. The Democrats are united and excited. They get into office and immediately things begin to unravel. Hillary holds fast to her Clintonian Agenda and Barack attempts to enact his new brand of politics. Three words: Oil and Water. Now I'm not at all saying that Joe Biden will be a push-over, but he will certainly not bring a world of conflict to the White House. In essense Obama made the difficult but correct decision and chose the man who would most help him govern, not the woman who could have ensured an easy victory.

Conversely, McCain's pick seems like a desperate ploy for fireworks that immediately blew up in his face. Firstly his pick directly undercuts every argument that he has been making against Barack Obama since the beginning of the campaign. Obama (47) is a Senator from a large, diverse state and has both state and national legislative experience. Palin (44) is the Gov. of Alaska (tiny by way of population) and has absolutely no foreign policy experience. Talk about sending mixed messages. Suddenly McCain is trying to become the agent of change, "to shake up Washington." Um, nice try but as Hillary learned the hard way, you can't start out as the experience candidate and then suddenly shift into the change candidate. Secondly, McCain seems to have brought to the fore the issue he was most intent on tapping down, namely his age. Suddenly people are imagining a President Palin and thinking, "Oh my God." By chosing someone that people are clearly unfamiliar with, McCain has opened the door to rampant speculation about his age and ability to govern. While Biden was chosen to reassure the electorate that had been shaken up by the electric Obama campaign, Palin seems to have chosen to shake up an electorate that had already accepted their candidate's experience. That seems a touch backwards.

We'll see how things happen, but I don't really think a lot of Hillary supporters are going to be put over just because Palin is a woman. Nice try McCain, but I think you'd better start working on your reelection to the Senate against Janet Napolitano in 2010. It'll be a tough race.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More VP Musings

NPR's politics section had an interesting piece from The Political Junkie about VP speculations for Obama. While some of them were no doubt far-fetched (e.g. Obama-Lieberman, Obama-Nader, etc.), others were interesting if not all similarly themed. The new ideas floating around involve many older white Senators including Patty Murray (D-WA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Joe Biden (D-DE), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), etc. Now if I am not mistaken, there was quite a surprise when not one, but BOTH of the nominees were chosen while serving in the Senate. The last time a sitting Senator became President was JFK so why does everyone assume that Obama will choose one of his Senatorial co-workers? As interesting as a Vice President Murray may in fact be, I see this as beyond the realm of possibilities. Even more strategic choices like Barbara Boxer (D-CA) or Sherrod Brown (D-OH) seem unlikely. Obama must choose someone with some clout, gravitas, etc. but I highly doubt that s/he will come from the Senate. This is why I was not at all surprised to see Jim Webb (D-VA) remove his name from consideration. Sure he had a lot to add, what with being Sec. of the Navy under Reagan and such, but a Senator with even less experience than Obama? Come on.

Oh and PS, Dems would probably hate the idea of losing their slim majority in the Senate, so they probably wouldn't like to take a popular Senator away from a swing state.

My money is still on NM Gov. Bill Richardson or a former member of the Armed Services. Because of the hoo-ha surrounding the Clinton-Richardson break, I don't know if it would make the best choice for Obama, but come on, didn't anyone watch the West Wing? Jimmy Smitts proved how important the Latino/a vote can be. He did choose Leo McGarry (an elder statesman) as his VP though. I guess there is a lot to consider, but I'm pretty sure we can rule out the 48 Democratic Senators from consideration. (oh and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) too)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Senate Races in OR and NM

Two interesting Senate races are heating up as we approach mid summer. The first is close to home for me and involves a moderate Republican incumbent fighting to keep his seat in a pretty blue state. My family still lives just across the Columbia River from Portland, OR where Gordon Smith has employed some pretty unusual campaign tactics in his quest to beat out Democratic Speaker of the Oregon House Jeff Merkley. Instead of using Barack Obama's name in an attempt to tie Merkley to the "elitist, out of touch" candidate like was done in other House races, Smith is actually tying himself to Obama. Watch this new ad where he touts "bipartisan partnership" with the Democratic nominee.

How many people think this approach will work? He also cites praise from the Democratic Gov. of Oregon, Ted Kulongoski. It may be a long-shot, but moderates in Oregon just may not care whether he is a Democrat or a Republican. We will have to see how this race is shaping up, but because it is widely expected that Obama will carry the state come November, it seems safe for Smith to hedge his bets with some Democratic voters.

The other race is in New Mexico which is tending blue-ish these days. The amazing thing about this seat is that it was left vacant by the retirement of Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM). He has been under investigation for his role in the firing of Justice Department Attorney David Iglesias and chose not to run for reelection. While that isn't so shocking, his hand-picked successor, Heather Wilson was highly favored to win the Republican primary until the other Republican congressman from NM joined the race and beat her by some 3,200 votes. Steve Pearce is arguably much more conservative than Wilson and may make the general election fight easier for Tom Udall, the Democratic Nominee, to win. There have been indications that the NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Comittee) may cut funding and divert resources into other races like Louisiana, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Maine or Minnesota. We will see whether or not the GOP cuts its losses with Pearce or whether it pushes hard for a much needed win in November.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Who Will Be the Next Mr/s. Vice President?

With the horse-race drama of the Democratic nominating contest finally over the news media has been racking their collective brains to discern the next big piece of political chatter (steering clear of the actual political news such as policy proposals, etc.); namely the next VP. I might as well give my 2 cents.

Certainly there has been speculation about the possibility of Sen. Clinton on Obama's ticket but I think even the Clinton's themselves knew that they had to keep her willingness to take such a spot on the down-low. For one thing most people know that Obama and Clinton aren't bffs and the bitterness (no pun intended) on both sides over the drawn-out nominating contest surely hasn't fully abated just yet. If she makes a fuss about being willing to take the #2 spot and doesn't get it, Obama looks spiteful and petty if he doesn't pick her. Worse yet if he were to pick her it would appear to many as if he were bowing to her wishes because she has so much sway in the party. Well, putting aside for a moment the amount of sway she actually DOES have, the nominee can't be seen as following the VP's footsteps. Thankfully the talk of such a ticket has died down. If he were to surprise everyone and pick her after a period of healing silence on the subject, her followers would almost certainly jump on board (if they haven't already). I very much doubt that this is an option however. For one thing no one wants their predecessor looking over their shoulder and making a face when they don't agree on a decision is being made and that is nearly unavoidable with a Clinton in the White House. Second of all the sheer amount of footage of the two of them berating each other would be a GOP hayday. I can just see the campaign spots with Hillary and Ted Strickland waving pamphlets and shouting "Shame on you, Barack Obama!" followed by a smiling John McCain. It's not pretty.

Along with the things mentioned above, there are plenty of reasons for and against adding Sen. Clinton to the ticket, but as far as I'm concerned, the cons far outweigh the pros. The same spot mentioned above, and the Sherman-esque statement he recently made, also seem to disqualify Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Plus judging from the way he had run his campaign and the people with whom he surrounds himself, it seems pretty clear that Obama won't pick a running mate just to win over a swing state. To be sure, Obama wants to win in Ohio, but he is also aware that he wants to completely redraw the electoral map. From his convention speech in 2004 it was clear that he was not comfortable with red states and blue states and by setting his sights on places like New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa, he appears to be seeking out voters on all fronts. It remains to be seen whether this is a prudent strategy. Those of us who were amazed at the 9-10% loss he suffered in Pennsylvania know that he can't win everywhere he wants to. Many of us would have liked to see him blow off Scranton and the rural areas and focus on getting every single Philadelphian to vote. Unfortunately he wanted to appeal across the board and it backfired...bad.

That would seem to strike Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell from consideration too, but I'm not quite ready to count him out just yet. He's Jewish which is a plus, he's amiable, he supported Clinton and he appeals to the WWC (white working class) that Obama needs to sway. Unfortunately, he supported Clinton, and not just while she was still in the race. In an NPR interview after Hillary conceded, Rendell still made it clear that Hillary would have been the stronger candidate. Excuse me? Who cares? Maybe he was on loan from the Clintons to boost her appeal as VP, but playing sore loser doesn't bode well for a VP nomination.

Everyone says that we should look at those 'also-rans' from this election cycle but I find many of them too unlikely to consider. Chris Dodd (Sen. Connecticut) is a great guy, has been standing up to the Bush Admin about telecom immunity, endorsed Obama early and seems to be on good terms with the nominee. Unfortunately he isn't the picture of youth, is a Senator from a small New England state that Obama will carry regardless and has been in Washington for ages. That isn't the image the Dems want to portray. Joe Biden (Sen. Delaware) has many of the same cons but brings strong foreign policy creds. Most people see him as the next Secretary of State and I happen to agree. I would love to see Dennis Kucinich (Rep. Ohio) as VP but I think I would probably be in the minority with that opinion and anyone who would vote for Dennis will be voting for Barack anyway. John Edwards is a name that confounds me. People see him as a natural because he's been there before and appeals to the WWC. The downside is that he's been there before and was utterly useless. He didn't even deliver his home state or any southern state for Kerry in '04. Regardless of the fact that there were other things in play during that election I think that Barack would have to be crazy to even consider him. Props to John for saying that he wasn't interested. Some rumors have been circulating that he's more interested in Attorney General anyway. That would probably be a good pick, but that's not what we're dealing with in this post.

The only 'also-ran' that I think has any real viability is Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico. It's obvious that Barack wants to make inroads in the west and pick up some of those states that barely went GOP in the last elections. As the only Hispanic governor it seems obvious that he has to be in consideration and it would really help having his expertise on energy since the high gas prices aren't going anyway anytime soon and certainly not before Nov. It seems perfect, a funny, candid, amiable governor from an important state who gets along well with the candidate, have lots of foreign policy and energy creds. What could go wrong? Answer: Hillary. Some Hillary supporters are pissed at Richardson and won't be getting over his "betrayal" anytime soon. James Carville's notorious "Judas" comment along with the obvious frustration of Bill and Hillary means that if Barack really wants to mend things with the old guard he probably shouldn't run alongside the Clinton's public enemy #1. If he makes some other concessions like appointing Hillary as Secretary of Health and Human Services (if she's even interested), it may be possible, but until those wounds are healed, it would be wrong to get too chummy with the Gov. from NM.

Some other names that have been floating around are Sam Nunn (fmr. Sen. Georgia), General Wes Clark and Chuck Hagel (Sen. Nebraska). The pros for Nunn include formidable foreign policy cred and a chance to pick up Georgia thanks to the spoiler votes of Bob Barr's Libertarian candidacy. It remains to be seen whether the two of them actually get along at all, plus the added contention that GLBT Dems would face thanks to Nunn's support of DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I don't know if that has ever been a real big worry for Barack, but still it may cause some uproar. God knows that GLBT Dems haven't really been consulted before, but with the resentfulness surrounding Hillary's (we gays love Hillary, don't ask me why...we just do) drop-out it may be tough to mobilize that block to vote for an Obama/Nunn ticket.

Wes Clark may be an option, but there is not enough information about the rapport between the two of them to make any solid predictions. It would obviously give the ticket some foreign policy muscle, but it wouldn't really bring any new regions into play electorally. Sorry Oklahoma, I don't think you're turning blue this time around.

Chuck Hagel might just be the most interesting choice I've ever considered. If it seems strange that Barack would consider the formidable Republican, that's because it is. I wouldn't put it past him, however, and it may be something that Obama just might do. Sure there are obvious drawbacks such as the fact that he's a Republican and has voted like a Republican on any number of issues other than the Iraq War. Would Obama really run with someone who didn't support the SCHIP? There would be a lot of explaining to do just to add an anti-war Republican to his ticket. Plus can Obama really hope to win Nebraska? Still, it's worth a thought.

The other candidates like Jim Webb (Sen. Virginia), Kathleen Sebelius (Gov. Kansas), Janet Napolitano (Gov. Arizona) and Evan Bayh (Sen. Indiana) all seem like potentially viable, but all come up short in big ways. Webb is a newbie in the Senate and isn't always on message but then again Obama does want to win Virginia, and he wants it bad. Sebelius is a woman (yay) but it may irk some Hillary supporters to see him pick a woman other that their girl, plus, did anyone see the response to the State of the Union? Yawn. And Kansas? Yawn again. Napolitano seems like a great fit. Woman, funny, wildly popular, governor from out west. Downside? Well she's single and that stigma may not go away. Plus she's from Arizona and so is McCain. It may makes things interesting and put McCain on the defensive in his own backyard. Bayh is popular in Indiana but it think it would be difficult for Obama to pick another Senator, plus Indiana probably won't swing his way regardless.

As you can see there are several options, and that's just the Democratic side of things. I could speculate on the GOP but to be perfectly honest, I just don't care that much. Look for a new post about the possible Dem pickups in the Senate to come soon.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I'm rather sad to admit that this is the first time that I have been politically motivated enough to participate in a presidential primary election. Of course I have voted before but the primary process has usually been completed before voting began in WA, the state where I grew up. It was not only the historic nature of the candidates that attracted me to the process, but the essential differences in direction placed before our country. People who will tell me that they either "Like them both" or "Don't really like either or them" in reference to the two major party candidates astound me. I certainly couldn't care less whether you like John McCain or not, but you must understand that there are major philosophical differences between him and Barack Obama.

That is one of the major problems with the political process, namely that people have become so apathetic towards politics (and politicians) in general that they cannot see the ramifications of their ballot choice. Take the election of 2004 for example. By then it was fairly clear that the Iraq War was not about to end anytime soon, civil liberties had begun to be rolled back especially for combatants, deception and manipulation was everywhere. Along comes a Democratic candidate with little charisma, some Washington clout and he loses. Sure voter fraud in Ohio is one thing, but what made those millions of Americans think to themselves, "Eh, Kerry is just as bad as Bush." I guess the mentality of 'the Devil you know is better than the Devil you don't' had settled in, but it is entirely something else when that particular 'Devil' has the option of going to war and revoking Habeas Corpus.

Just imagine the differences between the two nominees for this fall and on top of that factor in the political philosophies of each. John McCain is not an evil person, he is not a neocon(servative), he does not hold reactionary views on certain topics (i.e. a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage), or many of the other aspects of the Bush administration that so many find repulsive. The main safety pin holding him to his would-be predecessor is the Iraq War. I will be the first to admit that the current POTUS and VPOTUS are certainly wrong and morally reprehensible when it comes to their dealing (and fraudulent beginning) of the war. Now I cannot say whether or not Sen. McCain would have gone to war in the first place, but my instincts say that he probably would not have, at least not for the same reasons that the Bush Administration had employed. The main difference now is that the country is becoming more and more adamant about bringing the troops home from overseas.

As a radically liberal Democrat, sometimes it pains me to admit that the language used by my party about the withdrawal has been so Americentric. I agree with the position that the troops need to come home immediately, but not necessarily for the reasons given. Any political stump speech invariably hold the phrase "blank check to the Iraqi government" as a motivation for bringing our military forces home. Sometimes I wonder if politicians remember that it was the American force that put that government into place initially. If anyone is to blame for the impotence of the Iraqi governmental structure, it is us. Think about it, if the Americans (and British for that matter) really wanted access to oil revenue from a "free" Iraq, they could not put a powerful Prime Minister into place who might deny them that access. Instead they installed a puppet regime that would allow them access and also allows the Democratic party to beat up on someone who is trying to do the impossible. Why don't Democrats vocalize the fact that the war is killing innocent Iraqis, costing billions of American dollars, virtually annihilating any sense of Iraqi infastructure, and harming American troops? That would be enough to make me realize that at least something different has to be done in place of our continued strategy of "blow it up, rebuild it, blow it up again." The language of blaming the Iraqi government for the failings of the American foregin policy simply baffles me. Sure it is politically expedient to blame Nuri al-Malaki for George Bush's failings, but is it accurate? We destroy thousands of buildings, roads, bridges, and kill hundreds of thousands and suddenly the fault is on the Iraqis for not trying hard enough to calm their people down? Can anyone remember that it took the American colonists from 1776 until 1789 to ratify our Constitution? And that was without the British standing on every streetcorner brandishing their rifles. Sure the analogy doesn't fit, but the point is this, you cannot blame Iraqis for being angry at their invadors, President Bush himself admitted that one. When violence begets violence it doesn't matter whether or not the American were the one who destroyed the market or bombed the Mosque, the citizenry of Iraq will continue to resent American presence in Iraq until our soldiers exchange their rifles for rice bags; their weapons for water. Of course that doesn't make the best political point, but neither does the truth, that you cannot ravage someone's country and then blame the ensuing chaos of them.

The other major policy shared by Sen. McCain and Pres. Bush is the economy. More than anything, this may destroy Sen. McCain's chances in the fall. If things begin to turn around again then he may have a chance, but the unpopular war coupled with the recession spells trouble for the incumbent party. Tax cuts for the wealthy have somehow morphed from completely insane to the law of the land. Anyone who seeks to reverse them is painted as a tax collector, tax and spend liberal, etc. Somehow I don't think that those arguments will be especially persuasive, but they may be in some areas.

Of course there are other differences between Sens. Obama and McCain namely healthcare, education, the environment, and foreign policy in places other than Iraq. Closing Guantanamo Bay, revamping the healthcare system, reworking No Child Left Behind, refusing to drill for oil in environmentally dangerous places, talking to leaders of Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and others are all important aspects of the Democratic platform. So when someone tells me that there is basically no difference between the two of them, I have plenty to argue.

The Presidential race may overshadow some other important races as well. 35 Senate seats and every seat in the House of Representatives is up for reelection this year. As many of us know, the legislature is often more important than the Executive and it is easily overlooked when the White House is in play. There are options for Democrats to pick up at least 1 and perhaps as many as 4 or 5 Senate seats this year. There is a list of the incumbent Senators up for reelection this year at the bottom of the page. Don't overlook the importance of those numbers because the closer we get to 66 Senators, the closer we get to actually getting something accomplished during the Obama administration.

Report back for other posts about the most vulnerable Senators and how the races are shaping up around the country.