Monday, January 28, 2008

The down side of Obama's South Carolina Victory

As you likely know, Barack Obama won the South Carolina primary. Big time. But, there is perhaps something troubling behind the numbers. He attracted 80% of African-American voters (who made up over 50% of total voters) while attracting only 25% of white voters. This can be seen a number of ways. First, some may suggest that South Carolina white Democrats are racist. While probably not outrightly true, they may "favor" whites over blacks. Second, some may suggest that Bill Clinton's racial discussions turned South Carolina into a race war. Third, some may suggest that Bill's mentions of race turned the entire process forward into a race war.

I like to think there isn't a race war a-brewin'. Obama has made it a prerogative to not be pigeon-holed as "the black candidate." However, it seems that Clinton (Bill, at least) is trying to do just that. Take, for instance, when he compared Obama's victory in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson's victories there in previous nominating contests. Clinton is implying, "Yeah, he won, but these South Carolinians were dumb enough to support Jesse Jackson!" Or, alternatively, "South Carolinians only voted for him because he's black." Either way, the Clintons are trying to downplay the victory.

I think the Clinton strategy has been working relatively well. Obama seems to have lost some of his sparkle and most of his momentum. I anticipate big wins for Clinton on Feb 5, although, if this really does become a race for single delegates, who knows what could happen?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Paul/Kucinich '08?

So, I was perusing the ol' Facebook yesterday, when I stumbled across a political discussion calling for Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich to team up as President and Vice President (or vice versa). Of course, I think this is a bad idea because I think they are both insane, but they are insane in completely different ways. Which brings me to a realization (I actually realized it a long time ago, but bear with me): Ron Paul's supporters have no idea what he stands for. Let's fill them in.

Indeed, as far as I can tell, Paul and Kucinich agree on the War and a few other homeland security/foreign policy related issues. And that's about it. Let's go through some issues, eh (here's a plug for - where I'm getting my information)?

Bush tax cuts

Kucinich - repeal for top 1%
Paul - make permanent

Tax code reform

Kucinich - work with existing system
Paul - cuts everywhere

Estate tax

Kucinich - keep
Paul - repeal

Capital gains tax rate

Kucinich - increase
Paul - lower

Cap-and-trade system

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

Nuclear power?

Kucinich - no
Paul - yes

Raise CAFE standards?

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

Support ANWR drilling?

Kucinich - no
Paul - yes


Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

Mandatory healthcare coverage?

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

2007 SCHIP expansion

Kucinich - supported
Paul - opposed

Border fence?

Kucinich - no
Paul - yes

Path to citizenship for illegal immigrants?

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

Abortion legality

Kucinich - yes (using Roe standards)
Paul - leave to states

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

Kucinich - no
Paul - yes

Fed. Funding for Stem Cell Research

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

Increase Minimum Wages

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

Close Corporate Tax Loopholes

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

Increase farm subsidies

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

Partial Privatization of Social Security

Kucinich - no
Paul - yes

Increase the cap for income taxed for SS?

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

Gun control

Kucinich - require licenses
Paul - no further restrictions

Assault Weapons Ban

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

Same-sex marriage?

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

Civil Unions?

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

"Don't ask, don't tell"

Kucinich - no
Paul - yes

Increase social welfare programs?

Kucinich - yes
Paul - no

There, I hope we have enlightened any of you who thought a Paul/Kucinich or Kucinich/Paul Administration would be a good idea. Please learn what your candidates stand for before giving them your support. Don't simply support a candidate because he is "trendy."

Although, "The Adventures of Ron and Dennis" could make for an entertaining reality show if this writers' strike doesn't get resolved.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

But at least he looks good on Law and Order

In light of Fred Thompson's poor showing thus far in the Republican primaries, a Thompson staffer from an early primary state dishes the dirt:

Here are some other things missing from the campaign:
1) a finance chair
2) a clear chain of command
3) top-down loyalty
4) a candidate who was willing to campaign for more than 4 hours at day
5) direct mail
6) a college student coordinator
7) a media strategy
Other than that, the campaign had everything.

How John Edwards is Hindering Change

During the New Hampshire debate, it was clear that John Edwards considered Barack Obama something of an ally in his fight for change and that he considered Hillary Clinton no more than a determined advocate of the status quo. Well, John Edwards, by stubbornly refusing to get out of this race (maybe he'll bail after South Carolina), is giving the status quo pretty good odds of prevailing.

It's rather simple, really. The Democrats are divided into two camps: the ones who want change and the ones who trust the establishment (of course it isn't really that simple, but that's how the media is spinning it, so bear with me). Well, the change voters have two candidates to pick from: Barack Obama and John Edwards. The establishment voters have only Hillary. So, by splitting the "change" vote, Edwards is giving Hillary a better shot at victory. Polls have shown that Edwards supporters overwhelmingly choose Obama as their second choice. So, if Edwards were to drop out, Obama would see a huge jump in his numbers, probably securing the nomination in the process.

If John Edwards is sincere in his call for change, he will drop out of the race as soon as possible in order to actually give change a fighting chance. On the other hand, if he wasn't lying when he said he was in this until the convention, then all my bets are on Hillary getting the nomination.

Who knows, maybe Obama will offer Edwards the veep spot if he agrees to drop out.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Future Is Bright

So says Alexander Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution:

People used to think that more population was bad for growth. In this view, people are stomachs--they eat, leaving less for everyone else. But once we realize the importance of ideas in the economy, people become brains--they innovate, creating more for everyone else....

In the 20th century, two world wars diverted the energy of two generations from production to destruction. When the horrors ended, the world was left hobbled and split. Communism isolated much of the world, reducing trade in goods and ideas--to everyone's detriment. World poverty meant that the U.S. and a few other countries shouldered the burdens of advancing knowledge nearly alone.

The battles of the 20th century were not fought in vain. Trade, development and the free flow of people and ideas are uniting all of humanity, maximizing the incentives and the means to produce new ideas. This gives us reason to be highly optimistic about the future.

The main thrust of Tabarrok's argument is that economic development worldwide will drive technological development and help all of mankind. However, his point that more people = more innovation can also apply to situations within individual nations. I guess it's a good thing, then, that the United States is experiencing a baby boomlet:
The fertility rate among Americans has climbed to its highest level since 1971, setting the country apart from most industrialized nations that are struggling with low birthrates and aging populations.

This also reminds me of the one of the most fantastically bad policy arguments put forward in recent memory:

A WEST Australian medical expert wants families to pay a $5000-plus "baby levy" at birth and an annual carbon tax of up to $800 a child.

Writing in today's Medical Journal of Australia, Associate Professor Barry Walters said every couple with more than two children should be taxed to pay for enough trees to offset the carbon emissions generated over each child's lifetime.

Walters looks at children purely as consumers of natural resources. Tabarrok's article, however, reminds us that these children could well be the ones to discover a new source of alternative energy or some other environmental breakthrough. Currently, the Australian government gives new parents a $4133 baby bonus. Now that is a smart policy. A vibrant Australia with a birthrate at least at the replacement level would certainly be better positioned to deal with the environmental challenges of the 21st century than a rapidly aging Australia burdened with a shrinking population and a crippling dependency ratio (which would be the inevitable fruit of Walter's policy). This lesson can apply to any developed nation. Have babies! It's good for the environment!*

*Eventually. On average. After all, maybe your baby will be a dim-witted, carbon-dioxide emitting machine. Like me! But if enough people have babies, someone's going to pop out an Einstein sooner or later.

What is this, 1980?: A Look at the Reagan Factor

It seems every Republican debate and stump speech has turned into a "Reagan Off," a test of courage to see who can invoke the name of our Dear Lord, Ronald Reagan, the most.

There is no clear winner yet.

So, what's with the nostalgia over Reagan? Well, rumor has it the so-called "Reagan Coalition" (although, I would suggest that Nixon had more to do with building the modern Republican party than Reagan, but I guess Republicans don't want to idolize Nixon...) is falling apart. This coalition is loosely composed of three groups of people. The CEOs, the Bible Thumpers, and the Warmongers. In the recent past, Republican candidates have been able to satisfy all three crowds. George W. Bush, for instance, is a businessman who feigns Evangelical Christianity while promoting hawkish policies. Everyone is happy.

Too bad for them W has to go. This coalition has not been able to rally around a nominee. Mike Huckabee satisfies the Bible Thumpers, but the CEOs hate him (what is this populism bullshit!?). John McCain plays well to hawkish crowds, but the Jesus Freaks and the businessfolk don't trust him (he's against tax cuts and he likes gays! Or something...). Mitt Romney, the penultimate Businessman, can't win over evangelicals ("Don't Mormons believe that the devil is Jesus' brother?" - Mike Huckabee) and he doesn't have the military experience that the hawks like.

So, what is a Republican to do? Invoke the name of Reagan, of course! I think the logic here is that by repeating Reagan's name, a candidate might be able to fool these factions into thinking he is the most like Reagan and thus able to hold the coalition together.

I think Mitt Romney could come the closest to holding the coalition together. While he lacks military experience, he at least speaks in a hawkish manner ("Let's double Gitmo! YEEHAW!") And while evangelicals don't really trust him, he does promote very evangelical arguments. So, if the coalition gives Romney a chance, he might be able to hold it together.

But, of course, it's worth noting that Mitt Romney couldn't beat Pee Wee Herman in a general election. So, I don't know what the Republicans can do.

I guess wait eight years until America is sick of Democrats and try again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Speaking of Insanity....

Ladies and gentlemen, Mike Huckabee:

He says: “I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”

Words fail me.

UPDATE 1: When he talks about changing the Constitution, Huckabee is specifically referring to constitutional amendments to outlaw gay marriage and abortion.

UPDATE 2: The Republican establishment is petrified at the thought of Huckabee winning the nomination. Business conservatives and so-called national security hawks within the Republican party have been happy to use the religious right to win elections. But they certainly do not want them in charge. Here's a choice quote from Andy McCarthy of NRO:

Huckabee is made to order for the Left: his rhetoric embodies their heretofore lunatic indictment that we're no better that what we're fighting against. Let's "amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards"? Who needs to spin when the script speaks for itself? Where has Huck been for the last seven years? Does he not get that our enemies — the people who want to end our way of life — believe they are simply imposing God's standards?

More Evidence of Dr. Ron Paul's Insanity

I've thought for quite some time that Dr. Ron Paul is insane. For me, it only took a brief look into his archaic views of economics and the constitution (I guess Dr. Paul wants to go back in time to when the Supreme Court defended the "right" to employing children in coal mines). For many of my peers, though, Dr. Paul's views have struck a chord (I really can't figure out why).

Well, more proof has emerged that he really is, and has been for quite some time, insane. In the past, Dr. Ron has published the Ron Paul Political Report, the Ron Paul Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report, and the Ron Paul Investment Letter. These newsletters have been found to contain many troubling (to say the least) passages. One refers to Dr. Martin Luther King as "a world-class adulterer," a "lying socialist satyr," and "the man who replaced the evil of forced segregation with the evil of forced integration."


This one speaks praises of David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the KKK.

In 1990, Al Sharpton and some friends staged a rally in favor of renaming New York City after Martin Luther King. Now, renaming such a major city after anyone (no matter how great) seems rather foolish to me, but the Ron Paul Political Report took it a step (or twenty) farther. The article suggested that NYC be renamed "Welfaria," "Zooville," "Rapetown," "Dirtburg," or "Lazyopolis" instead.

Apparently Dr. Paul doesn't just hate blacks. He hates gays, too. In the Political Report, he writes, "I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities." He continues, "The largest blood bank in San Francisco succumbed to political pressure and holds blood drives in the gay Castro district, where people give at three times the usual level. Either they are public spirited, or they are trying to poison the blood supply." (emphasis added)

In the Survival Report, he writes that gays try to get AIDS because "they enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick.

Naturally, Dr. Paul claims no knowledge of these articles.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Word or Two on Racial Tensions

Up until recently, the biggest "racial moment" in this election season occurred months ago when Joe Biden called Barack Obama "clean," sending Al Sharpton into something of a tizzy while Obama politely took it as a compliment. Well, that's all changed. And in such a historic election, we knew it would.

I'm sure you've heard about Hillary Clinton's remarks about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lyndon Johnson (find a refresher here). In short, she stated that it took a well-seasoned politician (LBJ) to get the dreamer's (MLK's) ideas put into action. So, she is LBJ, and Obama is MLK? Or, she is LBJ, the Democratic Party is MLK, and Obama is... I don't know what. Either way, comparing one's self to Lyndon Baines Johnson does not seem like a wise strategy.

So, anyway, the Obama campaign is saying that Hillary (and Bill, too) are downplaying the importance of civil rights activists like Dr. King. Hillary is saying that she is simply being pragmatic, that Dr. King was a great man with great ideas, but those ideas needed someone sympathetic to the cause within the system in order to get them to become a reality.

Really, Hillary is right. Civil rights legislation wouldn't have been passed without a president fighting for it. But, there's an important caveat: a president wouldn't have been fighting for it without activists like Dr. King fighting for it. So, it's rather circular. MLK wants change, pressures LBJ. LBJ enacts change. LBJ wouldn't enact change without MLK's pressure. So, who is really responsible for civil rights legislation?

It's a stupid question, isn't it?

Sure is. The answer doesn't really matter, and Hillary was rather stupid for throwing the question out there in the first place. I mean, come on! It's basically as if she is saying "Hey, you remember that famous civil rights activist, MLK? Yeah, I don't want to be like him. I want to be like that guy who tried to take credit for his work."

Seriously. Comparing yourself to LBJ? What the Hell is the matter with you, Hillary? You'd be better off continuing your habit of taking credit for your husband's eight years.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

On the Michigan Primaries

With the Michigan Primaries coming up, Michigan Democrats will have some interesting choices. The DNC stripped the state of all its delegates and the only Democratic candidate on the ballot is Hillary, although, she isn't actively campaigning (Michigan broke some Democratic Party rules and got bitch slapped, as it were). However, the other candidates are telling their supporters to vote "uncommitted," as these delegates (assuming the DNC gives them their power back) will not be committed to any candidate and can thus vote for Obama, Edwards, or whomever. Plus, wouldn't it be a smack in the face for Hillary to lose to "uncommitted?"

Kos, in his mischievous way, has another plan. He wants Democrats to vote for Romney.

Meanwhile, poor Mitt Romney, who’s suffered back-to-back losses in the last week, desperately needs to win Michigan in order to keep his campaign afloat. Bottom line, if Romney loses Michigan, he's out. If he wins, he stays in.

And we want Romney in, because the more Republican candidates we have fighting it out, trashing each other with negative ads and spending tons of money, the better it is for us. We want Mitt to stay in the race, and to do that, we need him to win in Michigan.

Not to mention that if Mitt somehow continues on to win the nomination, this will benefit Democrats. National polls have shown that Mitt is one of the weakest candidates that the Republicans have. If he gets the nod, I have complete confidence that the Democrats will win. Now, if McCain gets the nod, I would bet on the Republicans winning. But I'm not a betting man.

I'm not sure Kos' logic makes all that much sense, though. First off, there are no indications that the Democratic nomination will be settled any time soon. On This Week this morning, George Stephanopoulos said that there's a theory going around that the Democratic nomination won't be settled until April 22 -- Pennsylvania's primary (here's hoping). So, if the Democrats are still duking it out, there won't be much of a difference. Granted, I guess he would argue that both parties being in disarray is better than the Democrats being in disarray while the Republicans are settled. But, I'm not so sure of that logic, either.

For once, I think I actually agree with Newt Gingrich. On This Week, he noted how easily Americans get bored. If the Democrats are settled on a candidate after February 5 (which I doubt), people will get bored with the candidate. I don't think inter-party (or is it intra-party?) conflict is a bad thing. Having a lot of choices can be exciting. And it's good for the political process.

So, I'm not so sure I agree with Kos' strategy. Although, I have to admit, it would be rather funny to see the pundits discussing how Romney's victory came at the hands of Democrats. I wonder how Mitt would handle that hot potato...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kerry Endorses Obama

Senator John Kerry plans to endorse Barack Obama. I'm not sure what point these Senate endorsements have except for creating possibly awkward moments in halls of the Capitol.

Hillary: "Hello, John."
John: "Oh Hillary, hi! You know, I really like you, but it's just that, Obama, you know... he's so... fresh and vibrant."
Hillary: "Oh, and I'm stale and dull?"
John: "No, no! You're... you're lovely. It's just... Uhh... I have to go make a speech."

Honestly, how many people are going to be swayed by John Kerry? I once read that there is a John Kerry Fan Club, and it only has one member: John Kerry. I mean, I guess the point is to show that presumably credible people (again, we're talking about John Kerry, so this is up for debate) support a given candidate. Indeed, they're willing to risk said credibility on such an endorsement. I mean, if it was found out that Obama was a mass-murdering illegal immigrant, endorsers could be harmed, too. I don't see this as much of a risk, though.

So, I guess it's all for show. We get to see Obama embracing and joking with this elder statesman, which I guess could be good for his campaign? Perhaps it could say "Hey, we're not just a bunch of young morons like the Ron Paul campaign!"

But, really, are old morons any better than young morons?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Even though he lost, Obama gets the same number of delegates as Hillary in NH

Despite the fact that Hillary won the New Hampshire Democratic primary, she and Barack Obama will receive the same number of delegates to the party's nominating convention:

Sen. Hillary Clinton picked up nine delegates after winning Tuesday's New Hampshire Democratic primary by almost 8,000 votes. Sen. Barack Obama, who finished in second place, also earned nine delegates. Wait a second—since Clinton won, how come she didn't get more delegates?

Rounding and remainders. Democratic presidential candidates gain delegates in each state as long as they capture at least 15 percent of the votes, and they're awarded delegates in proportion to the amount of votes they receive in each district and statewide. New Hampshire had 22 delegates up for grabs this week. Clinton, who received 39 percent of the vote, got 39 percent of the delegates. Obama, who won 37 percent of the vote, got 37 percent of the delegates. That rounds down to eight delegates each. John Edwards, who just made the cutoff with 17 percent of the vote, received three delegates. This leaves three extra delegates, who are then allocated to the three candidates in turn.
I'm sure that there are lots of good reasons that the parties don't do something crazy like use a simple popular vote to determine their nominees. I just can't think of any right now.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Germany goes wild for Obama

Yes, Germany. Check out this post over at the Caucus for a taste of how electing Obama president could affect the world's view of America:

Germany has developed a serious case of Obama-mania.

Barack Obama’s high standing in Germany goes beyond his opposition to the unpopular war in Iraq. The country’s sudden crush is bound up with near-constant comparisons here between the young senator from Illinois and President John F. Kennedy Jr. – still admired in Germany and particularly in Berlin.

The Berliner Morgenpost over the weekend ran with the headline, “The New Kennedy.” The tabloid Bild declared, “This Black American has become the new Kennedy!” And the headline for the editorial in the Frankfurter Rundschau read simply: “Lincoln, Kennedy, Obama.
Electing Obama won't make anti-Americanism disappear. (I believe that a lot of anti-Americanism exists simply because of our sheer economic, military, and cultural weight, not just because of specific actions or who the president is.) But it certainly could make an impact.

.... Or Not

Huckabee's campaign just released a statement:

I do not support an amendment to the constitution that would prevent children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens from automatically becoming American citizens. I have no intention of supporting a constitutional amendment to deny birthright citizenship.

Well, well. It looks like Huckabee's "top immigration surrogate" got carried away in that interview with the Washington Times reporter.

Huckabee wants to end birthright citizenship

According to the Washington Times:

Mike Huckabee wants to amend the Constitution to prevent children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens from automatically becoming American citizens, according to his top immigration surrogate — a radical step no other major presidential candidate has embraced.
Birthright citizenship may, at the margins, encourage a few more illegal immigrants to come to the United States. However, the vast majority of immigration decisions are made from a more immediate economic calculation: a comparison of wages in the source and destination countries (ie, immigrants come to America because they can earn more money here).

Most European nations do not have birthright citizenship. In the past few decades, Europe has received an unprecedented number of immigrants. Large-scale immigration to Europe has provided the continent with large economic benefits, but at the cost of significant unrest. Europe has a great deal of difficulty assimilating immigrants into its societies. America, on the other hand, has traditionally been able to reap the economic benefits of immigration while assimilating immigrants. One of the reasons that we're so good at assimilating immigrants is birthright citizenship. The sons and daughters of our immigrants (including, yes, the illegal ones) become full-fledged members of American society. Ending birthright citizenship wouldn't end illegal immigration. It would simply result in the growth of a marginalized, discontented, unassimilated underclass.

First every candidate and their grandmother was proposing a guest worker system. (Ask the Germans how well that worked out for them.) Now Mike Huckabee wants to end birthright citizenship. I have an idea for the candidates: Don't propose any immigration policy "solution" that has proven to be a disaster in multiple European countries.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The GOP Candidates as High School Stereotypes

An absolutely fascinating post from Time's Michael Scherer:

Here's one thing you need to know about John McCain. He's always been the
coolest kid in school. He was the brat who racked up demerits at the Naval
Academy. He was the hot dog pilot who went back to the skies weeks after almost
dying in a fire on the U.S.S. Forrestal. His first wife was a model. His second
wife was a rich girl, 17 years his junior. He kept himself together during years
of North Vietnamese torture and solitary confinement. When he sits in the back
of his campaign bus, we reporters gather like kids in the cafeteria huddling
around the star quarterback. We ask him tough questions, and we try to make him
slip up, but almost inevitably we come around to admiring him. He wants the
challenge. He likes the give and take. He is, to put it simply, cooler than us.

Now here's the thing you need to know about Mitt Romney. He is the
overachiever, the do-gooder, the kid in class who always does everything right.
All his life he has outperformed, as a Mormon missionary in France, as a
corporate takeover consultant, as the guy who saved the Winter Olympics from
financial ruin. He works crazy hours and apologizes after he makes a joke,
because he is worried you won't understand his meaning. He is the one who takes
endless notes in every class and has a little plastic container inside his
locker for all of his mechanical pencils. He will probably be the valedictorian,
and he will surely disappoint you at graduation by giving a bland speech that
all the parents just love. "Isn't that boy so sweet," say all the moms.

In case you're wondering, Scherer manages to squeeze Huckabee in there too:

He is the class clown with the weight problem everyone likes...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Fall of Rudy

This will be a very brief post, as I just want to share with you a poll I came across. Rasmussen Reports has been testing hypothetical match-ups for the general election. Typically, Giuliani has done the best among the Republicans (even managing to beat Hillary and Obama in some polls), while Romney has done the worst. Well, these results show something interesting.

In a hypothetical match-up of Obama v. Romney, Obama garners 45% while Romney snags 39%. A pretty hefty defeat, if I do say so. However, when we consider Obama v. Giuliani, Obama garners 47% while Giuliani only gets 37%. So what does this mean? It would seem to mean that independent voters or wary Republicans are more likely to support Romney than Giuliani. This could be because Giuliani's approval rating has dropped 30% (from 70% to 40%) in less than a year.

I'm ready to make another prediction: Rudy Giuliani will not be the Republican nominee for President.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Concerning Concessions

John Edwards and Hillary Clinton gave us two very interesting, very different concession speeches. Both have reflected the candidates' style throughout this campaign.

First, Edwards offered up a shout-fest not unlike Howard Dean's infamous post-Iowa speech/scream. At one point, Johnny started to list the states that his campaign would continue on in, and I sat waiting for a "Yeeeargh!" Alas, it did not come. But, nonetheless, the tone of the speech was as combative as Edwards has been throughout this whole thing. Indeed, one would not have even thought this was a concession speech given Edwards' discussion of success and lack of mention of that guy who actually succeeded. Yes, in a move that showed Mr. Edwards' lack of class, he did not congratulate Barack Obama on his victory. After he said "thank you" and "God bless you," he finally referenced his loss (after being reminded by Elizabeth, apparently), saying rather smugly "Thanks for second place." While this speech won't go down in history like Dean's did, I think it effectively marks the end of Edwards political future, at least as far as the presidency is concerned.

Hillary gave a much calmer, and really much better concession speech. She did not speak of her own success (or lack of) like Edwards, but spoke of the success of the Democratic party. The Democratic turnout was amazing (twice what it was in 2004), showing that Democrats are excited about this election. Republican turnout was lackluster. If "purple" states like Iowa can get high Democrat turnouts in November as well, this election will be in the bag. Anyway, Hillary spoke of "us" as Democrats while still maintaining her own personal image. This dichotomy has defined her campaign (and seems to have stumped it). She is trying to suggest that all Democrats are alike and a Democratic victory in November is all that matters. At the same time, though, she is trying to suggest that she is the best candidate. It is rather confusing. It is if she were saying "These results show a bright light at the end of the tunnel for Democrats, even if that isn't me. But, it should be me!" I think her split personalities (i.e. "We're all the same" v. "I'm better!" and "I'm the candidate of change" v. "I'm the establishment candidate") will be her undoing. She needs a unifying theme, and she needs it quick.

I'm not ready to predict an Obama victory in New Hampshire yet (indeed, if I had to make a prediction today, I'd give it to Hillary), but I think Hillary is in trouble.

And that makes me happy. This reminds me, I don't know if I've ever expounded why I favor Obama. So let me do that.

I have a rather unorthodox view of the presidency. While I recognize the great power that comes with the office, I also recognize that a lot of that power is symbolic, and that power isn't simply to be put to use in "getting stuff done." The president isn't simply the Chief Politico. Rather, he (or she) is (or should be) a symbol of America. A good president should be a unifier, and if that means getting less stuff done, I'm okay with that. The president is given the duty of setting the tone for our political discourse. Edwards' "I want to steal everyone else's power!" and Hillary's "I can do things... lots of things!" are not representative of a high and lofty political discourse. Sure, Obama may be naive, and he may lack experience, but I don't think that is important. I think presidents should be a bit naive. Setting our goals too high allows us to constantly try harder and not stagnate. And experience really isn't that important. As long as a president picks experienced advisers, he'll be fine. I trust that Obama won't surround himself with morons like Bush did.

Look, if Hillary gets the nod, I'll vote for her. Ditto on Edwards. Their politics really aren't different enough for me to base a primary-level decision on "issues." So, I have to base the decision on something else. So, I've based it on tone and personality. I think Obama would be the most presidential (I use this word in a higher way than when people say "Oh, Mitt Romney looks presidential.") of the candidates. He would give us hope for change, even if that change doesn't come. Hope is important in politics. When a top tier candidate like Hillary thinks that renouncing hope in politics is a good strategy, something is wrong.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Bit of Gloating

You may remember that a couple of days ago, I announced my predictions for the Iowa Caucuses. Well, I was right. Obama and Huckabee won. I am hoping that this gives Obama the push he needs to catch up to Clinton in all those other states. If anything, it proves that Clinton doesn't have this thing clinched.

Kudos to you, Barack Obama. And you too, Mike Huckabee. Way to stick it to Mitt.

On the Quality of Candidates

The New York Times has an article about a strange phenomenon happening in Iowa. Democrats are happy with their options. Indeed, perhaps they're even too happy. While Republican Iowans seem either set on Huckabee or Romney (they've been snubbed by McCain and Giuliani), Iowa's Democrats, even those committed to a specific candidate, seem willing to consider other options. I've been experiencing much of the same, to be honest. While I consider myself part of the Obamanation, I recognize that there are other compelling candidates. This really is a strong group of candidates we've got. If the Dems can't pull a victory out of this bunch, they ought to just dissolve themselves as a party. Let's consider...

First, we have the possible History Makers, Clinton and Obama (maybe I should throw Richardson in here, but I think he belongs in a later group). Even though I am rooting against Clinton perhaps even more than I am rooting for Obama, the notion of a female President is, at the very least, interesting. It may not be "compelling," but it adds an element of excitement to the race. The same goes for Obama. The fact that we could have a black President being inaugurated in about a year is very exciting.

Next, we have the Resume (there should be an accent over that e, I know) Kings. These guys (Biden, Dodd, and Richardson) have long lists of accomplishments and probably "deserve" to be President more than the front-runners. The fact that candidates of this caliber are being snubbed should speak to the level of excitement among Democrats.

Then, we have the Wannabe RFK -- John Edwards. He's bringing back (or trying, at least) a style of populism that we haven't seen in mainstream politics since the death of RFK. I'm not too keen on Edwards these days, but I think this style of politicking is pretty compelling and makes for exciting television.

And there's the Token Kill-'em-with-Kindness, All Carrots, No Sticks, Hippie Dippie Lover of the Trees -- Dennis Kucinich. Always fun when he's around.

These folks have made for what I think is a fantastic group of candidates. Let's consider the Republicans for a moment.

First, we have Mr. 9/11. As we all know, Rudy is only in this race because he happened to be the Mayor of New York on September 11, 2001. That's his only "qualification." He claims that this "qualification" makes him the Anti-Terror Candidate. Sorry, Rudy, but having your city attacked doesn't count as military experience. You're no John McCain. Giving patriotic speeches doesn't count as valuable foreign policy experience, either. You're no Joe Biden. You're Rudy, the scumbag from New York who has grotesquely turned a national tragedy into a political windfall. For shame.

Next, we have The Latter Day Flip-Flopper who Saved the Olympics. Seriously, when your biggest accomplishment is putting on the Winter Olympics, should you really be President? Oh wait, apparently Mitt's running an ad about how he saved his friend's daughter! Mitt is a national hero!

Then there's the Varicose Frog Man. Reading about Thompson's sad romps through Iowa have made me pretty depressed. I mean, it's great that Thompson seems to be realizing that he has no business being in this race, but it's sad that even 1% (let alone 9%) of Iowans haven't caught on.

And we can't forget The Chuck Norris-Approved Pastor of Disaster. Huckabee shouldn't be lumped in with these other three, because he is slightly compelling. He brings a kind of economic populism that is unheard of in Republican circles and hey, he's funny. Kind of. Relatively speaking. Sure, generally speaking he is just a pawn of the evangelicals, but he's more compelling than most evangelical pawns.

Alas, a candidate worth supporting: John McCain. Now, if he somehow gets the nod, I sure as hell won't vote for him, but at least his candidacy makes sense. When we ask "why should you be President?" he can respond with something other than a blank stare and a line about the sanctity of family. His moderate politics are refreshing in a Republican party (and really a broader political scene) dominated by extremists.

And there are some others, but they're really not important.

So, congratulations Democrats. You've got a wide range of good choices. And Republicans, you have one, so go ahead and pick someone else. It just wouldn't be becoming to pick the good guy, right?

P.S. Here's a great op-ed about the ridiculousness of the Iowa caucuses. I was going to write a post about my hatred of the caucuses, but this summed it up better than I could.

To come: The promised discussion of primary reform and an update on Michael Bloomberg.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Some predictions and their unimportance.

I hope you readers and, perhaps more importantly, DC, will forgive my unexplained absence. Like my cohort, I too will make an effort to blog more often this year. On with the post.

The Des Moines Register (which made the nearly unforgivable mistake of endorsing Hillary for no other reason than that she is a Washington insider -- but I suppose that is irrelevant to this post) released their final poll before the Iowa caucuses. For the Democrats, it shows Obama in the lead with Clinton and Edwards lagging seven and eight points behind, respectively. For the GOP, it shows Huckabee in the lead with Romney six points behind. McCain is coming in third, thirteen points behind Romney. So, it looks like we've got a three-way race for the Democrats and a two-way race for the Republicans. My predictions, even before seeing this poll, were that Obama and Huckabee would win (I swear). But, I'm not sure how important these predictions are; I don't know that Iowa is worth all of this hype.

In short, I'm not convinced that the winners on Thursday night will be the eventual nominees. I think the Democratic race will turn into a two-way race between Hillary and Obama, while the Republican race will remain pretty wide open. I imagine a four-way race between Huckabee, Romney, Giuliani, and McCain. It pains me to say it, but I think Hillary will eventually get the nod, but I'm not prepared to make a prediction for the Republicans. They're all (except for McCain) such terrible candidates; I can understand why the race is so wide-open.

So, really, I think the only thing that Iowa will show is that Edwards isn't a viable candidate. He is the only one of the "Big Seven" who seems to need a victory in Iowa in order to survive in this race.

Look for an upcoming post about primary reform. It's nice to be back.

Edit: I forgot to mention one of my hopes for Iowa. I hope that the caucus results reflect how much of a joke Fred Thompson is. I've made a point of saying (or at least implying) how my least favorite person in this whole race is Mitt Romney, but I think I want to amend that. At least Romney tries. Granted, his "trying" shows that he is both a cry-baby, a scumbag, and a liar, but at least he tries. Thompson hasn't tried. He has just hoped that people would think Romney, McCain, and Giuliani are all too liberal. He's presented no substance. As much as I disagree with Mike Huckabee's politics, I'm glad he has taken over the mantle of the "conservative candidate" from Old Man Thompson. I'm already pretty cynical about American politics, but I still retain some hope; a Thompson nomination would've shredded that last bit of hope.

Although, a Hillary nomination risks doing the same. Oh well.