Sunday, January 27, 2008
To some extent, though, there are a lot of variables to consider in the VP process that just aren't known yet. One of these is who the GOP candidate is going to be. If it's Romney, picking Sebelius and having a ticket with more executive experience seems like the right move. If it's McCain, picking Jim Webb would be the optimal choice, as his bio syncs nicely with Obama's message too, and adding Webb might seem reassuring to people who might be worried that Obama is too dovish. The best thing about Webb is that he seems like a hawk, but he's really not. Despite allegedly still thinking that Vietnam was a good idea, Jim Webb has opposed war in both Iraq and Iran, and he was right on both. But he exudes a certain amount of toughness and confidence that Democratic politicians don't often seem to want to do. Joe Biden would also make a decent choice, for some of the same reasons.
This might be backward, and it might be that Obama picking Webb when up against McCain might only serve to outline Obama's lack of experience in military matters. Maybe it's the other way around. In any event, I do find it interesting that both of the GOP frontrunners have significant built-in flaws: Romney has no experience with foreign affairs, McCain has no executive experience. Both of those issues have traditionally tended to advantage Republicans. If either one gets the nomination, the resulting general election campaign will necessarily have to be different from those in recent history. It should be fun to watch.
Friday, January 25, 2008
- James Monroe-presided over an "era of good feelings." There was general agreement on the issues, no foreign intrigues, everything was a-OK. Just like today.
- Ulysses Grant-ah, the great warrior himself. He and Bush share similar vetting techniques and a characteristic loyalty that can only be encapsulated by H.L. Mencken,
"His belief in rogues was cogenital, touching and unlimited. He filled Washington with them, and defended them against honest men, even in the face of plain proofs of their villainy."
Makes you wonder which one he was talking about.
- Warren G. Harding-good conservative Republican. Won an election by polarization. Same kind of vetting program as Grant. Harding was never fit for the Presidency, and admitted as much. That's where the analogy falls apart. Also, Harding was a wildly popular President, even after Teapot Dome.
- Bill Clinton-just kidding. He's not really like Clinton. I would construct a bad faith case to irritate conservatives, but I won't.
- Jimmy Carter-plain-spoken Southern evangelical. Good family man. Disastrous president. Ushered in an era of dominance by the other party.
I could say how wrong this analogy is, but it's not really a wholehearted thing, so I'm going to give a half-assed response: Bush inherited a prosperous country at peace and has given us a nation of recession and war. Lincoln inherited a nation officially separated and at war and he won the war. Done.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
As it turned out, his "hero" status and celebrity and "leadership" were effectively cancelled out by no small portion of rampant buffoonery. One is reminded of the old Public Enemy song "911 is a Joke" (referring to the emergency number, it ought to be known), and by falling back on it so often, Rudy diminished its importance, as people began to think that was all he was running on, which wasn't too far from the truth. This led to a devastating joke from Joe Biden, of all people. He turned himself into a joke, and while he tried to emphasize his stewardship of NYC before 9/11, he never committed to that strategy. It could have been a winning strategy, who knows, but Mitt Romney has recently managed to scratch out quite a bit of success with it among people who thought his religious right conversion was horseshit. Giuliani would have had an equal claim to the "change" mantle, but instead he wanted to parlay his 9/11 status into some kind of "terrorist-slayer" narrative, which was awfully thin. Being attacked by terrorist makes you no more an expert on terrorism than being mugged makes you an expert on neoconservatism.
So, in essence, Rudy ignored the strong areas of his resume: reform, disaster management, and turnaround expertise (which are all really popular messages) in favor of a dubious connection between being attacked on 9/11 and thus being a terrorist expert. But what really hit him hard was that he was seen, early on, as the only candidate who could beat Hillary Clinton, and Republicans were able to put up with his defections on various issues to keep Mrs. Clinton out of office. As Barack Obama began to become a more creditable challenger, however, Giuliani's stock began to drop. But then he amazingly triangulated rightward and tried to become the most right-wing candidate of the bunch in almost every area, despite a history and record that had him as anything but. No wonder nobody can make heads nor tails of his campaign. It just doesn't make much sense, which might be why he's become such a laughingstock.
Hey, I'm an optimist. Y'all know I'm a good Texas boy--got that good ol' Texas optimism. In Texas, we're the doers--the can-doers, I mean--and you got to believe that you can get that tree stump out of the ground or it's not gonna...um...you just gotta believe! That's all, end of discussion.
So, since I've been a role model to so many people, people are always asking me, "Hey, George, how do you show leadership? Hey, George, how do you do it? I want to know." Well, that's a good question. You see, I attribute most of my success to genetics--as in, I happen to be genetically related to one of the most notable Republican politicians of the 20th century, that's what I'm talking about. I also got my dad's nose. Noses are funny. But I guess my advice is to be the child of a really rich, successful person if you want to be successful, because God knows that that's the only way to get ahead anymore! Wait, this thing ain't taped, is it? I don't want this showing up in the next g-damn Michael Moore movie. Okay, movin' on.
I guess my next bit of advice is that you gotta work hard. I work really hard. Y'know, some days, I actually work from morning to night. A lot of people probably wonder what a typical day is like for the Prez Nigh Stays (sorry, that's how we Southerners pronounce President of the United States. I know-it's kind of catchy!). Well, I usually wake up around nine, nine-thirty. The Secret Service has orders not to enter the bedroom until 10:00. You never know what me 'n Laura are going to be up to...just kidding. Sex is gross. Anyway, by 10:30, at the latest, I'm in the Oval Office, listening to advisors, tending to the interests of the country. Then, at 11:00, you know what it's time for: LUNCH! I always order the same thing--chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy, and arugula salad (are you blue staters HAPPY!). I usually don't drink liquor, although I confess I'm a little blattoed right now. Am I slurring too much? No. All right. So I usually take a long lunch, because who's going to say anything? I'm the President! My Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, is always shooting me icy looks once 1:45 comes, but less often when I'm eating with heads of state, so I try to do that all the time. Josh always gives me these things to bring up, like "trade violations" or "nucular [sic] proliferation", but I'm just a simple country boy and I like to just talk with other people, figure out what they like and don't like, and if one of the former is America, we start trying to take them out. Then I...wait, did I just say...which one means the first one, former or latter...shit. OH, NO, I mean dadgum. Yeah. Wait, what was I saying? Oh, yeah, lunch. Nice, long lunch, steak, strawberry lemonade. By 2:00 I'm back in the Oval. That's usually when that douchebag Bob Gates comes in. He's the Secretary of Defense. I so miss Rummy--he'd come in and tell jokes about John Kennedy screwing interns from back when Rummy was in the House. But with Bob it's always "Sir, we have to talk about force protection," "Sir, Guantanamo is causing us so many problems," "Mr. President, our troop levels in Iraq are unsustainable," blah blah blah. I totally tune out. When he starts asking questions, I alternate between yes and no, and I look very thoughtfully at the paper in front of me, which more often than not is yesterday's crossword puzzle. I have my secretary cut them out of the Washington Times, then wait a day so that I can see the answers. Anyway, that's another one of those keys--make sure you alternate between yes and no when you're totally zoned out and/or drunk. You see, that way it doesn't seem like you're totally ignoring what they have to say, but you're not giving them what they want, either. I used to start with a yes, then move on to a no, but I learned that one the hard way after some Democrat asked me if I believed that global warming was real. Wait...wait a goddam minute, aren't I supposed to have six of these things? Ah, shoot. Okay, let me think--could you go back and number them for me? How many more of these I gotta do? So there was optimism, the thing about being rich - good one, huh?, the thing I was trying to prove by talking about my day, and the yes and no thing--wait, was there another one? No? Okay, I can do four more, no big deal...
Can you believe that so many people hate me? Why? I know you all think it doesn't bother me, but it does. I'd love for Democrats to love me. I'd love to be the great compromiser again. Sometimes--screw you, I'm not crying, I just have a frog in my throat--sometimes, I just wish we all got along. Why does it gotta be this way? I know that the base is the base, I know that. I know that. I just want to be popular, like I was after 9/11. Boy, was I good or what? Everybody was together, the New York Times was praising me, everyone was saying how good a leader I was for not marching to war...I miss those days so much.
Okay, I'm better now. And that was off the record, by the way.
So, two more things...two more...hmm. Nothing's really coming to mind. How about we go through the rest of my day. So after my daily meeting with Bob, I take my daily nap. Sometimes I do it before Bob leaves. You would not believe how pissed he gets at that. I remember one time I had dozed off and he banged his hand on the desk and shouted, angrily, "Mr. President, THERE ARE HUMAN LIVES AT STAKE HERE! AMERICAN LIVES!" You have to be able to react fast to shi--er, stuff--like that. So I jumped up, grabbed him by the lapels, and yelled back, "I DO, BOB! I THINK ABOUT THEM EVERY DAY!." That really surprised him, and he backed down. I think he felt kind of bad. Hey, wait, wasn't that a good tip? React quickly? Put that down. Whew! Now I've only got one more to go. So, after Bob leaves, and after my nap is over (we're talking about 5:30), I head down for dinner. This is usually with some well-known celebrity or someone like the Girl Scout that sold the most cookies. I remember when that she was down here I made sure to get a whole bunch of money from Jeff, the head of my Secret Service detail, and I went down a little before dinner to buy some of those peanut butter cookies. She didn't have any on her. I joked that she must have cheated to win the contest if she couldn't even sell me a cookie. I was just joking, and she totally started crying. Even my little "crazy guy" dance didn't work. Actually, that made things much worse. I had to exempt her parents from the income tax this year to make up for it. That's okay, because [Office of Management and Budget Director Rob] Portman says we can audit them and find some loophole to double their payroll tax or something. I dunno. I don't know much about economics.
So, dah dah dah, eat dinner, blah blah blah...oh, yeah, after dinner, Laura and I talk for a while. I love it when we talk about T.V. and stuff like that. It seems like she's getting more and more, well, political these days. She used to ask me to fire Rummy all the time, and one time I said, "Sweetie, I love you, I really do. You're amazing. But since I used to run companies and you used to run libraries, you probably don't understand how firing people works. You can't just fire somebody for no reason. You have to prove that they're incompetent." I could tell by her silence after saying this that I had made her feel stupid, so I offered to tickle her feet right afterward to make her feel better. She just stomped off. I'll never understand women.
Anyway, after that, I put on my P.J.'s, hop into bed, and get some rest. Hey, HEY, there's number six: always get enough sleep. Whoo hoo! I got six of 'em! That was fun. All this talkin' 's got me tired. It's a good thing I've got a big meeting with Bob coming up!
Friday, January 18, 2008
It was at this point that I remembered that laughing at frauds is the only proper response to them. And that footage did contain quite a few howlers, so much so that it is almost innoculated from irony, and one must just sit back and brace yourself for repeated interjections of "What the FUCK?" I must confess that I failed to grasp Tom Cruise's importance to that group. I figured it was sort of like Richard Gere and Buddhism--that he just happened to be a devoted and outspoken (and highly visible) member of that organization. It would appear that he's far more important than that. That video presented a rather hagiographical view of him--how many humanitarian points does he really deserve for shaking hands with some firefighters on 9/11? When I watched that moment, a sly smile crossed my face as I thought of that ferret-faced former NYC Mayor whose chances of being president have been so dramatically dashed. Fear President Cruise. Fear him. Now that he has passed the all-important "Played a Politician in a Film" primary, politics would seem to be next on Mr. Cruise's list. He would no doubt couch such ambitions in some desire to gain some representation of his faith in Congress, and to have a larger pulpit from which to espouse his views, even though they are already represented there (I cannot recall the woman's name at this point, but I can recall she is with the elephantine party) and everyone knows about his tonterias. I'm guessing he'd try for a congressional seat somewhere in Southern California. It would have to be an independent run, as I doubt either major party would want him. And he would lose, right? Well, perhaps, but he would gain an enormous amount of media attention, and he would be able to collect huge quantities of checks from Scientologists all over the world (although their distribution geographically seems limited to Hollywood and Clearwater, FL, and that Republican congresswoman whose name I cannot recall). Cruise could take a few pages from the Mitt Romney playbook -- which has actually worked reasonably well, lest we forget.
But Mitt Romney is running right now on his impressive business experience, no? What does Tom Cruise have to offer, aside from his weird religion? Answer: the greatest asset of all, star power. There is not a shortage of yokels who will be so starstruck by being gladhanded by Tom Cruise in a coffee shop they will vote for him without reservation. He will have several things working for him:
- the aforementioned starpower
- enormous media attention (it will probably be the first congressional race ever covered on Extra!, and I would imagine that they would do a much better job of covering politics than the current crowd)
- no shortage of celebrity buddies to help his "historic" campaign (anyone unimpressed with just meeting Cruise will no doubt be melted after being double-teamed by Jenna Elfman and Jason Lee at the local Denny's)
- a bulging pocketbook from all the checks from wealthy Scientologists (as though there is another kind--detractors often refer to religion as a business, but Scientology removes any irony from that observation with its up-front charges for its services)
- most importantly, he wouldn't have to lock up a majority in a three-way, plurality race
Nobody expected weirdo Mitt Romney to go anywhere, either, but he's certainly broken through to a greater extent than I thought he would. I still don't see him as the GOP nominee, however. However, should Mitt become President, sometime around 2011 he might find a diminuitive couch-jumper in his office, discussing the finest points of their shared favorite novel.
And how would the couch-jumper perform as a United States Representative? Would he be more conservative or more liberal? With which party would Congressman Cruise caucus? It is unclear. On the one hand, his visceral loathing of science, his outspoken and intense personal faith, and his combativeness on cultural matters would make him a natural to lean more toward the conservative end of our political spectrum. And let us remember that the only feeling more deeply felt than conservative hatred of liberal Hollywood types is a conservative adulation of conservative Hollywooders. On the other hand, Cruise is a Hollywood type, and unless he tries to run for Congress in Orange County it would probably be necessary for him to take some pretty liberal issue stances to get elected anywhere in Southern California. Perhaps he could try San Diego, although the pot-smoking Republicans who inhabit that fair city would be far less receptive to him, I would think. No, it would have to be somewhere in L.A., perhaps a district with a high percentage of Scientologists that is currently represented by a Blue Dog/DLC type of Democrat. Cruise could run to the left on all the issues that his constituents care about while being free to pursue his personal pet issues, which are all that matter to him. And, let's remember, even if Cruise were to only win 35% of the vote--which I submit is hardly impossible to imagine, as his current national approval ratings are in the mid-twenties, and probably higher in L.A., and with the money and star power--he could win.
So, let's assume that he does all this. What next? I doubt he'd be an effective representative at first, as every member of congress would be scared to be associated with the man, and he would find it difficult to create relationships with senior congressfolks. I highly doubt he would actually try to effectively represent his people so much as introduce various bills trying to ban psychiatry and all the other nonsense that his "church" preaches, as well as frequently taking to the bully pulpit. Perhaps he would champion some conservative positions, too, just for good measure. Everyone would assume that Cruise would be a one-term wonder, but after a relatively quiet and uneventful term, Cruise would probably get a second, thanks to the miracle of incumbency. He'd go from being a dangerous, mocked fanatic into something else: respectable. He'd just be a member of congress. Other people, knowing that he's here to stay, would probably start working with him more. He'd get some medium-profile legislation passed. His approval ratings would improve, in his district and elsewhere. A third term, and a fourth, would follow shortly thereafter, and his kooky views would become almost quaint, something his constituents would refer to in an affectionate "that's our congressman" manner before reelecting him with 78% of the vote.
And then, maybe, he'd decide to try something bolder. Let's say that there's no incumbent Governor of California to run in 2018. Cruise, having become a reputable and respected Congressman, decides to throw his hat into the ring, again as an Independent. The California Republicans, being gluttons for punishment, would no doubt run some arch-conservative like Tom McClintock, while the Democrats would, as usual, gag away their dominant advantage in the state by being sure to find some charisma-free hack like Phil Angelides. A neutral third choice with experience and name recognition would shake up the race. Cruise would not have an easy go of it--his religion would still be considered weird, and his portfolio would be relegated to a few terms in Congress. However, by this point, Congressman Cruise will have learned to release his enthusiasm for Scientology in more acceptable ways and will be able to deal with it effectively. Now, in 2008, Scientology is weird. In a decade, it will be far more "lived-in". Cruise will tar Angelides as someone who can't get things done and played his connections to the top, and he will designate McClintock as someone who is out of touch with the state. Maybe there will be some sort of major issue--perhaps a nuclear meltdown or something of that nature--that neither Angelides or McClintock will touch, but Cruise is able to handle effectively. In the end, I see another plurality victory for Cruise--maybe 41%.
And as soon as he is elected governor of the largest state in the union, rumors will immediately begin about the only higher job in the nation. Cruise will deny them, of course, and insist that he wants to focus on state business. Cruise will make sure to get some accomplishments to run on, and by late 2019 he will admit that he is considering throwing his hat into the ring. At this point, his religion will hardly be even a minor concern--will he be able to clear the gridlock in Washington? He'll get some endorsements from non-Scientologists--practically the entire, demented brotherhood of Broder will be behind him, and former Gov. and L.A. Mayor Arnold Schwarzenegger will endorse him for President, saying that, "although he is not as good an actor as me, he is just as good a politician." By early 2020, he will form an exploratory committee, and on a clear, cold March morning, standing in front of the Capitol building in Sacramento, holding gloved hands with First Lady of California Katie Holmes, breath visible, little Suri fidgeting distractedly--Tom Cruise will announce that he is running for President as an Independent. He'll point to his manifold accomplishments in Washington and in Sacramento, and that he shouldn't be judged by his faith alone, but by his competence. The media will rave. He will win easily. And then President Tom Cruise ban psychiatry by executive order, order a Thetan-killing weapon prototype from Northup Grummond, and task the 82nd Airborne Division to kill Xenu for real this time. And America will love him, and we'll all convert to Scientology, and a single tear will fall from the eye of Vishnu, who as it turns out was the real god all along. The end.
In some sense, I think that John Edwards is a better fit for this analogy, as he's more overtly ideological and more of a populist in terms of style. But whatever.
This just brings me to one of my great personal bugaboos: historical analogies. I think they ought to be outlawed. They have been made so many times in this campaign: Obama's JFK. No, wait, he's Gene McCarthy. No, he's Adlai Stevenson. But maybe he's Gary Hart? No, he's not any of them. He's Barack Obama. Hillary's fared somewhat better, getting comparisons to, among others, FDR, Hubert Humphrey, Howard Dean and Lyndon Johnson (the last was self-implied in that infamous Martin Luther King gaffe that nobody seemed to pick up on when it happened--few Democrats worship at the tomb of the Texan who started the Vietnam War). In the best case, historical analogies are loose-fitting, as no two times, no two events, are exactly alike. In the worst case they are quite damaging, as one sees President Bush comparing the Iraq War to everything from Korea (but not Vietnam) to, well, Vietnam. And these analogies are never, ever enlightening. History may be cyclical to some respect but it is not a tool to try to find and retool old solutions and paradigms onto the present. History is quite valuable only inasmuch as it allows us to better understand where we are by looking at how we got here--that is to say forensically. There is nothing valid about half-assedly tossing out a few random events or people and hoping they are illuminating in some way. But certain people find random facts to be far more impressive than knowledge or wisdom. They're called
My problem is, largely, that Sen. Clinton doesn't seem to realize that her Reagan/Atwater playbook is going to have some real consequences should she get the nomination. Since she's probably not going to be winning an historic mandate, she'll need every Democrat she can get turning out for her in November (assuming she gets the nod). If many Black Democrats are so annoyed by Clinton's treatment of Obama and stay home--especially in states she's banking on, like Arkansas and Michigan--she loses. And her loss to "Uncommitted" among Black voters in Michigan is a bit of a clue that this effect might be in play. Is it any wonder she's worked so hard in recent days to try to move the discussion onto other areas?
Of course, this might not be a terminal problem--if things get too bad, picking Obama as her VP candidate might be an effective way to turn this problem around. We will have to see if the damage is already done.
As regards Hillary, I trust her not at all, and I wonder if, at her core, she's a true-blue liberal or a true-blue conservative. There's plenty of evidence for both, and I suspect that even she probably doesn't have the answer. Perhaps that confusion is why she's tried to paint such a centrist line in the Senate. I'm willing to accept that she will probably govern as a liberal if she wins, which is what matters. And I do think that a reasonably popular Clinton II Administration, led by that bugaboo, that bete noire of conservatives across the land would probably do more damage to the era of conservative dominance than an Obama administration that, while liberal, made constant shows of centrism and outreach to conservatives. I do think that, from the perspective of wanting to smash the conservative movement, the act of Hillary Clinton being popularly elected twice (and having a united Democratic congress throughout her time in office) would be most devastating. However, I can't help but feel that there is a tradeoff, as the GOP knows this and, as a result, a Clinton Administration would get less accomplished than would an Obama Administration.
- Clinton wins Nevada (I know, it pains me a little, and I half-hope it won't happen, but it's in my gut) for the Democrats and neighbor McCain wins it for the Republicans.
- Huckabee wins South Carolina. Just a hunch, and it could go in any number of different ways, but this seems likely to me (and pretty darned entertaining, from where I sit). If he manages to win here and in Florida (something more likely--but still not likely--if he wins here), it will throw the entire GOP race into complete disarray. Well, compartively speaking...
The Man, The Myth, The Bio
- East Bay, California, United States
- Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.