Keith Olbermann delivers another Special Comment... this time on the wrangling over the FISA law and the president's demand that telecom companies, which cooperated in the governments surveillance of phone calls, be granted a blanket immunity .
Olbermann takes the president to task over his parsing of words and his seeming disregard for the intelligence of the American public.
John McCain seems to be the GOP frontrunner...a position he has rarely held while aspiring to be the Republican presidential nominee. Following his victory in Florida, McCain and his campaign seem to have accepted the esteemed moniker. His apparent inevitability is troubling to many establishment conservatives and a number of evangelicals. As I watched the Senator in the GOP debate from the Ronald Reagan Library, I couldn't help but notice the emergence of what I would characterize as the leading edge of his desire to release a blend of pent-up bitterness and spiteful and surly bravado.
Let me be clear, I don't seek to disparage the Senator or his debate performance. I'm sure he and his fellow candidates must be tired. Nonetheless, McCain's temperament has long been a topic of discussion...and a reason for pause. Last evening, in my opinion, I observed a man who has longed for the authority and the opportunity to speak his mind without the filters politicians so often employ. It left me wondering if I was watching a man who, upon attaining the presidency, might shed his subtle sophistry in favor of an unbridled style of authoritarianism.
Stay with me for a moment. McCain has made a career of portraying himself as a "straight talking" politician who is amenable to reaching across the aisle. When he's done so, it's often been to the chagrin of his fellow Republicans. On the surface, that's an admirable trait and one that seems to have served the Senator well...especially with the mainstream media...the tool he often utilizes to assuage the animosity and skepticism his actions have generated amongst his peers. In my estimation, whether it's a demonstration of sincerity or a carefully executed strategy is open to debate.
Now consider the 2000 GOP primary and the character assassination and personal assaults John McCain endured at the hands of his adversary, George W. Bush. If one can believe the media reports, the attacks were understandably quite hurtful to the Senator...and they are thought to have played a significant role in derailing his presidential aspirations.
Next, think about a man who spent over five years in captivity...a man forced to hold his tongue and bide his time in the face of adversity. Such treatment can undoubtedly alter one's relational skills and interaction style...as well as lead one to adopt a strategy that I would equate with treading water. Essentially, it's a recognition that survival is the fundamental objective...and that may mean saying what is expected or demanded in order to keep one's head above water...until one has the opportunity to do otherwise. As such, John McCain certainly understands what it means to tarry.
As I've watched the run up to the 2008 election, I've felt that McCain has made a number of strategic decisions intended to afford him another shot at the prize he seeks...the presidency. His campaigning for the reelection of George Bush struck me as an attempt to receive the party's presidential baton...in spite of his dislike of his former adversary. His subsequent forays into mending fences with the evangelicals he once assailed were more of the same. As best I can tell, in most instances, these mea culpa moments took place absent the dialogue one would expect to accompany a difficult reconciliation.
At the same time, my sense is his memory is akin to that attributed to an elephant. Hence he never forgets a slight, a fight, an insult, or a defeat. Like with his time as a prisoner of war, McCain has spent the last seven years plotting his escape from the subservience he resents and his ascendancy to the authority he craves. The phenomenon isn't unique to prisoners of war. The same often exists in spouses who stay in abusive relationships until they can envision and enact their escape and exact their revenge.
His occasional episodes of vitriolic derision directed at his primary opponents may offer a glimpse of what lies beneath the affable surface he labors to demonstrate. The measured and halting nature of his recent speeches...delivered with a structured and rhythmic cadence...suggest an alternative stream of thought is on the verge of surfacing...and ample energy must be diverted to keep it at bay until the opportune moment.
His palpable dislike of Mitt Romney prompts other concerns and considerations. One, McCain is apt to see Romney's flip-flopping campaign as a usurpation of the McCain "go along to get along" style. Two, the occasionally uncensored animosity aimed at Romney supports the psychological concept of projection...which essentially posits we're prone to recognize and resent in others that which we have failed to expunge from our own suspect identity.
John McCain may well win the GOP nomination...and that may occur as a function of voter's calculating he is best suited to defeat the nominee of the Democrats. If my hypothesis is correct, the more proximate McCain finds himself to his quintessential objective, the more difficult it will be to suppress the psychological scars that power his psyche. If this happens, the intervening months between his nomination and the November election may pull back the curtains and expose him as little more than the GOP's angry, though impotent, wizard.
The following graphic is a tongue-in-cheek summarization of the above observations.
Now that it appears that John McCain has the inside track on the Republican presidential nomination, it's time to draw some general election comparisons with his two potential Democratic opponents.
Before focusing on narrow specifics, my general impression has long been that McCain is the most formidable GOP candidate...despite the tepid support he receives from establishment conservatives and his shaky bona fides with the evangelical base.
Race & Gender:
When looking at either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, both must overcome potential bias...her with regards to being a woman and him with regards to being an African American. My own suspicion is that gender and race could cost either candidate a segment of the voting public. I'm of the opinion that could equate with a low to mid single digit percentage. Advantage McCain.
Conversely, race and gender may be an advantage for both candidates with their respective voter contingencies. If so, it would seem that Senator Clinton would have the most to gain given that women make up a larger portion of the overall voting public. However, that advantage may be somewhat offset by the fact that Clinton elicits high negatives amongst GOP voters. No clear advantage.
Experience (Age) vs. Change:
With regards to experience, the lines of demarcation are relatively clear. Clinton and McCain have more experience and each can be viewed as a Washington fixture. McCain can argue his maverick persona gives him an advantage over Clinton...pointing out that her election would be a return to a prior era of partisanship and acrimony. At the same time, John McCain's record as a Senate contrarian could lead some Republicans to sit out the election. No clear advantage between Clinton and McCain. Both have an advantage over Obama.
As to change, this may be an area where one candidate has an unmistakable advantage. The mood of the country and voter dissatisfaction with the country's direction support the notion that voters are looking for measurable and meaningful change. Obama's age and his inspiring orations position him as a man of vision. Advantage Obama.
Nonetheless, that segues into two important caveats. One, while Obama's message of change provides him with a noticeable advantage, the degree to which he is able to convince voters he can implement it and that they should forego the safety of two known commodities would be essential to his success in capitalizing upon it. Two, this requires a look at age. McCain could appear too old and Obama could be viewed as too young (green vs. eclipsed). Thus a slight advantage affords to McCain based upon historical data suggesting that the elderly turn out in greater numbers than the youth vote. Clinton's age is generally neutral though her primary success with the elderly offsets McCain's age advantage and leaves her with the same narrow potential preferential over Obama.
Foreign Policy & Terrorism:
This is truly a wildcard factor given the uncertainty with Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and terrorism (al Qaeda & the Taliban). The status of these situations just prior to the election can and will likely alter this calculation. At the moment, I view the situation in Iraq as a wash between the Democrats and the Republicans. The reduced violence resulting from the surge minimizes the advantage of calling for immediate withdrawal. Additionally, while a wide majority opposes the war, the preferred exit strategy is murkier.
With regard to individual candidates, Obama and McCain have an advantage over Clinton based upon their positions having been more consistent.
If we approach the election with Iraq achieving the political resolutions identified before the surge, McCain likely has an advantage over Obama based upon the voter belief that the GOP is strong on national defense and the Democrats are more inclined to measured diplomacy. McCain would also have an advantage over Clinton but possibly not to the same extent.
If Iraq fails to progress, or deteriorates as the election approaches, Obama would have an advantage over both Clinton and McCain. Obama's persistent opposition to the war would trump Clinton's evolving position as well as McCain's strident support. In this scenario, voter dissatisfaction should bode well for Obama. Advantage Obama.
A terrorist attack in the homeland prior to the election would likely provide McCain with a marked advantage based upon his incessant argument that radical Islamic extremism is the "transcendent issue of the 21st. century? and his military credentials.
Obama could argue that Iraq was an unwarranted distraction from the primary goal of combating terrorism...but the fact that the Democrats have failed to push that position since taking control of Congress in 2006 would likely handicap that argument and be overshadowed by the constant GOP contention that we must defeat the terrorists on their soil. I believe that the virtual silence of the Democrats since 2006 would be portrayed as indecision and political calculation and afford McCain and the GOP the high ground.
As long as Iraq is left to fester unchallenged, the GOP will appear to have demonstrated the willingness to lead and the Democrats will be seen as enablers looking to straddle the fence. Advantage McCain.
Assuming the downturn will persist until the election, voter concerns will benefit the Democrats. McCain's downplaying of his economic credentials coupled with his focus on cutting spending may be warranted sincerity...but it could also be the wrong message for these difficult economic circumstances.
Clinton's policy dexterity should provide voters with tangible solutions to consider while Obama's calls for a new direction could be the rejection of status quo politics that Americans seem to be willing to chance. Equal advantage to Obama and Clinton.
Of all the Republican candidates, McCain stands to receive the most Hispanic votes based upon his support of the president's plan that provided for a path to citizenship. At the same time, he will need to appease the GOP base and their insistence that any form of amnesty be removed from the equation. That puts him in a tough spot and is apt to limit his appeal to Hispanics.
If the Democrats approach immigration by proposing meaningful border security, demanding real employer accountability with regards to curtailing the hiring of illegal employees, and pointing to the impracticality and extremity of deporting 12 to 15 million illegals, they can convince a majority of voters that the GOP has been disingenuous in fomenting fear with calls for harsh measures...especially in the aftermath of their own lackadaisical enforcement of existing laws in order to appease their corporate benefactors. Advantage Clinton and Obama.
I believe 2008 will be the turning point in the health care stalemate. It's an issue whose time has come. I say as much because its impact is being felt by a large majority of Americans and they envision it will inevitably get worse. As such, I suspect that candidates that fail to offer significant proposals do so at their own peril.
The GOP and Senator McCain will likely posture in opposition to the ambitious plans of the Democratic candidate; offering little more than their standard fare solution of market driven expanded access to health care...fully ignoring that cost and affordability are the fundamental and immediate concerns of most Americans. The lack of tangible measures intended to install a new system rather than expand upon a broken one will cost the GOP votes. Advantage Clinton and Obama.
Looking at the Clinton and Obama health care proposals, both have merit. The Clinton plan is more amenable to short sound bites meant to engender voter support while the Obama plan is more cognizant of the fact that millions of Americans simply cannot afford health insurance...voluntarily or mandated...and that the solution must address that issue to actually provide health care solutions to those with immense needs and vacuous means. In the end, the existing political landscape probably favors Senator Clinton since nuance rarely works with impatient and inattentive voters.
Independent Voters & Party Expansion:
Hillary Clinton is at an obvious disadvantage with regards to attracting independent voters and expanding the membership of the Democratic Party. Her polarizing persona and her high negatives simply limit her ability to succeed in this regard.
John McCain, on the other hand, provides the GOP their best chance to draw independent voters and expand the ranks of the party. Unfortunately, those gains have the potential to come at the expense of votes from the party's base. Therefore, in relation to Senator Clinton, John McCain has an advantage.
Senator Obama has an advantage over both McCain and Clinton for two reasons. One, the fact that McCain is the likely GOP nominee suggests that the country may be moving towards the center; making independent voters an influential constituency. When that reality is coupled with the desire for change and an end to partisan polarization, Obama offers the least encumbered candidacy.
Clinton and McCain have likely alienated some independent voters with their perceived positional fluctuations. Those actions are apt to be viewed as a propensity to pander more than a willingness to compromise or unite. McCain still holds an advantage over Clinton; but Senator Obama seems to be the candidate best positioned to draw independent voters and expand his party.
What's At Stake:
Voters will encounter a number of difficult considerations as they head towards the November election and choosing our next president. Members of both parties are trying to evaluate their candidates' ability to defeat the nominee of the other party. Simultaneously, the nation is in the midst of tumultuous times that lack the clarity we would no doubt prefer.
The variables in the 2008 election may well exceed the bulk of our prior presidential elections. We're engaged in two wars with an overriding threat of terrorism...we have a woman and an African American running for the highest office...we face the likelihood of a recession and unprecedented declines in home values...and we enter an election year as a nation divided by unprecedented partisanship. Transcending these obstacles would not only be beneficial; it may well be necessary. It remains to be seen if we can turn this pivotal moment to our mutual advantage. The future of our nation likely hangs in the balance.
I've always enjoyed The Onion. They're now presenting their "faux" news in video format on YouTube...and the following is one of my favorites.
The gist of the "story" is that the Mitt Romney campaign is doing all they can to dispel the accusations that the candidate believes in tolerance. The focus is on the campaigns efforts to reject Romney's apparent tolerance of homosexuality in the past.
The Onion wants to know what Romney can do to prove his newfound homophobia is genuine. The reporters ponder whether the former Massachusetts governor can shore up his wavering support among bigots by making disparaging remarks about women or Mexicans...a quick ethnic slur or two if you will.
I have no particular axe to grind with Andrew Sullivan... except for noting the inconsistencies in the many axes he grinds ad nauseam. His latest obsession is Bill and Hillary Clinton (of course focused on Hillary's presidential aspirations).
Frankly, given his persistent efforts to negatively link Hillary to every "ism" he's ever pondered, it's hard too imagine that he hasn't ground his axe down to a rudimentary toothpick with which to extract the last shard of evidence...from her teeth...for his relentless indictment.
Suffice it to say that in this latest instance, Sullivan has fast become the epitome of "The lady doth protest too much"...and my apologies to good ladies everywhere. Sullivan now argues, by virtue of quoting the following from Faye Wattleton (transcribed by a reader and sent to him) who observed her appearance on Hardball with Chris Mathews (think mainstream media misogynist).
Chris Matthews: Faye, you first, you know Hillary Clinton, you know Bill Clinton. What's Bill's role in this thing, is it a good role or a bad role?
Faye Wattleton: Well, I think that Bill Clinton's role is that of the spouses of all the candidates, he's participating as a surrogate for his wife who is running. And I think that its entirely consistent with the ascension of other women to the top offices in their country; they come about it as the result of the president being their spouse or being members of prominent families. So I don't think that we should be so upset and agitated about Mr. Clinton's participation - we should continue to focus on the issues that the people want to hear about...these other matters are really side issues.
From these remarks, Sullivan intuits that the Clinton's are comfortable to conflate nepotism and feminism in order to achieve their objectives...thereby corrupting feminism and "everything they touch". So let me summarize the trajectory of Andrew's conclusion...one of Andrew's readers sends him a transcription of
Faye Wattleton's comments on Hardball and he agrees with it such that it proves the Clinton's have corrupted feminism? Well there you have it...case closed.
Regardless of one's opinion on the Clinton's and Hillary's aspirations, Sullivan's argument is the equivalent of entering a vacuous room that has been hermetically sealed and is devoid of any light...with a camera that lacks a flash mechanism...in order to take the quintessential picture of darkness. Unless random chance results in his capturing the definitive number of angels able to dance on the head of a pin, I'm similarly at a loss to recognize the Earth shattering nature of Sullivan's latest Clintonian hypothesis.
To my knowledge, Hillary Clinton is not only the first woman candidate with a chance to win the presidency; she is also the first spouse of a prior president to seek the office. Concluding that her candidacy must be a willful act, by the Clinton's, to conflate nepotism and feminism...and thus corrupt feminism...in order to win...is simply painting the unprecedented as presciently predictable. The fact that a president's legacy is rarely static suggests that asserting an understanding of this novel event is undoubtedly unbridled arrogance.
Yes, the Clinton candidacy turns political convention on its head...but concluding this candidacy is more lacking in ideological purity...or more willing to defile the grand order of "isms"...than those that have preceded it could just as easily be interpreted as a misogynistic projection intended to assure the status quo. At the very least, Newton's notion that for every action (force), there is an equal and opposite reaction (opposing force) seems an appropriate consideration.
Clearly the Clinton's are ambitious...and likely to a fault. However, they aren't the first political family to exhibit as much. They're not even the first political cabal willing to exploit the advantages they perceive to be available. I suspect we have an example of one in the White House at this very moment. Yes, the Clinton candidacy is unique in its structure...but it isn't unique in its execution. Looking to view the efforts of the Clinton's as a unique aberration or a full-scale deviation from established politicking is to ignore history.
Attempting to attach pejorative narratives in order to defeat them is nothing new either...and those who seek to paint the Clinton strategy as particularly distasteful are nonetheless politically motivated.
Sullivan's vast body of words betrays his effort to portray the Clinton's as unacceptable outliers. His frequent protestations with the narrow mindedness of the Catholic Church and his incessant lamentations on the state of conservatism demonstrate his own willingness to champion efforts to undo years of status quo while still remaining a card carrying conscript.
Are his efforts a corruption of those "isms" or merely the acts of an individual who hopes to alter them? Couldn't the established arbiters of the Catholic Church and the GOP establishment view Sullivan's actions to be the equivalent of the Clinton's? One can easily make the argument that his actions are intended to undermine their long-established order and their theoretical tenets.
Sullivan's efforts to reshape Catholicism to accept homosexuality can just as easily be viewed as an attempt to corrupt it. The same can be stated with regards to his displeasure with the current iteration of GOP conservatism. He may not believe that social issues should dominate the Republican landscape, but those who imagine themselves to be the party's purist guardians would no doubt beg to differ. Wouldn't both groups be justified in assailing Sullivan's "perversion" of both?
The presumption that feminism can be narrowly defined...or that it has been what it always was and will be what its always been is merely an attempt to erect an argument to further "sully" the Clinton's.
Sullivan contends he is a feminist. He also argues that he is a conservative and a Catholic. The truth of the matter is that he is these things...but clearly only to the extent that he defines them.
Sullivan is entitled to support the candidate of his choice. However, his ongoing efforts to disguise his justification as an adherence to ideological purity, is simply superficial subterfuge.
Every now and then fiction and reality seem to merge. The following video suggests we're witnessing just that with the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. The premise is that Hillary's efforts to win the 2008 presidential election are reminiscent of Reese Witherspoon's hard work as Tracy Flick in the 1999 movie, Election.
It remains to be seen if the outcome will be the same. Feel free to share your opinion.
Rick Majerus has been a college basketball coach for many years and he currently works for St. Louis University, a Catholic University under the auspices of the Jesuits. Majerus has always been a colorful figure but one wouldn't expect his off the cuff comments to a news reporter at a Hillary Clinton rally to be the reason the coach finds himself in hot water.
Enter Archbishop Raymond Burke and the typically heavy hand of the Catholic Church. Majerus is being assailed by Burke for voicing his support for a woman's right to choose as well as favoring embryonic stem cell research. You can see video of his comments here.
Clearly, Majerus wasn't at the rally representing the University and it's obvious he didn't seek out a reporter to voice his opinions. Regardless, the Archbishop believes Majerus should be disciplined for his breech of Catholic doctrine. Burke is no stranger to asserting his reach. During the 2004 election, he took it upon himself to state that he would deny John Kerry Holy Communion.
Archbishop of St. Louis Raymond Burke, speaking to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper before the March for Life in Washington, D.C. strongly criticized the coach's statements.
"It's not possible to be a Catholic and hold those positions," Burke said. "When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don't have to embrace everything the Catholic Church teaches. But you can't make statements which call into question the identity and mission of the Catholic Church."
Archbishop Burke said the coach should be disciplined, saying, "I'm confident [the university] will deal with the question of a public representative making declarations that are inconsistent with the Catholic faith," Burke said. "When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don't have to embrace everything the Catholic Church teaches. But you can't make statements which call into question that identity and mission of the Catholic Church."
The archbishop was concerned the coach's statements would cause scandal, defined in the Catholic catechism as "an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil."
Some St. Louis University faculty members were not happy with the archbishop's remarks.
"If SLU wants to have a policy of, 'you have to be Catholic and believe the Catholic way,' SLU wouldn't exist," Laura Willingham, research assistant in SLU's School of Medicine, said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Should [Majerus] have said it publicly? There's freedom of speech."
Jeff Fowler, a spokesman for the university, emphasized the coach was speaking in a private capacity.
"Rick's comments were his own personal view," he said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "They were made at an event he did not attend as a university representative. It was his own personal visit to the rally."
Archbishop Burke has no direct control over St. Louis University. The Jesuit-founded university itself is nominally Catholic, but a 2007 Supreme Court decision ruled that the school "is not controlled by a religious creed,? making the school's new arena eligible for $80 million in public funding. In the Supreme Court brief, the school's lawyers said the university is not controlled or owned by the Society of Jesus and does not require employees or students "to aspire to Jesuit ideals, to be Catholic or to otherwise have any specific religious affiliation."
Less than 35 of the 1,275 St. Louis University faculty and staff are Jesuits, and fewer than half of the students are Catholic.
So in reality, the Archbishop decided to inject himself into the situation despite the fact that he has no actual authority over the school. Note the Archbishop's definition of "scandal". Apparently the Catholic Church believes that it is more important to focus on the personal opinions and statements of an employee (because it might lead others to do evil) than to acknowledge and atone for decades of sexual abuse upon innocent children by members of their own clergy.
Nothing like a super-sized serving of hypocrisy. Perhaps I simply don't understand the meaning of evil? Then again, the storied history of the Catholic Church is littered with similar inconsistencies. The one prevailing constant has been their insistence that the focus of their moral compass always point outward. In my many years of contact with Catholic clergy, I've always been taken aback by their belief that simply being part of the clergy connotes absolute authority and moral supremacy. Unfortunately, that is a fully flawed construct given their own immoral legacy.
Granted, I respect their right to their beliefs and their right to freely express them. However, their long-established efforts to stifle the same in others simply demonstrates their propensity to trample the rights of those who disagree. I'm even content to accept their right to condemn others (declare them to be sinners) who do not uphold Church doctrine...so long as those condemnations don't abridge the rights granted to those individuals by the government.
Sadly, zealots are rarely satisfied to be the masters of their own domain; instead they seek to enslave all of humanity within the confines of their dominion. Irreverent as this may be, I think the Catholic Church would do well to respect the personal space of others and keep their meandering mittens to themselves. God knows the millions of dollars (and they do like money) they would have saved had they only demonstrated the decency to do so in the past.
I'm not exactly sure what prompted Al Gore to post a video in which he expresses his support for gay marriage...but what the hey...good job Al.
I've often wondered why politicians are so much more forthcoming and appealing when they are no longer seeking public office. Time and again, former politicians demonstrate a candor and reasonability that was never allowed to surface while serving as an elected official.
Just once I would like to see a candidate run for office without the typical parsing of the issues in order to appeal to more voters. Perhaps they couldn't win, but I think the unbridled honesty would overcome many of their policy differences with the voting public. Let's face it, most of the politicians we elect don't keep the promises they make anyway. At least we would know who we're choosing and that they actually put their principles ahead of political gain. Fat chance that's going to happen.
I've been stewing on last evening’s debate for the better part of the day. Generally speaking, I found it to be rather disquieting. It took me until this evening to discern the source of my anxiety...and my belief that it was little more than a quid pro quo demonstration of status quo politicking. My first instinct was to be angry with the candidates...and then I began to reconsider. That would have been the easy conclusion...but it would have also been an exercise in self-deception.
I'll now attempt a reasoned explanation of my newfound hypothesis; that being that despite reading and listening to the many protestations that Senators Clinton and Obama engaged in petty bickering...and the fact that they did...both candidates simply provided the stick that most voters are seeking with which to unleash their own particular bias...upon the candidate they oppose...regardless of the actual facts.
Think about it for a moment. Logic should tell us that candidates engage in such tactics because they have been proven to be effective. Therefore, logic should also tell us that they are effective because it is what we the voters accept, want, and expect. Here's the thing. As the election process unfolds and we each select the candidate we prefer, we then pivot in search of the means to discredit the candidates we reject.
So what does that mean with regards to my hypothesis? Two things. One, we select for the truth we prefer; not the truth we ascertain or uncover. Two, once a candidate speaks the truth we prefer, we're willing to accept untruths about the other candidates in order to bolster our own biased beliefs.
Hence, as with Pavlov's dogs, our actions train candidates to perform the deeds and actions that result in the positive rewards they seek...our votes. Here's how it works. Over time, voters make known to candidates their beliefs and expectations which is then transformed into a subtle but certain acquiescing to the assaults upon the enemy in order to obtain the power that we believe will allow us to reinforce (legislate) our shared beliefs. In the end, this process succeeds in conditioning politicians to launch the spurious attacks upon their opponents in order to receive the primary benefit they desire...an Election Day victory.
Here's the disconnect. Pavlov's dogs began to salivate at the sound of a bell once it was linked with being fed. Politicians also begin to link negative campaigns with Election Day votes. Once this happens, the quest for satiation on the part of the candidate and the voter (victory for the candidate and power for the voter) sets aside what ought to be the ongoing prioritization of truth. Thus the affirmation of our shared truth (the goal)...the truths (beliefs) we prefer...the truths (or lack thereof) that achieves the goal (reward) we seek...becomes the acceptable and/or preferred stimulus-response construct.
Once this model is cemented into the collective psyche, winning is the objective and the pursuit of truth...a truth that is just...not just the truth we like...is no longer the relevant priority. Our own particular bias becomes the driving force and all actions are viewed through this skewed prism...including a willingness to discount the truths of the opponent and to accept the attachment of untruths to the enemy if they have the potential to succeed in sullying and defeating that enemy. Simultaneously, we're outraged at the similar tactics of the opposition...though fully in denial as to the inevitable tit-for-tat reality.
I believe he feels forced to do this because the strategy he has employed seems to be failing to overcome the established expectations. In essence, the long-standing stimulus-reward conditioning prevents voters from properly attributing his actions. His hesitation, or refusal to participate in the process as it is designed, leads voters to conclude his truths mustn't be valid or, at the very least, his convictions about his beliefs aren't all that strong (see also Fred Thompson). The problem is that the prevailing mind set posits that all parties share the same goal and those unwilling to do what it takes to achieve those goals must lack the conviction (or the truth) to do what is necessary to win the reward (the power to impose that truth).
I suspect Obama's original strategy was premised upon the notion that the truth he would support when elected would first be as much of the truth as he had already espoused...but it wouldn't stop there. He believed he would also endeavor to get more or most voters to coalesce around a shared truth. Unfortunately, in the existing stimulus-reward system, that proposed outcome would often seem insufficient to the highly conditioned voter. It feels like the glass would be half-empty rather than half-full...and that is apt to fall short of satisfactory.
This results in what we saw last night...a skirmish fully adorned with the trappings that have become all too familiar...and by and large...demanded by the voters.
In the end, Obama has presumably realized the need to engage the negativity despite his dislike for such a system. The open question is whether he can muster the motivation to participate in the existing dynamic in order to win the opportunity to change it...assuming I've ascertained his actual goal. It's possible his objective is no different than that of his opponents and that he has, to this point, simply attempted a novel strategy.
Regardless, as long as the public's objective remains the attainment of the power necessary to implement our own coalitions (tribe) selective truths, the execution and the outcome of our political process will remain the same. We can continue to feign our disgust at what transpires while signaling our acceptance...or we can begin to abridge our bias and forego the fabrications and falsifications we have institutionalized in favor of a rational and reasoned reality.
Until such time as we make that choice, we'll continue our self-sustaining system of salivating each and every time someone succeeds in repackaging the same old rancid red meat. I'm of the opinion that we need to end our dogged dependence on this tired old trick.
Before the votes were tallied, I took note of an interesting dynamic. For the most part, African American Obama supporters and Hispanic Clinton backers were chanting slogans for their respective candidates from opposite sides of the room. At first blush, I was inspired by the enthusiasm…and rightly so. The mood was animated, but by no means did it appear to be hostile. Regardless, it forced me to begin thinking about the mechanics of opportunity.
These particular caucus locations were created to make it possible for Culinary Workers Union members to participate. By and large, the union is made up of lower income ethnic voters...groups that have often felt neglected and inclined to believe many politicians treat them as an afterthought.
I suspect the focus on providing targeted caucus locations coupled with the fact that a woman and an African American are the leading Democratic candidates created a growing sense of opportunity in these overlooked and underappreciated groups. That’s an encouraging development.
At the same time, opportunity is an odd creature. Strange as it may seem, its absence often brings passive acceptance, as the flames of hope aren’t strong enough to fuel the fires that light the way to a better place. On the other hand, the emergence of opportunity is often accompanied by chaos and conflict as the downtrodden sense the possibility to transcend the certainty of a lesser lot in life.
Once opportunity rears its head on the distant horizon, the dim light that allows us to see its outline is apt to ignite dreams of better days that have long been kept in check. Simply stated, when opportunity is nowhere to be found, the certainty of status brings complacency; and conversely, when opportunity is palpable, the promise of progress often promotes impassioned participation.
As I pondered the fact that African American voters broke overwhelmingly for Senator Obama and Hispanic voters chose Senator Clinton by wide margins, I couldn’t help but consider the heinous nature of ethnic immobility and its propensity to divide rather than unite those who fight each day for a tiny share of a shrinking pie.
I suspect poverty brings clarity…and little else. Let me attempt an explanation.
Those who live each day like the one before…struggling to make ends meet…are undoubtedly forced to be cognizant of their limited resources as well as the need to jump to seize the scarce supply of opportunities that rarely appear. They know too well the large numbers of those who watch each day for a glimmer of hope…a chance to break the chains that bind and grab the rope that can deliver them from their darkened destiny…one clenched hand over another…hanging perilously above the pull of gravity that seeks to return them to the depths of despair.
Hence the chance to cast a vote of consequence is bound to inspire…and incite. With history as the point of reference, the knowledge of limited resources is, of course, the logical source of strife.
As we nominate a Democratic candidate and prepare for the 2008 presidential election, we needn’t and mustn’t allow the powers that be to portray the passions of hope as a reminder of racism. Rather, this process must be a rejoinder of our refusal to ignore the plight of the poor.
For far too long we have asked the least of us to be patient…to endure…to remain silent and satisfied with what little they receive. To be shocked when we witness a groundswell of emotion and the inevitable enmity that has become inured in those who know they are not welcome at the table is to ignore our part in setting too few place settings at that table.
We can make this election cycle about what separates us, or we can make it about what we choose to do to put an end to the dynamics that have long been allowed to divide us.
These simmering conflicts need not be evidence of the Democratic Party’s or this country’s inability to coalesce around one candidate. Rather, it should be fair notice that the Democratic Party will no longer accept the premise that the least of us need not be relevant or respected. I believe the voices of dissention are simply the sounds of destiny calling us to a new awareness.
Instead of silencing the voices of those who have yearned for change…and may now have the courage to demand it…we must add our voices to their clamor and grasp this opportunity to signal that we will no longer turn our heads to the plight of the have nots.
This is a moment that can either transform us or further fragment us. Instead of giving lip service to America’s greatness, it is time we once again demonstrate it. If we love this country we will. If we continue the trend of simply loving ourselves at the expense of the underrepresented, I suspect we’ll continue down the path of carelessly severing what’s left of the threads that so carefully created the cloth we call these United States.
Isn’t it time we put down our cynical and self-serving scissors and begin the hard work of stitching together a tapestry big enough to bring shelter and solace to all?
If this were the only incident of Romney mincing words, one might be inclined to disregard this latest episode. However, one would have to be blind to miss that the well-heeled and carefully coifed candidate has done so on numerous occasions; not to mention the fact that he recently unveiled his umpteenth stump strategy as a non-establishment, change agent, Washington outsider. While the former governor is adept at covering his tracks, I suspect these tactics are wearing thin and appear far too coy for a number of voters.
I'm reminded of the GOP's frequent efforts to pejoratively peg Democratic candidates. They labeled John Kerry a "flip flopper" and they spent years attaching "Slick Willie" to President Clinton. With that in mind, I think its time to tag Romney with an appropriate alias.
A number of pundits have referred to Romney by his actual first name, Willard, and others have taken to calling the GOP candidate Mittens (think here kitty, kitty). Nonetheless, the existing choices just don't seem to capture Romney's political essence.
I think a concerted effort is warranted to help accurately identify and appropriately describe candidate Romney. In looking for a starting point, I couldn't help but recall Jon Lovitz' Saturday Night Live character, "Tommy Flanagan...The Pathological Liar".
Feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments and maybe we can start a list and have readers pick a favorite.
Also, don't hesitate to propose some new versions of existing words that define Romney's willingness to finesse the truth. The one that immediately came to mind is a "mittrepresentation"...which could easily be substituted for misrepresentation. Obviously, this would also work for misinformation, resulting in the word "mittinformation".
The more time I spend watching and listening to Mike Huckabee, the more I'm reminded of George W. Bush prior to his election in 2000. Huckabee, like Bush, presents himself as an affable character with a penchant for making simplistic connections with average folk. I contend that makes Mike Huckabee the logical successor to George Bush as the embodiment of the candidate voters would be inclined to select because they would enjoy sharing a beer with him.
At the same time, I suspect any presidential candidate is driven to win...and that desire likely leads candidates to adjust their positions on policies in order to be victorious. Many times this can lead a candidate to believe they must straddle the fence on controversial issues in order to maximize voter appeal. In that regard, I believe Mike Huckabee is also more similar to George Bush with each passing day.
Prior to his election, George Bush sold himself as a compassionate conservative...a position he frequently suggested had its origin in his evangelical faith. Mike Huckabee has put forth a comparable persona. Doing so affords a candidate the ability to broach volatile issues in "kinder, gentler" ways...at least superficially. It also has the added benefit of drawing more votes.
The goal of telegraphing is to sound sufficiently reasonable (moderate) to those voters who are uncomfortable with the targeting of any particular segment of society while also communicating one's willingness to enact measures that do exactly that (targeting) to those voters who harbor bias for any number of reasons; not the least of which include homophobia and racism...although they are often couched as religious convictions or legalistic justifications.
To the impartial observer, the strategy often appears schizophrenic since rationality can rarely reconcile the divergent statements. At the very least, reasonable individuals are apt to notice some level of dissonance when placing the two statements side by side.
With George Bush, the dissonance was exhibited in numerous ways. On the one hand, the President spoke in support of the dignity of all Americans and against acts of discrimination directed towards gays. At the same time, he made strategic pronouncements in favor of an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage...spoken in terms that were broad enough to allow moderates to believe he may not oppose the affording of some benefits to same-sex couples while also leaving the far right convinced the President understood the absolute necessity of the amendment and the negligibly vague references to "allowing" for some lesser rights for gays.
The fact that the homosexuality of the Vice President's daughter, Mary Cheney, was seemingly acceptable provided another avenue for telegraphing. Dick Cheney's ability to voice some level of disagreement with the President's occasionally more definitive position helped muddy the waters and allowed observers to draw whatever inferences they favored.
I'll offer one final observation relative to telegraphing. I believe George Bush's success with the strategy was enhanced by his belief that these discordant statements should be delivered proximate. The less time allowed between the statements helps to nullify the negative impact of both while still delivering an important message to each constituent group.
I view Mike Huckabee's current strategy with regard to illegal immigration (Mexicans) much the same. I doubt telegraphing was initially a key element of his campaign. However, my impression is that Huckabee is an able politician...but even more so an astute learner. In short order, this crafty Christian has discovered the merits of message manipulation.
The following videos track the subtle, though significant, Huckabee shift on immigration. Note that in the first video (April 13, 2007) he focuses upon his compassion and understanding for those who are here illegally...suggesting that there should be a process for them to pay some fines and begin their assimilation. He doesn't indicate his desire to send them all back home before this can begin.
Huckabee On Immigration - April 13, 2007
In this second video, the former governor positions himself as a person of compassion...going so far as to tell voters that if they're looking for a president with a mean spirit, he's not going to do it and they should choose another candidate.
Huckabee On Immigration - September 5, 2007
In this third video, Huckabee wants to first make clear that he and most American's aren't and shouldn't be angry at immigrants; instead the problem is the failure of the government to enforce our existing laws. He avoids talk of sending all of the immigrants home while attempting to infer that there should be a simple process to have employers identify illegals and press them to begin the appropriate legal process.
Huckabee On Charlie Rose - November 1, 2007
In this fourth video, Huckabee is addressing the remarks he made the prior evening at the YouTube debate. Note his recognition that immigration is an issue that angers and impassions voters. He seems to still be struggling to abandon his compassionate stance though one gets the sense he's increasingly frustrated at his inability to redirect the dialogue. He's more defensive than in his prior discussions.
He closes by alluding to his position being apt to make his staff cringe and to possibly cost him the election. I suspect he and his staff sense his rising poll numbers and they're struggling to reconcile themselves to an unpopular position on immigration.
Huckabee Following The YouTube Debate - November 29, 2007
In this final video, which follows on the heels of his victory in Iowa, the former Baptist minister starts off with a comment that suggests he'd be happy to avoid the subject. He then moves to quickly defend his position to send illegals home with two defensive arguments. One, he argues we need to have a speedier path to legal immigration...lessening the wait illegals may have in returning to the U.S. Secondly, he posits that the dignity of illegals is dependent upon their compliance with the law...arguing they will feel better if they do it right.
In essence, Huckabee is well on his way to successfully straddling the fence...and doing so while preserving the bulk of his all-important compassionate credentials.
Huckabee During New Hampshire Debate - January 5, 2008
Hence, Mike Huckabee has completed his telegraphing of an immigration policy that satisfies the far right. In so doing, he improves his chances of ingratiating himself to the base of the GOP while removing a formidable obstacle to his acceptability.
Note that this new Huckabee plan avoids any meaningful discussion of a temporary-worker program. In doing so, Huckabee is catering to those who he initially characterized as mean-spirited and likely racist. By and large, this message by omission is now palatable to the voter demographic that views the influx of Mexicans as a threat to the political status quo. Therefore, he can now entice those voters who believe that a rapidly expanding Hispanic population would be apt to undermine the ability of the GOP to promote its preferred ideology.
Simultaneously, his previously unabated compassion for the plight of 12-15 million illegals and their "innocent" children has morphed into a dissertation on the fundamental attributes that will afford these individuals the dignity that comes with obtaining their citizenship...by returning home and getting in line to obtain legal status. In presenting his message in this manner, he succeeds in distracting from the harsh reality of his new position by focusing upon the idealization and elevation of the American dream...a vastly popular and innocuous concept.
Say what you will about the foibles of the George Bush presidency but one should never underestimate his political acumen. Granted, history may frown upon his accomplishments, or lack thereof, while in office...but it may also note his success in achieving his goal of serving as the president for two terms in an evenly split, though wholly divided, nation.
In less than a year, we will know if Mike Huckabee succeeded in adopting much of George Bush's political template. I shudder to think he just might pull it off. If he does, the critical question will instantly be whether the nation can survive more of the same. I have my doubts.
We may not be officially in the throes of a recession, but there is sufficient data to understand why voters are focusing their attention on the economy. While economics is thought to be a function of mathematical equations, the evidence suggests that math is driven by consumer sentiment. As such, the math can rarely predict a recession. Instead, as is often the case, understanding a recession frequently happens well after the fact.
I've been amused to watch economists offer their odds on the U.S. slipping into a recession. For example, over the last several months...as the numbers have worsened, former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, has revised his prediction a from one in three chance to a fifty-fifty likelihood we will see a recession. Greenspan isn't alone in having altered his thinking...and I expect to see more of the same until such time as the math can capture the impact of rapidly expanding consumer pessimism.
Truth be told, December may well prove to have been the first month of a recession. In the constant barrage of numbers and statistics leading up to a recession, we occasionally receive data that captures the prevailing factors that are driving consumer doubts. Today, McClatchy News delivered a relevant snapshot.
WASHINGTON — New data from the Labor Department confirm what most middle-class Americans already know: Inflation is squeezing them.
As consumer inflation rose by 4.1 percent last year, the highest rate since 1990, the prices of basic essentials such as food, gasoline and health insurance climbed far more steeply, explaining why so many Americans are telling pollsters that the economy is their chief concern.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday that the price of food and beverages rose 4.8 percent. At the same time, real weekly earnings failed to keep pace, rising 0.9 percent for the year. In the simplest of terms, a dollar earned bought less.
This partly explains why the economy so frustrates Americans.
"The kinds of things you purchase every day are going up (in price)," said Gus Faucher, the director of macroeconomics at forecaster Moody's Economy.com in West Chester, Pa. "People who are at the lower end of the income scale are going to feel that more."
That brings me to another point. If tax cuts are the be all and end all that the GOP suggests them to be, then why is it that they fail to insulate the middle class from a downturn in the economy? The obvious answer is that aside from being a symbolic gesture to most Americans, the tax cuts are simply a drop in the bucket. At the same time, the lion's share of these tax cuts serve to further line the pockets of those who least need insulating from a faltering economy.
Perhaps the prevailing economic fallacy is the contention that further tax cuts will stimulate the economy. This might be true if the cuts were directed to those most in need of money to spend...the same middle class that pushed the economy into recession based upon their astute ability to recognize that their money buys less.
Instead, the GOP argues that their top-heavy tax cuts will eventually be transformed into investments and jobs. Unfortunately, that strategy fully ignores the fact that people in the middle class need more money; not more jobs. If those who already have jobs...have jobs that won't allow them to keep apace with inflation...then what benefit will they see from the creation of new jobs...especially when most investors and large corporations are looking to create more lower paying jobs in order to produce more wealth. Even worse, globalization often means that these tax cuts are put into foreign investments that do not create jobs for Americans.
Until such time as economic policy is geared to produce meaningful benefit for the middle class, the economy will remain unstable and vulnerable, the handouts to the wealthy will further concentrate wealth in the hands of fewer individuals, and negative consumer sentiment will more frequently send the country into recession.
Lastly, the unprecedented subprime lending crisis...coupled with the inevitable decline in home values...has the potential to indefinitely stymie consumer optimism. Once the undermining of this last bastion of middle class wealth is realized, I would argue that all economic equations would have been rendered useless. If this happens, the backbone of the U.S. economy may be...like the fabled Humpty Dumpty...beyond reconstruction.
Never let it be said that George Bush lacks a comprehensive energy policy. The President ended his Middle East tour by "asking" (think pretty please) Saudi Arabia to increase OPEC's oil production to lessen the impact of energy costs upon the world economy.
One hour after his plea for more Saudi oil was publicly rejected by the kingdom's oil minister, President Bush made a private visit to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to again ask him to open the spigots.
The White House revealed Bush's private meeting with the Saudi monarch to reporters aboard Air Force One as the president flew to Egypt on the next leg of his Mideast trip.
The president went over the head of the oil minister and made his case to King Abdullah and White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said the private conversation may have yielded some daylight in the Saudis' hard-line stance.
"The king says that he understands the situation. He's worried about high oil prices and how they can negatively affect economies around the world," Perino said aboard the presidential jetliner. "The president said there's a hope that as a result of these conversations that OPEC would be encouraged to authorize an increase in production … to help deal with the tight supply problems in this time when we have growing economies across the world, especially in China."
Earlier, Bush told ABC News' Terry Moran how he would lobby the king.
"I will say to him that, 'If it's possible, your majesty, consider what high prices are doing to one of your largest customers,'" Bush said. "In other words, the worst thing that can happen to an oil-producing nation is that the price of oil causes the economy to slow down, because that will inevitably lead to fewer purchases [of oil]."
When Bush ran for the White House in 2000, he said he would "jawbone" America's Saudi allies to lower the price of oil. The price of oil has hit a record of $100 a barrel, but has slipped to a current price of $91 a barrel on fears that the U.S. economy is headed for a recession.
Perhaps I'm ignorant, but if I were the President, I don't think I would run around telling reporters my strategy if all it involved was sweet-talking his majesty. Further, if I'm the Saudi's, Bush's notion that higher prices will "lead to fewer purchases [of oil]" does little more than provide a good laugh to the members of OPEC at their next meeting. It seems pretty simple to me - without an alternative to oil, who are we kidding in thinking OPEC can be pressured?
Little did we know that the meaning of "jawboning" would ultimately culminate in George Bush kissing up to the Saudi's in hopes they would increase oil production. Yes, it sure looks like the President had an effective plan in place. After all, look at the results...record oil prices! Oh, and don't forget all the oil we're getting from Iraq...you know...the oil that was going to pay for the war effort.
OK, with that said, I decided to offer my own "pulled from thin air" version of the President's comprehensive energy policy. I suspect it has as much potential to succeed as the one being followed by George Bush. So here it is...
The President will soon unveil a new strategy...one that is sure to touch a soft spot with the Saudi's and OPEC. After much consideration, he has decided to reach back into the annals of musical history (think Dusty Springfield) to create his "Wishin' & Hopin'" tour. Say what you will about the President's intellect, but his plan to use his charms to woo OPEC into handing over more oil is sheer genius.
Hence, the following graphic shall serve to launch the President's "Wishin' & Hopin'" strategic energy policy. Let the oil flow!
George W. Bush - Wishin' & Hopin'
Dusty Springfield & Martha Reeves - Wishin' & Hopin'
Any doubt that Mike Huckabee is the dream candidate for most evangelicals can be dispelled by watching the following video. In the span of 30 seconds, the former Baptist minister makes his clear argument for a theocracy. Nothing like calling for the virtual discounting of more than 200 years of constitutional governance in order to pander to those who believe that "Biblical Law" should supersede all else.
Yep, so much for the separation of church and state and the freedom to worship as one chooses or to not worship at all. Perhaps Mr. Huckabee's next move can be to call for a Crusade to vanquish all other religions so we can live under the laws of the "one true god". Why not...it gives the christians someone new to attack now that the allure of gay bashing seems to be waning.
If one were looking for a silver lining in the Huckster's statement, perhaps this will give the Mexicans a momentary reprieve while we focus on the Islamists and the "foolish" beliefs they garner from the Qur'an.
After all, how can we have compassionate conservatism until we vanquish all those who hold false beliefs. Looks like the Axis of Evil just grew exponentially. It just goes to show that religious tolerance may well be the ultimate oxymoron...and Mike Huckabee wants us to know that he is one hell of a moron.
Rudy Giuliani, in an apparent effort to assert his relevance in the Republican presidential primary, has introduced a new ad in Florida (see below) in which he touts his tax cutting prowess and promises to propose trillions of dollars...
I find it difficult to watch and read any further coverage on the validity or sincerity of Senator Clinton's verklempt moment in a diner in New Hampshire. Frankly, the time and energy being spent on the subject is a...
UPDATE: Hillary Clinton is the projected winner of the New Hampshire primary. Original Posting: I'm absolutely fascinated by the fact that the New Hampshire Democratic race remains too close to call. Just when I wanted to conclude that people...
I rarely read The Drudge Report but his posting that the Clinton campaign is considering when she should withdraw from the race for the Democratic nomination caught my attention. I guess I'm wondering how the media's inevitable winner for...
While surfing the internet, I noticed there was a debate underway as to whether a particular segment of Hillary Clinton's debate performance (see video clip below) was a "meltdown", a display of "shrill anger", or any other iteration intended to...
Having read numerous internet postings on the Iowa primary, last evenings New Hampshire debate, and the comment thread in Steven Reynolds posting at All Spin Zone titled “Hillary Clinton, You’re Better Than This", I decided to share my thoughts...
There are countless reasons why I wouldn't vote for Mike Huckabee. At the same time, I find myself in the strange position to admire the fact that he, more than his manipulative Republican predecessors, is a candidate committed to...
I personally feel that Obama is electable...though I don’t disagree that a small portion of the electorate won’t vote for him based upon hidden racism that will only be exposed in the ballot box. That said, I think the...
When the Bush administration first responded to concerns that the economy was on the verge of recession, they were quick to point to the stable unemployment figures and steady job growth. Well, as with most of what comes out...
Favor who you will for the presidency in 2008...but the speech Barack Obama gave tonight following his victory in the Iowa Democratic primary will no doubt be noted as memorable and significant. Should he go on to win the...
Given my own level of ambivalence at this particular juncture in the Presidential campaign (aside from supporting the eventual Democratic nominee), I decided to offer my own commentary on the Iowa primary in pictures. Feel free to offer your...
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