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Works and Days

The Candidates

February 1st, 2008 - 11:32 am

Candidates—some final appraisals

Biden et al—how do these non-candidates (cf. Dodd, Richardson, Paul, etc.) mark the beginning and end of their non-campaigns, since there is no resonance at any time? One day it’s ‘why not try that’—and another you wake up and say, ‘ok, no more of that’? Is the decision to run predicated on the free face time on TV, and the decision to quit then taken when the cameras vanish?

Clinton—so many third rails, where to start? She has to watch her grating, shrill octave and cackling, and the innate tendency to get mean and nasty. Then there is Wild Bill, who is taking her up on his half of “the deal” (you got leftwing White House clout by sticking by me; I get White House ego clout by not embarrassing you during your turn). There is always the land mine of Bill’s financial prostitution, in which he glad-handed his way in a mere eight post-presidential years to hundreds of millions for his library and foundations.

Edwards—surely some sort of Harold Stassenian record: since his 1998 Senate election, and 2004 and 2008 presidential runs, he must have entered the most elections and won the least. He has now made blue-jeans into the equivalent of Mike Dukakis’s tank helmet.

Obama—the more he talks about not talking about race, the more he talks about race, apparently so that he never has to take a position or offer details about his European-like socialism, and so can be perpetually beloved for promoting “change.” In the white liberal mind, a suave rhetorician of half-African ancestry from Harvard can be safely reconfigured as an African-American victim of historic racism, and thereby avoid the Sharpton-Jackson scare factor. The more he writes and talks about his father, the more one is reminded that his critical training and education were more likely due to his mother and maternal grandparents.

Giuliani—a strangely comatose campaign, in which from August to November apparently it spent millions, but on what, no one knows? We tsk, tsk the New York Times, but their serial character assassination of him for days on end was picked up on the blogosphere and regional papers, and he never got over the damage. A reminder about human nature: most have no ideology other than wishing to associate with a winner. While Rudy sat on his lead waiting for the sure thing in Florida, others were perceived as “winners” and in the limelight, and so like the proverbial magnet stone drew away his supporters. He did prove by far the best candidate in one-on-one repartee.

Huckabee—I grew up with thousands like him in Central California during the 1950s after the Arkansas and Oklahoma Diaspora: bright, educated, witty, a good guy without any background in foreign affairs and whose overt Christianity would always help to achieve a strong second or third place primary finish, but ipso facto never win the nomination or the general election. 90% of the time he’s charming and suave, the other 10% wacky, and one never knows when or where or why that rarer side pops up.

McCain—the old warhorse. The Greeks might say that something happened in Vietnam, or maybe during his long career or his past failed bid in 2000, to suggest that in his twilight his luck has finally changed and it is now his turn. His candidacy offers intriguing possibilities: at 72 he might feel no need to triangulate and thus might really balance the budget, cut programs, and talk candidly in a way others would not. I’ve had the following experience hundreds of times: a Democrat will write or call and say if Hillary is nominated, he won’t vote for her, but would for McCain (alone of the Republicans), and that “lots” feel the same way but would never admit to such. I imagine he gets far more votes than he polls. As in the case of Giuliani and Thompson, McCain’s frenetic pace makes one confused about how a cancer survivor in late middle/old age could keep up such an ordeal. His last debate should be a warning to his handlers: he was confused and tired, and needed a rest. On the day of debates, ensure he gets plenty of rest. At 54 after an occasional kidney stone, yard work and writing, I’m exhausted; the notion at 71 after cancer, I could be traveling 18 hrs a day is inconceivable. McCain’s biggest problem? He must reach out to enemies and not gratuitiously insult his erstwhile allies.Go on Limbaugh and Hannety and take whatever they dish out.

Romney—I met him for breakfast twice and found him a thoroughly nice guy with enormous talents. On paper, he may be the most impressive: sharpest mind, vigorous, well educated, pleasant. His supposed liability—Mormonism—faded while his apparent strengths (looks, money, suaveness) were seen as his weaknesses, cementing the image of a “slick” product.

Thompson—solid conservative, but apparently surprised that a sixty-something, well paid actor, recovering from lymphoma, with young wife, and children, is suddenly told that he leads polls and could be the next president. How do you refuse that? I found him the most charming of the candidates (also had breakfast with him). I especially appreciate his relaxed attitude and ‘crap happens’ resignation, and hope he is considered as a VP candidate or cabinet secretary. Again, I never understood why a cancer-survivor in his 60s is called “lazy”—but then this campaign has proved that the press and its pundits are creepier than we ever imagined, as if we all have no memory of their own viciousness and triangulations.

“We’re Back!”

So said Bill Clinton Wednesday night in Denver. He was talking ad nauseam ostensibly about Hillary but mostly about Bill, past and present. And he seems to think things like 100mpg cars would be developed because of his wife, or that she would lower interest rates for affordable loans— although I thought shaky rules to get more people in homes were part of the problem by extending too easy credit to the unqualified.

He was speaking and speaking and speaking, pacing and without notes, in total stream of thought fashion, in which he can and does say anything that comes across his jittery mind. What does he mean that “Hillary is the best change maker” he ever knew? Answer—in second one he damns debt and all the money we owe to the Chinese and Japanese, and then in second two lists all the expensive federal programs she started or expanded, as if there is to be no connection.

If this continues, he will say some outrageous things before this is over. I’ll stop with the anecdotes he offers about their partnership—“Bill, do you love me?” (The problem with Hillary as President is not just being that we are on new ground with an ex-President shilling for his wife to find a way to beat term limits, but doing so as part of a mercenary and utilitarian, and cynical, tag-team marriage.)

The Debate

There was no California debate tonight between Obama and Clinton, just a consensus about a sort of squishy sort of European socialism—more federal programs, more UN, more retreat from Iraq, more assumption that the government alone can save us all.

His fear? Don’t mention one detail, one specific proposal that might suggest he’s not an Olympian but could offend someone who didn’t think he got as big a federal program as his neighbor. So “change” and “historic” (aka first black serious candidate) are the extent of his vocabulary. On immigration, taxes, defense he talks only in anti-Bush generalities. No mention that we haven’t been hit since 9/11, the Taliban and Saddam are gone, and the four soon to be nuclear powers of the 1990s (North Korea, Iraq, Iran [if one were to believe the NIE], and Libya) were not by 2007. We should compare the contrast with Pakistan in 1998 about which no one offers any mea culpa.

Her fear? The Cackle. From time to time she lets loose and it gets sort of eerie as even supporter gasp and think ‘Please don’t do that again!’. She too deplores the Bush debt as she lists billions in new federal programs—without a hint that they might be connected. And when she said that Syria and Iran will be in bad shape when we begin fleeing Iraq 60 days after her assumption of office, should we laugh (please! No!) or cry (sort of).

Re: the non-debate. I guess Obama thinks he’s gaining, so keep it cool; she’s cooling it to ensure she doesn’t blow it. Again, expect Bill to muddy the waters next time around.

McCainimosity

McCain is weak on borders, in that he changed and slurred his critics—but his present position is light years from the de facto open borders—and ‘proud of it’ attitude—shared by Clintama.

I still think if McCain goes on Hannity, Rush, etc., talks bluntly, but graciously and reviews his positions on the war, spending, corruption, and vows on illegal immigration, he can mollify his base—in light of the alternative seen tonight. See below:

I’m still being bombarded by those who promise that they will sit out if McCain is nominated. But any simple collation of his views with the Clintama positions will show an abyss of difference. I can’t believe that conservatives will stay home while someone with a 82 percent ACU rating may run against the Senate’s most highly rated liberal senator. If either Hillary or Obama is elected, conservatives could kiss the Supreme Court off for 30 years, and see the Petraeus surge squandered. For those who keep writing the McCain venom, at least turn some of it on St. Reagan (new taxes on payroll and gas, arms for hostages, flight from Lebanon, O’Connor and Kennedy as justices, 1986 amnesty, desire for global and rapid nuclear disarmament, etc.) or President Bush (massive growth in government, spending hikes, immigration bill, Dubai ports, farm bill give-away, etc.).

The debate has become so crazy that today they were attacking McCain’s war record! And complaining about his class ranking at Annapolis! I’d cool it, since we are really talking about a return of Bill Clinton and more Justice Ginsburgs, Madeline Albrights, a few cruise missiles when our embassies are incinerated, tax increases from payroll to income to estate, more reductions in military forces (peace dividend), and a near veto by Europe and the UN on U.S. options abroad. A McCain-Thompson ticket, with pledges on taxes and immigration, would not be the same as the above, and to suggest otherwise is, well…

Edwards Emeritus

After he withdraws, has Edwards created a blue-jeans jail in which he can’t go back to John’s room in the mansion? How long can he walk around in plaid and jeans as man of the people, now that there is not much political gain to be made from it, other than a cabinet post?

So I would suppose that insidiously he’d go back to the $50,000 a pop university lectures on poverty, the weekly-salary haircuts, and hedge-fund/Wall Street freelancing—Clinton-like using the cover of a foundation for poverty to pay for the private jetting and good life, sort of analogous to the Arianna Huffington Brentwood populism or the John Kerry camouflage and mansion show.

In the end, he remains the most enigmatic of all the candidates: how can an ambulance chaser turned into Blue-dog southern senator transmogrify into Tom Joad, and apparently fool millions of voters?

A Different Sort of Populism

A reader wrote in inquiring: who has the biggest house among our present populists: Kerry, Kennedy, Gore, or Edwards? I answered in total square footage, Kerry. But was not sure about the primary residence. Could it be Edwards? And does one count total houses and aggregate footage, or single residence or principal home?

All of our present liberalish billionaire populists who critique capitalism and want higher taxes—Soros, Buffet, Gates, Trump, etc.—beat the system years ago, once railed against government intrusion into markets and competition, and now, billions later, feel themselves exempt. So in Carnegie fashion, they sense before the twilight it’s time for a little magnanimity, one that will have absolutely no effect on their billion-dollar lifestyles. For a man with $1 billion there are ways to tax all ‘income’ at 20% as capital gains and not 35% plus as income—if taxed at all in offshore investments, trusts, and foundations. And if one high-profile magnate is making $70 million a year in interest, whether he pays $25 million or the higher $35 million is not as important as the sense of status and acclaim that greets his strikingly liberal positions on making the rich (i.e., those greedier families, making say $300-500,000,) pay their fair share—or else!

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