In a Clinton campaign that can seem machinelike, Ickes is conspicuous for his idiosyncrasies. A female aide said that when she noticed his dress shirt unbuttoned practically to the navel, it was like glimpsing an unzipped fly.
Entries tagged as ‘presidential debate’
April 2, 2008 · 2 Comments
February 8, 2008 · 2 Comments
Let’s frame our political options in the following way, shall we?:
The Republican Party is fractured. The big tent is folding in on itself.
Conservatives, social progressives, fiscal hawks, and the establishment are fighting for the “soul” of the party.
Most Republicans are luke warm on the candidate they have chosen for themselves, John McCain.
McCain therefore represents the candidate who is least likely to lose an electoral blowout, and save the most seats (and face).
McCain’s appeal lies with independents. Pundits would have you believe he is therefore more a viable matchup against Obama, who also appeals to independents.
Obama appeals MORE to independents. And he appeals to his party base. He wins.
Not only does he win, but he brings more Dems into the fold… Republicans are less likely to “hedge” against Obama… that is, they’re less likely to vote for a Democratic president and a Republican Congressmen.
If Hillary’s the ticket, right-center independents hedge against the perceived establishment. Gridlock ensues. No clear mandate is achieved.
Hillary’s coat-tails are far shorter than Obama’s. She’s not a better candidate against McCain, no matter what conventional “wisdom” might tell you.
Forget the polls. The fact is, the next President will be a Democrat. They have too much momentum, too much money, and too much George W.
The real question becomes: who carries the party further? Who carries the country further?
If you frame it this way, the choice is clear. Obama for President.
December 27, 2007 · 1 Comment
I’ve finished my whirlwind Christmas break in Iowa and the primary was a big topic of discussion around the Host household. My stepmother particularly had some interesting things to say which I feel are worth sharing because my parents probably represent a decent sample of your typical upper-middle class, white, aging household that the candidates are busily pandering to.
Let me preface her comments with the following: despite the fact that I lived in Washington, attend a policy school, download 3 political podcasts, read several pundit blogs and related weekly magazines, and was stuck in a hotel for 24 hours in Chicago watching Meet the Press and Charlie Rose, my knowledge and opinion of the political race cannot reasonably compare to that of my stepmothers.
(Well, at least according to her.)
My step-mother is the type of person who laments the fact that the media refuses to report on substantive issues, but holds no particularly active interest in substantive issues, and reads US Weekly religiously. I can remember her watching the OJ Simpson trial daily and rhetorically asking nobody in particular, “why do they keep on showing this trash?”
I think when it boils down to it she is one of several Iowans whose most important “issue” is how electable the Democratic candidate is in 2008 against “The Republican Machine.”
Whereas in New Hampshire the voters choose according to whom is most appealing to them, Iowans choose the candidate whom they perceive is most appealing to everyone else. Which is why you have so many undecided voters, even this late in the game. New Hampshire wants to propel the best candidate forward, to generate momentum for a potential darkhorse, whereas Iowans just want to pick the inevitable winner.
With “electability” in mind, the logical candidate, by my step-mother’s reasoning, is Hilary Clinton. She believes Clinton is the most battle tested and has a lower “floor” in terms of how far she can fall in the face of negative campaigning by the Republican Machine. Barack Obama, she believes, would not withstand such concentrated attacks for the duration of a full political cycle.
I pointed out that Obama also had a much higher ceiling in terms of how high he could rise. He has much lower negatives than Clinton and appeals much more strongly to the independent voters of this country, especially college educated white men. The same college educated white men (like my father) who voted for Bush in 2000, and have regreted that decision ever since.
My step-mother got defensive and said the only reason Clinton has such high negatives is because she is a woman.
I conceded that she was probably right, that Clinton was held to an unfair standard, especially by other women, because she was a woman.
Then we dropped the subject and moved on to more appropriate topics for a family dinner.
I was left wondering though, if the direction (and abrupt ending) to our conversation would be the nature of the public debate as this campaign continues. That is to say, is it possible (or probable) that the Democratic candidate (presuming it is either Hillary or Obama) will bait The Republican Machine into overly negative campaigning, and then counter-punch with “these criticisms are unfair and would never be charged against a white male”?
I think such a strategy could destroy a candidate like Giuliani or even Mitt Romney, who might be perceived as political machinists. But if such charges were made against Mike Huckabee, and the original smears were appropriately distanced from his campaign, the strategy could conceivably backfire. In fact, if Huckabee were the Republican candidate, the right could bait the left into the distractor issue of equal treatment by sex/ethnicity, then pour on fierce denials, wrapped in Christian values of tolerance and brotherhood.
Suddenly then, Obama/Clinton becomes the divisive figure, by virtue of the fact that his/her race/gender causes the nation to collectively ask itself whether it is “ready” for a black/woman president.
This anxiety sways guilty liberal voters (who were likely already in pocket) but the Christians become apprehensive… are they ready for four years of an internal dialogue of whether they are “fair” in their assessments/criticisms of the American president?
This is the same confounding anxiety that hiring managers must face, that academic deans must consider when recruiting faculty, and admissions directors mut weigh when selecting the student body. It is an issue so sensitive that you must address it before you can dismiss it.
It then comes to pass that the same mentality that causes Ann Coltier to call the white American male “the Jew of liberal-facism” will motivate Christians to vote Huckabee. Because these voters are accustomed over the past 16 years to being vehemently critical of their president, and they are more comfortable being angry at a white male then they are at a woman/black male, Christians will independently decide that the country “isn’t ready” for X kind of president. And because most voters decide based on the bandwagon (picking the winner), Mike Huckabee might steal an election that nobody thought the Republicans had a shot at.
So I hope Romney pulls away, the counter-valent skepticism (a Mormon?) will off-set between the parties, and we can collectively celebrate our diversity.
November 19, 2007 · Leave a Comment
[Blitzer]: Senator Obama, it seems the nature of the question lends itself to a yes or no answer: “Would you extend student identification privileges to an undocumented student?”
[Obama]: Now, this is a red herring argument. These people aren’t coming to this University to get discounted movie tickets. They’re coming here to enroll in classes. What we need is comprehensive reform of our registration policies, so that we don’t have instances where we have these undocumented students. We need to have a registration system that works, that doesn’t lock out people who are on the path to becoming legal students. One that perhaps has the course listings, degree requirements, course descriptions, prerequisites, course approval requirements, and availability all in the same place, so we don’t have instances where students are falling through the cracks.
[Blitzer]: An evasive answer to a simple question. Let me pose this to the floor. Congressman Kucinich: where do you stand on this issue of illegal students?
[Kucinich]: I take offense to the term “illegal.” These are human beings, they’re just living their lives. They’re undocumented, yes, but that’s because we make the path to documentation so utterly convoluted that we end up with situation at hand.
[Blitzer]: Let’s hear from someone who’s not a hippie Keebler elf. Senator Clinton, what is your take on this issue?
[Clinton]: Well, as a carpetbagging New Yorker, this is an issue that’s very dear to my heart. A lot of my constituents are dealing with these illegal students. What if they have a seizure on campus? How would we know where to send the medical bills? Look: the fact is, in today’s global economy, our students are going to need to have the skills to navigate through a poorly constructed bureaucratic online system. I say: give them their identification cards, and let them figure out the rest.
[Edwards]: If I’m not mistaken, Senator Clinton just gave two different answers [confused eyebrow look]. That was a lot of words!
[Clinton]: I don’t appreciate the mud-slinging from Senator Edwards.
[Edwards]: With all due respect Senator Clinton, I’m from North Carolina… I sling tar.
[Clinton]: [abruptly spastic laughter]
[Blitzer]: Let’s get a Republican take on this issue. Mr. Giuliani, as a New Yorker yourself, how do you feel about Columbia’s registration policies?
[Giuliani]: Well first of all, this is an international school we’re talking about. 60% of the students are foreign born. In a post 9/11 environment, we cannot afford to have undocumented students running around our universities, thinking that they’re registered for the following semester, when in reality they’ve neglected to enroll in the accompanying discussion sections, which have since been blocked out, or get departmental approval. This is a security issue. What if someone from India or Pakistan, with proficient IT skills, hacks our system and replaces it with one that’s fully functional and meets the needs of the students enrolling? I think we can agree, this is an unacceptable risk we can’t afford to take.
[Blitzer]: So what is your proposed solution?
[Giuliani]: Well, first of all, we need to firewall the system. Lock the students out if they’ve been inactive for longer than 3 minutes.
[Blitzer]: I believe that’s already the case…
[Giuliani]: Well, on a related issue, the Democrats seem to be flirting with this idea of amnesty: of letting students into impacted classes after they’ve missed their registration appointments, or because they improperly registered, or because they’ve failed to get instructor approval. This is preposterous. We need to identify those students who have improperly registered and give them “guest student” status, whereupon they can still pay full tuition to take classes they have no interest in, or otherwise don’t help their degree requirements or field of concentration, until the following semester.
I could keep going with this for hours on end. Hey Columbia, your enrollment procedures suck. See: UCLA Registrar for guidance.
October 5, 2007 · Leave a Comment
Take a look at this video. Tell me his position and foresight isn’t exactly what you want out of a president. Remember… he said this when 80% of the country was in favor of invasion.
October 1, 2007 · 1 Comment
How I map on the political spectrum… slightly more authoritarian than the Dali Lama, slightly less communist than Ghandi.
Reader’s Note: The following blog post was written in early June. I may have spoken with many of you about Rohit and my intention to create a website based on the the ideas raised in this post. We both got extremely busy and were beaten to the punch by a site called selectsmart.com , which has all of the components I was looking for (minus a viral component… which is a HUGE letdown). Nevertheless, I suggest anyone looking for a good way to engage in the 2008 political campaign begin by seeing how they align with the candidates based on THE ISSUES they represent… and if you’re curious, I match with 1) Obama 2) Dodd 3) Bloomberg 4) Clinton.
In today’s political climate of defining labels, it’s always good to get a gauge of how well those labels actually define you. I tried the political compass questionnaire , and was somewhat surprised to see how far to the left I actually am on most issues.
This got me thinking…
In lieu of the meaningless ongoing primary debates, I would love to see candidates actually use their phony “profiles” on myspace or wherever to create a questionnaire like this. How great would it be if you could answer a slew of policy questions and see which candidate best matched your interests, based on their official policy positions?
This would serve two important purposes:
1.) I think there is a perception gap, especially for Edwards (who is much farther to the left than people assume, most notably on health care and labor), and Obama (whose stance on social issues is actually more conservative than you might think).
It would be great too if you had “make or break issues” that immediately took a candidate out of consideration. For instance, I would never vote for someone who didn’t unequivocally denounce torture.
Or if you could “weight” certain issues if you “strongly” agreed or disagreed with them: providing universal health care, choice for women, choice in education, bench-marked withdrawal in Iraq, etc. These are especially important to me.
And you could tackle potential wedge issues (which clearly will be immigration in 2008) by delineating the nuanced positions. Do you support guest worker programs? Amnesty? Conditional amnesty based on secured borders? Do you support civil unions? Gay marriage? Tax breaks for gay couples? Shared workplace benefits? Adoption?
2.) This would give the candidates free information directly from their constituents about what issues were most important. They could then tailor their messages to policy issues that speak to people instead of hew-hawing on the same talking points that are already losing their luster. The graph could map out three dimensionally and let participants know how the rest of America fell. And the coordinates of the candidates could drift over time as the debates rage on to see who really is steadfast and who is playing political gambit (HILLARY… COUGH COUGH).
Anyway, I don’t have the know-how to program this. Rohit, I’m looking at you here… want to design a beta version and pitch it to Obama?
So I was thinking more on this… why couldn’t we just make a site called politicalmatch.com or something? How great would that be? It would ask you an extensive survey of policy positions and then rank order the candidates based upon how “compatible” they are, or closely aligned, with your own ideologies?
That would take a HUGE step in leveling the horse-race money aspect of the primaries. You throw the media-managed “intangibles” out the window, and focus strictly on the issues. And it virtually eliminates the bully-pulpit aspect, which just results in a lot of head-nodding or hand-wringing anyway. Why not let people decide on their own how they feel instead of intimidating them with political BS?
Plenty of non-profits produce “report cards” that hold candidates accountable to their voting records (which, by the way, inherently benefits governors over congressman). That approach assumes that the subscribers to the organization (be it Sierra Club or Business Roundtable) are already aligned whole-sale with the mission statement of the particular organization.
Why not skip the third party altogether and let the voter discover for him or herself who best represents his or her particular multitude of interests?
July 25, 2007 · 2 Comments
I know what you’re thinking: who the hell am I to write off a candidate 10 months before the primaries? Especially one that is polling so well, and raising so much money?
Well, that’s easy — I’m an arm-chair blogger. Didn’t you read the disclaimer?
But even without any previous experience following campaigns, I can already tell you how this will play out, and why:
The Path Before Him (aka Snakebitten on a Plane) – Obama is already getting tagged with the “is he the next Howard Dean?” label. That is: rabid excitement on-line, led by non-traditional party affiliates (in both instances, youth), which translates to impressive fund-raising numbers and fervorous campaign activists… and an extinguished wild-fire.
The danger is that the media, having been burned before by misleading internet hype (ie Snakes on a Plane) is wary to assume that passion translates into numbers, and will be slow to fully acknowledge Obama as the presumptive front-runner, even if he were to win in Iowa or New Hampshire.
Categorizing the Candidates (aka the Star Wars trilogy)- Hilary’s campaign strategy is simple: what you see is what you get. She’s the experience candidate. The in-step Democrat. Yesterday, I mentioned that Edwards is the populist, keeping the agenda elastic. Obama is clearly the “Change” candidate. The new-establishment. Put another way:
- Edwards = The Return of the Jedi – Minus Obi-Wan (John Kerry), Luke Guystalker (Edwards) must lead the small rebel army of the republic against the evil empire.
- Hillary = The Empire Strikes Back – After licking its wounds and biding its time, the regrouped Empire (Clinton administration) regains control.
- Obama = A New Hope - How audacious.
The Catch-22 of Being the “Change” candidate
It’s fine and good to be the “Change” candidate — the outsider who was against the war in Iraq from the beginning (even though nobody at the time gave two shits what he thought about Iraq, since he was a state senator at the time of invasion)– the young and fresh instrument of change with a vision for a more stronger union. To be honest, that message appeals to me more than any other. But to harness your image to freshness in a campaign cycle that will drag on for over 2 years seems extremely dangerous to me.
Look, the media has discovered that reporting on issues is not nearly as attention grabbing as reporting on the horse-race. And you just know, like the sun-rise, that the weekly magazines are going to over-expose all of the candidates involved by the end of the summer, including Obama. By the time we reach Super-Tuesday, Obama’s shtick of “something different” will be old-hat. People might resent him for being on the campaign trail, pressing the issue of withdrawal, instead of being in the halls of Congress, making sure that actually happened.
And by “people,” I mean Edwards. He’s the outsider now. He’s the one who can say “Congress holds the purse-strings, they need not approve a war-time budget unless it includes a timetable of withdrawal.”
Obama Will Jump the Shark. If he insists on tying his campaign to “change,” he’ll go down with the ship. The more he tries to paddle away from Washington, the more obvious it becomes that he is part of Washington. Eventually, the media will pick up on this. And by the time they do, it will be too late.
July 25, 2007 · 1 Comment
This isn’t a “walk into a bar” joke (I’m not sure how youtube could even walk into a bar. But I did watch a dog hump a duck on youtube yesterday. Duck was not loving it).
You know what I didn’t watch on youtube yesterday? The presidential debates. I didn’t watch them on CNN either.
Why wouldn’t I care to watch our likely next president engage in an unprecedented populist format of political discourse? Because it all seemed rather silly.
To me, the idea creates the false illusion that our country’s leaders actually care about/listen to the concerns of the unwashed masses. And it unnecessarily prolongs meaningless political debate and gum-flapping FAR before the election, while important national discussions of are being fillibustered back here in Washington.
Sure, maybe the format makes the issues more genuinely accessible, even if the candidates are falsely so. But still, the whole thing reeks of a boardroom decision made by some lame executive who saw Seth Grodin speak excitedly on something or another and took it to heart.
Now, I am on somewhat of a populist binge of late, so it may strike you as inconsistent that I would thumb my nose at something so democratic (or at least, on its face). But the range of issues, especially amongst Democrats, is so narrow. And all of the good ideas are being proposed by John Edwards, anyway (he’s angry, and he’s on your side).
I don’t want to be too dismissive here, because he really appeals to me— but how far can a former trial lawyer/hedge-funder who gets outrageously expensive haircuts carry that message?
The “Youtube as a populist outlet” debate– in the middle of a larger national debate on when/how/why we should withdraw out of Iraq– also reminded me of something Noam Chomsky mentioned in Manufacturing Consent, on the difficulties of selling the blue-collar class the necessities of war, mainly because they tend to be too emotive. Of the Vietnam War, he states:
One reason that propaganda often works better on the educated than on the
uneducated is that educated people read more, so they receive more propaganda.
Another is that they have jobs in management, media, and academia and therefore
work in some capacity as agents of the propaganda system–and they believe what
the system expects them to believe. By and large, they’re part of the privileged
elite, and share the interests and perceptions of those in power.
Now again, I like Edwards… but how is he the “populist” in the crowd? Doesn’t anyone remember Howard Dean?
In Chomsky’s terms, isn’t there anyone who will debate the war not on its strategic failures, but on its moral ones?
June 25, 2007 · 1 Comment
It’s a complicated issue. The long and short of it is:
- We went to war with Iraq on false information.
- The Bush administration underestimated the fallout of a power vacuum in a post-Saddam Iraq.
- The same group thinking and jingoism that justified that war in the first place is now dog-piling in the “told you so” camp.
- The administration has failed to see immediate returns in the surge and is now spinning the extended conflict as a proxy war with Iran.
This leaves us in a tough spot. Is the Bush Doctrine of preemptive regime change a failure in principle, or in its execution? What constitutes an imminent threat? Are we really ready to add a third front to this war?
Watching the Democratic debates, every single candidate was loathe to suggest anything but “diplomatic” tactics against an aggressive Iran. Well, the New York Times Magazine suggests that diplomacy may do more harm than good in a piece titled Hard Realities of Soft Power.
In the article, the former director of Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council says the following of US aid to Iranian NGOs:
“I was worried about the safety of those on the receiving end of the funds. But I also just wondered if this was feasible. I don’t see how a U.S. government that has been absent from Tehran for 30 years is capable of formulating a program that will have a positive effect… This may have been a very high profile, sexy project, but the likelihood of real impact was minimal.”
Now I certainly won’t purport to be an expert on the Middle East. But one of the (many) things I learned in Cuba was that in a closed society, anti-American rhetoric can completely sustain a regime. Every Cuban was vividly aware of the meddling role the United States had played in the history of their country. I am certain that Iran perpetuates and plays off the same suspicions to its citizens. Therefore, any organization that receives funding from the US, humanitarian or not, is going to be painted as a subversive front.
However, that’s not to say we shouldn’t make the effort. When the Shah was ousted from power in 1979, the intelligence community in the US was caught with its collective pants around its (swollen) ankles. Frankly, I’m hesitant to take the NSC’s evaluation as the end-all-be-all.
My take is this: for four years I lived in Westwood, which along with Brentwood and Beverly Hills is known as “Tehrangeles.” I can attest first-hand that Persian exiles living in the United States are, shall we say, “ostentatiously frivolous” with their money, much like Cuban exiles in Miami. That is to say, there are lots of designer sunglasses being purchased.
Clearly these are cross-sections of the upper-echelons which had the most to lose from a Revolution. These two ethnic groups have not only fully assimilated into the American mainstream, but have dynamically changed it. The speedy transitions suggest that the value systems of our respective cultures are not as fundamentally different as we might have otherwise assumed. Or, at least, it is misleading to paint entire populations with a broad brush, especially in non-democracies.
Moreover, this (once again) proves the universal preference for individual liberties:
There is a mass movement. There is a silent majority that does not want this regime. We’re experiencing a slow 1978 in the context of Iranian history.
As Iran Cracks Down on Dissent, we as Americans should take note. The regime is extremely insecure, and rightfully so. Controlling a society in an Information Age is no easy task.
I find it extremely interesting that Google is stepping up to the plate on this issue. In their new Public Policy blog, they outline a position that state censorship should be considered a trade-barrier.
Now, we already have a “Radio Marti” broadcast in Cuba and a “Voice of America” in Iran. The fundamental assumption of Voice of America is that the societies to which it is broadcasting are not free and that the best thing you can do to advance their freedom is to show them what fair reporting is like and, along the way, show them the good news about American values.
It’s fascinating to me that Google and its ilk could be the new Radio Free Europe of our generation. Certainly there are steps a government (like China) can take to restrict internet access, but there are also counter-measures such as IP-blocking allowing for private browsing. In China’s case, they have learned the lessons of history and are at least somewhat relaxed in allowing a space for a (monitored) civil society. This is not the case in Iran.
As Al Gore says, the internet, for all its excesses, holds the potential as the great equalizer.
May 18, 2007 · 2 Comments
It’s great to be here in San Francisco!
–Bob Dole, upon arriving in San Diego for the 1996 GOP Convention
Before puberty dealt me a cruel fate of acne, bitch tits and a bear-suit, I was kind of a big deal. As a much-revered fourth-grader, I served as Vice-President of Kate Sessions Elementary School.
I just reeked of rich mahogany.
In grade 5, I decided to throw my hat in the ring for the position of President. Ostensibly, I ran on the platform of better popsicle options, more homework passes, and new basketball nets. Truly, a man of the people.
I’ll spare you the suspense and tell you that I won… but, my administration was rife with scandal. (Let me explain: at every weekly assembly, the homework passes that we implemented were drawn “randomly” out of a giant box by myself and my cabinet. The lucky winners were awarded a night free from homework obligations. Allegations of nepotism were charged when it was observed that the winning tickets frequently belonged to my friends. On closer inspection, many of the tickets contained large globs of dried glue that gave them a distinguishing tactile characteristic. I don’t recall the specific nature of these events, and cannot comment further).
But that is neither here nor there. The point of this post is to highlight my captivating stump speech that undoubtedly secured me my position of power. The closing line was: “If nothing else, as your current Vice-President, at least I know how to spell potato.”
This was, of course, a jab at then Vice-President of the United States Dan Quayle, who had recently committed the faux pas of “correcting” a student’s spelling while on some photo-op in a public school. Quayle was mercilessly mocked by the mainstream media to the point that the joke was salient to an audience of 8, 9 and 10 year-olds. He lost the respect of the country and his party over a commonly misspelled tuber.
15 years later, there is a cottage industry (Daily Show and Colbert Report) mocking the unintelligible things our President says on a DAILY BASIS.
I just wanted to bring this up so that when we hear news stories on how “clean” Obama is, or how Hil-dog “ain’t feel no ways tired,” or how Edwards spent $400 on a haircut, or how Brownback doesn’t know who Brett Favre is, or how McCain “WALNUTS!” himself, or how Tommy Thomson thinks “earning money is part of the Jewish tradition,” or how mid-west women find Mitt Romney “hot with classically natural graying temples and jet-black hair,” or how Giuliani is a ferret-hating adulterer with the world’s most complicated position on abortion…
These people aren’t infallible. They’re going to make mistakes. They have people managing their gaffes and flubs, but damage control is impossible in today’s environment. And the opposition pays people (Swiftboat anyone?) to exploit their faux pas.
The lesson? Take a page from the Bush play-book and learn some self-deprecation. Take the issues seriously, but give yourself some wiggle room for error.
Seriously Edwards, would it have killed you to go on Leno and say, “Yeah this haircut cost me $400… but I’m dead sexy.”?