I'm a Pundit Too

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Is Liberal A Dirty Word?

The National Journal recently released their ratings of members of Congress. They rated Senator Clinton as the 16th most liberal senator, while Senator Obama was rated as the most liberal senator in the United States Senate. The trends show that over the past 3 years, from his first year in the senate until 2007 when he was trying to win the support of the Democratic base support, his voting record shifted dramatically to the left. His rating went from a middle of the road 16th, to number one in 3 short years. Senator Clinton on the other hand started out as a middle of the road liberal and rose to number 8 in the ratings in 2003 and then dropped back in the pack again. It appears that Senator Clinton has been positioning herself as more of a moderate to win broader appeal for a general election, while Senator Obama has positioned himself as a staunch liberal to win the primary election. The question to be posed is this, if the candidates will sell their voting souls for a political victory, what will they do once they are elected?

How do we really know where they stand on any issue? If we can’t look at their voting records as an indication of what they believe, then what can we look into to educate ourselves? Should we listen to what they say on the political trail? As politicians, they will say anything in order to get elected. After all, former President Clinton promised to cut taxes in his first term and to allow homosexuals to openly serve in the military. The first President Bush made his infamous promise during the 1988 campaign, “Read my lips, no new taxes”. Politicians make careers out of promising everything to everybody, and then blaming the opposition for blocking their fruition of their promises.

The talented politicians are able to remain popular even after they fail to live up to a large percentage of their promises. President Clinton still remains very popular, even though he did not follow through on many of his promises. His supporters point to the “evil” Newt Gingrich for Clinton’s failings. President Reagan is revered by the conservative base of the Republican party, but he did sign an amnesty bill for illegal immigrants and was unable to control the congressional spending. Clinton is loved, in part, because of his never-ending fight with Gingrich and the Republicans. Reagan is loved because of his strong support for the military and his cutting of the tax rate from over 75% down to 28%.
As this political campaign whittles the field down to 2 major candidates, we are left to wade through the charismatic speeches, the political rhetoric, and the campaign promises to try to decide who will bring about the political progress that most closely resembles our own beliefs. We have to decide whether a candidate that pledges to withdraw all troops out of Iraq, regardless of the chaos that would surely ensue is the best to lead our country. Or do we choose a candidate that would keep our troops in Iraq until the Iraqis are able to maintain their own security. By the way, all reports show that the Iraqi security forces are rapidly taking over control of their own security. Do we choose a candidate that proposes to talk to any third world dictator without any prerequisites? Or do we choose a candidate who understands the naiveté of such a policy? Do we choose a candidate based solely on personality and charisma? Or do we choose a candidate that understands what it takes to be a President? Do we choose an untested and inexperienced senator from Illinois? Or do we choose a war hero and a seasoned senator from Arizona?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Cult Of Personality

I know your anger, I know your dreams, I’ve been everything you want to be.
That one line from the 80’s rock band, Living Colour, seems to sum up the following of the Barack Obama campaign. Obama has surprised virtually every political expert, by his meteoric rise in popularity and the polls. This election season was supposed to be the coronation of Hillary Clinton, but no one took the charisma of Barack Obama into account. He has enjoyed rock star fame, which has catapulted him past Clinton in the delegate count. When was the last time you have heard of women fainting at a political speech? That type of reaction is normally reserved for rock concerts. Obama’s “cult of personality” has drawn crowds of 20,000 or more just to hear him speak. The peculiar aspect of his followers is that many can’t seem to name anything that he has accomplished in his brief legislative career. Nor are they able to definitively name any of his positions.

Susan Sarandon, the award winning actress and political activist, recently appeared on the Tavis Smiley show. Tavis asked her whom she was supporting for President now that John Edwards had dropped out of the race. Sarandon answered Barack Obama because he has convinced people that he stood for hope and change. She went on to say that she looked forward to finding out where he stood. One would be safe to surmise that a political activist of Ms. Sarandon’s credentials would be able to say what positions on the issues her candidate of choice takes.

The Democratic nomination has transformed into a personality contest and Obama has started to run away with the nomination. Hillary Clinton for all of her political power and prowess has been unable to match Barack’s charisma and likable personality. Electrifying speeches laced with words like hope and change marks his campaign speeches and rallies. The missing component of his political speech is any trace of specifics on where he stands. A simple perusal of his campaign’s website will shed some light onto his positions, but a closer look reveals that Obama and Clinton are basically the same candidate. The only difference is the likeability factor.

Both candidates have co-opted some of John Edwards’ ideas, for example Edwards socialist plan of taking back $55 billion from corporate subsidies and pass it along to the workers. Both candidates are pushing their version of socialist healthcare, tax hikes for the “rich”, enormous socialist job creation program, and government intrusion into the foreclosure “crisis”. There has not been a candidate for President that has been this overtly liberal in the past 40 years.
Barack Obama has a comfortable lead in the delegate count and appears to be on his way to wrapping up the nomination within the next few weeks. Hillary Clinton is counting on Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to swing in her favor to overtake Obama and gain the momentum that she desperately needs to win the nomination. I can’t bring myself to bet against the Clintons and their drive to retake the White House. I believe that one way or another, either by winning the primaries or using the super delegates, Hillary will end up being the nomination. The only question that remains is, when will the “cult of personality” be exposed for what it is, empty rhetoric.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Civil War Within The Political Parties

The race to the political party’s nominations has turned into an entertaining affair. On the Republican side, Senator John McCain has steadily climbed in the polls and the delegate count since early January. He now leads the delegate count by a wide margin over former Governor Mike Huckabee. McCain also received another boost this week with former opponent and Governor Mitt Romney. Romney, as you may recall, suspended his campaign after a poor showing on Super Tuesday. At the time, he made no explicit endorsement for any other candidates. That changed on Thursday, when he officially endorsed Senator McCain, and asked that his delegates vote for the senator at the Republican Convention this summer.

McCain has not had an easy ride to the nomination. Conservatives, myself included, have derided McCain for his positions on illegal immigration, his opposition to the tax cuts of Bush’s first term, his forming of the “gang of 14”, and his cosponsoring of the dreadful McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Reform bill. He has made comments recently that seem to suggest that he has changed his mind on illegal immigration; and he asserts that his opposition to the tax cuts was based on there was no accompanying spending cuts. On those 2 points I will give him the benefit of doubt, but on the other points I still take issue.

The “gang of 14” was comprised of 14 senators, equally from both parties, that would cross party lines on judicial nominees. It was in response to the stalemate in the Senate over the President’s judicial nominees. I wanted to see the Republicans in the Senate stand up and fight for the nominees, forcing the Democrats to actually attempt a real filibuster. Instead, we had the “gang of 14” which caved into the Democrats wishes and prevented many great judges from ever getting a real chance.

The McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Reform bill was sold as a means to get the money out of politics. Does anyone see the money that was taken out of politics? Don’t we see just as much money if not more money being spent in the election season? The biggest result of the reform bill has been to make it harder for the incumbent politicians to be unseated from their thrones of power. How else do you explain a measure in the bill that does not allow any advertisements against a candidate within 30 days of an election? Take that along with the shifting of the money around, incumbents have been even more difficult to send them back to the private sector.

With all of that being said, Senator McCain is head and shoulders above either one of the candidates from the left side of the political spectrum. Senator Obama holds a slight delegate lead over Senator Clinton. He was the big winner on Super Tuesday and has continued to roll since then. Senator Clinton’s campaign appears to be in trouble, but they maintain that they will win Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in a few weeks. They believe that they will win those states and will turn the tide of momentum back in their favor. I believe Giuliani thought that would happen in Florida for his campaign; and Thompson bet his campaign on South Carolina. Giuliani and Thompson are both back in retirement.

One, usually minor, aspect of the Democratic nomination is the role of super delegates. A super delegate is a party official or elected official within the Democratic party. They are also counted towards the nomination. There is a behind the scenes campaign for these crucial votes that could turn the entire nomination on it’s head. There are approximately 800 super delegates that could put a candidate that has won a slight majority of delegates on the losing side at the Democratic National Convention. Super delegates pledge their support throughout the primary season, but they are not bound to their pledge, they are after all politicians. They can switch their support at any time to another candidate. At the moment, Hillary has a lead of about 80 super delegates over Barack. Can you imagine the hysteria that will ensue if Obama goes into the convention with more delegates won than Hillary, but Hillary ends up with the nomination because of the super delegate count?

One other interesting note of concern is the delegates from Florida and Michigan. Those delegates will not be counted in the final tally for the nomination, because of their primaries being moved forward. The DNC has said that they will not count the delegates. At the time of the decision, the Clinton campaign agreed with the decision, but now that she is trailing, will they start to call for those delegates to be counted? Clinton won both Michigan and Florida and she just may need those delegates to win the nomination. I believe that if it is still a close race by the time the summer rolls around, the Clintons will begin to talk about how it is unfair to the people of Michigan and Florida to not have their voice heard. The Reverend Al Sharpton has already promised to demonstrate outside of the DNC offices if they allow Florida and Michigan delegates to be counted. The Clintons are not accustomed to losing and they will do everything under the sun to try to regain their power. The question is, if they succeed, will there be a Democratic party left when the dust finally settles from this nomination process?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Super Bowl Of Politics

On Sunday night, the professional sports world was rocked by the improbable Super Bowl victory of the New York Giants over the heavily favored New England Patriots. On Tuesday night, the political world saw a few improbable Super Tuesday victories with Senator Barack Obama winning more delegates than Senator Hillary Clinton, and former Governor Mike Huckabee rising out of the ashes of the campaign season and winning several states causing former Governor Mitt Romney to fall farther behind Senator John McCain.

Huckabee has been an afterthought for the past several weeks since his big win in Iowa. After Iowa, it has been all about McCain and Romney, with both sides claiming to be the true conservative. McCain and Romney then proceeded to split the next 7 state primaries with McCain gaining the edge by claiming Florida at the end of January. Before Tuesday, Huckabee was well behind in the delegate count. Now he still trails Romney and McCain, but his deficit has closed considerably behind Romney. He now trails the former Massachusetts Governor by less than 100 delegates. McCain still leads all Republican candidates by more than 400 delegates.

Last week, I wrote that I believed that McCain would squeak out of Super Tuesday as a clear winner over Romney. I must admit that I never expected Mike Huckabee to be the main reason that McCain emerged with a commanding lead in the delegate count. McCain needs just 484 more delegates to reach 1191 to claim the Republican nomination for President. I believe the resurgence of Huckabee in the south has all but given the nomination to McCain. I believe that the majority of those voting for Huckabee would have gone for Romney if Mike were not in the race. I don’t believe that Romney would have emerged as the leader on Tuesday, but it would be a lot closer than it currently is. As a result of his seemingly insurmountable delegate deficit, Romney decided today to bring an end to his campaign.

Obama and Clinton have been trading states since the Iowa caucuses, but Hillary has clearly been the expected nominee. On Tuesday the results from 22 different states showed that Barack Obama is a force with which to be reckoned. He claimed victory in 13 states gaining about 845 delegates, while Clinton won 9 states wining about 836 states. Some estimates show Obama with the delegate lead, and others show Clinton with the overall lead. It doesn’t matter whose numbers that you tend to agree with, the margin between the 2 candidates is very close. This race is going to be a long drawn out affair, with no clear winner for a few weeks to come. To make matters worse for the Clinton campaign, they are evidently short on money. So short that Hillary had to personally loan $5 million to her own campaign. No one, except for maybe Obama, would have ever thought that the Clinton campaign would be short on cash and still running hard to try to wrap up the nomination after Super Tuesday.